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The Practical Nomad

Edward Hasbrouck's blog

Published: 2016-12-04T10:51:58-08:00

Last Build Date: 2016-10-30T01:26:42-08:00


"Generation X': A Brief History of Dropouts from the U. of Chicago"


I'm honored to be among the former U. of C. students from "Generation X" featured in a thoughtful article by Hannah Edgar in the current issue of the student newspaper, the Chicago Maroon, Generation X': A Brief History of Dropouts and Transfer Students at the University of Chicago. (The title of the article is an insider pun on the way the U. of C. refers to alumni like myself as "ex-degree", with an "X" and the year we left the University, in lieu of our degree and year of receiving it.) Congratulations to Hannah Edgar for digging so deeply into this underreported (for reasons some of which she explores in the article) topic, and for including me in this distinguished company along with others including Andrew Patner, my classmate and, much later, one of Ms. Edgar's mentors. And thanks to the U. of C., in all seriousness, for a profoundly valuable educational experience. One of many issues Ms. Edgar and I talked about that didn't make it into the article was to what degree the inability of the U. of C. to deal with its "image problem" was, and perhaps still is, related to homophobia and/or Asperger's Syndrome. When I read a description of the longstanding negative stereotype of a U. of Chicago student quoted from a former President of the U. of C. in a recent history of the College, my reaction was, "Is this a description of a stereotypical faggot? Or of a stereotypical person with Asperger's? Or both?" The answer, of course, is "both". But no matter how obvious that answer is, it's one the U. of C. has yet to confront: Every high school principal and college counselor knows precisely the kind of student they think we want, and they endeavor conscientiously to urge these students to come to the University of Chicago. The stereotype varies a bit in different parts of the country, but it adds up pretty well into a certain kind of youngster. First of all, he must be odd and not accepted in games and social affairs by the other students. He must be bright, not necessarily in the conventional sense of high I.Q., but in some extravagant and unusual way. He must have read and pondered esoteric things far beyond his years. He draws a sharp breath when reference is made to Aristotle, St. Thomas, John Donne, and James Joyce. He wears glasses, does not dance, deplores sports, and has advanced ideas on labor and the theory of relativity.... The converse of this stereotype is also the case. As one college counselor phrased it to me, "It simply does not occur to any of our normal students to go to the University of Chicago." We have insisted that the purpose of a university is to train the mind, and the inference has been drawn that the rest of the person may go hang so far as we are concerned. We have deplored fun, snorted at anyone who wanted to develop himself physically, and sneered at anyone who conceived of a college education as having any vocational or practical significance.... The stereotype which emerges is thought to be the only person who would be interested in or profit by our system of education." [U. of C. President Lawrence Kimpton, address to the faculty, 1954; quoted by Dean of the College John W. Boyer, Chicago Occasional Papers on Higher Education XXII, 2012, pp. 82-83.] I can't say whether there was any larger a proportion of queers at the U. of Chicago than anywhere else -- I arrived on the Quads as a 17-year-old sexual naif who was completely oblivious to such matters even though there were already some out gay students in the College. I wouldn't have a concept of bisexuality, much less the sexual self-awareness to be able to recognize it in myself, until a year or two after I left Chicago. But looking back on my time in Hyde Park, it seems clear that a (mostly) deeply closeted, unspoken, and unexamined gay male sexuality was a significant component of the "cloistered" culture of the campus. The U. of Chicago was and is a center for for the study of psychology and human development, among many other things. So there were probably U. of C. scholars who had heard of "Asperger's Syndrome" as early as th[...]

