As “Internet-Wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality” approaches, the doomsday debate heats up

Just as “The Event” approaches July 12, I got into more debate over network neutrality expiration in the U.S. on Facebook yesterday, and here is a summary of the latest in my own following of the topic.

If you want to make a comment to the FCC (before July 17), go to the “browse-popular-proceedings” link, where you can search and look for comments people have already made. The proper from to submit an “express comment” seems to be this one.

The FCC has already been bombarded by spam comments, some of them hateful or even racist toward the FCC chairman, according to this story on the Verge (Vox Media).

The Internet and Television Association makes this comment, reaffirming its commitment to an “open Internet”, which it followed up with paid print newspaper ads.  The New York Times had thrown cold water on Pai’s promised of “voluntary compliance” with no-throttle ethics in this editorial late in April.

But back in April, Rand Fishkin, on a Marketing Industry WhiteBoard, wrote a particularly telling predictive analysis of what could happen over time. The comments (closed now) add a lot to the debate and are well worth reading.

The most likely adverse scenario (which would probably take two or three years to develop) sounds like it comes out of the T-Mobile’s “illegal” plan a few months back to offer a bare-bones service that didn’t offer full Internet. There would seem to be a possibility that the telecom industry could treat websites as cable channels. It sounds like cheap, basic plans could offer families (especially consumers not particularly interested in the Web, or those wanting to shield small children) only a few sites favored by the ISP. More expensive plans could offer everything, as we know it today, with the Cadillac plans offering super high speeds in some areas. A small business owner could have to consider whether to pay for hookup so that lower-income or less wired people could find the business online. It might not be worth it. This could be a serious hindrance for some kinds of small businesses, especially tech innovations. But I’ve seen elements of this debate before, as with COPA a few years ago (as to how to screen objectionable content from minors).

This kind of development might not affect a blogger (with my “do ask do tell” model) like me much, because, frankly, I probably interact mostly with the choir, with people who want to be wired all the time anyway. Not to be offensive, but I doubt very many “blue collar” families in “Trump country” find me anyway.

This sort of a development sounds like a bigger threat to artists and musicians who often sell directly through their own domains (which POD publishers today try to goad authors into doing with volume discounts, bypassing Amazon laziness).

That’s one reasons there are some “collective” sites like Bandcamp (musicians) and Hubspace (writers) which probably offer some supervision and could offer bargaining power in a no-net envurinment. Bandcamp is interesting, as I know a number of composers and performers (especially in the classical music area) in New York, Los Angeles, and overseas. The classical music industry has a commissioning business model for new works, which can create certain ethical tensions. Some artists are starting to rely on Bandcamp more, and even want to train consumers to learn to buy from it, and get used to PayPal, rather than the laziness of the rich-man’s Amazon. Bandcamp was also developed as a way to encourage consumers to pay reasonably for content rather than use illegal downloads or get lazy with Youtube; it tries to balance out the “Its free” problem (previous posting).

Until now, it’s been considered more “professional” for artists and writers to develop their own WordPress sites under their own domain names. “No-net-neutrality” could change this, encouraging collectives and also throwing people back to free platforms like Blogger and free WordPress – but can we count on the business models for these platforms to last forever, given the resistance of the public to (including me) to engage ads (partly out of valid security and privacy concerns)? In the past few years, I’ve generally come to agree with pundits (like Blogger’s Nitecruz) that you shouldn’t depend on someone else’s free service.

I’ve also noted that hosting companies like Blue Host could help assuage the problem with subdomain and add-on structures that they have already set up. I recently had an informal chat with Site Lock on how all this works.

I note the debate over whether bloggers need specific attention to SEO, and whether that would change as net neutrality in the U.S. dissolves. I think it’s particularly important for people who depend on selling to others from a small business and whose website really can bring in sales.  That’s not true of all small businesses, and it’s not true of “provocateur” (yes, Milo!!) blogs like mine.  For these, the content text itself seems to carry in visitors.  “Blogtyrant’s” idea of email subscription mailing lists (in these days when people fight off spam as a security threat) seems to make the most sense to narrow niche businesses with customers who have specific needs that the business owner serves, including with its online activity. Remember the listservers (pre-social media) of the 1990s.

Still, the long range fallout from a “no net neutrality” position in the US could be pressure on small, neighborhood businesses. I think about my favorite gay disco, Town DC, which will close because of pressure big corporate real estate in another year. My favorite Westover Market and Beer Garden in Arlington could face similar pressures eventually, after all it has put into the business. I think of the independent book stores (that used to include Lambda Rising) which my POD publisher pesters me to cater to. I think of independent authors who sell books in higher volumes from their own sites than I do. Some local businesses are truly “local” and may not be affected as much by national web policies as they already depend on foot traffic. But the overall trend from loss of net neutrality could even be more pressure on small businesses to disappear or be bought out by large corporations.

In a recent op-ed, David Brooks noted that conservative philosophy, properly applied, emphasizes local activity, people helping one another, and local ownership of enterprise, and initiative.  That accompanies personal freedom at individualized levels, as Andrew Sullivan argued so well in the 1990s. What worries me is that the Trump administration seems to view conservatism as Putin-style oligarchy, where everyone is “rightsized” into some role of national purpose.

I’m not much into joining collective demonstrations simply against the “rich” or those “better off” than I am, as I am likewise more privileged than some people. I like to target my activity where I can make a real difference in how a policy turns out (I did this pretty well with “gays in the military” some years ago) by encouraging critical thinking. As a general matter, telecom, like any industry (most of all, banking), needs some regulation in the public interest once there are too few companies for genuine competition. (That’s partly what anti-trust is all about.) But you could say an individual like me, who doesn’t have a stake in life with specific dependents, ought to be reined in when my operations don’t pay their own way. Fairness looks both ways. When seeking regulation (just as with health care) be careful what you ask for.

