Personal responsibility, revisited

This is a good time to revisit a conjecture on p. roman xiii of the Introduction of my “Do Ask, Do Tell I” book, 2000 printing (originally 1997).

“My central question on personal values is this: do we believe in the principle that every adult person is totally responsible for himself or herself?” I play Devil’s Advocate with my own conjecture there immediately.

It’s pretty obvious from some current events that this doesn’t seem to fit the real world.  The most obvious example in the past week of course is the gun control debate after the high school attack in Broward County Florida. I won’t revist here all the proposals in the past week (as on the CNN Town Hall with the wonderful high school students on Wednesday, February 21).  As an abstraction, a libertarian would say that only the shooter is responsible.  But arguably the weapons industry benefitted from a laxity in the law that endangered civilian minors in a school setting (let alone many other soft targets, like Aurora, Las Vegas, Pulse in Orlando).  So did a whole political sub-establishment, mostly on the right wing.

There’s a similar problem with gratuitous public speech.  We can’t rehearse all the details right here, but obviously a foreign element has leveraged well-intended speakers (maybe even me) to sow political resentment among groups of economically less well-off people.  Furthermore, the permissive speech environment has led to many other problems like cyberbullying, revenge porn, terror recruiting, and (especially in the news very recently) sex trafficking, especially of underage females, much of it overseas.  Various developments, such as recent bills to undermine Section 230 with respect to trafficking, a recent court opinion regarding embedded hyperlinks, and the end of net neutrality can, in various ways, threaten the previously undeterred capability of speakers like me to find an audience on the web with little hucksterism or little need to actually learn to meet customer’s real personal needs.  Add to this, some private businesses faces considerable “populist” pressure to cut off ties with various speakers whose activity is seen to be enabled on the backs of children or the less well off.

I guess one way to summarize this:  you have to watch your karma, or you will have to watch your back.

Let me reiterate, for the present:  I want to do my own work and retain independence:  to publish the “truth” on the web, which is nuanced, and to prove that I can finally finish and actually sell a novel, a movie idea, and get some of my life-long music professionally performed.  The effort continues.  I cannot bargain away my own self-defined purposes to meet the demands of any special interest agenda, no matter how compelling the needs of people in the group may have become in the current political climate.  Yet, it is a fair question, why don’t I “care” about “real people” enough to want to bond with them.  I can’t resolve that here.  If I had the skills of a Dr. Shaun Murphy, the dilemma would solve itself.

In the next few weeks (probably by the end of March) I do expect to resolve some legal questions as to zoning, business licenses, reporting, and other formal matters in my new living environment.  Renting a an office could be a possibility. I have made some progress in gathering the information but cannot disclose all of it yet, but expect to do so by April.

(Posted: Friday, February 23, 2018 at 9 PM EST)

“Let’s Stop Blaming Poverty on the Poor” video restates an argument in my DADT-3 book

There is a valuable animated Facebook video posted by “God”, “Let’s Stop Blaming Poverty on the Poor” (2  min).  A Facebook friend shared this today. (Prager has a longer version).

The video explains the churchianity and rationalizations that led to the moral acceptability of nobility in European history, which would be picked up by capitalism and morph into meritocracy.

But the video then makes what sounds like an astonishing suggestion:  Well-off people should have more social contact with the poor, who often simply can’t communicate verbally in the same language.  I can say that from volunteer community assistance events in the past.  But this suggestion contradicts the customary social norms of an individualistic “mind your own business” culture. It also confounds the modern notion of work ethic and personal performance, and would be particularly morally challenging to introverts.  It might also vindicate old-fashioned “sales culture”.

This comports well with what is in my DADT-3 book, especially the Epilogue of the Non-Fiction portion (“Chapter 6”) where I lecture about “stepping up” to unexpected personal challenges.

The problem is that as society becomes more unequal and the communication gap between “classes” widens (and it doesn’t get resolved online because of tribalism), less well-off people have no reason to follow the rules and can be easily recruited by enemies (“The Russians”?) to bring the whole house down, even with civilian warfare. Maybe the Samson story in the Old Testament applies.

This is becoming a “Milo-Dangerous” personal challenge.

Return to chess, and I fall to a “four game sweep”

I played my first chess games after moving into a condo and selling the house.

It was all skittles, 15-minute TC, at a chess club in the Kingstowne area of Alexandria south of I-495.

