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August 22, 2004

Salad. Roz Kaveney reflects on a former political ally:
Essentially, she is an all or nothing pessimist who wants so much from the political sphere that she is perpetually disappointed, whereas I am probably more cynical in my basic assumptions and so vastly more cheered by any small sign of progress.

You could call it a Rousseau/Voltaire split, because I am much more interested in Voltaire’s occasional moments of real political courage and occasional successes in humiliating the Church over its brutal repression of atheists and Protestants than Rousseau’s fantasies of an ideal state. And I accept that this means putting up with Voltaire’s long attempt to fit in with things as they were, and his weird relationship with Frederick the Great, and his long boring poems and perfectly Aristotelian plays, for the few great good things he did. And ‘Candide’.

Whereas she would disapprove of both of them as Dead White Males, but actually be doing so entirely in the spirit of Rousseau.

She is horrified at the human race’s tendency to commit genocide and the way we have got better at it; I am minimally cheered by the fact that we have actually started talking about it and thinking of it as a bad thing for which people ought to be punished. The Aztecs used to manage to sacrifice ten thousand people over a weekend, which is pretty efficient if you are using stone knives and taking the time to tear each heart out or flay each corpse. We invented nothing.

And much else, including the Victorian Royal Navy’s Anti-Slavery Patrol, Beethoven, and food.

(Chris Bertram may take this excerpt as his cue to explain how we’re missing important aspects of Rousseau. He’s very likely right.)

Speaking of Aztec cannibalism, as we generally are, we appear to have been seeded with yet another round of GMail invites. Since everyone we know who wants GMail now has an account, we figure it’s time to start giving them away first come, first served, like coins being scattered to the crowd by some chariot-mounted proconsul of antiquity, or a god of war, death, and madness. Bow down before Giblets, bow down NOWWWWW…er, sorry, conceit leakage. Rather, share your thoughtful and well-formed entreaties in the comments to this post. [09:56 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Salad.:

Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2004, 10:05 PM:

Are they free? If so, I'll take one, unless once I read the fine print there's something that throws me off.

Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2004, 10:41 PM:

Nah. Bash Rousseau. Anyone with such a Total Conception of Virtue is danger.

Stick with Montesquieu, Voltaire, de Tocqueville, Zola, Aron...

And while we are at it, remember and honor de Gaulle, Clemenceau, and at least one other guy.

Brad DeLong, proud to live in a town called Lafayette

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2004, 10:52 PM:

I've always bought the conventional wisdom that - man is born free and everywhere....[L'homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers]
should have been the very first first line.

Mostly I at least give little weight to such as I am happy, when I reflect upon governments, to find my inquiries always furnish me with new reasons for loving that of my own country.

Any comments from the editorial board on distinguishing Voltaire and Rousseau as subjects for editing? I'll troll enough to say I wonder what Eric Flint would do preparing either one or both for a new and more popular edition?

TomB ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2004, 11:39 PM:

And while we are at it, remember and honor de Gaulle, Clemenceau, and at least one other guy.

Okay, he said obtusely.

Along with running guns to the Americans, and writing The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro, Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais evaded the censors and published Voltaire. Typically, he lost money on it. A man who lived life to the fullest, and did what was right regardless of the cost.

John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2004, 11:45 PM:

"Mr. President, you remember that flying saucer that landed on the Mall? Well, there's a guy in it, and he's got a big robot -- not, you know, Japanese big, but big -- and the robot just disintegrated half the Military District, but that's not important right now, 'cause, he, it, like, seems to have gone to lunch or something. But the guy says he has an important message about mail servers, and he needs to talk to all the leaders in the world. I mean, like, ALL OF THEM. Right now. Do we even have a plan for that? I mean, a plan plan, with kinda grandish strategy and stuff?"

And I would suddenly like to do "How to Tell Rousseau from Voltaire From Quite a Long Way Away," but there's this Worldcon. . . .

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2004, 11:53 PM:

Well, I'd be honored if you could throw a Gmail acct my way.

I think that it takes a combination of all-or-nothing visionaries and practical gradualists to effect change. As far as Virtue goes, I suppose it depends on who you ask. A Catholic priest would provide you with a different answer than, say, an Army General. And both could be equally valid and equally flawed.

Maybe I just land so far on the side of the practical that I just can't get worked up about philosophical underpinnings. Tell me what you want to do, and how you want to do it. They whys are interesting, but are only relevant in the long-term, if at all.

For instance, the Soviet empire was built, at least nominally, on Marx's philosophical underpinnings. Would he have approved? Who knows? Was the execution of the Soviet state in alignment with the goals of Marxist Socialism. Probably not, although peripheral party members could certainly find Marxist reasons for every action of their government, good or evil.

It's actions that count. Beleifs and goals are nice, but the proof is in the pudding.

Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 12:10 AM:

I suppose the time has come for me to consider joining the GMail brigade. Should you still have a lovely though non-engraved invitation available, I would graciously accept it.

Sadly, I have no footman to send over with this missive.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 12:23 AM:

Having spent my Sunday afternoon and evening sucessfully buying a car, I'm nor sure how well formed or thoughtful any comment of mine will be right now as my right hand is sore from signing forms. To the best of my knowledge I signed no agreeements concerning cannibalism, Aztec or other, in or near the car during the lifetime of the loan. However, I dimly remember some language about my soul being immediately forfeit in exchange for an extended warranty . . .

I'm not sure if I have anything left, sacred or profane, to offer in exchange for Gmail. Thanks one way or the other.

dave heasman ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 07:03 AM:

I'd really like a GMail account, if only to see how it works. Late if at all adopter..

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 07:27 AM:

I can see why Dave Heasman needs a GMail account -- his invite bounced back as undeliverable due to a full inbox. Dave, let me know when I can resend.

All out of invites for now. There may be one more available later today; if so, I'll post here.

Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 07:45 AM:

I could use one, since I've got big blocks of the former contents of my inbox that I search with BBEdit to find crucial things.

But you know who I think could really use one? My illustrious spouse, although we'd have to explain to him what it was good for.

Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 10:07 AM:

You know, "Forrest Gump" is a rewrite of "Candide." At times I suspect the makers of the film adaptation were in on the joke, and debating that is the most interest the movie has for me.

Teddy Harvia drew an Aztec relief of a woman writing a postcard while on the chopping block: "Dear Mom: I got the job."

Hey! I'd be delighted to have a GMail account if they're not depleted yet.

Michael ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 10:08 AM:

I have a few GMail invites lying about. Let me know if you want one (Kathryn?)!

Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 10:15 AM:
Bow down before Giblets, bow down NOWWWWW…er, sorry, conceit leakage

Even if it weren't for the spectacular and memorable speeches from the likes of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barrack Obama, I would have counted the Democratis National Convention as a Great Good just on the strength of having discovered Fafblog in the course of following the blog coverage.

They are MADE of the internet. They course with its febrile energy! They are a blog... of the future.

Someone observed that Fafblog is like what would happen if those mutant animated singing rodent-things from the Quiznos commercials started a political discussion blog.

Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 10:24 AM:

Hey Patrick,

Being as we just had our second daughter Sunday night at 2 AM, I think we desperately need a gmail invite so that we can send out thousands of pictures of our daughter to friends who will only casually glance at them and then delete.

Please, please, please? I can come up with a better reason if you'd like, but I think that's a pretty good one.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 11:19 AM:

Well, I don't have Gmail, and I'd like an invite if anyone has one to throw. But there's also a place where you can donate Gmail invites to soldiers in Iraq; I feel obliged to point this out.

Congrats, Randall P.!

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 12:27 PM:

Randall, congrats and prayers -- you'll need both.

The fact that Candide could be rewritten into both Forrest Gump and Candy says something about Voltaire, but I'm not sure what. Maybe one could write about Candide falling in among Aztec . . . naah, its probably been done, during the 1950's in black and white. By Ed Wood.

Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 12:31 PM:

Thanks Xopher! In case you were wondering (which you probably weren't, but I have to spout off anyway), we had the baby at home with a mid-wife. I guess if we're discussing political things here, I could add my two cents about vaccinations (and why I haven't vaccinated either of my kids), the overwhelming number of c-sections in North America, and how people should have to be licensed to have kids in the first place because there are an inordinate number of idiots out there having them (but then, I guess I'm getting a bit radical here).

