The shame of speaking only through a heckling mob, if limited to that

Recently the New York Times ran a constructive op-ed by Michelle Goldberg “The Worst Time for the Left to Give Up on Free Speech”, featuring a split demonstration poster demanding to “Shut Down Milo Yiannopoulos”.

The editorial makes a central point that democratic societies typically feel they need to take certain topics off the table as legitimate content for discussion. For example, the essay gives, the idea that women and people of color should be subordinate to white men (you can expand that to cis white straight men).  The editorial relates an incident at William and Mary recently where an ACLU speaker was heckled and disrupted for supposedly working for white supremacists, which activists demand there be zero tolerance for.

There are plenty of similar examples, such as bans on neo-Nazi speech in present day Germany.  The most obvious bans are usually intended to protect groups defined by race or religion (and sometimes ethnic nationality) from being targeted again by future political developments.

By way of comparison, many people believed, back in the 1950s, that there was a legal ban on discussing communism.  The federal government, for example, who not employ people who could not ascertain they had never been members of the Communist party. Communism could be banned if it was construed as embedding violence (or the attempt to overthrow the US government) as part of its definition (as compared to socialism, even Bernie Sanders style).  But Communism generally, as defined, did not target specific races or religions (although we can certain argue that Stalin persecuted people of faith, including Jews, and so did Communist China).

You could have a similar discussion about trying to overanalyze the roots of homophobia and gender or sexuality related discrimination and persecution in the past, and today in many authoritarian countries. Much of my own writing has dealt with this for the past twenty years, especially the three “Do Ask, Do Tell” books.  I’ve generally (as in my post here Jan. 4, 2017) offered arguments that a lot of it had to do with family patriarchs keeping their own confidence in their own power to have biological lineage (procreation).  I’ve also paid heed to the past public health arguments that got made in the 1980s in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, before the cause was identified.  In my writings I’ve paid particular heed to the history of military conscription and past deferment controversies.

A lot of people don’t appreciate my rehearsing the ghosts of the past (John Carpenter’s metaphorical “The Ghosts of Mars” (1995)), for fear that I could be legitimizing lines of thinking long thought debunked and bringing them back.  Sound familiar?  Is this what people fear from Donald Trump, or, more properly, the people he has chosen in his group?  (How about Mike Pence?)

Goldberg doesn’t go there, but the Left is in a real quandary when it wants to shut down all biological speech   The Left has demonstrated against and protested Charles Murray for his past writings on race and biology.  They object to James Damore for his Google memo on biology (whether this expression belonged in a privately owned workplace is a different discussion). They would probably object to Nicholas Wade’s 2014 book “A Troublesome Inheritance” (media commentary, July 24, 2017). But then what about the gay Left’s dependence on immutability to demand gay equality?  I do think there is scientific merit to discussion of genetics (especially with regard to gender identity) and epigenetics (especially with regard to sexual orientation, most of all in non-first-born men)   I don’t think that replaces libertarian ideas of focus on “personal responsibility”.  But if you want to discuss homosexuality and biology (as in Chandler Burr’s monumental 1996 book “A Separate Creation”) with possible political change as a result, you have to accept discussions of biology, evolution and race.  Admittedly, some people can skid on thin ice when they ponder these things, as they consider plans to have or not have their own children (eugenics used to be an acceptable idea a century ago).

That brings me back to a correlated area: that the identity of the speaker matters, as well as the predictable behavior of the listener of speech (possibly creating risk for the original speaker or others connected to him) — what I have called “implicit content”, a most disturbing and sometimes offensive notion.  The most obvious example in current events news is, of course, the manipulation of social media especially by the Russians to sow discord among different American classes or quasi-tribes, beyond simply influencing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.  The Russians and other enemies used fake accounts and posted fake news in supposedly legitimate-looking news sites and in advertorials.  All of this follows earlier concerns about the misuse of social media, especially Twitter, for terrorist recruiting (by ISIS), as well as cyberbullying or stalking and revenge porn.  The Russians seemed to have noticed that Hillary-like “elites” would not pay attention if “deplorables” could be lured by silly, divisive supermarket tabloid-like content and false flags; elites tend not to care about people “beneath” themselves in this “mind your own business” world much until those people suddenly knock at the door for personal attention (which is something that happens to speakers who make themselves conspicuous, especially on social media).

You can raise a lot of questions here. Is fake news libel?  Maybe.  Litigation is often impractical because it involves criticism of public figures (actual malice, etc). You get to Trump’s ideas about using Britain’s standard on libel.  But a bigger idea is that the fake news fiasco shows why authoritarian leaders keep a tight lid on dissent, even on individual bloggers’ speech, perhaps maintaining that the dissemination of news to the public need be “licensed” to guarantee (alternative) “truth” (sic).  That hasn’t really happened with Trump, yet at least; Trump seems to admire individual speakers even as he hates the established liberal media.

