Vaccine denial is still a thing… and it’s killing people.

Jason Chatfield, The New Yorker

People can believe whatever they want. They can preach it from the street corners, or on TV, or the radio, or the Internet. Flog your religion, be a vegan. Most beliefs are lifestyle choices and are pretty harmless. But some things cross the line, and vaccine misinformation is one of them. And it enrages me that this is still a thing, even after all these years.

This popped up on my Facebook feed just yesterday:

And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in you [Babylon]; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in you: for your merchants were the great men of the earth; for by your sorceries [aka pharmakeia!] were all nations DECEIVED.Revelation 18:23I have warned about this way before it came out, but PLEASE, just say NO to cv vaccine. 😭🙏
Inform yourself of the ingredients:
mRNA
Luciferase
Hydrogel
Aborted fetal cells
Toxic chemicals & poisons
Don’t take my word for it.
Research it yourself.

In the case of wild, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories and science denial, “research it yourself” is equivalent to “watch the YouTube video that supports my position.” Because that’s not how science works.

So let’s look at the actual ingredients in Pfizer’s vaccine:

  • Active Ingredient
    • nucleoside-modified messenger RNA (modRNA) encoding the viral spike glycoprotein (S) of SARS-CoV-2
  • Lipids
    • (4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis (ALC-3015)
    • (2- hexyldecanoate),2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide (ALC-0159)
    • 1,2-distearoyl-snglycero-3-phosphocholine (DPSC)
    • cholesterol
  • Salts
    • potassium chloride
    • monobasic potassium phosphate
    • sodium chloride
    • basic sodium phosphate dihydrate 
  • Other
    • sucrose

mRNA: ✓. That’s how the vaccine works, and it’s quite miraculous. Instead of injecting the body with dead or living virus so the immune system can ramp up to deal with a future real attack, it teaches the body how to build the part of the virus that attaches to our cells, so when a real virus attacks us, the immune system recognizes that protein spike and goes after the invaders. That’s crazy cool, and it’s completely harmless because no actual virus gets anywhere near the patient.

luciferase: ✘ Luciferase is one of two chemicals fireflies use to attract mates, and it has nothing to do with Lucifer. The roots of this word are Latin: “lux, lucis” meaning “light,” and “fer-” from the verb “to carry” whose principle parts are ferro, ferre, tuli, and latus. Hence “a substance that carries light.” Now, “Lucifer” is basically the same word, and the wanker is described in the Bible as an angel of light who fell from heaven. But there’s none of him in the vaccine. According to Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, a neuroscientist and priest in the Fall River, MA diocese:

Luciferase, an enzyme involved in firefly illumination, is being used in various testing and development stages ahead of the production of a COVID-19 vaccine, but is not itself part of the injected material included in human vaccinations. Luciferase is a commonly used biomedical research tool, and has been used, for example, in lab animals to study the most effective way to deliver mRNA vaccines, whether by an injection into the skin, muscle or a vein. (emphasis mine).

Click for more from Fr. Tad.

Remember the game of “telephone” that you played in grade school? It goes by other names, too – but you sit in a circle and the first person whispers something into the ear of the person next to them, like “Johnny kissed Mary under the apple tree.” And you can’t ask for a repeat or clarification. (This rule was called “no operator!” if I remember correctly.) And by the time it gets back to the last person, what comes out is completely different, like “My mother made apple pie for Thanksgiving.” This is how rumors spread and become twisted. Because very few people are trained in critical thinking, and people don’t understand what “doing research” really entails. They hear things from people they know, and repeat them in mommy groups or around water coolers or at football games or on the Internet, and all of a sudden the Pfizer vaccine contains the Devil, because sadly – in far too many cases – religious belief trumps anything based on centuries of scientific research.

hydrogel ✘ Hydrogels have many uses, including “injectable hydrogels which can be used as drug carriers for treatment of diseases or as cell carriers for regenerative purposes or tissue engineering.” That said, none are being used in Covid-19 vaccinese. This is an unsubstantiated myth.

aborted fetal cells ✘ From the University of Nebraska:

When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for emergency use, neither the Pfizer nor Moderna vaccines used fetal cell lines during the development or production phases. (So, no fetal cell lines were used to manufacture the vaccine, and they are not inside the injection you receive from your doctor.)

To be clear:

Fetal cell lines are not the same as tissue from aborted fetuses. Fetal cell lines are cells that grow in a laboratory. They descend from cells taken from elective abortions in the 1970s and 1980s. Those individual cells from the 1970s and 1980s have since multiplied into many new cells over the past four or five decades, creating fetal cell lines. Current fetal cell lines are thousands of generations removed from the original fetal tissue. 

This is a standard scare tactic used by the religious right, linking anything that they are afraid of to abortion – one of their favorite hot-button issues.

Toxic chemicals and poisons ✘ To many who view science as a product of the Devil, anything they can’t understand or can’t pronounce is “toxic poison.”

Far too many proponents of natural health repeat this claim far and wide on the Internet and in published works. But let’s look at the “toxic chemicals and poisons” which make up an organic blueberry:

Every bit of food that we eat is made up of chemicals, many of which you would have to be an organic chemist to understand or pronounce. Look closely, and you’ll find that most of these health-oriented websites are linked to something that they want to sell you: a supplement, a product, or a service.

The lipids and salts used in the Pfizer vaccine are there as lubrication to encase the mRNA and ease its passage into our system, or as preservatives to prevent its degradation before it can be effective.

The Pfizer vaccine contains four salts, one of which is ordinary table salt. Together, these salts are better known as phosphate-buffered saline, or PBS, a very common ingredient that keeps the pH, or acidity, of the vaccine close to that of a person’s body. You’ll understand how important that is if you’ve ever squeezed lemon juice on a cut. Substances with the wrong acidity can injure cells or get quickly degraded.

