Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Inquiring minds want to know how to avoid the draft

If you click on a Google search result, Google passes the text you originally entered in the search box through to the search result Web site. The same is true of most other search engines. Marketers use this data to analyze what queries bring visitors to their Web sites, but educational, political, informational, and personal Web site operators can also make use of this information to understand what visitors are looking for.

I don't often see lists of search engine queries posted publicly, but I find them an interesting window into what's on people's minds.

My interests aren't easily pigeonholed. I write and have written -- many of the pages on my Web site that people most often get to from search engines were written many years ago -- about several topics that aren't obviously related. Depending on what I've been up to, or what's been in the news, I might get a lot of visitors looking for information about what to do if an airline goes bankrupt, what foreign languages are most useful for world travel, how to tell if your passport has an RFID chip (if it's a currently valid US passport, it does), or self-determinationn and human rights in Kashmir.

I have pages consistently in the top search results for each of these. What varies from month to month is which questions netizens are asking.

This month, for example, I've gotten about a thousand visitors to a section of my site that normally gets only a few dozen visitors a month, because it includes some archived documentation, apparently not available anywhere else, about the obscure and abandoned "SavaJe" Java-based alternative operating system for the Psion netBook, an ahead-of-its time but also long since abandoned 1990s mobile computer with both a touchscreen and a keyboard. The SavaJe OS, and what devices it ran on, became an issue last week in the trial of a multi-billion dollar lawsuit by Oracle against Google.

Questions about Selective Service and draft registration are a perennial source of traffic to my site. This month, with Congress debating whether to extend draft registration to women or end it entirely, questions about how to avoid the draft have brought more searchers to my site than queries on all other topics put together.

Some of these queries appear to be from parents concerned about their children. Others appear to be from students looking for answers to homework questions, writing papers, or preparing fordebates. But most of these queries appear to be from draft-age young people wanting to know what will happen to them if they don't register for the draft or don't go into the military if they are drafted.

Notably, very few of them are asking whether, or why, they should or shouldn't support the draft or draft registration. If someone wants to enlist, I might try to talk them out of it. But I've never seen any point to trying to convince anyone not to want to be drafted. Nobody wants to be drafted. By definition, the government only needs to draft you if you haven't chosen to enlist.

The queries that bring people to my Web site bear this out. People aren't asking about my beliefs or opinions about the draft or war, or for counseling or advice about their own beliefs. Nor are they asking for reasons why they might or might not want to register for, or submit to, the draft. It appears that most of them already know they don't want to go into the military and don't want to register. They want factual information about whether threats of prosecutions for failure to regiser are credible (no -- enforcement of draft registration was abandoned in 1988), what will happen to them if they don't register (lifetime ineligibility for some government programs if they turn 26 without ever having registered), and how they can avoid being drafted if they did register (move withiout telling the Selective Service System your new address, or organize to end draft registration and abolish the Selective Service System).

Although I have a page on my site that shows up on the first page of results for a search on "conscientious objection and draft registration", it gets relatively little traffic. Regardless of what choices anyone else may think young people should make, "conscientious objection" is not the option they are looking for help with. That makes sesne to me: Most people who don't want to be drafted aren't what I would call conscientious objectors (I'm not one myself), don't think of themselves as conscientious objectors (I don't either), and -- most importantly -- don't fit the government's definition of eligibility for classification as a CO and assignment to yet-to-be-determined but involuntary alternative service, even if they want to and would they be willing and able to jump through all the hoops to qualify (I wouldn't).

Make of it what you will, by far the most common word used in these queries about the draft is "avoid". Not "resist", "evade", or "dodge". And people see through the euphemisms: Far more queries are about "the draft" than "Selective Service".

But you can draw your own conclusions. Here are some of the search engine queries that have brought visitors to my Web site this month:

how to avoid the draft
how does college deferment work to avoid being drafted
does americans citizen have to be drafted
will there ever be another military draft
do you still have to sign up for the draft
draft coming back
how long will you stay in jail if you say no to the draft
does canada have war draft
hiw long you go to jail for skipping the draft
usa draft only child
why don t we draft anymore
how to avoid usa draft
refused to go to war
fear of getting drafted

Continue reading "Inquiring minds want to know how to avoid the draft"
Link | Posted by Edward, 25 May 2016, 12:25 (12:25 PM) | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

House removes authorization to order women to register for the draft from its version of pending "Defense" bill

Women marching with banner: Lesbian Anti-Draft Action

[Front ranks of the West Coast mobilization against any draft or draft registration for women or men on Market Street in San Francisco, 22 March 1980, Photo by Chris Booth for Resistance News. Click image for larger version.]

The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to remove (see page 3) a provision that would extend Presidential authority to order women as well as men to register for the draft from the House version of the pending National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017.

This doesn't mean that the threat to extend draft registration to women is over, but it does mean that Congress has probably succeeded in punting its decision of whether to extend draft registration to women or end draft registration entirely past the November election and into the next Presidential administration.

More resistance is needed now, and will be needed in the next year or more, to put an end to draft registration.

