Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Official press release on my "Do Ask, Do Tell III" book


I do have a formal press release on PRWire for my third book is available, at this link from PRWire. The title of the release is “Bill Boushka Releases Third Book of his Do Ask, Do Tell Series: Boushka draws upon life experiences, observations in ‘Do Ask, Do Tell: Speech Is a Fundamental Right, Being Listened to Is a Privilege”.  There is a related post on the Book Review blog Feb. 27, 2014 and an entry on my new footnotes blog April 11, 2014 here. The book is available on Amazon and e-commerce in hardcover, paper, and Kindle (just $3.99). 
  
The press release notes the mirror of my own experience with anti-gay discrimination (being tossed out of a civilian college in 1961) and the course of the military gay ban and the history of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

    
It also notes a tension between individualism and equality.  Individualism is essential to the innovation that raises standards of living for everyone but it needs a degree of inequality that tends to breed social instability, which can become uncontrollable and lead to hardship and sometimes “revolution”. 
  
In my own life, I’ve repeatedly faced “anti-individualist” pressures from various people or interests.  Generally, I field pleas to become more involved in helping others directly and personally, and to find emotional satisfaction in doing so, even when there is considerable sacrifice of my own goals possible and a willingness to advance the proposes of others and “join up” or enlist.  That is certainly counter to individualism.  It also provides a counterpoint to customary ideas of personal responsibility, privacy, and “minding your own business”.  Our culture is not consistent on these ideas. That's largely because luck and fortune do play a huge role in the outcomes for individuals.  So do hidden sacrifices (karma), and therefore place-changing. 
    
I come into this paradox from different directions.  One of these is, of course, the way people reacted to (my) homosexuality.  When I read generic statements (like those coming out of Russia and some African countries and from Rick Santorum and Scott Lively in the past) that homosexuality is hostile to the family and procreation, my reaction is, well, these ideas, when implemented, have real consequences for some people (like me) who did not hurt you.  What “you” seem to want is that homosexuality (as a proxy for “upward affiliation” and refusal to engage in complementarity) is seen as unacceptable, so more ambiguous and marginal people will share the risks and responsibilities of procreation rather than kibitzing those who do raise traditional families.  Sometimes, that seems particularly important to “you” (in my case, being an only child added to this idea  -- death of my parents’ potential lineage).
  
The other point is that of “The Pharisee”.  Yes, I like to produce content, and self-publish it, and at least be “heard” (which is a slightly lower level than really being “listened to”).  Sometimes the reaction is “Shut up and help us” (or maybe “Shut up and sing with us” (oh, like the Dixie Chicks).
  
Today, there is a lot of talk in the media of extreme generosity of strangers.  That wasn’t the case when I was growing up, and it wasn’t part of the culture.  It’s hard to deal with the expectation of being someone else’s backup – even when it comes to kidneys or bone marrow – but in a way, cohesion and togetherness are what sustainable society is all about (the Rosicrucians were saying this back in 1978).  My upbringing saw social prohibitionism (as Andrew Sullivan would call it) as an indirect but essential equalizer and social stabilizer.    But those who moralized with me (like my own father when he said, “You don’t see people as people”)  need to tell me, is it “people first” or “family first”?  The first seems to generate the second.  
  
I'm left to remember the advice from the MidAtlantic Marketing Conference last Thursday (April 24). Corporate blogs should not be confined to press releases!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Oral arguments heard on warrantless searches before SCOTUS today; what about Faraday bags?


I recall being stopped by a cop near Chicago on Labor Day 1997 for speeding.  He let me go without a ticket, and noticed my authored books in the back seat (I was driving to Minneapolis to move).  He felt reassured that a writer like me wouldn’t have drugs or weapons.  I thought that was whimsical.

The cases before the Supreme Court today (U.S. v. Wurie and Riley v. California) are thought to have major implications for civil liberties in search and seizure law regarding cell phones, and perhaps laptops, notebooks and tablets, regarding whether police officers need a warrant or what kind of legal standard of cause they should meet before making a search.  The issues are laid out by Jeff John Roberts on Gigaom here.  He mentions the use of Faraday bags to scan the devices safely, as explained here.  The Faraday bag issue is interesting because Faraday cages or protection could protect electronic equipment in case of an EMP attack. Faraday bags can be used to preserve evidence on cell phones without fully searching them.


The Volokh Conspiracy discusses the case (and the “Robinson rule” v. a computer specific rule) in an article by Orin Kerr, link here

I wouldn’t have been too happy with having to surrender my computers in transit for a routine traffic stop. 


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Does the NSA find the word "propsnsity" all too convenient?


This morning, I was greeted in my AOL inbox by a sponsored email from the Washington Times, something that said “the 20 words in your emails that can get you tracked by the NSA”.

I went to the link, and it seemed to be one of these videos that goes on and on, making you watch an endless presentation to find all the nuggets.  Porter Stansberry used to do that with his presentation of what will end America (hint: the dollar is no longer recognized as a reserve currency because of too much debt).

