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Petition to Support OK Attorney General

I have composed a petition to support Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Mike Hunter as he leads a coalition of 48 attorneys general against Big Pharma.

Can you please support the petition by going to this link: http://chng.it/XNhzDYpGBL

Here is the petition:

The opioid crisis had several causes. The primary cause was the rampant greed expressed by Big Pharma, as detailed in the cases against Johnson & Johnson, and Purdue Pharma. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, supported by 48 other attorneys general, has taken on Big Pharma and won.

Even so, the people behind the corporations like the Sacklers are twisting and turning to try to hold onto their billions of blood money. The loud voices of the people must be heard saying, “That is enough!” The deaths of thousands is enough! The suffering of hundreds of thousands is enough!

Suckering the medical community into the role of shills for Big Pharma must stop!

Spreading addiction, destroying families, creating zombies of honest people must stop!

While opioids could have a place for alleviating suffering caused by certain diseases, opioids and benzodiazepines have been unwittingly prescribed for things like anxiety-related disorders. These are of the mind, not the brain. The brain may be treated with invasive measures but the mind should not be. That would be like taking a scalpel to a thought. That is not the way it works. Books such as Anxiety: Debug It Don’t Drug It, by Dr. Michael Catchpole explain the difference.

Send your support to Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter by signing this petition. Help him carry on the fight for reason.

Punishing Your Body

The jaw-dropping cache of documents made public by the Washington Post – https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/six-takeaways-from-the-deas-pain-pill-database/2019/07/16/ [paywall]- and reported further in Ars Technicahttps://arstechnica.com/science/2019/07/76-billion-opioid-pills-in-7-years-how-pharma-companies-drowned-us-in-drugs/ – can hardly be believed.

The article starts with this paragraph: “Between 2006 and 2012, opioid drug makers and distributors flooded the country with 76 billion pills of oxycodone and hydrocodone—highly addictive opioid pain medications that sparked the epidemic of abuse and overdoses that killed nearly 100,000 people in that time period.”

Should these prescriptions even be given?

Any medication that punishes the body when one tries to stop taking it needs to be prescribed with extreme caution.  The current and tragic opiate crisis is a direct result of such caution not being exercised.  As I explain in my book Anxiety: Debug It, Don’t Drug It, published by Rutherford Press, the next shoe to drop will be the massive over-prescription of benzodiazepines (“tranquilizers”) for anxiety.  Many people say these drugs are even harder to give up than opiates. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has a proven track record as being far more effective for treating anxiety than do these medications, especially over the long run.   Both the rationale for CBT’s application as well as a step-by-step process for enacting it also are outlined in my book.  :Dr. Michael Catchpole.

Where Are We Going?

Photo by Roi Dimor on Unsplash

This election cycle may be our last chance. Work HARD for the Progressives, do the best you can to see them elected, and vote as if all our lives depend on it, because they do.

Comment by “Art” in https://theintercept.com/2019/07/05/shell-conference-climate-change/

This brief comment to the article in The Intercept was one of several by “Art”. His other comments were a depressing, long list of scientific findings that he, as a climate scientist, offered to support his reasons for being so blunt.

To those who said it is too late, or that we, the people, have no power to make a change, Art replied, ” Your nihilism is duly noted but I refuse to give up.”

To which “mgr” wrote:

Art: Spot on! That’s really what it comes down to. We may win, or we may lose, but giving up is always defeat, from the inside out. It comes down to making a choice.

Where are we going?

For the sake of our children and their children, we have this choice: follow the platitudes of our current leaders as they follow the money dangled before their noses; or put your hand up and vote for a future that will include humanity. A future that will include breathable air, enough clean water to drink, sufficient vegetation and animals to maintain the only place, the ONLY place, in this universe where we can live.

The money being dangled before our noses cannot be breathed or eaten.

It is way past time to be nice. Our very lives are at stake.

There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew. Marshall McLuhan

The Trappings of Science

Square Rigged, by Ben Nuttall-Smith

– How science is being eroded as an objective agent for our species

I recently underwent a grueling exercise with an individual who is exceptionally intelligent. I describe it as grueling because he clung for the longest time to a perception of “science” that is, regrettably, common. Nevertheless, that perception is not real science.

In a textbook, he was given three descriptions of science from which I asked him to choose the option that best matched his understanding of “science”. May I humbly suggest that only one option is worthy of that label.

Proposition A: a person of science will develop a theory, then apply evidence that can be found that will support that theory.

