Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Correlation or Casual Relation?

There are two correlations that have been picking at my brain for some time now. Vaccinations and autism and the much lesser known one about the flu and schizophrenia. About twenty years or so after a major flu outbreak (most notably the Spanish Flu of 1918) there is an increase in the incidence (rate of occurrence of new cases) of schizophrenia.

Correlations do not imply a casual relation. The argument for a casual relation between the flu and schizophrenia is well, to put it bluntly, pretty much laughed at by the scientific community. Regardless of how ridiculous the proposal of a casual link might be, there is no denying the correlation. However, when it comes to vaccines and autism there is a growing acceptance of there being an actual causal relation not just a correlation. Something that was once considered ridiculous. (Of course, mercury is safe!)

Let's start with some undisputed facts about thiomersal, the mercury compound used as a preservative in vaccines.

(1) The use of thiomersal in routine childhood vaccines is being phased out in the United States and the European Union.
(2) Thiomersal is used in inactive flu vaccines in children two years and older and in other vaccines that are not routinely recommended (emphasis mine) in young children, including the vaccine for diphtheria and tetanus, according to the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
(3) Thiomersal is metabolized into ethyl-mercury
and thiosalicylate in the body.
Ethylmercury clears from blood with a half-life of about 18 days. (Half-life is the period of time it takes, for a substance undergoing decay, to decrease by half.) So, at 18 days 50% of the ethylmercury that was already metabolized and present in the blood stream is gone. At 36 days 25% of the original amount of metabolized ethyl-mercury remains, at 54 days 12.5% remains, etc.
(5) Ethyl-mercury in the brain has a half-life of about 14 days. So, at 14 days 50% remains, 28 days 25%, 56 days 12.5%, etc.
(6) Inorganic mercury metabolized from ethyl-mercury has a much longer clearance, at least 120 days. (Emphasis added.)
(7) Ethyl-mercury is very permeable, meaning it flows pretty much unhindered throughout the body, it crosses through the blood-brain barrier (not very easy) and the placental barrier (actually very easy, hence women are so heavily cautioned against consuming certain foods and medications during pregnancy, almost everything can cross the placental barrier).
(8) Using thiomersal allows for multi-dose vials of vaccines instead of single-dose which are more expensive.
(9) Thiomersal's safety for its intended uses first came under question in the 1970s, when case reports demonstrated potential for neurotoxicity when given in large volumes as a topical antiseptic.

While thiomersal and autism remain a controversy, but we do know that mercury, as well as other heavy metals, causes serious medical problems in high enough doses. It is important to note that the effects of
mercury poisoning are partially dependent on which type of mercury, elemental mercury, inorganic mercury compounds (as salts), or organomercury compounds that the individual was exposed to.

The empirical evidence and date on thiomersal just isn't there for either case. Why? Because it is studied very little to not at all. Methyl-mercury has been studied rather extensively, but thiomersal breaks down into ethyl-mercury.

Perhaps this is overly cynical, but there is little financial incentive to study thiomersal and the autism correlation. If thiomersal is casually linked to autism, there would be a huge public outcry. There would be an increase in lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, a drop in sales, a huge mistrust of vaccines in general, a decrease in the number of people who get vaccinated (regardless of what it is for) and which vaccines they do get (if any) and a large decrease in reveune for drug companies. Also, quite probably an increase of indiences of diseases that formerly were vaccinated against. The government would also come under fire since the FDA approved the vaccines in the first place. So, in light of all that who would (1) want to study it and (2) actually get funding for it? And for the cynics, like myself, (3) manage to not have their results buried?

Although, as thiomersal is eliminated from vaccines and/or individuals start refusing to get vaccines that contain thiomersal, if there is a decrease in the incidence of autism... Well, such a correlation kind of just fuels the fire now, doesn't it?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Thomas Paine: Bicentennial of a Patriot

An excerpt from The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine as posted on tenthamendmentcenter.com

Society is a Blessing, But Government is Evil
by Thomas Paine

A great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government. It had its origin in the principles of society, and the natural constitution of man. It existed prior to government, and would exist if the formality of government was abolished. The mutual dependence and reciprocal interest which man has in man and all the parts of a civilized community upon each other create that great chain of connection which holds it together.

