Saturday, April 30, 2016

Justice for Tiger?

License for Texas Vet Who Killed a Cat with an Arrow Is Revoked

The Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners has made a decision about what to do with Kristen Lindsey, the veterinarian who bragged on Facebook about killing a cat with a bow and arrow: It wants to revoke Lindsey’s license.

That decision has been a long time coming, and is of great relief to animal advocates, who have been clamoring for justice for the cat — believed to be a pet named Tiger, who enjoyed riding around on his caretaker’s tractor.

But it’s not quite the end of the road. Lindsey is appealing.

“The board’s decision was just and necessary to protect the welfare of animals,” three members of a group called Tiger’s Justice Team — Jean Salyer, Betsy Anderson and Gisele Milsaps-Flanigan — told The Huffington Post by email. “This is a great victory, but not the final victory. The process will take time.”

Lindsey put up the gruesome Facebook post in April. (You can see it here.) She was fired from the Washington Animal Clinic in Brenham, Texas, soon thereafter. But a grand jury found “insufficient proof” to charge her with a crime.

About a month ago, the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners found that Lindsey violated its rules, but did not reveal what, if any, punishment she would face.

Spokeswoman Loris Jones told The Huffington Post that the board sent a letter to Lindsey’s attorney, Brian Bishop,  in mid-September, informing him that the board was seeking to revoke his client’s license.

Neither Jones nor Lindsey responded to the letter, Jones said, which constitutes a de facto rejection of the board’s decision. Bishop did not immediately answer HuffPost’s request for comment.

The next step is a hearing before the the State Office of Administrative Hearings. On Wednesday, the board filed a request to docket the case. A hearing is likely to take place in February.

“While Lindsey may still appeal the decision, this is a huge step forward in the fight for justice for Tiger and all the unnamed victims of animal cruelty,” said Liz Holtz, an attorney with Alley Cat Allies,  one of many organizations that has been calling for action against Lindsey.

Scott Heiser, director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund‘s criminal justice program, told HuffPost that while he’d prefer for Lindsey to accept the board’s decision, the upcoming hearing presents a welcome opportunity.

Because Lindsey was never charged with a crime, there are many factual matters that Heiser and others would like to confirm — including where and when the shooting took place, and who the cat was.

Depositions and other evidentiary procedures will be part of the hearing process, ensuring that “all the facts will be aired,” said Heiser.

“This is definitely a major step forward in the process,” he added. “It’s a big milestone to be sure, but we’re a long way from home.”

Tiger’s Justice Team told HuffPost they also hope to find out, at long last, what happened to the cat’s body.

“I along with Tiger’s Justice Team are pleased with the Board’s decision and anxiously await the upcoming hearing,”  said Zandra Anderson, a lawyer specializing in animal law who represents Tiger’s Justice Team. “We are hopeful but also cautiously optimistic.”

Tiger Justice is served!!!!R.I.P sweetheart….this video is  memory of tiger and not the actual killing……

I'm not a big fan of "street justice.”  But sometimes people have to make a racket to initiate change.  At the very least, this woman showed poor judgement. 

Where I grew up in Texas the Facebook post of the dead cat would have provoked little more than a few chuckles from "good ol' boys."  Now the Texas Veterinary Board has made a clear statement that this sort of thing is not only not OK, but possibly actionable.  This is a good thing IMO, and I appreciate the post.

Well.  Poor cat.  That woman is paying a high price for her deed, her hubris, and her sick sense of humor.  It's not that I think she doesn't deserve it.  But I am sad to think that a veterinarian is out of commission for being stupid.  Maybe it's what she deserved, but it's still a waste of seven years (?) of vet school, and a sad thing for the owners of the cat. 

Makes me think that cats should not be allowed to roam at all - for their safety and the safety of the wildlife they destroy. 

If I had a barn, I'd get a terrier for vermin control. 

Who's In Charge Here?

Machine power: Lee Sedol makes the first move in a game against AlphaGo. | REUTERS
Human primacy is go-ing, go-ing, gone

The Japan Times  by Michael Hoffman  Special to The Japan Times  Apr 30, 2016 

It is said of the ancient Chinese game go that the number of possible positions on its board exceeds the number of atoms in the known universe.

This is old news, presumably, to masters of go and master mathematicians. To the rest of us it came as something of a shock when it became common knowledge in March, the occasion being the defeat — shocking in itself — of a world-ranking go master by a mere (so we would have said, once upon a time) computer. Or perhaps, giving it a positive spin, we should say “victory” instead of “defeat”: a computer’s victory over a mere human.

