Archive for April, 2012


Today’s most popular link is a story on the Infowars website.  It reports that Steve Chabot, a Republican congressman from Ohio, ordered police to confiscate all phones and recording equipment for his speech at the public town hall.  His motivation was apparently to stop an embarrassing Youtube video making the rounds.  The article argued that this was completely unnecessary and stifled people’s First Amendment rights to.  There was apparently no security threat, Chabot’s staff just wanted to make sure no one ‘made a show’ out of the event, and in fact they were so paranoid about the public meeting being made awkward for the congressman that only pre-screened questions from his staff were allowed.

Over 1434 redditors weighed in with comments on this one.  The overwhelming majority seem to be in agreement that the police shouldn’t have enforced the banning of filming equipment, as it is a violation of people’s rights.  Lots of commentators are critical of this and other police actions, with many appearing very negative towards them generally.  Numerous comments point out the illegality of their actions.  There is also a lot of criticism of Steve Chabot.

 

 

The second most popular link on the r/politics front page today is a self post suggesting the creation of a new subreddit.  The point behind it would be to keep track of every bill that goes through Congress and allow redditors to interact with them, keeping people informed and making use of the up/down vote system to see what issues are most important to users.  The submitter of the self post has created r/watchingcongress to try and get this idea kick-started.

There were over 500 comments on this post at the time of reading.  Most people who responded stated their support for the idea or approved of it at least.  There are lots of snide comments directed to senators suggesting that they don’t read the bills they pass, or that they don’t need to because lobbyists pay them to vote a particular way anyway.  Other users point out the practical difficulty of setting up a subreddit like this, saying that bills are far too long and boring for users to pay full attention to and have a serious discussion about.

 

In third place today is a link to a story by the legalization of marijuana lobby group NORML.  It reports the story of comedian Jimmy Kemmel confronting Obama about his anti-legalization stance at the White House Correspondents dinner.  Click here to watch the video.  Claiming that marijuana is an issue that real people care about, he asks the President to seriously consider the issue.  The article praises him for directly but politely confronting the President and forcing the question into the open.

Most of the 271 comments on this link find the article amusing, and quote different parts of Kemmel’s speech in tribute.  Some applaud him for challenging the President on this and so many other issues while others remark that he wasn’t that impressive.  A small amount of the comments point out that it is the tradition of the Correspondents dinner for comedians to joke about the President.  Others observe that even if Obama had taken on board what Kemmel had said, it wouldn’t change anything.

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CISPA is still apparently at the forefront of everyone’s minds, not surprising since it has just been passed in the House of Representatives and protesters are running out of time as it’ll be put before the Senate next month.  Today’s top scoring link is another self post similar to the one described in post #8, calling for a united front against CISPA. The difference with this post is that it suggests a focussed protest against Reddit in order to get their attention about their users opposition to CISPA.  Similar to post #8, it lists different actions users can take, including a mass blocking of Reddit and not purchasing gold membership.  It also appeals to administrators of subreddits to block them or at least upvote anti-CISPA messages to the front page during the time of the protest.

1053 redditors interacted with this link.  Many offer other ideas of how to get Reddit’s attention, and support the ones made in the self post.  Lots of people are approving of the self post’s suggestions, there is hardly any criticism usually seen in some form or other in self post threads.  Some commentators suggest expanding the social media used, suggesting starting twitter campaigns and Facebook protests. Others begin an effort to start a viral image campaign.  There is a thoughtful weighing up of what methods would be effective.  It is notable that the vast majority of people are seriously thinking about ways to stop CISPA and coming up with genuine contributions to help the cause.

 

Today’s second most popular link is another self post, this time linked to the subject of torture.  The author is reminding the r/politics community about a claim made by talk show host Sean Hannity back in 2009 that he would be allow himself to undergo waterboarding for charity.  See full story here.  Hannity argued on air that he considered waterboarding to be ‘enhanced interrogation’ rather than torture, and would undergo it himself to prove this.  According to this self post, he has not yet done so, and the post calls him a liar for not going through with it.  An edit at the end of the post suggests the submitter has been getting very negative feedback from some redditors for posting, including a ‘thinly veiled threat’.

