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.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

"Crazy Rich Asians" author wanted in Sinagpore for "draft dodging"

The book author Kevin Kwan, of “Crazy Rich Asians” (2013, Anchor Books) which is now a film directed by John M. Chu (Warner Bros.) is wanted for failing to register in Singapore for his two years uniformed servicedemanded of all males.  Here is the Quartz story
Wikipedia has a lineage chart for the novel.
The sequels are “China Rich Girlfriend” (2015) and “Rich People Problems” (2017).
Wikipedia attribution link for Singapore Naval Base, 1953 picture, p.d. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

"Foreign Affairs" issue "World War Web" for the fall of 2018

The September-October 2018 issue of “Foreign Affairs” has a big red cover “World War Web”, “The Fight for the Internet’s Future”, which is not the same as FTFF.

Adam Segal opens with “When China Rules the Web: Technology in Service of the State”.  Not only does China want technical autarky (which Trump says he is trying to deal against with tariffs) and data on its people stored within its borders, it wants to rightsize all its citizens in one communal national whole. That culminates in the social credit score to be implemented in 2020.  China believes that muzzling individual speech is a major tool in controlling inequality once some controlled statist capitalism attracts the outside world. China is already provoking anger by courting Google again if Google will follow China’s censorship within its borders. The danger is that China could some day have so much sway over global companies that China affects what Americans can say online within our borders.
Chapter 2 is “Data to the People: India’s Inclusive Internet”, by Nandan Nilekani, which talks about a government sponsored biometric id utility but tries to give people some ownership of their data.

Chapter 3 is  “Regulate to Liberate: Can Europe Save the Internet”, by Helen Dixon, which talks about the GDPR, but doesn’t address the controversial Copyright Directive, which comes up again in September, with its controversial Articles 11 (link tax) and 13 (prescreening for copyright infringement). But the GDPR marked a shift away from responsibility of the consumer to the platform for respecting privacy.

Chapter 4 is “The Internet’s Lost Promise: And How America Can Restore It”, by Karen Kornbluh, with emphasis on the American Internet’s libertarian origins with Section 230 and DMCA Safe Harbor (not presented);  they are under attack, as the growth of identity politics lessens the values of free speech, and as America comes to terms with ills like sex trafficking (FOSTA), and most of all the manipulation of user generated content opportunities by Russian bots to drive American readers into their own echo chambers, given social media algorithms. Suddenly gratuitous speech (not part of a business) is seen as meddling.

Chapter 5 is “Battlefield Internet: A Plan for Security Cyberspace”. By Michele Fluornoy and Michael Sulmeyer, surveys cyber security, even to the point of the dangers to the power grid, and mentions how “air gapping” might be overcome by enemies with manual external software updates and even by radio, microwave, or acoustic devices (which can also spy “offline”, as the CIA and NSA know).  The authors recommend that college students have the opportunity to train for military service in the ROTC program specifically in cyber security, bringing military security to utilities.
Chapter 6 is “A Big Choice for Big Tech: Share Data or Suffer the Consequences,”  by Viktor Mayer and Thomas Range.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

"Music and the Brain": e-book from Scientific American

Scientific American has been selling some interesting e-books on intriguing topics about consciousness, the universe, music, math, and the connections thereof.

Music and the Brain, introduction by Karin Tucker, explores the way the mathematical nature of music comports with the development of the human brain.

Musical training and performance tends to improve performance in other academic areas (especially mathematics) and when pursued throughout life is likely to delay or prevent dementia.  Music has also been effective as therapy for dementia and is becoming an occupation.  Sometimes professional musicians can earn additional income by performing in retirement or assisted living centers.

Music prodigies sometimes display some degree of Asperger’s or mild autism, particularly if the gifts are very intense (like perfect pitch).  Musical gifts correspond to developing other areas of the brain beauses those most usual, as with some other animals.
The book has four sections: (1) “Your Brain on Music; (2) “Music and Mathematics”; (3) “Music and Language Skills” (including “speaking in tones”, not tongues); (4) “Music and Movement”, including dance (probably dirty dancing).  The ISBN is 978-1-948933-01-8.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Omarosa's publisher defends her legal rights to sell her book tell the truthful story, regardless of any "non-disparagement" clause

Simon and Shuster is defending its right to continue publication of Omarosa Manigault Newman’s book “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House” (Gallery imprint, 366 pages). 

