Running back towards the cliff

On Tuesday, Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan delivered the Budget Speech.
One fact was abundantly clear: the tax kitty is depleted. South Africa’s government doesn’t have the money to fulfill all its obligations.
In the same week as Gordhan’s Budget Speech, the Minister and Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources (Mosebenzi Zwane and Godfrey Oliphant) were allocated a Mercedes Benz S400 and Porsche Cayenne respectively. This is despite “austerity measures” which supposedly limited the cost of new vehicle purchases to R750,000. In addition, Brian Molefe, who as CEO of Eskom drove the State Owned Enterprise into the ground, was appointed a Member of Parliament.
What the actions above show is a government that doesn’t understand, doesn’t care, or both. Almost 23 years of bad decisions, incompetence, corruption, patronage and snouting have caused matters to reach a critical point. Yet still it continues on its course, refusing to address the issues and their underlying causes. And how can it, when the President was found liable for using state money upgrades at his private residence, and yet only had to pay back a fraction of the money squandered?
Some people have mentioned a tax boycott. I don’t have that option as my income tax is taken off my salary directly. Yet I completely understand the anger. Ferial Haffajee, Editor at Large for Huffington Post South Africa, has an Opinion Piece “I Want Some Service For My Tax“. I totally agree with her. Like her, over the last few years, I have been paying more and more and getting less and less. And so has everyone else. And I’m fed up.
Unless things change very soon, South Africa will become another African failure: a country that started out with so much promise, only to be brought down by corruption and incompetence.

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Barden Lanka Case overturned on appeal

The heading of the article by Pepijn van Erp says it perfectly.

Disappointing outcome of Bardens vs. Lanka: measles proven to exist, but anti-vaxxer Lanka keeps his money

I’ve blogged about this before. Antivaxxer Stefan Lanka offered a 100,000 Euro Prize to anyone who could show him proof that Measles Virus exists. A young doctor named David Bardens took up the offer. Lanka refused to pay out, so Barden took him to court.
And won.
Sadly, the verdict has now been overturned on appeal. van Erp’s article has the details.

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Trump isn’t as bad as I feared…

He’s worse.
Three weeks into his term as President, he has already shown that he is unfit for the office. Not just through his actions, but his appointments. KellyAnne Conway has been mercilessly and deservedly mocked over her phrase “Alternative Facts”. But it is Trump’s appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary for Education that is most concerning. And by “concerning”, I mean she will be an absolute disaster in the role, particularly for autistics.
To call DeVos wholly unsuited for the position is an understatement. I would hope that anyone being considered for the role of Secretary of Education would have both extensive qualifications, and significant experience, in the field. She has neither. In fact, her only “qualification” for the position appears to be that she donated large sums of money to Trump’s campaign.
DeVos is not merely incompetent, but anti-competent. She is a firm proponent of charter schools who has argued against strong oversight for them. She also supports a voucher system for schooling. Both of these can potentially harm disabled students by limiting their access to special education.
A school voucher, aka an education voucher, is a certificate of government funding for a student at a school chosen by the student or the student’s parents. The funding is usually for a particular year, term or semester (thank you Wikipedia). Charter Schools are similar in concept to the former Model C Schools in South Africa. They are state-aided but independent, and unlike the Model C schools, can’t charge fees and have to be open to all pupils. Critics say that they underperform compared to traditional schools. They seem to have pretty good evidence to back these criticisms up.
The main argument against school vouchers and education tax credits is that they put public education in competition with private education, threatening to reduce and reallocate public school funding to private schools.
Part of Trump’s campaign was based on “Drain the Swamp”. It now appears as if he drained it just to refill it with his own people.

