Farewell. The Flying Pig Has Left The Building.

Steve Hynd, August 16, 2012

After four years on the Typepad site, eight years total blogging, Newshoggers is closing it's doors today. We've been coasting the last year or so, with many of us moving on to bigger projects (Hey, Eric!) or simply running out of blogging enthusiasm, and it's time to give the old flying pig a rest.

We've done okay over those eight years, although never being quite PC enough to gain wider acceptance from the partisan "party right or wrong" crowds. We like to think we moved political conversations a little, on the ever-present wish to rush to war with Iran, on the need for a real Left that isn't licking corporatist Dem boots every cycle, on America's foreign misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. We like to think we made a small difference while writing under that flying pig banner. We did pretty good for a bunch with no ties to big-party apparatuses or think tanks.

Those eight years of blogging will still exist. Because we're ending this typepad account, we've been archiving the typepad blog here. And the original blogger archive is still here. There will still be new content from the old 'hoggers crew too. Ron writes for The Moderate Voice, I post at The Agonist and Eric Martin's lucid foreign policy thoughts can be read at Democracy Arsenal.

I'd like to thank all our regular commenters, readers and the other bloggers who regularly linked to our posts over the years to agree or disagree. You all made writing for 'hoggers an amazingly fun and stimulating experience.

Thank you very much.

Note: This is an archive copy of Newshoggers. Most of the pictures are gone but the words are all here. There may be some occasional new content, John may do some posts and Ron will cross post some of his contributions to The Moderate Voice so check back.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What's the harm?

By BJ Bjornson

I only saw this story a few days ago, but it is a good reminder that misinformation and bad beliefs do have real-world consequences.

Canadian health officials are warning that with more than 250 people in Quebec infected by measles, the outbreak could start spreading to the rest of the country too.

There have been 208 cases of measles reported in Quebec since May 1 and a total of 254 since the beginning of the year. That's a huge number, considering that there are typically only 11 cases a year in all of Canada, says the Public Health Agency of Canada.

This is now the largest measles outbreak in Canada since measles was essentially eradicated from Canada in the mid-1990s.

The U.S. is having one of its worst years yet for measles, as well. Health officials there say 118 cases have been reported so far this year -- the highest number this early in the year since 1996. The U.S. normally sees about 50 cases of measles in a year

According to the CBC, the Quebec outbreak has now reached 750 cases in a province that normally only gets one or two a year. It also notes that part of the problem is that a proportion of the population has never been vaccinated for the disease, which is resulting in the possibility that the disease will return as major health issue in the Americas. But it is the original story that notes one of the reasons for that part of the population not getting vaccinated in the first place.

. . . many haven't had the vaccine, in part because of a bogus study that linked the MMR vaccine to autism. While that study has since been debunked and the doctor behind it discredited, the worries raised by that study eroded public confidence in vaccines, leading to drops in vaccination rates in some areas.

I admit that, being old enough to have had the measles as a kid and that it wasn�t entirely unusual at the time, I was quite surprised to discover the disease had been all but eradicated from North America over a decade ago. To watch it make a comeback due to a deliberate fabrication of a unscrupulous hack combined with the ignorant boosting of said hack by certain celebrities all preying on the fears of parents drives my rage up a few pegs.

The damage those idiots have caused and are continuing to cause will be significant, and I can only hope that they will one day be held accountable for it.


  1. Hi BJ -
    Thanks for all your posts lately.
    You're exactly right about a charlatan misleading the easily misled. But I'm thinking there's something else at play here, and your title hints at it.
    It's this super-individualism that has grown up over the past thirty or so free-market years. It's MY choice whether MY children are vaccinated, and *I* will decide, in isolation from any other considerations. They get the risk factors wrong; we're not well-wired to make intuitive risk decisions beyond the dangers of the savannah. But they also ignore that part about living with other people in a group called society.
    That's sort of like the decision about the risk of the vaccine versus the risk of a disease that they don't see any more (but are beginning to). Herd immunity is something you need to think about, not just react about. And even if your child isn't permanently damaged by having measles, that ignores the immunocompromised by cancer therapy or age in the community.
    So as long as it's a very personal decision, there are more likely to be collective epidemics. The interesting thing is that it's often parents who consider themselves liberal who are indulging themselves with this individualistic delusion.

  2. Thanks Cheryl,
    Blathering one's opinion into the ether is relatively easy. Making it so people actually want to read it is the real trick, so it's always nice to hear someone appreciates it.
    As to your point on hyper-individualism, you're entirely right, and that was a part of what my post title was hoping to convey. Not to sure what the solution to that is, but it is definitely a point worth noting.

