Gaming under the guise of sport has no place in our schools

By | Teens, Uncategorized | No Comments

Exposing high school students to addictive gaming under the guise of sport is reprehensible and is no better than addicting them to booze. Parents must wake up to the risks and stop schools from allowing it.

AUSTRALIAN high schools are increasingly signing up to eSports programs. They might as well be opening lunchtime pubs in their canteens. Addicting their students to gaming is no better than addicting them to booze and it certainly isn’t sport.

From the very beginning of computer gaming, just as with real life games, people have been keen to watch others play.

In 1980, just two years after the release of the first major commercial computer game, Space Invaders, Atari organised the world’s first tournament. Ten thousand players battled little green invaders across the US, with Rebecca (then Bill) Heineman being crowned the ultimate winner, and taking home a Missile Command video game console then worth US$3000.

For a long time the revenue earning power of computer gaming competitions was limited by the inability to compete directly against other humans. The competitions were essentially overblown High Score shootouts, where every player was pitted against the game algorithm and the winner was the one who understood how it worked the best. It understandably had limited mass appeal.

And then came the internet and with it, the ability to design games which pitted people against people. Sure, the game controlled the environment and its rewards and punishments, but now for the first time the skills of other humans could affect your ability to win. It was suddenly a lot more like a physical sport. And with that, a new age of gaming dawned, the age of eSports.

That industry is now worth around US$1 billion a year and growing very fast. It is predicted to have worldwide revenue of US$1.8 billion by 2022, when eSports will be included as a full medal sport in the Asian Games in China, the world’s second largest multi-sport event (behind the Olympics).

These “eSports” are free online computer games played in teams. Usually five players co-operate and attempt to destroy a base protected by another team of five players while protecting their own base. The most popular games at the moment are DOTA 2, League of Legends and Overwatch but the list is growing all the time and the new kid on the block is the wildly popular, Fortnite.

And just like real sports, the audiences are eating it up. The global audience is currently well north of 380 million people. Needless to say, an audience that big attracts hundreds of millions in sponsorship dollars, not to mention in-game purchases and merchandise.

It is this potential honey pot and massively accelerating growth that has attracted media, telecom and the owners of traditional sports. Telcom companies are buying teams and securing streaming rights and sporting organisations are funding leagues to expand their audiences.

Locally, several AFL franchises have ploughed money into eSports. In 2017. the Adelaide Crows purchased a franchise. It was quickly followed by Essendon the following year and North Melbourne, Collingwood, Geelong, West Coast and GWS are actively considering following suite. Adelaide now run the Meta High School eSports League, with the 2019 season involving 160 schools in Australia and New Zealand.

Participating schools establish “teams” of competitive gamers who “train” for hours each week after school and compete in the online leagues. The games are free to play and can be played all the time regardless of being in a “team”, so I suspect most of the players get in a lot more “training” than the hour or two they do at school. And probably use the need to “train” as an excuse for access to their devices at home.

The graphics and sound are exhilarating. The excitement and tension in the players is real.

These games are the very best, the most addictive, the most evolved, the gaming industry has to offer. Their purpose is to addict young minds to the point of obsession, so that billions can be drained from their bank accounts in the form of micro purchases (of costumes and characters) and billions more can be drained from the accounts of sponsors who want access to the players and their fans. And our schools have just signed up as part of the gaming industry sales force.

We wouldn’t tolerate a brewery sponsoring a Chug-a-lug competition at the local high school. And we wouldn’t be too keen on a casino installing pokies, sorry eMaths machines, in the library.

So why on earth are we allowing companies whose entire purpose is to addict young minds open up shop in our schools.

It isn’t sport just because they call it sport. eSport is addictive gaming, pure and simple, so don’t let your school fall for the marketing BS designed to turn your kids into a product for sale to the highest bidder.

 

First published in the Courier Mail.