Plus, I could add the fact that my wife gets a year off with compensation here in Canada (supported by the government). I'm American, so the fact that this could happen (and the fact that I got six months paid paternity leave with our first child) completely blows my mind. Go Canada!

How about that, Patrick? Having a baby at home? Does that equal a gmail invite?

Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 02:11 PM:

Yes, Ray, now that I think of it, you and Fafblog are made for each other. I'm glad you linked up. I won't even tell your wife...

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 03:12 PM:

Ray - You can see more of the Quizno's animated things and some other clever song-based animations at Rathergood.com.

Warning - not work safe.

My favorites are the kittens doing Laibach and the zoology dragon.

Heck, anything with the kittens is worth a look.

Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 04:54 PM:

I just want to hope that Robert got a GMail account.

Thanks to Yahoo!'s change of service, I am severely overcapicitized as is--until such time, of course, as the market catches up with the current oversupply.

The juxtaposition of philosophies and the offer would lead me to conclude--probably erroneously--that the Voltaire attitude would be "GMail must be necessary, as it is available" while Rousseau might note that GMail may be available, but will not necessarily address the problem.

Michael ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 09:09 PM:

Xopher - I'd send you a Gmail, but need an email addy. You can email me, and I'll send it your way!

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 09:33 PM:

I tossed an invite to a troop.

I'm not sure how useful it really is, though the ability to have all the stuff you've not got time to read to build up might be nice.

We had (and it is a whole 'nother war now) all sorts of bandwidth restrictions (and I have some of that here in Korea, no Doonesbury for me) so the ability to have large files sent to one is of marginal value (because the download won't happen. I was having trouble loading 400kb files).

But, on the flip side, knowing people care, that goes a long way.


Jame Scholl ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 11:44 PM:

I'd enjoy a Gmail invite, if any remain. Thanks.

Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 01:24 AM:

Has anyone noticed that you can send a Gmail invite to your own gmail account? And then use the new account to invite yourself again, etc. and get an unlimited number of accounts? So the question I've been asking myself is why didn't I think of this when gmail invites were going for $200 on E-bay?

Oh, and um, I have invites for anyone who needs them. Really. Just send something to heresiarch514@--oh I'm sure you can guess the rest.

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 03:24 AM:

Hmmm. Will go & check to see if I've been given extra Gmail dispensation too. I've been checking & sending mail, not checking that. Do people think they are keeping tabs on who links to who via invitations? </paranoia> I suppose it's nothing they probably couldn't get elsewise relatively easily.

Re Aztec cannibalism. This is new to me. Lots of human sacrifice, partial dismemberment, use of blood & small bits in ceremonies (see also Jewish, Roman or Greek history, only symbolic in Xtian) but I don't remember there being corroborated evidence (not just the standard horror stories) of eating the bodies. One day I may manage to read this, which is supposed to be quite good: Aztecs: An Interpretation , by Inga Clendinnen (Cambridge University Press, 1995)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 03:31 PM:

As I said, we're all out of spare invites at the moment, but feel free to trade among yourselves...

Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 03:33 PM:

I guess if we're discussing political things here, I could add my two cents about vaccinations (and why I haven't vaccinated either of my kids).

I hesitate to get into this (which is why I haven't posted anything about it until now), but as a science type (though not a biologist), I feel vaguely obliged to note that refusing vaccination is a really dreadful idea. At best, you're free-riding off all the people who do get vaccinated, at worst, you're providing a potential host population for some really unpleasant organisms.

I really don't want to start a flamewar over this, but at least based on my limited understanding of biology, I think this is a sufficiently bad idea that I'd rather not have it sitting out there unchallenged in a forum known to be populated by smart people. It may be that there are reasons known to said smart people why this isn't a phenomenally bad idea, and I may get jumped on for saying this, but I'd rather have that than let it pass.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 04:21 PM:

Thanks Chad. I was feeling the same way, but had less courage.

ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 04:27 PM:


I can't speak to the biology of human vaccinations, but I can to dog vaccinations. There's been quite an upsurge in certain immune problems and other health problems since vaccination started. Also, there are various kinds of vaccines. Research isn't certain of the tie, but it's suspected.

It's generally considered prudent by the lefties (if I may apply the term to the vet crowd) to vaccinate with dead (aka "killed") vaccines whenever possible and to vaccinate one at a time rather than the big combined vaccines (usually rabies, distemper, kennel cough, parvo etc.). So you'd do rabies in March and Parvo in April and so on.

A new and very cool method is now out there called "titering". Basically, after the dog has been initially vaccinated, you draw blood and see whether or not they still have immunity. If they do have immunity, you skip the vaccinations that year. I only know of one place that does titering (research lab).

Also, at least in my area, the vaccination protocols have changed to use a 3 year rabies vaccine and to vaccinate for the other biggies (like parvo) only every three years because vaccines are now understood to last much longer than previously thought. This is after puppy shots, which are complicated by the whole breast milk mom defense issue.

I have heard of research that suggests vaccines may play a role in human autism, but I have not heard it successfully substantiated.

Personally I think it's best to provide immunity to the big diseases. I'm not a fan of automatic yearly vaccinations if they're not needed (not every state has gotten the news from the universities) and feel better with a more balanced schedule, and as my dog grows elederly will titer so I can avoid stress. However, I would certainly never skip initial vaccinations or not vaccinate a dog whose titers showed he was vulnerable. Nuh-uh, no way.

I don't know if titering is available for children.

Michael ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 04:40 PM:

I have to weigh in on the vaccinations thing (because I work in public health, and because there's been much discussion of this at my office recently). The short, somewhat snarky answer one of my coworkers (currently pregnant with twins) gave her anti-immunizations friend is this (similar to Chad's comment): "you can afford not to get immunizations only because almost everyone else does."

The thing about vaccinations is that they're more important in epidemiological terms than in individual terms. Having everyone immunized means a disease goes away. Having *almost* everyone immunized means tougher variants quickly emerge, and any infections spread super fast. Especially in urban areas, where populations are dense, and doubly in lower-income areas where populations tend to be even denser and care penetration is poor.

I'm not a fan of flu shots or other vaccines for not-really-deadly diseases. They may or may not weaken the immune system, but they're almost certainly an unnecessary drain on resources. HOWEVER. Chicken pox can be very deadly. Ditto measles. And Hepatitis. All preventable, all deadly, and all communicable. Not vaccinating for these kinds of things is really playing with fire, not only for yourself, but for everyone around you.

Michael ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 04:43 PM:

Ooops. Missed thin in the last one. The vaccine link to Autism is bogus. (here's a press release, I don't have the originals handy...there've been a few studies on this recently: http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s907211.htm)

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 04:48 PM:

Michael, flu can be deadly for certain people, and devastating for others. People with chronic respiratory illness can have severe problems.

I get a flu shot every year, after one year when I had the flu for WEEKS (or maybe it was a brief flu that opened the door for a parade of chest colds). Not as bad as it could have been, but one of those gentle warnings.

Donald Johnson ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 04:53 PM:

On the antislavery thing, Bartolome Las Casas was antislavery about two centuries before the people mentioned in the link. Yeah, he initially proposed substituting African slaves for the Indians he was trying to save, but he eventually realized the slight moral inconsistency in his position and opposed slavery in general.

Just a pet peeve. I get tired of those 18th/19th century abolitionists getting all the attention.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 04:55 PM:

Yes, and as I pointed out in the comments to Roz's post, St. Patrick was even earlier.

But she's right that the 18th and 19th-century abolitionists were the first categorically antislavery movement.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 05:16 PM:

St. Patrick was an escaped slave. That might have had something to do with it. (No, I don't think that in any way lessens his contribution etc.)

Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 07:18 PM:

I knew that I might start something with the vaccinations thing. Let me just say this: In having my first child, I did a lot of research into vaccinations. I have not found ONE study that was not biased towards drug companies that proved that vaccinations are actually effective.

