Friday, February 24, 2017

Report on my own circumstances with respect to hosting issue; Trump blasts "fake news media" and bans mainstream news outlets at gaggle

Given my own recent investigations and blogging about the (gay) asylum seeker issue, I took a “personal integrity” check of sorts and had a 1:1 with a pastor in Washington DC yesterday.

She, along with a number of church members, had returned recently from a few days in Cuba.  She noted that people in Cuba are very smart and well educated but have a uniformly low standard of living because of past Communism.  Most poor countries, people don’t show book smarts.  But in the interest of “egalitarianism”, Cuba has suppressed individual initiative and kept everyone equally poor.  So did Maoist China in the 1960s.  Generally, there is no Internet, no wide dissemination of personal news (or “fake news” for that matter).

I left a copy of my DADT-III (2014) book (they already have DADT-1).

Let me try to summarize one particular train of thought:  We are born “unequal” in circumstance and biological capability.  I think inequality (most of all, from accumulated and inherited wealth, not just income) is a serious, destabilizing problem (DADT-III) even though it must naturally accompany freedom and innovation at first.  But inequality is addressed first when those who are “luckier” give back and enhance value in the lives of “real people as people”, not just in abstractions.  It is not addressed well simply by joining mass movements or demonstrations, or automatically giving exaggerated support to people who claim to be members of marginalized groups, with no critical thinking about “what actually works” intervening.

The “giving back” issue is particularly testy with citizen journalists, who may be perceived as “spectators” or “kibitzers” or as “iv-critics”, who are unwilling to place their own skin in the game (maybe literally ), yet who may have a disproportionate influence on the lives of those who take on more responsibility than they (the gratuitous speakers or provocateurs) do.  This, if you think about it, fits the traditionalist conservative idea of family values, where it is presumed that everyone has a responsibility to care for other generations locally.

So, I have been looking at this asylum seeker issue since last summer.  The “need” arises from the fact that there is a population that does have the temporary and contingent legal right to stay in the United States  despite lack of normal documentation (based on accepted asylum applications) but that is legally preceded from gaining government benefits (for some number of months) and from working.  Legally, the only way those without accumulated savings can remain here is if someone supports them as a dependent.  But the law (outside of the end-stage idea of actual marriage) does not provide any such recognition to the host and exposes the host to many uncertain risks.  (In Canada it is much clearer.)

The current Trump administration takes on a mentality of “take care of your own” (that is, Americans) first.  But Americans (citizens, and most permanent legal residents) are normally entitled to benefits and to work, to function as normal individuals.  The class of asylum seekers, whose numbers (especially including Central America) are considerable but whose situation is narrow and whose needs may take on a life-death urgency, seems pointed and to present specific moral challenges to individuals in my circumstances, with an inherited house.

Generally, our “society” does not expect individuals to house homeless persons whom they do not already know  (earlier commentary).  And in the LGBT community, allowing people to “stay” or “crash” is common and informal and often accompanies the start of personal relationships, but it is “under the table” and not a policy matter.  (It still can become a safety issue for neighbors.)   Yesterday’s meeting did not result in any change in that perception.

Judging from news reports, it appear that some organizations of faith feel that it is morally imperative to house undocumented immigrants even when flouting the law, out of compassion or humanitarian concerns.  Usually these are housed in churches or public buildings.  Sometimes people are hidden in private homes (under the Fourth Amendment) but this does not seem all that common.  There are tremendous volunteer activities to help illegal immigrants at southern borders, but most of this happens inside actual church property (with feeding, clothing, tents) or may especially involve conducting known relatives of the immigrants and buying them bus tickets.

I do not consider it my moral obligation to flout the law to “give back”, at least in these circumstances.  Housing of someone without documentation and without a legitimate and credible asylum application cannot become my personal concern.  In general, though, I recognize that there can be times with faith can demand civil disobedience, but I don’t think that point is reached here.

And even today, most faith-based organizations helping immigrants do not openly ask for housing assistance in private homes, although sometimes this occurs (as with adult immigrants traveling alone).

So, at this point, I perceive myself approaching a critical decision point, with a sense of neutral equilibrium, and a risk of rolling over.  Right now, the bias in the system seems to say that people should not be expected to house others whom they do not already know personally, unless, perhaps, there are some reference or background checks.  There needs to be some supervision, from a church or social service agency.  The social service agencies right now generally (away from border areas) handle only refugees because that’s where the government assistance is (even if pre-screened foreign refugee admissions are temporarily banned by Trump). However a host’s own church could help supervise a housed asylum seeker, and this idea was discussed.

I have spent a lot of time investigating this on my own.  Some of the issues (like liability for Internet router use) could be mitigated with some techniques like guest accounts or possibly OpenDNS (the latter of limited use).  I have not heard much specific about the local situation since Trump was inaugurated by I may next week, after Trump issues another EO and addresses Congress, so that we have more idea of the contingencies that could happen with hosting asylum seekers.

The hosting need (covered on my LGBT issues, international issues, and Wordpress news commentary blogs) is likely to be low volume (because of tightened credibility practices regarding fear and “particular social group”) but extreme need (nearly certain persecution, maybe death, if the person is deported).  This could put someone in a “know nothing” position – once one knows about a particular case that is presented, one must “step up” and take the risk (as in Chapter 6 of my DADT-III book).  That would mean some time-consuming due diligence steps (with attorneys) before accepting someone who could become a dependent.  So I don’t know how this will turn out, but I think it’s likely to be resolved before “The Ides of March”.