Excerpt from Teen Brain

By | Teens | 8 Comments

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I started researching this book because two mothers of teenagers told me to. My wife, Lizzie, said she was barely able to get through a conversation with another mother of teens without hearing about a child in counselling or on medication for anxiety and depression. Then my publisher, Ingrid, said exactly the same thing. Both of them felt something wasn’t right. This wasn’t how they grew up. They felt something was going on in the world of teenagers that was being hidden by the happy selfies on Facebook and Instagram, and they both wanted me to start digging to see if their hunches were right.

Before I started, I really wondered why I was bothering. Surely, I thought, everything that could possibly be written about parenting teens had already been done, and done better than I could ever do. Sure, there seemed to be more fuss in the media about teens overusing their phones, but I put that down to the perennial intergenerational problem of ‘teens these days’. Yes, it was a minute-by-minute fight in our house to keep the kids away from their school mandated iPads. And yes, the presence of those devices in the house had introduced a whole new level of sneaky behaviour and teen angst. But I put all that down to normal growing pains.

Then I started reading the research on the significant changes in reward pathways in adolescence. I wondered why I’d seen nothing much in the press about that well established biological reality. And I wondered why I saw even less about why that might be a problem in an age when billions are being spent by tech companies to encourage teenagers to become addicted to their products.

I knew software is engineered to addict. When it comes to non-business-related software, addictive products sell. Non-addictive products die a fast death. This is especially the case when every product in the category is ‘free’. I’d worked long enough in the industry to know how product management and marketing work. But I didn’t know that teens are particularly susceptible to addiction.

I knew it was always a struggle to prise a screen from our teenagers’ hands, but I tended to have a vaguely dismissive, ‘What harm can it really do?’ approach. And yes, I felt devices in schools were a significant distraction likely to impair performance, but I had no sense of how uniquely destructive to teen wellbeing they could be.

In short, I was happy to drift, uncomfortably, through allowing teen access to devices and accept, uneasily, the assurances that while they might be distracting, it was for the best or at least would do no permanent harm. That was until the union-of-the-mothers-of-teens told me to have a good hard look at it. In a nutshell, here’s what I found:

  1. The biology of puberty makes the teen brain uniquely fragile. It makes teens susceptible to addictions that can last for life and usher in mental illness.
  2. Parenting is much more permissive and parents need to harden up to save their kids.
  3. Unfettered access to screens is driving an epidemic of addiction, depression and anxiety, the likes of which we have never witnessed before.

What I found was frankly terrifying. In less than a decade we’ve totally changed the future of the human race, and we’ve done it without so much as a backward glance. Think that’s an overreach? Bear with me while I explain. …

Excerpt from Taming Toxic People

By | Psychopaths | One Comment

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Imagine for a minute that you are carving your way, machete in hand, through impenetrable jungle in some terribly exotic place. You happen upon a clearing when suddenly you notice you are not alone. On the other edge of the glen, a stone’s throw from you, stands a tiger. He is staring intently at you. Assessing you. He doesn’t care whether you love your mother, what your favourite colour is or even that tomorrow is your birthday. To him, you are one of just three things: a meal, entertainment or too nasty to bother with.

The tiger will test you. He will growl, bare his teeth, or make an imperceptible, but swift, movement in your direction. These are all tests. He is probing you. Monitoring you for signs of strength or weakness. He will use every faculty millions of years of adaptation have given him, to determine whether you are trouble, or lunch.

You cannot reason with him, you cannot threaten him, you cannot plead for mercy. Your only chance of survival is to convince him that you are more trouble than you are worth. If you manage that, he will turn and walk away without a backward glance. If you can’t, your goose is cooked. Well, eaten.

The tiger’s cold assessment of your meal-worthiness is the same as the one your psychopathic boss, workmate, relative or lover performed on you within the first few seconds of meeting you. This is a book about convincing the tiger you are more trouble than you’re worth. And if you are really brave, it is a book that can tell you how to catch and tame the tiger. After all, who wouldn’t want a pet tiger?

