Republicans begin to quibble on their climate change denial; is a carbon tax real progress?

Will a carbon tax get anywhere now?   Some Republican “elders” have recently endorsed a carbon tax, set at $40 a ton of carbon dioxide.

For Republicans to “come out” for such a tax is indeed to ratify a moral precept:  that people living today owe people to be conceived and born in future generations something.  We call that “sustainability”.  How far into the future is a good question.

But such a tax, to be reasonably effective in slowing tempering global warming, would need to be steep on drivers, maybe up to $2 a gallon of gasoline.  Given the current rural Republican base, that hardly sounds politically realistic.

I can remember the mood about gasoline consumption in the 1970s, during my own “second coming”. In fact, some time in 1971 or so, there had been reports of possible future gasoline rationing in Los Angeles to control smog.  In early 1973, there were already some disquieting signs of future “energy crisis”;  during a benchmark trip to St. Paul in May 1973 there were already speculations about the “state rationing gasoline”.

Then, almost immediately following the Yom Kippur War in early October (which I found out about on a Saturday night at the Ninth Street Center after coming back to the “City” from an overnight camping trip), gasoline lines appeared and soon President Nixon, in a national address in early November, admitted (almost in the same breath of talking about Watergate and calls for his resignation) that he “might have to ration gasoline”.  We all know that an even-odd system for days or purchase developed in many areas, and the shortage did not life until April 1974, when gasoline prices rose enough to control demand on its own.

This was a big deal for me in those days.  “Getting around” physically was an important part of my personal strategy for finding the right person(s).  At the time, I needed ready access to “the City” but was employed in “the burbs”.

As we get into retirement age, some of us note the bad karma of some of our personal consumption behaviors.  We won’t be around when “The Purification” comes, but other people’s children will be.  Sustainability has to remain a fundamental moral objective.

“Here we have some fossils who want to tax fossil fuels”.  Will the rebate go to everyone (which the GOP wants) or only to poor people?

There is another perspective to add to this.  While we want to save people’s jobs, and these include coal miners’, we have to realize that sustainability always means developing a workforce with newer skills – in this case, developing and manufacturing the hardware associated with renewable energy.  That’s also essential for power grid security, as I’ve discussed here before.

On Trump’s use of coal miners as part of his base, it’s also worthy of note that strip mining and mountaintop removal, while degrading the environment (in areas like southern West Virginia) certainly tends to employ fewer people over time.

Op-ed by Robert Samuelson Feb. 20, 2017 on the carbon tax in the Washington Post.

Site with pictures of Kayford Mine in West Virginia.

(Posted: Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 3:30 PM EST)

Does quoting and analyzing “provocateur” speech (like Milo’s) make more extreme ideas become acceptable to the mainstream?

Does a pundit or columnist or quasi-journalist (and now blogger) like me “do harm” by repeating (in quotes) partially reasonable but hate-motivated arguments made by political, religious or social “enemies” of people in various marginalized groups?

The basic point made by minority activists (usually but not always on the Left) is that repetition of these kinds of points tends to make them sound more mainstream.  So more moderate politicians (elected, administrative, and judicial) are more likely to believe them, resulting in more harm to the people in the groups.

I’ve always questioned the overuse of “immutability” arguments to support “gay equality”, focusing more on libertarian paradigms, emphasizing individualism and harmlessness.  But of course hyperindividuaiism runs into bigger problems with essential inherited inequality, sustainability, and human need for cohesion (starting in the family and moving out).

I have indeed played “devil’s advocate”, to the dismay of some conventional gay activists.  In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, before HTLV-III was identified, I actually communicated by letter to some “enemies” who wanted to use AIDS as an exclusion to strengthen sodomy and gay-exclusion laws.  I was very concerned about the “chain letter amplification” theory that they had (an admission of herd effects, posting Jan. 4).  In these pre-Internet days, I developed a reputation with the Dallas mainstream media and medical community for being willing to even discuss these arguments as if they had a chance of being “truth” – I felt that they could have, even though history (fortunately, for “us”, didn’t turn out that way).

The comment is often made that “well-intended” commentators have made the supposed hate speech of provocateur (“@Nero”) Milo Yiannopoulos “credible” by even answering some of his more notorious comments with contextual analysis.  Most of his more “renowned” statements are intentionally hyperbolic, satirical, and with “grains of truth”.  Some of his statements seem like legitimate reactions to protective campus speech codes, “safe zones”, media-free zones, “trigger warnings” and the idea of “microaggressions”.  It’s gotten so “bad” that I would wonder if I could talk about White and Black as opposing forces in a chess game, when writing a metaphor, without sounding like I was race-baiting.  (Chess has been important in my life, but that’s another narrative.)   Of course, Milo has gained even more notoriety when his campus events are forced into cancellation by a “heckler’s veto” as recently happened in Berkeley.

