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ACLU Files Lawsuit On Behalf Of TN Tarot Reader
Posted: 17 October 2010 07:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Write4U - 17 October 2010 12:06 AM

No you cannot burn or dump money down a pipe. It is NOT your money. It is a government backed voucher for exchanging values that could otherwise not be exchanged conveniently. You cannot burn your house, because it might be a danger to neighbors.

I’m not trying to speak for Ruat Caelum, but I can only assume that RC’s “throwing down the pipe” is along the same lines as my phrase “burning money” is a freaking figure of speech for wasting money!  Lighten up!  I was wrong.  It’s YOU who needs the chill pill!  grin  wink 

Write4U - 17 October 2010 12:06 AM

The function of government is very much involved in people’s daily lives. That is what we elect them to do.

No it’s not.  Or at least it shouldn’t be, at least not in the way it has become in our current nanny-state. 

The function of government is the protection of individual rights. 

Thus, in this particular discussion, fraud infringes on those rights.  But the idiot tarot reader in the case originally linked to is so nebulous in that area, that it is a waste of tax money to go after her.  Chances are she truly believes her nonsense, and her clients still come away with some “entertainment” (for lack of a better term) for their money.

I’m not going to get into a debate or discussion with any looney lefties or socialist-fascists (and, no those are not opposites!) about the function and purpose of government.  Liberals like this are no different than other types of true-believers.  Government is their god.  They worship it and can’t get enough of it.  They think government has magical god-like powers. 

I have no problem with them being slaves to government.  But like the right-wing whackos who want to force their religion on everyone else, these left-wing whackos want to force everyone else to live exactly like them.  No difference between the left and right in that regard.  They both want to use the police power of the state to force their beliefs.  They just have different religions.

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Posted: 17 October 2010 03:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Rocinante,

Honestly, your last post, and our past history, makes me skeptical that we can have a rational discussion that touches on government at all. It also makes me wonder if your irony meter is broken, since your description of those who disagree with your position on government reads like pure fundamentalist polemic as founded in faith as anything more pro-government ideologues could come up with.
Nevertheless,  since the rest of your posts not touching on government are always intelligent and thoughtful, I know you have reasoned positions on this stuff, so maybe we can try.

I have a particular interest in the issue, which you raised, of whether it is appropriate to regulate or prohibit conduct that is fraudulent in every way except for the possibility (probably not subject to any real, object proof either way) that the purveyors of the bogus products actually believe in it themselves. Of course, most of the examples I deal with are in medicine, but this kind of thing (tarot) seems similar. 

So to start with, you seem to suggest that it is fair game to prohibit deliberate fraud (though you do toss in some qualifiers about the amount of money involved or the relative vulnerability of the customer, so maybe not?). But you also seem to be saying that as long as what someone is selling is something they truly believe in themselves, it is fair play regardless of whether it is actually true. Is this right?

If so:

1) Does it matter if the product is actively harmful? Indirectly harmful (by discouraging the customer from seeking something else that isn’t BS or leading them to make bad decisions based on bogus information)? Absolutely harmless? How direct does the harm need to be to matter? If a tarot reader tells someone they are going to die of a horrible fatal disease soon and they kill themsleves to avoid this fate, is there any culpability here?

2) Are there any problems you would see as legitimate with making the genuineness of the purveyor’s faith in their BS the deciding factor in distinguishing fraud, which presumably should be illegal, from honest stupidity? As I suggested above, I’m not sure we can ever really know for sure how genuine someone’s belief is, so is this a problem?

3) Could there be a reasonable standard for what someone should be expected to know is true or false? For example, the law recognizes that between deliberate fraud and honest mistakes, there is room for culpability if someone is ignorant of something that a reasonable person in their position should be expected to know. If a doctor honestly thinks it’s ok to perform surgery without wearing gloves or washing their hands because they have a magic charm that prevents infection, they are still likely to be seen as engaging in malpractice. So should the average person selling products or advice based on BS they genuinely believe in be held to any standard at all? You seem to place the burden on the consumer to know when what they are buying is BS but no responsibility on the seller to know what they are selling is BS.

