The writer notes a collusion between telecommunications provider companies (that is, Internet ISP’s, like Comcast, Verizon and ATT)) and social media and content servicing providers (like Facebook, Google Twitter, Amazon, Apple) in Silicon Valley. Politics emits strange bedfellows (so libertarians say), and the common interest between the backbone technology interests and the content servicing interests on the ad opportunity inherent in relaxing privacy rules is logical, but in contradiction to the general nature of the disagreement between these big industrial sectors over network neutrality. That disparity seems remarkable to me. Particularly remarkable was the donation of money so quickly as Trump took office to roll back Obama’s end-of-term work. I don’t play K-street Monopoly myself.
But there’s not much question that users do benefit from the existence of ads, which pay for all the free user-generated content platforms. The ethical question at the individual level comes down to the old dilemma of spectators vs. actual players. We can’t flourish just as a society of watchers. People need to be willing to see ads, even those selected algorithmically for them, and sometimes people need to be willing to engage them. Both clicks (Adsense) and actual product purchases (Amazon) do help some people make a living by publishing on the Internet. Freedom implies (somewhat ironically) a need to some new openness to sharing on terms other than one’s own (as in the film “The Circle“).
Where there is a problem, though, can be with security, and, to some extent, online reputation. Users are sometimes reckless on the web. To the extent that users apply privacy settings and they work, that’s not too bad; but often users place gratuitous material online which could attract harm to them and to others connected to them. That has to become a concern for the insurance industry, for example (yesterday).
In fact, there’s a sliding continuum, in most people’s minds, between privacy and reputation. People post legitimate (not porn) interesting stuff because it makes them appear cool, knowledgeable, or desirable in some way for others, or just politically and socially influential. Sometimes you can do this and maintain a certain amount of privacy (wait until you’re back home or near the end of the vacation before posting public images and videos of your good time at P-town or Disney’s new Pandora). I say this noting that some Facebook friends let Facebook post all of their movements on their timeline to friends on geographical maps. (That makes them feel important.)
Employers have been concerned about watching associate (and especially job applicant) personal social media for about a decade now (giving rise to the whole Reputation industry). They have legitimate concerns, for example, about managers inadvertently creating a legally hostile workplace by expressing their views online even in their own personal accounts. That’s especially true now that in the world of Trump, society seems to be getting more polarized into worlds of identity politics. Businesses may not even want some polarizing people as customers (as Richard Spencer found out from Sport and Health recently).
This problem can spill over into insurance, where we know that insurance companies (both health and property) sometimes scan consumer social media accounts or other blog or content posts for possible claims fraud. They could also get a sense of increased consumer loss risk from some social media content (obviously health risks like STD’s, smoking, drugs, and the like, or risky hobbies like skydiving; imagination goes wild on this.) Here are a couple of discussions about the problem: Huffington, and Insurance Quotes. This problem can quickly connect itself to social justice and identity issues.
In fact, the end of the Denver TV station video envisions a world where insurance companies don’t want users to post any vacation details in public mode at all. I haven’t heard that said so bluntly before, but since I dug into it, I have to report it. One immediately problem with this idea is that pages (as opposed to friending accounts) are, almost by definition, public. And there are “friends” and there are “pseudo-friends”. Not everyone expects a personal conversation or relationship with each “friend” as “trusted:. The idea seems not very well thought through.
Let’s think a moment about how mandatory insurance can work, in different areas, like health, auto, property.
Generally, you have to have auto insurance to have a driver’s license (how it’s required varies by state) you need property insurance for a mortgage, and with Obamacare (and previously Romneycare in Massachusetts) health insurance. And Medicare and single payer in most other countries can be viewed as mandatory health insurance, paid for by much higher taxes.
Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) is partly driven by requirement that “healthy” young people will buy coverages they as individuals are almost certainly not going to need, to support otherwise much higher premiums for people who do need them. I’ve said here that we probably need publicly funded props (subsidies — not just tax cuts — and reinsurance, to help pay for health care for the sickest people), which would affect the deficit and maybe require cuts elsewhere (maybe in Social Security, for example, slowly increasing age eligibility) to control spending. I may be OK with some of the aspects of “community rating” – that is, men have to buy pregnancy coverage because it takes two to tango – and we want, as a policy matter, some sort of gender equality. (It wouldn’t hurt me some day if PrEP were covered, although at my age it’s not real likely.)
But requiring people to buy add-on coverages for other people’s risks (“moral hazard”) is generally a dangerous idea, that can set up a bad precedent for other misuse. That’s one reason why I am somewhat behind “TrumpCare” or “RyanCare” or “PriceCare,” if you really get serious about covering everybody somehow. The Republicans want the states to take more responsibility for this area. Under a federal system (compared to a unitary system like China’s) that seems appropriate. We no longer trust the states to manage their own ideas of “equal protection” (from the 14th Amendment all the way to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, ending with Stonewall) but we generally allow states a lot of leeway in just how they want their residents to pay for services or how much to privatize some services. States vary on whether or not they have their own income taxes, and to what extent they want to charge user fees or tolls. As California found out in the late 1970s, they can have their own battles on using property taxes to fund public education. So, yes, the OMB is appropriate concerned about how the reddest states will handle a block grant approach to health care. But our Constitution and federalism limit just how much coercion the federal government can use, even for worthwhile policy goals.
