Friday, February 23, 2007

60 Minutes: It Will Hurt, but Watch It

60 Minutes, Sunday at 7pm, Laura Logan will be interviewing a few of the brave 1000 active duty and reserve members of the U.S. Military who have petitioned to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.

"Just because we volunteered for the military doesn't mean we volunteered to put our lives in unnecessary harm and to carry out missions that are illogical and immoral."
-Marine Sgt. Liam Madden

They're still serving, still following orders, but objecting at the same time and not letting their voice be quieted. Impressive.

On the same episode of 60 Minutes, one of the FOX/Talk Radio pantheon, Bill O'Reilly, will be interviewed by Mike Wallace. And what story comes right before Bill O'Reilly? and...wait for it...Nazis! Seriously. Nazis. Brilliant!

My advice would be TiVo/DVR the good pieces. Otherwise, hold your breath. You might feel a little prick.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

HPV Vaccine Steamrolling ...and (whew!) Takes a Break

Beaver Shot
This issue has been a long time brewing in my head and now that Merck's taking a lobbying break, it needs to breathe.

Gardasil, the Merck-created HPV Vaccine, is the figurative minuteman at the Vulva border, preventing the crossing of four types of HPV, and shooting them in the ass if they make it through, is causing a stir. Why do we need to protect against HPV? HPV is linked to cervical cancer (and even penis cancer).

Laws & Profits
At the National Conference of State Legislatures, you can see what laws states are proposing concerning HPV. Merck has been driving through state and federal legislature halls like a Juggernaut to get this mandated. Seeing the public outcry against motives that seemed a little too altruistic to be real, they have paused their lobbying efforts.

What other motives could they have? What does lobbying always concern? Money. Merck pocketbook might be hurting in the coming years as many of its drugs finally fall into generic domains. Merck "face[s] the serious problem of potential erosion of over 50% of their 2005 revenues."

Merck's push is a vaccine of a sort too: a vaccine against low profits. It is estimated that the three-course vaccine will run $300 - $500 for each girl or woman. Getting mandated distribution and mandated insurance coverage (also in some proposals) would be a friggin' goldmine for Merck. A very few people getting very rich.

Equal Access vs. Mandate
Ann over at Feministing is a proponent of mandatory vaccination. And based on the comment "every state allows parents to refuse to vaccinate their children for moral or religious reasons," I almost agree with her. In Ohio and North Carolina, you can claim bona fide religious exemption, but they can deny your child public school access until college. Personal beliefs about vaccines have no bearing (i.e. "My Jesus said that shot'll make my girl a whore" = valid objection, "I have serious concerns about the efficacy, safety, and necessity of that shot; here is my research" = invalid objection).

Making this vaccine available and affordable to the entire population is important, but so is access to health care. (The survival rates for early detection are over 90%.) Making it mandatory is still potentially dangerous or, at the very least, potentially useless.

There are some conservative shelterists saying that by giving their daughters the HPV vaccine, it is giving them a license to be loose, immoral, and irresponsible. Those people do not deserve a link, need to stop being retarded, and shut the hell up. Not to worry, moralists: God's already givin' the gays the AIDS 'cause he hates fags, so by rights He'll make a baby in your girl's belly if she step outta line. That'll learn 'er.


  • Merck is pushing way too hard, and it looks like it's for money.

  • Faith in Merck after the Vioxx debacle.
    We have no long-term tests to reference whether this vaccine might actually be dangerous. Merck tested a couple thousand people and looked 4 years on the outset. They used abnormal cell smears as an indicator (CIN, which, while a potential precursor, technically only indicates cell changes). How do we know the vaccine won't hurt people? How do we know it'll even work in ten or twenty years when a female would be most likely to be exposed?

