Friday, August 31, 2018

The Blackstone Formulation, due process of law, and utilitarianism



Here’s an important Timcast video today, “We must give everything to protect the falsely accused”
  .
  
Tim Pool discusses Blackstone’s Formulation  of this idea.  He takes up the #MeToo expansion and asks if it better that 1 innocent person go to prison to keep 10 guilty people in jail and therefore (according to utilitarianism) prevent more victims.

Authoritarian leaders tend to prefer to punish the innocent to ensnare more of the guilty, and often use extrajudicial operations. Pool points out Ezra Klein’s position (Klein helped found Vox media) that sexual harassment doesn’t have easy solutions.

My own feeling is that there indeed some moral ambiguity when a person’s gratuitous activities increase the likelihood of his being targeted and causing others connected to him to be targeted.  I’ve talked about this on my “Notes” blog for my book (such as here) .  So I could raise the idea "Payback's a bitch" (quote from the soap "Days of our Lives") and even ask Timcast if he thinks retrial defendants (like on Dateline) should take Alford pleas. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

I post an article on electric power grids' security on Medium, asking mainstream media to take this problem more seriously



Today I have posted my first article on Medium, “Mainstream media needs to take electric grid security seriously; its peril is more immediate than climate change”, link here

Medium is a low-cost member subscription platform, which in practice reaches a pretty wide audience on trendy topics.  The overall political slant seems to be generally “neoliberal”, although there are some writers advocating socialism (like Umair Haque, whose moral vision is certainly interesting and controversial).

I am starting to experiment a bit with other platforms, as a way to gain more traction and “credibility”.  This seems to be a good idea given the political climate regarding the role of user generated content on Web and on social media.

I expect to put a version of this article on my Wordpress news blog next week, possibly after an interview that I expect to have Tuesday with a cybersecurity expert.

I have posted links to it on Facebook and Twitter, and may promote it next week on my formal Facebook page (which is different from the account). I expect to talk to some media outlets about this issue directly in the coming weeks.
  
Let’s get back to the topic:  the mainstream media is not adequately covering the existential threats to out way of life that asymmetric enemy “Black Swan” attacks on the grid (especially from those like North Korea who could decide they have “nothing to lose”).  Fox (“conservative’) is still paying a lot more attention to this problem than is CNN, and Vox is somewhat ambivalent.  Huffington, however, has started to cover it.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Ninth Circuit says hosts are usually not responsible for guests' use of their Internet connections unless they "know"; Trump's threat to regulate search engines and social media



In early 2017, when I was considering hosting (asylum seekers) I looked into the liability questions if a host supplying an Internet connection could liable, particularly on a guest account, for a guest’s copyright infringement in an illegal download.

Apparently the Ninth Circuit thinks, no, and this is reassuring.  That is, if the Internet connection has lawful uses and the host has no reason to suspect illegal downloads will happen.

EFF tweeted the result today, here in a case Cobbler Nevada v. Gonzalez, where the defendant offered an adult foster care home in Oregon. The text of the court opinion is here

The case would seem to have application, perhaps, with Airbnb rentals.

Of course, this is only one circuit.  The opinion is not technically binding in other circuits, but would probably provide good psychological cover.

Holding hosts responsible for guest behavior would hamper goodwill and charity in many situations, including helping some immigrants.  The last paragraph of Part II of the Opinion outlines the court’s reasoning.  Were this to go to the Supreme Court (after a future conflicting opinion in another circuit) there could be questions as to whether is moral reasoning, or whether there is something more literal in tort law, contracts, or previous opinions that serves as some sort of guide (Gorsuch-type thinking).
It looks like defendants had to pay attorney’s fees.



On another matter there is a question about Donald Trump’s silly threat to “regulate” Google over unfavorable results from search engines emphasizing “fake news”.  Of course, this is rubbish.  Google’s axioms for search engine placement have long been changeable and not quite transparent. But generally Google today will favor mainstream publications as sources of material when possible, and more “mainstream” publications are center to liberal than conservative; and furthermore Trump’s brand of conservatism really is, numerically speaking, a small portion of the material.  Google does not consider political ideology in ranking results, but what you get is a statistical expectation.


When I first started writing on the web under Web 1.0 in the late 90s, I ranked high in search engines because I didn’t have as much competition, and because my sites were simple (plain html, without databases) to index, according to the technology of the time. Of course, my material doesn’t rank as well now as it once did, but I am also not as dependent just on Google searches to be found.
  
