If you want to have an idea of what happens when a nation replaces science with ideology… emotion instead of logic… and takes to bullying science into submission instead of following the data… tune into HBO’s series Chernobyl.
Or… you can just attend a committee meeting of the New Jersey Senate chaired by Joseph Vitale. Either is likely to feature a scene like this one…
Joseph Vitale is the Chairman of the New Jersey Senate's Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee and he is anything but a gentleman – or even a human being – when lording over his committee. We vividly remember him in committee arguing with a citizen over Senate Bill 1195 – then legislation, now law – which allows people to alter their birth certificates to whatever gender they wish, without undergoing sexual reassignment surgery. Yes, in New Jersey, people with penises can legally be women and people with vaginas can legally be men. Talk about ideology stepping on reality – this is Chernobyl level!
Senator Vitale, was the main sponsor of Senate Bill 1195 and his exchange with this citizen exercising the right to speak before the New Jersey Legislature was anything but respectful. There was something of the sociopath in the Senator's behavior -- one moment he was dripping sensitivity, only to turn vicious the next. There's no remorse – he doesn't appear to care how he treats people who don't agree right down the line with him. Does he lack a conscience? We wonder.
What placed Vitale in the same class as the Chernobyl-denying ideologue in the video was the way he utterly dismissed the reputation of a scholar whose words were entered into the record by the citizen. Senator Vitale appeared to have no intellectual curiosity at all. Here is that exchange:
The Senator: "...You are citing some medical director, obviously he's a former medical director, probably for good reason."
The Citizen: "Because he retired."
The Senator: "Um, right, good thing."
Now someone with Vitale’s level of certainty must have some credentials to back up such a coarse dismissal. So we wondered if the Senator was a doctor or a professor, after all, he is the Chairman of the committee through which passes all health care legislation in New Jersey. We looked up his biography and found out that he managed to make it through the 12th grade. Yep, born in 1954, went from high school to the family business, drifted into the muck of Woodbridge politics, became one of the boys, was selected by the boys as their Senator when Jim McGreevey ran for Governor.
And what about that "medical director" the one the Senator said was "obviously... a former medical director, probably for good reason" and that it was a "good thing" he was no longer working?
Well that guy was born in 1931 and is a psychiatrist, researcher, and educator. He is University Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the author, co-author, or editor of seven books within his field. He was the son of a high school teacher and a homemaker. He graduated from Harvard College in 1952 and from Harvard Medical School in 1956. He was accepted into the neurology and neuropathology residency program at the Massachusetts General Hospital where he studied for three years under the chief of the Neurology Department. From Massachusetts General, he went to the Institute of Psychiatry in London (where he studied under Sir Aubrey Lewis and was supervised by James Gibbons and Gerald Russell). Following London, he went to the Division of Neuropsychiatry at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. He has held various academic and administrative positions, including, Professor of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College (where he founded the Bourne Behavioral Research Laboratory), Clinical Director and Director of Residency Education at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Westchester Division and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oregon. From 1975 until 2001, he was the Henry Phipps Professor of Psychiatry and the director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the Johns Hopkins University. At the same time, he was psychiatrist-in-chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. He is currently University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His own research has focused on the neuroscientific foundations of motivated behaviors, psychiatric genetics, epidemiology, and neuropsychiatry. During the 1960s, he co-authored papers on hydrocephalus, depression and suicide, and amygdaloid stimulation. In 1975, he co-authored a paper entitled "Mini-Mental State: A Practical Method for Grading the Cognitive State of Patients for the Clinician." This paper details the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE), an exam consisting of just eleven questions, that quickly and accurately assesses patients for signs of dementia and other states of cognitive impairment. It is one of the most widely used tests in the mental health field. In 1979, in his capacity as chair of the Department of Psychiatry, he ended gender assignment surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. In 1983, he co-authored The Perspectives of Psychiatry, which presents the Johns Hopkins approach to psychiatry. The book "seeks to systematically apply the best work of behaviorists, psychotherapists, social scientists and other specialists long viewed as at odds with each other." A second edition was published in 1998. He also treated author Tom Wolfe for depression suffered following coronary bypass surgery. Wolfe dedicated his 1998 novel, A Man in Full to him, "whose brilliance, comradeship and unfailing kindness saved the day." He is a registered Democrat who describes himself as a "political liberal".
And you Senator... you made it through the 12th grade.
Senator Vitale, don't you think it would have been a lot wiser to shut your mouth, open your ears, and maybe learn something? Maybe read one of the guy's books before dismissing him out of hand? Or don't, perhaps this is why health care is what it is in New Jersey?
Maybe New Jersey is in the shape it is in because of the lack of humility and unwillingness to learn exhibited by politicians who set policies – guys like Joseph Vitale. Maybe a Committee Chairman too stupid to learn does result in substandard government and people being made to suffer?