Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Let's Hear It For Proper Science

The Institute of Health has released a study finding no relation between vaccines with mercury preservatives and autism:

The Institute of Medicine’s panel of prominent scientists pointed to five large studies, here and abroad, that tracked thousands of children since 2001 and found no association between autism and thimerosal.

While high doses of mercury can cause neurological damage, there’s no evidence that this type of damage causes the symptoms specific to autism and no laboratory or animal research that would prove how the much-smaller amounts in thimerosal could do so, either, the IOM concluded.

It is nothing but commendable that parents will look out for the best interests of their children. The danger lies in those who have agendas and wrap them up in scientific sounding jargon. From Glenn Reynold's Tech Central Station Article:

It's not the Bubonic Plague, but it's nothing you want. So what gives? Why did people abandon the vaccine?

The short answer is media hysteria and alternative-health shysterism. As Hoyt reports, dubious studies were seized on by anti-vaccination activists (described by Hoyt as "religious groups whose opposition was based on religious or moral grounds. . . [and] followers and practitioners of homeopathy, chiropractic, and natural and alternative medicine.") Those groups discouraged vaccination with scare stories, and the media picked up isolated cases of vaccine side-effects and -- by drawing a lot of attention to them, while paying little or no attention to the vaccine's benefits -- left people more afraid of the vaccine than the disease.

The result is that large numbers of people -- mostly children -- who might have stayed healthy have instead sickened and sometimes died. This is because some people were crazed, or dishonest, or hysterical, and others were stupid enough to believe them. (And it's not just in America and the West, or with whooping cough: Africa is facing a resurgence of polio as Islamic leaders encourage a boycott based on conspiracy theories.)

Modern America does not understand risk they way we used to. Thank God that we don't, because that understanding came from watching people, especially children, die. Too many people can be convinced to chase the chimera of perfect safety, and the result becomes less safety for themselves and others.

A Long Time Away

As Michelle at A Small Victory would have put it, I have been down for some mental mantenance for the past few weeks. Thanks to all of you who have stopped by during the slowdown. The best advangtage I can say about the lay-off, aside from actually liking life again, is that I finally had the chance to read Virginia Postrel's The Future and It's Enemies. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. It provided a vocabulary for so many of the ideas that I have been trying to communicate here.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Cliche Beyond Belief

Will the someone please tell the people behind the Sasser Worm that the name of their company: "Skynet anti-virus group" is so obviously a rip off of the Terminator franchise that it isn't even funny?

Thank you.

Monday, May 03, 2004

The First Report I've Read...

I have been hearing second hand that John Kerry had the respect of those who served with him. Now comes word of a letter signed by a large number of men who served with him that claims that he is unfit to be Commander in Chief. Read the whole thing.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Not That They Deserve and Good Breaks...

It would seem that there are some young men in the Washington D.C. area who are going to be missing some time at home for a while.

Supreme Court justice suffers minor injuries in assault

It would take a truly paranoid mind to come up with this being a case of deliberate coersion upon a Supreme Court member. I fancy myself to be a writer, so I am allowed that type of pondering. Or was it that I fancy myself to be a writer as a post facto justification for paranoia?

Link via Daily Kos

The Political Bell Curve

On a more distanced examination of Michelle's post, I liked the examples of the ideas from both ends of the Left/Right spectrm. The immediate result, the trainling ends of the bell curve to either side, at least the loudest elements of those tails, largely seem to be idiots. Short sightedness and obsessive focus seem to be the defining factors.

Shortsightedness is what leads to populating the tails of the Left/Right spectrum (whereas one has to look wide a very wide angle to have a reasoned opinion on the Libertarian/Totalitarian spectrum). The idiots for whom the first thought was "Goody, this is really going to hurt Bush," or "Wish I was there for the fun," are both judging the world through a very narrow set of values. The first is the home of the person who thinks that the sun will or will not rise the day after election day depending on who wins. The second is, if possible, a little scarier to me, in that the thought that they can devalue an enemy so much and allow that such a thing might be fun. Granted, both characterizations are over the top, but I sincerely believe that such views exist even if they were not explicitly cited.

A broader view of the world tends to create a more centrist position. I believe that it results from a person being exposed to a set of influences in which the majority of influences in one direction are countered by a similar influence in the other. By limiting their visions, or perhaps by simple bad luck of only seeing one flavor of influence, the extremist comes to a point where they self-censor any data foreign to their pre-conceptions.

That's my opinion, and, pending further data, I'm sticking to it.

Make an Example, With a Proper Trial

I am completely in agreement with Michele at A Small Victory. These pictures are going to push far more "heroes" into the fight against us than will be scared off by the idea that they might have these methods used against them. Congratulations assholes, lets hope you have a long time to think about this in the brig. On the silver lining portion of this cloud, this will give the military the opportunity to show the world how we do justice. If it would not set a precedent, I might even consider turning these people over to a war crimes tribunal in the Hague.

Priorites, People!

Will somebody please draft a memo that bin Ladin and company are more important to American foreign policy than Cuba? I am more inclined to believe that this is a case of institutional inertia at work than anyone thinking that toursim to Cuba is a critical security issue.

Note to the Treasury Department: I think that we can let Castro twist in the wind for a while yet. Focus on people who might be bringing explosives and other nasty stuff into the country, and I promise that I won't support the Castro regime by buying too many Cuban cigars.