October 25, 2003

Homeland Security, Autism, and Shilling for Drug Companies

Some folks may get the idea that I only have problems with the left and with Democrats. Wrong. While the depths of silliness from the left draw most of my barbs, the right and the Republicans are not in my good graces either.

SO, a tale about our current majority, one very close to my heart. An example of how Big Business and campaign donations can add up to screwing the very weakest of us to the wall, in total violation of everything this country is supposed to stand for, all in the name of patriotism. Brought to you courtesy of the Bush administration and the GOP. It's long and complicated, and I don't even pretend to be unbiased, but it's also 100% factual.

No one likes trial lawyers all that much, just as no one likes ants in their kitchens. But when you think about it, just as those ants play a vital role in the ecosystem, trial lawyers play a vital role in keeping justice available to the little guys (that's us). So while I am in favor of keeping them on a leash, I am not an advocate of Dick the Butcher's policy in Henry VI ("...let's kill all the lawyers."). And then there's the Law of Intended But Unspoken Consequences....

One of the things done in the name of tort reform in the 1980's was to establish the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP). So many lawsuits were being filed against vaccine makers that they were threatening to pull out of the business in the US. The NVICP was meant to handle vaccine injury claims on a "no fault" basis so that people injured by vaccines could be compensated without chasing the drug companies out of the country through litigation. A great idea, done with the best of intentions, and a reform supported by almost everyone but trial lawyers at the time.

Flash forward to the 1990's. The NVICP has registered some notable successes in clearing up a backlog of acute vaccine injury claims, but only where the injury is so clear-cut that no one can even argue about the cause. If there's any doubt at all, cases tend to drag on for years, and it becomes real tough to find a lawyer to handle one. All the cases must be heard in Washington, attorney compensation is restricted to low book rates, and the attorneys can't be paid until the case is settled under a government-appointed Special Master. NVICP has become a totally dysfunctional bureaucracy with the rules set by the Dept. of Health & Human Services by fiat, and vaccine victims, even their doctors, are mostly unaware the program even exists.

At the same time, the number of mandatory vaccinations for infants rises from three to over a dozen, with recommended vaccinations rising to over twenty in the first two years of life. Right along with the rise in government-mandated vaccinations, the rates of autism, speech, behavior, and developmental disorders in children begin to rise precipitously. NVICP begins to get claims for vaccine-related autism and developmental disorders. They routinely deny all such claims, citing a lack of evidence of any link.

Fast forward to 1999. The FDA disallows the use of thimerosal in infant vaccines. At the time, most pediatric vaccines contain thimerosal. The FDA does not recall any vaccines already distributed, just requires that future production be done without thimerosal. So what is thimerosal? It's methyl mercury used as a preservative, also known as merthiolate. Mercury, by the way, is one of the most poisonous substances on earth, with known severe effects on infant neural development. Thimerosal had already been pulled from veterinary vaccines by FDA edict, a full decade earlier, because of mercury exposure concerns. Our pets get better oversight than our kids.

2001. The CDC produces the first draft of a massive study that indicates a roughly 250% increased risk of autism among children exposed to injected thimerosal, with the incidence of autism rising proportionally with increased exposure levels. The draft study is immediately classified and buried, the final public release months later claims no link but has had data crudely and extensively altered, and the lead author says publicly that the butchering of the data renders the final study meaningless. He subsequently takes a very high-paying job with GlaxoSmithKline, at which point he starts refusing to discuss the study at all. NVICP continues to disallow thimerosal-related autism claims, citing lack of evidence. Parents of autistic children begin to sue vaccine makers under product liability statutes, saying that unnecessary additives such as thimerosal are not the same as the vaccine itself. Some courts agree. Some don't. Pharmaceutical companies panic and start lobbying. A Danish study comes out finding no relation between MMR vaccination and autism. Drug companies proudly trumpet the study, but don't bother to mention that MMR vaccines in Denmark have never contained thimerosal, and that the study group was too small for drawing any real conclusions.

