NBC Dateline: “What Happened to Anton Black?”, 2018 incident in MD that foreshadows Floyd

Bridge near Rehoboth Beach DE

On Friday, Aug. 5. NBC Dateline aired the one-hour report “What Happened to Anton Black?”  (D. 30, e31), with Lester Holt.  The viewing link is here;  you may need a cable or Peacock (paywall) subscription to view it.

Oddly, the main NBC Dateline trailer is age-restricted and not embeddable, link.

Oddly, Wikipedia does not seem to have a separate article on this incident which occurred on Maryland’s eastern shore in September 2018.  Curiously, I cannot find an exact date in the news reports.  But the incident foreshadows what would happen with George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, leading to massive protests, which did not occur after this incident. Eventually, there will surely be a full documentary feature on Floyd.  

TheWrap has a typical story, by Loree Seitz.  WWLP (Springfield MA) has a story with interview.

The incident occurred in Greensboro, MD, which is a bit north of Denton (the road to Rehoboth, and near the Delaware line, where MD roads 480 and 314 intersect) when police officer Thomas Webster attempted to apprehend Anton after a 911 call where reportedly Anton was dragging a boy.  The NBC report indicated the possibility of Anton’s throwing the boy off a bridge. Apparently Anton attempted to run.  Webster restrained him, and somehow Anton stopped breathing and passed away.

The medical examiner would eventually rule the death accidental. 

NBC report on Anton Black

However Webster’s being hired was controversial, as he had been a police officer in Dover, DE, and been involved in at least one serious incident where he broke a suspect’s jaw while restraining and apprehending him.  The officer was let go, and the Greensboro police department eventually hired him, possibly looking the other way.

The town was predominately white and seemed to want to have “law and order” but had experienced few problems with crime.

Anton had been a star athlete (apparently track and tumbling) as well as an aspiring model, a creative combination.  The report did not mention his sexual orientation.

In many (but not all) instances of police misconduct against young black men, it does seem that the young men had behaved recklessly, according to best reports.  Police have to make decisions instantly and that is a challenge.

The reporting style was more investigational and not as chronicle-like (like a mystery movie) as most Dateline shows.

Update: Starcasm, in a story by Violetta Idyll, reports the date of the incident as Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, and that death, according to a cardiologist, could have resulted from asphyxiation associated with excessive police force.

(Posted: Saturday, August 6, 2022 at 1:30 PM EDT)

My “freedom of reach” before the Internet meant “personal mobility” without ties to others, and that can be morally problematic now, too (“The Best You Can Do” and “Do Not Idolize” Problems)

Wren Building from East, Williamsburg VA

I want to talk a bit about my own personal agency, how I constructed it earlier in my life, before we had the Internet and today’s moral quandaries over “freedom of reach”, as I talked about in the Aug. 3 post. Yes, it raises some kinds of moral issues that pertain to current global existential threats.

What was in my world as a young adult?  At a more abstract level, it was some more dispersed interests in chess, classical music (the record/CD collections), writing, and touchdown-style travel.  I was not fully a jack of all trades and maybe I was a master of none.  Getting far in the chess world, for example, requires extreme concentration. 

But underneath that was finding human intimacy on my own terms.  To say that I was (am) a “marginally cis” gay man skims across the waves.  But in a sense it drove the other provinces of my adult activity.

I have to stay within the bounds of acceptable taste in talking about this. By maybe age 11 or so, before the end of grade school (we started “junior high” with grade 7) I was aware of my need to idealize (and then “idolize”) young men who “had it all”.  There was a background conception that girls were better at school than boys (partly because at grade school ages girls mature about a year earlier – it’s all biology, whatever today’s radical Left thinks) and more verbal, and got better grades.  And were less likely to get into trouble (though not always).  Later, into high school, boys catch up, and may exceed in some areas like abstraction, math and science, as opposed to verbal skills.  It was hard for English teachers to explain why some female authors had to take on men’s names, and for music or piano teachers to explain why, before WWII at least, there weren’t more female composers of renown.  It all sounds a little contradictory. 

I developed a mental fixation on the idea that one could be physically masculine and a good student at the same time.  I won’t get into lurid details; but, yes, this affects how one “gets hard”.  By the time I was ready to go away from home to college at William and Mary in the fall of 1961, this was all very clear to me.

I’ve covered the story in my books and previous blogposts, but here is a refresher course summary.

In the period of 1961-1973, before my “second coming”, as I call it in the books, there certainly was pressure on me to get married and accept the “best I could do”.  After I “came out” a second time, the same idea persisted in the gay community (largely in NYC at the time) as, having waited until age 29 and having some physical problems, I was not particularly “competitive”.

I sort of reached a peaceful truce with this whole idea (the blowback against what George Gilder calls “upward affiliation”, in his 1986 book “Men and Marriage”, as well as “Sexual Suicide” in 1973 – the “do not idolize” from The Ten Commandments) with individual activities, mentioned above.  I lived alone, usually in a 1 or 2 bedroom unit, so that’s efficient, but I drove to places alone, which is inefficient, particularly in today’s need to reduce carbon output.   In the earlier years, I needed geographical mobility just to find “people”;  after I got moved into NYC, I needed is as another vehicle for self-affirmation, pre-Internet (that would take until like 1996 or so).  I saw this pretty much as a paradigm for my “personal agency”. 

This leaves me with two or three problems.

