Supreme Court to take up gerrymandering; a filmmaker (Jon Ossoff) runs for office today

The Supreme Court will take up the issue of partisan gerrymandering, and the design of voting districts by a party in control to cause the opposing party to “waste” its popular vote. The New York Times has a story Tuesday morning by Adam Liptak here. The specific case deals with Wisconsin.

Gerrymandering helps explain why politicians sometimes persist in passing laws that seem silly to moderate voters but that are designed to appease a more extreme and sometimes ideological base, especially rural conservatives. Gerrymandering made the infamous bathroom bills (with all their add-ons spilling out against other minorities) live as long as they did in North Carolina. Legislators did not seem to care that major tech companies and big league sports events could pull out.

Jeff Reichert had made a documentary film “Gerrymandering” which was offered with the West End Theater in Washington DC opened in 2010. Gerrymandering does indeed pervert democracy.   In a sense, the electoral college in presidential elections (as we found out in 2016) offers the same possibilities for mathematical mischief that gerrymandering does at the local level.

Right now, gerrymandering seems to be more used by Republicans to leveraging the popular vote in rural areas. Gerrymandering reflects a problem that, for example baseball fans know. Suppose a team splits a doubleheader, winning 14-0 and then losing 1-0. The team wishes it could have scored 12 runs in the first game and saved two runs for the second game, to complete the sweep. But it doesn’t work that way.

I get rather annoyed when others try to draw me into hyper partisanship. One time during my mother’s last year in 2010 a relative did that (for the GOP). I get appeals for funds from both parties. I get hysterical emails from Karen Handel in Georgia (today’s election). Why should I support an out-of-state politician anyway, so I might not have to pay a little for someone else’s health coverage?

As far as that race goes, it strikes me as intriguing that a documentary filmmaker and writer Jon Ossoff (“Living with Ebola” and “The Battle for Africa”) wants to run for office, and give up the distance that journalism (“spectating”) and its objectivity allows him. Maybe that’s the point. I can’t imagine asking people to give me money to run for office to get them what they want. I can’t imagine going door-to-door for politicians in a world where people fear home invasions.

(Posted: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 at 11 AM EDT)

Donald Trump’s authoritarian values (and the values of his quasi-“deplorable” followers)


There are a lot of articles in the media today characterizing Donald Trump as an existential threat to democracy that respects individualism as we know it now.  Here is a sample.

Who Goes Trump?” by James Kirchick, Tablet   This piece characterizes many Trump supporters as actually well-off, but psychologically insecure, of questionable character, uneasy about the legitimacy of their own prosperity and particularly needing authoritarian values to be imposed on them and others to give their lives meaning.  A significant danger is that other people in the administration, who “support” Trump, would not constrain him from dangerous or impulsive conduct, because they share similar values.

The Dangerous Acceptance of Donald Trump”,  by Adam Gopnik, the New Yorker.

The Conservative Case for Voting for Clinton”,  by David Frum, The Atlantic

America and the Abyss”,  by Andrew Sullivan, New York.   This is one of the darkest pieces, put in terms of voting for fascism.

Is this scaremongering by the ‘elite left” (or by “progressive” or “compassionate” conservatives)?  Some people I talk to in person, who I don’t think would fit into Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” seem to think so.

Amanda Taub of Vox Media explains Trump’s appeal to people who believe in authoritarian social values (which are not always connected to one party or another but have tended to migrate to the Republican Party because of the party’s suborn (sometimes religion-driven) resistance to some gender and race related social changes.  Authoritarianism is associated with a need for “strongman” leaders who can use threats to “bargain’ for their constituents, and who see violence as inevitable in a dangerous world. Authoritarianism usually values conformity and obedience to creativity and “dependent” independence.

Let me walk back a few impressions.  First, my recollection of Trump’s behavior in conducting the “Boardroom” in “The Apprentice” is generally positive.  He nearly always made appropriate comments, however sharp-tongued he was, in deciding who to fire in a particular episode of “rank and yank.”  The people he hired seemed to be responsible young adults and even role models.  (That includes Omarosa Manigault, as well as Troy McClain, who survived a public leg-waxing “for the team” and whom Trump put through college.) He did have LGBT contestants on his series (living in the hotel with other contestants, quasi military style), but I don’t recall if an LGBT person won an “apprenticeship”.

