The Corral: Vaccination

“So why should you care if I don’t vaccinate my children?”

I coud answer this question with the fact I’m a human being and don’t want to see dead kids. But the answer is much more personal than that and is why I give very little quarter on this subject. To put it simply, the answer is herd immunity and my nearest and dearest.

Herd Immunity is a simple concept – if you never meet someone who carries an infectious disease you will not catch that infectious disease and it therefore won’t harm you. Also if no one carrying an infectious disease meets someone to pass it on to you can wipe it out, while if they all pass it on you will get an epidemic. This should be obvious – and the rest of it’s just maths to model where the thresholds are. But Herd Immunity only really protects those who aren’t protected by vaccienes directly – why is it personal to me?

I have a friend with no natural immunity to measles. She’s been vaccinated repeatedly and caught it three times so far and will catch it every time she comes into contact with it until either measles (with its 0.2% death rate and 0.5% serious brain damage rate) or something else kills her. Her only defence against measles is herd immunity so an attempt to undermine herd immunity is an attempt to kill or cripple the life of one of my friends.

My baby sister has a heart transplant which means that she will be on immunosuppressants for the rest of her life. Her only serious protection from a lot of diseases is herd immunity so an attempt to undermine herd immunity is an attempt to kill or cripple my family.

But it’s even more personal than that for me although fortunately I don’t remember it. Whooping Cough has a 0.5% death rate for those under 1 year old and for those too young to remember there was a whooping cough vaccine scare in the 1970s and 1980s so I caught it when I was too young to be vaccinated. In short an anti-vaccination scare threatened my life by undermining herd immunity.

My friends, my family, and me. All things I care deeply about. And all things any attempt to undermine vaccinations either has or does threaten the life of (and I’m just scratching the surface here). This is why I take even internet debates about vaccination so seriously and intend to win, at least with the bystanders.

Electability? There’s only one choice left

Well. That’s that. Thanks to the #LabourPurge there is now only one electable Labour leader. Jeremy Corbyn. Anyone else who wins will have won dirty, and needing egregious and public cheating on your behalf makes you unelectable at the next level up. But even before that Corbyn was the most electable simply because the other candidates were too lightweight to come up with an answer fo him,

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Why safe spaces for social awkwardness are worrying

On Facebook, a friend just shared a link about the idea that Geekdom being a place where socially shunned males are free to be themselves is a radical rewriting of history. that erases women. The link is true as far as it goes; there are many many influential female Geeks that Tauriq Moosa missed out including Verity Lambert, Grace Hopper, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. But there are two other extremely important points I want to make.

Geekdom is thought of by some as the only place where socially shunned males can be safe and be themselves. I am a socially awkward male geek who sometimes has all the tact of a rhino in a china shop (a bull in a china shop turning out not to be that bad). But I don’t want a pure safe space simply because I’m awkward and mess up. When I mess up I want to know about it so I can try to do better next time. I do want somewhere I can share interests and a sense of fun, and that it has its own rules is a good thing. But that’s a different issue.

It’s hugely different because the single easiest way for someone to hide being deliberately harmful is behind a veneer of awkwardness.

Don’t think it could happen in geek circles? We’re going to talk about two alpha-geeks from the 60s. A married couple, in fact. Walter Breen and Marion Zimmer Bradley. (OK, who spotted the hook in the first paragraph?) In geek circles, Marion Zimmer Bradley was a famous and prolific SF and fantasy author, ran several fanzines, gave numerous authors their start in her various anthology collections, and much much more. Together they were founders of the Eastern chapter of the SCA – and Walter went on post-divorce to become an extremely influential coin collector. They were both highly influential members of various deep subcultures and put a lot of work in.

Walter Breen died in prison for child abuse. Marion admitted helping him commit and cover up his crimes in court.

***TRIGGER WARNING – child abuse, child rape – the links in the following paragraph are detailed about some aspects of the abuse. I’m going to talk about how and why.***

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The Great Doctor of History

(Being my out-of-season contribution to the Moffatt/Dr. Who and Feminism genre). Many people have pointed out Moffatt’s issues with women. There are some good rebuttals – the best being Philip Sandifer’s at the TARDIS eruditorium.

It is, however, obvious that something is going on. And although whoever said you can’t argue with numbers didn’t have a clue – but numbers on their own are a question. Becca Moore has excellent research summarised as an infographic. This is what’s going on. So why?IS DOCTOR WHO SEXIST-01 2

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So what use would tactical voting have been?

Labour supporters are trying to blame the Green Party for Labour’s failure at the election. So let’s have a reality check. I worked out how many extra seats Labour would have won if the Greens had all voted Labour, and found 12. Putting the Tories on 319 seats. Four short of a majority. Meaning that a Conservative government was still inevitable. But either another ConDem government or (more likely and much worse) Conservative/Democratic Unionist Party. A party that is anti-abortion and homophobic.

Congratulations everyone who voted Green. That’s what you saved us from. A coalition that would actively make the Tories worse!