2002. The Homeland Security bill passes Congress, with three small clauses anonymously inserted in the dead of night tacked onto the end of the bill. These three clauses define ALL substances in a vaccine, even contaminants and preservatives, as integral parts of the vaccine, exempt the drug companies from ANY liability associated with such additives or contaminants, and wipe out ALL existing lawsuits based on such claims, forcing them into the NVICP. A few (very few) "Liberal" Republicans rebel, and the bill is passed only with the assurance that those three clauses will be stripped from the bill in the next Congress. For most parents of autistic children, this is the first time they become aware of any demonstrated link between vaccinations and autism. [UPDATE: The clause was indeed stripped from the legislation in February.]

At this point it's important to note that NVICP is totally geared, when it works at all, to compensate acute vaccine reactions. It was not designed for, and has no provisions for, chronic disabilities that might be caused by vaccines. At the time, no one knew of any chronic injuries associated with vaccination that didn't have immediate symptoms. NVICP thus has a 3 year statute of limitations from date of injury, NOT from date of discovery, in which to file a claim. This statute trumps ALL state statutes of limitations, even as regards minors. If an injury was caused more than three years ago and not diagnosed or the causation not discovered until after the statute ran out, NVICP's response is too bad for you. You can't sue in any court. You can't file a claim with NVICP. You're just plain shit outa luck. By the way, the average age of diagnosis for autism is 43 months, and the initial injury is presumed to occur with that first HepB vaccination on the day of birth. Do the math.

2003. The American Journal of Physicians and Surgeons publishes a landmark independent study on autism, developmental disorders, and thimerosal in vaccinations. The findings almost exactly replicate those of the government-suppressed CDC draft study, not the final release. The new study shows an overall 250% increased risk of autism and speech disorders for children exposed to injected thimerosal, with risk rising with increased exposure levels.

And the GOP and the Bush admin continue to try to pass legislation wiping out all those product liability suits targeting thimerosal-related autism, claiming they must do so to muzzle the trial lawyers, and to "protect our national security." Even their proposed NVICP "reforms" have a six year limit built in, which would exlude all children born before 1997. The greatest class of injured children would be those born between 1989 and 1999. Can you say "minimizing the potential monetary damages" and "aging out the plaintiff class?" I suppose it's just a coincidence that the drug companies were about the biggest donors to the Republicans in the last few election cycles....

[UPDATE: The competing House and Senate reform bills are stalled in committee, over the issue of "look back" provisions that would allow cases to be filed by those injured more than six years previous--which is now almost all of the class of injured children, given the 1999 order to quit manufaturing pediatric vaccines with Thimerosal in them. Representative Burton keeps trying to get the "look back" provision included. Senator Frist keeps fighting tooth and nail to get it excluded. Guess which one gets piles of money from the pharmaceutical companies? Welcome to Washington! "The U.S. Government crippled my child and I can't even AFFORD a lousy T-shirt!"]

Not dead, just pinin' for the fjords!

Sorry for my recent laxity, but to keep the bills paid requires I actually work occasionally! Next week, articles on the health care meltdown and on rational analysis of slanted news. Today, a rerun from this spring. I will also be restoring the comment section and adding email contact functionality that (hopefully) doesn't draw spammers in droves again. Hang in there.

In the meantime I note that my previous two posts beat the Wall Street Journal and National Review to the punch by hours in one case and two days in the other. Nothin' like being ahead of the curve!

October 18, 2003


The weblog JESSICA'S WELL has couple of wonderful links to articles, one by a famous American novelist, telling us we lost the peace, that the French are skeptical and doubting, how the previous situation before invasion was better, and how the cure is worse than the disease.

Iraq? WRONG! The articles are from the January 7th, 1946 issue of LIFE magazine, and they're about the American occupation of Europe. And the novelist is John Dos Passos.

October 16, 2003

And then there's this....

From today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

Bush orders officials to stop the leaks

WASHINGTON - Concerned about the appearance of disarray and feuding within his administration as well as growing resistance to his policies in Iraq, President Bush - living up to his recent declaration that he is in charge - told his top officials to "stop the leaks" to the media, or else.

News of Bush's order leaked almost immediately.

Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he "didn't want to see any stories" quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and that if he did, there would be consequences, said a senior administration official who asked that his name not be used.

I mean, you just gotta laugh....

The Middle's not dead yet....

One of the great tragedies of the Democrat's inability to articulate any national platform other than "We hate Bush and Iraq is a quagmire" is that in chasing and polarizing their extreme Left base, they hurt their moderates in the upcoming Congressional elections and leave the Bush admin no reason to run to the middle, as Clinton did in '96. So it was refreshing to see the following in the Washington Post today...