The publisher says that former government employees have the legal right to make truthful but critical statements about their leadership after they leave employment, regardless of any “private” non-disparagement clause. 

The administration wanted to stop the public from being able to get the book.  I haven’t decided yet on whether I have time for it.

But the situation reminds me of the "bad reviews" problem, where providers (often medical) proscribe patients or customers from talking negatively about them on review sites even if the claims are true.  These contracts sound legally questionable, and may depend on state law. 

Carlos Lozada has a (Washington Post) discussion of  “sycophantic” pro-Trump books that turn on themselves as they are being read, once the authors believe that the victory against the elite will be hollow indeed  

NBC News also has a story about the exorbitant original job offer to Omarosa from Lara Trump during the campaign, with a secret tape release, here

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Michelle Singletary previews Allisa Quart's book "Squeezed"

Here’s a book preview recommended by Michelle Singletary Sunday in her “color of money” column in the Washington Post.

The book is “Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America”, by Allisa Quart, of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project,  from Ecco, Harper Collins. 322 pages.

A book I reviewed on Wordpress, “Selfie” (also July 19 preview here) had explained the sacking of the middle class in terms of Ayn Rand-like personal perfectionism and a “winner take all” economy that looks at all but the frontrunners as “losers”.  It’s the mentality that led the Washington Nationals baseball team to fire Dusty Baker after last season, and look at how the Nats are struggling now.  Such short-sighted, misapplied selfishness doesn’t work.

Singletary also talks about a 2014 Brookings report “The Wealthy Hand-to-Mouth”.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

"Democratic Socialism Threatens Minorities": Atlantic article gets to the root of the proble,

Conor Friedersdorf has a nice “booklet” article in the Atlantic, Aug. 9, 2018, that it is at least (or at most) a “constructive criticism” of democratic socialism as Ocasio-Cortez could deploy it.  (David Hogg seems to be supporting her on Twitter, by the way.)
The article best title is “Democratic Socialism Threatens Minorities.”  The byline is “Nothing better protects victims of bigotry than a system where they can pursue their needs and wants outside the realm of popular control.”

Conor takes pure socialism to mean, the people decide what will be produced and consumed and control the means of production.  That is, more or less, the workers and their families. Ocasio hasn’t really said she would go that far, and neither really did Bernie Sanders.  Hogg will grow up into full adulthood practicing capitalism for himself, to be sure.  (After all, there’s nothing wrong with that, nothing “to be ashamed of”) . 

What Conor winds up describing is pretty much the early days of the Soviet Union, where they really did try statist planning of everything.  The Soviets continued, and eventually imploded.

China is a little different, and we need to look at why it works better than we would expect it to.  But China is cracking down on its Muslim minorities in the western provinces (which are, to a lot of people's surprise, largely white or Caucasian). 
I remember when in France I bought some antihistamines for a cold.  I paid for them privately, in a country with socialized medicine.  It is much cheaper and more efficient to let me take care of this myself.
Conor’s point is well-taken.  In a decentralized, capitalist economy with libertarian values, Muslims, evangelical Christians, LGBTQ people, minorities can produce and sell the items that meet the real demands of people in their own communities without central interference, according to a free market.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Masih Alinejad ("The Wind in My Hair") explains how the anti-shah revolution in Iran destroyed women

Fox News last night briefly interviewed author and journalist Masih Alinejad, a woman from Iran who lives in exile in New York City.  It was not immediately apparent if she had won asylum in the usual manner.

Her latest book is “The Wind in My Hair: My Fight for Freedom in Modern Iran”, from Little Brown.
She told Fox that before the 1978 revolution, deposing the Shah and installing the Ayatollah, with the hostage crisis at the embassy which Jimmy Carter flubbed (EDS made the daring rescue), women did well in Iran and the society was socially reasonably progressive.  The lesson of the revolution is that economic inequality and tribal strife can indeed cause the loss of civil liberties for everyone as revolutionaries expropriate from the privileged or force religious rules on everyone.
Masih has been active in women’s chess, and has led protests regarding forcing Muslim women to adhere to dress codes at international tournaments.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Amazon CreateSpace has ended editorial services for authors, but POD continues

As I get closer to working on my own novel manuscript, I will start looking more closely at the self-publishing options, including POD, as well as convention agenting (the post on Sunday Aug. 5).

