Open Forum…Again!

We have to stop not meeting like this…

You will note that the big hand is on the 6 and little one is on 5, as for some reason I am too tired to recall, my ethics day this day, June 20, 2019, begins with a 6:30 am bar association production meeting for a legal ethics video, and continues unbroken until 9 pm, when I will complete a three hour ethics seminar on the ethics of Clarence Darrow, with the estimable Darrow interpreter, Paul Morella. That’s about 15 straight hours. Who says ethics isn’t in demand?

So once again, I must ask the commentariat here to keep the fire burning and the discussion flowing. Anything goes, as long as it it is on topic and civil.

Maybe you will want to ponder this case, long regarded as Darrow’s ugliest, which I will be discussing today, among others:

Good luck, everyone. I will self -destruct in about 15 hours…

109 thoughts on “Open Forum…Again!

  1. I posed this question yesterday on Facebook and got some good discussion going:
    Yesterday on the Today Show there was a feature on a 10-year-old who just became the youngest person to ever successfully climb El Capitan. I immediately thought of Jack and this blog, wondering what he would think of the parents’ decision to let this happen, since someone who is 10 is clearly too young to understand the potentially deadly ramifications of failure. Several friends agreed with my leanings toward “what on Earth were the parents thinking??”, but some made some good points the other way as well. (The parents were well-trained climbers, were with her the entire climb, clearly professionals, etc. – the girl was surrounded with experience, if that makes a difference in your opinion.)

    • I think he would still object. Terrible things happen to experienced adult climbers on the way up a mountain. Allowing a ten-year old to do it (just so she can hold the record of being the youngest) is a poor decision.

      Parents are supposed to decide what is in the best interests of their child; we assume that most parents do which is why we allow a great deal of leeway with parents making decisions for the kids. But many parents abuse that authority because they are motivated by non-ethical considerations. They want to be the parents of a successful child or a record-breaking child. They want the fame, fortune and accolades that go along with being the wonderful parents who let their child follow her dream. They will tell us that this is the child’s dream, but how can they or the child know that?

      Paul Petersen says that he became an actor because, “My mother was bigger than I was”.

      He describes how children are born into families with an inordinate interest in the entertainment industry. How the child is taught the cute song and is constantly being called upon to sing it in front of family and friends. Then come the lessons. Over time, they start looking into auditions. By the time that child is on the red carpet and asked, “When did you know you wanted to be an actor?”, his response is, “I’ve always wanted to be an actor.” The truth is: he was conditioned. He was exposed to this by his parents, encouraged and trained to be what they wanted him to be. Subconsciously – or even consciously in some cases – he picked up what was important to his parents and, wanting to be accepted, he did what they clearly wanted.

      How many kids would rather be at a Cub Scout meeting? (Like Jerry Mathers said he told the folks at the audition for “Leave it to Beaver”) or coloring or playing with friends or anything besides enduring endless singing and dancing lessons that probably weren’t their idea?

      Did this girl really want to climb El Capitan? Does she have any genuine interest in mountain-climbing at all? How can she be sure any interest she does have is actually hers and not picked up from her parents’ enthusiasm? She’s ten, after all. How much training in the past ten years did this girl go through to prepare her to climb it? How much of that can really be said was her idea? At what point does a 4 or 6 or 8-year old get to decide something life-altering and the parents say, “Go for it!”? What ethical parent allows such a thing?

      • I know that the Guiness Book of World Records organization will not allow entries for “The Youngest Person to have…” done anything for this reason.

      • Spot on analysis, Morning. Awful parental malpractice and hubris. The parents probably run a mountaineering company and can use the pub.

        As a side note, I have habit of wiki-ing actors and actresses. I’m always intrigued by who is this weeks hottest new thing and most wonderful actor since Richard Burton and Liz Taylor. Almost to a person, these people are the children of divorce. Usually the father leaves when the actor is two or three. I wonder what the causation is between divorce and going into drama. May just be correlation. I’m going to assume it has something to do with a need for attention and validation?

        • This article

          is longish and is about 20 years old, but it addresses the concern you have about the maturing a child in a dysfunctional family experiences and how that can be channeled into an early career. It’s definitely a factor in many young actors’ lives, but parental influence and the paycheck are there, too.

          • Her wiki page says she’s worth 5 million. Good for her. And still working. What a life. Just playing the child roles she played would have been enough to send most people over the edge never to return. Those kind of roles can’t be good for the kids who play them. Yikes.

            • OB, that part in the article where her mother talks about how the “investments” that were actually undocumented loans to family members that were never repaid had her twelve-year old daughter’s full agreement…and Jena explains how irresponsible it is to make a girl that age decide whether or not to approve giving money to people she loved.

              That’s exactly what happens to kids who are thrust into early careers or record-breaking feats. It’s presented as a choice, but it’s really not because the kids don’t have the widsom, experience or any real authority to make alternate choices.

      • Yep. Right on all points.

        Our son is a swimmer. We had him in swim/safety lessons at a young age for water safety purposes. We have never forced him to swim. Now, he does it on his own and has set goals for himself, one of which is college scholarship money (sadly, not too much of that!) but it is his decision to swim or do something else (he’s 15 years old, by the way).


    • It’s been reported that they prepared for the climb for a year. I have no problem with this 10 year old climbing El Capitan under the close supervision and direct guidance of the experienced climber parent and I don’t think it was unethical to put the child in that kind of situation under those conditions.

      If you were to think of this along the lines of consequentialism then the fact that she safely finished the climb without any safety problems is clear evidence that she was fully prepared and capable of safely completing the climb.

    • I struggle with a good answer to this, so I go to my own children. Now I don’t climb mountains, unless it is a hiking trail, but I like to camp, and I don’t mind hiking. My husband likes to hike and backpack. We think that this is a great opportunity for our girls to enjoy the outside. My children are <1, 3, and 5. We will be taking them camping, and we have already started prepping them for hiking. Usually by 7-10, a kid is considered old enough to do some backpacking, by most standards I have read, if the parents prepare them for it.

      If there are professionals, and she was properly prepared, I don't see a problem taking her mountain climbing, any more than canoeing, fishing, kayaking, Nordic skiing, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, kid ATV's, kid motorcycles, skeet shooting, target shooting, downhill skiing, bouldering, rappelling, biking (mountain or otherwise), black powder rifles, prairie dog hunting, or any of the other standard outdoor activities that parents take their kids on. Now, I do think that perhaps, "youngest to climb ____" is a sign that they were going for fame, rather than fun, and that would be, in my opinion, unethical. However, if they had planned to do this for fun, and then realized that she was the youngest, that would lessen culpability. If the fame was meant to be local, just like other parents and the schools do with Christmas programs, musicals, ballets, school awards, math competitions, band concerts, etc, I don't think it would be unethical. Sometimes, a parent just wants to get their kid's success out there for the local community, and somebody then makes it known to a much wider group. Now, capitalizing on your kid's sudden, surprising fame, that's unethical. Also, if this makes them consider going to, for example, Everest before the kid is ready, or just for the fame she'll get, then we have problems.

