Happy Thanksgiving, Archie Bunker style

November 26, 2011

Greta Christina posted this amazing clip of a Thanksgiving religious debate on the show All In The Family. Damn, this show was brilliant and ahead of its time:

Anne Dachel okay with everyone else’s kids dying so long as her’s make it out

November 19, 2011
Image representing New York Times as depicted ...

Image via CrunchBase

It was inevitable that as soon as the NY Times released its short but devastating review of the latest anti-vaccine propaganda flick, The Greater Good, the folks at Age of Autism wouldn’t take it lying down and mount an assault on the critic.

And sure enough, Anne Dachel delivered in spades with this amusingly hyperbolic screed against a film critic for not liking their shitty movie. Not since The Brown Bunny has there been such a petty, childish response to a bad review.

Just how absurd, fundamentally dishonest, and hyperbolic is Dachel’s response? Look at the title of her piece:

New York Times Reviews The Greater Good Movie Tells Vaccine-Injured Children to Drop Dead

Um, did I miss that part? I read the review and it said nothing…NOTHING of the kind. What film critic Jeannette Catsoulis DID say was that the film was an “…emotionally manipulative, heavily partial look at the purported link between autism and childhood immunization” that “…would much rather wallow in the distress of specific families than engage with the needs of the population at large.”

Catsoulis continues by pointing out that the whole thesis and line of inquiry of the film is entirely “fundamentally flawed”, since “it fails to point out that even were such a link proved definitively, all that matters is that its victims number significantly fewer than those of the diseases vaccinations are designed to prevent.” In other words, the film sets up a total straw man argument by focusing on the wrong questions.

Catsoulis argues the film isn’t as balanced as it pretends to be as it didn’t show the suffering of children who contract the very diseases the vaccines prevent:

“A cost-benefit analysis is completely ignored. Also elided are the mostly forgotten horrors of measles, mumps, chickenpox and polio: instead of lingering at a graveside with grieving parents who believe vaccines killed their baby girl, perhaps the filmmakers could have unearthed some footage of children encased in iron lungs.”

Though a correction has been made to the review because apparently the film does show children in iron lungs, it’s quite clear from Catsoulis’ mistake that this is clearly not emphasized and certainly not given equal attention to the very few individual cases of alleged vaccine injuries the film is much more interested in feeding to the public.

But that’s where Anne Dachel’s whiny response takes an odd turn as she leaps many dimensions of logic to argue that it’s not reasonable for health practitioners to place greater importance on protecting the most lives because they should apparently only care about protecting Anne Dachel’s kids:

Phrases like, “needs of the population at large,” “cost-benefits analysis,” and “all that matters is that its victims number significantly fewer than those of the diseases vaccinations are designed to prevent” are really frightening to me. It makes me think of things like “peripheral damage” and “acceptable loss.”

That’s because you’re insane, Anne. The terms you describe come from military strategy, not medical practice. In fact, such behavior is considered highly unethical in medicine and could lead to losing one’s license to practice (ya know, like Dachel’s buddy Wakefield lost his license for his callous disregard for child welfare). Perhaps the single best example demonstrating that medicine doesn’t work that way is with organ donation. Doctors can’t just harvest organs from a terminal patient to save numerous other patients. Hell, if a person drops dead this very minute, doctors can’t just take the organs. The person would have to have volunteered to be an organ donor. So even if the fate of five other terminal patients rests on the organs of one dude who’s already dead, they still must respect that person’s wishes as best as they can. This is not something that is taken lightly. But yes, generally doctors have to play a numbers game and do the best they can to protect the most people. It’s almost like that’s their job or something.

But what this all comes down to is, exactly as the review says, a cost-benefit analysis. Doctors often have to make major life and death decisions, sometimes very quickly. This often means going with what has the best odds of a positive outcome paired with the lowest odds of making things worse. It’s not perfect. Sometimes medical procedures can fail or even make things worse. Nobody knows for sure how it will all turn out in the end. But keep in mind that even seat belts have been responsible for some deaths. So does that mean we should all stop wearing seat belts? No. That’s absurd because when you look at a cost-benefit analysis, it’s clear that seat belts save far more lives than they hurt.

Like seat belts, vaccines aren’t 100% safe. And everyone acknowledges this fact openly. That’s the whole point of Catsoulis’ criticism. Everyone already agrees vaccines CAN cause injuries. The only real point of contention if a legitimate one existed (it doesn’t) would be whether vaccines do more harm than good. And the answer to that question is absolutely not.

