McCain’s recent comments makes one wonder if he favors resuming the military draft (for women, too?); even more so with Kelly

John McCain, starting a statement that at first would have accused Donald Trump (like Bill Clinton) of draft dodging, seemed to demur as he then criticized a system in the 1960s that allowed rich kids to get doctors to write them medical disqualifications, while poor people went. Dan Merica has a typical story on CNN.  At first glance, it may sound to male millennials or even younger men that different moral standards are applied to men of earlier generations than to them or to women.

Actually, there was a sequence of privileges that I outlined in the footnotes to my DADT-1 book, after 48b, where it says “Chapter 2 additional conclusion” and I supply a table.

For a while, during the Kennedy years, married men with children were protected, and then married men without children were protected until a single-male pool was exhausted.  The marriage and paternity deferments were ended under LBJ in 1965, but the student deferments, which figured so much into the course of my own life, continued until the lottery started in 1969.  In my case, deferemnt meant that I was much less likely to see combat or even go to Vietnam when I went in, in 1968.

It is well to look at statistics of Vietnam War deaths by race, and also by conscription status (War library; world history)

McCain blithely speaks of an obligation to be available to serve your country.  Of course, it sounds a lot more credible from him than Trump. But it’s always seemed like a contradiction to the idea of the “right to life”. For a while, men who did not consummate procreative sexual intercourse with women were more likely to be drafted.

The Supreme Court, in Rostker v. Golberg, had upheld the male-only Selective Service registration iin 1981, but recently there have been bills in Congress to require women to register, as in Israel.

The capacity to share risk and sacrifice was a major part of the moral climate when I was growing up. Cowardice was a real crime. If you evaded your share of the risk, someone else had to pick it up in your place. That certainly complicates the moral compass compared to the more linear idea of personal responsibility and harmlessness in libertarian thought in more recent times. It also complicates the meaning of marriage.

The deepest “meaning” might have had to do with community resilience.  Most men experienced the sense of shared duty to protect women and children, with some degree of fungibility or interchangeability. Some duties in life were very gender-based.  Milo Yiannopoulos said as much, that manhood included willingness to lay down one’s life for others, although I can’t find the best link right now, here’s a related one.  But spouses of men who came back from war maimed and disfigured were to be expected to remain interested in their partners for life – an expectation that my projection of fantasy life in my days at NIH attacked.

There are other ways men take risks – dangerous jobs of the Sebastian Junger viariety help men “pay their dues”.  Yes, women can do them sometimes, maybe most of the time.  But I didn’t see any women as hotshots in “Only the Brave”, about wildfire firefighters. All of this invokes the low-level hum of debate over national service.

McCain’s echo of the obligation to offer oneself to military service needs to be considered in light of his reluctance to support the end of “don’t ask don’t tell” at the end of 2010.  Yet today he seems to support the service of some transgender members, and he opposed Trump’s brusque attempt to re-impose a transgender ban on Twitter.  But I advanced arguments in my first DADT book that the possibility of future conscription (or even the “Stop-Loss” backdoor draft of the Iraq war) added to the moral urgency of ending the gay ban and DADT. Few writers tried to make this argument.  My staying in this way may (online with search engines, letting my content go to “It’s Free”) have helped with the repeal.

There is a way that people today take risks that weren’t expected in the past – that is, in going all out in very personal ways, like organ and bone marrow donations, to save lives.  That’s partly because medicine makes such outreach – using your own body components — possible as a new kind of sacrifice.  This gets personal and intimate in ways that were unknown when I was growing up.

The New York Times has a couple of impressive pieces on this topic. Michael Stewart Foley describes “The Moral Case for Draft Resistance” in the 1960s here.  Even more challenging may have been John Kelly’s ancillary statement about the ignorance of Americans who haven’t served in a NYTimes “editorial notebook” piece by Clyde Haberman, which argues for the return of the draft, or maybe some kind of national service (civilian service could recur into old age).  Remember how Charles Moskos had helped author “don’t ask don’t tell” but decided the whole ban should be lifted after 9/11 when he started arguing for return of the draft.