Senators join forces to roll back parts of Patriot Act

This is a hopeful sign for moderates everywhere that the extremes don't completely control the national agenda, and that common sense still has some followers on The Hill.

October 11, 2003

WMD's and the Lunatic Fringe

If you read the headlines last week, you might have gotten the impression that David Kay and the Iraq Survey Group have conclusively proved that Iraq had no Weapons of Mass Destruction. Ever. It was all a fantasy, a Big Lie used by the Bush administration to justify the war. Saddam never had WMD's, those tens of thousands of Iranian soldiers and inconvenient Kurds died in their sleep of ennui, and our only reason for going to Iraq was to line the pockets of oil companies.

All of which goes to show that significant portions of the media are much less interested in serious journalism than in playing radical politics. And the politics they are playing is that of the Lunatic Fringe, the politics and journalism that avoids and ignores serious and substantive issues in order to push surreal sensationalist propaganda and extremist agendas.

This is nothing new. During the 1990's, a once-serious and renowned magazine, The American Spectator, squandered all claim to objective journalism and drove itself into obscurity by pursuing both bizarre paranoid conspiracy theories and trivial scandals revolving around the Clinton administration. They were the most obvious idiots, but not the only ones. It seemed like a good deal to them at the time. It played well to the black-helicopter crowd. It played well with the people who had a visceral hatred of Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party. It sold magazines. But as a political tactic it was a massive failure, turning the Great Middle of the American political spectrum away from the GOP, eroding the 1994 Republican gains in the House and Senate, and ensruing Bill CLinton's re-election in 1996. It took Clinton's own obvious and personal sins and failings to spike up GOP fortunes again and cost Al Gore what should have been an easy incumbent run at the White House. And when the dust settled, the Spectator went bankrupt, having no Clay God remaining to fight, and having nothing more to say that anyone would believe.

It is a good thing to learn from your own mistakes, but it is a much better thing to learn from your opponent's mistakes. But those on the Left seem to have missed the lesson and appear determined to repeat history. Instead of attacking Bush on issues where he is eminently vulnerable--health care, for example, or the blatant lie of "compassionate conservatism", or the administration's obvious failure to "govern from the middle" as promised--Dems are instead still beating the WMD horse, long dead, and cheerleader liberal papers are helping as best they can by lying about David Kay's report on WMD's.

So let's review what the President actually said, and compare it to the reality. I know that those who are religiously opposed to Bush, those that substitute their own hatred of him for rational thought or even the nitpicking rants of the Spectator variety, those who zealously worship at the altar of the Mindless Blind Demon of Fear and Loathing, those whose fanatical neo-Nazism is of the Noam Chomsky strain, won't bother to read it, ("Don't try to sway me with facts!") but the rest of us can examine the reality.

"Iraq repeatedly made false declarations about the weapons that it had left in its possession after the Gulf War. When UNSCOM would then uncover evidence that gave the lie to those declarations, Iraq would simply amend the reports. For example, Iraq revised its nuclear declarations four times within just 14 months, and it has ubmitted six different biological warfare declarations, each of which has been rejected by UNSCOM. In 1995 Hussein Kamal, Saddam's son-in-law and the chief organizer of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, defected to Jordan. He revealed that Iraq was continuing to conceal weapons and missiles and the capacity to build many more. Then and only then did Iraq admit to developing numbers of weapons in significant quantities--and weapons stocks. Previously it had vehemently denied the very thing it just simply admitted once Saddam's son-in-law defected to Jordan and told the truth.

Now listen to this: What did it admit? It admitted, among other things, an offensive biological warfare capability, notably, 5,000 gallons of botulinum, which causes botulism; 2,000 gallons of anthrax; 25 biological-filled Scud warheads; and 157 aerial bombs. And I might say UNSCOM inspectors believe that Iraq has actually greatly understated its production. . . .

Next, throughout this entire process, Iraqi agents have undermined and undercut UNSCOM. They've harassed the inspectors, lied to them, disabled monitoring cameras, literally spirited evidence out of the back doors of suspect facilities as inspectors walked through the front door, and our people were there observing it and had the pictures to prove it. . . .

