Comment Of The Day: “Tales Of The Slippery Slope: Amazon And Censorship”

Autism “cures”, aka “Snake oil.”

Ethics Alarms is blessed with several commenters with specific expertise in areas that arise here often. Alexander Cheezem is our authority on autism and the various misconceptions and unethical practices surrounding it, and he contributed  valuable perspective on why Amazon was under pressure to stop offering two books about the topic. I carelessly assumed that the problem was the further circulation of the dangerous myth that vaccinations cause autism, since that is the autism-related issue we hear about most often from the media. There’s a lot more to autism misinformation than that, and Alexander graciously enlightens us.

As he acknowledges, the thrust of the post is not dependent on why the two books have been pulled The remedy to bad information is good information, not censorship–like the useful information in Alexander Cheezem’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Tales Of The Slippery Slope: Amazon And Censorship”:

Okay. I’m actually quite familiar with one of the books in question — I even spent about five years dealing (over and over and over again) with its author and her brand of bullshit (yes, that’s actually the technical term)… and I have to say that your analysis is flat-out wrong on one major point and significantly off in another respect.

Of course, whether that impacts the rest of the analysis is another matter.

The major problem with your analysis is that what sets those books apart is not that they’re anti-vaccine… but don’t take my word for it. As I write this, I’m paging through my first-edition copy of Rivera’s Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism (my second-edition copy is somewhere), so I’ll use it to illustrate. Let me give you just a small sample of what the book actually contains.

The thing is essentially a protocol book, dedicated to “teaching” parents a complicated pseudoscientific and ritualistic protocol centered around having the parents feed industrial bleach (chlorine dioxide) to their children, bathe their children in a solution of industrial bleach, and give their children bleach enemas. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/15/2019: Fevered Ethics Musings, and More” [Item #2]

Cultural literacy pop quiz: who’s the quote from?

This Comment of the Day by Benjamin, a relatively recent recruit to the discussions here, typifies the thoughtfulness and seriousness that distinguishes the commentariat at Ethics Alarms. Ann Althouse, a blogger (whose work  Facebook doesn’t block) with a much larger readership whose topics often mirror mine, just announced that she is considering changing “the commenting experience”:

I’ll regard the comments submitted to moderation as private messages to me, and I’ll only publish comments I think readers would generally enjoy reading — comments that are interesting, original, well-written, and responsive to the post.

I consider most of the comments here interesting, original, well-written, and responsive to the posts. The kind of comment that Benjamin registered is rare on Althouse, or any blog, really, though not rare here. (The exceptions would be PopeHat, whose progenitor has, at least for now, apparently abandoned for greener pastures, and the original Volokh Conspiracy, before it moved to the Washington Post, and then Reason). Why is that? One reason is the subject matter; another is that commenters who can’t express themselves, issue uninformed opinions or who just aren’t too bright don’t do well on Ethics Alarms. Another reason is that, as I have probably complained about too much, the mass exodus here of the Trump Deranged and knee-jerk progressives has eliminated most of the “You’re an idiot!” “No, you’re an idiot!” exchanges that pollute most blogs, as well as comment sections everywhere.

Here is Benjamin’s Comment of the Day on Item #2 in the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/15/2019: Fevered Ethics Musings, and More:

My efforts at suppressing the sin of schadenfreude are becoming futile. The things festering behind fiercely-reinforced masks are starting to spill putrid materials out of the eye and nose holes nearly everywhere and all at once. I believe I’m addicted to two “drugs”: watching good men hoisting the black flag and destroying evil with relish in the name of a good end, e.g. Liam Neeson’s Taken is dangerous for me to watch – I start getting ideas – so I’ve placed an embargo for myself on such plotlines; and watching evil destroy itself. I don’t think I’ll need to embargo the latter, though. There’s nothing more instructive of the fact that difficult-but-correct choices ought to always be chosen over immediately convenient wrong ones than watching the effects of a century or so of those wrong choices. Continue reading

Comments Of The Day: The College Admissions Bribery Scandal

This is a bit of a departure, a showcase for one of Ethics Alarms most active commenters (especially appreciated as the blog experiences boycotts, embargos, and Facebook blocking and other indignities), Michael R. The topic is the recent College Admission scandal, which has been covered here and here.

