Wednesday, July 29, 2015

So, should I be held morally accountable to future generations, to people who don't yet exist?


Continuing the discussion of moral perspectives for those who are “different” to “special” (July 1) and operate in the world asymmetrically (without all of Clark Kent’s gifts), I ponder today, should I be held morally accountable for how my activities impact future generations, that is, not simply the unborn, but the unconceived.  Can people who don’t yet exist have a moral claim on me? (Sorry, if you can curl up inside a clam shell in an aquarium or museum, you do exist.)  

Of course, a lot of religious morality (in all major faiths) emphasize the claims of future generations.  From a psychological perspective, many people grow up in cultures that say that lineage is indispensable to have one’s own link (or eligibility for that link) to the future and then to immortality.  It's essential to continue one's own bloodline, family and tribe into the future.  It’s also important because not everyone is “lucky” enough to have a legitimate opportunity to distinguish himself.  But then, I ask, aren’t angels immortal, when they don’t seem to procreate? And I’m personally pretty convinced that angels “exist”.  

The question obviously comes up in conjunction with many issues, most of all climate change, perhaps.  But it comes up in more positive ways, too, such as the idea that technology could prevent an asteroid hit.  


It’s also apparent that the time for our posterity on this planet is finite.  Technological civilization, with its own brand of individualism, has “existed” for only a speck of Earth’s history.  Other civilizations around the galaxy might already have had to prove they can sustain themselves for millions of years (I think Ridley Scott’s film “Prometheus” makes this point). (See NASA’s artwork suggesting a fictitious high-rise city – like China – and landscape on Kepler 452-b, 1400 light years away – on a planet around a Sun that is starting to warm up – here on a UK paper ).  Eventually, inhabitants of this planet would have to move to Mars, or even Europa or Titan, or go to another solar system (which seems to have happened in “Prometheus” with nearby civilization).  Tidally-locked earthlike planets with zones of perpetual twilight and mild Florida-like climates might be common and could be settled, but their political organizations might well slip toward authoritarianism, or even communitarianism (without money). 

I just did a “Happy Birthday to me” at 72 on July 10 (while at Universal Studios in Orlando).  There is a good chance, at least statistically, my time will end before some real apocalypse happens.  It would seem I would get off “scot free” as long as the end isn’t made ugly somehow.  Actually, I rather doubt it.  There is evidence our brains continue to perceive our existence for several hours after the heart stops (unless the brain is destroyed by sudden and massive trauma, which raises the JFK question).  I think we probably find out what consciousness is really all about in the rest of our universe during that period in “the Core”.  The Monroe Institute may well shed some light on it.  I think we know after we’re gone.  Physics actually supports the idea of a next existence.  Consciousness and free will are important parts of creation that keep generating to oppose entropy, and perhaps aren’t destroyed (any more than energy is).  Maybe my memory moves to the surface of a black hole.   


One thing that seems very different from the past is that people living today, if well-educated, can imagine or envision what is likely to happen after they’re gone as individuals.  Past generations, until the 20th Century, really couldn’t do that.  A person living as a “prole” in a feudal Middle Ages society could not have any such grasp of the future.  Religion was all he or she had.  But today, we can see how future generations could be impoverished by what we squander now.  Probably we first began to realize that when we had to contemplate nuclear war, and live through the Cuban Missile Crisis (which certainly had an impact on my own attitude toward procreation). 

A young man alive at the time of Christ, and in the geographical area of Jerusalem and Bethany (less than two miles apart) would have experienced every reason to experience the ultimate “upward affiliation”.  Jesus would have come across as pretty much like Clark Kent in Smallville (that is “Good Clark”).  There could have been no one “better” (although the journalist Jimmy Olsen, played by Aarom Ashmore, came close, as did Richard Harmon’s flying teen character in one episode).  
   
Being a disciple and then apostle would have been a great honor.  There was no other better science in that day (Leonardo da Vinci wouldn’t appear for 14 centuries).  What had happened seemed miraculous, and the result of Intervention.  In fact, early Christians believed that the End would come soon, and some must have wondered if procreation even mattered.



Monday, July 27, 2015

A quick day trip to Harper's Ferry regarding the recent fire there; local volunteerism; an unusual police incident; a new note about privacy policy (mainly EU visitors)


Today, I did a little field trip to Harper's Ferry W Va, and did look at the damage from the widely reported fire.  One of my favorite spots, the Coffee Mill, is a couple buildings down toward Shenandoah St and seemed unaffected and was open. 
  

No one would speculate as to the cause of the fire, other than old electrical wiring sounds likely to be involved.  There were “Go Fund Me” posters all over the area for the restoration, link. But you would hope everyone had adequate property (and business interruption) insurance.


Then I hiked up to Jefferson Rock, behind the Catholic Church and ruins of an old church, about a 300 foot climb.


On the way back, I picked up a local Martinsburg W Va paper at the “Tri-State” Exxon, and found an interesting article by Jenni Vincent about the volunteerism commitment of the entire congregation of a local Independent Bible Church, on the front page of “The Journal”, link here.


