Friday, July 15, 2016

To take care of "others", you have to learn to "take care of your own", first (David Brooks, Johathan Haidt essays)

David Brooks gives us a critical essay today in the New York Times, “We Take Care of Our Own”   Much of what he says is related to a credited long essay by NYU sociology professor Jonathan Haidt in the American Interest, "Whey and Why Nationalism Beats Globalism", link here  There is a substantial paywall, and given the booklet-length of the article (four chapters) the user may want to pick up (“purchase”) a hardcopy of the periodical at a local Barnes and Noble or similar bookstore.

I’ve pretty much nurtured the same line of thought.  I have become a self-expressive “globalist” myself and sometimes been heavily “criticized” for my lack of psychological loyalty to “groups” that have “nurtured” me, ranging from original family to activist or communal groups later in my life.

I think there is another point here, about socialization.  It’s important that people (“me”) learn to take care of others, with some intimacy when necessary.  This goes way beyond narrow ideas of personal responsibility, as modern libertarians see the idea, as people can become responsible for others besides their own voluntarily conceived kids.  The process is integral to making the lives of everyone, of varying quantitative abilities, in a family chain valued, so it’s important to democracy (and for “democratic capitalism” as we know it, a bit ironically).  This capacity usually has to be learned at home, in the family, before it can be exported to caring for the situations in other parts of the world.
That said, some churches I attend send youth groups to Belize, Nicaragua, and even El Savador and Kenya.  One has a ministry in South Sudan.  But it has to start at home.

Monday, July 04, 2016

A new Facebook profile picture, and "Ephram's inability to change"

I got pestered repeatedly by Facebook to update my profile picture, and so finally I did, with a photo taken on me at an AGLA social on July 1, and got four likes for the new profile.

The old profile has a picture of me at a candlelight service.

Some other remarks:  I understand that some people see organizing others as their mission, their form of activism.  It may be circumscribed by what they do at work, that is also publicly visible.  I generally don’t announce all my activities in advance (security is one reason). I generally don’t go to the same event repeatedly unless something new would happen at a particular occasion (like a meal, or being held in a new venue).
I can remember that in the WB show “Everwood”, starting back in 2002 and running a few years, the piano prodify Ephram (Gregory Smith) wrote an essay that was published for a while on WB’s site for the show, “Ephram’s Fatal Flaw.”  Ephram said that his fatal flaw was his inability to “change”.

So it is with me.  I feel much more pressure to become connected socially, maybe in volunteer activities, to others, in situations where I might have been unwelcome in the past.  I did the kind of work for a living that is often best done individually, and that was very demanding of detail and attention, sometimes putting personal relationships (dating and marriage) on a backburner as a lower priority.  Not everyone would tolerate this.   And I don’t like to be the one to make someone else “all right” if that someone isn’t so, but this remark takes me into a troubling area that will be explored another time.
Section picture  Event with Gregory Smith and Chris Pratt at King of Prussia Mall, PA, August 2005. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

News anchor fired for personal Facebook post, supposedly "racist"; she fights back with reverse discrimination lawsuit

An award winning television journalist (WTAE-TV ) from Pittsburgh has been fired for comments on her personal Facebook account deemed by some as racist.  Wendy Bell commented on a brutal crime in Pittsburgh, extending her opinion to the subject of black-on-black crime in inner cities, which is certainly true (in Chicago, Washington DC, and many other cities), as a major security threat to everyone, much more probable to affect average citizens that lone wolf jihadist terrorism – and related, of course, to the gun and assault weapons debate.

Nevertheless, she was fired for what she said on her own page (coming to her own conclusions), as not living up to the standards of journalistic objectivity.  Remember, in the era of Facebook, there are no double lives.

Bell has filed a reverse discrimination lawsuit, seeing employment reinstatement, claiming she was fired because she is white. A Washington Post story by Katie Mettler explains, as does her interview on CNN with “conservative” anchor Smerconish.  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an account here

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Greenwald: FBI did not have cause to arrest Orlando shooter before event

Glenn Greenwald, who helped Laura Poitras interview Edward Snowden for “Citizenfour” and who authored “No Place to Hide”, argues that the FBI was right to leave Omar Mateen alone, based on the limited evidence it had, in  June 17 op-ed in the Washington Post.    “No minimally free society can prevent all violence.”  We do not arrest people for crimes they have not committed, although we do arrest for conspiracy and plots or attempts.  But we do not follow the script of “Minority Report” and prosecute pre-crime.

True, we make “calculated risks” in our activities all the time.  I was almost hit by a car passing illegally on a two-lane road last weekend.  But enemies can target the softest spots.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

If "there are no civilians" then maybe "there are no victims". just "casualties"; expectations in a world of fourth generation warfare

I found a long historical essay on a site called “USS Clueless: Voyages of the Restless Mind”, titled “There is no such thing as ‘civilian’”.