So at first when I heard, maybe in early 2015, that he was serious about running for president, I thought this was a good thing.  He had said that he supported solving the health care issues once and for all, even if he wanted to get rid of Obamacare.  He seemed fine with Social Security and Medicare.  I felt he could be “safer” than some of the conventionally Santorum-like Republicans.

So I was disturbed at many of Trump’s most boorish proposals. Some of them seem to disregard due process and the rule of law (which Trump says he wants).  I won’t re-elaborate here, as do the articles above.

Trump does come across as someone with narcissistic personality disorder.  He seems unwilling not to get his way.  He sounds like the evil side of someone like Shane Lyons in the movie “Judas Kiss”.  (In the movie, Shane displays the homosexual equivalent of Trump’s heterosexual musings and attractions, someone who always gets what he wants – “Danny”.)

I have to share a certain commonality with Trump of my own.  Just as Trump pretends “only I can make the country great” by manipulating everyone into submission. I pretend that I am unique in the ability o keep tabs online of all “knowledge”, keeping everyone else “honest”.  The “ethics” of this is something I’ll cover again later.  I also share Trump’s aversion to elevating or honoring victimhood, to making weakness “all right” in personal interactions.  Like Trump, I feel that “victims” really pay for the crimes of their perpetrators, which sounds like a moral paradox but unavoidable logically driven fact.   (Trump said of John McCain, “He’s a war hero who was captured. I like war heroes who weren’t captured.” That is, there are no victims.)

So I do share Trump’s appreciation for the unprecedented asymmetric nature of externally-driven threats that ordinary American civilians can face, from “enemies”.  I understand his leverage of that “Russian roulette” scene from “The Deer Hunter“.

I am also concerned that the “asymmetry” argument could be used to justify new controls on some kinds of “gratuitous” speech, but I’ll get into that later.

Trump does appeal to people who relate to the world by their hierarchal relations with others, where manipulating others to get them to behave a certain way (like buy from you) is seen as a critical life skill, apart from the validity of the product or service or belief or goal being addressed.  Trump appeals to people who value “power” (or “right”) rather than “truth”. People of this persuasion typically believe that families and communities must be cohesive and must discipline and “right-size” their own members, who will then share in the fate of the entire community.   Trump (with Pence) is more likely to appeal to certain segments of the Christian evangelical community (despite his own behavior) who accept the idea of proselytizing, or to people who like to sell to others (“always be closing”) and manipulate others for their own sakes, but who may not have an intellectually deep or analytical grasp of their world (and may not respect modern science as opposed to their local “street sense”).

I ran into many people with this world-view after my “retirement” from I.T. post 9/11 at the end of 2001. In many job interviews for more people-oriented positions, I found some employers to be surprisingly concerned about my diffidence concerning any interest in directly manipulating others or getting them to respect me “just for authority” (as I used to say to my father).  One interviewer became particularly unnerved and defensive in front of me when I asked the normal “rational” questions about the credibility of what he (actually a husband-wife team)  wanted to sell and how he wanted to manipulate potential consumers.  Trump’s values seem all too common with a lot of “average Joe’s”.

The pity is that many of Trump’s concerns about national security are actually well founded.  But there are constructive solutions to these problems he could talk about without race baiting. He needs only to ask Peter Thiel.

I might be supporting him if he really solved the problems without resorting to strong-armed tactics and vitriol.

(Posted: Friday, November 4, 2016 at 11:45 PM EDT)

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


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.


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)

Hillary Clinton’s server and email scandal(s), not quite as “bad” as Trump’s recklessness, but still a regrettable “process piece”


So, does the “email server scandal” really create a serious issue with Hillary Clinton’s character and her fitness to become president?  Does it still leave some lingering legal questions about some unknown future prosecutorial or impeachment threat?   Indeed, the chant “lock her up” at the RNC (to Chris Christie’s mock court and Mike Flynn’s speech) and even among Sander’s protestors yesterday, is rather sickening.