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Posted: 17 October 2010 04:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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mckenzievmd - 17 October 2010 03:20 PM

1) Does it matter if the product is actively harmful?

Depends.  If a consenting adult wants to smoke (tobacco, pot, crack, whatever) in the privacy of their own home, their body belongs to them, let them do it.  But They cannot ask others to pay for their medical care from the medical problems they will inflict on themselves.

Since secondhand smoke does seem to pose a problem (although probably not nearly as bad as the anti-smoking zealots claim), a case may be made for some regulation.  As to what or how much, I don’t have an answer.

Smoking crack (or drinking booze) and driving a car puts others at risk, so the law can intervene. 

When children are involved, everything changes.  Children can’t make some choices for themselves, so if their adult guardians make decisions that are actively harmful, the state can step in.   

mckenzievmd - 17 October 2010 03:20 PM

Indirectly harmful (by discouraging the customer from seeking something else that isn’t BS or leading them to make bad decisions based on bogus information)? Absolutely harmless? How direct does the harm need to be to matter?

I think education, not legislation is the best solution.  There will never be a 100% safe society where 100% of the people make 100% of the correct choices 100% of the time.  No matter how hard we work to educate people about such BS, there will always be some statistically significant amount of people who choose to do stupid and dumb things.  The inherent nature of some nanny-state people (on both the left and the right) to try and force these people to do what they think is right for them will always backfire with unintended consequences.  See Prohibition and the War on Drugs as an example from the Right and Obama’s Health Care mandates now causing insurers to raise prices and drop many insured as an example on the left.  At some point, we have to say, “We’ve tried our best to educate people, but some people just don’t want to learn.”

mckenzievmd - 17 October 2010 03:20 PM

If a tarot reader tells someone they are going to die of a horrible fatal disease soon and they kill themsleves to avoid this fate, is there any culpability here?

Depends on the case and all the factors involved.  Sometimes yes, sometimes no. 

mckenzievmd - 17 October 2010 03:20 PM

Are there any problems you would see as legitimate with making the genuineness of the purveyor’s faith in their BS the deciding factor in distinguishing fraud, which presumably should be illegal, from honest stupidity?

Yes.  As I mentioned above, when it comes to children.  When the parents pray for their minor child to be healed from bronchial pneumonia (or whatever) instead of getting antibiotics, then the law can step in to save the child and punish the parents. 

There are probably others that would have to be decided on a case-by-case basis.

mckenzievmd - 17 October 2010 03:20 PM

As I suggested above, I’m not sure we can ever really know for sure how genuine someone’s belief is, so is this a problem?

Yep.  It’s a problem.  A problem that there probably is not a solution to.  Like I said, we can’t expect 100% in things like this.

mckenzievmd - 17 October 2010 03:20 PM

3) Could there be a reasonable standard for what someone should be expected to know is true or false?

Yes.  But you know as well as I how well the human mind can be fooled on certain things.  So once again, I hate to sound like a broken record, so each case would have to be looked at individually based on many variables.

mckenzievmd - 17 October 2010 03:20 PM

So should the average person selling products or advice based on BS they genuinely believe in be held to any standard at all? You seem to place the burden on the consumer to know when what they are buying is BS but no responsibility on the seller to know what they are selling is BS.

If it can be proven in court the person is peddling BS, then they can - and should be - held accountable.  I still think a 10 buck a pop tarot reader probably believes (to some extent) that it is true, or is more of an “entertainer.”  No conman worth their salt would waste their time for 10 bucks.  You know as well as I that most people who try for Randi’s challenge are the self-deluded type, not the outright frauds.  The same holds true across the board.  How do we deal with people who believe they have powers and others who believe them?  You can pass all the laws you want, but it won’t make people smart.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, Education not legislation.  And expect that some people will always fall through the cracks.  It’s sad, I know.  But unfortunately, it appears to be human nature. 


Do I still sound like a fundamentalist nut-job?  grin 

I apologize to anyone who thought I may have come across as harsh.  But I’ve had a long week.  I’m just passionate about liberty.  And then you throw in the mix, these idiots who read tarot and those who go to them, and you realize that there is no helping some people.  There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

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Posted: 17 October 2010 06:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Rocinante - 17 October 2010 04:34 PM
mckenzievmd - 17 October 2010 03:20 PM

1) Does it matter if the product is actively harmful?

