Respectful Insolence

Here’s a rare bit of good news on the regulatory front. It turns out that Representative Dan Burton (R-IN) has finally decided to retire:

So Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) is finally retiring, after two decades in Congress. He’s got a notable record of craziness, having doggedly pursued President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal while knowing full well he’d had an affair himself and even fathered a child out of wedlock. He famously claimed to have shot up a “head-like object” (likely a melon or a pumpkin) to try to re-create the alleged “murder” of former Clinton deputy White House counsel Vince Foster, who committed suicide. But Burton doesn’t get enough credit for what may be his lasting legacy: helping turn Americans away from life-saving childhood vaccines.


Yes, Dan Burton is antivaccine through and through, dating back to long before I first became interested in vaccines and combatting the antivaccine movement because he believes that one of his grandchildren became autistic as a result of receiving a childhood vaccination. In fact, I didn’t know about some of his activities more than ten years ago, for instance, his frequent use of Congressional hearings, in particular the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, to try to push government health organizations to find a link between vaccines and autism. Indeed, he frequently used and abused his power to do things like interfere with the Autism Omnibus Proceedings.

However, Burton’s support for quackery goes much, much deeper than just his die-hard antivaccine views. While Stephanie Mencimer is quite right to point out that Burton supported Andrew Wakefield and then later pivoted effortlessly to the view that mercury in vaccines is the cause of autism, she has no idea just how deep Burton’s support for quackery went. In fact, Burton was neck deep into a number of other forms of quackery, for instance the use of chelation therapy for cardiovascular disease. Indeed, Burton was a driving force behind the highly unethical and pseudoscientific TACT trial, as Kimball Atwood described:

For years, Burton was the chairman of the powerful House Committee on Government Reform. Hearings of that committee, particularly during the 106th and 107th Congresses, were littered with pitches for implausible medical claims and diatribes against immunizations and other rational public health measures. Together with Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the creator of the NCCAM, Burton and a few other congressmen have managed to scare NIH scientists and administrators away from their proper concerns with scientific and ethical issues. Thus Richard Klausner, the former director of the National Cancer Institute, eventually caved to the pressure, as reported in Part IV of this blog. So did Claude Lenfant, the former director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (bullied here by Burton; caved here).

It’s not for nothing that Steve Barrett of Quackwatch has referred to Dan Burton as “organized quackery’s best friend in Congress.” At least he was back in the day. These days, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch is giving Burton a run for his money, shilling for the supplement industry in Utah. On the other hand, Burton was one of the forces, along with Senator Tom Harkin, to produce the abomination known as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), as well as for passing the DSHEA.

Basically, for his entire tenure in Congress, Dan Burton waged a war on medical science, promoting quackery and antivaccine views wherever and whenever he could. He’d wheel and deal, and when that failed he’d bully government officials to get his way, which was to promote the formation of NCCAM, win funding for unethical trials of quackery, and attack the government vaccination program at every turn because he mistakenly believed his grandchild became autistic due to a vaccine. If you have any doubts, consider this: Burton brought Dr. Rashid Buttar before his committee to testify and was a driving force behind winning government funding for a trial of Nicholas Gonzalez’s cancer quackery, which ended up showing that Gonzalez’ woo was worse than useless for treating pancreatic cancer.

No, most mainstream journalists have no idea, no idea at all, just how bad Dan Burton is with respect to science and medicine. That’s why I say not only goodbye to Dan Burton, but good riddance.

Comments

  1. #1 lilady
    February 1, 2012

    “No, most mainstream journalists have no idea, no idea at all, just how bad Dan Burton is with respect to science and medicine. That’s why I say not only goodbye to Dan Burton, but good riddance.”

    How bad and how dreadful this ignorant Congressman is.

    I remember when those hearings were taking place in Congress and how Rep. Henry Waxman (Dem.California) was the voice of science and reason. Burton’s record of misdeeds and using his Committee to advance his personal agenda and his pseudoscience “theories” brought dishonor to himself, to the district he represents and to Congress.