Now, I thought that the controversy had been over metadata.  I guess the assumption is that the NSA really does read all our emails and “private” social media posts.

Since almost all of my social media posts are public anyway, it makes little difference to me.  But I’ve mentioned some frightening stuff, like the possibility of EMP attacks. Would that get me on a list?
  
I suppose that down the road, governments would get the ability to match genetic information with statements online to develop profiles of “propensities” and put people on watch lists, like at airports.  And remember where the word “propensity” was so convenient for the government?



Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mid-Atlantic Marketing Conference stresses that good marketing requires carefully conceived Internet "publication" strategy



Today I attended the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Conference at the Gannett facility near Tysons Corner, VA.
  
Robit Bhargava opened the day with “Ten Top Digital Marketing Trends” before a very full auditorium. I got there a little late, and didn’t know hot breakfast sandwiches had been served.

Sean Murphy, an EVP of Customlink described his T-shirt business, which can produce T-shirts with any customer inscription, and talked about the first million dollar day. He talked about “Untrends”, starting with over dependence on likeonomics of social media.  “Search is still king” he said.  He also mentioned “WYSIATI, “What you see is all there is.”  That is, what a potential customer sees.

Jennifer LaFrance spoke from McCormick and Co, and noted that “comedy is a series of anecdotes, relevant to the audience.”  That sounded like she was talking about comedy films or SNL videos.  I had just shown some people my movie review of “10 Rules for Sleeping Around”, which sounds a bit like “20 Online Marketing Tips You Can Use Next Week” (Julia Quinn, from Amtrak).

There was a panel “The Intersection Point: Where Content, Social and Sales Collide”.  Stacey Piper from ICF was on the panel; I had worked for that company indirectly when I worked for Lewin in 1989.  Piper mentioned the experience with the benefit of some upper level employee’s personal blogs, which I had always seen as a potential for “conflict of interest”, as I mentioned to her in a brief conversation afterward.

Marty Moe, president of Vox Media, gave a pre-lunch Fireside Chat, and explained the new media company.  I challenged him from the audience on the idea that one can really present the reader with “all she needs to know”, with complex and changing issues like gay marriage and the security of the power grid.


By lunchtime, a certain theme had developed among all the speakers.  Marketing teams needed to think of themselves as like publishers. They needed to provide customers with all they needed to know, and not just with press releases.  I had always been told that "writers" need to learn to sell (or at least write "what other people want").  
   
Right after lunch, some digital ad agencies showed their work. Viget showed an interactive “app” that could show baseball footage for any position as a way to market for Dick’s Sporting Goods.


In the afternoon, a presentation by Mike Tirone, Digital Marketing Search Strategist R2, “The Future of Search Marketing Starts with Content”, talked about the changes in search engine optimization, noting that Google had changed its algorithm 18 times in 2013.  There is more emphasis on quality of content, from “verified writers” (which may explain with results from Book Search often lead off), the analytics from sites listed (such as bounce rate), and sometimes some social media interactions of the person (although that seems murky; how would this even be done?)  

More than one speaker mentioned cross-networking, the need to mention work of other people with whom you could collaborate, particularly in arts and media (like film and music). 
  
I mentioned that there is much more emphasis in channeling resources to people with “needs” (and asking strangers to "step up") through the Internet than was possible when I was growing up. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A checkpoint on my "fiction" development, and on my "blogger journalism", and even music: where I am headed


I just wanted to provide a checkpoint on where I am with my plans to “promote” by “DADT III” book (that is, “Do Ask, Do Tell: Speech Is a Fundamental Right, Being Listened to Is a Privilege”, on Amazon and inexpensive on Kindle, Books blog, Apr. 21), get a reasonable movie treatment circulated, and maybe look into ways to make my publishing more efficient, and get back closer to the “real world” of actually interfacing more with people.
   
Right now, I am reviewing all of my “fiction” documents – that is, manuscripts and outlines of unpublished novels and screenplays, going all the way back to 1969, starting with “The Proles”, a chapter of which (dealing with Vietnam-era Army Basic Training of draftees)  is reproduced in my DADT III book.  There are about ten of these (see the checklist here ).  There are a number of screenplays (features and shorts), of which at least three features right now are important.  The characters and plot lines (and time sequences) of many of these works intersect, so it is important to me to get a grip in quite a bit of detail on just what I was attempting to do all of these years.  All of this will probably take another month or so.
  
I also have composed some piano music (“classical”), which I want to get produced in a professional manner, particularly a Piano Sonata from 1962, and some other smaller works.  I’ve discussed that on my “Drama and Music News” blog.   

I am quite impressed by the recent expansion of the site “Vox” media, which Ezra Klein and now Timothy B Lee have charged up since moving over to the company.

