Monday, October 05, 2015

Repeal Section 230? A "modest proposal" by Arhtur Chu of Crunch

Arthur Chu, a “Crunch Network” contributor, has authored a controversial proposal (Sept. 29. 2015) on Techcrunch, and it seems rather obvious: Repeal Section 230 (or “Mr Obama: Tear Down this Liability Shield”, link here.  The picture of Brandenberg Gate in Berlin (which I visited in 1999) makes for a silly analogy to Reagan and Gorbachev. The comments (about paid negative reviews on Yelp!, etc) are certainly telling.  Chu does make the interesting point that originally Section 230 had an intention rather like a pineapple upside-down cake, or a baseball “inside-out” swing.  That is, it was supposed to make it easier for intermediaries to screen for TOS violations without discretionary liability.  It is true that harassment is against most reputable intermediaries’ terms of service, but many are lax in doing so.  However, some could argue that YouTube has been rather pro-active.
And, predictably, Electronic Frontier Foundation has its rebuttal on Oct. 2, by Danny O’Brien, well reasoned, here.  O’Brien discusses countries that don’t offer much of any protections to intermediaries, and shows that intermediary liability exposure doesn’t prevent online harassment or revenge or cyberbullying.
O’Brien summarizes Chu’s modest proposal (like Jonathan Swift) by saying “To Chu, it seems that an Internet that worked the same way as a letter to the editor – where only those who reached certain standards of editorial acceptability would have a voice – would be a better Internet” – to which EFF “respectfully” disagrees.  This is an argument against amateurism (Book Reviews, regarding Andrew Keen, June 26, 2007).   Imagine, as I have asked here before, if any self-published material had to prove it could sell on its own to stay up (to pay for the extra liability exposure).

I've also noted the potentially dangerous parallel of arguments like Chu's (for greater liability exposure and bonding) with arguments for gun control (the nexus between First and Second Amendments in the libertarian's world).  If we can live without self-defense, maybe we can live without self-motivated self-published and unedited speech.  

In fact, Section 230 makes everything I do possible now.  Otherwise, I would have to make myself “popular” with other people to sell to them to have a voice.  It gets wordy to go through it, but ponder a world where people have to compete so brutally to even be heard.  (This is behind a lot of “sales culture” today, including cold-call techniques that have become objectionable to many in today’s world of self-sufficiency.)  I do understand how the “left” and much of the community of faith sees social “radical solidarity” (with those less fortunate and intact), as demanding personal engagement from everyone, a kind of intentional communalism (and “radical hospitality”), as then necessary.  That’s how it would come full circle in my own life.

I don’t know whether Chu’s article carries any real weight or is going anywhere with politicians.  Remember, in 2014, 49 states attorneys-general wanted to exempt state laws from Section 230 impact. Would Facebook, Twitter, Blogger and Wordpress even exist in Chu's world?  Even print-on-demand leads to interesting and disturbing questions. 

Saturday, October 03, 2015

"No Notoriety" movement in the media would have limited effect, is not a substitute for problems with guns, mental illness, and even inequality

“Refusing to name killers is just a placebo for our gun illness”, reads a print headline in the Style section of the Washington Post Saturday morning, for an essay by Philip Kennicott. Online, the title is “Refusing to say a killer’s name is no more than symbolic empowerment,” link here

This piece is about the “No Notoriety” movement (link ), which encourages media to refrain from naming perpetrators of mass events, because their motives seem to be to seek fame at death, after they’ve concluded they have nothing to live for. The Post has another front page story that goes into that.  (CNN will present the "No Notoriety" argument Sunday morning Oct. 4.)

I would tend to agree with Kennicott.  I think the effectiveness of the idea is limited.  I would agree with  President Obama, that voters need to communicate that they may want more thorough background checks for gun owners, to say the least.  But members of Congress and of legislators of many states don’t seem to believe it.  Some of the GOP candidates (Bush) say “stuff happen” and “people commit crimes, guns don’t”.  Even Trump talks about mental illness now. It is true that "No Notoriety" does attempt to reduce the likelihood of copycats. 
So sometimes perpetrators of events like this do have a “message”, however warped.  Ted  Kaczynski thought he was attacking depending on technology (and some of his “manifesto”, published by the Post and Times in 1995, actually gives cogent criticism of “socialization”.  More recently, it seems that Elliot Rodger  (I mention the name) wanted to convey the idea that other contemporaries of him were actually weaker than him and shouldn’t be able to find love or have children if he couldn’t.  If that idea took hold, it could become socially disruptive for some people.  It sounds like something out of Nazi Germany.  But hardly anyone will read “My Twisted World” even though it is easy to find (free) online.  No one who values a democratic society can take such thinking seriously.  (This thinking style was an issue when I was a patient at NIH in 1962.) In the latest incident in Oregon, Mercer (I’ll repeat the name) seemed to harbor a similar style of thinking, but it also seems that he identified with Flanagan in Virginia, as reported by CBS News here   (Salon gives some links to Mercer's 4chan exchange through a New York Times article, here.) There is an idea that a hypercompetitive world like ours gives some people no real chance. 
There is always talk about remembering and honoring victims.  For younger people, I get it; but I would have trouble with that idea (“honor”) for myself at age 72 if I was taken down by someone else disgruntled by my own apparent level of “privilege” in some sort of future incident. (The bringing in of the topic of religious persecution will seem relevant to some people.)  There would be a lesson from it, but it would not be honorable for me, given my own life narrative.  I would be paying for someone else's wrong (but disillusionment), whatever the idea of Grace. 
But the implications of “inequality”” can get very personal.

