Think tank reports that support for private refugee sponsorship is growing in the U.S.

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The Niskanen Center in Washington DC reports, in a new article by Matthew La Corte, that private refugee sponsorship is gaining some political traction in the United States, link here.

The article links to a petition from Care2, “Tell the U.S. to legalize the private sponsorship of refugees”.

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Of course, an underlying question is going to be, how can private organizations vet people before they come over here.  DHS and the State Department have their hands full with a 10000+ quota this year, as a recent ABC Nightline broadcast (“Flashpoint: Refugees in America”) showed. Vetting a much larger number would obviously require private resources.

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The answer to that question may harken back to a church youth sermon back in 2012, with a touch of “Mission in Belize”: It gets personal (post).  The people who are likely be able to vouch for particular people seeking to emigrate to this country are those with familial, social or business contacts already with the individual people and families.  This seems to be the case in Canada and in some specific communities in the United States (in California’s central valley, in Michigan, for example). In many cases, it would be Muslim communities who have these contacts.  So the sponsorship initiatives probably would not be noticeable to non-Muslims.  However, there are Christian or other non-Muslim refugees who need to emigrate from some areas, as in Iraq.  I worked with a woman who had relatives in Mosul when I lived in Minneapolis.  The “less than six degrees of separation” idea seems to grow indeed.

The video above shows how the “Group of 5” private sponsorship works in Canada.  Individuals participating in groups must be capable of providing both personal financial support of refugees (as dependents) and social or familial support.  This involves more than just housing or “spare bedrooms”.  In the United States right now, it is more likely to be a group of 20, with government financial support for a while.

In Canada, health care for refugees would still be covered by government. But a big problem in the U.S. in a proposed private sponsorship would be paying for unpredictable health care costs of refugees.  Would these come out of sponsors’ pockets?

I’ve added a lot of links on various questions that keep arising on not only the refugee but also the asylum seeker issues, especially on “comments” to posts of July 21 and Sept. 20.  Here’s another story in the Washington Blade, from June 24, by Michael Lavers, “Brexit vote could adversely affect LGBT asylum seekers”.   That could indirectly put more pressure on Americans (or Canadians).

At some point, it’s impossible to prove that there is no risk in offering a “hand up”.  That’s obviously the case even when taken care of others who are closer to “being our own”, but we may believe that we know more about the risks with “us” than with “them”.  It’s true, when an individual makes this decision, he could (if inadvertently) increase the possibility to risks of others associated with him or her.  A lot of moral questions in life have to do with the way people are willing to share risks in the commons.  It does get personal sometimes.

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P.S. — picture I took “on the road” Sept. 24 of the detention center near US 30 in York, PA, where some asylum seekers who enter the country “illegally” are detained.

(Published: Friday, September 23, 2016 at 2:15 PM EDT)

September is “National Preparedness Month”: the arguments for “doomsday prepper” culture

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As the fifteen anniversary of 9/11 passed, we were indeed reminded that September is “national preparedness month”.

First, some of us are luckier than others in being able to live in areas that are less exposed to major natural disasters:  floods, tornadoes, major hurricanes, major earthquakes, and, especially in more recent decades in western states, wildfires, and even sinkholes.

Some of us don’t get to “choose” our level of exposure.  I would not like having to be prepared for evacuations if I lived in a coastal area – and that’s one reason I don’t care for Florida.  If I had “inherited” property in such an area, I would definitely have a well thought-out plan to move a lot of gear (especially electronics and computers) to a designated place inland.  I’d probably have storage inland.

And even in some parts of the country, some areas have more risk than others.  Wildfires present the greatest risk (usually) on the edges of exurban development.  (That wasn’t enough for residents of Fort McMurray, Alberta).  Large tornadoes are more common well north of Dallas, into Oklahoma and Kansas, than south in the Hill Country.  Even in the mid-Atlantic, which has a “safer” climate than most, there are areas that are more tornado prone.  Southern Maryland, and then north-central Maryland are miniature “tornado alleys”, the latter largely because of the exposure to southeast winds off the Chesapeake Bay, which add shear to low pressure cells inside thunderstorms (northern Virginia gets much less shear).  There is economic benefit, and more risk, in living near water.

I can recall a sermon by a local pastor (at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington) the Sunday before Hurricane Sandy in 2012, called “radical hospitality”, which encouraged people to be prepared to house each other in case of disasters.  As it turned out, Sandy, although creating 60 mph winds for as long as an hour, caused relatively little damage and few power outages, compares to New Jersey and New York.  In Manhattan, residents south of 34th Street did without power for a week because Con-Ed had not disaster proofed its transformers sufficiently against floods.  If you want to live in New York City, it’s safer if you pick a place over 100 feet elevation (much of the City is very low, even though you don’t realize it when you are there).  By comparison, the DC and Baltimore areas have much more of their residential areas above any conceivable flooding.

