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Archive for March, 2012

Addicted Pusher

Posted by heyrandy on March 26, 2012

Confessions of an Rx Drug Pusher, Gwen Olsen, 2005, 2009

In this short (148 pgs) blend of autobiography, expose, and advocacy tract, the author gives the inside story of pharmaceutical sales. Olsen tells us how doctors learn about new drugs. She also tells of her experiences as a patient taking some of those drugs.

The genesis of the book is the death of the author’s niece. A troubled girl from a very troubled family, Megan killed herself at the age of twenty. She was under psychiatric care that was primarily medication management. Olsen obtained Megan’s medical records and was surprised to see the number of medications that her niece was taking. Olsen knew the dangers of some of these drugs by her own experiences with them in treatment for postpartum depression.

One great irony is Olsen was for many years a drug sales representative. She persuaded doctors to prescribe her company’s wares. By her account she was quite successful. This experience allows Olsen to relate the inside story of the industry. It is evil. There are many great products coming from the pharmaceutical companies, but there have been lots of duds. Some were worse than duds.

Olsen has little respect for the Food and Drug Administration. She considers it a wholly owned subsidiary of the drug industry. She points to the approval of aspartame. She has a point. It is an example of capture theory. Big Pharma has big money and a big desire to spend it. If it were any more blatant it would be bribery.

Once the drug gets regulatory approval, it is a matter of getting the doctors to prescribe the drug. That was her job. She said people called her a “goodies girl.” Everywhere she went she left a trail of gifts. Most of the items were the usual promotional trinkets with the drug’s name on them. Sometimes the doctors got more expensive items such as dinners, invitations to élite affairs, free “continuing medical education” at nice locales.

After her stint as a sales representative, Olsen became a worker in the Texas state child protection system. Here she saw another side of the pharmaceutical industry: the use of psychoactive drugs on children. “For political and financial reasons most drugs are tested on white adult men.” That may bias the testing sample. but it does not stop doctors from prescribing the drugs to kids, even though the package insert says that the drug is not approved for children under 18. This is a huge problem that no one wants to discuss. There are expectations of a quick-fix by authorities (usually the schools), parents and society. It is the miracle-in-a-bottle problem. It is quick, easy and profitable. Very profitable. Too bad for the kids. Some of the drugs induce problems that are ameliorated by more drugs. The pharmaceutical companies do not object. They just cash the checks.

Olsen gives us the right advice: take charge of your own health. You will pay the price. This is what Olsen did.

I find one weakness in the book. She does not give a clear picture of the development process of new drugs. She tries to refute the idea that it cost a fortune to develop a new drug by saying that a lot of the money comes from the taxpayers via government grants, but it still cost a fortune to develop a new drug. She could also have cleared up the mystery of how companies name new drugs.

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Mystery in the Desert

Posted by heyrandy on March 20, 2012

Conspiracy Theories, Area 51, Jesse Ventura

Area 51 of Nellis Air Force Base has always been a favorite of conspiracy speculators. Theories range from anti-gravity aircraft to wreckage of space-alien ships. Ventura decides to step into this mess. The results are dull.

Ventura is host of Conspiracy Theories on Tru-TV. He has done segments on all the major theories. I saw the one he did on the FEMA camps. He discomforted several bureaucrats and one congressman. Not bad for a day’s work.

Jesse said that if you are doing shows about conspiracy theories, you cannot ignore Area 51. He is right. If he did not cover this issue, the theorists would howl “Conspiracy.”

Sadly, the results are not worth the effort his team put into the show. The show revealed nothing new, but some people pretended to be important. There were lots of theatrical tricks employed to give the matter a patina of importance. It was more like rust.

They interviewed one man where he could not be overheard: in the flight path of Los Angles airport. He gave an on-camera interview and answered questions in between the landing of jet aircraft. Although the interviewee did not say too much of importance, the camera man did get some nice shots of the bottom of several commercial jetliners. Security has its benefits.

