Stop Jenny From Hurting Others!

January 23, 2009

OK. So my last post was a silly one, make no mistake this one is Deadly Serious.

I will again start with the disclaimer that, with this post, I hope to neither cause offence, or to patronise. However I am aware that it is a hot topic, and those that disagree with my position may feel that I have done both.

I remember when we had Bart there was a big controversy over the MMR vaccine (Measles, Mumps and Rubella). Was it safe? Did it have links to autism?

Bart was born back in 2000, just a couple of years after Andrew Wakefield had published his paper on the link between MMR and autism, and so we were making the decision during the peak of the controversy. Even though every radio show and TV talk show was giving equal credence to both sides, once you scratched the surface it was clear which side the evidence was accumulating. Wakefield’s initial study was based on 12 children who had developed autism spectrum disorders soon after having their MMR vaccination.

While this was cause for concern and reason for further investigation in itself it proved nothing. That is the way science works … a hypothesis is formed based on initial observation, it is then followed by a detailed study to prove or disprove the hypothesis.

Each subsequent study hopefully being subject to tighter controls and applied to a statistically significantly larger test group, and therefore increasing its reliability and therefore relevance to the debate.

In this case, when you look at this evidence, the tighter the test, and greater the test group, the less deviation these tests showed from the statistical average.

This strongly indicates that MMR presents no statistically significant increased risk of autism. Let me repeat that … MMR PRESENTS NO STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT INCREASED RISK OF AUTISM!

Thus Bart got his Jabs, and subsequently so did Lisa and now Maggie.

The problem is due to the controversy and the way the media insist on giving balance, you still get programs where you have one person from each side giving their point of view. The problem with this “Balance” is that the overwhelming weight of medical opinion is being represented by one person, and a fringe few by another. This was bad enough.

But now we have celebrities entering the fold. Jenny McCarthy, yes with her MTV medical credentials, has decided to take the anti-Vaccine fight to the public. So now we have one anonymous doctor who is representing the majority of medical opinion verses a celebrity mom who blames the vaccines for her child’s autism. Now I feel very sorry for Ms McCarthy, and I understand her desire to have somebody/entity to blame, but she is consequently endangering innocent children.

Last year in the UK alone there were 1,217 cases of measles from January to November. This has caused the UK to be labelled as “one of the worst countries in Europe for measles”.

I will stress that obviously this is not by any means a medical blog, it is merely that this subject captured my attention 8 years ago and only seems to become more and more important. I also understand that you would be even crazier to take medical advice from “Some Bloke on the Internet” than Jenny McCarthy (Although not by much), but I do urge you that if you are in any doubt whether to immunise, do some research, read some of the following. More on the surrounding of the Jenny McCarthy story and why she is wrong.

The Times article on Wakefield’s conflict of interest.

Wikipedia list studies since Wakefield’s Lancet publication overwhelmingly indicating there is no link between MMR and vaccination.

Phil Plait talks about the American problems of the Anti-Vaccine movement

Or for far a more detailed look at this topic than I can begin to offer, Autism’s False Prophets by Paul A. Offit

Please note that I am not attacking parents that have chosen not to vaccinate their child, I am sure that they have made the decision based on the evidence presented to them at the time (although I do hope to direct them to more recent and scientifically accepted evidence). I know it seems to be the default fall back, but I do feel much of the mainstream media have indeed let parents down (Don’t get me started on Oprah!).


My Woolly Liberal Rant

January 7, 2009

OK. I am probably about to commit blog suicide and cull what little audience I have, but I feel I have to rant a little.

Since starting blogging I have slowly gone through the process of finding other bloggers that I like to read by clicking on people that comment on the blogs I read. It tends to work well as it usually ensures a certain amount of mutual interest. I don’t agree with everything that they all say, and I will frequently throw in my 2¢. I think this is the first time I have felt the need to “bring it back” to my blog.

I recently found a blog that I have been reading, but I fear I may have made myself a little unpopular over there now. This is a shame because I otherwise enjoy reading it. Today’s entry was entitled What To Do When You Don’t Like The New Boyfriend and I was expecting an interesting discussion about how and whether to discourage a daughter from going out with a boy that the mother did not get on with for some reason.

She has decided to start seeing a boy who is black. We are white. No, I am not a racist. I think white people should date white people.

She then went on to describe how she has gone about actively trying to sabotage the relationship.

