There’s no need for the government to step in

I’d probably be the person my friends would think most likely to lobby for laws net neutrality, but they’d be wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I’m massively pro-net neutrality and think it’s vital for the continued growth of the Internet and innovation. What I don’t agree with is further legislation.

In England, our current state of play is that the government thinks everything is fine, despite BT capping and throttling. I agree with them. I don’t think that the government should step in and force private companies to follow their morals. The government has no say in how BT should be running their company.

But I’m paying for an 8Mb connection! That’s what I should get.

No, you’re not paying for an 8Mb connection, you’re paying for the service laid out in the terms and conditions you signed up for. Terms which you said you agreed to when you made the contract for your service. Those conditions openly say “we’re going to throttle your connection to 896Kbps for streaming videos”, and everything else Ars is complaining about. If you don’t like that, there’s plenty of competitors who offer different terms. Use them.

There are hidden terms like this all over England; buy one get one free (the cheapest product is the free one) — free calls between 7am and 7pm (if you start a call at 6pm, and then go past 7pm, you’ll be charged for the entire call) — 30% less fat! (30% smaller bag). It just enforces that it’s important to read the small print. That’s all the onus there is, and all that there should be on businesses.

Whilst I don’t think there should be harsher laws about how terms are written, I do think it’d be a good idea for businesses to voluntarily add a simpler version of their terms. Just to make their customers happier. I can’t seem to find it, but I once found a website who had the normal legal text – hard to understand by anyone that’s not a lawyer – but by the side they had simple explanations. In someone like digg’s case, by the side of…

By creating and posting Content to Digg, you warrant that you own all rights to the Content, agree that the Content will be dedicated to the public domain under the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication, available at http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/ and that you will not object to the use of the Content by Digg in any context. To clarify, the above does not apply to the Content on external sites linked to by the original submission.

They could have “this just means that anything you give us is going to be put into the public domain, so anyone can do anything with it.” Digg’s ToS is actually pretty easy to read already, but other companies could really do with doing that too.

I don’t want to spend half an hour reading something before I can use a product!

That’s your choice, but the business has done everything they need to do in my opinion. You can’t complain when they suspend your account for doing something they don’t want, or when you’re hit with hidden charges. It’s your responsibility to read that stuff.

If the government can’t regulate, then who’s watching for consumer rights?

The consumers. If BT customer doesn’t like something they should leave BT, boycotting it. If enough customers are leaving (so it’s a big problem) BT will change. If you stick around with BT and put up with you, you’re sending the message that you’re okay with it.

That’s why I’m hopeful that if non-net neutrality comes into place, it’ll be fairly quickly kicked to the curb. There will always be some good guys in business. I’ve heard good things about Be. If there’s truly not anyone filling that need, then someone will pretty quickly notice it and set up a business there. (Hey, why not you?)

In sum, quit worrying about net neutrality, it’s here to stay. Government shouldn’t keep regulating businesses, let the customers do that. (You can almost feel Ayn Rand in the room, amirite?)

Orson Scott Card isn’t so bad

I wanted to carry on a discussion about Card that was being held over at the LGBT reddit. I want to have it here because there my view points seemed to have been just pushed aside because I was sticking up for him and most people just decided to label him a homophobe and move along. It’s really all you can expect for a somewhat biased subset of people.

Card’s claim to fame is the Ender Saga, which I really hope you’ve all read. If not, let me know. I’ll freaking buy you a copy of Ender’s Game myself.

He has always been vocal about queers. In fact, his article he wrote about people calling themselves both gay and Mormon has been in my “Interesting prose” bookmark folder for a few years now, and I think it pretty much sums what he feels. He’s not homophobic in the sense that he’d go out and kill off some butt munchers, and I doubt he’d ever even nudge someone in that direction to do that. He just doesn’t like gay people interfering with his religion, and that’s totally acceptable. Most religions have conservative “rules” you have to stick to, beliefs you must hold, and that applies especially the Latter-Day Saints. If you’re gay you’re just not invited.

In the same way that if I’m asked to an invite-only party, and you’re not, you can’t go. It’s not that the hosts hate you, it’s just that they don’t really want you there. And why should they? It’s their event. Their religion.

Same goes for marriage really. It’s a Christian thing. What right do the government have to start meddling in it? The church and state should be separate; that’s usually said to stop religion messing with laws, but it’s also true to stop law messing with religion.

I’m not sure on Card’s views on civil partnerships – different but equal. Assuming neither partner in a civil partnership wanted children (for the sake of this paragraph) I think he’d be okay with it. After all, then it’d just be a legal thing and Judges wouldn’t be fucking up his religion in ways it never wanted to be, in ways that specifically are outlawed in their rules.

Up until this point I agree with all of the above; religion should sit in one corner, and politics should sit in another, and their paths should never meet. However, I disagree with Card – not angrily, because I understand why he disagrees with me – as soon as children step into the picture.

I don’t see why gay people can’t have children. I’m pretty sure that having two same sex parents doesn’t mess up a child in any way. The heterosexual desires are inbuilt in heterosexual children, and the same for gay children. It really isn’t a choice, I’m not arguing that here, and I’d love to as I find the article Card mentions he’s going to write “soon” (back last year, so I guess it’s around somewhere). It not being a choice is what I’m basing my opinion on concerning gay people having children. If it turns out that it affects the child in anyway I’ll seriously reconsider my stance on this. I wish I could go out and look at data for how gay parented kids turn out, but I’m guessing that they’re all written by extremists, on both sides so I won’t look. But this isn’t the place for that argument (and I will delete any comment bringing that argument up, email me if you really want to).