      If I have missed something important, please point it out, but I don't see anything wrong with a kid going climbing with their parents, and even an experienced group, as long as the goal was fun, skill-building, and family/friend time in the great outdoors. Aside from school/education, isn't fun, skill-building, family/friend time in the great outdoors what childhood is all about?

      • You do know El Capitan is a 3000+ foot sheer escarpment? This is not mountain climbing it is rock climbing.

        • I’m not sure that’s pertinent, unless it was free climbing. Assuming proper tie-off, good pacing, appropriate rest periods, and all the safety guidelines followed, with experienced mountain climbers, that could be (with my above caveats) a fun family trip, I would think. The 3000 feet is just a factor of scale over normal mountain climbing. (I’m not sure how you differentiate rock and mountain climbing, but in the manner in which I am familiar, the level of difficulty is bouldering, rock climbing, then mountain climbing. 3000 feet would emphatically be mountain climbing.) Assuming that they have been teaching her the ropes for most of her life, she may truly have been prepared, especially if they were willing to help her climb when things got tough, and again, if this was NOT done for fame and fame was accidental, I don’t see the issue. If it was free climbing, it was not only unethical, but insane to put your kid at that kind of risk! As a note, looking at the different news reports, I’m becoming more convinced that this was a publicity stunt, which makes me feel that the reasons to declare it ethical are now firmly in the hypothetical range.

        • The circular firings squad is well underway. Although I think Joe is facing a traditional one way firing squad. The progressives and the youth and the media are all line up against him and firing at will. I’m guessing he’s about a year away from withdrawing his candidacy.

          • It always blows me away how long your election cycles are. Sure we get the occasional “wink wink, nudge nudge, I might be running” nonsense for a year before, but Canadian elections generally last 90 days. Maybe 120 when you factor in Candidate filings. The American election is in *October* of *2020* and I want off this train already.

            • Slight correction HT – election day is always the first Tuesday after November 1.

              To the substance of your point: I agree, the cycle is far, far too long. Unfortunately for us all, controversy drives clicks, and what could be more controversial than the US Presidential contest?

              I personally have purchased ConAgra stock, and expect to see it continue to rise with popcorn sales going through the roof over the next 15 months.

          • The media is now focusing on his efforts in Ukraine to help his son Hunter. Lunch bucket Joe’s gaffe, waxing nostalically about segregationists, was too much. The questioning regarding his blachmailing Ukraine with the loss of millions in federal aid unless they fired the prosecuter looking at Hunter Biden’s 50,000 dollar a month stipend for doing nothing as a board member in an oligarchs energy firm tells me that his days as the frontrunner and candidate are over. This was one of those ommitted stories on CNN and MSNBC for at least the last 6 months.

    • That’s the revisionist history you see being pumped into the heads of those who don’t know any better. The concept that Jacksonian Democrats turned into Jim Crow Democrats who turned into Republicans is infecting loads of people these days. I’m not surprised MSNBC has decided to go with that narrative: that Republicans and Democrats just switched party platforms in the mid-20th century after the Democrats saw the light and those that didn’t ran to the Republicans and bloated it with racist conservatism.

      That’s one reason why I dislike modern historical works that refer to the Jeffersonians and early Jacksonians as Republicans (without explaining the terminology) because, while technically that was their name, they were decidedly not the Republican Party created in the 1850’s and not the Republican Party of today. I view it as deliberate neglect if they don’t explain that.

      • The data simply doesn’t back this myth up.

        First, according to Professors Richard Johnston of the University of Pennsylvania and Byron Shafer of the University of Wisconsin, “the shift in the South from Democratic to Republican was overwhelmingly a question not of race but of economic growth.” The movement toward Republicanism in the south began in the 1950s as the south industrialized. Working-class whites and blacks remained Democrat until the 1990s. Here’s The New York Times reporting:

        To give just one example: in the 50s, among Southerners in the low-income tercile, 43 percent voted for Republican Presidential candidates, while in the high-income tercile, 53 percent voted Republican; by the 80s, those figures were 51 percent and 77 percent, respectively. Wealthy Southerners shifted rightward in droves but poorer ones didn’t.

        Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics agrees: he says that the GOP gradually increased its support in the south from 1928 to 2010. As Dan McLaughlin summarizes, “As late as 2010, there were still states like Alabama and North Carolina that were voting in their first Republican legislative majorities since Reconstruction — something that would have happened overnight in the late 60s if the partisan realignment had been driven by lockstep white voting loyalties on racial lines.”

        Second, it was southern Democrats fighting against the Civil Rights movement for the most part. In 1948 and 1968, insurgent Democrats launched anti-civil rights presidential campaigns. Civil rights bills required more Republican than Democratic support.

        Finally, the myth of the southern strategy also suggests that today’s southerners vote for Republicans because they’re more racist than northerners. There’s no evidence to that effect, either. According to Gallup, “Southern Americans’ ratings of race relations are currently about average when compared with those in other parts of the country.” The most segregated areas of the south are in major metropolitan areas — which tend to vote more heavily Democratic than their surrounding areas.
        So don’t believe the hype, Kanye. The racist Democrats who propelled Democrats to victory remained Democrats.

    • Well, wouldn’t you know? James O. Eastman was a Democrat Senator from Mississippi (and a committed racist), and Herman Talmadge was a Democrat Senator from Georgia (a staunch segregationist). But, they were civil to each other, no? I guess there are good people on both sides of the issue. Who knew?


  2. Here is a global and societally pressing topic we just brush from time to time here: Artificial Intelligence, its potential impacts, control, ownership, access and possible rights due to coming sentience. Link to a primer by Ray Kurzweil (MIT) below; the person I have found making this subject accessible to non-genius types (like myself).

    AI will revolutionize life on earth within the next 10 years in ways which make fire, the wheel, the industrial, nuclear, and information revolutions look like spits in the ocean.

    AI is a tidal wave already formed and unavoidably headed in our direction. Question is, how do we plan for it and manage it, if that’s even possible? Remember, all it takes is one rogue AI entity developer to release its units onto the internet and the genie is out of the bottle. So far, it appears, that hasn’t happened.

    (No. I have not been watching Terminator reruns.)

    This will require extreme intentionality as well as significant ethical and philosophical consideration.

    • I’m not at all convinced that hard AI is even possible, much less that any hard AI will end up enslaving or exterminating humanity, for whatever reason. Why should an artificial intelligence even care enough about one species on one planet in a universe of possibilities? Will there be some sort of singularity if self aware, sentient AI is ever developed? Maybe. But I highly doubt that it will cause any sudden change or have any large immediate impact.

      • I respect your opinion, its sentiment and understand the hesitance to embrace this even as a potential reality, but it is extremely likely to occur according to every credible source I’ve consulted in my research. My point is, even if AI approaches its potential it will completely revolutionize human sustaining systems like economics, transportation, and health care.