    Good riddance Rep. Burton.

  2. #2 DLC
    February 1, 2012

    I had begun to wonder how many alt-med companies Burton had a piece of.

  3. #3 isles
    February 1, 2012

    This is a sweet, sweet day. The frontrunner among candidates to replace Burton is an ER doc. Hope he’ll bring the science.

  4. #4 Dangerous Bacon
    February 1, 2012

    The “dietary supplement” industry is mourning the loss of one of their “advocates”:

    ht_p://www.naturalproductsinsider.com/news/2012/01/industry-advocate-rep-dan-burton-to-retire.aspx

    “In 2002, Burton introduced a bill that would have given tax breaks to employees that purchase dietary supplements and medicinal foods. The bill would have made health insurance plans cover dietary supplements, medical foods and foods for special dietary needs as medical expenses.”

    Guess they’ll have to find someone else to push their scams at taxpayer expense.

    Incidentally, an online listing of Burton’s top campaign contributors in 2011-2012 doesn’t yield any obvious “supplement industry” major donors. By contrast, Orrin Hatch’s second biggest contributor was HerbalLife, and the “Pharmaceuticals/Health Products” industry gave him well over a half million dollars in the last five years, according to opensecrets.com.

  5. #5 harold
    February 1, 2012

    This is a sweet, sweet day. The frontrunner among candidates to replace Burton is an ER doc. Hope he’ll bring the science.

    I am highly skeptical.

    As a pathologist, I will note that of the very small percentage of my fellow physicians who have run for federal office in the last few decades, there seems to be a disproportion of focus on conservative economics rather than sound scientific policy (e.g. Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Bill Frist).

    There was a time, even within my lifetime, and I am not very old, when someone could be a Republican, and still strongly support biomedical research and public health.

    I am not interested in starting a partisan dispute here, nor do I wish to be wrongly perceived as a lover of Democrats, merely because I strongly critique the current Republican party, but…

    Bluntly, there is sufficient critical mass of science denial within the Republican party to cause me to question whether anyone can truly support good science while simultaneously endorsing their platforms.

    Climate change denial and hostility to environmental science in general are more or less required positions. Not all Republicans are creationists, but the vast majority of politicians and bureaucrats, at any level from local school board to federal government, who support creationism, are Republicans. Unconstrained, ideological hostility toward all workplace safety and other “government regulations” cannot be construed as being consistent with public health. And here we have an article revealing that one of the major vaccine denialists/quack supporters in congress belongs to that party too.

    I won’t even bother with Ron Paul links…

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/29/rand-paul-passes-when-ask_n_629185.html

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9008040/ns/politics/t/frist-voices-support-intelligent-design/#.TylVQ8WJfbg

    http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20100924/NEWS0106/309240084/Rand-Paul-part-AAPS-doctors-group-airing-unusual-views

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Frist#Schiavo_case

    In fairness, Bill Frist has done a good thing, too…

    http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/talk/blogs/r/m/rmrd0000/2009/10/bill-frist-vs-bill-mahrer-on-h.php

    But overall these records do not support the hypothesis that physicians running for federal office are strong advocates for good science.

    And I say that as a physician.

  6. #6 VikingMoose
    February 1, 2012

    harold – howard “personality like a glass of water” dean is also on that list.

    and totally agree about the [fawning, nearly fainting]Doctor Paul [/f,nf] “paultards”

    and Dan Burton: good riddance. to me, you’ve symbolized and confirmed all of my biases I like to hold against social conservatives. you’ll be ..um… just “good bye. and ‘skrid'”

  7. #7 harold
    February 1, 2012

    VikingMoose –

    No major disagreement, but I will point out that Howard Dean doesn’t have any known association with any combination of evolution denial, opposition to vaccines, climate change denial, Terry Schaivo neurology denial, or “anti-government” economic platforms that are extreme enough to raise public health impact concerns (all of which are associated, in combination or in entirety, with the people I mentioned.)