Keep in mind, I don't want to start a flamewar over this. I'm not a scientist and I don't have the hard evidence sitting in front of me from the research I did two years ago, but if someone could point out a study that gave me reasonable, unbiased results proving that vaccinations work, I would be more than happy to read it.

In regards to things like Chicken Pox...they're childhood diseases. We're supposed to get them to help increase our immune system. Why do they give a vaccination for Ghonnorhea (please, for the love of God, forgive my spelling) to a baby not yet hours old?

I hope no one here thinks that I've not vaccinated my kids just for the hell of it. A lot of thought was given. My only beef with vaccinations is that no one really questions them anymore.

Michael - In regards to the link about autism, my only question is who funded the study.

Okay, I'm done. Villify me if you'd like, but if someone could point me to compelling information about vaccines that doesn't gloss over the hard facts, I'd appreciate it.

Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 09:50 PM:

Keep in mind, I don't want to start a flamewar over this. I'm not a scientist and I don't have the hard evidence sitting in front of me from the research I did two years ago, but if someone could point out a study that gave me reasonable, unbiased results proving that vaccinations work, I would be more than happy to read it.

Define "work."
In a country like the US, where the majority of the population is already vaccinated against most of the major diseases, and public health measures over the past several decades have greatly reduced the incidence of such diseases in the general public, not being vaccinated probably won't significantly increase your chance of getting the disease. Provided you don't wander too far afield (say, to a country with a less developed public health system), and run into someone who actually carries the bug in question.

This is what I meant by "free-riding" in the above post. In the US or most of Europe, vacccination probably doesn't make much difference for a particular individual because the chance of running into the disease in question is pretty low. But that chance is very low precisely because so many people have been vaccinated. When most of the population is immune, there aren't many hosts, and you're not likely to run into someone carrying the disease. If significant numbers of people start thinking that the whole thing is just a drug-company scam, though, we risk getting back to the point where there are significant numbers of people harboring these diseases, and that would be Very Bad Indeed.

It's easy to shrug off the chicken pox as something we're "supposed to get" to strengthen the immune system-- it's not that serious for most people, and the vaccine itself is fairly recent, so most people posting here have probably had chicken pox. But most of the diseases we vaccinate against are a whole lot worse than chicken pox. A close friend of my family was one of the last people in the US to get a really severe case of polio (literally months before Salk came up with the vaccine), and believe me when I say that this is one disease you really, really do not want to get. I'm more than happy to have some of my money go to drug companies to help insure that my (hypothetical future) children never have to worry about it.

If you want evidence that vaccination works, you need look no farther than the fact that deadly childhood illnesses are no longer a common occurrance. Take a look at some biographies from a hundred or so years ago, and see how significant a change this is.

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 11:55 PM:

I wonder what drug company manipulated the cow pox small pox studies we are apparently misinformed about in the history books?

Once upon a time I lived in south Texas and polio count was reported on the radio like the high temperature for the day. I went to a brand new school for first grade - it had full physical therapy facilities aimed at polio victims. Facilities for teaching children in iron lungs. I was a Polio Pioneer - test subject - for the Salk vaccinations. For mystery fans, consider Ed McBain's character of Danny the Gimp and how he occasionally lights a candle.

See the current news out of Africa for the joys of little polio vaccination in a population and the impact on neighbors.

On the subject of flu - has everybody forgotten the Spanish Influenza?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 12:06 AM:

What "everybody"? I see one (1) person arguing against vaccination.

I realize that Gunga Din At The Alamo is everybody's favorite rhetorical role, but perhaps it can be saved for situations in which it's actually called for.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 12:38 AM:

Ah, Chuck, you must remember that nobody expects the Spanish Influenza!

(Sorry - couldn't resist)

John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 01:15 AM:

Varicella (chicken pox) is minor for most (not all) of the kids that get it. However, the herpesvirus that causes it stays dormant in the peripheral nerves pretty much forever. It resurfaces as herpes zoster (shingles), usually two generations later, so that grandparents unknowingly infect their grandkids. H. zoster is, again, for most people a temporary nuisance, but some patients get postherpetic neuralgia, which can be debilitating, or the ophthalmic version, which if untreated -- well, you can probably guess.

And I'm old enough to have gone to school with kids whose mothers had rubella. It's not something you forget.

Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 01:46 AM:

The doctor checked my blood for all the childhood diseases before she started me on an immunosuppresant. Since I'm fairly sick, I get flu shots every year and regular pneumovax and tetanus boosters. I just started the series of hepatitus B vaccines -- the nephrologist thinks I'll need dialysis eventually.

John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 05:34 AM:

Marilee -- I'm probably exceeding my exceedometer here, but if it looks like it's going to come to that, look into peritoneal dialysis. It's done at home, without assistance (unlike home hemo, which requires another person). If, as I understand it, you're mainly at home anyway, this would be a lot easier than having to get to a center three times a week.

I don't want to try and sell you on anything (as the saying goes, This Is Not Medical Advice), but your nephrologist will be able to put you in touch with the local resources. You can certainly e-mail me if you'd like to hear about it from the patient side.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 10:36 AM:

My parents grew up during the polio epidemic. Ever hear of a thing called Bulbar Polio? You see your friend at school one day and he's fine; the next day he's not there; the day after that you hear he died.

You could get it by sharing a drinking glass, which is why my generation all learned these hyper-hygienic practices, in some cases to the point of absurdity. (If you lick a fondue fork, then stick it back in the boiling oil, no germs will survive, trust me.)

We were all vaccinated against polio. Also smallpox and a few other things. I got my chicken-pox immunity the old-fashioned way - but believe me, any alternative would have been welcome, to me, my five sibs, and my poor stay-at-home Mom (hardly any other kind then), who had to take care of six itchy, cranky kids.

There are things out there that kids can die from. If vaccines are available, it's wrong not to get them. It's also IMO a social responsibility that everyone must share. Your kid may not be the rare one who gets complications from measles and goes deaf (or is that rubella?); and the kid who does might have been vaccinated, since the vaccines aren't 100% effective.

Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 11:00 AM:

I swear this is the last time I'll post, but I don't think most of you realize how much things have changed over the last ten years in regards to vaccines, especially in regards to the amount of vaccines we give to our kids at certain points in their lives. At three months alone, kids get 5 vaccines in one shot. Five! How can that be good for a child?

I don't doubt that certain vaccines might do some good, but I still haven't seen proof. I'm under the impression that several of the diseases that we vaccinate against were on the decline before the vaccine was put to use, mainly due to better sanitation in cities and rural areas.

Seriously, I'll get off the topic. Lots of love to you all.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 11:34 AM:

I don't see why you should stop posting on this topic. Controversy is good.

I HAVE heard that many doctors are now saying that multiple vaccines in one shot are a bad idea. They're separating them out over a much longer period. The relative safety of the immunological environment these days lowers the risk of doing this. Downside is that kids have to go for a lot more shots, which they won't like, but kids don't like a lot of stuff that's good for 'em.

Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 12:09 PM:

Thanks Xopher...I just didn't want to piss everyone off.

My whole beef with vaccines is that no one questions them anymore. They just get them. And as a new parent, I have some real questions about their effectiveness and the potential harm that they do to our children. I went to a lecture one time where the doctor presenting compared our use of vaccines to what happened with lead pipes and the Roman empire. Basically, we may be participatig in the dumbing down of an entire generation of people.

I don't trust pharmaceutical (spellcheck, please) companies nowadays. For example, if there's no link to autism and vaccines, then why did they remove themerosol from the latest generation of vaccines? (Themersol being the mercury-laden preservative that was used for years and was linked to autism).

I have a very healthy, unvaccinated kid. She rarely gets sick and is full of energy. Considering the snotty-nosed, ADD-ridden, constantly-sick kids she's always around, I think our failure to vaccinate her has done wonders and I can name several others who feel the same way. Of course, that's just a personal opinion, but I think that by avoiding vaccines, my child is healthier, because her immune system was not compromised early in her life.

I'm babbling.