In the past twenty years, auto and property companies have been combining normal property or physical liability (and damage loss, from accidents and storms) with cyber liability from Internet use. The latter liabilities can include the cost of defending frivolous defamation suits (as with review sites) and copyright or even incidental trademark or patent infringement (from trolls), but they can also include losses due to identity theft or cybercrime (recently, ransomware). In some cases, the higher limit auto policies are available only in umbrella policies that have all these other coverages (which have nothing to do with the likelihood of causing an auto accident or of being hit by a tornado). In fact, as we know from the attempts around 2001 or so by the National Writers Union to buy media perils coverage for its members (and another push for this in 2008, shortly before the financial crisis), the risk for an individual consumer of being sued for Internet behavior is extremely hard to underwrite and predict, compared to the risks in the physical world.
I can imagine (especially from the “Left”) pushes to make cyber insurance mandatory components of property policies, and I hope the GOP would apply the same skepticism to this idea it has to health insurance mandatory coverages. You can imagine the pressures: because I have an unusual last name, I’m not as prone to identity theft as someone with an Anglicized name, but should I have to subsidize the premiums of someone more likely to experience it? Because of the “gratuitous” nature of my self-publication (it doesn’t pay its own way) activity “in retirement” (maybe that’s like “in relief” in a baseball game’s bullpen), I don’t face the same risks as other people who actually need to support families with their writing, but I face my own unusual perils (mostly related to “implicit content” as I found out with a bizarre incident in 2005 when I was working as a substitute teacher – the concept has to do with attracting politically or socially motivated targeted risk to others connected to “you”). The main prevention is to know what I am doing. (I do; for example, I know how to recognize scams.)
But the permissive legal environment that has allowed user generated content to flourish does raise serious questions for me, involving some personal matters (how I place value on interactions with others who have more intrinsic need, and how I am willing, with volunteerism, to fit in and belong to a group and speak for its needs – accept “partisanship”). The legal props include Section 230 and DMCA Safe Harbor, all of which makes me wonder how the Web still works in Europe, where these kinds of protections are weaker and where there is even an enforced “right to be forgotten” (and where, as Trump points out, defendants have to prove they told the truth in libel cases). The permissiveness seems to have led to an world where there is a lot of recklessness and abuse, ranging from cuberbullying or stalking or revenge porn, to outright terror recruiting — largely because writers with sincerely put arguments wind up preaching to their own choirs, created by news aggregation. Again, I could be silenced if I had to be insured, because my speech is not “popular” enough to pay its own way, especially in a mandatory insurance world.
The government (DHS and TSA, and Trump Administration, as well as European and “responsible” middle Eastern country governments) and the tech industry, and the travel industry (airlines and on-land rentals) need to get their acts together – and fast – on the proposed electronics ban in cabins on planes.
The latest information is that the DHS is seriously weighing requiring that all electronics larger than smart phones be in checked luggage, on all flights from Europe and the UK, or probably all inbound flights to the US.
CNN aired a comment early Saturday morning (May 27) that this ban might include outgoing flights.
At the same time, the TSA is requiring laptops be removed from bags (overruling the TSA-approved laptop bag practice) in many airports for domestic US screening. It’s likely that this will require that laptops boot up successfully without external power.
At this point, a traveler has to wonder, would an electronics ban eventually apply to all domestic flights? Could it eventually include smartphones if there is more new intelligence? The issue is further beduffled by the Trump administration’s carelessness in divulging intelligence from allies to the Russians, or allowing media leaks (one of I which I reported on a legacy blog, about Manchester, from the New York Times).
The idea of placing laptops with lithium ion batteries in the cargo hold seems to contradict concerns about the safety of lithium batteries unattended in general, although there are rebuttals that the density of lithium is spread out over a wide volume. The is also some research on developing aluminum batteries for laptops that would be safer.
Moreover, the TSA has always advised travelers from putting laptops, in particular, because they might be damaged in flight by rough handling, weight of nearby cargo, cold, and high altitude. No one has tried to rebut this previous advice in current discussions. Here’s a USA Today article on current TSA advice on checking laptops and other electronics in today’s domestic fights. It doesn’t jive with the new concerns. No one has an reply to this.
It would be reasonable to ask travelers to consider alternatives. If a traveler is going to be away for several weeks and stay on the ground, should she ship the laptop by UPS or FedEx? Should these companies and laptop manufacturers develop industry standard ways to ship laptops without damage? Could containers for packing for cargo checkin be sold by manufacturers? Because this problem has developed so suddenly, there seems to be no industry standards. The tech industry needs to solve this problem fast, but it needs to know what DHS really needs to do.
Could “travel-safe” electronics be developed? (That includes not using lithium.) It sounds like it is possible to work with a smartphone and keyboard. What I need on the road is the ability to do social media and blog posts with simple text, a few photos and short videos (after YouTube uploading). But the equipment needs to work. A couple years ago Lenovo was selling a travel laptop based on inner BlueTooth connectivity which broke down a lot. Such devices need to work reliably when on the road after air travel and transport.
On the other hand, could a ground rental industry be developed? You rent a computer the way you rent a car. When you turn it in the hard drive is wiped clean for security, and you store all your work in the Cloud or on thumb drives or min hard drives (which have to go back home).
But this industry will not develop unless it has to. And we need to know what DHS really wants to do.
