Paris damages the case for mass surveillance…

Paul Bernal's Blog

Predictably, the horrific killings in Paris have led to a number of calls for more, and more invasive powers of surveillance for the police and the intelligence services. This always happens after an atrocity – the horrendous murder of Lee Rigby, for example – but as then, these calls are misguided at best. In particular, what happened in Paris doesn’t make the case for mass surveillance stronger – if anything, it damages that case. A huge amount has been written about this already, and I don’t want to go over the same material yet again, but there are a few key points to bear in mind.

Firstly, that France already has extensive surveillance powers. It already has ID cards. It already has more privacy invasions than we in the UK have – and we have a huge amount. That surveillance, those privacy invasions, didn’t stop the shooting in Paris. Why…

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#StopTenPenny because #vaccineswork

Anti-vaccine disease advocate Dr Sherri Tenpenny is coming to Australia.

We don’t want her to. The #StopTenPenny campaign is asking the Immigration Minister and Health Minister to disallow her visa on the grounds that she’s a loon and a fucking menace to public health. I wrote this today.

Dear Ministers

I write to you to express my concern about the impending visit to Australia of prominent anti-vaccine campaigner Dr Sherri Tenpenny.

Dr Tenpenny is a proponent of potentially fatal misinformation regarding vaccines. Among the lies she promotes is the particularly pernicious falsehood that vaccines cause autism – a link which has never been scientifically demonstrated or even shown to have baseline plausibility. Not only that but the originator of the autism-vaccine link claim, a UK doctor named Andrew Wakefield, has been revealed as a fraud, with his deeply flawed and unethical autism-vaccine Lancet study retracted and his license to practice medicine in the UK revoked.

While it is true that some vaccines can have side-effects on some patients, the incidence of such effects is so low that the benefits of immunising children outweigh the minor risks by several orders of magnitude. “Herd immunity” – a percentage of vaccinated children of 75-90% depending on the disease – is vital to protect those children who, for legitimate medical reasons, cannot receive vaccines as normally scheduled.

I understand that people have a right to free speech, but if Dr Tenpenny is allowed to evangelise to Australian parents about the entirely fabricated causal links to autism and the other paranoid conspiracy theories she promotes, she will present a real and undeniable danger to public health. Irresponsible attitudes such as Dr Tenpenny’s have already caused a resurgence in preventable childhood diseases such as measles and pertussis in the UK, Australia and particularly in the US, with many preventable deaths occurring.

I call on you to immediately investigate any and all reasonable routes to barring Dr Tenpenny from access to Australian parents. Her message is based on fear, ignorance and on warped ideology and not on good science. Anyone taking her advice risks not only their children’s health but the health of everybody those children will come into contact with.

Regards, etc


#OneTermTony is only the beginning | .@independentaus #auspol

Of course Tony doesn’t care that he and his dream-team of much-loathed vandals almost certainly won’t be re-elected. He’s here to do a job – fulfill a wish-list given him by conservative radicals, making it easier for them to do business by relaxing or removing worker protections and any/all regulations that might delay or slightly reduce profit (not to mention make it criminally easy for the government to get into your personal space). Once he’s spent his three years slashing and burning the social safety nets that have been thorns in the sides of his masters since Whitlam (along with every other piece of post-Gough legislation designed to serve and protect normal people from the miscreant behaviour of state and business alike), he’ll co-author a self-serving memoir with some Murdoch fist-puppet and retire to obscurity on a healthy PM’s pension (and perhaps join the Tory speaker’s circuit and make awkward jokes to various assemblages of CEOs and smugly pale IPA list-makers), comfortable with the knowledge that he fulfilled the brief and did what he was damn well told. He wasn’t there to make friends, he was there to make waves for his bosses to surf on.

And then the incoming Labor government, even if it has both Houses in its pocket, will almost certainly not have the vertebrae to repeal, roll back or even renovate the authoritarian, anti-science, user-pays remnant of a nation they’ll inherit, much less undertake the radical redesign that it already needs after a scant 15 months of Tory clear-felling. As a party they’ve shown precious few signs of mounting actual, effective, opposition while in Opposition (they’ve left that job to The Greens & capricious independents, who they’re happy to throw under the bus when it suits them, even as said Greens, no longer a single-issue party [if they ever were] take seat after seat across the state polls at the expense of both old firms). It takes longer to create – or crucially, repair – than it does to destroy, and it’s difficult to see the next Labor government (esp. if it’s led by Shorten, which seems unlikely [#Plib4PM!]) having the guts or the inclination to fix the train wreck they’re going to step onto. Far easier to just take advantage of the new and extensive state powers set up by their predecessors (as did Obama, who expanded the Bush-enacted surveillance state and sent in the drones, among other things) and cosy up to the real power behind the throne in 2016, which will be an emboldened and enriched executive-class, and make all the right noises to keep the party faithful satisfied (i.e.: the opposite of whatever the Coalition says). And then the Coalition will get back in…

So don’t let’s continue to crow about “One Term Tony”, because in all probability that’s just the beginning.

New Year #2015 detox? Save your money & don’t squirt coffee up your arse | .@ScienceBasedMed

My summary of this Science Based Medicine post: if you’re a generally healthy person, your body is already very good at what it does, which is removing nutrients from food & drink and removing garbage from the leftovers.

If you’ve been overdoing it through the party season, sure, give your rig a break and try replacing one of your daily servings of glazed ham & brandy sauce with a bowl of bran cereal and an apple. Don’t spooge cash on a box of mulch powder and nostrums that makes vague, scary, unsubstantiated and implausible claims or subject yourself to a series of coffee enemas.

People often castigate modern medicine for its profit motive – sure, doctors make money, but when was the last time you saw someone like Dr Oz or Dr Mercola or FoodBabe who *didn’t* have an online store full of magic fat-burning beans and GMO-free ghost-repellent de-ionising Himalayan salt lamps? These guys thrive on using the general ignorance of the public to make people think they’re sicker than they are, then selling them the latest untested, unproven thing to cure it, either directly or via lucrative affiliate programs with other retailers. If you thought showmen flogging miracle cures died out with the travelling carnival, that’s not true – they just went online.

And they want you to put coffee up your arse.