Sunday, September 25, 2016

GOP and Trump - Another Reply to John Fedorchak

One tactic used by the GOP is the straw man fallacy whereby one misrepresents another's position, then argues against the misrepresented position. An old example is when the GOP claimed that Al Gore said that he invented the internet. Gore was instrumental in the legislation that allowed the creation of the internet, but he never claimed to have invented it. 

John Fedorchak used the straw man fallacy against Gore (why always Gore?) in his Review letter of Sept. 21 where he misrepresented the claims made in Gore's 2006 documentary about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth.  Most of Gore's predictions were accurate, a few probably premature (Kilimanjaro ice cover), but overall the average global temperature has and will continue to rise, sea levels have risen and will continue to rise, and the ice minimum at the north pole has shrunk and will continue to shrink. The south pole is gaining less ice each year and will lose ice in the future. Republicans and Trump deny global warming because they are being funded to deny it by fossil fuel producers. John Fedorchak denies it because he blindly swallows anything the GOP, Trump, or Fox "News" puts forth.

Another tactic used by the GOP is transference of blame. Here, a racist Trump claims that Hillary Clinton is a racist, or Trump claiming that Obama created ISIS when ISIS was actually created by the void left in Iraq by Bush's war of choice. John uses the blame transference tactic by spewing a series of locations about which the GOP has tried to create conspiracies over several decades but has failed. The only conspiracies are in the minds of the GOP and Trump, and they waste taxpayer money trying to prove them. John then attempts to pass his inability to provide specific evidence against my arguments as questionable arguments on my part.

The GOP and Trump are fond of the ad hominem fallacy whereby one attacks the person rather than the argument. When it was rumoured that George H.W. Bush would be voting for Hillary Clinton, the Trump campaign attributed it to his age, implying mental deficiency. To list Trump's use of ad hominem attacks would require several volumes as would those of Fox "News." John's childish use of "a battle of wits with an unarmed person" is so clichéd that trying to find the first use of the phrase brought up Shakespeare among many others. I've read some Shakespeare, and, John, you're no Shakespeare.

To divert attention from why Trump won't release his taxes or his medical records, the GOP went ballistic over Hillary's health and fabricated a major email scandal even though investigations have found nothing. When Trump bribed an attorney general, or misused his family foundation for personal gain, the GOP said, as John would say, "look, there's a squirrel."

John's citations to disprove global warming are weak at best. Larry Bell is a professor of architecture who has never published a climate-related article in a peer-reviewed climate journal. Dr. Roy Spencer is a PhD meteorologist who publishes climate related papers mainly for Fox "News", the WSJ, Congressional staffers, and blogs. When confronted by NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt about one of his papers, Spencer agreed that his work could not disprove anthropogenic global warming. Climate scientists don't take Spencer seriously because "he's been wrong too many times."

John references El Niño, which is a periodic warming of the surface of the eastern Pacific Ocean. Consensus among climate scientists is that warmer oceans strengthen an El Niño event which then may exacerbate global warming during the event, which then may exacerbate the next El Niño. Rinse and repeat. Overall, the Earth's average temperature rises because of the release of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use through human activity.

John concludes with, "Do not blindly accept global warming as fact." I agree. Don't accept anything blindly. Get the facts from reliable sources. Don't believe anything on Fox "News" and ignore anything Donald Trump says.

An assessment of Donald Trump was written in the New York Observer, whose owner and publisher is Jared Kushner, who is married to Ivanka Trump, the daughter of Donald Trump and his first wife, Ivana. A few excerpts follow: Donald Trump is a liar.... He has no relationship to the truth.... Each and every one of Trump’s surrogates are liars—morally vapid validators, town criers doing the dirty work of the village idiot.... This campaign is a human stain.... His is a cruel and despicable view of American life.

