Je Suis Charlie

7 01 2015

I am again babbling into the ether because of the recent revelations of the depths of human stupidity. Three fundamentalist shitheads decided to “avenge” their prophet by shooting a bunch of unarmed journalists in their offices in Paris. Never mind that Charlie Hebdo was frequently crass and vulgar, or that the magazine was pretty even-handed in its crass and vulgar treatment of every self-important ass-hat who ever existed. They had published cartoons about Muhammad, and the religiously-deluded fuckwits involved decided that the magazine must die.

For those of you with short attention spans, it doesn’t matter that it happened in France, either. The cowards who gunned down unarmed civilians were targeting one of the pillars of liberty in every country- a free press. Never mind that the “press” here in the US has largely lost its balls and has essentially been replaced by a series of comedians from The Daily Show, this worthless demonstration of ignorance and cowardice was intended to quash words, thoughts, and actions that the shooters disagreed with. It might as well have been committed at CNN or Time or the Chicago Tribune.

The worst part is that these pernicious vermin with guns murdered a dozen people in cold blood in “defense” of their imaginary friend.

I don’t care what flavor of religion you believe in. You could follow Hubbard or Buddha or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the fucking Loch Ness monster to your heart’s content. But your right to believe what you wish stops where acting on your beliefs infringes the rights of others. You may sincerely believe that the Invisible Pink Unicorn has commanded you to vanquish the infidel Bronies and conquer YouTube, but a civilized society requires that you be prevented from acting on those beliefs.

I therefore have no problem with Muhammad or Christ or Buddha or whatever the fuck you pray to, but I end up having considerable trouble with their idiot followers. To that end, I am including some of the imagery from Charlie Hebdo that the rabid shitweasels among the general Islamic population find offensive. I’m doing this because the right to believe something does not grant the right to force those beliefs on others. I’m also doing it because your right to believe something does not grant the right to be free from the mockery of those who don’t share your beliefs. The vast majority of people can manage to shrug off mockery of their religion, so the only ones who would probably claim to be outraged by the pics below will be the mentally-deficient goobers who deserve the mockery.

Charlie 1 Charlie 2 Charlie 3


The religiously-deluded fuckwits out there might be scandalized by these pictures. Three words: TOO FUCKING BAD. I don’t share their religion, so I have no compunction about posting images that rabid muslims might find objectionable. And for those who find the “insult” too much to bear, I’ll just mention that- unlike the editors and cartoonists from Charlie Hebdo- I will be able to shoot back. I note that the vast majority of these fundamentalist imbeciles seem to avoid targets that can shoot back. They like to pretend they’re really tough guys when it comes to raping women or gunning down unarmed civilians, but they seem to get slaughtered in boxcar lots whenever they run into anyone with a gun.

Je suis Charlie. We are all Charlie. And we will not let the childish tantrums of the tiny-brained fundamentalist of any flavor stop us from heaping derision and mockery upon them.

Because they deserve it.

Current status: Furious

Current Music: Worlds Away by Strange Advance

Lambasting the Imbeciles

11 05 2014

I have a very low tolerance for stupidity. Stupidity, not ignorance. The ignorant can often be cured of their condition, but the stupid cannot. Sometimes, it is not the stupid person’s fault that they are stupid. Far too often, however, you encounter people who are willfully and deliberately stupid. They take pride in their stupidity, and actively resist any effort to free them from their debilitating condition. Worse, they insist on forcing everyone else to partake in their stupidity- to make everyone else be just as stupid as they are, by violence if needed.

These people are my natural enemies.

I take pride in Lambasting the Imbeciles, mocking their stupidity and denouncing them as stupid as publicly as possible. It is basically the entire purpose of this electronic broadsheet. I feel free to ruthlessly mock stupid people because I try to treat myself just as harshly when I do something stupid.

I’ve been intellectually aware that there are better Lambasters out there, but I discovered that actually encountering one is a bit disheartening. If you encounter someone who speaks about the same topic, but does it so much better than you did, it can be a bit of a shock. It’s taken me a while to get over that shock.