There is a great mixture of responses in the 831 comments on this link.  Many criticise Hannity and the way he laughed at waterboarding being a form of torture.  A surprising amount of people admit to trying it themselves and finding it a really awful experience.  Other redditors caution people against specifically this, saying it is medically dangerous.  Christopher Hitchens is brought up as a person who promised t try it and actually did, a lot of users post a video of him being waterboarded.  People show their respect to him for going through with it.  There is also a lot of debate about the legality and pros and cons of torture, with redditors falling on both sides of the argument.

 

In third place today is a story from the Daily Kos online.  It reports on a speech given by Stephen Colbert which ‘rips’ into David Koch at the TIMES gala held this week.  The article quotes a snippet of Colbert’s speech which implied, in a joking manner, that Koch has the money and power to buy elections, touching on a very serious topic.  The article points this out as an example that hard-hitting journalism relies on comedy to speak candidly about topics like democracy being up-for-sale.

The huge majority of the 314 comments on this link are responding to Colbert’s speech.  Many quote different remarks and comment on them, all seem to be in agreement that he was on top comedic form.  A lot of commentators appreciate Colbert’s laying into Koch while others approve of his well-rounded comedic attack of almost everyone present.  Some responses muse on David Koch’s reaction to the speech.  The serious issue of election buying is hardly brought up at all.

 

 

In first place as the top scoring link of the day is a self post from a redditor calling for another internet blackout, this time to stop CISPA.  They argue that it worked to stop SOPA, so we should do it again.

As pointed out in the many comments posted on the article covered in post #8, users feel that big companies and internet giants only cared about stopping SOPA because it held them liable for information sharing, whereas with CISPA there is no danger to them, and they would be given the freedom of using and sharing users data if it’s deemed necessary for a ‘cyber security purpose’.  A vast majority of the 1192 comments argue this, and state that an internet blackout protest wouldn’t work because companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft support this bill rather than protest it. Other redditors suggest creating a coherent online bill of rights, which is already underway on reddit, on the r/fia page.  There is a lot of discussion about big corporations being too powerful and not having the interests of their users at hearts.  Some comments suggest hurting big companies by taking away their business.  A big debate is also sparked at the suggestion of blacking out porn sites as an effective way of making people pay attention to the CISPA protest.

In second place today is a link to a rather heart-warming story covered by the New York Times.  It tells the story of a 92yr old WWII veteran who, over the last 8 years, has sent over 300,000 illegally copied DVDs to soldiers in US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Buying blank discs, boxing them up and shipping them off was costing the veteran, known as Big Hy, an estimated $30,000.  He is reported as saying he was aware of the copyright violation but receiving emotional letters of thanks from the soldiers who appreciated what he was doing made him carry on.  He never accepted money for the films.  The 883rd Medical Company stationed near Kandahar were reported as really appreciating the films, saying it brought them closer to home.  The New York Times writes that Big Hy will live on as a war hero to many current soldiers.

Included among the 444 comments are the almost gleeful observations about how much revenue the Hollywood film industry is losing over this and other downloading activities.  A lot of comments allude to the money-grabbing nature of the film industry, and this criticising progresses to include music and production companies.  Many other comments applaud Big Hy’s actions, approving what he’s done as a good idea to boost morale and support the troops, and point out that Hollywood should have thought of it first.  The commentary moves into a discussion of whether downloading is stealing and whether or not he should have been punished, with people arguing both sides.

The third most upvoted link of today is another self post inspired by the top link of today.  It states that porn sites do care about their members’ privacy, unlike the big internet companies, and so if porn sites got on board, potentially with a blackout, CISPA could be beaten.  This link was born out of one of the user comment threads on the top link today.

