Sunday, May 26, 2024

Police Remove Starchild from 2024 Libertarian National Convention During Trump Speech

Starchild is well known in the California Libertarian community, having served in many party offices on a local (San Francisco), state, and national level.

During my active years in the Libertarian Party (1990s to 2000s) I met Starchild several times at state and national conventions. I've always found him to be unfailingly polite and personable.

I dropped out of LP activism in late 2009, but I see that Starchild is still at it. He's even made national news.

Starchild was forcibly ejected from the LP's national convention floor during Trump's speech. As near as I can tell from the footage, all Starchild was doing was holding up a protest sign.

Watch the video and judge for yourself.

Britain's Daily Mail also provided some coverage of Starchild in its reporting, though the DM don't know his name. (See Daily Mail photo below).

===========

Sunday, December 03, 2023

It's Fair Use for AI to Learn from Human Writers

 

AI (artificial intelligence) was a key issue in the recent Hollywood actors' and writers' strikes for two reasons. One, the worry that union workers might be replaced with AI generated actors and scripts (AI as competition), and two, the claim that actors and writers should be compensated because AI in some way copies their faces and scripts (AI as infringement).

I'm not sure that AI is an issue for actors. CGI images are an issue, because they increasingly resemble real people who might compete with actors. But is that really AI? As I understand the term, AI is when a computer creates something that it wasn't specifically programed to do; it uses its own logic and data base of knowledge to create something original. AI image generators do exist, but AI is not required to create CGI images.

AI poses a greater threat to writers. Theoretically, I can foresee a day in which an AI program writes an original play the equal of Hamlet. Of course, most Hollywood scripts are formulaic hack work that fall far short of Hamlet, so perhaps writers' cause for concern is more urgent.

How good are AI's literary skills today?

Plenty of free AI generators exist online. I assume that Hollywood studios and Big Tech firms have access to more advanced programs, but I tried the AI generator at Toolbaz.com, just to test its skills.

I input "Christian crusader knight defeats Muslims." Many online AI generators claim to filter out "hate" but, at least for now, Toolbaz had no issue with Christians defeating Muslims. Here is the story that Toolbaz wrote for me:

 

John was a Christian crusader knight who had been sent to the Middle East to defend the Christian faith against the Muslim forces. He had been training in the art of war for many years and was prepared to do whatever it took to uphold the Christian faith.

For weeks, John clashed with the Muslim forces, but the tide of battle was not in his favor. The Muslim forces were much larger and better equipped than he was, and it seemed unlikely that he would be able to win the fight.

But then, something changed. While on a scouting mission, John stumbled upon a secret weapon that belonged to the Muslim forces. He studied the weapon and realized that it could be used to his advantage. With the help of his allies, he was able to turn the tide of battle and eventually defeat the Muslim forces.

The victory was a great one for John and the Christian faith. The people of the Middle East praised him for his courage and strength, and many of them converted to Christianity in the wake of his victory. John was hailed as a hero and remembered in Christian history for centuries to come.

 

Okay, that's not terrible. Grammar and spelling are accurate. The story structure is solid. A protagonist seeks a goal. He encounters conflict. He is about to be defeated. But then, by his own actions and some luck, he overcomes adversity and wins.

Not bad. But not Hamlet. The story is solid, but hackneyed and unoriginal. Nuance and details are also lacking. Even so, this story can serve as an outline for a hack writer to flesh out. Certainly, the story is no more hackneyed than thousands of direct-to-video and made-for cable movies.

I can see how AI might provide ideas and outlines for hack writers suffering from writer's block. A sitcom writer once told me the staff writers on his show kept a supply of old TV Guides. Whenever they were stuck for ideas, they perused the episode descriptions of past sitcoms.

Ever notice how so many sitcoms have episodes in which the characters defend themselves in court rather than hire an attorney, or compete with jealous coworkers for an award? How so many sitcoms still borrow ideas from I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners? No wonder hack writers fear AI.

But if writers can't stop AI, they can still demand compensation from tech and media companies. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association offered a typical argument for such compensation in their statement to the U.S. Copyright Office, on October 30, 2023:

 

The current crop of artificial intelligence systems owes a great debt to the work of creative human beings. Vast amounts of copyrighted creative work, collected and processed without regard to the moral and legal rights of its creators, have been copied into and used by these systems that appear to produce new creative work. These systems would not exist without the work of creative people, and certainly would not be capable of some of their more startling successes.

