Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Time Magazine special issue: "2050: How Earth Survived" climate change


The September 23, 2019 issue of Time is a Special Climate Issue. The feature story is “2050: How Earth Survived”, by Bill McKibben. The lead story is “2050: Fight for Earth” and describes a plausible scenario from mid-century (when David Hogg or Cameron Kasky will be old enough to have become president).
  

He predicts a huge Gulf hurricane in late October 2020 before the election, giving the Democrats a huge electoral win for the presidency. 

A wretched century is better than a catastrophic one.  Some of the results are obvious.  Beach properties had to move inland, and many real estate bankruptcies occurred. Private cars started being banned more in many city centers.  New York City got a taste of that with World Pride.

McKibben also takes the position that strong action was taken to reduce the wild inequalities, perhaps cracking down on inheritances, as the Gini Curve started to flatten.
  
The issue has essays by Al Gore (he has hope for the climate-change battles), Aryn Baker (who describes Jacobabab, Pakistan, the hottest city on Earth, and then (with Mbar Toubab. “The Great Green Wall of Africa”, Jane Goodall (reasons to be hopeful), Clara Nugent (rewilding the UK), Justin Worland (The Climate Caucuses), Peter Thomson (Preserve Ocean Life), and most of all, Matt Sandy and Uniao Bandeorantes, “The Tipping Point” about the deforestation of the Amazon.

Stephen Hawking had warned that Mankind needs to colonize another planet within 100 years, maybe Proxima B (radiation problems for openers).  But we would have to select who gets to go. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

John Fish talks about Frank Herbert's "Dune" series and how it plays on audiobooks


From his new apartment in downtown Montreal, John Fish (on gap year from Harvard) talks about “How I Fell Back in Love with Reading”.


It seems odd for someone who makes instructive posts on speedreading and improving rapid comprehension and time management for college students, would also advocate buying audiobooks. Doesn’t listening to them take a long time?
Fish says he listens to them while doing housekeeping chores, which are more in a large apartment than in a dorm room.  He talks especially about Frank Herbert’s “Dune” series, which I seem to have mentioned here Nov. 22, 2009.

I remember reading the first “Dune” book when I was in the Army at Ft. Eustis (I also read “Atlas Shrugged”, and Irving Wallace’s “The Plot” which never became a movie – some of those 60s spy “treasure hunt” novels got away without demanding a lot from their characters and became obsolete.)  The book is long, and described a civilization in a solar system with four habitable planets, including one largely desert that had a lot of addictive “space” and plenty of sandworms that young men rode on as fraternal initiations. Now “Dune” is very long. The series would have to be condensed to be feasible to consume.  (The movie came out in 1984 and the production company named after it still exists and makes other science fiction.) Fish says that the characters are read by different people with inflections that make the characters stick as real people.  I seem to remember a Lady Jessica, a gom jabber weapon, and a holographic globe showing all the planets in their system. Medicine was quite advanced.  I also remember the “guild” where brains could be disembodied and carefully stored and direct space ships as like with living computers.

I’m getting calls from my POD publisher about the slow sales (for so many years?) but I wonder if Audiobooks will be brought up.  
  
I see I covered an earlier video on this of his from Dec. 2018. 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

"Permanent Record": preview of Edward Snowden's memoir


Greg Miller reviews Edward Snowden’s new book “Permanent Record” in the Washington Post Outlook section today, September 15, 2019, from Metropolitan Books, 352 pages.
I had reviewed Glenn Greenwald’s “No Place to Hide” here Nov. 22, 2014, which got folded into Laura Poitras’s movie “Citizen Four” on Oct. 27, 2014.


I can recall reading Greenwald’s account of getting an email from Snowden, where Snowden presumed detailed technical skills of his readers. 

In the Poitras film, Snowden, holed up in a Hong Kong hotel (long before today’s protests) with the filmmakers, comes across as a rather likeable, charismatic young man.

We know now that he has spent about six years in asylum in Moscow, doing gigs for a living, and seems to have sometimes girlfriend.  But he had no trouble getting his book manuscript exported and published.

The book review today describes how Snowden hid little cards inside Rubik Cubes, which only he knew how to solve.
   
There are a couple of YouTubers with minds like Snowden’s, like Economic Invincibility (Martin Goldberg) and Canadian Harvard student (on gap to work in Montreal), John Fish.  John, particularly, seems nicer and more open, for all his plans not fully explained.  You can have this kind of brain and not need to become a spy.  But people will want you to.

Update: 

The US Government has filed a lawsuit trying to seize proceeds from the book. 

Monday, September 09, 2019

Shenkman's "Political Animals" (2016) causes a stir today as it leads to explaining populism in terms of the lack of abstract intellect in many people



Tim Pool (implicitly) reviews the 2016 textbook by GWU professor Rick Shenkman, “Political Animals: How our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics” (Basic Books, 336 pages), available as an "e-textbook".

Rick Shenkman also explains “Why this was the generation cursed with Donald Trump”.  Basically, most people need to be told what to do and how to vote.  It’s pretty grim. 
  
He also has an article in Politico today, “The Shocking Paper Predicting the End of Democracy” as he introduced UC Irvine professor Shawn Rosenberg who says that humans aren’t wired for intellectual process and debate.  In fact, he thinks most humans are incapable of the intellect required.  That may seem shocking to people who keep similar company in the west’s scientific establishments.  But it reminds me of David Pakman’s video last February, saying that most average Americans are gullible and book-stupid (it’s the book smarts v. street smarts thing).

