Saturday, May 29, 2010

Never Trust the New York Times

By amusing coincidence, I happened to be reviewing the recent Czech legislative election results which will in all likelihood lead to a centre-right coalition taking power with a decrease seen by all the parties of the left; Green, Communist and Social Democratic Party

And then I happened on an article in the New York Times talking about the increasing power of the Communist party in the Czech Republic. Some samples from the NYT article, published the day of the election are below:

"Analysts say the Communist Party is benefiting from a regionwide disappointment over the failure of liberal parties to live up to the promises of 1989."

"In an election that is unlikely to yield a majority for either the leftist Social Democrats or the rightist Civic Democrats, analysts say the Communist Party could come closer to real power than at any other time since the Velvet Revolution here overthrew Communism in 1989."

"The Communists’ secret weapon is Katerina Konecna, the youngest member of the Czech Parliament, who at age 28 says she feels as at home wearing designer black stiletto heels as she does reading Das Kapital. The daughter of Communist Party members, Ms. Konecna says that the current crisis of capitalism has proved a boon to the Communist Party among the young, who were drawn by its promises of free education and guaranteed jobs."

In the end, the communist party dropped from just under 13% in the 2006 election to slightly above 11% this time around. That marks the second drop in support during elections for the Communist Party, which obtained support of 18.5% of Czechs in the 2002 elections and won 44 out of 200 seats during that election.

In fact, this election marks the first time in a long time that the size of the communist contingent in parliament won't cause significant coalition building problems (see the 2006 coalition building crisis as an example).

Way to read the situation New York Times, you really showed us your keen insight into the situation.

Canadians Didn't Buy the H1N1 Hype

A recent report shows that even in Toronto, Canadians generally didn't buy the H1N1 hype, and wisely chose to ignore the hysteria and go about their normal lives.

I've always felt that the H1N1 hysteria was overblown and that people who bought into it were worrying themselves sick over nothing. I can recall the media breathlessly reporting that this could be the Black Plague of our times. Opposition politicians literally stood on dead bodies to declare that the government was mishandling the H1N1 response and demanding that every Canadian be given a vaccine immediately or tens of thousands would die. A conservative blogger even accused me of putting her children at risk with my opposition to the H1N1 hysteria.

In the end, it was all a tempest in a teapot as the vaccine came out as predicted and was given out to those who wanted it. As more and more people contracted H1N1 (including my family members) people found out that it really wasn't as dangerous as the media had hyped it to be, and ignored the chicken littles who were claiming that the sky was falling. The second wave fizzled and people have pretty much forgotten the whole unpleasant events.

Of course, the 'experts' are upset now because two things have become clear. The first is that they were absolutely, 100% wrong about H1N1. Not only was it no more dangerous than the normal flu, but the vaccination program (which only vaccinated 28% of people in Toronto) didn't prevent a 'second wave' as they may have previously believed. The second thing that is annoying them, and probably this is the hardest for them to accept, is that people stopped believing them and ignored their very clear and explicit instructions to get the vaccine.

"How dare those uncouth plebians dare to ignore our instructions!" They cry from their ivory towers. "We know best for them!"

Of course, one might expect that it would be wise to heed the call to action from a person who has dedicated their life to the research of dangerous diseases and pandemics. But time and time again, they have proven themselves to be chicken littles, crying that the world is ending whenever a new flu strain is found. So is it any wonder that people stop believing them?

Now I know all the arguments, they decided to 'err on the side of caution'. It was better to be 'safe than sorry'. But anyone looking objectively at the facts could have come to the same conclusion that I did and concluded that the whole issue was fabricated hysteria. As I posted on my blog at the time, the experience of Australia without a vaccine should have been enough to reassure us that the world was not coming to a crashing end.

Unfortunately, the loss of public trust in medical experts can have all kinds of tragic consequences. There will come a day when we need these experts to warn us of a serious and dangerous disease or virus and their cries of 'wolf' will go unheeded for far too long because the public stopped trusting them. Next time there is a flu 'pandemic' both the experts and the media should consider this before promoting mass hysteria.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Brain Drain to Canada?

Wait! Stop! No!

This doesn't fit our neat narrative of the Harper government hating science!