And Labour, the blame is entirely at your feet. Possibly if you’d had a better election campaign than “We’re another bunch of pro-austerity economic illiterates – just not quite as bad as the Tories” then you would have had people who actually wanted to vote for you. Rather than losing your votes to Farage and then blaming us.

And you do not own the Green vote. Some of us have hard lines you cross. Many of us will tell you that if you support Frakking and want our votes you can frack off! One of my personal lines is still the Iraq War – I’ll never knowingly vote for anyone who voted for that (which didn’t stop me voting for Jeremy Corbyn in 2005).

As for what harm would 8 MPs have done? Would they have been able to make abortion illegal? No. But it’s possible to restrict access to abortion without banning it. The sort of tricks Nadine Dorries loves to try. The DUP supports homophobic conscience clauses. And all they need is to sneak one or two of those into the back of Tory bills to make a Tory government even worse. All the economics of the Tory party with homophobia and mysogeny on top. By voting Green you stopped the DUP gaining a massively disproportionate amount of influence.

Remember: It could have been worse. And Tory/DUP is even worse than pure Tory. This is what the Labour Party are blaming us for not ending up with.

And that we almost had the DUP (of all people) holding the balance of power is yet another reason the voting system needs to change.

So what the hell just happened with the election?

The  2015 election is done. We have a new Tory government – and one that gained about 25 seats. And much is being made of the Tories gaining 25 seats and the Labour losing 25.  That happened, and it’s important. But from the perspective of the election (as opposed to the future) it’s a side effect. There are four stories to the election which are probably in reverse order of importance:

  • How a party without a vision other than “We’re not as bad as the other guys” makes no inroads (The net change between Labour and the Tories was a two seat swing to Labour (eight Labour went Tory and ten Tory went Labour)).
  • That the rise of UKIP soaked up a lot of disaffected voters who’d otherwise have voted “Kick the bums out” in favour of Labour (particularly in the North of England)
  • The rise of the SNP (taking 40 seats off Labour and 10 off the Lib Dems)
  • The disintegration of the Lib Dems who lost almost all their seats to whichever the competing party was as the party faithful had a real chance to make its opinions on the leadership known. The apparent Tory gain was caused by the disintegration of their coalition partners.

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Advanced Tactical Voting

There are a lot of people at this (and every other) election talking of voting tactically. Whether you should is an interesting ethical question – and one outside the scope of this blog post. The only thing I’ll say on the ethics is that many people voted Lib Dem at the last election to keep the Tories out. This is a guide coming from a keen amateur game designer for the would be tactical voters to making the best use of your vote under the First Past the Post system. A system designed for game playing rather than getting representative results. Continue reading

Copyright and The Common Good

Our IP system is broken. Not as spectacularly broken as John Oliver demonstrates the US system is. Copyright’s equally absurd – just look at Happy Birthday. And in the US, copyright has already been extended twice (1976) (1998) just before Micky Mouse was due to come out of copyright (it’s now due out in 2023…). And in the US the following books have become public domain in the past five years because their copyright expired. Indeed the current system of copyright in the US is so toxic to older books that in 2013 Amazon had more books from the 1880s than the 1980s.

But Britain isn’t the US. So what’s that to do with us? We actually have had books coming out of copyright for the past 20 years. The only thing is that the books that came out of copyright last year also came out of copyright in 1994 and were then taken out of the public domain by 1995 legislation (imposed on us by the EU)*. And our term lengths are the same.

The current copyright system is broken and corporate controlled. It needs a radical overhaul

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The Corral: Gold and Fiat Currencies

Money is a consensual myth. We currently have fiat money – money that is ultimately imaginary and only worth something because a government says it is, and people believe it and choose to treat it as if the money were real. And people work this out and think it’s ridiculous (it is). And that because it can print more money the government can devalue your savings (if your savings are in a sock under the bed it can; a house remains a house and a company a company regardless).

They then jump from there to one of a number of solutions – normally the Gold Standard, but there are other functionally indistinguishable ones including the Silver Standard, a price-fix based on a basket of commodities, and Bitcoin. And they all have the same flaws as fiat currency – you can’t eat them or take shelter under them and are only worth what people think they are. But rather than having a potential for the government printing more and thus reducing savings, they all suffer from the same thing. The Scrooge McDuck tax on everyone’s work.
Scrooge McDuck jumping into a pile of money

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A guide to tactical voting for pragmatists

“I want to vote Green, but it might let the Tories/Lib Dems in.” – a common refrain for anyone who spends long round the Green Party. I used to hear simmilar round the Liberal Democrats, and I’m sure some UKIP supporters hear the same thing.This is very seldom the case as our First Past the Post system has many issues.

In March 2015, the Electoral Reform Society declared the results of 364 of the 650 (56%) seats being contested. Their equivalent prediction in 2010 was 99.5% accurate (they  can’t predict personal scandals in the run up to the election). It’s unusually low this year due to the unprecidented rise of the SNP.

So where does tactical voting make sense? And in specific where will voting Green give the Tories a chance of getting in? To find out, we’re going to look at the Labour Party’s own numbers, as leaked to Buzzfeed last month. Continue reading