Merry Christmas

There have not been many opportunities for me to post on the blog. I’m back in the nation’s capital for a special assignment, and it’s taking more of my time than I had originally planned. Still, I wanted to thank you (yes, you) for reading this year. Here’s hoping that 2016 brings with it new opportunities for us to continue to spread the Good News about science, evidence, reason, and all those good things that moves us forward as a species. And here’s also hoping that the anti-vaccine activists, militants, and their minions come around to join us in the light.

If they don’t, it’s not because we didn’t try.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Just a quick update

Ah, the life of an epidemiologist. If I’m not responding to one thing, I’m responding to another. We always compare ourselves to firefighters because we sometimes sit around for hours or days and then spring into action when something goes down. Some of us are lucky enough to be thrown on a plane and flown to the other side of the world only to be thrown on another plane and flown to another part of the world. That cycle repeats over and over again, and it’s been repeating a lot lately for all the contributors to this blog.

So I just wanted to let you know that we’re still keeping an eye on all the non-believers and the mess that they have made. (By “non-believers,” I mean the anti-science zealots.) It’s just that time has been hard to come by lately, especially on long flights from one continent to another, and then catching up with personal lives once we get back home and before we’re sent elsewhere again.

I hope you understand.

Welcome, minions!

Well, well, well. It seems that this old blog got some sort of an enormous boost over the last 48 hours. As a result, I want to take a moment and welcome all the new readers. Now, most of you are here because you are interested in my blog post about one Dr. Peter Doshi, PhD. However, if you look around the blog, you’ll see that I cover a whole range of other issues, 99% of them having to do with science denialism and its consequences. The other 1% is just me on a rant.

There is something for everyone here, from abortion to male circumcision to one of our favorite subjects: vaccines.

So thank you for stopping by and boosting the number of views. I mean, come on, look at this:


I have a plague

You probably know how it is. Snotty kids walking around, passing their germs to anyone and everyone within range. People on the train, all sniffling and sneezing, passing their germs to anyone and everyone within range. It’s the circle of life, and death.

I was going to tell you about how the kid’s mentor is, yet again, trying to convince the world that thimerosal causes autism and that “they” in government knew it all along but were protecting their own masters. I was also going to tell you about a kid in Australia who has liver disease and how his mother is pleading with anti-vaccine types to stop putting her child at risk. And then I was going to tell you about that non-epidemiologist PhD non-scientist and how he’s going after HIV anti-retroviral therapy.

But I’m sick. I have a plague. Not THE plague, mind you. Just a plague.

I’ll be back next week.

The original project, again

I’ve been writing more and more on “The Poxes.” I think I’m well into 40,000 words now, which is a record for me. If you know me, you know that I like to write. “The Poxes” has been a labour of love, to be honest. I am beginning to care more and more for the characters in that story. Perhaps it’s because I’m basing it on friends and colleagues in my own life?

As we approach 200 posts, I keep thinking about the original project behind this blog and how it’s morphed. I’ve been dragged into the anti-vaccine wars not by my own will. They came after me. They drafted me into this. So sometimes I wonder if I should go on hiatus. After all, nearly every child is immunized in the United States. What more can I do? How much more can I keep putting myself out there for the anti-vaccine crowd to wonder who I am and, as I’m sure they will, come after me?

However, I picture a world where enough children are vaccinated, herd immunity is robust, and the anti-vaccine crowd goes away. But, being the dreamer that I am, I also picture them coming back in full force and doing what Bane did to Batman (watch it all, it’s only 4 minutes):

“Let’s not stand on ceremony here, Mr. Wayne.” Bane discovers our hero’s true identity. What are they going to do when they discover mine?

“Peace has cost you your strength. Victory has defeated you.” If all the kids are vaccinated, and we don’t need to fight that war, how prepared will we be when they come back?

“Theatricality and deception, powerful agents to the uninitiated. But we are initiated, aren’t we, Bruce?” Meaning, what if the anti-vaxxers learn all our methods to stop them and can fight back and defend themselves? Worse yet, what if an anti-vaxxer becomes an epidemiologist?

“You fight like a younger man. Nothing held back. Admirable, but mistaken.” Self-explanatory.

“The shadows betray you because they belong to me.” That is, if we lie like the anti-vaccine activists do, we’re only going to end up hurting ourselves.

“Ah, yes, I was wondering what would break first… Your spirit… Or your body.” I cringe at the thought.

This is the 199th post on this blog. There will be a 200th. But I am going to take an extended break until September and think hard about having a 201st.


The dog days of summer

I must admit to you that I’m not in much of a blogging mood when it’s this hot out. My walk to the office and then back to my flat are exhausting in this heat. The mid-Atlantic humidity really does a number on me. When I get home and all my clothes are soaked and clinging to me, the last thing I want to do is blog. (Yeah, that was not a pretty picture.)