In my own circumstances, travel without normal access to electronics is not possible. I’m not prepared to go dark on vacation for a month. Indeed, people could run the risk of losing their accounts or content if they cannot respond to problems (after notification) when on the road. This could become an increasing problem in the future.
There is some talk that the ban (and the new policy about taking laptops out of bags) will not affect pre-cleared passengers.
It was common 20 years ago, before 9/11, for passengers to be asked to start laptops at airports. I was asked to do this only once (with an old Compaq Windows 95 machine). But in those days, I did not always carry the laptop. I did not take it to Europe in 1999 and again early 2001. Sometimes I depended on Kinkos (now FedEx), or other Internet cafes, when all I needed was AOL for email and to check my one domain at the time. I did not try to update it on the road, but I would check that it was up when on the road (about every other day). Page request volumes would go down by about 40% when I was not actively updating it.
Hotel business centers today are woefully inadequate for heavy use by travelers, because they know travelers carry their own (which is why they offer free Internet). The one exception was that a hotel in Bilbao Spain had a huge business center for guests back in 2001.
CNN has a nice op-ed by Bruce Scheier questioning the sense of the in-cabin electronics bans.
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 columnby 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”.
In Terry Gilliam’s artsy futurist film “The Zero Theorem” (2013), precocious and charismatic teen Bob (Lucas Hedges) tells the besieged computer operator Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz), “I’m nobody’s tool”. (Hedges would play a similar role in “Manchester by the Sea”.)
It’s true, I “went public” with a controversial persona narrative with my first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book in the 1990s – specifically striking a nexus between the past history of conscription with the debate over gays in the military (as it had evolved then under Bill Clinton). I would wrap every other issue, mapped onto the tension between individualism and the need to belong to the group, around it and become a commentator, a pundit, someone who, however, needed to keep a certain objectivity and distance (even emotional aloofness) expected of journalists.
As President Trump complains, it’s too easy to criticize when you sit on the bench ad don’t play.
So, in the “aftermath” of the book(s), websites, blogs and now social media accounts, I have made it absolutely impossible for me to earn money (in “retirement”) by selling somebody else’s message, or being someone else’s spokesperson. No, I can’t have Sean Spicer’s job.
After my layoff and forced retirement from old-style mainframe I.T. as a post 9/11 sequel at the end of 2001, at age 58 (73 now), I learned “the truth” about what the world seemed to expect of retirees: Sell! One of the earlier interviews (while I was still in Minnesota) as with PrimeVest The interviewer became defensive about my questions over his presentation, even though I agree that for some consumers, converting whole life to term is a reasonable strategy. But a $40 trillion market? The interview was concerned over how “analytical” I seemed. I checked and investigated everything. “We give you the words,” he said. To a writer who has followed his own direction, that phrase sounded very insulting, like throwing an inadequate tip at a bartender (which I once did).
There would other attempted offers to throw husckerism at me. True, life insurance agent or financial planner sounds legitimate enough. But I don’t want to troll people’s Internet ad hits in order to cold call them.
I also find myself resisting attempts to get me to “join a resistance”. HRC is on my regular donation list, but I felt a little taken back by a recent email inviting me to be trained to become a grassroots activist or part of a resistance. I know that Barack Obama was a “community organizer” in Chicago at one time, I have my own message set. I don’t need to have an organization tell me what to say.
Even worse was a similar ploy from the political right. GOP candidate for a runoff in a Georgia House race, Karen Handel, writes, addressing me personally (by an automated plugin – again insulting) “This is the email I didn’t want to have to write. But after seeing the latest public polls – I have no choice.” She whines that bigwing Democrats have raised so much money for her opponent, so “Will you help me fight back?”
No, I like to think of myself as better than that (including any public participation in overtly partisan politics). But of course I know the argument. I saved well when I was working. But I also have some of what the left-wing considers a poison pill, inherited wealth. I don’t have to make everything I do pay for itself. I don’t have to sell other people’s messages for a living. But I can imagine people thinking, if there weren’t people like me around to dilute them, they could make a living by “selling” because everyone else would have to.
I’ve railed about identity politics here before, but the way I argue policy issues is relevant here. Of course, I agree that current GOP plans for health care (variations of the Americam Healthcare Act) could, as structured now, throw millions off affordable health insurance, while solving problems of premium hikes for unneeded coverages for some people adversely affected by Obamacare’s implementation (and probably exacerbated by some states). I agree that the changes could affect racial minorities adversely. They could also affect gay men (depending on what happens with PrEP and protease inhibitors). But I don’t argue something because it hurts “me” or anyone as a “member of a group” (even though “belonging to groups” has become, unfortunately, the legal cornerstone of the way equal protection of the laws works). One of the reasons AHCA would affect people in certain groups is the way it would shift the responsibility for Medicaid back to the states. So it becomes a federalism problem. States should do the right things, but we know from the history of Civil Rights through the 1960s that sometimes they didn’t (and we lost young men like Goodman, Schwerner and Cheney as a result in what was the moral equivalent of crucifixion).
