Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The risky policies of "know nothing" political amateurs
  Protecting the value of U.S. technology,
  including biotechnology, could be suicide

This New York Times headline on Page D1 (page D1???) of the August 28 edition is seemingly more important than most articles about the Trump Administration on the front page. At least the article reluctantly recognizes a relationship between its subject - mutated flu virus samples - and the dangers of the deplorable trade war of the Trump Administration.

What could the avian influenza A(H7N9) virus possibly have to do with the trade war and technology (which includes biotechnology)?

Well, if you're interested in making money on a health threat, you could order the market research report H7N9 Vaccines Market Sales Area and Gross Revenue of Key Manufacturers 2018.

Or you could just read the New York Times story which explains:
    ...More than one year after a devastating wave of H7N9 infections in Asia — 766 cases were reported, almost all in China — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still waiting for several viral samples, the National Security Council and the [World Health Organization] confirmed.
    Scientists at the Department of Agriculture have had such difficulty obtaining flu samples from China that they have stopped requesting them altogether, according to a government official who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
    Recent trade tensions could worsen the problem.
    The Office of the United States Trade Representative in April released a proposed list of products to be targeted for tariffs — including pharmaceutical products such as vaccines, medicines and medical devices.
    So far, none of those medical products have landed on the final tariff lists. But lower-level trade negotiations with China concluded on Thursday with few signs of progress, increasing the likelihood of additional tariffs.
    The United States relies on China not only for H7N9 influenza samples but for medical supplies, such as plastic drip mechanisms for intravenous saline, as well as ingredients for certain oncology and anesthesia drugs. Some of these are delivered through a just-in-time production model; there are no stockpiles, which could prove dangerous if the supply was disrupted, health officials said.
Most Americans, and most certainly the Deplorables, think the trade issues are about cell phone technology, autos, and steel in terms of their personal wealth. But those who understand political economics know it is also about the potential for severe illness and death, the avoidance of which has economic value.

The New York Times article notes:
    Scientists believe top commerce officials in both governments view the viral samples much like any other laboratory product, and may be unfamiliar with their vital role in global security.
The scientists are wrong, of course. Top officials in the Chinese government are fully aware of the vital role of the viral samples to global security. And unlike those scientists, top officials in the Chinese government are fully aware of the trade value of those samples in the context of Trump's trade war against China. As noted in the article:
    For over a decade, epidemiological data and samples have been used as trade war pawns.
And here is where determining whether free trade or nationalism is the most important element in political economics can become a problem. Influenza A viruses usually are associated with more deaths in children and the elderly. If we don't have a vaccine for a truly virulent Influenza A strain, about 2 million Americans could die, using as an indicator the 1918 Spanish Flu which was also an Influenza A subtype.

The World Health Organization - also known by its acronym WHO - would usually be able to facilitate sharing of the viral samples under an existing agreement. If you occasionally read the news perhaps  "WHO" seems similar to another acronym "WTO" the Trump people have been denouncing. That acronym stands for World Trade Organization under which trade is governed by agreements which the United States is currently blocking by preventing appointments to its Appellate Body as part of its trade war against China.

In 1918 when the Spanish Flu hit the world, World War I was just ending. By the early 1920's due to a resurgence of xenophobic American nationalism, world trade was handled with bilateral negotiations. The U.S. position had sentenced the League of Nations to a meaningless existence. That ultimately led to the Great Depression and WWII.

It is 100 years later and xenophobic American nationalism again has been restored to a leading tenant of U.S. policy. The U.S. government has decided that the well-being of the world's population of 7.6 billion is not it's concern. Only the well-being of 4% of the world's population is of concern, those who live in the United States.

If nationalism is considered a legitimate policy position for the United States, then you have to consider it a legitimate policy position for China. Thus the American position is that only the well-being of the 18.5% of the world's population who live in the China should be of concern to the Chinese government.

Or perhaps Americans all need to move our attitudes into the 21st Century. In the meantime a headline in June noted H7N9 Spreading Westward from Southern and Eastern China.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Remind me, what was wrong with timber harvesting???
  When your air is clogged with congestive
  climate change, who should be blamed?

In 1976, a 28-year-old newly minted Congressman, Al Gore, held the first congressional hearings on the climate change, and co-sponsored hearings on toxic waste and global warming. About that, in December 2016 we noted: "But on climate policy 40 years ago, he..., well, kids..., my generation failed him and you."

In December 2017 in the post Foolish planning and the inevitable wildfires: What could have been learned from John Steinbeck about California's true climate we noted: "What we cannot do honestly is blame it on Global Warming which at worst only accelerated an inevitable timeline. And we are not going to "fix it" because we are the environmentally aware California. "

The Ranch Fire pictured above has burned more acreage than any fire in California's recorded history.  It is likely that this year's fire season ...well, we don't have a season anymore, so let's say that this year's wildfires... will have burnt more acreage than any prior year.

As discussed in Extreme California Wildfires Emit More Greenhouse Gases — But Scientists Don’t Know Exactly How Much:
    Cal Fire says more than 750,000 acres have burned so far in 2018, combusting grass, trees, homes, and all pushing out greenhouse gases.
    The fires have consumed three times as much land as the 2013 Rim Fire, which the U.S. Forest Service estimates released 10-to-15 million metric tons of carbon — roughly the equivalent of the emissions resulting from a million Californians over a year.
As explained in Huge wildfires can wipe out California’s greenhouse gas gains:
    Most years, the amount of greenhouse gases spewed by California’s cars, factories and power plants drops slightly — a hard-won result of the state’s fight against global warming.
    And in any given year, one big wildfire can wipe out that progress.
    Over the course of just a few weeks, a major fire can pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than California’s many climate change programs can save in 12 months. Scientists debate whether California’s vast forests are emitting more carbon dioxide through fires than they absorb through plant growth.
    To get a sense of the problem, look at 2015
    Greenhouse gas emissions across the California economy inched downward by 1.5 million metric tons that year, the most recent for which emissions data are available. And just one fire in 2015 — the Rough Fire, in the foothills of Fresno County — produced 6.8 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, according to an estimate from the U.S. Forest Service.
This is a problem, of course, for the State of California's whole self-congratulatory aggressive environmental policy. For instance, up to 2018, wildfire impacts have not been considered in reports about progress such as this one...

...because wildfires have been considered natural phenomenon. And so each year since that chart, some gain has been reported.

