Dodgy student alcohol and sex survey

I have just taken part in the Tertiary Student Health Project survey, an Otago University project looking into alcohol use and sexual behaviour among students. Unfortunately the questions were designed such that even myself, a happily married monogomous father with no risk of contracting STDs, would have sounded like a risk-taking no-condom-using childless student! There just weren’t options to choose to describe my actual situation, which will make the results highly questionable.

Fortunately they had a comments section at the end, this is what I wrote:

I have a number of concerns about the accuracy of the data collected in this survey.

Your questions on sexual behaviour are designed assuming all sexual behaviour is casual. Although you would never guess it reading the response to this survey, many people are still married before having sex. If you did not realise this, you may have just consulted with one sector of the student population in designing your survey, and it may be advisable to consult wider before the next one. Your survey equates “a long-term relationship” (whatever that is defined as) and engagement with marriage, when there is a world of difference between the three, especially in terms of duration and break-up rates.

You never ask in what situation the respondent had their first sexual contact, which is far more likely to have been influenced by alcohol than what they happened to be doing in the past 12 months.

You also ask whether you have ever unintentionally got someone pregnant, without asking whether you had intentionally got someone pregnant – there seems to be an assumption that pregnancy is always accidental and undesirable, which is nonsense. As a result your survey will under-record the true rate of pregnancy among students.

You ask about condom use without asking about risk factors for STDs. For example:
– You ask whether you have only had the one partner, but not whether if you have had more you have tested clear for STDs and thus have none to pass on.
– You never ask whether your partner was a virgin before you, or whether she has tested clear of STDs.
If both partners are clear of STDs, they may be unlikely to use condoms. This will bias condom use rates downwards, while having no bearing on STD risk.
– You have equated a long-term-relationship (“long-term” for one respondent may mean 10 years, for another 1 month: high break-up rate and children are usually not desired) and engagement, with marriage (lowest break-up rate as intended to be permanent, children are generally desired), so the condom use between these relationships will be markedly different but never identified in your survey.
– You never asked whether the respondent was trying for a baby.
– You never asked whether the respondent’s partner was using alternative forms of contraception. (You may have asked female respondents this, but you never asked male respondents, despite the major influence this will have on male condom use. Remember not all partners are students.)

Because of these issues your survey is likely to show a low rate of condom use and therefore imply a high risk of STD contraction, which could be used to push policies encouraging condom use on campus, when in actual fact you have no idea what the actual rate of condom use among those at risk of contracting STDs is, because you never asked the right questions.

Having been in this survey I will have to be highly skeptical of the results when they are published unfortunately, especially when making just a couple of extra answers available to pick could have made this information actually useful. However students are behaving this survey will come up with some statistics that could be used to push a particular political line (that of the Family Planning Association), rather than obtaining well-rounded factual data that can be used by people of all opinions. This is very disappointing, because alcohol and sex are highly important issues at university, and need to be understood well in order to help students.

I trust that you will publicise the actual questions asked alongside the results, to ensure people can judge the accuracy for themselves. It would be advisable to consult wider in formulating the questions for your next survey.

Unfortunately, I must advise you to take the results of the Tertiary Student Health Project with a pinch of salt when they are finally published. Which is a great shame, this project is no doubt expensive and could easily have been very useful.

How to make semi-soft butter

Andy’s excellent “Cooking with Andy” series has inspired me to share a recession-busting secret recipe that has been solemnly handed down our family from father to son since I invented it by trial and error last night.

Vegetable oils and butter are natural and healthy, but margarine has been chemically processed creating  unnatural trans-fats your body isn’t designed to cope with, and tastes disgusting. Its only advantages are that it spreads well and is far cheaper than butter. Semi-soft butter, despite being around 50% cheap vegetable oil, is even more expensive than regular butter – an absolute rip-off in my mind. It should be cheaper than standard butter.