I don’t respond personally to “Leftist” appeals for “resistance” because this policy hurts members of their particular client groups (even if I belong to one of them, and everyone belongs to something). I think you have to solve the problem analytically. Some countries, like Switzerland, have kept an effective private health care sector in a way that works, and we could do that. I think you can have assigned risk pools again, so that rich people with pre-existing conditions can pay their own way (an inherent advantage of the GOP setup) but you have to subsidize the premiums of people in the middle class and below (tax cuts alone aren’t enough, you need subsidies, but you don’t need to use Medicaid as the vehicle for subsidies), or use reinsurance for excess claims. You have to be determined to make it work, and you have to pay for it. So maybe you can’t give the rich all their tax cuts.
Likewise, I reject group-oriented resistance politics on an issue like police profiling. I understand Rudy Giuliani’s claims about how “broken windows” policing in the 1990s made New York City much safer than it had been in the 1970s when I lived there. But I have so say, that particularly a couple of independent films (“Whose Streets?” and “The Prison in Twelve Landscapes” and well as “I A Not Your Negro”) have pointed out that in some communities, police departments have regularly extorted fines from black residents with the “garbage jail” approach. This is illegal and even criminal and not acceptable. Why won’t the usual system of litigation put a stop to this?
I’m left to ponder the mentality of the doomsday preppers, who think that civilization cannot be depended on, and that it is morally imperative for everyone to learn to become self-sufficient locally and within the family.
Conservatives often prompt the idea that the needy can be served by volunteerism even better than by publicly owned and run services (as we can see right off from the health care debate).
It’s rather logical to ask, then, if volunteerism, working in service to others for free, is to be expected on moral grounds from those who are able.
Right off the bat, I call to mind some passages in the 2007 book “The Natural Family” by Carlson and Mero, where the authors maintain that only within the nuclear and somewhat extended family can a determination “from each according to his ability and to each according to his needs” be made. I remember how that quote of Karl Marx was thrown around the barracks of Fort Eustis back in 1969 when I was in the Army. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has voiced similar ideas, that “It Takes a Family” (his 2005 book) to socialize people into meeting real needs.
But you can encircle the family with communities, and those with a country, so you can imagine how a moral expectation of service can fan out.
I can imagine, however, a mentality, where the poor could view some sort of structured personal attention or care from “the rich” as a moral entitlement, even in a “free” and conservative society. Off hand, that doesn’t strike me as particularly encouraging for developing healthful self-concepts among the disadvantaged. I’m recalling a time in kindergarten, in early 1949, when the teacher (who ran the class in her home) separated the class into “brownies” (who stayed downstairs – and I was one, despite that everyone was “white”) and “elves” (who got to sit in the living room upstairs). I felt like I was put into a defined underclass, yet entitled to expect attention. Maybe that did help shape some of the development issues I would have in the grade school years.
We don’t start out on life in the same place in line, to be sure. OK, we can get into the whole debate on the role of “privilege” in setting up moral expectations of people. There are different kinds of disadvantage. Of course, being born into poverty or in a totalitarian culture normally hurts once likely future station in life. But there is a perpendicular situation: within a particular family, which may be well-off, one is born with disability or a general lower level of capacity. It can happen between twins or multiple births in the womb, or just among siblings. So the social conservatives are right in saying that inside the “natural family”, if it is about the right size, people learn to develop affection and bonds to others in the family or group who may be less capable.
The tendency to look at some people as “better” than others relates to the real concerns about the outside world knocking that practically everyone in my generation dealt with. Less capable people could become a drag on the group if faced with security problems. Among men, the biggest and strongest often stepped up to defend the clan and took the casualties. There was not a lot that could be done about most disabilities, so there wasn’t a lot of talk that helping those with disabilities was an expected thing to do. On the other hand, the expectation of adhering to the personal discipline of confining sexuality to heterosexuality marriage was seen as a personal equalizing force, giving stability and sustainability to a families, tribes and whole countries that faced external perils.
Obviously, today things are a lot different. Many people (myself especially) are not tied to families, and see pleas online to get involved personally with the needs of others in a way that would have been seen as inappropriate or unwelcome in earlier generations. “Gofundme” has become a social norm today, when it strikes an older person like me as grating and self-indulgent.
Practically all communities have organizations that serve the poor. Many are faith-based. They offer services like healthful food preparation and delivery (sometimes owning their own gardens for fresh foods), various monthly community assistance (like groceries, clothing, HIV testing,, as well as meals), to specialized services needed by specific communities (elderly, some LGBTQ, asylum seekers and refugees, single mothers, those with mental health or substance problems). Often the communities ask for lots of volunteers for special events (Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, monthly assistance). Sometimes there are home-building or rehab events (as with group homes for the disabled, or with Habitat for Humanity) The interaction between the volunteers and those being helped will vary, not always being encouraged. Sometimes it seems that the purpose of the activity is more to build social capital among the group (often faith-based).
Volunteering has become more subject to bureaucracy. Now there are usually automated background checks of volunteers, especially for those who will drive vehicles or work with minors.
I do find that occasional volunteering to be problematic. I don’t accomplish much or make much difference when I am there. Further, there are situations where unexpected personal risk is involved, like driving into unfamiliar and dangerous neighborhoods to make deliveries.
I think it should be more promising to look for more specialized opportunities where one can use one’s own expertise. With my background, for example, I could perhaps direct chess tournaments attracting low income youth. Or I could do something with my classical music background, although that can become problematic if it involved pandering to notions about popularity. If I were involved with music, I’d be more interested in seeing some particular neglected works(not just my own as I composed) performed. As a self-published book author, I do get questions about being more supportive of community book stores (hard copies instead of Internet and Kindle) and of literacy initiatives.
