Friday, September 23, 2016

Whoops? Donald Trump?


I got a US mail ad from Donald Trump that is so hysterical that I thought it was a joke.  I included a bumper sticker.

My even posting this on a blog with ads might technically violate the campaign finance reform law back in early 2002, which created a lot of controversy in 2005 as an existential threat to blogging before it blew over.

Trump thinks he can “sell” his vote with his personalized “Stop Crooked Hillary Pledge” and by using his last name as a brand in such bombastic fashion.

I’m not impressed by aggressive sales tactics (which I see on email all the time, including hysterical emails from the Democratic Party too).

I can remember being asked in a screening interview (when New York Life wanted to consider me to become an agent in 2005), “would you buy products or services from a salesman?”  Not very often  Use Amazon.

I do understand attention-getting.  I had a habit of interrupting people in grade school, that I still remember, and it seems out of character now.  Introversion and extroversion are more nuanced than most psychologists think.
Trump thinks it is a great privilege to ride on his campaign plane and to get your photo with him. What a parody of what George Gilder calls "upward affiliation". 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Washington Post engages debate with "Counter Extremism Project" to counter terror-promoting websites


Recently the Washington Post has covered the Counter Extremism Project” to deploy new technology to combat online extremism. The CEP seems to be predicated on technology that matches other content to items flagged by users as terror propaganda.

The Washington Post published an LTE today from the CTE in response to its Sept. 17 editorial, link.

There’s also a proposal, in the letters, that a non-profit foundation could develop a “seal of approval” for websites.  This seems to extend the concept of rating of websites now for security threats and with peer rating (MyWOT, which had developed back around 2006).  Sound a development could be “bad” for amateurism.


 
The idea of evaluating content for ideological exploitation reminds me of the reason why some authoritarian leaders (like Vladimir Putin) see media in terms of “propaganda” even today, and do not believe the “masses” can do their own thinking.  Donald Trump talks as if that is what he believes.

But some of the "plots" in the US (as with the NY-NJ plot this weekend) seem to involve offspring of immigrants who have become citizens. Radicalization seems to involve a lack of character, lack of cognition required to "make it" in our kind of world, and then recruitment and travel to the home country where culture is much more group or tribe oriented.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

DOJ enforcement of ADA on UC Berkeley "free" online courses could set a bad precedent for small publishers


I wanted to make a note about the recent decision by the University of California Berkeley to stop access to free online courses because it could not comply with DOJ mandates to provide equal access for the disabled, as part of Civil Rights enforcement.

FEE  (a libertarian-oriented site) has a good story here.  The letter to the school is here.

The idea behind this action worries me as a “small publisher”.  I cannot, in a practical manner, make my books available in large print or audio, for example.  In theory, such a policy could stop self-publishing by content-providers who do not have a large income flow from what they publish.  "Free content" by small speakers certainly does not add revenue to pay for special access.  Of course, browsers can provide tools for access, as can various PC operating system or hardware features, so I wonder why that doesn't enter into the issue.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Berkeley gate by Trisweb (CCSA 2.5).  I stayed in Berkeley for a week on vacation in 1971.

Monday, September 19, 2016

"Adblock Plus" may be setting itself up as a gatekeeper of acceptable website ads


The New York Times has a Business Day article Monday September 19, 2016, “An Ad Blocker, Create to Protect Users from Ads, Instead Opens the Door”, by Sapna Maheshwari in her advertising column (Madison Avenue).
 
The article is about a company Adblock Plus which appears to be setting itself as a recognized industry gatekeeper for deciding what ads are acceptable enough to be pro-actively whitelisted.  This is a potentially “dangerous” idea.


 
The user installs the product in her browser, which effectively gives the company the power to decide with ads ought to be “publishable”.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Vox Media welcomes "non press" submissions on critical, undercovered topics (like power grid security)


Vox Media has created a new section on its website called “The Big Idea” and seems to be welcoming submissions from those other than “press establishment” journalists, story by Dylan Matthews here.

There is already an article by astrophysicist Lucianne Walcowicz on the threat to the power grids and particularly the Internet from solar storms (which I’ll cover soon on Wordpress).

Vox seems to be seeking articles with factual information from people doing the work – especially in areas like deep science and medicine.  I can imagine the list of insufficiently (or inaccurately) covered critical topics, ranging from power grid security to population demographics, to artificial intelligence, to revolutionary medicine.  I think legal and political discussion of some of the ideas regarding downstream liability on the Internet go there, too.   Maybe animals “people-like” or even distributed intelligence (like that of the orca), or real evidence of alien life belongs there.
 