Here's what happened today, and what it means:

Continue reading "House removes authorization to order women to register for the draft from its version of pending "Defense" bill"
Link | Posted by Edward, 17 May 2016, 13:16 ( 1:16 PM) | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, 13 May 2016

The Amazing Race 28, Episode 12

Shenzhen (China) - Guangzhou (China) - Los Angeles, CA (USA) - Santa Barbara, CA (USA)

The final three teams on The Amazing Race 28 managed to make their way back to the USA this week, despite not being allowed to bring their smartphones or any any other Internet-connected devices with them on the "reality" television show.

This season the cast of The Amazing Race 28 was selected entirely from YouTubers and other "social media stars". In the first couple of episodes, they worried about whether they would suffer from Internet and social media withdrawal during the race, as well as how they would find their way around the world without a smartphone and GPS for guidance.

Today's reality of travel, of course, is that these concerns aren't unique to social media professionals. More and more people are coming to rely on smartphones for navigation and travel information as well as for their sense of community and connection to a stable world (or at least to Facebook) regardless of where they are.

If there's one key takeaway from this season of the race, it's that -- at least from what the TV editors allowed us to see -- the things the racers feared never became a problem. They sometimes found it inconvenient not to have their smartphones handy, but they discovered that it was possible to use paper maps or ask local people (who as often as not looked up answers on their smartphones) for directions and information. And they appeared to be too busy being where they were ("Wherever you go, there you are!") to be bothered by the fact that they weren't someplace else on the Internet. After the first few days on the road, when they talked quite a bit about their fear of Internet withdrawal, it was hardly ever mentioned again.

If these people whose professional working lives revolve around Internet "social media" can disconnect from the Internet and travel around the world without Internet-withdrawal trauma, you can too.

Even if you don't plan on going cold turkey from Facebook or your phone while you are travelling, it's worth thinking about how you will cope if you find yourself in a place whether the Web or cloud-based services you have come to rely on aren't available because the Internet is unavailable (or, more commonly, the Internet is too slow to be useful for some of your purposes), or you don't have your smartphone. If you travel enough, it's a question of when, not if, this will happen. Maybe the Internet will be so slow that trying to download maps or check your e-mail just times out. Or your phone will be lost, stolen, or broken someplace that replacing it is prohibitively expensive. Murphy's Law says this will happen in a place and at a time you weren't expecting it and hadn't made any special preparations. Before you find yourself in this situation, think about how you would cope with it.

Some apps and types of data are especially likely not to work well, or at all, or not to be accessible, if the Internet connection is too slow. There are many places, for example, where the Internet is too slow to use online maps or translation services. Even if you usually rely on these serrvices, install offline navigation and translation apps as a backup, and/or carry a paper map and a phrase book or pocket dictionary. If you aren't sure whether an app stores its data on your phone or in the cloud, or whether it works offline, test it in "airplane mode".

I've been in quite a few places in recent years where connections were so slow that a Web browser would time out before a web-mail page finished loading. Don't count on having Web-based e-mail available on demand when you need it. Download any essential data (the address and confirmation details of the place you plan to stay, for example) to your phone, or print it out or write it down.

What would you do if suddently you didn't have your phone at all, or it wasn't working? Smartphones are the second target of pickpockets and snatch thieves, ahead of wallets and purses and behind only tablets (which are favored because they are easier to snatch). The more you rely on your device for navigation, translation, etc. the more you will have it out and vulnerable (to theft, being dropped and run over by a car, etc.) in public. Phones are among the items most often lost or forgotten. And when they fail, they often do so catastophically and without warning. Maybe you can get a dead phone fixed and recover your data, eventually. But what will you do in the meantime?

Separate the critical data on your phone or other device(s) that you would want right away, such as contact lists, ticket confirmations, credit and ATM card numbers and issuers and contact information to report them lost or stolen, etc. from the photos or data that can wait until you get home and restore them from the cloud on a replacement phone. That will minimize the amount of data you need to restore to a replacement phone, and maximize the chance that restoring form the cloud will be possible (if you can find a replacement phone).

There are plenty of places in the world where restoring a whole library of travel photos or the other contents of your phone memory over the Internet could take days. And you might not have or be able affordably or quickly to obtain an identical phone to which to restore your data. Keep offline backups of any information you would want to have to continue your trip in a file format (e.g. text file) and on media (e.g. a ruggedized USB flash drive) that you can access on any borrowed computer or in a cybercafe. I keep a couple of sets of backups of my e-mail, contact lists, and so forth on separate encrypted flash drives or memory cards (TrueCrypt and VeraCrypt are among the options for encryption software that works on multiple operating systems) in different places in my luggage. Think about how you would get the data you need from your backups, in a way that would enable you to go on with your trip, at a moment when you have neither your phone nor useful Internet access.

Each team on this season of The Amazing Race was, for the first time, provided with a digital camera. I think the point was to allow them to take selfies that could be used in the TV show, without giving them a device that could access the Internet.

Standalone digital cameras are losing favor to cellphone cameras, but they have some advantages in spite of their extra weight and bulk if you are already carrying a camera phone. Your phone is most vulnerable to theft or damage from dropping when you are using it to take photos, so using a separate camera can help you keep your phone safer and more secure. More importantly, while the photos you haven't yet backed up may have sentimental value, a standalone camera -- unline a camera-phone -- isn't likely to have data that is critical for you to have to continue your trip, or that can be exploited by an identity thief, if it is snatched away while you are concentrating on composing a photo.