    Although Vermont has a solid research institution in University of Vermont, it isn’t exactly a hotbed of either cutting edge research, or science denial. So it’s hard for me to really say that he was a “science defending” politician, but he doesn’t seem to have been associated with offenses against science.

    He was, of course, not elected when he ran for federal office. So he has no federal record.

    And he is, of course, associated with a different political party than others mentioned in this thread.

  8. #8 Glenn
    February 1, 2012

    he believes that one of his grandchildren became autistic as a result of receiving a childhood vaccination.

    I would have thought the most logical assumption for the presence of any mental deficiencies in Burton’s family would be genetics, given the publicly available evidence.

  9. #9 dedicated lurker
    February 1, 2012

    I’m glad to hear this. Is that bee pollen guy still in whatever position he was in? I can’t remember his name, just that he said bee pollen cured his allergies. He and Burton are two loons in a pod.

  10. #10 lilady
    February 1, 2012

    No one could ever accuse Dan Burton of being an intellectual, or having ever researched the issues being discussed on the many Congressional committees he chaired or was appointed to:

    “On March 29, 1995, during congressional hearings on the US War on Drugs, Burton proclaimed that the US military “should place an aircraft carrier off the coast of Bolivia and crop dust the coca fields.” It was later pointed out to him that a) Bolivia is landlocked and has no coast (Burton was chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee); b) the Bolivian coca fields (in the yungas and Amazon lowlands) are beyond the reach of any carrier-borne crop-duster, being separated from the nearest coastline (the Pacific coast of Peru and Chile) by the 20,000+ feet high peaks of the Andes; and c) F-18s cannot crop-dust. While criticism of this mis-statement was muted in Washington, it sparked a major anti-American backlash in Bolivia, derailing the same War on Drugs that Burton purported to be speaking for.”

    Source: Wikipedia

  11. #11 VikingMoose
    February 1, 2012

    harold – true across the board.

    he had some sound bytes close to Harkin that he’d bust out during his campaign

    however, it’s important that quackery has no party affiliation – alt med deniers range across the board!

    cheers

  12. #12 Meandering Peasant
    February 1, 2012

    apparently none of you have ever heard of Dr. Don Colbert, M.D.

    The GOP is not anti-science. The GOP is pro real science that works. Evolution and the largest ponzi scheme in human history, global warming, are not even close to being science. What Telsa did was science. What Louis Pasteur did was science. What Maurice Strong and other elites are doing is not science. It is politics and evil politics at that. The days of science without politics is gone.

  13. #13 harold
    February 1, 2012

    however, it’s important that quackery has no party affiliation – alt med deniers range across the board!

    This is 100% true, and there are also a fair number of strong defenders of science who self-identify as conservative or Republican. Historically, there have been plenty of strongly pro-science Republican legislators.

    However, we must recall that there are three general sources of science denial in US society.

    1) Dogmatic religion.

    2) Science denial pushed by lobbyists for industry, for short term financial reasons – e.g. denial of cigarette/disease links, resistance to safety data by automobile companies, climate change denial, and general excessive resistance to environmental/public health science by polluting industries (by excessive I mean beyond what is justified by reasonable skepticism).

    3) Everything else, which we tend to lump together as “woo”. However, this poorly defined category ranges from the essentially harmless nonsense that does not directly deny science (e.g. newspaper “horoscope” columns) to extremely harmful science denial with mercenary motivation, e.g. for profit quacks engaging in things like HIV denial and selling worthless elixirs. The latter sometimes border on deserving membership in category “2)”. Some of the “woo” category is also a reaction to category “2)”; industries having created such a poor public image for themselves by denying real issues, some members of the public are now excessively ready to believe unfounded claims of nefarious behavior by industry.

