vitamins-cancer-q

I’m placing these emails here for public interest. I haven’t had time to sort them into sequence. I’m happy to discuss them. My point is that Professor Julia Rucklidge of University of Canterbury’s Department of Psychology has no expertise in biology, yet makes outlandish claims for multivitamins. When challenged she says the media misrepresents her. Judge for yourself. She is funded by the multivitamin industry.

21 April 2016 1.12 pm
from Julia Rucklidge
I think we need to agree to disagree. Just as you feel I am not hearing you, the feeling is mutual J Julia

——–
My response
Unbelievable! You clearly have not even had time to read my email properly! Oh well, horses and water.

Conversation opened. 10 messages. All messages read.

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Kevin McCready
Kia Ora Kathryn Re: http://www.psyc.canterbury.ac.nz/research/Mental_Health_a…
Apr 11 (3 days ago)
7 older messages
Julia Rucklidge

11:30 AM (44 minutes ago)

to me, Kathryn

Dear Kevin,

It appears that you don’t have a problem with my research, but with how it has been portrayed in the media.

I am not here to sway your opinion as I don’t believe you are trying to understand this area of work based on your comments. I provided you with the articles you asked for. There are many more studies out there using broad spectrum micronutrients to treat various psychological symptoms if you choose to look. You will note that when I speak to the media I don’t promote one product, I discuss the idea that some people may need more nutrients than what they can get out of their food for optimal brain functioning. My work is completed without funding from any of the companies that provide the nutrients (and I have studied a number of different products). They have no influence on our publications, positive or negative.

Rather than attack me and this work, you could support the need for more research in this area. I am sure you would agree that those desperate parents need more data points in order to make good informed decisions for their children.

Unless you are able to engage in an open-minded, thoughtful and considered discussion of this research and the significant challenges our society currently faces in being able to effectively treat people with mental illness, I will not be replying to any further emails.

———–
And BTW Julia

Something constructive for you, lest you accuse me of not being interested in mental health research (a rather galling accusation to make to a man whose younger brother has recently died after a long battle with schizophrenia and who has spend much of his professional life researching these issues).

In my suggestion that you consult with the scientific community, you would be well served by getting some good statisticians on board.

Your hypothesis is that multi micronutrients affect mood. Unfortunately your experimental designs are inadequate to test the hypothesis. You need to say which combination of nutrients and in what doses. Then to test the hypothesis you need to vary these in a controlled manner under a Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) designed work. Your big gun approach with various commercial products and their large numbers of nutrients is not going to cut the mustard as any statistician will be able to tell you.

Kind regards Julia

From: Kevin McCready [mailto:kevin1mccready@gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, 13 April 2016 3:15 p.m.
Kevin McCready <kevin1mccready@gmail.com>

12:05 PM (10 minutes ago)

to Julia, Kathryn
Dear Julia

Thank you for your email.

Your own public comments exceed by far the published findings of your own research. You have not explained to me why this is so. To blame the media is disingenuous.

To accuse me of being close minded when it is you who make public statements which cannot yet be supported by science, particularly when those statements are also contradicted by the words of your own published work is actually very revealing.

It is common for adherents of any hypothesis to call for more research in the hope of finding support for their beliefs. Generally their emotional/intellectual attachment makes them unsuitable to judge when enough research is enough. I use the dyad term ’emotional/intellectual attachment’ carefully in terms of what we know about brain function as rather nicely revealed by the Capgras Delusion to which we are all, myself included, subject.

You clearly have an emotional investment (in terms of your beliefs and your reputation) and a financial investment (in terms of your salary) in this hypothesis. It is very unfortunate that your public statements are being seized on by naturopaths and other quacks who seek to gain financially. I know you have no control over that, but I have not heard you caution that the science is not yet strong enough to support the extreme claims being associated with your name (a simple internet search reveals these).

Finally, I urge you to take a look at yourself in consultation with the community of scientists (not just those academics supporting your own hypothesis) and be much more careful in expressing yourself in future.
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———-
April 21 8.31 am
Kevin, I am sorry to hear about your brother, I am assuming that perhaps your disdain for my work stems from experiences you may have had in the health sector. However, I meant a lack of interest in understanding why it is worth considering the impact that NHPs might have on the treatment of mental illness, not a lack of interest in mental illness.

