Laugh it up, jerks. Laugh it up.

I used to have a boss who was well into his 70s when he decided to retire. He had worked at the health department where I was just a young number-cruncher longer than I had been alive. He joked about starting to work as a public health inspector in the Johnson Administration. Slowly and steadily, he moved up the ranks to becoming the director of a very busy infectious diseases unit at a very busy health department.

He was there in 1976 when Legionnaires’ Disease appeared. He told me about being on a call with people in the White House and how they wanted something, anything done, and done immediately. That same year, the swine flu fiasco happened, throwing the flu vaccine program into disarray. And he was at his highest position when all the crazy was unleashed over “Vaccine Roulette” and the resulting anti-vaccine nonsense.

He survived all that, and more. From one administration at the federal and state levels to another. His bosses came and went. The things they stood for changed and changed, and tragedies happened. And he was still there in his old age, fighting the good fight.

As you might have guessed, anti-vaccine zealots from The Kid to the anti-Semitic jerks at Age of Autism are celebrating the Trump victory since Trump has questioned vaccines and has embraced certain anti-science people. Apparently, Andrew Jeremy Wakefield once posed for a picture a few feet away from Trump, so Trump is now likely to ban all vaccines everywhere for all time. Makes sense, right?

Much like their knowledge of vaccines, anti-vaccine activists show an ignorance of how public health works in America. The vaccine advisory committee is not made up of political appointees or partisans. It’s made up of experts on the subject matter. They recommend what vaccines to give to what age groups, and the recommendations are followed (or not) at the state and local level. In order to shut down all vaccines everywhere forever, anti-vaccine-obsessed people would need to convince all states and territories that the Earth is flat, or something just as ludicrous.

Could a Trump Administration pull the plug on funding? Yeah, maybe, but we’ve done a lot more with a lot less. (That’s what my old boss used to tell us stories about. One year, they had their budget cut by 70%, and they still managed to expand their services year after year, even if just a little bit.) See, unlike anti-vaccine activists, we in public health are not in it for the money. We don’t travel to far-away and very dangerous places for money. We are okay with being held at gunpoint when something gets lost in translation at a checkpoint in a banana republic because we know we’re there to serve, and, frankly, dying for what we do is a badge of honor. We’d become immortal if we ever die in the service of public health.

So, yeah, laugh it up, jerks. Write all your little blog posts about how beautiful it will be to live in a Trump-led world. (Spoiler Alert: He’s not leading anyone. He’s not a leader. It’s not some title you are given.) We will continue to vaccinate tomorrow, next year, and next century. We might stumble and fall here and there, yes. But, just when you celebrate at the thought of burying us, you will weep when you realize we’re seeds… When you realize what we’ve survived and, thus, what has made us stronger.


You don’t want no change

In my line of work, you have to be able to survive different levels and incarnations of bureaucracies. People at the top will come and go at the whim of the electorate, or the whims of those who fund elections. But people like us, people at the bottom, will always be around. We will always be the ones to clean up the messes of the people at the top.

Take for example Zika in Puerto Rico. We saw that coming since it showed up in Brazil last year. When a friend of mine went to Colombia, I told him to watch for it. Reports were coming in that Zika had arrived in Brazil, but no one was listening. (No one at the top, that is.) While my friend was chasing Chikungunya, I was getting ready to be deployed to Brazil. However, at the last minute, because the people upstairs are that way, I ended up helping with MERS in Seoul instead.

So I guess I am in fact susceptible to some of the whims of some of the people upstairs. Funny that. Anyway, we saw Zika coming and no one did much of anything. Some of us begged and pleaded to be sent to the island to help them prepare. Their health department was in shambles, and we knew it. We desperately kept asking for a deployment. We were even willing to stay with host families to cut down on the cost. But, because Zika funding was a political hot potato, no one did anything.

And here we are. The first case of microcephaly in a child has been reported in Puerto Rico, and it is probably not going to be the only one. The eggheads in mathematical modeling tell us that thousands of women will be infected. The epidemiologists on the ground are seeing it. And those of us who have dealt with infectious disease outbreaks before know that it’s going to get much worse before it gets better, especially since we couldn’t do anything early to at least ameliorate the outcomes.

Thing is, this is the way things have always been. Politicians have always played politics with other peoples’ lives. They are willing to tolerate the deaths (or lifetime of disability) of people so long as they keep their power and keep pushing for the weird ideal in their head. (Their version of freedom, their version of justice, and their version of the American Way.) And we, the people, we are sort of okay with that because we’re creatures of comfort.

If I told you that you had to go grab a gun and head out to fight an invading army, you (especially you Americans) would probably freak out. Who would take care of your house while you were gone? Who’d feed your pets? What about your kids? Your lawn? Very few of you would be willing to let it all go to go fight, or to go do what needs to be done to make things better.

