Posts Tagged ‘reddit’

The Sheeple of r/libertarian

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

The rantings of a self-proclaimed “Libertarian Asshole” who is so incredibly deluded as to think that the America is approaching something worse than a despotic government — an “Absolute Despotism!” — aren’t generally worth responding to. But I like reddit — and I like libertarians. Which is why I’ve been consistently frustrated with the regressive turn that the /r/libertarian has taken since Obama’s election.

How else to explain the popularity of the Libertarian Asshole’s factually-challenged post blaming “Liberals” for the Bush administration’s regulation being enforced in his story?

As a liberal, let me tell you that stories of government corruption and government idiocy, of victimless crimes prosecuted and overreach make me mad. I believe in good government — and not government and regulation for it’s own sake. I believe a law should not be unjustly applied. Liberals have made a strong showing in opposing regulatory capture — when organized lobbies of special interests (such as optometrists) are able to get a regulatory agency to act against the interests of the public and in favor of the lobby. That’s why liberals have fought against the FCC to allow for more competition on the radio waves and that’s why liberals pointed to the corruption in the Minerals Management Service. That’s why Matt Yglesias — one of the web’s most prominent liberals — focuses so much on opposing rent-seeking and unnecessary regulation. As a liberal, I believe the government is capable of acting in the public interest — but that citizens must always provide a check against the inevitable abuses.

I only state this because in the world of the Libertarian Asshole, the phantom “Liberals” are those who say the “Law’s the Law” as they turned in runaway slaves because they…are like “cheap whores” with no self esteem.

With that brilliant insight into the Liberal mind, this Asshole struck r/libertarian gold — as 268 redditors and counting demonstrate.

——–

One more thing: The Libertarian Asshole apparently wasn’t satisfied with a rather sympathetic story of a businesswoman who was busted for selling decorative contact lenses without prescriptions and made to sell her car.

He had to embellish. And by embellish, I mean, apparently, to lie. A few minutes on Google reveals the following:

  1. Lie: The Libertarian Asshole claims that Da Young Kim, who ran an internet store selling contact lenses, was “arrested” for doing so.
    Fact: The Court records and the FTC’s records both show that this was a “civil complaint” — not a criminal one. No where does the news or any other source support the out-of-the-blue claim that Kim was arrested.
  2. Lie: The Libertarian Asshole claims that the FTC spent “your tax dollars on an undercover sting operation.”
    Fact: There’s nothing in the news or in the record or elsewhere on the web to back this up. None of the evidence presented against Kim was from any sting operation.
  3. Lie: The FTC acted because they believed the internet store run by Da Young Kim “might not be checking every customer’s prescription.”
    Fact: According to the FTC complaint, Kim kept no records of prescriptions at all. This wasn’t a few contact lenses sold without prescription — this was a business plan.

Dammit, Reddit! You know I sorta love you, but sometimes…

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Reddit, you know I sorta love you. You’re my source for news that doesn’t get covered enough in the American press, for pictures of cats doing cute things, for viral videos. You’re the main reason I’ve already seen every cool link on the internet before anyone else. In other words, I kinda love you.

But Easter morning, I woke up to see this:

Which reminded me of the side of reddit that pisses me off. The way uninformed but sufficiently cynical sentiments go unchallenged, complete with “facts” that aren’t facts. It reminds me that as great as you are at finding the holes in the mainstream media coverage, sometimes you too fall prey to group-think. And that not even facts can arrest the momentum of a rapidly rising story.

Because – you see, reddit, there are a few problems with that post.

1) It talks of “the wiretapping program” as if it were one thing. It isn’t. There have been a number of programs that have existed before 9/11 and that evolved in the years afterwards. (More on that in a minute.)

2) Most importantly, no ongoing wiretapping program is illegal. Or at least,  even as it’s hard to state something with certainty about classified programs whose operations are behind a veil of secrecy, the main part of Bush’s wiretapping program that was illegal was eventually authorized by Congress – first temporarily with the Protect America Act of 2007, and then permanently in the summer before the 2008 elections with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act.

This was the infamous bill that gave the telecoms immunity and was all over reddit at the time. It’s main purpose was to authorize certain changes to the FISA bill.

——–

That summarizes what I’m annoyed at. But for some history:

FISA had been proposed by Ted Kennedy to rein in the abuses of the CIA and the executive branch that the Watergate and Church Committee investigations uncovered. (These abuses were largely by the CIA which, though prohibited from operating within America, had abused it’s authority to spy on foreign agents within America to spy on Americans opposed to the Vietnam War and conduct operations on American soil.) FISA was an attempt to check presidential authority by restraining the surveillance capabilities in a few specific ways. (This was parallel to the checks on governmental power that the FBI and other domestic police organizations abided by requiring more proper warrants.)