    The sad fact is, the Republican party has been, for about forty year, ever increasingly the home of those who endorse categories “1)” and “2)”, and this very article describes a Republican endorser of the most harmful type of thing from category “3)”

    So yes, all sides are guilty, but let’s be honest and admit that at this particular point in history, all sides aren’t equally guilty.

    No matter what one’s view on matters that don’t have a clear scientific answer, such as whether gay marriage should be allowed, whether the food stamp program should be eliminated, and so on (for full disclosure I support gay marriage and support social programs for the most needy, but these are subjective value judgments), it is undeniable that the Republican party and its supporters seem to be by far the most anti-science major cohesive political group in the US today.

    There is shame across the spectrum, but more shame on one end of the spectrum.

  14. #14 VikingMoose
    February 1, 2012

    totally agree – the GOP takes it to Eleven! absolutely! (the woo, the crazy, etc)

    (absolutely agree, too on gay marriage, etc!)

    and have some anecdata about some rather hardcore Santorum/Perry/Bachmann supporters (they flowed as the various candidates) being against organ donation, too. But that’s a sample of maybe 10, I’m taking it out of context, etc, but i use it for my confirmation bias about the soc-con/GOP as being anti science (and generally evil jerks) in my book!

  15. #15 Richard
    February 1, 2012

    @NJ

    You flouridated pucker fluffer. Are you a slave? Will someone please tell NJ’s master to put him back in his cage. it’s past his bedtime.

  16. #16 Richard
    February 1, 2012

    RI? Rhode island?

    FIFTY, NJ!

  17. #17 Derek
    February 1, 2012

    How easy was that. NJ crapped his pants again. FIFTY!

    Google censors conservatives upon request of the globalist elites. Did you not get the memo?

    FIFTY!

  18. #18 NJ
    February 1, 2012

    Meandering Peasant @ 14:

    yadda, yadda, yadda

    How ya doin’ there Rob Hood? Unable to get your meds refilled?

  19. #19 Edith Prickly
    February 1, 2012

    The master of scat-obsessed sock puppets just cain’t quit RI.

  20. #20 NJ
    February 1, 2012

    “Richard” aka Rob Hood @ 16:

    RI? Rhode island?

    FIFTY, NJ!

    How easy was that? I took a flyer on the (now deleted) comment as being a Rob Hood sockpuppet since it was just loony enough and hit a couple of his favorite talking obsession points.

    The really funny (sad?) thing is that every time someone at SB outs him, it just makes an even more detailed record of his insanity on the Web. If he keeps it up, these comments will be #1 on Google for him.

  21. #21 Narad
    February 1, 2012

    Google censors conservatives upon request of the globalist elites. Did you not get the memo?

    FIFTY!

    Ah, Rob Hood, KE5BMP. Apparently, all the globalist elites have done in your case is order Alexa to assign your Web site the keywords “shop sell watch us php?cartid=, sell watch”.

  22. #22 lilady
    February 1, 2012

    Is that the scat-talking excrement smearing sock puppet from Eupora Mississippi, again?

    Harold and Viking Moose were discussing the anti-intellectual, anti-science, whacked-out-on-bathtub gin rednecks and the sock puppet appears…simply magical!

  23. #23 David N. Brown
    February 2, 2012

    Regarding the use of chelation for cardiovascular disease, this seems to me to be about the only “alt med” application of such therapy that makes medical sense. Specifically, at least some chelators are known to act as anti-coagulants, which would have potential value in dealing with blocked arteries. But then, the same is true of commercial rat poison.

  24. #24 missmayinga
    February 2, 2012

    Harold @19
    Huh, really? That’s cool. I mean, Burton’s idea still really only makes sense in a “tilt your head and squint” kind of way. But it’s neat to learn about the biological mechanism of that kind of stuff. Do you have any idea why they do that?

  25. #25 Douglas
    February 2, 2012

    Narad the canadian watch saleswoman has never even seen my website so what does she know? I bet she doesn’t even know the cure for kesbumps.