Proposition B: observations will be seen to have apparent relationships. A hypothesis is developed that encompasses those observations with a possible explanation of why or how they relate to each other. Evidence is gathered using observations and/or controlled experiments; assessments are made as to whether the evidence supports or does not support the hypothesis. If there is found to be sufficient support, a theory may be developed. The theory is tested continually to determine if it is still supported by new evidence.

Proposition C: an authoritative person pronounces on a theory which may be based on common sense, long practice, or even logical deduction or reasoning.

Prop C actually contains several distinct propositions. I will refer to them a group.

Discussion

Plato and many famous philosophers since have used logical deduction to explain the wonders of the world. Within the toolbox of science, this can be a useful method for arriving at possibilities. The main problem with that is, it may be useful but it often doesn’t use feedback from objective evidence. To offer a simple example, it is observed that a penguin is black and white. By logical deduction we know that snow is white and coal is black, so that must make a penguin equal to snowy coal. While an artificial intelligence (AI) program may produce that kind of logic, people understand it to be silly.

Another Prop C option: Aristotle was an admired and authoritative figure. Despite the prior writings of Pythagoras and others who came up with close approximations of the great size of planet Earth, Aristotle suggested with respect to the disappearance of a ship over the horizon, “…All of which goes to show not only that the Earth is circular in shape, but also that it is a sphere of no great size: for otherwise the effect of so slight a change of place would not be so quickly apparent.” (from Aristotle’s On the Heavens). No.

Prop A looks promising. This was chosen by my exceptionally intelligent friend (he is still a friend, by the way). It was also chosen by many other intelligent folks, such as Sigmund Freud (for personality development, in which he argued that personality is formed through conflicts among three fundamental structures – however, in testing that theory, the actual existence of his concepts has been fraught with partisan arguments, rather than objective evidence); John Locke (babies are born with a blank slate – which we now consider inaccurate); Aristotle (spontaneous generation of life, wherein he “observed” life starting from apparent nothingness). In essence, Prop A says that a smart person can come up with a theory and cherry-pick observations that may approximate what the theory suggests.

A theory, however, is never “proven” – merely supported by evidence, or not. A theory must be able to make predictions that can be tested. If we presume that penguins are snowy coal, observations and comparisons would quickly invalidate that “theory”.

When we look around at some of the marvels of the modern age, most of them have something to do with, or are enhanced by, digital technology. When da Vinci sketched out his plans for a helicopter, the reality of building one was stymied by rudimentary materials technology and lack of an understanding of aerodynamics (each field having recently received considerable impetus via digital technology: “computers”).

A computer, however, is merely a tool. If digital technology is relied on to be the magic bullet, depending on it as if it were the final answer usually leads one far down a garden path. When proponents of instant language translators say that they are on the cusp of a perfect solution, one would be wise to read what a professional in the field of translation has to say:

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/01/the-shallowness-of-google-translate/551570/
Douglas
Hofstadter is a professor of cognitive science and comparative literature at Indiana University at Bloomington. He is the author of Gödel, Escher, Bach.

“I’ve recently seen bar graphs made by technophiles that claim to represent the “quality” of translations done by humans and by computers, and these graphs depict the latest translation engines as being within striking distance of human-level translation. To me, however, such quantification of the unquantifiable reeks of pseudoscience, or, if you prefer, of nerds trying to mathematize things whose intangible, subtle, artistic nature eludes them. To my mind, Google Translate’s output today ranges all the way from excellent to grotesque, but I can’t quantify my feelings about it. Think of my first example involving “his” and “her” items. The idealess program got nearly all the words right, but despite that slight success, it totally missed the point. How, in such a case, should one “quantify” the quality of the job? The use of scientific-looking bar graphs to represent translation quality is simply an abuse of the external trappings of science.”

We are inundated in the media with assertive pronouncements regarding the efficacy of certain products. Imprecise statements, cherry-picked observations, and outright fabrications are used without regard to the harm they cause. The harms extend beyond merely loss of money in buying worthless stuff. Purchasers may be conned into spending their meager resources and time on the worthless stuff to the detriment of using an approach that can be of actual value to them. This is particularly egregious in the medical and pharmaceutical fields. People who have become addicted to drugs such as opiates are dying in the thousands after being prescribed the drug and not being followed up properly, or where the prescription was for a symptom that should never have been treated with drugs in the first place. (See Anxiety: Debug It Don’t Drug It, Dr. Michael Catchpole 2019, Rutherford Press.)