On December 11, 2017, the official scientific journal of the National Academy of Sciences, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, publish an article Human presence diminishes the importance of climate in driving fire activity across the United States which acknowledges...
    The adverse effects of increasing wildfire on human assets, and altered fire regimes on ecological integrity, are becoming a worldwide concern, especially in the wake of recent “megafire” events in some regions, which have resulted in enormous loss of human lives and properties. Most of these large fire events are driven by extreme weather conditions combined with prolonged drought; and escalation in fire activity is widely attributed to climatic factors and global warming. Furthermore, projections suggest that fire extent, frequency, and intensity could skyrocket in upcoming decades due to warmer temperatures and drier fuels, although there is inherent variability and regional variation.
...but points out...
    Climate was significantly less important where humans were more prevalent, suggesting that human influence could override or even exceed the effect of climate change on fire activity. Although climate change may play a significant role in altering future fire regimes, geographical context and human influence should also be accounted for in management and policy decisions.
As explained in As California Fires Continue, $170 Million In Grants Given To Reduce Fire Threat:
    While California experiences another destructive fire season, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) announced that more than $170 million has been awarded in grants to prevent catastrophic wildfires, like the Carr Fire and Mendocino Complex, and restore forest health. More than 100 agencies and organizations across California will receive funding to help the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions from wildfires and sequester carbon.
    With funds provided by the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund for California Climate Investments (CCI), CAL FIRE awarded 142 fire prevention grants totaling $79.7 million and 23 forest health projects totaling $91.5 million.
    The Fire Prevention grants will enable local organizations like fire safe councils, to implement activities that address the risk of wildfire and reduce wildfire potential to communities and forests. Funded activities include hazardous fuel reduction, fire planning, and fire prevention education with an emphasis on improving public health and safety, all while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
    “California continues to invest millions of dollars into creating healthier, more resilient forests that benefit all of us,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE director and California’s state forester. “Already this year more than 700,000 acres have burned across the state creating significant carbon releases that counter our efforts at reducing greenhouse gases. Local projects funded by this money will prevent wildfires before they start, and when combined with our fire prevention activities, will help move us toward our greenhouse gas reduction goals.”
Wow! The Californian who bought a Tesla Model S for $90,000 must be really into carbon emission reduction. Not only did she shell out for that, she paid the State $4.25 of her taxes to address the wildfire problem.

Of course, it might be effective to have the State raise her taxes for wildfire reduction and forest health projects to $42.50 per person generating $1.7 billion a year to spend on reducing wildfire emissions and increasing Carbon Dioxide absorption.

But hey, being human we're looking for someone else to blame as noted in California Wildfires Are Causing Billions in Damage. Who Will Pay? I wonder when the Trump people will be pointing out the liberal environmentalists opposition to timber harvesting?

Monday, August 6, 2018

Trump tweets about California wildfires and water - here's a visual to help him be less ignorant about the government he runs

The President of the United States tweeted about California's wildfires as follows:
    “California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!” — tweet Sunday.

    “Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of Water — Nice! Fast Federal govt. approvals.” — tweet Monday.
The federal government owns 45.8% of the land area of California as indicated in the graphic below:

As indicated most of the current wildfires are as usual on federal lands as are most of the trees about which he states: "Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading" And as indicated on the bottom map, the federal government owns a significant portion of the water contained in reservoirs in California and President Donald Trump, not Governor Jerry Brown, heads the government that manages the water "foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean."

It is embarrassing to  have a President so ignorant.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

More is at risk than abortion and gay marriage
  California must protect itself from the rise
  of "A Handmaid's Tale" theonomist judiciary

Nobody Expects The Spanish Inquisition is a popular meme which, if you click the link, is supported by videos viewed by millions, graphic images, and even T-shirts. It has not been used in reference to the Supreme Court. Yet.

Contrary to everything I understand about religion vis-à-vis the Judicial Branch within the Union is reflected in this from Wikipedia:
   Of the 113 justices who have been appointed to the court, 91 have been from various Protestant denominations, 12 have been Catholics (one other justice, Sherman Minton, converted to Catholicism after leaving the Court). Another, Neil Gorsuch, was raised in the Catholic Church but later attended an Episcopal church, though without specifying the denomination to which he felt he belonged.
    At the beginning of 2010, Justice John Paul Stevens was the sole remaining Protestant on the Court In April 2010, Justice Stevens announced his retirement, effective as of the Court's 2010 summer recess. Upon Justice Stevens' retirement, which formally began on June 28, 2010, the Court lacked a Protestant member, marking the first time in its history that it was exclusively composed of Jewish and Catholic justices. Although in January 2017, after seven years with no Protestant justices serving or nominated, President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Court, as noted above it is unclear whether Gorsuch considers himself a Catholic or an Episcopalian.
    This development led to some comment. Law school professor Jeffrey Rosen wrote that "it's a fascinating truth that we've allowed religion to drop out of consideration on the Supreme Court, and right now, we have a Supreme Court that religiously at least, by no means looks like America".
That "we have a Supreme Court that religiously at least, by no means looks like America" is a bit of an understatement. Consider this chart:

While generally courts are expected to administer the law as written, or at least as the judge reads it, the Supreme Court applies standards to laws to decide if they violate statements such as "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."

Some of us think that which religion one was raised in can influence what one believes is right and wrong. Some of us think that one's values are influenced by grade school and high school experiences. Some of us think that adults make judgements based upon their associations with their college professors and fellow university students, as much as they do based on which books they read.

So, yes, it is troubling not only for law school professor Jeffrey Rosen but of many Americans that five of the eight current Supreme Court Justices were raised Roman Catholic while the other three were raised in Judaism. It is also troubling that four of the eight (half) attended parochial schools. It is also troubling that not one attended a state institution of higher learning at any time in their college education.

Even if one ignores the fact that only three of the Justices are women, or only one is Hispanic and only one is black while seven are white, one could comfortably state that we have a Supreme Court that by no means looks like America in terms of formation of values and intellect.

Note that the caption under the picture at the top of this post states "Theonomists use Biblical moral pronouncements as the standard by which the laws of governments may be measured." It's surprisingly easy for many older persons to dismiss this theonomist concern about the Court when discussed only in the context of abortion or gay marriage. But it isn't quite as easy to dismiss it when considering Justice Neil Gorsuch's reasoned doctoral thesis that asserts that assisted suicide for the terminally ill is homicide - no mitigations are allowed:

What if within the next decade the Constitutionality of state laws allowing assisted suicide for terminally ill patients is resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court? Here are excerpts from The Right to Receive Assistance in Suicide and Euthanasia, with Particular Reference to the Law of the United States written in 2004 by Trump-appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, when he was a candidate for a DPhil degree in law (legal philosophy), University College, Oxford, supervised by the natural law philosopher John Finnis :
    I consider legal doctrine surrounding autonomy and personal privacy, and conclude that it is likely too weak a foundation on which to build a judicially created right to assisted suicide (Chapter V).
    I submit that there is a secular moral theory which, to date, has been largely neglected in contemporary American debate over assisted suicide and euthanasia. This theory rests on the notion that the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.
    After considering arguments from history, fairness, autonomy doctrine and theory, and utilitarianism, I suggested that courts and legislators may wish to consider a less frequently voiced perspective on the assisted suicide and euthanasia question, one grounded in the recognition of human life as a fundamental good. Under this view, private intentional acts of homicide are always wrong. Recognizing human life as intrinsically, not instrumentally, valuable, I submitted, would rule out assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Take a hard look at that list of Justices above.

One of the three names most mentioned by the "Trump people" to replace Kennedy is Amy Coney Barrett. Raised a Catholic, she graduated from St. Mary's Dominican High School in New Orleans. She received her BA from Rhodes College (formerly known as Southwestern Presbyterian University after being founded as the Masonic University of Tennessee), a private college located in Memphis, Tennessee. She then went to the Catholic Notre Dame Law School, where she taught full time as a Professor of Law from 2002 until 2017. She continues to teach part-time since since November 2, 2017, when she received Senate confirmation after President Donald Trump nominated Barrett to serve as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

She has seven children: five biological children and two children adopted from Haiti.

