Monday, August 03, 2020

Senate Commerce Committee looks at PACT Act and Section 230

United States Senate Floor

On Tuesday, July 28, 2020, The USA Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing, “The PACT Act and Section 230: The Impact of the Law that Helped Create the Internet and an Examination of Proposed Reforms for Today’s Online World.”
  
  
  
Electronic Frontier Foundation has an op-ed on the hearing by Sofia Cope and Aaron Mackey, “The PACT Act is not the solution to the problem of harmful online content”. 
  
The argument here seems a little bit forced.  Section 230 protection would end if a platform fails to take required action from a court when content is declared illegal (most likely CSAM, or related to FOSTA).  But the ruling might have been by default or not normally indicative of precedent, or the action might have happened with a SLAPP suit (or it might be motivated now by identarian SJW activism).
    
The law needs to be thought about in connection with another bill that is more controversial, EAEN It.

Wikipedia embed of Senate Chamber picture, click for attribution. 

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Radical Leftists extorting small businesses to support "reparations" and other Marxist-like agenda (in the name of BLM), one reason to "abolish police"?

SouLouIq2


A Cuban-immigrant owned business in Louisville KY is attracting its own demonstrators after far-Left activists, claiming to represent Black Lives Matter, made demands on the business for quotas in hiring, patronage of black-owned-business and even public support of the reparations movement.
  
The Louisville Courrier-Journal (Gannett) reports the story here (story by Bailey Loosemore).
  
 
There are some “extenuating” historical circumstances, including the gentrification of a formerly black neighborhood in which the business is located.

But structurally this would be like a webhost or social media company saying, if you want to use our platform and even promote your business or even self-publish, you have to raise money for an approved anti-racist non-profit first.
  
Tim Pool, in the video above, connects this to his own theory on abolishing the police, and it makes a crude sense.

Picture: Hills south of Louisville, embed from Wikipedia, click for attribution;  I drove through there once in 1970 in the way between Indianapolis and Bowling Green to visit a former grad school roommate. 

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Bizarre Twitter trolling and DMCA misuse scheme described by EFF; also DMCA on Twitch



Electronic Frontier Foundation has an op-ed (no article author named), "Self-discovered Twitter troll Ryan Hitze discovers new way to troll Twitter: the DMCA".

The article describes a legal battler between former football star/lifestyle coach and journalist Luke O’Neal.

I don’t understand, in an economic sense, how the Twitter following and unfollowing (like a toggle switch) can work, and the 2018 Vice article is merely hard to follow.  But it’s very strange that any tech company would honor a DMCA takedown request, as it has nothing to do with copyright.  Theoretically you can talk about defamation or right of publicity, but these sound like a stretch by most common sense.   And Section 230 is what applies to those.

I do see something else relevant, however.  That is, referring back to my “Dangerous Thought Experiment” of the past (My “doaskdotell” home page video), that some day the tech industry (and maybe the law) may require people have a legitimate business purpose to have “branded” presence on the Internet at all. This is partly based on a more recent theory (since Charlottesville) that “gratuitous” speech represent a stochastic threat.  This episode shows the bizarre schemes site owners would come up with to make a site appear self-supporting if this was done. 
      
  
  
“TheScore Esports” explains that Twitch has been giving copyright strikes, leading to an “apocalypse”.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Patreon seems to be in real trouble with a major legal loss; maybe Youtube patronage as a whole is in trouble as an income source?


A huge legal mess has developed between Patreon, and the fans of people it has banned, especially Own Benjamin (not Carl).
  

The Daily Dot explains the problem before, and Timcast expands in a video.

This is very complicated and I won’t try to resummarize it.  Maybe Hoeg Law will do a video on this.
One complication is that some fans have been sued.  But Patreon might be hit with thousands of arbitration claims.

This could threaten Patreon and maybe similar patronage sites and their use as a way to make a living.

I cannot use it because I have inherited assets and managed a trust, and that links to other problems (“gratuitous speech” and stochastic risks) that I have talked about before.
   