It gives a long European history as to how civilians are an asset for the military. It’s also true that the U.S. has, at least until 9/11, had the “luxury” of believing that it could do all its fighting “on the road”, in other people’s ballparks, even if there is a history of using male-only conscription – an issue that has come back into debate recently.  The biggest episode in my own life was the war in Vietnam and my own being drafted in 1968 (I was “sheltered” and did not go to Vietnam or see combat).

But modern asymmetry implies that political conflict can again lead to hostility and violence in one’s own back yard, almost.  The ways terrorism could affect us (EMP, dirty bombs, and other WMD’s as well as shooters and crude IUD’s) are numerous.  Wikipedia has a term for all this, “Fourth Generation Warfare”.

So I get the idea that people want to be able to defend themselves, and draw lines in the sand.  For all the lifetime of focus on “personal responsibility” as we normally understand it in the West, there is something shameful about being targeted by an “enemy” who would hold “me” responsible for what my “country”, or my “whatever”, upon which I depend, did to provide me like life.  This is difficult, and attention to victims as such is not enough.  If there are no civilians, then maybe there are no victims. just casualties.   Almost any social or political ideology can be rationalized, and only collective strength can prove it right to the rest of the world -- at least that seems to be what Donald Trump really thinks. And true, while it was LGBT this time (and it was horrible and record-setting), it has been school kids, or moviegoers, or, overseas, Christians and Jews and other people practicing other religions, facing persecution for “who they are.”  Promoting victimhood only goes so far. There is something to the right's "watch your back" and "watch your own karma" mentality. It's burdensome.

So, I am temperate in my ability to respond to individual victims, unless I know them already or have some other separate connection to them.  I don’t like to respond to individual pleas of “gofundme’s” at individual level, generally, just like I don’t respond to superficial calls to “sponsor” individual kids in Africa.  I don’t think it is valid unless I can follow through with a major, life changing commitment, starting with travel. (At least, when I was growing up in the 1950s, such individually placed generosity wasn’t part of the visible culture, maybe because it was less possible.)   I also know that if something happens to me, I can’t expect that kind of attention, either.  I will bear part of my own karma, because that is a fact of logic.

I have seen this sort of thing before, as with the buddy programs in the AIDS crisis in the 1980s (when I lived in Dallas).  Should a calamity happen geographically closer to home, and somehow a similar program were in place, maybe I would join.  But I remember how it was in the 80s, I joined in “on my terms”.  I was a “baby buddy”.  It seems like I never would throw myself into the emotions of the group.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Trump revokes press credentials for Washington Post, other news orgs he doesn't like

Monday night, Donald Trump reportedly revoked the Washington Post’s press credentials to attend his campaign events.  Trump complained about some headline or article characterizing the way Trump had reacted to the Orlando attacks.  The Post is saying this doesn’t matter to the paper the way you’d think, here.

So Trump is reducing the Post’s stature to that of the amateur blogger, me.  (Same for some other banned publications, like Huffington).  It certainly sounds like he doesn’t respect a free press, and believes “leaders” have a right to control what the media says about them.  Russia and China, maybe?

That even gives me more reason to be concerned he could invent a reason to shut down most user-generated content on the web as creating risk and not paying its own freight.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

No, my life cannot become someone else's bargaining chip

I am in the middle of “restructuring” my websites and activities – with much more of it going to Wordpress – and I am pretty much self-driven.

I have to react for a moment to the reaction of everyone to horrific events around them, including two major tragedies in Orlando, FL this weekend, one of them at a Club (the Pulse) which I had visited last July.  I’ve covered that on the GLBT blog today.

I need to tell myself, and “to whom it may concern”, that it is never OK for anyone to think my own life should become a bargaining chip, whatever the cause or reason or emotional, familial, or political circumstances.  I had to deal with this during the last years before my own mother’s passing at 97 at the end of 2010 (of natural medical causes).  I’ve had to deal with it earlier in my life, with the whole business of the William and Mary expulsion (1961), NIH (1962), the draft and my military service (starting in 1968), and in various ways at other times as I have documented, in personal encounters that in a very few occurrences turned ugly.

I also need to finish my own homework, my own goals, in my own way, before I can really help others effectively, by belonging to "someone else's" effort.  Yes, I would like to “earn” the opportunity to work with an established news service, but that can only happen if I “do the work” first.  So I can’t become sidetracked by circumstances, hardships, threats, or anything else.  I can’t drop what I’m doing for other people’s emergencies.  There are so many pleas that I actually look at very few of them.

True, I seem insular and aloof.  If I fail, even if it is someone else’s “fault” or the result of forceful expropriation, I still fail; and “belonging” to a group on some emotional level isn’t going to save me.  It’s pretty much a right-or-wrong thing, not much part credit.  I can’t get involved in emotional ventures to make victims of anything “all right”, and I don’t expect others to do that for me.  This may sound like an alarming statement, but there is no honor in victimhood. No reward.  Socially, and politically, I think this has a lot to do with deep inequality (not just religion) to the point that western life seems meaningless to some people.   I do understand the Grace aspect of this in Christianity, and won’t get into it here (for, for that matter, comparable ideas in Judaism, Islam, or other faiths);  I have my own idea about the afterlife, which I am sure exists, but I can’t get into that right now.

