Thursday, October 31, 2013

State courts cracking down on overreaching campaign finance laws

George Will has a column in the Washington Post, p. A17, this Halloween, “State courts are restoring free speech”.  He is specifically talking about state laws that inhibit citizens’ use of their own money to influence the outcome of state and local elections, including public policy or state constitution referendums.  The link is here
    
Let’s go back for a moment to the Ciitizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission case, decided in 2010, with the opinion summary here.  The Court wrote “The First Amendment does not permit laws that force speakers to retain a campaign finance attorney, conduct demographic marketing research, or seek declaratory rulings before discussing the most salient political issues of the day.” See more about the CU group in my review of “Hillary, the Movie”, March 25, 2009 on the Movies blog.
  
The op-ed discusses cases in Mississippi and Arizona.  The Mississippi case had involved a desire of voters to weak the state’s power of eminent domain. 
   
I can recall back in 2005 the debate over whether campaign finance reform could affect ordinary bloggers.  In October 2005, the Washington Times penned an editorial predicting that people would have to hire lawyers to start blogs.  That led to a major incident when I was substitute teaching that is described here July 27, 2007.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Keep on writing -- despite the taunts of the Doomsday Prepper crowd

Back a dozen or so years ago, a friend from the Libertarian Party of Minnesota, by then a graduate student, emailed me back with “Keep on writing”.  

And I would like to take a moment to account for what I accomplish with this mass of blog postings, literature and other content that I put out in public.

I remember being asked in a job interview at an oil company in Dallas in 1983, “What are your goals?”  I think that question goes back to high school years, in my first “life”.  I got pleasure and felt purpose in finding and extolling “good”.  It could start with aesthetics, finding it in music.  Later, I could find it in the discovery of novel consequences of chess openings.  Winning a chess game “correctly” seemed to prove something.  Looking up to good people, or “upward affiliation” seemed to support virtue. I liked moral consistency, so it shouldn't have surprised me later in life others wanted to see it, too. 
  
Over the years, people often barged in and interfered with my purposes.   At least, according to today’s ideas of appropriate behavior in an individualistic society (honoring free choice and “harmlessness” in a libertarian sense) they did.  It’s true, appropriate pressure need to be put on me, as on everyone, to learn work ethic and be able to support himself as a future adult.  But the pressures went beyond that, and seemed related to the needs of the family, tribe or group, or the need to have a power structure (sometimes driven by religious notions of righteousness). So I wanted people to come clean with what they wanted from me.  I can go through my life chronologically and account for what people wanted in many separate and disparate incidents.  But they don’t add up. There are lots of contradictions.  So I wrote to make sense of it. But there's no question, that cultural "conservatives" want to reduce the reliance on government by demanding more of "people like me" in very personal ways, and drag us out of our childless, fantasy worlds.  
  
Then there was “my side”.  People would play victim, or take absolutist positions on individual rights or equality, regardless of context.  It was important to me to make sufficient arguments.  On sexual orientation, of course I wondered why others, early in my life, made it their business.  But answering it with “immutability” is hardly satisfying.  It leaves one wondering why private behavior, even if “chosen”, is so troubling to others.

To be frank, it was coercion from others that did force me to consider the downstream implications not so much of just my actions, but of my values. (The Vietnam military draft, against a backdrop of privileged deferments from the risk of sacrifice, provides an obvious starting reference point.)  I was vocal about my “difference” because I could not compete socially in a normal manner.  In the early 1960’s, therapists made a lot of the way I seemed to want to step on the toes of others who appeared “uncompetitive” and remind them that they could “lose” like me, rather than fit into the social expectations of others and try to marry and provide the family children (a future) anyway.  I led a “different” life and found a way to make it work.  But it took some luck, some strategic aloofness, and a lot of fantasy.  It also took a modern, finally tolerant, and technological society that allowed more appearance of self-sufficiency.  But the needs of distant others can suddenly trump.

The claims of the “Doomsday Prepper” crowd deserve some recognition (Oct. 11 posting). Indeed, we have a society where a majority of people, myself very much included, are dependent on technology and could not survive if put back into a 19th century world like that of NBC’s “Revolution” or NatGeo’s “American Blackout” (or the novel “One Second After”).  The “family values” of this crowd does indeed show why social capital and cohesion can suddenly become necessary, and why life is not always a “libertarian” choice of what you want to do, followed by narrow idea of “personal responsibility” in the modern sense.  In sum, there are just too many undeserved inequalities and too little empathy, so there is bound to be instability.  I would have nothing to offer others in the world after a major apocalypse or “purification” (whether natural or created by asymmetric warfare), and that is not a good place to be in.  I would be seen as a distraction in a world where "reproduction rules" and people look at biological lineage as there only fallback opportunity for meaning.  Indeed, the unpreparedness of people for something like this makes it more likely to tempt enemies to bring it about. On the other hand, if the world really does remain stable, there is much more reason to trust the modern ideas of personal accountability and less reason to be concerned about social connectedness.  

Are there ways that I can help people more personally than I do?  In the current environment, using my strengths (in music, chess, IT, etc) there are ways I can approach it.  As I noted, it is very difficult to “volunteer” to fit obediently into someone else’s agenda (Aug. 25 post). And a radical change in my world would make these overtures meager (although you don’t need electricity to play chess or piano).  But I have to admit, I don’t enjoy “helping people” for its own sake, unless I think well of the person(s) involved, by whatever my values are, despite the existential contradictions that this implies. On the other hand, I didn’t have the same chance as others earlier in life to be “valued” in a relationship partly because of obstacles created by others. In a world of global hardship, my unwillingness to try new "relationshiips" based on need becomes much more problematic. I may climb on the train but let the next straggler fall off.  
     
I ultimately have to look at my own life in moral terms, but I seem to be in a gray sliver of a transition zone.  Typically, we fold “disability” into diversity and don’t challenge people today who may be viewed as indirectly letting some burden of protecting them be borne by others.  I didn’t have that luxury, and I was capable enough of dealing with the world around me that I could actually appreciate moral challenges. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Copyright term extension debate provokes controversy, even for new writers and musicians

Congress will soon have to consider whether to extend the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which President Clinton had signed in 1998.  The Act is explained in Wikipedia here. The Act amplifies the Copyright Act of 1976 by extending copyright protection to authors from “Life plus 50 years” to “Life plus 70”, supposedly to bring the United States into consonance with practice in Europe.  The law has also been called the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act”.  Timothy B. Lee has a detailed analysis of the controversy in the Washington Post this morning (Monday, October 28, 2013) on his blog called “The Switch”, here.
  
