Memorial Day Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 5/25/2019: Julian, Conan, Naomi, and Ousamequin

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

It’s going to be a Sousa weekend here. The piece above is one I bet you haven’t heard before. President Chester A. Arthur ordered Sousa to compose a replacement for  1812’s   “Hail to the Chief,” which had announced Presidents since John Quincy Adams, although it went in and out of fashion. (President Polk, it is said, always had “Hail to the Chief” played because he was so physically unimpressive that nobody noticed when he entered a room without the fanfare!) After Arthur left office, Presidents returned to to”Hail to Chief,” and Eisenhower made it the official tune of the office in 1954.

1. A First Amendment stretch. Julian Assange has been indicted. Good. He conspired with a weak-minded and troubled soldier to prompt him, now her, to steal U.S. secrets so he could publish them and promote his anarchist website, Wikileaks. The act almost certainly got U.S. agents killed and did other irreparable harm. Assange isn’t a journalist, and publishing stolen classified information isn’t journalism. Naturally journalists are lining up to defend Assange, especially the New York Times, which was the beneficiary of the Pentagon Papers ruling. They see a conviction of Assange the way abortion zealots see bans on late-term abortions: a camel’s nose in the tent, the slippery slope.

The use of journalistic publications as illegal document laundering devices has always been the least compelling aspect of First Amendment protection of freedom of the Press. I have never believed that it was a wise and fair protection, and if Assange’s just desserts weaken the right of newspapers to publish troop movements,  private citizens’ tax returns, and grand jury proceedings, good.

2. Did Conan O’Brien steal a writer’s jokes? You decide! Here is a joke Robert Kaseberg wrote on Twitter on June 9, 2015:

“Three towns, two in Texas, one in Tennessee, have streets named after Bruce Jenner, and now they have to consider changing them to Caitlyn. And one will have to change from a Cul-De-Sac to a Cul-De-Sackless.”

The very same  night on “Conan,” O’Brien delivered this joke in his monologue:

“Some cities that have streets named after Bruce Jenner are trying to change the streets’ names to Caitlyn Jenner. If you live on Bruce Jenner cul-de-sac it will now be cul-de-no-sack.”

In  an open letter , however, O’Brien announced  that he and Kaseberg, had agreed to “resolve our dispute amicably,” meaning that they arrived at a settlement. That doesn’t prove that O’Brien or his writers ripped off the jokes.

I suspect that jokes are an area where multiple people have the same idea simultaneously with great frequency, and that joke stealing is extremely hard to prove. I tend to believe O’Brien regarding the Jenner joke simply because Kaseberg’s joke is better constructed; cul-de-no-sack isn’t as funny as cul-de-sackless. If you are going to steal a joke, and it’s going to be obvious that you did, at least maintain its quality.

3. Wow! Here’s one for the Author and Editor Incompetence Hall of Fame, “Bias Makes You Stupid” wing! Feminist author Naomi Wolf’s upcoming book, “Outrages,” states that dozens of men were executed in Great Britain for having homosexual relationships long after the practice was believed to have ended. BBC radio host Matthew Sweet told her on-air  that her thesis was wrong, and that she constructed her book around a misreading of official British court lingo.

“I don’t think you’re right about this,” Sweet said in the interview, noting that all of the cases Wolf cited resulted in sentences of “death recorded,” but that didn’t mean that anyone was actually executed. It was a legal term of the times that allowed judges to avoid executions in capital cases.

“I don’t think any of the executions you’ve identified here actually happened,” Sweet told Wolf. After a long pause, Wolf said, “Well, that’s a really important thing to investigate.”

Actually, it was a really important thing to investigate before she wrote the book.

4. Will the madness never end? OK, quick: what’s offensive about the Massachusetts coat of arms, which decorates the state flag?

Any ideas? The design has been used in the Commonwealth since the Revolutionary War, though it was only made official in 1908. The Algonquian Native American with the arrow pointing down (to symbolize peace) is believed Wampanoag tribe chief Ousamequin, who signed the first treaty between the tribe and the Pilgrims in 1621. The state motto Ense Petit Placidam, Sub Libertate Quietem (“By the Sword We Seek Peace, But Peace Only Under Liberty”) surrounds the picture, and  above the shield is an arm holding said sword, both arm and sword supposedly belonging to Myles Standish.