There’s more to my saga.  Last night, after returning from Baltimore Pride, I snuck out to see “Paper Towns” at the AMC Courthouse theaters in Arlington.  After dinner at a local Irish pub, I came back and found my car blocked in by unusual police activity.  Two males and one female, all African-American, were detained as police searched the car next to mine.  After about an hour, the police let me drive my own car away.  I suppose the police have to be slow and methodical and not let anyone touch the evidence nearby, a sort of “car lockdown”.  I did not see any abuse like what has been reported in the news (and discussed on the Issues Blog). 
  

It was legal for me to record the entire event, from a safe distance;  I took just one cell phone photo, but I did pass a detailed news tip to WJLA.
  

One other item:  Google has added a notice for users in the European union about incidental cookie use, as explained here. In general, this seems to be the same provision as the Privacy Policy that I already have at the bottom of each blog.  You will see the new notice if you go to the blog with a EU TLD (like “co.uk” instead of “com”).  In general, I don’t add cookies on my own, unless they are there from advertisers incidentally.  I don’t add cookies on any of my sites, although it is possible that could change in the future. It if changes, I will inform everyone. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

GOP seems pushy in recruiting bloggers with mail


So, Saturday morning, before heading out, I get in the mail this “document” with a “tracking code”, and saying “You have been selected to represent voters in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District”. It also says “Commissioned by the Republican Party”.

What follows are some typical survey questions about issues.  And the GOP is at a crossroads, having to balance its perception of religious freedom with more libertarian ideas of other personal freedoms, and it needs to back away from the past use of gay rights as a proxy for other attacks on misappropriated individualism.


But, as a “journalist”, I can’t “represent” anyone.  (Although I can imagine George Stephanopoulos or Anderson Cooper running for Congress someday.) 
  
I certainly can’t sign on to emotional calls to sack Obamacare, or to silly litigation to topple it.  But do something about the fact that it forces some people to pay for coverage they don’t need, or to pay more than they did in the past, yes.  And I have a hard time believing the public will accept people arming themselves every time they are in a movie theater or church. 
  
It’s late, on a Sunday night, after a wild weekend.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

CODE Act would propose Copyright reform (and it belongs in "the library" where "it's free")


Representative Tom Marino (R-PA) and Judy Chu (D-CA)  have introduced (bipartisan) the CODE Act – that is, Copyright Office for the Digital Age Act.  The act will deal with specific reforms in the way the US Copyright Office operates within the Library of Congress.  Marino’s press release is hereParker Higgins has a perspective for Electronic Frontier Foundation, “The Copyright Office Belongs in a Library”, here 
   
Somehow I recall Reid Ewing’s little film about the public library, “It’s Free” (Feb. 23, 2013).  EFF goes into discussing a perception that “library needs” are “antithetical” to business and commercial needs.  My own blogging and publishing activity seems aimed at building a “library”.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Facebook, other tech companies, must turn over private posts in response to massive search warrants; social media and insurance fraud


Facebook is challenging a New York State appeals court ruling requiring it to turn over timelines and other information of users suspected in a fraud (Social Security) investigation, in response to a mass search warrant. Daniel Wiessner has a story (July 21, 2015) on Reuters about the ruling here.  CNN has a story that is a little stronger in tone here

Fraud investigators often want to look at social media posts (which may have been whitelisted as for “friends” or “followers” only) that show personal activity that would contradict fraudulent claims, as for disability.  Private insurance companies also look at such posts after claims are made but typically cannot find “private” posts.  


On the other hand, reckless social media posts by some customers have led to auto or property insurance cancellation in a few cases.  Another complication could come if a consumer discusses the circumstances of an incident in social media when there is an unresolved personal liability issue (as for an auto accident).
  
The Guardian has a major story July 7 on the way Facebook is handling “the right to be forgotten” in Europe by going through just one country first (Ireland), and still running into complications, link here



Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How could I turn my blogs into a "super niche"?


So, could I define myself a “niche”? 
  
I have come to see the scope of my own reporting as a “business”;  so I don’t have a specific commercial “constituency” or a narrowly focused product or service to sell, apart from much larger general concerns about “sustainability”. 
  
But I could see the idea of narrowing the focus on those issues that (1) have a significant likelihood of adversely affecting many people with little notice and with their relatively awareness of their exposure beforehand, and (2) generally aren’t adequately covered by mainstream media.
  
For each issue, I could envision a well-structured blog, with various contributors.  Then there should be an automated mechanism to update an encyclopedia-like article (as opposed to blog posting) on the topic within about a week of the blog posting.  The repository could be an established compendium like Wikipedia, or something like Vox Card Stacks.  In general, non-blog posts (static articles) get better traffic over time.
  
In an ideal situation, there would be some peer review of posts before they went up, but on some issues, speed (the “scoop” factor) is still relatively important.
  