Whether you take photos on your phone or a separate camera, back them up regularly. Consider encrypting the backups (or backing them up to a non-obvious cloud storage service, when connectivity permits that) and deleting them from your phone or camera.

Police, soldiers, and border guards have developed a nasty habit of asking or demanding to look at what's on your phone, camera, tablet, or laptop. Less often, they may ask you to sign in and show them what's in your Web-mail account (consider having a vanilla "decoy" account you can use for this purpose) or on your Facebook page. Surprisingly many travellers have photos that could offend someone or inadvertently transgress some law or cultural norm, whether by depicting government buildings -- a no-no in many countries, sometimes including the USA, for security reasons -- or showing too much skin.

Imagine what the border guards in the most prudish country on your itinerary might thing of the most risqué of the photos on your phone or your friends' Facebook pages. You don't have to unlock your phone, but they don't have to let you into their country.

Usually snoops like this will only look in the most obvious places. They are likely to demand that you unlock your phone or device, and look through the photos on the memory card in your camera or the camera app on your phone or tablet. They might ask you to log in to Facebook and/or your Web-based e-mail account. But they are unlikely even to notice, much less to demand the password for, every individual encrypted file on any of your memory cards, especially those stashed separately in your luggage.

What would be most useful would be a version of the CHDK alternate digital camera firmware that uses the processor in your camera to encrypt photos as soon as they taken, before they are saved to a memory card. I suspect it's possible, and it's been discussed as a CHDK feature request, but it doesn't exist (yet). Any coders care to volunteer to take on this project?

Link | Posted by Edward, 13 May 2016, 23:59 (11:59 PM) | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Senate & House "Defense" bills would extend draft registration to women

Women marching with banner: Lesbian Anti-Draft Action

[Lesbian Anti-Draft Action contingent in the West Coast mobilization against draft registration, 22 March 1980, followed by a group with the banner of the Oakland Feminist Women's Health Center. Photo by Chris Booth for Resistance News #2. Click image for larger version. Straight feminists and many other women were also among the 20,000+ marchers in San Francisco and a similar number that same day in Washington, DC.]

Yesterday the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee joined its counterpart committee of the House of Representatives in adding a provision to the pending "National Defense Authorization Act" (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 that would extend the authority of the President to order women as well as men to register for the draft.

Because this is considered a "must-pass" bill, this provision will now become law along with the rest of the bill unless the proposal is amended on the floor of either the House or the Senate (or both) to remove it before the full bill is approved, or unless the President vetoes the entire bill (which is unlikely).

It's time for lobbying against draft registration -- and for organizing and resistance.

[Leaflet: What's happening and what can we do? (printable PDF (one sheet, two-sided); editable Open Office format)]

I presume, although I don't know for sure, that the text of the provision added to the Senate committee version of the bill is the same as that which was added to the House version. The Senate committee decision was made during a closed "markup" session, and I don't know if the record of how each committee member voted on this provision is or will be made public.

To understand what will happen next, you have to get down in the weeds of Congressional procedure, and understand the dynamic surrounding Congressional debate and voting on this question.

Continue reading "Senate & House "Defense" bills would extend draft registration to women"
Link | Posted by Edward, 13 May 2016, 11:11 (11:11 AM) | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, 6 May 2016

The Amazing Race 28, Episode 11

Bali (Indonesia) - Shenzhen (China)

Highrises under construction in Shenzhen.

[Highrises under construction in 2005 along the north (Shenzhen) side of the channel separating the Hong Kong "Special Administrative Region" from the Shenzhen "Special Economic Zone". The area of the New Territories on the Hong Kong side of the channel (behind me) is open farmland, much of it rice paddies. The smog was even worse than it looks in this photo.]

The instructions given to the teams at the start of this week's episode of The Amazing Race 28 were to, "fly to Shenzhen, the Silicon Valley of China".

Shenzhen isn't Silicon Valley, though. There is still some manufacturing in Silicon Valley, mainly of military hardware that the Department of "Defense" requires to be made in the USA. But Silicon Valley today is more about software and the design of hardware that is made elsewhere, often in China. And when it comes to electronics, "made in China" most often means "made in Shenzhen" or the surrounding Pearl River Delta region. The iPhones and Macbooks designed in Sunnyvale are mostly assembled in Shenzhen.

Why Shenzhen, and not someplace else in China or another poorer country with even cheaper labor? Shenzhen is one of the most expensive cities in China, along with Beijing and Shanghai. Things aren't made in Shenzhen if they could be built elsewhere. But Shenzhen has by far the world's largest concentration of manufacturers of electronic components and accessories, tools, equipment, facilities, suppliers of ancillary services, and workers with specialized skills.

Do you need electrical connectors? Of course we have them in stock. We make them here. What size do you need? What type? How many thousands?

Do you need custom circuit boards fabricated ASAP? No problem. Our manufacturing plant is just down the road. We specialize in rapid prototyping.

Does your injection molding machine or CNC machine tool need repairs? In Shenzhen, the technician is likely to be dispatched from within a few miles, not from someplace hours away. And there is undoubtedly a stockpile of spare parts nearby as well.