Regardless, I do take science communication very seriously (hence why despite my inclination to not reply further to your rather hostile emails, I have decided to craft a response), I do stick to the data, I am always careful to tell reporters about the limitations, that is doesn’t work for everyone, I give stats of recovery etc – if they choose not to use the full interview, that is something that is very hard to control. We will have to agree to disagree on my enthusiasm for my collective work over a decade with hundreds of people and multiple designs (depending on results from RCTs only is a huge error) as well as the work of others. Nevertheless, I do take on board your comments. Thank you.

On the note of a statistician – I indeed do have a statistician – but I respectfully think that your comment stems from a single ingredient fallacy and that no one ingredient is important on its own. Others can spend their careers finding out the mechanism of action of specific nutrients, I chose to dedicate my research time to determining if claims made by companies hold up in scientific research (which afterall is a role of scientists) and then if they do, trying to figure out the mechanism of action collectively.

Indeed, such magic bullet thinking is at odds with human physiology (which requires the ingestion of many nutrients in balance) and largely explains why the single nutrient strategy has yielded only modest benefits. Supplementing with broad spectrum formulations ensures the patient’s safety as the combination prevents imbalances, such as one nutrient causing a deficiency in another (e.g., taking zinc alone may cause copper deficiency). Recommending that researchers first understand how one nutrient functions on its own, in isolation, ignores the inevitable changes and potential for harm occurring in other nutrient levels.

The concept underlying the use of micronutrients for the amelioration of mental health symptoms is that mental illness may be a manifestation of suboptimal nutrition, relative to genetically-determined needs for optimal brain metabolic activity.

Neurotransmitters go through many metabolic steps to ensure synthesis, uptake, and breakdown. Each step requires enzymes, and every enzyme is dependent upon multiple co-enzymes (cofactors). A variety of vitamins and minerals are required as cofactors in most, if not all, of those steps. Some people may inherit an in-born error of metabolism that results in less than optimal use of nutrients that are present. Flooding the system with many nutrients ensures the body receives what it requires for optimal brain functioning.

The one-disease, one-nutrient solution to mental disorders is outdated, and needs to be replaced by a model that is responsive to the broad spectrum of human nutritional needs. Perhaps the perpetuation of single-nutrient studies continues because this methodology fits comfortably within the pharmaceutical paradigm and traditional scientific methodology where drugs are typically single ingredient and independent variables are manipulated one at a time. However, shifting psychiatric research towards a consideration of multi-ingredient formulations requires rethinking the scientific paradigm that has thus far shaped this field.

Kind regards

Julia

———–
April 21 2016 1.06 pm
Thanks Julia

Thanks for your comments about my brother Gerard.

No I have not misunderstood your hypothesis and have never believed in single magic bullets. Thus most of your email is not relevant to what I said. The whole point of a multivariate analysis is to vary the ratios of nutrients and be able to study the various combinations. I thought this was clearly stated. I’d be curious to know if you showed my email to your statistician before replying and if so, did that person also misunderstand me?

I am familiar with metabolic pathways, networks, feedback loops and hysteresis. My own hypothesis is that because of the NP-Hard problem these will never be fully explicated. Nonetheless we should continue with the endeavour with the tools we have while being as aware as possible of their limitations. I’m not meaning to be rude, but your call for paradigm shift is in my view based on a misunderstanding of how science proceeds and is almost ‘undergraduate’ in its framing. Have you seen Naomi Oreskes speak to this? Even while I acknowledge the ills of much of big pharma, to characterise all pharma research with the accusation you make is insupportable.

Again I make the indisputable observation that It is your own words that hype your hypothesis beyond what the data supports, not only the actions of media reporting you. You seem unable to understand this. Perhaps your belief in your hypothesis sometimes overrides your scientific training when you speak to the media.

Even in the email you have just sent me you say  “Flooding the system with many nutrients ensures the body receives what it requires for optimal brain functioning.” This is a gross and dangerous error. For many physiological processes the same substance can be wonderful or very dangerous, depending on the dose. Particularly in your field of nutrients you ought to be acutely aware of recent research on hormesis (Vitamin E springs to mind). I’m hugely disappointed again that someone in your position can write such a statement in what is clearly a carefully considered email.

