News From Around The Blogosphere 9.17.09

1. Flu season’s here. Get vaccinatedMassachusetts is considering mandating them, which will absolutely drive the anti-vaccinationists nuts. And though I usually come down on the side of individual rights, when it comes to vaccines, I have no serious objection to mandating them when deemed medically necessary. That’s because, like with drinking and driving, the decision affects more than just you but everyone around you.

2. Finland deems atheist ads not inappropriate & Idaho gets 3rd atheist ad – After first getting complaints for offensiveness, Finland’s Council of Ethics in Advertising said the ad with the slogan, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life,” was not inappropriate. Meanwhile Idaho’s putting up its third atheist ad, which will contain the slogan,  “Millions are good without God.”

3. Abstinence proves ineffective again – A new study found that the more religious a state is, the higher the rate of teen pregnancy. Shocker. Of course this study only shows correlation, and not necessarily causation, given everything we know about faith-based, abstinence-only sex education, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they find that religiosity does cause greater teen pregnancy.

4. Recently, I blogged about an alleged magic broom in Alabama that turned out not to be magic at all. Apparently, no one told these newscasters:

This is why I get so frustrated with the news media. When there isn’t a story, they just make one up. There’s no mystery here at all. Even the local paranormal investigators, after investigating for many, many hours ultimately concluded that the broom is just weighted funny as to stand up on its own. And aside from the store owners, the paranormal investigators have the most to gain from claiming a supernatural explanation.


25 Responses to News From Around The Blogosphere 9.17.09

  1. On individual liberty. You seem a little quick to throw it overboard. Mandated vaccination ain’t gonna happen, bro.

    Individual Liberty!

    Out of the Doctors Trial in Nuremberg came the Nuremberg Code, of which Yale law professor, physician and ethicist Jay Katz has said “if not explicitly then at least implicitly, commanded that the principle of the advancement of science bow to a higher principle: protection of individual inviolability. The rights of individuals to thoroughgoing self-determination and autonomy must come first. Scientific advances may be impeded, perhaps even become impossible at times, but this is a price worth paying.”

    Bioethicist Arthur Caplan concurred when he said, “The Nuremberg Code explicitly rejects the moral argument that the creation of benefits for many justifies the sacrifice of the few. Every experiment, no matter how important or valuable, requires the express voluntary consent of the individual. The right of individuals to control their bodies trumps the interest of others in obtaining knowledge or benefits from them.”

    • mjr256 says:

      Laws step in to curtail individual autonomy all the time. That’s kinda what a law is. And we specifically draw a line in cases where the actions of one person risks the lives of other people like drinking and driving, which is an apt example. And in the case of disease, far more lives are at risk if herd immunity isn’t reached.

      There’s certainly a reasonable debate to be had on the ethics of mandating vaccines but while utilitarianism isn’t always called for in every moral situation, more often than not, I’d say it is. So in this instance I think I have to side with Kant, John Stuart Mill, and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who allegedly said “The right to swing my fist ends at the point of another person’s nose.” Ideally, that’s how our system of justice works. If every driver on the rode decided they didn’t have to obey traffic laws and had the right to do as they pleased, it’d a disaster. If you universalize this refusal to obey the necessary rules of society, problems occur. As Phil Plait asks in the article linked to above, “what happens if my kid gets pertussis because you didn’t vaccinate your kid?”

      Where voluntary consent comes in is that you have the freedom to leave the society if you choose not to obey the society’s rules. If Massachusetts does decide it’s in its citizens’ best interests to start mandating vaccines, you have the freedom to leave the state. And while I hate to harp on the same analogy, drinking and driving is a perfect example of when the state can and should have to right to legislate what goes in other people’s bodies because it affects other people. Again, I refer to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The right to swing my fist ends at the point of another person’s nose.”

  2. There’s zero proof to show that this flu is remotely deadly. The 76 vaccine killed and maimed more people than the flu did and it was supposed to be imminent and deadly. It wasn’t.

    Right now they are fear mongering. Don’t beleive the hype. Very few deaths and most of those have underlying conditions. A death makes the front page, but a week later it’s on page 10 that there was a under lying heart condition.

    Maybe it will morph into something worse, but right now, H1N1 isn’t much worse than the regular flu. I’ve had 2 cousins with it already.