  26. #26 Douglas
    February 2, 2012

    What would poor little flouridated narad know about names? Should I call you lord of the flies? Please remove flies from face before speaking in pubic. Please do me a favor and get vaccinated for being void of normalcy. Now go sniff a reptoid fart.

    There are plenty of vaccines that cuase stupid, now if they would invent one to guard against it. If only we could vaccinate people in early childhood against the disease that affects millions – liberalism. Micheal Savage said it best. Liberalism is a mental disorder.

  27. #27 harold
    February 2, 2012

    @David N. Brown –

    Regarding the use of chelation for cardiovascular disease, this seems to me to be about the only “alt med” application of such therapy that makes medical sense. Specifically, at least some chelators are known to act as anti-coagulants, which would have potential value in dealing with blocked arteries. But then, the same is true of commercial rat poison.

    Commercial rat poison is often warfarin, which is, in fact, also a major long term anti-coagulant drug. It is (like any potent anti-coagulant) fatal in some doses, and potentially therapeutic (where anti-coagulation is indicated) in other doses. When used as a rat poison, the rats are given what amounts to a fatal dose for a rat. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warfarin

    Chelation therapy is actually valid therapy in some circumstances, such as heavy metal poisoning. The problem is that some people want to use it for conditions that it has not been shown to be beneficial for, in the absence of a convincing rationale (coincidental anti-coagulation effect of the therapy notwithstanding), and where there are already better existing therapies. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelation_therapy

  28. #28 Narad
    February 2, 2012

    Narad the canadian watch saleswoman has never even seen my website so what does she know? I bet she doesn’t even know the cure for kesbumps.

    Oh, I’ve seen it, Rob Hood, KE5BMP. The impressive part is that you actually hoped to call attention to this incoherent mess for a while. And now… you’re apparently ashamed of the very name your mother gave you.

  29. #29 lilady
    February 2, 2012

    Oh cripes, is the scat-talking excrement smearing sock puppet from Eupora Mississippi back?

  30. #30 Phoenix Woman
    February 2, 2012

    I see that while most establishment-media outlets like the Washington Post mentioned Burton’s insane attacks on the Clintons, none of them mentioned what made him shut his trap about them — namely, the disgust of longtime Indiana journalist Harrison Ullmann, who wrote what he knew about Dan Burton’s shenanigans for the Indianapolis newsweekly NUVO in 1998.

    The piece is no longer online, but here is a sample:

    “In terms of sex, the first place the ‘60s got to in Indianapolis was the Statehouse—this was a time when hookers would come in and leave cards on legislators’ desks. Getting a piece was rampant in the General Assembly then. And within that context, Burton had a major reputation. Back when he had a seat in the General Assembly and back during his early terms in Congress, Dan Burton had a reputation for sex with convenient women that was at least as awful and awesome as the Clinton reputation. When Hoosier politicians and pundits gathered, they would tell each other stories about Burton scoring with interns and pages, scoring with staffers in his offices and staffers in his campaign, scoring with Carmel housewives and some fine Christian women elsewhere in his district.”

    When Salon’s Russ Baker and Jason Vest found out about Ullmann’s shot across Burton’s bow, they both went to town. Baker’s website has the gist: http://www.russbaker.com/archives/pit%20bull%20all.htm

  31. #31 lilady
    February 3, 2012

    @ Phoenix Woman: It’s not really surprising how Dan Burton did fund raising and conducted his personal life…when you consider how he bulldogged his way through congressional hearings.

  32. #32 epador
    February 3, 2012

    What, no party affiliation or smack-down for a certain (D) Senator for wasting money on Morgellon’s Disease research, but repeated (R) references for this blight on a gluteal pimple?

    Partisan, thy name is Orac.

  33. #33 Orac
    February 3, 2012

    You’re full of crap.

    Search for “Harkin” on this blog. I’ve castigated Tom Harkin on many occasions for his having created NCCAM. (Hint: Harkin is a Democrat. Another hint: I’ve written about Tom Harkin way more times than I have about Dan Burton.)

