Saturday, January 28, 2006

And the Wages of Sin is ... (Daniel 3:17)

Like a lot of laymen, I have a very simple view of the practice of medicine. The basic idea is, if you see a disease you cure it. Unless there's no known cure; then it's up to medical research to find either a cure or someway to prevent the disease. After reading this post at Larvatus Prodeo, I've realised that this view of medical practice and medical research is much too simplistic.

Some diseases, it seems, should not be treated, nor should they be prevented. Cervical cancer is one such disease:

DEATHS from cervical cancer could jump fourfold to a million a year by 2050, mainly in developing countries. This could be prevented by soon-to-be-approved vaccines against the virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer - but there are signs that opposition to the vaccines might lead to many preventable deaths.

The trouble is that the human papilloma virus (HPV) is sexually transmitted. So to prevent infection, girls will have to be vaccinated before they become sexually active, which could be a problem in many countries.

In the US, for instance, religious groups are gearing up to oppose vaccination, despite a survey showing 80 per cent of parents favour vaccinating their daughters. "Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV," says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group that has made much of the fact that, because it can spread by skin contact, condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.

"Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex," Maher claims, though it is arguable how many young women have even heard of the virus.
[New Scientist, 18 April, 2005]

Now, nearly a year later, Queensland Senator Barnaby Joyce (whose most recent major accomplishments was driving Senator Julian McGauran out of the National Party into the Liberal Party) has taken up this American moonbat idea:

... Senator Joyce said the decision whether to approve the [HPV] vaccine should not be left to the TGA because "they will talk about the therapeutic aspects - they are not there to talk about the psychological implications or the social implications".

"There might be an overwhelming (public) backlash from people saying, 'don't you dare put something out there that gives my 12-year-old daughter a licence to be promiscuous'," he said.

Senator Joyce - who has four daughters - said he would be "personally very circumspect" about giving such a vaccine to girls who were too young to cope with the potential consequences of sexual activity.
[The Australian, January 27, 2006]

Senator Joyce's statement just oozes sanctimonious disingenuity; what he's really talking about under the euphemism "psychological implications and social implications" is a personal religious objection to the idea of providing vaccinations to protect young girls from a sexually transmitted disease. Of course he hasn't the gumption to come out and say so directly, so he invokes a phantom legion of outraged parents instead. A vast unseen army of religious nutters who would be outraged if the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved a medical treatment which reduced the risks of committing the sin of Lust.

I reckon that if we're going to start banning medical treatments because they might undermine the dominant Judaeo-Christian ethics of Australian society, there's no good reason to confine ourselves to treatments that might encourage the sin of Lust. There are six other equally deadly sins out there - with some help from Zeppo Bakunin and one of his brother's old medical textbooks I've identified quite a few diseases that ought not to be treated because it might lead to very naughty behaviour.

Sloth: cholera, dysentry and typhoid are the biggies here. Back in the nineteenth century, some physician whose name I forget, became a medical legend when he stopped a local epidemic of cholera in one of the poorer districts of London by breaking the heads off all the local water pumps. The wells were all contaminated with sewage. If people are living in poor areas where they only have access to sewage contaminated water, they only have their own idleness to blame. If they got off their arses and did something to improve their situation they'd have the money to move to an area with clean drinking water. So away with all those development programs aimed at bringing clean drinking water to third world villages and away with the water supply and sewage disposal authorities in the developed countries. Public health problem be damned - these diseases are all work ethic problems and the solution lies with the individual.

Gluttony: All those diseases caused by diet or addiction - atheroschlerosis from cholesterol consumption, cirrhosis of the liver, dental caries (see also Vanity) most forms of hepatitis and diabetes - including insulin dependent diabetes. Let the buggers learn to live without sugar - it'll build up their fortitude.

Vanity: cosmetic surgery is obviously out (see also Envy). As are acne treatments, treatments for warts, moles or winestain birthmarks, hair replacement for chemotherapy induced hair loss and all forms of cranio-facial and recosntructive surgery. If people are born hideously deformed, tough - surgical reconstruction might just encourage them to become vain in later life. Oh and all that root canalling and crowning and dental reconstruction that goes on to deal with the results of dental caries. And orthodonty (by the time I get through all the major sins, I suspect we'll have built a good case for banning dentistry altogether).