Stay tuned on this one. Daily Dot link

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Problem with new Blogger editor makes it hard to edit links


I am suddenly having a problem with the new Blogger.

If I insert a link, the new Blogger deletes some text around the link or the link itself in what it shows to the Blogger, even though it will sometimes browse properly to the user.


If I revert to the old Blogger, it seems to display it properly.

The problem may apply mainly to a situation where I’ve reverted to the Classic in order to embed an image from Wikipedia or embed a video I couldn’t find.
  
You may notice that on a few posts I have put the links at the bottom, for the time being.  

The problem seems to occur when I hit update on a post (I think when I save before update too).  It will have browsed, but the act of opening the post (edit) to update it when previously published causes it to delete some text around the link and the link itself. The system tries to update the content before you actually edit again! 

My environment is Microsoft Windows 10 Creators Update 1904.  
 
There seems to be a new support ticket

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

House Judiciary Committee holds anti-trust hearings of big-tech

United States House of Representatives chamber

The House Judiciary Committee today conducted 5-hour hearings, “Online Platforms and Market Power: Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google".


 At one point Zuckerberg joked that he would not buy Facebook. 

Ad Robertson summarizes the hearings for The Verge (Vox) as picked up on my iPhone by Smart News.  The Wall Street Journal has a little booklet with numerous articles, each about an individual Company.  CNN has a detailed report by Brian Fung.   

 Cicilline (D-RI) asked if Google’s scraping of reviews to sell more ads amounted to “conflict of interest”.
   
James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) asked Zuckerberg (speaking from home) why Facebook had deleted a post about hydroxzychloroquine, and Zuckberberg had to correct him, saying it was Twitter.
   
Matt Gaetz (R-WI) asked if Google would refrain from following some employee demands and not refuse police contracts.
   
Cicilline questioned Bezos on Amazon’s conflicts of interest with some booksellers and third party sellers.
   
There were questions over whether Facebook has threatened to clone the products of a company while trying to acquire it – leading to questions about Instagram.
    
There were questions about Airbnb’s “virtual travel” products, which shows that tech companies are trying to adapt to the travel restrictions with new online services, some of which might be gratuitous.
     
Rep. Gohmert was ordered to put his mask on. Pelosi will create a mandatory mask policy in Congress.
    
(Wikipedia image of the House of Representatives, click for CCSA attribution.) 
   
Links:



CNN 

(Note:  I am having some problems with links and the new Blogger editor.  I may have to put them at the end of a post sometimes, and may have to use the old editor for a while.) 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Social media, even hosting sites now take action about coronavirus misinformation (especially about masks, and questionable treatments)


A video made by a group called “America’s Frontline Doctors” was taken down by YouTube, Facebook and Twitter for providing harmful misinformation about coronavirus, especially claims about hydroxychloroquine.

WJLA7 and BBC have typical stories.   But there are still some videos with the group on YouTube as I just checked.

Furthermore, the group’s web hosting company Squarespace replaced the site landing page with one that says “website expired”, an idea from one of my screenplays.

It’s unusual for webhosts to take down a site, but the practice became more common after Charlottesville.

"Misinformation" about masks could be a sensitive matter (Donald J. Trump Jr. got suspended for twelve hours from Twitter, CNN), as it would still come across as a politicized “debate” rather than an order with which we need real compliance.  But other sensitive matters could come up, like if it is determined later that masks need to be of a certain quality or specificity.

A Yale Professor Harvey A Risch is critical of the testing protocols used to discredit hydroxychloroquine, as in this op-ed  in Newsweek.  Peak Prosperity believes that it may be effective with zinc (as well as azythromycin) and I have personally heard of cases where patients have recovered quickly – but they were otherwise healthy and this may not prove much.
Personally, if you are a patient and are well enough to research at home, I urge you to bone up on it and ask your doctor about various treatments.

 ZDoggMD has a balanced perspective on the AFD video and says it should not be censored. 


