Friday, July 30, 2021

Treating people as more than "members of collectivities", and big Tech's fear of constructive criticism of the public health establishment


closed mural at Big Meadows, 2021-7

Some disturbing stuff (besides the Covid material).

Karlyn Borysenko talks about Dave Rubin’s (RubinReport) brief suspension from Twitter, merely for expressing an opinion critical of the prevailing narratives on vaccines.  I zipped a message to Twitter on this and also embedded Karlyn’s video.  No action taken against me. 

But social media is scared that even constructive criticism of the official line will convince some less intact people to be less willing to get vaccinated.

Now, another story, about a supposed “Democratic bill” to suspend Section 230 protections for material having to deal with coronavirus, under fear that the end result will be less compliance, again, for tribal and perhaps gullible people. 

It’s all a pretty offensive way to think.

Let’s also look an op-ed by George Will in the Washington Post, as he talks about the history of “separate but equal” leading to liberal color-blindness (now challenged by CRT), passing through a dissent in the Plessy decision.  But most remarkable is how Will nots a transition to treating people as individuals rather than as members of “collectivities”.  The latter appeals to the far Left, but also to white supremacy. Both sides on the extremes represent people who have failed to thrive as individuals (“losers”) and who need to experience life through collective identity. Dave Rubin often makes this point. 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Hyperindividualism, and the (un)willingness of people to bond out of necessity


Rafko Park, Leesburg VA 2021/7

Umair Haque offers a daily scolding of American individualism on his Eudaimonia Medium channel, and today he offers the essay “The number of close friendships that Americans have has declined over the past several decades”.    

There is a long logical catechism regarding the way people show willingness or desire to bond with others outside of their current setup (often family, but for single people, often loosely defined and predicated on upward affiliation).  I could go into that in a video.

The culture I grew up in, during the 1950s and 1960s, encouraged my looking at people through measures, like their grades in school.  Those who did not do well would wind up on the lower rungs of society and become more likely cannon fodder with the military draft (as it anteed-up during the Vietnam war).  This was certainly disadvantageous to blacks, statistically, because of the systemic racism still built into society.  But that is not really the major point, as there were so many other ways to be at a serious disadvantage.

Then, there was assortive mating, and the idea of “the best you can do.”

So what Haque describes has been going on a lot longer than since 1990.  Personally, I don't join "groups" these days and tend not to "hang out" with people unless there is some purpose beforehand. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Founder of Wikipedia no longer trusts the website he helped create


Skyline Drive tunnel VA 2021-7

Freddie Sayers of The Unherd, interviews Larry Sanger, one of the original founders of Wikipedia, along with Jimmy Wales. Sanger says, “I no longer trust the website I created”. 

From 2004-2009 the website was quite committed to viewpoint neutrality.

That has drifted away to a center-left establishment version of the truth. The Internet needs to decentralize itself, he says.

I’ve seen people characterized as far right when not true.  Bret Weinstein is depicted as having distributed medical misinformation on Covid.

Wales used to say he was the guardian of “all knowledge”.

I’ve contributed two articles:  filial responsibility laws, and Trey Yingst (journalist). Yes, the editing is extremely strict.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Paypal suddenly closes account associated (apparently) with TOR, crypto or other services used to get around censorship (maybe in authoritarian countries)


US Army museum, 2021/7 

Paypal has been willing, in at least one case, to yank services without notice to a customer if that customer’s business exposes Paypal to unusual risk, especially from authoritarian governments or terror or criminal groups associated with them. 

Rainey Reitman explains in a detailed article for Electronic Frontier Foundation in the story about Larry Brandt, who runs servers for TOR nodes. 

TOR is valuable to activists in countries with authoritarian governments, especially radical Islam, communist, military fascist, or some other unusual ideology.  It isn’t hard to see how this could make companies assisting it nervous. Maybe there would be a risk for litigation for money laundering.  

But TOR actually seeks volunteers to run TORrelays.  