Trump’s statements are a little alarming for another reason.  Back in December 2015, in pre-primary debate, Trump threatened to “shut down the Internet” if necessary for national security.  Consider that remark now.  Also consider Trump’s own use of Twitter.  The Dec. 8 2015 posting here reports that threat in terms of cutting down recruiting of potential terrorists. Trump, at the time, had little experience in using personal computers and didn’t trust them.

Update: Aug 30

Paula Bolyard writes in the Washington Post (paywall, p. A15 Aug. 30) "Trump cited my Google study but I oppose regulation".  She does criticize the social media company is in some cases.  Why did YouTube restrict access to some Prager U videos on some troublesome questions? (story).  She recommends readers take the initiative to visit sites on their own, and donate, subscribe, or enable ads for these sites to enable their writers to make a living so these sites can stay up.  OK, some independent bloggers (myself) don't need the income to stay up, but they may need to be allowed to stay up in the current political climate if self-funded (which is ironic). 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

John McCain: "a cause ... that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone"



Let’s take a moment to contemplate one of John McCain’s inevitable epigrams, listed here

“Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone.”

Well, by definition, anything defined by my existence alone that did not reach others, that others did not hear, would be worthless.  That’s like saying you can’t see the rest of the universe if it moves away too fast (expands faster than the speed of light).  The marketplace gives some hint to this.  If others don’t pay for your content (at least indirectly through ads) you have to wonder if you meet anyone’s needs.

But does these needs have to be up close and personal?  Is music alone a "cause"?


McCain stayed with things in the Vietnam war because he thought it was absolutely catastrophic for the country to lose the war (“as a road game”) even if it had not been correct to get into it at first.  He felt similarly about George W. Bush going into Iraq (to eliminate Saddam Hussein).

I do remember that in December 2010 he asked tough questions on removing “don’t ask don’t tell” from the military, before the final bill to repeal – because he did come from old school values about unit cohesion, which had gradually evolved with younger generations. He also came around to supporting the service of properly qualified transgender members.
  
There is an ethical problem – of responding to people when the goals you have been pursuing as chosen by “you” no longer seem acceptable to others or to meet their more pressing needs.  It is very important to me to follow my own mission, to pursue goals I have set for myself.  But to some extent, the appropriateness of goals depends on the outside world and sometimes ideas that were acceptable and even favored no longer are as permissible.  We see the world moving away from valuing individually crafted speech and favoring action, even joining up, even breaking down social barriers of propriety, as the results of inequality, and the vulnerabilities inequality leaves, even when viewed at the group (or intersectional) level becomes more pressing. This is somewhat the “skin in the game” problem of Nicholas Taleb.  It is very difficult for me to accept, if coerced to do so, the “lifting up” personally of someone whom I would have disapproved in the past.  Yet that is a benefit I have accepted from others in the past.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Google and Facebook terminate bot-like accounts from Iran (and more from Russia) for meddling with public opinion



Both Google and Facebook have just more terminated bot-like accounts associated with Iran and Russia recently.

CNBC reports that Google terminated a small number of YouTube accounts, Google+ accounts, and even Blogger accounts (at least six of them) associated with “politically motivated phishing”, and apparently connected to the Islamic Republic of Iran broadcasting.  It’s not clear how a blog would phish, but in the past (especially about ten years ago) if was common for spam blogs to be removed.  YouTube and Google+ content can be curated and directed toward users by algorithms; blog content generally cannot.   We’re familiar with spam in email; but repeated bot postings directed at a user by algorithms would function very much like spam. Indeed, many of the sites offered might have malware.

Facebook reportedly took down 652 accounts and pages associated with Russia and Iran  (Guardian).
  
Jessica Guynn has a more detailed and illustrated story on USA Today on how Iran tried to manipulate the more vulnerable visitors on the Left as well as the alt-Right.  Claiming “an immigrant took my job” in a photo – is that something on the Left or the alt-Right?   They are pretty much the same.


Still, at this late time (less than 90 days until the midterm elections), we are left wondering now, two years after the 2016 elections, social media users would be so vulnerable to propaganda and manipulation and obviously questionable claims.  Don’t visitors and voters have some moral responsibility for how they consume news sources?   Ask David Hogg.

I’ve never completely bought the theory that Russian social media manipulation threw the 2016 elections.  They may have matter more in the Republican primaries; still the zombie-like chants at Trump rallies sounded like scenes out of dystopisan Hollywood movies.  Even on Nov. 7, they were chanting “Lock her up!” 
  
Unfortunately, the only usable YouTube video on this story came from Russia Today – which really “isn’t that bad”.  

