Another Celebrity joins the anti-vaccine club

Following the leads of Jenny McCarthy, Mayim Bialik, and Kristin Cavallari, actress Alicia Silverstone (you remember her from Clueless) is jumping onboard the train of ignorant mothers who eschew vaccinations for their kids because they think they know better than the scientists.

In her new book The Kind Mama, Silverstone writes that vaccines are not necessary:

According to Drs. Roizen and Oz, if your child gets the entire panel of recommended vaccines, that means she’s getting 32 shots over 6 years and being injected with 113 vaccine antigens. That’s three times as many as what was recommended 20 years ago, and it’s a lot of chemicals going into your child’s body (including aluminum and formaldehyde!). While there has not been a conclusive study of the negative effects of such a rigorous one-size-fits-all, shoot-’em-up schedule, there is increasing anecdotal evidence from doctors who have gotten distressed phone calls from parents claiming their child was “never the same” after receiving a vaccine. And I personally have friends whose babies were drastically affected in this way.

Vaccines are a very complicated issue. And it’s a way too significant one just to rely on the status quo. The best thing you can do is get educated and make a decision that feels best for you. Then team up with a pediatrician who will no only help guide you but also support your choices.

For loads more information, watch Dr. Jay Gordon’s vaccinations webinar on his site, drjaygordon.com; read Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide by Aviva Jill Romm and The Vaccine Book by Dr. Robert Sears; and visit nvic.org.

So I guess Clueless is a pretty apt description…

“Anecdotal evidence” is an oxymoron. There has never been a statistically significant link found between vaccines and autism. Period. End of story. Just because your friend had something weird happen doesn’t mean the scientific establishment has it all wrong.
There’s more formaldehyde in a single apple than there is in a single vaccine. (Phil Plait wrote in Slate that vaccines “contain far too small a dose of any of these [toxins] to cause any of the problems [Jenny] McCarthy and other anti-vaxxers claim exist.”)

Vaccines are not “complicated” at all. It’s very simple, actually. Get your kids vaccinated. That’s it. They stay safe. We all stay safe.
Making a decision that “feels best for you” is fine… when it comes to furniture and your dinner plans. But no one should be working off their gut when it comes to preventing measles and whooping cough. It sounds powerful when someone tell you you’re doing that whole parenting thing right — You have good maternal instincts! — Still, it’s no excuse to put your child in harm’s way because you believe any nonsense a celebrity mom tells you.

And what sort of logic is there in deciding what the best medical route is for your child is and then finding a doctor who’ll confirm your beliefs? That’s absolutely the wrong way to pick a medical professional! What else does Silverman advise? Wanna lose weight? Just gain 20 pounds and find a physical trainer who’ll tell you you’re doing it right!

The book’s title may be the biggest joke of all. “Kind mamas” don’t put their children — and other children — at risk because of unfounded, unscientific, unproven beliefs about what vaccines supposedly do. They listen to the experts, the vast majority of whom suggest you get your kids vaccinated.

There are people on the fringe in every group. Just because a few scientists don’t accept evolution doesn’t mean there’s a debate to be had. Just because a few scientists don’t accept man-made climate change doesn’t mean we should wait to act on it. And just because a few scientists reinforce your faulty thinking about vaccines doesn’t mean you should spread the word to mothers everywhere that vaccinations are just a personal decision and it’s perfectly fine if your kids roam free without them.

What Silverstone is doing isn’t just wrong, it’s dangerous. Anyone interviewing her for this book, or going to one of her book signings, or writing a review about the book on Amazon should hold her feet to the fire over this issue. Don’t let her get away with saying this unscientific, harmful bullshit.

Think of the children.

That’s what responsible parents would do if they had a clue.

The Gay Debate

Two years ago, Matthew Vines stepped into a Wichita, Kansas church and spoke at length about why Christianity was perfectly compatible with homosexuality, if only people would give it a chance. He came to this conclusion after taking a two-year leave of absence from college and educating himself on what biblical scholars had to say about the issue:

Whether you agree with him or not, his stance is one that a lot of younger evangelicals have already accepted, and that’s one reason his video went so viral in Christian circles. It’s hardly surprising, then, that he was offered a book deal from a Christian publisher.