I’ll leave the details to his analysis, but it’s clear that the incentive of the law is to “protect” big-time authors, their families, and especially the bottom lines of media companies, whose stock price probably benefits from the guarantee of revenue from cultural icons.  (Isn’t it interesting how Wall Street is in bed with the Democrats!)  It protects the idea of media and publishing as a numbers-driven game, which is quite in contradiction to the values of new authors trying to get established.  But copyright extension also tends to inhibit competition. If may be interesting to compare this issue to the piracy debate in 2011, where we saw that major media companies really do fear low-cost competition from newbies. 
  
Lee does point out that the extension act does inhibit the republication of many older classics, some of which teachers probably would present to their high school English and social studies classes.  However many important classics that sell widely (like Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”) appear to still be under copyright.
    
The Open Rights Group, from Europe, argues below that copyright extension does help big companies with their share prices but it really doesn’t help artists, even established musicians and singers, that much.
    
  
I noted, in yesterday’s post here, and in a review of a couple of books on self-publishing in my Book Reviews blog (Oct. 16) that businesses models in self-publishing vary a lot.  But in recent years there seems to be more concern among the companies that support self-publishing that authors should be serious about sales numbers, and that accept that this is a “competitive” world where results matters as much as vanity or message or even intellectual legacy.
   
I do have some fiction projects (a novel and screenplay scripts) but I don’t have a problem with “originality”. The content really is “new”.   I’m not using any established characters or franchises, so neither copyright nor trademark should matter on these projects.  If I get the novel out, I won’t be hearing from Disney’s or WB’s lawyers.  You can bank in that. 



Sunday, October 27, 2013

Should self-publishers worry about bean counters?

If you self-publish a book or video, and don’t take other people’s money to produce it, is there any moral principle that says the work should still pay its own freight?
  
I wonder, because I do get sudden calls from my “on demand” publisher about whether I have any plans to purchase marketing services.  My two books are old, and non-fiction old books don’t usually sell. 
  
But they are valuable, being out there, both online and for occasional Kindle or hardcopy purchase, as reference.  They say certain things that just need to be said.  And available.  That is important to me. In the grand scheme of things, books and blog postings, and maybe some music, and be combined later and lead to bigger things that do sell.  Like movies.  That’s all strategic planning, something you can’t see in the tactics of bean counters. 

Referential use lends itself to online searches and research, rather than cover-to-cover reading, even on a Kindle or Nook.  There is indeed a narrative story -- mine -- with its own ironies, which have tended to accumulate since I last published a book (2002)/  
   
There is an existential question, though.  You don’t earn “the privilege of being listened to” until you accomplish something else, competitively speaking.  Or maybe in some humanitarian context. 
  
I have a hard time finding any cause to push, to believe in, except “my own”.  I like to publish knowledge, to connect the dots for all comers, for anyone interested.  But I can’t fix anyone’s life in a personal way.  I can’t go out and compete and prove I can get elected and “take care of you.”  And I certainly don’t need anyone to “give me the words” to sell people things. 
    
I realize people need to make a living, calling me to sell things.  And my own life just doesn’t work that way.  All my personal contacts are carefully thought out, and I can’t discuss them with random caller sin advance.  



Update: Oct. 28, 2013

Tim Lee of the Washington Post pointed out this op-ed in the New York Times by Tim Kreider Sunday, "Slaves of the Internet, Unite!", link here.  Kreider sometimes takes being asked to contribute a complementary piece to a publication as an insult, and toward the end of the piece, insinuates that writers who give away content for free make it harder for other writers to make a living at it.  I think a lot of cultural tension is building up over this. I was even asked by someone who knows me well in early 2008 why I was competing with his site for "free" attention.

Lee tweeted that getting large exposure to readers is itself a privilege, and money is just an extra reward when appropriate (when people want to pay).  

I have a feeling that Kreider has yet to watch "Reid Rainbow" scream "It's free" (or "I'm free") on his satirical videos, already reviewed on my Movies Blog May 13, 2013.  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Is anonymity in political donations like anonymous speech?

The Wall Street Journal talked about California’s law (the Political Reform Act), passed in 1974, which makes it almost impossible to keep political contributions anonymous, in an op-ed by Allysia Finkey Saturday, link here
  
If campaign contributions amount to speech, then anonymity in supporting candidates with money would seem to be a basic fundamental right.  Then, you ask, should out-of-state religious donors who tried to support Proposition 8 in California remain unnamed, and protected from public shaming or maybe boycotts?  The question would have more sting if you go back to 1978, when there was a referendum (the Briggs Initiative) which would have banned gay teachers.
  
As for speech, I’ve always thought it was more effective when your name s on it.  But then, there is conflict of interest, and the idea you can’t bite the hand that feeds you.  I’ve been in that place before.
It strikes me that a significant portion of younger people don’t see anonymity as essential.  Facebook, after all, requires a real name for a personal account. It’s policy is worth reviewing, here
  
Even as I read this, I wonder how this has played out in “Arab spring” protests.
   
Until maybe ten years ago, it was possible to lead a “double life”.  Remember how recently the military had “don’t ask, don’t tell”.  Remember when there was a public life and a private life? No more.
Should campaigns be any different?  Remember, a few years ago, there was even a flak over whether blogs should be viewed as “political endorsements” and accounted for.  That, thankfully, blew over. 

First picture, from EFF, rally on survelliance in DC today; others, mine, from AIDSWalk, which passed the NSA-surveillance protest rally. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ohio high school suspends student for poem making fun of the football team; some deja vu for me?


A high school student, Nick Andre, was suspended for several days from Rittman High School, a public high school near Akron and Cleveland, Ohio as well as from the football team, after reading aloud in class his poem critical of (or poking fun at) the high school football team for its 1-7 record. His high school English teacher had made an assignment to write about a matter that made the student angry.
  
The principal apparently considered the poem a form of “bullying” even though it mentioned no names.  Fox News has a story here.
   
The conservative site Breitbart published the poem here. It’s hard to see how it would be so offensive, except for “political” reasons. Somehow I’m reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s idea that putting young men into football (and becoming fans) is morally problematic.
  