Michael, an educator, is well informed on this topic, and he shows it in three excellent Comments of the Day.  And I forgive him for never, ever, making a typo.

I.

The college scandal has many, many facets. What has caused standards to slip so low? Well, athletics obviously has a corrosive effect, with students admitted based on athletic ability instead of academic ability. The grade inflation has also greatly degraded college standards. The almost lack of education occurring in our high schools is another factor.

An overlooked factor, however, is the public higher ed systems’ oversupply of colleges. Public college policy has mainly been about votes and prestige, not actual societal need. This has resulted in a lot more colleges than the country actually needs. A typical example would be Local Community College. Well, the President of Local Community College would rather not be the laughingstock of the College President’s Club, so he petitions the state legislature to authorize his school to offer 4-year degrees. He states that his community deserves a 4-year school like (insert rival town here). This proposal is mainly decided on its political merits, not the needs of the state as a whole. It goes through, along with new funding for new facilities, new faculty, and more students for the Local State College. With all the Community Colleges becoming State Colleges, the presidents of the Regional State Colleges petition to become Regional State Universities. They point out the prestige and grant money they could get if they had graduate programs. This too, is granted based on political merit. The National Science Foundation is then pressured to remove funding from the traditional research schools and transfer it to the new State Universities amid allegations of elitism for favoring longstanding research schools with top-notch researchers over the new State Universities with no significant research results and they cave. Now, with no community colleges left, a new round of community colleges is constructed. This increases the number of seats for college students by 30% or so, but there are not more high school students graduating. This is repeated all over the country, so out-of-state students are not an option. The only reasonable option is to lower admissions standards. Once the admission standards are lowered, retention suffers and the faculty are ordered to improve retention and graduation rates. The only reasonable way to do this is to make the classes easier and the race to the bottom is on. Continue reading

Monday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/11/2019: Weenies, Bubba The Love Sponge, Fake Citizens, A Heroic Jaguar And Captain Marvel

Our hero! (Item #6)

Good Morning!

1. Synchronicity! Note that today’s first post and yesterday’s last one (on “peer pressure”) essay are integrally related. I had thought, or hoped, that the latter would prompt considerable discussion, but to the contrary: all commenting has seemingly dried up. Surely Facebook’s embargo can’t be THAT effective. Well, I’ve never understood the ebb and flow here, and lately I understand it less than ever.

2. Nah, Democrats don’t want open borders! While House Democrat  were in the midst of  passing HR1, the entirely symbolic “elections reform” bill that is an open admission that loose election controls elect Democrats,  Republicans  forced a vote on proposed language stating:  “Allowing illegal immigrants the right to vote devalues the franchise and diminishes the voting power of United States citizens.”

All but 6 Democrats voted against the addition. All but one Republican voted for it.

3. Stop making me defend Tucker Carlson! Media Matters, the one-way-only media watchdog that makes its opposite number “Newsbusters,” look like a paragon of objectivity by comparison, pulled a version of the Hader Gotcha! on Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson. Instead of unearthing old tweets to attack him, MM found audio of old interviews with Tampa shock jock “Bubba the Love Sponge” during  which Carlson made some less than nuanced comments that Media Matters pronounced “misogynist” and “sexist.” Some were; most were not. Media Matters, like the party it swears allegiance to, is addicted to gender-baiting: Carlson’s belief that rape shield laws “totally unfair” is a valid opinion that many non-sexists, including me, agree with.

To Tucker’s credit, he responded to Media Matters’ hit with this statement: mailed to the Washington Post:

“Media Matters caught me saying something naughty on a radio show more than a decade ago. Rather than express the usual ritual contrition, how about this: I’m on television every weeknight live for an hour. If you want to know what I think, you can watch. Anyone who disagrees with my views is welcome to come on and explain why.”

