Monday, March 24, 2008

A response posted to Megan McArdle's blog, in response to this post:

Children are no more of a 'resevoir for infection' than adults. Adults get sick, so do kids.

Please check recent research to validate the 98% figure.

An enormous 'public health detriment' has been autism. Hannah Poling will be the first concession in many more. Vaccines are the 'WMD' of the health industry.

Whatever your opinion of me and my comments, you have a right to them. Try, however, to keep an open mind as this issue unfolds. I think we are all in for unpleasant surprises.

Posted by palmrita | March 24, 2008 10:44 AM

Ok. I have to respond to this with what will amount to a basic primer in Immunology. Please bear with me.

At birth, our immune system operates on the principal of a random number generator. You see, it produces all of these defensive cell types without any real knowledge of what is needed. It is untrained. Unexposed to the real world of pathogens. So it uses its ‘random number generator’ to create antibodies to random protein structures that may or may not invade host.

This is a recipe to get us all killed, but luckily as infants, our immune system is bolstered by something called Transferred Immunity. Basically some of our mother’s antibodies carry over from pregnancy explicitly to bolster our untrained immune system. Even better, breastfeeding bolsters our immune system by transferring some of our mother’s antibodies allowing us to better identify and deal with foreign threats. (Insert long tirade about the benefits of breastfeeding here).

So how do we gain immunity? Or rather, what is the process that produces Acquired Immunity? Natural Selection (Danger! Forbidden concept alert!). Remember the random number generator I mentioned above? Well it doesn’t work alone. Our immune system works not only randomly, but also as a catalytically induced Positive Feedback Loop. Exposure causes an increased antibody production response, and this ‘trains’ the immune system to better handle antigenic threats.

To put it another way, our Immune system relies on Natural Selection to train it for Acquired Immunity (I know, I know. Natural Selection is only a theory. Never mind that it underpins all modern biology. Anyway…). The random nature of Immunity becomes ‘weighted’ toward those things it has been exposed to and has successfully repressed. Natural Selection trains our immune response to be better respond to those challenges to which it has been previously exposed.

With all of this in mind, how to vaccines work? They jump-start this process. A denatured or attenuated invasive microorganism artificially introduced into our system will trigger a response to that antigen. The reason we don’t die due to this exposure is due to the fact that those microorganisms have been artificially damaged or killed prior to their introduction. In other words we are artificially inducing a natural process in a way that increases the odds of the subjects survivability at initial and subsequent exposures.

As to linking thermisol to autism there have been repeated studies undertaken to explicitly confirm this hypothesis. No linkage has yet to be demonstrated.

In conclusion, I am all for open mindedness. But there can be a terribly short path between an open mind and GIGO. I’m all for people finding out the utility of each individual vaccine allowing them to make an informed decision. But to decide to forgo all vaccines due to ‘research’ is the height of irresponsibility. Your decisions impact far more than you. You are significantly increasing the odds of your children having an untrained response to a potentially high morbidity infection, and allowing them to act as a vector to a significant population of people who may not have the ability to effectively resist the infection for a variety of reasons. Children are no more a ‘reservoir of infection’ than adults are. However, they do not have the acquired immune response of an adult either.

Failing to vaccinate your children significantly skews the odds against them. Personally it strikes me as an extraordinarily foolish thing with which to gamble.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Filed under Some people try to parse language when they
USCode TITLE 10 > Subtitle A > PART I > CHAPTER 13 > § 311
§ 311. Militia: composition and classes

(a) The militia of the United States consists of all
able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and,
except as provided in section 313 of title 32,
under 45 years of age who are, or who have made
a declaration of intention to become, citizens
of the United States and of female citizens of
the United States who are members of the National

(b) The classes of the militia are—

(1) the organized militia, which consists of the
National Guard and the Naval Militia; and

(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of
the members of the militia who are not members
of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

The Counter Revolution begins.

The New York Times calls for anti-democratic counter-revolution in the Middle East in a current editorial .

The editorial begins strong:
It is too early to know who ordered this week’s assassination of the Lebanese cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel, but there are many reasons to suspect Syria. Mr. Gemayel opposed Syria’s unrelenting campaign to dominate Lebanon’s fragile democracy. If the cabinet now loses even one more minister, through intimidation or worse, Lebanon’s pro-Western government will collapse — a collapse that Hezbollah, Syria’s ally and henchman, has been publicly seeking.

But it then, sadly veers toward the Baker ‘Realist’ view of the Middle East:
This page believes that the United States needs to begin a dialogue with Syria, about Iraq and regional peace. But President Bashar al-Assad needs to understand that neither the tribunal nor Lebanon’s independence will ever be on the bargaining table. Europe, Russia and all of Syria’s neighbors need to join Washington in delivering that message.