That brings me to another idea I’ve mentioned before, personal “rightsizing” and its relation to social resilience.  That idea comes up in some volunteer contexts.  Colbert King mentioned it in conjunction with Donald Trump in a column Saturday here. She talks about Trump’s alleged pandering to ideas about keeping people “in their place” and that even includes gender roles, in some context of socialization.  It’s pretty alarming stuff.

Donald Trump’s own press release starts out right – we have to be strong and resilient – but then misses everything when he just categorizes migrants as “the other”.   It seems awfully shallow.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Publishers in Europe want "creeping copyright" protection from "unauthorized" hyperlinks

Electronic Frontier Foundation has an article by Jeremy Malcolm, reporting that publishers are asking regulators of a European Union commission to allow them to require other publishers to request permission and pay even to link to their articles, story here.

Publishers seem most concerned about “news aggregation sites” that they claim deprive them of traffic and ad revenue.  That could include Google’s own aggregation and display of some content with search results.

But in theory that could mean an issue even for a blogger that links to an ordinary news story.  It’s not clear whether this could affect sites outside of the EU, such as here in the US.

It would also seem that it could affect embeds, which normally don’t lead to copyright claims because they are merely “links”.

A sinister aspect of this development could be that established newspapers (especially smaller ones) feel upended by smaller blogs and sites – a development that led to a copyright troll like Righthaven in the past.

Around 1999 or 2000, a few companies in the U.S. tried to claim that they had the right to require permission to them before deep hyperlinks, which they claimed could deny them traffic and ads.  That was settled in 2000, as I recall.
I’ll keep a close eye on this story (including looking for any other legally related cases for the US) and develop it further on my new Wordpress news commentary soon.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Is Adam Grant a backup for David Brooks? The folly of "being yourself"

Take a look at Adam Grant’s column, p. 6 of the New York Times Review section June 5, “Be yourself’ is terrible advice.”  This sounds akin to David Brooks.
Grant talks about “low self-monitors” (like me) who tend to “say what they mean and mean what they say” (like in the little film “Bulletproof Picasso”), but are more likely to be female. “High self-monitors: are the “always be closing” types.  Actually, Donald Trump is a bit of both.  But the extroverts, so to speak, are more likely to be tuned to what people “need”, even if the temptation is to oversell.  Yup, people thought they needed subprime mortgages.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Apartment complex in Utah required tenants to give them Facebook "likes", a shocking interference with personal speech

Karen Turner, in the Washington Post, reports a particularly shocking story about a landlord’s interference with tenants’ personal social media use, p A12, “Landlord demands ‘likes’ on Facebook, Addendum threatened Utah apartment tenants with breach of contract”.   Online the title is “The landlord said ‘Like me’ on Facebook, or get evicted.”  The complex involved was the City Park Apartments in Salt Lake City, Utah. The complex has since dropped the policy and removed its own Facebook page over the controversy.

This is sort of the logical inverse of a non-disparagement clause for medical providers or contractors. Reportedly, this Salt Lake apartment also had a non-disparagement clause.
I have been concerned that landlords would check social media to see if a potential tenant is likely to disparage the landlord, or thinking of more sinister potentialities, indirect attraction of targeted security threats that could affect other residents.  I have not heard many (or really any) direct news reports of this happening. (I have to modify this: An apartment complex in Florida tried to implement a non-disparagement clause with a $10K fine, actually adding an addendum that social media reviews can destroy a business and cause other tenants to have to heave, Arstechnica story.)  Social media could loop back to older time when sites were often flat and could include blogs, Reddit, and the like.

It is unethical for any provider to demand positive reviews or “likes” from customers, that is to “buy” favorable online reputation.  The practice should be illegal.  But it is also unethical to pay for favorable reviews of anything, even an authored book.  Angie’s List says you can’t pay for a review on the site.

Facebook has pretty much eliminated the “double life” that was possible in the 1990s when I wrote my first book.  One problem with this policy is that it actually required a personal Facebook account. I was in a situation myself where, had I really started a teaching career, around 2005 or so, I had contemplated going completely dark during the employment out of my own view of "conflict of interest".

A local Salt Lake station has a story here. The Verge (Vox) talks about some business's lack of empathy and awareness of modern values here.  CNET has a story with detailed comments from an attorney, and has some other comments claiming a hoax. Huffigton has a story here.  Comments that the policy discriminates against the disabled and elderly seem to miss a deeper point about the integrity of personal speech.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Salt Lake public library, where “It’s free”.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Veteran's lost book manuscript raises questions about helping others write books; Mommy blogger quits, saying she had to make stuff up to make money

As a writer and author, I have indeed been focused mainly on my own “unusual” narrative (like an “unusual candidate”).  I have wondered if I should have tried to get hired to write other people’s stories in retirement.  I was approached once by another person in the battle over gays in the military, but it didn’t happen.  A lot of people can make notes of their lives but don’t know how to write a book.