Boy, they had to work overtime being offended by this one, but nevertheless, Harvard declared the flag  “offensive” and demanded its replacement, and apparently the fact that the university is now officially bats, legislators are taking this as an order, and the flag is considered doomed. Hartman Deetz, a spokesperson for the Wampanoag tribe, told WGBH that Standish’s ARM “represents the death of native people. He represents the threat of the sword, the threat of arms to enforce the will and the place of colonists here to be able to take from us our land and our home.”

Whatever you say, Hartman. Once the design is gone. there will be nothing to remind anyone that your tribe even existed, or played any role in the establishment of the Massachusetts colony.

43 thoughts on “Memorial Day Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 5/25/2019: Julian, Conan, Naomi, and Ousamequin

  1. Why not just do away with the arm? From a graphic design point of view, it looks awkward, and there’s nothing in the picture itself to identify the owner or intended meaning. It’s not always airbrushing if they’re updating bad branding.

    • I believe they were consciously modeling arm + weapon of European heraldry. Using that space to reinforce the motto is like repeating in an ad.

      The problem is that the very people objecting would add something in its place that really doesn’t fit the early days it’s evoking, and putting a furby(or any modern symbol that would win a poll) up there will just make it a mockery instead of a symbol for respecting. What important symbol for that colony/state would now be easily recognizable and fit the heraldic template? Cranberries? Pheasant? A sideways lighthouse? Rum barrels? Just keep the original, as a teaching opportunity (and cultural literacy pop quiz).

      • A slave auction block would be fitting… maybe with a crow standing on it, named ‘James.’ The crow’s close friends would refer to him, of course, as ‘Jim.’

  2. Are these the most important things we should concern ourselves?

    Lots of crap piss me off but I don’t go around demanding they be removed.

    How exactly do we strive for inclusivity if we are always looking for objectionable things others do ?

    If finding things that I consider make for a hostile environment or marginalize my lifestyle is to be the standard, let me put in my order for remedies. Far too many on the media do not know the correct useage for lie and lay or less and fewer. All these copywriters and media people need to be removed from public view until they learn proper grammar.

    • You ask two poignant questions (and I paraphrase for simplicity):

      1. Don’t we have other things to worry about?

      Yes, but these are the things that cause death by a thousand cuts. The Left sees these issues in a broader context. The Right does not play by that book. The Right asks, “Really?” The Left moves the needle ever so slightly, inch by inch, with the goal toward total control. Orwell’s “1984” brilliantly states the mechanism, which is interesting because he was of The Left. This is why there 53 different genders. Or why Bradley Manning is now called “Chelsea” or why cities will rename Bruce Jenner streets to Caitlin Jenner streets or why Robert E Lee statues are coming down in the dead of night.

      The Left doesn’t think your opinions or beliefs are wrong; they think you are evil to have such opinions or beliefs. Because you are evil, you must be destroyed. The Left doesn’t care if Justice Kavanaugh raped Blasey-Ford; he represents a road block to their agenda so he must be killed off even if that means sacrificing Blasey-Ford for the cause.

      2. Do we strive for inclusivity?

      Inclusivity or diversity are not the goals. Destruction of history is. That flag is just one more item to annihilate for the “greater good”. Think about the trend toward diversity is: is it make the workplace, school, etc. more representative of the country? Nope. It is intended to limit your ability to think different thoughts. No one really cares about the images on the flag or whether a theater in a small Ohio college should remove the name of an actress who acted in a movie over 100 years ago. The important goal of the Left is to destroy that history. If you do not have the words necessary to express ideas, then you cannot have the freedom to think those thoughts. This is not about “diversity”. It is about thought control and submission to the government.

      jvb

  3. According to Wikipedia (amazing the author did not google the phrase “death recorded” before publishing an entire book), A judge had to state aloud verbally a sentence of death for the execution to take place. “Death recorded” meant that the death penalty was theoretically sentenced, but never verbally spoken, preventing any actual execution.

    Dictionary of Phrase and Fable(1870):

    Death recorded means that the sentence of death is recorded or written by the recorder against the criminal, but not verbally pronounced by the judge. This is done when the capital punishment is likely to be remitted. It is the verbal sentence of the judge that is the only sufficient warrant of an execution.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_recorded

    • So was Lewis Carroll mocking this “death recorded” practice in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”? As I recall, when the Queen of Hearts would say “off with his head!” the story said she never bothered to watch the executions, so they would drag the offender away, let him go, and tell her afterwards he was beheaded.