One of them would have to be personal mobility itself.  I need to move around alone a lot.  That’s an “indulgence” that might be forbidden in the future as part of climate change policy.  Imagine in the future (if electric cars don’t really solve the problem) if people were required to be in pods or groups (families) before they travel.  Or even operate as individuals at all. Some (especially on the Left) might think this is perfectly OK.  People should have solidarity and belong to groups, they say.  This could particularly be used to abuse the elderly.  Imagine what might have happened to “protect the elderly” during the Covid pandemic, for example (Aug. 1).

Another would be to question why I resist relationships that would seem “good for me” or “good for others” – being “assigned” to someone.  That was particularly an issue in the background when I was at NIH in 1962.   On the extremes, the Left has criticized people who refuse to date trans or non-binary people, for example, of “hateful” conduct.  (Matt Walsh has talked about this.) 

But this desistance on my part can become perceived as hateful because of my “freedom of reach” and ability to have influence on the outcomes of issues without actual personal accountability for others or for these outcomes (posting Aug. 3)   Avoiding people personally with special needs, or pleas to become involved with them personally to elevate their social status, can itself be perceived as hateful, and that is some of the blowback I see, 

But it is true, I tend to remain distant and not be emotionally tied to groups or families as much as others (even though I at least hypothetically have the “power” to affect what happens to them).  That, in my experience, is partly related to never having procreated, and never having been able to experience the peak physical experience (in a Maslow sense) of doing that.  I could be more crude in the way I saw this.  Use your imagination.

But I also have to take account for how my personal choices in young adulthood could have turned out much worse. 

Again, I mentioned it before, think how much worse the public health consequences for the “amplification” which can happen among gay men might have turned out than they did. 

It may well be that my decision to move to Dallas (from NYC) at the start of 1979 after a paradoxical personal situation that I haven’t completely disclosed, may have saved my life.  My getting through the COVID crisis today presents another paradox.

A couple distantly related videos:

George Gilder (books, “Men and Marriage” (1986) and “Sexual Suicide” (1973)):

George Gilder interviewed by Dick Cavett

The 1954 classic movie “The Ten Commandments” by Cecil B. DeMille (a story that takes 3 hours and 36 minutes to tell, at least at the RKO Keith’s theater in downtown Washington when I saw it as a child.)

Scene from “The Ten Commandments”

Update (Aug. 7): On Saturday morning, Aug. 6 Smerconish got into the problem of weak social capital among Americans as exacerbating to polarization. Society is resegregating, not so much by race or ethnicity but by educational or cultural achievement and status. That leads to a lot of asymmetry in the effects of Internet speech or “reach”, even without the algorithms. One guest suggested teenagers should do more in having real part-time jobs rather than extracurricular activities at school (although some teenagers make money with their own YT channels and online businesses – something that is more possible in a world without an operating military draft or “required” service, which forces people to mix. The cultural right now expects people to learn “aesthetic realism” in relationships and down-to-earth work value within the extended family unit, and sees sexual morality as something that works only when everyone follows it (so it rewards to faithful). The cultural left makes up new intersectional groups of the globally “oppressed” and demands neo-tribal loyalty. One of the aspects of “religious” sexual morality is that it does channel men into being able to take care of others in need by staying with partners in hard times and remaining interested. This is a lot to swallow.

(Posted: Friday, August 5, 2022 at 3 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

PBS NOVA presents new special on black holes (especially Sagittarius A); microbes on Proxima B? “High Life”?

great Sunset, northern VA

Wednesday night (that’s Aug. 2, 2022, “Juan Soto + 1”), PBS NOVA aired (52 min): “NOVA Universe Revealed: Black Holes” (link).

Our own galaxy has a large black hole, Sagittarius A at the center.  (Yes, “The Archer” from astrology.) According to the documentary, the black hole emits a huge bidirectional laser jet every few million years.  The jet can blow away the atmospheres of any rocky planets in any solar systems within a certain distance of thousands of light years.  It does not affect the whole galaxy, however (Earth has had an atmosphere for four billion years; Mars wasn’t so lucky; it’s called “having a magnetic field” and being big enough). 

PBS Nova: Black Holes (Apocalypse)

The film showed what a voyager would see as the visitor approaches the Event Horizon.  Time speeds up, and the skies give a psychedelic light show.  Once across the horizon, you are spaghettified (and depilated for competitive swimming, haha — remember all those “no hair” theorems in quantum theory).  But it seems that maybe somehow your consciousness still exists?  Can experience still happen?  Can you go to another universe and start over? Just, maybe.

Space Time YT: Could the Universe live inside a black hole?

The documentary also covers the topic of Hawking radiation, as a black hole slowly evaporates (much like snow in a sunny area on a day where the air temperature is still below freezing).  Information caught in a black hole (theorized to be stored on its spherical surface, as if it were a galactic SDS hard drive to store the memories of souls’ lives) could be release, for future sentient beings to unscramble (or decrypt), as if the black hole provided the ultimate SSH security.  Eventually the black hole is replaced by nothing. But black holes could end with “white hole” explosions (new big bangs) in a kind of cosmic “survival of the fittest”. (Many universes won’t have the same forces; a “weakless” universe (without the weak force) could not have nuclear weapons but could conceivably have life, according to an older essay I saw one time in, I think, Scientific American.)

Could there exist a huge black hole in the Bootes Void?  Or is it covered up by aliens? (A Dyson structure measuring light-years across?)

PBS had a similar film in 2018, called “Black Hole Apocalypse” (trailer above).