Rosenberg's paper can be downloaded from this page; you can get access to Academia.edu for $99 a year and have followers and share.  The title is "Democracy Devouring Itself: The Rise of the Incompetent Citizen and the Appeal of Populism".  I don't think I'm incompetent as a citizen. But I lack street smarts and people emotional connectivity. The essay will appear in a forthcoming book "Psychology of Political and Everyday Extremisms", edited by Domenico Yhng Hur and Jose Manuel Sabucdeo, publisher not announced (likely to be international). 

  
Then Zack Beauchamp on Vox, titled “The Anti-Liberal Moment” with subtitle “Critics on the left and right are waging a war on liberalism; and liberals don’t seem to have a good defense.”
Beachamp sees both right and left as attacking individualism.  Traditional (not libertarian) conservatives wanted individuals to find meaning for their own journeys and self-expressions through faith and family and local institutions (and sometimes then nation, as nationalism circles around localism). The collective left maintains that the value of labor has been stolen from people and wants reparation.  But the Left also wants to defend other less obvious people exploited by democratic capitalism (in the past, cis-gender gays and lesbians but today, fluid and trans people, as well as all kinds of other people who just don’t compete well as individuals and come from less well-off families – call it those left behind by “meritocracy”) and, in an effort to get restorative social justice, cuts off free speech as simply a hereditary benefit of illegitimate inherited “power”.   This seems like a battle between “elitism” and “populism”, or “individualism” v. “tribalism”.  Tribalism on the right is different in that it wants to restore illegitimate inherited advantage that was taken away from it, whereas on the left it is motivated by the belief it has always been exploited (largely true).

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Markovits: "The Meritocracy Trap", previewed on CNN, will be available Sept. 10


Today, Sermconish, on CNN, interviewed Yale professor Daniel Markovits, author on “The Meritocracy Trap: How America’s Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite” (Penguin Press, 448 pages, 2019, released Sept. 10).


The New Republic, in an article by Sarah Leonard, reviews the book and discusses his ideas in the article “The Fall of Meritocracy: Ultra-educated, overworked, highly paid elites are not partners in the struggle to reform an unequal system” (paywall). 

Markovits appears to continue a line of argument from part of Daniel Callahan’s “The Cheating Culture” (2004), where he notes that wealthier parents are in a position to give their progeny advantages over other kids with private schools and lessons and coaching.
  
It’s also true that wealthier parents live in better public school districts (like how Richardson and Plano schools are so touted in the north Dallas area), so redlining matters.
  
Children of parents in academia or engineering, tech, or even science teachers seem more likely to excel.  This sounds like John Fish’s story in Ontario (his father is a physics teacher, and he was able to explain quantum entanglement in a technically well-done video by age 15).
   
Forbes has a perspective on the Andraka brothers from 2013.  

Taylor Wilson, now a nuclear scientist at the University of Nevada, however, had working class parents in Arkansas. 
  
Yet I had written a reductive argument about meritocracy on my legacy site back in 2005, and it offended some people.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

New York Times insert shows how American capitalism was built on slavery with handwritten accounting


Matthew Desmond has a booklet-length article last week in the New York Times Magazine, “In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation”. 
  

The article describes handwritten accounting systems quantifying the value of each individual slave’s labor.
  
Appropriate for Labor Day.

Update: Saturday, Sept. 14

Andrew Sullivan writes about the slavery model behind capitalism. "The New York Times has abandoned liberalism for activism, in the Intelligencier, here

Thursday, August 29, 2019

An update on self-publishing and POD, especially KDP


I see that I had discussed Create Space and the end of Amazon’s editorial services on Aug. 9, 2018.  

The link given there for KDP 1106 author service is still valid.  But check the discussion of the new Kindle Direct Publishing here. A complete package for an average sized book costs around $3000, which is typical for the print on demand industry.  I’ve also noted that some bookstores have POD systems in their stores.
   
KDP has other consultants who give advice, like “Self-Publishing with Dale  (March 2019). Look at the “sweet spot” concept. Look at the “hollow best seller” idea.    Also look at some followup videos, especially about the terms of service and rules.  There is the concept of "link farming" within KDP itself because it can improperly inflate results, and there is appropriate concern about poor editing quality, among other problems which are mainly about gaming the system. 

I often get calls from companies that want to redistribute my books.  There are a lot of these calls and messages so I don’t know how reputable they are.

I also get calls as to why I don’t try harder to sell the older of the books (the 2000/1997 and 2002 “Do Ask Do Tell” books).  I’ve gotten feedback that the history in the first of these two books is valuable now because the debate over transgender in the military is different from the older “don’t ask don’t tell” policy debate and that “activists” don’t understand this.  That’s probably true.

It is also the case that I have two short stories in the DADT III book and at least have a treatment written as to how to film them.  There are some scenarios I can imagine (having to do with the fossil fuel and climate change issue) where the first of these stories could be worked into something that compares the situation today to what is was in the early 1970s (the setting of the story), especially with respect to mountaintop removal and reclamation.