But some of his statements also seem directed at “less competitive” people in society, especially with respect to physical or biological issues.  One of the more provocative concerned fat-shaming (as here on Breitbart).  The statement suggests that being in the company of an unattractive person lowers his own testosterone.  Maybe marginally true.  I’m reminded of how the Family Research Council made a point about lower testosterone levels in heterosexually married new fathers in trying to rebut gay marriage!

The Inquisitr tried to “mainstream” Milo’s quotes with some contextual analysis, that will work with “intellectual” people but that won’t hold on the streets.   Another more leftist site was less kind, but sill provided some background (although all of it rebuttal).   I showed this second article on my phone to a young white gay man at a social event (someone lean and “attractive” by modern gay norms), and he said the found the aggregation of them in an article just to refute them itself to be offensive.

But logical conclusion from some of the posts would be, to put it mildly, to reinforce CNN’s Don Lemon’s “pull up your pants” advice.   People from marginalized groups (or marginalized further within these groups by physical issues) presumably have some responsibility to deal with the expectations of others  on their own.  That’s not directly hateful, but it putatively does set up a social climate where people will get “left out”, even eventually in being able to find and form relationships.

But provocative speech often gains more attention because of coincidental circumstances at the time it is published or disseminated.  I found this out with a major incident when I was substitute teaching bacj in 2005 (see July 19, 2916 pingback).

We’re left, of course, with the observation that authoritarian people (Donald Trump) rally their support bases around slogans and misleading half-truths, and have no use for context.

Let us remember that Lyndon Johnson made rather disdainful remarks about “the Negro” on some of his tapes.  Times do change.

Link for review of “Real Time with Bill Maher” session including Milo on HBO.

(Posted: Sunday, February 19, 2017 at 8:30 PM EST)

Update: Feb. 20, about 8:30 PM EST

There was a lot of news about Milo today, not good.  I’ll have to sort this out.  The Associated Press has a succinct summary on Bloomberg here.  The book deal was canceled (I FB-ed to him that he should self-publish), and a speaking engagement at CPAC was removed, and his future at Breitbart may be compromised.  Milo has suggested that sometimes teens (while legally below the age-of-consent of a particular jurisdiction) provoke encounters with adults to have power over the adults.  That same idea is mentioned in my DADT-III.  Yes, it does really happen in rea life.  That statement does not promote pedophilia.

Donald Trump turns his news conference into a combination of SNL, halftime, and real-indie film

Donald Trump’s 80-minute news conference today seemed like an SNL spoof.  Or maybe a Netflix instant play “indie film” from Breitbart Studios with Milo Yiannopoulos as the director?

CNN’s has a running text at the top, and a text transcript.

Trump repeatedly went back into entertaining ad-libs justifying his own persona.  He would back into silly issues like Hillary Clinton’s being told debate questions in advance, like cheating on a test.  He got called down for claiming the greatest electoral victory since Ronald Reagan, even for a GOP president.

Trump repeatedly blamed the media for our relations with Russia, and joked about shooting at the spy ship off the US East Coast.  (What if it had an EMP scud?)   He joked about nuclear war once (like the last movement of Vaughn Williams’s Sixth Symphony).

At one point he said “We had a smooth rollout of the travel ban, but we had a bad court.”  Did he mean “thmooth”?   (Remember, Milo likes only real men.)

When asked about the new EO due next week, he sounded like he would need to make few changes to the existing one.  He did admit that some of the DACA adult kids were good people and ought to stay.

Trey Yingst of OANN asked a question about pre-election contacts with the Russians (about the middle of the transcript) and Trump retorted with his usual “fake news” mantra.

While all this was going on,  I was on Capitol Hill, in the Library of Congress, watching a screening of “Upstairs Inferno”, reviewed today on my “Media Commentary” blog.

But at lunch afterward at the Tortilla Coast, across 1st St SE from the Capitol South Metro, as people filed in from the news conferences, stunned that a president would turn a news conference into a comedy hour.   The so-called immigrant general strike today (“day without immigrants protest”) had no effect on this restaurant.

There is plenty of material surfacing, advocating that the GOP intervene and get Trump to resign (Pence is bad for gay rights), as if that had been the GOP plan all along.  And the Left is already talking about impeachment (as with Michael Moore’s Facebook demands).

I have covered the issues of concern to those who would like to help refugees and asylum seekers.  The latest information suggests that asylum seekers (who have applied properly) have due process rights while in the country.  Future EO’s might well tighten the vetting required and perception of what immigration officers should consider credible threats of persecution in home countries.  The Asylumist has an important post from November 2015 on that point.  One important question would be, if an asylum seeker loses a case, may he or she remain legally for a while?

(Posted: Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 11:30 PM EST)

Bannon’s ideas actually mirror mine, at the personal level (but I don’t believe in crusades)

There have been several columns about Stephen Bannon’s values.  For example, Fareed Zakaria wrote on Feb. 9, “Stephen Bannon’s words and actions don’t add up.”