  • Straight answers on HPV and cancer.
    "20 of the suspected 230 different types of HPV are considered high risk due to their association with cervical cancer." That comes from here. The National Cancer Institute agrees. Basically the vast majority of women will never get HPV. The vast majority of those that get it will resolve the virus on their own (immune system will take care of it). The vast majority of those who don't kill the virus won't actually have the high-risk version. The majority of those that do have the high-risk version won't develop abnormal cells. The majority that develop abnormal cells will not develop cancer.

    HPV is associated with cervical cancer; it does not "cause" cancer. And since HPV is associated with 70% of cervical cancer and Merck can not validate the long-term efficacy of its product, it is far from the "cervical cancer vaccine" it purports to be.

    Merck has a vaccine that they say stops A. A can sometimes cause B, so they measure B. There seems to be no B present for those that got the vaccine. B is related to C. Merck says "We've cured C!"

  • Antidote Anecdote
    When my daughter was getting ready to enter kindergarten, the varicella vaccine for chicken pox had recently become mandatory for children entering school in Ohio. Her pediatrician didn't think it was a great idea and neither did my wife. But we didn't have a choice. Luckily, before they had to look into reasons for rejection, she caught the virus naturally. And ever since, there have been half a dozen kids out sick from every one of her classes every year - with chicken pox. The vaccine didn't live up to its hype, but it was another success story for Merck.

If Merck's vaccine works exactly like they say it does, then that's a wonderful thing, and it should be offered to (not forced upon) all women at a reasonable price or for free. But there are still questions about it and we don't have all the answers. And even when we do, it's a decision only parents can make with their daughters (and sons if the whole penis cancer thing gets press). The ACS estimates that 11,150 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2007. 3,670 women will die because of it. Early diagnosis says that number should only be a little over 900. Health care or vaccines, we have a long way to go. Girls getting vaccinated today will reach the mean diagnosis age of 50 in 25 to 40 years. I'd hate for them to be disappointed.

No WTF Award this post: there are too many targets. But since I can't let a serious post lie, here's a beaver shot:
Beaver Shot
No, we can't have anything nice.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Brits and Sinbad's Iraq

Okay, now that we have that out of the way...

BBC is reporting that P.M. Blair will make an announcement today putting forth a timetable for British troop withdrawal.

Reason! Logic! Rationale!

Wednesday's expected statement comes after Mr Blair told the BBC's Sunday AM that the operation to allow Iraqis to take the lead in frontline security in Basra - Operation Sinbad - had been "completed" and "successful".

Okay, not so much. But at least less people will die. Completed and successful how?

This was not even going to be a topic today except for one part that made me perk up out of my AM coma during my morning NPR and say WTF Brits?

Operation Sinbad.

One year I spent a decade teaching English to high school kids in the South . During that time, we read the tales of Sinbad the Sailor. The British military has obviously not.

The setup for futility, 1001 Nights: Queen Scheherazade gets married to a Henry VIII on crack, King Shahryar, who kills his wives after one night with them in order to get a little taste of everything. But Queen Scheherazade is quite clever and tells her husband a tale every night that ends in a cliffhanger, not to reveal the ending until the next night (You may recall the Bugs Bunny version). She does this for almost 3 years.

Sinbad the Sailor is no better a representation for Iraq. He is from modern day Iraq, but that's where it ends. After squandering his wealth, Sinbad goes off to adventure, makes foolish decisions, and people die. After the first adventure, he gets bored with wealth, goes on another trip, makes foolish decisions, people die. He does this five more times. He never learns that when he travels that the ocean is out to get him and people are going to die.

I'm not saying that this is not an accurate representation of the war in Iraq: futility, poor decisions, death. But Sinbad is not a character after which one would name a war effort. It is nothing to emulate or strive for. Might as well be Operation Quixote or Operation Fallstaff.

How about Operation Beowulf? That's English Lit roots and quality hero shit.

But I'm nitpicking. My congrats to Britain for having much, much more sense than us in Iraq. Good show!

Photoshop Love: Scrotum

On Friday, it was announced that the book-burning, blood-letting (every motive escalate, automotive incinerate) mafia was out on the prowl. Taking a break from their Harry Potter anti-evil stance, some limiters of knowledge have attacked another book fit for burnin'. This is the Higher Power of Lucky.