Next states to legalize weed

For the first 4/20 ever, people will gather in Colorado this weekend to show support for fully legal marijuana. Just months after the state opened its doors to recreational pot, crowds will head to events on Sunday like the sold-out Cannabis Cup, all to celebrate a plant that brought Colorado $14 million in taxed sales in January alone. Colorado’s example has served as a promising sign that legal marijuana can be a strong source of income for other states interested in scaling back harsh anti-pot laws and listening to voters, who have increasingly shown support for legalizing marijuana.

Taxed and regulated marijuana is coming soon to Washington state, which along with Colorado passed a legalization measure at the polls during the 2012 general election. And with Attorney General Eric Holder now willing to admit that he is at least “cautiously optimistic” about the groundbreaking laws, marijuana policy reformers in other states are looking more intently at the best way to proceed.

The momentum is on marijuana’s side. It has the forces of capitalism behind it — one study has predicted that the industry could do as much as $8 billion in annual sales by 2018, and there are some signs that the federal government may be ready to help normalize the marijuana business. Legalization is also becoming widely accepted as a social justice issue. Advocates have become increasingly vocal, arguing that it makes no sense to continue treating pot as a Schedule I substance, considered by federal authorities alongside heroin and LSD. In a drug war-obsessed nation that already incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other in the world, around 750,000 people are arrested for marijuana each year, with more than 650,000 of them for possession alone.

For opponents who believe marijuana is damaging to the mind and body, these stats appear to be of less importance. And while supporters of marijuana continually cite the comparative effects of weed and alcohol, or counter anti-pot studies with emerging research that has supported the drug’s therapeutic qualities, one thing remains certain: Objective, conclusive scientific research into the effects of marijuana will continue to remain discouraged until the federal ban on the substance is lifted or relaxed.

While debates on marijuana’s health effects should and will continue even beyond the next wave of legalizations, it’s clear that the floodgates have already been broken. More states will legalize marijuana, and some will do it relatively soon. In states around the nation, pro-pot legislators bolstered by public opinion and the examples set by Colorado and Washington are putting the once-taboo issue before their colleagues, hoping to become the first state to legalize legislatively. Activists are also making the push, working to get the issue before voters in 2014 and beyond.

Here’s the likely road ahead for legal marijuana:

Alaska

Alaskans will have the first chance to make their state the third to legalize pot. A ballot measure to tax, regulate and legalize weed for adult recreational use will appear on the primary election ballot on Aug. 19, the earliest date of any states. Anti-marijuana groups are hoping to keep it from passing.

Pot has already been decriminalized and legalized for medical use in Alaska. A survey of Alaska voters taken earlier this year by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found that 55 percent supported legalizing marijuana.

Arizona

While hopes for a successful push on legal weed in 2014 may be dwindling, pro-pot organizers have expressed optimism that they’ll have a strong campaign for the state ready ahead of 2016. Efforts are underway to gather the required 259,213 signatures needed by July in order to get the legalization issue on the 2014 ballot — but without serious financial backing, it’s looking unlikely. Activists with the influential Marijuana Policy Project have said they’re on board with a forthcoming ballot initiative to fully legalize the drug in 2016, when more voters will likely turn out for the general election. The group has also said that by then, they’ll have had enough time to figure out which aspects of previous efforts have been successful in other states.

Cannabis was legalized in the state for medical use in 2010 by ballot initiative. A poll taken earlier this year found that 51 percent of Arizonans supported legalizing recreational marijuana sales.

California

A statewide initiative to legalize recreational marijuana failed in California in 2010, but reformers have expressed hope at finding success in 2014 and beyond. Activists gave up on a major petition effort earlier this year that would have put the issue of legalization to voters in November. There have also been efforts to gather support for the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative, though they lack the financial support other proposals had. While the momentum is certainly in favor of legalization in California, some prominent figures have urged organizers to wait until 2016, when demographics and voter turnout will be even more in their favor.

Cannabis has already been decriminalized and legalized for medical use in California. Multiple polls taken last year found a majority of Californians in favor of legalizing pot, with one longstanding poll showing such support for the first time in 45 years of surveying the issue.

Delaware

Delaware only recently took steps to begin implementing a system for medical marijuana, but activists with MPP believe the state Legislature could push forward on a broader legalization bill. Delaware also doesn’t have citizen ballot initiatives, so any such effort will need to come from state lawmakers.

A recent poll showed that a majority of the state’s residents would support such a move.

