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Truth, beauty and paradigm power in science and society

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News, views and reviews measured against professional literature in peer reviewed journals (adjusted for design flaws and bias), well researched books, authoritative encyclopedias (not the bowdlerized Wiki entries on controversial topics) and the investigative reporting and skeptical studies of courageous original thinkers among academics, philosophers, researchers, scholars, authors, filmmakers and journalists.

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I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing that ever interfered with my learning was my education. I am Freeman Dyson, and I approve of this blog, but would warn the author that life as a heretic is a hard one, since the ignorant and the half informed, let alone those who should know better, will automatically trash their betters who try to enlighten them with independent thinking, as I have found to my sorrow in commenting on "global warming" and its cures.
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Chickens flying home

Signs that justice may not be delayed for ever in convicting top miscreants, starting with Lord Black

Times pursues why miracle drugs not prescribed, the conscience of the rich, and innocents convicted

So what just punishment for HIV∫AIDS scientists who prevent review with lives at stake? AZT?

conradblack.jpgThis weekend’s New York Times’s – Saturday and Sunday July 15 2007 – are a parade of stories wherein the elite are saying that they don’t deserve so much money, or they are being executed for bribery, or exposed for buying influence, or for being bought, or jailed for embezzlement, and the unjustly convicted poor are being fought for by those who believe in their innocence.

Is this a trend? Is the pendulum of justice swinging? Is it possible that the same species of chickens will come home to roost in the halls of justice even for the leaders of HIV∫AIDS, who all the scientific literature now indicates are propping up their paradigm only by dint of bullying, frightening and sanctioning advocates of review into a censored backwater unrecognized by the editors of the New York Times, even though they (the likes of Anthony Fauci, John P. Moore, Mark Wainberg, Nancy Padian etc) must know very well their belief is questionable, since this is shown by their otherwise irrational resistance to review?

These two Times editions have us thinking that this is not out of the question after all, however long it may take. On Saturday we learned that Conrad Black, peer of the current Elizabethan realm (Lord Black of Crossharbor) and one time press magnate whose holdings stretched from the New York Sun, Manhattan’s lively and intellectual conservative daily, to the Daily Telegraph in London, the Jerusalem Post and the Chicasgo Sun-Times, was convicted by a jury with three friends for robbing the till of $6.1 million of shareholders’ money, a rather trivial sum for one whose net worth at its peak was $400 million.

Conrad M. Black, the Canadian-born press baron who cut a glittering swath through financial, political and high-society circles in Toronto, London and New York, was found guilty of fraud yesterday in a Chicago courtroom, along with three of his former employees.

Mr. Black, the former head of Hollinger International, faces as many as 35 years in prison, although the exact sentence determined by Judge Amy St. Eve at a sentencing hearing Nov. 30 is likely to be far shorter.

On the same front page, an extensive piece by Alex Berenson complained in Market Forces Cited in Lymphoma Drugs’ Disuse that oncologists were sticking to their usual armory of chemotherapy and drugs and ignoring two less profitable drugs which have cured cancer of the immune system in one go.

All three recovered after a single dose of Bexxar or Zevalin, both federally approved drugs for lymphoma. And all three can count themselves as lucky.

Not just because their cancers responded so well. But because they got the treatment at all.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the fifth most common cancer in the United States, with 60,000 new cases and almost 20,000 deaths a year. But fewer than 2,000 patients received Bexxar or Zevalin last year, only about 10 percent of those who are suitable candidates for the drugs.

vinod-gupta.jpegA third front page story tells of the rise of Vinod Gupta, a wealthy supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, who has named two schools in India after the Clintons, who is now under a cloud with accusations he wasted millions on perks for himself and payments to the Clintons from the till of infoUSA, the company he built from nothing into a major player in consumer information.

Many people who know Mr. Gupta view his wooing of politicians as a hobby that enhanced his profile back in India and gave him and his family a thrill, while secondarily aiding his businesses. Robert Farmer, a former consul general to Bermuda, met Mr. Gupta after Mr. Clinton considered appointing the Nebraska businessman as Mr. Farmer’s successor.

“I think like many people who have been successful as immigrants, Vin found politics is very exciting, and I think he really enjoys playing it,” Mr. Farmer said. “Obviously, Bill Clinton is as high as you can get, so it’s another mountain to climb.”

Some of the benefits to Mr. Gupta are tangible. The Democrats paid infoUSA $5 million over the last six years for computer consulting and data services (the Republicans paid it $6 million for data), and the company was granted the rights to resell lists of donors to the Democratic Party, as well as to Mrs. Clinton’s Senate campaign, Mr. Clinton’s presidential library and the Clintons’ legal defense fund.

Other benefits are harder to quantify. Mr. Gupta estimates that just being seen with Mr. Clinton, and paying him to speak at company events, has yielded millions of dollars in new business. Testifying in civil suits involving his businesses, Mr. Gupta has impressed juries with tales of how the former president has nominated him for diplomatic posts, appointed him to the board of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington and accompanied him to India, trial transcripts show.