Can I urge you again to conduct your scientific life in careful consultation with experts and with an attitude of strong scepticism towards your own hypothesis? Your email to me with your “flooding the system” comment indicates it is unlikely you checked it with an expert. I’m sorry if this sounds rude – that is far from my intention.

I have lived and worked with scientists all my life and one of the most distressing episodes related to a dear friend and has occurred only recently. He has now realised that an important piece of work he had high hopes for and worked on day and night for the last twenty years is coming to nothing. It is a very difficult time for him. I am not saying your work will result in the same experience, but all good scientists need to face this possibility, joyfully if possible.

———

my email to her 13Apr2016

Julia

I’m sorry to say so, but your adherence to this stuff borders on the religious.

None of the 6 pieces you have emailed me contain substantial evidence for the public claims you make. My mind is open but you have failed to demonstrate your case.

The single randomised control study you constantly tout is the one with 80 ADHD adults and even then you could only say there was “preliminary evidence of efficacy for micronutrients in the treatment of ADHD symptoms in adults … The findings reported here need to be interpreted cautiously given the inconsistencies noted across raters; larger trials are required to determine how robust these preliminary findings are. … The field is plagued with poorly designed and controlled studies, often leading to erroneous conclusions.”
This conclusion is at huge variance with your public statements of your belief system.

How then can you stand my your public statements which inevitably lead desperate parents to shell out big dollars?

Here are some more quotes from your own material.

‘Journal of Attention Disorders-2014-Rucklidge-one year follow up RCT.pdf’
“For the small number of participants who stayed on micronutrients, the benefits conferred through the controlled trial were maintained. The results are limited by small sample, lack of blinding, expectation, and reliance on self-report of symptoms.”

Finally in ‘2015 Kaplan et al Nutritional mental health CPS.pdf’ which is a rather silly mishmash puff piece we get this breathless prose based on your belief system: “A bright new future of understanding, preventing, and treating mental disorders awaits us”

Kia ora
kevin1mccready@gmail.com
@kmccready
32 Hawera Rd
Kohimarama 1071
Auckland, New Zealand
+64 (0)9 528 1174 home
+64 (0)226 710 335 cell
https://kmccready.wordpress.com/about/

On Wed, Apr 13, 2016 at 12:17 PM, Julia Rucklidge <julia.rucklidge@canterbury.ac.nz> wrote:

Attached a few studies on ADHD. These are not for circulation. Only for personal use. I am not sure what claims you are referring to. If you want to better understand why one would need nutrients above a healthy diet, please read the Kaplan article or watch my TEDx talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dqXHHCc5lA to start thinking differently about the role additional nutrients might play for some people.

Kind regards Julia

From: Kevin McCready [mailto:kevin1mccready@gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, 12 April 2016 5:18 p.m.
To: Julia Rucklidge
Cc: Kathryn Darling
Subject: Re: FW: ADHD Study

Thanks Julia

When I tried to download full study, it was paywalled. Could you please email me the full study or studies which supports your claims.

Kia ora
kevin1mccready@gmail.com

@kmccready

32 Hawera Rd
Kohimarama 1071
Auckland, New Zealand
+64 (0)9 528 1174 home
+64 (0)226 710 335 cell
https://kmccready.wordpress.com/about/

On Tue, Apr 12, 2016 at 12:04 PM, Julia Rucklidge <julia.rucklidge@canterbury.ac.nz> wrote:

Dear Kevin,

Kathryn forward your email to me as the Director of the Mental Health and Nutrition Research Group.

We share your concerns about there not being enough research on alternative therapies and therefore our lab is set up independent of the companies that sell the products in order to study the efficacy and safety of micronutrients for mental illness. If you go to our website, you will see that we have published a range of trials from open label to the gold standard double blind RCT, with more under review, and 3 further RCTs underway in our lab.

