Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bye-Bye Olmert and Mofaz, Hello Livni

Yesterday's Kadima leadership elections could not have produced a better outcome. Tzipi Livni, the most qualified candidate, won, and the least qualified candiate, Shaul Mofaz, lost, albeit by a very small margin, and is now taking a break from politics. Good riddance. Don't come back. Your services will not be required. In fact, because of your service, many people will have to work hard to clear the mess you left in the army and the ministries of defense and transportation.

Tzipi Livni's victory without a runoff also brings Ehud Olmert closer to the end of his prime ministership and his political career. Now, by the time Attorney General Menny Mazuz decides whether to prosecute him for corruption, as the police has recommended, he probably will no longer be in office. Indeed, Ehud Olmert may not only be nearing the end of his life as a politician, but he might also be nearing the end of his life as a free man.

I must say I don't like Livni as much as I used to, but of all the people in Kadima she is the best person for the job of prime minister. She'd also be better than Labor's Ehud Barak and Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Radical Islam, Israel and Paul McCartney

Beatle Paul McCarteny is scheduled to perform in Israel on September 25, and anti-Israel groups are pressuring him to cancel the concert. They claim that by coming here McCartney is expressing support for Israel's policies. That's bullshit, or rubbish, as the Brits say. McCartney is playing for the audience, not for the government or IDF. He can come here and still stay neutral on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Political pressure is one thing. Now radical Islamic clerics have started threatening his life if he sets foot in the State of Little Satan. Omar Al-Bakri, an Islamic militant who was deported from the UK three years ago for supporting terrorism and plotting against the British government, has said that McCartney shouldn't come to Israel if his life is dear to him.

I hope McCartney doesn't cave. He should not let fear dictate where he will or will not go. I also hope that he'll take the necessary precautions to make sure the terrorists don't make an example to all the world's performers out of him. One murdered Beatle was too much as it is, and with John Lennon and George Harrison dead, if Paul McCartney dies too, Ringo Starr would be awfully lonely, and the amount of talent in the world would drop drastically.

Above right: Cartoon by Amos Biderman, Ha'aretz, Sept. 15, 2008.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

MMR-Autism Link Debunked

Today's New York Times editorial:

Ten years ago, a clinical research paper triggered widespread and persistent fears that a combined vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella — the so-called MMR vaccine — causes autism in young children. That theory has been soundly refuted by a variety of other research over the years, and now a new study that tried to replicate the original study has provided further evidence that it was a false alarm.

The initial paper, published in The Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, drew an inferential link between the vaccine, the gastrointestinal problems found in many autistic children and autism. In later papers, researchers theorized that the measles part of the vaccine caused inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract that allowed toxins to enter the body and damage the central nervous system, causing autism.

Now, a team of researchers from Columbia University, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tried and failed to replicate the earlier findings.
These researchers studied a group of 38 children with gastrointestinal problems, of whom 25 were autistic and 13 were not. All had received the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. The scientists found no evidence that it had caused harm. Only 5 of the 25 autistic children had been vaccinated before they developed gastrointestinal problems — and subsequently autism. Genetic tests found remnants of the measles virus in only two children, one of whom was autistic, the other not.

The new study adds weight to a growing body of epidemiological studies and reviews that have debunked the notion that childhood vaccines cause autism. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the C.D.C. and the World Health Organization have found no evidence of a causal link between vaccines and autism.

Meanwhile, the original paper’s publisher — The Lancet — complained in 2004 that the lead author had concealed a conflict of interest. Ten of his co-authors retracted the paper’s implication that the vaccine might be linked to autism. Three of the authors are now defending themselves before a fitness-to-practice panel in London on charges related to their autism research.

Sadly, even after all of this, many parents of autistic children still blame the vaccine. The big losers in this debate are the children who are not being vaccinated because of parental fears and are at risk of contracting serious — sometimes fatal — diseases.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Questions for Joe Lieberman

If I had a chance, I would ask Sen. Joe Lieberman the following questions:

  • What views do you share with Gov. Sarah Palin? Would you ever have voted for her if she weren't on the same ticket with John McCain?
  • If no vice presidential nominee receives the required minimum of electoral votes and the selection of the VP falls upon the Senate, would you vote for Palin or for Biden?
  • Had John McCain lost the Republican nomination, who would you vote for in the following general election combinations: Romney vs. Obama, Romney vs. Clinton, Huckabee vs. Obama, Huckabee vs. Clinton?
  • Had you not lost the 2006 Democratic Senate primary, would you have still endorsed McCain?

Friday, September 05, 2008


I had to get up early this morning, so I couldn't stay up all night to watch John McCain's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. I also missed CNN's repeat presentation of the speech. I can't say I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to watch it. After all, McCain is not exactly the greatest orator. The only Republican I'm sorry I didn't watch was his running mate, Sarah Palin, who got praise for her performance. I like good speeches even if I totally disagree with their contents and would never consider voting for the speaker.

Barack Obama is trying to link John McCain to George Bush. The truth is that other than on the issue of the Iraq war, McCain is not a Bush Republican. He is not a liberal Republican, nor is he as moderate as he'd like independent voters to think, but at least he is no evangelical nutjob. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is a Dubya-style fundamentalist Republican. Democrats should target her extreme conservatism in their campaign.