There are lots of writers who are vastly better than me. There are even lots of bloggers who write better than I do. Even if I am philosophically opposed to their message (as with the Barefoot Bum), I read their contributions with relish. Sometimes, they can even convince me to change my mind on an issue by virtue of their reasoning and writing ability. Their sheer ability with the language is a joy to encounter- even if you disagree with their premise or conclusions

It is sobering to encounter a writer who has views closely matching your own who is a much better wordsmith. Such is the case with the author of Stonekettle Station. When he lays a verbal smack-down on the mindless herds of stupid people, you can feel his ire and exasperation in every sentence. It is simultaneously exhilarating and discouraging to read his work. After all, if Stonekettle Station is doing such a fine job Lambasting the Imbeciles, why bother adding my brace of small copper coins? My contributions are the literary equivalent of firing a rifle at the target of an artillery barrage.

That said, I think I’ll keep going. There are so many imbeciles out there that we Lambasters exist in a target-rich environment. I’ll choose to treat my berating of the mindless as sort of a clean-up action after the artillery barrage- just to catch the few enemies he didn’t get. I just need to remind myself to write my own stuff before reading his.

Current status: Sober

Current music: Thimbledrome by Pain

Breaking the Silence

13 04 2014

Haven’t been around for a while. You may have noticed. No excuses. There’s been a lot of important things happening around the world, and I’ve had opinions about all of them, but a lot of what I intended to say was said by others- and usually done far better than I could. So, it became a habit to not write anything. This is a bad habit to get into, by the way.

At the urging of one of the Unusual Suspects, I’ve decided to resume hurling my mental feces into the ether. For better or for worse, I will now hold forth on various topics of interest to me. You’ve been warned.


I’ve been to Ukraine- mostly the areas around the Black Sea, including the Crimea. The people were all friendly, the countryside was lovely, and I generally enjoyed my visits- to Odessa in particular.

I was therefore very attentive to the political events in the country, starting with Yanukovich rising to power and including the recent revolution. Given the history of the area (Ukraine is historically getting alternately fucked over from east and west), I rather expected the revolution to end badly for the protesters. People like Yanukovich rarely go out quietly, and a situation much like that in Syria appeared to be the most probable outcome. I was quite pleased to be wrong, and looked forward to the next bit of political theater which usually ensues in the aftermath of a revolution: payback.

After a successful revolution- such as the American Revolution- there is normally a modest period of near-chaos, as the loudest voices suddenly discover themselves without an enemy to rally against. There are always disparate factions in any revolution, and they generally only work with each other out of necessity against a common enemy. Take away the common enemy, and they tend to fall out among themselves. In the US, there was a significant period where each state was its own little nation. The leaders of those “independent” states eventually realized that their “separate but equal” status was causing more problems than their original issues with Great Britain, so they worked out a new system of government with a new constitution.

In Ukraine, the western parts of the country have historically been far more European than Russian. Thanks to Soviet-era population management measures (such as Stalin transplanting hundreds of thousands of ethnic Russians to eastern Ukraine), eastern Ukraine has been a bit less focused on Europe, and more interested in Mother Russia. Geography plays a part, too. The Soviets were not fond of roads. The road network in the west is fairly extensive, but less so in the east. The roads east of the Dnieper river mostly run toward Russia. The roads west of the Dnieper mostly run to Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Rumania, and Byelorussia.

In a post-revolutionary society, such divisions are often amplified in the immediate aftermath of the revolution, but the cultural demands for separation can be worked out by compromise between the different groups. Despite the rhetoric, they all have more in common with each other than with anyone else- including the russophiles in eastern Ukraine. The common bonds between fellow countrymen will generally overcome feelings of separatism, given time.

Alas, Ukraine was not given that time. A greedy neighbor immediately set about taking advantage of tgeh post-revolutionary chaos period. Small numbers of well-financed agitators were inserted into Crimea to foment a “popular uprising”. Suspiciously well-equipped armed men with current-issue Russian equipment suddenly appeared to “protect” the “protesters” by taking over government buildings and dealing with undesirables- such as the minority Tartar population, which wants nothing whatsoever to do with Russia.

Since the Ukrainian government was still in transition, with the chain of command thoroughly shattered and widespread insecurity about who is in charge, they wisely decided against overt measures in response to fairly blatant Russian provocation. By itself, Ukraine cannot stand against Russia militarily. And so Crimea was lost. Russia appears to be trying to repeat this tactic in eastern Ukraine, despite the fact that everyone knows what is really happening. Russia is also trying to squeeze Ukraine by arbitrarily raising the prices of oil and gas.

