The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Anti-Vaccination Celebrities and Joe Biden’s Promise to Cure Cancer

Jessica Biel at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards (Kyle Grillot/Reuters)

Father’s Day is this Sunday. You know what Dad wants. The first customer review is up (and it’s not one of my aliases)!*

Making the click-through worthwhile: The anti-vaccination forces continue to gain strength, Joe Biden makes promises he knows he can’t keep, and Howard Schultz’s back turns out to be a key factor in the 2020 presidential cycle.

Celebrities, Politicians, and Hucksters Are Willing to Kill You

Earlier this week, actress Jessica Biel joined anti-vaccination advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as he lobbied California state lawmakers to oppose a law that would make it more difficult for parents to get exemptions from state rules requiring children to receive vaccines before being enrolled in public or private elementary and secondary schools. Biel has a child with Justin Timberlake. Forget his old lyric about “bringing sexy back”; the family is bringing measles back.

Biel joins renounced scientific minds Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, and Rosie O’Donnell in warning the American people to avoid vaccines that protect them from dead diseases at all costs.

(After this newsletter was sent, Biel posted a statement on Instagram declaring, “I support children getting vaccinations and I also support families having the right to make educated medical decisions for their children alongside their physicians. My concern with #SB276 is solely regarding medical exemptions.” For what it is worth, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. characterized her views as “my body, my choice.” and if you support vaccinations, you probably don’t want to be photographed alongside one of the loudest anti-vaccination voices as you lobby legislators on this issue.)

Meanwhile, in the wealthy New York suburb of Chestnut Ridge . . .

The mother of an unvaccinated child here in the New York suburbs says eating papaya helps to combat measles. The father of another child who has not been immunized believes that big pharmaceutical companies are paying millions of dollars to doctors, government officials and even judges to bury the truth about vaccine complications.

Another mother says the souls of her children are on a journey that vaccines would impede. “As a parent, for me, a lot of my job is to just not put extra obstacles in that soul’s way,” she said.

All three parents represent an anti-vaccine fervor on the left that is increasingly worrying health authorities. They often cluster around progressive private schools that are part of the Waldorf educational movement, and at the Waldorf school here, 60 percent of the school’s 300 or so students were not vaccinated against measles and other highly contagious diseases as of late last year.

Your child’s education is your business, but if your child is at a Waldorf school . . . you might have reason to be concerned:

There are about 150 Waldorf schools in North America, including several in the New York region.

Over the last two decades, Waldorf schools across the country have had a spate of disease outbreaks, which is why they are the focus of concern in the measles epidemic.

A Waldorf school in North Carolina had an outbreak of chickenpox in November, the worst the state had seen since 1995. In 2016, a Waldorf school in Calgary, Canada, was affected by an outbreak of highly contagious whooping cough.

Meanwhile on the other side of the country . . .

New data from the California Department of Public Health shows that the rate of vaccinations for San Diego County kindergartners is declining and falling behind other kindergarten students statewide.

According to information from the state, San Diego kindergarteners had a 92.5 percent vaccination rate in the 2018-2019 school year, which is below the 94.8 percent average for kindergarten students across the state.

San Diego County is below the 95 percent vaccination threshold which public health experts say is necessary to prevent an outbreak of measles or another highly contagious virus.

Recall that back in 2014, President Trump tweeted, “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!” At least he got the message at some point. Back in April, Trump made his first comments about vaccinations as president, telling reporters, “They have to get the shots. The vaccinations are so important. This is really going around now. They have to get their shots.”

These anti-vaccine celebrities — not really a bunch of rock-ribbed conservatives, I notice — are getting broad public condemnation. But while we’re denouncing famous people for telling people false information about their health . . . could we all muster a little more ire for Joe Biden telling people he can cure cancer, instead of most people averting their eyes and pretending they didn’t hear it?

Some argue this is the equivalent of John F. Kennedy declaring in 1962 that the United States would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. But that was not a campaign pledge; it was not a carrot dangled to the American people, conditional upon Kennedy being reelected. Secondly, if you read the text, Kennedy never promises it or guarantees it. The closest he comes is when he says, “I think we’re going to do it, and I think that we must pay what needs to be paid.” Kennedy did not undersell the challenges, difficulties or the risk of failure.

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

The tone of Biden’s statement is different: “I’ve worked so hard in my career that, I promise you, if I’m elected president, you’re going to see the single most important thing that changes America: We’re going to cure cancer.”

Anyone who knows a thing or two about cancer research — which probably includes the vast majority of people who know someone fighting cancer — knows that this is not a matter of not enough willpower, not enough desire for a cure, and not having the right president (The National Cancer Institute’s total annual budget has increased by $500 million over the last five years to $5.6 billion. Requests for grants are up dramatically over the last four years; more researchers are exploring more options. Would researchers like more money, and to fund every request that comes through the door? Sure. But if Biden wants to argue that cancer research is underfunded, he’ll have to defend the preceding administration’s spending decisions.

