Most organizations get very pushy online in demanding donations and tribal loyalty

I know it’s the end of the tax year, so I shouldn’t be perturbed about the flood of emails begging for donations and claiming sponsors have promised matching donation.

At the very least, I get annoyed at the pimping of need and causes to me.  Very often, an activist site, often for a narrow issue, and often polarized on either the far Left or far Right, and very tribal in tone, will push big donate buttons on their websites and emails or Facebook posts, and claim some calamity will surely fall to their constituents, who are supposed to include me, if not enough people give.

I often hear claims about deadlines and funds remaining to be raised.

And I often see pleas of extreme personal need.

I get especially annoyed at the false personalization of emails, addressed to me by name when I know they are spammed.  And some groups want to borrow my websites as a platform for their own fundraisers.  Besides from obvious branding questions, it appears I don’t “belong” to anyone, do I.

So I must sound like Scrooge, when too many parties claim to represent their own Tiny Tim.

Or maybe I sound like John Paul Getty, who reasons if you give in to one unreasonable demand, you invite them all.

There are a few “offenders” who stand out.  On the network neutrality issue, one activist organization seems to want to represent all Internet speakers.  I digress enough here to admit that there is a legitimate question of how far the government needs to regulate a “quasi-utility” just as it has to regulate financial institutions.

In the LGBTQ world, activists often go out of their way to make “oppressed groups” through intersectionality of sub-populations.  Indeed, most of the actions of the Trump administration that sound anti-gay sounds like attempts to stop the recognition of group oppression (although I agree with the activists that Trump was very wrong on the transgender military issue, especially the way he handled it;  and he was very wrong with some aspects of his travel bans).

I’ll also add that I noticed a tweet from a good friend in the media, who noted a charity helping Syrian refugees with war injuries, who said he had donated and that “you should to.”  My immediate reaction is, no one should tell me what my own charitable priorities should be.  (It’s just not good to tell people “You should (or shouldn’t) do that.”  I remember that from my William and Mary days.  Judge not that ye be judged.) But I looked into this charity, and could not find a mailing address (which would allow me to use my trust to set them up as a recipient for automated donations through a bank – even if Wells Fargo is far from perfect in its own ethics).  I contacted them, and they directed me to their FAQ.  It seems like they want you to use their portal, their way.  They seem to want the special attention.

Of course, I know the ropes;  going through channels could take chunks out of donations. In other cases, it could deny telemarketers or fund raisers their cuts, a chance to make a living.  I used to call for the Minnesota Orchestra, and later the National Symphony, myself.

So here I am, in my own ivory tower.  I generally “assess” people as individuals acting on their own, not as members of this-or-that group first.  I’ve covered by own ideas of subsumed individual morality (my “DADT IV” sequence from early 2016) here before.

Look at what I did for twenty years:  although I was initially motivated by “gays in the military” as the issue evolved under Clinton in the 1990s, I developed a way of covering “all” the issues bearing on individual liberty, balanced against “common good”, and connecting the dots and building a topology among them. With purely passive strategy of letting people find my material, I managed to become effective in influencing debate (I think I have been so with the EMP issue lately), but I don’t “help” people in reaching out to them according to specific narrow adaptive needs.  I go against the grain of how things are usually done in a free, capitalist society.

Maybe I have to accept the way the game is played.  Most people running small businesses and charities  expect others to be sociable enough to respond to solicitations and manipulations at some point.  Most people have enough responsibility for others that they have to take more risks than I do and have to accept more annoyance from others than I will.  So should I “get over it”?

Indeed, in some of the sales jobs I did try, the advice was always to manipulate people and create urgency for them, but make them pay attention to something not already a priority for them.

That certainly sounds like the tone of “Blogtyrant’s” recommendations, which seem directed at reasoning “the proles” in the real world, not the “high and mighty”, or even the “shy and mighty”.

Indeed, the Russian campaign of disinformation and divisioning of the American people though social media bots may have been predicated on the idea that “elites” (like me) wouldn’t care what “the proles” thought and wouldn’t notice that “average Joe’s” really would let hucksters become their “voice” (aka Trump).

All this said, I have to admit that history shows us that, very often, individuals do find themselves “oppressed” only because of a particular group membership.  I tend to think of joining a cause as a personal cop-out, trading the authority of one power for that of a newer revolutionary one, which will still demand my obedience.  But I don’t know how this would work if my “soul” had mapped to a black slave in the US in 1861, or to a Jew in Germany in the 1930s. I would have been the first exterminated, with no future at all for my own sensibilities in this universe.  Sometimes, you have to fit in if you want to live.

(Posted: Saturday, December 30, 2017 at 11 PM EST)

Alexei Wood’s acquittal in the J20 trial gives independent journalists uneasy relief

Journalist Alexei Wood and five other defendants were acquitted of charges that could have led to decades in prison, after they were picked up by police in a “kettling” operation to stop the rioting in downtown Washington DC on Inauguration Day, protesting Donald Trump’s presidency.

Democracy Now presents an interview here between Amy Goodman, Brett Cohen and Mr. Alexei Wood, along with a 51-minute video here.

Other sites (such as Truthout, even more so than this one) have used this case as a reason to phrase appeals for money for independent journalism, claiming that the current government is hostile to journalists.

There is a lot going on here.  First, the Trump administration is a bit hostile (on Twitter especially) to established liberal media (like CNN).  He has not turned out to be hostile to independent bloggers or “citizen journalists” as I had once feared he might (as on my Nov. 7, 2016 post).  Perhaps he sees independent bloggers as calling out the media on insufficient reporting on some aspects of national security threats (like North Korea and EMP).   In countries like Egypt, Turkey, and particularly China, governments have been very harsh on independent media and sometimes have control of the more established channels.  Trump is nowhere close to that.  But Trump’s joking about wanting to reserve the right to jail political opponents whom he defeated (Mrs. Clinton) is not funny.