Kind regards,

Julia

Julia Rucklidge, PhD, CPsych, FNZPsS
Professor of Clinical Psychology

Director of the Mental Health and Nutrition Research Group
Clinical Psychologist
Department of Psychology
University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800
Christchurch 8140
New Zealand
Phone: 64-3-364-2987-7959
Fax: 64-3-364-2181
Email: julia.rucklidge@canterbury.ac.nz

Follow me on twitter: @JuliaRucklidge

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Julia_Rucklidge/publications

web: http://www.psyc.canterbury.ac.nz/people/rucklidge.shtml

From: Kevin McCready [mailto:kevin1mccready@gmail.com]
Sent: Monday, 11 April 2016 4:16 p.m.
To: Kathryn Darling
Subject: Re: ADHD Study

Opps. here’s what I posted:

As I suspected an “open label trial”. If you follow the links on this bullshit naturopath boost, it’s very sad how desperate, uneducated parents are conned into forking over good money for bottled vitamins you get from a healthy diet. Pyramid selling schemes and all. And it’s pathetic that certain universities are willing to prostitute themselves to the altmed industry. http://blog.healthy.co.nz/22267-2/ Here’s the registration info. Judge for yourself. Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, ID number ACTRN12613000896774 And the final sad is a media untrained to ask basic questions as to why an open label trial with 14 kids is worthy of report.

Kia ora
kevin1mccready@gmail.com

@kmccready

32 Hawera Rd
Kohimarama 1071
Auckland, New Zealand
+64 (0)9 528 1174 home
+64 (0)226 710 335 cell
https://kmccready.wordpress.com/about/

On Mon, Apr 11, 2016 at 4:14 PM, Kevin McCready <kevin1mccready@gmail.com> wrote:

Thanks Kathryn

I’ve had a look and in the interests of full disclosure I should let you and the team know what I think. Here’s what I posted on Facebook to someone who was promoting it:

Kia ora
kevin1mccready@gmail.com

@kmccready

32 Hawera Rd
Kohimarama 1071
Auckland, New Zealand
+64 (0)9 528 1174 home
+64 (0)226 710 335 cell
https://kmccready.wordpress.com/about/

On Mon, Apr 11, 2016 at 3:43 PM, Kathryn Darling <kathryn.darling@pg.canterbury.ac.nz> wrote:

Hi Kevin,

If you go to http://www.bit.ly/childadhd you will find a link to register interest, and another link to an information sheet.

The trial is registered on the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, ID number ACTRN12613000896774.

If you have any specific questions, I’m happy to answer them or forward you to someone who can.

Kind regards,

Kathryn Darling

Research Coordinator

Mental Health and Nutrition Research Group
Psychology Department

University of Canterbury

Private Bag 4800

Christchurch 8140

Phone: (03) 364 2987 ext. 7705

From: Kevin McCready [mailto:kevin1mccready@gmail.com]
Sent: Monday, 11 April 2016 3:23 p.m.
To: Kathryn Darling
Subject: ADHD Study

Kia Ora Kathryn

Re:
http://www.psyc.canterbury.ac.nz/research/Mental_Health_and_Nutrition/Child%20ADHD%20Study.shtml

Hoping you might have a link to where the study is described and registered?

Kia ora
kevin1mccready@gmail.com

@kmccready

32 Hawera Rd
Kohimarama 1071
Auckland, New Zealand
+64 (0)9 528 1174 home
+64 (0)226 710 335 cell
https://kmccready.wordpress.com/about/

my email 14Apr2016
Dear Julia

Thank you for your email.

Your own public comments exceed by far the published findings of your own research. You have not explained to me why this is so. To blame the media is disingenuous.

To accuse me of being close minded when it is you who make public statements which cannot yet be supported by science, particularly when those statements are also contradicted by the words of your own published work is actually very revealing.

It is common for adherents of any hypothesis to call for more research in the hope of finding support for their beliefs. Generally their emotional/intellectual attachment makes them unsuitable to judge when enough research is enough. I use the dyad term ’emotional/intellectual attachment’ carefully in terms of what we know about brain function as rather nicely revealed by the Capgras Delusion [link to my blog] to which we are all, myself included, subject.

You clearly have an emotional investment (in terms of your beliefs and your reputation) and a financial investment (in terms of your salary) in this hypothesis. It is very unfortunate that your public statements are being seized on by naturopaths and other quacks who seek to gain financially. I know you have no control over that, but I have not heard you caution that the science is not yet strong enough to support the extreme claims being associated with your name (a simple internet search reveals these).