I played a young man who played unconventional openings but got swept in 4 straight games as he got merciless with tactics.  In three of the four games, I should have had advantage.

I’ll present the opening of one game:

1 d4 d5 2 c4 dc 3 Nf3 Bf5 4 Nc3 d6 5 e4 Bg4 6 Bxc4 a6 7 h3 Bb5ch 8 Nc3 Bh4 9 Qa4 ch Nc6 and now White should play 10 d5! after all intending Bxb5 if b5.  Because of the pin and hanging black Bishop, White wins back all the material in all variations (you just have to play them out; it’s a lot over the board, but this is all good for White).

In the last game I played a Hungarian defense of the Grunfeld (he finally played “grandmaster” book with White for about a dozen or so moves) and got a good position and won a Q-side pawn but blew the ending on time.  But there was nothing wrong with Larry Kramer’s recommendations for Black in the opening;  the White Q side gets many targets, and Black was probably better.

I definitely wasn’t sharp tonight.  I hope I got this out of my system.  The Nationals had better start spring training better than this!

But the games were not USCF rated.

I then went to Freddie’s Beach bar, where there was a poker tournament on two tables.  Apparently poker has a chess-like clock controlling the play.  There was also karaoke.

(Posted: Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 at 11 PM EST)

 

“Decoupling” was discussed in my DADT 1 book without the term being used (in relation to nuclear war brinkmanship, not with North Korea)

Vox published a prospective article on what war with North Korea could look like, by Yochi Dreazen.

I’ll cover this in more detail soon on another blog, but I wanted to note the mention of the term “decoupling”, in the Cold War context.

I talked about this in Chapter 2 of the first DADT book but didn’t use the term. Here’s the main link.

I do think I heard the term in my summer in the Pentagon in 1968.

In practical terms, it puts the political leadership of a democratic country in a position of having to expose civilians to unusual risks and “sacrifice” at home in order to protect allies, or in order to avoid nuclear brinkmanship.

As I’ve said elsewhere here, having your life “bargained for” is not particularly honorable. See Aug. 12, 2014.

I’ll also note that when I was working on the first DADT book in the mid 1990s, I was aware that the Clinton administration considered war with North Korea a possibility, and took that rogue regime more seriously than radical Islam. I mention the possibility of terror several times in Chapter 4 (even martial law once), and mention the idea of rogue nations but never go into any specific threat myself.

(Posted: Friday, February 9, 2018, at 2 PM EST)

TWIMC: Feb 1, 2018 EOM; what about special contributions?

The month of February 2018 starts with a total balance of about $997000 in trust, with about $835000 in “mom’s trust”, where any investment has to meet heavier fiduciary responsibility standards.

The fund values have gone up with the “Trump” stock market, but I believe this could be a bubble and I think that the nation, under Trump, is running into grave national security risks, especially concerning North Korea, which I have discussed widely elsewhere on my blogs.  I have had discussions with private interests on what companies can do to mitigate their own risk, such as protection or shielding of data centers from cyber intrusions or physical EMP E1 level pulses.

The first set of benefit payments, which are small (spread out over 20 years) were created on January 12 and have been received.  Other charity payments (for non-beneficiaries) continue through the same mechanism at Wells Fargo as they had before, but some have been reduced.

Currently, there is only one regular contribution off a personal credit card, and that is to the New York Philharmonic ($50 per month), which is not listed as a beneficiary.

I often see pleas for immediate donations, sometimes accompanied by matching fund offers from large companies.

For the time being, most contributions need to go through the automated and “impersonal” mechanism at Wells Fargo.  I generally don’t respond to “pleas”, which would be personal and outside of the mechanism set up for the trusts, unless I have a particular connection with the party making the plea and have some intention of spending time and effort with the party.  And right now, I to have to place a high priority of getting my own work done, having settled in after downsizing from estate house to condo.

(Posted: February 1, 2018 at 10:30 AM EST)

Save the Children affected by attack in Afghanistan

I generally don’t discuss the identities of beneficiaries of the Mom’s Trust here, but I think it’s appropriate now to name one of them, Save the Children.

Today, the charity lost three members of its staff in a terror attack on a hotel in Jalalabad where it had operations.  The agency is suspending operations in Afghanistan temporarily.

The BBC has a typical news story here.  The story indicates that all aid groups find operating in war zones very dangerous for workers.