Secondly, there is the effect of social media tribalism, which now seems to have infected both the right and left.  There is an impression that someone who reports on a controversial group just to make a name for himself (if not already part of a journalistic establishment) is merely giving credibility to dangerous groups.  By that reasoning, reporters who filmed the J20 protests were giving credibility to Antifa-like protests but moreover to the violence that would accompany any “revolution”.  In that sense, the reporters are thought to have incited violence, despite the usual standard of “imminent threat of lawless action”. This sort of thinking has been particularly applied to people who might have wanted to to cover extreme right-wing groups or white supremacists.  This kind of reporting might be more acceptable if done by an established journalist supposedly from the other side (like Kamau Bell’s series “United Shades of America” on CNN covering the KKK).

I recently traveled to Washington VA and Flint Hill VA, to report the aggressive lawn pamphleting in the area by KKK elements. (Oh, please, don’t mention the People’s Party’s lettuce boycotts in the early 1970s.)  Does my doing so only give importance to such activity?   But I did not even know about the Charlottesville rightwing march on Aug. 11 in advance, although I might have been tempted to “watch” and film had I known.  I did know about the protests planned for Inauguration Day but simply stayed home to listen to the speech.  It’s conceivable that had I been there and filmed I could have been kettled and charged.  I have covered BLM marches but mainly filmed and “participated” minimally.  I visited Baltimore Sandtown right after the riots, but some independent journalists reported being pinned down by weapons fire and combat during the 2015 event.

Progressive interview with Mr. Wood.

(Posted: Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017 at 11 PM EST)

Are libertarians less social (or sociable) and less empathetic than others?

Recently there has been some research on the psychological aspects of people who believe in libertarian political values, compared to those who follow either conservative or liberal values.

The findings are discussed in a 2012 paper by Ravi Iyer, Spassena Koleva, Jesse Graham, Peter Ditto, and Jonathan Haidt, “Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Dispositions of Self-Identified Libertarians”,  Plus One link.  The paper was more recently summarized on a site called Righteous Mind.

Libertarian morality is based on the idea of personal harmlessness, and that government should not interfere with people’s use of what they already have as long as it was acquired lawfully.  Libertarians tend to be individualists who value setting and achieving their own goals, rather than joining efforts already set up by others and requiring competing inside a “power structure”.

But both conservatives, in the traditional sense, and liberals believe that people are morally obliged to function socially within groups to meet common goods and serve some needs to support others even if these obligations are not personally chosen. But conservatives tend to see the groups as vertical – extended family, often enveloped by church or some community of faith, and often country (indeed “MAGA”),  Liberals believe the groups need to extend horizontally, to reach out to people in groups very different than one’s own, and liberals are often very concerned about inequality and hidden interdependence and exploitation.  Liberals may sometimes believe that people should get reparative attention based on past group oppression, which can not only lead to “expropriation” but limitations on individual “gratuitous” speech (as with “social media tribalism”, which resist revisiting troubling facts from history out of a fear that bringing things up suggests things are unsettled and justifies resuming group oppression).  Some social problems (like sex trafficking recently) can attract demands for solidarity from both liberals and conservatives, whereas libertarians want to focus only on the direct offenders.  There is a useful term for this kind of socialization, which Charles Murray has used (“Coming Apart”), mainly, eusociality.

In the polarity system of Paul Rosenfels (with the Ninth Street Center in New York from the 1970s to 1990s and later the Paul Rosenfels community) libertarians tend to be the unbalanced personalities (masculine objective or feminine subjective), and traditional religious conservatives or activist liberals tend to be balanced.

Libertarians place more emphasis on logical reasoning and consistency of principles or rules with which difficult controversies are managed.  On the other hand, activists on both the right and left tend to place a lot of emphasis on group identity and solidarity and may become combative to protect their own “tribes”.  Libertarians may not feel as much personal empathy for others with serious adaptive problems unless they have the direct skills or interest to intervene productively on their own terms; they will resist pressure to “join in” or enlist.  I resist “joining a resistance” just because a politician (Trump) is perceived by many as an enemy of the people (as others had said about Obama and Clinton).

Libertarians and individualists are often seen as not caring about real people, or feeling tainted if expected to sacrifice their own sanctity for the good of the team.  Sometimes this tendency spurs combativeness in others, who believe that society is protected (or their groups are saved) only by “rightsizing” individuals and getting individuals to heed established authority (whether or the right or left).   This observation helps explains the intolerance of free speech in many societies like Russia, China and Singapore (as well as, obviously, many Muslim countries). China has attracted attention for planning to rate all individuals for “social engagement” by 2020.

Libertarians would say that they care but only when they can do something about a problem in a way they can chose.  This observation tends to go along with mild autism or asperger’s.  In ABC’s “The Good Doctor”, Shaun Murphy seems distant but obviously still cares about his patients because he really can do the right things for them.  But more often hyper-individualists don’t have the skills to really help people with everyday needs or make a real commitment to it.

James Damore actually tweeted the Righteous Mind story above, and says “my mind works differently”. He saw no reason to question corporate comfort with political correctness with the underlying science, which need not interfere with treating individuals according to their potential in the workplace.

