Some elements of the GOP go out of their way to marginalize LGBTQ people, and then fail to address infrastructure and health care with real policy

I’ve had a running debate on Facebook Messenger with a particular friend in northern Virginia’s LGBT leadership, and he asked that his name not be reproduced because be feared (however facetiously) the “alt-right”.

I have said to him that I resist being drawn into specific initiatives sponsored generally by the political Left on narrow issues mostly having to do with discrimination (however “systematic” the “oppression”) against (members of) self-defined groups.  Likewise, right now at least, I don’t raise money under my own name (like with GoFundMe) for “other people’s causes” however compelling (I don’t ask people to give for the Houston flood, except maybe here in this post; I simply do it myself.)  That could even change in the future with certain circumstances.  I’ve said I want to focus on civilization-threatening problems like North Korea, nuclear weapons, power grid security.  I also want to focus on subtle free-speech (and gatekeeper resistance) problems, like downstream liability and implicit content. I’ve said that “we” have bigger problems than bathroom bills.  (As I type this, I hear on CNN that North Korea claims now to have miniaturized ICBM-mountable hydrogen bombs, not “just” Hiroshima-like atomic bombs.  And we have Trump with the nuclear suitcase.)

My friend (whom I see as pretty centrist between Left and Right, more or less with Hillary Clinton’s positions on most things, much more conservative than Sanders or even Obama) agrees that the GOP should focus on actually fixing healthcare, securing infrastructure security and solving the problems with refugees, and with enemies like ISIS and North Korea  — and facing the responsibility to future generations on climate change.  He says it is the GOP that looks for scapegoats (right now, transgender people) with bathroom bills or pseudo-religious freedom bills. I agree.  And some parts of the alt-right make scapegoats of all immigrants, and are more aggressive in a desire to subjugate non-white people than I would have believed.  This puts pressure on me to come back to focus on defending “oppressed groups” rather than paying attention to existential problems that can affect us all.  In my situation (benefiting from inheritance and trying to downsize myself out of a house partly for “political” reasons), it gets harder to work on what I want than on what others would demand of me.  It’s harder to stay away from unwelcome personal entanglements.

Here are a few of his comments:

“Focusing on infrastructure like FDR did during the Great Depression, of that scale, is definitely the winning ticket. The real problem is the GOP in Congress doesn’t want to spend money, especially on big national projects. However, they will if it is funneled through the largely Republican controlled states. So the grid and space projects all have to be designed as pork spending to states with only a small national office to coordinate, if that. Moreover, the money has to go to key swing states.

“I’m getting tired of this extreme bipolar discord manufactured by billionaires who spend their money on this negative crap rather than helping society in productive ways. None of this was in the news (Page 1) until Trump began dangling red meat at crowds to capitalize off fringe. Even the labels of left and right are becoming meaningless. Whatever happened to a sense of decency? It’s been replaced by circus clown.

“I look at another way. The bathroom bills are pushed and funded by right wingers who make it a priority over everything else. The LGBTQ-activist aren’t to blame for reacting. The blame lies squarely with the well-funded right that wants to obliterate all the gays off the face of the earth. And any progress made in the last 20 years. Why pinpoint blame people who fight against them for human rights and social justice. It makes no sense to me. You are right however, that the priorities of the nation need to be focused on things like infrastructure and beefing up national defense.”

Here are a few of his best links:

Americans United for Separation of Church and State: “The Religious Right’s War Against LGBT Americans

I think there is more to say here.  People “on the right” see meaning in forcing others to comply with the same moral rules they think they should follow; that’s their answer to “inequality”.  They also have to deal with the logically existential idea of personal “rightsizing”.

Emily Crockett, “How the Left can stop arguing and beat Trump”.

James Hohmann “The Daily 202: False moral equivalency is not a bug of Trumpism; it is a main feature”.

George Michael’s “The Rise of the Alt-Right and the Politics of Polarization in America”.

It strikes me that the alt-right uses identity politics and even “intersectionality” much as does the radical Left.  The groups are different.  But the exploitation of “relative deprivation” (and the personal undeservedness of others) is the same, even if the Right seems to have much less justification in history.

(Posted: Saturday, September 2, 2017, at 9 PM EDT)

Who “gets to be recognized” as a legitimate “journalist”?

So, who gets to call the self a journalist?

The recent queasiness in Congress and the FCC about matters like Section 230 and network neutrality bring this question back.  Yes, I’ve talked about the controversies over “citizen journalism” before, like the day before the Election on November 8, 2016.  And recently (July 19) I encountered a little dispute about access requiring “press credentials”.