But actual interaction with clients will often be problematic for me. That is something I did not learn through familial socialization the way others have. I didn’t learn to place emotional value on having someone depend on me. In the decades of my own upbringing, you would learn that partly through heterosexual courtship leading to marriage and parenthood within it. Otherwise, my own somewhat “sheltered” upbringing really didn’t require me to interact personally with people with earthier temperaments; some of it was avoided by placing unwelcome interaction in the category of teasing or even bullying, avoidance of somewhat physical competition on other people’s terms. That artificial isolation and introversion continued during my long-track information technology career as an individual contributor, where I basically interacted with just “the choir”, people with cognition similar to mine. This diffidence really showed up when I worked as a substitute teacher in the mid 2000’s, and, with low-income or disadvantaged students (especially middle school) encountered interpersonal demands that one normally needs to have been a parent to encounter. Or perhaps one would learn it through helping raising younger siblings (I had none) or raising as sibling’s children after a family tragedy, something which sometimes happens in inheritance situations (like “Raising Helen”). It’s notable and ironic that when I was growing up, eldercare was not seen as a challenging issue because our grandparents didn’t live as long as they can now. My own eldercare situation from 1999 on to 2010 had aspects (how old even I was as well as Mother) that would not have happened often in earlier times.
Focused interaction with clients requires commitment to a narrower set of person-related goals than I have experienced until now. I like being the public person who forces others to “connect the dots”. The level of personal commitment needed requires (as the character Ephram on “Everwood” once wrote in a fictitious essay) the “ability to change” and share an outcome for a group. The one time I was the most personally engaged was in the mid 1980s when I volunteered with the Oak Lawn Counseling Center in Dallas as an AIDS “buddy” (rather assistant), although somewhat on my own terms.
On a couple of occasions, both in the early 1990s, I got feedback from two different organizations that I would not be effective unless I was more involved with the group, including spending more time with it and being more integrated to the group’s specific goals.
The “Ooops” page that many workplace computer users saw, displayed by hackers from the WannaCry worm last Friday, seemed almost cordial, as if making a mock of the Brexit vote last year, or of Donald Trump’s election. It looked like a customer service page. Can I get my data back? Sure, if you pay up in time.
This almost looks like a hostile takeover. Or is it a rebellion against the behavioral and personal performance norms of the civilized world in the digital age (and post)? We’re in charge now, the welcome screen says; you do what we tell you to do, and you’ll be OK. The bullies win. Might makes right, because there was no right before.
There are a lot of remarkable facts about this one. First of all, the problem seems to have come from a leak of one of the NSA’s own tools, through Snowden and Wikileaks-like mechanisms. The government wants its own back door, and it got left open.
Second, it seems to have affected certain kinds of businesses the most, mainly those overseas that happen to be less tech oriented and have less incentive to keep up. It’s remarkable that one of the most visible victims was Britain’s National Health Service, and it’s easy to imagine how libertarians can use this fact to argue against single-payer and socialized medicine systems. The government-run system didn’t give employees a personal incentive to stay tech-current. (The what about intelligence services and the military? They’re still government.)
But it is true, individuals and tech-oriented small businesses know how to keep up and do keep operating systems and security patches updated. So do larger businesses with a core interest in tech infrastructure. Your typical bank, insurance company, brokerage house or other financial institution usually keeps the actual consumer accounts on legacy mainframes, which are much harder for “enemies” to attack (although insider vulnerabilities are possible, as I learned in my own 30-year career). Typically they have mid-tiers or presentation layers on Unix systems, not Windows, and these are harder to attack. Publishing service providers and hosting companies usually put their customer’s content on Unix servers (although Windows is possible, and my legacy “doaskdotell” site is still on Windows, and seems unaffected).
On the other hand, in Europe, most of all in Russia and former Soviet republics, there is a culture of cutting corners and sometimes using pirated software, which is much easier to attack.
A typical workplace infection might destroy all the data on employees’ own desktops (like Word memos) but not source code on a mainframe or Unix server, and not customer data.
This kind of ransomware cannot directly affect the power grids. The computers that control distribution of power run on proprietary systems (not Windows) normally not accessible to hackers. However, in the book “Lights Out” (2015), Ted Koppel had described some ways a very determined hacker could try to corrupt power distribution and overload critical transformers.
There are other particulars in this incident. Microsoft patched its latest server against the NSA vulnerability in mid March 2017. All modern companies and ISPs or hosts would have applied this patch. But there could have been a risk of this worm getting unleashed before the patch.
Windows 10 does not have the vulnerability, but apparently all previous versions did. While media reports focuses on Britain’s NHS using Windows XP, it would seem that any PC with an earlier Windows operating system could be vulnerable it not patched after May 13, 2017. Even the monthly update, applied May 12, might not have the fix.
From the best that I know, Carbonite or other cloud backups are not affected. But users who do not network their Windows machines at home and who make physical backups (like on Seagate drives or even thumb drives) regularly are not the same danger of losing data. I haven’t seen much information on how quickly the major security companies like Trend, Webroot or Kaspersky update their detection capabilities.
