Saturday, June 25, 2016

News anchor fired for personal Facebook post, supposedly "racist"; she fights back with reverse discrimination lawsuit

An award winning television journalist (WTAE-TV ) from Pittsburgh has been fired for comments on her personal Facebook account deemed by some as racist.  Wendy Bell commented on a brutal crime in Pittsburgh, extending her opinion to the subject of black-on-black crime in inner cities, which is certainly true (in Chicago, Washington DC, and many other cities), as a major security threat to everyone, much more probable to affect average citizens that lone wolf jihadist terrorism – and related, of course, to the gun and assault weapons debate.

Nevertheless, she was fired for what she said on her own page (coming to her own conclusions), as not living up to the standards of journalistic objectivity.  Remember, in the era of Facebook, there are no double lives.

Bell has filed a reverse discrimination lawsuit, seeing employment reinstatement, claiming she was fired because she is white. A Washington Post story by Katie Mettler explains, as does her interview on CNN with “conservative” anchor Smerconish.  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an account here

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Greenwald: FBI did not have cause to arrest Orlando shooter before event

Glenn Greenwald, who helped Laura Poitras interview Edward Snowden for “Citizenfour” and who authored “No Place to Hide”, argues that the FBI was right to leave Omar Mateen alone, based on the limited evidence it had, in  June 17 op-ed in the Washington Post.    “No minimally free society can prevent all violence.”  We do not arrest people for crimes they have not committed, although we do arrest for conspiracy and plots or attempts.  But we do not follow the script of “Minority Report” and prosecute pre-crime.

True, we make “calculated risks” in our activities all the time.  I was almost hit by a car passing illegally on a two-lane road last weekend.  But enemies can target the softest spots.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

If "there are no civilians" then maybe "there are no victims". just "casualties"; expectations in a world of fourth generation warfare

I found a long historical essay on a site called “USS Clueless: Voyages of the Restless Mind”, titled “There is no such thing as ‘civilian’”.

It gives a long European history as to how civilians are an asset for the military. It’s also true that the U.S. has, at least until 9/11, had the “luxury” of believing that it could do all its fighting “on the road”, in other people’s ballparks, even if there is a history of using male-only conscription – an issue that has come back into debate recently.  The biggest episode in my own life was the war in Vietnam and my own being drafted in 1968 (I was “sheltered” and did not go to Vietnam or see combat).

But modern asymmetry implies that political conflict can again lead to hostility and violence in one’s own back yard, almost.  The ways terrorism could affect us (EMP, dirty bombs, and other WMD’s as well as shooters and crude IUD’s) are numerous.  Wikipedia has a term for all this, “Fourth Generation Warfare”.

So I get the idea that people want to be able to defend themselves, and draw lines in the sand.  For all the lifetime of focus on “personal responsibility” as we normally understand it in the West, there is something shameful about being targeted by an “enemy” who would hold “me” responsible for what my “country”, or my “whatever”, upon which I depend, did to provide me like life.  This is difficult, and attention to victims as such is not enough.  If there are no civilians, then maybe there are no victims. just casualties.   Almost any social or political ideology can be rationalized, and only collective strength can prove it right to the rest of the world -- at least that seems to be what Donald Trump really thinks. And true, while it was LGBT this time (and it was horrible and record-setting), it has been school kids, or moviegoers, or, overseas, Christians and Jews and other people practicing other religions, facing persecution for “who they are.”  Promoting victimhood only goes so far. There is something to the right's "watch your back" and "watch your own karma" mentality. It's burdensome.

So, I am temperate in my ability to respond to individual victims, unless I know them already or have some other separate connection to them.  I don’t like to respond to individual pleas of “gofundme’s” at individual level, generally, just like I don’t respond to superficial calls to “sponsor” individual kids in Africa.  I don’t think it is valid unless I can follow through with a major, life changing commitment, starting with travel. (At least, when I was growing up in the 1950s, such individually placed generosity wasn’t part of the visible culture, maybe because it was less possible.)   I also know that if something happens to me, I can’t expect that kind of attention, either.  I will bear part of my own karma, because that is a fact of logic.

I have seen this sort of thing before, as with the buddy programs in the AIDS crisis in the 1980s (when I lived in Dallas).  Should a calamity happen geographically closer to home, and somehow a similar program were in place, maybe I would join.  But I remember how it was in the 80s, I joined in “on my terms”.  I was a “baby buddy”.  It seems like I never would throw myself into the emotions of the group.

