From Outright: “Russia and Egypt attack sexual orientation protections in Olympic truce at U.N.”

 

I don’t reproduce press releases from advocacy groups on this blog often, partly because the scope of many releases is too narrow to really affect many people. But this one, from Outright, seems more important.  It maintains that some countries, especially Russia and Egypt, are trying to influence Olympic committees to jettison their protections for LGBTQ athletes and fans.

Remember that in February 2014, when the winter Olympics were held in Russia, Vladimir Putin had actually asked gays to “leave the children alone,” in response to the international condemnation of the 2013 law in Russia prohibiting promotion of homosexuality, much of this based on, in Russia’s case, concern over a low birth rate and the idea that many women especially might feel empowered to refuse to give men more children.

It’s worth remembering that a disproportionate percentage of the cases of LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S. seem to come from these two countries (and will probably include Chenchnya in Russia — that region’s president has made some of the most horrific statements imaginable in encouraging family honor killings), rather than Central America.

It’s worth noting that the 2017 Pyeongchong Winter Olympics in South Korea sound under a cloud because of tensions over North Korea’s rapid progress with nuclear weapons and the fear that Trump could start a war at any time.

For this press release, the media contact is  Rashima Kwatra at 1 (917) 859-7555.  The title is “Russia and Egypt Attack Sexual Orientation Protections in Olympic Truce at the UN”.

Here is the text of the release:

“Over the next two weeks, a decision will be made at the United Nations (UN) on whether governments globally will accept discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation at the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.  While the UN General Assembly cannot remove the ban on discrimination from Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter itself, Egypt and Russia are leading a stealth attack on the Olympics at the UN General Assembly that is laden with meaning and must be stopped.

“Every two years, member states of the UN General Assembly negotiate the “Olympic Truce Resolution”, which calls for peace among nations during the Olympics and the one week preceding and one week following the games.  Since 2015, Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter has banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  Now, Russia and Egypt are aggressively trying to remove all reference to Principle 6 from this year’s Olympic Truce Resolution.

“In recent weeks, Egyptian authorities have arrested 60 people perceived to be members of the LGBT community, and last week, a member of parliament introduced a bill that would criminalize life, speech, and activism for LGBT Egyptians and their allies.  In recent months, the Russian government has turned a blind eye to the one hundred plus gay men in Chechnya arbitrarily arrested and tortured.

Jessica Stern, Executive Director at OutRight Action International, commented:

““’Egypt and Russia are not simply fighting over symbolic language but over the levels of violence governments are allowed to use against LGBT people. After systematic attacks on LGBT people in their own countries, they are now setting their sights on promoting violence and discrimination in every country of the world. The Olympics Games are supposed to be a time for sport, technique, pride and community, not for politicking, hatred and violence’

“In 2015, the UN General Assembly, under the leadership of Brazil, included the principle of non-discrimination in the Olympic Truce Resolution with a reference to Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter. Since that year, Principle 6 has included sexual orientation as a prohibited grounds for discrimination, a development deemed necessary following Russia’s attacks on gay and lesbian people in the lead-up to its role as host of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

“In the back rooms of the UN Headquarters over the last two weeks, Russia and Egypt have proposed an ultimatum: remove explicit reference to Principle 6, or they will not sign the Truce. Their ultimatum has put South Korea, leader of the negotiations as the 2018 Olympics host, in a precarious and difficult position.

As in the style of UN negotiations, the removal of reference to Principle 6 from the Olympic Truce Resolution this year could mean never seeing these protections in the peace agreement again. Recognizing the high stakes, a cross-regional group of States has come out against the ultimatum by Egypt and Russia.

“OutRight has utilized its access to the UN General Assembly to monitor developments and advocate throughout the closed-door negotiations. OutRight has worked with key States to ensure cross-regional support for the inclusion of Principle 6. OutRight continues to triangulate information between governments and civil society, encouraging stakeholders to remain informed and actively engaged.

“In reaction to this threat, Stern concluded,

’Russia and Egypt are known anti-LGBTI campaigners at the UN, and they are prepared to sacrifice the Olympic spirit to do it. We cannot allow this type of bullying to target LGBT people or undermine the principle of global community’.”

Posted: Monday, October 30, 2017 at 7:30 PM EDT

Update: Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017 at 1 PM ESR from Outright

“Today, 17 professional athletes came out against attempts by Egypt and Russia to thwart non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation in the United Nations Olympic Truce Resolution. The letter, endorsed by respected athletes such as Billie Jean King, Greg Louganis and Martina Navratilova, is part of the #OlympicSpirit campaign spearheaded by OutRight Action International and Athlete Ally. It calls on countries to ensure that sexual orientation remains grounds of protection in the Olympic peace agreement.

“The Olympic Truce Resolution promotes civility among nations during the Olympics and the one week preceding and one week following the games. It is negotiated by all 193 United Nations Member States every two years. In 2015 it included, by unanimous consensus, a reference to Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter. Principle 6 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation at the Olympic Games.

“Breanna Stewart, 2016 US Olympic basketball competitor, commented on the situation, saying,

Sport and society thrive when we embrace the diversity of our world. The Olympic spirit is grounded in inclusion, fair play and solidarity, and the explicit mention of Principle 6 within the Olympic Truce Resolution sends a clear message that we take these values seriously.””

“This year, the inclusion of Principle 6 has come under attack, with States, such as Egypt and Russia, trying to remove all reference to Principle 6 from the Olympic Truce. Both countries have openly persecuted and criminalized lesbian, gay, and bisexual people at home and exported their homophobic agenda to the United Nations.

“The letter released today emphasizes that, “At a moment when oppressed communities around the world remain under attack, we can’t afford to turn our back on our most vulnerable communities. Explicit reference to Principle 6 in the Olympic Truce Resolution sends a strong signal of our community’s support of respect, inclusion and diversity — values sport holds inherently close. Afterall, regardless of where in the world we practice sport, the rules are the same and apply to everyone. They are based on our shared values.”

“Layshia Clarendon, a WNBA basketball star, also voiced her opinion on the inclusion of Principle 6, stating,

Athletes and fans deserve the opportunity to enjoy the Olympic Movement free of the fear of discrimination, and should have the ability to live openly and authentically — regardless of sexual orientation. I believe sports performance happens at its highest level when one feels unburdened and free to focus on their games. The explicit mention of Principle 6 within the Olympic Truce Resolution sends a clear message that we take inclusion seriously.”

Luckily, with thanks to cross-regional support and pushback from key Member States, the efforts of Egypt and Russia have so far failed and Principle 6 still remains in the Truce. However, there is still time for Egypt and Russia to thwart a consensus and challenge the inclusion of Principle 6 in the Olympic Truce.

