Tuesday, July 22, 2014

.@ffrf's Freethought Today June/July 2014 edition has a health dose of @cdogzilla in it!

I was a little late grabbing a seat, so not the easiest face to find in the crowd ...

The next day though, I was front and center for the raffle winners photo opp ...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Rise of the Non-Working Rich (is the Death of the Republic)

Robert Reich (The Rise of the Non-Working Rich):
... [W]e’re on the cusp of the largest inter-generational wealth transfer in history.

The wealth is coming from those who over the last three decades earned huge amounts on Wall Street, in corporate boardrooms, or as high-tech entrepreneurs.

It’s going to their children, who did nothing except be born into the right family.
The chief objection we here from the Right is: The person who earned the fortune has the right to determine what is done with it. It's theirs to do with as they please.

On the surface, this is a compelling argument, because there's truth in it. Those of us without immense fortunes certainly understand the desire to protect what we have and do the best we can by our progeny.

However, this asserted Right to Pass On Vast Fortunes to Create Unfair Advantage for Children Who Were Born on Third Base is problematic for a democratic society that believes in some degree of meritocracy, equality of opportunity, and social safety net. It assumes that the right to control wealth is absolute and illimitable.

It is not.

We are a wealthy enough society to provide a minimum degree of security and quality of life to every citizen. We can, and should, have a floor under which we should not let any citizen fall. This necessarily entails a system of taxation -- a mix of progressive taxation on income and tax on capital being the fairest mode -- which ensures the wealth of our society is put to that purpose.

Likewise, our national security and the infrastructure of the nation simply can't be funded by the charitable whims of plutocrats. To live in a civil society, every member must be willing to pay for the cost of its maintenance. Allowing wealth to accumulate in families, passing un-taxed from generation to generation undermines the American principles of promoting the general welfare, establishing justice, and insuring domestic tranquility. Those are the core American values, the guidelines spelled out in the Preamble which the rest of the Constitution is designed to support.

Every floor entails a ceiling; every minimum, a maximum. Without guardrails, we're at risk of careening off the cliff. Would-be plutocrats would do well to remember extreme inequality requires more and more brutally repressive measures over time to prevent those who produce wealth benefiting from the fruits of their labor. The more repressive the society, the more pressure put on the bottom levels of a society by the top, the bigger and bloodier the conflict when the peasants decide they've had enough.

Belgian town deploys a DJ to encourage Roma to move on ...

Belgian town blasts music to drive Roma away | Reuters

Roma dancing via Telegraph

Local media said that the DJ kicked off his set with Dire Straits' "Sultans of Swing". Belgian television showed Roma children dancing to the music.
Pro tip: If you want to get me off your lawn, playing "Sultans of Swing" at me is going to result instead in a wicked air-guitar session.

Ukrainian #sci-fi writers predicted Ukraine conflict: Now they’re fighting it.

Science-fiction writers predicted Ukraine conflict: Now they’re fighting it.

Omega via LiveLib
A forerunner of the genre, Omega, by veteran sci-fi/fantasy writer Andrei Valentinov, came out in 2005, shortly after Ukraine’s pro-Western Orange Revolution. It depicted three alternate-history versions of 2004, one of them a dystopia in which Crimea had been invaded and occupied by NATO forces in 1995; while the main characters were resistance fighters, they were both anti-Moscow and anti-NATO. (Valentinov, a Russian-speaking Ukrainian whose real name is Andrei Shmalko and who lives in Kharkiv, one of Eastern Ukraine’s major cities, has professed equal distaste for “Russian chauvinists,” “Ukrainian nationalists,” and “American globalists”; more recently, he has strongly affirmed his loyalty to Ukraine.)
I've never read any of the novels mentioned, so can't speak to their quality. The article is an interesting example though of how sci-fi is often reflective of a society's fears. Claims to be predictive often strike me as overblown when applied to sci-fi novels with superficial similarities to current events, but in this case they may well be applicable to at least some of the novels mentioned.

Gerry Canavan

Saturday, July 19, 2014

French blogger fined over restaurant review's Google search placing

Wrong on so many levels:
The judge ordered that the post's title be amended and told the blogger Caroline Doudet to pay damages. 
Ms Doudet said the decision made it a crime to be highly ranked on search engines. 
The restaurant owners said the article's prominence was unfairly hurting their business. 
Ms Doudet was sued by the owner of Il Giardino restaurant in the Aquitaine region of southwestern France after she wrote a blogpost entitled "the place to avoid in Cap-Ferret: Il Giardino". 
According to court documents, the review appeared fourth in the results of a Google search for the restaurant. The judge decided that the blog's title should be changed, so that the phrase: "the place to avoid" was less prominent in the results.
Wrong to sue. Beyond that, wrong to sue the blogger if you're going to sue. Beyond that, wrong ruling despite the first two wrongs.

Hope the SCOTUS isn't getting any ideas from this about how they can defend religious corporations from bloggers here ...

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