Most organizations get very pushy online in demanding donations and tribal loyalty

I know it’s the end of the tax year, so I shouldn’t be perturbed about the flood of emails begging for donations and claiming sponsors have promised matching donation.

At the very least, I get annoyed at the pimping of need and causes to me.  Very often, an activist site, often for a narrow issue, and often polarized on either the far Left or far Right, and very tribal in tone, will push big donate buttons on their websites and emails or Facebook posts, and claim some calamity will surely fall to their constituents, who are supposed to include me, if not enough people give.

I often hear claims about deadlines and funds remaining to be raised.

And I often see pleas of extreme personal need.

I get especially annoyed at the false personalization of emails, addressed to me by name when I know they are spammed.  And some groups want to borrow my websites as a platform for their own fundraisers.  Besides from obvious branding questions, it appears I don’t “belong” to anyone, do I.

So I must sound like Scrooge, when too many parties claim to represent their own Tiny Tim.

Or maybe I sound like John Paul Getty, who reasons if you give in to one unreasonable demand, you invite them all.

There are a few “offenders” who stand out.  On the network neutrality issue, one activist organization seems to want to represent all Internet speakers.  I digress enough here to admit that there is a legitimate question of how far the government needs to regulate a “quasi-utility” just as it has to regulate financial institutions.

In the LGBTQ world, activists often go out of their way to make “oppressed groups” through intersectionality of sub-populations.  Indeed, most of the actions of the Trump administration that sound anti-gay sounds like attempts to stop the recognition of group oppression (although I agree with the activists that Trump was very wrong on the transgender military issue, especially the way he handled it;  and he was very wrong with some aspects of his travel bans).

I’ll also add that I noticed a tweet from a good friend in the media, who noted a charity helping Syrian refugees with war injuries, who said he had donated and that “you should to.”  My immediate reaction is, no one should tell me what my own charitable priorities should be.  (It’s just not good to tell people “You should (or shouldn’t) do that.”  I remember that from my William and Mary days.  Judge not that ye be judged.) But I looked into this charity, and could not find a mailing address (which would allow me to use my trust to set them up as a recipient for automated donations through a bank – even if Wells Fargo is far from perfect in its own ethics).  I contacted them, and they directed me to their FAQ.  It seems like they want you to use their portal, their way.  They seem to want the special attention.

Of course, I know the ropes;  going through channels could take chunks out of donations. In other cases, it could deny telemarketers or fund raisers their cuts, a chance to make a living.  I used to call for the Minnesota Orchestra, and later the National Symphony, myself.

So here I am, in my own ivory tower.  I generally “assess” people as individuals acting on their own, not as members of this-or-that group first.  I’ve covered by own ideas of subsumed individual morality (my “DADT IV” sequence from early 2016) here before.

Look at what I did for twenty years:  although I was initially motivated by “gays in the military” as the issue evolved under Clinton in the 1990s, I developed a way of covering “all” the issues bearing on individual liberty, balanced against “common good”, and connecting the dots and building a topology among them. With purely passive strategy of letting people find my material, I managed to become effective in influencing debate (I think I have been so with the EMP issue lately), but I don’t “help” people in reaching out to them according to specific narrow adaptive needs.  I go against the grain of how things are usually done in a free, capitalist society.

Maybe I have to accept the way the game is played.  Most people running small businesses and charities  expect others to be sociable enough to respond to solicitations and manipulations at some point.  Most people have enough responsibility for others that they have to take more risks than I do and have to accept more annoyance from others than I will.  So should I “get over it”?

Indeed, in some of the sales jobs I did try, the advice was always to manipulate people and create urgency for them, but make them pay attention to something not already a priority for them.

That certainly sounds like the tone of “Blogtyrant’s” recommendations, which seem directed at reasoning “the proles” in the real world, not the “high and mighty”, or even the “shy and mighty”.

Indeed, the Russian campaign of disinformation and divisioning of the American people though social media bots may have been predicated on the idea that “elites” (like me) wouldn’t care what “the proles” thought and wouldn’t notice that “average Joe’s” really would let hucksters become their “voice” (aka Trump).

All this said, I have to admit that history shows us that, very often, individuals do find themselves “oppressed” only because of a particular group membership.  I tend to think of joining a cause as a personal cop-out, trading the authority of one power for that of a newer revolutionary one, which will still demand my obedience.  But I don’t know how this would work if my “soul” had mapped to a black slave in the US in 1861, or to a Jew in Germany in the 1930s. I would have been the first exterminated, with no future at all for my own sensibilities in this universe.  Sometimes, you have to fit in if you want to live.

(Posted: Saturday, December 30, 2017 at 11 PM EST)

“Stability” really matters, for people who already have capital (earned or inherited)

OK, I am “retired”, and I “depend” on past accumulated wealth, much earned but some inherited, to keep these blogs going because they don’t pay for themselves.  They don’t require much money (or Piketty-style capital) to run in the grand scheme of things, but they depend on stable infrastructure, security, and stable economic and personal circumstances for me.

Yes, stability.  And judging from the “outside world” events of recent weeks, it doesn’t sound like something I can count on as much as I have.

For most of my adult working life, I was very much in command of the possibility for my own mistakes to undo me and possibly end my stable I.T. career (as with bad elevations into production).

But early in my life I was forced to be much more aware of eternal demands by the community I was brought in.  Gender conformity had to do with that.  Then came the military draft and Vietnam.  There was an expectation of eventually having a family even if running a gauntlet that could expose me to some personal fair share of community hazards.  This had much more to do with my own “mental health” problems in the age 19-21 range than I probably realized (including a brush with nihilism in 1964).

It is true, of course, that my employment could be affected by outside business events like mergers and takeovers, but in my case these actually worked out in my favor.  And earlier in my work life I was concerned about staying near a large city (New York) where it would be easier for me to “come out”;  the energy crisis was actually a threat to my mobility, as was potentially NYC’s “drop dead” financial meltdown when I was (finally) living there.

So it is, in retirement.  If you have accumulated wealth, you want the world to be stable so you don’t have to watch your back, and face sudden expropriation because of political deterioration (maybe combined with a natural catastrophe).  You want to believe if you pay your bills, make good choices, and play by the “rules” you will be OK.  And you find people knocking for attention your life, and you have to deal with the knowledge that they didn’t have the situational stability that “you” did.

It’s possible to find one’s life suddenly becomes a political bargaining chip. For example, Congress could try to means-test Social Security recipients (even current one) as part of its debt (and debt ceiling) issue.

I have to say I do have a gut reaction from “extremists”, whether associated with Communism (North Korea) or radical Islam, who make threats that sound personal, as if they saw someone like me as a personal enemy.  I do understand the racial contact, that some people will take statements (hate speech) made on the alt-right that way, also. But combativeness has become a problem that I had not anticipated throughout most of my working life.

It is true, also, that the most extreme scenarios from foreign enemies could reduce me personally to nothing.  The conservative Weekly Standard, after 9/11, liked to use the term, being “brought low” because of the resentment of others.  In the North Korean threat, there are many nuances.  The right wing talks about EMP, and the major media refuses to mention it.  It could become a real threat, but my own probing of the utility world suggests it is making some progress in making transformers less vulnerable (to “E3” threats, also posed by extreme solar storms).  (The power companies won’t say exactly what they are doing, for good security reasons.)  Personal electronics, cars, and data can face threats from a different mechanism (“E1”) which actually might be easier for an enemy (including retaliation by the DPRK) to pull off.  This is a developing topic that the major media just doesn’t want to cover yet (outside of cyberwar, which is better known, as with the psychological warfare implications of the Sony hack).