Hudson Taylor, Founder and Executive Director, Athlete Ally, commented,

We’re witnessing the greatest expansion of athletic activism in modern history — never before have we seen athletes speaking out so regularly for the protection and inclusion of the LGBTQ community. Today, the athletic community stands with its LGBTQ constituents and commits to not being sidelined in the fight for equality.”

Seventeen professional athletes have signed on to the letter and reject any opposition by Egypt and Russia, as well as any other State, that is attempting to undermine the spirit of the Olympics. OutRight Action International and Athlete Ally stand with all the athletes in calling for public support of States to include reference to Principle 6 in the Olympic Truce.

A vote on the Olympic Truce Resolution will be made on November 13th, 2017.

Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, concludes,

Egypt and Russia are invested in promoting discrimination at the Olympics, undermining the very spirit of the games. Thankfully, there are other States which recognize that there is no place for discrimination at the Olympics. Today, we hear clearly from these Olympians that the Games is a place for friendly competition, athleticism, and diversity, not a place for politics and divisiveness.”

Petition for signature is here at this link.

Outright also provided a link to the new press release, here.

(Nov. 8)

 

Sexual orientation, altruism, and epigenetics: Is this a ruse for “second class citizenship”?

Recently, the “Gay Tribal Elder” Don Kilhefner aired a Ted video by James O’Keefe, “Homosexuality: It’s about survival, not sex.”

The talk at first attempts to explain why homosexuality persists in practically all populations at a consistent level (roughly 3-10%) despite the obviously low reproduction by gay people, and in the face (especially in the past, and today in authoritarian cultures) of discrimination and persecution.

The general explanation is that sexual orientation (and probably gender identity, which is at odds with biological gender (transgender or even gender fluidity) much less frequently than homosexuality) is directly related to turning genes on and off with chemical messengers, largely generated when the bay is still in the mother’s womb.  This is called epigenetics.  It is this process which favors the development of homosexuality in a population of humans and other social mammals.

If you look at the natural world, with social carnivores (and perhaps many primates like bonobo chimps, and maybe some whales and dolphins), it seems to be common that not all of the males reproduce or get their genes propagated.  There is often an “alpha male” dominance (lion prides, wolf packs).  This might sound like a Machiavellian “survival of the fittest”, which seems offensive to consider today (remember the debates on eugenics early in the last century and where that led).  But there may be another reason:  in animal social groups or extended families, the survival of the tribe as a whole is enhanced if some adult members specialize in altruistic behaviors for the rest of the members of the group rather than in propagating their own genes.  A similar model also applies, as O’Keefe argues, with social insects, like bees and ants.  This raises another question in my mind, about distributed consciousness capable of transcending and surviving an individual member’s own mortality;  that’s an idea I’ll come back to again in a future post.   O’Keefe argues that in most of these animals, chemical messengers turn on and off various genes, influencing future behavior.  In a matriarchal ant colony, a queen can determine the “personalities” of individual workers (warrior or forager) by selecting their food when the young are still larval.

So it is in human families.  When a mother has several children (especially several sons), the brains of later born (younger) kids are likely to get different chemical stimulation in utero.  Part of the reason is to prevent overpopulation (too many mouths to feed, although on the frontier you needed a lot of kids for labor in the past).  But the other reasons is to provide altruistic backup for family members who do bear the kids and future generations. It does seem true, later born sons are more likely to be gay.  And sometimes among identical twins there is discordance, which suggests an epigenetic influence.

My own case is unusual, as I am an only child.  Indeed, my own college expulsion in 1961 after admitting “latent homosexuality” to a college dean (after prodding) now sounds motivated by the idea that I was announcing a “death penalty” for my parents’ hope of a future lineage, which might matter in religious or spiritual matters (again, I’ll cover later).

I was also an example of the “sissy boy” syndrome. While that expression was a popular myth in the 1950s and Vietnam-draft 1960s, in general it does not turn out to be true of the gay male community as a whole, when you talk about cis gay men (not trans).  Gay men, for example, can play professional sports, an idea that the big leagues must embrace. (Baseball will probably have a trans relief pitcher some day, but that’s another matter.) What seems remarkable in retrospect is that, at least in cis gay men, sexual orientation (attraction) is linearly independent from all other physical expressions of what we perceive as “masculinity”.  That’s really apparent on most gay disco dance floors, where lean masculinity seems to be celebrated. (Milo Yiannopoulos is dead right about this.)

As my own adult life unfolded, independence became a paramount value for me, particularly as an answer to otherwise possibly clinging to people.  For long stretches of years, I lived in other cities far away from my parents and their social groups, and developed my own “real world” contact groups, long before social media.  That seemed to be what an adult was supposed to do.  I did, necessarily, have a double life, until after retirement, where work and personal relationships and personal cultural expression (even publications and books) were separate.  That became normal.  Publicly recognizable personal accomplishment, whether winning chess games from masters or publishing books on issues like gays in the military, became a primary virtue;  family, having or adopting and raising children, became viewed as an afterthought.  I viewed the rest of the “straight world” this way.  When I was working, I thought everyone felt this way, particularly for my own lens of “upward affiliation” in personal relationships.  I got a taste of “otherwise” at the Ninth Street Center in the 1970s, but I really didn’t have to come to grips with this until my own mother’s heart disease and decline, as well as the “social” values that were pushed on me in retirement, where salesmanship (even outright and aggressive hucksterism), rather than content production, became the new expectation.  Manipulation, driven by tribalism, seemed to replace individualized truth-seeking.

O’Keefe’s video seems to imply that gay people (equates to non-procreative) are expected to stay around home to be the backup for the rest of the family when things happen. Indeed, this was often the case in previous generations especially for spinster women (not so much gay men). With there being fewer children today, the childless (as I found out the hard way) are more likely to become involved in their parents’ eldercare for years.  In some families, childless people wind up raising siblings’ children after family tragedies (like in “Raising Helen” or the series “Summerland”), sometimes as a condition of a will.  Many states have filial responsibility laws that, while rarely enforced (with a notorious 2012 situation in Pennsylvania) can undermine the independence of childless people.

Likewise, in the workplace, in many areas with salaried (non-union) people, childless people sometimes wound up doing the unpaid overtime for their coworkers who took family or maternity leave (DADT-1 reference).  This happened to me sometimes in the 1990s, and has contributed to the movement today for paid family leave (or at least parental leave). I was the person with the disposable income would could be leaned on for sacrifice.   Sometimes I was feared as someone who, with fewer responsibilities, could work for less (“gays at a discount” was a common insult in the 1990s) and lowball the salaries of others.  That sort of thinking at one time had even affected the thinking of the military draft, when John Kennedy wanted to allow marriage and fatherhood deferments (dashed by the Johnson buildup in 1965, although student deferments remained until 1969).

So I have to see O’Keefe’s views, at least in my own life, as a call for second-class citizenship.  But that may not be the case for people who necessarily experience life through surviving as a group or tribe together.  Many tribal societies (most notably in the Muslim world) are ferociously anti-gay and want every adult to share in the responsibility of having children (as do some evangelical Christians, for example).  O’Keefe shows that these ideas, however religiously driven, don’t promote the long term welfare of the group.  Biological immutability seems relevant.

On the other hand, the whole idea of marriage equality, in my own perspective, has been about “equality” for those like me who remain topological singletons.

(Posted: Saturday, September 23, 2017. At 12 noon EDT)

Trump’s transgender ban for the military by Twitter confounds Pentagon, compromises America’s credibility in the face of North Korean threats

Two mornings before North Korea fired an apparently successful parabolic missile test of its longest range device to date, President Donald Trump announced a ban on transgender service members in the US military by a 3-part tweet, limited by the 140-character limit (until you embed).

Trump didn’t even “bother” to craft an Executive Order, maybe having been burned by the multiple travel bans.  Presumably he can do that, or he can give the Secretary of Defense Mattis direction to implement what he said in the tweet.

In fact, Mattis was apparently blindsided by the tweet, having expected to have until January 2018 to issue a report on the financial and practical issues about accepting transgender people into the military and possibly offering them sexual reassignment care during their military careers.  The Pentagon will take no action without formal action of some kind from the White House.

As a practical matter, it sounds, off hand, that the Pentagon could stop allowing people to enlist who say they are transgender, and could refuse to continue to pay for surgery.  But existing transgender personnel probably could stay in only if they did not start new treatment.  Even before Bill Clinton started the whole “don’t ask don’t tell” policy regarding gays in the military, there had been at least one case where a male-to-female enlisted person in Naval Intelligence had been honorably discharged, had surgery on her own, and (under Bush) been hired back into almost the same position as a civilian with the same security clearances.

There was no immediate talk that the measure indirectly threatened the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for (cis-gender) gay men and lesbians in the military.  In fact, the talk even from most Republican members of Congress now was that LGBT people (cis and trans), including John McCain (who had resisted the repeal at the end of 2010) should continue to serve without discrimination.

Previously Missouri congresswoman Vicki Hartzler had introduced a rider to ban transgender troops, claiming that they cost too much money (KCMO, Politco).  Rand (which had authored a huge volume on gays in the military in 1993 which I had used writing my first DADT book) had estimated the annual cost to be something between $2.4 million and $9 million, very small.  Various pundits referred to earlier writings, even by Mattis, critical of social experimentation in the military. That made me wonder in the back of my mind about the 2011 DADT repeal.

Arguments about military readiness and unit cohesion, and the compromised privacy of servicemembers who don’t have the same opportunity for double lives as civilians, have shifted over time.  Generally the military has been less concerned about it during times of real need, as the Army even quietly dropped asking about sexual orientation at draft exams as earlier as 1966.  “Asking” returned after the draft ended (although Selective Service continues, male-only and based on birth gender, although recent bills to require registration of women complicate the debate).  Then we all know “The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.  Privacy and unit cohesion were touted as big issues in 1993 by Nunn and Moskos, but in actual practice (as the 1991 Persian Gulf War had already reinforced) these seemed to be non-issues for younger soldiers, and the same flexibility has included respect for transgender troops.  While in actual practice distraction of troops by diversity was minimal in an authoritarian command environment, socially conservative pundits have always made these “privacy” arguments, even for civilian fire departments back in the 1970s in response for proposals to end gay employment discrimination.

My own personal take is that one of the biggest reasons why discrimination by the military (outside of clear-cut fitness and medical issues and age) is a moral problem is that the rest of the world sometimes looks at all civilian citizens as potential combatants.  This goes back to my own experience with the military draft in the 1960s, when the ability to field a conventional ground force was possibly a strategic component of deterring nuclear war, part of the domino theory. Today the theory gets reinforced by the idea of asymmetric terrorism, as well as the fact that that Internet (and “online reputation” issues) have made double lives impossible.  But in historical perspective, it’s nothing new.  Consider the Battle of Britain, which followed Dunkirk (where civilians rescued soldiers) by a few weeks.

Transgender plastic surgeon Christine McGinn, who has experience as a Navy doctor, appeared on Smerconish today on CNN.

Did Trump simply play a cheap-shot to his base, which he has not been able to enlarge? In a less elite world, indeed there is a sense that gender conformity is needed to defend against external threats, as “common sense”, the way that phrase was used against me during my own Army Basic.  But in a modern world that can evolve into something new, it is not so simple.  Trump doesn’t want to move into the hypermodern world, and neither do a lot of other people, who would be left behind. Gay conservative Milo Yiannopoulos had some harsh comments about trans in the military and women in combat, as quoted in another Washington Post article.

I’ll add as of this writing Trump expressed glee at the idea of “watching” Obamacare implode after the GOP failed to pass the Skinny Repeal.  “Watch.  Deal”.  And there are reports he wants to cut off some subsidies now.

There are also reports that new chief of staff Kelly will try to force Trump to stop using his personal Twitter account altogether.  That raises new questions of how he could wage war on the media.  So far (contradicting my early fears) he hasn’t disturbed the standalone bloggers.

(Posted: Saturday, July 29, 2017 at 6:30 PM EDT)

Is it “morally” wrong to exercise racial or other physical preferences in your own personal life when seeking intimate partners? Political correctness in dating? It’s not just about apps

OK, as a 70+ year old man, I don’t use dating apps anyway.  But recently I’ve seen some articles online equating limiting race when using apps for personal dating as “racism”.  Really it goes way beyond just race.  For example, it used to be common to see “no fats, no fems” in print ads for dating.

One article I saw a couple months ago by Samantha Allen on the Daily Beast, “’No Blacks’ is not a sexual preference; It’s racism”.   And very recently, Donovan Trott opined “An Open Letter to Gay, White Men: No, You’e not allowed to have a racial preference”.    Milo Yiannopolous would dive right into this one on his new site here.

Superficially, if a dating app were a “public accommodation”, this would make sense.  I am reminded how things were around 1970, when I was living in Princeton NJ (having started my first job) and contemplated joining a singles social club (before my “second coming”).  One club had no shame in saying it was for “Whites only” because “Blacks have their own clubs”, like on “Amos ‘n’ Andy”.  (Loving had already come from the Supreme Court.)

Trott’s article does indeed become a head trip. The heart of his argument seems to be “If your preference for  partner supports an existing racial hierarchy which marginalizes minorities, then your preferences are racist.”