The fact that the worm spread among Windows computers in a network, without action by any users after the first one as attracted attention. It seems as though the original infection usually comes from email attachments disguised to look as if they came from inside the workplace. But it is possible for an unprotected computer to be infected merely by visiting a fake website (the way scareware infections can take over a computer, often based on misspellings of real sites with “System Response” and 800 numbers for fake support). There are reports that infection is possible in unnetworked computers by leaving certain ports open (like 445) without adequate firewall.
Another problem is that, since introducing Windows 8 and later versions, Microsoft has become much more aggressive about pressuring users to replace operating systems on older hardware. Often the loaded versions of operating systems like Windows 10 Creators Update, while loaded with the latest security, don’t run very well on older PC’s. In the interest of providing gaming and tablet capabilities, Microsoft has made its systems less stable for people with ordinary uses (like blog posts). Microsoft’s own PC’s, as compared to those with third party hardware (HP, Dell, ASUS, Acer, Lenovo, etc) may have fewer problems with updates inasmuch as they don’t have to deal with third party firmware (often from China) which may not be perfect. Stability has become a much bigger issue since about 2013 with the introduction of Microsoft’s tablet systems. I had a Toshiba laptop fail in 2014 when going from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 because it overheated due to inadequate engineering of the power components.
There was a stir over the weekend when CBS reported that President Trump had ordered emergency meetings at DHS, as if he had intended to take some kind of action on his earlier “no computer is safe” idea. His use of Twitter seems to contradict his previous dislike of computers as a way to get around dealing with people and salesmanship. I had wondered if he could propose liability rules for companies or individuals who leave computers unprotected and allow them to be used in conducting attacks (as like home PC’s that become botnet nodes in DDOD attacks).
It was a couple of two young male programmers (each around 22), one in Britain and one in Indiana, who helped break the attack. One programmer found an unregistered domain as a “killswitch” and found he could stop the worm by buying the domain himself for about $11. I started wondering if Trump would talk about a killswitch for many portions of the Internet, as he threatened in December 02 2015 in early debates. “Shut down those pipes.”
My other legacy coverage of this incident is here.
This blog is not the normal place where I discuss personal history details, but personal experience does jive with policy and business issues for me when it comes to retirement and growing older, just as it has with gay issues.
I did come out of my “career ending” (so to speak) IT layoff at the end of 2001 with ING (now Voya) in better shape than most, with very ample severance and retirement pension. And I did land from a seven-plus year eldercare experience, with a lot of hired caregiver help in the last 18 months (over $100,000 worth) much better of that I might have. For example, in 2013 the “estate” amounted to private insurance to cover my dental implants (no, Medicare doesn’t cover them).
You don’t get to drop out of the competitive world and yet stay in “public life” (to quote one of actor Anthony Hopkins’s more notorious characters) forever, as you know it is a mathematical certainty that you will have a last day, a last supper (so to speak), a last plane trip, a last film, a last blog post. At some point it is likely (though not certain) that “my” brain will have to deal with the idea that it is over. It gives me more reason to ponder the afterlife (the “Focus” areas as much as the Hallow Heavens, as the Monroe Institute puts it), the nature of how “I-ness” (a “strange loop” of Hofstadter) embeds itself into some sort of permanent distributed consciousness.
One of the issues is downsizing. I am in an “inherited” house, which technically belongs to a trust. There can occur some situations where this could be risky (like recovering from a big natural disaster). It could be easier for me to focus on my “journalism”, fiction and music if I was in a modern, secure building, like I was in Minneapolis (the Churchill) from 1997-2003. I could be more credible with others. Yes, I have “space”, but housing others involves time and risk and is hard to set up to do properly (this has come up with the asylum seeker issue, as I have written here before). There is a particular risk of holding real estate assets whose value could disappear in a major WMD terror attack. Yes, we don’t like to talk about it. Renting might be safe. Of course, you can get into Stansberry (or Ron Paul) -like debates on how personal nest eggs can disappear quickly because of global currency manipulation – who knows where Donald Trump’s stumbles can lead? I do understand the appeal of the doomsday prepper position after all, but am not equipped to deal with it. I remain dedicated to solving problems and making civilization work and sustainable. (Hey, I voted for Hillary. I wanted Al Gore in 2000, and we might have avoided 9/11 and the War in Iraq.)
I’ve recently started looking at the issue of how retirees who have assets but less income than normally qualify for an apartment. I covered this on a legacy blog post in late April after looking into this a little while in NYC. I would much rather live in a secure building with the “general population” than in a 55+ community, which is probably more expensive but may be easier to qualify. Some of these communities are located farther in the exurbs (or all over Florida) and it would be hard to reach normal urban cultural activities from them – but some have their own theaters, for example. Many senior centers bring in artists to perform but they are likely to be less intellectually challenging and more conventionally “popular”.
I’ve seen many comments that many apartment developments, those run by large property companies, do not want to use savings for qualification. I can understand the reluctance: investments can lose value, or be spent. It sounds as if it is possible to convert (by having your financial institution sell some assets and set it up) some savings to secured cash accounts, for a year’s rent, and this may work with some landlords. You would want to keep your name on rent for future periods (beyond a normal security deposit) in case something catastrophic happens to the building. That may or may not be safer than having cash tied up in conventional condo or co-op ownership.
Sometimes builders buy tear-downs from seniors in houses and let them live rent-free for a while, during which period the senior needs to find an apartment. A senior might need to do it this way to have the cash to set up such a rent deposit account. Furthermore, pension income or even social security income could go down in the future due to problems at a previous employer or due to a more hostile political climate.
