Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Canned altogether

[ref: 'Setting the Scarecrow on Fire' from, yes, the Macho Response

O.K., so what do we have here?

Well, for starters, they're discussing the regulation of water - H2O - which already puts this item in the realm of the ridiculous. Instead of regulating water, Australia should be busting these homeopathalogical fakes for fraud, because that's their crime.

Second, they're calling this "medicine," which is really stupid because - though they mention "permitted and banned ingredients" and "A person wishing to have a new ingredient included on the list" - anyone with a familiarity of Homeopathy knows there are no ingredients in their "preparations" what-so-ever, because of the massive amount of dilution (delusion?) they put them through.

I've ignored TMR's rants about homeopathic medicines before and I only take up the cudgel because that's my Health Minister he's talking about (despite insisting in the past that he's only concerned with US affairs)

The first thing I'd say is that it is not Nicola Roxon's role to decide which medicines are most efficacious. She is there to give the people what they want. There is only so long that natural medications can be kept off the shelf.

Secondly, it depends on what your definition is of homeopathy. I imagine if the authorities are concerned about dosages and the effects different substances have, then they would have something more in their brief than lolly water.

To be honest, I've not taken a special interest in alternative medicine beyond using what works. I'm not even sure if homeopathic remedies are the same as naturopathy and 'alternative' therapies of every kind. I have my own very involved explanation for the standpoint I have on curing what ails you but for now I'll stick to tackling the macho response.

Since there have been numerous postings there about how alternatives of any kind are to be starved of funds and run out of town, it helps to know the kind of intolerance we're staring down.

Anyone who has received relief from acupuncture, become supple and fit from yoga class, organised sustainable crops, put in a rainwater tank or solar panels, recycled their bully beef tins, wandered out to the worm farm, should abandon their enterprise at once. Slouch on the couch, burger and beer at hand, shaking your fists along with Rush Limbaugh. You'll be doing more for the world if you do.

For those with amortised spirituality this is probably true. If your view of society is dog-eat-dog then of what value is the ineffable. This speaks more of environment than any greater insight into the human condition though.


So what of the contention that there is no such thing as 'complementary medicines'? Medicine is either accepted as such by the strictest tests or it cannot be called medicine. As an argument from one who is antagonistic to the claims of these practices this may sound fair, but it neglects the simple most important part of any panacea: "does it work?"

It is immaterial to me whether the health board tested something and found it not to have any active ingredients in. The most powerful natural protection from illness that I've found (though admittedly not watered down) works brilliantly. Yet I read a Dr Karl where he claimed it had no ingredients that could make the body healthier or stronger. Sorry but that hasn't been my experience. And I'm not going to deny myself a magic potion because some disaffected oik doesn't like it either.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Can ignorance II

Here we go, the Macho Response's standard on ignorance:

According to the national survey commissioned by the California Academy of Sciences:

* Only 53% of adults know how long it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun.

* Only 59% of adults know that the earliest humans and dinosaurs did not live at the same time.

* Only 47% of adults can roughly approximate the percent of the Earth’s surface that is covered with water.

* Only 21% of adults answered all three questions correctly.

Without cheating, let's see how close I get:

  1. 365 days (approx.)
  2. see my own posts about the millions of years separating the two
  3. two thirds

How'd I do?

1. Earth revolves around the sun once per year. The axis of rotation points in the same direction throughout the yearly trip.
2. creation science is a contradiction in terms
3. 71%

Five per cent out on the third but not within a ballpark figure of being 'ignorant' so I think we know what the macho's apprentice can do with his shit hat now.

(Note how conservatives always go on about liberals being oblivious to all but their own perspective yet compare the incuriousness of the two. Why is it that, even when I get right up their nose, they never pop over to my blog and see what I have to say? After all, though I disagree with most of their standpoints and their method of argument, I do take the time to check them out. TMR thinks I come from South Wales so he got part of the way - the profile! - so I guess that's something)

Can ignorance be subjective? Not mucho response

Nicole Daedone "was in a Theosophist cult prior to starting One Taste. Theosophy comes from Madame Blavatsky, who is popular in fascist circles for her support of 'root races' and Aryanism." (Blavatsky was the famous liar, con artist, and fraud, known as "The mother of NewAge".)