I have just noted that Amazon ended its own CreateSpace services for authors on April 18.  This did not affect the actually affect the print-on-demand.  It means you have to go to a third party company for the same services.

I’ll give the link to 1106 Design here

A user forum on CreateSpace itself presents questions from writers on the future of the POD itself.  There are no comments from Amazon on the future of the program, and the POD continues now as it always has, but you would wonder.

There is a basic business model problem with the issue as to whether consumers really buy these books in sufficient quantity, even though there is vanity value to authors who don’t need to sell to make a living – this is a big philosophical problem in the business now.  This could affect all POD companies, which may explain their notably more aggressive behavior with authors since about 2012. It’s also crept into the classical music world, where getting commissions is a touchy subject for composers. 

Curiously, YouTube doesn’t seem to be up to date on this issue.  I’ll keep tabs on it.

Update: Aug. 12

At least for now Amazon seems to allow books with poor reputations and skimpy reviews to stay up.  Look at Jason Kessler's "Badland Blues" (Kindle) and the one-sentence reviews.  I won't give the Amazon link, rather Ian Shapira's Metro Section Washington Post article today.  Some people do try to rescue themselves with creative writing, unsuccessfully. 

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Outwrite 2018 book fair in Washington DC

I attended some sessions this weekend at Outwrite 2018 for LGBTQ authors and writers in Washington DC.

The session on “How to Pitch Your Book” offers this worksheet 

It was authored by Marcos L. Martinez from Georgetown University.

There were examples of books published by Stillhouse Press in Fairfax, VA.  One of the books was “Helen on 86th Street and Other Stories” by Wendi Kaufman.

There are also three small books of poetry by Bryan Borland, including “Tourist” and “DIG”.
On Saturday I attended a session on “WorldBuilding” in fiction (which applies especially to period stories and sci-fi or horror).
Under public pressure, Amazon has removed Nazi and white-supremacy rated products (visible symbols).  It is not clear if books are affected (a children’s book by George Lincoln Rockwell was said to have been removed).

Apple and Spotify have removed podcasts or other materials from the Alex Jones channel as conspiracy theories or hate speech, Yahoo story.  Trump had actually promoted Alex Jones as real media in his 2016 campaign. Will Amazon follow suit?  Later Monday it was reported that YouTube and Facebook had removed it.  Blacklisting is contagious. 

Thursday, August 02, 2018

UK bookseller website that specializes in independent publishing is for sale

I got an email advising me that an online bookstore site in the UK, emphasizing independent publishers and probably self-publishers, was for sale.  It is called “Look for books”, here.
I note that it doesn’t, on its home page, invoke https.

It also has an adult section.

It’s noteworthy for a couple reasons.  Sometimes websites alone are sold as businesses (just as Ramsay Taplin recently sold his Blogytyrant to a Wordpress guru – haven’t seen any changes to it yet). The email and website itself does not give a price.

Here’s my reaction.  I get questioned on why I don’t try harder to retail my own or other people’s books with normal retail operations, with volume discounts, promotions, and the like.  The short answer is that I am still interested mainly in developing new content (novels, music, and the news in these blogs) and not in operations – so I would never time.

But I note the cultural shift, which started about five years ago, and which accelerated maybe in 2014 with tensions overseas and then really crashed with the foreign manipulation of “amateur journalism” in conjunction with the 2016 elections by “the Russians”, etc.  Starting around 2012, self-publishing assist companies (especially POD) realized that their business models probably weren’t sustainable indefinitely even from author fees (typically around $3000 for high-end services) unless the books actually sold as copies (not just as e-books or Kindle) to consumers. So they started pressuring authors to be more interested in business and not just to leave everything to Amazon.
And then there is the whole “skin in the game” think of Nichokas Taleb’s book of that name (May 23). “You must start a business”, Taleb orders, rather than just talk or virtue-signal.  
Still, I keep my distance on this one.