Tom Hayden, 11 December 1939 - 23 October 2016


Testimony of Thomas Emmett Hayden Before the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence 23 October 1968 First of all, I should say very frankly that I don't come here with any expectation of a dialogue or understanding being achieved or with any belief in the legitimacy of the commission. Frankly, I think that it is very difficult for a person in my position to believe that you are actually prepared to study the real causes of violence as I see them in the country. There are no young people on the commission, no student activists, no draft resisters, no outspoken critics of the draft.... My only purpose is for coming here, therefore, are twofold, and they have to do with simply stating for the official record, first, that the sources of violence in this country are to be found in the war on Vietnam which you should be studying rather than in student protest movements, draft resistance, or the antiwar movement. And in a deeper sense violence in this country stems from a system which is sick, which is racist, which apparently has a boundless ambition to police the world, which is therefore losing authority and legitimacy in the eyes of millions of young people in this country and many millions more of people around the world, a system which relies more and more on the use of force, and the use of police to maintain itself rather than relying on consent or persuasion or traditional techniques of democracy. The second statement that I would like to make is that the antiwar movement, the draft resistance movement is not a nihilistic handful of true believers, that our position is composed of actual human beings with actual needs that we believe are denied, it illegally and him morally denied. This solution to the war cannot be pacified with trick solutions, nor will it be eliminated through repression, because the opposition is composed of people who do not want to die or live in constant disorder, but who will not become "good Germans" quietly accepting an insane, immoral order of things. There is nothing sinister incomprehensible about the opposition, about young people, about students in this country, except to their enemies who think their own authority is beyond question and challenge.... Look at the situation of a student facing this problem. He has no vote. His voice does not count in the democratic manner. Attempts to work within the system have been frustrated, and a student is not able to avoid the war for two basic reasons in particular, two basic ways in which the war is brought to him: first, the draft, and second, the transformation of the university into an instrument of American foreign policy, including policy in Vietnam. For many students, the draft represents the most tangible form of oppression that they have experienced in their sheltered, middle-class lives Originally, the protest against the draft came from the protest against the war. But the more that students understood the draft, the more they realized that they had to objections to it. First of all, through the draft the American state interferes with what the students consider to be an inalienable right, the right of the individual to decide what he will die for. Second, the draft, we see, is an instrument of social management and manipulation. In the words of Selective Service documents, official documents called A Memorandum on Channeling, the draft and the deferment system are used to keep students working in acceptable careers, acceptable to the makers of the war and to the government of the United States. It is not primarily or exclusively used to supply manpower for wars but is used as a device to regulate the ambitions of American youth according to a national interest defined by men for whom the youth can only fight but not vote. If you want that memorandum, I will submit it to you. You cannot get it any longer from the Selective Service because it caused great embarrassment but was obtained from them and widely reprinted on campuses.... Specifically on the question of the draft, I think [...]

Writers shouldn't have to choose between privacy and copyright


Writers shouldn't have to choose between protecting our privacy and protecting our copyrights. But existing and proposed laws in the US and other countries are forcing us to do so. They should be, and can be, changed to remove this unnecessary and unfair dilemma for working writers. That's the message of comments I helped draft, as part of my volunteer work as a member of the National Writers Union (NWU), which were filed this week with the U.S. Copyright Office by the NWU and the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA): Writers are being forced to choose between revealing their identities and personal information or risking the loss of some of their rights. We should not be forced to choose between protecting our privacy and protecting our copyrights.... We urge Congress and the Copyright Office to address the causes of this dilemma, and repeal the registration requirements for enforcement of copyright and remedies for infringement (17 U.S. Code §411 and § 412). And, in light of the privacy issues highlighted by this NPRM [Notice of Proposed Rulemaking], we encourage the Copyright Office to reconsider and withdraw its proposal for legislation to categorize rights to any work as "orphaned" and fair game for unauthorized and uncompensated copying if an author has not chosen to make public sufficient information that they may be contacted by would-be licensees, or deliberately or inadvertently does not respond to licensing requests, regardless of how actively they are exploiting the rights to their work. Privacy and copyright are fundamental rights. Writers should not have to choose between them. I work on privacy issues with the Identity Project and as a consumer advocate for travellers, and I work on copyright issues as a member of the NWU (and, through the NWU, of the International Federation of Journalists and the International Authors Forum). But despite fundamental similarities and -- in at least some legal systems -- common conceptual roots of privacy rights and writers' rights, the relationships between these rights, and their effects on each other, have often been overlooked in policy-making. British novelist, blogger, and activist for writers' rights Nick Harkaway remarked on this in his book, The Blind Giant: Being Human in a Digital World: I don't think it's a coincidence that privacy and intellectual property are major battlegrounds in the shaping of our digital environment, but I do find it odd that so many privacy campaigners are also uncomfortable with the idea of IP [Intellectual Property].... To me, the issues are closely related. Privacy and IP share to my eye a common conceptual basis, and the problems that they both face in the age of digital reproduction are problems in common.... Intellectual property, more than ever, is a line drawn around information, which asserts that despite having been set loose in the world -- and having inevitably, been created out of an individual's relationship with the world -- that information retains some connection with its author that allows that person some control over how it is replicated and used. In other words, the claim that lies beneath the notion of of intellectual property is similar or identical to the one that underpins notions of privacy. It seems to me that the two are inseparable, because they are fundamentally aspects of the same issue. This commonality is even more evident, as Harkaway notes, if writers' rights are conceptualized as human rights rather than property rights. In Continental European law, authors' rights ("droit de l'auteur") are human rights of the creator, some of which (such as moral rights) are inalienable. Copyright in the USA and UK is a property right that can be freely traded, completely separated from its creator, and held by a non-human corporation. The USA has ratified the Berne Convention copyright treaty, which recognizes writers' moral rights, but Congress has done nothing to enact those rights into US copyright law for written works. This i[...]

