The Snake Oil Bulletin: Deep In The Heart Of Stupid

Greetings, pardners, and welcome once again to the Snake Oil Bulletin. We've got us a rootin', tootin', hole-in-head-shootin' round of stories on the agenda this week, all taking place in that great throbbing, barbecue-thrombosed heart of America, Texas!

Yeehaw! Kick up your spurs, slap on your ten-gallon, and eyeball that calf just a little too long for comfort. Let's ride on in.

Texas Won't Be Havin' None A Yer Carpetbaggin' 'Experts' Round These Parts

Yr Dr. Volpe was never much for no book-larnin'. Oh we know our letters just fine, and we can count higher than any soul in our little hamlet (all the way to 6!), but books were always the realm of four-eyed poindexters with bowler hats and cravats. That's why it pleases us so that America's proud illiterates are finally stepping up and pushing back against the crushing tide of education that threatens to swallow us all into its gaping maw of checked facts. And what better Champions of the Ignorantiat are there than the fine folks on the Texas Board of Education?

[contextly_sidebar id="Q3SzbWSZMXdfkXSsnJQGO9TDSKm1qaKD"]The Texas Board of Education is famous the world over for their sterling standards of excellence, unwavering commitment to intellectual achievement, and unimpeachable ethics in the face of outside influence. They're also famous for being openly and proudly dumb.

[contextly_sidebar id="nZ0wYZnNzqt7kjjdMZuYsYaQaaoxRFl2"]That's why it came as no surprise a few weeks ago when Texas textbooks were discovered to have some creative labels for those nice dusken-skinned ladies and gentlemen who tilled the fields as "workers", and were so generous about it that they didn't even ask for any money in return!

Naturally the liberals objected with vicious cries of "You do know what slavery was, right?" So incensed by these scurrilous accusations, the Texas school board members stood tall and proud, arched back their empty heads, and with a mighty roar only possible from a cavernous skull bellowed "NO WE DON'T" and that was the end of the matter.

Unfortunately some people just don't know when to let sleeping dogs lie. This week, a muckraker known as Republican Thomas Ratliff decided to sully the sacred space of the Holy Board of Education by introducing a bill that would allow heathen "experts" from "universities" to maybe take a look at the board's decisions before they went immediately into print. "HERESY!" pronounced the Board, taking a break from smashing bricks into their skulls, "WE'LL HAVE NONE OF THAT HERE." And with that the board bravely voted down the proposal. Yes, folks, Texas voted down a proposal to allow experts to fact-check textbooks, and they did so because, in the words of one opponent: "I don’t want to send a message that … we feel the college people are more important. I don’t want that."

The decision came down to an 8-7 split, those 7 approvals no doubt coming from board members who mistook the Y in YES for an I and thought they were ordering IES CREEM. But perhaps the measure failed because even Thomas Ratliff himself, the man who proposed the damn thing, presented it to the board like so:

"I know people are concerned about pointy-headed liberals in the ivory tower making our process different or worse," Ratliff, of Mount Pleasant, said before the vote. "But I hold our institutions of higher education in fairly high regard."

Pointy-headed? Is he suggesting that liberals are witches now? It would make sense: they hate Donald Trump so. Also, your high regard for them is duly noted, Ratliff. You open your speech by insulting university-taught experts and then stand shocked when no one supports them.

As of right now, the textbooks are reviewed by citizen review panels, staffed entirely by people hand-picked by members of the Board of Education. In the past this has included such qualified history experts as dentists, pastors, and car salesmen. No doubt they got along swimmingly with the panel's horse consul.

The Christian Science Monitor, bless its heart, tries to see the upside in the board voting down the expert proposal by noting a different proposal was approved in its stead. Texas is at least saying experts can do their expert thing, but they have to invite along a few Morans for diversity's sake.

Rather than allowing academics to intervene, the board voted unanimously to tweak its current system, mandating that review panels be made up of "at least a majority" of people with "sufficient content expertise and experience" as determined by the Texas education commissioner.

[contextly_sidebar id="q7YRw4QQRJH2XvO2rGoPkt0dwt7odHOt"]Oh goody. Texas students can now be assured that "at least a majority" of what they're being taught is true. The Board still reserves the right to remove pro-Muslim bias and pretend Thomas Jefferson didn't exist, however, which means that students will continue to learn all the history that wingnuts like to imagine and nothing else, forever.

Lucky us, the wingnuts are here to show their full support for the board's decision, as notes certified wingnut and fan of tongue-twisters Roy White, leader of Truth in Texas Textbooks, a conservative group that has previously called out the board for inaccuracy in their texts. Now you might be thinking "Wait, wingnuts object to the already insanely conservative textbooks?" Indeed they do, but would you believe that they object because the books aren't conservative ENOUGH?

Roy White...told members that the state "was fortunate" to have its current system. But he also complained that past textbooks deemphasized the role of Islamic extremism in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Reviewers from White's organization raised scores of objections to history and social studies textbooks up for board approval last year. He said its reviewers checked the McGraw Hill world geography book and missed the "workers" error, but they found 13 others — including objections to how it covered the concepts of jihad and Cuban communism.

Uh huh. They "missed" the workers error. Sure.

"You got [sic] humans involved, there are going to be some errors," White said.

