Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A church conference center "on the beach", and a note on "individualism"


On a day trip to the Rehoboth and Bethany Beach, Delaware areas, I spotted a convention center constructed by the Disciples of Christ back in 1901 near the center of town for Bethany. This had become of interest because last Friday, at an organ recital reviewed on the “Drama blog”, I had noticed in the National City Christian Church bulletin a story about a big fund-raising drive to expand the conference center and youth facilities (like dorms).  (My parents first took me "to the beach" in 1947, and it was Bethany, which seemed quiet, "religulous".) 
  
That (the cheer-led fundraising) is notable because many churches and charitable organizations (and political pressure groups) do indeed organize people to join their efforts and give them priority, even sacrificially.  That is something I have never been to open to.  I, like an “unbalanced personality” (in a Rosenfels sense) insist on chosing my own goals, and I am very sensitive to how external threats of various kinds (sometimes out of personal hostility) can jeopardize these goals. 

I’m not a joiner, because I’m not very competitive socially, partly because I wasn’t good at “gender conforming activities” (perceived as essential to protect women and children in a group from hostilities).  My individualized goals started with music, which can be abstract enough to hide devious fantasies, perhaps.  They enlarged to a life of fantasy that mixed in with upward affiliation, and the way I experienced sexual orientation.  I wasn’t about meeting the bigger goals of the group.  I was “myself” before I belonged to the tribe. 
  
The biggest thing that comes out of feedback from others is that I don’t get much emotional satisfaction from meeting “real needs” of others, particularly at an adaptive level.  I make a lot of my own fantasy, but not out of the idea that someone actually need me at some basic (not just “creative”) level.  All of this feeds into being interested in providing a next generation and passing the torch if necessary, after sacrifices.  It also means accepting dependence on others if called upon to sacrifice for “a greater good”.  None of this was particularly OK for me.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Canadian music professor advocates limiting Internet and digital time for kids


An article Sept. 10 in the Wall Street Journal by Canadian educator Martin Kutnowski, “Fighting the Internet Invasion of Childhood: When I heard my daughter’s screams from web deprivation, I knew I was onto something”, link here 

I can remember in the 1950s when seventh grade teachers said, “read, don’t watch television”.  Then at least one teacher assigned a specific television program. She thought that doing so was "a good thing."
It’s true, as one LTE said, that it really depends on what the kid does.  I think that both Andraka brothers used their surfing time pretty constructively from their parent’s home near Baltimore.  Kids use the Internet for legitimate homework, after all.  But most teens probably aren’t going to teach themselves advanced calculus on the web.  But just a few will.  I was a sub myself, and I saw the enormous range.

The First Lady herself said that the first family’s two daughters didn’t need to be on Facebook when they were too young.  Agreed.

The problem of the right exposure to media goes way beyond the Internet today and encompasses everything.  Pediatricians say that infants under two shouldn’t see fast-moving media images at all.  A family related to me enforces that. 

But what happens when a kid does have a particular talent, be it programming or music.  If he or she doesn’t stay at it consistently enough, he or she can miss the boat.  I think that was the case with me with piano.  That was an important idea in the WB show “Everwood”.

The world is a dangerous place, and there is a case to be made for the idea that all teens (and young adults) need to learn social flexibility and resilience, should external forces deny them their own choices in life.  Malcolm Gladwell has written about how much chance affects whether individual kids really get a chance to excel and escape the social and “real life” pressures that drag a lot of people down in a “winner take all” economy.  Social resilience has a lot to do with reducing inequality and the threat to stability that it can pose.  So professor Kutnowski’s programming of his family router to ration digital time to his kids does have real downstream significance.
  
I just noticed, at the end of the article, that D. Kutnowski is himself a composer and pianist.  That makes this really interesting, since for a youth to follow a career in music poses some of these questions. I’ll look up his work soon.  His ideas remind me of Jaron Lanier. No, people are not gadgets.  

Picture: the ragtag way I composed at age 18 in 1962.  But I was quite dependent then.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

A reminder on the constitutional issues with revenge porn bills



The debate on revenge porn laws continues.  Again, if there were a federal law against it, Section 230 would not necessarily apply (March 28), and a safe-harbor mechanism for service providers might be set up, paralleling the DMCA (for a different issue that copyright).  Without a safe harbor tied to specific notification about an individual item, service providers could be on the hook for all user generated content, as there is no way to know prospectively that a particular post might contain illegal revenge porn. With state laws, Section 230 would still apply, which is why states' attorneys general want to carve out (dangerous) exceptions for state laws, too.  
    
The Bennett and Bennett law firm has a detailed analysis, from Oct. 2013, “Are statutes criminalizing revenge porn constitutional?”  link here This is pretty longwinded but should be considered in light of weakening Section 230.
  


Sunday, September 14, 2014

More reflection on "the right to forgotten" -- could there exist a subtle connection to libel law


Here’s an older essay in the Stanford Law Review on “the right to be forgotten”, by Jeffrey Rosen, before this summer’s ruling by the EU court that has search engines scrambling. Link here. 