The nausea that President Donald Trump says the “media” gives him seems to be directed at mainstream, larger news organizations with center-liberal bias – that is, most big city newspapers, and most broadcast networks, and especially CNN – he calls them all purveyors of “fake news” as if that were smut.  More acceptable are the “conservative” Fox and OANN.  Breitbart and Milo Yiannopoulos (with his own new site) seem to be in the perpetual twilight of a tidally locked planet.  Perhaps I am in the same space;  Trump doesn’t seem to have the same antipathy (or hostility) to “independent” or “citizen” journalists (which I had feared he would when he said he didn’t trust computers), but a lot of other people do.

I digress for a moment. Coincidentally has set up his “Trump News Channel” on Facebook (Washington Post story) but the URL for it reverts to “Dropcatch”, with Twitter won’t even allow as a link as supposed spam.

The basic bone politicians and some business people pick with journalists is that “they” spectate, speculate and criticize, but don’t have to play, like right out of the script of the Netflix thriller “Rebirth”.  Politicians, hucksters, sales professionals, and perhaps many legitimate business professionals, and heads of families – all of them have accountabilities to real people, whether customers or family members.  They have to go to bat for others.  They have to manipulate others and concern themselves with the size of their “basis”.  Journalists can do this only through double lives.

I could make the analogy to kibitzing a chess game, rather than committing yourself to 5 hours of concentration in rated game.  (Yes, in the position below, Black’s sacrifice hasn’t worked.)

But, of course, we know that renowned journalists have paid their dues, most of all in conflict journalism. Sebastian Junger broke his leg working as an arborist before writing “The Perfect Storm”. Bob Woodruff has a plate in his skull but recovered completely after being wounded in Iraq. Military services actually have their own journalists and public affairs.  Young American University journalism graduate Trey Yingst helped found News2share before becoming a White House correspondent, but had done assignments in Ukraine, Gaza, Rwanda, Uganda, Ferguson, and was actually pinned down at night during the Baltimore riots in April 2015.

That brings us back to the work of small-fry, like me, where “blogger journalism” has become the second career, pretty much zoning out other possible opportunities which would have required direct salesmanship of “somebody else’s ideas” (“We give you the words”), or much more ability to provide for specific people (maybe students) in directly interpersonal ways.

Besides supporting my books, what I generally do with these blogs is re-report what seem like critical general-interest news stories in order to “connect the dots” among them.  Sometimes, I add my own footage and observations when possible, as with a recent visit to fire-damaged Gatlinburg.  With demonstrations (against Trump, about climate change, for LGBT) I tend to walk for a while with some of them but mainly film and report (especially when the issue is narrower, such as with Black Lives Matter).  I generally don’t venture into dangerous areas (I visited Baltimore Sandtown in 2015 in the day time).

I generally don’t respond to very narrow petitions for emergency opposition to bills that hurt some narrow interest group.  What I want to do is encourage real problem solving.  Rather than join in “solidarity” to keep Congress from “repealing” Obamacare by itself, I want to focus on the solutions (subsidies, reinsurance, the proper perspective on federalism, etc).  But I also want to focus attention on bigger problems, many of them having to do with “shared responsibility” or “herd immunity” concepts, that don’t get very consistent attention from mainstream media (although conservative sites do more on these matters).  These include filial responsibility, the tricky business of reducing downstream liability issue on the Web (the Section230 issue, on the previous post, where I said Backpage can make us all stay for detention), risks taken by those offering hosting to immigrants (refugees and asylum seekers), and particularly national security issues like the shifting of risk from asymmetric terror back to rogue states (North Korea), and most of all, infrastructure security, especially our three major electric power grids.

My interest in book self-publication and citizen journalism had started in the 1990s with “gays in the military”, linking back to my own narrative, and then expanded gradually to other issues about “shared risks” as well as more traditional ideas about discrimination.  I had come into this “second career” gradually from a more circumscribed world as an individual contributor in mainframe information technology. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” had suddenly become a particularly rich issue in what it could lead to in other areas.  So, yes, I personally feel that, even as an older gay man, the LGBTQ world has more to worry about than bathroom bills (Pulse).  I think the world we have gotten used to could indeed be dialed back by indignation-born “purification” (as a friend calls it) if we don’t get our act together on some things (like the power grid issue).  But I don’t believe we should have to all become doomsday preppers either.  We should solve these problems.

A critical component of journalism is objectivity and presentation of Truth, as best Truth can be determined. Call it impartiality. You often hear Trump supporters say that, whatever Trump’s crudeness and ethical problems, what Trump promotes helps them and particularly family members who depend on them.  Of course many journalists have families without compromising their work. But this observation seems particularly relevant to me.  I don’t have my own children largely because I didn’t engage in the desires or the behaviors than result in having that responsibility.  I can “afford” to remain somewhat emotionally aloof from a lot of immediate needs.

