Should school districts make community service hours a graduation requirement?


On Sunday, February 11, 1968, I stood in newly issued fatigues in formation in a biting wind, with snow flurries, after a southern cold front blew into the Carolina Midlands at Fort Jackson, SC, as the drill sergeant barked, “I need some volunteers”.  We all raised our hands, almost as if giving a Hitler salute, so as not to stand out.  I didn’t have to “volunteer” that day and was soon back in drafty but warmer barracks. I thought, we have to learn to deal with the “freezin’, fuckin’ cold”.  Soon, the skin on my wrists would start to crack.

Now, fast forward.


Many public school systems (and many private schools, like Catholic or other parochial schools) now require community service as a graduation requirement.  Is this a good idea?

“Mandatory volunteering” is an oxymoron. But there is practical pressure on a lot of us to give back or to join in, because if “we” don’t, we depend on others who make the sacrifices and take the risks for us.

Actually, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Community service requirements for graduation, as an issue, intersects with or is related to, but still distinct from, some other issues like the military draft (whether it should include women), national service, corporate internships in lieu of regular jobs, and even use of community service in criminal sentences (making “service” non-voluntary).  These will all be covered later separately.

The best piece I could find on it was a 2008 New York Times article by Douglas Quenqua, “Good Deeds, the Backlash”. (An earlier similar column from 2003 had curiously been removed by the NYT.)   But there are pieces by the School Superintendent Association, college administrators, and “”. This last site does set up an “opposing viewpoints” forum that I have envisioned doing in the past.

In general, many observers are critical of the obsession by school systems with meeting a “clock hours” requirement, but the same observers believe that some volunteer assignments do provide valuable student learning experiences, perhaps worthy of some academic credit.

I would be inclined to agree with that summary.  Think about it.  Maryland schools require 75 clock hours.  That would be something like 19 Saturdays with four-hour stints for a whole semester.  But that’s about the amount of class-equivalent time that it takes to earn about six credit hours in college.  Is six credit hours of “service” reasonable, say split between junior and senior years in high school?  Probably.  But when there is a preoccupation with “The Hours” (like the three-part movie), there’s a tendency for abuse.  Companies offer youth tours for “service credits” to the Caribbean or Central America, maybe with little service and some risk to the safety of students.

High schools (and colleges, but we’ll come back to that) should construct assignments where the focus is on skills learning (including people skills), and completing certain projects.  It’s easy to imagine projects that teach handiness (or “handyman”, to quote one of my own novel manuscripts) skills and service the community.  For example, organic garden work to provide healthful produce for food banks (diabetic clients are helped), or construction of affordable housing (leaning some construction trade or shop skills), or perhaps some environmental cleanup, or sometimes, tutoring in literacy and math programs.  In Washington state, representative Steve Berquist says community service inspired a young man become a teacher (and potentially run for office). And, yes, service assignments can give some students experience with regimentation and manual labor, a sense of the world that they will depend on.  If that sounds a tad Maoist, so be it.  Yet, all of this sounds cynical, apart from love and belonging.


In college, sometimes there a projects, worthy of academic credit, more readily done in the real world outdoors or in corporate computer labs (like in Research Triangle Park) than on campus (UNC or Duke nearby).  At Grandfather Mountain, NC, (in a film I staw there) biologists learn rappelling skills because that is the only way to study some altitude-sensitive unusual plants and animals – which could wind up having medicinal value for people.  I’ll come back to interning later, but it seems valid when there can be genuine graduation credit given and when there is real learning involved, as well as potential service.


We could see science fair projects as a kind of service, or find ways to fit them in to a service program and give credit.  Think about the contribution of Taylor Wilson, and of both Jack and Luke Andraka.

I think you can make a case for the fact that high school graduates should have learned some other community skills: learning to swim, learning CPR, and to some extent rescue skills.

(Published: Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016 at 10:45 AM)

Sharing economy jumps in to try to help asylees or refugees; meanwhile Cuban “refugee” controversy returns


This Monday morning I was merely trying to wade through the thinner Washington Post, picked up off a driveway (that says something) delivery resumed on the first “full day” back from a trip, to get to the Sports section and check up on the Washington Nationals.  They lost, even with home field advantage Sunday. (Major League Baseball really does benefit from immigration, but let me get on to my main points.)  But I never saw so many socially provocative and potentially personally challenging stories on the finger journey through a printed liberal establishment (e.g., supporting Hillary) newspaper.