There’s another reason why this concept is troubling.  The essay refers to the theory that a person could order a website to take something down when the website had republished it.  It might not be so difficult for Facebook and Twitter, but it could matter to private blogs or sites.  I see that I talked about this on May 14 a bit.  Suppose some information about a particular person for something that happened decades ago is potentially derogatory, and a blogger reports the information by giving a hyperlink to another site that might be of at best moderate credibility (as opposed to a major news site).  The original site is slightly inaccurate.  The person sues both sites for libel.  There is some controversy over where hyperlinking is “republication” (because of the practical effect of magnifying something that would take considerable effort to root out without the Internet) or simply a bibliographic reference, as in a term paper.  The courts tend to be interpreting it as the latter, in the US, and now in Canada (Britain may be fuzzier).  The second person (the person giving the link) claims the right of “fair reporting” and says he used the link in good faith.  American courts sound likely to accept that idea, but I wonder if it could matter if the blogger is an “amateur”.  Electronic Frontier Foundation has been arguing that bloggers have the same legal rights as the press, although there are some questions as to, for example, protecting sources.  The tone of Supreme Court opinions in both the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (ironically, the source of Section 230, which stayed intact) and then COPA, the Child Online Protection Act (about which I have a separate blog), which came up twice before SCOTUS and finally was struck down on a trial on merits in 2007 in Philadelphia, bears out this general expectation. However, there are cultural arguments to the contrary, which I encounter when dealing with people myself.  If I weren’t blogging in a “concentric” fashion requiring “journalistic objectivity”, I could support individual causes or sell individual services, like a “real man” with a “family to support”.  That’s an argument, that the “new amateurism” on the Internet, which allows individuals to mimic whole companies, undermines labor markets and social capital (and the ability to accept relationships that give value to others).  But there is no law that says anything like this.   

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What I need to accomplish before the next vernal equinox (more than saying "I told you so")


I want to take another checkpoint today on my plans.

To become “successful”, I will need to produce an interrelated media in several formats.  These items include some piano music (especially a big Sonata, mostly composed in 1962), some 
 “autobiographical” and “reflective” video, at least one major screenplay (essentially a shooting script, with some annotations on a database), and one major sci-fi novel, “Angel’s Brother”.

Technically, the easiest items to make progress on quickly are the novel (which I have already started in work on the “final format) and screenplay (where I have a script but an honing in on some character and detailed plot connections before returning to the script). 

For the music and video, I may need important improvements in my MacBook environment, which might include upgrading the operating system (right now just 10.6.8 from 2008), partly because most security packages seem to require 10.7 (2010).  I may have to go from Avid Sibelius 7.0 to 7.5, partly to ease in social media interactions.  (That works on 10.6.8 but probably begrudgingly.) 

The “autobiographical” video will examine some questions about the “ethics” of my own brand of personal sovereignty, backtracking to questions like, how to live if “the system” fails, either because of natural hazards (solar storms are a good one), terrorism or targeted crime.  It also looks at how my view of “personal responsibility” has evolved since I wrote my first book, or how I would have to work if the legal environment (like on downstream liability – including Section 230 – were compromised).  It would even look at why others saw my “interests” as their business, leading to a curious paradox that helps us understand what makes some “bad actors” tick today. The work can be done in pieces, with the aid of PowerPoint pages, as well as outdoor scenery, all of which can be used to make some good introductory video with very simple digital handheld cameras with little editing.  But in time, I’ll need to learn to use FinalCut, probably in an up-to-date environment that can be secured and that can upload easily.
  

This is ambitious, and it’s important that all the pieces get done.  But it is like any project in the workplace, because it lends itself to time management and project planning.  The plans would require about 17 days “on the road” (about 5 nights away, mainly in Florida, where you can “go to England” and “go to Mars” at Universal and Disney in about three days with about $300 in tickets).  They would require about 3 work-months (based on 40-hour weeks) at home of text content.  Entering the music and creating the video would each take about 1 month each (assuming a 40-hour workweek). And I would like to have this body of material ready for others to work with (most of all the music) by late March of 2015 (maybe before going to Europe). 
   
Given all that, I do have a time problem.  For one thing, it won’t be possible to create as many blog posts as in the past, just to keep traffic refreshed.  I expect stories to continue on tech issues and legal problems (like Section 230), on operating system hangups, and on security – the things I encounter.  Probably less on issues like retirement and gay rights, as not as much is happening – until the gay marriage cases get heard by the Supreme Court.  But there could be a lot on national security, which can be risky.  One could possibly become a target merely by writing about it, although that hasn’t happened to me.  Media reviews may not be as common as I have to spend more time on creating my own.  I do take great pride in having so many films indexed and cross-referenced my own way, on Blogger and other sites.  But there may be less time for that. I may not be able to post to Blogger every day (as I have since March 2008); posting time is already split with WordPress. And I may not have entries in every blog every month, as I have since 2008.  
   
Time is everything right now.  When I have an appointment, that’s several hours, including travel time, with a balky Metro (which is a little better now with the Silver Line adding frequency).   Yes, it would be easier if I were in a secure modern downtown highrise apartment, rather than a house.  But it is what it is.  I “inherited” some of this and didn’t earn all of it, so there is a karma question. Since I currently work alone, the buck stops with me.  I bear the disruptions from storms, infrastructure problems, travel delays, outages, and especially inadequate customer service from vendors, which has become a serious problem in recent years a few times. I don’t have much leverage to get companies to do what they should (Oh, yes, there is Angie’s List and Yelp, I know).