Finally, I urge you to take a look at yourself in consultation with the community of scientists [link to Orsekes youtube vid] (not just those academics supporting your own hypothesis) and be much more careful in expressing yourself in future.

———-

My wife Joanna wears hearing aids and lip reads more than she knew. Now I know why she often nodded in agreement when she hadn’t really heard me. We cut a deal a long time ago that she asks me to repeat if she’s not sure.

Asphyxia

Lipreading

There’s a misconception that lipreading is just like reading a book. You look at the mouth and read, right?

But no, it’s far, far more complicated than that. I have to queue up words in my mind, invent possibilities that fit the facial expression, body language, approximate number of syllables etc etc. Sometimes there are a couple of possibilities, and I hold both in my mind simultaneously, waiting for it to become clear. While I’m doing this, collecting possibilities and sifting through them all, I need to keep the conversation going. So I smile and nod and say ‘mmm,’ and ‘yep…’ as appropriate. If I don’t do that, the speaker stops, and we haven’t gotten anywhere.

Sometimes though, I get right to the end, and I realise that none of the possibilities work. The whole thing just doesn’t make sense. And then I have to say, ‘Sorry, can you go…

View original post 152 more words

Toby Morris On a Plate

Thanks Toby Morris. I haven’t had success contacting you to use this cartoon of yours. I found it on social media. I hope people coming across it learn something and hope you don’t mind me putting it here for reference.

Even monkeys understand what’s fair and what’s not (so do dogs and birds and other animals). Some humans like to rationalise why they think they are “entitled.”

 

Flip That Script

Alan Duff, I find it hard to know where to start. As a mother of two beautiful Māori girls – you have offended my whānau deeply. Our immediate kura and kōhanga community and my girls hapū and iwi. In fact many Māori will be upset now, because your latest opinion piece infers that child abuse is a part of Māori life . This is simply not true, and so I will challenge you on the broad, ad-hock and completely disconnected statements you have made. Also, I will not stomach your sexist attitude, that reinforces the gender power imbalances which are the undercurrents for almost all domestic violence cases.

There is enough Māori bashing, enough racism and enough misogyny around without you adding to it. It defies belief that a Māori man could misrepresent his own people so hurtfully, be so blatantly sexist and willingly lead people astray on an issue…

View original post 1,943 more words

fingerOnThebutton

Aaron Connelly’s 17 May 2016 paper The problem with American assumptions about Australia links to a paywalled 2010 paper by Hugh White. So to further the discussion (quotes are from various of Hugh’s writings last month) …

Hugh White expects war by accident unless there is a transitioned power rebalancing. “Turnbull’s “rules-based global order” is just a coy way to say we would prefer the US remains in charge”. Turnbull told China it should follow the rules because it’s in China’s own interest. Rubbish says Hugh. Chinese “aims are clearly to display their growing power and replace the current order with ‘a new model of great power relations’. Hugh says Australia’s interest lies in facilitating this in order to avoid war. “Asia can peacefully create a new order” via compromise.

And on the media, Hugh says “Commentators assessed [Turnbull’s] diplomacy on the South China Sea solely as a test of his diplomatic mettle: would he show strength by speaking his mind, or chicken out and soften his message? No one asked what real difference it would make whether he did or not.”

I don’t fully support Hugh either in his apparent understanding of diplomacy as compromise or in his sanguine acceptance of real politic.
I think Australian diplomacy fails because it does not focus on force reduction (the bases in the Northern Territory are the exact opposite), has picked sides and consequently is happy to continue the arms build up. Weapons dealers will be pleased as they love to see their latest toys field tested. As Hugh White infers, when push comes to shove the men with fingers on the buttons decide. These men, and they are mostly men, will push the buttons in the heat of the moment or with aforethought. This is where the focus must be.

JohnKeyHelenClark

This petition of April 2016 was removed from change.org

I took a copy before it was removed, because somehow I had a vague feeling it would be taken down. If anyone knows why if was removed, please tell me.

Petitioning United Nations and 3 others

Helen Clark Is Not A Suitable Candidate for UN Secretary General

started by Ella Benny New Zealand

We the undersigned strongly oppose the nomination of Helen Clark for the role of UN Secretary General.