I am also working on the “Angel’s Brother” novel and some concepts (as to who “gets chosen” for the spaceship at the end) could be politically dicey in today’s contentious climate.  I am developing the Access Database to analyze the character backstories and close loopholes.  I would expect a draft to be ready for editing by the end of the first quarter 2020.
  
There is a more sensitive issue now – people who publish to attract attention and don’t sell well are seen as disruptive or arrogant towards the needs of consumers.  I’ll have to come back to this again.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Cornell University: "Auditing Radicalization Pathways on YouTube"; does this paper confuse coincidence with cause?



Cornell University has published a study “Auditing Radicalization Pathways on YouTube” by Manoel Horta Ribeiro, Raphael Ottoni, Robert West, Virgílio A. F. Almeida, Wagner Meira.  

The link for the abstract is here

The article suggests that people who look for conservative material generally considered “alt-lite” (that is, no ethnic separations, but in fact a disdain for recognizing intersectionality and more protected classes) tend in time to be drawn to more radical alt-right material, sometimes involving ethnostates. But some commentators talk about alt-lite as more concerned about “western civilization” or sometimes radical right (which does support democracy).


It’s probable that a fear of expropriation or of forced personal contact or group advocacy and tribalism drives the progression.
  
Emma Grey Ellis had described “The alt-right’s latest ploy:trolling with false symbols” 
   
Most of the people getting banned on social media and chased by SJW’s are more on the “alt-lite”.

Carlos Maza shared the Cornell link on Twitter today.  He has since updated it with a similar paper by Rebecca Lewis "Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTube", on Data Society, which Carlos says is the source of the aforementioned paper.



Update:  Aug. 28

Timcast did a video examining this paper and found false equivalencies.  People who are centrist center-right mainstream conservatives in the Reagan sense or libertarian, for example, may comment on videos authored by the smaller number of true alt-right or extremist persons merely because they are talking about the same topic.  This false equivalency leads some people to associate Pewdiepie, for example, with the far right because of a few symbols or games (Minecraft) that actual political figures on the right comment on.   The paper mentions Ford Fischer's "News2Share" as "alt-lite" when it is factual and usually takes no positions on what it films (Fischer is a Libertarian Party member.)  Timcast mentioned News2share at least twice in the video (link). The title of Tim Pool's video suggests a malicious intent by the writers of the paper, under the guise of academia.  Pool also says that the definitions of political categories (alt-lite v alt-right) are subjective, and that simply commenting on a topic or subject matter does not mean that the speaker agrees with a video author's political motives.

Kevin Shau discusses this piece on Medium and calls it the product of "another Leftist conspiracy theory", link.

The Rebecca Lewis paper appears (to me, at least), to vulnerable to the same criticism.
 
Correlation doesn't cause things. We may be giving the university above too much part credit.
 
This series of Buzzfeednews articles under Rosie Gray's in May 2019 try to imply that Steve Bannon, Milo, Flynn, etc are true white nationalists.  The reasoning seems to be the same as in the studies Pool debunked.  The idea is to convince the reader that Trump is such.  You know, if you make a disparaging comment at a family Thanksgiving dinner (I used to hear these) that implicates those speakers, too. 






Sunday, August 25, 2019

Fukuyama previews his book "Identity" in Foreign Affairs as he confronts identity politics


Francis Fukuyama has a long article on Foreign Affairs for September/October 2018, “Against Identity Politics: The New Tribalism and the Crisis of Democracy”.   Fukuyama has a book from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment”, 240 pages, Oct. 2018.

The article reviews all the points I have repeatedly made myself in many blog posts.  Inequality, perhaps exacerbated by shareholder capitalism, tends to drive people back into depending on their identities of their groups of origin or that they are placed in.  American history, with slavery and white privilege of the past, makes this much more challenging for displaced white people, so we get a particular kind of violent supremacist extremism on the “identarian” right, whereas the Left the authoritarian is more female, more diffuse. 


There is also a tendency to attack meritocracy at a personal level, as leaving people behind in hopeless circumstances.  Hence the Left has become more combative in claiming a lot of previously accepted talk as "hate speech", especially pronoun issues for gender issues.   The return to identity is an attempt to restore personal dignity.
  
Fukuyama compares identity politics in the US with that in Europe.  Particularly for the US, he believes that national service programs could break up the identarianism and get people used to bonding from people from different groups.  It’s possible to imagine this even in retirement, which would make it impossible for me to follow the publication career that I “chose”.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Neuborne's "Madison's Music: on Reading the First Amendment", previewed on the David Pakman show; possibly important legal observation noted that could affect bloggers


A composite video by The David Pakman Show while he is on vacation this week, “The Truth About Free Speech and Censorship”. Introduces a book by NYU Civil Liberties Professor Burt Neuborne, “Madison’s Music: On Reading the First Amendment” from 2015, from the New Press.


Neuborne starts speaking in the third segment, at about 26:00 in the video.

He describes the First Amendment as 45 words that needs to be read as a whole.  It starts with two conscience clauses (regarding religion), then the basic individual speech clause, then freedom of the press, assembly, and petition.  The idea is that individual speech should be made in good faith (with respect to conscience and logical consistency with actions) and should ultimate support future collective action to change policy.

Neuborne says reading the amendment is like reading a poem.  You wouldn't read only two words of a poem (although a complete line makes sense), and you wouldn't take out the notes of a piece of music (not even with Photoscore). 
  