So:

Take one 500g block of butter. Melt in the microwave until creamy. Mix in 2 cups of vegetable oil (plain canola oil is fine) until well blended. Pour into containers (fills 2 margarine containers) and place in the fridge to set overnight.

Voila, you have just made your butter go twice as far AND made it spreadable!

Enjoy on your morning toast.

Sir Roger Douglas’ economic plan

Now I won’t say I agree with every detail of his plan, but Douglas certainly seems to understand why we are in the mess we are in better than any other politician.

As voters, we seem to have bought the false notion that we can all be made wealthy through government. Elections have become an opportunity for politicians to promise they will take more money off you, only to give it back to you in another way – a gold card for superannuitants, a tax credit for working families, or an interest write off for students. If we each pretend that we can be made wealthy through taxing others, then we’re destined for poverty. We are increasingly relying on others – be they foreign lenders or domestic taxpayers – to sustain our way of life.

You don’t hear that sort of straight talking every day from politicians!

Douglas’ plan is to set up an alternative taxation system that you can opt into – with low taxes but you must pay for your own health care and superannuation – or you can stay in the current system. There would certainly be practical problems with maintaining two separate systems alongside each other (such as having some people eligable for state-funded healthcare while others are not), but it is an intriguing idea, and a good contrast with National’s plan. Read his full plan here.

On the tax side, he is proposing a tax-free threshold of $30,000 for individuals, $50,000 for families, and 15% taxation above that, with a flat 15% tax rate for business. That would really draw industry back into the country.

But there is a big “marriage tax” in there – note that if you have two single incomes your tax-free threshold is collectively $60,000, while if you marry it is now only $50,000 (plus a certain amount per child). It would be far better to have a $60,000 tax-free threshold for families, and not incentivise family breakdown. You should never subsidise something unless you want more of it.

On the welfare side, he is proposing:

To ensure that families are able to adequately provide for themselves, there will be a guaranteed minimum income for families. The guaranteed minimum income will ensure that, should they find themselves earning less than the tax-free threshold, families will receive a tax credit to boost their income.

The problem with this is that there is little incentive to work at all – it is unclear but reads like you have a guaranteed tax-free income of $50,000 (inflation adjusted to boot), which you can live on quite comfortably especially if you don’t have the expenses of having a job (fuel to get to work, work clothes etc). Even if you have to be doing some work to get it, there is little incentive to work more than a couple of hours a week. It is only for families, but if you don’t have to be married to call yourself a family it could be claimed by flatmates – this is far higher than the student allowance!

A guaranteed minimum income is a simple way of providing a welfare safety net, however having it set so high is likely to be a strong disincentive to work. Or you can work, and still get your free money. Consider this scenario.

  • You have no job, and are surviving on government handouts.
  • A farmer takes pity on your family, gives you free accommodation in a spare house, free use of a work vehicle and as much produce as you can eat.
  • Out of gratitude you “help him out” on the farm.

It’s a win-win situation:

  • You get almost all your expenses for free and pocket most of your welfare money, effectively earning far more than most farm workers.
  • The farmer gets a cheap worker.

It is impossible to completely avoid such fraud, but it would help if the “guaranteed minimum income” were set at a level of basic subsistence, to provide for those out of work while encouraging them to actually get a job. Requiring a couple to be married to qualify would help the money go to genuine families, although people could marry just to get the cash. Giving part of it in food or accommodation vouchers would help to discourage fraud, although not prevent it. It would also help if you only lost 50c of your tax credits for every dollar you earned – meaning even if you can only get a part-time job you will still end up with more cash in the hand, rather than working hard and ending up with the same pay as if you did nothing.

So Douglas’ plan needs some work, in my opinion. But it offers a good alternative perspective to National’s current big spending plans, and I hope Key is willing to listen and incorporate some of Douglas’ ideas.