In October, 2005, when I was substitute teaching, I was removed from the list at West Potomac High School in Fairfax County near Alexandria, VA after I had mentioned  my website (in reaction to a provocative newspaper story about Internet speech and campaign finance reform) to an intern teacher, when it turned out that the school had apparently already found (from search engines) on the site a fictitious movie screenplay in which a substitute teacher (resembling me) is “set up” by a precocious student under 18.  The intricate details are explained on the July 27, 2007 posting.  The legal scenario is complicated and would itself make for a good movie.  I stopped subbing altogether but did other work for the school district and resumed subbing for a while in 2007. 
  
School system administrators are very sensitive to student or teacher online speech that they perceive as putting them at risk for provoking some sort of unpredictable incident.  On the other hand, many school districts say they cannot monitor student online activity (like cyberbullying) off-campus unless it is directly about the school or its students. 




Wednesday, October 23, 2013

AP firing for "mistake" in reporting on VA gubernatorial candidate called unusual; a dream about "amateurism"; a pastor on "fairness"

An Associated Press reporter, Bob Lewis, along with two editors, was recently fired for an unintentional mistake, reporting that Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe had been linked to a particular federal investigation in Rhode Island based on the appearance of the initials “T.M.” on court documents, which had referred to someone else.  The details are reported in the  Washington Post Style Section Wednesday Oct. 23, 2013, in a story by Paul Farhi with link here In print, the title is “AP firing: Question of fairness; Reporter, 2 editors hit with rare dismissals after an unintentional mistake”; online the title is “AP reporter’s mistake: did the punishment fit the crime?”

The AP story was “killed” and then replaced by a correct version.  Lewis had 28 years with the AP. 
  
The story does accentuate the world that traditional reporters in old media live in, where fact-checking must be meticulous.  In the new world of blogging, no such process, comparable to system testing in an IT shop and careful promotion procedures, exists.  The main threat would be, however remote in practice, lawsuits for libel.  A more practical concern for some people might be defending a frivolous SLAPP suit.  Or perhaps another risk is being hunted down by a “copyright troll” like Righthaven. Take away Section 230 and the DMCA Safe Harbor, however, and it’s a much more restricted world.
  
The 1989 book “Trading Secrets” by R. Foster Winans had discussed the importance of accuracy in the author’s experience at the Wall Street Journal, where minor mistakes in reporting could get quick reprimands and had the possibility of rattling investors.
  
The world of “amateurism” has been mitigated a lot by social media, where Facebook has become so powerful that people who sell things are now expected to leverage their social media presence for their employer’s, not their own views.  The double life that I led online fifteen years ago is no longer feasible.  Last night, all this surfaced in a dream where I was being hired by an education contractor to monitor the performance of low income students. I was already on the job (in the dream) when I was told by a “supervisor” that I had to delete all my other online presence immediately, because students could find it.  I refused.  Then, again in the dream, I noticed that the supervisor, a short young man, had shaved his body and dyed his skin darker to look more like one of the minority clients and “become” one of them.  This was an existential sacrifice I was unwilling to make.
  
Yesterday, I had a conversation with someone in the “pastoral” community.  More details may come later, but she did say that a lot of social tensions today (especially in the health care debate and in the increasing brazenness of street crime) seems to be related to the idea that people can “pay” to get ahead in line and bypass the risks that others have to take. Does this observation have any relation to some of the moral paradoxes in Gospel parables (like "The Rich Young Ruler" and "The Talents")? 


  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Indemnification clauses, SLAPP's, and a weaker Section 230 and DMCA Safe Harbor could all invite trolls

I’ve recently noted that book publishers require authors to indemnify them against legal expenses resulting from lawsuits.  Some web hosting services also have similar requirements of their customers.  There would appear to be a significant difference.  Book publishers (like movie distributors) can be included in liability action against authors or content creators, but generally web hosts and ISP’s (and services like YouTube) are not because of DMCA Safe Harbor (for copyright) and Section 230 (for libel and various other possible torts).  That’s a good thing for web content creators, because, as often noted here, web hosts could never possibly review all content for possible legal risks – a point that almost got buried at the end of 2011 in the “debate” over SOPA.  It’s also important because, without downstream liability protections, we might see copyright trolls and “defamation trolls” go after hosting companies because of their deeper pockets, forcing ordinary bloggers to pay the legal expenses of large companies under indemnification clauses.  No one could take the risk of casually putting up their own content online outside of very structured environments.  My own presence for the past sixteen years would not have been possible.

As first reported here on August 9, some state attorneys general want to gut the Section 230 protections with respect to state criminal laws.  Publicity over that proposal got buried by the Congressional budget and “default” battles recently  I haven't heard yet of any specific bills in Congress. Because the scope would be limited to criminal cases, it doesn’t appear that it would expose web hosts to civil liability risks or attract trolls.  But calls to modify Section 230 continue, much of the talk in the name of protecting minors from cyberbullying, which seems to increase.  I stand on both sides of that issue, since my free speech and self-distribution is so important on the one hand, but also because so much cyberbullying is specifically anti-gay, which seems hard to explain in a time of increasing equality (the military, marriage) in federal legal areas.  Weakening of Section 230 in civil areas could mean an epidemic of SLAPP suits from trolls, unless federal law were strengthened to stop SLAPP’s an penalize litigation filed in bad faith.  There is a good case for tort reform and an expansion of the concept that the “loser pays” all legal expenses in many cases.  
     

Trolls can be a practical problem in another way.  In many jurisdictions (and whether state or federal jurisdiction applies and how it is determined gets tricky sometimes) the defendant has only twenty days to respond.  Generally service can be made by mail (to a mail service) or proxy, and a party who is out of town an unable to check his or her home or mail receipts frequently could wind up with a default judgment even in a frivolous or SLAPP suit.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A giant chess set at a local fair -- and a metaphor: the Kibitzer's Problem (maybe the Spanish Prisoner?)

Sunday night, just a little bit of lighter stuff. On Saturday afternoon, I found a small street fair outside the Angelika Mosaic theater in Merrifield VA, most of it commercial.  But there was a giant chess set, set up with the colors off at a 90-degree angle.
  
I started to set up the pieces correctly, and in a moment a few small children were helping.  I hope that learning something about the game actually meant something to them. I then played the first three moves of a controversial opening called the Benko Gambit.  I wonder if anyone around recognized it.  
     
Later, I saw a couple of Virginia license plates with odd names possibly related to chess.  One of them read “Ddippy”.  Back at the chess club at George Washington University back in the mid 1960’s, the term “dippy” was used for openings that didn’t have a good reputation according to theory.  “Unbooked” could have been the term.  But then grand masters like Kasparov started finding virtue in unbooked openings.
  
