Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Sandy Hook papers on and by Adam Lanza released and published by Hartford Newspaper


The Hartford Courant is making available all the court papers in state police custody concerning Adam Lanza, perpetrator of the Sandy Hook killings on Dec. 14. 2012.

The main link for the publication is here, as a Courant Exclusive. The reporters are Josh Kovner and Dave Altimari. 
  
The article provides a link to an editorial explaining why the newspaper decided to release the papers.
  

There is no “manifesto” as such, but many scrapbooks and loose writings, like “Big Book of Granny”.
   
Lanza’s mental state seems to be extremely disturbed, starting with autism, which usually does not take this kind of path.  He hated any kind of personal contact with anyone. There are references to what he perceived as sexual abuse from physicians, doing normal examinations. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

The "Homebrewed Christianity" series:Bill Leonard's "Flaming Heretics"



Author: Bill Leonard

Title: “Homebrewed Christianity: Church History: Flaming Heretics and Heavy Drinkers

Publication: Nashville: Fortress Press, 2017, 238 pages, paper, 8 chapters, endnotes.

This orange book is one of a series called “Homebrewed Christianity”, edited by Tripp Fuller.

The basic premise is that Christianity is practice has been a bottom-up religion, defined by how it is practiced by real people, who are compared to chess pieces (Bishop, Elder, Deacon, Acolyte). Yet the tone of the book presumes people want to act together and belong, not be so much on their own. 


Indeed, the first chapter is called “herding ecclesiastical cats.  As the reality of actually witnessing a resurrection and ascension, which would have seemed like ultimate truth to those who happened to live at a time and place where they could see it, receded, and became a matter for “men of faith”, it became a member of socialization and organization to figure out who really should be in charge and who should deliver the messages and how people would follow.


Perhaps that has meaning today as individual speech itself becomes questionable and we wonder who has the “privilege of being listened to” in a secular sense.

The church has always had to deal with the paradoxes of hypocrisy.  It doesn’t know who walks with the Lord. Only people do. The latter part of the book gets into specific episodes, like the Jim Crow laws and Scopes Trial (movie “Inherit the Wind” and the “old time religion” scene). 
  
Copies of this book were sold at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC last spring.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Independent bookstores can now do print-on-demand on the premises (some of them)



CBS News reports that independent bookstores are making strong returns after being almost wiped out in the middle 2000s. 

The resurgence of independent bookstores is related to “localism”, and some bookstores can now to print-on-demand on the premises, which could be an interesting development for me.


One of the largest indie bookstores in the DC area is Kammerbooks at Dupont Circle.  Recently I went to a reading at One More Page Books in Falls Church VA. 

CBS has a story in 2003 concerning some bookstores' purging customer records when Congress passed the Patriot Act! 

Heavy rain hampered “shop small” Saturday in the DC Area, although I had a chance in Ellicott City MD Sunday.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Time offers "Great Scientists" for your coffee table



Time Magazine sells a supermarket coffee table booklet “Great Scientists: The Geniuses and Visionaries Who Transformed Our World.” The Editor is not named.

The book starts out with a lot of material on Stephen Hawking (by Brian Greene, who passed away of ALS in 2018 at age 76, living extraordinarily long since it started when he was in college.


Hawking came up with the theory that black holes may not be completely black, but could evaporate with Hawking radiation. That could theoretically mean that (mini) black holes could store and retransmit information (about someone’s life).

Hawking also believed that the Universe might have started with a singularity inside a black hole.
On p. 72 the booklet presents Paul Crutzen, who discovered the ozone holes which, adjunct to climate change, can threaten future generations.

On p 31, the booklet shows how Muhammad al-Khwarizmi invented Algebra I around 800 AD.

It would be nice if a booklet like this could cover Jack Andraka’s “Science Fair” which appears to have invented a cheaper blood test for many cancers (not just pancreatic).

I would be nice also to cover the work of Taylor Wilson, who invented a fusion reactor in 2008 at age 14.


Thursday, November 22, 2018

"The Land that Failed to Fail": New York Times starts massive booklet on what makes China work


Philip P. Pan and photographer Bryan Denton are offering a serialized book about China “The Land that Failed to Fail”, link.

The byline is "China rules." That is, "They didn't like the West's playbook.  So they wrote their own."
  
It seems that statist capitalism (what Ted Koppel called “The People’s Republic of Capitalism” ten years ago in a Nightline series) has worked out very well.

  
There is a curious combination of nationalism, consumerism, and psychological socialism – personal right-sizing and forced participation in social capital – that seems to be working.  The idea seems very threatening.  But in a sense China expects everyone to know their place and act before speaking.
  
There will be more installments, particularly about the Internet censorship.

Wikipedia photo attribution: By Alex Needham - English wikipedia , Public Domain, reference.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Author of novel "Occupation" in China gets prison time for depicting gay sex; book had sold well online



A female fiction author, “Liu”, in China has been sentenced to ten years in prison for writing and publishing a novel called “Occupation” that describes male homosexual acts.

The sentence was laid down by the People’s Court in Wuhu in Anhui Province.

All this despite the fact that homosexual acts are legal in China. The situation seems parallel to the 2013 Russian anti-gay propaganda law, but Chinese attitude toward gay rights gets much less attention than Russia’s (and the middle East and sub-Saharan Africa).

