Friday, July 17, 2009

I told you so.

I feel a little bit bad titling a post "I told you so", but sometimes, you just gotta say it.

What did I tell you?

Mr. Purple Passion Man was very dangerous. Mr. Burns (of Terrierman) said Cass Sunstein was a "bean counter". Nothing more.

Some of us, well, specifically yours truly, looked up Mr. Sunstein on the ol' internets, and concluded that he was a very crafty ideologically driven extremist, being launched into a very powerful position in government.

In the exchange with Mr. Burns, Ms. X labeled Cass a "purple passion" for his techniques of talking rationally while using government to "Nudge" people to adopt actions and attitudes.

This very attitude is so fundamentally dangerous. Government exists for one reason, to protect the rights of the individual to DO WHATEVER THE H*LL THEY WANT (as long as it isn't interfering with someone else's rights). Nudging, by government, well, it is evil.

So what's the proof, on which I say "I told you so"?

A recent article from the New York Times. "GAG THE INTERNET!

Columnist Kyle Smith writes:
"When it comes to the First Amendment, Team Obama believes in Global Chilling."

"Advance copies of Sunstein's new book, "On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done," have gone out to reviewers ahead of its September publication date, but considering the prominence with which Sunstein is about to be endowed, his worrying views are fair game now. Sunstein is President Obama's choice to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs."

Mr. Smith doesn't say anything about Cass being an animal rights (Peta-tic) extremist. Indeed, that attribute of Cass is far less worrisome than his concepts for quietly talking and nudging people through the paternal powers of government into approved behavior.

And what better way to harness the government power to nudge, than to be the head of a very powerful office.

Here is what Mr. Burns said about the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs:

"What does that office do?

Not nearly as much as you think.

First this is an office that was established in the 1980 Paperwork Reduction Act.

In short, it's an office about bureacracy. It's not an office that initiates anything. Congress and Federal agencies still do that.


Now, here is what Mr. Smith said:

"Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law professor who has been appointed to a shadowy post that will grant him powers that are merely mind-boggling...

"Although obscure," reported the Wall Street Journal, "the post wields outsize power. It oversees regulations throughout the government, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration." . . .

"Czar is too mild a world for what Sunstein is about to become. How about "regulator in chief"? How about "lawgiver"? He is Obama's Obama."

Here is what Ms. X found:

"the Clinton administration's executive order made explicit what had been left implicit in the Reagan and Bush executive orders -- that centralized presidential regulatory review is aimed at making agency regulations "consistent with . . . the President's priorities."

Now here is how Mr. Burns (Terrierman) interprets the job:

"Sunstein's job is simply to be a skeptical bureaucrat and point out where unintentional losses and gains might be occuring due to government action."

And this is how Mr. Sunstein himself interprets the job:

"My suggestion here is that it is always appropriate to identify costs and benefits so as to inform analysis, and even to require that benefits justify costs, but that regulators should not claim that benefits and costs must be grounded in traditional economic criteria involving private willingness to pay"

"Traditional economic criteria", who needs that anymore? This is the 21st century, man! Peace, Love and Free Speech, man! "Private" is a dirty word.

Oh, wait.

Um, what was that bit about curbing free speech online? Cass, it seems, has released (yet another) new book, this one titled On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done.

Mr. Smith:

"In "On Rumors," Sunstein reviews how views get cemented in one camp even when people are presented with persuasive evidence to the contrary. He worries that we are headed for a future in which "people's beliefs are a product of social networks working as echo chambers in which false rumors spread like wildfire." That future, though, is already here, according to Sunstein. "We hardly need to imagine a world, however, in which people and institutions are being harmed by the rapid spread of damaging falsehoods via the Internet," he writes. "We live in that world. What might be done to reduce the harm?""

Mr. Smith writes

"Sunstein calls for a "notice and take down" law that would require bloggers and service providers to "take down falsehoods upon notice," even those made by commenters - but without apparent penalty. ...

Sunstein, trying to fair, argues that libel awards should be capped at $15,000, or at least limited for anyone demonstrating financial hardship. But $15K is the limit you'd pay to your opponent. The legal bill is the scary part, and the reason bloggers already have plenty of reason to be careful about what they say, even if they don't much fear a libel conviction."

"If this happened," says Mr. Smith, "the blogosphere would turn into Pluto overnight. Comments sections would slam shut. Every writer would work on a leash shorter than a shoelace."

Hmmm. If this happened, Mr. Burns just might have to take down his puff piece on Cass Sunstein. Why? Well, there is the little part in the comments section where he repeatedly refers to Ms. X as a "puppymiller".

Hmm. Perhaps I'm the one that should rethink my position on Cass. After all, I could stand to net a cool $15K.

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