[anti-cult blogger]

It's funny but I trotted down to the Theosophical Library for a year when I was young and single in the inner west and working in the city. I took out a number of dense metaphysical texts and not once was I exposed to anything that could be construed as fascist. To confuse ancient Aryan civilisation with some latter dictatorial stroke totalitarian not to say militaristic society that sprang up at a point of upheaval, is to demonstrate at once the problem of arguing from a point of arrogance. "All cults and pagan belief systems are egregiously in error so why should I bother understanding the way each group sees the world". So you go public with a debate on why pagans were fascists. Can anyone else see reductio ad absurdum?

By the same argument, Goebbels got the idea for the whole swastika chic from David Johanssen of the New York Dolls. Hell all these magic lovers reckon they're psychic. Hur hur.

I happen to have done my own research on Madame Blavatsky (and every other metaphysics of the eighties)and all I saw that she was doing was gathering up the screeds of creeds and the muttering of mystics, and providing a central point for this anthropological exercise to be accessed by some bookish terrace house dweller. If you wanted to not be ignorant then the fruits of her intrepid treks into new territories is the surest panacea.

Which brings me to my next point..

Later on in the same blog - that I have made a bad habit of posting comments on - I got into a scuffle with his work experience lad, who would gleefully use pejoratives (like 'famous liar' 'con artist' 'fraud') as soon as look at him but tends to splatter his bad taste on articles about how liberals display bad taste. So doesn't carry sufficient weight behind his satirical stroke.

For some reason he has taken an intense dislike to Heidi Klum and took particular umbrage at her for suing a bum who used her image for a promotion without her permission. I argued that, in principle, it wasn't the 'victim' who had to establish the circumstances around a breach of copyright or trademark. From the tone of other contributions by the apprentice, I suspect that he was taking exception to who she was rather than the action she took.

What if it was a vapid pedlar of self-smut and body image who was raising money for an orphanage by daring to consider the parading of her booty as good and honest work? Would we get the right wing equivalent of us protest types refusing tobacco sponsorship or investment in uranium mines; a boycott? The cause is above the dubious virtue of a fashion model turned host and judge.

I don't know that he's reasoned about it beyond the inhumanity of someone in her privileged position daring to take legal action against one of society's unfortunates. This is ironic coming from someone who supported an administration who saw a Budget as time to cut more social welfare programs and give the money to Rep. porkers and the war on terror.

How did pouring a trillion dollars into the sands and marshes of Iraq help the guy sleeping in the cardboard box, pray tell? Still, if supporters of the neo-conservative agenda had any sense of irony, they'd shut the fuck up about reckless spending by the President. It was practically Bush jr's raison d'etre.

Where is the incumbent spending his pile? Inside the country where the jobs and the industry are? Where the opportunities for the guy who thinks the trickle down theory has something to do with the fact that the toilets were locked at the time, resides? The guy who played Heidi and lost.

I think that's a bit different.

But, for my troubles, I got told

Well, Berko, You're ignorant and TMR has never sued you, and now we find out you're also a ruthless asshole.

Apart from the fact that arguing the toss on some reactionary's blog is a far cry from using a famous person's image for a meaning other than what it was intended, I would err on the side of not being ruthless much of the time. The only thing left to test is the 'ignorance' of berko.wills when posting on the Macho Response.

Given that I don't take steps to hide the multi-faceted misfit that we are, I consider it quite appropriate to test my true ignorance rather than that of some supposed persona. I'm fairly ignorant of sport. I have read books on key facets but it's not my interest. So I don't blog on it in other than a neutral or vaguely complimentary manner.

Unlike the mess the Mercho Response often makes of its history: Madame Blavatsky was an arbiter of knowledge. Just like the scientist who writes a book about particle physics who, I think it's safe to say, neither the Macho Response or this more muted response, could avoid stating their ignorance of. It's up to us how much of this we take away and what we make of it.

To argue for fraud would be to imply that she made stuff up, rather than researching it and collating it (work in this respect, similar to that of rigid tacticians like Frazier).

To state that she was a con artist would be to suggest that she stole from people or made commercial advantage out of presenting untruths and grossly simplified distortions. That would require more scholarly work than I'd allow for now (the blog entry is taking long enough!) but I can say in my defence that, unlike the gadflies at TMR, I had read many works from different disciplines by the time I stumbled on the aims of theosophy.