There’s a story on WJLA-7 in Washington about a USAF veteran, and owner of a catering business, whose backpack was taken in a quick robbery recently.  Inside were life-saving anti-rejection medications for organ transplants, and notes and writings for an autobiographical book about his transplant experience (and maybe military life before).

The individual apparently had not backed up the writings (on a computer, and preferably USB drives or in the Cloud).  It wasn’t clear if he had the knowledge or resources for how to do this.  Could another writer help him?  Maybe with recreating the prose, but not the raw data, which might include PII and medical histories of organ donors (the story didn’t say  if any were living).

There is a lot more public interest in transplantation, and in organ donation, even when alive, than when I was being raised (apart from blood donation).  All of this became a no-no within the gay male community over the HIV donation ban, which has only recently been partially rescinded.  Today, generosity with one’s own body is becoming a social expectation.

There’s another variation of the life narrative idea.  Josi Denise has given up her “American Mama” blog, which made a lot of money, but which said she had to make a lot of stuff up and misrepresent her real family life, story on ABC here.  The domain no longer resolves (the name is for sale).
But Heather Armstrong’s “Dooce” is still alive, as she talks about “The Revenant” and her training for the Boston Marathon.  "To Dooce" is now a real verb.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tech companies will act more pro-actively against hate speech and terror recruitment, starting in EU

Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter, and probably other companies, have reached agreement with the EU to implement a new code of conduct regarding hate speech , including recruitment to terrorism. Techcruch has a detailed story by Romain Dillet
 The companies agree to remove flagged items within 24 hours.  But it appears that the companies will depend largely on user feedback.

Still, it is logical that the measures would implemented in the US (and Canada and Australia) also.  The companies may fear that Donald Trump, especially, could force their hand into more proactive monitoring, if elected.  It would appear right now that under US law, Section 230 protects them until actual violations are brought to their attention by users.  There may be some tools that could single out some content (like ISIS recruiting) more automatically.

The story was announced on major news feeds midday.

It’s common for book self-publishing platforms to do “content evaluations”, to screen out hate speech (and other material like child pornography, for example).

In the copyright world, YouTube is able to prescreen videos for digital marks for certain kinds of copyright infringement.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Newspaper association files action with FTC on ad blockers

The Newspaper Association of America has filed a complaint with the FTC regarding the deployment of ad blockers, particularly on mobile devices, link here.

The Washington Post carried a story today by Elizabeth Dwoskin, regarding the practice of “paid whitelisting”, which seems to allow ads to get around blockers, or substitute them.  It sounds like a kind of extortion on the ad industry, upon which Internet business models depend.

I rarely look at ads myself, and find that on some sites (even reputable broadcast sites), ads will take over and prevent the viewing of news content.  I find pop-ups and “continue to site” even on regular corporate sites (Forbes) to be cheesy and time-wasting.  But content has to be paid for somehow.

Update: May 31

The New York Times has a story by Mark Scott, about the concerns Internet companies have about ad revenue, especially from mobile devices, and especially from the developing world where blockers are curiously more common.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thiel's support of litigation against Gawker gets attention as Thiel supports Trump, gay rights, energy power grid security upgrade, and major technology companies (on day that Trump clinches)

Recently, Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote  in the New York Times about investor Peter Thiel’s role in Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker.  It’s hard to fathom this from what I read, whether his being “outed” was the reason.  (Why not say, “I was never in”?)   The NYT emphasized a concern about big money in the courts system. (OK, here is Gawker’s story.).

The Washington Post has weighed in on the matter today.  An op-ed by Eugene Kontorovich notes that Thiel’s assistance with a suit is no different than having the ACLU or EFF do it (as both did for me challenging COPA a decade ago).

Gawker has written an open letter to Peter Thiel.

In all of this, we lose sight of the issues as to the legal standards when public figures bring privacy or defamation litigation (malice, recklessness).

The NYT reports that Thiel is a delegate or Donald Trump.  That may be good news in a sense, for the country at least.  If Trump is elected, Thiel probably would play a vital role in advising an inexperienced Trump on how to handle some complicated legal-business-technical matters (beyond talking tough with China and Saudi Arabia, etc.)  Thiel was born in Germany, but otherwise might have been a better candidate.  (I think Mark Cuban would be a good candidate, but Cuban has actually answered my emails about some issues in the past and may know a little about my work).

 Oh, I think Anderson Cooper would be a great candidate. How about Chris Cuomo?   Note I’m not playing partisan.

Thiel helped found Facebook and Paypal.  Thiel has also helped fund Taylor Wilson’s work  on fission and fusion energy – efforts which should point to making the power grids more resilient from attacks or space weather.  It would seem that Mr. Thiel ought to coach Mr. Trump and what to say about technology, infrastructure, currency, and the like, in his speeches so Trump can become more credible in specific policies.  Why hasn’t Trump mentioned the security of the power grid?  At least Ted Cruz did. (I know, “Lyin’ Ted”.)