John L. Ferri

Thursday, September 22, 2016

GOP and Trump - Response to Warren Roberts

My recommendation to Warren Roberts (Review, Sept. 20) is the same as I gave to John Fedorchak - stop watching Fox "News". Polls have shown that Fox "News" viewers are more uninformed than people who don't watch any news. As shown recently by the ouster of Roger Ailes because of decades of disgusting behavior toward women, and Fox's apology and $20 million payment to Gretchen Carlson, the network shouldn't be viewed by decent people interested in civil behavior toward women and unbiased reporting.

Another recommendation to Roberts is to learn how amendments to our Constitution are added or removed. Briefly, each house of Congress must pass the proposed amendment by 2/3 vote. Then 3/4 of all state legislatures must approve the amendment. Neither president nor the U.S. Supreme Court are involved.

Robert's mentions Christian bashing by progressives. He should be more concerned about Muslim and minority bashing by conservatives.

He mentions the economics of another Clinton presidency. Bill Clinton's presidency was an overwhelming economic success. He left a budget surplus that George Bush blew on tax cuts for the rich and a devastating war-of-choice that resulted in over 4000 dead and countless wounded American soldiers.

Trump or any Republican president still chant the mantra of trickle-down economics that hasn't worked - ever. Tax cuts for the rich don't create jobs. When the masses have well paying jobs, they spend and buy stuff. This increases demand and creates new demands, giving the rich the opportunity to fulfill the demand by building and selling products. Henry Ford realized this when he produced cars. He realized that his workers are also potential customers. This, somehow, escapes modern Republicans.

Voter fraud is a Republican myth that the GOP keeps repeating and repeating. GOP politicians have been documented saying that there is essentially no voter fraud, and their goal is to use the false claims to suppress votes for non-GOP voting poor and minorities. The GOP can't win a fair and open contest. They need to cheat to win.

Roberts also wrote that a "Gallup poll reveals that 70 percent of the population believe that households are more safe with a firearm that without." He may be correct about what these people believe, but what they believe is wrong. Recent studies show that increased gun ownership results is increased gun violence, not less.

Stop watching Fox "News" and get your head out of the GOP bubble. Learn the facts.

John L. Ferri
Towanda, PA

Monday, September 19, 2016

Trump and the GOP - Reply to John Fedorchak

In John J. Fedorchak's  letter to the editor (Sept. 16) replying to my letter, he said that he was "really disappointed" in me. Strange, because I don't remember making "not disappointing John Fedorchak" the reason for my being. Apparently John disagrees with my positions about Donald Trump and the GOP, and his reply to my letter of Sept. 13 gives me another opportunity to disappoint him even further.

He disagreed with my statement that Trump and the GOP would gut the EPA and wrote that it is a deceptive claim. As a matter of record, the 2016 GOP platform includes Trump's promise to get rid of the EPA and when Trump was asked what departments he would get rid of, he said, "Environmental Protection, what they do is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations." John claimed that environmental regulations that give us clean air and water are killing jobs and the GDP. In fact, under Obama, the stock market has gone up, corporations are making record profits and have huge reserves of cash, and unemployment is lower than what Mitt Romney promised if he were elected instead of Obama.

The real reason Trump and the GOP want to abolish the EPA is greed. If corporations didn't have to worry about pollution, they could (and would) foul the air, water, and ground to increase profits. Taxpayers would then have to pay for clean-up, and corporations that are already making record profits would make still higher profits, some of which would be donated to the GOP, while still not passing any of them to the middle class or the poor.

John disagreed with my statement on GOP voter suppression and wrote that voter-ID is "a non-issue blown all out of proportion." What is blown out of proportion is the GOP claim of rampant voter fraud when, in fact, it is so low as to be non-existent. The federal government has reviewed voter-ID laws of several GOP-run states and stopped their implementation because the laws were targeting "with surgical precision" minority groups, who typically don't vote Republican. John claims that everyone should have proper ID. I agree, but getting proper ID is a lot more complicated when you are poor, have limited means of transportation, and time to collect the necessary records is scarce because of the demands of multiple low-paying jobs. Essentially, voter-ID laws are targeted voter suppression because the GOP can't win a fair and honest contest.