The book had sold well online in China. 

The Metro Weekly in Washington DC had a detailed story by Rhuaridh Marr.

The Global Times in China has a source story.   The BBC offers details here

Friday, November 16, 2018

NYTimes offers booklet giving a chronicle of Facebook's gradual change of heart on the need to monitor user speech


On Tuesday’s New York Times, five writers: Sheera Frenkel, Nicholas Confessore, Cecilia King, Matthew Rosenberg, and Jack Nicas, describe the Facebook saga:  "Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leader’s Fought Through Crisis", in a booklet-length article
  
At this point I need to mention Siva Vaidhyanthan’s book “Anti-Social Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracyhere  as well as several films and articles on that blog concerning Facebook. I attended a panel discussion about this matter in San Francisco in mid September, 2018.


The article notes that Sheryl Sandberg was at first angry at general counsel Alex Stamos for “throwing the company under the bus” as evidence of foreign (especially Russian) misuse of the site mounted in 2016.
  
Zuckerberg, as late as 2015, insisted that Facebook was a utility, not a publisher, and could not screen content for political consequences.  That is partly about Section 230.

Now the company is very choosy about accepting page boost for issue-oriented content separate from normal commercial business advertising, and seems unwilling to monetize controversial independent journalism (as News2Share and Ford Fischer have recently found out). 
   
Vanity Fair has a special issue “Moguls and Masterminds” in supermarkets now, with an article by Nick Bilton “Status Change” about Mark Zuckerberg on p.42. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains”, according to Facebook ex-president Sean Parker (from “The Social Network”).  

Thursday, November 15, 2018

"Illegal", by John Dennehy, self-published on a blockchain site (Steemit)



I have started looking into Steemit (with the idea of signing up soon with some special material) and I did find that some authors, at least one, publish e-books on it.
  
There is a book “Illegal”, by John Dennehy, first chapter link is here.  The subtitle is “A True Story of Love, Revolution, and Crossing Borders”.

The author, a “na├»ve New Yorker”, travels to Ecuador and falls in love with Lucia, and gets deported back to the US after “getting involved”.

He is up to Chapter 20.

  
To buy a copy, it looks like you have to join Steemit (which I will do soon) and get your cryptoaccount set up first.  It can take some time to get your account verified first.


Wednesday, November 07, 2018

"Inside Animal Minds", from NatGeo



Brandon Keim’s “Inside Animal Minds”, 112 pages, National Geographic, is available in supermarket checkout stands in November 2018.

The subtitle is “what they think, feel, and know”.  It's a lot that we don't know.  They're already doomsday preppers. 
There are three main sections in the book: Intelligence, Feelings, Relationships.

But there is a great emphasis on the likelihood that every individual animal has some minimal self-awareness.  Even a worker bee in a hive knows that it is a prole and obedient to the will of the hive.
Animals (even birds) have more language capabilities than we realize, and more tool-using.  They engage in altruistic behavior.  Among some fish, males will guard the females eggs, and if a male is eaten by a shark, another male, like a soldier on guard duty, will take its place.

Even some invertebrates, especially mullosks, have surprising intelligence.

There is a YouTube video of a cat encountering a stranded octopus on a deck near the ocean.  You find yourself “rooting” for the cat because she seems more like us than a mullosk, but an octopus may have intelligence comparable to a cat or dog.

Biologists disagree on the significance of the mirror recognition test (elephants, cetaceans, primates).
Some dolphins (especially orcas) may have human-equivalent problem solving ability and arguably should have the legal rights of persons.

Mammals vary as to whether they are solitary or live in colonies, which tend to have authoritarian tribal structures like early human tribes. Lions and tigers are very similar genetically, but split off, with lions living in prides and males developing manes as a sexual secondary characteristic not needed by solitary tigers. 

There are many videos which show that wild animals, especially carnivores (including most wild cats) learn to recognize people in their environment.  In Colorado, a rancher finds that the same four mountain lions appear on his property for water, and seem to remember and trust the rancher as a human individual.  When I had a house, a fox got to the point that he did not run when he saw me in the yard.

When I lived in a garden apartment in Dallas, a male cat simply invited himself in.  He would disappear for days and then return and remember the apartment, and bring birds to me.  He was called "Timmy" and seemed to have an interesting life.  He knew who he was. 
  
A friend and tech journalist and his wife have two daughters and a female cat who preceded them. The cat watched each baby as if the cat thought they were hers to raise (to learn to hunt). 
  

Bobcats are common in the Dallas area and often become illegal pets if they get used to finding food on a homeowner’s premises.  They cannot usually live inside a house but some will roam a large territory and return to people whom they like (who fed them).
  
In South Africa, in one film, a cheetah became a member of the family despite being allowed to roam.  He would always return and even knew how to turn on a television with a remote and knew that the images were not real.

There are some controversial videos on YouTube of bobcats and servals grooming and playing with teenage boys.  Maybe dangerous.  But for an adolescent to learn to communicate with a wild animal is a great way to develop social skills for life.