On Jan. 10, David Brooks wrote about Bannon’s idea of “humane capitalism” as connected to faith.

Lester Feder has a similar piece on BuzzFeed “This s how Steve Bannon sees the entire world.” (Nov. 15).

Bannon’s views on how this maps to the economic system were demonstrated in his 2010 film “Generation Zero” (review).

We could say that Bannon is critical of “casino capitalism” or perhaps “extreme capitalism” (like in David Callahan’s 2004 book “The Cheating Culture”) or even “shareholder capitalism” as Nancy Pelosi would compare to “stakeholder capitalism” – but also as compared to fake capitalism, or statist capitalism in modern post-Communist (of sorts) Russia and China.  Maybe Singapore would appeal to him.

Bannon also maps this back to individual morality.  As people (baby boomer-born) have reasserted individualism (in concert with the Civil Rights movement and Stonewall soon to follow in the 1960s), sometimes people don’t see how their self-expression and lifestyle “choice” is tied to the unseen sacrifices of others, often in a family and community context. Bannon, a former Naval officer during Carter’s Iran hostage crisis, sometimes has been critical about the lack of military service among most Americans in positions of influence (but remember Charles Moskos’s talk about needing the draft again right after 9/11);  “freedom is not free” but always contextual.

I can see in my own life,  my actions and values have meaning in the social contexts believed by others, and vice versa.  It’s all too easy to “rationalize” any value system with logic alone (look at “body fascism”),  so people often look to systems of faith and scripture for guidance.  With moderate versions of Abrahamic faiths, we usually get moral values (somewhat centered on the family, which becomes more flexible) commensurate with “humane capitalism”, compared even to what raw libertarianism or Ayn Rand’s objectivism can offer.  Libertarianism, though, would recognize “The Golden Rule”.

I find myself driven to some internal contradiction (a mental “internal server error”), which I can resolve only if I become more willing to offer “a hand up” in an interpersonal way and taking more risk than I have been willing to accept in the past.

But Bannon’s ideas go beyond personal values and beyond policy in the usual sense, to encompass ideas of holy crusades or wars, which I cannot accept.  I don’t get the connection.  I do understand that some of the Islamic world hates us, partly because of our interventionism in their lands, and partly because of the modernism of each of us as individuals.  Look at Francis Stead Sellers and David A. Farenthold, “Why even let ‘em in?

(Posted: Monday, February 13, 2017 at 10 PM EST)

What will Trump’s new security measures comprise, given his difficulty in court?

On a blog like this one, where there is an emphasis on commentary and interpretation and not just immediate news, it is difficult to keep up with breaking news in the litigation following Donald Trump’s travel ban.

Vox has coverage as thorough in the legal analysis as anyone (by Dara Lind).  I also have a lot of coverage on a legacy blog here.

Donald Trump may well issue a “simplified” Executive Order (and I hope someone else besides Steve Bannon writes it – an Executive Order, unlike a screenplay script or a blog post, has immediate and direct consequences for real people.)

The Ninth Circuit could take the case “en banc”; and immediate Supreme Court appeal doesn’t seem tactically justified yet (it would be like playing an unsound chess gambit).

My basic take is that potential migrants or refugees who have not yet set foot in the United States normally do not have constitutional rights or standing.  So an order that delays their entry is likely to be acceptable to the courts.  There are, however, some requirements in the Geneva Convention (which we actually studied in Army Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson back in 1968).  Generally, the US has been able to recognize the needs of specific religious groups persecuted abroad (such as Jews).

Did the states of Washington and Minnesota (and probably other states like New York and Virginia) have standing?  That would make sense.  Companies and universities are disrupted if the normal flow of technical expertise from other countries is disrupted.  However, large companies like Facebook and Google probably could shift more operations overseas if areas were actually secured for them.

Is there something about “the seven countries” that justifies their being singled out?  Trump’s justification seems to be that the governments of these countries are weak (“failed states”) or hostile to the United States (Iran, with which we do not have diplomatic relations), so that Trump does not accept the vetting done previously for refugees from these countries.   The countries had been named in the Obama administration.  This theory would hold even if there have been few or no domestic attacks based on migrants from these countries.  So on its face, this idea of Trump’s could pass further court scrutiny.

But it is certainly true that real terror attacks in the US (and Europe) generally have come sources other than recent migrants from these countries.  In the U.S., some attacks have come from second or later generation descendants. Some have come from legal residents.  Some (as with 9/11) were associated with overstated visas. (Peter Bergen’s analysis for CNN.)