Over the past few months, as [the weapons inspectors] have come closer and closer to rooting out Iraq's remaining nuclear capacity, Saddam has undertaken yet another gambit to thwart their ambitions by imposing debilitating conditions on the inspectors and declaring key sites which have still not been inspected off limits, including, I might add, one palace in Baghdad more than 2,600 acres large. . . .

One of these presidential sites is about the size of Washington, D.C. . . .

It is obvious that there is an attempt here, based on the whole history of this operation since 1991, to protect whatever remains of his capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction, the missiles to deliver them, and the feed stocks necessary to produce them. The UNSCOM inspectors believe that Iraq still has stockpiles of chemical and biological munitions, a small force of Scud-type missiles, and the capacity to restart quickly its production program and build many, many more weapons.

Now, let's imagine the future. What if he fails to comply and we fail to act, or we take some ambiguous third route, which gives him yet more opportunities to develop this program of weapons of mass destruction and continue to press for the release of the sanctions and continue to ignore the solemn commitments that he made? Well, he will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction.

And some day, some way, I guarantee you he'll use the arsenal. . . . In the next century, the community of nations may see more and more of the very kind of threat Iraq poses now--a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction, ready to use them or provide them to terrorists, drug traffickers, or organized criminals who travel the world among us unnoticed.

If we fail to respond today, Saddam, and all those who would follow in his footsteps, will be emboldened tomorrow by the knowledge that they can act with impunity, even in the face of a clear message from the United Nations Security Council, and clear evidence of a weapons of mass destruction program."

By the way, that wasn't George W. Bush. The President who said that was Bill Clinton, in December 1998.

What we know today is that the ISG found significant evidence of ongoing programs, and significant evidence of Iraqi attempts to conceal those programs before, furing, and even after the invasion. What we know is that the ISG has to date inspected only 10 of 130 known munitions storage areas, some of them as big as 50 square miles in size. What we know is that Saddam often had WMD munitions stored unmarked, right in with large stores of conventional arms, in order to fool inspectors. And we know that it may be quite a while before all those known areas are examined, and that the relatively small size of what we're looking for may make that search very difficult, and that the munitions, if not destroyed, may have been removed to locations we don't yet know about.

There were substantial arguments to be made about not going to war with Iraq, to instead pursue other, less confrontational and violent paths. And they were made, and that is not the path Bush followed, and that decision is certainly open to debate and criticism. But what is readily apparent is that the President's words were true then, and they are true now. As an option inaction led only to more dangerous options and greater danger to both the world and our nation, and lesser actions risked the same. By going the denial and conspiracy route, the Democrats actively alienate the Great Middle, and guarantee that next year Dubya won't have to work all that hard to get re-elected. He won't have to act like a centrist or moderate. All he has to do is let the Democrats keep sounding like Elvis-sighting alien-probed black-helicopter-chasing X-Filers.

You want to hate Dubya? I'm sure you can find plenty of good reasons. You don't need to make them up.

October 08, 2003


Running Man Conan brings Judgement Day playing Predator over True Lies

With record turnout, Californians have flocked to the polls to oust Gray Davis and replace him with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The race wasn't even close. It's one of the biggest landslides in American history. Exit polls and early returns indicate that the vote to oust Davis is a winner by 10%, and on the replacement ballot Arnold Schwarenegger is not just winning, but winning by nearly 20% after the "next best" in the field, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, and he bodes well to win with not just a plurality, but almost a clear majority.

When the GOP national party appeared to be pulling out the stops to insure that anti-choice, anti-gay rights mid to far right Bill Simon won the primary, instead of backing moderate Richard Riordan, some people wondered if it was the far right of the party that was pushing a sure loser onto the ballot over a maybe winner, solely for the sake of extreme ideology. I didn't think so at the time, and I don't think so now. I believe that they, the moderates especially, backed a sure loser because he was going to lose. The tragedy that is the California economy was obvious even then, and there was simply no good reason to shove a Republican into the governor's mansion to be the whipping boy for decades of Democratic mismanagement of state finances, especially the Davis excesses of the last five years.

