Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Poisoned Presidency

There has GOT to be something wrong with the waterpipes in the Whitehouse. Or perhaps there's black mold or some sort of toxic germs hiding in the walls or airducts. Or something. I mean, Reagan got Alzheimer's. George Sr became clueless and out of the loop after just four years (and eight waiting in the wings). Bill certainly had some significant lapses in judgment towards the end of his presidency and afterwards, and now this:



Sure, this isn't even close to being the biggest embarrassment of Bush's presidency, but jesus this stuff happens too often. And it's not just that he mentioned his Philippine cook like that, or the awkward way he said it, which really made it sound like this was the absolutely best thing he could say about any Filipino. At least the Philippine president thought it was funny. The last thing we need is for another country to hate us due to Bush's stupidity.

But it wasn't just the mildly racist back-handed compliment. It was really the whole package, including the awkward and slow way he said the entire thing. As if he had said it earlier and it had gone over so well that he made the mistake of trying it again, but immediately realized he was having trouble finding the exact words so that it wouldn't sound as bad as he was afraid it might sound. And so he kept meandering his way through it, knowing that he'd only find out afterwards if he had been offensive.

And perhaps the worst is how he still, after eight years as president, looks like the little boy who doesn't want to be there, wearing that stuffy suit. Like he can't wait for everyone to leave so he can get back to playing Halo 3, or whatever it is he does with his free time.

Household Products That Can Kill You

And sure, being president must be taxing; even if you're a boob who lets your VP do all the hard work. But perhaps there's more to it than that. People used to think arsenic was a medicine and put radium in toothpaste, and thought they were being really clever. And is it possible we've discovered all the dangerous chemicals that exist? I think not. Who's to say that there isn't some sort of nasty-ass shit poisoning our presidents that's been a part of the Whitehouse for a long time?
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Think about it, what president left the Whitehouse as sharp as he was when he got in? None that I know of. Carter, Ford, Nixon, LBJ, which of these men didn't leave office broken and confused? Hell, Ike lived nine years after he left office, yet the only things Wikipedia said he did after he left office was buy a house at Gettysburg, speak at the 1964 Republican National Convention, and do a political ad with Barry Goldwater. So I ask you, do these sound like the actions of a normal person? I think not.

And sure, maybe it's the great burden of the office. Maybe the weight of the world is just too much to put on one man's shoulders. Maybe it will crush even the strongest of presidents and turn our Doofus-in-Chief into complete putty. But maybe, just maybe, it's something in the air ducts or the waterpipes. And isn't that the best defense of Bush yet?

32 comments:

Michael said...

Arsenic is only a medicine when potentized to a dilution of 12C or more.

Michael said...

Not that it matters to your point, though.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Damn Wikipedia! I looked up arsenic to make sure people used to use it as medicine. But it never warned me that people still use it!! This isn't my fault.

I should have gone with mercury, as usual.

Michael said...

Same goes for mercury, if it's diluted past the Avogadro limit it can't be toxic and people do use it as homeopathic medicine.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Doh!

John of the Dead said...

Except homeopathy is widely decried as quackery.

Michael said...

Widely decried or not, many millions of people continue to use it and claim effectiveness, and it is mainstream medicine in some countries.

John of the Dead said...

Many millions of Americans also think that the world is 6,000 years old, that there was a Zionist plot to destroy the Wolrd Trade Center, that the Holocaust never happened, that the moon landing was faked, and that professional wrestling is real. There's a reason why "Appeal to Popularity" is a logical fallacy.

Lest there be any confusion, let me be explicit: Homeopathy *IS* quackery.

Michael said...

I disagree, John. Even if the effect were only psychosomatic, you should not underrate the body's ability to heal itself given proper cues. Observational studies rate it more highly than conventional medicine especially in chronic cases.

Of course if patient satisfaction isn't an important measure of effectiveness...

Michael said...

To be very clear, pharmaceuticals save lives, and cure diseases, and sometimes they are very necessary. But when people take too many pharmaceuticals it causes problems too. From a public health perspective, homeopathy does less harm than the abuse of antibiotics, for instance.

Michael said...

Not to mention all the antidepressants in our drinking water.

John of the Dead said...

From a public health perspective, homeopathy does less harm than the abuse of antibiotics, for instance.

So does just drinking tap water. Which is, in fact, what homeopathy is. That doesn't make it medicine. Neither is a placebo, which is what you're decribing.

So, what are the latest advances in phrenology we should be discussing? Any new applications of leeches? Any new development in aligning one's chakras, or perhaps balancing humours? These old quackeries are no different than the newer quackery of homeopathy. They're all quackery.

Michael said...