Why is Russia doing this? All of these actions are demonstrably not in Russia’s best interest. Pissing off the whole world- especially those nations who actually have the wherewithal to punish Russia- is counterproductive. Russia cannot withdraw into a closed bubble, trading only within its borders and with client states seized by force. For good or ill, Russia is tied into the global economy. Without access to foreign trade, Russia will clunker along for a while before everything starts falling apart.

Russia is facing the same demographic bubble as the rest of the more-or-less developed world, but that bubble is revealing a dark secret: Russia is running out of Russians. The population in 1991 was reportedly about 148 million. Twenty years later, the population is about 143 million. The largest country on Earth has fewer people than Bangladesh, Pakistan, or Nigeria. Getting into a military contest with First World nations and alliances while dealing with a demographic crisis and increased economic isolation is not rational. Suicidal, even.

The end result of all this stupid maneuvering by Russia is to alarm all of its neighbors and drive them into the arms of the European Union. By playing the gas card, Russia has demonstrated its willingness to use raw economic force to achieve its goals, leaving everyone doing business with Russia to reconsider doing so. Military adventurism and posturing by Russia along the border with Ukraine has brought heavy NATO reinforcements to Poland and Rumania, and the Turks have closed the Bosporus to all Russian traffic. Note that none of those reinforcements are headed into Ukraine. Ukraine is not a member of NATO or the EU. We have no legal standing to contest Russia’s blatant land grab.

Maybe it’s just me. Perhaps I’m not privy to the Big Picture, and I’m not using the right type of political calculus. I concede the possibility, but I contend that Russia’s leadership isn’t using the right math, either.

Current status: Perplexed

Current music: I Want You To by Weezer

White Collar Blues

17 11 2013

I work pretty hard at what I do. I’m generally recognized as the subject-matter expert in my field- sometimes to the point where people from other organizations call me up for help or advice. I’m the senior person in my section, which does not mean I am any sort of a supervisor. It just means I’m the person who’s been at the job the longest. My supervisor- who actually looked like Dilbert’s Pointy-Haired Boss with a beard and glasses- was known for frequently throwing temper tantrums whenever my co-workers mentioned that they had discussed some matter with me.

That supervisor has now departed for another job in another city. Not only do we now get to blame stuff on him, but now there’s a leadership gap in the organization. Perhaps I should say the table of organization shows a gapped leadership position. We never managed to get a lot of leadership from our titular supervisor. Actually, there are two empty leadership slots. Our supervisor and the Department Head. A time-serving empty suit that management has been trying to get rid of was dropped into the Department Head spot as a “temporary measure” sixteen months ago. This “temporary appointment” was only supposed to last 3 months, but HR just keeps renewing the appointment rather than advertising the position and hiring someone qualified.

Human Resources actually published my immediate supervisor’s job, and got 45 qualified applicants. But then the empty suit pulled some sort of bureaucratic chicanery and plopped one of his buddies into the job. This buddy can’t be called an empty suit, because he doesn’t wear suits. Other than that, the description is quite apt. He’s been running the Facilities office for fifteen years, where his sole contribution was to avoid spending any money on anything unless the Executive Director vaguely hinted that he might want something. At that point, no expense was spared. Calling him sycophantic is an insult to worthless toadies. He is also totally clueless about the work he’s supposed to supervise, which means I end up doing most of the work.

So now I am doing the work of the Branch supervisor and the Department Head- as well as trying to get my own job done. I should also mention that we’ve been working with about 50% of the manpower we’re supposed to have to begin with. Under normal conditions, I could expect to spend no more than half of any given work day at my desk. Under our current manning, I’m lucky if I get to leave my desk to get some lunch. Deadline get dangerously close before any of us worker bees are able to drag ourselves free of the swamp of suck that surrounds us and get our deliverables out at basically the last minute. That’s assuming our empty suit “leaders” don’t decide to run every document past everyone within sight or hearing and get their buy-in. In triplicate.

