Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: A law gone awry

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  • Shulgin,

    http://publicaddress.net/system/cafe/hard-news-a-law-gone-awry/?i=50#forum-reply-4091

    EU Shines Light on Shadowy World of Clinical Drug Trial Data

    "The drug Tamiflu recently made headlines when independent researchers revealed it wasn’t effective at actually fighting the flu. Roche, Tamiflu’s maker, had known this but withheld clinical data saying so. While this was unwelcome news for flu sufferers, the resulting scandal demonstrated just how little we actually know about the medicines we take.'

    how much Tamiflu is stockpiled here in New Zealand? interesting when one considers how the health department might arrive at testing regime under the PSA world leading legislation...

    NZ • Since May 2011 • 125 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    Someone in the Council is trying to make a plan forward. Go Deputy mayor, Penny Hulse!

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Shulgin, in reply to linger,

    ...of course

    with any psycho active "substance"...comes

    ironing....

    NZ • Since May 2011 • 125 posts Report Reply

  • Shulgin, in reply to Geoff Lealand,

    hey bro...i didn't write the article or come up with world leading legislation...nor do i import chemicals from china and sell them to kids...hard case bro...really...lemon grass mixed with zombie apocalypse...maybe that is banned by now...hard case bro

    NZ • Since May 2011 • 125 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    I dispair, more total buldhit from police.

    Yesterday the Herald was shown figures from Waikato police that showed cannabis was a contributing factor in more fatal road crashes than alcohol was in the region last year.

    The Waikato recorded its lowest road toll with 22 deaths last year. Five of those deaths had cannabis as a contributing factor ahead of the three that were alcohol-related.

    Those figures?

    Drugs, drink and driving

    Of 1046 drivers who died between 2004 and 2009, nearly half (48% or 500 drivers) tested positive for alcohol or drugs in the ESR study.

    • 72% (365 drivers) had either used cannabis, alcohol and cannabis, or a combination of drugs.

    • 27% (135 drivers) only had alcohol in their system.

    • 19% (96) had used cannabis alone.

    • 28% (142) had used both alcohol and cannabis.

    • (127) had used a combination of drugs, which may have included alcohol and/or cannabis.

    Source: ESR

    There is no indication, let alone proof, that cannabis was a “contributing factor”,its the old Correlation equal to Causation bulshit again…

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    It seems likely that there is a correlation, though. And that does make it rather tempting to ascribe that to causation by virtue of fact that we know our judgment is affected by cannabis.

    What is missing is saying how much of a contributing factor it is. It is very possible to find a statistically significant factor that only contributes a very, very small amount to the overall explanatory power of the model. Maybe if you model crashes using only alcohol and excessive speed you can explain 90% of the variation in the data. Adding in cannabis you get 90.1%. It's still statistically significant, but possibly not one to focus on compared to other possible indicators. But the temptation is to use it, because it's data that they can certainly collect. They can measure the drug levels of people in the crashes. They can't always know the speed of the crash, and definitely can't reliably know if the person was on a cellphone, or just had an angry fight with their boss and was in a state of blind rage.

    Of course police will be against decriminalization. When has it ever been different? Fortunately, the police are only a "contributing factor" to how our laws are decided.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10655 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    They can measure the drug levels of people in the crashes.

    But they can't really determine impairment or even whether the driver had smoked pot in the past 24 hours. It's a very, very perilous measure to stake big claims on.

    And the way that 72% stat is framed is dodgy.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    “dodgy” is an understatement.
    It looks very much like they’ve just kept adding cases into a spreadsheet until they got a round number of 500 affected by alcohol and/or (other) drugs.

    (And what’s included in "other drugs"? Nicotine?
    And what time period were these fatalities collected over, with what changes in regulation and testing regimes?)

    But then the further percentages quoted are percentages of that selected group , NOT of a random sample, nor of any meaningful population.

    So … 72% of a sample selected for influence from drugs including alcohol shows drug influence from more than just alcohol? Not exactly surprising.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1932 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    Uh, where "affected by"/"influence" should of course read "measurable amounts of" throughout. No influence has been proven.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1932 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But they can’t really determine impairment or even whether the driver had smoked pot in the past 24 hours. It’s a very, very perilous measure to stake big claims on.

    It is. But the war to undermine correlations found between cannabis use and increased accident rates, to show that cannabis should be legalized, is one you can only lose. You might win many battles, show many stats are spurious. But in the end, with enough data, it will probably be shown that the chance of an accident is increased by using cannabis, with very high levels of certainty. They aggregate it into a binary factor (used or not-used) precisely because the levels of impairment are not clear. But if a correlation exists, there is also a pretty clear mechanism (impaired judgment) that gives us reason to suspect that the correlation might also be on account of some causation.