(Posted: Friday, June 30, 2017 at 1:45 PM EDT)

Update: July 12

Report on my visit to a demonstration at the Capitol, here.

Uber attracts controversy over people with disabilities; Airbnb wants hosts to provide hotel-like reliability

Here’s an interesting story. If a company’s services or products are based on the sharing, grass-roots economy, does it still have to bend over backwards to accommodate all possible customers, especially people with disabilities.

The Washington Post has a Metro section front page story in the Washington Post today by Faiz Siddiqui, “Groups sue Uber for excluding wheelchair users from its basic door-to-door service“.

The fact pattern may seem a little muddy. In Washington DC, Uber’s biggest offense seems to be that it would not allow a driver whose car allowed non-fold-up wheel chairs to be loaded – that means, a rather large vehicle. It is hard to understand why the company would do this, unless it doesn’t want the complications of dealing with special-needs customers. But the company does route such customers to a somewhat inconvenient and alternate taxi service. The company does not require drivers to be so equipped (the logical converse of what it actually did).

Now, I do have some reservations about using the sharing economy a lot. For one thing, I don’t personally want an “online reputation” as a consumer. I have to admit, Uber reliability has been very good. It saved me with a prepaid movie ticket one day when Metro broke down. I haven’t used Airbnb, and I’ve read about pressures from Airbnb on its hosts to behave more like “hotels” so that consumers know they have a clean and equipped room when they need it, with no questions asked. I’ve also read about issues of discrimination by hosts.

I understand that the sharing economy is controversial. It can encourage people to consumer less, which sounds good for sustainability. But it can also undermine the autonomy and privacy a lot of adults are used to. It can involve taking more personal risks than many providers (drivers or hosts) and possibly consumers could be accustomed to. For example, in previous posts I’ve covered (sometimes personal) risks associated with providing Internet router access.

And when people provide services as independent contractors with their own cars or homes, they may often expect more personal say in whom they serve or how they do it. That cuts across ideas we have in “public accommodations” law regarding discrimination against certain customers. In some specialized small businesses (like the wedding cake business), we see similar expectations by some small business owners, to be left alone, when dealing with consumers whom they perceive as presenting them with personal or religious challenges.

I sometimes have to ponder this in my own book authoring “business”, especially as I contemplate putting out a novel (finally) within the next year. I get pressure from my POD publishers to buy volumes of printed books at deep discounts and set up my own retailing (which I do have a formal shell for) rather than depend on the passive (but reasonably effective) system of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, search engines, and word of mouth (and social media really is effective on that point). Imagine if I was viewed as a public accommodation (albeit a small business) and had to provide braille, large print, and audio as well   I don’t have the commercial scale for that, even though I seem to have some political visibility in the policy areas (as I did with the DADT repeal), even today with (for better or worse) the Trump administration.   I may be getting beyond the scope of this post, but my mission is to encourage critical thinking and connect the dots, not to placate understandably needful consumers in various identity groups (who could possible provide volume sales for those writers who will sell to their specific needs) . I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford to do this, but I watch the political and legal climate carefully.

(Posted: Thursday, June 29, 2017 at 3 PM EDT)

Social media companies and economic value: what happens when everybody believes “It’s free, it’s free”, like at the public library

There’s a rather shocking and strident article in the Washington Post today, by Larry Downes. “Google and Facebook contribute zero economic value. And that’s a big problem for trade.”

The article specifically talks in terms of Gross Domestic Product, as economists define it. And online services contribute, well, zero, because all the content they deliver is free.

Well, not exactly.  Advertisers pay these services, especially for clicks or, even better, a little commission (that sometimes goes to writers) when consumers make real world purchases.  And Madison Avenue companies had, I thought, always counted in the GDP, at least in Big Apple speak.

On a bigger view, tech certainly contributes to GDP.  Telecom companies charge consumers more or less the way utility companies do.  It’s not free.  And there are even some glimmers, or rumors, that in a no-net-neutrality environment, big telecom may eventually charge websites (or hosting companies and service companies like Google and Facebook) to be hooked up more efficiently.   That idea may be contributing to the development of intermediary platforms for certain artists and writers, like Bandcamp and Hubspace.  By the way, Google is facing fines for the way it uses its “monopoly” for “promoting” its own stuff in Europe, an idea that parallels the net neutrality problem in the U.S. now.

It’s true, we’ve gotten used to the fact that a lot of good web content is free.  A lot of economists or other moralists think that’s not a good thing.  But we need to view these statements with some degree of balance.  Many newspapers and quality periodicals now have paywalls.  Many platforms charge for legal downloading, although often less than things cost in the physical world (like watching new movies on Amazon), and others have monthly subscriptions to bundle charges (Netflix) resulting in lower costs for consumers over time.

Furthermore, and this is important, some websites offering “free content” do support sales of real products (like books) or services (like insurance) in a tangible way   So in that sense, these kinds of sites pay their own way.  “Blogtyrant” (Ramsy Taplin) has explored his issue recently with postings and lively comments threads (June 12).

I agree, that a pundit like me poses certain “moral” questions.  Most of my content is viewed free, and I don’t actually personally need for my own web activity to be self-supporting, the way things are set up now (and have been so since the mid 1990s).  As I’ve noted before, it is very difficult for me to become somebody else’s mouthpiece, and it is very difficult to enter into a “real” relationship where others with “needs” depend on me and where I find that personally rewarding.   There’s a chicken and egg problem:  maybe you need to have (or at least adopt) kids first, or belong to some identity group and feel partial to that group, first.