Sunday, August 26, 2018

New charity in Baltimore takes personalization of volunteering (especially mentoring) to a new level ("The Thread")



I haven’t seen an op-ed by David Brooks in August, but a late July piece in the New York Times, “Where American Renewal Begins”, certainly looks personally challenging. 

The piece describes an organization started in Baltimore by a biomedical graduate student, Sarah Hemminger.  It is called “The Thread”.   It seems to be affiliated now with AmeriCorps.
  
The group organizes volunteers as personal mentors to at risk high school students. 

It’s hard to tell from a cursory look at the site if it is present outside of Baltimore, in other cities. The site says that a volunteer should meet with a student at least once a week. But the article mentions the idea of “Head of Family” which suggests that the personal engagement is much greater than that. 


This is pretty heavy stuff, given my own history, for example, when I worked as a substitute teacher (2004-2007) in northern Virginia.  Generally, I am aloof with respect to seeking relations and see “playing family” as particularly challenging.

But there are provisions in my own trust, which I won’t get into here right now, that could lead me to become more involved in something like this. (For example, I don't know if any beneficiary organizations have ever considered starting something like this; but the "head of family" reminds me of Save the Children's idea of "sponsorship".)  But I need to finish the work I am engaged in first and see it through (the novel, screenwriting, and music projects I have discussed here under “strategic planning”). Yet, I can imagine a world where I (childless) have to demonstrate community engagement in a personal level to even be allowed to keep my own voice up.

Friday, August 24, 2018

FOSTA has marginalized sex workers by denying them any right to get help online in escaping from predators; was this what the "right" wanted?



Victoria Law has an important article today in Truthout about the effect FOSTA is having on sex workers, with the title “Anti-trafficking laws are hurting, not helping, but sex workers are fighting back”, here. 

That’s because any reasonable interpretation of FOSTA seems to imply that a website’s accepting an ads or announcements related to sex work breaks the law. Woddhull’s litigation (still open) certainly makes that point.  The article starts with an account of how it was no longer lawful for a women’s group in Sacramento to advertise a safe house for abused sex workers, because doing so would amount to promoting prostitution (by some invocations of logic).

The law is seen by many as more a way to “crack down” on prostitution (not just trafficking) by driving sex workers to the margins and forcing them to depend on the underworld, just as with the case of criminalizing marijuana (or, in the past, gay sex with sodomy laws).  The law is doing very little to stop the actual hiring or people for sex work against their will.  The news stories even report underground fundraisers. 
  
  
In some cities, there is an issue as to whether condoms can be used as evidence of prostitution. 
  ‘
A law which purported at first to curtail the obvious subterfuge of Backpage (which was shut down anyway before the law was signed) has had ramifications of shutting down lawful Internet hookups.
  
Woodhull’s latest supplemental brief is here
  
The video above is from Subverse, which has some large videos from Tim Pool.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Why conventional activists dislike independent journalists, to the point of wanting to close "us" all down


On Monday, I discussed a video by Tim Pool on the problems of local journalism, and on how activists seem to be trying to make a “hostile takeover” of independent journalist activity.
  
Before moving on, I want also to share a video where Tim interviews Ford Fischer, from News2share, a small online newspaper started a few years ago by some American University students in Washington DC. (Why isn’t it https?)  It does appear as though the service focuses on political demonstrations from the more extreme factions on both the Left and Right.


In this video (made Aug 14) Tim interviews Ford on Facebook’s taking down his live stream of the abortive “United the Right 2” on Aug. 12, and this event did not amount to much. I’ll let the viewer watch the video for explanations, but I want to move on to the main point of this post.

Recall that in the Monday video, Tim had described the practice of “mission driven” reporting, where reporters seem to be trying to get viewers to support a particular cause, or to volunteer to provide service to those in some specific need, or (often) a combination of both.  (I’ll add that piecemeal service experiences don’t work for me unless I am dedicated to “the cause”, but that gets out of bounds here.)

This leaves me with the basic question:  Who gets to call him/herself an independent journalist or citizen journalist and function as such?  Electronic Frontier Foundation has said, anyone.  In the earlier days of the Internet, it seemed as though citizen journalists were adding much nuance to debate and keeping politicians and major media honest.  Overseas, they were helping foment uprisings, like the Arab Spring. But since about 2012 interests of those in power have encroached on this and perverted it, leading to the enormous political meddling on social media by foreign interests, especially before the 2016 election.  As Tim’s broadcast Monday showed, it is harder for guild and established professionals in legacy media to make a living today, not so much because of piracy (SOPA, 2011) but partly because of amateur media produced practically for free and channeled into social media, competing with legacy. Actor/writer Reid Ewing had hinted at this problem back in 2012 with his own short films based on the idea “It’s Free”.  