(Posted: Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 at 4:45 PM EDT)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, who gets to call the self a journalist?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

North Korea is changing the state of play

My own perception of the greatest external threats to “my world” seems fickle and to change over time, sometimes suddenly.

When I was writing and editing my “Do Ask, Do Tell I” book in the mid 1990s (July 11, 2011 will be the 20th anniversary of publication) and building my arguments about how to lift the ban on gays in the military, I perceived another war in Korea as the most likely threat.  At the time, I was not really aware of the potentially grave threat to the homeland that radical Islam (then in the form of Al Qaeda) could pose, as 9/11 was still several years out.  I had been aware of the economic consequences of oil embargos since the 1970s, but that threat had receded with the oil gluts of the late 80s (with a real estate recession in Texas, where I had been living).

Indeed, until 9/11, I still believed Communism, or post-Communism (which North Korea exemplifies, although with a bizarre royal history) the biggest threat.  And, indeed, where the biggest threat within Communism lay had changed with time.  I remember a day at the Reception Station in US Army Basic Combat Training in Fort Jackson SC in early 1968 where soldiers were saying it was much safer to go to Korea than to Vietnam.  At that time, it was.  It would not be now, as Korea is a flash point (with the whole of South Korea held hostage), whereas Vietnam is a more or less acceptable country. (I wouldn’t move there, but Anthony Bourdain had a good time there on his “Parts Unknown”.)  And although the Vietnam War got discredited with time, in the middle 1960s the “Domino Theory” to which President Johnson subscribed (and which Nixon had to solve by a fractured “peace with honor”) seemed credible enough to many of us, leading to the 1965 documentary “The War Game”.  Much of the argumentation in my first book regarding the military gay ban (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) referred back to earlier controversies over the male-only military draft and the possibility of “getting out of things” (as my own mother’s moral language put it) with student deferments.  It turned out, over time, that this unusual argument would be more effective than many people (who had forgotten the draft) expected  Discussions of resuming the draft (partly at the instigation of Charles Moskos) ignited again after 9/11.  They still go on, with a recent proposal to include women in Selective Service registration.

How serious is the threat to “average Americans”?  I’ve put together a few links in mainstream sources that analyze the risks and policy choices.

A few general observations are in order. One is that there is still some residual controversy over whether the July 4 test represented a true ICBM or an intermediate range device. But the best intelligence suggests that the missile comprised two stages, with the upper stage a new design.  ICBM’s have two to four stages.  Another observation is that North Korea is making much faster progress with missile technology than had been expected even a yea ago.  Still, DPRK would face tremendous challenges guiding a missile all the way to the continental US (as Tom Foreman has explained on CNN). And the DPRK does have nuclear weapons, but miniaturizing them to fit on ICBM’s will still be a major feat.  Still, the acceleration of DPRK’s progress is alarming.  It sounds conceivable that an ICBM nuclear threat to the US west coast could exist as early as 2019.  It’s not clear from media reports (and from classification of information) just how effective NORAD would be at stopping a missile, although there have been successful defensive tests recently.

In the meantime, North Korea can hold civilians in South Korea and even Japan hostage with its current weaponry.

North Korea’s motive is said to provide a deterrent from American attempts to upend the regime of Kim Song Un, who (like his father) is well aware of what happened to Qadaffi and Saddam Hussein.  Fox News may well call North Korea a mob state (“mobocracy”) that will do anything to survive as a mob family. But Un seems particularly sensitive to personal insults (as is Donald Trump, ironically).  There is evidence of the DPRK’s engagement of computer hackers (sending its own prime to school for this) even to punish western private companies like Sony Pictures (“The Interview”).  Could this extend to western private citizens?  Could he throw a tantrum and release a missile over an insult, despite his desire to “survive” obvious retaliation?

There is still another disturbing wrinkle.  Wednesday night, July 5, former CIA director James Woolsey appeared on Don Lemon’s show on CNN at 10 PM EDT and reiterated his claim that North Korea can launch an EMP attack against the US now from a satellite and has been able to do so since 2013.  Woolsey said that Trump is naïve about the real threat at that the ICBM issue really is superfluous.   I had covered this grim possibility in a posting here March 7.  Many other authorities consider this claim largely discredited, however.

