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    Archive of posts on rights and government

[Some posts pre-2008 also listed by topic at the end.]

The sound of freedom      June 6, 2015

Fighter jets roared by above our yoga studio. Breaks the ambience, right? One woman put it in context by murmuring, “The sound of freedom.” And I thought Dear God, where do you even start? I spent the rest of the class absentmindedly bent into various shapes and thinking non-serene thoughts. If weapons were the sound of freedom, there’d be no such thing as dictators. The sound of freedom is the woman yelling about underpaid janitors at Speakers’ Corner. The sound of freedom is the boy pushing his little sister in her stroller, walking through the quiet park filled with bird […]

Vaccination (like everything else) is about rights      February 3, 2015

Comments used to resemble “It’s My Right To Decide What Eliminated Diseases Come Roaring Back” (The Onion). Now that there’s an outbreak, people want to jail the unvaccinated. They’ve have gone straight from loony libertarian to jackbooted totalitarian. Both are wrong.

Hah. I’m way ahead of Carlos Slim.      July 20, 2014

He’s making the news because he’s a gazillionaire and he thinks people shouldn’t work so much. I made that point years ago. The only thing he does wrong is not take it far enough.

About that lack of little green aliens      April 30, 2014

Artist’s conception of most earth-like planet so far (Illustration: NASA, SETI, JPL, via APOD) The Drake Equation (written out at the end of the post) was invented as a way to think about the probability of meeting aliens as we go about our business. One big factor is of course how many habitable planets there are to begin with. If we refuse to assume we’re special, hundreds of civilizations per galaxy looks like a rather conservative guess, given how many billions of stars there are to work with. But that dumps us straight into the next question. If there are […]

Not so cynical about Afghanistan      April 5, 2014

Afghanistan is corrupt and war-torn and sexist and poor. They know that. They know that no election is going to make a big difference all at once. And yet they carry ballot boxes up mountains to small villages because they can see a better world even if they don’t live there.

Search and social: You are for sale      January 31, 2014

The web isn’t free any more than the supermarket is free for the soap being sold. Google made sixty billion dollars last year. Using you. If you mattered at all you’d be getting a cut of the proceeds.

The roots of war      November 18, 2013

People who go to war always say they do it to serve — their country, an ideal, their way of life, always something outside themselves. But then when the fighting is obviously destroying everything they or anyone cares about, they would stop, wouldn’t they?

Getting rights wrong: the example from Rand Paul      April 15, 2013

Being a good Randian, he believes property rights trump everything, which means that there would be no real civil rights at all. If the only place you have rights is in government buildings, you may as well use the Bill of Rights for bird cage liner.

The Supreme Court doesn’t understand the Constitution      March 28, 2013

I don’t spend a lot of time keeping up with what passes for thinking in the legal system, so I’ve merely been aware that gay marriage rights have been toiling their way through the system. I haven’t paid attention to the arguments. MoDo’s article came as a bit of a surprise to me. (Yes, I know, she can be a twit. But she can also write and sometimes I read her. So sue me.) This is what stopped me short: “Same-sex marriage is very new,” Justice Samuel Alito whinged, noting that “it may turn out to be a good thing; […]

The economy is not a dippy duck      March 20, 2013

Politicians make pious noises about governments “living within their budgets.” According to them, this is how “families” do it. The water goes only one way for a dippy duck Intelligent economists — Martin Wolf and Krugman to take just two — are rightly incensed at that self-serving nonsense (whose real point is to prevent tax hikes on the wealthy, but that’s a ‘nother whole mess). Unfortunately, they don’t provide an easy way to visualize the difference between citizen and government finances. Krugman, for instance, otherwise one of the best examples of lucidity, uses the analogy of a babysitters club. It’s […]

If it costs money, it’s dumb      March 16, 2013

Even more so if it costs anyone who’s already comfortable. From Krugman, this priceless proof They are always, always, trotting out the same claptrap. Spending anything for the common good is weak, namby-pamby, woolly-minded unwillingness to face hard choices. [W]hat The Economist said, in 1848, about proposals for a London sewer system: Suffering and evil are nature’s admonitions; they cannot be got rid of; and the impatient efforts of benevolence to banish them from the world by legislation, before benevolence has learned their object and their end, have always been more productive of evil than good. Sewers are socialism! It […]

Some rights are more important than others      February 9, 2013

Copyright monopoly must take a back seat to constitutional rights.

If you don’t control it, you don’t own it      December 19, 2012

Now can we start refusing to be cattle instead of customers? Instagram says it now has the right to sell your photos – CNET News: Under the new policy, Facebook claims the perpetual right to license all public Instagram photos to companies or any other organization, including for advertising purposes, which would effectively transform the Web site into the world’s largest stock photo agency. One irked Twitter user quipped that “Instagram is now the new iStockPhoto, except they won’t have to pay you anything to use your images.” These services are “free” the same way the supermarket is free for […]

Freedom can’t be free      November 9, 2012

(Fair warning: one of those loooong posts.) Nobody can choose to live without limits. Anybody who tries just ends up crashing into them. Eating without limits will make you too sick to eat at all. Gas guzzling without limits will end in no gas — or enough global warming to make the whole thing moot. (That’s not an exclusive “or.”) Too much information causes overload, not wisdom. There are always limits. Too much information (Illustration: John Tenniel) The only real choice is whether to recognize the constraints instead of crashing into them and whether to find optimal ways of working […]

No. We should not respect other people’s beliefs      September 16, 2012

No. No, no, no. This is not about free speech as opposed to beliefs. It better not be. If it is, we’re headed straight for holy wars. I’m talking about this sort of thing: BBC News – Film protest: Egypt PM urges US to end ‘insults’. “At the same time we need to reach a balance between freedom of expression and to maintain respect for other peoples’ beliefs.” There is no way to “respect beliefs” and have freedom of speech. It’s impossible. Think about it, Minister Qandil, for a microsecond. If my belief is that you speak drivel and should […]

We need anti-pollution laws for free speech      September 12, 2012

Religious nuts belong in padded cells with the other nuts. They think they can say anything they want, no matter how untrue and nasty it is. And because it’s based on something they call “religion,” nobody wants to deal with them. There was the kook in Florida who was going to make a big deal out of burning the Koran. Apparently in his mind that shows the superiority of something he believes in. That time people died in the Middle East and Africa. This time another lunatic’s hate speech has led to more deaths. Ambassador J Christopher Stevens reportedly died […]

Collected Links to Acid Test posts on democracy, and related blessays

[Earlier list. Not updated after 2007.]