Sunday, February 26, 2012


Wow, what a great read. This one was published by Simon and Schuster in 2011; it's copyrighted to author Seth Mnookin. The author traces the history of the "vaccines cause autism" scare, places it into historical context and names some of the big players in the drama, including a number of medical "researchers" who ought to know better. Also prominently mentioned is -- who else? -- Oprah Winfrey. The book is full of well-meaning people whose children are autistic or worse, who just want answers and help, but not everyone in here is well-intentioned, not by a long shot.

I mean, I realize full well that 50% of all doctors were in the bottom half of their class at medical school, but puuuu-lease, are they really this clueless about how to tell a valid research study from a crappy one? I had to learn that before I was allowed out of high school. But apparently even people who really, really ought to know better -- who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to a medical school to learn how it works, and who charge us hundred of thousands a year because they supposedly have more expertise than we do -- some of those guys know about as much about how to read a research study as a pig knows how to rate a mutual fund.

And the results of this scare? LEMMINGS OVER THE CLIFF. Like the heedless Arctic rodents, most of us don't see the cliff's edge coming -- you just follow the ass of the lemming in front of you until it is far, far too late and the sea is rushing up to greet you. The author explains that we need 90% to 95% of the population to be vaccinated -- against everything -- to provide what is called "herd immunity" from deadly diseases like measles, rubella, "Hib," and polio. If the immunity rate drops much below that, illness starts to creep in, and people start keeling over. And that's starting to happen as I type this sentence.

Mnookin points out a few things I never knew before:

>> That some people are too young to vaccinate, so that, say, a 7-month-old infant, no longer protected by living in a disease-free community, can pick up the damnedest things without the parents ever knowing where or how.

>> That many diseases have been off our collective radar for so long that doctors no longer recognize them. In the chapter called "Baby Brie," Mnookin describes the horrible, lingering death of a baby too young to vaccinate against whooping cough, who was exposed to it because she was unluckily born into one of those over-educated, over-credulous populations of people who believe scare talk over hard science. She was treated by doctor after doctor before someone even realized what was wrong with her, and by that time, friends and neighbors, she was on life support. Her parents finally had to pull the plug. Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice.

Mnookin also points out things I have known for years, but which not everybody knows yet:

>> The smarter you are, the stupider you may become. Perople who think of themselves as educated and up to date on things don't begin to realize how much there really is to know, and how little of it they have under their belts. I forget where I read this, but by the middle of the year 2001, the amount of information available for humans to learn was doubling every minute and a half. Are you really caught up on all that? I know I'm not.

>> The Internet helps you become profoundly ignorant. It makes it easier than at any time in human history to read page after page after page of totally wrong stuff without ever noticing that the information is completely gonzo. The Internet was, needless to say, the wellspring of many of the pressure groups and lobbying organizations that are convincing devastated parents that the MMR vaccine caused their children's autism. Where are those groups getting their lousy information? From each other, via the Net. Think of it as lemmings committing incest.

>> Just because you have your own web site doesn't mean you have any idea what you're talking about. Look at me! For an even better example, check out TimeCube!

To order your own copy of Mnookin's bo0ok, click on the title of this entry to take you to Amazon. Or support your local library and check it out for free. You won't be sorry.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Another Godzilla Haiku

A Godzilla Haiku

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Man, I Love Stupid Rumors!

It says here that a rumor is circulating, and it's one I HAVE TO LIKE. Word on the street is that when the Mayan calendar ends, in December of 2012, the rogue planet Eris is supposed to crash into the Earth and destroy us all.

Um, OK -- but isn't Eris waaaaaaaaaaaaaay out past Pluto? If she were streaking toward us on a collision course, at a speed that would get her here by December, WOULDN'T SOMEONE HAVE NOTICED BY NOW? Half the telescopes in the sky are pointed in that direction because of the ongoing hostilities that began when Eris demoted Pluto from a planet to a fellow undistinguished iceball in the Kuiper Belt.