The site often takes a topic and consolidates the current knowledge on the topic, with the approach “what you need to know about…”.   Here’s a typical example, by MatthewYglesias, “Is buying a house a better investment than buying stock”, link. (Tim Lee tweeted today that he used to think that buying house was for suckers, until… -- well, don’t buy them to flip them, as did one of Dr. Phil’s guests.)  A typical article will link to the middle of a "Conversation" with yellow cards (apparently from Power Point) that explain all the talking points about a particular public policy issue. 
   
That is something what I do with all my blogs.  If you go to any of them and navigate to the Blogger label for an important topic, you can find all the posts about that topic since 2006, and get a feel for what the issue is about.  There is an issue with connecting this material to essays (and book and movie reviews) on my older sites (“doaskdotell.com”) efficiently – I don’t have the “programming skills” to do this easily.  But here’s an example of how far I have gotten with one topic, “filial responsibility”, link here. I see that I could play with HTML tabs and make this better quickly – but then what happens for mobile users? A related idea would be “opposing viewpoints” (Feb. 29, 2012).
  

 I usually don’t try to write a summary of “all you need to know about …” because it’s always a moving target.  Some topics are just too big and volatile for such an approach to work right now – for example, climate change, or gay marriage.  Some are a bit more fixed now, like “gays in the military”, since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed in 2011.  But there’s a value to presenting (like to high school or college students) why the issue was perceived as a problem, and what perils could still remain.
  

I do know of a few topics that seem to be inadequately covered by the media, and where a strategy like that of Vox could be very beneficial, even game-changing in the public’s grasp of a problem.  One of these would be filial responsibility laws (as connected to increasing life spans and possibly lower birth rates in some communities).  Another would be the murky and upcoming problem of asylum for lesbians and gays from some increasingly hostile countries, including whether individual Americans can do anything about this (whether sponsorship could become an issue) and whether the dissemination of “hyper-individualistic” values in western websites (even like mine) have provided fuel overseas. Still another very critical area is how “downstream liability” protection for service providers is for spontaneity of speech on the Internet – and how this could all be lost suddenly. (That refers to Section 230 and the DMCA Safe Harbor, different but similar concepts).  And most of all might be the issue of power grid vulnerability -- to solar storms, EMP, and cyberterror. 



Okay, here’s an obvious question.  Could I help them?  Down the road, I think so, but I have to become more efficient in getting my own homework done. I’m quite shocked at how, in “retirement”, there simply isn’t enough time to get everything done “by myself”.  Part of the problem is hardiness and stability of infrastructure, and the ability of one person acting independently to procure the level of customer service he needs when something breaks, even if he has warranty or the money to pay for it. My "effectiveness" is "what it is", regardless of the cause of fault, so it really matters to me whether others can do their jobs! I use a wide variety of software products in my work, and I simply don’t have time for complicated updates and interruptions for every new version of a product that a company offers.  I also don’t have time for telemarketing or random sales calls or personalized appeals for donations (which I have automated through my bank).  I do need to go “on the road” (like Jack Kerouac) and remain wired and efficient, more easily than I can now.  I want to start playing better chess (in tournaments) again.  And yes, I need to interface with real people more, and that is problematic (see Aug 25, 2013 and April 1, 2014).  Yet, there must be some way to do this with “indirect” benefit and synergy (sorry about that, service really should invoke self-interest, I rather disagree with the pastor on the April 1 posting).  One obvious idea, working with youth on “online reputation” and cyberbullying issues.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

Today, I played a character of a John Grisham, Vince Flynn, or Boushka novel


I did a minor road day trip today (not exactly worthy of Jack Kerouac), and made a stopover at the NSA, just East of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, slightly more than half way north to Baltimore.  Technically, it’s part of Fort Meade, where I actually played in the Armed Forces Chess Championship in 1969 and stayed in the “barracks” twice (rather nice, even then).

Something curious struck me.  First, there’s a Visitor’s Center, but the gate is closed off, so you obviously can’t go there without an “appointment’.  (I’ll check that later.)  But there is a public parking area to the west of the main group of buildings, next to the “assets”, some WWII era airplanes, an a short “Adventuring” hiking trail to the Cryptography museum. I got there too late for that.  The gate to its own parking lot was open, but the museum itself was closed.


There is a sign in the public parking lot saying that photography of the “assets” (the planes) is OK, but not of the buildings on the campus.  Well, I don’t recall that sign back in 2008, when I was there before.  The idea is absolutely ridiculous.  It’s at least 400 feet to the buildings (a baseball outfield) and there is no way a picture could pick up anything.  Just what do they think a visitor could photograph? Or maybe spy on with some microwave or radio device?  Actually, a renegade spy could bring a homemade flux gun onto the property and probably wreak some havoc for a few hundred feet, unless everything inside the buildings is protected by faraday cages (it probably is).  And no one is watching to make sure you don’t get the buildings (the newer “green” building is quite attractive) into a wideshot.
Remember, individual facts maybe unclassified by themselves, but an assemblage of them can be seen as classified.  But that old idea is getting questioned, as the Internet makes it easier for "amateurs" to connect the dots on their own. 