Seriously. No matter who won the California governor's election last year, the winner would be facing a collapsing economy buried under massive tax increases and a seriously bloated state budget, with nothing but inevitable misery waiting. What sane president in troubled times, elected in controversy, would want the spectacle of a Republican California governor being buried under bad news, casting a shadow over the entire Republican Party? So bury Riordan quick and push Simon to lose, and let Davis and the Democrats take the abuse they'd earned.

Then the recall drive came, and someone had to run. When you approach it that way, Arnold actually makes sense for the Republicans. Pro choice, pro gay rights, a political novice with "Terminator" and "outsider" images, and a Hollywood boy. Just his box office power could discourage the less rabid Democrat money in Hollywood. You don't piss off (or on!) the man who can make you rich, or destroy you. After all, business is business. Best of all, as an outsider and almost a joke "celebrity" candidate, his screwups would be deniable and disclamable by the national GOP, with Arnold still being controllable. The best of both worlds!

The spin over the next few days and weeks will be amusing. Despite the best efforts of the heaviest guns in the Democratic Party, this was a thorough blowout. They got hammered, and their favored son got his ass handed to him on a golden platter with a generous side of "Do you want fries with that?" Despite having elected Gray Davis a mere 11 months previously, the voters turned out in record numbers to dump him and replace him with an Austrian body-building action movie star. Now the Dems have to explain how this could happen, without actually admitting they earned every bit of it. This from a party that has spent over a decade firmly establishing that no trick is too dirty, no smear too low, no tactic too sleazy for them to employ as long as it could get them elected. This election was no exception, but this time the voters rejected their tactics. And already I have heard Dems lumping Arnold in with the far right and exercising the same bitter adolescent hate-tantrums over him, somewhat ironic after watching him deliver his acceptance speech on a platform crowded with Hollywood glitterati and Kennedys.

Their only path is to try to portray this election as an isolated incident, a strictly local phenomenon, or to play it up as part of an anti-incumbent wave that will overtake Bush--or both. But the truth is the reaction has been building for years, and headed for the boiling point in the last several months in the heat over the Iraq war. The increasingly desperate, shrill, and even bizarre behavior of Democrats running to the far left in the last few years is turning people off, and today the voters went to the polls and sent a message through one of the worst offendors. It may well be that the election is an isolated incident, a local blip, and not an indicator of a wider repudiation of Democrat politics. It may be that, having delivered up their angst on the altar of California, the moderate middle from both parties and the independents will go back to being swing voters.

Or maybe not. Unless the Democrats learn from this experience, the same factors that led to the California blowout could affect next year's races. And the next. And the next. As long as they persist in being the party with no platform other than hatred of the opposition, as long as their only campaign weapons seem to be either selling out to special interests or demonizing the competitor, all the Republicans have to do to win is not sink to the same level and not make any serious errors that piss off the Great Middle.

For all the vitriol poured on Bill Clinton by the Right, one thing he wasn't was politically stupid. Foolish maybe, short-sighted even, but not stupid. He knew quite well that to be re-elected he would have to run to the middle, co-opting Republican issues and distancing himself from the fringe elements of the Democratic Party. As Bush would have to do with the fringe elements of the GOP next year, if the Dems could ever manage to find a candidate that doesn't totally alienate the independents as well as the moderates of both parties. Don't hold your breath.

October 07, 2003

The Governator!

My call--Davis out, Arnold by a landslide. Props 53 and 54 down in flames. [UPDATE: Recall YES by 9%, Arnold with 48%. Bustamante 32%, McClintock 13%, still waiting on word about Mary Carey...Props 53 & 54 losers almost 2-1.]

After over a decade of increasingly dirty tricks and over-the-top ridiculous smear tactics, the electorate seems to be taking last-minute smears as endorsements. Too bad their weren't any decent candidates this time around. The networks are going to "officially" call the election in about 20 minutes, but the word is already out.

And Terry McAuliffe is already trying to gain traction out of the loss, saying that the voters will do the same to Bush that they did to Davis. The obvious--the Dems will call California an isolated incidient, a strictly local phenomenon--and at the same time try to paint it as an anti-incumbent trend that will hurt Bush.

And Dems all over the country will whine, whine, whine in the most bitter fashion, never believing that their continuing whining played a large part in the defeat.