Why would easy-going librarians be so shocked from a book that won the 2007 Newbury Medal? The author used the word "scrotum."


In the book, a girl hears the word through a hole in the wall about a dog who was bit by a rattlesnake on the scrotum.

Everybody freak out. Do it now.

The word scrotum is not something to be taken lightly. With the testicles, it has some weight. But it is innocuous. Why? Because every male mammal has one scrotum (and two testicles barring birth defects or surgery).

But why is it an issue that something that every male mammal has is bit by a rattlesnake? Why isn't anyone pitching a fit about every time a bullet (which kills people) is mentioned or a gun (which uses a bullet to kill people) is described? How about blood?

Why? Because violence is okay. Sex is not. Even when mentioning the part of a dog's body that holds the organs that provide the sperm to the actual organ that facilitates copulation in a subordinate species.

Not okay.

Either way, I'm sure I'm not helping with this:

Jimmy Shaves His Balls
"It didn't hurt a bit"
Photo from here. Macro'd myself.

I blame it on bovine hormones.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Leaf Blower

He'll get his damn leaf blower back when he stops building that stupid deck!

I'm sorry, that's not really accurate. He's much happier when he's mowing.
Ahmadinejad Mowing his Yard

My sister came over yesterday and, seeing that our part of the neighborhood was in disarray, asked what the local drama was all about. Well, let me tell you, I said.

It's a huge mess between Uncle Sam, Inc. (this contractor who thinks he owns half the town), my neighbors to the left, Sonni and Sheila, and the guy next to them, Ami.

You see, years ago, Ami's family owned the house he lives in now. Then USI came to town with their limey buddies and got the house resold. Ami's family bought it back, a lot of bad blood, blah blah blah. A couple years ago, USI tried to do something similar to Sonni and Sheila's place; they bought the place, halfway demolished it, and are still rebuilding it while keeping on Sonni and Sheila as tenants. I know, totally retarded.

And USI might actually be getting somewhere if it weren't for all the chaos. Sonni and Sheila are constantly fighting, sabotaging each other and the contractors USI has brought in, pulling down drywall, stealing lumber, dumping adhesive. USI didn't bring in enough contractors to begin with and now has to deal with all this extra crap, not to mention that their disorganization has them bleeding money all over the place. Some of the private contractors are just sucking down cash like fat people eat cake without doing a damn thing.

USI's not happy with how things are going. Sonni and Sheila are supposed to step up and take control of the remodel, but that's never going to happen. USI's still funding a similar project across town that they can't get a handle on. It's a mess, and now we've got some of the other neighbors getting in on it.

Ami's the worst right now, in their opinion. He's insisting on building a deck. But USI builds decks and they don't want him to have one. First you let him build a deck and the next thing you know, you're looking at a gazebo. Our Jewish neighbors would not be pleased.

At first, USI was blaming Ami for goading on Sheila, giving her some tools to make things a little worse, but now they think he's working both sides just to screw with USI. So they've hired some muscle to hang out in the street in front of Ami's house. So Ami shoots off fireworks in the street and walks around real close to Sonni and Sheila's house. Firecrackers go off in Ami's back yard? He says USI's screwing with him.

And if you think USI has some friends, Ami's not alone either. He's been talking to our neighbor Sarah, and they say they're going to take USI down. He's buddies with the Russian down the street who's got a shit-ton of fireworks pointed at everyone and the Venezuelan who talks about USI like a great Satan.

And I just found out today that USI has some specific ideas about how to take over Ami's place.

I swear, one of these days they're going to bring out their guns and blow the hell out of everything. And they'll love it. More destruction means more construction and USI's one of the biggest names in town.

I just wish they all understood that this is my neighborhood too.

Dick Cheney is in my Neighborhood!  Aaahhh!
Who are the people in your neighborhood?