That’s why I could care less if Clinton or Trump win. (Sure, Trump will probably take us into a nuclear holocaust-type situation, but we’ll deal with that when we get to it.) They’re not going to change things because we won’t let them. We’ll complain if gasoline prices get high, and they’ll do what they need to to do bring those prices down lest we don’t vote for them in the next election. The same if enough of us don’t have a job, or if our homes are not worth as much as we want them to be worth.

All of this assumes that the next POTUS doesn’t become a despotic ruler. Even then, they have to keep someone happy or risk losing control:

So I don’t believe you when you say that you want change. If you think about it, Obama didn’t change things much compared to Bush Jr. Things didn’t change that much from Clinton to Bush Jr. And it wasn’t a quantum leap from Reagan to Bush Sr. to Clinton. All change has been gradual, slow, and done in such a way as to keep you comfortable and keep you productive enough for that tax money to flow.

You don’t want no change. You want everything to be status quo for as long as possible, and that’s why we have these public health “emergencies” instead of public health “problems.” We saw Zika coming from miles away, but it was uncomfortable to tell people not to travel to those nice, warm places to have some fun. It was uncomfortable to tell people there not to have sex. (The horror!) And here we are.

Whoever you vote for on November 8 (or 28th), know that you are not voting for change. You’re voting to keep the status quo as you see it. Democrats will vote for Democrats. Republicans will vote for Republicans. Tea Partiers will vote for psychopaths. And undecideds will vote for whomever seems to be the closest to keeping things the way they are, or the way they used to be when things were best.

When your math doesn’t make sense

I’m just going to leave this here. It’s a comment published on The Kid’s blog. One of his friends posts a link to another anti-vaccine website and perpetuates a lie. Then he realizes that the math doesn’t work out. So then he pleads that his comment not be published. The Kid publishes it anyway.

“But, what happened in Kenya, uncovered by 27 Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, is, to me, the signpost for “The Plan.” There, in Kenya, just three months ago, vaccines were used to permanently, and without their knowledge or permission, sterilize forty-two million (42 million) young Kenyan women. The World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF, were caught, by the Catholic Church leadership, lacing what they described as “Tetanus Vaccine” with Beta-HCG, a hormone that, when combined with the ingredients in the Tetanus vaccine, leads to sterility.”

Then this (with my link to show you who Tim Bolen is):

Tim Bolens story of 42M Kenyans doesn’t make sense given the total Kenyan pop is 45M – so please don’t publish that comment .”

Comedy gold. Here’s a tip, weirdos: FACT. CHECK.

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The mental contortions of The Kid

Last time, I told you all about how The Kid wrote that Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia was the result of a failure of the pneumococcal vaccine. He wrote:

“Despite her proclaiming that “#vaccineswork”, the pneumonia vaccine obviously did not work for her in that instance assuming she even followed the CDC’s advice as she wanted everybody else to do.”


From his blog post.

Then, on Twitter, he doubles down on his conspiracy theory:

“The fact that you have an infectious disease but came into contact with children.”

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Does The Kid Have Inside Knowledge of Hillary Clinton’s Pneumonia?

Of course he doesn’t. He just seems to think that he does.

In yet another rambling post by The Kid, he seems to think that he knows what kind of pneumonia Hillary Clinton has:

“The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all adults over 65 receive a pneumococcal vaccine to prevent pneumonia. Yet shortly after collapsing during an early exit from a 9/11 memorial gathering over what her campaign blamed on the illness, 68-year old Crooked Hillary Clinton was photographed hugging a young girl. Despite her proclaiming that “#vaccineswork”, the pneumonia vaccine obviously did not work for her in that instance assuming she even followed the CDC’s advice as she wanted everybody else to do.”

So she has pneumococcal pneumonia, Jake? I mean, how else to interpret that statement. If she took the pnumococcal vaccine, and “the pneumonia vaccine obviously did not work for her,” then she must have pneumoccocal pneumonia. Clinton’s campaign has not revealed what type of pneumonia she has been diagnosed with, but facts have never really gotten in the way of a good rant by The Kid.

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Dr. Bob Sears, our Douchebag Emerit-ass, is in hot water

News came late to me that Dr. Bob Sears, 2014’s Douchebag of The Year, is now in hot water with the California Medical Board for what the legal filing states that he “was grossly negligent and departed from the standard of care in that he did not obtain the basic information necessary for decision making prior to determining to exclude the possibility of future vaccines, leaving both patient J.G, the patient’s mother, and his future contacts at risk for preventable and communicable diseases”

Orac does a great job of covering all this, so I won’t bore you with the details. You can go read his blog and enjoy some much deserved insolence against “Dr. Bob.”

