Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the objecting-to-objectivism dept

On Tuesday, as part of a discussion of the future of capitalism, we mentioned the skewed perception (on both sides of the political spectrum) of capitalism caused by extremists, most notably Objectivists. This spurred Mason Wheeler to take the next step and win most insightful comment of the week by suggesting adding Objectivism to the list of philosophies that society treats with a high baseline of skepticism:

The problem, as you suggested, is the Objectivists. For decades they’ve been a very influential voice defining capitalism as the twisted monstrosity Ayn Rand had in mind, to the point where today, people espousing the actual theories and principles of Adam Smith get accused of being dirty commies. And if infinite goods is gonna destroy that capitalism, where do I sign up?

Objectivists are a blight on society, and while I hesitate to use terms like “guilty until proven innocent” even as hyperbole, they need to be regarded with the same “treat as suspicious by default” viewpoint as Scientologists, and for the same basic reason: a key defining characteristic of practitioners is their religious adherence to an ideology that is actively and maliciously harmful to those around them.

(Further evidence of the unholy coupling between Rand and Hubbard!)

In second place on the insightful side, we’ve got Karl expanding on the many ways the Aereo ruling will effect cloud computing:

One of the many idiocies that Spangler repeats is the notion that the Aero ruling won’t affect cloud services, because those services are “already protected from liability for copyrighted material illegally uploaded to their services under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.” (Others, like amateur-turned-professional copyright maximalist Terry Hart, have made the same argument.)

For one thing, he’s wrong, because a ruling against Aero would create infringement where there currently is none. If streaming from the cloud to a single user is a “public performance,” then it wouldn’t matter whether the user acquired the content legally. The streaming itself – not the acquisition of the content – would infringe on the public performance right.

Second, even if he were correct, requiring DMCA protections for what are now private performances would be disastrous for cloud services and anyone who uses them. If they got DMCA protections, it likely wouldn’t be under 512(a) (“Transitory Digital Network Communications”). The content is actually hosted on the cloud provider’s network, so they would be protected under 512(c) (“Information Residing on Systems or Networks At Direction of Users”).

This is one of the sections of the DMCA that falls under the “notice and takedown” provisions. This means that the only way cloud services would escape libaility is if they allowed copyright holders to issue takedown notices of users private files.

It also includes the controversial “red flag” sections that were recently (and solely) used to find the MP3Tunes guy personally liable for millions. There is absolutely no way a company is going to risk that sort of liability for cloud services, especially if their officers must operate under the threat of personal liability.

The only possible way that cloud computing can continue to operate is if they don’t need DMCA protection in the first place. And it should be obvious why they shouldn’t. As long as a single copy of a copyrighted work is streamed to a single user, both the legal history and common sense dictate that it shouldn’t be a public performance.

(I posted this same comment on the Variety story, so we’ll see if there’s a response.)

For editor’s choice on the insightful side, we start with a comment from Beech suggesting professors use good ol’ market forces to teach Nature a lesson about open access:

Duke should tell the professors that there will be no waivers, then hand them a list of other reputable journals that don’t require such bullshit. Nature won’t have much of a reputation if no one publishes through them.

Next we’ve got Roger Strong, who casts the government’s response to CIA torture in a deservedly uncomfortable light:

Obviously if America’s slavery were a little more recent, Saxby Chambliss would call it “enhanced employment” and would object to claims that it wasn’t justified. He would label any talk about the issue “a distraction.”

Tom Coburn would call it slavery, but would insist that it was done in “good faith” to promote agriculture.

Feinstein would be willing to call it “a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen” but would refuse to call it slavery.

Over on the funny side, first place goes to Mark Wing, who realized that maybe we’ve just been misunderstanding the NSA’s purpose all along:

“To serve America” is really just a cookbook.

(This may remind some of you of another great culinary misunderstanding.)

In second place, we’ve got a second win for Roger Strong (whose roster consists of a mere 14 comments so far!) This time, in response to the story of a botched drug raid and ensuing coverup, he noted that as with so many things, it’s all a matter of scale:

The Iraq invasion and occupation? Just a rumor. Highly inaccurate. Never happened.

Our next move then was to check on a country – Afghanistan – which was in close proximity.

