‘An idiocy of immeasurable power’

At Lawyers Guns & Money, SEK highlights one of the more atrocious moments from the vice presidential debate:

The one thing you don’t address — the one you know better than to pursue — the one that must be avoided at all costs — the one that must not even be mentioned in a debate with Joe Biden is a tragic car accident. The attempt to elicit sympathy for Romney by anecdotal proxy is a poor enough of a play. The decision to do so via an anecdote about a tragic car accident in a debate with Joe Biden means you’re either a sociopath or possessed of an idiocy of immeasurable power.

* * * * * * * * *

Farhad Manjoo has a righteous screed against website pagination: “Stop Pagination Now

Pagination is one of the worst design and usability sins on the Web, the kind of obvious no-no that should have gone out with blinky text, dancing cat animations, and autoplaying music. It shows constant, quiet contempt for people who should be any news site’s highest priority — folks who want to read articles all the way to the end.

Pagination persists because splitting a single-page article into two pages can, in theory, yield twice as many opportunities to display ads — though in practice it doesn’t because lots of readers never bother to click past the first page. …

When Gannett switch to a click-chasing template that split even the shortest articles into multiple pages, we called it the “F–k the Capricorns” rule. Even the daily horoscope was split into multiple pages on the paper’s site — with the first 11 horoscopes on the first page and the 12th, all by itself, on page 2.

* * * * * * * * *

Walmart, the world’s largest private employer, is facing what looks to be a growing wave of strikes. What’s most interesting here is that Walmart is — quite famously — not a unionized company. The current state of American labor law makes unionizing worksites at a company like Walmart extraordinarily difficult, and the political outlook for major revision to the relevant laws is extremely poor. So the question of whether it’s possible for workers to effectively organize themselves and engage in industrial action outside the context of the formal legal framework that governs collective bargaining in the United States is a very important one. Legislative change has often been seen as the key to a revival of labor activism in the United States, but obviously unions didn’t become influential in the first place because of a friendly political climate — like any new social movement they became powerful despite the hostile political climate and then thanks to their growing power were temporarily able to create a friendly climate.

— Matt Yglesias, “The spreading wave of Walmart strikes

* * * * * * * * *

• At some basic level, it’s puzzling: Others are happy; therefore we must be furious, indignant and un-happy. Why? It seems like some kind of instinctive attempt to preserve a constant level of misery in the world.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice” is a biblical commandment, remember. It’s also good advice, for your own sake.

Even if the pots are already clean and you’re just posing for a cynical photo-op, you should still take your watch off.

• The Public Religion Research Institute finds that: “A slim majority (53 percent) of Americans favor tougher laws and regulations to protect the environment even if it raises prices or costs jobs.”

Which is to say that a majority of Americans favors tougher environmental protections even if PRRI decides to frame the question using the most corporate-friendly, Frank Luntz-concocted jobs-vs.-environment hogwash phrasing.

• I’m pleased I finally got the chance to work with Amy Poehler. You can too.

• “Violentacrez,” the creepy old man of Reddit’s “Jailbait” forums, is outed on Gawker by Adrian Chen.

Once his identity became public, Chen reports in a follow-up, Michael Brutsch was fired by his employer: “Since 2004, Brutsch has worked as a programmer at the Arlington, Tex., company First Cash Financial Services, which offers payday loans and operates pawn shops.”

Yes, Brutsch is that sleazy — so skin-crawlingly awful that he got fired by a payday lender worried that being associated with him might damage its reputation.

• “Let’s meet at the same table, with the same host, to remember the same things.” Election Day Communion, Nov. 6, 2012.

Interesting. Seems cool, although the language at the link seems so eager to rise above the fray that it seems to look down on it. That’s troublesome, because the fray is pretty darned important.

• The Atlantic Wind Connection, “a massive transmission backbone along the Eastern seaboard connected to a series of offshore wind farms,” could create more than 70,000 jobs.

But it probably won’t get built, because American energy is still controlled by the worst minds of the early 20th century. “Drill, baby, drill” is why our supposedly “exceptional” nation still has the same number of offshore wind farms as landlocked and impoverished Malawi.