I have to say, too, that for one’s life to come to an end out of political expropriation or violence is particularly ugly.  I was privileged enough to avoid Vietnam combat, and I was “safe” enough not to get HIV, which previously could have been the most dangerous threats I faced.  I was economically stable for my entire work career, which sometime after 9/11.  I did have some family cushion.

The basic reaction from most people is to “belong” to something bigger than the self.  I think all this relates to “the afterlife” and I won’t get into that further right here. In retirement, I’ve had to deal with constant reminders of how narrow my capacity for personal intimacy can be, even if it can be intense in the right circumstances.  Yes, now I have to throw the “psychological defenses” (Rosenfels) to maintain my personal independence and stop being dragged into the causes as others.  Solidarity alone seems rather alien to me, even if I can’t count on affording that kind of attitude forever.

Again, as to the “belonging” idea, throughout history, individuals have suffered because of the actions of their leadership.  In Biblical times, it was considered morally appropriate that all members of a tribe be punished together for “disobedience” (to “Jehovah”).  In modern times, it’s the “everybody gets detention for the sins of one in middle school” problem,

I want to reemphasize my intention so see all my own media initiatives through.  That includes getting a novel out in early 2018, trying to market a screenplay, getting some of my music (written over 50 years, some of it embedded in two big sonatas) performed.  The best chance to make some of this pay for itself would be to get some (perhaps conservative) news outlets interested in some of my blog content, especially in undercovered areas (power grid security, filial responsibility laws, downstream liability protections in online speech scenarios including copyright, defamation, and implicit content (which can include criminal misuse like trafficking).  The intention is to help solve problems in non-partisan manners away from the bundled demands common with “identity politics”.

I tend not to respond to demands for mass “solidarity” with so many other causes, and I usually am not willing to “pimp” someone else’s causes as my own.  But I realize I could be riding on partially unearned privilege, which can become dangerous.  Indeed, having inherited wealth subsumes a responsibility to address needs as they arise;  to ignore them would be tantamount to stealing. I tend to think that helping others is easier if you are in a relationship or have had kids (that became an issue when I was working as a substitute teacher).  I think there can be situations where one has to be prepared to accept others as dependents and “play family” (and this often happens in estate and inheritance situations anyway, although it did not specifically in my own situation). We saw this idea in films like “Raising Helen” and in the TV series “Summerland”.

I’ll mention that it looks like I’m selling the estate house and moving out in October. That would remove the hosting opportunities for now; but, after downsizing, it could make other volunteering much easier and even open up the possibility of volunteer travel (although I need to stay “connected” at all times when traveling as it is now).

I have to add that taking on dependents grates against complacency. It means more willingness to sell other people’s messages rather than on sticking to your own.  Our culture has developed a certain split personality: resistance to sales people or middlemen and to being contacted by cold calls (the robocall and cold call problem), yet an expectation of voluntary personal generosity and inclusivity online.

The sudden announcement of the intended termination of DACA is a good example of how instability affects those less fortunate. Although I really believe Congress will fix it in the required six months, today “dreamers” would have to deal with employers or schools who are uncertain as to what their legal status might be in less than a year.

(Posted: Tuesday, September 5, 2017, at 7 PM EDT)

“Nobody’s Tool”

In Terry Gilliam’s artsy futurist film “The Zero Theorem” (2013), precocious and charismatic teen Bob (Lucas Hedges) tells the besieged computer operator Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz), “I’m nobody’s tool”.  (Hedges would play a similar role in “Manchester by the Sea”.)

It’s true, I “went public” with a controversial persona narrative with my first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book in the 1990s – specifically striking a nexus between the past history of conscription with the debate over gays in the military (as it had evolved then under Bill Clinton).  I would wrap every other issue, mapped onto the tension between individualism and the need to belong to the group, around it and become a commentator, a pundit, someone who, however, needed to keep a certain objectivity and distance (even emotional aloofness) expected of journalists.

As President Trump complains, it’s too easy to criticize when you sit on the bench ad don’t play.

So, in the “aftermath” of the book(s), websites, blogs and now social media accounts, I have made it absolutely impossible for me to earn money (in “retirement”) by selling somebody else’s message, or being someone else’s spokesperson.  No, I can’t have Sean Spicer’s job.

After my layoff and forced retirement from old-style mainframe I.T. as a post 9/11 sequel at the end of 2001, at age 58 (73 now), I learned “the truth” about what the world seemed to expect of retirees: Sell! One of the earlier interviews (while I was still in Minnesota) as with PrimeVest   The interviewer became defensive about my questions over his presentation, even though I agree that for some consumers, converting whole life to term is a reasonable strategy. But a $40 trillion market?  The interview was concerned over how “analytical” I seemed. I checked and investigated everything.  “We give you the words,” he said.  To a writer who has followed his own direction, that phrase sounded very insulting, like throwing an inadequate tip at a bartender (which I once did).

There would other attempted offers to throw husckerism at me. True, life insurance agent or financial planner sounds legitimate enough. But I don’t want to troll people’s Internet ad hits in order to cold call them.

I also find myself resisting attempts to get me to “join a resistance”.  HRC is on my regular donation list, but I felt a little taken back by a recent email inviting me to be trained to become a grassroots activist or part of a resistance.  I know that Barack Obama was a “community organizer” in Chicago at one time, I have my own message set.  I don’t need to have an organization tell me what to say.

Even worse was a similar ploy from the political right. GOP candidate for a runoff in a Georgia House race, Karen Handel, writes, addressing me personally (by an automated plugin – again insulting) “This is the email I didn’t want to have to write. But after seeing the latest public polls – I have no choice.” She whines that bigwing Democrats have raised so much money for her opponent, so “Will you help me fight back?”

No, I like to think of myself as better than that (including any public participation in overtly partisan politics).  But of course I know the argument.  I saved well when I was working.  But I also have some of what the left-wing considers a poison pill, inherited wealth.  I don’t have to make everything I do pay for itself.  I don’t have to sell other people’s messages for a living. But I can imagine people thinking, if there weren’t people like me around to dilute them, they could make a living by “selling” because everyone else would have to.

I’ve railed about identity politics here before, but the way I argue policy issues is relevant here.  Of course, I agree that current GOP plans for health care (variations of the Americam Healthcare Act) could, as structured now, throw millions off affordable health insurance, while solving problems of premium hikes for unneeded coverages for some people adversely affected by Obamacare’s implementation (and probably exacerbated by some states). I agree that the changes could affect racial minorities adversely.  They could also affect gay men (depending on what happens with PrEP and protease inhibitors).  But I don’t argue something because it hurts “me” or anyone as a “member of a group” (even though “belonging to groups” has become, unfortunately, the legal cornerstone of the way equal protection of the laws works).  One of the reasons AHCA would affect people in certain groups is the way it would shift the responsibility for Medicaid back to the states.  So it becomes a federalism problem.  States should do the right things, but we know from the history of Civil Rights through the 1960s that sometimes they didn’t (and we lost young men like Goodman, Schwerner and Cheney as a result in what was the moral equivalent of crucifixion).