Monday, July 27, 2020

YouTube takes down a chess livestream because bots interprets common chess idioms (with Black and White) as racist


Agadmator’s Chess Channel reports that a livestream of a chess lesson was taken down with a community guidelines warning (in late June).


He had great difficulty getting YouTube to listen to his appeal.

“YouTube takes down Chess podcast for being harmful or dangerous”.

Apparently bots were offended by the terminology of chess, like ‘White stands better”, or “Black has no compensation for the lost pawn”.  He says he is not allowed to discuss “the current situation” (the pandemic and anti-racism) on his channel and doesn’t name it in this video.  It looks like the podcast was later restored. 

Chess game shown: Chess Life and Review July 2020 p. 20 Sicilian Dragon B78, Jirasek v. Wu, White won. 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

I pop the question on a total nationwide lockdown for five weeks


With all the talk about a national lockdown (previous post), I got mad and made this post this morning.


The “obvious” reason to do this is to (1) Open schools in the fall (2) stop the violent protests (3) shift the burden away from low income (minority) workers.

All very authoritarian and Maoist.

Or, will the epidemic calm down if everyone wears a mask?

O thought they said that before. 

Total lockdown might well mean you take down social media and most of the web and media, too.  It’s unnecessary, isn’t it?  Most of us would be disappeared forever.   (The big media outlets survive. Read between the lines, please;  low cost lowballing destroys traditional media jobs?) 

So “ask” when necessary (“do ask do tell”).  This is indeed Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”. Keep in mind that China has put us to shame with its willingness to do authoritarianism (shaming our own lack of personal self-discipline down to an individual level), because most of China seems to be functioning as it had before.

 The other good question would be, can testing and contact tracing (some of it automated South Korea style) even be in operation before schools start if "we" want to do this? 


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Medical groups call for complete national lockdown now (for US); to get schools open in fall? to stop protests?


A new open letter from a group of medical professionals urges Trump to order a complete national lockdown now.  “Best of Life online” reprints the letter .  Later (early AM July 24) CNN (Shelby Lin et al) wrote its account of the letter here. 

Leana S. Wen (from Hopkins, often on CNN) explains the three major strategies in the Washington Post  


(Video above:  ABC News in Australia, March 2020) 

There is still a lot of wiggle room in what a full national lockdown really means.  Some accounts make it sound lenient –  you can drive around locally for exercise, get essential repairs in your house, get your computer replaced, etc.  That’s how it was in Virginia in March and April (I really had no problems at all).   See July 14 posting, also. 


But other accounts would make it close to martial law.  It is very dangerous for the federal government to decide what is "essential".  A lot of "things" would never be allowed back. We could well shut down social media completely as unnecessary. And a couple weeks ago, we were told the problem would go away if everybody would wear masks.  (Everybody won't.) 


One reason to try something like this right now is to be able to open schools in the fall.  Another reason would be to stop all the protests. That would include Portland for openers, although the mayor there says things had calmed down before the federal troops came in.  But this would sound like a desperate gambit for the November election  (not exactly a King's Gambit in chess, which is probably unsound).  

There's one more caveat.  Since China was certainly criminally negligent around the beginning of 2020, Trump could reasonably claim that American civilians should understand that this is wartime.  There is a paradox in a draft dodger's ranting about the "China virus" or "Wuhan virus" but it's dangerous. 



Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Twitter's purge of accounts associated with a certain conspiracy theory draws more unfavorable attention to Section 230


Hoeg Law has an important video today, “Twitter vs. Qanon: Big Tech Censorhip, CDA230, and Sreisand”.

He is referring to Twitter’s new safety policy regarding “coordinated harm” and some fraudulent accounts that were talking about Qanon (the conspiracy theory about “deep state” that led to PizzaGate in December 2016).


Twitter Safety details its actions in a thread. Apparently it will ban links to Qanon sites; it is very unusual to ban mere hyperlinking to lawful material.  Twitter is also deciding that his one "group" or "ideology" is more "dangerous" than others (as Facebook did with some groups and individuals in 2018). 