If America could simply buy a cure for the more than 100 varieties of cancer, we would spend that money in a heartbeat. Finding a cure for cancer is hard because cancer cells are always changing, and the cancer cells in a patient’s body aren’t all the same. Research showed that “cells collected from four different regions of the same kidney cancer tumor were in fact quite different.” This means that even if you develop a treatment really effective against one type of cell, it may not be effective against others, and what worked at one time may not work at a later time:

It also means the cancer you find today may differ from the one you try to treat in the weeks and months to come. With modern sequencing and analysis, it’s now possible to track cancer cell evolution and begin to predict the changes before they occur. Nonetheless, it’s much harder to hit a moving target than a stationary one, and even a highly effective, precisely targeted combination of therapies may not succeed if enough cancer cells survive initial treatment and further evolve.

For any ninny preparing to play the “Why don’t you criticize Republicans?” card, giving grief to Republican presidential candidates who promise diabetes cures or cures for autism, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and life-threatening heart conditions is more or less my specialty.

The Flat White of Presidential Candidates Is off the Menu for a While

Howard Schultz — remember him? — wants you to know that he isn’t suspending his interest in a presidential campaign because Joe Biden is the Democratic frontrunner. Instead, he’s being sidelined by back pain. In a letter to supporters, he announces:

While I was in Arizona, I unfortunately experienced acute back pain that required me to cut my travels short. Over the following two months, I underwent three separate back surgeries. Today, I am feeling much better, and my doctors foresee a full recovery so long as I rest and rehabilitate. I have decided to take the summer to do just that.

I take this detour from the road reluctantly.

See, this is why you’re supposed to stretch extensively before you flirt with an independent bid for president. Schultz stretched credulity, but not his flexors and erector spinae.

Everybody and their brother has enjoyed dunking on Schultz — no Dunkin’ Donuts pun intended — so I’ll take a moment to defend him. He represents a philosophy and worldview that was, until 2016 or so, common and in fact dominant in Democratic party circles: socially liberal and supporting government intervention in the economy, up to a point. This isn’t really centrism, even though media voices often describe it this way.

Schultz was reasonably well-informed, more interested in listening than speaking, and polite, courteous, and soft-spoken in his public appearances. In a political media world that thrived on drama and conflict, he was amiably boring and conciliatory. He disappeared from the cable-news cycle quickly because he had no interest in feeding its appetites.

For holding the mainstream Democratic ideas of 2016 in the year 2019, and publicly contending the party should stay where it is, he became the Democratic grassroots public enemy number one, overnight. The entire Democratic-media-entertainment complex turned on him overnight; Stephen Colbert started making jokes about how lousy Starbucks bathrooms were; the Daily Beast suddenly discovered that the music selection at Starbucks featured too many white artists; and Mika Brzezinski demanded Schultz answer, “How much does an 18-ounce box of Cheerios cost?” The reaction to Schultz’s bland personality and once-mainstream ideas was more illuminating than he was.

ADDENDA: David Faris tells Democrats what they need to hear, not what they want to hear, about the forthcoming primary debates:

The party faithful, while understandably eager to take on the loathed President Trump, are perhaps not dedicated enough to sit through four hours of listening to people who are rather transparently hawking their books, auditioning for third-tier cabinet posts or jockeying to be the Jim Webb of the 2020 primary debates. And senior Democrats really should consider whether they want the party represented to a national audience by some of these goofballs.

*My aliases: Edison Carter, Dale Cooper, Henry Jones Jr.

Most Popular

Film & TV

Joker: An Honest Treatment of Madness

When I saw that the New York Times and The New Yorker had run columns berating the new Joker movie, criticizing it not simply on cinematic grounds but instead insisting that the film amounted to a clandestine defense of “whiteness” in an attempt to buttress the electoral aim of “Republicans” — this is a ... Read More

The Democrats’ Disastrous CNN LGBT Town Hall

A few days after Donald Trump committed the worst foreign-policy blunder of his presidency by betraying America’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria, former vice president Joe Biden, the elder statesman and co-frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary, was on a national stage talking to CNN’s primetime ... Read More
White House

What Is Impeachment For?

W hat is impeachment for? Seems like a simple question. Constitutionally speaking, it also appears to have a simple answer: to cite and remove from power a president guilty of wrongdoing. Aye, there’s the rub. What sort of wrongdoing warrants removal from power? I’d wager that the flames of ... Read More

Beto Proposes to Oppress Church with State

Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign is within the margin of error of non-existence, but in his failure he has found a purpose: expressing the Democratic id. His latest bid for left-wing love came at a CNN forum on gay rights, where he said that churches that oppose same-sex marriage should have to pay ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Fox News Anchor Shepard Smith Resigns

Fox News Channel's chief anchor, Shepard Smith, announced on air Friday that he would be resigning from his post after 23 years with the network. “This is my last newscast here,” said Smith. “Recently, I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News. After requesting that I stay, they obliged.” He ... Read More
Film & TV

The Breaking Bad Movie

I considered staying up until midnight last night to watch Netflix's two-hour Breaking Bad movie El Camino as soon as it went up, but I'm glad I didn't. It's fine, it's worth watching if you're a fan of the series (otherwise it'll mean nothing to you). But it doesn't answer any particularly compelling questions. ... Read More