Ten years ago, the debate on “don’t ask don’t tell” would have belonged.  Don’t assume it can never come back (particularly if Trump could win).

Friday, September 02, 2016

Melania Trump sues Maryland blogger and UK site; Donald Trump requires non-disparagement clause from phone bank volunteers


Melania Trump has sued a political blogger in Maryland, Webster G. Tarpley, as well as  for defamation.

Tarpley’s comment is here.

She has also sued the UK’s Daily Mail, according to this NBC story. Trump, as a public figure, would have to show actual malice or reckless disregard of the truth.

The ThinkProgress reports on a nondisclosure statement that even volunteers – just to work on phonebanks (don’t call me) must sign.  There is a gag and lifetime non-disparagement order.  I don’t think it’s enforceable because Trump hasn’t given the volunteers any “consideration” in legal terms.

Why would someone even volunteer under such conditions? What does Donald Trump have to hide?  (Plenty, I guess -- opinion rule.)

For a political presidential candidate, or a family member, to sue an “ordinary” blogger to silence him or her during an election campaign sounds unprecedented and startling (see June 14).

Monday, August 29, 2016

If someone writes something illegal on your Facebook timeline and you don't catch it, could you be legally responsible? I wonder


Once again, someone (a Facebook “frined”) posts something on my Facebook timeline that seems pointless, an ad for sunglasses.  I don’t see the point.  Sometime back, I unfriended someone (female) who posted fictitious tags of me in sexually explicit pictures on my timelines, claiming I had been “there”.  Don’t really see the point.

I do wonder if there could be a legal or TOS liability if someone posted something illegal on one’s timeline (c.p. or terror promotion) and the account owner didn’t see it.  I get emails from notifications, but if I were in a remote area off the grid, I could miss it.
 
I presume Section 230 would protect me from defamation claims for someone else’s posts (as it does from comments, although I moderate comments on blogs).  On copyright infringement, technically I have to be an “agent” for safe harbor to apply.  And for some specific illegal items (like terror threats) there is no downstream liability protection.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sponsored content now starting to support conventional news sites


On the Business Day section of the New York Times on Monday, July 25, 2016, John Herrman writes “In media company advertising, sponsored content is King”.  Online, the title is more specific, "How sponsored content is becoming king in the Facebook world".
 
Sponsored comment is becoming common on some news sites (like CNN) and often looked like it is truly “journalistic” in character.


 
And it’s becoming common on Facebook.  I recently set up my author’s page on Facebook and paid for $50 of advertising , and did get quite a bit of exposure and “likes” for about three weeks.

But the growth of sponsored content reflects the difficulty in sustaining Internet business models based on consumer willingness to engage ads, given all the popup blockers and "do not track".

Monday, August 22, 2016

"Noahpinion" shows how to make blogging work and attract good comments


There are some real “Blogspot” blogs that draw lots of visitors and comments.  Such is the case with “Noahpinion” by Bloomberg writer and economist Noah Smith (“Economics, neologisms, and distractions from productive activity”).  I’ll give the direct link to a July 21 post, “Trump happened because conservatism failed

Noahpinion splits his Venn diagram of conservatism into three parts (like “A Film in Three Parts” or “Symphony in Three Movements”): economics, foreign, and social.  The Republican establishment has failed in all three parts, but on the social side, most people today want libertarianism, keep government out of both pocket and bedroom.  Noahpinion parks the social conservatism debate at the door of gay marriage, after giving a slight nod to Charles Murray’s regrets over loss of social cohesion (“Coming Apart”).  He makes no attempt here at a psychological explanation of what people like Rick Santorum want (unconditional love somewhere, “It takes a family”).  I do try explain it, but Noahpinion gets the visitors and comments (of a volume you would see in a regular newspaper column).



Above, will econ blogging hurt an economist’s career?
 
I found Noah from a tweet by Tim Lee of Vox.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Time magazine story about Internet trolls seems a bit questionable, at least to me


Joel Stein has a cover story “Why we’re losing the Internet to the culture of hate”, by Joel Stein, on p. 27 of the print issue of Time Magazine. Aug. 29, 2016, “Tyranny pf the Mob”, link  (also, “How Trolls are running the Internet”), paywall.  There’s a Wordpress commentary by “Austisticwiki”, “The Web is a sociopath with Asperger’s
   .
Some people, not finding that people earn what they get anyway, seem to find fun and gratification in the sport of trolling.  But the most alarming idea is that Twitter would ban someone for encouraging his fans to troll.  Such is what is supposed to have happened to gaycon Brietbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who was supposed to be banned by Twitter permanently – except that I found multiple accounts for him tonight, just checked.   And there was nothing that obviously boorish about the content that I saw.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Facebook's crack down on Clickbait


The Verge (one of Vox’s publications) has a detailed story on how Facebook is dealing with “clickbait” in its news feeds, here.   Clickbait comprises a headline that you must click on to find out what the story is really about.
 