One ethical or credible solution could be to downsize and sell (the family Drogheda).  That means I go back to an apartment, which I chose, which takes less time and risk to manage, and frees up time for my own priorities.  That eliminates the “political liability” of having inherited space that you don’t really need. It could become a tear-down.  As an only child, the final legacy of my parents’ 1940 marriage dissolves, there is no lineage.    If this is my decision, I’ll outline the remaining “homework” that I must finish before starting the process of a sale and relocation, which itself would probably take 60-90 days from the get-go.

In terms of Biblical references, this somewhat like the “give to whoever asks” (Matthew 5:42) idea in the Beatitudes, more than “turn the other cheek.”  It is about the connection of faith and works.  If is more about duty than taking responsibility for choices in the usual libertarian sense.  Because duty, by definition, involves stepping up to risk and “costs you something” (and can mean “bullet taking” or sacrifice relative to the former self in the more extreme cases) it is connected indeed to “right-sizing” (the Wordpress news commentary blog) even though that concept is easily abused by authoritarian leaders and tends to disguise the need to have more real “heart” and organic spontaneity.

We talked about whether the heavily bureaucratized volunteer groups  (food banks and delivery, community assistance, help lines, etc) really do much good.  She said that they do, but communication with clients is gradual and very difficult.  But sometimes risk-sharing forces you to walk in others’ shoes for a while, maybe a long time;  to walk away from that sometimes amounts to cowardice.  Remember, the "Rich Young Ruler's" problem was that he had too much to lose, when the poor or "average Joe" people don't (and can do more "off the books").  And the Parable of the Talents promises a world of inequality on its face, until people circulate themselves back in.

The idea of "radical hospitality", however, could become important social resilience factors after a major regional catastrophe (even a WMD incident).

One other thing right now:

This morning (speaking at CPAC at the Gaylord in National Harbor, MD), Donald Trump said that “fake news” comes from media elements that are enemies of “the people” and he called for an end to allowing journalists to cite anonymous sources.  ("The fake news media are he enemy of the people")  I could extend this by reinforcing how authoritarian leaders think that the "people" should be individually "right-sized" in a queue.

CNN is reporting (as of 2 PM) that it, the New York Times, Politco and other mainstream to liberal sites were shut out of attending a White House "gaggle" where the FBI leak may be discussed.  But OANN and the Washington Times may attend.

The Washington Post reported on its own experience with the gaggle later today here.  The New York Times reported on it here.  CNN has a video here.  The Los Angeles Times is especially strident.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

EFF supports Safe Harbor, moderately, as better than nothing

Rebecca Jeschke has a brief article on Electronic Frontier Foundation offering modest support to the way that Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act works – that is, the Safe Harbor.
EFF also mentions Section 1201, which apparently makes it illegal even to publicly discuss materials covered by DRM, or digital rights management, under the DMCA.  The case is Green v. US Department of Justice.   There is more info about the case here.

It seems scary that it could be illegal to "discuss" or report something.  But the original Communications Decency Act tried to do that with some aspects of abortion back in 1996.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Catastrophic President's Day for Milo Yiannopoulos; was this a "hit"?

The Milo Yiannopoulos saga exploded today – while I was on the road like Jack Kerouac.  When I sat down for a burger lunch (not vegan), my phone was filled with stories about Milo.  It started with CPAC’s disinvite.  That alone was enough. It was all from a podcast from “The Drunken Peasants”  whom I have never heard of., leaked by “The Reagan Battalion.”  Sounds like the old “released thru United Artists”.

The New York Times (Jeremy Peters, Alexandra Alter, Michael M. Grynbaum)  analyzes Milo’s rationalizations unfavorably here. I do have my own feelings about his handling of the age of consent issue, and of the idea that some men mature faster than others and that younger men often want to use sex for power and money from older men.  It’s come up in my own writing (when I worked as a sub – July 27, 2007) but it’s too much to analyzes right now.

Yiannopoulos has lost his book deal with Simon & Shuster / Threshold.  I suppose he will self-publish “Dangerours”, or at least I hope so.  I encouraged him to do so with a Facebook comment.
But he might not be able to stay at Breitbart.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Facebook's Journalism Project, and its increased efforts against terror propaganda

Fidji Simo has introduced The Facebook Journalism Project on the company’s own corporate blog, here.

Along these lines, Facebook says it has training courses for journalists.  Perhaps these echo Poynter.

 In general they would seem to focus particularly on reporting local news.

I can see how a Facebook page can be an effective blog with followers and comments, but I would prefer getting more statistics on visitors (you get them if you buy a marketing campaign, $50 per event when I did it).

Facebook also says it is working harder on exposing hoaxes and fake news.

And Steve Overly reports that Facebook plans to use artificial intelligence to identify terrorist recruiting propaganda.  Earlier CNN had reported expanded use of digital watermarks to look for specific images associated with terror (and child pornography) by Facebook and Twitter.

Excerpts from Mark Zuckerberg’s recent “missive” on his plans for Facebook are presented by the AP and Washington Post here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Milo Yiannopoulos, "le beau provocateur" In French, everything is either masculine or feminine, nothing is neuter (or neutral)

I’ve blogged about the controversy created by Bartbreit procovateur Milo Yiannopoulos.