• “According to the Innocence Project, Damon Thibodeaux is the 300th person to be exonerated of a wrongful conviction by DNA evidence in the United States.”

This is both a triumphant milestone and an appalling one. That these 300 people have been exonerated is a Good Thing. That they were all wrongly convicted is a Very Bad Thing.

Damon Thibodeaux was on death row. He spent 15 years behind bars for something he did not do.

And that means, of course, that whoever did murder his cousin has been free — unpunished, unstopped, unpursued and unperturbed — for 15 yeears.

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  • I never knew before today about Joe Biden’s life being changed, some might argue defined, by a car accident. We all knew that Ryan is crass and stupid, but this is a new low.

  • Rupaul

    Wind farms offshore? Sounds like we need to elect an expert in offshoring!

  • Figs

    My wife and I both exclaimed when that moment in the debate happened. “What could Ryan and his people possibly have been thinking?” we asked. Were they trying to throw him off his game? Were they thinking that it would get him to mention his story and that somehow people had tired of it or something? It’s absolutely unfathomable.

  • MikeJ

    Funny that they fuck the Capricorns, given that that’s Jesus’ sign (as celebrated, overlooking the whole actually born in the spring thing.)

  • Jessica_R

    Yeah, the “election day communion” smacks to much of tone argument to me. Anybody who wants to cluck their tongue at me for getting upset at “forcible rape,” “legitimate rape,” “women who use The Pill are sluts,” and on and on can have a nice steaming cup of shut the fuck up. 

  • Almost as egregious as Michael Brutsch’s sins have been the reactions of many Reddit mods: to ban the posting of links to Gawker sites.  

    They claim to be doing so because Brutsch’s outing was a breach of Reddit’s terms of service … despite the fact that Reddit’s TOS don’t extend to other Web sites.  

    So, Reddit—self-proclaimed champion of Internet freedom of speech (hence Brutsch’s ability to post photos of underage girls, without their consent, anonymously and with impunity)— is censoring its own members for something that was written by a non-member on another Web site.

    You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

  • So, there is something to astrology.  By knowing one is a Capricorn, you can know that they’ll be spending more time looking at horoscopes, and generate more clicks.

    Wait, I’m a Capricorn… oh, crap.

  •  Me either; I had to look it up on Wikipedia.  That’s… wow.

  • Jim Roberts

    The Joe Biden/car accident commercial managed to shut up the Sunday lunch I attended with my wife’s family. They were talking about how “insensitive” Ryan was and I told them the story.

  • Victor

    See what your started Fred!

    I hear ya Fred! Hey Victor, I just call “IT” the way “I” see “IT” and let my fans take “IT” from there! Besides “IT” is my blog and if you don’t like “Free Speach” then stay away! :)


    You can’t make this stuff up, folks! Can you?


  • Morilore

    The leaks from the mod forums on Reddit make it very clear that they are having the same “close the ranks, circle the wagons!” response that Penn State had, that the Roman Catholic Church has… They’re talking about having a media campaign to “reframe the discussion” around their supposed inability to operate without privacy, instead of, you know, the fact that they have forums dedicated to violating other people’s privacy.

  • Jenora Feuer

     Also overlooking the whole precession of the equinoxes thing, which says that over 2000 years the entire sky should have shifted by roughly one zodiacal sign.  (Which is the source of the whole ‘Age of Aquarius’ nonsense.)

  • vital_dual

    Hmm. I REALLY like the idea of Communion on Election Day. Considering how insane Election Day tends to be–the climax of a two-year buildup–Communion would be a great way to keep oneself centred on what really matters. If I was a minister (or even just lived in the US), I’d host one in the morning, before the polls opened, and then one in the evening… followed by a results party. ‘Cause those are always fun.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I suspect no small number of the people who hear ‘Communion on Election Day’ are going to not read that link, think it’s a great idea, and proceed to make it clear that if one votes that morning for a candidate who wants to feed the hungry, house the homeless, employ the jobless, take care of the ill, and not break the planet, then one isn’t allowed to take Communion that evening until one has made oneself right with Jesus.

