The possibility of action against Martin Shkreli

Martin Shkreli has been in the news of late due to the interesting tactic of buying a biotech company and raising a drug price by approximately 5000%.  Pills which had started at $13.50 and had only risen about 5 dollars suddenly find themselves at $750 per pill.  While it is certain that there will be people out there who are prepared to pay that sort of figure in order to stay alive there will be a vast majority who simply cannot afford it.  If my life depended on pills that cost $750 each then I would be saying my goodbyes.  The likelihood that many potential customers would simply die is not good for the bottom line of any company.  First rule of business, as any insurance company will tell you, is maintain the life of your customers.

So with the likelihood that many people simply could not pay one has to wonder how profitable it could possibly be to raise prices so high, especially when it also leads to you becoming one of the most hated men in the world.  It may be that the figures do balance out and that Shkreli would really be able to lose a huge number of customers if enough people can afford to pay his exorbitant prices.  It may be that there are more nefarious purposes behind his actions.  A look into Shkreli’s past certainly suggests that nefarious purposes are not a thing that would slip his attention.

Shkreli’s success began when he was only 17.  He suggested a particularly savvy deal in biotech which turned out to be so savvy that it led to an investigation for insider trading.  Although the investigation did not find anything the continuance of suspicious circumstances accumulates a sensation of caution in relation to Shkrelin’s character.  He was later discovered using multiple twitter accounts to give the appearance that his investments were better value than they actually might have been.  For instance report a tweet worded “Damn Bruh, if Cohen is buying then your boy is buying too, nahmean.”

Fusion describe this as a seeming violation of securities law as well as of good taste.  They make no mention of any action being taken though.

The rest of the article makes interesting reading as it mentions Shkreli being accused by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington of making inaccurate and misleading statements about the effectiveness of drugs in order to improve his position in regard to short investments.

Additional suspicious behaviour includes a very recent case in which he was sued for 65 million dollars by one of his own companies for allegedly using their funds to pay back customer losses in another company that he had recently opened.  A tactic that has a flavour of Charles Ponzi all over it.

All told there are a lot of suspicious circumstances in Shkreli’s past which certainly seem to suggest that his approach is not the most ethical, but then can you really expect ethical behaviour from someone who is prepared to hike the price of a vital life saving medicine by 5000%.  There is a line between purely unethical behaviour and behaviour that can draw criminal sanctions.  So far Shkreli seems to have been quite free of criminal sanction but the question has to be considered, is this because he is an innocent who has never committed a crime, or is it pure luck?

The price rise he brought about seemed to have an immediate effect on the nasdaq biotech prices which dropped 4.41% on Monday.  If you were the sort of person who was in the business of short selling then you could easily see the value in being able to effect this sort of change.  It may be far fetched for someone with the limited set of thinking skills Shkreli demonstrates to anticipate the likelihood of major changes being announced in response to his actions but Clinton’s tweet was not completely unforeseable. Since then Shkreli has said that he will lower the price to one that is more affordable.  There are times in Shkreli’s past where he has made similar price rises to drugs; it would be interesting to see how the nasdaq was affected the last time he made a price rise of a couple of thousand percent.  Previously the rise was one that was only from about $1.50 to about $30.  That is an increase that could be imagined as being payable.  The current increase would make a year’s treatment for toxoplasmosis rise to over half a million dollars.  The benefits of selling things cheaply are obviously not easy to understand in the world of Martin Shkreli.

Certainly with the list of interesting incidents above you could imagine anyone who was deliberately trying to influence stock prices would be getting gradually bolder and bolder.  There is no doubt in my mind or the mind of most people that Shkreli’s ethics are more than questionable.  Could this be the time that legal action eventually succeeds against him.  It is difficult to say as I am not yet aware of legal action being proposed on the grounds of market manipulation.  The information available about Shkreli on the internet shows that he is often the centre of controversies and legal actions for various courses of action that have surprisingly received little legal scrutiny.

There are people out there who wish to try and pursue Shkreli on any charges whatsoever, attempted genocide is one suggestion that I have heard.  It seems that the evidence for a charge on market manipulation grounds would be favourable to anyone who is pursuing Shkreli.  It is true that he probably has access to some incredibly talented lawyers but in the instance of biotech stock dropping by 4.41% across the nasdaq he has had an effect on a lot of other very powerful people.  Where it may be that a blind eye is turned towards a lot of white collar crime the chances of that eye being turned full on in maximum scrutiny must be far higher where there are high powered victims of your actions.  It is often in reaction to the greatest rogues that major improvements to legislation and legal infrastructure are made.  If it hadn’t been for world war II there may have been no Human Rights Act or EU.  Perhaps Shkreli deep down inside felt that the world of copyright and patent trolls was so egregious that he needed to force the hand of politics to introduce legislation to deal with it.  Perhaps, but probably not.

Objective sanity in a crazy world, or madness in a sane world. Probably both.

I was reminded of my byeline today.  A sane voice in an insane world or vice versa.  When I originally wrote this I saw the truth that lay within but largely wrote is out of a sense of humour.  The reason I was driven to think of it today was because of discussion of psychological disturbance in Oliver James’ book Britain on the Couch.

It shows how good my attention span is these days that I have taken to writing a blog by something that was mentioned at the beginning of chapter one.  At least I made it through the introduction anyway.  James describes the case of Jim, a lawyer who has led a fairly successful life and has had no history of mental illness.  He has reached the age of 33 and is progressing well in his career and is married to what sounds like a marvelous and intelligent girl.  Things begin to fall apart on a trip to Scotland with an old friend from university.