336 redditors weighed in on this one.  Comments deal with the pros and cons of this approach and whether or not it’s actually a feasible plan.  Users fall on both sides of the debate with some arguing it would be effective while others say it would make absolutely no difference.  Others warn of the unethical behaviour of porn sites, with many providing examples of porn sites extorting people, particularly targeting teachers and other vulnerable people who are forced to hand over large sums of money to keep their porn usage and tastes quiet.  There are also, inevitably, lots of tongue in cheek comments joking about, rather than seriously interacting with, the link.

Today’s most upvoted link is an image uploaded onto the image file hosting site imgur.  Portraying the Political machines, Crooked trusts and Corporate lawyers as the bad guys, it shows them stealing the Constitution away from the Common people, while tricking him into thinking the Corporate lawyers are on his side and will help him get it back. ß See image on the left.  Submitted onto the r/politics page as ‘looks like some things don’t really change’ and the user states that the image was drawn in 1912.

The image comments on popular feeling that politicians don’t represent the people and are trying to take away their rights in the US.  598 people weighed in to give their view.  Many express cynicism towards the point the submitter is making, that things never change.  There are lots of remarks that this is what always happens, the little people get screwed over, and observations that history repeats itself as a cyclical process.  There is a tone of inevitability underlying these comments.  Some redditors offer a comparison between then and now, with users drawing parallels between the political and economic situations.  Some predict what will happen in the future and worry about the advent of war and erosion of citizens’ rights in the US.  There is also discussion as to what the function of government is, and whether it really looks after the people.

 

The second most popular link of the day is an article originating from Fox News.  It reports on GOP nominee Newt Gingrich’s intention to pull out of the running for President next Tuesday.  According to Fox, he has made this decision after Romney ‘s solid win in the Republican primaries in Delaware, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New York.  Despite a good effort, he has been tailing behind Romney for a while, in terms of funding, delegate support and victories, the article reports.  It now seems definite that Romney is Obama’s contender for the White House in November.

The 1679 comments contributed range from critical to thoughtful to silly.  A lot of the comments make fun of him and Clinton, Paul and other political figures in a light-hearted way, but it is clear that Gingrich is not popular within the r/politics community.  His campaign and his political persona are heavily criticized a great deal.  Paul, who is interestingly not mentioned in the article as a Republican contender, is discussed and assessed as an alternative, with many pointing out that he should be but often isn’t acknowledged in the media, particularly by Fox.

 

In third place today is a 45 second youtube video of Mitt Romney speaking at a dinner in 2007.  He is expressing his intentions to make children safer from violence, drugs, sex and porn as President.  He announces an intention to make sure that all computers sold during his term would have a pornography filter built into them to make sure children aren’t exposed to it.

Many of the 359 comments seriously debate Romney’s proposal.  There is a lot of technical discussion about the business, technical and user feasibility of installing preventative software into machines to restrict porn viewing.  Many criticize Romney for suggesting it, arguing that doing so shows his lack of understanding of the technology he’s talking about.  Others observe that the titling of the post was misleading, as he’s talking about allowing user controls rather than restricting all pornography.  The debate slips into criticizing Romney personally and for his policies, with personal comments about him being gay as well.

In first place today is a self post explaining in great detail the dangers of CISPA, including the threat to end users’ privacy and the ease of access with which the government would be able to get information from private companies who would have no responsibility to safeguard sensitive customer data.  The user who submitted the post provides redditors with an action list of how to stop CISPA being passed.  This includes a link to a petition of protest to members of Congress, contact details of representatives and the primary sponsor of the bill, and other links spreading the knowledge of and protest against CISPA.

There were 1213 comments on this link.  People are calling for similar reactions to the SOPA & PIPA acts, suggesting blackouts across the internet.  The differences between SOPA and CISPA are discussed, with many saying that the key difference is that the latter means there is no liability on the part of the companies holding our data.   People are expressing surprise and disgust at the amount of companies who support the Act, and how they seemingly don’t care about users privacy.  This is a very sensitive and relevant issue in an online community such as Reddit, so I don’t find it surprising that it has been upvoted to the top link on the r/Politics page.