In a meeting today with Prime Minister Abe of Japan, President Trump said that he would announced new security measures next week.  NBC News has already interpreted this as an intention to write a new Executive Order.  Pundits have compared Trump’s antics to Sandra Bullock’s character in “Our Brand Is Crisis“.  (Trump also is being called “The Rainmaker“, after John Grisham’s novel and the 1997 movie with Matt Damon.)  Donald Trump’s behavior makes his claims seem less credible, to the extent we would not know if a novel threat (such as WMD — radiological or EMP) had been intercepted, or if some new paradigm for secondarily targeting civilians was being developed by ISIS.  Trump is wrong on the “volume” of crime, but he is right (as he implied in recent statements as president) in claiming that its asymmetric nature makes it dangerous to people  (besides high profile business executives, especially abroad) who in the past didn’t perceive themselves as vulnerable to crime, especially when politically motivated. Again, Trump’s taking things personally interferes with credibility when it could really matter.

What else could these security measures involve?  One idea is also the possibility of looking more closely at asylum seekers (which I discussed recently with respect to LGBT here on legacy).  Another could trample on Internet users and companies that service them, as I warned, particularly with a post on Nov. 7, one day before the election.  Yet Wall Street did not react to this statement at all this afternoon;  tech companies did well today.

(Posted: Friday, Feb. 10, 2017 at 11:30 PM EST)

Trump may go mainstream on paid family leave debate and make it gender-neutral

There are a couple of wrinkles in the debate over workplace benefits, not only health insurance but paid sick leave and now paid family leave.  And many people are finding that their jobs, as independent contractors, offer no such benefits.

Lydia DePillis has a typical story in the Washington Post back in 2015. “She thought she was entitled to maternity leave.  After asking for it, she lost her job.” Many jobs in information technology are filled by staffing companies, where the employee is paid a “salary” with benefits from the staffing company.

Often there is some overtime (there is an hourly formula) and often there are per diems for travel.  But clients (very often state and local governments as well as the federal government) need the work to be done.  It’s much harder to make a practical case for paid family leave in this environment.  This is the job market I became familiar with throughout the 2000’s after my “layoff” at the end of 2001.

Today the Washington Post also has a story by Danielle Paqeutte reporting that Donald Trump may be considering the idea that parental leave should be gender neutral after all.  Previously, he had wanted to make only maternity leave mandatory, up to six weeks, paid for by unemployment benefits.  Now his advisers are more sensitive to gender discrimination and want to offer it to fathers, and conceivably to adoptive parents.  Paying for it may be more difficult.

I’m left personally with pondering the way that parenthood and having children became an “afterthought” in my own thinking.  That meant, for example, I was totally unprepared for the eldercare episode that would happen in my own life.  It’s really an important life activity, but the way we go about it, from a moral perspective, is disconnected from everything else.  Parenthood is a good way to become connected to meeting the “real needs of other people” in a more continuous manner.

(Posted: Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at 10 AM)

Firing of transgender journalist over his personal posting about “objectivity” raises questions about personal online reputation in the media

Media columnist Margaret Sullivan reports a disturbing story in the Style Section of the Washington Post today, “How one reporter’s rejection of objectivity got him fired.”

The journalist is 32-year-old female-to-male transgender Lewis Wallace, who was fired ten days into the Trump presidency from Marketplace in Los Angeles.

Wallace was fired after a personal blog post “Objectivity is dead and I’m okay with it.”  He gives a further follow-up on his firing here.   The posts are on a site called “Medium”.  But a similar result would have happened were the platform WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, or even a Facebook page.

Poytner (which offers courses in media and law and has worked with the media perils insurance issue in the past) weighs in on the larger problem with “Should journalists protest in Trump’s America?”  Poytner comes up with some scenarios, like a Muslim journalist is separated from his family by Trump’s sudden ban.  It’s pretty obvious how this can come up with LGBTQ people, as Wallace points out.

Sullivan, in her article, notes that “mainstream” media organizations generally forbid their employees from marching or carrying signs in demonstrations.  Some media companies, like the gay media (like the Washington Blade) would adjust their policies for their targeted readership and advertisers.

Now my own circumstances bear comment, and it’s best to work this problem inside out.  I am “retired”, and run my own media operations myself.  So, in a way, I can “do what I want.”  But I certain face criticism from many parties, as I have covered here before.  Some people wonder why my book and movie reviews aren’t more partial to their own struggles or previous hardships, and people do say that my tone is usually surprisingly “neutral”, even pedantic, as if I had no personal stake in their issues, when obviously (given my own past narrative) I do have such exposure.   So, people say, I actually should offer to keep my own “skin in the game” for being flayed or burned, as part of solidarity.  Sometimes this can degenerate into expecting people to take each other’s bullets.  One can say, my activity doesn’t carry its own weight.  It could be undermined in the future by Trump’s security concerns about social media in general, or if Section 230 is gutted or appealed.   I get criticized that I don’t help other people get and keep their jobs as much as I would have to if I really had to “sell”.  Then I could not afford the “pretense” of objectivity and would have to please a specific audience, and “help” real people.