Elizabeth Nolan Brown has a descriptive article in Reason.

Ben Collins et al give more details on NBC News.

Hoeg points out that CDA230, however ironically, facilitates Twitter’s selective moderation without downstream liability. 

But the actions it takes may become so capricious that users will have no reasonable way to guess when they are crossing the line.

Hoeg feels Twitter’s action will further embolden Biden to try to cancel Section 230. He also points out that a policy like this merely draws more people to want to know about it, the Streisand Effect. 


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Blogger (the platform this post is on) has a new editor


Visitors may have noticed some changes in the appearance of blog postings lately.  That comes from the fact that Blogger has rolled out a new interface starting in May 2020.  The service offers the blogger the opportunity to switch to classic blogger when doing a post, but that possibility will expire on Monday Aug. 24, 2020.

I have had some difficulty after, on July 12, the “<>” toggle switch to go to html mode seemed to disappear.  Instead, the service placed a pencil mark on the upper left side which opens to the toggle, but gave no explanation.

Blogger’s changes are said to be motivated by the desire to make the mobile experience better and improve search engine ranking for commerce.

The new interface offers the opportunity to search YouTube videos by title to embed automatically in a way that fits a mobile device.

Here is a descriptive post from “Destined Boy”.

We had not heard a lot of news about Blogger before May.  A social networking service Google-Plus was largely shut down March 7, 2019.  I have wondered about how Blogger can make Google (or Alphabet) money when it has never been upscaled to the content management professional style of Wordpress, but wants the reputation of being faster and simpler to use, and is more usable on mobile devices.

I still have concerns over the availability of all of these platforms (beyond what we call interactive social media) indefinitely if there are severe strains on Internet performance as schools have to use them in the fall given the virus situation.


Video by Nava Eri June 2020.

As I had explained here on Feb. 27, 2019, I must simply my “branded’ Internet presence by the end of 2021.  I do not expect to use free service platforms (except video in a much tighter sense) after 2022 begins.  I don’t want to speculate here on how the pandemic would affect it, but I’ll have more to say soon on the DADTNotes blog.  


Monday, July 20, 2020

Two homicides (NJ, CA) have a possible bizarre connection to military draft (Selective Service) issue

There is a bizarre twist to two assassination attempts, one in California (Crestline, San Bernadino County) on Wednesday July 12 of Marc Angelucci, 52; and more recently Sunday, in North Brunswick, NJ, of the college age son (and shooting of husband) of Judge Ester Salas (who was unharmed).

The details of the Salas incident are in an ABC News story by Josh Margolin et al.  They include the finding of the suspect, an attorney Roy Den Hollander, dead in is car in Rockland County NY, which may have been a suicide.

(Timcast has a video on the Salas case). 

There are details of the California incident in a UK Daily Mail story by Marlene Lenthang. NBC News tonight mentioned that Hollander had been a person of interest in the California case. 

Angelucci and Hollander were both involved in “men’s rights” as described in the stories, or sometimes viewed as “anti-feminist”.

Angelucci had worked on a case in 2019 in which a federal court declared the male-only registration for Selective unconstitutional, reversing a 1981 Supreme Court ruling because the military services now allow women to in almost all combat roles. Although the ruling is under appeal it is thought to be unlikely to go anywhere if Congress either decides to extend Selective Service Registration to women, or to eliminate it.  This was emerging as a political debate until Covid-19 came along and reinforced the idea of government actions on civilians with quarantines (and now mask wearing)

But Hollander had worked on a case were a female had wanted to register for Selective Service. Surprisingly, the LGBT lobby has little noticed the idea that Selective Service registration is based on birth gender (no allowance for the idea of trans or non-binary).  The case was apparently before Judge Salas and Hollander was reportedly replaced on the case. 

