Friday, July 31, 2009

Thanks for that. We knew that.

What is it with the asshats who come up with these policies? Twenty years later they're always sorry they did the thing that everyone else knew wasn't even going to work.
Hit & Run > "Legal Age 21 has not worked." Yes, we know. - Reason Magazine
"Legal Age 21 has not worked." Of course, any 20-year-old could, and probably would, tell you that. But the quote in question was written by Dr. Morris Chafet, a psychiatrist who served on the presidential committee that pushed to have the legal drinking age raised to 21. That push paid off on July 17, 1984, when President Ronald Reagan signed the new drinking age into law.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

This is the article that caused 6 figures of trouble for Simon Singh.

Beware the spinal trap
This is an edited version of an article published in The Guardian for which Singh is being personally sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association.

Click here for the latest news about the case from Sense About Science or view their Twitter updates here.

Some practitioners claim it is a cure-all, but the research suggests chiropractic therapy has mixed results – and can even be lethal, says Simon Singh.

You might be surprised to know that the founder of chiropractic therapy, Daniel David Palmer, wrote that “99% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae”. In the 1860s, Palmer began to develop his theory that the spine was involved in almost every illness because the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Therefore any misalignment could cause a problem in distant parts of the body.

In fact, Palmer’s first chiropractic intervention supposedly cured a man who had been profoundly deaf for 17 years. His second treatment was equally strange, because he claimed that he treated a patient with heart trouble by correcting a displaced vertebra.

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact some still possess quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything, including helping treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying – even though there is not a jot of evidence.

I can confidently label these assertions as utter nonsense because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world’s first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.

But what about chiropractic in the context of treating back problems? Manipulating the spine can cure some problems, but results are mixed. To be fair, conventional approaches, such as physiotherapy, also struggle to treat back problems with any consistency. Nevertheless, conventional therapy is still preferable because of the serious dangers associated with chiropractic.

In 2001, a systematic review of five studies revealed that roughly half of all chiropractic patients experience temporary adverse effects, such as pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. These are relatively minor effects, but the frequency is very high, and this has to be weighed against the limited benefit offered by chiropractors.

More worryingly, the hallmark technique of the chiropractor, known as high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust, carries much more significant risks. This involves pushing joints beyond their natural range of motion by applying a short, sharp force. Although this is a safe procedure for most patients, others can suffer dislocations and fractures.

Worse still, manipulation of the neck can damage the vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brain. So-called vertebral dissection can ultimately cut off the blood supply, which in turn can lead to a stroke and even death. Because there is usually a delay between the vertebral dissection and the blockage of blood to the brain, the link between chiropractic and strokes went unnoticed for many years. Recently, however, it has been possible to identify cases where spinal manipulation has certainly been the cause of vertebral dissection.

Laurie Mathiason was a 20-year-old Canadian waitress who visited a chiropractor 21 times between 1997 and 1998 to relieve her low-back pain. On her penultimate visit she complained of stiffness in her neck. That evening she began dropping plates at the restaurant, so she returned to the chiropractor. As the chiropractor manipulated her neck, Mathiason began to cry, her eyes started to roll, she foamed at the mouth and her body began to convulse. She was rushed to hospital, slipped into a coma and died three days later. At the inquest, the coroner declared: “Laurie died of a ruptured vertebral artery, which occurred in association with a chiropractic manipulation of the neck.”

This case is not unique. In Canada alone there have been several other women who have died after receiving chiropractic therapy, and Edzard Ernst has identified about 700 cases of serious complications among the medical literature. This should be a major concern for health officials, particularly as under-reporting will mean that the actual number of cases is much higher.

If spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market.

Simon Singh is a science writer in London and the co-author, with Edzard Ernst, of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Beware the Spinal Trap

Bloggers around the world are reprinting Simon Singh’s artical critical of the BCA.

Support you local Simon Singh.

Britain notices the Crazy

I like the fact that the Guardian just thinks this shit is crazy.
In this Republican dystopia, Obama's not even a citizen | Michael Tomasky | Comment is free | The Guardian
Last Friday, Orrin Hatch, the veteran Republican senator from Utah, announced that he would vote against the confirmation to our supreme court of judge Sonia Sotomayor. Hatch is a devout conservative, and Sotomayor seems pretty liberal, so on the face of it, you might say, so what? Here's what.