Since Charlottesville, some infrastructure companies have shut down hosting, DNS, or financial operations service for persons or groups associated with white supremacy or possibly other extreme ideologies.

There would seem to be a danger that unwillingness to extend services could grow in the future, as “wokeness” tries to hold individuals responsible for unfair advantages, although right now this idea doesn’t seem to be very well orchestrated.  I can think of ideas (outside of blatant CRT demands) how it could be: for example, develop social credit scores based on community engagement, or  demand that persons not use inherited wealth to support their own political causes by ensuring sites are self-supporting.   Big tech has suddenly become sensitive to organized “woke” ideology and its ability to direct boycotts. 

EFF recommends that Paypal follow the Santa Clara Principles, which it doesn’t seem to have done in this case.  

Just today, Reuters reports that Paypal is looking at ways to identify transactions that fund "hate groups" and "extremists".  One problem, the SPLC is a bit ideological in what it thinks is "extremist".  Timcast IRL has a take on this. 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

CRT group in Dallas sends letter to wealthy white parents in some neighborhoods making "demands"


Along Mockingbird Lane 2018-5

Karlyn Borysenko reports on “demands” made by proponents of critical race theory in Dallas.

A letter was sent to “white” parents in Highland Park (an embedded wealthy enclave in Dallas around Preston Road and Mockingbird Lane) asking them not to encourage their kids to apply to any Ivy League schools, as a partial reparation for inherited wealth that oppressed people of color – also calling out the hypocrisy of the parents for pretending to support BLM.

When is Critical Race Theory an intellectual theory about history (like Marxism) and when does it embed mandatory activism that makes demands of people? 

Will we get to a point that (“white”??) people have to meet some of these demands before having Internet accounts, as a kind of reparation? 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Cancel culture, corporate reputations, and "conflict of interest"



Ezra Klein (one of the founders of Vox and now with the New York Times) has talked a lot about cancel culture recently, which can come from both right and left.  In this transcript from April, he talks to Natalie Wynn (trans, who runs ContraPoints) and Will Wilkinson (Niskanen Center), link.  

And he talks to Coleman Hughes.

Klein believes that cancel culture is somewhat the product of companies’ fear for the bottom line, since activists (often on the Left) have convinced companies of their ability to generate boycotts or strikes or other punishments. 

It’s shocking, some companies were fooled by outright Marxism, and others may feel they could get stinged if they are associated with parties who become hypocritical or are simply publicly spoiled by unrequited privilege.  This may start to become a problem post-pandemic, after a time when money couldn’t buy you out of quarantine or forced privation of isolation.

The “conflict of interest” concerning my job and planned book back in the mid 1990s was a pre-Internet preview of concerns that would eventually morph into cancel culture.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Conservative vlogger kicked off Paypal mysteriously; CRT educator wants "white people" to learn to feel vulnerable and "human"



sci-fi decor at US Army Museum cafe 2021-7

Alison Morrow interviews Ryan Cristian about Paypal’s banning him and seizing donations to his account for contact that has not been specified.

There are some possible reasons.  He has “controversial” content on the “Last American Vagabond”.  At a quick glance, it’s hard to see what is “wrong” other than questioning the accepted narrative on coronavirus vaccines and other interventions. Of course, you need to question anything like this that you find online in making your own medical decisions (and use your own medical resources).

There was mention of the possibility that he had gotten donations from suspicious sources (like Iran).  It’s a stretch, but maybe this has some connection to money laundering laws or terror watchlists.

It might be objectionable if someone who takes donations has inherited wealth (as I do).  I would never ask for donations;  I could charge subscriptions or paywall if I was in a position to, but I could not ask for donations or tips.

I also wanted to share a tweet from Mythinformed reporting a brief video quoting an “educator” who wants white children to be taught to be “human”.  It’s a rather shocking statement, to call “all” white people unempathetic to those in greater need (when that need is related to less than ideal behavior).  But it is true that “most” of the victims of police violence were behaving rather recklessly at first and that police have to make split-instant decisions.  Many of us think less of people who make bad choices without considering their level of privation in their backgrounds, but that can happen with white people growing up, too.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Domain name provider told to remove site for indexing copyright infringers; more on EU Copyright Directive implementation (mixed news)

Texaco memories

Two recent developments overseas, but they could easily happen in the US.

