1. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Some Thoughts on Thinking About Freedom and its Responsibilities

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by EdFromNY, Feb 24, 2013.

    This is actually the continuation of a discussion that began over in Character Development with an innocent question that included the unfortunate phrase, "politically correct". The question was a direct and narrow one, but, as often happens here, the ensuing discussion was not. However, it has now strayed so far from its original purpose that I thought a new thread would be best. I begin with a quote from my friend, Tourist, and some thoughts it has provoked.

    Actually, it was not their pay. In 1924, an act of congress had awarded them bonus certificates that could not be cashed until 1945. But in 1932, at the depth of the Great Depression and with unemployment at an all-time high, 17,000 veterans and their supporters went to Washington to demand that the bonuses be paid early. President Herbert Hoover refused and ordered the army to clear the protesters. The command to fire on the veterans was given by Douglas MacArthur. A year later, a similar protest was launched after Franklin Roosevelt took office, and Roosevelt defused the controversy with a promise of jobs through one of the New Deal works programs.

    As I have posted in other discussions with Tourist, allusions to nazism are pejorative and not usually convincing because Germany in the 1930s did not have a 200 year history of experience with the democratic process, nor was its democracy founded upon a solid base of well-reasoned philosophy and rationalization as ours has been. That's not to say that some form of future totalitarian rule is completely impossible in the US, but it goes so much against the grain that its establishment by the kind of means that Tourist hints at would be impossible. But, if there is any danger of it at all, it lies in the increasingly lack of reasoned discussion in our national political discourse and our increasing inability to see the necessity of compromise in the settlement of any political dispute.

    Now, that's interesting. Is the inference that they were intentionally killed as a pre-planned suppression of the Vietnam protest movement? I remember it well, and as a student I participated in the subsequent Moratorium that took place. I remember the look on the faces of the National Guardsmen on the cover of Time Magazine - confused and scared. They shot out of panic. Much the same as four British soldiers in Boston in 1770.

    Do you happen to remember who defended those four British soldiers when they were brought to trial for killing the colonists? It was John Adams. Why? Because he believed in the rule of law, and that freedom had its limits.

    BTW, there is, as far as I know, only one school in the entire world that is named for the students who were killed at Kent State. It's called Martyrs of Kent. It's in Cuba.

    Let's take a step back. What event led to the calling of the Constitutional convention?

    Shay's Rebellion, an armed outbreak in 1786 and 1787 brought on by multiple factors, mostly economic (including harsh fiscal policies to reign in mounting government debt). The conundrum then, as now, was how to balance the principles of freedom for which the Revolution had been fought with the need for a stable society and a functioning economy. Think of it as a sliding scale - at one end, there is no government at all, anarchy, a world in which might makes right, where those with the ability to seize power exploit all others; at the other, totalitarian government.

    As soon as you say "we", you have sacrificed some portion of your freedom - that is true in personal relationships and it's true in organized society. So, we defend freedom of speech, but not to the point of shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater. We defend freedom of the press, but not to the point of allowing child pornography. But, as in all human interactions, it isn't always obvious where the lines should be drawn, and hence there is, and needs to be, a never-ending dialogue.

    On street cameras? Not a problem for me. I have no expectation of privacy on a public street. Frisks at airports? Since I don't wish to be a passenger on a plane that ends up crashing into a building, I'm cool with that, too. Extend that to surveillance of those aspects of my life where I DO have an expectation of privacy, and you will quickly find why we need an ACLU, no matter how much you may dislike some of the causes they take up.

    Tourist is correct when he advocates vigilance of such things. It is only by vigilance that we protect our freedoms. But if that vigilance takes the form of a full-volume outburst every time there is a minor inconvenience on one's freedom, it is soon rendered meaningless. Like The Boy Who Cried "Wolf!" it won't be effective when you need it.
     
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  2. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    Comprehensive and interesting post. I agree with all you say, particularly that true freedom isn't selfish. It's not a case of freedom for me and who cares what happens to you.
    I too am happy to give up some privacy for safety. That just makes sense to me.

    I understand the fear of people like Tourist who think that we should be vigilant, otherwise we could walk, eyes closed into total domination. I don't actually think that's going to happen, but I understand that point of view is fueled by largely unwarranted fear. Reasonable vigilance is necessary, but as you say, when it becomes excessive, it is ineffectual.