What is the ‘Realist’ view? Stability. Stability at any cost. Unfortunately this is what got us in this mess in the first place. What started the brouhaha in Iraq 15 years ago? A fear of carrying the ‘Kuwait Liberation’ top its logical conclusion: the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. Why? Because it was cause ‘instability’ in the Middle East, just like we are seeing now.

How will Iraq turn out? I have no idea. It may go the route of Yugoslavia and break up into its component tribal / ethnic boundaries. And while the process is horrific for the population (and still ongoing in the area, look at Kosovo and Macedonia), at least the issue can be RESOLVED (see Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, etc). So while the Realist, counter-revolutionary policy can bring ‘peace’ and stability in the short term, it inevitably leads to something worse down the road. Every time. Just like it did in 1848 when Metternich tried to suppress nationalistic movements in Europe. Just like in 1914 when the Gerrymandered Empires collapsed. Just like the current Kurdish insurrection in Turkey. Just like the secretarian conflicts in Lebanon and Iraq.

Dictatorial Oppression to achieve ‘Peace’ may work in the short run. And in fact, this is what Syria requires from its dialogue, and Baker proposes in his ‘realistic’ plan. But the end state will be worse. It will give more power to the Muslim Brotherhood (again). It will reduce our influence in the region as we sell out the Liberal Muslims in the Middle East (again). And It will prove us the ‘paper tiger’ everyone has been talking about (again).

The brilliance of the Democracy First policy in the Middle East is that it had the chance of maybe solving the problems of the region in the long term. It NEVER implied things would be ‘easy’, or ‘stable’. To have held such an expectation was foolish, and to give up on it now would be even worse in the long run.

At the end, labels don’t matter. What people want to do does. As we see the ‘Left’ embrace ‘Realism we realize that they are not Liberal in any meaningful sense of the word. Modern Progressive Socialists are Reactionary, Opressive and aliberal. Case in point: Jonathan Chase from the LA Times thinks we should bring back Saddam in order to restore stability. Why not simply suggest we perform a Roman Decimation in Iraq (kill every one person in ten). It’s what Saddam would do.

‘Peace in our time’ for all.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Orson Scott Card on the Middle East

You know, I’ve been trying to explain my feelings on our current relations with the middle east for some time now. Leave it to a professional author to present the eloquence for me.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

What's Next?

In response to the Lancet study. Originally posted in response to a thread on Iraq the Model

What I find amazing about the firestorm this study has caused is the complete inability of people who are now calling for the Coalition to ‘pull out’ to think through the consequences of such an act.

The argument is not, nor can it be about wither we should have deposed Hussein or not. That entire line of entire argument is absurd. One does not support Ted Bundy simply because he is the Head of State. The world is down one more Thugocratic Tyrant. Go team Humanity! More importantly, this change has broken the stasis that was Iraq. Instead of the Terror of Murder to impose control, we have the Terror of differing opinions over how Iraq is to be. This, in of itself is a vast improvement in spite of the horrific cost – whatever the actual number may be.

So what we have now in Iraq is an extreme form of debate over how the future of Iraq will be shaped and by whom. We must therefore ask ourselves a simple question: Does the presence of the Coalition alter the form of this debate in a positive or negative manner?

All things being equal, and if there were no other external influences to this debate, then quite clearly our best course of action would be to withdraw and let the Iraqis sort this out.

Unfortunately the astute among us can see the problem with the above: all things are NOT equal. There ARE external parties influencing this debate to the cost of the individual Iraqi (and yes, that obviously includes the US – for we don’t want to see another Hussein).

Therefore the only reasonable answer is that we must stay until Iraq can defend herself from the external influences that are trying to impose their will on Iraqi society. And the idea that such a state was achievable in a mere 3 years – no matter what level of competence (or lack thereof) the current US administration exhibits is laughable. After all, one can argue that it took the United States nearly 100 years to sort out her internal ideas of what exactly the US was about anyway.

And Iraq hasn’t seen the equivalent of a million or so Tories taking ship and heading for points elsewhere because they lost.

Let’s give the Iraqis a chance, as we have seen what ‘pulling out’ does. No more boat people. No more Pol Pot simply because the alternative was ‘hard’. Nothing worth doing is ever easy. The people of Iraq are most definitely worth our best effort.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Irony I dub thee Islam

So. Let’s see if I get this straight. The Pontiff gives a sermon in Germany in which he quotes an Emperor of Byzantium – which was conquered by Muslims (Been to the Christian Church known as the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople lately? Hmmm) – and basically states that conversion by the sword, or Jihad, is not exactly a rational way of convincing someone of your viewpoint.