Brian Ledford ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 01:03 PM:

I think a distinction should be made between no vaccination and some vaccination. Measles, mumps, rubella, tuberculosis, tetanus (probably some others as well) vaccines, I think, are an unalloyed good. Avoiding those is a bit iffy. Especially given this bit of google bounty from

Measles Outbreak in Great Britain
Sunday, February 17, 2002

Great Britain is in the middle of a measles
outbreak, with 20 confirmed cases of the
disease and another 47 children still
waiting for laboratory tests to confirm
whether or not they have contracted the

In this measles outbreak, 18 of the 20
confirmed children with measles did not
receive the vaccination. In the other 31
suspected cases, only seven of those
children had received the vaccine.

It also mentions the tipping point for herd immunity for measles being around 85%.

At the same time, I wouldn't get a lyme disease shot for myself or my dog(only 20% effective and there are possible side effects).

As for titers, I think they measure antibody levels only. But I think (and please correct me if I'm wrong) there's also cellular immunity - basically, you have the cells that produce the antibodies and you're immune if you have a lot of the appropriate cell or if those cells are active. Titers tell you whether they are active, if they are dormant, you still might be immune (able to produce an appropriate level of antibodies) but not have the titers that reflect that. So low titers don't mean no immunity, but I don't know whether x titer level always implies immunity. And I don't know how you determine that except for emperically, which is bad in nonhumans and would be horrific in humans.

Re: pharmacuetical companies and their motives, it's worth noting that there ain't much profit in vaccines - that's one of the reasons flu shots are rationed, no one wants to make more than the bare minimum necessary. As for removing thimerisol, why leave it in if you don't have to? Full disclosure - I'm a chemist in drug research, so it's fair to assume some bias in my worldview.


Kris Hasson-Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 02:18 PM:

Randall P. writes: My whole beef with vaccines is that no one questions them anymore. They just get them.

Wow, you must really live out in the sticks. But you have Internet...so I'm wondering how you can have missed the major parenting movement over the last 20 years that's anti-vaccine? You're by no means the only person questioning them. I remember reading about it in Mothering magazine before I ever had kids, and my oldest is 18 now.

For example, if there's no link to autism and vaccines, then why did they remove themerosol from the latest generation of vaccines?

A lot of people are allergic to thimerosol. It used to be used as a preservative in contact lens solution, too, but they took it out because so many people were allergic. That's all. I used it, my eyes got red and irritated, they switched to non-thimerosol preservatives, my eyes cleared up. No autism here! In fact I'm pretty well socialized for a science fiction geek!

The reason for the gonorrhea treatment for babies is that they can contract it while traveling down the birth canal, not because they might have had sexual contact. See, for example, this NIAID fact sheet, which includes this statement: Infected women also can pass gonorrhea to their newborn infants during delivery, causing eye infections in their babies. This complication is rare because newborn babies receive eye medicine to prevent infection.

NelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 05:42 PM:

Oh, if it's not too late, can I have a gmail account? Purely because I'm shallow enough to feel left out at not having one. And because the sooner I get one, the more likely that I'll be able to grab nelson at gmail.com. Or at least a nelson with a low number....

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 05:47 PM:

By the way, two different attempts to send *RICHARD BRANDT* a GMail invite have yielded mail errors. Perhaps *RICHARD BRANDT* could contact me?

Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 06:21 PM:

Patrick, Richard Brandt is obviously shunning you and in private, he said a few nasty things about you that I shouldn't repeat in public.

Thus, you should send ME his invitation and I will most definitely relay the invitation to him through my account in Nigeria.

Thank you,
Randall Mobuto

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 08:13 PM:

Just to be clear, since GMail seems to be topping up my store of invites as quickly as I can give them away, to the best of my ability everybody who's asked for one in this thread has now been sent one.

If I've missed anybody, let me know. If you are *RICHARD BRANDT* do drop me a line, ol' buddy ol' pal.

Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 09:04 PM:

Mike, the first time they tried to put a shunt in for dialysis, they couldn't. I had to get better by myself. I've been stable for about 13 years now (I always shock ER doctors, though) and I really think she's wrong. But there's no danger to me in taking the Hep B series, so I'm doing that.

Randall, I take it you plan to homeschool? All the local municipalities require vaccinations to enter school.

John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 10:15 PM:

Marilee -- peritoneal doesn't use a vascular access. To be extremely brief and miss a lot of fine points and variations (I can bore to death at long distances on this subject), a catheter is installed through the abdominal wall (outpatient surgery). Then, after it's healed, the peritoneal cavity is filled with glucose solution. The peritoneal membrane acts as an osmotic filter. The fluid stays in for a long time (sometimes around the clock) and is drained and replaced periodically. You do this yourself; you're pretty much stuck in the chair during the change cycle, but otherwise are unattached to anything. The other big advantage is that your system's clean all the time; with hemo, as soon as you disconnect from the machine, the toxins start building again.

End of commercial. And do understand, I really hope you don't need dialysis. All forms suck to some degree, except when compared to the alternative.

Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 01:09 AM:

Mike, that definitely sounds better than the shunt variety. And while it *is* better than the alternative, I'd rather not have it. I can't have a transplant, I'm too sick otherwise. I'd probably die on the table and there aren't enough donor kidneys to waste one on people like me.

Wednesday's WashPost had an article on how 15 diseases take most of the health care money:

heart disease, mental disorders, pulmonary conditions, cancer, trauma, hypertension, diabetes, back problems, arthritis, cerebrovascular disease, skin disorders, pneumonia, infectious disease, endocrine disorders and kidney disease

and how most of them are preventable. I have five of those and none of mine were directly preventable:

1. pulmonary conditions -- lungs damaged by anesthesia during surgery.

2. hypertension -- secondary to kidney disease.

3. arthritis -- secondary to ankle fx.

4. cerebrovascular disease -- stroke caused by medication (ordered by doctor, administered by nurse).

5. kidney disease -- secondary to arthritis Rx of ibuprofen.

I know I'm unusual, but there's not much I could have done to keep from getting those, and I'm willing to bet a lot of other people with those diseases fall into the same category.

cdthomas ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 03:30 AM:

if there's a spare GMail invite, i could use it, but not if it's any bother, don't want to put you through any trouble....

Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 07:26 AM:

If the Gmail invites are coming fast and furious, I would personally love to have one. I kept out of the first plea-group, feeling that folks who just had kids and such were the more worthy recipients...

So you don't have to click through to my website to e-mail me, it's jill (at) writingortyping.com.


Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 07:40 AM:

Invites sent to all. Still have a couple left--first to ask gets 'em!

Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 07:41 AM:

FYI re: Gmail for Troops: they've only asked for half the invites I gave them a while ago, and I've seen news articles likewise indicating that their supply exceeds demand.

Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 09:10 AM:

Vaccinations are one of those things where it might in fact be better for your individual child not to have them, but it's better for everyone for everyone to have them.

Randall, if you want to see what life is like without vaccinations, I recommend visiting a third world country -- though without taking your innocent babies.

All the schools Sasha's ever been to, in Britain and in Canada, have required evidence of vaccinations -- and I think this is entirely appropriate.

dlacey ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 11:17 AM:

I'd like an invite please, if you've one to spare.

James Angove ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 11:25 AM:

If there is still one available, I would't mind having one.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 11:41 AM:

Okay, James Angove got the last one for now. I'll mention if any further invites turn up; meanwhile, hold the requests until then, please...

Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 02:25 PM:

Jo - You don't have to have vaccinations in Canada. Or the U.S. for that matter. You can be object because of religious or philosophical reasons. And I wholeheartedly object due to philosophical reasons. OH, YEAH!

As for third world countries...Been there, done that. And I would take my kids.

I thought this was a left-leaning message board. Hardy-har-har!

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 02:42 PM:

"Left-leaning"? Yes, to an extent, and the leftist in me understands why people of good will might come to distrust everything doctors and scientists say. Medicine and science have frequently prostituted themselves to power and profits.

The scientist in me, on the other hand, understands that some things are true no matter what sentimental narratives they happen to reinforce. The germ theory of disease is true no matter how many doctors lie on behalf of vested interests. Vaccination is generally a good idea no matter how many scientists are morally corrupt. Reality is that stuff that doesn't go away when we stop believing in it.

That's "leftism"; indeed, the heart and soul of it.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 03:21 PM:

Randall P, we're left-leaning, all right. And some of us believe that includes a strong sense of responsibility to the larger social organism. Let the right make choices that benefit themselves and their families while harming others and society; we are people of conscience, who care about people we've never met, even people who won't be born for a thousand years.