A related idea is whether political ads, and whether commercial ads, are protected by the First Amendment the same way as other speech.  That topic was covered in the second session at a recent Cato conference (Oct. 3, 2017 posting here). Generally, the answer is yes. But this topic has become controversial with regard to campaign finance reform, long before Trump.

In fact, back in the 2002-2005 period, there was a concern that even “free content” of a political nature posted by bloggers like me could constitute illegal campaign contributions (as if not everything in life can be measured by money). The June 12, 2017 post here gets to that, as does this 2005 editorial in the Washington Times, which wormed its way into a major incident when I was working as a substitute teacher then.

That brings us to what I do, which is put out my own series of article and blog posts on the news, augmenting my three “Do Ask, Do Tell” books, under my own brand(s). No, this doesn’t pay its own way.  I have exactly the situation the 2005 Washington Times editorial was talking about.

I’ve been at this since the mid 1990s.  I originally entered the world of self-publishing as a way to participate in the debate over gays in the military (and the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy from Bill Clinton’s compromise that predates Trump’s current transgender ban controversy).   I made a lot of unusual, very individualistic arguments, often but not always consistently connected to libertarianism.  Generally, most of what I have said starts with the individual, apart from any group he or she belongs to. The first book sold decently (in 1997 and 1998, especially) but then became old hat.  The subsequent POD books have not really sold all that well, and I get hassled about it because “other people” can’t keep their jobs based on my books, I guess.  I did have the resources from a well-paid job and from stock market good luck under Clinton (Democrats can be good for the stock market, as Hillary’s elite knows). I got lucky with the 2008 crash and that turned out well for me.  (Short selling?)

But you see where this is heading.  In line with the thinking of McCain-Feingold, one person can have political influence, with no accountability for how the funds were raised.  I actually focused on issues, not candidates (which a lot of people seem not to get), and have very little interest in partisanship.  I could even claim that I know enough about policy and am temperate enough in my positions that I could function in the White House better than the current occupant, but I don’t know how to raise money for people, or for myself.  I but I know the right people to get health care to work, for example.  (Do the math first.)

Then, there is the issue of the left-wing boogeyman, “inherited wealth”.  Yes, I have some (from mother’s passing at the end of 2010).  My use of it could be controversial, and I may not have been as generous (yet) as I should be.  But I have not needed it to fund the books or blogs or websites. (I I had, that could be a problem, but that’s too much accounting detail to get into right here.  But I can’t just turn into somebody else’s safety net.)

I do get prodded about other things I “should” be doing, as a “prole”, because others have to do them.  Let’s say, accept “the free market cultural revolution” and prove I can hold down a minimum wage job (like in Barbara Enrenreich’s book “Nickel and Dimed”).  My life has its own narrative, and that narrative explains my personal goals now.  They’re my goals;  they don’t need to be anyone else’s.  I don’t need to appear on Shark Tank to justify my own “business model”.  But I’m corkscrewing into a paradox: if morality is indeed about “paying your dues” before you’re heard, then it’s really not just about group solidarity.

Both sides of a polarized political debate, but especially the Left, would like to see a world where individuals are not allowed to leverage their own speech with search engines the way I have (with an “It’s Free” paradigm, after Reid Ewing’s 2012 short film, where blog postings become “free fish”), but have to march in step with larger groups that they join.  Both sides want to force others to join their chorus of some mix of relative deprivation (the alt-right), or systematic oppression (the Left).  Both (or two out of three) sides want mass movements (as in Eric Hoffer’s 1951 manifesto, “The True Believer”). Religious groups often follow suit, demanding people join them in proselytizing (which is what an LDS mandatory missionary assignment is all about).  It is certainly personally shameful to walk in a (Charlottesville) torchlight march screaming “You shall not replace us”, but I find carrying anyone’s picket rather shameful.  Other’s will tell me, get over it.  Well, you get over it only if you’re on the  “right” (sic) side?  I won’t bargain away my own purposes.

To me, the existential threat is being forced or coerced (maybe even with expropriation) to join somebody else’s chorus, or hiding from personal responsibility behind a curtain of “systematic oppression”, to be allowed to speak at all. Some pleas for donation to political opinion sites (from both the Right and Left) make insulting, hysterical clams that only they can speak for me, as if I were impotent and had no right to my own branded voice.  They want to force me to join their causes to be heard at all.  It would be more honorable to become a slave on a plantation, or at least a minimum wage worker, whose turn it is now to be exploited just as he was once the undeserving exploiter, until dropping dead.  And then there is no funeral.

But, you ask, why not “raise people up” in a personal way, when they knock, in a way “you” had not considered before you were so challenged.  Is it up to me to make others “all right” in a personal way if others once did that for me?  Maybe. But that’s entirely off line. It doesn’t seem like “accomplishment” (maybe it’s a “creative” challenge for someone who did not have his own kids).  It doesn’t replace my mission of delivering my own content first.

(Posted: Monday, October 9, 2017, at 2:30 PM EDT)

Does the Trump-Putin fiasco all come down to the Magnitsky Act and the sanctions for human rights abuses?

