A school board president abuses his position to promote an antivaccine movie

A science-based blogger's work is never done, apparently.

I'll show you what I mean in a minute. But first, I just have to make a simple observation. Pseudoscience, be it quackery, evolution denial, denial of anthropogenic global warming, antivaccine nonsense, or other forms of pseudoscience, apparently never dies. No matter how many times it's slapped down, no matter how often and how vigorously it's refuted, it always seems to rise again. In fact, I used to liken pseudoscience and quackery to zombies, but that's a bad analogy. After all, in most zombie lore (as told in books and movies) a head shot will take a zombie out and render it no longer a threat. Not so, pseudoscience and quackery. A detailed deconstruction of the false scientific and evidentiary underpinnings of quackery (i.e., the proverbial "head shot," if you'll allow me to use the metaphor) doesn't take out a bit of quackerry. Indeed, in the minds of its followers, a "head shot" seems to make that quackery strong.

In no area of quackery is this more the case than in antivaccine quackery. If there's one branch of quackery where evidence matters not at all and the lies are impossible to destroy, it's antivaccine lies. More so than virtually any branch of quackery, the antivaccine movement has its own dedicated propaganda machine that is very much like the Terminator. Listen and understand. Antivaccinationists are out there. They can't be bargained with. They can't be reasoned with. They don't feel pity (for the children they endanger), remorse (for the children who catch vaccine-preventable diseases because of the dimunition of herd immunity), or fear of anything other than vaccines. And they absolutely will not stop, ever, until medicine, science, and reason are dead.

I know, I got carried away, but the original Terminator movie still rocks after all these years. So sue me.

An example of this very phenomenon is the antivaccine propaganda movie The Greater Good. I and a bunch of other bloggers deconstructed the misinformation, pseudoscience, and lies that filled the movie like so much black hole matter packed at such a high density that no light of reason can escape that event horizon. Or, as I put it at the time in my review of the movie:

Orac, being a Tarial cell computer that is the most powerful and interconnected in the galaxy hidden in a cheesy Plexiglass box full of blinking multicolored lights, is able to withstand the waves of burning stupid that emanate from this film. It's total anti-vaccine propaganda, manipulative to the core and full of misinformation confusing correlation with causation.

As awful as the movie was, both from the standpoint of evidence, logic, reason, and science as well as its cheesily obviously manipulative construction, The Greater Good has somehow been picked up by a cable channel to run this month. Specifically, a cable channel that I've never heard of, Current TV, will be running this despicable piece of antivaccine propaganda on March 24 at 1 PM. In fact, here's the channel's webpage about the movie, which describes it thusly:

THE GREATER GOOD is a character-driven documentary that looks behind the fear, hype and politics that have polarized the vaccine debate in America today. Mixing verité footage, intimate interviews, 1950s-era government-produced movies and up-to-date TV news reporting, THE GREATER GOOD weaves together the stories of families whose lives have been forever changed by vaccination. The film re-frames the emotionally charged issue and offers the opportunity for a rational and scientific discussion on how to create a safer and more effective vaccine program.

Uh, no. Not by a long shot.

But it's worse than that. It turns out that, somehow, some way, someone claiming to represent a California school district is flogging this movie. How do I know? Easy. The antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism brags about it:

Our friends at Canary Party have posted an open letter from a California School district that encourages watching Leslie Manookian's balanced vaccine debate documentary titled Greater Good on Current TV March 24th. We invite you to do the same. Understanding the vaccine controversy will only help families make more informed decisions. Many will proceed with full vaccination per the current schedule, some will not. But here in America, we believe in sharing both sides of a story and letting the consumer decide. There are those people who would shut down any discussion of the safety issues associated with vaccination as if it is not an American right to understand a product before consumption. They call it "protecting" the consumer - it's not. It's censorship to protect the product and the industry that sells it. In addition, there are attempts across the nation to eliminate vaccine exemptions and tighten mandates. America is not a nation of mandates. Just as denying access to women's healthcare is a political football in 2012, so are vaccination healthcare rights, which is also a women's issue in that mother's typically manage their children's healthcare.

I must admit, the propagandists at the Canary Party and at AoA have become fairly skillful at tying their views to the "health freedom" movement. Reluctantly, I have to tip my hat to them for their skill in trying to equate vaccine rejectionism to fighting the efforts of the Republican Party to restrict women's health care, making it harder for them to obtain contraceptives and imposing punitive tests upon women who seek to terminate their pregnancies. As is usually the case, vaccine rejectionists try to equate their embrace of pseudoscience and quackery with "freedom."

The disingenuously predictable tactocs of antivaccinationists aside, it's useful to look at what the Canary Party and AoA are touting. Basically, it's a letter by someone named Greg Marvel, who states that he is President of the Board of Education for the San Ramon Unified School District. The complete text of the letter is reproduced both at AoA and at the Canary Party website:


699 Old Orchard Drive, Danville, California 94526

Board of Education

(925) 552-2933 ⢠FAX (925) 838-3147 www.srvusd.net

March 16, 2012

To Whom It May Concern:

RE: Vaccinations and the Film "The Greater Good"

My name is Greg Marvel, and I am currently the President of the Board of Education for the San Ramon Unified School District. I am serving my third term on the Board. In addition, I have an extensive background in educational administration, having served in various executive and Assistant CEO capacities in various K-12 and higher education institutions. I retired as a Vice Chancellor from a large college system and now am President of a consulting firm with over 100 school districts as clients. The comments in this letter are solely my own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the rest of the Board of Education or my school district.

I recently had the opportunity to view the firm "The Greater Good" and found it to be very thought provoking. I am a strong believer in the use of vaccines. However, I also believe in informed consent for all parents. The tragic examples of the unintended consequences of vaccines on some of our children are graphically portrayed in this film. However, it presents a balanced argument, with national experts advocating for universal vaccination, while others in the film present cautionary arguments.

