Monday, March 31, 2014

NBC Today discussion suggests most photography of people in public could become illegal; should people share fasts in order to raise money?

Today, a couple assorted topics will be distributed.
On the NBC Today show, there was a panel discussion of people taking pictures of minors in innocuous situations and posting them on the Internet.  The example that was given was your kid’s birthday party.  What’s wrong with group pictures, and then posting them on Facebook?  Well, one male panelist said, they could be parsed and used by criminals and place in the context of pornography.  This could happen with any young person’s photo (more likely with females).  Also, this denies minors the chance to build their own online reputation rather than having adults build it for them.
The tone of the discussion seems to be that the legal climate for taking pictures of persons in public, or at least posting them at all, is likely to change, even though right now it is generally legal.

A second issue concerns a recent charitable contribution.  It was to World Vision.  I got a call on a Saturday, early afternoon, minutes before I had to go out the door to get to something I had paid for a ticket to in time, from a youth group for a church I attend to support their 30-hour Fast.  I’ve written about this before (drama blog, Feb. 19, 2012).  I was on the spot.  I had to say that I haven’t supported this before, and let the call go.  I wondered if, given the very personal nature of the experience, direct participation by a non-parent was even appropriate.  I checked the website, and it was somewhat manipulative.  It appeared as though the teens are supposed to raise money for hungry children overseas while experiencing hunger themselves.  That seems manipulative.  Yet I know that this particular group sometimes makes short films during the fast. 
I went ahead and quietly added the group for a $30 contribution to my automated mechanism at Wells Fargo, and tried to add a note to give credit to the group.  The contribution, oddly, was returned by automated returns.  But then I got a thank you letter from World Vision (near Seattle) in the mail anyway.

More mateiral about volunteerism, mine anyway, is coming. 

Update:  Later March 31

I did find an article about World Vision's supposed Evangelical connections and "pragmatism" in changing positions on social issues, in an article by Leigh Daynes in the The New Internationalist, here. The "thank you" literature I got Saturday made no mention of religious beliefs or of positions on gay or other social issues other than poverty overseas.  However, could this factor have anything to do with the bank's record of a returned payment, in contradiction to the thank you note?

My regular donation goes to "Save the Children".  Even with that well known group, I have had to ask them not to call me repeatedly.  Am I indifferent?  That's for another day.  

Update: April 3

Gov. Jerry Brown of CA signed into state law a bill to make it a misdemeanor to photograph a child in an intrusive manner just because the parent is a celebrity or public official.  The law could test whether the idea of "right of publicity" can be applied in a criminal code.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Proposed Federal revenge porn law would circumvent Section 230, possibly leading to frivolous takedowns

US News has an update on “revenge porn” legislation, in an article by Steven Nelson, about legislation in Congress proposed and about to be introduced by Jackie Speier (D-CA) criminalizing the posting of revenge porn.  It’s not clear yet how narrow the legislation would be, but it probably won’t involve “ordinary” images of activities in bars and discos.   The link is here
By making posting of this material a federal law violation, Congress removes Section 230 protection from service providers because federal law violations are not encompassed.  State laws are, however, which is one reason why states attorneys general want to exempt their own laws from this umbrella.  So state laws against revenge porn cannot be as effective.
Critics fear that ISP’s would have to take down material based on frivolous complaints.   

In another matter that involves the ethics of lobbying and familial partisanship, GOP donor Sheldon Anderson is campaigning to restore the complete federal ban on online gambling, presumably because of some entrenched interests in the casino industry (not consistent).  Online gaming is legal in New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada.  The link to the story by Nicholas Confessore and Eric Lipton is here

I gave up my old “” domain name in 2005 and it was then used by an online gaming site, leading to some misleading leftover links from my own “” site in use now.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Why we "factionless" watch our backs, and need to become more responsive

Let me share what is going on right now.  Recently, I published the third in the series of my “Do Ask, Do Tell” books (see Book Review blog, Feb. 27, 2014).  I am going through a number of my fiction manuscripts, starting with “The Proles” (1969), then several tries in the 1980s (the most important one is called “Tribunal and Rapture”, 1988) and 1990s, leading to a manuscript “Angel’s Brother” which I would like to publish.  I have several screenplay and nonfiction ideas for film based on the books, at least one or two of which I would like to “agent”.  And I have a couple of piano composition projects (one in particular) that I would like to produce and get out into circulation.  And I am 70 years old.

All of this means, of course, doing my homework. I work alone, and like the freedom.  I don’t need income from the material right away.  But I do need timely customer service from vendors, and the absence of disruption.  When you’re on your own, small failures by others (particularly in the service area) can have major consequences.  Some of my dependence on others – the idea that everything can be bought – can be dangerous.

It’s natural to ask, what is all of this content good for?  (A math professor use to ask this about matrices back in my undergraduate days at GWU.)  A short answer to this question  could be encapsulated by the movie “Divergent”.   My father used to say “The majority has some rights, too”, but the “majority” makes demands on those who are different.  The “majority” needs to understand (way beyond the edicts of religious scripture through the voice of others) what it really wants with some intellectual basis, and those who are “different” need to face that some of the things demanded of them (or “us”) are morally compelling.  It was interesting to me (the review is on the Movies blog March 24) that the society was willing to let the members of “Dauntless”, whose behaviors could indeed seem brutal or at least boorish, take all the risks for everybody else.  On the other hand, the “Erudite” and the “Abnegated” both wanted to believe they were better than everybody else.

Musicians (as Arnold Schoenberg once pointed out) may have it easier than others.  They can say what they want under the table and hide behind ambiguity. Writers don’t have the same luxury once they place themselves in public.  I really found that out when I was a substitute teacher and crashed in 2005. Online reputation really matters.

And who will receive my messages?  I do expect fellow “divergents” (or “factionless”) to benefit from it.  But there’s a problem right away, extracted from the movie.  Why should some other “factioned” person, on whom I depend,  consume content from me designed to make him feel, well, bad, or less “good” than someone else?  What is the point of producing content if “you” don’t really care enough about the people “as people” who use it?  You have to interact with them.  And healthful personal interaction goes along with forming and having families and a personal stake in the future.

My perspective comes from having to react to demands from the outside world.  I get all kinds of pressures, go join other people’s causes, to spend time on them, to show preference, to answer personal pleas, get into things that I wouldn’t have thought my business.  The game certainly changed when I “retired” and had self-published by omniscient world view. 

Some of this “interruption” comes from telemarketing and robo calls.  I could say things have changed since I grew up, but the picture is complicated.  Hyperindividualism has made ordinary sales culture, well accepted in the past, seem like unwelcome hucksterism (no doubt partly because of the multiple Internet and phone scams).  Individualism has developed at the same time while public awareness of needs of others has grown and the capacity to do things about these needs (especially in medicine) has increased.  That means that people need more interaction with others, to justify new efforts to help them, not less. 

So, the phone calls come.  The appeals are not just for money but for time.  People are hurting in this difficult economy and they will barge in.  They demand my emotion, attention and even playing favorites.  That’s something I took myself out of when I published the kind of book I did and took on the idea of journaling everything.  I can’t drop everything and become just one interest’s advocate.  Maybe I could endorse causes if I was a “true” celebrity, but I’m not there (yet).  

So I ignore almost all of them.  There are just too many. I do my giving through an automated mechanism at a bank, requiring no interaction with people.  And yet I worked as a “telefunder” (for the Minnesota Orchestra) after my 2001 layoff and barged in on people myself just a little more than a decade ago.  (People would say that phone bank work was the only kind of job some people could get. Play fair?)  Or, as I enter a theater, almost late for a showing that I have already paid for, a ghost intercepts me at the door and asks me to “help him out”.  I really have no idea how to respond.

We can talk about sacrifice, and even love.  We can say you show love only when doing something for someone costs you something – means you don’t make your own goals that make you independent.  But of course to make your goals you have to depend on others (at least to do their jobs).  It’s an endless circle.  If it breaks, it becomes class warfare, Noam Chomsky style. 
But this “cost in purpose” has something to do with how “you” value other people.  (I wish the English language had an impersonal form of “you” the way French does.)  If all human life is sacred and to be valued, then “you” have to let others, who may have been simply more vulnerable because of lack of “service” (or because inequality tends to promote bad choices), mean something to “you”.  That is the hardest part of all.  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Colorado school faces controversy over student expression of empathy for classmate with cancer

A school in Grand Junction, CO, Caprock Academy, sent an elementary school girl home when she showed up with her head shaved, to show sympathy with a classmate undergoing chemotherapy. The girl had her parents’ permission.
The school relented after extensive media coverage, as in the New York Daily News, here
I mentioned a “Be Brave and Shave” event in Arlington VA (at the Westover Market) in a posting here Nov. 8, 2009.  I have personally never wanted to make a point of offering “my body” as sympathy, as if “my body” didn’t matter.   I don’t want to make that “OK”, although that leads to a whole another train of thought. 
I suppose the school could say that it doesn’t want other students to feel pressured or coerced to believe that they are supposed to do the same thing.
This sort of thing did not happen when I was growing up in the 1950s, but then again, much less could be done.  In a way, in those days, there was much less call for sympathy, or empathy (not quite the same things).   I guess one could call this practice “radical solidarity”.