Anthony Cordesman, however, this morning suggested on CNN that Trump could consider a limited military strike including an EMP attack on North Korea (which does not require nuclear weapons for more local effects).  But if North Korea has EMP attack capabilities from a satellite now, wouldn’t that invite an EMP attack on the U.S., as catastrophic retaliation (“One Second After”).  DPRK could even retaliate this way to a private insult (the Warmbier tragedy is indeed a dire warning).  I have no idea whether NORAD can disable or remove a hostile foreign satellite.

Of course, all of this brings up the question of civilian disaster preparedness and even “radical hospitality”.  I see a lot of material from doomsday preppers on Facebook all the time, on topics ranging from “bug-out” locations to sewing skills (especially from “Survival Mom”).  I’m personally an existentialist when it comes to these matters, and I won’t get further into the personal moralizing today.  I do think an issue like this calls into question a kind of “rich young ruler problem”, about putting all of one’s own life into orderly civilization and depending on it.

But another question comes up, why does an amateur blogger like me even dare to touch a subject like this.  Blogs are supposed to help people with specifics, so says Blogtyrant.  A lot of people see this kind of posting as rude, because most people believe they can’t do anything about external global catastrophes anyway (although they will march in climate change demonstrations, before returning to their identity politics).  My own life as an individual, however, has always been on the precipice of being affected by major events.  True, it may be related to my aversion to unwelcome personal interdependence.  More about that later.

I do think there are a few issues where the media has totally missed the boat, and not out of desire to spread fake news or support political correctness.  Power grid security is one of the biggest of the issues, and the conservative media companies (like Sinclair Broadcasting) seem closer to covering it right.

New York Times:  Surgical strike; Tough action; Five blunt truths

CNN

Vox:  Missile test explainedFive ways to spin out of control; North Korea history

CSIS Cordesman

(There are more links on March 7 posting and comments.)

(Posted: Thursday, July 6, 2017 at 1 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)

Duty, risk-taking, helping others, and self-promotion

It’s a vague and general principle in the insurance business that some activities are more readily underwritten when there is outside, third-party supervision of the endeavors.

That gets to be testy when the aim is to help others.

I wrote my three books and developed my websites and blogs without supervision. The lack of peer supervision was actually an issue back in the Summer of 2001 when I was turned down for a renewal of a “media perils” individual policy that National Writers Union was selling as an intermediary.

Yes, I took some risks, and I probably knew what I was doing better than a lot of amateur writers, with regard to areas like copyright and defamation. I did become infatuated with the implications of my own narrative, which are considerable.  I did look forward to the fame, or at least notoriety. But was I helping anyone?

Well, the central topic of the first book was “gays in the military,” and in fact I knew a number of the servicemembers fighting the ban (and the old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy) well, at least by correspondence.  I would not have desired a romantic relationship with any or many of them, but I did feel legitimately connected in some personal way. I think I helped, although indirectly.  My staying in the debate for so many years in the search engines did help make the final repeal in 2010-2011 more likely.

But I also had made some unusual arguments.  They were based in part on accepting the idea of duty, of the necessity for shared sacrifice and resilience.  Specifically, I talked about the Vietnam era military draft and my own experience with it, and about the idea that it was still possible to reinstate it.  I recalled all too well the controversy over student deferments, implied cowardice, and the connection between risk and vulnerability.

I’ve thought about the “duty” concept in connection to the need for refugees and asylum seekers for assistance, sometimes very personalized.  One idea that comes through in discussions, especially with lawyers, that anyone offering hosting or major support should have some third-party supervision.  That usually would come from a social services agency, or possibly a faith-based group, as well sometimes local or state agencies.  Of course, the capacity of individuals to offer this has become muddled by Donald Trump and all his flailing and failing travel bans.  The desirable supervision is much better established in Canada (and some European countries) where sponsorship comes with some legally-driven responsibilities comparable, say, to foster care.  In the United States, given the political climate, the volume of people assisted is lower, and the risk or cost, whatever that is, gets spread out among more people.  The situation is even murkier for asylum seekers than for refugees, since their access to benefits and work permission is less, as has been explained here before.