For those who don’t know me, I consider myself tending toward the libertarian side of conservatism, supporting equality on social issues. but careful look at why people have the attitudes they do, strong on defense (pretty much a McCain-like Republican), and sensibly conservative on fiscal issues (like, the US must pay its bills and keep its promises). While I understand what is behind much of the anti-immigrant sentiment, were I in charge I would be much more cautious about consequences than the current president about how my policies actually would work out.

I do go to demonstrations and photograph them and film them.  But I generally don’t carry signs (although I did earlier in my life, in the 1970s, after “coming out”; I remember many late June gay pride marches).  Particularly from the radical Left, I am vulnerable to the flak, “What makes you too good to march with us?”  It’s very dangerous to pretend you are better than other people and don’t have to walk in their shoes sometimes (maybe permanently).

So, I can understand why some people (like Trump and Bannon) don’t like journalists.  Remember the little Netflix movie “Rebirth”?  We are the spectators, the kibitzers, who don’t play, who can criticize others but who don’t have to live with the consequences.  We are the Monday morning quarterbacks.  (But then, again, because we can’t pitch no-hitters, we don’t have hundred-million dollar contracts.)   We even may be the slightly Asperger-like or Spock-like “alien anthropologists” who set up social networking sites and do news aggregation to rule the world and claim this third planet from the Sun for ourselves.  (Is Mark Zuckerberg the most powerful man in the world anyway?)

To be fair, there is pure journalism (on-site news reporting) and there is commentary.  Usually they’re not supposed to mix too much, but on stations like CNN they do, where news analysts opine all the time.  The mainstream and liberal networks properly question the current president’s recklessness (which might be deliberate strategy to see what he can get away with), whereas Fox I guess is supportive.  But original reporting does have to pay heed to objectivity.  Remember how journalists like Brian Williams have gotten into trouble.

I actually would be interested in working with organizations ranging from Vox to OAN, but I would have to separate my coverage from my own personal narrative, which works because right now I control my own operation myself.

In a posting, here May 20, 2016, I had already linked to a long narrative of my own issue with “conflict of interest”, as is covered in Chapter 3 of my own DADT-III book, sections 2 and 3 here (PDF).   In the early 1990s, I was working for a life insurance company that specialized in sales to military officers.  Given my personal history and the political climate at the time (over Bill Clinton’s settling into “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) I felt that my plans to write a book on the military ban and bring in a personal narrative could present its own kind of “conflict of interest”.  That became a major theme in my life in the 1990s, which continued in the 2000s when I worked as a substitute teacher, leading to another incident in 2005 documented in section 06 of the book excerpt.

I do believe that there are facts.  There can be alternative interpretation of fact, but “alternative fact” is an oxymoron.  Journalists do need to report all the facts (as the Cato Institute showed up with the statistics on crime committed by refugees in the U.S)

I think the problem comes in the slant or interpretation of facts.  Do we report on others as if they were free-standing individuals, or as if they were members of groups and inherit all kinds of advantages and disadvantages (including marginalization) based on their belonging to these groups?  And how do we deal with people in our own lives?  It does get personal.

(Posted: Thursday, February 2, 2017 at 5:15 PM EST)

More followup on allowing guests router use, on downstream liability questions

Recently (Jan. 10), I wrote a posting about the possible downstream liability that router owners could experience if they allow guests to use their networks.  This could include persons hosting refugees or asylum seekers for humanitarian reasons or to “give back”. It could also apply to the sharing economy (Airbnb and other home-sharing sites).

After talking to Electronic Frontier Foundation, I was finally guided to a website they had set up called “Open Wireless,” and here is their take on it, at this link.

Here is how I interpret this paper.

First, as I noted, it is generally pretty easy to provide guest accounts, that would separate the log of Internet accesses made by the guest(s) for identification in any civil or criminal action.  It would always be advisable for the owner to do this, and insist on the use of a guest account and separate password  (or else the guest would use her own hotspot, which might not work in all locations).

Furthermore, discussions with others (like at Geek Squad) have suggested that installation of OpenDNS is not necessarily a critical idea for liability protection;  it does not provide perfect protection from a determined criminal compromise.  Indeed, some use of TOR and hidden sites for some foreign guests could be morally legitimate (to avoid detection by autocratic home countries).

There is no law requiring router owners to protect their networks, or establishing downstream liability potential.  There is also no law protecting owners from a injured party’s from the normal “” of negligence on the part of the owner. (States could vary on this, but it doesn’t seem like they have done much about it.)

An owner who could be reasonably suspicious that his router was being used for illegal downloads or to facilitate terror recruitment, sex trafficking, child pornography, cyberbullying, or other similar harms, would seem to be at risk, as I read this.  That could leave open the question of monitoring use.

It would seem that an owner would need to behave in good faith in allowing the use of his router.  Evidence of creditworthiness or reputation of guests might seem to be evidence of good faith, as well as providing a strike page requiring agreement to terms of service (which normally means no illegal use).

