Saturday, October 28, 2017

Open access bill is before Congress again (FASTR)

Electronic Frontier Foundation has urged the public to support FASTR, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act, advocated by Rand Paul (R-Ky), in an article Oct. 27 by Elliot Harmon, link  

The bills at issue are S 1701 and HR 3427.  There are provisions to allow open access by the public to documents, typically after six months (NIH normally requires a year).

Would this be the “Jack Andraka Act”? 

I have an important Wordpress posting today on Goldman v. Breitbart and a new threat to embeds, here

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The role of web designers servings small business; shared hosting issues

Ramsay Taplan (Blogtyrant) discusses the changing role of web designers in a detailed post, shared on social media, here. (I note that Blogtyrant has gone to https everywhere). 

Since Wordpress particularly has made “do it yourself” easier, the role of web designers, especially for small businesses, may have become more challenged.  Remember when you needed help with things like Dreamweaver?

But web designers may be needed for advanced security consultation, and for advanced plugins and themes.

I think the jury is out on SEO optimization, because rules keep changing.  I can remember the days of coding my own metatags, until I found them not needed.  I do think adding taglines to wordpress (as opposed to categories) does help sites be found, especially with respect to proper nouns and important concept names.

People using shared hosing can find once in a while that the webhost has created an error 503, service not available.  This can happen because of a spike in the application pool managed by IIS, and it may sometimes be due to one customer.  Here’s the best link I could find on the problem.  It would sound plausible that this could happen with a DDOS attack on one customer on the server, so this could be a sensitive issue. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

NY Times offers a quiz on Facebook's hate speech standards

The New York Times offers a 6-question quiz on what Facebook considers hate speech, in an article Oct. 13 by Audrey Carlsen and Fahima Haque, link

The guidelines prohibit slurs against protected classes, which to include classes defined by sexual orientation and gender identity. They do not include speech against subclasses, like poor people within a racial group.

That leads to odd results in what the public views as hate speech.   Many people don’t consider the statement “white men are a-holes” hate speech, but Facebook does.  But limit it to “cis-male whites are …” then it is not.

Personally, I don’t pay much attention to a person’s membership in a protected class in my own statements about policy.  Even personally, I may be attracted to one person and not another for superficial reasons, but the class membership is coincidental (even if probabilistic), not existential, following James Damore’s ideas. 

And I don’t favor making policy by categorizing people.  (Imagine if the draft had demanded proportional service by race.)  Singapore does just that in who lives in various luxury buildings, demanding ethnic balance.

Self-publishing companies do "content evaluation" of submissions for "hate speech". 

And, "by the way", Michael Smerconish on CNN says he is locked out of his Facebook page and that the Russians hacked it. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

When does bringing up a settled issue become hate speech?

Time Magazine’s latest on campus speech codes, by Katy Steinmetz, Oct. 12, link, seems to be well summarized by this one Cornell student.

many on the left argue that some things are no longer open for discussion, that speech itself can be violence and that trying to question the equality of women or undocumented people or same-sex couples can amount to harassment. “Ignorance is hostility in this political climate,” says Cornell student TreviƱo. “It’s attacking our mental well-being.”

Would my reviewing the past military draft gratuitously be viewed as harassment because it might tempt a politician into passing it again?  Same for filial responsibility laws.


Or what about revisiting the draconian reaction of some conservatives in Texas in the 1980s against gay men and the AIDS epidemic?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Childless men and OPC ("other people's children"); the dangers of populism

Devin Foley has a piece in Intellectual Takeout that, toward the end, challenges childless men to take responsibility for other people’s children, specifically, boys.

The title is “Men, they took your NFL, now what?”  Is this about the kneeling controversy, or about concussion risks.

The article is somewhat vari-focused, as it gets into gender culture wars, where everything can be politicized.  Curiously, the black and white picture that appears to come from an Hollywood spectacle of ancient evenings shows all the (white) men without chest hair.

The culture war is in part what happens with those whose gender-related behaviors and capacities don’t conform to the traditional expectations of the group.  Is this about granting rights by group according to past oppression and intersectionality, or should it concern individual rights and concomitant personal responsibility?   Yes, people with privilege have a better chance to learn how to make good choices.  Is getting everybody into the responsibility of family tending (children or not) part of how to balance things out?  Any philosophy of individual rights and responsibilities will start out with some irreducible postulates.  
I’m not sure that this is what Dr. Phil really meant by “Man camp”.  And, oh yes, Intellectual Takeout begs for donations to speak for you.

Note well, also, this NBC op-ed by Evan McMullin on the dangers of "populism" -- on a day when Trump threaten NBC stations' broadcast licenses on Twitter.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Jemele Hill case: should private companies discipline employees for off-the-job social media speech on their own accounts?

Jemele Hill has been suspended by ESPN for two weeks for a second violation of its social media guidelines.  She issued some tweets critical of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for taking a hard line against his players protesting police profiling by kneeling during the national anthem at NFL games.

ESPN has apparently warned associates about social media speech, even off the job, that could reflect poorly on ESPN or drive away advertisers.  

CNN has the story here.

In September ESPN had threatened to discipline or fire Jemele for calling Donald Trump a “white supremacist.”  But Sports Illustrated provided an article saying that Connecticut law provides that even private employers may not discipline associates for constitutionally protected speech.

That’s unusual.  When I was working for a company that sold life insurance to military officers, I transferred to another division and moved within the company to avoid what was perceived as a conflict of interest when I was intending to publish a book on gays in the military. 

Sunday, October 08, 2017

The Left's "selective" attacks on free speech could backfire

Michelle Goldberg has an important New York Times op-ed, “The Worst Time for the Left to Give Up on Free Speech”, link .