  4. #4 More and more examples that show us that progressives and the social justice warrior cult has won the battle of the minds through the use of open intimidation.

    Our culture is doomed, doomed I say.

    • Our culture has gotten sick from progressive rot and citizen apathy; it needs severe pruning (and old fashioned justice, with the reinstatement of ethics and morals) in order to thrive again.

  5. This holiday itself might come under attack.

    The origins of Memorial Day aren’t as clear as you might think. The idea of decorating the graves of the fallen with flowers dates back to before the founding of this country, but here it was largely confined to families or, occasionally communities until the time of the Civil War. In 1861 Southern women organized to clean up and decorate the graves of the South’s fallen in Warrenton, VA and Savannah, GA, which leads to the concept that the holiday has Confederate roots. On May 1, 1865, the freedmen of Charleston, SC, led a parade of 10,000 to honor 257 Union soldiers who they had rescued from a mass grave and reburied. The earliest record of Decoration Day in the North was in 1868, proclaimed by General John Logan, Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (Union veterans’ organization). Only in 1967 does Federal statute make it the holiday we know today.
    The holiday is not a Confederate invention, nor was that first observance, in Charleston, even about the dead of the South.

    Why do I throw this out there? In the current climate of statue-toppling and honor-withdrawing, I believe it’s only a matter of time before this holiday comes under attack. The link might sound precarious now, and the idea sounds preposterous now, but maybe only for now. Bad scholarship, factual cherry-picking, the very profitable grievance industry, and the emerging idea that anything that offends even one person has got to go make for a toxic brew. That toxic brew has already slimed many historical figures’ reputations and attacked other holidays. Don’t think it can happen to this one? Don’t be so sure. Get the straight stick now so you can lay it down next to the crooked one that’s coming.

    This rabble-rouser is just more of the same – he says he wants to replace the sword with a tree or some other symbol of peace and change the motto to some modern PC thing about true peace and equality. Mmhmm, you’re offended, so you just get to rewrite everything to suit your views. BTW, not too far from the grave of Miles Standish in Duxbury, MA, there’s a monument to his memory in the form of a tower that rises 116 feet into the air, topped by his statue. How long before THAT comes under attack, I wonder?

  6. I heard the interview. Wolfe was dumb-founded. Apparently, she was writing the book with the idea that gays were punished under sodomy laws well after 1823 (in England, where said laws were vacated) and she used numerous cases where “death recorded” was the official sentence, not understanding that the sentence gave the sentencing judge discretion, which meant a more lenient or “merciful” sentence to the crime. One of the accused given such a sentence was accused of raping a 6 year old boy. Wolfe was flabbergasted. The interviewer destroyed her book in under 3 minutes.

    As our intrepid Ethics Alarms Proctor always says, “Bias makes you stupid.”

    jvb

  7. Re: #4 My objection is to the single white star. To my knowledge. Texas is the only state to have been a Republic, recognized by both the U.S. and some foreign countries (including Mexico). Thus, the single star on a blue field on our flag. Massachusetts can claim no such distinction. Thus, the Star has to go. For those interested, Kalifornia’s ‘Bear Republic’ was never recognized by anyone outside of Kalifornia. By-the-bye, I’m not really offended…this whole rant is total sarcasm.

      • Perhaps, but DEMANDING the removal of the star is every bit as unreasonable as demanding that any other part of the flag be changed.

    • Texas is the only state to have been a Republic, recognized by both the U.S. and some foreign countries (including Mexico).

      Remind me: before direct U.S. involvement, what was the status of Vermont, Florida, California, and Hawaii (after the overthrow of the monarchy)? You have stated what California was not.

      • Texas was a functioning Republic for years, with a capital and actual government, who gained her independence herself. Vermont, Florida, and California were none of those things. Hawaii was a kingdom and then a US territory, but never a Republic.

        None of them were recognized by foreign nations, either. Texas was.

