Friday, October 24, 2014

Lush Gets Into A Lather Over Fluoride - Vaccines Next?

Lush makes a damn fine soap. Their staff are friendly, energetic and helpful, and I often pay a visit when wrapping up my Christmas shopping. Until recently my only complaint was that I can smell their shops at twenty paces.

Rebecca Lush Blum I didn't say that science is not important. I was simply trying to clarify what information I was seeking. The issues of fluoridation and vaccination are obviously very divisive. However, I am simply concerned at the moment about evidence that this campaign is homophobic. I've read the blogs Geoff and am listening to the podcast, thank you. Is there any more evidence this campaign is homophobic? Thanks, Becca
That changed this week when they described vaccination as 'very divisive' and announced the launch of an Ireland only anti fluoridation campaign. Rebecca Lush Blum (above) is the charitable giving manager for Lush's multi million Euro charity fund and spoke in her official capacity on Lush's Cork Facebook page. Her description of vaccination as 'very divisive' is dangerous. It's also nonsense. Vaccination rates have never been higher - 96% of Irish two year olds are now covered by the six in one vaccine, despite the fact that we give charitable tax status to vaccine opponents. This represents a significant victory against the vaccination opponents that caused an outbreak of measles in Cork a mere two years ago. I find it outrageous that a Lush spokesperson in the UK would seek to pretend there is any sort of Irish debate on whether or not we should protect children from easily preventable diseases.

How did this all start?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Curious Case of the Girl Against Fluoride and the Disappearing Christy Moore

Imagine for a moment that you're a qualified master angel healer. You've paid for a certificate in nutritioniology from a quack who claims to cure cancer with urine and castor oil. You claim to be able to treat autism in children by methods including the rectal administration of bone broth, you oppose fluoridation and vaccination, and your campaign's creative manager is convinced homosexuality is caused by plastics and contraception. You want to raise some cash for a campaign to change how Ireland provides drinking water. What do you do?

Some assume that an ability to commune with intergalactic angels and divert their healing rays into people's pets guarantees a steady source of income. And training from someone who claims to cure cancer using only urine and castor oil strikes me as a qualification that could easily be monetized. As for ensuring children on the autistic spectrum reach their full potential using an enema kit and some bone broth - well, the commercial applications are obvious, if we take on faith that the various sources of income open to Aisling FitzGibbon (aka The Girl Against Fluoride) are grounded in truth.

FitzGibbon is not taking this approach to gathering coin for her anti fluoridation campaign. Instead she's elected to host a fundraising gig. It's appealing: the venue, Whelan's, is excellent, and 20 Euro to see the rightly described 'legendary Christy Moore' is an offer that had me almost tempted to put hand in pocket. I also quite enjoy Kila. Here's one of the many announcements of the fundraiser:
But is Christy Moore aware of the engagement? The concert is not now and has never been on his future gigs page. You'll note that the screenshot above is of the edit history: this is in fact an old copy. After folks bought tickets to see Christy Moore, someone using FitzGibbon's account edited the post to remove all references to him. The current edition is below:

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Dr Ali Selim - Voice of Irish Muslims?

"If Allah had willed, He could have made all of you humans a single people. But, He decided to let you choose your own path after showing you the Truth, and thus test yourselves. Outdo one another in actions that serve humanity and thus grow your "Self". To Allah is your final Destination, of all of you." Qur'an, 5:48
The hard right of authoritarian Islam and the hard right of anti Muslim bigotry are unnatural bedfellows, yet are as one in their desire to paint Islam as monolithic. These two heads of the same monster are conjoined in a delusion that Islam's 1.6 billion adherents throughout all cultures and societies have no diversity of thought, opinion, or desire. It is a monster that attacks those considered Muslim. It is the same monster that attacks those considered not Muslim enough.

It is for this reason that I do not welcome Dr Ali Selim's recent contribution to the debate on Irish schooling, where he obliquely claims that diversity in Irish society can be enhanced if diversity within Irish Muslim society is eradicated.

He estimates 65,000 Muslims in Ireland, presumably a figure that includes all 49,204 self described Muslims from our 2011 census. Selim uses his self appointed position as their spokesperson to present them as monolithic on many matters. Let us examine some of his claims:
"[Islam] forbids pre- and extramarital sexual relations, whereas RSE perceives sexual relations outside wedlock as part of normal practices."
I am of course shocked to learn that an authoritarian religious apologist frowns on relationship and sexuality education, and uses their faith and self constructed platform to oppose same. That said a favouring of marriage as an environment in which to raise children can hardly be considered the unique preserve of the Muslim faith, and I'm aquiver with anticipation for Selim's paper showing Christians do not share this position. Perhaps he will soon be calling for the introduction of Catholic values to some of Ireland's schools? It is hardly incoherent to favour waiting till marriage yet also wish to equip one's children with an understanding of relationships, human sexuality, self respect and respect for one's partner and it's baffling how Selim can pretend no Irish Muslim holds this view.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Iona Institute Declares Its Support For (Some) Marriage Equality

Yesterday the otherwise affable Oriental Cutlery tweeted a link to the Iona Institute's latest video. I encourage fans of unmuddled thinking to avoid watching at an hour where exasperation or a breeched balderdash threshold could cause insomnia or gritted teeth.

Today I experienced both surprise and chagrin when I realised that fully one fifth of their broadcast was an impassioned plea for marriage equality for same sex couples.