The world stands at a historical precipice, and the United Nations requires strong, bold leadership that will not buckle to the many pressures from those that stand to benefit from continued abuse of people and the environment. Indeed – the leadership required will be of the kind that holds true to the identified goals and cannot be swayed from achieving them.

Helen Clark came under just this type of pressure whilst she was PM, and many decisions were then made that, at a global level, would set us far back from achieving the many important goals that the UN has defined.

Although Helen Clark, and indeed this government, will be swift to present her time as Prime Minister as a valuable credential, we feel it is vital to have a full, robust assessment of her track record in this area.

In particular we wish to highlight the following:

That Helen Clark came into power on promises of equity for New Zealand Maori and Pacific peoples, under her “Closing the Gaps” policy. After winning the election all references to this policy were dropped from official documentation, and during the term of Helen Clark’s government (1997-2008) the “gaps” in social outcomes actually increased.

That Helen Clark authorised the sustained illegal surveillance and violent invasion of Māori homes around the country in 2007. This included the lockdown of the entire community of Ruatoki. Families were torn from their beds, marched from their homes, forced to the ground, searched and interrogated at gunpoint. A schoolbus was boarded with police in balaclavas brandishing automatic firearms. Children were kept in sheds for hours on end with no food, water, or access to a toilet. This particular event has been condemned by a number of UN human rights officials and rapporteurs. Many families remain traumatised by this event, and it was acknowledged to have set race relations within NZ back by 100 years.

That in her time as Prime Minister, Helen Clark oversaw the single largest land dispossession event of modern times, through the 2005 Foreshore and Seabed Act. This act alienated 10 million hectares of Maori land, and is regarded by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples Professor Stavenhagen as a discriminatory law and a breach of the human rights of Maori. This act was so controversial that it resulted in 50,000 people marching in protest to parliament, where Helen Clark refused to come out to meet them, and also resulted in the formation of a new political party in recognition of the fact that Helen Clark’s party, under pressure from competing interests, could not care for the interests of indigenous people.

That Helen Clark refused to sign the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous People’s. New Zealand was one of only four nations that voted against the agreement, of which 144 other nations voted in favour. Clark’s government labelled UNDRIP divisive, un-implementable and incompatible with New Zealand constitutional and legislative arrangements. This document remained unsigned for the remainder of her time in parliament.

That Helen Clark responded to the dire emergency of Climate Change with the strongly criticised Emissions Trade Scheme. Since its implementation New Zealand’s emissions have increased, and we now have one of the fastest rates of emission increase in the world. Helen Clark’s government refused to commit to a significant number of the policies needed for strong leadership on climate change, supported continued coal production and refused to make NZ’s agricultural sector (responsible for the largest GHG emissions in NZ) responsible for their emissions.

That, in the time of Helen Clark’s leadership, New Zealand’s freshwater crisis intensified, characterised by cases such as the Tarawera River “Black Drain”, where legislation intended to protect our environment was amended by Helen Clark’s government to allow the continued intensive pollution of this river. Nationally, studies have confirmed that our overall freshwater quality declined significantly between 1998 – 2007, the period of Helen Clark’s term as Prime Minister.

When surveyed on their willingness to commit to 25 policies that would tackle climate change, clean up New Zealand’s rivers, save our oceans, protect natural heritage and exercise environmental leadership, Helen Clark’s government refused to make clear commitments, and we are paying for the legacy of this conservative approach today, with some of the most severe environmental challenges we have ever faced.

These cases are clear examples of Helen Clark’s tendency to cater to the establishment, and lead conservative levels of change, which would be disastrous when we live in times that demand bold, innovative decision-making.
We believe the role of UN General Secretary requires a strong leader, one committed to issues such as environmental and indigenous rights. Clark’s clear inability to champion the wellbeing of the environment, and indigenous people, makes her unsuitable for this role. We therefore ask that you DO NOT support her bid for the role of General Secretary.

 


25May2016 update

Lena Sinha effectively sacked by Helen Clark for her role in Petrie report on U.N.’s “systemic failure” re Sri Lanka abuses.