I don’t respond personally to “Leftist” appeals for “resistance” because this policy hurts members of their particular client groups (even if I belong to one of them, and everyone belongs to something). I think you have to solve the problem analytically.  Some countries, like Switzerland, have kept an effective private health care sector in a way that works, and we could do that. I think you can have assigned risk pools again, so that rich people with pre-existing conditions can pay their own way (an inherent advantage of the GOP setup) but you have to subsidize the premiums of people in the middle class and below (tax cuts alone aren’t enough, you need subsidies, but you don’t need to use Medicaid as the vehicle for subsidies), or use reinsurance for excess claims.  You have to be determined to make it work, and you have to pay for it.  So maybe you can’t give the rich all their tax cuts.

Likewise, I reject group-oriented resistance politics on an issue like police profiling.  I understand Rudy Giuliani’s claims about how “broken windows” policing in the 1990s made New York City much safer than it had been in the 1970s when I lived there. But I have so say, that particularly a couple of independent films (“Whose Streets?” and “The Prison in Twelve Landscapes” and well as “I A Not Your Negro”) have pointed out that in some communities, police departments have regularly extorted fines from black residents with the “garbage jail” approach. This is illegal and even criminal and not acceptable.  Why won’t the usual system of litigation put a stop to this?

I’m left to ponder the mentality of the doomsday preppers, who think that civilization cannot be depended on, and that it is morally imperative for everyone to learn to become self-sufficient locally and within the family.

(Posted: Monday, May 22, 2017 at 11:30 AM EDT)

Retirees could face rental qualification issues as they downsize

This blog is not the normal place where I discuss personal history details, but personal experience does jive with policy and business issues for me when it comes to retirement and growing older, just as it has with gay issues.

I did come out of my “career ending” (so to speak) IT layoff at the end of 2001 with ING (now Voya) in better shape than most, with very ample severance and retirement pension.  And I did land from a seven-plus year eldercare experience, with a lot of hired caregiver help in the last 18 months (over $100,000 worth) much better of that I might have.  For example, in 2013 the “estate” amounted to private insurance to cover my dental implants (no, Medicare doesn’t cover them).

You don’t get to drop out of the competitive world and yet stay in “public life” (to quote one of actor Anthony Hopkins’s more notorious characters) forever, as you know it is a mathematical certainty that you will have a last day, a last supper (so to speak), a last plane trip, a last film, a last blog post. At some point it is likely (though not certain) that “my” brain will have to deal with the idea that it is over.  It gives me more reason to ponder the afterlife (the “Focus” areas as much as the Hallow Heavens, as the Monroe Institute puts it), the nature of how “I-ness” (a “strange loop” of Hofstadter) embeds itself into some sort of permanent distributed consciousness.

One of the issues is downsizing.  I am in an “inherited” house, which technically belongs to a trust.  There can occur some situations where this could be risky (like recovering from a big natural disaster).  It could be easier for me to focus on my “journalism”, fiction and music if I was in a modern, secure building, like I was in Minneapolis (the Churchill) from 1997-2003.  I could be more credible with others.  Yes, I have “space”, but housing others involves time and risk and is hard to set up to do properly (this has come up with the asylum seeker issue, as I have written here before). There is a particular risk of holding real estate assets whose value could disappear in a major WMD terror attack.  Yes, we don’t like to talk about it.  Renting might be safe.  Of course, you can get into Stansberry (or Ron Paul) -like debates on how personal nest eggs can disappear quickly because of global currency manipulation – who knows where Donald Trump’s stumbles can lead? I do understand the appeal of the doomsday prepper position after all, but am not equipped to deal with it. I remain dedicated to solving problems and making civilization work and sustainable.  (Hey, I voted for Hillary.  I wanted Al Gore in 2000, and we might have avoided 9/11 and the War in Iraq.)

I’ve recently started looking at the issue of how retirees who have assets but less income than normally qualify for an apartment.  I covered this on a legacy blog post in late April after looking into this a little while in NYC.   I would much rather live in a secure building with the “general population” than in a 55+ community, which is probably more expensive but may be easier to qualify.  Some of these communities are located farther in the exurbs (or all over Florida) and it would be hard to reach normal urban cultural activities from them – but some have their own theaters, for example.  Many senior centers bring in artists to perform but they are likely to be less intellectually challenging and more conventionally “popular”.

I’ve seen many comments that many apartment developments, those run by large property companies, do not want to use savings for qualification.  I can understand the reluctance:  investments can lose value, or be spent.  It sounds as if it is possible to convert (by having your financial institution sell some assets and set it up) some savings to secured cash accounts, for a year’s rent, and this may work with some landlords.  You would want to keep your name on rent for future periods (beyond a normal security deposit) in case something catastrophic happens to the building. That may or may not be safer than having cash tied up in conventional condo or co-op ownership.

Sometimes builders buy tear-downs from seniors in houses and let them live rent-free for a while, during which period the senior needs to find an apartment.  A senior might need to do it this way to have the cash to set up such a rent deposit account. Furthermore, pension income or even social security income could go down in the future due to problems at a previous employer or due to a more hostile political climate.

I was also told, and this seems disconcerting for someone with little family left, that the senior should be prepared to provide references to the landlord.  This is difficult if he or she hasn’t worked steadily in years but has lived on assets.  It does suggest that, given longer life spans and fewer kids,  seniors should consider trying to work as along as possible — even if it means some objectionable consumerist and myopic personal hucksterism — rather than ride on assets and play the pundit game (as I did).   There was a hint to use volunteer organizations for references.  But imagine the coercion involved in such an idea.  That gives the bureaucracy of larger charities in a position to judge the characters and reputations of people who need references – and encourages some charities to put more pressure on retirees to support their narrowly focused agendas.  This is a very disturbing comment.

I won’t go too far further into this problem here today, but in the past I’ve gotten feedback that it is difficult to be effective in any volunteer organization without really “belonging” to the group.  I’ll go into this more in another post soon.  Again, rather disturbing, but it is part of the whole problem of maintaining social capital among people without their own families, as even some libertarian writers like Charles Murray have noted.

Typical 55+ discussion.

(Posted on Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 3 PM EDT)

To “make America great again” we may have to learn to respect salesmanship (again)

Have we forgotten how to sell to each other?

I sometimes wonder that as I refuse to answer robocalls, mark email as spam, and post no solicitations on the front door.  I don’t like to be interrupted when “working”.

I don’t need more auto warranties (they’re more dependable from your dealer), and I don’t need sudden travel deals (although I could imagine that some week I might).  I don’t need SEO services, and I don’t need Windows drivers from third parties advertising on YouTube.  I don’t need to replace my Medicare (and AARP supplemental) with Medicare Advantage, although I do wonder if TrumpCare or RyanCare could change that.

Yet, for 14 months while living in Minneapolis, after my career had its cardiac arrest at the end o 2001, I worked for the Minnesota Orchestra, calling for contributions to the Young People’s Concerts.  This was slightly post 9/11, but people would answer the phone then, do pledges, and even “blue money on credit”.  The non-profit word for this activity was “development”.

After coming back to DC, I worked for a company selling National Symphony subscriptions, but suddenly quit when a call recipient threatened me with arrest for calling after the 9:00 PM statutory curfew.  I will not tolerate employers’ expecting me to break the law. I could afford to enforce that then and now.

It was eye-opening to me, that someone could major in music, and then come down from Toronto to teach us how to sell music subscriptions to the masses.  I feel it’s a great honor to be recognized as a content creator.  I feel “peddling” is second-class citizenship.