With personal guests (including boarders or roommates) it seems that a typical expectation is how well the host knows the guest, and whether the host can reasonably expect the guest to behave responsibly.  In the case of hosting for humanitarian reasons, I think there is something that is troubling here.  It may be like saying that providing foster care for children is risky (because it can be).   In Canada, the legal system recognizes the idea of private sponsorship or refugees and that would seem to provide some presumption of good faith because the host is privately supplying a needed service to others.  In the United States, especially now (under Trump) the legal system and culture seems to emphasize “take care or your own first” and seems to provide no such recognition. Yet asylum seekers, to stay out of detention and homeless shelters, would probably need private sponsors to support them and take responsibility for them.  It’s not yet clear to me that a host in the US might not be viewed as intrinsically negligent during our current political climate toward immigration.  However, background checking (with former employers, etc) or other forms of familiarity (repeated volunteering) might provide more of a presumption of good faith, as I would interpret this.

(Posted: Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at 3:30 PM EST)

Trump’s immigration crackdown seems off the mark, but I see where it is coming from

How to react to the controversy and disruption following Donald Trump’s immigration executive orders late Friday?  I could be tongue-tied on this one.  I have a lot of separate reactions, and it’s hard to draw a single conclusion.

My focus on all these pages is on how the individual should behave, and what does he or she need to step up to, as was the focus of my DADT-III book.  Yet individuals need to belong to families, groups, countries, and share the outcomes for their supersets.

I’ll go back into my own history and recall that around 1:30 AM CDT on September 11, 2001 I woke up from a dream where a nuclear device had detonated somewhere around the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington.  The dream had been unusually lucid and I remember saying to myself I was glad this was only a dream.  I was living in a Minneapolis apartment at the time.  I would shut off the TV and home computer just before the attacks started, and learn about them about 8:25 AM CDT in my cubicle from a co-worker, and walk downstairs to the computer room and see the Pentagon attack aftermath unfold on the Jumbotron.

I even recall getting an email the previous Labor Day weekend (while in Canada) with a headline warning about “911” and some others had gotten it.  I never opened it.  We thought it was spam, maybe malware for a DDOS.  Then on Sept. 4 Popular Mechanics had run a now-forgotten article on EMP flux devices (non nuclear) and how terrorists could deploy them.

After my “career-ending” layoff at the end of 2001, I gave a sermon on the implications of 9/11 at the Dakota Unitarian Fellowship in Rosemont MN in February 2002 (38 mn), with material that would become Chapter 3 of my DADT-2 book.  I had considered particularly Charles Moskos’s call to bring back the draft and end the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy at the same time.  I had even exchanged emails with Moskos about this in November 2001.

On April 1, 2002, an online draft of what would become that chapter was hacked (on an old Apache server that had been carelessly left open by the hosting company).  The hack started right at a place where I was talking about “suitcase nukes” and seemed to contain bizarre gibberish references to the Lake Lagoda area of Russia.  I sent the hacked file to the FBI, and easily restored the content myself.  I still have it.  In the early fall of 2002 I got a bizarre email that I could interpret as a warning about a possible disco attack in Indonesia.  I shared that.  Then in November 2002 I got a map (I think I opened the attachment at a Kinkos) that appeared to list locations of nuclear waste all over Russia.

In the summer of 2005 (having come back to my mother’s Drogheda in northern Virginia) I got an email claiming to know where Osama bin Laden had traveled in the US in the 1980s, including aviation training.  I called the FBI, and spent 20 minutes on the phone discussing it with an agent in Philadelphia.

In August 2008 I got a bizarre email from a left wing group threatening oil field attacks in Nigeria.  That one I posted.   Tillerson should read that one.

Let me add here, that in every case, I make a decision to open an email based on full awareness of spam and malware.  I usually will use an old or different computer first to determine credibility.

Since then, the “chatter” to my own unclassified world has settled down.  I am not Wikileaks.  But it seems like you don’t need a security clearance to have dangerous information sent to you.  Too bad about all the homophobia of the world I grew up in, because I would have made a good intelligence analyst during the Cold War.

But I have paid particular attention to the possibility of large scale asymmetric threats that really could have existential character, and end our way of life.  These include nuclear detonations, radiation dispersion devices (dirty bombs), and electromagnetic pulse devices, which, over smaller areas, do not need to be nuclear.  Of course, they may include cyberwar, which could be mitigated by keeping the grid and other infrastructure (like pipelines) completely separated from the public Internet the way the military is supposed to be.   I have often blogged about constructive proposals to strengthen infrastructure against these threats (such as some of Taylor Wilson’s ideas); but these ideas need a lot more “science” and both public and private investment (Peter Thiel may have us started on that).    Much of this investment would encourage clean energy and domestic manufacturing jobs, but require skills that those displaced from legacy industries (Trump’s voter base) don’t have.

