There is more than one way to stop ‘free speech’

Many of us who are 100% ‘free speechers’ wave our hands dismissively and tune out when somebody raises the issue of ‘fair use rights’ on copyrighted materials.  This is a mistake. 

Just as ‘free speechers’ are not just a bunch of racists and rednecks, no matter how loudly their opponents laber them as such, ‘fair use rights’ advocates are not just a bunch of ‘pirates’ and ‘thieves’.  If they were, they would simply steal the content – and certainly not bother to stand up and fight for their rights.

What we need to recognize that these issues are connected:  both revolve around finding the ‘right’  balance of rights versus limitations.  Once we recognize the similarities between these two seemingly separate issues, we can better understand how to arrive at a balance we can all be satisfied with – at least a little bit.

Just like we are willing to put limits onto ‘free speech’ – the proverbial ‘yelling ‘FIRE!’ in a crowded theatre’, and similar limits – it is also justifiable to place limits on the use of ‘music’, ‘movies’, books’ and other intellectual content meant for consumers.  In the first case, ‘public safety’ is threatened.  In the second case, the rights of the creators of this ‘IP content’ need to protect their investment and their ability to reap a fair compensation for having created it.

This does make sense.  The trick is, and always has been, in finding acceptable balance of rights. 

The problem arises when the laws are written so as to only protect one side’s rights, at the expense of the other.  It is no less oppressive than having unreasonable limits placed on one’s freedom of speech, in order to protect some from ‘hurt feelings’. 

But there is another connection, a very fundamental one, between these two issues:  both seek to restrict communication.  Limiting freedom of speech imposes limitations on an individual as to what they are, or are not, free to communicate.  So called ‘fair use’ laws seek to control the means of communication….

Recently, I watched a program that drove home the difference.  It is one-hour long (and part 2 of a 2-part series), but it is well worth watching.  Here, in brief, is the background…

In Sweden, there used to be different ‘fair use’ laws than in North America.  Under Swedish laws, it was legal to set up a company called ‘Pirate Bay’ – even though this was, at that time, illegal under US laws.  The ‘Hollywood industry’ used its influence to pressure the White House, which, in turn, pressured the Swedish government, into police raids and materiel confiscation against ‘Pirate Bay’, even though their own attorneys advised the government that the operation was perfectly legal…..  Part 1 of the show, ‘Steal This Film’ deals with this.  I found the segments of it on YouTube here, here, here, and here.

Part 2 discusses the very interesting issue of how these ‘fair use’ laws are (and are not) balanced – and why.  And yes, how this directly impacts ‘freedom of speech’.  Very interesting, the whole lot of it.  The links for the YouTube version are here, here, here, here, here and here.

While Part 2, section 2 has a comprehensive history of ‘copyright’ and its implications from book printing on (and thus VERY much worth watching), it is Part 2, section 4 that sums up – in my mind – the essence of this debate.  It is not just about IP – it is about the control of the means of delivering ‘culture’ to us all…  And whoever controls the means of delivery also controls which voices will be heard.

I suppose one could see the ‘fair use’ battle as the corrollary to the ‘free speech’ battle.  While one is a battle to allow one to speak freely, the other one is the battle to allow one to be heard freely.  After all, if one is allowed ‘free speech’ – but only in isolation, where what one says is not actually heard by any other human being – it is a hollow victory…

It’s something to think about.

A new ‘page’ is added

While I may be interested in all kinds of things, the most regular hits my blog gets is from people looking for advice and help in dealing with Aspergers’ Syndrome.

I have made no secret of it:  I am an Aspie!  My hubby is an Aspie!  And, predictably enough, our kids are Aspies!!!  It is therefore not too surprising that I have tried to share some of the more successful methods used by ‘us’ to successfully integrate into the social mainstream.  Not only am I proud of our successes, I am also motivated to help others who are experiencing similar things – as well as helping ‘the society at large’ learn to understand ‘us Aspies’.  Though I may not be one of the ‘exceptional ones’, many of the humans who DID change the course of human societies WERE Aspies…so the need for understanding runs both ways.

Therefore, I have written a bit about Aspergers and Aspies.  After a bit, even I was getting confused between what posts I had finished and published, and which ones I started and got distracted from….there are just so many distractions around!!!   Have I shown you the……

You get the picture.