She is an active member of a particularly conservative Catholic religious group called People of Praise described as follows in Wikipedia:
    People of Praise was formed in 1971 by Kevin Ranaghan and Paul DeCelles. Both men were involved in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, in which Pentecostal religious experiences such as baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues and prophecy were practiced by Catholics. In its early history, it influenced the institutional development of the Catholic Charismatic movement in the United States and played important roles in national charismatic conferences.
    People of Praise practices a controversial form of spiritual direction that involves supervision of a member by a more spiritually mature person called a "head". People of Praise maintains that members retain their freedom of conscience under such direction. The community excludes women from the highest leadership positions and teaches that men are the spiritual leaders of their families. At the same time, it encourages women to pursue higher education and employment. Former People of Praise member and Catholic critic Adrian Reimers has accused People of Praise of being too ecumenical and of compromising Catholic teaching by embracing Protestant ecclesiology.
    It is not a church or denomination, and membership is open to any baptized Christian who affirms the Nicene Creed and agrees to the community's covenant. The majority of its members are Catholics, but Protestants can also join. It has 21 branches in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean, with approximately 3,000 members including children. It founded a group of non-denominational Christian schools, Trinity Schools.
During Barrett's Circuit Judge confirmation hearing, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein questioned Barrett about whether her Catholic faith would influence her decision-making on the court. Feinstein, concerned about whether Barrett would uphold Roe v. Wade given her Catholic beliefs, stated "the dogma lives loudly within you, and that is a concern". The line of questioning became a point of outrage from many of her defenders, both Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

The subject of Feinstein and other Democrats' concern was a 1998 article by Barrett where she argued that Catholic judges should in some cases recuse themselves from death penalty cases because of their moral objections to the death penalty. Feinstein's line of questioning was criticized by some observers and legal experts while defended by others.

During her hearing, Barrett said: "It is never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge's personal convictions, whether they arise from faith or anywhere else, on the law." That might seem comforting to some, but as reported her academic writing is far less comforting to those who support Roe and Obergefell:
     "There is little reason to think that reversals [of past decisions] would do much damage" to the court's reputation, she wrote. "I tend to agree with those who say that a justice's duty is to the Constitution" rather than to a precedent she thinks is clearly in conflict with it.
People learn not only from the upbringing and education, but as young adults from who they work for. Barrett worked a year as clerk to late Justice Antonin Scalia. Over the years Scalia repeatedly called upon his colleagues to strike down Roe v. Wade. In Obergefell v. Hodges in which the 5-4 majority decision written by Justice Kennedy struck down laws prohibiting gay marriage, in his dissenting opinion Scalia noted there were no evangelical Christians on the Court (he also literally dismissed California which we'll explore later):
    Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single South-westerner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count). Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination.
Unlike her male counterparts, Barrett admits she is occasionally conflicted about her role as a judge relative to her religion. In a 1998 article Barrett argued that Catholic judges should in some cases recuse themselves from death penalty cases because of their moral objections to the death penalty. Presumably she does not want the murderer to die. And presumably she would be conflicted about physician assisted suicide, but whether she would recuse herself if that subject reached a court she was on is doubtful.

It is worth noting the other blunt, though perhaps heartfult, dissents in the Obergefell case.

Chief Justice Roberts noted: "Today’s decision...creates serious questions about religious liberty. Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith, and their freedom to exercise religion is—unlike the right imagined by the majority—actually spelled out in the Constitution." He goes further stating: "The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage. ...The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses." He does not elaborate on what he means by "exercise" religion in the context of its impact on others.

Justice Samuel Alito expressed concern that the majority's opinion would be used to attack the beliefs of those who disagree with same-sex marriage, who "will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools", leading to "bitter and lasting wounds" and defending the rationale of the states, accepting the premise that same-sex marriage bans serve to promote procreation and the optimal child rearing environment.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote: "Aside from undermining the political processes that protect our liberty, the majority’s decision threatens the religious liberty our Nation has long sought to protect." He extensively explored the history of religion in from the time of the colonies noting that "in our society, marriage is not simply a governmental institution; it is a religious institution as well" concluding that "today’s decision might change the former, but it cannot change the latter. It appears all but inevitable that the two will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.'

Thomas is unrestrained as he offers his key opinion about the primacy of his Catholic upbringing over other individual right issues such as the Constitutionality of state laws banning gay marriage:
    The majority appears unmoved by that inevitability. It makes only a weak gesture toward religious liberty in a single paragraph.... And even that gesture indicates a misunderstanding of religious liberty in our Nation’s tradition. Religious liberty is about more than just the protection for “religious organizations and persons . . . as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.” ... Religious liberty is about freedom of action in matters of religion generally, and the scope of that liberty is directly correlated to the civil restraints placed upon religious practice.
"Religious liberty is about freedom of action in matters of religion generally, and the scope of that liberty is directly correlated to the civil restraints placed upon religious practice." What that literally says is that if a Christian majority in a community voted to start ducking witches (those that practice the Wicca religion), Thomas apparently would struggle with legally condemning the practice as he abhors civil restraints placed on religious practice. And he makes it clear that he thinks America's religious history deserves a place in the law as in his opinion he notes: "Many of the earliest immigrants to America came seeking freedom to practice their religion without restraint. ... When they arrived, they created their own havens for religious practice. ... Many of these havens were initially homogeneous communities with established religions."

Roberts, Alito, and Thomas are three of the four "conservatives" on the Court. Gorsuch, whose words about physician assisted suicide are quoted above, was not on the Court at the time of the Obergefell case.

The Threat of Christian Theonomist Rule

In the map below, the dark grey states are those that adopted certain theonomist laws in the years between 2011-2016, the years leading up to the 2016 elections in which the Republicans won the majority of U.S. House of Representatives, the majority of the U.S. Senate, and the office of  U.S. President, which will lead to a solid Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court:
The issue these maps present isn't whether anyone has the right to believe in words in the Bible or rules of personal behavior pronounced by men based on those words. Rather it is what determines the proper role of a state in regulating the personal lives of its people, most particularly when large numbers of people disagree.

In those dark grey states if the adoption of Islamic Sharia law was proposed, those that backed the adoption of certain theonomist laws in the years between 2011-2016 would threaten revolution. In their minds they see no comparison between implementing laws restricting abortion and Sharia law.

As explained by Canadian professor of comparative religion who from 1964–1973 was director of Harvard University's Center for the Study of World Religions Wilfred Cantwell Smith in his Islam in Modern History: "What theology is for the Christian, law is for the Muslim." The problem is within these United States despite the assurances of separation of church and state, controversial biblical pronouncements have a way of becoming law. Thus when I saw the original of the greyed map, I realized that Smith's statement in 21st Century America would be: "What should be Christian theology has become judicially imposed law within these United States."

My understanding is that the belief structure of the majority of the populous in those ten states resulted in the actions of two houses of each state's legislature and the governor of each state putting into law those restrictions.