Sucrose ✓ Sugar. It’s there to keep the mRNA particles from sticking together when the vaccine is frozen. No danger to the human system, especially given how much sugar we humans like to consume.

In addition to the massive amount of testing that went in to the development of these vaccines, all of the real ingredients in the vaccine are present in such minuscule amounts as to render them entirely innocuous. Beyond that, there’s nothing in the Pfizer vaccine that people (unjustifiably) scream about – no mercury, no thimerosal, and no microchips.

Just as a matter of passing interest, here’s my vaccination schedule:

DPT Vaccine
1st11/13/1951
2nd11/27/1951
3rd12/11/1951
1st Booster4/8/1961
Polio
1st12/18/1955
2nd1/11/1956
3rd10/8/1956
4th8/1958
5th4/14/1961
Smallpox
1st1951
2nd4/14/1961

As a result of these vaccines, I survived childhood with only chicken pox, German measles, and mumps – and didn’t die from easily preventable diseases. And over the course of my life I’ve had many other vaccines, including TB, Tetanus boosters, Yellow Fever, influenza, shingles, and a host of others. And I’m still alive, and I’m no more autistic than I was when I was born twitch twitch (that was a joke, folks. I suffer from ADHD but it has nothing to do with vaccinations.)

Now it’s time to repeat something that shouldn’t have to be repeated, but sadly does: vaccines don’t cause autism, and they don’t poison people

This viral image enraged a scientist who published this response (his screen name is kinda crude, so I don’t want to use it here, but it’s out there if you need to find it, and I have only slightly bowdlerized his or her essay):

You are the worst person.

You can be a vegan and whine at people, that’s hurting nobody but when you tell people to not take vaccines, you’re endangering public health.

If YOU mixed mercury, aluminium phosphate, ammonium sulfate, formaldehyde and viruses and injected it into someone, you’d kill someone because you have no pharmacological experience. 

If someone in a lab mixed those together, they know how they work, they have medically assessed and peer reviewed evidence and strict guidelines to follow to create a safe and effective product. Why is it legal? Because they know what they’re doing and know how to spell “phosphate” and “ammonium”.

Why don’t YOU educate yourself instead of subscribing to the notion that all scientists are evil and want to poison you are your natural, vegan lifestyle. I say this as an IMMUNOLOGIST, you are single-handedly responsible for the skyrocketing resurgence of deaths caused by TB, measles and the worrying prospect of smallpox returning.

Let’s break this one down and give you some education.

Mercury is an element in the compound thiomersal which was part of many vaccines. It has been claimed with NO tangible evidence other than a multifaceted correlation that thiomersals cause autism. This has been investigated thoroughly and no causal link has been found.

Aluminium phosphate is an aluminium salt which is used as an adjuvant in vaccines. An adjuvant is a compound which causes an immune response to be higher and stronger, so that the immune system comes into contact with the attenuated virus more, so that it can recognise the antigens of the virus and provide immunity. They are a necessary part of the vaccine if you want it to work well.

Ammonium sulfate is used in the process of purifying the proteins in the synthesis of a vaccine. It is also found in bread and flour, so you’d better learn to enjoy rice if you want to avoid it.

Formaldehyde is used in the treatment and purification of vaccines and stops contamination. Most of this is removed before the vaccines is shipped, although some remains.

In my personal and scientifically backed opinion, the war against disease is a hundred fold more important than the mum-led war against vaccines. Do you want your child to die a slow, painful, agonising death? If not, then shut up with your so called “facts” you got from Yahoo Answers and get your kid vaccinated.

I am going to sound derogatory, but if you don’t have formal education in at least biology, you have no role to talk about the way vaccines should be done. You have no idea of the actual function and mechanism in which they work, and you have is a vague knowledge that mercury used to make people mad, formaldehyde is used in embalming and that ammonium sulfate and aluminium phosphate sound scary.

Vaccinate your kids if you want them to live. End of. If you don’t then you clearly don’t love your kids and would prefer to see them die of completely preventable diseases.

This has been a rage filled, alcohol induced response from a scientist.

To say it again: VACCINES DO NOT CAUSE AUTISM.

So I didn’t “take your word for it,” and I “researched it myself.” And came up with a bunch of baseless lies, misrepresentations, and scare tactics. And by encouraging the susceptible not to take the Covid vaccine, you’re killing people.

Your move.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Footnotes:

¹ Human genetics and chemistry are so complex that no medication is without possible risk or side effect for someone in the general population. I would be a fool to say that nobody has ever had adverse responses up to and including death from some vaccine or medication. But when one is dealing with wide societal health issues, the concept of risk/benefit has to be considered.

If the MMR vaccine protects countless, numberless children (and later adults) from crippling or even fatal diseases, and there’s a one in a million chance that a child will respond adversely to a vaccination, is that a reason to tell people not to take the vaccine? The loss or injury of a child to its parents and loved ones is incalculable and should never be minimized – but how many lives have been saved, and how much disease averted, by the simple act of keeping a population protected?

The Great Barrington Crime Against Humanity

I just saw something come across my newsfeed about the “Great Barrington Declaration,” a document which essentially recommends against any Covid-19 protections, like social distancing and wearing masks, and promotes the development of herd immunity by exposing less-vulnerable people through living normal lives.

But consider this, from Wikipedia (emphasis mine.)


The World Health Organization and numerous academic and public-health bodies have stated that the proposed strategy is dangerous, unethical, and lacks a sound scientific basis.