Posted in Autism Awareness, Background Data | Tagged , , , , , ,

The first Targeted, the last Commemorated

Friday was Holocaust Memorial Day. On January 27 1945, Allied troops liberated the Auschwitz Death Camp.
A few months ago, I learnt something that gave me a new picture on the Holocaust. It was the story of a baby named Gerhard Kretschmar.
Gerhard Kretschmar was a German child born blind, with either no legs or one leg, and with one arm. His parents, both Nazis, petitioned Hitler to allow him to be euthanased. Hitler consented, and on 25 July 1939, Gerhard was murdered. In October 1939, Hitler signed a “euthanasia decree” backdated to 1 September 1939 that set up the programme of involuntary euthanasia now known as Aktion T4.
Aktion T4 was the true beginning of the Holocaust. A lot of the excuses (I refuse to call them justfications) for the program were also applied to the mass murder of Jews, Gypsies and other “undesirables”. Advertisements depicting the disabled as a drain on resources were run. Many of the technologies later used in the Death Camps were first implemented in Aktion T4. The term “Life unworthy of life” was first used to refer to the physically and mentally disabled. After strong protests by the German Catholic and Protestant churches, on 24 August 1941 Hitler ordered T4 cancelled. Despite this, the murders continued right up till the end of the war. The last victim of Aktion T4, Richard Jenne, was murdered on 29 May 1945.
In 1944, an Austrian psychiatrist named Hans Asperger described autism. Asperger’s Syndrome is now used for high-functioning autistic individuals. It has been hypothesised that Asperger played up the advantages of autism to safeguard his patients and prevent them from being killed. I find this plausible. It is almost certain that Asperger, as a psychiatrist, would have been aware of Aktion T4 and what it entailed.
In 2014, the German National Memorial to the people with disabilities murdered by the Nazis was dedicated. Once again, the disabled were the first to be persecuted and the last to be commemorated.

Posted in Autism Awareness, Background Data | Tagged , , , , , , ,

A possible explanation for “Refrigerator Mothers”

And I’m back.
Yes, I know that I said I was done, but after several people who are close to me expressed their worries, I decided to hold off dropping blogging. And then this article appeared in my Facebook feed.

A “hidden pool” of women who have grown up with undiagnosed autism is coming to light as mothers researching their children’s spectrum disorders recognise themselves in their findings.

“There are far more undiagnosed mothers out there than we have ever thought,” said Dr Judith Gould, lead consultant and former director of the Lorna Wing Centre for Autism who developed the first and only female-specific diagnostic tests, and who trains doctors in how to recognise late adult female diagnosis.

When autism became known, one of the things that was blamed for causing it was the “refrigerator mother”. The belief was that emotionally distant mothers caused their children to become autistic.
I’ve long wondered if the reason behind this mistaken belief was because in several cases the mothers were themselves autistic and thus a little socially inept. I suspect this would appear to a psychologist or psychiatrist as coldness. This article seems to support my hypothesis.

Posted in Autism Awareness, Background Data | Tagged

A few last words, and goodbye

Earlier this year, I put up a page for antivaccine P.R.A.T.T.s (Points Refuted A Thousand Times). A few minutes ago, I added two more (the “Amish Anomaly” and the “Susceptible Subgroup”). This is almost certain to be the last time I do that.
Very often, I would read something related to the topics I blog about and would want to post on it, but by the time I had time to blog, the window of opportunity had closed. There is so much I could still blog about. The live trials of an HIV Vaccine which will be held in South Africa. Rogue One. Sepp Blatter’s ban from sports administration. Kirsten Nematandani and other SAFA officials also getting banned for match fixing. Yet I’ve learnt that the best time to leave the stage is when everyone is still cheering.
So on that note, goodbye.

Posted in Anti-antivaccination, Autism Awareness, Background Data | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

That’s all. I’m out.

