The TRUE Meaning Of Christmas…

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I know it’s a little late for this, seeing that it is the 28’th and all, but I just found out that Tom Cruise has purchased the rights to the Charlie Brown animated specials. Now I don’t know if TC is of like mind with Steven Spielberg or George Lucas on the concept of updating their movies (you know, how Spielberg changed the FBI agent’s guns to walkie talkies in the re-release of ET), but if he is, this is what you might find when you watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” next year.

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… and “It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” has all sorts of possibilities!


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Because it’s Christmas, I’m feeling nostalgic, I like the music, and I’ve got ten minutes to waste!!!

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Merry Christmas

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Perhaps the Nanniest State Of All!!! (She is altering the deal. Pray she don't alter it any further)

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If Hillary is elected Queen… er, President! And here’s another.

Anatomy Of A Health Scare.

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My blogpal Citizen Deux has an interesting post talking about how science is losing the media war. Here is the reason why – major popular media is not interested in hard / factual science. For example, here is Jenny McCarthy on Oprah talking about how she believes her son because autistic. Vaccines of coarse!

In recent years, the number of children diagnosed with autism has risen from 1 in every 500 children to 1 in 150—and science has not discovered a reason why. Jenny says she believes that childhood vaccinations may play a part. “What number will it take for people just to start listening to what the mothers of children who have seen autism have been saying for years, which is, ‘We vaccinated our baby and something happened.”

Jenny says even before Evan received his vaccines, she tried to talk to her pediatrician about it. “Right before his MMR shot, I said to the doctor, ‘I have a very bad feeling about this shot. This is the autism shot, isn’t it?’ And he said, ‘No, that is ridiculous. It is a mother’s desperate attempt to blame something,’ and he swore at me, and then the nurse gave [Evan] the shot,” she says. “And I remember going, ‘Oh, God, I hope he’s right.’ And soon thereafter—boom—the soul’s gone from his eyes.”

The culprit is supposed to be a component in the vaccine called thimerosal. This is the chemical component that is supposed to cause the dramatic increase in autism. Here is the problem with this conspiracy theory; while the diagnosis of autism has increased in recent years, the use of thimerosal in vaccines has decreased! The CDC report states:

Since the 1930s, it has been widely used as a preservative in a number of biological and drug products, including many vaccines, to help prevent potentially life threatening contamination with harmful microbes….

Later in the report, it’s noted:

Much progress has been made to date in removing or reducing thimerosal in vaccines. New pediatric formulations of hepatitis B vaccines have been licensed by the FDA, Recombivax-HB (Merck, thimerosal free) in August 1999 and Engerix-B (Glaxo SmithKline, thimerosal free) in January 2007. In March 2001 the FDA approved a second DTaP vaccine formulated without thimerosal as a preservative (Aventis Pasteur’s Tripedia, trace thimerosal). Aventis Pasteur, Ltd was also approved to manufacture a thimerosal-free DTaP vaccine, Daptacel, in 2002. In September 2001 Chiron/Evans was approved for manufacturing a preservative-free formulation of their influenza vaccine, Fluvirin, that contained trace thimerosal. In September of 2002, Aventis Pasteur, Inc was approved to manufacture a preservative-free formulation of their influenza vaccine, Fluzone that contained trace thimerosal, and in December 2004, a thimerosal-free formulation of Fluzone was approved. Two Td vaccines are also available in preservative-free formulations, Aventis Pasteur Inc’s Decavac, and Aventis Pasteur, Ltd’s Td vaccine.

The alarmist article states boldly that

“Banned around the world, but not in the United States

… Oh, really? I tried to find a list of countries that have banned it an found only a handful. And lets look at autism rates in some of the countries that do have the ban. Canada and Denmark are both experiencing a dramatic increase in autism rates. Here is the situation in Denmark:

…for the period 1971-1990, where thimerosal-containing vaccines were administered, there was no increase in prevalence, but that after its use was discontinued in 1992 there was an increase in prevalence. They concluded that their “study provides strong evidence against the hypothesis that MMR vaccination causes Autism”.

The last link also lists a similar results of other countries that have banned thimerosal. This is direct, real-world proof that thimerosal is not causing the surge in autism. Yet the anti-thimerosal movement lives on. It is based first on a basic misunderstanding of correlation vs causality. Remember the Bee Rapture this last summer? Well, it was blamed on cell phones – the use of cell phone has greatly increased in the US, the bees are dying, therefore, cell phones are causing the bees to die!!! It was later found to have been caused by a virus. The next component in this is the argument from authority, which is often relied upon when the science in question  s difficult for the average adult to understand,  and / or contains a ton of complicated math (my personal weakness). This doctor says thimerosal causes autism; he is a doctor, therefore, we must believe him. And you could have many doctors saying similar things, but that means nothing. You must rely on scientific empirical studies to guide your thoughts on science. The methodologies of those studies must be double-blind, replicateable and the data / coding (if computer models are used) must be open-source and available for scrutiny. And notice that is plural – NEVER rely on one single study! Third point, it – the cause of autism is still not know. We, as emotional beings, tend to grasp at straws to try and explain things that seem to have no answer. It is often comporting to find a scapegoat for these kind of mysteries, and that scapegoat in this case are corrupt government officials and big pharma. If you suspect that the anti-science shyster lawyer Robert Kennedy Jr. might rear his ugly head in this anti-thimerosal fraud, well, here he is. And here’s the detailed take-down. Dr. Steve Novella, who also does “The Skeptics Guide to the Universe” podcast, has also written an extensive article refuting the anti-thimerosal movement.