I don’t yet know how this will turn out for me, but I agree that any adherence to “duty” would require some supervision.  So, I am fussier with this than I was with the risk management for my own writing.  But what about the people?  True, I don’t feel personally as connected to the people in this situation as I was with the military issue.  I have to admit that I have led a somewhat sheltered life.  For most of my adult life, the “system” has actually worked for me, and I have been associated with others who more or less play by the rules and benefit from doing so.  Since retiring, I’ve seen that the interpersonal aspects of need do bring on a certain culture shock. The system simply does not work for a lot of poorer people, who sometimes find that they have no reason to play by the same rules, but who do tie into social capital.  The system also fails “different” people, some not as well off as “Smallville‘s” teen Clark Kent. I can understand duty (accompanying “privilege”), but the meaning expected to be attached to helping others in a much more personal way is rather alien to me.

The whole question of housing refugees and asylum seekers (and I’ll even limit the scope of this remark to assuming “legal” presence in the U.S.) fits into a bigger idea about social resilience and radical hospitality, most of all for those (like me) with “accidentally” inherited property.  I do recall that after Hurricane Katrina there was a call for helping to house people in other states (sometimes in homes, sometimes with relatives).  Even though most people want to be near their homes to rebuild after disaster, this sort of need (a kind of “emergency bnb” lower-case) could come back again after earthquakes or major terror strikes or even a hostile attack (North Korea is starting to look really dangerous).  In the worst cases, the nation’s survival could depend on it.

(Published: Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 10 AM EDT)

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)

Firing of transgender journalist over his personal posting about “objectivity” raises questions about personal online reputation in the media

Media columnist Margaret Sullivan reports a disturbing story in the Style Section of the Washington Post today, “How one reporter’s rejection of objectivity got him fired.”

The journalist is 32-year-old female-to-male transgender Lewis Wallace, who was fired ten days into the Trump presidency from Marketplace in Los Angeles.

Wallace was fired after a personal blog post “Objectivity is dead and I’m okay with it.”  He gives a further follow-up on his firing here.   The posts are on a site called “Medium”.  But a similar result would have happened were the platform WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, or even a Facebook page.

Poytner (which offers courses in media and law and has worked with the media perils insurance issue in the past) weighs in on the larger problem with “Should journalists protest in Trump’s America?”  Poytner comes up with some scenarios, like a Muslim journalist is separated from his family by Trump’s sudden ban.  It’s pretty obvious how this can come up with LGBTQ people, as Wallace points out.

Sullivan, in her article, notes that “mainstream” media organizations generally forbid their employees from marching or carrying signs in demonstrations.  Some media companies, like the gay media (like the Washington Blade) would adjust their policies for their targeted readership and advertisers.

Now my own circumstances bear comment, and it’s best to work this problem inside out.  I am “retired”, and run my own media operations myself.  So, in a way, I can “do what I want.”  But I certain face criticism from many parties, as I have covered here before.  Some people wonder why my book and movie reviews aren’t more partial to their own struggles or previous hardships, and people do say that my tone is usually surprisingly “neutral”, even pedantic, as if I had no personal stake in their issues, when obviously (given my own past narrative) I do have such exposure.   So, people say, I actually should offer to keep my own “skin in the game” for being flayed or burned, as part of solidarity.  Sometimes this can degenerate into expecting people to take each other’s bullets.  One can say, my activity doesn’t carry its own weight.  It could be undermined in the future by Trump’s security concerns about social media in general, or if Section 230 is gutted or appealed.   I get criticized that I don’t help other people get and keep their jobs as much as I would have to if I really had to “sell”.  Then I could not afford the “pretense” of objectivity and would have to please a specific audience, and “help” real people.

For those who don’t know me, I consider myself tending toward the libertarian side of conservatism, supporting equality on social issues. but careful look at why people have the attitudes they do, strong on defense (pretty much a McCain-like Republican), and sensibly conservative on fiscal issues (like, the US must pay its bills and keep its promises). While I understand what is behind much of the anti-immigrant sentiment, were I in charge I would be much more cautious about consequences than the current president about how my policies actually would work out.