Not all same sex couples, mind you, but it's encouraging to see them take these faltering, progressive steps.

I reproduce the segment for your convenience:
We believe that children should be raised by their own mother and father in a loving marriage whenever possible. Of course, circumstance can often mean this isn't possible. But we believe children should not be deprived of a mother or father's love as a matter of deliberate design. - Iona Institute, Marriage Equality Supporters The banner on their page says "civil marriage for gay and lesbian people"
Some think marriage equality is the struggle for civil marriage for gay and lesbian people. To hold this view is of course to think bisexuals can never fall in love with someone of the same gender. This is not the injustice the Iona Institute seek to right. Instead I feel they speak to the inordinate challenges married transgender parents face.

A man assigned the sex female at birth can marry a cis male, give birth, and then later decide to come out. He may then begin the process of changing his gender presentation to better match his internal sense of gender.

Some marriages are strained by this. Some come through it. For those who choose to seek legal recognition of their correct gender they may face a stark choice: the State will only grant them recognition if they divorce. I can only imagine the sense of betrayal that must accompany one's government forcing a citizen to choose between recognition of their marriage or their gender.

The Iona Institute are convinced that the biological component provided by each parent is paramount in parenting. They hold marriage dear as the ideal institution in which children should be raised. They oppose any legal step that would, by deliberate design, weaken this arrangement. It follows with certainty, therefore, that they support marriage rights for transgender citizens of this state, regardless of gender.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


I've often welcomed guest posts from those of differing opinions to me, and have had the pleasure of hosting several from those of people of faith. Today's post from a Catholic friend differs from these in that it has my full agreement.

Fiona Hanley writes from the perspective of an ordinary Irish Catholic. She's not speaking for an institute or a hierarchy, so it's a voice you may not have heard before.

Today is June 8. It’s Pentecost, marking the end of the Easter period and birthday of the Church. According to the Gospel, apostles have locked themselves in a room terrified. They get a visit from Jesus saying ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’ Well indeed. Harsh but fair.

The Catholic Church has never said sorry properly for abuse meted out and covered up. Sure, there have been mealy-mouthed lawyer-approved expressions of regret for actions of individuals on the other side of the alter rail. All the words of apology jumbled up to mean nothing at all. Co-operation with enquiries proceeded like a snail under a brick. It’s difficult to understand why there was no full, unconditional apology and expression of responsibility. A professional Catholic of all people should know that without atonement there will be no forgiveness. There are only seven sacraments and that’s one of them.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

An Evening With Faith Healers

On Wednesday I'll be recording my fourth appearance on Premier Christian Radio's 'Unbelievable' show. If you like Christian and non Christian debate I recommend you check out their archive. The host, Justin Brierley, makes an excellent moderator and always ensures both sides get fair hearing.

My last two shows were on miracles. After they aired a faith healer called David contacted the host and offered to take me on an evening of healing on the streets of Dublin. I was reticent - David is based in the Middle East and if nothing else I did not want him to incur the financial expense of such a journey. I think we left it as something along the lines of 'only if you happen to be here'.

Time passed and David contacted me with dates of his planned visit to Ireland. By happy coincidence we later discovered that one of his Irish cohorts knows my brother in law. We agreed to meet, spent an evening in Dublin city centre, and got on rather well.

That was perhaps seven months ago. At the time Justin asked me if I'd like to go back on his show to discuss the experience and if I'm honest I ducked the request. I liked, indeed admired David, and his ministry didn't raise any flags normally associated with faith healers. He does not accept remuneration, does not seek fame or recognition, avoids those with obvious serious ailments lest he causes offence, and seems to genuinely brighten the days of those he encounters. I felt my choice was between arguing with a likeable fellow with heartfelt intentions or taking a very soft approach and inadvertently endorsing faith healers who have a negative impact on society.

Recently Justin asked again. David seemed game, I had a day off around the time and I thought why not. This post is as much my effort to collect my thoughts and give David fair warning of points I'll raise as anything else. Given the gap in time I'm sure our recollections will differ in places, any lapses on my part are unintentional. Given how long and unwieldy this post has become I'll only discuss the first few encounters.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Preserving Ethos Argument - Does It Hold Up?

" is not discrimination for a religious employer to act against a member of staff who is undermining their ethos." - David Quinn, March 9th, 2013 

A castle I rented. Seriously. It was cool. Irish Landmark Trust. Check it out.
Surrounding forest reclaiming a woodland walk. It was like location scouting for a Tomb Raider movie.
Mrs Shorts and I spent an enjoyable St Patrick's week in Cork. We rented a small castle, found a semi abandoned 18th century walled garden, toured ruins and visited Fota Island. We had lunch in Ballymaloe. We toured the Jameson distillery. When I returned to work I told colleagues about the time I spent with the woman I love, showed holiday pictures, and recommended castle rental.

I can do this in Ireland because I do not have a religious employer and my sexuality is not considered a threat to anyone's sincerely held beliefs. If Mrs Shorts was a Mr and I had chosen education as a career path I would likely have required a cover story. I could have avoided any discussions with colleagues, I suppose, or pretended I had travelled alone. But renting a romantic castle for solo use is a little suspicious so I may have had to pretend I spent the week at home. Photos, naturally, would have to be kept from social media. Perhaps I could invent a partner of approved gender and spin tales to fit. It would be awkward to explain why said partner could never attend work social events, but that is a price considered appropriate to protect the delicate sincerely held beliefs of some.