TV review: Opiods, Inc

The investigate public TV program Frontline just released an episode with the above title that looked at how the company Insys Therapeutics deliberately set out to make people addicted to its formulation of the powerful pain killing drug based on fentanyl so that it could make huge profits. Because it is such a powerful addictive (100 times as strong as morphine), the drug is only meant to treat the excruciating pain experienced by certain types of cancer patients but the company, under the direction of its founder John Kapoor, pushed its sales team to bribe doctors to prescribe much more widely and in much larger doses than recommended, resulting in huge profits. Naturally, Wall Street investors did not look too closely at a company that was giving them huge returns on their investments.
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The Loch Ness Monster still does not exist

In my book The Great Paradox of Science: Why its conclusions can be relied upon even though they cannot be proven (that I hope all readers of this blog have bought!) I discuss in some detail the nature of scientific logic that enables us to arrive at very firm conclusions about so many things despite never having absolute certainty. This is particularly important in the case of assertions about the non-existence of any entity. Believers in things for which there is no positive evidence (such as gods and ghosts) point to this lack of proof to suggest that it is reasonable to believe in their existence.

My book argues that that argument is invalid and that in science we can quite confidently assert in the non-existence of some things (and have done so in the case of the aether and phlogiston for example) and that same logic can be extended to assert the non-existence of other things.
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A big question following the court’s LGBT decision

Religious organizations that discriminate against the LGBT community have been stunned by the US supreme court’s ruling handed down last week that it is against the law for employers to fire LGT employees because of their sexual orientation or identity.

The ruling would have “seismic implications” for religious freedom and would potentially set off years of lawsuits for religious organizations, said Russell Moore, the president of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“I am deeply concerned that the U.S. Supreme Court has effectively redefined the legal meaning of ‘sex’ in our nation’s civil rights law,” the president of the Catholic bishops’ conference, Archbishop José H. Gomez, said in a statement. “This is an injustice that will have implications in many areas of life.”

But what conservative religious groups may see as a religious freedom issue, secular and progressive religious groups see as an excuse to discriminate.

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Samantha Bee on the Supreme Court’s historic Title VII opinion

While welcoming the ruling that said that firing someone because they are gay or lesbian or transgender violates the law, she says that there is much more that needs to be done to protect the transgender community. She highlights the particularly precarious and dangerous situation in our society of the black trans community who get the whammy of racism added to the homophobia and transphobia. And black transwomen have to deal with the added sexism as well.

What is appalling is that so many people try to act as if the non-trans community has to be protected from the trans community, when the reality is the other way around.
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Ok, this is even more stupid

Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ was always a stupid slogan. Trump and his supporters never specify when it was that America was great before, because to name any particular period in the past would be to say that the injustices that existed then, and there would be many, are preferable to what we have now.

But the Trump campaign has now come up with something even stupider. As I have mentioned, I am now on Trump’s email list and it has been a source of endless amusement to see their desperate gambits to get money from me.
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The parties really know how to pick ’em

Just after virulently anti-gay Bob Good won the Republican nomination for a Virginia congressional seat, another hateful nutjob is likely to win the party’s nomination for a seat in Georgia. (Thanks to commenter Tadas.)

The House’s highest-ranking Republicans are racing to distance themselves from a leading GOP congressional candidate in Georgia after POLITICO uncovered hours of Facebook videos in which she expresses racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views.

The candidate, Marjorie Taylor Greene, suggested that Muslims do not belong in government; thinks black people “are held slaves to the Democratic Party”; called George Soros, a Jewish Democratic megadonor, a Nazi; and said she would feel “proud” to see a Confederate monument if she were black because it symbolizes progress made since the Civil War.
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John Oliver on the prison scandal

At the best of times, the state of US prisons are a scandal but what is happening during the pandemic is unconscionable, with inmates kept in conditions that guarantee that almost all of them will be exposed to the virus. John Oliver examines the problem and provides some common-sense steps that could be taken to ameliorate the situation but of course they are not being done because being seen as soft on criminals is seen by many politicians as a electoral death sentence, even though there is no way to confine the virus to just the prison population.

Is the word ‘welsh’ derogatory?

In an earlier post, I casually wrote that Donald Trump is a “notorious welsher on debts”, meaning that he feels free to not pay what he owes. It is not a word that I commonly use but am familiar enough with that it came naturally to me when I wanted to describe Trump’s practice of defaulting on his debt obligations.

That is the common meaning of the phrase ‘to welsh’. But later it got me thinking. ‘Welsh’ also refers to the people of Wales, a distinct nationality with their own language that makes up part of the United Kingdom. Was using the term ‘welsh’ the way I did a slur on them, implying that they as a people were prone to this type of dishonesty?
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We are witnessing a sea change in racial attitudes

Dahlia Lithwick amasses a wealth of evidence to argue that we have seen a significant positive shift in the attitudes of white Americans on the issue of race during the Trump presidency. While that is good for the country, it does not bode well for him or the Republican party.

To be clear, Republicans have got a majority of the white vote in elections for the past 56 years and will likely get it again this year. But the large margins that they obtained previously are dwindling, and it is their determined efforts at gerrymandering and driving down the minority vote that has enabled them to stay in power despite alienating every other group. As that margin of white majority becomes smaller, it may not be enough to compensate for their losses elsewhere. So we can expect even more desperate efforts at increasing the white vote with racist and xenophobic fearmongering, coupled with even more intensive efforts at minority voter suppression. But that too can backfire. As we have seen in recent state elections, the efforts at voter suppression have angered minority voters who have become even more determined to vote despite the obstacles placed in their way.
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