Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Homeopathy Efficacy In Action: Burning Stupidity

First up the General Pharmaceutical Council has dropped cases against pharmacies who were/are allegedly advising people to use homeopathic remedies and "vaccines" against serious diseases such as malaria.

This is the exactly the area of most concern when it comes to homeopathic remedies. The remedies themselves aren't any more dangerous than water (because they are aren't usually anything other than water). What danger they do contain is in stopping people from seeking effective treatments or vaccines. Homeopathic remedies won't protect against malaria, ergo your danger of catching malaria is that much higher than if you had taken an ordinary malaria vaccine. It's risking people's lives. It must be countered whereever possible.

Sadly, and secondly, this is not the only ridiculous homeopathic story of the day. David Tredinnick MP (Bosworth, Conservative) suggested homeopathic remedies might help against the swine flu in Parliament yesterday! I mean SERIOUSLY. With MPs like this who needs bankers.

For more on homeopathy check out this and for a laugh watch the following:

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Marriage Equality: What Are We Waiting For?

It's time for a little update on the fight for marriage equality in the UK.

With regards to last summer's civil partnership consultation, it looks likely that Lynne Featherstone, Lib Dem and Minister for Equality, will announce religious civil partnerships can go ahead. It's not really a massive announcement as the consultation was never really about IF they could go ahead.

Both the Telegraph, linked to above, and Pinknews' follow up story on this suggest that the Government is also considering full marriage equality. I'm reluctant to completely believe this as the Telegraph story seems more to be drawing conclusions from the general direction of the debate over the last year (Simon Hughes answer to my Yoosk question and Peter Tatchell's involvement in the Equal Love campaign are mentioned for instance) than from having any real insider knowledge.

Based on this I think my temporary period of going easy on the Coalition over this must come to an end. Expect to see me beginning to irritate Coalition ministers and Government civil servants once more.

In other news, the aforementioned Equal Love campaign's move to take their case to court was delayed in December due to an error by Camden Council.  Hopefully it should be able to move forward again this month. Based on previous outcomes of similar trials, such as this Austrian one, I hold little hope that the actual bid will be successful BUT understand how useful the threat of a successful bid can be in getting British Governments to change their ways. It worked well with Labour on the age of consent and military service after all! Let's hope Minister's pay attention.

The most important thing of note with regards to the future of marriage equality in this country is an amazing change in language. Thanks mainly to the Stonewall fiasco last year and the Equal Love campaign getting plenty of media attention (plus lots of questions on the subject to politicians!), the phrase "civil partnerships" when mentioned in the media or in speeches can rarely be heard without the caveat that some think they are inadequate or that some are fighting for marriage equality. Given I've spent the five years before last year's general election pulling my hair out at the total lack of voices supporting marriage equality, I can say without question that this bodes very well for the prospects of reform. You can see it in the Telegraph article I linked to above, or in Ed Miliband's latest speech on the subject over the weekend (nice to hear this from a man who once said this to me), or in Stephen Gilbert's remarks in the adjournment debate in the House of Commons just before Christmas.

Not much appears to be happening in Scotland on the subject right now, but there is a symposium on marriage equality on the 27th January. It'll be interesting to hear what is discussed and see if there's likely to be any progress on the matter in the Scottish Parliament this year. The Scottish Parliament elections will be an excellent opportunity to get some answers from candidates on the subject.

So the next couple of months should see a few news stories in the national media mentioning marriage equality and perhaps some surprise Government announcement (yeah, right) soon. Let's hope for progress!

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Friday, 7 January 2011

A Miserable Little Compromise Maybe, But It's Still Worth A Yes Vote!

Over the years I've had many people tell me off for continuing to dismiss civil partnerships as an unnecessary and cruel compromise. They tell me they are a good move forward, a compromise between equal rights and... bigots (lovely compromising there, thanks Labour), and a "stepping stone" to marriage equality".

I've never really been wholly convinced by these arguments. I'm a bit of an idealist (not very useful or constructive in a democracy I know!) who believes things are inherently right or wrong and I dislike compromise between the right and wrong to get "middling" outcomes. But somewhere in my head, I understand the argument. Understanding doesn't mean I have to like it.

So when I see Labour supporters using Clegg's "miserable little compromise" quote to back up their desire to ignore the AV referendum and call for better reform (what exactly I'm not sure, I'm hoping they mean STV but that's pretty unlikely) I have a little sympathy for their stance. But here's my problem...

If, hypothetically as no one argued for it at all which is a great shame, an MP had supported marriage equality and had then decided to vote against or abstain on the civil partnership vote in hopes of making a point, would I have been supportive? No. I would've expected them to argue passionately that civil partnerships were not the answer but when the choice before them was the status quo or civil partnerships that they made the right decision and voted for them, as they are BETTER than nothing at all.

And that's the choice before us at the AV referendum. It's either Yes, we want a change to a flawed but BETTER system than FPTP or No, we want to keep the even more flawed system, FPTP.

And once we've got AV, I shall continue to moan about further electoral reform. I will scream about it being a miserable little compromise but know, in my heart of hearts, it was at least a step forward.

So stop moaning about AV being a miserable little compromise and take a dose of your own medicine. Hold your nose and vote YES!

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Sunday, 2 January 2011

The Facts Of The Matter: My Political New Year's Resolution

The Cleggmania of the 2010 general election gave some of us hopes of an end to partisan bickering and of a more constructive debate on the future of our country. Of course this was never to be the case, only a naive idealist like me could even pretend to hope for such a situation, and the fallout from that election lead to some of the most ridiculously illogical partisan posturing I've ever seen. Liberal Democrats defending Tory policies just to show we are better than Labour. Labour supporters taking mad positions on Phil Woolas, immigration, civil liberties and other such things just because that was the party line (or the Blairite line or the Brownite line or the... etc.)

It's depressed me, saddened me and made me more sure of what I want to stand up for. If 2010 saw me embrace liberalism properly rather than just seeing the Lib Dems as some anti-Tory single issue vehicle, then I want 2011 to be the year I embrace consensus, evidence based politics.

I'm a skeptic (an open minded skeptic, I'll admit) and I believe in evidence based science, education and medicine. So why not evidence based politics?

My New Year's resolution is this: I want to start basing my political opinions on fact not on what makes me feel good. Of course you'll need to keep me honest, but please don't bother with more opinion. Let's talk about facts, statistics and evidence not presumption, ideological blindness and partisan point scoring. We're all guilty of it, but I say "No more!".

Why not join me? Socialism, capitalism, left, right... these are all labels that help blind us to what might work. Throw them off and start looking at things more logically. We might achieve great things. Or we might become more terrifying than the Nazi's. Who knows? I'm willing to give it a go... it's got to be better than how things are working now.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist