1. Two weeks ago, I blogged about the claim of Nathan Keller and Ohad Klein to have proven the Aaronson-Ambainis Conjecture. Alas, Keller and Klein tell me that they’ve now withdrawn their preprint (though it may take another day for that to show up on the arXiv), because of what looks for now like a fatal flaw, in Lemma 5.3, discovered by Paata Ivanishvili. (My own embarrassment over having missed this flaw is slightly mitigated by most of the experts in discrete Fourier analysis having missed it as well!) Keller and Klein are now working to fix the flaw, and I wholeheartedly wish them success.
2. In unrelated news, I was saddened to read that Virgil Griffith—cryptocurrency researcher, former Integrated Information Theory researcher, and onetime contributor to Shtetl-Optimized—was arrested at LAX for having traveled to North Korea to teach the DPRK about cryptocurrency, against the admonitions of the US State Department. I didn’t know Virgil well, but I did meet him in person at least once, and I liked his essays for this blog about how, after spending years studying IIT under Giulio Tononi himself, he became disillusioned with many aspects of it and evolved to a position not far from mine (though not identical either).
Personally, I despise the North Korean regime for the obvious reasons—I regard it as not merely evil, but cartoonishly so—and I’m mystified by Virgil’s apparently sincere belief that he could bring peace between the North and South by traveling to North Korea to give a lecture about blockchain. Yet, however world-historically naïve he may have been, his intentions appear to have been good. More pointedly—and here I’m asking not in a legal sense but in a human one—if giving aid and comfort to the DPRK is treasonous, then isn’t the current occupant of the Oval Office a million times guiltier of that particular treason (to say nothing of others)? It’s like, what does “treason” even mean anymore? In any case, I hope some plea deal or other arrangement can be worked out that won’t end Virgil’s productive career.

### 62 Responses to “Two updates”

1. Job Says:

On #2, that looks pretty bad.

Evangelizing crypto for a rogue state linked to malware…

What is he trying to increase ETH adoption in that space?

That’s beyond naive. (Note to self, buy some ETH)

2. Klim Says:

You switched names: Ohad Keller and Nathan Klein-> Nathan Keller and Ohad Klein

3. Sreejata Kishor Bhattacharya Says:

Is the flaw this?

The authors say that for any subset S and any assignment x to S, the average of h(x, y) where y ranges over all assignments to S^c is h(x, 0) and they use this for h=f^2. However this is only true when h is a multilinear polynomial, which f^2 isn’t.

4. Scott Says:

Klim #2: Gasp—-thanks!! Fixed.

5. Scott Says:

Job #1: Indeed, I wish he’d asked my advice before doing it! I’ve often been called naïve myself, but I could’ve called this one… 😀

6. Scott Says:

Sreejata #3: Nathan wrote the following to me:

Specifically, it turns out that the proof of Lemma 5.3 does not prove the claim of the Lemma.
What the lemma shows (in the last line of its proof) is:

(1) E_(S\J) E_{bar{S}} [f^2] >E[f^2] – eps

while what the lemma claims is:

(2) E_{\bar{S}} [ (E_(S\J) f)^2 ] > E[f^2] – eps,

which may be much stronger.

The difference is best demonstrated in the case where f happens to be Boolean. In this case, (1) holds trivially (for any S,J) as both sides are equal to 1, while (2) clearly may hold only for specific choices of J.

Is that the same as what you were saying? (Sorry, I’d try to answer that myself but I need to run and teach soon.)

7. Scott P. Says:

Perhaps you were speaking hyperbolically, but it seems clear Mr. Griffith was not, in fact, charged with ‘treason’ but with violating US sanctions against North Korea. In fact, only a handful of people have ever been charged with treason against the Federal government, with even fewer convictions.

8. aram Says:

Virgil may have been well-meaning and the legal case against him may have 1st amendment issues but N Korea’s cybercrime has been very damaging and it’s not hard to imagine that this would be the main reason for their interest in cryptocurrencies. I do think there is a strong case for reducing sanctions on N Korea but if we do so then we should do so in a way that encourages legitimate trade.

In general cryptocurrencies seem to be mostly used for criminal reasons and contribute significantly to global warming. Evading capital controls in China and Venezuela is a sort of law-breaking that is probably socially beneficial but on balance I don’t think we should celebrate them.

9. Scott Says:

Scott P. #7: Yes, sorry—I explicitly clarified that I’m “asking not in a legal sense but in a human one,” but it’s hard to avoid stepping on the specific legal meaning of “treasonous.” Is there a different adjective for “criminal, in a way related to (allegedly) betraying one’s country to an enemy country, but falling short of the legal definition of treason”?

10. Gabriel Says:

Well, it seemed that you had some trouble understanding the proof a few weeks ago. I wonder if that was a sign that something is not right.

11. Eric Cordian Says:

Of course the Virgil Griffith thing is completely outrageous. He attended a cryptocurrency conference in the DPRK and gave a presentation. Big deal.

This is spun by the US Government as “teaching North Korea how to launder money and avoid US sanctions” and in the words of an FBI Assistant Director as providing “information to further [North Korea’s] desire to build nuclear weapons [and] put the world at risk.”

I think John McAfee put it best…

“Virgil Griffith arrested for teaching North Korea how to avoid U.S. sanctions by using cryptocurrency and the Blockchain. See what our Government has become — A government corrupt at the core, declaring publicly available information a national secret”

Of course, cryptocurrency is all open source, and the technical details are available to everyone.

Coin Metric’s Nick Carter observes, ““Ultimately anyone writing code or creating resources for crypto can be alleged to be helping hostile jurisdictions avoid sanctions under this loose standard, whether or not they intend to.”

Griffith has the support of everyone in the Crypto Community.

12. Scott Says:

Gabriel #10:

Well, it seemed that you had some trouble understanding the proof a few weeks ago. I wonder if that was a sign that something is not right.

There have been too many correct proofs of conjectures I’ve cared about that I’ve similarly had trouble understanding, for me to believe that. 😀

This was simply an example of how something can still be wrong, even when it triggers exactly zero of my Ten Signs a Claimed Mathematical Breakthrough Is Wrong.

13. Suomynona Says:

@ Eric #11

According to the Department of Justice, Griffith is not under arrest for giving away “secret” information. He is under arrest for breaking the law, specifically the International Economic Powers Act, which requires US Citizens to obtain permission from the Department of the Treasury to provide technical information (open source or not) to sanctioned countries. He did not obtain such permission, and is therefore in violation of a federal law (a law enacted by the Carter administration, not the current one; with specific sanctions against the DPRK by Bush and Obama administrations).

14. Scott Says:

Suomynona #13: I’m not qualified to comment on the legal situation, except for the obvious points that I’m sorry Virgil (stupidly) put himself into this position, but given that he did, I’m glad that he seems to have retained some distinguished legal counsel.

On the moral question (which we should clearly distinguish from the legal one), of whether Virgil’s act deserves condemnation (and of how illegal it “should” be)—my answer, as I said, is “from what I know, at most a little.” It should not be life-destroying. To me, the fact that he gave a talk about (totally public information about) blockchain doesn’t really make the trip morally worse than any other unauthorized trip taken by an American to North Korea that could give the appearance of supporting that monstrous regime. More to the point, the hypocrisy rankles of Virgil potentially spending 20 years in prison for this, while our commander-in-chief freely praises and pals around with Kim Jong himself.

15. Job Says:

Imagine how high ETH could go if the US government is ransomed after a cyber attack on a power plant.

16. Scott Says:

Job #15: OK, but what does your hypothetical have to do with the thing we’re talking about?

17. Job Says:

OK, but what does your hypothetical have to do with the thing we’re talking about?

You were talking about the morality of selling DPRK on crypto and i replied. It has everything to do with it.

There’s an enormous conflict of interest, peace talks or not.

18. William Gasarch Says:

1) There could be an 11th item on your list, or perhaps the first item on a diff list: do the authors, when faced with whats wrong, withdraw the paper? If so then they made an honest attempt and they may well be able to fix it. Keller and Klein obviously pass this positive test. Here’s hoping they can fix it.

2) At one time (and prob still now) exporting crypto was illegal. So people made T-shirts with the RSA protocol on it and walked across borders as a protest. I don’t know what happened to them. As for the current situation, it raises a question: If you give a talk in an immoral country on information that is already in the public domain then is that a bad thing to do? Does the talk add value that the public-available information does not have? Anyway, here’s hoping that (a) all charges are dropped and (b) Virgil really does bring peace to the region and wins the Nobel Prize (yes I know this is unlikely).

19. Scott Says:

Job #17: OK, but Virgil wasn’t teaching them how to execute a cyber attack on a power plant or anything like that. As far as I know, he was sharing public knowledge (which I assume the DPRK’s hackers already knew extremely well) about cryptocurrencies that are perfectly legal in most of the world, though (like many other technologies) they have nefarious uses along with anodyne ones. I liked Gasarch’s framing of the question:

If you give a talk in an immoral country on information that is already in the public domain then is that a bad thing to do? Does the talk add value that the public-available information does not have?
20. Job Says:

OK, but Virgil wasn’t teaching them how to execute a cyber attack on a power plant or anything like that. As far as I know, he was sharing public knowledge (which I assume the DPRK’s hackers already knew extremely well) about cryptocurrencies that are perfectly legal in most of the world, though (like many other technologies) they have nefarious uses along with anodyne ones.

But would you pitch the technology to a nefarious user?

I think it does cryptocurrency a disservice. What kind of legitimate use can you realistically hope to get in this context?

It’s poor judgement. But i can believe he had good intentions.

21. fred Says:

2) introducing the “Evil Zoo”, with a rich classification going from cartoonish to hyper-realistic.

22. fred Says:

Jeez, attending a cryptocurrency convention in the DPRK is a bad idea?
Who would have thought?!

Soon you’ll get in trouble for taking selfies with ISIS fighters…

23. Eric Cordian Says:

fred #22: I’ve always felt academia and the arts should be above petty sanctions and boycotts. US universities admit students from anywhere, as they should.

Since the presentation was about publicly available information, it wasn’t any sort of technology transfer.

While it was obviously bad optics, it shouldn’t be illegal.

I think there’s a First Amendment case to be made here.

24. fred Says:

Petty sanctions and boycotts?

The Korean War never officially ended and the regime is racing towards building nuclear weapons that can reach the US.

When you consider what happened to Otto Warmbier, and when you consider that the NK regime is very likely behind the Sony cyber attacks of 2014, why would a scientist with sensitive knowledge even travel there, especially after the State Department warned him?

25. Scott Says:

fred #24: Whether it was a good idea is not a question in dispute here.

26. asdf Says:

Gotta wonder about the 1st amendment implications about arresting someone for giving a talk, no matter who the audience is. But this has come up before, people being threatened with ITAR violations back in the day regarding *domestic* crypto talks. Bernstein v. United States shut some of that down but I guess they are back. They would love to regulate cryptography everywhere (like Russia and China have done) and this DPRK thing sounds like a foot in the door.

27. Suomynona Says:

Scott #13: I did not pass any moral judgement. I was specifically responding to Eric’s comment that Griffith was arrested for “selling secrets” when that’s not what the actual rationale was, and how giving a technical talk within the borders of the DPRK is in fact a “big deal” as it violates a federal law.

Griffith is accused of committing a federal crime, and therefore he was arrested. Arrest does not imply maximal sentencing, or even guilt. Perhaps you could argue that the FBI should have done more homework ahead of time and determined that blockchain is harmless negating the need for arrest in the first place, but I think it sets a bad precedent that Griffith should be exempt from the law just because he’s a “good moral person”.

The accusation against Griffith is that he is giving the DPRK information to undermine the sanctions against them. The US is not the only country with sanctions against them, so I do not see why everything has to be related to the current US president. In any case, the president does not micromanage the FBI or NYC DAs, and it’s clear (e.g. from the excessive number of national security related resignations) that the president is viewed as harmful to worldwide security.

28. Leo Says:

I am fascinated by how divisive Griffith’s situation is.

Some communities, like American politics, have two sides. Polarisation is fairly common there: an event happens, some people on the Repocratic side oppose it, therefore the Demublican side supports it, therefore the Repocratic side as a while opposes it as hard as humanly possible.

But we Internet nerds tend to be fairly unified: DeCSS good, “export-strength” crypto bad, for instance. And yet Virgil Griffith’s case has many of us convinced that [pattern match: suppressing the spread of public knowledge] is utterly intolerable, and many convinced that [pattern match: aiding North Korea] is utterly intolerable. Few people have less extreme positions (though obviously those who do are quieter, so there’s some filtering).

It reminds of the other Scott A’s story about maximally controversial statements. https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/10/30/sort-by-controversial/

29. JimV Says:

Well, to quibble, the fact that certain technical information is public does not mean that everyone who accesses it can understand it completely in the form that it is presented. I can think of at least one technical manual which was distributed freely and which I thought was excellent, but about which I got hundreds of questions when I was working in that field.

“Does the talk add value that the public-available information does not have?” I would say potentially yes, because the listeners can ask questions at the end of the talk, e.g., “When the online manual says such-and-such what does that mean? Can you give me an example?”

Afterall, why do we give lectures in technical courses? Why not just assign readings?

This seems rather plain to me, so I must be missing something. Anyway, if I were the judge I would try to explain that it is against our policy to help dictatorships understand cryptology, slap the offender on the wrist, then let him go.

30. Job Says:

But we Internet nerds tend to be fairly unified: DeCSS good, “export-strength” crypto bad, for instance. And yet Virgil Griffith’s case has many of us convinced that [pattern match: suppressing the spread of public knowledge] is utterly intolerable, and many convinced that [pattern match: aiding North Korea] is utterly intolerable.

Yes but internet nerds are only unified because you assign membership to that “group” according to whether they [pattern match: yourself].

In reality, they are all very different people.

31. murmur Says:

> Scott #14: Virgil potentially spending 20 years in prison…

You should look up the federal sentencing guidelines. Most people get far less time than the maximum allowed by statute. I can’t see Virgil spending anything more than 2 years in prison and that’s the worst case. Most likely the plea deal will entirely avoid any prison time.

32. Zalman Stern Says:

There’s an argument to be made that evangelizing blockchain technology in North Korea furthers US interests. In this vein, Scott should petition the State Department to allow him to go convince the DPRK that funding a massive effort in computational complexity theory research is the highest return on investment thing their government could do.

33. Andaro Says:

As bad as NK is, at least they’re atheists. No one from NK has ever threatened me with eternal torture and then emphasized how moral they are for it. Christians and Muslims do that all the time. That makes NK infinitely better in comparison. At least the scope for their human rights violations is finite.

34. fred Says:

Leo #28

“And yet Virgil Griffith’s case has many of us convinced that [pattern match: suppressing the spread of public knowledge] is utterly intolerable, and many convinced that [pattern match: aiding North Korea] is utterly intolerable.”

Uhhh, isn’t it obvious that we can’t treat every bit of “knowledge” equally?

On one hand you have the latest data on the possible causes of the obesity epidemics or the latest research into the positive side effects of psilocybin on the anxiety of terminal cancer patients.

On the other hand you have the complete blueprints of a fusion hydrogen bomb or the latest research on AI algorithms with possible military applications.

35. David Says:

Andaro #33

What? Either what they believe about the afterlife is true, and it is God that is responsible for it and not Christians/Muslims, or it is not true (which is presumably what you believe) and whether or not any Christian/Muslim threatens you with it doesn’t make it actually happen. Sure their “threatening” (can you say it is a threat? can I threaten you with an increased chance of cancer if you don’t quit smoking?) you is bad, but it is not comparable with the amount of murder and torture that NK is responsible for.

Andaro #33
There are some worrying reports of distressing, sometimes even outright hellish, near-death experiences, but they are largely unpredictable, in the sense that any type of person can have a distressing or plesant NDE no matter their religious affiliation or morality.

37. Scott Says:

Andaro #33 and David #35: I actually had a different thought. If we apply exponential discounting, then isn’t an eternity of hellfire still only a finite loss? 😀

38. Andaro Says:

David #35: I spent most of my life thinking that these theists merely warn me about Hell, not to threaten me. However, it has often been framed as “morally deserved” (unless we obey their demands). That’s torture-blackmail combined with infinitarian disproportionality, combined with moralization (worst possible corruption of morality framing). It’s also very clear that religious institutions have benefited massively from this threat in an economical and political sense. You also can’t escape the logical conclusion that if you believe in an omnipotent, absolutely moral God who considers eternal Hell a reality worth maintaining, you are implicitly endorsing eternal torture (this is of course redundant for all those theists who openly use “deserved” framing).

There is another angle to this too. Imagine if, after millennia of Hell-as-a-just-concept spin efforts, humanity actually develops a way to implement eternal hell. Unlikely, but “altruists” like AVTurchin are discussing such possibilities as desirable, e.g. on the Effective “Altruism” forum: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/M4i83QAwcCJ2ppEfe/how-to-survive-the-end-of-the-universe

They like to assume that infinite resources (presumably combined with infallible error-correction) would be used to create infinite happy minds, but of course we already know from Christianity and Islam, and possibly other religious influences, that this is not how real-world political entities would use such power. I’m not saying I’d trust NK with such power either, obviously, but at least they didn’t spend millennia moralizing eternal torture.