  34. #34 lilady
    February 3, 2012

    “What, no party affiliation or smack-down for a certain (D) Senator for wasting money on Morgellon’s Disease research, but repeated (R) references for this blight on a gluteal pimple?

    Partisan, thy name is Orac.”

    Epador, why didn’t you read the entire article? I think you would find that Congressman Dan Burton is (dis)honored for his “body of work” of conducting hearings, on his “pet topics” that included his favored quack witnesses. During those same hearings he has a documented history of strong-arming witnesses including “traditional” doctors, who testified at the numerous hearings he chaired on various woo-topics such as vaccine-linked autism, cam/alt chelation therapies and cam/alt dangerous cancer treatments. Orac detailed Burton’s interference with the Autism Omnibus Proceedings and his enabling the establishment and continued support/funding of the NCCAM at the NIH.

    Furthermore, he has gotten himself reelected by violating codes of ethics in Congress by his fund-raising tactics and his threats to donors. His hypocrisy regarding his private life (using taxpayer dollars to put his many girlfriends on the payroll in no-show job slots and his accosting and pawing of young women), are a disgrace.

    There were 40 Republican and Democratic members of the Senate and the House who supported funding for the CDC to conduct research on Morgellons Disease. (Source: Morgellons Research Foundation “CDC Timeline Morgellons Research”)

    Partisan, thy name is epador

    -FTFY,

  35. #35 Mindy the Hindi
    February 4, 2012

    http://pss.sagepub.com/content/23/2/187.full

    New research says prohibitionists are not as smart as they claim!

    lilady, where do you stand on liberty?

  36. #36 lilady
    February 4, 2012

    Mindy the Hindi: If you are not a sock puppet, your question is still bizarre. Care to explain?

  37. #37 Mindy the Hindi
    February 4, 2012

    Your comment at #10. Did you read that study? There’s no paywall.

  38. #38 Mindy the Hindi
    February 4, 2012

    Giving ‘wikipedia’ as the source and telling the story about the idiot trying to tell the court of jesters how to rid the mountains of moles.

    Read a bit more of that paper. Preference for punitive corrective action is a firm correlate with low intelligence in childhood.

  39. #39 Chris
    February 4, 2012

    It says:

    In an analysis of two large-scale, nationally representative United Kingdom data sets (N = 15,874), we found that lower general intelligence (g) in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood, and this effect was largely mediated via conservative ideology. A secondary analysis of a U.S. data set confirmed a predictive effect of poor abstract-reasoning skills on antihomosexual prejudice, a relation partially mediated by both authoritarianism and low levels of intergroup contact.

    But aren’t they the ones who claim they want liberty with their “freedom movements”? And why did you specifically point out that paper to lilady?

  40. #40 lilady
    February 4, 2012

    @ Chris: I think we are dealing with the (he whose name shall not be spoken), morphing sock puppet of the pothead troll.

  41. #41 Orac
    February 4, 2012

    Good call. That’s exactly whom we’re dealing with, and I’ve taken care of the problem. Again.

  42. #42 lilady
    February 4, 2012

    Curses! Foiled again!

    Thanks, Orac

  43. #43 Marry Me, Mindy
    February 4, 2012

    The nice part about sockpuppets, once they are identified, is that you know you don’t have to engage them, since they are obviously not interested in honest discourse

  44. #44 lilady
    February 4, 2012

    @ Marry Me, Mindy: The nicer part about sock puppets, once their real identity is found out (Julian Pursell-IP London), you “out them” again…so that no one engages them.

  45. #45 Carol G
    February 5, 2012

    Occasionally someone tells me they have chosen not to vaccinate their children because they have been taken in by this tripe. I smile and listen patiently before offering my opinion. In the good old days before we had these nasty vaccines people always had lots of children because of course you expected to lose a few.

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