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    Archive of posts on rights and government

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

The War on Teachers Ignorance III: What Could Work      October 31, 2010

(The title is inspired by Historiann’s excellent post. Also a note: unlike most of the things I blog about, teaching is what I’ve done professionally for decades. I taught in universities, not schools, but the two aren’t totally unrelated.) Part I, Part II If you need a metaphor for education it’s not work or play or a factory or a ladder. It’s a journey. People join at different points, and leave at any point. No power on earth can keep them on it if their minds don’t want to go. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s mind-altering, sometimes it’s a real […]

War on Teachers II: Why It Can’t Work      October 30, 2010

(The title is inspired by Historiann’s excellent post. Also a note: unlike most of the things I blog about, teaching is what I’ve done professionally for decades. I taught in universities, not schools, but the two aren’t totally unrelated.) Let’s face it. The war on teachers is about money. People want to pay less and get more. Sometimes you can do that. Solar power and energy efficiency instead of nukes and oil come to mind. In that case paying less and getting more is the sign of an intelligent choice. But when the low price comes from a flimflam artist […]

War on Teachers I: GIGO      October 29, 2010

(The title is inspired by Historiann’s excellent post. Also a note: unlike most of the things I blog about, teaching is what I’ve done professionally for decades. I taught in universities, not schools, but the two aren’t totally unrelated.) Every time you turn around, there’s a new front opened in the war on teachers. They don’t work hard enough. They get paid too much They’re not accountable. They can’t be fired. Their unions protect dead wood. If we could just find the right stick to smash the cabal, the teachers would have to be good workers. Then, like good workers, […]

Noise is not Free Speech      October 10, 2010

We’re on a collision course with technology. Free speech is being killed in order to save it. Something is always boiling up that involves free speech. Cartoons are drawn of the “wrong” person, somebody is jailed for speaking out and gets the Nobel prize, there are plans to build a mosque in the “wrong” place. And some people picket funerals to gloat. All of these things are a step too far for some people. Others insist that we can’t draw any lines without sliding down a slippery slope of more and more lines until there’s no free speech left. The […]

Net neutrality, Google, and Verizon      August 17, 2010

You’ve all heard by now that Google and Verizon will take care of it. They will come to an agreement between them that will ensure the best use of bandwidth for everyone. And what we’re arguing about is whether their agreement preserves enough net neutrality. Net neutrality is a question of rights. Who determines the content of the public airwaves? Who determines the extent of your right to see or hear what you choose? Who determines what you can choose to see and hear? Since when do businesses decide questions of rights? That is a function of government. Does the […]

Wikileaks      August 12, 2010

Let me just get this straight. On one side: a few small people who have killed nobody but may have endangered some in the interests of having a real democracy. On the other side: some enormous people who’ve killed thousands in the interests of creating a friendly country. (Don’t ask me why they’re so worried about comparatively minor intelligence failures when that one’s right out there for anyone to see.) So who are the bad guys here? The enormous people, right? They will now be hounded by the media and internationally until they’re brought to justice and stop their evil […]

Is it the Y chromosome?      November 14, 2009

Honestly, I know enough biology to know that it can’t be. It just can’t. And yet how else to explain the sudden ignorance of a guy as sharp as Bob Somerby? He’s talking about Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow beating up on Stupak for tribalistic, Village reasons. Somerby finds that inappropriate. For ourselves, we think pro-choice groups have every right to bail on the bill if they decide it ends up affecting choice in unacceptable ways. But then, we also think that anti-abortion groups have the right to make the same sort of decision. That is, to jump ahead just […]

What’s wrong with young people everybody now      September 27, 2009

I’ve been thinking about the failures of government recently (1, 2), and it turns out I’m in good company. Sachs points out that “Not only are Americans deeply divided on what to do about [everything], but government is also failing to execute settled policies effectively. Management systems linking government, business and civil society need urgent repair.” He goes on to list examples. Failure to prevent 9/11, to prevent the human toll post-Katrina, to prevent or stop corruption in Iraq, in the US’ own military, the financial crisis, the dilapidated “health” care system, and the literally dilapidated infrastructure. However, despite a […]