Recently there have been many videos reporting that NASA’s Webb telescope has found artificial light on -planet Proxima B.  This may turn out to be something natural (rather than a Shanghai-like mega-city:  yes, China seems like the super-advanced “alien” culture on our own planet).  But it is plausible that prokaryotic bacteria-like life could have developed the ability to fend of radiation from the star’s outbursts by converting its frequency and emitting visible light.  It’s unlikely you can get a posh hotel room with wifi and social media on Proxima B.  You can in China.

Space Matters film on Proxima B

In 2018, A24 (of course!) released a sci-fi film “High Life”, about a space-flight constantly accelerating (providing artificial gravity thereby) toward a black hole.  The flight contains condemned prisoners (one is played by Robert Pattisson) and is supervised by a doctor-researcher Dibs played by Juliette Binoche. I guess the ultimate conclusion is to go inside the black hole and find out what it will be like.

High Life black hole crossover scene at end

The movie ends quietly, like Vaughn Williams’s Symphony 6 or Bartok’s last string quartet (some other time we can discuss them; look them up now on YouTube as an assignment from me!).

(Posted: Thursday, August 4, 2022 at 11:30 AM EDT)

OK, I need to talk about my online presence and “anti-tribalism”

Voya, formerly ING-ReliaStar, where I worked in Minneapolis 1997-2001, 2018 picture by me

OK, I want to talk frankly, maybe lay down the law a bit, on what is happening as I restructure my sites, as I have been discussing recently. 

Until the end of 2021, I had 20 active blogs (16 of them dating back to early 2006) with one massive flat site “do ask do tell” containing the purchase links and texts for the books, with a great deal of supplementary material.   It is important to note that access to all of this material was free, without logons or paywalls.  I did not pester users with email lists or promotions or popups – I did use Google Adsense on many of the blogs and also Amazon associate ads of books, music and movies, the format of which Amazon changed radically early in 2022.

Now, there is one personal site in my legal name, this one, where I express views (and try to back them up with reputable references) mostly on matters that pertain to personal agency, my own and that of others.  Much of this material does consist of reviews of other books and many films, often from less known creators. 

There is also the doaskdotell site, which has been pared down to essentials, and an experimental doaskdotell.info site, on web.com, in a format that is more conventionally commercial, for selling the three DADT books.  Right now, there are some technical problems with completing the new doaskdotell site, which I’ll set aside now for this discussion.

Why did I do this?  Actually, I had concerns about the sustainability of my setup in early 2018, and I actually announced in late February 2019 that I would pare down the presence at the end of 2021 (about 32 months after the announcement).  This was almost a year before the pandemic was having serious consequences.   Some of the concerns are rather mundane and common.  I am getting older (79 now), it I would not be able to turn the operation over easily if something happens to me.  There was the expense, more than expected (especially in security products), to sustain every year.  In late 2018 the CASE Act was first introduced (admittedly after I had these concerns) raising the possibility of eventually attracting copyright trolls (remember “Righthaven” through about 2011?)  There was increasing talk of ditching Section 230 (which was seriously compromised by the FOSTA law passed in the spring of 2018).   More significantly, the crackdown on “hate speech”, while understandable, rapidly escalated after Charlottesville, even affecting hosting companies and domain registrars. In understandable backlash after the aggressiveness of the “alt right” (amplified by social media algorithms manipulated by foreign adversaries) which started to become apparent in the 2016 presidential race, the notion of what “hate speech” is enlarged and became unstable.  The general public seemed to become more tribal and more polarized, outside the intellectual areas of the Internet. 

But the problem that got my attention really seemed to be the idea of gratuitous “political” (or issue-oriented) speech like mine, when it did not pay for itself, did not require running a legitimate business, and seemed enabled only by wealth from other sources, whether earned from a career or from other investments with capitalism, or particularly if supported by inherited wealth in retirement, when the speaker did not  have any direct accountability to take care of others.  In a sense this is a variation of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “Skin in the Game” problem (and 2018 book, legacy review).

I had originally published my first DADT book in 1997, and switched to POD in 2000 (after my printing ran out).  Although actual sales were reasonable during the first 18 months or so, they dropped off.  For years I went along with this low level “problem” (especially the years home with mother after my own “retirement” until she passed in 2010). In early 2012 I started getting calls from the POS publisher about slow sales, fifteen years after my first book appeared and nine years after the second.

Consider again the subject matter.  I got into writing the books and blogs first with the “gays in the military” issue, which led me into the free speech issues by being a co-litigant in the COPA (Child Online Protection Act of 1998) litigation through 2007.  The original issue is unusual in that it bears on the problem of forced intimacy (in the military) which sometimes, in the past at least, has been connected to conscription (male-only).  The issue tends to point to many other (civilian) policy problems that deal with individual “privacy” and autonomy or “agency”.  Over the years I followed that trail. 

In fact, I could point out that the books (especially #3) focus on the idea that the “unconventional” (or “creative”) individual bears the moral responsibility for performing well enough in society, by overcoming problems and having what amounts (personally) to good social credit (in today’s terminology, copying China!)  This goes against the grain of recent identarianism, where people in marginalized groups individually develop identities by solidarity with other persons in the (intersectionalized) groups.  Indeed, some on the Left might interpret my approach as strengthening oppression against those individually not competent to overcome their problems, hinting of future fascism, so they could interpret the approach as “hateful” in today’s woke world, but would not have seen things this way before Trumpism had taken over. 

The books, I can say with some irony, also address the issues of fundamental rights derived from “substantive due process” and, in the last chapter of the first book, proposes that it would be safer to enumerate the rights than depend on an expanded interpretation of the 14th Amendment (particularly).  These might be specified by constitutional amendment, as discussed on Chapter 3 of the second book, as a kind of “Bill of Rights II”, a slogan that had some traction in the late 1990s.