I have personal experiences with the potential adverse impacts of vaccinations on young children. My daughter was given her recommended series of vaccinations as a baby and small child. Each time, she became seriously ill for several days. We were assured that for some children that was normal. No one ever outlined the potential long-term and permanent damage that some children experience from vaccination routines. Thankfully, the impact on our daughter did appear to be temporary and she went on to graduate with honors from high school, UC Berkeley and Columbia University Law School. However, this film clearly outlines examples where the consequences were much more serious and long-term.

Parents should be encouraged to examine all the issues surrounding vaccinations and make an informed decision about what is best for their children. For many if not most parents, the decision to proceed will prove to be the right one. However, it is important that parents fully investigate and understand the benefits and the risks associated with the current recommended vaccinations and their opt out rights under their respective "mandatory" state vaccination laws. I see this film as a starting point for each viewer to begin the discussion within their own families about the benefits and risks associated with vaccinations, and thus strongly recommend that every parent watch this film.

Greg A. Marvel
President, Board of Education

The first thing I wondered when I saw this letter is whether it is ethical for the president of a school board to send such an open letter out on school board stationery, in essence, promoting his personal antivaccine views using the imprimatur of his position as president of his school board to promote an antivaccine movie. To me at least, the answer is obviously no. Marvel's behavior is profoundly unethical and potentially dangerous to the students with whose education and safety he is entrusted. Of course, given the quality of a depressingly large number of school board members all over the nation, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that one is doing something like this. Moreover, Marvel's disclaimer strikes me as completely disingenuous and unconvincing, particularly given that he sent this letter out on school board stationery, meaning that at minimum, he used school board paper. It wouldn't surprise me if he used school board secretarial staff and postage as well, but I don't know that for sure. If he really wanted to distance his personal views from those of the school board, he should have published this letter using his own personal resources, not written it on school board stationery, not used the school board address, and not signed his name as the president of the school board. He's trying to have it both ways here, linking his view with the authority of the school board while trying to claim that's not what he's doing.

The only question I have is whether Marvel is just naive and ignorant about the antivaccine movement, so much so that he can't see through the obvious antivaccine propaganda in The Greater Good, or whether he's being disingenuous and is really an antivaccine loon. I don't know the answer to that one, but he uses a lot of the tropes of antivaccine loons. In particular, notice how he uses the usual disclaimer that antivaccinationists often use, claiming he's a "strong believer in the use of vaccines," while qualifying it by claiming that he's all for "informed consent." Here's the problem. The entire movie is what I would characterize as an exercise in what I prefer to call "misinformed consent." Misinformed consent is the name I apply to the phenomenon in which antivaccinationists claim that they are for "informed consent" but then do their damnedest to prevent any parent from wanting to give that consent by "informing" parents of hugely exaggerated risks attributed to vaccines based on misinformation, pseudoscience, and cherry-picked studies in tandem with claims that vaccines don't work, or are much less efficacious than we know them to be. Given that sort of skewed information unopposed by real science-based assessments of the real risk-benefit ratio, rational people who don't know any better will inevitably conclude that vaccines are too risky. That's the whole point. Misinformed consent is one of the most powerful tools in the antivaccine armamentarium.

I rather suspect that Marvel is not naive. After all, look at the scare quotes around the word "mandatory" state vaccination laws. Couple that with the blatant health freedom rhetoric (and, remember, "health freedom" is nothing more than the freedom of quacks from pesky government interference), and I strongly suspect that Marvel is actually being exceedingly disingenuous. If he's not, his critical thinking skills are clearly so seriously lacking that he shouldn't be leader of anything, much less the president of a school board, if he found such blatant antivaccine propaganda compelling and really believes it's telling "both sides" with each side weighted appropriately based on science and the evidence.

As I read Marvel's letter, a little voice in the back of my head kept telling me that something sounded familiar about his school district. Then I remembered. The San Ramon Valley Unified School District is not far from Berkeley, and the Bay Area is a hotbed of antivaccinationism. Whether San Ramon Valley falls into that category, I don't know, but the proximity is worrisome. One wonders whether Marvel shares in those antivaccine views or whether he's pandering to the large numbers of antivaccine parents who no doubt reside in or near his school district. Neither possibility reflects well on Mr. Marvel, who is woefully misnamed. I can only marvel (in a bad way) that the president of a school board could be so lacking in critical thinking skills that he can't see through the obvious misinformation in The Greater Good. Even worse, I can only lament that he is willing to use his position to promote a propaganda movie so blatant and so full of false "balance," in which misinformation and pseudoscience presented as being a legitimate counterpoint to the science of vaccines.

ADDENDUM: Liz Ditz has pointed out that one of our favorite bloggers from the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism is a middle school teacher in Marvel's district. This explains a lot.


More like this

Orac, I spent the better part of yesterday looking into this letter writer and confirmed the Mr. Marvel, is indeed, the president of board of the San Ramon Unified School District.

I also sent an email to the District's school superintendent, Steven Enoch, objecting to Mr. Marvel's personal agenda, written on school board stationary.

Mr. Enoch, via return email, requested my phone number, which I provided along with your blog that reviewed "The Greater Good" film, and he called me to discuss the matter.

Mr. Enoch stated he was unaware of the letter and that it certainly did not represent school district policy. I, in turn, provided some information about AoA, its political arm (the Canary Party) and their anti-vaccine activities.

Due to my involvement with many school boards in my State, I offered up my opinion that Mr. Marvel abused his office and should be sanctioned by the California School Boards Association:


Mr. Enoch will be speaking directly to Mr. Marvel about this letter and I will be following up, either at the district level or with an email to the California State School Boards Association.