One other thing about gumshoeing into various past incidents – that is, unsolved crimes.  (Today, I became a John Grisham  -- or Vince Flynn -- character again, which an attorney once used to characterize me.)  Usually, the information in the press is inaccurate, and maps of the area (even Google’s) aren’t completely accurate.  Usually there are dead-end and name-changing streets, and the physical infrastructure in areas where these unseemly things have occurred is usually crumbling and poor.  Pockets of poverty are more common than we think, and drugs and gangs – in “good” neighborhoods --  are probably more common than people would ever want to know.  Not every “hit” is the result of a government conspiracy, even indirect.  But maybe some are – from foreign governments or “non state” actors.  (I won’t be more specific as to what I found out today, for a while. Amateurs do see things – “goon-prints” in social media and in the real world – that the police and even the “fibbies” – and even Edward Snowden -- miss.)  As I look back over my own life, I’m surprised at its stability. 
As a detail, one particular sight caught my eye Monday -- in a sensitive place, there was a woman with a black burqa, completely covering almost all the face.  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Can journalists volunteer regularly for specific charities? An issue at Food and Friends


Will O’Bryan, a journalist with the DC area “gay paper” Metro Weekly, makes an important and disturbing observation on p. 19 of the April 17, 2014 issue, “A Thought for Food & Friends”, link here

O’Bryan went to an event at the important Washington DC charity, founded during the AIDS epidemic, with his husband, but notes his position as a journalist with the newspaper would preclude his volunteering for the group himself. 
  
I wondered if that would be true of any blogger who covers news extensively, even independent bloggers.  That factors into the “conflict of interest” problem I have discussed before, when I was writing a book about the policy regarding gays in the military in the 1990s while working for a company that sold to members of the military.
  
I volunteered for Food and Friends in the 1990s, when the group was near the Navy Yard (and the current Nationals Park) in the money counting area, once a month. A few times I delivered.  I tried doing delivery the day after Christmas in 2011.  It felt like census work. I volunteered for the Red Cross on the phone bank for a while in the fall of 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, but found there was little we could really do.
    
Over time, I’ve tended to find that volunteer work tends not to work out particularly well unless you have a regular commitment to a group and have internalized its aims.   But I keep hearing about calls for “Meals on Wheels”, transportation of patients (which I did one time for another substitute teacher), and even at Hospice.  What’s asked for is something that costs something –- time, purpose, and personal attention, sometimes in surprising situations where one would have thought only privacy matters.
  
Is I noted in a review yesterday of a review of a movie biography of Gore Vidal, writers (and journalists) keep their distance from most people so they can “tell the truth”.  But that need for distance and objectivity can keep journalists from “giving back”, something that sounds morally compelling, and matters very much for social stability and sustainability, as well as supporting the intrinsic value of human life.  It’s a lot of what the ethical teachings in the Gospels (and this is Easter weekend) is about.
  
Anderson Cooper usually hosts “CNN heroes”, and he definitely has paid his dues reporting abroad, but I wonder if he really could do this either. 
   
You wonder if the Chinese were on to something in the 1960’s with their idea of “taking turns”, even if that was Maoist.  Or perhaps the intentional communities are seeing the same problem.   
 




Friday, April 18, 2014

Is Facebook enabling stalking? Not without "opting in"


Facebook is offering an app that will let users know where other friends are geographically when “close by”.  Fortunately, you have to “opt in” to use the app.  The UK Daily Mail has a typical story here

My own reaction would be, this is a “stalking app”.  I don’t generally need to know where my friends are (at least not 24x7 or even in a small area), and I don’t buy the idea that someone needs to be in on your movements to be your “friend”.  It seems that the concept takes things a little bit too far.

The app seems to come from a company called Glancee.

Random surprise glances are, in fact, rather common.  They’ve even happened out of town, at LAX, or recently when I walk out the car near a bank and stripmall to see a car that I recognize next to mine, but not the persons.

I can remember back in New York City, back in 1978, I might have wanted this app.  

Picture artwork: Wikipedia attribution link for Sideling Hill Tunnel, abandoned (PA), link  My last visit to the area, 2011, but I couldn't get close enough to this myself.  I rode through it several times in the 1950's.  It was the longest tunnel on the Turnpike at one time. Would cell phones of cyclists in tunnels get picked up for this app? 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Do rights come from democracy? Or does liberty pre-exist governance? Are individualism and equality in confllict?


Back in the 1990s, a lot of my attention, particularly when I wrote about gays in the military and gay rights, concerned the relationship between “fundamental rights” and the Constitution.
  
Today, George Will has a major column on p. A15 of the Washington Post, “Democracy v. Liberty, or online “Progressives are wrong about the essence of the constitution, link here.  He starts about by taking issue with Stephen Breyer in his 2006 statement that the Constitution is basically about “democracy”.
   