Trump clinched the nomination this week by going over 1237 delegates.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Internet addiction started to get treated in the US (as well as South Korea and China)

On Saturday, May 21, the Washington Post featured a front page story by Hayley Tsukayama, “Struggling to look away from the screen: Parents, experts worry about compulsive Web use among young people – but is this addiction?”.  Online, the title is more telling (like the answer to a “My Weekly Reader” test in grade school), “The dark side of the Internet is costing young people their jobs and their social lives”.

 The story relates a treatment center in Washington state – not covered by insurance in the US because it’s not recognized as a mental disorder officially.  It is treated more aggressively in South Korea.

Gamers seem to have the biggest problems.  The treatment centers seem to offer life “off the grid” and a lot of tough love.  Even fantasy material, like comics, isn’t allowed sometimes;  they want people to relate to “real people”.  I wondered if model trains or toys were allowed.  All of this reminds me of what my own mother once called "baby play" one summer in Ohio.  I thought about a couple of intentional communities I have visited.

In my own circumstances, staying connected is important, because I need to maintain what I put online and need pretty much continual access to it, even when I travel.  I can see how that could become a policy or legal issue in the future. I can't afford a vacation or overseas service experience "off the grid".

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Tribal partisanship dislikes journalistic objectivity: Donald Trump and the "Know-Nothings"

Roger Cohen offers a perspective on “tribal politics” in a column, p. A21 in the New York Times Tuesday May 17, 2016, “To Know Nothing Wins”.  He does start out by talking about the Know-Nothing Party in the 19th Century.

Cohen says this seems to explain how Donald Trump attracts working class white average-Joes and convinced them “ I can take care of you” by keeping “the other” inline.

Cohen points out that a major part of this strategy is to ignore the “other’s” social, political or ethical arguments so that you don’t have to admit that “they” have any.

That has often been the attitude of left-wing based gay activism in the past.  In the 1980s, in Dallas, the right wing mounted an ugly speculative argument about AIDS to try to advance a new sodomy law which thankfully failed anyway.  But the strategy of the Dallas Gay Alliance was to refuse to mention it.

I’m always been a thorn in the side of “partisanships”.  My whole game is to present both sides (like in the “Opposing Viewpoints” book series, Book reviews, Sept 19, 2006) and force the opposing forces to confront each other on substance.  It’s actually about making this idea available and getting the public to demand it.
It if doesn’t pay its own way, Donald Trump might try to stop if he gets elected.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

New York Magazine columns say Trump will go after media outlets with legal warfare

I’m not how seriously to take a couple blurbs in the New Yorker about Donald Trump’s supposed plans to shut down media companies  ("an unprecedented threat") by yanking broadcast licenses, as appeared today in a piece by Jonathan Chait .   Or look at an earlier story about how Trump could go after the Washington Post for anti-trust in a piece anticipating Trump’s Putin-style authoritarianism.  The GOP limps along and accepts it.  It's hard to say how credible these ideas really are.  These columns got a lot of circulation in social media (and from Breitbart) tonight.

All of this suggests the Trump simply excepts to get everything he wants “to make America great” by manipulation, not by ideas.

Trump had threatened to shut down much of the Internet, as in postings here Dec 8, 16, and Feb. 27, but then that proposal seemed to get forgotten about.

  But back in 2004, there had been dire predictions about "the coming crackdown on blogging" over concerns of indirect violations of campaign finance reform.

Peter Beinart mentioned Trump's "threats" to media companies on CNN AC360 last night.  Back in December, a Facebook friend had joked "Shut down those tubes!"

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Facebook: news trending controversy, and questions about advisability of adding pages

Various media outlets, such as the Guardian, report that Facebook has been using editors, rather than algorithms, to select “trending topics” to show in member news feeds.    Gizmodo has an even more “incriminating” story here.

However Facebook denies this, and advises members that they can mediate their feeds with their use like buttons (from love to hate), and can exclude content from specified “publishers” (that is, pages as opposed to friends’ profiles).

My own experience is that “liking” an item on a page generally causes news from that page to appear.

I do see stories that are “intellectually” conservative (and free-market oriented) but not bigoted.

Right now, I still feed Twitter posts to Facebook.  Most of these appear in my Facebook Timeline. I think the ones that don’t fail when an embedded link does not resolve.  About two-thirds of these show up on my own “news” page.  It does seem that the more sensitive pages with a harder tone sometimes do not.

I would like to add a Page to my Facebook account, while keeping the Profile as it is.  I would then stop the feed from Twitter and enter news items only on the page, and more personal items (like photos from trips) on the Profile.  Some people say they do not like getting or “need to get” their (bad) news (“I told you so”) from “Friends”.

Facebook’s guidelines are here.  Facebook says a Profile can have multiple pages, but implies that a page should represent an organization, business, or brand, or entity larger than the person.  I would like to create a page called “public figure” or “writer” but cannot determine yet from the Help which subcategories I could use.  (I do not want to just “convert” the profile to a page because this apparently can lead to loss of posts and contacts.)  Profiles have to be converted to pages to have more than 5000 "friends" or followers, or if Facebook determines the Profiles are commercial.