It is not clear from the Times story, Clinton Backer’s Ties to Powerful Cut Both Ways, what exactly Mr Gupta has done wrong, just as it is not entirely clear whether the doctors who have not yet prescribed the sometimes magical lymphoma cures Zevalin and Bexxar are not simply being cautious (the clinical trials to prove they increase survival are not yet complete), but the bloodhound attitude of the Times reporters is impressive.

Today, the rich excuse themselves, the poor get shafted

On Sunday’s front page, we learned that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles will pay a record $660 million to more than 500 people abused by the clergy, heading off the embarrassments of a court trial. The front page also boasted a big centerpiece, The Richest of the Rich, Proud of a Gilded Age by Louis Uchitelle, which informed us that there are almost 15,000 US families with incomes of $9.5 million or more a year, but which indicated that many of the richest felt compelled to justify their riches – Charity And Skill Justify It All, Tycoons Say was the subhead – and some admitted that so much money wasn’t necessary to call forth their maximum effort:

A handful of critics among the new elite, or close to it, are scornful of such self-appraisal. “I don’t see a relationship between the extremes of income now and the performance of the economy,” Paul A. Volcker, a former Federal Reserve Board chairman, said in an interview, challenging the contentions of the very rich that they are, more than others, the driving force of a robust economy.

The great fortunes today are largely a result of the long bull market in stocks, Mr. Volcker said. Without rising stock prices, stock options would not have become a major source of riches for financiers and chief executives. Stock prices rise for a lot of reasons, Mr. Volcker said, including ones that have nothing to do with the actions of these people…..

In contrast to many of his peers in corporate America, Mr. Sinegal, 70, the Costco chief executive, argues that the nation’s business leaders would exercise their “unique skills” just as vigorously for “$10 million instead of $200 million, if that were the standard.”

As a co-founder of Costco, which now has 132,000 employees, Mr. Sinegal still holds $150 million in company stock. He is certainly wealthy. But he distinguishes between a founder’s wealth and the current practice of paying a chief executive’s salary in stock options that balloon into enormous amounts. His own salary as chief executive was $349,000 last year, incredibly modest by current standards.

“I think that most of the people running companies today are motivated and pay is a small portion of the motivation,” Mr. Sinegal said. So why so much pressure for ever higher pay?

“Because everyone else is getting it,” he said. “It is as simple as that. If somehow a proclamation were made that C.E.O.’s could only make a maximum of $300,000 a year, you would not have any shortage of very qualified men and women seeking the jobs.”

Mr Sinegal is right, no question about it. As many economists have pointed out humans tend to value almost anything in goods and services according to what others possess and what others pay, ie in relative terms. That is one reason why they are no happier when they are six times as rich in 2007 than their peers were in the sixties, when houses were a quarter the size of the ones being built today. If these CEOs were aborigines, they would be happy with the biggest mud hut.

troy-davis.jpgInside the same paper we read on page 23 of Troy Davis, who has spent two decades facing execution in Atlanta for a killing for which the only evidence was the testimony of nine bystanders seven of whom now admit they were induced to lie. As Execution Nears, Last Push From Supporters by Brenda Goodman makes clear that the noose is around Davis’s neck now only because of the shoddy legal work done for him in the past, and courts who now refuse to hear new evidence this late in the process.

With no physical evidence — the murder weapon was never found — prosecutors relied heavily on the testimony of nine eyewitnesses who took the stand against Mr. Davis.

But since his trial, seven of the nine have recanted or changed their testimony, saying they were harassed and pressed by investigators to lie under oath. Other witnesses have come forward identifying a different man as the shooter.

But because of a 1996 federal law intended to streamline the legal process in death penalty cases, courts have ruled it is too late in the appeals process to introduce new evidence and, so far, have refused to hear it.

Legal experts, including William S. Sessions, a retired federal judge, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a self-described supporter of the death penalty, have sounded the alarm over Mr. Davis’s case. They say it underscores the many ways the death penalty is unevenly and wrongly applied, particularly in the South, the region with the most death penalty cases.

“It would be intolerable to execute an innocent man,” Mr. Sessions wrote in an op-ed article for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It would be equally intolerable to execute a man without his claims of innocence ever being considered by the courts or by the executive.”

Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, is expected to testify at the clemency hearing Monday.

In the Metro section, we have a very similar report of the case of Richard Lapointe, Supporters See Innocent Man Serving Life. He now has a hearing for a new trial after being in prison for 15 years for crimes he obviously never committed, if the facts are as told by Peter Applebome, the columnist. He was convicted on coerced confessions (three inconsistent confessions) in a case was evidently preposterous from beginning to end. Unfortunately there is no DNA evidence to settle the issue immediately, but the conclusion is so obvious to 25 or more friends of Lapointe that they have stuck by the humble dishwasher all this time. Needless to say the assistant state attorney supervising the case is “sure that they are well meaning but I don’t believe their beliefs are supported by the evidence.”