What many area homeowners face is the danger of massive destruction to their homes from falling trees – often neighbor’s trees that they can’t legally or safely do a lot about (legal article).

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Any homeowner who can afford it is well advised to provide an alternate source of power for his/her of the family’s home.  Solar is often the best option.  Another choice in many areas is a natural gas generator.  Typically, it costs about $10000 to power an entire house.  Gas lines are underground and cannot be damaged by falling trees, but they could pose a theoretical, although remote, risk of leaks.  A gas company hookup, properly installed by a licensed and approved contractor, is better than a propane tank setup.

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So, all of this aside, how important is it to learn all the skills (including self-defense) advocated by the “doomsday prepper” movement?

On Facebook, “Survival Mom” has a very bombastic page  where she refers to her blogs “The Survival Mom” and “Preparedness Advice” .  Some of her advice seems quite demanding in the essential wilderness survival skills to be expected even of kids.  Some of it is quaint (sewing skills), and some of it has an interesting moral tone (join a volunteer fire department, rather than depend on others to do this for you – Mormon-raised baseball p[layer Bryce Harper wanted to do this but his MLB contract won’t let him).   She also sometimes provides an evangelical Christian context which would not be the same as my own spiritual thinking. She also has a book, which I could get and review later.   I like her recent “top ten excuses for not prepping”.  She does use the term “Teotwawki” (“The end of the world as we know it”).

Is “Doomsday” inevitable?  I have always maintained we can “work smart” on climate change and power grid security, which I have written several articles about on this blog already.

There is another way to interpret this, however.  Our advanced technological civilization is very recent, compared to the entirety of human history.  Think ahead, how will future generations survive and prosper for millennia, maybe millions to hundreds of millions of years, maybe long enough for more civilizations to arise in “nearby” star systems and eventually become reachable.  It would sound that over the course of so much time, setbacks and cataclysm are inevitable.  Of course, evangelical Christianity has often professed “end of days” with debates over post v. pre tribulationism (which I used to hear debated on a car radio a lot when I lived in Dallas in the 1980s). But the “moral” need to provide future generations even in extreme circumstances sounds more compelling if it is our destiny to go for billions of years and finally leave the planet and solar system when our Sun becomes unstable and enlarges.  Imagine the moral debates of the future, over who gets to go on an “evacuate Earth” spaceship (actually a movie).  Procreation becomes a necessary virtue again.

I could compare humans to dolphins and orcas, who have about the same cognitive ability as us; but due to their aqueous environment and lack of usable “hands”, live a collective culture, even with distributed consciousness, depending on nature to grow their communications hardware biologically. They’ve been around millions of years longer than us and are pretty close to our equals as “aliens”;  but, because their environment doesn’t allow our kind of individualism to inspire quick innovation, they’re suddenly defenseless, against us.

I caught a bit of this, vulnerability to external catastrophe from enemies, growing up during the Cold War.  The Berlin Wall controversy erupted shortly before my own expulsion from William and Mary (covered elsewhere).  While I was a “patient” at NIH, I in 1962, I was the only patient who knew about the gravity of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I would “bully” or taunt other mental patients about their “worthiness” to survive an apocalypse.  Sounds very right-wing-y.  (Most men there would remain 4-F as for the draft.)  I recall, later, a 1965 British short film “The War Game” where survivors of a blast whine, “I don’t want to do anything” and lie down and perish.  Yet, I can understand how someone can believe readiness to go on and provide new generations is a moral ukase.

If surviving anything is a moral requirement, then it does seem morally incumbent on everyone to do his or her own share of preparation, so as not to burden others if and inevitably when something bad happens.   The ability to go on (and to build and keep marriages) would seem to add to resilience, the lack of which will get noticed by enemies.

One of the photos above is from the aftermath of the terror attack in NYC on September 17, which I cover more on another blog.

(Published: Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 3 PM EDT)

On immigration, race, IQ, and real need: science doesn’t seem to follow political ideology

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I had some discussions all day Sunday in New York City will old friends connected to my past experience at the Ninth Street Center in the 1970s and the Paul Rosenfels Community.

Some of that video should appear later, and other materials will also

I wanted to make some specific note of comments regarding my prospect for becoming more directly helpful to other people, especially with respect to the refugee and asylum seeker needs.

One comment concerns the “generous” treatment of refugees in western Europe, especially Germany, where the government reportedly built many new apartments from them.  Reportedly, when some time limits expired, some refugees expected to be kept housed in relatively luxury at state expense.  And there have been cases of burglaries and sexual assaults reported by a few young male refugees, and prosecutors are unwilling to pursue those guilty energetically for political reasons, leaving female victims without justice.

It was reported that western European governments, especially Angela Merkel’s Germany, have interfered with the press and media, and even amateur bloggers have gotten in trouble.  We usually hear this kind of things about China, Russia, and Middle Eastern countries.  There is “no freedom of speech” because the Welfare State wants to protect itself.