Another license plate read something like “um good”.  That was a term we would use when an opponent had an obvious positional weakness, like a “backward queen bishop pawn” (like in the Exchange Variation of the Queen’s Gambit after a “minority attack” by White).  There was a little bit of hazing in all of this.   People would “slurp” when they had winning positions, or maybe find out they had miscalculated, that a sacrifice was really a patz, and that the mouth sounds amounted to a “reverse slurp.” 
  
Back at GW in the 1960’s, one of the strongest players became obsessed with playing chess, to the point of skipping classes and dropping out of school and getting drafted.  During the era of the Vietnam era draft, this resulted in loss of deferment and was foolish and dangerous.  The particular guy got signal corps and made it back OK.  Another player enlisted for four years and served in Army intelligence in Vietnam.
  
People often like to kibitz, which of course cannot be allowed in tournament rooms.  Neither are skittles games allowed around rated tournament games.  The kibitzing issue does track to “real life”, where voyeurism into the activities of others from those who are less competitive is often seen as socially disruptive.  There are some times in life you have to step up and get involved.

That does loop back to the problem of “implicit content” that has surfaced before.  If someone weights in on a controversial issue without having a direct stake in terms of his own exposure to risk or responsibility for others, some people will see such public involvement as provocative or as trying to incite others into undesirable behavior, rather than as just making a debate point.  
This does sound like the "Privilege of Being Listened To" problem that I've mentioned before.  I realize I have some issues with it.  But no one can tell me what issues (or even cases) to take up or "touch" online.  My site is not a democracy (maybe a "timocracy").  As in a college course, "everything" is ultimately relevant. 
Last picture: a bust stop in Minneapolis, 2003. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

NYC college student's blog post about income inequality stirs new debate on civility, even shared sacrifice

There’s a lot of flak in media about a young female college student’s blog post “I’m not going to pretend to be poor to be accepted by you”, which seems to be at this link. 

Apparently Rachael Sacks lives well in the West Village, near NYU (media reports that she goes to the New School).  I lived in the Cast Iron Building at 11th and Broadway in the 1970’s.  I even mist he lifestyle and do visit the City at times. 
  
The UK site Daily Mail has a detailed report of the followup on Facebook with some videos here. I take exception to the characterization of her as a "rich college girl" and the idea that she published a "rant". Is this what Robert Reich means by "inequality for all"? 
      
I once drew the ire of an African-American cashier in a Rite-Aid in Arlington VA for putting my money down on the table rather than handing it to her.  It meant nothing.  I needed another hand to grab some other object. 
  

Today, driving down Lee Highway, I passed a demonstration in downtown Falls Church VA against gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s former car company, Greentech.  I had no idea what it was.  But I felt reminded that I do not like to walk in demonstrations and have never belonged to a union or walked a picket line, and that has made some people mad when I do speak up.
  

About two years ago, I passed some of the remains of an Occupy DC encampment in downtown Washington, on the way to the bars.  I snapped a quick photo.  An African-American man started chasing me down K Street demanding that he have a chance to speak to me.  I finally got away.
  
So what do people want?  It’s not real easy to say.  Civil behavior sometimes means to say nothing about something you don’t personally think much of.  But in this age of self-broadcast in blogs and social media, that old code of civility isn’t good enough anymore.  People want to see evidence that “I” can “pay my dues”, if necessary, and “step up” and walk in someone else’s shoes.  Not always. Not most of the time.  But when they want to see it, they really need it. 
   
The Occupy incident may have been provoked by my camera.  Because of social media, people have become more sensitive about winding up in “gawker” photos than they were maybe three years ago.  I’ve really notice that, everywhere except in California, where it doesn’t seem to be a big deal and sensitivity to new ideas of rudeness seems less apparent.   



Thursday, October 17, 2013

Creative Commons says it is not a patch deferring copyright reform; Obama criticizes "bloggers" and professional activists for profiting from Congressional disarray

Creative Commons has a policy statement and discussion by Timothy Vollmer, Oct.16, 2013, with basic link here. Creative Commons suggests that the success of CC in reducing legal costs in sharing intellectual property in areas where interests are largely educational and less driven by profit, does not obviate the need for focused copyright reform.  Without reform, legislators are tempted to overact to claims of infringement (as with the attempts to pass SOPA and PIPA).  And large corporate content owners tend to use overreaching methods to discourage piracy, and sometimes fail to provide content in innovative formats that consumers prefer.  For example, studios are often very slow to make major films available by DVD or for legal (with rental or purchase) Internet streaming.
  
Today, President Obama chided Congress for not doing its job, and particularly for being overly influenced by lobbyists, professional activists who profit from disorder, and even “bloggers”.  I suppose he could have been referring to the extreme positions taken in some of the right-wing blogs, as well as “disinformation” about the default deniers (in the debt ceiling debate).  I even self-published some analysis showing that it was very unlikely that a default would occur for several weeks.  I tweeted a lot of people, maybe a few of whom don’t talk to one another.  I was only trying to see a settlement.  There was a risk, however slight mathematically or unlikely, or a real catastrophe.   Out of “enlightened” self-interest,  I didn’t want to run that risk in my own retirement situation, even if I had not been directly affected yet.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Could new California Internet privacy laws affect blogs, small websites?

Politico has a story “California driving Internet privacy policy”, by Michelle Quinn, Oct, 8, 2013, here   Governor Jerry Brown has signed into a law a number of measures, including a requirement that social media sites allow minors a “delete” (really, “erase”, button), a law criminalizing “revenge porn” (and probably knowingly soliciting it from a website), and the ability to respond to user “do not track” requests.

I do wonder if these laws could affect blogs (as on Blogger or Wordpress), or could affect flat sites that don’t allow users to make their own posts.  Could it affect forums?  Could it affect comments made on ordinary flat sites?  How would that interact with Section 230?  Could it affect the tracking of ads?  I presume Blogger and Wordpress would develop methods to deal with these requirements for all users. 
  

Right now, I don’t have and ads on my flat sites (“doaskdotell.com”, “billboushka.com”, “johnwboushka.com”), and I have no tracking software, but I wonder if this law could somehow matter.  Will ISP’s offer anti-tracking?  How will this work?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

No, I would resent being the "insurance policy" for others, but it could become necessary to live at all

I’ve said to myself before, that I resent being someone else’s “insurance policy” because I didn’t have my own family.  Without going into all the details right now, I’ll say that this kind of thing has happened at various times in the past, including in the workplace. That was the real second-class citizenship, before the gay marriage debate.