Hawaii

Lawmakers in Hawaii have considered a number of bills to both decriminalize and legalize marijuana this year — and killed them before allowing them to reach a full vote. Activists don’t have a citizen ballot initiative process to allow them to pursue legalization, so they’re hoping the pro-pot momentum will carry over to lawmakers in the Aloha State this year and beyond.

Hawaii has already legalized cannabis for medical use, and lawmakers recently passed legislation to improve the system. A poll taken earlier this year showed that 66 percent of Hawaiians supported legalization.

Maine

Bolstered by a November vote to legalize marijuana in Portland, Maine, pro-pot activists have announced the state as one of the top targets for legalization in upcoming election cycles. While initiatives to legalize through legislation have repeatedly failed votes in the state Legislature, MPP has announced plans to help coordinate a grassroots campaign to get a legalization measure on the ballot, though probably not until 2016. In the meantime, more communities appear ready to take legalization into their own hands.

Cannabis has been decriminalized and approved for medical use across Maine. According to a PPP poll released last year, 48 percent of registered voters in Maine believe pot should be legal for recreational use.

Maryland

Maryland recently decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana following efforts by state lawmakers, and while some see legalization as the next step, it won’t happen this year. A Democratic candidate for the state’s upcoming gubernatorial election was a big proponent of the decriminalization push, and has supported legalization as well. Maryland’s system only allows for referenda on already-passed legislation, so the state will have to rely on state lawmakers for action on marijuana.

Maryland has also passed legislation legalizing cannabis for medical use. A poll taken this year showed that 50 percent of Maryland voters support legalizing marijuana.

Massachusetts

The deep-blue New England state is being eyed as a prime opportunity for legalization, with marijuana reform advocates pointing to high margins of support for previous pro-pot initiatives. Advocates with marijuana reform group Bay State Repeal have already begun laying the initial groundwork in order to begin coordinating a campaign to legalize pot via ballot initiative in 2016. A bill to legalize has also been submitted in the state Legislature, and is scheduled to have a hearing later this month.

Massachusetts has decriminalized cannabis, and just last November passed a ballot measure legalizing it for medical use. Recent polls have support for legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis hovering around 50 percent.

Montana

Montana has had a checkered history with marijuana laws. Voters passed an initiative legalizing cannabis for medical use in 2004, but opponents have since taken various steps to amend the measure or repeal it altogether. Reform advocates remain hopeful that voters will support full legalization, with MPP announcing plans to support a statewide effort to legalize at the ballot in 2016. Pot reformers wasted no time following the 2012 election, filing a ballot question aiming to put the issue before voters in 2014. They later dropped the effort for this cycle.

There are no recent statewide surveys to gauge current support for pot legalization in Montana, though previous polls have showed a majority of Montana voters supporting the decriminalization of marijuana.

Nevada

Marijuana advocates in Nevada are organizing an effort to force a vote on legalization as early as 2015. If that isn’t successful, most organizers in the state and at the national level see 2016 as the best chance for a push. The liberal bent of the state makes it a popular target for reformers.

Nevada has legalized medical cannabis, and last year the state passed a measure establishing a dispensary system to help increase access for sick citizens. According to a recent poll, 56 percent of Nevadans would favor legalizing cannabis for recreational use if the money raised went to fund education.

New York

Marijuana advocates have expressed hope that New York could become the third state to legalize marijuana, and perhaps the first to do it through legislation, though support for such measures has so far been minimal. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) recently came out in favor of efforts to loosen marijuana laws, though he has been hesitant to show support for a popular medical marijuana bill moving through the state Legislature. The governor has also announced a set of executive actions to give seriously ill patients access to marijuana. New York has no system for citizen ballot initiatives.

New York has already decriminalized cannabis possession, though harsh penalties still exist for anybody found using it in a public place or showing it in public view — a loophole that pot reformers claim has been abused by law enforcement. A 2013 poll showed 82 percent of New Yorkers in support of medical marijuana statewide, and one taken earlier this year showed 57 percent in support of legalization.

Oregon

Marijuana legalization advocates in Oregon began by approaching the issue from two sides, both pushing for a ballot initiative and lobbying state lawmakers for legislative action. The latter route appears to have failed for now. An earlier legalization effort, which was poorly coordinated and widely mocked inside the state, failed in 2012. Organizers knew there was plenty of room for improvement, and they believe they’ve found it with New Approach Oregon, a group supported by high-profile national donors that is seeking to see their legalization measure put into law and recently began collecting signatures. Two more legalization initiatives are also being pushed by Paul Stanford, a prominent marijuana business owner. Read more about the specifics here.