It is true that people, especially teens and young adults, need to grow up in the real world.  No, I’m not ready to go off the grid to a cabin in the woods, because, given what I have done, I have to keep things going all the time.  And the idea of a teacher’s “bribing” students to give up screen time one day a week in the summer seems silly to me.

But I do think teens should take advantage of all real-world opportunities first (sports, drama, music, outdoors, travel [not to North Korea]) first.  I know of a teen who directed a church play a few years ago, “Wise Guys”, and as far as I know, it’s never become a film. My challenge to a recent college graduate might be, produce it!   I had my own opportunity with piano lessons and even composition contests n the 1950s through very early 1960s.   The manuscript shown here, handwritten from the 1959-1960 winter snow days, attests to my own grounding in the physical world.  But my activity was personally expressive and self-driven, not social or relational or needs-based.  The logical outcome is that not everyone wins, not everyone gets recognized as a star.  Some people lead, and the rest of us become the “meek little followers”, whether singing in a mixed chorus in high school (oh, those Spring concerts), or working as an activist, and even for people whose needs make them fall far short of examples of libertarian examples of “personal responsibility”.

I wish Reid Ewing would bring back his three short films “It’s Free” from 2012 (with Igigistudios).  They would make a real point now. Maybe to “be free” you have to help people enough that they want to pay for your stuff.

Mozilla has its own podcast page about the future of free stuff,

(Posted: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 at 5 PM EDT)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yellowstone Caldera attracting attention for catastrophic eruption potential, but maybe “it won’t be so bad”

There has been some hype in tabloid media (and on doomsday prepper Facebook accounts) in the past couple of weeks about the increase of small earthquakes in the Yellowstone National Park caldera area, interspersed with quiet periods.  Some sources say this could be a warning of a catastrophic eruption which could make two-thirds of the United States uninhabitable.  Other possible indications could be changes in water levels in various ponds and hot springs.

There are reports that that DHS has talked to at least four countries (one of them is apparently South Africa) on other continents about taking American “refugees”.  I could say, fat chance, given Trump’s attempts at travel bans!  There are predictions of at least a 10% probability of a major eruption by 2100.

The Pacific Northwest seems to have a massive eruption about every 650,000 years and we are near that time.  Each eruption occurs farther East than the previous one.   And scientists have found that the magma chambers under Yellowstone were even deeper and larger than previously thought.

But if you check more mainstream media, the sources indicate that earthquake swarms are common and not necessarily a sign of a major eruption. And more stable (and sometimes conservative) sites tend to suggest that the damage possible from a Yellowstone eruption is much smaller than the tabloids or Hollywood disaster movies predict.

Indeed, there would be massive destruction for at least 100 miles or so in every direction from the Caldera, more than was found with Mount St. Helens in 1980.

And there could be considerable ashfall over the upper Midwest, compromising farmland and gumming up streams and rivers.  Furthermore, the volcanic could would block sunlight and cool the Earth for several years, maybe substantially, reversing global warming temporarily and leading to shorter growing seasons.

I can recall that this risk came up on an Outwoods hike near Minneapolis back in the fall of 1998 when a University of Minnesota chemistry professor on the hike mentioned it, as a real hazard to civilization.

This site in the UK is rather sensational, as is Millennium Report, but these (Fox, Gizmodo, Livescience) make more temperate predictions.

I visited Yellowstone myself in May 1981 (also nearby Teton), and the Mt. St. Helens site in Washington State in July 1990.  I also flew over the St. Helens peak on a flight from Seattle to San Francisco in August 1980.

There have also been reports that Mount Rainier in Washington State could have a massive eruption.

Map of past eruptions.

Map of calderas.

Caldera photo.

Mt. St. Helens

(Posted: Friday, June 23, 2017 at 1:30 PM EDT)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does distributed consciousness really exist with humans? If so, that matters

We often hear loose allegations in the literature about “distributed consciousness” among some animals. In different contexts, we may hear the term used about social insects (bee and ant colonies), siphonophores (like the Portuguese Man-o-War), all the way to mammals who live in social groups.  Orcas (the film “Blackfish“) are said to experience a “distributed sense of self”.

I wonder about the same idea for human society.  Is an extended family, a tribe, a clan, or small nation in some sense conscious?  Authoritarian leaders (whether religious, as in the Islamic world, or secular, as with Vladimir Putin) sometimes talk this way.

One paper that caught my attention recently was a British paper by Johnathan CW Edwards from University College, London.  The paper proposes that every cell in your body has a “copy” or image of your consciousness (rather like every computer in a network having a copy of everything in a network cloud, and constantly refreshing it, rather like the inverse of a product like Carbonite or iCloud).  But the sentience that you experience as “you” has something to do with the “binding” of all of these copies back.  As individual cells dies, other new cells can download the copies.  He then goes on to a long discussion of “the binding problem”.   (Along these lines, the “consciousness” of cephalopods like the octopus (Atlantic; NY Times) becomes interesting to compare with that of a mammal like me;  there is also research that animals like crows don’t need a cerebral cortex like ours to be very smart and sentient.)  Even plants are said to have cellular consciousness (I once saw how a wild grape vine can attach itself to my own cable line, and PBS Nature has a series “Plants Behaving Badly“.)

Parts of the human body sometimes seem to have their own identities — involuntary muscles, twitches, reflexes, and “muscle memory” of events. That would really be strong in a decentralized animal like the octopus.

There seems to exist a loose idea, that if individuals having consciousness (uploading to sentience) bond together with enough solidarity, the larger group will take on sentience of its own.  This idea has certainly been explored in science fiction, like Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End”, a big miniseries at the end of 2015.  It isn’t hard to see that this idea can appeal to collectivistic or authoritarian politicians and theologians.