There was also some discussion as to whether immigration from poor countries is good for established countries today.  I’ve written before of the pro arguments from libertarian think tanks like Cato and Niskanen, and of the papers showing long term economic benefits of active immigration. Immigration helps the United States maintain its population at replacement levels.  But in Europe, the original populations we think of as “white European” are declining and replaced often by Muslim immigration and by less educated people with higher birth rates, to the point that implementation of Sharia law in some areas can no longer be viewed as a right-wing fantasy.  The “Aryan” birth rate plummets despite generous paid family leave, because taxes to support the welfare state (and immigrants) have been so high. At least, this is some of the thinking of the “Brexit” right.

Immigration may also be “brain-draining” poorer countries., who should be given more nudging to build their own infrastructure and economies, even with the help of ideas like private micro-lending.

But does immigration of poor and especially non-white populations weaken the “peoples” of the new host countries?  This gets into the taboo topic of genetics and race, that a few libertarian-leanings scholars (not just Charles Murray) have been willing to explore.  Here’s a piece from May 2014 by Nicholas Wade in Time Magazine.

Wade argues that populations, separated in different parts of the world, will usually develop some genetic differences that can affect IQ, cognitive sentience, and individual self-concept.  One important idea is the ability to delay gratification, which generally is associated with greater cognitive development, “seeing around corners”, and social maturity – and more accomplishments as individuals even at young ages.  It’s also generally associated with individualism and relatively liberal social values, but rather literal expectations of the rule of civil law, as we know it in the West.  Cognitive ability also resists tribalism and, with some nuance, a lot of religious fundamentalism, or a tendency to be drawn in into cults and mass movements.

Poorer populations, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, have lower IQ’s because of childhood disease, poor nutrition, poor maternal care, and a host of reasons.  Some practices, like familial intra-marriage, affect genes (as do sickle cell).

It’s also important to remember that, when it comes to race, it’s not really about skin pigment itself (although evolving in a cold climate may stimulate innovation).  It’s more about geographical separation for long times.  Most Middle Eastern peoples are still “White” or Caucasian.  It seems possible that Caucasians in some areas may have inherited some Neanderthal genes, and kept me best ones in adapting to cold climates.

Interracial marriage and child-bearing may improve genetic variety in a people, because the genes of opposite-raced people may be more different with less possibility of genetic disease.  But marriage with a people of “inferior” genes because of some factors associated with historical isolation could weaken descendants. So racial intermixing, from a “natural selection” viewpoint, is indeed a mixed bag.

If someone is contemplating becoming involved deeply in helping refugees, that person might want to think about which refugees and asylees, and how valid the moral claim on his or her time or resources seems.

Some asylum seekers (as I noted on a comment posted today on my July 20 posting) may have indeed entered the country under legally questionable circumstances (such as smuggling through Mexico).  Donald Trump would be justified in stopping these kinds of entries into the country to start with (but then Trump, appealing to “lower IQ” voters, runs away with his profiling promises.  Some (like in my circumstances) might want to consider the “moral” claim underneath.  In the LGBT cases, it seems that the most disturbing aspect is that the asylum seeker had expected to return home after expiring a visa, when the home country (like Russia or Nigeria) passed a horrific law, so hosting an asylum seeker would, at least, be making a personal contribution to promoting international human rights.

One fact that I’ve so far overlooked, by the way, is that apparently in the LGBT cases, asylum must be applied for within one year of arrival (Jacob Kerr article from May 2015 in the Huffington index on LGBT asylum problems).

When it comes back to the question as to whether American private citizens should accept more personal risk and sacrifice to help refugees fleeing violence, many good questions arise.  Why don’t we have more aggressive sponsorship or housing programs (even involving private homes) for our own homeless or domestic violence survivors?  Why don’t we expect rich Muslim countries (like Qatar, UAE, etic) to do a lot more?

All of this sifts down, as I ponder what should be “expected” from me, having “inherited” a house that I don’t fully “need”.  I get the potential left-wing lectures (and sometimes hear them).  I must say, it could make sense to have responsible person living with me as I get older.  I wonder if there are programs to match domestic homeless with seniors, but I never hear about them at local churches.  I can imagine the benefits, and the difficulties.  If I get involved in this, it should be sometime that I know about and have written about.  Yes, the Russian problem sounds like it could be very much my business.

But the skepticism that many people feel about their being expected to welcome refugees and help asylum seekers does have some reasonable basis.  Donald Trump, though, appeals to the lowest common denominator – with irony.

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As for what I should do (and those Ninth Street Center talk groups would have demanded that I be “concrete” and use my own experience, not externalities in the world), I’m struck how housing someone means letting him depend on “me”.  That gets into issues like sponsorship or guardianship (legally murky at best).  The person I met with thought that being prepared to adopt or foster-parent children sounds more valid and perhaps prerequisite to housing refugees or asylees from foreign violence or discrimination.  And that would be easier to “contemplate” had I fathered my children (at least one).  She even thought that it is important for people entering marriages to accept the idea that the other partner may become dependent on them financially (most obviously during motherhood, but also illness).  I have to walk back to the irony of the conservative, meritocratic value system that precluded me from feeling interest in parenthood as I came of age.