39. David Says:

Andaro #38

I agree that endorsing eternal torture is a valid criticism. Indeed the existence of Hell has always been my main issue with Christianity (I grew up in a very Christian household). But I don’t think you can blame them for actually enacting the eternal torture.

Andaro #38
“There is another angle to this too. Imagine if, after millennia of Hell-as-a-just-concept spin efforts, humanity actually develops a way to implement eternal hell. Unlikely, but “altruists” like AVTurchin are discussing such possibilities as desirable, e.g. on the Effective “Altruism” forum: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/M4i83QAwcCJ2ppEfe/how-to-survive-the-end-of-the-universe
This is all such a science fiction stuff… Much more likely scenario is that humanity will succumb to ecological crisis, agrarian crisis, overpopulation crisis and climate crisis, and possibly also start a nuclear war while fighting for depleting resourses.

41. anon Says:

Virgil Griffith isn’t as naive as you think. They found a conversation of him where, when asked why would North Korea be interested in cryptocurrencies, he answered, to evade sanctions. He was aware of the sanctions, he was aware they are trying to evade them, and he was aware that going there will help them evade sanctions. He asked the for permission and was denied.

Moreover, it’s not like he came there to give a talk about healthy lifestyle. He came there to help them evade sanctions. If this shouldn’t be forbidden by sanctions i don’t know what should be.

He was fully aware of everything and just decided that the law didn’t apply to him, and expected no consequences, despite knowing of the sanctions, and despite being explicitly told not to go. Who knows what he told them once he was there, he can’t prove it was only public knowledge. Sanctions are there to prevent any kind of business, public knowledge or not.

42. Andaro Says:

Vladislav #40: I didn’t say the probability was high. To me, it matters that the intent is there, at least in some demographics. Human empowerment and growth aren’t always good things. When resources are scarce, inflicting fates worse than death becomes more expensive (at least you have to feed your victims in order to keep them alive against their will). It’s a grim view, but it’s valid.

43. Tony Says:

Just a consideration, but maybe when a given actor appears ‘cartoonishly evil’ the picture you have of them is actually effectively just a political cartoon.

44. fred Says:

There’s an inherent paradox with the idea of Hell and eternal torture.

If you were to wake up every day in hell, for all eternity, but with the twist that you would forget everything at the end of each day (or make it any finite duration, like last week, last month, or last year, …) would it still be eternal torture?

If not, then eternal torture would require eternal memory, i.e. infinite memory?

But it’s unlikely that generating maximum pain requires maximum memory.
On the contrary, pain and suffering are really maximized by non-familiarity, by encountering a new perception for which we have no prior reference/memory.
Given enough time, you would eventually realize that any unpleasant content appearing in consciousness (pain, emotional distress) is fundamentally not that different from any other content. At the very least you would become eventually familiar with it and familiar with your reaction to it, and it would dull its effect.

In a way, humanity and more generally any life/consciousness in the universe is already in a state of eternal damnation because each new life/generation triggers a memory reset and a new cycle of going through the same pain/suffering/dissatisfaction over and over… if only we could live forever (with infinite memory), we could at least hope to reach some wisdom to make us transcend it all, what the Buddhists call enlightenment.

fred #44
I used to think that if you are in a constant pain it’ll become less painful with time, but then I’ve read in a psychiatry book that unlike other senstations it is impossible to get used to pain on a physiological level, i.e. you pain receptors will not become less sensitive with time. They can actually become more sensitive with time: if you are given a weak painful stimulus, it’ll become more painful as receptors are adapting to it. However, there is a condition called “pain asymbolia” wherein a patient is feeling pain but is not suffering from it. Also, there is a kind of psychological response called “learned helplessness”, wherein a person who is being tortured and cannot escape will continue to suffer but will stop resisting and trying to escape.

fred #44
Well, a correction: I’m not a doctor or a biologist, so I may have misunderstood the exact details of what the book is talking about, because it is talking about processes called “adaptation”, “habituation” and “sensibilization”, and the exact line was: “Adaptation and habituation to pain does not occur, but there exists sensibilization to pain”. So I’m probably wrong about “receptors”, but I think from a point of view of subjective experience of pain that is what the book meant.
Also, typo: “sensations”, not “sensTations”.

