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19 March 2014

Disappeared

Because it's not your money, Meryl.

I know, I know. I don't blog for ages and then KAPOW! Two posts about the Australian Vaccination Not-Really-Skeptics Network in a row!

In the latest installment of The Great AVN Unhinging of 2014, we find the NSW Minister for Fair Trading, Mr Stuart Ayres encouraging the public not to donate money to the organisation. On 18 March he tweeted:

"Aust Vaccination Skeptics Network no longer has charitable status
& I would encourage that you don't donate to this organisation."

This has not made the AVN happy. In an interview in the Guardian, President Greg Beattie stated:
“It’s not his place to say that. If he did make those statements then I question why he’s meddling in affairs that don’t involve his ministry.”

Likewise, Public Officer Meryl Dorey has been heard whining about how the government shouldn't be allowed to make such a recommendation, and they have no basis for doing so. Leaving aside the insinuation that only the AVN is allowed to have opinions about the AVN, let's look at the basis for Ayres' recommendation.

In all the time I've been following the AVN, I have not seen a single instance of them putting any money towards any cause that doesn't also benefit themselves. They've collected nearly 2 million dollars in donations during the last seven years, but there seems to be no evidence that any donations have gone towards a stated purpose. Yet their financial statements (which are summarised capably over at diluted thinking; and were described by a chartered accountant as "the worst set of financial statements I have ever seen") indicate some rather vague "expenses" such as $39,000.00 in one year on computers, even more on "web costs", plus all-purpose "other expenses" totaling $170,000.00 in 2010. There is no mention of any outgoing money to any charitable cause (thanks for the summary Dr Rachie).

So I will ask a simple question that has been asked of the AVN many, many times before:

WHERE DID THE DONATIONS GO?

Where did your members’ donations go?
What did you spend them on?
Your website design’s worth a buck ninety-nine
So where has the money gone?

Where’s the foundation for injured kids?
Where is the legal aid?
Were you never billed any time you fulfilled
All those promises that you made?

Surely there’s something you can share
That shows your philanthropy;
An invoice or docket that proves you don’t pocket
The money you get for free. 

17 March 2014

Uncharitable

Because the AVN never wanted your stupid money anyway.

This has been an incredibly eventful couple of weeks for the Australian Anti-Vaccination Skeptics-for-a-given-value-of-Skeptics Network. You can read a recent summary of events over at Dr Rachie's place

The most delicious part of the whole name-changin', investigation-respondin', special-pleadin' shemozzle was an article in Australian Doctor which reported the AVN's surrender of their charity licence (administered by the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing or OLGR). 

Most sensible people look at an organisation which has recently had its finances called into question, is currently under investigation by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (PDF) and has recently surrendered the ownership of its Facebook page to an unnamed party, and conclude that they are trying to cover their tracks, distance themselves from their previous name and deeds, and gloss over the many extravagant and ill-defined "expenses" in their financial reports. No charity licence means less publicily transparent financial reporting requirements. 

But the AVN's version of events is, unsurprisingly, different. And totally not their fault. According to the Australian Doctor article, the organisation's permanently defensive president, Greg Beattie claimed: 

"The group had wanted to get rid of its charity licence for years, having spent countless hours and resources "jumping through hoops" to comply with the NSW Charitable Fundraising Act."We no longer see ourselves as a charitable organisation," Mr Beattie said. "We just don't fit into that mould.""



Oh, mercy. Also: 

"Mr Beattie said the only reason the AVN ever had charity status in the first place was that their "vague" goals had unwittingly drawn the attention of the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing."Our objectives were so broad. They talked about educating the public and the betterment of humankind and all sort of grand ideals that [meant] we inadvertently fit the definition of a charitable organisation," Mr Beattie said."


So you see, it was all accidental. They didn't want to be in a position where they could fleece their hoodwinked followers out of wads of cash merely for the asking. It's all a big mistake - one they're thrilled to put behind them. 

Uh huh. 

This one's for you, Greggy. To show you I understand.



When we started, the things that we wanted to do
Were benevolent, pure of heart, lofty and true.
But soon we got lazy,
Our goals became hazy
And then, oopsy-daisy! Donations came through!

Donations were small and donations were big;
We took them for stuff and for thingummyjig,
For freedom and rights
And for fighting good fights
From the dizzying heights of this President’s gig.

The money rolled in and it made our purse swell;
But we suffered in this inconceivable hell,
Because people inspecting
Our books were expecting
Not only collecting, but giving as well!

But our power to help those in need would depend
Not on what we could give, but on what we could spend
On new iMacs and flying
And unbridled buying
And little-white-lying when budgets were penned.

But now it’s all over, and we can relax,
We no longer have OLGR on our backs.
All those strict regulations
Regarding donations,
Corrupt calculations and profits and tax!

We can get on with doing the things that we ought,
Like displaying our gift for irrational thought,
Celebrating the pox,
Making ill-knitted socks
And inhabiting docks in a criminal court.


14 March 2014

Abbottry

Because I've learned so much.

What have I learned since the Abbott government came to power in September? Let's see...


