Sunday, March 30, 2014

ADHD - Wot, no illness?

Prescriptions for methylphenidate drugs, such as Ritalin, which are used to treat children diagnosed as suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), have soared by 56% in the UK, from 420,000 in 2007 to 657,000 in 2012. Such "psychostimulants" are thought to stimulate a part of the brain that changes mental and behavioural reactions.

 Dr Bruce D Perry, one of the world's leading neuroscientists and a senior fellow of the Child Trauma Academy in Houston, Texas, has suggested ADHD is not "a real disease" and that "It is best thought of as a description. If you look at how you end up with that label, it is remarkable because any one of us at any given time would fit at least a couple of those criteria," he said. Children were being labelled as having ADHD when that merely described the symptoms of a range of different physiological problems. The symptoms that lead to a diagnosis of ADHD include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness over a sustained period.

Clinicians were also too readily prescribing psychostimulants to children when the evidence suggested there were no long-term benefits. Animal studies have raised concerns over the potential for damage that can be done.

"Taking a medication influences systems in ways we don't always understand. I tend to be pretty cautious about this stuff, particularly when the research shows you that other interventions are equally effective and over time more effective and have none of the adverse effects. For me it's a no-brainer. There are number of non-pharmacological therapies which have been pretty effective. A lot of them involve helping the adults that are around children," he said. “Part of what happens is if you have an anxious, overwhelmed parent, that is contagious. When a child is struggling, the adults around them are easily disregulated too. This negative feedback process between the frustrated teacher or parent and disregulated child can escalate out of control. You can teach the adults how to regulate themselves, how to have realistic expectations of the children, how to give them opportunities that are achievable and have success and coach them through the process of helping children who are struggling.”

Friday, March 28, 2014

The reality is...

An Indian guru declared dead has been in a deep freezer in his ashram for nearly six weeks with followers confident he will return to life to lead them, his spokesman said. Mission spokesman Swami Vishalanand insisted their leader was not dead but was in fact in a state of samadhi, the highest level of meditation, and was therefore still conscious. Vishalanand told AFP that followers were now waiting for him to end his meditation.

From an interview with  astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson

“...So, for example, if you knew nothing about science, and you read, say, the Bible, the Old Testament, which in Genesis, is an account of nature, that's what that is, and I said to you, give me your description of the natural world based only on this, you would say the world was created in six days, and that stars are just little points of light much lesser than the sun. And that in fact, they can fall out of the sky, right, because that's what happens during the Revelation.

You know, one of the signs that the second coming, is that the stars will fall out of the sky and land on Earth. To even write that means you don't know what those things are. You have no concept of what the actual universe is. So everybody who tried to make proclamations about the physical universe based on Bible passages got the wrong answer.

So what happened was, when science discovers things, and you want to stay religious, or you want to continue to believe that the Bible is unerring, what you would do is you would say, "Well, let me go back to the Bible and reinterpret it." Then you'd say things like, "Oh, well they didn't really mean that literally. They meant that figuratively."....”

Carl Sagan, from "Cosmos": The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.

BM: I mean, that scared them, because they interpret that to mean, then if this is it, there's nothing else. No God and no life after.

NDT: For religious people, many people say, "Well, God is within you," or God, the, there are ways that people have shaped this, rather than, God is an old, grey-bearded man in the clouds. So if God is within you, what, I'm sure Carl would say, in you in your mind. In your mind, and we can measure the neurosynaptic firings when you have a religious experience.

We can tell you where that's happening, when it's happening, what you're feeling like at the time. So your mind of course is still within the cosmos....

....Go think whatever you want. Go ahead. Think that there's one God, two Gods, ten Gods, or no Gods. That is what it means to live in a free country. The problem arises is if you have a religious philosophy that is not based on objective realities that you then want to put in a science classroom. Then I'm going to stand there and say, "No, I'm not going to allow you in the science classroom.” I'm not telling you what to think, I'm just telling you in the science class, “You're not doing science. This is not science. Keep it out." That's where I, that's when I stand up. Otherwise, go ahead. I'm not telling you how to think.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Syria's Descent

 The following is the observations of the respected journalist, Patrick Cockburn

Why has the Syrian uprising, whose early supporters demanded that tyranny should be replaced by a secular, non-sectarian, law-bound and democratic state, so totally failed to achieve these aims? Syrians have to choose between a violent dictatorship in which power is monopolised by the presidency and brutish security services, and an opposition that shoots children in the face for minor blasphemy and sends pictures of decapitated soldiers to their parents.