I located this website for immunization rates for Contra Costa County, where San Ramon is located:


Rates for complete immunizations for school entry are (relatively) high for Contra Costa County, compared to some adjacent counties. I'd like to see that those rates remain high.

Specifically, a cable channel that I've never heard of, Current TV, will be running this despicable piece of antivaccine propaganda on March 24 at 1 PM.

That's where Keith Olbermann landed after MSNBC fired him. Just another demonstration that the antivax ouroboros is apolitical.

Current TV, which has aired some good television, has now thankfully closed in the UK before it got a chance to air this nonsense

@lilady - kudos for taking the time to bring this to the attention of the school superintendent.

Totally agree with Lawrence

Awesome stuff lilady - keep us updated on any developments?

Anyone know if anyone is doing a petition to have Current TV rethink their actions? (Or what anti-vaccinationists will surely label "censorship"?) Current was in part founded by Al Gore. From what I have read, he remains involved in its operations. Sad to see they wanted to promote the science of climate change then turn around and deny the science of vaccines.

look at the scare quotes around the word "mandatory" state vaccination laws

I don't read those as scare quotes. I think he's using quotes to qualify the term, the equivalent of adding "so called" to the sentence. He refers to the "opt out rights" (not scare quotes, merely showing where I cut and pasted from his letter) parents have under these laws; can it really be mandatory if you can opt out?

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 20 Mar 2012 #permalink

Thank you for blogging this. Mr. Marvel is just another arrogantly ignorant bandwagoner who is out of his depth with regards to public health. He has no business meddling in the affairs of public health and worse, recommending an insipid movie made by an anti-vaxx homeopath no less, hardly 'informed choice' there.

However, I take more exception to the fact that the State of California is so flaccid with regards to their response to anti-vaxx activity, for which they are the U.S. epicentre of. California has a critical mass of celebritricians and dim-witted, third-rate celebrities who indulge their massive egos in scientific disciplines they have absolutely no real knowledge of nor expertise in. If the State of California is going for the distinction of becoming the sentinel state for vaccine preventable diseases, they are well on their way. Sorry to harsh your buzz department of public health but it's high time you stop closing the barn door after the horse escapes and get proactive about these anti-vaxx, oops "pro-informed choice" dunderheads who are a threat to public health.


Perhaps the good folks at Women Thinking Free and the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign, with all of their experience organizing petitions, can get the ball rolling?

Well, I find that I managed to give the dictionary (or Wikipedia) definition of "scare quotes" in my reason that I didn't think those were scare quotes. Live and learn.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 20 Mar 2012 #permalink

*cough* Kent Heckenlively *cough* oddly enough, is a middle school teacher in the San Ramon Valley Unifed School District (SRVUSD).

For non-USians: School boards (in the case of the SRVUSD) the Board of Education are elected positions. The District Superintendent serves at the pleasure of the board, so it's a bit backward to be asking the Supe to discipline the Chair of the Board.

I did contact the director of the Association of California School Boards and asked him if Marvel's action was ethical or proper, as well as contacting a few other local folk.

Since you didn't ask:

For your use....


The Board of Trustees is a five person policy-making body which operates within the laws of the State of California and Contra Costa County. Each board member is elected for a four-year term; terms of office are staggered with elections held every two years.It is responsible for approving the district's budget and adopting all policies and curriculum. The authority of the Board is as a whole and no Board member may act as an official of the district except when the board meets in a regular or a special session. The Board of Trustees is elected to represent all of the people of the school district. In making its decisions, the Board is guided by what is in the best interest of the entire district.

San Ramon Valley Unified School District Board of Education Members

Greg Marvel, President
Ken Mintz, Vice-President
Rachel Hurd, Clerk
Denise Jennison, Member
Paul Gardner, Member


Greg Marvel, President
125 Clover Hill Ct.
Danville, CA 94526
Term expires in 2012

Ken Mintz, Vice-President
227 Ashley Circle
Danville, CA 94526
Term expires in 2014

Rachel Hurd, Clerk
9474 Broadmoor Drive
San Ramon, CA 94583
Term expires in 2014

Denise Jennison, Member
223 Marigold Street
Danville, CA 94506
Term expires in 2014

Paul Gardner, Member
P.O. Box 837
Diablo, CA 94528
Term expires in 2012

*cough* Kent Heckenlively *cough* oddly enough, is a middle school teacher in the San Ramon Valley Unifed School District (SRVUSD).

Oy. That explains a lot. I'd be shocked if Heckenlively didn't have something to do with turning on the apparently dim-witted Marvel to this movie.

"The comments in this letter are solely my own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the rest of the Board of Education or my school district."

Bull. Despite such a hedged, ambiguous disclaimer about the views of the rest of the board or district, this letter must be interpreted to be the official position of the board, the district, and especially his official position as president of the board. The letter uses official San Ramon Valley Unified School district stationary and indicates it is from the school district Board of Education at the top of the page. He signed the letter, "Greg A. Marvel President, Board of Education".

If this is not the official position of the district or the board, it should not be on district stationary, it should not be signed "Greg A. Marvel President, Board of Education", and the disclaimer should be worded more clearly, "The comments in this letter are solely my own, and are not the official position of the Board of Education or the school district."

I don't know what other district resources he may have used to produce this letter (time, postage,secretarial assistance, etc) but by using official school district stationary, he has misappropriated district resources for his own personal use and misrepresented the official position of the BOE and district.

This is a case where something can be done to combat the woo, and cheers to Orac and lilady.

Great job Liz and Lilady. The last thing CA needs is less vaccination.