So we come back to Trump’s controversial immigration order.  Of course, they need to be considered in combination with other orders.  But they seem to be motivated in large part by Trump’s perception (largely correct) that individual American civilians even at home can become targets of an unusual enemy that does not wear a uniform.  Radical Islam has an ideology that conscripts everyone.  But the suddenness of the order (as a weekend started) is supposedly justified by the “threat” that “bad dudes” could slip through — with the president ignoring the fact that existing vetting processes (shown in the film “Salam Neighbor“) take 18 months or more, and even normal visas take some time.

The Cato Institute has noted that there have been no Americans killed by terrorists from the seven banned countries.  (I compare this statistic to counting chest hairs in a soap opera.)   Fareed Zakaria mentioned this analysis on his “Global Public Square” broadcast on Sunday. Jan. 29.   But the Trump White House claims that the seven countries, because of civil war and very poor governance (“failed states”) are more likely now that larger states (except Iran and Iraq) to breed hidden, undetectable Trojan Horse terrorists, and that Obama had already singled out this list of countries. . The Trump administration claims that this is not a faith-based ban because large Muslim countries are not included.  It also claims that religious exceptions are made only for religious minorities in target countries with which the US has poor diplomatic relations.  They don’t have to be Christian (like Yazidis).  There are some legitimate questions about Trump business interest (and therefore conflict of interest) in some larger, more stable Muslim countries.

It seems that a longer view of history is applicable.  In October 2001, the Sunday that President Bush announced the start of a war in Afghanistan, networks aired a video screed from Osama bin Laden telling individual Americans at home that they had no right to feel safe.  This came from the “established” Al Qaeda, well before the rise of ISIS.  History shows that aggressors (state-based or not) often target civilians, with Nazi Germany as only maybe the most notorious example of all.

Many of the high-profile terror attacks in the US have come from “second generation” adult kids of immigrants whose families turned out to be dysfunctional.  The attacks generally have not come from “saboteurs” who came into the country in the style of an Alfred Hitchcock film.  A number of the 9/11 hijackers were still in the country in legal non-immigrant status.

Some commentators view the overstated visa issue as more problematic for security than the actual physical access of undocumented immigrants at the border.  The number of people here in the US illegally is quite large, and statistics show that undocumented immigrants as a whole commit fewer crimes than the general population, and are more likely to be gainfully employed and in stable marriages when possible.  Even so, the crimes committed by some immigrants, legal and illegal, have sometimes been quite spectacular (like the Washington DC Mansion Murders in 2015), and fuel the impression that some of our immigration is dangerous – bringing up the subject of The Wall..  Furthermore, from anecdotal stories (even told to me), the “illegal” problem in some areas along the southern border is quite serious for residents and ranchers in the area.   But no one has seriously entertained the idea that American consumers should foot a 20% tariff on some goods to pay for a Green Monster.  The tariff could destroy many farmers and small businesses.

American civilians, even given lower crime rates overall, rightfully feel fearful of becoming targets in spectacular or bizarre criminal activities – the kind that wind up as Dateline specials – than in the past.  People are not as insulated by neighborhood or self-segregation as in the past.  Social media, and the possibility of recruiting for terror or even framing people (or making people into targets by happenstance association), comes into the picture.  The threat is more one of “quality” than of “quantity”.  National security policies need to be crafted around the real threats that are likely. It stands to reason that the easy available of guns complicated the issue.  But in Europe, by comparison, gun control may, while lowering crime overall, may make it harder for civilians to defend themselves when caught on the sites of unconventional attacks.

One issue left out by the media this weekend is asylum seekers.  It’s unclear if president Trump’s Executive Order could hold up the processing of asylum requests.  But, as covered here before, asylum seekers, by definition (by not being allowed benefits and to work for some extended time) need private help to stay in the country. US law (even before Trump) does not provide a framework for private citizens to assist asylum seekers without some unknown risk, compared to Canada, which supports full private sponsorship of refugees.

Along the lines of an individual’s deciding what is dutiful, Trump’s “America First” idea comes to mind.  It seems that the marching orders are to “take care of your own” first before “the others”, even if that sounds counter-faith.  We are willing to house refugees, but not our own homeless.  Yet, “America First” sounds like a mantra in a declining world, in a zero sum game, an idea that placates a particular voter base that feels left behind and snubbed by a sophist elite.  There are genuine security reasons to bring back manufacturing to the US and many constructive things that can be done, but they don’t lead to motivating a crowd in a mass movement.   To my view, “Black Lives Matter” and “rural whites” are both playing identity politics in ways that attract authoritarian politicians but that don’t help the country prosper and make itself really safer. .

I want to close this impromptu posting again noting that the idea of “stepping up” (as in my DADT III book, Chapter 6) does sometimes put individuals in the path of “other people’s bullets”.  It brings up ideas about not just courage but avoiding cowardice (as in a recent piece by David Brooks).  It tests the balance between individual autonomy and belonging to the group.