John then disagreed with my comment about global warming, citing a dubious web-site that one online commenter described as "a Revelations-filled, apocalyptic, Holocaust-denying, anti-Israel piece of trash that should never be associated with The Daily Review." I'll stick with NASA, the US military, and the overwhelming majority of real climate scientists who have been evaluating the evidence for decades and concluded that the Earth is warming, dangerously, the warming is accelerating, and the primary cause is the release of carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels by human activity. Several consecutive years have broken records as the warmest ever with 2016 on track to also do so. Again, the GOP and Trump deny global warming because it will affect the bottom lines of gas, oil, and coal companies, and changing their minds now will make them look even more foolish.

John disagreed with my comments about Trump's deplorable supporters. I'll clarify. One journalist ends his articles about Trump with this: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S. I agree completely and would also include that he is deplorable. And I conclude that anyone that agrees with and supports such a deplorable person is also deplorable.

I also wrote about other frauds and deceptions of the GOP and Donald Trump, including the Benghazi debacle, GOP non-action on the Zika virus, the GOP and Trump scams of trickle-down economics, and the GOP obsession with tax cuts for the rich. John chose not to comment on them.

My recommendation to John J. Fedorchak Sr is to stop watching Fox "News", and porn sites will probably give you better global warming information than the one you used.

John L. Ferri
Towanda, PA

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Donald Trump and the GOP

In late August (8/21/2016), I went outside to get the newspaper (the Review, of course) and found that someone had put a Donald Trump sign on my front lawn bordering York Avenue in Towanda, PA. This is ironic since I’ve had anti-GOP signs in my front windows for almost a decade. They’ve been there in the sunshine long enough to almost totally fade away, just like the GOP is doing with Trump as the sunshine. I’ll explain.

Trump’s speeches, proposals, insults, and his general bigoted obnoxious behavior define the GOP platform, except that Trump has no filter and is not subtle. His intentions expose the heretofore-disguised agenda of the Republican Party. Trump has shone the sun on the GOP and exposed them for what they really are. The GOP and Trump are one and the same -- except for a growing population of Republicans who disavow him.

In Florida, under Republican control, the Zika virus is spreading because of reduced mosquito control. It took Florida decades to develop effective mosquito control programs. They were devastated in a few years by GOP funding cuts, and the GOP controlled U.S. Congress won't submit a clean bill for additional funds. Trump would gut the EPA.

In Texas, under Republican control, women are dying in childbirth at twice the national average because of funding cuts to women's health services while Texas Republicans claim that they have safe-guarded women's health. Trump would gut women's health care.

Multiple states, all under Republican control, have attempted to stop minorities from voting because minorities tend to not vote for the GOP. The GOP claims that they are trying to prevent voter fraud even though it occurs at such a low rate that it is essentially zero (32 out of billions). Trump would gut voting rights.

The GOP wasted at least $7 million and several years investigating Mrs. Clinton for the Benghazi attack. They have found squat and have admitted it in their reports. The U.S. compound was more vulnerable to attack because of funding cuts made by the GOP. Trump would use the government power of investigation for personal revenge.

The GOP is in a feeding frenzy with the email security of Clinton while she was Secretary of State. The FBI did not press charges because there was nothing beyond carelessness in a situation that was recommended by Colin Powell, who then lied that he didn't discuss email with Mrs. Clinton. Again, they have found squat. Powell's emails that prove he lied have surfaced. Analysis of Clinton's email server showed that it was not hacked, which is better than the NSA can claim. Trump will use Twitter.