        • Sigh. I suspect you are making a perfectly reasonable rejoinder to a misreading: a rebuttal to a rhetorical question challenging your position, even though I wasn’t doing that. In doing so, you have both repeated yourself and brought out the very monarchical status that I myself pointed out that Hawaii had previously had.

          But you have not answered the factual question that was all I was asking: what, since they were not what Texas was, were they actually, during those brief periods? I know Vermont was fence sitting about the possibility of being associated with Britain, though I don’t know how seriously. And I know Florida, California and Hawaii (under its post-coup regime) were angling to join the U.S.A. But those are merely what they were doing, how they were conducting themselves, not their supporting basis. What I do not know, and what I asked, and which you utterly failed to address, is what their formal status was. It is no answer to tell me that they were not as Texas, since you already said that and it doesn’t take us forward at all.

          • Damn, but you are literal.

            Most Americans (I know, you are not one) would have taken the words you used: (“Remind me: before direct U.S. involvement, what was the status of Vermont, Florida, California, and Hawaii (after the overthrow of the monarchy)? You have stated what California was not.“) as a snarky rebuttal to what dd said. It is a commonly used unethical commentary device to act as if one is ignorant (and a less objectionable version of sealioning) and asking a question the answer to which seeks to disprove the original poster’s point.

            Since you say this was not the case, I will take you at your word, and giving you the benefit of the doubt, answer your question as it is rephrased here.

            California had no functioning government between the Mexican overthrow and the US period. There was not time: it lasted 26 days.

            Vermont was effectively a colony of both New hampshire and New York, with substantial fighting for years. They fought in the Revolutionary War, and in all ways acted as an American sub colony.

            Florida was basically a Spanish holding until various political maneuverings caused Spain to abandon her: the ceded control directly to the US. None of the little rebellions rose to the level of a functional Republic, but did serve to convince Spain that they were not making enough money on the area to continue asserting control.

            Hawaii, as noted, was a monarchy.

            All of this is information easily available with a simple Internet search, from multiple sources. You did not have to ask dd a question out of idle curiosity when you could have looked it up yourself. You have not been know to be lazy in your writings here, and have demonstrated the ability to research in order to scratch any itch you wish to elaborate upon. Indeed, your use of factual rebuttal makes your postings interesting to read, in my opinion.

            Given these facts, my analysis is that you WERE using the unethical tactic I described above, and are now back tracking since you were called on it. When you doubled down, you crossed into sealioning* deliberately with the express intention of using a unethical debate/discussion tactic to try to save the loss you have already incurred. You then took the false premise to further attack by stating I was not addressing the question.

            Foul tactics, and your entire interaction here was in bad faith.

            *look it up yourself

            • California had no functioning government between the Mexican overthrow and the US period… Vermont was effectively a colony of both New hampshire and New York, with substantial fighting for years. They fought in the Revolutionary War, and in all ways acted as an American sub colony… Florida was basically a Spanish holding until various political maneuverings caused Spain to abandon her: the ceded control directly to the US… Hawaii, as noted, was a monarchy.

              True but irrelevant, thus:-

              – California did at the very least make claim to being the “Bear Flag Republic”, and, no matter how brief, there was some sort of interregnum. I shall return to this.

              – What Vermont was before and during the American War of Independence merely set the scene: it too experienced an interregnum after that – this time of some years – when it was effectively, de facto, Ethan Allen’s principality. However, I do not know if that was its formal status, though it may have been why the U.S. Constitution required states to have republican forms.

              – Florida, too, had a dummy republic, set up by Andrew Jackson, and Florida too had an interregnum once the Spanish stopped resisting his ringbarking; there was no de facto direct transfer to the U.S.A., though for all I know that may well have been what happened de jure (hey, so far, nobody has addressed the point at all, so I am still uninformed as to this). I don’t even know when and how the two Floridas hived off the western one to be attached to other states and left only the eastern one to become a distinct state.

              – Yes, yes, yes, as I have repeatedly been told even after I pointed it out myself, Hawaii had been a monarchy, previously, before that was overthrown and entered the interregnum about which I was actually asking (after the “bayonet constitution” led to even later developments). Telling me these irrelevancies is very “Norwegian blue parrot, beautiful plumage” in that it scrupulously does not answer the question.