Now I know that I am a bit of a woolly liberal, but yes it does … A statement like that means that yes you are … you are a racist!. You may not be openly racist, you may even believe that because you are ok with the black people living down the street, or serving you at the check out this makes you … well what ever not a racist is (unracist?) … but these are easy things to live with. What do you want… a prize for not going out in your truck with a pillow case over your head, brandishing a pitch fork and setting fire to crosses? It is not the easy things in life that define who we are, it is when things get difficult that we show our true character.

The situation is also not made any less racist just because the boy’s mother is equally keen to see the relationship fail because she does not want him going out with a white girl. That just makes her a racist too. It could be argued that she may have been persecuted for so long that her reaction is almost understandable, but it makes it no less intolerant.

I am not saying anyone has to be Politically correct or ever particularly tolerant. She has every right to interfere with her daughter’s relationship as she sees fit. I am not even saying that being a racist makes someone an inherently bad person (I would suggest it might not be their best feature).

Just be honest, at least with yourself. Don’t start a sentence by saying “I’m not a racist” and then follow it up with an act of racism. To paraphrase Forest Gump A Racist is as a Racist does!

However, having said all this these are only my opinions and should by no means be considered the the beginning rather than the end of any discussion. If you disagree, tell me why, tell me what I am not seeing, what I am overlooking. I do not claim to be divine, I am not the Fonz, I will admit it if you convince me that I am wrong.

The US Presidential Race

September 4, 2008

I tend to stay away from discussing politics too often as it is a sure-fire way to loose friends, but Tendrils kicked me into tossing in my 2¢ on the whole US presidential race, so I’ll put on my flame proof suit and here goes.

[I will start by saying that again, this is my opinion. You may not like it, and I may even be wrong (feel free to tell me so in the comments)… but is my blog so I will say it like I see it 🙂

However I can not pretend that I am neutral on this, so if you are looking for balance … you will need to find it elsewhere like Fox News :roll: .]

In the past I have been ambivalent towards US politics. I remember laughing at “Those Crazy Americans” who had elected the “Joke Candidate” when George Bush used his family connections to steal the election. Why should I care … not my country. Alas what happens in America happens to the world, we just don’t get a say in it 😯 .

It has historically also been rather predictable, much like UK politics where the difference between the candidates is like night and … well … the bit that comes after the evening. This time someone seems to have rewritten the script.

Let me start by saying this has already been the most interesting political battle I have ever witnessed. Unless you have spent the past few months with your head under a pillow shouting “la la la can’t here you”, you can not have failed to notice that history is unfolding. The democrats have been facing the decision over whether to nominate the first Black candidate or the First Female candidate. Either way it was going to be momentous and a huge leap forward for one oppressed group.

Well (again, as you may have seen in the press) the black guy, Sen. Barack Obama, won that particular battle. Should he have asked Clinton to be his running mate? I don’t think she left that as an option.

These events would have been interesting enough to have grabbed my attention, but the most striking thing seems to be the way Obama is conducting himself. Now things like this are objective, but it seems that Obama has tried to maintain his integrity throughout. Yes there are claims that he has been using his colour to his advantage, but to some extent, it is that much of a disadvantage, it probably does not even level up the playing field.

Now I may be cynical, but I don’t think that the fact that as soon as Hillary dropped out, McCain announced his running mate to be Sarah Palin is even slightly coincidental. He is looking to capitalise on the women that feel alienated by Clinton’s loss. This is shameless! You can bet he had a black candidate lined up for if it went the other way.

Now as much as I like is choice of literature, Bush’s legacy on the world stage is shameful. His lack of respect for anyone from outside of his own borders (not to mention some of those within them), is appalling. The fact that he and his cronies have been allowed to ride roughshod over the constitution is diabolical. The fact that he has enlisted executive privilege to get his ass out of trouble should be criminal!

As much as he is now scrambling to distance himself from the Bush regieme, the feeling that electing John McCain would be like giving Bush a third term.

And I think that as unpalatable as that is to many Americans (much like the behaviour of my government is to me) they have been given a chance to metaphorically put up their hands and say “Oops, our bad. We’ll sort it”. I just hope they take the opportunity presented to them.

Well I said I might offend a few people with this one … hopefully I wont loose to many of you 🙂 … remember, if you feel I am wrong … tell me why.

DRM … Shackling Your Media

April 23, 2008

Shackling your media

I am fed up of buying things, only to have to buy them again a couple of years down the line. Specifically media, be it music or video.