Adds Althouse, “I’m resistant to getting excited about something somebody said years ago because somebody is telling me that’s what everyone is supposed to get excited about today.”

4. Speaking of Althouse...she does an epic job taking apart Democratic hopeful John Hickenlooper, until recently Governor of Colorado, who exposed himself on “Face the Nation” yesterday as a mealy-mouthed weenie who if he lasts until the debates, will be this cycle’s version of Lincoln Chaffee.

Here’s the cringe-producing transcript. Hickenlooper isn’t just mealy-mouthed (Ann’s description), he’s a coward. He wants to run as a moderate but is afraid to say he’s a moderate, choosing instead to argue against “labels.” The best is this part:

GOV. HICKENLOOPER: Well try- if I’ve tried to avoid this all the labeling that goes on. You know, I mean…. I’m running for president because I believe I could beat Donald Trump… but I also believe that can bring us together on the other side and begin getting stuff done. And that’s one thing I think that I bring to the table is I’m a doer. I’m not someone who’s- I mean I’m a dreamer too and I- I believe in big visions….

Snarks Althouse, most appropriately: “A doer who’s a dreamer, a dreamer of big visions. In his dreams, he beats Donald Trump. Noted. ” Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “President Trump Reportedly Will Not Cooperate With The House Democrats’ Effort To Keep Investigating Him Until They Can Find Something To Impeach Him With.”

Slickwilly, in his estimable Comment of the Day on the post, “President Trump Reportedly Will Not Cooperate With The House Democrats’ Effort To Keep Investigating Him Until They Can Find Something To Impeach Him With,” explores the related and important ethics issues of over-criminalization, prosecutorial abuse and “Show me the man, and I’ll show you the crime.” (Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin’s secret police chief. Of course, he said it in Russian…)

I know I’ve written on the topic, and would love to include some links, but for the life of me I can’t figure out the key words that would lead me to any of those posts.

_____________________

Of course Trump broke laws.

So did I. So did Jack. EVERYONE breaks laws every day they draw breath. This is a fishing expedition to find them and prosecute anything at all. There are so many laws from so many jurisdictions that you cannot live outside a rubber room and not actively break one.

“…the Congressional Research Service cannot even count the current number of federal crimes… If the federal government can’t even count how many laws there are, what chance does an individual have of being certain that they are not acting in violation of one of them?”

https://www.globalresearch.ca/federal-copyright-laws-americans-break-them-every-day-without-even-knowing-it/5381302

For instance: It is illegal to lie down and sleep with your shoes on in North Dakota; singing off-key is illegal in North Carolina; unmarried Florida women who parachute face jail time; taking a picture of a rabbit (without a permit) from January to April is verboten; walking a dog without a diaper (on the dog) is forbidden in Mississippi; and California insists you not eat an orange in a bathtub.

Take a picture of a rabbit? This one is easy to prove, too: Metadata in digital pictures can tell the time, date, and location of a photo. Post that little indiscretion online and *poof* you are a criminal.

Those are only some looney state laws. Federal laws include confusing copyright infringement with terrorism; taking a fake sick day is “a scheme or artifice to defraud” your company; and failing to affix a mandatory sticker to your UPS package could send you to prison. (You likely break copyright law any time you forward a meme, email, or text someone else created that violates the law… and those laws have TEETH!)

We all have heard of the ‘lying to a federal agent’ non-crime. We know where it has been abused lately, at the highest levels, even where it seems no false statements were made. How does that apply to you? Say you tell a National Park ranger that you cleaned your campsite. He then finds a paper plate you missed. You just lied to a federal agent. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/5/2019: Knaves, Idiots, And Fools” [Item #6]

The Horror! It’s an outrage! Send it to Hell! Well, not Hell, exactly, because that would be acknowledging religion. OK, let me start again…

Ethics Alarms used to have its own in-house atheist activist, and this is one of the times that I miss him: he would undoubtedly have a fascinating rebuttal to this Comment of the Day. I’m old enough to remember when Madalyn Murray O’Hair was the most hated woman in America for challenging the Constitutionality of school prayer, and winning.  (Remind me to tell the story of the time I spoke to O’Hair on a call-in TV talk show, posing as God.) Although I have come to agree that she was right (she later said she wished she hadn’t raised the issue), it still seems to me that atheists are more obsessed with religion than most religious people are, and their passionate antipathy borders on the pathological. The SCOTUS case that sparked this COTD is a good example: is it really necessary to attack a nearly one hundred year old war memorial because the design is a cross?