Back in 1993 there had been a Time magazine cover asking, “Can animals think?”  Yes they can.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Prager U exposes far-Left propaganda in established children's book industry





I open November with a video from Prager U, “Leftist Books for Brainwashing Kids” (Oct. 30)


"Story Time with Will" (that is, Will Witt), presents children’s books “Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights” (Rob Sanders and Jared Andrew Schorr) (from Barnes and Noble) and “The Little Book of Little Activists” (by Penguin Young Readers, a corporate author).   Yup, would four year-olds have jobs they can go on strike from?  What should they “resist”?  Maybe the volunteer banner is OK.
   
Will (the presenter) is certainly photogenic in the video (and youthful).

Maybe this video helps explain the “snowflake generation” with its safe spaces and trigger warnings.

I looked up these booklets on Amazon, but I will refrain from emedding my usual Amazon Associates ads on these ones (my own "censorship" as a private person). It rather scares me that major publishers seem to support books like with age-inappropriate borderline Marxist propaganda, when some Big Tech companies are deplatforming conservative voices (although the lines between constructive speech and what may be hate speech are very subjective-- especially given "intersectionality"). 

Imagine what it would be like if, to be online, I had to write for pay what other people demanded of me.  Somebody got paid to do all this.  I can also remember in a summer "notehand" class in 1961, when I practiced my note-taking skills at a GWU class on "children's literature" in the English Department. 
If the Left were really able to get most individual Internet speakers shut down so the Left could control the message, I hate to think what the next generation would grow up to be like.  As it is, super Leftist (sometimes almost Marxist) columnist Umair Haque is optimistic in what looks like an open letter to David Hogg, here.  But David is actually much more “capitalistic” in the way he can use the media to grab attention and pull levers on irresponsible companies (related to the NRA issues) than a true socialist could ever accept.

Outside of nature (the Universe, cosmology, the biosphere) wealth and standard of living do not create themselves.  Any alien civilizations far enough along to discover the mathematics of blockchain know that.

Monday, October 29, 2018

"Do Nuclear Weapons Matter?" Controversial Foreign Affairs issue to end 2018



The November/December 2018 issue of Foreign Affairs has an eye-catching issue title, “Do Nuclear Weapons Matter?

There are six articles. “Nuclear weapons don’t matter, but nuclear hysteria does”, by John Mueller; “The vanishing nuclear taboo? How disarmament fell apart?”, by Nina Tannenwald; :”If you want peace, prepare for nuclear war; a strategy for the new great-power rivalry”, by Elbridge Colby; :”Armed and dangerous: when dictators get the bomb:, by Scott D. Sagan; :”Beijing’s nuclear option; Why a U.S.-Chinese war could spiral out of control”; “Moscow’s nuclear enigma; what is Russia’s arsenal really for?”

The most critical piece might be the Sagan one, where the writer characterizes North Korea as the first “personalist” dictatorship to acquire nuclear weapons, especially possibly thermonuclear with ICBM’s. The writer fears that this will set examples for other small state dictators (most of all Iran). But in much of 2017 there was increasing talk of the reach of DPRK missiles and, along with Trump’s reckless rhetoric at the time, the growing idea that an area of the continental US could face a nuclear strike someday, or at least an EMP incident, as a result of Trump’s intransigence to wipe out the country. We all know that during the February winter Olympics things started to change and the result was the controversial Singapore embrace of Kim and Kim’s unconvincing claimed start of disarmament. That logically can lead to doomsday prepper ideology (and influence the domestic gun control debate).  But it could also lead to a broader idea about the contingent responsibilities of citizenship.

  
The last article posits Russia’s (post Communist) “escalate to de-escalate” idea. Russia could have an incentive to develop novel tactical nuclear weapons (or flux devices) for action in the Baltics, or even conceivably Finland (where there was a bizarre assassination at the border in May 2016).  Russia created controversy last spring with claims of a new missile that could evade any NORAD defense.  

When I was in the Army (1968-1970), at both the Pentagon and later Fort Eustis, there was a common belief among many enlisted men that nuclear war with the Soviet Union was a real peril. The willingness to draft men to fight on the group in Vietnam was seen as a buffer. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Connecticut Supreme Court rules Adam Lanza's(from Sandy Hook) book-like manuscript notes must be released



CBS and other news outlets report that a court (the Connecticut state supreme court) has ordered the release of the writings of Adam Lanza, the perpetrator in the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut on December 2014, link.    This contradicts and reverses a ruling reported two years ago in the video below.

Lanza apparently had maintained a child-like notebook (maybe handwritten, maybe like a scrapbook) of a compendium called “The Big Book of Granny”.  It is reported to include a number of disturbing rants and stories.  It would seem likely that it (the text) will eventually be available for free browsing available online (as with Eliot Rodger, etc) but it is conceivable that, given recent public pressures since Charlottesville, that protest activists would pressure any hots to take it down.  Sandy Hook families had sued Alex Jones over his conspiracy theories and no doubt these plaintiffs had a role in the eventual deplatforming of Alex Jones from social media.

  
In retrospect, the Lanza incident, however tragic, shows the difficulty of keeping weapons away from very determined if demented people.