Today’s second most upvoted link is an article discussing the same issue as talked about in post #6 about the bill passed through the Connecticut Senate which enables citizens to record or photograph police without interference or assault to their person, this time contributed by The Intel Hub.  As the articles are almost identical, refer to my recording cops blogpost for the summary.  This article does include some examples of police brutality caught on camera, which to me reinforces the need for this bill to be enacted.

The overwhelming majority of the 228 comments welcome the bill, with many users calling for more accountability and higher standards of policing.  Batman is brought up as a figure for police to aspire to, but a conversation is sparked as to how well-liked Batman and his actions would be in real life.  Balancing the debate, some commentators point out that cops can’t be expected to always know what the right response is in a high pressure, violent situation.  A discussion follows about what the acceptable and unacceptable mistakes are for police.  There are also a lot of comments about the current accountability of police officers in the US.

The third most popular link of the day comes from Eclectablog, with an article decrying the conservative movement for their war on women’s wombs; what the blogpost calls the ‘Battleground of 2012.’  The blog argues that the Republicans have passed numerous bills this year which have included blocking women’s access to healthcare, attacking Planned Parenthood and birth control options for women.  According to the post the motivation behind all this is to control the future by controlling women’s wombs.  It ends by urging women to stand up on Election Day and show the Republicans how they feel about this attack on their bodies and their rights.

Many of the 790 comments on this link express outrage, disbelief or cynicism at Republican actions.  Some redditors allude to this being a conservative tactic to oppress women and punish them for having sex.  The thread quickly descends into a pro-life – pro-choice debate, fluctuating between serious and abusive.  When reading this article and researching the extent to which conservative policies have spread across US states, I reacted in a similar way to a lot of these comments, shocked and outraged at this ‘war on women’ that seems to be gaining ground across the US.  Being such an emotionally charged issue it’s easy to see why it would receive a lot of responses (in the form of comments and upvotes) and make it onto the front of this page.

Today’s most upvoted link comes from Political Wire.  It is a short report sourced from buzzfeed, telling of an unusual outburst on the part of John Huntsman, a former GOP candidate.  He compares the Republicans to China’s Communist Party because of their reaction to him speaking against the party line, when they uninvited him from a fundraiser in March as a consequence.  He partly blames his failed attempt at running for President on his wife, who, it is reported, threatened to leave him if he abandoned his principles in order to win popularity in the party.

There were 1330 responses to this short report.  Many redditors are praising Huntsman, particularly for his honesty, and favourably comparing him to Romney, who comes up short.  Comments follow a trend of observing that Romney will do and say anything to get power, and that because of this he can’t be trusted, unlike Huntsman who sticks to his principles but doesn’t have the support of his party.  Paul is also brought into the discussion, with some users analysing his policies and mostly expressing their lack of support for him.  Even though this story is short and simple, it has created a great deal of interaction and debate about the Republican nominees.

Coming in at second place today is a self post simply containing the quote

“A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain”

by Mark Twain.  Clearly alluding to the perceived slippery nature of bankers, it is not surprising this link got upvoted to second most popular link, as the dubious actions of bankers have become a hot topic since the credit crunch, and abusing them seems to be a popular past time on both sides of the pond.

351 redditors had weighed in at the time of reading, with many serious and detailed explanations and arguments about what the banks actually do with your money.  There are lots of discussion about loans and how they work, with many continuing with the umbrella analogy.  There are also, of course, many comments with examples of the predicted abuse about bankers being untrustworthy, taking our money and running to the government when it all goes wrong.

As the third most popular link today, The New Civil Rights Movement reports on exactly the same buzzfeed story as the top scoring link.  The content is extremely similar, with a tongue-in-cheek assessment added at the end explaining Huntsman’s lack of popularity within the party by saying

“He was viewed as a sane Republican, which forced him out of the race early.”

276 commentators responded to this one.  A lot of the comments are similar to the ones on the previous story.  There is also a lot of discussion about the presence, or lack of, sanity in the Republican nominees.  This topic leads to a great deal of analysis of Ron Paul’s policies, and similarly to the top link, a lot of redditors express respect for Huntsman and a lot of support for his ideas.