In another distantly related story, the Timberlake Christian School near Lynchburg, VA barred a grade school female student for looking too much like a boy with short hair.  The school complained that some kids didn't know her gender, gawker story here.  All of this reminds me of the days when "the common good" (defending the country and giving it babies) seemed to depend on strict adherence to gender roles, certainly reinforced by the sights of Lynchburg. 

On March 26, ABC World News Tonight aired an "America Strong" followup on this by others at the school:

ABC US News | ABC Business News
There are also several YouTube stories on the incident:

Wikipedia attribution link for Grand Junction Skyline.I recall only one visit, in December 1966.

Second picture, Jerry Falwell's Liberty University (my visit, 2005).

Wikipedia attribution link for third  picture here.

Update: May 6, 2014

Timberlake school, near the church on Business 460, SW of downtown Lynchburg about 8 miles, my own visit yesterday. US

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Writers debate the "it's free" problem; mention of Writers Emergency Assistance Fund

Wordpress has a valuable debate on the issue of “writing for free” (and saying what you want), and being paid to write what others want.  The columnists are Julie Sweiterst Collazo, Caitlin Kelly, Kristen Hansen-Brakeman, and Deborah Lee-Luskin, link here.
I had never heard of the Writers Emergency Assistance Fund (WEAF) before, link which Caitlin supports.
The writers generally look askance at writing for free (Julie mentions “The Huffington Post” as guilty) and thinks that the practice (by those who don’t need the immediate income or have other wealth) harms writers who need to get paid for a living. On the other hand, writers who aren’t already celebrities need to write for free and develop a large Internet presence to attract agents and paying clients.  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Another company advertises heavily that it can help repair online reputations

Another online reputation management company, “”, has been advertising aggressively on television recently.  According to Wikipedia, it was founded in 2009, and used to be called “Reputation Changer” and is located near Philadelphia.

Wikipedia says that it can create content to place favorable material visibly in search engines and will sometimes work with search engine companies to remove false statements made on ratings sites, especially by those thought not to be customers. 

I did “join” Angie’s List a few months ago in order to get the names of possible contractors.  I seem to get a lot of aggressive email ads from them.  I do not write reviews on ratings sites, however.  I will mention a (contractor) company unfavorably on a blog regarding my own experience only when there is already a pattern of credible negative comments with similar complaints by many other people online. When I do so, I’ll generally try to make specific suggestions as to what should be done to improve service.  I do make gentle comments about some public accommodations, like how good a job of sound and movie projection I find in a particular theater in my movie reviews.  And I will discuss past employment and (in one major incident) educational (college) experiences when the outcome had a major impact on the course of my own life. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Anonymous speech on rating sites might not be protected by "The Opinion Rule" in defamation suits

There has been more discussion recently of a decision by a Virginia appeals court to require Yelp to turn over the identities of persons who wrote negative reviews of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning. 
Generally, the court said, anonymous criticism of a business would be protected by the first amendment. But a business would have the right to determine whether the author of the comment had actually been a specific customer of the specific business.   If the writer had not purchased or attempted to purchase products or services from the business, there could be no first amendment protection, because the “opinion rule” could no longer apply since the person had not been a customer. 
But the identities of the speakers should not be used for any purpose other than determining whether they were customers. 
Still, other media organizations have strongly criticized the court’s opinion. There is some more discussion of the case on “” on Jan. 15, 2014 here.
The NBC Today show March 20 commented that a few new review sites were considering requiring customers to identify themselves or at least prove that they had used the businesses, but NBC gave no real details that I could find online yet.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Law professors argue that freelancers need to be able to turn down work that contradicts their personal or religious values

Given the recent furor over the idea that some small businesses might not want to support openly gay customers (as with the recent flap over a law in Arizona and Jan Brewer’s veto), Eugene Volokh and Ilya Shapiro have an important perspective on p. A15 of Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, “Choosing what to photograph is a form of speech”, link here. The specific context is obviously about a photographer’s refusing to work a same-sex wedding. 
The authors say they back gay marriage and actually the specific circumstance they talk about occurred in New Mexico.
They draw a distinction between a company open as essentially a public accommodation discriminating, which they would oppose, and a freelance writer or artist turning down work that contradicts his or her values.  That is certainly the libertarian position.
I certainly have to fight this battle in another way.  It’s actually hard to earn a living with your work and avoid the “conflict of interest” problem that I have explored often in the past.   I can’t let my own life be hijacked into being forced to say someone else’s message.  Yet, I’ve heard at least one pitch from a possible pseudo employer, “We give you the words”.  That was back in 2002, but the presented became downright defensive when I challenged him.  The problem is that the need to provide for others can draw one into mandatory hucksterism.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Again, it gets personal (starting on Facebook)

Sunday morning, after a late night out, I found a request in Facebook to connect with a birthday app.  I followed it through, and it seemed to take me to an online dating app.  I finally got around that, but it struck me again, that there seems to be a lot of pressure to date and pair off with others my own age.  I hear these in television ads, like “Christian Mingles” on CNN.