A speaker does not have the fundamental right to freedom from the consequences of his speech.

There could be a theoretical trap for individual speakers implied in what Neyborne said.  I'll need to get his book or Kindle and read up in detail (I am backed up already!)  It would seem that if an individual speaker or blogger or author says he/she/they will not participate in a follow-up assembly or petition activity when repeated asked to do so, "they" could lose their speech rights.  This could conceivably become a terms of service or AUP issue with some providers (because think of the implications of what it could invite from "enemies", but I don't think this has ever happened).  I'll have to look into this indeed. David Pakman (normally a moderate Leftist liberal but "capitalist") catches a lot of tricky points other journalists (even Tim Pool) have missed. Well he should, as a political science professor at Boston College.

(Update:)  I just bought the book on Kindle and see right off (you can also see this from a "peak inside the book" on Amazon) that he says that when the First Amendment was written, individual speech was limited to a small audience by technology, so the presence of social media and especially search engines makes his point double-edged now.)
 
There is conceivably a similar situation possible with many trusts involving non-profit beneficiaries, which I'll look into later. 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

NYTimes "booklet" about American heirees Cordelia Scaife May and today's explosion of anti-immigrant populism



Nicholas Kulish and Mike McIntire have a booklet-length story in the New York Times Thursday, Aug. 15, 2018, front page in print, “An Heiress Intent in Closing America’s Doors” with the subtitle, “How a nature lover helped fuel the Trump immigration agenda”.  The woman was Cordelia Scaife May (1928-2005).

The first sentence makes a metaphor of James Dean – “she was an heiress without a cause”.  So she took up overpopulation and protecting the environment and animals as a reason for countries to control immigration.

The article has charts showing how her Colcom Foundation fueled anti-immigration and population control groups -- although it looks like it wants to do good for the planet.  Then there is John Tanton’s network, of at least thirteen groups, which the Southern Party Law Center lists as anti-immigrant.

She was also associated with the Melon Foundation, which seems curious.


It isn’t hard to see where this can go.  Population strains the planet and may exacerbate climate change (the Left).  But rich white people don’t have as many children as POC – “replacement” ideology?  Actually, when minorities get wealthier (descendants of legal immigrants) they also have fewer children.

This direction doesn’t seem to be what she really wanted.  Yet, she unwittingly helped fuel modern nationalist populism that helped put Donald Trump and alt-right persons in Europe in power.

A lot of inequality results from the fact that more affluent people don’t have as many kids.
  
Be careful what you wish for!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Washington Blade reviews some children's trans-fluid books; independent bookstore threatened by real estate taxes and needs fundraiser



The Washington Blade has a review page of four children’s books, link.   The reviews appear with a discussion of the observation that LGBT materials in public schools, even in lower grades, objected to by some conservatives, reduce bullying. Major NYC publishing houses do support offering these books.

“What Riley Wore” by Elana K. Arnold and Linda Davik (Simon & Schuster) feature a child whose gender is not stated, wanting to be a firefighter.


“Oglivy” by Deborah Underwood (Henry Holt) features an animal character (bunny) whose gender roles are challenged.

“Dazzling Travis: A Story About Being Confident and Original” by Hannah Carmonah Dias and Brenda Figueroa (Cardinal Rule Press) presents a young PoC boy whose play objects are challenged.

“Sam!”, by Dan Gabriel (Penny Candy Books) presents a 9 year old transgender (F-to-M) transgender boy.

I’ve been asked in emails if I do children’s, or even with leading questions as to why I don’t, as if it could be some sort of writers’ prerequisite, but I’ll leave answering that for another time.

Also, an independent book store in Arlington VA (near the Falls Church line on Lee Highway), One More Page Books, which I have visited for at least one event, held an auction fund raiser to suddenly rising rent due to sudden escalation of county real estate taxes.  I used to live in Arlington until I sold a house in 2017, and I am surprised by this.  Here is a typical news story


  
You can reasonably ask me why I wasn’t more aware of this before, and that’s a good question.  I get asked a lot these days why I am not more aggressive with “business” issues.  That ultimately gets back to the free speech debate that I’ll come back to.  I sort of expect Tim Pool or David Pakman to have to take up this subject one of these days.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Washington Examiner examines El Paso "manifesto" and nationalism





Byron York has an analysis of “the manifesto” from the perpetrator of the El Paso incident that bears reading.

York shows how legitimate political ideas (many of them from the Left, like universal basic income) can go wrong in the mind of someone who is not able to function well in life on his own and turns to collective identity.   The preoccupation with race seems to come from the fact that “white identity” was all he had to turn to.  Then he just goes off the rails. 


But it was striking to me, when I read it, that he seemed distracted by some self-discipline ideas, like “dirty work” (benefiting from the regimented labor of others, a Maoist idea) and the sustainability of modern life styles (that should lead to climate change or maybe technological dependency and the power grid.)

Also check Batya Ungar-Sayton in the Examiner, “Why nationalism won’t go away”.  The writer discusses a conference on National Conservatism in Washington DC where to be admitted, you had to submit to a social media audit to prove you were not a white nationalist, and some people were excluded after “applying”.
  