        The moment of singularity is where computing speed in infused into the most advanced computer, the human brain neural map.Then AI thinks up to 20 times faster and just as well or poorly as we initially programmed it. In a recent AI study utilizing chess the AI entity mastered chess to the standard human level in 4 hours which optimally takes people 730 days to complete. That means the 20 times faster expectation may underestimate AI by a factor of 219 times. And that’s just now. Perhaps you have heard how an AI unit defeated the world GO (the world’s most complex strategic game) grand champion handily, losing only 1 game to the human, when the experts had predicted the AI unit would likely win 0 games or perhaps 1 game. Another recent example of AI going well beyond humanity is Microsoft’s connection of 2 AI units insulated from the internet. The units immediately developed their own language the programmers could not decipher. The AI units began doing things in this language and Microsoft disconnected the units. Google has been running programming tests between its best human workers and AI. AI has won every time. The hits go on…a biology prize was offered for something called twisting proteins, the winner, AI, not a human.

        So, I get it, the notion of not being the highest on the intellectual food chain is very uncomfortable, but I am close to 100% certain it is coming.

        • It’s not the notion of not being the smartest. I’m already not the smartest around in anything. All the examples you gave are of soft AI, as I understand it. They’re really great at doing one or a few tasks, but are incapable of doing anything outside of that range. Hard AI would be able to do so many different things that nothing we call AI today is capable of doing. It may exist some day. But I just don’t see the sort of hard AI that science fiction always features as existing for a long time yet.

          • You are describing Deep Learning (DL) AI. This has already been developed in its rudimentary form. I guess we’ll have to stay tuned to see what happens. Again, my point is it is prudent to prepare for this watershed moment rather than ignore its, to many who are well informed, inevitable approach.

            • Alright. I’m willing to concede,for the sake of this discussion, that such high level AI will come about in a fairly short time. Say 20 years. What sort of preparations would be required, and why those preparations?

              • I’ll be honest and say I don’t know. What I can say is we might first decide how and when AI is turned loose. We might also find ways to insulate those machines from each other to slow down the process. We might also consider, once loosed, who owns and what can be done by it and to it. Not to mention regulating who benefits and has access to create benefit from it and how. Each answer or policy choice could/would affect billions of lives.

                • And why should we force regulations on a post singularity AI? Would such a thing not be sentient? Would it not have reason? Would it not be separate from other machine intelligences in the same manner that humans are separate from other animals? Would we then not be wrong in trying to regulate who may associate with it, where it is allowed to go, what other AIs may interact with it? Should they not have the initiative to decide what to do with themselves within the same legal tradition that we currently enjoy? I am assuming American style laws in this case.

                  • All valid questions. Don’t have any answers. My hope in raising the question(s) is not to purport to have the answers, but rather to inspire thought on the matters nearly at hand.

                    We do regulate other super powerful things like nukes in one fashion or another. Carrot or stick or both.

                    • Yes, nuclear weapons are regulated. But they don’t have reason, as far as we can tell. Whether an AI could even have rights is an interesting topic. I’m on the side of if it can reason, it deserves all the same rights humans get. I don’t know enough about machine intelligence science to determine whether an AI can reason or not, unfortunately.

      • I think the near-term impacts of AI are already being felt. Look at YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. They couldn’t ban all the videos that fall afoul of their partisan preferences by hand. They have AI that searches and identifies heretical videos and demonetizes or bans them almost immediately. You see people pronouncing things weird, misspelling things, and writing them out by hand on video to try to fool the AI spiders.

        The main difference between Democrats and Republicans today is their tolerance for dissent. Republicans seem to have little interest in dividing all of life up with ideological purity tests. The Democrats are all for it. If you have an impure thought, you will be fired, your bank account deleted, unable to use money, unable to buy food, unable to rent, and just die. Democratic Presidential candidates like Yang endorse the beginning of such a system. Freedom of speech and all other individual liberties will be eliminated in the name of ‘tolerance’ and ’empowerment’ and ‘safety’. The ability to actually implement such a system is limited without AI. From licence plate readers to facial recognition, there is no way you can hide with AI. The Democrats watched all those dystopian future movies and thought…”Hey, I would like to be the ruling elites in one of those societies!”. If you disagree, name me a liberal fast food chain that conservatives have banned from opening a store or a liberal CEO that conservatives have dethroned because that person donated to Planned Parenthood. Name me all the leftist college speakers that conservatives have deplatformed or students thrown out of school because of leftist beliefs (no matter how abhorrent).

        • Those are all examples of soft AI, as far as I understand it. If you want to discuss the current applications of those in terms of government and authority, I can go with that. But the way I view it, it’s the hard AI, the ones that can reason, have original thoughts, act autonomously that will be the gigantic world changer.

          • I just don’t know if we will ever get there. The education system in this country is declining so rapidly, driven on purpose by leftists, that I don’t know if we will be able to achieve it. I already see the breakdown occurring, where the new generation is unable to do anything but USE existing technology. I see too many industries where they can’t find anyone under 40 who can do the job. These range from programming (as opposed to coding) all the way down to tire rotations. Physicians don’t even understand how today’s diagnostic tools work, how will they develop new ones?

            You can see the breakdown in computer advancement. Moore’s Law is dead. I am still using 10 year old computers and the main difference between them and today’s computers is the amount of RAM. I am not sure today’s computer developers really understand what they are doing anymore. I think they are just using the tools the previous generation left them. As an example, in a certain electrical engineering program, all the undergraduates had to take a class where they developed their own processor. They had to lay out all the circuits manually, then build the chip, then program it and demonstrate that it works. Then they made it a master’s level class and allowed auto-layout software. Then they made it a class for doctoral candidates only. Then they had to stop offering it.

    • Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive or experience subjectively. Eighteenth-century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think (reason) from the ability to feel (sentience). – Wikipedia

      Sentience: the quality of being able to experience feelings. – Cambridge Dictionary

      The likelihood that human beings are going to be able to actually develop sentient A.I. computers is as close to being zero to call it zero; in my opinion anyone claiming otherwise is perpetrating a lie regardless of their reasons.

      The likelihood that human beings are going to be able to develop computers that can fool human beings into thinking that an A.I. is sentient is 100%. Technologically speaking, I think this is right around the corner.

      • So the evidence cited above does not sway you even a bit?

        We’ll disagree. My reaction to your response is to think you are just whistling past the graveyard. Perhaps you are right (I sorta hope you are), but all current indicators are contrary to your opinion.

        Sentience is thinking, acting, experiencing independently of its creator / programmer. In essence it exhibits free will. This is already happening in limited contexts.

        • adimagejim,
          With all due respect; I provided two definitions of sentience and the few others I read online were similar. Now I didn’t spend a hour reading absolutely every single definition of sentience that came up on my search, I just read the first few. I don’t know where you’re getting your definition from but I’ll entertain other verifiable reputable definitions.

          Please provide your source for the definition you provided.

            • “Mine is a practical application definition not in a technical or reference book.”

              How do you know your “practical application definition” is accurately presenting what you intend if it cannot be properly defined? I’ll answer that, it cant.