National reading of "It Can't Happen Here" on Monday, Oct. 24th


Over the weekend I got to see a stellar new staging of Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here at the Berkeley Repertory Theater.

The 1935 novel is prescient even in its details. I've re-read it several times in the last year, and I've been recommending it to everyone I know.

It's rightly known as an anti-fascist work, but it's also a paean to the power of the pen. The protagonist is the social democratic editor of a small-town newspaper in northern Vermont, and his role in the resistance to American fascism is as a propagandist.

Lewis himself was commissioned by the Federal Theatre to adapt his novel for the stage. In 1936, as one of the Federal Theatre's experiments in using the arts to promote popular national discourse, it was produced simultaneously in more than 20 cities throughout the country.

(The Federal Theatre was a WPA arts project directed by my great-aunt, Hallie Flanagan Davis. It was eventually defunded and shut down by Congress for allegedly purveying Communist propaganda, after Aunt Hallie was unrepentant in her testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee.)

I was disappointed when I learned that the Berkeley Rep has written a new staging of the novel, rather than using Lewis' own script. But the new adaptation is both excellent and faithful to the book -- it wasn't necessary to change even the details to make it timely and relevant.

In the spirit of the original Federal Theatre national production, the Berkeley Rep has instigated a national staged reading of the new version of "It Can't Happen Here" this coming Monday, October 24, 2016. Dozens of professional and amateur theater companies, libraries, etc. are participating.

I encourage any of you who are able to attend one of these readings. (And if you are in the Bay Area, try to make it to the Berkeley Rep, in spite of the price. Trust me, this show is worth it, if you can afford it.) It's a chance to celebrate engaged journalism, and to be reminded that while fascism has its American face, so does resistance to fascism.

Amtrak improves long-distance bicycle transport


Over the last month, Amtrak has quietly rolled out a major upgrade to its services for transporting bicycles on long-distance trains: Amtrak has added bike racks or hooks for unboxed bikes in the baggage cars of almost all of its long-distance trains. Kudos to Amtrak, whose headquarters isn't always so highly regarded for marketing savvy or customer responsiveness. (Amtrak's front-line staff, especially onboard, on the other hand, are known among regular riders for going the extra mile to accommodate passengers.) This changes makes Amtrak a better choice than ever for bicycle transport across the USA compared to planes, buses, DHL, Fedex, or the U.S. Post Office. But the latest change has gotten remarkably little fanfare from either Amtrak or cycle-touring organizations such as the Adventure Cycling Association, which is why I'm bothering to call it out here. Intermodal transport of bikes on trains is long established as a way for cyclists to get to and from their rides, whether using a bicycle for the first and/or last miles of their daily commute, putting their bike on a train to get out of the city for a Sunday ride in the country, or getting to the start or home from the finish of a cross-country tour. As members of the hospitality network for touring bicyclists, we get many cycle-touring guests in our home in San Francisco who are riding up or down the West Coast or across the USA. San Francisco is often the start or end of their ride, and we often find ourselves talking with our visitors about options for getting themselves and their bikes across the country or back up or down the coast. Our answer to, "What's the best way to do this?" is usually, "If you have the time, Amtrak." There are racks for two or three bikes on many city buses in the US, and a tired cyclists can sometimes use a local bus as a "sag wagon" if it has a bike rack. But bikes on buses don't scale if there are a lot of cyclists travelling together. You can slide your bike on its side into the luggage compartment under a long-distance bus, but it's vulnerable to damage en route unless you dismantle, pad, and box it. With some exceptions, bringing a bike with you as airline luggage is expensive (US$150 per bike, one way, is typical for a boxed bike checked as airline luggage on a flight within the USA) and requires you to partially dismantle and box it. Sending a bike as unaccompanied air cargo is even more expensive, and also requires boxing it. Within the USA, shipping a boxed bike by UPS or Fedex Ground is cheaper than sending or bringing it with you by air, but still not cheap and still requires boxing to meet package size limits. Some of these fees and restrictions can be avoided by getting a bike with S&S couplers so that the frame can be split in half. You can even get couplers retrofitted in an existing steel frame, for a price. But breaking down a bike with couplers to fit into airline luggage is still a non-trivial task that requires finding or cutting down a box to exactly the right size. A train (or in most cases a ferry) has room for many more bikes onboard than a bus or plane. If there's a dedicated baggage car, it's relatively easy to fit it with racks, hooks, and/or straps to secure numerous unboxed bikes. And for both historical and business reasons, passenger railroads around the world generally charge much less to transport bikes than do most airlines or other cargo shipping companies. What does this mean if you want to bring your bike with you, or ship it unaccompanied, on an Amtrak train?[...]

