Robert: ‘How about Same calling features as Skype but with free ‘Skype-out’ to most US (including cell phones), Europe, and other major continents (but not all).’

☞ Not sure how many other major continents there really are besides Europe and North America – five? six? – but this seems worth a look as well. Ah-looooooo?


Bob Fyfe: ‘From your column yesterday: When told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes “too far” in the rights it guarantees. And from the article you linked to: ‘Schools don’t do enough to teach the First Amendment. Students often don’t know the rights it protects,’ Linda Puntney, executive director of the Journalism Education Association, said.

‘So how about this for a learning experience? On a Friday afternoon during Social Studies (or whatever it’s called now), after presenting the full text of the First Amendment, the teacher asks the students to raise their hands if they think that it ‘goes too far.’ The teacher then tells the students to raise their hands really high and keep them up.

‘At that point, 20 or 30 armed police officers storm the room, handcuffing and arresting all students with raised hands for ‘publicly denouncing the rule of law of the United States of America’ (or some such).

‘The arrested students would then spend the weekend in jail and be released on Monday morning in time for school. That afternoon in Social Studies the teacher would give an essay test with the question, ‘How do you feel about the rights protected by the First Amendment?’ (Of course, you would need to require that parents sign permission slips for the ‘class trip’ to the jail….)

☞ Bob can’t be serious – but it is a terrific idea.

Dan: ‘I used to be a proud member of the ACLU until a number of years ago when I learned that it was accepting large contributions from Philip Morris at the same time that it was supporting ‘commercial free speech rights’ for tobacco companies. I protested at the time that the ACLU should indeed stand up for a free marketplace of ideas and products. But, when the product is addictive, deadly, and illegal to sell to minors, it is perfectly legitimate to restrict the right to promote it. If the ACLU disagreed, I could have lived with that, but for them to disagree while taking large contributions from a tobacco company was more than I could accept. The last straw was when the local chapter declined to publish my letter in their ironically named journal, ‘Open Forum.’ I resigned.’

☞ This was not the ACLU’s finest hour. I remember it well. But it’s time to sign back up. (And note that, since then, the torch has been passed on to a new executive director, Anthony Romero.)


Brianna Sollandry: ‘Look at Paul Krugman’s column in yesterday’s New York Times. He points out that the people who want to privatize Social Security use pessimistic projections to explain why it needs to be done, and optimistic projections to show why their scheme works. If the optimistic projections are correct, there is no need to privatize it. If the pessimistic projections are correct, privatization will fail.’

Jerry Turba: ‘Could someone calculate how much money I would now have if I started a private account with 2% of my social security tax since 1960?’

☞ Exactly the same as if you had put 2% of your other income into a private account – and I hope you did or will. No one says you’re not allowed to save for the future; just that Social Security should be there as a bare-bones base to keep tens of millions of old folks out of abject poverty and give the rest of us a little extra to build on.

Yes, it’s tough to set aside 2% of income for retirement. But it can be done. And if you fail to, at least you’ll have Social Security Insurance to fall back on. (If, that is, we don’t muck it up. The tweaks required to assure its solvency beyond 2042 are modest, as I suggested last month.)


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