It is best to think of it as the occult equivalent of B'ahai. It decries the internecine squabbling among sects and seeks to bring together the contradiction for us to see. But also, importantly, to explore the similarities and commonalities.

I could point out that this is a long way from an exclusivist movement like the Rajneeshis (etc etc). It's not trying to shut down knowledge like the closed Brethren or the Roman Catholic church. It's trying to open up. Who cares if you think the blue god with the shrunken heads around its neck looks ridiculous, that's your prerogative. But at least you've bothered to find out the name and the correlatives in other belief systems.

The reason that Madame Blavatsky got called a liar is because the information (not to say knowledge) she was presenting flew in the face of their orthodoxies. Any student of human history knows what fury is invoked by a threat to the established order (well any good student of human history)so isn't it reasonable, if you knew of Blavatsky's mission, to take into consideration the inevitable attempts to discredit her work. This does nothing one way or the other to test the veracity of her research, the zeal and skill she brought to translation, and the unadultered fashion in which she made it available.

Before I went calling her a fraud and a liar, it might help to have some familiarity with her writings. An important distinction can be made with Rudolph Steiner at this point. His Anthroposophy was devised from theories and observations he held.

If you hadn't read this, you wouldn't know this. So much for 'we don't need to read the work of some fool who thinks the sun is a burning tree in the distance' for providing insight into a subject they're apparently interested in.

I think I've established that this is the pot calling the kettle black. But do I possess ignorance enough to be accused of it, never mind who by?

Well, it's true that I possess superior knowledge of arcania than the atheist conservatives who dismiss it so enthusiastically. But, while the best test of 'ignorance' as Macho II means it, would be to examine it in light of the topics broached on TMR and, preferably, samples of my comments in response, I want to go further than that and determine whether there is any grounds in using this insult so casually. After all I haven't been caught wondering aloud how many equators there are. Thusfar I haven't strayed beyond the permissible and my reasoning has been noticed by Macho I on at least one occasion.

What about ignorance intuited by the way I 'speak' or where I turn the debate?

Here are the things I'm not ignorant about:

    country living
    share house living
    living as a couple
    living near traffic lights
    living near a railway line
    living near a brothel and used car yards on a busy highway
    backing onto bush but close to amenities
    being lonely
    being shy
    being awkward
    hiding my light under a bushel
    being boring
    saying something amusing or witty
    winning races and events
    coming top of the class
    blasting it in a public speaking exercise or tutorial
    singing in a band
    writing poetry
    writing song lyrics
    sleeping on a creek bed in the NT
    riding the rail
    walking along the water pipeline from Kalgoorlie til halfway to Perth (I still haven't seen Kalgoorlie as it was dark and I was too far out of town and skint) with nought else but figs to sustain me
    working with architects, engineers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, union officials, public servants, planners, chefs, kitchenhands, farmers and farmhands, sheet metal workers, meter readers
    speaking in front of a visiting delegation and never umming erring you-knowing actually-ing like colleagues over the years
    delivering training in a specialist area

Notice none of this talks about my reading habits. This despite the fact that I read the weekend papers, the free city newspapers, the arts pages, the newsletters, the pamphlets, the reference works, the non-fiction, studiously. I just don't want to look like I'm appealing to an abstract, but possibly impractical, understanding over one of sense; of being able to distinguish shit from clay.

I've been poor and struggling and I've been slightly better off and satisfied with my lot and I've been doing better still and wondering why I didn't take action sooner. I've made my mistakes. Some I learn from and it emboldens me, some I look upon as getting my finger burnt and avoid in future, and some mistakes I don't learn from.

I nonetheless carry a measure of experience to the job of testing the validity of 'berko wills demonstrated ignorance through his line of reasoning on TMR' or 'berko displays the characteristics of one who is ignorant'. If this was done solely on the scale of who sticks assiduously to the substance of the statement and its rebuttal and who loses their temper and starts calling people names then I've got Machos I and II on the ropes long since, metaphorically.

Making allowance for the fact that a bad tempered barb may have been at seeing such a contradictory proposition being put forth on what is supposed to be a cult and gullible-female bashing site, a blog invites discussion unless it's a narcissist need to vent.

