The BBC, The Guardian, and Daily Mail push back on Google’s right to be forgotten

Among the first beneficiaries of the right to be forgotten: An investment banker involved in the global financial crisis.

“Google is confirming the fears of many in the industry that the ‘right to be forgotten’ will be abused to curb freedom of expression and to suppress legitimate journalism that is in the public interest,” writes BBC economics editor Robert Peston.

This is a terrible law. There is no right to be forgotten.

‘Right to be forgotten’: BBC, The Guardian, Daily Mail push back on Google

Ira Glass’s “This American Life” is leaving PRI and going indy

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On July 1, “This American Life” became independent, leaving its distributor of 17 years, Public Radio International, or PRI.

That change is partly technical. The program is no longer delivered to local stations through public radio’s satellite system, but instead over the Internet through the online platform PRX, the Public Radio Exchange.

But the big impact is financial. Gone are a distributor’s financial guarantees, which in the case of “This American Life,” reached seven figures. Instead, Mr. Glass will now be responsible for the show’s marketing and distribution, as well as for finding corporate sponsors. It’s the equivalent of Radiohead’s releasing its own album “In Rainbows,” or Louis C. K.’s selling his own stand-up special — except all the time, for every show. It’s the kind of move that can signal radical changes in the public radio firmament, with National Public Radio and other distributors wondering who, if anyone, may follow suit, and whether Mr. Glass will return if he fails.

Ira Glass’s “This American Life” Leaves PRI

What happened to red pistachios?

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Pistachios used to be imported from the Middle East. Harvesting methods left stains on the shells, covered up with red dye. But now 98% of pistachios are grown in the US, and harvested in a way that doesn’t stain the shells. So they’re undyed.

When I was a kid I thought red was the pistachio’s natural color. I was glad when the unstained variety became commonplace, ending red stains on your fingertips and mouth.

Whatever Happened to Red Pistachios

It’s not space tourism, but it’s close

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Luxury Balloon Could Take Space Tourists 100,000 Feet Up

As [Nigel Goode, director of Priestmangoode, a British design studio,] sees it, the World View trips would begin before dusk. The large balloon that powers the capsule might need about an hour and half to get to 100,000 feet; after that, World View could drift into orbit for a few hours. The view that would afford is its own special kind of luxury, so Goode and his team designed the pod around four circular windows, each of which would allow two of the six passengers (and the two crew members) a front row seat.

Censorship

UK ‘Porn Filters’ Block One Fifth of All Websites

Censorship, pure and simple. It has no place in a free, open society. If individual ISPs want to use filters, that’s fine, but it absolutely should not be required by government.

The government officials who impose this ban are either scoundrels looking for an excuse to block any speech they don’t like, or fools who don’t understand the value of free speech.

This is not actually a post about Minnie

Every day, as soon as I wake up, I walk from our bedroom to my adjacent office, and I let Minnie out of her crate. I pull the blanket off the top and say, “Good morning!” Lately, Minnie is stretched out on the floor of the crate when I come in the office. But when I open the door of the crate she comes out. I open the exterior door to my office and let her out.

She greets each new day with over-the-top enthusiasm, joyfully bounding around the yard. Every morning she’s ecstatic to see me, wagging her tail furiously and jumping up on me and licking my face.

All of this is a observation about dogs, and we’re supposed to learn a lesson from this about not taking blessings for granted. And I do. I’m happy to see Minnie every morning.

But to be human is to be able to hold contradictory ideas in your head at once. And sometimes it’s a bit much, you know? Minnie’s not the only creature of ritual in this house. I am too. And my morning ritual is to let her out, wash up, then make my tea and change her water dishes. On workdays I go right to my desk with my tea and get started on email and check the news. On days off I sit out on the deck and do social media on my iPad for a while

And sometimes I don’t want to bound around the yard joyfully. Sometimes I just want to quietly sip my tea and look at the Internet a while.

Not everything has to be a joyful experience. We can’t always be passionate about life and our work. We can’t always cry with joy at the beauty of a sunset. We can’t always be mindful. Sometimes it’s enough to just be, and breathe in and out, and put one foot in front of the other, and not feel anything about it. That’s enough.

P.S. Minnie really is pretty cute in the mornings though.

Yay! I have a political label!

I haven’t been comfortable calling myself “conservative” or “progressive,” which are the two major labels floating around American discourse.

I certainly don’t identify with either political party. Even though I’m a registered Democrat and have always voted the straight Democrat party line, I’m often voting against the Republicans, who are wedded to a pernicious social conservative platform.