On the customer service angle, I want to add a particular comment;  I simply don't have time to "beta test" new versions of products and risk instability.  So I tend to wait before going to new operating systems.  In August, I got badly burned going from Windows 8.0 to Windows 8.1 on a Toshiba laptop, which burned the mother board in the process, resulting in need for purchasing something else despite extended warranty coverage from Geek Squad.  The unit is still waiting parts, I am told.  I also don't have time to do maintenance that manufacturers could do.  Why does HP want us to create factory recovery disk when it could just include it (as Dell does, or at least did).  I don't have employees or an "IT department" with systems programmers to maintain operating systems the way corporations do.  
      
I also have a problem with disruptive behavior from others.  I realize that “people like me” have made life more difficult for heavily socialized people who expect to make a living (and support families) by manipulating others into buying things.  The telemarketing robocalls keep coming, and there is a certain belligerence, and desperation, to marketer behavior today.  (At least one door-to-door visitor in early 2013 made a threat, “what if you had to start over, too?”)  Imagine the insult of dedicating one’s social media presence to agenting “life insurance” or tax or financial planning.  No, if I didn’t have kids, I can’t take care of “your” life and I won’t pretend that I can.  There’s a paradox in this, in that the logical conclusion is that I don’t “care” about “you”.  But that turns out to be another deception.
  
I actually am interesting in working with others on certain kinds of media efforts, and have started making contacts.  Obviously, the progress on some of these would have to be confidential.  But the range of collaborations that would make sense is rather narrow.  I can’t sing up or “pimp” someone else’s cause at the cost of my own “objectivity”.  People do find me aloof and unresponsive to emotional appeals – which in recent years have become all the more gratuitous in the media.  But I have led the life I have led (a tautology).  I don’t imply others should do what I do.  I don’t set an example of how to live.  I “believe” in a sense – because science and physics really do drive me to a certain experience of “faith” and the Afterlife seems very real – but I don’t think that the sugarcoated version of “heaven” or “eternal family” can work for me.  End of life during old age is not controversial by itself – we all will leave this world because of something.  Maybe the ultimate moral hooker is something like this:  any of us can suddenly become needy or wind up in a shelter, sometimes because of what others do out of indignation or out of pure psychopathy or evil.  Any of us can wind up supporting others, regardless of whether we ever “risked” procreation personally.  If I had to do that, I can see how I would have to pimp things to feed other mouths.  The days of pride would come to an end.  

First picture: Harpers Ferry, W Va;. looking into the Maryland Heights trail. second, Richmond, VA, Third, Virginia Beach.  I have my own reasons for using these locations today

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Revisiting the Wikipedia "notability" issue


I’ve recently reread the “notability” guidelines on Wikipedia (I see that I had discussed this at length on June 27, 2007 here with respect to getting Wikipedia to cover the Paul Rosenfels Community).  In practice, to a writer on the Internet, notability is important because it means that Wikipedia can justify a separate article on the writer (beyond just a stub). 
  
And, yes, with three (self-published) books in my "Do Ask, Do Tell" series, I feel that I "deserve" a Wikipedia page.  If someone wants to write one, have at it.  I guess I need to pimp myself out to get one. 


I do have a very large number of search engine matches, and fair volume of hits on most of the blogs (the best seems to be with movie reviews, and with coverage of television crime stories).  And I get a lot of email, some of it spam of course, but some of it requests to review books (often self-published) and some new films.  I do get regular samples (mostly private Vimeo links) to review new films from Strand Releasing and some other indie distributors (like Breaking Glass).  I actually do most of the films.  Many of the books are too “specialized” or too “partisan” (toward one group’s special needs) for me to have time to do, and I normally don’t review children’s books except when some unusual point is to be made.  (A lot of the books seem to be sci-fi fantasies based on bizarre premises that offer the authors opportunities for plot manipulation.)

Getting others to make hits on your sites and contact you with review offers (which is a sign that “you” have some backbone “political” influence on issues over time) is a long way from what Wikipedia needs for notability. It says it needs to find commentary on your work in general media without attempts by “you” to encourage it – that is, independent news coverage.  (I wonder if the analytics (from Urchin or similar packages as with Google Abalytics) in terms of bounce rates matters to notability.) 

Self-publishing companies sometimes try to sell “review” services or sell big public relations services (sometimes costing about $20000) to increase exposure for “new” authors.  But this would seem not to “count” either.
  
What do you know, I found a story about me at Broadway Books, here.  And the Paul Rosenfels Community, here (an excerpt from my first book, describing my experience at the Ninth Street Center in the 1970s).  
  
Notability does not imply moral virtue.  People who do very bad things (criminals) have Wikipedia pages just for them.  We don’t want that.  Furthermore, given the recent abuse by “ISIS”, the way social media can be abused to recruit disturbed and impressionable young men who want “glory” raises more moral questions. 