FISA permitted two types of surveillance:

  • Without a court order, but with the Attorney General’s certification, the president could authorize the surveillance of a communications between foreign powers and their agents so long as “there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party.” These would include non-American citizens operating overseas.
  • The president could authorize the surveillance of the communications between foreign powers and their agents so long as “proposed minimization procedures” for the interception of communications to which a United States person is a party if they applied for a warrant from a special FISA court within 72 hours after surveillance began. These would include foreign agents operating in America – or later, international terrorists.

After September 11, NSA Director Michael Hayden expanded surveillance to some (undetermined) degree, but believed he lacked the authority to go further. Under the FISA system, a judge for the FISA Court who was driving by the Pentagon when it was attacked, issued a number of emergency warrants from his phone in his car. But Hayden believed he could be more effective if he were authorized to expand “surveillance of what would be classified as ‘international communications’ — because one end of the communication is outside the United States even though one end is here.”  Hayden reportedly pushed back against requests from Dick Cheney to spy on purely domestic targets, but the program continued to broaden. Bush asserted the authority to act outside of the FISA Court and the NSA began to analyze call and email metadata as well without authorization from Congress or the FISA Court. Some unknown program – likely related to metadata analysis – triggered the infamous hospital room standoff that nearly sparked the resignations of the Attorney General and the top levels of the Justice Department, the Director of the FBI, and possibly the top lawyers in the CIA, State Department, and Pentagon.

Congress, under Democratic control after 2006, pushed back with Amendments to FISA in 2008 which conceded to Bush in giving immunity for the telecom companies who cooperated with him and authorized most of the surveillance that he had asserted the authority to do without legislation. What the bill did do was specifically restrain the executive branch from overriding it by invoking war powers and legislate specific rules for how surveillance could be conducted. The new legislation:

  • Increased the time allowed for warrantless surveillance to continue from 48 hours to 7 days. (This includes pen registers and trap & trace surveillance.)
  • Required FISA court permission to wiretap Americans who are overseas.
  • Required government agencies to cease warranted surveillance of an American who is abroad if said person enters the United States. (However, said surveillance may resume if it is reasonably believed that the person has left the States.)
  • Prohibited targeting a foreigner to eavesdrop on an American’s calls or e-mails without court approval.
  • Allowed the FISA court 30 days to review existing but expiring surveillance orders before renewing them.
  • Allowed eavesdropping in emergencies without court approval, provided the government files required papers within a week.

As far as we know, the surveillance currently being conducted by the Obama administration follows these rules and is thus legal, though subject to Constitutional challenge and of course challenges on policy grounds.

On policy grounds, there are two main arguments I’m sympathetic with. First, that collecting too much untargeted data leads to information overload.  And second, that it creates the apparatus that could be used for – as Shane Harris, author of The Watchers: The Rise of America’s Surveillance State, warned in a Cato Institute event:

The government is already collecting so much information…especially in the meta-space where you’re talking about …transactional logs and phone records and emails and that sort of thing…

There are very few technological and legal impediments anymore to the government getting information one way or another.

That’s not 100% the case but information is sort of there and it will be obtained.

I think that right now, generally speaking, their interest does lie in monitoring for foreign threats and for foreign terrorists and their connections in the United States. My concern is that we’re developing a capability and a capacity that in a different environment, with a different mindset, that that could be turned in very targeted ways on individuals or groups of individuals…

The government is really good at – once someone is in the sights …and they know a target – they’re pretty good at finding out a lot of information about that person and diagramming his network. The hard part is these threats that are existing out there beyond the sights, beyond the crosshairs, and this book is largely about people who exist in that space.

I guess the alarm call that I’m raising is if the government ever want to take that and target it very selectively for reasons that we might find appalling right now and unthinkable, they could in fact know a lot. [my emphasis]

You don’t have to be happy about supporting this bill. But you should support it.

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

I apologize if this is a bit long – but I felt it was important.

When I read and hear and watch the progressive reaction to Obama – calling him a sellout, calling health care reform a scam, calling it a bailout of the insurance industry, claiming Obama has been allying himself with Rush Limbaugh, claiming Obama has betrayed them, asking when it is time to march Obama to the guillotine – I’m reminded of how abolitionists reacted to Abraham Lincoln.

Despite his almost universally praised legacy today, in his time, Lincoln was a polarizing figure – scorned by Confederates and abolitionists, Copperheads and radical Republicans. Yet in time, he came to be seen as our greatest president. One has to wonder why all these involved and motivated individuals who eviscerated his actions as he did them came to see him as a visionary leader when these actions were seen in perspective.

