Sunday, January 25, 2015

Marriage Opponents and the Mexican Standoff

I've often wondered what sort of folks oppose childhood vaccination. It's hard to find empathy with those who would sacrifice children's health - indeed children's very lives - on the altar of their sincerely held beliefs. You might recall a previous blog post discussed Family and Life's ventures in this area. They use their charitable tax status to spread misinformation about the HSE's MMR programme.

Today I learned that their access to high quality printing has borne fruit outside the field of encouraging childhood illnesses and restricting healthcare for Irish women and trans men. As they spread, they have mutated and focus now on restricting access to civil marriage.

Paul Bowler made the well intentioned decision to share the pamphlet on Twitter. Do follow him, even though he appears to tweet pictures while in control of a moving vehicle. You can also use the opportunity to read the text of Family and Life's efforts, assuming turgid dreariness is your thing. I compliment them on their spelling. And the choice of colours is inoffensive enough. Beyond that it's an uninspired remix of the stock scaremongering re polygamy, some misrepresentation of research, and parenting scaremongering.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Price Of Love

I'm unclear if those opposed to marriage equality have started their campaign yet. It's hard to tell: we had a statement from bishops, of course, but the slice of the population that turns to them for moral guidance dwindled long ago. Indeed if anything support for marriage equality jumped after they launched their sixteen page document. I wrote about it, twice, but expected a more comprehensive front to emerge.

I had hopes for the cumbersomely named "Defend Marriage in Ireland: Husband And Wife" group. From what I can tell they're the Facebook account of Manif Pour Tous Ireland, and, while they have only 358 followers at present, I can confidently say that up to 13% of their followers actually hail from Hibernia. Perhaps this will grow. They're fairly good at facilitating different opinions in their Facebook discussions so it's worth popping over. Do say hi if time allows.

This post seemed a mite odd. It claims that the cost of legislating for marriage equality in the UK was 1.5 billion GBP. The only citation given was a Facebook post by a small, anonymous account so I don't give it much weight, but as part of my counterargument I stole from the King of Iona's playbook and listed some major Irish employers who list marriage equality as something they value.

Now, of course no-one's marriage should have to be justified in terms of economic benefit. I put the below quotes together in case you know someone on the fence about voting yes. If they consider the protection of Irish jobs a compelling reason to pass the referendum then their vote still counts. As the discussion was around non Irish multinationals operating in Ireland I've limited myself to that subset. I've also focused exclusively on the top 100 employers in Ireland, as measured by number of employees. This is mainly due to time constraints; I might revisit the list later. Finally I only include companies that have actively campaigned for or taken legal action in favour of marriage equality. Employee headcounts taken from Irish Times's rather useful

Without further ado:

Intel Ireland: 4,700 Irish jobs. Intel has openly supported and campaigned for marriage equality since 2012.

Fringe Catholic Group Issues Statement Opposing Marriage Equality

If you live in Ireland you probably know some Catholics. You might have gone to school with them. They could be your colleagues, your doctor, or the person who bags your groceries. But what most of us don't realise is that there is a small splinter group who are quite different indeed.

Styling themselves 'The Hierarchy', this self-appointed group of elites eschew secular dress in favour of ornate robes, jewellery, and improbably large hats. Unlike most Catholics who happily integrate into wider society, they prefer to live in secluded palaces. Women have been barred from entry since the inception of the group in the first century BC. They do not marry or (usually) father children, instead replenishing their ranks by recruiting Catholic priests who share their conservative world views.

If you follow the media, you'll see that this group of 26 Catholics (henceforth referred to by their preferred term of 'bishops') recently issued a statement opposing access to civil marriage for same sex couples.

"A same sex couple cannot be husband and wife", reads the statement in part, showing a keen understanding of the issue under debate.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

On The Grave Injustice Of Marriage Equality

This week Ireland's bishops spoke with one voice on marriage equality, describing it as a 'grave injustice'. Strong words, and I found myself wondering if such forceful language had been deployed by these unmarried men before.

(tw: child rape, imprisonment, slavery, theft, sale, and deaths of children.)

I thought it would be useful to examine statements surrounding Ferns, where for decades members of the clergy raped and sexually assaulted at least a hundred children. It seemed apt: the bishops are doubtless aware of the particulars as two of their members (Herlihy, Comiskey) expended considerable effort ensuring the rapists and sex offenders did not trouble the attention of the authorities.