 

I was a member of SFWA for about ten years. It's their mission to lobby for writers' interests. But their argument is erroneous. They argue that because AI learns from reading writers' books and scripts, these writers should be compensated.

But that's how all writers learn their craft, AI and human.

In Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury discusses his youth, when he was a voracious consumer of culture, both popular and literary. It's how he learned to write.

 

When did it all really begin? The writing, that is. Everything came together in the summer and fall and early winter of 1932. By that time I was stuffed full of Buck Rogers, the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the night-time radio serial "Chandu the Magician." Chandu said magic and the psychic summons and the Far East and strange places which made me sit down every night and from memory write out the scripts of each show. ...

If I hadn't stuffed my eyes and stuffed my head with all of the above for a lifetime, when it came round to word-associating myself into story ideas, I would have brought up a ton of ciphers and a half-ton of zeros.

 

Read the entire book. Bradbury cites many novels, comics, films, and radio programs as influences. His point is, he learned how and what to write by absorbing other writers, filmmakers and artists. The same way all children learn to write and think. The same way AI learns to write and think.

Many writers were voracious readers as children. The books that went into us shaped our literary tastes, skills and sensibilities. AI can be compared to a child who reads hundreds of books (or with AI, tens of thousands), absorbs them, and then uses his own mind (the computer's algorithms) to create something original.

When a human learns to write by reading books, that's a Fair Use of those books. No copyright is infringed. No additional payments are owed to the writers of those books. Just the one time cover price.

The same logic applies when an AI program learns to write by reading books. It's a Fair Use of those books. No copyright is infringed. You would think that science fiction writers would understand that.

It's not what human writers want to hear; they want royalties from AI programs. But applying the doctrine of Fair Use to AI learning is logical. Any Vulcan would agree.

==========

 

Saturday, July 08, 2023

Mao Tse-Tung Disagrees That "All White People Are Racist"

As I was reading Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (aka The Little Red Book), I came across a particularly stunning quote in Chapter 2: Classes and Class Struggle:

 

In the final analysis, national struggle is a matter of class struggle. Among the whites in the United States, it is only the reactionary ruling circles that oppress the black people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people.

"Statement Supporting the American Negroes in Their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism" (August 8, 1963), People of the World, Unite and Defeat the U.S. Aggressors and All Their Lackeys, 2nd ed., pp. 3-4.

 

Wow. So the "overwhelming majority of white people" are not racist? And that's according to Chairman Mao!

Yet his statement contradicts what today is a familiar accusation from the Left. Search the phrase "all whites are racist" on the internet. You'll come up with much. For instance, an article by Elena Guthrie on Huff Post, "Are All White People Racist?" [February 10, 2017], in which she concludes:

 

"All white people are racist, because all white people exist in a racist power structure that we aren't actively fighting to dismantle. Racists don't just wear white pointy hats and say the 'n' word, by doing nothing, any and every white person is still taking advantage of a power structure that favours us. Don't be more upset with being called racist than actual racism."


It seems today's Left has moved so far to the Left that the late Communist dictator of Red China now stands on "the wrong side of history."

Yet back in his heyday, Mao was as radical as you could get. He was an icon for Leftists who thought the Soviet Union under Khrushchev and Brezhnev had turned soft and compromised. Mao was unlike the "tired, old white men" of the USSR. Mao was cool. He was authentic. His face adorned the walls of college dorms. Women wanted to sleep with him and guys wanted to be him.

But how does The Great Helmsman measure up to the woke standards of today's intersectional Left?

Well, in his Little Red Book, Mao talks a lot about economic class struggle. He denounces imperialism and advocates for "national liberation movements." But he never makes it about race. And although it's not a term he uses, he might justifiably be described as "color blind." That makes him old-fashioned. A dinosaur among today's Left. Perhaps even a running dog reactionary!

I'm no Maoist. The man was a monster, as were and are all Communist dictators. More innocent people died under Mao's regime than even under Stalin or Hitler. Which is why Mao's above quote should give libertarians pause for thought.