I’ve had the misfortune to encounter a large number of psychopaths. No, I don’t work in a psychiatric unit or a prison. I’ve run across these people in all manner of benign social and work settings. None of these people would satisfy a test for overt criminality. But many skate very close to the edge. Their skill is obtaining a benefit – using criminal or at least, immoral, means – without ever exposing themselves to the force of the law.

I’ve been thinking about writing an easy to understand guide to dealing with psychopaths for a long time. Over the years, I’ve spoken to hundreds of people about the ideas in this book. Every single one (and I mean Every. Single. One.) of those people, often complete strangers, knew exactly what I was talking about. Every single one of them had worked for, been related to, been taught by, been married to or been in a relationship with someone who they felt to be a psychopath. Every one of those people had been profoundly damaged by the experience and most wanted to share their stories as a warning to others and never speak of it again. I didn’t seek out people affected by psychopaths. These were just people I chatted to after giving book talks or interviews, or people I ran into at the coffee shop. The truly amazing thing is that once I described how I believed a psychopath behaved, not a single person could say they had never experienced it. Many did not know that they were describing a psychopath, but believe me, if you have been, or are, a psychopath’s victim, you are not alone.

Why are we throwing money at people who choose not to use Public Education?

By | Education | 10 Comments

The Government has just decided to throw another 4.6 billion taxpayer dollars at a sector which already sucks up $12 billion a year of Australia’s education funding.  On equity grounds alone, the increase for ‘private’ and not public schools is outrageous.  But it highlights an even more egregious fact.  Almost 90% of Australian households are being asked to subsidise the private choices of the other 10%.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, of every 100 Australian households, 33 will have children under 15 or dependent students aged 15-24.  In 21 of those households the school age children will be attending public schools, 7 will be attending Catholic schools and 5 will be attending independent schools (such as Protestant and Islamic schools).

Together the 12 households that have chosen not to use the education system funded by all taxpayers are asking the other 88 households to pay for their choice.  They argue that in choosing not to use a public service they are saving the community money and so they should be compensated.  But that is the equivalent of an avid reader suggesting he is saving the local library by buying his own books and then expecting his collection to be paid for by the taxpayer.  Or the chap installing a pool in his backyard to be expecting it be paid for by the government because he is taking load off the public pool.

The reality is that our voracious reader or our keen swimmer may be choosing to spend money on books and pools for any number of reasons including convenience, variety and perhaps just because they don’t like sharing.  And they are perfectly free to make those choices for those reasons.  But they don’t get to ask the rest of us to subsidise those preferences.

Likewise those 12 families are choosing not to avail themselves of the public education system for a multitude of reasons.  Maybe they like religion mixed with their education.  Maybe they want a single sex education.  Or maybe its just that they think they can get a better education than the government is offering.  Whatever is driving their choice, they should be free to make that choice.  But they should not be given taxpayer funds for electing not to use a public service, any more than our book lover or water enthusiast should be given tax dollars to build and maintain their private library and private pool.

When the governments of Australia collectively decided that education was a public service that should be free, secular and accessible to all in the late 19th century, the Catholic church opted out and declared that it would fund an alternative.  It did this knowing that to do so would cut it off from taxpayer funds. But such was its religious conviction that children of Catholics should be educated by Catholics, that this was the price it was prepared to pay.

The Church stuck to this ideal for the better part of a century, but the decline in availability of low cost teaching labor provided by religious orders and the increasing cost of providing more complex education meant they were very much the paupers’ option by the mid-1960s.  Some strong-arm tactics by the Catholic church in Goulburn resulted in the first dribble of public money.  In the half century since, those drips have turned into a torrent and not just to Catholic schools.  In many cases, including in Goulburn, Catholic schools now receive as much or even more public money than their so called ‘public’ neighours.  And still they want more.  And they tell their customers how to vote to ensure they get more.

There is nothing wrong with parents choosing not to use a public service. But that doesn’t mean the taxpayer should pay for their choice any more than the government should pay for my subscription because I pay for Foxtel rather than watch the ABC.