In the past days, there has been a lot of reporting to the effect that one of the major motivations for Vladimir Putin’s encouraging interference with the 2016 US presidential elections was specifically the provisions of the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which punishes at least eighteen Russian officials for the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009.

The punishment apparently impounds significant Russian assets previously held in the U.S. banking system.  These might be connected to other assets, like expensive urban (especially New York City) real estate.  Some commentators have suggested that the financial impact could inspire internal dissension in Russia that threatens Putin’s hold on power. Putin retaliated by banning adoption of Russian children by Americans, which could also reflect concerns about low birthrates.

The law seems fairly narrow as described.  But in 2016, the act was expanded to include “human rights abusers everywhere” according to Fox News. Obviously, the gay community in the U.S. would wonder about connections to abuses (most notably in Chechnya) and the tendency of extrajudicial violence in Russia against various people perceived as unpopular.  And one could wonder about connections to aggression in Ukraine, the Baltics, conceivably Finland later on.

There are also issues for US companies and charities that would employ people overseas, sending them to Russia or to other countries, especially in the Middle East, sometimes SE Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, that are hostile to homosexuals, whatever their non-discrimination policies at home.  One wonders if someone like me who is visible on social media and Google could get into trouble if even trying to visit Russia, say, just St. Petersburg, on a train from Finland. Possibly my posts critical of Putin, or discussing Putin’s concern over the birth rate could be seen as undermining the willingness of younger Russians to have children when they find my material.  Imagine being held in a prison and being forced to remove all my social media presence before going home.  I wonder if something like that can happen.

Matthew Yglesias of Vox has a particularly disturbing commentary today on Donald Trump’s attitude about this whole thing.  We don’t have someone of character (let’s say John McCain) in the Oval Office right now.

Bolshoi, St. Petersburg

Kremlin

(Posted: Thursday, July 20, 2017, 12 noon EDT)

OK, I am a political hobbyist, too, and I don’t have to put my own skin in the game; I plead guilty

The New York Times ran an op-ed by Eitan D. Hersh, “Political Hobbyists Are Ruining the Country” in the Review Section Sunday July 2   Online, the title is “The Problem with Participatory Democracy is the Participants”.  This sounds like a series of choices on a “My Weekly Reader” reading comprehension test in grade school, “the best title for this story is ..”  Oh, that was third grade (1951) when the smartest girl in the class only got 44 out of 60 and poor little Bill got 16.   There’s a similar story in the Boston Globe “The Most Dangerous Hobby” by Hersh, inspired by the WB classic film “The Most Dangerous Game” based on a story by Richard Connell.  We read and watched that in 2005 when I was substitute teaching, in the middle of an incident caused by my own political hobbying.

So I’m one of the problem hobbyists.  OK, when do I “pay my dues” and do my part?  I do vote in all elections, including primaries.  I have worked as an election judge three times in retirement, although not recently. I do talk to neighbors about elections.  They’re both conservative to libertarian.

But I don’t raise money for candidates or issues.  I don’t knock on doors.  And don’t take orders from party operatives or pressure groups on what it is OK to say in a book, social media, or a blog.  And some of the mail I get for partisan contributions (I got one from Donald Trump) is plainly ridiculous. (Back in 1984 I got a very bossy letter from the Dems on how much money I “owed” to help Walter Mondale.)

And I generally don’t respond to urgent pleas to text or call law-makers about very narrow, niche issues.  I feel that if I did, that would dilute my effectiveness on when I have something unique to say. Sometimes I do sign online petitions.  I think I signed one to free Chelsea Manning, which Obama did.

What’s more significant is that I have never run for public office.  I can’t imagine asking people for money.  But in 2000 I almost ran as the Libertarian Party candidate for the Senate from Minnesota.  Another candidate, a gun enthusiast, would run instead and get himself arrested at Mystic Lake to make a point on the right to bear arms.  You see how polarizing this gets.

We don’t encourage the right people to run.  If someone like Anderson Cooper were president right now, the country would be just fine, with no scandals.  I think Anderson would listen to Lindsey Graham and become hawkish enough on North Korea and ISIS (and Russia).

I don’t join mass movements for revolution right now, although I can never say never.  Rather than put all my eggs in some revolutionary idea like single payer, that I know won’t pass, I try to solve problems within the existing system.  Like, if you want to allow a barebones health plan for the young and healthy, accept the fact that you have to subsidize the already sick a lot more, and reinsure them, to deal with the anti-selection problem. If we already had single payer, it wouldn’t be controversial or debated – except that we would have to deal with waiting lists and sometimes end-of-life decisions.  There is no way to escape the math.  Life is not a zero-sum game, but you can’t get something for nothing.  E is still M-C-squared.  So, yes, I am a conservative. And gay.  Welcome to Milo’s world.