The landholder, the farmer, the manufacturer, the merchant, the tradesman, and every occupation prospers by the aid which each receives from the other, and from the whole. Common interest regulates their concerns, and forms their laws; and the laws which common usage ordains, have a greater influence than the laws of government. In fine, society performs for itself almost everything that is ascribed to government.

To understand the nature and quantity of government proper for man it is necessary to attend to his character. As nature created him for social life, she fitted him for the station she intended. In all cases she made his natural wants greater than his individual powers. No one man is capable, without the aid of society, of supplying his own wants; and those wants acting upon every individual impel the whole of them into society, as naturally as gravitation acts to a center.

But she has gone further. She has not only forced man into society by a diversity of wants, which the reciprocal aid of social affections, which, though not necessary to his existence, are essential to his happiness. There is no period in life when this love for society ceases to act. It begins and ends with our being.

If we examine, with attention, into the composition and constitution of man, the diversity of talents in different men for reciprocally accommodating the wants of each other, his propensity to society, and consequently to preserve the advantages resulting from it, we shall easily discover that a great part of what is called government is mere imposition.

Government is no further necessary than to supply the few cases to which society and civilization are not conveniently competent; and instances are not wanting to show that everything which government can usefully add thereto, has been performed by the common consent of society, without government.

For upwards of two years from the commencement of the American war, and a longer period in several of the American states, there were no established forms of government. The old governments had been abolished, and the country was too much occupied in defense to employ its attention in establishing new governments; yet, during this interval, order and harmony were preserved as inviolate as in any country in Europe. There is a natural aptness in man, and more so in society, because it embraces a greater variety of abilities and resources, to accommodate itself to whatever situation it is in. The instant formal government is abolished, society begins to act. A general association takes place, and common interest produces common security.

So far is it from being true, as has been pretended, that the abolition of any formal government is the dissolution of society, it acts by contrary impulse, and brings the latter the closer together. All that part of its organization which it had committed to its government, devolves again upon itself, and acts as from reciprocal benefits, have habituated themselves to social and civilized life, there is always enough of its principles in practice to carry them through any changes they may find necessary or convenient to make in their government. In short, man is so naturally a creature of society that it is almost impossible to put him out of it.

Formal government makes but a small part of civilized life; and when even the best that human wisdom can devise is established, it is a thing more in name and idea than in fact. It is to the great and fundamental principles of society and civilization – to the common usage universally consented to, and mutually and reciprocally maintained – to the unceasing circulation of interest, which passing through its innumerable channels, invigorates the whole mass of civilized man – it is to these things, infinitely more than anything which even the best instituted government can perform, that the safety and prosperity of the individual and of the whole depends.

The more perfect civilization is, the less occasion has it for government, because the more does it regulate its own affairs, and govern itself; but so contrary is the practice of old governments to the reason of the case, that the expenses of them increase in the proportion they ought to diminish. It is but few general laws that civilized life requires, and those of such common usefulness, that whether they are enforced by the forms of government or not, the effect will be nearly the same. If we consider what the principles are that first condense man into society, and what the motives that regulate their mutual intercourse afterwards, we shall find, by the time we arrive at what is called government, that nearly the whole of the business is performed by the natural operation of the parts upon each other.

Man, with respect to all those matters, is more a creature of consistency than he is aware of, or that governments would wish him to believe. All the great laws of society are the laws of nature. Those of trade and commerce, whether with respect to the intercourse of individuals or of nations, are laws of mutual and reciprocal interest. They are followed and obeyed because it is the interest of the parties so to do, and not on account of any formal laws their governments may impose or interpose.

But how often is the natural propensity to society disturbed or destroyed by the operations of government! When the latter, instead of being engrafted on the principles of the former, assumes to exist for itself, and acts by partialities of favor and oppression, it becomes the cause of the mischiefs it ought to prevent.

If we look back to the riots and tumults which at various times have happened in England, we shall find, that they did not proceed from the want of a government, but that government was itself the generating cause; instead of consolidating society, it divided it; it deprived it of its natural cohesion, and engendered discontents and disorders, which otherwise would not have existed. In those associations which men promiscuously form for the purpose of trade or of any concern, in which government is totally out of the question, and in which they act merely on the principles of society, we see how naturally the various parties unite; and this shows, by comparison, that governments, so far from always being the cause or means of order, are often the destruction of it. The riots of 1780 had no other source than the remains of those prejudices that the government itself had encouraged. But with respect to England there are also other causes.