Lastly, Dachel exploits a common argument among anti-vaxxers, implying that vaccine requires some sort of child sacrifice. It does not, at least no more than saying automobiles require child sacrifice. The fact is that as long as we drive cars, some people will get killed in car accidents. But that’s not a requirement of society’s continued use of cars. To suggest otherwise is absurd. Same with vaccines though even more so. Cars kill thousands of Americans every year. Vaccines haven’t killed even one for at least the last two. Incidentally, 27 Americans died of lightning strikes in 2010 alone. So consider that while Dachel condemns them damned vaccines.

Meanwhile, millions of lives have been protected from deadly diseases. If looking at those statistics, Anne Dachel wants to side with the viruses at the expense of the human species, she’s welcome to do it but the rest of us sane people are going to mock her mercilessly for her pathologically terrible decision-making skills. Her child is much, much more likely to suffer at the hands of the diseases vaccines can prevent than the vaccines themselves. And if she wants to take her chances by not wearing a seat belt because seat belts too have caused injury or even death, she can do that too.

And how does Dachel defend this idiotic view?

Catsoulis isn’t troubled by the fact that there’s no way to tell WHOSE CHILD IS VULNERABLE. It’s just the chance we all have to take—for the good of the herd I guess.

It makes me afraid that in the end, when “a link [is] proved definitively,” to use the author’s words, we’ll be told that what happened to our kids is justified by the claim that vaccines prevented lots of other kids from getting sick.

Dachel isn’t troubled by the fact that there’s no way to tell WHOSE SEAT BELT WILL FAIL. It’s just the chance we all have to take–for the good of the people who might be hurt if our bodies get thrown from our vehicles during a car crash. Dachel would have people believe it’s a choice between protecting your kid or protecting other people; it’s not. Vaccines protect BOTH the vaccinated and those around them. There’s no need to pick and choose priorities. It’s a fuckin’ win-win situation for everyone. But if she wants to risk everyone’s lives on this appeal to hypothetical future evidence that will confirm her presently unjustifiable speculations–if that’s what she wants to hang her hat on–then I’m going to have to cite my own hypothetical future evidence that she’s certifiably insane. So just remember my warnings when future Anne Dachel is up in the bell tower massacring dozens of people with a shotgun while eating babies, stealing Christmas, and using magic to resurrect Hitler.

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Help! Ann Leary is hopelessly confused about Occupy Wall Street!

November 19, 2011
Wall Street Sign. Author: Ramy Majouji

Image via Wikipedia

I really have no idea who Ann Leary is other than that she’s comedian/actor Dennis Leary’s wife…and apparently she’s got a blog. This second thing I learned today when I discovered a piece she wrote attacking the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. Now once again, I’m delving into political territory here, but really my response to Ms. Leary here is about addressing some very popular pieces of bullshit that she’s perpetuating, whether deliberately or not. As far as I’m concerned, people are free to disagree with OWS. I just want them to be disagreeing with them for legitimate reasons and not because of misinformation.

Leary begins her piece by saying that until yesterday, she supported OWS…which is odd because she spends the bulk of the piece as well as the bulk of her replies in the comments section insisting that for the life of her, she just can’t even figure out what OWS is all about. Another issue she had was the anti-cop mentality seen among some protesters. The final big criticism she makes that stands out in the article is reflected in her title, “No, Please, Not….DRUM CIRCLES!” Remarking about the presence of individuals at the OWS protests playing drums as well as embedding a video of two young female protesters going topless to draw attention, it’s clear that Ms. Leary is embracing the popular negative stereotype of the OWS movement as just a bunch of hippies.

Now most of her commenters state that they support Leary’s opinion “100%” which is worrisome on its own. One would be hard pressed to find anyone who I agree with “100%” on any issue. If someone told me they agreed with me “100%” on something, I’d advise them to think harder about it.

But I digress. After several comments, one brave soul calling himself Todd finally stepped up to challenge Ann Leary. Todd, like me, doesn’t agree with a lot of things about how OWS has been operating. However, he did a fairly decent job of politely pointing to sources explaining some of the goals of the movement as well as his own grievances. He also linked to this amusing little comic strip, though I think the strip’s defining the OWS mission as simply protesting “economic injustice” is too vague to be really meaningful.

