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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

"The Battle for your Brain," continued

Dr. Nita Farahany
Neurotechnology, or devices that let you track your own brain activity, could help you deeply understand your health. But without privacy protections, your innermost thoughts, emotions and desires could be at risk of exploitation, says neurotech and AI ethicist Nita Farahany. She details some of the field's promising potential uses—like tracking and treating diseases from depression to epilepsy—and shares concerns about who collects our brain data and how they plan to use it, ultimately calling for the legal recognition of "cognitive liberty" as we connect our brains and minds to technology.

I've cited her before.

Below: How will this stuff fit in?

The Center for AI Safety (CAIS — pronounced 'case') is a San Francisco-based research and field-building nonprofit. We believe that artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to profoundly benefit the world, provided that we can develop and use it safely. However, in contrast to the dramatic progress in AI, many basic problems in AI safety have yet to be solved. Our mission is to reduce societal-scale risks associated with AI by conducting safety research, building the field of AI safety researchers, and advocating for safety standards.
Is “artificial intelligence” basically “neurotechnology?” One with silicon microcircuits, standing in for biophysical neurons? Are brains simply “computers?” 
Encourage you to in particular study the "8 Examples of AI Risk" pages.


Leaves me with more questions than answers at this point. I've watched both episodes twice now, and downloaded the transcripts for close study at leisure. Humbled by the cast of participants. Stay tuned...
Your Brain: Perception Deception

PBS Airdate: May 17, 2023

ANIL SETH, PH.D. (University of Sussex): The brain is one of the most complex objects that we know of, in the universe.
NARAYANAN “BOBBY” KASTHURI, M.D., PH.D. (University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory): There are 10 times more connections in your brain than there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy. So, we literally walk around with about 10,000 galaxies worth of neuronal connections in one of our brains.
HEATHER BERLIN, PH.D., M.P.H. (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai): That vast web of connections creates you, but how?
NANCY KANWISHER, PH.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology McGovern Institute for Brain Research): Figuring out how the brain implements the mind is a massive challenge.
ANIL SETH: It seems as though the world just pours itself into the mind, through the transparent windows of the eyes and the ears and all our other senses.
HEATHER BERLIN: But is what we see, hear and feel real?
STEPHEN MACKNIK, PH.D (SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University): You might think that the reality outside is actually what you’re perceiving. And the answer is no, it really isn’t…

Your Brain: Who's in Control?

PBS Airdate: May 24, 2023

SUSANA MARTINEZ-CONDE, PH.D. (SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University): The brain is the biggest mystery in science today.
THALIA WHEATLEY, PH.D. (Dartmouth College): It’s responsible for all the facets of our personality, everything we think and everything we feel. It makes you you.
URI MAOZ, PH.D. (Chapman University): A very large fraction of what’s happening in my brain, I am not aware of at all.
HEATHER BERLIN, PH.D., M.D. (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai): But what exactly is going on in your unconscious brain? What part of your brain is really in charge?
CHARLES LIMB, M.D. (University of California, San Francisco): All day long, we’re doing unscripted things that we didn’t know we would be doing. Life is not scripted…
Stewart Rhodes didn't get The Memo.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Memorial Day

 There's nothing "Happy" about it.
I shot that at the D-Day Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, in 2004. Sobering experience.
My Dad and Uncle Warren survived WWII. They were two of the five Gladd brothers who all served, as did my Mother's adult brothers. Pop left a leg behind on Sicily.
Below, a quick montage I did, using some music scored by my friend composer Nathan Tanouye.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

The Dyskinesiac's Diary

Is this my future?

Funny New Yorker cartoon. Yeah, 4 1/2 years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, I am exhibiting symptoms of dyskinesia. Relatively minor in my case thus far, but, annoying nonetheless. Messes with my guitar playing.

Friday, May 26, 2023


 Who also thinks he's the U.S. Solzhenitsyn.
Mr. Multiple Personalities, Legend-in-His-Own-Minds, playtriot Elmer Stewart Rhodes. Guilty of Seditious Conspiracy. Sentenced to 18 years.

Producer, Director, Star, and Victim in his own Epic Theatrical Release.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Interesting update in the wake of the Shadow Docket post.