    Mandated vaccination ain’t gonna happen. Period.

  3. There’s a big difference between stopping me from doing something and forcing something into my body against my will.

    • mjr256 says:

      There’s a difference, but if the result’s the same either way, I’d say it’s a small difference. It might be a big difference if the vaccinated person were likely to suffer serious side effects, but that’s far from likely.

  4. For someone who is supposed to be skeptical, you sure have drunk the h1n1 kool aide. 🙂

    • mjr256 says:

      Scientific skepticism doesn’t mean being overly suspicious, paranoid, dismissive, or excessively doubting. It means following the evidence.

      To quote Steven Novella:
      “A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion.”

  5. Flu vaccines should NOT be mandatory. Most people don’t need them. Only high risk people ought to get the flu vaccine. Those include people with compromised immune systems, older people (because of a compromised immune system), very young people (below the age of 2 because of compromised immune system), and those who spend a great deal of time with those people. Most Americans just don’t need the flu vaccine. The flu is not that deadly.

    • mjr256 says:

      Mandating vaccines should only be done when deemed medically necessary, but not just when necessary for the individual. Saying “Most Americans just don’t need the flu vaccine” is problematic. You or I might not need a flu vaccine, but only because most Americans are vaccinated. If less than about 75-80% of the American public were vaccinated against the flu, the vaccine wouldn’t work and would be completely useless, which in turn would mean we’d all need to get as many people vaccinated as possible to reach herd immunity again. As is, the regular seasonal flu kills 36,000 Americans every year. And that’s with herd immunity. If the vaccination rate dips below 75-80%, that number will rise dramatically.

      And because there are some people who can’t get vaccinated because of specific health problems, they rely on those who have the choice whether or not to vaccinate to protect them by getting vaccinated. Certainly, the debate can be had over the ethics of mandating vaccines but I don’t see why those who can’t be vaccinated should have to die because some assholes who refuse to accept medical science take from the society without giving back.

      There’s a social contract that means sometimes individuals must make small sacrifices for the benefit of the group, same as jury duty. Only this is far more important than jury duty. Someone who can pay their societal dues but chooses not to can go. That’s their right as free, autonomous individuals. Good luck to them.

      • Mike, I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one. For serious illnesses, I am totally with you, but he flu is not a serious illness. The people who die from the flu are the people who get it with compromised immunity. Those are the people who are “at risk” and should get it. For the record, it is recommended that I get the flu vaccine because I have a small baby at home. You however don’t and should not get it. The herd immunity doesn’t apply to the flu because it is not a decease which we are trying to control or eradicate. To use herd immunity on the flu would be like using a nuclear weapon on a fly.

  6. H1N1 is no more deadly than the regular flu.

  7. I see you are concerned about the 1st Amendment, but not the 4th Amendment.

    Amendment IV

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    • mjr256 says:

      I think that’s stretching the 4th Amendment rather far beyond its intention. This is not about search and seizures or even law enforcement. Public health crises fall into another category all together. For instance, in a serious outbreak, the government can legally quarantine a community to prevent the disease from spreading.

  8. “Pandemic Response Bill” 2028 was passed by the Massachusetts state Senate on April 28 and is now awaiting approval in the House.

    As stated in the bill, upon declaration by the governor that an emergency exists that is considered detrimental to public health or upon declaration of a state of emergency, a local public health authority, with approval of the commissioner, may exercise the following authorities (emphasis added):