Some of the critical topics where I feel I could make a more focused contrition include the following:
  
Technical:
  
Power Grid stability (such as threats from severe solar storms, and possibly terror-associated EMP, local or continental)

Some subtopics of climate change (which by itself is too broad to be just one topic)

Unusual cybersecurity risks likely to be faced by home users and small businesses

Downstream liability issues for Internet providers

Internet-based radicalization and "implicit content"
    
Business model sustainability for Internet companies and “real” users

Social:

How modern physics actually can support religious faith 
   
Hyper-individualism (has it gone too far?)
  
Filial Responsibility laws
  
Social Security stability
  
Population demographics
   
Right to be forgotten


Monday, July 20, 2015

"Getting published" in a world without monetization


One of the driving points about my own circumstances is that I leveraged the Web as a way to “get published”, not just to build volumes of social contacts as is common today with social media. That means, publishing (for all to find) one's own narrative, with all its implications, without the supervision of a gatekeeper or beancounter. 
    
I’m writing this post in anticipation of all the unsolicited contacts I get about selling more physical copes of my books, and about aggressively monetizing my websites with SEO and all the “Blog Tyrant” type advice. 
  
My first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book in 1997 was in fact my own print run, but I was able to do it for very low cost, during a time when the stock market and economy (with Clinton – a fiscally responsible Democrat – as president and a GOP Congress) worked well for my assets.  I had income from a job, although I had to manage the “conflict of interest” issue carefully.  In the late 1990s (especially after the move to Minneapolis in September 1997 which would run through 2003), I was able to sell copies through informal networking – through LGBT contacts, the Libertarian Party, and even the workplace, and to some extent other authors and bookstores (like reading clubs).  In time, being found on the Web, with copies of the book uploaded, by search engines (I placed high without trying to, just because my files were simple HTML) I became somewhat known.  And, yes, friends arranged speaking arrangements at Hamline University, the University of Minnesota, Morehead State, and a Unitarian group.
  
It’s a very different world today, with modern social media, POD, and the heavy pressure many companies feel to make profits any way possible (well, really, that last point isn’t so new).  Really, employees of these companies, often with families to support and depending on commissions, need their customers to be “hungry” for income, and not just out there to be “known” and “respected” or “influential”.

But essentially that’s what I did.  My material stayed up, and “politicians” knew about it.  It would be forever harder for one-sided interests to remain effective if “people like me” kept our material up to be found. 

It's important to note that books published by trade publishers disappear after they stop selling (although old copies stay with resellers on Amazon).  They they get forgotten. 

At this point, let me add that I see I explored a lot of the ramifications of the “it’s free” problem (or the idea that content should pay its own way) here on May 25, 2015.


I don’t have any content that is obviously easy to make “popular”.  Maybe the career of J.K. Rowling is a great lesson – you need a dose of real life and real mistakes, and hitting bottom, and real responsibilities, including having and raising children under far less than perfect circumstances.  I can stitch together rationalizations for my own aloofness – stemming from lack of physical competitiveness (and what would happen in Army Basic in 1968 become relevant), connected to a lack of drive for conventional sexual intercourse, and a lack of own children, and then the benefits of “upward affiliation”.  (My own example, while logical to me, doesn’t seem to be replicated in the lives of a lot of other people, and that’s a whole separate discussion.) The end result is, I don’t get a lot out of social and intimate activities that most others desire (call that schizoid if you like, or complain that I don’t “like people” enough).  So it’s unlikely I would want to create content for someone else just because it would be “popular”. 

As in a line from “The King and I”, “It’s a puzzlement”.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Lawsuit against Rolling Stone by UVa dean will provide a lesson to journalists and bloggers in defamation law


The Washington Post on Saturday published an account by T. Rees Shapiro, of Rolling Stone’s denial that it had defamed associate dean Nicole Eramo at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, following on its coverage of a claimed fraternity gang rape on campus.  The link is here
  
The Washington Post has a Scribd embed of the legal complaint here.  It was filed in Virginia Circuit court.   The Scribd element offers Embed code but it would not load for some reason.  The plaintiff seeks $7.5 million in damages.  Rolling Stone’s reply was submitted in accordance with Virginia court procedures within a specified deadline.  It’s interesting that it seems to be filed in a state court rather than federal.
  
  
The magazine has apologized, but says that the story, “A Rape on Campus”, by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, was published without “malice” and knowledge of (apparent) falsehood or inaccuracy.  See a New York Times account by Ravi Somaiya here
   
Generally, libel or defamation cases can be triggered if actual falsehood was published (regardless of intent or malice or knowledge) and it the information would normally be harmful to the individual or party written about.  That idea surfaces in another context, the troubling litigation concerning negative reviews on sites.  These sorts of suits have not been that common with blogs, but that is something that could happen, depending on the mindset and motives of a potential plaintiff.

Picture: downtown Charlottesville, Sept. 2013, one mile from campus 


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Even Wall Street Journal encourages monetized, niche blogging



It’s not just “Blogtyrant” (Ramsay) who have been pushing the commercialization and monetization of blogs as an existential matter.  Back on January 26, 2015 the Wall Street Journal had run a piece by Kevin Brass, “How to become an online celebrity – and get paid for it; the secrets social media stars use to pull in big incomes on Twitter, YouTube and Blogs”, link here.

