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Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have.
 
-- Ronald Reagan

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Friday, December 06, 2002
 
Hyperbole Watch: "Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has admitted responsibility for stealing and trashing about 1,000 copies of The Daily Californian that carried the student newspaper's endorsement of his opponent, police said yesterday." OK, that's pretty asinine. Some are calling for the mayor to resign. But that's not what bothers me - I don't really care if he does resign or not, although now I hope he loses, because he's obviously a chump. Here's the last line of the article:

"Getting rid of the mayor because of this would basically be the same as capital punishment," [Councilmember Kriss] Worthington said.

Huh? Resigning from a job because you've disgraced your position is the same as death? Am I missing something? What about if he gets voted out of office, would that be as bad as death? Seems the Councilmember needs a bit of perspective.

 
Lock and Load Watch: It appears that the 9th Circuit Court has decided that the people don't have a right to bear arms. Eugene Volokh has some very interesting legal opinions on this particular piece of bad jurisprudence.


Thursday, December 05, 2002
 
Inspectors find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq! I originally saw this on Best of the Web Today. Look at this paragraph:

Among other things, [inspections team leader Demetrius] Perricos reported that on a five-hour inspection of a desert installation his experts secured a dozen Iraqi artillery shells — previously known to be there — that were loaded with a powerful chemical weapon, the agent for mustard gas. It was the first report of such armaments traced and controlled in the week-old round of new inspections.

Mustard gas is a chemical weapon, people. And a pretty nasty one at that. It's war time, gentlemen!

 
An email from a friend, Gary Barrett, on the whole pacifism thing:

It is interesting that whenever anybody feels the need to display their pacifistic nature they invariably blame the 'military machine'. Soldiers, sailors, airmen do a specific job dictated to them by politicians. The military do not start wars the politicians start wars. As you are fortunate to live in a democratic society that allows you to, not only have an opinion that deviates from that of the governing body, but also to publicly express that opinion you have a valid right to express your feelings. However, this was a mailing to express support for people willing to put their lives on the line to protect and defend your right to freedom. While you may not feel the need to add your signature your display could well be construed as pacifistic posing. A great many soldiers perform their duty for less pay than your average Wal-Mart employee, many do this because they believe they are supporting an ideal and protecting their country and the people who live in it. Frequently the individual soldier is displayed as a viscous dog, released only in times of dire emergency and then locked back in a cage removed from the view of civilized people such as you. The action of not signing would have displayed your complete disregard and would have been an acceptable method of silent protest. To comment on your refusal to sign is tantamount to intellectual posing.

Additionally because we are now immured to the term fascist does not prevent it being a term of valid comment. The regimes we are talking about here would class you as a second-class citizen with no value and less rights. Due to the fact that we do not choose to live according to the rules dictated by these people we are considered inferior and unwanted by god (look up the term infidel). According to our belief structure these people are entitled to their opinion, however if this opinion is to be foisted on us by terrorist attacks and the potential for guerilla acts against unprotected civilians then those rights cease to be sacrosanct. The previous Gulf war stopped short of a direct attack on Baghdad due to the West's belief in the sanctity of Iraq’s borders and the lack of clear initiatives from the UN council. We did not torture and maim people without reason and we did not cross international boundaries in warfare on a sovereign country. This despite the attack on Kuwait by a country who has previously gassed and murdered its own people due to their religious belief.

As you said 'sign or don’t sign' but save the rhetoric for the firemen, police officers and civilians killed by terrorists throughout the world. Terrorism and its supporters cannot be permitted to continue their actions against people due to their belief structure, religion and mode of dress.




 
From David Skinner's piece on the Weekly Standard's website:

The accompanying cliche to the idealist liberal was the cynical conservative. Conservatives were cautious and suspicious of action. But the Right today is alive with hopes and energized by a sense of possibility: Reaganites, neo-Wilsonians, realists, all of them taking part in a war against the world's most despicable aggressors. Unlike leftists, they can claim they are doing quite a lot to achieve that most cherished of ideals, peace.


 
The Wall Street Journal weighs in on mercury in vaccines. This piece prettty much covers all the arguments in favor of limiting liability for vaccine manufacturers. Of course, the Safe Minds people will just say that WSJ is a mouthpiece for the money-grubbing pharmaceutical companies that are poisoning your children! But, the editorial makes a really good point:

In retrospect, the researchers we've talked to agree it was the EPA standard that was the problem. The agency had based its number on a study of pregnant women whose ingestion of significant and sustained amounts of methyl mercury had led to children who later scored slightly lower on neurological and cognitive tests (nothing near autism). The EPA estimated the lowest possible amount a mother could have ingested to be associated with a disorder and then, to be ridiculously safe, divided that by 10. The agency's standard is below that of even the hyper-cautious Food and Drug Administration.

Now, as we recall from the New York Times piece I linked to yesterday:

The Environmental Protection Agency sets the safe level of mercury in children's blood at no more than 5.9 parts per billion. That limit, Dr. Pichichero explained, is based on a study of children in the Faeroe Islands, southeast of Iceland, whose mothers ate whale blubber polluted with mercury and PCB's. Mothers who had 59 or more parts per billion of mercury in their blood while pregnant gave birth to children who scored lower on intelligence tests several years later. The E.P.A. took one tenth of that — 5.9 parts per billion — as the safe-level limit.

