Michele Bachmann already had a great line of attack to steal back Rick Perry's Tea Party support--that the Texas governor's order mandating vaccinations for human papillomavirus in public schools was a violation of parental consent and general liberty. Bachmann used the attack to get some of her old spark back at Monday night's Tea Party debate. But the congresswoman, basking in the debate afterglow, promptly went off the deep end by claiming that Perry's mandated vaccine was bad because it causes mental retardation. That's a widespread fear with no scientific backup.
During Monday's debate, Bachmann was forceful:
I'm a mom. And I'm a mom of three children. And to have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong. That should never be done. It's a violation of a liberty interest.
Little girls who have a negative reaction to this potentially dangerous drug don't get a mulligan. They don't get a do-over. The parents don't get a do-over. ...
I’m offended for all the little girls and the parents that didn't have a choice. That's what I'm offended for.
Slightly creepy imagery of a rapist state government aside, Bachmann was still in safe territory--the vaccine in question, Gardisil, has been linked to blood clots and the neurological disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome. And she seemed to have the audience on her side. It was in this post-debate interview with Fox that the congresswoman strayed:
"There's a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate," Bachmann said. "She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine. There are very dangerous consequences." And Bachmann reiterated the claim Tuesday morning on the Today show:
"I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Fla., after the debate," Bachmann said. "She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter. The mother was crying what she came up to me last night. I didn't know who she was before the debate. This is the very real concern and people have to draw their own conclusions."
The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership quickly rebutted the claim, with its spokesman Evan Siegfried telling Politico's Ben Smith, "Congresswoman Bachmann's decision to spread fear of vaccines is dangerous and irresponsible... There is zero credible scientific evidence that vaccines cause mental retardation or autism."
The persistent conspiracy theory puts Bachmann in unusual company--the likes of actress Jenny McCarthy and the Huffington Post. And that is company many conservatives do not want to keep. Conservative blogger Ben Domenech called it "Captain Insane-o territory" and wondered what Bachmann might think of the measles, mumps, and reubella shot too. "The most charitable analysis," Hot Air's Ed Morrissey says, is that Bachmann "got duped into repeating a vaccine-scare urban legend on national television." Slublog tweets, "Yeah, fantastic. Let's become the Jenny McCarthy party."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
A conversation about inheritance, philanthropy, and aging with the philosopher Martha Nussbaum and the law professor Saul Levmore
What is the right way to age? It’s a question that isn’t explored enough in American society, where, seemingly, people are expected to be forever young, until, suddenly, they are not. Reflecting this binary, any writing about a long life’s final decades tends toward extremes. On one hand, there are the accounts of heroic men and women who still put in more than 40 hours a week on the job in their late 60s and early 70s (a genre I like to call “retirement porn”). On the other, there are the articles warning about the dangers of not adapting a home for aging bodies, or the plague of financial scammers targeting lonely or cognitively challenged seniors.
That leaves out a vast middle, the space where many older people actually, you know, live their lives. Luckily, Martha Nussbaum, the renowned philosopher and ethicist at the University of Chicago, and Saul Levmore, the former dean of and a current professor at the university’s law school, decided to explore that middle. The result? The recently published Aging Thoughtfully: Conversations About Retirement, Romance, Wrinkles, & Regret.
The president is the common thread between the recent Republican losses in Alabama, New Jersey, and Virginia.
Roy Moore was a uniquely flawed and vulnerable candidate. But what should worry Republicans most about his loss to Democrat Doug Jones in Tuesday’s Alabama Senate race was how closely the result tracked with the GOP’s big defeats last month in New Jersey and Virginia—not to mention how it followed the pattern of public reaction to Donald Trump’s perpetually tumultuous presidency.
Jones beat Moore with strong turnout and a crushing lead among African Americans; a decisive advantage among younger voters; and major gains among college-educated and suburban whites, especially women. That allowed Jones to overcome big margins for Moore among the key elements of Trump’s coalition: older, blue-collar, evangelical, and non-urban white voters.
If Democratic candidate Doug Jones lost to GOP candidate Roy Moore, weakened as he was by a sea of allegations of sexual assault and harassment, then some of the blame seemed likely to be placed on black turnout.
But Jones won, according to the Associated Press, and that script has been flipped on its head. Election day defied the narrative, and challenged traditional thinking about racial turnout in off-year elections and special elections. Precincts in the state’s “black belt,” the swathe of dark, fertile soil where the African American population is concentrated, reported long lines throughout the day, and as the night waned and red counties dominated by rural white voters continued to report disappointing results for Moore, votes surged in from urban areas and the black belt. By all accounts, black turnout exceeded expectations, perhaps even passing previous off-year results. Energy was not a problem.
Russia's strongman president has many Americans convinced of his manipulative genius. He's really just a gambler who won big.
I. The Hack
The large, sunny room at Volgograd State University smelled like its contents: 45 college students, all but one of them male, hunched over keyboards, whispering and quietly clacking away among empty cans of Juicy energy drink. “It looks like they’re just picking at their screens, but the battle is intense,” Victor Minin said as we sat watching them.
Clustered in seven teams from universities across Russia, they were almost halfway into an eight-hour hacking competition, trying to solve forensic problems that ranged from identifying a computer virus’s origins to finding secret messages embedded in images. Minin was there to oversee the competition, called Capture the Flag, which had been put on by his organization, the Association of Chief Information Security Officers, or ARSIB in Russian. ARSIB runs Capture the Flag competitions at schools all over Russia, as well as massive, multiday hackathons in which one team defends its server as another team attacks it. In April, hundreds of young hackers participated in one of them.