AAAS Editorial: Don't let the Court disrupt science.
It is widely expected that by this summer, the United States Supreme Court will overturn long-standing precedents allowing the consideration of race as one factor among many in university admissions. The current legal regime goes back to the Court’s decision (Regents of University of California v. Bakke) in 1978 that banned racial quotas while allowing consideration of race for the purpose of creating a diverse educational environment. Although the law has evolved since then, almost all universities have relied on the Bakke framework to support their strategies to educate a diverse citizenry. If the Court upends those practices, the implications for the scientific enterprise will be far-reaching. It is essential that the process of science continue to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Studies show that the best science is done when teams are diverse. Moreover, the very questions scientists address can change substantially when those scientists come from a variety of racial, ethnic, and other backgrounds.

The upcoming decisions are likely to be disruptive in ways that go far beyond admission practices. Many observers expect the Court to issue a broad ruling that affects student benefits more generally. For example, the Court could prohibit the consideration of race in conferral of scholarships or participation in mentoring, enrichment, or bridge programs—all approaches known to be successful in broadening participation in science. And even if the ruling is a narrow one, the prospect of subsequent lawsuits and confusion about new restrictions likely will have a chilling effect on existing efforts to advance diversity in science. Race-neutral considerations such as socioeconomic status, although important, are insufficient to redress racial inequities. The impact of racism goes well beyond economics.

In response to this new legal environment, it will be critical to continue, within the law, to uphold commitments to diversity in science. The Diversity and the Law project of AAAS (the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the publisher of Science) has developed useful legal guidance, which will be updated in the wake of the rulings. But the scientific community must acknowledge that the programs under pressure from the Court are precisely those designed to help individual students access higher education and succeed in an unwelcoming, sometimes hostile, scientific culture...
The upcoming ruling should be a clarion call to improve the scientific environment itself. The need for systemic cultural change was emphasized earlier this year by the US National Academies report, “Advancing Antiracism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEMM Organizations: Beyond Broadening Participation.” Its message is that unless the practice of science becomes more equitable and inclusive, efforts to bring more underrepresented scientists into the field are doomed to founder...
Reforming the culture of science to be more equitable and inclusive is a key priority of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and many of our peers. We are making deep investments in graduate education and the professoriate, seeking institutional partners who are already committed to this transformation. The overwhelming response we have seen shows that many scientists are eager for an environment that is more diverse, equitable, and inclusive...

—Adam Falk & Lorelle Espinosa

Lordy. Far-right Florida governor and GOP 2024 POTUS candidate Ron Desantis, recall, recently signed legislation outlawing DEI ("Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion") initiatives in state universities and colleges. Per The NY Times:
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation on Monday that largely banned Florida’s public universities and colleges from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and imposed other measures that could reshape higher education at state schools...
Breaking Reports also have it that the Governor is issuing an Executive Order banning ACTUAL meteorological rainbows from his Sunshine State.


No, DEI efforts are not "Treasonous Soros-Funded Woke Marxist Plots to Turn All of Our Children Into Gender Dysphoric LGBTQ+ Radicals," irrespective of what the delusional likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene claim.


Diversity, equity and inclusion have become critical components of business success. While these concepts are often viewed through the lens of social justice and morality, there is also a compelling business case for promoting diversity and creating a culture of inclusion in the workplace. From attracting top talent to fostering a more collaborative and creative workplace, the benefits of DEI are clear…
Wealthy entrepreneur GOP Primary ankle-biter candidate Vivek Ramaswamy didn't get the Memo. I will not dignify him with a link. Suffice it to observe that everything he doesn't like is a "Cult"—inclusive of DEI. Mr. Meritocracy Uber Alles.
Scientific research is a social process that occurs over time with many minds contributing. But the public has been taught that scientific insight occurs when old white guys with facial hair get hit on the head with an apple or go running out of bathtubs shouting “Eureka!” That’s not how it works, and it never has been. Rather, scientists work in teams, and those teams share findings with other scientists who often disagree, and then make more refinements. Then those findings are placed in the scientific record for even more scientists to examine and produce further adjustments. Eventually, theories become knowledge. All along the way, these scientists are conspicuously and magnificently human—with all the assets and flaws that humans possess. And that means that who those individuals are, and the backgrounds they bring to their work, have a profound influence on the quality of the end result.

 It has somehow become a controversial idea to acknowledge that scientists are actual people. For some, the notion that scientists are subject to human error and frailty weakens science in the public eye. But scientists shouldn’t be afraid to acknowledge their humanity. Individual scientists are always going to make a mistake eventually, and the objective truth that they claim to be espousing is always going to be revised. When this happens, the public understandably loses trust. The solution to this problem is doing the hard work of explaining how scientific consensus is reached—and that this process corrects for the human errors in the long run.