The current crisis in Washington, as would any crisis (like a WMD terror attack or huge natural disaster) could, of course, put me in the position of having to provide for others whom I did not choose to be around.  Yes, I suppose that if I were in that position, I should be grateful.   It’s very double edged.

There’s a question of character here.  Do I feel reward just from helping someone who needs some sort of provision or attention?  Not the reward I want.  It’s partly because I do find conventional “social competition” humiliating.  So I live in my own world, where there is a lot of fantasy and content.  But it can be taken away, by external catastrophes from without.
  
I am in a morally precarious position.  Yes, I have depended on the hidden sacrifices of others.  And I’m not willing to “sacrifice” simply when asked to.  That sacrifice could be emotional as well as financial or expressive.  Yes, I make a lot of “second class station in life”, but really that started when I was not able to compete with other males physically.  So I engage in “upward affiliation”.  Am I willing to “love” someone who has “failed,” perhaps because of bad luck or the wrongful actions of others.  When it comes to be willing to show emotion for others, I am visual.  I hope no one shoots me in the eyes, or that I don’t wake up some day with a detached retina.  (I once did give a ride to the doctor for another substitute teacher who had!)  I react to people on what I see.  There are no victims, no allowances.  The world I see is pass-fail.  Yet, I can understand how those a little better endowed think that someone like me should accept submission (not creatively, as with the Rosenfels polarities, but in terms of actual life station)
  
Of course, in the usual sense it is my right to have a relationship with any consenting adult, and to refuse a relationship, just as others have the same right.  But this concern is not about rights, responsibilities, and justice in the narrow sense of everyday life.  This is about whether a community is cohesive enough that it can sustain reasonable liberty when it faces tough, life-changing challenges.  That makes everything look very different.   
  
So, yes, the ability to “love when you have to” and “step up” to it, does support the ability to marry, remain interested in one person for a lifetime, and raise children, and take care of other generations or of others in general when they “fail” or the world fails them.  It can work in a same-sex context.  But it is easier for women.  It’s hard for men to accept this, when it’s important to learn to compete and prevail first, whether on the gridiron or concert hall.  Not everyone will be able to do that.  Marriage is the result of processes that need to happen, not the cause.

I think that my expulsion from William and Mary in November 1961 (posting Nov. 28, 2006) was partly motivated by the hidden message of my “admission” (when baited) to the Dean of Men in that sudden Friday evening (day after Thanksgiving) meeting that I was “latent homosexual”.  No, I hadn’t done anything.  But I had essentially announced that I, an only child, would give my parents no progeny.  In their frame of reference, that was like a verbal nuclear weapon.  Since I had “lost” the social competition, I would no longer stay on the scene and simply help bond with others who were also “uncompetitive”.  The same sort of idea surface a year later when I was a patient at NIH.  The therapists were very concerned about the source of pleasure in my “fantasy life”, not because I would do harm, but because of the meaning.  If It was acceptable for me to refuse to love someone who was unattractive, then in a larger political sense, the “losers” might have no place in the world.  The mere acceptability of announcing this sort of intention could be an invitation to new political tyranny and authoritarianism.  If it wasn’t just what had gone on in Nazi Germany, it had gone on in Sparta.
Without going into a lot of personal detail, I can remember that this sort of issue came up even with my own period of heterosexual dating in 1971.  There was an idea that one needs family, and needs to be able to pass the torch on to others (like children) if times get hard.   Marriage is sort of a safety net, not just for oneself, but for everyone else around you.
  

The dangers lurking around outside my inner sanctum do make me ponder these ideas.  They do help explain why at some points in my life, people have knocked and walked through the door and behaved intrusively.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why social conservatives barge into the lives of those who are different in their quest of "freedom" from government

I was particularly appalled at a news story about how a particular federal employee was treated at the Bank of America when she tried to get some sort of temporary forbearance on her mortgage when she wasn’t getting paid during the government shutdown, even though backpay is supposed to be given. (Not so for contractors.)  Banks have said they will work with loan customers.  But this customer was told, “No, we can’t help you.  Try asking family and friends to pick up your mortgage.”
  
Whoa?  I haven’t been affected yet, and don’t have any big bills for a while.  Property taxes, and a big dental procedure have all been paid.  No one has approached me.  Maybe I should feel grateful, or lucky. But, even though I didn’t “have a family”, am I supposed to become a personal insurance policy for others because of the misdeeds of those who don’t do their jobs (either at banks or in Congress), particularly when their failure is due to their own ego-driven agendas? Or is my asking this more of the same kind of talk.  The buck has to stop with someone; if everyone simply wants to blame hardship on someone else’s bad behavior, seek “justice”, and not step up, we all perish.
  
Yet, I hear rhetoric that sounds a bit like this from the far Right, including some not so libertarian members in the Tea Party.  The most radical members (even Ted Cruz) act like they want some kind of quasi-fascist coup.  They want to abolish all federal entitlement programs and throw people on the dependence of “family, friends and neighbors”.  Think how this plays out with all kinds of issues: pre-existing conditions, homelessness, food stamps (where the system that processes them failed this weekend), unemployment, even bank failures.
  
That has an effect on “family values” that doesn’t get stated often.  The “socially conservative” view sees taking care of the vulnerable as a highly personal responsibility that everyone must share.  It’s not just a matter of deciding to have children, or knowingly engaging in behavior that can bring children into the world.  Everyone will, in their view, have the responsibility for supporting other family members anyway.  For example, everyone has filial responsibility to take care of aging parents (and many states have filial responsibility laws, which gets nettlesome with longer life spans and an epidemic of Alzheimer’s).  Sometimes childless and/or single people are asked to raise siblings’ children after family tragedies.  This is a very difficult matter for me to contemplate, as I did not set up my own “domain” with my own “natural family”.  I have to face the idea that I found social competition humiliating and developed an attitude that I would not allow any intimate relationship with anyone where I could not use “upward affiliation”.  I wound up “rejecting” people based on any perceived imperfections. 
   
Social conservatism in the US argues that it supports “freedom” from government intrusion because it encourages self-sufficiency, but only within the family unit and local neighborhood.  Everyone shares chores and everyone shares a certain level of fellowship or social intimacy in their local surroundings before they try to make a name for themselves, as, for example, auteurs.  This is a very difficult situation for those of us who are “different”, that is, perhaps just a little bit autistic, in that gray zone where we understand everything but watch it from a distance, and build websites rather than work directly with people. 

