The reference to “Pharisees” in the last short story in my DADT III book

At the opening of the short story “The Ocelot the Way He Is”, a third party revolutionary or possible “terrorist” is depicted in a private residential conversation of referring to “Bill” (based on me) as a “Pharisee”, figuratively.  The “Bill” is seen as someone who likes to be heard or be listened to (regarding the title of the DADT-III book) and known for his “much speaking.”

Actually, many scholars view the Pharisees as more progressive than the Sadducees, but in a sense that is a problem.  They were the “elitist” who preached the right answers for everybody else but didn’t put their own skin in the game.  But they weren’t necessarily rich or politically powerful,  They were somewhat asymmetric in their influence.  But they still didn’t care for “people as people” all that much.

Here is a link   discussing the Sadducees v. Pharisees.  Both the “conservatives” and the “liberals” were dangerous when pressed and neither were too compassionate with real people (think of today’s Republicans and Democrats, or “Republicrats”).

Here’s a discussion of how Jesus felt about the Pharisees and “scribes” (and perhaps sophists).

(Posted: Sunday, April 16, 2017 at 11 PM EDT)



Maundy Thursday: Cleansing, vulnerability, and tribunals — and maybe resilience

The First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC this evening held a Maundy Thursday communion service in three parts: “The Preparation”, “The Cleansing”, and “The Meal”. It was concluded by the Stripping of the Altar.

“The Cleansing” was a foot washing, which I “watched”, but at least I attended.  The celebrants would line up as if for communion, but each participant would wash one person’s feet as well as be washed. The program said, “Foot washing involves some vulnerability”.

In John Chapter 13 Peter at first refuses to let Jesus wash his feet.  It is curious that Peter would refuse this from his best friend.  The critical verses are from 7-10.

One could say that this is about “serving” and “being served”.  But it may be more, about accepting vulnerability as a necessary part of socialization.

I could relate this to the “Tribunals” at William and Mary in the “Do Ask, Do Tell I” book, Chapter 1, Section 04

Or I could correlate it to the “Be Brace and Shave” cancer fundraisers of a few years ago at the Westover Market in Arlington VA.  It gets to be a social resilience matter.

(Posted: Thursday, April 13, 2017 at 11 PM EDT)

Backyard baseball (or softball) revisited

Remember backyard baseball?  Or maybe softball?  Where 12 run half-innings were commonplace.

It seems that the Nationals found that out Saturday night in Philadelphia when they gave up 12 runs in the bottom of the first, with a spot starter who couldn’t get anybody out. story. Here’s the link (to see the embed you may need to view it without https).

The Nats made up for it with a 14-6 win against St. Louis tonight. 14 runs without homers.

But in 1958, we had a “league”, where individuals played games of softball with the rules adjusted so that scores were “reasonable”.  You had to score (either hit a homer, get a wild pitch, or outrun the pitcher) in most cases.

(Posted: Monday, April 10, 2017 at 11:30 PM EDT)

I didn’t play up the word ‘privilege’ in my DADT III book as much as I might have

I have a slight addition to the “Epilogue” (perhaps Arnold Bax-like) of the “non fiction” part of my “Do Ask, Do Tell III” book: “Speech is a fundamental right, but being listened to is a privilege”.

A text search of the chapter doesn’t use the word “privilege” at all, except to mention my 2005 essay “The Privilege of Being Listened to”, which folded into a controversy about my online presence when I worked as a substitute teacher (March 6, 2014 post). Remember, in 2006 a reader in Australia excoriated me on this essay (here).

Right now, I am reading a book by Phoebe Maltz Bovy, “The Perils of ‘Privilege’: Why Injustice Can’t Be Solved by Accusing Others of Advantage”, St. Martin’s Press, 2017.  I will give a full review soon on my WordPress Media Commentary blog.  The basic argument is one of paradox:  being in a position to accuse others of being privileged is itself a privilege.  Furthermore, it presumes that the point of life is to get a grade on how self-sufficient you were.