Ministry of Health gets virus

Well, straight after I posted on it, it turns out our very own Ministry of Health has been afflicted with the Conficker Windows virus. Fortunately the Inland Revenue department is at least partly on Linux, so even if we can’t get treated for our health problems, at least they can keep making us pay for it anyway.

Abortion increases mental health problems

I have discussed previously how most abortions in NZ are authorised on the grounds that continuing the pregnancy would result in “serious danger” to the “mental health” of the woman. However the latest NZ research shows that abortion is more likely to INCREASE mental health problems, not decrease them.

The long-term Christchurch study of more than 500 women found a link between having an abortion and an increase of nearly a third in the risk of disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Reporting their findings in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the Otago University researchers say that abortions account for 1.5 to 5.5 per cent of the overall rate of mental disorders.

They said their study backed up others overseas which concluded that having an abortion may be linked to an increased risk of mental health problems.

This is supported by previous work in New Zealand that showed a 35% increase in mental health problems among mothers who aborted rather than carrying their child to term. It is also supported by similar research in the USA.

So lets get this straight – we’re doing something that increases the risk of mental health problems, to try and prevent mental health problems. You may as well try and put out a fire by pouring petrol on it.

Hat tip: Family First

Refutation of pro-choice arguments

John Smith commented on my last abortion post, and managed to fit pretty well every classic pro-choice argument there is into one paragraph. So I thought I’d go through his comment and discuss each of his arguments:

Abortion should be allowed because it is a personal choice that should not be dictated by law.

But it is a choice regarding somebody’s life. If it is to be a personal choice, that is a choice for the child, not the mother. As we don’t know what the child would choose, but can assume they would choose to live (wouldn’t you?), we can only allow the child to live.

Many children are born into bad families. To single mothers or abusive parents, and in some of these cases the parents blame their kids for their hardships. Abortions are typically performed on mothers who do not want to be mothers,

If they didn’t want to be a mother, what on earth were they doing having sex? The birds and the bees are pretty obvious, if you have sex you may (and probably will eventually) end up pregnant. Sex is to make babies, and it is very good at it. It happens to be pleasurable to ensure people actually do it – if it wasn’t fun the human race might die out! If you aren’t prepared for pregnancy, don’t have sex.

If they don’t want to be a mother, but still get pregnant, it isn’t as though abortion is their only option. Many couples are crying out to adopt a baby, and there aren’t enough babies available, because so many are aborted. Adoption is a far better option to abortion, and there are plenty of organisations and individuals who will pay all the legal expenses associated with it to ensure that the baby’s life is saved. Having more adoptions would save the lives of babies, give children to parents who want them, and provide a simpler and cheaper option to infertile couples considering IVF treatment – saving a lot of public and private money.

women who cannot afford to take proper care of kid,

Irrelevant in NZ, our state welfare system pays you more if you have children. And they can adopt the child out.

someone who had been raped,

This is a red herring, as it is extremely rare. Few women conceive due to rape, as it is hard to conceive when under stress, and rape is one of the most stressful situations a woman can be in. Furthermore the odds are she won’t be at a fertile part of her cycle. Just because a child is the result of rape doesn’t mean it should be denied the right to live (kiwipolemicist explains that well here), and some women can actually find having a child therapeutic after rape, as she has something good in the middle of the terrible situation she is dealing with. But ignoring the moral aspects, even if you allowed abortion due to rape, but stopped the rest, abortion in NZ would nearly disappear because abortion due to rape is so rare anyway.

and many other reasons. Those women should not be denied their individual right to abort their pregnancies and many are doing it for the well being of their developing child.

I’m going to kill you. It’s for your own good, trust me. Huh?

In this country people are not allowed to force a religious or philosophic belief through force of law and by getting rid of abortion our country would be doing just that.

But abortion forces the belief of the mother (that she can kill her child) on the child, in a completely irreversible way. Allowing the child to live is PREVENTING someone forcing their belief on it.