If is possible for an incident of this nature to qualify stakeholders of a beneficiary organization as “stakeholders”, which sometimes mean that the benefit payment outlined on the Jan 2 posting could be requested as one maximum lump sum (5% of the liquidity increase) but then the continuing payments would not continue.

(Posted: Wednesday, January 24, 2017 at 10:30 PM EST)

Should everyone learn constructon skills? (DADT III story)

This article on Intellectual Takeout comports with some ideas in the DADT-3 book, especially the story “Expedition”, where on p. 273 Randy tells Bill (me) that he is going to take up the proletarian activity of carpentry.

Although  a lot of this happens with people who want to go back to the woods – whether the Lama Foundation (my last visit in 1984) or intentional communities like Twin Oaks and Acorn near Mineral VA.

Should people have the skills to rebuild their own homes after disasters?  A lot of time they have to.  FEMA trailers haven’t worked out that well.

TWIMC: Trust advisory letter for 2018 sent; here is the big picture

I did send letters to six beneficiaries today.

Here is a copy of the text:

(START)

I am writing to notify you that you are a beneficiary of two trusts of which I am the sole acting executor. These are “The Margaret Boushka Trust” (after my late mother) as interpreted and amended by replacement on Feb. 16, 2012, and the “John Boushka Trust” set up at that time, all as grantor trusts.

Under the Virginia Uniform Trust Acts, I am required to advise you annually of what is happening.

In October 2017 I sold the trust home at 5143 N. 15th St. Arlington VA 22205 and used the proceeds to purchase a condo unit at 5501 Seminary Road #1301S Falls Church VA 22041, all titled under the Margaret Boushka Trust but naming me as the sole acting trustee.

The settlement transactions, after completed and paying all related expenses, resulted in a net liquidity increase of about $397,000 in all funds controlled by me, including both trusts.  The liquid assets in the Margaret Boushka Trust are about $825,000 and in the John Boushka Trust they are about $163000.  “Liquid assets” refer to cash, checking and savings accounts, and securities (bonds and stocks) that can normally be sold in a few business days in the usual securities markets.   One immediate expectation would be setting aside $200,000 for 20 years taxes, utilities, repairs, and condo fees in securities that cannot lose principal.

Under state and federal laws, beneficiaries are entitled to the expectation that an executor will treat trust funds with a sense of fiduciary responsibility, even if the benefits would only pass on after the executor’s own death.  They way the trust is written, no more “distributions” as such to previous heirs or current beneficiaries are to be made.   Charitable giving as such should be commensurate with income flow (and tax law, which is changing as we know).  However, there is an emphasis on “responsible investing” in socially responsible endeavors such as green technologies or perhaps even infrastructure and power grid security.  There would be the possibility (which I have not tried yet) of Kiva loans overseas.  There could be a possibility of investment in affordable housing (as, for example, for asylum seekers, in accordance with existing immigration law).  But these would have to be run as investments, not as contributions.

There may be a few possible investments (for example, independent film) where it is far preferable to use a trust with only my own name on it.  While the standards for my own trust may be slightly more lenient (for example, a small investment in bitcoin or other digital currency would be permissible if in my own name only) in general there is little practical difference between the two.

The trust documents do make provisions for special needs beneficiaries.  I personally do not like to be in the business of evaluating at a personal level what is a special need, particularly when it can become politicized.

It is also possible to provide beneficiaries small monthly income flows.

So what I have decided to do is as follows:

I will pay out 5% of the liquidity increase over 20 years in 240 monthly payments, as long as I am alive and as long as each beneficiary is alive or organization is functioning.  This amounts to $83 a month. Payments will me made around the 15th of each month starting January 15, 2018.  For all beneficiaries I need current mailing addresses for the bank (right now Wells Fargo ) to use in mailing payments.  This is the only payment mechanism used by the trust;  special platforms that some charities or non-profits use for matching grants can not be used for this purpose.

It is possible to change (add or remove) beneficiaries but this involves further legal expenses.

Currently, some income that is paid to me directly by an annuity goes back to the Margaret Boushka Trust for charitable contributions.  That mechanism will continue.  Other organizations which are not beneficiaries may continue to receive some contributions in this manner.  Every organization however should understand that a contribution does not imply that I personally agree with every position the organization on every possible issue, or would become involved in every issue.  I generally do not run fund raising campaigns for other organizations under my own name or brands.

(END)

A couple of points.

I forgot to put the email contact and cell on there.  It is on the “About” page for this site.  If you call me and I don’t pick up (as when driving), please leave a detailed message.  Texting, or Facebook or Twitter messenger, or email are fine.