47. fred Says:

The pain in itself is usually okay in the sense that if we’re noticing it, it means we’re already “bearing” it.
The real issue is that pain triggers fear, with negative thoughts like “What is going on in my body? Is this a sign of something more serious? Am I going to die if I don’t act? What if this pain never goes away? What if my life is never the same again?”
During an intense workout, it’s not uncommon to experience very intense and uncomfortable sensations in the body, but we’re okay with them because we picture ourselves in control. If we were to experience the exact same sensations in the middle of the night, we’d be in total panic.
Relation to pain can definitely be altered by mindfulness techniques.
Next time you’re at the dentist and he’s cleaning your gums with sharp steel hooks, try to look very closely at the pain itself, and try to accept it and not push it away, try to unhook it from fear.
Another useful exploration technique is during showers: start with lukewarm water, and during the various steps of shampooing and soaping, progressively turn the tap to the coldest (it’s key to do this little by little). At each step focus on your body sensations, and notice that your awareness isn’t cold, it’s simply noticing the sensations of cold and the thoughts and reactions associated with those sensations. Also ask yourself “who’s experiencing the cold?”, the nature of your awareness is really unchanged during the whole process.
[as a bonus, cold showers are good for you, and you’ll be saving electricity, haha]

48. Veedrac Says:

“More pointedly—and here I’m asking not in a legal sense but in a human one—if giving aid and comfort to the DPRK is treasonous, then isn’t the current occupant of the Oval Office a million times guiltier of that particular treason (to say nothing of others)? It’s like, what does “treason” even mean anymore?”

Treason is criminal disloyalty. Virgil was disobeying explicitly-stated laws against providing services to the DPRK, and directly working against US foreign policy. There really isn’t a slippery slope here.

The comments suggesting that the information being publically available or dual use changes anything (eg. Scott#19) are strange. If I taught DPRK agents how to pick locks or trained them in combat—again, publically available and dual-use information—I don’t think anyone would be making these arguments.

49. Itai Bar-Natan Says:

Scott, you have recently been accused by SMBC comics of being a “quantum supremacist”. How do you plead?

50. Jack Says:

@Scott You’ve been featured in the latest SMBC comic! https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/classical

51. Scott Says:

Itai #49 and Jack #50: Zach has become an extremely good friend. In this case, though, it looks as though he was pressed for time and resorted to one of the most tired jokes in QC! Also, why didn’t he either make up a fictional name, or else draw some approximation to what I actually look like? 🙂

52. A. Karhumaa Says:

Some people apparently take it seriously:
“Supremacy is for racists — use ‘quantum advantage’”, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03781-0

fred #47
Wikipedia, citing medical research, says meditation is only moderately effective against pain. So while it may work for some reasonable degree of pain, it’s unlikely to be of much help against fiery tortures of the damned, be they in Christian Hell or, for that matter, one of the Buddhist hells. 🙂 Unless you are a monk who’ve put tens of thousands of hours into it. But even then it has serious limitations because it works only while you are meditating. I heard a story about a Tibetan Buddhist master who was stabbed by bandits. He had to send somebody else for help because although he successfully controlled pain with meditation, as soon as he started to move, the excruciating pain would resume. So not so helpful if you are in pain but also need to actively do something to survive.

54. Rhenium Says:

#51 Scott.
To be fair, I figured it was you before I even saw the text below.

55. Eric Cordian Says:

The PC Police coming out against the term Quantum Supremacy is amusing.

The PC Police trying to get professors at UT Austin fired, publicly shamed, and driven to suicide is less amusing.

In the last two days, I happened across two news stories I found pretty appalling.

The first tells the story of the late Richard Morrisett, a pharmacology professor, who had a domestic violence incident in his past brought to light on campus when the #MeToo movement blossomed.

https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2018/11/a_suicide_at_the_university_of_texas_reveals_dark_side_of_metoo_movement.html

The second relates the story of classics professor Tom Hubbard, whose house is currently under siege by a mob seething with rage that he has written about pederasty and commented on age-of-consent laws.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/students-want-thomas-hubbard-fired-for-work-on-pederasty-but-university-of-texas-says-its-protected-speech

We live in interesting times. Who would have thought that the same universities that were champions of Free Speech decades ago would now be working hard to stamp out any POV they don’t agree with.