Shenzhen's factories and workers' dormitories are notoriously skittish about allowing in foreign visitors who might see signs or hear stories of sexual harassment, dangerous working conditions, and other forms of exploitation and abuse. But you can get a hint of what's being made in Shenzhen in the consumer electronics trade shows and electronic component bazaars, many of which are open to the public even if they only sell in wholesale quantities. Just remember that most of these aren't end products for sale, but inputs used in the making of other things..

Whatever your new idea in consumer electronics, the path of least resistance that gets your gadget to market fastest with the least seed money leads to Shenzhen. Shenzhen is to electronic hardware as Los Angeles -- with its set builders and warehouses of props and people who keep antique cars mainly to rent them out for use in period films -- is to the film and television industries, or Seattle and Wichita are to aircraft manufacturing, or Detroit used to be to automobiles. You could make these specialty products somewhere else, but you'd have to be much more self-reliant or take the time and invest the money to recreate an entire industrial infrastructure to do so.

Cheap labor is what attracted foreigners to set up factories in Shenzhen, at first mainly under Hong Kong overseers, after China's central government designated the then-village of Shenzhen as the country's first "Special Economic Zone" for foreign investment and export-oriented manufacturing in 1980. Today, it's the self-reinforcing industrial ecosystem of electronics manufacturing that drives Shenzhen's continued dominance in spite of what is, by Chinese standards, the exceptionally high cost of doing business there.

Hong Kong struggles to find a continued role for itself in an increasingly Shenzhen-centric region, while Shenzhen increasingly bypasses Hong Kong in its relations with the rest of China and the rest of the world. Shenzhen has its own international container seaport, its own international airport, and (perhaps most threatening to Hong Kong) its own banks as well as access to capital from banks in Shanghai and elsewhere in China. Shenzhen today is a much larger city than Hong Kong by any measure, including wealth. It's one of the three largest concentrations of wealth in China, along with Beijing and Shanghai. The teams on The Amazing Race 28 were able to fly to Shenzhen on a nonstop flight from Bali because there are enough rich business people in Shenzhen who can afford to fly to Bali for their vacations to make such a flight profitable.

But while Indonesia allows in Chinese tourists despite the historical ethnic and economic class conflict between Chinese and other ethnicities in Indonesia, many other countries still treat Chinese would-be tourists as would-be illegal immigrants. The racers' first destination in Shenzhen was "Window of the World", a theme park that owes its existence to some of the contradictions facing the new Chinese upper classes.

Window of the World features one-third to one-sixth scale models of a bucket list of tourist icons around the world: the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, the Statue of Liberty, the Sydney Opera House, the Great Pyramid, and so forth. It allows visitors to feel like they have travelled around the world, even if they can't get visas to visit most of the countries where these icons are located. Today it's foreign countries' visa rules, not those of China, that trap many Chinese citizens who could, and otherwise would, be travelling abroad. "Window on the World" is an unsatisfactory substitute for a trip abroad, but it's the closest thing to "foreign" travel that foreign governments, including that of the USA, allow most Chinese citizens.

Next the racers were given a choice of tasks that included a simulated commute (note that this demo is actually illegal on the sidewalk in the UK where it was filmed) through part of Shenzhen's central business district on electric unicycles.

What's that, you ask? An electric unicycle ("EUC" to the cognoscenti) is sort of like a cross between a hoverboard and a Segway, but with only one wheel. Whereas a hoverboard has a single platform for your feet in the center, between two small wheels at the ends of the board, an electric unicycle has a single larger, Segway-sized gyroscopically stabilized wheel in the center, between your legs, with platforms hanging off each side of the wheel for your feet. Unlike a Segway, there's no steering and speed control column. You steer and control forward and backward movement entirely by leaning. Like hoverboards, they go by many names and are sold under many brands.

Are electric unicycles the next big consumer electronics gadget fad? Possibly. They take longer to learn to ride than a hoverboard -- more like learning to ride a bicycle for the first time than learning to ride a Segway -- which is what made them an interesting challenge for the teams on The Amazing Race. But they are faster and have a longer range than hoverboards, and the larger wheel makes them capable of being ridden over rougher surfaces, including unpaved ones, and up and down curbs and even stairs. Don't try these stunts without skateboarder-style knee, elbow, wrist, and hand protection! Evemn on smooth pavement, host Phil Keoghan introduced this segment of The Amazing Race 28 wearing fingerless cycling gloves to protect his palms against scrapes in case of falls.

In many ways, electric unicycles are a perfect symbol of Shenzhen: Not only are most of them made in Shenzhen, but they exemplify the way that, as described in this insightful article by Joe Bernstein last year for BuzzFeed News, Shenzhen's concentration of manufacturers, suppliers, subcontractors, and service providers allows it to keep pace with fickle tastes and fads in consumer electronics: selfie sticks one year, miniature drone helicopters the next, then hoverboards, then electric unicycles.

What will come next? Shenzhen is geared up to build it, without even knowing what it will be.

Link | Posted by Edward, 6 May 2016, 23:59 (11:59 PM) | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Can you opt out of having your home listed on TripAdvisor?

I heard from my brother that I was quoted on the front page of the Boston Globe earlier this week, in a story by Megan Woolhouse about a couple who run a restuarant in their home and are trying to get it removed fromt TripAdvisors's listings: "A five-star rating on TripAdvisor, but he wants out":

Al Ballard and his wife, Linda, own a homespun restaurant in their sprawling Victorian in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains....