In Scotland Jim is convinced to try MDMA.  The result is a weekend of deep introspection that leads to a crisis.  Jim realises that his life does not hold the meaning he had previously accepted it did.  The MDMA seems to have pulled the trick of enhancing Jim’s world view so that he can look at his own life from a distance with a far broader viewpoint and what he sees leaves him in serious conflict.

That is as far as my attention span has so far allowed me to read, but it got me thinking.  Jim’s life is relatively successful but he has been conditioned like most of us to plug away at his job day after day as one of the cogs in the mechanism of society.  It is probable that Jim is giving himself too little credit for his importance but it has led him into crisis.  The crisis strikes me as being a sign of having been overwhelmed by an insane society.

We all need to survive and we do that by fitting into our niches the best we can.  Sanity is to conform to the standard set by everyone else around us.  If we look normal then we are normal.  When we stop being normal it becomes pretty obvious to the rest of the world.  We become the loony, the mad bloke that everyone avoids.  The problem is that in being normal we are conforming to a society that has no objective comparators in our daily experience.

If we look far enough we can see the example of many other different societies but largely they are all in as much difficulty as our own.  Corrupt politicians and collapsing economies seem to be a theme to most advanced societies.  In order to really make a judgement about the way in which a society operates we need to take years of study at university, perhaps even writing a Phd before our understanding is solid enough to take action.  Or we could pop some MDMA on a weekend away like Jim did, and then those years of understanding will hit home in about 20 minutes instead of 5 or 6 years.  It is hardly any wonder it caused a crisis.

The things about which Jim was concerned within his life were simply who he was.  They were aspects of his nature as a homo sapien and of the world around him.  The resultant neuroses was the natural response in someone who has not had the chance to build a coping mechanism to deal with the circumstances in which he found himself.  A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
This ultimately led me to realise that the world around us all is mad but only when held up in comparison to our ability to cope with it.  If we can cope with the world then it is relatively sane.  If we can’t cope with it then we appear to be insane, though really if the world is that difficult to cope with then it is hardly a shining example of balance itself.  Perhaps my byeline should read that I am a sane voice in a sane world and an insane voice in an insane world simultaneously.  Though that is far less catchy.

A direction for Syria

Syria is an issue that demands new ways of dealing with conflict.  The majority of the public concede that more refugees must be accepted, a point with which the prime minister appears to also agree now.  The problem with refugees is that many consider them to have a similar effect on their destination nation as economic migrants would, so much so that the distinction between migrant and refugee has been one of the points of contention during the last few weeks.

Any government which has a major issue to deal with must seek to find the strengths in the situation rather than simply run scared from the problems.  David Cameron infamously said that the solution to the crisis was not simply to accept more refugees.  In this he is correct; the solution must go further than this.  Opportunities must be sought to help those refugees in regaining their lives and their self respect.

It has been suggested to me that training refugees in how to fight and wage a war might be a solution, so that they can return to their nation and reclaim it for themselves.  Whilst it is certain that many of them are currently unprepared for the conflict around them it is also certain that many of them are plainly not going to fit into the mold of a soldier.  If this nation were overcome by war how many of the people you know would plainly not be up to the task of fighting in the traditional position of a soldier.

Likewise, military action and airstrikes are considered to be a necessary path for foreign governments.  Military action is one of the courses that people oppose on idealistic grounds.  For many it is simply out of the question, like suggesting a cull of squirrels to a group of vegans, it is not going to be taken well.  While I do not offer opinions on potential military action I accept that it might be the chosen method of those in power and at present it might not be the time to resist that decision.

My opinion on the path to resolving the situation lies in knowledge.  Perhaps it is my past as an educator that compels me to consider knowledge to be the most important way forward, just as I would assume by brother, the military strategist, to support military action.  Different people from different walks of life will have different ideas which must be respected on the strength of their experience and specialist knowledge.  And there lies that world ‘knowledge’ again.

The people who are currently being forced out of their country bring with them a great deal of knowledge and they also need a great deal of knowledge.  They should be trained, but the training should not be in basic fighting skills.  In a nod to the military perhaps they should at least be trained in strategy and logistics, but mainly they need training in problem solving, team building, diplomacy, and other arts of gentle control.  Britain or any other nation should not be considered a final destination for any refugee.  These other nations should be considered places where they can regroup and discover methods and ways in which they might regain their homeland.

The communication that is allowed by the use of the internet will enable a political state to exist without geographic boundaries.  It is possible for people living in Berlin or London to communicate with people living in small villages in Devon.  Refugees must be aided in organising themselves as a cohesive group while also allowing them to integrate into any host societies.  The inevitable result of segregating them would ultimately be resentment on the part of hosting native populations.

While integrating with host nations, the refugees would be able to create cohesive groups to try and find solutions to their own problems without the need to rely on others to take action.  Offering them training in bureaucratic and diplomatic arts would give them more peaceful weapons to win back their homes.  In exchange they can offer knowledge of their own.  People who live in nations outside the conflict need to hear about what is happening, why it happened and what led up to it happening.  The arabic language they speak is something that more of use should grow accustomed with considering the way world politics is currently shaping itself.
This exchange of information would strengthen not only them but us as well.  While I am sure that military maneuvers may be inevitable just as David Cameron asserted the solution was not simply to accept more refugees, I assert the solution is also not simply to rely on further escalation of conflict.

