This is a wonderful, short video sent to me by a friend this morning. The fellow doing it is Stewart Reynolds, who tends to work under the name Brittlestar. He's Canadian and a jack of all trades sort, with an online morning show that he does with his wife, and a lecturer, has done podcast, TV programs and even some brand marketing. He also has posted a lot of charming, amusing videos -- several that I've seen have been pretty funny, though this (thus far) is the best. Most of the videos I've seen have been him talking to the camera as himself, but this stands out for playing a character. In this case, tech support for God.
There are times when turning on the news these days when it becomes understandably almost overwhelming to hear the latest stories about the spread of COVID infections with the omicron variant. (Those "times" are bordering on non-stop.)
It's not that there is what would traditionally be called "good news," but a few things have become part of the pandemic story that suggest some things that are at least positive.
The first is that as infectious as the omicron variant is, it doesn't appear to be as virulent as the previous Delta strain. Far more people are getting infected, but not as many of those are having to go to the hospital.
The second is that more doctors are beginning to point out that the most important statistic with any infectious disease is hospitalizations and deaths, not infections. Lest that sound like looking for something positive to say in the middle of Hell, keep in mind that during all the flu seasons we've lived through for decades, the number that always has been reported is how many people died, not how many were infected.
And finally comes this very interesting article from Healthline.com, which is a respectable medical website. To be very clear, it’s not proof of anything, nor does it offer itself of proof, however it's well-documented and authoritative. In short, the point it makes is –
Most pandemics last 2-3 years.
Like all living things in biology, viruses don’t want to kill their hosts, but want to be able to keep infecting and spread.
The Spanish flu largely ended when it mutated to become highly infectious and spread extensively to a point that was less-virulent. (In fact, remnants of the Spanish flu still exist today.)
The omicron strain might be the first step along these same lines.
The full article explains all this better and in much more detail. It's very much worth checking out here.
Every once in a while, a news story comes up that is galling. (Okay, more than "everyone once in a while"...these days.) And while they can be gut-churning, and while they often prompt friends to write me venting, I tend to also look at them as campaign issues that Democrats can run on in the 2022 Mid-term Election.
The latest of these, and one that I specifically think Democrats should use on the debate stage is vaccinations. After all, as divisive and "controversial" as this may seem, I don't think it's remotely as much as is the perception. After all, right now, 85% of all adults 18 years and older have had at least one vaccination. That's not a divisive issue, that's a number so large that it's probably higher than if you asked people if they liked puppies.
And yet Republicans in Washington and GOP legislatures in Red States continue to push back against vaccinations and pass local legislation against mandates.
So, not only do I think Democrats should make an aggressive campaign issue of something that 85% of the voting public understands, I think they should be blunt about it and confrontational on the debate stage. And say something like --
“I support that everyone should get vaccinated, and it's important to know that 85% of the American public agrees with me. And I know they do because 85% of adult Americans have had at least one vaccine. And I not only think that all politicians should do everything they can to get the remaining 15% of Americans to see the light and be vaccinated, which is the only way out of the pandemic -- now in its third year -- but I believe that any candidate who doesn’t promote getting vaccinated is a danger to society, allowing the pandemic to spread and mutate and become even more dangerous, after already killing over 800,000 Americans.
"If we all listened to politicians who said vaccinations are just a 'personal choice' and suggest that vaccines aren't safe, then the pandemic would be wildly out of control, and many MILLIONS of Americans would be dead, with almost no end in sight. Getting vaccinated is not a "personal choice" -- almost everything in life is a personal choice, whether or not to jump off a building is a personal choice. Deciding not to walk across a busy highway is a personal choice. This is about social responsibility. This is an infectious disease. One that is spreading dramatically and has killed over 800,00 Americans...so far. And over 5-1/2 MILLION people around the world...so far. If a person wants to make this a 'personal choice,' then you should stay inside our home all the time, or go life in a forest away from humanity. But once you step out of your home and enter the world, and come into contact with other people who can get infected and pass the infection, you -- and we all -- take on a social responsibility. To all our fellow men and women.
"Already, 85% of American adults understand this and have had at least one vaccination. Pushing vaccinations to save lives is not a sudden idea that government has come up with to take away freedom. Medicine is how we save lives, something 85% of all adult Americans understand. Requiring vaccinations is not a new idea. We require vaccinations for children to go to school. The military requires 17 vaccinations to its members defending the country. George Washington required his soldiers to get vaccinations -- and he did that while his forces were fighting to create freedom for this country! Against freedom?? Who doesn't understand that as long as the pandemic exists, the coronavirus has restricted all of society, all of lives, and freedom will only return in full when the pandemic ends?!! That's why science exists, why vaccines exist. We all know that when we get sick, we go to the doctor. When we have an infection, we get a vaccine. When we get ill and need a pill, we take it, because that's medicine, that's science, that's how we get cured. We all know that we get annual flu shots every year...after year after year -- because the flu virus mutates every year -- and we don’t think anything of it. It's normal. And as much as some of the remaining 15% try to that suggest getting vaccinated is somehow against their religious beliefs, not only is there absolutely nothing in the Bible against vaccinations (which, of course, weren't even invented yet), but in Leviticus 13 the Bible actually talks about covering the face and social distancing when there's a defiling disease.
