Homeopathic Methods Applied as a Case Study.

I recently read ‘What actually gets taught on a homeopathy course: part 1’ revealed by Professor Colquhoun in his website and it got me thinking about application of these ‘scientific’ methods. Since the treatment is often constructed based on the idiosyncrasies of the ailment at the hands of a ‘trained professional’, this leaves the root of the problem often open to interpretation.

‘Like with Like’ is the claim made on The Society of Homoeopaths website. So, for a person suffering with insomnia, ‘coffea’ could be recommended (a thoroughly watered down coffee) – to generalise, a substance that would cause symptoms in an otherwise healthy person is used to create a remedy.

On that note, I’ve imagined that ‘The Economy’ has walked though into my ‘pretend diagnosis’ room (sounds about right). Poorly and unsure of the root of the problem, given the length of time between acknowledgement of a problem and any diagnosis or action, I’m not surprised she sought alternative therapy. Not that I want to propogate a self-fulfilling prophesy, but unless something dramatically alters, we’ll see a Conservative government voted into power within the next year and this probably means that deregulation will be among the diagnoses of the financial woes presided over by The Labour Party in the past 12 years. So if I were a Conservative* Homeopath* I might concoct a remedy based on regulation watered down so much that there appears to be very little substance left. That sounds familiar.

When labour came into power 1997 after the systematic deregulation and privatisation of many public services by a conservative government, they tried to claw back some financial regulation with the introduction the FSA and FSMA 2000. Consolidating 7 regulatory bodies into 1, their watered-down, ambiguous Primary Objectives appear to have, without going into too much detail, errr… failed. Not only that, but they have kept very quiet about their accountability,  allowing blame to lie with individuals who are supposedly authorised, regulated and penalised by themselves. In fact, the Principles of Business are so watered down they leave many of the judgement calls on ethos and even individual trades to the very people that profit from them, and retaining what some may opine to be very little substance themselves. Hmm…

The continued application of such ‘remedies’  with, at best, zero proof of efficacy is commonplace in policy making, displayed by the recent dismissal of Professor Nutt. You’d think that drugs policy would be one of the easiest areas to turn into a near exact science. Legislation could easily be based on scientific results from data collected in studies relating to physical/mental health rather than applying the same old ‘classification rehashing’ to a problem caused by prohibition and characterised by criminalising addicts. Apparently not.

I really hope** that the next government discontinue the use of out-dated methods of applying remedies, we’ve come a long way scientifically in the last 100 years and we don’t really need to still be using the same archaic MO.  Regulation and state-control are not necessarily the enemy; poorly justified, ambiguous, unaccountable, watered-down regulation, however, is.

* I’m not.

** While my hope is rational, it is wasted. So instead I heartily look forward to the ribbing that the main parties get when their ‘science’ is put under scrutiny.


How is the right to ‘Fame’ more important than the right to the truth?

I was reading an article earlier about the Iraq war enquiry and was struck by something Sir Ken McDonald (former Director of Public Prosecutions) said:

But Macdonald also expressed concerns about the Iraq inquiry, suggesting that some of its questioning has been “unchallenging” and that Sir John Chilcot and his team will be held in “contempt” if they fail to uncover the truth about the war.

For the past 18 months I have been closely following Simon Singh’s ludicrous libel case brought against him by the British Chiropractic Association.  He claimed in an article he wrote for a national Newspaper that the BCA were making bogus claims when they say that they can treat non-rheumatic conditions in children, such as asthma.  An excellent analysis of the ongoing saga can be found at Jack of Kent’s site. Jack of Kent is a UK based legal blogger and part of a group of highly intelligent people who drag me out of despair when I can’t find a New Scientist in a news agents because the shelves are full of Nuts, Heat or other such crap.

I digress.

In the same article Sir Ken McDonald has also accused Tony Blair of being a sycophant and misleading the public. While this is not new information for anyone, this is the first time that someone in the public sphere has come right out and categorically said that Tony Blair was being deceitful. To phrase it another way, his argument to the British public to gain support for the war was bogus. (Subterfuge was the word Andrew Sparrow used – good word.)

I do realise that there is a difference in a legal sense between choosing to write an article for a national newspaper and being under oath in a national enquiry, in addition the word ‘bogus’ is an issue, but to the layperson the motivation behind both comments are the same: the desire for truth.

There has been a creeping air, over the past few years, of oppression and  whitewash. A kind of forcible ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’. I first noticed it around the time the Iraq war broke out when several of my friends made their way down to London to join the million strong protest, although no doubt others were quicker on the mark. We can see this in many areas of public life: expenses; the Iraq war; G20 protests and the death of Mr. Tomlinson; libel tourism; you’re not allowed to give a bad reference to staff these dyas, even if it’s true.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press is something which is absolutely imperative to maintain our freedom as a nation. We think we are a long way from China, whose Government kindly censors the internet for them, but are Mandy’s plans not of censorship? At what point do we say enough is enough?

We understand that with our right to freedom comes the right of others to freely judge you for what you say(/write ) and that defamation of character can be a nasty business, but we need to be able to trust that what we hear is the truth – at least in somebody’s opinion. There needs to be some sort of balance between being free to speak your mind and challenge what you believe to be untrue, and the ‘right’ not to be ‘defamed’. Currently the balance is obsequiously in favour of those who can afford it, with celebrities and businesses bullying the pot until individuals are forced to fold.

Sign the petition below to support reform of the Libel Laws in our country.


Freedom to Create Straw-Man

I had arranged to meet with my old University comrades at the weekend. We met in a pub and, of course, started talking about work, in particular any new jobs amongst us. One of the group had moved down to London fairly recently and was talking in general about the hedges made by the commodity trading company he works for. I asked him the name of the company, out of interest. He seemed to mumble into his glass. “Speak up, boy, what’s the name?” I asked, confused as to why this chirpy, loud, northerner was shrinking behind his pint.

Imagine my surprise when it turned out he works for Trafigura. Yes – THE Trafigura – child-killing, freedom-of-speech inhibiting Trafigura. After my initial shock had calmed down and I had retreated from trying to physically attack him with my umbrella, we started to talk about it as some in the group had never heard of them so a couple of us explained the situation.

This got me thinking. The Guardian, of course, have been keeping tabs for a while and a number of articles are categorised away in their own section on the website, helpfully entitled: ‘Trafigura’ which have, as far as I can tell, details on the main bulk of the situation starting May 2009.

So I wondered to myself, as I was telling the story (adding in my own adjectives, which got progressively more sweary as the night went on), after the Newcastle-under-Lyne MP Paul Farrelly asked his question in Parliament, (which us Plebians weren’t meant to know) then after twitter went crazy for the treasure hunt and spilled the beans (because the questions asked in Parliament are published ahead of time anyway and the name Carter-Ruck were given in the article), the actual Minton Report was bandied about, then the injunction was lifted after it was dropped by Carter-Ruck (one assumes at the request of Trafigura)… Then what happened, after the outrage died down?

Did I even know what Jack Straw said in answer to the question, or was my outrage enough as a standalone object? At what was my seething rage directed? Well the curtailing of our human rights, of course. Under the Bill of Rights Act 1688 no-one must inhibit the freedom to debate and speak in the Houses of Parliament.

So what happened then, in a nutshell?  The Guardian planned to report, as it had been doing since May 2009, on the on-going saga involving a company outsourced by the entity in question, Trafigura and the illegal dumping of Toxic Waste. This time, the story had been taken to Parliament and to our very own Secretary of State for Justice, Mr. Jack Straw.

Paul Farrelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura; [293006]

The super-injunction was sought only 24 hours before the Parliamentary session. There is no doubt in my mind that Carter-Ruck have a team that scour the media looking for incidences of libel. They also would have known that The Guardian, especially, would not just sit there and have the whole Bill of Rights Act called into question without piping up, given its previous articles on Trafigura and their ‘situation’. I have made 2 assumptions there, but, quite probably, neither is a leap of faith.

But that made me think. Did Carter-Ruck/ Trafigura also know that their ‘super-injunction’ wouldn’t last very long? One presumes so, as they would have known about the Bill of Rights Act and the reporting of Parliamentary debate – one of the corner stones of democracy! They may have expected the injunction to last longer; they may not have expected Twitter and her real-time response to act so quickly and accurately, but respond they did. By elevensies we had the name Trafigura and The official Minton Report into the hands and onto the desktops of many. I had read all the Guardian articles I could get my hands on and anything on WikiLeaks.  So, while I went merrily on my way, asserting my right to share information online, like many others I’m sure I gained much more knowledge on the subject.  But only The Minton Report (2006) was new to broadcasting.

So what had I done? I had jumped on the straw-man bandwagon – provided (purposefully or otherwise) by Trafigura and their Carter-Ruck – of free-speech. The outrage I felt, that was reported in the media, and proclaimed on Twitter was at the blockade of freedom of speech.

This is all very well; it is outrageous. It was a bold, pugnacious move by Team Trafigura.  A move that seems to have, for now, diverted attention away from them and their disgraceful outsourcing of waste disposal and onto Carter-Ruck, who are merely agents for Trafigura and their whitewash; their spin.

Indignantly declaring our disgust that our Human Rights, the very rights that put us (we like to pretend) at the forefront of social progressivism, have been forsaken at the expense, yet again, of the Big Business. Our elected MP and, by extension, our Freedom of Speech has been bruised.

Hang on a second… wasn’t the toxic waste dumped in The Ivory Coast? Isn’t that the main issue here? We have an unrivalled tool to grant us freedom of speech – the uncensored internet – luckily for us, no one has tried to censor that (yet) and while I do think that the freedom to report Parliament, the freedom to debate in Parliament and the freedom of the rabble to discuss are incredibly important, that’s not what was at stake, surely? Building a Straw-man and knocking it down is all well and good, but let’s not lose sight of the original fight.

P.S. What’s that about Barclays and Tax Avoidance Scheme? Hmmmm…..