For more than a year, they have tried -- and failed -- to get their restaurant removed from TripAdvisor... The Colorado restaurant scores five stars on the site. But Ballard said he feels captive to the effort it takes to monitor his reputation on TripAdvisor.

"We just don't want to be a part of it, but we can't get away from them," said Ballard, 70. "And the truth of the matter is no one can get away from them."

TripAdvisor spokesman Kevin Carter said the company does not remove listings of any establishment open for businesses. No matter how disgruntled an owner may be over complaints about a rude staffer or tacky furnishings, it's typically there to stay.

Carter defended the company's practices, saying TripAdvisor helps countless small businesses increase their visibility.

But Edward Hasbrouck, a travel writer and industry consultant in San Francisco, said many businesses feel as if they've been forced to surrender control to such sites, which can call the shots.

"TripAdvisor has enormous power and they can do whatever they want," Hasbrouck said. "They don't have to be democratic, and they don't have to be fair."

There's more to the story, and the quote from me that made it into print was necessarily only a snippet from a long discussion I had with the Globe's reporter, Megan Woolhouse.

Tripadvisor spokesperson Carter "defended the company's practices, saying TripAdvisor helps countless small businesses increase their visibility." But that's arrogant and patronizing. You don't "help" people by doing things to them that they don't want.

There are services called "advertising agencies" that help promote restaurants and hotels. There are services called "travel writers" and "guidebook publishers" that help consumers choose hotels and restaurants. TripAdvisor is neither. Its fiduciary duty is to make money for its shareholders, not not to "help" either consumers or the businesses listed and reviewed on TripAdvisor's Web site.

According to the Globe, TripAdvisor "said it does not comment on specific profiles of companies and users due to privacy concerns." But that's a perversion of the privacy meme (albeit one often invoked by government agencies). Presumably, (1) the Ballards contacted the Globe because they wanted to get publicity for their problem with TripAdvisor, (2) the Ballards would have been willing to sign a waiver of any right they had to object to TripAdvisor talking about their complaint, and (3) no such waiver would likely have been needed, because the U.S. has no privacy law that protects people like the Ballards against most collection, use, and disclosure of personal information by companies like TripAdvisor.

That brings me to one of the things I said to Ms. Woolhouse that didn't make it into her story in the Globe: At least in this case of an in-home business where information about the business is per se personal information about the proprietors (who are also the sole staff of the "restaurant", Ms. Ballard as cook and Mr. Ballard as waiter), what TripAdvisor is doing probably wouldn't be legal in Canada or the European Union. In those countries, and many others, it would be a violation of fundamental and legally recognized privacy rights to display personal information about individuals on a public Web site without their opt-in consent. TripAdvisor doesn't even provide a way to opt out.

Does TripAdvisor have the same policies for listings of home-based travel business in Canada or the EU? If so, is it violating Canadian or European law? I suspect it is. And if TripAdvisor has different policies in Canada or Europe, why doesn't it give individual proprietors of similar home-based businesses in the USA the same rights as their Canadian or European counterparts?

At a more fundamental level, TripAdvisor is being completely hypocritical in claiming respect for the Ballards' "privacy" as its excuse for not talking to the Globe about the Ballards' complaint, while insisting on TripAdvisor's right to broadcast personal information and opinions about the Ballards to the world through TripAdvisor's Web site. If TripAdvisor really respected the Ballards' privacy, TripAdvisor wouldn't insist on having a page about the Ballards -- with their names, home address, home phone number, and whatever comments neighbors or anyone else wants to leave about them -- on TripAdvisor is confusing corporate secrecy and corporate reputation with personal privacy and reputation.

Relatively few people have their home addresses listed on TripAdvisor -- yet. The Ballards are unusual for the USA in serving meals to paying guests in their home in the manner of the original paladares in Cuba. But there are "sharing economy" companies (a misnomer -- it's not "sharing" if you pay for a meal cooked and served by somebody else, even in their house) trying to change that. And anyone listing their home legally on AirBnB in most municipalities has to have a business license and a commercial transient occupancy permit, both of which are public records, for their homestay hotel or B&B.

I wonder what the reaction from hosts, guests, or AirBnB itself would be if TripAdvisor, without asking for permission or offering any way to opt out, put a listing page on its site for each licensed AirBnB hostelry with the exact address, hosts' name(s), and phone number (all obtainable from public records), and photos and comments from guests, neighbors, or anyone else who wants to post opinions of them and their home.

Link | Posted by Edward, 6 May 2016, 15:53 ( 3:53 PM) | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Young women organize against draft registration

Don't Register For War

Less than a week after the House Armed Service Committee voted to attach an amendment to a pending "must-pass" Defense Department funding bill that would authorize the President to extend draft registration to women, more than 12,000 people -- mostly women -- have signed a petition started by a draft-aged young woman in San Francisco to tell Congress, Don't Force Women to Register for the Draft, Dump the Draft Entirely.

Sign the Petition:
Tell Congress: "Don't Force Women to Register for the Draft, Dump the Draft Entirely"

"Some believe forcing everyone to register for the draft will cause Americans to think twice about going to war," says the author of the petition, the activist and media professional Julie Mastrine. "But it's become very clear that Congress votes in the interest of defense contractors and other moneyed interests, not U.S. citizens, when making decisions to go to war. I can't imagine a more tragic loss of liberty than forcing a citizen, whether male or female, to fight in a war with which they may disagree. Equality is a moot point if personal choice and bodily autonomy must first be eliminated to achieve it."