Corynne McSherry writes (for Electronic Frontier Foundation)  that Sony Music has convinced a domain name provider (Quad9) in Germany to block a site that merely indexes other sites suspected of copyright infringement.  I’ve probably done that indirectly in some of my own blogs in the past.  The story links to a similar story in the US involving Cloudflare and music sites in 2015 (I had not heard of that case).  

The idea that a domain name registrar should consider the purpose of a domain is dangerous, and might conceivably be relevant in my own circumstances (U,S.) as I can learn in September. 

Christoph Schmon provides an update on the implementation if Article 17 in the EU Copyright Directive, here.  The Advocate Generate of the EU did not stop “required” upload filters but did issue an opinion saying that social media platforms (and hosts) should consider proactively the legality of content being posted (the idea that it may not be infringing) before blocking it.  The EU does not have a comprehensive idea of Fair Use the way the US does.  A site called “Plagiarism Today” explains ten different ways that copyright law is implemented in the EU compared to US law.


Sunday, July 18, 2021

Odysee (a "free speech" video site) in a battle with SEC over use of blockchain as "securities"


should the MTA or WMATA accept cryptocurrency? 

Jeremy Kauffmann discusses the SEC’s lawsuit against him running Odysee, which is a “free-speech” video platform popular with those who had videos taken down by YouTube.  He discusses the litigation with Alison Morrow.

SEC claims that cryptocurrency is a “security” and is regulated this way.  He says his company also distribute some other materials that the government thinks is questionable (like instructions for 3-D printing weapons).  

SEC also offered him a settlement but is not willing to tell him how to comply with the “rules”.  A trial will force this out in the opening.  

The site uses blockchain technology, but the litigation will not affect users of the site.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Anti-vaxxers, personal autonomy -- and how this comes across to people who have lost family members or had close calls (even with kids) with COVID


NYC 2021/6

Just a short piece today, on CNN, an op-ed by Tina Sacks, “What anti-vaxxers sound like to me”. 

She does describe her young son’s brush with what was, in hindsight, apparently MIS-C, the pediatric syndrome that once in a while results from mild or symptomless infections with SARS_CoV2. 

Then she describes the right not to take the theoretical risk of a vaccine (or an artificial idea of body sanctity) as a false right, totally ignoring the downstream consequences of your “right” to others.

Of course, one can imagine absurd extensions of this theme.  Suppose a deadly virus came along that hid only in the follicles of men’s beards.  It’s a sci-fi idea now. Suppose the only prevention was total laser epilation.  Imagine the idea of body sanctity then.  True, just a screenplay tease now.  Actually, the best masks (N95’s and their clones) don’t fit well over beards now.

Fauci said today that with the current anti-vax sentiment around (among “conservatives”) we could not have put polio or smallpox away.   And, as we pondered in the 2000’s, that idea may not be lost on international enemies.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Surgeon General, White House warn social media companies about COVID vaccine misinformation


White House 2007

The US Surgeon General (Vivek Murthy) issued a (CNN) warning about vaccine misinformation.  Here is the text of the actual statement on hhs

And White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated the warning to social media companies. She even implied that about twelve specific accounts of Facebook were responsible for a tremendous amount of misinformation.

Here’s a problem, and it’s recursive with this blog. There are many constructive voices out there on social media challenging established wisdom on coronavirus, and WHO and CDC have reversed course on a number of points over time.  The vaccines were developed and got emergency approval in record time.  The virus seems to be unusual in some respects, and we don’t have a satisfactory explanation for its origin.  So I can imagine that you might believe you can’t vaccinate your way out of this, but then you are left with the draconian lockdowns of Australia and New Zealand. The virus is a dynamic threat, still morphing, and none of us had thought it through before 2020.