The GOP and Trump have put forth economic policies that will benefit the rich at the expense of the not rich. If repealed, the estate tax alone will save the Trump family at least $4 billion. Supply side economics is a myth. It has never worked. The result of GOP tax cuts for the rich have been corporations flush with cash and record profits, but little for the middle class and the poor. It doesn't trickle down. Laffer used no data and a hand-drawn curve to convince Reagan of supply side economics. The majority of economists reject it.

The GOP and Trump are deniers of global warming, vaccine safety, and generally anything put forth by scientists. The vast majority of climate scientists (over 97%) agree that the Earth is warming dangerously. The CDC and FDA have shown that vaccines are safe and effective. There is no evidence otherwise.

Mrs. Clinton recently called some of Trump's supporters deplorable, but she later later apologized. I disagree with her apology. If you support Trump and have at any time shouted "lock her up" or "hang the", then you are deplorable: defined as disgraceful, shameful, dishonorable, unworthy, inexcusable, unpardonable, and unforgivable. If you haven't, then we merely disagree politically. Also, if you don't accept Obama as a legitimate POTUS, you are deplorable.

Trump lied about his interaction with analysts during a recent security debriefing. Tom Ridge said Trump's comments were inappropriate and unpresidential. Trump's donation to the Florida attorney general is being investigated as possible bribery. Trump is the GOP, and is showing the world what the GOP has tried to keep hidden. Just like in  Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the GOP has created a monster that is illuminating its devious agenda. The only difference is that Shelley's monster was intelligent and well-read.

About Trump signs, if anyone wants to, put them in my yard. I'll be glad to take them out of circulation.

John L. Ferri
Towanda, PA

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Our War on the Mentally Ill

(Image from wikamedia commons)

According to a police report in the June 9th Towanda Daily Review, a 34 year-old woman was arrested at the Robert Packer Hospital Behavioral Science Unit for aggravated assault and was sent to the Bradford County Prison in lieu of $20,000 bail. The Review wrote that the woman was "smashing windows with a dinner tray" and "began stripping tissues out of every tissue box in reach and began to explain that she had magical powers and that she was going to burn the building down, and then she would flood the building to put the fire out." The police were probably called after the hospital security and staff realized that they were unable to properly control the situation, and the woman was subdued by the police after she punched and slapped one of the officers.[1]

The situation seems to have been handled with a minimum of property damage and no serious injuries, and to my knowledge, everyone acted correctly. Yet, a woman with a probable serious mental illness was arrested and incarcerated in an institution not equipped to diagnose or help the mentally ill.

The U.S. has had a sordid past treating the mentally ill as have most other countries. In 1773, the first U.S. hospital for the mentally ill was opened at Williamsburg, VA -- the “Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds."[2] In 1841, Dorothea Dix, a Boston school teacher, was appalled at the living conditions of the mentally ill in the East Cambridge Jail. Her advocacy and lobbying efforts resulted in the establishment of 123 hospitals for the mentally ill by 1880.[3] Construction of state mental hospitals continued throughout the U.S., and by 1955, these hospitals housed 558,239 mentally ill patients, 71,619 patients in 1994 [4], and fewer than 55,000 in 2015.[5] From 1955 to 2015, the U.S. population increased by 92%, yet patients being treated in mental institutions dropped by 90%. The proportion of people with mental disorders has not changed, yet the proportion of people being treated has dropped by 95%.[6]

The problems began over 50 years ago when the John F. Kennedy's Community Mental Health Act of 1963 was enacted in response to the too often horrific conditions and treatments of the mentally ill in state run institutions. Deinstitutionalization was supposed to move mentally ill patients from state run institutions to community health centers with more humane treatments and the possibility of patients to be located in their own community closer to their own families. However, the community treatment phase was never fully implemented and far too many seriously mentally ill people were and still are left undertreated or untreated.[7]