I’m still looking into this.  I appears that an add-on page would be allowable once I do commerce myself (that is, sell books myself rather than depending only on third party sites like Amazon or Author Solutions or Bandcamp – if I sell music later – to sell it, and take Paypal and credit cards; I’m not set up for credit cards myself but am looking into it – ecommerce domain, https, and the like). I could set up a page as an "Author" but present the business of selling my books -- not just set up another soapbox.
The Facebook page would be part of the effort to migrate most of my blogging to Wordpress and to reconfigure my “presence” in order to facilitate collaboration with others on future projects, as described here May 9.

Friday, May 13, 2016

House passes Email Privacy Act with a "perfect game shutout"; Social media can now be monitored for security clearance vetting

Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed an “Email Privacy Act” with H.R. 699 govtrack reference here. The bill would carve an exceptrion for digital communications from the ECPA of 1986, which regards emails more than 180 days old as “abandoned”.  Now, the government would need a warrant to retrieve them.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPCA) has an account of the bill here.

The bill could make future threats to privacy (like cloud searches for illegal content) less likely.

In an at least tangentially related matter, the Obama administration has announced that social media postings can be vetted in security clearance background investigations, probably for both federal employees (or military personnel) and contractors.  It's possible that comments made by others could figure into a clearance getting, and since these can be libelous or misleading (like a recent case where I was repeatedly tagged in Facebook photos in which I actually do not appear, by a prankster), so this could lead security clearance holders to be fussier about whom the "friend" or "follow" or allow to follow them.  It could lead to more sensitivity to photography in places like discos (sensitivity which has increased steadily since about 2010, which sounds ironic given the end of DADT).   Even so, the practical effect on most clearance holders is probably very low if they behave prudently online, The Wall Street Journal story by Damiam Palette uses the characterization "fair game" as if it were talking about what can be asked on the next test by the teacher.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Professional panhandlers the arbiters of personal "rightsizing"?

This evening, as  I returned from a concert and had gotten off the Ballston Metro stop, an elderly man on two crutches with two casts approached me with, “Sir, can you help?”

The same person had approached Tuesday night and I had given him something.

I reminded him of the fact I had seen him before, and he said, “well, have you given yet?” Maybe he meant to say, "given back".
Like he was the professional victim, licensed to test me to see if I was “rightsized”.  It was my obligation to give back to somebody, by some due date.

That reminds me of a door-door guy who showed up in 2013 demanding donations and saying I would feel like “what it is to start over”.

In Matthew 5:42, Jesus says “Give to whoever asks”.  It's pretty clear cut as a religious matter, for example.

I think this has a lot to do with individualism and eusociality, and I will come back to this again.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Much of my future blogging moves to Wordpress: here are the details; "The Fifth Estate" is still too much like "The Fifth Dominion"

I want to inform visitors on some changes I am making in my blogs and where I place news items. Let me prepare this announcement by saying I am trying to migrate from the “Fifth Estate”  to the “Fourth” .  So maybe I’m in an “in-ovo” at estate 4.5.  (Fans of Clive Barker’s Imajica will see the metaphor of his “Dominions” – the “Fifth Estate” is still “Earth”.)

On Wednesday, May 4, 2016, I purchased two new Wordpress Domains from Bluehost.

These new blogs are “Bill’s Media Commentary” and “Bill’s News Commentary”.  There is now enough content on each site that I think I should announce this.

Most reviews of films, books, major television series or events, musical compositions and their performances, and “legitimate” stage plays and performances (including, for example, musicals and operas) will be placed on the new Media Reviews blog.  Right now, there are five new reviews:  three films, one play, and one music concert.

In time, most major news commentaries (including those about Donald Trump or even Seth Rogen) will go on the new Wordpress blog, too.  Right now, there are three high-level articles.

I “joined” Blogger in 2006, quickly added Adsense, and have used the free service for over ten years.  The content that is there now is valuable. Right now, here are some counts of postings on the more popular blogs:  Movies, 2712;  TV, 2326; Plays-Music 623; Books, 498; GLBT, 1578; Cautionary (mostly media items on national security threats), 380, and my “main” Tech blog 2293.

The blogs are heavily crossed referenced internally with labels, which is particularly useful on the Movies blog (like all the films of a particular director).

I don’t plan to copy the blogs onto Wordpress right now, as this does not seem to be that easy to do quickly.  I may do so later, within the next twelve months or so.  I am placing tools on the new Wordpress blogs to assist users to cross reference back to label aggregations on the old.

There is also an issue with cross-referencing back to my older legacy site “” (and the experimental “, which I believe will be shut down with content moved elsewhere, by the end of June).

I have to be mindful in giving hyperlinks for cross-references that I don’t create the appearance of “link farming”.  But there is an inherent problem in having a multiplicity of platforms, set up over the years as technology and conditions change. There is a desire not to have all of one’s eggs in one basket.  On the other hand, having old sites that don’t get updated or maintained often could become a security hazard, although new services like SiteLock can mitigate that threat.

