What is the practical effort of shutting down a US-based classified ad system if Internet is global?


“Trump Signs Bill Amid Momentum to Crack Down on Trafficking” (nytimes):

First, federal authorities seized the classified advertising website Backpage.com last week. Then, a 93-count indictment was unsealed, charging several of its top officials with facilitating prostitution and revealing details about victims including minors as young as 14.

Now, President Trump has signed new anti-sex-trafficking legislation into law on Wednesday. The new law, which passed Congress with near unanimous bipartisan support, will give prosecutors stronger tools to go after similar sites in the future and suspend liability protections for internet companies for the content on their sites.

Not everyone is happy about this…

After Backpage was seized on Friday, the Women’s March group said on Twitter that the result was “an absolute crisis” for sex workers seeking safe communication with clients, drawing criticism.

“Women’s March stands in solidarity with the sex workers’ rights movement,” a spokeswoman for the organization explained on Tuesday. “We believe a world is possible in which no one is trafficked or enslaved, and in which sex workers are not criminalized and ostracized by the state and our movements.”

“Shutting down websites like Craigslist and Backpage pushes sex workers and sex trafficking victims into street-based sex work where they’re at greater risk of violence,” said Ms. Raven, who said she had survived homelessness and engaged in sex to survive as a teenager.

My question, though, is what practical difference do these shutdowns make if the Internet is global? There are plenty of countries in which prostitution is legal (see “Where New York Times readers don’t want to follow Europe: Legalized prostitution”) and where Internet is both legal and available. If Americans want to meet virtually in an online forum, why would they need to do that in a U.S.-based site?

Will the U.S. need a Great Firewall and an outlawing of VPNs to enforce this new law? Or can the Federales somehow go and shut down web servers in foreign countries just as easily as they can in the U.S.?


Learning about President Trump at our local public library


Here is a selection from the New Books shelf at our local public library:

The titles:

  • Semitism: Being Jewish in American in the Age of Trump, by one of the Washington editors for the New York Times (let’s hope that he is not so extreme as to advocate that Americans Jews actually observe Judaism)
  • It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America (by a NYT journalist)
  • The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, by 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts (safe to assume that they found a mixture of Republicans and Democrats to query?)

ACLU says it is okay for the government to poke around in a law office if two government workers agree


Here’s an interesting article from the ACLU:

We don’t know all the reasons and circumstances for the FBI search of Cohen’s office and home. News reports suggest that the focus is on Cohen’s payments to two women, adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal to suppress their stories of affairs with Donald Trump, and that these payments may have been illegal. But what is clear is that prosecutors had to overcome high hurdles to obtain the search warrant. That the warrant was issued is not a sign that the attorney-client privilege is dead. It is, on the contrary, a sign that the rule of law is alive.

Essentially, the ACLU takes the position that if two government workers (prosecutor plus judge) can agree to dislike an individual then the government can send in the FBI (not too busy thanks to hanging up on anyone offering school shooter tips, Tsarnaev brother tips, 9/11 hijacker tips, etc.) to raid the individual’s lawyer’s office.

Separately, the particular “crime” that the ACLU thinks justifies sending out the FBI on a hunting expedition, was a purported exchange of cash for sex. Back in 2014, however, the ACLU published an article saying that this kind of exchange should not be a crime:

The ACLU position holds that laws against prostitution violate “the right of individual privacy because they impose penal sanctions for the private sexual conduct of consenting adults, …

The myriad federal, state and local laws against prostitution mean that “rights for sex workers” will require more than decriminalizing sex for money or other consideration.

Sex workers are human beings with the right to self-determination. It’s time for policymakers, the courts and law enforcement to recognize they are equally deserving of the civil rights, civil liberties, and above all human rights accorded to the rest of us.

I guess there is a potentially nuanced position here. The ACLU is not objecting to whatever Ms. Daniels and Ms. McDougal might have received in exchange for having sex with an old guy 12 years ago, but they are objecting to Ms. Daniels and Ms. McDougal being paid not to talk about their supposed sexual transactions. But why? If the ACLU promotes freedom to speak, why wouldn’t they also support the freedom to profit from not speaking? And if the ACLU supports prostitution, why wouldn’t the ACLU also support prostitution with an extra fee for discretion? If the only way for an elderly American to hire a prostitute is with the understanding that the prostitute will then post a YouTube video of the encounter and/or go on TV to talk about the transaction, doesn’t that reduce demand for prostitution, an infringement of prostitutes’ economic rights?