I'll leave it to PNH to address the "message board" issue -- I don't think Electrolite is a message board, but it's Patrick's blog and for him to object if he chooses. What he's said about leftism gets a big Hear Hear here, though. Hear?

Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 05:50 PM:

I hear! I hear! I've been listening, man! Good comments Patrick and Xopher. A nice manifesto. And speaking of which, I found this recently: http://www.changethis.com/ Haven't read it fully, but it's an interesting idea.

And anyway, I understand everyone's position here. I simply have one of my own. It's hard to argue with your points, but my overall problem with vaccinations is the steady stream of disinformation that few people question anymore, as well as the real lack of choice about what you can actually choose to give your children. Some vaccines I have no problem with, but with some I do have a problem, and there are no choices in this regard. It's either all or none. I chose none.

Lively discussion, nonetheless.

Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 07:00 PM:

Randall, locally, you *can not* opt out of vaccinations and go to public school. If you have religious or philosophical differences, you'll have to see if a private school will take your kids or home school them.

Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 08:46 PM:

Re: GMail: I have more invites than I can shake a stick at just now. People are free to take their requests to this LJ post and leave requests; say you came from here, please.

Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 09:03 PM:

It's hard to argue with your points, but my overall problem with vaccinations is the steady stream of disinformation that few people question anymore, as well as the real lack of choice about what you can actually choose to give your children.

Could you please be more specific about who, exactly, is disinforming you (other than the people who are telling you that not vaccinating your children is OK), and why it is that you think you're getting bad information? I'm really sort of at a loss as to where this stream of disinformation is coming from, though I'll admit that it's not an issue I normally pay much attention to.

This has at least been a useful reminder that right-wingers aren't the only people holding weird anti-science viewpoints. The last four years have made it easy to forget.

Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 09:32 PM:

Chad - I prefer to think of my viewpoint as "odd" and not "weird". It just makes me feel better. And I guess you're missing my point entirely. I'm not anti-science. You, yourself, admit that it's a topic that you don't pay much attention to. Do you know how many different vaccines are given to a child during their first three years? Do you know how many of them are necessary? Is a chicken pox vaccine necessary for the good of humanity? Polio, sure. But can I get a polio vaccine all by myself for my child? No. I don't get a choice. I have to have all of the vaccines or none of the vaccines, and personally, I don't feel like all of them are necessary. In fact, some of them can be quite dangerous for developing immune systems.

Part of my problem is the fact that so many of these vaccines have been accepted into our society...Oh, why am I arguing? If you feel that my viewpoints are anti-science and "weird", then you've got your opinion and there's no reason to try to change it. I feel confident in my beliefs because this is the health of my child that I'm dealing with. It certainly wasn't a flippant decision. I was merely trying to elicit other viewpoints. I seem to have gotten my fair share.

I'm off to read Tom Robbin's literary manifesto in the latest issue of Harper's. See you tomorrow on an entirely different topic.

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 10:46 PM:

The greatest irony hidden from modern critics of science is that they are actively undermining the very foundation of the democratic society they claim to cherish. Democracy can flourish only in a climate of rationalism that sees some ideas as true and others as false.
Phil Mole
Copyright The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (SCICOP) May/Jun 2004 Skeptical Inquirer, The

Granted that in combination with other choices, choices about vaccination become restricted. Still the market has made provisions such that all or none are surely not the only choices? It may yet be true that the combinations DPT (IIRC) and so forth are the only easy choices. I'd take some persuasion that Canada, Mexico and research hospitals among other resources offer no alternatives.

Michael ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2004, 12:07 PM:

Randall -

I still don't see any *evidence* that you've been mislead about vaccines to a serious degree. I also have never seen much evidence that they are particularly harmful to children's immune systems: although there is some it's neither especially convincing nor does it outweigh the benefits of vaccinations.

Chicken pox can be very deadly. It can, as mentioned earlier, pop up again later as Shingles. My grandfather had that a few years ago, and while he now only has a little scarring in his eye (and some visual occlusion); it was scary for a while. In kids, it spreads like wildfire, and costs a ton in terms of unpleasantness, missed school, and missed work for parents.

Kris Hasson-Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2004, 03:29 PM:

Randall P. writes: my overall problem with vaccinations is the steady stream of disinformation that few people question anymore,

You demonstrate yet again your cluelessness. There is an active anti-vaccination movement in the US, and it's been around for at least 20 years. Even mainstream parenting magazines discuss the controversy.

If you think no one is questioning vaccination, you are willfully keeping your head in the sand. Now if you want to argue that no one *rationally* questions vaccination, I'd agree with you; but I don't think that's your position at all.

Stop thinking of yourself as a freedom fighter, the only one smart enough to question the status quo of vaccination.

NelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2004, 04:45 PM:

Patrick, thank you kindly for the gmail invite; I no longer feel like an outcast. Didn't manage to nab nelson@gmail.com, though. Shame.

Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2004, 05:34 PM:

Hey Kris! Thanks for the comments! I've always liked to consider myself a freedom fighter! That's me! Fighting all by myself as a questioner of the status quo of vaccinations! I figured that since no one was questioning the status quo of vaccinations, I should be the first. It's nice to know that someone supports me in my tireless quest to change the minds of the ignorant masses and change the status quo of vaccinations! Would you like to be my junior agent?

Your hero

Gigi Rose ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2004, 05:41 PM:

My brother didn't get his full complement of shots back in the '70's due to allergies to the serum. My son didn't get some of his shots for a similar reason. Both doctors just signed the forms for the school as if they had gotten the shots.

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2004, 01:49 AM:

Okay, the first time I wrote this it was really long and now it seems to have disappeared altogether -- did I do something wrong?

Anyway, with a second chance I might be able to say it more succinctly.

There's now a really good body of scientific evidence around vaccination as a general thing and about vaccinations as specific things -- but my thoughts about vaccinations are philosophical. It has to do with some things I hold very dear: education, solidarity, kindness, and generosity, or at least not being selfish.

Education is first because it's the first principle of vaccination. When you receive a vaccination, what you're doing is giving your immune system a little course in recognizing and reacting to the outside threat. We're getting cleverer and cleverer in doing this, so that the education our immune systems receive is more and more symbolic and less and less in confrontation with the real threat. This is good. Just as I taught my children how to follow traffic rules and to recognize traffic lights and to make eye contact with drivers when preparing to cross the street -- rather than waiting until they confronted a car for the first time before telling them anything.

Oh crappies, this is turning out longer than the first version. I'll be more disciplined in the rest of this.

Randall, you never said the following, but neighbors of mine have said it, in print and in person: that the risks of vaccination are unacceptable for their children, and they don't have to vaccinate their children because suckers like me have already done so. -- The actual risks of vaccination are very small, but very real, and of course if your kid is in the fraction of a percent that has a bad result, that's 100% of that kid. I understand that. But the risks of the diseases they fight are much larger -- a major reason why infant mortality took such a huge drop in the twentieth century was the general effect of a vaccinated population -- not just on children contacting diseases, but adults -- some of these diseases have nightmarish effects during pregnancy (I'm going to skip a bunch of anecdotes, some from my own family and neighborhoods).

Meanwhile, these families in my county who are depending on my children keeping their children safe are presenting to the world a mass of little human petri dishes in which to cultivate new strains of diseases which could possibly mutate into forms my children's immune systems are not educated about. So they're not only gambling on my children's immunity, they're gambling with it. So naturally I resent that. Actually, since I have just about successfully raised those children, when I say "my children" I mean "my potential grandchildren (dog willing, not before medical school/college respectively)" and "my community's children."

Okay, that's education, cooperation, and generosity. Kindness -- you can give your kid a pinprick and take the chance of an allergic reaction -- hell, some allergic reactions are kind of fierce. Or you can leave it alone. Or do what some insane people in my community call "passive immunization" which turns out to be deliberately exposing the child to another child who has recently had the disease and gotten over it. -- which means that the kid could very likely just get the disease in question.