Oregon has already decriminalized cannabis and legalized it for medical use. According to a poll taken last year, 57 percent of likely voters in Oregon support a proposal to tax, regulate and legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Rhode Island

Marijuana advocates had high hopes that Rhode Island would be one of the first in the next round of states to legalize. Because it has no citizen-initiated ballot process, Rob Kampia, the executive director of MPP, said last year that lawmakers in the state could undertake the effort. Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D) has appeared somewhat open to the idea, and pot reformers were confident that a push this year would be different than the last. Earlier this month, however, lawmakers killed a set of bills before they could get out of committee.

Rhode Island recently decriminalized marijuana and passed legalized medical cannabis around 2007. A PPP poll taken in January found that 52 percent of voters in the state support legalizing pot for recreational use.

Washington, D.C.

Yes, we know that D.C. isn’t a state. It’s already taxed without representation, so it certainly doesn’t need your snark about it. But either way, the District is set to decriminalize marijuana, pending approval from a congressional panel on a recently passed bill. Marijuana activists have also gotten the go-ahead to begin collecting signatures to get a legalization initiative on the November ballot.

D.C. has already legalized cannabis for medical use and is expected to approve a bill to decriminalize the substance. A survey taken earlier this year found that 63 percent of the District’s residents supported legalizing marijuana.

Vermont

Vermont has made strides to scale back marijuana prohibition over the past few years, with a successful measure to decriminalize and a separate bill to establish a system of dispensaries for the state’s medical cannabis patients. Observers have seen the state’s strong support for the reelection of Gov. Peter Shumlin (D), an advocate for marijuana reform, but not outright legalization, as a sign that voters could be ready to legalize. Another Northeastern state without a citizen-initiated ballot process, Vermont will have to rely on this push coming from state lawmakers. Legalization bills have been submitted, though some preliminary efforts are currently being bogged down by disagreements in the legislature.

Polls have consistently shown Vermonters to be supportive of efforts to scale back prohibition of marijuana, but split on the issue of legalization itself.

Marijuana Revolution in the US

Earlier this week, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law a bill that revamps the state’s previously-stalled medical marijuana program. Even though officials say patients may not be able to legally buy the drug for more than a year, the legislation makes Maryland the nation’s 21st state to officially embrace medical marijuana.

Meanwhile in Colorado, where medical marijuana has been legal since 2000, state regulators are moving to shut down four medical marijuana business that were raided by the federal government.

 

Jesus Christ superstar

Ted Neeley captured viewers’ hearts in 1973 as the original lead in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and now he’s hoping to win over one more fan– Pope Francis.

Neeley is reprising his iconic role as Jesus four decades later in Rome, with a musical version of the hit rock opera. He told Agence France-Presse that the pope will be “just down the street and we’re hoping he’s going to come visit us and see the show. I think he’s a wonderful, wonderful man.”

Though the film was initially considered controversial by some Catholic groups, it later received the blessing of Pope Paul VI, according to AFP.

Director Massimo Romeo Piparo said that he was honored to have Neeley playing the part of Jesus. The musical will open on Good Friday, because “it’s an ideal show for Easter because it brings together lay people and Catholics.”

Neeley is excited to continue sharing the story of Jesus Christ, Superstar. He said, “It’s a wonderful piece. Children love it, they learn the story, they adore the melodies. We are all connected to this spirituality, it is magical.”

A vandalized sign in Wisconsin sends powerful message

The War on Christmas has transformed into the War on Easter. And just in time, too.

The conservative group Concerned Women for America (always furrowing a brow for Jesus) had placed a display in the Wisconsin State Capitol building this week that included a cross and anti-abortion literature.

So the Freedom From Religion Foundation decided to make the most of the Capitol’s apparent free speech party by getting a permit for and installing a sign of their own (albeit with different dimensions than the one below) that read “Nobody died for our ‘sins’; Jesus Christ is a myth”:

As you can imagine, some people couldn’t handle that:

Faith and Freedom Coalition Chairman Ralph Reed said that the sign is a form of speech, and he defends the right to free speech even when he finds it “repugnant.” However he said the sign is one of “contempt” and is demeaning.

“I would certainly hope that people would show more respect for and deference on this most high and holy week […] but unfortunately, Greta, we crossed that line a long time ago,” he said.