(Posted: Monday, December 25, 2017, at 10:30 PM EST)

Modern HIV-infection-prevention medications remain controversial

Recently (around World AIDS Day Dec. 1) Justin Ayars, the publisher of Q Virginia Magazine, a glossy publication for the LGBT community with a lot of commercial material especially for gay married couples, wrote a very succinct statement on Facebook about HIV-infection detection and prevention, with regard to how PrEP and PEP (pre-exposure and post-exposure prophylaxis) work.  Here is the best link.

Then I noticed that the mainstream men’s magazines, most of all GQ, published ads for Truvalda, showing glossy photos of attractive young gay men (all races).

I shared this with a friend on Facebook and got this comment:

“My only issue with Prep and Pep is it has completely changed the “safe sex” mindset that came after the AIDS crisis. Guys now demand to bareback as par for the course. The pills have to be taken on schedule, and I sincerely doubt a lot of men stick to the schedule precisely. It would be interesting to find research that shows any uptick in HIV infections as a result of this mindset change that is fueled by Truvada. marketing. It’s my understanding the infection rate has gone down in the last few years, but I don’t have any precise study I can point to.

“In other words, barebacking has become the norm again. And the expectation of anyone who grew up post-AIDS crisis.”

At age 74, I can hardly expect to be the center of “action” or attention in any such events.  But I do have social contact or online with younger gay men, especially in film or music as well as academia.  I do not get the impression that the practice is as widespread or reckless as my friend claims.

I can remember what it was like in the mid 1980s.  I was living in Dallas at the time.  Most of my own friends were getting infected or diagnosed by late 85.  I also recall the political scare in early 1983, when the religious right tried to push through very draconian legislation through the Texas legislature based on a hypothetical spread of AIDS to the general population after mutation, your sci-fi horror movie scenario.

I also remember my eventful last year in New York City, 1978 (yup, Bucky Dent’s home run), where there was an incident of sorts that possibly previewed and warned me of what could come and contributed to my decision to make a job change and leave for Dallas at the beginning of 1979.

I had my “first experience” in a Club Baths in early 1975  (age 31), after a lot of attention to myself on the issue, as a “fallen male”, to borrow from George Gilder.  From New Years Day 1976 until the spring of 1983, I was in the practice of “going home” with “tricks” or vice versa.  Maybe there were 50 or so “numbers” (as with the book in the Pententuch).  I did not get infected.  But to a “normally married” person with “a family” at the time that would have seemed really excessive.  I survived partly out of perversely reverse Darwinism (as Larry Kramer of “The Normal Heart” has said); my relative unattractiveness by the time of come-out turned out to be a survival advantage (although not reproductive).  Maybe I am lucky with some genes that make me harder to infect, but I wouldn’t gamble on it.

The PrEP and PEP issues would naturally come up in any attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare. It’s all too easy to say, health insurance companies shouldn’t be forced to cover diseases related to “behavior choices”, and it will be hard to argue that down.  But we think about this argument with substance abuse (needles) and now opioids. Along these lines, this piece on Vox by German Lopez is worth a look.

(Posted: Saturday, December 23, 2017, at 2 PM EST)

Huffington Post has been running a series on North Korea’s potential EMP threat, and now seems to have a solution

In previous posts I have noted that the discussion of the EMP threats to the United States, from weapons acquired by terrorist organizations or (as of much more concern recently) rogue or hostile smaller states like North Korea (and possibly Iran in the future) have largely taken place in conservative media.  It is true that a fewer high profile conservative politicians like Newt Gingrich have discussed the threat, but their warnings tend to be forgotten.  The most notable Democratic (Clinton era) appointee to talk about this has been former CIA director James Woolsey, who thinks that North Korea already could have the ability to launch such an attack from a satellite as well as an ICBM.

It is also true that the Department of Energy (in Oak Ridge TN) and National Academy of Sciences have been publishing peer-reviewed papers on the threat (most notably with respect to large solar storms) for a number of years, as I found when I made a personal trip to Oak Ridge in July 2013, which I have already covered on older blogs.

On Dec. 20, Dennis Santiago, Managing Director, Total Bank Solutions and US National Policy Strategic Thinker published a piece in the “liberal” Huffington Post, “Neutering North Korea’s EMP Threat: Making the US Power Grid Impervious Is Achievable”.  (I thought, that meant neutering Kim Jong Un like he had been a tomcat, something Milo would say.) Quickly, I discovered that Santiago had presented two other sophistries (first, second) in Huffington, in  September; so my complaint that the liberals have been sleeping on the EMP threat is no longer entirely correct.  But I only found out about the current article from a tweet this evening from New Hampshire-based Resilient Grid.   The September Issue reported an explicitly EMP threat from North Korea, but Fox had reported this too.

In the second article, Santiago had covered some of the technicalities of missile defense against especially FOBS, which may be related to Shining Star and the threats Woolsey had mentioned.  It’s really quite intricate.  But the interception strategies against an orbiting device may be more sophisticated than those against a “conventional” (oxymoron) ICBM.

Santiago’s recommendations comprise three major areas.  First, he supposes that a possible EMP attack might offer a lead time as long as 90 minutes.  He recommends that electric utilities rehearse war games to draw down the grids, with brownouts or blackouts, so that transformers can’t be overloaded so much.  He and others have also talked about newer methods of grounding transformers so they are less vulnerable.  Dominion Power of Virginia has recently aired TV spots (especially on CNN) saying that it is developing a smart grid that can anticipate failures.  I hope this means they are implementing some of these suggestions.