In some cases it has been sensible, i.e. moving from video to DVD and the whole Vinyl to Tape to CD thing. I understand that to some extent, these things were unavoidable, and the increase in quality made it worth the effort. But it really annoys me that I have bought 3 copies of Thriller, 2 of which I now have no way of playing, but how else would I get Michael’s squeaky goodness?

Now it would seem that the age of the CD has past, MP3 players are the new black. Everyone is well aware that you throw your CD into the computer and it “rips” the music to your computer, and it magically appears on your iPod (or equivalent).

The legality of this is a gray area, depending on where you live. In the US they have, what is called “Fair Use”, and although the record companies are asserting that ripping is not fair use, I don’t believe they are getting anywhere. Here in the UK I know of no such specific law stating that this practice is OK. There is always talk of “copying for personal use” and “non-commercial” etc … but this is all anecdotal. I believe that everyone assumes that it is OK because nobody has heard of anyone being prosecuted. I also don’t imagine that the record companies will be looking to prosecute people, because if they lost the case it would be incredibly damaging, exposing themselves as the petty mercenaries that they are, but just because it is de-facto legal, doesn’t make it actually legal.

Along came the solution in the form of the iTunes store, to re-sell you all the tracks you already had and more. The problem is that for a long time all the music bought from iTunes was encoded with DRM.

Many people think of DRM, if they give it any attention at all, as “Copy Protection”. It makes sense right? If you have a product, that people can make an identical copy of for free, with very little effort, what is to stop them making a copy of their friend’s downloads.

DRM however is far more than copy protection, it stands for “Digital Rights Management”, which roughly translates as, “Although you have bought this music, we will control how you may use it”. Unsurprisingly one of the restrictions that was included with the iTunes DRM is that it would only play on an iPod, or computer running iTunes. Further than that you are restricted to 4 devices.

Now the industry is quick to point out that very few people complain about this. It fits their needs. This is because while digital music players are niche devices, and the iPod is seen as the only option, 4 devices are plenty, and as long as their only digital music player (iPod) works fine all is well. However when these devices become ubiquitous, it starts becoming a little more restrictive. Think about it as if you bought a CD and were told that you could use it in your portable CD player and the player in the kitchen, and Maybe in the kids CD players. But what if you want to hear it in the car, or on your computer, or when you are on holiday.

Digital Players are everywhere now, phones, DVD players, games consoles … why should I not play MY music on one of these other devices? And the answer is right there. Although I have bought the music it would appear that it is not actually mine.

iTunes has a DRM-free selection now, but it is far from the complete collection (because the record industry are trying to play hard ball with apple, but that is another topic), and Amazon have launched an MP3 download service which is DRM free, but alas this is not available in the UK.

And what is far more important to me is Video. The same situation exists, it is possible but not exactly legal to rip your DVD for use on your iPod etc (via Handbrake or some such program), and iTunes have recently started selling TV shows etc, but there seems to be no plans for DRM-Free video. I don’t want to watch TV on my computer!

And what these companies don’t get, when they are holding back from being DRM-free on iTunes, is that it is all easily available via bit torrent DRM free and often higher quality!

Is it any wonder that the music industry is struggling when people who are trying to do the right thing by buying the music that they want, frequently have to choose between paying for low quality music with DRM and piracy?

DRM, iTunes, media, Fair Use, technology

Free Tibet!

April 4, 2008

You may or may not be aware that I regularly enjoy reading I forgot where I was going with this, and if you don’t read it, you should. It is very funny and also has a great community spirit amongst its commentators.

Well, a couple of days back her husband went on a business trip to china she joked about getting him put in jail. Well after that almost all of the comments were signed of with the line … Free Tibet!

As a result, it would appear that she is now blocked by The Great Firewall of China. Now paint me green with jealousy, but that really is something to be really proud of. The feeling that you have annoyed someone within such an authoritarian organisation as the CPC Alas it is probably an automatic thing, but one can dream. I would also like to find a way to get blocked by Zimbabwe in the vain hope that it would tick off Mugabe, but this looks like it might be getting solved.

So back to the matter in hand. I can’t tell you how much I want to get blocked by China!

Block me you people hating, oppressive, communist murderers!

Alas, not living in China, I can not check whether my Campaign has been successful. However I have a fool proof means of testing it … If you live in china leave a comment below, otherwise I will assume that you obviously could not read the post as it has been blocked. Unless I receive 1 Billion comments (give or take a few to account for the language difference and internet availability). I see no holes in that plan.

Free Tibet!!!

Please note that I have no dislike for the people of China, just the CPC.