  • hidden_urchin

    …instead of, you know, the fact that they have forums dedicated to violating other people’s privacy.

    Yeah, it’s interesting that a woman who goes out in public does not have the right to expect that some creeper won’t post her photo on the web but that same creeper can post on a public site and have the right to expect anonymity.  Double standards much?

  • VMink

    “Reframe the discussion” is no longer an even vaguely effective weasel-phrase.

    Honestly, I have little sympathy for trolls, but they do at this time have the right to be assholes, even though they’re assholes anonymously and the ability to be anonymous just enables them.  But it sounds like this douchenozzle got into trouble for his honest to gods totes legal guys no reallies! pictures of scantily-dressed underage girls.  (Note to Reddit moderators: Oh, yeah, really great thing to hang your shield on, Reddit moderators.  Total brainiac move there.)  Ergo: Even less sympathy.

    But even without that: I respect the need for anonymity on the Internet.  Without anon.penet.fi, the corruption and irrationality of the Church of Scientology probably would not have become as well-known.  Anonymous speech allows people to speak truth to power without fear.  Anonymous sources and whistleblowers have brought to light many great injustices.

    Pics of 15-year-olds in bikinis is not ‘truth’ and posting them for the fapping of horny guys is not ‘speaking truth to power.’   And being an asshole to people is not ‘speaking truth to power’ nor is it ‘challenging their beliefs.’  At best, you’re being an asshole.   At worst, you’re being a coward hiding behind anonymity that people in the world desperately need to do real opposition to injustice.  If you think that your right to be an asshole, and your right to post racy pictures of underage girls, is equal to sticking it to the System in Russia, Syria, Egypt, Nicaragua, or Cuba, then I would suggest that your entitled privileged priorities are bloody well out of whack and need an adjustment.

    It reminds me of the “Bungle Affair,” many years ago on LambdaMOO.  Here is an article about it.  (CN: rape and (virtual) violence.)    Some of the concepts in the article are a little outdated, especially the viewing of virtual worlds in quite the way that MU*s did.  (It’s kind of ironic and interesting — as ‘virtual worlds’ have become more visual and ‘realistic,’ there’s been an increasing disconnect with them; they don’t seem to be as ‘real’ as the old text-based MU*s seemed to be.)  But there are interesting discussions in it surrounding the affair, though most of the article is not about the affair itself so much as the periphera.

    The point being, Bungle was a jackwagon, one of the first trolls, and like all trolls, it’s all fun and games until they face the consequences of being a jackwagon.  Then it’s all high-concept rationalization and justification and FREEEEEEEDOMMMM! and suddenly the troll and his supporters are trying to make themselves out to be friggin’ Braveheart.

  • The_L1985

     You have to admit, though, it’s a catchy song.

    Leeeeeeet the sun shiiiine,
    Leeeeeeet the sun shine in, the suuuuuuun shine iiiiiin…

  • ReverendRef

    That Election Day Communion thing . . . yeah, we’re doing it.  If for no other reason than to offer a different voice to the local fundagelical groups who host Romney parties at their church and withhold sacraments because you’ve voted for the wrong guy.

    I keep trying to walk the via media and offer some reasoned normalcy, but it can get a little difficult when other pastors write letters proclaiming how I’m leading people to the gates of hell.

    So we’re hosting an election day communion.  And we will invite all baptized Christians to receive the sacrament, whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, Episcopalian or Baptist.  And if standing for equality and against bigotry, hate and the tribe condemns me to hell, I suppose I’ll be in good company.

  • I didn’t see the debate, my mother was telling me about it and mentioned Ryan bringing up a car accident and it just stopped me.  Literally stopped me.  We were walking at the time.  I was no longer moving forward after I heard that Ryan brought up a car accident.  This was not an intentional change; it just happened.

    I’ve heard of cold blooded ways to try to knock your opponent off emotional balance in a debate before, but nothing that rises to that level.