Free software for gathering up your best Facebook content before quitting


Several of my remaining Facebook friends have announced plans to leave the platform. They say that they are gradually deleting all of their old posts and that they can be reached via email(!).

For those who wish to preserve some of their best Facebook content in PDF form, Postclipper.com is a free service that allows users to select favorite Facebook postings into one or more books and, for each book, export a PDF version. (I was one of the authors of this software/service, along with Avni Khatri and John Morgan.)

We designed the software/service for people who were going to stay on Facebook, but wanted to segregate out content related to one child or one vacation. It turns out, however, that Postclipper is useful for people who are leaving Facebook.

Separately, can anyone tell me what Mark Zuckerberg said yesterday at the Senate? I didn’t tune in myself because it strikes me that the most serious problems with Facebook are right out in the open, e.g., that it turns people into junkies for news and political information that has no effect on their lives, or that it turns formerly fairly nice people into 24/7 hate/outrage-spewers. (ARPAnet and USENET discussion forums could degrade into flame wars, but the percentage of content that was devoted to hatred regarding abstract political phenomena was much smaller. So this is not a problem inherent to Internet.)

Finally, is there any reason for the average American to need news, other than the weather forecast, more than once per week? Or political information more than once every calendar quarter? Let me scan today’s nytimes.com:

  • FBI wants to find out which women were paid to have sex with Donald Trump 10+ years ago and keep quiet about it
  • Nigerian schoolgirls previously abducted by an Islamic group are now at a university
  • The Law is Coming, Mr. Trump (editorial hatred from the nytimes)
  • Paul Ryan is retiring (so people in his district will have to vote for someone else this fall)
  • Walter Mondale says that we are ignoring the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (if we have been ignoring it for 50 years, why can’t we ignore it for up to one additional week?)
  • The FBI is attacking Trump through the lawyer that paid off Stormy Daniels
  • Trump is allegedly taking the bait on Syria (the government supposedly used chemical weapons there, which doesn’t make any obvious military sense (since the government has bombs, artillery, etc.), but it provides a perfect pretext for a U.S. invasion or similar)
  • “Pro Cheerleaders Say Groping and Sexual Harassment Are Part of the Job” (photos suggest substantial age and gender discrimination by employers, but the nytimes is not upset by this; see also Family Law Issues for NFL Players, Child Support, Paternity & Prenups by Randall Kessler for a guide to the profitability of getting close to a football player)
  • Ilyushin Il-76 plane crashes in Algeria

How would any of the readers have been worse off waiting until Sunday morning to learn about this? It is unfortunate that people died in the plane crash, but is any reader today going to hop on a plane to Algeria and try to help out?

How about the news that I got on Facebook today, highlighted by friends…

  • a purported white supremacist died in his home bomb lab in Wisconsin
  • “Zuckerberg made it clear he doesn’t care about users.” (over an article about Zuckerberg’s testimony)
  • an article on how to tell if one’s information was shared with Cambridge Analytica (how would I behave differently if it had or had not?)
  • Arizona cuts off college tuition subsidies for non-citizens (DREAMers can still go to college, but they have to pay the same tuition as, e.g., a citizen-resident of California)
  • BP said that an oil spill off the coast of Australia would boost the local economy (probably true if we use the GDP measure; another good reason to get rid of GDP, which also goes up when citizens’ lives are degraded by population growth)
  • “Elon Musk to the Young and Ambitious: Skills Matter More Than Degrees” (Inc.); see also Tesla’s recent recruiting effort at Harvard University
  • a bunch of articles related to young American women who purported had sex with an old rich guy and/or the ensuing cash flow

I could have waited until Sunday for this stuff too.

Maybe Americans who want to be productive and happy need a firewall programmed so that social networking and news sites are available only on Sunday mornings?


Feeding birds versus feeding humans


Here’s a sign from the Boston Public Garden:

City officials say that giving birds free food and shelter within the City of Boston will lead to overpopulation and environmental damage. Furthermore, they’ll be reluctant to migrate away.