They say that it would be impossible to shield all those who are medically vulnerable, leading to a large number of avoidable deaths among both older people and younger people with underlying health conditions, and they warn that the long-term effects of COVID-19 are still not fully understood. Moreover, they say that the herd immunity component of the proposed strategy is undermined by the limited duration of post-infection immunity. The more likely outcome, they say, would be recurrent epidemics, as was the case with numerous infectious diseases before the advent of vaccination. The American Public Health Association and 13 other public-health groups in the United States warned in a joint open letter that the Great Barrington Declaration “is not a strategy, it is a political statement. It ignores sound public health expertise. It preys on a frustrated populace. Instead of selling false hope that will predictably backfire, we must focus on how to manage this pandemic in a safe, responsible, and equitable way.”

The Great Barrington Declaration was authored by Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University.

The costs were paid for by the American Institute for Economic Research, a libertarian think tank that is part of a Koch-funded network of organizations associated with climate change denial.


These social inconveniences – and that’s what they are, not oppressive, draconian measures – are admittedly not fun. It is a pain not to see people’s smiling faces. It is difficult to not go places we want to go, see people we want to see, travel to other cities or countries, gather in restaurants and bars for fun and celebrations, enjoy blockbuster movies in theaters, see Broadway plays, be at the side of loved ones who are going through difficult times, attend weddings and Bat Mitzvahs and funerals and Christmas parties and all the things we used to take for granted. Yes, it’s a massive pain in the tuchus.

But it’s the only way we will continue to fight the spread of this very evil, very nasty virus that kills across all spectra and leaves countless others with reduced quality of life forever, until the healthcare researchers can understand this virus and develop effective treatments and viable vaccines.

If you have never worn a mask in public because you think the government is oppressing you, or that the liberal left is promulgating a hoax, and you’re exercising your rights as a free American, or something else equally inane, you’re not a patriot. You’re an asshole. You may be maiming or killing people. And you need to go home and re-examine your life.

This restaurant in Las Vegas has the right idea:

The supposed “FTBA Mask Exemption Cards” are bogus and carry no legal or social weight of authority. If someone gives you one of them, give them back one of these:

For the love of all that’s holy; for the sake of decency and caring about your own health and that of your fellow humans around you, wear a mask and practice social distancing until this pandemic is under control and treatments and vaccines are available.

The Old Wolf has Spoken.

Amy Wright and the “How Dare You” COVID essay

When something becomes a meme on the Internet, you can be pretty sure there’s a kernel of truth behind it. Tidbits of wisdom, even when inspiring, are often attributed to the strangest, though incorrect sources. I can only assume this usually happens out of ignorance (meaning, they just don’t know the source and feel like adding a “likely” origin) rather than malice, but once something is out there, it can spread like wildfire – and pretty soon everyone and their sister’s cat’s grandmother thinks the quote is accurately sourced.

This has happened in recent days with a powerful essay that is circulating on Facebook and elsewhere about the Coronavirus, widely attributed to Dr. Fauci. The trouble is, the authoress is Amy Wright, who wrote it and posted it on Facebook on June 14, 2020. You can see the original post here.

I have replicated the full text of the post below, because it deserves to be widely seen with correct attribution.

Here is my take. Short-sighted people want to dismiss COVID-19 as “just a virus”. You may hear some suggest it’s “like a cold”. Maybe that makes them feel better because it’s familiar and makes this crisis feel less overwhelming.

But here’s the problem with that:

Chicken pox is a virus. Lots of people have had it, and probably don’t think about it much once the initial illness has passed. But it stays in your body and lives there forever, and maybe when you’re older, you have debilitatingly painful outbreaks of shingles. You don’t just get over this virus in a few weeks, never to have another health effect. We know this because it’s been around for years, and has been studied medically for years.

Herpes is also a virus. And once someone has it, it stays in your body and lives there forever, and anytime they get a little run down or stressed-out they’re going to have an outbreak. Maybe every time you have a big event coming up (school pictures, job interview, big date) you’re going to get a cold sore. For the rest of your life. You don’t just get over it in a few weeks. We know this because it’s been around for years, and been studied medically for years.

HIV is a virus. It attacks the immune system, and makes the carrier far more vulnerable to other illnesses. It has a list of symptoms and negative health impacts that goes on and on. It was decades before viable treatments were developed that allowed people to live with a reasonable quality of life. Once you have it, it lives in your body forever and there is no cure. Over time, that takes a toll on the body, putting people living with HIV at greater risk for health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes, bone disease, liver disease, cognitive disorders, and some types of cancer. We know this because it has been around for years, and had been studied medically for years.

Now with COVID-19, we have a novel virus that spreads rapidly and easily. The full spectrum of symptoms and health effects is only just beginning to be catalogued, much less understood.

So far the symptoms reported include:

Fever
Fatigue
Coughing
Pneumonia
Chills/Trembling
Acute respiratory distress
Lung damage (potentially permanent)
Loss of taste (a troubling neurological symptom)
Sore throat
Headaches
Difficulty breathing
Mental confusion
Diarrhea
Nausea or vomiting
Loss of appetite
Strokes have also been reported in some people who have COVID-19 (even in the relatively young)
Swollen eyes
Blood clots
Seizures
Liver damage
Kidney damage
Rash
COVID toes (weird, right?)

People testing positive for COVID-19 have been documented to be sick even after 60 days. Many people are sick for weeks, get better, and then experience a rapid and sudden flare up and get sick all over again.

A man in Seattle was hospitalized for 62 days, and while well enough to be released, still has a long road of recovery ahead of him. Not to mention a $1.1 million medical bill.

Then there is MIS-C. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Children with MIS-C may have a fever and various symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, or feeling extra tired. While rare, it has caused deaths.

This disease has not been around for years. It has basically been 6 months. No one knows yet the long-term health effects, or how it may present itself years down the road for people who have been exposed. We literally *do not know* what we do not know.