Here is Steve-O-in NJ’s Comment of the Day on item #6 in the post, “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/5/2019: Knaves, Idiots, And Fools”:

This isn’t the first one of these cross lawsuits, as has been discussed here a few times, and it sure as the devil won’t be the last. The problem isn’t really even with atheism, at least as the title for those who never have believed or choose not to believe in any god or gods. The First Amendment’s about as clear as any law can be that no one here can be forced to believe or disbelieve anything. America is still over 70% religious, and those religious Americans are overwhelmingly Christian, though how strongly so is up for discussion. Those who belong to no particular religion vary almost as much as those who do, from people raised in whatever faith who just drifted away at some point in life and never went back, to those raised without any faith who just never bothered with it, to agnostics, who think the presence of God is beyond knowing, to those who think religion’s all a bunch of hooey and choose to have nothing to do with it. It’s a minority of non-believers who are actively hostile to religion, but, unfortunately, those are the ones that get all the press.

As someone who is at least nominally a Catholic, and as someone who strongly dislikes one particular faith (Islam) I will venture a guess that those who dislike religion generally feel and think about it the way I do about that one particular faith I dislike. We can also both marshal some arguments that sound compelling. I can say that Islamic thought is incompatible with the Western way of doing things, that their history is checkered and shows an unhealthy propensity to impose itself by violence, and that a lot of their holy scriptures are downright scary. However, those opposed to religion generally can also say that ancient religion generally isn’t compatible with a world of the internet and surgery and science, that religion doesn’t have the greatest history generally, and that most holy scriptures are problematic, including the Bible, which, at least in the Old Testament, got the most basic moral question, slavery, wrong. Of course all these arguments are simplistic as phrased, and aren’t so absolute when you look at them in more detail, but that takes time and thought. The difference is, though, if I speak out against Islam, (which I have) I have to tread carefully lest I be deemed a hater, while those who speak out against all religion are not deemed haters. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 2/25/ 2019: “Martina Navratilova A Gender Bigot? …WHAT’S HAPPENING????” (Item #3)?

The evidence strongly suggests that’s correct. Once set in the womb by neural development in the third trimester, the resultant development paths are tightly constrained, regardless of post natal hormonal environment. Of course, as physiological characteristics such as genitalia are formed earlier, gender and sex may be discordant.

“There are over 6,000 genetic differences, affecting everything from the skin to the brain.”

But a bone marrow transplant changes that. Or can do.
See Bone marrow-derived cells from male donors can compose endometrial glands in female transplant recipients by Ikoma et al in Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Dec;201(6):608.e1-8 & Transplanted human bone marrow cells generate new brain cells by Crain BJ, Tran SD, Mezey E. in J Neurol Sci. 2005 Jun 15;233(1-2):121-3 :

It’s really only important when measuring statistical sensitivity to various chemicals. 46,XY mothers exist. 46,XX fathers exist (though far fewer than 46,XY mothers, apparently). And of course 47,XXY people exist.

“The very “best” options are still merely cosmetic.”

A matter of opinion. Womb transplants have proven to be very successful for some Intersex women. It’s only a matter of time before they’re made available to Trans women with similar physiology. And in order to justify that “cosmetic” opinion, you’d have to justify why you’re picking one set of physiological characteristics – say height – over another, say bust size. Or vice versa.

I think you’re right in your opinion, but I have no idea how I’d go about justifying that, and could easily be persuaded to change my mind.

It’s anything but simple. Sorry.