I wonder if these folks ever walk over to the government offices that run the SNAP (food stamps; free food for humans) and public housing (free housing for humans, including Barack Obama’s ordered-by-a-judge-to-migrate Aunt Zeituni (she apparently preferred NOT to migrate, despite the deportation order)) programs and, if so, how the conversations go…

[The Boston Housing Authority says it “processes over 10,000 new applications every year. There are thousands of more applicants than there are available housing units – so the selected waiting lists can be very long.” In other words, there is already “overpopulation” if you consider the mismatch between the supply of housing and the demand from humans.]

Stormy Daniels action figure already in stores…


Available now, the Stormy Daniels action figure:

(spotted at Harrison’s Comics at the Woburn Mall, walking off a dim sum meal at New China Pearl)

Massachusetts public school system should consider a two-week March vacation?


Friends send their smart kids to the Buckingham Browne and Nichols private school in Cambridge. They texted me from Disney World in mid-March. Public schools in Massachusetts have one-week breaks in February and April. It is tough to go anywhere warm during these breaks due to airline tickets and hotel rooms being scarce and expensive. It seems that BB&N does a two-week break in March. Kids can travel to Asia and have enough time to de-jetlag. Families can take a one-week or 10-day trip without having to pay $1,200 per airline ticket.

If it works for the BB&N families, why can’t a public school system do it too?

I talked to our town’s superintendent. She said that there is no law requiring a mass exodus in Mass (so to speak), but that talk of a change gets shut down due to (1) trying to keep athletic team schedules in sync and, more importantly, (2) keeping school employees who have children in nearby local school systems in vacation sync with their kids.

But maybe it would make sense if the whole state moved to a two-week block? Then there wouldn’t be a mad rush for Logan Airport on a Friday afternoon. People would naturally end up with slightly staggered travel schedules because not too many families would go away for the entire two weeks.

Corporate slave’s view of the Russia investigation


A productivity-oriented friend said that she mostly sees news about the Russia investigation when she’s at work. “It makes me feel better and reminds me not to complain about the people at [BigCo] who do nothing.”


California prison compared to Harvard


“At $75,560, housing a prisoner in California now costs more than a year at Harvard” (LA Times) is a great companion to the classic “California Prison Academy: Better Than a Harvard Degree” (WSJ), which notes that it is tougher to get into the California Prison Academy than into Harvard and that graduates, on average, earn more than Harvard grads.

Americans can’t afford to live in America


In How much would an immigrant have to earn to defray the cost of added infrastructure? I wondered if we could afford to have immigrants living in America.

Looking at the materials that we got in advance of a recent “town meeting” (non-anonymous mob democracy, New England-style), I’m wondering if Americans can afford to live in America.

Town elites want to spend $100 million on a new school (see Why wouldn’t a Massachusetts town set up a school for gifted and talented students? for the numbers; on a per-student basis, it is more than the endowment for most of America’s better colleges and universities). To show us that everyone else is doing it too, we are shown a $65 million elementary school in Lexington, Massachusetts for 423 students ($153,664 per student; $593 per square foot; the Hastings School).

What else are we supposed to approve? We need a new fire engine… $600,000. Our library needs a replacement air conditioner… for $305,000. How big is this library? About the size of two serious McMansions: 18,600 square feet. How can it possibly cost $305,000 if they don’t have to run any new ducts or power lines? Asking this question at the meeting would be about as socially acceptable as putting a TRUMP sign on one’s lawn or painting an 8′-wide Confederate flag on the street side of one’s house.

The town will spend $16,000 on an Internet firewall and $26,000 on “email migration to cloud”.

Thanks to the Millionaires for Obama preventing the placement of any cell towers in our bucolic hamlet, our heroic first responders cannot communicate via mobile telephone. They need five new portable radios for $13,785. What kind of radios should they buy? A “Radio Communications Consultant Public Safety” will help them shop… for $14,000 additional.

Circling back to the main topic… given that our buildings and other infrastructure don’t last forever, how can Americans afford to live in America? Consider a family that moves to Lexington and has three children. The town will eventually have to build or rebuild elementary, middle, and high school capacity for those three children. That will cost roughly 3 times $153,664 or roughly $460,992, well above the median price of a house in the U.S. (about $350,000). No doubt some other towns can build cheaper than Lexington can, but the trend is for higher cost everywhere.


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