I noticed the sneer quotes around "mandatory" as well. With those two pieces of punctuation, Marvelous Marvel revealed his hand for all to see.

Lilady and Liz: Woo hoo! Make that two woo hoos! Each!

If we follow the twisted path ( that echoes their twisted ratiocination) you'll find that H( in a particular position) inveigles M ( who has a higher position) to show the film. Somehow the film is taken up as a *documentary* on a channel that is widely seen.

Woo-networking is sickenly familiar to me because of the idiots I survey. They use personal connections, trade on names ( one new star in the anti-vax firmament has a father who is a respected news anchor) and beseech their followers to follow suit: on facebook, twitter, other media, in RL to 'get the word out'.The next step involves barraging political reps with calls and e-mails. *Documentaries* are being made by wannabe visonaries and iconoclasts intended to be shown at schools, universities, tv channels et al. They want to get these ideas into educational facilities. If you look at websites I survey you'll see lists of self-made "documentaries" complimented by lists of awards from independent film festivals. One even shows his crap on public tv pledge drives in smaller markets.

It generates an appearance of mass acceptance of their odd ideas while they pick up a few converts here and there.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 20 Mar 2012 #permalink

@ Liz Ditz and the RI Regulars: You are amazing Liz and have been very busy this past weekend.

I just sent the SkewedDistribution link to Mr. Enoch, School Superintendent and requested a time frame for the retraction of that letter, by Mr. Marvel.

IANAL...but I checked legal opinions about school board members' sanctions at the California School Board Association. There definitely are legal precedences concerning cases that deal with a school board member that has either stated publicly...or written a letter, that misrepresents the position of the school board. In fact, the Association has sent amici curiae briefs to various California courts, supporting the ability of a board of education to sanction the person who misrepresented school board policy.

Here is the breakdown of immunization rates for each elementary school within the San Ramon Unified School District:


@ Lilady and Liz:
Woo Hoo! ( I also have a comment in mod on this recent development and woo-networking) More bad is one the way!

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 20 Mar 2012 #permalink

@Sid - why do you even care? You don't believe in the public school system.

CurrentTV has a feedback section of their website. It's not exactly a petition but if you want to tell them what you think about them spreading anti-vaccine misinformation and tell them you are going to cancel your subscription then...


By LibrarianSarah (not verified) on 20 Mar 2012 #permalink

Did you tell school superintendent, Steven Enoch that you are an insane vaccine zealot?

Wow Sid, using the system in an above board manner, unlike your anti-vaxx colleagues who game the system and abuse their authority like Marvey Marvel and that is your response? You just encouraged me to contact Mr. Enoch myself. Congratulations.

Sid @21

Good luck with that whole name-calling thing. Perhaps it works for you on some juvenile, purely emotional level?

Robby, sweetheart... what the hell are you talking about?

FYI: CurrentTV feedback page currently thrashed from overload. Please keep trying... I know I am.

@Sid - god forbid we should point him to, you know, actual evidence and facts, as opposed to the BS that the anti-vax crew routinely puts on display.

You can't even point to any real evidence to support your position there Robert, besides your own libertarian philosophy.

Anarchist, you mean. Most libertarians don't buy such drivel.

Sid/Richard's basing health care decisions on a political philosophy is like basing scientific research on the Bible....both make as much sense as a load of manure.

Oooooh it gets more complicated! And fun! I'm including Rep. Pan's address so you can all write to him and tell him how awesome it is that he's protecting California's public health, especially vulnerable children. BTW, Pan is an MD -- I think a pediatrician.

I have it on good authority that the anti-vaxxers ARE flooding Pan's office, and the offices of the other sponsors, with, well, the usual.

Request that Assemblyman Pan Withdraw AB2109
Written by The Canary Party
Thursday, 15 March 2012 00:00
California State Assemblyperson Richard Pan
Capitol Office:
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0005
Tel: (916) 319-2005
Fax: (916) 319-2105
District Office:
Sacramento State University
Modoc Hall, Suite 1009
3020 State University Drive East
Sacramento, CA 95819
Tel: (916) 452-0505
Fax: (916) 452-5525
Dear Assemblyperson Pan,
I represent the California members of the Canary Party, a political action committee dedicated to health freedom and choice in medicine.

Our members vehemently oppose AB2109.

All 5 of them

AB2109 would require parents who wish to exercise their philosophical exemption rights to first consult with a medical practitioner. This is an unnecessary intrusion into the rights of parents.

Parents currently have the option of the Philosophical Exemption Law (also referred to as the Personal Belief Exemption), which ensures they do not have to vaccinate their children if it is against "their personally held beliefs". Personally held beliefs include religious and spiritual beliefs, as well as conscientious and moral beliefs.

The state does not have the right to interfere with, question, add obstacles to, or regulate a closely held belief that is protected by law.

Furthermore, requiring parents to seek out and pay for a consultation with a medical practitioner is an unfair and unnecessary burden to families. Many families see alternative practitioners such as Naturopaths, Homeopaths, Chiropractors and Acupuncturists, who are not permitted to sign these forms under the rules of AB2109. Thus, these parents would be required to pay to see medical practitioners that they have already chosen not to use. This is an offensive and costly intrusion into their lives, and a violation of their right to make their own medical and healthcare decisions.

This law will create an unfair financial burden to families at a time when few can afford any additional expenses. Numerous resources exist regarding the risks and benefits of vaccines, and about infectious diseases, and are readably available in libraries and on the internet at no cost. Parents should not be forced to seek out additional and unnecessary medical coercion forced upon them by the state.

In closing, we believe this bill is a tactic being initiated by pharmaceutical and medical lobbyists, who have made substantial contributions to CA state legislators, to increase their profits without regard for the law, parental rights, parental beliefs, or the health and welfare of Californiaâs children.