Friday, October 02, 2015

News organizations sometimes chase amateur video of violent events

Eyewitnesses who take images of violent events and post them on social media are often chased by reporters, according to a “Style” section story in the Washington Post today by Paul Fahri, link.  The question is posed as “journalists or vultures” and the journalists are compared to paparazzi. 

I’ve never witnessed a violent act in progress, so I’ve never had original footage (which would like wind up as evidence with police anyway).  The problem would be particularly relevant to allegations of police shootings.
CNN’s Drew Pinsky last night also pointed out another problem, with people on social media egging on troubled people to carry out violent urges that they display (in relation to the incident in Oregon Oct. 1).  This would normally violate a site’s TOS but would not itself be illegal (usually) unless it provided direct aid or instruction.
It’s worthy of note that at least one university-based student reporter got into physical danger during the riots in Baltimore last April.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Respect my personal independence, please (because "It's hard out here for a pimp" anyway)

Just a personal checkpoint as, here we are again, in the last quarter of the year. And with the possibility of something like another Sandy on the horizon.

I became a “professional amateur journalist” starting about 18 years ago, with the self-publication of my first book, while an individual contributor in an IT workplace (through the end of 2001). 
It has gradually become less credible to do “anything else” with the rest of my life (I’m 72 now anyway), largely because of the accretion of the “online reputation issue”. It is simply impossible to go out and “pimp” someone else’s cause or product and be paid to do so publicly.

I do get hounded about why I don’t become more aggressive selling physical copies of books, or ad space – a few of the calls are actually rude.  I realize I am benefiting somewhat from the left-wing no-no (and that doesn’t mean a Max Scherzer or MadBum no-hitter) of “inherited wealth”.  So the “morality” of my setup could be challenged, and, due to some ambiguities regarding trusts and various documents, maybe the “legality” although that’s remote.  As far as the SEC is concerned, I’m using my own money, and don’t have to produce for investors in the usual sense.

I would actually like that to change in the future, if I were to get money for a film.

But I also often field challenges.  I’m a long way now from the mainframe IT job market that used to pay my way, and given the way W-2 consulting works, my publicity would be problematic.  I’ve talked about why becoming a teacher “failed”.

But I do get calls and entreats (some unwelcome and even disruptive) about why I won’t go out and sell life insurance, financial services, do tax preparation, etc.  The calls can be combined in a “Frankenstorm” manner with the idea that I am in a quasi-inherited house, and could morally be expected to help support those in need, an idea that is likely to grow with the publicity over the Syrian (and Central American and even LGBT) refugee and asylum crises.  If I spent twelve years earning a good income in IT in the life and financial services business (from 1990-2001) and credit business (1981-1988) and even health care (other times), shouldn’t I be expected to go out and prove I can sell it?

There’s another thing, solidarity.  In fact, maybe sometimes “radical solidarity” (like “radical hospitality”) is necessary. I don’t "join in" by giving others a lot of emotional empathy, directly.  I don’t want to use Donald Trump’s words too much here (I’m not concerned about copyright or trademark either), but you can see where I’m heading.  A lot of people deal with practical hardships and bad luck (as well as the results of bad choices – it can be hard to parse these) by skill in fitting in to social hierarchies.  So I get pestered (in various incidents) as to why I won’t do the same, as to why I can't be bargained with.  No, “turning it over to God” and getting “born again” doesn’t cover personal failure, even some misfortune or happenstance contributed to the bad end result. I can't honor playing victim for its own sake, and I can't make "you" all right.  I can't find meaning in just any unconditional grace.  My father used to say, "To obey is better than to sacrifice", because he saw sacrifice as just that, not really honorable.  
As I’ve said before, I need to “finish my own work” before I can negotiate social expectations – which could become considerable in the near future for good reason, some having to do with external, even international events.  I have  to ask people to respect my independence.  That’s all. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Blogger in Virginia sued for "libelous" sexual assault allegation made against a fellow West Point cadet from three decades ago

A retired Army colonel from Alexandria VA is suing a blogger, Susan Shannon, for accusing him of raping her in the 1980s (apparently 1986) when they were both cadets at the United States Military Academy, West Point.  The case is now in a Fairfax County VA court. It's interesting that this case is pursued in state, not federal, court. 
Shannon says she didn’t accuse him when the alleged offense first occurred because of military culture (of "silencing" women about male advances) in the 1980s.  That, as we know from history, fit in well with the ban on gays that ended finally with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011.  But the colonel says she played judge and jury on her own three decades later.

But the colonel says he was denied a promotion when the accusation was found on her blog in 2013,  It’s a little incredible that the Army used “amateur” web content as pertinent to a background investigation.

The case also illustrates that bringing up an old, obscure “injustice” or incident from the past, otherwise forgotten, can sometimes lead to litigation.

The blog had named the accused cadet.  That certainly increased the probability that it would be uncovered. 

But the government is now more likely to take random accusations on the web discovered by search engines seriously now as part of its concern over terrorism and gun violence, and this was apparently a totally public blog, so surveillance is not an issue.