Computer "outage" disrupts Delta flights


An outage of some computer systems or components on Monday led to cancellations and delays of Delta Air Lines flights. Once planes and crews are out of position, it takes time to get them back to where they are needed. New crews and/or planes may have to be sent out if the original planes and/or crews have exceeded their safety time limits for periodic equipment maintenance or crew rest. Only today, Wednesday, are Delta flights getting back on schedule and back to their normal capacity. Last month Southwest Airlines flights were similarly cancelled, delayed, and disrupted for several days after a computer system component failed. What caused the problems with Delta flights? The "outage" that affected Delta operations has been attributed to an equipment failure that cut power to some components of Delta's computer system. But neither the nature of the problem nor the specific component(s) that were affected have been clearly identified. My guess is that the equipment that lost power was part of the interface between some components of Delta's in-house IT systems including its departure control system (DCS) and flight management system, and the Worldspan computerized reservation system (CRS). Was this a result of problems with Delta's reservation system? No. Other airlines that use Worldspan had no problems. One thing we know for certain is that this was a problem internal to Delta's own systems (or those of some other Delta service provider) or related to the Delta-Worldspan interface, not to any core or shared Worldspan functionality. Where would you point the finger of blame? I don't yet have enough information to be sure, but the underlying cause is likely to turn out to be a combination of (1) over-reliance on technology (see more on that below) and (2) the inability of airlines like Delta to make a clear, long-term commitment either to outsource their operational IT systems or keep them in-house. The interface between in-house and outsourced IT systems that failed only existed because Delta chose take some parts of its systems in-house while outsourcing others. Prior to that, Delta's IT systems had been integrated, first wholly in-house and then wholly outsourced to a single company, Worldspan. Delta has an unnecessarily complicated relationship with Worldspan. Worldspan was originally developed in-house by Delta, but was spun off and eventually acquired by Travelport, a holding company which also bought the competing Galileo/Amadeus CRS. Throughout that time, Delta's systems continued to be operated by essentially the same team of people in the same facilities. But recently, Delta has taken some IT functionality in-house, while continuing to outsource database hosting to Worldspan. Given the changes back and forth between Travelport's Worldspan division and Delta over operational and legal responsibility for elements of the airline's IT systems, it's scarcely surprising that the interfaces grafted on to connect but separate Worldspan and Delta (a digital corpus callosum between the halves of its logical brain) are among the least well-tested and most vulnerable components of the complex and formerly unified system. Was this a result of airlines using "old-fashioned" computer equipment? No. There's no basis to claims like the headline today in the Wall Street Journal, Delta Meltdown Reflects Problems With Aging Technology. One of the biggest advantages of "mature" software and systems is that they have had time for bugs to manifest themselves and be corrected. Legacy systems are often kept around and preferred because of their reliability. The major CRSs are no exception, and one of the many reasons most airlines outsource reservation hosting and other functions is the extreme reliability of the CRSs. Can modern airlines operate flight even when their computers are down? Yes. Delta could, and perhaps should, take lessons from the best practices of more reliable airlines l[...]

Burning the U.S. flag



[On the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, gagged with a U.S. flag, at a press conference with Joey Johnson and others on 21 June 1990, as Congress was voting on whether to amend the U.S. Constitution to outlaw the "desecration" of the U.S. flag.]

Nobody could seriously argue that Joey Johnson's right to burn a flag outside the Republican National Convention is anything other than well-established law.

But instead of respecting that right, a Cleveland prosecutor and police are trying to frame Joey Johnson for something he didn't do, in order to punish him for what he and others did in exercising their right to express themselves by burning a U.S. flag -- just as a Dallas prosecutor and police did in 1984.

Here's what happened last week, some of the back story I was involved in that you won't learn if you only read news reports and/or court records, and why Joey Johnson deserves our support now just as much as he did more than three decades ago.