At this point, it’s important to note that Tim Pool does say he makes a living with Timcast, and he does ask for a small subscription donation. I do donate to Patreon (small) and I can’t comment further right now on how it works. Ford Fischer’s video today also discusses issues with YouTube monetization, which implies that revenue from his work does matter.

My own “business model” however is different.  Most of my material is free (except the printed and Kindle/Nook books) and advertising revenue (Adsense, Amazon associates) is very small and not critical to my operation.  I am “retired” from information technology and can support the work with accumulated savings, some of it inherited. (Some of the inheritance remains in trusts, so there are legal limits on how I can use that part of it.)  I don’t have impressive numbers or sales, but on a few occasions I am pretty sure I have had a disproportionate impact on public policy for just one person. 

 OK, that sounds “wrong”;  nobody voted for me;  I didn’t run a for office a conventional way.
      
I got into this whole activity, as a second career, in the late 1990s with my first book (“Do Ask Do Tell I”) motivated by the gays in the military debate and my relation to it given my own autobiography. The first printing of the book in 1997 did sell reasonably well, but in time I got attention mainly by putting the book, along with many notes, online and getting, over time, some hundreds of thousands of visitors from search engines, with almost no marketing effort on my own. Yet, the world of conventional activism would see me as a "watcher" or "spectator" (the villain in the Netflix film "Rebirth"), definitely not to be admitted to Burning Man in Nevada. 


My normal IT work career ended at age 58 at the end of 2001 (after 9/11); although I did sub-teaching and debt collection and other odd jobs, my career settled into blogging – but about almost everything on policy.

The military ban (and don’t ask don’t tell policy) was an unusual issue in that formed a kernel around which to encase most other public policy issues involving the tension between individualism and socialization. That’s practically everything, especially free speech and First Amendment issues, but also getting to race and also to immigration and gun control.  For example, I became a plaintiff against COPA, under EFF sponsorship.

One problem is that my style of work, developed with flat sites dependent on search engines before modern social media (esp. Facebook) took hold, made me very public and in time precluded me from working for anyone else.  How could I credibly court people to sell them financial products (following my own IT career)?  How could I credibly have direct reports in the workplace if people could find my writings easily and develop the idea I could have “discriminatory” views of some subordinates?

I’ve written about all this in great detail before.  But what I want to focus on now is that the respect for the value of free self-distributed speech, which had evolved quickly in the late 1990s with the WWW and which we had come to take for granted (that is partly what the 2006 COPA trial was about) has deteriorated gradually since about 2012, especially in 2016 with the Trump campaign, election and presidency.

One of the basic concerns about a model like mine is asymmetry.  I don’t seem to have much personal skin in the game (although in the past I did). Actually, when it started, it probably came across as Timcast’s idea of  “mission driven” (ending the military ban, which was more than just DADT). But I was unusual in that I would present “both sides” with some thoroughness, and I never tried to urge readers to “take action”.  I was willing to discuss the “barracks privacy” and “unit cohesion” arguments, for example; these are largely forgotten today but held considerable sway in the Clinton years.  9/11 would cause many more nuances to develop in the issue.
  
But today an activist, particularly on the Left, would see me as just meddling.  I would bring up arguments that activists see as already settled;  my mentioning them would only have the bad effect of encouraging others to resurrect them.  Conventional activism, especially intersectionality, was taking on tribalism and solidarity, requiring a collective combativeness to protect others in the group. 

While my own speech did not usually get fed into echo chambers by algorithms, it probably would be viewed as part of the same problem:  gratuitous speech (“I told you so”) which gives the speaker the psychological luxury of feeling better than the “losers” who had turned to tribalism. Why won’t you wear shorts in public, Bill?

In today’s environment, when combined with other problems (especially FOSTA and other erosions of Section 230), platforms might see speech like mine as attracting unpredictable risk and therefore unwelcome.  The Ford Fischer video emphasized the fact that it is just very low cost competition, maybe driving people out of jobs.

One idea that could contain the risk is to require that all websites (and “professional” social media pages) be self-supporting by normal standards of accounting  (unless belonging to companies or organizations somehow registered, which then have to give their own accounting), carry media insurance, and offer multiple contact points.  I don’t think it requires too much imagination, however, to realize that this would lead to a system much more like China’s. It would also be much smaller in the number of jobs offered, at least as American industry is set up now.  But that leads to the whole discussion of trade, tariffs, and business models that Trump has made so much noise about.