And consider also that in the early days of Web 1.0, merely being found by search engines was a productive way to become known, or at least have your ideas known – without actual aggressive marketing more commonly expected in conventional business.

Even without use of algorithms later prominent with social media (starting in the late 2000’s) it was possible for one person to influence political or social opinions and have effect with very little conventional business activity or participation in conventional activism.

So you can see where there could be objection to this developing, especially from the more tribal portions of the Left.  It would be seen as lowballing those making a living from writing (especially legitimate or mainstream media) and seriously undermining the ability of oppressed groups to achieve the mass they need through using protesting, even causing disruption or getting arrested, for issues that seem critical enough.

A good illustration of this is shown in a June 11, 2022 speech by David Hogg who personalizes what “I need you to do” in following his script for political activism.  The crowd responds like foot soldiers.  But the gravity of the gun violence problem seems to compel this collective action (and some personal sacrifice of what seems like a legitimate individual right, self-defense and “standing your ground”).  It’s important to note that this problem really is not one of identarianism within an oppressed group, as anyone can become a victim or target of random gun violence (although David’s main focus is “young people”). The same observation could be made about collective activism regarding climate change (which often is quite disruptive to the public and often involves protesters being willing to make the sacrifice of getting arrested and depending on crowd sourcing of bail money and the like).

David Hogg speech June 11, 2022 in DC

Along these lines, we have seen calls for “compulsory” activism from the Left in other areas, as with “silence is violence” mantras and the characterization of anti-racism as mandatory for good citizenship.

So it is not hard to imagine in the future that, if you want a place online, you could have to show support for collective efforts deemed critical enough, a kind of compelled speech problem.  Not everyone sees “writers” as allowed to assume the luxury of expressing only their own views or work, without being pliable enough to work for the needs of others.

I made a video as early as April 1, 2018 expressing this concern, called “A Dangerous Thought Experiment”.   As a counter argument, imagine a world where everybody has to try to sell things on Ebay.  It couldn’t work collectively (any more than multi-level marketing). 

“A Dangerous Thought Experiment”

You could also more reasonably expect to see evidence that the speaker has responsibility for others, or is willing to elevate others who are otherwise disabled in some public fashion, in order to discourage ideas that defend individual “freedom” in terms of “survival of the fittest”, a trend that if acceptable could encourage fascism.

So I have a problem with some of this.  I need to have a public area of my own speech that is entirely independent of “tribal” pressures so that is how I am still setting up my permanent, though “simplified” presence.  It is not OK to give money to Marxist publications that can speak for me if I were no longer allowed to speak publicly for myself (as with a workplace “conflict of interest’, an issue from the past). (The McCain-Feingold law in 2002 had the capability of causing these problems for speakers, as explained in this legacy 2014 post.)   Generally, since I do manage inherited resources, it is not OK for me to be the one asking for money for anything, for any cause, outside of very small fundraisers as on Facebook.  Likewise it is not OK for me to ask for donations for my own writing (as with Patreon).  It might be OK to charge actual subscription, but I am not in a position to do that yet, 

Of course, there is more I should try to do to be of direct service to others, starting with, for example, food banks. 

And there are organizations where there is encouragement of open discussions of issues outside of tribal loyalties, like Braver Angels, which might be good to support.  I have been to a few of their forums (including online). 

I do plan to work as an election judge for the fall election Nov. 8, 2022 (it is a 16 hour day). But even that would seem to imply to me that I should not make political contributions to any candidates or PACs or issue groups.  In fact, I don’t think I ever have.  I did do ballot access petitioning for Libertarian party candidates in Minnesota in 1998, my first full year there, after publishing the first book in the summer of 1997 and then moving to Minneapolis with a corporate transfer that avoided a possible “conflict of interest” at work.  I discuss this in DADT Book III, pages 86-87, Chapter 3.

Later, I will provide more details on the nuances of my web formats and activity, as some of it is quite instructive, when compared to the activities of more modern content creation like YouTube channels.  

But the implications of a person’s having set the self up to be unable to join in a necessary fight against a threatened tryannical enemy (even if domestic) and being unable to resist are potentially quite grave, if something really does “happen” (think Jan. 6, had the coup really “worked”). It’s a kind of ultimate death penalty.

In order to mention an applicable film, I’ll cite “The 100 Mile Rule” (around 2002) by Brent Huff, where traveling salesmen (from Detroit to Los Angeles) believe it is OK to cheat on their spouses if more than 100 miles from home.  But there was a lot of Amway-style rah-rah “Always Be Closing’. 

“100 Mile Rule” trailer

(Posted: Wednesday, August 3, 2022 at 7:30 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

“He’s My Brother”: In Denmark, a young woman has grown up caring for an older brother both blind and deaf

Oakwood Apts, Minneapolis, where I worked for the MN Orch 2002

Monday, August 1, many PBS stations presented a 52-minute version of the (originally 75-minute) documentary “He’s My Brother”, directed by Cille Hannibal and Christine Hanberg, about Christine’s life role as primary caregiver for her severely disabled older brother Peter, in Denmark.

PBS POV gives a link for the film, and there is a longer description on American Documentary.

He’s My Brother, trailer

Peter was born prematurely and lost his senses of hearing and sight in an incubator.  He has to navigate the world by touch, taste and smell.  He was 30 years old at the time of filming (2021).  The film starts as Christine takes Peter on a harrowing rollercoaster ride.  (Yup, there is a disaster movie based on that concept, a review another time.) 