(Published: Monday, Sept. 19, 2016 at 11: 45 PM EDT)

Blood donation policy in US still excludes most gay men in practice; is this really necessary for public health?

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I don’t think I have given blood since 1982.  I remember having outstanding blood pressure numbers then.

During that time, some gay men would sit all day in plasmapheresis centers, their forearms taped in a robust push to develop a Hepatitis B vaccine.  And Dallas banks would include “become a superdonor” with their statements in the early days of blood component and even bone marrow donation research.  I would get a Hepatitis B vaccination (two shots) from my own private doctor in the fall of 1982, covered by normal workplace health insurance.

I would learn that MSM (men who have sex with men) should exclude themselves from donating blood rather suddenly at an AIDS in formation forum at the old Metropolitan Community Church in the early spring of 1983.   This would also apply to organ donation (and I had signed an organ donor card around 1977).

So fast forward almost a quarter century   Finally, the FDA in the United States is willing to allow MSM to donate blood, but only those men who have abstained from gay sex for at least one year.  That even holds for men in longstanding monogamous relationships, not legally recognized as marriages.

In fact, no one is supposed to give blood if he or she has had sex with someone in a “risk” group in the past year.

Wikipedia has a chart of the rules, for the US and around the world, here.

Blood testing for HIV is quite thorough, and includes live antigen tests as well as antibodies.  Logically, with blood from a definitively higher risk source, there is a marginally higher statistical risk that an infected unit gets through.

This gets to be an ethical problem a bit like welcoming refugees –  asking members of the public to take a very small personal risk for a supposed common good.  It has to do with herd effects, like the vaccine debate.  It can invoke the idea of “sacrifice” (like military service).

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MSM supposedly have a higher risk of undetected infection because of the herd “chain letter” effect – women cannot give HIV (and maybe certain other blood-born viruses) back to other men as easily as men can give it to one another.

This epidemiology seemed particularly the case with HIV (originally called HTLV-III).  It’s speculative whether it could be the case with something like Zika, or perhaps Hepatitis C.   But in early 1983, right wing elements in Texas tried to use this speculative “sci-fi horror” theory to justify a very draconian anti-gay law, which would have banned gays from most occupations (let alone the military), but fortunately it never got out of committee in the Legislature (the Dallas Gay Alliance was busy with this one).

I needed a blood transfusion (one unit) after my acetabular hip fracture after an accident in a convenience store in Minneapolis in January 1998.  I would be comfortable with receiving a unit if the waiting period were less, say 90 days.

I did not give blood after the Pulse attack in Orlando, although I would have been eligible.  I live in Virginia.  Had I lived in Florida, I probably would have.  ( I had visited the Pulse myself in July 2015).

But it’s notable that Floridians (women and non-gays) gave blood to save the lives of those not legally able to reciprocate.

In fact, in Russia, some lawmakers tried to use the “unsafe blood” argument as justification for the anti-gay “propaganda” law in 2013.  (That Putin sees all speech as “propaganda” is itself troubling.) That sort of thinking presumes people have a natural obligation to offer sharing of their organs and body parts.

The blood ban was personally embarrassing to me once.  When I was working for USLICO, a company that specialized in part in selling life insurance to military officers, I was approached about a blood drive by another employee in 1993, and he sounded oblivious as to why the request could be problematic.

The blood policy would appear to apply to the Armed Forces, where MSM have been able to serve openly since 2011.  But emergency battlefield transfusions are rare in practice today.

When I was growing up, there was not as much that could be done about many life-threatening diseases, and (apart from local blood drives) organ donations were not talked about much.  Technology has ironically created a moral dilemma about one’s claim to his own organs, and when it’s important to “step up.”

(Published: Friday, September 16, 2016, at 6 PM EDT)

Does mandatory national service make sense now, in a free country, to promote risk-sharing and “egalitarianism”?

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Sunday, September 11, 2016, I looked at the Selective Service system, now possibly redundant, for any future military conscription.  It’s natural to ask whether it would make sense to extend the idea to national service.

I remember hearing proposals for national service after all the insider trading scandals on Wall Street starting in the late 1980s (or earlier, as in R. Foster Winans’s book “Trading Secrets”).

In early 2002, shortly after my “career-ending” layoff at the end of 2001, I did look at volunteering for the Peace Corps, and I went to an orientation session in Minneapolis.  But when I looked at the application form, it turned out they were looking for people with much more active social interaction (with children, for example, or the disabled) than I had experienced in the IT workplace as an “individual contributor”.  They even wanted personal references who could attest to the candidate’s interpersonal skills.  And, yes, the web presence I had built up in conjunction with my books could have been a problem overseas in underdeveloped countries.

