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.