Depends.  If a consenting adult wants to smoke (tobacco, pot, crack, whatever) in the privacy of their own home, their body belongs to them, let them do it.  But They cannot ask others to pay for their medical care from the medical problems they will inflict on themselves.

Since secondhand smoke does seem to pose a problem (although probably not nearly as bad as the anti-smoking zealots claim), a case may be made for some regulation.  As to what or how much, I don’t have an answer.

Smoking crack (or drinking booze) and driving a car puts others at risk, so the law can intervene. 

When children are involved, everything changes.  Children can’t make some choices for themselves, so if their adult guardians make decisions that are actively harmful, the state can step in.   

mckenzievmd - 17 October 2010 03:20 PM

Indirectly harmful (by discouraging the customer from seeking something else that isn’t BS or leading them to make bad decisions based on bogus information)? Absolutely harmless? How direct does the harm need to be to matter?

I think education, not legislation is the best solution.  There will never be a 100% safe society where 100% of the people make 100% of the correct choices 100% of the time.  No matter how hard we work to educate people about such BS, there will always be some statistically significant amount of people who choose to do stupid and dumb things.  The inherent nature of some nanny-state people (on both the left and the right) to try and force these people to do what they think is right for them will always backfire with unintended consequences.  See Prohibition and the War on Drugs as an example from the Right and Obama’s Health Care mandates now causing insurers to raise prices and drop many insured as an example on the left.  At some point, we have to say, “We’ve tried our best to educate people, but some people just don’t want to learn.”

mckenzievmd - 17 October 2010 03:20 PM

If a tarot reader tells someone they are going to die of a horrible fatal disease soon and they kill themsleves to avoid this fate, is there any culpability here?

Depends on the case and all the factors involved.  Sometimes yes, sometimes no. 

mckenzievmd - 17 October 2010 03:20 PM

Are there any problems you would see as legitimate with making the genuineness of the purveyor’s faith in their BS the deciding factor in distinguishing fraud, which presumably should be illegal, from honest stupidity?

Yes.  As I mentioned above, when it comes to children.  When the parents pray for their minor child to be healed from bronchial pneumonia (or whatever) instead of getting antibiotics, then the law can step in to save the child and punish the parents. 

There are probably others that would have to be decided on a case-by-case basis.

mckenzievmd - 17 October 2010 03:20 PM

As I suggested above, I’m not sure we can ever really know for sure how genuine someone’s belief is, so is this a problem?

Yep.  It’s a problem.  A problem that there probably is not a solution to.  Like I said, we can’t expect 100% in things like this.

mckenzievmd - 17 October 2010 03:20 PM

3) Could there be a reasonable standard for what someone should be expected to know is true or false?

Yes.  But you know as well as I how well the human mind can be fooled on certain things.  So once again, I hate to sound like a broken record, so each case would have to be looked at individually based on many variables.

mckenzievmd - 17 October 2010 03:20 PM

So should the average person selling products or advice based on BS they genuinely believe in be held to any standard at all? You seem to place the burden on the consumer to know when what they are buying is BS but no responsibility on the seller to know what they are selling is BS.

If it can be proven in court the person is peddling BS, then they can - and should be - held accountable.  I still think a 10 buck a pop tarot reader probably believes (to some extent) that it is true, or is more of an “entertainer.”  No conman worth their salt would waste their time for 10 bucks.  You know as well as I that most people who try for Randi’s challenge are the self-deluded type, not the outright frauds.  The same holds true across the board.  How do we deal with people who believe they have powers and others who believe them?  You can pass all the laws you want, but it won’t make people smart.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, Education not legislation.  And expect that some people will always fall through the cracks.  It’s sad, I know.  But unfortunately, it appears to be human nature. 