Much of the film concerns the issue of finding some sort of permanent care home for Peter, which is very difficult even in Scandinavia. At one point they visit a family in Norway with a similarly disabled male child.

Christine, of course, did not get to “choose” this life in the way we usually think about things. Christine has conversations with mom on whether Mom should appoint her as legal guardian of Peter, and write it into her will or trust, a practice which is common and an important matter in some trusts (in the rights of beneficiaries).

The abridged film was followed by brief statements from both Cille and Christine.

When I worked for the Minnesota Orchestra in 2002-2003, there was a female coworker who had considerable sight impairment from having been left in an incubator too long after a premature birth, probably in the early 1950s. Something goes wrong with the premature baby’s oxygen supply in such instances.

I also want to share a 15 minute video, July 22, from “The Why Files”, “Visitor from a Parallel Universe | Who Was The Man from Taured? “.  The latter place turns out to be Andorra (in the Pyrenees, between France and Spain).  Maybe that tall tale sounds like one of Max Reisinger’s gap year travel videos (I’ll get to that some day). 

“Visitor from a Parallel Universe” video

The substance of the story, a “quantum superposition” from a parallel universe, reminds me of the NBC series “Manifest”, here, moved to Netflix to finish.

(Posted: Tuesday, August 2, 2022 at 10:30 AM by John W Boushka)

“Silent Invasion”: Dr. Birx (Trump administration) gives an account of facing COVID19

The Mall in DC in January 2017, shortly after Trump took office

The book “Silent Invasion: The Untold Story of the Trump Administration, COVID-19, and Preventing the Next Pandemic Before It’s too Late”, by Deborah Birx, gets a formal review from me. The publication data is Harper, hardcover ISBN 978-0-06-320423-2, with Preface (to Roman 12), Prologue, 20 chapters, Epilogue, to p. 474, followed by appendix, acknowledgements, and Index, to p. 506.  Part II starts after Chapter 10, in the summer “reopenings” of 2020. Amazon has a SiteStripes link.

Dr. Birx gives an interview to the Washington Post

Dr. Deborah Birx was the lead advisor to the Trump administration from early in 2020 until the end. She has decades of public health experience, including time as a colonel in the US Army.

She would often appear with the president at public announcement forums at the White House.  Her manner of speaking is soft and somewhat matter-of-fact.

The book is very long and expansive, but from the opening she makes it clear she perceived the potential gravity of the pandemic very early in 2020, before she was hired on to the Trump administration. The essential difference between this virus and the earlier forms of SARS or MERS was that it could be spread from nose and throat through aerosols even before there were symptoms, and often there never were symptoms in many healthier young people.  She does not go much into challenging the theories as to how the virus got started in Wuhan, China.   As an aside, I would mention that the very recent stories about finding more evidence of an origin in the wet market still have not identified specific animals of origin, and it seems logical that the virus could have been brough there (two strains) by individuals already infected, creating superspreader events that created the appearance of origin at the market.  With a natural animal origin, why weren’t there outbreaks in other cities in China at the same time? 

The president and others were always trying to play down the threat.  Remember when Trump “promised” we would be back to normal Easter Sunday 2020?  In the summer Birx would travel around, trying to advise each state on how to manage the restrictions.  It is true, that our federal system makes it difficult to impose national lockdowns (or even martial law) everywhere, as most of this is up to governors of states. 

Some of the red states were stricter at first than the public realizes.  Texas closed most indoor bars and restaurants for a time.  That would included my favorite spots on Cedar Springs in Dallas, which were alive and well during my most recent visit in May 2022.

For individuals, there was a moral dilemma as she states on p. 182, at least one partial fraction of it with regard to masks: “I don’t have any symptoms. I’m not going to infect anyone else so why do I need to wear a mask if it isn’t going to keep me from getting infected?” My impression is that maybe 50% of cases in younger adults had brief or no symptoms. even before vaccines.

She spends some space on the ideas of Dr. Charles Atlas (who “shrugged” according to a chapter title) who wanted to let the virus burn out in a younger healthy population, while segregating older and more vulnerable people from society.  There is some problem with that in that natural infection with the SARS_CoV2 virus doesn’t produce “sterilizing immunity” and reinfections, although often milder, are inevitable. But moreover how would you segregate the more vulnerable persons?  I turned 77 in July 2020 so this question would affect me.  The answer could have been forced podification and complete destruction of my own agency as a person. I certainly could have been separated from the infrastructure to maintain my sites (which frankly could have been viewed as “inessential work”).  My own experience in 2020 was to take one or two day trips to a rural area alone by car a month for “outdoor recreation” alone, which was permissible even with the first stay-at-home order in Virginia on March 30, 2020.  I found some spots within 100 miles of home I had never visited.

She gives interesting coverage to the pandemic for indigenous tribes.  Tribal members have lost income due to casino closures, but moreover have been susceptible because of higher rates of diabetes and possibly genetic susceptibilities.

Avi Schiffmann explains the R0 number for an infectious disease

She covers Trump’s own Covid infection in early October 2020 relatively briefly, as it seems that he recovered miraculously from having been seriously ill.

(Posted: Monday, August 1, 2022 at 3 PM EDT by John W Boushka)

“They, She, He, Me: Free to Be” and the ‘debate’ over presenting LGBTQIA+ issues in schools

Swanson Middle School, Arlington VA, which I attended in 1955-58

My own first “do ask do tell” book is 25 years old.  While sales of it over the years (after the first couple) have been underwhelming, the book and the two successors, along with all the accompanying blog material, have, I think, had an impact on policy, starting first with the leadoff issue, “gays in the military” (encompassing the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy which was finally repealed in 2011 under Obama) through passive marketing, allowing others to find it with search engines and word of mouth, without aggressive marketing as usually recommended as necessary.