    What I'm saying here builds on what I've said before about harm minimization. What is dodgy about this reasoning isn't the level of confidence in harm found. That might be statistically significant to the 99.9999% level. What is dodgy is that only harm is taken into account, and that any harm is bad. The amount of harm could still be incredibly small, even if we have extremely high levels of confidence that it exists. It could be the Higgs Boson of harms, but we'll still be pretty sure it's there, deep in our Big Data analysis.

    To me, the question will always be "how does that harm balance against the good". Also "what other harms are caused by the alternative course? (in this case continued prohibition)". If one extra person is killed in accidents every million years because of cannabis use, and we're very, very sure about that, does that justify:
    -That every single cannabis user should have to be a criminal for a million years?
    -That every use of it should be accompanied by secrecy, paranoia?
    -That a whiff of it can invoke a fishing expedition by police?
    -That people get criminal records for possession?
    -That the production has to be done by gangsters with no controls at all?
    -That tens of thousands of citizens are guilty not just of possession, but of the more serious charge, supply?
    -That billions of law abiding citizens will never ever even try it, thus never finding out if they actually like it, that trillions of enjoyable highs might never be had?

    I think it does not. Indeed, considering that alcohol clearly kills a lot more people than that on roads, we can at least, as a society, see that it's not as simple as a clear cause of some harm in some situation. If this really is all the police have as their ongoing reason for opposing decriminalization, they've got basically nothing.

    Which is of course NOT their only reason. Cannabis being illegal is extremely convenient for the police. It's one of the few drugs that has a strong smell, and the plant is recognizable at a glance. They can invoke the Misuse of Drugs act with much greater confidence. Prohibition gives them power, and not just over cannabis.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10655 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Also, considering that the default is that cannabis is illegal, even if they never show any harm from it whatsoever, there is still the possibility that they might find some in future, to justify continuing to ban it. This is a tenable argument if all all focus on this harm becomes the only justification. This is precisely the argument that we just used to ban all psychoactive substances, even ones that haven't even been invented yet. It's not only an argument that flies, it's an argument that wins.

    I think I may have hammered this point enough. But then again....

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10655 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    A friend gave me a very good analogy the other day on this. He pointed out that gay rights didn't come about because of a harm minimization argument. They didn't have to show that the harm from being gay was non-existent. They saw quite clearly that the path to freedom was not to allow of the idea that society had any right to interfere, even if there is harm in being gay. They simply have the right. It really is that simple.

    I think rights are not sovereign - in many cases they should be overridden when they cause serious harm. But the threshold should be pretty high, and the flipside always has to be considered.

    To see the flipside, you need only consider that there is a very strong correlation between vehicle-related deaths, and driving being legal. If all driving were banned, then there could be no vehicular accidents. People might still make sneaky cars and drive them, without any control, but car usage would generally be basically eradicated. But would that be good? I don't think so, I think cars have tremendous utility, that more than justifies their usage, despite them being THE major cause of death by accident in this country and most others. From a pure harm point of view, there's an extremely strong case to ban them. So much the worse for the pure harm point of view.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10655 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    For something that should be prohibited from general usage, because of the harm, the obvious one is guns. Their whole purpose is harm. I do see the right-to-a-gun argument, but practically, I don't think the huge number of gun related murders justifies the ownership of something that has little other purpose than to produce extreme harm. There are obvious exceptions. Police should be able to get them, if a criminal is armed. The army should obviously have them. Farmers should probably have limited access to them for pest control. And in a highly controlled sporting environment they should be available, with many, many caveats.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10655 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to BenWilson,

    Also, considering that the default is that cannabis is illegal, even if they never show any harm from it whatsoever, there is still the possibility that they might find some in future, to justify continuing to ban it

    17-year-old Son of legal high critic charged over cannabis
    and so it rolls on, more victims....

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7948 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to BenWilson,

    I do see the right-to-a-gun argument, but practically, I don’t think the huge number of gun related murders justifies the ownership of something that has little other purpose than to produce extreme harm.

    Or more likely, to preserve a born-to-rule order at any cost. Would you believe it, that a Fox News anti-Communist like Glenn Beck would agree with Chairman Mao's most famous quote?

    Beck at NRA on Mao's quote that "power comes from the barrel of a gun": "Yes it does, why do you think they want to take yours away?"

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5434 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to BenWilson,

    But in the end, with enough data, it will probably be shown that the chance of an accident is increased by using cannabis, with very high levels of certainty.