One must ask, what harms are yet to be caused by AI in charge of ground and air vehicles. Analysis of the recent Boeing 737 Max 8 plane crashes will take some further work, but we understand a lot at this time (see https://avherald.com/h?article=4c534c4a). Those tragic results cannot be placed solely at the feet of artificial intelligence residing in the software, but it may turn out that a significant component could possibly be attributed to a culture of hurried development and over-dependence on the “magic bullet” of AI, as alleged by pilots and engineers at recent Congressional hearings. Perhaps that culture has been fostered by a subliminal dependence on, and shifting of responsibility to, the lines of code on a silicon chip. Getting that shift wrong with a new laptop design is an entirely different order of mistake than getting it wrong with a new airplane that can carry over 200 lives on board. (see  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/27/business/boeing-hearings.html)

Trust in Science

Is trust in science  misplaced, or is it conveniently used as a replacement for deeper understanding?

Considering the difference between denialism and skepticism, a study found evidence, yet again, that presenting a denier with objective facts was not an effective strategy:

Because this denialism springs from motivated reasoning, science advocates are scrambling to understand how to debunk misinformation in a way that motivates their target audience to accept it. [added emphasis]

https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/06/debunking-science-denialism-does-work-but-not-perfectly/

Being “motivated” means that a denier is self-censoring anything that does not conform to the way the topic is stored in their mind.

A recent study of 140,000 people worldwide proved instructive. Here are the main highlights:

Trust in science and health professionals

Globally, 18% of people have a ‘high’ level of trust in scientists, while 54% have a ‘medium’ level of trust, 14% have ‘low’ trust and 13% said ‘don’t know’. This ranges from a third of people having ‘high’ trust in Australia and New Zealand, Northern Europe and Central Asia to around one in ten in Central and South America.

from: Gallup (2019) Wellcome Global Monitor – First Wave Findings
https://wellcome.ac.uk/sites/default/files/wellcome-global-monitor-2018.pdf

The study is both fascinating and frustrating. The breadth of the study needs to be read to be fully appreciated. Any study that includes 140,000 subjects who answered such a range of questions is to be commended as a considerable feat.

May I humbly say, however, that frustration arises in those numerous instances where the numbers being thrown at the reader elicit questions of greater depth. Take this statement in Chapter 2’s Summary:

Worldwide, more than half the people aged 15–29 (53%) say they know ‘some’ or ‘a lot’ about science, compared to 40% of those aged 30–49 and 34% of those aged 50 and older.

Is age a causal variable, or correlational, or coincidental. For instance, might it be that older folks have matured into the realization that the more they know, the less they understand? And that certainty is best left to the young blurs that pass by on their respective missions? Is there a whiff of something like the subject of Douglas Hofstadter’s article on translation: all the right words – absent depth?

The reason for my skepticism is outlined below.

Human Rights or Social Permission

Do humans have rights? Are they “inalienable”; or are they subject to the will – or lack of will – displayed by a political community? This was explored by Kenan Malik:

So, what should we do? Our starting point must be the recognition of rights neither as inalienably rooted in human nature, nor as gifts bestowed on citizens by the nation state, but as aspects of human social existence continually created through struggle and contestation. Rights are, as the political theorist Lida Maxwell has put it, ‘collective achievements rather than individual possessions’, and achievements that are ‘fragile’ and ‘imperfectly realised’.

How does the topic of human rights fit into this discussion? One way is that it shows the value of skepticism in approaching a subject for which so many people hold hard views.

The Science of Skepticism

For those who consider it “good science” to first develop a theory and then try to prove it, the field is open to cherry-pick whichever evidence can be shoehorned into the most compelling package. After all, the right words are being employed by proponents of their pet theory: science, reasoning, evidence, clinical, proven

No. Science depends on skepticism: questioning the evidence which supports or doesn’t support a hypothesis; constant review of evidence; the belief that a belief is a blindfold…

Malik’s analysis of human rights, above, lists ideas and their proponents who wish to bestow a conceptual construct into human genes. They insist that the only way to combat discrimination is by saying that people are “born with rights”. A corollary of this approach, however, allows some to say that only certain humans have the “rights gene”, therefore discrimination against the defective elements of the population is permitted.

The more difficult approach to fighting the many forms of discrimination is to freely admit that rights originate in words; they are born in the fire of social discourse. And there, the rights may be either eroded away or strengthen for those who must depend on them the most. That fire may wane or flare, so it is incumbent on the people of a political community to keep feeding oxygen and, yes, fuel, into the fire.

Skepticism is one such fuel. A skeptic’s voice must be heard by all who wish to contribute to the discussion.