A raging debate has set in over whether the backgrounds and identities of scientists change the outcomes of research. One view is that objective truth is absolute and therefore not subject to human influences. “The science speaks for itself” is usually the mantra in this camp. But the history and philosophy of science argue strongly to the contrary…
Sorry, DEI Deniers. The Defense Rests, Your Honor.
Rest in Peace.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

"A Professor with a Twitter account."

And now, a compelling new book release.

I've been eagerly awaiting this book release for weeks. It did not disappoint one whit. Clear jargon-free prose, great recounting of SCOTUS history (and the broader US judiciary) going back all the way to the Founding, as well as astute and acute analyses of emergent Article III "shadow docket" trends.
Totally a 5-Star read. 
“This book began as nothing more than a series of tweets. I’ve always been both professionally and personally interested in some of the more arcane areas of the Supreme Court’s practice, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2017—after the June 2017 travel ban ruling and a series of subsequent Supreme Court orders over that summer—that I started to see the germ of a more focused study of the Court’s evolving behavior through unsigned orders.” [pg 307]
A professor with a Twitter account.

...Judge Kacsmaryk, who has come to national attention in recent weeks as he considers in a separate case whether to issue a nationwide injunction banning the most common form of medication abortion in a lawsuit that could’ve been brought anywhere in the country, but was brought in Amarillo—entirely so that it would be heard by Kacsmaryk (whose anti-abortion views are well known). If all Judge Kacsmaryk did in his Tuesday ruling was deny the DOJ’s motion to change venue in the ESG case, it wouldn’t be much of a story. But in the course of rejecting the DOJ’s arguments, Kacsmaryk decided to come after me—even though I’m not involved in that case in any way.

First, he dismissed the (incontrovertible) evidence of Texas’ behavior as “an amicus brief filed by a professor with a Twitter account.” Leaving aside that the amicus brief to which he’s referring, once again, was filed in a different court in a different case, this clumsy attempt at a burn (lots of professors—and lawyers—have Twitter accounts) never comes close to addressing the substance of my trifling little tweets. If I had posted my data to a more academic site, would it somehow be more compelling?

But in a footnote, he took an even subtler and more personal shot, suggesting that “mercifully,” the late Texas Law Professor Charles Alan Wright “did not live long enough to endure the ‘tweet and repeat’ indignity of the Twittersphere.” Just to make the dig clear, I currently hold the Charles Alan Wright Chair in Federal Courts at the University of Texas School of Law. It’s hard to say what exactly Kacsmaryk intended to convey by name-checking the man whose chair I have the honor of holding; no doubt it was meant as another fire-emoji-level burn of me personally. But it’s a remarkably childish and churlish shot for a sitting federal judge to take at a non-party for the sin of amassing accurate data in support of a position he doesn’t like.

Indeed, there’s a lot to say about this passage. Were Professor Wright here, he might note how much of a stickler he was for both judicial decorum and for the importance of preserving the courts’ institutional reputation (he was also an early adopter of new technology; his Twitter account would’ve been lit). Since he’s not, I’ll note what it says about a judge that he’d go out of his way to try to denigrate someone with no direct involvement in a case before him for no other reason than scoring points (on Twitter, one presumes) and auditioning for a promotion in the next Republican administration. You wouldn’t think “I’m owning libs, so I’d make a great appellate judge” would be a persuasive argument, but here we are.

Then there’s the extent to which, again, it’s not actually responsive to any of the data I’ve gathered or the arguments I’ve made against the practice Kacsmaryk is endorsing. There’s the pettiness (to say nothing of the inaccuracy) of the “your chair’s namesake would disapprove” nonsense. But most of all, there’s the sense that this kind of behavior is beneath the dignity of a life-tenured federal judge with the power (at least for the moment) to issue rulings with nationwide implications…

As I noted in a prior post,
A woman's reproductive decisions are rightfully no one else's business. And, the improper ideological extrajudicial motives of this fundamentalist "Christian" judge, Matthew Kacsmaryk, could not be more clear.