    Not so, well not without massaging the figures to the point of getting the result you want anyway.
    I would posit the proposition that the majority of people who have just smoked cannabis to the level that could influence their driving can't be fucked to even get in a car, let alone drive it. Therefore actually reducing the chance of an accident.
    Cannabis isn't a "get up and dash about" kind of drug and this should be taken into account. The other point I was alluding to in regard to the article was that The 2012 United Nations Drug Report found New Zealand had the highest use of cannabis in the world – between nine and fifteen percent annually, much higher than the international average of three to four percent. so the likelyhood of finding cannabis in someones system in this country, particularly since it remains in fatty tissiue for days, is far higher that for most other substances.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    I would posit the proposition that the majority of people who have just smoked cannabis to the level that could influence their driving can’t be fucked to even get in a car, let alone drive it.

    I really don't know if that is true. This is the land of the automobile. When you want to do stuff, a car is pretty common. If you don't think it impairs you, then you will often drive, if it's convenient for you to do so.

    I think that there's some truth in what you say. I certainly don't think stoned driving is a big contributor to accident statistics. But that doesn't mean it's not a contributor at all. And with sufficient data, what small level of contribution it does make can be ascertained with a high level of confidence. Even if, on the whole, stoners don't drive when really blazed (if that is true), and they're only a little bit impaired, and the way they're impaired tends to make them more careful drivers, there are still going to be accidents involving them, in which the impairment was a factor - if you have enough data.

    To me that seems highly likely. Even if only 1% of the time someone who is very stoned decides to drive and 99.999% of those trips don't end in an accident, there are millions of people getting wasted, so there's going to be a ton of data on people who are in accidents, and stoned as. And if it was a contributing factor, that will probably show up in those data.

    Hence my whole point. It's not about whether it is a factor, it's about how much it's a factor, and whether or not, even if it is a factor, prohibition actually helps change anything (we could still, after all, have a law against stoner driving, without prohibition. We do already have laws against driving under the influence, and also for alcohol, which is not prohibited generally), and even after all that, whether or not the contribution of all of that is enough to override the basic right to consume cannabis.

    In the case of alcohol, the prohibition against driving under the influence is well founded, in my opinion. With cannabis, there is likely to be some issue, but the question of whether it's significant is important. There are a great many things that have influence over our ability to drive, and cannabis may be well down the list of danger behaviours. It might be that having a working car radio is more dangerous. Or a working cellphone. It's well known that being very tired is extremely dangerous, and yet we have no laws against that, except in the case of professional drivers who have to keep logs of their time behind the wheel. We don't legislate against those things because it is felt that the right to have a radio or a cellphone is important enough to preserve, and we can't even measure how tired people are, except perhaps subjectively (and of course they will lie if they could get an expensive ticket).

    But, at the end of the day, even if it's clearly a factor that we'd actually care about, that still doesn't imply that prohibition is the way to prevent it. It just means that prohibition of driving while stoned is probably a good idea. I even think it actually is a good idea, so long as a decent link between impairment level and some measurable chemical signals can be developed. We're not there yet.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10655 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    On of the more problematic parts of this is to establish a baseline of how stoned the average population is the rest of the time, when they’re not in a car. If 75% of accidents involve someone under the influence, but we find that 75% of the population is under the influence all the time, then we haven’t proved any kind of connection.

    My point here isn’t to say these statistics are proving anything. It’s to say that we need to be careful when challenging them that we haven’t actually missed the point. Because they might come back later and prove the thing we denied, and by even engaging in the discourse we implicitly approved the underlying argument that all they have to do is prove some harm. I say that’s not enough, and to challenge the juggernaut that is Big Data is a mug’s game. Our part as humans is not to hope the numbers come out in our favour, it’s to seize control of the decisions that we make using the numbers so that they reflect our real values and aims.

    I say this as someone who has experienced many times, firsthand, the danger of letting blind mechanistic optimizers make decisions, when their “objective function” (what it is that they are trying to minimize or maximize) is wrong. They will very systematically fuck things up to a much greater degree than any person could. And I think we have our social objective function all wrong, if harm minimization is our aim. It should be (harm – good) minimization.

    Otherwise we unleash the power of science to ruin us.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10655 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    cell division...
    We have laws about all kindsa stuff,
    doesn't stop folk making bad decisions...

    The ones that worry me the most on the roads,
    are the technology addicts, people on cellphones
    talking or texting, heads down,
    waaay too many of them...
    across all social divides,
    and from all drives of life....
    we may be largely made of light,
    but we can't be in two places at once,
    at speed...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7948 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Yes, they're a danger. To be consistent, I should be saying that there is a counterbalancing utility in being able to use those things while driving. That utility isn't worth nothing at all. I don't know if it adds up to enough to justify death on the road for some people. But there is also the question of what could be done about it. Banning it seems pretty ineffectual at stopping it. But it might make people who do it a lot more wary of being caught, which means that they will at least be concentrating on the road somewhat, looking out for police and keeping a low profile during it. And as an imposition, it's pretty minor. Except on the motorway, it's usually possible to pull over to use the phone. So it should probably not be allowed.