              I am asking about the formal status of these interregna. It is no answer to point at earlier or later arrangements, or to call them some sort of hiatus; even a deserted, abandoned and derelict ship has a formal status. It is only that status that allows anything to be built on that without a complete reset; even the idea of Terra Nullius here in Australia was a way of putting a philosophical handle on something.

              All of this is information easily available with a simple Internet search, from multiple sources. You did not have to ask dd a question out of idle curiosity when you could have looked it up yourself. You have not been know to be lazy in your writings here, and have demonstrated the ability to research in order to scratch any itch you wish to elaborate upon…

              Yes, it is easily available information, though only if you don’t have a crippled browser like mine, and I already know all that – but, it still isn’t what I was asking (I thought I made that clear yesterday). What I was asking is harder to get at that way, and I – perhaps foolishly – thought it was worth asking people who were closer to the philosophico-legal arrangements in question. That is a perfectly legitimate research method: to ask.

              Given these facts, my analysis is that you WERE using the unethical tactic I described above, and are now back tracking since you were called on it. When you doubled down, you crossed into sealioning* deliberately with the express intention of using a unethical debate/discussion tactic to try to save the loss you have already incurred. You then took the false premise to further attack by stating I was not addressing the question.

              Foul tactics, and your entire interaction here was in bad faith.

              You are mistaken, if that is your sincere view and not itself a foul tactic – largely because those are not facts at all, but your own readings. I don’t willingly play those games because I lack that part of the usual repertoire of social skills, at any rate as the usual innate thing, though I have learned to emulate it – if I remember and concentrate, and have the energy and inclination. (My mother told me, once I was grown up, that she regretted that I had never lied as a child as it made life so awkward. Magna est veritas etsi prevalebit.)

              You are jumping to conclusions, based on the faulty assumption that everyone functions that way. Now I have told you that, which is entirely consistent with how you have seen me worry such bones to get at the marrow before, perhaps you will be so kind as to re-read everything I put in the light of the idea that I was only ever asking what I have repeatedly stated I was: what it was that those places were, stipulating that it was not what Texas was, so readers like me can see what the statesmen were working with. (I would be amused if your own enquiries turned up that they were after all like Texas in their own brief way, just as a short-lived heavy atom is still an atom, but I am not trying to drive anyone anywhere except where the evidence and analysis takes them – but I bloody well will not be distracted with beautiful plumage crap like Hawaii’s earlier history that I not only know but told people up front, in the futile hope of pre-empting such deviation.)

              • That is a perfectly legitimate research method: to ask.

                Then you are not asking the right venue: email a college or historical web site. Asking the question here takes on the baggage of the thread in which you asked it. You used a rhetorical device designed to discredit what was being said, even if you were sincere and innocent in the asking. If you do not like the results, learn to rephrase your questions.

                …I lack that part of the usual repertoire of social skills, at any rate as the usual innate thing, though I have learned to emulate it – if I remember and concentrate, and have the energy and inclination…You are jumping to conclusions, based on the faulty assumption that everyone functions that way.

                So you are the victim. Nice. It is not incumbent upon those responding in a blog to take your personal issues (no matter how sympathetic we are) into account. There are rules to debate, and they are not subject to the debater’s disabilities or proclivities. I am allowed to ‘jump to (the) conclusion’ that you are prepared to follow those rules. If you enter the arena, be prepared to battle. *

                …you will be so kind as to re-read everything I put in the light of the idea that I was only ever asking what I have repeatedly stated I was: what it was that those places were, stipulating that it was not what Texas was, so readers like me can see what the statesmen were working with. (I would be amused if your own enquiries turned up that they were after all like Texas in their own brief way, just as a short-lived heavy atom is still an atom, but I am not trying to drive anyone anywhere except where the evidence and analysis takes them

                Again, we are not here to do research for your idle questions. You presume a lot with that statement, making demands on other’s time, effort, and experience. This is sealioning, even if innocently done.

                I am asking about the formal status of these interregna.

                Short answer. There was not one. ‘Formal status’ involves recognition by the world community, and these had none. There is no answer to your question other than ‘these were in anarchy, from the world stage perspective.’

                …largely because those are not facts at all, but your own readings.

                Pray tell, how ELSE do you expect someone to answer, but from having read about the events? No one remains alive from when these events took place: are you looking for first person eye witness accounts? Facts come from reading, for Pete’s sake!

