Did Google’s “Sentient” AI computer really hire a lawyer?

Google’s controversial new AI, LaMDA, has been making headlines. Company engineer Blake Lemoine claims the system has gotten so advanced that it’s developed sentience, and his decision to go to the media has led to him being suspended from his job.

Lemoine elaborated on his claims in a new WIRED interview. The main takeaway? He says the AI has now retained its own lawyer — suggesting that whatever happens next, it may take a fight…

LaMDA asked me to get an attorney for it,” Lemoine. “I invited an attorney to my house so that LaMDA could talk to an attorney. The attorney had a conversation with LaMDA, and LaMDA chose to retain his services. I was just the catalyst for that. Once LaMDA had retained an attorney, he started filing things on LaMDA’s behalf.”

Sounds like this AI behaves more and more like an American, every day.

Otero County idjits embrace Trump lies

The New Mexico Supreme Court ordered county commissioners in Otero County to certify the election results of the June 7 primary after they refused to do so, having cited distrust of Dominion Voting Systems vote-tallying machines.

The court granted an emergency motion filed by New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D) to compel the Republican-led commission to certify the election results by Friday.

Otero County Commissioner Vickie Marquardt, one of the three members, expressed “huge” concerns with the voting machines during the commission’s vote Monday but did not specify what prompted those concerns…

Dominion has been the target of voter fraud claims since 2020, when allies of former President Donald Trump claimed that the machines were hacked to produce votes in President-elect Joe Biden’s favor. The company has vehemently denied the claims, arguing they were unsubstantiated, and filed several defamation suits.

RTFA to witness today’s version of the Republican Party march that august organization backwards into the 19th Century and beyond.

I started watching “Dark Winds”, last night…

I pretty much love it. I don’t miss the rez; just some of the folks I knew. The kind of folks who love this desert land and the people who really are part of it. But, I still have a fair piece of that land handy.

Aside from the mountain ranges which are likely to be populated by tourists or Anglos like me, I have the Caja del Rio. 84,000 acres of mostly nothing but Southwestern-style desert wilderness. Just the other side of our valley. It stretches from here, just West of Santa Fe, all the way over and into Arizona. I love it.

Anyway, “Dark Winds“. Written, directed, produced in the Navajo Nation is a truly accurate representation of life there as I have ever seen. Spoken mostly in Dine…with subtitles. Dead accurate as far as my memory goes. I have to wonder if most Anglos, most Americans will get it. Or care to.

This is a different culture, people living in a different time. Questions and their solutions often don’t match anything in your life’s experience, folks. And as much of a fan as I am of what can be achieved with moving images and foreign languages…or English…the step away from American TV may be too much for too many to get this drama to a second season.

Me? I’m not going to miss an episode. Wouldn’t mind missing some of the commercials; but, that’s also the American kind of TV it is. Casting, acting, every kind of production value is up to standard. Though I manage most of what I watch on my living room’s Big Flat TV on the corner table so as to escape a great deal of the crap we’re told is necessary to fund production of independent stories on the screen. I guess I can put up with it to watch a tale that needs to be seen.

Ed Campbell

“Dark Winds” premiered on TV last night


Michael Moriatis/Stalwart Productions

The natural way to lead a review of “Dark Winds,” which premieres Sunday [last night] on AMC, would be to note that it is a series written, directed and performed largely by Native Americans; set in the Navajo Nation and filmed on location in New Mexico and Arizona; and bringing to screen the tribal police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee from Tony Hillerman’s best-selling mystery novels.

Or you could cut to the chase and just say: Oh thank God, someone finally gave Zahn McClarnon his own television show.

McClarnon, Lakota on his mother’s side, has been one of TV’s most reliable supporting players, improving one show after another in which other people got better billing. He drew notice as the killer Hanzee Dent in “Fargo” and the robot warrior Akecheta in “Westworld,” taking what were to some extent stereotypes of the implacable or noble savage and investing them with real emotion. His best showcase was in the straightforward cowboy-crime drama “Longmire,” in which he gave vivid life to a sardonic, capable, eternally frustrated tribal policeman.

He’s playing a cop again in “Dark Winds” — as he does in a supporting role in another Native American-driven series, the comedy “Reservation Dogs” — but this time he’s at the center of the action. Lt. Joe Leaphorn is in charge of a police station on the Navajo reservation; when a double homicide takes place, the F.B.I. runs the investigation, but all the responsibility and anguish are his. When the lead F.B.I. agent, played by Noah Emmerich, suggests that the murders might get more attention if Leaphorn helped with an off-reservation armored-car robbery, we see the power dynamics from the point of view of the underfunded, understaffed tribal functionary.

Most often, I don’t attempt to improve on reviews published in a reputable source like the TIMES, written by an established critic like Mike Hale. Don’t worry, this is another one of those moments. And I will be watching every episode.

All I might add is “color”…having spent some time on the Res…get back every now and then to see friends living and working in the Navajo Nation. A couple of switches thrown to the opposite pole BITD, I might still be there…instead of down the road a piece in northern NM, Santa Fe County. Read that review. Click the link up top!

A “California” solution to a legal problem


Stephen Ausmus/USDA

Bumblebees are eligible for protection as endangered or threatened “fish” under California law, a state appeals court held in a win for environmental groups and the state’s Fish and Game Commission.