Monday, September 08, 2014

Reviewing Section 230: moderation of comments, editing; also, look at hyperlinking and both libel and copyright


Since I moderate comments and sometimes have to wonder about a non-spam comment that I get that makes some kind of accusation, I’ll re-iterate some links about Section 230 (of the 1996 Telecommunications Act or “Communications Decency Act”), which to say that moderation of comments does not compromise Section 230 protection.

Electronic Frontier Foundation’s link is here. It’s important that a moderator could be liable for content that she or he adds if that new content is legally libelous. It's also a bit untested if a blogger (instead of a forum) actively solicited comments in an unbalanced matter.  Blogs with a low number of comments per post might not seem as neutral to some observers.  
  
“Beat Blogging” has a similar link here.  A posting by Tim Cushing in March 2014 on Section 230 reinforces this point here   and goes on to explain why Section 230 needs to survive the challenges that could come to it, most recently over the revenge porn and “involuntary porn” issues. 


A law firm correctly says that “editing comments” isn’t the same as moderating them, but then calls Section 230 instead Section 302 (a perturbation of digits?), link here

From what I see, forums and comments on blogs are treated the same, even though the practical effects on readers could differ.  

Here’s a 2010 case in Illinois involving Moline Dispatch, Gains v. Romkey, link by Eric Goldman here

There is some disagreement as to whether someone who posts a hyperlink to something containing defamation shares in the liability.  Ten years ago, some sites said that links could lead to liability.  A Forbes article suggests that usually the answer is no, or at least giving a hyperlink or reference in good faith (like a footnote in a term paper) reduces the risk. Eric Goldman explains in Forbes in a case involving Sheldon Adelson, here.  The credibility of the quotes source might matter. Poynter also added to this viewpoint in April 2014, here.  This also generally seems to be true in Canada and Britain, as evidenced by this case in British Columbia, here.   An important concept seems to be the "fair reporting" privilege.  Note that in comments, URL's often don't work directly but have to be copied by the user into a browser (like going to the library in the old days).  Whether that matters is untested, like a new gambit in a chess opening. 
   
There’s also some legal controversy in the (distinct) legal area of DMCA and copyright, and sites that link to infringing material, as when Reddit took down “The Fappening”, as explained in this story.)    Generally, this hasn’t been much of a problem.  Links to embedded videos don’t work if videos on YouTube are removed for infringement, but usually the linking site or blog is not disturbed.  

Sunday, September 07, 2014

I "volunteer" and keep it simple; 105-year-old Holocaust "rescuer" makes an important point


OK, today I volunteered, and it was an exercise in pure karma building.

In Arlington, the AFAC, or Arlington Food Assistance Center, has been conducting “stuff the bus” food drives with Arlington Transit busses.  After an email from AGLA, I volunteered to do the last shift, which consisted of packing and unloading the items and ‘sandbagging” then into the facility.  The green bus had been filled all day at a nearby Safeway.  The whole process took about 75 minutes.

This is one of those experiences that is impersonal.  You sign in, and initialize a liability disclaimer.  
        
There is a sense that you do this because you ought to (as with the National Day of Service on King Day, or a campus day of service for students). 

There’s a debate at a nearby local church as to how personal volunteering should be (even though when that church refurbishes a group home for the disabled, the clients leave for the day).  I’m not into personal interactions that are supposed to make something “all right”.  But I realize there is a downside to that attitude:  how, in a democratic society, does everything get a real chance if it is OK to exclude contact with people you somehow don’t approve of?  Think of the downstream implications.

The activity will continue next weekend.  It seems like it is mostly about building “social capital”.
At still a different church, at a potluck after service, there was a little issue when a woman with a small child took extra food to pack up and take home.  I would say, if she was low-income, that should not be an issue at all.  This is the simplest possible opportunity to help someone in need with no fluff, no politics, no over-commitment, no over-personalization, no ideology. 

I don’t usually cover TV reports on this blog, but I thought I would mention the story of Nicholas Winton, now 105, broadcast on CBS 60 Minutes tonight, link here.  Winton helped children of Jews in Czechoslovakia leave (through Germany) and get to England in 1939, until Sept. 1, when the invasion of Poland started.  But one caveat is that a child could not be booked for England until a family was found to adopt it.  This rescue has also been called the "Kindertransport".  (That became a 1998 film by Kevin MacDonald and Fran Robertson, produced by Steven Spielberg, which I saw in Minneapolis in 1998.)  Imagine the same situation today with refugees (from Central America) if it worked that way.  So have social and economic conditions favorable to “families” forming actually can be critical in the long run. 

Friday, September 05, 2014

Edward Snowden's leaks allow ISIS to evade US intelligence, possibly pose homeland threat, former NSA head says


The Washington Times ran a front page story Friday by Rowan Scarborough, saying that the ISIS (or ISIL) Islamic State has used information previously leaked by Edward Snowden to evade US intelligence, link here.  An email from TWT on this greeted me this morning as I logged on when getting up. Chris Inglis, a former NSA deputy director, asserts this. 


Admittedly this is a “right wing” paper, and more traditional sites seem to be downplaying the story so far.  But it has often been “conservatives” who have been the most concerned recently about “Obama’s” NSA surveillance,  especially that believed to happen even within US borders.  Now, with the “right wing” talk of existential terror threats possible at home (like EMP or dirty bombs, to give some of the worst possible scenarios), libertarian-oriented people have to discern who the most dangerous threats really are.  They may not be employees at the NSA, CIA, and the like, who these days will even set up booths at gay pride celebrations.
  
