Pastor: “Ebola could solve America’s problems with atheism, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography and abortion.”

Ebola could deliver us from atheists and gays—
God is doing good, through pestilence and plague—
But don’t you blame the pastor for the horrid things he says;
It’s not bad, you know, so much as it is vague:

He thinks we’ll turn to God, in times of trouble, pain and strife;
“There’s no atheists in foxholes”, so he means
He forgets we have a better way to make a better life
While depending on, not Jesus, but vaccines. [Read more...]

Medical Miracle In Mississippi! (or, I am one cynical bastard)

The word “miracle” isn’t used lightly
Such conclusions are best left unsaid
There’s a time and a place for such words, though,
Like the man who came back from the dead!
They’d detected no pulse, and no breathing
So they’d fitted his toe with a tag
And they sent him away for embalming…
But his “corpse” started kicking the bag!
Now the doctors are using the “M” word
And I guess we can give them a break:
The word “miracle” isn’t used lightly…
But they’d rather use that, than “mistake”.

CNN: Dead Mississippi man begins breathing in embalming room, coroner says.

Even in the Bible Belt, coroners don’t use the word “miracle” lightly.
But Holmes County, Mississippi, Coroner Dexter Howard has no qualms using the word for the resurrection, as it were, of Walter Williams, who was declared dead Wednesday night.

Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.

What’s that?

Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

The coroner completed his paperwork, placed Williams in a body bag and transported him to the funeral home, he said. There, something strange happened: The body bag moved.
“We got him into the embalming room and we noticed his legs beginning to move, like kicking,” Howard said. “He also began to do a little breathing.”

I am very happy for this man, and for his family (who seem understandably overjoyed). And hey, isn’t it much nicer to be the beneficiary of a miracle than the victim of a mistake?

The Insurance Scam

My insurance covers fractures
(Like most policies I’ve known)
Which is wasteful for the people
Who don’t have a broken bone

And it also covers polio’s
Expensive medications
Just in case it makes a comeback—
It’s been gone for generations

Why, my policy protects me
From the rarest stuff on earth
So I’m working on a cunning plan
To get my money’s worth:

From the corners of the planet
I’m collecting rare diseases—
I’ll have people send me samples
From wherever someone sneezes

Every parasite that troubles,
Each bacterium that lurks
Every virus, every prion,
I’m collecting up the works

And from government collections
From Atlanta to The Hague
I’ll grab cryogenic samples
Of each pestilence and plague

I will sample every toxin
That humanity has faced…
If I don’t, you see, insurance
Is at least a partial waste

And I want the proper value
For each dollar, for each dime…
If I live my whole life healthy
Then insurance is a crime.

Cuttlecap tip to Ed, this morning.

Resistant Strains

The nasty microscopic bugs
We try to fight with special drugs
Consider penicillin just a problem to be solved
We dose ourselves at every cough
And kill a large percentage off
Forgetting that survivors mean the critters have evolved

And now, the CDC explains,
We’re dealing with resistant strains
And every day that passes brings us “closer to the cliff.”
But people are resistant, too,
To do the things we have to do
When drugs no longer work for us… there’s no more talk of “if”.

Anxiety In Hindsight

There’s a tenseness in your stomach
And a flutter in your heart
You may find it hard to focus
Any noise can make you start
Since it came upon you slowly
Or your thoughts were turned aside
You believed it would be something
You could easily abide
Hell, you might not even notice
As you go about your day…
But I guarantee, you’ll feel it
When the feeling goes away!

So today, when I got the news that Cuttlespouse’s father’s surgery went well, it was (understandably) a relief. I knew (and expected, or hoped) that it would be. I had forgotten, though, just what a palpable, physical feeling that relief is.

I suffer from anxiety on occasion. I’m getting much better at recognizing it and taking steps to avoid it, or when it is unavoidable, to take steps to handle it (up to and including anti-anxiety meds). It is rare that I notice the beginning signs, though, until they are jumping around in front of me chanting “neener neener boo boo” and distracting me to the point of insomnia and digestive problems. And the biggest bouts I have ever experienced, I did not notice at all until something happened to impose understanding on me from without.