Already, there is the interesting point about what I have called “conflict of interest”: A teacher, professor or workplace supervisor should not go online to discuss the “privilege” of some person he or she has power over.

There’s been a difficult I.T. problem (story ) in the Arlington VA school system with the system that allows parents to enroll their kids in “extended day” for middle and elementary grades.  I did work on some Extended Day assignments in the fall of 2004 (Feb. 20, 2014 post).   This can put working parents (where both work) in a real bind knowing if their child(ren) is (are) enrolled at all.  There were few problems with these (although there was someone who wasn’t potty trained once).  Maybe I should have worked as an IT consultant during those years.  Actually, once they had a payroll problem that was related to not using the “distinct” option in an SQL SELECT statement.

(Posted: Monday, April 3, 2017 at 6:15 PM EDT)

There are two organizations using the name “CAIR” and this turns out to be important

There is some follow-up on the March 25 post.  The Virginia attorney I had met with on Oct. 4 had mentioned the “CAIR org” as an organization that might be able to supervise a housing offer.  (The other group had been Ayuda , which specializes in Latin American immigrants.)

When I looked up CAIR online I found the Council on American Islamic Relations.  But apparently I dropped the signal on this one.

But today I learned on Facebook, from a new DC Center Global posting,  about an upcoming briefing by a different group, the Capital Area Immigrants’  Rights Coalition  which also uses the acronym.

This might be significant. CAIR Coalition focuses on immigrants in detention or facing deportation, including some asylum seekers, and has considerable legal expertise in Virginia specifically.  A large number of detainees are kept in facilities in Virginia, which I was not aware of (the nearest facility I knew about is near York, PA).  The group recruits volunteers who can answer phone banks or assist with detention facility visits or possibly credible fear hearings (as witnesses).  The group prefers volunteers to be fluent in immigrant languages (especially Spanish or Arabic).  The website that the group does supervise foster care housing arrangements for unaccompanied minors (usually teens 15-17).  The site does not mention a need for hosts for adults.  As far as I know, it is generally not possible for potential hosts to “bail people out of detention” unless they are relatives or in some other way unusually credible in the view of ICE.  However, in connecting the dots, one wonders if the group could help other organizations (Center Global) which have published requests for hosts.

I will follow up on this.

(Posted: Wednesday, March 29, 2017 at 11:45 PM EDT)

My availability to provide housing hosting: here is my statement

Since last summer, late July, I have considered the possibility of hosting an asylum seeker or possibly an international refugee in my “inherited” trust house.  I see that I discussed my previous experience with this matter on February 23, 2014 (and to some extent Nov. 2, 2016).

I won’t give a detailed history of all the discussions, but I have met with an attorney separately in Virginia (where I lived), for some sense of what legal risks could be involved. I’ve documented elsewhere the requests for housing assistance particularly from The DC Center Global, as here on a legacy blog.

There is a big difference between refugees and asylum seekers.  Refugees are vetted by the State Department and by Homeland Security before they arrive.  They can get benefits and can go to work and support themselves.  They usually have support from religious congregations, which work through a number of non-profits (themselves faith-based) who work with DHS.  Generally these non-profits are pretty mainstream now and don’t impose their religious values (as with LGBTQ people).  Usually refugees are intact families that are put up in commercially run apartments with rental assistance.  Occasionally there are single individuals who are placed with people who know them (relatives if possible) or whom social service agencies locate.

Asylum seekers are already here in the U.S.  They may have overstayed their visas, but applied for political asylum within the one year period of arrival (in most cases).  They might have entered illegally and then requested asylum, in which cases they are often placed in detention.

Asylum seekers are not allowed to work or get federal benefits for some number of months (6-9) after application.  Asylum cases can take an extremely long time to be heard by immigration judges.  In practice, judges have a lot of discretion on applying ideas like “particular social group” or “credible fear”.  It’s conceivable that the Trump administration could try to tighten these, but there is no really clear sign yet that this is happening,

Asylum seekers, by definition, have not been vetted before coming.  Therefore, it is riskier, on its face, to allow them to circulate freely in American society.  Generally, the idea behind the law is that asylum seekers are welcome when some individual or family or small social group will vouch for their integrity and will financially and physically support them.  That means that asylum seekers who have relatives in the US usually have more sources of help than those who do not.