Social conservatism also sees old-fashioned sexual morality, however it plays out for different people, as a kind of ultimate equalizer, a justification of necessary social hierarchy, maybe even patriarchy.
    
The current “Values Voter Forum” has a view of freedom that is still collective and the “natural family” level.  It is not the vision of the individualist, or libertarian.  I don’t even think Ayn Rand would approve. But maybe Jesus would.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

ACLU of Virginia holds reception, discusses surveillance issues, mentions Section 230

Today I attended a reception hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia (ACLU) in a penthouse highrise condominium in Alexandria, VA.  The unit was truly palatial, with views to the north (all the way to the Washington Monument) and west (to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial). The unit reminded me of the site of a concert by Timo Andres in a large highrise condo near Central Park in New York City (drama and music blog, Dec. 11, 2010).
    
The largest focus of remarks by Claire Guthrie Gastanaga did concern all the concerns about government surveillance.  There was mention of Verizon’s turning over of cell phone metadata, and considerable discussion of the fact that the Fourth Amendment does not protect citizens from examination of data or effects held by “third parties” (see my Book Review blog, Daniel Solove’s book “Nothing to Hide”, July 23, 2013).  There was discussion of how new “real world” technology like the use of drones can go around the 4th Amendment, too.  There was mention that Virginia State Police had kept license plates of drivers going into Washington on days of major political events, but apparently the legislature has stopped it.


I mentioned the Section 230 issue, and the desire of state attorneys general to gut it with respect to state criminal codes.  There was no mention of any specific action in Congress yet (given its distraction), but there was an acknowledgement of the idea that the measure seems motivated by a tangential desire to “protect children” (as had been COPA) from trafficking, when it could have a severe impact on the ability of adults to make normal postings on the Internet without supervision or regulation. 


There was also discussion of the “do not track” issue, and that companies keep data on consumers that could be turned over to government in the future, or that could be hacked. There was a feeling that social media have gone too far in trying to monetize user content, especially endorsements (yesterday’s post); yet, when people sign up for someone else’s free service, the price is that “you” are the product. Maybe Reid Ewing can make an “It’s Free” video on the way companies monetize “free” services, and make it funny and silly (which he would). 

 ACLU Virginia (site ) reports that the Virginia Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Jane Perez, who had been ordered to take down some of the material in her Yelp posts critical of a contractor, covered here Dec. 5, 2012, in what seemed a bit like a SLAPP suit.  The case was Dietz v. Perez.  

Saturday, October 12, 2013

New policies at Facebook, Google, especially regarding product endorsements, stir "privacy" concerns

There is some new controversy over Google’s announced change in its TOS policy, in which it will propagate user “endorsements” of products in ads across its sites, without specific permissions, starting Nov. 11.   In general, it seems that the recommendations will appear only on ads sent to whitelisted friends in Google+.  Users can opt out, and must be 18 or over. 
  
To be fair, the first link to give is Google’s own summary of its changes in policy, here
  
Facebook has recently changed its privacy policy recently to make it harder for people to hide their public profiles and timelines from search engines where people (like employers) could find them. 
   
Facebook’s explanation for its own change is here

All the major media have their own accounts of these changes, and the details vary (especially for Google’s).  The Wall Street Journal, has a “Business and Finance” headline, “Google’s New Ad Star: You”, link here. 
     
The New York Times reports “Google to Sell User’s Endorsements”, link here

The NYT points out that Facebook already has a similar practice.
  
Cecilia Kang for the Washington Post writes “Google to put user photos, comments in online ads”, here
  
The developments could help answer business model questions, about how Internet companies will respond to the challenge of "do not track" and possible weakening of Section 230 (downstream liability protection for user content), especially with respect to state criminal prosecutions. 

These developments will require a lot of scrutiny.  Many questions occur.  Journalists, for example, are supposed to be publicly objective.  If an endorsement gets propagated, does that create a conflict of interest?  If a teacher’s endorsements seem to show indifference to certain students, or a manager’s endorsements show antipathy toward certain kinds of employees, could this create legal problems?  Of course, the whitelisting helps, but “listserver-mode” posts do get out into the wild, too.  It’s true, some people like to know what their friends endorsed.  I don’t pay as much attention to that as a lot of people. I can imagine other problems, like with right of publicity, since the Internet can make anyone a “public figure”.
  
 In 2005, when I had the ruckus as a substitute teacher (see July 27, 2007), one item that school officials looked at was the “about me” page on AOL (I had copied it to my site), which included “likes” or, so-to-speak, “endorsements”.  If one of these “favorite movies” as a gay movie involving legal minors (“Edge of 17”), you can imagine what they could have thought.
This development bears further watching.   


Friday, October 11, 2013

If "The Purification" occurs, could I still "carry on"?

I do love the civilization I live in, with all of its wonders.  I believe that I have been able to offer “The Fifth Dominion” (as Clive Barker calls it) something unusual in terms of all of this analysis.  I do not miss the long term committed intimacy that others experience.  Others often wonder how I can live in my own world the way I do and not miss what they have.  That’s because I do have “what I have”.
  
So, let’s do an “imagine me naked” (not literally, as in “Modern Family”) thought experiment.  No, I can’t “fake it”, and things can go very “cold and dark”.  Suppose, for example, I had a previous incarnation as the owner of Tara in the 1850’s.  I might treasure the world I live in.  In a few years, it is all taken away from me by force.  I have to start all over with nothing.  I am no better than the people I had “owned” and at one time considered less than me.  There’s no gender in this; it can be Mr. or Miss Scarlet.  My whole life is “gone with the wind”.  True, Miss Scarlet got it back.
  
Examples are numerous, and, if countable, still infinite.  Imagine I’m a prosperous “Christian” Gentile in Germany in 1939.  Or Imagine I’m a sensitive Jewish artist living in Poland about that time. Both of us will face total loss caused by the aggression of others, which may or may not be justified in the grand scheme of things.  If I’m the artist and I survive and wind up in Israel years later, I find myself not serving my own ideals and ends, but supporting a collective action that is in turn morally suspect – West Bank settlements.  Perhaps I live in one.  I did not choose the course of my life.  But I had to do what I did to protect my family.
  