The news story is here

 The blogger has apparently written other controversial posts, claiming that the Sandy Hook shootings were a conspiracy.
Truth would be a defense to libel.  But the question is how to establish the truth when there was never a formal accusation and criminal or civil procedure before.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Pope Francis raises big questions on peoples' resistance to forming familues at all, and on resistance to intimacy

Sunday morning, as I blogged an “issues” post about my recent trip to South Carolina to look at both military (Fort Jackson, related to my own conscription) and slave history, I heard Pope Francis give an existential sermon at a mass in Philadelphia.  The address was delivered to Bishops at the World Meeting of Families (link) and would be overshadowed by a larger mass outdoors Sunday afternoon.

I mentioned this yesterday briefly on my GLBT blog, as Francis did not specifically take up sexual orientation or gay marriage in the address.   And he even was properly skeptical of the role of government in “family values”, keeping a bit of libertarian distance. But he did take head on the attitude we as individual human beings have in our openness to interact with one another at various levels personally. 

For example, when encountering a “poor” person in the streets, most of us (in my culture) have no idea how to communicate with someone.  I perceive someone in these straits as being in a different world, more about physical survival, less about abstraction and reason. 

More, I see in myself the attitude that such a person is not “worthy” of personal interaction from me, of a place in my life.  I suspect that others often react to me the same way (as in the post about the camping trip Thursday).  Instead of reaching out and trying some interaction, I would rather just stay way, in my own space.

The Pope talked about how people used to see themselves as members of families and communities, rather than as individuals competing for recognition.  That had a big effect on business (globalization, and the “shopping mall” paradigm, as opposed to local businesses), and on family life.  People became pickier about who would be suitable life partners.
I have covered parts of this before: on this blog, particularly March 13, 2011 and February 20, 2012;  furthermore, some of this substance was covered in some youth sermons(at Trinity Presbyterian in Arlington) that I discussed on the Drama Blog on February 26, 2012 (an event that had followed a youth 30-hour fast). I was surprised at my own déjà vu as I heard the Pope speak.

The Pope then expanded into the issue of marriage, and not the usual problem of fidelity, but of the tact that young adults are reluctant to take the “risk” of commitment and marriage altogether.  So fewer families get formed in the first place.  Part of the reason is economic:  the world has become so competitive that it is difficult to afford children until well established (and people without the responsibilities for kids can low-ball wages in the workplace).  This feeds the issue of declining birthrates in non-immigrant populations in wealthier countries, and even teases the paid family-leave issue.  Part of it is also emotional resilience.  People don’t want sustained intimacy with others whom they perceive as failing to be perfect.

In fact, it’s the latter that “family values” has so much to do with.  Some men become promiscuous when their partners become less attractive with age. In fact, I personally cringe at the idea of waking up every morning with someone who has “declined” in my own bed!   How selfish.  It’s all a matter of perspective, and of economic status.

How this plays out with gay issues is, of course, a convoluted topic.  Gay couples are capable of long-term commitment, as they have shown repeatedly.  They aren’t capable of producing their own children with their own relationship.  So the whole question of the importance of sexual intercourse itself in one’s socialization, into learning to be part of a community and family and meet the needs of others, becomes an issue that defies logical resolution.

Human beings are unique in their mix of capacity for hyperindividualism, and for heavy socialization at the same time. We're halfway between cats and dogs,  The Pope insists people were intended to experience family and intimacy and continuous connection to others, but admits many individuals can learn to live very well standing alone, as if "people like me" affect the game for others because of the way we "compete" with less of our own skin in our games. Competitive cycling or swimming closes the analogy. 
Jill Abramson weighs in on similar concerns in The Washington Post September 25 in an article about women (and men) “having it all” on Sept 25, link here  where she refers to writings of Anne-Marie Slaughter and Sheryl Sandberg.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A "more equal" world could become a world of "followers", easily manipulated (the Pope at Washington but not at San Francisco)

A couple of ethical and social points occurred to me today in reaction to the Pope’s remarks. 
One concerns a talk show on some CBS stations this morning. There was discussion of parenting styles, and as to how long parents should wait in letting teens make major decision for themselves. Many parents feel it is important that their kids accept the cultures they were born into, including the authorities of the religious and community structures, so that communities and families remain resilient. No doubt this idea accounts for a lot of homophobia in the past.

But the point was made that such an attitude tends to encourage people to remain “followers” and to be easily manipulated by partisan, especially authoritarian politicians.  I could say, look at what is happening in Russia.

On the other hand, a society that is overly individualistic simply cannot make a place for some people, leading to instability, and contradicting the idea that, in the best sense, “all lives matter” indeed.

I also thought about a time at a church (MCC) weekend camping trip in Texas in 1979.  With a certain set of people I can make a misleadingly poor impression.  I remember this guy “Skip” putting his arm around me and praying for me because he really couldn’t respect me or my capabilities (others there could).  That seemed to be his idea of inclusive “Christian” love, proving that everyone is to be included.  

I’m not into that.  So I sometimes seem aloof.

Yes, I can admire what Mark Zuckerberg has offered the world, connecting people while slightly at a distance, almost like an alien (extraterrestrial) observer and Manipulator.

I don’t think the Pope was interested in visiting Silicon Valley.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Harvard University library wants an open-access system for academic journals

Harvard University in Cambridge MA has said it wants its professors and researchers to make their publications open-access and to “resign” from established academic journals that keep their publications behind expensive paywalls. 

There is a story by Ian Sample in the Guardian here
Harvard says its library can no longer afford the outrageous subscription prices for so many journals. Harvard probably believes it is expressing the sentiment of most traditional universities. 
But academic publishing is used to a business model that makes it profitable, including peer review by unpaid post-doc’s or other students. 