Avarice: obviously most of the depression that is epidemic in Australia is the consequence of living in a materialistic, consumer society where everyone more or less believes that they will be happy once they have the latest iPod, the latest Nokia mobile phone, etc, etc. It's all down to avarice. So are the rest of the work related disorders.

Anger: Congestive heart disease, hypertension, angina pectoris.

Penis extensions, breast implants and reductions are all medical treatments that obviously cater to patients' envy of people who are better endowed than they. Less obviously, infertility treatments have to go. Remember:

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
[Exodus 20:17]

And that "any thing that is thy neighbours" includes the motility of his sperm and the fecundity of his wife, sport.

Friday, January 27, 2006

By Popular Acclamation

As I expected, Tug Boat Potemkin came nowhere near being voted Australia's best humorous blog. The Daily Flute came close but the laurel actually went to Samuel Gordon-Stewart on the back of TSSH preferences. So it such is. Nonetheless congratulations to Samuel. As for his sponsors, least said, soonest mended.

Looking to next year's awards, I've decided that the 'best humorous blog" is probably permanently out of reach. Right now I'm looking into the possibility of starting up a new community organisation - the Australian Foundation for Survivors of Dentistry, with a group blog on how to make the difficult personal journey from seeing oneself as a dentistry victim to the liberating realisation that one is a dentistry survivor. That might have reasonable chance of winning in the best new blog, best group blog, best overall blog and best community service blog categories.

Oh and that other bit of broken tooth came out this morning without any need to resort to the needle-nosed pliers. Which leaves me looking for a new excuse for feeling totally pissed off with life. So it such is.

Some Reader ...

I wasn't planning to write anything on that article by John Birmingham - the one where he takes the left to task for being completely humourless unlike Tim Blair, Australia's answer to P J O'Rourke. I haven't read enough of O'Rourke to comment on that comparison but, in my view, Tim's work is a match for the stand-up comedy of US comedian Andrew Dice Clay. I never found him particularly funny either but that was obviously something to do with my own personal tastes because on the one video tape I saw of "Dice" in performance his audience were pissing themselves - possibly quite literally - over such pearls as "What's with these bisexuals. Let's get this straight - you either suck dick or you don't!" That one had them all cheering and the little collegiate fists pumping in the air. Homophobic? Maybe, but the guy had found his audience and he knew how to work them. For all we know, off-stage, Clay might have been a flaming nancy-boy, slipping away to the seedier parts of town after each performance for a spot of rough sex, preferably with a stoker or greaser. That seems unlikely though; if it were true we would have read about it in the tabloids.

As I said, I wasn't planning to write anything on John Birmingham and why he's so utterly wrong about how humourless all us lefties are but a lot got written before I got around to it and my thinking on the topic didn't come to much. Then I got this e-mail which included this comment on the piece:

Was thinking - yeah but wonder what Gummo would say..
(no names, no pack drill because I haven't actually asked for permission to reproduce the contents of the e-mail).

Now I can recognise a hint as well as any other bloke - that is, well enough to studiously ignore it.And I would have gone on studiously ignoring this one if it weren't nearly six o'clock in the morning, all the sound and fury of thunder and lightning on the southern horizon signifies nothing - especially not the prospect of rain and a real cool change and I hadn't just found yet another fragment of broken tooth in the gum crater. That's the third so far. I got rid of two tonight but this one needs to poke its way out a little further before I stand any chance of getting to it with the needle nose pliers. Assuming that I still own a pair of needle nose pliers - otherwise I might have to make do some cheap eyebrow tweezers from the chemist. All in all it's a good night to write about John Birmingham, the topic of Phil Ruddock having been all used up a week or so ago.

Birmingham's article (which also gets a good bollocking at Helen's place) finishes with this sad prognosis of the future of a levity-challenged left:

The left, on the other hand, has indulged for so long now in the guilty pleasures of relativism, protected by a value system that says discussion of certain topics is off limits, that any sense of confidence they might have had at one time has now entirely disappeared. And with it their sense of humour.