Excess and inequality of taxation, however disguised in the means, never fail to appear in their effect. As a great mass of the community are thrown thereby into poverty and discontent, they are constantly on the brink of commotion; and, deprived, as they unfortunately are, of the means of information, are easily heated to outrage. Whatever the apparent cause of any riots may be, the real one is always want of happiness. It shows that something is wrong in the system of government, which injures the felicity by which society is to be preserved.

Having thus endeavored to show, that the social and civilized state of man is capable of performing within itself, almost everything necessary to its protection and government, it will be proper, on the other hand, to take a review of the present old governments, and examine whether their principles and practice are correspondent thereto.

It is impossible that such governments as have hitherto existed in the world, could have commenced by any other means than a total violation of every principle, sacred and moral. The obscurity, in which the origin of all the present old governments is buried, implies the iniquity and disgrace with which they began. The origin of the present governments of America and France will ever be remembered, because it is honorable to record it; but with respect to the rest, even flattery has consigned them to the tomb of time, without an inscription.

It could have been no difficult thing in the early and solitary ages of the world, while the chief employment of men was that of attending flocks and herds, for a banditti of ruffians to overrun a country, and lay it under contribution. Their power being thus established, the chief of the band contrived to lose the name of robber in that of monarch; and hence the origin of monarchy and kings.

The origin of the government of England, so far as it relates to what is called its line of monarchy, being one of the latest, is perhaps the best recorded. The hatred which the Norman invasion and tyranny begat, must have been deeply rooted in the nation, to have outlived the contrivance to obliterate it. Though not a courtier will talk of the curfew bell, not a village in England has forgotten it.

Those bands of robbers having parceled out the world, and divided it into dominions, began, as is naturally the case, to quarrel with each other. What at first was obtained by violence was considered by others as lawful to be taken, and a second plunderer succeeded the first. They alternately invaded the dominions which each had assigned to himself, and the brutality with which they treated each other explains the original character of monarchy. It was ruffian torturing ruffian.

The conqueror considered the conquered not as his prisoner, but his property. He led him in triumph rattling in chains, and doomed him, at pleasure, to slavery or death. As time obliterated the history of their beginning, their successors assumed new appearances, to cut off the entail of their disgrace, but their principles and objects remained the same. What at first was plunder assumed the softer name of revenue; and the power they originally usurped, they affected to inherit.

From such beginning of governments, what could be expected, but a continual system of war and extortion? It has established itself into a trade. The vice is not peculiar to one more than to another, but is the common principle of all. There does not exist within such governments a stamina whereon to engraft reformation; and the shortest and most effectual remedy is to begin anew.

What scenes of horror, what perfection of iniquity, present themselves in contemplating the character, and reviewing the history of such governments! If we would delineate human nature with a baseness of heart, and hypocrisy of countenance, that reflection would shudder at and humanity disown, it is kings, courts, and cabinets that must sit for the portrait. Man, as he is naturally, with all his faults about him, is not up to the character.

Can we possibly suppose that if government had originated in a right principle, and had not an interest in pursuing a wrong one, that the world could have been in the wretched and quarrelsome condition we have seen it? What inducement has the farmer, while following the plow, to lay aside his peaceful pursuits and go to war with the farmer of another country? Or what inducement has the manufacturer? What is dominion to them or to any class of men in a nation? Does it add an acre to any man’s estate, or raise its value? Are not conquest consequence? Though this reasoning may be good to a nation, it is not so to a government. War is the faro table of governments, and nations the dupes of the game.

If there is anything to wonder at in this miserable scene of governments, more than might be expected, it is the progress that the peaceful arts of agriculture, manufactures, and commerce have made, beneath such a long accumulating load of discouragement and oppression. It serves to show that instinct in animals does not act with stronger impulse than the principles of society and civilization operate in man. Under all discouragements, he pursues his object, and yields to nothing but impossibilities.

Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.

The trade of governing has always been monopolized by the most ignorant and the most rascally individuals of mankind.