Australians don’t want our governments throwing our money at people who opt-out of our public services.  We want every precious education tax dollar focused on improving the skills of every single child in this country. Yes, they can choose not to be educated by the State.  But if they do so, they also forgo access to the State’s money.  The sooner we shut down the notion of privatised delivery of government funded education the sooner we can begin to claw our way back to the top of the list of the world’s best education systems.

Schools taking taxpayer funds must not be used for political campaigning

By | Education | 2 Comments

On the eve of the by-election, the three Catholic schools in the Longman electorate wrote to 5,000 parents urging them to vote for the Labor Party.  Between them, these three schools received $31.6 million dollars in government funding in 2016. It is outrageous that they are using taxpayer funds to engage in blatant politicking.

The email from the schools explained that the parents should vote Labor because the Turnbull Government’s policies would “impede our ability to build new schools in the archdiocese and we will be challenged to keep pace with the real cost increases for Catholic schooling.”  It went on to explain that Labor had pledged to spend an extra $250 million on Catholic schools nationally.  It estimated that if the Government’s policy were pursued it would cost Brisbane Catholic Schools $40 million.

But these are not poverty-stricken schools running on the smell of an oily vestment.  They are extraordinarily well funded by the taxpayer.  For example, according to myschool, the Caboolture secondary school, St Columban’s College received 13,380 taxpayer dollars per student in 2016.  This was just a whisker under the $13,657 received by its next-door neighbor, Caboolture State High School.   St Columban’s also topped that up with an extra $5,678 per student from its fee-paying families.

In addition to that recurrent funding, both schools received taxpayer funds for capital works.  Caboolture SHS banked $516,595 from 2014-16.  But St Columban’s received more than three times as much taxpayer dosh, taking in $1,864,312.  That money is used to build assets owned by the Catholic Church, who in turn have the right to exclude the very people who paid to build them.

If the principal of Caboollture State High School had indulged in a little freelance political lobbying of his parent group, the screams of outrage would be heard from space, and rightly so.  The Principal is a government employee and has no place suggesting how parents should vote, much less actively cajoling them.  So why on earth do we tolerate it from Catholic Schools that are also funded by us?

When the governments of Australia collectively decided that education was a public service that should be free, secular and accessible to all in the late 19th century, the Catholic church opted out and declared that it would fund an alternative.  It did this knowing that to do so would cut it off from taxpayer funds. But such was its religious conviction that children of Catholics should be educated by Catholics, that this was the price it was prepared to pay.

The Church stuck to this ideal for the better part of a century, but the decline in availability of low cost teaching labor provided by religious orders and the increasing cost of providing more complex education meant they were very much the paupers’ option by the mid-1960s.  Some strong-arm tactics by the Catholic church in Goulburn resulted in the first dribble of public money.  In the half century since, those drips have turned into a torrent.  In many cases, including in Goulburn and Caboolture, Catholic schools now receive as much or even more public money than their so called ‘public’ neighours.  And still they want more.  And they tell their customers how to vote to ensure they get more.

There is nothing wrong with parents choosing not to use a public service.  But they don’t get to send the taxpayer a bill for their choice any more than I get to ask the government to send me a refund because I didn’t use the police this year.

Equally there is nothing wrong with private organisations lobbying for whatever political ideology they like.  But they don’t get to use taxpayer funds to do it.  If the Catholic Church wants to engage in political campaigning in the seat of Longman then it should hand back the $30 million plus a year it takes from the taxpayer in that seat.  If it would prefer to keep the money, then it should have to play by the same rules as a public school.  No lobbying.  No private school fees.  And the assets it builds with taxpayer funds remain the property of the taxpayer.  The days of having their wafer and eating it too need to stop. Now.

Creating The Perfect World for Psychopaths

By | Psychopaths | One Comment

We didn’t mean to do it, but we have created a perfect world for psychopaths. If I were to sit down with the express aim of designing a society where psychopaths could flourish, it would be almost identical to any modern capitalist society, or at least, where most are heading very quickly. There would be almost no communal property. Government would have been reduced to a tax collecting rump, tasked mostly with providing bare minimum services to the destitute. Almost all government assets would have been liquidated in search of the ‘efficiencies’, not to mention the money offered by business operators. The power system, the ports, the railways, the banks, the post office and even core services like health and unemployment would have all become partially or full privatised.