So, the children who were exposed to 59 ppb of mercury (and mercury pollution is usually methyl mercury, not the same as ethyl mercury in thimerosal) had lower intelligence tests - but not autism. And these were high doses, during the course of pregnancy, and, we assume, breast-feeding. So if this high dose during fetal development doesn't make autistic children, why would a much lower dose do so?

The Journal hits the nail on the head when it says: "Sadly, the real losers of this wild goose chase are parents of autistic children, who've seen anti-vaccinators use their cause to divert time and resources away from legitimate research into the disorder." Makes me want to do some research into the trials and tribulations of people opposed to mandatory vaccination since the programs were instituted.



Wednesday, December 04, 2002
 
Study Suggests Mercury in Vaccine Was Not Harmful.
A good article in the New York Times about an issue I've been watching. Give it a read. A representative from Safe Minds is reported to be very displeased with the results of the study. But, as described, this seems pretty solid. Again, we reach the issue of what can be considered conclusive proof in any human study. That sounds like a good topic for a rant someday in the future.

 
A fine column from Pete du Pont today. This bit of information is worth repeating:

Delaware, having led the nation in cutting income tax rates in the 1980s, has seen the remarkable opportunities controlled spending and tax rate reductions can create. Over a quarter of a century personal income tax rates have been reduced from 19.8 to 5.9%--yes, tax cuts for the wealthy and everyone else--and the resulting growth increased income tax receipts by 350%. A constitutional amendment limited state spending to 98% of revenue; a three-fifths vote of both houses of the Legislature is required to spend more. The result has been economic growth averaging 5.4% a year for 24 years; more jobs and more economic growth that produced more tax revenues so that the state could increase its annual spending.



Tuesday, December 03, 2002
 
Moron Watch: Today I received this email from a friend.

If you are so inclined, visit the Department of Defense web page below and
sign a brief message thanking the men and women of the U.S. military
services for defending our freedom. The compiled list of names will be sent
out to our soldiers at the end of the month. So far, there are fewer than a
million. What a shame. National Military Appreciation Month (please pass it
on to your email friends)

http://www.defendamerica.mil/nmam.html

takes 10 seconds...literally

She had sent it to a bunch of people. Apparently, one (email address miel_2001@hotmail.com) took an exception to this, and decided to hit "Reply to All" and let us know how she felt.

Hi Everyone,

Though I do feel for the men and women so far away from their home and family I just can not say thank you to the military for propagating war allover the place and causing undo harm and pain to countless other, non-american- families.

I wish they were here defending our freedoms against the incursions included in the Homeland Security act to our constitutionally promised freedoms.

Michelle duBois

Reminds me a bit of Professor Peter Kirstein, from St. Xavier University in Chicago, who sent a vicious, and widely circulated, e-mail message to an Air Force cadet, calling the young man "a disgrace to this country" and accusing him of "aggressive baby-killing tactics." (Language taken from Best of the Web Today 11/18/2002)

So I sent this in reply:


Ah, so you'd rather be a slave to Islamofascists than fight back, because some innocent people may get hurt? News flash for you, lady, terrorists deliberately hide among the civilian populations just to tug on the heartstrings of softies like yourself. Pacifism is, unfortuneately, pro-terrorist, because you won't do anything to stop them, and they will have no qualms about slaughtering you.

As for your worries about the coming police state, I suggest you take a trip to the local Borders or Barnes and Noble today to do some Christmas shopping. I am willing to bet you one month's pay that you will be able to find at least a dozen books, magazines, and such, for sale, freely and out in the open, which are openly critical of President Bush and this administration. I don't think you normally find that kind of adversarial press displayed so openly in true police states - certainly you won't find anything critical of Saddam Hussein for sale in any Iraqi bookstore, assuming they have any left.

You are, of course, entitled to your opinion. Rest assured that there are people in uniform, who will fight to defend your right to have your own opinion. If you don't wish to thank them, fine. They'll do it anyway. And I'll thank them an extra time to cover the loss.

And yes, I hit "Reply to All."

 
Moral Neutrality: I liked this piece by Dennis Prager, which I found on Townhall.com. I think he makes a valid point. Although there are (at least) two sides to every story, the two sides are not necessarily morally equivalent. There was some flap not too long ago about a Reuters policy of not using the word "terrorist" because "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Perhaps, but it assumes the two sides are moral equals. (Here's an article on Reuters latest bit of moral neutrality at National Review.) Some people may think Timothy McVeigh was a freedom fighter - but does that mean the press should refuse to condemn him for what he did?