The real problem is probably the gratuitous nature of my speech.  I report to no one.  I try to play devil’s advocate for everything, bring up all possible arguments.  I would be more useful, say, working in intelligence, which might have been my career had I grown up in a later, more tolerant or accepting time.

As Milo has pointed out, a lot of times the Left especially (and sometimes the populist alt-right) doesn’t want to allow constructive counter arguments to be made, especially by intelleculoid “Uncle Tom’s” in their midsts.   What partisan leadership sees is resurrecting old chestnuts that could be brought back to oppress or marginalize less competitive individuals in their groups.  After all, at a certain moral level, almost any goal can be “rationalized”.  A good example of this problem has occurred with HIV issues, when public health arguments, while valid (up to a point) can be used as an excuse for stigmatization or exclusion of gay men, a problem we had in the 1980s.  Leadership of activist groups want obedience and consistency of messages among supporters, not people who ask (and particularly self-publish) analytic policy questions on their own.

But that is what I do.   I want to keep an eye on the big picture, especially civilization -changing threats, not just local issues tied to my own identity groups.  That is how I make a difference, in the long run.  At least now   Maybe not forever.

So much for “Hobby Lobby”.

(Posted: Thursday, July 13, 2017 at 9:30 PM EDT)

Russia’s 2013 anti-gay propaganda law predicted the 2016 “propaganda blitz” of the US election

The  major media outlets report on President-elect Donald Trump’s meeting with intelligence chiefs Friday afternoon, with the finding that Russian president Vladimir Putin led a cyber campaign intending to spy on both political parties, but particularly the Democratic party, and influence the 2016 presidential election and make it more probable that Trump would win (or that Hillary Clinton would lose).

The New York Times has a story by Michael Shear and David Sanger, “Putin led a complex cyberattack scheme to aid Trump, report finds”. link here.   The Washington Post has a lead story by Greg Miller and Adam Entous,  “Declassified report says Putin ‘ordered’ effort to undermine faith in U.S. election and help Trump.”   Many papers have Scribd PDF copies of the actual report, “Russia’s Influence Campaign Targeting the U.S.. 2016 Presidential Election” which is rather like a non-fiction book (“Dangerous,” but not by Milo).

Not only did the effort involve hacking of emails, particularly of the Democratic Party and posting on Wikileaks, but it also involved a huge “quasi-fake news” campaign with the outlet RT, or Russia Today (or RIA Novosti). RT posts a large number of videos on YouTube which get large numbers of visits.  I have sometimes used embeds of RT videos in my own legacy blogs.  Generally, though, the excerpts I have chosen are less controversial or sensational and more likely to be credible.

The New York Times offers further analysis by Scott Shane, “Russian Intervention in American Election Was No One-Off”. Jeremy Ashkenas has a description of how some of the hacking was done by phishing.

It should be noted that both Russia and China produce printed newspaper sections that appear as sponsored content in the Washington Post occasionally.

It appears that Russia’s content was specifically intended to fool less educated white voters. Educated or intact people probably won’t be fooled by the silliest fake news stories (like the Pizza Ping Pong).

I agree with Trump that it is unlikely that the Russian hack alone explains Trump’s electoral college upset. I think it was more the insularity of the Clinton campaign, it’s failure to get out enough low income voters even in Blue Wall states, and the “politics of resentment”, a desire to “punk” (to borrow from Ashton Kutcher) the system (Michael Moore called it a political Molotov cocktail).

Trump’s lack of respect for intelligence services seems very dangerous.  Trump says he wants to depend less on analysis and more on field undercover agents overseas.

But what is so noticeable to me is Putin’s belief in the value of propaganda, and his willingness to use it to manipulate less intellectually intact people, “the Proles”.  Trump, of course, behave the same way at his rallies, getting people to chant (“Lock her up!”).  This is typical of authoritarianism, that people should get their information from those in political, familial or religious authority and stay in their justifiable “assigned station in life”.(or accept “right-sizing”).  . Vladimir Putin, before the 2014 Sochi Olympics, had defended the 2013 anti-gay propaganda law as protecting Russian youth from “propaganda”, particularly ideas discouraging less competitive men from wanting to become fathers.  The 2013 law was a warning sign that much worse behavior from Putin was to come.  The law did not itself criminalize sodomy (which was legalized in 1993); but it did outlaw talking about it publicly, in any place where minors could find it – a kind of super “Communications Decency Act” or “COPA”.  It was a kind of national “don’t ask don’t tell” for civilians.  A westerner who travels to Russia and who has public blogs or Internet writings (including public social media accounts) outing himself could probably get arrested when visiting Russia.  I doubt Milo could go safely.

One possible rationalization for (“(T)Rump’s”) bias toward Putin is that Putin would be an “ally” (maybe fake) against non-state and asymmetric enemies (that is, most radical Islamic terrorism).  On the other hand, Putin has indirectly supported state-sponsored terror against civilians in Aleppo (by Assad) on the theory that asymmetric rebel non-state enemies are infiltrating the civilians.  But Putin could create real crises (for NATO) in areas like the Baltics, possibly even Finland.