Will points out a basic dichotomy between conservatives (of the libertarian kind) and progressives.   He says that progressives view democracy as a source of liberty, whereas libertarians, at least, believe that liberty pre-exists the state and therefore democracy.

Progressives believe that democracy protects the individual from “the strong”.  Libertarians believe that liberty should protect the individual from the majority, which is strong in numbers, and perhaps solidarity.
How to those who are “different” fit into this?  Liberals want to put “the divergent” into immutable groups and guarantee their rights as derivative of some sort of relative organizational strength, which again favors those in power.  Conservatives, at least social ones, see the “divergent” as mooches who can undermine the moral discipline of others and the ability of everyone to take turns sharing sacrifices.  It’s on the last point that the far left and far right come together.  Remember the ideology of the Cultural Revolution in China in the 1960’s? Libertarians want individual rights to be absolute (which is usually a good thing for gay people for example) but sometimes don’t see the sacrifice and discipline that makes today’s liberty possible.  Some of that “sacrifice” can be emotional – the willingness to enter into and stay in relations that take into account the needs of others and not just one’s own expressive aims. I think the way free speech arguments work gets interesting – it seems to be an absolute right, but the distribution of speech sometimes puts others (especially parents) who have taken on more responsibility in some peril.

As I’ve written in my “Do Ask, Do Tell III” book, I think that there is another way to put this dichotomy:  individualism (that is, more or less absolute liberty, the Barry Goldwater kind that can “shoot straight”) begets innovation, but individualism also depends on inequality, even as hyperindividualism shuns socially necessary interdependence.  It is this fundamental inequality that breeds instability, that makes interdependence necessary and that can become so problematical for the “divergents”.


In the book, I also develop the idea that the way the “divergent” individual balances his or her own expressive desires with the practical needs of others in the immediate family and community becomes a moral issue.  Not everything is a matter of choice and responsibility for choice, because we have all benefited from sacrifices of others that we don’t see. I can go through many incidents in my life, all the way back to boyhood but especially in the college-military years and then more recently, with eldercare, where others could make demands on me that I really could not make free choices about – because I “belong” to a community.  It’s adding up what others really want that becomes difficult, because there are so many contradictions among what “they” want.  (Oh, there is no “they”.)  The extreme case is provided by considering what use I would be in a society after a real catastrophe (like some I have discussed here in book and movie reviews).  Without the ability to belong, I would become like the people I pass by and ignore with disdain. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

DMCA Safe Harbor concept tested in lawsuit against CafePress

There is another important case that tests the way DMCA Safe Harbor works and that might recall the lack of its use in the Righthaven troll matter a couple years ago.  This case is Gardner v. CafePress, as explained by Electronic Frontier Foundation in an article by Parker Higgins and Corynne McSherry.  The article in turn links to an amicus brief. 
  
CafePress lets users set up online stores to sell goods.  Apparently a user included some wildlife photography by Steven Gardner, who sued and claims that CafePress does not enjoy DMCA SafeHarbor protection for two reasons.  The plaintiff claims that the defendant is not a true service provider because it apparently does some of its own publishing or business on the site. (A blogger who just does his own postings is not a service provider, but if her site allows others to post without prior review, I would think that could qualify as a service provider; that point came up in some of the cases involving Righthaven.)  It also claims that its stripping of metadata from photographs, common done in social media (including Facebook) presumably to protect the privacy of posters, amounts to non-compliance with the expectation of using all readily available standard technical means in allowing infringing material to be indemnified.  Apparently if the metadata were left on, it would be easier for a potential plaintiff to find it.

  

EFF argues that these points of law should have been resolved by the judge in a summary judgment and that the case should not go to trial.    
  
Picture: an example of metadata, source is my own train set  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Student recording a bullying incident at school on iPad faced wiretapping charges!

A student at a Pennsylvania high school, South Fayatte in McDonald, recorded a bullying incident in his special education math class.  He was then prosecuted for felony wiretapping, before the charge was reduced to disorderly conduct.  The school apparently showed no interest in disciplining the students doing the bullying.  The American Conservative has a link for the story here.  The recording had been made on a school-issued iPad. 
  
When I worked as a substitute teacher, I found it very difficult to enforce the rules of others in situations where the rules seemed unnecessary or simply a way to maintain a consistent chain of authority.  It was difficult for me to step in to “somebody else’s” chain of command and be believed.

The article presented a country-western item by Pete Seeger, “What did you learn in school today?

  

McDonald is SW of Pittsburgh, maybe thirty miles from the school where the knifing incident occurred.  Schools feel they are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to security, having to strictly enforce rules that backfire.  
   