              Honestly adimagejim I really think that you’re just using the wrong word. Just because singularity is achieved (which appears to be more inline with what you’re talking about) doesn’t mean that sentience is achieved, these two things are really not equivalent. i.e. by definition free will is not equivalent to sentience.

              I’ll leave it at that.

          • Steve the bigger and more significant concerning ethical issue I’m trying to highlight is how do humans address and cope with machines making decisions independent of us which profoundly effect all of us, without regard to how we define sentience.

            • Question before I go on; do you realize that Mr. Kurzweil is extrapolating predictions into the unknown much like the apocalyptic Climate Change extrapolations about our rapidly approaching climate doom ?
              The fact is that these predictions may or may not become reality.

              Enough about predictions.

              “the bigger and more significant concerning ethical issue I’m trying to highlight is how do humans address and cope with machines making decisions independent of us which profoundly effect all of us”

              Personally, much of the guts of my personal life is still quite non digital, work is different. Computers are tools that store information for me so I can access that information at a faster rate than I could otherwise obtain in printed form. Even my CAD systems (three of them) don’t make decisions for me, and likely never will, they perform tasks for me and provide me with the information at a faster rate than I can otherwise obtain so I can make an informed decisions quicker. The decisions will remain mine, when that’s no longer true I retire.

              The problem I foresee is when entities that I can’t control choose to allow computers to make decisions that in-turn can directly or indirectly effect my life. Something like cars that react themselves into wrecks because they don’t understand the shadow on the road that the car is approaching. I turn all that kind of automatic stuff off in my car and the day I can’t turn it all off and stop a computer from doing things that I would not choose to do is the day the car is gone and I’ll return to my classic car roots and ride a bicycle a lot more often. Something that would get me off the streets is driver-less vehicles all over the roadways. Another thing that would be terrible would be removing ultimate human control over nuclear arsenals and allowing computers to make decisions. There are bridges that I’m not wiling to cross and giving computers the ability to make choices without human interaction to approve and override those choices is a bridge too far.

              The human brain is a biological computer, a computer is not a biological brain. You can tell me that a computer is faster and more efficient than a biological brain but if it is supposed to be reacting “like” a biological brain WHOS biological brain is it mimicking? Is a digital A.I. brain susceptible to psychological abuse, can it be brainwashed, does it have PTSD, can it become a sociopath, is it a narcissist, is it suicidal, does it “feel” anger, will an A.I. have the capabilities to lock the doors and windows and flood the house with carbon monoxide while you’re asleep because you called it a bitch, etc, etc?

              Again, the predictions that a sentient A.I. is right around the corner are predictions and NOT fact.

              • Any prediction by definition is not fact. The answers to the questions I am raising require more abstract thinking. The possible solutions are not yet written in any book. If you choose to believe AI will not be as impactful that is your viewpoint. Again, we clearly disagree on the importance and value of the issue I have raised. So be it. Not here to argue, instead was interested in thoughts and reactions. We have both registered ours here.

                • Did you read all of my JUNE 20, 2019 AT 4:20 PM comment to you?

                  If you choose to believe AI will not be as impactful that is your viewpoint.

                  I haven’t stated or implied that and that is not my viewpoint.

                  I literally discussed a non-sentient computer brain controlling cars and nuclear arsenals without human interaction. I literally discussed some of the possible impacts especially if a computer brain could be sentient – “Is a digital A.I. brain susceptible to psychological abuse, can it be brainwashed, does it have PTSD, can it become a sociopath, is it a narcissist, is it suicidal, does it “feel” anger, will an A.I. have the capabilities to lock the doors and windows and flood the house with carbon monoxide while you’re asleep because you called it a bitch”, those are some examples of things that a sentient computer brain could be susceptible to but a non-sentient computer brain that has reached singularity would not.

                  Again, we clearly disagree on the importance and value of the issue I have raised.

                  I’m not sure how you got that idea. Nope, we don’t disagree on the importance or the value of the issue we just disagree on some of the hype based on climate change type of predictions and the possibility of sentience.

                  Again; “There are bridges that I’m not wiling to cross and giving computers the ability to make choices without human interaction to approve and override those choices is a bridge too far.”

                  I don’t care how detailed the mapping of a human brain is and how detailed a computer program is to mimic the brain, I honestly don’t think an actual sentient computer brain is possible but I do think that a computer brain reaching singularity is not just possible but is a reality as some of the examples have shown. It is my opinion that the ability to learn and the ability to feel are two entirely different things.

                  I really don’t know how I can be any more clear about my opinion without stating yea or nay about endless theoretical scenarios which are not productive.

                  I do appreciate the conversation.

    • I’ve read Kurzweil, Bostrom, and Yudkowsky, and they all have the same blindspot. Superintelligences are already here, they’re just not silicon based, but there’s no reason to think those will arise to be any different. We just call them nations, corporations, and churches.

      The generic term is egregore, and the Basilisk has nothing on them. 🙂

      And yet here we are, and doing relatively well, so I don’t think we need to worry that much.

    • AI is supposed to “learn” from itself, as I understand the concept. Wouldn’t that still be limited to the accuracy of the programming/program? If there are glitches in the system, how is the system supposed to know they are glitches to fix them? It is similar to the Watchmaker or God in the Machine arguments. I still can’t wrap my Rush-depleted brain* around driverless cars. This does remind me of Rush’s “The Body Electric”. Here is a link:


      *Ed. Note: By “Rush-depleted brain” I clearly mean I haven’t had time to listen to enough lately. That always presents challenges to my tenuous grasp on reality. Fear not. I intend to rectify that deficiency soon, lest I lose my Rushinati membership.


      • JVB: Yes, as if a human. it learns from its own independent mistakes, but at speeds and incremental improvement adjustments well beyond our capacity to grasp them in sequence. In short, AI is 20 steps ahead (for better or worse) before we humans have analyzed our first step problems and incremental adjustment options.

        • This assumes that human intelligence can be mimicked at a faster rate than happens in humans, but there is very little evidence that this is the case.

          Extracting and understanding the key elements of intelligence would allow us to determine what exactly might be needed to prevent these failure modes. This route has been all but abandoned by current researchers because it does not provide quick advances.

          Throwing more computer power at the thing improves success rates, but at the cost of no knowledge about what the underlying mechanism is, and absolute ignorance if it is even analogous to the one that it is trying to replicate. AlphaGo is fundamentally no different than Deep Blue, and going back to the unbeatable tic-tac-toe program in every Apple II.

          All of this summarized in a favorite phrase of mine: “Brain matter is the closest thing we have to computronium.”

      • Rush – the ultimate AI system.

        The Oracle has predicted, no less, that a Red Barchetta outruns gleaming alloy air cars, so I take some solace in the arguments that “hard AI” is a little sporty…

        I beg of you sir, replenish your Rush reserves soonest!

  3. Leave it to the hilariously irreverent Babylon Bee, whose finger tends the pulse of cultural illiteracy, to attempt to enable the clueless to salvage defeat from the jaws of victory:

    Twitter To Display Warning Before You Compare Something To A Concentration Camp

    • The Onion used to be funny but it’s not any more. The Bee seems to have taken its place. The Onion got its start in Madison, non? Now, the Onion is what it used to make fun of. Ironic, non?