For those in our society who suggest that people being cautious are cowards, for people who refuse to take even the simplest of precautions to protect themselves and those around them, I want to ask, without hyperbole and in all sincerity:

How dare you?

How dare you risk the lives of others so cavalierly. How dare you decide for others that they should welcome exposure as “getting it over with”, when literally no one knows who will be the lucky “mild symptoms” case, and who may fall ill and die. Because while we know that some people are more susceptible to suffering a more serious case, we also know that 20 and 30 year olds have died, marathon runners and fitness nuts have died, children and infants have died.

How dare you behave as though you know more than medical experts, when those same experts acknowledge that there is so much we don’t yet know, but with what we DO know, are smart enough to be scared of how easily this is spread, and recommend baseline precautions such as:

Frequent hand-washing
Physical distancing
Reduced social/public contact or interaction
Mask wearing
Covering your cough or sneeze
Avoiding touching your face
Sanitizing frequently touched surfaces

The more things we can all do to mitigate our risk of exposure, the better off we all are, in my opinion. Not only does it flatten the curve and allow health care providers to maintain levels of service that aren’t immediately and catastrophically overwhelmed; it also reduces unnecessary suffering and deaths, and buys time for the scientific community to study the virus in order to come to a more full understanding of the breadth of its impacts in both the short and long term.

I reject the notion that it’s “just a virus” and we’ll all get it eventually. What a careless, lazy, heartless stance. Being intentional and taking basic, common sense precautions has permitted me to avoid many common viruses. I’ve never had the flu. And while I’m not saying I never will, I also am not about to run out and intentionally expose myself to “get it over with”.

I, and several other people, posted comments on Facebook to Amy indicating that her writing was being shared widely, either with the Fauci attribution or with others trying to claim authorship. She responded with this:

In a spirit of complete openness, Ms. Wright also confessed that with regard to accuracy, only the list of symptoms has been verified through multiple sources, and that the thrust of her essay was that we know so very little about SARS-CoV-2 that it will be a long time before we fully understand the virus.

That said, I found that the entire essay struck a chord with me, and I include it with gratitude here.

The Old Wolf has shared.

67 looks different now

One of my all-time favorite books has always been The Human Comedy by William Saroyan. It’s a lovely novel about good-hearted, hard-working people living in a terrible time of death, destruction, and fear – the days of World War II. It is also written in a simple, delicious style, reflective of a certain simple goodness that much of our society no longer seems to prize.

In the course of the story, Homer Macaulay, a 14-year-old boy whose father has died and whose brother Marcus is away at the war, takes a job at the local telegraph office. There he meets Mr. Spangler, the manager, and Willie Grogan, the old-time telegrapher.

The following excerpt from the novel has always moved me because of Saroyan’s writing, but now more than ever since as of today I am no longer sixty-seven years old, the same age as Willie.

Homer sings “Happy Birthday” to Mr. Grogan

Spangler asked suddenly, “You know where Chatterton’s Bakery is on Broadway? Here’s a quarter. Go get me two day-old pies — apple and cocoanut cream. Two for a quarter.”  

“Yes, sir,” Homer said. He caught the quarter Spangler tossed to him and ran out of the office. Spangler looked after him, moving along into idle, pleasant, nostalgic dreaming. When he came out of the dream, he turned to the telegraph operator and said, “What do you think of him?”  

“He’s a good boy,” Mr. Grogan said.  

“I think he is,” Spangler said. “Comes from a good, poor family on Santa Clara Avenue. No father. Brother in the Army. Mother works in the packing-houses in the summer. Sister goes to State College. He’s a couple of years underage, that’s all.”  

“I’m a couple overage,” Mr. Grogan said. “Well get along.”  

Spangler got up from his desk. “If you want me,” he said, “I’ll be at Corbett’s. Share the pies between you—” He stopped and stared, dumbfounded, as Homer came running into the office with two wrapped-up pies.  

“What’s your name again?” Spangler almost shouted at the boy.  

“Homer Macauley,” Homer said.  

The manager of the telegraph office put his arm around the new messenger. “All right, Homer Macauley,” he said. “You’re the boy this office needs on the night-shift. You’re probably the fastest-moving thing in the San Joaquin valley. You’re going to be a great man some day, too— if you live. So see that you live.” He turned and left the office while Homer tried to understand the meaning of what the man had said.  

“All right, boy,” Mr. Grogan said, “the pies.”  

Homer put the pies on the desk beside Mr. Grogan, who continued to talk. “Homer Macauley,” he said, “my name is William Grogan. I am called Willie, however, although I am sixty-seven years old. I am an old-time telegrapher, one of the last in the world. I am also night wire-chief of this office. I am also a man who has memories of many wondrous worlds gone by. I am also hungry. Let us feast together on these pies— the apple and the cocoanut cream. From now on, you and I are friends.”  

“Yes, sir,” Homer said.  

The old telegraph operator broke one of the pies into four parts, and they began to eat cocoanut cream.  

“I shall, on occasion,” Mr. Grogan said, “ask you to run an errand for me, to join me in song, or to sit and talk to me. In the event of drunkenness, I shall expect of you a depth of understanding one may not expect from men past twelve. How old are you?’

“Fourteen,” Homer said, “but I guess I’ve got a pretty good understanding.”  

“Very well,” Mr. Grogan said. “I’ll take your word for it. Every night in this office I shall count on you to see that I shall be able to perform my duties. A splash of cold water in the face if I do not respond when shaken— this is to be followed by a cup of hot black coffee from Corbett’s.”  

“Yes, sir,” Homer said.  