Picture: Washington, PA, Nov. 2012 (my trip)

Monday, April 14, 2014

EFF challenges Ninth Circuit takedown, gag order on "Innocence of Muslims" copyright case as precedent-setting giving in to bullying

Electronic Frontier Foundation has more news about the “Innocence of Muslims” case  Apparently the normally liberal to temperate Ninth Circuit ordered that the YouTube video with the supposed 5-second "copyright clip” be kept off the web even though the Circuit agreed that the copyright claim sounded weak and dubious, and it even issued a gag order, preventing Google from talking about the case for a full week.  The EFF article on its amicus brief (linked) is here.   It called this a “dangerous” even if temporary ruling.  

The gag order obviously was motivated by overseas security concerns for the subject.  But giving in to it would allow extremists to bully speech off the Internet merely by making physical threats.

It appears to me that the film is back on YouTube now. 
  
  
In the video above, Jeff Waldorf speaks about the case for TYT Nation.
  
Picture: Friday, near Sugarload Mountain, notice a touch of David Lynch in the picture? 


Friday, April 11, 2014

Press release from book publishing service helps pin down my own philosophy


I did get a press release form from XLibris to approve regarding my latest book, “Do Ask, Do Tell: Speech Is a Fundamental Right, Being Listened to Is a Privilege” (“DADT III”), which will stress that the book is the third of a series (see Book Reviews Blog, Feb. 27). 

  
It says that, within the United States Armed Forces treatment of homosexuals through the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, from 1993 until 2011), I saw a mirror of the progress of my own life.  True, that’s a good metaphor.  Part of that reflection backtracks to the Vietnam era military draft and deferment system.
  
I do think that the release gets to the core of my argument.  Sometimes a different person can state something succinctly that “you” have been spiraling around, as if afraid of an event horizon.  Individualism, even carried to excess, produces innovation and more culture, and raises the standard of living for everyone over time.  But individualism is predicated on a kind of differential and inevitable inequality (I am reminded of a friend's favorite phrase, "inevitable epigrams"). As an irony, that inequality produces instability in society, which can become uncontrollable, leading to expropriation and revolution, if those who are more fortunate don’t use their capabilities wisely, even in interpersonal interactions.
  
The other part is about family responsibility.  Yes, it is sometimes imposed on people, regardless of their own choices and “personal responsibility”, as with eldercare, or with childless or single adults suddenly raising siblings’ children after family tragedies.  Family is both a creator of individualism and a challenge to it.  There is always a moral tension between “taking care of your own” and moving out into the world beyond family.
  
Another major point, not quite included in the press release, but a corollary, would be the point that unrestrained “self-broadcast” and asymmetric reach can become dangerous if not balanced by capacity to take responsibility for others. Luck does have a bearing on our concept of responsibility. 
   
I have a link with a “sneak preview” of the more exact quote, here

A part of me can relate to what may be behind some of these rampages by male teens and young adults (latest).  Young men, especially, find that society is making pressures on them, to serve cohesion-related needs other than their own, in situations that for some reason make them feel humiliated (even bullied) in front of other peers.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Embeds and copyright: revisiting some litigation in 2011-2012

Earlier today, I posted a review of a PBS Nova show (on the TV blog) and an embed of the show from YouTube that appeared to have been posted by PBS. Pubic Television sometimes posts videos of its programs for free viewing, although it generally tries to sell DVD’s of them (or rent them to subscribers as through Netflix) in order to earn some revenue.  When I checked this evening, I found that the embed didn’t work and that YouTube had already removed the user for “commercial deception” so apparently the particular account had been set up to impersonate PBS. 
  
I have noticed that some embeds stop working after some time.  Sometimes a user has been removed for multiple complaints of copyright infringement.  Sometimes the video has been taken private (which may mean that the owner wants to sell it on Amazon or Netflix or iTunes soon) or sometimes it says that the video does not exist.  I haven’t seen a notice that a user was removed for spam or “commercial deception” before.
Generally, I don’t embed a video that looks like it is likely to be infringing.  But if the origin is depicted as the content owner and it is fraudulent, there is no way for a blogger to know.  Of course, if YouTube (or similar provider like Vimeo) takes the original video down, then the embed cannot play it, and any theoretical secondary infringement could no longer happen.  I’ve never heard of a DMCA takedown for an embed. 


In April 2012, Timothy B Lee (now with Vox Media) has posted a story about litigation brought by the MPAA to remove the legal distinction between hosting infringing content and embedding it, on Ars Technica,  ("MPAA: You can infringe just by embedding a video") detailed explanation here. The original opinion had supported this idea, in the case Flava Wors v. myVidster, Salsaindy, Voxel et al., in Illinois, decision in July 2011, link here

Alyssa Rosenberg has an article in ThinkProgress in April 2012, “The lawsuit that could change video embedding as we know it:, link here.