How filler words and tiny pauses keep conversations from going off the rails
When one person asks another a question, it takes an average of 200 milliseconds for them to respond. This is so fast that we can’t even hear the pause. In fact, it’s faster than our brains actually work. It takes the brain about half a second to retrieve the words to say something, which means that in conversation, one person is gearing up to speak before the other is even finished. By listening to the tone, grammar, and content of another’s speech, we can predict when they’ll be done.
This precise clockwork dance that happens when people speak to each other is what N.J. Enfield, a professor of linguistics at the University of Sydney, calls the “conversation machine.” In his book How We Talk, he examines how conversational minutiae—filler words like “um” and “mm-hmm,” and pauses that are longer than 200 milliseconds—grease the wheels of this machine. In fact, he argues, these little “traffic signals” to some degree define human communication. What all human languages have in common, and what sets our communication apart from animals, is our ability to use language to coordinate how we use language.
Everything had to go exactly right for Doug Jones, and exactly wrong for Roy Moore—and it did.
MONTGOMERY, Ala.—Everything had to break exactly right for Doug Jones to win the U.S. Senate election in deep-red Alabama, and it did. Jones ran a disciplined campaign that hinged on the turnout of black voters, and it delivered for him.
But everything also had to break the wrong way for the Republicans, and it did: A series of machinations among senior GOP officials led to a runoff between the unpopular Luther Strange and Roy Moore, best known for losing his judgeship over a dramatic battle to keep a 10 Commandments monument in the state’s supreme court. Moore had a loyal base of support in Alabama despite—or because of—the litany of controversies attached to him, including his inflammatory remarks about homosexuality and Muslims serving in office. He was unable to reach beyond that base, however, and barely tried. In the end, Moore could not survive allegations by nine women that he had pursued or sexually abused them when they were teenagers—one as young as 14. The story consumed the final weeks of the campaign, with Moore unable to offer a substantive rebuttal, instead attempting to discredit the mainstream media and his accusers. He went underground during the race’s final stretch, hardly appearing in public, while Jones barnstormed the state.
There’s a fiction at the heart of the debate over entitlements: The carefully cultivated impression that beneficiaries are simply receiving back their “own” money.
One day in 1984, Kurt Vonnegut called.
I was ditching my law school classes to work on the presidential campaign of Walter Mondale, the Democratic candidate against Ronald Reagan, when one of those formerly-ubiquitous pink telephone messages was delivered to me saying that Vonnegut had called, asking to speak to one of Mondale’s speechwriters.
All sorts of people called to talk to the speechwriters with all sorts of whacky suggestions; this certainly had to be the most interesting. I stared at the 212 phone number on the pink slip, picked up a phone, and dialed.
A voice, so gravelly and deep that it seemed to lie at the outer edge of the human auditory range, rasped, “Hello.” I introduced myself. There was a short pause, as if Vonnegut were fixing his gaze on me from the other end of the line, then he spoke.
The president attacked a senator who has emerged as a crusader against all manner of sexual misbehavior by political leaders.
Just after 8:00 on Tuesday morning, President Trump whipped out his phone and fired off this incendiary, insinuating tweet:
Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign donations not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!
It’s hardly surprising that Trump is miffed at Gillibrand. On Monday, the gentlewoman from New York publicly called on the president to step down in light of the multiple accusations of harassment and assault swirling around him. Having long pressed for the military to address its sexual-assault problem, Gillibrand has emerged more recently as a crusader against all manner of sexual misbehavior by political leaders: She was the first Senate Democrat to call on her Minnesota colleague Al Franken to step down, and she contends that elected officials absolutely should be held to higher standards than regular folks.
The administration is imperiling the very minority communities it claims to want to protect.
Among the many odd elements of President Donald Trump’s announcement that the U.S. Embassy in Israel will move to Jerusalem is that it comes precipitously in advance of Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to region. The purpose of the trip was to show solidarity with the plight of Christians in the Middle East, yet Christian leaders—including the Coptic Pope—are refusing to meet with Pence. What those leaders understand, which the Trump administration seems not to, is that Christians in the Middle East have lived and will continue to live in societies where Muslim majorities determine political and social outcomes, and those outcomes become less tolerant when religious minorities are perceived to be the exclusive beneficiaries of U.S. policy.
H.R. McMaster previewed the administration’s new plan on Tuesday, which offers a striking contrast to the visions of other recent presidents.
The Trump administration unveils a National Security Strategy next week, but National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster provided an advance glimpse of the plan on Tuesday.
A helpful way to understand where this still-new administration is leading is to compare McMaster’s bullet-pointed speech to the final strategy documents released by two previous administrations, in 2015 and 2006, and note what is changing. McMaster spoke at a Washington conference hosted by Policy Exchange, a U.K. think tank that I chaired from 2014 until earlier this year. Granted, his short speech inevitably abridged the long-form document. Yet even allowing for that, the differences can be seen.
The Obama administration’s 2015 document addressed in some detail epidemics and climate change. The Bush administration committed the United States to supporting human dignity, opening societies, and supporting the building of democracy. The main lines of the Trump approach jettison these concerns. If McMaster fairly summarized the new approach, the United States will soon formally commit itself to a lonelier and less generous course.