Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Lying Epidemic

Let's watch Megan McArdle try to damage a government official's reputation so she can continue to believe in sweet, sweet Randian lies. Ladies and gentlemen, Megan McArdle:
Ebola demonstrates the folly of cutting research budgets. Thank Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, for this [claim]. If his budget hadn’t been cut so much, he says, we’d probably already have an Ebola vaccine. It’s not exactly the first time that an organization has claimed that some crisis could have been averted by giving them boatloads of money … and sadly, not the first time that such pronouncements have been treated, not as a self-interested party schnorring for a bigger budget, but as the modern equivalent of tablets handed down from Mt. Sinai. I generally support higher government spending on basic scientific research, but I'm narrowly skeptical of the claim that a doubled research budget would almost certainly have delivered a vaccine for a rare virus that had, until now, never infected a patient on U.S. soil. Medical research is not a vending machine that spits out a candy bar when you put in a quarter; it’s a slot machine where a lot of the time, you pour in a bunch of money, and walk away with nothing.
What did Francis Collins actually say, in the article that McArdle links to?
Researchers might have developed an Ebola vaccine in time to stem the current outbreak if it weren’t for budget cuts, a top federal health official said in a new interview.
Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, said the agency has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. “It’s not like we suddenly woke up and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here,'”
Collins told the Huffington Post. “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.”  
Collins said researchers and doctors would likely have been “a year or two ahead of where we are” had research funding stayed on track.
Why does McArdle doubt Mr. Collins' claim? She does not say. She gives no evidence, let alone proof, that Mr. Collins is lying about the NIH being close to developing a vaccine. She could have gone to the NIH website and found this:
Ebola Vaccine Research The Vaccine Research Center (VRC) has developed an Ebola vaccine candidate in collaboration with Okairos, a Swiss-Italian biotech company recently acquired by GSK. The investigational vaccine, which was designed by VRC scientists, contains no infectious Ebola virus material. It is a chimpanzee adenovirus vector vaccine into which two Ebola genes have been inserted. This is a non-replicating viral vector, which means the vaccine enters a cell, delivers the gene inserts and does not replicate further. The gene inserts express a protein to which the body makes an immune response. The investigational vaccine has recently shown promise in a primate model. The VRC vaccine will enter into a phase 1 clinical trial, which could start enrollment as early as fall 2014, pending approval by the FDA. The VRC is also in discussions with governmental and non-governmental partners regarding options for advancing this candidate beyond Phase I clinical evaluation.
Evidently McArdle assumes that nobody is developing an Ebola vaccine because she thinks nearly all drugs are developed by American corporations for American diseases using money they get by overcharging American customers. Because this is Megan McArdle, she does not bother to take two seconds to google "ebola vaccine" because that's not what she does. She is paid to tell people what to think based on her own wisdom, not look stuff up and tell everyone else about it like a real journalist.

In fact the US is not the only country trying to develop a vaccine:
The first human clinical trials of a Canadian-developed Ebola vaccine, VSV-EBOV, begin in Maryland today to assess the vaccine's safety and determine the appropriate dosage to fight the virus that has killed more than 4,000 people, largely in West Africa, Health Minister Rona Ambrose has announced.
"We are able to share some very promising and hopeful news in the fight against Ebola," Ambrose said from Calgary.  
She made the announcement at a joint news conference with chief public health officer Dr. Gregory Taylor, who spoke from Toronto.
Both stressed no individuals in Canada have ever been diagnosed with Ebola, and the risk of contracting the disease remains low in this country. One person in Belleville, Ont., is in isolation with Ebola-like symptoms, though the hospital described the case as "extremely low risk." Another person who had been in isolation in Ottawa since Sunday tested negative for the virus on Monday, health officials said.
The vaccine, which was developed by scientists at the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, will be tested on 20 healthy volunteers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md.
Studies in primates have shown the vaccine prevents infections, if given before exposure, and increases survival chances among those who get it quickly after exposure.
The results from the Phase 1 human trials will be completed by December, Ambrose said, although no specific date was given.  
She said the vaccine has been shown to be "100 per cent effective" in preventing the spread of the Ebola virus when tested on animals.
"This provides hope because if the Canadian vaccine is shown to be safe and effective [in humans], it will stop this devastating outbreak," Ambrose said.
The Canadian government owns the intellectual property rights to the vaccine but has licensed the rights to a small U.S. biotech company called NewLink Genetics through its wholly owned subsidiary, BioProtection Systems, the public agency said.
So McArdle wrongly implies Mr. Collins lied about vaccine development and she also wrongly implies he lied because he was "a self-interested party schnorring for a bigger budget." It always surprises me that McArdle is so very confident that she can get away with lying about people. Sure, she has plenty of proof that she can get away with lying to her readers but as McArdle's profile and tv fame grow she might find it harder to bat her eyes and hide behind her blog while attempting to damage other people's credibility.