I can rationalize my own actions somewhat by saying, I don’t even state preferences on a commercial site, perhaps; but I do go to gay bars and discos, although less than I used to. Consider Peter Laarman’s essay in the LA Progressive, “When a Pride march means owning the shame of racial and economic justice”.   There is discussion of the idea that some gay bars and discos seem to cater to white cis gay men.

As a practical matter, the gay bars I have visited recently in Washington, New York, and Rehoboth seem to have plenty of women, plenty of non-white men, and plenty of older people who don’t fit anyone’s   stereotype of perfection.   Some establishments do have a higher non-white clientele than others, and some have specific events and shows intended to attract sub-minorities, other have these less often.

I’ve even noticed a behavioral change. I may be standing “watching” (or “spectating” which can mean mentally “criticizing”) certain men who may be closer to my own tastes dancing.  Often, a minority person, especially a female, will notice and ask me to dance.  Sometimes I don’t want to be distracted, and the other person becomes angry.

Now I’ve explained “what makes me tick” in my books (especially DADT III, Chapter 2) and other sites as here (also June 25, 2014; the WordPress category “upward affiliation and complementarity” explains this whole psychological area).  One important idea was that, when I was growing up, women were encouraged to be valued for external beauty and men were not.  Another biological observation, where race matters, is that among Caucasian men, the relative amount and distribution of body hair can “distinguish” men from one another (when visible to women, as a part-object of symbolic marker for reproductive fitness and likelihood of more children), but that is not so very much among non-white races.  Like it or not, environment (that is, evolving in colder and less sunny climates) has led to genetic adaptations that eventually mediate sexual attractiveness within certain populations.  On the other hand, intermarriage and having mixed-race children probably means fewer genetic diseases and quicker evolution of the strongest traits (indeed an argument against “erotic racism”).  But personal tastes in potential partners becomes a very personal matter indeed.  Even so, in today’s world, there is “no double life” anymore, and when someone like me makes himself visible online, then his behavior regarding potential dates and partners (even at a fantasy level, as I had to deal with a NIH in 1962 after my William and Mary expulsion) might be viewed as having an effect on others.  In DADT III, I called all this “my alien’s view of anthropology”.

All of this has a bearing on the salability of my novel draft (“Alien’s Brother”) and DADT screenplay (“Epiphany”). In both there are major gay male characters, and how well certain characters fit into a preconceived idea of being “Desirable” (to quote a buzzword from my days at Fort Eustis in 1969) does affect how they turn out.  It does seem that the cis males win out in the end.  (Were a movie to be made, I can imagine questions about “casting diversity”, because interchangeability doesn’t work for a few characters.)   In more recent years, I’ve gotten subtle (or not so subtle) suggestions about joining the parade of pimping gender fluidity because it would make me popular and sell books, but I cannot bring myself to do that. That is simply not what I believe.  Twenty years ago (when DAT-1 came out, in 1997), nobody would have challenged me this way, as far as my own creative output is concerned.  Indeed, there is no double life anymore, not even in make-believe.

(Posted: Monday, June 26, 2017 at 5:45 PM EDT)

Personal aesthetics can shape an identity before sexuality does: the debate over privatization of marriage

There were two developments during my own childhood and adolescence that established “who I am”.  They seem intrinsic and deep-rooted, and set up a paradox that affects everything else  These evolutions deal with music and sexuality.

I started taking piano in third grade, in February 1952, when we got a Kimball console piano.  That’s gone, and now replaced by a (much lighter and more portable) 88-key Casio, which hooks to Sibelius (on the MacBook) for composition and really is pretty good as to tone and dynamics and pedal.  In fact, I need to up my skills in using these tools to really make my compositions interesting to professionals.

I don’t remember “why” I wanted to take piano.  But once I started, it seems to install my identity.  I don’t have a specific past-life recollection, but it seemed to make my existence indefinite, preceding my birth and even conception (in 1942).

I started composing around age 12, leaving to a series of works of increasing complexity as I’ve documented on my “media reviews” blog (here).  My esthetic relation to music was one of submission to a certain experience of feeling.  I progressed quickly up through high school, winning some awards in festival concerts.

I had an old RCA record player in the basement, that tracked heavy (at 10 grams).  Slowly I accumulated some mono records of major works.  By 10th grade or so, I became conscious of the “chills and fever” effect of the way some romantic works ended, particularly piano concertos and symphonies.    The formula for a big cyclic work in a minor key was to end in the Picardy major with a triumphant “big tune”.  I think the first work that introduced this experience to me was Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, Op. 18, in C Minor. (Today, I like the more subtle Third, Op. 30) better.)  I learned a few of the Op. 32 Preludes, including the triumphant D-flat Major prelude that concludes the set. The other work that introduced me to this experience at first was Grieg’s A Minor Piano Concerto.

I remember much better my relation to music as a young adult, starting about the time of the William and Mary Expulsion (well documented in my books) in 1961.  I attempted a couple large works, including a Third Sonata which I started over the winter 1961-1962 before reentering college at GWU.  I more or less have an “acceptable” manuscript in pieces (a lot of it in Sibelius) today, as I have spent more time on it in the past two years (on the Finale).

During that “terrible” hiatus at home after the Expulsion, I did get a recording of Bruno Walter’s performance of the 3-movement form of Anton Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony. I’ve discussed completion versions, especially Letocart’s, elsewhere, but one interesting detail was that the first side split the Scherzo in the middle of what Letocart calls the “Hallelujah” theme. The record player cartridge and stylus had deteriorated, leading to inner-groove distortion of that theme.  I could not earn my own money yet, and my father resisted spending money on music when I couldn’t and needed to pay for college. Nevertheless, it got fixed, and I had a VM stereo in the fall of 1962.  Getting used to multiple speakers and then stereo (with all the problems of inferior players and record wear back then) provided a new level or aesthetic “submission”, especially with a few Mahler Symphonies and then Beethoven’s Ninth.  Throughout most of my working adult life, I collected records, then cassettes, and then CD’s, and still do buy CD’s of emerging artists.   But in recent years, like everyone else, I’ve gotten used to playing classical music on YouTube or from the Cloud.  But the conclusion of the Bruckner Ninth would create a personal irony (as demonstrated in a short film that Letocart provides) which I would in outlining the conclusion to my own Sonata.

One aspect of this whole experience was that “aesthetic submission” provided what seemed like access to real feeling, and made relationships (dating, courtship, marriage, parenthood) seem like an afterthought, a totally privatized experience, with “different stroke for different folks”. I can link all this up to the Polarity Theory of Pail Rosenfels and the Ninth Street Center, which, as a “subjective feminine”, I’ve already discussed elsewhere.