Picture: New London, CT, Coast Guard Academy, personal 2011 trip 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

"The Nation" examines an activism handbook ("Hegemony"), and its use in Trump country around Lancaster PA



The Nation (now with a paywall) offers a detailed booklet length article by Jimmy Tobias, Oct. 18, “Can a Group of Scrappy Young Activists Build Real Progressive Power in Trump Country?”


The narrative describes a couple Jonathan Schmucker and Becca Rast, who returned to Lancaster County, in SE Pennsylvania, in order to organize a “populist” bi-partisan presence to resist extremism in both parties, somewhat reminiscent of “Better Angels”.

  
The article does describe “door knocking” and “bird dogging”.  Now, when I had a house, I had a no-soliciting sign and tended to regard unannounced knockers as a possible home invasion, so I don’t know how you get past that mentality.
  
The article mentions a book by Schmucker “Hegemony How-To: A Handbook for Radicals” (2017, AK Press).




Monday, October 15, 2018

Ben Sasse's new book "Them" recalls an earlier book by Charles Murray



Here’s another preview, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE): “Them: Why We Hate Each Other, and How to Heal” (288 pages, St. Martin’s). 
  
CBS carried an interview with him on “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Oct. 14 
 /
Like Charles Murray (“Coming Apart”, March 14, 2012) .Sasse criticizes the erosion of social capital, particularly in stable neighborhoods.  It’s easy, got example, to be critical of people who “choose” to live in riskier areas (hurricanes, as recently, floods, wildfires, maybe earthquakes) but often it’s the social capital of their communities that enables them to see things through.

  
His views are well explained in his Wall Street Journal article, “Politics can’t solve our political problems”. His concept of “mobile”, “rooted”, and “stuck” is interesting.  I am definitely a “mobile”, partly because I don’t form intimate relationships easily (as to create or adopt children). “Rooted” implies social competitiveness.  What he describes as “loneliness” may be the way introverted or even mildly autistic or schizoid people outflank or lowball the system and manage to live very productive lives as individual contributors (even though some people find their ability to lowball others as disruptive).
  
Sasse is also author of “The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis, and How to Build a Culture of Self-Reliance”. Yes, he is concerned with trigger warnings, microagressions, and pseudo-safe spaces. But self-reliance can contradict widespread social cohesion, although it does encourage social capital within extended families.  

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Former NSA Director Michael Hayden discusses his "The Assault on Intelligence" at the "Fall for the Book" fair.



I wanted to offer a preview of former NSA Director Michael V. Hayden’s “The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies”, May 2018, from Penguin.

I attended a session today where Hayden spoke at 1:30 PM at the “Fall for the Book” fair in Merten’s Hall at George Mason University in Fairfax VA.  The session was called “The Assault on American Security”.
  
  
Hayden talked about the post-truth era, after the influence of the “age of enlightenment”.
He also discussed Trump’s lack of “meta-cognition”, and the idea that truth for people is whatever their leadership creates for them.
  
He did discuss how social media had unintentionally driven people farther way into their own echo chambers.  The Russians exploited this capacity of Facebook and Twitter because Russia understood that American "elitists" did not care personally about illiterate people who were targeted by Russian bot campaigns.  He explained this in the context of how enemies can conduct combat without contact. He discussed the difference between cyber war and information war. 

He gave a detailed answer to my question on EMP, here

(Something bizarre happened when I opened the video I’ve embedded.  An ad appeared for a depilatory, that shows men epilating themselves with one wipe, and played for 1:45.  It did not identify the product.  It was almost like soft core. What if they showed doing it to somebody else? Then the time tracker for the video would not show until I closed and reopened YouTube.) 

Monday, October 08, 2018

Anthology on mental health in young adults: "(Don't) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health"



Editor: Kelly Jensen

Title: “(Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health”.

Publication: Oct. 2, 2018: Algonquin Young Readers, paper and Kindle, 240 pages, ISBN 978-1616207816, five chapters, parsed into 33 essays.


I learned about this book from Reid Ewing (@media_reid on Twitter) who has an essay on p. 95 “I underwent cosmetic surgery for my body dysmorphia and I wish I hadn’t”.  The detailed account is harrowing.  Reid sought the attention in 2008 of a plastic surgeon at age 19 when he thought he had to make his face “better”.  He got taken by unscrupulous doctors, it sounds like.  There were a few micro surgeries to fix this an that, and at one time he was mistaken for a “monster” in the California desert. What’s amazing is that in his public shows (including “Modern Family” and various films starting with “Fright Night” in 2011) and YouTube there is absolutely no hint of this history in his appearance (nor is there on Twitter).  Following “In the Moonlight (Do Me)” he actually made a second spirited song-video in 2012 called “Imagine Me Naked”.  While I’m at it, I’ll mention that I haven’t been able to find a potentially powerful (and now suddenly even more relevant, given politics) film about unwanted pregnancy that he appears in, “South Dakota” (2017), by Bruce Isaacson from Lionheart Films). Reid has developed an interest in manga and animation and may be moving in that career direction for film projects.


I’m getting ahead of myself here.  The five mega-chapters are (1) “What’s Crazy”; (2) “Where ‘Crazy’ Meets Culture”; (3) “The Mind-Body Connection” (where Reid’s piece appears); (4) “Beyond Stress and Sadness”; (5) “To Be Okay”.