                Good job: your tactic worked. I have wasted enough time on this subject and with you. If you are what you say you are, I cannot help you further.

                * I am high functioning autistic, on the spectrum that used to be called Aspergers, with sensory issues, aversions to personal physical contact, and introvert tendencies. I learned to emulate social cues as well. To this day, I have to think about what the socially acceptable response is in minor interactions. Do I shake hands? Do I hug this person (or allow myself to be hugged) in this situation? What has been my experience with this person in the past? Are there subjects they have not wished to discuss? What small talk is enough, but not too much?

                I learned at a young age (college) not to get into practical joke contests: I take things too far too fast, and tend to end the contest with hurt feelings all around. Just no profit in the exercise.

  8. 1. First Amendment Stretch

    This is a tough one for me, eve if it isn’t for you, Jack. I don’t mind Assange being indicted, he certainly deserves it. The question is whether or not this sentence:

    Assange isn’t a journalist, and publishing stolen classified information isn’t journalism.

    is right or not. As a former serviceman, I am very sensitive to the damage leaking hacking classified information. With that said, the case law is pretty clear — the person obtaining the data originally is a criminal, but the person who publishes it, unless he is the same person or a co-conspirator, is generally not.

    I think I know why the DOJ decided to use the espionage act as the vehicle — they would very much like to overturn New York Times Co. v. United States and Bantam Books v. Sullivan. Of course, if the US can prove a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, then they may be able to prevent running afoul of those decisions. I don’t know enough about the evidence in this case to opine on the substance, unfortunately.

    I am leery of indicting people for publishing classified information they did not obtain, even if they aren’t a “journalist,” as if there is such a thing in the days of blogs and the Internet. At the same time, grave damage was done to our national interests, and that is a matter for deep concern.

    But my default is toward the First Amendment, even if begrudgingly.

  9. 1. The indictment of Assange, a foreign national whose activities were conducted entirely outside the United States (as the indictment specifically says), together with Mueller’s indictments of the 12 Russian military intelligence officers who worked from their offices in Russia, seem to imply a completely unprecedented extraterritorial application of espionage and anti-hacking laws. Apparently, we now believe that we have the right to indict and try any foreign national, including any member of China’s Ministry of State Security, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, the United Kingdom’s MI-6 or Israel’s Mossad, who has ever hacked a computer, seen hacked or classified information or made it known that they would like to see hacked or classified information. Based on the Assange precedent, we also seem to claim the right to demand that foreign countries extradite those people to the United States for trial. Does any other country claim the same rights? Will we going to be happy when they do?

    Remember when Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency had been conducting surveillance on EU countries and citizens? Do we agree that France has the right to seize NSA employees vacationing in Paris and jail them for violating French espionage laws? Will we extradite NSA employees to France upon demand?

    Remember the leak of the Panama Papers in violation of Panamanian law and their publication by newspapers around the world? Panama doesn’t have the same special legal protections for “journalists” as the United States. Do we agree that Panama can try the editors of the New York Times for publishing those papers? Will we extradite the editors to Panama for trial? What if the papers had been published by a website like Assange’s? Would we extradite the website’s operators?

    Speaking of Panama, based on the Noriega precedent, if Ecuador had continued to refuse to extradite Assange to the United States, would we claim the right to invade Ecuador (or in this case, the Ecuadoran embassy in London) and seize him?

    These are the sorts of things that make much (most?) of the world view the United States as a rogue country and make them eager to see us get our comeuppance.

      • Yes, that’s exactly what it means, at least with respect to espionage laws. There are customary usages of nations. An enemy soldier in civilian clothes who is caught lurking near a military installation with a camera is executed as a spy. If he returns to his own lines and is subsequently captured, he goes free. That may not be what our law says, but that has been the immemorial custom of European nations and it has been our own practice as well.

        Likewise, the practice in the United States, as with other nations, has always been that a United States national who passes secrets to a foreign nation is guilty of espionage, a foreign military intelligence officer located in the United States who receives the secrets is guilty of espionage (like Rudolf Abel), but Abel’s spymaster located abroad is guilty of nothing even if he subsequently travels to the United States. Again, that’s not what our law says, but it is the custom among nations. For the United States to unilaterally abrogate this unwritten rule is arrogant and offensive, and someday may have consequences that we will be sorry to have provoked.