I do go to demonstrations and photograph them and film them.  But I generally don’t carry signs (although I did earlier in my life, in the 1970s, after “coming out”; I remember many late June gay pride marches).  Particularly from the radical Left, I am vulnerable to the flak, “What makes you too good to march with us?”  It’s very dangerous to pretend you are better than other people and don’t have to walk in their shoes sometimes (maybe permanently).

So, I can understand why some people (like Trump and Bannon) don’t like journalists.  Remember the little Netflix movie “Rebirth”?  We are the spectators, the kibitzers, who don’t play, who can criticize others but who don’t have to live with the consequences.  We are the Monday morning quarterbacks.  (But then, again, because we can’t pitch no-hitters, we don’t have hundred-million dollar contracts.)   We even may be the slightly Asperger-like or Spock-like “alien anthropologists” who set up social networking sites and do news aggregation to rule the world and claim this third planet from the Sun for ourselves.  (Is Mark Zuckerberg the most powerful man in the world anyway?)

To be fair, there is pure journalism (on-site news reporting) and there is commentary.  Usually they’re not supposed to mix too much, but on stations like CNN they do, where news analysts opine all the time.  The mainstream and liberal networks properly question the current president’s recklessness (which might be deliberate strategy to see what he can get away with), whereas Fox I guess is supportive.  But original reporting does have to pay heed to objectivity.  Remember how journalists like Brian Williams have gotten into trouble.

I actually would be interested in working with organizations ranging from Vox to OAN, but I would have to separate my coverage from my own personal narrative, which works because right now I control my own operation myself.

In a posting, here May 20, 2016, I had already linked to a long narrative of my own issue with “conflict of interest”, as is covered in Chapter 3 of my own DADT-III book, sections 2 and 3 here (PDF).   In the early 1990s, I was working for a life insurance company that specialized in sales to military officers.  Given my personal history and the political climate at the time (over Bill Clinton’s settling into “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) I felt that my plans to write a book on the military ban and bring in a personal narrative could present its own kind of “conflict of interest”.  That became a major theme in my life in the 1990s, which continued in the 2000s when I worked as a substitute teacher, leading to another incident in 2005 documented in section 06 of the book excerpt.

I do believe that there are facts.  There can be alternative interpretation of fact, but “alternative fact” is an oxymoron.  Journalists do need to report all the facts (as the Cato Institute showed up with the statistics on crime committed by refugees in the U.S)

I think the problem comes in the slant or interpretation of facts.  Do we report on others as if they were free-standing individuals, or as if they were members of groups and inherit all kinds of advantages and disadvantages (including marginalization) based on their belonging to these groups?  And how do we deal with people in our own lives?  It does get personal.

(Posted: Thursday, February 2, 2017 at 5:15 PM EST)

It’s important to know the history of homophobia, and how it was a proxy for much more

There is a lot of apprehension about the effect a Trump administration could have on “LGBTQ” rights (or, depending on your viewpoint, “LGBTQ people”).  The concern is not so much from Trump’s actions (he seemed OK with this issue on his show “The Apprentice” with gay candidates and obviously would have considered them equally), but with some of his proposed appointments to the administration, as well as Vice President Pence.

While the “popular” strategy on the Left, has been the “as a people” approach (remedying discrimination against a group), I’ve always gone at this from the libertarian to conservative issue:  why is one adult’s consensual sex life another adult’s (other than a spouse) business?  Why was it the business, in the past, of governments, churches, schools, employers, landlords, etc?

For indeed, in the distant past, the world very much interfered with my life, with huge consequences shaping the course of a whole adulthood, as it has for many other people. With all the rapid gains, most of all repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” and then marriage equality, and now in transgender areas (begrudgingly at times as with the bathroom bills),  and today’s fights over phony “religious freedom restoration act” bills, it’s very important that younger gay adults and teens understand the history, which even recently was challenging.  In the past, not only were gays “entrapped” in public restrooms; sometimes police raided gay establishments and invented false charges of public lewdness, leading to the concept of the “Mafia bar” in New York in the 1960s (during the 1964-65 World’s Fair, leading to Stonewall in 1969) and police harassment of bar patrons in Dallas in 1980.