I collected a few references and tried to get at the bottom of what he really says.

Here’s a recent interview on “The Nation” with “the most hated man on the Internet”. I find Milo’s criticism of libertarianism out of character.  He wants personal freedom, but admits that the collective whole of culture and country matters, too, so that could possibly put his own personal lifestyle into question.

After the Bill Maher episode controversy   (airs on HBO Friday 10 PM) , Mashable published an analysis, describing how Milo deliberately “normalizes” extreme positions so that conservatives (especially the US GOP) will regard them as mainstream. (The gif photo makes him look angelic while characterized as a "monster".)

So I browsed through some sites reporting his quotes.  The Inquisitor had the most constructive article.   But “YourTango” repeated some of the same quotes but with less generous interpretations.   “Azquotes” has a larger volume.

Milo makes statements about members of various groups that reflect how a lot of the “right wing” feels.  But he really makes them in subjunctive mood (which in English is less clear than it would be in French or a romance language).  He makes statements that characterizes some members of marginalized groups who overplay their victimhood, knowing they will inflame a certain segment of the radical Left and set up a chain reaction that keeps him famous .  But the statements are generally not factually true of most people in the groups.

His comment on “fat shaming” is especially indicative.  Yes, there is some element of “personal responsibility” or “moral hazard” here.  But the comment reflects a personal bias, expressed by a gay man, that to be important, another person should be an remain a perfect cis male for eternity (like an angel, perhaps).  It’s interesting that a computer-aged face of Milo circulates on the Internet.

Let's play some language games:  "Le beau provocateur.  La belle provocateuse."  Try the same idea with "arbitrageur".

Thursday, February 16, 2017

How generating fake news (for Donald Trump) on line generates eastern European teenagers plenty of spending money

Here’s another fake news operation to ponder, a Wired story, heavily illustrated with industrial Balkan scenery, “Inside the Macedonian Fake-News Complex,” by Samanth Subramanian 
Before getting into the aggregated fake news business, the teenager played around with consumer-fad items like health foods.  I guess I,m naïve;  I don’t engage Facebook ads (except by accident), but many consumers are much more eager to, especially the kind to Trump’s mass movement manipulation.  I do have a problem with accidental clicks on mobile devices because it’s hard to avoid them when browsing. Particularly annoying are sites (“the 20 lowest cost of living cities…”) that make you load fresh pages of ads on your phone to see the next item (and I get a lot of emails asking to put these up on my own blogs). 
The Liam Stack writes in Business Day about how 20th Century Fox created fake news sites to promote “A Cure for Wellness”, which I have not seen yet. 


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Academic publishers try to stop universities from invoking "fair use" to reduce their need to buy expensive subscriptions or force students to do same

There’s another wrinkle now in the open access issue.  Corynne McSherry of Electronic Frontier Foundation has an article about litigation against Georgia State University for placing excerpts from some academic journals on its servers to save students the enormous expense of buying entire books or subscriptions (this fits in with Jack Andraka’s argument that students trying to get into medical research face a “Catch 22”).  Georgia State had been sued by three academic publishers as well as athe AAP trade group, for its interpretation of fair use.
McSherry’s story and subsidiary links and court briefs are here.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

"Writers Resist" hold protests against Trump

There is a group called “Writers Resist Trump” (a public group on Facebook ). You have to join the group (which requires approval) to get their posts.

There is also a Writers Resist or Write Our Democracy group.

The groups held a protest in Lafayette Park outside the White House early Saturday night.  I did not hear about the protest until this morning.  The group seems to be a bit tightly knit.  Here is the story on WJLA.
It’s significant that writers as a group see Trump’s authoritarianism as a long term existential threat.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Healthy Domains Initiative could compromise use of common words in domain names

Electronic Frontier Foundation has an important piece by Jeremy Malcolm and Mitch Stoltz “Healthy Domains Initiative Isn’t Healthy for the Internet”  with reference to the Domain Names Association’s Healthy Domains Initiative.  There is a document of “Registry/Registrar Health Practices” which could border on what EFF calls “Shadow Regulation”.

One idea drawing criticism is that domain name owners must sign agreements accepting arbitration in case of disputes (I think that’s often the case now with ICANN).  There is concern that content lobbying groups, especially representing large legacy corporate interests in Hollywood and perhaps news organizations and trade publishing, could bring action even against the domain names for various claims of copyright infringement (over and above the DMCA).
Another idea is clamping down on the use of common English words in domain names (as I have done since 1999 with my “Do Ask Do Tell”, corresponding to my book titles).  This would apparently extend a practice of the UDRP.  Possibly it could be used to save these names for large corporate interests that could make more money (e.g. employ more people as in Trump-land).

Monday, February 06, 2017

Automation bots help Twitter pundits; in Germany there is no Section 230

Craig Timberg has an important story in the Washington Post Monday, February 6, 2017, front page, “Online pundits use ‘bots’ to turn tweets into roars”, link here.

 The article discusses retiree and conservative blogger Daniel John Sobieski in Chicago, and his use of “bots” to broadcast well-assembled tweets to many audiences.  Trump supporters have been particularly aggressive with this approach.