House votes down proposal to defund the Selective Service System



This week, during consideration of the annual funding bill for the Selective Service System and miscellaneous other agencies, the U.S. House of Representatives:

  1. Yesterday, voted down (294-128) a proposed amendment to completely defund the Selective Service System; and then

  2. Today, approved (217-203)an amendment that forbids the use of any of the money appropriated for the Selective Service System for Federal Fiscal Year 2017 "to change Selective Service System registration requirements" (such as to require women as well as men to register for the draft).

The effect of these two votes is likely to be limited. But in their current context, they are not a good sign for opponents of conscription and war, and confirm the need for continued, expanded, and more visible resistance to draft registration.

The no-fly list and the no-gun list


[The proposed No-Fly, No Buy law currently under debate in Congress would add the Terrorist Screening Database as a third source (yellow arrow at center right of flow chart) of entries in the "No-Gun" list, in addition to Federal and state felony convictions and certain misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence. Everything else on this diagram already exists and would remain the same. Click the image above for a larger version of the flow chart, or click here for a full-page PDF with a key to the acronyms.] Last month, some (Democratic Party) members of Congress held a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives to try to pressure their (Republican Party) colleagues to agree to allow a vote on what was described as a "gun control" bill. The sit-in ended after the House adjourned for its 4th of July holiday without bringing the bill to a vote. But the bill remains pending as Congress reconvenes. I'm a pacifist. I support gun control. Having guns around doesn't make me feel safer, no matter who has them. I've never owned or used a firearm. I don't want, and don't knowingly allow, any guns in my home, for any reason. Speaking only for myself, and not for any of the organizations with which I'm associated, I would vote to repeal the Second Amendment rather than trying to play games with its language about "a well-regulated militia". I'm a firm believer in nonviolent direct action and a supporter of extra-legal tactics like sit-ins as a useful and often essential way to bring about political change, including revolutionary change, with or without the cooperation of the government. So why do I think that that the Congressional sit-in was at best misguided, and that this is a dangerous bill that would set an even more dangerous precedent, regardless of the good intentions of some of its supporters? The bill at issue in the House, like the similar bill still pending in the Senate that I wrote about last year in the Identity Project blog, has been described as "No-Fly, No-Buy". It would prohibit anyone on the U.S. no-fly list, and possibly also anyone listed in the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) as a "suspected" terrorist, terrorist supporter, or terrorist sympathizer, from buying a firearm. To put it another way, these bills would add everyone on the no-fly list or in the government's "suspected terrorist" file to the no-gun list. This is a people-control measure, not a gun-control measure. It is one more step away from punishment of criminal acts and toward pre-crime policing and imposition of sanctions based on predictions and blacklists. And it would do nothing to improve the "no-gun list" that we already have. Yes, the US already has a "no-gun list". I'm on it, for all the wrong reasons, along with 25 million or more other people.[...]

Senate approves "Defense" bill including expansion of draft registration to women


[Poster by Yolanda V. Fundora]

Today the U.S. Senate voted 85-13 to approve a version of the proposed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (S. 2943) including a provision which, if also approved by the House of Representatives and signed into law by the President, would extend draft registration to women. (Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer were the only Senators absent from this vote. So far as I have been able to find, Sen. Sanders has made no public comment on this issue.)

As had happened in the House of Representatives, the Senate voted to approve the bill as a whole, without a separate vote on on whether to make changes to Selective Service registration. The version approved by the Senate would expand registration to women, while the version approved by the House would not.