Fully vaccinated myself, I still ask these questions (echoing Bret Weinstein).  Then the problem may be, a na├»ve person finds one of my posts, doesn’t understand my gratuitousness, and decides not to get the shot? 

Is this something where we need to get an entire country behind a specific plan laid out by leadership, which may not be completely without hidden long term risks, as a way to stop an emergency? 

The other idea that would pose objections but not any medical risks might be massive at home testing with automated contact tracing, like what South Korea has done.  

Update:  July 16    Robby Soave of Reason weighs in. USA Today (Ella Lee) quotes Biden as saying "They're killing people" and notes that about 6% of the population apparently decides not to take vaccines because of social media misinformation. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Financial YouTuber threatened with channel deletion over spam comments by others impersonating him.


Amtrak Newark Airport station 2021-6

 Graham Stephan, who runs a financial planning channel on YouTube and considers cryptocurrency, recently got a notification from YouTube indicating that his channel could soon be terminated because of comment spam.

It appears that his posts are followed by comments that appear to be in his name, generated by bots.   The comments lead to various other sites with fraudulent schemes.

He could consider disallowing comments for a while?

I have occasionally seen generated spam comments to unusual sales sites in India on my videos. Youtube lately seems to be deleting these automatically but showing them to me when I log on to YouTube.

Other commentators have suggested was getting into trouble merely for talking about cryptocurrency.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Virginia Tech faces lawsuits trying to constrain speech from apparent right-wing group on campus


Va tech 2010-3

Michael Paul Williams writes in the Richmond Times Dispatch, about a lawsuit against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, which apparently wants to shut down a chapter of Turning Point USA, which appears to be a right-wing group.

The organization’s web page appears to oppose mandatory vaccinations on campus.  I do have a problem with taking an absolutist position on this because the (mutating) coronavirus does create so much disruption to campus life that something has to be done. has circulated a petition to ban the group from campus, and the site actually pleads for me, as a random visitor, to help them abolish the group.  I don’t get involved in activism against specific targets.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Alison Morrow shows up corporate media for early medical misinformation, gets censored by YouTube and is then restored


NYC 2021-6 Pride

Alison Morrow had a video removed and she was nearly in YT “jail” for a video in which she quote clips from February 2020 from major news outlets with incorrect information about COVID, to show that big corporations get a pass.    Is this a copyright issue?  I wondered.

But due to popular outrage, YouTube restored her video.

But her discussion refers to the idea that Youtube is trying to reorient itself to companies, or entities with real commercial viability, not those who want to stir things up by doing their own journalism, well, like me.

I realize the gratuitousness of my own speech is an issue, and it seems important to my own sense of personal agency – to stay free of “organizations” and all of their identity politics.  But that’s why some (on both tribal extremes) see me as a problem.

I am planning some YT videos myself on this, but will have to upscale my production setup (finally) before doing it to make it work.

Matt Orfalea discusses his own problems with YT censorship here.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Government intrusions for public health: when "my business" is other peoples'


Philadelphia from Amtrak 2021-6

Smart News, a well-known news consolidation site, often greets me with alarming stories about coronavirus each morning.  I wanted to note at the outset that the stories are supposed to have SN copies (apparently licensed) and web versions.  But sometimes there is only a web version and if I don’t have myself logged in to that publication with a subscription on my phone, I can’t access it.  Some of these I have logins on my desktop and if I can find the article again before it drops off Smart News I can get it.  But that is a pain.  We need to do a better job at news consolidation.

Now for the main course.  Smart News carried a particularly alarming story this morning in Medical Xpress, “Highly mutated SARS-CoV-2 emerged from someone living with advanced HIV”, by European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.  

The gist of the story is that infection by this coronavirus (or any existing variant) in a severely immunocompromised person encourages more dangerous variants that at some point could completely evade vaccines. 