First, let’s separate this from another email scandal that erupted Monday in Philadelphia at the DNC, the apparent Russian hack intended to show prejudice against Sanders and apparently improve Trump’s chance of election.  I cover this on Blogger here.  There’s also a story by Julian Assange on the hack here.

The problem with the Hillary Email Server Problem is that it criss-crosses several other issues and competing interests.

One issue is, of course, the specialized care in handling classified information.  But ethically it is comparable to the responsibility for private companies and sometimes government agencies to protect PII for customers.

The other big issue is that most “salaried professionals” in today’s workplace do want to work from home.  This creates issues especially during travel.  Generally, workers are expected to use corporate or government computers for business use only, and sometimes that’s a legal requirement. But, especially when “out and about”, workers can’t always carry two sets of hardware around everywhere (there’s a good question as to bringing multiple laptops through the TSA – you can, but I wouldn’t want to try it).

That’s one reason why many tech businesses have allowed BYOD at work. The major exposure in most cases is live consumer PII on a worker’s own device.  There are various discussions online of the security implications, but one of the best is on Digital Guardian.  It seems important that workers not save consumer devices on their own devices, but it’s hard to see how you could stop that from happening.

There are companies that hire work-at-home customer service reps who use their own computers, although there are strict security requirements.  One example is Sykes-Alpine Access.

In the days before the Internet when a lot of computing was on large mainframes, it was common for people to take work home – even listings of parallel test results (with live consumer data sometimes) before system implementations.  A home break-in could conceivably compromise consumers, but nobody worried about this in the late 80s and early 90s. I sometimes kept listings at home for reference  —  CYA proof at all times that I had done my job properly for something now running all the time in production with millions of clients.

Production “on-call” support at night for batch cycle abends could be done either from dumb terminals taken home (which were not very effective), corporate laptops, or personal desktops or laptops (which could be equipped with PROCOMM or similar product) to log on to a work mainframe.  I usually used my own hardware because of another “conflict” which I have explained previously.  I can recall that as early as 1985, when I logged on to a mainframe terminal, I was reminded of a state (Texas, at the time) law regarding computer crime.  Employees were held accountable for any misuse of their accounts, as if someone else knew their passwords or if they left themselves signed on when they went home.


I’d add here that in September 2001, about 2 weeks after 9/11, there was a serious email virus problem where I worked, which could have infected me at home, and which led to some uncomfortable conversations, as I recall that period (seeing “discuss issues 1:1” in your calendar).

That brings us to the subject of jobs requiring government security clearances and access to military or state-department (or other agencies, like Energy) classified information.


I do have some experience to bear.  In the Army, I was stationed at the Pentagon and later Fort Eustis (1968-1970) and had a Secret clearance and occasionally handled classified documents (not often). The same was true when I worked as a computer programmer for three summers at the David Taylor Model Basin (Navy) near Washington, and later for the Naval Command Systems Support Activity at the Washington Navy Yard (from 1971-1972).  The building I worked in is still there, if fully renovated.


At no time did anyone take work home.  Documents were signed for.  Even when handling unclassified materials, there was a “clean desk” policy.  You had to put everything away before you went home.  Civilians took turns as post-work-hours “security inspection officer”.  All of this went on toward the end of Vietnam and during SALT talks.


I would never have any further experience with security clearances except in June 1988 when I interviewed for a job with Mitchell Systems as a contract IBM mainframe programmer for the State Department.  I would have gotten that job, but instead chose to go to a health care company (now The Lewin Group).

All this would seem to make Hillary Clinton’s decision to “work from home” seem reckless.  Clinton understandably needed to work from her home in New York State on weekends with “Bill” as well as in her office in DC.  It would seem to an outside observer that the State Department should have installed a server following its own security rules.  Clinton reports there were some difficulties in getting this done (the libertarian “government doesn’t work” litany) so it was much easier to go to private contractors (Geek Squad, maybe) to get her set up.