In fact, I’ve sometimes had to field the retort from some people that, while some of the news out there may be dire, I don’t need to be the person they hear it from.  I could be putting a target on my own back and on others around me.  Indeed, some people act as if they believe that everything happens within a context of social hierarchy and coercion.

My own “model” for entering the news world has two aspects that seem to make it vulnerable to future policy choices (like those involving 230 or maybe net neutrality). One of them is that it doesn’t pay its own way.  I use money from other sources, both what I earned and invested and somewhat what I inherited (which arguably could be deployed as someone else’s safety net, or which could support dependents, maybe asylum seekers if we had a system more like Canada’s for dealing with that issue).  That means, it cannot be underwritten if it had to be insured, for example.  I can rebut this argument, or course, by saying, well, what did you want me to do, get paid to write fake news?  That could support a family.  (No, I really never believed the Comet Ping Pong stuff, but the gunman who did believe it an attack it claimed he was an “independent journalist.”  I do wonder how supermarket tabloids have avoided defamation claims even in all the years before the Internet – because nobody believed them?  Some people obviously do.)   No, they say. we want you to use the background that supported you as a computer programmer for decades and pimp our insurance products. (“We give you the words,” again.)  Indeed, my withdrawal from the traditional world where people do things through sales middlemen makes it harder for those who have to sell for a living.

The other aspect is that of subsumed risk.  I can take advantage of a permissive climate toward self-distribution of content, which many Internet speakers and small businesses take for granted, but which can be seriously and suddenly undermined by policy, for the “common good” under the ideology of “shared responsibility”.  I won’t reiterate here the way someone could try to bargain with me over this personally – that could make an interesting short film experiment. Yes, there can be court challenges, but the issues litigated with CDA and COPA don’t reliably predict how the First Amendment applies when talking about distribution of speech rather than its content, especially with a new literalist like Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.

A lot of “Trader Joe” type people would say, there should be some external validation of news before it is published.   Of course, that idea feeds the purposes of authoritarian rules, like Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping, or perhaps Donald Trump.  But we could see that kind of environment someday if we don’t watch out.

(Posted: Monday, August 7, 2017 at 4 PM EDT)

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 (but maybe “ephebophilia”).

Update: March 5, about 11;30 PM

Here’s a controversial link by a University of Chicago professor (Rachel Fulton Brown); a reply on Patheos and a blog post on “loving Milo”.

Charles Murray has had a similar problem at a college in Vermont, story.

Do moral debates wind down to personal risk-taking?


Can we reduce some of our debate on “moral” issues, to the equitable sharing of personal risks?

The most obvious example of that question in my own life was probably the way the male-only military draft played out in the 1960s, during the Vietnam war, especially with the student deferment system, eventually replaced by the lottery.


Today, we see some of the same idea expressed in Mark Rowe’s series “Somebody’s Gotta Do It”.  Yup, us city slickers seem to have a false sense of individualism, when we contemplate the fact that people serve in volunteer fire departments out of a sense of belonging, not to be recognized for accomplishments.

As for emergency services, I wonder if we will have police departments able to protect us from the indignation or nihilism of others, if we keep prosecuting police for “mistakes” when having to assess risks the see on the streets with people.  I’m a little bit with Donald Trump on this.  Blue Lives Matter.  Remember, feudalism — the ultimate “doomsday prepper society” — developed during the Middle Ages because there was no law and order in the countryside.

There’s another part to the risk.  If you get hurt and really maimed and disfigured, your partner will still love you and remain intimate with you.  Or, if something happened when you were too young, you’ll sill be able to find someone who will.  That’s a herd matter which demands a certain amount of “aesthetic realism” in personal affairs from everyone.

Having children means taking risks.  Parents never know if they will be unlucky with genetics or mishaps.  They can have more kids.  Adopting children with needs really means taking risks.  Long term intimacy — a commitment to it — involves “real life risks”.  Sometimes, community events are set up involving the appearance of a personal sacrifice of one’s own surface values to make intimacy easier for others.  The “Be Brave and Shave” marathons at the Westover Market outdoor veranda a couple years ago, to benefit cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or even bone marrow transplants, comes to mind.  (This might be a “no spectators” type of event.) But so hazing “tribunals” at colleges and fraternities of the more distant past.  So does the end of a short film “Bruckner’s Ultimate Finale” by Nicholas Alispahic, enacting a sacrifice before a “Second Coming.”