I understand that with today’s knowledge people can be informed while the child is still developing if the baby will have any sort of complications. If the baby will have any mental problems or if they will be handicapped and I agree that mothers should not base their choice on those outcomes.

Glad to hear that, we agree on one point!

I think abortions should have regulations for those types of problems but I do believe that women should be able to make the choice of having an abortion. Should abortion ever become illegal and a woman still wishes to have an abortion it may lead to people doing illegal abortions which are very serious. Many illegal abortions end in death for both the mother and her child.

The flaw in this reasoning is the idea that abortion becomes safe if it is performed in a state hospital. It doesn’t. Abortion is a risky procedure, sure you can reduce some of the risks, but ultimately you cannot get rid of them. Women still die from abortion. Furthermore, abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, and can have other detrimental effects on the mother, all of which exist whether or not the abortion is performed in a hospital. I understand the international experience is that when abortion is restricted, the number of deaths due to abortion is actually lower.

These common myths about abortion are refuted all over the net, one example is here.

The morality of abortion

In my opinion, as I have stated before, the biggest issue facing this country today is abortion. Over 18,000 babies are killed every year by abortion. If we had 18,000 people killed on the roads every year there would be an outrage, but when this occurs behind closed doors we somehow manage to ignore it.

I believe abortion is murder. I don’t believe this for religious reasons, the Bible doesn’t go into detail on when life starts. Rather I believe it for scientific reasons, and my Christian faith then tells me that murder is wrong.

The key issue here is when life starts. There is only one scientific point when a new human being is formed, and that is conception. At this point the new baby has a unique genetic makeup to its mother – her immune system actually has to be repressed to ensure it doesn’t kill the baby, as it is recognised as not being part of her body. There is no other point that can be defined scientifically as when life starts.

Sometimes people say life starts at implantation (which would justify the morning-after pill, which prevents implantation, but would not allow abortion). But nothing really changes at implantation for the child, rather it just goes from floating freely to being attached to the uterus – implantation is really just a change of location. Sometimes people say life starts when the child is conscious. But life has nothing to do with consciousness – when you are asleep it isn’t ok to kill you, when you are in a coma you aren’t dead, when you wake from a coma you haven’t come back to life – you are still alive, and still a human, regardless of whether you are conscious of it or not. There are all sorts of definitions, but none stands up to scientific scrutiny. Generally these definitions are used specifically to try and accommodate abortion, rather than to genuinely work out whether or not abortion is wrong.

If a child truly is a living human from conception, and killing a human is murder, then abortion is by definition murder.

This is a terrible thought to have to deal with for most people in our society today, as many people have had abortions, and pretty well everyone knows someone who has had one. As a result many people are not willing to address the issue and even entertain the thought that a child in the womb may have rights. Most teenagers these days have been raised to think the foetus is just part of the mother’s body and she has the right to destroy it if she wishes, and many are not willing to consider the implications of if this is not true.

But we must consider the implications, because if true, this is a massive moral outrage.

Furthermore, abortion is not just a simple procedure. Generally the baby is torn to pieces with no anaesthetic, it is a terrible way to die. Abortion can also have health implications for mothers, which people aren’t generally told about in NZ.

One emerging problem with abortion is eugenics. Eugenics is the belief that some people are “inferior” (such as disabled people, black people, homosexuals, Jews or pretty well whoever you want to define as “inferior”), and it is ok to sterilise or kill them to ensure the human race as a whole is healthy. This is an idea that was popular in the early 20th century, started in America, and formed the basis for Hitler’s slaughter of the mentally ill, homosexuals, Jews and gypsies. Before the Second World War many people favoured eugenics. After the War, seeing the horrible reality of what it actually meant when put into practice, eugenics was suddenly unpopular.

But it is back. Increasingly, genetic tests are available that will allow you to determine all sorts of things about a child in the womb. At present you can detect genetic disorders such as Downs syndrome, but the tests are becoming more accurate, and can conceivably be used to determine everything from whether you have a risk of developing cancer when you are 50 to your eye colour. As a result, parents can choose to abort children that are defective.