Publishers who create deliberately misleading or “leading on” headlines (especially for marketing purposes) could find themselves pretty much cut out of trending topics and news feeds, the story says, But it would probably affect only the worst offenders.
 
I get very annoyed at videos that keep nagging on with endless sales pitches, particularly on financial products.  Some of Porter Stansberry’s video material (on the supposed reserve currency crunch) and some videos on “conservative” websites seem to do this.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Reported tenant blacklists could have far reaching implications, from social media to immigration; NYC has a bill proposed for regulation


Kim Barer and Jessica Silver-Greenberg have a disturbing story today Wednesday August 17, 2016 on p. A16 of the New York Times, “On tenant blacklist, errors and renters who have little recourse” .
   
In addition to credit scores and criminal background checks, landlords also use covert lists from “tenant-screening database companies” to screen out applicants who have been sued in housing court, or who have withheld rent to protest living conditions.  And the databases reportedly have lots of errors.

The New York City Council is considering a bill to regulate the use of these lists.  The net effect is to make it almost impossible for the homeless or certain other people to find apartments in the normal commercially run markets.



I have been concerned that “blacklists” could be developed based on social media use, especially the use of “review sites”.  I actually became more concerned about this after 9/11, as I was particularly visible on search engines then as an amateur relative to others;  that is not the case today as modern social media has taken over.  So social media sites cut both ways.

Legitimate tenant-check companies say that prior evictions is a major concern for landlords, but checks must be FCRA-compliant.
 
Some landlords do work with social service agencies (and DHS) to place arriving refugees into apartments.  Placing asylees already here (but possibly still undocumented or with expired visas) in regular buildings would sound very difficult, especially in conjunction with this story.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Peter Thiel tells his side of the Gawker controversy


Peter Thiel has written an op-ed column in the New York Times, p. A21, “Privacy issues won’t end with Gawker”.  Thiel mentions his own role in providing financial support for the litigation filed by Terry Bollea, in a case whose judgment has bankrupted Gawker.

Thiel considers his own forced outing in 2007 as somewhat traumatic, even though he admits times have changed since then, even in less than one decade.



Note Thiel’s comment in the fifth paragraph from the end, ironically echoing Nick Denton, Gawker’s founder.  It is not enough “for a story ‘simply to be true’.” Then, “a story that violates privacy and serves no public interest should never be published.”

He also talks about the reputation of the profession of journalism, which must resist the temptation to provide click bait (something Facebook is dealing with, CNET story  ).

This whole issue gets more sensitive with “amateur” journalism, where citizen journalists discover litte publicized grass roots efforts whose uncovering could jeopardize some disadvantaged people (imagine a situation with undocumented people deciding to seek asylum).

Should litigation be secretly financed, maybe by hedge funds?  What about the next troll?

I agree with where Thiel was coming from in the RNC, that both the GOP and LGBTQ people have more pressing issues that bathrooms.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Major copyright case involving third party surveillance increases the risk of more trolls (BMG v. Cox and Rightscorp); also, more on Dancing Baby


Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that it has asked the Supreme Court to take the “Dancing Baby” case, in litigation which contemplates whether copyright complainants must consider Fair Use before issuing takedown notices under the DMCA, press release here (see July 6, 2015).

But Brian Fung, in a posting on his “Switch” blog on the Washington Post, “The copyright case that should worry all Internet providers”  Saturday.  This concerns a case brought against Cox Communications by music group BMG (which I think owns RCA Victor records now – the entire Red Seal classical line from the past). Cox had used a third party Rightscorp  to pass along warnings to users. The plaintiffs claimed that the third party activity did not reach consumers.  A federal judge found for the plaintiff ($25 million).  Of course, it will be appealed (text of ruling)



This sounds like a developing story that I will pursue more on a newer Wordpress blog soon.  There is concern that the ruling could tempt new “copyright trolls” (remember Righthaven? -- although this wave would target service providers, not bloggers directly).


Friday, August 12, 2016

Short legal guide for social media for Britain (UK?) would be valuable here


The Guardian has published a short guide on social media law, albeit it Britain and probably Australia ad Canada (outside Quebec), and it looks valuable, link here.

I think generally the guidelines are true in the U.S.  The idea that you would actually be sued for defamation over a retweet sounds remote, but it’s probably possible.  The same would apply to uses pictures in tweets and on Facebook or Instagram.  But some people are getting more sensitive about photos of them showing up in settings like discos (even if legal) – a trend I’ve noticed since about 2011.
 