Well, leeches were the mainstream medicine of their day and bloodletting and calomel were common practice when homeopathy was invented. So if you're trying to cast some sort of aspersions on that ground you're sadly confused.

Name calling won't get you very far. Do you disbelieve in the effects of low potency homeopathy or just the higher potencies?

John of the Dead said...

Well, leeches were the mainstream medicine of their day and bloodletting and calomel were common practice when homeopathy was invented. So if you're trying to cast some sort of aspersions on that ground you're sadly confused.

Again with the Appeal to Popularity. Here's a tip: that's a logical fallacy. They were quackery when they were invented; they're quackery now. You're the one who is woefully confused. Just because many people believe in a thing does no make it so. Or do you think that the world really *was* flat, as long as enough people believed it to be so? Or, back on topic, do you believe that phrenology was real science when it was practiced? Do you believe that leeches actually cured diseases when they were applied? If the answer to either is "Yes," why were the abandoned? If "No," how does that advance your argument? Your answer will tell us much more about you than about history, I think.

Name calling won't get you very far.

I haven't called you any names. Yet. Better reading comprehension, please.

Do you disbelieve in the effects of low potency homeopathy or just the higher potencies?

It's not a matter of belief - that way lies faith and religion. If homeopathy were medicine, we would know for a fact if it worked. Oh, by the way, we *do* know for a fact: it doesn't work. From the article:

Claims for efficacy of homeopathic treatment beyond the placebo effect are unsupported by the collective weight of scientific and clinical evidence. Common homeopathic preparations are diluted beyond the point where there is any likelihood that molecules from the original solution are present in the final product; the claim that these treatments still have any pharmacological effect is thus scientifically implausible and violates fundamental principles of science, including the law of mass action. While advocates point to positive results as evidence for its efficacy, the number of high-quality studies that support homeopathy is small, the conclusions are not definitive, and duplication of the results, a key test of scientific validity, has proven problematic at best. The lack of convincing scientific evidence supporting its efficacy and its use of remedies without active ingredients have caused homeopathy to be regarded as pseudoscience; quackery; or, in the words of a 1998 medical review, "placebo therapy at best and quackery at worst."

Finally, I often have to point this out to people, so I'm used to doing it, so here I go again. The burden of proof lies upon the party or parties making the claim. It it the responsibility of homeopaths to prove that it works, in controlled, verifiable, documented, repeatable conditions. That has not happened. It is unlikely to happen. That should tell you something.

Michael said...

The article you cite as your reference is from Wikipedia, and the neutrality of that article is disputed.

You haven't made a single point except to call homeopathy "quackery" -- which is name calling. You are without foundation here.

Michael said...

If I were interested in continuing this dialogue, this would not be the place.

John of the Dead said...

The article you cite as your reference is from Wikipedia, and the neutrality of that article is disputed.

Then perhaps you'd prefer all the studies cited in the article. Or did you not bother to read the various and sundry footnotes? Very well, I'll do your research for you. Cited in the article was the American Medical Association.

"There is little evidence to confirm the safety or efficacy of most alternative therapies [acupuncture, homeopathy, relaxation techniques, and herbal remedies]. Much of the information currently known about these therapies makes it clear that many have not been shown to be efficacious."

"Patients who choose alternative therapies should be educated as to the hazards that might result from postponing or stopping conventional medical treatment."

You haven't made a single point except to call homeopathy "quackery" -- which is name calling. You are without foundation here.

Well, I've at least presented evidence from the AMA that there's no proof of the efficacy of homeopathy. As I said before, the burden of proof lies upon you as the defender of homeopathy to prove that it *is* valid medicine. I could stand mute, and you still would have to prove your case. I've gone so far as to demonstrate that there is no evidence in your favor. Again, from another AMA study:

"It is in particular the use of highly diluted material that overtly flies in the face of science and has caused homeopathy to be regarded as placebo therapy at best and quackery at worst."

Now, must I give you a lesson in name-calling? I suppose I must. Had I called you a slimy polecat (a favored honorific around these parts), that would have been an insult. Had I referred to you, Michael, personally as a quack for supporting homeopathy, that would be a borderline insult. (I say borderline because the preponderance of evidence points to the quackery of homeopathy.) I have done no such thing. You may feel insulted for having your belief in homeopathy called into question, but I'm certain that ardent defenders of geocentrism felt insulted by Copernicus, too. However, it made them no less mistaken.

As for "foundation," you have yet to present any evidence to support your case, other than the old favorite, "Nuh uh!" You have ignored my comparisons to debunked historical quackery and homeopathy, you have failed to answer questions about those debunked quackeries, and you have presented no evidence in support of homeopathy. Wait, who was it that was without foundation?

If I were interested in continuing this dialogue, this would not be the place.

I accept your concession. Thanks for playing. Better luck next time.