When even a man of Mao's Communist street cred is guilty of such a cancel-worthy statement, it shows just how far leftward our own culture has moved.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

The Bitcoin Field Guide Exudes Pre-Crash Optimism

Libertarians have long been interested in Bitcoin, blockchain, and cryptocurrency in general, as a means of circumventing state centralized banking. A recent documentary (released just before the crypto crash of 2022) exudes that libertarian fervor.

For my review of 2021's The Bitcoin Filed Guide, click here.

============

Monday, April 25, 2022

Libertarian Party of California Fields No Candidates for June 7, 2022 Primary Election

I've been inactive in the Libertarian Party for a while now. And it seems I'm not alone.

I recently received the California Voters Guide for the upcoming June 7, 2022 primary election. I was surprised to see that not a single Libertarian candidate bothered to run for office throughout the state, or in my area -- Los Angeles County.

Take a look at the list of candidates. Apart from plenty of Democratic and Republican candidates, the Green Party is running several candidates, as is the Peace & Freedom Party. Also many candidates listed as "No Party Preference" and "No Qualified Party Preference."

But not a single Libertarian.

Also no one from the American Independent Party, but that's no surprise. They rarely run candidates.

However, Don J. Grundmann is running as "No Qualified Party Preference." In his candidate statement, he says he belongs to the Constitution Party, which is not ballot qualified in California.

So the Constitution Party, which is so tiny that it does not qualify as a legal political party in California, managed to field a candidate. While the Libertarian Party, with all its greater resources and membership numbers, failed to run any candidates.

Now, it's possible that the LP is running candidates in other parts of California. Or not. But definitely no one at the state level. And no one in Los Angeles, the state's most populous region.

I wonder how this happened? I know Top Two has hurt all third parties. But the Green, Peace and Freedom, and even Constitution parties managed to rise to the challenge, while the LP is MIA.

========

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Dangers of Second Hand Marijuana Smoke

Libertarians tend to be blindly (irrationally) defensive of marijuana. Because The State prohibited marijuana smoking for so long, it must be a good thing.

But consider these facts, taken from the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation website:

* Secondhand smoke from combusted marijuana contains fine particulate matter that can be breathed deeply into the lungs, which can cause lung irritation, asthma attacks, and makes respiratory infections more likely. Exposure to fine particulate matter can exacerbate health problems especially for people with respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis, or COPD.

* Significant amounts of mercury, cadmium, nickel, lead, hydrogen cyanide, and chromium, as well as 3 times the amount of ammonia, are found in mainstream marijuana smoke than is in tobacco smoke.

* In 2009, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment added marijuana smoke to its Proposition 65 list of carcinogens and reproductive toxins, also known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. It reported that at least 33 individual constituents present in both marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke are Proposition 65 carcinogens.

* Secondhand smoke from marijuana has many of the same chemicals as smoke from tobacco, including those linked to lung cancer.

* Secondhand marijuana exposure impairs blood vessel function. Published studies on rats show that thirty minutes of exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke at levels comparable to those found in restaurants that allow cigarette smoking led to substantial impairment of blood vessel function. Marijuana smoke exposure had a greater and longer-lasting effect on blood vessel function than exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.

* One minute of exposure to marijuana SHS substantially impairs endothelial function in rats for at least 90 minutes, considerably longer than comparable impairment by tobacco SHS. The findings in rats suggest that SHS can exert similar adverse cardiovascular effects regardless of whether it is from tobacco or marijuana.

* Secondhand marijuana smoke and secondhand tobacco smoke is similar in many ways. More research is needed, but the current body of science shows that both tobacco and marijuana smoke have similar chemical composition and suggests that they may have harmful cardiovascular health effects, such as atherosclerosis (partially blocked arteries), heart attack, and stroke.

============================

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Congressman Tom McClintock's Recommendations for California's November 2020 Ballot Propositions

Congressman Tom McClintock offers his recommendations on California's November 2020 ballot propositions:


Proposition 14 – Brewster’s Billions: NO. “Brewster’s Millions” tells the story of a fictional character in 1902, who, in order to inherit $7 million, must first spend $1 million in a year and have nothing to show for it. In 2004, California voters were convinced to spend $3 billion on Stem Cell research – or about $260 (plus interest) for every family in California. A recent report found that $2.1 billion went to beneficiaries with links to the board that doles out the money. That money is now all but spent, with nothing to show for it. So, they’re back with another bond, this one for $5.5 billion (about $478 per family). This is amusing only as fiction.