"If my opponent isn’t doing everything he can to tell everyone in his party to get vaccinated, if my opponent isn't willing to say that anyone not getting vaccinated is hurting society, is not willing to say that any official in his party not promoting vaccinations is a danger to society and, further, is not willing to make sure that all of society does get vaccinated, and isn't outspoken and active about it, to help end this pandemic and help return society to a normal we all dearly want, then he has no business representing that society in Congress."
Here's the thing about any politicians having a concern about being that blunt and risking being divisive in his or her district:
If a district is heavily red, the message won’t resonate, but the Democrat isn’t going to win there anyway, so there's nothing to lose. If the district is Blue, there's no downside. And if the district is purple or even leans slightly Republican, it’s highly likely, indeed probable that the vast majority of voters there have gotten vaccinated -- and did so specifically because they understand why it is so important...and moreover would likely be bothered by a candidate not advocating on behalf of what they themselves did, gotten vaccinated. And they got vaccinated because they want the pandemic to end and are probably bothered, or angered or even outraged at those who refuse to be -- and by those officials telling them it's okay, it's your "personal choice" to let the pandemic spread...
And if such a campaign strategy doesn't change a single unvaccinated mind -- it still stands a good chance of getting out of office some Republican politicians who are enabling the problem to placate their overlord Trump. Which may be enough for Democrats to retain control of the House, and maybe even the Senate, as well.
I could only laugh wearily through gnashed teeth when I saw Jim Acosta report on CNN that Trump officials had contacted him to express their disgust that Trump had put their health at risk by not letting them know he'd tested positive for the coronavirus.
I mean...I mean...I mean, Trump put EVERYONE'S health at risk. And they enabled it. Laughed at masks. Ridiculed social distancing. Flouted the guidelines. Changed OSHA safety rules.
And hundreds of thousands of Americans died. These Trump officials created an environment where today their fellow-Republicans avoid the vaccine and fight mandates as the pandemic keeps killing people. These Trump officials are at least alive so that they can express their "disgust."
And this doesn't even take into consideration the four years of fascist outrages -- from taking children from their parents, cozying up the murderous dictators, accepting 16,000+ documented lies, calling the press the Enemy of the People, and attempting an insurrection to overthrow the government, and so much more -- that not only didn't "disgust" them, but they kept enabling.
But -- "He didn't tell us he tested positive"...while they were ALL mocking safety measures and staying silent as he pushed drinking bleach.
Join the club. Get in line at the back. Bring a sandwich, it's long.
The heart bleeds while my guitar gently weeps.
You can read the full article here.
I meant to write this about five weeks ago, but for reasons I don’t recall I didn’t. I suspect it fell through the cracks as news stories took prominence. Also, it wasn’t a subject I was anxious to write about, though didn’t have any problem with doing so. But I remembered it last night, so finally I’m getting around to it.
It popped up when Rachel Maddow opened her show with seven minutes of “personal privilege,” talking about having just been diagnosed with skin cancer, having a procedure to get rid of it, how easy it was, and how important and easy it was. Her story was excellent, and if you missed it, here’s the video –
It resonated with me because in recent years I’ve become predisposed to skin cancer, and everything she said was spot-on. It is incredibly easy to be checked – indeed, the dermatologist just looks at you with what’s basically a powerful magnifying glass. That’s it – you’re just looked at. No prodding, no poking, just looking at your skin, all over. That’s about as easy as a check-up gets. And I think most insurance plans cover it.
If the doctor does spot something that concerns her (my dermatologist is a woman, so that’s the pronoun I’m going with here…), then she’ll just freeze it off if it’s pre-cancerous – and honestly, I actually like that, a focused, quick spritz of extremely cold air. With the added knowledge that she just got rid of something I didn’t want – pfft, it’s gone. Only if she’s not sure if the “node” might be something more advanced will she have to do more: you get a shot of pain killer so that a small nodule can be snipped off and biopsied in a lab. But that is A Good Thing, because if there’s a problem, you want it found! Because as much as you don’t want to hear there’s a problem, you want to know about it if there is so that it can be removed. And if you get check-ups regularly, whatever is found will be found early – which is the critical point – because anything found early can be removed pretty easily, and the problem is then gone.