What phrase best describes this calculated concealment of depravity? Bishop Brennan's official statement chooses to condemn the affair as 'failings'.

I've done some amateurish tinkering around the edges of Theology and accept that the depth of the hierarchy's moral expertise may be shrouded from me by their years of study, but it seems to me that a failing is considerably less serious than a minor injustice, let alone a grave injustice. They must fear marriage equality greatly if they choose such words.

Next I sought out official statement on the Magdalene laundries. This business scheme consisted of religious orders imprisoning tens of thousands of women and girls as a source of slave labour, using violence, head shaving and psychological abuse to maintain control. The operation wrapped up in 1996. Paying the survivors their due wages and pensions seems to me a just step, but again I lack the moral expertise that is endowed to members of the Catholic hierarchy. They're not paying.

How, I wondered, did this mass enslavement for base coin rank alongside allowing two men or two women in love to make a solemn commitment to devote themselves to each other for the rest of their lives?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Prominent Fluoridation Opponents Enjoy Drinking Fluoridated Water

Screenshot of fluoride content of San Pellegrino, 0.6 parts per million.Fighting against a cheap and effective healthcare strategy is thirsty work. What better way to relax than by pouring yourself a nice tall glass of fluoridated water?

Not from the tap, of course. For these special occasions you should turn to San Pellegrino. Crisp, refreshing, and served in an iconic tinted glass bottle, you'll be relieved to hear that it contains 0.6 parts per million fluoride. Sit back, take a well earned break from opposing the 0.7 parts per million fluoride in Irish tap water, and enjoy the one part in ten million difference.

Don't let your hard work claiming that fluoride causes everything from man flu to the black death prevent you from drinking the stuff. In fact, if you've claimed that fluoride causes depression, and claim that you cured your own severe depression by eliminating fluoride, you should probably drink even more fluoridated water.

What better way to toy with people's genuine mental health issues than to encourage them to cease medication in favour of an evidence-free crackpot scheme that you won't even follow yourself?

This I feel must be the logic of Aisling FitzGibbon, aka The Girl Against Fluoride, a highly qualified angel healer, proponent of 'curing' autism rectally, and adviser to Sinn Fein on matters of public health. Pictured to the left we see a screenshot of her ink361 page, proudly displaying a book of grain, lactose and refined sugar free recipes alongside her San Pellegrino.

Next we see writer, restaurant critic and Michelin star winner Paolo Tullio. Thankfully he has not offered to manipulate angel healing rays on our behalf, but he has issued a video saying he believes fluoridation may be dangerous. He then calls on the Irish government to end the practice. His primary reasoning seems to be that his home tap water smells of chlorine.

Fearing that fluoride is dangerous, and opposing the government's fluoridation programme, is it safe to assume he avoids parting with coin for high fluoride San Pellegrino?

Let us read some of his reviews:
"Although a bottle of still water was on the house, both Rocco and I wanted sparkling, so we added a bottle of San Pellegrino to our drinks order."Paolo Tullio at La Dolce Vita, Dublin 18 
"Two bottles of San Pellegrino and a bottle of Peroni beer completed our order."Paolo Tullio: Oliveto The Pavillion Complex, Dun Laoghaire 
"There were a few wines under €30, but the bulk of the list falls into the €35 to €55 range. I chose a decent Pinot Grigio, which was listed at €33. We also had two large bottles of San Pellegrino at €5 each."The Exchange Restaurant
I tweeted Tullio on the topic and he was kind enough to reply. He seems a decent sort, but rather confused on the area - he thought Ireland was the only country in the world to fluoridate, compared the chlorination of water to drinking bleach, and said he boiled Italian tap water because of the smell of chlorine. He has accomplishments in many fields, I just don't reckon science is one of them.

So why include him on this rather short list? Well, if opponents of water fluoridation have no problem with drinking fluoridated water, maybe we should wonder if their claims are worth entertaining.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sinn Fein Takes Health Policy Advice From Vaccine Opponents

"Drugs are overprescribed... One reason for inappropriate prescribing may lie in the opaque relationship between the medical profession and the pharmacuetical [sic] industry. Major pharmaceutical companies, such as United Brands, sponsor medical conferences for doctors in luxury hotels. Moreover, there are no restrictions on general practitioners or hospital consultants investing in shares in the pharmaceutical or other healthcare industries or in private hospitals or clinics. The conflict of interest between the doctor as healer and the doctor as drug manufacturer needs to be recognised."
The above pastiche of distrust and conspiracy comes not from an angel healing periodical but from Sinn Fein's health policy. Do read the whole thing if time allows. You will find no attempt to balance talk of financial irregularities in luxury hotels with promotion of best medical practice. There is no paragraph suggesting that your local GP is likely a decent sort, or that their offer of a flu jab may not be linked to a clandestine conspiracy.