Twitter has its rules against overuse of automation, but they don’t seem to be consistently enforced.  I often get followers who offer “sales” of other followers and of automation tools.  I never return-follow them.  I do enter all my tweets myself manually.

The continued heavy use of Twitter by Trump and his supporters argues against a feared crackdown on user-generated content (as a national security problem).  Trump behaves right now as if he is OK with amateur content, as an antidote to the big media.  He doesn’t seem bothered by fake news that promotes him.

It’s interesting that I haven’t had time to get much into Instagram, despite invitations.  It’s harder to manipulate complicated content on a phone than on a computer, for me at least.

The post also has a big story (by Stephanie Kirchner and Anthony Faiola) about a suit against Facebook in Germany by 2015 Syrian refugee Anas Modanami  starting with a selfie that went viral.  Apparently Europe does not have downstream liability protections like the US Section 230 protections (or at least protections that are as strong), and the plaintiffs maintain that social media companies are (by tautology) media companies that must take responsibility for what users do.  The plaintiffs want Facebook to remove references to removed content as well as the original items.  But I thought that if a post is removed, it would also be removed from any user timelines where it has been shared.
Defenders of Section 230 in the US could well be expected to ask how social media companies live in Europe without it.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Cato holds update forum on Trump's presidency and free speech

Today. Friday, February 3, 2017, the Cato Institute in Washington DC held a forum “Will President Trump Threaten Free Speech?”  There is a link (and full video) here.  A similar event (attended by Mr. Rose) had been held Dec. 6, 2016. But this forum followed the inauguration ("America first").

The discussion was led by John Samples;  participating were Flemming Rose (“The Tyranny of Silence”, Feb, 3, 2015: , Robert Corn-Revere and Francis H. Buckley.

Several points came out.

One early point was that Trump’s “threat” to expand libel laws was overblown. These are controlled by states. Canada already has libel laws following the British model (the defense has to prove truth) but newspapers in Toronto are doing well, and Canada seems like a freer society than ours to many people.  (Canada keeps on turning out outstanding talent in the movie industry.)  Canada also has better procedural law which makes it less likely plaintiffs can file frivolous SLAPP suits to harass speakers.

Another point was a comment by moderator Mr. Samples that the idea of “more speech” (so often touted by libertarians like John Stossel) isn’t always working now  Because social media like Facebook can aggregate news stories according to user “Likenomics”, people tend to stay in their own political and cultural bubbles and not become aware of other points of view.  That is one reason why Hillary Clinton lost unexpectedly in several “Blue Wall” states.

Another point was that anonymity of speech, so widely defended by Electronic Frontier Foundation, is often misused by “trolls”.

The discussion returned to the fake news problem, a revisiting of the Comet Ping Pong incident, and Rise mentioned that some European countries were now considering laws to criminalize fake news propagation.  Rose thought this was ironic, because European countries are being heavily influenced by populist movements that benefit from fake news.

There was a question from the audience about inciting violence.  The panel was emphatic that speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos do not incite violence merely by their social roles as "provocateurs".  Someone mentioned past violet protests at American University.  There was concern about President Trump’s threat to withdraw funds from Berkeley.

But another audience member reinforce the question by mentioning trolling on social media, especially Twitter, and the encouragement of harassment.  The speaker may have been thinking about Milo’s feud with Leslie Jones (“Ghostbusters”) that got him banned from Twitter.

The panel was critical of campus speech codes and safe zones, and maintained that “there is no right not to be offended.”

I asked about the likelihood of challenges to Section 230.  The reply said that it had not been yet mentioned by the Trump administration.  The panelist felt that even given the provocations of incidents like Backpage, the Courts would defend service providers with the First Amendment.   That notion may be supported by previous rulings (like with COPA).  But the right to “publish” (in a narrow legal sense) information to one person who understands it (making defamation possible) does not necessarily extend to create a right to self-broadcast without gatekeepers.

Since this was on Cspan and carried by live video, probably someone in the White House watched it.  Maybe I spilled the beans.  A question here is like an indirect question to Sean Spicer.  You just don’t need White House press access of to go through Secret Service security.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Nationalism Trumps individualism

Here’s a good discussion on FEE for Groundhog Day, “When ‘the Nation’ Trumps the individual”

Economic nationalism, it is argued, pits the country above the individual (or family), the region or community, or international order.  Economic nationalism does not care if individuals are forced to make inequitable sacrifices at the whim of nationalist government.

That sounds like the theories of Vladimir Putin, who, after all, doesn’t like gays because he thinks homosexuals deprive him of babies and future Russian lineages.

It reminds me of the 1960s world of the military draft and of student deferments.  The lives of women were more worthy of protection than those of men, and those of intellectually smart men were more worthy than those of the humdrum.

Nationalism is often associated with exaggeration of the external threats from “the others”.  If autarky doesn’t work out, well, then, go take some more land from your neighbors.  That’s what the Nazis did.

Nationalism of course is associated with protectionism, with exaggerated pressure on employers to use only native labor. It is just one more step to resistance to automation, or the idea that some people become productive on their own without employing other people.  Yes, I get the flak.  I’m supposed to feel responsible for whether people at book publishers or in physical bookstores have jobs.  I'm supposed to worry about whether I am popular, and on whether others can expect me to fight for them and have their backs.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Steve Bannon's moral philosophy bears a "shocking" resemblance to my own, but I wouldn't behave the same way in office at all

J. Lester Feder has an interesting interview with Steve Bannon on BuzzFeed, “This is how Steve Bannon sees the entire world”  As a dangerous place, where extreme capitalism has made a lot of enemies.