This is eugenics all over again – find the “defective” humans and cull them. But there is little outrage, as the moral standards of Western society have declined since the War and fewer people actually recognise that this is wrong. Effectively you are saying that disabled people don’t have a right to live, and it is ok to kill them. This is exactly what Hitler was doing, the only difference is that you kill them before you can hear them scream.

For more information, check out:

MandM’s excellent series on abortion from the perspective of liberal philosophy:

Is Abortion Liberal? Part 1, Part 2, Sentience Part 1, Part 2

Klan Parenthood – abortion and eugenics in America

Pictures of what abortion is really like from CBR and Priests For Life

Risks to the mother from afterabortion.org and abortionfacts.com

What are your views on the issue? Remember abortion is already illegal in NZ, the abortions that are carried out are done through a legal loophole, and although we effectively have abortion on demand this was never the intent of NZ’s abortion law.

Care workers told to help clients masturbate

Ok, now this is just disgusting if the allegations are true. Basically care workers allege that they were instructed to help mentally disabled clients masturbate if that was what they wanted, which they rightly refused to do, and they claim this is asking them to be prostitutes. I fully agree. But we can expect further cases like this in a country where prostitution is legal.

In addition to the entire case being ridiculous and disgusting:

None of the six women had masturbated any clients, including the one remaining employee, who is Maori and said she had been told she was exempt on cultural grounds.

So it is ok to expect white women to act as prostitutes, but not brown women?

The woman who allegedly told the workers they were to assist their clients to masturbate is Claire Ryan, whom I assume is the “Relationships and Sexuality Advisor” by the same name at IHC. If you are interested in the sort of stuff that IHC teaches about sexuality, download their September 05 Networker newsletter. This newsletter discusses disabled children growing up and becoming sexual. Not once does it mention whether it is appropriate for teenagers to become sexually active – it just assumes that they will and parents just have to let them do it.

Very worrying stuff, but not surprising at all – this is the exact same rubbish that Family Planning spouts to teenagers at school. In the few encounters I have had with Family Planning, I have found:

  • A school educator boasting to a 6th-form class about how she had managed to convince 12-year-old boys that if they didn’t masturbate their balls would explode, and thinking this was hillarious.
  • The same woman maintaining in front of the class that you could not catch HPV (virus that causes genital warts and cervical cancer) while using a condom, even when challenged, but then admitting privately after the class that she knew full well this was incorrect.
  • A Family Planning nurse claiming that the morning after pill worked by stopping sperm working and preventing conception, not by allowing conception but preventing implantation (the truth, which I regard as an early abortion).
  • A GP who recommends all his patients to ignore everything Family Planning says because he is sick of fixing up all the messes their terrible advice has made for so many of his patients.

This is the state of sex education in NZ. You can walk into Family Planning and get a case of 144 taxpayer-funded condoms for a $3 prescription fee, while Pharmac struggles to fund medication that could potentially save lives. And no-one will even ask you whether you really think you should be having sex at 13 even though it is illegal.

This is why we need the Family Party to push abstinence first as the best option.

GST off food supported by Maori party

The Maori Party is supporting our policy of removing GST from basic foods to encourage healthy eating among Maori. It is nice to see some support for our policy, and although the Maori party do not propose removing GST from rates, household electricity and the excise duty from fuel as we do it is nice to see some support for part of our policy.

Lack of healthy food is not specifically a Maori problem, and the beauty of removing GST from this food is that it helps all people to afford such food, regardless of race. The Family Party advocates taking a whanau approach to health issues, recognising that prevention of illness is best and healthy practices begin in the home. We then need to follow this up with efficient and timely healthcare when illness does occur. More details on our health policy are here.

Hat tip: Crusader Rabbit

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