What could go into such “binding” of a group consciousness?  The most obvious element would be the common DNA (nuclear and even mitochondrial) of extended families.  Do some wild animals sense this?  In a pride, the alpha-male lion sometimes kills the cubs of rival males so his own genes propagate, as if he were competing for his own group-uploaded vicarious immortality.  With a little thought, you can see how this could feed homophobia.  I am an only child.  You can imagine what my parents could have though in the fall of 1961 when they learned from a college dean that I had said I am gay.  The idea of “loyalty to blood” came out in an unusual way in an episode of the 2003 series “Jake 2.0”, about a young man accidentally “infected” with nanobots and getting superpowers.

But people in religious, spiritual or meditation practices often deny that blood lineage matters all that much, saying there are many other ways to develop connections to people, that survive mortality. Much of this practice seems to have to do with the willingness to disband old limitations on the ability to love and perceive people in terms of pre-learned physical standards of appearance.  I do see, sometimes in social media, calls to openness to connections to people in need (or who have had permanent losses, sometimes caused by the violence of others), that would not have been contemplated in the more restrictive and socially conservative culture in which I grew up in the 50s and early 60s.  In my day, there was more an attitude of “it is what it is”, and “what you see is what you get”.

In conjunction with a view of afterlife that I discussed  June 6, it seems that strong connections with others in groups while living may be the only way you own “microverse” can keep up after you’re “gone”.  So there may be something at stake when whole groups or families are destroyed.  The “souls” of those who have gone will no longer have others to keep up with.  Maybe this idea does feed some religious fundamentalism, and the idea that what others do really does matter for your own collective “eternity”.

How do you become “connected” to a group?  I can think of perhaps silly examples.  One is rooting for a professional sports team and feeling let down when the team blows a won game (because of a weak bullpen in baseball – the Washington Nationals).  The only thing I can do about it is to start playing chess more again and hold on to my own endgames.

But more challenging are the calls to give up one’s own internal crutches in personal fantasy(as a legacy of my days at NIH in 1962).  The “Tribunals” that I skipped out on that lost fall semester at William and Mary in the fall of 1961 provides one example.  Sitting in the barber’s chair for “Be Brave and Shave” sessions for cancer patients, rather than just filming other people stepping up to it, could provide another example.  I remember that buzz cut the first morning of Basic Training at Fort Jackson in 1968, and the idea of “unit cohesion” as explored in the film “The Strange History of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’”. It does sound like sometimes one is called upon to suspend the old sense of individual self, with all its external trappings, because not of these are permanent anyway.

Indeed, I do appreciate different senses of myself at different times, in dreams, before getting up in the morning, and once involved with the activities of the day, where the momentum of my established drives and initiatives take over.  Yet, maybe we all have the feeling sometimes, “Why am I still doing this?”  The next little brain fix, whether eusocial (a Nationals win without blowing a lead in the ninth), or individual (a chess win, after your opponent blunders and give you the opposition in a king-and-pawn ending), or fantasy-based (the hidden arousal when an icon from my life shows up in shorts at church on Sunday morning, as if to show off a standard of physical perfection for everyone else to follow – “I’m the ocelot without clay feet”) – all of these invoke variations of the former self that can become blurred or lost by absorption into the consciousness of the group.

I’m left with the question, can I become someone other than who I am?  Stay tuned.

(Posted: Thursday, June 15, 2017, at 12 noon EDT)

How an article on the workplace and automation leads us back to network neutrality and other potential issues for Internet user-generated content

A guest post by 30-year-old Australian blogging (and physical fitness) guru Ramsay Taplin (aka “Blogtyrant“), in “Goins, Writer” about how to deal with the invasion of robots and artificial intelligence in the workplace (when these innovations threaten to replace you) rather accidentally re-ignites the debate over the future of the Internet and ordinary speech on it in the United States.  (Before I go further, I’ve love to meet the huge cat on Ramsay’s Twitter page.)

Ramsay’s post seems to be a bit in the tradition of libertarian George Mason University Professor Tyler Cowen’s book “Average Is Over,” outlining how middling people need to deal with the changing modern workplace.  At a crucial point in his essay, Ramsay, after suggesting that employed people consider starting small businesses on their own time, recommends most business owners (as well as professionals like lawyers, financial planners, agents, and even book authors) stake out their property in “modern real estate” with a professionally hosted blog site.  But then he dismissively adds the caveat, “unless the Internet changes dramatically through removing net neutrality…”

Later, he writes “make sure everything you do on the Internet helps someone,” a very important base concept that I’ll come back to. He gives a link to a compelling essay on personal and workplace ethics in a site called “Dear Design Student”, about how you can’t lead a double life and be believed forever.  You can see my conversation with him in the comments.

Whoa, there.  OK, Ramsay works (“from his couch”) in Australia, part of the British Commonwealth, and, like most western-style democratic countries, the Aussie World maintains statutory network neutrality regulations on its own turf (I presume).  But, as we know, under the new Trump administration and new FCC chair Ajit Pai, the Obama era’s network neutrality protections, largely set in place (in 2015) by maintaining that self-declared “neutral conduit” telecommunications companies are common carriers, will almost certainly be disbanded late this summer in the U.S. after the formal comment period is over.  Pro-neutrality advocates (including most tech companies) plan a “Day of Action” July 12, which Breitbart characterized in rather hyperbolic farce.