Back to Steve Vladeck.
History books will teach that the Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to abortion on June 24, 2022. That’s when five justices officially overruled Roe v. Wade in a Mississippi case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Lost in the shadows will be another decision that the Court handed down almost ten months earlier, two minutes before midnight on September 1, 2021. That night, the same five justices who would later form the majority in Dobbs refused to block Texas’s ban on abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy—a point at which many do not yet know they’re even pregnant. Even though the Texas law, known as “SB8,” or the Texas Heartbeat Act, was clearly (and deliberately) inconsistent with Roe, five justices allowed it to go into effect. Justice Samuel Alito’s June 2022 opinion for the majority in Dobbs, which was publicly joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, laid out, in 108 pages, a series of arguments about why the US Constitution should not be understood to protect a right to abortion, and why the Court’s prior decisions recognizing such a right should be overruled. The unsignedi September 2021 order in a dispute known as Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, in contrast, which no justice publicly endorsed, spanned just 401 words.

Unlike Dobbs, the cryptic order in Whole Woman’s Health did not expressly overrule the 1973 ruling in Roe that had first recognized abortion as a constitutional right. Instead, the single paragraph penned by the majority offered a technical reason for the Court’s refusal to block Texas’s abortion ban, noting that there were unresolved questions about whether the plaintiffs in that case had sued the right defendants. But for those on the ground in Texas, that was a distinction without a difference. By the morning of September 2, abortion providers across the nation’s second-largest state had largely shut their doors. From then on, most Texans needing abortions who had the means to travel out of state for the procedure did so. For those who couldn’t leave, Roe was a dead letter, effectively if not formally, from the Red River to the Rio Grande.

The Court’s refusal to stop Texas’s law from going into effect was a harbinger of things to come. After all, the same five justices—Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett—had used similar unsigned orders to block numerous state COVID restrictions over the previous year. Those decisions had established new—and more expansive—constitutional protections for religious worship compared to precedents. What’s more, many of the orders blocking COVID restrictions had come in cases where it was even less clear than in the Texas dispute that the justices could reach the merits of the constitutional question; indeed, the earlier rulings ran roughshod over some of the very procedural obstacles the majority cited in the Texas case. If the Court was nevertheless justified in intervening in those cases to protect a new understanding of constitutional rights, what did it say about the future of abortion that it wouldn’t intervene to protect an old one?

The paltriness of its legal reasoning notwithstanding, the unsigned order in the Texas case had a monumental impact in the real world. In that respect, it was no outlier. In recent years, the justices have issued a raft of similar orders, many containing even less analysis than the September 2021 ruling in the Texas case, that have produced massive substantive effects. From abortion to asylum; from elections to evictions to executions; from COVID vaccinations to the Clean Water Act; and from redistricting to religious liberty, the Court’s new conservative majority has used obscure procedural orders to shift American jurisprudence definitively to the right…
[pp 8-10
I was riveted by this book, glued to the couch for hour after hour.with my iPad. The text is now awash in Kindle highlighter, bookmarks, and notations. This is an important read.
A professor with a Twitter account.

Dude has cred. Kacsmaryk?
I am certainly no lawyer, much less a ConLaw one. But neither am I some clueless yet opinionated Barstool Barrister always at the shoot-at-the-lip ready to pop off on all things jurisprudential. I spent considerable time in grad school plumbing the opaque depths of various core facets of constitutional law relevant to my thesis topic. Across the ensuing 25 years, my study has routinely continued (hence the topic of this post). The more I learn, the less I sometimes feel I know in the aggregate.
Nonetheless, I ankle-bite episodically, and try to add more signal than noise.

"The title sounds more like a thriller than a legal treatise. The Shadow Docket: How the Supreme Court uses stealth rulings to amass power and undermine the republic" — and the author, University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck, admits the term "shadow docket" is evocative.

Vladeck's book, written so it can be understood by the interested non-lawyer, focuses on a part of the court's work that until six or seven years was mainly viewed as pretty boring…

 "Are you CRYING?..."
A great way to spend an hour. These people are certainly fast on their cognitive "feet."

8 women join suit over Texas' abortion bans, claim their lives were put in danger

…Two plaintiffs, Kiersten Hogan and Elizabeth Weller, had their water break prematurely, but were both told to wait until they were sick enough to receive abortion care, according to a draft of the suit.

Hogan was allegedly told that if she tried to leave the hospital to seek care elsewhere she could be arrested for trying to kill her baby, according to a draft of the suit. She was kept in the hospital until she went into labor four days later in the hospital bathroom and delivered her son stillborn.

Weller had to wait until she developed an infection before a hospital approved her abortion despite her losing almost all her amniotic fluid, which a pregnancy is not viable without, according to a draft of the suit.