I feel for Jenny McCarthy and her struggle to raise an autistic child, but her belief in the cause of her son’s illness is NOT based on science, but in what she calls her “Mommy sense”! And because this conspiracy claptrap was presented on Oprah, that give validity the the dangers of thimerosal.

Dan Fogelberg (1951 – 2007)

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Here is his website announcement. In 1981, he released “Leader of the Band”, a tribute to his father, a band conductor in his day, and great influence on the son. The song is one of the better tribute song out there (another being “The Living Years” by Mike Rutherford). I had written a tribute song to my parents, but never got around to finishing it because, well, it just isn’t very good. Since I will have some free time in the next couple of weeks (no teaching due to X-mass break) I will finally get around to recording some stuff.

Anyway, here is a live performance of “Leader of the Band”.

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PS. My dad passed away one year ago as of Nov 29. I was going to post on it but decided that it was not the kind of “anniversary” that screams for a celebration. I figure I’ll write something about it when I get to my 3’rd year blogiversary.

Black Thursday!!! UPDATED

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For baseball. I, for one, welcome it. Baseball has needed to come clean on this for a long time. Though the “List” isn’t officially out yet, some names have already been leaked. We have all seen that leaks are often inaccurate, so I’m going to wait for the official report before I comment on the specific players named so far. Though I am not a fan of Bud Selig (understatement of the year) I do give him props for implementing this investigation. Since he was the commissioner who oversaw baseball during the steroid era, this debacle sits squarely on hit shoulders, and if the Mitchell report is as candid as it needs to be, Selig will be blasted for turning a blind eye to the obvious cheating. I mean, really, find some pictures of baseball players from the sixties and seventies, and compare them the the monstrous physiques of the 90’s players such as McGuire, Cansenco, and Bonds, and it’s not too hard to figure out that there may have been some juicing going on.

PS. No surprise – Rush was excusing the use of steroids in baseball on his show a few minutes ago. Because of the increase of offense on the field, ticket sales rose during the steroid era. So, in Rush’s view, because the consumer approved of the product on the field, it was OK to cheat. Nice. Win at all cost. If he is the voice of the modern conservative (and he is), is it any wonder the Republican party is in such a funk.

UPDATE: The report has just been released. I am reading the pdf and will reflect on it soon. One damning bit of info that jumps out at me, from page 15 (SR-7), is the lack of cooperation from the Players Association a.k.a. the players union and its head Donald Fehr. If I were a disgruntled fan, and wanted file a class-action lawsuit against baseball for fraud, his name would be at the top of the list of defendants.

UPDATE 2: I have often heard, usually from those who are Barry Bond defenders, that the steroid use didn’t matter before 2004 because steroid use was not illegal in baseball before then. The Mitchell report tackles this false rational head on. Since 1971, baseball has had a policy in place that prohibits players from taking any prescription medication not prescribed without a valid prescription, or any substance deemed illegal by the United States. Non-prescribed steroid use was thus illegal in baseball before the collective bargaining agreement of 2002. Mitchell mentions this several times in the report. Steroids can be a wonderful life extending drug. My dad, who last year passed away from emphysema, was taking the prescription steroid prednisone, which helped him live much longer than he would have without it. In football, you often hear of players getting a cortisone short to bring down swelling and inflammation, allowing the player to keep playing in the game. These are accepted and legitimate uses of steroids. Using them to increase strength, bulk, and performance, as Lyle Alzedo, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barry Bonds, and Jose Canseco did (and Hulk Hogan still does, apparently), is not.

In case I didn’t make it clear, the players union is the real loser in this report. I’m only on page 100 of the report, but in every instance where it is shown that baseball tried to get a reign on rampant drug use incurred by the players, the Players Union and Donald Fehr proved to be a road block to meaningful reform.

Naming Names? Stay tuned!

Quick Thoughts On The CIA-Destroyed-Tapes-Showing-Waterboarding Scandal Thing (does it have a "____ gate" label yet?)

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Maybe I missed it; has anyone commented on the fact that we now know, in short order, the identity of at least one person who was involved in the torture of Zubdayah? Because it’s so easy to track down ones associates in the information age, knowing the identity of one person puts all persons involved in danger (this line of reasoning was used effectively in the Plame case). Wasn’t the reason for destroying the tapes to protect the identities of those who participated in the torture?

That worked out well.

Teacher Stuff

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Ten Internet Resources for teachers.

By the way, my student teaching is moving forward. I heard from my adviser yesterday that there may be an opening for a student teacher at Roosevelt High School here in Fresno. Roos would be a great place for this assignment; I have had really good experiences subbing there. I need to submit a letter of intent to the VP, and since I will be subbing there on Friday, I will hand him the letter in person so he will be able to match a face with the document.

A Political Quizzie.

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Compliments of Citizen Deux, though he FORGOT to provide a link!

Here is list of candidates, ranked in order of those who’s views and political positions most closely match mine.

I am a Moderate Libertarian, which is a bit more moderate than I was in college when I took a similar test some fifteen years ago (I leaned toward Conservative Libertarian then).

PS. I wasn’t very fond of the wording and explanation of the questions in this survey, but I guess I’m not the average person and am more picky when it comes to those sort of things. What can you do.