That situation puts American companies at odds with the rest of the capitalist democratic world (definitely not including Russia and China).  There are plenty of political advocacy pressure groups with “Chicken Little” “Sky Is Falling” warnings (along with aggressive popups for donations) about how exposed small companies and individual speakers online may be intentionally silenced (as I had outlined here on May 11).  Right away, I rebut by noting that not only is there to be (according to Pai) “voluntary compliance”, but also every major general-purpose telecom company in the US seems to say it has no intention to throttle ordinary sites.  In fact, most consumers, when they sign up for Internet, want full access to everything out there on the indexed web, so doing so would make no business sense.

Even so, some comparison of the world now to what it was a few decades ago, when I came of age, is in order.  Telephone companies were monopolistic but were regulated, so they couldn’t refuse service to consumers they didn’t like.  None of this changed as ATT break-up into the Bell’s happened (something I watched in the 80s-job market for I.T.)  But until the WWW came along in the mid-90s, the regulations only protected consumers getting content (phone calls), not wanting to upload it with no gatekeepers for pre-approval.  Back then, in a somewhat regulated environment, companies did make technological innovations for big paying customers (like DOD).  Pai would seem to be wrong in asserting that all regulation will stop innovation.

It’s also noteworthy that the FCC regulated broadcast networks, especially the number of television stations they could own (I remember this while working for NBC in the 1970s).  Likewise, movie studios were not allowed to own theater chains (that has somewhat changed more recently).

But by analogy, it doesn’t seem logical that reasonable rules preventing ordinary content throttling would stymie innovation where there are real benefits to consumers (like higher speeds for high definition movies, or for emergency medical services, and the like), or, for that matter, better service in rural areas.

There are also claims that new telecom technologies could enter the market, and that Obama-like net neutrality rules would stifle newcomer telecom companies.  Maybe this could bear on super-high-speed FIOS, for example, that Google has tried in a few cities.

Then, some of the punditry get speculative.  For example, a faith-based ISP might want to set up a very restricted service for religious families. It sounds rather improbable, but maybe that needs to be OK.  Or maybe a Comcast or Verizon wants to offer a low-end Internet service that doesn’t offer all websites, just an approved whitelist.  Maybe that appeals to locally socialized families with little interest in “globalism”.  That sounds a little more serious in its possible impact on other small businesses trying to reach them.

Another idea that cannot be dismissed out of hand, is that telecom companies could be prodded to deny connection access to illegal content, such as terror promotion or child pornography, or even sex trafficking (as with the Backpage controversy).

If we did have an environment where websites had to pay every telecom company to be hooked up to them, it’s likely that hosting companies like Bluehost would have to build this into their fees to take care of it.  I actually have four separate hosted WordPress blog domains.  It’s significant that Bluehost (and probably other companies) allow a user just one hosting account with a primary domain name.  Add-on domains are internally made subdomains of the primary and converted internally.  So, the user would probably only he “charged” for one hookup, regardless of the number of blogs.  (It’s also possible to put separate blogs in separate installations of WordPress in separate directories, I believe, but I see no reason now to try it.)   But one mystery to me is, that if Bluehost does have a “primary domain” concept with subdomains, why can’t it make the entire network https (SSL) instead of just one “real” domain?  I expect this will change.  SSL is still pretty expensive for small businesses to offer (they can generally outsource their credit card operations and consumer security, but there is more pressure, from groups like Electronic Frontier Foundation, to implement “https everywhere” for all content).

It’s also worthy of note that “free blogs” on services like Blogger and WordPress use a subdomain concept, so there is only one domain name hookup per user to any ISP.  That’s why Blogger can offer https to its own hosted blogs but not to blogs that default to user-owned domain names.

We can note that search engines like Google and Bing aren’t held to a “neutrality” policy and in fact often change their algorithms to prevent unfair (“link farming”) practices by some sites.

So, here we are, having examined net neutrality and its supposed importance to small site owners (nobody really worried about this until around 2008 it seems).  But there are a lot of other issues that could threaten the Internet as we know it.  Many of the proposals revolve around the issue of “downstream liability”:  web hosting companies and social media companies don’t have to review user posts before self-publication for legal problems;  if they had to, users simply could not be allowed to self-publish.  (That’s how things were until the mid 1990s.)  But, as I’ve noted, there are proposals to water down “Section 230” provisions in the US because of issues like terrorism recruiting (especially by ISIS), cyberbulling, revenge porn, and especially sex trafficking (the Backpage scandal).  Hosts and social media companies do have to remove (and report) child pornography now when they find it or when it is flagged by users, but even that content cannot be screened before the fact.  And Facebook and Twitter are getting better at detecting terror recruiting, gratuitous violence, fake news, and trafficking.  But widescale abuse by combative and relatively less educated users starts to raise the ethical question about whether user-generated content needs to pay its own way, rather than become a gratuitous privilege for those who really don’t like to interact with others whom they want to criticize.

In Europe and British Commonwealth countries there is apparently less protection from downstream liability allowed service providers than in the U.S., which would be the reverse of the legal climate when compared to the network neutrality issue.  And Europe has a “right to be forgotten” concept. Yet, user-generated content still seems to flourish in western countries besides the U.S.

I mentioned earlier the idea that a small business or even personal website should help the reader in a real-world sense.  Now Ramsay’s ideas on Blogtyrant seem most applicable to niche marketing.  That is, a business meeting a narrow and specific consumer need will tend to attract followers (hence Blogtyrant’s recommendations for e-mail lists that go beyond the fear of spam and malware).  It’s noteworthy that most niche markets probably would require only one blog site (despite my discussion above of how hosting and service providers handle multiple blogs from one user.) It’s pretty easy to imagine what niche blogs would be like:  those of lawyers (advising clients), financial planners, real estate agents, insurance agents, tax preparers, beauty products, fashion, and games and sports (especially chess).  It would seem that gaming would create its own niche areas.  And there are the famous mommy blogs (“dooce” by Heather Armstrong, who added a new verb to English – note her site has https –, although many later “mommy” imitations have not done nearly so well).  I can imagine how a well-selling fiction author could set up a niche blog, to discuss fiction writing (but not give away her own novels).