    On the other hand, we already have laws about causing accidents, which is actually what's really important here. It's not the using of the phone which is the harm, it's the use of the phone leading to harm. It will usually be pretty clear who is at fault when an accident happens in which distraction was the cause, and careless driving carries penalties already. So it's kind of not allowed anyway - at least it's not an acceptable excuse for a lapse in concentration when involved in an accident.

    Seems like a good policy to ban it, and leave it to police discretion. They'll probably only notice the cellphone user who is a completely oblivious fool, driving carelessly, and such people should certainly get a rap on the knuckles. The rest will either abide by the law scrupulously, or they will disabide it, but carefully (which is a good effect). I wouldn't care for police time to be wasted picking on people talking on their cellphone whilst stopped at the lights.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10655 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to BenWilson,

    Hence my whole point. It’s not about whether it is a factor, it’s about how much it’s a factor

    Well, yes, I couldn't not agree with you, nah yeah but...

    figures from Waikato police that showed cannabis was a contributing factor in more fatal road crashes than alcohol

    is still bullshite in my humble opinion.
    I see your point and raise you one. It is a matter of public perception in the end, just as it is a matter of public perception that Judith Collins has a conflict of interest but it is in the interest of the National party that they deny that. How is it in the interest of the police that the public perceive cannabis to be more harmful and dangerous than it really is? surely it would be of greater benefit if cannabis were legalised, they would have less "crime" to "solve" and therefore their job would become easier. Could it be that if cannabis were legal they would get less funding?
    We could argue the intricacies of the why's how's and wherefores until the cows came home and their wheels fell off but you would have to be really stoned to think cows have wheels. Eh?

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    is still bullshite in my humble opinion.

    I think it's bullshite too, but for a different reason. Which is that it could be true but missing the point. Something could be a contributing factor in more fatal road crashes, whilst not contributing anywhere near as much to the road crashes. Not all contributing factors are equal. Minor contributing factors can be found in big data sets, especially if they pertain to frequently occurring and clearly measurable things, like the presence of some traces of marijuana consumption - you'll have a lot of data about that across thousands of fatalities.

    Just been doing a bunch of this in a statistical data analysis course. It's been an eye opener about what a black art modeling data really is. The well known issue of over-fitting is there, because of course you can fit any data set with a sufficiently high order polynomial - but you get a useless model. So you reduce the number of factors you look at, modeling it around the terms with the greatest statistical significance (NOT the greatest effect). You put terms in until they start dropping below your chosen significance level. The more data you have, the tighter your confidence intervals get, and the better chance you have of finding things that have statistical significance. They do not have to be big effects for this to occur, if your data is big.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10655 posts Report Reply

  • Shulgin,

    Vanishing Point Trailer

    Statistics…mmm…I have been battling the NDIB…a joint operation of Police, Customs and Health…heavy workload....according to the NDIB… cannabis was solely responsible for around $30 million a year harm, via hospital admissions….involving some 2000 odd new Zealanders and involving some 60,000 bed nights. Maxwell report “new cannabis”….”the cornerstone if illicit drug harm in new zeeland”…so that is like on average… each one of those 2000 spending a month in hospital due solely to cannabis…on average…problem is I never met any of them….

    After many twists and turns down the stats road…HI way to hell…the police could not locate the actual data they used to arrive at this amazing state of affairs…they eventually told the Ombudsman that the "data" must have been incorrectly saved…AND despite extensive police searching…. the data could not be located….they gave me the one finger salute, as only the police gang can…end of the road…nothing more can be done…. when we can’t find the data….mmmm

    What….. sole causation data…. cannot be found or was incorrectly saved? Holy shit!

    So I sent a letter of complaint…had to OIA it...my own letter….because none of the troika could reply….

    By June last year I finally managed to get the hapless health dept to find the lost data extract…that the police couldn’t find…IT IS FILE PUS5402…I could, within two minutes, see what they had done and had been trying to hide….

    The cannabis hospital admissions did not exist…they had manipulated public health data…all three departments…AND YOU TAX PAYERS ALL PAID FOR THAT….

    And you think…. you should be concerned about fucken driving….

    Ironing the excel spreadsheets 4”aLL…

    Police don't get to make social facts...unless we live in a police state...

    PROPAGANDA and social control....

    NZ • Since May 2011 • 125 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Shulgin,

    Vanishing Point Trailer

    Spoiler alert:
    The bulldozers win!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7948 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Vanishing Point Trailer

    Before clicking through to enlightenment, I looked at the still shot and thought, “I can’t see a trailer behind that car…”

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1932 posts Report Reply

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