One business model would have professors or universities pay for the peer review and publishing, but then make the publications free.  But some object to the idea of this form of “self-publishing” in academia, and believe the process should be selective.  And professors need to be compensated for the results of their research -- even like proving the 4-Color Problem!
The tragic history of Aaron Swartz (centered on MIT) went right to the heart of the issue. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Congress punts with USA Freedom Act, putting NSA's political risk back in "private hands"

I’ve generally stayed away from “one-sided” battles on some issues, like NSA spying.  I agree in general with Rand Paul’s solution, “Get a warrant!”, and in some ways Paul is among the more “innocuous” GOP candidates (a “leave-me-alone-kind-of-guy” – quasi libertarian).  Larry King interviewed Paul last June:
Aaron Mackey has a story for Electronic Frontier Foundation today, updating First Unitarian Church v. NSA, link here.  EFF reminds us that Congress has effectively offloaded the political liability for spying onto private telecommunications carriers with the USA Freedom Act (link). 

So the big companies will keep our data (which they already do) and can be subpoenaed for fishing expeditions.

Yes, we have to be proactive uncovering terror plots, most of all the unconventional WMD ones (while there is so much attention to lone wolves). And I agree that for the “average American”, the practical risk of his or her life being compromised by such a search is indeed remote.  But it is not zero, and prosecutors have been known to instantiate politically advantageous interpretations of vague laws to go after possibly unpopular defendants (and not just Muslims). 

Although it’s “highly unlikely” (a favorite term of my own late father) in practice, it’s conceivable that a small business owner who processes his or her own credit card customers with an e-commerce host could get dragged in to a situation.  That could further limit opportunities in small business.  Self-published book authors, despite Amazon, for example, often feel they should also be able to sell their products themselves (or feel pressured to prove that they can do so).

In the meantime, the sloppiness of Trump in handling obviously lunatic questions and the unconstitutional claims by Carson as to who should not be elected to office are both rather appalling.

Friday, September 18, 2015

"Preaching to the choir" stops when "it gets personal"

I did get a mailing from Save the Children this week, asking if I would sponsor a specific (female) child, this time in Egypt (it wasn’t Syria, Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan).  I had supported STC in the 1970s, sometimes looking at it as “conscience money”.  At the time, the charity did assign specific children (usually in Africa) to sponsor, and the child would change about once a year.  I would get occasional mailings from or about the child, but it was difficult to answer.

In circumstances right now, I do question the point of this kind of a “relationship” with someone sponsored.  It doesn’t seem very real.  I still feel that I should “get my own work done”, as I have outlined here before.

I’ve written a few posts on the International Issues blog about the “personal” aspects of responding to the Syrian refugee crisis.  Essentially, the “spare rooms” argument doesn’t mean a lot in practice.  But for the US to accept many more refugees than it has or has said it is willing to (that is, in the hundreds of thousands), in the current political climate with regard to immigration, ultimately personal involvement from a lot of volunteers (not just money, and not just spare rooms in houses) would need to happen.  It would have to cross barriers concerning religion and sometimes gender and sexuality.  Essentially, volunteers would have to become dedicated to responsibilities comparable to foster parenting, to say the least. They would be supervised by new non-profit groups formed in various ways as intermediaries. Some of this is happening in Canada now.

As I found out during my eldercare experience (from 2003-2010), substantive interaction with others in need is more difficult for one who did not have his own children.  This does become a “chicken-and-egg” kind of problem.

As I’ve noted before, a major concern of mine is the expected moral compass for someone who is “different” like me.  I set my own expressive goals in life, and it is important to follow my own inner direction.  (This is a property of the “unbalanced” personality in the language of Rosenfels.) I don’t like to pimp the specific causes or needs of others unless I have a genuine, longstanding connection with them. I don’t like to be recruited.  I don’t proselytize, or like to listen to “missionaries”.

As a moral matter, it ultimately matters that one’s “expressive purposes” or output ultimately connect to meeting the needs of others.  To some extent, the free  marketplace provides a measure of whether one is doing that, and this makes the “free content” issue relevant (and my lack of sales numbers disturbing to some people, behind the unwelcome phone calls).  One should care about the customer. 
In this regard, I find it isn’t that hard to get my “choir” interested in my content.  I do find people on social media who can relate to it.  I probably leave the impression that I live in my own world, which fills me and doesn’t leave time for people with “real needs”.  One disturbing observation is that in my fiction stories, the “powerful” do tend to self-select and come out on top, and the “weak” are at best left behind in a wasteland – not a whole lot is done to reach out and give them hands up.  That’s a bit like Ayn Rand, maybe. Maybe it sounds like Donald Trump harping about “The Losers” or the “stupid people”.  Socially, that kind of attitude sounds at best insular, and at worst arrogant and likely to incite expropriation. (Trump hasn’t gotten over Omarosa.)   One true thing I’ve noticed:  my own life has a lot more in common with that of many heterosexuals in my own social and cultural “class” than a lot of people realize, but it has almost nothing in common with the “masses” in great need.  I’ve noticed on a few volunteer events recently (“Community Assistance”) that I have no idea how to communicate with the “clients” at all.  Then I seem to be the “separate creation”.

