Sunday, January 25, 2015

This...



I was a Liberal voter at federal level for some time. I am not and never was a member of any political party, but I considered our low-middle-single-income family to be among "Howard's Battlers". I changed my vote when Howard turned toward hardline economic rationalism in his final year, and showed signs of acting against the interests of the working families he'd previously enticed to his side of politics.

I cannot vote Liberal at the moment. The gaping chasm of inequity that exists between the 2013 election promises and the 2014 budget policies is simply too much of a barrier for me to cross.

Problematically, I don't particularly care for Labor or Greens either but, as things stand, my vote would definitely favour them over an Abbott-led party or coalition.

Abbott has not earned my support and will not get it. After his massive about-face on almost every significant election promise last time around, he simply can't be trusted to honestly deliver on any policy promises in the future.

As far as I'm concerned, both Howard and Hockey should be dumped.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Petition to end petitions

This one has to be a parody...doesn't it?


A petition calling for other petitions to be banned - in the interests of free speech, of course.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Vaccination debate? I support Rydges Hotel.

UPDATE: It appears Rydges may no longer be hosting the anti-vaccine event.



I've been watching the Sherri Tenpenny conferences debacle unfold over the last few weeks and felt I had to add my voice into the mix.

To give you some background, in case you've been hiding under a rock, Sherri Tenpenny DO is an American anti-vaccination campaigner who was booked to speak at some "baby health" conferences in South Australia and along the east coast. Red flags were raised very quickly in the medical, scientific and sceptical communities with social media campaigns calling on venues to cancel the bookings and even for the federal health minister to cancel Dr Tenpenny's visa.

This naturally resulted in cries of "free speech" from Dr Tenpenny's supporters, but those cries have been largely drowned out by replies that free speech comes with limitations, and that child safety and community health outweigh anyone's free-speech rights.  The old adage "you can't shout 'fire' in a crowded theatre" has been given a very good work-out this month.

Others have pointed out that free speech is not a constitutional right in Australia but, frankly, I think that's a very weak argument since many of the people who point it out probably wish free speech was a constitutional right, especially when it comes to scientists being sued for defamation when they speak out against quackery. The lack of constitutional free speech is not really something you should crow about, even when it does work in your favour.

As a result of the social media campaign and mainstream media coverage, six out of the seven original venues booked for these conferences have cancelled their bookings, with some claiming they felt misled by the organisers when the bookings were made. The only venue to refuse cancellation to date is Rydges South Park Hotel in Adelaide who stated in a tweet it is not their place to censor conferences.

Long-time followers of this blog might be surprised, but I'm writing today to state my support for Rydges and to agree that they have a right to host whatever they want, within the law, in their hotels.

If Rydges Hotels want to host an anti-vaccination conference, that is their right.

If Rydges Hotels don't feel any need to act responsibly in regards to child health, that is their right.

If Rydges Hotels would rather keep a booking than risk upsetting anti-vax, anti-medicine, anti-science, anti-reality nutters, that is their right.

If Rydges Hotels are willing to risk losing future business in order to support the rights of people to spread misinformation about one of the greatest and safest life-saving procedures in history, that is their right.

If Rydges Hotels think short-term profits trump long-term community responsibility, that is their right.

Rydges Hotels is a business. It can do whatever it wants within the law. If it wants to trash its own brand by siding with science-denying-flat-earthers who risk the lives of babies through their spreading of misinformation, it has that right. If it wants to ignore the backlash happening right now on its Facebook page, Twitter account and on private blogs, it has that right.

Rydges doesn't even need to defend its position with arguments about free speech (which it tried to do, but failed, by linking to a free-speech opinion piece written by someone who it seems does not necessarily support giving a platform to anti-vaccine campaigners.). It has the right to remain defiantly silent and to allow sane and reasonable people to continue to condemn it publicly if that's what it wants to do.

Rydges is under absolutely no compulsion to even give a damn what anyone thinks about it as a company and, through its silence and apparent refusal to take action, it appears to be exercising that right. There is, as far as I'm aware, no law which states that businesses have to act rationally. Businesses make mistakes all the time. Some correct the mistake, some apologise for and correct their mistakes, and some figure it's worth riding the storm on the assumption all will be forgotten soon. Some close their doors.

So, if I may repeat myself, I support Rydges Hotel's right to make it's own decisions, no matter how stupid they appear to be in a world where community response comes hard and fast and loud.

Of course, I'm also here to state my support for the people who are publicly condemning Rydges for their irresponsibility and who are calling on the hotel group to cancel this event. These people are truly exercising their right to free speech and many will ultimately also exercise their right to vote with their feet and to refuse to support Rydges with bookings for conferences or hotel stays in future. Customers and potential customers also have rights, including their (non-constitutional) right to free speech.

In my opinion, if the Rydges Hotel group cares about its image at all, it should waste no more time in cancelling this booking. But I will restate my (largely irrelevant) view that they have a right to remain stubborn and drive their reputation into the ground, if that's what they want to do.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Natural, old-fashioned measles treatments

There is a saying that runs through the modern-day anti-vaccination lobby that goes along the lines of "in the old days, measles was considered a normal part of childhood and the best way to deal with it was to make your child catch it off another child."