The very first chapter gets into the idea of “Defying Definition” (Shaun David Hutchinson).  The Ashley Holstrom follows with essays on topics like hair pulling and various habits.

Heid Heilig has an important piece in Part 2, “What we’re born with and what we pick up along the way”.  She talks about how mental illness is portrayed today in young adult fiction.
  
All of this is somewhat relevant to me because my own experience at NIH in the fall of 1962, which I describe in detail .  I recall displaying a certain tendency to berate other less intact patients for having even more trouble conforming to the demands of “society” to fit in to proper social and gender roles than I did.  I remember a ping pong tournament where I used a strategy of “keep the ball on the table” and let the “crazies” beat themselves with wild slams, and then scream with anger at how I was lowballing them.

It strikes me that some of the more violent members in all of “these” demonstrations (either on Antifa or the alt-right) have disguised mental health problems.  And the paparazzi love to film them to make themselves look well and strong in comparison.
 
 By the way, "33" is the number of variations in a major Beethoven work (the Diabelli Variations). 

Friday, October 05, 2018

Scientific American: "Wonders of the Cosmos"


The editors of Scientific American offer a challenging e-book “Wonders of the Cosmos” (2018).
There is an introduction by Andrew Gawrelewski, “Mysterious Universe”.
  
There are four sections: (1) “How did the universe begin”?;  (2) “Cosmic Cartography”; (3) “”Life Wild Phenomena”; (4) “Life Off Earth”.

The book opens with an essay by Niayesh Afshordi et al “The Black Hole at the Beginning of Time”. The essay offers the idea that our Universe is a three-dimensional shell around a four-dimensional black hole, after an implosion. There is an interesting image “Before the Big Bang” at the 7% page.
Adam G. Riess and Mario Livio discuss “The Puzzle of Dark Energy” which exists essentially because of the asymmetric weak nuclear force.

Npam I. Libeskind and R. Brent Tully discuss “Our Place in the Cosmos” with particular attention to how gravity has a locus with out own galactic cluster Laniakea, and this could predict the eventual cold end of the Universe (ours, at least).  It could also explain emptiness like the Bootes void.
Juan Maldacena discusses “Black holes, wormholes, and the secrets pf quantum space time.”  Maybe the wormhole  would give the possibility of a teenage Clark Kent to live among us.

In the last section, Lee Billings discusses “The Search for Life on Faraway Moons”. He mentions Triton but does not seem to discuss Titan.


Kimberly Cartier and Jason T. Wright bring a gospel, “Strange News from Another Star”, that is, Boyajian’s Star (or Tabby’s Star), about 1450 light years away.  Is there an alien megastructure, a Dyson’s Sphere, around the star?  I want a hotel room with a view, and Internet access (assuming Mark Zuckerberg is an alien himself and has conquered the speed of light).

Frank Postberg et al discuss “Under the Sea of Encedalus” with some persuasive arguments for some kind of primitive bacteria-like life around the vents.  Titan is a much more interesting place geographically.

Christopher McKay and Victor Garcia explore how to look for life on Mars. 

Rene Heller discusses the idea of a “superinhabitable earth II”.  It’s likely such a planet might be a little larger than Earth, and around an unusually stable M star (old enough to give enough time for life) or perhaps a main sequence star a little smaller than our Sun.  A bigger planet would have fewer mountains, likewise a large water surface, and a somewhat thicker atmosphere (maybe people could fly like birds, as in Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End”) – like the crow that keeps visiting my balcony and watching me as if I were his own “human”.
   
In the video above, note how the surface of a black hole (3D to 2D) is viewed as a hologram saving all the information falling on it. 

  

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Andrew Sullivan opines on tribalism in NYMag: "America Wasn't Built for Humans"



Andrew Sullivan has a searing booklet-length piece in New York Magazine Sept 18, 2018 (not “The New Yorker), “America Wasn’t Built for Humans”.  His byline is “Tribalism was an urge the Founding Fathers assumed we could overcome. And so it has become out greatest vulnerability”.
   
 The link is here
   
Once again, we’re confronted with the fact that most of us are genetically hardwired for tribal preferences. Rooting for a favorite sports team is at least mild tribal behavior. (Yes, the Cubs lost last night, at home.)   It does seem that lot of this discussion started with Amy Chua.

I’d like to think that the smartest among us overcome tribalism, and in setting our own goals, some of us do – the more unbalanced personalities in Rosenfels polarity theories. But that generates some of the problem: the winner-take-all economy expressed by extreme capitalism, especially as it developed, surprisingly, post 9/11 (but had started during Reagan) simply leaves most people behind to scrabble now with the no-benefits “sharing” economy.


That’s one reason why I’ve paid so much attention to morality on an “individual” basis – the “pay your dues” idea (2004). Now that seems to miss “the point”.

Sullivan is particularly chilling as he explains how tribalism has infected a lot of academia, and how the idea of “hate speech” has expanded to incorporate crime.  Even my speech, because of its gratuitous funding, could be reviewed as indirect “hate speech” by some – this gets into the area of “implicit content” that I have described. 