He then points out that America as a whole needs to decentralize its power generation.  That would logically mean that most owners of single family or large townhomes ought to be incentivized to provide their own solar panels or other power sources like gas.  I recently downsized and moved into a highrise condo.  In the house, I actually had a generator that came into heavy use after the derecho of 2012. Had I stayed, I probably would have needed to consider not only a new roof but also a solar system. But making highrise condos and apartments and commercial buildings less grid-dependent sounds like a challenge.  Ironically, Dominion Power recently forced a short outage in my own new location to install new underground cables and, I hope, some of the newer grounding technologies.

He also points out that regulations often discourage decentralization (that’s normally a conservative position, rather analogous to opposing legally driven network neutrality).  The securities markets, especially bonds, could be rattled by sudden changes in energy policy, or even by unfavorable publicity, which I am probably giving them with this blog posting. But he says markets could be legally reformed rather easily to encourage local homeowners and businesses to become more self-sufficient in their own energy management, and even to be able to sell solar or wind power pack to the grid.

There’s another aspect to the newest article that seems striking: Santiago seems to suggest that the administration, most of all DOD and DHS, is well aware of the EMP threats and are perhaps paralyzed as to what to do.  The administration does not seem to want to take a public position on the issue and force reforms on utilities perhaps out of fear on the effect on the markets.  I have tweeted “Real Donald Trump” myself about the issue, and I’ve wondered if Trump cognitively understands the nature of the threat given unprecedented American and western dependence on technology.  Santiago apparently thinks the president does understand. But if the U.S, could neutralize the EMP threat, and go public with its policies, it could afford to become much more aggressive in its policies toward any future provocations (like missile tests with actual weapons over the Pacific Ocean), as the ransom of American civilian technology life would be removed from the table.

It seems more likely that North Korea could detonate a fission weapon (or some sort of microwave device) in the air than a thermonuclear hydrogen bomb; so the real practical threat to the US homeland is more likely to be the E1 threat, which affects electronics more than the grid itself, than E3, which is more like a Carrington solar storm. As I indicated before, this would raise questions about how well companies have secured their data centers from external microwave-like pulses (with Faraday-like protection and distribution of cloud data with multiple redundancies).

I won’t belabor it here much, but the whole question of decentralization also begs the question of what “we” expect of individuals and families along the line of “The Survival Mom” thinking. Hyperindividualism and weaker social structures (vertical and horizontal) become pertinent.  The gravity of this topic seems far afield from most of their irreverant complaints about the current administration and “President Poopiepants” (or, as David Brooks once wrote, the idea that the president is a child), along with fat-shaming of Kim Jong In, quoting our own president (and Milo) that you can find on Facebook.  Not only is there weaker social cohesion in out outspoken civilian society;  there is little respect for current leadership (most of all in social media), which is something, related to resilience at a citizen level, that enemies have already noticed.  Look at what the Russians have done already, and North Korea seems so much more fanatical, a kind of communist Al Qaeda.

(Posted: Thursday, December 22, 2017 at 10:15 PM EST)

Update:  Sunday, December 24, 2017 at 10 AM EDT

Various media sources report that North Korea calls the newest UN sanctions as an act of war.

There is also a threat of deploy biological agents by missile, or covertly.

If James Woolsey were right, based on his announcement in March, Kim  Jong Un could launch an E1-level EMP (frying unshielded electronics but not the power grids) over eastern US when his shining star satellite orbited into the right position, right now.

At 2 PM EST

The Washington Examiner, a conservative paper, reports, in an article by Paul Bedard,  that President Trump  will address the electromagnetic pulse threats explicitly and is the first president to do so. The implies that the topic has been coming up at national security meetings, probably even at Mar a Lago (no, I haven’t been invited, yet). I have tweeted Trump explicitly on this topic several times since early July and mentioned the important distinction between E1 (far more likely) and E3 to him.  I’ve also discussed this with OANN and with WJLA (Sinclair).  Maybe the corner is being turned.  Still, the mainstream media companies largely choke on this topic. I’d expect to see Breitbart and Milo weigh in!

One more question: how long will it take the power companies to do what Trump supposedly promise (upgrade grounding circuits, for example, which Dominion Energy seems to be doing) and for the tech companies and server farms to have their centers fully “Faraday” shielded?  Recovery won’t be as easy as the 2001 movie “Oceans 11” makes it look.

 

“Twitter Purge” renews debate on what is an acceptable “group” and what is “affiliation”

After the Charlottesville riots, there was a lot of flak when Trump seemed to speak of “groups” on the Far Right and Far Left as morally equivalent, and was not willing to announce that White supremacists or KKK-like groups are morally less acceptable than, say, extreme Communist groups (or groups that claim they are just resisting fascism or white or Christian supremacy).

Conor Friedersdorf expanded on all this with an Aug. 31 piece in The Atlantic, “How to Distinguish Between White Supremacists, Antifa, and Black Lives Matter.”  (Maybe the preposition should be “among”.)

While I follow his reasoning:  historical experience with the purposes of a group does matter, I would have a few questions. First, it appears that domestic hate groups have First Amendment protections that foreign terror groups do not.  It appears that the legal consequences, in federal criminal justice, for supporting a hate group normally apply only to foreign organizations, unless a domestic organization has been found to launch a specific conspiracy to commit a specific crime (like another OKC).

Nevertheless, employers (including the federal government in the past) have certainly been able to deny employment or fire people for membership in “known” groups, and this used to be more true of membership in the Communist Party.

The question has arisen because Twitter recently announced a policy change where starting today it will suspend or close accounts of those with “affiliation” to terror groups, including domestic hate groups (usually right wing such as neo-Nazi or white supremacist). In fact, there was a high profile suspension of someone Trump had retweeted today.