On the lower left side of the Metro section front page there was a story by Perry Stein, “D.C. man’s quest to offer safe – and free – harbor for refugees and others in crisis, or, online, “This man launched a website so people can invite refugees to stay in their homes”   The man is Egyptian immigrant businessman Amr Arafa, and he offers room in his own studio apartment in Foggy Bottom (near GWU).  It would sound like it’s even a shared (not separate) bedroom for sleeping.  He shelters refugees (who are likely to be asylees in a legal sense) and sometimes victims of domestic violence.  The news story conveys his attempt to use Airbnb at first, before starting his own site, “Emergency BnB’ here.  Note the simplicity of the text in a sharing economy sense “I need a place; I have a place”.  It sounds like Marxism brought local, to the level of the natural family (as authors Carlson and Mero would have said).

In comments to a July 20 posting here on volunteers who want to help refugees can expect, I mentioned Center Global for LGBT asylum seekers, which sounds much more rigorous by comparison to this.  And of course placement of refugees through one of the nine DHS-certified social service agencies and non-profits is a very “safe” thing to volunteer for (and it is very carefully managed).  But sheltering people in a sharing economy technique does sound like going way out of the box.  In Canada, where private placement sponsorship is legal, it sounds much less daring.

The whole panoply of immigration issues, which Donald Trump has exploited, is based on the idea that admitting and helping immigrants from economically or politically unstable (often Muslim) areas will not only take away jobs from Americans, but will require Americans to risk their own security, sometimes in very persona ways.  “It will cost you something.  You may become someone else in the process.”  That goes along with an idea called “radical hospitality”, which a local church (Trinity Presbyterian in Arlington) has talked about sometimes.  (And there’s “scruffy hospitality”, too.)   In fact, the housing issue should resonate particularly with Donald Trump since he is in the real estate business.  But – we know from studies that immigrants add wealth (and help maintain a birth rate) often take menial jobs Americans don’t want, and sometimes bring unusual technological skills (which is why Facebook supports immigration). Cato Institute and Niskanen have held forums and published studies on the economic effects of immigration, and they are usually positive.

What goes around comes around.  Back in 1980, Americans in southern states were begged to take in Cuban refugees in their homes during the Mariel Boat Lift (many were LGBT).


Recently, Dave Bier, now with Cato, authored a piece in the Miami Herald, “U.S. should continue to accept Cuban refugees”.    Cubans have always been given asylum automatically (making them asylees, legally, rather than refugees) because they came from a communist (“non free”) country in the Western hemisphere.  I think there is some similar provision for Haiti, and one can wonder about countries like Venezuela.  But the bigger issue seems to be whether, given that the US now recognizes Cuba (and also because Cuban “refugees” can now return to Cuba), whether Cuban asylees should continue to get welfare benefits.  As another story indicates, Senator Marco Rubio (“Little Rubio”)  says no.  One idea is to offer benefits only in narrow situations comparable to non-automatic political asylum (as is the case with LGBT people from some countries).

Generally, when an undocumented person (or someone with an expired visa) applies for political asylum, he or she can remain in the United States legally during the process, but they don’t get government benefits.  These measures require care and caution (and maybe professional legal consultation) from anyone wanting to host them.  When an asylum application is approved, the immigrant may become eligible for many benefits and may be much better able to live on his or her own (with or without a family), as in a regular apartment building.  Here’s one of the better links I could find.

I’ll return for a moment to the “out of the box” and “radical hospitality” expectations.  I lived in NYC in the 1970s, and it was common (sometimes almost expected, especially in the East Village) in the male gay community to let others crash in their apartments.  It wasn’t viewed as a big deal, and that’s how a lot of people got by in an expensive housing market.  By comparison, offering housing to international refugees or asylum seekers sounds personally risky, maybe unwise if morally right (to use a metaphor from Anthony Bourdain).  But one could extend the idea too other domestic homeless (as with domestic violence), or people needing to resettle temporarily or even permanently after major natural disasters, which will probably become only more common.

(Published: Monday, Aug. 29, 2016 at 11:15 AM EDT)

(Post pub note: “political asylum for LGBTQ” is a tag, intended as a WP cat.).