Update:  Aug. 2

Chase Madar has an article in the American Conservative, July 30, "Vietnam: A War on Civilians".

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Trump revokes press credentials for Washington Post, other news orgs he doesn't like

Monday night, Donald Trump reportedly revoked the Washington Post’s press credentials to attend his campaign events.  Trump complained about some headline or article characterizing the way Trump had reacted to the Orlando attacks.  The Post is saying this doesn’t matter to the paper the way you’d think, here.

So Trump is reducing the Post’s stature to that of the amateur blogger, me.  (Same for some other banned publications, like Huffington).  It certainly sounds like he doesn’t respect a free press, and believes “leaders” have a right to control what the media says about them.  Russia and China, maybe?

That even gives me more reason to be concerned he could invent a reason to shut down most user-generated content on the web as creating risk and not paying its own freight.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

No, my life cannot become someone else's bargaining chip

I am in the middle of “restructuring” my websites and activities – with much more of it going to Wordpress – and I am pretty much self-driven.

I have to react for a moment to the reaction of everyone to horrific events around them, including two major tragedies in Orlando, FL this weekend, one of them at a Club (the Pulse) which I had visited last July.  I’ve covered that on the GLBT blog today.

I need to tell myself, and “to whom it may concern”, that it is never OK for anyone to think my own life should become a bargaining chip, whatever the cause or reason or emotional, familial, or political circumstances.  I had to deal with this during the last years before my own mother’s passing at 97 at the end of 2010 (of natural medical causes).  I’ve had to deal with it earlier in my life, with the whole business of the William and Mary expulsion (1961), NIH (1962), the draft and my military service (starting in 1968), and in various ways at other times as I have documented, in personal encounters that in a very few occurrences turned ugly.

I also need to finish my own homework, my own goals, in my own way, before I can really help others effectively, by belonging to "someone else's" effort.  Yes, I would like to “earn” the opportunity to work with an established news service, but that can only happen if I “do the work” first.  So I can’t become sidetracked by circumstances, hardships, threats, or anything else.  I can’t drop what I’m doing for other people’s emergencies.  There are so many pleas that I actually look at very few of them.

True, I seem insular and aloof.  If I fail, even if it is someone else’s “fault” or the result of forceful expropriation, I still fail; and “belonging” to a group on some emotional level isn’t going to save me.  It’s pretty much a right-or-wrong thing, not much part credit.  I can’t get involved in emotional ventures to make victims of anything “all right”, and I don’t expect others to do that for me.  This may sound like an alarming statement, but there is no honor in victimhood. No reward.  Socially, and politically, I think this has a lot to do with deep inequality (not just religion) to the point that western life seems meaningless to some people.   I do understand the Grace aspect of this in Christianity, and won’t get into it here (for, for that matter, comparable ideas in Judaism, Islam, or other faiths);  I have my own idea about the afterlife, which I am sure exists, but I can’t get into that right now.

That brings me to another idea I’ve mentioned before, personal “rightsizing” and its relation to social resilience.  That idea comes up in some volunteer contexts.  Colbert King mentioned it in conjunction with Donald Trump in a column Saturday here. She talks about Trump’s alleged pandering to ideas about keeping people “in their place” and that even includes gender roles, in some context of socialization.  It’s pretty alarming stuff.

Donald Trump’s own press release starts out right – we have to be strong and resilient – but then misses everything when he just categorizes migrants as “the other”.   It seems awfully shallow.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Publishers in Europe want "creeping copyright" protection from "unauthorized" hyperlinks

Electronic Frontier Foundation has an article by Jeremy Malcolm, reporting that publishers are asking regulators of a European Union commission to allow them to require other publishers to request permission and pay even to link to their articles, story here.

Publishers seem most concerned about “news aggregation sites” that they claim deprive them of traffic and ad revenue.  That could include Google’s own aggregation and display of some content with search results.

But in theory that could mean an issue even for a blogger that links to an ordinary news story.  It’s not clear whether this could affect sites outside of the EU, such as here in the US.

It would also seem that it could affect embeds, which normally don’t lead to copyright claims because they are merely “links”.

A sinister aspect of this development could be that established newspapers (especially smaller ones) feel upended by smaller blogs and sites – a development that led to a copyright troll like Righthaven in the past.