For me the best understanding that belief structure can be found in the Kansans for Life: Issues web page (Kansans for Life is the largest anti-abortion group in the state) telling their followers (emphasis added) "Our society now recognizes that past discrimination on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity and social status was deeply unjust."

That web page also indicates their immediate political agenda:
    Pro-lifers oppose abortion because it takes the life of a human being before he or she is born....
    We oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide....
    We oppose embryonic stem cell research.... Human embryos are human beings.... And all human beings, regardless of appearance or location (e.g., a petri dish), ought to be treated with respect and not as mere raw material to use for the hypothetical benefit of others.
Notice that their newly discovered unjust discrimination basis does not include "religion" which you might want to argue isn't an indicator of anything. Except you might notice the picture at the top of that issues web page:

And then you might move your cursor over to the "Resources" link at the top of the page and discover this:

Now one might accuse me of making an unfair judgement about people wishing to impose their religious beliefs on others and considering them dangerous to Californians. But I would call the reader's attention to this 2012 article The Koch Brothers and Kansans for Life: The Alliance That Killed the Kansas Moderate or this Topeka rally for life brings thousands to state Capitol.

The first explains how seeking to eliminate government regulations and taxes on business in just one red state the very successful national Koch brothers Neoliberal network (see the post here Worldwide Ascendancy of Neoliberalism) joined with a strong Christian political movement which seeks to expand and tighten state and federal government regulations on the lives of individuals.

The second indicates the deep involvement of Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and the other Kansas bishops in the Kansans for Life political movement even using students from Catholic grade and high schools. Not that Kansans for Life is a Catholic organization which is clear from this:

Still, many have a problem with the abortion and gay marriage issues being used to demonstrate an insidious encroachment on freedom. Why would I think this is dangerous to Californians?

"California does not count." Justice Antonin Scalia 

I was born in California. I went to elementary school in California. My California high school 1962 graduating class was 393±  students.

It included 28 Japanese-American students (7%) who were born in the Internment Camps where Japanese Americans were relocated - well, American citizens who were as little as 1/16 Japanese heritage and orphaned infants with "one drop of Japanese blood" were placed in internment camps.

It included 41 Hispanic students (10%). Many of their parents and/or grandparents were impacted by the so-called Mexican Repatriation:
    The Mexican Repatriation was a mass deportation of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans from the United States between 1929 and 1936. Estimates of how many were repatriated range from 400,000 to 2,000,000. An estimated sixty percent of those deported were birthright citizens of the United States. Because the forced movement was based on race, and ignored citizenship, the process arguably meets modern legal definitions of ethnic cleansing.
If you add in the two Black classmates (issues: slavery and segregation), the two Chinese classmates (issue: the 1892 - 1940 Chinese Exclusion Act, the only U.S. law ever to prevent immigration and naturalization on the basis of race), and the three Native American classmates (issue: genocide, forced relocation, and removal of children), the governments in the Union (with U.S. Supreme Court approval in some cases) committed heinous acts based on racial bigotry against the parents and/or grandparents of about 20% of my classmates.

Am I paranoid about young black men being murdered by cops, by Hispanic deportation outside the norms of our federal court system, the bluster and potential fallout from "Trade War with China" and the anti-Muslim rhetoric? Or are my concerns valid?

I'm a Californian whose high school graduation in 1962 included a non-mandatory separate invocation event held apart from the graduation ceremony. It was jointly led by a Buddhist Priest, a Jewish Rabbi, a Protestant Minister, and a Catholic Priest. If we were holding such an invocation today it would include others, such as Islamic and an Amah Mutsun Tribal Band representation.

As noted in the chart above and similar to all the current "conservative" Justices, Justice "California-does-not-count" Scalia was raised a Catholic in New York City, attended Xavier High School, a Jesuit (Catholic) military school in Manhattan. He earned his bachelor of arts degree at Georgetown University, also a Jesuit school, and attended  Harvard Law School. Classmate and future New York State official William Stern remembered Scalia in his high school days: "This kid was a conservative when he was 17 years old. An archconservative Catholic. He could have been a member of the Curia. He was the top student in the class. He was brilliant, way above everybody else."

Scalia died in February 2016. But that comment "he could have been a member of the Curia" is troubling on many levels as I believe that it reflects a level of truth about the four "Conservative Justices" listed on the chart above who will remain after the retirement of Justice Kennedy.

Am I paranoid to think there is a real threat of Christian theonomist rule through the Court? Or are my concerns valid?

California now finds itself under a Union government based on minority rule, but it is more like Scalia said: "California does not count."

One of the more misleading 2016 election facts is frequently repeated in the press. And now with the resignation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy it is being repeated again. For instance, New York Magazine tells us:
    Democrats have won the national vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, which, with the retirement of Anthony Kennedy, will have resulted in the appointment of eight of the Supreme Court’s nine justices. And yet four of those justices will have been appointed by presidents who took office despite having fewer votes than their opponent.
    The House has a massive Republican tilt, requiring Democrats to win the national vote by six or seven points in order to secure a likely majority. The Senate has an even more pronounced tilt, overrepresenting residents of small states, which tend to be white and rural.
Factually the Union (see the post here Why factually these United States is a more perfect Union, not a country, nation, or state) has never been a democracy so it shouldn't surprise anyone that:
  • Donald Trump won the Presidency by winning the Electoral College even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a substantial margin;
  • Republicans won a substantial majority in the House of Representatives even though Democrats received the majority of the popular vote cast for House candidates; and
  • U.S. Senators were not even elected until the 20th Century and the Senate was never intended to reflect the will of the voters nationally.
But there is also another set of facts.
  • Without counting California votes, Donald Trump won the popular vote in the 2016 Presidential Election.
  • Without counting California votes, the Republicans won the popular vote cast in the 2016 House elections.
It is no small irony that Justice Kennedy, a Californian appointed to the Court by President and Former California Governor Ronald Reagan, while on the Supreme Court usually voted far more conservatively than would be accepted in California.

Only about a third of California voters vote Republican. That reflects California's substantive cultural differences with the red states. We need to consider the following maps:

The map above indicates which political party controls the state legislature, with the blue states controlled by Democrats. This map would seem to belie the quote above when it says: "Democrats have won the national vote in six of the last seven presidential elections." These United States, after all, is not a country, nation, or state, but a Union of diverse states as explained here in Why factually these United States is a more perfect Union, not a country, nation, or state.

But diversity is one thing. This was the map of the Union that immediately preceded Obergefell v. Hodges:

Is there anything about this map that looks similar to the maps above? Considering all of the maps above, would this map surprise anyone:

While I have no problem with these folks trying to alter the behavior of individuals through persuasion (free speech), what they have accomplished within those states is imposing their beliefs about individual behavior on everyone through the law. And what now seems possible is that they could succeed in altering the Wilfred Cantwell Smith phrase "what theology is for the Christian, law is for the Muslim" to "what should be Christian theology has become judicially imposed law within these United States."

Lest you think I'm overstating the situation, consider this. Chief Justice Roberts stated: "Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith, and their freedom to exercise religion is—unlike the right imagined by the majority—actually spelled out in the Constitution." Justice Thomas wrote: "The First Amendment enshrined protection for the free exercise of religion in the U. S. Constitution."