So I guess what I’m saying it, it’s real, it’s palpable, but it can be helped. And if you feel like a fool not realizing that you are suffering, you’re not alone there either. There are perfectly good reasons to get all stressed out about something (that’s life for you), but that feeling of relief is nature’s way of saying “y’know, it might be nice to try something different right about now.”

This Bullshit Is Brought To You By The Letter “A”

A is for Alligator—look at that bite!
A is Albino—he’s totally white
A, Acupuncture; let’s poke him with pins
A, Anecdotal; the evidence spins
A is for Alt-Med, which doesn’t do shit…
A is for Asshole: I hope she gets bit.

Via the Beeb, a story (with video I can’t embed here, but he’s a cute little guy) of an albino alligator being treated with acupuncture at a Brazilian zoo. And for the record the “asshole” in the last line is me–if I am objecting to an alligator getting its jaw taped shut and pins stuck all down its backside (which you’re damn right I’m objecting to), it is a bit of an asshole move to cheer on the hypothetical alligator-bite injury of someone who is just (sincerely, I believe) trying to help.

The acupuncturist is not evil; she thinks she’s helping. The evidence strongly suggests that there is nothing beyond a placebo effect in acupuncture (or an expectancy effect in the case of animal acupuncture). It’s not easy to have double blind acupuncture, but the most methodologically sound studies I have seen have shown no difference between the “real” and control conditions (whether sham needles or wrong needle placement). My favorite report of this, though, came from an alternative magazine my sister sent me–it claimed that not only did acupuncture work, but so did sham acupuncture! (In other words, there is a significant placebo effect–and placebo is much different from “no effect”–but nothing beyond that.)

So I am not really angry with the acupuncturist. She’s trying to help. It’s the superstructure of alt-med pseudoscience that allows people to poke with needles, give sugar pills or distilled water, wave their hands vaguely, or think happy thoughts, and think they are helping. “But it can’t hurt–anything is better than nothing!”, I have heard… but there are people foregoing real cancer treatments (with their nasty side effects because the medicine is actually doing something) to gamble their lives on this institutionalized fraud.

Belief In Satan Leads To Terrible Things… In Priests.

It isn’t just God that believers believe in—
There are angels and demons as well;
But I don’t really think there’s a Devil at all
So I guess I’ll be heading for Hell

There’s a priest who believes that he’s figured us out;
Though his logic’s a little bit odd;
Not believing in Satan (he thinks) is the key
More than just not believing in God

Cos Satan’s a gateway, it seems, to belief
Or a gatekeeper, keeping folks in
Instead of ourselves, it’s the Devil to blame—
The personification of sin

But if there’s no Devil, no angels, no God,
No leprechauns, pixies, or elves,
No witches or wizards with magic to use
Then we’ll have to get by… by ourselves.

Yeah, so, this verse was just an excuse. The part of the story that amused me is what the verse covers–a curious bit of logic from a father Gabriele Amorth:

…one of the main causes of today’s atheism is that people don’t believe in the Devil any more. But Jesus said: ‘Who is not with me is with Satan.’ If you don’t believe in Satan, Satan has got you in his pocket.

So, yeah. Not believing in Satan is a gateway drug to not believing in God. Which, given how many times I’ve heard that atheists worship Satan by definition, kinda makes me think they aren’t reading the same playbook.

But you might have noticed the ellipsis at the beginning of that quote. Yup, I cut off something important, just a few words, but the devil (heh) is in the details, as always. See, the beginning of that sentence goes “The Pope’s exorcism is a splendid sign because…” Amorth is making the claim that the pope actually performed an exorcism (there is a video of the encounter at the link). Francis was giving blessings after a pentecost mass, and can be seen laying hands on the head of a boy in a wheelchair.

So…. kid in a wheelchair. Obviously time for prayer. Cos A) the kid might be possessed, rather than, say, suffer from epilepsy, or B) even if that’s not the case, his condition is likely a punishment from God for some sinful nature. Either way, the kid needs prayer. And yes, epilepsy and demonic possession go hand in hand. Here, from the point of view of someone with epilepsy… and here, from a slightly different perspective.