Weapons of Math Destruction

The Left is hailing David Kay's report as proof the WMD claims were a lie...but that isn't what it says at all. Rather than plagiarize and repeat, I urge you to check out John Podhoretz's column, and [added update] Jeff Jacoby's column. The text of Kay's testimony to Cogress can be found via the third link.

Podhoretz--Size Problem

Jacoby--The media ignored the real WMD news

Text of Iraq weapons inspector David Kay's report

In a nutshell, Kay's team found that Saddam's regime had WMD technology including botulinum strains, continued to develop WMD technology and banned delivery systems (missiles), was continually trying to develop and acquire new weapons and long-range delivery systems, and actively concealed same from the U.N. inspectors and U.S. forces before, during, and after the invasion. What hasn't yet been found is ready-to-deploy battlefield munitions, but the team has inspected less than 10% of the known munitions storage areas, some of which cover as much as 50 square miles, searching for a sum total of material that could fit in a two-car garage.

Not that you'd know any of this from reading the headlines, which loudly proclaim that Iraq had no WMD's, and that Kay's team came up dry.

Left Coast Political Street Theater

As the candidates whore their way to the countdown, some final thoughts.

The voters of California have essentially four choices. Keep Gray Davis, or elect one of the three front-runners. And frankly, none of the choices look all that appealing. Nor does it seem likely that the result will make all that much difference in the way the state is governed, or put much of a dent in the deficit, or tighten the reins of the runaway special interests. Oh, there's a wee bit of a choice in which special interests will have the ear of the governor, but odds are excellent that the results will do little to solve California's massive financial problems, which have a lot more to do with a deeply-entrenched and thoroughly corrupt legislature than with the governor's office.

First, Gray Davis, who sucked the Enron teat for years. In fact, Good Ol' Gray sucked at about every special interest teat he could find, including the unions, the casinos, the energy companies, the developers, the illegal immigrants, and on and on. It probably won't save him. As titular head of the state, he's the fall guy for all the sins, even those he's not responsible for, and desperate taxpayers will almost certainly hand him his walking papers. Even the LA Times, his own private propaganda organ, can't save him now. He'll just have to learn to beat up his female office staff on his own dime now. (Notice how the Arnold accusations make headlines without confirmation, but the verified Davis assaults on women get almost no press at all.)

Then we have his Lt Guv, Good Ol' Cruz, as dishonest and corrupt as the day is long. With Tom and Arnold splitting the right side of the ticket, Cruz may well slip into a promotion. After all, he did get an extra $4 million from the Indian gaming lobby, and while he was supposed to hand it back he actually just shuffled it to a safer place to spend on electing himself. Same campaign people, different organization, call it "legal" and business as usual goes on. If Cruz gets the nod, it'll just be Davis redux with more slot machines and a boost in non-citizen voting. A victory for the Democrat party in California, perhaps, but not for California itself.

Then there's Arnold, who has been loudly proclaiming he's not taking any money from special interests. I guess it all depends on what you define a special interest as--Arnold has taken millions from big business and California real estate developers. Another big honking empty ego, complete with Good Ol' Boy money and GOP party handlers. There's probably some truth to the butt-grabbing allegations (he is after all a Hollywood boy now) but the large proportion of accusers with heavy state Dem party ties and the rather convenient timing argues more for trivial and contrived than substantive. The Nazi accusations are even flimsier, especially in light of Arnold's youthful propensity to hunt down and beat up neo-Nazis and skinheads, and his million-plus in donations to the Weisenthal Center. But hey, he DOES have an Austrian accent, just like Adolf....

Finally, there's Tommy-boy McClintock, whom many have hailed as the Great Conserative Hope of the election. And McClintock's record in the state legislature is certainly mainstream conservative. His staunch opposition to bankrupting the taxpayers in order to subsidize illegals has made him a darling of the right and brought the expected accusations of racism. But his record of campaign donations shows he's not discriminatory at all--he'll take money from anyone. Indian gaming, public unions, big business, developers--all have chipped in heavily to McClintock's coffers. Gray Davis Lite, with an Operation Rescue bumper sticker.

My favorite? Well, if I lived in California I'd have a tough time deciding between my perennial favorite, None of the Above, and Mary Carey the porn star candidate. After all, if you're gonna get screwed anyway, it might as well be by a professional, and you might as well enjoy it.