But the other big “development” that filled in my identity would be sexuality, particularly homosexuality. I started “noticing” men gradually, but I was quite aware of my sensitivity on these matters of proper male body image probably by age 12 or so.  There would be a few small incidents over the years that would reinforce this impression.  But at age 18, in August 1961, when I was with a particular companion to whom I felt attracted, I felt extreme arousal.  I don’t want to be graphic here (I’ll stay in PG-13 territory) but the event was transformative for me.  The other person did not “respond” but I would have gone through with it if he had.   I found that experience of “getting excited by …” could happen in certain other situations that ordinarily imply losing or submission Later, as I was in my adult life in the 1973-1975, becoming fully “human” with that “true” first experience became quite a preoccupation but it would happen. I would of course gradually learn about heterosexual passion intellectually, but my father’s prediction that “one day blue eyes will confuse you” seemed irrelevant to defining me, beside the point.

What seems remarkable about the sexuality is that it was stimulated, ironically, by conservative values.  I was attracted to young men who “had it all”  I saw undisturbed maleness as a “virtue” with almost religious passion.  I viewed the prospect of what could happen to young men’s bodies in war, or from disease, or eventual aging, as desecration.  I actually viewed with contempt the rare male (in those days who make a spectacle of gender bending or today’s “gender fluidity”. I needed to believe in my idol to be able to experience sexual pleasure at all, even in a fantasy mode.  This counteracts the practical need for emotional resilience needed in marriage, where a partner needs to remain intimate even if the other person has a physical calamity, whether from war, terror, crime, disease, or just growing old. This pattern also undermines getting personal satisfaction out of interacting with cognitively distant people in need, as through intense volunteerism.

Therefore, I tended to look at people very critically. An close connection with someone who had “issues” could not be emotionally important to me.  This seems to bear on areas that Milo Yiannopoulos, in particular, has taken up in his tirades about, for example. “fat shaming”   Complicating the picture is that I grew up in (in practical terms) a racially segregated society.  My ideas of “desirability” for erotic “upward affiliation” pertained much more readily to white males than any other (“people of color”).

This has a bearing on any sense of belonging today.  It’s much easier to find real meaning in helping others if you “belong” to groups, and it’s easier to “belong” if you go through the socialization of courtship and conventional marriage and becoming a biological parent first.  Becoming a parent upends upward affiliation, and makes the experience of having others depend on you real and valuable,, But you have to be open to intimacy (“the family bed”) under mutable circumstances and sometimes externally imposed hardships.  I was not.  It sounds a little cowardly of me.  One eternal consequence is that I have no lineage, and, as an only child, neither do my parents; it dead-ends with me.

There were other factors that indeed rounded out my sense of identity. I had a certain fascination with “abstract geography” and a sense of elevation and place (as when I took up hiking later in my teen years) as a grounding in science.  I also relished the mathematical abstractions of competitive chess, as if that were an oxymoron;  chess games seemed to map to “real” team sports.  (The map is probably cleaner to American football than to baseball or even European soccer, because in NFL football, the defense can score points.)  That led me to one experience of group affiliation, rooting for a baseball team, who were the various incarnations of the Washington Senators (Twins, Rangers, Expos, Nats), with that horrible 18-game losing streak in the summer of 1959 (and that blown 7-run lead in the bottom of the ninth in Boston in `1961, right after high school graduation).  I would skip out on Tribunals but “take one for the team” a little bit when I was finally drafted, after graduate school, in 1968.  I would make a sacrifice, incurring slight hearing loss and tinnitus in the right ear from my experience on the rifle range at Fort Jackson. Even today, as shown on a recent Sinclair News Channel 8 discussion (“Government Matters”) it’s not clear that the “need” for conscription (probably gender neutral) can’t come back (and in my mind this always had a bearing on “don’t ask don’t tell”).

The whole conscription and student deferment issue was the moral issue of my own coming of age. In my own mind, it connected to the idea of “station in life” (as intrinsic and not necessarily equal to everyone else’s) and “right-sizing”.  Grades were my currency during my youth, which was actually an eventful, rich time. But I had to succeed in school to have a legitimate and honorable place in the world and not simply become a fungible sacrifice for someone else’s tribal agenda.

Alyssa Rosenberg today, in the Washington Post, relates how overt “submission” to art and sexual imagery attracts terrorists as “idol worship” and apostasy, in her column “Why terrorists attack concert halls” concerning the Manchester attack on May 22 (and earlier attacks, especially Paris).  Ii think you could add comments about alienation of certain young men who feel wired into brotherhood and tribal behavior. Along these lines, look at a recent column by David Brooks on how democratic capitalism (so good for me) has failed “them” and made me seem like an enemy to them.

On Vox, Sean Illing takes up these issues with an interview with Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky, “Behave: The Biology of Humans at our Worst and Best”.

(Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at 2:30 PM EDT)

“Nobody’s Tool”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live a good life and feel entitled

Early Sunday afternoon, in between rounds of the Maryland Film Festival, I walked up Charles Street in Baltimore and walked into a grill, which I will not name for search engines, hoping to have lunch.  I had about 40 minutes before I needed to be heading for the nearby Parkway Theater.

There was a sign said to wait for seating, and the place was almost full.  Two employees were fixing a machine and attending to a handicapped customer.  For ten minutes no one saw me, or even looked in the direction of the entrance.  Finally I was seated and an order taken.  But the order (for a simple benedict) had to be cancelled when it was apparent it would not get cooked in time.

I walked into a McDonald’s on North Street, next to the Parkway, and even here there was no one behind the register for a moment.  Finally, I got a pre-cooked McMuffin and swallowed it and went to the movie just in time.

Lesson, you may have the money to pay for food, but somebody still has to be paid to cook it and bring it to you.

I see that Baltimore is looking at minimum wage laws, and that right now the Maryland min seems to be $8.75, probably much less for tipped workers.  But in both eateries, there was obviously less help available than needed to serve the demand that obviously existed.  I think there were only three employees in the grille; maybe someone didn’t come to work, or maybe no one will work at the wages offered.  I even wondered if we were seeing the immediate impact of Donald Trump’s ICE undocumented immigrant crackdown.  Suddenly, there is no help in places you count on for “service”.

It’s easy to blow this up into a moral lesson about privilege, class, and depending on the underpaid labor of others.

Underserved wealth and station in life can become preoccupations of leadership on both the far Left and far Right, but with different parameters.  It seems so negative to become so preoccupied with “grading people”, yet we need to see people earn rewards that are commensurate with what they deserve.  Is this like grades “according to ability” as on one grade school report card, or is it an absolute thing?