What the cheer squad for the alpha male have done by repeating the lies of their predecessors is further hurt their credibility in the eyes of people who have a genuine interest in, and knowledge of, theosophy. All mistakes that could have been avoided by going to the source material.

and to answer my own question:
No, 'ignorance' has a truth value and would be better applied to one who argued a position without understanding all sides of the argument. One could appear to be ignorant by something they said or did on occasion, but that not the same as being ignorant.

I also wonder whether an 'ignorant' person would subject themselves to contrary points of view the way I do. It would be less confronting right now to visit the Obama backslappers and swap bon homies. What compels me to taste test the extreme? I won't have it that some bible sniffling neophyte has it over me for taking a more reassuring route. An ignorant person hates contradiction - in more ways than one.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cannabis laws cause harm: Aussie expert
March 18, 2009, 7:41 am

Many harms associated with cannabis use result from prohibition rather than the drug itself, an Australian academic has told a United Nations review of drug policy.

Professor Robin Room, a sociologist at the University of Melbourne's School of Population Health has spent much of the past week telling meetings in Vienna that international conventions on cannabis are out of touch and do little to influence the number of users.

Prof Room said while penalties were generally low for cannabis use and possession globally, young people and minorities were more likely than other groups to become caught up in the legal system.

Arrests caused significant suffering, such as personal and family humiliation, as did convictions, which often excluded people from certain jobs and activities.

"A lot of young people's lives get messed up because of arrests over something that is almost impossible to overdose with and where its possible harm is of medium seriousness," Prof Room said.

"This is a system that doesn't really make much sense in terms of the modern world.

"Minorities are more likely to get caught up in being arrested in comparison with the patterns of use. The patterns of use aren't so different between kids from poor minorities and middle class kids."

Substantial government resources are also spent on enforcing prohibition.

The findings are part of a report, commissioned by the UK-based Beckley Foundation, a charitable trust which advocates an evidence-based approach to minimising the harms associated with drug use.

Prof Room was one of five authors on the report, which brought together a range of experts to present an overview of scientific evidence on cannabis and policies controlling it.

The aim was to offer policy makers options for change and make recommendations for international law reform on the fringes of the UN's review in Austria of its strategy on narcotics since 1988.

"We're laying out the options for the political process to consider," Prof Room said.

"If you were starting to build a system now with what current knowledge there is about different substances, you would be much more likely to have alcohol and tobacco included in the prohibition regime in terms of harm."

Prof Room said the degree of control on cannabis was disproportionate to the harm associated with its use.

"If you compare it with other substances, both legal and illegal, it's relatively low down the order of how much harm there is from the substance," he said.

"Yes, there are health problems from cannabis and probably the ones most to worry about are, it's not a good idea to drive a car when you're high on cannabis, and to some extent the problems from people becoming dependent on it."

Prof Room said changing cannabis laws globally would be "a hard slog".

One of the reasons was that governments often saw using the drug as a passing phase, as illustrated when several UK cabinet ministers in 2007 admitted to smoking it in their youth.

"The reaction around cannabis depends on the country and the circumstances," Prof Room said.

"There's often a `ho-ho' response, `we were all young once'."

Politicians were often also concerned about sending out "the wrong message" if they called for decriminalisation or state regulation.

"What we've found is they don't need to worry because the young people aren't paying attention," Prof Room said.

"There's almost no relationship between what the policy is and how many people are using it."

Any countries wanting to reform cannabis laws to the point of regulating the industry would have to break UN conventions which say they must prohibit production and supply.

[my emphasis]

Hanson looks

As soon as I saw the photos, I knew they weren't Pauline Hanson. I'm surprised that anyone even got sucked in by this. It didn't gel with her character but it also looked nothing like her! I only wished I'd blogged on this before the photos were declared fakes by a forensics expert but geez..

Sunday, March 01, 2009

O yea

As far as I'm concerned, things are very much heading in the right direction. No leadership will be unproblematic and no government will avoid scandal or sheeting blame for some stuff-up on their watch.

The important thing to have in a PM or President is the ability to think deeply on an issue and to act in accordance with the best minds on the subject rather than responding to the instruction of more ignorant moral lobbyists, whose views are shaped by pre-coded prejudice and orthodoxy.

The difference between the incumbent Australian and US governments and their predecessors is the difference between night and day. That the pendulum will swing once more is inevitable, perhaps even desirable. The most one can hope for is that some of the effects of progressive thought will be lasting.