All communal services would be delivered on a largely user-pay basis, and the concept of community assets, like the public pool or public transport would cease to be fashionable. The interests and rights of the individual would trump any consideration of the collective good at every turn. Institutions that previously reinforced community values, such as businesses, religious groups and families would wilt under the sustained economic pressure to maximise individual gain. Increasingly business and government agencies would internally restructure in a way that rewarded individual and competitive economic performance rather than satisfying community expectations. Bullying and domestic violence would accelerate as the community standards which held them in check decayed. Honesty would become something to which we all paid lip-service whilst desperately trying to get away with as much as we could. We would come to expect the same levels of almost-honesty from our political representatives and become inured to their flexible relationship with the truth. It wouldn’t make us love them but we would know where they were coming from. We would no longer trust our leaders or public institutions. Indeed we would quickly learn the only people we could trust were ourselves and whoever Uber rated with 5 stars. In the race to compete with others narcissistic behaviour becomes so common that barely anyone notices it as being unusual. Everyone would be expected to self-promote at every possible opportunity.

The society I have described is highly individualistic. Every day in every way, the members of that society compete with each other for scarce resources. Co-operation and trust are almost non-existent and honesty is a vague and flexible concept. In that society humans have no need for empathy, trust, co-operation or a moral code which enables communal living. In that society all that matters is individual self-interest and getting the most for you without regard to anyone else. In that society, having a brain with a socialisation circuit upgrade is a significant impairment. You will have qualms about breaking the law. You will try not to exploit others as much as you can. You will try to avoid dishonesty unless it is really necessary. In that society, empaths are the sub-normals. And being a psychopath is a distinct advantage. Having a brain unfettered by moral constraints or empathy makes you a winner and probably even the President.

An Extract from Taming Toxic People

Don’t hand Sugar Tax money to the people who got us in this mess

By | Conflicts of Interest, Sugar | 3 Comments

It’s already been quite a year for the Australian Sugar Industry.  Just 6 sleeps into the New Year they were taking sustained incoming fire from the AMA (Australian Medical Association). Suddenly the doctors were demanding a soft drink tax.  It was something the AMA had sort-of mentioned before but now they were going postal on the issue.

Wiping the holiday sleep from their eyes, the pro-sugar lobby struggled to respond.  But eventually they managed to inspire a National Party Minister to regurgitate the soft drink industry response. Then they then lined up a climate change denial think tank to try and jazz it up with ‘science.’

And last but certainly least, yesterday they wheeled out an ever-reliable University of Sugar (sorry, Sydney) dietitian who sagely warned us that if soft drinks were taxed we’d all hit the booze instead.  Yes, lock up the vodka at Macca’s, Coke now cost 2c more.

It’s a familiar merry-go-round but in every other civilized place in the world it eventually ends with the introduction of a soft drink tax.  Since 2014, 28 countries and 7 US cities have implemented sugar taxes.  And there are very good reasons for that.  The science on the health destroying effects of sugar is unequivocal.  The costs of managing that harm are crippling. And unlike most tax increases, sugar taxes are popular.  A January 2018 poll tells us that 53 per cent of Australians want it.

The real question then is not whether we will have a soft drink tax but when.  Most importantly, when the inevitable happens, what will we do with the money it raises.

The AMA has clearly put its stake in the ground to be the first in the queue for handouts.  But their record on sugar has hardly been stellar.  No, they haven’t actively promoted sugar consumption like dietitians or the Heart Foundation, but they have sat on their hands for at least a decade and happily refused to use their considerable influence to advocate against sugar.