“On the street, however,” Mr. Grogan continued, “the procedure is quite another thing. If you behold me wrapped in the embrace of alcohol, greet me as you pass, but make no reference to my happiness. I am a sensitive man and prefer not to be the object of public solicitude.”  

“Cold water and coffee in the office,” Homer said. “Greeting in the street. Yes, sir.”  

Mr. Grogan went on, his mouth full of cocoanut cream. “Do you feel this world is going to be a better place after the War?”  

Homer thought a moment and then said, “Yes, sir.”  

“Do you like cocoanut cream?” Mr. Grogan said.  

“Yes, sir,” Homer said.  

The telegraph box rattled. Mr. Grogan answered the call and took his place at the typewriter, but went on talking. “I, too, am fond of cocoanut cream,” he said. “Also music, especially singing. I believe I overheard you say that once upon a time you sang at Sunday School. Please be good enough to sing one of the Sunday School songs while I type this message from Washington, D. C.”  

Homer sang Rock of Ages while Mr. Grogan typed the telegram. It was addressed to Mrs. Rosa Sandoval, 1129 G Street, Ithaca, California, and in the telegram the War Department informed Mrs. Sandoval that her son, Juan Domingo Sandoval, had been killed in action.  

Mr. Grogan handed the message to Homer. He then took a long drink from the bottle he kept in the drawer beside his chair. Homer folded the tele- gram, put it in an envelope, sealed the envelope, put the envelope in his cap and left the office. When the messenger was gone, the old telegraph operator lifted his voice, singing Rock of Ages. For once upon a time he too had been as young as any man.

Saroyan, William, The Human Comedy, Harcourt, Brace and Company (1943)

Willie is 67, and has lived a hard life. Alcoholism takes its toll. I don’t feel as old as Willie, but I haven’t lived through two world wars or known the privations of the Depression. But the number stuck in my mind, and brought back these recollections.

Age is a funny thing. It’s relative. When I first read The Human Comedy as a young man (one of the few books that has ever made me weep like a grade-schooler), sixty-seven seemed far, far away and ancient. Now that I’ve passed that mark, aside from the wear and tear that comes with an aging body I don’t feel as old as Willie – somehow I’m still around 24 inside. Or sometimes 15. Or sometimes five.

I remember that even as a child, I was amused by Gelett Burgess’ poem “Consideration” found in Goops and How To Be them:

When you’re old, and get to be
Thirty-four or forty-three,
Don’t you hope that you will see
Children all respect you?

Will they, without being told,
Wait on you, when you are old,
Or be heedless, selfish, cold?
hope they’ll not neglect you!

But it’s important to remember that life expectancy has changed radically over the last century and a half.

  • Today, in 2019, the average human can expect to live to age 79.
  • in 1943 when The Human Comedy was published, the average US life expectancy for a male was 62.4, so Willie was well past the mark.
  • In 1900, when The Goops was written, the number was considerably lower: 46.3
  • And in 1853 when Herman Melville wrote “Bartleby the Scrivener,” lower still – around 38, so the narrator can be forgiven for calling himself “a rather elderly man,” ” somewhere not far from sixty.”

Much of the rising life expectancy can be attributed to advances in medical science, the eradication of many infectious diseases, and the judicious application of vaccines against diseases such as polio, smallpox, and the many childhood diseases that carried so many people away.

Public Service Announcement: Vaccines are generally safe and prevent far more suffering than they cause.

I’m to the point now where I can no longer count on the fingers of both hands the number of family members, friends and associates who have graduated from mortality at an age younger than I am today. We never know when our number will be called; like everyone else I will board the bus (“Heart and Souls” reference) when it comes for me, and while I hope for significantly more time here on earth I will be grateful for what I’ve been given. By the standards of days gone by, I’ve already beaten the odds by a mile.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Snake Oil from the 1890s

I saw this today over at Teresa’s Frog Applause strip, and thought I’d share it just because I found it fascinating.

Phytolacca Decandra, if you were not sure, is pokeweed – a toxic plant with no known legitimate medical uses and a host of applications in folk medicine.

It’s poisonous. That’s all I need to know about it. Unlike the fugu (puffer fish of Japan) which is supposedly delicious if prepared properly and fatal if not, this stuff really has no compelling reason to eat it unless one were starving, much like the pioneers in Utah who survived on sego lily bulbs after their arrival in the Great Salt Lake basin. It did keep them alive, but I’ve never been tempted to try them.

As I mentioned in earlier articles, thanks to cable television and the internet, there seems to be a new “hot” thing every year or so, hawked by the likes of Dr. Oz and a horde of affiliate marketers – green coffee extract, garcinia cambogia, exogenous ketones, chitosan, bromelain, coral calcium, the list is endless.

Take a pass on any remedy that claims to allow you to lose weight effortlessly. Just don’t waste your money. None of them work. It’s a sad fact that most of us love to eat, that the most comforting foods are high-density carbohydrates (often cooked in delicious, satiating fat), and that pounds are frightfully easy to put on and frightfully hard to take off. The only way to release weight consistently is to live with a caloric deficit, even a slight one. Eat a healthier, more balanced diet, burn more than you eat (exercise helps in a lot of different ways, but pushaways are the best dinner-table exercise you can do), and you will drop pounds.

Stay away from the snake oil.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Affiliate Marketing – How many lies can they cram in?

I’ve written before about affiliate marketing, and what a plague it is on the internet. I just had a tab pop up on my browser – despite two ad-blockers being active – and I thought I’d share an image or two.

Health experts recommend losing between 1-2 pounds a week for healthy weight release. This claim amounts to close to 1 lb per day. Ain’t gonna happen, unless you’re eating 500 calories per day and burning 3,500. In addition, this claim is not backed by Fox News (as disreputable as they may be in other areas), the NY Times, Today, Oprah, Style Watch, or Redbook.