The reason is that Lincoln was ruthlessly pragmatic. He had principles, but was willing to forgo if he didn’t think he could achieve what he wanted. Thus, Confederates seeing what he felt believed he was an abolitionist bent on the destruction of the South and seceded from the Union. The abolitionists derided him as weak-willed and unwilling to stand on principle. The progressives of today might learn something from looking at their precursors, the abolitionists of Lincoln’s time.

Wendell Phillips, a prominent abolitionist, labeled Lincoln “the Slave Hound of Illinois” for his reluctant support of the reviled Fugitive Slave Act, even claiming as Lincoln ran for president that, that he was worse than James Mason, the author of the Fugitive Slave Act. Lincoln won election promising not to end slavery, but that “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.” He even refused to expand on his limited remarks to explain his thinking further – afraid that any further revelations might cost him votes that his carefully worded statement preserved.

After his election, Frederick Douglass declared: “Abraham Lincoln is no more fit for the place he holds than was [pro-slavery and worst president ever] James Buchanan…” The aforementioned Wendell Phillips continued to attack Lincoln after his election: “I believe Mr. Lincoln is conducting this war, at present, with the purpose of saving slavery[I]f Mr. Lincoln had been a traitor, he could not have worked better to strengthen one side, and hazard the success of the other…The President…has no mind whatever.

When one of Lincoln’s generals issued an order ending all slavery in the state he was ruling under martial law, Lincoln rescinded the order and fired the general, saying: “I think there is a great danger, confiscation of property, and the liberating of slaves of traitorous owners, will alarm our Southern Union friends, and turn them against us.”

Other abolitionists complained that Lincoln’s “face was turned toward Zion, but he seemed to move with leaden feet.” They declared him, “stumbling, faithless, uncertain.”

Even when Lincoln finally decided to make a dramatic move condemning slavery – his famous Emancipation Proclamation – it did not end slavery in America. Only in those states still in rebellion, because, as Lincoln reasoned: “I hope to have God on my side. But I must have Kentucky.” Even after this Emancipation, the radical abolitionists in his own party sought to impeach him for being too soft on slavery and the rebellious states. All through this, Lincoln was assailed by the abolitionists as weak, as timid, as cowardly, as unmanly. He refused to let his idealism determine his policy – but rather let it guide it when possible.

Lincoln’s legacy is rightly lionized – he proved to be a brilliant leader, pushing and prodding America in the direction he believed in over time, persevering as his supporters gave up hope, and always looking for the opportunity to push the country in the direction he believed it should be going, rather than forcing it into the place where he thought it should be. This is the difference between a leader and a pundit. After Lincoln died, one of his most prominent critics, Frederick Douglass, scolded himself and those other abolitionists:

His accusers, in whose opinion he was always too fast or too slow, too weak or too strong, too conciliatory or too aggressive, would soon become his admirers; it was soon to be seen that he had conducted the affairs of the nation with singular wisdom, and with absolute fidelity to the great trust confided in him. [my emphasis]

It is normal for those watching the day-to-day activities of a leader to be disillusioned, angry, and bitter, as idealistic hopes are broken on pragmatic realities. While our politicians campaign in poetry, as Mario Cuomo said, they must govern in prose. What frustrates me though is the type of short-term thinking and reacting that leads to good policies being destroyed for improvements being derailed because of their imperfections.

The health care bill before Congress is far from ideal – and it has been weakened every step. But it is progress! It is, in the words of progressive Senator Sherrod Brown, “Not a great bill, but a good bill.” It will help millions of Americans. (As well as, unfortunately, the profits of health insurance companies.) Most importantly, it provides a foundation for future reform. Remember that “Social Security was designed to exclude African Americans. Medicare didn’t cover prescription drugs. Medicaid was mainly for pregnant women and their young children. Canada’s system was limited to a single province. There was no University of California at Los Angeles.” Once the funding and system is there, it can be improved upon. This bill takes a huge step to making health care insurance universal and expands access to health insurance more dramatically than any program since Medicare in the 1960s.

As a liberal, I’d rather start reforming health care now and help the insurance companies as part of the bargain, then than fuck over the uninsured to spite the insurance companies. To quote Ezra Klein:

To put this a bit more sharply, if I could construct a system in which insurers…never discriminated against another sick applicant, began exerting real pressure for providers to bring down costs, vastly simplified their billing systems, made it easier to compare plans and access consumer ratings, and generally worked more like companies in a competitive market rather than companies in a non-functional market, I would take that deal. And if you told me that the price of that deal was that insurers would move from being the 86th most profitable industry to being the 53rd most profitable industry, I would still take that deal.

And if getting this done means caving in to a weasel like Joe Lieberman, who is willing to block this bill and let 150,000 die as a result of their lack of access to health insurance, then so be it. I’d rather protect the thousands than, in a display of pique, destroy any chance of reform. (This posturing reminds me of nothing so much as a domestic application of neoconservative foreign policy: It’s better to be strong and get nothing done than appear weak and negotiate.)