Indeed, Bannon’s vision does cater to fear, and to expectations of war and hardships imposed by enemies.

But he talks as though some of us have it coming to us.  The talks about two wrong directions for capitalism:  statist (Russia and China, “The Peole’s Republic of Capitalism”), essentially oligarchy, and excessive libertarianism or Ayn Rand-style objectivism.  He says he has some respect for libertarianism.

The notes that working people have been left behind by the “rentier” class (to paraphrase) and also discusses the Crash of 2008 as an example of morally unsupportable forms of capitalism.

But he thinks that capitalism needs some grounding in faith of some sort, because when people are successful they need to give back to make what they have and accomplish meaningful, for the less fortunate.  He also thinks people need religious guidance to do this, because pure intellect alone could rationalize almost any ideology.

Generally, this is similar to the ideas in my DADT-III book, especially the “Epilogue” of the non-fiction part, where I talk about people needing to “step up” to unchosen challenges.

There is a whole system of thought that you need faith when you might take a bullet for someone else – you need some grounding in a group you belong to, some sense of identification to purposes greater than just your own, some kind of belonging.  Because at an individual level “dead is dead” and, indeed, victim-pimping makes no sense.

I may agree with much of his philosophy, but I wouldn’t behave the same way he has in office.  I may agree with some of Trump’s ideas, but I would not test the system to see what I could get away with, or manipulate a voter base with slogans.  I would be much more careful with trade, foreign and military policy, even given a similar ideology.  

Update: Feb. 1

The Washington Post has another article today on Bannon's apocalyptic views on religion which would seem to practically call for a Christian crusade.  I do not share these views of religion "in group think".  I do understand his ideas on how they can affect individuals. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Social media checks at the border?

Border agents have been demanding social media data from visitors and even from American citizens returning home since Donald Trump issued his controversial Executive Order on immigration on January 27, as reported by Sofia Cope of Electronic Frontier Foundation today, here .

One interesting argument advanced by EFF concerns the fact that smart phones access data not physically on the phones but in Cloud accounts.  (My own phone keeps trying to sign me on to it.)  But that argument has a counterparty:  fibbies could also troll cloud accounts for legal violations (like for known child pornography images).

There would also be the possibility that the government would learn a lot more about ordinary civilians at home.  The government could see, for example, that I have attracted an unusual percentage of Muslim Facebook friends and Twitter followers given the nature of my content, and wonder why.

CNN has more details by Jake Tapper here.  At least the development would counter Trump's earlier (2015) threats to shut down parts of the Internet.  Maybe he realizes it can yield real intelligence. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

"Cowardice" now applies to countries more than to individuals

David Brooks lectures us now on “The Politics of Cowardice” , which is how he characterizes Donald Trump’s exploitation of the fear of migrants.

In comparison with the optimism of Ronald Reagan, Trump offers us the morality of necessity, of taking care of your own first, protecting others in your tribe from external enemies in a zero sum world. The Washington Post had characterized Trump’s convention acceptance and now inauguration speech as a depiction of a “nation in peril”.  But I wonder how they would depict FDR after Pearl Harbor.  (By the way, my parents heard about as people got on a train in Philadelphia that Sunday afternoon in 1941.)

Trump says “We can’t take any chances”.

Brooks says that we use the word “coward” for those dominated by fear, but goes on to say that Trump was hardly cowardly in business.

But Brooks points out that Trump is turning economic nationalism, protectionism, and isolationism into a kind of cowardice for the whole country.

FEE has a similar essay by Sean J. Rosenthal, "Banning refugees is cowardice, not vigilance". (Note the homonym on the White House strategist's name -- oh, right, it's "Bannon", not "Banning".) ,  The writer does say that at an individual level bravery (the warrior mentality) is sometimes overrated.

I think the concept bares concept to this discussion of nationalism by Ludwig con Mises on FEE here.
What has changed, though, is that we’ve forgotten how things were in the past, when young men were expected to “protect” women and children within the community, and a failure to do so was seen as “cowardice”.  Remember the days of the male-only military draft.

I face that question as I contemplate the “risks” of hosting an asylee.  I was asked if I were not a “man of faith.”

There is, though, a double edge to being nudged to walk into the potential path of someone else’s bullet. It’s appropriate to put all the risks (especially legal and liability-related) on the table.  When one suggests that others should join you with sacrifice, it’s important to understand what you are asking for.  There is a tendency to think that joining a group or movement will protect you.  I don’t do thinks anymore as part of a “group”.  If something happens, I will walk in another’s shoes indeed.

Yet, as I said in Chapter 6 of my own DADT-III book, sometimes it is morally necessary to “step up”, even at risk to oneself.  I probably didn’t consider the “taking a bullet” idea as much as I might have.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Klein, Sullivan tee off on "blogging" v. "social media"

Back in early 2015, Ezra Klein of Vox and Andrew Sullivan wrote pieces comparing conventional blogging with modern social media.

Klein  and Sullivan  set up a reflexive loop.