The best host, then, is usually a relative or someone who already knows the asylum seeker personally,  Someone else who would host an asylum seeker might be able to do a background check with a school or employer, if the person had been here on a work or study visa.  A host might be able to use one of the many “background investigation” sites on the Internet to do a check of public records.  But the prospective host has the situation of potential liability for the behavior of the person hosted without (short of very radical ideas like marriage or adoption) the legal arrangements that are possible, say, in Canada, which has legally well defined private sponsorship status in its family law.

Organizations seeking to assist asylum seekers do not have the resources behind them that churches assisting the hosting of refugees have. Generally that may be asking “strangers” to host them without the usual reassurance of knowing the person well, and without the social service agency supervision that lawyers have told me personally is necessary.  One practical solution is to ask prospective hosts to volunteer for a while to get to know the people first, to help build “social capital”.  This might be problematic if a volunteer has housing space but resists offering it out of personal caution.  So hosting gets to be seen as an act of “faith”.  It’s easy to misuse other people’s “faith”.  But it’s also true that a potential host, like me, could have the “Rich Young Ruler Problem”.  That is, he has limited social capital personally (because he has a veneer of self-sufficiency) and has a lot to lose if something goes terribly wrong.  On the other hand, someone used to a communal lifestyle with “less to lose” might think that offering hosting is not much of a deal and ought to be expected of everyone.

The host does face some possible hazards . Without going into too much detail, these could include housing someone with illegal status after an application is denied (although there are some faith-based groups who attract volunteers who see providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants as a moral duty – that is another matter), a “trojan horse” person (Donald Trump’s “take care of your own first” idea), or criminal misuse of the host’s Internet router.  Another possibility is that, especially depending on unknown future developments, the person becomes a long term financial dependent in areas like health care treatment (including HIV-related).  There can be general social adjustment issues around behaviors like smoking., recreational drugs or alcohol.

At this point, let me reiterate what my own position on hosting anyone is.

If I know the person already (even if primarily onine), my attitude is no different than anyone else’s would be.  It all depends on that person and my connection to him/her.  It may be easier if the person is publicly known.  This is the normal experience of having a house guest.  It’s not an issue.  But I’ add that I don’t “do” Airbnb (either as a provider or guest).

If it involves a request to house a person suddenly in need of housing, and I learn of this suddenly:

If I already know the person, then it is no issue (above).

If I learn about the situation at a social or volunteer event and the person is not from overseas, I would need to talk to the person in detail and would need references (see Feb.23 posting – I’m stricter now than I was then).  This actually happened once in early January, 2017 but I took no action..  It is very unusual in general.

If it is an international hosting situation (refugee or especially asylum seeker) and if I do not know the person already, I need to have a scheduled in-person private meeting with at least one attorney or professional social worker representing the organization, to discuss a number of potentially adverse scenarios.  Some time (up to two weeks) could elapse before I decided if I’m “in” or remain “out” (no pun).  I make no apologies for my “faith deficit” or lack of “social capital”.  Actually, I may have my own sources of social capital to bring to the table.  But an existing organization asking for this kind of assistance must recognize me as an “Out of Network” provider.

It could help if the organization offered a public “town hall”  information forum for potential hosts, or published an FAQ page, after review by an immigration attorney.

In talking about “knowing the person” from online activity, I also realize this assessment must be looked at carefully.  The person needs to be capable of (verifiable) independence and not simply trying to manipulate others online.

(Posted: Saturday, March 25, 2017. 3:45 PM EDT)

More on unsolicited job interview invitations to “pimp out charities”

A little correction to P. 137, Chapter 4 of my DADT-III book.  It was 2009, not 2006, that I was approached for the job of supervising teens raising money in shopping malls.