This is not going to happen in 22 days. Look, children, this is what we call “a lie.”

Limited time only: Lie
Only 4 Bottles Still Available: Lie
40% discount: Negated at the purchase page.
Offer ends Today: Lie

Countdown timer at the bottom of the page: Another Lie.

Let’s look at the purchase page:

This page claims to send you free bottles: Lie
Only 241 promotions left: Lie
Endorsements: Lie
Lose weight without exercising: Lie

So if you want that free product and provide your information (which, by the way, will be sold to every marketer with two coppers to rub together), you get this:

Oh look, you’re being charged $59.95. That’s not free, nor is it the 40% discount promised on a previous page. And if you don’t notice that the 6-bottle option is checked, the charge on your credit card is going to be horrendous.

But wait, there’s more!

Buried deep on the purchase page in light gray print is the link to “terms and conditions,” which very few people will bother to read. If they do, they’ll find a wall of text, which includes these hidden gems (there’s a lot more of it)

Terms
SCOPE & APPLICATION
1.1 You expressly agree and accept the Conditions set forth herein unconditionally as a binding contract (“the Agreement”) enforceable by law… (How well this load of BS would stand up in court is an open question)

PRODUCT AND BILLING
2.1 All product purchases made from this website are required to be paid in full. For more information about our products, please visit http://www.ketopurediet.com.
2.1.1. The prices for the products are as follows: $199.99 or $28.57 each for the 7 bottle package;$149.95 or $29.99 each for the 5 bottle package; $99.99 or $33.33 each for the 3 bottle package and $69.99 each for the 1 bottle package, plus $7.95 shipping and handling. Shipping and handling is non-refundable.
2.2 You authorize us to initiate a one-time charge to your credit card as indicated upon your purchase. (So, not free at all)

This next one is a real treasure:

16.7 I also acknowledge that I understand that by placing my order of Keto Pure Diet, I am automatically enrolled in the Keto Pure Diet health community program. I further acknowledge that I understand that my membership in Keto Pure Diet is included in my product purchase, that my complementary membership will remain active for as long as I remain an active custom of Keto Pure Diet, and that once I am no longer an active customer of Keto Pure Diet the membership dues shall, at my option, become my responsibility. I hereby grant authorization for the monthly membership dues to be charged to the credit card or debit card used to complete the purchase of Keto Pure Diet. I further acknowledge, agree to, and accept the Keto Pure Diet Privacy Policy, the Keto Pure Diet Website Use Terms and Conditions, the Keto Pure Diet Terms and Conditions, and the Keto Pure Diet Health Coin Terms and Conditions. I acknowledge that I understand that my Keto Pure Diet my Keto Pure Diet membership can be canceled at anytime by calling 1-888-628-6284, by emailing support@ketopurediet.com. Your Keto Pure Diet membership entitles you and your household dependents to consultation fee free calls with licensed doctors 24-hours per day, 365-days per year, as well as access to thousands of dentists with typical savings of 50% off regular bills, vision care savings, and prescription savings at most pharmacies in the US. To learn more value to the included Keto Pure Diet program, go to http://www.ketopurediet.com, and look for emails explaining the programs and services included in the membership.

Notice that if you stop ordering this product, you have just given permission for monthly dues to some worthless program to be charged to your credit card, and nothing is ever said about how much those monthly dues are until you’ve bitten the hook.

There’s a lot more legal noise in those terms and conditions, which mostly assure you that the company has all rights and that you have very few.

But what about the product itself? Is it any good? will it work? Wow, it’s so easy:

The ketogenic diet has been around for a long time. There is a massive body of information out there about it, some positive and some negative. While the marketeers would have you believe that exogenous ketones (i.e. the stuff that comes from outside your body) can put you into a state of ketosis in minutes, that’s highly debatable. So if you want to release weight with a ketogenic diet, follow step 2 above (but be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before beginning any program of this nature.) Step 1 can be safely replaced with:

  • Singing opera 10 minutes a day
  • Painting with Bob Ross
  • Learning to speak Turkish
  • Taking homeopathic weight loss drops
  • Not taking homeopathic weight loss drops
  • Standing on your head and spitting nickels
  • Anything
  • Nothing

… and you’ll get exactly the same results, whatever those are.

The Internet is awash with pages like this, because most affiliate marketers will say absolutely anything to get you to buy the product, for which sale they get a commission. And most affiliate marketers have the ethics of an angry honey badger.

Don’t be taken in by “offers” like this from sleazy, irresponsible salespeople. Stay away from any product that claims to help you lose weight fast.

Be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Cannabis: the case against decriminalization

Cross-posted from Livejournal and updated 11-8-2018

☞ The executive summary is, “Because it doesn’t go far enough.” ☜

A photo gallery at Time Magazine brought this issue to the front of my mind again, where it has been many times. Swirling around in the mass of insignificant facts and rabid squirrels that inhabit my brain are thoughts that keep coming back to me over and over again, many of which have to do with the overwhelming societal cost that we are paying for a failing war on drugs.

If recent statistics (CDC, 2009) are to be believed, 6.6% of people over 12 were using marijuana at least once a month – a total of 23.1 million people (minus the ones under 12). That’s us. We’re the ones who are funding the carnage in Mexico as drug cartels battle for turf and slaughter countless people in their quest for American drug dollars.

Prohibition is Ineffective

We saw how well Prohibition worked… all it did was put the country’s alcohol revenue into the hands of the criminal element. Whenever money is to be made, the bad guys will be there in force, because they don’t care how they get it.