Since writing this I have had my attention drawn to this additional content: .  It is uncanny how closely it connects with what I have written and is probably more worthy of being read due to the information and facts contained within.


Polyglot is a word that is new to most people’s vocabularies.  It describes someone who learns multiple languages.  It seems kind of ironic in that learning foreign languages you become something for which you must learn a new word in English.  The word was probably popularised more by Benny Lewis who has turned an inability to learn foreign languages into an ability to pick them up at a seemingly unnatural pace, claiming three months is adequate for fluency.  He has now even published a book by the title ‘fluent in three months’ or ‘Fliessend in Drei Monaten’, which I presume he translated himself.

As more and more jobs are taken up by robots and finding employment becomes harder language ability becomes ever more important.  There are many jobs that people believed could never be automated which are increasing danger of being handed over to machines, if they have not already been.  It can be difficult to say which jobs are unlikely to be given to machines in the future.  Skills and abilities that are considered to be things only humans can do are quickly being developed to a higher and higher extent in computers.  Looking at how man made items are still appreciated over mass produced products it seems there is likely to always be options for craftsmen but language and translation looks like its value is disappearing.  Google translate, real time voice translation and cameras that translate signs are all putting extra nails in the coffin of employability.

Language learning is in far less danger than it appears though.  Direct personal interaction is one of those skills where humans are definitely recognised as an essential part of the process.  Conversation is an art and a translator in an important business deal or a political exchange has a more important role to play than it first seems.  A translator is able to subtly affect the meaning of phrases and terms by things as simple as tone of voice.  Whether all translators realise this is uncertain.  To be able to speak directly without any intervening need for a translator (human or otherwise) is a mark of respect that can win points in a deal with people from other nations.  It is additionally a skill that reaps benefits in the distant future as it has been shown that an ability with multiple languages can protect against the brain disorders that become increasingly inevitable as you grow older.

Think of how much more enjoyable it is to watch a foreign movie without having to read subtitles and without having to listen to bad dubbed on sound.  Not to mention the beauty of hearing interesting new words; a term I heard that I particularly liked the other day was Brannen Skadet in Norwegian, even though it means fire damaged it feels so nice coming off the tongue.  If you appreciate the beauty of old literature and poetry then just imagine how it must feel to read old literature and poetry in Dutch, a language that has some fantastic 18th century words.

If anything the wealth of computer translation software is most likely to increase our natural capacity to speak other languages.  The fact that you are reading this in English probably means you are likely to know fewer languages than the people of most nations of the world simply because they often have to learn English on top of their native language.  This puts an advantage in their direction as they prove that in addition to anything you can do they can also speak their own language natively.  Sites like duolingo and memrise seem to be appearing all the time; apps on the smartphones offer multiple ways to learn multiple languages.  It becomes easier all the time to learn new languages.  If you don’t want to make an extra effort then it is still easy to simply turn on subtitles in DVDs to expose yourself to different languages.
As far as my usual blogs go this one is a bit self indulgent, but if it can encourage a single person to enrich their life with a new language then I am glad to have written it.  It can be very important to dismiss language skills now that it is so easy to get good translations but there are so many reasons aside from the desire to obtain a translation that mean language learning will remain of importance to us far into the future, if not forever.

Who invited Corbyn?

Jeremy Corbyn seems to have done something that nobody has managed for many decades.  He is making politics seem interesting.  Last year when we had Russell Brand telling us not to bother voting because it was a waste of time and our voices made little impact on the actions of the political clone army that run things, a lot of people listened.  Or at least they felt their own suspicions were being backed up by a nominal comedian/celebrity.  Throughout my whole life politics has been dull; when it threatens to get interesting there is a political reaction that injects so much new dullness that I couldn’t describe it to you without you leaving this page to go and do something more interesting instead.  Fortunately I wouldn’t tell you anyway as when it happened I think I might have fallen asleep or urgently gone to watch some paint drying.

Of course they say that the darkness is at its thickest just before dawn; of course this is complete rubbish, it is actually darkest in the middle of the night, but the analogy may apply in politics.  Just about when politics was at its indisputably highest levels of dullness, corruption, disenfranchisement, and many other negative things Jeremy Corbyn just seems to have popped up out of nowhere.  At one point there was a labour leadership contest full of contenders and then suddenly the selfsame leadership contest also had Jeremy Corbyn, who nobody seemed to have invited and he was busy doing things that nobody liked who was in the party.  If it was an ordinary party like those you go to on Saturday night then Corbyn would essentially have turned up at about 10:30 with a couple of six packs and a crate of wine; he would have taken Justin Bieber off the stereo and tossed the CD out of the window before putting on a mix he made himself of Led Zeppelin, The Blue Oyster Cult, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, and other similarly non Bieber fare.  Unfortunately it would appear he turned up to a party being held by a pair of accountants to celebrate their new conservatory designs, and they are planning to get up early in the morning.

Jeremy Corbyn is the most popular choice with voting labour members because he is undoubtedly the only hope that labour has for being taken seriously as a party for the people in the future, and the only chance that labour has of offering a viable alternative who would be worth voting into parliament.  He is also the most popular choice with the tories because he will obviously prevent labour being taken seriously in any way whatsoever and will destroy any chance they have of ever being a viable alternative to the conservative party and getting into power.  He is also the least favoured choice of the labour voter on account of these same reasons, but he is also the least favoured choice of the typical tory on account of he may actually make the world a nice place to live for people who don’t have so much money that they could upgrade a slurry pit into a nice place to live if they really wanted to.