It still strikes me that all this advice is about the Big Niche, which can grow concentrically into bigger niches.  But it still is about what “other people want”.  It may be about gardening, but not about making people eat their vegetables.

I certainly agree with some of the points here – especially about video, and I need to get back to Final Cut soon.
  
It’s interesting, though, that this expands to supposed whitelist sites – conventional social media, and that the interest is in accumulating followers or friends. 
  
I find myself that on Twitter, it’s pretty easy to get more followers of a purely commercial nature (in my case, especially about book self-publishing).  Bu it’s hard to get “quality” people to follow you.  In fact, because my own Twitter inbox feed is so diluted with ad-like promoted stuff, I find myself going back and checking the tweets of maybe the ten or so people most interesting to me manually every two or three days.  A lot of people seem to do this with me rather than “follow” me.  My own experience is that younger adults are more approachable socially than those in my own age range, and that is interesting.
  
One thing I notice with a number of people – it seems to take them a long time to “get things done”.  Various projects they have that look so promising remain under wraps.  That’s the case with me, too – finishing the next phase of the music, screenwriting, and video. 
  
I haven’t gotten into guest blogging (I get emails about this) and becoming other people’s press release agents (I get this, too), because I have my own work to finish, and because I am trying to keep some journalistic objectivism.  Yes, I’d love to work with a Vox, a CNN, or a “pedia” – and I’ll have more ideas soon on how I could make that happen.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Reddit plans to stricter content acceptability policies; former CEO Ellen Pao warns users that the "ugly side" is winning


The new CEO of Reddit is proposing much stricter content policies on the platform (“the Web’s front door”) and banning some subject matter altogether, according to a CNN Money story Thursday, link here. It may also put some content behind login (with supposed age verification) screens, voluntarily attempting to do what COPA had specified a few years ago (it was overturned in 2007). 
  
But the former CEO Ellen Pao writes a blunt op-ed on p A21 of Friday’s Washington Post, link here. The print title is “The ugly side of the Internet”; online it is “The troll are winning the battle for the Internet”. She explains well how Internet designers in the 1990s didn’t grasp that immature users could grow “fame” by becoming bullies.  Other commentators have noted that in the 1990s visionaries didn’t see that users would attack each other in more economically or politically motivated ways, with malware. 

She quotes our friends at Electronic Frontier Foundation, “The sad irony is that online harassers misuse the fundamental strength of the Internet as a powerful communication medium to magnify and co-ordinate their actions and effectively silence and intimidate others.”  

She also notes how difficult it is to build profitable business models, attracting mainstream advertisers while keeping the “ugliest” content around that tantalizes people. 

She also talks about the threats, and the cruel irony of saying “stay safe” (which Jahar Tsarnaev had said on one of his tweets after the Boston attack).  

She mentions that up to 40% of users are trolled, and that many or most of these are young women.  Sometimes they have been gays and lesbians.  In fact, Jack Andraka reports general real world harassment in his book (March 18 on Books blog) as a tween, which went away not just from his science fair accomplishments but as he got good at camping, kayaking, swimming, physically challenging stuff.  
  
One of the biggest reasons for the harassment is that we do live in a hyper-competitive, individualistic society, a winner-take-all world where a lot of people, on their own, can’t function well without the formerly compelling social structures around them.  So some people need to see others made to fit into their own familiar structures.  It’s getting harder for “average Joe’s” to make a living, in things like selling, because many old social expectations of how people will interact and receive one another have broken down. Likewise, it gets harder to find and sustain relationships, create and keep families.  The problems become self-perpetuating: security concerns, if nothing else, keep people within their own shells.  This moves quickly into areas like economic inequality, race, and religious intolerance.  
  
I get some flak because I don’t try very hard to “sell” my media stuff, especially physical hard copies of my books.  I simply let people find me.  That doesn’t help others make a living enough, and maybe it can attract the “wrong” attention.  Should something prove others will pay for it (that is want it or need it) before it’s allowed to stay out there?  That sounds like a tempting question. But people will pay for a lot of bad, ugly things.  People won’t pay to “eat their vegetables”.  Should Internet activity become a popularity contest?  That is exactly what the EFF quote above warns against.  
  
There’s also a question of the ethics of self-broadcast and spending time on it, when there are “real people” who need advocates and attention.  I’ve heard that a lot.  So I preach to the choir.  I note that our values have changed.  Our culture makes a lot more in public of making the lives of those in need seem important to others – something that wasn’t as apparent when I was growing up.  Our culture is also more interested in recruiting new converts into these causes including people like me who, in the past, would have been kept at a distance.  I know this is an issue. 
  
Social media is coming into scrutiny now also because it seems to be a recruiting tool for enemies.  This may be overblown.  I think we will find that people are radicalized more in person (when they visit overseas or have other kinds of attention) than just by tweets with links to the Dark Web.  Still, on the surface, this is raising a question about UGC (user generated content) without gatekeepers, and what purpose it is serving when it doesn’t pay for itself.  We call that the “Implicit Content Problem”.  