    I just think that the threat to our freedom comes, not from the cameras, the curbs on newspapers, not from searches at the airports, but from those who don't care what their freedom does to other people's.
     
  3. Snicket
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    Snicket Member

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    All though I agree with the OP and you. I have to mention though that it is also up to the government to say when enough is enough. The government shouldn't be the people's big brother. And I find that slowly we're becoming more of a authoritarian capitalistic world. Where moneymakers have absolute say and absolute power. Where the government is completely ripping at it seems. There is another threat to our freedom and it's the very government that holds us together. If the government doesn't care about our freedom and our choices then our freedom could also be threatened.

    And I feel like all though I agree with what you're saying and the OP. I have to also disagree. Because there are things we should be fighting about, but don't. People don't because they see it as a minor issue. But no one looks ahead to the bigger picture. Society is built on evolving what we accept and don't accept. It's an always evolving circle of recycle and rebirth.
     
  4. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Thought provoking thread, and very true. The issue is that events are already happening, and it effects the manner in both what we write and how we perceive our stories.

    Kathleen Parker had an editorial today that dovetails into our debate perfectly. She writes in part, "The US Department of Agriculture's magical diversity training programs, i.e. 'professional development opportunities' wherein employees learn how they ought really to 'think' about things...we all commit sins of discrimination, and America should repent and stop being proud of itself."

    In other words, indoctrinate new thoughts, change actual behavior.

    So if redacting text in classics, using CGI techniques to take the firearms out of the hands of police in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and replacing them with walkie-talkies, and making employees fear their own thoughts because it's 'the new normal,' then the thought police are already here.

    We mentioned Quentin Tarantino as a film maker. He does a period piece in Django Unchained and there's an equal amount of buzz on racial politics as there is on the plot. That's ridiculous. However, if you say that, then geewhiz, you must be racist.

    Now, I admit to loving my country. And there's a reason why I am vigilant. After I read that "magic book" of mine, I was fortunate to be chosen by Mr. Worster for his limited-entry history courses in high school. The best advice he ever gave me was to read The Constitution and The Federalist Papers.

    Now, laugh if you will, but I've never done serious time in jail while many bikers do prison stretches. In short, they have no real idea what their rights are, and most attorneys want to plead out cases. I never did.

    If you do a rudimentary scan of the Constitution and Bill of Rights you'll do two things. One, you'll realize how badly your country is suffering under Feinstein, Biden and Shumer, and two, you'll never be afraid to type an honest story again.

    I respect Ed and his position. But as I've stated many times, there are as many red states as blue states. We are not a nation that believes in political correctness and "reasonable" impingements on enumerated personal freedoms. At best, we're half a nation that believes in such silliness.

    My position is not unique or original. Lord Boyd Orr once said, "If people have to choose between freedom and sandwiches, they will take sandwiches." What a horrid comment on the human experience.

    As writers you should be incensed. If you buy this enforced civilizing we will not require thought police. We'll do it to ourselves. The next time you write a story and you back a word out of a sentence because you are uncomfortable with it, seriously ask yourself why.

    Edit: And I'd like to thank Ed for providing this thread and promoting discussion that impacts our writing.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks, Ed, for giving an off-topic discussion a proper venue.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    bravo!

    well done, fellow ny-er... nothing more than i've come to expect from you, though ;)...

    love and hugs, m
     
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  7. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    I agree with you too. We are living in a capitalistic world but we don't fight it because it suits us. We want cheap food, cars, houses, etc. The majority of us don't care where they come from. In UK we have recently found that some of the supermarkets have been stocking beef burgers made with horse meat. They say they weren't aware of it - but when they push their suppliers to provide them with food at the lowest possible cost, cutting their profits to the bare margin so that the supermarkets can continue to satisfy their shareholders, something's going to give. In this case it was the trust between the supermarkets and their customers. Well - good! It is time that we realised that we are putting money into the pockets of the very people who are doing most damage to this world.

    Now, at least for a short time, people are thinking about what they're putting in their baskets. Smaller butchers are seeing the benefits, the supermarkets are having to pedal a bit faster just to stand still. But, naturally and rightly, they blame their suppliers. But their suppliers are a victim of the 'good food at cheaper and cheaper prices' climate. The end of the line is the customer who, until something like this happens, spends no thought on where from, why is it so cheap, who is supplying this.