From a libertarian perspective, there really seems to exist a delicious irony.  In the past, LGBTQ people (so to speak) were persecuted not for what they did but for what they didn’t do – which was “play ball: with carrying on families (biologically).  When I was expelled from William and Mary in 1961, the idea that being around me could threaten a roommate’s or dorm resident’s procreative potential was seen a  much bigger threat than would (the opposite risk of) an unwanted pregnancy or becoming a romantic rival for someone’s girlfriend. That sort of idea would get into the debate on gays in the military in the 1990s, and form an irony framing all of my writing. A corollary is that, in dorm life for me, insecure men talked as if seeing someone like me succeed with women would make them feel more secure about their own prospects, as part of herd thinking.

Why were things “the way they were”? One observation stands out:  tribal culture.  Western civilization, for all its politics, developed from Abrahamic religions, all of which comprised tribal groups that had to be concerned with their group survival against enemies, whether religious, political, or natural.  Religious moral codes (the Ten Commandments seem uncontroversial, but not a lot of other passages in the Old Testament)  were developed with respect to risks to the sustainability of groups.  Moral codes, imposing a certain uniformity of culture and behavior on everyone in a group, tend to give group life “meaning” for a lot of people, so a lot of people become “addicted” to looking at others through these moral ideas, especially “outsiders” (read immigrants, or people of other races, today).  Homosexuality, with its obvious potential to detract from procreation, was seen as a proxy behavior for any existential threat to the long term survival of the group.  The capability of looking at the world through libertartian lens is relatively modern, and becomes easier in richer cultures with higher standards of living and with political and infrastructure stability.  But this capacity means less addiction to one’s own perceptions and more openness to interacting with others on terms other than one’s own – a difficult sell for many people.   But this is a necessary context for most of the arguments below;  the freedom to live just according to one’s own expectations from other peoples can, over time, inadvertently invite authoritarianism.

I have to add a caveat: some native societies, in North America and around the world, have been quite tolerant of gender ambiguity, willing to place “queer” people into positions of spiritual authority.

But now ;let’s run through the five big areas. I’ll work inside-out, inductively, and start with the most specific problems first.

Issue 1: Public Health

I had my “second coming” in the 1970s and I knew vaguely that typical “promiscuous” gay male “lifestyles” could increase the risk of traditional venereal diseases, and I often heard people talk about hepatitis (especially B). My last year in New York City, 1978, some things happened that gave me reason to wonder if something else could be going on.  I moved to Dallas for a new job at the start of 1979, and that could have saved my life.

In early 1983, about a year before the CDC announced the discovery of HTLV-III (later known as HIV-I) a conservative state representative from Amarillo introduced a bill (HR 2138) that would have reinforced the Texas sodomy law (2106) and banned homosexuals from most occupations (let alone the military). Prompt activism by the Dallas Gay Alliance kept it from getting out of committee.  A group called the “Dallas Doctors Against AIDS” advanced a theory saying that the chain-letter transmission of the then unidentified virus by anal intercourse within the gay male community threatened the general population because it amplified a dangerous virus that could then mutate and change transmissibility. Groups like DDAA jumped on CDC’s observation that the disease did not seem to transmit easily from women to men in “normal” intercourse, so heterosexual chains, well known with conventional venereal diseases or STD’s, would not sustain with AIDS.

We know that this (the speculated increase in contagion) did not happen.  As in the old series “Science Fiction Theory” with Truman Bradley, we could ask, could it happen?  Well, is that like a woman changing into a plant, as in one episode?  I sound sarcastic.  It’s unusual for viruses to change transmissibility, but yet they can cross species.  If a virus got more contagious, it would probably become much less virulent. That would mean that this particular virus would need to infect other kinds of cells (like in the lungs or GI tract).  One possibility was that it could become an arbovirus (and in fact the New York Native, Charles Ortleb’s little newspaper in the 1980s, speculated about an arbovirus, African Swine Fever, or ASFV, being experimented with by the government on Long Island.  That actually could have been very dangerous politically.  One could imagine such arguments being made about Zika now.