We can debate the strategy of such an aggressive sign, but the whole point was to provoke. Reed may want everyone to treat his beliefs with respect and deference, but his beliefs don’t deserve either. And if the State Capitol allows a display promoting one group’s point of view, they are opening to door to other groups’ displays as well.

To no one’s surprise, FFRF’s sign was vandalized yesterday:

A man wrested FFRF’s foamboard sign, which was securely taped to an easel, and violently mangled it in front of passersby. Capitol security was quickly summoned and gave chase, but the vandal got away.

“This crime, seeking to suppress dissent, is a lesson in the danger of injecting religion into the seat of state government,” [FFRF co-President Annie Laurie] Gaylor added. “We strongly object to CWA placing a cross in the rotunda — a symbol of the dominant religion and increasingly a symbol of political intimidation today. But if religious symbols and imagery are permitted, then there must be room for dissent.”

FFRF isn’t replacing the sign — they’re leaving it up so everyone can see what they have to deal with — but they taped a message to its top and bottom:

Why is this sign so mutilated?
Somebody, presumably somebody who disagreed with our message, tried to destroy our sign. Apparently, this person believes the Capitol is a public forum for Christianity only.
If you don’t think religious messages should be displayed on government property, join the club! We don’t think they should be, either. But as long as religious groups use the Capitol to proselytize, FFRF has a right to respond to their message.
Religion is divisive. It belongs in churches, not the State Capitol. Keep religion out of government.
FREEDOM FROM RELIGION FOUNDATION

If the vandal really hated the sign that much, there’s an easy way to get it taken down. Just get the Capitol Building to forbid displays from all religious/non-religious groups. FFRF would gladly abide by that. But as long as Christians are allowed to put up a display featuring a symbol that signals to all non-Christians that they’re going to hell, all groups that want to counter that message must be given the same opportunity.

Why the poor are poor and the rich are rich

WASHINGTON — Conservatives often say the poor and jobless got that way because of their own personal failings, but Americans tend to blame the plain old free market.

A new HuffPost/YouGov poll released Thursday finds Americans generally think both the rich and the poor ended up where they are more because of the opportunities they had in life than because of personal successes or failures.

But not everyone feels that way. Republicans are far more likely to pat rich Americans on the back for their hard work while blaming poor Americans for not working hard enough.

Among all Americans, 44 percent said they think poor people are poor mostly because of a lack of opportunities, while only 30 percent said it’s mostly because of their individual failings. More specifically, 47 percent said poverty has to do more with the fact good jobs aren’t available, while only 28 percent said it’s because poor people have a poor work ethic.

Likewise, 52 percent said most wealthy people got where they are primarily because they had more opportunities, while 31 percent said the wealthy just worked harder than other people.

When it comes to unemployment, 51 percent said most are trying to find jobs but can’t, while only 36 percent said most could find jobs if they want to. On the other hand, respondents were more divided about the long term unemployed. Forty-five percent said people who have been unemployed more than 6 months are trying to find jobs but can’t, while 41 percent said they could find jobs if they wanted to.

Democrats in Congress have been trying to stir up sympathy for the long-term jobless, nearly 3 million of whom have been missing out on unemployment insurance since lawmakers let the benefits drop in December. Congressional Republicans have not been moved.

While Democrats and independents in the new survey were more likely to think the rich, poor and unemployed got where they are mostly due to outside circumstances, Republicans in the poll largely said the opposite. They tended to think the poor are poor because of individual failings, rather than lack of opportunities (48 percent to 23 percent), and that they have a poor work ethic rather than good jobs being unavailable to them (49 percent to 21 percent). And 58 percent of Republicans said both the generally unemployed and the long-term unemployed could find jobs if they wanted to.

Republicans also mostly said wealthy Americans are wealthy because they have worked harder, rather than that they’ve had more opportunities, by a 50 percent to 31 percent margin. But even Americans with a household income of more than $100,000 a year in the new poll disagreed with that. Forty-nine percent of these respondents said the rich have more opportunities, and only 33 percent of them said they worked harder.

Research tends to show that Americans are more likely to be rich if they were born rich, but the idea that the poor and jobless could do better for themselves if only they’d try has always held sway with conservatives. Last month, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) lamented what he viewed as the welfare-abetted laziness of the urban poor.

“We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work,” Ryan said. “There is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

The official website of Ryan James Hite

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