Another area would be political activism, where my own sense of ethics makes some of this problematical, although Ii won’t get into that here.

In fact, my whole history has been the opposite, to play “Devil’s advocate” and provide “objective commentary” and “connect the dots” among almost everything, although how I got into this is a topic for another day (it had started with gays in the military and “don’t ask don’t tell” in the US in the 1990s, and everything else grew around it).   One could say that my entering the debate this way meant I could never become anyone else’s mouth piece for “professional activism” or conventional salesmanship (“Always Be Closing”).  I guess that at age 54 I traded queens into my own (chess) endgame early, and am getting to the king-and-pawn stage, looking for “the opposition”.

There’s a good question about what “helps people”.  “The Asylumist” is a good example; it is written by an immigration lawyer Jason Dzubow specifically to help asylum seekers.  Jason doesn’t debate the wisdom of immigration policy as an intellectual exercise, although he has a practical problem of communicating what asylum seekers can expect during the age of Trump – and some of it is unpredictable. On this (my) blog, I’ve tried to explore what other civilians who consider helping asylum seekers (especially housing them personally) could expect.  Is that “helping people” when what I publish is so analytical, tracing the paths of speculation?  I certainly have warned a lot of people about things that could get people into trouble, for example, allowing someone else (even an Airbnb renter!) to use your home Internet router connection, for which you could be personally liable (sorry, no personalized Section 230).  Is the end result (of my own blog postings) to make people hesitant to offer a helping hand to immigrants out of social capital (and play into Donald Trump’s hands)?  I think I’m making certain problems a matter of record so policy makers consider them, and I have some ample evidence that they do.  But does that “help people” the way a normal small business does?

Getting back to how a blog helps a small business, the underlying concept (which does not work with my operation) is that the business pays for itself, by meeting real needs that consumers pay for (let’s hope they’re legitimate, not porn).  Legitimate business use of the Internet should come from “liking people.”  If blogging were undermined by a combination of policy changes in the US under Trump, it might not affect people everywhere else (although Theresa May wants it to), and it would be especially bad for me with my free-content model based on wealth accumulated elsewhere (some of it inherited but by no means all of it); but legitimate for-profit businesses will always have some basic way to reach their customers.

There has been talk of threats to blogging before.  One of the most serious perils occurred around 2005, in connection with campaign finance reform in the U.S., which I had explained here.

(Posted: Monday, June 12, 2017 at 12 noon EDT USA)

Is the pineal gland the key to the afterlife?

I’ve been put under general anesthesia only twice in my life.  One time was in Minneapolis in January 1998 after I had fallen in a convenience store and cracked my acetabulum (hip). That led to a six-hour operation two days later at the University of Minnesota, and I did have first rate insurance and short term disability from my employer, ReliaStar (now ING/Voya), an insurance company itself.  I recovered quickly and completely.  The other time was in January 2010, back in Arlington, for a double hernia repair, where I was under for 67 minutes.

Each time, my last memory was being on a stretcher and being wheeled to the OR.  There would be a sense of discontinuity (unlike sleep), and arousal, in the hospital room or recovery room, with a nurse’s voice.  But I had no memory of the actual surgery.  I was told I was given memory suppression drug, so the operations themselves are not part of my own life experience.

Twice, for putting in implants, in 2013, I had sedation dentistry, with light (3 pads) electrocardiographic monitoring, starting with valium.  In each session, time seemed to speed up.  When I was fully aware again, about five hours had passed and we were ready to finish up, after the multiple extractions, which seemed to go very quickly without effort.

Yet, when you read about near-death experiences, you learn about people in comas going somewhere and reporting what they saw beyond, as well as watching the details of medical procedures done on their bodies with a third eye.

There is a body of only slightly off-mainstream literature about the purpose of the pineal gland, a tiny check-pea-sized organ seated deep within the brain of most vertebrates, for example.  While its recognized purpose may be to secrete melatonin, it seems that it also secretes a controlled substance and hallucinogen, dimethyltryptamine (DMT).  Some literature suggests that the DMT enters the dying brain and sets off the “trips”.  The DMT also apparently has the ability to cause the perception of the passage of time to slow down.  There are a few very celebrated cases of visions from a brain that had no function of all, such as Eben Alexander’s “Proof of Heaven”. The author, himself a physician, reported residing in a “Core” or complete darkness for a long while, before encountering his own vision of a kind of alternative space-time we call Heaven. No wonder the organ is called the “Third Eye”.

The reference I gave indicate that “without the pineal gland, you can’t go to heaven.”  The pineal does need a conventional blood supply to function, so it would have to flood the brain with DMT in the last moments after circulation stopped.  The brain might function with this kind of stimulation for a while longer, even though the brain as normally conscious stops working about 30 seconds after the heartbeat stops.  This scenario would not be possible in the case of abrupt extreme trauma (like thermonuclear weapon on even conflagration like on 9/11), but might survive ordinary trauma (even decapitation) for a while, long enough for this to “happen”.  It might allow the DE to proceed with execution by lethal injection.

One could imagine that the time dilates in a mathematically converging infinite series, so that the individual experiences the illusion of permanent “awareness”.  His or her life exists forever in the space-time sense, bounded by the time of death in the usual sense of the physical world.