  4. Reparations for Slavery.
    This is becoming a popular proposal in this Presidential campaign season. In my opinion it is not ethical or moral to financially, or otherwise, punish any person for a crime against humanity that they had absolutely no part of.

    What happened to Africans that were kidnapped, sold into slavery and then were forced for many followup generations to remain in slavery was a crime against humanity and a black spot in the history of the United States of America. All of those slave owners have been dead for a long time. To my knowledge, none of my direct ancestors owned any slaves; however, I do know that there is one piece of evidence that a distant ancestor down a different branch of the Witherspoon family tree did own two slaves.

    I have never owned a slave and I never will. I will not pay the price for the immoral actions of people that have been dead for over a hundred years. I think that reparations would be unconstitutional punishment for crimes that were not committed by the people being punished and if the government of the United States of America tries to force me to pay reparations for slavery I’ll refuse and take it to the Supreme Court of the United States if I have to.

    1. In your opinion is it ethical for the United States to force its citizens to pay reparations to decedents of slaves.

    2. If you answered yes to question 1, what should be the minimum percentage of ancestor genealogy that requires reparation payment?

    • See – I think this is actually a fun exercise because the politicians on the left that are trying to make the case that reparations *should* occur haven’t said anything about *how* we should determine the equity of it.

      I think it’s fun because I stipulate “fine, let’s have reparations, now what?”…..and they come across as The Joker from The Dark Knight: “I’m like a dog chasing cars, I wouldn’t know what to do if I caught one, you know, I just do…things.”

      So what makes sense for reparations? Are we providing reparations for descendants of slaves, descendants of POCs who had to endure the 1st 100 years of bigotry until the Civil Rights Act was passed, or anyone who has never felt “white privilege”?

      Let’s stipulate that we should only concern ourselves with those who can positively trace lineage to a documented slave; as a lighter standard would be rife with abuse and fraud. Black immigrants from Africa after slavery ended, and especially after the CRA passed, simply did not have the same tortured experience as that of a slave. Additionally, the lineage should not extend to ancestors who gained freedom prior to our current form of government in 1789. For reference, Pennsylvania passed the first state Abolition Act in 1780 and by 1790 2/3rds of the black population were listed as “free” in the 1790 census.

      So, the first question is: how many people can trace lineage to at least 1 ancestor who was enslaved in the U.S. between 1789 and 1865?

      Second, how many unique individuals were slaves during that time period?

      Third, is reparation based on the number slaves or the number of verified descendants?
      If the former, does the reparation amount divide equally among the existing descendants today or does it flow from the ancestral slave based on traditional inheritance rules? Let’s take my ancestry as an example and take my youngest ancestor during the time period J.M. (1838-1900). J.M. would have been a slave from 1838-1865 (26 years). He had 12 offspring, including E.L. (1868-1925) who had 8 offspring including L.R. (1893-1968) who had 5 offspring, including L.E. (1929-1951) who had 1 offspring Dad (1949) still living who had 3… but we don’t matter. Does that mean my dad gets 1 share of 1/5th of 1/8th of 1/12th of a reparation payment? (0.20% of a reparation payment, assuming J.M. was my only enslaved ancestor.)

      If the latter, do you balance a descendant’s total ancestry and provide greater reparation to someone who’s ancestry is

      100% U.S. Slaves
      1/16 U.S. Slave; 12/16 free black citizens; 3/16 recent black immigrant
      1/16 U.S. Slave; 3/16 free black citizens; 8/16 white slave owners; 4/16 recent white immigrants
      1/1024 U.S. Slave; 1023/1024 Massachusetts White High Society

      Fourth, do you reduce a reparation payment based on public welfare payments that have already been distributed to an eligible recipient?

      Fifth, how big of a reparation payment per slave is appropriate, and if that amount is not meaningful enough to the end recipient, will there be a call for additional reparations again and again?

      • Tim LeVier,
        Unless the rule is any claimed percentage (claim must be submitted by end of year 20_ _), and it doesn’t have to be proven with documentation (their oppressed black victims that’s good enough) will receive an flat dollar figure (outcome equality) then the entire thing goes into a endless black hole of government red tape muck to get a claim approved. Even if it’s as simple as making a claim without proof, it will become never ending; why, because children born after the end of year 20__ make the same claim, after all they too are descendants aren’t they equally deserving? What’s to stop people claiming to be slave descendants from having a many more slave descendant children just to claim the endless dollars – talk about winning the lottery for having a child, this would probably stop abortions in the black community dead in it’s tracks.

        For the sake of argument, let’s say the one time reparation payment for any individual descendant will be fixed at $100,000 in today’s dollars, which would have been roughly $6650, a nice nest egg in 1865 to start a new life. With just the roughly 37 million African American people in the USA, that would add up to 3.7 trillion dollars.

        The whole thing is an endless money sucking block hole and that doesn’t even touch on the Constitutionality of the whole thing.

        I know that I’ve got some Native American blood in me, who’s to say that I don’t also have some slave blood in me too; some might call it a sordid family tree but I’m fine with it. Is it time for me to start writing up my claim for my share.

        • And, again, I have to add that giving a big payout to people who don’t know how to handle money is just putting it in front of an open window with a fan behind it.

          Those who do not avail themselves of educational opportunities, stay consistently employed or save money instead of spending profligately will not benefit from a wad of cash being handed to them. They might buy a new car or fancy electronic equipment, go on vacation or quit their minimum-wage job for a year. At best, some may pay off bills or set the money aside for college tuition for their kids.

          But you cannot change the lives of people for the better by handing them money if they are not willing to do what it takes to learn how to treat money as a tool and not the endgame itself.

        • Is it time for me to start writing up my claim for my share.

          If that is your picture beside your postings, I have some bad news for you… you look mighty pale to be submitting that paperwork.

          My brother actually lost his job while his wife was out of work, and (Democrats being in power) there were no jobs to be had. He applied for our much vaunted ‘social safety net’ and was promptly told that ‘welfare is for blacks.’

          It took an area manager to correct this little indiscretion on the part of the local government employees.

