France moves to further limit rights

Jonathan Turley points to disturbing trends in France to steadily limit speech, ranging from bans on blasphemy, hate speech, and ‘anti-historical’ speech to the latest proposal by president Sarkozy (in the wake of the recent killings by a Muslim extremist) that will enable the jailing of anyone who ‘repeatedly’ visits extremist websites.

This seems to be becoming standard practice, for governments to use the occasion of a horrific crime to push through legislation that restricts civil liberties.

Will decline of employer-based health insurance lead to a single payer system?

Beginning today and spread over the next three days, the US Supreme Court will take the extraordinary step of scheduling six hours of oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. In my series of posts on health care, I have said that I am in favor of the single-payer system and have criticized the Obama administration for their ACA plan, even though it definitely has some good points and repealing it would be a step backwards. [Read more…]

Reason Rally report

I attended a portion of the Reason Rally yesterday in Washington DC. It drizzled or rained gently most of the time, which cast a bit of a damper on the proceedings but people were in good spirits. The crowd that attended should dispel the notion that the nonbelievers movement consist of old, white guys. It was gratifyingly diverse in all categories (gender, age, and ethnicity) with the large majority being young people. I felt like an old fogey and that was great, just as it should be. [Read more…]

The power of the internet

I have said before that the internet has created a means by which the previously voiceless can now have a large megaphone simply by virtue of the collective action of the many. We saw how the mighty Rush Limbaugh had to issue an apology to a mere student because of the wrath unleashed upon him by huge numbers of ordinary people for his behavior towards her. This would not have happened pre-internet. [Read more…]

The 2012 election dilemma

Andy Borowitz points out how a presidential contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is going to pose an agonizing problem for bigots., saying “Across the U.S., voters who describe themselves as bigots are complaining that a first-ever matchup between a Black man and a Mormon, while historic, is forcing them to ask a difficult question: which group do they hate more?”

Although Borowitz is a humorist, I think this will actually be a real problem for some bigots, except for that subset of them who are also nutcases and think that Obama is a Muslim. Then it becomes an easy choice in favor of Romney.

The US version of the welcome mat

Most Americans are not aware that visitors to the US are subjected to questioning whose intrusiveness is exceeded only by its absurdity.

It comes mainly in the form of an online form called the Electronic System for Travel Authorization that you must fill before you travel. An airline pilot has written an article titled How Not to Attract Tourists that discloses some of the questions visitors are asked. [Read more…]

World Bank maneuverings

There is a job opening to head the World Bank and there have been some interesting maneuverings to fill it.

Ever since its creation in 1944, the job has gone to an American while the corresponding position at the sister institution the International Monetary Fund has gone to a European. While the decision is ostensibly made by consensus, the actual voting strength depends on the contributions of each country and the US has about 16% and the EU countries have about 29%. As long as they stick together, it will be hard for other nations to get one of their own into the position. [Read more…]