The author somewhat hesitantly concedes that it is difficult to strengthen nationalism without stepping on vulnerable minorities. He also notes that the culture of nationalism is more about obligation, loyalty, tradition  and common good, and less about consent, wise choices, and contract.


Saturday, August 10, 2019

Charity promotes providing books in braille for blind children



Recently I received by US mail a relatively aggressively worded solicitation package, in an orange envelope, from, with a 2020 calendar of French flower paintings, from the (Baltimore-based) American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, to provide Braille Books for Blind Children. 

The pitch material inside is rather aggressively worded, and encourages the recipient to get to know a deaf or blind person “on a personal basis”.  But I believe I saw a booth for the group at Baltimore gay pride in June, or maybe through the Parkway Theater at the Maryland Film Festival in May. 

When I worked for ING-Reliastar in Minneapolis from 1997-2001 I worked with someone who was “legally blind” and who was given a larger than usual desktop terminal.  He was the go-to person on almost all the system internal technical problems, and he also ran a company which hosted my first website for four years (after 9/11 he disbanded the company and I moved the hosting to Verio).
  
  
It common in information technology for the most technically gifted person to have some other sort of physical disability.  Ironically, the original founder of 8chan, Fredrick Brennan, has brittle-bone disease (New York Times story ).

The personal aspect of the appeal I will take up in later blog posts.
   
As a small self-publisher, it is not practical for me to offer my three “do ask do tell” books in Braille.  (I don’t do this with Audio Book either, which Canadian vlogger John Fish sells and advocates.)  But this raises a deeper question about handicap consumer access. I wonder if Amazon Create Space has the ability to create Braille.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

From Outwrite DC 2019: previews of "Mostly Dead Things" and "Disease"


I visited OutwriteDC Saturday (14th and U St NW Washington) for two hours.
  
There was a science-fiction-horror reading session in the “living room” with the view of U St.  
  
 Unfortunately the group's website doesn’t have all the program details. There were four or five authors, mostly trans or female.  There was one author from Minneapolis (where I lived 1997-2003). The best reading was the last one, a heterosexual erotica where the woman has set up physical traps, which prostitutes in Vietnam actually did during the Vietnam war (yes, I did hear about this when I was in the Army 1968-1970, a preview of gays in the military.)

Then I went to Kristen Harnett’s session in the “dining room”.


She talked about her experience getting caught in a power failure while in Wisconsin.

I bought her novel “Mostly Dead Things”, 356 pages, Tinhouse press, hardcover.  The novel appears to be a dark comedy about a woman whose father runs a taxidermy shop, and her misadventures when he suddenly commits a very public suicide.

I bought another book “Disease”, by Hans M. Hisrchi, from Beaten Track Publishing, paper, 204 pages. The author lost his mother to Alzheimer’s.  But the book is a first person fictional account of a man in a same-sex marriage who gradually slips away to Alzheimer’s, with an afterword from the husband. It’s pretty hard to imagine what your consciousness is during the end but I will find out when I read it. I could imagine the same concept with ALS;  a cousin died of it in early 2018.

Friday, August 02, 2019

"Reason" has big articles on "The End of the Free Internet" and on "Authoritarian Populism"


The August/September 2019 print issue of Reason caught my eye at a Barnes and Noble in Tyson’s last night, before a movie. The issue had the odd quirk of numbering its pages backwards (with even numbers in front), in reverse; not sure why.

But there were two major articles that caught my eye. 

The first of these is “The End of the Free Internet Is Near” by Declan McCullagh. 

The title may be misleading, because “free” here doesn’t refer to free content, it refers to the freedom to upload without gatekeepers. But paywalls (and the idea of bundled paywalls) might belong in more stable business models (below).

I’ve covered most of his argument on my Wordpress “News commentary” site.  There have been many developments since the election of Trump, many of them as a result of populism or regressive Left-ism, more in reaction to Trump (and right wing leaders in the EU) than because of them, that bode poorly for user-generated content.  In the US this litany starts out with the loss of guaranteed net neutrality (which hasn’t really hurt much yet), to FOSTA (which has hurt more), to various other proposals now to gut Section 230, and now a copyright bill called the CASE act (out of Senate judificary) which could embolden trolls. In the EU it first started with the GDPR but soon exploded with the Copyright Directive, most of all the “copyright filters” Article 17 (and link tax Article 15). 
   
More recently, in the US, private corporate interests, somehow impressed by social justice warriors, have encouraged deplatforming of some conservative voices under exaggerated claims of racism (particularly after Charlottesville just two years ago) and even denial of access to the financial system, which is being appropriately met with investigations for anti-trust violations. Moreover, mainstream corporate media, suffering from loss of profits as its outrage click-bait business model fails, resulting in layoffs of “press credentialed” journalists, tries to attack independent media, with its much lower costs (as David Pakman found out even just this week).


I have been critical of the strategy of free speech activists to urge supporters to nitpick with their members of Congress over narrow issues;  instead you have to look at the trend of all these issues together and connect the dots.
  
In the third paragraph of his article, Declan says it well.  In one generation, politicians have lost interest in the value of globalized personal speech (so much the naïvely presumed “right” in the years following the opening of the World Wide Web on August 6, 1991 and then protected by Section 230 and DMCA Safe Harbor (somewhat) later) and now fear the consequences of allowing an individual’s own speech too much unhindered reach or “power”.  These include an unsustainable business model (the outrage-clickbait problem that Tim Pool talks about all the time) which replaced the piecemeal “dotcom” boom of the late 1990s; and a tendency for this model to encourage extremism (particularly from the right, given the asymmetry of cultural norm boundaries that Jordan Peterson has explained pretty well), whereas more moderate speakers (like myself) don’t may their own way with their own material, but use assets from separate employment (often in retirement) or even inheritances.

