Letters to the Editor

Are vaccines killing our kids? Plus: "Hannibal" is just too gory; new economy, same old ethics.

By Letters to the Editor
Published August 13, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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House debates vaccine safety



Dan Burton deserves some support for standing up against
mass vaccination. As a father of a happy, healthy and intelligent 4-month-old boy, I'm
not risking his health with certain shots. ADD, ADHD, SIDS, shaken baby
syndrome, autism, asthma, epilepsy and other conditions have
been blamed on vaccines. There really are not enough thorough long-term safety studies to be sure --
that would cut into the manufacturer's profit margin.


The only thing I want is a choice. In my state of Texas, my child will
not be allowed to attend public school (unless we join some crackpot
religion that the state deems "established" that forbids us to vaccinate our children) A philosophical reason just ain't good enough. A parent shouldn't have to be forced by the state to make
his child a retard in order to give her an education.

-- J.D. Dwinell

Austin, Texas

Isn't this an ugly irony: "Family values" conservatives, who condemn
abortion as the killing of children, are now on a crusade to dismantle
a system that prevents children from being killed by germs the conservatives can't
hope to evangelize. I guess their nostalgia for the "good old days"
extends to such elements of those days as scarlet fever.


-- Keith Ammann

Can vaccines be made safer? Certainly. Should we conduct research to
find out the risk of complications? Of course! However, I disagree
completely with those who would abandon vaccination entirely. Those of
us who are fortunate enough to grow up in the last half of the 20th
century do not understand how dangerous so-called "childhood" diseases
are. In my own family, three of my grandparents' siblings and one of my
aunts died from diseases that are now prevented by vaccination. My
parents vividly recall the terror of polio epidemics while they were
growing up, and can name schoolmates who were stricken with the disease.
I'll take the relatively small risk of vaccination over the huge risk
of disease any time.

-- Nancy Ott



If people don't want to immunize their children, the United States probably shouldn't
make them. As soon the unprotected kids start getting sick and the insurance
companies raise their premiums, I'm sure these parents will come around.

-- Bryan Johnson


What about all the lives vaccines have hurt? Arthur Allen didn't think to investigate all
the facts. Dan Burton is going against the propaganda the vaccine companies have given
us, and is making most people think.

-- Kelly Larsen


Yes, sir, that's my cannibal




Having recently read "Hannibal," as well as "Red Dragon" and "Silence of
the Lambs," I can say without reservation that the latest book should not
be made into a film. Even a talented director like Ridley Scott can't take
sub-par material and turn it into a watchable movie without drastically
altering the plot. Michael Mann, director of the superb "Manhunter," and
Jonathan Demme, helmsman of "Silence of the Lambs," both had an advantage
over Ridley Scott: They had terrific, believable stories to work with.
Such is not the case with "Hannibal."

Yes, "Hannibal" is a page-turner. Dr. Lecter is one of the most
interesting villains ever written. However, putting Lecter and Clarice
Starling through the ridiculous machinations of Mason Verger is a
disservice to the characters and to the wonderful actors who portrayed
them. And the ending is an obvious setup to bring the disfigured Will
Graham out of retirement. Let us hope that Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins take a pass on this multimillion-dollar turkey.

-- Todd Prepsky

Northridge, Calif.


Do picture makers really have talent, or do they
depend on gory special effects to carry them through?
Excellent movies have been made without leaning on the nauseating
visuals. Good story lines with good acting and directing are what we
need today. Not simply all the "realism" that today's directors lean on.

I remember when a man could get shot onscreen without showing every detail of his inner anatomy. Too much "blood and guts" has ruined creative moviemaking.

-- Marvin West

Homosassa, Fla.

Nothing Personal


I appreciate Amy Reiter's desire to end her column on a witty bon mot.
However, being a gay male does not equal experiencing being called a
"man" as an insult. None of the reportage of the hetero-altered ballads
has intimated that Robin Hood disdained being a man -- on the contrary, it
would appear he enjoyed his (and others') manhood very much.

-- M. Daniel

New ethics for the new economy?


I'm in the "no investments, no mixing of consulting and
journalism, period" camp. My only financial interest in any
technology company is a small stock option granted by
Andover.net, the online publisher for which I work. If I
want to start my own consulting company, write PR material
or corporate "white paper" reports or trade technology
stocks, I must quit writing and editing for Andover. This is
not an edict from my boss. It is my own, personal ethical


A freelancer writing a story from "inside" a given field is
not an unbiased journalist, and should not be regarded as
one. As long as the insider piece is clearly identified as
what it is, either from copy it contains or in a separate
editorial disclaimer, I see no problem with it. Rebecca L.
Eisenberg, for example, writes a column that is clearly
opinion-based, rather than fact-based, and she has never
been shy about openly promoting the "RLE" brand.