Note that I am not getting paid for any of this extra work. Neither are my coworkers. As soon as the Facilities guy was declared to be our new supervisor, every last one of us updated our resumes and started looking for better working conditions. Oarsmen on a Roman galley might be a pleasant change.


Current status- Exhausted

Current music- Bandidos by the Refreshments

Enough is Enough!

6 10 2013

Key-riced! Just when you think Congress couldn’t get any more irrational, they go and pull this crap.

For those of you living in a cave, or who get all their news from a certain vulpine “news” network (essentially the same thing, I admit), a small faction of one party in one half of one third of the government have decided to stamp their little feet and hold their breath until they turn blue unless they get their own way. They’re also threatening to take their ball and go home, completely ignoring the fact that it isn’t their ball to begin with. What’s worse, the supposed leader of that portion of the government- the horribly misnamed House of Representatives- is playing along with these imbecilic spoilsports as they ride their bikes at full speed toward the edge of the Grand Canyon.

Let’s take a look at this “House of Representatives”. They do not appear to be very representative of the country at all. The median net worth of House members is just a skosh under a million dollars. This is something like twelve times the median net worth of Americans in general. Leaving aside net worth, members of the House are paid $176,000.00 per year. The median US income is $51,000.00 per year (less than 1/3 what a Congresscritter makes). Women and minorities are dramatically under-represented, making the so-called House of Representatives a misnomer unless we’re talking about representing the richer areas of Vermont or New Hampshire.

So a cabal of psychologically stunted rich white guys have decided that they’re going to shut down the government and are threatening to tank the world’s economy  unless they get their way. Why are we letting a small group of extremist pinheads hold the country (and possibly the world) hostage unless we agree to their petty demands? I thought we didn’t negotiate with terrorists.

That is what the current situation boils down to- a hostage situation. A few desperate extremists are threatening economic violence unless their unreasonable demands are met. Unlike every other hostage situation in history, the US media seems determined to avoid casting the hostage-takers in an unsympathetic light. There’s endless blather about stalemate, gridlock, and similar weasel-words, but none of the US “news” outlets are willing to call it a hostage situation. In fact, the only place you hear comparisons to hostage-taking is on late-night comedy shows and on a few blogs (or similar non-media web sources).

The really scary part of this is the fact that no one seems to have any idea how the hostage-takers plan to get out of this. They have publicly announced that they have no strategy or end game. They are clueless about how to avoid the consequences of their petulant actions. All of their options end up with the opposite of what they claim to have wanted at the start of the hostage-taking.

More rational actors- denizens of Bedlam, for example- might realize that they’ve publicly fornicated the canine on National TV, murmur something vaguely apologetic, and quickly retire to a corner pub in the hopes that they could avoid any further disgrace by keeping quiet and off the public radar. This particular batch of loons are incapable of shutting the fuck up- and damn the consequences. Every time one of these guanopsychotic suits gets his or her face in front of a microphone or camera, they are apparently psychologically compelled to blurt out whatever imbecilic ramblings that pass for thought in their minds. They can’t help being stupid in public, bless their poor, dear hearts.

Not too long ago, people like these would have been kept out of sight by relatives or State institutions. Even when allowed out in public, the words and actions of such people were dismissed with embarrassment by those who knew them. “I’m sorry about Uncle Edward. He just can’t control himself, bless his heart. Pay him no mind.”

Now, however, the loonies are running the asylum. And we are all in the rooms with mattress wallpaper wondering what the fuck happened.

Not everyone is aware of the consequences of a government shut-down yet. Here are a few low-lights:

– Close to a million government workers have been sent home without pay.

– Those government workers who are still at their jobs are also not getting paid, although they might get back pay whenever Congress gets its act together.

– A large number of contractors working for the government have been sent home- also without pay.

– All of those people not getting paid are tightening their belts and cutting back on expenditures to ride out this Congressional temper tantrum. This means that everyone who does business with those people is suddenly earning less money. So they cut back on their expenses- perhaps they order fewer replacement parts or supplies. All of their suppliers are suddenly going to see a drop in their revenue streams as well. Can you say ripple effect?

– After a week of furlough from the shut-down, Federal workers are all eligible for Unemployment benefits. Imagine what the October labor report will look like after a million or so Federal employees and contractors all sign up for Unemployment. Note that the states where these people live will have to pay out more than they had planned, resulting in state and local budget issues as well.

