What a Jeremy Hunt …

The British government has just appointed someone who appears to be functionally illiterate as far as the sciences are concerned as Health Secretary.

The author of the MotePrime blog, Sean Ellis, took him up on his support for an Early Day motion in the British parliament in support of Homoeopathic Hospitals. His response to Mr Ellis, quoted on MotePrime, is revealing

I understand that it is your view that homeopathy is not effective, and therefore that people should not be encouraged to use it as a treatment. However I am afraid that I have to disagree with you on this issue. Homeopathic care is enormously valued by thousands of people and in an NHS that the Government repeatedly tells us is “patient-led” it ought to be available where a doctor and patient believe that a homeopathic treatment may be of benefit to the patient.

Let’s take this bit by bit, because there are a couple of different problems here.

I understand that it is your view that homeopathy is not effective, and therefore that people should not be encouraged to use it as a treatment. However I am afraid that I have to disagree with you on this issue.

Firstly it’s not the fact that it is Sean Ellis’s (or my) view that is important. It is that this is what the evidence says. Mr. Hunt is entitled to his opinion, but in this case he wants his own facts and no-one is entitled to those.

Then he goes on to entirely change the parameters:

  Homeopathic care is enormously valued by thousands of people and in an NHS that the Government repeatedly tells us is “patient-led” it ought to be available where a doctor and patient believe that a homeopathic treatment may be of benefit to the patient.

The thousands of people that may value it don’t change the facts one iota, any more than the bleatings of climate change deniers stop the ice melting. A patient-led health service, not that I even know what that is supposed to mean, surely shouldn’t be one in which patients order doctors to give them whatever bollox du jour the Daily Mail might come up with that month but rather one in which the doctors lay out one or more proposed treatment plans with full information on the efficacy of the treatments and their potential side-effects and then discusses the plan fully and honestly with the patient, considering the pros and cons of a given treatment in that person’s specific circumstances. You empower people by giving them accurate information, not by conniving in a lie.

What do you call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work?

Medicine

And the rest is just a nice bowl of soup and some pot pourri.

A hat tip to Tom Chivers at the Telegraph, who must have one of the most thankless jobs in the world (casting scientific pearls before Tory swine) and whose description of the appointment says it all:

This is not unlike putting someone who thinks the Second World War began in 1986 in charge of the Department of Education.

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Voices raised in song …

Especially this summer I have found myself often having to explain why I self-identify as Irish rather than English. After all, England is the country in which I was born and educated, and where I lived until I was in my early 20s and I very definitely have an English accent. First the English jubilee and now the Euros: but aren’t you English? Why don’t you support England? Because I made a choice, that’s why!

This week two songs made my point more eloquently than I could. On Thursday night, as an ominously impressive Spanish soccer team toyed with Ireland and looked capable of adding to the four they’d already scored, we heard The Fields of Athenry sound out around the stadium. A song of love and loss, of hope and fear, a song about aspiration and struggling for better things. Meanwhile, as England (deservedly) beat Sweden on Friday in a thoroughly entertaining and much less one-sided match the English fans – some dressed up as mediaeval knights – sang a song too. It was about religion and monarchy, about unquestioning servility to authority, about military victory and, if anyone ever got to the later verses which they don’t, about crushing rebellious Scots.

That sums up my choice, really. Ireland’s not Utopia, and it may seem odd that I carp about English fans invoking an imaginary friend to save an unelected head of state (especially given the role of the church and the church hierarchy in recent Irish history) but give me the aspiration for a better life for ourselves and our children ahead of servility and obedience to feudal overlords any day!

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Setting the scene … debating on our own terms.

Considering we live in a world with unprecedented scope for independent media, it never ceases to amaze me how lazy the conventional media can be in its interpretations. I am picking on the Guardian here not because they are the worst offenders but because their ownership structure and editorial ethos (“… facts are sacred“)  should make them a little sceptical about reproducing press releases from large companies without thought or challenge.

Let’s take for example this piece by Dan Milmo: Ryanair adds €2 levy to cover EU rules on compensation

No no no Dan! Please don’t let the protagonists (Ryanair here) set the terms of the debate in a misleading way.

Let’s rewrite that headline.

Ryanair increases fares by a flat €2 per flight, claims it is necessary to offset the costs of consumer protection.

There, that’s better. It is a fare increase and they are trying to distract from that, and my version doesn’t thoughtlessly accept the “claim”. Look at the fare increase supposedly to cover wheelchair use, how much it brings in, how well hidden it is, and so on. Ryanair have a history of confusing the customer with misleading add-ons.

It isn’t an unreasonable thing to do in many ways – they have potential additional costs. But let’s call it what it is.

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Be honest to godlessness – let’s get the census right

http://www.facebook.com/HonestToGodless?v=wall

This is important. The census figures are used to justify extensive – and many of us believe out of proportion to the real numbers – involvement of religious organisations in all aspects of Irish life from education to healthcare to the development of social policy. For example, if you tick “catholic” you are in effect voting …to maintain the privileged position of that organisation – not the religious belief – in schools.
The question is deliberately set to be misleading: it asks “what is your religion” which already presumes you have one, and the “no religion” option is last on the list below the write-in, meaning that on a quick glance it doesn’t even appear to be related to the question.
Please please please THINK about the question, don’t tick a box out of habit – even more, don’t let anyone else tick a box for you that doesn’t represent your real views.

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So this is turmoil, is it?

Yesterday’s Irish Times tells me (Fresh euro turmoil …)or at least implies that the euro is in crisis and backs it up with figures: the European single currency hit its lowest level since the 2nd March.

So it is at the lowest against the dollar that it has been for 8 whole days, and buys a whole u$s0.01 less than it did yesterday. While the euro was weak, the dollar was rising against the yen as well (and presumably, for far more unfortunate reasons, will do so further now).

Hang on a minute, do I hear the banging and hammering of a jerry-built story being hurriedly and misleadingly constructed here? Yes, of course. The reality is that nothing of interest happened on the currency markets on Wednesday and that Arthur Beesley has managed to spin normal fluctuations into a couple of extra column inches. Such is journalism.

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Thursday 3rd March

Here in Ireland coalition talks are progressing slowly we are told, and the news from government buildings is that the situation is worse than they had thought. This good news for coalition building, it means the framework of excuses for an abrupt change in policy is on firm foundations.

Whether it be Fine Gael agreeing to extend their timescale for balancing the budget, or Labour shrinking theirs, we can be pretty sure that the unexpectedly bad situation will be the justification.

Meanwhile the phrase lots more cricket later on Morning Ireland was heard, probably for the first time on that radio programme. Beating England at anything is still sweet.

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