So, I have made up a nifty page where I have listed my ‘Aspergers’ posts – with a little summary for each one.  It is not much, but I do hope it will serve as a useful tool for people who are seeking help and understanding.  I do hope to edit it often to include all future post on this topic, too (but, no promises – I am ADD, too….)

Anyhow, I do hope this page will prove useful.

What does ‘revenue neutral’ mean?

With all the ‘electioning’ all over the place, there are many promises tossed about by all sides.  Some promises are for tax cuts.  Others are for introducing new taxes – but in a way that will revenue neutral. And while we know that a tax cut means that we will hand less of our money to the government, what exactly does does revenue neutral mean?

Revenue simply means income:  how much money is actually coming in. 

Neutral speaks for itself:  no change.  Or it could mean ‘not positive, not negative’ = 0.

So, when a government changes taxes around, but in a way so that the changes are revenue neutral, it means they will not take in more in taxes than they had before.  It does NOT, however, mean that each taxpayer will still pay the same amount!  To the contrary – if everyone were to pay the same as before, there would have been no point in changing the tax system.  Some will pay more, some will pay less, but the total will add up to the same number.  (And if you believe that, I just happen to have this miracle-cure for….)

Of course, English is a wonderfully flexible language! 

For example, take the phrase ‘You can never put too much water into a nuclear reactor’.  Among others, it could have two rather opposite meanings:

  1. ‘You can never put too much water into a nuclear reactor’ (as in, if there is too much water- kaboom!)
  2. ‘You can never put too much water into a nuclear reactor’ (as in, water makes it so much safer, so pour in as much as you possibly can – it will not be too much)

The phrase ‘I will introduce new taxes, but it will be revenue neutral’ can also be interpreted in several different ways.  Either, as the politician hopes we will interpret it, it could mean that the amount of ‘taxes collected’ would be unchanged (as was explained above). 

However, the ‘it’ might also be referring to my income.  As in, after taxes, my revenue (inome) will be neutral…exactly ZERO!!!

So, next time politicians introduce tax changes which will be ‘revenue neutral’, do not forget to ask them WHICH revenue they intend to neutralize!

Jack Layton insults Canadian artists

Trying to paint himself as a supporter of the arts during this election campaign, NDP leader Jack Layton has accidentally demonstrated his contempt for Canadian artists with this election promise:

Mr. Layton promised that if elected Prime Minister, he will use the CRTC (the government tool used to reign in radio and TV stations in Canada and ensure their content is appropriately censored) to force all TV networks to only show ‘Canadian content with Canadian actors’ during prime time viewing hours.  (I could not find the audio clip of when I heard him speak – the link above is to an article reporting it….but the article had watered down his statement.  If you find the clip, please, let me know and I will edit the post to insert it here.  Thanks.)

What is this man thinking?

Yes, some say this is a mute point, as he will never win enough votes to be the next Prime Minister (even as a leader of a coalition, which he seems to be striving for now) – but his very suggestion normalizes this type of action and makes it seem less extreme the next time someone suggests it.  And I don’t like it. 

Why?

Aside from this being a terrible insult to Canadian artists (the ‘soft’ or ‘condescending’ type or ‘snobby prejudice’ – “they are so pathetic, without MY help here to eliminate all their competition, they could never make it on THEIR merits…..because they have NONE!”), he also made a call to heavily fund these ‘artists’.  Let’s follow the chain of consequnces here.  Step by step…

  1. Government subsidizes (pays for) ‘Canadian art’
  2. The government, of course, has to be ‘accountable’ for this spending, and so must select what bits of ‘Canadian art’ are actually worthy of being paid for
  3. Government forces the privately owned TV networks to show nothing but the ‘Canadian arts content’ during prime time TV viewing hours
  4. In order to be eligible for this ‘Canadian content’ (and thus eligible to be broadcast during these crucial-for-survival time slots), the ‘Canadian art’ will have to be certified as such by the government’s very own agency, CRTC

In effect, the government pays for the ‘Canadian art’ it first approves, then forces the TV networks to only show the bits it approves of the most.  Thus, the government has 100% control over what we get to watch! (During prime time only, of course…)

HOW could any artist in Canada stand for this type of subjugation? 