Of course it is difficult to see the future so anyone who is working towards a definite strategy only really has about a 50% chance of being successful.  Condorcet used to reckon that a large enough group of people were capable of making decisions between them that would usually be correct.  Condorcet didn’t have access to the knowledge of modern psychology that points out that most people will follow the opinions of any idiot who speaks loudly and confidently enough.  It is therefore difficult to accurately choose which outcome will occur if Corbyn gets in.  Personally I cling to the beautiful irony of all the tories trying to influence things to help him get in only to discover that the result is a Labour government that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.  Miliband came closer than many people think during the last election.  It has been expertly hushed up that his government actually got more votes that Blair did last time he was voted into power.  It seems that all the achievements of labour have been kept quiet recently.  I can only imagine that David Cameron’s background in marketing has allowed him to keep all the good ad men to himself.
I don’t feel that this is my argument to take part in.  Many of my friends will no doubt be horrified by this.  Most people I know are very vocal in their support for Corbyn.  I could easily be swayed towards him, in fact I think I have already been swayed towards him.  Previously I would have said that the strategic vote was more important for gaining power than the idealistic vote but when I think of how many people feel disenfranchised by modern politics it is probable that strategy and idealism are walking hand in hand at the moment.  I feel for the old conservative labour view that all these new labour members are really being quite unfair in coming into their club and noisily messing things up; I kind of think it is not my place to do so, but to all those who are currently shaking things up for the future of the labour party I salute you and wish you well.  I hope the choices you make work out for all of us.

Political Football

I heard Noam Chomsky make a comparison between football and politics the other day.  He said that while few people understood what was going on in politics the ability ordinary people had to talk about football in depth showed that people weren’t avoiding politics because they didn’t have the ability to understand.  Noam pointed out that the intricacies that could develop in the relation of all the players in all the teams over the course of a year created a network of data that left him completely lost, yet ordinary blokes down the pub knew it all inside out.

The reason that all this brain power is directed into things like sport is that in sport there is so much flexibility of outcome.  An individual may not be able to affect anything personally but it somehow feels like the world in which it takes place does not reject the input of the individual.  Ordinary people may not be directors, coaches, or players, but they can still be part of the debate.  They may change nothing as individuals but collectively it certainly appears that the debate can have an effect on the overall game.  The difference in politics is that it feels so futile.  The individual has no effect, but the individual often doesn’t even have the illusion of an effect.  Even those within the system don’t appear to have an effect.  Britain’s party leaders seem to regularly talk about making changes but in reality they can’t even change the ‘Punch and Judy’ format of the way in which people address each other in the house of commons.  If leaders are unable to simply change the rules around how people speak to each other to something more respectful then how on Earth are they going to be able to make any substantive changes.

Politics are currently working on the wrong model.  In football the way things work is fairly obvious.  Teams fight it out until only the best one is left and they win the cup, or generally actions along those lines.  Each time a team goes to play football it is doing its job.  The competing is the job and each team gets rewarded for doing things their way to the best of their ability.

In politics the different teams involved do not do their jobs until after they have won the competition.  Up until that point they essentially pretend to do their job and then if everyone thinks that their ‘fantasy football’ style politics would be effective then maybe they will get voted in and be able to do it for real.  There is no way to objectively test if their methods work though.  In football the way to objectively test if a team’s methods work is to see if they won the game.  It is obvious.  In politics there is no objectivity like this.  The team who is trying to win has to try to work out what sort of things the public would like and then pretend that is what they would do.  The result means that they, lie about their principles; they mimic the group who has already won because their tactics must have worked, even though they are meant to be opposed, i.e. opposite.  

Our political parties cannot be chosen for objective reasons.  They can only be chosen because of personal biases or because the current party in power has screwed things up so badly that we have no other choice beside trying to walk across the channel.  My Grandmother refused to vote liberal because she said they couldn’t be trusted, although if they had ever been given the chance to learn from that mistake it could only  have been when she was a very small child.  Certainly I don’t think Lloyd George would have been likely to make the same mistakes again in the 1980s, having long since shuffled off the mortal coil. There was no objective reason to think that they would be remotely similar to the last liberal government.

This is my complaint.  No wonder sports are easier to relate to than politics.  Most of politics is just one small group of people, fewer than a thousand in a country of sixty million, doing their own thing, more or less unswayed by those who want change.  Luckily I have a solution.

As I have pointed out, every week when football teams compete they do so by doing their job.  The solution for political parties wholly failing to achieve anything comparable in their own operation is for political parties to start competing before they get into power.  Local MPs should be solving their constituent’s problems in their capacity as MP whether they succeed in gaining a parliamentary seat or not.  If a candidate fails and wishes to step down then they should be immediately replaced by someone prepared to do their job immediately.  A replacement shouldn’t be chosen only for the purpose of running for election.  A candidate should be chosen immediately to try and solve local issues and rally people together even if their is no hope of them gaining power for another five years.
The political parties should be operating at a national scale to make large changes to the way things are done.  They should consider themselves to be like large multipurpose charities.  There should be no focus on one particular field, they should be charities that deal with the day to day running of the country.  They should be able to prove their worth as potential leaders to run our country by their ability to raise money and then use that money to improve the lives of the people rather than saving it for advertising and canvassing.  If we could see parties achieve success when they are not in power then we are far more likely to put them in power where they get the opportunity to make even bigger changes.  We should not have to vote for people based on assurances which will probably never attain fruition.

