Wednesday, June 27, 2007

choices, choices, choices

One day, during his morning walk, John Howard drops dead. He arrives at the Pearly Gates, to be told by St Peter: "We seldom see a Liberal, so we're not sure what to do with you." No problem, says Howard. "Just let me in, I'm a good Christian."

But St Peter tells him it's not that simple. Under God's new HEAVENCHOICES policy, Howard must spend one day in hell and one day in heaven before choosing where he'll live for eternity. And with that, St Peter rings the bell, an elevator arrives, and down Howard goes, non-stop, to hell.

However, when the doors open Howard finds himself on a lush golf course. The sun is shining, the day is perfect, and standing in front of a beautiful clubhouse is Bob Menzies, Billy McMahon, Billy Hughes, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Frank and Kerry Packer, Bob Askin, Bob Santamaria, and many more. They all run to hug him and talk about the old times they had getting rich. They play a round of golf, have a lot of laughs, dine in the club on lobster and champagne, and are having such a good time that, before Howard realises, it's time to go.

Back in heaven, St Peter takes him inside where, for 24 hours, Howard hangs out with a bunch of ordinary, good-natured people who enjoy each other's company, eat simply, talk about things other than money and treat each other decently. Not a broken promise or short-arse joke among them, but what Howard notices most is that he doesn't see anybody he knows.

The day over, Howard tells St Peter: "Heaven has been delightful but I really think I belong in hell with my friends."

So back into the elevator and down he goes, only this time when the doors open he's surrounded by endless scorched earth covered with smog and filth, while all his friends are chained together in rags and are filling black drums with toxic waste.

The Devil appears.

"I don't understand," stammers Howard. "Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and a clubhouse and I ate lobster and drank champagne with all my friends. We lazed around and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland and everybody is miserable!"

The Devil puts an arm around him, smiling, and says silkily: "Yesterday we were campaigning. Today you voted for us!"

Thursday, June 21, 2007

stem cells haven't promised me anything

Some points about the 'promises' of stem cell research.

Firstly, the debate is polarised already and defined in terms of "religious ideologes" versus "scientists". The rest of us are irrlevent, apparently, and if we want a voice have to align ourselves with one or the other camp.

Second, both sides use established authority to justify themselves and to raise their profiles: scientists use 'facts', sometimes even 'proven facts', to further persuade us of their genius status. The religious worriers and affiliated politicians use 'morality', 'ethics', and their status as the called (or even the Elect? Mandated elect, in the case of politicians) to give them some kind of credibility.

The issues as I see it:
that the research will happen in the USA. Since all the Western world is gagging for a go, why do I think it would be the USA leading the way? Because they have the biggest, best-funded laboratories. Once the US changes its laws, my bet is that all the top European scientists will decamp to California and get to business.

The culture will determine that research is conducted in a particular way, ie. probably privately funded, probably paying for "donations", eventual financial profits would be privately held. Are any of these things problems in and of themselves?
Yes. Firstly because science is supposed to be disinterested. Any science making a profit should be regarded with suspicion.
Second, who is going to provide the genetic material? The same college girls who sell their eggs to infertile buyers at tens of $1000s a pop? Maybe, but because this is a market not concerned with your social status, IQ, skin colour, or citizenship, you can bet your bottom dollar it will end up being poor people. Will they know what their genetic material is being used for? Will they be well informed? Do they share the scientists un-problematic view of the process? There is already a market for organs, with buyers tending to be rich Western men, sellers tending to be poor Indian women.
Would the top scientists donate their own eggs and sperm?

We could say here that all the research material would come from fertility clinics who would toss the embryos anyway. But - how many embryos do fertility labs actually account for? It can't be many compared to how many will be needed for all the proposed research - which is going to take ages. That scientific stuff of making successful assays, isolating proteins and hormones - all that takes literally tonnes of raw material.