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I recall, back in the 60s, that VISTA (Volunteers in Service for America) had some traction.  After 9/11, the government tried to promote Americorps but it seemed lost in its our bureaucracy.  The “Teach for America” program seemed to have some merit.

I think it’s unlikely a federal government bureaucracy can run service programs nearly was well as private non-profits, especially those that are faith-based (where, unfortunately, LGBTQ discrimination could still happen in some religions).

I think college-age people learn a lot from overseas projects that churches sponsor, with some risk, in the summers.  And churches often sponsor bus “camp” trips to volunteer after domestic disasters, but a lot of times volunteers are the ones who have to learn from more resilient rural residents who have to eke out a living in more hazardous places.

When I grew up, there was an expected time progression.  You were supposed to be in college by 18, and be graduated by 22.  Student deferments from the draft, morally controversial, somewhat sheltered the better off (and white), kept young men on this schedule if their grades were good enough. .

It’s natural  to think that national service could help solve the student debt problem,  Yes, there is help for veterans (link)   The Peace Corps has rather limited assistance that can help (link ).

I think the “libertarian” answer to student debt would more be that students should work more during their college years and often enough, start out adult lives with their own apartments and cars sooner.  This is particularly appealing for colleges located in technology areas (whether Silicon Valley, Austin TX, or the Research Triangle Park corridor in North Carolina), where there are plenty of companies that can give students a head start on the real world of work.   In fact, Peter Thiel gives fellowships to gifted students to drop out of college and start tech companies.

I recall in the summer of 1965, when I was still “living at home” and going to George Washington University, taking organ lessons at First Baptist Church from an 18-year-old organist Bill Evans who was a freshman at Peabody in Baltimore at the same time.

There are plenty of sites online that take sides on the national service debate.  This one mentions the mandatory risk taking (like the military). http://connectusfund.org/10-meaningful-pros-and-cons-of-mandatory-military-service   Brookings offered a thoughtful discussion in 2002 by E J Dionne and Kayla Meltzer Drogosz.  Karen Whitney offers a piece for the “liberal” Huffington Post in 2012.   (Huffington has a piece against Teach for America.)   Richard Stengel proposed a detailed national service plan in Time Magazine in 2007 (“A Time to Service: The Case for National Service“) with many provocative components, including a Baby Bond, and various corps, such as Disaster Response, Senior, and Green. and a “summer of service”.   Most of the “pro” pieces come from a mindset of a certain forced egalitarianism, communitarianism, and statecraft.

During the time of “don’t ask don’t tell”, national service could have become relevant if the draft had been reinstated (as after 9/11).

One other facet off this comes to mind.  When I drive into rural areas, I see signs asking people to join volunteer fire departments – with all the risk-taking – everywhere.  Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper had once mentioned the idea of joining one – I don’t know if MLB contracts would allow it.  I’m also reminded of the idea of Mormon missions – which the missionaries pay for themselves – but which sound like they involve so much religious proselytizing. Fire departments (as we say on CNN’s documentary on 9/11) involve a lot of communal living, just like the military, and back in the 1970s, before the lifting of the military ban could be taken seriously, their “forced intimacy” was sometimes used as ammunition against anti-GLBT discrimination laws.

Sebastian Junger offers a rather interesting argument in the video above, noting that humans are wired to survive together as a group and serve the common good, when necessary (see review of “Tribe” May 31 ).

Pictures:  from AARP’s “Meal Pack Challenge, as it ended, Monday, September 12, 2016.

(Published: Wednesday, Sept, 14m 2016 at 3:30 PM EDT)

Vox publishes groundbreaking “big idea” post on existential danger to modern civilization of extreme solar storms

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Vox has provided serious coverage of the power grid security issue today with an article by astrophysicist Lucianne Walcowicz, “How the Sun, our Greatest Friend and Enemy, Could Knock ot the Internet”.  This is part of a new series, “The Big Idea”, on Vox with articles by experts on critical topics not covered well enough by mainstream press.

The writer explains how an extreme coronal mass ejection could overload and burn out todays huge transformers, and apparently considers an extreme solar storm a more probable way this could happen than cyberterror or an EMP attack.

She also introduces the idea that an extreme solar event could disable much of the Internet without necessarily knocking out everything else electrical.  Few scientists have said this. But the detailed physics of comparison of an EMP event with solar storm suggests that an EMP event might be more catastrophic in terms of destroying personal and automobile electronics.

She mentions Gretchen Bakke’s book, which does not really go into a lot of detail on existential threats to the grids as does Ted Koppel’s.

This is one of the first major articles on the issue from a main stream news outlet, although the Wall Street Journal broached it a few weeks ago, and Sinclair Broadcasting provided a “Your Voice Your Future” broadcast that did not get very wide publicity.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump have mentioned the issue yet, although both are finally getting around to talking about infrastructure in broader terms.  But Ted Cruz mentioned it, ironically one day before the Brussels attack, to Wolf Blitzer on CNN.