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Plaintiffs try to end-around downstream liability protections for CloudFlare in Grooveshark case


There is a long sad history of a site called Grooveshark, which the company explained some time back (April 30, 2015) on its own strike page when it was forced to “disappear” the site here  It had offered consumers a way to play songs they wanted in an “it’s free” mindset.
  
A group of copyright holders had sued, with the predictable result of a shutdown as explained here on Business Insider, link. Instead, old Groovehark says that there are a lot of other competitive sites that can offer the same concept (like Taylor Swift’s nemesis, Spotify).
  
But Mitch Stoltz of Electronic Frontier Foundation reports   that soon another site calling itself “Grooveshark” appeared.  A group of artists sued a provider called Cloudflare  and tried to force the site to “police” users in advances, which runs contradictory to how both Section 230 and DMCA Takedown are supposed to work.  Fortunately, a federal judge in New York, Alison J. Nathan, ruled that CloudFlare will not have to pre-police users. This seems to reverse an earlier ruling.


EFF embedded the court opinion PDF. 

It’s scary that plaintiffs still keep trying to jeopardize the whole world of user-generated content – maybe not so much out of real piracy but to get rid of low-cost, unmonetized competition.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My own trip to Mars (cheating a bit); Hint: Florida; rumors about the afterlife


If you want to take a trip to Mars, the cheapest and most reasonable idea is to visit Mission Space at Disney Epcot Center near Orlando, FL.  You can sign up for basic (green) or advanced (orange) training and then ride a simulator which shows what a landing on Mars would look like.
  

The “real” animation is pretty effective, with an emphasis on deep canyons and the polar ice caps.
    
There is also a Mars exploration pavilion at the Kennedy Space Center south of Titusville, FL on the coast, but that doesn’t show as much.
  
I’d like to see a similar simulation of the Huygens Cassini landing of a craft on Titan in 2005.
    
Florida in July is very humid and hard on tourists in that respect, but it’s OK when there is shade or cloud cover. Thunderstorms are welcome. 

By coincidence, the news story on the surface of Pluto from NASA broke this week, with a typical account on CNN here. Maybe some mountains of frozen nitrogen?  Note the article in National Geographic, July 2015, p. 117, with hypothetical surfaces on p. 120-121.
     
Over the weekend in Florida, I somewhere (probably surfing on my iPhone) a speculative essay suggesting that when someone dies naturally after cardiac and respiratory arrest, the brain can actually remain “conscious” for several hours, which (given the nature of space-time) might stretch out to eternity as perceived, and the person knows he or she is not coming back and cannot communicate what is happening.  Maybe for many people there is a glimpse of Heaven, or maybe there is just a “Core” of void.  (See Eben Alexander’s book, reviewed on Books blog March 30, 2013).  This would also seem to have implications for how the death penalty is experienced.  It might also mean that the presence of loved ones at the end is even more important than we had thought.  It used to be that many males died suddenly of massive heart attacks, and Sanjay Gupta has pointed out that these are actually excruciating when experienced. 
  
The best evidence of physics suggests that, for most people, a new “soul” evolves as the person or even animal matures and becomes a new agent of free will. But can a “soul” disappear?  Maybe it hangs in space-time for eternity.  Maybe it can be reincarnated and will be, even on another planet.  This may be nature’s answer to entropy.
  
The total number of people who have ever lived is said to be about 108 billion (Discover, here ).  Of course, that might depend on how you define “man”.  About seven billion or 6%, are alive today.  So that would suggest that most “old” souls could not have been reincarnated yet, at least on this planet.  

I wonder what the Monroe Institute has to say about this.


Monday, July 13, 2015

New digital world raises real ethical questions about how new journalists can make a living at it -- and support real families


Michael Wolff, in USA Today, discusses (in section B, Page 1, July 13) the culture shift in compensation in media jobs, “Media paths undergoing generational cleansing; Digital industry makes career paths fuzzy”.
  
It’s a two way street.  Young adults need stable jobs to raise families and pay off student debt. But Wolff points out that “non-economic players have been to the digital side” often “not supporting families or even themselves.”  I would disagree with Wolff – they aren’t always young people. I have acted as a largely non-monetized player, to the chagrin of some sales oriented company people who call me.  They think it’s not fair.  Maybe a reverse moral issue.

You could add a discussion, about whether a real writer speaks his real mind (as in the Train video “Bullteproof Picasso” or in Chris Crhistie’s stump speech – but that’s a politician, not a writer).  Or does a real writer prove others will pay for his content or does he agree to be hired to tell other people’s stories? 

That may come later for me.




Saturday, July 11, 2015

How "values" matter, or at least how things look


The Greece default situation motivates a thought experiment.

Imagine you live in a world where hands-on family life and the practical house and ranch work going with it are valued the most.  In fact, I’ve wondered if there could be moneyless societies on other planets.  Our own dolphins and orcas might provide a clue.

But money develops, and one of the currencies accepted sometimes is Monopoly play money.  (It actually gets used in the second half of my old novel manuscript, “The Proles”.)  Then someone does something to make your cache of Monopoly money almost worthless.  You feel something has been taken from you.  No, you haven’t been robbed or become the victim of crime in a usual sense.  But in another way you’ve been “harmed”.