Another moral matter is that of “belonging”.  As I “argued” in the “Epilogue” of the non-fiction part of DADT-III, any of us living in a relatively stable, free society owe it the capacity to step up when there is sudden, unusual need – which may help explain the impulse from some people to offer “spare rooms” even if the idea isn’t quickly workable. It tends to argue for the need to become “socialized”. 
There are some moral ideas that are clear-cut.  If you procreate a child, you must support it (hopefully in marriage, even if same-sex).  That isn’t controversial. Less clear-cut is the idea of being prepared to step in and help raise someone else’s (like after a family tragedy).  And eldercare is quickly growing as a responsibility for the childless.  There are also things one could imagine saying as obligations that ought to come from inherited wealth (which some on the Far Left want to eliminate), even when not expressly stipulated in wills or trusts.  One could be to make a house available to others when there is enough need.  But that may not be practical if one isn’t prepared for the personal interaction that goes with it – relationships that were not expected or welcome in the past.  “Mind your own business” doesn’t always work. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Important developments in Fair Use (use of copyright for censorship; DMCA and presumptive right to Fair Use)

In an important case, the Eleventh Circuit in Miami has ruled against a plaintiff, Ranaan Katz, who had sought to use copyright law to try to stop a blogger, Irina Chevaldina, from using photos of him in posts critical of his business practices.  The case was known as Katz v. Chevaldina.  Furthermore, the court ordered the plaintiff to pay the defendant’s attorney’s fees. This case has been previously discussed here May 18.
The court also held that the plaintiff’s attempt to copyright his photo was not justifiable by normal use of copyright law and only wanted to suppress the defendant’s speech, as part of “doing business.”  Electronic Frontier Foundation has the story by Jamie Williams here
There is also an important development in the 9th Circuit in the “Dancing Baby” case, Lenz v. Universal. A piece in EFF by Parker Higgins and Daniel Nazer, Sept. 15, reports that plaintiffs must make a good-faith effort (“subjective”) to consider Fair Use before asking a service provider  (like YouTube) to do a DMCA Safe Harbor takedown. It’s important that speakers have a legal presumption that they make invoke Fair Use when the speak;  they are not limited to using “Fair Use” as an “affirmative defense” after the fact". The link is here
This case was considered here July 6.  The text of the opinion is here
One YouTube comment (to post above) claims that the YouTube Contend-ID system would no longer work as a result of this ruling. I’m not sure I follow the poster’s reasoning.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Opposing viewpoints" can lead to "repugnant conclusions": the controversy over Tannsjo's essay over a stipulated moral duty to procreate; more on guest blogging

Ezra Klein on Vox Media has an article about the company’s stalled plan to introduce a new section featuring “unusual, provocative arguments”.  I’m reminded of the “Opposing Viewpoints” series of books produced in Michigan (Books, Sept. 19, 2006).  And I’ve thought about automated database tools that could aggregate “opposing viewpoints” (see Feb. 29, 2012).  The Vox “card stacks” accomplish something similar in a straightforward way.
The specific story (link  concerned his decision not to publish a controversial piece by Swedish philosopher Torbjorn Tannsjo leading to the “repugnant conclusion” that procreation (as much as possible, at least within marriage perhaps) is a moral responsibility and prerequisite for everyone. And that means having lots of kids, big families (like the Duggars?). 

Klein talks about the obvious disagreement this implies not only with abortion but also birth control;  he could have added homosexuality (particularly as it is seen in countries like Russia) as another potential target for Tannsjo’s views. (Anita Bryant would have loved this in the 1970s.)   And there are political and demographic problems (like an aging population) when more well-to-do established non-immigrant populations don’t have enough children (as in the case in most of Europe, feeding an undertone to the refugee crisis, and is partially the case in the United States, which depends on immigrants to maintain a stable overall birthrate to replace the working-age population).
Gawker has published Tannsjo’s blunt essay here. Could Tassnjo be playing Jonathan Swift with a "modest proposal"?
I think there are questions about sustainability (the “Big Bad Word” v. “Happy Small World”). I tweeted to Klein a comment that it’s inconceivable that an entity that does not exist (hasn’t even been conceived – I’m not referring to abortion) has any moral claim on me.  (I think of a scene in Reid Ewing’s second short "freedom" film. “Free Fish”, where he curls inside a giant  clam shell in a California aquarium to make a philosophical point about the perks of existence.) But, then, by that logic, we wouldn’t be concerned about leaving future generations runaway global warming (and a future Venus to live on).
I’ll meander to a distantly related matter.

Lately, I’ve gotten a few emails asking if I want to publish op-ed’s by various parties on topics like marijuana legalization, transgender rights, or even Donald Trump’s behavior in the current presidential campaign. (Yes, calling people “losers” excessively sounds scary.) I think that in some cases public relations firms are trying to place articles with others to gain more audience, rather than just advising clients to self-publish their articles on their own blogs (like on Wordpress or Blogger, this  platform).  I’m not sure if the publisher was supposed to “buy” the content. “Blogtyrant” (Ramsay Taplin, in Australia) has advocated heavy use of guest bloggers to build and exchange audiences.  So I get the point of doing that.  I think that some of these “pundits” would be better off trying to get published on a site like Vox (which has a content style and world view a bit like mine) if they really need “credibility”.
If I restructure in 2016 (move everything to Wordpress, which Ramsay recommends), I could reconsider the place for exchanging guest bloggers.  By the way, Ramsay has an Inbound Question for bloggers that I’ll pass along; maybe you’ll get a link after all. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Op-ed columnist argues for "right to be forgotten" in US, says it is slowly being implemented voluntarily

Now, columnist Liza Tucker is arguing that the “right to be forgotten” ought to be honored in the United States, in an op-ed on p. A17 of the Washington Post on Monday, September 14, 2015, “The right to bury the (online) past”, here
Tucker argues that Google and other engines (Bing) are not having difficulty identifying requests that would seem morally legitimate, from subjects who are not public figures.  In Europe, the volume of these requests is huge, but Tucker argues these private companies are making big profits from their search engines.