From 1972-1973, living in northern New Jersey, I worked for Sperry Univac, when it was trying to compete with IBM.  My job was “site support”, providing technical interface for processors (FORTRAN, COBOL, etc) and I made beaucoup trips to St. Paul MN for benchmarks.  The whole idea was to sell more computers.  I did get the feedback that I “didn’t have a marketing profile” and would be better off in “real” development.

Indeed I spent probably twenty-six years or so largely as an individual contributor in developing, implementing, and supporting business applications, batch and online, mostly mainframe.  I was not a life that encouraged a lot of socialization for its own sake, or being part of other people’s social capital.  After I “retired”, I found out how the real world of “Lotsa Helping Hands” can work.

My father was a salesman, of sorts – actually, a “manufacturer’s agent”, for Imperial Glass, until 1971.  I remember his travel to glass shows all over the East Coast, his filling orders manually and doing the accounting with adding machines.  Mother helped him.  But he worked wholesale.  Selling for him was mostly about customer service.  It was never about cold calling or pimping.

But when I “retired” (I was well provided for by ING with the final layoff and forced retirement), I was rather shocked at the corporate culture I found with some interviews.  One of the sessions occurred in 2002 and would have involved contacting people to get them to convert whole life policies to term.  Later, I would be approached by two companies (unsolicited) to become a life insurance agent or financial planner.  Getting “leads” in that business means trolling people on the Internet to find out who to make cold calls to.  I would also be approached to become a tax preparer (unsolicited), and a non-profit mall canvasser.

One of the more provocative screening questions (in 2005 at New York Life) was, “do you every buy anything from a salesman?”  I answered yes, because I wanted to continue the interview.  But I flashed a mental image of encyclopedia salesmen (we had bought a World Book set with its great state relief maps in 1950), and even music course salesmen (Sherwood Music courses for piano, from Chicago) – again, musicians need real incomes from selling.

The term life interviewer even said “We give you the words”, and yet became defensive in front of me as a I probed whether this idea really works or is best for consumers.  (Whole life conversion will be a good idea for many people, probably.)  He (who seemed to run a franchise office with his wife) exerted the authoritarian attitude that we now recognize with Donald Trump – that you can “create facts” (or use “alternative facts”) and convince people of your vision mainly by believing it and getting others to believe it –which makes it come true (whether that’s getting a casino to make money or living forever in a hallow heaven).  That sounds like ministry, proselytizing.   Some of the tall tales about Trump University (getting people to max out heir credit cards against future real estate income) remind me of the 2008 crisis (which drove Stephen Bannon’s ideology).  I did get a couple calls about jobs selling subprime mortgages when I already realized they would crash together when then introductory (ARM)  rates went up.

I’m reminded of how LDS missions work – young adults (as in the movie “God’s Army” and then “Latter Days”) are supposed to recruit others to their faith (Mitt Romney even did this) and they even pay for the opportunity.

I’m also recalling the comedy movie “100 Mile Rule” (let alone Alec Baldwin in “Glengarry Glen Ross”), where the salesman mantra was “Always Be Closing.”  I see those YouTube ads, “Become a marketer” and just laugh.

When I was working, “coders” thought of management as not smart enough to deal with the nitty-gritty of tracing registers in assembler language.  But we really thought of salesmen as not smart enough to code.  It was an attitude that we could hardly afford.

And now days, I get hounded as to why I don’t sell more hardcopies of my own books, and do more to support bookstores, or kids’ reading programs.  I get it.  Salesmanship (sometimes even hucksterism) is important to other people’s jobs.  But now we have an “It’s free” culture, and a “do it yourself” world of taking care of yourself online.  Donald Trump himself said he doesn’t like computers much, because the online world (including his favorite Twitter) dilutes the importance of social capital that does help people sell.  Oh, yes, remember the good old days of being invited to Amway presentations.

People (like me) have good reasons not to want to be bothered by hucksters.  But we’ve also created a world where it’s very hard for many people to make a living doing anything else.  Donald Trump is right in saying we have to do a lot more of our manufacturing at home again (“Make America Great Again”, or “MAGA”) but not just for the parochial needs of his specialized voting base.  National security would say we ought to make more of our own transformers, batteries, communications hardware components. We need to have a reasonable percentage of working-age adults actually making goods to remain economically and socially healthy — and safe.

(Posted: March 22, 2017 at 11:30 AM EDT)

 

Blogging: niche or general, sales-oriented or amateur; under Trump it seems to be thriving better than I had expected

I’ve become somewhat a fan of “BlogTyrant” (Ramsay Taplan, in Australia) even if I can hardly follow his advice.  My own online presence evolved over time, starting back in 1996, before I self-published my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book, so I’ve used the blogs and platforms to support my content rather than as an income-generating tool per se.  What started with a focus on one issue (gays in the U.S. military back in the 1990s and “don’t ask don’t tell”) enlarged concentrically to covering most public issues from a libertarian perspective.

One of his more interesting posts recently was “One Multi-Topic Blog vs. Multiple Blogs (each) with a Single Topic” (link).

I have twenty blogs right now, sixteen on Blogger and four on WordPress (chart).  I won’t go into detail right here over how these evolved (the first of these was set up in January 2006) from flat sites, but they are “journalistic” in intent — commentary, but not “sales oriented”.  I can say from a practical viewpoint, it’s easier to get some focus on a critical issue if the blog it is on is smaller and gets updated maybe about twice a week with new posts (that seems about right for getting immediate hits).

What I do agree with Ramsay on is that most “small business” or “individual” or “amateur” blogs that actually make money are single-topic or niche-oriented. (His own original niche was physical fitness.)

It would sound hard to make a living just blogging alone – although, judging from the Adsense and Blogger support forums, many people say that they do (especially overseas).  In fact, one problem that would happen on Blogger in the past (especially around 2008) would that people’s blogs would suddenly get removed as spam blogs (wrongfully).  This sounds less likely for blogs that are equated to purchased domain names (although you can’t get https yet on custom Blogger domains, largely because of the way SSL technology is tied to domain names).

It’s well to note also that Blogger and WordPress work differently in one main area.  With WordPress, you can purchase a shared hosting plan from one of many provides (Utah-based Bluehost in particularly “specialized” in working with Automattic, which owns WordPress), where copies of WordPress and various plugins are installed on your site.  That isn’t possible with Blogger (or other packages like Tumblr) as far as I know.  WordPress is a “higher end” product with more capabilities and tends to load slower and sometimes have some security vulnerabilities and instabilities (which are being worked on vigorously in recent releases).   Blogger is “simpler” and faster to use, but has less support (only the forums) – but it has been amazingly stable over the years, with only one day-long outage in May 2011. I say simpler – the dreaded “bx” codes aren’t very transparent (but in practice a lot of them just result from bad Internet connections).

WordPress hosts are working on providing “https everywhere.”  The general idea is that all accounts need to be subdomains of one account.

Let’s move back to the subject – niche blogging.  It works best for someone who already has a business that would be successful in the “real world” (of Shark Tank, so to speak).  Most successful small businesses (outside of branded retail franchises) meet relatively specific and narrow needs and interests, so Ramsay’s ideas of email lists will work (and will get around consumer squeamishness about spam and malware).  These are businesses and supporting blogs that are “for” some base of consumers or clients or stakeholders with narrow, specific needs or concerns.  In a sense, they are “partisan”, and they may need to admit to some hucksterism, or at least overt salesmanship.