The debate on domestic surveillance will surely go on, however. 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Sentencing of man in Michigan for "defensive" shooting through door of his home raises some issues: mandatory altruism?


The sentencing of Theodore Wafer for shooting to death a young woman banging on his door for help early one morning in November 2013, by Judge Dana Hathaway, who sobbed herself when reading the penalty of a minimum 17 years before parole, raises many troubling questions. The detailed news story on Reuters by Aaron Foley is here.  A story by Elisha Anderson in the Detroit Free Press describes Wafer’s apology here  Legal questions come up immediately.  Can the same death lead to a simultaneous conviction for manslaughter and second degree murder?  That sounds like double jeopardy to me.
  

I realize that there are some questions about the legality of Wafer’s weapons possession and use and momentary intent.  There’s also a good question why it was so hard to find his cell phone and call 911. Maybe he just did forget that night.

There’s also the issue that the victim had been drinking.  Okay, there’s the “perfect victim” mentality, that turns into the idea of “casualties but no victims”.  Had she not been drinking, this wouldn’t have happened.  But that’s not enough.

This does lead me more to the areas of self-preservation and “personal responsibility”.  I usually keep a cell phone, reasonably charged, near the bedside, especially when on the road.  OK, I’ve probably forgotten a few times.  An attacker would have to go to very elaborate plans not to have police called first (although I can imagine some “Tom Clancy” ways it could happen, with national security implications).   Home security systems can be zone-alarmed, too.  When driving, and out public, I pay more attention to security than I used to.  There have been three times that I have been approached with possible hostility in parking lots.  I’ve driven away or retreated every time (and then called police) and nothing has happened.  (This happened with Mark Zuckerberg right after he move to California to start Facebook, according to his own account, and he simply drove away.)  I may have been lucky.  Mark may have been lucky.  I do understand the “Second Amendment” position.

The bigger question comes from her banging on a neighborhood door for help.  One would think he could have discerned that through the door – but he might have thought it was a ruse, a woman acting out with an accomplice behind.  Unwanted visitors can present a big and sudden home security risk – something very inconvenient today for door-door salesmen (like what Comcast is trying to hire).
  
It seems as though the judicial outcome, at least in Michigan, in Detroit, is predicated on some kind of duty to help and play good Samaritan, and to expose oneself to risk, at least in some cases.  It brings back old-fashioned ideas of what we used to call cowardice, back in the days when we had a male-only military draft.  

If society, and the legal system, can compel altruistic behavior from its citizens, that can have a profound impact on how we see almost all issues, even down to the meaning of marriage. 
I can see, in terms of social stability and sustainability, why it might be necessary to look at some things this way, sometimes.  But then where do you draw the line?  This kind of thinking comes up in contemplating scenarios where one’s way of life is suddenly taken away by force, or where that is threatened, possibly just at the individual level, or at a whole nation or world.

How I process this kind of ukase becomes quite interesting, and leads into areas of moral paradox that are quite troubling.  Examination of this would make a good video.  What do  I use my freedom for?  What is the ultimate impact on others upon whose sacrifice I may have unwittingly depended?  This does lead me to examine my unwillingness to experience “complementarity” in intimate relationships, and what others make of that.  

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Federal agency rules against employer in "Facebook like" firing


A ruling by the National Labor Relations Board may make it “safer” to “kvetch” about your employer on social media, according to a story on “Money CNN”.  The Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille of Watertown, CT that it must rehire workers who had made negative posts on Facebook.  At least one employee had merely “liked” another post.  The vote was 3-2, but the company will appeal.
There was a comment that 20th century labor laws don’t match 21st Century media, something I became very aware of with my own potential “conflict of interest” in the 1990s.  There was also mention of the idea of "loyalty".  Remember Heather Armstrong and her invention of the verb “to dooce”.  

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

First day of school: it's that time of year


Okay, for many northern Virginia locations, today is the first day of school.  All of this recalls the period when I worked as a substitute teacher, from April 2004 until December 2005, and then again in the first part of 2007.  I’ve covered the history of what happened before, but in the long view, I have some more observations.

I did consider, with various degrees of seriousness, the idea of a career switch, to becoming a full time math teacher, for some time. 

I did spend a lot of time, especially in the early part of 2005, reviewing my graduate school math, and actually passed one of the Praxis exams, given at the University of the District of Columbia in September 2005.  There was a lot of hype at the time about “no child left behind”, which tended to draw the attention down to the need for more teachers in the elementary areas and at basic levels, not at the AP level. 
I’ve documented before how sometimes I got drawn into situations, especially with special education, which were more personal than I would have expected to be welcomed into, given my lack of experience as a parent,, or with marriage or courting women.  In the years since, the gay marriage debate might well have changed the spin on how I felt about this angle of it.


The AB (and IB, depending on the school) students were great. I wonder about the speculations about the maturation of the teen brain, however, when on at least one occasion, as a motorist, I’ve had to stop suddenly to avoid a kid I recognized (as a good student) riding the wrong way on a major road in Arlington without a helmet, unaware that a driver who have no reason to look for him coming the wrong way.  Yes, it’s a nice jolt to see that person in a bar  doing well  years later. 

