A creepy phone “survey”

I’ve gotten a couple of voice messages which claim to be from the Center for Disease Control. They’re very creepy, and I think they’re fake. If it’s really the CDC, that’s even creepier.

The first message wanted me to call back and give information about any children I have in a certain age range. This isn’t something I would give to any stranger on the phone. The second one lied outright, claiming to have previously spoken with an unspecified person in my household and asking me to “complete” the survey. The caller ID was 312-578-7017. The number the second voicemail wanted me to call was 877-220-4805. The first one may have given the same number, but I didn’t save the message or write down the number.
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Free speech threats, left and right

The organizers of the Rose Festival Parade in Portland, Oregon, had to shut it down because of threats of violence. This isn’t something that should be happening in the United States.

When Trump was elected, I was afraid there would soon be rampaging mobs assaulting people for what they said. I was right, but the mobs aren’t the ones I expected. While Trump talked about leaving people to be “carried out on a stretcher” it’s the political left that’s now using brass knuckles on people. Not everyone is overtly supporting violence, but too many are, and the opposition is numerically weak.

At the same time, the Trump administration is overtly hostile to the news media, and there’s currently talk of prosecuting a foreign news organization, WikiLeaks, that doesn’t operate on U.S. soil. This would be a shot across the bow for both American and international news organizations everywhere.

Which is the greater threat? Donald Trump holds a powerful position and has support in Congress. The courts have been holding him back, but he’s making noises about changing the court system to a more compliant one. He could do serious harm by 2020. On the other hand, leftist mobs have already done concrete damage to free speech. It’s not just the people they’ve assaulted and the events they’ve forced cancellation of, but other events whose organizers know might be threatened by these thugs.
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Notes on life and mortality

To preface this, I’d like to reassure anyone reading this that my health is good and I have no expectation of dying soon. However, going by years, my life is more than half over. Barring a breakthrough in life extension, I probably don’t have more than three decades left. That means I think about death occasionally. Getting my thoughts into a public essay helps to clarify them.
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The intolerant left, then and now

The intolerant left — the ones who approve of “free speech zones,” speech codes, shouting down speakers, and in some cases violent suppression — reminds me of certain campus factions when I was a student in the late sixties and early seventies. We can learn from the similarities and the differences.

In the “sixties” (which stretched into the seventies), it was mostly hard-core socialist groups who opposed free speech and tried to silence opponents. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) loved to intimidate and shout down speakers. Youth Against War and Fascism (YAWF) handed out fliers declaring that “Fascists have no right to speak!” By “fascists,” on that occasion, they meant libertarians opposing rent control.
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The strange world of “content marketing”

In my work as a freelance blogger I try to put worthwhile content into every piece I write. At least some of the readers should come away from it understanding something better than they did before. It may contain promotional material, if that’s what the customer asks for, but it has a solid core of useful information. That’s my understanding of “content.”

In the marketing world, though, it means something else entirely. The biggest market for freelance writers on the Web is “SEO writing.” That means writing whose main purpose is to provide “content” that search engines will rank high. The expertise for this isn’t knowledge about the subject matter but expertise in planting the right keywords and otherwise constructing the article to match Google’s current idea of what a relevant article is. It’s clickbait, only more sophisticated.
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Twitter’s search blocking

Twitter is getting desperate. It will do anything except talk to its users. Some time recently, it started blocking search terms. I’ve verified that they include “marijuana” and “cannabis.”
Twitter search for "marijuana" claiming no matches.
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PGP update

I’ve updated my PGP key, since the previous one was five years old, and revoked the previous one. I’d sign this post to confirm the key, but that doesn’t work very well with WordPress.

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Remembering some victories

It’s too easy (for me, anyway) to sink into doom and gloom about the political situation. There are plenty of reasons to be depressed right now, but focusing only on bad news just kills motivation. So here’s a quick list of areas where libertarians have made gains in the 21st century. In most cases, other groups did a lot (often most) of the work; there aren’t enough of us to win many battles without alliances. Often, though, libertarians were there first.

I’m not claiming this is a complete list or even covers all the most important cases; please mention others in the comments if you like.
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Police intimidation, local style

Last week I was driving home around 9:30 PM, going southbound on NH Route 125. Suddenly there were blue lights flashing behind me. I pulled over. To my relief, the vehicle behind me kept going. It no longer had the blue lights on. There was no siren. There was no emergency, just some cop having fun scaring people.

It was dark, so I don’t know whether it was Kingston police, state troopers, or even an out-of-town cop. It’s not a big deal, but every little incident like this contributes to people’s distrust of the police. I could have filed complaints with both state and local police, but what good would it have done?

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Trump’s lie about New Hampshire

Trump’s claim that thousands of people were bused into New Hampshire and fraudulently voted in the 2016 election is a plain lie. It has no supporting evidence, and Trump has a long record of gross dishonesty. I stood outside the polls in Kingston, NH for hours, watching for any signs of intimidation, and didn’t see any kind of irregularities. I certainly would have noticed a busload of voters arrive. Many people were similarly watchful at other locations in the state.

As I noted in an earlier post, Kingston’s town clerk suppressed vote totals on the website. However, the votes were reported correctly to the state, as far as I can tell. What she did was biased and improper, but it didn’t affect the official totals.

Some people think Trump is delusional and believes his claim. I think he has set out to discredit the election process. New Hampshire is disproportionately important in presidential elections, so it’s easy to see why he’s smearing my state’s voting system.

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