We respectfully request that you immediately withdraw AB2109.

Sylvia Pimentel
California State Coordinator - Canary Party

Hey lilady, with your awesome research skills, can you find out how many people are members of the Canary Party?


Tell you what. When you post a reasonable argument as your opening comment in a discussion thread here, I will give $1 to the charity of your choice.

I received a return email from Mr. Enoch who did speak with Mr. Marvel about the letter.

At Mr. Enoch's suggestion I have emailed each member of the Board of Education, explaining my concerns about the activities of "virulent anti-vaccine websites" and the agenda of "their" Canary Party. I enclosed the links to the AoA website and science blogs that have reported on Mr. Marvel's letter.

Offal, Did you tell school superintendent, Steven Enoch that you are an ignorant, insane anti-vaccine zealot?

" some truths are self evident"

like the one that says sid is totally dishonest and uninformed when it comes to matters of science, integrity, and decency.

Sid/Richard is more than happy to sacrifice public health on his alter of political philosophy.

As long as it isn't his family harmed, he literally does not care what happens to anyone else.

Whoa whoa whoa. Did this clown actually say...

Wow. I've never seen so many threads full of this much crispy projection, delusion and general WTF insanity.

Lawrence@32: Your comment is entirely unfair to manure, which (unlike the things you compare to it) can be put to good use as fertilizer.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 20 Mar 2012 #permalink

Sid/Richard is more than happy to sacrifice public health on his alter of political philosophy.

Sacrifice? No, you only sacrifice things that are valuable. Recall: "What's bad for public health, is good for America."

Oh sorry - Robert / Sid....

I am a strong believer in the use of vaccines.

promoting his personal antivaccine views

I love how Orac sees "anti-vaxxers" around every corner.

"Hey lilady, with your awesome research skills, can you find out how many people are members of the Canary Party?"

The numbers of members is a closely guarded secret...here's a YouTube site with an interview in Las Vegas on October 18, 2011, with one of the "founders" of the Canary Party:


Ms. Larson "claims" > 4,000 members in 37 States and 7 countries. You know Liz, none of the wackos have the ability to tell the truth...about anything.

I love how Orac sees "anti-vaxxers" around every corner.

A strong 'believer in the use of vaccines', who nevertheless encourages non-compliance with routine childhood immunization--cognitive dissonance much?

Funny and fitting how the "Canary Party" named itself... If there were anything real to worry about the implication is that they would already have croaked.

By Jay Chaplin (not verified) on 20 Mar 2012 #permalink

Bob, it seems as though your knickers have gotten in quite the twist. I have also contacted Mr. Enoch and the State of California Department of Education. I am a professional scientist with the requisite education to comment on such matters (hint: it ain't a bachelor's in fire science). So proceed to call me insane as well as I also concur with Orac's assessment of Mr. Marvel as promoting an anti-vaxx agenda in spite of his proclamation to the contrary. It's not as though you anti-vaxxers never talk out of both sides of your weasely mouths anyhow.

Well, it's the first day of spring** in the northern hemisphere: be prepared for the up-coming offensive by health freedom advocates- for anti-vax is only one arrow- albeit the most flaming- in their quiver as they 'speak truth to power', dismantling SBM's monopoly. ( see also Adams' "Obama seizes control...." today @ Natural News). They have lots more planned.

Here are a few others:
protection of the supplement/natural medicine industry ( esp ANH- all locations, NN, PRN)
anti- GMO ( NN esp)
anti-fluoridation ( NN, PRN)
food freedom ( contra restrictions on raw milk etc) (NN)
anti-nuclear power ( esp PRN)
support for naturopathy, chiropractic, other woo ( health freedom) ( all the usual suspects- who display convenient ways for the like-minded to hook up with each other)

Lilady, 4000 isn't much but these people _know how to make their numbers appear much larger_ than they really are: look at facebook numbers @ the usual suspects' roosts.

** I picked two pretty flowers growing next to my building and felt like Nature Girl for 3 minutes- the feeling passed fortunately, not that I hate Nature- quite the contrary.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 20 Mar 2012 #permalink

Well done, Lilady and Liz!

the Bay Area is a hotbed of antivaccinationism

Hey, there are some science-based rationalists here! ...trying to tread water amidst a perfect storm of woo, admittedly. If I had a dollar for every instance of the naturalistic fallacy or 'Eastern Wisdom' I tripped over, I'd be a 1%er.

I know, I got carried away, but the original Terminator movie still rocks after all these years. So sue me.

Marc will find a way to sue you over that. Govern yourself accordingly!!

By Roadstergal (not verified) on 20 Mar 2012 #permalink

It sounds like from all this that you all neither read his letter nor have you seen the film. I highly recommend you do both and to foster a sane balanced dialogue about this vital issue.

Parents need to have the right to informed consent, and educators as the first point of contact with children who have health and learning challenges have a key role in making sure to explore all possibilities when working for child safety.

I highly recommend you do both and to foster a sane balanced dialogue about this vital issue.

Why do people like you assume that we must not have read the letter nor watched the movie because we don't come to the same erroneous conclusion as you? What makes you the arbiter of "rational balanced dialogue" when you fall for the bullshit presented in the movie as such?

Parents need to have the right to informed consent, and educators as the first point of contact with children who have health and learning challenges have a key role in making sure to explore all possibilities when working for child safety.

An educator is not a scientist nor physician and doesn't have the background to decide what is or isn't material for "informed consent". If Mr. Marvel was truly interested in such, he would have consulted with his county or state's public health department and provided the appropriate materials for parents, not recommend some brain-dead propagandist movie.