She also argues that Google is honoring some requests in the United States, when circumstances seem compelling enough.

A related issue is my own practice of placing my book text online where it could be searchable.  There’s the question of “self-competition” which I have addressed elsewhere, but some people may feel that it is not appropriate to leave narratives of old incidents available if people would not normally pay for them (as with a best-seller book). But it’s important to note that the book contents normally don’t name non-public persons involved in questionable behaviors. There have been a couple of incidents where the name of someone associated with a normally obscure publication has presented an issue for them when found on Google.  While I can easily suppress names with initials on my own online file copies of my book contents, they still could get picked up by Google Book Search.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Was YouTube too quick to "censor" Nicole Arbour's videos (concerning medicine and body image)?

Media accounts (Medical Daily and USA Today) indicate that YouTube suspended Nicole Arbour’s “Dear Fat People” video(s) after going viral, as well as her Google+ channel.  But I quickly found a typical from her video working this morning.

She disabled comments, but says reaction has been a lot more positive than she had expected, generally speaking. She says she is writing about the issue as one of health and medicine, not something about attractiveness or body image or physical shaming.

Still, is this kind of material to be viewed as “offensive” in the context of more obvious issues (race, homophobia, disability)? 

A Facebook user asked, why doesn’t she “reach out” to people instead?
I can relate to the “body shaming” issue, but from a rather upside-down point of view.  In the past, others have acted that if they saw me getting into a relationship (marital) and keeping it, despite the lack of obvious physical attractiveness, I could set an example that made it easier for them.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Music really does force us to ponder our own moral compasses

A little skirmish broke out on Twitter and some websites recently, actually building up for a long time, about an artistic issue in classical music, something I’ve covered before on my “Drama and Music” blog (most recently on September 1, 2015): that is, the validity of “chills and fever” loud and triumphant endings to many large romantic works in 19th century and some early to mid 20th century (usually orchestral, including with piano) literature.  It’s important because it reflects a deeper value about what emotions and feelings are really valid in some larger moral context.  

More specifically, there has been a lot of controversy over how composer Anton Bruckner really had intended to end his Ninth Symphony (since he died before completing it).  While many scholars claim his intentions can be surmised almost 100% from the manuscripts he left behind (some were not found until the middle of the last century), there are still three or four very credible competing ideas as to how the last 30 or so measures should go, and one scholar claims it should end quietly. (A couple of the other scholars are now in my social media circles.)  And NYC-based young composer Timo Andres (still under 30, and one of a well-regarded group of composers in New York under 40) has said before that most of his works end quietly out of consideration for the listener, to allow the hearer to contemplate what she has heard in her own space.  To that group, by the way, add Jarod Lanier (older, 55), who has written extensively about technology and moral concerns (July 1, 2014 here and July 1, 2013 here, and Book reviews, Feb . 22, 2010, "You Are Not a Gadget") and John Adams (68) who has at least one opera about the nuclear arms race.  
It's also noteworthy that "politicians" have tried to manipulate the emotional appeal of ("triumphant") classical music.  The Nazis did it (with Beethoven and Wagner), but then Beethoven was called in to celebrate the Christmas Day after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.  The Soviet Union tried to maniplate the compositional of Dmiti Shostakovich;  Communist China (and now North Korea) has manipulated music in a way that seems naive. Other kinds of music, often more repetitive, appeal to people (wired differently than me) in all kinds of religious contexts. 
By ninth grade, through “ear training” that had come with my piano lessons, and by wearing out old monaural records on an old RCA record player “in the basement”, I had become accustomed to the romantic formula, especially of a big work in a minor key:  move to major (the “Picardy Third”) at the end with a “Big Tune” in triumph.  Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto was probably the first such work to thrill me, soon followed by Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto, as well as Grieg’s.  I felt a real adrenaline rush at such an conclusion.  I would play just the conclusion over and over (which is why some of the records “wore out”).  That was a source of real “pleasure”.  

What the “mental health” world of the early 1960s didn’t like, was that I got “pleasure” only when stimulated passively by something or someone I admired or became “upwardly affiliated” with. That fit the theory as to how I perceived sexuality by the time I was a freshman in college (the fall semester of 1961, when I wound up getting expelled from William and Mary).
Since I worked as an “individual contributor” in information technology for decades, and lived in a world where dedication to detail and accuracy was so important to professional survival, I could stay in my own world, unaware of how far I had drifted from the socialization that others expect.  My life became “what it was” with no need for apology.  I was a productive citizen, who took care of himself but not of anybody else (because “he” didn’t “procreate”).  Retirement would provide a rude shock. I had to deal with my aging mother, with dementia.  As a sub, I had to deal with kids – and their personal issues, in a wat that shocked me.  I found that people expected me to fit into a social structure where “power” was based on assertiveness and hierarchy, not on the moral validity of the ideas underneath what was happening.  I would be expected to play parent when I had never done anything myself that could have led to procreation. Moreover, I was expected to find emotional meaning in doing so.  