It leads to another article about life without social media.  I don’t post my whereabouts in advance and get into the business of inviting people to things online, but to some people this seems like a big deal to join in.  Had I become a full time teacher around 2006 or so, I would have closed down my social media and Internet presence entirely for a while.  That’s something to explore again.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

"Blogtyrant" pens op-ed on carbon-negative web services and Internet behavior


Ramsay Taplan, or “Blogtyrant” on Facebook and Twitter, promised a major news story late Monday, and he delivered Monday night with “How to make your website carbon neutral (and BTW it’s really easy”.

There was some hype ahead of time.  He had said I wouldn’t be able to guess the topic (after I had asked about “https everywhere”).  I wondered if it could be about getting through censorship in China (I had an inquiry about this and my domain name in late 2013).

I guess it is about China, in a sense.  Developing countries are even more challenged than the US to get off fossil fuels – as we know from stories about China’s coal industry.


As for the suggestions --  I’m not that convinced that the energy use on home electronics is that much of an issue.  More serious is the idea that the servers that make unbelievable volumes of self-published user-generated content available 24x7 (even apart from the supposed “whitelisted” social networking models) are huge and run 24x7.  A lot of the farms are nearby – in Asburn, Loudoun County, Virginia, or down around Charlotte (or Hickory) and then Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill NC.  (Xfinity has a big farm in Prince Georges County, MD).

I’ve always seen getting transportation off fossil fuels as a bigger challenge than the grid itself.  But behind the scenes, security for the power grids (from large-scale terrorism and extreme solar storms) is a big issue that politicians haven’t paid enough attention to.  Ted Cruz has mentioned it, but not Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, yet.  As I’ve written elsewhere, the ideas of Taylor Wilson (backed by Peter Thiel, who spoke at the RNC) may be quite relevant to making the grid more secure (through decentralization) and ultimately much greener.
 


I tweeted as much to Ramsay, and then a movie recommendation for “Climate Refugees” (on Netflix, movie reviews, March 26, 2016).  Within 15 seconds of sending the tweet, I got back an angry response from “A Human Crirs”, “You might enjoy the indie film "Climate human beings" a place to start .... #HumanCrisis”.   There is no film by that title on imdb.  Why the angry reaction?  A matter of “rightsizing”?

I do wonder about Ramsay’s ideas about effectively keeping older computers and not replacing them.  I find that repeated upgrades and operating system replacements causes stability problems.  It’s less time consuming to replace laptops often.  I do have smaller laptops for travel only.  There is some security in having multiple machines, on both Windows and Mac OS (having Linux could be even better) and not networking them all, and keeping your own backups as well as using the Cloud.


Monday, August 01, 2016

New tools developed to help users who receive takedown notices.


A group called “Manila Principles” has developed a form for service providers to use to inform users when the providers get a takedown request for any reason.  The primary usefulness for the form is apparently related to situations other than just copyright infringement.  The link for the form is here. Notification requirements are defined by law for copyright under the DMCA, but not for other TOS violations or potential "torts".

A group called Online Censorship explains how to appeal here.

Jeremy Malcolm of Electronic Frontier Foundation has a story explaining the use of these facilities here.
 
The main issue is whether users are properly notified when there is a complaint about content they have posted, and whether they can rebut (especially in areas outside of copyright).
 
I’ve been contacted only a very few times over 18 years directly by people.  In two or three cases, the personal circumstances were quite unusual and unlikely to recur with anyone else.  In one case, there was a misleadingly worded statement in a Blogger movie review of a controversial documentary, an assertion which might have been misconstrued in a way harmful to a real person depicted in the film.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Are US conflict journalists guaranteed non-combatant status? Pentagon narrows Law of War manual


Missy Ryan has an important “checkpoint” story on P A17 of the Washington Post on Tuesday, July 26, 2016, “Language on journalists is revised in Law of War”.  Online, the title is more specific, “Pentagon alters Law of War manual to remove suggestion journalists are combatants”

The Pentagon reinforces the idea that the services may have their own war correspondents, and that journalists could jeopardize their status by reporting classified information, like the positions of artillery forward observers.  Oh, that memory of Army Basic comes back.



Journalists who break the rules have sometimes been detained without charge.

There’s a mentality that journalists should “pay their dues” with conflict reporting.  But it's always been interesting to me that Clark Kent becomes a journalist.
(See related post June 19.)

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.

Update:  Aug. 2

Chase Madar has an article in the American Conservative, July 30, "Vietnam: A War on Civilians".


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.