I’ve been especially grumpy lately because some pro-vaccine advocates have taken it upon themselves to tell me what to write, how, and when. They think that I’m a writing machine. I’m not the blogger with hypergraphia. I’m the blogger that is slowly working his way to the 200th post, and is thinking very hard about what to write once that milestone is met.

I guess I could tell you all about the lies and misinformation being spewed by the anti-vaccine advocates, but what else do you expect from anti-vaccine advocates? Or I could tell you that Andrew Jeremy Wakefield continues to claim that he didn’t say what he said, or that his study said something completely different to what it really said. But what else do you expect from Andrew Jeremy Wakefield?

I could explain to you why a petulant anti-vaccine loon thinks that having/knowing/friending/peeing next to someone who does business with someone who is related/knows/works or pees with someone in the pharmaceutical industry makes you “morally bankrupt.” But what do you expect from that child? That’s all he knows how to do, a real stain in the educational institution that is GWU.

Maybe I could tell you why homeopathy would violate all rules of physics if it worked like homeopaths and others say it does. Or that “alternative and complimentary medicine” is not really “medicine.” Rather, these things are no better than “wishful thinking.” While there is such a thing as the placebo effect, there is no room in reality to say that these things are cures for anything.

What I’m trying to say is that I can only write and write and write some more about the things that anti-science, ignorant people say or do online and in real life. There are only so many topics that can be covered. There are only so many people I can laugh at (while simultaneously shaking my head). I keep thinking about this as the 200th post is coming up.

Remember, this blog was not supposed to be all about refuting stupidity. It was supposed to be a companion blog to “The Poxes.” It just got out of hand because there really is that much stupid to refute. There really are that many ignorant and evil people in this world. So we’ll see where I go once I hit 200.

Go read my friend’s blog

What are you doing reading this? Go read Ren’s declaration of a new “forever war,” and his subsequent post about depression. Mental Health is something that we in public health don’t think about often, but it influences a lot of what we do. If a person is not of sound mind, how can we expect them to make the right health decisions for themselves and their community?

I do hope Ren keeps at it on the mental health aspects of public health. I’ll do the lifting with quackery and the anti-vax crowd. (Well, not just me. There are others. We are many.)

This blog is not about autism

Just a quick housekeeping note. This blog is not about autism. Yes, I touch on autism a lot because of how anti-vaccine and anti-science types want to associate everything and anything with autism without a shred of real evidence. Yes, I advocate for “Autistic People” or “people with autism” more and more now, but that’s only as part of my overall involvement in public health.

A commenter by the acronym of “N.D.N.S.N.,” whatever that means, commented yesterday:

“If you’re so concerned about how Autistic people are viewed, how about you start by listening to us and NOT calling us “people with autism?” It seems like you’re more concerned with how able people would like to categorize us than how we’d actually like to be called, treated, and spoken to.”

Of course, this person is entitled to their opinion, but they really should have brought forth more facts than just their opinions in calling me out like that. How have I not listened? How have I shown more concern with “how able people would like to categorize” you? Some examples beyond me writing “people with autism” instead of “Autistic people” would be nice, please.

I read this article last night from the Austistic Self Advocacy Network, and I can kind of understand where you’re coming from on the use of terminology. However, I’m a scientist, and I see autism as a condition more so than a personality trait or an ethnic/social classification. This whole business of making autism a trait of who you are is foreign to me, and you’re going to have to explain it better (and without being an asshat). It reminds me of people who are born deaf and refuse to get cochlear implants because, somehow, it would take away from who they really are.

Of course, I’m writing about this without being autistic, or deaf, or anything like that, so the possibility that I’m not seeing things in a certain light is very much there, and I’m very much open to it if someone cares to explain it to me without pedantry like this:

“If you want to write about Autistic people, you need to be consistent in treating us as equals, not just attack some things harmful to us and then turn around and support narratives that disempower us.”

See, that’s just calling me a bigot, and I am very proud and secure in saying that I am anything but a bigot. I mean, support narratives that disempower you? What. The. [Expletive]? Of course, this was one commenter on one post. But it has been my experience that where there is one who comments there are a dozen who don’t.

That said, this blog is not about autism… For that matter, neither is “Age of Autism,” really. But I hold myself at a higher standard than that piece of crap writing and constant whining. And, get this, I stick to the evidence and will correct myself when properly confronted with counter evidence. Funny how that works, right?

Operational Pause

Something really, really big just came up. I can’t tell you what it is, and you’ll probably never know that I’m about to do what I’m about to do. That’s how public health works. We do things in the background so that bad things don’t come to the forefront.

No worries. My “mission” this time is not at all like that of the hundreds of healthcare workers moving into Somalia right now to vaccinate children in that war-torn place. It certainly isn’t as dangerous as the vaccine workers that got shot and killed in Nigeria and Pakistan. And its not going to go down in the annals of history like the smallpox eradication campaign did and the polio eradication campaign surely will.

Maybe, if you’re good, I’ll post a picture when I get back. Maybe.

So find something else to do for a week, will you? (I suggest the reading list on the right side of this blog.)

Up, up and away…