When I considered the “career switch”, I was already deep into the world of self-broadcast of my punditry.  “Those were the days” (as the 1968 song goes) before social media were influential (Myspace was catching on then), but my own flat sites were well indexed in search engines (for free, with no attempts at commercial optimization) so anyone could find what I had to say, on my own.  And people did, as we know from what happened (especially the posting July 27, 2007). 

The biggest problem was the potential that students could discern my own quirky attitudes about others from search engine arguments.  Indeed, I could tell from server logs (on Urchin, and later Google Analytics) that people often did look for edgy things in combination with actors’ names in my movie reviews.   That could be serious enough to create a problem.  If I became a permanent teacher and had the power to give grades and affect colleges and careers (in the generation I grew up in, that could mean keeping a student deferment from the Vietnam era military draft), then the ability to discern my own likes from search engines (even in the pre-Facebook world) could pose serious legal problems  This was part of what I saw as “conflict of interest” going back to the issue I had with the military gay ban (writing a book on it while I worked with the military indirectly) back in the 1990s.
   

Still, I thought for some years that there must be some way to work this out.  The world might have worked out differently for me had the “Do Ask, Do Tell” books (there were two of them then, as well as “Our Fundamental Rights” from 1998) paid for themselves with pure hard and softcover book sales.  This was the pre-Kindle or early ebook era.  What I did was get hundreds of thousands of page requests by allowing the book text to be offered free, in simple HTML (not even PDF).  It’s actually very easy to read flat HTML text on an iPhone right now; you don’t need PDF.  You don’t really need eBook, unless you have to get paid.  Which is kind of the rub, isn’t it.  In the Old World, the contents of books got a reputation when they sold (most of all supermarket romances and perhaps Stephen King) but they remained fixed in time, limited.  Internet content could change all the time, and communicate attitudes in a way not encountered when publishing was simply “commercialized”.  So had the books generated their buzz for a while, gotten “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” lidted, and then faded, it would have been a different world.  Teaching would have made sense.  Maybe I could have tried to get an Med at GWU and would have taught calculus. I’d be about ready to retire from that now.  But I would have paid my own way, earned my own karma. 



You can look for “career switch” on YouTube and find switches both into and out of teaching.  One video does refer to switching for “laid off teachers”.  It’s all murky.  

Monday, September 01, 2014

"Involuntary porn", not necessarily just for "revenge", could motivate serious challenges to Section 230


Ezra Klein has tweeted a link to a Vox Media story about “involuntary porn, which is related to revenge porn but broader in scope and implications, link here. The title is “Jennifer Lawrence isn’t the only victim of involuntary porn”.  Involuntary porn can include without-permission posting of compromising selfies, or of photos taken by the poster without the subject’s awareness.  It usually isn’t motivated by revenge, but by the desire of the poster to attract attention to his own reach.
  
The article, by Kelsey McKinney, presents an interview with Mitchell V. Matorin (link), an intellectual property attorney.
  
The problem might seem related to the growing controversy over photography of people in public, or in privately owned by “publicly viewed” spaces like bars and discos where, in many parts of the country, standards of etiquette and courtesy have become tighter in the past three years or so because of concerns over social media.  But that problem is even broader, as it can involve non-nude although suggestive photos.

It is difficult to go after posters of this material legally. Copyright law does not apply if the poster took the photos himself.  “False light” privacy claims might work.  Right of publicity works only with public figures.   Litigation is time consuming and expensive and not practical for most subjects. And digital copies of images are likely to be passed around and reposted forever.
  
McKinney talks a lot about how Section 230 does often compromise getting photos removed.  He says that Google did bring down the search rankings of “mugshots.com” (link) on its own, so he thinks Google could do more, at least in search engine placement, with unwelcome photos. 

Again, this sounds like a very important issue, because it could lead us down the road of existential challenges to Section 230 and the whole world of UGC (user-generated content, without gatekeepers) as we know it now. 

Downstream liability protections is a subject I mentioned as insufficiently covered in my own letter to Vox on Aug 26, so seeing this article tells me that Vox takes it seriously.  


Update: later today

Later Sept. 1, both ABC and NBC news broadcasts emphasized the face that Lawrence's (as were other celebrities') photos were hacked from Apple Cloud storage, so the legal aspects of the problem certainly would take into account this fact. 

NBC News offered some analysis in this video:



Many of the photos were apparently  published on "4chan" which right now seems unreachable because of traffic. .

CNN offered a rather balanced perspective here.

Update: Sept. 3

Mike Isaac of the New York Times weighs in on the privacy and free speech (downstream liability) issues today here. 


Sunday, August 31, 2014

When Labor Day is Sept. 1: recalling 1997, 2003 as benchmark years in my life


This particular Labor Day weekend, where September 1 is a Monday, follows the calendar of 1997, 2003, and 2008.  

In 1997, I drove from Arlington VA out to Minneapolis, where I was moving to start my corporate transfer within Reliastar.  The moving van had come on Wednesday Aug. 27, and I had spent the last three nights in Mother’s Drogheda.  I recall her waving goodbye as I pulled out of the driveway.