The last part of the article proposes a return to the more decentralized Internet of the 90s.  I haven’t covered that very much, but I thought that blew up with the dot-com bust in 2001.  More recently, the user of crytocurrency is believed to help fund sites dedicated to allowing all "lawful" even when culturally offensive, speech.   The effect of 9/11 then deserves rethinking.

The video above by David Doel describes this as a “culture war” and says that sometimes combativeness is necessary.

I think a discussion of the Santa Clara Principles would be in order here.

Another topic worthy of discussion is that hosting companies have a very different business operation from social media companies, but even they were pressured to remove some customers after Charlottesville.



The second big article is “The Terrifying Rise of Authoritarian Populism”, by Tom G. Palmer (Cato Institute),   On both the Left and Right (especially), Palmer correctly sees the trend as resulting from “resentment” of the loss of relative social and economic status in comparison to other newer groups – culminating in “great replacement” theories of the most extreme, but more generally an unfounded fear and resentment of immigrants (especially if not white and Christian).  Palmer even has a section heading “It’s not the economy, stupid.”  Palmer goes into how libertarians should respond, and admits that libertarians (particularly of the Jordan Peterson type) tend to judge other individuals who are less fortunate and who stumble and make mistakes very harshly at personal level  (Ayn Rand’s “mooch” character)  – and at some point this adds up to contagiousness to politics.
    
The magazine has a full page ad for the recent FreedomFest in Las Vegas. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Book from the 1890s "Might Is Right" seems related to radicalization in the recent Gilroy CA incident



Richard Winton et al write in the Los Angeles Times that the gunman in Gilroy Garlic Festival, CA had followed literature on both the far left and far right and seemed to be fascinated with authoritarianism. 
  
But it is particularly interesting and disturbing that he seemed to follow the philosophy of a book from 1896, “Might Is Right: The Survival of the Fittest”, still available on Amazon, with pseudonymous author Ragnar Redbeard, with republication listed on Amazon as from Underworld Amusements.


The Wikipedia article confirms that the book says what the title would lead you to expect it to say, starting with social darwinsm.  It could be related at a personal level to what psychologists call “upward affiliation” and avoidance of relationships with people who fall short of fulfilling fantastic expectations.

It’s odd that an old book, of a vintage for high school classes, and possibly of academic interest, would figure in to radicalization of someone.  It was common when I was in high school for authoritarian and controversial ideologies to be presented, even eugenics, as long as they were presented negatively.
  
This shows that there is real asymmetry in the acceptability of some systems of thought between the Left and Right. 

It also shows that you may not need the Internet for radicalization. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Richard Preston's "Crisis in the Red Zone" is reportedly a terrifying sequel to "The Hot Zone"


The Wall Street Journal’s William F. Bynum reviews a new book by Robert Preston, “Crisis In the Red Zone: A Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History, and of the Outbreaks to Come”, review link (paywall), from Random House, 400 pages.
  
I remember buying an old copy of “The Hot Zone” at a book fair in my employer’s (USLICO in Arlington VA) cafeteria in the mid 1990s.  That book started out with an encounter with Marburg (a cousin of Ebola) in the bat caves of India, where the man started vomiting on a flight home and never recovered.
  
He had an outbreak where several people came back to the US in late 2014;  one died in Texas, and there were a couple of cases of people violating the quarantine rules. Sierra Leone and Liberia were the epicenters then (it’s ironic that USLICO used to own a Liberian ship registry) but now it seems to be the Republic of the Congo.
  

I had read some of the book at lunch at USLICO and was starting to work on my own first DADT book at the time, and they called me “Ebola Bill”.  But it isn’t funny now.
   
Preston has even speculated (according to the article) that there is fear that Ebola could mutate into an airborne form, much more likely than some of the right-wing speculations for HIV in the mid 1980s.
Stanford student Jack Andraka went to Sierra Leone for a few weeks on a Truman Scholarship project in the summer of 2018 and he says he was not offered the experimental Ebola vaccine (not mentioned in the review). I was under the impression that he may return this summer.  He even broke his foot there but recovered quickly, apparently.  But it is risky to study and volunteer in developing countries.

Several news outlets report that a Congo student in medical isolation after recovering from Ebola found a way to take his entrance exams. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

DC kids in poor neighborhoods write poems about the unwillingness of richer people to enter their communities



A young black man in SE Washington DC wrote a poem a week before he and his father were shot and killed in their apartment.

A news story in the Washington Post Metro on Wednesday, July 24, 2019 runs a poem by Akhil Washington-Scruggs. 

The poet is critical of the fact that wealthier people protect themselves by simply not taking the risk of coming into his neighborhood, a fact which he says communicates hate.

In 2016, I backed out of driving deliveries for Food and Friends because I see driving in some neighborhoods as no-go.  If something happens, like a carjacking, it’s over.
   
Uber drivers don’t have that luxury.