I’ve had to deal with being perceived as the cause of a sense of “devaluation” by others.  When I was much younger, I had to wonder why others made my life their business – particularly my lack of gender-associated competitiveness, and later my homosexuality, and finally my public speech, without gatekeepers, but also without the usual stake in others to be provided for. 

I did sense that I was “different” enough not to be very interested in reproducing, I could be viewed as a not completely human competitor for resources – an enemy.  That sounds like the talk of totalitarians. If I wasn’t able to “carry my weight” in sharing the duties of “protecting” women and children, more of the “risk” would be borne by others, and I could weaken the security of the “tribe” as a whole.  But, as I grew up, I found that the confluence of sub-par male physical strength, homosexuality, and later some success in life anyway was not as common as I had thought.  I did seem to have a unique life narrative. What did seem common, though, is that many men had not really “earned” what they had, and could be singled out for some kind of “re-education” by those for whom the world didn’t work too well.

When I was coming of age, other relatively marginal males made a point of wanting to see me make it with women.  They wanted to see me become a father and marry (the order didn’t matter too much).  If they saw me do it, they became more confident in their own procreative futures, and their sense of self-valuation improved.  The pseudo-currency I idea, again.  But if I was articulating homosexual values, I was in a position to judge which other men were the most “suitable”, and that made them most uncomfortable.  That was particularly true with my William and Mary roommate. Put another way, the idea that no one should experience sexuality outside of potentially reproductive marriage was seen as an equalizer, an arrangement that would make family life (Richard Strauss's "Sinfonia Domestica") more "valuable" for those who created it and kept it together.
     
Later, as I became privately and then somewhat publicly accomplished, even if self-promoted without gatekeeper accountability, I became unwelcome competition, capable of lowballing others with more family responsibilities in the workplace, and gathering attention.

The feedback I got lifelong was that forming and keeping a family involves a lot of psychological risk.  It becomes less “valuable” when some (like me) “get out of things.”  Making something rewarding out of loving someone who really needs to be provided for is indeed a challenge, the other direction from upward affiliation.  But it’s more inviting when everyone else does it, even if everyone else has to.

But in a free society, people have to “want to”. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.





Thursday, July 09, 2015

ICANN proposals on private domain registration rattle home-based businesses


Electronic Frontier Foundation, in an article by Nadia Kayyali and Mitch Stoltz, has reported on a letter to ICANN protesting its plans to abridge its private domain name registration policy, article July 7here 

I had reported this earlier on the ID theft blog June 24.

EFF discusses the need for private registration on the part of some small business owners and individual; speakers out of the concern over future harassment or intimidation by “doxing”.
But it is possible to reduce the risk by registering to a UPS store (anything that it is considered a legitimate “land address”). 
  
The letter was signed by Laura Poitras, who filmed the riveting documentary on Edward Snowden.

Bill 

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Consumer group wants FTC to implement EU-style "right to be forgotten" in US


The Washington Post reports that a consumer group in the US has written the Federal Trade Commission with a request to require search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo!) to honor a “right to be forgotten” in a manner similar to what is now done in the European Union.  The Washington Post article by Andrea Peterson is here
  
The Post story leads to two op-eds, that “the right to be forgotten is a right to be forgiven” and that in the “U.S., you only get one strike.”  That’s how tenth grade gym softball worked (when I pitched a “shutout”).
  
There are real problems with transparency in how search engines can respond, as in this Guardian article by Jemima Kiss, link

In Europe, there have been incidents where some publishers have deliberately reposted stories that were supposedly “forgotten”.
  
The presence of “amateur sites” like my legacy sites, without gatekeepers or monetization, where search engines used to place results high because of simple access (HTML only in the past), could cause information on otherwise obscure people to stay out in front of the public.  I got a “complaint” like this myself a very few  times (2001, 2003, 2006).  Also, books (including self-published) get indexed by Google book search, and that can lead to forced exit from a low profile. 

There might be more stringent rules for “revenge porn” and the like requested. 

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

So, at 72 (almost), can I ever work for anyone else again?

  

Okay, here I go again.  Can I ever “work for” somebody else again, at 72?

All issues are interrelated.  So, focusing on one “cause” by itself gives a misleading impression.
  
Of course, marriage equality matters.  Of course, black lives matter.  But most of these issues get approached by politically partisan rhetoric and related more to social loyalty than to looking at the truth about what happened in a particular situation. (The facts behind the Ferguson incident in 2014 are particularly disturbing, for both “sides” and the underlying truth isn’t entirely clear yet.)
  
So, I know it stirs resentment if I act “above” carrying somebody else’s picket or shouting in a crowd.
  
It is very difficult for me to sustain these platforms that cover “everything” forever.  It would indeed help to find some alliances, and there should be more effort in that direction this fall after I get done with my next level of “deliverables” on the screenplay, video, and music.  (The novel is practically done.)  Along with that focus I might indeed eliminate some older or redundant platforms (I’ve done it before, like in 2005).
  