Even now, playing catchup, their support of the Health Star System (which labels sugar loaded Milo a health food and unflavoured Greek Yoghurt a health hazard), suggests they remain a little confused on potential solutions. The AMAs new found conscience should therefore be regarded with suspicion and their plans for the dough scrutinized carefully.

A soft drink tax is unlikely to have any measurable health effect on its own. Taxing one source of sugar will certainly reduce consumption from that source but people simply find a cheaper, or just different, supply (iced coffee anyone?).

But the siren call of cold hard cash will apparently do what I and many like me have failed to do for a decade.  It will remove the single greatest obstacle to real progress, the nutrition rent-seekers.

These organisations have been perfectly happy to ignore the science for decades.  They have been happy to dictate health policy that lets ever increasing numbers of us suffer.  And they have been happy to do it because of ego or profit or consensus or stubbornness or all of the above.

If, however the tax funds consistent government public health campaigns aimed at making sugar consumption slightly less desirable than persistent public flatulence, then it will have a measurable and significant effect.  The outcome can’t be to hand money to the organisations that got us in this mess in the first place and hope for the best.  Because if there is one thing we should know about sugar, our health comes a very long way second to the self-interest of the people with their hand in the cookie jar.

Surviving the Family Psychopath at Christmas

By | Psychopaths | 4 Comments

Christmas is a time for good will to all, for giving and receiving and, for getting uncomfortably close to people we’ve spent the rest of the year avoiding like the plague.

Toxic people. You might call them bullies, or micromanagers, or narcissists, or sociopaths.  I don’t feel particularly charitable towards them, so I go with psychopath.  But whatever you call them there common feature is a complete lack of empathy.

They see human feelings as an opportunity for manipulation.  They see our concern for our fellow travellers as a ‘weakness’ they neither suffer nor desire.  But they know they can use our feelings to torment us, sometime for gain but mostly for their pleasure.  So there is no better time of year than one when we have no choice but to be in their company.

Psychopaths want to be the centre of attention at all times.  Their birthday is a terrific celebration for exactly that reason, it’s all about them.  They are the focus and the receiver of all things.  They feel the world should be like this every day.

Psychopaths don’t experience human feelings.  They are not elevated by the company of others.  They have no idea why we are so obsessed by getting together and celebrating not-them.

Christmas, rather like other’s people’s birthdays, has the potential to be the opposite of a good time to a psychopath.  Luckily there are compensations.  People who go out of their way to avoid contact with the psychopath are suddenly forced to share a meal with them.  And they have to play nice.

In any room full of people making nice, there are loads of little surface tensions just waiting to be magnified with an appropriate bit of manipulation.  Oh the fun that can be had scratching everybody else’s little emotional itches until they openly bleed.  Puppet masters by nature, you will not know where the bullets will come from.  Psychopaths are experts at lighting a fire in others and sitting back to watch the show.  Pass the popcorn – the entertainment is endless.

Even better old and new targets will be much more open to the psychopathic charm.  The festive spirit dulls their victims’ memories of just what an utter prick they can be.  The opportunities for emotional torment of past victims and of the harvesting of new ones are endless.  Maybe Christmas isn’t so bad after all.

Every family has at least one of these toxic people.  They are the ones you wouldn’t have in your home if you weren’t obliged to by a sense of family responsibility.  They are the guest that is guaranteed to sabotage the bonhomie and leave a trail of ignited emotions and crumpled self-worth in their wake as they trample through the goodwill of Christmas.

And yet, we will have them at our table every Christmas without fail.  Because we care about how other humans feel and it would be mean to leave them out at that one time of the year.  Leaving them off the guest list doesn’t really affect them.  They are not harmed by ‘missing out’ on Christmas. But ditching them will probably more trouble than its worth.  They will use their exclusion as a weapon to divide the family into for and against (you) camps and you will pay for it a thousand times over.

Short of ‘forgetting’ to invite them, there are other defences against the family psychopath.  You cant change them, but you can change how you and others react to them.