Dear CA @ #55,
Unfortunately, I have seen the film, as has Orac, and it is a pack of misrepresentations and flat out lies. Chris Shaw figures prominently with his "aluminum makes mice nuts" experiment, but no one bothers to talk about how it is regular and customary to use four hundred times his dose in mouse studies and no one else sees his results... Why? Perhaps it is because he injects in the scruff of the neck? What vaccine is administered at the base of the skull? None. Yet even that can't replicate his claimed data. Nope. The only way ayone has been able to replicate his data are to "miss" the subQ pocket and inject straight into the spinal column... Now, please tell me which vaccine is administered directly into the spinal column? None. If you let me do whatever kind of uncontrolled, unrepresentative, poorly documented and poorly described experiment I want I'm sure I could come up with something much more scary and inflammatory than a barely statistically significant semi-subjective behavioral marker. It is really a testimony to how inert alum is that with all that prevarication they still have such a wimpy result.

Yeah, if that's what passes as "sane balanced dialogue" and "informed consent" to you I have a bridge to sell you.

By Jay Chaplin (not verified) on 20 Mar 2012 #permalink

You know, I'm a little over the 'parents have the right to be informed/choose' argument.

How about children have the right not to get nasty diseases?

"You know, I'm a little over the 'parents have the right to be informed/choose' argument".

Me too, Meg.

"How about children have the right not to get nasty diseases?"

And, children have the right to have parents who do not medically neglect them, because they "opt out" of preventive vaccines.

And, developmentally disabled children have the right to be accepted and loved by their parents for who they are, and NOT be subjected to invasive painful procedures, chemical castrations, chelation and restrictive (unproven) diets...in an attempt to "cure them".

Lilady, I would add to that:
developmentally disabled children have a right to be accepted by society and live a life free of hate. They should not have their condition used to cheat other children out of their health by being labelled as poisoned, injured and be spoken of as once perfect but now damaged goods.

@CA (#51)

It sounds like from all this that you all neither read his letter

You mean the one that Orac cited in his post? The one that can be read in its entirety here, at AoA or at the Canary Party site? You mean that letter?

nor have you seen the film

Would that be the one that uses emotion instead of evidence to make its points? The one that has minute sound bites from legitimate physicians and scientists that are followed immediately by much longer, much more emotive stories of alleged harm from vaccines? That film? The one that Orac reviewed in depth (linked in his post)? The one that the New York Times panned? As did Variety and Slant Magazines, because the message was so one-sided and devoid of legitimate facts to back up its arguments? Would that be the film?

@Science mom

I am a professional scientist with the requisite education to comment on such matters

Is that what they call the people who clean out the rat cages these days? Professional scientist?

Applause for Autismum. Yes indeed. The language that AoA & the Canary Party use about their children leads to .... well, George Hodgins.

Fellow Californians, if you would like to let the Assembly Committee on Health know that you support making it as costly and time-consuming to get a philosophical vaccine exemption as it is to comply with the law -- that is to say, if you support AB 2109, here's the committee list with phone numbers and contact information.

Is that what they call the people who clean out the rat cages these days? Professional scientist?

Still way more science than you'll ever do or understand, Bob. It's been a while since you've brought anything of substance to this blog. I miss your little rants about "freedom this" and "freedom that" and "I'm a writer, look at me!". Now, it's all just insults. You've become "Augustine", and you don't even know it.

Is that what they call the people who clean out the rat cages these days? Professional scientist?

Awww, what's the matter Bob? Feeling inadequate these days? I hear there's a pill for that but I can't help you with your laughable educational credentials.

Sid/Robert - your attempts at putdowns have gone from plain lame to just pathetic. Might be time for you to pursue a new career.

Just FYI, the Canary Party has only 4,797 likes on FB.

The Republican Party: 134,066 likes on FB

The Democratic Party: 311,313 likes on FB

Americans against the Tea Party: 147,520 likes on FB

Age of Autism: 4,006 likes on FB

Ice Age Movie: 3,638,313 likes on FB

Hmmm. Fringe. Only about 5K core supporters. Orders of magnitude away from being an actual movement to be reckoned with.

By Broken Link (not verified) on 20 Mar 2012 #permalink

It's interesting that the airing of The Greater Good, and the letter from Mr. Marvel, come at a time when the California Assembly is considering making philosophical exemptions slightly harder to obtain (thanks Liz Ditz for the info!). I wrote a little about it at Harpocrates Speaks. And Liz has a nice post up about it with some good advice on her blog.

Orders of magnitude away from being an actual movement to be reckoned with.

I quite disagree for it's a movement all right.*

*Find your inner 10 year-old.

@ Broken Link:

FB: Mercola lists 249K and Adams 169K . PRN 4800.

Ani-vaxxers try to make their numbers appear larger by creating new groups and websites which have the same people as principals and attract the same audience. If you go through their founders & VIPs you'll notice overlap- it's a small set of die-hards. They then portray the set of groups as a coalition.

I suspect Adams' figures because he was supposedly a wizard in e-mail marketting software and I do recall problematic voting in an internet contest( the Shorties)involving him and Mercola that led to their elimination.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 20 Mar 2012 #permalink

Vaccine zealots try to make their numbers appear larger by creating new groups and websites which have the same people as principals and attract the same audience. If you go through their founders & VIPs you'll notice overlap- it's a small set of die-hards. They then portray the set of groups as a coalition.

Appropriate last names...?

Sid, you're more off it than anyone I know.

PS. You missed the word 'Anti-' from the start of your post. Apart from that, spot on.

Offal...why don't you run along, now. This blog is where the grown up intelligent people communicate.

Oh, and Offal, when we have need of your unique "expertise" for some advice about fire protection...we'll be sure to call our local fire department, instead of a "fire science" graduate from a 4th tier college.