Her main defense is “mens rea” – to the best of her knowledge, she handled only unclassified emails and other unclassified materials on her home server, as explained here on ThinkProgress (a few emails turned out to be classified, and more would become classified later – and, yes, overclassification is a big problem).   There are many accounts, such as the New York Times (with timeline) and even the Washington Times.  There is an account by Michael Arnovitz on “The Policy” that puts her “conduct” in perspective when compared to Gen. Petraeus (although “two wrongs don’t make a right”, as I recall Advocates for Self-Government broadcasting from Georgia back in 1998). It’s hard to imagine how she could have worked well at home if she got a 3 AM call about a terror attack in the Middle East on one of these weekends.  That’s why it sounds as though she should have worked harder to make sure the State Department fully equipped her with legally secured connections when taking office.  Government can do this for presidents (her husband), so why not major cabinet heads like State and DOD?   I’ve thought about these issues in my own career, but Hillary Clinton had a level of responsibility I never took on, even as eventful as my own career often seemed at the time.  Indeed, this is an issue where you’re too close to the “red button” even in your own bedroom, with your own spouse.   There would seem to be more of an issue for Hillary while traveling to other places (especially overseas) but she would have had a paid security staff with her to handle the clumsiness of security logistics.  I’m reminded of my own preparations when I travel. I have no such resources.

Hillary had made other careless remarks about technology.  Like, “I love Snapchat, those messages disappear all by themselves.”  Well, not always.  But Donald Trump has made plenty of reckless claims of his own, about “shutting down those tubes” which I’ve already covered.


On balance, I feel more uneasy about Donald Trump’s instability and recklessness than Hillary’s, but I think we’re seeing the results of a system that doesn’t encourage the right kind of people to run for office (and “raise money” from other people’ sources).  If we had a businessman as GOP nominee, I’d rather have seen Mark Cuban (who knows my books).  Imagine Anderson Cooper (as a journalist) or Tim Cook as a Democratic nominee.   Johnson-Weld sounds like the most temperate and ethically responsible ticket.  Coming back to Hillary’s preplexing judgment on the her own BYOD server issue, I can only compare it to situations in my own career where I was in a canyon for a long time and accepted something based on compulsiveness of perhaps just immaturity and inattention as normal, because I couldn’t see out of it — but climb out I eventually did.  Likewise, when driving on a plateau, I eventually come to a precipice and can look out over the next valley.  Hindsight is not too comforting in accounting for one’s own past bad judgment.

First picture is the Port Richmond area of Philadelphia, about three miles from the DNC site, near the 2015 Amtrak derailment site. Philadelphia is not “another borough” of New York City.

(Published: Tuesday, July 26, 2016 at 2:30 PM EDT)

“Donald Trump”: How many times can I say his name?; Hillary Clinton needs Bryce Harper in her bottom-of-the-ninth lineup


I could put a funny spin on Donald Trump’s “Be Very Afraid” speech last night in Cleveland at the RNC. In fact, the first subsection of Chapter 6 of my first 1997 “Do Ask, Do Tell” book was “Be Very Afraid”.  Let me dismiss some of the non-homosexual comedy, like the stuff about plagiarism, and Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement.

The “real” comedy is to say, well, Hillary Clinton gets to bat last and pull off a home team walk-off.  And maybe she could use Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy in her lineup in the “bottom of the ninth”, suddenly one run down.  I remember a baseball game back in 1978 when the Yankees led the White Sox 11-9 going into the ninth at home, when the White Sox got a three run homer and went ahead 12-11.  Then Chris Chambliss hit a homer in the bottom of the ninth in the short porch to win 13-12.  But remember, the Yankees won that famous Bucky Dent game in Boston on the road.

The Washington Post greeted its readers Friday morning with the headline, “Donald Trump portrays a nation in peril.”  The lead-off editorial reads “Mr. Trump’s apocalypse now.” Comparisons to Nixon in 1968 may be apt.  A recent CNN series (“The Seventies” and “The Sixties”) documented the radical left wing (as well as Palestinian) terrorism of the day (I remember the threats made by the People’s Party of New Jersey back in 1972).  Cities, including part of Washington along 14th St, were devastated by riots (while I was in the Army).  We had survived the Cuban Missile Crisis and Kennedy assassination, and still bought the domino theory that led us into Vietnam, supported by male-only conscription and a divisive student deferment policy.