The response of the Muslim World?

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- An al Qaeda-linked extremist group warned Pope Benedict XVI on Monday that he and the West were "doomed," as protesters raged across the Muslim world to demand more of an apology from the pontiff for his remarks about Islam and violence.

The Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organization of Sunni Arab extremist groups that includes al Qaeda in Iraq, issued a statement on a Web forum vowing to continue its holy war against the West. The authenticity of the statement could not be independently verified.

The group said Muslims would be victorious and addressed the pope as "the worshipper of the cross" saying "you and the West are doomed as you can see from the defeat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and elsewhere. ... We will break up the cross, spill the liquor and impose head tax, then the only thing acceptable is a conversion (to Islam) or (killed by) the sword."

Islam forbids drinking alcohol and requires non-Muslims to pay a head tax to safeguard their lives if conquered by Muslims. They are exempt if they convert to Islam.
In Indian-controlled Kashmir, meanwhile, shops, businesses and schools shut down in response to a strike call by the head of a hard-line Muslim separatist leader to denounce Benedict. For the third day running, people burned tires and shouted "Down with the pope."

Protests also broke out in Iraq, where angry demonstrators burned an effigy of the pope in Basra, and in Indonesia, where more than 100 people rallied in front of the heavily guarded Vatican Embassy in Jakarta, waving banners that said the "Pope is building religion on hatred."

The pope on Sunday said he was "deeply sorry" about the angry reaction to his speech last week in which he cited the words of a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of Islam's Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman" and referred to spreading Islam "by the sword."

Benedict said the remarks came from a text that didn't reflect his own opinion.

"I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect," he said during his weekly appearance before pilgrims in Italy.

The statement of regret -- the pope's second in two days -- helped ease some tensions.

In Turkey, where outrage against Benedict's remarks had been swift, Catholic bishops decided Monday that no changes were necessary in his upcoming visit in November -- his first to a Muslim country, Vatican spokesman George Marovic said.

Marovic said the trip was expected to go on as planned, and the bishops had discussed the details of a religious ceremony the pontiff is to lead in Istanbul.

However, State Minister Mehmet Aydin, who oversees the religious affairs in Turkey, said he expected Turkish authorities to cancel the visit if Benedict does not offer a full apology.

"We are expecting the authorities to unilaterally cancel this visit. The pope's coming to Turkey isn't going to foment the uniting of civilizations, but a clash of civilizations," he said.

The secretary-general of the Turkish HUKUK-DER law association submitted a request to the Justice Ministry asking that the pope be arrested upon entering Turkey.
The appeal by Fikret Karabekmez, a former legislator for the banned pro-Islamic Welfare Party, called for Benedict to be tried under several Turkish laws, among them obstruction of freedom of belief, encouraging discrimination based on religion, and inciting religious hatred.

A prosecutor in the ministry will evaluate the request and decide whether to open a case.

Angry reactions also persisted in other corners of the Muslim world, where many demanded more of an apology by the pope than Sunday's statement of regret.

"Muslims have all this while felt oppressed, and the statement by the pope saying he is sorry about the angry reaction is inadequate to calm the anger -- more so because he is the highest leader of the Vatican," Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said.

Sit-ins at Damascus shrine

More than 200 Muslims staged a sit-in at a shrine in Damascus, Syria, heeding a call by the Damascus office of Iran's spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. A statement issued by the office urged the pope to "openly and plainly apologize for his remarks."

Protesters also rallied in the city of Muzaffarabad, in the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir. "His apology is not sufficient because he did not say that what he said was wrong," said Uzair Ahmed of Pasban-e-Hurriyat, a Pakistani political group.

Morocco's King Mohammed VI sent a letter to the Vatican in which he implored Benedict to show "the same respect for Islam that you have for the other religions," Moroccan media reported. Morocco withdrew its ambassador to the Vatican over the weekend.

Even in China, where the government exerts tight controls over religious activities, a top religious official said Benedict had insulted the nation's Muslims.

"This has gravely hurt the feelings of the Muslims across the world, including those from China," Chen Guangyuan, president of Islamic Association of China, was quoted as saying in an interview with the Xinhua news agency.

In the Middle East, where Muslims threw firebombs at seven churches in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the weekend, Christian leaders posted guards outside some churches.

