Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Three Trillion Dollar War

The Three Trillion Dollar War - The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict by Joseph E Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes.

Two economists, experts in government finance, have joined forces to produce a very well-researched volume on the real costs of America's war in Iraq. 

As the authors say, the pre-war estimates were said to be around $50 million, but after about 6 years in Iraq, the USA has run up costs that the authors show clearly amount to at least 3 TRILLION dollars, much of which has been borrowed.  Keep in mind that this book was published in 2008 and obviously does not include costs from more recent years.

The authors go on to examine the reasons for these costs, including the need to deal with all the disabled veterans, a massive problem that isn't being dealt with well even now.

There are massive accounting problems within the Department of Defense, which almost seem to reflect an intention to keep the true cost from the rest of the nation.

There are also international economic problems that the war has created and, not least of all, the massive damage done to America's reputation in much of the world.

Of interest to Canadians, especially at this time in our history, is that our present government seems determined to drag Canada into this quagmire.  This time the excuse for war is to do battle with ISIS rather than because of the fraudulent "weapons of mass destruction" story, weapons which were never found.

Canadians need to read this book and decide if we want a similar fate for our country.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tres semanas en Oaxaca.

Para tres semanas en Febrero, mi esposa y yo visitamos la cuidad de Oaxaca en el estado de Oaxaca en las Estados Unidos Mexicanos.

Tuvimos varios motivos para visitar Mexico.

Quisimos estudiar español.  Para dos semanas, estudiamos español en la Escuela Spanish Magic.  Estuvo muy intersante pero mucho confuso.  Mi profesora habló solo español en la clase.

Quisimos aprender la cultura mexicana.  No quisimos quedar en el lugar de reunión o las playas turísticos.

Para un fin de semana, fuimos a las montañas Sierra Norte.  Fueron muy alto, tres mil metros cerca de un puebla muy pequeño en el bosque.  Estuvo muy bien y nos les gustó.

Visitamos Monte Alban para una manaña.  Monte Alban es un lugar arqueología de Zapotec cerca de Oaxaca.

En Oaxaca, hay muchos mercados.  Son muy grande y muy interesantes.  Como Arlo Guthrie dijo muchos años pasados, “You can get anything you want....“.

Hay también muchos perros en Oaxaca.  Eran muy, muy ruidosos en la noche.

Compramos nuestra comida en el supermercado cerca de nuestro departamento.  Se llamó Cheddraui.  Es el Walmart de Oaxaca.

Cada día, anduvimos a muchos lugares en Oaxaca.  Anduvimos al supermercado, a la escuela, a los mercados, a los museos.

Para una día, tomamos un viaje en el valle Oaxaca.  Visitamos un arbole gigante en Thule, un lugar arqueología en Mitla y una tienda de tejeduría en Teotitlan.  También visitamos una destilería de mezcal.  

Finalmente, era la hora ir a nuestra casa.

Me gustó Oaxaca.  Mucho sol, una temperatura muy agradable y sin nieve.

The Real Truth About Vaccine "Profitability"

If you run across any of the anti-vaccine propaganda on-line, it won't take long to see someone mention something about vaccine programs (or is that progroms?) only catering to the massive profits of "Big Pharma".

The real truth lies elsewhere.  Vaccines aren't really all that profitable and they are difficult and expensive to develop, test and market.  In fact, the number of vaccine manufacturers has declined quite markedly over the past number of years.

There are a number of reasons for this.  In "Why Are Pharmaceutical Companies Gradually Abandoning Vaccines?", the real situation is explained.  Definitely worth a serious read.

How to Become Gluten Intolerant

[Disclaimer] - Some people are truly gluten intolerant.  The number may be about 1% of the American population.  This intolerance is an autoimmune disorder called celiac disease.  But many people on gluten-free diets do not have this condition.  It's a dietary choice.

However, if you want to ride the gluten-free bandwagon, here's a short instructional video.

How to Become Gluten Intolerant.

"Natural" Medicines

A recent story from CBC's Marketplace demonstrated just how easy it is to get approval to sell a product and make various health claims.

As the article says, the process is a joke.

Some of the people yammering on about "Big Pharma" and the profit driven pharmaceutical industry are the same people claiming the superiority of these so-called "natural" medicines.

Pharmaceutical drugs need to subject their products to extensive medical trials before they are licensed.  This is as it should be.  Many "natural" products do not.

It's time to subject everything to the same standard before they can be sold and especially before they can made claims about safety and effectiveness.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Nonsensical Notion of "Balance"

In the on-going "debate" about climate change, we've seen, over the past few years, attempts by the media to achieve what they call "balance" in any discussions about the topic.

This has meant that if they interview a climatologist or some other scientist with expertise in a particular area, they feel the compelling need to also interview someone else - anyone else - who might have a different opinion.

The same strategy, if you can call it that, has been used with the "discussion" about vaccines and some other topics that involve science and scientific knowledge.

The result of this practice has been to give the impression that there is a debate when there is none, at least not among people who might be expected to know what they are talking about.  It's also given some people the impression that their opinions are perfectly valid and important, even when they are not, and that everyone else should respect their opinions.

A recent article in the Washington Post addresses this issue.

The reason seems to come from our desire to maintain some kind of group harmony, even if it means accepting opinions that are obviously wrong.

The other problem is that, according to the article, "We propose that those with limited knowledge in a domain suffer from a dual burden: Not only do they reach mistaken conclusions and make regrettable errors, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it."
So why do we keep it up?  Some people just don't know enough about a topic to offer any worthwhile opinion.  Or, as the saying goes: "You're entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts".  And some opinions aren't worth much.

But are people really "entitled" to opinions?  They can certainly "hold" such opinions, but does that mean that your opinions should be a serious candidate for the truth?

Not according to this writer in The Conversation.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Homeopathy Explained - Part 1

If anti-vaccine nonsense wasn't enough, homeopathy has joined the list of recent "discussions" on social media.

I will readily admit to a severe lack of knowledge about homeopathy, but this image rather sums up how I feel about it from what little I know: 

Oddly enough, the same people who believe there is a conspiracy being perpetuated by Bog Pharma, the medical establishment and the government, to cover-up massive damage done by vaccines seem to be some of the same people who think homeopathy works.

Some recent studies seem to have found otherwise:

One article reported on a large study done by Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council.  Of course it would be biased against homeopathy.  Their report, should you be interested, can be seen here.

The Guardian newspaper reported on the same study.  It's article can be seen here. 

The main conclusion?  Homeopathy is not effective in treating any condition.

A trial is being conducted at the U of T into homeopathy as a treatment for ADHD.  It was reported by CBC's The Current on March 5, 2015.

Science-Based Medicine weighed in some time ago, in an article from August 2012.

And then there is, of course, Quackwatch which dealt with Homeopathy as well.

I see it as all part of the anti-science, anti-vaccine, conspiracy-theorist, pseudoscience "movement" that seems to be all the rage these days.  Perhaps it's just that all these people have a platform now via social media.  More on that later.

[Update] - Science-Based Medicine also reported on the Australian study here.