Then the rather obvious question becomes, what is a “group” and what does “affiliation” mean?  Is retweeting the group evidence of affiliation, or repeatedly visiting the sites (which might be detectable, at least by hacking).  Twitter probably just means that people already well known to be connected to a group can’t use the platform to send sanitized messages to recruit people (and this could be motivated by ISIS more than by neo-Nazis).

Another interesting part of Twitter’s rules was the mention of the targeting of civilians for political purposes.  But this is indeed what some of our enemies do, as have other aggressors in most other large wars.  The US did this in retaliation, as with Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Another problem is that the “Left” in the US sometimes demands that others (like independent bloggers like me) go along with their combativeness if the enemy (neo-Nazis in this case) is egregious enough or poses a specific threat to a specific protected group (blacks or Jews or even gays and trans).  But combativeness (as Flemming Rose at Cato has often pointed out) appeals to the idea that “the end justifies the means” and finally can result in a group’s have intentions that are as dangerous of the enemy it replaced.  I don’t like to be drawn into passing relative judgment on groups.  It’s like saying that somehow Stalin (or even Kim Jong Un) is “better” than Hitler.  History teaches us that Leftist regimes are often as repressive as those they had replaced (although Vietnam and China have gradually become somewhat acceptable countries).

(Posted: Monday, December 18, 2017 at 10:30 PM EST)

USPS may have been complicent with Trump’s (not-) funny games on DACA

I haven’t followed the immigration issues as much as I did in 2016, as other issues recently have captured my attention.

But let’s jump into the DACA issue and note the Vox stories on Osman Aroche Enriquez by Dara Lind, the second of which appears here.  Osman was one of a number of DACA immigrant adult children who filed for an extension of protection from deportation due to the provisional (depending on Congress) DACA “wind down”, and whose application was “lost in the mail” just long enough to arrive late.  The story in Vox seems to have pressured ICE to review a number of these cases.   One question I would have would be, if he marries his fiancée, does that change anything?  The public may be surprised to learn that marrying a US citizen does not usually make the undocumented person’s stay legal, so the idea of pressuring a US citizen to marry someone for, say, humanitarian reasons (now in LGBT situations with same-sex marriage), would usually not work (source)

In the mean time, while Congress frets with Trump, DACA immigrants find that their own lives are bargaining chips for what others do even through they did nothing wrong.

There are other debates going on, especially chain immigration, which indeed seems more likely to present security issues (as with a recent incident near Port Authority in NYC).  Chain migration may reduce the vetting of individual people that would normally be done. Trump’s second or third travel ban went back into effect under the temporary permission of the Supreme Court.

Trump talks about using a merit system for immigration but still wants to reduce the volume of legal immigration. He seems unwilling to consider the nuance it will take to balance compassion (and some economic wisdom) with genuine security concerns.  There is no such thing as a policy that has mathematically zero risk for members of the public, even me (previous post).

There’s no question that he still plays to group biases:  some of his base feel that immigrants collectively threaten their job and their personal security, both notions of which are probably wrong statistically, as numerous studies (like by Cato) have shown.

As we think about individual rights in relation to our surrounding community, we have to ponder the extent we become vulnerable to other people’s contact and our perceived similarities to others within group membership.  That’s one reason I don’t like to think about making political changes by group.

When I visited the network neutrality protests this week, I noticed that the ICE building was just across the street (just south of the Smithsonian Metro stop).

Dara Lind of Vox has also offered an essay on the children of DACA adult kids — many who have no clue.  This is becoming a multi-generational problem.

Posted: Friday, December 15, 2017 at 11 PM EST)

My own existentialism

Throughout much of my I.T. career, especially the last fifteen years or so, I was often preoccupied with the possible consequences of any mistakes by me as an individual contributor.  I did have to get used to it. But in retirement, the idea that one can fall by making enemies or being on the wrong side, has made a troubling comeback, sometimes with ironic recalls of pressures earlier in my life to fit in vertically to social structures set up by others, to value other people in these communities more than my own head.

There is a lot more attention to asymmetry today, and to the randomness of “bad luck” and misfortune. I’ve never been OK with playing up victimization, especially when enhanced by belonging to an oppressed group. I go to memorial services, too; but I don’t brand myself by going to bat publicly for everyone out there on social media who is losing out because of disadvantage.

One idea that seems very critical to me is that, when something happens to “you”, especially because of someone else’s wrongdoing, recovering from it still starts with “you” before anyone else.  That’s not politics or social values; that’s just plain logic.  Otherwise, life will go on without you.  Of course, the full weight of the law or other agency (like military force) can be brought against perpetrators, terrorists, or ordinary bullies. But, I’ve never seen “sacrifice” as particularly honorable.  That kind of thinking played out bigtime in the days of the Vietnam era draft, when people with less privilege wound up making more of the sacrifices in combat. Likewise, it has, even with a volunteer army but a “backdoor” stop-loss draft, followed suit in more recent wars, like Iraq. You still see this today with risky civilian volunteerism, where overseas or in local volunteer fire departments.

So, then, we come to the inequality debate, which I covered today again in reviewing Robert Reich’s movie “Saving Capitalism”.   Much of the traditional debate has to do with classes of people, groups, and the way power structures reinforce themselves.  Yet, I still feel this all traces back to what we expect of every individual.

The unpredictability of personal tragedy plays out in many possibilities.  Besides the usual risks of drunk drivers and some older street crime, we have to deal today with ideologically driven terrorism, as if reaches those who have fallen behind in a hyperindividualistic society.  That plays into the immigration debate.  It’s still true, that in the US, the risk of dying from a lone wolf terror act is much lower than most other accidental perils, and such observations are used to justify a kinder policy on immigration (including asylum) than Trump will allow (or promised his base). But it also underscores the idea that those who resent our “elitism” are sometimes turning our free speech, especially on the Internet (with ungated speech) against us, with the terror recruiting, and the ease of finding destructive information online.  (But, remember, it wasn’t that hard in print before the Internet.  Remember Paladin Press?)