Proposition 15 – How Not to Succeed in Business: NO. From the “How Tone Deaf Can They Be” file comes this proposal to reassess businesses annually in order to hike their property taxes. That’s because the state-ordered lockdowns, the arrests of shopkeepers trying to keep their businesses going, combined with California’s highest-in-the-country income and sales taxes and anti-business regulations, have left California’s small businesses flush with cash. It is still possible to build a successful small business in California, as long as you start with a successful large one. And remember, businesses don’t pay taxes: YOU pay business taxes, as a consumer through higher prices, as an employee through lower wages or as an investor through lower earnings (think 401k).


Proposition 16 – Judging People by the Color of their Skin and Not the Content of the Character: NO. In the Parents Involved Case of 2007, Chief Justice Roberts noted that “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” California voters had come to the same conclusion when they passed Proposition 209 in 1996, which forbids state government from discriminating or giving preferential treatment “on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in public employment, public education, and public contracting.” Prop 16 repeals this civil rights protection for all Californians and opens a new era of official discrimination based on race.


Proposition 17 – Bank Robbers for Biden: NO. If there were any doubt of the Democrats’ contempt for the electorate, this should dispel it. This bill gives felons on parole the right to vote. Enough said.


Proposition 18 – High School Voters: NO. Wait, there’s more! Here’s a proposal to give 17-year-olds the right to vote in primary and special elections. Democrats are counting on their good judgment, experience and common sense to counter the influence of their nagging, annoying and totally unreasonable parents.


Proposition 19 – Fire Sale: NO. Right now, parents can leave the family home to their family without a crippling property tax hike. This bill ends that exemption, purportedly to add more money for firefighting. It’s a good bet that more family homes will be lost in fire sales than in fires.


Proposition 20 – A Step Back from the Abyss: YES. Long version: This measure repairs some of the damage of Jerry Brown era laws that have made California less safe. It increases penalties for many theft and fraud crimes that Brown reduced to misdemeanors, requires convicts to submit DNA for state and federal databases and restores the ability of parole boards to keep dangerous prisoners behind bars. Short version: Jerry Brown opposes it.


Proposition 21 – Rent Control with Nothing to Rent: NO. There’s an old soviet-era saying, “What good is a free bus ticket in a city with no buses?” The same is true of rent. Rent controls are very effective at drying up the supply of rental housing in any community where they’re imposed. Those currently renting do very well, but they hold on to their old apartments and landlords stop building new ones. Presto: nothing to rent – but at a very affordable price.


Proposition 22 – Let My Uber Go: YES. One of the worst bills ever enacted by the California legislature (and that says a lot) is AB 5, that essentially ended independent contracting in California. This measure exempts app-based drivers, meaning independent contractors put out of work by AB 5 can still take an Uber to a free state.


Proposition 23 — Bringing Venezuelan Heath Care to Dialysis Patients: NO. Two years ago, SEIU tried to impose price controls on dialysis. They lost and are back with this measure that imposes onerous and expensive requirements to have physicians on duty at dialysis clinics and prohibiting them from going out of business without state approval. This will help dialysis patients by assuring higher prices and will help encourage new clinics to open by forbidding them ever to close. Makes perfect sense.


Proposition 24 – When in Doubt, Don’t: NO. This measure purports to expand consumer privacy, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a consumer privacy group, calls it “a mixed bag of partial steps backwards and forwards.” Here’s what is crystal clear: it will unleash a new regulatory agency with vast powers to prosecute businesses that run afoul of the increasingly intricate consumer privacy laws in California. Another nail in the coffin of the once “Golden State.”


Proposition 25 – Catch and Release: NO. When suspects are arrested, they’re jailed until posting bail to assure they show up for trial. Surprisingly, many suspects don’t want to; go figure. Jerry Brown and the lunatic legislature did away with this process in 2018, replacing cash bail with “risk assessments.” This law was temporarily suspended pending this referendum, but the leftist Judicial Council did away with bail for most crimes during the COVID scare, resulting in the arrest, immediate release and subsequent re-arrests of criminal suspects the same day for different crimes. A NO vote would repeal this insane law.

===============