I recall stopping at Breezewood and calling the apartment complex I had left for some reason.  I buying a pie for an aunt at a service plaza on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  I remember the Allegheny Mountain tunnel.  I stayed with an aunt in Oberlin the first night, hearing in an elevator (it was a senior building) Princess Di had been killed in an accident in Paris.  The second day, I drove to Chicago, stopping to buy a blazer in Indiana, and driving through a little of southern Michigan and seeing the Lake Shore near Gary.  A period of my life ended that day, officially.   I stayed in a motel in a Chicago suburb that night.  Officially, I paid for the travel part of the move because it had been motivated by avoiding the “conflict of interest” as I have explained.  Monday morning, a policeman stopped me speeding as I left, but he let me go without a ticket when he saw the book I had authored I the car.  I remember stopping for lunch in Madison, WI and finishing reading Dan Blatt’s “Calypso’s Cave”, a draft copy.  I recall a huge thunderstorm in Eau Clair.  I would stay in a Comfort inn in Roseville until the movers came to the new apartment, the Churchill, in downtown Minneapolis on Sept. 4.   September and early October would be unusually warm, even hot, for the Twin Cities that year.
In 2003, I has just moved back, after the layoff at the end of 2001, and then deciding I would have to look after Mother more closely.   I actually drove back Aug 22 (Friday) through Aug. 24, using I-68 and skipping the Turnpike. 

Those golden six years of my life would end officially on Sunday, Aug. 31, 2003 as I made a day trip from the Drogheda to Rehoboth, and actually picked up some small furniture storage items at one of the notorious outlet malls, with no sales tax.  


Forty years ago this weekend, in 1974, September 1 was a Sunday, and I had just signed a lease to move into the Cast Iron Building in New York City, from Piscataway NJ, and was going to work for NBC as a computer programmer, and live in the City.   But over the Labor Day weekened I went to Mexico City, visiting Teotihuacan on Saturday, and the Anthropology Museum Sunday, and staying in the Pink Zone.  

Wikipedia image of Teotihuacan, pretty much what I saw that weekend. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Texas supreme court issues important ruling on prior restraint



The Texas state supreme court has ruled against a practice called “prior restraint”, in a case “Kinney v. Barnes”, that the state may not normally preclude a defendant in a libel or other tort case from speaking about a plaintiff at an unspecified time in the future.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation story by David Greene is here.
  
My recollection is that it has been fairly common for some out-of-court settlements to be predicated on the idea that the supposed defendant will not comment on the plaintiff in the future, as a way of limiting or even avoiding monetary damages.   


The video above explains prior restraint in a bigger context.


Friday, August 29, 2014

My own "found footage" video(s)


Today, I dug out a six-minute video I had taped as a crude “selfie” in January 2012, at Keyes Gap on Route 9, going into the West Virginia Panhandle from Virginia. 


The video quality is a little grainy and certainly jerky, rather like some personal “found footage” (as if in a “Devil’s Pass”, or maybe leading to a “Blair Witch”).   I’ll get into the issue of editing and reshooting soon on one of my newer Wordpress blogs.  I have run into some issues converting my Sony iMovie videos to YouTube.

Toward the end of the video, there are about two minutes where I speak in my living room, into a Macbook webcam.

The video puts a moral problem forward in the abstract:  should someone who is “different” but individually talented (me) be expected with some special deference to the needs of the tribe or the group?   I do mention the “sustainability” issues (like climate change) and the possibility that enemies could force us to live more collectively.  I also mention the idea that sometimes people do use their freedom (of speech, particularly, or of “refusal”) to promulgate (or at least harbor) what amount to authoritarian values.   It can be a useful exercise to look at how life would remain “worth living” if a calamity (whether from nature, or from an enemy) forces us to change our own personal purposes.   That could generate another video (like this proposal).  (Oh no!)
  
I can bring back a time when I had started as an inpatient art NIH back in 1962, and my father would chide me as to whether I was willing to “let go of it”. 
  
Note: from the video thumbnails:  no I don't have a facial or neck skin rash;  that's a technical problem with the video. Looks like a horror movie!

Picture: from the grounds of the Monroe Institute, VA, south of Charlottesville, on Roberts Mountain  (Aug. 23, 2014).  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Contacting major media outlets; on sensitive issues, are they worried about "loose lips"?


I did indeed contact a major media outlet by email and Twitter Tuesday afternoon.  I discussed four major topics that I think need more coverage.  These include the stability of the power grid, filial responsibility laws, paid family leave, and downstream liability for Internet service providers.  I’ve covered these at great length in my blogs. 

I can, of course, name a number of other issues that are critical.  The power grid issue comes up both from a natural (space weather) context, as well as terrorism.   So does the possibility of pandemics.  The “dirty bomb” issue hasn’t been discussed much lately.  I do wonder if these issues are seen as “loose lips” problems by the mainstream press, as if talking about them openly will lead to more adverse consequences from bad actors because there is so little that can be done quickly, or politically. For example, in the past at least one party expressed a concern about the open discussion of filial responsibility laws;  although on the books, like sodomy laws, they tend to be ignored, but coverage of them and tight budgets might tempt states that have them to enforce them.  