In the Washington Post Sunday, Outlook. Andres Miguel Rondon wrote “Venzuela showed us now not to fight a populist president. “What makes you the enemy?  It’s very simple to a populist.  If you’re not a victim, you’re a culprit”.  I have that in my own experience with the far Left.  Opposing this mentality seems to be the point of all of Milo Yioannopolous ‘s writings.

The in the Epoch Times recently, Joshua Philipp writes about “The Danger of Political Labels”. where the need to generate ideology externally and divide people into opposing camps comes right from Marxism.

(Posted: Monday, January 30, 2017 at 3:30 PM EST)

More references:

Reference:  Cato Institute, Alex Nowrasteh and Dave Bier: “Terrorism and Immigration: A Rosk Analysis

Pew: “Unauthorized immigrant population trends for states, birth countries, and regions


Trump starts executive orders on immigration, and those involving refugees seem to stop most humanitarian immigration for now

While starting the action on the Wall, Donald Trump today apparently deferred signing executive orders on limiting refugees during the next months.

There are several accounts at news organizations online as to what is likely.

One of these is at Vox by Dara Lind and Matthew Yglesias.  It discusses four more possible executive orders.  It appears that all refugee immigration may stop for a while, or there may only be complete stoppage from up to seven countries considered associated with radical Islamic terrorism.  Complete stoppage from some countries would range from one to four months, during which vetting procedures would be tightened.  It appears likely that asylum applications for these countries would not be approved during this period.  The Vox link is here.   One of the XO’s would apparently not allow DACA adult children to remain after their work visas expire (latest in 2019).  Presumably (especially in LGBTQ cases) we could see asylum requests, but then there are rules that those requests have to have been submitted within one year of arrival.  It is very unclear as to what could happen.

The Washington Post has a narrower account by Karen DeYoung and Anigail Hauslohmer here.   The Post also embeds a PDF to a copy of one of the orders, and it mentions vetting of immigrants for democratic values, including negative religious attitudes about “sexual orientation”.  It least it’s good to see a conservative administration willing to mention the words of the group that it knows can be targeted (as with Pulse).

It’s likely details will be released early next week.

CNN has details on the orders issued today, which deal with detention centers and sanctuary cities   as well as building The Wall.

Randi Kaye gave a report on CNN (AC360) about a Syrian family that had been in Rutland VT for one week.  Kaye thinks it is unlikely that already arrived Syrian families would be deported, but says that Trump had once threatened to do so in 2015.    The AP has another story on Poststar about refugee placement in Rutland (which has a labor shortage) by Lisa Rathke here.

In the meantime, I am talking to EFF about the issue of letting guests use one’s router (January 10).  I may be placed in contact with an attorney with more specific information which can be shared with organizations.  It is still unclear.  There would be no risk if a guest used his own hotspot (which could be on a smartphone) for a connection.

(Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2017 at 12:30 AM EST)

Update: (10:20 AM EST)

The latest interpretation seems to be as follows:  All refugee applications from everywhere would stop for about 120 days.  Entry from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya would be stopped until further notice.  “Extreme vetting” would be put in place before refugee processing resumed. The total number of refugees allowed would be cut from 100000 a year to about 50000.  It is still unclear who asylum processing for those already in the U.S. legally under an existing asylum, application would be affected.  Trump also says he will support expanding safe areas for better equipped and livable relocation centers in Middle East, especially in some areas of Syria or Jordan (maybe other rich Gulf states) and would help with military assistance for security for the people.  He implies that some rich and stable Muslim countries can do much more for their own people.

In an interview with David Muir on ABC, Trump claimed “I have a big heart” and said that, despite the reports about DACA, people gainfully employed and not in trouble with the law would have nothing to worry about.

A recent personal conversation with a young man from Germany painted a somewhat more positive picture on refugees in Germany than I have heard personally before.  He did say there was a lot of volunteerism and that sme refugees did live in people’s homes, but most stayed in gyms or large public facilities.  He did not agree there had been a widespread issue with silenced refugee crime.

Donald Kerwin and Edward Alden argue in the Washington Post that Trump’s extreme vetting will actually undermine cooperation with other allies and some law enforcement intelligence activities and actually weaken protection of the public from terror attacks.  One reason is that many attacks have come from people already here a long time, including second generation adult kids (Tsarnaev) or other long-term legal residents (San Bernadino, Orlando), sometimes even citizens.

I’ll try to report “facts” as they come up. But “changing facts” are not “alternative facts.”

Update: Jan 27

Trump is due to sign an Executive Order at the Pentagon late Friday, probably similar to the Post document.

The Washington Post has an annotated copy of the Executive order late Friday evening.

Vox has an interesting interpretation by Dara Lind.

Vox has some further detailed legal analysis, compared to other existing law, later Jan. 28, by David A. Martin, here.