Jesse tells us that “June [one of his researchers] is taking a big risk meeting this guy alone.” Alone being defined as being with at a least the camera man and the sound guy. The tension built as June cautiously approaches the (unmarked!) van where the interview is to take place. The desert location added to the suspense. The man stated that there were space-alien remains in Area 51, along with up to six alien space craft. The authorities are trying to retro-engineer the craft.

There were also the usual shots of a Ventura-led meeting where he sends his staff off to come back. This was not bad enough to be good. I hate low-grade camp.

Jesse is not one to sit and let others take all the risks. He fired up the Harley and drove into Las Vegas without a helmet! Thankfully he did not crash the bike. It would be used later when he and a local Area 51 investigator tried to get on the base. They drove out near the base and walked toward the perimeter. Base security personnel arrived. They drove out to the perimeter of the base, parking their truck on a small rise, to observe the two men. There are a lot of electronic sensors to alert the guards of approaching pedestrians. There are lots of signs warning against trespassing. The Air Force enforces those warnings. Instead of proceeding on base property, Jesse decides that it is not worth it. “We would still have to cross 20 miles of free fire zone before we got to Area 51.” The distance is probably right: Nellis is huge. Walking that distance in the Nevada desert is foolish. The cameraman probably would not make it. The local man had told Ventura that they would be almost immediately stopped. But now we have it on video.

Ventura interviewed a local reporter who made the most sense. The reporter pointed out that the recent mass sighting of lights in the night sky could not have been space aliens. The lights, the man said, could be tracked by the calls to 911 reporting the sightings. The locations of the callers and the time of the calls revealed the course of the lights. The light followed the interstate highway. The reporter stated that it is ridiculous to think that space aliens who have traveled billions if not trillions of miles through space would need to follow a roadway to navigate.

We find out further from a recently declassified CIA document that the government encourages the space-alien idea as a partial cover for what is really going on at the base.

What is really going on at the base? No one who knows is saying. Ventura tried to interview the congressman in whose district includes Area 51, but the man was not in his office when Ventura and crew arrived. A uncomfortable-looking aide said that he would call later to arrange an appointment for Ventura to see the congressman. No call came through.

Since there is little factual information about Area 51, there is not much that can be said without qualification. I reject the space-alien theory (as does Ventura). This leaves only secret research to develop new aircraft. The show had lots of artists’ drawings showing unusual looking airplanes, but art is not the same as real.

This episode will not end the speculation. Only a real alien would do that.

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Hamilton’s Nation

Posted by heyrandy on March 14, 2012

Hamilton’s Curse, Thomas DiLorenzo, 2008

In the battle for America, Jefferson lost, Hamilton won. The principle of liberty, small, limited government; personal freedom; specie money, have all been eroded or eliminated. These were Jefferson’s principles. Hamilton hated them (and Jefferson).

To Hamilton we owe thanks for the income tax, foreign wars, limits on freedom of speech, jumbo government, loss of states’ rights, national debt, and the federal government’s  intrusion into every aspect of modern life. Hamilton’s triumph is almost complete. What he did not accomplish in his lifetime, his successors did. Hamilton’s wish for a president-for-life has not been realized, but there is little difference from one incumbent to another. We live in Hamilton’s nation.

DiLorenzo gives us the truth about Hamilton that the court historians have known but assiduously suppressed. You will not find DiLorenzo’s information in you local high school’s history books. (You will  not find it in any of the private schools’ books, either. The text-book industry is a real problem.) It is revisionist historians like DiLorenzo that do the public a service. This book is not like the hagiography that most historian write.

Hamilton was an insider. He worked tirelessly for his buddies. He started with the Constitutional Convention. The original documents, the Articles of Confederation, had to go. They did not suit Hamilton’s taste for a British-style government. He did not get everything he wanted at the Convention. So he made up the rest. Not in the Constitution? No problem! Just invoke the doctrine of implied powers, the Tenth Amendment to the contrary not withstanding. Don’t like the Constitution’s language? Just fight it out in court. The Hamilton sympathizer on the bench will rule in your favor. The list of evils is long. The list is getting longer. There is no area the federal government cannot now intervene in. The language is subverted.