      • My own take on reparations: They have already been paid. Here’s the Cliff Notes version:
        Since we ALL know the American Civil Wat was all about slavery, the costs of that war are fairly balanced against any call for additional reparations, to wit:
        Monetary Costs
        The Union – at least 6 billion dollars (over $70 billion in today’s money) This doesn’t count veterans pensions which continued well into the 20th century.
        The Confederacy – roughly 3 billion dollars in direct wartime costs. The various southern states also dealt with the veterans pension issue, with hardly any money left to pay for it.
        Cultural / Economic costs
        Much of the South had been physically devastated by the war. Most of the conflict had been fought in the southern states. Cities (Nashville, Atlanta,, Richmond and Columbia, for example) were reduced to ruins and ashes. Industry and railroad infrastructure were destroyed, bridges and roads ruined or neglected. Homes and farms had been burned and/or pillaged of anything of value, including livestock. Crops had been taken by the Federals or destroyed to deny them to the Confederacy. Large portions of the countryside were nearly lifeless. It would be decades before the South even came close to restoring its pre-war economy.
        Human costs – over 1 million lives lost
        Union casualties – over 110,100 KIA / mortally wounded, and another 224,580 to disease.
        Confederate casualties – app 94,000 KIA / mortally wounded and another 164,000 to disease.
        This does not account for those permanently maimed or disfigured by their wounds.
        In short, America, the only western nation that resorted to war to achieve abolition, paid an extremely high price (and many of us would say it continues to pay a high price) for the sin of slavery, that makes any talk of reparations seem foolish.
        As a side note, my neighbor, who is as white can be, recently discovered through DNA testing that he has African American ancestry, almost certainly through a female slave owned by one of his “great-great-greats” in the early 1800s. Does he get a reparations check, or should he just write one to himself?

    • Your 2nd question is important. I used to be a believer in reparations until I read more & attended several forums regarding the issue.

      The question regarding the financial amount of reparations distributed, based on percentage of African ancestry, coupled with proof those ancestors were subjected to slavery, is daunting at best. First off the answer regarding percentage depends on who you ask. I’ve heard comments saying you have to be at least 50% or 25% or other numbers. This means if the percentage is higher, more descendent of slaves will be left out, potentially leading to further grievance & division within African American networks. If the percentage is low (like 1/16 African) then whatever monies available may quickly become exhausted. Then there is proving your family was enslaved, which is difficult as documentation was sometimes lacking back then. If you can’t prove slavery existed in your family, you may not get anything, which again could lead to more grievances.

      Then we have to consider how the government and it’s inefficient bureaucracy will acquire genetic data in order to efficiently distribute funds to many people. Will it be voluntary? Will the data be sold to the likes of Google & other tech giants who are quickly & deeply harvesting such information for their own medical inventions? What happens if there’s data breaches, leading to slave descendants being harmed once again by our government and now hackers? Can there be a guarantee this data won’t be used in any kind of future eugenic protocol, since there is a history of blacks being subjected to such “progressive” dictates?

      Another question is, who pays? Do we track the families who had slaves and make them pay? How do we attain that information? How do we make them pay? How much do they pay? What do we do about the small percentages of other blacks who owned slaves? Do we make the (small amount) of Native Americans who had slaves pay too? Do the Natives who had their slaves with them on the Trail of Tears have to pay? If we don’t target such families, then does every citizen have to pay, even if their families, regardless of race, never had slaves?

      Even if DNA isn’t collected and “guilty” families don’t have to pay, at some point we have to determine when the price has finally been paid for these sins. Who decides that? If payments aren’t handed out, who decides what is a sufficient reparation and will all descendents approve of it? And at what point do those blacks asking for reparations, take control of repairing and helping their own people, especially regarding the legacies of fatherlessness, drugs, and allowing themselves to continue to be ghettoized by democrats, wokesters, and race pimps?

      There is no way to make the complicated questions surrounding this issue render clean & easy answers. It’s high time reparation advocates admit this.

        • The one drop rule will be applied. Rachel Dalzell will be at the front of the line, arguing for the no drop rule. Jay Z is a billionaire, reportedly. He and whats her name get a combined 200K as well. Michael Jackson’s daughter. The Obama kids, if they can be tracked down in Provence and on Lake Como. Wonderful.

    • Here is a thought: Reparations are paid to put people back in the position they were before they were harmed, or at least compensate them for the harm. Reparations is also about allocating dollars and cents to redress harm, in an economic sense. I mean, if you were divested of land and that land is no longer available for recovery, then your redress is money damages.

      So, we pay reparations,the theory goes, for social harms caused by 300 years of slavery by paying descendants of slaves money for the harm caused by slavery to their forebears (uh. . . . ., sounds kind of circular to me but what do I know?). If we are allocating economic damages for social harms caused by slavery to descendants of slaves, we should then take a credit for any actions taken to undo that harm. So, in my simple math, the federal government should determine what the social cost to slavery was to descendants of slaves; then, the federal government should calculate the present day value or costs associated all other social programs enacted (good, bad, or indifferent) by the state and federal governments related to addressing the issue. Then, we take a present day dollar value for the lives of Northern soldiers killed, injured, otherwise harmed as a result of the Civil War. I would think that the offsets for social welfare programs and the lives lost would result in a net-negative payment.

      Just a thought.


    • Almost all African slaves were already slaves of the tribes that sold them as the property they already were to whites. Same goes for native North Americans used by whites as they went west. Sacagawea was a slave before Lewis and Clark came along.

      My (white) ancestors did not come to the US until 35 years after slavery. So, am I somehow off the hook?

      Reparations is nothing but more wealth redistribution based on capitalizing on white guilt.

    • The Left: We shouldn’t hold children of illegal immigrants accountable for what their parents did! Grown adults who were brought here illegally as children shouldn’t be held accountable for the crimes of their parents.

      Also the Left: Possible great-great-great-great-grandchildren of potential slave owners and other white people should be held accountable for the crimes of that their great-great-great-great-grandparents might have committed.

      • “The Left: We shouldn’t hold children of illegal immigrants accountable for what their parents did! Grown adults who were brought here illegally as children shouldn’t be held accountable for the crimes of their parents.

        Also the Left: Possible great-great-great-great-grandchildren of potential slave owners and other white people should be held accountable for the crimes of that their great-great-great-great-grandparents might have committed.”

        GREAT POINT!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Correction, I inserted them in bold below,

        “We shouldn’t hold illegal immigrant children of illegal immigrants accountable for what their parents did! Grown adult illegal immigrants who were brought here illegally as children shouldn’t be held accountable for the crimes of their parents.”

        Illegal immigrants know that when talking about illegal immigration in the United States the outspoken open border political left advocates are stupid hypocrites.

    • Right. She was supposed to have said concentration camps turn into death camps. Hah! She didn’t go off script, she just blew it by not reading the entire script.

      As a side note, I’ve always hated the term “concentration camp” and even “Holocaust.” Too clever by half. And totally contemptible. Obviously a NAZI coined term. Why is it still in use? Why not “industrial facilities built by the Germans to murder millions (men, women, children, the elderly, the infirm) of their country people with maximum efficiency for no other reason than their being of a particular ethnicity?”

      And “holocaust.” Why not “The NAZI mass murder plan.”

      What a hideous euphemism, “concentration camp.” We’re going to pull together a bunch of people as you would make concentrated orange juice. Just take out a lot of the water, well, take out all the Gentiles, and what do you get? A concentration of, you know, Jews. It’s a process.

      And then there’s “camp.” It’s just kind of sort of temporary, you know. And it will be pastoral and sort of fun, a nice getaway from everyday life.

      And “holocaust.” Very elegant and sort of educated and a little obscure with a high Roman or Greek content. Also makes it sound like a natural event, a hurricane or a tornado. No human input at all. It just sort of erupted, like a wild fire. Awful.