So, indeed “all lives matter”. But assisting those who have been at real disadvantage – such as refugees or asylees – also means personal risk-taking.  While one may want to get everything right legally before jumping in, in practice people able to help others are used to having others’ backs and accepting the idea the need others to have theirs.  You could obviously say that about housing, employing, or helping the homeless, or those with past criminal convictions.  Helping others sounds identity-transforming, where the group around provides all the relevance for the self.


“Real people” supporting “real families” have to play ball and take some risks. If you really need to make your Internet website support your family, you need customers, so you need some aggressive sales tactics, and you need to get around finicky attitudes about popups, ads, and email lists.  You need to remember the Golden Rule.  You need to be open to letting people approach you and sell to you, sometimes.  You might need to be able to answer the front door for a door-to-door salesman, and have family or support watch your back in the rare incidence of home invasion.

So if you want to “matter”, you need skin in the game.

But somehow the “middle section” of the 1978 film by Michael Cimino, “The Deer Hunter“, with the Russian roulette scene in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, comes to mind.

(Posted: Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016 at 11:45 PM EDT)

Why did “old time religion” try to restrict sexuality to proceative marriage for everyone, without exception?


Maybe 80% or a little more of American young men (from mid or late teens on) feel enough “innate” attraction to women that they “want” intercourse – to complete an act normally capable of procreation. I feel pretty sure of that from everything my father said, and from what roommates (especially my first one at William and Mary) said in dorms during my own college dorm years in the 1960ss, and yes, from what I remember of Army Basic and later.

Whatever the moralizing that will follow, this seems pretty hard-wired, by genetics, epigenetics and biochemistry.

So, when young men used to hear the “no sex outside of marriage” dictum, it indeed seemed like wise, self-interested behavior, to prevent unwanted pregnancies, before teens or young adults were far enough along in education and careers to raise a family comfortably.  The dictum certainly seems intended to protect women from unwanted advances. Back around 1965, when there was a line in the Elmer Bernstein musical of James Michener’s “Hawaii” (properly screen-written by Dalton Trumbo) about the importance of getting married, that was what everyone thought.

Indeed, heterosexual couples learn that waiting until after marriage to “go all the way” increases pleasurable tension, even suspense.  And then there is the observation (by George Will and others), that “women tame men”, maybe 80% of the time.

But less “conventionally” competitive men –  including gay men, and sometimes transgender, find something sinister in all this. They are no threat to become rivals for girlfriends or to cause unwanted pregnancies.  Still, this old idea (and it has, at least until Pope Francis, laid at the center of Vatican ideas of sexual morality), when implemented aggressively, as in many religious anti-gay cultures (and in most of US society until at least Stonewall in the late 1960s) seems designed for force all men to find wives, form families, and have children within them.

In fact, that seems to be what is behind, rather specifically, the “anti-gay propaganda law” in Russia passed in 2003. The whole idea seems to be that talking about homosexuality in public would allow “marginal” men (“waverers”) to nurture the idea that having families as kids isn’t important – in a country with a severe  problem with low birth rate.

As one of these unconventional, “wavering” men, I grew up in a culture (largely in the 1950s) that was determined to maintain the expectation that all men born as biologically male accept their fair share of the community risk in protecting women and children (as by being subject to the military draft, and as by being pressured to play contact team sports), and, when the time came (hopefully by the mid 20s at the latest) start giving the extended family or tribe its next generation.  In this world, you took care of your own – but that was easier if everyone else had to do the same thing.

So one way to implement this idea on less secure men was a universal application of the Catholic idea – no sexuality outside of marriage.  No fantasy, no masturbation.  It put a lot of pressure on men for consummation their wedding nights.    The Catholic Church also came up with an idea for men it knew weren’t up to the usual challenges of lineage: a celibate priesthood, a curious institution of lookers and judges who pretend to surrender a function that makes them human.  We know it doesn’t always work out.

There’s somewhat of a moral paradox in a society that calls itself free and wants to maintain the idea that every human life has value – and this goes way beyond the usual debates about abortion or even euthanasia.  Collectively, it’s not OK for people just to remain in their comfort zones  of upward affiliation (playing on championship teams, so to speak) when engaging others in situations that pose interpersonal challenges.  To allow everyone the psychic luxury of unlimited upward affiliation is to invite elitism, exclusionism, and eventually authoritarianism – maybe of the Trump (or Putin) kind, but sometimes much worse, as history teaches us. So, in many “insecure” cultures, it seems critical to get everyone to be willing to tie their own sexuality and intimacy to actually accepting dependence of others within one’s own group or family, and only then branching out.