Denialism is not, however, the same as skepticism. Denialism is a soggy blob of retardant on the fire of social discourse.

The trick, then, is to find a method that distinguishes motivated reasoning from healthy skepticism.

Yes, this is hard.

Free Speech?

From https://kenanmalik.com/2019/05/31/who-has-the-right-to-speak/:

…It is, in my view, precisely because we do live in plural societies that we need the fullest extension possible of free speech. In plural societies, it is both inevitable and important that people offend the sensibilities of others. Inevitable, because where different beliefs are deeply held, clashes are unavoidable. Almost by definition such clashes express what it is to live in a diverse society.   And so they should be openly resolved than suppressed in the name of ‘respect’ or ‘tolerance’. And important because any kind of social change or social progress means offending some deeply held sensibilities. Or to put it another way: ‘You can’t say that!’ is all too often the response of those in power to having their power challenged. To accept that certain things cannot be said is to accept that certain forms of power cannot be challenged.

The notion of giving offence suggests that certain beliefs are so important or valuable to certain people that they should be put beyond the possibility of being insulted, or caricatured or even questioned. The importance of the principle of free speech is precisely that it provides a permanent challenge to the idea that some questions are beyond contention, and hence acts as a permanent challenge to authority. This is why free speech is essential not simply to the practice of democracy, but to the aspirations of those groups who may have been failed by the formal democratic processes; to those whose voices may have been silenced by racism, for instance.

The real value of free speech, in other words, is not to those who possess power, but to those who want to challenge them. And the real value of censorship is to those who do not wish their authority to be challenged…

My comment to the above post:

Having been censored from this blog, but nevertheless continuing to value the ideas placed here, I have to gulp.

I don’t know why my comments have been censored. I am certain that in the present readers’ minds, the very fact of my being censored by Kenan must be a damning statement that must immediately put me into the very back of a deep cell.

To go back to examine my previously accepted comments, and then those that were censored, I am at a loss. The contents really do not appear to warrant such action.

Perhaps it is because of my visible name? [not given in the Comments] Having been in programming, the desktop computer field and bulletin boards and all their subsequent iterations since 1972, I have seen the best and the worst of it. For that reason, I am averse to placing my given and family names onto an internet platform. Sorry about that. If that is sufficient to get me automatically damned, so be it.

To the substance of the post: I am in complete agreement with Kenan’s philosophical argument that free speech ought to be “free speech”.

Similarly, I fully agree that the law in a democracy ought to apply to every person equally.

Then we get to reality. Those with heavy duty lawyers and access to the various gatekeepers in the judicial system will always have the law bend toward their side. In a copyright infringement case where I was an expert witness for the other side of the table from a major Hollywood producer, who was backed by a formidable team of lawyers from cities across North America, funded by a major film production house, the plaintiff had no chance. That my suggestion even allowed his single non-specialist legal counsel to fight them to a draw was a miracle. It is undeniable that the full-court press tactic, even without a “win”, caused a major chill across the community of writers.

There are way too many cases where the law is most certainly not being applied “equally”. Witness the very recent official admission that indigenous peoples in North America, and specifically in Canada, have been subjected to nothing less than a “genocide”.

So, in which of the endless universes is there equal treatment under the law?

Back to free speech, and back to you the reader’s undoubted innate response to my starting statement that Kenan censored me: we all depend on some basic platform from which to gaze upon the actions around us. Kenan’s Moral Compass, therefore, must be considered such an absolute reference point. And if HE censors someone, boy! that guy must deserve it!

Whether Kenan’s reason was trivial or substantive is not the issue, is it?

Dare I ask, was Kenan being ({[hypocritical]})?

No. (Providing, it wasn’t, in fact, some AI contraption that did the dirty deed.)

Kenan was being HUMAN. We, at this point in our evolutionary stage, depend on some stable reference platform upon which to stand. Is that a point to be argued? Whether it ought to be so, is not the argument.

Individually, we are not yet points of energy that have no need for relativity.

Until that simple situation can be accepted, philosophical discussions of oughtness must be tempered by what can be done with what we are given.

What do you think of “free speech”? Before answering, I urge you to read the full post: https://kenanmalik.com/2019/05/31/who-has-the-right-to-speak/

From Whence Comes Anxiety?

Anxiety comes from…

The mind or the brain?

If it is the brain, there are a phalanx of drugs being promoted that purport to alleviate the symptoms.

If your anxiety comes from your mind, it can be eliminated by professional coaching.