Those statements are simply a lie. The First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The key word there is "Congress." At the time of the adoption of the First Amendment, several states had state "established" religions and had laws the favored one religion over another. Other states had laws protecting religious practices ...well, Christian religious practices.

The difficulty in challenging the belief structure of the Court's majority has its foundation in cat videos. Odds are the people today who in the future might find themselves in the same disadvantaged position others did before Roe or Obergefell likely can tell you about YouTube videos in great detail. They just couldn't provide any hint of understanding regarding the fact that Abrahamic religions are one of the major divisions in comparative religion, along with Indian religions, Iranian religions, East Asian religions, African religions, American religions, Oceanic religions,  and classical Hellenistic religions.

The fact is the majority of Americans upon seeing the man pictured to the left would absolutely assume he is a Muslim. In fact, his "freedom to exercise religion" initially was prohibited by the U.S. Postal Service (see news release).

Despite the fact that turban wearing bearded members of the Sikh faith have been a significant element in the British and Indian armies - by the beginning of World War I Sikhs in the British Indian Army totaled 20 percent of the force and by 1945 fourteen Victoria Crosses were awarded to Sikhs, a per-capita regimental record - the good Christian United States military defending our "free exercise" of religion until 2017 would not permit them to serve wearing the turban and beard offering up all sorts of reasons belied by the obvious British/Indian history. And then consider this news story:

    Sikhism was founded in the 16th century by Guru Nanak in Punjab, an area that is now divided between India and Pakistan. Nanak rejected the rituals involved with other South Asian religions and stressed the importance of good deeds such as serving others and treating all people equally.
    The monotheistic religion has more than 25 million followers worldwide and about 500,000 in the United States. Yet a majority of Americans -- 60% -- admitted in a 2015 survey that they knew nothing at all about Sikhs.
    Lawyer and activist Valarie Kaur says the threat of violence seems to have become mainstreamed.
    Her grandfather settled in California a century ago, and she knows firsthand from her family that discrimination against Sikhs existed long before 2001. But 9/11, she says, was a paradigm shift, a turning point.
    She used to talk about living in the "shadow of 9/11." Then the shadow turned out to be long, and what seemed temporary became permanent.

There are between 500,000 and 700,000 Sikhs in the United States, roughly half of them in California. Of course, the beloved Conservative Catholic Justice Scalia made it clear - California does not count.

I must now digress a bit. Being a Northern Californian I did work with a Sikh I considered a friend who was of my generation. Of course, he was a Californian, so his father was Sikh, his mother of Mexican descent, and he was married to a white woman. He was born and raised in the southern-most part of California where he attended a segregated public school (yes, like the rest of the country California has a past bloated with bigotry) and was a beneficiary of Mendez v. Westminster which is part of Scalia's California does not count.

In 1947 a federal circuit court in California ruled that segregation of school children was unconstitutional—except this case involved the segregation of Mexican American school children years before the U.S. Supreme Court ended racial segregation in U.S. schools with Brown v. Board of Education.

The infamous Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reached this historic decision. The Ninth Circuit is generally hated by the right in the United States for its far reaching consistent view that the most important right of all Americans is to be treated equally by other Americans in "the town square."

Historic in its own right, Mendez was critical to the strategic choices and legal analysis used in arguing Brown and in shaping the ideas of a young NAACP attorney, Thurgood Marshall. Moreover, the Mendez case—which originated with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) but benefited from the participation of the NAACP—also symbolized the important crossover between different ethnic and racial groups who came together to argue in favor of desegregation.

But then again, California does not count, so the Mendez case is not taught in Kansas schools so let's return to the subject at hand.

Sikhism is one of the largest organized religions in the world, with 20 million members living in India and 27 million worldwide. But it is not among the Abrahamic religions that claim descent from the practices of the ancient Israelites and the worship of the God of Abraham, the largest of which are (in alphabetical order) Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. These religions have a long history of violence, so much so that the Wikipedia entry has a section headed Violent conflicts with subsection headings Between Abrahamic religions, Between branches of the same Abrahamic religion, and Between Abrahamic religions and non-adherents. This is religion as embraced in American history and law.

I may be paranoid, but...

Some may want to accuse me of paranoia and/or, as they did to Diane Feinstein, accuse me of religious bigotry. But I'm an old Californian whose high school graduation included a non-mandatory separate invocation event where a Buddhist priest led part of the ceremony. I'm an old Californian who had a Sikh friend. I am an old Californian who had friends in high school who because of their racial heritage were born in American concentration camps. I am an old Californian who had friends in high school whose American-born parents and grandparents were subjected to the so-called Mexican Repatriation and whose grand-children are now subjected to an out-of-control Trump immigration policy. I'm an old Californian who does not accept what the Union has become in the 21st Century.

Perhaps I'm paranoid, but just maybe I have a reason to fear the rise of "A Handmaid's Tale" theonomist judiciary regardless of which of the possible nominees for replacement of Justice Kennedy is selected. And that is because of the majority of the people living in the states on the map below do not even know that the "Star Spangled Banner" was written by an avid advocate of slavery and has a verse attacking escaped slaves:

Scroll up to compare this map with maps indicating the related facts - not that facts matter. And God forbid in this country, which according to a sitting Supreme Court Justice "enshrined protection for the free exercise of religion," we would have a mandatory 8th Grade course on comparative religions so we know what religion is and that it includes Islam and Zoroastrianism (one of the world's oldest extant monotheistic religions which enters recorded history in the 5th-century BCE and is practiced by about 11,000 people in the United States and many facets of which are incorporated into Christianity and Islam).

Or does the makeup of the Court itself and the map above together tell us which religions were actually enshrined and which are just tolerated. And which American citizens are deserving of legal protections?

7/10/2018 Update: Nominee Brett Kavanaugh

Somewhat to my surprise President Trump nominated Bret Kavanaugh to replace Justice Kennedy.

As explained above in the original post, some of us think that which religion one was raised in can influence what one believes is right and wrong, one's values are influenced by grade school and high school experiences, adults make judgements based upon their associations with their college professors and fellow university students, as much as they do based on which books they read.

It is very troubling that Kavanaugh's life as can be seen on the chart above adding to the chart in the original post, reads like five of the eight current Supreme Court Justices who were raised Roman Catholic, four of the eight who attended parochial schools, and eight of eight none of whom attended a state institution of higher learning at any time in their college education.