My self-imposed set of rock-hard journalistic ethics will
probably keep me from ever becoming wealthy as a nonfiction writer. I have no problem with
this. I got into journalism because I like the work, and
gradually drifted into computer reporting because I like to
play with computers. No one forced Chris Nolan or anyone else go into journalism
full time. Those who have done so, but now feel they aren't earning
enough money at it, should take one of three courses: Either
find a better-paying job within the field, leave it
entirely or find an unrelated source of "side" income.

-- Robin Miller

The story should be titled, "New economy, no ethics."
If your reporting is biased by financial, or other gain, it is
inaccurate disinformation.


This is not to say journalists should never be compensated for
their writing -- but it should be very clear what the sponsorship
aspect to any article is, so as to avoid misleading a trusting
public. It's a difficult task, but an important one. In an age when the news media is becoming the commercial between the commercials, journalists should promote and adhere to full disclosure.

-- Harry Brown

Dissecting the Barbie debate



John Dvorak has a long history of missing the biggest trends yet somehow profiting from those mistakes. Not only has he derided the mouse as a useful input device, he's also derided the GUI and other technological innovations.

The ironic thing is, just recently, Dvorak wrote a column on how depressing the state of industrial design in the computing world was. I quote:

In the 50s, they used to paint cars with two colors.
There was even a three-tone era, and the colors included
pink and chartreuse. Only Mary Kay Cosmetics paints cars
pink any more. Look at the parking lot today, and see what
you see: muted gray, muted brown, muted green, and white.
It's almost impossible to find your car among the sameness.

Let's see, it's OK to paint cars in two or three tones, but on computers, it's "girly." It's OK to praise a cosmetics company for painting cars pink because it's simply different, but the "effeminate" iBook is doomed to failure for the exact same reason. Huh??

Even if Dvorak claims he's not really sexist, his column putting down the iBook does indeed promote and foster the sexual stereotypes still embedded in the industry. He gives voice to all those unenlightened and unimaginative poor souls who think square corners, exposed hinges, mismatched colors, ungainly ports, and clunky mechanical mechanism is actually good design.

-- Paul Lee

I appreciate that Janelle Brown came onto "Silicon Spin" in person to talk about
the iBook debate. She helped elevate the discussion, as we
thought she would. But I found her post-show column a little strange, in that Janelle said
afterward that it had been a "good discussion." It's unfortunate she received
hate mail, but that's what happens when you push buttons. (You should see
what they wrote to Dvorak.)

As for the TV show, we've never tolerated personal attacks on guests. When
Dvorak introduced the special as "the Jerry Springer version" he meant that
as a joke. The only person attacked on Spin is Dvorak himself, who can
take the heat.

-- Robin McCall

Producer, "Silicon Spin"

I give Dvorak very little serious consideration. He is often so
inflammatory (and wrong) about the market, social forces and technology in general that it is laughable. The iMac was and is still dismissed as being too cutesy, yet
continues to rake in cash for Apple. He doesn't understand that more and more students and families have gender-neutral aesthetics, and that there is a significant postmodern population
disgusted with facile gender stereotypes, traditional marketing strategies and
conventional wisdom.

Our culture is constantly changing. I applaud Janelle Brown for having the insight to
notice that fact, and for having the courage to express views that are based on
critical reasoning instead of unconscious prejudice.

-- Dave Barnhart

Life or death software


If individual programmers could be found liable for
failures in software they wrote, it would have a chilling effect on
the development of open source medical software.

I think the likely answer comes from the models for the
deployment of Linux. Those health care organizations for whom
theoretical liability is less important than low cost and high
reliability will take advantage of free software distributions. Such
organizations might include many in the developing world.

The other deployment model follows the example of Red Hat Software. Red Hat packages a distribution of Linux and sells it for a nominal fee. They add value in several ways. By testing all
components of the operating system at selected levels, they assure that
the distribution is stable. They provide some technical support as part
of the package. The bulk of their revenue comes from the sale of
additional technical support and services.

A medical version of Red Hat could provide extensively tested software
distributions and support services. In addition, it could submit its
distributions for FDA certification as appropriate and could assume
liability for the quality of the distributions. It could charge
accordingly for these additional services. As you point out, the degree
of liability to be assumed by any software company for its products is
still being determined; this model merely suggests that it will possible
to play by the same rules for open source software in the medical arena.

-- Steve Doubleday

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