I was also told, and this seems disconcerting for someone with little family left, that the senior should be prepared to provide references to the landlord. This is difficult if he or she hasn’t worked steadily in years but has lived on assets. It does suggest that, given longer life spans and fewer kids, seniors should consider trying to work as along as possible — even if it means some objectionable consumerist and myopic personal hucksterism — rather than ride on assets and play the pundit game (as I did). There was a hint to use volunteer organizations for references. But imagine the coercion involved in such an idea. That gives the bureaucracy of larger charities in a position to judge the characters and reputations of people who need references – and encourages some charities to put more pressure on retirees to support their narrowly focused agendas. This is a very disturbing comment.
I won’t go too far further into this problem here today, but in the past I’ve gotten feedback that it is difficult to be effective in any volunteer organization without really “belonging” to the group. I’ll go into this more in another post soon. Again, rather disturbing, but it is part of the whole problem of maintaining social capital among people without their own families, as even some libertarian writers like Charles Murray have noted.
Let’s imagine an entrepreneur invents some new superfast FIOS or cable technology that would be very effective for long high-definition videos, perhaps 3-D, perhaps even holographic or virtual reality.
A telecommunications company like Verizon, ATT or Comcast wants to offer it to some residential customers. It invites high profile, high-volume content distributors like some major movie studios, some (perhaps selected) cable channels, Amazon, and social media giants like Facebook to sign on and pay extra for the more efficient streaming of their content to largely more affluent consumers in some urban communities. Furthermore, these companies give price breaks for connecting to content that they own (for example Comcast has direct ties to NBC and Universal Pictures and Focus Features).
This sounds like it would not be allowed now under Obama’s network neutrality (after the FCC ruled that telecommunications companies were the legal equivalent of telephone companies of the monopolistic past, even after the breakup of “Ma Bell”, which, by the way, gave me more than a few job interviews when my own adult career started around 1970). It sounds as though the new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, appointed by Donald Trump, wants this to be allowed.
Is this really a problem? If the service were available to home consumers (even only in certain locations) as an add-on to normal service, I don’t see a problem. Ordinary internet sites, including those owned by small businesses and free commentary blogs like mine, would work for consumers the same way they always had. However, a consumer who wanted to watch a 3-D comics-based movie on her home entertainment center when it first came out and wanted to pay for it this way with extra service would be able to.
Where I would be more concerned is if the hypothetical new service replaced the old one, and because of the physics of how it is offered, ordinary sites were no longer available. Only high-volume sites from large companies (especially those owned by one of the telecoms) that had paid to be connected to this service would be available on this hookup to some consumers. Such a consumer might believe that her smart phone with ordinary 4G LTE wireless provides adequate access to “ordinary” sites, which need to be mobile friendly anyway. That’s not so much of a problem for bloggers any more, because WordPress and Blogger make sites mobile-easy automatically anyway.
How probable this scenario really is, would depend on looking at how the hardware works. I remember community college courses on the OSI model back in the 1990s. It’s that kind of stuff.
The reason I paint this scenario is largely that a number of advocacy organizations have been publishing veiled warnings that ISP’s might actually charge individual sites to be connected to their networks. This would obviously be devastating to small businesses, especially those that depend on niche blogs (the way Ramsay Taplan, the Australian “Blog Tyrant”) says the way they should be marketed. That lays aside rogue independent journalists like me who offer our blogs “free” in order to be noticed, and more about that later. In fact, the “DearFCC” petition letter promoted recently by the Electronic Frontier Foundation seems to pander to this idea (legacy post). Even “mainstream” news sites like the Washington Post have dropped these hints. Sometimes I wonder if this does border on “fake news” and if Donald Trump could actually be right.
An environment where every domain had to pay every company to be connected could favor “free service” publishing services: that is, Blogger, WordPress, Tumbler, etc., which are predicated on there being just one domain to connect. There’s the interesting side observation that it is already much easier to make “free service” blogs encrypted under SSL and “https everywhere”, because that works by domain name. That goes against conventional wisdom that a blog is much viewed as much more “professional” when it is tied to a domain named and paid-for domain name. BlueHost and other vendors have developed ways to equate these to “add on” subdomains, so the SSL issue may change in the relatively near future. That would imply, to me at least, that in a non-net-neutral world of the future, hosting companies (like BlueHost) would take care of the connection fees. It’s also important to note that “free service” platforms don’t offer direct support and can terminate users wrongfully and capriciously (the “spam blog” problem). And will the business model for free services hold up forever? It’s always “risky” to put all your marbles on someone else’s free service, so conventional wisdom goes. You have to add that people use Facebook (especially fan pages as opposed to “friends”, along with controversial news aggregation), Myspace (in the more distant past — the way Ashton Kutcher used it), Instagram and Twitter to supplement self-publishing, and these mega-rich services would always be able to pay for special treatment in a non-neutral environment.
Other sites have noted that Ajit Pai claims he will secure pseudo-voluntary compliance promises from big telecoms that they will not interfere with ordinary operation of the Internet for ordinary content providers and consumers. There is some question as to how “voluntary” these promises would remain and whether the FTC (not FCC) could enforce them with fines. If Pai is credible, then the net neutrality scare talk (not all of it from the Left) is indeed “hot air”, about a problem that doesn’t exist.