In defence of Katie Hopkins? Wait, what?

Currently one of the most hated columnists/celebrities/presenters/human beings in the UK Katie Hopkins does have some fans though they are probably fairly demented.  She has far more enemies. She regularly receives death threats and is parodied by alternative press, and most people think she deserves pretty much every response she has so far received.  Not only that but she doesn’t care what people think of her.  In combination with no tolerance whatsoever for those who she criticises, she has a remarkably high tolerance for any negative reactions.

It seems that her detestable personality may have a physical basis and that it could shortly be affected by a physical procedure to be carried out by open brain surgery to cure her of epilepsy.  Hopkins claims to have attacks that affect her on an almost nightly basis.  This is extreme given that most epileptics would expect attacks perhaps twice per week.  The abnormal qualities in her personality are similarly extreme.

Bert Park describes one of the mechanisms of epilepsy as involving “An inability to assign appropriate emotional significance to external stimuli.” This certainly sounds like Hopkins, and describes her explanation of her behaviour.  In the same chapter on saints and fanatics Park also has similar suggestions to make as a partial hypothesis to explain the actions and behaviour of a number of figures through history who fall on both sides of the line of good and evil but are all linked together by the exaggerated emotional response to external stimuli.  Joan of Arc being one example and Adolf Hitler another.

I not only proposed that the Fuehrer suffered from gallbladder disease and Parkinson’s syndrome but also suggested that his personality disorder might have been explained on the basis of temporal lobe epilepsy

Interestingly when watching video of Katie Hopkins she does show herself to have similar mannerisms and exaggerated movements to those which Adolf Hitler uses in his speeches on film.

After the conclusion of her current television series Hopkins is to make a choice about whether or not to go ahead with the surgery to cure her epilepsy.  She has spoken of a fear that she may die during the surgery or lose the use of one or more limbs.  She also mentions the possibility that she may come around to find that she has a Welsh accent or has become a communist.  While these comments may be tongue in cheek there is a very real chance that her personality may be radically changed after the surgery.  It is wise that she waits till after the current television series as she may not have the same outspoken views afterwards. Although it is also possible that her attitudes may have become such an ingrained part of her brain that they will remain even after the instability has been corrected.

In general where surgery is successful it is likely that personality disorders will see some improvement, the improvement being greater, the earlier it is caught.  Hopkins is therefore taking a risk by waiting for work commitments to be ended, but then as she has made a career out of having an abrasive personality that is probably a considered choice.  At any rate improvement will likely be gradual and in different areas of personality.  The irritability and anger that power Katie’s rants is likely to decrease, as is the spontaneity that often gets her into trouble, especially some time after the operation when things have started to repair themselves.  Looking at past results it seems that it is the more severe symptoms that are likely to be most profoundly affected.  At Katie Hopkin’s age it will be difficult to have as major an impact as would be possible with a younger subject but over time the new way in which the brain works will start to have an effect on the existing architecture.  The gradual changes that appear in the first couple of years after the operation will continue to a degree in the future.

When Phineas Gage’s head was penetrated with an iron bar his entire life changed. He had lost substantially more of his brain than is likely to be removed in an operation for epilepsy. People said this is not Gage anymore.

It may be that whoever comes out of that operating theatre will not be Katie Hopkins as we know her. Her personality may grow to be so different that she will be deeply ashamed of the Katie Hopkins persona. Then again it is also possible that she may become even more Katie Hopkins than she is now.  Whatever happens it seems a bit too coincidental at this point that she has a brain disorder and she also has an obviously malfunctioning personality residing within that brain. If a new improved Katie Hopkins emerges from the operating theatre then we may be able to look back on her time as a columnist and see that what entertained and outraged people was an effect of her disorder.

The reason she is on television might be very much like the way in which people laughed at fools, madmen and dwarves in history.  In one episode of Blackadder the queen reminisces about the funny people with bells who made her laugh as a child.  When her nurses suggests “Jesters?” it is revealed that the queen was actually thinking of lepers.  One of the earliest examples of compensation for injury in the service of the crown was given to a man who fell from his horse, not because it was intended as compensation but because it amused the king so much.  The manner in which disability and injury was treated in past centuries seems abhorrent to modern civilisation, in a similar light to the way in which Hopkins herself often speaks on television.  It may be that in our blindness to their being an actual cause for her behaviour we are guilty of having a similar attitude to the afflicted of today simply because we are unable to recognise their affliction.  She may have a disorder that renders her entertaining and is therefore the modern equivalent of a court jester.  Because mental issues are so much less visible they are far easier to deride.  Mockery of physical disabilities is no longer acceptable, I guess until mental disorders and personality disorders can be more easily identified people will continue to be used in this way because the state of their mind is easy to mock and makes an audience drawing spectacle.

I am not a fan of Katie Hopkins myself and do not think she should be allowed to say the things she says on television.  Her opinions step beyond the boundaries of defensible free speech because they are abnormal.  She does not represent any valid opinions on the subjects she discusses.  I do look forward to seeing if the surgery will create positive changes for her.  I can only wish her the best in that regard because in wishing her the best we may also be free of the negative persona that she has inflicted on us since her time on the Apprentice.  She fears she may die on the operating table but it is just as likely that if she does then a far better Katie Hopkins will live in her stead.