“Although consumption of alcohol fell at the beginning of Prohibition, it subsequently increased. Alcohol became more dangerous to consume; crime increased and became “organized”; the court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point; and corruption of public officials was rampant. No measurable gains were made in productivity or reduced absenteeism. Prohibition removed a significant source of tax revenue and greatly increased government spending. It led many drinkers to switch to opium, marijuana, patent medicines, cocaine, and other dangerous substances that they would have been unlikely to encounter in the absence of Prohibition.” Cato Institute Policy Analysis

The Social Costs are considerably less than those associated with tobacco and alcohol

The societal costs of alcohol are enormous, whereas the social impact of cannabis use is significantly less.

“In terms of (health-related) costs per user: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user, alcohol-related health costs are much lower at $165 per user, and cannabis-related health costs are the lowest at $20 per user.” (Cannabis, Tobacco and Alcohol Use in Canada)

I can’t recall the last time I heard of some high-flying husband beating his wife and children; it’s hard to be aggressive when you’re giggling. That’s said somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but in all my life I have never encountered an angry pot user, whereas the number of bar fights that go on in cities and towns all around America, followed by nights in the slammer and subsequent taking out of infantile anger on innocent domestic partners and children is beyond anyone’s ability to count. The same holds true for violent crime, sexual assault and date rape.

Ask any emergency-room doc, nurse, or EMT: alcohol use contributes to reckless behavior and serious injuries, and it is highly associated with emergency room visits; such visits directly associated with cannabis would hardly make a blip on the radar.

Take the Money Away From the Criminal Element

Drug tunnels like these, as well as illegal farms in national forests and elsewhere, with all their associated risks to innocent citizenry, would become a thing of the past if cannabis were freely available, regulated and taxed in the same way tobacco is.

“The libertarian Cato Institute just issued a detailed statistical analysis on how ending prohibition – a favored term for supporters of pot reform – could help America’s budget woes. According to the much-discussed study, legalizing all illicit drugs would save the government $41.3 billion a year in law-enforcement costs and generate some $46.7 billion in tax revenue; marijuana would account for $8.7 billion of the savings, and another $8.7 billion in taxes. Legalized marijuana would certainly help fatten state coffers in debt-crippled California, where pot is the biggest agricultural crop, with $14 billion a year in sales that never appear on tax returns.” (Newsweek, “The Conservative Case for Legalizing Pot”).

Further thoughts on the tax advantages appeared in the LA Times on 8/27/10.

Prosecution of recreational THC users and those who require it for valid medical reasons is wasting billions of tax dollars directly and indirectly, and taking valuable law enforcement hours away from issues that are significantly more important. Based on everything I’ve seen, heard and read, legalization will have a negligible impact on usage which is already there, and will have societal benefits far greater than any potential increase in disadvantages.

I’m by no means for blanket legalization of all illicit drugs, but at this point marijuana appears to be a no-brainer in terms of cost-benefit analysis. The usage is already there. In a sense, not legalizing it is an immoral act, given how much blood and carnage is resulting from the activity of the Mexican cartels which we are directly funding.

If people could walk down to their local package store for some quality-controlled, legal cannabis, who in their right mind would risk buying it from illegal sources? The illegal marijuana market would simply dry up.

There will be those who question why I’m taking such a position, especially in light of my own religion’s stance on the use of things as mild as tea and coffee, let alone alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs. Make no mistake: I’m convinced that if people would give up the use of all harmful and/or addictive substances, the physical, emotional and spiritual health of our nation would rise dramatically, and countless billions of dollars would be saved. That said, I am simply looking at the numbers. Legalization would save lives, free up law-enforcement resources, and redirect funds from the criminal element to other critical social needs. I can’t look at it any other way.

Progress is being made. Canada has legalized marijuana, and just this week they experienced a severe legal problem: there isn’t enough of it.

In the United States, the non-medical use of cannabis is decriminalized in 13 states (plus the U.S. Virgin Islands), and legalized in another 10 states (plus the District of Columbia and Northern Mariana Islands), as of November 2018. (Wikipedia)

It’s time to get cannabis out of the hands of criminals, and good people – who have committed an offense no worse than a three-martini lunch – out of prison.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The face of depression

This is what depression can look like.

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  1. Kurt Cobain
  2. Chester Bennington
  3. Whitney Houston
  4. Mac Miller
  5. Robin Williams
  6. Phillip Seymour Hoffman
  7. Chris Farley
  8. Marilyn Monroe
  9. Amy Winehouse
  10. Chris Cornell
  11. Ernest Hemingway
  12. Lucy Gordon
  13. Simone Battle
  14. Layne Staley
  15. Gia Allemand
  16. Anthony Bourdain

Some of these people ended their lives deliberately, others by drug overdose that may or may not have been intentional. But their pictures belie what was going on inside – they were hurting.

While many of the comments in the reddit thread where I found this were insensitive and cruel, a few were on point:

“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.”
-Robin Williams

“I wanted to write down exactly what I felt but somehow the paper stayed empty and I could not have described it any better.”
-Unknown

And an essay on depression that spoke more eloquently to me than much else on the subject (slightly bowdlerized):

Depression
Author Unknown

“When you have depression it’s like it snows every day.

Some days it’s only a couple of inches. It’s a pain in the ass, but you still make it to work, the grocery store. Sure, maybe you skip the gym or your friend’s birthday party, but it IS still snowing and who knows how bad it might get tonight. Probably better to just head home. Your friend notices, but probably just thinks you are flaky now, or kind of an asshole.

Some days it snows a foot. You spend an hour shoveling out your driveway and are late to work. Your back and hands hurt from shoveling. You leave early because it’s really coming down out there. Your boss notices.