It’s About Who Decides (One More Time)      August 13, 2009

Being forced to die against my will would be terrifying. And I, personally, wouldn’t care whether the death panels making that decision were staffed by private bean counters from an insurance company — our current situation — or government bean counters from the Liberal Nazi Socialist Death Squad Agency — as imagined by the more crass or hallucinatory right wingers. Being forced to live against my will is terrifying. Strapped into a chair so I can sit in front of a TV set. Or with a tube down my throat while my brain screams somewhere. Or . . . anyway, […]

Medicine and the Unfree Market      June 23, 2009

Medicine and the so-called free market are incompatible in important ways. An outstanding article in the recent New Yorker by Atul Gawande makes that point from yet another new angle. ( has a nasty habit of putting archives behind a paywall, so I don’t know how long the link will be useful.) In all the talk of consumers, insurance, and governments, we’ve kind of lost sight of the doctors. Which is odd, considering that they’re the only ones who actually know what’s going on. Let’s begin somewhere near the beginning. The issue of cost control in medicine is much in […]

It’s about who decides      June 21, 2009

This has been brought on by a comment thread at Reclusive Leftist. The post was about feminism, but the thread kept veering off into abortion. Could you be a feminist and be antiabortion? Folks, that is the wrong question. And asking the wrong question can never lead to the right answer, any more than looking for your socks in the bedroom when you lost them in the dryer is going to help you find the things. So let’s start by asking the right question. Maybe the first thing to do is figure out whether abortion really does kill babies. (I’m […]

Single payer vs Public option      June 18, 2009

This is all you need. Shove this in anyone’s face who starts saying, “But, but, but . . . the guvvamint!” From a comment by Mikirivi on Krugman’s blog, a graphic prepared by Dr. Klein for the Arizona League of Women Voters: Click on image for full size The one solitary “disadvantage” that I can see in the Single Payer column is that the insurance industry would need restructuring. I seem to remember reading somewhere that that’s over two million workers. So it’s nontrivial. But as I remember reading in the same place, most of the skills in the insurance […]

A sad anniversary      June 17, 2009

This has been hard for me to write. It’s part of the reason I haven’t wanted to write anything for a while. I didn’t think I’d be here at this point. I started my blog because I was devastated that the US was torturing people. Worse, the powers-that-be were making excuses for it. The US has been guilty of crimes before. But in the bad old days that was just it: they were guilty. The thing was to pretend it wasn’t happening. Now they were doing something much worse. They were saying it was okay. I come from a family […]

Science Education: Who Needs It?      April 8, 2009

The evidence suggests an awful lot of people need it. A recent study by Harris Interactive for the California Academy of Sciences found the following: Only 53% of adults know how long it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun. Only 59% of adults know that the earliest humans and dinosaurs did not live at the same time. Only 47% of adults can roughly approximate the percent of the Earth’s surface that is covered with water. Only 21% of adults answered all three questions correctly. Especially the first one strikes me as a real “Who’s buried in Grant’s […]

Remember Tibet      March 10, 2009

Fifty years of occupation. Colonizing a neighbor instead of another continent doesn’t make it all right. Having an empire now instead of two hundred years ago doesn’t make it all right. Fifty years of non-violent resistance. The powers-that-be insist that’s the right thing to do. Then they ignore the hell out of anyone who actually does it because quiet people aren’t a problem. Don’t ask why there’s so much death and destruction in the world. Ask why there isn’t more.

Iceland has a new Prime Minister      January 28, 2009

This is all over the web, but I want to celebrate anyway. As I said elsewhere in blogspace today, ah, the sweet smell of rationality . . . . She is being appointed Prime Minister after the previous government imploded, caught in the worldwide banking collapse. If you read the linked article, you’ll see that the Icelanders care about her qualifications. The femaleness and the gayness that has the rest of the world in a froth are footnotes to them. Why can’t we be like that? Why can’t everyone be like that?

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

[Earlier list. Not updated after 2007.]