Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

3rd June 1999 - If it Ducks Like a Quack ...

Copyright © 1999 Russell Brown

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it's head-to-head, toe-to-toe, nose-to-nose - which one will it be, punters? No, I don't mean the rugby - we'll get to that later. I'm talking about which dodgy deal gets to be Political Jack-Up of the week.

The form, it must be said, is with the Fire Service Commission, which has been jacking up, screwing up and clamming up week after week all season. This week, new coach Margaret Bazley conjured another of one of those "resignations".

Jean Martin, the CEO hired by Roger Estall, up and quit, saying the trauma of recent months had all been too much. In the manner to which we have grown accustomed, she was apparently paid out of her contract and got a little bit on top for her bother. It's hard to tell how much because Bazley is the kind of public official who considers herself above having to account to the public.

Bazley - amazingly - just happened to be able to lay her hands on a "replacement" the very day Martin resigned. She brought in Alison Timms, her right-hand woman at Social Welfare, who was also a Bazley team player at the Department of Transport.

Bazley apparently just takes her management teams with her wherever she goes. She could team Roger Estall a bit about empire-building, and that's saying something.

In any ordinary week, this jack-up might have won - but not this week, sports fans. This week was the turn of Alamein Kopu. Aunty Alamein, you'll recall, was elected to Parliament on the Alliance list, as a representative of Mana Motuhake.

After she'd been there a while, she decided she didn't like the Alliance any more and went off to support the government, apparently because that was what Maori people wanted. The Alliance, having done its own jack-ups to get her there, was well pissed off. Alliance voters, whose votes Kopu stole and used to support the National party, probably weren't too happy either.

So there she has sat, being pampered and give tea and biscuits by Jenny Shipley, apparently believing herself to be something other than a convenience for the government, which needs her vote to stay in power. She even formed her own party, Mana Wahine.

It might have stopped there - had not National and its amoral little friend the Act Party used their majority on the Parliamentary Service Commission to ensure that Kopu, who had been complaining of being short of money, got an extra $80,000 a year for research and office expenses as leader of her own party.

Some wonderful opportunities beckon for one-term MPs here. Just get elected, desert the people who voted for you, form your own party and double your salary. You don't even have to do any work. Brilliant! Keep in mind that on the only occasion when Mana Wahine actually went to the people, the Taranaki-King Country by-election, Kopu copped a thunderous seven votes out of the 20,000 cast.

This all rather upset the Alliance and Labour, who were under the impression that the commission had previously agreed that only parties people had actually voted for were eligible for such funding. Jim Anderton called it the closest thing he had ever seen to corruption and Labour's Trevor Mallard took the novel step of expelling himself from the house for calling it a "bribe". The New Zealand Herald editorial this morning, under no such obligations of pretence, called it a "blatant bribe".

It's a shocking look for a government which has made a habit of looking shocking lately. So why did they do it? Maybe Alamein, who is known to be a very tough old bird, gave Shipley the nudge. Or maybe the government wanted a dry run before it ran the same trick with the rabble that comprises that other party nobody voted for, Mauri Pacific. In either case ... yuck.

Speaking of which, Jonathan Eisen. The author and publisher of the book 'Supressed Inventions and Other Discoveries' has whipped out a new edition to cash in on the case of young Liam Williams-Holloway, the cancer kid whose parents hid him from the authorities and defied a court order to submit him for chemotherapy.

Now, I've stayed clear of this one in Hard News, because I know moral complexity when I see it. I wouldn't want to be making the decisions with which Liam's parents were faced.

But when I heard Jonathan Eisen espousing his stupid conspiracy theories on bFM Breakfast this week, I got angry. I was particularly annoyed that Eisen was prepared to declare doctors - people who have dedicated their lives to healing people - to be no more than self-interested creeps in the pay of the drug industry.

The people who treated Liam - a directing marketing entrepreneur from South Africa who didn't seem to know his anatomical arse from his elbow and the ridiculously-named Professor Doctor Sir John Whitman Ray - I mean how many bullshit honorifics does one quack need? - were apparently alright.

Well, they were until I called up and pointed out what I thought was a bizarre double standard, at which point he backed down and slithered onto another point.