56. Scott Says:

Eric Cordian #55: Thanks for the links. Even though both events took place at UT Austin, I somehow hadn’t heard about them.

I was appalled to read how the “Revolutionary Student Front”—a student group that I (again) hadn’t heard of—celebrated its success in driving Prof. Richard Morrisett to commit suicide. I feel like that would’ve been in terrible taste if the guy had been guilty of murder, let alone of a low-level domestic violence charge. (That said, the irony that Morrisett was a world expert on alcoholism, the very condition that may have led him and his girlfriend to fight each other constantly, is too rich for a novelist to make up.)

Regarding the classics professor, the quotes in the article leave little doubt that he really does (broadly speaking) advocate the NAMBLA position—or as he’d say, a return to some of the sexual mores of ancient Greece. Nevertheless, I think the principle of academic freedom has served us pretty well for generations and is worth defending—even (or especially) in the case of ideas that rightly offend many.

57. Michael Says:

@Scott#56- I think it’s perfectly reasonable to argue that Morrissett should be fired. As this article makes clear, there was apparently a second incident that sent his girlfriend to the hospital:
It’s perfectly reasonable to argue that someone with a history of drinking and violence should not be allowed on campus lest he pose a danger to students and faculty. (Of course celebrating his death was grotesque.)

Michael # 57:

This one caught my eye because it happened at UT Austin.

I did a simple “lex” search on the link you supplied on both “second” (no beans) and “hospital” (one).

Best,

–Ajit
PS: I am an In-Principle-Capitalist, but *I* also don’t usually support *most* of the “businessmen” I have known directly or indirectly. Esp. the richest ones. The rest are my friends.

59. Scott Says:

Michael #57: I agree that penalties (up to and including firing) should be considered, even for domestic violence unrelated to the university. But

(1) I sometimes worry that the MeToo era doesn’t seem to have evolved anything less than the professional equivalent of the death penalty—which of course is world-historically ironic, since aren’t liberals the ones who oppose the death penalty (even for much worse crimes), and who believe in the possibility of rehabilitation?

(2) The MeToo framing also seems to have blinded people to the reality of the situation—that this wasn’t just an abusive boyfriend, it was a dysfunctional couple who often got drunk and abused each other (and then made up, apparently).

Anyway, I see that the student group that hounded Morrisett to his suicide, then gloated about it, actually describes itself as “Maoist.” As comical as that sounds, I have to give them credit for paying accurate homage to a central aspect of Mao’s legacy.

60. Michael Says:

@Scott#59-
(1) The man pleaded guilty to a violent felony. Conviction of a violent felony bars one from several occupations, including, in some states, a elementary or high school teacher. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that college professor be added to the list.
(2) As I understand it, it was his ex-wife that claimed that he and his girlfriend were both abusive to each other. Not an unbiased source.

61. Richard Gaylord Says:

scott #5.
how can anyone (other than Trump) even consider placing themselves within the legal jurisdiction of North Korea when they know what happened to Otto Wambier? there’s a BIG difference between being naive and being stupid. he should consider himself quite lucky to have been arrested at LAX rather than at Pyongyang International Airport.

62. fred Says:

there’s actually a huge distinction between “mindfulness/awareness” and “meditation”.
Achieving a special state of consciousness while sitting on a cushion with your eyes closed is really a focus technique. Many consider it of limited value.
The “goal” is really to change our reaction to any mental states during normal daily activity, and you can’t learn that just by sitting on a cushion. It’s more about sudden shifts in perspective in ordinary moments, which can then be reinforced gradually.

“Wikipedia, citing medical research, says meditation is only moderately effective against pain”

Meditation/mindfulness indeed isn’t an analgesic, the point is not to magically suppress the pain (or any other appearance in consciousness), but to not reject it.

It’s also very hard to judge yet whether someone is really “doing it right”.
Mental training really isn’t about the health benefits.
Just like physical training, it’s mainly about expending one’s experiences and horizons, and trying to become a better person. It’s a way of life.
Gold medalists at the high jump aren’t doing it because it would be handy in case they’re being chased by a bear and there’s a high fence in their way.
Buddhist monks didn’t get into the practice because it would be handy if one day they need to set themselves on fire in order to protest some injustice.

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