And if you can't trust a fella with that kind of down home diction to learns your childrens their words and stuffs, who can you trust?

Thanks for the grub, amen. God USA place.

Texas finally gets around to prosecuting quack doctor

We bandy about the word "quack" quite loosely here at The Bulletin, which really is a shame. Most of the doctors, non-doctors, and assorted ingrates we cover are not so much quacks as people with creative ideas about medicine. Yet even in an intellectual Rapture like Texas, where a man is free to decide just how much Jesus he'd like in his textbooks, there are those creative, free-market individualists who are still persecuted for their beliefs. Said beliefs do involve pulling a long con to cheat cancer patients out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, but uh, uh, LOOK A DUCK! SHOOT IT!

Meet Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, a man who runs an "alternative cancer clinic" in Houston. Burzynski is famous for touting the benefits of antineoplastons, an unproven medical alternative to chemotherapy that has been in FDA trials since the '70s. While many doctors offer their patients the chance to be included in clinical trials, doing so takes months of pre-screening and rigorous legal mumbo jumbo that Burzynski just didn't care to do. In fact, Burzynski didn't care about conducting a clinical trial at all so much as SAYING he was conducting a clinical trial, and that makes all the difference.

Patients who contacted Burzynski's clinic, many of whom had exhausted their treatment options at other centers or were wary of traditional chemotherapy, were offered the once in a lifetime chance to be part of Burzynski's antineoplastons medical trial with no questions asked! What an amazing and not at all suspicious opportunity! All they had to do was travel to Burzynski's office in person to claim their free Caribbean vacation medical treatments.

Yet when the patients arrived at the clinic, Burzynski himself (or one of his unlicensed staff members whom he would address as "doctor") would charge the patients an exorbitant fee just to be "evaluated" for participation in the trial, knowing full well they wouldn't be approved. When the patients returned and the "doctors" informed them that they didn't qualify to be part of this possibly life-saving clinical trial, Dr. Burzynski would swoop down like a buzzard spying a carrion buffet and offer them an alternative out of the goodness of his heart.

If they would sign a consent (that conveniently left off any mention of side effects) Burzynski would offer them exclusive drug therapies similar to antineoplastons only available at one particular pharmacy that they could take in lieu of the clinical trials and thus they would be saved! Hunky dorey, right?

Wellllll. MAYBE Burzynski owned the pharmacy where patients got these drugs and neglected to mention the conflict of interest; MAYBE the treatments weren't exclusive at all but commercially available at any competent hospital; MAYBE Burzynski charged patients exorbitant amounts of money just to be "evaluated" for these new treatments when he had no intention of using the evaluations; and even MAYBE Burzynski sold these treatments at a several hundred per cent mark-up because, again, he owned the pharmacy and thought he could get away with it. MAYBE all that's true, but that's all he did wrong, right?

Welllllll #2, he also prescribed multiple treatments simultaneously, because drug interaction is only a worry for babies and old people. He also neglected to tell patients that he was prescribing multiple, often contradictory, treatments, and completely neglected to tell them about side-effects, possibly placing multiple patients' lives in danger in the quest for some extra bucks. Oh yeah, and he also charged several patients upwards of $400,000 each for medical tests they didn't need, because once you've cheated people out of a few things it's not a huge step up to cheat them out of 400,000 things.

The Texas Medical Board has been trying to shut down Burzynski for years, but finally had enough evidence that they could formally charge him on Thursday.

Two of the many witnesses the Medical Board has called are Wayne and Lisa Merritt, a Georgia couple who came to Burzynski after Wayne was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Just like all the others, they were suckered in with the promise of participating in the clinical trial, only to leave with prescriptions for two different cancer treatments, though the good Doctor neglected to mention that neither one of them had ever been approved for pancreatic cancer. Oh yeah, did we mention that? He was knowingly prescribing the WRONG DRUGS. Naturally Burzynski touted the treatments as exclusive, though the reality was a little less rosey:

“When we got home and talked to our regular oncologist and found out it was just regular chemo, we felt we’d been scammed,” [Lisa Merritt] said. The Armuchee, Ga., couple said they spent $20,000 for about a month of treatment at the Burzynski clinic. Wayne Merritt received additional chemotherapy from his doctor in Georgia and remains healthy today.

Burzynski “is living the high life off the backs of the terminally ill,” Lisa Merritt said. “I hope they revoke his license.”

If we can correct Ms. Merritt on one thing, it is to note that Burzynski isn't living the high life off the backs of the terminally ill. He's living the high life off the backs of every person he's ever met, like his previous attorney, who claims that Burzynski owes him over $250,000 in unpaid legal fees, and all those very nice creditors to whom Burzynski owes upwards of $1.1 million. His previous attorney is trying to force him into bankruptcy, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

In parting we'd just like to let Dr. Burzynski know that we at the Volpe Clinic of Special Numpties and Nonsense are offering him an AMAZING trial for an all-expenses paid trip to Waikiki Beach! True, he won't be approved for the trip to Hawai'i, but we are offering an exclusive ALTERNATIVE trip straight to prison. Enjoy, sucker.

[Dallas Morning News / New York Times / Christian Science Monitor / Slate / Document Cloud / / USA Today]


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