This turns every artists who would qualify for the label ‘Canadian content’ to be, in effect, a civil servant!  We have seen in the past Canadian hockey teams, starring Canadian athletes, in a Canadian sports league, be refused (by CRTC) the label ‘Canadian content’ on the grounds that ‘sports’ did not qualify (perhaps because people like to watch sports….and it is hard to slip in ‘approved social messaging’ into a hockey game ‘dialogue’…)

The only ‘art’ we would be allowed to watch would be produced by ‘de facto’ civil servants!

And we have seen what has happened to our doctors, when THEY were turned into ‘de facto’ civil servants:  the government, through various means, attempts to deny them even the freedom to act according to their conscience!  Frankly, I don’t think the government is wrong to demand that its employees/contractors provide all the services the government pays them to – the problem is that doctors should never have been made into government employees/contractors in the first place.

And nor should artists!

Dion unveils plan for a new $3,000,000,000 ‘slush fund’

Would you believe it?

During an interview with Mike Duffy last night, Liberal leader Stephane Dion alleys the fears of advertizing companies in Quebec:  if he is elected, things will go back to the ‘Chretien gravy-train’ days!

See for your self…. About 50 seconds into the interview, he promises to set aside THREE BILLION DOLLAR ‘CONTINGENCY FUND’ – to be used for unsupervised  ‘unforseen boosts’ to the economy.

(Sorry, for not embedding the video – I could not find it on YouTube yet.  If I do, I’ll edit the post to add it.)

Ah, the New and Improved Liberal Spending Party of Canada!

What is the difference?  Under Chretien, the slush funds were kept on the quiet.  Under Dion, they are the centerpiece of their newly unveiled election platform.

I guess Mr. Dion’s communication skills are improving!

Jumping junipers!

There are several types of blogs.  Some, much like ‘old-style newspaper’ editorials, present views and thoughts.  Others, much like ‘old-style newspapers’ themselves, bring you a collection of posts from other places by giving a little intro with a link.  There are other types of blogs, but this combination is usually quite effective in spreading news and ideas through the blogosphere. 

I like to think of the two types I described above as ‘articles’ and ‘newspapers’ – in the old fashioned ‘way’.  (In my own mind, I call the blogs who specialize in providing links to interesting places ‘blinks’ – ‘blogs+links’.)  And people learn which is which, and come to these sites with specific expectations.

Usually, I leave the ‘blinking’ to others much better at it than I….but when I came across this at Dime-a-Dozen, I didn’t quite know what to think…..

Robert writes:

Some random photos found on Flickr from a protest in 2006 – recognize the woman at the top?   Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party.  This is from the notorious anti-Israel/pro-Hezbollah rally in Toronto during the Lebanon War.  Scroll below to see why that rally was notorious.

This appearance of hers likely slipped under the radar as no one knew who she was back then.  We know who she is now, so doesn’t she have some explaining to do?

The sign reads: ‘Down with Zionism, USA, UK’

The fellow in the turban is Hassan Nasrallah, head of Hezbollah.  The flag of Hezbollah is obscured by the kid with the keffiyah headband.

The t-shirts read “Hezbollah”

 

I still don’t know what to think:  Elisabeth May, the leader of a ‘national party’ in Canada – and who had gained herself a spot at the ‘nationla leaders’ debate’ as such – featured speaking at a pro-Hezbollah rally??? 

By the way – did you know that green is the sacred colour of Islam?  Talk about a ‘hidden agenda’….

Holy junipers!

Which way does the insult go?

I love Canada.  I am a proud Canadain.  However, nothing is perfect – not even Canada.  And it has made me ache to see my beloved country destroyed from the inside by the ‘tyrrany of the nice’.  Of course, there is nothing ‘nice’ about this tyranny.  It corresponds to ‘nice’ about as much as shadenfreude does to ‘pleasure’.

I speak of nothing else than the encroaching ‘fascism with a smile’The thought police.  And before most of us noticed, they have rotted the core of several of our legal institutions here in Canada – and are having a go in the USA, too.  But, like a wart – the infection gets deeply sunk into the flesh before the outward signs are visible.