In fairness to Vox, I see that Brad Plummer had produced a pretty comprehensive story about solar storms on June 30, 2014 here , noting again that the Earth dodged a bullet in the summer of 2012 (while I was playing “on the road” and not ready for a “bottom of the ninth”). Plummer gives some suggestions on resilience for the grids, which may have a lot to do with decentralization and less dependence on large load-switching transformers.

(Published: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at 3:30 PM. An earlier version of this article was deleted due to WP formatting problems.)

On 9/11: Ponder, do we still need a Selective Service System? “Do Draft, Do Tell”

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On Friday, September 14, 2001, three days after 9/11, late in the afternoon on CNN, after I had returned home to my downtown Minneapolis apartment on the Skyway, I was a little started to hear the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin (D-MI), admit that he might favor reinstating conscription.

Soon, Charles Moskos, the military sociology professor from Northwestern University in Chicago (and, along, with Sam Nunn, “credited” with the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gays in the military from 1993 to 2011) was writing op-eds that we should reinstate the draft.  One of them would appear in the Advocate, and is still searchable in Google Books as appearing in a 2003 article titled “Do Draft, Do Tell”, link here   or excerpted here.   Moskos also had an article in the Washington Monthly and a Post article, and today only a summary is “free” from the archive (even for subscribers, some old articles have to be “bought”, an observation I can return to later with Jack Andraka’s “open access” debate”)

Moskos, as I recall, was arguing that reinstating the draft would make the enlisted ranks of the Armed Services much more representative of American youth, economically, than it is now.

And Moskos was advocating the end of “don’t ask don’t tell” as it had been implemented then, and replacing it with a more lenient conduct-related policy (such as Bill Clinton had first wanted), although he was not specific on how to do it.  One obvious possibility is that people would claim to be gay to get out of the draft (as it had sometimes happened during Vietnam).  Moskos even emailed me in November 2001, “Gays must come out for conscription; then the ban would be lifted”)

Later Charles Rangel would make similar arguments in politically motivated proposals to reinstate the draft, as in the Christian Science Monitor story from 2006.

Much more recently, there has been some political flak over proposals to force women to register for Selective Service.  The Senate had voted for such a measure this spring, and the House (led by the GOP) voted to bar any requirement to require women to register, as summarized in this story by Richard Lardner, July 7, here.

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I spent a lot of energy in my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book going over the history of the Vietnam era (and previous wars’) draft, especially my own personal history with it (and 1968 bout with Basic Training at Fort Jackson, complete with a stint in “Tent City”, or Special Training Company).  I recall a weekend trip to Ohio (from northern Virginia) in the late summer of 1996, where I went to a steakhouse for dinner and took out all the information I had accumulated by mail from the Selective Service System. John Kennedy had wanted to exempt all married men from the draft, but that idea was scrapped about the time off Gulf of Tonkin when LBJ was in. (Kennedy had once said that an all volunteer Army would become an “all black” Army.) The student deferment systems, which I personally took advantage of (and compounded further by flunking bad students as an assistant instructor in math) was developing into the moral quandary of the day, as it seemed to encourage extension of inherited privilege.  Other papers from Selective Service indicated that Bill Clinton wanted to keep a draft in reserve (even with a “don’t ask don’t tell” compromise around) to make sure he had access to medical expertise in any real emergency.  In the 1990s, North Korea was feared more than Al Qaeda as capable of someday causing existential threats. (Maybe it still is.)

So today, we still face the potential of rehearsing the run-around of the same issues again.  The Selective Service System Website has a thorough history on women and the draft here.  Selective Service rules still require that people register according to their birth biological sex (link), a requirement which would sound open to legal challenge (with regard to transgender people) now.

So we must winnow down, and ask, does it make sense to keep a Selective System at all if we don’t intend to reinstate the draft at all?  People can still “volunteer” to serve on “draft boards”.  Seniors, maybe?

The moral questions are many.  One is the notion that conscription do defend freedom sounds like a logical oxymoron.  Another is that the draft incompatible with the right to life, especially as evangelical Christians sometimes argue the concept.  Still another is the idea that the male-only draft would constitute unconstitutional gender discrimination.  The Supreme Court struck down this idea in 1961 in the case “Rostker v. Goldberg” although today the Supreme Court might rule differently if it heard the case again.

I grew up in a time when society placed more weight on the common necessity that men, even acting in groups like in the military, be able to defend women and children, and in a sense protect future generations (even when they don’t exist yet).  The effort to get women to work in factories and in support military roles during WWII was partly motivated by the idea of “freeing the men to fight”, now another oxymoron – and indeed some women (and especially transgender people) seem completely capable of serving in units like Navy Seals or Special Forces.

There is, possibly, some validity to the idea that proven conventional combat capability actually reduces the risk of nuclear confrontation.  This idea was popular after the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and current during my own time with the draft.  It seems less relevant today in a world of asymmetric threats.