In a society of increasing freedom and selfie-driven individualism, there is increasing social pressure to join very public efforts to help others – and render everyone “OK”.  This “gofundme” attitude is something I resist. As a paradox, I find I want to hold on to my standards that enable me to idealize certain people.  I don’t want just anything, even if caused by unavoidable natural disability, to be OK.

Indeed, I look back and see a paradox in Christianity itself.  We are to honor a historical young man whom the modern gay world probably would have scored as a “perfect 10”, someone ageless, still perfect when He ascended into Heaven (“where everything is fine”).  Yet, we are to love others without expecting a mirror of ourselves, but pro-actively, from something within, something that can sometimes produce new life, even if we’ve been tested and purged by rituals designed us to look and feel all the same, all one.

Those of us who kept our use of sexuality personal, for purposes other than future generations, sometimes find ourselves challenged by circumstances not of our volition.  These might include eldercare, having for some reason to interact parentally with other people’s kids, or even raise them.  This is a lot easier for someone who had and raised his own kids (and for someone with the strong inborn drive to procreate).  It seems as though exposure to the interpersonal “risks” of parenthood is a factor in the equality debate, at least within any cohort. That goes against a culture that, since the 70s perhaps, has emphasized individual visibility and treated marriage and child-rearing as a personal afterthought — maybe with dangerous demographic consequences over time.

It all sounds like mandatory socialization, something that ignores inherited dispositions (like introversion), or sexuality and identity issues, and demands certain facilities from everyone, so those of us who are somehow “special” don’t take undo advantage of the risk-taking of others in the group.  That’s how it was when I grew up.  I’ve never been able to simply go along with the idea that being “different” automatically means that all of your needs go to the front of the line when compared to others. That sounds like “identity politics”.


A recent example of this kind of thinking is shown by a Washington Post story (by Julie Zauzmer) about Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, which leads campus religious organizations at over 600 institutions around the country, will involuntarily terminate any employee who publicly disagrees with their position that sex (or sexuality) should occur only within heterosexual marriage.  I think I ran into someone who had been fired by the group when I was living in Minneapolis.  As a “libertarian”, I support the “right” of a religious employer to control its employees as it sees fit, but I would ask the employer why “what others do” is so important to them.  I think it’s another example of herd morality:  it’s a value set that is supposed to give less advantaged people a chance and incentive to have children. But it puts the employer or other authority figure in a position of being concerned not only that an adult take responsibility for the choices he/she has already made (to engage in acts that can produce children) but also that “outlier” people compete in their game and share the contingent responsibility for raising future generations.

Here’s an essay on old fashioned “Vatican” morality on my legacy site, dated 2006.


Oh, how I remember that “old time religion” scene in the 1960 film “Inherit the Wind” (about the Scopes trial).  Bipartisan Report has an article saying “Before European Christians forced gender roles, native Americans acknowledged five genders.”

(Posted: Sunday, October 2, 2016, 11:15 PM EDT).


Do “herd effects” undermine libertarian concepts of morality?


We’re used to the libertarian idea of “harmlessness”:  as long as our choices don’t harm others more or less directly, and as long as we pay our bills, we’re morally OK. Right?

For some things in life, there is indeed a herd effect.  (I’m reminded of the Nerd Herd in the NBC series “Chuck” and the “Buy More” box stores.)

The clearest example right now is probably the vaccine denial debate.  I accept the idea that overwhelming evidence suggests that all the major childhood vaccines are safe.  But, as a philosophical matter, I can’t rule out the idea that a particular vaccine in rare cases may increase the chances of some other problem, including autism.

So parents who don’t allow their kids to be vaccinated are benefiting (as are their kids) from the herd immunity of kids who are vaccinated.

That’s true somewhat for adults with flu shots.  But I think, if anything, there are good reasons for parents of college-age students to insist on both meningitis vaccines, especially the newer Type B (which is what is responsible for some of the horror stories of amputations).  In a dorm, herd immunity is even a more important concept.

In the posting Sept. 16, I noted the herd effect with HIV, and the way the right wing had tried to blow it up in the 1980s (especially in Texas) to mount a political attack on gay men.

With health insurance, there is a herd effect.  If presently healthy people have to purchase insurance, it is easier to cover the illnesses of the unluckly, and accidents (sometimes tragic, as baseball recently learned) do happen.  In the insurance business, the applicable concept is called “anti-selection”.

With gun possession, there is also a herd effect, and it works both ways.  With so many guns in circulation, it is very difficult in practice to keep weapons away from criminals (gangs, drug cartels, terrorists, and so on).  On the other hand, there is a reverse herd effect. If potential criminals believe that most of the homeowners in a neighborhood have legally licensed weapons, then the non-gun owners are safer, too.

(Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 at 11 PM EDT)