Unclear on the concept

One of many things wrong with the Charlie Hebdo attack was the fact that it was an attempt, by terrorists, to impose censorship on a free press. Of course, that’s not surprising. You’d almost expect terrorists to be opposed to freedom of speech. If you’re not a cynic, though, you might not expect this:

French comedian Dieudonne was arrested on Wednesday for being an “apologist for terrorism” after writing a Facebook comment suggesting he sympathised with one of the Paris attacks gunmen, a judicial source said.

Which is worse than pursuing the same goals as the terrorists, right? [Read more…]


A terrorist attack happens in America. America responds by installing machines that can see through your clothes and making all air travelers expose themselves to either that or a good groping. Then the government institutes a massive, unaccountable spy campaign against all its citizens. Plus it tortures helpless prisoners, regardless of whether or not they are in fact connected to terrorism in any way. And it establishes a policy of “state secrets” that essentially deny any possibility of democratic supervision of the government’s activities.

A terrorist attack happens in France. Millions of French citizens gather in the streets, without metal detectors, x-ray machines or frisking, declaring “Fear shall not rule.”

I think the land of the free and the home of the brave is now somewhere else.

Thanksgiving deferred

I was upset when a friend of mine re-posted the I Am Darren Wilson meme. My first impulse was to give her a hard time about it in the comments, but I refrained because I wanted to make her think instead of just making her mad, and I wasn’t sure how best to do that. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized she is exactly right. She is Darren Wilson, and so am I, and so are most of my neighbors. We’re all part of a corrupt, self-perpetuating conspiracy to exploit people, subverting justice for the sake of maintaining our own privilege. We’re the bad guys.

I’m still trying to figure out what I will do about that. But in the meantime, I can’t celebrate Thanksgiving right now. When I look at all the privileges that I’d normally be thankful for, and realize the price other people are being forced to pay to preserve them, I cannot in good conscience be happy about it. This is not a time for thanksgiving, it’s a time for anger, outrage, sorrow, and repentance. I’ll be thankful the day I can live in a nation that not only promises “liberty and justice for all,” but actually delivers it. Until then, I’m in mourning.

Who belongs to whom?

One recent story that keeps popping up in my news feeds is how various police and intelligence authorities are complaining about the security in the iPhone 6 being too tough for them to crack. I’m not sure how much of that is real, but it does suggest a couple observations we might make.

First, if it’s true that the iPhone 6 is the first device that’s not open for the police to read whenever they want, then that means all previous devices have been more or less open to government search and seizure at their discretion. A court order might be nice, but as we’ve seen again and again, the government routinely dispenses with such formalities when they become inconvenient.

The second and more important observation is that there’s been a fundamental shift in the foundations of our democratic republic. The government is no longer owned by the people. The people are now owned by the government, at least in the government’s opinion.

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Too awesome not to share: the Proud Whopper


Burger King is celebrating gay pride with a message on its Whopper wrappers.

The fast-food chain has posted a video online Wednesday that shows scenes from a San Francisco location where it sold a “Proud Whopper.” Customers were not told what is in the burger, which comes wrapped in rainbow paper. Once opened up, a message inside the wrapper states, “We are all the same inside.”

The idea is that the Proud Whopper is no different from the regular Whopper, despite its colorful packaging.

I’m going to paste that into my dictionary as the new definition of “brilliant.”

Where the facts really stand

My two posts on Brendan Eich have attracted a commenter who wants us all to know he thinks homosexuality is a form of mental illness, and that therefore it is “tough love” to discriminate against them and deny their right to get married. He and I have been having a long back-and-forth discussion, in the most recent of which he said supporters of gay rights are guilty of “mental gymnastics” and “misrepresenting facts.” I have summarized my understanding of the relevant facts in my reply to him, but after thinking it over I’ve decided to promote it to a blog post as well. I’ll be interested in hearing your comments.

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Subverting the democratic process

Via Ed Brayton, we get this argument from Jim Burroway at the Box Turtle Bulletin.

[A]t a time when we are demanding passage of the Employment Non-Discrmination Act so that companies can’t just up and fire LGBT employees because they don’t agree with them — as they can now in about two-thirds of our states — we need to think very long and hard about whether we should demand someone be removed from his job for exercising his constitutional rights as part of the cornerstone of our democracy: a free and fair election.

Ed thinks it’s a very persuasive argument, so let me make the counter-argument and see if I can be equally persuasive.

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The rise and fall of the nerd Eich

Perhaps you’ve used the Firefox web browser. If you’re an old nerd like me, you might remember the Netscape web browser, whose source code formed the basis of the Mozilla code that lies behind Firefox. If you’re really hard-core, you might know the name of the man who wrote the original JavaScript language, without which things like ad revenues and blog networks like FtB might not exist.

Brendan Eich was that man, and for a very brief number of days he was the CEO of Mozilla—until word leaked out about his tangible support for Proposition 8 and for discrimination against gays. The uproar was immediate and impossible to ignore. Other board members resigned rather than work with/for him. OkCupid put up a notice, visible specifically to FireFox users, naming and shaming Eich for his anti-gay efforts and urging users to switch to a different browser. Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere erupted with calls for his resignation and for boycotts. Eich resigned after only 10 days in office.

The aftermath has even some liberals frowning. True, it’s a sign of the times that bigots can no longer act with impunity when trying to promote discrimination against gays. That’s a positive step and a sign of the long overdue decline in society’s willingness to condone bullying and harassment. But has the pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction? Have gay rights activists stepped over a line, and become guilty of “witch hunts” themselves? Is it anyone else’s business what Eich’s personal beliefs are and how they relate to his job, if he himself is careful to maintain a professional separation between the two?

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Muslims and Christians united at last

You see? Christians and Muslims can agree on common goals, beliefs, and values.

Kisumu residents engaged police in running battles in the city centre to protest the construction of a statue by members of the Hindu religion along Nyerere Road.

Police were forced to lobby teargas canisters at the protestors who had set the statue ablaze…

The protesters, Muslims and Christians, argued that erecting a religious statue in the heart of the town portrayed Kisumu as a city of the Hindu religion…

“Christians are not allowed to bow down to other gods and the location of the statue means everyone using this road bows,” said Erick Otieno, a resident.

Kisumu is in Kenya, so they don’t have to worry about the First Amendment. But this is why we have one. Secular is better. You don’t have to fight the police, dodge tear gas, and destroy other people’s property, just to defend a silly superstition.

“Liberty means not allowing freedom”—Nuns

What does liberty mean to you? Normally, we associate liberty with freedom, i.e. the absence of people telling us, “You’re not allowed to do that.” But the Little Sisters of the Poor have a definition of liberty that seems to be the exact opposite. And they’re suing the government for the right to impose this “liberty” on their employees. The NPR web site reports:

The Justice Department has argued that the nuns’ group is already exempt from providing birth control under the ACA, as long as it certifies its standing as a religious nonprofit. But the Little Sisters of the Poor, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, argues that documentation simply condones employees getting the coverage elsewhere.

“The sisters, under the new Health and Human Services mandate, are being forced by the government to either sign a form allowing a third party to provide contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs to their employees, or they’re being threatened with fines,” says Becket Fund director Kristina Arriaga.

[Read more…]