Bert E. Park, Ailing, Aging, Addicted: Studies of Compromised Leadership , University Press of Kentucky.

Treatment of poisoning by amanita

Today I shall maybe saving the life of someone you know.  I might be saving your life but I assume that if you have the kind of mind that doesn’t mind wading through my writing then you are probably capable of making sure you don’t need saving.  Or if you are going to be killed then it will be by some means that I have no power to save you from.


I read today of one of the country’s first mushroom fatalities of the year.  Reportedly the culprit was amanita phalloides, the death cap mushroom.  The coroner passed a verdict of misadventure saying that there was nothing that could have been done, even had she been taken directly to hospital at the first indication of trouble.  The woman affected was very ill and there was no transplant organ available to replace the damaged one.


This struck me as being a somewhat political verdict.  Admittedly amanitas are fatal a lot of the time and admittedly there is very little knowledge about how their harm may be prevented.  However I felt the verdict was largely to protect the doctor that had been consulted at first instance.  Most doctors will probably never come across a case of amanita poisoning and if they do it is probable they will never do so again.  Due to this it is hardly surprising that most cases end in death.  There are a few treatments that are beginning to come to light but our ability to find more is probably scuppered by the fact that people rather sensibly do not eat all that many death cap mushrooms.


The first is that proposed by Doctor Bastien which has been used with a remarkable level of success since 1957 on the continent.  Dr Bastien has even had so much faith in his technique as to consume fatal quantities of amatoxins on two separate occasions in order to prove that it works.


“The treatment consists of giving, as soon as possible, intravenous vitamin C (ascorbic acid) 3 g/d, oral nifuroxazide 1200 mg/d and-dihydrostreptomycin 1500 mg/d. The three drugs are administered for 3 days during which time carrot broth is the only source of nutrition.  At the anti-toxic centres in France this treatment is combined with ‘the indispensable reequilibration of fluids and electrolytes and a course of penicillin.”


Beyond the mention of vitamin C I have little idea of what the substances are, but the important thing to remember is that this treatment appears to do the trick.  So much so that Dr Bastien is prepared to risk his life to prove it.


The second treatment is one which seems far more likely to become available in England.  The principle involved is that when the amatoxins enter the system they are processed by the liver, which is damaged by their presence.  The liver passes the amatoxins back out into the bloodstream but sadly some time later they once again enter the liver to try and finish off the damage they earlier began.  The only way out of this cycle is to have faith in the kidneys.  The kidneys have the ability to actually send the amatoxins out of the system so they can no longer do any harm.  The problem is that in order for the kidneys to do their job they need to be kept sufficiently hydrated.  The process is so lengthy that they often become dehydrated and death results.  The primary part of this treatment is therefore to keep the kidney’s hydrated.  In order to do this just make sure you get enough water.  Sadly many hospital treatments that are tried before the hospital realises what is going on will lead to further dehydration, e.g. pumping the stomach, which is ineffectual anyway as the poison has already moved on if it is causing damage.


The second part of the treatment is a substance called silibinin.  This is given intravenously and has the effect of maintaining the liver during this trialling time.  The substance is originally obtained from the milk thistle plant, silybum marianum, so if it is not possible to get to a  hospital on time then that would have to be your last/first resort as an alternative to being given medication.  Whatever happens always maintain your water intake to give as much support to your kidneys as possible.

There are other options such as plasmapheresis to cleanse your blood or an organ transplant if things have gone that far, which they do, very rapidly.  The most important and obvious way to avoid any complications though is to never eat any death caps, destroying angels, or galeriana’s.  If you do discover that you have been unlucky enough to have done so then make sure that before anything else you tell the doctor of this suspicion because these poisonings are rare and it is unlikely your doctor will realise this is what is ailing you if he is not told of the possibility.

The concept of default votes for absentee voters

After yesterday’s election there are a lot of disappointed people.  On account of the failings in our first past the post system the number of people who are disappointed are considerably more than half of those who voted.  Fortunately there are a great many people who are pleased with the result.  Unfortunately a large number of those are only pleased because they got the party their father taught them to vote for or their newspaper told them to vote for.  In the long run it is probable that many people who currently feel pleased will be badly affected by the outcome of the election.  Fortunately the lack of understanding of politics and economics that led to their choice will further shield them from knowledge that they have merely been pawns at the hands of the true beneficiaries.


However, having spoken to a small number of people I have come to the conclusion that anyone who is interested enough to be reading this, i.e. anyone who pays the slightest attention to politics, anyone who voted yesterday, is going to be supported far better by the change in government than they currently feel.  The reason I say this is that having spoken to people who didn’t vote because they weren’t interested or didn’t have the time I was horrified at the irony that they were also the people who I would have considered to be most likely to be badly affected by the proposals of the new government.


Of course politics is about looking after society as a whole, not simply looking out for one’s own self, no matter how much the government seem to be giving the opposite impression.  We should not breathe a sigh of relief that of all the people who live in the country we are probably going to fall into the group which will not be so badly affected by the next five years of governance.  However, if one considers the natural bell curve on which all phenomena seem so easily to fall it is probable that in most natural systems one would expect a few to do extremely well out of any system, a few to do extremely badly out of any system and everyone else to fall somewhere in the middle.  The zenith of the curve will vary in thickness and may float towards the left or the right but if you are on the side of benefitting well then you will know it well.  If you are on the side of being taken advantage of by the world around you then you will not be reading this, you will not have any idea it is happening, you will not even know that you could have done anything different to change it.


