Category Archives: politics

I am still waiting for my cheque

LiarI have often said I wonder how some of the anti-science propagandists sleep straight in their beds at night. Lately this refers to various members of the local anti-fluoridation movement and their claims.

Pity I am not the litigious sort – there could be a bit of money in a recent claim because it slanders me, and a fellow SciBlogger, personally

Lynn Jordan, the Wellington representative of Fluoride Free NZ recently declared (under her on-line pseudonym “Penelope Paisley”) on Fluoride Free Hamilton NZ:

Penelope Paisley Peter- you asked what Debz and Ken get out of it. Ken and Alison are getting paid to blog about fluoridation. “

As I said, I am still waiting for my cheque.

Apparently Lynn’s “evidence” for this is the fact that this blog, and Alison’s Bioblog, are both syndicated on the NZ SciBlog platform as Open Parachute and  BioBlog.

I certainly appreciate my association with NZ SciBlogs, and I am sure Alison does to. But neither of us expect payment – nor is SciBlogs in a position to pay its syndicated bloggers or its full bloggers (of which there are now quite a few  –  check them out).

Lyn may not like the fact that Alison and I have blogged about the scientific aspects of fluoridation, and in the process revealed the misinformation and distortion promoted by Lynn and her fellow activists, but that does not provide a basis for her claim. She is simply telling porkies in an attempt to shoot the messengers and avoid the message.

Why is “Penelope” telling porkies?

At this stage I have no interest in making an income, either through blogging or anything else. It feels good as a retiree not to feel obliged to support, or suffer the control of, an employer. Of course, it may well be different for Lynn. In my post The irony of some peer-review and citation complaints I wrote this about her:

“Penelope” is the on-line name used by Lynn Jordan – the  Fluoride Free NZ Committee member for Wellington. She also practices as a  cranio-sacral therapist in Wellington. Cranial-sacral therapy is an alternative or “natural” therapy which Edzard Ernst  described as more or less bogus (see Up the garden path: craniosacral therapy).

Obviously she has ideological and financial committment to the “natural” health business. She relies on it for her income. If you were spiteful you might even think  she is paid to advance propaganda and to attack those who support an evidence based approach to health. But I wouldn’t possibly make that claim.

By the way, in the best tradition of astroturfing, Lynn  often sends submissions to councils opposing fluoridation under the name of an organisation NZ Health Professionals Opposing Fluoridation. What the hell is a “cranial-sacral therapist doing representing health professionals? I leave that to your imagination but it hardly adds credibility, does it?

Mind you, many councillors seem to be gullible. They certainly were in Hamilton last year.

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Some answers to the confusion about the #MH17 crash site

Given my comments yesterday (see Making political capital out of the deaths of innocents) I thought it worth sharing this video. It is of a press conference in Donetsk given by  Alexander Borodai, one of the leaders of the anti-Kiev forces in eastern Ukraine. Its about 30 minutes long, including the extensive Q&A. Video quality is not the best but there are English captions.

Personally I think it helps address some of the avalanche of  misinformation we are getting at the moment. And it is far more respectful to the innocent victims.

Alexander Borodai 19 Jul press conference about Malaysian #MH17 crash – YouTube.

Important Note: To activate subtitles, click on the (cc) button in the dashboard at the bottom of the video, then, in the Captions menu, select English or French.

Thanks to Sonya Roussina

Making political capital out of the deaths of innocents

Abby Martin’s Statement on Downed Malaysian Plane & State Sponsored Militias 

I have been absolutely disgusted with the contradictory information coming out about the crash of the Malaysian airline in Eastern Ukraine. And with the way politicians have used it to advance their specific agendas.

Seems to me that making political capital out of such a tragic event is an offense to the almost 300 innocent victims.

Abby Martin is one of the few spokespersons in the media who also seems to feel this way.

Anti-science US Congressman on House science Committee!

This guy is spouting a  bunch of simple-minded anti-scientific rubbish. Not surprising in itself – he is actually opening a climate change denial conference in th US – one of the semi-annual get-togethers of climate change denialists organised by the Heartland Institute.

No – the surprise is that this guy, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), is a member of the House Science Committee, which oversees US federal policy on science and innovation.  The House Science Committee!

Bloody hell! How does that happen. Here is someone whose standard of scientific understanding is no higher than some of the anti-science blog commenters we get here – and they are on the US House Science Committee.

Thanks to: US Congressman Opens Climate Change Denial Conference with Rant Against Water Fluoridation.

Approaching scientific literature sensibly

thinking-conf-bias

We all suffer more or less from confirmation bias – it is just human.  So it’s natural for people to be selective, and to indulge in some cherry-picking and biased interpretation, when quoting scientific literature to support an idea they promote.

pseudoscience-cherry-picking

In the scientific community peer review and continual submission of ideas to scrutiny by colleagues helps keep this under control. But it can really get out of hand when used political activists use the literature to support their claims.

I have got used to anti-fluoride commenters on social media simply citing a paper or even providing a bare link, without comment, as if this somehow makes their claims irrefutable. Perhaps, in truth, they have not even read the paper they cite, or understood it, so do not feel confident discussing it.

But this tactic is particularly lazy – and stupid. To simply give a Google Scholar search as proof. Lately I have been presented with links to such searches to argue that fluoridation is toxic. Just a search for “fluoride toxicity.”

This is what that search produces – 234,000 hits:

Fluoride toxicity – 234,000 results

fluoride-toxicity

Sounds good to the uninitiated, I guess. It does seem to produce a large number. But does that mean anything?

What about searching for water toxicity. This produces over 2 million hits. Are we to assume from this that water is toxic, seemingly 10 times more toxic than fluoride?

Water toxicity – 2,190,000 results

water-toxicity

Yes, I know some social media do not offer much space for commenting but that should not be an excuse for such silly citations.