And all of this is yours, thanks to the actions of a few spoiled children in the inaptly-named House of Representatives.


Current status: Enraged

Current music: Toccata and Fugue in D by Johann Sebastian Bach

Hype and Hysteria

28 01 2013

I’ve been quiet for a while now, trying very hard to stay out of the storm of nonsense in the media about gun control. For reasons that presumably make sense to the media, only the most strident, idiotic, and unpleasant people on either side of the argument are permitted any airtime. This leaves the average citizen convinced that anyone discussing the issue is a rabid fanatic. Part of the problem is the fact that the two factions trying to discuss gun control aren’t speaking the same language. The lack of understanding by both sides tends to convince each group that the other is dealing dishonestly. Accordingly, I will begin with a basic glossary.

Automatic Weapon– Any weapon which fires continuously as long as the trigger is pulled.

Semi-Automatic Weapon– Also known as an “auto-loading weapon”, this weapon only fires once with each pull of the trigger. The recoil (or expanding gases from the cartridge discharging) ejects the casing of the cartridge which just fired. A spring forces the bolt back into position, loading another cartridge into the firing chamber in the process.

Magazine– The device which holds cartridges in the weapon. A detachable magazine is a magazine which can be removed from the weapon.

Clip– A device used to group cartridges together until inserted into a weapon’s magazine. Several common firearms use clips to load cartridges into non-detachable magazines, including the SKS and M-1 Garand.

Cartridges– Also called “rounds”, this is the most common type of ammunition in use. A metal cylinder holds a primer and a chemical propellant sealed behind a projectile called a “bullet”.

Assault Rifle– Contrary to popular opinion, there is a precise definition for this term. An Assault Rifle is a fully-automatic weapon which fires a light or medium-caliber cartridge and has a detachable magazine.

Battle Rifle– A large-caliber rifle which may be designed to accept either magazines or clips.

Caliber– The designation of the weapon’s bore diameter in either fractions of an inch (.223, .308. .45, etc) or in millimeters (5.56 mm, 7.62 mm, 9 mm, etc). Note that many firearms share the same bore diameter, but the cartridge casing may be much longer. Hence the intermediate cartridge 7.62 x 39 mm (commonly used in many rifles, including the AK-47) is not the same as the large cartridge 7.62 x 51 mm (also known as the .308, and commonly used in many rifles- including battle rifles and hunting rifles).

Assault Weapon– An artificial term for any semi-automatic firearm which superficially resembles a military firearm. This term is easy to confuse with Assault Rifle, despite their differences. To qualify as an “assault weapon”, various cosmetic accessories are all that are required to convert a “normal” firearm into an “assault weapon”.

Gun Show Loophole– A misnomer describing a design flaw in the national instant background check system. Any private citizen may sell a firearm to any other private citizen without requiring a background check (which is required whenever a firearm is purchased from a licensed firearms dealer). This was due to the way the instant background check system was set up, and private citizens were deliberately excluded from using the system by design.

High-Capacity Magazine– Another made-up term whose meaning depends on which side you ask. For firearms owners and enthusiasts, high-capacity magazines are those which hold cartridges in excess of the magazine the weapon was designed for. For those opposed to civilian firearms ownership, high-capacity means any magazine which holds more than some arbitrary number of cartridges ranging from 3 to 10.

Concealed Carry– In most states, citizens who wish to carry a concealed weapon must apply for a license to do so. Details vary by jurisdiction, but an extensive criminal and mental background investigation is common. Applicants are often required to take mandatory training in firearms safety before being issued a license.

Open Carry– The opposite of concealed carry. Wearing a firearm openly, for all to see. This is legal in some states, although a license may be required.

All clear now? Everybody speaking the same language at last? Now, let us discuss gun control.

The sheer hysteria generated whenever the words “gun control” are uttered is almost staggering. Those in favor of unrestricted firearms ownership immediately begin snarling nonsense about “cold dead fingers”, while those in favor of complete civilian disarmament start referring to the size of gun owners’ genitalia. There could be a middle ground, but the extremists on either side are drowning out everyone who might be willing to find one. People on one side are shrieking that “we have to do something!” while people on the other side feel like they’re being punished when they haven’t done anything wrong.