But since this “I can’t understand their message” rhetoric is so common right now and since Ann Leary is so utterly, utterly lost, I decided to help her out by listing some of the very specific goals/solutions being championed by OWS. It’s not a complete list and certainly not every single protester will necessarily agree with each item but it’s a start:

-close the loopholes that allow corporations to shirk paying their fair share in taxes
-stop corporations from bribing our government officials. Elected officials are elected to represent the people who elect them, not just the donors who give them money.
-Remove the overarching effect that big business has on our government. Reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which decided that corporations are people. Take corporate money out of the election process and eliminate the super-political action committees that have turned our elected officials into myopic, self-serving zombies. Reform the business of lobbying our elected officials so there are no more meetings between elected officials and lobbyists at private retreats or expensive restaurants–and let everyone know what the conversation is about by doing it out in the open.
-Reform the tax code so it’s understandable and fair to everyone who contributes to the economy.
-Provide incentives for companies to create jobs here in the U.S.

That’s just a few very specific goals of this movement. There’s also a great piece on the Daily Kos about OWS here. And here’s a fairly concise video from The Young Turks addressing both the specific goals of the movement as well as the transparent media bias:

Now regarding the whole drum circle and topless girl thing, part of me wishes the minority fringe hippy/Commie/etc. elements would just get out of the way because they paint a negative picture of the whole movement, but those people have shown up at EVERY protest I’ve ever been a part of so it’s unreasonable to think the OWS organizers have greater power to get rid of them.

What DOES bug me a great deal is the OWS vs. NYPD mentality. While there have been several examples of a few individual cops who seem to have abused their power and used unnecessary force, by in large, the NYPD has done a phenomenal job of keeping the peace in a difficult situation. The other day, I even briefly spoke with some cops at Zuccotti Park. They were very friendly and sympathetic to the movement. One even said he had walked through the park himself on his day off. They didn’t want to have to be there but it was their job. So I strongly oppose this anti-NYPD rhetoric coming from OWS. And I’ve personally seen one protester try to claim the right to be belligerent to the cops. He was given a friendly warning and escorted across the street. I also have no patience for those claiming “America’s the most fascist nation in the world” with no sense of irony. The very fact that they feel comfortable saying that in public without fear that secret police will disappear them in the night proves the absurdity of this statement better than anything. But even at its worst, the U.S. wouldn’t make the top 100 most fascist nations in the world. Anyone who makes such a claim is obviously just saying “don’t take anything I say seriously because I’m crazy.”

I also strongly condemn OWS for some serious lies they’ve made. After the first attempt to cross the Brooklyn Bridge led to massive arrests, they claimed the cops gave them the okay to do it even though video later surfaced showing cops with bullhorns telling them NOT to march over the bridge. Then, on Tuesday afternoon, I was at Zuccotti Park as protesters waited for the judge to rule on whether they could restore their camp. At one point, protesters claimed that they’d gotten word that the judge had ruled in their favor and demanded the NYPD step aside. Many accused the cops of violating a court order because they were following their original orders until they got word otherwise from their more legitimate sources. The crowd got very riled up. But there was no judge’s order. It didn’t come for hours later, and when it did, the judge ruled against the protesters. Such lies do not help the movement and it is despicable that anyone would make up such lies in order to incite violence.

Still, however, over all I support this movement and condemn the easy stereotypes the media pushes. If these people were lazy, would they commit themselves to working 24 hours a day for two months maintaining their encampment?

Here’s how one commenter described the impression Ann Leary gave them of what OWS is all about:

BRAVO… I couldnt not have said it better. You have put the whole OWS into perspective. I am the wife of a retired police officer and the mother of a firefighter. When i was growing up if a cop told you to move and you were sitting on your stoop you MOVED. These people just look like a bunch of new age hippies with no respect for people. I admire your outspokeness and insight.

thank you

Of course, when out of thousands of people, Ann only focuses your attention on the two (count ‘em, TWO) naked, hippy women yelling at a cop, it’s understandable that you’d get the impression that the movement is just “a bunch of new age hippies with no respect for people.” Of course, having been down there numerous times now, I’ve found most of the movement to be fully dressed, non-new age, normal people with legitimate grievances and who treat the NYPD as well as many others around them with respect.

Ann Leary doesn’t need to agree with this particular movement, but I have to insist she stop perpetuating biased, inaccurate ideas about it. She also stated that she felt the protests should be targeting Washington, not their bosses here on Wall Street.

Ann, I hope I’ve helped you to understand just a little bit about this movement that you found so very confusing.

And just because I enjoy ridiculous, topless, young protesters as much as the next guy:

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‘Politichicks’ – proof of a right-wing conspiracy against the right-wing

November 16, 2011

Victoria JacksonHave you seen this new talk show, Politichicks? It’s apparently right-wing America’s answer to The View, which already had several right-wingers. This new show doesn’t bother having another opinion on it; just four ultra-conservative gals, including tragic brain-damage victim Victoria Jackson, talking smack about them damned, dirty homosexuals, Muslims, and liberals who’ve persecuted them, preventing them from having their own unoriginal talk shows where they can bitch about how much they’re forbidden from bitching about stuff.