The first protests happened when they did because of the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain. They spread so rapidly because of over-reaction by state security forces firing on peaceful demonstrators, thereby enraging whole communities and provoking armed resistance.

When it first came to power, the Assad regime embodied the neglected countryside, its peasants and exploited underclass. Today’s ruling elite has forgotten its roots. In the four years of drought before 2011, the United Nations noted that up to three million Syrian farmers had been pushed into “extreme poverty” and fled the countryside to squat in shanty towns on the outskirts of the cities. Middle-class salaries could not keep up with inflation. Cheap imports, often from Turkey, forced small manufacturers out of business and helped to pauperise the urban working class.  Islamist politics was not the main motivation for the peaceful protests that were mutating into military conflict.

It is a measure of Syria’s descent into apocalyptic violence that the official representative of al-Qa’ida, Jabhat al-Nusra, should be deemed more moderate than the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis)

Syrians gloomily say the outcome of their civil war is no longer in Syrian hands, but in those of the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and their various allies.

Friday, March 21, 2014

More on the Medical Conspiracies

 About half of American adults believe in at least one medical conspiracy theory, according to new survey.

Three times as many people believe U.S. regulators prevent people from getting natural cures as believe that a U.S. spy agency infected a large number of African Americans with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).   37 percent of respondents who fully agreed that U.S. regulators are suppressing access to natural cures, less than a third were willing to say they actively disagreed with the theory. Other theories in the study were  that the government knows cell phones cause cancer but does nothing about it, that genetically modified organisms are being used to shrink the world's population, that routine vaccinations cause autism and that water fluoridation is a way for companies to dump dangerous chemicals into the environment. With regard to the theory that childhood vaccines cause psychological disorders like autism and the government knows it, 69 percent had heard the idea, 20 percent agreed with it and 44 percent disagreed. The only conspiracy theory with which more than half of the respondents disagreed was that a U.S. spy agency infected a large number of African Americans with HIV.

Some 49 percent of the survey participants agreed with at least one of the conspiracies.

J. Eric Oliver, the study's lead author from University of Chicago, said people may believe in conspiracy theories because they're easier to understand than complex medical information:
"Science in general - medicine in particular - is complicated and cognitively challenging because you have to carry around a lot of uncertainty," Oliver said. "To talk about epidemiology and probability theories is difficult to understand as opposed to 'if you put this substance in your body, it's going to be bad,'" he said.

"Although it is common to disparage adherents of conspiracy theories as a delusional fringe of paranoid cranks, our data suggest that medical conspiracy theories are widely known, broadly endorsed, and highly predictive of many common health behaviors," the researchers write in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The vacuous anti-vaxxers

 We vaccinate our children, and ourselves, for our own protection and for the protection of our community. Thomas Sandora, a specialist in infectious diseases at Boston Children’s Hospital said  ”Measles is essentially the most contagious disease on the planet.” It becomes contagious four days before the tell-tale rash appears, and can remain in the air for two hours after an infected individual’s left the room.  The serious complications include pneumonia, loss of hearing, brain inflammation and blindness.

 The total number of confirmed U.S. cases for 2013 reached 187. That’s nothing compared to the 500,000 cases per year that the U.S. saw before the vaccine was introduced in the 1960s.

Vaccines are the victims of their own success. The balance between the benefits of vaccines and their potential to cause harm has shifted. While no vaccine is one hundred percent safe, the side effects are extremely rare. When measles was eliminated, that made vaccination, for some, appear to be the greater risk.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Debunking sometimes fails

Debunking anti-science conspiracy theories is harder than one woud expect. Reason and rational discourse actually increases denial. 

Vaccine denial causes death. Four separate pro-vaccine messages were tested to see if it could sway opinion amongst those intent on refusing vaccinations. Not a single one of the messages was successful. And in several cases the messages actually backfired, either increasing the ill-founded belief that vaccines cause autism or even, in one case, apparently reducing parents' intentions to vaccinate.

It adds to a large body of frustrating research on how hard it is to correct false information and get people to accept indisputable facts.