Consider how scattered “those Republicans” are with respect to who should pay for the excess health claims of the sick, and those with pre-existing conditions. I’ll lay aside the claims that Trumpcare is set up to support a tax break for the very rich.  I’ll also note a comment I added yesterday. That Obamacare apparently does have the reinsurance scheme that would help with this problem if only Republicans would allow it to be used (the fourth comment on the previous post, about an MIT economist).

In the New York Times May 7. Patricia Cohen writes “On Health and Welfare, Moral Arguments Can Outweigh Economics”.

Cohen points us to a couple of New York Magazine pieces, where rural right wing Republican say “sick people don’t deserve affordable care”  (the “Lead good lives” argument, or is it “personal responsibility”) and even “The GOP’s best health care is to stick it to mothers”.  I thought that the Republicans were worried about low birth rates in better-off white people.

Yes, it’s easy to blame bad behavior on a lot of health care issues.  You can say that about smoking, alcohol, drug abuse, and now opioids.  Vox has added eliminating sugar – all of it – to the mix (although plenty of us don’t get obese or diabetes from normal sugar consumption).  I’d have to throw in the sexual behaviors in the male gay community – remember the moral debate over “amplification” and AIDS in the 1980s?   Indeed, you look around, it often seems that the healthiest people usually have been the most intact from adolescence through adulthood.

Social conservatives often place the responsibility of learning to take care of others, the less-well off, with the “natural family” as in that 2007 manifesto by Carlson and Mero.  Courtship and dating, and then marriage – making it contain sexuality – and the rearing of children, teaching them to care for younger siblings – and caring for the less well off in an extended family – is supposed to teach everyone to learn attachments to others who do have real needs.  They can point out that inherited wealth often comes with strings attached – taking are of other family members or raising deceased siblings’ kids.

But I suppose their idea of health care parity could extend to social media.  To their way of thinking, someone in my shoes should feel morally obligated to respond to new “GoFundMe’s” for money for protease inhibitors or PrEP in my own community.  (Seriously, paying for the latter is probably a big issue in college-age health care for gay men.)  Or maybe you should respond to all Facebook friends who talk about losing coverage for stuff like MS medication, diseases that no one can avoid with “behavior”.  Particularly if you have wealth you didn’t earn.

Update: Tuesday, May 9

Laurie Garret (“The Coming Plague” around 1995) has a stinging op-ed on CNN, “Worst is yet to come on health care: GOP’s message to Americans: You’re on your own“.  She notes the “personal responsibility” argument and how it breaks down (like for genetic disease, for openers).  She also warns that the GOP plan could add to hostility to Americans from abroad personally.

Vox, in a piece by Matthew Yglesias, explains how Medicaid expansion works under Obamacare, and the consequences of GOP’s gutting it. In the 1970s, I worked on New York State MMIS (through Bradford) so I should have known to pay more attention to this.

(Published: Monday, May 8, 2017 at 11 AM EDT)

Weekend event for asylum seekers, and a field trip: revisiting the idea of hosting

I want to update earlier comments on what ordinary US citizen can do to help asylum seekers, LGBT or not.  This area would particularly focus on the possible opportunities to host asylum, seekers in private homes.

I did a little field trip today (April 30), 150 miles to the SW (of Arlington VA) to Farmville, VA, where I looked at the grounds of the detention center.  It is on a side road a half mile north of US 460 heading east into Town.  The land is sloped so that you can barely see the corrugated buildings from eye level.  There were some buses with opaque windows.  After snapping a couple pictures I saw the “no trespassing” and (especially) “no photography” signs so I drove away quietly, but I was on a public street.  This facility, run by Immigration Centers of America, was said to be one of the more comfortable and dorm-like facilities at the DC Center Global meeting April 1, 2017.  At that meeting, an attorney from Capital Area Immigrant Rights Coalition spoke.  The possibility of developing a program to support release of some detainees on “parole” with contributions and housing was discussed (previous summary by me).

Saturday (April 29) I had visited  a fundraiser event in Bethesda, MD for the Asylum Seeker Assistance Project.  Right now, the Eventbrite link has the best list of the way donations may help asylum seekers.

I had conversations with two attorneys and others at the event.  Some details are sensitive, so I’ll summarize the gist of what I found out a high level.  This is not legal advice, but more a marker for what potential hosts might expect and for how immigration policy (especially for asylum issues) might be debated.

Let’s backtrack to revisiting the differences between supporting refugees and supporting asylum seekers.  Today, refugees vetted overseas in detail before they are allowed to migrate to the US (this is getting even stricter under Trump and refugee processing seems suspended right now).  Volunteer efforts are supervised by social services agencies (often faith-based) licensed with DHS and can also monitor the use of DHS funds. These agencies work with local groups, often congregations (synagogues, mosques) which in turn supervise groups of 20 or more people who help a refugee family, which is usually placed in a commercially managed apartment.  In Canada, by comparison, the volunteer groups are smaller (like about 5) and volunteers accept specific legally driven financial responsibilities for refugees that resembles foster parenting.  This is called “private sponsorship”, which the United States does not have.  To my mind, Canada gets a lot of things right;  the Hollywood world with which I am familiar has outstanding young adults raised in Ontario, especially.

Asylum seekers are already here and by definition usually would not have been vetted before they arrive.  If they arrive illegally and ask for asylum and can establish credible fear, they are likely to wind up in detention. As noted already, some activist groups want to raise funds to help release asylum seekers from detention.  But a significant number of asylum seekers arrived here legally with visas for work or school, and then overstayed them.  Usually, to remain here legally the asylum seeker needs to have asked for asylum within one year of original arrival.  If the “credible fear” is established, then the asylum seeker’s presence in the United States remains lawful until a hearing of some kind.  If the request is turned down, there is often a right to appeal.  But eventually, it is possible for this process to run out, after which the asylum seeker’s presence would become illegal and he or she would be subject to deportation.

