Support these hostages of the Taliban please

Justin Brierley, who not so long ago invited me to take part in a Christian radio show to provide a non – Christian point of view, has sent out an appeal for support for a campaign to get some humanitarian aid workers being held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
This is his message:

I thought you would like to know about this urgent campaign to free the remaining South Korean aid workers who have been taken hostage by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The Taliban have already executed 1 hostage and are threatening to execute the rest this week, an action that could trigger a mass evacuation of life-giving humanitarian aid from all of Afghanistan.

The situation is desperate, but there is hope. The Taliban are all from the ‘Pashtun’ ethnic group, and observe a strict code called Pashtunwali. This code demands, above all else: “hospitality to all, especially guests and strangers”. There are rumours of infighting among the Taliban over these kidnappings, because they clearly violate the code.

A global outcry for the Taliban to follow their own code would certainly be covered by media in Afghanistan and Pakistan where the Taliban are based – creating massive local pressure on them to free their prisoners. But these hostages are living under a 24 hour death sentence. We have seconds not minutes to act. Sign the petition below and then forward this email:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/honour_the_afghan_code/tf.php/?CLICKTRACK

Now Justin is a nice bloke and the cause is very worthwhile so please help.

And if you are interested in knowing more about Justin’s radio show, here’s a link to his website.

A Bad Weekend For Medical Science

Funny how just as I was thinking Machiavelli was in for a few quiet weeks during the silly season for news, Big Pharma and the medical care industry show their intention of keeping the old pot boiling right through to the day Gordon Brown calls the General election (October 24 – the announcement, not the election, is being hotly tipped.

And then in the course of five days we hear of four reasons to mistrust the medical industry.

First was the announcement of loony plans to put all men over fifty on cholesterol lowering drugs whether they have raised cholesterol levels or not. (Cue a raiding party of boy – scientists from Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science Forum to come storming in yelling that I am not a “scientist” and do not understand the science. Oh I just love winding them up.

Now I do not claim to have any understanding of cholesterol related problems in men over fifty, my LDL (low density lipoprotein or naughty cholesterol) is lower than average I’m told, while my HDL (high density lipoprotein level is healthy. So, having enough side effects from medication I do need, I do not want any more from medication I don’t need.

We do not need a medical qualification to understand that cholesterol is a vital component of human cells so to lower levels in people who don’t need their levels lowered might just cause more problems than it solves. But while that would be bad for us it would be good for Big Pharma, creating a vast new market for drugs to reverse the effects of the unneeded drugs we had already taken. And it would not be bad news for the senior doctors. More work for their teams would mean bigger budgets and bigger salaries.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to understand that, just capable of using common sense. But of course cholesterol is not the first problem that medical science has proposed wholesale medication for. Not so long ago someone was talking about threating the drinking water with anti – depressants.

Next out of the loony laboratory was the news that the until recently acclaimed diabetes drugs Avandia and Actos have been linked to increased risk of heart failure. Researchers say that as many as one in fifty patients put on these drugs have been hospitalised for heart failure in the 26 months since the study of side effects was launched.

Call Little Nicky old fashioned if you like possums, but I thought the point of medicine was to make people better not iller.

Third comes the news that Pharmaceutical companies and the medical establishment are refusing to sanction clinical trials of a drug which is widely used in the U.S.A. and other places to treat deterioration of eyesight in the elderly.

Over 20,000 people per year suffer some loss of vision due to macular degeneration. The drug Lucentis can halt deterioration and improve vision but is priced at around £750 per shot, way beyond the budgets of most NHS Doctors. Which is tough, or would be if a cheap alternative was not available. That alternative, already widely used elsewhere, is a drug called Avastin which was developed to treat bowel cancer. Avastin, in eye sized doses, would cost around £10 per shot. Very affordable, yet NHS Doctors cannot prescribe it because nobody will fund the clinical trials that must be done before the drug is licensed for such use in the UK.

Lastly comes news that Ritalin, widely prescribed for children affected by ADHD but suspected of having serious side effects including, allegedly, death in a few cases is about to become news again. Ritalin has been suspect for a long time, but as with the Autism / MMR issue, Medics have dismissed concerns as “associative fallacy” and said cases of serios illness are just coincidence. But isn’t that what they said about the dibetes drug / heart failure connection (I know it is because my friend who put me up to using Machiavelli to voice the concerns of who can’t reveal their names, is a diabeytes specialist) It’s also what they said about the alleged Autism / MMR link, AND the harmful effects of seroxat, AND the addictive nature of many prescription painkillers.

So we can expect that one to run and run.