I say I don’t like to get into intersectionality or helping people leverage their collective oppression. Yet, everyone belongs to something, to various groups, often starting with family of origin. Hostility happens to groups as well as individuals, so people wind up as individuals pay the price for what their groups are perceived (often wrongly) to others.

That gets us back to the grim possibility of a real national catastrophe promulgated by a determined enemy, most recently by North Korea, as in recent posts.

That is what drives the moralizing of the doomsday preppers (like The Survival Mom on Facebook), who want everyone to have local, vertical value to others in very personal ways working with their hands, before they get any traction in a more global and abstract experience.  This is not a good thing for the dilettantes of the world, although it is possible that sometimes a self-absorbed  “austistic” person like “Shaun Murphy” has such indispensable talents in some area that still fits in.  For the rest of those people “like me”, it very much becomes a matter of “pay your dues” and “right-sizing”.  A lot of people believe that, before you are heard or listened to, you need to fit in to community engagement, as defined by the needs of others. In the future this idea of “no spectators” and putting “your own skin in the game” before you speak, could get formalized.  Morality finally gets allocated down to the individual from all his groups (my “DADT-IV” sequence).

All of that means that there is a great deal of moral premium in an individual’s adapting to whatever circumstances he or she must live in, because others can be affected or targeted, or have to take risks in “your” stead.  That was certainly the case when I was growing up (when “cowardice” was a real crime against the group).  Many protest movements turn out to be manipulative or based on overblown or frivolous interpretations of policy changes, where activists try to shame others into joining and become belligerent on their own. On the other hand, once in a while, you do have to “enlist”.  You have to figure out when it’s for real.  Dealing, as an individual, with the collective combativeness of others has indeed become a real problem.

These are ominous times for individualistic speakers who map out the flaws of everyone else without any particular commitment.  Is that what my own “do ask do tell” and “connecting the dots” have come to?  Despite perceptions to the contrary (and the illusion provided by some court wins as with COPA in 2007).  Although the issue is protracted and complicated, issues like the revoking of net neutrality and of Section 230 downstream liability protections, could seriously erode the continuation of independent speech, without the tribal influences of organizations on one side of another, constantly wanting to take over my voice with their partisan pimping.  Yet, “tribalism” at least raises the questions of how much people really matter (to me), both horizontally (minorities) and vertically (“taking care of your own first”).  Why speak if you don’t care about the people (personally) whose lives you purport to affect?  This is, at least, a “puzzlement” as in “The King and I”.  Well, if they aren’t “good enough” for me (absorbed by my own world), then why will I never show up in my shorts?   And it – addiction to the leverage of one’s own past shame — can become life threatening.  But for many “victims”, it is already too late.

(Posted: 10:45 PM EST Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017)

Pondering “loss of net neutrality” and Masterpiece Cakeshop — the underlying debates are similar

There are useful parallels in the issues behind both the network neutrality debate (that is, the Trump administration’s determination to end it all on Dec. 14) and the Masterpiece Cakeshop case regarding (in over-simplified rhetoric) balancing anti-discrimination (against gay couples) with free speech and property rights (the latter may be more relevant in the end).  True, net neutrality isn’t back in court yet, but it probably soon will be.

I’ll walk this plank starting with the net neutering (pun?) first.  I have to admit, I personally would feel more comfortable if telecom companies were forced to keep the legal designation as utilities (common carriers), which will end some time after Dec. 14.  But regulating the designation category of any business can have unintended consequences.

So, first, we have to ask ourselves:  may we regulate very large businesses more closely than some small businesses?  Libertarians may not like the idea, but in practice the need to do that is very well established in our system.  We needed “better regulation” after 2008 of large financial institutions to prevent massive Ponzi setups.  Likewise, we’ve long had some regulation in broadcast television.  We’ve had rules that prevent movie studios from owning theaters (they seem to be circumvented sometimes), supposedly to prevent too much power in which films consumers see staying with the largest studios. It’s easy for me to imagine extensions of these rules that would prevent me from producing a film literally from my own books, in order to enhance employment opportunities for union writers. Ajit Pai is correct in opposing too much regulation.  But – it’s true – with big companies, we have different concerns, like anti-trust laws.  The FTC and DOJ can still enforce these against anti-competitive practices by the Comcasts of the world.  As a single author and micro-business person, I can’t monopolize an industry or threaten it.

So then we ask, what is a “utility”.  A telephone company (Ma-Bell in the past) is a utility, but a TV network is not – the later is a content company (and it is regulated because airwave space, like real estate, is finite).  A cable company, however less regulated than a legacy airwaves network, is a content company.  A telecom company offers Internet, digital voice phone, and cable, so it is a hybrid of common carrier and content company.  A social network like Facebook is a content company (and that gets into Section 230 as to whether Facbook is really a “publisher”).  A hosting provider like Blue Host functions like it was a utility for Internet content publishers, but it’s possible imagine that such a company has some influence over content (look at what happened after Charlottesville and the Daily Stormer problem). Most of these companies have fiduciary responsibilities to investors, so regulation is a sensitive issue.  Where does the public interest fit in?  There seem to be competing interests and various ideological scenarios that can play out.  For example, I could imagine (after Charlottesville) some day winding up with a system where no one self publishes until he/she demonstrates some “community engagement”.  But it’s also hard to imagine how such a rule could comport with economic self interest (even if the abrogation of net neutrality would let it happen legally).