What is the human brain to make of such facts? What is the human brain? An awesome instrument, clearly — capable of counting the atoms in the universe, of devising a board game of such astonishing complexity and of creating a machine, an artificial brain, that plays the game better than one of the best human players.

Will they become our overlords?  "The Matrix" © Village Roadshow Pictures/ Warner Bros.

Soon machines of that order won’t need humans to make them. They’ll make themselves. Some experts see it happening within 20 years, others within 50, 60, 70. Whatever the time frame, artificial intelligence is here now in embryo, its maturity already visible on the horizon.

Wonderful, says (among many others) Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc. The victorious robot, AlphaGo by name, was developed by Google DeepMind, and Schmidt, speaking a day before the match, said, “The winner here, no matter what happens, is humanity. Humanity wins because the advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning will make each and every other human being in the entire world smarter, more capable — just better human beings.”

That’s more or less the view of Sony Computer Science Laboratories president Hiroaki Kitano, an artificial intelligence expert who, in an interview with the Asahi Shimbun last month, said, “Looking at the big picture, human survival may depend on the accelerated development of AI.”

The seemingly insoluble problems that besiege us — environmental degradation, climate change, diseases that refuse to be cured (or that return, having supposedly been wiped out), economies that fail to meet our needs (or fail entirely), international conflicts whose vast destructive potential only the most blithely sanguine minds can regard without terror — teach us the limits of purely human intelligence.

Stephen Hawking has warned about the dangers of artificial intelligence

“Could AI evolve to the point of making independent discoveries?” the Asahi asks Kitano. Naturally the answer is yes: AlphaGo is already making them. What one robot can do on the go board, more sophisticated successors — descendants? — will soon be doing in the laboratory and elsewhere.
It’s a bit ominous all the same, the interviewers seem to feel. “Could AI,” they ask, “destroy the human race?”

“That’s the wrong question,” counters Kitano. “From a human-centric point of view, the destruction of the human race is a problem, but before anything like that happens our ways of thinking and acting will have changed, so that, if all goes well, machines will generate new types of intelligence that could solve the various problems that merely human intelligence has not solved.”

Let’s accept, for the sake of argument, that all will go well. Let’s accept, or imagine, that AI will solve, or help us solve, all our problems without overwhelming us or overpowering us or turning us into slaves or pets or anything of that sort. Let’s say that in the fullness of time — how long would it take? — human intelligence evolves into artificial intelligence, capable of solving all problems, and of arranging things in future so that no new problems arise.

Is Schmidt right? Will we be, in that case, “better human beings”? Suppose we will be. How much better can we get and still be human? Suppose we get so much better that we cease to be human, in our current “human-centric” sense of the word. Will we have lost anything worth regretting? Our human weaknesses are so evident, and cause us so much grief, it’s hard to see what we’d miss in a posthuman state — hunger? Disease? War? Death?

Satiety, health, peace and immortality would be ours as a matter of course, and if the price we pay is our “humanity,” what exactly would we be forfeiting, other than those burdens that we’ve struggled in vain to be free of since the dawn of time?


Poets of old, entranced by their muse, sung paeans to humanness — with voices that sometimes cracked in the middle and sounded a bit forced, as in, for example, this famous snippet from the 14th-century Buddhist priest Yoshida no Kenko: “If man were never to fade away like the dew … but lingered on forever in the world, how things would lose their power to move us!”

Maybe, maybe not. One imagines Schmidt smiling and saying, “It seems a chance worth taking.”

It’s an old, old debate, antedating AI by millennia: How can we minister to our bodies without violating our spirits? Ancient physician-researchers chafed against traditional taboos banning human dissection. Medicine progressed slowly, checked at every turn by reaction against its characteristic tendency to “dehumanize” and “mechanize” the body. Genetic engineering, and the moral revulsion it arouses in some quarters, are the old debate in modern dress.

Ditto organ transplants. In 1997, after years of controversy, Japan’s Organ Transplant Law recognized brain death as death, facilitating organ transplants. Even so, reports Josei Seven magazine, the life-saving and therefore (one might think) life-enhancing procedure is failing to take hold here: Japan performs 100-odd transplants a year compared with the roughly 8,000 a year performed in America.
A Japanese father whose grown son died in a car crash ran smack up against Japan’s gut feelings on the subject when, in accordance with his son’s wishes, he donated the organs, only to face outraged accusations of “selling” his child’s remains for cash.