It may be true that absolute crime numbers are lower today.  But “average citizens”, middle class and up, may be in more peril today because of the “asymmetry” of the various threats, which might include WMD’s and cyberwar.    And I may closer to the “marginal” or even “slight” risk area because I’m somewhat dependent on “inherited wealth”, although not quite as much as some people think. Trump (and even Peter Thiel, below) neglected to mention specifically the strongest possible anchor for the “nation in peril” (or “western civilization in peril”) argument: the idea that our people have, for the most part (excluding the preppers, below) become so dependent on communications and physical technology. But a Trump with a pointing finger touching a red button could be another existential threat.

I don’t have the personal survival skills of a doomsday prepper, and I need civilization – and expressive, emancipating personal freedom to lead a meaningful life.   I wouldn’t be of any use in the world of NBC’s “Revolution“.  So I personally take sustainability and stability of out way of life — and threats to it from enemies, especially foreign — very seriously.  Processing some of the “threats” is problematic for me.  I experience locally weak social capital.  I don’t have anyone to watch my back, and I really don’t watch anyone else’s.  Yes, I call 911 if I see something.   But I can’t answer Remo Zero’s “Save Me”. I can’t make someone else “all right” when he or she isn’t.

In fact, a lot of people are irritated at me because I am always the one bringing up the peril posed by external events, and refuse to remain focused on the narrower needs of “my group” (and there is more than one group).   A lot of people just aren’t interested., in what happens “on the outside”.   They somehow believe their interpersonal ties (or religious faith, sometimes) will see them through if the external world around them is destroyed.   They would rather be “alive” than be proven “right” (a great line about this from the piano prodigy character Ephram appears in the TV series “Everwood”).  My concern about personal logistics and how external threats could derail it (and issue when I was coming out in 1973 and still in the suburbs) and need for personal mobility betrayed an unwillingness to form emotional attachments to people “where they were.”  Today, my concern about keeping my broadcast voice available (which Mr. Trump could conceivably turn off, claiming national security concerns over misuse of UGC platforms for terror recruiting) betrays a similar aloofness to “real people.”  When I am gone, people will go on without me,

Social capital gets talked about from two directions.  One is top-down, as with a recent sermon that I heard on “scruffy hospitality” to accompany “radical hospitality” as a foundation for a community’s resilience (from natural events or enemies).  Part of making everyone matter is allowing relationships with people with less obvious “ambition” really matter.  But the more troubling direction is “bottom-up”, which starts are a reaction to my own operations.  People wonder why I don’t like to “sell” other people’s messages, as if that were beneath me.  I’ll come back to this later.

I have to mention Peter Thiel’s peculiar speech last night.  He was dismissive of the attention given to the bathroom bills (“Who cares?”)  Trump sounded clumsy in saying “L G B T Q”.  The HRC blasted Trump as a “huge bigot” early this morning, somewhat perplexing supporters (story).  Maybe HRC regards Trump now as “Enemy Mine” (as in the 1985 sci-fi film).


Still, I go on.  I think we can solve our problems.  I keep after the press to cover the most serious ones.  So far, only Ted Cruz and Newt Gingrich have discussed the threats to electrical infrastructure specifically.  Why doesn’t Donald Trump talk about this, instead of bashing Hillary?  (The value of his own real estate holdings certainly can be undone by WMD’s).  Thiel, whatever criticism he earns for Gawker and other attitudes, is paying a lot attention to infrastructure and security as an investor – as all tech investors realize they must.  If we work smart, personal sacrifice and unwanted intimacy become less demanded.

One other thing:  no one person can “fix” the asymmetric peril for the country or for western civilization.  “No one knows the system better than me.  Which is why, I alone can fix it” is an absurd promise.  And a president Donald Trump can’t make you safe on day one of an administration without doing things we would all regret.