Kylie Beaton and Samantha Casiano said they were both forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term…
That is obscene.
While many of us in the U.S. angrily vent ad nauseum over Our Constitutional Right To Not Be Inconvenienced, on Day 452 of Putin's 3-day Conquest of Ukraine...

A twenty-two-year-old Ukrainian sniper, code-named Student, stuffed candy wrappers into his ears before firing a rifle at the Russians’ tree line. He’d been discharged from the hospital two weeks earlier, after being shot in the thigh.

Friday, May 19, 2023

May 1998, 25 years ago this month.

Where did THAT time go?
In May of 1998, at the age of 52, I got my Master's Degree in "Ethics & Policy Studies" at UNLV. (I'd gotten my late-bloomer undergrad at Tennessee at the age of 39.) I was recently notified that the UNLV Library has now publicly mounted "archival theses and dissertations" in PDF format, mine among them. Nice. I just put up a right-column hard link to it on this blog.
In 1996, midway through grad school in Las Vegas (where I'd begun as a Master's in Statistics candidate in light of my prior work history in the wake of hanging up my axe, and prior to switching to EPS), my elder daughter Sissy was abruptly diagnosed with Stage 4-B hepatoma (end-stage metastatic liver cancer) in Los Angeles where she lived. I pretty much slept on a cot in her apartment in Hollywood for two years, driving up and down I-15 to and from Vegas episodically. I finished my thesis work in the winter of 98 (mostly in L.A.), drove up and Defended in March (I still know every high desert bush and rock on the 15).  Cheryl made me go to Commencement, taking our-then 15 yr old son—up & back in one weary day).
Sissy died six weeks after I graduated.

On April 19th, 1996
 my daughter "Sissy" (above, circa early 1996) was unceremoniously and without warning ripped from her daily routine by cancer. It was 9:55 on a Friday morning when I got the call that would instantly and irreversibly alter the course of our lives.

I'd just finished sending off some e-mail correspondence and was preparing to head down to the Las Vegas YMCA for the mid-day basketball run I so thoroughly enjoyed. Fridays were a particular treat. Once a week the staff lowered the rims at the ends of the gym, raised the center partition normally separating the sideways short courts, and let us run regulation 94-feet full-court; the Real Deal -- you can run your mouth, but can you run the floor? The weekly spectacle of our 'and-One!' hoops-gifted but ill-conditioned resident Air Jordan Walter Mittys gagging after three trips court-length was a continuing source of delight to this below-the-rim nebbish encumbered with mere backup-squad skills yet blessed with hard-won lungs and legs of steel. C'mon; one more to eleven, homie. Whatsa matter? You got time; check ball.

I never made it. My next stop, a half-dozen frantic and nerve-wracking hours later, would be that of the surgical service of Los Angeles County Hospital...
Twenty years later (2018), we would lose her younger sister to pancreatic cancer. Hard as I try to articulate things, "there are no words." WTAF?

I tweeted about developments since my grad work:
BTW, my old work-in-progress online thesis draft (about 75% of the final cut) remains here.

Drug testing is conventionally viewed as an effective and necessary means of both deterring illicit drug use and identifying those in need of “treatment” for their “addictions.” Widely employed in competitive amateur and professional sports, mandatory drug testing programs are now policy in 80% of major U.S. corporations according to an American Management Association report published in mid 1996. Recent federal legislative proposals have sought to extend mandatory testing to all branches of the federal government and to all direct or indirect recipients of federal funds (e.g., welfare and public housing clients, students receiving government backed school loans, businesses with federal contracts, etc.). President Clinton last year proposed testing for all probationers, parolees, and teen drivers’ license applicants.

The U.S. Supreme Court, after handing down three rulings declaring suspicionless drug testing constitutional under a variety of arguably dubious circumstances, recently struck down a Georgia law requiring drug tests of state and local political candidates. See Chandler et al. v. Miller, Governor of Georgia et al, Docket 96-126. This 8-1 decision (Chief Justice Rehnquist dissenting) held that “symbolic” government-administered testing programs such as Georgia’s are unconstitutional. The Court rejected, among other assertions, the Marion-Barry-Made-Us-Do-It rationale cited by the Georgia counsel at Orals. (Note: Additional information on this latest case is available in the antecedent Chandler v. Miller, Fed. 11th Circuit, No. 95-8230, 1996 apellate ruling, the ACLU Chandler v. Georgia Amicus brief, and a personal statment by Walker Chandler himself, as appended to an ACLU press release.) Unhappily for those objecting to indiscriminate private sector drug screening, however, majority opinion author Justice Ginsberg also reiterated the Court’s position that private sector drug testing opponents have no constitutional standing—that, in her words, the private sector is “a domain unguarded by Fourth Amendment constraints.”