ABC covers painful controversy over paying ransom to terrorists, or letting families do it privately


Tonight, both ABC 20-20 and ABC Nightline approached the incredibly existential and sensitive topic of paying ransom to terrorists, especially whether families should be allowed to raise funds privately to do so. The broadcast was called “The Girl Left Behind” (detailed review on Blogger) and concerned the story of Kayla Mueller, kidnapped in Aleppo while working with Doctor’s Without Borders, and finally murdered by ISIS after an excruciating series of events.

Maybe the New York Times has the best answer for this dilemma, which only governments or states could implement, here, in an op-ed by David McAdams, Feb. 3, 2013.

The US government, of course, maintains that paying ransom can encourage more kidnapping overseas, as indeed it would. The State Department maintains that Americans should follow travel advisories closely, as it claims that one of the purposes of these warnings is to point out that the US government might not be able to protect “you” in certain hostile or less developed countries, especially those with dictatorship, war or conflict or religious intolerance (or sometimes abuse of specific populations, like LGBT).  Good questions come up, for example, with helping journalists covering conflicts and possibly living with or traveling with troops (which would presumably protect them).   Questions come up about the intrinsic value of normal diplomatic relations.  The government says that, short of an unlikely Special Forces rescue, there may be nothing it can do without endangering other Americans abroad. More recently, the Obama administrations seems to have intimated it will “look the other way” on privately funded ransom payments, which have been regarded as illegal. If they are allowed, in some circles private citizens could be pressured to participate against their own belief systems.

One other question would be, what happens if foreign enemies were to abduct people inside western countries (even inside the US).  Could ransom be offered then?  (Recently the government has said that it might be open to this in “sting” operations.)  This could become a dangerous development in the future.  It wouldn’t necessarily be confined to “radical Islamic terrorism”, to quote Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.  China has been known to abduct its own journalists in other countries, like Thailand.  Could this happen to Americans? Trump has indeed said, “China is not your friend.”

Still an opposite-leaning question is that major humanitarian organizations (like Doctors with0ut Borders) and sometimes faith-based groups send professionals or other young adults as volunteers into conflict-torn or unstable areas.  They could not send volunteers there if at least their own private supporters were not allowed to get them out.

(Published: Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016 at 1:30 AM EDT)

Wikileaks exposes a lot of private lives


Wikileaks has published private data of many ordinary citizens overseas, according to a more recent AP story by Raphael Satter and Maggie Michael Aug. 23, “Private lives are exposed as Wikileaks spills its secrets“.  One person “exposed” was someone arrested for gay sex (or was it merely for being known as gay).  Some says that the PII leaks come about as Wikileaks doesn’t have the staff to carefully review what it puts out.

On my legacy movie reviews blog, I’ve covered a lot of films dealing with government surveillance and its exposure (“Killer Switch”, “Citizenfour”, “Silenced”, “The Internet’s Own Boy”, “The Fifth Estate”, “We Steal Secrets”, “Underground: The Julian Assange Story”. An additional film was a 40-minute clip of US action in Iraq, “Collateral Murder”, with the help of Chelsea Manning.

“Amateur” publishing (“The Fifth Estate” indeed) does “keep them honest”.  But a lot of ordinary people tend to wind up in the crosshairs, and given the asymmetry.

(Published: Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016 at 11 PM EDT)

Gawker judgment, and possible licensing of journalists?


Robert Coleman offers a speculative article about the future of journalism (especially by amateurs) in the  Foundation for Economic Education site, “Before Celebrating Gawker’s Demise, Consider This”. I’m continuing a discussion I had started on one of my legacy blogs, particularly concerning Peter Thiel’s justification of his own financial assistance with the litigation, where he considered Gawker’s behavior to revenge porn, here.

Coleman makes a lot of assertions or conjectures, which don’t always follow the logical flow of proving mathematical theorems (remember plane geometry).  He points out that Hulk sued under a privacy claim rather than a direct defamation complaint, which, since he is a public figure, could have made the legal standard (regarding actual malice or recklessness) easier to meet.  He also points out that the punitive damage component of the judgment might have violated due process in the Constitution or 14th Amendment.

But then he goes into the idea of newsworthiness, and whether it outweighs a putative invasion of privacy (again, for a public figure).  A jury is given the power to determine newsworthiness, as might a judge on appeal later.  This is seen as a threat to the press and to free speech, and the First Amendment.  Leave newsworthiness determinations to consumers, he says.