“Real Donald Trump”, Vladimir Putin is not your friend.

Evidence of Russian hacking attempt reported at an electric power utility in Vermont, on the heels of election “hackergate” and Obama’s actions

The Washington Post, in a story by Julie Eilperin and Adam Entous, reports the discovery of codes associated with Russian hacking in the computer systems of one of the two major electric power utilities in Vermont.  The code is associated with malware known as “Grizzly Bear”.  Other Russian malware has colorful names, like “Pawn Storm”, a maneuver in chess with the opposing armies are castled on opposite sides of the board (like the Yugoslav Attack against the Dragon Sicilian).

The journalists confirmed the story with DHS, which would not say which company was involved.

Malware might cause a power station to overload a large transformer connecting it to other utilities, burning it up, creating a very difficult problem for replacement in reasonable time, as Ted Koppel had explained in his Nov. 2015 book “Lights Out”.

On Nov. 5, I reported a Sinclair Broadcasting story about “Black Energy” malware discovered at one or more unspecified utilities in 2012, and being impossible to remove.

There are no reports yet of any malware causing outages, as far as reported in the media.

The Vermont infection apparently occurred when an employee opened a link or attachment in a “phishing” email disguised to look like official company workplace business.  The email might have purported to come from a vendor or a customer. It is actually more difficult to defend against phishing attacks in the workplace than it is at home for savvy users, who know their own personal operations well enough to suspect phishing emails at sight.

Normally it is very difficult to get to the grid components directly, as they are not supposed to be connected topologically to the public Internet.  This sounds like a problem Donald Trump could talk about quickly.

National security experts have cautioned president Obama about his mode of retaliation against Russia for the supposed hack of both parties during the 2016 election, backed up by circumstantial evidence. Vox has good articles by Yochi Darezan  and Timothy B. Lee .   I personally don’t think Hillary Clinton lost the electoral vote because of hacking.  Comey’s letter (on the emails), Obamacare price hikes, and poor campaigning before certain “resentful” parts of the electorate (the Rust Belt), and poor “getting out the vote” among minorities are better explanations for the loss.  Ironically, Putin played a “waiting move” with Obama today (by chess analogy) and took no action yet (NBC story). Trump, anyway, won’t be in zugzwang.

I personally visited a nuclear power plant in 1982, at Glen Rose, TX, on a weekend Sierra Club camping trip from Dallas, and have visited the grounds at North Anna, which has limited visitor displays.  Ironically, it is near Mineral, VA, where the 2011 earthquake occurred, and in an area with several “intentional” low-tech shared-income rural communities, one of which (Twin Oaks) I toured briefly in 2012.

As the video above claims, the US can also hack into the Russian power grid.

Wikipedia picture of Killington Ski Resort trail, which I visited in February 1973.

(Published: Friday, December 30, 2016 at 9 PM EST)

Update: Dec. 31 early

A newer version of the Washington Post story in print identifies the utility as Burlington Electric, and says that the malware, now called “Grizzly Steppe” was found on a laptop not connected to the grid.  No actual outages or hardware damage has occurred.   Homeland Security was notified immediately when the malware was discovered. The company has a statement about the incident on its home page now.

The Wall Street Journal weekend edition now has a story online by Jennifer Levitz here.  But Rebecca Smith has a story about a ransomware incident (resulting in bitcoin payment) at a Michigan utility (Lansing Board of Water and Light) in April 2016, here. That sounds coincidentally alarming given the problems with the Flint MI water supply (which disproportionately affect low income people and their kids) after gross mismanagement, as covered in the media  in 2016.  Smith also has a story “Fears over U.S. power grid” Dec. 30, p. B3 in print Saturday, explaining how multiple attacks in Ukraine have happened (one on Dec. 23, 2015), and the penetration of four more electric utilities (and thirteen other companies) in 2014, apparently with similar “Russian” malware.

Security companies are starting to discuss these incidents. FireEye offers more info in a downloadable subscription report, link; Root9B has resources indexed here.

Wikipedia picture of Burlington, from Lake Champlain wharves, link.  I have been there once, as a child.

Could Trump’s apparent appeasement of science denial really be a “fake news” feint?

Could there by a subtle undertone to Donald Trump’s apparent playing down of “establishment” science in areas like climate change, clean energy, and maybe even vaccine denial?

On one level, he seems to be pandering to a voter base that is very “tribe” oriented and resents the elitism of “know-it-alls” (like me) who don’t share the real hardships of real people with hardscrabble family responsibility.  Indeed, he seems to have leveraged the “politics of resentment”, something that used to be more associated with the left (Marxism and Maoism) but that also inhabits some areas of the far right (the “doomsday prepper” crowd).  This is a social concept that has presented many problems for me in my own relations with others in some circumstances, especially when I had to break out of my own world and interact with people who may be needy in some particularly troubling ways.