It goes without saying that this should perk the ears of other anti-vaccine so-called physicians (or physicians in title only, as no physician worth their salt would ever be anti-vaccine). They should be very, very careful about how they carry on their business of promoting anti-vaccine science.

The need for anonymity when you speak out

I got an interesting message on Facebook a few days ago. It was from “Sherri Kane” a woman from Hawaii who is very involved in conspiracy theories:

“When the film ended, Sherri grabbed the microphone. Her face had turned into a grim, ugly mask, the corners of her mouth pulled downward as if by strings.

“I don’t want anybody to leave the room right now,” she said. “I have a question.” She pointed at Dina, our photographer, who was circling the room taking pictures.

“Come up here,” Sherri said. “I want you to tell everybody who you work for.”

“I’m with Popular Mechanics,” Dina said. “Everybody knows that.”

As though she were talking to a small child, Sherri continued, “And can you tell everybody what Popular Mechanics has to do with a conspiracy cruise?”

Someone in the audience interrupted, “You know she’s the photographer, not the reporter?”

“Let me ask the questions, okay!” Sherri snapped, turning back to Dina. “And can you tell everyone why Popular Mechanics would be interested in people like us?”

Dina just smiled. “What, you don’t think you are interesting?”

“You’re taking photos so that you can label us conspiracy theorists!”

Dannion Brinkley groaned. “Let’s keep it in 528, y’all,” he said.

A woman named Abbie, who taught free yoga classes every morning, also stepped in. “That’s enough, guys,” she said.

“And who are you?” Sherri said.

“She’s a plant!” someone yelled from the audience.

Eyes rolled. Heads shook. People filtered out.

Someone muttered, “She’s the yoga teacher.””

Sherri and her man also sell interesting supplements (from the same Popular Mechanics article):

“On Tuesday morning, we sat down in the front row of a presentation we had not yet been barred from: Len Horowitz’s lecture on 528 hertz. While Len fussed with the projector, Sherri set out boxes of nutritional supplements and crystal pyramids for sale. Their flagship product, OxySilver, retailed for $49.40. It contained one listed ingredient: purified water, though its nutritional table also included 5 micrograms of colloidal silver.”

In the same article, we learn that the “Horokane” has a penchant for the melodramatic:

“When we arrived at the Liberty Lab the next afternoon, Len accosted Dina in the doorway. His eyes were the size of dinner plates.

“I want you to see something!” he shouted as he tried to force a packet of papers into her hands, then mine. They were articles from Popular Mechanics debunking bad science. Apparently Len and Sherri had been up all night Googling the magazine and printing out documents in the ship’s computer center. There was also a Wikipedia entry that linked the magazine’s parent company, Hearst, to the Lagardère Group.

I tried to laugh it off and go around him, but Len wouldn’t let me pass.

“Look at this!” he shouted, his face contorting with rage. “Look at this! This is why you’re here! You’re here in bad faith!”

Larry Cook, who had also been milling around in the hallway, stepped in front of Len to keep him from lunging at me.

“Get your hands off me!” Len shouted at him. “Get your f–king hands off me!”

Armed with a camera, Sherri darted out from behind Len and chased me around the hallway, demanding that I explain myself. As I tried to block my face from the camera, I got trapped against the wall between Len and Larry, who seemed seconds away from a full-on brawl.

“If you don’t stop this, I’m calling security,” Larry said. Len then challenged Larry to a fistfight in the ship’s gym.”

From all indications, this is the same Sherri Kane.

She’s not the only one who seems to be interested in my true identity, though. Long time friend of the blog, Jacob Lawrence Crosby, has been probing different avenues to finding out who I am. (Going as far as sending an email to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, claiming that Ren and I were one and the same.) Later, someone with a British Accent called the DC Department of Health and complained that someone there was pretending to be an epidemiologist, and that this someone was me.

One of their biggest complaints about me (or us, really) is that we write anonymously. They say that if we have to write anonymously, it must be because we have something to hide. Well, yes, we have something to hide, our true identity. We hide our true identity because they (the people who want to know who we are) want to inflict some sort of harm on us. They want us fired from our jobs, kicked out of our schools, or harassed by other people.

Furthermore, there are some of us who have jobs which require background checks and security clearances. Not very high levels of these, mind you, but high enough that someone having raging lunatics for fans (like Sherri Kane) would probably not get cleared to work someplace. After all, who wants to employ someone whose fans (like Sherri Kane) want to bring them harm? Why stir that particular hive of bees?

Because of these things, we write anonymously, and we probably will for the foreseeable future. Sorry, but that’s the way it is. Kudos to all of you who speak out without anonymity.