    1. to require the owner or occupier of premises to permit entry into and investigation of the premises;
    2. to close, direct, and compel the evacuation of, or to decontaminate or cause to be decontaminated any building or facility, and to allow the reopening of the building or facility when the danger has ended;
    3. to decontaminate or cause to be decontaminated, or to destroy any material;
    4. to restrict or prohibit assemblages of persons;
    5. to require a health care facility to provide services or the use of its facility, or to transfer the management and supervision of the health care facility to the department or to a local public health authority;
    6. to control ingress to and egress from any stricken or threatened public area, and the movement of persons and materials within the area;
    7. to adopt and enforce measures to provide for the safe disposal of infectious waste and human remains, provided that religious, cultural, family, and individual beliefs of the deceased person shall be followed to the extent possible when disposing of human remains, whenever that may be done without endangering the public health;
    8. to procure, take immediate possession from any source, store, or distribute any anti-toxins, serums, vaccines, immunizing agents, antibiotics, and other pharmaceutical agents or medical supplies located within the commonwealth as may be necessary to respond to the emergency;
    9. to require in-state health care providers to assist in the performance of vaccination, treatment, examination, or testing of any individual as a condition of licensure, authorization, or the ability to continue to function as a health care provider in the commonwealth;
    10. to waive the commonwealth’s licensing requirements for health care professionals with a valid license from another state in the United States or whose professional training would otherwise qualify them for an appropriate professional license in the commonwealth;
    11. to allow for the dispensing of controlled substance by appropriate personnel consistent with federal statutes as necessary for the prevention or treatment of illness;
    12. to authorize the chief medical examiner to appoint and prescribe the duties of such emergency assistant medical examiners as may be required for the proper performance of the duties of office;
    13. to collect specimens and perform tests on any animal, living or deceased;
    14. to exercise authority under sections 95 and 96 of chapter 111;
    15. to care for any emerging mental health or crisis counseling needs that individuals may exhibit, with the consent of the individuals
    16. State and local agencies responding to the public health emergency would be required to exercise their powers over transportation routes, communication devices, carriers, public utilities, fuels, food, clothing and shelter, according to the legislation.

  9. Mark P says:

    Bradley: the 4th Amendment is against UNREASONABLE search and seizure. Reasonable ones are permitted daily.

    Even if it was relevant, the word “unreasonable” cannot be read as “ones I don’t like”.

  10. Mark P says:

    “I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they find that religiosity does cause greater teen pregnancy”

    Oh, I think you would!

    They are probably co-correlated in the USA. With stupidity. In particular the sort of stupidity that thinks that not thinking about something makes it not exist.

    I doubt religiosity and early pregnancy correlates outside the USA though. The nature of religious belief differs too greatly.

  11. mjr256 says:

    I don’t think it’s accurate to say it’s only people w/ compromised immunity who die from flu. I think there’s a wide range of complications that can lead to the flu killing people. And the H1N1 strain is particularly dangerous to infants with still undeveloped immune systems.

    I think we take for granted the fact that the only reason so few people die of flu each year is because most of the populace is vaccinated. The Spanish flu of 1918 killed millions. I’m not necessarily saying that I think Massachusetts is right in their assessment that this pandemic may require mandatory vaccination, but contrary to popular belief, I don’t see any reason to think the potential threat of this pandemic is merely media hype. Yes, it’s of greater concern for those with infants at home to get the vaccine, but every expert I’ve heard from has advised everyone to get it, especially since it was determined that we’d have enough of them and especially since there’s such large anti-vaccine hysteria now. It’s not just about those in your home but anyone you come in contact with. That’s why college campuses and schools are such a hotbed for the H1N1. And herd immunity does apply to flu, so I don’t know where you’re getting this claim that it doesn’t.

    • mjr256 says:

      Keep in mind the source here. First of all, the MA mandatory vaccination is probably not going to even happen, as much as the Alex Jones crowd wants to believe it will. Second of all, Fox completely exaggerates the consequences of this law to suggest the Gestapo is going to busting down people’s doors, etc. Of course in the case of a serious emergency, the gov’t has legal authority to enact martial law, detain people, and do all sorts of things that would never be acceptable under normal conditions. There is legislation that does leave open that contingency. But H1N1 isn’t it. We’re far more prepared than we were in 1918 and we have every reason to believe no extreme measures will be required to get through this pandemic. Nobody’s doors are going to busted in with people physically holding them down while guys in lab coats force vaccinate them. It will be ok.

  12. Did you see this? Fox screeners must have let this guy fall thru the cracks …

    PS – You need a contact form or email or something on here.

    • mjr256 says:

      Yeah, I’ve seen this video and am having a lengthy debate in the comments section with people. It’s embarrassing even for Fox. The guy is clearly a crank with real evidence to back himself up. We’re just supposed to trust his opinions, which fly in the face of the scientific consensus and the overwhelming evidence.

      As for email, I don’t think WordPress has an option for it and I think that’s probably a good thing. Anyone who wants to write so much that they feel it’d make for too long of a comment is probably going to kill way too much of my time. I interact with a lot of cranks on here as it is. If they could email me, forget it.

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