Finally, after making a journey through sedition laws, citing John Adams (and making a link all the way to Donald Trump’s threats against the press) which have involved criminal penalties (during World War I, you could go to jail for even criticizing the military draft) Coleman comes up with an analogy between journalism and law as professions, and asks if journalists should have to be licensed, or if we could be heading here (especially if Donald Trump wins the general election).

In fact South Carolina state representative Michael Pitts introduced a “South Carolina Responsible Journalism Law”  (Think Progress story ) which would require registration and background checks before any media outlet could hire a journalist (that is, apparently, capable of press credentials).  Pitt is accused of trying to troll media supporters of gun registration.

What, then, about “amateur” blogging?  Bye bye?

There were columns back in 2004 like “the coming crackdown on blogging”, because of the possible compromise of the campaign finance reform laws (blogs could be seen as unaccounted political support).  That actually figures into an incident in my life when I was substitute teaching in 2005, but the legal and practical concerns blew over.

Just last Sunday, Sarah Jeong wrote a missive in the Washington Post Outlook section (celebrating the August 1991 birthday of the World Wide Web) where she referred to “The Internet of Garbage” and discussed the tenuous continuity of Section 230 of the 1996 CDA, due to the lobbying power of Silicon Valley.

Coleman rightfully notes that the “licensure” could destroy the press as we know it, and its ability to keep politicians and governments honest.  Libertarians have opposed almost all zoning  (“not in my back yard”) and licensing, saying it protects established legacy businesses (look at the issue of licensing cosmetologists, as John Stossel has pointed out).  Indeed, authoritarian governments take the position that “knowledge” should be passed down through channels of social (familial) and political (or religiou) authority.  The right to be heard has to be earned by “paying your dues”.  It’s interesting to consider Russia’s 2013 anti-gay “propaganda” law, predicated on a belief that pro-gay advocacy will lower Russia’s already low birth rate.  Vladimir Putin (whose shirtless selfies are provocative) sees all public speech as “propaganda”.  Maybe so does Donald Trump.

(Published: Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 6:15 PM EDT)

Self-publishing platforms can sometimes cover up plagiarism scams


This is not particularly good news for the self-publishing world.  The New York Times had reported a year ago in a story by David Segal in a column, “The Haggler”, about the need for “Rousting the Book Pirates from Google”.

It seemed that some popular romance and science-fiction novels were being recycled as self-published books on the platform.  Generally, the “content review” process of self-publishing companies is supposed to screen out obvious fraud or copyright infringement, but that doesn’t seem to work so well on Google books.  Amazon doesn’t seem to have the same level of complaints.

What’s amazing to me is that people really buy these things.  But then they will buy pirated DVD’s for $3 a piece on NYC subways (right in front of me).

A recent post on “publishing advice” tries to blacklist some of the pirates.

I haven’t been so honored to see this happen to my books, but I have gotten told of a few plagiarism events (maybe from “turnitin”) from my old legacy essays on my “do ask do tell” site.  That’s flattering.

(Published: Monday, Aug. 22, 2016 at 11:45 PM EDT)

Is citizen journalism too much a spectator sport?


Is citizen journalism a spectator sport?

I could embed this in a broader question, is journalism itself a spectator sport?

It’s pretty well established in major media circles that the top journalists have “paid their dues”, often with conflict reporting, and sometimes with prior work experience as grunts themselves.  It’s easy to come up with a hall of fame:  Anderson Cooper, Sebastian Junger (at one time seriously injured when working as an arborist), Bob Woodruff (who recovered miraculously from head wounds in Iraq), and more recently, OAN’s Trey Yingst.  Stuart Lee of the BBC has an article, “War reporting is not a spectator sport.”

One can add another level: sport’s reporting.  Not everybody is “good” enough to play professional baseball, football, basketball, hockey, etc. or to swim or cycle in the Olymics (many of us would not like the peaking). But others make their way as sports agents (playing “Moneyball”), or as reporters and broadcasters.  And sports journalism is very exacting, requiring constant attention to the detail of everything going on, on and off the field.