Despite these problems and more, the so-called "ethical" debate is limited to re-hashings of abortion arguments. Quasi-philosophical discussions about when life begins that we can never answer - rather than the actual real problems, some of which I've raised already, plus those of over-medicalisation. For instance, stem cell research is being touted by pharma as something that will potentially help "millions of Americans". Now, there are not millions of Americans made into quadraplegics. There are however, millions of Americans with "high blood pressure". Hmm. So are we at least in part getting so excited about this on false premises? Bloody high blood pressure - what a joke that medicine is going to solve the problem of people aging, eating rubbish, being sedentary, and having the "norm" of high blood pressure set by young healthy people. High blood pressure (both actually and in how it is defined) is a social problem, not a medical one.

Then there are the cancers, and all the brain and neuro illnesses. Yes, I hope they are all cured. I hope lots of people donate their genetic material to contribute to research. But that's a broad spectrum of illness to research, and with limited research materials, where do you really think the enquiry is going to go? That's right... to the profits! Ie. frikkin high blood pressure and diabetes!

Science is like that.
If you go to Wikipedia and look at Stem Cell research, they give a time line of Stem Cell highlights. The timeline has been constructed in hindsight with findings that were irrelevent and ignored for a long time as important contributions. There are these big gaps where it looks like nothing happened - presumably these were the times that science took a turn that is nolonger credible. Then as we near the present day, the highlights become increasingly frequent, indicating we should suppose the leaps and bounds that are being made.

But at this point, its all hypothetical. Of course research has to go ahead in order for us to learn something new. But where is the real public discussion? Where is the discussion about medicine and how our societies are messing up our health to begin with?

The essence of what I want to say here is that there are a range of concerns not being taken seriously because the debate is polarised being controlled by basically 2 camps of opinion: scientists + pharma on one hand; politicians + clergy on the other.
And the choruses are bleating about religion baaad, science baaad. As if nobody had ever finished their secondary education.

What frustrates me about listening to people talk about stem cell research is that they actually put on this big act like they suddenly support science and think that scientific work is an unbridled good. Whereas everybody knows that science can stink - its part make believe but pretends to be all rational, they present the information after years of accidents and trial and error as if they knew what they were trying to do all along, as if they discovered what they did because it was logically deduced - which is HELLO impossible because the whole point was they didn't know to begin with, and their animal trials are revolting and inhumane. Still, it amuses me. Religion amuses me to, but we have all had a lot more practice at criticising religion than many other forms of dogma.

Don't be one-sided. Its boring.

Monday, June 11, 2007

how do you fit so much cute in such a small space?

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Friday, March 30, 2007

disapproval and exile

This post is on pause :)

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Coffee break

Make that a south-east Asian coffee break. So nervous - I always get pre-travel jitters. Basically I'm very superstitious in a quantum physics kind of way and think that if I focus on the worst possible outcomes, I'll somehow ward them off. I've probably just jinxed myself by typing it 'out-loud'.

I'm gonna miss you bloggers - maybe I'll get a chance to visit while I'm away, but I don't think its going to be a big priority to be honest - no offence.

When I get back, I'm going back to work - yay... it'll be really nice to see the welcoming old folks... yeah... they love me... :-)

Cyber beer, cyber chips, and cyber hugs to you all!

One more thing, the hostess got a good laugh out of my "Fess up" email - but claims they are "just friends". My husband still isn't convinced and thinks Hostess is either covering up for them, or just is 'Romance Blind".
'Just friends'... does that mean they are trying to break it off? Or still at the flirting stage?
What does she know?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The White Earth

I recommend it.

Friday, December 16, 2005

some sort of miner or honeyeater, in some sort of eucalypt tree, beside the airstrip in Port Pirie.

retirees' house boats on the Murray river at Morgan, South Australia.

border of Victoria and South Australia - featuring rural petrol prices. We've just gone through a fruit fly/phylloxera quarantine station.

con trail on a clear day - north-east South Australia