The norms of respected behavior – “personal responsibility” (even as Souhtpark depicts it) and civility, presume that civilization itself is stable.  That particularly means that the financial system works, and that physical infrastructure holds together.  Most of the time it does.  But in recent years (particularly starting with 9/11) we’ve had to ponder the possibility that it might not.
    
Make no mistake.  Every one of us (unless it’s possible to become an angel) will die of something, and for most of us, the end will have a medical or age-related cause.  And I know very easily how a single careless mistake can deep-six your life.  For example, one can cause a fatal accident in a moment of distraction, using the cell phone while driving.
  
But things can fail.  Like the Maya, we can lose our way of life.  I’m not referring so much to personal medical difficulties or even “ordinary” career or economic dislocation associated with changes in business and technology with modernization or globalization.   As I noted on my “IT” blog yesterday, one can strategize for these within the usual norms of responsible individualism and work ethic.  I’m referring more to the sudden losses from natural catastrophe or form aggression by others, which may happen to an entire group of people, or may target one person.  It can happen through physical violence, financial fraud, or political coup or “revolution”.  In all these cases, despite the person affected experiences a reduced life as reality, even when clearly caused by the wrongdoing of others.  In many cases, the person or persons cannot be made “whole” in a meaningful way, even by bringing others to “justice”. Having lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis under most unusual circumstances, I take all "threats" seriously, whether they come from North Korea (lobbing nuclear ICBM's), radical Islam, or from our own hyper-partisan politicians, a few of whom think that "cold turkey" would save future generations. 
   
In many cases of sudden "total loss", the “victim” did indeed own (or owe) a moral accountability of some kind.  Perhaps his or her previously superior station in life had resulted from an exploitation of others which he did not see.  Then he is faced with sudden expropriation, or “purification”. The judgment of history may be that the “plantation owner” really deserved his sudden loss even if brought about by coercion or violence and even if he had sincerely believed he was right according to the norms of the world in which he had been reared.  Political radicals often rejoice in seeing the “undeserving” get their comeuppance.
  
  
I’ve had, in recent years, had to contemplate how I would “carry on” if a catastrophe does “destroy” life as I know it, or at least my ability to pursue my own self-chosen ends.  I didn’t have to think about this much during my working years;  as I explained recently on my IT blog, corporate takeovers and mergers actually worked out well for me, even though not for a lot of others.  I did have to think about if from my tween to college years, and particularly with respect to the military draft.  I was aghast at the idea that people have to come back from war personally maimed, and be able to get others to love them, even become or remain intimate with them.  I always said if that happened to me, I did not want to come back.  Yes, I used my education to avoid the worst risks when I was drafted, which others had to take (whether or not the Vietnam War as justifiable is beside the point).  When I was an assistant instructor at the University of Kansas in the 1960’s before my own draft, I had the “power” to influence how others would fare in this era of deferments and definitely unshared sacrifice.  That has moral consequences, and I’ll come back to that.
  
The most obvious challenge that I could face, at age 70, would be medical.  I don’t see this as an existential problem.  With many problems, momentum, rather than aggressive diagnosis and treatment, may work and give one a more productive remaining time on “Earth I”. But I would not be a good candidate for some extreme procedures, like heart or bone marrow transplants.  My own father, who died of suddenly metastasized prostate cancer just before his 83rd birthday, always said he would ever become a “burden” and saw that as shameful, to the consternation of my mother, whose last three years (until she passed at the end of 2010) demanded constant attention and caregiving.  My father did what he wanted and was “productive” until the last four weeks of this life.  However,  my “physical weakness” as a teen affected my attitude toward myself but especially toward others.  If there is an opportunity now to find a medical explanation (like genetic) that wasn’t possible a half century before, I owe it to posterity to go for it.  Was it real disability, aloofness, or even just physical cowardice? In any society, there are certain things that have to get done, and it is sometimes easier for those who “do it” if they think that every even marginally capable person contributes to sacrifice and risk-taking, taking responsibility for other people, or else stays out of sight.  At least, that seems to have been the “conservative” view of the past.

I think that the brazenness of violence – whether street crime, home invasion, gun rampages, or terrorism directed at “soft targets” – has increased noticeably in many US cities and suburbs since about 2007.   Some of the violence seems motivated by extreme indignation over class differences and the lack of sharing of risks and burdens.  Noam Chomsky has linked it to "class warfare".  There is a feeling with some criminals (and in gangs) that the rules of “real life” (requiring “street smarts”) don’t apply to everyone, so the law need not apply to everyone.  During some incidents, individual people seem to have been baited.  In one case, a criminal, who would be sentenced to death, said that he thought that his victim had been a coward for not protecting his family when he escaped, as if proving something like this had been a motive for a death penalty crime.  Were I to be trapped by such an incident, I do not expect that I would survive, nor would I want to.  There are limits to what I can “carry on” from.
  
As noted above, some of the biggest threats to our way of life are natural; some, but not all, could be related to climate change.  The climate change debate will lead eventually to personally ethical concerns about how people who live alone (like me) use energy, which balances different factors (high density living is more efficient, but traveling alone by car is not).  It seems curious to me that the “Fundamentalist Right” denies evolution, climate change (and a lot of other science) and, in the current debt ceiling fight, denies that US default could happen right now as a result, but then correctly maintains that “demographic winter” is a real problem, to the point that the idea that everyone should sense a personal stake in the future that follows them (in having children or raising other people’s children when expected to) becomes a renewed component of personal morality.  The “Right” would be correct in saying that many threats, like tsunamis (a big one on the Atlantic Coast from the Canary Islands volcanoes is possible), asteroids or comets, or huge solar storms, are not related to climate change but some of these can be mitigated or prevented with enough investment in public infrastructure, which the Right doesn’t seem to want to make. The Right is also correct in maintaining that the gravest  potential threats to homeland security may not come from “homemade” nuclear devices (as touted right after 9/11), but from radioactive material itself, or from various kinds of EMP or radio flux devices which can be relatively small and might become available on the street.  These are probably a more serious threat than “cyberwar”.
  
And some of the threat to our way of life is indeed political or economic, as we can see from the dynamics of the recent shutdown and debt ceiling fiasco in Washington.  While some “conservatives” may be sincere in downplaying the risk of default with various legal explanations, some hardliners really want to see a “purification”, with enormous sacrifices by some people, so that future generations (to which I contributed no “genetic capital”) will be better off.  Any of these scenarios – natural apocalypse, catastrophic terror, personal targeting, total financial meltdown, or political “fundamentalist” coup, could lead to a world in which I really have nothing to offer. Perhaps I would not be around long.
  