You can imagine a similar idea with the self-published book POD industry, where books (might) have to actually sell a certain volume or be taken down.  True, many self-published (especially "vanity")  authors don’t need to make money on what they publish, but the argument is, this is bad for the reputation of the industry and for authors that do need to make a living just from writing.  It almost sounds like a variation on the vaccination denial problem.

But it is useful, at least as a “dangerous” (following Milo Yiannopoulos’s trademarked vocabulary) thought experiment, to imagine what such a regime would require of someone like me.  

Remember, until the late 1990s we really did not have the capacity for unregulated user generated content to attract attention to one’s own political theories.  Put simply, if you wanted to be heard, you had to join up with others with similar concerns.  Yup, this sounds pretty much like left-wing ideas of solidarity and tribalism.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly claimed “I am your voice” to his base.  And sites like Truth-out repeatedly beg for money and claim only they can speak for me (often in a threatening tone).

Yup, in the world before the Internet, you had to be used to the idea that you had other people’s backs and they had yours, politically, even if many of them did not appeal to you. This could be a big problem when you wanted to argue “personal responsibility” in the context of gay rights and we were coming out of the worst of the AIDS crisis of the 80s. 

One of the ideas that kept shifting underneath conservative social values was that the way people accept risks or pass on them and let others take them on, itself has moral significance. That is somewhat the heart of Nicholas Taleb’s “Skin in the Game” book and argument. It certainly was a big factor in the way we thought about the draft.  Risk sharing was more clearcut in a world where gender was binary and valued as such. That whole way of thinking gets wiped away, however, in a world where everything having to do with gender has to be “fluid”, and to say otherwise is “hate speech”.  See how “The Left” especially wants to take a lot of things off the table and force people to be organized into their structures.  But the alt-right wants to do the same thing, with a different set of parameters and players.

One of the “benefits” for some people of rigid social systems (with enforced "rightsizing", maybe even leading to Chins's planned social credit scores) is that it is easier to get off on them in building one’s own relationships.  There is a tendency toward upward affiliation socially, and an insistence that one not ever have to look at the lepers, the untouchables, those left behind. What seems like personal freedom in such a structured world becomes a personal fascism and can invite political fascism (as opposed to pure socialism or communism).

The only good antidote to this, in a world where some freedom of speech dissemination has been taken away, is to be more open to personal interaction to those one would have tried to avoid in the past.  “Better Angels” as an organization seems to be saying this, but it goes beyond just the association of people with different political outlooks;  it gets to real need.

Such personal action comports with social capital, and that usually starts with the family.  But the Left is insisting this does not go far enough, because it won’t recognize the cumulative effects that various intersectional groups experience as collective oppression by the power structure, or established system, against groups it has historically and systematically oppressed. But this insistence on the Left to put everything back on the system takes the personal and social aspect out of it, and defeats the Left’s real intention of establishing social solidarity, which is supposed to replace the freewheeling speech (often gratuitous and by implication, hateful or at least critical) today. 

Modern social media, to its credit, is trying to address this issue by directly encouraging members (especially within Facebook) to interact with others in ways that might have been unwelcome in the past.  For example, I prefer to keep most of my charitable giving private and out of social media, and try to avoid the appearance to taking sides or playing favorites, or even “joining up”.  But that is exactly what Facebook now is trying to get me to do, quite publicly.  There is a theory that mass activism campaigns through personal contact (email lists, phone calls, door-to-door, "Take Action" buttons even on narrow issues) have gotten a bad reputation (spam, robocalls) because so many people now have gotten out of having to do things this way, leaving everyone else weaker.  

Of course, then the end result, is that it needs to be more acceptable again to have other people’s backs and let them have yours if you take a chance and something goes wrong (skin in the game, again).
  
I personally like the idea of winning the arguments, rather than mindlessly pimping a group’s line to win converts.  But the rapidly devolving social climate, away from individual expression, may well force me to accept a lot of social connections and barrier shedding just, as in John Travolta’s 1983 movie, to stay alive.




Monday, August 20, 2018

Tim Pool explains how activism is encroaching on journalism, out of economic necessity



I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the asymmetry of today’s blogger journalism, and I came across a major “Timcast” in May 2018 by Tim Pool.

The video is called “How Mentally Distressed Activists Took Over Journalism” and he often flashes a screen in bold letters “The Current State” which is like a subtitle.


Tim talks about what is today considered “fake news”.  Not all of it is untrue.  But the first category often does comprise fake, made-up, tabloid-like stories that are false, from small companies, individual bloggers, or bots overseas.  These are more likely to wind up being driven to “echo chambers” that keep Americans divided, as we have been hearing.  (I don’t think my own stories are fake.)