I can think of a good niche not far from me.  I do play in USCF-rated chess tournaments.  If I were better at it, let’s say, playing at the International Master level (by FIDE) I could easily envision setting up a blog with opening analysis and endgames.  It would draw a large hits and make advertising money  easily. World Champion  Magnus Carlsen has a news site (here) and is quite likeable, but I don’t see an openings analysis blog.  (Actually, his playing style is to use unbooked openings like an early d3 in the Ruy Lopez and simply outplay his opponent – I guess if he had an openings blog, he could give away his competitive plans for future battles!  But he could still do a blog on endgames.)

But I can imagine, for example, a blog where the chess player refutes a line in a published opening book (which is static).  Here’s an example of what such a post could be like.

Of course, artists and authors can have their own blogs (that is, like I have 20, and “give too much away).  Libertarian author Mary Ruwart (the “Healing Our World” series) has a nice blog here.  But generally authors need to build up some reputation just for “selling books” (at least on Kindle, and preferably in the physical world) before their blogs are likely to have a lot of visitors.

But one area that musicians and authors can explore is education – bringing music and literature into the classroom for underprivileged kids.  Music education goes along well with improving mathematics skills.

It’s well to note how successful some mommy blogs have been — most of all, Heather Armstrong’s, which she launched in 2002 after she was “dooced” (fired) for what she had said online about her job. (Heather has trademarked her wordmark, for what has become an accepted English language verb.  Subsequent “imitation” mommy blogs by others have come under criticism for being “made up” to please readers and get easier ad revenue.)  In the 2000-2006 period, you heard a lot about the potential of employers needing “blogging policies”, which morphed into a whole industry protecting online reputation.  One subtle problem was that in the early days, search engines tended to index simpler sites (like mine), meaning that someone like me could develop a reputation as dangerous to be associated with, because he could talk about you later out of “journalistic” (or “alien anthropologist” motives) — hence we get to an evolution of the idea of “no spectators” (like in the film “Rebirth“).  Everyone must belong somewhere.

I wanted to note well my previous concern for “citizen journalism” under Donald Trump (Nov. 7). Donald Trump, as we know, continues his Twitter storms (his latest tweet was about noon Monday, today), quite inconsistent with his threats in December 2015 to “shut down” frivolous parts of the Internet.  He seems to trust amateur bloggers (or the “Fifth Estate”), including me, much more than he accepts the established press.  This is not the same as what happens in Russia and China, where “amateur” dissidents are pursued as if by chemotherapy.

(Posted: Monday, March 13, 2017 at 3:15 PM EDT)

Right-sizing: free speech, individualism, pitted against mass movements; and “what if? ….”

In early April 2005, I drove down (dodging a tornado on I-95) to Richmond (from Arlington) for an Equality Virginia dinner,  My mother, who was still quite intact at 91, warned, “don’t let yourself show up on television.”

I had returned from Minnesota in late 2003, and was “living at home” again. She had read my first book and somewhat vaguely understood my long term involvement with the issue of gays in the military, and the gradual effort to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell”.  That phrase seems to map what this post is about as a meta-moniker.  Mother had sometimes said I should never mention “William and Mary” (my 1961 expulsion for admitting “latent homosexuality” to the Dean, as I cover in my books and other posts), as if it would only become a source of tension and discomfort for others (not so much the political controversy itself).  I can understand her practical concerns, as I was working as a substitute teacher already, and I’ve already covered how that could blow up. (see July 19 piece).

At one point in conversation surrounding this Richmond trip, she asked, why people should get bad news about national issues from me?  I’ve gotten that sentiment before on social media, from people who says they want Facebook now to be a “politics free zone” and they don’t need to learn of the latest danger they face from international enemies from someone like me.

Ironically, my mother did not fully understand what I was doing in her own basement on my Dell computer on that little aluminum table.  That is, making lots of posts to my legacy “doaskdotell” site (essentially blogging) and being found passively by search engines, needing no employees and needing no capital to keep publishing.  Google took care of everything. “It’s free.”

What have I “accomplished”?  I started this process, in modern times, on the way I argued the issue of gays in the military.  But other issues concerning hyperindividualism (the necessity and dangers of ego) circulated around this one kernel until I was opining on almost everything.  It was a superstorm Sandy of argumentation, an accretion disk.  I attracted visitors for what I was saying, with very simple technology, only getting around to make it look better (on blogging platforms) around 2006. My arguments became known and I think influenced debate (especially on DADT, even helping lead to the 2010 repeal act) even if my name did not (which might have been a good thing).  I tended to focus on moral arguments centered on personal karma, and obstructed more traditional thinking based on victimization and identity politics.

But, one asks, who was I, of all people, to be in a position to influence others, when I did not have my own “skin in the game”?  I did not have children.  I had arguably some subtle disability as a boy but I, compared to other people, had been sheltered somewhat by the relative prosperity and stability of my generation (even as it was threatened by issues by the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy assassination, and Vietnam war).  I come back at you, and say, you need to know the history.  You need to know the dangers ahead by looking at what happened in the past, from a very personal, street level which my narrative provide.  An unusually important part of this history has to do with conscription and sharing of mandatory risk taking, and the social and personal resilience needed with it.

So, in the books and blog postings, I did accumulate a treasure trove of history that is often overlooked, that today’s and future generations really need to get.

This could be called “amateur speech” or “gratuitous speech”.  But continuing it became my “second career”, as it had started in the mid 1990s with my developing my first book, and then took over after my (post 9/11) “layoff” at the end of 2001.

It became difficult to pursue anything else while I was “living at home” again.  My “best” job was substitute teacher, but there were potential conflicts (link ).  The jobs available could be menial and regimented, and perhaps dangerous (convenience store clerks are exposed to crime), invoking questions about cowardice (as the idea used to be understood), or they could involve hucksterism.  Most of the better paying jobs involved “marketeering”, aggressively trolling other people to go get them to buy things (whether life insurance, or tax preparation).  Suddenly, having become the “alien observer” and cataloger – something more honorable than just “spectator” or “watcher” – traditional selling was no longer acceptable.  (This fits into the material in the book “Men Without Work” by Nicholas Eberstadt, which I will review soon.)

Now, we have a president elect Trump, taking office January 20, who seems hostile to dependence on individualized communications technology, to exactly the kind of thing I did.  I’ve covered this before in various posts, but I would add that Trump could reasonably ask, does this kind of activity support families or put people to work?  Does it carry it’s own weight?   Could it be underwritten for liability insurance? (I have to add another complaint I get from unwanted solicitations:  something like, “How dare you give your stuff away for free and not try to sell your books aggressively, and help people in bookstores keep their jobs?”)  Because use of such an open communications infrastructure does open the world up to dangers from abusers, ranging from cyberbullies to sex traffickers to terror (ISIS) recruiting. And American civilians, he could argue, have become targets of foreign enemies as a result.  (Pulse-Orlando is the most egregious example.)  So this kind of activity could be dialed down or shut down, based on some idea that we are “at war” when domestic civilians can become targets. It’s unclear how First Amendment arguments would apply once it got into court.