Is it that important to “have” a relationship?  I always feel that the most important thing is to “do your homework” , but that gets chancy.  I want to be as successful on my own as possible, but, like it or not, I am dependent on others and vulnerable to events I cannot control. 
And for many people, vulnerability has led to dependence, and to other personality issues that, in an individualistic society, makes them seem less liked.
At church yesterday (this was Trinity Presbyterian in Arlington) there was a call for volunteers for shifts for Meals on Wheels.  There was a comment that what is needed is not just for people to write checks but to attend to people in need personally. 
I’ve talked about this before.  I’ve gotten emails for Food and Friends, where I volunteered in the 90s under a different climate, “can we count on you this time” for their campaigns.
And where I go out, people will approach on the street.  Yes, it’s impossible to tell which pandhandlers are scammers and which are truly needy, and no one has time to talk to them.  But they are becoming more desperate as well as aggressive.  A guy outside Landmark Theater last Saturday looked like a ghost. And there was no time, the show was about to start.
And I’ve mentioned before that some groups want to make volunteering into a power bureaucracy. 
Yet, this is “about me” (sorry, Rick Warren), not about others.   There is a round robin of circular reasoning here.  If you find interacting with people in need rewarding – if you feel fulfilled that you did something for them and that they actually needed you [that is, not everyone is as capable as Clark Kent], you’re more little to settle into a relationship – marriage (maybe even same-sex marriage) and more able to take on dependents, which could not always be a matter of choice after some distant family or nearer community crisis.  Natural disasters (or even terror) could become great social equalizers.  But you have to enter into the process somewhere.  You have to be willing to buy the idea that the human future after you matters more than just “you” do.  Otherwise, who would read your books or listen to your music? 
There’s a certain “Paradox of Choice” here (rather like the mathematical “Axiom of Choice”).   In a society that values individual freedom, anyone has the right to turn another person down for a relationship or personal attention.  We’ve all faced that.  That’s called “consent”.  But no one should use this right in bad faith, particularly in an asymmetric world where anyone can become visible without a gatekeeper’s approval.   If it becomes too acceptable for people to walk away from others, then the social climate gradually becomes more unstable as others are left believe there is no way they can “matter” if they play by the “rules”.  There is just too much luck, vulnerability, and unseen dependence on the sacrifice of others.

On a few occasions I have felt that people were "bating" me to open up to someone I would not have thought well of, as if doing so could give me a morally acceptable purpose (rather like the problem dramatized in the film "Girlfriend", movies blog, July 16, 2012) before being heard.  This does not play well with me. 

There’s also the question of meeting the needs of others in a community where the aims of the larger culture seem wrong.  We have the luxury today of seeing how the aims of our leadership can be challenged.  People living in other cultures often have not.  The film “Generation War” that I watched all day Saturday (Movies blog March 15) demonstrated that.  

Saturday, March 15, 2014

US to turn over all influence over ICANN; some concern about popular domain names surfaces

This United States, specifically the Department of Commerce, will relinquish its oversight over ICANN (the international Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) sometime in 2015, as long as ICANN shows the capability to govern itself according to certain vague norms.  That is the subject of a story by Craig Timberg in the Washington Post Saturday March 15, 2014, “U.S. will relinquish last of its control over the Internet”, link here. The New York Times has a similar story Saturday by Edward Wyatt here

There is concern that the ICANN could respond more to demands of foreign governments, which don’t respect individual freedom of expression.  For example, domain names other than those based on personal names or even with “.com” extension, could someday harder or more expensive for individuals without connections to get.  My own “” name is reserved until Dec. 2, 2021. 

Some people have been critical about ICANN's permissiveness in allowing very popular names to be sold for high prices.  Some have been critical of the handling of adult domains.  

Some observers mention the NSA spy scandal as a reason for ICANN to want to pull out of a contract with the US. 
The group is largely housed in Southern California and in Australia.
In the US, however, the use of domain names has sometimes been challenged by trademark holders of similar wordmarks, even those that existed before the Internet.  US trademark law is supposed to allow the same name to be used by different entities in different kinds of business, but this has not always been respected.

