• Celebration of Ignorance

    Carl Sagan, in The Demon-Haunted World:

    I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.

  • President Trump’s earliest appearance in Panama Papers revealed

    From The New York Daily News:

    A real estate deal from the early 1990s is the earliest instance of President Trump’s name appearing in the Panama Papers, the massive trove of leaked documents detailing the ways in which the world’s richest people hide their business dealings from scrutiny and taxation.

    The discovery, first flagged by investigative reporter Jake Bernstein on Friday afternoon, involves the purchase and subsequent sale of a condo at the newly constructed Trump Palace on the Upper East Side in the 1990s.

    The deal involved a mysterious Panamanian company called Process Consultants, Inc., which bought a 16th floor condo at the Trump skyscraper in 1991.

    Process Consultants was owned through so-called bearer shares, which can be used to transfer assets with complete anonymity. Such shares are popular among money launderers.

    Three years after the purchase, Process Consultants put the Trump Palace unit up for sale, with the Trump Corporation as its exclusive broker. A woman from Hong Kong, whose name has appeared in other leaked documents, appears to have bought the apartment for $355,000, according to a contract.

    As has been the case with most Panama Papers revelations, there’s no indication of who is actually behind Process Consultants or where that person’s money came from.

    While using bearer shares doesn’t prove that Process Consultants was involved in something dubious, the quick condo flip is characteristic of money laundering.

    Watch the stories about money laundering through condo sales.

  • Trump Delivers a Thanksgiving Message to the Coast Guard

    Such a heartwarming message this Thanksgiving:

    The Navy, I can tell you, we’re ordering ships, with the Air Force I can tell you we’re ordering a lot of planes, in particular the F-35 fighter jet, which is like almost like an invisible fighter. I was asking the Air Force guys, I said, how good is this plane? They said, well, sir, you can’t see it. I said but in a fight. You know, in a fight, like I watch on the movies. The fight, they’re fighting. How good is this? They say, well, it wins every time because the enemy cannot see it. Even if it’s right next to them, it can’t see it. I said that helps. That’s a good thing.

    The President of the United States thinks the F-35 is literally invisible.

  • Vaccinate Your Children

    From a really interesting article about the people still living in iron lungs:

    “All the mothers were just terrified because people were just getting it right and left,” Lillard said. “They didn’t know if it was a virus or bacteria or how you caught it.”

    Poliomyelitis is a highly contagious disease that can cause paralysis of legs, arms, and respiratory muscles. “The polio virus is a silver bullet designed to kill specific parts of the brain,” Richard Bruno, a clinical psychophysiologist, and director of the International Centre for Polio Education said. “But parents today have no idea what polio was like, so it’s hard to convince somebody that lives are at risk if they don’t vaccinate.”

    I’ve long theorized that a big reason why anti-vaxxers have gotten any traction at all is precisely because vaccines are so effective. So many catastrophic diseases have been effectively eradicated by vaccines in rich countries that parents no longer perceive a meaningful threat. They are then free to indulge in the fantasy that the real threat is actually the doctors working to eliminate these diseases.

    When Lillard was a child, polio was every parent’s worst nightmare. The worst polio outbreak year in US history took place in 1952, a year before Lillard was infected. There were about 58,000 reported cases. Out of all the cases, 21,269 were paralyzed and 3,145 died. “They closed theaters, swimming pools, families would keep their kids away from other kids because of the fear of transmission,” Bruno said.

    By 1961, there were only 161 reported cases in the US. But in 1988, there were still an estimated 350,000 cases worldwide. That year, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and Rotary International began an aggressive campaign to end polio everywhere. Last year there were 37 cases reported in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

    According to Bruno, if an infected person in either of those countries visited family in an area like Orange County, California, where many parents are opting out of vaccinating their children, “then we could be talking about the definition of a polio epidemic.”

    The result of this ignorance and superstition is potentially catastrophic.