Be well mannered, light hearted and Teflon coated.  Feel the power of knowing your enemy.  Be ready to stand up to any attempts at manipulation.  Push back hard and publicly on any jibe, but stay unemotional and unmovable.  Do not respond to innuendo designed to get a rise out of you. The more you remain implacable in the face of provocation, the less you will have to do it.

But most importantly, do not believe or act on anything the psychopath says about anyone else.  It is probably a lie and at the very least exaggerated and out of context. The more people in the room who are signed on to your plan, the less likely any of you will be manipulated.  Solidarity beats a psychopath every day of the week and twice on Christmas.

If it’s not your party, you could just not go.  Yes that’s extreme, but if the alternative is guaranteed emotional turbulence it’s got to be an option.  Why not simply arrange to see the bits of the family you can stand at another time.  Pop over for Christmas Eve or catch up on Boxing Day perhaps?

If you do go, you could do a flyer.  Breeze in, drop off the presents, give dear old Aunt Flossy a kiss, have a slice of Pav and hit the road before anyone can land a punch.

None of this is easy, but if you can manage it, Christmas might actually be fun for a change.

Why the experts are wrong when they tell us cancer is our fault

By | Big Fat Lies, Vegetable Oils | 4 Comments

The statistics tell us that every year more and more of us suffer from cancer.  The experts continue to tell us it is our fault for failing to listen to their sage advice. But with smoking and drinking at all-time lows and sun protection at levels never before seen in the history of life on earth, it’s time for the experts to admit that maybe, just maybe they have been horribly wrong.

This week the team at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute pumped out another of their tax payer funded three yearly updates on ‘modifiable’ risk factors for cancer.  After doing some mathematical acrobatics they calculate that if we just stopped doing risky things 38% of cancer deaths would be prevented.

The ‘risky things’ they are worried about are smoking, not eating enough fruit and vegetables, eating too much red meat, consuming too much alcohol, not exercising enough and spending too much time in the sun.

The only problem is that we have been doing all of that since at least the early eighties.  And over the intervening decades cancer incidences have been accelerating at a terrifying rate.

Between 1980 and 2012 we cut back on the booze – dropping our consumption by 21%. We also ate 15.4% more vegetables and 7.5% more fruit between 1992 and 2011.  And our consumption of beef has plummeted by half since the early eighties.

For good measure, we also increased the amount of exercise we did, with the proportion of us doing high levels of exercise almost doubling.  And our sun protection behaviours have improved significantly. Most importantly, we dramatically reduced smoking.  Adults who smoked daily almost halved between 1995 and 2015.

And our reward for doing exactly as we were told? The incidence of all cancers has increased by 23% and some cancers have really exploded.  Australians are now three times as likely to have thyroid or liver cancer and between 2 and 3 times as likely to have melanoma or Kidney, Anal, or prostate cancer.

We have done exactly what we were told and the result is the opposite of what the experts predicted.  And yet the advice from those experts is to do it harder.  On the evidence to date you could reasonably conclude doing what the experts tell us will likely increase the suffering from cancer.

We need these experts to take a harder look at what we know about the underlying causes of cancer and break from the career-preserving eat-more-veg-and-exercise-more tosh they have so far been dispensing.

In an environment when the solution you preach is not producing the result in you predict, then it is highly probably you are missing something.  Yes, smoking reductions have put downward pressure on lung cancer rates but it is also clear that something else is putting even more upward pressure on lung cancer and a long list of other cancers.

We know that smoking causes cancer because it releases large amount of toxic aldehydes into our system.  These drive a state of oxidative stress which cascades through to the DNA disruption which lies at the heart of cancer.

But we have known for decades that seed oils, the fats which now totally dominate our food supply, produce exactly the same disease cascades as smoking – only worse.

The science on this is the gold standard in nutrition research – a double-blind, randomized, controlled lengthy human trial. No correlations. No guessing about explanations. Just one dietary change which lead to just one powerful conclusion.

The trial was conducted in the late 1960s. It involved randomly allocating men to diets that contained animal fat (let’s call them the butter eaters) or diets where that fat was replaced with seed oils (the margarine eaters).