So. What do we have? Diptheria. Whooping cough. Polio. Tetanus. Meningitis. Influenza. Rubella. Measles. Influenza -- killers, cripplers, maimers, destroyers of lives.

To me, it's kinder to expose my child to the smaller risk of the smaller untoward event than to the larger risk of the larger untoward event.

I've seen the effects of whooping cough, forty years on. And polio. And rubella.

Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2004, 08:00 AM:

Randall, the reason that most people go along with vaccinations without much complaint is not because we're sheep, but because our parents and grandparents had clear and painful memories of the large numbers of people who died of "childhood diseases"--which were often even more devastating if you missed them as a child and then got them as an adult.

My parents, both of whom had lost family members to these diseases, made sure I got all of the pitifully few vaccinations available. Lining up to get the polio vaccine (twice! I believe a single dose version came along shortly after) is one of my first memories of a community event rather than a family one. For measles, rubella, and chicken pox, she made sure I was exposed, to try to make sure I got them as child, rather than getting hit worse by the same diseases as an adult. (The difference between this and the "passive immunization" silliness Lucy describes is that my parents didn't have the safer and more effective option of vaccination for those diseases; they'd have gotten me vaccinated if that had been possible. Oh, and they expected me to get sick, and "wanted" me to get sick, in the pragmatic sense that it was the only way to be sure.)

I once closed down my nursery school for a week because I was the first one to get the mumps, and it then swept through the entire school--including the adults that hadn't had it yet. My sister, ten years younger, got more vaccinations and was sick a lot less often. My niece--if she has to miss a day of school, it's an event. She's never experienced a school closing due to epidemic disease.

Sound minor? As Lucy has said quite eloquently, people died. People were maimed.

We have no broad-spectrum vaccination for influenza, because it mutates so fast. And so I line up for my flu shot every single year, because I have asthma, and if I get flu, my life is at risk.

What our parents and grandparents could only do for their kids by trying to cause them to get sick, you can do for your kids with a pin-prick. In not doing it, you're not only placing them at some degree of risk; you're also increasing the risk for everyone else, that variants will evolve that won't be blocked by the current immunizations, and that also may be drug-resistant. You might want to do some reading about drug-resistant tuberculosis.

The current anti-vaccination movement is the comfortable delusion of people who have not listened to their grandparents, and have not stretched their imaginations to grasp what life was like, and would be again, without vaccinations.

bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2004, 02:34 PM:

Randall, a family we used to know through work refuses to vaccinate, and home schools to avoid the legal issues. (Also home births)

They've lost, I believe, 3 kids out of the 8 they've conceived, as a result.

One cause of vaccine allergy reactions is that some of them are cultured in duck egg medium, and a very few people are seriously allergic to the proteins in duck eggs, and this is a hereditary thing. However, since we don't as a rule eat duck eggs in this country, most people who have it don't realize it, either. (I now know that I have a relative who is, but I have not made the experiment myself.)

As a kid in old southern coastal cities, I spent a lot of time playing after church in 200-year old churchyards while our parents socialized after the service.

There were a *lot* of graves that had one big family stone, and dozens of little tiny blocks around it, for the babies that died before they reached even two years of age.

One of the reasons that we are such a fertile species is that we historically have had such a high casualty rate among juveniles. The evolutionary "mechanism" for preventing overpopulation was a routine mortality rate of in some cases, 50% - or more. (This is also something that can be discovered from studying old geneologies.)

When I had this argument with another old family friend - whose root objection to vaccines is that certain of them were cultured from fetal tissue, btw - the best thing I could point to was this story from the pre-diptheria vaccine era:

A Second-Rate Woman

That story, if nothing else, should make any sane and responsible parent DEMAND the DPT shot for their child. It does kill that way, by forming a mass of tissue over the breathing passages down inside. Nor is tetanus a nice death, either.

Developmental disabilities have existed throughout history, btw, and did not begin with vaccination.

tavella ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2004, 03:47 PM:

Honestly, I think I could cope with the sort of person who blatantly admits to being a free rider, allowing everyone else to protect his or her children by taking the risks on themselves, than the sort of ignorant propaganda being put out by Randall P.

Vaccines are not much in the way of profit centers for drug companies; drug companies make their best profits from high priced drugs that have to be taken on a maintainance basis. Vaccine prices are kept relatively low, and more importantly, they are usually once in a lifetime events. The idea that idea that a 'stream of disinformation' is driving vaccination is just... delusional. What drives vaccinations is that it saves the life of millions every year.

Yes, there's a cost to a vaccine. For many years nearly every case of polio in the country was caused by vaccination. There are in fact polio vaccines that have no live virus and can't cause it, but it's less effective, and it doesn't spread immunity the way the attenuated live virus (oral) vaccine does. There's a debate going on right now about going all IPV (dead virus), and in fact if I had a kid I'd do IPV because polio is so close to eradication.

That sort of debate is useful, with clearheaded discussion of the costs and benefits, individually and collectively, of various vaccines. Similiarly, research to discover better vaccines, and any flaws in existing vaccines, is good. Is thimersol bad? Are there ways of generating vaccines that will trigger fewer allergic reactions? In fact, one of the downsides of the fact that drug companies make so little money from vaccines is that they don't have much motivation to research and improve them.

But the sort of bone headed ignorance being displayed by Randall P doesn't help *anyone*.

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2004, 04:14 PM:

I just wanted to say thank you for the link to the Kipling story. I've been meaning to read more Kipling, and this reminds me why.

Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2004, 05:06 PM:

Hmmm...I was wondering when the name calling would start. I'm apparently clueless and ignorant and boneheaded. (I'm also a freedom fighter! Thanks, Kris!)

However, I brought up the topic to initiate discussion and elicit different points of view. I think that in a discussion that one should hear all sides and not make a judgement until they can make an informed decision.

But it's much more interesting to call each other names! That's fun and really makes me want to participate even more! Plus, it's good that a certain few of you label me as such, for if you hadn't, then I would have brought civilization to the brink of extinction from just a few simple posts on Electrolite. Thanks for saving the world, people!

On a more serious note, being a left-leaning person means that you're able to take in other points of view, whether you agree with them or not. I think that a certain few people here are sure rushing to conclusions about the choices I've made. To me, that would be boneheaded, ignorant, and clueless.

Ah, but people are what they are...

Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2004, 05:08 PM:

And by the way, let's go back to talking about gmail accounts! Obviously there's nothing constructive happening in this discussion of vaccines.

My gmail account is nifty. I only wish people sent me any email. (and that's not an invitation for you Randall-haters out there to send me your vitriol...hahaha!)

Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2004, 05:44 PM:

Obviously there's nothing constructive happening in this discussion of vaccines.

Really? Did you just totally miss the posts by Lucy, tavela, and bellatrys? Because of course it couldn't be that you're choosing to ignore them in favor of Kris's hot button approach just because it's so much easier to put on some indignation than it is coming up with a substantive response. It couldn't be that, because of course you started this discussion because you're interested in hearing all points of view. So I guess you must not have seen those yet. I commend them to you.

TomB ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2004, 05:57 PM:

When you say "keep in mind, I don't want to start a flamewar over this," there is an acknowledgement that you might indeed be starting a flamewar.

The responses to your posts have almost all been thoughtful and considerate. But you have dismissed them, with the seeming attitude that only you know what it is like to raise children these days, and that everyone else's family or personal experience, and in some cases actual medical or scientific training, doesn't matter.

You have indicated that you are willing to be open-minded, but you have set the bar rather high, asking for a scientific study that is unbiased. I guess that means unbiased by the greed of all the drug companies who got out of the vaccine business because the miniscule profits weren't worth the liability. Or something like that. And I guess it means you get to judge whether the study is biased or not. Since I don't happen to have any vaccine studies in my pockets, there's not much I can do to find out whether you are really open-minded about this issue. Meanwhile, you are asking for a lot of tolerance from the others in the discussion, and feeling upset when you don't get enough of it. You really do need to consider the possibility that they are right, and that the tolerance they have been showing you is much more than it might have seemed to you.