He also gives the story of journalist Chadwick Moore, who was sacked by the gay mainstream after showing intellectually balanced appreciation for Milo Yiannopoulos.  In fact, if you actually read Milo’s book (“Dangerous”), it is not as extreme as everyone thinks. 

Likewise, he sympathizes with James Damore – whose work I have mixed feelings about.  The comments on Sullivan’s article are not sympathetic.

The problem is that for many people, they have to stick together and live in solidarity with one another to survive – so they must become combative, and not tolerate any insults to “the group”.  That explains the malignant growth of “hate speech” as a concept. 

Sullivan describes two mega-tribes: the urban-coastal (globalist and intellectually elite), vs. the rural (local and socially driven).  He notes that the end of conscription after the Vietnam war helped keep the tribes apart (and like me, Sullivan made this point in the 1990s during the debate over gays in the military). 

I have to admit that I snicker with some degree of personal contempt when I hear people chanting “lock her up” at Trump rallies, as if they were Manchurian zombies who had abandoned their own personhoods.

But tribal social orientation – and the capacity to put the local group above the self, and regard outsiders as enemies (even if that feeds racism) probably got hardwired into the genes of most people in pre-modern generations.  Some of us seem to have fewer of these genes, stand out, and find ourselves watching our backs.
  
Sullivan recommends “individuality” as opposed to individualism (in 2004, people were just starting to talk about hyperindividualism  -- Ayn Rand style – as the opposite of solidarity).  And he recommends forgiveness.

Monday, October 01, 2018

City of Philadelphia has literacy program offering books to families with newborn babies, and literacy by all by fourth grade



The City of Philadephia Department of Public Health has announced a couple of literacy programs in a press release today.

One of these is “Read by 4th”, which means “Read by Fourth Grade”, with site (no https yet) here  It is offered with the sponsorship of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

There is also a “Baby Book Club” which will distribute children’s books and other literacy materials to every family with newborns in Philadelphia.

The press release from Lauren Ryder from the Department of Public Health did not have a URL to give, so here is a brief excerpt:

“The Health Department will be working with medical staff from each of the city’s six delivery hospitals to ensure every infant born in one of the centers will leave home with at least one book appropriate for babies to start his or her first library.
 
“Books will be in English and Spanish and will be distributed based on inventory and family preference. The books will also include a code for parents to sign up for a free one-year subscription for National Wildlife Foundation magazines for babies.
 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

"The Un(solv)able Problem" in Scientific American



The October 2018 Scientific American has an essay on p. 28 that is one of the most abstract ever. It is “The Un(solv)able Problem”, by Toby S. Cubitt, David Perez-Garcia, and Michael Wolf.
  
This starts out with a long statement of the Spectral Gap Problem about how electrons in small atoms get activated to energy states at all. There are “gaped” and “gapless” systems proposed for materials. It rather reminds me of “air gap” security for power plants from Internet intrusions.


But soon the authors get to the “Liar’s Paradox”. If Kavanaugh tells you “the sentence is a lie”, is Kavanaugh telling the truth or lying?  That seems to really matter right now.

Then they get into Alan Turning’s Halting Test. And later the problem of tiling an infinite bathroom floor, for a David Lynch movie.
  
All of this relates to Godel’s incompleteness theories (Stanford reference).  Hence we need procreative life forms, aiming toward personhood (and God’s) to make decisions that have real consequences, to reverse the effects of entropy.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Dog Eared Books on Castro Street in San Francisco: previews



Tonight I got to Dog Eared Books on Castro Street (I had visited it in 1995 and 2002) right after a booksigning party for Jim Provenzano for his “Now I’m Here”, from Beautiful Dreamer Press, 2018, three parts, 42 chapters, 358 pages. This book should be helpful to me in figuring out how to hard-sell my own novel in 2019. Details to come. 

One Eric Gotlund recalls his boyhood friends in Ohio in the 1970s and 1980s, going through “conversion therapy” and surviving, and then living through the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.


I also picked up Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions”, part of a series, Anchor-Penguin, 2017, 64 pages.  I’ll get to this one first.

There is also an Alley Cat Books.  Sort of reminds me of Lost Dog and Stray Cat companion restaurants in Westover in Arlington VA. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"Ghost in the Machine: Can Mark Zuckerberg fix Facebook before it breaks demoocracy?" in The New Yorker



On p. 32 of the New Yorker September 17, 2016 there appears a booklet-length article “Ghost in the Machine” by Evan Osnos, with the printed tagline “Can Mark Zuckerberg fix Facebook before it breaks democracy?” There’s an embedded poem by Ishion Hutchinson, “The Old Professor’s Notebook”.

Online there is a further tagline, “The most famous entrepreneur of his generation is facing a public reckoning with the power of Big Tech”.


Zuckerberg’s creation challenges libertarian notions that more freedom is better. Inequality simply turns it into combativeness from neglected peoples. No historical change is painless, Zuckerberg feels. There are tradeoffs between truth and speech, between security and scale. All of these provide problems just to be solved.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Robin D'Angelo on "White Fragility: Why It Is so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism"



The NBC News “Think” page offers a preview by author Robin DiAngelo, of “White Fragility: Why It Is so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism”, from Beacon Press (June, 2018).