Monday, March 10, 2014


One of its many problems which capitalism has not solved is that of war. We see at this very moment each moment the mobilisation of military forces on the border of the Ukraine and Russia and perhaps another bloody conflict may ensue. The Socialist Party of Great Britain has a consistent history of opposing all war. In our analysis which has withstood the test of time, war is fought for the interests and advantages of the ruling class, fought to protect or extend capitalist profits. Of course, no ruling class will ever admit going to war for such sordid motives. Every war has to be justified as a ‘righteous’ and ‘just’war reluctantly resorted to for ‘humanitarian’ reasons or in defence of international ‘justice’, otherwise no worker would sacrifice their lives or surrender their liberties so willingly. Many assume Hitler was the sole cause of the Second World War and all the associated horrors. This is a gross oversimplification. Germany in the 1930s wasn’t suddenly corrupted by Hitler’s charisma. The political tensions and strife were all there, results of a previous world war and a great depression. Hitler was just able to capitalise on this. But if he hadn’t there’s nothing to say that nobody else would. Elimination of the main figurehead won’t necessarily prevent events that were as much a product of the wider socio-political context. Problems rarely exist in isolation.

These lies about international justice and freedom and the like have been uncovered but not before people were deceived and dragged into the great slaughter, then they opened their eyes and saw the truth. They saw clearly that the war was not about their own interests, or anybody’s rights and freedoms, but that war was a terrifying conflict between predatory groups seeking advantage over the others. It then seemed so simple and understandable and we are taken aback when we are reminded that we found the pretext of wars in what the politicians and the media said. They will claim that the war was waged to defend national sovereignty, or to protect their ethnic cousins. Or they will argue that ‘our’ government’s foreign policy was misunderstood while ‘their’ government’s foreign policy was simply wrong because its leader is a war-monger and militarist adventurer. ‘Our’ side had recourse to war only because ‘our’ government was forced into a ‘defensive position due to the other nation’s aggression.

But he or she who truly wants to know the causes of war today, the real causes, will recognise reasons we mentioned above as well-worn. He or she would be very naive if they believed the guises and lies whose aim is to cover up the real causes of wars. He or she who wants to explain how wars come to be, both the past ones and the ones that threaten us in the future, and what are their causes, is obliged to examine and learn first the capitalists seek to place their excess capital abroad, in order to obtain bigger interest and more profits, to have these countries as markets for their merchandise, To subjugate them politically, to have their governments under their own influence. To pull the strings and play them in their hands like puppets.

Around the world the old “democratic” methods are abandoned by the political parties, the so-called civil and human rights have been reduced to a mere joke on the people, and there is no means of oppression, violence and terror that is not being used on them. The state has become the private playground of every oligarch who can afford to finance a lobby group or think-tank, the social and welfare services has become merchandise in privatised hands and finally a whole camp of parasites on the public purse follow any party clique in the ups and downs of political power. Bankers, big industrialists and merchants now holds in its hands huge concentrated economic forces (stock-market capital, land, factories, real estate), that is, it holds in its hands almost completely the lives of the people. The causes for new wars develop daily and the important resources of the country are wasted in preparing for war.
The causes for the war are to be found in the very process of capitalist production, distribution and exchange where corporations seek to establish control over markets, sources of raw materials and areas for exploitation. In their inextinguishable thirst for new profits, cliques of big business seek other countries, outside of their own trading bloc, to exploit. This search for expanding areas of markets comes up against rival groupings. In this present Ukrainian crisis, a choice was between the European Union or Russian Customs Union. What the capitalist elite of one nation desire is the the same thing the sharks of the other countries crave too. And in the name of nationalism the “fatherlands,” and the “motherlands" launch their armies against each other. And the price of these conflicts is paid by the peoples with their own innocent blood.

This process, unavoidable so long as capital rules, creates ceaseless conflict. Hark back to the dissolution of the Soviet Empire and the so-called ‘peace-dividend’ which was promised. Instead each year has seen war around the globe and more nations devoting vast resources to their military machines.