For editor’s choice on the funny side, we start with a comment from ethorad offering Dick Cheney a semantic escape from his flat-out lies:

He claimed that there has not been a single case of NSA abusing its authority.

He’s right you know. There hasn’t been a single case, there’s been loads of them!

And, finally, we’ve got an anonymous comment reminding us that if climate change was (unfathomably) a hoax, it’d be a shockingly benevolent one:

Oh dear …

What if it is all a big hoax and we make the planet a better place for nothing?

(As long as we don’t get too smug…)

That’s all for this week, folks!

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Comments on “Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I lean towards actual libertarian princples, but the number of idiots that we have that espouse this as religious gospel is insane. It would be like if actual Marxist Communism (as opposed to Hegelian and Stalinist Communism) suddenly claimed to have the Saviour of All.

IT’s asinine, idiotic and just gives those of us who want actual reform a bad name.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Lately Techdirt has taken strong turn to the progressive side.

Techdirt does great fighting back against the copyright nonsense, but lately there have been more and more stories that spout the progressive line and libertarians need not show up.

The top comment is anti-capitalist crap, and the last editors choice is a red herring comment about climate change. If it were free to mitigate climate change that comment would make sense, but if we had to borrow trillions of dollars to do what the comment espouses that could possibly, just possibly have bad side effects.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Just what is “progressive” anyways. Must be another dog whistle stereotype synonymous with liberal, commie and nazi.

Unfettered capitalism is not the utopia you think it is. Ayn Rand was, and still is wrong about many things.

How does the “Red Herring” comment to which you refer distract from the topic that was being discussed? Where does this trillion dollar amount come from and how does it compare to the many unnecessary wars fought for nothing other than corporate profit?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Here’s the thing — while I can’t say I necessarily agree with your analysis of TD’s political slant (I have so many weasel words in there because I haven’t given it that much thought, so I don’t know) it doesn’t actually matter much regardless.

The articles aren’t blanking asserting things, they’re presenting the reasoning behind their assertions. You can argue with that reasoning. What political flavor the assertions or reasoning has is instantly irrelevant, and it’s possible to have an actually intelligent conversation.

Stop worrying about political labels — they will only mislead anyway. Take issue with the facts and reasoning, and present your own to counter it.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Lately Techdirt has taken strong turn to the progressive side.

No. We haven’t.

Techdirt does great fighting back against the copyright nonsense, but lately there have been more and more stories that spout the progressive line and libertarians need not show up.

We are neither progressive nor libertarian. We don’t focus on ideology, but on the actual issues at play. People who worry about whether a position is “progressive” or “liberal” or “conservative” or “libertarian” or “socialist” or, well, anything, are a waste of time.

We explore issues for what they are. We don’t care about political labels or ideology.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Yep. I can’t express my joy at finding a site where common sense is welcomed ? or my dismay that so many people consider it to be a commie/progressive/liberal aberration from the True Faith, or something, only to complain about how divided the nation is.

But yeah, it’s very even-handed. As Tim/Dark Helmet says, if you’ve annoyed people on both sides of the aisle, you’re doin’ it right. Go Techdirt!

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

the last editors choice is a red herring comment about climate change. If it were free to mitigate climate change that comment would make sense, but if we had to borrow trillions of dollars to do what the comment espouses that could possibly, just possibly have bad side effects.

I often choose EC comments — especially on the funny side — because I think they make a valid point with wit and brevity. They don’t have to be comprehensive nor should the editor’s choice designation be taken to mean that they are the last word on anything.

Obviously there’s a complex cost-benefit analysis (one that cannot be summed up in a handful of words) involved in decisions around anything like global warning. But, as that comment succinctly if sardonically noted, weighing the consequences of inaction against the consequences of unnecessary action is very much an element of that analysis (an element that, on the surface at least, seems likely to favour action).

Anonymous Coward says:

“THE unresolved question is, how will this economy of the future function when millions of people can make and share goods and services nearly free?”

This question assumes the need for (your definition of) an economy. The whole purpose of having ‘an economy’ is so that consumers can get the goods and services that they want/need. If consumers can freely get the goods and services that they want this is a good thing even if it puts everyone out of work. If everyone can get everything without having to work then why not? Why is that a problem? The whole purpose of having jobs is to serve consumers with what they want but if they can be served with those things without jobs or an ‘economy’ then why have jobs?