Around 1999 or 2000, a few companies in the U.S. tried to claim that they had the right to require permission to them before deep hyperlinks, which they claimed could deny them traffic and ads.  That was settled in 2000, as I recall.
I’ll keep a close eye on this story (including looking for any other legally related cases for the US) and develop it further on my new Wordpress news commentary soon.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Is Adam Grant a backup for David Brooks? The folly of "being yourself"

Take a look at Adam Grant’s column, p. 6 of the New York Times Review section June 5, “Be yourself’ is terrible advice.”  This sounds akin to David Brooks.
Grant talks about “low self-monitors” (like me) who tend to “say what they mean and mean what they say” (like in the little film “Bulletproof Picasso”), but are more likely to be female. “High self-monitors: are the “always be closing” types.  Actually, Donald Trump is a bit of both.  But the extroverts, so to speak, are more likely to be tuned to what people “need”, even if the temptation is to oversell.  Yup, people thought they needed subprime mortgages.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Apartment complex in Utah required tenants to give them Facebook "likes", a shocking interference with personal speech

Karen Turner, in the Washington Post, reports a particularly shocking story about a landlord’s interference with tenants’ personal social media use, p A12, “Landlord demands ‘likes’ on Facebook, Addendum threatened Utah apartment tenants with breach of contract”.   Online the title is “The landlord said ‘Like me’ on Facebook, or get evicted.”  The complex involved was the City Park Apartments in Salt Lake City, Utah. The complex has since dropped the policy and removed its own Facebook page over the controversy.

This is sort of the logical inverse of a non-disparagement clause for medical providers or contractors. Reportedly, this Salt Lake apartment also had a non-disparagement clause.
I have been concerned that landlords would check social media to see if a potential tenant is likely to disparage the landlord, or thinking of more sinister potentialities, indirect attraction of targeted security threats that could affect other residents.  I have not heard many (or really any) direct news reports of this happening. (I have to modify this: An apartment complex in Florida tried to implement a non-disparagement clause with a $10K fine, actually adding an addendum that social media reviews can destroy a business and cause other tenants to have to heave, Arstechnica story.)  Social media could loop back to older time when sites were often flat and could include blogs, Reddit, and the like.

It is unethical for any provider to demand positive reviews or “likes” from customers, that is to “buy” favorable online reputation.  The practice should be illegal.  But it is also unethical to pay for favorable reviews of anything, even an authored book.  Angie’s List says you can’t pay for a review on the site.

Facebook has pretty much eliminated the “double life” that was possible in the 1990s when I wrote my first book.  One problem with this policy is that it actually required a personal Facebook account. I was in a situation myself where, had I really started a teaching career, around 2005 or so, I had contemplated going completely dark during the employment out of my own view of "conflict of interest".

A local Salt Lake station has a story here. The Verge (Vox) talks about some business's lack of empathy and awareness of modern values here.  CNET has a story with detailed comments from an attorney, and has some other comments claiming a hoax. Huffigton has a story here.  Comments that the policy discriminates against the disabled and elderly seem to miss a deeper point about the integrity of personal speech.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Salt Lake public library, where “It’s free”.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Veteran's lost book manuscript raises questions about helping others write books; Mommy blogger quits, saying she had to make stuff up to make money

As a writer and author, I have indeed been focused mainly on my own “unusual” narrative (like an “unusual candidate”).  I have wondered if I should have tried to get hired to write other people’s stories in retirement.  I was approached once by another person in the battle over gays in the military, but it didn’t happen.  A lot of people can make notes of their lives but don’t know how to write a book.

There’s a story on WJLA-7 in Washington about a USAF veteran, and owner of a catering business, whose backpack was taken in a quick robbery recently.  Inside were life-saving anti-rejection medications for organ transplants, and notes and writings for an autobiographical book about his transplant experience (and maybe military life before).

The individual apparently had not backed up the writings (on a computer, and preferably USB drives or in the Cloud).  It wasn’t clear if he had the knowledge or resources for how to do this.  Could another writer help him?  Maybe with recreating the prose, but not the raw data, which might include PII and medical histories of organ donors (the story didn’t say  if any were living).

There is a lot more public interest in transplantation, and in organ donation, even when alive, than when I was being raised (apart from blood donation).  All of this became a no-no within the gay male community over the HIV donation ban, which has only recently been partially rescinded.  Today, generosity with one’s own body is becoming a social expectation.

There’s another variation of the life narrative idea.  Josi Denise has given up her “American Mama” blog, which made a lot of money, but which said she had to make a lot of stuff up and misrepresent her real family life, story on ABC here.  The domain no longer resolves (the name is for sale).
But Heather Armstrong’s “Dooce” is still alive, as she talks about “The Revenant” and her training for the Boston Marathon.  "To Dooce" is now a real verb.