So I do think the future poses real “threats” to the curtailment of Internet expression as we have become used to it.  The ways this could happen are numerous, each one of them like a screenplay script.  A lot of it has to do with Section 230, which works in different ways for different providers (telecom companies, publication service providers, social networks, forums, and shared web hosting companies, and even shared economy companies like Uber and Airbnb, and even advertising bulletin boards like Craigslist and Backpage).  But a lot of it has to do, more indirectly (even with issues like ending net neutrality), with the business models of major publicly held telecom and Internet companies today.  Many of these models are based on end-users clicking on and buying products online from ads.  Because of security concerns, many users are much less willing to do this than a decade ago, myself included.  I do notice ads sometimes on sites but rarely click on them;  if I’m interested, I go to the original site of the company.  I tend to buy a lot from Amazon and use physical stores much less than I did.  So my own behavior is an example of the “business model” problem.  I don’t play ball, with or through “groups” that I naturally should belong to.

So, it’s fair to ask, “What if?….”  I know that was a phrase du jour during the early days of the AIDS epidemic.  But what if the right to post online or self-publish “without gatekeepers” was indeed taken away? (even out of emergency concerns over national security, as after a major terror incident).

What else have I got?  I’ve got an engaging novel project, screenplay based on the three DADT books  and music composition . But in this older world of needing third parties, I would need to raise real money.  Maybe Kickstarter or Indiegogo could go somewhere, but I don’t have the material that’s obviously “popular”, even with minorities, at the get-go.  As it stands now, I need the visibility of unsupervised self-publishing to make my work known.  I still think that’s reasonably effective.  One little bit of feedback I’ve discovered in the music area: established composers (of which I am not) have to make a living off of commissions.  Conceivably my activity could disrupt that expectation, although that seems a little far-fetched.

So then there would be the constructive idea of working for or with a legitimate news outlet.  One immediate problem is that Trump seems to dislike conventional media companies (except Fox and Breitbart and probably OAN) even more than amateurs who criticize.  In fact, it’s even imaginable that he would “protect” amateurs (like me or even “Milo”) out of his dislike of traditional media.  So it’s very hard to predict what the environment could be like for smaller media companies after a shakeout.  But I can definitely imagine working with a company like Vox or OAN (ranging from progressive and somewhat liberal to somewhat conservative).  As I look at Breitbart right now, I don’t find it objectionable. Most of the stuff I see there looks like it needs to be reported and said, and it looks credible (now – I can’t speak for the past).

Recently, Bill Moyers, of PBS, listed “10 Investigative Reporting Outlets to Follow”, including BuzzFeed.  Yes, I would be glad to look at any of these.  Let me add that I worked for NBC (on the general ledger system as a computer programmer at 30 Rock from 1974-1977) and I would work there again.  I know some folks at NBCWashington and at WJLA-7 (ABC).

So then, we ask, what about my old career as an individual contributor in information technology. That somewhat died with disuse after 2001.  The IT career resume is here.  One observation that seems relevant is that the exit from the job markets of older IT professionals from established pre-Internet mainframe “culture” (systems development life cycle) denied contracting companies hiring to design and implement “Obamacare” the talent it needed.  That’s one reasons for there being so many problems.  Maybe the GOP plans could actually cover everyone and be simpler to run.  But it is entirely conceivable that I could come back to work and help “you” build a system that actually works.

But now I’ve got to get back to my concern over personal “right-sizing”. I want to share how I personally process the reactions I get from people.  A couple of earlier posts (especially Jan. 4 and Nov. 1)  explain how people reacted to the perceived endpoint of my homosexuality.  I think I can work through what others think of my “self-broadcast” model in a similar well.

One point at the outset is that a lot of time, personal life plans are flawed but seem right (even for decades at a stretch) until some external pressure makes one reassess.  Sometimes actual coercion and force, as objectionable as it seems to libertarians, is a good thing.  Sometimes authoritarians do us a favor by making us face things.  But we may not be able to make others face things in turn. But “revolutionary thought” or “purification” does have its points.  It’s also true that we can think that we our captains of our own ships for a long time, following the narrower individualistic ideas of “personal responsibility” —  and find out how horrible it feels when we have made combative enemies determined to shut us down.

The most noticeable reaction from others during the 2003-2010 period, and even since, has been that others try to get me to sell things.  I want to see myself as “above” having to do that, troll people to contact them.  But others can say, that is exactly the problem.  Salesmanship, for its own sake, has gotten a bad rap because too many people like me have been artificially sheltered from having to do it.  My own father was a salesman, but worked “only” as a wholesaler (manufacturer’s representative) with bricks-and-mortar retail outlets, in a world that Trump misses.  All of his income (which was substantial) came from commissions.  Many of my parents’ social friends worked in this circle, for example, as life insurance agents.  My father believed in salesmanship for its own sake and exuded some authoritarian values.  Because I said it, I can make it true.

Think, then, about the aggressive attitude from my own cooperative book publishers since early 2012.  I get pestered about why I don’t sell hardcopy books and try to go on tours and do hotel seminars.  My reaction is, I’m a journalist, I’m not trying to fix your “f—ing”  life or make you all right.  (Well, Milo Yiannopoulos says that.)

Then I get critiques that I don’t really support anybody or my “brothers and sisters”.  I don’t attack people (or any group), but I do attack identity politics and pimping victimization. (I’m more civil than Milo.)

One way to make media sell is to promote causes that are popular, or to personally support people that seem to have “need”.  It’s unclear in some cases (in the minds of others) whether people are to be supported because they belong to a group (“people of color”, “people with disabilities”, etc) or because of their own narrative circumstances.

This is a sensitive issue with me.  I am not comfortable with promoting someone (with whom I otherwise had not personal connection) with an impairment of any kind just to show that I can do it.  I could even call it “disability porn”.  But it has become not only socially acceptable, it is becoming expected in some areas of social media, and it is viewed as a way to “sell”.  This is indeed a culture shift from how things were when I was growing up.

Yet, my saying this betrays a certain underlying character issue.  I view people from the lens of “you are what you are.”  “Que sera, sera”.  My father once said, in December 1961 after “therapy” had started after the William and Mary fiasco (pre-NIH) that the psychiatrist had said “You don’t see people as people” but as symbols or “foils” (especially the character Tovina in one of my scripts, according one friend.)  It’s as if people got “grades” in life (or “life points”, or transcendence of an otherwise “assigned station in life”) that uniquely raked them in specific position with respect to everyone else – harking to a day when school grades were legal tender.  In a sense, this is just a mathematical idea (called “well-ordered sets” ) and sounds like the individualistic idea of meritocracy, a notion coming under criticism from leftish professors in recent years (as with several book reviews, here ).

I think I would have to face a curious loop of logic, that all this means that “meritocracy” relates to my own desire to experience pleasure and desire in an intimate relationship with someone.  It (equating merit to “virtue”) adds “meaning”.  This certainly common with the “upward affiliation”   in the gay male world, but it really happens a lot in the mainstream straight world, too.

Likewise, my gut reaction to the notion of becoming “victimized” by either enemy (terrorist) or criminal aggression or by some very hostile policy change from the new administration (especially inasmuch as the election results are viewed as the results of the wrongdoing or “sins” of others), is one of revulsion and disgust.   I cringe when I see leftist websites beg for money, and claim that I need them to speak for me, as if I were too much of a “loser” to be able to speak for myself.  I hate the idea of supporting someone else who I otherwise would disapprove of, in order to get “protection” myself.  But I have no right to claim that I am above that.  Having spoken out with self-broadcast, I find people come knocking, and when I don’t respond, they see what I call neutrality as actual broad personal contempt or even hatred.