Now some people may get the idea I have a grudge against the medical professions. That is not so, I owe the fact I am around to write this to the fine work of an ITU team and the patience and commitment of a rehab team. I just wish that those professionals were not constantly hampered by the incompetence, self – interest or sheer stupidity of the Pharmaceutical industry and the Medical establishment.

And I also wish the boy scientists of Bad Science Forum would shout the fuck up and leave serious issues to experienced political campaigners. Their Mickey Mouse degrees from Portakabin University do not make up for a painful lack of life experience. Which is of course the essential qualification for a career in medicine. (That BTW is a taunt aimed at goading them into steaming in with comments on what they think I have written rather than what I have written rather than things I actually said, thus adding a lot of content to Machiavelli and pushing my blog up to the top of the search engine listings.)
It is a lack of life experience that makes them argue about the quality of the scientific methods used in these study’s. Had they adequate life experience of course, they would understand that it is not the egos of “scientists that matter but the wellbeing of patients undergoing therapy.
Let’s see if that gang of arrested adolescents fall for my rather entry level Machiavellian ploy a THIRD time :DD

JUST A WORD for regular readers. After a post recenntly that attracted far more comments than usual I said there seemed to be a orchestrated attempt to shout me down. As I expected someone involved in the attack responded that all the adverse comments came from the Bad Science Forum after the forum leader had linked my site but it was not an orchestrated attack (see what I mean about thick?) and I was a conspiracy theorist. Well you know Little Nicky’s attitude to orchestrated attacks. Bring ’em on 😛

Medicines out of control

Pharmageddon

Scientists In Denial.

“You’re mad,” said the doctor.
“I’m not,” the patient replied.
“You’re mad and you’re in denial,” the doctor said triumphantly.
Its actually surprising how many doctors and scientists are in denial. Machiavelli has been involved in a tussle with the boy – scientists of “The Bad Science Forum,” over the Autism /MMR vaccine issue. They have accused me of saying things I have not said, questioned me and then responded to the answer they wanted me to give rather than the one I gave and even presumed to tell me what I can and cannot write on my blog. In short they are utterly in denial of the fact that I might be right. Once they accept that I might be right they can start to examine the facts scientifically and so will understand that I am right. Well I shall deal with the boy – scientists, slashing them with Occam’s razor another time. For now let’s look at another group of scientists who draw their paycheque from the public coffers and are also in denial.
Most climatologists agree that unusual weather patters such as the recent floods are a consequence of climate change but there are a few who, like the boy scientists of Bad Science Forum, have turned the maxim “correlation does not prove causation” into a mantra. Perhaps like religious zealots they believe if they chant it often enough something magical will happen. But when things occur in sequence while not actually proving they are linked, is a pretty good clue they might be. We pollute the atmosphere at an accelerating rate for 200 years, the mean atmospheric temperature rises and weather patterns change in exactly the way most intelligent scientists predicted they would.
But there are a few who still insist that because scientific evidence cannot prove beyond doubts climate change is responsible for the floods we should dismiss it as a possibility. Well science cannot prove there is a link but cannot prove there is not a link. Even if they use statistical trickery to ignore the mountain of evidence, their case is still tissue thin. OK there is no smoking gun but look at newsreel footage shot in any industrial city in the 1950s and count the smoking chimneys. Look at clips of traffic jams in the 1970s and count the smoking exhausts.
Then there are the red herrings. Scientists, particularly those who work for the government, for all their affectation of high minded detachment are better than Rick Stein at serving up red herrings.
“The current floods are not due to climate change, they are a simple anomaly in the weather. There were similar floods in 1947,” one group has said. Well there were floods in 1947 but they were not similar. The floods then occurred in winter, when water tables and river levels are higher, when trees and plants are dormant and not taking up water. The 1947 flooods also happened when a thaw set in after the heaviest snowfall ever recorded. The whole of Britain had been blanketed in snow. It was a different scenario altogether.
The problem with the kind of scientists who refer to themselves as “scientists” is they tend to be nerdy, a tad obsessive and absolutely determined to eliminate from the equation anything that cannot be easily explained. This leads them to view a problem from too narrow a perspective and disregard the very obvious evidence that is all around them. In short they are the kind of people who need to get out more.
Look at the pictures of the floods. Think how early spring was this year. Think how long the leaves stayed on the trees last year. Something is going on.
Should we do something now or can we wait until “scientists” have argued about it for another fifty years?
Well?
Its not rocket science is it?

Is The Internet Making Us All Stupid

A few days ago Nanny Ogg asked why everybody on her friends list is turning to private posts.

There are many possible reasons, this host is attracting more social networkers than wannabee writers, the general badtemperedness and ill manners encountered in the blogosphere, the fact that to be visible we have to post about twenty times a day?