That was a decade ago. As a sign of changing times Josei Seven introduces the more recent case of a husband who donated his wife’s organs with the idea in mind that she would “continue to live by saving other people’s lives.” The grateful letters he has received from recipients reinforce the feeling. “It does me good,” he says, “to think my wife somehow remains alive.”

Futurists speak blithely of the immortality to come when we can download our brains into computers and laugh as the squeamish who decline to do so die off. A 2013 report by The Associated Press on such prospects concludes by quoting an eminent U.S. churchman as saying, “I’m not too fond of the idea of immortality, because I think it will be deathly boring.” To which Kenko, surely, would reply, “My point exactly.”

Michael Hoffman’s new book, “In the Land of the Kami: A Journey into the Hearts of Japan,” is out now.

Everything I Really Needed to Know I Learned by Reading “Black Beauty”

     I first read “Black Beauty” when I was nine or ten.  I was already horse-crazy, I lived on a farm (for a while,) but I never got a horse.  It wasn’t for lack of asking.  But the answer was always the same; “We’ll see.”  Of course that was grown-up code for “Ha! In your dreams, kid.”  

     I never got a horse, but for a year or two I had a donkey.  He was great – as donkeys go – but he was no horse.  Not even if you squinted your eyes really hard.  He was little.  He was wooly.  He had jack-rabbit ears.  I loved him, but he didn’t assuage my longing for a horse.

    No, I wanted a horse - a black horse like Black Beauty.  (Or “Fury” the TV horse.)  

     I also wanted to be a horse.  In the year or so that my mother’s divorce caused me to move away from the farm and live with my grandmother in town, I spent hours galloping about on my hands and knees, whinnying and snorting.  In this I was joined by the two girls who lived next door to my grandmother, Jeannie and Gayle.  Gayle was the younger of the two so Jeannie and I would gang up on her and make her be “the master.”  There had to be a master most times, although sometimes we would pretend to be wild horses.   Then Gayle would get to be a horse too.  
     I must have read “Black Beauty” 20 times or so as I was growing up.  Beauty was my ideal horse, my hero, and my teacher.  He made me consider the importance of politeness, and put the seeds of non-violent philosophy in my head.  Even in my “difficult” years of pot, psychedelics and rock music Beauty reminded me to work hard and “never bite or kick.”

     Meshing nicely with my tomboy/hippie sensibilities was Beauty’s disdain for fashion.   The wisdom of this attitude was reinforced by my mother’s mania for looking stylish and sexy.  It never brought her anything but grief, a couple of extremely unsuitable husbands and a seeming superiority complex that was generated as a mask to hide the insecure, angry person behind it.

     To me, fashion was not only no fun, but it was a big lie.  It was itchy, tight and didn’t feel right.  My mother was tiny and good-looking.   I was large, gawky and socially inept.  The bra was my bearing-rein.  I couldn’t wait to get home from school to shed it.   I had a horror of girdles, stockings, heels and cosmetics.   I still do.  I will very likely be buried or burned in jeans and a t-shirt.   Black Beauty looked best to me without saddle, bridle, harness or even a halter.  I wished for a gleaming, satiny coat to cover me decently and comfortably.   Jeans and a t-shirt were the best compromise I could manage.

     The happiness of Beauty’s early years were terminated suddenly, and he passed from hand to hand, enduring owners that were sometimes humane and caring, sometimes well-meaning but inept, and sometimes cruel and spiteful.  In this too, we were alike.  Beauty was a horse, and though he was a big, strong animal he was ultimately powerless.  I could relate.  Though often told that I was talented and smart, I was nearly always criticized for being a screw-up in the same breath.  It was very confusing, and as I lay in my bed at night, dispirited and trying to make sense of it all, I would think of Beauty, tied to a manger in a drafty, dark stable, trying with all his might to make the best of his lot and hold up his head.

The best film adaptation I've seen of the book was the 1994 version. Directed by Caroline Thompson
and featuring Sean Bean, Alan Cumming, David Thewlis, Jim Carter, Peter Davison.  Beauty is portrayed by Doc's Keepin' Time, A Quarter Horse.  You can Pick up a used copy om Amazon for a penny, plus shipping.

I read an amusing review in the Videohound Golden Movie Retriever which said:

"Remake of the classic Anna Sewell children's novel about an oft-sold horse whose life has its shares of ups and downs. Timeless tale still brings children and adults to tears. Six-year-old quarterhorse named Justin gives a nuanced portrayal as the Black Beauty, recalling Olivier in "Hamlet." Directorial debut of "Secret Garden" screenwriter Thompson."

(that about Olivier presumably because Beauty threw his head around a lot, and also rolled his eyes and distended his nostrils a great deal.)