Sometimes we wonder about reporting on disasters.  I recall Anderson Cooper’s wading in flood waters in East Texas in September 2008 to report on Hurricane Rita, only to miss the financial crisis to erupt the next day in his own home town.  But with most disasters, journalists get to go home soon and resume their lives.  I wondered this with my last posting on disasters, where an OAN journalist reported on Red Cross volunteer efforts to rebuild the lives of people in eastern Louisiana after the floods, with people apparently willing to come from hundreds of miles away to give time and effort.  Some of the same effort was reported after a major apartment gas explosion near Washington DC.


That’s where the citizen journalism issue starts to get dicey.  “Amateur” journalism does tend to perform a function that Anderson Cooper calls “Keeping them honest” and that I would term “Do Ask, Do Tell”.  It puts ideas in play that establishment media and especially politicians find hard to deal with, and it tends to confound the organizational discipline of “identity politics”.  But it can also seem nosey or intrusive, and self-indulgent (even in a “feminine” pursuit of “truth”).  Why won’t you “join” us and learn “what it’s like”?  Why won’t you walk in our shoes?  Instead of photographing the flood or fire damage, why won’t you stay and help us rebuild. You know you are more fortunate than us.

That sort of mentality is particularly well dramatized in the Netflix thriller “Rebirth” (review where a particular community enforces a rule “No spectators”.  Indeed, with topics of high security (and sometimes with political campaign events), it’s hard for people without “press credentials” to get in.  In some communities (such as those involving certain immigrants, like those seeking asylum), “curiosity” reporters could inadvertently out the clients in danger, so communities don’t want people without “skin in the game” looking on (that is, willing to take unusual risks to help).

This touches on an area already visited, the campus speech codes issue (May 14), particularly at the University of Missouri, as reported in the Columbia Spectator in an article by Caroline Lee April 4.  If marginalized groups are already demanding “media free” zones with respect to the established press, imagine how they feel about the Fifth Estate (May 30).

I’ll close by mention a Guide by Cordelia Hebblethwaite, “The Social Media Reporter”.  Note the technical knowledge involved in fact-checking social media leads to stories.

(Published: Sunday, August 21, 2016 at 11:15 PM EDT)

Disaster preparedness and prevention: is this about personal responsibility, or about having each other’s backs?


Yesterday, on a little day trip, I drove down a remote creek valley road extending north west from the little hamlet of Gore, VA, about 10 miles west of Winchester on US 50.


The road seems to follow a heavily wooded canyon (limestone or quartz rock walls several hundred feet high) around a stream, running in the western part of the Shenandoah Valley as the “Ridge and Valley Country”, leading to the Eastern Continental Divide eventually, starts.   There are numerous little bridges, some one lane, along the road (I think it is county 704) with warnings that the stream can flood.

I saw numerous homes, some of them mobile, some of them with small farms, and even a Boy Scout camp.  One home had a crude pontoon bridge crossing another little tributary to get to the house.  I didn’t look at my cell phone, but this indeed looks like life off the grid with sump pumps, self-reliance, gun ownership, and the like.

Apparently this area has been lucky enough not to flood during the numerous heavy rain events in the past three weeks as the heat wave finally breaks.  So what happened to Ellicott City could have happened here.  Or maybe it’s less likely – this area is farther area from water;  north central Maryland, by contrast, gets moisture from SE winds off the Chesapeake Bay, which makes the strorms in that area stronger with some wind shear that creates a small “tornado alley”.

But I was impressed by the fact that most “average people” do live in risky circumstances, and often are underinsured.  I don’t know whether flood insurance is required along this road, or how many people have it.  But when calls for financial help, donations, and even volunteer hours happen after a natural (or manmade) disaster, we often find that homeowners and renters had very poor or no insurance coverage (especially separate flood or earthquake insurance, since regular property insurance doesn’t cover floods and earth movement).

I wonder, do we live in a society with narrow “personal responsibility”, or do we need to learn more to have each other’s backs?


We build on flood plains, and criticize people who do so – but when you drive through this canyon, you realize there is no place to live in the area except on a flood plain   We criticize people for building beach homes – but most landowners in resort areas (I know a woman who rents homes in Rehoboth) know the risk.  In Louisiana, residents in parts of New Orleans trusted the US government,, which failed them in Katrina;  and now residents around Baton Rogue face a flood that is said to be unprecedented, maybe related to climate change.  And many homeowners did not have flood insurance.