The whole purpose of free market capitalism is that the government shouldn’t artificially limit the production of goods and services so that we can increase aggregate output. So if aggregate output is effectively infinite at no cost and with no required labor then the government shouldn’t intervene it should allow it to continue being infinite.

Beech says:

Re: Re:

What I found to be surprisingly informative about exactly this point was the Cracked Podcast entitled “The Problem with Millennials.” It was bacially about news outlets freaking out that over 50% of the “Millennial” generation would rather not work than work a job they hate. Then the people from cracked make a bunch of surprisingly insightful points about it. I’d really heartily recommend it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“If consumers can freely get the goods and services that they want this is a good thing even if it puts everyone out of work.”

replace the word “everyone” with the word “middlemen”

Because the economy is not solely comprised of middlemen, in fact they are not needed and they reduce the efficiency of the economy.

JohnDonohue (profile) says:

Zero insight

Mason Wheeler’s post about Ayn Rand contained zero insight. It is just a slam, namely that Rand’s identification of capitalism is a ‘twisted monstrosity’ and ‘maliciously harmful.’ As such, it counts on the tapping the pre-existing meme pool on Rand that floats like pond scum on the left-progressive internet.

I challenged him to elucidate these horrible “sins” of Objectivist and the only post he made was some lame non-sequitur.

How can you award this meaningless slapper post “insightful comment of the week?”

James Jensen (profile) says:

Re: Zero insight

I’ve seen Objectivists complain that other Objectivists are dogmatic nutjobs.

One former Objectivist, Roderick T. Long, has said Rand has two sides. One side is libertarian and tolerant. The other is authoritarian and plutocratic. The problem is that she conflated to two to hell and back, leaning further and further to the latter side in her old age.

For example: in one passage, Rand argues that charity can be investment in others and thus perfectly compatible with self-interest. Whereas in another, she argues that someone who risks their life to save a drowning child should be shamed by others for their pernicious altruism. According to her, only in emergencies, where you’re probably going to die anyway, should you try to save others.

James Jensen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Zero insight

Well, I – a non-Objectivist – personally take the position that self-interest is the ground of all our motivations – and thus of morality since we can only act on our motivations, and ought implies can.

Fortunately, human psychology is such that most of us don’t want to be the sort of person who screws others over any chance we get. Virtue is not just a means to happiness, it’s part of it.

There are exceptions of course, such as sociopaths, but then we’re talking about someone with a serious defect, not the normal case. They deserve our pity more than anything else. (Of course, we can still protect ourselves from their predations.)

All of this is pretty standard Aristotelian virtue ethics.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Zero insight

“Of course, we can still protect ourselves from their predations.”

And how is this done, exactly?
Sociopaths typically seek positions of power and authority, the majority of people lack resources to “protect” themselves. Blatant disregard for those least capable of self protection deserves pity?

JohnDonohue (profile) says:

Re: Re: Zero insight

You’d better cite. You have it wrong.

Ayn Rand would never say it is wrong to risk one’s life to save a drowning child, per se. She would say it is wicked to through one’s life away thoughtlessly.

And anyway, this is a “lifeboat” scenario. Important ethics pertains to the billions and billions of judgements a human must make in all phases of decades of life, not in emergencies. How do you find Rand’s ethics on that score?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: oh.

I can only speak for myself. I clicked the insightful button on that comment for two specific points that it made: the analogy between the culture around Scientology and the culture around Objectivism struck me as particularly apt and I hadn’t thought of it before, and the point about treating objectivist thought as “suspicious by default” seemed like a good insight as to how to treat it — it’s not dismissing it out of hand, which would be incorrect, but it’s also not granting it “innocent until proven guilty” type of status, which I believe is also incorrect.

The comment was clearly aimed towards people who already have problems with objectivist thought, and so it naturally didn’t contain actual arguments for or against.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: oh.

“There is no analogy between Sc. and Obj. culture whatsoever.”

I disagree, obviously. Note that on this point, I’m not talking about the philosophy of objectivism, I’m talking about the behavior of a lot of people who consider themselves objectivists.

“Something other than hearsay.”

The comment was not hearsay (which is repeating a rumor), it was his own opinion. Big difference.

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