Monday, July 22, 2019

National Geographic article about Chimu culture looks at child sacrifice that is nothing more


Kristin Romey and photographer Robert Clark, in the February 2019 issue of National Geographic, present the narrative (paywall) of the Chimu people in coastal Peru, who about five centuries ago created one of the largest human sacrifices on record, apparently (according to anthropologists) of their most gifted children. I saw this article today on a table at a car dealership, although I would have received it by mail months ago. 
The sacrifices apparently came after a climate change – a lesson – and were made to appease the gods.  The people would eventually be conquered by the Incas.


Of course, we may hear of other such narratives among groups like the Maya, whose civilization was even more sophisticated than we had thought.

But the event 500 years ago is particularly disturbing.  This was a deliberate sacrifice of children for the stability of the state. This was not even honorable in the sense of young men who lost their lives in a necessary battle. This was sacrifice – abnegation or erasure for its own sake, to prove that sometimes it happens – pure fascism.

Some people might see the Vietnam war, with its draft supported by student deferments for the privileged until 1969 as comparable. But in this ancient history case, the kids were already privileged, and their destruction seems to have been painful, graphic and brutal, even more so than suicide bombers today.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Buzzfeednews covers the Andy Ngo beating in Portland OR in detail, and shadows his career


Joseph Bernstein has a booklet length article on Buzzfeednews of his shadowing of the career of journalist Andy Ngo, who was attacked with serious head injuries while filming an Antifa demonstration in Portland OR.

  
David Rubin’s interview with Ngo is interesting, where at 22:00 Ngo explains how some Antifa people rationalize petty political violence because they see speech by the “privileged” as a kind of implicit violence, because the right (according to them) is a lot more responsible for terror and violence against marginalized groups than even the far Left, and there is some validity to that.
   
Bernstein gives he history of Ngo’s career, building it up and suggests that Ngo benefits from the notoriety of covering psychologically unhinged people.  Indeed, the expectation of coverage may encourage more violent protests.  He also covers Ngo’s family’s experience with communism in Vietnam after the US left in 1975.

Wikipedia attribution link for downtown Portland OR picture, CCSA 3.0. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

NYTimes: How the Notre-Dame was almost a total loss


The New York Times has an exclusive booklet article, which is well illustrated with animated gifs and interactive diagrams in the online version. It is “Notre-Dame came far closer to collapsing than people knew; this is how it was saved”.

There are multiple authors: Elian Peltier, James Glanz, Mika Grondahl, Weiyi Cai, Adam Nossiter, and Liz Alderman.


A new employee noticed the alarm, and another person went to the wrong place, losing precious time.

It sill isn’t clear what started the fire, but the Catherdral had obviously not been properly maintained, given the resources of the church.  And now the funds required are a political flashpoint given all the Yellow Vest protests.

Many firefighters, including women, took unknown risks climbing into the inferno to prevent total collapse.
  
By Joëlle Lévy - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Sunday, July 14, 2019

"Lempi of Finn Hollow": children's viewpoint of immigrant life for Finns in late 19th century


The children’s book “Lempi of Finn Hollow” is a large-format children’s paperback sold ($5) on the groups of the Finnish Heritage Museum in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, north of Painesville (on Richnmond Highway and SR 385, just about three miles, on Lake Erie).



The book is authored by Elaine Lillback and is based on the life of Lempi Johanna Sironen Juuti Tokka (1889-1987) and is a sequel to “Finn Hollow of Fairport, Ohio”.  The publisher is Painesville, Publisning Co in Painesvlle (about 25 miles east of downtown Cleveland on US 20). There is no ISBN apparent or UPC code. 

The book describes a difficult ship crossing of immigrants from Finland, becoming less hospitable because of Czarist Russian influence.  Lempi is born two or so years after the crossing on High Street, a few blocks from the Lake.


The immigrants are opportunistic in terms of work all over the northeast, including the iron mines in Minnesota, to heavy steel and tool industries in the northeast.  But many of them settle in northeast Ohio and work for a shipping company.

The families go through the labor of manually moving their homes when the docking company demands their land, and the experience is seen through children’s eyes.  Families get together and raise money to start cooperative retail businesses.
   
Religious upbringing is very communal.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Vox: "The War to Free Science" and the high cost of paywalls for academic journals, and the role of the "Books in Print" company


Brian Resnick and Jullia Belluz have a Vox booklet (illustrations by Xavier Zarracina) “The War to Free Science”.  The subtitle is quite telling “How librarians, pirates and funders are liberating the world’s academic research from paywalls.”

The article notes that there are 27,500 scientists affiliated with the University of California.  (Young nuclear scientist Taylor Wilson is affiliated with the University of Nevada in Reno.)

In February 2019 the University of California System ended its $11 million subscription to Reed Elsevier, the largest owner of academic journals.

The company is also known for “Books in Print”, which I got to know pretty well when I got my ISBN log book for my first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book in 1997.  It was mailed to me on a piece of computer paper for about $200 as I recall.  I should have it somewhere. The imprint at the time was called “High Productivity Publishing”.

I even considered doing a little contract work for them in the spring of 2002 after my “career ending” layoff at the end of 2001 (when I was still in Minneapolis).

Vox goes on to describe the push for some kind of open access, and other funding mechanisms for the necessary peer reviews for academic journals.