Some of this gets into the “polarity theory” of Paul Rosenfels, as articulated back in the 1970s at the Ninth Street Center in New York (and since carried on by his surviving community).  But since I was regarded as “feminine” (but “unbalanced”, as “subjective feminine”) I was supposed to learn to develop the ability to “feel” in the context of meeting the real needs of other people (to become more “balanced”).   Instead, to the consternation of some in that community, I tended to hang around and “cherry pick” (upward affiliation again).  So I wasn’t “growing” in the “creative” capacity to feel for others when in actual need.  

In more recent years, the spontaneity of social media has actually highlighted the expectations that people learn to bond in ways previouslyalien to them – countering the whole “Alone Together” mentality (Sept. 18, 2013 here, and Books, Nov. 2, 2011).  It also counters the "take care of thy own first" mentality common with the "conservative" (and sometimes "survivalist" and gun-toting) crowd. There’s new expectation, in our evolving moral landscape,  that people embrace the idea of personal involvement with those who cannot take care of themselves, as the personal reflection of the inequality debate – see Books Saturday Sept. 5, 2015, and TV Blog today (the writings of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn).  To walk away from this is beginning to look cowardly, in a way that it never has before.  

Friday, September 04, 2015

Man in southern MD arrested for a single tweet interpreted as making a direct threat; was this just hyperbole?

A man in southern Maryland (in Charles County) is in jail, held under $250,000 bond, for writing one tweet reasonably interpreted as threatening all “white” people in the town of La Plata, about 20 miles south of the lower Washington DC Beltway.  (The town has an unusual history in that much of it was leveled by an unusual EF4 tornado in the spring of 2002; I’ve been there many times.)  The man’s Twitter account has been suspended.
WJLA (ABC7News) has the story here. (It’s odd that the story is in a “sports” subdirectory.)  The story doesn't say whether there was some specific incident (perhaps involving law enforcement) in the town of La Plata that had angered the speaker, given the context of many reported incidents all over the country regarding police racial profiling and apparent associated misconduct. 
I won’t reproduce the text of the tweet here, but there is possibly some room for saying it is hyperbole, given the use of abbreviation.  (There is an allusion to the Universal horror film “The Purge” which I have actually rented and reviewed, Movies, Dec. 16, 2013 ).  The speaker may have just wanted to communicate personal anger (in terms of “Black Lives Matter”) and not have understood the limits on acceptable ways to say it.  Do they teach this idea in high school English now?
But the story shows that it is possible to be prosecuted and have one’s social media accounts suspended over a single angry post.  A possible sentence after conviction or plea bargain could include being banned from the Internet for a long period.  Electronic Frontier Foundation has even advised speakers to be careful about wording posts or texts as “direct threats”.  It’s a good question how this would play out if it happened in SnapChat.
It wasn’t clear how many people saw it and called police.  It’s also unclear what happens if other users report abuse to the social media company;  the social media company has a judgment to make on calling law enforcement.

Picture: from a June 2014 brief visit to the town. 

Thursday, September 03, 2015

More on my own project management, and, yes, I need to get this done

I’d like to just share a little progress report on my own work, with some sense of project management and forecast, and a horizon.    
I had outlined by content goals on a posting here June 9, where I joked that I could be traded to the Mets and moved to New York (to work with other artists) if I really had worked my material up to where it is commercially viable. Right after that blog posting, the Mets went on a tear. Maybe somebody read it. 

I do have the novel (“Angel’s Brother”) largely complete, and a very good start going with Final Drat 9 on a detailed shooting script with notes for the screenplay “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany”); less progress on my autobiographical video (for those who haven’t or won’t read the books). My skill levels with Sibelius and Final Draft are farther along than my comfort is with Final Cut Pro.  

Once I have these “deliverables” completed it does become possible to focus on other opportunities (which right now can come from unwelcome interruptions, sometimes).  These include much more community service, networking with others on content projects, and possibly relocation (which would entail a lot of time, to say the least). At this point, I would expect to be at this point roughly right after Thanksgiving.   Of course, I know from the workplace, projects slip.  (I don’t want to become “CABCO III” – some friends from my years in Dallas know what that means – and, actually, I did learn a lot from a couple of smaller companies with projects that in one case failed and in another had totally inadequate infrastructure.)  

I really do need to get this done, in a reasonable time (a few months at most, not years).  I don’t have forever.  I don’t want to stretch my luck.  Just look at the rest of the world.  There are too many potential doorknockers, and once I inevitably have to work with others, I lose some of the autonomy I have taken for granted.  

That still leaves the question of maintaining the panoply of legacy sites and blogs.  There are just too many of them, and the legacy sites have a lot of obsolete material.  I’ve provided a “content navigation guide” from the home page of my “doaskdotell” site.   

I see that I had talked about this on June 22. Right now, I would expect to get to some big-time restructuring and consolidation of the material in 2016.  I think this is the first time I’ve given a time for it.  But I think the days of gratuitous “free service” for blogs could be numbered because of business model issues “upstream” driven by environments less sympathetic to funding by advertising (blockers, and “do not track”), as well as Wall Street pressure from investors, and possibly calls for more “downstream liability” for providers (as well as “right to be forgotten”).  It would be desirable to have all content on “owned” spaces, including specific software licenses – the way Bluehost works with Wordpress now.  

I could imagine a setup with just three domains, all Wordpress.  One is the “Media Reviews” to which all my current movie, book, and music reviews goes, with heavy use of labeling to filter out my running commentary on my own work (and to consolidate duplication).  That would include, in theory, about 600 flat-fire reviews from my legacy “doaskdotell” site.  