It's like the old joke. How many angry feminists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: that's not funny!

I'm old enough to remember when that old joke was a new joke and there was no pussy-footing around about "angry feminists". It was:

How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?

That's not funny!

Of similar vintage are:

What do you call that useless piece of flesh on the end of a penis?

A man.

and this cracker:

How many men does it take to wallpaper a bedroom?

One, but you have to slice him very thinly.

Of course, only a man-hating feminist could find that last one funny - to anyone else it's another offensive example of man-hating feminist double standards. It did occur to me that, as a demonstration that lefty humour is still possible, it could be updated a little:

How many cabinet ministers does it take to whitewash a dunny?

It doesn't matter how fine you grind 'em up, they'll never come out the right colour.

But sadly, that's a bit of a failure in the funny stakes and quite possibly seditious too. So I'd better make it quite clear that I'm in no way advocating that cabinet ministers should be ground up and used to paint dunnies. Well, not today anyway. In any event, it's unlikely that cabinet ministers would prove a superior dunny paint to Wattyl Solarguard.

Since Birmingham brought the light bulb joke into play, I thought I might get some mileage out of How many neo-cons does it take to change a light bulb? But then I realised that the idea of neo-cons changing a light bulb is absurd. Let's face it, if George W Bush got up in his State of the Union address and told everyone that the way forward in the centuries old struggle between Christendom and the infidels (more commonly known as the War on Terror) was a restoration of hereditary monarchy and feudal vassalage, the buggers would be falling overthemselves to demand the return of ducking stools, scolds' bridles and the Black Death, not necessarily in that order. It took a while to get over that hurdle and I'm not sure the results were worth it:

How many neo-cons does it take to change a light bulb?

The end of the cold war and America's rise to pre-eminence as the world's only superpower (or hegemon) has made burnt out light bulbs a thing of the past.

We'll get the Marines onto it, as soon as they've finished with those drains we asked them to unblock.

Let me tell you, we have a smart missile in our armoury that can home in on that burnt out little sucker and take it out, without damaging any of the plaster ducks flying up your living room wall.

Update: Birmingham's article turns up again in the A2 section of today's Age. The front page of the section says of it "John Birmingham Lampoons the Left". Skimming it over a second time, I didn't feel lampooned so much as bored shitless. And it strikes me that someone who blows his punchline by wimping out on a feminist joke is in no position to complain about political correctness strangling humour. So there.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Enchanted Toasting Fork - Episode 7

The story so far: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6

There are moments in men's lives - and women's too, no doubt - when all that has gone before is called into question and the habits and opinions of a lifetime crumble under the devastating impact of some new and transcendent insight. It may happen at night on a dusty road between the city one has purged of a troublesome new sect and the next city on your clean up list; it may happen in the depths of a south-east asian jungle, when one is shot with a metaphorical diamond that blows away all your pretensions to civilised standards; it may happen the morning you drain half a litre of sulphuric acid from your baldder and most of it misses the bowl; and it may happen when you are standing in the kitchen of a couple of friends, clutching a cheap "Paw of Renown" from Y'ha-nthlei in one hand, while the other rifles through kitchen drawers searching for that toasting fork you enchanted in a protracted fit of pique and gave away as a wedding present. These moments are called epiphanies. They are rarely pleasant.

Petro's epiphany, if such it was, was a slow grinding one. First, there was the realisation that the monkey-corpse light of the Y'ha-nthleian "Paw of Renown" was hopelessly inadequate compared to the full on corpse-light of a well-crafted Hand of Glory. The light from the birthday cake candles tied between the dead monkey's fingers, and the magical concealment it was supposed to provide, weren't going to last much longer. He still had the rest of Claudio and Cossima's house to search. After what he had seen so far, he wasn't enjoying that prospect. If only he'd taken up the six for the price of five offer when he had bought the paw. At least the house was empty so he might be able to risk turning on a few lights. After the blending of their families, it seemed unlikely that Claudio and Cossima had anything in the way of a spare room where they could stack away unwanted gifts - where then would the toasting fork be, if not in the kitchen? Under the house? In a stack of boxes on a couple of planks laid over the rafters in the roof space? One of those self-storage warehouses?