    Same with clothing. We know we have sweat shops all over the world. But if we see a supermarket t-shirt at a ridiculously low price, we don't question it. We could fight the power the capitalist have, we just choose not to. It's us that are putting money into their hands because of our greed. We don't need 50 inch tv's, a computer in each room, a wardrobe full of clothes we'll hardly ever wear - we want them and as long as we consider ourselves consumers first and second and last, we are solidifying the position of the capitalist.

    What I'm saying is that things are what they are because we are actually happy with them that way. Probably too idle, too greedy, to work-weary to change them.

    Governments pass laws to make us safer. These laws are usually in response to something else. They don't just sit there and say, 'what can we do today to annoy people, although it seems like it sometimes. Speed laws are passed because people have been killed by speed, drink driving laws have been passed for the same reason. Those people who want the freedom to drive dangerously fast or drink so much that their brains can't function, may well want the freedom to do as they please. Well they can't have it - and why should they? If we took the right to freedom to its ultimate degree, there would be no freedom except for those who shouted loudest, fought hardest and cared least - the bullies of this world would win every time.

    Freedom is a trade off. You win some, you lose some. It's just a matter of which situation would you rather have.
     
  8. Snicket
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    Snicket Member

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    I agree. Though I find this a generalization as not everyone is like that. But the whole cheap to create suffering is one of my lease liked pieces of this world.
     
  9. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    I don't like generalization either. There are many groups that campaign to change things, but most people, if they do anything at all, pay little or not notice. At the most they will react occasionally when a particularly potent article appears in the paper or on tv. and then it's back to the on-line shopping. And that's ok. It's the way the world is turning now and if you don't want to end up as that very strange recluse at the end of the street still washing sheets in a washtub, you just have to go with the flow. I suppose that's where the generalization comes from.
     
  10. Snicket
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    Snicket Member

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    I really don't like that when people aren't part of that generalization that they are called self righteous or smug. I guess I was saying it was a generalization because of the way I live my life though.
     
  11. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    'Use' is not automatically "abuse." I've shot so called assault weapons for decades and I've never overthrown a government yet.

    What I have found as an older man is the concept of "goring oxen" to be painfully correct. We pass gun laws because we know nothing about firearms. We passively watch surveillance cameras going up because "we're not doing anything wrong" although most of us have read '1984.'

    On one occasion I was sick to ad nauseum in listening to a liberal apologist discuss firearms. So I posed this debating point. If he opined that it was perfectly acceptable to use his 1A rights to erode my 2A protections, how would he feel about me using the 2A to take away his 1A enumerated rights.

    A look of horror fell over his face. All of a sudden the idea of shackling someone became a very real personal possibility. He had never imagined that the same document that protects him could be bastardized to disenfranchise him. One simple paragraph on a 200 year old piece of colonial parchment was all that stood between his freedoms and being placed up against a wall and shot.

    I once heard acquiescing rights to a governing body akin to a parent taking a child's hand to cross the street. Initially, this appears to be a prudent idea. But once your hand is taken you have no reasonable expectation that your hand will be released later. And frankly, heaps of new laws are passed each year, but how often do you hear that even one is rescinded?

    Ever hear the joke, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." Yikes, they can't even pull people out of a flood or deliver the mail without screwing it up. Why should they be trusted at any turn when the Constitution is at stake?
     
  12. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    I've read the debates you've taken part in and I've found, pretty much that regardless of the original subject, you've always managed to hijack them for your own agenda. I have no intention of debating that with you because you've already established your position and your biker boots seem to be well and firmly entrenched in concrete. Your continuing rhetoric is getting boring.
     
  13. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    Yep. I second that. I hate that my niece is mocked for being a vegetarian - she still gets comments about her 'killing cabbages'. That shows ignorance on the part of her detractors, but they consider her to be the 'weird' one. I admire her, she's stuck to her guns now since she was a teenager. I wish I could be as determined.
     
  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    First of all, thanks for the kind words.

    Now, to business.

    Because "the government" is, literally, we, the people. That is the meaning of a republic. It is, as Lincoln said, "of the people, by the people and for the people". To the extent that the government does things that the people do not like, it's because the people are, as Jim Conover so eloquently put it in Frank Capra's wonderful film, "State of the Union", "too darn lazy to vote in the primaries".

    One aspect of today's politics that I find most troubling is the notion of "government" as something alien and apart from the electorate, to the point of treating it as an enemy. As I noted in my OP, government is the alternative to anarchy. Treating it as the enemy is the first step in a march back to the anarchy from which we came.
     