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Councils and scientists targeted by anti-fluoride activists

Are ducks somehow connected to the anti-fluoridation  movement? Sure – they do have unsinkable rubber ducks in common. But I am thinking of how media coverage of anti-fluoridation activity and the opening of the duck shooting season peaks annually about May.

The seasonal airing of the fluoridation issue is directly connected to council timetables. Councils consider and decide on their draft annual plans about that time. And of course anti-fluoridation activists take advantage of this to make large numbers of submissions and to dominate council hearings on the plans. That’s not to say these activists are inactive the rest of the year. There are submissions to prepare, supporters to mobilise and the never-ending promotion of their unsinkable rubber ducks – misinformation about fluoride.

Anti-fluoride activists have become council “groupies.” They are familiar with council planning and conscious of any opportunity to present their case. Aware that numbers can impress councillors they help supporters with submission templates (templates A, B, C, D, were used in Hamilton) and submission guides. In contrast the ordinary citizen is rarely conscious of what is going on in their council. For example, the first most Hamiltonians heard of the “Fluoride Tribunal” organised by the Hamilton City Council last year was a news report of the council vote to stop fluoridation!

fluoride-groupies

A group of anti-fluoride council groupies after harassing the Wellington Regional Council this year. Credit: Fluoride Free Wellington

To continue reading this article see GUEST BLOG: Ken Perrott – Anti-fluoride activists target councils – and scientists at The Daily Blog.

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Lugansk – a modern Guernica?

poster

With some of the images of death and destruction coming out of the conflict in eastern Ukraine Picasso’s work “Guernica” is starting to take on more meaning for me.

 

Inna Kukuruza – “her eyes spoke to the whole world”

Inna

Iconic photos are often associated with historic event, especially conflicts. The picture of the man stopping a Tank in Beijing during suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 is an obvious one.

For me the photo above will always be connected with Ukraine and the current conflict there. As one blogger put it, Inna Kukuruza’s “eyes spoke to the whole world.”

She was a civilian victim of the recent jet attack on the centre of Lugansk in Eastern Ukraine (see Lugansk war crime). Over the past few days I have watched (or tried to watch) videos of the attack and it’s aftermath. This has been extremely difficult because they are just so graphic. I decided not to include any videos here – although if you have a strong stomach the blog post Inna Kukuruza shall not be forgotten has a brief extract.

The first victim!

It is well established that the first victim in war is truth. Mind you the dispatch of truth usually comes well before the shooting starts.

I have a personal interest in Ukraine and the dispatch of truth occurred for me straight after the February 21st agreement signed by the then President, the opposition leaders and representatives of the European Union. The very next day there was a coup, the opposition leaders came to power and they (together with the EU politicians) immediately abandoned the agreement – before the ink was dry!

A real pity, as they had signed up to consitutional reform involving the whole country before elections later this year. Seems to me consitutional reform is exactly what the country is crying out for. Instead we have had Orwellian doublespeak and cynical geopolitical maneuvering by the major powers, as well as the Ukrainian politicians while the people have been ignored.

Well, not quite ignored because now the acting president has taken to calling protesters “terrorists.” (This is a guy who was put into power by a coup precipitated by violent protesters in Kiev). You can understand the reaction of people to this – if not have a look at this video. Here local people protesting at the Karamtorsk airstrip in eastern Ukraine captured by military units from Kiev argue with Uranian Gen. Vasily Krutov who was attempting to defend the “anti-terrorist” action.

They ask – “Who is the terrorist here?”

via На Краматорском аэродроме высадился десант. “Генерал” дает интервью – YouTube.

Yes, it sounds mad for a president, even just an acting president, to describe his people as terrorists. But there is a cynical logic here. Appa=rently by law the Ukrainian military cannot be used against protestors unless a state of emergency is declared – or protester are redefined as terrorists, I guess.

Mind you – it’s not only the politicians who have dispatched with truth. Seems to me that many of the journalists on the ground are also distorting the situation. Compare these Twitter reports from Ilya Azsar at the airfield with the evidence of the video! This from the Pro-Kiev  The Interpreter.

Screenshot-2014-04-16-11.32

I can understand the anger of people in eastern Ukraine being described this way. However, I myself also feel violated by the misrepresentations that seems to count for news in the midst of such conflicts. I feel I am being denied my right to information and treated like an idiot.

See also: Tensions Boil Over on Camera in Ukraine’s East and West for more on the above incident and also the mob attack on Oleg Tsarov – one of the candidates in the planned presidential elections – who spoke up for the  east Ukrainians.

An outdated tax anomaly – charitable status of relgion

Here is a New Zealand Kickstarter project well worth supporting – a film which sets out to answer the questions:

  • Why do religions pay few taxes?
  • Why do companies owned by religions also avoid tax?
  • With more non-believers than ever – is this fair?

Pennies from Heaven – A Documentary about religion and tax. by Toby Ricketts — Kickstarter.

The tax-free and rates-free  charitable status of religions in this day and age is an anomaly which will eventually need resolving.  As the proposal says:

Despite this huge rise in the number of non-believers and increased focus on the importance of separation of church and state, most ‘secular’ governments continue to subsidise religious organisations; providing them with broad tax immunity (including any companies or corporations that they own), local rates exemptions and other entitlements. While the public expectation is that all religions are behaving as charities in the traditional sense (working to relieve poverty and advance the public good, etc.), the reality is that some churches are behaving more like corporations; stockpiling cash and buying external investments (putting aside for the moment the mansions, sports cars and diamond rings sported by bishops and ministers). The result of this tax break for the religious is that there is less money for education, healthcare, conservation and other core state functions that would benefit a nation as a whole.”

The problem is highlighted in this report – Religious financial privileges in New Zealand.

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