All in all blogging is not fun anymore for the fun blogger. The internet is close to becoming a failed technology.

The problem is Web2, this undefined entity that allows the emotionally needy to “share” the minutae of their lives with the world. If only the world would stop by and look.

Another blogger who shares my scepticism about the way the world of internet technologies is heading is Andrew Keen.

Check out some of his very honest and perceptive views at andrewkeenblog

Boris For Mayor.

When Boy Cameron announced the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London next year would be Boris (Bozza) Johnson our first thought was, “They’ve taken leave of what was left of their senses.”
We expected the Rt. Rev. Bishop Of Carlisle to pop up and claim God was punishing Londoners for their decadence, immorality and The Lambeth Walk (oi!)
On reflection though maybe Cameron has been more subtle than we give him credit for.
Could it be that with the company contracted to regenerate the capital’s transport effectively bankrupt, housing so expensive nobody actually born in London can afford to live there and the Olympic Games project set to cost Londoners more than their mortgages and all these chickens set to come home to roost just about when the victorious candidate next year would be returning to the real world, assuming Boris could win, what a great way to offload the millstone round your neck.

Machiavelli (who hates blowing his own trumpet) proved right again.

Yesterday the American dollar slipped further against the pound as the underlying weaknesses of America’s debt driven economy became more apparent.

In September 2004 Machiavelli published an article analysing the American economy and highlighting a huge vulnerability to something Saddam Hussein had done. The post was slated of course, particularly by America’s rabid right. In fact it brought me a record number of death threats (which are always appreciated)
It is just one of the many instances of Machiavelli’s long term thinking being borne out by events.

Which I hope my critics on the autism / MMR link will remember when they tuck into their extra large helpings of humble pie. Analysing data and projecting trends is pure science you see, not hocus pocus with a bit of chemistry and biology thrown in.

Autism & MMR – The Evidence You Were Not Supposed To See

Plenty of links below – first a little taunting of my critics which you may like to skip.
When I posted an item on this topic titled “The Scandal That Will Not Go Away,” I expected a heated debate but not the angry and hysterical responses I had from many people. Even more puzzling was that many of these responses seemed to my expert eye (I’ve been a published writer for almost forty years) to bear a similar verbal style and use certain phrases. “Ad hominem,” a phrase we do not come across often outside the academic community occurred four of five times. “Association fallacy,” also came up and many people accused me of raking up the controversy about Andrew Wakefield’s discredited research into the possible link.

Well all I said about Wakefield was that his case had been used by the medical establishment to divert attention from discussion of the real issues that was going on in other countries. Hardly wholehearted and enthusiastic support is it?

I was also told repeatedly I am not a scientist and do not understand scientific enquiry. The people who made this assertion then went on to describe dialectic, which of course is very much pert of philosophical, sociological and theological debate but not much to do with science. Having worked in computers as an analyst and later a consultant for over twenty years I came to appreciate the descriptiveness of the French name for my occupation, a logician. Logic is a pure science of course whereas medical “science” is mostly about hocus pocus. I would be surprised if anybody reading this had not at some time been prescribed a placebo, a course of medicine in one form or another which has no active ingredient but works simply because the patient believes it is doing them good.

So having ploughed through twenty or thirty long winded replies all similar in content and of increasingly hysterical tone I have grounds to suspect some faceless person or persons have orchestrated this in an attempt to shut me up.

Which is quite amusing really.

(Thanks to all those people who posted intelligent and considered replies, it proves we can have an intelligent debate even though the licking dogs of the British Medical Association will try to silence me.)

The first item promised to bring links to the websites of American Organisations that hold very different views to our medical establishment and justify my claim that Wakefield was a scapegoat, there were many other studies conducted, those that support MMR are as inconclusive as those that suggest more research is needed. These links follow. You will find copies, reviews and extracts of documents on both sides of the argument and information about things that parents can do to help improve the quality of life of autistic children. Can anything possibly work? I am not the person to answer that so here is a paragraph from my American friend Natasha who happens to be the mother of an autistic adolescent. (letters in brackets are mine, for clarification)

Ian, as you know Cam(eron) showed signs of autism from a very early age so there is no question of vaccine damage in my case. I am from a privileged background and was able to get the best help and advice from the start. At age five the outlook was poor but therapies developed at U(niversity of) C(alifornia) Davis M.I.N.D. Center. They seemed to help a lot.
Many parents in both our group around Sacramento and in the San Francisco group have told of autism symptoms appearing in formerly happy children a few weeks after they had the MMR vaccine. Even though these tend to be mainly disorders at the higher functioning end of the spectrum it is still another human life whose potential will never be fulfilled.
love Tash

The self styled “scientists” among my critics will dismiss this as anecdotal and irrelevant of course, but who would you rather trust, a gang of narrow minded egotistical bigots or a concerned mother who spends a lot of her time and money on campaigning for autism related charities?