One wonders what the person could see.  Maybe a “life review”, as I think the Monroe Institute has proposed.  (Call it “content evaluation.”)  It would be fascinating to review a 1% sample of the days of one’s life in detail and see how one lived and worked decades before, even what one’s body looked like before starting to age.  It would be possible to envision one’s life as a permanent micro-universe, embedded in the Universe of our Creator, where one had been a god of one’s own little world, with consciousness and choice, and the chance to oppose the entropy of the laws of physics with chosen actions.

It would seem that most people (outside of extreme trauma, which a terrorist or society could impose) would have a moment when the person knows that a life of activity is over, and that he/she cannot go back or take anything along, even if there is “read-only access” to one’s completed life for what may be perceived as indefinite time.  Sometimes the end may seem to be announced by a dream in a threatening, illogical situation (like power won’t come on in some rooms) that one cannot arouse oneself from.

Then, Heaven might have something to do with being connected (through “wormholes”) with all the other microuniverses of other people to whom you had been connected.  It is only through connections from future people (descendants) that one knows what is going on after one is gone.

The microuniverses could be viewed as eternal from the view of string theory, where time is just another dimension, once intervention and causality is no longer possible.

But how would the connections be selected?  Would they be based on blood ancestry?  (It’s like the LDS Church believing in eternal marriage.) Would they be based on other levels of group or emotional commitment?  Do groups (like nations) have their own level of consciousness?  If you look at other social animals (like social insects, siphonophores or modular colonies, or even higher social animals like orca schools) you can certainly wonder.  The idea that most societies find that they must demand self-sacrifice sometimes by individual members (like in military service in human societies) suggest that there could be some point to the idea of a higher collective soul facilitating these connections, but right now it’s just speculative. But Arthur C. Clarke may have been on to something with “Childhood’s End”.

But the whole idea of sentience and identity, and whether you can ever return (“reincarnation”) seems as mysterious as ever.  Some coma situations, such as when a person is awake but unaware, as after brain injury, complicate the picture.

It’s hard for me to believe in the idea of a hollow heaven where you have a condo in some other universe with your extended family for all time. But physics suggests that some sort of conscious remnant or “leftover” exists for all time.  And your loved one, at the very end of life, may be aware of your presence (or absence) even if she looks unconscious.  So, watch your karma.

(Posted: Tuesday, June 6, 2017 at 6:15 PM EDT)

What if individual blogs and social media accounts had to pay their own way (to the speaker, not the providing company)?

This Monday morning (like the 60s song), I waited in line at the US Post Office to buy stamps behind people with much more complicated transactions. I asked the manager why the machines were no longer around, and she said that the particular branch doesn’t make enough revenue.  I squawked about customer service.  (Yes, it’s faster at UPS or FedEx, totally private companies.) When I finally bought my stamps on a debit card, it did not have the security chip.  Was that because that branch didn’t do enough business?

Now I turn to the seemingly unrelated topic of user-generated content on the Web, especially those belonging to individuals, ranging from sites (usually embedding blogs), to free-standing free blogs (Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, etc), to  “true social media” to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,  and similar (Myspace?)

Niche blogs, as I noted in the previous post, will go right off the hook here.  Generally they support small businesses selling very specific products (which may be authored books or music) or services to customers wanting to pay for them.  I know, porn can be profitable and can skew the remaining discussion.

My content, however, presents a more troubling scenario.  It doesn’t pay for itself.  Yes, I have the money to afford it.  Some of it is inherited, which raises its own moral questions for another day. But even before my “retirement” in 2001, I had saved pretty well and had a decent nest egg from my own career. My first book (1997), however self-published, was easily paid for by gains in Bill Clinton’s stock market with profits of real companies.  Why should there be anything wrong with this? Isn’t that just supporting free speech with the normal mechanics of democratic capitalism?

Yes, I get pestered as to why I don’t go on tours trying to sell books, or run by own retail businesses.  Or why I don’t play ball and try to make the advertising opportunities profitable on their own.

No, I seem to be a Professional Spectator (the bane of the Netflix film “Rebirth”).  Call me a low-level provocateur, a more socially acceptable Milo.   I commit the sin of “criticizing” the proposals of others to solve social justice and national security problems without having to put my own skin in the game.  So you can see how some people could see me as messing with them, trying to deny them the safety net they might otherwise have (or maybe even indirect claims on my own estate).

What I’m trying to do is account for everything that can affect any political debate than can affect “me”.  So I have a repository of playing “devil’s advocate”.  I want to make sure that policy makers really do consider everything.  And there is plenty of evidence that my “free content” has often reached “people who matter”, even though I seem to be “preaching to the choir”, especially given the way today’s news get aggregated by social media according to the visitor’s previously tracked behaviors.

I am very concerned about the future of user-generated content, as I have written several times before on this blog (especially with my post on citizen journalism on Nov. 7, the day before the Election). While some of us feel personally proud of our own knowledge dissemination, the majority of users seem relatively frivolous at best, vulnerable to manipulation by outside powers (the fake news problem), or, at worst, hostile or criminal, engaging in cyberbulling or revenge porn, sex-trafficking or stalking, or criminal hacking (big with overseas users from some parts of the world), or recruiting for terrorism and radicalism.  The degree or volume of “mal-use” has become shocking on the past few years, especially since Syria fell apart (and maybe we can blame Obama if we want to).  As I’ve noted before, both Trump and Hillary Clinton had hinted at wanting some sort of Internet kill switch to stop gratuitous activity on the Web if justified by asymmetric warfare threats (statements back in December 2015).  Both seemed naïve about how much of the recruiting takes place on the Dark Web or under high encryption, a long way from ordinary social media.