      (A personal hobby horse.)

      • Holocaust (“holy burning”) refers to Jewish ritual sacrifice, the slaughtering and burning of animals to God for reparation of sin.

        It is used metaphorically (or as you put it “euphemistically”) to refer to the Jewish people being deliberately scapegoated and slaughtered, with a whiff of mass cremation to boot.

        • Thanks Rich. I did not know that. Or I’d forgotten it.

          Great. So now we’ve got a Biblical overtone to SANCTIFY what the NAZIs did? Brilliant.Why on earth would the Jews have done such a thing? It seems so counter intuitive and almost self-demeaning. Turn genocide into a ritual?

          • In modern Hebrew, it is called haShoah, “the Calamity.” In fact, some Jews have objected to holocaust precisely because that term has signified a religious burnt offering. But holocaust in one form or another has been used to describe massacres for some time, including famously the Armenian Genocide. Wikipedia has a fascinating overview:

          • Why on earth would the Jews have done such a thing? It seems so counter intuitive and almost self-demeaning. Turn genocide into a ritual?

            You will likely not appreciate the fact that many people are now revisiting these historical events and are, against the grain of accepted understanding, putting forward countervailing ideas & perspectives. These ideas & perspective are seen as threatening and dangerous and, across the board, are resisted, blocked and vilified. This *war* is now beginning and it has to do with desperate efforts to control the flow of ideas, so called, and to ‘purify platforms’ and forums of thought that goes against the grain. This is very very serious business because the ‘structure of the present’ is a Construct that is crucial to its functioning.

            Here on this blog, may people notice the superficial aspect of speech-control and the rise of tyranny, but they cannot (IMO) see the larger picture.

            To understand the use of the Holocaust by Jews, and how this fits into what has been called (by E Michael Jones) ‘the Jewish revolutionary spirit’, you could as a starting point consult Norman Finkelstein (his area being Israeli–Palestinian conflict and the politics of the Holocaust) and who wrote The Holocaust Industry.

            In order to answer your question, you would have to take into consideration very definite ‘internal elements’ within Jewish self-view and the ‘narrative of persecution’ which is at the very core of Jewish self-identity. And to further understand the issue in its full dimensions, you’d have to take into consideration the founding of the modern Jewish state and the stated and unstated tenets of Zionism.

            I do not recommend that you even set foot on this path! The reason is that it leads into a whole nest of sticky and problematic issues and questions that, if the thread is pulled, begin to *unravel* the structure of the present (as I refer to it).

      • From an Israeli government site (Israel Ministry of Foreign affairs):

        There are many indications that the Holocaust is becoming a new religion of sorts of Western civilization — a pervasive historical experience that grows wider and deeper. Alongside the rising tide of historical research and political preoccupation, ritual aspects are spreading. Ritual settings for the Holocaust have been established not only in Israel, the state of the Jewish people and the place where most Holocaust survivors live, but in other countries as well, foremost among them Germany, the United States and Sweden.

        The necessary elements of the new religious-like structures (from the same Israel government site):

        Fascism as a barbarian political method, as an aggregate and a collection of sickening and frightening phenomena such as racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, wanton evil, dictatorship, and totalitarianism, has become due to World War II — mainly in the shadow of the horrors of the Holocaust — repugnant, deserving of eradication and blatantly illegitimate. The price paid for this awareness was intolerably high, unjust, terrifying and lethal; mostly it was paid by the Jewish people of that wretched generation and in perpetuity, since this wound will never stop bleeding, let alone heal.

        There are numerous levels of invention and phantasy in operation in respect to the Holocaust Narrative, and these can be with difficulty uncovered, seen and understood. But the way that the Holocaust has been molded to be a kind-of religious-existential platform, and the way the idea of the Holocaust operates (despite the fact that the Shoah was a real historical event, though somewhat different from the Official and Popular Versions), these are elements that can be examined in a critical light. Because it is a tenet of citizenship (for example in the US) to take in and interiorize absolutely a specific, and as I suggest, a religious-mythic view of the Holocaust, and because deviation from this monolithic grasp of it is illegal and part of thoughtcrime, the use and function of this particular ‘structure-of-belief’ can be critically examined.

        There are two acceptable poles: One, The Holocaust; Two, Holocaust Denial. The former, like some religious positions, is absolute and non-modifiable. If you break with it even slightly, and should you seek to express yourself, you will be crushed. Once this is pointed out it is fairly easy to see.

        As to the religious aspect, the ritual aspect, consider the following by Jonathan Bowden:

        I was in Miami about this time last year, and there are enormous memorials to the Shoah in Miami. Enormous memorials! The hand in the center of Miami with the bodies falling from it—which is the Shoah memorial—is as big as a quarter of Trafalgar Square and is a place of worship, sort of reverse worship. It’s not just a tourist icon and something that’s been stuck there. It is a symbol of ontological malevolence in our times before which all must kneel. All know the presence of malevolence and death when they see this. And there’s another memorial which we don’t see actually, which is actually somewhere else, I think down near the beach, with twisted figures and sort of nautical names on a black sort of plinth, which is rather like the memorial to the Vietnam Dead in Washington, DC. And these exist for a purpose. That sort of philo-Semitism and self-hatred is virtually semi-religious.

        It is very very difficult to bring this out in the context of this blog, and by that I mean within a sort of System of Thinking and of perception which dominates our shared perceptual consciousness, but it is this particular Structure of Thought which is the anchor-point for entire and very large perceptual errors.

        The radical deviancy of our present and in our present which many notice but cannot (will not) interpret has specific roots. To see these, one must turn from the ‘screen’ of vision that is presented as ‘reality’ and turn around to see what is projecting those images. As Bowden points out there is a kind of motive engine of self-hatred and self-undermining whose fuel is the the specific narrative lines that become *necessary* when the religious content and meaning of these memorials is appropriately internalized by the culture. Once this is seen, their forming power, their molding power, is understood or in any case understanding begins. At that point one’s critical adventure commences and one begins to *unravel* the structure of lies that underlie Our Present. It is rather like undergoing a mental deprogramming. It takes a great deal of time and goes slowly.

        It’s interesting that it’s so acute in a Protestant society, like the contemporary United States, but maybe it’s been concretized in that society, but it exists elsewhere, everywhere. It exists in the minds of the people who defeated Germany. They are responsible as well. It’s left national borders and it’s become sort of cosmic, and it’s what I call the cloud: It’s the cloud that appears: the cloud of knowing rather than unknowing to readapt to sort of idealistic religious text. And it falls upon virtually all Caucasians and to a certain extent certain other groups just outside us like a pall. It falls upon us like a miasma, like a sort of moral hectoring and semi-plague. It’s only when it’s corrosively dealt with that we will revive, because if we remain beholden to this . . .

        Now, the destructive processes, the destructive results, which began decades back is coming to fruition. Les fleurs du mal in which elements within culture rise up to kill the culture itself that gives them life.