Blogging was seen as an online conversation (if it attracts comments) that draws loyal readers who will remember a particular column or thread as if it were a “brand”.  Social media does the news curation and aggregation, often with seasoning by sponsored content.

But of course both may tend to preach to their own choirs.  And social media may finally impose some discipline on blogging by evaluating it for fake news.

I can remember back in 2004 an article “the coming crackdown on blogging” as threatened by the Campaign Finance Reform act of 2002.  It blew over.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Trump's obsession with crowd size at his Inauguration leads to his characterization of journalists before the CIA

Donald Trump, on his second day in office, blasted the media in a way shocking, to me at least.
Sean Spicer held a sudden press conference at 4 PM Saturday, as an “emergency” where he took no questions and “no prisoners”, to warn the press about disloyal reporting, as in this New York Times story by Glenn Thrush.  Most of the briefing had to do with Inauguration Day crowd size, which seems like a trivial topic.

Then, when talking to the CIA at Langley, Trump seemed, while reversing an earlier silly statement, seemed obsessed with reporters as “the most dishonest human beings on Earth.”  Why would a profession based on objectivity and not publicly taking sides be predicted pm dishonesty.  This betrays an authoritarian mind set that fears any rupture in his façade (where he “creates” truth) will undermine national identity and popular loyalty, needed for stability.  It’s a theory of propaganda we hear from Valdimir Putin.

A “running war with the media” indeed.  Yet his enemy right now seems to be the established media.
He hasn’t really said yet he is afraid of bloggers, although I’ve argued he could find plenty of reason to in the future.

Maybe Trump buys the idea that journalists are just spectators turned critics (like in the movie "Rebirth") and "don't play".  Ask Bob Woodruff, after recovering from his severe head injury from reporting in Iraq.  With conflict journalism, you pay your dues.

Update: Jan. 21

Kelly Ann Conway offered an oxymoron to the press, "alternative facts".  Rick Sincere weights in here.

Friday, January 20, 2017

"A Tale of Two Washingtons" as Trump becomes president

Trey Yingst, of OAN News now, has shot an 8-minute video of the protests in Washington DC.
Here is the best link is either my timeline on Facebook here  or Trey’s official professional Facebook page here.   Keep in mind that with time these posts get pushed down the FIFO stack by newer entries.  I could informally call this a “Do Ask Do Tell Films” release.

Yup, I’ve got to get my own video skills up, as I have a few to make soon, as I outlined Dec. 31.

I stayed home because I thought it would be easier to watch Trump’s speech (see my “Major Issues Blog”)  Around 2:15 or so, NBC4 and WJLA7 started showing protests in downtown Washington DC, in an area from 14th and K (Franklin Park, near McPherson Square) to about 12th and I, just north of Metro Center.  I saw Capitol Police in the video, but DC police and possibly Metro Transit Police would have been needed.

One protestor had a sign protesting Israeli settlements on the West Bank, and, yes, it’s morally wrong to take land from other people by force.

As of 5:45 PM there are still reports of disruption.  This sort of thing could cause Trump to start behaving more like a strong-man, I fear.

To quote Trump: "We are transferring power and giving it back to you, the people."

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sandy Hook conspiracy theories, while disturbing and "fake", also pose free speech issues

The New York Times is reporting several disturbing incidents regarding “conspiracy theories” or fake news and the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012.  The article, by Frances Robles, is here.

A woman has been charged with making threats while “trolling” one of the parents.

And a blogger had a Wordpress blog about it taken down by Automattic, and then claims that Bluehost (after he apparently put is up on hosted space) has removed images of one of the child victims based on copyright claims of one of the parents, when the blogger claimed Fair Use, and the hosting company probably acted under a conservative use of DMCA Safe Harbor.  In my experience (as with this platform), it is unusual for blogs to be removed for offensive content, but will be removed for flagrant "terms of service" violations (or if "spam", which was a big issue back in 2008).  Nitecruz has talked about this on "The Real Blogger Status".

The parent is Lenny Pozner, who wrote a book about the conspiracy theories.  The blogger is James E, Tracy, a communications professor at Florida Atlantic University who claims he was also fired.  I can’t find the book on Amazon, but there is discussion in this article by Rieves Wiedeman in New York Magazine, here.

His blog seems to be “” which the visitor can visit if she likes.

While I don’t like the behavior of some of the parties described in the story, the free speech implciations are still serious.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Trump, authoritarianism, propaganda, and controlling rumor mongering; more on the limits of individualism

Margaret Sullivan has a strong column on the Washington Post this morning, in the Style section, “How BuzzFeed crossed the line in publishing ‘salacious’ dossier on Trump”.   She notes that Slate went on with even more materials   Then mentality is “when in doubt, publish”.

Then the bloggers like me pick it up, because we gain visibility (and ad clicks) if we do so,

Trump, recall, wants to change libel laws.  He says that publishing of even linking to or pointing to defamatory information deliberately for personal satisfaction is, on its face, harmful, and that we should have a system like in Britain where the defendant has to prove truth.

It is possible to get sued for hyperlinks to defamatory material (and there is a suit against some doomsday prepper bloggers in this regard) although so far that’s been uncommon in practice.  This could change.  Defamatory material tends to attract readers “in their own bubbles” on both the far Left and far Right (particularly).