But the problem is not ignorance among priests, eager to have a practical purpose in life–no, the problem is too many possessed people. Not medical conditions, not stigmatization, not misunderstanding, not marginalization, not some mundane problem like that, that people need to do the work of fixing… no, it’s 2013–clearly the cause is demons in your soul. Priests need the proper education! Not in science, medicine, skepticism, and inclusiveness, but in casting out demons.

What could go wrong?

[]ough

We ought, I thought (and thought I knew),
With some diseases, be all through—
There’s no excuse, I used to scoff,
To deal today with Whooping Cough.
We’ve got vaccines! And people know
It doesn’t cost a lot of dough
Compare the cost to other stuff
And really, now, it isn’t tough
To gain the health vaccines allow,
To run a shop, or push a plough…
Let’s hope vaccines again will pick-up,
And these few cases are just a hiccough.

Actually, I had a student who had had whooping cough. No excuse for it; it’s vaccine preventable, and it’s just horrible. In a classroom of students at the height of the vaccine paranoia (thanks, Wakefield), this student was a staunch advocate of vaccines. It is only a culture that is too unfamiliar with disease that has the luxury of vaccine denial.

Anyway, I also want to give a plug for my pal Kylie, who emailed me the following:

The documentary Jabbed: Love, Fear and Vaccines <http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/decoding_immortality_and_jabbed_love_fear_and_vaccines>  will be airing this Sunday on Australia’s SBS and I’ll be live-blogging it for overseas interested people (I think it will be online for all eventually). In the documentary, Sonya Pemberton interviewed people world-wide on what she has said is the “conversation, not debate, we need to have”.

The new Token Skeptic podcast is a live-radio show I did with Assoc. Professor Peter Richmond, from the Vaccines Trial Group here in Perth <http://tokenskeptic.org/2013/05/25/episode-one-hundred-and-sixty-one-on-vaccinations-interview-with-associate-professor-peter-richmond/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter>  on what people can do to get the facts and even help contribute to the Meningococcal B vaccine, by taking part in trials.

More information on the Token Skeptic blog at On Vaccinations – Australia Continues To Take A Stand For Health – Token Skeptic Podcast <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tokenskeptic/2013/05/on-vaccinations-australia-continues-to-take-a-stand-for-health-token-skeptic-podcast/> .

Burzynski The Bold (A Ballad)

Some folks would give up; Some folks would just quit,
When they look for three decades, but only find shit.
But some can make hay from a whole lot of zero…
Like Dr Burzynski, the medical hero.

Though his method is lacking empirical proof
Looking less like a treatment and more like a spoof
That won’t stop Burzynski, the brave and the bold—
He’ll do as he wishes, and not as he’s told!

When your data are meager, then there go your grants,
But Burzynski the Bold doubled down, took a chance:
“I’ll charge all my patients exorbitant fees,
And I’ll make up the difference, as quick as you please!”

Now, some wouldn’t do this; some people have morals—
But Dr. Burzynski, he didn’t have quarrels;
He overcharged bravely, where others might quail;
His ethics and morals were boldly for sale.

He kept at his work, like that battery bunny,
And lied to his patients and sucked up their money
“It’s legal, of course,” he explained with a smile
“This isn’t a treatment, but merely a trial”

He isn’t a weasel, as stories depict him—
Oh, no! He’s a hero, as well as a victim;
He’s willing to take the unpopular path
Like boldly stand up to a teenager’s wrath—

A boy, armed with nothing but brains and the truth
Makes people think twice, ere they threaten the youth;
But Dr. Burzynski? That’s not what he did
(Thinking twice, he did not; he did threaten the kid)

Burzynski the Bold found a lawyer with teeth
(Some feed at the bottom—he feeds underneath)
Who threatened the lad, saying “cease and desist!”
But there’s something the lawyer, it seems, may have missed:

On the internet, smart kids have plenty of friends;
You can threaten him, sure, but that’s not where it ends;
So Dr. Burzynski, the kid may be young…
But mess with a wasps’ nest—you’re gonna get stung.