The letter (annually) may be a legally driven requirement and does not require a response.

But it is significant that the Trusts now are geared around to providing small income to beneficiaries and death benefits after my own passing.  They no longer pay “distributions” as Mom’s did in 2011.

There is some interest on the idea that wise investments on socially responsible projects would leave more wealth for beneficiaries without ethical complaints from how it was acquired.

As I have noted, the trust language does seem to encourage the possibility of extra payments or gifts to “special needs beneficiaries”.  This language may derive from a tradition where many trusts are written for “closely knit” extended families where the trustees know personally various other family members well.  That is not always the case with me.  Nevertheless, there are some ideas that the trust language would want me to consider.  If a beneficiary has a medical need that cannot be covered by normal insurance but where some sort of innovative private intervention is possible and conceivably life-saving, that is something for me to consider. One of the beneficiaries is a well-known charity serving children and does encourage sponsorship.   Although I have some reservations about engaging in this gratuitously, the trust language would have encouraged some risk taking for specific needs.

I have a huge list of to-do items to make my own content commercially successful.  It’s important for me to “get my own job done” before joining campaigns for others.

Picture: New Years in Falls Church VA, about 1 AM.

Posted: Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at 7 PM EST

ALS Testimony in the family

A cousin, slightly younger than me, gives her testimonial from Ohio on her experience with ALS.

The couple also has a major wedding anniversary this weekend.

The quality of the video is film-like and gives a lot of insight into how ALS unfolds.

ALS did an ice-bucket challenge a few years ago.

I understand that Timo Descamps (video just above) will be starting a new project in Belgium in 2018.

I’ve tended to keep a DADT attitude on my own medical tests.  But my own physician is insisting on more frequent blood monitoring. I suspect I won’t be able to put off the colonoscopy forever.  Another friend treated himself to a night before in a luxury hotel next to the clinic — when you can’t eat anything.

Something eventually happens to everyone of us.  Unless extraterrestrial angels really exist. They may.

Legacy review of “The Theory of Everything” and the life of Stephen Hawking (mentioned in the first video), here.

(Posted: Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 at 11:45 PM EST)

TWIMC: Some rearrangement of trust monies

TWIMC: Today I have made some allocations among my various accounts following on the sale of the condo and increase in liquidity.

I have “paid myself”, into a personal checking account, $26000, for time spent on the move and for certain extra expenses regarding damage and replacement of certain items.

I have moved 25% of the extra liquidity (which turned out to be about $397,000, after also allowing for immediate heater replacement and technology upgrade in the condo) from “mother’s” trust to the trust in my own name.  I have also moved about $45000 more to my own trust as I found that there were some liquid assets that had not been distributed to me.

The total  in “mom’s” trust is about $839000, including the cash value ($96000) of a long term care policy.  The total in mine is about $147000.  Both trusts have the same list of beneficiaries (two individuals and four organizations).  In both trusts the fiduciary accountability of me is essentially the same.   But in certain circumstances, it may be easier to invest from a trust that has only my name.  It is no longer lawful to make gross distributions on the schedule (as laid of in 2009), as the language adopted in 2012 overrides.  However, it is possible to provide small income flow to beneficiaries over a long period of time.  It is also possible to consider socially responsible investing (like green power).  But investments (say, in housing) that would be personally beneficial to some people need, in principle, the potential of being paid back.  About $200,000 between the two trusts needs to be kept in cash or securities that don’t lose principal.

The practice I have followed is to return a $1400 Brighthouse annuity payment to me back the MDB trust and use it to make donations to organizations, as a kind of “rent” for living in trust owned property.  Some of these organizations had been those favored by my mother.  I have added my own over time.

What I expect to do is offer 5% of the increase in liquidity to each beneficiary, but spread out in monthly payments over twenty years (or as long as a beneficiary lives or an organization exists).  Some other organizations will remain to get small monthly gifts but some will stop.  I expect to put in these changes during the second week of January 2018.   The trust language actively encourages consideration of “special needs” which might apply to minor children of beneficiaries.  It is possible for me to consider these, but I am usually very hesitant to pass personal judgment on what is a “special need”.

I believe there will be one more  (smaller) transfer to my own trust in early January regarding another matter that I’ll get into at the time.

(Posted: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 at 12:30 PM EST)

A repository of footnotes for my DADT books and other stuff