"We are afraid," said Sonia Kobatazi, a Christian Lebanese, after Mass at the Maronite Christian St. George Cathedral in Beirut, Lebanon, where about a dozen policemen carrying automatic weapons stood guard.

Anyone else care to play ‘spot the irony inherent in the system’?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Lies, Damn Lies, and More Damn Lies

ABC News has released a compilation of some of the information gleaned thus far from the documentation captured in Iraq after the gulf war. I'm going to reprint their analysis in full, as the implications for the 'Bush Lied, People Died' argument should be evident.

In short, the documents translated so far quite clearly paint a pictuer of deceit, corruption and hostility toward the west. Once again, my thesis for this war has never been 'should we' but rather 'when will it happen'. War with Iraq was essentially unavoidable when we failed to remove Hussein from power in 1991. The only variable was the date.

March 23, 2006 — Following are the ABC News Investigative Unit's summaries of seven documents from Saddam Hussein's government, which the U.S. government has released.

The documents discuss Osama bin Laden, weapons of mass destruction, al Qaeda and more.

The full documents can be found on the U.S. Army Foreign Military Studies Office Web site:

Note: Document titles were added by ABC News.

"U.S. War Plan Leaked to Iraqis by Russian Ambassador"

Two Iraqi documents from March 2003 — on the eve of the U.S.-led invasion — and addressed to the secretary of Saddam Hussein, describe details of a U.S. plan for war. According to the documents, the plan was disclosed to the Iraqis by the Russian ambassador.

Document written sometime before March 5, 2003

The first document (CMPC-2003-001950) is a handwritten account of a meeting with the Russian ambassador that details his description of the composition, size, location and type of U.S. military forces arrayed in the Gulf and Jordan. The document includes the exact numbers of tanks, armored vehicles, different types of aircraft, missiles, helicopters, aircraft carriers, and other forces, and also includes their exact locations. The ambassador also described the positions of two Special Forces units.

Document dated March 25, 2003

The second document (CMPC-2004-001117) is a typed account, signed by Deputy Foreign Minister Hammam Abdel Khaleq, that states that the Russian ambassador has told the Iraqis that the United States was planning to deploy its force into Iraq from Basra in the South and up the Euphrates, and would avoid entering major cities on the way to Baghdad, which is, in fact what happened. The documents also state "Americans are also planning on taking control of the oil fields in Kirkuk." The information was obtained by the Russians from "sources at U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar," according to the document.

This document also includes an account of an amusing incident in which several Iraqi Army officers (presumably seeking further elaboration of the U.S. war plans) contacted the Russian Embassy in Baghdad and stated that the ambassador was their source. Needless to say, this caused great embarrassment to the ambassador, and the officers were instructed "not to mention the ambassador again in that context."

(Editor's Note: The Russian ambassador in March 2003 was Vladimir Teterenko. Teterenko appears in documents released by the Volker Commission, which investigated the Oil for Food scandal, as receiving allocations of 3 million barrels of oil — worth roughly $1.5 million. )

"Osama bin Laden Contact With Iraq"

A newly released prewar Iraqi document indicates that an official representative of Saddam Hussein's government met with Osama bin Laden in Sudan on February 19, 1995, after receiving approval from Saddam Hussein. Bin Laden asked that Iraq broadcast the lectures of Suleiman al Ouda, a radical Saudi preacher, and suggested "carrying out joint operations against foreign forces" in Saudi Arabia. According to the document, Saddam's presidency was informed of the details of the meeting on March 4, 1995, and Saddam agreed to dedicate a program for them on the radio. The document states that further "development of the relationship and cooperation between the two parties to be left according to what's open [in the future] based on dialogue and agreement on other ways of cooperation." The Sudanese were informed about the agreement to dedicate the program on the radio.

The report then states that "Saudi opposition figure" bin Laden had to leave Sudan in July 1996 after it was accused of harboring terrorists. It says information indicated he was in Afghanistan. "The relationship with him is still through the Sudanese. We're currently working on activating this relationship through a new channel in light of his current location," it states.

(Editor's Note: This document is handwritten and has no official seal. Although contacts between bin Laden and the Iraqis have been reported in the 9/11 Commission report and elsewhere (e.g., the 9/11 report states "Bin Ladn himself met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in Khartoum in late 1994 or early 1995) this document indicates the contacts were approved personally by Saddam Hussein.

It also indicates the discussions were substantive, in particular that bin Laden was proposing an operational relationship, and that the Iraqis were, at a minimum, interested in exploring a potential relationship and prepared to show good faith by broadcasting the speeches of al Ouda, the radical cleric who was also a bin Laden mentor.