The credibility of this argument waned with time, as HIV did not change its basic behavior.  By definition, the opportunistic infections carried by PWA’s were unlikely to affect people with normal immune systems.  Even so, one cannot completely eliminate some other “science fiction movie” scenario that imagination can conjure.  The transmission models for viruses attractive to terrorists (like avian influenza, maybe) are much more aggressive.  Social distance becomes an issue, but that’s not a problem just in the gay community.

The cost of covering insurance for HIV (including PrEP and protease inhibitors) could become a hot button problem as Trump’s minions replace Obamacare (in fact, it’s a problem now).  Pence, back in 2000, wanted to slash AIDS funding and support “conversion therapy”, with shallow but curiously pernicious logic “with no heart”.

Lesbians, it should be remembered, actually have fewer sexually transmitted diseases than straight women.  Gender is not always “fair” in nature.

Issue 2: Procreation

I think that historically, most homophobia is centered on the (not completely correct) idea that homosexuals don’t reproduce and strengthen the population.  Resources (maybe more votes) in this theory should go to people responsible for offspring (or maybe adopting children).

The tacky idea was that “homosexuals don’t recruit, so they must recruit”, at least in the mindset of the Westboro Baptist Church.  It also sounds like the mindset in Russia.

Remember, in Russia, sodomy was made legal in 1993, and the 2013 anti-propaganda law was only about talking about it, or “promoting” it.  Vladimir Putin, have promoted “conception days” for a sparsely populated country losing people and its former greatness, is thinking that speech about homosexuality will give less “secure” males (or “waverers”) the idea that having a family with children isn’t worth it, is too much or a personal encumbrance against other goals, a notion that lives at the heart of the culture wars. Volokh (a law professor) takes us this argument in this post.

This may be the most relevant argument in my own life, since I am an only child.  That’s unusual, as gay men tend not to be first-born males (which adds to biological epigenetic theories).  But arguably, I deprived my parents a “lineage” which, in some religious thought, matters for the afterlife.

Issue 3: Relativity and the Observer, or Distraction

One of Einstein’s ideas in his relativity theories was that objects are affected by the observer.  OK, this comes down to the idea that sometimes people don’t like to be stared at, and scoped.  The straight world understands that women don’t like this (maybe Donald Trump doesn’t, judging from his comments to Billy Bush, all that locker room talk).  But men often object to being “evaluated” by other men, too.  I can remember the phrase, back to around 1972, “I don’t notice men’s bods.”  Arguably, straight men who are less than perfect physically don’t like the idea that other men notice how they tack up against potential competition.  If these (heterosexual) men are allowed to keep male physical appearance (compared to female) outside the area of allowable public awareness, weaker men have a better chance of finding female mates.

I documented in DADT-1 that my roommate at William and Mary in 1961  feared he would become impotent if he continued living near me (he put it in more graphic terms).  This sort of thing is what bothered the likes of Sam Nunn and Charles Moskos back in 1993 when Bill Clinton was forced to settle for “don’t ask don’t tell” for gays in the military.

The distraction issue, in less wealthy and less stable societies, is significant because such societies tend to expect men to bond together when necessary to protect women and children in their communities. In recent years, in western countries, this has become less significant socially.  Better educated men generally are not as likely to feel distracted when in an environment in which they know homosexuals are present.  Actually, there was very little or no distraction during the Vietnam era, because of the authoritarian atmosphere, and the fact that when there was draft, people tended to support a double standard, pretending one thing and quietly acknowledging another.  Similarly, the military did not try to discharge gay soldiers once deployed in Iraq because of severe “stop-loss” needs.

So the “distraction” argument tends to wane when there are more pressing problems around.  To an individualist, even an Ayn Rand follower, this sort of argument sounds self-deprecating.  But people who feel this way typically have much more invested in group identity, especially associated with religious beliefs.

There have been films about this kind of problem, like “Rebirth”, which presents a self-help commune that doesn’t allow “spectators” because watchers can criticize people with skin in the game.