(Posted: Friday, July 22, 2016 at 11:30 AM)

Note: The iPhone baseball picture above, rotates in Google Chrome, but displays properly on IE, Edge, Mozilla, and Safari on any computer;  on any iPohone it rotates.  I had to rotate it in WordPress first.  This seems to be a small settings or software bug;  will report when i can find out.  Try this in Mozilla and Edge if you want to see the baseball picture display right.

Did the Libertarian Party really pick “liberal Republicans” as candidates? Maybe this is the LP year


The Libertarian Party is getting more attention in this year’s presidential campaign than ever before.  There are questions in the minds of some whether the nominees from Orlando, Gary Johnson (former Republican governor of New Mexico) and especially William Weld (former Republican governor of Massachusetts) are “libertarian” enough.  The Wall Street Journal has a typical story by Byron Tau here. Weld, particularly, may be closer to mainstream GOP-ism than Donald Trump. Both candidates has served as moderate governors and have real-world public service experience, something voters should notice.


But that sounds like the exception that swallows the rule.  Johnson and Weld may be more like very moderate Republicans who may be what most voters want:  liberal on social issues, conservative on fiscal matters.  If they can get on ballots and get into debates, they could really roll up some numbers this year, more than Perot in 1992 (who, remember, threw a tantrum and withdrew and then re-entered).

My march zigzags with the libertarian world started in the 1990s with GLIL, Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty, which in more recent years has had trouble sustaining much mass.  A buzzword in those says was “the world’s smallest political quiz”, with the four poles (square corners) of authoritarian, conservative, libertarian, liberal.


Once I moved to Minneapolis in September 1997, it was in the libertarian world (the Libertarian Party of Minnesota) that I found an interest in my books, and got a couple of speaking engagements. My epoch there was punctuated by Reform Party’s Jesse Ventura’s election to the governorship in 1998.  I would meet Ventura in person at the HRC dinner in Minneapolis in late September 2001, two weeks after 9/11.

I even considered running for the US Senate from Minnesota in 2000, but yielded to a more “hard-core” faithful on issues like guns. (It was in MN that the wicked little dramedy “Bill’s Gun Shop” was shot by  Dean Hyers in 2001.) Had I run, I wonder what I might have done this year. Could I beat Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, LOL?

Anderson Cooper (who is obviously qualified to be president himself, and he would be a first, both as a journalist and as an openly gay man) interviewed Johnson tonight on CNN.  Johnson made the case that immigrant workers add to the economy and argues (as does Cato, and Niskanen) that immigrants don’t take away jobs Americans want.  He said that many legal prescription drugs are far more dangerous that marijuana, supported marriage equality, and made an interesting comment about national security: our most serious existential threat comes from North Korea (but that is what Bill Clinton believed in the mid 1990s). But it is only a matter of time before the DPRK has missiles (nuclear and EMP) that can reach Alaska, and western Canada and US.  Johnson says he is really with Bernie Sanders on some issues, like ending crony capitalism.

I do remember the credo of the hardliners in the party: “end the income tax and replace it with nothing” (Harry Browne, and for that matter, Irwin Schiff’s “The Federal Mafia” (and his own battle with the IRS).  There is also the idea of doing away with the Federal Reserve, and going back  to a gold standard. Associated with this idea is the concern, expressed by Porter Stansberry and more recently by Ron Paul (his son Rand could have been a credible presidential nominee) that the international community will remove the dollar as a reserve currency, wiping out the assets of most Americans, most of all retirees living off savings.

And the Libertarian Party is well known for its defense of self-defense, the Second Amendment.

While it’s easy to say that government should get out of the business of regulating personal morality (usually colored by some tribal or religious ideals), the idea that individuals need to think about ethical considerations as they deploy their identities is meaningful – because communities nearly always need to expect some sort of loyalty and moral “ownership” of their individuals, who need to belong somewhere, in a practical sense.  (I’ve taken this up recently on a companion blog with recent reviews of books by Appiah and Sebastian Junger. )  Mary Ruwart has, in her latest edition of “Healing Our World”, shown how libertarianism can be implemented with compassion.  Implementation of tribal values by coercion in a global world nearly always involves abuse of power and unearned wealth, however well the values might work in smaller communities (as Junger argues).  The other really major author on libertarianism is David Boaz, from the Cato Institute.  Charles Murray is very interesting in his treatment of social implementation.