"Women should be allowed to serve in combat roles just as men are [but] it is immoral to force people to go to war, no matter their sex...While this amendment may make things equal, bodily autonomy should be taken into account and military service should be based on choice," the petition states. "Our bodies are not communal property, and we should NEVER be compelled to fight in a war we may disagree with."

The petition quotes and takes its title from an article last week by the columnist and blogger Lucy Steigerwald, who pointed out that, "Anger over the draft helped to end the Vietnam war only AFTER 60,000 Americans and 2 million Vietnamese died. You don't stop the runaway truck of U.S. foreign policy by throwing a man in front of it, and you definitely don't stop it by throwing a man and a woman, just to make things equal."

The petition calls on members of the House of Representatives "to vote NO on forcing women to register for the draft and to introduce legislation [such as the bill already introduced, H.R. 4523] ending the draft requirement for both sexes."

If the Department of "Defense" [sic] authorization bill including the amendment on women and Selective Service becomes law in its current form, women ages 18 through 25 could be required to register. But the "petition" isn't limited to young people or to women, although most of the signers appear to be women.

The petition is worded broadly enough to allow it to be signed by people with many different reasons for opposing registration and the draft. It's was started by a libertarian and is open to both secular and religious pacifists, but you don't have to be a libertarian, a pacifist, opposed to all wars, religious, anti-religious, young, or a woman to sign the petition -- anyone opposed to the draft and draft registration, for men or women, can sign.

Continue reading "Young women organize against draft registration"
Link | Posted by Edward, 5 May 2016, 11:53 (11:53 AM) | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

"Millions of Female Felons"? Government admits resistance made draft registration unenforceable

This is my final warning.... Either register for the draft, or climb into the paddy wagon.
[Editorial cartoon by Mike Keefe, Denver Post, 1982]

We won -- and now, thirty years later, the government has finally admitted it.

It's not often that government officials admit to failure in the face of popular resistance. When they do, it's an occasion for celebration.

Draft registration was reinstated in 1980, supposedly to prepare for possible deployment of US troops in Afghanistan on the side of the Islamic fundamentalist warlords and "mujahideen" who were then fighting against the USSR. The US government put me in prison for refusing to agree to fight on the side of the people who would later become the Taliban and Al Qaeda! It's no wonder that people of my generation, or later generations, have no faith in the ability of the US government to decide for us in which wars, or on which (if any) side, we should fight.

Today in U.S. News & World Report, Steven Nelson has the most significant piece of reporting about draft registration and the Selective Service System in decades, asking questions that journalists, politicians, and the public should have been asking years ago.

It's been obvious -- to anyone who wanted to look -- that resistance forced the government to abandon the attempt to enforce draft registration in failure in the 1980s, after show trials of a handful of the "most vocal" nonregistrants. But this is the first time that responsible Selective Service officials and former officials have confirmed this on the record.

In 1984, the New York Times published a letter to the editor I wrote from the Federal Prison Camp in Lewisburg, PA, under the headline, On the Failures of Draft Registration: "The issue for Congress and the American people is the failure of draft registration: After almost four years of registration, a million of those eligible haven't registered," I wrote. "In such circumstances, it is absurd to think that reinstatement of the draft is a realistic possibility, and it is dangerously naïve to make foreign policy commitments that will require a draft."

In response to my letter, Rep. Gerald Solomon (the author of the "Solomon Amendments" conditioning eligibility for Federal student loans and other programs on compliance with draft registration), denounced me and other draft resisters as "yuppies", while Selective Service System spokesperson Wil Ebel wrote to the Times that, "Edward Hasbrouck's letter assailing draft registration is woefully in error. Perhaps we should not expect an incarcerated individual to have accurate and up-to-date information, but your readers should not be deluded by Mr. Hasbrouck's misrepresentations. Draft registration is not a failure."

It was clear, even without any official announcement from the government, that the Department of Justice gave up trying to enforce the draft registration requirement long ago. In today's story in U.S. News & World Report, Ebel "says he can't recall the precise discussions that led to abandonment of new cases" against nonregistrants." But the lack of prosecutions of any more nonregistrants since 1986, and the testimony in today's story by other current and former Selective Service officials, make clear that I was right, and Ebel was wrong, as long ago as 1984: Draft registration was and still is a failure for the government -- or a victory for the resistance, depending on which side you're on.

(Former U.S. Marine platoon commander in Vietnam and later FBI Director Robert Mueller, who prosecuted me in Boston as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, "did not respond to requests for comment" from U.S. News & World Report. William Weld, who as U.S. Attorney and Mueller's boss was also involved in getting permission from Washington to have me indicted -- and who for some reason insisted on sitting next to my mother in the courtroom during my trial, creeping her out -- isn't mentioned as having been asked for comment.)

The article is worth reading in full, but I've posted some key excerpts below, followed by my analysis and comments:

Don't Register For War

Gender-Neutral Draft Registration Would Create Millions of Female Felons

by Steven Nelson, U.S. News & World Report, May 3, 2016

A key congressional committee voted last week to require young women to register for potentially compulsory military service, but the gender-equalizing reform threatens to make felons out of women who refused to participate.