  15. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Fair enough. That's not the point, they're examples only.

    There's a concept in passing bills which opines that it's easier to keep a building from being erected than tearing one down. In Wisconsin it took ten years to repeal the motorcycle helmet law.

    I mentioned surveillance cameras. Citizens should have united when the idea was first floated. Now we're stuck with them, and I see no chance of having them ripped down.

    But these are freedoms I find important, and obviously the chickens haven't come home to roost for you, yet. But when some governing body denies you "the privilege" of having a book printed, or rips out entire chapters the state finds offensive, or has an federal agent question your neighbors about your political leanings, then it will be too late for you.

    Last week I found myself telling a liberal that I am not a sworn officer and I'm under no obligation to risk my life protecting her from a crazed gunman. That is true, in fact that very thing was taught at my CCW licensing class. But what most people don't know is that Gary Cooper was not the first choice as the actor to play the marshall in "High Noon." That role was written for John Wayne, who turned it down.

    His reason? He felt the story was unrealistic since no righteous American citizen would refuse to come to the aid of another, as the citizenry did in the script.

    More and more I sound like Captain Kirk who uttered, "Let them die." Is that really the way you want me to perceive your freedoms, the integrity of your stories and your life?
     
  16. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I find this happens here in the UK too. I wish I knew the cause of it.
     
  17. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    It's because sometimes it feels like the enemy to some people. It's a Winston Churchill moment - you can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time.
    Whichever party is in power a few million people are going to be complaining about them. I don't think that means that the majority see government as alien or not desirable. It just means we like a good moan and since government affects every part of our lives, what better to complain about?
     
  18. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I would say we have an uninformed population more than a lazy one. I find that most people I talk to in real life know nothing about the Obama administration's policies.
     
  19. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    If people are uninformed - and I agree, they are - it is because they choose to be. I'll admit that most of what masquerades as information these days is emotionally-charged opinion and in no small part deliberate disinformation, so digging out facts can be more work than it would at first appear. But one can be informed if one wants to be.

    You have not responded to my point about the expectation of privacy. If you have no expectation of privacy on a public street, how can a surveillance camera be an invasion of it?
     
  20. Snicket
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    I'm vegan too. I have a lot of food allergeis and issues with digesting meat. And a lot of the time when you say you're vegan people really judge you the wrong way. See as a vegan I don't advocate veganism. Instead I advocate the right for every American to have healthy good quality food. I want every American to have access to good quality food. The mega food companies work exactly like the oil companies. And other big chain in the government. I forone do not think big chains should be allowed the rights to be in the government or have a say to the rules and regulations. A separation of big business and government. And I think the right and freedom of quality food is one that we should be fighting for.
     
  21. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I'm sorry about that, Ed, your deserve a response. In many ways I *assumed* my response might be in the implied/rhetorical sphere. Briefly, I read the Bill of Rights, and they apply whether you're indoors or outside. We have come to assume "privacy" is what the government tells us it is. It's like stating that celebrities can be stalked and hounded because they have become 'public figures.' I don't think The National Enquirer can void enumerated rights.

    More to the point, Ed, are you sure this is a debate you want to win? Let's say for the sake of the argument I realize that I have two dozen detractors here and no supporters. Let's also imagine that Madison holds a writers' symposium on the UW campus, and we all attend.

    You know (because I have told you) that my carry EDC is a SW360PD. While attending this symposium the quintessential Shumer boogeyman of the armed to the teeth, bipolar off his meds, mad at the world loner breaks into the lecture and seeks no good.

    How would you feel if I got up, shrugged, and stated, "Well, Ed won the debate, everyone thinks so. And while our exchange centered on censorship and free choice in literature, the consensus is that governments should have the power to negate enumerated rights."

    The last thing you see before everything goes black is me safely exiting.

    That is what we are becoming. We allow Huckleberry Finn to be redacted. We think being watched is a good idea. Half of the country thinks the Bill of Rights is a quaint, outdated document of long dead colonialists. Heck, sometimes I think having a nut shoot up a room full of helpless liberals might be a wake-up call.

    Ed, I don't think things are getting better.
     
  22. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    Is there freedom?

    Honestly the more i look around the more i think we dont have it, if we actually ever had it...