Some of the details of these two incidents resemble the killing of national security technician Kanika Powell near Laurel MD in 2008 (story, see also TV blog, Jan. 24, 2015 on an NBC Datelines story “The Unusual Suspect’, also this on another Wordpress blog).

 The whole issue of the military draft and the deferment system has been a very important part of my own writing (as in the way I connected it to the "gays in the miltiary" issue in my three DADT books) since the 1990s. I lived in northern NJ from 1972-1974, including 8 months in Piscataway, not far from New Brunswick.  The picture above is Bloomfield Ave in Caldwell NJ, westbound, 2011. 


Sunday, July 19, 2020

How do you want ME to practice anti-racism, specifically?


I am half way through Robin DiAngelo’s book “White Fragility” book – on Kindle it is inconvenient to peruse, and will review it on Wordpress, but I am still wonder, what do you want ME, a retired 77 year old white gay male, to do about this personally?  What do you demand of me?  OK, anti-racism is more than the lack of racsim.  Just as caring is more than the lack of direct harm, or loyalty is more than the lack of betrayal. 



(Above: "PBS, How anti-racism is a treatment for the 'cancer' of racism")

I pose the question particularly in conjunction with what I see as a very challenging time ahead for Internet free speech, in the style I have developed since the late 1990s, without gatekeepers.  That is no longer a guaranteed right, and we could face a time in the near future (on the other side of the pandemic) that if you want to he heard online, you must meet some norms of social creditworthiness, monitored by the platforms, rather than government (as in China).

Social creditworthiness might include various kinds of community engagement to give something back from a position of past privilege, if in fact you have one.  (I would have a problem in that sense). 

But that idea is getting obscured by the idea that every white person must face up to the fact that they have (unfairly if unknowingly) benefited from a systemic injustice from the past (specifically derived from slavery) and must participate in making reparations or actually join a political movement to overturn the system.  This quickly can run into Marxism, to be sure.

There’s plenty of reason to say, whoa there. First, race is an arbitrary designation.  There are other racial minorities (especially Native Americans) who could make a similar claim.  Where do you draw a line with an individual person?  Obviously, we are bringing back reverse racism.

Most of the articles addressing what “you” want talk about confronting family and relatives in social situations (as I [["incel"] have no kids and no contact with them, there is no reason for that to come up in my own life, although it has happened in the distant past), to self-education (no problem there), to suggestions that you direct financial and personal support to black organizations or to the movement (as a kind of quid pro quo) and raise money in your own social media for their causes.  “They” seem to want to be first in line with demands.

Here are a few typical articles: (Vox, Anna North, June 3), (Bthechange, Christina Marie Noel, June 3), (Insidehighered, “A Call to Action”, Jourdain Hillare, June 10) .

Many prominent and well-liked young white adults with YouTube and Instagram channels and various companies or interests jumped on and posted strong suggestions that everyone need to join this specific effort, almost as if they felt compelled to in order to retain viewership. In some cases they posted the black squares branding their pages.  In one case, there was a plea to provide bail money to protesters and accusations against at least one apparently abusive policewoman.
 
Jonathan Chait has a counterpiece in New York Magazine, where he notes the more radical activists have attacked individualism, scientific method, and logical thinking, as somehow instruments of “oppression” – with a chart from the DC African American Museum that got widely circulated (and ridiculed) on Twitter.  Of course, Chait's remarks could be balanced by the observation that "Black Lives Matter", as a movement, is very much about identifying with a group before you become yourself as an individual -- necessary for a lot of people in practice -- and a source of a lot of class resentment. It's "easier" for some people to bundle them into groups before negotiating anything.  (And no, I am not non-binary.) 
  
Nick Gillespie interviews Kmele Foster on Reason (July 15), with an hour long podcast that maintains “Black Lives Matter is hostile to free markets and capitalism”.  Indeed, ponder some of the most extreme demands of some activists, do dismantle law enforcement altogether so that everyone suffers the same risk of violence -- and will be drawn into their Marxist (even Maoist) moral agenda.   Yet this same agenda sees the world in terms of power structures, with individuals benefiting not from their own direct work but from deriving privilege from an existing system.  That means these individuals are wiped out of existence if that system is overthrown. 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic spread is making this wave dangerously hard to control (politically) in the US


There a couple of important articles today on where we’re headed.