Some days it snows four feet. You shovel all morning but your street never gets plowed. You are not making it to work, or anywhere else for that matter. You are so sore and tired you just get back in the bed. By the time you wake up, all your shoveling has filled back in with snow. Looks like your phone rang; people are wondering where you are. You don’t feel like calling them back, too tired from all the shoveling. Plus they don’t get this much snow at their house so they don’t understand why you’re still stuck at home. They just think you’re lazy or weak, although they rarely come out and say it.

Some weeks it’s a full-blown blizzard. When you open your door, it’s to a wall of snow. The power flickers, then goes out. It’s too cold to sit in the living room anymore, so you get back into bed with all your clothes on. The stove and microwave won’t work so you eat a cold Pop Tart and call that dinner. You haven’t taken a shower in three days, but how could you at this point? You’re too cold to do anything except sleep.

Sometimes people get snowed in for the winter. The cold seeps in. No communication in or out. The food runs out. What can you even do, tunnel out of a forty foot snow bank with your hands? How far away is help? Can you even get there in a blizzard? If you do, can they even help you at this point? Maybe it’s death to stay here, but it’s death to go out there too.

The thing is, when it snows all the time, you get worn all the way down. You get tired of being cold. You get tired of hurting all the time from shoveling, but if you don’t shovel on the light days, it builds up to something unmanageable on the heavy days. You resent the hell out of the snow, but it doesn’t care, it’s just a blind chemistry, an act of nature. It carries on regardless, unconcerned and unaware if it buries you or the whole world.

Also, the snow builds up in other areas, places you can’t shovel, sometimes places you can’t even see. Maybe it’s on the roof. Maybe it’s on the mountain behind the house. Sometimes, there’s an avalanche that blows the house right off its foundation and takes you with it. A veritable Act of God, nothing can be done. The neighbors say it’s a shame and they can’t understand it; he was doing so well with his shoveling.

I don’t know how it went down for Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade. It seems like they got hit by the avalanche, but it could’ve been the long, slow winter. Maybe they were keeping up with their shoveling. Maybe they weren’t. Sometimes, shoveling isn’t enough anyway. It’s hard to tell from the outside, but it’s important to understand what it’s like from the inside.

I firmly believe that understanding and compassion have to be the base of effective action. It’s important to understand what depression is, how it feels, what it’s like to live with it, so you can help people both on an individual basis and a policy basis. I’m not putting heavy [stuff] out here to make your Friday morning suck. I know it feels gross to read it, and realistically it can be unpleasant to be around it, that’s why people pull away.

I don’t have a message for people with depression like “keep shoveling”. It’s asinine. Of course you’re going to keep shoveling the best you can, until you physically can’t, because who wants to freeze to death inside their own house? We know what the stakes are. My message is to everyone else. Grab a [] shovel and help your neighbor. Slap a mini snow plow on the front of your truck and plow your neighborhood. Petition the city council to buy more salt trucks, so to speak.

Depression is blind chemistry and physics, like snow. And like the weather, it is a mindless process, powerful and unpredictable with great potential for harm. But like climate change, that doesn’t mean we are helpless. If we want to stop losing so many people to this disease, it will require action at every level.”

There is no one description of depression. There is no packaged solution for depression. While I’ve never dealt with clinical depression personally, I’ve lived with people who do, and my takeaways are fairly basic:

  1. Depression is real.
  2. Platitudes don’t help anything, and usually make things worse: “Snap out of it!” “What’s your problem?” “You need a boy/girlfriend.” A list of 100 things not to say.
  3. The best thing you can say is something like “You are not alone in this. I’m here for you”… and then do it.

battle

Kindness is never wasted, never amiss, never the wrong thing. A kind word or a smile to a stranger might just save a life that day.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Drug Pricing Maze

I’m grateful to have health insurance. Many, many people don’t, and that’s an ongoing debate in our society right now. That said, I absolutely don’t understand what’s going on with drug prices.

I get my long-term scripts filled by Magellan, a mail-order pharmacy. When my last batch of prescriptions was delivered, the printed circulars that came with them had some interesting information that got me thinking.

These are all very common drugs, not rare ones. Actual drug names have been replaced with ℞ A, ℞ B, and ℞ C.


℞ A: The lowest GoodRx price for the most common version of ℞ A is around $4.00, 90% off the average retail price of $43.29 (30-day supply)

OTC versions, for comparison:

Amazon: $27.96
Walmart: $8.00
Kroger: $17.06
Costco: $19.26

Magellan states that the ℞ price for a 90-day supply is $187.20
With Insurance: $10.00
Cash discount: $10.00
Net price: 0

So I ended up getting this one for free.


℞ B: (GoodRx) The cost for ℞ B is around $13 for a supply of 90 capsules, depending on the pharmacy you visit. Prices are for cash paying customers only and are not valid with insurance plans.

This drug is not available over the counter.

Magellan states that the ℞ price for a 90-day supply is $397.22
With Insurance: $10.00


℞ C: The lowest GoodRx price for the most common version of ℞ C is around $10.54, 92% off the average retail price of $134.99 (30-day supply)

Not available OTC.

Magellan states that the ℞ price for a 90-day supply is $450.00
With Insurance: $10.00


So I’ve paid $20.00 for scripts that should have cost me $1034.42

These numbers from Magellan just don’t add up. Are these “self-pay” prices, or just randomly inflated numbers to make me think I’m getting a killer deal? What is the “average retail price” anyway, if nobody pays that?

I found this article at Lifehacker, and it addresses the issue that I mention here – but even after reading the article, to me it is still a mass of confusion. And I realize that in terms of the complexity of the entire situation, what I’ve outlined is just the frost on the surface of the Antarctic ice sheet.

The situation is untenable, and I can clearly not choose the drugs in front of me.

The Old Wolf has spoken.