Generally, fiction is easier to sell than non-fiction, especially when the non-fiction is directed more narrowly at current events and their public policy implications.  Consumer interest wanes with time, although some issues have more downstream implications for the general public than the public realizes (DADT was definitely one of them, in conjunction with ideas like possible conscription or expected service and the forced intimacy that can result.) 

Writer’s Digest, going way back to like around 2000, used to counsel new writers, to “write what others want”.  That is, if you are going to make a living at writing.  Get off you high horse. Meet people where they are. (I guess I am continuing the discussion I started by mentioning Tyler Mowery’s “Writers Mind” at the end of yesterday’s post, although that isn’t necessarily what his videos say, but it is what the literary agent and bookselling world seems to demand – as well as the screenplay world.)

I might have had the opportunity in the 2000’s to help a couple other writers doing books on DADT, and I might have behaved more commercially (than I wound up doing with blogging – and that will be another topic soon).  But it’s still a question, that I get, why don’t I address the trans or non-binary now, and why don’t I write for young people, especially children?  It would certainly sell books, wouldn’t it?

Well, I have a problem with some of the hype today from the Left on promoting LGBTQIA materials with younger kids, to try to make the overall social climate more caring and less personally competitive.  I have written in the past that there is some legitimate literature (Vox in particularly summarized it) showing that gender identity can indeed sometimes be a genuine medical issue for some children.  That is probably less than 1 in 200 children through grade school.  There is an issue of Intersex, which may affect about 1.5% of births (with some chromosomal or genetic issues) but which is not said to justify medical intervention often. So it’s a bit confusing.  Even reputable literature contradicts itself, and there is some suspicion of medical scandal on exploitation of kids by some doctors.  See the June 9 -posting with a link to a Williams Institute study in the June 13 comment.

The Twitter account “@Libsoftiktok” pointed out a few children’s books in the Tenafly NJ public school library, and I bought one of them reported to be there.  That is Maya and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez, “They, She, He, Me: Free to Be!”, 40 pages, paper, from Reflection Press, San Francisco, ISBN 978-1-945289-09-5 (also available in hardcover), Amazon SiteStripe link.

Free to Be book trailer

The book, with a green cover in the geometric shape of a perfect square, starts with some pages of drawings of kids illustration each of the four titular pronouns.

The authors follow with a page for two suggested singular neo-pronouns.  One of these is “tree”, which sounds off base since it is the English language name of a particularly important biological (botanic) organism on Earth. (Yes, it helps with climate change.)  HRC has supported neo-pronouns as the singular case for persons or animals whose gender is unknown or non-binary (with “it” only for inanimate, non-living objects). 

But some non-binary people on the far Left insist on being referred to only with plural pronouns, because they don’t want people thinking about gender at all when referring to them. (I got scolded on Twitter about this at least once.)

There are pages about “creating” and “claiming” pronouns and about the authors and how they wound up with their specific pronouns.

On page 38 there is a piece “For the Grown-Ups”.  What seems disturbing is that parents are schools are asked to invite all kids to reconsider their “genders” in early childhood, when only a miniscule percentage is likely to be genuinely transgender according to our best medical knowledge. It is particularly important to note that the instances of transgenderism in small children are that: a child gives indication that “e” (neo-pronoun) is of the gender opposite to what was assigned at birth.  Specifically we don’t hear about children saying they are non-binary this young.  The debate gives me the overall impression that this problem more about the child’s or teen’s or young adult’s perception that e will not be able to “compete” (as someone who could be sexually attractive in a heterosexual or conventionally all cis-gendered homosexual) relationship.  It seems to be an irreducible problem of well-ordering the members of a finite set or population, of logic:  If a > b, then b < a.     Yes, it’s a view that was in my mind as a youth.  If everyone stuck to this interpersonally the way I did, we might head right back to fascism.

When I was thrown out of William and Mary in Nov. 1961 for admitting (under pressure) to the Dean of Men that I was “latent homosexual”, society was not used to the idea that homosexual men could live with heterosexuals in a closed environment without incident (although it had long happened covertly during World Wars even despite overt racial segregation until “Truman” [Gary Sinese] in 1948 (see the 1996 HBO film).  They basic belief ungirded the debate over gays in the military starting more than three decades later (under Bill Clinton).  Over time, and a couple of generations, younger adults got “used to it”. 

Is the current controversy over educating younger children about LGBTQIA+  issues, in order to soften the social climate and decrease bullying and artificial competitiveness, somehow parallel to the debates over gays in the military three decades ago?  The fact that we are talking about minors, especially younger ones, is a big difference in my perception right now.  I am well aware about the controversy over using the term “groomer” in social media.  The notion that teenagers, prompted early in life by the introduction of these ideas, may imagine themselves to have gender dysphoria may well have some traction, particularly when we note that pre-teen girls right now seem particularly susceptible.  (Hence some of the derivation of the forbidden g-word – see June 9 review of Shrier’s book)  It would seem that, given the relatively small occurrence of medically genuine cases of gender dysphoria in young children right now, they should be handled with carefully designed policies involving parents and school systems, allowing invisible social transition in a few cases (which can be quite simple, especially if there are some gender-free restrooms with more privacy, but which gets more testing when you get to physical education locker rooms in middle school).  Draconian state laws, like in Texas and Florida, would not be needed.  But I don’t think we should expect all children, the overwhelming majority of whom have no issues, to question their gender identities (v. sex assigned at birth) at least in younger grades, and there should be no problem with using gender-based nouns and pronouns in common English speech and writing and grammar as taught in schools.