The Washington Post, in a detailed article by Arianna Eunjung Cha, discusses the issue of superspreaders, especially in conjunction with the more recent concerns over aerosolized transmission.

Many buildings, including condos and apartments, might have to take a hard look at their ventilation systems (especially central air).  Perhaps businesses could install new ultraviolet devices to kill aerosolized virus.

There could also be a concern that we develop evidence that some asymptomatic people have trouble completely eliminating virus that can be transmitted, and put them in legal danger of permanent quarantine, like “Typhoid Mary”.  It would be very important to develop antivirals that can be given early.  There are some disturbing, although inconclusive, reports that reducing testosterone in men may make them less likely to become infected or to eliminate infection (GLBT blog July 15), something I would want no part of.


(Video, Ted Talk, How the pandemic will shape the near future, Bill Gates.)

Helen Branswell writes in Stat (and Apple News) “How to fix the COVID Dumpster Fire in the U.S."  Yes, a total lockdown is untenable. She wisely focuses on keeping people from congregating in enclosed indoor spaces.  That might cut retail back to just grocery and pharmacy everywhere for some weeks.  But what about all the workplaces that support the power grid, and Internet. Much of this is now work-from-home, which makes it more vulnerable to hacks. We could argue that you even shut a lot of that down to a bare minimum if you don’t want people in enclosed spaces at all, but then do sites and everything else come back, or are some of them not allowed to if they aren’t commercial or essential enough? We seem to be headed to an almost Marxist view of what activities in society should carry on, given that the future could be much more challenging from the viewpoint of controlling disease than it ever has been, for some years.


Friday, July 17, 2020

What happens if we do contact tracing by smart phone, like in South Korea?



The Wall Street Journal shows in a video how far South Korea has gone to do contact tracing by smartphone.

Such measures in the United States would probably violate the Fourth Amendment. But companies could agree not to allow consumers on their premises or even to use their services without fulling enabling apps like these, which in the US so far are not as well developed.


It’s also worthy of note that some hotel chains do offer their rooms to persons ordered to self-isolate. 

Bedding, linen, and meals are left outside rooms.  Apparently wi-fi is offered and presumably the person can bring their own electronics to continue working.   This article goes back to March, 2020. 

But the person ordered to self-isolate does have to foot the bill.  Reasons for this self-isolation might include other persons in the household or perhaps ventilation issues in a high-rise building at home. Future research into wastewater could make this more sensitive.

Isolated persons might need to bring their own personal effects, which in some countries (China) has caused an issue.  Problems could happen if something doesn’t work in the room (not sure if others can enter).  Generally, rooms are deep cleaned and left vacant for 72 hours afterward.

All of this is relevant to future contact tracing work (which I have thought about).  It’s important to be able to offer persons to be isolated acceptable arrangements. Another issue would be delivery of medications, which may become a bigger issue soon if a prophylactic drug is developed.

Again, I am still amazed at the suddenness with which coronavirus sacked the US economy in March, in a few days.  Most smaller businesses say it had never occurred to them that something like this could happen, and then be so prolonged, perhaps permanent. The same idea could apply to the mask “debate”; many Americans are not used to the idea that their own breath is a “deadly weapon” (because of pre-symptomatic or even asymptomatic spread). .

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Volunteers needed to be infected in vaccine trials; Mask issue confronts new issues for some people of restrictions on freedom for public good

 

In Utah, parents showed up for a meeting without masks to challenge the plans to open schools with students wearing masks, NBC News story.  Parents said that this would lead to kids growing up in fear and not learning proper socialization.

In Georgia, the governor sues the Atlanta mayor (who has tested positive) over her mask requirements.