 
Don't they know it's Christmas time at all? Appeal renewed for famine relief in Africa. Of course, it would help if Zimbabwe would let the starving people eat the grain we sent them, but thanks to scare-mongering and the EU's trade restrictions, our perfectly healthy corn is taboo because it may contain genetically modified corn as well. Even though we've been eating it for years now. (link found at Junkscience.com)


Monday, December 02, 2002
 
More on vaccination and autism. This weekend I came across a few more articles / commentary pieces on the supposed link between thimerosal in vaccines and autism disorders. I happened across Bob Herbert of the New York Times weighed in on the debate. Mr. Herbert does not claim that the case is proven: "Studies thus far have neither shown nor ruled out a link between the vaccines and neurological damage in children." And the main point of the column is that an amendment freeing vaccine manufacturers from liability should not have been in the Homeland Security bill. This may be true - but one must ask, in what bill would Mr. Herbert prefer to find the provision in question? Probably none. Becuase no matter what you call the law, Democrats would howl that this law was a gift to big pharmaceutical companies, and that it's killing our children!

Well, maybe not killing. Mr. Herbert interviews Lyn Redwood, who founded the Safe Minds group that I linked to in a previous post. And I must admit her group fits the Erin Brockovitch model: "They're at a slight disadvantage, wielding a popgun against the nuclear-powered influence of an Eli Lilly." A small gang of loving parents fighting big business, what could be more American? And who's going to have the guts to say to Ms. Redwood (and Mr. Herbert cautions us that talking to her "can be heartbreaking") that she's SOL, that there's no proof that her son was victimized by thimerosal, that it's just cruel nature making your happy baby into an autistic child. I'm crass but I don't think I could manage to say that to her face. Or, at least Livi wouldn't let me...

So, the unproven "fact" of autism from vaccinations marches on, even though every reputable columnist includes a disclaimer along the lines of: "This statement has not been proven true, but it has not been proven false either, so let's proceed as if it were true anyway." And then they pull at the heartstrings.

Other places this came up: a typically outrageous Ted Rall cartoon. (3rd panel). Mr. Rall obviously believes that it's Gospel that the thimerosal really does cause autism. End of debate. But, that seems to be the way he views everything.

Here's a news piece that I came across in the New York Times. It documents a trend of parents refusing to give their children vaccinations, and the attendant public health implications. Very good reporting. I like this quote:


Public health specialists suggest that the resistance to vaccines is a consequence of the success of vaccinations: People, they say, no longer fear diseases they have never seen.

"I remember how the fear of polio changed our lives — not going to the swimming pool in summer, not going to the movies, not getting involved with crowds," said Dr. Edward P. Rothstein, 60, a Pennsylvania pediatrician who helps the American Academy of Pediatrics make immunization recommendations. "I remember pictures of wards full of iron lungs, hundreds in a room, with kids who couldn't breathe in them. It affected daily life more than AIDS does today."

Now, with the rare side effects of the live vaccine, "there's a risk of about eight kids a year dying, so people don't want to be vaccinated," he said, adding, "When polio was around, people gladly took that risk."


I found this bit of the article very disturbing:


Here on Vashon Island, a community of 10,000, word spread quickly when the 10-month-old baby of Gail O'Grady, a midwife who also works at Minglement Natural Foods, died unexpectedly in his crib in 1984 two weeks after his first immunization; when Pam Beck's daughter Rachel suffered four years of seizures that began minutes after her first whooping-cough shot; when Nancy Soriano's son, Alex, developed autism after tetanus and polio vaccinations.

Some doctors they consulted disagreed, but all three mothers were sure vaccines were to blame.

Alex, Ms. Soriano said, changed from "a bright-eyed, happy, beautiful kid" to a severely autistic 4-year-old who "lived curled up in a ball, screaming and screaming and screaming." She says she has nearly cured him by removing milk and glutens from his diet.


Are you going to argue with a mother who's ten month old died in his crib? Or just tell a mother that it's just a coincidence that her child got seizures after the vaccine? Not to mention the third lady, who thinks she's used a diet to cure autism, which undercuts the assumption that it's caused by mercury.

Here's a bit in The Guardian (via Junkscience.com) which attacks the vaccination-autism link. I don't know where he gets his statistics, so take them with a grain of salt.


Vaccination also worries people today, particularly the MMR vaccine thought to be related to autism. Several major studies in America and England have found no association between the two. Autism merely appears at the same time in life that a child gets the MMR jab. The myth lives on, though, fuelled by a back-to-nature crowd who simply don't understand the importance of vaccines. We have a false sense of security: because our children are immunised, they do not contract measles, whooping cough, and other potentially deadly diseases. Those children not immunised are relatively safe because everyone around them is immunised. Drop immunisation, and we're right back to the 19th century.

The anti-vaccine crowd doesn't understand that 25,000 people will have died of measles alone in Afghanistan this year, according to World Health Organisation. That's a world without vaccines. Likewise, Britain, feeling confident, dropped the whooping cough vaccine in 1974, and by 1978 there was an epidemic of 100,000 cases, with 36 deaths.

The vaccine worry highlights the core myths associated with alternative medicine. First, the ancient "natural" world was somehow a better place, less polluted and with less stress. Second, ancient peoples knew how to care for themselves with natural remedies that "restore balance" by channelling unseen energy forces in the universe. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Something tells me this is never going to go away. How could it - would you tell the parents that they're wrong?