What I’m most concerned about is issues that can affect “us” regardless of what “groups” we personally belong to.  
  
Of course, that would include, for example, climate change.  But there are still some factual aspects of the debate that haven’t been explored enough.
  
Or it might include protecting the infrastructure, especially the power grid, from big solar storms or unusual terror attacks (like EMP).  I visited Oak Ridge and blogged a lot about this in 2013.  I’m told that the power industry has made some progress in readiness.
  
Some financial issues can affect people unexpectedly, regardless of social affiliation. One example is filial responsibility laws.   A few years back, someone even said I should not blog about this because states might start enforcing them if attention were called to them. Imagine that, policy by hiding.  In fact, there would be an incident in Pennsylvania in 2012.
  
Even some fiscal theories, like the idea of the dollar as reserve currency, while not in good repute with the establishment (Porter Stansberry and Ron Paul’s ideas) may need attention.
  
Could I focus on one of these and become and expert?  I think so.
  
Furthermore, there are a few film projects I am aware of, and would work on, because I have some connection to the people.  One of these is “American Lynching” by the late filmmaker Gode Davis.   True, it involves race and one group, but there is a way to expand on it.  There are a couple of other projects that I won’t discuss right now.  (It’s a “you know who you are” situation if you find this.)
  
In the meantime, I still have to plug away at my own work.
  

It’s true, the old “gays in the military” (leading to the now expired “don’t ask don’t tell”) was what got me into this world (following a "Hurricane Sandy" model on how issues accrue), and now there is no turning back (especially given the ironic way I brought in the conscription issue).  I can’t become some other company’s or cause’s pimp on social media.



Monday, July 06, 2015

"Dancing Baby Case": do copyright owners have to consider Fair Use before issuing DMCA takedowns through service providers?


Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that it is defending an Internet user against a baseless DMCA takedown request based a copyright claim that should have been covered by Fair Use. The EFF story is here .  EFF reports that there will be a hearing before the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday July 7.
  
Copyright owners have to make reasonable accommodation to fair use, which includes mixing and mashups, before making service providers like YouTube to perform a DMCA takedown.
  
The case at hand is Lenz v. Universal.  The Lenz family in San Francisco posted a 29-second video of its child dancing to a Prince song “Let’s Go Crazy”.  Universal incorrectly claimed that the occurrence of the Prince song in the background is copyright infringement.
  
I generally don’t make videos with disco music or pop music in the background for this reason, although some outdoor political demonstrations might also mix popular music.
  
The link for the “dancing baby case” is here.   

The music in the background is of low quality.



Saturday, July 04, 2015

Vox perspective on today's freedom has a curious warning about military draft


German  Lopez has an interesting perspective for Independence Day, “5 Ways America is more free than before”, on Vox, link here
  
The ways include same-sex marriage, gradual marijuana legalization, reduced prison population, Affordable Care Act, and no conscription.

Yet, recognizing marriage at all means accepting a place for secular government in a personal relationship.  That marijuana laws seem inconsistent in other areas and hamper individual choice is a no-brainer (although when young people use it, they definitely are harmed).  The Affordable Care Act also involves a “push” by government that could spread to other areas.
  
The mention of the former draft is interesting. Zach Beauchamp points out that the world is much more peaceful than it ever has been – despite the horrific news from the Middle East and asymmetric terrorism.  He warns, enjoy “freedom from conscription” while it lasts.  He points to a Wiki on the Selective Service System.  Indeed, after 9/11 some people advocated returning to the draft and Charles Moskos advocated the return to the draft and the end of “don’t ask don’t tell”.  Indeed, the role of conscription as an important part of the way my first book argued against the military ban in 1997.  Vox doesn’t maintain freedom from the risks of the sacrifice of conscription (a bit akin to involuntary servitude) is a fundamental right, and that is curious.

   

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

If you're "different" or "special", you have to look at everything through a "moral" lens


I know, in an intellectual sense, that my lifetrack experience is “different” from that of most other peers. It seems normal to me.  It’s rather like relativity.  And my own life divides into a sequences of segmented episodes, each of which quickly becomes a “new normal”.  A previous episode is fresh in mind but then gradually recedes.  

My capabilities are “different”, and I often, when growing up, did not do well in some of the gender-specific tasks typically expected of boys.  I did have talent in academics and music, and it was a legitimate expectation that I could do well if left alone.  But others will sometimes come knocking.  So the life experiences of others became relevant.  And of course bad luck can come knocking, in the way of natural disasters or illness, even if I have had less of that than a lot of others.  Worst of all, when people seem to have benefits they didn’t earn, they will, as individuals or members of larger groups, tend to attract some enemies, motivated politically (beyond the usual psychopaths and criminals).  Someone like me can be suddenly confronted with the idea that he would not be of much use in a post-revolutionary society (as in the NBC series).  History repeats itself.  

My personality is such that I insist on following my own direction, on goals chosen by me.  Paul Rosenfels used to say this was the defining characteristic of the “unbalanced” (“objective masculine” or “subjective feminine”) personality. Sometimes “life” doesn’t let one do this (without the unseen sacrifices of others, at least), and one needs resilience, which makes, then, this sort of constructive “selfishness” (that Ayn Rand would approve of) morally controversial.  Much of the parable story telling I the New Testament deals with this, and all major religions (including Islam, when reasonable and moderate) struggle with this.  