Indeed, Trump’s behavior when running “The Apprentice” generally seemed “logical” and congruent with modern values, however strident he could sound when saying “You’re fired!” in “The Boardroom”.  He was appropriately critical of double standards among subordinates, and of pretenses of self-abnegation that he frankly and appropriately called “life-threatening” in one episode.  Were he to stick to the values he espoused in “The Apprentice”, and showed it with his appointments to office (“You’re hired”), a lot of people (myself included) might feel more comfortable. (We can even forgive the self-sacrifice of Troy McClain in Season 1.)

I’ve actually tweeted the “Real Donald Trump” about attending national security briefings (he says he is too “smart” to need to do this every day; leave it to Pence and later Mattis), and particularly about power grid and infrastructure security.

In fact, as I’ve outlined, any infrastructure program to buttress power grid and other infrastructure security will mean moving some manufacturing back home (good for jobs, but not for the same people as the voters who supported him), will mean a lot more tech jobs (especially a new level of cybersecurity in private industry) and will be good for climate change concerns, because it is easier (and much more cost effective for investors in energy and utilities, as I have personally been, as has been both sides of my family) to secure components of a renewable system than power generation and distribution systems based on older fossil fuel technologies.

I can’t believe Trump doesn’t know this.  (After all, I told him on Twitter!)  But he could have a good reason for not talking about it openly.  Not only to mollify his previous voter base.  But also to avoid drawing too much attention of our enemies to what we really are going to do.  (But, of course, one of our enemies could be the Sun, and it won’t care.)   As long as concerns about the power grid are perceived as the province of the extreme right and of doomsday preppers, enemies won’t realize we’re serious.  If credible sources (moderately conservative media resources like Sinclair Broadcasting or me, as well as Fox, Breitbart and “Milo”) talk about it more openly, we could draw unwanted attention to our own plans.

So, in the meantime, Trump could provide a diversion by acting like he really believes climate change is a hoax (even after hearing “An Inconvenient Truth” from Gore’s own mouth).  It’s a little more disturbing, though, that he acts like he needs to “run up the score” by a superfluous touchdown on his electoral college victory, and that he might indeed remain thin-skinned on personal affronts, even on his supposedly rightful power now to right-size citizens (“only I can do this”).

Indeed this kind of Hitchcock-like strategy seems improbable in the days of open Internet and media.  Maybe there is enough fake news to cover up what is really going to happen.

(Posted: Monday, December 26, 2016 at 10:45 PM EST)

Should a controversial president-elect affect “you” personally? Don’t believe Glenn Beck

nyc10

Tuesday night, conservative commentator Glenn Beck told Anderson Cooper on AC360 that presidential election should never affect “your” private life.  The culture of the nation, yes.  But it should be life as usual for real people.

True, for much of my adult life, most of the pressing issues have relatively little to do with who is in power at an level of government.

But you don’t have to look very far to see why many individuals are anxious about what could happen to them personally as a result of the Electoral College upset win by Donald Trump on November 8.

The most “obvious” targets would be the adult children of undocumented workers.  We’ve heard a lot about “sanctuary cities” and “trust” states (California and Connecticut).  The very latest seems to be that Trump now says he won’t go after people who haven’t committed crimes.  What happens when people are picked up for misdemeanors or traffic infractions – that sounds like it could change, or become a focal point for some of the “sanctuaries” needing federal funds.  Police departments say that they need the cooperation of undocumented people who haven’t committed crimes to help ferret out real criminal and terror threats.  Going after undocumented people for its own sake could actually be bad for national security.

The video below presents an interview by CNN with an undocumented “dreamer” near the Trump tower (built by apprentice Bill Rancic) in Chicago.

Another obvious risk is an increase in profiling and shooting incidents on non-white looking people by police.  I hate the term “people of color”.  Latinos can look completely white, and some people (as in the Middle East or India) with slightly darker skin are technically (mostly) Caucasian.  The whole concept is ridiculous today.  President Obama is half white.  Imagine the spectacle (and risk of outright martial law in some locations) if there is another Ferguson-style incident somewhere. And there will be.

Still another group is people with individual health insurance under Obmacare.  Some have had their premiums raised for compliance-related coverages that they did not individually need.  Some of these people were understandably angry and voted for Trump (others had subsidies that took up the slack ).  People in states with only one exchange insurer were worse off.  Others, those with pre-existing conditions and low incomes, have benefitted from Obama’s accomplishment.  A sensible solution would be to combine reducing unwanted mandatory coverages with a reinsurance concept to cover claims related to pre-existing conditions.  As a businessman, Trump should understand already how reinsurance can work.

Another possible “target” could be people who work in media or even independent journalists and bloggers like me.  I’ve already covered that here (as on Nov, 7 Nov, 11, especially “citizen journalists”).  Matthew Yglesias of Vox throws some more light on the situation for different kinds of media with his “100 Days to Save the Republic” here where he speculates about oligarchical ties from Trump and an increase of what would amount ot SLAPP lawsuits.  At least one commentator has speculated that for Trump to roll back net neutrality would hurt small speakers.