The rest of us who float in the middle will be experiencing varying levels of fortune from our situation but we all have one thing in common.  Our actions are worth worrying about to those who seek power.  As voters, or even as people who simply think about speak about politics we are the one’s who can make or break careers.  It may not feel like it because individually we are as powerful as a single ant in a colony, but as a group we are a force that needs to be appeased.  Those who did not vote because they did not know who to vote for, or because they did not have the time, or did not care wield less political power than a single ant, even when grouped together as a cross section of society.  Those in power do not care how they feel about the results of policy because those in power know that they will never be part of the defining force that takes the effort to change things.


A lot of the rest of us feel like history has taken a turn against us today, but we only think this because we have the intellect to think about the way things are going, and the understanding to be able to hope for better; we also have the wit to look after ourselves if the situation turns against us.  Those who do not possess these qualities, who do not have the wit to look after their political interests, who do not have the sensitivity or understanding to fear the future that now looms are the only ones who need really fear the future.


Just like we may be inclined to leave the hallway light on because we consider that tiny trickle of electricity to be negligible in its effect on climate change, the non voters consider their vote to be of no consequence.  They feel that they can’t change things so they don’t try.  All politicians seem equally corrupt to those who do not follow politics, even though the chances of complete equality of corruption would be more unlikely than the natural occurrence of perfect spheres.  I do not wish to make arguments as to why a single vote is important; that has been done many times before.  Instead I propose a different manner in which votes might be envisaged in order to motivate those who do not make the effort.


Russell Brand has done a great deal to lead to further disenfranchisement of vulnerable groups by urging people to avoid voting.  The result will have been many people simply not registering or not turning up to a polling station.  Better advice might have been to turn up but only offer spoilt ballots.  That much would be counted, and large numbers would be every bit as influential as a vote for a losing candidate.  The only votes that actually do anything under our current electoral system are those which actually push a candidate above his competition.  All the others simply offer an indication of how the rest of the public are thinking and feeling.  In that respect a spoilt ballot speaks volumes.  In many instances it speaks more loudly than any other losing vote.  If I could go back and take yesterday’s vote again I might be tempted to write a treatise on electoral reform rather than putting an x beside my preferred candidate.


At present the number of votes for all the separate candidates are counted and considered, as are those spoilt ballots.  What are not read out are the number of people in that constituency who could not be bothered, or did not understand the system.  As none of  those votes had any influence to prevent the winning candidate taking their place in parliament they may as well have been considered to be votes for the winning candidate.  After all if you know beyond any shadow of a doubt that your choice would get voted in whether you turned up or not then there is an argument that you might be able to spend your time more effectively, but only if it was a 100% certainty.  My proposal is that once the winning candidate has been chosen then every abstention by inaction should be considered to be a vote for that winning candidate.


Such votes might not be considered to add to the members majority but they should be used to be illustrative on charts of how much influence was wasted.  Those who felt it wasn’t important enough to take the effort should not be allowed the easy path of losing their right to complain during the next 5 years, they should have it imposed that their choice not to vote was a positive vote for the actual result.  In essence every non vote would be considered to be a default vote for whoever won in that constituency.

If charts were presented that contained the number of votes a party received, the number of seats they achieved and also the number of default votes that led to their election then it could lead to a new understanding of our duties in elections.  I would not insist that all voters must accept one of the candidates on offer, but I would insist that those who do not wish to choose any of the candidates should at least try to make the effort to turn up and put something into the box to at least prove that their reason for choosing none of the above is not because they were too busy sitting in the pub or pursuing equivalent avenues of amusement.

Fixing the housing crisis

A couple of posts back I offered some essential ideas on how to go about seeing that the economy is repaired.  Naturally that is a large task so I could really only skirt around one particular issue, which I suppose could be summarised as making work pay, if I wished it to be in soundbite form.  Today I plan to offer a partial solution to the housing crisis that Britain is currently experiencing.  I say partial because, on the one hand, it is a very large housing crisis, on the other hand there are a number of other supplemental solutions which will also be of use in ensuring there is enough housing for people.


There are those who say that the housing crisis could be dramatically reduced by simply making sure that all the unused property is put into use.  There are derelict and condemned buildings all over the place, as well as commercial properties that are out of use where the land could be repurposed.  I don’t think that the problem could begin to be dealt with by derelict buildings alone, I also think that if we solved a lot of our other problems then we would need those commercial properties.  Once there are more homes so that fewer people are losing their wages by paying extortionate rents there could be a far greater ability for ordinary people to invest in making use of those commercial properties to supply goods that will become more affordable in the absence of extortionate rents.  Although there are obviously some economic advantages in employing people and buying materials for developing these sites it is an economic disaster to knock down and rebuild every few decades.  Not to mention those same people and materials could be far more efficiently by putting up extra buildings in previously unused locations.