The next category is “Mission Driven Storytelling”, which Tim returns to at the end of the 20-minute video.  The third is “Hyper-Partisan”, where Breitbart is an example on the far right.  Tim is careful to note that most of the stories in these two categories are actually true.  The fourth is “satirical”, which may be like the Onion in print; but in today’s world many visitors don’t understand how to read satire, and sometimes satire has been taken down by social media monitors who don’t understand the ironies presented.

Tim then discusses the devolution of print media and the poor state of the job market in journalism, which is especially true of local news.  On August 9, I already wrote a blog post on a new company called “Civil.co” which wants to use digital currency tokens to pay journalists.  Tim pays heed to the student loan issue for many graduates in journalism.

He returns then to mission-driven story telling, which aims to go beyond factual reporting to encourage readers to take action, which may be political activism, or which may be genuine service to help others, or some mixture of the two.

Pool mentions that some activists see (perhaps gratuitous) "objective" reporting that is not deferential to oppressed minorities as "hate speech" by implication. 
   
I am concerned about this from the viewpoint of my own second career as a blogger, which has gone on essentially since the late 1990s, and which picked up after my 2001 career ending layoff in IT and some other interim jobs. I will come back to this again, but there is concern over the asymmetry of my own blogging, which simply depends on search engines to have political effect.  Even though I don’t put up impressive numbers, I know that it is effective.  But I get questioned on why I don’t do more personally for other people or support specific (often partisan) causes, some of them intersectional in nature. From a moral viewpoint, and even the practical “Black Swan” risks of the “skin in the game” argument (of Nicholas Taleb) that is getting more attention, that’s a good question that I will have to come back to soon.
Pool has a more recent video about journalists being attacked by Antifa, here.  Extremists or combative groups view journalists as "watchers" who benefit from "oppression" of "the people". Everyone must fight, in their view, rather like conscription. 


Friday, August 17, 2018

Two (or three) big pieces on identarian politics, and hypersensitivity about race -- and "my" own free speech



Two major pieces appeared in Rick Sincere’s daily paper from Bearing Drift in Charlottesville. They both are intricate, and I’ll have to come back to the details again.  But let me introduce them now.
The first is in Foreign Affairs, and is by Francis Fukuyama, and is titled “Against Identity Politics: The New Tribalism and theCrisis of Democracy”.  This is of booklet length (online there is a paywall) and I might have put it on the Books blog. I’ve reviewed several books on Wordpress recently on tribalism and the tension between hyper-individualism and sustainable democracy.  I actually proposed this article to Sincere.

  
This article traces the history of the Left, which moved through the working class and tried to contain individuality with the “New Man” idea and the socialist left, which came out of the Marxist narrative.  But western democracy, most of all in the US, created a paradox for the left.  It first offered equality before the law;  but with freedom and with inherited advantages individuals performed differently, and wealth and income inequality steadily increased.  Yet the new Left, rather than focusing on the old working class model, instead, led by the Civil Rights movement, began to focus on repairing oppressions of an increasing (and intersectional) list of groups.  The “old” norms of personal neutrality in offering opportunity weren’t good enough. Speech normally seen as acceptable in narrow implementations of personal responsibility (including free speech “fundamentalism”) could be seen as encouraging suppression of people with specific identities (maybe most of all in gender fluidity and identity issues). The infiltration of identity norming into speech is now putting unprecedented pressure on the tech industry to mediate the speech of users or even deciding who can have the floor.

Then growing inequality encouraged pundits and politicians (most of all Donald Trump) to export identarianism to the right, more or less creating the alt-right. In Europe, the article says, it is much harder.

The article, toward the end, actually proposes a mandatory national service for the United States as a healthful way to encourage national identity. Would the practice be contained within young adulthood?  Maybe seniors would have to “earn” their social security?
  
The other article in this “No Voice at Vox: Sense andNonsense about Discussing IQ and Race”, by Richard Haier, on Quillette. Haier had submitted a piece to Vox rebutting Vox’s earlier 2017 piece saying that podcaster Sam Harris had been reinvigorating the “junk science” between Charles Murray’s 1994 book “The Bell Curve” about race and IQ.  That book could make a preview post on my legacy Books blog even though its 24 years old (and normally I’m not much for promoting old books when my POD publisher calls me). Murray’s ideas, at a certain level, are so offensive to the identarian far Left that he has been banned from some campuses or driven off. But, as Haier points out (sounding a lot like James Damore in the way he writes and reasons) ideas should not be discarded just because their invocation have a potential for a morally repugnant or ugly outcome. Haier reproduces the rejected submission to Vox and tries to parse all possible statements into a new sequence, rather like he was preparing a proof for a plane geometry exam.  I can’t say conclusively that either side is wrong – you can accept, for example, that measurable differences in intelligence (as a measurable g) can accumulate because of environmental influences and colonial exploitation of one population over another.