My only quibble with Rachel Maddow’s report isn’t really a quibble, but more of an extension. She recommends people get a check-up once a year. In my case, I have a checkup twice a year. But that’s me – because (as I said) I’m pre-disposed to skin cancer. So, I want to be absolutely sure that if there’s anything there, it’s caught incredibly early and dealt with easily and in comfort – not just physical, but mental. I’ve had to have more invasive procedures, yet while I’m never happy about that, I’ve never been nervous when getting the news because I know it’s been caught early.
This came up because a couple months ago I have more “nodes” found than usual. (Usual, to be clear, is nothing cancerous, but one or two pre-cancerous nodes every other year isn’t uncommon. And occasionally, something more advanced did crop up in those six months since the last check-up.)
There are three levels of skin cancer. Basal cell, squamous and melanoma. You definitely don’t want the last one, but as long as you’re having regular checkups, it shouldn’t (God-willing) occur.
Basal cell is the easiest to get rid of, especially if caught early, sometimes just scrapped off in 20-30 seconds. Squamous can be scraped off, too – though usually it may require what’s known as a MOHS surgical procedure. By the way, though much more elaborate and far-more time-consuming, if caught early it’s pretty basic – indeed, it’s done in the doctor’s office. I’m not going to go into the procedure, but I’ll just that that that’s why I have six-month check-ups – every MOHS procedure I’ve had (three, so far) has gone very smoothly. The bad cells were removed, and all’s well. And again, the point is – without the checkups and without having had the procedure, the problem would be serious. Perhaps critical. With the checkups, it was easy, and it was cleared up completely.
(My most recent MOHS procedure was two months ago, hence Rachel Maddow’s report having such an impact on me.)
So, I just wanted to “second” Rachel Maddow’s story and reiterate that there is NO downside to having an annual checkup for skin cancer. None. There are only two possible outcomes: either they don’t find anything, which is great – or they do find something, and (disappointing as that is) that’s good, too, because they can then get rid of it really easily (sometimes even within seconds). So, both results are good. What you don’t want is to wait several years to find out something has been growing the whole time. And again, supporting the “NO downside” point: the checkup is really easy – you just sit there, and the doctor looks at your skin. That’s it.
I lost a friend to skin cancer a couple years ago. He waited too long before getting checked out. It was caught “early enough” to at least treat and be hopeful, but too late to keep it from metastasizing. And so, he had several years of very tough surgeries, and ultimately there was nothing left to do.
I don’t think everyone has to have two checkups a year (unless your doctor recommends it), though there’s no real downside, other than having to go in for an extra appointment. But I think most insurance plans today even cover it, so there’s close to no cost. Or none at all, I don’t recall.
One last thing, and this is just me, because my doctor recommended it. Last week, I had what’s known as a PDT treatment on my scalp. (That’s photodynamic therapy.) It’s a totally a preventative process, I didn’t have any problem – this is to hopefully keep nodes from forming over the next year. But the doctor thought it was time to be protective in advance. There are different kinds of preventative treatments, some much simpler than others, but the PDT treatment is the most protective, so I went with it. It’s the most elaborate, using UV blue light and requires a bit of preparation the week before, and also has a bit of discomfort (unlike the other kinds of treatment), but considering the preventative upside of the process, the discomfort isn’t too great and doesn’t last long. The most common side effects are only that some of your skin might become red, but that only lasts two weeks at most. Then, in a year, you do it (or one of the other procedures) again.
The point, to reiterate yet again, is Rachel Maddow was right. It is a really good thing to get an annual skin checkup. The checkup is easy (you sit there and are looked at), totally painless, and very probably covered by your insurance.
I went into a bit of medical detail (more than I know most people care for, so – sorry about that) and got more personal about it that usual, but that’s only because I wanted to make as clear and unrelenting as possible why this is so easy and so good, rather than just saying, “Y’know, it’s something to consider.)
It is something to consider. I hope people will consider it very seriously and realize how truly smart it is to do. Because…well, you know by this point -- it’s so easy and painless.
Probably the most painful thing about the whole process will reading this whole, long article. But if that helps make the decision to get checkups easier, then even that is A Good Thing…
This is a remarkable medical breakthrough story reported by Reuters -- making it all the better is that it's from researchers at the beloved Northwestern University.
The short version is that NU researchers have shown success with a treatment that uses what they call "dancing molecules" to reverse spinal paralysis in mice. They find their results so substantive that they plan to ask the FDA for permission to jump past testing on larger animals and go straight to tests with humans.
Here's the Reuters video. If you'd like a bit more in-depth information, you can read this story here.
Man, how awkward it must be for a U.S. Senator to get into an argument with a Muppet.
Texas must be so proud.
As far back as 1972, Big Bird has been promoting that kids get vaccinated. Which about 97% of kids DO.
