Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Too much to blog, not enough time

Oh my, what to write about today...? The historical, tumultuous, extraordinary inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama? The latest Cochrane Collaboration review showing that sham acupuncture is as effective as 'the read deal' when it comes to treating headaches and migraines? Or the surprising decision by Gordon Brown not to call a vote on exempting Members of Parliament from disclosing their expenses under the Freedom of Information Act?

Better leave my thoughts on the Obama Presidency for another day - not only can you read all about it elsewhere in what is describing as a blogger's inauguration - I don't have the words to describe my pride at an African-American becoming leader of the free world, my emotions during his speech which was at once terrifying and upbeat, my apprehension at the seemingly impossible tasks he faces now that he's been elected, and my joy that his first move in office was to suspend the illiberal military tribunals at Guantanamo as a precursor to shutting the camp entirely.

Time is also too short to celebrate the publication of yet another authoritative meta-analysis of alternative medicine carried out by the impressively thorough Cochrane Collaboration. This time the researchers focussed on acupuncture, specifically for headaches and migraine, and showed that although the ancient Chinese intervention does reduce symptoms, random placing of needles without regard for meridians or any such quackery also does, pretty much as effectively. Yet more evidence to show just how interesting the placebo effect can be in medicine, and that placebo infact explains the apparent effectiveness of many alternative therapies.

And my lunch break doesn't stretch far enough to allow me room to express my glee at the abandoment of one of the most illiberal, anti-democratic measures even this NuLab government has ever considered (alright, perhaps I exaggerate a little...). In an unexpected move, the Prime Minister announced that there would be no vote on whether MPs could keep their expenses secret by circumventing the FOI act. He cited the breakdown of a 'bipartisan consensus' (Westminster-speak for cosy agreement between Blue and Red who are both protecting their behinds...) for allowing a comprehensive expenses breakdown to be published. That may be so, but as Ben Goldacre points out through his miniblog, that such a move was even considered is scandalous. The U-turn also marks a victory of a new kind - that of the power of teh internets over special interests. Popular campaigns on t'interweb, like the Facebook group - that got over 7000 signatories - run by, showed that there was great disquiet amongst the electorate over the secrecy surrounding MPs expenses.

Perhaps these past few days do indeed mark a turning point in how the most powerful vested interests and blind dogma can be overturned by grassroots activism, evidence-based research and liberal transparency. I haven't even gotten round to discussing the excelllent Liberal Democrat one-day conference I attended on Saturday, entitled Creating a Progressive Society - I'll have to leave it there as the lab bench beckons...!!


Dr* T said...

Hooray for lots of reasons!


NM said...

such an appropriate title mate!!