It isn't comforting that Kavanaugh is a regular lector (reader) at his Washington, D.C. church, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

According to The Lector at Mass - United States Conference of Catholic Bishops this carefully constrained role is:
    In the procession to the altar, in the absence of a Deacon, the reader, wearing approved attire [see GIRM, no. 339], may carry the Book of the Gospels, slightly elevated. In that case, the reader walks in front of the Priest but otherwise walks along with the other ministers.
    Upon reaching the altar, the reader makes a profound bow with the others [see also GIRM, no. 274]. If he is carrying the Book of the Gospels, he approaches the altar and places the Book of the Gospels upon it. Then the reader takes his own place in the sanctuary with the other ministers. (GIRM, nos. 194-195)
    The reader reads from the ambo the readings that precede the Gospel. In the absence of a psalmist, the reader may also proclaim the Responsorial Psalm after the First Reading.
    In the absence of a Deacon, the reader, after the introduction by the Priest, may announce the intentions of the Universal Prayer from the ambo.
    If there is no singing at the Entrance or at Communion and the antiphons given in the Missal are not recited by the faithful, the reader may read them at an appropriate time (cf. nos. 48, 87). (GIRM, nos. 196-198)
    At the conclusion of the Mass, the lector does not process with the Book of the Gospels. The Lectionary is never carried in procession. The lector may join in the procession at the end of Mass in the same order as in the procession to the altar.
Nor is it comforting that Kavanaugh has tutored at the Washington Jesuit Academy, a Catholic private school in the District of Columbia.

In stark contrast, outgoing Justice Kennedy who Kavanaugh clerked for and would replace has been active off the bench as well, calling for reform of overcrowded American prisons in a speech before the American Bar Association. He spends his summers in Salzburg, Austria, where he teaches international and American law at the University of Salzburg for the McGeorge School of Law of the University of the Pacific (founded in 1851 with a Methodist affiliation) and often attends the large yearly international judges conference held there.

Defending his use of international law, in 2005 Kennedy told The New Yorker staff writer Jeffrey Toobin, "Why should world opinion care that the American Administration wants to bring freedom to oppressed peoples? Is that not because there's some underlying common mutual interest, some underlying common shared idea, some underlying common shared aspiration, underlying unified concept of what human dignity means? I think that's what we're trying to tell the rest of the world, anyway."

Not since Episcopalian David Souter has anyone been on the Court who was not raised in Catholicism or Judaism.

Besides the heavy dose of Catholic upbringing represented on the Court, I have one other problem with this Court. Since the Supreme Court was established in 1789, 113 persons have served on the Court. Of the first 100, 40 had no prior judicial experience. A complete list is below, but the 40 include Earl Warren, William O. Douglas, Felix Frankfurter, and Louis Brandeis, just to name a few whose name some Americans might recognize.

No one appearing on this list has been seated on the Supreme Court since 1972 even though the role of the Supreme Court is radically different than that of a judge.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Development of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  AI should be regulated but perhaps not by
  an elected, divisive U.S. legislative body

Which photo represents The Dawn of the Age of Artificial Intelligence?
    "Halt and Catch Fire (HCF): An early computer command that sent the machine into a race condition, forcing all instructions to compete for superiority at once. Control of the computer could not be regained." - title card for the TV series Halt and Catch Fire
    In computer engineering, Halt and Catch Fire, known by the assembly mnemonic HCF, is an idiom referring to a computer machine code instruction that causes the computer's central processing unit (CPU) to cease meaningful operation, typically requiring a restart of the computer. - Wikipedia
Greg Brockman is likely a name you do not recognize even though he is on the 2018 Forbes List 30 Under 30 - Enterprise Technology. He's 29. The Forbes entry reports his education as follows: "Drop Out, arvard University; Bachelor of Arts/Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (also drop out)." It tells you he resides in San Francisco.

Brockman testified before Congress Tuesday on artificial intelligence (AI). Thinking about Brockman reminded me of....


Halt and Catch Fire

In its first season, the TV series Halt and Catch Fire won the Critic's Choice Television Award for Most Exciting New Series. By the third season it had a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In its fourth and final season which received critical acclaim it held a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Per Wikipedia: "Taking place over a period of ten years, the series depicts a fictionalized insider's view of the personal computer revolution of the 1980s and later the growth of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s."

Halt and Catch Fire told the story of a few people who found themselves in the middle of the creation of technology that thus far has driven the 21st Century. It aired on AMC from June 1, 2014, to October 14, 2017.

On February 6, 2018, it won the Women's Image Network Awards award for Best Drama Series. For the show offered the best representation of women in tech and management in ways you would have a hard time finding elsewhere.

For someone who was involved with computers beginning in the 1970's and 1980's the show was a historical piece, a story of the late 20th Century, and well done. It also reminded me of how young and naive we were - unaware of the real implications of what we were doing.

One programmer observed: “I know that something’s coming, something big, like a train, and all I want is to jump on board. But it’s getting faster and faster and I’m terrified I’m going to miss it … I don’t want to get left behind.”

With foresight, another young staffer in his suicide note warned: “Beware of false prophets who will sell you a fake future, of bad teachers and corrupt leaders and dirty corporations … But most of all beware of each other, because everything is about to change. The world is going to crack wide open. The barriers between us will disappear, and we’re not ready. We’ll hurt each other in new ways. We’ll sell and be sold. We’ll expose our most tender selves only to be mocked and destroyed. We’ll be so vulnerable and we’ll pay the price.”

Airing in the second decade of the 21st Century, the series offers hindsight which sometimes provides us with insight regarding current activities. And yet, relatively few Americans watched it. And why would they?

After all as late as 2006 United States Senator Ted Stevens was reflecting the average American's understanding of the technology that could make or break their employer in that decade:
    Ten movies streaming across that, that Internet, and what happens to your own personal Internet? I just the other day got… an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday. I got it yesterday [Tuesday]. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially.
    ...They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.
Even recognizing that Stevens was just one member of Congress, most of us who were involved in the computer industry in the 1970's and 1980's, who also had governmental/political involvement, understood that the 19th Century U.S. Constitution was entering a "Halt and Catch Fire" condition. Because it is government, it would take about a decade before the need to "reboot" our federal government with all new "machine code" uploaded would become obvious.

And indeed in 2016 the need to "reboot" our federal government with all new "machine code" did become obvious, with the Russian interference in the Presidential Election based solely upon the use of primary goal of the American corporate internet - advertising to make corporations rich. And indeed in 2016 the need to "reboot" our federal government with all new "machine code" did become obvious with the effective use of internet social media by a reality game show host who had no previous political or government experience to get himself elected President.

The fact "it won't work anymore" came from knowning that Ted Stevens chaired the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. And because of his very limited knowledge about 21st Century technology he used the "series of tubes" metaphor to criticize a proposed amendment to a committee bill which would have prohibited Internet service providers such as AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon Communications from charging fees to give some companies' data a higher priority in relation to other traffic.

And today while Congress members are somewhat better versed on the 50-year-old technology, their median expertise level is only slightly better than knowing how to watch cat videos on YouTube. Even their staffers are most certainly not at the level necessary to begin the process of regulating Artificial Intelligence. The "cat video" level of knowledge (along with a predisposition to listen to corporate lobbyists in order to fund reelection campaigns) is why in the United States achieving privacy and security on the internet through Congressional action will never happen.