"Fire science?"

Sounds like I missed something amusing.

"Fire science?"

Sounds like I missed something amusing."

Have no fear, I've located the blog where we weaseled Offal's "credentials" out of him, here, starting around post #75:


Further down, "Laura" a rather sanctimonious pesky troll appeared...and she called me and Chris "fascists".

Stick around Mark, this fascist will be glad to locate some of the *gems* for you :-}

Our resident trolls seem to follow the same trajectory in their posts - they start out posting what they think is damning evidence in support of their position, then when they are thoroughly debunked, they slide towards personal attacks and insults.....Sid/Robert has obviously reached that point, once you have no evidence or credibility left, it devolves into a schoolyard argument (I know you are, but what am I types of posts).


Nice to see that you are showing your true "libertarian" colors.

Thanks for the laughs.

Liz Ditz. What an appropriate last name.

Classy Bob, real classy. And if you didn't look like a big enough jerk, her name is pronounced Deetz.

@ Sid/ Robert:

Thanks for the compliment: stealing my prose illustrates your admiration.

More seriously: anti-vaxx groups use multiple websites/ action groups who are created by the same people- Blaxill come to mind. The Canary Party attracts the same crowd as AoA.

Vaccine advocates are not merely an internet group or a set-up political party but reflect the opinion of professional groups of doctors, scientists and governmental bodies concerned with public health. Altho' I realise that to anti-vaxxers, WHO, CDC, NHS, AMA et al all carry the mark of the beast. And if you read it in the Times( either one) or NEJM or BMJ, you shouldn't trust it.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 21 Mar 2012 #permalink

Thanks for posting the Canary lobby letter. I doubt a letter that claims the medical authority of naturopaths, homeopaths, and so forth unproven 'medical providers' are going to have much sway on a real MD. (I didn't go to EVIL medical school for 7 years to get called MR. EVIL!!)

:Looks down at sleeping infant: One month more till you can get your two month shots. Not soon enough. Thanks for fighting for the cause group.

@ JaneMD: There are several issues here:

The president of the Board of Education has misused his office, and misused the letterhead of the Board, to write a letter that is used by the Canary Party to advance the political agenda of that party. I didn't need Mr. Enoch to tell me that the letter does not reflect the Board's opinion; Greg Marvel, himself states that fact in the letter. This is a major no-no and he should be sanctioned by the Board of Education and ousted by the Board. There is legal precedence for these sanctions and ousting according to the cases I have read, available on the California School Boards Association website.

It would be bad enough if Mr. Marvel misused his office and the Board letterhead to support a mainstream political party, but he didn't. The Canary party is the political arm of all the notorious anti-vaccine groups (See the Blog Roll on their website):


Not only has he usurped the function of the Board of Education, he has misused his appointment to the Board to advance a personal anti-vaccine agenda.

California has liberal regulations regarding PBEs (Personal Belief Exemptions):


Do we need a renegade school board president to recommend to parents that they view a biased film that encourages more credulous parents to "opt out" of immunizations?

For years, during the time my kids were in school and for years afterward I attended school board meetings. I never recall any renegade Board member who ever misused his/her office. Is this man so powerful, that the Board is willing to provide "cover" for him?

How would you feel Dr. Jane, if the President of your local medical society, misused the office and wrote a letter of this sort to a political party that is a consortium of anti-vax organizations.

How would you feel Dr. Jane, if your fully-immunized children were students in the San Ramon schools and this anti-vax renegade Board president, was not sanctioned or ousted?

I'm new here; I've been enjoying your blog for a little while now, Orac, and thought it about time to say hello.

Back when I was a child, vaccinations were spread out. A parent would take a child in to see her physician quite a few times over a period of eight or ten years or so to get the various series of vaccines done. My mother sent me a copy of my childhood vaccine record a few years ago; it covers both sides of a 5x8 notepaper sheet, single spaced. (Back then they used live vaccines, too, which may have been one reason for spreading them out.)

I'm a strong advocate of vaccination; I understand the concept of herd immunity and want to see all children and adults protected as much as they can be. There is a selfish component to that as well; as a kidney transplant recipient, my immune system is somewhat suppressed and I would prefer not to be put at risk. I am fully current on my own vaxxes, as is Mr. Bilge Pump.

I've wondered for several years, however about the way kids are vaccinated with so much at once. Would it shut up some of the anti-science antivaxxers if the same vaccines were administered but in a more spread out fashion, as it was done when I was a child?

By Woo Bilge Pump (not verified) on 21 Mar 2012 #permalink

Welcome back Mrs. Woo!

I am indeed a different person than Mrs. Woo, a commenter whose name I had not seen in my so-far short time here, and apologize for any confusion my choice of name has caused. I'm a kayaker and chose this name because one uses a bilge pump to get rid of something unwanted sloshing around in one's (water)craft; it is an aspirational name.

lilady, I had not seen that. Thank you.

One reason I decided to de-lurk is my personal stance on SBM: Without it, i would have been cremated four years ago. There is no woo that can even attempt to replace dialysis or a kidney transplant.

By Woo Bilge Pump (not verified) on 21 Mar 2012 #permalink

@ Woo Bilge Pump: "ken" is grasping at straws here. He *assumed* that he had found someone/anyone who might support him.

Welcome aboard...please continue to post here.

Gotta go now...dear hubby is starving. I will catch you later.

Would it shut up some of the anti-science antivaxxers if the same vaccines were administered but in a more spread out fashion, as it was done when I was a child?