I've worked for a media company as an employee once, for NBC, as a mainframe computer programmer on their accounting systems back in the 1970.  I would now want to work independently, most likely, as I have developed so much of my own content and am "retired".   

My value to a media group is the content I can bring to it, in areas not adequately covered, not in the numbers I generate with my own operations. 
    
Just out of curiosity, I rewatched the Today Show coverage of 9/11 as it happened in 2001.   It took several minutes (until about 8:52) for the first plane hit to be reported, and the coverage was delayed by tacky commercials.  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Is the "ice bucket challenge" too pushy?



Here are two opposing viewpoints on the “ice bucket challenge” as a fundraising gimmick for raise money for ALS research (link) .   Forbes has a “pro” position by Christine Gibson, link here

But for Time, Sarah Miller writes how she figured out why she hates the Ice Bucket Challenge, link here.
.

I probably sound a bit scrooge-like, because I don’t like to be confronted by someone for a cause that I haven’t elected.   There are plenty that are on my list.   Yet, a lot of us are not as sociable or as approachable today as we were three decades ago, during the height of the AIDS crisis.   I still go to the walks every year, but I don’t see that it’s necessary to recruit people in advance for it. 

There are other examples of this sort of thing, like the “Be brave and shave” sessions at the Westover Market in the fall.   Some of these cut at previously held “psychological defenses.”   


Update: Aug. 30

The Ice Bucket Challenger has attracted other somewhat negative publicity.  Popular Belgian singer and actor Timo Descamps, living in LA, took the challenge by running into the Pacific Ocean at night and making a selfie, but encouraging the viewer to give to any charity, not just ALS.  

The Dallas Morning News, with a dose of libertarian-style conservatism, writes "Those issuing challenges are not only telling others what causes to support, but are also saying that if they don't, they must suffer a penalty" (link). 

ALS had even proposed a trademark for "ice bucket challenge" but then dropped it.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Quality of comments on blogs gets sillier as more interaction moves to Facebook and Twitter


Okay, it’s time to talk about comments, again.

I do get a lot of “anonymous” comments that Blogger marks as spam, and usually I don’t open.  They don’t even appear in a moderation queue.  Generally, they make some kind of generic comment about my blog and then provide a link to a website selling relatively silly items (like diet pills and the like).  It’s all pretty harmless.  I understand the economics of spam, but it’s hard to see how anyone would order these items online.
  
In my Wordpress blogs (on two different sites), the same thing happens.  I haven’t gotten around to looking at the moderation queue of “billboushka.com” for a while, but I usually delete everything en masse as spam.  On the newer sites under Bluehost, I get them filtered by Askimet (link ).   A few get through.  I even approve a few of them, but I probably shouldn’t.  I’ve read that reputable companies and organizations tend to judge the credibility of a blog not only by its own content (originality, fact-checking, and so on) but by the quality of comments the blogger can “attract”.
  
I also very rarely (but very recently)  get comments attempting to flame some particular company or person.  While Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act should protect me from downstream liability, I’ll reject the comment if it is clearly made in bad faith and is just an attack.  A comment that complains about some party needs to back up its claims with some articulable facts. And a comment needs to have some relevance to the specifics of the posting.

I used to get a lot more good comments on the blogs.  Blog comments have slowed down somewhat since Facebook (in particular) has come to rule the world.  I do have my Twitter feed copied onto Facebook, and many of my tweets get reasonable comments on Facebook (as well as retweeting, replies, or favoriting).  It’s a lot more convenient now to write a detailed comment about something (like how the Washington Nationals are winning, or about “Will and Sonny” on “Days of our Lives”) on Facebook than on blogs (or even specific fan sites).   Mark Zuckerberg has changed the Comment Game (and monopolized the indirect revenue stream thereof).  Oh, and by the way, the latest episodes about Will’s own writing career bear a lot on the world of publishing – whether by self or by others (see TV blog Aug. 18, 2014).
  
The deterioration of blog comment quality does raise another concern.  How much do I care about my readers?  The tone of a few of the “spammy” comments, trying to flatter me as a “writer”, is disturbing;  the flatter is sarcastic, as if I don’t live in their “real world”.  The spam seems to be a desperate attempt to earn a little change in an economy that is getting increasingly polarized (the silly robocalls are another symptom), and where the idea of learning for its own sake is less cool for so much of the public.  And, yes, it’s back-to-school time. 


I’ve recently described, elsewhere, my concept of “karmic journalism”.  The major media outlets are always raising red flags about terror and other criminal or natural threats to the public, for good reason.  Some people are concerned about the psychological effect when an individual like me raises them, as if to say “I told you so”.  It suggests that the speaker is unsocialized and unusually vulnerable to having his life destroyed by enemies who are indignant over his own bad karma.  I’ve gotten that kind of reaction before from my own (now late) mother.  
  
Let me note also, I often get requests to review books.  One person has only so much time.  I generally don't review children's books unless the book addresses some issue of importance to me (like sexual orientation).  I generally don't review various fantasy and and sci-fi genres (or romance) unless something specific catches my eye.  Self-published is fine.  I might be more likely attentive to a genre work to be interested if the author is local or already known to me for some reason.