Of course that is where the objections start to spring up.  It is the threat of new developments on previously unused locations.  That is what gets protestors building treehouses and digging tunnels.  Our biodiversity has suffered dramatically over the last few hundred years of the industrial revolution, sometimes fast enough for us to sit up and take notice, but usually so slowly that we don’t even realise it is happening.  Having grown up in Devon I am used to living in the countryside and walking through woodlands, or wading in rivers.  Devon is after all the countryside wilderness of England.  However if someone from Devon ever spends any time in Scotland it quickly becomes apparent that there is a homogeneity to the flora of Devon that is an obvious mark of humanity’s impact on the environment.


There are still areas in the south of England where the wilderness reigns.  If you leave the main roads and the towns, taking a route down narrow windy lanes, it is not long before you can find wild meadows full of masses of different plants and flowers.  Despite the time I spend in the countryside and my efforts to learn about obscure plants like Bugle, Jack in the Hedge, Stinkhorn mushrooms, etc, I was surprised to find a plant that I had simply never seen before growing in a field near my home.  When building houses it is obvious that plants will be replaced by buildings but as the lack of houses is damaging our ability to live happy productive lives we are left in little choice.  It must therefore be considered which places are most appropriate to avoid as much environmental damage as possible.  This includes how much extra pollution might result from increasing a local population and how much use of local infrastructure with its knock-on effects of diminishing the comfort of locals, increasing danger for other road users, raising costs of road repair, etc.


In addition to preventing these negative side effects of increased housing it is also reasonably important to upset as few people as possible.  I say reasonably because if one paid attention to the way in which modern politicians dealt with these issues one would think that nothing can be done if there is any danger that it might upset anyone whatsoever.  You might also look at what they achieve and think that nothing is done.  Politicians get into office and then when they leave office years later they realise they have squandered their opportunity and done almost none of the things they originally intended.  It is obvious that someone is going to get upset about almost everything, if only because there are some people who make a sport out of getting upset about things.  Some journalists make a career out of it, even though they don’t really care at all, usually because they are twisting the facts so much that the upsetting news bears little relation to reality.  Fortunately if you make a decisions based on logically avoiding as much damage as possible and increasing the greatest benefit possible then this becomes less of a problem.  Unfortunately decisions are often made according to the whims of corporate sponsors and other less than transparent inputs.


In order that extra housing complies with as many of the conditions I have mentioned above the most sensible place to put it is where it is closest to the main thoroughfares that provide routes to work for the people living in the housing.  If you put a housing estate on the quiet side of a town then that might be very pleasant for those living there, it might even command a higher price (pleasant for those selling the houses, or renting them out) but it will lead to massive amounts of traffic heading towards the best roads for commuting.  If the commuting roads of the residents are on the quiet side of town then very quickly the quiet side of town stops being so quiet; the quiet local roads become over congested and dangerous.  If the commuting roads are, as is more likely, on the busier side of town where the local dual carriageway/motorway is then anyone who needs to commute to the nearest large towns will first have to contribute to the morning clogging up of traffic in their own town’s rush hour before they hit the larger roads to make their commute.  Naturally the same applies for returning home in the evening, with the result that the town becomes busy, noisy, dusty, and polluted.  In this modern era it is probable that a large number of people will be seeking to travel on these larger roads.


If housing is put on the side of the town where the dual carriageway/motorway lies then this extra weight on the infrastructure of the town is avoided, possible with reduced need for the building of an additional bypass in the future.  Additionally placing housing estates near the roundabouts where access to these large routes can be made, will result in massive reduction in use of fossil fuels by commuters as they no longer need to sit in traffic jams to negotiate the narrow roads leading to the dual carriageways.  There will be economic benefit as more workers will be inclined to accept jobs at businesses that are now easier to reach because the commute will be shorter.  Those businesses will therefore find it much easier to find more suitable staff; they will not need to make do with the local pool of talent and the few who make the effort to go through an arduous commute, they will have the addition of the many who will be prepared to go through a far less arduous commute.


Environmentally we already see a benefit from reducing those fossil fuels but there is of course the problem of direct damage by building on the countryside.  The one thing that all access roads for dual carriageways and motorways have in common is that any such environmental damage has already been conducted during the twentieth century.  Protestors have already tried to stop these roads being built and having failed the countryside has been reduced to a shadow of its former self.  The trees have been cut down, bulldozers have churned up the rare flowers, badgers and deer have largely fled into more secluded country areas, litter is thrown daily from the windows of cars, and there is a lot of noise from passing vehicles.  People do not go to these places to enjoy the countryside anymore.  One might argue that they would also be less pleasant places to live but there are many people who already live alongside such roads and there are solutions such as fences and double glazing.

In addition it also reduces the potential cost of the homes, making them far more suitable for first time buyers, and far less suitable for farming.  Besides if we all got to live in the nicest places then there wouldn’t be any more nice places.  This way all those hidden country meadows remain intact.

To anyone that has read the previously mentioned blog on fixing the economy there will be obvious connections between the matter written here and the matter in that.  As I have said, that blog was not fully concluded because it is such a large subject.  This approach to solving the housing problems we face is another piece in the puzzle of how to make things better.  This approach is probably not suitable for all areas either.  It is likely that many local councils have already taken the opportunity to see that housing is built with easy access to the country’s main roads systems.  There are also many councils who are still having a great deal of difficulty in deciding where they should put homes to fill the quota being demanded from politicians above them.  There are areas of outstanding natural beauty where there are few options.  In some of those areas this is an options that may not have been considered, or may be being debated at present.  The solution written above is offered for those areas.


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