WBP, Those who want to vaccinate but are fearful are in a different group than who you refer to. Vaccine schedules are a "one size fits all" because the vast majority do just fine and schedules are designed for providing maximum protection when it is needed along with "catchment" which means increasing the likelihood of getting the most infants vaccinated in a timely fashion. It is a slippery slope for so-called experts like Dr. Sears who recommends a selective and delayed schedule that he really just pulled out of his nether regions. I believe that it is far more beneficial for individual physicians to work with hesitant patients than to try and adopt several different "one size fits some" schedules. As for the anti-science anti-vaxxers (a bit redundant), there is no convincing them otherwise and thus simply need to be countered with evidence at each and every turn and reduce the chance that they may influence anyone with their tosh.

Sorry Woo Bilge-
What F-----g idiot would ever suggest to replace dialysis. I am now undergoing
chemo and want to up my chances of survival..... I did post the Cancer Society's
Recommendations on another blog.....R.I.P David Servan- Schreiber

Would it shut up some of the anti-science antivaxxers if the same vaccines were administered but in a more spread out fashion, as it was done when I was a child?

No, it wouldn't. It has been explained to them that we get way less antigens and whole-cells today than we did then. It has been explained to them that the technology to produce vaccines (the quality control and quality assurance) is better by orders of magnitude than ever before. And it has also been explained to them that all of their "scientific" objections are shaky at best, frauds at worst.

So, no, they wouldn't shut up.

Quite classy fellow, that Robert Schecter / Sid Offit person. For the record, Ditz is my real, live last name. Had it since birth....since before "ditzy" replaced "dizzy".

Welcome, Woo Bilge Pump! I am not a health care worker, but for a lay person, I'm fairly well read in the literature.

One of the more accessible-to-the-lay-reader answers to your question of "why not space them out?" was written by Mark Crislip, an infectious disease MD: The Infection Schedule vs. The Vaccination Schedule. Another excellent article is Paul Offit and Charlotte Moser's The Problem With Dr Bob's Alternative Vaccine Schedule; a third is Addressing Parentsâ Concerns: Do Multiple Vaccines Overwhelm or Weaken the Infantâs Immune System? by Offit et al.

Hope those articles help.

Greetings Woo Bilge Pump,

I have a comment in moderation (too many links) giving you some reading material on, well, why the US immunization schedule is the way it is. Please come back and look for it; it should be datestamped March 21, 2012 around 8:34 pm.


On Monday we brought you a letter by Greg Marvel, School Board President, encouraging parents to watch, "The Greater Good." It seems that his letter has inspired another endorsement, this time by a school nurse:

Re: The film âThe Greater Goodâ
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Nancy Sheets, and I am a credentialed school nurse in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District. I earned my Bachelors of Science in Nursing from the University of San Francisco in 1980, and worked in medical/surgical nursing, cardiopulmonary and intensive care units, and home health case management prior to my employment as a school nurse and health educator.
As a health professional, I feel it is my responsibility to be informed regarding public health issues, current research, and policy that affects the health and safety of our children. This film raises some very thought provoking questions regarding the development of vaccines and vaccine policy. The information is well presented, and offers a well-balanced discussion of these issues. The viewpoints of individuals in the medical field who are strong advocates for current vaccine policy are presented, as well as the opinions and experiences of neuroscientists and physicians who raise pertinent questions based on their research or clinical experience in the care of children.
As a school nurse, I encourage parents to confer with their health care providers on many issues. Parents are continually making decisions that influence the health and safety of their child. This film can be an educational resource parents can utilize as they discuss immunization plans with their pediatricians.
Nancy Sheets, RN BSN PHN

In California "PHN" is a registered nurse who has advanced certification in public health nursing.

What an appropriate last name.

Does this mean that the fact that your self-chosen blog photo could adequately be described as "pig-eyed bullethead" is now open for kicking around?

@ lilady,

I think there is a little confusion here. I was saying 'good job' on exposing this horrible school board situation and thank you for defending vaccines. I'm not sure what you thought I was talking about.

The letter from the Registered Nurse is an abomination...and I wonder how she ever got credentialed as a PHN:


These are the criteria for licensing as a PHN according to the BRN (Board of Registered Nursing):

Public Health Nurse

The public health nurse is a registered nurse who has received a certificate from the BRN. He or she is an integral part of the public health community and provides direct patient care as well as services related to maintaining public health.

She has the chutzpah to claim "As a health professional, I feel it is my responsibility to be informed regarding public health issues, current research, and policy that affects the health and safety of our children."

I worked as a PHN, I actually cared for patients in public health clinics and I knew and worked with every school nurse in my County...and Sheets is not (IMO), qualified to speak as a school nurse or public health nurse (credit to Senator Lloyd Bentsen).

@ JaneMD: Apologies for not putting the smiley face at the end of my comment:-)

From the website of Current TV:
"THE GREATER GOOD weaves together the stories of families whose lives have been forever changed by vaccination"

Worth noting that anyone who failed to die of an infectious disease as a result of prior vaccination had HIS life "forever changed" too. Worth noting, also, that they outnumber the unfortunates in this movie, by a factor with an awful lot of digits in it.

Remember this somewhat persuasive (if not quite compelling!) point for next time?

"And, developmentally disabled children have the right to be accepted and loved by their parents for who they are, and NOT be subjected to invasive painful procedures, chemical castrations, chelation and restrictive (unproven) diets...in an attempt to 'cure them'.

Amen. My PDD-NOS daughter did have GI issues, but I went way overboard with restrictive diets, supplements, and other DAN! "treatments" in attempt to "recover" her. I'm grateful for this blog, SBM, Kim Wombles, The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism, Left Brain, Right Brain, and many other sources for helping me regain my critical thinking skills and to accept my daughter for the wonderful, goofy, and friendly girl she is.

I also live very close to the SRVUSD. Thanks for reporting on this.

By tangentgirl (not verified) on 27 Mar 2012 #permalink