Coming in at the top today is a report from CNN about Ted Nugent being pulled out of a performance at Fort Knox.  Army commanders decided his recent comments at an NRA conference about Obama, some deemed to be encouraging violent action towards the president, were too controversial to allow him to play.  The article reports on the mixed reaction from people on hearing this news, with some in support of the decision, and others calling for soldiers to boycott the concert in protest.  The comments were taken very seriously by the Secret Service, who interviewed Nugent to discover whether or not his remarks were an indicator of his intent to really hurt the president.  The article ends by retelling another recent account in which Nugent got into trouble with the law, reporting that he exceeded Alaska’s hunting law by illegally killing a black bear.  He pleaded guilty to the charge.

There were a lot of responses to this article, with 1959 people commenting.  Many criticize his behaviour and argue that, due to Obama being their current Commander-in-Chief, there is no way the army could have supported Nugent or let him play.  A significant number also negatively discuss the National Rifle Association, with some users implying that letting Nugent come out with those comments at the conference was a tactical move on their part.  Some redditors discuss freedom of speech, while others spark a big debate about what members of the military can and can’t talk about.  There is also an overwhelming number of comments expressing distaste and disgust for Ted Nugent.

The second most popular link of the day is a story published by pixiq.com.  It reports on a bill just passed in Connecticut which enables civilians to sue the police who arrest them for trying to record officers on duty.  The article describes how the bill, introduced by a democratic senator, would make it possible for police officers to be taken to court if it is deemed that their interference with anyone photographing or filming them is not lawful.  There are exemptions to this, but some opponents of the bill are arguing for more exemptions which would effectively render it useless, the article argues.  Pixiq reports that the bill was motivated by an incident a few years ago in which a priest was arrested for filming police harassing immigrants, which in the end led to the investigation and arrest of several officers.

The majority of the 240 comments express the view that police often are or act as if they are above the law in the US.  A few observe that this question has previously been tackled in the courts, and that this trend of policing arresting people filming or photographing is an abuse of citizens rights.  People are almost unanimously in agreement with the idea that police should be more closely regulated by the law, and that the passing of this bill is a positive thing.

Today’s third most uploaded link of the day comes from PitThat, a website geared towards accumulating the most accurate news reports.  The reddit link takes us to a data report giving the results of Minnesota’s unbound delegates support for the GOP nominees in preparation for the National Republican convention.  The results show that Paul clearly has the most support, with 24 delegates compared to Santorum’s 2 and Romney and Gingrich’s 1.  This story is in line with the one covered in my last blog, with overwhelming support at the Minnesota GOP convention, Paul is firmly back in the race.

There were 1091 responses to this story.  Interestingly, one of the main threads is about what elements of a story make a link popular and push it up to the front page on the r/Politics subreddit.  Some of the others discuss what the reported result actually means in layman’s terms, and talk about what a straw poll means, which according to one user’s explanation, is apparently nothing.  There is also lots of commentary on Minnesota’s historical and present political leanings.

Marking 420 day, the top scoring link on r/Politics this morning is an article from Forbes frankly criticizing the War on Drugs, calling it a dismal failure.  It argues that even if all the facts we hear about the bad effects of drugs are true, prohibition is still a bad policy.  Driving up the price of drugs, prohibition directly lines the pockets of dealers who only get stronger with their huge revenues.  Even if we catch a major player, although the newspapers get excited and report that we’re one step closer to ‘winning’ the war, the industry doesn’t go away, the article points out.  It finally highlights some of the negative consequences of the policy, the transformation of some neighbourhoods into war zones and the incarceration and criminalization of huge numbers of young people amongst these.  The article ends by telling us that the drug war has failed its objective, does not make us any less safe and is ‘insane’.

The 1644 comments contain varied responses to this article.  There is serious commentary, praising Forbes’ piece and its stance as pro-legislation whilst still acknowledging that drugs can be dangerous.  There is a lot of discussion about how dangerous drugs are perceived to be by different redditors, and some look at the role education does and should play in informing young people.  People draw parallels with guns, tobacco and alcohol, pointing out the lack of logic in allowing these to be widely available when they could potentially be more dangerous than some drugs.  There is also a lot of light-hearted joking in the commentary about banning everything dangerous, including bears and beds.