And holy shit is it both endlessly entertaining…and informative! Did you know that every terrorist that ever lived was a Muslim? Timothy McVeigh? Muslim. Guy Fawkes? Muslim. Carlos The Jackel? Muslim. Samuel Adams? Muslim. Hans Gruber? Muslim. Yup. Every terrorist ever was Muslim. It’s not even possible to be a terrorist unless you’re Muslim. You learn that and many other equally amazing facts on Politichicks:

Wow! Just wow! You’ve got to be shitting me! C’mon, this is a Poe, right? It’s GOT to be! These “chicks” hate Islam more than Salmon Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali combined and for reasons not nearly as reasonable. Far be it from me to defend Islam, but my criticisms of Islam at least pertain to actual aspects of Islam. Victoria Jackson and company don’t even seem to know the first thing about it. And the few almost halfway legitimate reasons they cite are criticisms that can just as easily be applied to Christianity, the very definition of a death-worshiping religion. The whole thing is one big celebration of human sacrifice and Christians often carry the instrument of that sacrifice around their necks as a symbol of that sacrifice.

But maybe I shouldn’t bother criticizing this show since the biggest victims here are conservatives themselves who should find it and Victoria Jackson’s child-like mind (at one point, she actually repeats an expression her dad taught her ala Adam Sandler’s character in Waterboy) to be a complete embarrassment to all that they stand for. I know for a fact that there are right-wing conservatives far smarter and more coherent than these simpletons. This is beyond pathetic and so, as a mostly liberal progressive, I hope this show lasts longer than Saturday Night Live. May everything that’s fundamentally wrong with right-wing America continue to be represented by nitwits like Victoria Jackson:

PS: Yes, I know that Hans Gruber wasn’t technically a terrorist but more of a high tech thief under the guise of a terrorist but I couldn’t think of the name of any good movie terrorists, so sue me.

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Raising my glass to Christopher Hitchens

November 12, 2011

As many people know, Christopher Hitchens doesn’t have long to live. He’s dying from a particularly insidious form of cancer. But he’s not dead yet. And he continues to use the time he has left on this Earth to spread the good news…that science and reason trump religious dogma any day of the week.

And so I will join my fellow atheists in raising my glass of Johnny Walker Black to Mr. Hitchens.

To Hitch:

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Happy birthday, Carl Sagan!

November 9, 2011

I’m proud to share a birthday with the late great science communicator, Carl Sagan. In honor of Carl, here’s a collection of great Carl-related videos:

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News From Around The Blogosphere 11.5.11

November 5, 2011

1. Anti-vax parents engaging in bioterrorism – If so-called “pox parties” weren’t enough, some parents have begun literally mailing chicken pox infected items for the purpose of infecting other people’s kids. And even worse, some have started mailing items infected with the far more dangerous measles. This would have made a perfect setup for the virus at the end of the recent Planet of the Apes film or for a zombie apocalypse story.

2. More anti-vaxxer propaganda – Just when I thought it was bad enough that the anti-vax propaganda film “The Greater Good” was coming to NYC’s IFC Center for a week beginning November 18, now I learn Barbara Loe Fisher and her band of cranks at the misnamed “National Vaccine Information Center” has a month-long “PSA” spot playing on Delta Airlines flights that suggests washing hands alone is an adequate substitute for a flu vaccine…cause that’s who you most want to go unvaccinated…people traveling from country to country. Argh! Fortunately, the wonderful Elyse Anders over at Skepchick is on the case and has begun a massive petition campaign to persuade Delta to cease this plot to kill us all. Also, she’s provided a handy-dandy list of contacts at Delta Airlines and its video provider.

3. Zombie worms found in fossil

Traces of bizarre, bone-eating ‘zombie’ worms have been found on a 3-million-year-old fossil whale bone from Tuscany in Italy. It is the first time the genus Osedax has been found in the Mediterranean, and suggests Osedax were widespread throughout the world’s oceans 6 million years ago.


4. Simon Singh vs. fraudulent psychic Sally Morgan’s lawyers:  part 1 and part 2 – You might remember Singh as the UK science journalist who was sued by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) for libel over his calling their chiropractic “bogus” and his subsequent victory in the appeals process. I also recently wrote about Sally Morgan’s being caught wearing an earpiece during her performance. Well, Singh’s suggested she prove her powers are real, so now she’s trying to intimidate the man who beat the BCA in court with lawyers. Boy, did she fuck with the wrong journalist.

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