  • LL

    It’s always amusing when people complain about their privacy being “violated” online, both people who post pictures online themselves and these creepy pervs on Reddit (which I have never visited, to my knowledge). 

    In advertising, we’re always telling clients how to get the younger, “tech savvy” consumers. I always have to giggle a little bit at the “tech savvy” part. From what I can tell, the only tech savvy part of it is that they can operate the devices. But they apparently haven’t yet figured out that if you post things online, they (the things, whether they be pictures or comments) aren’t private. And they’re not private by design. “Online” is not like a phone call (the old school type phone call that goes through wires). It’s really a broadcast. You don’t know who’s going to intercept it. You can’t put bikini pictures on a website (and Facebook is essentially a website) and expect that only your friends – and not pathetic, middle-aged losers – will see them. And if you’re a pathetic, middle-aged loser, you can’t spew all kinds of disgusting shit online under an  assumed name, becoming famous for it, even, and expect to have your “privacy” respected. 

    The whole story is just full of weapons-grade stupid on pretty much everyone’s part, except for the reporter. 

  •  Yeah. Soon as I heard it, I turned to my wife and said “There. This is the moment Paul Ryan lost this debate.” (Of course, the media has moved all the way to “The debate was technically a tie, but Ryan certainly looked better while Biden merely kept the Obama campaign from tanking” from the initial reports of “Joe Biden just beat the crap out of Paul Ryan”)

    My best guess, and it’s not a flattering one, is that Ryan was throwing a hail mary, and missed: that he hoped to get Biden *angry* so that Biden would come off the rails while Ryan could claim he was just trying to tell a heartwarming anecdote about how kind and charitable Romney is.  Biden, of course, did not take the bait, and instead just made it very clear to the audience exactly what Ryan was doing.

  • Morilore

    The parts of Reddit that are involved with the current drama are not about younger people putting sexual images of themselves on the internet, they are the parts where people take voyeuristic photos of strangers, without asking for their permission, and then upload them to a popular website, without their permission, and then thousands of strangers masturbate to them, without asking for their permission.  In one case, a submitter was found to be a high school teacher (!) posting voyeuristic photos of his own students.

    And then one of the people in charge of all this gets his identity outed and then it’s all WAAH WAAH PRIVACY WAAH!

    (I would also like to point out that there is a whole social phenomenon of young women being begged and cajoled and enticed into exposing themselves, and then shamed and bullied for it, ([TW] va bar cebzvarag pnfr gb gur cbvag bs fhvpvqr, Tbbtyr Nznaqn Gbqq vs lbh jnag gb xabj) which makes commenting on the “intelligence” of said young women slightly problematic IMO.)

  • I like pagination a lot more than keeping everything on one page. I fyou do the latter, the page loading takes half an eternity and the scrolling becomes infuriatingly sluggish. On seperate pages, it’s much faster and smoother. Of course, there is a line. The horoscopes example is ridiculous, but it’s still better than keeping a 50,000-page monster of a story on one page (I’ve seen it).

  • For the record, Reddit has a membership in the millions and hundreds of “subreddit” sites devoted to specific topics.  It’s not unreasonable to assume that a vast majority of the membership was unaware of the existence of the forums where problematic content was being posted, and are therefore not “creepy pervs”, as you put it.

    The fact that site moderators were aware of what the minority of creepy pervs were up to and let the activity go on is most troubling.  The problem with a self-policing collective is that not everyone shares the same set of ethical standards.

    99% of the content on Reddit is mainstream internet fare: gamer humor, atheism rants, celebrity interviews, and cat photos.

  •  And the BBC and a bunch of other organisations it seems.

  •  Yeah, but the same scumbag is involved in both.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Entirely off topic, but I just got an email saying Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala got arrested, supposedly for obstructing traffic that wasn’t there, actually because they were trying to get Stein into the presidential debate. Where she ought to be because she is after all a presidential candidate who qualifies for federal matching funds. Ditto the Libertarian candidate.