Oh, and in 1976, too. (And probably regularly over the decades.) So, he's pretty consistent about this... That's a crackerjack research staff that Ted Cruz has assembled for himself in the Senate.
Yesterday, I was talking with a friend and wondering if State Farm was going to keep airing their long-running ads with Aaron Rodgers, now that he's turned into a bit of an ivermectin, "I get my medical advice from Joe Rogan, disingenuous "I said I was immunized" problem.
Well, I've now seen three State Farm ads today where they say "Packer Price" rather than the standard "Rodgers Rate" -- and while the first one was done as a voiceover, the others were on-camera and clearly dubbed, since they didn't sync up with the actor's lips.
This does not bode well for seeing Aaron Rodgers on many more State Farm ads...
Looking forward to Republicans -- led by Ted Cruz (R-Cancun) -- being outraged over "cancel culture."
Mind you, this risks overlapping their outrage today over The Muppets teaching science, so it might get confusing to the base.
Side Note: Since the ads sometimes use Patrick Mahomes, it *could* have been "Patrick Price." But the operative point is that was NOT the "Rodgers Rate."
Yesterday, the drug company Merck submitted their antiviral pill to the FDA for emergency approval. If accepted, this would be a first oral antiviral treatment for the coronavirus, and wouldn’t require hospitalization or an expensive, extensive infusion process. The pill doesn’t protect against getting infected by COVID-19, nor is it as effective in its treatment, though it would be a major step towards dealing with the virus. The medication would be taken by people who have exhibited early symptoms of COVID-19 and in early trials shows a 40-50% efficacy in keeping people out of the hospital.
I suspect that anti-vaxxers who have thus far refused to get the vaccine will see this as a great boon, keeping them from having to get vaccinated. And it is a great boon. A few things, though – this doesn’t replace getting vaccinated. That protects one from hospitalization and death at a very high rate of around 95%. Further, while the vaccine doesn’t keep a person from a breakthrough infection, it does have more protections against that, which in turn helps keep the spread of the coronavirus down.
On the other hand, the antiviral pill has a rate to keep one from the hospital that’s only half as effective. Now, yes, 45-50% is very impressive – especially compared to zero percent without the pill. But when it comes to hospitalization that can lead to long-term health effects or death, I’d think most people would prefer better than two-to-one odds if given the choice. In addition, the vaccine is widely available – at the moment, however, there is a limit on the number of antiviral pills in exists, right now about two million, I believe. Certainly. that will increase in time. But when it’s your hospitalization and life on the line, “in time” is not another of those things most people generally want to screw around with.
But there’s another significant issue that occurred to me.
One of the main arguments that anti-vaxxers try to use is that the COVID-19 vaccines only have emergency approval from the FDA, never mind that 4.8 billion people around the world have had at least one dose of a vaccine, which has now been studied for over eight months. And another argument is that the vaccines are just a big scam by Big Pharma to enrich themselves. But many, if not most (if not almost all) of these same anti-vaxxers, who will likely celebrate the antiviral pill and rush to take advantage of its use, will blissfully ignore that the pill is developed by the exact same Big Pharma and will have been approved by the exact same emergency approval.
So, on the one hand – a vaccine developed by Big Pharma that is 95% effective for hospitalization and death, offers some protection against infection, has been used by 4.8 billion people but “only” has emergency approval. While alternatively – we have an antiviral pill developed by Big Pharma that has a 40-50% efficacy rate for hospitalization and death, provides no protection against infection (and therefore allows for spreading it), has no usage around the world…and will only have emergency approval. The former will continue to be railed against in outraged protests by anti-vaxxers, the latter will likely be exalted as a savior by these outraged anti-vaxxers who rush to take it once they are already infected.
Yes, some outraged protestors are upset (they claim) only by vaccine mandates. My observation, however, tends to be that most people who are anti-mandate ignore praise of vaccines and almost never mention support of the "personal choice" people make taking it. Allen West, for instance, as I wrote here yesterday, went on a 6-tweet rant against mandates and Big Pharma. Yet zero praise of vaccines. Further, my observation is that people protesting vaccine mandates are basically all unvaccinated – which means they were against vaccines long before mandates ever existed.
So, in the end, this “outrage” is not about mandates. Nor is it really about emergency FDA approval of vaccines developed by the greedy Big Pharma. Because if it were, they would stand by what they call their “principles” and avoid the anti-viral pills that also only will have emergency FDA approval, developed by the greedy Big Pharma.
But I’ll bet cash money that once there is emergency approval of the antiviral pill, most unvaccinated people who come down with early COVID-19 symptoms will fall over themselves rushing to get the pill. No matter what the approval or who developed it.
I suppose that’s because it’s their deeply hypocritical and profoundly irresponsible and dangerous “personal choice.”
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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