Thomas Paine (1737–1809) was an English pamphleteer, revolutionary, radical, and classical liberal. Born in the market town of Thetford, England, he migrated to the American colonies at the age of 37, just in time to take part in the American Revolution. His main contribution was as the author of the powerful, widely read pamphlet, “Common Sense” (1776), advocating independence for the American colonies from Great Britain. He is also known for “The American Crisis” (1776–1783), a series of pamphlets supporting the American Revolution, and “The Rights of Man” (1791) defending the early French Revolution.

The previous essay is an excerpt from the writings of Thomas Paine which can be found in the third chapter of Liberty and the Great Libertarians, edited by Charles T. Sprading.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Is America Going Red?

This is an idea that has been circling in my head for awhile: was Marx on to something? Does capitalism naturally collapse into communism?

I'm starting to think so. I do not want to live under communism. If true Marxist communism (where the proletariat actually overthrows the bourgeoisie) ever happens, I'd be curious to visit. Every communist society that has existed in the world has always been run by some oligarchy.

Slavery is freedom I guess.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Is This Really Radical?

"The idea that we should be free to choose our own governance is a radical idea, the most radical idea in political history." - Michael Rozeff from Why Ron Paul Didn't Win

Is it really? The idea that we should able to choose our own government just seems so common sense to me. One of the things that I despise about globalization is that we're losing different types of governments. If I want to live in an egalitarian society I have that right. If I want to live in a monarchy, I can. If I want to live in a fascist dictatorship (don't know why I would, but for whatever reason), I honestly think that I should have every right to be able to do so.

I don't get the converse of the idea. Why shouldn't we have the right to choose our own governance?

According to Rozeff this is a radical idea. Well, if I think it's intuitive then what does that say about me?

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Clue?

Many of the founding fathers hated central banks and were vocal critics of them, Ben Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, as well as the later presidents, such as Andrew Jackson. Anyone today who writes against central banks in general, and specifically the Federal Reserve, always quote these men. Well, lately I've been wondering how the hell did they know it was such a bad idea? They lived over 200 years ago. How did they have such wisdom? No one really ever writes about that and googling it didn't prove too successful. Some videos I have seen do talk about the Revolutionary war instead of being about the tea tax was against the money makers (a common term applied to the people who own and run the private, central banks). Those docutmenaries often quote Benjamin Franklin saying that the colonies were so propesrous because they printed a Continental currency and only printed enough as a means to facilitate trade. [This paragraph is the very, very short verison of the story.]

The documentaries do explain why the Federal Reserve is bad, etc. But still no one evers trully examines how the hell people like Franklin, Jefferson, Madison and Jackson knew. I've heard the founding fathers were well versed in philosophy, as it is supposedly apparent in their writings. Well, I'm a philosophy student, although still only an undergrad, and I have never read any philosophical text that talked about banking. So I was still confused.

Today, however while trying to find a link to the six part video Credit as a Public Utility, I found this quote:
"The most hated sort [of wealth getting], and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange but not to increase at interest. And this term interest [tokos], which means the birth of money from money, is applied to the breeding of money because the offspring resembles the parent. Whereof of all modes of getting wealth, this is the most unnatural.” - Aristotle
Alas, an explanation! Well, at least a clue anyway. Apparently, one I have to go back very far and two into obscure and little known texts. (I have at least two works of Aristotle on my bookshelf.) Of course, I being everso curious am now wondering, "Well, how did he know?" I do enjoy trips down the rabbit hole, but apparently I have a very long way to go.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

An Unlikely Faith

Ever since haven awoke, politically speaking, after watching Zeitgeist: Addendum (which I still find to be a very odd motivator), I have been relentless in emailing my state senators and district representative (the latter has been completely unresponsive), while I have sense lost track of all of them one urged legal action against Bush Administration officials for war crimes (this was also sent to the Attorney General), the last 30 billion to AIG bringing to total to 170 billion in funds in early March (pre-bonus scandal), and the surge in troops and aggressive military action in Afghanistan.