I do think that over time small business has reason to worry, if Congress and the courts don’t force some sort of regulatory balance.  Small business could be forced into franchising to afford the branding that large favored websites have.  They could have new requirements for security (https everywhere), website rating, or “pay your own way” reportability some day.  And hurting “really small business” in favor of the oligarchs will not promote local manufacturing; it will not “make America great again” as Trump wants.  So the “Dems” have some reason to want to regulate.  Yet, I have no right to demand that the regulatory environment protect me from more accountability myself, even if that means that a couple years from now many consumers might not be able to access this posting through their own Internet Service provider (which I still doubt will really happen).

I’ll interrupt myself for a moment – and note the PBS interview where one speaker notes that in Portugal, there is no net neutrality and only one provider, and consumers have to pick “bundles”.  Can ordinary sites be accessed in Portugal, like on a hotel’s broadband?  (I was there in 2001 and could.)   The important thing from my perspective is that a consumer be able to get access to everything as today in one package, still reasonably priced if at the high end (as with cable offering all possible channels).

A quick check of Godaddy and other hosting companies still shows inexpensive hosting and an expectation that their business would continue as usual.

I’m left grasping for straws on what the principled answer to Aji Pai’s libertarian-leading claims should be.  You need some regulation, but where do you draw the line?

So then, we circle back to “gay rights” and “marriage equality”  — where we’ve made so much progress even as the safety of the country is threatened (previous post) and as tribalism frays the political process (as with Trump’s election and his horrible appointments in some areas, even if Trump is all right on gay people himself). And we come to the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, argued before the Supreme Court Tuesday.

There are three areas at issue:  property rights, free speech (as connected to religion), and discrimination.  Although I sympathize with the libertarian focus on private property rights (as Jacob Hornberge explains on Intellectual Takeout), civil rights law with respect to public accommodations (retail businesses open to the public) is well established.  The owner can’t rightfully refuse to sell a cake to a gay couple.  Saying we don’t serve “gay weddings” is a bit more ambiguous. I am sympathetic to the idea that the cakeshop owner shouldn’t have to design a cake showing a same-sex couple as décor – but what if his business is based on made-to-order cakes?  What if an artist at a county fair refuses to draw black people, or even transgender people?  The artist has made himself a public accommodation.

How all these things could affect me – it’s all pretty distal.  I could, for example, start a small press (I’ve thought about it) or a small movie production company – because I’m aware of a few projects around the country that could use help that have something in common with what I do.  As a small business – yes, unfettered Internet access from the public would matter (so net neutrality could matter). But the right to chose my own content to promote would matter.  Publishers, and movie studios, like any content-oriented business, pick the content that they want to promote. “Property rights” is what allows them to do that (which they can’t do the same way in places like Russia and China, where the government demands the content producer serve some higher statist common good, just like movie studios had to during WWII). It’s all too easy, though, once I start selling to consumers with a store – what about providing for other kinds of consumers – like blind ones – that I don’t have the scale to serve. I’ve been pestered quite a bit in the past few years to become more involved with scalable operations – to the point that it jeopardizes my time to spend on content and research.

Supplementary legacy posting in network neutrality ending.

Supplementary legacy posting on Masterpiece Cakeshop and legally married same-sex couple in Colorado.

(Posted: Friday, December 8, 2017 at 11:30 AM EST)

Update: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 at about 8:30 PM EST

I visited the start of the FFTF demonstration and vigil at the FCC today, my video here.  Note also the Wall Street Journal links, like that on the fake comments.

North Korea, EMP, and martial law: mainstream media needs to wake up and do the fact-checking now

On Sunday, July 1, 2018, a favorite gay disco of mine, Town Danceboutique (Washington, D.C.), closes (after a year of notice) for real estate development.

But Wednesday July 4, 2018, the entire country could well be in North Korea’s nuclear crosshairs, if the timetable that seems to emerge from recent news really holds. And I’ve had at least one person claim to me that by them much of the nation could see martial law.  I’ll come back to that.

We know that on November 28, North Korea tested its largest missile ever, on a parabolic path that took it 2800 miles up, to land short of Japan with no payload. Your Physics 101 test problem would have its maximum range if fired on a “baseball home run” path to be about 8000 miles over the Great Circle, enough to reach all of the continental U.S.

Experts seem to disagree on how much the weight of even a miniaturized thermonuclear weapon would reduce the range. Credible analysts also say that the missile seemed to break up on re-entry, into perhaps three pieces, and that other aspects of the North Korean photos, like the background star constellations, were doctored.  All of this may suggest that technically it is still much more difficult for North Korea to lob a thermonuclear weapon over the US than the doomsday preppers believe.  Still, six months sounds like a reasonable benchmark.

So Trump may feel pressured to create a pre-emptive attack   well before June 2018, even given the horrific predictions of what happens to South Korea, and perhaps Japan, even Guam.  “The war will be fought in their back yard, not ours”, Senator Lindsey Graham rants.  This is one game where there is no home field advantage, no walk-off win;  you have to win on the road.

Recently NBC News reported (story and video by Cynthia McFadden et al, link) on the possibility that the US could disable North Korean missile control with a stealth cruise missile or fighter attack (similar to those in this week’s controversial maneuvers with South Korea) blaring non-nuclear flux microwaves (E1 level), which would destroy electronics but not kill people, most of whom (outside the privileged in Pyongyang) live without electricity anyway. But the missiles are certainly hidden underground and perhaps shielded in Faraday fashion. Still, this sounds like the “least bad” military option Trump has.