In any of these scenarios, I could be singled out for “sacrifice” – or, as I acknowledge the silliness of hollering before being hurt – I could be thankful that I remained relatively unscathed, and wonder if I should take “victims” in.  I can certainly imagine that kind of scenario after a natural catastrophe.  (What if I had been living closer to the site of Hurricane Katrina, say, still in Dallas, as I was in the 1980’s?)  I wonder how I would feel about being expected to “step up” to make up for someone else’s wrongdoing – even if that came from the dynamics of hyper-partisan politicking.  I can’t give a specific answer.  But I have responded before.  In 1980, there was a lot of talk in Dallas in the gay community about housing Cuban refugees, and I wound up housing a non-refugee, an experience with very mixed results.  I was glad when it was over in early 1981, and felt I had my own life back. I have to say, also, that I have encountered the attitude that because I don't have a wife and kids, I should act like an insurance policy for those who do, when something goes wrong for them (even if it is someone else's misdeed).  That I very much resent. That's "second class citizenship", but the notion is very double-edged.  But others will say, this is not about justice or "equality", it is about the practical needs of living in a community or extended "natural family". 
        
I can look back over several decades, and see the distraction of other potentially disruptive external events.  We had the Arab oil embargo and gasoline shortages of 1973-1974 – but I was often in Minnesota on benchmarks while working for Univac, where I had few problems.  I was quite preoccupied with the logistics of finding “opportunity” in the gay community after my “second coming” in 1973, resulting of my moving into New York City in 1974, and then wondered if the financial crisis in New York City (they talked about default then) in 1975 could destroy our urban way of life.  (Remember, “Ford to City: Drop Dead!”)  The Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991 may well have been necessary to protect oil supplies at the time, but it also helped set up the political conditions that made a debate over lifting the ban on gays in the military possible when Bill Clinton took office in 1993, leading ultimately to DADT repeal in 2011.  That Clinton could even start the debate so soon after the “AIDS tornado” had devastated the male gay community seems amazing in retrospect.  And I personally survived exposure to the epidemic, probably the single greatest threat to my own life other than the military draft two decades before.  No gay activist today admits it, but HIV in the 1980s had provided an existential threat to our “community” even being allowed to operate at all, as right wing elements in Texas proposed an almost Uganda-like state law against homosexuality in 1983.
Most people say, “They would never let that happen.”  True, in my life, most of these crises have been resolved without harming me.  But, there is no “they”. Some day, luck could run out. Once it does, my depending on "stable civilization" could make me look like a parasitic fool. 
    
I think that one of the reasons why “external purification” is so terrifying to me is that it can force me into interpersonal relationships that came to find humiliating as I grew up.  Perceived as “unattractive” (NIH notes on me in 1962 at age 19 actually used that word) and non-competitive socially (in terms of “protecting” other people), I still found myself pressured to be willing to bond to people in similar straits, and to stop looking up (the “upward affiliation” controversy).  I even sense that pressure on the disco floor today!  I also, as I noted on the IT blog, sometimes field coercive pressure to give up my own soap box and convert my life to hucksterizing the causes of others.  Intellectual consistency and honesty seems to be perceived as a luxury that people with “total responsibility” for families can’t afford.
     
There is a saying that publishing a book is like having a baby.  That may trivialize what families go through, but there is something to this idea of “the privilege of being listened to”.  If you use the asymmetry of the Internet to gain influence over policy, then you ought to step up, when needed, to meet the needs of other people, or take responsibility for them, even if such engagement might have been unwelcome in earlier “mind your own business” times. Inheriting an estate, or control of one, can certainly subsume such obligation, even if not specified in a will. I know that this observation can come into play if there is a major disruption of our financial or physical infrastructure and I stay afloat.  In fact, the last of the three “short stories” in my upcoming “Do Ask, Do Tell III” the “me character” does wind up with responsibility after a natural and manmade (both) catastrophe, but only after he “gets what he wants” (more or less what Stephen King means by that phrase).
  
One the other hand, any one of us is one incident away from helplessness (whether or not it is from someone else’s “sin”), from entering the world of dependency on others that we shun others for now when we have the choice of whom we want to relate to.  There’s a line in the movie “Captain Phillips” that makes that point. (“Look at me, I am the Captain now … maybe in America, not here.”)  When someone has a weapon on you, that someone is in control.  That is simply the reality that some people see, and all they see.   You still have to “carry on”.  Any one of us can learn we are not “better than you”, and unfortunately we learn that lesson from coercion more often than we learn it from reading the Bible or Koran.  (I can remember those arguments with my father as a boy about objecting to having to prove I could "hit back"; he knew the real world.)  We can’t “reject” people forever and be allowed to get away with it.  It seems that having to deal with the practical and inevitable inequality in the real world, and the practical likelihood of having to forgive coercion, motivates many of the most controversial parables in the Gospels (like “The Rich Young Ruler” and “The Parable of the Talents”, as well as Prodigal Son and vineyard workers). It does get very personal, whether we like it or not.
  
I have to end this post pianissimo, on a little bit of darkness.  If indeed my end is ugly, whether the result of another party’s indignation, or “class warfare”, or even hate crime, there is simply no way I can be called a “victim”, ever.  I hope no one ever uses that word.  “Casualty” might be appropriate.  I lost the right to victimhood when I used my deferment and managed not to go to Vietnam.  You can’t get out of things forever, or karma will catch up with you.  I do believe there is an afterlife (partly because of my concept of the “physics” of consciousness), and something like Heaven may really exist.  It may even be true that in “Heaven” (or the “Astral City” as in the big Brazilian film) people are visible as they were at their solstice best.  I get the idea of Grace as necessary (partly because coercion is unavoidable), but some of the usual Christian concept of Heaven (or “The First Dominion” as Clive Barker calls it) doesn’t quite make sense, for people who had no chance to get out of childhood and become free-will agents.  I didn’t become “social” enough that “Heaven”, as it is usually described, could work for me.  The idea of a “Core” makes sense, and so does reincarnation, in some cases, maybe mine.  It might be on another planet.  It might mean being born into poverty and “starting over”, or maybe being born into a culture that doesn’t even have money as we understand it (call it Purgatory).  We may indeed learn the physics of this in another century or so, if we don’t destroy ourselves first.  But we will have to learn to transcend physical death and entropy first to find out.  Moralists say, that’s why “reproduction rules” and generativity should be a core moral value.