The Dawn of the Age of Artificial Intelligence

On Wednesday November 30, 2016, Greg Brockman gave his first testimony on Capitol Hill to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. The subject matter of the hearing was "The Dawn of the Age of Artificial Intelligence" and the Chair of the Subcommittee was a different Senator named Ted. Here are some of the hearing opening remarks from Senator Ted Cruz:
    Today, we’re on the verge of a new technological revolution, thanks to the rapid advances in processing power, the rise of big data, cloud computing, mobility due to wireless capability, and advanced algorithms. Many believe that there may not be a single technology that will shape our world more in the next 50 years than artificial intelligence. In fact, some have observed that, as powerful and transformative as the Internet has been, it may be best remembered as the predicate for artificial intelligence and machine learning.
    Artificial intelligence is at an inflection point. While the concept of artificial intelligence has been around for at least 60 years, more recent breakthroughs...have brought artificial intelligence from mere concept to reality.
    Whether we recognize it or not, artificial intelligence is already seeping into our daily lives. In the healthcare sector, artificial intelligence is increasingly being used to predict diseases at an earlier stage, thereby allowing the use of preventative treatment, which can help lead to better patient outcomes, faster healing, and lower costs. In transportation, artificial intelligence is not only being used in smarter traffic management applications to reduce traffic, but is also set to disrupt the automotive industry through the emergence of self-driving vehicles. Consumers can harness the power of artificial intelligence through online search engines and virtual personal assistants via smart devices, such as Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Home. Artificial intelligence also has the potential to contribute to economic growth in both the near and long term. A 2016 Accenture report predicted that artificial intelligence could double annual economic growth rates by 2035 and boost labor productivity by up to 40 percent.
    Furthermore, market research firm Forrester recently predicted that there will be a greater-than-300-percent increase in investment in artificial intelligence in 2017 compared to 2016. While the emergence of artificial intelligence has the opportunity to improve our lives, it will also have vast implications for our country and the American people that Congress will need to consider, moving forward....
    Today, the United States is the preeminent leader in developing artificial intelligence. But, that could soon change. ...Ceding leadership in developing artificial intelligence to China, Russia, and other foreign governments will not only place the United States at a technological disadvantage, but it could have grave implications for national security.
    We are living in the dawn of artificial intelligence. And it is incumbent that Congress and this subcommittee begin to learn about the vast implications of this emerging technology to ensure that the United States remains a global leader throughout the 21st century. This is the first congressional hearing on artificial intelligence....
As did a number of leaders in the AI industry, Brockman gave an extensive presentation. Here are some key points:
    I’m Greg Brockman, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of OpenAI. OpenAI is a nonprofit AI research company with a billion dollars in funding. Our mission is to build safe, advanced AI technology, and to ensure that its benefits are distributed to everyone....
    The U.S. has led essentially all technological breakthroughs of the past 100 years. And they’ve consistently created new companies, new jobs, and increased American competitiveness in the world. AI has the potential to be our biggest advance yet.
    Today, we have a lead, but we don’t have a monopoly, when it comes to AI. This year, Chinese teams won the top categories in a Stanford annual image recognition context. South Korea declared a billion-dollar AI fund. Canada actually produced a lot of the technologies that have kicked off the current boom. And they recently announced their own renewed investment into AI.
    So, right now I would like to share three key points for how the U.S. can lead in AI:
    The first of these is that we need to compete on applications. But, when it comes to basic research, that should be open and collaborative....
    The second that we need public measurement and contests. There’s really a long history of contests causing major advances in the field. For example, the DARPA Grand Challenge really led directly to the self-driving technology that’s being commercialized today. ...Measures and contests help distinguish hype from substance, and they offer better forecasting. ...Good policy responses and a healthy public debate are really going to depend on people having clear data about how the technology is progressing. What can we do? What still remains science fiction? How fast are things moving? So, we really support OSTP’s recommendation that the government keep a close watch on AI advancement, and that it work with industry to measure it.
    The third thing that we need is that we need industry, government, and academia to start coordinating on safety, security, and ethics. The Internet was really built with security as an afterthought. And we’re still paying the cost for that today.
    Academic and industrial participants are already starting to coordinate on responsible development of AI. For example, we recently published a paper, together with Stanford, Berkeley, and Google, laying out a roadmap for AI safety research. Now, what would help is feedback from the government about what issues are most concerning to it so that we can start addressing those from as early a date as possible.
    ...The best way to create a good future is to invent it. And we have that opportunity with AI by investing in open, basic research, by creating competitions and measurement, and by coordinating on safety, security, and ethics.
Tuesday's joint meeting of the House Subcommittee on Research and Technology and Subcommittee on Energy offers insight into how it is when technology advances at the hands of young creators, even ones who are concerned about the deficits in the process. You can watch it on YouTube (note: the action doesn't start until 22 minutes into the video):

The problem is the expert witnesses are asking the technology challenged, AI-uninformed to create regulations, an ethics system, when the experts themselves are unable to know and describe what problems are likely to arise from a technology level that does not exist and has never been tested.

The baseline example is the so-called "autonomous" vehicle. In that case, the first step is to acquire a dictionary and discover "autonomous" means "existing or capable of existing independently, not subject to control from outside."

In other words, an autonomous vehicle will decide where it's going and what route it's taking, and also drive itself there. Would you climb into such a vehicle, perhaps right after you named it "Hal" (and if you don't recognize that reference, you do need to stream the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey).

On the other hand, a "self-driving" vehicle is capable of driving to the destination on the roads you tell it to, hopefully safely without your intervention through the controls such as the steering wheel or brakes.

Despite the fact that self-driving-capable vehicles exist, American governments are having trouble regulating them and there are no ethical nuances involved.

In 2016 Brockman observed: "The Internet was really built with security as an afterthought. And we’re still paying the cost for that today." That was after the 2016 election but before the full scope of the Russian interference problem was known. Unfortunately, we have no answers for the security problem that does not in some way interfere with either individual freedom or individual privacy or both.

I cannot even begin to imagine the operating assumption that will go into real AI, assumptions that will turn out to be false - you know, the ooops of technology. I cannot even begin to consider the complex ethical and moral issues that will arise even if the AI is not in the form of a Dolores (pictured to the right at the top of this post), Bernard, Maeve, or Teddy.

Government? In considering and effectively dealing with such a complex issue as AI and with the opinions of hundreds of millions of people slowly learning about AI, you're looking a two decades of debate. Then, of course, it will be too late to have avoided layers of crises.

If you think I'm wrong, you may want to read the paper prepared for the Academy to the Third Millennium February 1997 Conference Internet & Politics entitled "Regulation and Deregulation of the Internet."  Presented by Columbia University by professor of Finance and Economics and Paul Garrett Chair in Public Policy and Business Responsibility Eli Noam who is the director of the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information (CITI).

 In order to set context, let me return to the TV series Halt and Catch Fire. Episode 1 of Season 3. The year is 1986. The place is Silicon Valley. And Mutiny, the little internet startup that could, is celebrating a 100,000-person user base and independence from the outsourced servers it once relied upon to keep itself running. Let me repeat - the year is 1986.