Let us start with some facts. There are roughly 300 million firearms owned by civilians in this country. The number of civilians owning firearms is estimated to be roughly 60 million, indicating that each firearms owner owns an average of five weapons (this is far from the case, but the minority who own dozens of firearms skew the average number high). There are approximately 10 million civilians licensed to carry concealed firearms in the US (note that some states have no licensing requirement for concealed carry, and this may skew the average low). In 2010, there were approximately 8,000 murders committed using firearms (roughly 6,000 by pistol, 350 by rifle, and 1,900 by “unreported type”). Two-thirds of all deaths caused by firearms (approximately 20,000 per year) are suicides. The FBI data shows that citizens with concealed carry licenses are less likely to commit a crime than almost any other group in the country- specifically including police officers.

If we’re going to talk about gun control, where do we start? By far the most common firearm used to commit murder is the pistol. Should we make all pistols illegal? Should we, the People, prohibit the manufacture, sale, and distribution of a product involved in the deaths of 6,000 people a year? If you answer “YES” to that question, does this answer hold for any such product, or are firearms somehow a special case? If pistols are the type of firearm used in most murders, why is the loudest hue and cry about so-called “assault weapons”?

Speaking of “assault weapons”, why is this firearm okay:


but this firearm:

Evil Mini-14

a tool of the devil?

For those of you playing at home, they are the same rifle. The first one is the standard Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle. It is a semi-automatic rifle with a detachable magazine. The second image is also a Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle, but it has a bunch of accessories that make it look scary. Those accessories have no effect on how the weapon operates or how deadly it is, no matter what Senator Feinstein’s opinion may be. The pistol grip and collapsible stock make the weapon more comfortable to hold, and the attachment points on the fore-end are to enable easy attachment of accessories like a scope or light.

Here’s another pop quiz. Which of the following firearms is the most powerful?

AR15 Garand

They are both semi-automatic rifles, by the way. Far too many people have been nattering away about how the scary “assault weapon” (the first picture, obviously- the evil AR-15) is just too powerful to be owned by civilians. The AR-15 fires a .223 caliber cartridge. The “normal” appearing rifle beneath it is the M-1 Garand, which fires a 30-06 cartridge. For those of you unfamiliar with firearms, the Garand has more than twice the energy per shot than the AR-15. No one is talking about banning the M-1 Garand. In fact, the US Government has a long-standing program wherein the Government will provide ordinary citizens with a Garand if they join the Civilian Marksmanship Program.

Okay, fine. You must talk about dealing with the scourge of “assault weapons”. I have a couple of suggestions for gun control measures.

Suggestion 1– Since everyone seems to be terrified of the scary black guns, why not make ’em pink? Start a government program to prohibit the sale of any civilian version of military weapons unless the weapon is permanently neon pink. Anyone who so desires may trade in their existing scary black gun for a brand new neon pink one. The government would have to subsidize the trade-ins, of course, similar to the “cash for clunkers” program for old cars. The manufacturer could either destroy the traded-in scary black guns in return for tax credits, make them permanently pink to comply with the law and re-sell ’em, or ship them overseas.

The beauty of this scheme is the fact that everyone wins, and everyone will hate it. The folks opposed to civilian firearms ownership will be happier because there will be fewer scary black guns on the streets, but they won’t like the fact that there will still be firearms in civilian hands. Rational firearms enthusiasts won’t care much about the color if the weapons still function properly, so they can still enjoy their shooting sports. The pin-heads who seem to think they need a gun to be macho won’t touch a pink gun, so there will be even fewer of them in circulation (and the ones in circulation won’t be in the hands of weak-minded idiots). We could stimulate manufacturing and possibly ease the unemployment rate with one program.

Suggestion 2– Citizens can only own firearms equivalent to what law enforcement is permitted. Any weapon the cops can have, ordinary citizens can have. I’ve written before about the increasing militarization of civilian law enforcement. Get fully-automatic weapons out of the hands of civilian law enforcement- they have no need for them. The military needs full-auto weapons, because their job is supporting the government’s decision by force. This frequently involves full-scale combat against unfriendly strangers armed with automatic weapons. The police are supposed to enforce the law. Period. 40% of police vehicles in the US are supposedly equipped with AR-15 rifles. If true, removing identical weapons from ordinary civilians means the police aren’t being held to the same standards. This tends to encourage abuses of authority, and we already have too much of that.