There is, as I said in my DADT-III book, Chapter 6, a moral question about “stepping up” to meet the needs of others when one is able to do so out of more inherited privilege, and a failure to do so when challenged adds to instability.  Lately I have been blogging a lot about issues centered on not just refugees, but particularly asylum seekers, particularly in some cases LGBTQ.  Because I inherited a house with some room and some capital with it, it seems to me I would have a duty to act on the need for housing if possible.  I’m also finding, so far, that assessing the risk involved is difficult because of lack of transparency on the issue, in the legal and social services system.  The U.S. does not have a system (compared to Canada, for example) that would encourage individuals to step up to this challenge without possibly existential personal risk, and yet such risks have existed in many other areas (like the draft in the past).

One has to consider how life goes on if he plays “Good Samaritan”, so to speak, and something goes bad.  He – or I – winds up paying for the sins of others, but that could be coming to me because of my own karma.  Whatever happens, at an individual level, “it Is what it is”, the supreme tautology (Nov. 6 posting).  I am told that a “person of faith” can always deal with this (the idea of taking someone else’s bullet, as if in the Secret Service). But one can emulate the “Rich Young Ruler” by simply having too much to lose. What others see as excess becomes part of the self.  At the same time, the self does not see intrinsic emotional value if lifting others up, possibly because of spoilage and lack of down-to-earth common sense and skills (or “street smarts”), or perhaps of schizoid emotional aloofness, all tied in to the “upward affiliation” already mentioned.  If I were confronted with the possibility of a personal relationship with someone “in need” by external circumstances (that is, not through creating a child in the conventional family), would it “mean” enough to me? “All lives matter”, indeed.

There is a lot of sentiment out there that preoccupation with “being good” (as a David Brooks or a a Malcolm Gladwell would see it) is simply a way to maintain a belief that you are “better” than the people you “help”.  That’s particularly expressed in a recent book “No More Heroes” by Jordan Flaherty (see meritocracy link above). The desired moral paradigm is to belong, particularly to a cause beyond oneself (as in Martin Clay Fowler’s book “A Philosophy of Belonging”) and accept that the group is part of you.  That extends to belonging to mass movements, as in Eric Hoffer’s 1951 manifesto, “The True Believer”.  Other animals experience distributed consciousness (such as dolphins and especially orcas ). Maybe the killer whale really gets right-sizing.

(Posted: Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 4 PM EST)

How Trump (and Putin) believe you create Truth by manipulating people (it’s witchcraft)

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There is something about Donald Trump’s paradigm in doing business that he is trying to carry over to what he says a strong presidential leader should do:  that is, you create truth my manipulating people.

There are many accounts online of Trump’s deals in business, with all the debt manipulations and bankruptcies, and litigation (and threats).  The New York Times and Fortune have typical accounts.

But the most disturbing story of all seems to concern the treatment of gaming securities analyst Marv Roffman in 1990 at the time of the opening of the Atlantic City casino Taj Mahal.  The Los Angeles Times calls it his nastiest deal ever. CNN’s recent documentary on Trump “All Business: The Essential Donald Trump” (correlated to “Unfinished Business: The Essential Hillary Clinton”) aired on Sept. 5 covered this affair.

Trump’s thinking seemed to be, if he could silence the media with threats, then bondholders or other sources of finance wouldn’t get wind of things, and he would, with his grandiose plans, be able to create his own reality and make the place work.  That’s the essence of witchcraft. You create your own reality, by force if necessary.

That also seems to be the strategy of Russian president Vladimir Putin, and, in some ways a bit more complicated, of China also.

For someone like Trump, absolute Truth does not exist, and cannot be discovered with science.  It must be created with political or business power or the ability to manipulate people.

That’s something I remember about a few of my job interviews in the early 2000’s after my “career ending layoff” and forced retirement from ING in the post 9/11 days at the end of 2001.  A few employers were bemused by my absolute disinterest in manipulating people to get them to do someone else’s bidding.

I’m not bothering to get into tonight’s debate performance – his threatening like a dictator, to put Hillary Clinton in jail if elected.  Or his comparing his sexual banter to not being as bad as Bill Clinton, or saying he isn’t as bad as ISIS.

Truth is to be discovered.  Yes, chess players, analyzing obscure opening variations (like in the Sveshnikov Sicilian) know this all too well – and live on the edge of that discovery.

Science is to be discovered – although sometimes we think (when we look at the achievements of teens like Jack Andraka and Taylor Wilson) it gets invented on the fly.  But you can only build a fusion reactor or a new cancer treatment when you fully discover the “true” science behind it.

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Update: Oct. 14

There’s been a lot of talk about Trump’s behavior with women and his threats to sue the New York Times (and probably NBC) over the stories.  The New York Times has an editorial on Trump and a free press today, here. The Washington Post (Paul Farhi and Robert Barnes) explains that Trump would have a very high bar to overcome to win a libel suit since he is a public figure. (Gawker was different because it was partly about privacy.)  Theoretically, Trump could sue anyone who even tweets the link to one of the stories about his alleged behavior, but that would probably only make his targets rich from the publicity.  But it is possible to be liable for a mere hyperlink (but the plaintiff would have to show malice and recklessness in the social media user if the target were a public figure). Commentators think that Trump’s threats are about intimidating other women who may have been accosted from coming forward

(Posted: Sunday, October 9, 2016 at 11:45 PM EDT)

Global crowdfunding enables Pride event in Uganda (then police attack, apparently causing it to stop)

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Press contact at All Out (for additional info, photos and video):

·         Pamela Adie, Senior Campaigner, in Lagos, +2348110949524, pamela@allout.org [English]

·         Matt Beard, Executive Director, in Kampala, +256 789 929 231, matt@allout.org [English]

·         Enrique Torre Molina, Campaigner, in Mexico City, +52 1 5546913246, enrique@allout.org [English and Spanish]

PRIDE IN UGANDA POSSIBLE THROUGH GLOBAL CROWDFUNDING

More than 2,500 members of LGBT rights movement All Out donated to fund the event

Lagos, Nigeria – 3 August 2016: Pride celebrations start this week in Uganda, fully funded by more than 2,500 members of All Out, a global movement for the rights of lesbian, gay, bi, and trans (LGBT) people. The event, themed “Standing together!”, will culminate with a Pride march in Kampala on Saturday, August 6.

“As a gay man living in a country where my love is illegal, it’s so crucial to me that we don’t let hate keep us down”, says Isaac Mugisha, one of the activists organizing the event. “We will continue to fight for the right to love. We will continue to stand together. We will show our Pride louder than ever before.”

“Against the backdrop of so much homophobia, hate and violence directed against LGBT people in Uganda, this Pride celebration is a rare and precious moment of community, solidarity and visibility for the local LGBT community”, says Matt Beard, All Out’s Executive Director, who’s in Kampala for the event.

In June, All Out launched a crowdfunding campaign to help fund Uganda Pride. More than 2,500 individual donors from around the world contributed and secured the $20,000 USD needed for the event. The campaign website with an up-to-date donor count is available at https://go.allout.org/en/a/pride-uganda/.

Uganda has one of the world’s worst anti-gay laws. It’s one of the 73 countries around the world where being LGBT can cost you your freedom or your life. Pride Uganda is one of the rare chances for LGBT Ugandans to express their identities publicly and safely. A Pew study from 2013 showed that 96% of Ugandans do not think their society should accept homosexuality. Same-sex activity has been illegal in Uganda between men since 1894, and between women since 2000.