Though prosecutions currently appear unlikely, men jailed for not registering with the Selective Service System and some former authorities who participated in the cases are concerned about criminalizing a large swath of the population.

"It will inevitably lead to massive resistance, whether visible in the streets or women just blowing it off the way men have," says Edward Hasbrouck, prosecuted for not registering in the 1980s. "Congress is smoking crack if they think women can be forced to register."

Hasbrouck served more than four months in prison after catching the eye of an ambitious federal prosecutor, Robert Mueller, who went on to be FBI director. He originally received a suspended sentence, but recalls an unamused judge sending him to prison in late 1984 [actually 1983 -EH] for doing peace activism to satisfy court-ordered community service. [Despite the testimony of my probation officer, Esther W. Salmon, that she believed that my peace work satisfied the terms of the judge's original sentence and community service order. -EH]...

The government was "faced with far more people who had initially refused to register in the start-up period than they had ever imagined -- it was beyond their worst nightmare. They were self-deluded in the way people today who think they can just wave their wand and women will sign up for the draft are self-deluded," Hasbrouck says....

In all, 20 men were prosecuted in the 1980s for not registering, a diverse and geographically scattered group including ideological advocates of individual rights and members of the historical peace churches.

The last indictment came in 1986 when Terry Kuelper of Arkansas was slapped with the felony charge. He agreed to register before trial and the charge was dismissed. Court proceedings ended when Gillam Kerley of Wisconsin was released from a three-year prison sentence after four months, with the case ending in 1988....

Continue reading ""Millions of Female Felons"? Government admits resistance made draft registration unenforceable"
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Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Amazing Race 28, Episode 10

Bali (Indonesia) - Nusa Lembongan (Indonesia) - Nusa Ceningan (Indonesia) - Bali (Indonesia)

In this episode, The Amazing Race 18 crossed from Bali to Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan, two of a cluster of smaller islands between Bali and the next "major" island (or at least, next island with scheduled flights) to the east, Lombok.

By Indonesian standards, it's a short crossing: half an hour or less by speedboat from Bali to Nusa Lembongan. But most visitors to Bali never get off the island of Bali during their visit. There's nothing wrong with that, mind you. There's plenty to explore on Bali itself, especially given that only a small minority of foreign visitors to Bali stay more than ten days.

Citizens of the USA need a visa to stay more than 30 days in Indonesia, and even if you apply for a tourist visa in advance, it is typically valid for only for a maximum of 60 days stay in the country. Sixty days isn't nearly long enough to explore more than a small portion of Indonesia, especially if you travel by bus, train, and/or boat rather than by air.

If you have time and permission, though, Indonesia is one of the best places in the world for island-hopping, rivalled only by the Philippines. The coastline is fractal. Zoom in on a map, and you'll see successively smaller and smaller islands between the larger ones. Some of the channels between the main islands are deep, with fast currents, but none of the breaks in the chain of islands are terribly large. And while settlers from overpopulated Java have colonized many parts of the other islands, Indonesia remains among the most ethnographically diverse countries in the world.

Wealth, or lack of it, has also preserved the possibility of affordable island hopping by sea throughout Indonesia and the Philippines, as has the desire of national governments to promote national integration and break down distinctions between the identities of regions and islands. Most Indonesians can't afford to fly, preserving demand for slow -- but cheap -- passenger boats. And the government encourages internal trade and movement of people (especially to "underpopulated" big islands such as Borneo and New Guinea), despite the backlash it has sometimes produced.

The Indonesian government subsidizes a national shipping company, PELNI (Pelayaran Nasional Indonesia) which operates a network of long-distance German-built passenger ships that covers the country.

Planning a PELNI journey in advance from outside Indoenesia is difficult, however. You can get from one place to another, but not necessarily on a predictable schedule. Some PELNI long-distance services operate only once a month (the trip takes two weeks out from end to end, and then two weeks back) and schedules are confirmed and tickets sold no more than a couple of weeks to a couple of months in advance of departure. Portions of the PELNI Web site have been translated into English, which is good. But beware: It's common to get redirected to an error message or an (unhelpful) "help" screen that's only in Bahasa Indonesian, leaving you unclear on what has happened or, in the worst case, unclear whether you have completed a ticket purchase. You really have to inquire locally, once you get to Indonesia, about routes, schedules, prices, and availability.

It used to be that wealthier people (the local 1%, and foreign tourists) travelled in upper-class cabins on PELNI ships, while poorer people (99% of locals) travelled deck or "ekonomi" class. With more domestic airlines offering "low-fare" (although still unaffordable to the masses) services within Indonesia, more of the local gentry now fly, and it's unclear whether PELNI will continue to offer cabins or will convert to single-class service.

"Kelas Ekonomi" isn't as bad as it might be -- there are dormitories with padded mattresses on platforms raised off the decks -- but it isn't for everyone. Even for a backpacker, a berth in a cabin is probably worth the price if it's available. Here are reviews of cabin and Ekonimi class PELNI journeys, and a couple of video walkthroughs of the "ekonomi" dormitories and decks on PELNI ships.

If you've travelled on a PELNI ship recently, please let me know what class you were in, what it cost, how and where you found out the schedule and bought your tickets, and how the trip went. I'll share any responses in comments or in a follow-up article.