After eight years, the butter eaters had half the rate of death from cancer when compared to the margarine eaters. And that’s even though the butter eaters had a much higher proportion of heavy smokers. It’s that simple, use seed oils for fat and humans die much more frequently from cancer.

In Australia today it is impossible to buy processed food which uses animal fat. There is one simple reason for this. It’s cheaper. All our packaged food is infused with cheap seed oils rather than expensive animal fats and our consumption of those cancer causing oils has inexorably risen as a result.

Knowing this, the rise in cancer diagnosis, despite the huge reduction in smoking, is not a surprise. Rather it is the inevitable result of the profiteering ways of the processed food industry. And it will continue to rise for as long as we continue to consume these oils.

We know that ingesting seed oils or inhaling their vapours causes cancer with at least the same level of certainty as we have about smoking. And yet these same experts telling us to eat less red meat and more vegies actively encourage us to consume these lethal oils.

The sanctimonious preaching must stop. We don’t need yet another round of experts using our money to tell us cancer is our fault.  Cancer is not our fault. The science has told us for decades that it is caused by the very same seed oils that these experts tell us we should eat.  We need the high priests of nutrition science to immediately stop singing from the food industry song-sheet and provide evidence based advice about what really causes cancer.  If nothing changes, nothing will change.

Forget bakers, why can private schools be bigots?

By | Education | No Comments

BEFORE we get in a tizz about whether bakers are allowed to refuse service to same-sex couples, we should ask why taxpayer-funded schools can refuse to employ them or educate their kids.

The Bill likely to create the mechanics of implementing Australia’s decision to support same-sex marriage is the one proposed by Liberal senator, Dean Smith. The so-called Smith Bill allows churches to refuse to marry same-sex couples. And many in the Parliament appear to accept that this is a reasonable exemption to Australia’s anti-discrimination laws.

Those laws vary a little according to where you live but generally prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, marital status, pregnancy, religious belief, sexual orientation, nationality or ethnicity.

Marriage in a church is a religious service and the argument is that it is unreasonable to require the delivery of that service when it does not conform with the religious beliefs of the minister performing it.

But some law-makers want to significantly extend the reach of the exemption. Liberal senator James Paterson, for example wanted to see the exemption extended to anyone supplying goods and services to a same-sex wedding, such as florists, bakers and musicians.

Many legislators, including the Prime Minister, are not persuaded that extending that exemption to anyone involved in a same-sex wedding is reasonable. They argue it is a massive overreach which makes a mockery of laws against discrimination. And yet we have already gutted those laws when it comes to education.

Unlike Government-run schools, privately-run schools are largely exempt from the provisions of Australia’s discrimination laws. Under Federal law, a religious school can discriminate against employees, contractors and students on the basis of their “sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status or pregnancy.”

Even harsher provisions are present in some state laws. In New South Wales, for example, all private schools (whether they claim to be religious or not) can refuse to teach or employ people on the basis of marital status, sex, disability, transgender or homosexuality.

In Australia ‘private’ schools are taxpayer funded, often to a level which equals or exceeds their public school neighbours. Those schools are in the business, and make no mistake it is a business, of delivering education services to a third of Australian children. They collectively employ around 146,000 people (almost 40 per cent of Australia’s education workforce) and yet are legally permitted to say and enforce things like: “staff, parents and students of Grace Christian School seek to honour God by … ensuring that sex occurs only within a monogamous marriage, and that we abstain from … homosexual activities.”

If you want a job in, or your child educated in, a very large chunk of the Australian education system your protections against discrimination are non-existent. Your tax dollars are funding institutions which can legally discriminate against you. And yet the debate of the day is whether a baker can refuse to supply a cake to a same-sex couple.

The nation’s attention is now firmly focused on the rights of same-sex couples, so let’s use that opportunity to remove the ridiculous protections afforded to the taxpayer funded businesses we call private schools. That is where ‘religious freedom’ can really bite, not at the local cake-shop or florist.

Also published at RendezView