But the Wall Street Journal this morning, in a story by Bradley Hope et al,  says that former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele (pay attention to the name) is reported, by reputable third parties, to have prepared the dossier on Russian spying on Trump.   There could very well be spies in other countries, not just Russia (Trump is right about that).

I also wanted to pass along David Brooks’s NYT column “Bannon v. Trump”  where Brooks explains the psychology of cultural nationalism and populism, as a reaction to hyperindividualism, and Ayn Rand-like ideas that leave a lot of people out. I don’t buy a lot of this, but why is for another time.  But Bannon has a point that nationalism and statecraft is an answer to the dangers of asymmetry.

Picture: Yes, the Nationals need to get busy and find a closer.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

BuzzFeed's release of unverified Russian-hacks (compared to CNN's story) raises amateurism issue

Donald Trump talked about the intelligence briefing and the supposed Russian dirt on him at the press conference this morning.

CNN has already said that it did not publish the actual unverified or un-fact-checked detailed contents of the memos, but BuzzFeed had done so.

CNN just reiterated that right now, but it had said this twelve hours ago in an article by Dylan Byers, as well as a video, here.

The schism here seems to draw a question in amateurism on the web.  Less established by provocative sites gain more attention, with material (often YouTube videos) that goes viral, and now influences voters.  But the “amateurism” effect could affect election propaganda as much as a foreign adversary (like Russia).

The BuzzFeed story is here. The Document Cloud copy of the memos is here. Trump’s tweet, “FAKE NEWS. A total political witchhunt” follows.  So, here I go, spreading rumors myself (like with an incident in 9th grade).  Call me into the principal’s office and send me to an alternative school for making bad choices.

The New York Times has some "revelatory" analysis, however, in a piece by Sydney Ember and Michael Grynbaum
Yet, Trump tends to blame the large news outlets for the smears, not small sites of individual bloggers.  In Turkey, for example, it can be much worse for the small fry.

Update: later 1/11

AOL reports that 4chan users might have planted the salacious documents, story.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Libel lawsuit over "credit" for inventing email; note on important Section 230 cases (right of publicity, Backpage)

There is a lawsuit against TechDirt founder Mike Masnick for a blog post in which he apparently challenged a claim by Shiva Ayyadurai, that the latter person had “invented” email in 1978.

Ars Technica has the story by David Kravits here.

The same attorney who brought down Gawker is representing the plaintiff in what purports to be a libel case.

Yet, the narrative does suggest that there were messaging systems in place in the 1960s, particularly in universities and the federal government.  Were military orders a kind of email?  Mine (from 1968) are still in my bedroom drawers.  .  ‘

Many data centers had CICS-based messaging systems on their mainframe computer systems in the 1980s, like SYSM, which amounted to inter-office email.  I believe that this existed at Bradford when I started working there in New York City in 1977.

But what really “counts” as “email”?  This whole dispute sounds relatively frivolous, and may well involve "The Opinion Rule" as a defense.  Is claiming karma credit such a big deal?

No, Al Gore didn't invent the Internet.


Later today I wrote a Wordpress blog post about Section 230 and right of publicity, Jason Cross v. Facebook, here.  Could become important in 2017.  Also, the Backpage controversy exploded this week at the Senate hearings.  Details on wordpress here.

Update:  Jan 13

Techdirt says legal costs in defending a frivolous suit could cause it to close.  And Tim Lee of Vox says he started his career there in a tweet this morning.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

NY Times story recalls the moral lessons of Vietnam

The New York Times ran a column on p. 6 Sunday January 8, 2017 by former Marine Corps Lieutenant Karl Marlentes, “Vietnam ’67: The War That Killed Trust”.  He provides a caption, very relevant to my own books (especially the first “Do Ask Do Tell”), “Vietnam still shapes America, even if most of us are too young to remember it.”  I thought, that’s like saying, the world ended, but we were too sinful to notice.

Marlentes even admits that America was “great” in the 50s and 60s, finishing a great interstate highwat system, building public schools and universities, going into space, putting a man on the Moon, and making progress on civil rights, and passing Medicare, and trying to create a “Great Society”.

Marlentes points out that the military was where men of different races learned how to get along despite different cultures and the bad karma of segregation and slavery.

Marlentes, toward the end, talks about the male-only conscription system, and the college deferment system, admitting they were both “unfair” by today’s standards.  He notes that the current “volunteer” system exploits the poor, who supply a disproportionate portion of the casualties.  He also makes a case for national service.  I can see, for example, that you could set up service as a graduation requirement, and also use it to pare back on student debt.  The draft provides a historical lesson in how we shared existential personal risk. and the resilience we need to deal with it.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

I had a meeting today on possibly becoming an asylum host; here is where things stand

Today, after a long series of intermittent contact, I had a meeting at DC Center Global concerning the possibility of my hosting an LGBT asylum seeker, in the U Street area of Washington DC.

The details would be very sensitive, so I’ll just make some summary notes.  At the moment, the prospect of my doing so is inconclusive.

There is a small number of asylum seekers (male and female) hosted in Washington DC and nearby Maryland and Virginia.  Some are hosted by couples (which can include female couples and straight couples).  Sometimes more than one asylum seeker is hosted in a household.   Asylum seekers can come from Russia, sub-Saharan African, the Middle East, Central America, and less often Asia.
  They may be female and in rarer cases transgender.