In the Caribbean, by comparison, you might expect -- and some travellers do expect -- to be able to travel by a series of inter-island ferries from Key West to the coast of Venezuela. None of the islands in this chain are too far apart, but many have no regular passenger shipping links. People with money fly, and people without money (except for those with their own small boats) don't leave their home islands. Flights between nearby islands that are under separate sovereignty or in different ex-colonial spheres of influence can cost more than flights to and from Miami. Island-hopping Caribbean tourism is largely the preserve of cruise ships and private yachts (or people with money to charter them).

From Nusa Lembongan to the even smaller island of Nusa Ceningan, the racers crossed the only bridge between the two islands, a swaying suspension span. You might mistake it at first sight for a pedestrian bridge, because it's too narrow for cars or trucks. In fact, it carries a constant stream of motorized passenger and cargo two-wheelers. There are many places in the world, especially on islands without regular car-ferry service where bringing in a car or truck is difficult and expensive, where the main roads -- sometimes the only road(s) to a town -- are singletrack.

To make it more of a challenge, the racers had to carry live chickens and quantities of coconuts across the bridge. Earlier in the episode, they were each given a sarong that they were required to wear while visiting a temple -- whether for modesty (some of them were far too scantily dressed for most places in Indonesia outside foreign tourist ghettoes or ethnic Chinese enclaves) or tradition. None of them, however, kept their sarong when they left the temple, or already had a sarong with them, despite the fact that a sarong is the most common type of clothing for men or women in Indonesia, and a practical accessory for a traveller almost anywhere. On the road, you can use a sarong to carry a bundle of laundry, shopping, or almost any awkward load. A sarong can serve as a dressing gown, beach wrap, sunscreen (some of the racers got terribly sunburnt in this and the previous episodes), modesty garment to wear to a shared toilet or bath, or simply as everyday attire. If any of the racers had kept their sarong, they could have used it to bundle up several chickens or coconuts to carry, and finished the challenge in a fraction of the trips across the bridge and total time.

If you ask people in the USA, "Where in the world do men wear skirts?", you'll most often get the answer, "Scotland". But by far the world's largest numbers of male skirt-wearers are in South and Southeast Asia, where a male skirt is called a "lunghi" (India) or "sarong" (Indonesia) among other names. I've read that skirts were introduced to Indonesia by traders from Yemen. That seems plausible (standard adult male attire in Yemen today includes a sarong and a western-style suit jacket as well as a large curved ceremonial dagger worn in the front of the belt like a codpiece!), but Yemen is a small country, and there are far more sarong-wearers in Indonesia. Today, although the most traditional Yemeni sarongs are locally made, ordinary Yemenis mainly wear mass-market sarongs imported from Indonesia. Ah, globalization!

John Gilmore, one of my sarong-wearing male friends (and the founder and principal funder of The Identity Project, who has made my work possible for the past decade), had this to say about sarongs in an e-mail interview in 2004:

I met you at the IFWP conference in Geneva back in 1998. You wore a yellow sarong (skirt).... Do people have a hard time paying attention when you are not in a suit and tie?

It's never seemed to be a problem.

Sarongs, which are basically a rectangle of cloth, wrapped around the waist and hanging to near the ground, are popular clothing for billions of men and women on Earth. At an international conference, I would not expect cultured people to stare at unfamiliar costumes. When traveling, I wear and learn the local clothing; people are usually happy (often amused) to help a foreigner learn to dress themself properly. At home, I enjoy showing people the costumes of other regions I've visited. I've worn a gho from Bhutan (a large, thick robe, tied tightly at the waist) in Boston, and a turban from Rajasthan in San Francisco. Actually, reactions in San Francisco two years ago to me wearing a turban really bothered me: about three out of ten people treated me as if I was an e-vill terrorist. Get over it, people; it's just a hat! The U.S. is such a provincial backwater. More people wear turbans in this world than the entire population of the United States.

I can never figure out the singular fascination that people have for what fibers other people wrap around their bodies. It gives small minds something to gossip about, and provides endless simple fun in tweaking them.

I occasionally wear sarongs and other skirts, although my personal favorite Indonesian garments are long-sleeved cotton batik shirts in fine bright patterns, which are actually more characteristically Malaysian although also made in Indonesia. (Here's John giving another lecture in what appears to be one of these.) But you won't know what you like until you try it on for long enough to get used to it. Take advantage of the chance to try wearing a skirt for a while sometime, when you are in a place where it's the norm. You might find that you like it, and not just while you are travelling in skirt-land.

Link | Posted by Edward, 30 April 2016, 06:37 ( 6:37 AM) | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

House Committee votes to extend draft registration to women

amendment approved by HASC

Today the House Armed Service Committee voted 32 to 30 to attach an amendment to the pending annual military spending authorization bill that would give the President the authority to order women as well as men to register for the draft.

[Update: I still haven't found a full record of the roll-call the vote. But according to this later report, Republican members of the committee present and voting opposed the amendment, 29-6. Democrats present and voting supported the amendment, 26-1.]

What does this mean? What happens now? What can we do about it? Read on.

Continue reading "House Committee votes to extend draft registration to women"
Link | Posted by Edward, 27 April 2016, 18:24 ( 6:24 PM) | Comments (39) | TrackBack (0)