I'm sure you've heard it. In fact, the idea is so ingrained, and so pernicious, that some people, today, even arrange "measles parties" while others will send you a lollipop licked by an infected child, so you can transfer the infection, on purpose, to your own child.

The argument from the anti-vax lobby is that the old method of sharing measles only went away when pharmaceutical companies decided to make money from selling vaccines against a variety of childhood diseases. Measles was always considered a harmless disease, they say, until vaccines were invented, at which point we started to be told it was deadly.

But are they right on either count?

No.

I was just searching through the Trove archive of Australian newspapers and came across an article (among a great many articles mentioning measles deaths). I felt this article was especially relevant to the dilemma we face today in combating people who remain staunchly anti-science and anti-medicine.

Measles Deaths. Perth Daily News - July 8, 1916

Here are some excepts from this lengthy article, published almost 50 years before the measles virus was isolated and a vaccine developed.

The old idea that all children must have measles, some time or other, dies hard, and is productive of much mischief. In spite of the progress supposed to have been made in educating the masses during the last twenty years, the practice of putting children who have not yet suffered from the disease to bed with one who has just succumbed, in order to 'get it over,' is not an uncommon one, and many deaths are due to it. It is not at all necessary that children should have measles, and the longer such an attack can be staved off, the better the chance of recovery. For one child who dies of this complaint between the ages of ten and fifteen, 630 die if they contract the affection during the first twelve months of life, 263 if two years old, 142 at three years, ninety-one at four years, and twenty-two if the victim is between five: and ten years of age. If these figures are carefully considered it will be realised how truly fatal the disease is amongst young children, and the wilful exposure of those of tender years to certain infection -- for measles, is the 'most infectious of all the acute fevers -— is nothing short of being criminal.

And on the question of measles being a mild childhood disease, from the same article - published long before "Big Pharma" got their money-grubbing clutches on our children's health...

In England and Wales alone some thirteen thousand little ones die every year from measles, or, rather, from the pneumonia of convalescence.

And if 98 years ago isn't quite old-fashioned enough for you, how about 118 years ago...

This Is a very common disease among children, and some people think that every one ought to have an attack. At any rate, there are mothers who do not take much trouble to prevent one child from infecting others.
[…]
In many families it is the custom to avoid medical attendance in eases of this fever, because the attack is often so slight. But this neglect is very often fatal, and leads to the misfortune of an inquest, because if no doctor has attended a case, and yet the patient dies, there is no one to give a certificate of death. Measles is really very often fatal because it possesses an unfortunate tendency to render patients liable to congestion of the lungs, pleurisy, and bronchitis; and the former of these diseases very often leads to death within 48 hours. 


As with most things they profess to be factual, the anti-vax lobby are completely wrong on this issue. Over 100 years ago, before our grandparents were even born, experts were warning against the idea of purposely exposing your children to "normal" childhood diseases and newspapers were littered with stories of fatalities from the disease.

Measles is not a gift. Measles is not marvelous. Measles can kill. Measles is currently working its way through children in Western Australia. Luckily, today, we have a vaccination against it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Comedy of the week

And this week in comedy we had Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey, trying to sell us a turd.

And his parliamentary colleagues telling us he wasn't polishing it right.


You have to laugh.



Twitter storm: #OtherThingsThePoorDontDo

Friday, August 8, 2014

No, Minister.

Faced with some tough questions over his decision to attend a conference with a distinctly anti-abortion aroma,  federal minister Eric Abetz thought it might be useful to mention a 60-year-old study that may have proposed a link between abortion and breast cancer.

Medical authorities have slammed the commentary as "incredibly dangerous". There is apparently no scientific evidence to support any such link and his anti-science comment was further likened to that of anti-vaccinationists who ignorantly insist there's a link between immunisation and autism.

As time goes by, the reasons behind Tony Abbott's decision to have no Science Minister in his government are becoming more clear. There seemingly isn't anyone in cabinet who understands the fundamentals.





Abbott government, joe hockey, double dissolution

Thursday, July 31, 2014

MH17 scam alert

An alert has been issued to be wary of potential scams seeking to profit from the recent MH17 tragedy.

"...the media and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission reported that fake Facebook profiles had been set up in the names of Australians who lost their lives when the Malaysian Airlines flight came down in Ukraine.

It is understood that the profiles directed you to a blog, supposedly containing information about MH17. When you clicked through there were a series of pop-up advertisements – the scammers make money from clicks on the pop-up advertisements because the adverts take you through to a business website."

I suspect there will also be  a slew of self-proclaimed psychics trying to get in on  the act by taking advantage of vulnerable people's grief, claiming to contact their deceased relatives and screwing with the very real memories of loved ones.

Unfortunately, these sorts of scammers do not get mentioned on government scam-watch-type websites despite overwhelming evidence that they are, for the most part, perpetrating a well-understood type of fraud.