As to sexuality issues, there are two main areas.  One is women who have unwanted pregnancies.  Trump sounds interested in appointing socially conservative justices who would overturn Roe V. Wade.  Then he says pregnant women would just have to find states where it was still legal.

Trump, thankfully, does not sound interested in rolling back gay rights.  In fact, early on, before he made some his horrific statements in the primaries about immigration, Log Cabin Republicans seemed to support him over other candidates.  It’s pretty clear that LGBT asylum seekers and refugee applicants could find Trump’s climate very challenging.  (Asylum would be unlikely for undocumented adult children, as above, because usually applications have to be filed within one year of arrival.)  But on other issues, Trump says that gay marriage and repeal of sodomy laws are settled (compared to abortion). New York Post has a relevant story here.   But then why does Trump consider Judge Pryor a possible nominee to the Supreme Court (Pink News story).   On the military, Trump is said to have supported the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” but oppose transgender integration.   In fact, Trump sounds personally less empathetic on transgender issues (as with the bathroom controversy) than other “mainstream” gay rights, and shows some interest in paying some heed to the silly “religious freedom” bills getting thrown around in southern and midwestern states. Trump had gay candidates on his Apprentice Show, and obviously he thinks there is other sympathetic “gay talent” out there similar to Peter Thiel.  Ted Cruz had accused Trump of supporting “New York values”.

A good question would be, if Trump wants to get rid of some government regulations, would he be interested in abolishing Selective Service, and assume we will never have military conscription again?

Certainly, government and presidential policies affected my own personal life in the more distant past, including my being drafted in 1968, and thrown out of school in 1961.

(Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 2:15 PM EST)

Social media has unpredictable effects on politics; old organizing methods much less effective; and the fake news crackdown

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Facebook, especially, among social media companies is getting a lot of scrutiny now for the way its news feeds skew reader perception of the news, sometimes with “fake” or “baited” stories, with the latest piece by the New York Times Nov. 12 by Mike Isaac.

I had covered this toward the end of my piece on the possible threat to citizen journalism on Nov. 7, one day before the election.  Some commentators say that Facebook’s algorithm for feeding news to users gave Trump an unusual advantage in the election, something comparable to a deep Knight post in a chess game.

The “problem” is that users get feeds based on their previous likes and other behaviors, among “friends” and pages that they “follow”.  People tend to follow and befriend others with similar worldviews.

The same people are less likely to get establishment-sourced news from newspapers or television.

We can think about the way people get news all the way back to the 1950s, when most movie theaters started shows with news reels (I especially remember those from the Korean War) which could give the government and large companies a platform for politically loyal propaganda.  Then television gradually took over.

Indeed, I remember looking forward to seeing the morning Washington Post on the sidewalk (finding out how the Senators did in a Midwest night road game – the old “A’s Hop on Pascual,, Too. 6-1” thing), and another paper, the Evening Star, before dinner.  It was from the Star that I first learned about Sputnik in 1957.

And in 1959-1960 we had a history teacher who gave pop quizzes on current events.  We had to read JFK’s “Profiles in Courage” before JFK was elected.

My own Facebook news feed is pretty balanced – a lot of hysteria from both sides.  I’m inundated by Survival Mom and the doomsday prepper crowd, because I’ve posted a few links to stories about EMP and solar storms and to possible efforts by Peter Thiel and Taylor Wilson to prepare long term solutions to power grid security problems (I surmise that Donald Trump is interested in this now but hasn’t said so publicly).  I also see alarmingly strident posts from normally “upscale” gay white men about Trump’s election.  I see a lot of identity politics.  I see a lot of everything, because my “following” market basket is indeed pretty balanced.  So I do see a lot of valuable “early warning” news stories on Facebook from smaller publications and pressure groups.

One result of social media is that people don’t feel that they need to be “organized” or to get out an organize others.  I don’t like to be recruited, or to recruit other converts or to chase people (1998 piece by me in the Minnesota Libertarian )  Conventional political operations as a career field seems threatened.  In earlier times, where only “gated” news sources had wide leadership, grass roots political organizing (the kind Barack Obama was good at in Chicago) was much more necessary.  But the unintended result in this past election might be that certain minorities (who are much less literate and savvy in their use of social media) simply didn’t feel prompted to get out and vote.

But social media (as I noted in the previous post) also perturbed how the “online reputation” problem, already growing and affecting the workplace by the mid 2000s, could be managed.  It would be much harder for governments or employers to silence people online when people had such powerful social media companies behind their backs. (That’s a good thing about the way the “dot com bust” was followed by consolidation of Internet service companies.)

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Facebook could do the public a service by offering an “optional” newsfeed, not influenced by personal “Likeonomics”, based on an “opposing viewpoints” concept as I outlined on a legacy blog.  Facebook could find 5-10 non-profits to provide peer review of the feed.  Maybe Facebook should set it up as a separate site.