Coming in second today is a blogpost from Reason.  The post reports on a case in which a man was brought to court charged with attempting to influence jurors by handing out pamphlets about jury nullification near a federal courthouse in Manhattan.  The prosecution tried to argue that the accused writing positively about jury nullification and informing others was a form of controversial speech and criminal, but the case was dismissed, with the article celebrating what it referred to as a victory for free speech.

513 redditors responded to this link.  There is a great deal of criticism from some about the case.  Many reacted by saying that the man shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place and commentating that it violated his rights. Some point out that the case was a flawed application of the law.  There is a lot of discussion about jury nullification, what it boils down to and how and when it should and could be used, with some users contributing examples.

Today’s third top scoring link is published by Russia Today.  It is reporting on a bulletin from Texas congressman Ron Paul’s campaign, stating that he is still in the running for the GOP nomination.  His representatives say that the money is still rolling in for Paul, and with Santorum now out of the running he is in a position to collect more delegates.  The article compares Paul’s campaign to Newt Gingrich’s, arguing that the latter’s campaign may soon stall due to the huge amount of debt he has accumulated, in contrast to Paul who has no debt and is still seeing the money rolling in.

Out of the 2412 responses to this link, many of them express grudging respect for Ron Paul, a great number of them admitting to not liking his policies but admiring the way he is running his campaign.  Others favourably analyse his policies and refer to Paul as the most transparent candidate in the running for President.  The popularity of this link may be explained by the interesting debate it opened up for redditors, with many seriously and thoughtfully engaging with the story.

The top scoring link of today is a self post sparking a discussion of internet privacy and copyright legislation.  The post calls for people to use their democratic power to repeal the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), resist this and other standing laws limiting people’s use of the internet and mobilize as a community to stop laws like SOPA and CISPA from being passed.

As it touches on very current issues, it is not surprising that this link is ranking number one today.  687 redditors had responded at the time of reading, offering users’ opinions on how much regulation the government should be able to impose, plenty of analyses as to what the DMCA entails and its consequences.  Users fall on both sides of the argument of whether the DMCA is necessary and useful, or outdated as the original post suggests.  There is also lots of discussion about reforming the DMCA, what the alternatives would be and users opinions on how to deal with piracy and illegal behaviour online.  All in all an interesting debate is set off by this link!

Today’s second most popular link is a story from The Washington Post reporting on Obama’s economic policies, particularly the Workforce Investment Act.  The article reports on Obama’s claim that his fiscal policies would benefit all Americans, drawing a politically calculated contrast between him and the Republicans.  Accusing his opponents of supporting the rich through tax breaks at the detriment of the less well-off, Obama is reported as saying “I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth”, interpreted as a direct dig at his competitor, Romney.  The article covers the Republicans critical response to this attack, accusing him of deliberately misrepresenting their economic policies and of creating a stagnant economy.

With 2871 comments there was a large and varied response to this early start of political wrangling between the two parties.  Amongst the topics covered – there are too many to examine them all – there is a discussion of political engagement, or the absence of, on the part of the American people, and how this can be put down to a lack of empowerment.  Some commentators discuss the argument brought up that the American populace have no true democratic power.  There is a lot of commentary on the current taxation system, mostly in a critical context, and Romney is roundly abused here.  There is a big debate amongst redditors about socialism, socialized democracy, and what the terms ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’ mean in the US as opposed to Europe.  A lot of interaction amongst users is inspired by this link, stimulating a wide range of debates and discussions.

Coming in third place today is a self post attempting to get people to sign a petition to turn Election Day in the US into a national holiday, in order to increase voter turnout and, as the contributor puts it, to celebrate America’s right to vote by using their electoral power.