Regular readers of this blog - a long-suffering and doubtless weary troop - will know that I've something of an interest in anti fluoridation campaigners in Ireland. An entry on Sinn Fein is therefore predictable - they've been tying up valuable county council time with anti fluoridation motions in Dublin and Cork, blithely ignoring that councils have no power to make such decisions. Their minister for environment, community and local government tried for a bill to have it banned. Why does Sinn Fein feel such rancour towards an intervention supported by the nation's medical and dental communities? The matter is hardly opaque. Six million English citizens drink fluoridated water, the rest do not. It is a simple effort to contrast the fluoridated and non fluoridated areas of our neighbours. Indeed I felt certain that Sinn Fein would leap at an opportunity to support a measure that leads to a 28% reduction in tooth decay for children in disadvantaged areas while nearly halving tooth decay related hospitalisation of children under five, but it seems they jumped the other way.

Have the boffins in Sinn Fein's underground laboratory make a game changing discovery? Has there been an explosion of new research that only they are publicising? Or are they merely casting aside best evidence and community benefit in favour of a populist publicity stunt?

To answer my question we must look at those who answers the questions posed by Sinn Fein. And who better to elucidate than Brian Stanley TD, spokesperson on Environment, Community and Local Government, who last year attempted to cease fluoridation?
"I am delighted to have two leading campaigners in Leinster House adding weight to our campaign. Both Aishling Fitzgibbon, aka Girl against Fluoride, and leading environmental scientist Declan Waugh." - Brian Stanley
This seems the total of his outside support. Stanley eschews the temptation to promote style over substance and introduces Aisling FitzGibbon first. Her credentials are impressive: as a Master Integrated Energy Therapist she has paid for a certificate that enables her to redirect healing angel rays into people's pets. For the right price she will 'cure' your vulnerable child of autism through a regimen that includes pumping bone broth up their anus. Naturally she opposes vaccination, describing it as her next step once fluoride is vanquished.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Armaggedon, The Young Earth, And The Cancer Cure Suppressing Freemasons

Most evenings I pass a brace of Jehovah's Witnesses outside a GPO. For comic juxtaposition they place themselves to the left of a statue of Cú Chulainn lashed to a tree stump, ready to attack all comers until his death. The Jehovah's Witnesses give a warmer welcome and are sometimes willing to discuss their organisation's worryingly regular habit of announcing the imminent end of this mortal realm.

Proceeding a figurative hop, skip, and jump will often land me next to Dessie. He's a likeable chap who considers the earth to be at most 11,000 years old. On past occasions I've met Hare Krishnas who sought to dissuade me of my heliocentric beliefs. Let us say that it is a vibrant marketplace of ideas where any viewpoint can be expressed without falling prisoner to the confines of reality.

It was there (where else?) that Immuno Biotech chose to plant a stall emblazoned "Cancer Cure". The subtext is "The Cure They Don't Want You To Have!" At this point I must make my apologies for the quality of the image. You see, my camera hand is as shaky as the claims of their salesperson Mike. [Edit: better shot by @pedView. Second edit: New shots by me taken two days later.]

Saprophyte. Festering pustule on the rectum of humanity. Mike.Dross and drivel in higher resolution.
And what claims they make!
"If you keep to the protocol[€450 for 8 doses], it [their snake oil] usually eradicates stage 4 cancer in a year."
There is no such thing as stage five cancer: stage four is the deformed pinnacle of what tumours can throw at us. The chances of surviving a half decade with almost any type of stage four cancer is below 30%. If Immuno Biotech had a product that could 'usually eradicate' all forms of cancer we would hold feast days in their honour. I would cast aside my keyboard and plug in a prayer mat, and doctors would learn their trade in institutions named to immortalise its founder.

Instead they have a limited number of glossy pamphlets, a name that calls to mind bad science fiction, and a stall of lower quality than a neighbouring group who believes that dinosaur bones are intended to test our faith.

Let's look at how they attempt a shroud of respectability: