Sunday, November 24, 2019
Growing up in a medical family, I got to see the medical community -- and yes, it is a community -- from the ground up, and I can tell you that like any other community it has its biases and bigotries.
By now, everybody knows about the racist bigotries of doctors and scientists a century ago, but not so well known is the community's belief in eugenics and its own role therein. I've seen and heard of too many cases where obstetricians made a point of pressuring non-White female patients into getting unnecessary tubal ligations and Caesarian deliveries, precisely because C-section operations always put inelastic scars on the uterus, which limits the woman's future fertility. This is not just a case of simple greed, urging more surgeries to get more money, because I've also seen cases where doctors pressured White patients not to get recommended surgeries which also would have sterilized them. Related to this is the willingness of a large number of doctors to perform "gender re-assignment" surgery; it's Politically Correct, it rakes in money, and it also guarantees that the patient will never thereafter have children. The unspoken idea behind this particular cultural drift is that people unhappy with their sex, who don't have visible physical signs of genetic anomalies tending toward "hermaphroditism", are mental weaklings who shouldn't pass on their failings to the next generation. And of course people with resistant mental failings are encouraged not to breed also.
Sonewhat different, and more financially motivated, are the fashions in drugs. It's no secret that the medical community is in bed with the pharmaceutical companies, which push their newest and priciest products to everyone with a legal license to prescribe drugs. This can lead to the downright creation of "epidemics" -- either of diseases which really aren't, or of the overuse of no-longer-profitable (often because the patents have run out) drugs.
As a modern example of the first, consider "depression". Back when depression was called "the blues", most people accepted the idea that it was caused by real-life environmental conditions -- usually economic hard times or loss of a lover. The medical community was aware that there are some people, then called "melancholiacs", who had natural-born gloomy personalities and who would be depressed no matter what happened in their environments. As the science of psychology advanced, the medical community discovered that "extreme melancholia" was indeed a neurological condition that could be treated with various chemicals -- ranging from cocaine to lithium salts. The pharmaceutical companies were quick to pick up on this, and to push the idea that virtually all cases of The Blues were caused by an ailment now called "depression" which should be treated by a whole range of shiny new drugs -- now a trillion-dollar industry. In fact, as any honest researcher will tell you, a very low percentage of "depression" cases are caused by physical ailments: neurological or serious (as in stage two diabetes serious) glandular problems, or by constant and inescapable pain. The vast majority of cases are caused by real-life situational problems or by hopeless rage: anger that cannot strike its target, and so turns back on its source. That last cause is easily treated without prescriptions for expensive drugs; identify the source of the rage, admit to and accept the feeling of rage, then find an acceptable way to physically express it -- which is simple enough, but not as easy as it sounds.
The trouble with drug fashions is not just that they push shiny-new overpriced drugs, which often are found later to have nasty side-effects, but that they also ruin the reputations, or even the usefulness, of tried and reliable existing drugs. We've all heard the story of how over-use of the earlier (out of patent) antibiotics were "overused", and therefore bred up resistant strains of bacteria; what's not so commonly known is that those antibiotics were not just over-applied (like, fed to livestock) but under-dosed. To thoroughly kill a bacterial infection requires giving enough of the antibiotic for a long enough time -- usually ten days to two weeks -- to overcome all the defensive strategies the bacteria can come up with. Taking too low a dose, or for not enough time, allows the bacteria that survive that long (and therefore have at least one defense that works) to keep on surviving and possibly spread to other hosts, taking that defense with them.
I myself saw a doctor, and his allies, deliberately under-prescribe tetracycline (one of those reliable old out-of-patent antibiotics); he prescribed me the minimum dosage for only one week's time, when it's usually prescribed for at least ten days and at a stronger dosage. When I called him out on that, he grew offended and self-righteous and superior and offered to show me "official papers" recommending that dosage of tetracycline. He backed off quickly when I said that yes, I would indeed like to see those papers, and could I also xerox them, please. Anyway, I kept that prescription and took it to a local pharmacist, and asked if this looked all right to her. She pretended ignorance, but filled the prescription as written. I went to another doctor with the same complaint, and got a similar prescription -- which I filled; two minimal prescriptions for two weeks were enough to make a complete dosage. I also phoned everyone I could think of, from the local board of health to the office of the CDC in Washington, asking if this was common practice, and if so, why. None of them gave me an answer, but soon after that tetracycline was quietly taken off the market -- for a good three years, while new (under patent) brands of antibiotics became fashionable.
And then there's the "current opioid crisis", which has become another talking-point for a horde of political candidates. For thousands of years Asian people have known that the sap of the seed-case of the Asian poppy -- known as opium -- can relieve even severe pain, and also cause colorful dreams. If a person takes too much (eating or smoking), it can kill, and taking it too often can cause physical addiction. That's all it does. Opium addiction was a borderline medical problem throughout the world for ages. In the 19th century medical researchers found a way to refine opium into Morphine, a very effective pain-killer that was used all through World War Two. Like opium, if a patent took too much it could kill, and if taken too often it could physically addict. The war ended with a lot of wounded soldiers addicted to Morphine, and the medical community decided that this was now a serious problem. Their solution was to restrict Morphine to hospital use and develop a substitute: a shiny-new painkiller called Heroin. Again, too much could kill, and taken too often it could addict, and a noticeable percent of the population got addicted. Again, the solution the medical community came up with was to ban and replace. The replacement was the "codone" family: Oxycodone and Hydrocodone. These too were effective painkillers, but again, too much could kill and taken too often they could addict -- and more: taken at the normal dosage they can damage the kidneys and liver. Some improvement. Again, the legal/medical solution was to ban and try to replace, which only added yet another couple of dangerous drugs to the list of illegal and therefore illegally-supplied painkiller market. All things considered, the medical community should have stuck with classic old Morphine.
What the medical community doesn't talk about in public is the fact that physical addiction -- habituation to a foreign substance -- isn't the problem, nor even the pains of withdrawal. The real problem with addiction is actually mental; it's obsession -- with the particular feel of the ingested drug, in this case painkillers. Now bear in mind that there's a difference between pleasure and relief -- though they can seem very similar under some circumstances. Simple opium is reputed to give both relief from pain and the pleasure of sweet elaborate dreams. Morphine and Heroin, according to the reports of real junkies, give both relief from pain and -- if injected -- the pleasure of an initial "buzz", which fades quickly. The codones give nothing bur relief from pain. So, the main appeal of the opioids is relief from pain. This would explain why "pain addicts" -- people who become addicted because of pain from injuries -- are those who can "kick the habit" most easily; when the source of the pain stops, the obsession fades. Now, what sort of personality would become obsessed with relief from pain? The only logical answer is somebody whose life contains so much pain that what they want most is for the pain of living to stop. Historically, there have been whole societies who fell prey to opium addiction, which tells you something about those societies.
The medical community has carefully avoided dealing with these facts. Why? Because, if they were taken seriously, then the solution to the "opiod crisis" would have to include squarely facing the psychological and social problems that are its root causes -- and who wants to deal with that?
Still, the community may have to bite that bullet, if only because the politicians are now putting pressure on doctors in general to make them stop prescribing all "opioids", but particularly the codones. This is where pursuit of convenient medical fashions has led them.
Meanwhile, the community must deal with another fact: that there really are a lot of people who suffer from real physical pain, and denying them the painkillers they really need will only drive them off the the black market, where they'll become unnecessarily part of the "opioid crisis". It might actually be better to relax the old fashionable ban on straight Morphine and simple opium. Now, who's going to bell that cat and be first to tackle the bias/fashion in public? Good luck, whoever.
Friday, November 15, 2019
After watching the second day of the impeachment hearings, and then the CNN/MSNBC reports on them, I'm convinced that the "mainstream media" thinks we're all idiots.
The hearings themselves were plodding and picky, and full of congresscritters asking blatantly leading questions. Today it was ex-ambassador Yovanovitch obediently being led into giving the right answers. For instance, when asked about how she lost her job, she mentioned that she got a phonecall from her immediate boss saying that there was a question about her "security"; she asked if this was her physical security, and was told no -- she was just being ordered home, and thought this was "irregular". Assorted Democrats then asked her if she thought this was "intimidation", to which she obediently replied yes. About then Trump sent out a tweet that grumbled about Yovanovitch, the congresscritters picked up on it, and asked if she thought his complaints were "intimidation" -- to which she promptly agreed. The newsies reported, on the news directly afterward, that Trump was "intimidating witnesses". Uhuh.
I recall that when Trump fired Comey, a couple years back, MSNBC showed an interview with Trump in which the reporter asked: "Didn't you think about how it would look?" -- referring to the then active Mueller investigation. Trump replied: "Sure I thought about it" -- meaning how it would look -- and then went on to say that the investigation was all BS anyway, so "I went ahead and fired him." Immediately after that, the camera cut to Rachel Maddow saying: "There you have it, people. Trump just admitted that he fired Comey to stop the investigation." In other words, she told us that what we had just seen and heard for ourselves wasn't what really happened.
I have to wonder just how stupid the media think we are, that they can tell us something different from what we've seen and heard and expect that we'll believe it.
This also makes me doubt everything they say about incidents we haven't directly seen and heard. Back when I was working for a union newspaper in Chicago, I learned how to analyze photographs -- and eventually videos -- and since then I've seen case after case of the media showing pictures and telling stories about them, "interpretations", that don't match the visible facts. The media have been getting away with this for decades without being caught, or at least without a major scandal about it, so I suppose they think they can expand the tactic and nobody will notice.
Well, some people have noticed. No less than Alan Dershowitz, the ultimate liberal lawyer, went up on the Internet and denounced the impeachment proceedings on legal and constitutional grounds: including the congresscritters' cherry-picking of witnesses, behind-closed-doors hearings, extensive use of hearsay ("he-said-that-she-said-that-Trump-siad"), and -- yes -- leading -- of witnesses. He had to publish his complaint on the Internet because the mainstream media wouldn't hear him. This is incredible, considering how they used to hang on his every word back when he was attacking racially-biased laws. In short, when he took up this subject they quietly censored him.
Less famous citizens have noticed too, which is probably why the more obviously left-biased media have been losing their audiences. It takes a bit of searching to discover this, but both CNN and the venerable New York Times are worried about how much they've lost viewers. To be fair, Fox News has lost viewers too, but not on the same scale. It seems that the citizens are voting with their attention as well as their dollars, forsaking the mainstream media for the vast and varied sources of the Internet. This can be both liberating and dangerous, since a plethora of information sources are hard to track down and verify. Still, it can't be worse than a near-monopoly on news reporting that treats its viewers as idiots.
And in my opinion, Trump should fire the inept Giuliani and hire Alan Dershowitz as his lawyer.
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
This will be a short one, since Rasty and I are busy celebrating our eighth wedding anniversary, which involves a lot of champagne and cheesecake, among other things. Eight years, and we haven't killed each other yet. Amazing!
Anyway, I have a new book out on Amazon.com: "Nobody's Victims", a collection of Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror stories wrapped generally around the theme of women who refuse to be victims, no matter how weird the circumstances. It's had mixed reviews so far, with wildly varying criticisms and favorites. Apparently the book has stories guaranteed to both delight and annoy everybody, at which I'm quite tickled. It's proof that I've got a wide creative range! Heheheheh. Enjoy! I welcome more comments.
Thursday, November 7, 2019
I've been noticing for the past few weeks that I'm unreasonably tired a lot of the time, and so is Rasty, and so are my local friends and neighbors. What really got me to thinking is that I got a call from Chris, my old buddy in Wisconsin, wherein he admitted that he's unreasonably tired a lot of the time, too. After that I did a bit of web-searching and noticed online ads for various cures for "lack of energy", "constant fatigue", and so on. Apparently this is not a local problem.
Now "chronic fatigue syndrome" turns out to be a bacterial infection, caused by a relative of Lyme disease, and it doesn't affect that much of the population. Neither does mononucleosis, which has similar symptoms. So why are so many people, from all over the country, so unreasonably tired all the time? The usual suspects -- air pollution, water pollution, not enough natural foods, under-mineralized crops, sedentary lifestyles, and somehow Climate Change -- don't have enough verifiable evidence. They also don't explain why the fits of tiredness seem to go in cycles: a couple weeks on, then a couple weeks off -- as if one were catching a cold, fighting it off, then catching another. But what kind of cold would have no other symptoms?
At that point I remembered an old conspiracy theory invented by my old college buddy, Mary. We'd been sitting around at a party glooming about the latest headlines, when somebody -- I think it was Nick the medical student -- brought up the spectre of germ warfare and how ill-prepared the US (or any other country, for that matter) was to deal with it, and how many millions would die before a plague was contained and cured.
That's when Mary came up with her idea. The best form of germ warfare, she claimed was not a plague that would kill millions, but simply some virus that mutated readily so that human immune systems couldn't keep up with it, was hard to identify in the blood-system, and did nothing but weaken its victims: weaken them enough to reduce their usual energy, keep the immune system busy fighting it, and generally keep people tired -- therefore below maximum efficiency -- for as long as possible. This would cut industrial production, military effectiveness, innovation, and efficiency in general, without drawing enough attention to itself to create any serious medical research, or even recognition. The rest of us agreed that yes, that would be the ideal germ-warfare weapon, and we went back to glooming over politics.
Now this was decades ago, and nobody was present at the party except our usual gang of radicals -- and maybe an FBI spy or two -- so there wasn't much chance that the theory would get back to anybody who could put it into practice. But looking back I realize that it wasn't too long after that when Chronic Fatigue Syndrome began showing up on the back pages of the news. CFS eventually became noticed enough that the medical researchers really did study it, find the cause, and get to work on a cure.
Here comes the paranoia; was CFS a dress rehearsal? Did somebody take Mary's theory and run with it? Did somebody take, say, the mononucleosis virus and play with it, make it airborne and mild but persistent? I can think of a few possible villains who would like nothing better than to loose a sub-plague like this on the US. The gods know, there are plenty of Gene Modification labs in the world that could produce it.
So, does anybody know what research is being done on broad-spectrum anti-viral medicines, and where we can find them? Maybe I should be telling this story to the Life Extension Foundation.