Monday, August 13, 2018

The Twitter Purge II? Peter Van Buren (like this is a movie franchise?)




Former state department official Peter Van Buren (whistleblower “We Meant Well”) recently appeared on Fox News to explain the inexplicable – Twitter’s banning him for life, as in the American Conservative
  
He admitted to journalists that feeding them lies had been part of his job, and challenged them to question officials more.  But Twitter has apparently refused to explain exactly what tweet banned him, or how he was threatening.

But one tweet as an obviously metaphor on MAGA was complained ("tattletaled")  about as "violence". The video at about 10:00 explains (like this was Vox). 
Then Zerohedge reports Twitter suspended two more Libertarian accounts, including the head of the Ron Paul Institute.  All of this sounds like a petty food fight in middle school. 

  
The article reviews all the actions against Alex Jones, which Twitter did not follow suit on.  But the article regards the “Corportocracy” rather than Russia as the real enemy of democracy.  It says that the major social media platforms are acting as quasi-publishers with editorial slants, and are falling for the extreme “intersectional” demands of the radical Left  -- that are deeply invested in protecting group identity and are far afield from individual rights (even marriage equality) the way we had come to expect. 

But it does seem that the true conservatives (not the alt-right so much) are getting banned sometimes. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

No, I'm not afraid of Fox, but Ingraham blunders; personal friend journalist goes to Fox; "The Young People Keep Winning"



I have to admit that a lot of Fox News really sounds all right to me – when they talk about conservative to libertarian fundamentals, how markets prevent monopoly and give choices to the less favored, and the like.

But I’ve noticed the debate over Laura Ingraham and her suggestion that a way of life has been lost – that technological changes and immigration have changes some things too fast for many people. Many liberals felt that this was a code word for color.  True, technology and foreign competition have made a lot of jobs obsolete. But immigration and differential birth rates have made the country less white, maybe.  So CNN sees it, as in this video. Ingraham, remember, got the worst of a scuffle with David Hogg, who (whether one agrees with him completely or not) cannot be outsmarted or intimidated. Indeed "The Young People Will Win."
    
In my own experience, mainly in I.T. in cities like DC, New York, Dallas, and Minneapolis:  the salaried workforce has pretty much followed the proportions of the population.  No one has made much of it.  By the early 1990s, workplace conduct codes generally would punish aggressively or obviously racially-oriented remarks.  As for religion – we had lead technical analysts from India and Pakistan and no one thought anything of it, not even after 9/11. The sexual harassment scandals at the top are a shock to me – because they didn’t happen in my environments.  The polarization is quite a shock to me.

My friend, Trey Yingst, is moving from OANN as a White House correspondent is moving to Fox as a correspondent based in Jerusalem, announcement here.  No, I don’t have a phobia of Fox.  Again, most of what I hear on it is more standard conservative-to-libertarian material.  Trey, recall, had helped start News2Share at American University.  He was known for asking very challenging questions in White House press conferences, especially on overseas issues (including Syria).  The tone of the questions seemed to challenge over-confidence and urge caution, and personal compassion.

Who are the main conservative figures today who understand compassion?  John McCain and Larry Hogan, for one, because of personal medical challenges.  Perhaps John Kasich.  Maybe Jeff Flake.   
  
On the other hand, I’m shocked to see Nunes (intelligence) urging the dispensation of checks and balances to protect the president.

With the president we still find a shockingly na├»ve idea of leadership, loyalty, even authority.  

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Civil Media proposes sustaining journalism with blockchain technology where the people vote with "civil tokens" on who remains published



Civil Media Company has a video in which it proposes a decentralized blockchain model for creating sustainable journalism.

The video starts out by noting the "It's Free" model for the Internet (Reid Ewing's little 2012 short film on "the library") pushes monetization onto user behavior -- all onto advertising. Then users stop visiting advertisers and the business model fails. 


The blockchain is called Etherium, and the originators will be called the First Fleet. There will be a Civil Constitution.

Participants can purchase “civil tokens” starting around September 18, 2018.

Material that is published stays up depending on whether people pay for it with civil tokens.