One practical problem is that visitors, depending on their own circumstances, may encounter my material from different points of entry.  Therefore, I may have to give the cross-reference information at several different common entry points.  The most comprehensive point is still the home page of the legacy “”, originally established in 1999.

I am looking at the possibility of adding https to all the Wordpress blogs (and maybe all sites), as well as adding a new ecommerce site that enables me to sell books directly (where https and PGP are mandatory).  I am also looking into https everywhere, which is available free on subdomain blogs from Blogger and Wordpress but more complicated to set up when equated to hosted domains.  I expect to have these issues (including adding advertising) resolved by the end of July.  I’ve talked to Bluehost about https but need to look further.

What about the “gang of 16” blogs?  I do expect to continue placing smaller and more pointed news stories on them, for now.  But there may be very little new material on the “media review” blogs from here on, although changes and corrections can be made to existing posts. Comments can still be monitored and accepted. There is a facility on the new “News Commentary” blog to index quick news story, but it is not working smoothly yet.   Some sequences of television shows (like CNN specials) and film series may be continued to the logical end.

What is the reason for the change?  One primary concern is “sustainability” along with time.  Migrating most blogging to hosted Wordpress sites facilitates inviting guest posting (because I get a lot of emails about this – and will provide guidelines soon).  “Blogtyrant” (Ramsay, who does influence my thinking somewhat) has explained his preferences for Wordpress and BlueHost.  My own impression is that generally Wordpress is superior.  Others, like “Nitecruz”, have argued that it is not a good idea to depend entirely (at least professionally) on “someone else’s free service”.  You can have better support if you pay (rather nominally) for hosted service.  In fact, I think that Google could well consider formal hosting plans (not just custom domain names) for Blogger if it wanted, and could make arrangements with third party companies to manage the hosting if it chose, mirroring how BlueHost handles Wordpress.

However, Blogger has been very stable over the years. There was only one occasion where a few of my blogs were inadvertently removed or made inaccessible for a few hours (in May 2008) and quickly restored, but that was scary.  (Back then, there was a big controversy over spam blogs, and questions why captchas were not sufficient to stop them; a few mistakes happened in the process.)  There was one 18-hour period in May 2011 when Blogger was not available for use.

I also believe that a mostly-Wordpress setup would facilitate my working with established news outlets and sites, something I would like to do.
I should also note that I probably will make some changes in how I handle my Facebook and Twitter presence,  to make the distribution of breaking news stories more effective, I believe by early June.  I seem to be in line with Metro’s rebuilding schedule (LOL).  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Blogging guru surprises everyone by advising that most blogs should not carry ads

Australian blogging guru Ramsay Taplin (a little younger than Mark Zuckerberg) shocked everyone this morning on Facebook with an article “Why you might want to reconsider using ads on your blog”  I recirculated it through Twitter immediately.

Although probably not an issue with commercial ad networks (like Adsense, which Rmasay has criticized for other reasons) one possible additional reason could be to evade the malvertising issue of late.

One is left with wondering, if Ramsay is right, what happens to the business models of “free service” platforms like Blogger and Wordpress, which are starting to offer https free now.  What happens to their business models?

In the meantime, I’m waiting to see what Ramsay has to say about the importance (or lack thereof) of https for blogs that don’t directly engage in e-commerce (which can always be placed on a separate domain anyway).

Ramsay’s advice does seem to be appropriate for narrowly focused blogs associated with small business or with hobbies or specific lifestyle pursuits.  I can imagine how his advice would work on a blog about chess openings, which I could be capable of running (and attracting “professional” contributors).  Other examples: triathlon or marathon participation, model railroading, physical fitness in general (the area Ramsay started in – although it’s easy to imagine how some associated topics, like weight loss products, can quickly become trite and cheesy), financial and retirement planning (which, again, can become trite and filled with speculation – look at the entire Porter Stansberry crowd).  Classical music (particularly as it fits into modern popular idioms, possibly even hip-hop) lends itself to his ideas.  Timo Andres (composer and pianist) has an effective blog, but the sites of some of his other contemporaries are less effective.  Sites by book authors and independent film makers are often less effective than they should be.  However, Mary Ruwart (“Healing our World”) has an effective blog.  You can try the blog of “Andrew Jenks Entertainment”.  The most popular specialty area of all has historically been the “mommy blog” (Heather Armstrong’s “Dooce”, which she started after getting fired for talking about her employer in a blog in 2002).

In my case, I'd need to develop "news" partners.  More of that later.

Wordpress offers a missive by Cheri Lucas Rowlands, "Four Tips from Seasoned Bloggers".

Monday, May 02, 2016

FBI given new powers for "hacking searches" out of state by SCOTUS

The Supreme Court has approved a new rule that will allow federal judges to issue warrants to the FBI or DOJ to search or hack computers or other devices outside their own physical jurisdiction, under expanded interpretation of what is called Rule 411.  In the past, the device had to be in some kind of transit.  Now the warrant can consider situations of deliberate concealment.