Goldberg writes about the recent disruption of an ACLU speaker at William and Mary for defending free speech rights of alleged white supremacists (Oct. 5). 

Goldberg points out that many people believe that some topics should be “beyond the pale” of acceptable conjectures for discussion.  She notes that among these ideas are a return to the belief that women and people of color should have an inferior or submissive assigned station in life to white men. You could add, gay people or transgender or gender fluid, to heterosexually married men with children.

I certainly have hit that theme had in the past, as explaining what happened in my own background.  Perhaps some people would say that my even rehearsing it gives it potential legitimacy for political enemies to use again in the future.

One could say that about the attention I have given to the history of conscription.

It used to be said that communism should be beyond the pale of discussion. That idea was based on a definition of communism as invoking violence and the use of force to make political change (and force expropriation), whereas socialism alone was to be achieved by the democratic process (Bernie Sanders).  But communism as subject matter was different in that it did not normally target one protected class of people.  Even so, people in the past were barred, say, from federal employment had they ever been members of the Communist Part (and they could be removed for “sexual perversion” too, until 1973).

White supremacy is obviously very dangerous because it would propose subjugating a class of people (on race or skin color). Neo-Nazism is for similar reasons banned today in modern German, as it also can include people of a certain religion (Judaism) for subjugation.  The Left may feel that it barely has less to worry about than the Right on these matters.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled against content-specific restrictions on free speech.

But a much bigger issue, which I must keep coming back to, is the idea that people should speak only through groups.  

Friday, October 06, 2017

Why tribalism is unavoidable

David Brooks (the columnist who wants to teach us how to be good)  has an interesting op-ed in the New York Times, “The Philosophical Assault on Trumpism”, which maybe should read, “How to beat Trumpism”, link here. 

Brooks ascribes all the problems that lets Trump bully everyone to tribalism.  And he’s probably right.

People have a need to belong, and do belong somewhere whether they want to or not (Martin Fowler’s book in Aug. 2014). People can belong to nuclear and extended families, to communities of faith, to activist groups or newly defined identity groups.  On top of all of this the arbitrary idea of nationalism.

I can pause for a moment, a few hours before the Washington Nationals start the playoffs and finally prove that they, no “we”, can win a playoff series, what rooting for a professional sports team means.  It’s a kind of tribalism.

I could say there is one individualistic art form that bridges individualism and tribalism – and that’s music.  When my brain and soul learns a repertoire, it seems to join something, find a commonality with others that is beyond words.  But music also has a way of getting people to join in to things together.  It’s interesting to ponder how classical, spiritual (like in church) and rock or hip-hop all work.  I’ll come back to all that again.

The only thing that survives “me” is what is beyond myself (as well as the historical meta-fact of my life, which always exists in larger space-time).  That’s true for all of us.  So, at some point, we all have to “join in” to something for some meaningful existence to transcend us after we are gone.

So some kind of tribalism is necessary.  But it takes individual work to solve problems and make innovations.  There is always this moral tension between individualism and connectivity, between ego expression and moral equality, between innovation and stability.
But we do have to face the idea that sometimes, one has to take one for the team. 

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Black Lives Matter group disrupts ACLU speaker at William and Mary

Today, the Black Lives Matter Facebook page “Built on our Backs” shared a one hour video of its disruption (starting at about 4:10) of a speaker from the ACLU, Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, for what it claims is ACLU support of white supremacy, at William and Mary.   The group claims “zero tolerance for white supremacy no matter what form it masquerades in.” This demonstration seems to originate from a W-M chapter of BLM. 

Inside Higher Ed wrote a story on the protest (Jeremy Bauer-Wolf), which Rick Sincere from Charlottesville carried today on his “”. 

I have a history with William and Mary, back in 1961, as my own readers know.
Let’s see if Milo Yiannopoulos carries this story as an example of the aggressive, anarchist Left. 

Sunday, October 01, 2017

A touch of class indignation and maybe a warning of warfare at a church potluck

At a church potuck after the Communion service this first Sunday, I had an odd conversation. I sat down at a circular table across from a middle-aged man who looked like he came off the streets.
A conversation started.  He rebuked people who had disrespected the flag at football games, but then suddenly went on a rant as to how Washington DC used to be 95% black (it wasn’t) but how richer white people had driven them out with gentrification.

“What if I show up at your house with a gun and take it back.  You leave” he said.
“That’s political violence”, I said. Or maybe it’s expropriation by force.  (The Bolsheviks did it to people in 1917.  But then so did the Nazis.  And then so did Stalin.  A friend in Minnesota calls this "purification", without fasting, Lama-style).  After which there are no victims, only a new normal.  People who used to think they were better than others have been reduced to nothing by force.  Everyone is brought equally low, by those for whom civilization, with all its built-in inequalities, makes little sense,  So far, this is pure existentialism.  I understand the Christian message that then there is only Grace.  And then, I thought, someone like Clark Kent in Smallville never asks people to drop everything and follow him.  Neither does Peter Parker.  There are no god-kings.
He criticized me for “just” riding the Metro, not taking the bus (and maybe not volunteering for Food and Friends to deliver in SE DC).  The woman next to me then intervened and criticized him, as not showing the love of God. He said something about Joshua being an invader and a dictator.  I said something about the idea that conquests, captivities and forced migrations happened a lot in the Bible to the chosen peoples.  (Babylonian captivity was a “normal” for two or three decades.) The woman then explained that the two very full plates from the pot-luck would hold her until the next food stamps.  I had contributed my share, from the Harris Teeter.