Sunday, October 26, 2008


Paul Offit recently published his book on his belief that we have all been taken in by false profits when it comes to the potential link between the administration of vaccines and the rise in autism spectrum disorders. Predictably, the mainstream media has taken him very seriously, despite the fact that he has not actively diagnosed or treated autism. It’s enough that he is Paul Offit.

Of course, one part of the story feeding the media attention is the claim by Dr. O that he has been the target of death threats. I have no way of determining whether those threats actually exists, or if their existence is nothing more than the “victim’s” magnification of seriousness of the crap that all of us who have publicly debated this issue receive from one side or the other. I have said before that I find any personal attacks to be distasteful, and I gladly join in condemning threats of violence directed at anyone ⎯ even Paul Offit. Whether or not such communications are intended to be serious, they are potentially illegal and morally reprehensible.

No matter how sympathetic I might be toward Dr. O’s concerning the alleged threats made toward he and his family, however, I still find myself disgusted at his disingenuous arguments, and his cavalier attitude.

I have not read his most recent book, so I can only comment on what he is saying in his media blitz to promote the publication. But I would only be repeating the things I have written time and again because Paul Offit is saying nothing new. Instead, I’ll let someone else do the talking.

In connection with a recent fluff piece on Dr. Offit’s book, Newsweek posted a few videos on its website. In one, kindly Doc O talks about how sad it is that we’re all too dumb to understand science. In another, the blogger, Kristina Chew, explains why she does not believe vaccines had anything to do with her son’s autism. But Newsweek also posted the video I include below, consisting of an interview with Bob Krakow, a guy who gives lawyers a good name and who I am proud to call my friend. As always, Bob speaks for a lot of us, even when he is just talking about the singular experience of his own family.


Please see the comments section to see what Bob Krakow has to say about this video. As could be expected, much wound up on the cutting room floor, and there was also a lack of communication about the nature of the story.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Over at Age of Autism, Kent Heckenlively looks into the potential role that SV-40 (a/k/a "the monkey virus") may have played in the development and rise of a host of auto-immune disorders, including autism. It's a big question that has not been given much attention in the vaccine wars. Check it out here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I once was a fan of Denis Leary. He’s funny, irreverent, and often he’s pretty insightful. But now, it seems he doesn’t know the difference between “insightful” and “inciteful.”

It seems that Mr. Leary recently wrote a book with the provocative title, Why We Suck: A Feel-Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid. In it, he decided to include a chapter that could have been written by Michael Savage.

It has been reported that the book includes the following:
There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can’t compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks . . . to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don’t give a [bleep] what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you – yer kid is NOT autistic. He’s just stupid. Or lazy. Or both.

In a recent interview, Mr. Leary said he wouldn’t mind if his book tour would be picketed by Jenny McCarthy because it would help sell more books. I suppose that’s what it is all about. Spout out anything that comes to mind as long as it sells.

Maybe I wouldn’t mind if his ignorance was pointed in another direction. That’s my failing; I should be just as pissed off at any of his rants that picks unfairly at one group or another. I suppose I should be grateful. Mr. Leary has showed me something about myself that is a little uncomfortable. I can work on that. He’s also shown me something about himself, and I can work on that too. I can henceforth ignore Mr. Leary in all of his endeavors.


Within a half-hour of posting the above, I got a Google news update indicating that Denis Leary is trying to explain his comments. According to one story, Mr. Leary says that we all need to read the book so that we may see:
. . . the sections I thought made my feelings about autism very clear: that I not only support the current rational approaches to the diagnoses and treatment of real autism but have witnessed it firsthand while watching very dear old friends raise a functioning autistic child.

He goes on to say:
The point of the chapter is not that autism doesn't exist—it obviously does—and I have nothing but admiration and respect for parents dealing with the issue, including the ones I know," Leary continued in the statement he released today.

The bulk of the chapter deals with grown men who are either self-diagnosing themselves with low-level offshoots of the disease or wishing they could as a way to explain their failed careers and troublesome progeny.

Of course, this entire misunderstanding can be easily avoided simply by doing one thing — reading the book. Taking one or two sentences out of context — especially when it involves an entire chapter devoted to the subject — is unfair and ill-advised.

Fair enough. I haven't read the book. But assuming the quote from the book is reasonably accurate — not necessarily complete, but reasonably accurate — there is an obvious disconnect between what he wrote and what he says he intended. I'm not buying it.


Check out what Ginger has to say on this. Her post is thoughtful, balanced, and right on target.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Yeah, I’ve been away from blogging for awhile, but I haven’t been in a cave. The news lately has been overwhelming: the economic collapse (and I don’t think that’s too strong a word), the ongoing tragedy of the war we’ve found ourselves in, and in our little corner of the human race, the continued pronouncements that all is well and there’s really nothing to all this wild theory about a connection between autism and over-vaccinations (pronouncements that are empty of true backing when the basis is critically examined). And permeating everything is the trauma our nation inflicts upon itself every four years: the presidential election.

As has increasingly become the case with each election, it’s getting ugly. The mud that has traditionally been slung by surrogates in the print media and airwaves has now moved to the internet, where it has gotten way out of control. Because there are no checks or restraints on what gets anonymously posted on the web, any rumor can take on a life of its own and quickly be magnified. Where once we rolled our eyes at half-truths being spouted about one candidate or the other, now we have to sift through outright falsehoods.

Add to that the rhetoric designed to appeal to our prejudices. When times are perilous – and surely they are perilous now – the language of the debate begins to include those little code words that impugn the “other guy” because he or she is what he/she is.

The bitterness spills from the campaigns into the community a large. Recently the on-line autism community has gotten as ugly as I have ever seen it. What usually unites us now divides us, and all based on our perceptions of who is “our guy.” We dissect their stated positions and examine their past records viewed through the lenses of our own self-interest; and we buy so deeply into one side or the other that we fail to see the big picture.

There are two things we all need to keep in mind.

First, these are perilous times (I know I said that before, but it bears repeating). The issues our country faces are many, and all of the issues will have an impact on all of our lives. As deeply as autism effects my family, the economy and healthcare issues are almost as important to that concern (and other concerns) as who will support particular research on autism. And those of us with neurotypical children at or near military age all feel the anxiety of what our foreign policy may bring next. The world is larger than our little corner.

Second, acknowledging that autism is the number one issue in my family and possibly yours as well, we have to recognize that talk is cheap and good intentions don’t always translate into reality. Nothing will be accomplished for our families without action by both the executive and legislative branches, and arguably the judicial branch as well. And the only way that will happen is if we continue to stick together, concentrate on what unites us, and make our collective voice heard by whoever is in the Oval Office, and in Congress as well. We cannot count on politicians to be advocates for our children; we must fill that role ourselves.

I can’t help but believe that whoever wins will be a huge improvement over what we’ve had the last eight years. Like everyone else, I have preferences in this election. No matter what the outcome of the election is, however, we all have to recognize that our civic rights and responsibilities do not end when we step out of the voting booth.

Our democratic process belongs to us all: those who voted for the “winner,” and those who did not.