Op-Ed: Dump draft registration, don't extend it to women


[My "Open Forum" op-ed on Selective Service registration in the San Francisco Chronicle, online 4 June 2016, print edition 7 June 2016, page A8. Original version on the sometimes-paywalled Web site; PDF. If you agree, here's a leaflet about what you can do to help.] Congress is now debating amendments to a pending defense bill to either extend Selective Service System registration to women or end it entirely. Congress should drop this costly and inevitably futile attempt to extend draft registration to women, and end draft registration altogether. The debate was prompted by the change in policy that allows women in combat. If all combat assignments are open to women, then it follows that there is no longer a basis in military policy for requiring men but not women to register. If Congress does nothing, pending court cases are likely to produce a ruling that the men-only draft registration requirement is unconstitutional. Those who believe in treating women and men equally include those who would register both men and women for the draft, and those who wouldn't require anyone to register. Missing from this debate has been whether it will even be possible to get women to register. President Jimmy Carter's proposal to reinstate draft registration in 1980, after a five-year hiatus, initially included men and women. Some of the strongest opposition came from women. The National Resistance Committee was founded at the Women's Building in San Francisco within weeks of Carter's announcement. Carter's rationale for bringing back draft registration was to prepare for U.S. intervention in Afghanistan in support of the fighters who were then referred to as "mujahedeen," and who later became the Taliban and al Qaeda. (The U.S. government put me in prison in 1983-1984 for refusing to agree to fight on the side of the Taliban and al Qaeda.) In the early 1980s, the government tried to scare young men into registering by prosecuting a handful of vocal nonregistrants. But the show trials backfired. They called attention to the resistance and made clear that there was safety in numbers. Enforcement of draft registration was suspended in 1988, and never resumed. Young men today have to register in order to be eligible for student aid and some other government programs, but there's no attempt to verify their addresses. The only audit of Selective Service, in 1982, found that 20 to 40 percent of addresses on file already were outdated. Noncompliance has made registration unenforceable and the registration database useless as the basis for a fair or inclusive draft. Any realistic budget for the expansion of draft registration to women would need to include the cost to track down, prosecute, and imprison those who resist. Young women have the same reasons as young men to oppose draft registration, and will undoubtedly have other reasons of their own. A petition to end draft registration entirely, started last month by a draft-age San Francisco woman, Julie Mastrine, got more than 10,000 signatures in its first week. The petition quotes the young feminist writer Lucy Steigerwald, "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 federal government doesn't do well at acknowledging that its power is limited by the willingness of the people to carry out its orders. But draft registration has failed. The only realistic choice is to end it. Edward Hasbrouck is a travel writer and human rights activist in San Francisco. His website about the draft, draft registration, and draft resistance is at[...]

How can we make airlines respect our privacy?


A decision last week by a California state Court of Appeal in a case involving an airline smartphone app highlights the legal impunity enjoyed by airlines that invade their customers' and passengers' privacy. Delta Air Lines' mobile app collects all the information travellers provide when they buy tickets, reserve seats, or check in for flights: credit card numbers, travelling companions, special meal requests that can provide a clue to their religion, special service requests that can indicate invisible medical conditions, and so forth. It also collects other information, such as real-time location and movement tracking through access by the Delta app to the GPS and other location information in your phone. How much of this data is sent to Delta? There's no way for travellers to know, since the data transmission channel from the app on your phone to the airline is encrypted. What did Delta do with this data about its customers and passengers? We don't know that either. Airlines use as much data about travellers as they can get for marketing and operations, and have been trying to get permission from the US government to use any or all of this data, and/or information about customers obtained from third parties, to "personalize" ticket prices and fees for checked baggage and other services. But the Delta app was launched and operated for years with no privacy policy at all, leaving travellers to speculate why the airline wants a log of each app user's movements, or how it uses or shares this data. How much of this data is made available to government agencies or other third parties? Delta doesn't say. Unlike many other online service providers, no airline has ever published any sort of transparency report about how often the government asks for information about its customers, or how the company has responded to those requests. California's Attorney General, in her capacity as chief enforcer of the state's consumer protection laws, sued Delta in 2012 for violating the California Online Privacy Protection Act, which "requires commercial operators of websites and online services, including mobile and social apps, which collect personally identifiable information from Californians to conspicuously post a privacy policy." It's worth noting that this law doesn't restrict companies' ability and legal "right" to spy on their customers, invade their privacy, or rat them out to their private enemies or competitors or to the police or other government agencies. All California law requires is that each company subject to the law post some sort of privacy policy saying what data they claim to collect and what they claim to do with it, and not get caught lying to customers about their practices. In the absence of audits by investigators with subpoena power, of course, companies are unlikely to get caught no matter what they do. The lawsuit against Delta Air Lines was the first action brought by the state of California to enforce this law, which was enacted in 2003 and took effect in 2004. It was an entirely appropriate choice of an especially large, sophisticated, and egregious corporate violator of the law. It was also, I suspect, a popular choice by a politically savvy official with her sights on higher elected office. Most people want, and would expect, consumer privacy laws to be applied to airlines. Delta initially told the California A.G.'s office that it "intended" to provide the information that was supposed to be in its privacy policy, but then decided to stonewall. Delta argued successfully both in the trial court and before the Court of Appeals that it doesn't have to have any privacy policy or reveal its personal data collection, usage, or disclosure policies to its customers. The Federal "Airline Deregulation Act of [...]

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), the reality-TV show The Amazing Race, 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 for debates. 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 re[...]

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



[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:

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 where 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 services, 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 [...]