Your choice: drugging the symptoms, or removing the anxiety by having a direct conversation with its cause.

Weigh the consequences of either option: Drugs such as benzodiazepines, opiates or alcohol are dangerously addictive and only mask the reason for your anxiety; Coaching by a certified psychologist using CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) will attack the source of your anxiety and place in your hands the proven tools to stop anxiety from taking over your life.

To mask anxiety or to get rid of it?

Your choice. Read Anxiety: Debug It Don’t Drug It, by Dr. Michael Catchpole, available through Rutherford Press:

Anxiety: Debug It Don’t Drug It

Is the Internet Breaking?


One hundred-and-fifty years ago, most countries had a postal service that enabled citizens to send and receive five or six messages every day. If you wanted to have afternoon tea with a friend, you could place the request into an envelope, drop the envelope into a mailbox by 10am, and have confirmation in time to dress for the occasion.

Today, we do the same with a variety of synchronous (phone, video) or asynchronous (text, email, etc.) technologies. The outcome has changed little – though, it is more likely to be coffee instead of tea.

With the vastly increased complexity of our new communication technologies – exacerbated by our loss of community oversight to private interests with only profit and corporate benefits in mind – there has been an equal increase in the number of access points for the transmitted information. And where there is such access, someone will seek to use it to personal advantage. “Community oversight” is now considered too naive a concept, so we have rules. As each rule is circumvented a new book of rules is required. The volumes of rules now requires armies of people in each country – bureaucrats and lawyers – to adversarially determine which “t” needs to be crossed and at what profit to whom.

We still know that we need some way to communicate with friends and family regarding the afternoon tea, so, holding our nose, we still use the services of the private, for-profit organizations to perform the human necessity of maintaining contact.

The unfortunate result is that humanity has created a virtually autonomous monster called “the internet”. And we really have no idea how to moderate the monster’s negative effects.

In fact, unknown to all but a tiny number of users of the internet, there are dedicated people working mostly as unpaid volunteers who struggle to deal with this monster. One such group is the European “RIPE”, described in Wikipedia: “RIPE is not a legal entity and has no formal membership. This means that anybody who is interested in the work of RIPE can participate through mailing lists and by attending meetings.”

Here is a fascinating peek into that mysterious world:

…………………………………

Posted by anti-abuse-wg ; on behalf of; Ronald F. G******* :

Perhaps some folks here might be interested to read these two reports, the first of which is a fresh news report published just a couple of days ago, and the other one is a far more detailed investigative report that was completed some time ago now.

Dossier Gubarev – Russian hackers

Court Document

Please share these links widely.

The detailed technical report makes it quite abundantly clear that Webzilla, and all of its various tentacles… many of which even I didn’t know about until seeing this report… most probably qualifies as, and has qualified as a “bullet proof hosting” operation for some considerable time now. As the report notes, the company has received over 400,000 complaints or reports of bad behavior, and it is not clear to me, from reading the report, if anyone at the company even bothered to read any more than a small handful of those.

I have two comments about this.

First, I am inclined to wonder aloud why anyone is even still peering with any of the several ASNs mentioned in the report. To me, the mere fact that any of these ASNs still have connectivity represents a clear and self-evident failure of “self policing” in and among the networks that comprise the Internet.

Second, its has already been a well know fact, both to me and to many others, for some years now, that Webzilla is by no means alone in the category commonly referred to as “bullet proof hosters”. This fact itself raises some obvious questions.

It is clear and apparent, not only from the report linked to above, but from the continuous and years-long existence of -many- “bullet proof hosters” on the Internet that there is no shortage of a market for the services of such hosting companies. The demand for “bullet proof”
services is clearly there, and it is not likely to go away any time soon. In addition to the criminal element, there are also various mischevious governments, or their agents, that will always be more that happy to pay premium prices for no-questions-asked connectivity.

So the question naturally arises: Other than de-peering by other networks, are there any other steps that can be taken to disincentivize networks from participating in this “bullet proof” market and/or to incentivize them to give a damn about their received network abuse complaints?

I have no answers for this question myself, but I felt that it was about time that someone at least posed the question.

The industry generally, and especially in the RIPE region, has a clear and evident problem that traditional “self policing” is not solving.
Worse yet, it is not even discussed much, and that is allowing it to fester and worsen, over time.

It would be Good if there was some actual leadership on this issue, at least from -some- quarter. So far I have not noticed any such worth commenting about, and even looking out towards the future horizon, I don’t see any arriving any time soon.

Regards,
rfg
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