But this means that, for every male, his life can become fungible if the state decides its need for collective security is legitimate enough.  Our democracy has certainly rationalized this idea in the past.  It also means that spouses need to be able to stay in marriages with profoundly wounded men, or even be able to consider entering into relationships to start with — a social resilience idea that is becoming important again.

I’m not covering national service (including civilian service) as an expansion of or replacement for a draft, but I’ll come back to it soon.

(Published: Sunday, September 11, 2016 at 4:30 PM EDT)

EU rulings could eventually chill bloggers’ hyperlinks

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There are ill winds, particularly on copyright, from the European Union (not sure if Brexit would exempt the UK), which could affect the legal safety of bloggers with hyperlinks, something we take for granted now. Much of what follows is motivated by the increasing difficulty of legacy news and media, especially with print, to make original content profitable when competing with “barely legal” user-generated content (where “it’s free”, or nearly so).

One problem is a ruling in a case of Sanoma Media in the Netherlands v. Playboy, where a court ruled that a publisher can be liable for hyperlinking to content it reasonably suspects is infringing when it also has commercial purposes.  Probably hosting ads would qualify as commercial.  Electronic Frontier Foundation has a story Sept. 6 by Jeremy Malcolm where he predicts a “new dark era for hyperlinks”. The ruling contradicts an earlier ruling in Spain in 2011 (story).

Sporadically, in the past few years, I’ve reported on the possibility that people could be held liable for hyperlinking to defamatory content in the US, although the possibility is remote.  There were some flurries around 2000 when a few companies in the US did not want to allow “deep hyperlinks” to their sites, until a court ruled against these companies, saying that hyperlinks are like footnotes in a term paper.  I am not aware right now of a case in the US about linking to infringing material.  There have been a few claims concerning deliberate embeds of infringing material, but usually the embeds just disappear.

Very occasionally, I get emails about broken links on my own legacy sites, and it is possible that these links could have gone dark because of infringement.

I don’t think there is a practical risk yet that US sites (or bloggers) would be sued over EU complaints, even though treaties would theoretically allow these suits.  (Ask Hillary Clinton.  If she doesn’t know her email server, she probably doesn’t know this.)  I would wonder about Australia, because of the world’s most outgoing blogging consultants (Blogtyrant or Ramsay Tamplin) operates there.

EFF has also warned about a proposal in the EU to impose a “link tax” (story, and protest link for “save the link”), at the will of original news publishers, and I find it hard to see how this could work.  Maybe it could be connected to Google’s content-id, but it could also cause a lot of news results to disappear from search engines, at least in the EU.

On another matter Ted Cruz has an article in the Daily Signal warning about the possibility of giving ICANN much more power (taking it from the US Commerce Department) at a time when authoritarian countries have a lot more sway than they used to.   This may be related to TPP and will need to be delved into further.  I’m not sure Cruz has explained exactly how what he fears would come about.

(Published Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016 at 11:45 PM EDT)

 

Much of the most brazen crime does come from repeat offenders

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Donald Trump’s campaign has leveraged the fear that crime and terror, asymmetrically executed, is more likely to affect “white” or well-off Americans than in the past.  In my own books, especially the 2014 DADT-III, I’ve argued that “inherited” inequality, down to a personal level, may drive some of this kind of crime.

But the remarks by outgoing police chief of Washington DC, Cathy Lanier, indicated that many crimes in Washington DC are committed by repeated offenders, sometimes on probation or parole.  In one case,  a wave of robberies occurred when a suspect’s GPS monitor failed.  Lanier says that the justice system, as well as police, must do its job.  The major story is in the Washington Post Metro Section Tuesday, September 6, 2016, by Peter Hermann and Clarence Williams.

Even the “poorer” Northeast section of Washington DC is becoming gentrified, as increasing rents drive poor people out (along with serious issues in maintaining affordable apartments for larger families, which sometimes are immigrant – and as we saw in Silver Spring recently, proper maintenance and fire safety in these buildings is a serious problem.)  But this is a marked contrast to the riots of 1968 along portions of 14th St NW.

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Meanwhile, media reports on the record killings in one area of Chicago, which largely seem related to gangs, some of whom who could have connections to drug cartels (but not radical Islam), for example, this Sun Times story about a trial with anonymous jurors.  Or take this story of a gratuitous shooting of an elderly man watering his lane over a wallet. You have a population of young men growing up with the idea that nothing in life is earned at all.

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Rcahel Weiner writes about arrests of young adults drawn into terrorism (specifically in northern Virginia( in the Washington Post Sunday. September 4, Metro Section, “A nexus of unremarkable lives and terrorism”    People combine an absolutist belief system with a desire to belong to a movement.  It’s strange for people who went through the Vietnam era draft contemplating young men wanting to out and fight overseas for a “cause”.