Hatch's decision reflects the degree to which, during the Obama era, American conservatism – already fiercely ideological and obstructionist, operating according to sets of "facts" produced and paid for by oil companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers and other corporate interests – has contrived to go completely barmy.

Birthers embarrass the Republicans | Thomas Noyes | Comment is free |

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This is important...

Not all terror threats are created equal. This we know from the right wing whack-a-doodle blow up some months back about Bush-era created, Obama-era published report on right wing extremist groups. We know this from the easy time the media have given the re-born militia movement in the States. And we know this from the actual use of terror laws in the UK, where the more Caucasian, and thus more acceptable, face of terrorism is handled with kid gloves and reduced charges.
Our double standards on terrorism | Mehdi Hasan | Comment is free |
The Guardian's Slow Torture series rightly highlights the government's powers to impose a wide array of illiberal and often draconian restrictions on Muslim terror suspects, without a proper trial and often on the basis of secret evidence.

In contrast however, there is a growing group of terrorists who are treated with kid gloves by the British state and by the media – white terrorists of the far-right, neo-Nazi variety.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Les Lye shuffles off this mortal coil...

CTV Ottawa- CTV Ottawa legend Les Lye passes away - CTV News, Shows and Sports -- Canadian Television
Actor and broadcaster Les Lye passed away on Tuesday at the age of 84.

Born in Toronto, Lye came to Ottawa after graduating from Lorne Greene's Academy of Radio Arts in 1948.

He joined CFRA Radio, where he served listeners for more than a decade. It was at CFRA, that he worked with Rich Little and they collaborated on a comedy album, 'My Fellow Canadians' - a spoof of the Diefenbaker years.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Becareful, the super-joints will get you.

Oh that's a fucking shock...

Really, does it come as a surprise that the police might not 'properly' use the extensive, pervasive, intrusive CCTV systems in the UK?
BBC NEWS | UK | Police 'not using CCTV properly'
The police are failing to use CCTV to catch as many criminals as they could, a senior officer has told the BBC

Just for a perspective, here's a link telling you about CCTV density.
CCTV density-maps of the UK - Boing Boing

A good plea for the reform of UK libel laws.

Even mathematicians run scared of our libel laws now | Nick Cohen | Comment is free | The Observer
"Wrong opinions and practices gradually yield to fact and argument: but facts and arguments, to produce any effect on the mind, must be brought before it," said John Stuart Mill. But the average British judge does not believe that free debate in the marketplace of the mind will expose "wrong opinions and practices". He believes they must be suppressed because he retains the fear of the old European aristocracy that the masses cannot see through dangerous ideas and bad arguments. To speak plainly, if I may, the judiciary has an elite suspicion of democracy and the price of its elitism is becoming too high for this impoverished country to bear.

Friday, July 17, 2009

From the War on Photography...

Kent Police clamp down on tall photographers • The Register
Kent Police set a new legal precedent last week, as they arrested a photographer on the unusual grounds of "being too tall".

What is making this ridiculous in the extreme is the fact that there's never a suspicious action or any other form of reasonable cause. Worse yet, the police overstep the very guidelines that keep getting quoted when the apologies come.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

And checking in with Ireland…well, that’s kinda fuckola

If you haven’t heard of the recent child abuse reports in Ireland, hit the Googles. We’ll wait.

Pretty fucked up, eh? It’s a mess.

On the other side, it seems that there is a forming backlash against the power of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Part of this backlash is a movement to leave the church.

It seems that this is belied a bit by the recent passing of the Blasphemy Law in Ireland. We can take it as read that this is a massive step backward from freedom of expression. And all for a victimless crime.

The nice thing is that there is a backlash against this as well with commentary and with Irish atheists promising to test the law out.

It boggles the mind that there’s even a debate about this sort of crap.

Great Review

Warning, uses the word horseshit a lot.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tanuki Tuesday

Ah, the tanuki, that strange little creature you see on shelves, in gardens and standing on their own balls outside an izakaya. What are they like?

But more importantly, what can they do with their ballsacks?

A lot, apparently.

Monday, July 13, 2009

An upside to swearing

Okay, I swear a lot. Which is why I'm glad to see this headline in the Independent.
Swearing outbursts 'can lessen pain' - Science, News - The Independent
There could be a good reason why hitting one's thumb with a hammer is likely to unleash the Gordon Ramsey within, say scientists.