    Serbia: my little poor native country getting smaller by the day as we are forced by countries from all around the world give up a part of our country, and we cant defend it, now we have a long long history on that land and some of our oldest monasteries are there wich date back to 1500 and more, so there is no freedom to defend your own country, the reason we loosing it is cause we let foreigners settle in and with years now they out number serbs that live there(not to mention the people who were forced to leave or be killed). Makes me ask myself if this happened in US and Mexicans demanded a part of US as simply more Mexicans lived there would they give it to them?

    Freedom of speech you say? Well let me tell you about a man called Vojslav Seselj he is/was a politician and in the war of Yugoslavia he held a speech(now some say it was hate speech some say he called people to defend there homes thats not relevant now) later he was arrested for those crimes and today is his 10 years since he is in prison in Holland on trail they still cant prove if he is guilty or not but they cant let him go either

    Libya: The place i current am and were i was born, when you walk the streets now you will see "FREE" and "FREEDOM" on every wall and on every lip as people are happy they pulled down an oppressor that ruled 40 years, well do they have that freedom now? i wouldnt call it freedom, yes its basically a pirate city just without the wenches, and you do have the freedom to carry around a weapon be it a pistol or an anti-tank launcher, women are forced to not wear make up as it is offensive now plus many call to oppress them more, you are free to do what ever you want as long as you dont wear the colors of the previous regime otherwise you probably will be killed on the spot. Guess i need to buy them a good dictionary with better explanation to word freedom...

    well this was fun i do feel much better now
    and to end it with the words of a smart man "help help am being repressed~Monty Python"
     
  23. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Bimber, I'm no longer sure, and I say that as a citizen in a country once called "the world's last, best chance for freedom."

    As stated, two of our states have legitimate bills in their statehouses concerning articles of secession. As a boy I rode with guys who professed that "two men can take a beating better than one." Now I wonder if I'd just buy a box of popcorn and let the apologist get pummeled.

    In short, I'm embarrased on what America has become.

    But more hurtful is that I previously felt writers were a bastion of free thinkers. Artists putting pen to paper for ideas and ideals. Now I see the responses here and wonder when it will become de rigueur for all manuscripts to first be sent to Homeland Security for pre-approval. Look at the way the sheep line up at airports.

    I'll share a dirty little secret. I think Ed is going to win this debate. Not just in this forum, but in the court of public approval because that's what current American citizens want.

    Edit: I have to leave now, but it would be disingenuous and rude not to admit the obvious.

    Like any debate, the win and the accompanying loss is decided by the venue. Each side defines terms, states postulates and offers rebuttal(s). I think we did that.

    Here, in this forum on this subject, the point of view that could be termed "Ed's point of view" was the one most supported.

    Congratulations, Ed. I mean that sincerely.

    I would add, playfully and regretfully (both at the same time) that it's strangely comforting to know I do not have to die in defense of 50% of the American citizens.

    I have always felt that no singular part of The Bill of Rights takes precedence, it is a doctrine in whole. But pendulums swing. In the future a more conservative ideology will prevail, and I hope that this "one from column A" mentality does not carry over to the freedoms this forum enjoys.

    The debate is at its end for me. Thanks for hearing me out. On with the writing!
     
  24. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do have a specific, limited expectation of privacy on a public street.

    To me, there are levels of privacy, and privacy is in part affected by how much trouble it is to violate it. Before surveillance cameras, we all effectively _did_ have a high level of privacy on the street, because it was essentially impossible to track the behavior of everyone, all the time, in public. You could watch everything that happened around, say, the doors of a bank, or another highly sensitive location. You could watch a specific individual for a specific moment. But it was very difficult to track _any_ individual that you chose, for a substantial period of time, and all but impossible to do it after the fact.

    The widespread use of surveillance cameras, and the possibility of digital analysis of surveillance camera footage, offers the possibility of eliminating that difficulty. That eliminates a previously existing area of privacy. That shouldn't happen without long, hard consideration - and in my opinion, it shouldn't happen, period.
     
  25. Teodor Pravický
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    Teodor Pravický Senior Member

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    When it comes to personal freedom, you can say that by how thick the law book is and how many officers have to walk on streets. But for example there is no officer checking out the fair business, so we all have to play some dirty game just because that's the way it is. And do we really need so many cops everywhere?

    Maybe is necessary just to reject in public all stuff majority of dumb people might consider dangerous. So normal people comes out with almost no freedom anyway
     

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