 My thesis is that such premises are by no means incontrovertible; that mass drug screening fails to meet basic empirical criteria of epidemiological validity, methodological sobriety, and economic utility, while doing violence to Constitutional and ethical principle. As suspicionless drug testing programs are marketed to ever-lower prevalence strata, they become little more than 50 milliliter Loyalty Oaths. Equitable competition, safe and prosperous work environments, and a healthy citizenry are indeed noble ends—ends worthy of means more ethical and effective than those constituting little more than Potemkin science in service of political symbolism and private laboratory profits.

...Finally, on the necessity of “privacy”: Whether one believes that the Fourth Amendment phrase “ in their persons...” is synonymous with a proscriptive legal right to bodily and psychological privacy, I shall argue that the need for privacy is a fundamental aspect of personality, one seen and respected in one form or another throughout millennia and across cultures. The cardinal elements of virtuous moral character (e.g., courage, temperance, justness, industriousness, honesty) and the behaviors they guide are not mere functions of the prod of ongoing surveillance. Indeed, one can make the case that virtue is a matter of behaving morally even in the absence of observation or threat of apprehension. Those who framed our Bill of Rights were far more noble than a cynical conspiracy of tariff-averse fur traders and rum-runners motivated by nothing more than a desire to hog-tie authority. They knew that liberty—which we ostensibly revere as a founding principle—requires respect for individual moral agency: respect for the private absent probable cause justifying its breach...
Make up your own minds.
From January of 1986 through about May of 1991 I served under a series of personal services contracts with a laboratory owned by a major environmental engineering and remediation firm in Oak Ridge. We performed environmental and health physics support analyses for clients with radiation and mixed waste contamination and exposure problems (mixed waste is that which is composed of conventional chemical toxins and radionuclides). Since much of our work involved litigation support, we were trained to—and continually reminded of the need to—perform to forensic standards (i.e., to a quality level sufficient for our analytical results to stand up as viable evidence in court). 

It was my job to develop, install, and maintain custom, procedure-specific software for use by the technicians in calculating radionuclide concentrations and dose exposures. I also worked on statistical quality control applications, applied research toward development of analytical correction factors, and helped write and subsequently administer our Software Quality Assurance procedure. While at this complex I worked amid much of the very same analytical technology (e.g., High Performance Liquid Chromatography, Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry) also employed by drug testing labs, as much of our specimen workload consisted of urine samples suspected of contamination. I also learned just how difficult it can be to substantiate analytical results. We underwent frequent adversarial lab audits that would be the envy of a Spanish Inquisitor. I have been audited right down to my rounding algorithms.

During this period a couple of emotionally charged episodes involving suspicionless drug testing hit the news in East Tennessee. First, the local school board sought to enact a mandatory drug test policy aimed at teachers. When the teachers’ union protested and sued to enjoin the policy, Board Superintendent Earl Hoffmeister went ballistic in the press, accusing the teachers of “hiding behind the Constitution” in order to cover up drug abuse among their members.

There was no evidence of drug abuse among Knox County teachers.

Also during this period, Knoxville Police Chief Phil Keith made an incredible statement during an on-the-record interview with the local paper. He opined that he should have the power to order anyone “to go take a drug test right now; don’t ask me any questions, just go do it.” He had been fighting with his police officers over a proposed random drug testing policy for the department, a policy the rank-and-file vigorously opposed.

These highly visible controversies made for interesting lunchroom conversation at our lab. Our chemists derided the notion that commercial clinical labs could do high-quality work on the cheap in mass production mode. The CEO of a large local clinical lab that performed the bulk of the drug testing in East Tennessee, had stated to the press that his lab’s technology was “absolute; if we do everything correctly there is no possibility of error” (Knoxville Journal, 12/13/90, emphasis mine). 

A very big if. This comment brought forth torrents of rebuke in our facility. The manager of our mixed waste lab, a bright and experienced chemist himself, remarked: “I’m exempt from that sh--; I’d have to think long and hard before going to work for a company that wanted to make me take a drug test.”

The local teachers’ union President was a member of my church. We talked about the dispute with the school board at length, and I provided him with extensive technical lab information to use in his fight against the policy. The teachers ultimately won a permanent federal court injunction against the board, and the whole idea was dropped and faded from public view.