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Update: Nov. 15

Both Google and Facebook are catching the “fake news” debate. Google can face criticism both over its ad network and its search engine algorithms.  There was a snow flurry when apparently search engines showed that Trump had won the popular vote (which is not true).

Google has announced a policy preventing the display of Adsense on deceptive sites, which presumably includes fake news sites, as explained in this Wall Street Journal article Monday.  The policy will prohibit the placement of ads on sites that “on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose”.  I don’t see the policy yet on the Adsense page (as of Tuesday night at 9 PM EST) but it presumably can appear at any time. It would not seem to be directed at “amateur” sites per se.

Facebook’s stance seems more double-edged and is still evolving. I find different viewpoints online as of right now as to how serious it is about baiting readers with fake stuff.

Edward Snowden has discussed Facebook’s slow response to its click-baiting news feeds here.

Olivia Solon has a story on the Guardian that questions whether Facebook is serious about ending the click-baiting and exaggerations, here.  It also presents a “Trust project” to help users flag fake news indicators and suggests companies treat fake news the way they do spam blogs.  It’s not the same as defamation, but that’s another discussion. We’ll have to come back to this.

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Update: Nov. 16

Vanity Fair has an important story by Jeff Zucker, “The Real Culprit Behind’s Trump’s Rise“, about blending entertainment and real journalism.

Twitter seems to be taking action against “alt-right” accounts, although when I checked Milo was still there (USA Today story).

(Posted: Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016 at 11:30 PM EST)

 

Assessments on what Trump and GOP will do about immigration, other issues seem to calm down a bit

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I’ve done some analysis of the likely results of Trump’s “upset” win in the 2016 Presidential Election on legacy blogs, especially for LGBTQ concerns and for free speech (see previous post).  There is so much to process that in a post tonight I’ll touch mainly just on immigration for right now; health care, anti-lobbying reforms, and foreign policy later.

The Cato Institute’s Dave Bier has published an article explaining the in general Republican House members and Senators don’t share president-elect Donald Trump’s previous draconian positions on immigration.  For example, here is his latest paper .  Most Republicans see little to gain in terms of national security from deporting children brought here “illegally” by parents (Obama’s Deferred Action program ).

DC Center Global offered a link on Facebook with some analysis of how Trump’s presidency will affect asylum seekers and refugees on “The Asylumist” , by Jason Dzubow.

Trump probably can stop the approval of refugees from some countries (like Syria) which could disrupt programs already underway with large non-profits and many faith-based groups (Christian churches are very willing to help settle Muslim refugees).  I hope that Trump will realize that the large charities supervising the process with DHS approval are providing very thorough supervision indeed.

Processing of asylum seekers, and getting approval in time (during which asylum seekers cannot work and may dependent on others), could slow down, and the range of situations that are viewed as legitimate could narrow.  This might affect how LGBTQ asylum seekers are perceived, especially from some countries (like Russia) where Trump wants better relations.

On the other hand, if Trump really tries to deport “dreamers” by revoking Obama’s XO, some of them could file for asylum.  An asylum seeker can remain here legally with temporary paperwork while the slow asylum process works.  Generally the asylee cannot work or draw public benefits and needs to find other persons (or charities) to support and house him or her privately.

David Lauter offers a valuable primer on what Trump “can and can’t do” in the Los Angeles Times.  He can’t undo same-sex marriage (conceivably he could re-impose the military gay ban but no one now seems to think he will) and he can’t declare some speech libel on his own, although, as I said in my previous post, he might have emergency powers to deal with national security threats on the Internet.

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My own impression about the election results is that several factors increased the vote for Trump in battleground states. In fact, the whole concept of the Electoral College makes voters in smaller swing states more powerful than those in larger states (same as for Senatorial representation), as ABC’s Dan Abrams explains.   But as for the factors that affected voters in Rust-Belt and southeastern states: One was hidden resentment of “elitism” and a desire of many white working people to be “left alone”;  one was the effect of Comey’s bringing up the email issue again (twice), as some female voters noted as seeming more serious than Trump’s lockerroom talk; another was that African-American voters didn’t show up as much as expected (vote times are too long in some black neighborhoods). I’m a little unnerved by hearing Trump complain already about “professional protestors” in the streets.  Am I a “professional” journalist disguised as an amateur blogger?

(Posted: Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 11 PM EST)

Update: Nov. 15

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There is a lot of talk about “sanctuary cities” (Washington DC will remain one), and whether Trump’s INS really will round up some million adult kids brought here by undocumented workers (“illegals” is a bad word).  I don’t think it will happen because it’s a total waste of enforcement resources in fighting real threats.  It’s not very feasible in practice.  However, it could prompt some LGBT children of undocumented parents from hostile countries to seek asylum, creating additional challenges for those who might host of assist them, even in assessing the credibility of the claims. Although, many applications probably could not be accepted if more than a year had passed since original arrival — so this could be an unpredictable risk.