Should books like this live in school libraries? Maybe not grade schools. I don’t think my books are suitable for grade schools either. In public libraries, yes; it’s free speech.

Note that the trailer for the book doesn’t allow comments and may be ‘made for kids’ on YT.

SciShow: “There Are More than Two Human Sexes”.  I may have embedded this before, but it’s a necessary refresher lecture here. It would seem that the resistance to LGBTQ “ideology” in some parts of eastern Europe (like the LGBTQ-free zones) may refer much more to new gender ideology than sexual orientation, although that may not be true of Russia (2013 propaganda law), but these countries do tend to be concerned about their low native birth rates.

SciShow video: There Are More Than Two Human Sexes

HBO video for “Truman” film.

HBO “Truman” trailer

(Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2022 at 2 PM EDT by John W Boushka)

“Vengeance”, black comedy taking us to west Texas where the libs (of tik tok?) aren’t too welcome

Abilene, Texas downtown 2018-6

Vengeance” attracted my attention because of its presentation of Texas, where I spent a decade of my life (the 80s) and have some attachment to, however horrible the politics are today.

B.J. Novak writes, directs and starts in this self-monument, perhaps, as writer Ben Manalowitz, a youthful 40-something who would like to be 25. He “dates” a few women in continual succession living in New York and starts with a philosophical discussion of all that with friends along the East River, maybe in sight of Barge Music.  He gets a call  one night (when with a heterosexual trick) from acquaintance Ty Shaw (Boyd Holbrook) that a woman he slept with once down there in southern Baptist country has died mysteriously. That woman is Abilene, Ty’s sister, yes, family.

The film gives us some geography. Abilene is 140 miles west of Fort Worth along a scenic I-20 that goes through the Palo Pinto hill country (a real escarpment at Ranger, which recent burned in a wildfire).  I can remember stopping there on Sierra Club bus trips from Dallas for supper at McDonald’s.  North of Abilene toward the Red River there is some arid country that looks like Mars with a little vegetation. But if you go west another 150 miles or so you come to Midland-Odessa.  Another 200 miles (am I guessing) takes you through the Trans-Pecos mountains to El Paso.  I don’t think it’s a full 5 more hours Abilene as the film claims.  The bus trips didn’t take that long.  The script mentions Marfa, but I think the mountains are visible from there.  The countryside in the film is flat (shot in SE New Mexico, maybe o nt he way to Roswell). 

He gets familiar with all the country folk and townspeople, most of all record producer Quinten Sellers, overplayed a bit by Ashton Kutcher, overdressed in his white house.

There is a conversation early on where he mentions almost every franchised convenience store and restaurant chain in the country, except for Waffle House and Wawa, favorites of science author Matthew Cappucci (book due Aug. 2), and All Sups, the convenience store chain I noticed in west Texas last time out. I also like Sheetz (east, however, like PA), and Race Trak (Dallas).

He writes a piece published back in a major NY rag (his editor is Issa Rae, perhaps Conde-Nast). At one rodeo he gets caught in a public word game with two near-homonyms, “rider” and “writer” (the consonants are hard to pick up). .  The MAGA crowd sneers at his pretentious elitism as a “lib” (maybe of Tik Tok).

But in time Ben tracks down the trail of possible drug activity (especially opioids, what else?) and the slow-paced black comedy (Blumhouse is the production company, for Focus Features) ends with shocking force.  Remember how notorious motorcycle flick “Born Losers” (1967. from American International, of course) ends? And he will get away with it.

Let’s mention another movie, “Paris, Texas” (1984), by Wim Wenders with Harry Dean Stanton as the drifter Travis, from my own Dallas days.  The town is in NE Texas near the OK border .

I also want to re-iterate, the idea that “Vengeance” is indeed about a “writer”, and the whole concept of the film reminds me of Tyler Mowery’s “Writer’s Mind” series (67 posts, even-numbered under Patreon) on YouTube. Tyler has a December 2019 video about his writing his own dramatic sci-fi script for “Blue Moon” (set on Luna), which you can download and read free from the notes on this YouTube post. It’s rather interesting that he came up with this idea a few weeks before the general public would learn about the coming global pandemic. But then, again, how was Avi Schiffmann so ready to write his coronavirus tracker, and how did he come up with this short film “The Central Dogma of Biology” at age 16 (practically predicting the development of mRNA vaccines at the end of the film) in June 2019?

(Posted: Saturday, July 30, 2022 by John W. Boushka at 5 PM EDT)

Why life seems eternal (but not for everyone)

Monroe Institute, 2014-8

So, Unveiled offered (in April) “Did Scientists Just Discover What Happens When We Die?” in a 9-minute video, based on a chronicle of an 87-year old man with epilepsy dying of a heart attack in Canada, and scientists recording his brain activity.

It’s not surprising, but scientists claim to have observed brain activity for about 15 minutes, including some time after heart stopped.  They believe that the patient went into a “life review” and could revisit most of the important moments in his whole life.

During the review, time seems to slow down to the patient (just as it does in a dream) so as long as the lucid recollection lasts, life to the person still seems eternal, in a relativistic sense, even near the end.  Likewise, going back to our earliest memories of childhood, life seemed to extend indefinitely back, even though it could not have happened (relatively speaking) until some time after conception and uterine attachment.

