Do Less Harm

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

Early this morning, I awoke to news that the CDC and FDA are recommending a pause on all vaccinations using the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. This is very bad news, though not because of a problem with the vaccine itself. The issue at hand, “severe blood clots”, seems to be vanishingly rare. There have thus far been 6 reported cases out of 6.8 million doses administered, making this literally a one in a million issue.

The much bigger problem is the act of immediately and publicly pausing the vaccine’s rollout. This seems certain to lead to vastly more negative outcomes than the issue being investigated. Until the CDC and FDA complete their reviews, many fewer people will be vaccinated, which will result in many more people contracting COVID. When more people contract COVID, more people die.

Worse than the short-term delay in vaccination may be the long-term reduction in confidence this pause will lead to. No matter how quickly the government gives an all-clear, some amount of damage will already have been done. Vaccine hesitancy seems certain to increase both in America and abroad. It may take a long time to overcome that.

The result of this decision is sure to be a lower number of people vaccinated, over a longer period of time. We know that will cause more COVID deaths. By contrast, just one death is currently associated with this vaccine. It’s unpleasant to measure one set of deaths against another, but that’s precisely what must be done in a public health crisis. If we were able to vaccinate all of the US with the J&J vaccine, we would currently expect to see about 330 issues with blood clots. Meanwhile, more than 560,000 Americans have lost their lives to COVID already, with 330 more being killed by COVID every few hours.

Human beings are horrifically bad at understanding large numbers and terrible at assessing broad risks. Public health officials ought to take that reality into consideration before making a move like this. I fear that they have not, and as a result, many more will suffer.

The ultimate goal when it comes to public health must be the highest number of positive outcomes. Even if we accept that there may be an extremely rare issue with the J&J vaccine, the cost of not administering it would appear to be many orders of magnitude higher. It seems terribly ill-advised to throw a wrench into things so completely “out of an abundance of caution”. In the middle of a global emergency, an abundance of caution could well be far more deadly.

The Nauseating Politics of the World’s Most Dangerous Cheese 

Monday, April 12th, 2021

If the way to advance one’s political agenda is to ingest illegal maggoty cheese, well, I’m not at all sure that’s worth it.

It’s Hitmen All the Way Down 

Friday, April 9th, 2021

I regularly see stories in the news of attempted murders-for-hire being foiled because the supposed hitman reports the matter to the police, or is in fact an actual cop working undercover. When I read these stories, I frequently find myself shocked at just how little people think an assassination might cost. A $1500 price tag should really be a red flag! On a similarly dumb note, the honeytrap website has been discussed multiple times. Its continued existence is both depressing and amusing.

With how often I hear about attempted assassinations, and how rarely I hear about successful ones, I’ve even considered the possibility that there are no assassins outside of Hollywood movies and the pages of fiction. t appears that is not actually the case, at least not if we go global. In China, a collection of ever-cheaper hitmen kept farming out a job, in ridiculous fashion.

Still, I suppose none of these criminals actually did commit a murder for money. I guess we still don’t have any proof assassins are real.

Drunken Email Works 

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

Back in 2018, a Twitter user who goes by “trashgremlin97” drunk-emailed vegetarian food maker Quorn, requesting that they make a meat-free version of the classic dinosaur-shaped “chicken” nuggets of her childhood. Now, in 2021, her dream is coming true.

Alabamans Cowering in Fear 

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

Apparently, yoga has been banned in Alabama schools for almost 30 years.

The Alabama Board of Education voted in 1993 to prohibit school personnel from “using any techniques that involve the induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, meditation or yoga.”

Recently, a meek bill attempting to reverse this absurd ban failed to pass out of the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee. Multiple conservative groups spoke against undoing the ban, claiming a worry that allowing yoga “could lead to the promotion of Hinduism or guided meditation practices”. The horror!

Obviously, this speaks volumes about just how pathetic and scared these people are. However, even the lawmaker attempting to repeal the ban was rather mealymouthed.

Democratic representative Jeremy Gray of Opelika, who has been trying since 2019 to get the ban revoked, sponsored the bill. “This whole notion that if you do yoga, you’ll become Hindu — I’ve been doing yoga for 10 years and I go to church and I’m very much a Christian,” he said.

This is America, where freedom of religion is enshrined in our Constitution. There is nothing wrong with Hinduism. There is something very wrong with anyone passing laws (or preventing the repeal of laws) which single out a specific religion.

Previously in fragile Christianity: Merry Whatevs

Millions of Morons, Suddenly Silenced 

Tuesday, April 6th, 2021

In under a month, Yahoo Answers will disappear, and the collective intelligence of the web will increase substantially. Still, one is forced to wonder if this will precipitate the end of humanity, with future generations unable to learn how babby is formed.

Update (April 6, 2021): Shortly after I posted this, friend-of-the-site Colin T. linked me to a horrifying and hilarious video, showing the true terribleness of Yahoo Answers.

An Officer of Puerility 

Monday, April 5th, 2021

Embattled New York governor Andrew Cuomo is currently beset on all sides. Among other problems, he faces a sex scandal. Given that, perhaps he hoped a major land and development deal would distract from these issues. If that was the hope, this name is unlikely to help the cause:

At least one of the proposed towers, named PENN 15, would be comparable to the size of the Empire State Building…

For many years, I have suggested that companies should hire an officer of puerility to review everything they do. This position would be staffed by an immature teenage boy, and he’d review logos, names, and more, all to avoid exactly this sort of boner.

Previously in Pen 15-related nonsense: Join the Club

Volkswagen’s Idiotic Stunt 

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

On March 29, Volkswagen posted a half-baked announcement that they were changing their name to “Voltswagen”, to highlight their move to electric vehicles. Then later took that announcement down from their website, but spokespeople confirmed the change. The next day, they put the announcement back up. However, later that same day, they stated that actually, no, no name change was occurring.

Volkswagen is now explaining it was apparently an elaborately overdesigned April Fool’s prank, one that somehow launched three days before the holiday and burned through its entire life cycle before the end of March.

It was, in a word, a mess. It was also beyond foolish, given that the company was so recently caught up in a global emissions scandal. Lying directly to the press is seldom a good move, but it’s especially dumb when your credibility is already bruised.

Perhaps the World Ends With Neither a Bang Nor a Whimper, but Just Gibberish 

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

I’m not sure why the agency responsible for safeguarding America’s nuclear weapons is on Twitter at all. But if they’re going to have a Twitter account, they should really make sure something like this doesn’t happen.

“Sharked” Is a Great Verb 

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

If you want to convince your child to avoid electrical outlets, accidentally making them think there are sharks in the walls is probably not a bad way to go.