It was a Friday evening, just before 6 PM,  in February, 2009 that I got that unsolicited call on my Blackberry.  I was in the basement about to sit down to my computer and I was surprised by the call.

I went to the “interview” on the following Tuesday afternoon in an office park just inside the Beltway on Route 7, on a bitterly cold day after an arctic front and polar vortex.  I remember that the interviewer, who said he was ex-military, reeked of cigarette smoke.

I generally don’t like to be approached in public by fundraisers, because there is so much of this – unless I recognize the cause.  Just like, I don’t like telemarketing calls – who does.  And I don’t like to be interrupted with silly “deals” that I don’t need.

There’s more to say about this – it used to be honorable to sell for a living, but it seems like with the loss of manufacturing and other “real” jobs, we’re left with pimping out things,  including charity, to one another.  On that idea Donald Trump could be right.  I’ll come back to this soon.

(Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2019 at 11:30 AM EDT)

When chess opening books in print have variations refuted suddenly

This post may set up an argument I want to make about niche blogging v. news blogging later.

In the 1984 book “Play the French” by John L. Watson (1984, Pergammon Press) and Watson gives an unusual variation in the Winawer French as favorable for Black:

1 e4 e6 2, d4 d5 3, Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 Qd7!? 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6, bxc3 b6 7. Qg4 f5 8. Qg3 Ba6 9, Bxa6 Nxa6 10, Ne2  Nb8 11 Nf4 Nc6 12 Nxe6!? Qxe6 13 Qxg7 Qg6 14 QxRh8 OOO! (threaten to trap the W Queen) 15 Be3 Rd7 16. h4 h5 but now the ECO innovation 17 g4 by Shmidt is supposed to refute it.  The idea is to offer another pawn to draw the black Queen away from supporting trapping the queen, so White stays ahead by an exchange.  (Note White could have f4, f5, too).

(Posted: Sunday, March 12, 2017, 11:30 PM)

Credit union robbery and kidnapping in Florida borders on terrorism, challenging my own idea not to be negotiated for

There was a robbery attempt at a credit union in Jacksonville FL on Dec. 1, 2017 that does cross a line into terrorism that I talked about here, as to possible personal consequences, on Aug. 12, 2014.

The most straightforward story was on news 4 Jacksonville.

But a new report plays a video showing much of the incident.  It seems to show one employee being singled out as a hostage, and then three more (who may be customers or employees) later.

This is a particularly dangerous precedent, that as I said before, could set up the possibility of negotiation with terrorists in a civilian setting, in a place of business like a bank.  What comes to mind,, of course, is how the Pulse disco attack in Orlando turned out last June.

In this case, however, the motive for the incident is still unclear. Mental illness could be involved, but it is the mentally ill who are more easily recruited as lone wolves.

Consumers can reduce their risk by making trips to banks only when necessary, and by staying away from entrances and in the middle, with the rest of the crowd.  It’s best to do ATM withdrawals in the day time in locations with heavy foot traffic and police presence.  Many banks have tightened their security rules for consumer safe deposit access in recent months.

(Posted: Friday, March 10, 2017 at 7:15 PM EST)

Sweden reinstates conscription out of fear of new cold war with Russia; tie to my own books?

This story is in line with my coverage of US male-only conscription in Chapter 2 of my DADT-1 book and in Chapter 7 (“Fiction 1”) of DADT-III.

According to a detailed story on p. A7 of the New York Times today (by Martin Selsoe Sorensen), Friday, March 3, 2017, Sweden has reinstituted conscription, including women, out of fear of Russia and Vladimir Putin’s aggression

Finland also is not part of NATO (like Sweden) and would seem to be at even more risk.  There was a mysterious assassination in the Karelia area a few months ago.  That possibility fits in to my “Angel’s Brother” manuscript.

Sweden is also insisting that civilians have disaster resilience training, and learn to live 72 hours without utilities.

(Posted: Friday, March 3, 2017 t 2:15 PM EST)

A repository of footnotes for my DADT books and other stuff