Update: March 18

The Wall Street Journal gives its account, by Gautham Nagesh, "ICANN 101: Who will govern the Internet" and warns that Vladimir Putin will try to the US surrenders it, link here.  The article says that domain names have to be renewed every three years, but mine runs to 2021.  

Silicon Beat weighs in here.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Vox Media and "understanding the news": Is this like "connecting the dots" or "keeping them honest" or even my own "do ask, do tell"?

I remember that in eleventh grade history class, the teacher, himself a Korean war veteran, made a point of giving pop quizzes on current events.   We were expected to have glanced at the newspapers that morning before coming to class. 

That all comes to mind in reading Ezra Klein’s comment recently that the re-invented Vox Media site would focus on “understanding the news”.  He gave some analogies to eating your vegetables (which can be cooked badly), and mentioned there was a like time in history class when the felt that news stories were supposed to make him feel stupid. 
I can’t tell yet from the site how it is going to look in its final form (it rather resembles the look of Google-Plus right now) but the phrase “understanding the news” sounds a bit like Anderson Cooper’s “Keeping them honest”, or Homeland Security’s “Connect the Dots”, or my own “Do Ask, Do Tell”. 

I sounds a bit condescending to say this, but people tend to interpret “news” in relation to how it might affect them directly and immediately.  Partisan interests organize fundraising around this experience.  This all comes from the day that knowledge was handed down with social and political authority, a process that even my own father had believed, but which started to change after World War II, even in the 1950s, before McCarthyism had blown over and the Civil Rights Movement began to take more form. In other parts of the world, the “propaganda” model still applies.  Just listen to Vladimir Putin (or please don’t!)

I think my original impetus to write my first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book illustrates the idea.  I felt motivated by the particularly pointed way the debate on lifting the ban on gays in the military had taken shape in 1993, and how President Clinton had been so unaware of the now obvious arguments that would be thrown against it – because these arguments were so personal and untidy.  They concerned “privacy” in situations of forced intimacy.  Just under the surface, but not honestly stated by politicians, was the idea that physical closeness (and not just propinquity) can be demanded of young men by the practical needs of defending the community.  This quickly linked back to the irony of my own life:  I had been thrown out of a civilian college for admitting homosexuality in 1961 over very similar concerns in dorm life, and yet had later dealt with the military draft – which had been repealed but which could come back again some day.  The privacy argument was generalized (rather like relativity) an expanded to consider “unit cohesion”, and idea that social conservatives today post in terms of shared goals and eusociality – and eventually “the natural family”.
Issues are indeed linked the way lives were connected across time in the movie “Cloud Atlas”.  The policy debates on eldercare (including Medicare and Social Security and even the debt ceiling) relate to an aging population, and lower birthrates in certain peoples.  The birthrate issue (“demographic winter”) is in turn an irony:  richer populations don’t replace themselves, where as poor people have “too many children”, inevitably leading to enormous political and social tensions. Eldercare and birthrate questions also invoke the existence of state filial responsibility laws, which the media has rarely reported (except in May of 2012, when a bizarre case in Pennsylvania turned up).  But if filial piety could really be enforced, that would have a profound effect on the way we see marriage and parental responsibility, turning the debate on gay marriage upside down (although we saw some tortured arguments along these lines ten years ago when Massachusetts outlawed its own ban in gay marriage, paying a way). 

On Internet censorship and freedom, the most critical concept still seems to be protecting service providers from downstream liabilities of various kinds (as we see with Section 230, DMCA Safe Harbor, and the problems with Protect-IP and SOPA).  The downstream liability protection allows self-broadcast, a boon for me, but that raises a question as to whether people should be able to exert asymmetric effects on policy with the long-lived speech without actually having more responsibility for others than I do.  Self-broadcast has given way to a more modern view of social media, where content distribution is supposed to be whitelisted, but the effect it still that of broadcast.  Moreover, social media has made the old idea of a “double life” impossible.