By this time, though, the issue had gotten my continuing attention, and I followed the progress of similar disputes around the country. Suspicionless drug testing programs expanded rapidly in the late 1980’s in the wake of President Reagan’s Executive Order 12564 (Drug-free Federal Workforce) and the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1998. At every turn, those who objected to forced testing were subjected to withering ad hominem attacks. Dissent was equated with “support for drug abuse” or the dissenters’ need to hide their imputed drug use and legalization agenda. Indeed, several years ago former “Drug Czar” Lee Brown, publicly rebuking then-Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders for her musings on the utility of scientific study of drug legalization issues, flatly declared that “[T]here will be no discussion on drug legalization; even the discussion is harmful.”...
 What a crazy time. I tried to do a good job in grad school. It was a fine interdisciplinary program. I guess I did OK. They invited me back for an Adjunct faculty gig.

UNLV subsequently killed EPS. Too expensive per capita (they'll never admit that).

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

"Joint and Severable Liability."

Elizabeth Holmes ordered to pay massive restitution over fraud.
[Mercury News] Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes and her co-accused [and now also convicted] and former lover Sunny Balwani were ordered late Tuesday to pay more than $450 million in restitution for defrauding investors.

Holmes, the founder and former CEO of the now-defunct Palo Alto, California, blood testing startup, has said in court filings that she “continues to work on ideas for patents” but “has essentially no assets of meaningful value” and “has incurred substantial debt from which she is unlikely to recover.”

In his restitution order, Judge Edward Davila, who presided over the trials and convictions of Holmes and Balwani, held the two “jointly and severally liable” for the nearly half-billion-dollar repayment to individuals and entities, because they were both found guilty of conspiring with each other to defraud investors. That means Holmes and Balwani — the former Theranos president who has denied Holmes’ claims he sexually abused and coerced her — are each on the hook for the full amount, but if one pays, they can seek a contribution from the other...
I first learned the concept of "joint and severable liability" in 1986 during my tenure as a programmer and QC analyst in a forensic-level environmental radioanalytical lab in Oak Ridge. Much of our work resulted in evidence used in radiation contamination and/or exposure liability litigation and regulatory actions. Basically if you were found to have 1% "liability" but you had 99% of the attachable liquid assets, well, guess what?

Elizabeth Holmes is going to federal prison (11 yrs). Neither she nor Sunny Balwani (now in the Joint for 13 yrs) is ever likely to pay diddley in restitution.

Monday, May 15, 2023

"They KNEW."

Who are "they," and what did they allegedly"know?"

I watched an MSNBC segment online the other day featuring GOP "Never Trumper" gadfly Rick Wilson and this author. I was previously not hip to her.
Seriously My Bad.
Looked up her latest book, read the Amazon preview, downloaded it straight away, and read it forthwith. It jumped my queue.

In They Knew, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Kendzior explores the United States’ “culture of conspiracy,” putting forth a timely and unflinching argument: uncritical faith in broken institutions is as dangerous as false narratives peddled by propagandists. Conspiracy theories are on the rise because officials refuse to enforce accountability for real conspiracies. They Knew discusses conspiracy culture in a rapidly declining United States struggling with corruption, climate change, and other crises. As the actions of the powerful remain shrouded in mystery—like the Jeffrey Epstein operation—it is unsurprising that people turn to conspiracy theories to fill the informational void. They Knew exposes the tactics these powerful actors use to placate an inquisitive public. In Kendzior’s signature whip smart prose and eviscerating arguments, They Knew unearths decades of buried American history, providing an essential and critical look at how to rebuild our democracy by confronting the political lies and crimes that have shaped us.
"Whip smart prose" indeed. Sheee-it...

Cutting to the chase:
…All I am is a writer, but my work has become a transgression. A modern writer on politics is supposed to wait to tell the public what they know until it no longer matters. You are supposed to save information on national security for a book deal and participate in a pantomime of feigned shock and delayed realization. Your job is to help the powerful run out the clock, to serve as a stenographer while elite crimes go unpunished, until so much time passes that they are no longer categorized as crimes at all…

The truth is always worth it, no matter the price you pay. Normalcy bias is meant to pacify you out of a state of inquiry. When you continue your inquiry anyway, you may be demonized—called a liar, a conspiracy theorist, an outsider with a bad agenda. This is because you have become a threat to power, a break in the algorithm, a deviation in the plan. Conspiracy theories and actual conspiracies both revolve around questions of preexisting power dynamics and whether they can change. The ability to shift these dynamics is still in your hands—not unilaterally, but in concert with others sharing the same goal, and by acting with integrity and conviction. When everything else collapses, all you have are your principles.