That’s why I feel anyone in my position must examine his life on moral terms as well as simply self-fulfillment according to “who one is”.  Inductive reasoning follows, and it sets examples for others.  

Before going on, look at this piece on Slate, "The Church of Self-Help" by Helaine Olen, then come back.
   
Moral thinking, beyond the libertarian idea of harmlessness and non-violation of consent, seems filled with contradictions (sorry, “Atlas Shrugged”) in western culture.  That’s because the individual matters at one end, and the future of all civilization (all those not even yet conceived, let alone born) matters at the other.  (That sounds troubling, that future people who don’t yet exist have claims on us and “rights”.) In between are various layers:  “natural” family, community, country.  The legitimate interests at these different levels can be in tension. Sometimes, family comes before being a “global citizen”.  But not always.  Imagine the situation of a young adult who grows up, in say, a West Bank settlement and has to assess his own moral situation as an individual, based on what his family has done. But Scarlett O’Hara faced the same thing in “Gone with the Wind”. 

In my own experience, there are at least three areas that seem particularly troubling.   

One of these is that indeed I wasn’t very good at doing the manly things people expect, particularly when men can be called upon to fight for women and children, as was expected in the past.  My experience with the draft illustrates that point.  I tended to retreat to my own world, which was very satisfying.   

The second is that I am much less inclined than normal to engage someone in an intimate or serious personal relationship where the other person is very needy.  I cannot imagine living up to the “in sickness and in health”.  For all the talk about it in marriage vows, my own upbringing didn’t expose me to this potential very much. But had I been “better at things” than I was, I might have been more responsive to women, and found it important to have children and become a father.  I disagree with the claims of immutability in this sense.  

The third is that I do indeed enjoy my position of speaking from a distance, and being heard, without having to “take sides” or work for someone else’s cause in the usual way that is expected.  Technology – first low-cost desktop or print-on-demand self-publishing, and then the Internet, with efficient search engines – allowed me to become “published” without a gatekeeper, and to maintain a “keeping them honest” presence to oppose partisan, narrowly tailored speech demanded by others.  It’s more important to me to win arguments than converts, but that’s a bit of a luxury, afforded by a legal climate (buttressed by the First Amendment and many Supreme Court opinions) that is more generous to me than it might have been.  

Yet, I constantly have to entertain the possibility of various disruptions and approaches, where others think it would not be so bad to carry the banner for someone else.  Don’t “normal people” – with kids and a biological stake in their own futures – have to do that?  

In the midst all of this, homosexuality became a proxy for all the other, “real” issues.  I am astounded at the progress of the past ten years, even since writing my second book.  Yes, much of the material in my first two DADT books must now seem dated, unless they are read for historical context.   One of the reasons I keep all my material around is that most young adults really don’t understand how precarious the history just before them is.  Most don’t realize what a draft was like, or what political threats came from AIDS in the 1980s, or why someone like me would have been thrown out of William and Mary in 1961.   “The kids” will have to read this history in books (including mine) or hear college lectures on it, but I actually lived it.  

In the past, I saw sexual orientation as a “being left alone” issue, but (as was so much the case with the military), what disturbed people was not “conduct” per se, but what the meaning of my “desires” (or lack thereof) could mean, and the distraction that they felt this presented to their own future family formation.  My kibitzing could be more disturbing than a rival in the usual sense.  Today, I find the same idea.  If I “reject” becoming involved with some deserving cause, others can extrapolate most unfortunate meeting (that “people as people” don’t matter, and that has potentially dangerous political consequences, as we know from history).  True, no matter how clever or good someone’s content is, it doesn’t mean anything until other real people “consume” it, and that has to be more than just “the choir”. 

It is true, not every moral problem is just a matter of following through in a “choice”.  Sometimes we have to join and fight other people’s battles.  Sometimes we have to raise OPC (other people’s children” even when we didn’t have our own, or take care of our parents. Some situations, like accepting distribution of an estate, pose their own hybrid ethical questions.  Libertarianism does say it is predicated on "freedom from other men" or at least the involuntary demands of others. One trouble is that we don't start at the same place in line. Another is that expression is meaningless until other people receive it (again, "relativity"). 
  
And some behaviors do matter in the collective, where the whole seems to be more than the sum of its parts (a non-Euclidean triangle inequality). The vaccine debate (and herd immunity) provides a good example.  So do other public health issues (agricultural practices that incubate avian influenza, or in the 1980s, chain-letter sexual practices that could “amplify” something like HIV).   

In authoritarian countries, politicians often assert that public safety and even national prosperity depends on disciplining individual citizens and supposedly “right-sizing” them. Consider, for example, Putin and his handling of Russian population crash. (Yes, right now, ISIL and North Korea are the very worst.)  This leads often to horrific results (going all the way back to Sparta).  But even in free societies, the way people make their own personal choices can matter to everyone.