The document does not establish that the two parties did in fact enter into an operational relationship. Given that the document claims bin Laden was proposing to the Iraqis that they conduct "joint operations against foreign forces" in Saudi Arabia, it is worth noting that eight months after the meeting — on November 13, 1995 — terrorists attacked Saudi National Guard Headquarters in Riyadh, killing 5 U.S. military advisers. The militants later confessed on Saudi TV to having been trained by Osama bin Laden.)

"Osama bin Laden and the Taliban"

Document dated Sept. 15, 2001

An Iraqi intelligence service document saying that their Afghan informant, who's only identified by a number, told them that the Afghan consul Ahmed Dahastani claimed the following in front of him:

That OBL and the Taliban are in contact with Iraq and that a group of Taliban and bin Laden group members visited Iraq
That the U.S. has proof the Iraqi government and "bin Laden's group" agreed to cooperate to attack targets inside America.
That in case the Taliban and bin Laden's group turn out to be involved in "these destructive operations," the U.S. may strike Iraq and Afghanistan.
That the Afghan consul heard about the issue of Iraq's relationship with "bin Laden's group" while he was in Iran.

At the end, the writer recommends informing "the committee of intentions" about the above-mentioned items. The signature on the document is unclear.

(Editor's Note: The controversial claim that Osama bin Laden was cooperating with Saddam Hussein is an ongoing matter of intense debate. While the assertions contained in this document clearly support the claim, the sourcing is questionable — i.e., an unnamed Afghan "informant" reporting on a conversation with another Afghan "consul." The date of the document — four days after 9/11 — is worth noting but without further corroboration, this document is of limited evidentiary value.)

"Election Campaign Laws in France"

Documents dated July-August 1999

Correspondence regarding election campaigns in France. This includes a document from the Iraqi intelligence service classified as "secret," ordering the translation of important parts of a 1997 report about campaign financing laws in France. It also includes a document from the foreign minister's office indicating the report was attached. The attached translated report included very detailed information about all the regulations regarding financing of election campaigns in France. Translation was done by someone called Salam Abdul Karim Mohammed.

(Editor's Note: This is an intriguing document that suggests Saddam Hussein's regime had a strong interest in the mechanics and legalities of financial contributions to French politicians. Several former French politicians are implicated in receiving oil vouchers from Iraq under the U.N. Oil for Food program.)

"Hiding Docs from the U.N. Team"

Document dated March 23, 1997

A letter from the Iraqi intelligence service to directors and managers advising them to follow certain procedures in case of a search by the U.N. team, including:

Removing correspondence with the atomic energy and military industry departments concerning the prohibited weapons (proposals, research, studies, catalogs, etc.)
Removing prohibited materials and equipment, including documents and catalogs and making sure to clear labs and storages of any traces of chemical or biological materials that were previously used or stored
Doing so through a committee which will decide whether to destroy the documents
Removing files from computers.

The letter also advises them on how they should answer questions by U.N. team members. It says the intelligence service should be informed within one week about the progress made in discarding the documents.

(Editor's Note: This document is consistent with the Report of the Special Adviser to the Director of Central Intelligence, which described a pattern of deception and concealment on the part of Saddam Hussein's government toward the U.N. inspectors in the mid to late 1990s. Hussein halted all cooperation with those inspectors and expelled them in October 1998.)

"Al Qaeda Presence in Iraq"

Document dated August 2002

A number of correspondences to check rumors that some members of al Qaeda organization have entered Iraq. Three letters say this information cannot be confirmed. The letter on page seven, however, says that information coming from "a trustworthy source" indicates that subjects who are interested in dealing with al Qaeda are in Iraq and have several passports.

The letter seems to be coming from or going to Trebil, a town on the Iraqi-Jordanian border. Follow up on the presence of those subjects is ordered, as well as a comparison of their pictures with those of Jordanian subjects living in Iraq. (This may be referring to pictures of Abu Musaab al Zarqawi and another man on pages 4-6.) The letter also says tourist areas, including hotels and rented apartments, should be searched.

(Editor's Note: This document indicates that the Iraqis were aware of and interested in reports that members of al Qaeda were present in Iraq in 2002. The document does not support allegations that Iraq was colluding with al Qaeda.)


Aristides over at the Information Processor has a nice retrospective of the evolving memes behind the opposition to Iraq Sanctions following Gulf War 1. Anyway. Go read the press clippings yourself. And here is some further exposition from Wretchard at the Belmont Club. Finally, Mark Stein at the Jereusalem Post has some interesting thoughs that I think encapsulates much of what I've thought abotu Iraq for some time now.