Congress-Crooks Meeting to Edit Their Lies

The House Ethics Committee…..among others…..will be meeting today to exchange lies about how they are concerned about members of Congress using their positions for insider trading. Profiting in investments while writing the regulations governing those investments.

Jonathan Ferro and the crew at Bloomberg Surveillance chuckled over this hypocrisy, this morning. Probably every Congress-pimp you see on TV today will have their own media crew recording for posterity – and raw footage to use in campaign advertising for mid-term elections.

Ear plugs will serve you better than a grain of salt.

Whale oil was “indispensable”, too…


Whale oil lampsG.Paul Burnett/NY Times

Is the oil business the new whaling business? And, if so, is that a good sign or a troubling one?

Bear with us. Whaling, after all, was one of the world’s first great multinational businesses, a global enterprise of audacious reach and import. From the 1700s through the mid-1800s, oil extracted from the blubber of whales and boiled in giant pots gave light to America and much of the Western world. The United States whaling fleet peaked in 1846 with 735 ships out of 900 in the world. Whaling was the fifth-largest industry in the United States; in 1853 alone, 8,000 whales were slaughtered for whale oil shipped to light lamps around the world, plus sundry other parts used in hoop skirts, perfume, lubricants and candles.

❝ But, in fact, whaling was already just about done, said Eric Jay Dolin, who wrote some of the text for the exhibit and is the author of “Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America.” Whales near North America were becoming scarce, and the birth of the American petroleum industry in 1859 in Titusville, Pa., allowed kerosene to supplant whale oil before the electric light replaced both of them and oil found other uses.

❝ Eric Jay Dolin…the author of “Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America.”…(says) the message for today was that one era’s irreplaceable energy source could be the next one’s relic. Like whaling, he said, big oil is ripe to be replaced by something newer, cleaner, more appropriate for its moment.

“What you think you can’t live with today, tomorrow can become just a memory,” he said. “That’s what happened with whale oil, and eventually it’s going to happen to oil, but you don’t just turn off one switch and flip on a new one. It’s the product of a long, wrenching process that I hope leads us to a more sustainable path than the one we’re on now.”

RTFA to view a more complete picture of the parallels. The article was published in 2008, BTW.

Lab-grown brain bits offer medical opportunity — and ethical dilemmas for folks who watch old movies

❝ Xuyu Qian yanked open an incubator door at the University of Pennsylvania to reveal rows of cylindrical tubes swirling, like shaken-up snow globes, with a strange and exotic flurry. The pale, peppercorn-sized spheres were lab-grown globules of human brain tissue, or, as Qian occasionally refers to them, “minibrains.”

“Minibrain” is a controversial nickname, loathed by some scientists who fear it conjures alarmist images of fully functioning brains trapped in vats, while the reality today is balls of cells that can’t think or feel…

❝ …As the technology, which scientists refer to in journal articles as “cerebral organoids,” improves, the more the “minibrain” title fits…“People are more worried about if they reach a certain level — if it’s really like a human brain. We’re not there; we’re very far from there,” said Hongjun Song, who leads the laboratory at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, where Qian works. “But the question people ask is, ‘Do they have consciousness?’ The biggest problem I have so far is I think, as a field, we don’t know…”

RTFA. Don’t worry about full-time ethicists. That job title is always ready to take on any topic regardless of knowledge – or ignorance.

My experience with scientists as a profession assures me of relevant and timely reflection. If not overdone conservatism. But, as someone who reads science as the predominant endeavor in building a better life for all – it’s always worth adding useful philosophy to material achievements.

Do We Need Kids’ Shows About War?

❝ For family entertainment, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is remarkably complex. The animated Disney show is about military strategy, chain-of-command, civil-military relations, diplomacy and statecraft.

More importantly, it’s about wartime ethics.

❝ What constitutes acceptable losses in battle? Would you torture a prisoner if you thought it would help save your friends? Should you obey the orders of a commander you believe to be reckless and unethical? And how do you even define victory?