There are two major possible logical consequences to trace. Of course, someone on chemotherapy is likely to be immunocompromised and pose that community risk, in theory.  But this refers to someone infected with HIV.  In recent years, because of protease inhibitors and pre-exposure prophylactics, gay men have no longer been a political target for creating that sort of indirect risk to the community at large, as they were in the mid 1980s especially by the evangelical right (leading to a very draconian bill in Texas that fortunately did not pass, in 1983).  There were no reports of resurgence of tuberculosis or other semi-opportunistic diseases in the general population in the late 1980s as might have been expected by this speculation. In fact, anti-HIV protease inhibitors may inspire the development of similar drugs that stop coronavirus in someone exposed (although coronavirus is not a retrovirus).  Anecdotal reports seem to suggest gay men did well avoiding the 2020 pandemic for the most part, and it’s possible that these drugs were more effective than we thought in practice.  Socially, it might have been argued that the COVID19 pandemic did the opposite, target those in large households with many relatives.

But the article also gives more credence to the idea that as radical as SARS-CoV2 is in its being ready-made to be transmitted easily among humans without symptoms, such radical changes from an animal (bat) virus might have arisen in severely immunocompromised persons or even immunocompromised wild animals. 

Oh, by the way, I don’t like to go door to door to recruit for anything, nor do I like to be judged on how many people I can recruit “online” on a FB page for “your” cause simply because “you” know me. And I would encourage visitors to read Jacob Sullum's op-ed in Reason, "Why Didn't COVID19 Kill the Constituion?"/ 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Twitter verification rules: do they favor people who work for conventional non-profits or companies than for people who speak on their own?


Nellies Protest 2021-6 DC 

Upon arising this 78th birthday morning, I noticed a thread between Twitter and Ford Fischer (“News2share”) about verification.  It does seem that Twitter is pulling back on letting everyone be verified.  Twitter wrote that “if you use a website for verification, it must be for an approved organization, not just yours”. 

Here was my answer.  “This fact has "political" significance.  With news and journalism and commentary, the "powers that be" don't like dealing with individuals who compete with whole companies, conventional non-profits and organized #activism (even "#allyship"). For what it's worth, "conservatives" seem to like the "do-it-yourself" mode of "activism" a lot more than the Left does, for whom organizing others is more critical. (Though the Right has its tribal sector too, as we know from Jan 6.)”

I talked about this on a post on the Trademark blog yesterday.

However the video above notes that if you are an individual, you must have a large publication and in news, you must have references from at least three news organizations who have used material you submitted.  That sounds reasonable.  My count right now is one (WJKA7 used some photos by me after the terror bombing in Chelsea in New York City, in September, 2016;  I happened to be near the event and took pictures of police activity and sent them to the station).

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Conservative banned from many platforms for spawning conspiracy theories, or for just plain gratuitousness?



Minneapolis, 2019/9

Shawn Boburg has a long story in the Washington Post about what sounds like gratuitous speech, “From corporate America to conspiracy theory promotion: How a Minnesota man made a career of anonymously amplifying dark plots”.

It’s the story of Sean Turnbull, who started websites, blogs, and video channels more or less the way I did, but kept his own circumstances much more private, to say the least, and has been banned from at least seven tech companies.

I looked at his site (SGTReport) and didn’t see anything too terrible – just the usual conservative, maybe even prepper, stuff. 

But of course we know what people who believed a lot of fantasy conspiracy theories did, when captivated, especially on January 6. 

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

"Skin in the Game" author offers mathematical proof that bitcoin (and other crypto currencies) will become worthless



Nassim Nicholas Taleb presents his “bitcoin black paper” today, “why bitcoin is worth exactly 0”.

He gives a long mathematical derivation in calculus with limits, based on standard econometrics.

But he says that bitcoin (or any cryptocurrency) must be either an security (investment) or a “commodity” (something that has intrinsic value).  If something goes wrong, bitcoin has no intrinsic value (unlike gold).  Taleb has uttered some rather provocative tweets lately, such as the name of a proposed paper "Bitcoin, Currencies and Fragility". 