The footnotes for the books would continue on “doaskdotellnotes”, as would sales links.  It might be possible to set up e-commerce there to handle credit cards myself – if the security questions can be handled.  E-commerce is not that expensive, but the concerns over customer privacy right now are much greater than they were even two years ago. Possibly e-commerce would have to be a totally separate domain. But I would never have a third-party-designed site where all I do is sell books and pretend to be a guru to fix your life.  That’s not my speed.  

The current “doaskdotell” site might be moved to Wordpress, and become the news site that contains all stories that today go on one of my many news blogs.  There would be fewer posts, but they would be more original in terms of perspective.  Simple news story links, not needing much specific comment, might just be on Facebook and Twitter (and people can ask, why should I get bad news from YOU?) I simply won’t have the time in the future (as I see it unfolding) to sustain these forever as I have for the past few years (especially since about late 2008, the time of the financial crisis, when my own audience numbers spiked with bad news, of course – well, Obama’s election turned out to be good news on many issues for me).  

A typical Wordpress domain allows one blog, but as many other hierarchies of pages as one wants, or at least, that’s my understanding.  But I would have a tremendous amount of material to move.  I would need to automate the transfer somehow, and work with a hosting company (whether Bluehost or someone else) on capacities, bandwidth, and the like.  I’d have to do the analysis before going with something like this. 

Right now, Wordpress appears superior to Blogger in flexibility and control, but that could have changed by mid 2016, for all I know right now.  

The “BillBoushka” site might be moved also to this newer site, with the domain name just a redirect. I have eliminated sites before ("hppub" was moved to "doaskdotell" in July 2005, and the java site "johnwboushka" for "opposing viewpoints" was eliminated and replaced by a resume site, with the rest moved to today's "BillBoushka" in 2006). Most of this is still on the "wayback" machine on the Internet archive, I believe.  I almost never look. 
I get emails all the time offering SEO and design, but cookie-cutter services can’t really work here.  I have to know what I want first.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Crackdown on ads with Adobe-flash could affect Internet publishing

Forbes reports further on the crackdown on unwanted ads by Apple in upcoming mobile operating systems, to say that as of Sept. 1, Google Chrome will block ads with embedded Adobe Flash, link here. The story by Robert Hof is “Billions of ads are about to die a well-deserved death”,  On one of my computers, they are already blocked by curtailing Shockwave.  Adsense still seems to accept them, however.
Forbes also commends Google for separating out ads in search results, so they aren’t intrusive. (I don’t see them on Bing searches;  I just tried “Avid” on both.)  It also likes Facebook’s strategy.
But Forbes thinks the “crackdown” will be hard on online publishers who depend on ad selling to make a living or to stay online. Those with capital from other places and who simply want a soapbox aren’t affected – except that this “freeloading” or “lowballing” is disruptive to Internet business models in the long run (rather like credit card users who pay off balances in full and never pay interest).
Mike Shields reports in the Wall Street Journal Monday, p. B6, that Facebook has added a “tool to detect unauthorized video uploads” from content providers who want to monitor authorized reproduction of potentially monetizable content, link here But this would not seem to affect automatic YouTube embedding.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Apple will allow users to block ads with its next mobile operating system (iOS9); could disturb Internet content business models

Apple plans to allow users much more capacity to bloc ads on mobile devices with iOS9, a development which rankles some publishers as well as Google, according to a “Business and Tech” story in the Wall Street Journal today, August 31, 2015, by Daisuke Wakabayashi and Jack Marshall, link here (paywall).

The blocking would happen for normal websites viewed through the Safari browser (usually reformatted to be mobile-friendly). However Apple won’t develop the “content blocking” software itself;  it will come from developers, and will require separate app installation (the closing circle) by users (which may make it less likely that a lot of users will actually skip the ads). Apple won’t allow secondary content blocking within apps, because it says ads don’t compromise device performance inside apps as much as it does during normal browsing. But Apple seems to get a bigger cut of ad revenue from apps.

My own experience is that sometimes pop-ups are very disruptive on news sites, and can interfere with getting to news stories even on apps (like television station WJLA).  Why I know that they support the “free content”, they hardly ever work in persuading me to buy anything.

On blogs, on mobile devices, however, they are usually one-liners at the top of the screen space, and cause no problems.

Still, the ability of service providers to continue offering “free” user-generated-content platforms could be compromised, to the extent that ad service and consumer response actually supports the business models behind these services.  Even so, in my own experience, the majority of “free standing” blogs on Blogger or Wordpress don’t serve ads.  

“Do not track” also can interfere with Internet business models, but it doesn’t interfere with serving ads, just with the specificity of how they target users.

In general, these developments could affect valuations of Internet companies and have some effect on the overall stock market – while everyone watches China and the Fed right now.

My own “revenue” from this capacity has gone done in recent years, largely because most consumers who would relate to the ads have been getting more of their news from Facebook and Twitter than they had been ten years ago. That is not very significant to me in terms of my own overall personal finance (you’re talking like “.01 percent”), but it could matter to the credibility of my work, that it can somehow support itself.  Some content publishers, in user forums, say that ad revenue is very important to their own financial stability, and niche bloggers (as I have noted) sometimes can make a living off of it, or even sell commercially successful blogs to media companies. (“Blogtyrant” has talked about this.)

In general, I may look at some restructuring in 2016, as I do think there are long term questions about stability of the environment I use.  But I’ll get into detail on that later. But, in the mean time, how much in life is really free?