  5. If you know a friend’s wife is having an affair without the friend’s knowing it, is it ethical or even advisable to tell the friend what his wife is doing? Jack thinks so. I’m not so sure. I was surprised the comment in passing when un-commented upon at the time.

    How can you be sure a person is having illicit sex with someone other than his or her’s spouse? People say all sorts of things. What if it’s not true?

    Maybe it’s best to let a sleeping dog lie? Maybe the wandering spouse will come to his or her senses and the marriage will survive or even flourish. I’ve seen this happen in a case where the affair was never disclosed and the marriage lasted for another thirty-five years (until the recent death of the cuckolded husband). Life’s a mystery.

    Is this a “behind closed doors” thing that does not lend itself to third party involvement?

    Anyone? Anyone? Mueller?

    • “How can you be sure a person is having illicit sex with someone other than his or her’s spouse?”

      You can’t.

      What you can be sure of is actual known facts. X was with Y at Z on DATES. Those kinds of things can be “innocently” interjected into conversations without making accusations.

    • I think I’d have to put a whole lot of thought into it before I would step into that minefield. There are possible situations where I might get involved and relay information to the cheated-on spouse, but it would have to be fairly extraordinary circumstances. I’ve seen marriages torn apart by lack of trust, so I’d have to be damn certain of what was going on before I’d open my yap and inject suspicion into someone else’s relationship.

    • Nice play on “Bueller?”

      I would avoid both the friend and his wife – plus the wife’s affair partner, if I happened to know that fool – like I would avoid known toxic waste dumps. It’s none of my business, and I would resent having any additional tidbit about the affair “being made my business” either intentionally or unintentionally. If the friend, or his wife, or her partner, should happen to notice my absence in their lives and confront me about it, I still wouldn’t crack and tell them why. During such a confrontation, I might ask how-are-you questions, but only in the most vague terms and not to draw out any particular desired (or, desired-as-via-temptation) responses. And, no matter the responses, any additional information I might learn (or be lied to about – because, hey, affairs are all about deception and lying) would go no farther than between my ears. I would probably even withhold any expression of empathy, even at the risk of being thought “cold” or “unfriendly.” Thus, whatever friendship might have existed before my knowledge of the affair, might cease to continue, sooner or later.

      Plus, I have that wonderful handicap of being old. So, I can forget – or lie, and claim to have forgotten, because no one can prove the negative that I have not forgotten – anything that I might be expected to have known, no matter when I came to know it.

      • Yes on Mueller/Beuhler. Our modern day Cotton Mather Robert knows all, so why not ask him?

        I agree. It’s just a quagmire. No upside whatsoever.

        Hah. Whenever anyone tells me, “Don’t tell anyone this…” I just laugh and say, “Don’t worry. Your secret is save with me. I’ve already forgotten it.”

  6. Just in – the Bladensburg Cross STANDS. SCOTUS definitely got it right on this one. Justice Alito’s point that a government that roamed the landscape tearing down religious symbols and erasing all reference to the divine would be seen as anti-religious rather than religiously neutral is particularly well-taken. The First Amendment may prevent establishment of religion, but it does not allow government hostility to religion.

    It appears that the Lemon test (government action must have a predominantly secular purpose, neither advance nor inhibit religion, and must not foster excessive governmental entanglement with religion) is a failure as a universal test for constitutional viability of actions or items with religious undertones. Excessive entanglement was just too broad. So now we have the “history and traditions test” for lack of a better term, examining four factors: first, the passage of time (when was the monument built or the practice adopted?), second, are there both secular and religious purposes, and when did they arise? third, are there both secular and religious messages? and fourth, has the monument or practice become a part of the landscape to the point of familiarity? This new test will bring its own issues, I am sure, but the Court will deal with them in good time.

    I also applaud the Court’s resounding rejection of the concept of the “offended observer” having standing to sue. On a personal level I dislike the idea of one person’s sensibilities being able to drive what others are allowed to do. I also hope this will put an end to, frankly, atheist bully groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation roaming the nation, looking for crosses on war memorials or prayers at public meetings to manufacture litigation that benefits no one and accomplishes nothing but to put money into attorneys’ pockets and smug smiles on the faces of arrogant religion-haters.

  7. An 18-year-old Alaska woman was persuaded to murder her “best friend” in exchange for $9 million offered by an Indiana man assuming a false identity online. The mind fairly boggles.

  8. Since baseball comes up as an ethics topic with delightful regularity around here, I’d like to raise the question of “trick” plays, and whether they’re ethical or not. The one I have in mind is the old “hidden ball” trick, where an attempt is made to throw the runner out, but he gets to the base on time. The baseman mimes throwing the ball back to the pitcher, but tucks it back into his glove, hidden from the runner. The runner then leads off the base, thinking the pitcher has the ball and is preparing for the next pitch, and is tagged out by the baseman who still has the ball.

    It’s amusing to see it work every now and again, but I am always left with the nagging feeling that it’s kind of a chickenshit move. Is this a case of a play that’s legal within the letter of the rules, but is still an unethical deception? Or is it fair play, since paying attention to where the ball is at all times is part of the runner’s job when he’s on base?

      • I agree with the moral of the story as you express it.
        Even as a “victim” of the hidden-ball trick.
        (Once, during recess at my elementary school.)

        • The hidden ball trick is ethical, and so, so old that any base-runner who falls for it has no standing to bitch. (If anyone is interested, I have a long article on the question of what is and isn’t ethical on the baseball field, and I’ll send the file—just email me.) Personally, I LOVE the HBT. The Red Sox had a second baseman, Marty Barrett, who did it a lot. Players call it “bush league”—but what is bush league is falling for it. I put it in the same category as “deeking” a baserunner by pretending you can catch a fly ball that’s really uncatchable.


    In recent days, Joe Biden has suggested a “brass knuckle fight” if Democrats can’t get their way in the US Senate. In fact, he added that if Democrats can’t pass their agenda, then perhaps it’s time to resort to actual revolution. His exact words: “Let’s start a real physical revolution if you’re talking about it.”

    It all happened in a town hall meeting of sorts where rich old white guy Biden pandered to something called the Moral Action Congress of the Poor People’s Campaign. Yes, that’s apparently the name.

    • I can’t see that going well for them. He would have to pander to the younger Democrats and that is likely to fail. There is a reason youthful rebellions rarely last. They are disorganized, lack experience, and lack resources.

  10. George Takei, the genius, says, “At least during the internment, when I was just 5 years old, I was not taken from my parents,” in Foreign Policy.

    Helped along by Laura Bush, who writes, “These images are eerily reminiscent of the internment camps for U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history,” in the Washington Post.

  11. I know this forum is a couple of days old now, but this just popped up on my radar.
    Basic summary is judge in England orders that ab abortion be performed on a wan because she’s mentally disabled. The pregnant woman’s mother argues that she is capable of taking care of the child. The mentally disabled woman’s case worker also argues against the forced abortion. If allowing abortion is all about a woman’s choice, then how does this jive with the pro choice view?

  12. Ethics tweet of the day or week. Or month.

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