I have to say that I firmly believe in slowing down the evolution of human pathogens, as well as reducing their numbers. Universal vaccination is one of the best tools we have, and we should not give it up lightly. Also, since the rise of vaccination is coincident with modernity and massive changes in how we rear children, it is very hard to separate out what might be caused by vaccines from other factors such as diet, air pollution, and not playing in dirt.

I wish the best for you and your children, and I hope you will consider what is best for them, not just as individuals, but as members of human society, and as part of a very complex ecosystem that is much bigger than any of us.



Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2004, 06:12 PM:

Tom and Ulrika, I mean offense to no one (except, of course, those who call me names...I hope I really, really, really offend them, moohoohaha). I've read all posts quite thoughtfully. And I firmly respect each of their opinions. However, it's not my point of view, and it seems to me that this is absolutely the wrong forum in which to bring this up, as no one here is an expert on the subject and everyone is simply offering platitudes (including me).

Tavela had one of the more thoughtful comments here. However, he/she included the comment that I was boneheaded and it's just no fun to be called boneheaded. Really, it's not. And the sad part is, I'm a pretty nice, down-to-Earth guy. Thus, I'm choosing to give up rather than continuing to fight a losing battle. I'm obviously not going to win any battles here and no one here is going to change my opinion on the subject.

We'll just have to agree to disagree.

Wait, I don't agree with that.

Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2004, 06:35 PM:

...it seems to me that this is absolutely the wrong forum in which to bring this up, as no one here is an expert on the subject and everyone is simply offering platitudes

Can't help wondering why you brought it up then. Could it be the discussion did not go as you'd planned? You might also look up "platitutde". I don't think it means what you think it means, given it doesn't aptly describe several of the posts on the topic.

...no one here is going to change my opinion on the subject

This must be some new-fangled definition of "open-minded" that I was heretofore unaware of.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2004, 06:49 PM:

I agree with Ulrika. We have a name where I come from for arguing only to change the opinions of others, without being willing to change your opinion as a result of the discussion. We call it "arguing in bad faith."

All courtroom arguments are in bad faith. Most debate is in bad faith. But discussions among people who are theoretically on the same side in some sense must be in good faith, or they violate an implied social contract. This is especially true of issues with a profound emotional resonance; you don't have the right to engage the feelings of others without engaging your own, or try to shape their minds without allowing them to shape yours.

I believe that not vaccinating your children is a species of neglect, just as not feeding them would be. I believe that it's also a form of microbiological vandalism. The fact that it can't be prosecuted as either is a flaw in our legal code.

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2004, 08:05 PM:

I'd say don't sweat it Xopher. For what it's worth the available remedy is to go ahead and perform the vaccination - a remedy that is available when absolutely necessary (e.g. today rabid racoon bites Christian Scientist child).

Never forget that in this country, U.S. of A, the Surgeon General wears a quasi-Naval (look at the buttons) military uniform descended from the Quarantine Service. It pays to remember the Quarantine Service included deadly force. We'll need them again one of these days.

Typhoid Maries - today mostly tuburculosis carriers - get told take the treatments outpatient or in jail.

I wouldn't support such a prosecution in every case of failure to meet social expectations of vaccinations - would you?

Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2004, 08:41 PM:

Xopher: The fact that it can't be prosecuted as either is a flaw in our legal code.

I think legislating vaccinations is a bad idea. Yeah, the general idea of vaccination is well established, and (IMHO) inarguable. Specific vaccines, however, may well have problems. I'm not at all confident that the law would keep up with the science. Look at all the research on long-term hormone replacement therapy that was recently revised-- what if women had to get it by law? Baaad thing.

(The fact that HRT affects only a particular woman but lack of vaccination affects everyone is not relevant here. We could as easily be discussing the multiple vaccine issue-- what if a large study demonstrated that they aren't worthwhile on a risks vs. benefits basis?)

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2004, 11:13 PM:

I'm one of those people for whom vaccinations actually are problematic - I have a trashed immune system, and it's likely (though not certain) that vaccinations for mountain diseases the summer I spent working up in the Southern California mountains helped turn what had been recurring minor to moderate problems into a lifelong catastrophe.

On the other hand, Medfly spraying was going on that summer, too.

And the thing is, I know how rare my sort of case is. Making policy based on conditions like mine - the whole range of conditions as severe as this, even - is foolish.

The right thing to do with vaccinations, as I understand it, is to proceed with sensible caution. Start off with ones that deal with the most serious and the most common problems. If you have any reason to suspect that your child may be allergic to stabilizing agents and such, test for those first. And like that. As with technology from computers to automobiles to cell phones, the right response is almost never avoidance as a point of principle; the right response is to study the general principles, your own circumstances, and wise use.

My own feeling is that the sick days or weeks that follow for me when I get flu shots and stuff are a price worth paying for not living in the sort of society my Depression-era parents did, or the societies from which some of my childhood friends had emigrated. The death and misery of epidemics is lifelong. I'm willing to be individually bletcherous for a while to do my part to keep the whole community from being bletcherous in perpetuity. Where specific treatments are really dangerous for me, I don't get them, and I make sure that all that stuff is in my records hither and yon. But where it's a matter of manageable and transitory discomfort...yeah. That's part of living in society rather than in isolation.

It's certainly true that some children are vaccinated too early, in bad circumstances, for too many things at once, with things they're allergic to, and so on. But we don't let the existence of Canter & Siegel and Serdar Argic be the whole story about net usage. Same deal. Vaccination does so much good, when used wisely, that the only (I think) sane and responsible thing to do is to make sure that one is using it wisely rather than foolishly.

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2004, 02:13 AM:

Randall, I'd like to see the thing I wrote that makes you think I called you names, or that I hate you.

There is something I meant to say earlier, and I forgot: whooping cough has been rising in my county since the anti-vaccination movement. This is not a good thing.

Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2004, 03:00 AM:

I don't think vaccines and HRT compare. HRT, for it's *original* use, is still valuable for that. The fact that it hasn't turned out beneficial for all the added conditions doesn't change the fact that it's still good for perimenopausal and menopausal women. I would be close to non-functional without it, although we're going to test going off in a year or so.

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2004, 03:08 AM:

Hormone replacement therapy isn't beneficial for all menopausal and perimenopausal women. It's problematic for women with normal, manageable menopause symptoms and no other conditions that call for it. That doesn't prevent it from being useful in the situations that warrant it.

You can guarantee hormone replacement therapy uses, guidelines, problems and benefits will change, as experience accumulates.

I guess that's a dumb thing to say, because it's true of all medicine.

tavella ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2004, 04:29 AM:

Perhaps I shouldn't have used 'boneheaded' as it's a more heat than light word. But ignorant seems accurate -- it's hard to categorize "I have not found ONE study that was not biased towards drug companies that proved that vaccinations are actually effective." as anything but that, or possibly delusional. It's rather like saying "I haven't seen a single study that's not biased that proves that the world is round!"

Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2004, 04:39 AM:

I also love the automatic assumption that "no one here is an expert on the subject," as though it were somehow axiomatic that a bunch of science fiction fans couldn't possibly contain any, you know, scientists, or medical professionals, or folks whose spouses have done statistical analysis for the CDC, or...

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2004, 08:25 AM:

I guess I don't necessarily think vaccinations should be required by law.

I do believe that if you refuse to get your child vaccinated against e.g. polio, and your child gets polio, you should go to prison for neglect/abuse, between which the differences are strictly technical as far as I'm concerned. They come from the artificial distinction between sins of omission and commission.

If you manage to protect your child from getting polio without vaccination, that should be sufficient (as long as you don't do so by abusive means, like keeping the child completely isolated from all other children). Then the only charge left is immunological vandalism. Which I'm not sure about either; I was mostly pissed off by the "nobody here is gonna change my mind, and I'm plugging my ears, LA LA LA I can't hear you" species of "openmindedness."

Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2004, 11:24 AM:

Marilee: I don't think vaccines and HRT compare.

Ok, substitute any other long-standing treatment that was substantially revised due to new information. My argument has nothing to do with HRT per se. I was looking for a recent example of a medical treatment on which scientific views changed rapidly.

In the case of HRT, my impression is that lots of women were told to stop taking it. ('lots' != 'all') What would happen if all those women had to keep receiving the treatment because of some law?