Many of the 387 comments point out either that this has been tried in other countries (and US states) and failed, or cite evidence making the same point, that as a tactic to improve voter turnout, it apparently doesn’t work.  Others discuss different techniques that have been or could be used to try and get more people to vote.  Interestingly, despite the fact this link has been upvoted 4736 times to make it third most popular today, only 619 people have signed the petition.

Dominating the top links on r/Politics today is another story about the legalize marijuana movement, this time brought to us in the form of a blog post written by the communications coordinator for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.  The blog reports on a move by over 300 economists, including 3 Nobel Laureates, to open up a serious debate on marijuana prohibition.  It includes the full petition which argues that the tax revenue generated through government regulation would be between $2-6billion.  As well as pointing out this and various other positives, the petition argues that the prohibition policy does more harm than good and, if nothing else, a debate is necessary to discuss the usefulness and consequences of marijuana prohibition.

The 561 comments responding to this article include redditors pointing out previous negative or lack of responses from the government on this issue and advise us not to get too excited.  A debate is sparked about the use of jury nullification, with people discussing the effectiveness of this tactic.  Some redditors share their experiences with the law when caught in possession, which generates predominantly sympathy from other users.  A large number of comments also make fun of and insult politicians because of their refusal to deal with the issue.

The second top scoring link of today is a strikingly socialist-sounding article from The Cagle Post entitled ‘Five reasons why the very rich have NOT earned their money’.  The author argues very strongly that the rich should be paying more in taxes as currently the middle classes work harder and take most of the tax burden.  It seems to be in support of Obama’s Buffett rule (see below post).  Paul Buchheit, the author of this piece, expresses in really strong terms 5 reasons for his belief.  He argues that since 1980, workers productivity has tripled in worth.  In line with this, the top 10% have tripled their share of income while workers’ pay has remained nearly unchanged (taking inflation into account).  He points to the richest members of US society mismanaging banks, corporations and companies at the expenses of the less well off, while still rewarding themselves with huge bonuses.  Buchheit points out how the rich have taken advantage of public research, turning it to their own gain by privately marketing and selling products developed publicly.  Citing data from the Centre on Budget and Policy priorities, he explains how the rich have avoided paying as much tax as they should, calculating that taxes make up 22% of the poorests’ income, whereas the top 1% only pay a total of 10% of their income in taxes.  Finally Buchheit recounts instances of public fraud and deceit on the part of banks and stock exchanges and accuses rich US companies of a sobering amount of environmental and human rights abuses, highlighting their negative contribution to American society.

I’m no economist but this article was clear enough to make me angry at the unfairness of it all.  Its not surprising then that there has been such a large response from Redditors, with over 1550 comments on this link.  People respond with different opinions, most agreeing with the article, some against it.  Not surprisingly, being such a politically charged issue, the comments slide into a political debate about the government, the influence of big business and corporations over the governments fiscal policies and whether the government will ever stand up for the people rather than rich donors and powerful corporations.  There are discussions on economic policy and whether tax breaks for the middle and poorer classes would benefit the economy as a whole.  Overall most of the comments seem to agree with the idea of taxing the rich more and easing the pressure on the less well-off.

Today’s third most popular link is a mildly self-congratulatory article from the Ottowan Globe and Mail, reporting on the influence of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Signed 30 years ago yesterday, the Charter has been proclaimed as the most influential constitutional document for other nations when designing their own laws.  A study undertaken by two US academics has argued that Canada has overtaken the US in exporting constitutional law, causing others to comment on the outdated nature of the US constitution which some argue is not useful or relevant for modern day problems, contrasting it with the Canadian charter.  One commentator is quoted as saying that the Canadian charter enshrines goals and values shared by other countries, such as prohibiting any form of discrimination while protecting individual rights.  The Canadian and US constitutions are compared, with Canada being portrayed in a much more positive light both in terms of its protection of the people and its legislative system.

Many of the 844 comments analyse the claim in the article that the charter is widely admired, with some comments criticizing areas of the Canadian charter.  However, many of the contributions use specific legal cases to back up the claim that it enshrines personal rights and freedom, while still others heavily criticize the US system.  Many of the comments convey a sense of pride in the Canadian charter.