Here’s my extracts: UNDP, and Helen Clark in particular, took the Petrie report personally,” said Edward Mortimer, who served as a top advisor to former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. But “even if you think the report is wrong it is not a reason to discriminate in giving them a job.” Petrie — a veteran U.N. player who once worked for UNDP — characterized UNDP’s treatment of Sinha in an email to FP as “an extraordinary demonstration of vindictiveness and abuse of authority.” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and Susana Malcorra, Ban’s chief of staff at the time and currently a candidate for secretary-general herself, reached out to Clark’s office to urge UNDP to back down.  Philippe Bolopion, the deputy director for global advocacy at Human Rights Watch. Bolopion claimed UNDP has resisted Ban’s efforts to strengthen the U.N.’s human rights advocacy. In turf wars Clark and her aides sought to dilute a proposal to deploy teams of human rights experts and conflict specialists to countries beset by a sudden influx of violence.

equality is not equity

When I studied economics at Sydney University in the 1980s the Economics Department was split down the middle between the happy clappies (religionists who swallowed the free market koolaid and wanted the world remade to fit their models) and the realists who wanted a data driven profession. It was so divided that the Department was effectively two departments though students got credits by studying either strand and it was compulsory to take units in each.

These days many more younger economists are data driven and not happy clappy ideologues. Realists point out that the problem of production has long been solved by humans and what remains are the problems of distributing the incredible wealth of the planet and externalities (pollution for example). Solving these are political questions. Those who don’t want them solved hide behind the myth of scarcity.

There are unfortunately sufficient numbers of happy clappy economists who are either convinced of their religion or happy, like other scientists, to sell their services to the highest bidder.

That bidder falls into three main categories. 1) media controlled by profiteers, 2) university chairs endowed by profiteers, 3) government servants and politicians within the koolaid camp. The argument they often use is that the worker bees won’t work unless they are forced to, that they will sit at home and accept government handouts if you let them. So cruelty and hardship are the best motivators. There is plenty of evidence that this is la la land but the happy clappies ignore it while dressing themselves in happy clappy econobabble.

I was a government economist for a while and three instances spring to mind.

1) I worked with a particular economist in the Australian aid agency that steadfastly refused to accept that Papua New Guinea was a dual economy (ie swathes of the economy were outside the wage sector and were therefore unresponsive to neoliberal economic levers which were popular at the time.

2) Another economist was happy that “the market” operated nicely in the Philippines so that people could eke out a living on garbage dumps. There was absolutely no personal downside or responsibility for these ideologues promoting their delusions. They wielded enormous power over our regional economies and on multilateral bank boards (ADB, World Bank etc for which I also had policy input). The bureaucratic manouevering was something to behold

3) The mastery by the then World’s Greatest Treasurer Paul Keating (I served under him and Hawke in the Prime Minister’s Department) of the dominant ecobabble. He learnt the script like no other and it was always about media performance, public perception and how he had the facts under complete control and could tell you which economic levers to pull as if they were real and not constructs within an economic model. That we were riding a mineral boom at the time seemed to be lost on the happy clappies who briefed him and those that gave him the award while real wages fell pretty much worldwide in a trend that is continuing.

So to the “value” question, central to “economics”. Marx had a labour theory of value which was rubbish (duckduckgo on why). Sraffa tried to save the theory, unsuccessfully. “Time” as a metric would probably suffer the same fate. But the critical point is the model into which you plug your value metric. All models have assumptions and simplifications and will eventually trip you up unless tested rigorously against the real world. If the model includes measuring things which are self-referenced within the model (GDP is a classic example) then it’s garbage in garbage out and your metric is useless.

And in modelling the world (economies, weather, biological systems) we come up against complexity and the NP-hard barrier. NP-hard algorithms, under our present state of knowledge, can be proven to run the life of the universe and still not give you an answer. You are then left again with a basic political and moral question in deciding how to organise an economic system. People like Sam Harris think morality can be measured. He might be right.

But for me in the meantime as a striving older wiser humanist realist scientific economist there is only one metric worth the cake. Call it what you like – sharing, love, compassion, caring. Build your societies and economies on these. Altruism versus fear has a strong genetic link as I’ve argued elsewhere in this blog and the gene seems split 50:50 among living organisms (science published early 2016 showed different ant colonies possessing measurable differences on a related metric).

Good luck with your study of economics.

Here’s three books to begin with:
1. Joseph Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality
2. Ha-Joon Chang, Economics: The User’s Guide
3. Thomas Piketty

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