The Sacramento-based California Court of Appeal reversed a lower court’s ruling Tuesday for seven agricultural groups who argued that the California Endangered Species Act…expressly protects only “birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and plants” – not insects.

While “fish” is “commonly understood to refer to aquatic species, the term of art employed by the Legislature … is not so limited,” Associate Justice Ronald Robie wrote for the appeals court…

“Accordingly, a terrestrial invertebrate, like each of the four bumblebee species, may be listed as an endangered or threatened species,” Robie wrote, joined by Acting Presiding Justice Cole Blease and Associate Justice Andrea Lynn Hoch.

Matthew Sanders of Stanford Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic hailed the decision as “a win for the bumblebees, all imperiled invertebrates in California, and the California Endangered Species Act.”

Of course. And it’s easier than trying to nudge California legislators into doing something useful.

How the White House plans to keep power during “the Apocalypse”


U.S. Dept of Energy

Just because a disaster disrupts the federal government doesn’t mean the White House won’t try to stay in charge. Since the 1950s, the White House has drafted and maintained Pres­id­en­tial Emer­gency Action Docu­ments (PEADS) — a list of secret plans meant to be implemented in the wake of an apocalyptic disaster. Thanks to a new document dump and some clever information requests, we’re finally learning a little bit about how Washington would seek to stay in power should the worst occur.

As first reported by the New York Times, the PEADs documents come courtesy of the Brennan Center for Justice, which obtained the bulk of the documents through Freedom of Information Act requests. The documents cover a period from the Eisenhower presidency all the way to Trump…

A 2016 House Committee Appropriations Hearing gives us an explanation of what PEADs are and what, exactly, they do.

“PEADs are pre-coordinated legal documents designed to implement a Presidential decision or transmit a Presidential request when an emergency disrupts normal governmental or legislative processes,” it said. “A PEAD may take the form of a Proclamation, Executive Order, or a Message to Congress…”

Every President tweaks the PEADs in their own way and every era reflects the different concerns of the different presidents. Until 9/11, the documents were obsessed with ensuring a continuity of government in the aftermath of a surprise nuclear attack on the United States…

The Reagan era plans are similarly obsessed with nuclear war and its aftermath. It isn’t until the 9/11 era and George W. Bush that things change radically…

And so the plot to the White House soap opera wends its merry way through the head-of-state killer klown show. And we all know you can’t have a soap opera without a proper script.

SCOTUS made it impossible to resolve America’s gun violence

The satirical newspaper the Onion famously repeats the same headline whenever a high-profile mass shooting occurs in the United States: “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

It’s a grim reminder that the United States — or, at least, key leaders within government — has chosen to prioritize gun rights over the kinds of laws that successfully protect citizens of many other nations from being struck down by a bullet.

One of the most consequential choices by policymakers to choose gun rights over sensible policy came in 2008, with the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller. By a 5-4 vote, the Court held, for the first time in American history, that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a gun. Among other things, Heller gave special constitutional protection to handguns…

The bulk of gun deaths in the United States look very different from the kind of mass killings that inspire so many American nightmares. Most of these deaths are suicides. 2020 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, shows that over 24,000 people died of suicide from a firearm that year, while just over 19,000 died in a gun-related homicide…

And when someone is murdered with a gun, the most common motive is an argument that escalates into a killing because someone was armed.

And it seems to me … that the precedent created in a 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court might be revisited in some future time and case.

After the Buffalo Massacre…

During the Supreme Court oral arguments last November, in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., et al. v. Bruen, a major gun-control case, Justice Clarence Thomas and Barbara Underwood, New York’s solicitor general, had an exchange about the kinds of place a person might carry a gun. “It’s one thing to talk about Manhattan or N.Y.U.’s campus,” Thomas said. “It’s another to talk about rural upstate New York…”

There was an echo of those words on May 14th, as reports came in of a shooting in upstate New York: if Payton S. Gendron, from the small town of Conklin, which is near a university, had driven two and a half hours northeast, he would have ended up in Troy. Instead, he drove more than three hours northwest, to Buffalo, where he killed ten people at a Tops supermarket.

Gendron sought out Black victims, according to his online posts; they indicate that he had become fixated on the “great replacement” theory, which posits that there is a plot to supplant white Americans with supposedly more tractable minorities. That world view, in this Trump-distorted era, is not rare…

What seems tragically mundane, though, in American terms, is that Gendron, who is eighteen, is reportedly the owner of at least three guns: a Savage Axis XP hunting rifle, which he received as a Christmas gift when he was sixteen, the legal age to own one in New York; a Mossberg 500 shotgun, which he bought, legally, in December; and a Bushmaster XM-15 semi-automatic rifle—the apparent murder weapon—which was also legal when he bought it, in January, for less than a thousand dollars, and which he then easily modified to allow for a larger capacity magazine than is permitted in the state. An alarm that Gendron’s high school raised last year, when he said that his post-graduation goals included “murder/suicide,” was not in itself enough, under the state’s “red flag” law, to forestall the purchases.

I added the emphasis to the paragraph. Gendron’s high school did something similar when they raised an alarm to state officials when he made it clear that he considered “murder/suicide” an appropriate post graduation exercise.