Mental disorders include bipolar disorder, depression, personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia.[8] Consequences of undertreating or not treating the seriously mentally ill have been disastrous.  In the U.S.: of 7.9 million people with severe mental illness, 3.9 million go untreated; there are 216,000 homeless adults with severe mental illness; there are 400,000 adults in jails or prisons with untreated mental illnesses; 13,000 suicides are committed each year under the influence of schizophrenic, manic or depressive symptoms; 50% of mass killings are by people with severe mental illnesses; about one-third to one-half of the mentally ill also suffer from drug abuse.[9][10] Deinstitutionalization has overburdened medical emergency departments, it has overcrowded jails and prisons, and it has left untreated mentally ill people on their own in the streets.[11]

Proper treatment of the mentally ill should include state mental institutions for those cases that are inappropriate for other facilities, and they would house the criminally insane, sexually dangerous persons, and those too dangerous to discharge.[12] It is vital that these hospitals do not become overcrowded and that staffing be sufficient. Community mental health facilities, as promised by the Community Mental Health Act of 1963 but never fully funded or implemented, would prevent overcrowding of the state hospitals. However, the intentions of the 1963 act needs to be fully implemented. It will be expensive to do, but vastly more expensive to continue as we have been. Otherwise, emergency departments will remain overwhelmed, jails and prisons will house those who should not be there, suicides and mass killings will continue, the mentally ill will still abuse drugs, and a 34 year-old woman who should have been treated for a serious mental illness ended up in even more miserable circumstances.

John L. Ferri

Friday, June 3, 2016

The FBI's Anti-Drug "Chasing The Dragon"

"Chasing The Dragon" (screened at the Keystone theater, Towanda, PA in early June) is an anti-drug documentary produced through the office of the FBI director James Comey. It shows, in vivid detail, the tragedies of seven families resulting from addictions to opioid drugs, typically initiated by prescription OxyContin, and escalating to other opioids, usually heroin. Most of the victims are teens and young adults; two appear to be in their thirties or early forties. Two of the young adults died from overdoses. One died a few days after spending 7 months in rehab.

I deliberately referred to the subjects of this deeply flawed documentary as victims because that is exactly what they are--victims of our failed multi-decade, trillion dollar (and counting) War on Drugs. The War on Drugs has not only failed, it has exacerbated the problem. Our problems with addictive substances would be far less if the War had never existed.

The message of the documentary seems to be a continuation of Nancy Reagan's ridiculous "Just Say No" campaign with the added message that if you continue your miserable addicted life, we'll add to your problems with incarceration, a crime record, and little else. It's just more of the same failed strategy, regardless of any recent rhetoric to the contrary.

There were no recommendations other than opioids are addictive, and if you use them, you will get addicted, and if you get addicted, you're screwed. No recommendations about harm-reduction or other science-based treatments. Only arrest and incarceration, just as it has been for decades.

It also attempts to show marijuana as a gateway drug to heroin when this has been shown to be false. Some marijuana users move to opioids; most do not. Also shown are injection sites that were ulcerated and infected, but it doesn't make clear that these are caused by dirty needles and adulterated drugs. Injecting heroin in sterile conditions with pharmaceutical grade heroin under medical supervision is a non-life-threatening issue. In fact, it is one of several harm-reduction methods.

Victims of addictive substances will do anything to get these substances if they are not available legally. They will cheat, steal, sell themselves, destroy relationships with family and with friends to get what they need for their addiction. The documentary shows this very vividly and clearly. The victims are desperate and miserable. The documentary only shows how to continue the victims desperation and misery.

Until all drugs are decriminalized and regulated, and the victims of addictions are treated as medical problems with science-based programs, the U.S. will continue wasting tens of billions of dollars each year making our drug addiction problems worse.

John L. Ferri

- Consumer Union's Licit and Illicit Drugs
- Chasing The Scream, Johann Hari
Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic, Sam Quinones
- Letter-to-editor

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Complementary Health and Psychic Fair in Bradford County, PA

When I read, First Complementary Health and Psychic Fair deemed a success in the May 17, 2016 Towanda Daily Review, I had to check the date to be sure that I was still in the 21st Century.