In the west, we build in urban fringes and into dry canyons that can be overrun by wildfires.  You don’t usually need special insurance coverage for wildfires.  But one match can destroy hundreds of homes.  So can dry lightning.  Look at what happened to Fort McMurray, in Canada.

Addendum: Trey Yingst of One America News reports on Red Cross volunteers in flood areas of Louisiana.

We could also stark a discussion about tornado storm shelters in homes in the Midwest and South, especially (some homes don’t have basements, normally), and even about tornado-proof steel construction (will return to this later).



(Published: Friday, August 19, 2016 at 2:15 PM EDT)

“Identity politics” is not for me, and it doesn’t solve problems


I’m not particularly a fan of identity politics – or of abstract equality, or liberation politics either (they are all different things).

At its worst, “identity politics” leads to group combativeness, joining mass movements, and a belief that violent confrontation with the establishment and overthrow is necessary.  That’s happened a lot in history.

But more often, the process means disciplining the members of the group to become loyal to its own internal leadership and social structure, and not to distract it by allowing concerns from the outside world to seem “legitimate”.

The most obvious example right now would invoke race – the Black Lives Matter movement, which demands recognition for specific redress for past grievances, which are quite real.  It feels the counter statement “all lives matter” to be an insult (although the latter statement would invoke concerns like right to life, service, willingness to bond with others in challenging circumstances – resilience).  Identity politics would justify unrest, as in Milwaukee (maybe in Ferguson) even when the facts suggest (although maybe don’t conclusively prove) that officers had some justification for the action they took against a specific suspect.

In another worst case implementation, if you flip identity politics – you get an “Us v. them” mentality that Donald Trump seems to be exploiting.

Most often, identity politics involves a trait (like race) or behavior pattern (like religious practice) that you were born into (as part of a “natural family”), and did not choose.  Sometimes it is a kind of ethnic identity (like the Basque people in Spain). Yes, such characteristics do tend to become the targets for bigotry for its own sake.  But the underlying motive for such bigotry is usually preservation of an unearned economic or political advantage.  That’s the “Gone with the Wind” narrative of the Old South *and of Margaret Mitchell’s literary masterpiece, as well as 1939 epic film).  Nationality functions somewhat this way, as we see with the immigration debate, where race and religion obviously play in (particularly in the mind of Donald Trump).

You could consider the “worker class” (and labor union members) as a subject of identity politics.  “Workers” are indeed arguably “exploited” by capitalism – that is, people who did not do the labor with their own hands benefit from it with some degree of unseen sacrifice by workers (sometimes substandard wages overseas, even living in dormitories like pseudo-slaves).  They generally aren’t the targets of emotion-laden bigotry, but they are the subjects of political and economic manipulation by the already wealthy and powerful.  And labor leadership tends to be heavily politicized internally, demanding local loyalty of its members, sometimes with strong-arm tactics.  The Left can the as oppressive as the Right.

That brings us to “LBGTQ” (Donald Trump stumbles over remembering to say “Q” while pointing or raising his pinkie finger, as if Stephen King could serve up a nurse to amputate it (“Misery”, 1990).  Historically (much less so in more recent decades in western countries including the U.S. but still so in many Muslim and sub-Saharan “Christian” countries) there has been a lot of plain hatred and bigotry that defies rationality.  One prosecutor in (Pence’s)  Indiana tells me that he sees it just as another way for some people to feel more powerful in the pecking order (to have people “to feel superior to”).  It seems like common sense that a lot of it has to do with procreation.  “Conservative” parents may believe they are being denied a lineage (especially relevant in my case because I am an only child), or people in communal settings or less mature economies (like Russia) could believe that gay men will make other men feel less secure about having their own kids and families (which is all some people have “to look forward to” and is maybe a religious connection to vicarious immortality).  Then, in the 1980s, there was the way the right wing construed the public health “amplification” argument.

“LGBTQ” is really several communities (rather like saying Spain comprises several autonomous countries)  The cultural and personal values in the Trans community, or in black communities, can be quite different from “conventional” white gay males.   It is also usually a community someone was not born into, but “chose” (so to speak) to join, at least implicitly.  People often do not have the freedom even to make these choices, especially overseas.