More and more Canadians have begun to wake up and smell the poison in our cups.  Mostly regular people, who don’t understand why a person is not allowed to smoke a perfectly legal cigarette where a ‘privileged’ one can openly smoke marijuana.  Or why a priest must never express his views – for the rest of his life – on issues like gay marriage.  (Don’t get me wrong, I think it idiotic and immoral to oppose same-sex marriage.  But somehow, I expect that many priests might have a different take on this – and that is their right.)

And since the calm, laid-back Canadians that we are actually began to discuss this at the watercoolers, coffe-shops and medical clinic waiting rooms (lots of people to talk to there), you know the winds of change are not far behind.  So, how do our social engineers respond?

By sicking their ‘calming sqad’ at us. 

I have trouble reading most ‘mainstream media’ print, because I love the English language and it pains me to see the abuse of grammar so routinely commited there.  But, on occassion, people bring articles to my attention… as Blazing Catfur and FiveFeetOfFury have done here.

It is stories like these that make me question whether there is such a thing as ‘media bias’.  That seems a singularly inappropriate concept – which implies that ‘bias’ is something that ‘could’ be a property of today’s journalism.  Considering the ‘social engineering’ tone of ‘calming the populace’ this article takes, I think its aim is to educate us on what we ought to be thinking.  How could that be referred to as bias?  

It is not a ‘fluff piece’, as some seem to suggest.  To the contrary.  It is a well crafted educational piece, loaded with all the ‘proper’ buzzwords to ‘show us’ what we ‘ought to think’.  To coddle us back into our woolly-headed sleepiness.  Herd the sheep into the corale…   That is the aim of the article – at least, in my never-humble-opinion.

Yet, it seems to have backfired.  Perhaps it went too far in its tone of condescention, or perhaps it came too late.  People were too awake to simply sink back into their slumber.  The comments section reflects this, and is the most interesting part of this article.  I, too, would have left a comment – but there is no way I’m giving my address to any organization that prints drivel like this! 

Ah, yes.  The comments section.  Many of the comments point out that Mr. Warman, the much-admired subject of this article who often sues on behalf of others who – in his mind – ‘ought to’ have been offended but were not (and who is one of the worst offenders the thought police has to offer) is suing ‘some bloggers’ (including FiveFeetOfFury and BlazingCatfur) because, somebody commenting on their site called Warman a ‘Nazi’ (I think). 

What I am not entirely clear about is this:  is he suing because he thinks that calling him a ‘Nazi’ is an insult to himself, or to ‘Nazis’???

It could go either way, you know….

Correction:  Blazing Catfur is not, in fact, being sued by Warman (though she had been threatened with other suits).  This was my misunderstanding.  However, many pro-free speech bloggers are.  I apologize for my mistake.

UPDATE:  The Globe and Mail has not closed the ‘Comment’ section on the article I wrote about in this post.  However, Blazing Catfur has taken some screenshots and these can be accessed HERE!  I wonder if this is simply frustration on thier part, because their ‘education’ had backfired, or if someone had threatened them….

Aspergers: not just ‘extreme male brain’ syndrome

If you have done some reading up on Aspergers, you have likely come across the description of it as ‘an extreme male brain’ syndrome.  It is a ‘quick and easy’, one-phrase explanation that ‘makes sense’ to some people.  I’ve often wondered if this theory is based more on the ‘men are bad at social skills, women are bad at math’ stereotype than on anything actually particular to Aspergers itself. 

It seems I am not alone in being a little uncomfortable describing aspergers as ‘extreme male brain’…to the contrary, many suggest that this description of Aspergers arose because it was only studied in males.  And only in a particular type of males, to boot!

Here is an extremely good rebuttal of that idea, written by Felinophile, a young woman who also happens to be an Aspie:

 

This theory that people with Aspergers have an extreme male brain is sexually-discriminatory, as it is based on studies of Aspergers males and people who fit the Asperger-male sterotype. It completely ignores the way Aspergers manifests in women, which is part of the reason it is seen as controversial.