This is my Farewell Post. I’m done.
In January 2010, I read a news report while googling news stories about autism and autistics. A gastroenterologist named Andrew Wakefield had been found guilty of misconduct for a case study he’d done on 12 autistic patients. Also found guilty were John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch. Curious, I researched more. I found that there were two viewpoints on Wakefield. Some regarded him as a hero crushed for taking on a bent system. Others saw him as a charlatan who had got what he deserved. As I researched more, I came to realise that the latter view was correct. Wakefield had been hired by lawyers to find evidence linking the MMR Triple Vaccine to autism. To obtain it, he subjected twelve autistic children to invasive tests – lumbar punctures; colonoscopies; blood draws. Despite this, the data didn’t yield the results he wanted, so he distorted it. He also tried to set up companies to profit from scaring people away from MMR.
I also learnt that despite the overwhelming evidence of vaccines’ efficacy and safety, there were people who feared and vilified them. They believed that vaccines were more dangerous than the diseases they prevented. To justify their beliefs, they fitted the evidence to them instead of the other way round. They abused and even threatened those who supported vaccines. They insisted that vaccines were responsible for all sorts of ills. They also hijacked autism advocacy and used the lies of Andrew Wakefield to steer research away from things that could assist autistics and to vaccine causation.
I became angry, and that anger motivated me to speak out. So in May of 2010, I set up my first blog. It was called “African Jungle” and it was on the domain. The “Jungle” was a nickname given to me. My tagline was “A blog on Autism, Anti-antivaccination and life by a South African Autist”. A lot of people on other sites could not access iBlog (it seems that in some areas, .za domain sites are blocked), so I created another blog on the WordPress domain.
My first series of posts were background data. After Wakefield released his “case study” in 1998, people in the U.S. approached the Vaccine Compensation Programme to win awards for vaccines causing their children’s autism. I also posted about how journalist Brian Deer exposed Wakefield as a fraud and liar.
Some 5000 families approached Vaccine Court. To expedite proceedings, the Special Masters whose job it is to make rulings in Vaccine Court combined the families into the Omnibus Autism Proceedings (OAP). The lawyers became the Petitioners’ Steering Committee, and were tasked with selecting the best candidates to use in Test Cases. Had the candidates been successful, autism would have become a Table Injury and automatically qualified for compensation. In the end, all six Test Cases lost resoundingly, with the Special Masters heavily criticising the petitioners’ “experts” and “theories” of causation. The Test Cases fared just as well on appeal, with higher courts upholding the Special Masters’ verdicts.
In 2010, some well-meaning but misguided people put forward a “Communication Shutdown”. The idea was that on November 1 2010, people would stop using electronic communications for 24 hours in support of autistics. This was stupid, as electronic communication forms like blogging and social networks are a boon to autistics. Kathryn Bjornstatd and Corina Becker proposed “Autistics Speaking Day”. The idea was that on November 1st, autistic bloggers and social networkers would post. I was one of the bloggers who posted that day. The counter-idea worked so well it became a yearly occurrence. I have posted on November 1 every year since then.
I’ve written and published 268 posts in total over the last six and a half years. And it’s become tedious.
I’ve spoken about the same things over and over again. The stupidity and mendacity of antivaccinationists. Parents murdering their autistic children. Sensory Processing Disorder. The films I’ve seen. Testing software. My work testing software. Seeing Tori Amos live in 2011. My presentations to the Special Interest Group in Software Testing (SIGiST). SIGiST Presentations I’ve attended. Politics, including the corruption riddling South Africa. Vaccines. Children too young to be vaccinated and those intentionally not vaccinated dying of vaccine preventable diseases. Antivaccinationism starting and flourishing in South Africa. People from history who may have been autistic. The ableist and dead wrong belief that autistics have such terrible lives that death is sometimes better. The failures of “Autism Speaks” advocacy. And I’m done.
I’m tired and fed up. I’m done with saying the same things over and over. I’m done with banging my head against a wall.
ETA: I mentioned my Twitter Account @AfricJungle. I’ve deleted that too.

Posted in Anti-antivaccination, Autism Awareness, Background Data, Fun Stuff, Life, Segue, Software, Work | Tagged