    If anyone was wondering why third parties have such trouble getting support in the US, this is why.

  • EllieMurasaki
  • I’d say we should send the Unity colony ship right away, but the planet’s probably teeming with mind worms.

    /requisite Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri reference

  •  That’s a different song. Even when the Fifth Dimension slams them together to make a single out of them.

  • EllieMurasaki

    And even when we’re singing the right song…which house a given celestial object is in changes every two hours. That rather undermines the apparent point of the song.

  • VMink

    And it’s currently on GOG.com.  *snagged*

  • My best guess, and it’s not a flattering one, is that Ryan was throwing a hail mary, and missed: that he hoped to get Biden *angry* so that Biden would come off the rails while Ryan could claim he was just trying to tell a heartwarming anecdote about how kind and charitable Romney is. Biden, of course, did not take the bait, and instead just made it very clear to the audience exactly what Ryan was doing.

    I’m pretty sure that’s what it was.  The Republicans were hoping (and, no doubt, praying) that Biden’s foot-in-mouth-itis would flare up, and if they could help bring it about, then awesome.*

    Biden could not have possibly handled the situation better–indeed, he made Romney look worse after the story–this is a guy who will help out one family, but refuses to use all the power he has to assist millions of families.

    With great power comes great responsibility, indeed.

    *It doesn’t help that neither Romney nor Ryan has Bill Clinton’s knack for storytelling.  They just sound rehearsed.

  • Jenora Feuer

    Well, no; since the zodiac is based on fixed stars in the sky, most celestial objects aren’t going to be changing signs all that quickly.  Now, the whole ‘rising’ and ‘setting’ is a different matter, those do change quickly, which is why some people insist that astrology requires knowing the exact time of birth.

    In any case, the celestial object in question for the ‘Age of Aquarius’ is the position of the vernal equinox.  That only makes a full cycle every 26,000 years or so thanks to the earth’s slight wobble on its axis, so the ages only change every 2000 years and change.  Granted, the number of people who used to go on about the Age of Aquarius who actually knew that was probably a small fraction of the number of people singing that song.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Over the course of a day, everything in the sky goes through all twelve houses.

  • Jenora Feuer

    Okay, you’re right, I was reading the wrong words.  Houses are positions in the sky based off the horizon, as opposed to the signs I was talking about.  Which means that your comment was based on ‘the moon is in the seventh house’ line, which yes, not only changes every couple of hours, but would be at different absolute times at different points on the planet.

    So, yes, most of the song really qualifies as ‘deepities’, to use Dennett’s term: something that sounds profound while meaning nothing.

  • They’d screw over whoever’s last. Personally, my take would be to have a zodiac opening page with each sign on its own separate page, which you could get to by clicking the appropriate star sign. Does anybody read more than one? (Yeah, star signs are crap but people *LOVE* it)

  • The Reddit people aren’t really fighting for privacy, though. They’re fighting for THEIR OWN privacy, and by hanging their argument on a guy who posts nonconsensual perv shots, their explicit argument boils down to “The only good privacy is OUR privacy”.

  • LL

    Yeah, I read the story. Sorry, I did oversimplify. Yes, some of the pictures were taken without the subjects’ permission. Those are not the ones I was referring to, I should have been more specific. I was referring to the ones that were apparently taken from people’s Facebook pages. 

    RE pictures taken in public without the subjects’ permission: you don’t have an expectation of privacy in public. So a creepy perv can take your picture. I’m honestly not sure about the legal ramifications of putting said pictures on a website. Other than the creepy teacher ones, those seem to be a legitimate concern regarding a teacher’s responsibility in the classroom. 

    Being creepy is not, to my knowledge, against the law, but I have no problem whatsoever with an employer deciding that one’s creepiness is a negative reflection on the organization (esp. if you’re a teacher) and shitcanning someone because of it. 

  • B

    Being creepy isn’t against the law in many circumstances, but this seems to me to be another example of confusing “freedom of speech” with “freedom to say whatever I want with absolutely no negative consequences whatsoever.”