Keeping trees locked up for selfish native wildlife isn’t right.
Locking people up in camps offshore is fine.
Schools’ curricula aren’t suitably supremacist or white.
Family planning should be led by the Divine.
If a substance is invisible, it can’t be bought or sold.
Men in naval uniforms are never wrong.
Current research into wind farms is erroneous and old.
Coral reefs have been alive for far too long.
Childcare workers aren’t worth paying – not like wealthy pregnant mums.
Cabinet ministers aren’t wimps or bleeding hearts.
Medicare is too expensive, and has complicated sums.
Sovereign borders aren’t too clearly marked on charts.
When a journo asks a question, give a slogan-spattered spiel.
Never comment on administrative matters.
Steer away from any facts that inadvertently reveal
That your last shred of humanity’s in tatters.


24 February 2014

Done.

Because I have nothing to say.

So.
This big, bad thing happened. 
It was big, but it will get smaller.
It was bad, and it will always be bad. 
And people are saying "What do you think?" and "How do you feel?" and "What happens next?"
But I don't want to tell you because I don't know. 
Not in words, anyway.

It is done. 


20 February 2014

Wind

Because wind turbines cause complaints.



I was stopped by a short-beaked Echidna this morning;
He seemed rather strange in the head.
He offered a somewhat discomfiting warning:
“BEWARE THE WIND MONSTERS!” he said.

“They’re enormous and pale, and swing huge chopping blades,
While emitting a terrible sound.
Which, although you can’t hear it, covertly pervades
All the air and the sea and the ground.

“They spread terror and sickness and fierce discontent
Through low frequency rumblings and stealth.
And these things,” said my new friend, “might seem innocent,
But they’re terribly bad for your health.

“They make people grow old at a much faster rate,
Skin is wrinkled and dark hair turns grey.
They make some people fat, and still others lose weight;
In a strange and unnatural way.

“They disrupt people praying and upset the Chi,
There’s teeth-grinding and crying aplenty.
And the people who used to get up for a wee
Once or twice in the night, now need twenty.

“They bring hip pain and breast pain and general malaise,
And the growth of some organs is stunted.
They give people odd spasms that go on for days
So their townsfolk assume that they’re munted.

“They cause strange, shifting rashes and retching and sores
And a notable change in one’s faeces.
But it’s not only humans who suffer, because
The Wind Monsters aren’t fussed about species.

“All the bees and the worms and the crickets have gone
Sheep deformities seem to have spiked
All the livestock are jumpy, and won’t walk upon
Bits of grass that they once rather liked.

“Dogs eat pebbles and find they can’t jump anymore;
The lifecycle of crabs is left hanging;
Lungs explode inside bats; puppies piss on the floor;
And the peacocks and peahens aren’t banging.”

“Are we safe?” I inquired, “Should we hurry inside?”
I was then quite reluctant to stay.
“Well, I’d like to go home,” the small mammal replied,
“But I can’t seem to work out the way.”



Recently, I was lucky enough to attend a talk by Ketan Joshi, who knows an awful lot about renewable energy and its opponents. In this talk he mentioned the work of Professor Simon Chapman, who knows an awful lot about... well, as far as I can tell, everything. Professor Chapman has compiled this list (PDF) of health complaints associated with wind turbines, from a range of sources around the world. I was already interested (in a busy-working-mum sort of way) in the science and not-so-science of wind turbines, but when the phrase "echidnas losing their way" came up in Ketan's talk, I knew I had to rhyme about it. Every single condition mentioned in this pome has been reported by real people who attribute it to wind turbines.

Illustration by the bestest twin sister in the universe,  Jo ThornelySee more here.




13 February 2014

The tl;dr Bible

Because honestly, who's got the time?



DON'T SIN
or you'll go to Hell.
It's hot and it hurts and it's terribly smoky.

Unless you repent
And talk to God,
In which case, everything's okey-dokey.


05 February 2014

Questions.

Because you're free to be a moron.

"WE'RE JUST ASKING QUESTIONS!!!!" is the familiar territory-marker of the anti-vaccine team. And asking questions is good. Asking questions is useful. But when those questions have been answered pretty convincingly by science and commonsense (For example "Do vaccines cause autism?"), asking them over and over and over again has little point, and is, frankly, irritating.

Many anti-vaccine campaigners like the ever-mouthy but increasingly unpopular Meryl Dorey cry about how their freedom is being quashed because their innocent questions are being ignored or covered up or marked as "dangerous to society". In fact, their questions are being ignored, because they're old and repetitive and nobody wants to answer them after already answering them so many times (incidentally, the answers to some of these old, repetitive, irritating questions are dealt with neatly here and here).

By contrast, there are some extremely sensible questions floating around on this topic, for example, "Why isn't there a poem about this?"


“We’re only asking questions!” says the anti-vaccine crowd,
“And to stop us doing that negates our freedom!”
In fact questions are essential and must always be allowed;
‘Cause as far as finding out stuff goes, we need ‘em.

Every person ever living, bent with age or quick with youth,
Has asked questions. Why? And where? And how? And what?
There’s no question that most questions bring us closer to the truth,
We’re much better off by asking them than not.

When a question has been answered, and the evidence is weighed,
We incorporate it into what we know.
Answered questions are the bedrock upon which more learning’s laid;
From whence ‘upward’ is the only way to go.

Sometimes answers are surprising, undesirable or weird,
Though the rationale behind them is quite strong.
Just because an answer’s something that you doubted, loathed or feared,
Then that doesn’t, in most cases, make it wrong.

If the questions you’re “just asking” have been answered oft before,
And supporting proof is plentiful and plain,
Then you still have every human right to ask them evermore;
But I’m free to think you’re stubborn and insane.