I’ve talked to friends who were slightly taken aback by the frankness with which the show depicts violence and death. Kids watch this show. And it’s a good thing they do.

❝ 2018 will be the first year that Americans born after 9/11 will be able to join the U.S. military. It’s far past time that Americans began having some frank conversations with their children about America’s wars. A show like The Clone Wars can help.

Lots of worthwhile conversation can flow from this article. Or not.

Through my decades of political activism, one form or another, I’ve had to realize time and again it’s better to move discussion, facts and feelings out into the open. That presumes an open and free society where you needn’t worry about recrimination. I’m not certain where that might be. Having lived through McCarthyism and COINTELPRO it certainly isn’t the GOUSA. But, you try, anyway.

Pentagon’s “Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure”

❝ …the military maintains a database of the federal government’s worst ethics violators. Unlike many government documents, the encyclopedia is clear, easy to read … and actually quite funny. Many of the stories are as amusing as they are aggravating.

It might be the most light-hearted official report anyone’s ever written about criminals…

❝ The Army pays its soldiers a monthly housing allowance. Married soldiers get more cash than singles do.

To game the system, one sergeant convinced his girlfriend to pretend to be his wife. He even forged a marriage license to substantiate the union. He took taxpayers for almost $30,000 in healthcare and housing.

“The relationship must have gone sour, though,” the report reads. “She ended up turning him in to military investigators. After such a betrayal, one can only assume he will now be filing for a fake divorce.”

I’ve known a few military lifers who figured all of this out. Track down old episodes of “Sergeant Bilko” for an education. My best representative example – though not alone – was a master sergeant who told me his biggest fear was of accidentally being promoted. His rank was ideal for all the hustles he ever imagined. Promotion would cost him money.

His wife didn’t do badly either. During the post WW2 occupation, she followed hubby to Japan and took a job in a military support office. Every morning, she brought a dozen eggs fresh from the PX to work and left them in the bottom drawer of her desk. Every night, she’d open the drawer and the eggs were gone. Replaced by a single pearl. When they left Japan for assignment elsewhere, she simply wore the newly-strung pearls through customs. Five strands.

In the not-too-distant future, we won’t need sex to reproduce — Get ready!

I’ll give you the beginning of this article – and the end. You really need to read the whole critter to justify pondering the concept.

❝ For 100 million years, all our ancestors reproduced basically the same way. A male reproductive organ deposited sperm into a female reproduction organ, where it could fertilize eggs — leading to baby ancestral tetrapods, mammals, primates, and eventually humans. The past 60 years have seen this begin to change, first with clinically available artificial insemination and then with in vitro fertilization (IVF)…

❝ In the United States today, these two techniques lead to about 100,000 births each year, roughly 2.5 percent of the 4 million children born annually. Within the next few decades, that percentage will skyrocket. Developments in bioscience, galloping forward in most cases for reasons having nothing to with reproduction, will combine to make IVF cheaper and much easier.

These new techniques will allow safe and easy embryo selection – but they will also open doors to genetically edited babies, “their own” genetic babies for same-sex couples, babies with a single genetic parent, and maybe babies from artificial wombs.

❝ Starting in the next few decades, these new methods of reproduction will give people new choices. They will also raise a host of vexing legal and ethical questions, questions we need to start discussing.

Deal with genetic selection of embryos, designer babies, create 100 embryos to choose the best and scrap or recycle the rest, unibabies from a uniparent [not a clone]…you get the idea.

Henry Greely is a professor of law and of genetics. He concludes…

We need to start thinking about these questions. The future is coming. It may not be exactly the future I foresee, but, like it or not, it will certainly feature far more choices, for families and for societies, about making babies.

You now know more about that future than 99.9 percent of humanity. Learn more, pay attention to the relevant news, and talk with your family and friends. The more we consider, debate, and plan for plausible futures, the more likely we are not to create any kind of perfect future, but, at least, to avoid some catastrophes. And that is not a bad goal.