Michael said...

Dear John,

Well, I've at least presented evidence from the AMA that there's no proof of the efficacy of homeopathy.

This is why discussion with you is pointless. You just mentioned the AMA for the first time in your last reply, and now you say you've "at least presented evidence from the AMA." No you have not. You excerpted an opinion from a disputed Wikipedia article without context.

The AMA was established in opposition to homeopathy, so their institutional opposition is clear. Even so, according to the FDA,

The American Medical Association does not accept homeopathy, but it doesn't reject it either. "The AMA encourages doctors to become aware of alternative therapies and use them when and where appropriate," says AMA spokesman Jim Fox.

It isn't my burden to prove anything that I haven't said, whereas you've got nothing.

John of the Dead said...

Better reading comprehension, please. The article had excerpts from and links to both of those studies, as well as about 160 others. I didn't realize I had to do your homework for you. It's almost as if you didn't bother reading the article. Please, try to keep up.

Also, so what if it's "disputed"? The heliocentric solar system theory is still disputed. Do we dismiss it because of the dispute? Flat Earthers (yes, they still exist) dispute the fact that the earth is round. Young-Earth Creationists dispute the fact that the earth is billions of years old. Oil companies dispute the fact that man-made atmospheric carbon contributes to (and is the major cause of) global climate change. Disputed? Big deal. It's almost as if you're trying to discredit the findings of the preponderance of the scientific and medical communities by shifting focus from the findings to the "dispute." Something of a red herring, no?

Now, let's see if we can clear up a few things, shall we? Are you or are you not arguing that homeopathy has demonstrated efficacy beyond that of a placebo? I am arguing that it has not, and the AMA (and 200+ years of research) agrees.

If your answer above was, "Yes," that's where we get into the burden of proof. It is logically impossible to prove a negative. Only positive statements can be proven. For example, consider two inverse statements. #1: A purple polar bear exists. #2: No purple polar bear exists. In the case of #1, the burden of proof would be on the person making the statement. He would then have to offer evidence for the existence of the purple polar bear. If he cannot, he must concede his point. In the case of #2, that statement cannot be proven. To do so, one would have to examine every known polar bear. Even if, after checking every known polar bear, no purple polar bears were found, one could claim that you missed one, and to keep searching. There still exists uncertainty, and the question can never be fully settled. Therefore, it is not a logically valid statement.

Let’s compare the purple polar bear scenario to our homeopathy discussion. You claim that homeopathy is more effective than a placebo. Logically, the burden of proof is on you to provide evidence of this efficacy. Also, since we’re dealing with medical science, that would require a verifiable, documented, repeatable clinical trial of a homeopathic remedy versus a placebo versus a “traditional” medical remedy. Again, I’m claiming that no such evidence has ever been offered.

So: proof, please? Also, I’m still waiting on your opinions about phrenology and leeches. As a reminder, here’s the query: Do you believe that phrenology was valid science when it was practiced? Do you believe that leeches actually cured diseases when they were applied? If the answer to either is "Yes," why were the abandoned? If "No," how does that impact your argument?

Michael said...

Dear John,

You are apparently having trouble with understanding the fact that an article on Wikipedia which is flagged as disputed is not a reliable source.

Speaking of reading comprehension.

You keep throwing shit on the wall and hoping something sticks. Why the fuck should I have to respond to your argument from idiocy about phrenology and leeches.

It's like arguing with a Republican. I don't have time or interest in your projections.

John of the Dead said...

Please, PLEASE, learn to read. I offered links to two independent AMA reports, both of which (along with 163 others) were referenced in the "disputed" Wiki article. I noticed you didn't bother to address the fact that your "dispute" dodge is a red herring. The neutrality is disputed, not the basic facts contained therein, and it's the facts with which you apparently cannot deal. You also continue to ignore the AMA articles, which I presently separately (as you seem incapable of showing your own work). Will you somehow try to claim that the American Medical Association is not a reliable source? How about The Lancet? Or is it somehow unreliable, since it was cited in the "disputed" Wiki article? By the same logic, is The National Science Foundation unreliable, too?

As I explained, quite clearly and plainly, the burden of proof lies upon the person making the positive claim, ie, you. If you cannot (or will not) offer proof of your claim, that is a tacit concession of the point. Thank you.

As for phrenology and leeches, well, analogy is often a useful instructive tool. As you can see, there's as much evidence for the efficacy of phrenology and leeches as there is for homeopathy. I'm sorry you cannot understand such a simple comparison. Wait, who is it that's arguing from ignorance?

Michael said...

The neutrality is disputed, not the basic facts contained therein, and it's the facts with which you apparently cannot deal.