One after another, the errors and follies that had brought him to this last, most desperate folly of all, ground away at his spirits, wearing him down to the realisation my life is totally, completely and just about irredeemably fucked. Maybe I should check the bathroom cabinet for some St John's Wort. With so many kids in the house they're bound to keep in a good supply. Maybe I should have taken that phone call from Ruby instead of letting it slip through to the answering machine. Maybe I should get the hell out of here. Call Ruby when I get home. Find out if she's up for a visitor. Wonder what she's up to tonight. What do civil celebrants do on week nights?


There was no avoiding it - the most recent letter from the seventeenth junior clerk in the office of the King's Chancellor and Chief Busybody was quite clear. For bureaucratese, that is. "Celebrants are reminded that under the laws of the kingdom, marriage is the union of a man and a woman, forsaking all others. This office considers it inappropriate for licenced celebrants to place themselves in situations where they may be seen to be offering either active or passive endorsement to unions which do not conform to the legal definition of marriage. In the light of numerous complaints this office has received on this issue we will have no alternative but to review the licences of celebrants who are reported to have endorsed such unions."

This wasn't aimed at her personally, she assured herself. The fact that the letter had arrived today had nothing to do with the fact that she was invited to celebrate Jadwiga and Jennifer's not-a-marriage-just-a-life-long-commitment on Saturday night. All the same she had no choice but to call Jadwiga - her oldest friend - and tell her she had to cancel. Jadwiga wasn't going to take it well.

"Hello, Jennifer speaking."

"Hi Jen, it's Ruby. Is Jadwiga home?"

"Hi, Rube. You're sounding upbeat as ever. How do you manage that?"

"It's an enchanted princess thing." Ruby said. She had lost count of the number of times she'd had this exchange with Jennifer. "Could I speak to her please?"

"Oh, secret princess business, is it?" Repetition hadn't quite worn the edge of resentful commoner sarcasm off Jennifer's pronunciation off that phrase, "Sure, I'll get her for you."

Ruby heard footsteps then, at a remove from the other telephone, Jennifer said "It's Rube, for you. Wants to talk about princessy stuff again." Jadwiga responded with something indistinct, in a complaining tone. Which, thought Ruby, was typical when you thought about it. Jadwiga had missed out on the whole enchantment thing - lucky cow - so she had no idea what a drag it really was. Ruby doubted that the whole thing with Jennifer would have had a chance to happen if Jadwiga had pricked her finger on a spindle or had any of the other unfortunate accidents that routinely befell princesses and left them dependent on finding - or being found by - a handsome prince if they were to have any chance of a half-way normal life.

"Hi, Ruby. What's up."

Ruby came straight to the point. Despite her best efforts, the vibrancy in her voice could not be completely suppressed. "Bad news, Jadwiga" she said, trying to hold the gush down to a trickle, "I don't think I can make it Saturday."

"I can hear just how much that saddens you, Ruby dear."

"I would, if I could Jadz. You know that."

"Oh bollocks, Rube. You're barely trying to hide how bloody happy you are to be off the hook."

The conversation didn't improve. By it's end Ruby was fairly sure that she and Jadwiga were no longer friends. At least they wouldn't be until Jadwiga apologised for that crack about her vibrant voice being a childish affectation, like a lisp, and all she needed to sort it out was a few hours with a competent speech therapist.


In the end, getting out struck Petro as best idea. He closed up the kitchen drawers and cupboards. In the last dim glow of the Paw's monkey-corpse light he made his way to the front door. As he stepped into the hallway he heard footsteps on the front porch, followed by the scrape of a key entering a lock.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Down to Earth Club

"You ever had sex on a train?"


"Would you like to try it? Do you wanna do it?"

Smooth talker. Wish I could come up with lines like that. And hey, don't mind me sitting here across the other side of the carrriage - I'm getting off debarking in two stops.

"Naah. They have security cameras and guards and stuff."

Damn it, girl, you're in the prime of your youth! You're wasting the best years of your life. Wake up to yourself.

Nothing doing. They get off the train at the next stop. On the way out the door he asks: "What about the queue at Centrelink? Ever tried it there?"