Your only obligation is to the truth, and it is an unbreakable obligation. Everything else stems from it. You are entitled to truth from government as a basic covenant of citizenship. There is no justice without accountability, and there is no accountability without the truth. Insisting that the corruption we witness be acknowledged is never an empty gesture. The very act of this public demand, this uncompromising insistence on exposure of the criminal elite, can set in motion unpredictable events. Americans can learn from the past that we keep repeating. And possibly, in the end, we can break the future.

Kendzior, Sarah. They Knew (pp. 180, 200-201). Flatiron Books. Kindle Edition.
Lordy Mercy. Now I gotta make time to read her prior books.

For me, these will be mostly for the "whip smart" excellent writing (can't get enough of that), I'm pretty topically up to speed there, in general. Though, I'm certain I will learn a lot, particularly w/ respect to "Flyover Country."

I Tweeted,
OK, I just finished reading this book by . At this point, I have WAY more to ponder than comment on. I can say one thing, however: and Deborah Cahn should contact Sarah forthwith and offer her the gig as the screenwriter for Season 2 of “The Diplomat.”
She could have a recurring cameo role as well (skulky, acid-tongued independent investigative journalist, throwing down F-bombs and other snark with Keri Russell's Ambassador Kate?). I can just see it. Hell, I'd kill to be in that writers' room. Aaron Sorkin, sit down, bro'.

Seriously. All goes to how we deal with "exigencies" (or, fail to).

But, hey, w/ respect to “conspiracies,” in the words of Will Sommer, we could always just Trust the Plan.

BTW: Check out her podcast, Gaslit Nation.

More Sarah for now,
The dystopia extends beyond state surveillance and into corrupt private technology firms like Facebook that boast authoritarian sympathizers like Peter Thiel on their boards, data mining firms like Cambridge Analytica, built to manipulate the public into backing autocrats, and the general panopticon hellscape of smartphone living, in which everything can be monitored and nothing is revealed. This dystopia will worsen with the emergence of “deep fakes” and Mark Zuckerberg’s dehumanizing “metaverse” and the skyrocketing wealth of tech billionaires who are attempting to purchase and monopolize the public sphere. Their ideas, frequently presented as libertarian, are in fact the exact opposite. They are a replication of the worst instincts of government: a surveillance system with even less citizen recourse.

“Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented,” Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said in 2011. “Here we have the world’s most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations, and the communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to US intelligence.” Assange’s assessment is prescient, accurate, and ironic, as Assange delivered it in an interview on RT, the state news network of the Kremlin. Since 2011, the Russian government’s state surveillance operation has become even more brutal and has benefited greatly from Western social media ventures. Silicon Valley and the state intersect at disturbing inflection points, ones that often involve espionage…
[They Knew, pg. 188]

Speaking of books: Been eagerly awaiting the release of this title. Cited it before. Got it.

This will merit its own post.

“United States Representative Nancy Mace (R-South Carolina) on Tuesday suggested that virtually any person whose last name is Biden committed some kind of corrupt criminal act amid growing skepticism of the validity of House Republican investigations into President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.”
I keep tryin’ to like her (hey, we live in a Marjorie Taylor Greene world). A Fool’s Errand?
I gotta wait til Oct. 3rd?
When Michael Lewis first met him, Sam Bankman-Fried was the world’s youngest billionaire and crypto’s Gatsby. CEOs, celebrities, and leaders of small countries all vied for his time and cash after he catapulted, practically overnight, onto the Forbes billionaire list. Who was this rumpled guy in cargo shorts and limp white socks, whose eyes twitched across Zoom meetings as he played video games on the side?

In Going Infinite Lewis sets out to answer this question, taking readers into the mind of Bankman-Fried, whose rise and fall offers an education in high-frequency trading, cryptocurrencies, philanthropy, bankruptcy, and the justice system. Both psychological portrait and financial roller-coaster ride, Going Infinite is Michael Lewis at the top of his game, tracing the mind-bending trajectory of a character who never liked the rules and was allowed to live by his own—until it all came undone.
Arrggghhh... that fatuous punk SBF. And little brother Gabe. Ahhh… Mistakes were made.