Noam's presentation was given in February 1997, over a decade after real life young tech nerds like those depicted in Halt and Catch Fire were establishing the internet. His presentation was over a decade after the internet became obvious to many and nearly 20 years before the Russian interference in the U.S. Presidential election in which the only candidate who knew how to effectively use social media (because he was the only non-politician) won. In that 1997 context Noam muses:
    A myth is going around that has almost been elevated to the status of platitude: “you cannot regulate the Internet.” There is a related myth, that “a bit is a bit,” that no bit can therefore be treated differently from any other, and that attempts at control are therefore doomed to fail. Both claims, though originating with technologists who implicitly seem to believe in technological determinism, are wrong even as a matter of technology....
    Also, communication is not just a matter of signals but of people and institutions. For all the appeal of the notion of “virtuality,” one should not forget that physical reality is alive and well. Senders, recipients, and intermediaries are living, breathing people, or they are legally organized institutions with physical domiciles and physical hardware. The arm of the law can reach them. It may be possible to evade such law, but the same is true when it comes to tax regulations. Just because a law cannot fully stop an activity does not prove that such law is ineffective or undesirable.
    This, most emphatically, does not mean that we should regulate cyberspace (whatever it is). But that is a normative question of values, not one of technological determinism. We should choose freedom because we want to, not because we have to. And that choice will not be materially different from those which societies generally apply. As the Internet moves from a nerd-preserve to an office park, shopping mall, and community center, it is sheer fantasy to expect that its uses and users will be beyond the law. This seems obvious. Yet, for many, the new medium is like a Rorschach test, an electronic blob into which they project their own fantasies, desires and fears for society. As the Russians say: Same bed, different dreams. Traditionalists find the dark forces of degeneracy, as in everything. Libertarians find an atrophy of government. Leftists find a new community, devoid of the material avarice of private business. This kind of dreaming is common for new and fundamental technology, and it is usually wrong.
    A society’s choice of rules will depend, among other things, on its willingness to accept risk. The Internet is new and unchartedterritory.  The term “electronic frontier” is quite apt. As it happens, America has been in the frontier business for a long time. It’s good at it. It’s its defining characteristic,together with liberty and free enterprise. No wonder then that America is atthe leading edge of the information age.
    It is a common fallacy to over-estimate the short term but to under-estimate the long term.  Thus, we over-estimate the short-termability of electronic communications to be free of government controls, because it is believed that “you can’t regulate the Internet.”  But the long-term is another matter. The long-term leads to entirely new conceptsof political community. Just as traditional banks and traditional universities will decline, so will traditional forms of jurisdiction. A few years ago, it became fashionable to speak of communications creating the"global village."-- communal and peaceful. But there is nothing village-like in the unfolding reality. Instead, groups with shared economic interests are extending national group pluralism through the opportunity to create global interconnection with each other into the international sphere. The new group networks do not create a global village, they create instead the world as a series of electronic neighborhoods.
    Communications define communities, and communities define politics. Thus, the breakdown of the coherent national communications system reflects and accelerates a fundamental centrifugalism that will reshape, in time, countries and societies. We are barely at the beginning of this evolution, and the forces of resistance are only beginning to fathom the impacts.
It has been 55 years since Americans began to use something resembling today's internet. The earliest ideas for a computer network intended to allow general communications among computer users were formulated in April 1963 by computer scientist J. C. R. Licklider in memoranda discussing the concept of the "Intergalactic Computer Network". Those ideas encompassed many of the features of the contemporary Internet. In October 1963, Licklider was appointed head of the Behavioral Sciences and Command and Control programs at the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). Funded by ARPA of the United States Department of Defense,  ARPANET became the technical foundation of the Internet.

To put it simply, it has been over a half a century since the U.S. Government began creating the internet. In the face of various national security agencies needs for access to everyone's data which the private sector apparently already has, Congress is struggling with how to establish any semblance of security and privacy in the face of what was created by funding approved by...Congress.

In April the following headline appeared in Newsweek AI Candidate Promising ‘Fair and Balanced’ Reign Attracts Thousands of Votes in Tokyo Mayoral Election. That article seemed just about as informed about AI as Congress. In a different source we are offered a more prescient perspective:
    Whether it's samurai robots, a hotel staffed by robots, or AI girlfriends, it seems that it safe to say that one should keep their eye on Japan when it comes to developments in the field of artificial intelligence. So while it seemed a foregone conclusion that AI would eventually break into the world of politics, the way we're seeing it do so in one city in Japan is a bit surprising. The mayoral election of Tama City in Tokyo is featuring its first "AI candidate".
    At least, that's what one can take from the promise of mayoral candidate Michito Matsuda. Matsuda has chosen to throw his hat into the election but is deferring to an AI-powered robot avatar, as he intends to maximize the use of artificial intelligence and rely on it heavily in the running of his municipal administration.
    As he writes on his Twitter account (which is run in character in an AI persona), "For the first time in the world, AI will run in an election. Artificial intelligence will change Tama City. With the birth of an AI-Mayor, we will conduct impartial and balanced politics. We will implement policies for the future with speed, accumulate information and know-how, and lead the next generation."
Even though he lost the election, Matsuda's effort could lead to a possible discussion regarding whether politicians or AI could do a better job at governing. And so long as Americans keep voting for candidates they can socially relate to, the answer some day could be AI. Or not as discussed in AI 101: Why AI is the Next Revolution–or Doomsday.

I'm not sure which will be more disruptive to humanity - AI or Climate Change. But I can tell Greg Brockman and Dr. Fei-Fei Li that the Congressional testimony they gave earlier this week is almost a complete waste of time.


California Joins the EU

With all of that said, California - the home of Silicon Valley - is attempting to step in where Congress has failed essentially by adopting online privacy rules consistent with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union that became effective May 25.

The GDPR begins with a simple statement: "The protection of natural persons in relation to the processing of personal data is a fundamental right. Article 8(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the ‘Charter’) and Article 16(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) provide that everyone has the right to the protection of personal data concerning him or her." The term "natural persons" is used to distinguish humans from corporations in emphasizing human rights over economic constructs.

And so this week the California Legislature passed the toughest online privacy law in these United States. However, it doesn't take effect until January 2020 though, in order to allow the Silicon Valley corporations to prepare.

Under the new law, California consumers will have the right to:
  • know all the data collected by a business and be able to transfer it twice annually for free;
  • to opt out of having their personal information sold (but companies will then be able to charge those consumers higher fees);
  • to delete their data;
  • to tell a business it can't sell their data;
  • to know why the data is being collected;
  • to be informed of what categories of data will be collected before it's collected and to be informed of any changes to that;
  • to be told the categories of third parties with whom their data is shared and the categories of third parties from whom their data was acquired;
  • to have businesses get permission before selling any information of children under the age of 16.

As the Los Angeles Times noted With the federal government missing in action, California should set its own rules for internet privacy.

Regarding Artificial Intelligence, Brockman, Li, and their compatriots should move their advocacy effort for an AI regulatory/ethics structure to the California Legislature. That is because, as we've pointed out on a number of issues, it is the Progressive Pacific Message that must be advocated:

The problem is that if individuals use the California online privacy law, it is very likely that the U.S. Supreme Court, with its membership reflecting the privacy preferences of most of the folks not in the Pacific States, would ultimately overturn it as a proscribed interference in interstate commerce. That is because the U.S. Constitution as literally written by the Founding Fathers primarily provides for (a) the conduct international relations including military defense and (b) provides for the regulation of interstate commerce exclusively by Congress. It took amendments contained in what we know as the Bill of Rights to have any provisions for human rights and online privacy was not included.

The U.S. Government because of its "machine code" known as the Constitution is simply not capable of surviving the 21st Century.