(Posted: Wednesday, September 7, 2016 at 7 PM EDT)

Deregulation would probably help modern medicine cure cancer even with fewer side effects, but social capital matter too

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Malcolm Gladwell is perhaps the liberal-progressive correspondent to the “conservative” David Brooks.  Both columnists want to teach us how to “be good”, or perhaps just dutiful.   Gladwell, for example, has discussed the moral problematics of even being a football fan (even of the Fighting Irish) given the concussion problems.

Gladwell has a long column in the New Yorker, “Tough Medicine: a disturbing report from the front lines on the war on cancer”    .  The link was placed on Facebook by a friend who works in national security circles, and I tweeted it to Jack Andraka, the kid who invented the new pancreatic cancer test at a science fair – and also traded tweets on the idea that college students in dorms today should be vaccinated separately on both major forms of bacterial menigitis.

Gladwell summarizes what went on at NCI at NIH in the years shortly after my own “psychiatric” stay in 1962.  I even had an “occupational therapy” job in a lab where I worked with urine sediment specimens from cancer – mostly lymphoma—patients.  Little did I suspect that shortly after I left some of these patients would start excruciating but revolutionary rounds of chemotherapy, and undergo nights of violent vomiting and total hair loss in the process.

In the less regulated world at NCI, doctors found that they could cure  (or at least place in indefinite remission) lymphomas – particularly Hodgkin’s Disease – in patients able to withstand several cycles of this unprecedented suffering and bodily humiliation. Over time, the regimes changed, and become somewhat more tolerable while just as effective.  But once federal regulation of the treatment cycles toughened, Gladwell argues (actually with somewhat a “libertarian” ideology) doctors had a harder time expanding their cures of various cancers, especially lymphomas and leukemias. Rules seemed too concerned with regulating the discomfort and side-effects on the patient. Gladwell is arguing a position you would expect from the Cato Institute (and probably from David Brooks, too).

I think one could argue with Gladwell.  Newer treatments that really work do have fewer side effects.  For HIV, for example, patients can stay in remission for years with decreasing side effects for newer drugs, which can melt away Kaposi’s Sarcoma if it recurs after a period of no use.   New immunotherapries seem to work for melanoma.  And patients like ABC’s Robin Roberts can undergo complete bone marrow transplants to cure pre-leukemia conditions.  And Maryland governor Larry Hogan, who could have been a desirable GOP presidential candidate had he wanted to run, is placed in remission from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and he indicates that the treatment was not as horrible as feared.  Yes, Jack Andraka could be his oncologist a decade from now if Hogan needs one.

Gladwell discusses prostate cancer, which comes in many forms.  My father died (at 82) of an aggressive variation of it, rather suddenly.  He did what he wanted until the last few weeks and never knew disability.  He may have suspected he had it during his last two years or so,  but did not want to put himself and my mother through the idea of what he suspected the treatment could include – castration and treatment with female hormones.  (One can imagine parallel challenges in a marital relationship from breast cancer.) It’s arguable that with prostate cancer, and some other tumors, older patients will live with more quality if you leave them alone as long as possible.  That may be true of some lymphomas and multiple myeloma.  But when my mother was 96, a surgeon still wanted to do a breast dissection for a nodule, which sounded ridiculous under the circumstances.

In fact, Jack Andraka’s test (which has a reasonable chance of approval in some form in a few years, even according to my own physician) is predicated partly on the notion that pancreatic cancer is much more likely to be curable if “caught early”. Right now, it is one of the deadliest when diagnosed, usually in middle age.

Today, medicine can treat diseases that used to be quickly, or at least inevitably, fatal.  But it comes with a new challenge, that people who receive care have the family and social support systems behind them to keep them going.  In an individualistic world of smaller families, this won’t be easy.  When I was growing up, despite the pretense of “family values”, there was little thought given to expending the effort to help the elderly live well and longer, or to making the disabled feel more valued as people.  Today, we can do these things, but “healthy” people, in and outside the affected families, have to become personally supportive.

I tend to remain personally aloof emotionally about these things.  I don’t like to “join in” with naïve calls for cures.  But it is possible that many cancers will one day be curable with similar treatments, because most cancer cells have similar underlying vulnerabilities (cells that don’t die).

One other thing.  For the life of me, I don’t know why it is such a big deal for the government to accept the use of whatever components of marijuana will effectively control the nausea of chemotherapy. Actually, I think this changed this year (link ).  In the 1980s, I had a friend in Dallas who reported surgery and chemo for testicular cancer in his twenties, and who said that street marijuana from a dealer took care of the nausea and vomiting from bleomycin and cis-platinum (and use of a homeopathic salve saved his hair).  Later, in 1978, I would have reason to suspect a friend might have been treated for something like Hogkins, something that led me to an epiphany where I realized there were disturbing signs something was already wrong in the gay community in NYC.

(Published: Tuesday, September 6, 2016 at 11:30 PM EDT)