At the links below you will find both sides of the case presented (in Britain we have only ever heard one as the British Medical Association seem to have decided from the outset that the MMR vaccine was above criticism. An admirably unbiased attitude from these “high minded academics”, if you know what I mean.

(United States) National Vaccine Information Centre
Autism and Vaccines: A New Look At An Old Problem
The cases for and against laid out in accessible language.

Next is Special Children a page from about.com that presents both arguments for and against MMR. The bigots who have attacked me in the earlier post may try to suggest the fact that arguments against appear first is somehow significant (for people who claim high minded academic detachment they are an emotional lot and are rarely troubled by logic or fair mindedness.

Autism Research Institute
An extensive site devoted to autism issues. Parents with autistic children will find this a valuable resource as it is rich in information you simply will not get in the U.K.

UCLA Davis Mind Centre university of California

An academic site and not easy to find your way round. Again both sides of the argument are presented online here.

The Legal Position
As well as promising links to information sites, I promised to bring info on cases going through the US legal process now (latest available updates from June 2007) Now if you fancy some really good bedtime reading, check out the US Federal Courts transcripts of test cases to prove “general causation” against the MMR vaccine in the first hearing of a three trial process to establish grounds for thousands of families to launch civil proceedings against the MMR vaccine manufacturers. You can always go to the final day (day 12) of the first case in three table and read the final submissions and the summing up.

For quicker summaries of proceedings click here to go to a summary site run by the mother of one of the claimants. Check out the picture of her son Chandler and you will understand this issue is not about science at all, its about humanity.

Funny you know but the more I hang in, the more hysterical the attacks become. Keep coming suckers, you’re all helping me.

Despite all this screaming that there is no issue, the case is actually progressing through the U.S. Courts. No doubt at least one of my critics will remind me that Americans are idiots. Well I’ve no problem about making fun of America’s religious right and other oddball aspects of American society but lets not allow the histrionics of Holocaxxxx sorry, Autism/MMR deniers trick us into forgetting America is a civilised country. And thanks to the Wakefield case and other bizarre cover ups American medical professionals, along with those in Canada, Germany, France, Sweden, and even India think British medicine is in The Dark Ages. But even in America the Medical Establishment is in the pockets of the Pharmaceuticals Industry. Read here how a non – committal report from the Institute of Medicine was misrepresented.

Finally though, I have said I will not comment on Wakefield because I am not qualified to do so (again despite my repeating this several times my critics keep referring to my assertion that the Wakefield case has been used to stifle debate as if I have made a detailed defence of his findings. Machiavelli (the clue is in the name) is a political website and all my posts are about the politics of this issue. You want a rebuttal of Wakefield’s critics, here’s one from :

Bernard Rimland, Ph.D.
Autism Research Institute
4182 Adams Avenue
San Diego, CA 92116

Dr. Wakefield and his courageous collaborators have endured a torrent of criticism and abuse from those dedicated to silencing anyone challenging the sacred-cow status of vaccines. The fact is, vaccines are not nearly as safe, nor anywhere near as effective, as vaccination proponents claim.
Dr. Wakefield’s opponents argue, quite speciously, that he is confusing association with causation, and that the autism link may be merely “coincidental.”

I find it doubly ironic that the vaccine advocates accuse Wakefield of this elementary error in logic. That very argument was used just as wrongly–against vaccinations–by the opponents of Edward Jenner when he introduced vaccination to Europe. (It was used earlier in Asia.) Jenner’s observation that milkmaids exposed to pox-infected cows developed a resistance to smallpox was attributed to coincidence. Fortunately for today’s vaccine proponents, Jenner’s critics did not succeed in dismissing his observations as merely “coincidence.”

The second irony is that the critics who accuse Dr. Wakefield of confusing association with causation are guilty of doing that very thing–deliberately, not mistakenly–while trying to influence public policy, by claiming that vaccines cause steep declines in the incidence of disease when there is good evidence that the decline was often due to other factors — that is, to coincidence.
CLICK To read the full article and see Dr. Rimland clarify the point confusing so many of my critics, i.e. the difference between coincidence and a significant pattern of events visit this page. Same case as used against Edward Jenner eh? He died in 1823. Nobody could accuse these guys of being original.

Again no comment from me. I confine myself to political, social and economic issues. Except of course when medical people stray into my field and show complete ignorance of data analysis methodology.

Remember, all you egomaniacal junior doctors, autism is about real lives, real suffering, real pain in the real world. Your egos do not belong in the equation.