Suggestion 3– Make the instant background check system as close to free as possible and require all firearms purchases to go through the check -even for private parties. Require a nation-wide 3-day waiting period before taking possession of a handgun, with the exception of those with concealed weapons licenses. Require all states to meet minimum standards for issuing concealed weapons licenses, and make every state treat a concealed carry license with the same deference accorded to driver’s licenses.

There you have it. Three solid suggestions for reducing the odds of another spree killing, while still allowing citizens to own and bear arms. Any one of the suggestions should also work whether or not any other is also implemented, and they should all pass Constitutional muster with the Nine Worthies.

Current status: Irked

Current Music: Fame by David Bowie

Just a Little Pin-Prick

17 12 2012

I have been remiss in not talking about a very important subject. Like most topics I deem worthy of a rant, the people at whom I direct my ire routinely disregard evidence and scientific inquiry in favor of what they believe the truth to be. The more evidence is provided which completely disproves their idiotic beliefs, the more strongly they cling to their irrational ideas. I am speaking, of course, about the anti-vaccination movement.

This could probably fall under the heading of “First World Problems”, mainly because this misguided effort to inflict misery and death in the form of preventable diseases seems to be solely the prerogative of wealthy Americans. Not content with helping measles and mumps make a comeback here in the US, these cretins are now trying to spread the misery to areas of the world already miserable from the prevalence of preventable illnesses.

Their stated objection is the presence of a chemical called Thimerisol in the vaccines intended for use by the UN World Health Organization in Africa. Thimerisol, for those of you who aren’t deeply involved in the anti-vaccination movement, is supposedly the embodiment of pure Evil which causes autism in children. Never mind that there is no evidence that Thimerisol causes autism, or that study after study has proven there is no link between vaccinations (with or without Thimerisol) and autism, a bunch of well-off white women think there’s a link, and that’s good enough for them. They’re not even content to just allow their own kids to fall victim to diseases which ought to be nearly non-existent in a First World country, they have created crusades to spread the word about this horrible conspiracy by doctors, scientists, and pharmaceutical companies to make their babies autistic.

Why is Thimerisol added to vaccines anyway, a more reasonable person might ask? It turns out that Thimerisol is a preservative, and is used to prevent the vaccine from going bad if un-refrigerated. Refrigeration is ubiquitous here in the US, but is much more rare in other parts of the world, such as a lot of Africa. If the vaccine is not kept properly refrigerated before being dispensed, the recipient can develop a nasty case of meningitis. Thimerisol prevents this from happening. Apparently the shrill suburbanites who oppose vaccinations would rather have 40,000 children die from measles in Africa (last year’s number) than be exposed to the living Hell that is life-saving medicine.

In a rational world, these frantic harpies would be ignored byeveryone with a functioning cerebellum for their willful ignorance. Sadly, the United States is apparently chock-full of people desperate to prove that it is someone else’s fault their kid has autism. “They gave my baby a shot right after delivery, and now he’s autistic!” “They’re giving our kids too many vaccinations too soon, and this overwhelms their little bodies and makes them autistic!” “It isn’t my fault- it has to be those evil pharmaceutical companies!”

Let’s see now. The doctor in the delivery room gave your baby a shot right after birth, and this somehow contaminated the poor tyke and caused permanent mental impairment. Here’s a clue for you: when your baby took its first breath, it inhaled several trillion microbes into its lungs along with the air. By comparison, the drug cocktail in the syringe is as close to sterile as medically possible. Furthermore, there’s a damned good reason to get that shot immediately- it protects the child from Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) causes chronic illness and roughly 3,000 deaths every year. 30-40% of those chronic illnesses result from childhood exposure. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a schedule of recommended vaccinations for children, developed from research on preventing childhood diseases. Of course, to the anti-vaccination crowd, this only means that the CDC is part of the conspiracy.

How about that idea that the vaccinations are too much, too soon? Sorry, but that is also a crock of shit. Despite howls of protest from the anti-vaccination wing-nuts, yet another study has shot down this idea. There is no link between childhood vaccinations and autism- or any other neurological problem.