That leaves us with one other nagging problem that the mainstream media doesn’t want to talk about.  That is, the possibility of an EMP attack, not only on South Korea or Japan, but even on the continental U.S.

Former CIA chief James Woolsey has already warned us (March 7, 2017 post) that North Korea could launch a small device from its “Shining Star” satellite.  But the more obvious question would be, is it easier technically for North Korea to detonate a weapon at high altitude in flight, possibly over north central US, than at the end of the route at a target?  No mainstream publication seems to have taken this question up yet.

Last week, Fox News ran a story reporting that Kim Jong Un had threatened such an attack (see Nov. 7) – and it’s pretty obvious that he would.  I see from YouTube that Fox has run similar stories before,  But the mainstream news sites have given very little explicit attention to these possibilities.  I do recall a story on Vox concerning solar storms (Sept 13, 2016) and a later similar one in the Wall Street Journal. And I also see that I’ve covered the mainstream media’s reticence on this matter on Sept. 8, 2017.

Still, it seems that the mainstream media owes us a major factfinding effort on questions like (1) the preparedness of the three major power grids for huge transformer overloads (there is talk of “neutral ground circuit technology”), and (2) the preparedness of the tech industry for extreme disruption, by distributing cloud data (which they already do) around the world, and the possibility of building Faraday-like protections for their servers.

Keep in mind, the electromagnetic pulse threat has two major components.  The E3 component, which is a delayed effect from thermonuclear weapons and is similar to extremely large coronal mass ejections from solar storms, is destructive to power grid transformers and other circuitry, at least with current technology. The E1 component is what destroys consumer electronics and ignitions of many cars.  (There is a good question as to whether solid state drives are more immune than traditional hard drives, for example, since they the new stuff is less sensitive to ordinary magnets).  The E1 component can come from smaller (fission) nuclear weapons (more likely from a DPRK ICBM or mid range missile or possibly satellite), and also comes from non-nuclear microwaves (which are much more local because they are usually detonated at low altitude closer to targets – the US military can use them in Afghanistan now).

With all this discussion, we should not lose sight of the cyber threats, which I think are more difficult for an enemy to carry out (against infrastructure) than popular legend suggests, but here is a prediction for an incident even this week.

Conventional reporting suggests that Kim Jong Un’s insistence on becoming a nuclear power is purely defensive.  I would wonder if the old Vietnam era Domino Theory applies:  he could later try to force us to leave South Korea or lift all sanctions.  The EMP peril is a very novel threat because of our unprecedented dependence on technology.  An enemy could conclude, if his own people will eat grass, that we aren’t resilient enough personally as civilians to recover from loss and hardship and be ever more tempted into aggression. North Korea has almost certainly tried to work with other terrorists like ISIS out of shear resentment of western values.

It does seem that the mainstream media is distracted by the more obvious stories about Trump’s presidency:  the Flynn and Manafort investigations, Trump’s claim he can get away with “obstruction of justice”, the Jerusalem move announced today.

I won’t moralize here about civilian preparedness (like “The Survival Mom” on Facebook) as I have before and will again. But that does bring back the idea of martial law, which an authoritarian president presumably could want to find an excuse to implement so that he has more “control”.

The Wikipedia article (on martial law in the U.S.) gives a detailed history of is use, most recently in 1961 in Montgomery Alabama as a response to the “Freedom Riders” – that was shortly before I graduated from high school, and I don’t recall this news.  Hawii was under martial law from Pearl Harbor until 1944.   It is difficult to suspend habeas corpus under US law, given especially the Posse Comitatus Act, which is supposed to shield civilians from military intervention – yet enemies are likely to regard American civilians as (un)deserving combatants.

I am not so cynical as to believe that Trump wants to see half the country without power for a year so he can seize control.  Consider Dan Trachtenberg’s film “10 Cloverfield Lane” (2016). That reminds me of conspiracy theories where right-wing authorities start war and live in luxury underground.  Who wants that?  The sci-fi conspiracy to escape from Earth (if possible) makes more psychological sense to me.

I would be more concerned that if a real catastrophe occurred, and most of the country were without power for months, the entire government would fall and foreign powers, which could be China, or could be Islamist, could take over.  That does bring up personal morality again, and that’s another post that’s coming.

We’d better not blow this.  It’s hard for me to join “identity groups” so concerned about narrow oppression (bathroom and “religious freedom” bills) when there are issues like this, at least as potentially dangerous to me personally as was the Vietnam War (I stayed out of combat because of education and “privilege”) and later AIDS (I never got infected).  The lessons that Scarlet O’Hara had to learn sound appropriate.

I will challenge the major networks and news outlets to get to the facts (and not leave this to conservative sites and groups like Resilient Societies), and I am available for hire (at 74, in “retirement”) to help them do this.  I’ve really collected and organized a lot of material. What a way to go back to work.  I even bought a suit and updated my Linked-In profile, while there is still time.

I wish I could get back to believing in Google’s plans for quantum computing as our future.

Update: Dec 7  (“Pearl Harbor Day”): 10 AM EST

Probably by coincidence I got a letter to my own mailbox in my condo building about a planned power outage for “improving a portion of the energy grid that serves your area.”  Upon checking, this may be related to a specific problem some months ago before I moved in. But Dominion Energy of Virginia has been mentioned as one of the few companies so far preparing to install neutral ground circuits that are supposed to protect transformers from extreme surges, as with solar storms or possibly terror attacks.

The mainstream media really does need to start “connecting the dots” on this one and not leave it to right-wing sites, amateur bloggers, and suspense and sci-fi novelists to figure out.

 

(Posted: Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 11 PM EST)