F-word outbursts, like those the celebrity chef is famous for, can actually lessen pain, according to the researchers.

Swearing may be a good recipe for coping with physical knocks, their study suggests.

Scientists at Keele University in Staffordshire wondered whether swearing might have a psychological effect that increased pain tolerance.

To test the theory they asked 66 volunteer students to submerge a hand into a tube of iced water for as long as possible while repeating a swear word of their choice.

That's all fine and well except for this problem with accuracy between the Independent and the Guardian. (HT to Lay Scientist)

Revealed: Brown's secret plan to cut Afghanistan force by 1,500 - UK Politics, UK - The Independent
Gordon Brown set to reinforce troops in Afghanistan | World news | The Observer


Thursday, July 09, 2009

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Beautiful Video Warning

Delivered with a British accent it sounds even more authoritative.

A bit late for Canada Day

Tim Hortons may be coming home.

Another weird development in 'merkan Xtianity

Apparently all the years of army worship in the States has reached over and seeped into the religious community. Behold, the 21st century version of the Salvation Army.

Archival Bullshit

Somewhere along the way I stumbled on this old article at Happy Jihad's House of Pancakes and looked though it.
One thing struck me - Chinese characters prove the Bible. Sure. But, as a former Japan resident, I feel I can comment on this and I will.
To elaborate. Some whack-a-doodle decided that he as a non-Chinese/Japanese speaker could prove that the elements that make up kanji actually encode Bible stories. I, as a Japanese speaker, differ.
Let's check some of the examples that Bing McGhandi cites.
沿 - The whack-a-doodle says this character means 'hand down,' and is made up of water, the number 8 and mouth. In Japanese, it is pronounced so(u) and means 'follow along (side)' or 'abut against.' In Chinese, (checks dictionary) it is pronounced yan and means much the same as it does in Japanese. So no points for meaning.
What about the components, known as - follow the jargon here- radicals? Well, buddy gets half points. This character in Chinese is made of two radicals, not three. The left hand side is the radical for water, called sansui in Japanese. The right hand side (yes, technically you can subdivide it, but we'll get there. Save the 'Dear BBC,' emails) in this character is taken as a unit, and it put in for it's phonetic value. It doesn't really bring in meaning value.
Now about being able to divide the right hand side. The top half is a two stroke radical (don't get bogged down in the technical details) that can carry the meaning of eight, but also divide or separate. The lower right hand bit is a square, that can carry the meaning of mouth, but also of entrance or opening. But to emphasise the point, it doesn't carry meaning in this kanji; it's there for the phonetic value in Chinese.
Score 25% accurate. He got the value of the left hand radical correct. No points for meaning or composition.
婪 - right. Covet. Well, it doesn't mean anything on its own. It carries the semantic value of greed or greediness. Not quite the same as covet however. So no points there. Covet by the way is 貪圖 (tantu). Again it's not woman and trees giving the meaning greed, in some Garden of Eden sort of apple munchies kind of way. Again, the bottom radical is woman, but the top radical (forest) is there for its phonetic value. Does anyone see a pattern?
Score 33% accurate.
刑 - punish. Yeah. That's true. Or it can carry the meaning of law in Chinese. In Japanese it's a dead cert that it'll mean punish. 2 radicals, left and right side. He says: offend doubled plus knife equals punish. I say the left hand side is phonetic but comes from a pictograph of a shield (the Japanese would be more likely to see it as dry) and the right hand side is a variant of the knife radical.
Fail. I can't keep scoring these things.
義 - righteousness. Yes, or justice, morality, honour, loyalty... A bit selective aren't we? Same script. Can't distinguish meaning and phonetic radicals.
Playing fast and loose with the etymology of a language you don't speak is no way to win friends.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Yes, Question in the Back?

Um, yes. You claim that Leonardo Da Vinci created the Turin Shroud and made the case recently in the TV documentary. Could you give an explanation of why the Shroud has known, documented provenance from 1357, where Da Vinci was born in 1452?

Saturday, July 04, 2009

That's Just Genius

Homeopathic A&E

That Mitchell and Webb Look: Homeopathic A&E

Friday, July 03, 2009

You just can't go back...

after you try some of that delicious, delicious cock.
HT to Rebecca Watson. (if memory serves.)