So, to my brethren on the left posting at reddit, and on progressive blogs around the nation, remember this: Be angry the bill has been undermined. Be angry that various interest groups have gotten their way at the expense of the majority. But keep perspective, and see which direction the bill moves us. And ask: Does it create a framework of exchanges and subsidies that can improve our health care system? Does it bring us closer to universal health insurance? Will it be easier to add a public option to this structure in the years ahead if, as seems likely, the health insurance industries continue their abusive behaviors, than to start anew?

The answers are clearly, Yes, Yes, and Yes.

As a progressive, as a liberal, you don’t have to be happy about supporting this bill. But you should support it.

Postscript: And to preemptively answer 3 other issues:

I have yet to see an argument which truly makes the case for why this bill should be scrapped from a progressive view that doesn’t focus on insurance company profits – which suck – but there are worse things, or an exaggerated view of what the White House could have done, or an exaggerated view of how important the public option was to the reforms.

[Image not subject to copyright.]

Self-Referential Social Bookmarking Blogging

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Anyone who uses social bookmarking sites like reddit or Digg can appreciate this blogger’s frustration

Of course, sites and communities like reddit have a Matt Drudge-like appreciation for self-referenential material (I refer here to Drudge’s penchant for placing stories about himself and his vast influence next to breaking news as if both merited equal attention). This allowed the blogger in question to do much better with his post about his posts than with either of those posts themselves.

I think it would be interesting if someone with some expertise in sociology or some related discipline would do an analysis of the sense of community on social bookmarking sites.

Faux outrageous: The New Yorker’s Political Cover

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

The political cartoon by David Horsey of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer currently making the rounds (h/t Andrew Sullivan):

For all those who laughed when they saw this (like me) but are offended by the Obama New Yorker cover (unlike me) – how do you justify the differing responses?

My position is that I agree with the popular reddit post yesterday citing Donklephant:

That New Yorker cover is clearly satire. We can’t get offended every two minutes. It’s not healthy.

Is anyone offended by the New Yorker cover but appreciative of this faux National Review cover?

Update: Lenny Bruce wisely observed:

Satire is tragedy plus time. You give it enough time, the public, the reviewers will allow you to satirize it. Which is rather ridiculous, when you think about it.

This doesn’t excuse the double standard that I see as the only explanation for not being offended at both or by either picture – but it does offer an explanation as to why this is considered more offensive now than it might be otherwise.

Updated again: One thing, upon reflection, that differentiates the two cartoons is that David Horsey’s cartoon has the virtue of merely exaggerating the truth while the New Yorker cover is based on outright lies.

Still – I feel that this makes the depiction of McCain more damaging than the ridiculous depiction of Obama.

‘DC Madam’ Dead in ‘Suicide’

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

The “DC Madam”, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, was found dead this morning by Florida police near her mother’s home. According to the police, she committed suicide. She was found guilty of money laundering and racketeering just over two weeks ago.

Just a tad bit suspicious.

The Dallas Morning News asks:

As surely as this is a tragic outcome, there are some sighs of relief inside the Beltway this afternoon. Can the conspiracy theories be far behind?

The Associated Press has expended it’s initial bulletin to include these relevant details:

[Her] trial concluded without revealing many new details about the service or its clients…

Palfrey faced a maximum of 55 years in prison and was free pending her sentencing July 24.

I give reddit about 30 minutes – at most – until “Dick Cheney killed the DC Madam” headlines appear…

Update: Almost there

Suicide…. Riiiiiiight.

I’m sure there are no very powerful people who are signing in relief right now.

And the awe-inspiring follow-up:

very powerful people… signing in relief

Funnily enough – exactly how she used to make her money

Update II: Really close:

Cheney was CEO of Halliburton during the time of his liaisons with the DC Madam escort firm.

Update III: So freaking close:

Gee, couldn’t see that one coming a mile away… Mess with neocons, commit “suicide”, surprise, surprise.

And Florida’s likely the best place for such a “suicide”, what with the stellar reputation of its police apparatus.

Hopefully she’s got it set up so someone will publish the list to the web upon event of her death.

Update IV: And there it is:

Dick Cheney killed the DC Madam

Snaxion is the winner of the “Dick Cheney killed the DC Madam” contest.


Congratulations snaxion!
You win…nothing. Sorry.

Update V: Drudge is now linking to the AP’s new snippet of information:

One of the escort service employees was former University of Maryland, Baltimore County, professor Brandy Britton, who was arrested on prostitution charges in 2006. She committed suicide in January before she was scheduled to go to trial.

Last year, Palfrey said she, too, was humiliated by her prostitution charges, but said: “I guess I’m made of something that Brandy Britton wasn’t made of.”

(more…)