Every single time these anti-vaccination imbeciles come up with a new reason why no children should ever be protected from preventable and life-threatening diseases, doctors and scientists sigh heavily and conduct another study which proves that the anti-vaccination folks don;t know what the Hell they’re talking about. With every scientific defeat, these loons dredge up yet another outlandish theory about the causes of autism. They absolutely refuse to look at the scientific evidence which suggests that there’s a strong genetic component to autism. In some cases, the neurological abnormalities associated with autism have been observed in babies still in the womb. This alone should put the entire “vaccinations cause autism” bullshit to rest, and yet the “movement” continues to try and convince everyone else to refuse childhood vaccinations.

Why should we care? What does it matter if a bunch of suburban housewives refuse to let their precious snowflakes get vaccinated? It’ll be too bad for the kid when he or she gets dangerously sick from an easily preventable disease, but that’s the parent’s problem, right?

Wrong. There is a substantial minority of people in this country who cannot be vaccinated for some diseases, or who have depressed immune systems for a variety of reasons (such as cancer treatments). Very young children aren’t scheduled to get the Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) shot until they’re 12 months old, so they are at risk until properly vaccinated. Older people whose vaccinations have lapsed or who may be allergic to a particular vaccine are also at risk. Ordinarily, they would all be protected by what doctors call “herd immunity”. If enough members of a group (such as the United States of America, for one example) have or are given immunity or resistance to a particular disease, there will be so few cases of the disease that the few who lack the immunity/resistance can be relatively safe.

No longer. Thanks to the anti-vaccination movement, the number of measles cases in the US doubled between 2008 and 2009, with 89% of the victims being children whose parents had refused vaccination. In 1996, there were four deaths from Pertussis (whooping cough) in the US. By 2001, the number was 17- most of them infants under one year old. Since the deeply stupid anti-vaccination craze took hold, there have been roughly 5,000 cases of mumps across the US, with roughly 15 deaths per year.

For those of you not really paying attention so far, allow me to sum up: People (including children) are dying of easily preventable diseases here in the US because of a group of anti-scientific imbeciles who refuse to listen to facts and evidence. Is that clear enough for you?

Here are some more facts for you:

Fewer youngsters worldwide are dying of childhood diseases now than at any other time in history. About 80% of children today are vaccinated against such deadly illnesses as measles and polio, compared with 20% in the early 1980s.

There were an estimated 30 to 40 million cases of measles in 2000, causing some 777,000 deaths.

…immunization can be credited with saving approximately 9 million lives a year worldwide. A further 16 million deaths a year could be prevented if effective vaccines were deployed against all potentially vaccine-preventable diseases.

“Health officials say aggressive efforts to vaccinate young children against measles have resulted in a 74 percent global decline in the number of deaths due to the illness [between 2000 and 2007]. Experts say the biggest decline, 90 percent, occurred in the Eastern Mediterranean region.”

In England and Wales, measles cases increased 36% in 2008. Measles cases more than doubled from the year before during the first half of 2008 in the United States.

“Before smallpox was eradicated with a vaccine, it killed an estimated 500 million people. And just 60 years ago, polio paralyzed 16,000 Americans every year, while rubella caused birth defects and mental retardation in as many as 20,000 newborns. Measles infected 4 million children, killing 3,000 annually, and a bacterium called Haemophilus influenzae type b caused Hib meningitis in more than 15,000 children, leaving many with permanent brain damage. Infant mortality and abbreviated life spans — now regarded as a third world problem — were a first world reality.”

Amy Wallace

Pay attention to the numbers above. Doctors are often accused of only providing treatments, but not cures. Vaccines have provided one of the really few bright spots in medical history, where the docs can say they have a definite win. Polio is almost extinct. Small pox now only exists in a few laboratories. Those diseases once devastated millions, and are now all but eradicated, thanks to vaccines. Are we going to throw all that away because a few deeply stupid people in the US “don’t feel right” about it?

Special thanks to Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy, whose excellent writing on the subject convinced me to add my miniscule voice to the chorus.

Current status: Disgusted

Current music: Youngblood by Naked and Famous


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