Jack Andraka had talked about the problem around 2015 or so after he won his Science Fair prize for his work on diagnosing future risk for pancreatic cancer inexpensively.


He says that access to research journals was a big deal when he started the work.  Fortunately, when he found a sponsor at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, he had access.  But to get access to the articles to even write the original proposal was a problem.

Basic research continues in fields like theoretical physics, where the mathematics of some objects (like Lie groups) gets us closer to an understanding of why we even exist and whether we could become immortal. It all gets peer reviewed.  This is real publishing.
  
This is a problem Electronic Frontier Foundation could do more work on.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Old book on "Sissy Boy Syndrome" might have clues (however objectionable) for real developmental disorders



I found a book review in the New York Times of a 1986 book by Dr. Richard Green, “The ‘Sissy Boy Syndrome’ and the Development of Homosexuality”, published by the Yale University Press in February 1987, article by Jane E. Brody.

Why would I bring up such an old chestnut?  This was a sacrosanct idea as far back as the early 60s, pre-Stonewall, when the male-only military draft influenced things (leading to Vietnam); there was an idea that men had a Spartan obligation to prove themselves worthy physically, father children and protect women and children for the future of the tribe;  those who failed to do so were viewed as moochers or even cowards, willing to allow the male risk-taking to be shifted to others. Indeed, some of the demand to respect gender fluidity from the woke left today is motivated by a desire to break up this kind of oppressive thinking from the past. (In the 1980s, when this book was published, the dangers of behavior in a community amplifying HIV within itself would have been relevant.)

Before going further, we’ll note a CNN short documentary that discredits the study.


Actually, I’m trying to figure out my own past.

Apparently as a youth I did have some sort of Developmental Coordination Disorder, or dyspraxia, which seems to have genetic causes distantly related to autism and Asperger’s, but is often very mild and sometimes is outgrown in puberty.  Sometimes boys with this presentation will have unique talents (like music) that seem to come at the cost of other capacities, almost as if there were a premature brain pruning process.

On the other hand, at NIH in 1962, I was officially diagnosed as having “schizoid personality disorder”, probably with some schizotypal thoughts or feelings or fantasies.  This is in Group A of the DSM personality disorders, distantly related to schizophrenia in some families, so it may have a genetic basis, but not the same as autism. 

A schizoid understands the emotions of others, but does not personally want to join in and share tribal or brotherly warmth with others, and remains aloof to making emotional commitments required for a life-long marriage that can raise children and endure unpredictable risks and challenges to intimacy. As Asperger person supposedly doesn’t understand them. But with dyspraxia, the behavior pattern may tend to fit closer to schizoid, so it is very hard to figure out what genetic or epigenetic or familial neurological processes are actually happening.

On my mother’s side of the family, several males seem to fit the schizoid pattern.  Most have done fairly well in life because they can adapt by doing well at their own jobs, which are often solitary (like writing software) rather than working with others (like salesmanship or leading others in a political movement).

In fact, both schizoids and people with mild Asperger’s often do very well in a modern technological individualistic society (they can literally outflank others) but would not survive in a more primitive, communal one.

I never encountered a lot of dyspraxia until I was in Basic Combat Training in the Army, in 1968 at Fort Jackson, where it seems in retrospect that most of the other men in Special Training Company displayed the same syndrome. They had been drafted to prove they were not moochers. Imagine how that would play out with the politics today. I got better at housekeeping, cleaning and reassembling a rifle, etc. but after leaving the Army I went back to my old habits gradually and lost the improved coordination I had learned.  That alone is an interesting finding.

It seems intuitive that some of this would lead back to homosexuality in men. But no one really talks about this. The 1980s article seems a bit flawed. It says that only about one third of gay men were typically “masculine” as boys.  I find, in my own interactions, that if you exclude those who want to be viewed as gender fluid (and they are still a distinct minority within LGBTQ), probably 75% of the men were normally “masculine” growing up, but maybe a quarter were not.  Among gay men, a substantial fraction are physically fit enough to be able to play professional sports or compete in Olympics.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

"Teenagers Pray": a Sunday school guide from 1955, hardcover, still on my nightstand after downsizing out of a house



Haven’t done a book review here in a while, and I found this 1955 prayer book that survived my downsizing (in 1977) the other day under my nightstand.

It’s “Teenagers Pray”, from Concordia House, written and edited by William Kramer.

This book was published during the first Eisenhower administration. The current building of the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC opened on Christmas Day 1955 under Dr. Pruden, and this book predates that.


Running 79 pages, it comprises pre-written prayers, for days of the week, and for interesting personal situations, such as before a date, and after a date.  Those were the days, when the expectation was marriage and procreation.

There is a prayer for Ascension.  That today makes me think of Jesus as an “alien” who remains young forever by time dilation while speeding to other planets near light speed.
Relativity matters to faith.  Most of our ancestors lived on what they perceived as an infinite flat earth with no boundaries, because a sphere has none.  In four dimensional space, the Universe may likewise have no boundaries as we normally understand it.  Maybe Clive Barker really had the Universe figured out with his 1991 book “Imajica”, which still needs to be filmed.


I can remember one time being told in Sunday school, maybe around 1956, that public prayer matters. And other faiths, ranging from Catholicism to Islam, make public prayer a real expectation.
  
The Amazon insert is for a different but similar (more recent) book.