(Published Wednesday, June 1, 2016, at 12:15 AM EDT)

Filial responsibility laws need more attention from mainstream media; here is what I know now


One early Tuesday morning in May, 2012, in a rustic motel room at 8500 feet at Mammoth Lakes, CA, near the head of the Owens Valley route (395), I turned to CNN and saw a report about a certain Mr. Pittas who got billed directly for his mother’s nursing home cost under Pennsylvania’s “filial responsibility” law.  There are still plenty of detailed stories on the web about the Pittas case.


I cover this topic on Blogger with the appropriate label, and you can go directly to it .   The May 24, 2012 posting goes into detail.  In July 2007, I have some postings about the detailed laws of many states.

My postings, made “on the road” that week, got nearly record hits for this topic, but the subject soon died down in the news.

I wrote an article on the topic for Wikipedia in March 2013, and it is still here.  Wikipedia says it is “outdated” and doesn’t consider overseas.


The AARP had a state-by-state map with details, but took it down in 2014, apparently because it did not have the staff to maintain the information.

There is still a 2006 Blogspot entry (“Everyday Simplicity”) by Reba Kennedy that gives a state-by-state list .

Filial responsibility laws, on the books in about thirty states, typically hold adult children liable for their parents’ medical bills, when the parents are legally indigent but one or more adult children are not indigent.  In many cases, they would kick in only if the parent tries to use Medicaid.  But in a few states, like Pennsylvania, it is possible for a provider to pursue an adult child even without trying to collect Medicaid, on the theory that the provider knows that the state can go after the child.


Also, in a few states (mainly the Midwest), filial responsibility can theoretically apply to siblings or grandparents as well as parents.

These laws are rarely enforced, and even CNN said that in 2012.  I talked to a professor from Penn State online in 2007, and she even expressed the concern that “amateur” blogging about it could, by unmasking a little known area, provoke states and providers into actually enforcing them.

Although the most obvious use of the laws could be with nursing home bills, the laws could apply for parents under retirement age, and could matter in cases of elderly homelessness.  A recent New York Times story mentioned a homeless mother whose adult children did not know where she was.

I have an older posting on filial responsibility and “Medicaid lookback”, which is not the limiting peril of these laws, but which does mean that at a federal level (and some states), reimbursement protocols look back several years (up to six) for “giveaway” of assets to adult children before going on Medicaid, link.  This posting may be moved to another archive soon;  I’ll revise at that time.

Overseas, in the developing world, it is common for adult children working in the west to send money “back home” to support parents.  In fact, Donald Trump wants to impound payments sent back home to Mexico to compel Mexico to pay for the “Wall” (or “Green Monster”), as Trump himself explains here  .  Oriental countries have an idea of “filial piety”.

Practically speaking, the lower birth rates among more affluent populations coupled with longer life spans, often with extreme disability like Alzheimer’s Disease, increases the financial burden on the “sandwich generation” as well (especially) on childless adults, who now face a greater likelihood of “family responsibility” to support others that they did not “choose” by their own actions.

As a general policy matter, the prospect of using these laws could support the idea that couples should have more children, or have them earlier in adulthood (countering the “demographic winter” problem often suggested by the right wing) and even that same-sex couples should be encouraged to adopt children when able.  The overall policy picture trades off an older idea of “marriage” and its internal functions that used to be very important to a lot of people’s sense of life meaning, for a wider definition that is more flexible and able to provide for non-independent people (children and elderly or disabled adults) without excessive dependence on government.  So the concept of applying filial responsibility fits well into a world that accepts same-sex marriage, for example.  Jonathan Ruach had noticed this back in the 1990s.

Support for these laws has sporadically been mentioned before. I don’t think New York has such a law, but former mayor Ed Koch (himself single and childless) once said that parents should be expected to support their ailing parents.

I have an older essay on the topic on my legacy site here where I call the laws an “iceberg”.

(Published: Wednesday, May 11, 2016, at 9:30 PM EDT)