An implication of this observation would be, if death is violent (as in an explosion, or gunshot to the head) the opportunity for the life review is lost.  So violent crime, or warfare (after conscription) can deny the person the opportunity even for this kind of “eternal life” at the end.

My own mother passed away peacefully after four days in a hospice at age 97 (in December 2010).  Usually a medical death offers the opportunity for review. 

So in a sense, death can be “honorable” or not, it seems to me.  Imagine being a soldier sacrificed for the demands of his (authoritarian) leadership for more territory, making him nothing more than a pawn in a gambit.  If that happened to me, I wouldn’t want the “honor” of a funeral.  I would just be lost.

The idea that the brain is essential for human or animal consciousness to exist would contradict some ideas for afterlife, as usually offered in religious theology or even by end-of-life research by places like the Monroe Institute near Charlottesville, VA (review of their 2009 film “The Path-Afterlife“). 

Somehow the information from a person’s life would have to be captured, maybe on the surface of a micro blackhole, to be released as Hawking radiation when it evaporates, maybe inside a virus, even a spike protein.  An infected person could transfer “identities” to others.  But a particularly gifted person might have received information form others this way (from viruses).  That person could be one of the 144,000 soul-houses who live to become angels.  All of this sounds like sci-fi, and I had laid it out as a sci-fi novel called “Angel’s Brother” which is increasingly difficult to pull off as real world events since 2020 have gotten in the way.   More about that in future posts.

Perhaps the micro black holes do go somewhere else (leveraging other dimensions in string theory), for use by “soul families” as Monroe describes. But it is clear that any given time only a small percentage of past souls could really be “reincarnates”.  And it seems like new lives are more about compassion and sharing the goals of a “group” or cohort, involving a lot of compassion, than about the self.

There is something going on with me right now.  I’ll keep the remarks high-level.  But I need to be in control of my own “agency” to be of use to others (especially to join in any kind of “solidarity” for the political or social causes of others, especially publicly).  This can put my “soul” in a precarious position of the rest of the world really goes wrong.  If the world becomes a zero-sum game (as because of climate change), sacrificial conflict will be inevitable.  And so will indignation at the privileged.

(Posted: Friday, July 29, 2022 at 4 PM EDT)

“Leave No Trace”: documentary about sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts of America (review)

Camp Letts, MD 2015-1

A documentary directed by Irene Taylor, “Leave No Trace: The Hidden History of the Boy Scouts”, for ABC News and Hulu, 108 minutes, studiously examines the history of the Boy Scouts of America and its history of male sexual abuse incidents, which was finally settled with victims but which has resulted in a Chap 11 bankruptcy.

Leave No Trace, trailer

The film, perhaps, makes the problem look bigger that the overall coverage of its history, like in Wikipedia, would.  It might be compared in principle to the continual scandals in the Roman Catholic church with priests, which may result in part from the policy of priest celibacy. There have been several films about this other problem.

This film starts out with a history of the BSA, which was founded in 1910 as an effort to keep boys in contact with nature and the outdoors while more boys grew up in newly industrialized cities.  The organization was given considerable power to monopolize its public impact with its trademark, although there were sister organizations for girls.

The history of problems goes back at least to the early 1960s, and may have always been around. 

The film presents several harrowing cases.  One is a middle aged man who said he went bald at age 13 permanently.  In fact, from appearance, it looks like he has alopecia universalis, which is total loss of all body and scalp hair, apparently permanently, from some sort of autoimmune process, maybe triggered by the emotional trauma.

Then the film shows us a family with a slender, seemingly attractive teen who cuts himself as a result of the trauma.  The family has an attentive dog and cat, who both know something terrible is going on.

The BSA headquarters were apparently located in Irving, Texas for a long time (near Highway 183, near Cowboys stadium and on the way to DFW).  In 1979 (the year I moved there from NYC) they started having their first hardships with layoffs.  But I remember that in the summer of 1981, when I re-entered the mainframe IT job market, that they had programming jobs.  I never interviewed there and I didn’t think I wanted to.

In fact, I had some tangential experience with them growing up.  In third grade, I belonged to a Cub Scout troop in Arlington for a while.  I remember one of the boys, Ivan, was so much bigger than everyone else and I felt terrified.  That summer, my parents tried to enlist me into a day camp, which did not turn out well.  I was always called “lazybones” (this was 1952).  They also tried a place on the Chesapeake Bay south of Annapolis called Camp Letts. 

The Scouts were good at honing in on practical skills like “tying my necktie” or tying shoes with (“algebraic”) topologically secure knots, that I was not good at. 

Toward the end, the film presents the case of a gay scout, James Dale, who was kicked out and sued.  The Supreme Court ruled that since it was a private organization, Dales lost his case.  (I remember many conversations with a law student at Southern Illinois University on the case at the time.) But the case turned public opinion against the Scouts somewhat; and they eventually changed many policies, gradually loosening all policies about gender and sexual orientation over time, including allowing girls in some cases and eventually transgender.  In the film James Dale appears as he looks today in middle age.

The BSA has developed a policy saying that no scoutmaster may be alone with a minor.

I also recall, that when I was in the Army and stationed at Fort Eustis as permanent party in 1969, the field grade officers were under a lot of pressure to become involved with the Boy Scouts publicly. In many cases BSA chapters had received public funds, and the Dale case caused this aspect of their operation to get more scrutiny.

I also wanted to share a PBS Space Time video from July 27 with Dr. Matt Dowd, “How Many States Of Matter Are There?”.  The neutron star interior stuff is pretty interesting.  What about strangelets?

How Many States Of Matter Are There?” PBS video

(Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2022 at 6 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)