Some people compare it to wearing a seatbelt.  But the government’s advice on this has flipped so quickly one can understand the public’s reluctance.

It also adds to the debate of “community health”, where individual actions, in context, have more potential effect on others than we see at first.  We had to contemplate that in the 1980s with AIDS, with very different parameters.


COVID-19: Human Challenge Studies, link

And now there is increased preparation to infect healthy volunteers in vaccine trials (even after placebos), Fortune and Bloomberg.  


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

No, I don't think the United States could have done a full lockdown "in time" (without martial law, at least)


There has been a lot of talk in the media about the idea that the United States should have done a total lockdown by around March 7, and that doing so would have “crushed the curve” and saved 36000 lives in NYC for openers.

The one big hooker in this kind of thinking is that no geographically large country has completely locked down everything.  Authoritarian China walled off Wuhan and I believe most of Hubei province, although there were a few hours notice for people to escape.  And China has a unary government, not federal like ours. 

Instead, we left most decisions about lockdowns to the states (as part of federalism) and sometimes localities. It was decentralized.  This more or less corresponds to the EU's letting each component country act independently (but stopping free movement). Even Australia, with about the same land mass as the US, and Canada allowed considerable provincial and state discretion (although they were stricter than we were). New Zealand is different, because it is geographically small and water-surrounded. Same with Taiwan and South Korea. 


(CNBC video July 8). 

A true lockdown, aiming to prevent the taking advantage of service workers who are more likely not to be white, would have amounted to martial law, close to what happened in China.  In the effort to reduce unnecessary activity, even “gratuitous” web activity and social media self-publishing might be stopped.  This would be a war effort. And the term "shelter in place" really suggests gross contamination outside (like radiation). 

It’s interesting that CDC had suggested on Feb. 25 that Americans could find their lives “severely disrupted” before a single official death had been recorded (Feb. 29, later backed down to Feb. 6), and even before community spread in the US had been verified (Feb 26).

By March 7 there were some cases, including a cluster in the NYC suburbs, but still not a large total.  By March 16 (when many things were closed) they were rising exponentially and as were hospitalizations and then deaths.

The nature of the threat, with the concept of “curve flattening”, is deceptive.  It is more that the virus, transmitted casually, can cause unpredictable long term damage to so many people who survive it, as well as the death rates that spiral just because of the sheer volume of exponential spread. 

Update: July 15.

 John Barry in the New York Times warns us we need another April-style (at least) lockdown.



Monday, July 13, 2020

The Nationals (and Major League Baseball) return, after the pandemic shocked them shut


The Major League season will start without fans on Thursday night, July 23, 2020, with the New York Yankees in Washington.  

We all know the criticisms.  The athletes are getting tested everyday, whereas ordinary people wait in lines for hours and then a week for the test, and therefore contact tracing can’t possibly work.

Frankly, I think it would have been OK to admit some fans to the stands, and spread them out.  It simply is much safer out of doors.  But, then, you could have safety concerns with the concessions. 

The DH rule will be in effect for each league (including the NL), and relief pitchers will have to finish an inning or face a minimum of three batters. But the craziest rule, which sounds like sandlot, is that each half-inning in extra innings will start with a runner on second base (the last batter in the previous inning or pinch replacement).


ESPN Link above. 

The shutdown of the season was shocking to pro sports in its suddenness, starting as I recall when an NBA player tested positive on March 11. I had been to Nellie’s in DC on Saturday night Feb. 29 and there had been a Nats exhibition game being shown, and there was no hint that “mitigation” would collapse our world as we knew it between March 11 and March 17.  Businesses simply had not considered the idea that anything like this could happen despite the lockdowns already in Italy and Spain (let alone China). The paradigm (exponential spread) of what looked like a mild disease for most people simply wasn’t something that anyone had ever thought through before.  Playoffs will be as usual. 

Indeed, COVID-19 still sounds like the perfect sci-fi horror plot.