The struggle does not begin when a government – serving one group of business – declares war on another nation. It goes on all the time, taking many forms; some open, some concealed. Diplomatic negotiation andtreaties, agreements and alliances between countries, subsidised economic warfare, small proxy wars waged ostensibly between small powers or rebel forces, actually on behalf of great ones, all these are manifestations of the same conflict. The formal declaration of war – rarely practiced nowadays more and more dispensed with – is merely the continuation of this same struggle in a sharper, more open form. The temporary cessation of one conflict gives rise to the escalation of other conflicts.
There is an oligarchy which holds in its hands the most important means of the national wealth and whose interests oppose and counter those of the great majority of the people. Many want to deny this, either out of self-interest or narrow-mindedness. They say that there is no such class. And they don’t want to see these parasites, bankers and financiers, big merchants and industrialists, all those idle rich who accumulate capital from the sweat of all the working people. But, of course, the plutocratic oligarchy is always there exploiting the labour of the people, often happening with out us realising. A thousand lies and prejudices and customs hide it. A general uncertainty for tomorrow in all aspects of life of every country arising from the political conflicts of the capitalist gang of every country trying with every means of violence, terror, mass murder and oppression to keep its hegemony, to squeeze out new profits of the people’s misery new profits constantly while all the time preparing for new bloodthirsty episode tomorrow. Everywhere there are volcanoes of conflicts, lying dormant, ready to erupt and bury under its lava unsuspecting citizens.

There are many instances of autocracy and tyranny against us. The 1% tell us that “the peoples’ will is sovereign” yet decide on their own, using their fortunes to buy elections. They send their own representatives to the parliament and they take decisions with their vested interests in mind. And the people frequently makes it easy for them, being willing instruments of every charlatan demagogue, prostrating themselves at the feet of various rich local party leaders who can manipulate the passions of the people very skillfully with all their rabble-rousing speeches. We need not mention the outright terror and violence of state pressure, nor the brazen ballot rigging which have become the main means of electoral domination lately. And so the ‘will of the people’ ends up to be the most disgraceful comedy against them, the ultimate hypocrisy and lie, that conceals from the eyes of the deceived the political dictatorship of the privileged upon the people.

The workers cannot conquer political power by struggle against foreign capitalists but only by struggle against those in their home country who control the existing social structure. It is impossible to support war and the governments waging them and to hope to create revolutionary opinion which will radically change that social system. Those who replace the red flag of world socialism by the jingoist flag of nations must be denounced. Yet, the tragic fact remains that men and women seem, at present, more willing to work and die for capitalism than to work and to live for Revolution! Only the class war for the overthrow of capitalism can end wars by ending the cause of war - capitalism.

The fight against war is inseparable from the fight for socialism. And this is very important to know, for us who want to fight for our lives and our peace, against the war. We must strike evil at its root, not its branches. Only through our own organisation and our own struggle will working people gain possession of their own lives and the means to free and save themselves from being sacrificed and slaughtered. As there are differing kinds of tyranny and exploitation, our organisations must also be varied with various ways of struggle. But it is obvious that all these organisations must share the common goal: the abolition of the plutocratic oligarchy and the liberation of the people. The only way to fight militarism is to fight capitalism. The capitalist nationalist system breeds wars, and we shall have to build a cooperative society, where things are no longer produced for profit, but for the use, in order to be secure in peace. This struggle is known as the class war; and this is the only war in which workers should engage in.

No War Between Peoples - No Peace Between Classes

 Part 2
The oppressed and exploited may soon be called upon to take part in another war which threatens to slaughter men, women and children and bring ruin, misery and devastation. Our rulers will have us believe that this war is to be fought to save Ukraine or the Crimea, which is being used as a pawn to win our sympathy and pity. It is to mislead and to deceive by calling you to join up and fight for ‘democracy’. It’s the bait to catch us. The Socialist Party of Great Britain deplores war and the ruin in its wake. War is part and parcel of the capitalist system. War is a feast for the dogs of war. It means armament spending and huge weaponry orders, an orgy of currency speculation and the accumulation of unheard of fortunes. One sector of the economy class that is forever prospering and it is the arms industry. It means riches for the war-profiteers. But, for sure, war also means squandering the wealth and means actual devastation of countries plus death for many. But these “costs of war” rarely appear in their annual accounts and have never deterred the capitalists from plunging nations into bloody conflict. International conferences to settle disputes end in fiasco. The quest for markets is nothing but the question of re-dividing the globe among the capitalist nations. We live in a pervasive atmosphere of imminent war with frequent “war games” in the air, on the land and at sea with constant modernisation of warfare taking priority over welfare in every countries budgets.