I am somewhat hostile towards the Republican party, which I acknowledge to be in err. Bush and Cheney certainly make it easy, but my hostility does not extend from them but rather their strong anti-abortion stance. I dislike their fiscal policies (they spend too much and at the same time give tax breaks). They argue for limited government, but at least since the Reagen era having been increasing it. I seem to be teetering somewhere between limited government (read: libertarian; I think the GOP and I differ in distinction) and anarchy. (I rather resent the assertion, but I do hate the federal government so perhaps it was a fair assessment.) Murray Rothbard wrote a very interesting article available on LewRockwell.com about libertarian anarchism that dispels many misconceptions about anarchy and argues what it actually is; definitely an interesting read.

Now that I have gotten substantially off-topic, I seem to have found an unlikely "ally." David Vitter (R) is one of the US senators for LA. He was also very quick to reply to my emails much to my surprise. (I didn't really expect a reply from any since I assume them to be quite busy, but he was definitely the last.) He actually wrote me a personal reply in response to my email protesting the further bailout of AIG. Since then I have gotten updates about what's going on in Congress and actions he's taking, etc. The most recent headlines were:


Quite honestly, I'm impressed. I have not looked into legislation that I might be for that he's currently opposing, and thus not in the update, but I am genuinely surprised to see someone arguing against automatic pay raises for themselves. It's definitely a measure that I applaud, Vitter's definitely grown on me. I could seriously hug him for voting against the bailouts since square one.

US Senator Landerieu (D), however did take a substantial amount of time to get back with me, especially in comparison. She replied in regards to my opposition to the increase of troops in Afghanistan and continuation of occupation of the Middle East. She had apparently voted for and continues to support the measures; much to my dismay, but at least she was very candid about it I guess. I am not a democrat, but many of my views are in line, at least they used to be anyway, with theirs so I was especially disappointed by this.

I think it was Aaron Russo, former governor (can't remember the state at the moment), and creator of the film America: From Freedom to Fascism, who correctly said in an interview about the film that people tend to get it wrong and play into the system by aligning themselves with one party and vehemently opposing the other instead objecting to the system itself. (While a fan of his works, Russo has criticized Michael Moore for being guilty of playing into the fold.) I was definitely guilty of this as well, but amazingly my agreement with Vitter on the issues (I still find it surprising) and the display of Obama's true colors (he's reneged on every campaign promise he made from single payer to being pro-unions to withdrawal from Iraq) has led to my realization of such.

I'm a Vitter fan? Really? I do not like Obama at all. What? This has definitely been an interesting first 100 days and shift in my political views. I find myself very distracted by all the turmoil, internally and with the global crisis, and scratching my head in disillusioned disbelief. If I had a chance to talk to my more political friends from high school, I would definitely get a resounding, "Say what?"

conspiracy, Conspiracy, CONSPIRACY

The Conspiracy Theory of History by Murray Rothbard. After my last link of the 1969 film, The Capitalist Conspiracy, I would say it seems to be a fair argument to label me another conspiracy nut.

But, I am not wearing a tin foil hat. Rothbard's article is a prudent reminder of the legitimatises of the alternative theory. While I was stirring in self-doubt, I forgot the most notable case of conspiracy, the JFK assassination. Many different independent groups did their own investigations, one in Louisiana that eventually led to the only criminal case on the matter (as a Louisianan a great source of pride for me), that converged to the same conclusions and they didn't agree with the Warren Commission one iota.

Rothbard points out the differences among conspiracy theorists themselves, the bad ones employ logical fallacies and assumptions based on hypothetical beneficial connections but no further research. (Sort of reminds me of yellow journalism for some reason.)

Quite recently I had an argument with a good friend who I consider to be a highly intelligent individual (physics major, 4.0, chancellor's scholarship), who "does not buy into conspiracy theories." (In his exact words.) I asked, "Wait, even with the Warren Commission?" He had no idea what I was talking about. "The congressional group that investigated the Kennedy assassination?" I get an, "Oh, okay." Sadly, the lecture began at that point and I never got to ask if he thought Oswald acted alone. Granted at the end of our brief discussion, and further chats since, I'd bet he's never heard of the Texas School Book Depository.

Maybe I take some of that knowledge for granted, like the fact that the Warren Commission was the congressional body given the task to investigate the Kennedy assassination. Is that unreasonable? If so, maybe reasons like this are why people point and shriek, "Oh noes, they're wearing a tin foil hat!" (Granted, usually in less dramatic rhetoric.)

I have to ask: "When did it become so taboo to challenge the accepted wisdom?"