I could pose another question: "Who should bring the news?" I set myself up to do so, starting with my first DADT book in 1997, setting up the websites to support the content, and finding that my content connected to everything else.  I took myself out of ever peddling anybody else's specific message for pay for ever; no longer could anyone else "give me the words."  That has consequences, for livelihood and even longevity.   More on this later.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Digital Citizen's Alliance criticizes major service platforms like YouTube for permitting dangerous content

The Digital Citizen’s Alliance has become vocal in criticizing major Internet companies for tolerating dangerous content on their servers, such as videos that would show people how to make weapons or buy illegal drugs.  It is also critical of “content theft” sites, as in this blog entry here

I sometimes see some of my own blog postings recopied and packaged into other sites, and even my books.  I haven’t been concerned about it because I don’t depend on the revenue from my content, but what about people who do have to depend on the income?
The Washington Post has a detailed story on P A15 by Hayle Tsukayama on Tuesday March 11, 2014 about the DCA’s criticism of YouTube, Facebook and other platforms of not being vigorous enough to stop dangerous content.  Most providers say that, beyond some automated tools, they cannot stop dangerous content but regard it as a TOS violation and will remove it when made aware of it.  It’s not immediately clear how closely related this issue is to Section 230 immunities.   Facebook is reported to be taking steps to stop weapons ads from being seen by known minors, and the screening of ads would seem to be part of the issue.  (I do not screen ads that appear on my own sites, but I’ve wondered if I should more recently.)  The story on the Post Switch Blog (despite the departure of one of it’s main writers for Vox) is here
There is a similar story on Broadway World here

DCA has a YouTube video, “No prescription, no problem”:
For some reason, Digital Citizens is rated Yellow by Webroot Secure Anywhere and is given incorrectly as “shopping” in search results.  This seems to be incorrectly scored and marked. 

The possibility of posting content that gives amateurs instructions on how to engage in destructive behaviors, like acquiring weapons illegally or making them, has always been around.  It was mentioned after the Boston Marathon attack in April 2013.  Some of the content that deals with WMD’s, like nuclear or radio EMP devices, is probably not very reliable technically,  thankfully.  It’s easy to imagine legal issues coming up in conjunction with Section 230, or even with hyperlinks to such content.  Book self-publishing platforms from legitimate companies supposedly do “content evaluation” to make sure that they are not publishing hate literature, child pornography, obviously copyrighted material, or possibly material intended to assist terrorists.     

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Blogger in Alabama jailed in contempt case over bizarre blog; compared to jailings in totalitarian countries; more on one of my own past "cases"

In Alabama, there is a case where a blogger has been arrested and incarcerated for contempt of court and resisting arrest.  The details of the case of Roger Shuler are bizarre, and are summarized in a story by Campbell Robertson Jan. 11, 2014, in the New York Times, link here

The blog was motivated by a property dispute a few years ago, and grew into various kinds of attacks on political figures, mostly on Republicans.
It’s amazing that Shuler, impoverished, carried on his blog “from the library” (where “it’s free”). Yet now Shuler seems to join the company of jailed reporters in China, Iran, Syria and like countries.
The blog, "Legal Schnauzer", is an ordinary one on Blogger, and is still up, link here. Apparently there are no TOS issues with it.
I don’t personally get involved in personal attacks, so I seem to have stayed less scathed (except for that one incident in 2005 when I was substitute teaching, for which the latest news is here on my new footnotes blog, link. (prev. July 27, 2007) 
I’ll just mention another Blogger blog tonight, “Behind the Blue Wall”,  a detective blog that, among many other topics, looks at some disturbing crimes recently in northern Va., link here.  More news in this area will come out later.  

Friday, March 07, 2014

National Museum of Crime and Punishment has display of ICE, including domain seizures

The National Museum of Crime and Punishment near Verizon Center in Washington DC now houses a small exhibit from ICE, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.  The exhibit started March 5, 2014 and runs through December 2014.  It has two small rooms.

The most controversial part of the exhibit concerns “intellectual property.”  ICE brags that it can interdict the commerce of counterfeit goods, and displays counterfeit Superbowl rings and tickets, Rolex watches, and Rosetta language learning.  It also displays the strike page that appears when ICE seizes a web domain because some users on it have been trafficking in counterfeit goods. 

The problem with this practice is that it can shut down an entire site for the wrongdoing of one or a few users.    
I had visited the museum in 2008 (see movie review of short on “Americas Most Wanted” on movies blog, Oct. 6, 2008), but it seems a lot more displays have been added.


Thursday, March 06, 2014

DOJ drops charges related to Barrett Brown's hyperlink (and his Project PM).

In a case concerning hyperlink sharing, noted before (Sept. 9, 2013), the Justice Department has dropped all eleven charges against journalist  Barrett Brown related to a chat room link to a file from an intelligence firm, Stratfor (details here ).  A story at The Dissenter by Kevin Gosztola gives the details here
The government has an unusual gag order preventing the defense from discussing the details of the case with the media.  Lawyers do say that the case now does not reflect on the nature of the work he did as a journalist for Project PM. 
Barrett Brown explains his Project PM here

Project PM operates its own Wiki here where it defines itself as a “crowdsourced investigation focused on research and analysis.

On the following chat log, note the FBI raid (in Dallas) is recorded starting at 1:30 into the video. (Chat log video is gone;  another one is substituted.) 