I’m drawn to elements of market capitalism, socialism, Objectivism, and libertarianism, contradictory though those philosophies are. While I’m a religious unbeliever, and push back hard against attempts to make religious policy into law, I respect that religion is a source of strength, wisdom, and comfort to billions of people.

So I’ve flailed around in trying to describe my political beliefs.

Until now.

I’m a liberal.

This is satisfactory as a political label, in that people sort-of know what it means. It’s also appealing in that it’s a word that has fallen out of favor. People like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter despise liberals. It’s good to be despised by people like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

What is a liberal? Edmund Fawcett tackles the question in, “Reclaiming liberalism: Liberalism is not dead – its ideals are more important than ever – but it must change radically to survive in the future.”

At its broadest, liberalism is about improving people’s lives while treating them alike and shielding them from undue power. Four ideas in particular seem to have guided liberals through their history.

The first is that the clash of interests and beliefs in society is inescapable. Social harmony, the nostalgic dream of conservatives and the brotherly hope of socialists, is neither achievable nor desirable – because harmony stifles creativity and blocks initiative. Meanwhile conflict, if tamed and put to use as competition in a stable political order, could bear fruit as argument, experiment and exchange.

I like political arguments. I enjoy reading both conservative and progressive blogs. To tell the truth, I actually like conservative blogs like Hot Air and even Breitbart and Drudge Report better than progressive blogs as a class. On the other hand, the progressive Talking Points Memo is emerging as my favorite source of national news.

Secondly, human power is not to be trusted. However well power behaves, it cannot be counted on to behave well. Be it the power of state, market, social majorities or ethical authorities, the superior power of some people over others tends inevitably to arbitrariness and domination unless resisted and checked. Preventing the domination of society by any one interest, faith or class is, accordingly, a cardinal liberal aim.

America’s failure to grasp this point drives me crazy. Progressives say Big Business is evil. Conservatives say Big Government is evil. I say yes to both.

Or, more precisely, both Big Business and Big Government are necessary forces, but left unchecked they can do great damage. They’re powerful, dangerous tools. When managed correctly, they manage each other.

Also, government is better at some things, and business is better at others. For some things, government and business need to work together in the form of government contracts and incentives.

Liberals also hold that, contrary to traditional wisdom, human life can improve. Progress for the better is both possible and desirable, for society as a whole and for people one by one, through education above all, particularly moral education.

Finally, the framework of public life has to show everyone civic respect, whatever they believe and whoever they are. Such respect requires not intruding on people’s property or privacy; not obstructing their chosen aims and enterprises; and not excluding anyone from such protections and permissions because they’re useless to society or socially despised.

This point about civic respect is arguably the most difficult to put in practice. It’s why I’m ultimately sympathetic to Holly Lobby, even though they’re wrong. Holly Lobby has a right to withhold payment for birth control it considers immoral — but it should not exercise that right.

By insisting on pursuing all its ideals at once and in parallel, liberalism made a high bid. It was never easy to better people’s lives while letting them alone, nor was it ever easy to respect people’s beliefs while improving their minds. At the same time government could protect markets from state power, or people from market power, and give majorities their say while protecting minorities. Liberalism’s high bid has made it a doctrine of hope but equally an engine of disappointment….

And:

Its most obvious current failing is letting the power of the market run out of control. A direct consequence, rising inequality, has become the number-one topic in public debate. The economic arguments on this question are old.

Since the late 19th century, liberal thinking about the economy has gone back and forth between using the state to tame market power and using the market to tame state power. After 1945, liberal democracies appeared to get the balance right. Then in the 1980s, following a decade of inflation, joblessness and tax revolts, the balance swung strongly away from the state towards market power. Super-returns for a few and stagnant wages for the many have created social inequalities that are ethically offensive and, in a liberal democracy, politically unsustainable. Something has to give.

For the free-market right, the capitalist engine spreads its benefits in the end. If in the meantime it spreads inequality, so be it. On this reading, the egalitarian hopes of liberal democracy have to give. Left-wing liberals, meanwhile, see no inevitabilities here. Capitalism spreads inequality, they believe, if politics allows it to. They continue to trust the capacity of politics to tame markets, and so, for them, untrammeled capitalism has to give.

I would not say liberals have let the market run out of control. Quite the contrary: Government in the West acts to preserve Big Business against outside forces. If markets were free, Aero would be legal and big banks and auto companies would have been allowed to go out of business (while government would have stepped in to protect employees from the damage done by feckless upper management and investors). Government propping up Big Business is one of the biggest threats faced by Western civilization (although Big Business itself is necessary and beneficial).

Liberalism is currently flailing. In the United States, neither political party is liberal. Liberalism needs a 21st Century framework to operate, just as it found frameworks in the 19th and 20th Centuries.