This is moron logic, I'm afraid. You aren't presenting the facts, you are selecting a handful of opinions that you like from an article that is flagged for bias by neutral editors.

You haven't presented any facts. You've just made demands for proof of things independent of any statements that I have actually made.

Again with the leeches, which you introduced to this conversation, they were the mainstream against which homeopathy was competing when it was developed, along with regular use of calomel.

Just because a particular medical belief is mainstream doesn't mean it's correct, isn't that what you said?

You don't have a leg to stand on. Go do some research outside of Wikipedia, and go test homeopathy empirically if you want to find out how full of shit you are.

John of the Dead said...

You aren't presenting the facts, you are selecting a handful of opinions that you like from an article that is flagged for bias by neutral editors.

(Pay attention. Now I'm going to start with the name-calling.)

You're either a liar or an idiot. I've offered independent clinical trial results from multiple sources casting doubt on the efficacy of homeopathy, INDEPENDENT of the Wiki article. Learn to read, moron. Contrast those with your evidence to support homeopathy which is... wait, what evidence did you offer? Oh, that's right, none. Sorry.

You haven't presented any facts.

The authors of the reports from the AMA, Lancet, and National Science Foundation would vehemently disagree. Or are you too intellectually dishonest to read the articles I presented? Or are you just flat-out lying at this point, as I have presented multiple independent studies showing the efficacy of homeopathic remedies is no better than a placebo? So, which is it: liar or idiot?

Just because a particular medical belief is mainstream doesn't mean it's correct, isn't that what you said?

That's a fair interpretation of what I said. It's one of the few things you've gotten right. Good job! Now, how does it help your case, hmm?

go test homeopathy empirically if you want to find out how full of shit you are.

Why should I? The AMA, the Lancet, the National Science Foundation, and hundreds of others have done so over the past 200 years. They've all reached the same conclusion: homeopathy is no more effective than a placebo. I don't know why this fact is so difficult for you to grasp.

Furthermore, I'd just like to point out your continued failure to offer any proof to support your claim of the efficacy of homeopathic remedies. Your silence on this point speaks volumes.

Michael said...

Dear John,

If you will not look into the telescope, you have no business claiming that nothing can be seen through it.

I'm done with you. You're a willful idiot. If you change your mind about the need for reality testing, take a dose of 30C Nux Vomica once per day dissolved in some distilled water for a week or so, and let me know if it does nothing.

John of the Dead said...

I'm waiting for you to offer proof of anything. I take it I'll just have to keep waiting? Very well; I accept your concession.

Michael said...

I've told you how to prove it. And now the rest is up to you.

John of the Dead said...

And again, the burden of proof is on YOU. I've already done enough of your homework for you. In fact, I've presented several studies that showed no efficacy. You fail at this, you know that?

Michael said...

I have no burdens, dear John. Run along and play now in your happy ignorance. Don't bother your little head with experimentation, it's positively unscientific! Science is all about trusting selected experts, dismissing all others, and never, ever testing anything for yourself. Right?

If this is a competition, you can score yourself any points you like, but in reality, you lose. You lose big. Because you are completely, entirely, stupendously wrong.

And you are afraid to find out. Heck, if it's just a placebo you could take a dose every day for a whole month and it will do -- NOTHING. Right? Try it and see what a proving of Nux feels like.

Michael said...

Because I don't actually want you to suffer, I suggest you stop as soon as you have symptoms -- if you have any, of course.

John of the Dead said...

It's sadly obvious that you have no interest in engaging in an honest logical debate. In such a situation, the burden of proof rests upon the party making the positive assertion. That would be you, claiming that homeopathic remedies are effective. You obviously don't like those rules. Sorry, but that's how they're structured, and for good reason - the logical impossibility (in most cases) of proving a negative. Please, try to learn more about logical rules. You can do so here, here, here, or here. Go. Read. Learn.

Failing that, let's try analogy, shall we? Back around the 1780s, one of my ancestors, Johannes von den Toten, was an avid explorer and adventurer. On his many travels, he discovered a powerful native artifact. It has the awesome power of preventing orangutan attacks. We have had it in my family ever since. It has been passed down from generation to generation, and we've NEVER been attacked by orangutans. See? Proof! I defy you to prove that it doesn't work!

OK, now that I've laid out quite clearly where the burden of proof lies (upon you) and why (logical impossibilities), I'm done with you unless and until you chose to engage in an honest debate. You've done nothing so far but engage in emotional appeals, burden shifting, and argumentum ad nauseum. Are you capable of an honest debate?

Michael said...

John, you're full of excuses. Next.

Michael said...

When Galileo looked through his telescope and saw things invisible to the naked eye, finding comets and mountains on the moon and adducing the heliocentric model of the solar system -- how would he prove it?

Look through the fucking telescope yourself.