Typically, there is a period of six months or longer (apparently starting when the seeker’s presence would otherwise be illegal) cannot get federal benefits and is not allowed to work.  An asylum seeker not allowed benefits or to work would need financial assistance, and especially housing (and possibly medical).  There is no formal DHS-driven system of social service supervision for which funds are available.  Therefore, the onus would fall upon private individuals and grassroots-style organizations to provide for them, especially if they become homeless.  (Homeless persons normally would not be put back into detention and could not return home on their own unless they had funds, which could then mean the return home to the expected persecution.)  This would be more challenging personally than normal “volunteering” in a structure refugee assistance situation.  Off hand, it would sound like it might be easier to assist a wide number of asylees in private homes than by purchasing or renting building for them.  Nevertheless, right now, based on what I was told Saturday, right now the greatest interest is in raising funds to purchase or rent buildings as shelter.  It’s worth noting here that, while the US does not recognize the idea of private sponsorship of refugees, it does allow private “sponsorship” of migrants apply for visas under I864 documentation from hosts willing to guarantee support (usually family), and the work “sponsor” has sometimes been used loosely in connection with parole from detention.  There does not seem to exist a legal concept of a “custody” relationship between the host and asylum seeker, so it seems unlikely that host could be held responsible for a seeker’s medical bulls (even if he or she could pay them), although I can imagine right-wing attempts to impose such a liability

So it would sound as if live-on housing provision could sometimes be risky for the host.  One of the points of the 6-month wait for benefits is apparently to discourage ‘frivolous” asylum application, often right after illegal entry.  The government (even pre-Trump) reasons that a person would normally be sheltered only by someone who knows the person well, usually a relative.  If someone has personal contacts with a personal interest in assisting the person, then that person represents less of a “burden” or risk for the public.  So assistance organizations are put in the position of building the social capital that would simulate that of relatives or close friends.   From a security viewpoint, the lack of vetting overseas has to be replaced by having people who know the person already.  That would sound easier with someone who already had been here legally with a work or student visa.

The risks are well worth enumerating.  Life cannot be made risk free, but one should understand risks and try to minimize them, and organizations asking others to step into such risk help to assess the risks. For example,  if asylum is denied while the person is hosted and the appeals are denied, the host could eventually be put in the position of harboring an undocumented alien.  While the practical risk of prosecution is low (even under Trump), it can’t be ruled out completely.  How a host should behave in a situation like this needs to be thought out in advance.  This is indeed the “seeing around corners” problem that Dr  Phil talks about that activist groups often ignore. (It is not clear to me whether a host is responsible for seeing the asylum seeker’s paperwork proving legal presence in the country, when the asylum seeker moves in.)

Along those lines, hosts could be concerned with the strength of an asylum claim and whether it is likely to prevail, as well as the length of time of the seeker’s need.  This has to do with notions like belonging to a “particular social group” or with expressed political opinion.  One wonders whether the current administration, under AG Sessions, could try to gut the idea that LGBT no longer meets a PSG standard.  I am told there is no actual indication that the Trump administration is trying to do this, and the inclusion of LGBT in the PSG rubric is established now by court precedent.

Of course, giving a key (or security code) to your home to a “stranger” crosses a line for most people (including me), and on the face it could put neighbors at risk, too, creating another moral dilemma. (“Emergency BNB” was discussed here Dec. 16, and Airbnb is lucrative, after all.)  This is much less of a concern to people who have “less to lose” (the “Rich Young Ruler Problem”) and particularly people who live in strong systems of social capital (the “Lotssa Helping Hands” model in many faith-based groups)  Politically, libertarian groups like Cato Institute and writers like Charles Murray have been making these observations more often, in the past five years or so.  With social capital, the idea then is that the overall risk (including to others) is marginal, rather comparable to taking on a foster child or employing a live-in caregiver.  (And here, it is well to note that it is possible to provide foster care to minors in detention in some unusual circumstances, but these efforts are closely monitored by state social services)

There are some other issues.  Allowing someone to use your Internet router can bring certain risks, which have been discussed here already (Jan. 31). Part of the solution is to set up separate guest accounts.

I don’t deny that there can be many benefits to hosting. At 73, in a larger than necessary home, it could facilitate future medical appointments and provide another responsible person here in case of an accident.

In some areas of the country, especially southern California, some (largely church) groups are making a point to shelter undocumented immigrants, outside of the law.  Some say that their faith compels them to do this.  I do respect the need for resistance (and I do respect the legal arguments, based on the 10th Amendment, made by sanctuary cities recently), but I think that sometimes we need to learn to distinguish among the ideas of resistance, activism, and service.  They are not always the same.  Likewise, social capital and solidarity are related but not identical concepts.

I linked to the two Washington Blade stories asking for hosts, on July 21, 2016 (sixth comment for an August story), and Oct. 15, 2016, but here they are again (August, October).  DC Center Global most recently referred to this request on November 11, 2016 (after Donald Trump’s election).

Here is an earlier personal statement on what I can do myself with hosting.

It is worth remembering that massive calls for hosts went out for the Cuban refugee (really asylum seeker) Mariel Boatlift in 1980, as at Metropolitan Community Church in Dallas, where I lived at the time.  It was not well thought out and few people did it.

Readers should also be familiar with the case Lozano v. Hazleton (PA), 2007.  I’ve added the ACLU link. But as far as I know, the law is unlikely to regard a host as a “landlord” anyway (unless the asylee actually pays rent); but you wonder what the “alt right” could cook up.

(Posted: Monday, May 1, 2017 at 11:45 PM EDT)

Update: Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Dzubow has an important piece  or blog post on when asylum seekers could reasonably fear detention or arrest today.   I was not aware that anyone with any conviction of a serious offense could even be considered for asylum.  But there is also an issue concerning arrests without convictions.  But Dara Lind also writes today on Vox, that Donald Trump’s non-policy on immigration has been a “success” for white and native-born people, by making non-white immigrants more fearful of asking for help when they need it, and for making settled and insulated Americans more reluctant to have much to do with them personally — a concern I have heard expressed at churches and at Center Global.

I even feel that Hillary Clinton’s remarks about how she lost the election in the last 12 days to Comey, the FBI, Russia, and fake news is relevant.  Had she won, it is likely I would be hosting someone now. I’ve never said that before, but I think it is time to say it now. Putin (whose name was not to be mentioned) has literally reached into the US and made it harder to help LGBT people who fled his country.  International issues and government corruption can indeed affect us very personally and very suddenly.

If you’ve become a voluntary pundit, don’t expect to delete yourself from the Internet

I’ve imagined a creepy horror film (maybe just a short), where you get called in for the Last Supper of your life, sent up to a hotel room, allowed to make one or two last postings, then denied access, then had your whole online existence removed.  Then the fantasy or catch or your life knocks on your door and gives you one last “peak experience” as you pass into the Afterlife, if it exists, with your karma cleaned up.  Maybe this could be a low budget movie.

Yet maybe a little more than ten years ago, “online reputation” became a trendy topic, even leading a company by that name to be founded.

Before that, I had to deal already had to deal with “what I had done”.  When I couldn’t sell enough hard copy books, I became an online pundit.  I got a reputation that way (as an “older Milo”, and probably more socially acceptable, especially to Donald Trump) but my Pharisee-speech didn’t pay its own way.  In the most extreme circumstances, it might get me or other people connected to me killed.