Workers must realise that war is against their interests. There is only one war that is just — and that is the war of the oppressed class for its liberation. All other wars are predatory wars for the securing seizure of territories and markets for the profits of the exploiters, but they are fought with the bodies of the workers. We cannot stop war altogether. It is not possible to prevent the coming of war as long as capitalism lasts. However, war can on some occasions be postponed. forcing governments to refrain from immediately carrying out war plans. The fight against the war is a political fight. The working class must be stirred by protest meetings and demonstrations.

The danger of war arises inevitably out of the very nature of capitalism — the ownership of the means of production by a small capitalist class and the complete domination of government by this class. In a war the Socialist Party does indeed take sides, but it’s a third side. It’s the side of the workers, against the owning class that exploits them and also against the owning class that hopes to exploit them. Our position is not people against people but class against class.

A united front against war is appealing. What possible reason could one have in opposing an organisation composed of liberals, the churches and pacifists who are all determined to oppose war? Surely anyone who thinks that socialists alone can prevent war is being ridiculous, for the necessity of joining with all others who are opposed to war seems so obvious as to be beyond question. Nevertheless, those who understand the principles of socialism know that to depend upon any organisation other than the working class will sooner or later lead to failure. War is as intimately bound up with capitalist society as the exploitation of the working class by the employing class. To think of being able to prevent war, in the long run, without at the same time changing the system which breeds war, is utopian. Pacifists and reformists who in practice accept the present order of society and merely wish to ameliorate the conditions of the working class look to conferences and treaties to prevent war. Socialists look to the ending of capitalist society to prevent wars. The Socialist Party has only one programme to prevent war: the programme of social revolution. That means that our struggle to end war is not something unique and separate from our normal, mundane socialist activities but is an intimate part of those activities. We do not create a permanent organisation to fight war with a special platform for that. The inference of many well-meaning and sincere campaigners is absolutely clear that wars can be stopped without a socialist revolution. No socialist can accept such an idea and we cannot lend our name to something which we know is wrong and which must inevitably confuse. Take, for example, the question of the idea of sanctions often raised by anti-war activists in regard to some conflicts. How could socialists ever consent to accepting the idea of a boycott by one set of robbers against another gang of thieves? There’s is a most common mistake in the struggle against war, the belief that it exists ‘independent’ of the class struggle and that that a broad alliance of all sorts of individuals from every social class and strata can be formed around the issue of fighting war, since – so their reasoning goes – these persons all equally opposed to war whatever their differences on other points.

War is not the cause of the troubles of society. War is a symptom. The only way to fight against war is to fight against the causes of war. Since the causes of war are part of the nature of capitalism, it follows that the only way to fight against war is to fight against capitalism. It therefore follows that the only possible viable struggle against war is the struggle for the socialist revolution. No one can uphold capitalism and fight against war, because capitalism means war. So to suppose, therefore, that the socialist movement can work out a common programme against war with non-revolutionaries is a fatal illusion. Any organisation based upon such a programme is not merely powerless to prevent war; in practice it acts to promote war, both because it serves in its own way to uphold the system that breeds war, and because it diverts the attention from the real fight against war. There is only one case against war: the case for revolution to supplant the capitalist economy with a socialist society. Socialism will end national boundaries, placing the means of production under the owner-ship and control of society as a whole. This great aim, the elimination of war forever from the world, can be accomplished only by the overthrow of capitalism. The true enemy is at home: the class enemy and its political representative, the state. This is the enemy to be defeated, in every country.

This true struggle against war requires at every stage the utmost clarity and realism and the working class of every country must understand who their enemy is. They must understand that the enemy is not the people of any other nation against whom their 'own’ government may wage war, but that the real enemy the ruling class of “their own country”. Noble talk about “democracy” or “peace” or “defense” or “collective security” is cant and hypocrisy. Every conception of patriotism and nationalism must be opposed. The only war worth fighting is for a world socialist society.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Tea Slaves

The Guardian have posted a video about the slave-conditions on the tea plantations in India.

The Socialist Party blog posted a story on this problem a few weeks ago although it never place it in the context of domestic servitude although the blog has often featured the problem of that too.