I also disagree with him that it’s wrong to allow children to see that there can be happy homosexual relationships, and that they can be just as successful (and as catastrophically dismal) as heterosexual couplings. As a (playing-around-with-the-ideas-of) Objectivist, I’d say that every human has equal rights, and the law should promote those individuals however it can to aid their safety. Morality on the other hand should be controlled by organisations, in this argument religions, and not the government.

PS. Although I’ve only read Ender’s Game so far (just waiting till I can afford Speaker) I’m pretty sure that Card doesn’t put much about gays in his books. There’s no reason not to buy his books. Whilst boycotting is typically a good way to get a business to change their ways, refusing to buy his books isn’t going to stop him believing in what he believes in, and so you’re just missing out on some of the best writing ever. I have amazing small attention span, and can happily sit through reading his massively long articles despite him saying stuff I don’t believe in.

The oxymoron of restrictions on free speech

I originally set up a blog so that I could write down how I felt about particular issues and arguments. One of the reasons for moving from LiveJournal was because it seemed to be being passed around from company to company, each of them having different rules on what could get you banned. I’d never say my views were radical, but if I ever had a radical view on something I’d hate to get banned for it. Having my own server for my content pretty much makes me safe from that.

Anyway, of the years of blogging I tried to writing down my views on random issues, stretching from how I feel about people leeching bandwidth by hot linking images, to what I think about TV licensing, or global warming. Fairly random things that I can write down my opinions for exhaustively and then just link back to a post when the topic comes up. Unfortunately most the time I just tangent and end up deleting the post.

In fact, sometimes I’ll tangent because I may not even have a complete idea on how I feel about things. Writing them down lets me formulate these stances, looking at all the sides of the arguments.

Free speech is one of those topics. A post just came up on LiveJournal about it, and I disagree with a lot of what people think typically. I haven’t even answered that poll because I couldn’t figure out what I’d consider to be crossing the line.

Disclaimer: Because I don’t know it, I’m going to ignore the law here and just go with morals. I’d obviously always stick to the law, so just because I say an act is morally acceptable here doesn’t mean I’d go out and immediately start murdering kittens.

The first part of that poll deals with situation in which you think someone should be banned for if they air a particular opinion. I’m just going to ignore the option for “thing’s I disagree with should be banned”, that was clearly there to weed out the idiots.

The problem with banning people for corrupting morals is whose morals do you use as a guideline? For fundamentalist Christians, being gay is immoral. If a moderator from Facebook took that view, they could ban someone for just talking about it positively. The morals of another person could be quite different. That causes a constant change of rules, which leads to confusion.

“Offensive to certain groups” is a stupid one to rule on too. Some people are overly sensitive. If we’re too moderated in this respect then conversation and healthy arguments really gets limited. If I said “Israel needs to just stay away from Gaza, they’ve no business there,” Israelites are likely to be offended by that. But I obviously shouldn’t be banned from a community for saying that. [This isn’t an Israel/Gaza discussion. Shush.] And if my voice was muted by an entire country because I spoke out about their wasteful censorship everyone’d be quite pissed. Just upsetting someone shouldn’t be a reason for humanity to be silenced. The offended group should just man up, and do their best to disprove or fix the allegation.

I place a whole lot of responsibility upon people in my head. I expect them to read something, and then immediately challenge it in their head. Why is the person writing this? What are the other arguments for and against what I’ve just read? And then after asking those questions, seek out other sources on the topic and then make up their own damn mind. That’s what I expect people to do. If I can assume that, then I’d say that inciting hatred is perfectly acceptable. Of course, I’d be really angry if I read a piece on why black people are disgusting, and why they should be all slaughtered, but I definitely think it shouldn’t be banned outright.

Unfortunately, people apparently don’t think like that. I’ve never heard of any extreme cases locally, but I do know that news papers and media can easily sway people’s views on almost anything. For instance, many members of my family strongly dislike how Polish people “have come to our country taken our jobs, claimed our benefits and health care, and then gone back home all the richer”. That’s not my family’s words, my dad really wouldn’t know the first thing about our economy, and my uncle has no idea how our benefits system works, so they can’t be their words. They’re just the words they’ve been given by The Sun which they’re blindly following.

If my family can be swayed by something as off hand as a few news paper articles, I’m a little worried to find out how many people can be corrupted by organised “hatred”. When I read that CPS article my first thoughts were “uh, really? He’s being prosecuted for making a few leaflets?” I would never be swayed by such stupid, and yes, offensive shit. But if it does lead people to start actively hating Jewish people, then I guess something should be done about it. Treat the disease not the symptoms.

Those leaflets were just stupid remarks, expressing his opinion, I guess. I’m okay with that. If he signed off with “Save the world, kill a Jew,” then I’d be a bit more torn on how far free speech should go. I suppose Sheppard could be seen as, well, a sheppard gathering his flock with his literature. If he tells them to jump, they’re bloody likely to jump. In my assumptive, make-your-own-mind-up world, then he should be allowed to order his sheep to do whatever. But we’re not in a world like that, so I guess there needs to be some restrictions there.

It really annoys me that there are these people with so little sense that they need to just absorb whatever principles are thrusted upon them. Because of those people I’ll also have to say that the Anarchist Cookbooks that’re floating around should probably have some vetting to them. The thought of a book being censored, or even banned, angers me so much. But whilst there are stupid people around that actually go out and create bombs and stuff, instead of just being intriged and enjoying the works, I really dispair as to what to do…