But the Nationals comeback and World Series now feel like living in a simulation.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

"Has cancel culture gone too far?" New York Times monitors an angry exchange between papers


Saturday, July 11, 2020, Smerconish on CNN opened his hour by discussing a controversy over two opposing papers online regarding whether (leftist) “cancel culture has gone too far”.  The papers are introduced by Jennifer Schuessler in the New York Times (leading to another NYTimes commentary in between). 

The first piece was “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” in Harpers, and a few writers have already been pilloried for signing it. A couple have profusely apologized saying they didn't know what they were signing, and washed the feet of their conquerors. 

The opposing position was “A More Specific Letter on Justice” on Substack.  The letter insists that the neo-liberal establishment writers are privileged and keep other voices out.  Then the letter seems to get into the idea that group power in a society for its own sake really matter. The basic belief is that a systemic power structure needs to be replaced to give members of oppressed groups a fighting chance to climb back on, and individualized “objective” or “critical” speech (even what I claim mine to be) gets in their way.

Part of my own personal reaction to the firings of people for their social media or self-published statements relate back to what I called “conflict of interest” back in the 1990s, when I was preparing to write my first book, on “don’t ask don’t tell”, while working for a company that specialized in selling life insurance to military officers.  That led to this narrative.   I followed up with another white paper (check the “conflict of interest” Wordpress label there, particularly Feb. 27, 2018).

My view of this was that there is such a thing as personal self-branding in what puts out online in any formalized way at all, and that is what matters.  It can even have an impact in trademark law.

But, yes, cancel culture has gone too far.  But we do need to realize that we are rapidly evolving an informal but effective idea of “social credit” that is migrating toward what China does officially.  

Smersonish's poll today said yes, 62% think cancel culture has gone too far. 


Friday, July 10, 2020

Libertarian Party presidential candidate appears to go woke


Libertarian Party presidential candidate Jo Jorgenson, from SC (I have met her once), created a furor saying that libertarians must go explicitly anti-racist and support Black Lives Matter.

Later (Tom Pappert, National Life) writes that Jorgensen clarified, saying she was only actively supporting platform ideas like ending qualified immunity, sentencing disparities, and the war on drugs.

Yet many reports called her statements “woke”.


Pictures: Nevada, rural NE Georgia   

Thursday, July 09, 2020

City of Seattle reported to hold controversial anti-racism training; California wants to undo Prop 209 and mandate affirmative action, in reaction to COVID

Seattle Skyline-

I have to express dismay at learning about this “undoing whiteness” segregated diversity training apparently held in City of Seattle employment, UK Daily Mail.  Fox News also reported it.

A Twitter feed showed some of the materials.

To me, this sounds pathological.  I would be offended.  Objectivity and individualism are instruments of white supremacy?  Jordan Peterson would love this one. 

A few of the items could make sense.  Give up physical safety?  Share more risk that others have to share?  That’s called “skin in the game”.

They training demands that white people take responsibility for their part in taking advantage of inherited privilege even if they did not start the privilege.  (Only about 5% of white people in the US have ancestors who owned slaves, I am told by conservatives.) 

We also learn that California wants to roll back its1996 Proposition 209, which simply guarantees the racial neutrality normally understood as implied by United States Civil Rights Laws. A similar measure had been defeated in Washington state, barely.  But of course the Supreme Court has allowed limited affirmative action around the edges.


The supporters of the provision point to the greater risks shared by black people in the COVID-19 pandemic. This was true with the Vietnam era draft.  

Seattle picture embedded from Wikipedia, click for attribution. 


Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Would Twitter's "Gryphon" subscription lead to bundling of news and periodical site subscriptions? Let's hope so


Twitter is reported to be working on a subscription platform, as Tom Warren reports in The Verge.    The code name is “Gryphon” which makes me think of graphene or maybe carbon nanotubes.

This might include specialized content or following approved users.  What would be good would be if it could bundle subscriptions to newspapers or magazines that are among these quality users. That could make getting higher quality news from a variety of sources cheaper for consumers.