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2004, 12:18 PM:

I do wish we wouldn't get mired in the argument over how much force to bring to bear on parents to vaccinate the kids. I think it's syfficient to require kids who come to school to have the core vaccinations or a waiver, as we do it now. Hereabouts the waiver is just a letter from the parents, which may be too easy, I don't know, but maybe not.

Karen ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2004, 03:40 PM:

The NIH has a searchable database of medical journal articles, with a nice interface. All articles with abstracts have the abstracts online (letters to the editor don't, for example), and in medicine, abstracts contain much of the meat of the study - hypotheses, methods, population results. More and more often full-text of the articles themselves are also available. There are also textbooks and more general information, it's not all journals.


If one were worried about the funding of the doctors doing the research, one could also use google to find out if there were ties - old conference programs, that sort of thing. No need to worry about shadowy connections when one has the web at one's disposal.

Karen ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2004, 03:42 PM:

For what it's worth, having a child is widely understood as if one had the phrase "tell me the one true way to raise a child correctly, and why what I'm doing ought to be criminalized" tattooed on one's forehead. Parenting guides remind you that, while your choices are right and should be respected, of course anyone smart enough to read this book would never risk scarring the child for life by choosing other than the one true path. This is equally true for the mainstream and granola communities (and probably for others I haven't had firsthand experience with).

So I expect that no matter how good the arguments in favor of vaccinating children, to someone who, on the basis of research, has been hearing for two years how his well-thought-out position is criminal, selfish and ignorant, proponents will sound like the rest of the noise about paper/cloth, family bed/own room, etc. The problem is larger than this thread and its eloquent writers. Parents (me, friends) can feel like crusaders seeking respect over the most innocuous choices.

Randall, I hope you consider looking at medline in the next couple of years, though with a new baby, now clearly isn't the time. (BTW, congratulations!) Try to find the original studies that your anti-vaccination literature draws on, and look for follow-up work. You can find good data on the relative risks, on which of several forms of each vaccine are associated with any problems, etc. As there is new data from Britain and Nigeria on how quickly diseases resurface when the %vaccinated drops below different levels, some of the questions you raise are being answered.

(btw, take out the x's from the email address)

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2004, 05:50 PM:

Thank you, Karen. I know that "damned if you don't, damned if you do, damned if you even exist" thing parents go through. -- anecdote in point: when my son was a baby I was in school. I took him to electronics lab one day -- in August, which is when our heat really kicks in -- he was four months old, and I had him next to me in his car seat dressed in a little one-piece suit with bare arms and legs, with a thin baby blanklet draped over the seat so he could kick it. Another student told me I was a bad mother, in so many words -- because he wasn't dressed warmly enough on a hot day.

You'll notice in my bits I carefully removed Randall from the discussion: I talked about a philosophy of medicine and public health. The idea of using education on the molecular level, how civilized and elegant that is. I could sing about it, soaring anthems, how beautiful it is to educate our little immune cells, how glorious is the collective effort of our antibodies.

Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2004, 06:08 PM:

Thanks Karen. I greatly appreciate your point of view and (believe it or not) I will definitely check out the link you sent.

To everyone else, I appreciate the comments here (believe it or not), even though I must seem like a ten-legged toad to most of you. I would never have brought the subject up if I hadn't thought I would hear intelligent comments. Forgive me if sometimes my emotions intrude on thoughtful discussion.

I have to go make organic pizza now with lots of nuts and twigs to keep my kids healthy. I read on a very reputable website that almonds, witchhazel, and newt eyes are a viable substitute for the chicken pox vaccine. (wink, wink)

Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2004, 06:24 PM:

Andy, according to my doctors, lots of women read the media and *insisted* on stopping it. A lot have gone back, too, when they find they can't handle the hot flashes and night sweats (my problems, other women have others). I'm at high risk for breast cancer, but I still take HRT because 1) breast cancer is slow while I was mostly non-functional all the time off the HRT, b) I do self-exams, and ¥) I get mammograms. I told the doctors I considered HRT a reasonable risk for me, despite the higher probability of breast cancer, and they agreed.

Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2004, 06:47 PM:

Marilee, I wasn't disputing your case, or any other particular case. I'm sorry I picked HRT as an example, because it seems to have become a distraction from the point I was trying to make. HRT is enough of a borderline situation that people have to make individual risk-vs.-benefit judgements. I ought to have chosen some ancient and indisputable example, like putting uranium in false teeth to make them shiny, or adding cocaine to Coca Cola, or fluoroscopes in shoe stores. There are any number of deadly dangerous practices that we didn't realize were dangerous at one time.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2004, 10:15 PM:

One little factual thing: they didn't exactly ADD cocaine to Coca-Cola; it was made from coca leaf, and naturally contained cocaine. Later, they figured out a way to separate out the cocaine, but they had to have SOMETHING in there to make it addictive, so they added caffeine.

(OK, yeah, to "give you a lift" and like that. I know.)

Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2004, 10:23 PM:

Xopher: I used to know that. Thanks for reminding me.
*saves face*

Do you read The Straight Dope (www.straightdope.com)?

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2004, 01:36 PM:

[possible distraction] My impression was that if you had serious menopausal symptoms, HRT was originally supposed to help you taper off in a controlled way and let your body adjust to the new regime.
It then became used for long-term maintenance, being promoted for keeping one youthful & "juicy" was the word often used. Coincidentally, this would mean more money paid to prescribing doctors & pharmaceutical companies. Unfortunately, if there were harmful side-effects, they were more likely to develop with longer-term use.

Personal Note: Radio/chemotherapy killed my hormone producing cells off early, so we thought HRT might be needed for sudden symptoms, but (fingers crossed) they haven't turned up yet. [/possible distraction]

Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2004, 01:56 PM:

Go forth and be distracted. I think I was beating a dead horse anyhow.

The website I googled when I made the original post said that the latest data seems to indicate that short-term HRT makes sense for women with symptoms.

Karen ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2004, 02:16 PM:

Lucy: The same thing happened to me. Son was 2 months old, I was at the mall, it was fairly warm there but he was very warm, sweating. So I took off his outfit. As we walked around, a woman began to lecture me, nicely though, about how important it is to keep children dressed warmly. I said "Yes, but he's actually too warm." Repeat. Eventually I said "Touch his skin" (overcoming that irrational urge to keep strangers away) She did, and said "Oh, he's really warm!" (duh) "You know, it's really important to keep babies from getting too warm..." nearly the same lecture as before, with different sign. I was furious then, three years later it's funny. I mean, it's good that they care about children, but awful that it's expressed in such a disempowering way.

I wasn't implying that anyone here was acting in that way, though. It's been remarkably thoughtful, with connections that are brilliant - education and immunology, very Stuart Kauffman-ish. Exactly why I read the nielsenhayden sites (and mostly lurk). It's sort of like the boy who cried wolf in reverse - so many people cry 'wolf' and 'fox' and 'land shark' that a parent's best heuristic is to dismiss them all and rant to friends. Even when they are these comments, which I really enjoy.

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2004, 12:30 PM:

On the other hand, one day when I was sitting at the bus stop with my baby all snuggled up in the front pack, all kind of wrapped around him, a nice old lady sat down next to me and cooed and gurgled next to your heart, and he'll never leave you alone when he grows up," and then said when it gets all bright and hot and glary you can drape a handkerchief on their head to keep them comfortable -- how could I take offense to that advice? After that compliment?

(the baby in question is 25. He's over in New York at this minute, expressing his disapproval -- after having gotten to the major museums and spending a few days hanging with his best friend's family -- is that another thread?)

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2004, 12:32 PM:

Aack. Can I fix this? In the preview function I lost a chunk of sentence:

. . . cooed and gurgled and said, "Oh yes, carry him just like that, next to your heart, and . . ."

James Angove ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2004, 01:42 PM:

Firstly, thanks to Patrick for the gmail invite.

Second, as part of googles evident pyramid scheme, I now have a number of invites of my own (five, just now), so if you want one, send me an email (james.angove@gmail.com), and I'll set you up; first come first served.

Epacris sees Spam-plague, calls for Snake-onna-stick ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2004, 05:31 AM:

Google GMail - less a pyramid, more a telephone tree?