What the rumor-mongers may not realize is that -- as Kevin McCarthy would not doubt put it if this were a B-movie -- SHE'S ALREADY HERE. Maybe these people aren't reading the papers? Since Eris showed up, not only are the astronomers raking their leaves onto each other's lawns by moonlight out of spite, but Middle Eastern potentates are dropping like flies. Angry mobs are demonstrating in the streets. Baby Doc has returned to Haiti in the wake of a devastating earthquake and a cholera epidemic that -- you have to like this, too -- was apparently imported by aid workers. Countries are splitting up so they can form new governments and be enemies on a more official level. The European Union is teetering dangerously. The American government has just taken out one of its own citizens by drone attack. Every Republican bulwark of conservative American values is apparently standing in line to get a turn at being arrested for soliciting an undercover cop in a highway rest area. There's a nationwide lobby out there trying to keep the schools from teaching evolution. Killer Carp have invaded the Midwest.



I have here, in my hot little fin, a library copy of Where Shadows Linger by Leslie Holmes and Bruce Northorp, copyrighted in 2000 to the first-named author and published by Heritage House, Surrey, British Columbia. (Click on the title of this blog entry to order your own copy from Amazon. No Discordian will regret the purchase. No, I promise this time.)

WHAT AN AMAZING DOCUMENT. Superficially this book is about the hunt for Canadian serial killer Cliff Olson, pictured above, but the REAL story in here is about the power of bureaucracy to devastate lives. In The Principia Discordia they treat that as a big joke, but here is THE REAL THING, and that joke is nothing to smile at, my friend, because it's on you.

While Cliffie, as he was known to his friends (gulp), was out bludgeoning teenagers to death, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were closing in on him, faster than any other serial-murder case I've ever heard about. It was really impressive, the way they fingered the guy. Oh, you hear all the time about the police in this or that town discovering all 17 murders at once, like the time the plumber found someone's fingers in the drain and called the authorities in Kentish Town, breaking the Dennis Nilsen case wide open just like that. This was entirely different.

No, sir -- this time they were starting from scratch. Dead kids were turning up, and some of them were apparently stepping off the face of the earth and NOT turning up, and I'm truly impressed at how quickly they put it all together, zeroing in on the right suspect without so much as a positive DNA test or an FBI profile to guide them.

(The only good thing about Clifford Olson was his near-total inability to conceal his activities from the police.)

One thing held up the works, though, and according to the authors, it still torments every officer on the case, from that day to this: THE BUREAUCRACY. An arbitrary decision by one judge let Olson go free; he decided that because the woman Olson had raped was a hooker, she couldn't BE raped, so there was no case. Because of the rules of the justice system in Canada, there was no appealing this utterly wrong decision. Just days later, Olson killed the first child, adding it to his longstanding repetoire of theft, break-ins, and serial rape.

A sharp-eyed Mountie connected the kidnapping and attempted rape of one teenager with a dead teen who'd turned up, and yet another who'd disappeared entirely. He saw quickly that all of these events transpired virtually on Olson's front doorstep. This is the earliest example of geographic profiling that I'm aware of, and it really pulled things together for this officer, named Kettles.

What buggered things up for him? THE BUREAUCRACY. He made every effort, but could not get his findings through to the people who could make the arrest happen. Twenty years later, when this book was being written, just raising the subject reduced him to tears. While waiting to be interviewed for the book, 20 years after the Mounties got their man, he started thinking about it again and stopped eating and sleeping. Kettles blames himself for the 7 kids who were killed after he solved the murder of Daryn Johnsrude. BETTER TO BLAME THE BUREAUCRACY, MY FRIEND.

(Or, hey, just blame Olson.)

The book is not about the grim and gory parts of the investigation. It's not about the 11 devastated families. It's not about crime-scene analysis, and it's not even that much about the devoted gumshoes on the case. It's about how it took so much hassle to organize a tail on their suspect that by the time they got one going, he had just killed another child. Why was it such a problem? Because attaching a "birddog" beeper to his car would constitute not only an invasion of the suspect's privacy, but also a theft of the electricity from his car to make the beeper work. I kid you not. There are 231 pages of this kind of insanity in here.  Plus appendices.

It's VERY educational. You should read it.

And let me say this: If the Mounties can get their man under conditions like these, think how they'd rock the house if someone streamlined their operation a little.