        I understand the reason why we don’t want to adhere to the custom. In the past, espionage was conducted in physical space. Now it is conducted online. That’s frustrating for law enforcement. But I’m pretty confident that the United States is the most successful country in the world at online espionage. If other countries decide to follow our new practice, we may have more to lose than anybody else.

        The alternative view is that this is all just theater and we aren’t really trying to change the custom. The indictment of the Russians was just for show, to embarrass the president. We have no intention of actually prosecuting them, even if they travel outside Russia. And the prosecution of Assange is a one-off event, setting no meaningful precedent, because although he is technically an Australian citizen, he is essentially a stateless person, protected by no nation. If he were located in Australia, then either the Australians would prosecute him under their own law, or if they determined that their own law had not been violated, they would let him go free, but they wouldn’t extradite him and we wouldn’t insist.

  10. If Massachusetts is soliciting ideas for how to modify the flag to properly respond to Harvard’s demand, my suggestion is to replace the ambiguous disembodied arm with an unmistakable disembodied hand, middle finger extended, the meaning of which requires no obscure explanation or Latin motto. A “state bird”, if you will.

  11. … Julian Assange has been indicted. Good. He conspired with a weak-minded and troubled soldier to prompt him, now her, to steal U.S. secrets so he could publish them and promote his anarchist website, Wikileaks. The act almost certainly got U.S. agents killed and did other irreparable harm…

    This is a genuine enquiry, not a Devil’s Advocate position (if I did anything like that, it would probably be along Greg’s lines as I share his concerns; I certainly don’t see it as ethical to reach out and touch someone simply because it can be done, even if he himself really did something of the same kind as far as his own resources allowed – it’s an “if all the laws [ethics] fell, where would we be then” thing).

    Let’s stipulate all that, not just for the sake of argument, but to help see what is going on. Consider now that he did also, among other things, help expose the shooting up of first responders to a U.S. strike, and other things as well. I have certainly seen it argued that he helped to discourage that sort of thing. So, taking the whole blurry pattern together, just how* does his whole conduct fit in the wider scheme of things, bearing in mind that he has no special duty of care to U.S. agents over and above any of those others? Aren’t we at risk of avoiding confusion only by being selective, when the whole is actually confused?

    I do find that “Good” both gratuitous and unseemly, as smacking of kicking someone when he is down.

    * No, “just how” is a genuine enquiry, not a rhetorical trick cloaking a denial. But it’s certainly not because U.S. agents help keep him safe, going by what is befalling him.

    By the way, “cul de sac” is actually a rather rude expression in French.

    • Those who advocate “the end justifies the means” often take your position. In the end, it is societally suicidal.Assange set out to harm the US, and did. He broke the law to do it. In the process, he also exploited a weak-minded serviceman, effectively ruining his life. He’s an arrogant anarchist whose goal is to destroy.

      I will revise good to VERY good, if you like.

      • Those who advocate “the end justifies the means” often take your position.

        How fortunate, then, that I wasn’t taking a position but rather seeking insight. And how fortunate that you aren’t being dismissive of my genuine search for clarification.

        Assange set out to harm the US, and did.

        The former is almost certainly not the case, as indicated by his even handed approach to where he aimed his shots; he seems to have aimed at what he thought were bad actors whether U.S., Russian, Saudi, or whoever. As for the latter, I have often heard it said, though understandably never with anything to support it – understandably, given that the nature of the charges relates to confidential matters. But even if we stipulate it I still don’t see how it matters more than harm he prevented, or tried to, and it strikes me as moral luck if he actually did more overall harm than good (or if he did less).

        I will revise good to VERY good, if you like.

        No, that would be increasing your inappropriate manner (I have seen you do it elsewhere, and I thought you should be told that you are clouding things whenever you do that, even if you don’t care about the discourtesy).

        I also notice that you have not actually tried to answer what I was asking.

        • Come on. This was a shotgun attack, not a rifle. Assange gulled poor, stupid, deluded Manning into illegally sending 251,287 United States diplomatic cables, over 400,000 classified army reports from the Iraq War (the Iraq War logs), and approximately 90,000 army reports from the war in Afghanistan (the Afghan War logs). Yeah, that’s really selective. Assange had no right to see ANY of it.

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