But within the more challenged sub-communities, internal discipline is often strong, just as in other movements (like labor).  Leadership likes loyalty of its members.  It welcomes conventional talk of the outside world in terms of that world’s oppression of “us” as a disliked, marginalized or beleaguered group, but resists discussion of issues that would affect the prosperity or sustainability of the larger “democratic” outside world as a whole, as something that it cannot do anything about anyway.

That has sometimes been the attitude against me in the past when I have brought up the way external threats (like energy security) could compromise my life and probably “ours” (or “theirs”).  Sometimes people react as if I were playing “I told you so”, in that I could have a pretext for feeling superior to “them” if anything really happens, and have an excuse for having to share my spare or life with “them” with more  intimacy or emotional connection than I usually have shown “outside my box” in the past.

I also get the impression that I am expected to support people “where they are” when members of a disadvantaged group.  I’m supposed to support the idea that anyone who feels dispossessed by gender circumstances can automatically use any bathroom she chooses without question, as if this were the highest political priority.  I am definitely “different” myself, and grew up with the idea that it was my responsibility to learn to carry my own weight when it comes to participating in common needs (the military draft and deferment issue of my coming age helps form that narrative, but many younger people are largely unaware of it today – which is one reason why feeding historical narrative as I do is important).  But personal responsibility, and karma, would also require giving back if one has been lucky with unearned economic advantages.

If I, as someone who is “different”, am still going to take “penultimate” responsibility for what I make of myself in life, then the “global” outside world matters.  Infrastructure matters, and may have a lot more bearing on how well I turn out that particularized discrimination.  Indeed, one observation is that poor people typically live in less reliable infrastructures, and are more vulnerable to natural disasters and to negligent landlords (which may well turn out to be the case with the recent major apartment explosion in Silver Spring, MD).

Indeed, many of the “threats” that LGBTQ people face as individuals or that African Americans face, can come from the “outside world”.  If we “work smart”, we can reduce these threats.   I realize that I can drive on a city street with less chance of being pulled over by a cop.  Maybe that’s privilege now.  But how many other people understand what it was like to live in a dorm in 1961 when other men feared merely being around me could make them fail with women.  They honestly thought that.

It does seem that there are some external issues that transcend conventional identity politics and tend to draw people together to deal with complexity and moral ambiguity.  Immigration, with all the nuances of refugee and asylee assistance, is one such issue today.


Update: Oct. 19, 2016

Here’s an essay by Shawn Schossow, motivated by the debate over voting for third party candidates (Jill Stein), which defends the idea of “intersectionality“.

(Published: Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016, at 12 Noon EDT)

News story on government’s use of a private prison company to help with asylum seekers (from Central America) is a sign of accelerating social need


Pertinent information about the refugee and asylum issues in the United States has started to circulate more this summer than it had before, as the shock effect of Donald Trump’s previous comments and proposed immigration bans on Muslims wears off and some sanity sets in.


Monday morning, August 15, 2016. The Washington Post, in a front page story by Chico Harlan, “Windfall deal for asylum facility”, or more candidly titled online, “Inside the Administrations $1 billion deal to detain Central American asylum seekers”.    This story involve a contract with a company that builds prisons, “Corrections Corporation of America”, CCA.

Onine, Harlan has a blunt article, “Why the U.S. effort to stop Central Americans from surging across the border is failing”.

The first story does point out the difference between asylees and refugees (not often mentioned by the major media).  In this case, the threat of violence in some Central American countries is so great that the idea of an asylum application is legally supportable.


Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve reported more information from Center Global of the DC Center for the LGBT Community on the asylum issue, especially in the comments on July 21.  The group has not enjoyed a high profile in major media but, starting in late 2015, began posting information that makes the asylum seeker issue for the LGBTQ communities within the US seem much larger than previously thought and needing much more attention from private individuals and organizations.  It’s possible to remain here legally while seeking asylum even if undocumented or on an expired visa.

Dave Bier has moved from Niskanen to the Cato Institute and has recently published several articles on Cato about immigration. Some of the material emphasizes the “mere” economic issues, but particularly relevant (although for refugees, not asylees) is “How to select refugees for private sponsorship” which would still not be legal in the United States.

It’s difficult for organizations quietly gearing up to deal with refugees or, especially, asylees to communicate the needs without politicizing the subject and possibly putting those who would provide service or housing in a difficult or even dangerous spot.

(Posted: Monday, Aug. 15, 2015 at 12:45 PM EDT)