Issue 4: Relationism

Traditional marriage (or “complementation”, or even “complementaration”, see comment, Dec. 28 posting) is typically advanced by social conservatives (ranging from Rick Santorum to George Gilder, to the Family Research Council) as involving a certain amount of sacrifice by the man, for access to sexual intercourse (with children), buttressing his identity as a man.  The FRC especially was quick to note that men often show lower testosterone levels when caring for children (although that presumes that the old-fashioned  gender split with stay-at-home moms is breaking down). It used to be a standing joke that men gain weight and develop pot bellies after getting married – become less sexually attractive (go bald, too), having made their one conquest. That doesn’t need to happen, of course, and many times does not.  But it still sets up a curious admission that seems self-deprecating to an individualist.  Indeed, Allan C. Carlson, in “Family Matters” (1989) had written that traditional families would have to deal with or be protected from the “logical implications of radical individualism”.

Indeed, when one has kids, one is “encumbered” in a sense and changes into a new person, and takes on new goals and a new identity.  Well, maybe not always.  Donald Trump didn’t.  But one could be competing with less encumbered childless people who can lowball him in the workplace.

The debate over paid family leave inverts this situation, but so does the fact that childless people can be in a real bind with faced with the demands of eldercare, as I was.

“Relationism” has a lot to do with finding meaning in an intimate or deeply relationship with a dependent, the opposite of “upward affiliation”.  Having a family and becoming a parent the traditional way is the most straightforward way to grow into relational living (that’s Carlson and Mero and “The Natural Family”).  But love within the family needs to branch out, and give the individual the capacity to get beyond his comfort zone in dealing with need interpersonally;  this is an existential change to a sense of identity for a lot of people, myself included.  It does get personal.

Issue 5: Right-sizing

The last issue is the most nebulous, but I had written about this before (Oct. 3).  There is a general understanding that in western culture some inequality is inevitable if people are going to have incentives to innovate, and raise the living standards for everybody.  But there is also an idea that if everybody has to follow the same rules in some sensitive areas (like sexuality), life has more “meaning” for everybody, and wealth and income inequality is more acceptable.  It’s the “everybody else should have to deal with what I have to deal with” idea.  Life isn’t fair, but it’s our best shot.

There is the fear that the elevation of the cultural norm of “husband and father”, for men who otherwise don’t distinguish themselves as individuals, could be diluted.  There’s the idea that gays are “getting out of things” (supporting families) — an idea that the religious right sometimes hijacked early in the AIDS epidemic by calling gays “spoiled sophisticates”. There’s the idea of allowing one’s sexuality to be used for the adaptive needs of the community around you.  There’s the idea that the value of the “less able” can only be ratified within a nuclear “natural” family structure where needs are known on the ground, and where everyone follows the same rules.

It may also have to do with resilience – the idea that a people, if challenged by a serious external calamity, could bounce back, even if individual people in the group accepted the idea of a lot of (otherwise uneven) personal sacrifice.  But this is an odious idea for modern western democracy generally, that we cannot count on our system to be there for us.   This is the moral mindset of much of the doomsday prepper crowd.

Conclusion:

Sexual orientation is not by itself an identity (as much as perhaps gender identity itself is). Male homosexuality, in western culture, is very prone to “upward affiliation” because of the competitive context of individualism (Chapter 7 of DADT-2).  That tends to exacerbate (through a sense of “proxy”) a perception of inequality and unfairness in some contexts and lead to -instability (Chap 6 of DADT-3).  The proxy behavior appearance tempts some authoritarian politicians and religious leaders to focus on homosexuality as some sort of fundamental threat to the long term survival of a group, instead of on personal responsibility in the much narrower sense of liberal culture.  This illusion also contributes to a belief among some traditionally married men that they are doing a good job providing for a family when actually they become vulnerable to loss of emotional investment in their marriages as the couples get older.  And the illusion may cover up some domestic violence by heterosexual men.

If I ponder this along with my own attitudes about the way people become important to me, I can see that a strict moral code, enforced on everyone, can provide an effective “firewall” against obligated to get into personal relationships with people whom you don’t want to make OK, or accepting the idea of having to become dependent on others (not of your choosing) yourself, because of the common hazards we must all share.

I have a correlated post on my “Do Ask Do Tell Notes” blog here.

(Posted: Tuesday, January 3, 2017 at 10:30 PM EST)