    The first is guaranteed by the US Constitution,  the second exists only in fantastyland.

    Brutsch still has freedom of speech, but that’s not what he wants.  What he wants is the ability to act like an utter creep without any of the negative fallout that comes from acting like a creep — and no one is entitled to that.

  • I think it was pretty clear from LL’s last paragraph that he or she was not confusing the two at all.

  • AnonaMiss

    The problem I have is that upon the guy’s name going public, people harrassed his employer into firing him.

    I’d hate to work for any pizza chain or takeout place in the guy’s area, either.

    Exposing a troll’s identity to the internet is a bad business. It’s not just tit for tat, violation of privacy for violation of privacy “see how you like it now.” Posting an upskirt of a girl is a violation, don’t get me wrong, it’s something that deserves a punch to the face; but it’s a violation that’s not going hang around her neck. Assuming identifying information wasn’t included, it won’t affect her ability to feed and clothe herself and her family. The harrassment isn’t going to follow her home. She’s not going to have to deal with pizza men at her door every half hour with 300 pizzas apiece, or phone calls threatening to rape her waking her up at 2 AM.

    Pix and dox are completely different animals in today’s troll culture.

  • B

     I meant that the people complaining that Brusch’s “free speech” was somehow violated are confusing the two.  I haven’t seen any comments to that effect here — but I sure have in other places around the Net (unfortunately).

  • EllieMurasaki

    What then would you propose as a mechanism to get whatshisface and buddies to the visceral understanding of what they did wrong? What about as a mechanism to make sure they won’t do it again?

  • B

     First off, my understanding is that yes, in some cases the women did find out that their pics had been posted online for creepy men to get off too (and apparently in one case, that a picture of their dead daughter’s body had been linked to online for extremely creepy men to get off to).  So there’s that.  And knowing that there are guys out there who are might be trying to take your pictures to post online for creepy men to get off to isn’t really knowledge that’s going to increase women’s feeling of security and well-being.

    More to the point though, any problems that Brutsch has are due to the fact he freely and willingly chose to act like a complete sleezebucket for years (not to mention giving out enough personal information that it was possible to track him down).  Whereas the women whose pictures were being posted were guilty of… being women. 

    To paraphrase a comment I read on the situation, the only reason that connecting Brutsch’s name to his behavior is hurting him is because his behavior was so very bad. 

  • Persia

     Some sites give you the option to view long articles on one page, I really like that.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I am down with the option of multiple pages vs one page (and of course in such cases the default should be the first of the paginated pages), but not when the ‘view as one page’ button can only be found at the bottom of the first page alongside the ‘next page’ button, and doubly so when that’s true and the button doesn’t take you to the point in the whole-story page where the first paginated page left off. (These two things? True every time.) It is also annoying when the final page has nothing on it but the two-sentence author bio.

  • connorboone

    Yeah, pictures can never come back to haunt a girl…  Oh, wait… http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Amanda+Todd+speaks+about+daughter+death/7384521/story.html

    The major reason that the horrible people at Reddit are so concerned about ‘doxing’ is because they are overwhelmingly privileged white males, and it’s the only thing that can possibly hurt them.

  • hidden_urchin

    To build on your point, if the woman’s identity does get linked to the photo in some way it could absolutely ruin her life. Employers or potential employers could find it and creeps out there could use it to sexually harass her outright. Not only does this photo posting make every woman feel a little less safe, under certain conditions it could actually make the world unsafe for specific women. It isn’t just a tasteless action.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yes, some of the pictures were taken without the subjects’ permission. Those are not the ones I was referring to, I should have been more specific. I was referring to the ones that were apparently taken from people’s Facebook pages.

    Do you see any difference between a picture posted to Facebook for the world to see and a picture posted to Facebook for only one’s Facebook friends to see? Because I do see a difference and I would like to know into which category the pictures under discussion fall. I feel sorry for anyone who posted things publicly and didn’t realize that meant creeps could see them too, but anyone who posted things to a limited audience and then found out that those things were reposted to the public, I think they’ve got a genuine complaint.