The problem with this, to me, seems to be that we got rid of the gold standard a long time ago, under Nixon, as I remember  (Nixon shock).

Monday, July 05, 2021

Unvaccinated people are letting their bodies become "variant factories"? A serious moral question about personal agency?


PA near Blue Mtn, 2021-7

The latest moralizing is that unvaccinated people in the US are allowing their bodies to become factories for variants of the SARS_CoV2 coronavirus that may one day nullify vaccines.

CNN and Sciencealert both have such stories.

These interpretations would raise questions about body autonomy much more fundamental than, say, abortion.

As a matter of principle, young adults could think they are expected to take a small risk of serious harm (perhaps unpredictable) in the long run from a vaccine, when established science insists their personal risk is much greater if they get infected, which might be unavoidable (unless you could enforce a “rapid test” regime). 

It seems to me that if you were fully vaccinated and got a superficial breakthrough infection with trivial short-lasting symptoms (perhaps after going into a bar), your body would learn to recognize the variant and start becoming immune to it, specifically recognizing different codons in making new antibodies. Yet some warn that a breakthrough infection with few obvious symptoms could still lead to long Covid. .

There is also a potential problem that vaccinated parents could become asymptomatic carrier of variants to unvaccinated children under 12. 

CNN asked a young black woman why she didn’t want the vaccine, and she said that she didn’t trust the government because of past experimentation with blacks (Tunguskee).  That poses an ethical question about whether a white vaccinated person must take special care not to expose someone who does not want to be vaccinated?

Sunday, July 04, 2021

YouTube doesn't want its users to pretend they are really journalists!


fireworks July 4 look like a nebula

Allison Morrow declares in a video title “Journalism and science are incompatible with YouTube.”  This sounds like the old pre-1993 canard “homosexuality is incompatible with military service.”

It’s clear that the big social media companies are put on the spot when non-corporate people (“amateurs” in their parlance) do journalism on the cheap and go against the establishment.  They wanted people to socialize, even create activism, and sell things, but not pretend to be authorities about sensitive things that might affect them.

On the IT blog yesterday, I also linked a similarly spirited video by Karlyn Borysenko, about the need for people to speak out and use their own names.

But there is another side to this.  Yes, some people might lose their jobs, but they may be in positions where they will create disruptions in their workplace, particularly if they have direct reports.  I’ve talked about this before and a related situation led me to take a corporate transfer and relocate in the 1990s. 

There is a side to this that believes it is necessary to act as well as speak.  That means belonging to a group and being in their boat (a kind of “skin in the game”).  It may mean demonstrating.  It may in less frequent cases mean getting arrested or asking for help yourself, and not being above other people’s problems.  It’s related to what I’ve called “the privilege of being listened to” (a very conditional privilege indeed). 

We can ask ourselves, who gets to call themselves a journalist, and who needs to be the street activist, the recruiter, even the social justice huckster.

Journalist Tim Lee (formerly Washington Post, Vox, Ars Technica) writes (in his "rethinking news") that when he worked for the Post he had to cash in all his bitcoin paper wallets if he was going to write about crypto currency.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

SCOTUS: California can't require non-profits to disclose identities of large donors


Sierra, CA  2012-5

The Supreme Court overturned a California law requiring charities and non-profits to name large contributors.  NPR has a story here by Nina Totenberg.  

Justice Roberts said the court was using an “exacting scrutiny” standard rather than strict scrutiny. Presumably the state wants to limit anonymity to ferret out fraud.  It would sound like the law could be stricter with PAC’s and with charities giving services apolitically.

The controversy reminds me of one in the early 2000’s about campaign finance reform and the idea that bloggers were donating labor for free under the table to influence policy.  This all came to a head in the fall of 2005 before the FEC said essentially don’t worry about it.   But there is a genuine issue that some individuals can covertly influence policy completely outside of traditional political organizing, usually a complaint from the Left.

The suit had been brought by Americans for Prosperity, the Thomas More Law Center, and the Koch Brothers.

Here is the PDF of the opinion.