Asylum seekers often have expired visas, and are required to have applied within a year of arrival.

During first nine months or so they generally are not allowed to work or receive government benefits and are dependent on private sources.  Once their asylum applications are approved (which takes a very long time usually) they have the same access to benefits as pre-screened refugees.  In the LGBTQ need area, most asylum seekers faced arrest or physical threats before they arrived in the US, even though they arrived legally with visas.  Asylum seekers must be cautious with the timing of requests for asylum, after arrival and need legal assistance with this (it gets variable and complicated).  Some asylum seekers with no resources to wind up in homeless shelters but they don't usually return home if they face prosecution, so potential hosts don't have "life and death" powers if confronted by pleads.

Generally, many asylum seekers have some savings, and get private (not government) benefits in the way of metro cards and coupons or vouchers for good and groceries.  In Washington, HIV services are usually available from Whitman Walker and health plans for general purposes are possible.  In other jurisdiction, it sounds like it is possible for some health care expenses not to be covered.  A provider might pursue a host, and it is unclear (depending on the state) what could happen.  But in some cases (outside of the District of Columbia or of some other major cities) hosts are taking on some “risk” of responsibility for asylees as partial dependents, probably without tax benefits.

Obviously, sociability of the host can matter.  Hosts have considerable discretion in setting ground rules on their property, like with respect to issues such as smoking.

Asylum seekers need Internet access.  Normally they already own their own laptops and smartphones.  I raised the issue that there are ambiguous concerns over host liability for misuse of an Internet WiFi connection, including copyright infringement (for illegal downloads) or viewing illegal content (child pornography), where law enforcement and content owners have increasingly effective and automated ways to detect violations.  Some of these concerns could be faced by AirBNB hosts, or hotels offering WiFi (as most do).  There are some possible solutions (such as guest router settings) that I have started to look into.  Possibly the asylum seeker could use the hot spot on his own smart phone or iPad, if possible, or a separate hot spot could be purchased.   I’ll report later in detail on how some of these solutions could work on a Wordpress blog. This is an evolving issue.  It does need to be resolved.  Another complication could be that an asylum seeker wants to use TOR to communicate to relatives back home in a secure way for completely legitimate reasons.

It would be highly desirable if social service agencies working with refugees could work with asylum seekers.  Generally they cannot, because they don’t get any government reimbursement for supervising the assistance process.  So asylum assistance is almost entirely private.

Housing hosts or “sponsors” of asylum seekers can be taking some personal risk, which some people would see as matters of “faith”, or as fair sharing of risks, which I have presented before as a fundamental moral issue (even going back to the arguments I have made about conscription, deferments, and DADT).  A host’s own employment, retirement, financial resources, and possible inheritance (along with any other family issues or “dead hand”) can be relevant.  It is helpful to be familiar with some of the parties involved for a while before agreeing to host, if this is possible (just as one is usually more prepared to offer hospitality to someone one already knows).  The Internet liability problem needs more attention for risk mitigation.

I can understand that I could sound incredulous.  If I'm willing to allow someone to have a key to the house, isn't that a bigger risk than what could happen on a computer?  Is this simply an issue of trust, or of belonging and having access to enough social capital?

As a matter of record, I did stumble on an unusual plea in a non-immigrant situation Friday;  this hasn't happened since 1980.  I have also heard the legal opinion expressed that no one should ever give his keys to his home to a person without resources because the risk is all "yours" -- but isn't that part of the moral debate over inequality?

Monday, January 02, 2017

Mobile blogging with AMP will help some small businesses

I haven’t yet paid much attention to this, but Google has sponsored and introduced a mobile blogging facility called Accelerate Mobile Pages, or AMP, which it describes here as the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project .  The point of the facility is to encourage much faster loading of websites on mobile devices

Wired has a good story by Kent Flinley from Feb. 25, 2016, explaining how the stripped down HTML works  Only limited javascript is allowed, but some special javascript features are used to place ads.

The article indicates that AMP pages generally rank higher in Google search results, although that diverts from the idea that Google is indexing the rest of the world (and maybe the universe), not just itself.

There is a plugin for Wordpress, and it is possible to convert Wordpress (and presumably Blogger) sites to this format.   But Wired reports that the appearance would be somewhat drab.

But what I don’t see is a tool that enables easy blogging on a mobile device or tablet itself.  It’s much easier to do with a traditional keyboard and touchpad or mouse.  Furthermore, earlier versions of mobile Blogger, at least, allowed only one such site and it would not have mixed with an account’s other conventional blogs.  I don’t know if this has changed.

A New York Times article by Daisuke Wakabayashi in the Business Day section Monday January 2 discusses the product, here.

My experience is that Wordpress content loads faster on a modern MacBook with Yosemite or later, than it does on a modern PC or laptop with Windows 10.   Speeds on my iPhone are reasonable in a 4G LTE environment. But this sort of product probably works better for relatively simple sites, for meeting quick “niche” commercial needs that consumers are likely to encounter when away from home or office.  It probably wouldn’t help me.

On "" I got a 98/100 on Mobile friendliness (as from Wordpress), 51/100 on mobile speed, and 56/100 on desktop speed.  The points criticized included browser caching, image optimization, server response time (under control of BlueHost and Automattic, not me), and "render-blocking CSS and Javascript in above-the-fold".