Earlier, I had entertained the idea that people in positions of authority over others (with direct reports) should not express their opinions in unsupervised manner because that could show prejudice or hostile workplace.  This was my own implementation of the idea of “conflict of interest”.  Again, obviously Donald Trump doesn’t respect it now (and I have only one degree of separation from Donald Trump, despite never paying the fees to go to Mar-a-Lago – maybe I can get invited).

Nevertheless, in the past, I’ve had to entertain the idea that a lot of my own Internet presence would have to be removed if I took certain kinds of jobs, as I outlined here.

But is it feasible anymore for someone to go completely dark?  Not very.  I’d say fifteen years ago it was feasible.  You could take everything down, and ask Google to remove all references to your flat files online (before blogs and social media components became SOP).

The old idea of a double life (especially for LGBTQ) seems to be gone forever.  Really, I sometimes miss the way it was in the 1970s and 1980s, even until about 1996 or so.  You had your home and your possessions, and you developed a reputation.  Arranging gatherings and social events meant more then.  In the gay community in DC, you went on adventures with Adventuring or Chrysalis.  (You still can, but my life has changed so much since the 90s that I really don’t have time).  My parents developed a presence with real world property and things – my father was very dedicated to his own workshop, filled with tools, which was much more common for people in the 1950s than now.  As I get older, I find myself mentally revisiting those years.

Here is Abby Ohlheiser’s take in the Washington Post on what it would take to go completely dark, like a white dwarf star that has completely burned out into a dark cinder.   Part of the strategy is to imitate Kellyanne and create “alternative facts” online first.  Some social media will let you change your birth date a few times.  I could imagine a pro-life change to your conception date.

I’ve noticed that there are a number of companies that offer a public records history and background investigation on anyone, for a membership fee.  Of course, if the subject belonged to the same service, he or she would know you had ordered it.  I really like my fantasies of Maslow peak experience and have no reason to spy on anyone and ruin the faith.

Update: March 23, 2017

Check out Ross Douthat’s column in the New York Times March 12, “Resist the Internet“.  Douthat doesn’t want kids under 16 to use social media at all, or to have cell phones too early.  He also mentions a no-tech private school in Silicon Valley, Walforf, that many tech executives send their kids to.  The school has students learning to knit socks, and participating in many group rhetorical exercises with the teacher, who is quite engaged.

The artificial and apparent conflict between mainstream charity and LGBTQ: the World Vision incident

I sometimes experience various kinds of pressure to support or become involved in specific programs at various charities.

A few years ago, I got a Saturday phone call to support the “30 Hour Famine” (as I think it was still called then) from a local church that I often attend.  In fact, several churches I know have supported it.  The famine is a 30-hour exercise run by World Vision.

My immediate reaction was to decline.  I think a teenager’s decision to participate in a past is strictly between that teen and his or her parents.  I should not be involved.  Yet I know the double edges, about having one’s skin in the game when one is a visible pundit.

World Vision was involved in controversy in March 2014.  Apparently it announced it would not exclude from employment persons who had engaged in same-sex marriages.  This event occurred over a year before Obergefell in the US was decided, but same-sex marriage was recognized in many states and other western countries.  There are various accounts that claim that World Vision had banned all gays, or all people who would not commit to limiting sexuality to heterosexual marriage.  I think as a practical matter the policy was probably more like “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” (even as Bill Clinton had once meant it).

Under extreme pressure from some evangelicals, World Vision reportedly reversed itself in a couple days (Huffington account).  But during that time, supposedly, a large number of overseas child sponsorships were canceled by “evangelical” supporters (patheos account).

In fairness, there are other accounts that say that World Vision quickly replaced the sponsors and that this had little quantitative impact on worldwide child sponsorship as a whole. Here’s a balanced blog post.

I support Save the Children (which is secular), and back in the late 1970s I actually “sponsored” individual children for a while    Sometimes I got letters.  I was at a loss to reply.  (It’s the “skin in the game” thing again.)  I don’t sponsor individuals now.  I think this is something you either put a lot of time in to or not.  But I have Facebook friends overseas who constantly send emotion-laden sponsorship pleas.

There are many critics who think individual child sponsorship is a deceptive model.  This used to be said a lot in the 1980s.   There are legitimate questions as to the direct connection of the child to the money.  Charities do end sponsorships and switch people.  But other reports relate people having the same child for as long as ten years and being able to visit the child overseas.  That’s what I think if appropriate to expect;  sponsorship ought to be a step toward adoption and custody.  I’m not aware of any issues with gay sponsors.

I had at one time tried to include World Vision on my own charitable contribution list that I run through Wells Fargo.  I had received mailers from them.  But oddly the contribution was returned.  I don’t know why, but some charities seem unable or unwilling to work with automated systems at banks.

Churches often send older teens and college students on missions overseas, to Central America and sometimes to Africa.  Faith-based organizations help run infrastructure projects overseas.  Sometimes these organizations need to employ engineers as to do many major US companies (such as oil companies).  Dealing with countries hostile to personal practice of homosexuality can present a problem for companies and charities, as to deploying .  Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa  have hostile anti-gay laws (Nigeria is one of the worst) and in some cases American evangelicals may have participated in provocation overseas, in largely Christian countries separate from the Muslim world.

Anti-gay laws and practices overseas to result in some migrants to the US requesting political asylum, sometimes after lawful visa periods (for students or for work) expire.  It is unclear whether the current Trump administration with attorney general Sessions will try to narrow how the idea of “particular social group” may be interpreted with asylum requests.  But they probably cannot do so based on personal beliefs alone.

The local (liberal) church I know recently observed a “30 Hour Fast”, but that is renamed (from “Famine”) because the church switched to “Charity Water” as a sponsoring charity in 2014 after some teens (and even parents) objected to the controversy at World Vision.

Is fasting really an effective way to approach charity?  Of course, the libertarian leaves this to individual conscience.  Some faith-based organizations admix the service experience with one of specific religious belief. (Teens can prepare or deliver food while fasting, or even make short films.)  I don’t personally live in a zero-sum world where charity depends on giving up a Starbucks latte.  But “doing without” (as for Lent) sometimes does help people to experience walking in others’ shoes and helps build emotional resilience.   So does giving time to some organizations, even given their pimping appeals, bureaucracy and sometimes lack of transparency.  You can’t always be prepared for someone else’s bullets and then get up again.

There is tension among all these elements.  Is it more important to take care of the poor in other countries (because they have less opportunity to help themselves), or to “take care of your own” in an “America first” world?  Do personal lifestyles (appropriating personal sexuality to personal satisfaction before taking on procreation and having families) contradict the mission of charity?  You could look at the history of domestic charities like Salvation Army, too.

Older supporting legacy blog posting of mine.

(Posted: Sunday, February 26, 2017 at 3:45 PM EST)