Furthermore Barrett Brown gives his own account in Sept. 2012.  I don’t know where he is, in jail or back at home in Dallas, link here

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a piece by Jennifer Lynch and Hanni Fakhoury here

Brown still faces charges for making threats (apparently on YouTube, hardly credible) and obstruction of justice.  

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

New mobile app enables "ordinary people" to sell photos to big media

ABC News has a story on a way people can make money selling their “amateur” photographs with a cell phone app called Foap.  The link for the story is here
The story pointed out that pictures with people in them need the permission of the subjects taken.  Legally, people usually have a right to take non-commercial photos in most public places (subject to property owner rules in privately owned places) but that is creating ethical dilemmas – unwanted photos of others showing up in social media, tagging, and particularly the paparazzi, especially when they take pictures of celebrities’ children.  That very issue was debated this evening on Access Hollywood.  
There is a ruling from the Massachusetts Supreme Court that taking "upskirt" photos in public is legal as long as the subjects are not nude.  A lot of people think the law in photography has too many loopholes. 

Monday, March 03, 2014

Why Snapchat wouldn't do anything for me; more on personalized appeals

I just wanted to make a further note about how I work and communicate.
Let me first talk again about “unstored” services like Snapchat.   My own feeling is that I don’t have much use for phone conversation that needs to disappear.  I suppose it is a bit like ordinary phone conversation (which could be recorded).  I won’t send a message or an image that I don’t think is OK to remain in the world permanently.  Curiously, I don’t think I’m engaging enough socially to expect a large number other users to want to share that way with me.  The curious thing is that most of my posts I really indeed to be public, or at least to be kept and retrieved.
It’s a good idea to read the company’s blog  for which individual posts are not accessible separately (and that’s odd).  It would be possible for a hostile recipient to snap images onto a separate digital camera, and that could enable the use of the service to transmit child pornography.

I would have a similar feeling about CyberDust, a disappearing text app that Mark Cuban likes.  Lawyers like or dislike these products, depending on their viewpoints, as to how they can affect discovery processes.  
“Whats App” could make sense later, if I get into a situation (as in a movie or music project with others) where sending a large number of SMS messages is actually necessary.
I’m quite struck by how much of the world operates on hucksterism and recruiting.  I don’t like to see my name put into emails by programs to try to make them personal.  I find it hard to respond to so many special pleas.  My own father was a salesman – a “manufacturer’s agent”, and built his entire living on commissions – and yet in the 1950s he was able to build his entire world around a “real world” social network of manageable size, and keep it with customer service – an idea that seems “gone with the wind” today.  It’s hard for me to believe that I worked in a phone bank myself for over a year a decade ago, and what it’s like now on the other end.
I do manage most of my giving through an automated billpay mechanism with a bank, Wells Fargo.  I use Xfinity caller-id to screen landline calls, and will soon start using NoMoRobo.  When I do get a “surprise” call it can be hard to respond appropriately.  I might be on the way out the door, and have to get to an event that I have prepaid on time.   A couple weeks ago, on a Saturday, a got a call from someone in a local church’s “30 Hour Famine” Project.  I actually do know some of the people, but it didn’t seem appropriate to get involved with teens’ personal experience of fasting, not being a parent myself.  I know, this gets loaded – and I was on the way out the door.  I was on the spot.  I had to say No quickly.  But I later went ahead and made a small contribution to World Vision through the Wells Fargo mechanism, and it can be made recurring, and it can give the church credit (although not the individual caller).  

The other day I got a mailing from the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, AL.  It was quite elaborate and personalized, and even included a certificate.  It’s odd, because I’ve been to almost every other major city in the state (including Huntsville, where I saw a space camp once), and Tuscaloosa, although long before the tornado).  There is actually a good reason for me to visit the city in the relatively near future, although I won’t get into the reasons now.  But this way of reaching out for donations is a bit over the top.
Again, I’m a content-oriented person, not driven by counts or numbers.

Related posts:  March 13, 2011; on drama blog, Feb. 26, 2012.   

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Virginia passes revenge porn bill, seems fairly narrowly tailored

The Virginia general assembly has passed a “revenge porn” bill, HB 326 and HB49, authored by Marcus Simon.  The bill makes it illegal to post a sexually explicit image of another online without the other person’s consent.  The text of the bill is here.

Someone could be prosecuted if the actual photograph or image was created in Virginia or posted from an IP address in Virginia.
The law does seem to be pretty narrow in what it considers sexually explicit.