DiLorenzo shows how the War Between the States was a direct result of Hamilton’s ideas. High tariffs on imported goods protected the largely northern manufactures at the cost of the largely rural south. It was a wealth transfer scheme that had bloody consequences. We are still paying for that.

This book is a must for anyone who wants to know about American history. It is not the usual pap from the mainstream writers–DiLorenzo takes on a few of them. The book is well written, easy to read and has many references. This book is a great place to begin. Its information could cause some consternation in history class. I hope it does.

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The Guardians Will Get Us

Posted by heyrandy on March 13, 2012

Mere Creatures of the State, William Ball, 1994

This book is about the court decisions that affect religion and education. These two areas are closely related. In fact, they are the same. It may seem odd to think so, but both areas are about life. Both are about teaching, and both are about things eternal. It also a book about things temporal: your children. Are your children mere creatures of the state? This is the big question that underlies the book.

Ball’s participation in many of these cases gives us the insider’s view. His position was with the parents, against what he thought was overreaching by the state. Ball tells us how the system is rigged against all plaintiffs. Huge administrative barriers are erected. Layers of bureaucratic resistance; rules, rules, and more rules to thwart challenges. The costs of fighting are enormous. So are the physical hazards. People go to jail. The Guardians, as Ball calls them (he gets this from Plato’s Republic), are ferocious fighters. They will hurt you for your own good. Send in the SWAT team: officer safety is paramount.

The most frightening thing about the book is Ball observation that the courts do not rule by fixed legal principle. Every decision is ad hoc. Everything can change with the next court decision. Common sense is not common in the courts. Legal precedent is meaningless. Written law does not count. The law is as certain as the wind: it always blows, but it changes direction without notice.

The book is about great victories, and erosion of precedent set by those victories. Nothing is permanent.

Ball does not address the larger question  of whether we do need a public school system. It is like the income tax: we don’t need it, but life is unimaginable without it.

Read Ball. It will help you understand what is coming from Guardians near you.

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Change of Life

Posted by heyrandy on March 5, 2012

Stolen Lives, Twenty Years in a Kesert Jail, Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi, translated from the French by Ros Schwartz, 1999

She went from being the oldest child of the Moroccan Defense Minister to social outcast and prisoner. It only took a few days, but it lasted twenty years.

Malika Oufkir grew up in the inner circle of Moroccan power. Her father rose through the ranks in the army to become Interior Minister and later Defense Minister. She was the adopted sister (it is a Moroccan custom) of the king’s daughter. Life in the palace was pleasant, but she was constantly watched lest anything happen to her. This would bring dishonor on the king.

Oufkir’s world ended when her father was executed after a failed coup attempt. She, her mother, and her five siblings were arrested and imprisoned in increasing harsh jails. Their friends abandoned them, afraid that any contact would bring them into closer contact. The Oufkir family was alone in a very hostile world.

The prison was a horror. Vermin, filth, little food were just the beginning. The family was kept separated in adjoining cells. The mother and her three-year old son were in one cell, Malika and her three sisters were in another, with her brother by himself in a third. They were not allowed to see each other. The fight against insanity was the big effort. All the children forsook Islam, their birth religion, and converted to Christianity. The mother remained a Muslim. Milka got her mother to teach the children the Christian prayers the mother had learned when she was a student in a Catholic school.

In a sense the book is a bildungsroman. Malika kept the family going. She was the morale officer, the disciplinarian, the cheerleader. Prison changed her from the spoiled brat she called herself to an adult. But she paid a heavy price.

She and three of the family escaped by digging a tunnel. They only were free for five days, but the escape sparked international interest in their plight. Upon capture the authorities moved the family to a large house. They were still not free, but their conditions improved. International pressure was building on the Moroccan king. They were finally allowed to leave Morocco.

I would have liked to have had more information about the Moroccan culture. There were some things that could have used some explanation. A brief history of Morocco would have given valuable context to the events. Even with these shortcomings the book is worthwhile.

Building a life is the next challenge. She has taken a huge step. She married in Paris. Maybe she will write a sequel.

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