The biggest legislative threat may be the gutting of Section 230, for which there is already some legislation floating in Congress related to the Backpage scandal.  We’d need to know how service providers operate profitably in Europe where downstream liability protections are weaker than in the U.S.  But the basic premise remains:  a social media company, or even a web hosting company, cannot continue to offer its service (even if paid for by user subscription) if it is required to pre-screen every post before it goes public.

I can think of another threat, at least on paper, related to my USPS analogy.  (Yes, “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and “Body Heat”: I’ve seen the classic films).  Imagine if every user had to make his or her own content pay for itself.  In the POD book world, that would mean that books that don’t sell get taken down and off Amazon and BN.  In the blogging world, the content would have to show it was connected to products or services that earn their own way by normal accounting.  OK, this is Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”.  I hope so.

The way this would happen would be (ironically) the extension of Obamacare to Internet liability activity. No one would be able to justify the insurance if the activity did not make money on its own.  Schemes like his were attempted in 2001 (with the National Writers Union) and later 2008 but don’t seem to have been particularly successful (obviously, anti-selection and the subjectivity of the underwriting is a problem;  combining this with umbrella policies reflects a superficial idea of the problem).

The ”moral” justification, or legal one in First Amendment terms, starts with recognizing that a speaker may have the right to say what she wants (outside of “fire in a crowded theater” stuff) to people who are available because of her own direct contacts in “normal life” (the narrowest legal concept of “publication” in my previous post here).  She has the right to assembly and petition.  She has the right to participate in organizing into larger groups that can speak for her.  These can include political PACS on the one hand or media companies with the scale to be profitable (freedom of the press).  Religious speech (or “the church” or synagogue or mosque, etc) may have more protection.  But what’s not so clear (especially now with a conservative majority again in the Supreme Court) is that global ungated self-distribution, which has become within the reach of the average person since the mid 1990s through the Internet and WWW, is by itself a “Fundamental Right”.  Previously, people could normally be published only by third parties who believed they could sell, satisfy consumers and actually make money, whatever the objective cultural value of the content. There was a small, clumsy, expensive subsidy publishing industry which did not have a good reputation.

Of course, there are counter-arguments.  Some of the language in the COPA opinion in 2007 (and perhaps the Supreme Court rulings in 2002 and 2004), as well as the way the Supreme Court handled the original Communications Decency Act in 1997 (I went to the oral arguments), might be construed as supporting a “right to distribute” as embedded indirectly into the First Amendment.  Again, the law sometimes doesn’t like to conflate “manufacture” with “distribution”;  look at how this could play out if applied to the network neutrality debate (not the way we want).

You would wind up with a world where only “established” businesses and organizations would be able to generate their own speech (that would still include authors who actually make money on their books)  Everyone else would have to belong to and remain loyal to and in solidarity with organizations claiming to give them a voice.  Intellectual honesty would disappear.  (Think how Trump played to his base, but think again how the Left often does the same thing.)   Some non-profit or activist groups would love it, because they would be able to control the message.  Solidarity would become an essential virtue again, in a world where no one was allowed to claim credit for much all by himself.  People would have to accept other people’s goals and make personal compromises that in an individualistic world would seem to undermine personal integrity.  All of this seems to aim toward a controlled world of personal “right-sizing” favored by states like Russia and particularly China (and authoritarian leaders like Putin and Xi Jingping), where discipline of individual expression is seen as essential to a populist version of stability and protection of “the people” from marginalization by “the elites” and “know-it-alls”.

And. of course, it sounds like such a policy, if ever enacted by Congress, would destroy social media companies and maybe even hosting companies if ever enacted – including all their asset values.  So I hope it just can’t happen (despite the December 2015 threats).  The British Prime Minister Theresa May sounds to be on a real warpath.  She wants the whole world to control itself to recognize the grievous security problems especially in Britain and Europe.  Ironically, this makes Donald Trump’s “America First”, even his Paris accord pullout, sound a little reassuring.

One can imagine other ideas. For example, an Internet “driver’s license”.  You could apply this thinking style to the world a century ago when who should have a personal car and be allowed to drive could construct a similar controversy.

One aspect of the “asymmetry” of the modern world is indeed very hard to manage, especially given the axiomatic nihilism of one particular enemy.  That is to say, it is nearly impossible to decide whether some speech could be read as an indirect threat to be taken down (which is a problem Theresa May will run into right away).  This gets back to the “implicit content” problem or what I call my “West Potomac High School Problem of 2005”.  I could be seen as the Milo Yiannopoulos Problem, too;  is his speech simply designed to goad people into overreaction because the speaker knows “weaker” people will react violently? In an asymmetric world, anyone is a combatant, and the normal idea of well-separate personal responsibility starts to disintegrate.

All of this is quite troubling to me.  I pride myself in finding the flaws or weaknesses of almost any proposed policy and of rehearsing the mistakes of the past (especially as shown by my own narratives).  But often allies of mine – conventional activists – don’t want all the library-archived but forgotten facts mentioned again or reviewed because showing past “dirty laundry” will simply give the “other side” ammunition to continue “oppressing” weaker members of their constituent groups.  (A good example of this would be the “chain letter” argument regarding gay men and HIV, a weapon of the religious right in the 1980s but largely forgotten now;  another example might be bringing up the possibility of conscription.)

I have another personal side of this.  It’s true, I’m not willing to become someone else’s mouthpiece, but I also don’t seem to find much “meaning” just in meeting the real needs of someone that claims to be oppressed or “powerless”.  I have a real problem with trying to sell (or “pimp”) victimhood or even trying to remedy it personally, unless I caused it – but we’re finding that what we are as a community means a lot more than what I used to experience.

(Posted: Monday, June 5, 2017 at 10:30 PM EDT)