Video selected by editor: 

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Picture added by editor:

By Michael Shade at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Sreejithk2000 using CommonsHelper., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10482991

Editor: There is more background on Uganda and anti-gay discrimination in Africa here and here.

Wikipedia article on LGBT rights in Uganda.

Wikipedia maps on LGBT-laws by country all over the World.

Vice has an article by Nick Hadwika Mlawuko, Jan. 25, 2016, “The anti-gay movement in Uganda is still alive and kicking.”

(Published: Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016 at 11 :15 PM EDT)

“Always Be Closing”: Sales culture is becoming a runaway train wreck for decent job creation

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Recently, I unplugged my telephone line from my digital voice router.  So right now, old landline robocalls get an answering machine, and I read the Xfinity log occasionally for messages.  About once a week, there’s an IRS scam message, among others.

I think the robocall epidemic is like a Runaway Train (like the 1985 movie, or the more recent “Unstoppable”).  Like email spam (and even some Twitter) it’s an end-stage symptom of sales culture imploding.

After recessions, we’ve had the mistaken impression that we can create jobs, especially for older workers (like me, after my career-ending layoff in December 2001 at 58) by having them sell stuff, especially leisure lifestyles, financial planning, life insurance, subprime mortgages, and so on.

One thing attractive for employers is, of course, is that most of the compensation can be commission, that is, production-related.

I was somewhat in favor of some of these ideas in the 1990s.  Sometimes, companies would pay associates for “piece work” instead of outright layoffs (an example was the Ohio company Lincoln Electric in the early 90s, during the post-Persian-Gulf-War mini recession that helped Bill Clinton get elected).  It’s true that the most successful artists or authors can earn their living this way, but it’s a winner-take-all (relative to niche) world.   Sometimes bloggers did the same, in specific areas, like Mommy blogger Heather Armstrong, starting in 2002, after she got fired by an employer who didn’t like what he saw on her personal blog.   A site that gives advice that may work for some bloggers is (Australia’s) Ramsay Taplin’s “Blogtyrant” (he started out as a physical fitness coach). But, again, this is all about niches, aggressive selling, in combination with content that actually helps relatively specific people.

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In 2002, an overwhelming portion of the “job opportunities” that came up quickly in Minneapolis (where I remained living until 2003) were sales-related.  One of the most striking was PrimeVest, which was predicated on contacting people with whole life policies to convert them to term.  That may be good advice for some people, but I doubt this is a $40 trillion market, as claimed.  I listened to the presentation, and wound up interviewing the interviewer myself, who became very defensive (he had set up a husband-wife team to run this little quasi-franchise as if it were Amway-like).  I could do that because I had a lot of knowledge of life insurance with my 12 years at ING (ReliaStar/Uslico). I wound up playing Donald Trump.   (By the way, when I happened to be home mid-afternoon for personal business 2 days after 9/11, which still at ING, I got my first unsolicited call from PrimeVest).

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In the good old days, life insurance agents sometimes had a nice world, with their convention qualifications.  But even then, it was an “aggressive business”, much more so than I had realized.  Agents had to keep after new business, setting up kiosks in shopping malls, for example.

I was approached by two life insurance companies, rather aggressively, to become an agent in 2005.  I went through some motions, but “declined”.  It seems that the ‘fast start” and “getting business” now has a lot to do with trailing consumer behavior online through tracking tools (for those who don’t use “do not track” correctly) and cold calling them.  No, this is not promising for me.

I would even be approached to sell subprime mortgages (in early 2007, just before the bust started), and to supervise “at risk youths” roaming shopping malls raising money for “charities” (in 2009).

My own father was a “salesman”, a manufacturer’s representative, for Imperial Glass, until 1971.  He claimed he could sell anything, but really he had a very stable business and worked only selling wholesale to department stores in the mid-Atlantic.  That sort of living isn’t possible today.  Mother helped him do the books by hand.  He did orders with a hand adding machine.

There is a snarky belief among “content creators” (including most “computer programmers”) that sales people aren’t “smart enough” to make it in really technical areas.   Of course, as any team from IBM or Univac in the 1970s (or from H Ross Perot’s old EDS, with its prudish dress codes) that’s rather condescending (although EDS used to send out memos to employees saying that dress codes were necessary to impress customers who didn’t really understand technology).  This maps to the old style conflict over “family values” and spills over into old divisions over race and “faith”.

True, there’s only so much room for 50-billion-dollar internet companies created in dorm rooms by Ivy League undergraduates (yes, Mark, you’re more convincing on SNL than Jessie Eisenberg playing you).  There’s more room for young scientists (who create “content”), like Jack Andraka or Taylor Wilson, but as for job creation that goes only so far.  I would rather have a self-concept derived from content creation than from “hucksterism”.  Yes, I have a couple of piano sonatas  I’d like performed and a sci-fi novel that I would like to groom so it can really sell.  I can admire the accomplishment of a composer Timo Andres, who at age 23 had composed the world’s largest (of “all time”) two-piano composition (“Shy and Mighty”), but indeed “It Takes a Long Time to Become a Good Composer” – and it takes commission money for income.

So, we come back to the world of weekend self-help promos (ranging from “feeling good about yourself” to something practical like “cash flow management’). We hear presentations on how to set up distributorships for telephone cards – for low income people who don’t have efficient Internet access – it sounds so predatory.

Donald Trump hasn’t gotten into any of this at all.  Hillary Clinton is more likely to talk about this problem this fall, I hope.

Remember the 2002 comedy film “100 Mile Rule” by Brent Huff, where salesmen were told to “Always Be Closing”, as the mantra.  I think of Trump University and the reports that sales people were pushed to get potential students to go into debt to attend, so they could learn “How to Get Rich”.  But to me, being a “salesman” sounds like a shameful identity,

Is this something to be gotten over?  Most of the calls and emails today are about “deals.  I’ve already mapped out my plans.  I don’t have time to listen to someone’s elevator pitch for a “deal”.  So I don’t respond to the calls, or emails (which could be spam and lead to malware or ransomware infections anyway).   Most SEO is probably no good – Google and other engines change their algorithms all the time to defeat it.  You can’t clean up your old Windows computer with a third-party product downloaded from a YouTube ad or from a thumb drive ordered from an 800 number.  Most of these sales pitches seem to come from sheer desperation, from people who have become unemployable and want Donald Trump to save them

So I don’t take these calls at all or open emails.  (Yup, I can tell when a headline mentions a warranty on a car I no longer own.)  Yet, I worked as a “telemarketer”, part time, for the Minnesota Orchestra in 2002-2003 for fourteen months, and that gave me some stability at the time.  I actually got pretty decent at raising money for music.  But then, after moving to DC, I tried selling subscriptions for the NSO, and that experience fell apart completely (details for another time).  But I found out that people who had majored in music (even like the character Shane Lyons in “Judas Kiss”, played with the charisma of Timo Descamps – the Other Timo) have to become salesmen and sell subscriptions to mass-market events (familiar classical or pop family events, never mind the esoteric modern stuff) to make ends meet and start careers more.  In that classic gay sci-fi film, “Danny” (Richard Harmon, “the greatest of all time”) is the only real and promising content creator among the major characters.

Does this mean we have to become more willing to answer the phone again?

(Published: Sunday, July 31, 2016 at 5 PM EDT)