Hopefully it made good radio. But having calmed down I now want to explain to you exactly why people like Jonathan Eisen make me very angry. Frankly, if we're going to be sceptical of of Monsanto and the drug companies - and I think Monsanto is the Devil in corporate form - then we owe it to ourselves to be sceptical of shysters at the other end of the scale.

Let me say now I'm nobody's anti-alternative health bigot. I go to an osteopath, I've had acupuncture, when I hurt myself I rub on arnica cream. I eat organic and free-range meat, I was taking echinacea long before it was trendy and I've even been known to pop the odd homoeopathic, if only because it sometimes seems less risky than prescription drugs. I do think we over-medicate.

But let's look at the device with which the marketing man Gerard Uys treated Liam - the Rife machine, or, as he liked to call it, the "quantum booster". The devices and others like it go back to the ideas of a man called Albert Abrams early this century, who believed that cancer was caused by bacteria and you could zap said bacteria with certain radio frequencies and cure cancer.

I won't completely write off the fringe science of "radionics" that Abrams devised. In research I came across a couple of people fiddling with it who didn't seem to be complete frauds. Both of them apparently regarded followers of Royal Rife, investor of the Rife machine, as idiots.

Rife's ideas have been around since the 1930s, but no one seems ever to have done any genuine research to back them up. Is that, as Eisen would have us believe, because the cancer industry is consumed by a conspiracy led by the drug companies and their willing pawns, the doctors? Bollocks it is.

This very week, New Scientist magazine reported on the work of a New Zealand husband and wife team, Rex and Christine Munday, who work at the Ruakura Agricultural Research Centre in Hamilton. They have shown that as little as half a clove a day of raw garlic can induce the human gut to produce enzymes that purge it of cancer-causing substances.

This appears to have major implications for the prevention of bowel cancer. Rex Munday says it may transpire than even less garlic has such an effect, or that it may have an impact on other cancers. He told National Radio this week that his researched proved what had long been suspected - that garlic and onions are good for you.

This does not sound like something that the big drug companies will be licking their lips over, does it? Yet somehow, this man has been able to conduct and publish research of international importance without being visited by the Men In Black.

People like Eisen will have you believe the Rife machine is a "suppressed invention". Give me a break. Every day of the year, the American venture capital industry heaves money at anything that even looks like it might be a good idea.

This is supposedly a machine, using standard radio-electronic components, that some of its proponents claim cures every human ailment. Do you really think, if it did even one percent of that, that one of those VC firms wouldn't have thrown a few tens of millions at it on the off chance? Curiously, they haven't.

I'll leave you with the story of a woman called Shelvie Rettmann, of Minnesota. Like Jonathan Eisen, she believed that the US government did not want to cure cancer and was party to a conspiracy to keep the Rife machine from being endorsed by the FDA. I'm not sure whether she shared his views on UFOs, but she did believe the Oklahoma City bombing was the result of a conspiracy by the government.

Like the Uyses, the people who treated Liam, she operated a Rife machine, prescribed sundry nutritional supplements and conducted therapies including stimulation of the feet.

Like the Uyses, she advised her paying patients to stop chemotherapy in order to be cured more quickly. One man suffering liver and pancreatic cancer stopped chemo after one treatment on this advice. He died four months later - in which time Rettman was able to collect $14,000 from him.

Then there was the mother and daughter. The mother, who had colon and liver cancer, was warned by Rettman to avoid the chemo her doctors were recommending. She paid for multiple treatments until the day Rettman advised her that her cancer was cured. Fantastic.

But it wasn't. The mother began experiencing pain so bad she went back to a doctor. She was told that her cancers had in fact progressed to a terminal stage. She died soon after.

And the daughter? Well, hey, Rettman diagnosed and treated her breast cancer, too. Curiously enough, it turned out she'd never had breast cancer in the first place.

The state government sued Rettman to stop her practising. I just really, really hope what happened in Minnesota isn't played out the case of little Liam


    ==  ==      Russell Brown
  [ @ / @  ]                      
     /        ________________________________________
    (_)         "The views expressed on this programme
    ____)       are bloody good ones." Fred Dagg, 197?

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