  3. Thanks both of you for the post and comments. This is a drum I have been beating for some time.
    If it hadn�t been for mandatory smallpox inoculation, the Republic might never have survived. General George Washington ordered the Continental Army inoculated against smallpox in 1777, the first large scale inoculation of an army in history. Washington was supported in this effort by Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signatory to the Declaration of Independence and the chair of the Continental Congress� Medical Department.
    Inoculation was a precursor to vaccination which induced a milder case of smallpox by scratching the skin and rubbing in pus from a smallpox lesion. Cleric and amateur scientist Cotton Mather provided a dramatic proof of concept for inoculation when he inoculated 287 people during a smallpox epidemic in Boston in 1721. Only six of the inoculated individuals died, a much lower death rate than for natural smallpox. Mather gets credit for introducing smallpox inoculation to North America, but he learned about it from Onesimus, a slave who had undergone inoculation in Africa.
    Despite the success of his experiment, Mather was widely vilified for mocking the will of God. At the time, many believed that smallpox was a divine punishment for sins and that trying to evade the consequences of sinning by getting inoculated was a sin in itself. That argument sounds ridiculous to modern ears, but that same logic still prevails in some quarters when discussing sexually transmitted diseases.

    Cheryl, your point about hyper-individualism is well made. We protect ourselves best when we protect the herd. Too bad we can't do healthcare as effectively as we do what passes for national defense. It's not just Liberals, incidentally. The sovereign citizens nuts and many in the Tea Party are just as crazy.

  4. Other than the bogus study done by the now defrocked UK doctor in regard vaccinations and autism, it's also that most individuals of a particular age today haven't been alive during the mass outbreaks of diseases we use to control because of strict public health measures requiring the vaccination of all children before they entered school. Not seeing, knowing or hearing about children in North America being dreadfully ill, dying or becoming paralysed because of the measles, whooping cough, polio, etc. can add to a magical sense of invincibility for some individuals. And we'd never want to inhibit the individual in our enchanted self-made self-sufficient world would we.

  5. Something for adults to consider: I contracted measles at the age of 26, & was advised by a doctor that as a result I had a 1 in 100 chance of developing Multiple Sclerosis. So it's not just that children may again have to put up w/ a couple of wks. in bed in a darkened room if measles come back.

  6. Hyper individualism infects more than health care. Parents see fit to dictate to teachers what their children should be taught. Drivers feel that speed limits do not apply to them, and common courtesy is a thing of the past. Ad infinitum.

  7. Yep. Just like with the whooping cough outbreak. A rush to judgment blame game against parents who opt against vaccination. Per the whooping cough lies told by media - that lack of vaccinating caused the outbreak, and this was proven unfounded by the actual outcome that most who came down with whooping cough were already vaccinated against it, and also that a more virulent strain had been introduced into the population. Now you do this with the measles outbreak, when not enough is known with regard to if the ones coming down with the measles had actually already been vaccinated, or if there is a different strain that is contributing to the measles. I guess the only thing that is important to you is to be blaming parental rights to opt out. Instead of waiting to see what the facts really are with regard to the outbreak of measles. Feel good?

  8. Val, the terms hyper-individualism and super-individualism may or may not have to do with "opting out" or "parental rights" but they are close. The tenor of your comment, though, suggests a cause-and-effect relationship between vaccinations and the emergence of a new, more virulent strain of disease.
    I'm not a scientist, just an old guy blogging in retirement. But my curiosity at that idea in your comment led me to a bit of homework. This is what I came across.
    At this post at Health Freedom Alliance, Whooping Cough Epidemic Caused by Virulent New Pertussis Strain�And It�s the Result of Vaccine I got a link to the CDC.
    Bordetella pertussis Strains with Increased Toxin Production Associated with Pertussis Resurgence says in the abstract, in part...
    "in the Netherlands the dramatic increase in pertussis is temporally associated with the emergence of Bordetella pertussis strains carrying a novel allele for the pertussis toxin promoter, which confers increased pertussis toxin (Ptx) production. Epidemiologic data suggest that these strains are more virulent in humans. We discuss changes in the ecology of B. pertussis that may have driven this adaptation. Our results underline the importance of Ptx in transmission, suggest that vaccination may select for increased virulence, and indicate ways to control pertussis more effectively."
    I also found this uncivil comment at the first link.
    Good. Keep on spreading this misinformation. Me and my pathogen associates thank you. Stupid humans will swallow your lies hook, line, and sinker. They�re stupid enough to think that a vaccine causes a mutation in a bacterium, then they don�t deserve this planet.
    As I said, I'm not a scientist. But I do have a fairly good command of the mother tongue. My take on all this is that the vaccine did not "cause" a more virulent strain, but it contributed to the discovery and transmission of it in the human population by "changes in the ecology" which "select for increased virulence" which is not very different from what happens when antibiotics, from prescriptions to hand-washing soaps, are not used right, both of which have very much the same result in the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant strains of infection. My response is not to stop vaccinating altogether but to improve the vaccine being used but that's just me.
    You and anyone else if free to interpret these findings any way you want. But I choose to support the vaccination argument not because of any "rush to judgment blame game against parents who opt against vaccination" but a deliberate and carefully thought out conclusion that has nothing to do with parental rights.
    As for the measles question, I hope we can both agree that the jury is still out.