Apparently the Seventh Circuit ruled rather quickly, with a decision on Aug. 2, 2012, reproduced in Techdirt (here), that embedding could not contribute to copyright or even “performance” infringement, although the ruling seems to leave open other somewhat vague theories under which a bad-faith or deliberate embedder might be pursued.  “Viewing” copyrighted materials illegally might be theft and prosecutable in some kinds of situations, but doing so does not constitute copyright infringement itself. I have not heard of any more developments on this issue since the summer of 2012.  Remember there have been rare cases of litigation for other torts associated with hyperlinks, including libel.  

If this latest ruling from the 7th Circuit hadn't come forth, I wonder if Google would be embedding YouTube videos that members make comments on in the members' Google+ feeds.  

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Some thoughts about a meeting concerning the future of the church of my own youth (First Baptist of the City of Washington DC)


On Sunday, April 6, 2014, I stayed well past the usual brunch and attended a symposium held by a consultant for the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, to discuss the long decline of the church in which I had grown up.  

Mainline churches tended to do well until the late 1960s, when values began to change as a result of social changes, partly having to do with resentment of the Vietnam War as well as with the Civil Rights Movement (and soon to follow, Stonewall and gay rights).  Declines have set in with many mainstream churches, and some congregations have died, with the sale of their buildings to other interests. 
  
The Church today has the budget of a “Multi-celled” or even “Professional church”, partly because of real estate income associated with the apartment building going up on its former parking lot. It has one of the largest and newest concert organs in the nation.  It was fitting that the organ postlude (which the congregation now stays for) had been “A Solemn Melody” by Davies.

The Church has a declining Sunday attendance, with a decline persisting for some years, and now the attendance matches that of a “clergy centered church”. In fairness, some of the decline in the most recent years could have been related to loss of use of the sanctuary for a number of months for construction to put in the new organ.  The church had to meet in the Fellowship Hall for much of 2012 and early 2013. 
   
Now at this point, I have to say that I can compare this meeting with other sessions I heard over the years, at Metropolitan Community Church (in Dallas, then Washington, and Minneapolis) and even the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas (now part of UCC), which is very much at least a “professional church” in this jargon.  I’ve heard similar analysis before.  And I’ve heard before that the Vietnam era broke the pattern of conventional church growth.
  
I can recall (while “home” from Dallas, where I then lived) a Christmas dinner in 1983 at the home of church friends of my parents in McLean, VA, where the friend asked, “what was going to happen to the church?” 
    
The presentation listed all the previous pastors back to Edward Hughes Pruden, in 1936 (pastor until about 1969 as I recall).  Pruden was the pastor when the present sanctuary building opened on Christmas Day, 1955, with a lot of blue light coming through windows yet to be filled with stained glass. I was baptized with my mother in late January, 1956, at the age of 12, when in seventh grade.  I recall attending Sunday School taught by president Jimmy Carter in the balcony in 1977 (I think it was the “divorce chapter”).   I networked with Dr. Goodwin (pastor from 1981 to about 1994) on the debate over gays in the military that erupted as Bill Clinton became president in 1993.  Dr. Haggray arranged the memorial service for my mother in early 2011.    
  
There has been a pattern since Pruden left for pastors to seem more liberal on some issues than some in the congregation.  Since the church is affiliated with both American and Southern Baptist conventions, there has always been a widespread diversity of views on most social issues, even if the overall mood is somewhat liberal, at least among younger and now middle aged members.  Various management issues have developed with a few of the pastors, including the one who left recently (Haggray).  I have no particular knowledge of the details of the various problems and no real position on them, other than the idea that a wide divergence of views on things among the congregation can lead to tension.  I can recall a letter from a Dr. Jones (from GWU) in the late 1960s on the very rigorous educational requirements that any new pastor should have.
  
I also recall the youth programs of the 1950s, held on Sunday nights and sometimes Saturday mornings, including choir, and the various sessions in the Youth Lounge, and then various church retreats to Shrine Mont (near the West Virginia border).    There were one or two particularly charismatic young individuals in the groups then (one whom I recall from Florida), an experience I have seen occur more recently in other churches.  In more recent years, FBC has supported trips to Nacascolo (a mission in Nicaragua), a relief trip after Hurricane Katrina (which turned out to be difficult, according to reports), and a few years ago did support a young peoples’ Thirty Hour Fast. 
  
FBC even produced a DVD of an “independent film” (100 minutes, “The First 200 Years: A Video Overview of the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC”) of its history, in 2004. 
I don’t usually speak at FBC meetings these days, as I am not officially a member, but I did this time.  I offered two comments.


One is that Dr. Pruden, raised and educated in Richmond, was ahead of his time on social issues, especially race, even in the early 1950s.  His 1951 book “Interpreters Needed: The Eternal Gospel and our Contemporary Society” lays out some of his positions, and delves into how a Christian nation, Germany, could have allowed the Nazi takeover and Holocaust to happen.  Likewise, almost all the other pastors have been progressive, more so than some of the congregation.