It also does not appear to hold service providers responsible, which has been an issue with similar laws proposed in Illinois and possibly California.  Tennessee had mentioned "emotional distress" in its bill. 
The bill was mentioned on NBCWashington early Sunday morning.  

Saturday, March 01, 2014

My third DADT book is published; more on content development; should I do business with bitcoin?

The third of my DADT Books, that is, “Do Ask, Do Tell: Speech Is a Fundamental Right; Being Listened to is a Privilege” is now on Amazon in print format, with Kindle to follow soon.  I explained all of this in a blog posting on the “Book Reviews” blog Thursday Feb. 27, 2014.
I am developing a scheme to navigate all the footnotes to my books on main site.  The main link to that roadmap is here.   Most of the book is available online for user convenience.  The non-fiction portion is posted with chapter-separate PDF’s (created by me from original drafts but with all copyediting corrections applied) there;  the first two of the “fiction” stories are posted in flat HTML.  The third story (“The Ocelot the Way He Is”) is the payoff or spoiler and will not be posted online right now. 
I will no doubt be approached for various advertising schemes to support the book. I have already supplied notes for a press release here.  No doubt, I do expect an honor system.  I do appreciate those who afford to do so to buy the book on Amazon (rather than just read online) or, soon, Kindle, which should be much cheaper. 
Generally, when I publish, I just let people find my content.  Ever since the world of Web 1.0, that has been pretty effective.  Others call and pester me to become aggressive with cookie-cutter marketing schemes, but this is about developing content across multiple media platforms, not about selling copies of just one item in the old-fashioned sense.  Books are hindered by the fact that they can become obsolete quickly, but they can provide an anchor and basis point to drive other content. 
The DADT III book does correct some issues left over from the first book in 1997.  For example, then I had proposed that states experiment with gay marriage but that the federal government not be required to recognize it.  Gay marriage has progressed much faster than I had imaged, with the DOMA partial take-down by the Supreme Court last year.   I had also proposed that adult-id verification schemes could be required as an alternative to Internet censorship, but we all know that this idea failed with COPA.   And as a reviewer of my book on Amazon constructively pointed out, I also was na├»ve about the danger of anarchy or dysfunction in government, as shown by recent debacles over the debt ceiling debate in Congress.   I take all this up in the book.

My future work is to migrate into fiction, and, yes, to produce music (as documented on my drama blog) and video and try to network a feature film.  As I’ve noted, I do have a novel document called “Angel’s Brother”, but I have a number of attempted novels going back to the 1980s (as well as “The Proles” in 1969) that all explore some common themes, which often set up a “re-education academy” in a remote area (west Texas in one case, West Virginia in another) and a charismatic person at the facility, while the outside world suddenly burns.  I will review all these old manuscripts and their constituent pieces before I resume producing the novel.
Sales of the new book will be completely outsourced, to Xlibris, Amazon, and other e-commerce sites.  I will have some inventory of these myself, and it is possible for me to sell them directly or take them to events, when appropriate.  I may not do as much of the “book fair” circuit as I did in 1998 because it is not as productive as it used to be, and I need the time to work on more content.  But speaking engagements might happen, although they become more likely as more content develops. 

Because of security concerns, I have not tried to offer credit card processing on my own site, and so I have no need to save user’s PII, and can reduce the risk of hacking.  That’s especially relevant now, after Target.  I have thought about setting up PayPal again (which I haven’t needed, but which could be useful now.  I might even look at bitcoin as a payment transaction method, although it seems to have taken a dive.  Michelle Singletary warned about using it much, because of lack of oversight, in a Feb. 28 column in the Washington Post, here. She calls the bitcoin physically just some lines of computer code (hopefully without extra “fail” loops).  Tim Lee, also from the Post but moving over to Vox and Project X (My “IT” blog Feb. 26), has been an enthusiastic supporter of the idea. It’s interesting and significant that there are Internet scams (and sometimes ransomware) that take only bitcoin.
In general, I want to keep “an eye on the sky”, or on space – or on putting my content into other media.  So I’m not too interesting in managing retail business with “deals”.  I don’t normally initiate contact with people (cold calls, emails, even social media) just to get them to buy more stuff.  It’s interesting to me how the Internet first seemed to drive a new form of sales culture and now is running it into the ground. 

Actually, when I get my content up to a certain point (where I've fully reviewed all of my fiction and can produce my music at a more quasi-professional level), I would be interested in helping others with specific projects that I think match what I do.  I won't name any of these right here yet except perhaps "American Lynching", a project whose fillmaker Gode Davis passed away before completion, and I don't know yet how close it is to completion.  I do see that assisting with crowdfunding (like Kickstarter) could be appropriate for some of these projects, even though not for my own.