Like a lot of Aspergers girls, though, I don’t fit the Asperger-male stereotype; while I have difficulty interpreting and expressing body language and facial expressions I have learnt over time to mimic others behaviour and responses, and to form a rough checklist for interpreting other people’s behaviour. While I have good spatial abilities, and do better than non-Aspergers girls in some areas of maths, I never had a gift for mathematics; instead, it was for language, as it is for some other Asperger girls

 

Read the rest here.

‘The Truth about big government’

As the political debates rage on both sides of the 45th parallel, it might be timely as well as interesting viewing:

The Truth About Big Government (part 1 of 2)

The Truth About Big Government (part 2 of 2)

‘Tax cut’ vs. ‘tax rebate’

What exactly is the difference between a ‘tax cut’ and a ‘tax rebate’?  There are several very fundamental differences.

First, let us look at ‘taxes’

Taxes are the money we pay to our government.  This money is supposed to be used for something people need to get together for in order to achieve, such as ‘policing’ and ‘national defence’.  Other ‘common goods’, such as education, road construction, and so on,  are among the things we contract our governments to do.  Paying taxes is the way we ‘pool our pennies’ to do this. 

We pay taxes in many ways.  It can be through income taxes, where an employer has to take a part of a worker’s earnings and send it to the government – only the remnant goes to the worker.  Or, it can be through consumption taxes, where part of the price of each product or service is raised by some amount which is then paid (remitted) by the merchant or service provider to the government.  There is more, but – you get the picture.

The government has lots of wonderful, highly trained (and higly paid) civil servants who keep meticulous records of every penny that comes in:  whom it comes from and where it is going.  They also keep meticulous records making sure everybody has paid what they are supposed to.

Tax Cut

In a tax cut, the amount of money the government asks for is reduced.  Fewer pennies are coming into the government coffers, so more of them stay in your pocket – either because less of your wages gets sent to the government so that more can go to you, or because the price you pay for something is closer to its cost, since the price is less artificially raised by taxes. 

It also means that fewer pennies are entering the government coffers.  And (in an ideal world) fewer pennies coming in means fewer people who need to keep meticulous records of the pennies.  As in, fewer highly skilled, well paid professionals whose salaries are paid from all these pennies coming in.

Tax Rebate

A tax rebate works very differently.  The government is asking for the same amount of money to be sent into the government coffers, so the same amount of money is taken from a worker’s paycheque as before and sent to the government.  Buying ‘stuff’ is still expensive, because the price of everything still includes the same amount of of taxes – which are sent to the government coffers. 

The legions of highly trained (and highly paid) civil servants still keep meticulous track of all of this.  Then, at the end of the year, after the civil servants have done all the figuring out and balancing of things, they decide how much more you have paid than you should have.  So, they issue a cheque for this amount and send it to you. 

All this time, these pennies were in the government coffers, not in your pockets – so it was much harder to make the ends meet during the whole year….but now, you get a little bit back.

These are the ‘mechanics’, if you will, of the difference between a ‘tax cut’ and a ‘tax rebate’.  But there is another very important difference between these two – a difference I have not really heard people discussing. 

It is the difference in who is dominant in the government-taxpayer relationship.

When we pay taxes to our government, we are, in effect, contracting the government to act on our behalf in certain areas.  We, the taxpayers, are the boss.  Yes, the government has means to coerce us to pay, but the psychological and philosophical principle holds for how the relationship is set up.  The individual is the one who is employing the government, the individual is the empowering partner in the relationship.

When the government sends us rebates, it is the government who is the decisionmaker and the dominant partner in the relationship.  The taxpayer is reduced to the grateful recipient while the government is the power which decides who deserves to get money, and how much.

To make it easier to understand the relationship, let’s reduce the scale to the level of a family.  One partner works and earns a paycheque, the other looks after the household. 

If the earner controls the money, then the earner decides how much to hand over to the one who looks after the household and how much to keep.  The house-keeper may ask for extra when needed, but it is the earner who is in control.  If, on the other hand, the earner hands over the full paycheque to the house-keeper, and perhaps gets a little allowance for personal expenses, it is the house-keeper who is in control…  as in the first minute or so of the clip below:

To sum up, the idea behind a tax rebate in Oscar’s words:   ‘Holy hell!  The government has us on an allowance!’