The other is that, in many other churches I have visited, many in other cities (most of all, Dallas) I tend to see a lot more emotion and passion among membership than I usually see at FBC.  You could say that “radical hospitality” comes from this passion.  This sometimes extends to summer mission trips to third world (at least Central American) countries, with very close-up and personal interaction with local people, probably above my own social capacities, at least.  I had noticed that in a “short film” about Trinity Presbyterian’s (Arlington) mission to Belize in 2012.
The facilitator closed by suggesting that the congregation would have to think carefully about the qualities it wanted in a pastor.  

Monday, April 07, 2014

Online reputation really matters for sales people


I found, through an email this Monday morning, a post from a marketing consultant, Sam Richter, with the captivating title, “Is Facebook destroying your business opportunities?”, link here. He refers to his work as the "Know More Blog", which reminds me of Farmers Insurance, "The more you know, the better you're prepared for what's ahead".  
   
It’s pretty obvious that the concern isn’t related just to Facebook.  In earlier days, it was Myspace (as on Dr. Phil’s “Internet Mistakes” (TV blog, Jan. 15, 2008) or just plain personal sites (like with the fictitious screenplay I had posted on my own doaskdotell.com and that caused a ruckus when I was substitute teaching – see July 27, 2007 on this blog).  Richter focuses on the belief that privacy settings on Facebook really keep things private, which we know they don’t (people repeat things, just like they did in the good old days before the Internet).   YouTube videos obviously fit into the discussion.

Richter’s concerns are specific for people in sales, who have to be concerned about driving away business opportunities (all the more so when they are business owners instead of employees).  One woman lost an executive job opportunity with a small company because of a post about her husband’s medical problems, apparently to a friends-only profile.  But the new employers seems to have passed her over because of its fear of medical claims (wouldn’t Obamacare take care of that?)  Another person lost an issue over a partisan political issue (yes, Republicans and Democrats).  If you work or sell on K Street, that could matter. To a techie and individual contributor like me, such behavior by employers sounds despicable.


You have to know your audience, and see who has a stake in you.  I see young actors and singers making energetic and perhaps satirical videos or whole web series that are double-edged, and these works make a wonderful impression with the right audience.  But, in show business, young artists have to wonder what context agents will perceive when they find their videos online.  It seems like context is everything.  You have to pay attention to whether your visitors will find other materials that place your edgy context in the right "true" light.

A number of years ago, pundits were talking about “employee blogging policies”, and concerns that unsupervised public broadcast of personal opinions, at least from managerial or underwriting employees, could cause disruptions in the workplace.  Social media, with the concept of whitelisting and audience-targeting, pretty much covered up the issue.  I’ve explained elsewhere how this can become a “conflict of interest” problem, link

Social media have made sure that it is no longer possible to lead a double life, with two quasi-public personas.  The days of "don't ask, don't tell" and the mentality that justified it are clearly over. 
    
Even in personal interactions we have to think about context.  About a year ago a young bartender said something when serving me that might have been offensive out of context.  I knew the person and what he really meant, so I wasn’t disturbed.  But some people might have been.  

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Media outlets, and even bloggers, may egg on unstable people into life-ending gun vengeance for celerbity

Army Spc Ivan Lopez had “ranted” on Facebook about the way the media glorifies “villains” who seek public revenge, an irony given that Lopez did the same thing himself at Fort Hood. 
  
CNN has a story that gives details about the Facebook post here.   He refers to Adam Lanza as having sough “publicity and their (his) minute of fame as a villain”, and then refers to shooters as “intelligent cowards”.
  
But the Washington Times, in an op-ed by Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, vets the same sentiments, that the media is encouraging narcissistic people to seek fame as the vent their angry on those who “victimized” them, or others in related classes of people, “Fort Hood and the celebrity of suicide: America’s fascination with mass killings eggs on the next shooter”, link here.

Shaprio writes, “We have to actually start exercising our own discretion by what we watch on television, and what we say on social media and how we interact with others without being force to do it.”

I wonder if in some of these cases the young men felt they had been humiliated repeatedly for not being able to keep up in doing certain kinds of things expected by others.  

One of my first “tricks” ever, on New Years’ Night back in 1976, said that his biggest concern in the world was “the abuse of the media”.  That was in the days long before self-broadcast and blogging. 

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Craigslist may facilitate theft rings, but it also helps police run stings to foil criminals

Thieves are trying to sell stolen items on Craigslist, and police are setting up stings on Craigslist to catch them.

The latest example happened recently in Laurel, Maryland (half way between Washington and Baltimore).  A man found all the wheels and rims removed and was able to identify them on Craigslist (it’s not completely clear how he knew they were his).  He called police, who set up a sting to buy the items and arrested the thief.


A typical Craigslist page for auto parts is here.  I see the map link, but the pic links didn’t seem to work when I looked. 

The problem seems to be particularly true for wheels on certain model cars.   I can remember, when living in Dallas, that “T Tops” were popular with thieves in the 1980s.  But some people will see this kind of crime as inevitable in a world with this much "inequality", although the insularity is certainly less.