The NBC article is titled “White people are still raised tobe racially illiterate. If we don’t recognize the system, our inaction will uphold it.” Then she offers the tagline, “the question is not whether I have been shaped by the forces of racism, it’s how I’ve been shaped by them.”


She criticizes the libertarian interpretation of the story of individual black successes, like Jackie Robinson, as a false user of meritocracy. In the movie “42”, Jackie Robinson finally plays for the Brooklyn Dodgers when “white people” let him play – and some road games were actually canceled because of Robinson in the movie at first.
  
The problem is, what is someone to do individually if asked to make up for his own use of “privilege”. This complicates the idea of individual karma tremendously.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Eric Klinenberg argues for more social capital as a strategy for meeting disasters, in "Palaces of the People"



Today Smerconish on CNN interviewed Eric Klinenberg, sociology professor at NYU, about his new book “Palaces of the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life”. Random House.  At first glance, this sounds like a reissue of Charles Murray’s call for more social capital in his book “Coming Apart” (March 14, 2012).


The title seems somewhat self-explanatory. Klinenberg argues that we indeed neglected out infrastructure, ranging from flood protection to climate change to the electric grids, but we have also neglected setting up public spaces – he talks about libraries, playgrounds, parks (including national parks).  I don’t know from the interview how much he gets into the psychological dynamics of increasing social capital in a location among neighbors.  It’s more than condo Christmas parties of block parties.

Klinenberg does argue that social capital is a critical aspect of resilience for recovering from natural disasters and possibility form discouraging enemy terrorism.

Klinenebrg has also authored “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone”. Penguin, 2013.  And the summarizes say his account of this development (of which I am a part) are surprisingly positive. Paul Rosenfels knew that.  


Picture: North Carolina, in area affected by Matthew 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Amazon bans supposedly misogynstic books by "Roosh" and some Kindle authors for "manipulation"





Tim Pool, on Timcast, describes the removal of nine of Daryush “Roosh”Valizadeh’s books, in his video “9 Banned Books: Amazon Has Started Modern Book Burning”.   One of the books is called “Game” and involves hook-ups.


Pool talks about book banning as a practice, and notes that Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is available. He notes that some people were offended by gay marriage but publishing books on it helped get the courts to change their minds. 

I checked into this and found a HuffPost article (Sebastian Murdoch and Jessalyn Cook) on the problem, claiming an exclusive story and that Roosh was viewed as a “rape apologist”.  In the article, HuffPost seems to brag that it instigated the banning. It also says he was removed from YouTube, but I found him there.

Daily Mail has an article about the protests against his books.

Roosh does have a book co-authored with Quintus Curtius: "Free Speech Isn't Free: How 90 Men Stood Up Against the Globalist Establishment." His "Day Bang" about heterosexual pick-ups is also there. 
  
Amazon has terminated authors whom it says manipulated their Kindle accounts, as in this story about J. A. Capriano, prolific fantasy author. The story has book cover for “Seized: The Thrice Cursed Mage” with an incredible hunk on the cover.  Sorry, the author doesn’t look like that.  This self-published author has very large sales volumes for five years and up to 90 titles.  The article describes problems of several other authors.  One of the programs pays a monthly royalty by pages read but it is easily fooled by mechanical gimmicks that encourages readers to skip to the end. .


Monday, September 10, 2018

"Democracy in Black" previewed by Glaude's essay for Time Magazine, on how Trump materialized out of our darkest desires for social "rightsizing"



The Sept. 17, 2018 issue of Time Magazine offers a booklet-length essayDon’t Let the Loud Bigots Distract You: America’s Real Problem with Race Cuts Much Deeper”, by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr , who is the Willisam S. Tod Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton.  He is author of “Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul”, from Deckle Edge, hardcover (2016) or Crown, paper.

Glaude notes that for most of the last few decades, through the Obama years, most of us believed we weren’t racist – we didn’t mention race in the workplace (and usually not religion), we neutral.  We qualified people for jobs based on merit.  


But at the same time, we exacerbated the inequality of opportunity with artificial resegregation.  I remember that from Dallas in the 1980s, when companies gradually moved from the close-in areas to far North Dallas or Richardson or Plano to have better (white) school districts for their own kids.  We paid for schools with property taxes, and conducting tea parties. 
  
We also didn’t admit a streak in some of us, where (as Umair Haque points out on Medium) where some of us would get off on the idea that some people are “born better” than others.  Trump, Glaude says, was a president who would play on our darkest deep prejudices.  We didn’t think it could happen.  But enemies divides us, and knew a lot of us didn’t care enough personally.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Sorkin's "Too Big to Fail": The 2008 crash generated today's populism and mistrust of experts (social media alone isn't "to blame')



Andrew Ross Sorkin was interviewed on CNN’s Michael Smerconish today (Saturday) about the paperback for “Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of how Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System – and Themselves”, on Penguin paperback, from Penguin (Sept 7), originally published in hardcover in 2009 by Viking.

  
Sorkin said today that the 2008 financial crash helped drive populism, distrust of experts and “facts”, and the polarization we see on social media, and the vulnerability to foreign manipulation of this populism. If so, that actually argues for libertarian ideas of speech – as user-generated content is more likely to lead to challenging of dangerous trends within the establishment (like “credit default swaps”). This is an interesting and valuable interpretation.