Readers can make up their own minds whether Lapointe is likely innocent or not, but all the signs we see point to the usual flaws in the justice system – grabbing the nearest suspect, railroading him into conviction with forced confession against all narrative indications, the prosecutors maintaining the conviction as a win against all reasonable argument.

Weekend Times: paper with a conscience

Whence this conscience laden editing? It seems possible that the Saturday and Sunday papers have different editors, and if so, we hope they rise in the Times power pyramid, since if this kind of work is encouraged we can imagine that even the Science section might be prodded to do a little skeptical investigative work for a change, especially in the blatantly compromised area of HIV∫AIDS science, pace Larry Altman, whose CDC trained mentality may be the brake here, though old science hands like Nicholas Wade (in his salad days co-author of Betrayers of the Truth) have no business following his lead if it is.

Perhaps we are simply imagining things. “It is in the nature of a hypothesis, when once a man has conceived it, that it assimilates every thing to itself, as proper nourishment; and, from the first moment of your begetting it, generally grows stronger by every thing you see, hear, read or understand.” – Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy (1760).

Will Fauci et al have to answer in court?

However, assuming we are not, and that at the Times and perhaps in society generally the pendulum is swinging over farther and farther into the territory where the robber businessman and the corrupt official are sooner or later forced to pay for their sins, it seems not impossible that the leaders of HIV∫AIDS science, the promoters of the paradigm who fight so viciously – “all out war”, in John P. Moore’s phrase – to prevent review, will be brought to the bar of justice and asked to justify themselves and their interference with the normal process of professional science, which is to conduct a free debate at all times of any ruling wisdom, and especially one on which public policy involving the spending of billions and the administration of billions of doses of dangerous medications world wide.

What will Fauci, Moore, Gallo and Wainberg have to say for themselves? It is hard to imagine them bringing a valid excuse to bear. For their crime is not to think that HIV is the cause of AIDS – no one can ever prove they do not think this, even though they acknowledge its flaws very clearly in papers they write, as both Fauci and Moore have done more than once – but to prevent review, even by the media, and to prevent others from advocating review.

This policy is a conscious one, it is clear. Can it be justified in a court of justice by claiming that the review itself is dangerous? Clearly not, since whether it is dangerous or not – by virtue of possibly persuading people that the drugs are not after all aimed at the right target – depends entirely on the outcome. If the paradigm is shown to be unjustified by reason or evidence, as the literature has always shown when this blog has examined it, then it is the paradigm and the medication that are dangerous. Either way, the argument does not serve as justification for interfering with review.

Does their conscious interference over two decades with review of the paradigm, and interference with media coverage of the review and of the flaws in the paradigm, when lives are at stake, constitute criminal culpability, if it is taking advantage of a situation and exploiting it for money, power and prestige, when the officials and the scientists concerned know very well that the review is needed, and may decide against them?

zheng-xiaoyu.jpegChina decided to make an example last week of Zheng Xiaoyu, 62, whose corruption in running the Chinese equivalent of the FDA led to deaths of pets and people from tainted Chinese exports, by executing him six weeks after he was found guilty. Vietnam also treated corruption as a capital offense in 2006 when it executed Phung Long Thai, an anti smuggling investigator who had accepted bribes to smuggle $70 million worth of goods.

According to Nelson Schwartz, in Bribes and Punishment in Weekend Review (we are still getting through the Sunday Times), severe and bloody sanctions for bribery have a long history, from Athenian officials executed, to Byzantium officials blinded and castrated (by a furious mob) in the 11th Century, to public flogging of John the Cappadocian, who supplied tainted food to Emperor Justinian’s army.

Let them eat AZT

What those who debate the justice and punishment if any to be meted out to the officials and scientists responsible for quashing free debate of the HIV∫AIDS paradigm have to decide is, what do Anthony Fauci, John P. Moore, Mark Wainberg and Robert Gallo deserve if it is established that they prevented free and proper review of HIV∫AIDS for more than twenty years, and thus potentially endangered the health and lives of millions, for personal and professional gain?

enjoyazt.jpegOne can imagine that those who have lost loved ones to the fearsome breakdown and eventual death brought on by AZT and its accompanying drugs might wish to serve up the same medications to those who have advocated them for so long.

Does this conclusion depend on the proper review of HIV∫AIDS and a decision as to whether the paradigm is the correct hypothesis or not? After all, if it decides that HIV is valid as the cause of AIDS, then the group in the dock will argue that they were quite justified, and it was the dissenters who were indeed dangerous.

Clearly not. The interference with free debate and open review is the act which opens them to liability, and not whether the act turns out to be harmless or even beneficial. For that cannot be determined before the censorship is broken, and provides no justification for that blatantly anti-science policy whatsoever.

A cover up is a cover up, even if it turns out to be harmless in the end.

And there is nil indication in the scientific literature that it will. Which of course is the only conceivable reason why there should be such resistance to review in the first place.

No one resists review who doesn’t have something to hide.

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