By the way, "schnorring" means begging or sponging off others. I guess McArdle feels that the National Institute of Health is sponging off her tax dollars when we all know that only corporations develop new drugs, not governments.

She works hard for her money. Anyone can tell the truth. Lying takes effort, although obviously not very much.


Gary said...

I guess McArdle feels that the National Institute of Health is sponging off her tax dollars when we all know that only corporations develop new drugs, not governments.

Well, I MEAN.

Governments do develop new drugs through grants for research, but corporations sell them. She's just pissed off that it's still in Stage 1, where nobody's making a buck off of it yet.

Gary said...

Plus she's annoyed at being reminded that government grants fund research; she was under the impression all this time that new drugs just appeared out of nowhere, like rails springing up from the bare earth by the genius of one man.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention the other lie she slips in effortlessly:

" I generally support higher government spending on basic scientific research,"

When has she ever supported higher government spending unless it specifically benefited her?

Mr. Wonderful said...

"...our 10-year slide in research support..."

She's really the worst. Collins isn't saying, Give us more and more money. He's saying, YOU CUT OUR BUDGET FOR TEN YEARS. GIVE US WHAT YOU USED TO GIVE US.

Sorry for shouting. One might ask, What the fuck does Megan McArdle know about the research plans, budget, history, and prospects of the NIH?

This is classic McMegan, flaunting what she takes to be her superior common sense (hilariously so, coming from a libertarian) in reply to the frauds, boffins, and self-interested turf-warriors of the public sector. All this, with regard to a field about which knows fuck-all.

Has she ever said something similar about a private corporation?

Susan of Texas said...

She didn't think much of GM when the government wanted to bail it out.

Susan of Texas said...

What kills me is that she just assumes that she is right for no reason whatsoever.

mccamj said...

Always read the comments @ Megan. We laugh at her but a lot of people buy into her crap.

I despair.

Kathy said...

ArgleBargle is the reason repugs assume all wimin are morons. After all, she's considered brilliant, an intellectual in conservatard circles. She can burp the preamble to the Declaration of Independence (which righties often confuse with the Constitution)!

Ebola is the Perfect Disease for conservatives: they know there is minuscule risk of it sweeping the US, but they can screech day and night about Its being a horrible, bloody and usually fatal disease, originating in the Dark Continent!

They can feel scared while knowing full well they don't have to do anything at all. Unless some smartass NIH doctor points out their do-nothingness. Then its GLOVES OFF!

Anonymous said...

Her numbers are wrong. Big surprise.

Clever Pseudonym said...

The Mount Sinai analogy is annoyingly stupid.

"Can we have more money to develop a vaccine for a deadly virus?"

"Moses, how many times have we told you those 'Ten Commandent' things will only get you so much?"

"The tablets weren't big enough for 'Thou shalt fund public health before war'!"

Batocchio said...

I generally support higher government spending on basic scientific research

Rather unlikely, except to support her planned rhetorical pivot. Remember, this is a person who was fearmongering about how health care reform would kill medical research by private pharmaceutical companies in her infamous "hypothetical." She's consistently opposed the idea that the government can do something well, let alone better, and rejects out of hand the idea that doctors (and teacher, and…) might be motivated by sheer curiosity or pride of craft or trying to make the world a better place... versus profit. She is a horrible person.

Susan of Texas said...

It boggles my mind that she can get away with saying anything, no matter how contradictory, without repercussion.