Another observation is that we have had years of Internet service, from the late 1990s until 2015, when net neutrality became formal under Obama, without any of these rumored consequences. Frankly, the world in which I started writing online, around 1997, with 56K modems through AOL, wasn’t all that bad. I actually stood out more then than I do now! But, as Timothy B. Lee recently wrote in Vox, ISP’s have tended to “voluntarily” stay on good behavior since about 2008 because they expected Net Neutrality to come about, even before Obama was elected.
It’s a fair question, too, to wonder what happens in other western countries – Europe, UK, Australia, and Canada especially. My impression is that they have some strong neutrality rules.
Furthermore, it seems relevant that some companies have already tried super-fast Internet in some local areas, like Google FIOS, which I thought had been set up around Kansas City, Chattanooga, Austin, Atlanta, and a few other places, but has a clouded future. Could the specifics of hookup to these networks affect the way any new innovative services want to charge for providing fast lanes for their content?
Finally, I’ll add a remark that some pundits seem to think that people shouldn’t give away content “for free” on the Internet at all, that everything published online should carry its own weight, as I noted on a legacy blog post yesterday. I would like to see Reid Ewing’s little film “It’s Free” become available again. But the details of that are for another day.
Today, Wednesday, May 10, 2017, the Center for Immigration Studies held a briefing in the Bloomberg Room of the National Press Building in Washington DC near Metro Center.
The moderator was Mark Kirkorian, Executive Director.
Panelists included Andrew Arthur, a Fellow at CIS, author of a paper “Fraud in the Credible Fear Process: Threats to the Integrity of the Asylum System.”; Mark H. Metcalf, former judge in Miami and prosecutor in Kentucky, author of “Built to Fail: Deception and Disorder in America’s Immigration Courts” and “Courting Disaster”; and Todd Bensman, criminal intelligence analyst.
The CIS website has an article by Dan Cadman on state-based visas which disagrees with Cato’s position last week (May 3).
The Talking Points mention some cases of asylum abuse, such as Rabei Psman, Ahmed Ferhani, El Mehdi Fathi, Ramzi Yousef.
Some people implicated in terror attacks in Europe had faked their asylum systems, although we know that many terrorists (especially in the US) are second generation people of legally arrived people who did not assimilate well (like Boston and Orlando).
The panelists presented a “business model” where smugglers bring people across the southern border into the US for money, and sometimes rehease the immigrants on what stories of credible fear to tell. Oddly, the smugglers don’t have an incentive to determine whether there really is credible fear (that was an audience question). In some cases, radical Islamic extremists have been smuggled across the border after traveling from the Middle East (or sometimes Somalia)
The panelists suggest that the US could enforce existing law by now accepting asylum applications for people passing through “third party” countries (with clandestine “safe houses”) which themselves could grant asylum according to their own laws.
One woman in the audience from a Hispanic caucus in Congress asked the panelists to re-explain the difference between refugees and asylum seekers, the latter being “already here” and usually “uninvited”
I (saying that I was an independent blogger with strong ties to both LGBTQ and to libertarian-or centrist leaning conservatives and somewhat to faith) asked about the “moral” pressure that some congregations (evangelical and catholic) place on members to house asylum seekers (or sometimes undocumented people) in “spare bedrooms” in their own homes. This has sometimes happened in the LGBT community. I mentioned the Mariel Boatlift from Cuba from 1980 by comparison, and also mentioned the questions about parole from detention with financial sponsorship.
The general answer was sympathetic to the idea that people have a moral obligation to help personally, as is particularly the belief in communities of faith. The panel reinforced that empathy by noting that this is a nation of immigrants and many immigration controversies have occurred in the distant past. The panelists seemed to believe people should probably house only people they know (often relatives). But there was an implicit libertarian admission that “private” communities of faith (or sometimes activist organizations) are in a better position to identify people who have been in the country for a while (affirmative cases, sometimes with overstayed visas) than are government agencies or the immigrations system. Social capital really matters. Even so this could be confounded by the pattern that some attacks (San Bernadino) have happened from people who have been here legally for a long time and were a shock to people who knew them.
The panel was aware that some groups want to encourage “sponsorship” of parole from detention. While well-intended, the practice could provide an underground incentive for more people to attempt migration with unfounded asylum claims.
Metcalf mentioned a case in Miami where someone from Colombia made a credible fear claim based on LGBT persecution, but he said he denied asylum after deciding that the claim was false and the person might not have been gay. But I got the impression that the LGBT cases may tend to be credible a higher percentage of the time than other claims. LGBT people were victims and witnesses of the Pulse attack (Mateen was US-born) and also in Paris.
There was some discussion of the pay of immigration judges vs. border asylum officers (much lower).
CIS will provide a complete video of today’s event in a few days.
CIS has published the complete video and accompanying transcripts from the 70-minute presentation here. My question is included at 16:19 in the last video, the QA. There is a secondary link to a panel transcript.
Update: May 22, 11:30 AM
Here’s a shot of the Berks County Detention Center in Leesport PA (really closer to Reading, SW of US 222 and PA 183 off County Welfare Road). It’s big and hidden away so people aren’t aware of what’s going on. When I asked for directions in a convenience store in Leesport, the attendant seemed to be aware of the hidden controversy.