(This is not the same Sorkin who wrote "The Social Network" -that was Aaron -- but the content and attitude seem similar.) 

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Woodward's "Fear: Trump in the White House", due Sept. 11, previewed in the New York Times by anonymous op-ed



Because I posted yesterday here, I didn’t get around to a preview of Bob Woodward’s “Fear” until now. That is, “Fear: Trump in the White House”, from Simon and Schuster, 448 pages hardcover (and ebook).

Tuesday, Carl Bernstein (“All the President’s Men”) said this was an immediate national security crisis.

Trump’s staff disobeys his orders and Trump doesn’t have the IQ to understand what is happening, so they say.


Or maybe it is just the understanding of how world foreign policy has to work.

Then, today, “Anonymous” leaked what’s going to be in the book, without mentioning names, in the New York Times. 

The book becomes available Tuesday, September 11, 2018.

“Anonymous” calls himself part of the “Resistance” within the White House decision. 
Trump tweeted “Treason?”.

“There are adults in the room”.  Sorry, David Hogg isn’t in the room.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Does self-publishing actually make money for its authors (that is, pay its own way) often? It's "back to school"



To start the “back to school” period, I thought it would be good to review the question, do self-published books sold on Amazon (especially POD) make money for their authors?
  
Here’s a good answer on Quora . One problem is that there are so many “vanity” books, so to speak, that the aggregate mathematically summed demand in society to make all of them profitable just would not be there.

Of course, there are many individual success stories.  It is true that in the past, some things (even “self-help”) have been popular.  And some “fads” might raise serious societal ethical or security questions.  Could Amazon even deal with public pressure if it carried a book on how to make a 3D-printed gun right now?  I wonder.

Let me add, on this particular blog, I don’t like seeing platforms (whether social media companies, mass retail sites, or even Internet hosts) expected to police the social consequences of what users sell.  But there is obviously a growing pressure on them to do so. 


One problem is that an author may not particularly care if a book “sells”; he or she may know that the content of the book will get around and have a political impact.  This is easier for an individual author, if determined, to pull off than a lot of people realize (even given al the attention to the manipulation of social media algorithms by Russia and other foreign enemies).  This problem could quickly get more attention than it has.

I’ll share a recent link (June 2018) on Amazon self-publishing, after Amazon stopped its own copyediting and formatting services. 
  
My own first DADT-1 book in 1997 sold reasonably well in its first two years, and the first printing (380 copies or so) did sell out. I wend to POD in 2000, so lower numbers are partly explained by the fact that the POD was already a second printing (with some typo corrections, especially on the back cover).

One of the aspects of my experience with selling my own print run in the late 1990s (right out of the Churchill apartments in downtown Minneapolis, where I lived well while working for ING-ReliaStar right on the Skyway) was the dot-com boom, which would start to flounder in late 2000 (before 9/11).  But that period was marked by unusual effectiveness of search engines.  I was often found on Google, long before modern social media aggregation.  A modern business climate were a few huge tech companies control everything has not been good for my own ability to sell books, even though it still gets my content out – for free.  Competition matters.
  
The video above stresses the importance of a successful first launch (even the first few days), and for continued promotion of the book. I have been criticized for not spending more time on promoting books I have already authored compared to new content, blogging, or covert support for music or movie projects (some of this by others).

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Verge republishes Sarah Jeong's "The Internet of Garbage" with its important observations on Section 230 and on DMCA Safe Harbor (different things)



Sarah Jeong, the writer who moved from The Verge to the New York Times amidst controversy over some of her old “tweet-backs” that some viewed as racist (they weren’t), has an out-of-print book called “The Internet of Garbage” (2015), now only on Kindle for $.99.  But The Verge is republishing it online on its site.  Here is the link to the first section: 

Jeong discusses a case where an actress, Cindy Lee Garcia, in case Garcia v. Google, litigated to have segments of “The Innocence of Muslims” taken down when her voice-over was used without her permission in a manner that apparently insults Islam, and resulted in her getting constant threats. She tried to claim copyright on her own voice-over and get the material taken down by DMCA Safe Harbor. YouTube insisted this was not copyright.  A long legal battle in the appeals courts follows.

The piece then explains the difference between Section 230 and DMCA Safe Harbor.  The former has to do with the usual torts, like defamation and invasion of privacy.  The latter is about copyright.

The article also explains the basic reason why it is so hard to control online harassment.  Platforms by and large are immune from most liability under Section 230, because they cannot possibly pre-screen everything.  On copyright (which was the biggest concern in the earliest days of the WWW), YouTube has come a long way with ContentID in identifying most infringement before the fact, but there are false positives.  (You could be flagged for your own music, and there are silly flags for outdoor background music obviously PD.)  But harassment is much harder to police and hate speech is so subjective that a lot of it is hard to define outside of specific intersectionalities.


Likewise, as we saw yesterday, it would be very difficult to require platforms to be responsible for publication of weapons assembly (Cody Wilson, the injunction yesterday regarding 3D printers) although YouTube and Facebook have already become proactive on this.
  
The article doesn’t mention how the FOSTA (Backpage-driven sex trafficking law) legislation passed this spring complicates Section 230.