I suppose that a journalist’s reputation and ability to stay in the field would depend on earning tokens.  But that would be like forcing a website down if it didn’t have enough unique visitors, or terminating a self-published book if it didn’t sell enough copies, for essentially ideological reasons (I mentioned this on my Books blog today on a coincidental issue that has occurred with CreateSpace).
  
I will certainly look further into this and watch it closely, before deciding how and when to participate. It’s unclear what happens in the long run to journalists who don’t join.  The music in the video reminds me of Stenhammar's Second Piano Concerto, an obscure work with some very familiar tunes and themes. 

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Columbia University wants Facebook to allow temporary accounts for research


Facebook does not allow journalists to create “temporary research accounts” with constructed identities, The Washington Post reports

Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Center wants Facebook to change this policy, and allow journalists to test the system with “fake” identities to see how algorithms behave.  This might help find red flags in ways foreign elements could exploit and divide certain users.

But doing so violates terms of service, which allows only one account per person (although multiple pages are possible for professionals). In some cases prosecution could result (which was actually attempted in a case involving Myspace and cyberbullying by fake identities back in 2006).

I’ve even said that the “one account” rule might present a problem for doing fund raising properly.  For what I see as ethical reasons, I object to being asked to run other people’s fundraisers on my own page.  But I wouldn’t object to setting up new accounts for projects I would be committed to.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Is Alex Jones "the canary in the coal mine" for user generated content?




Monday, I mentioned the banning of Alex Jones on some social media sites on my network neutrality blog, with a speculation (suggested on Facebook) that activists would then be able to harass his web hosts or even telecom companies into refusing to connect him at all, now that net neutrality is gone.  It seems Alex Jones is the “canary on the coalmine” (especially Trump’s).
  
The general impression in the media is that Apple sudden banned him on iTunes, and within hours Facebook, YouTube and Spotify felt forced to follow the leader into a blackball event. That’s not completely true. Facebook and YouTube already had Jones on what amounts to “progressive discipline” (Youtube calls them community standards strikes) as had, in fact, Apple.  Some pieces of Jone’s stuff may still be up on these sites.

Aja Romano on Vox explains the “falling dominoes” here.

Janes Coastan has another explanation on the same site. 
  
  
In general, the social media companies are pointing more to issues with explicit TOS violations, on hate speech against groups and violence, than they are on conspiracies of fake news.  But Mark Zuckerberg seems to be his remarks a month ago “tolerating” Holocaust denial narrowing a bit.

The Washington Times also had a somewhat detailed account of the “progressive discipline” events.

Wired has been very critical of the vagueness and constant change in what Facebook defines as hate speech.
  
DailyWire explains why the sites are “dead wrong” on the bans.
  
Jack Dorsey explains why InfoWars is still on Twitter.  He hadn’t violated their rules. Dorsey was concerned that bannings could be motivated by political ideology.

I have not paid much attention to Alex Jones (given the outrageous nature of his conspiracy theories) and cannot say much about all of his transgressions. But David French of the New York Times offers a perspective, first of Jones’s legal standards, and second he suggests that tech companies focus on libel and slander (which could probably have booted Jones) rather than on shape-shifting ideas of hate speech. One danger is that tech companies seem to lured by overzealous pronouncements against groups and perhaps individuals by the Southern Poverty Law Center. French gives at least one disturbing example of the labeling of a professor for simply refusing to honor a “people of color” protest.
  
Amazon has also been in the act, downgrading some accounts from some programs and banning some items (like Nazi items and at least one book). Would Confederate items be next? Amazon has been slowly tightening its site, for example removing many questionable user reviews. 
   
There are major threats to a lot of user-generated content and self-published content staying up these days.  The most obvious issue is FOSTA (I wrote about the recent forum at Woodhull on Wordpress and on my legacy COPA blog).  But the bigger problem seems to be the theory (in circulation since 2016) that “speech” from those without their own “skin in the game” (Taleb’s idea) are gratuitously exposing others to harm and should be shut down.
  
Indeed, before we had the Internet, it was much harder for individuals be become politically active on their own terms. You had to join up with others to be heard.  But back in earlier times, the issues really weren’t polarizing and so centered on tribal identity and “intersectionality” as they are today.  

Aug. 10

More perspectives:  FEE site (absolute idea of personal responsibility -- is it the gun or the shooter?). 

Washington Post:  freedom of association at risk, too.

Slate:  foreign policy and American tech companies

Vox : major tweet about YouTube.

Aug. 17

Many media sources report that Twitter now has suspended Alex Jones for one week. for example, Vox.

Sept. 6  Alex Jones has been permanently banned from Twitter after an incident outside the Kavanaugh hearings, Washington Post story.