Do I still sound like a fundamentalist nut-job?  grin 

I apologize to anyone who thought I may have come across as harsh.  But I’ve had a long week.  I’m just passionate about liberty.  And then you throw in the mix, these idiots who read tarot and those who go to them, and you realize that there is no helping some people.  There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

In your answers to the posed questions, you just confirmed that government is indeed heavily involved in the daily lives of people.
I read all your answers and each one lends itself to the need for government regulation and/or oversight. The Justice system where disputes are resolved is part of the Government. The laws which lay down basic guidelines of what is Not permissible conduct are fashioned by Congress, another part of Government.
The government is involved in your life from birth to death. This does not mean it runs your life, it only interferes when the rules are broken by individuals, groups, states, corporations. As far as I can tell, just those four have kept government very busy for a long time. The Law is not to make people smart, it is there to protect the innocent from the smart deceivers.
In all the discussions of losing one’s inherent Freedoms, the free-market, and any other noun to which we can add the prefix “free”, no one has ever identified what those freedoms are, except for the Unalienable Rights. Freedom is a relative term and can never be unlimited. All living things are free, but only within their particular environment. A fish is free in the ocean, but it will die out of water. Its freedom is restricted by adaption to its environment. So it is with anything I can think of at this moment.

[ Edited: 17 October 2010 06:28 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 17 October 2010 07:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Rocinante,

Thanks for a thoughtful, nutjob-free response!! grin

I can’t really find anything to disagree with in what you’re saying. I absolutely agree that the idea of a risk free world is nonsense, and in America we have a particularly hard time accepting that bad things happen that are nobody’s fault, or that we are often responsible for the consequences of our own stupid choices. The things we sue over is evidence enough of this. Even as an inveterate liberal, I don’t see it possible or appropriate for government to be expected to make our world free of risk or protect us from our own willful ignorance or bad choices.


The issue arises a lot for me because I see people and animals harmed by BS medical therapies, either directly or through buying into an illogical, often faith-based line of thinking that keeps them away from real therapies that might actually help them. And, like children, my animal patients don’t even get to make these choices for themselves, so they suffer from the beliefs of their owners. And part of the problem is that the mistaken beliefs behind some of these therapies are not self-evidently ridiculous even to reasonable, intelligent, educated people. It requires a certain level of scientific knowledge and critical thinking skills, which must be learned, to see through the fog. So I can’t entirely accept that people fooled by medical nonsense are just fools who deserve the consequences of their choices.

But, as I mentioned, I do think that the people selling this stuff often believe in it, so they can’t be accused in most cases of outright fraud either. So then we’re faced with either trying to impose some sort of evidentiary standard on what can or cannot be legally sold as medicine, or relying solely on our ability to educate people out of trying stuff which may sound quite reasonable, especially when they are desperately ill, which can impede purely rational, critical judgement. There really is such a thing as truth and there really are right and wrong answers sometimes, and when the answer seems nearly indisputable (e.g., homeopathy is BS and can’t cure or prevent any disease), then it’s hard for me not to think that it makes sense to try and prohibit it.

I recently wrote a series of essays, which I hope will appear on Science-Based Medicine in some form eventually, on how the law and government deals with alternative medicine, and the main discovery I made was that lawyers and politicians and judges are far more interested in the issue of balancing individual rights against the role of the state then in what is actually scientifically true and false. It’s easy to forget that when I’m dealing mostly with the scientific side of things every day. I don’t know what the optimal balance is between protecting personal liberty and preventing sick people from being taken advantage of by charlatans, even well-meaning ones. But I sometimes see the individual liberty argument, legitimate as it is, being used as a way of preventing what seems to me perfectly reasonable regulation of nonsense that really hurts people. The line between just hurting yourself and urting others is sometimes hard to see. I can understand why someone would feel that, for example, mandated vaccinations would be a terrible violation of their personal freedom to control their body. But I can also see how the real risk of allowing people to opt out could lead to other people suffering and dying from preventable diseases, so it’s not a simple equation to balance, and as you say each situation has unique and complicated variables to consider.

Anyway, thanks for the serious and reasonabel response.

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Posted: 17 October 2010 07:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Id the government is going to go after a two-bit tarot card reader why haven’t they done anything about all the snake oil salesmen in the high end audio industry? These are con men of the most insidious sort; educated people who should (and probably do) know they are selling lies, and some of them getting very rich doing do (Monster Cable is the prime example).

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