The Atlantic has a story by Matt Ford, explaining the change, and whimsically suggesting that the order would allow searches of servers “on one of Jupiter’s moons” – Europa – or maybe Titan (Saturn), the location of my screenplay.

Curiously, I have a “server” issue myself right now.  Since April 10, I haven’t been able to see the log files for my “” legacy site, on a Windows server (at Verio).  Maybe this is related to a data center migration. But it is not good that theoretically the government could see something relating to my own on the web that I can’t get to right now.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

David Brooks overreaches himself in telling us how to be good, and dragging Donald Trump into his own "process piece" (it's still getting "less bad")

OK, moral pundit David Brooks ("The Road to Character", Book reviews, June 16, 2015) has created a lot of flak with, “If not Trump, what?” NYTimes, on Friday, April 29, 2016.  He gives us an order: “We all have some responsibility to do one activity that leaps across the channels of segmentation that afflict this country.” Is Brooks himself a hypocrite if he doesn’t walk in the shoes of a worker-peasant like what Mao required during the Cultural Revolution?  He's probably experiencing his own Hawking radiation, evaporating slightly -- but that's not so "bad".

Salon echoes that sentiment in a piece by Aaron Barlow about his mea culpa, here.  There’s no way to walk in the shoes of the poor without giving everything up like the Rich Young Ruler in the Gospels.

In New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore gives Brooks some credit, but then says that Trump really is invoking hatred.

Remember, in 2013, David Brooks, a conservative, had called legal acceptance of gay marriage “one loss for freedom” because gays would be accepting the idea of erotic commitment that previously only heterosexuals had been allowed.

But this Friday, Brooks noted that society’s definition of masculinity had changed so much that men who had lived up to earlier, self-silencing notions of it were paying dearly, often with incarceration.  Today’s roles model young men likely would include Mark Zuckerberg, Jack and Luke Andraka, Taylor Wilson, Param Jaggi, the Two Timo’s (Andres and Descamps, in either order), and probably Richard Harmon (“the greatest of all time”).  That is to say, geeks, clean cut artists, coding prodigies.  Some of them might not see procreation and lineage as very high male priorities.  Most of them are probably largely secular in action. As we move into middle age, we would see Anderson Cooper and Tim Cook as role models.  And, well, Edward Snowden (well, he’s not middle aged yet).  But Jullian Assange has.  And none of this yet considers women as role models, or transgender (Caitlin, or Lady Valor).  Add Bryce Harper and RG3 if you like.  Oh, and by the way, no one on this list will ever want to run for president. You don't need to be head of state for timocracy.

David Brooks probably won’t earn a title as “second greatest of all time”.  I wonder if he can run a wind sprint and win it.

Second picture:  I finally made it to Sideling Hill East (abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike tunnel) today on foot. More about this soon. Indeed, America still starts here (even if the apocalyptic film "The Road" was filmed here.)

Update: May 4

Forbes has a piece ("Why income inequality isn't being solved") by Erik Sherman, May 2015, explaining that the real focus on inequality should be with wealth, not just income per se.

Yet back in 2013, Maura Pennington had written, "To fix income inequality, the have-nots must become do-somethings". 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

"Legitimate" original content publishers could benefit from carefully conceived support of privacy, anti-tracking tools

Digital Content Next has an important article by Don Marti, “Service Journalism and the Web Advertising Problem.  Content originators (which would include many news and visible commentary sites) have to consider the idea that their content is “pseudo-pirated” and placed on “bottom feeders” supported by much less reputable ads.  There is a general idea that some privacy tools, which reduce but don’t completely eliminate all advertiser tracking, could help content originators keep visitors coming to their own sites and to earn more legitimate advertising revenue in the long run.

Melody Kramer has a detailed article on Poynter University about how “Ad tech is broken” and how most smaller websites don’t have a very good handle on how ads are served (or they leave it up to Google).

The “Tech Fix” column in the New York Times has a useful article by Brian X. Chen and Natasha Singer, “Free tools to keep those creepy online ads from watching you”.    This seems to be more about ordinary tracking for more sales  than the “maldvertising” malware risk, but there is always a “marginal” risk that this problem spills into stalking or direct targeting from unusually combative enemies.  The article describes some tools, like Privacy Badger from EFF  , Disconnect Me, Ghostery, Adblock-plus.

And then, there is https everywhere.

I believe that the following guest link is by “BlogTyrant” (Ramsay Taplin) on how to build a custom advertising strategy if “you” are a new webmaster or blogger.   I won’t say I agree wholeheartedly (just look at how I’m set up), but what I do get from Ramsay is an idea of the aggressiveness it takes to make money on the web, through self-employment, once you’ve decided to do it – and have to do it, because you’ve taken on mouths to feed (whether through procreation or not through your own choices).   If you don’t need to make the site pay its own way, the game is different – but that raises other ethical “Achilles heels”.  What I’m not seeing in postings from his world is how to integrate aggressiveness with very real concerns about visitor security.  But if I had gown up with Ramsay's background, I might have developed the same views.