Products presented at the Fair included reflexology, essential oils, footbath detox, Reiki, psychic phenomena, healing stones, acupuncture, herbal medicine, Plexus for weight loss, body detoxification, and homeopathy.

Reflexology is based on an absurd theory that each body part is represented in the feet and hands. Multiple trials have shown it to be no more effective than a foot massage at curing or diagnosing anything. [1][2][3]

Essential oils cover a lot of territory. It’s like saying that chemical compounds can cure stuff. It depends on what is in the oils, the purity, concentration, and the condition being treated. Anecdotal evidence of effectiveness is not enough. Randomized controlled clinical trials are required, which is how real medicines are evaluated. [4][5]

Footbath detox is designed to cleanse your wallet of money. The footbath contains chemicals that are decomposed by a small electric current in the water, which will discolor with or without your feet in it. It provides no proven health benefits that a good foot soak wouldn’t. Detox footpads are equally worthless. [6][7][8][9][10][11][12]

Reiki is based on a mystical belief system that is similar to Therapeutic Touch, which was disproved by 11-year-old Emily Rosa who had a peer-reviewed paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It should be noted that the Catholic Church considers the use of Reiki to "be inappropriate," and a fundamentalist pastor said, "It goes against Christian belief." [13][14][15][16][17][18][19]

Psychic phenomena don’t exist according to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. In their 1988 report, they concluded, there is “no scientific justification from research conducted over a period of 130 years for the existence of parapsychological phenomena”, and tests "do not support the existence of psychic ability.” [20][21]

Healing crystals were tested in 1999 by London scientists to investigate the power of stones and crystals compared to placebo. The conclusion was that "Whether the crystal was real or fake did not produce any significant difference in the strength of the sensations reported by participants." [22]

Acupuncture uses an elaborate theatrical performance to exploit the placebo effect. It was popularized by Mao Zedong in place of science-based medical treatment when he couldn't provide real health care to his people. It may seem to be effective, but serious side effects (nerve damage, infections) continue to be reported. [23][24][25]

Herbal medicine is in a similar category as essential oils. Herbs may contain effective medication, or they may contain ineffective material or worse. Anecdotal evidence shouldn't replace randomized controlled trials to evaluate effectiveness. When herbal medicines are tested and shown to be effective, they can then be properly regulated and justifiably labeled as real medicine. [26]

Plexus for weight loss  - "Based on the available research of Plexus Slims ingredients, it is highly unlikely that the results people are reporting are because of the product.  It is more likely the result of their modified diet and/or exercise.  Plexus Slim is touted as being a safe product.  While a majority of people would not experience side effects, there is enough evidence to suggest, the product is not 100% safe and anyone selling the product should inform everyone of the possible side effects and suggest customers to consult a doctor before using their product. High blood pressure and increased heart palpitations were the most commonly reported side effect to the Better Business Bureau." [27]

Body detoxification is used by real medical physicians in real hospitals to remove or reduce dangerous levels of drugs, alcohol, or poisons from the human body. It is used in life threatening circumstances. Alternative, or complementary, or integrative “detoxification" is simply the co-opting of a real medical term to give legitimacy to useless products and services, while confusing consumers into thinking they’re science-based.” The only cleansing done will be to your wallet. [28][29][30]

Homeopathy is based on taking an active ingredient that was selected by a non-scientific process, then diluting it into oblivion to increase its effect.  Based on all modern theories of chemistry and physics, homeopathy can’t work. At best, it has a placebo effect. At worst, it may delay real medical treatment. Homeopathy has failed every properly designed randomized controlled trial that has tested its efficacy. [31]

The items listed above require what is known as the Quack Miranda Warning in reference to any claims made:
"These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."
When in doubt about any of the above, ask a real doctor: a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO).

John L. Ferri

Quack attack: Naturopaths and supplement companies press for naturopathic licensure in Michigan
- Letter-to-editor