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July 4, 2008

Hey, McCain and Obama!
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:35 PM * 301 comments

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That’s the Fourth Amendment, complete.

What part are you having a hard time understanding? Listen, call me on the phone* and I’ll explain it to you.

—-

* That way the NSA can hear too.

Comments on Hey, McCain and Obama!:
#1 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 01:01 PM:

bah, if the Geneva Conventions are "quaint" what does that make this much older document, an amendment to what has been called "just a piece of paper" by the person whose undertook a charge to uphold it?

I wonder if things have to get worse -- much worse -- before they get better, before the dead-enders who believe in kings and other divinities understand what the farmers and tradesmen of 232 years ago understood.

#2 ::: KB ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 01:24 PM:

Oh, you're just too reality-based and hate America and want the terrorists to win and junk. Put on your flag pin like a real patriot.

Did I miss any right-wing cliches in there?

#3 ::: George Smiley ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 01:31 PM:

KB @ 2: Why do you hate America?

#4 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 01:34 PM:

I have a hard time understanding why Mr Obama is not getting it: he most definitely should know better.

McCain, on the other hand, I don't expect to get it.

#5 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 01:51 PM:

Uh, hate to be the first to sound thick, but what's this referring to?

#6 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 02:00 PM:

Daniel, Senator Obama has come out in support of a bill which is being fast-tracked through Congress with minimal public input which includes immunity for telecommunications companies which are believed to have colluded with Bush in gathering information on american citizens without due process (fwiw, they've been refusing to release any records, but Bush acknowledges that they did it).

Senator Obama, before he was the nominee, promised to veto any such legislation.

Senator McCain has never, as such, suggested that it would be a problem with him, so in his case it's mostly pique that someone who's been swearing to uphold the constitution for as long as he has doesn't appear to have read it.

#7 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 02:01 PM:

Veto. Ack. Filibuster. Sorry.

#8 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 02:04 PM:

Oh. That's no good. Looking at the date, it's also not especially good timing. Happy lose-limbs-to-explosives day, by the way.

#9 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 02:15 PM:

that would pretty much have to involve leaving the house, which seems improbable right now.

Happy Fourth, all the same. I think we're going to hunker down with the John Adams miniseries on DVD (the kid took 1776 with her to grandma's)

#10 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 02:20 PM:

Londo Mollari: Mass drivers? They have been outlawed by every civilized planet!

Lord Refa: These are uncivilized times.

Londo Mollari: We have treaties!

Lord Refa: Ink on a page!

#11 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 02:31 PM:

If we're going to bring in Babylon 5 references, I shall merely point out that Vir got his wish too.

“I'd like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I would look up into your lifeless eyes and wave, like this [smiles and waves his fingers at Morden]. Can you and your associates arrange that for me, Mr. Morden?”

#12 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 02:34 PM:

I'm still steaming about Lochley accusing Sheridan of "tearing up the Constitution" when the guy she was supporting had already done so and S was trying to put it back together. And she got away with it, got a free pass, because JMS wanted to be all balanced and stuff. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

(What? I've been reading the scripts recently.)

Er...back in the real world, yes, that's disappointing of Obama. But then, I'm used to being disappointed by politicians. So it goes.

#13 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 02:35 PM:

The worst part is that Mr Obama clearly has been lied to about what this bill does, and he believes those lies, even after being told that they're lies, by several people, Greenwald among them.

Crsp.
I was hoping this wouldn't be another year of voting for the lesser evil.
I'm tired of having to decide which lying SOB is the lesser evil.

#14 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 02:46 PM:

kb @ #2, yep. You forgot to sing that horrific, bombastic, jingoistic, sappy Lee Greenwood song while typing.

#15 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 02:51 PM:

In this context, in response to both political parties' actions on this issue, I'd add this:

When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

'Cause I always like to remember what we're celebrating today.

Some people once pledged (and some gave) their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to secure these rights.

I hate to think of what they'd think of us, if they saw us today.

#16 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 03:00 PM:

#15
I suspect Ben would be saying 'I told you so'.

They had a poll, over at Kos this morning, on which of the signers you'd most want to have an ale with. When I saw it, Ben was leading, with Jefferson second.

#17 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 03:01 PM:

The worst part is that Mr Obama clearly has been lied to about what this bill does, and he believes those lies, even after being told that they're lies, by several people, Greenwald among them.

Senator Obama was a professor of constitutional law at a very-highly-ranked law school, and was the President of the Harvard Law Review.

I think better of him than to believe that he's not capable of reading and understanding legislation.

#18 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 03:09 PM:

For people who haven't been following the issue: This isn't something that just happened today for a bit of Independence Day irony. Obama announced his support for the "compromise" bill with telecom immunity more than a week ago.

#19 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 03:25 PM:

I'm certain the reason Obama is doing it is so that the Republicans can't say he's "soft on terror."

News Flash! The Republicans are going to say he's soft on terror anyway, so he might as well support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.

#20 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 03:31 PM:

julia, I did too. That's what has me ticked off: I expect better of him.

He keeps saying things that are flat-out wrong, like the FISA bill will be expiring. No, it won't - but the illegal programs that are using it as a figleaf are going to be expiring over the next several months. Unless someone (*cough* Barnacle Branch Cheney *cough*) is in a hurry to keep those hidden, there's no rush to pass this piece-o-crap bill.

#21 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 03:33 PM:

In any case, if the secret police get into my computer, I'm going to be gone, even though I'm probably pretty far down that list.

#22 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 03:35 PM:

#16: I dunno. I rather think ol' Ben would be disappointed in us.

Or maybe he'd think 200+ years was a better run of "if you can keep it" than he expected.

Either way, yeah, he'd be the founder I'd most like to have a drink with, by far. (After him, hard to say. Madison? Burr?)

#23 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 03:50 PM:

I always thought of Jefferson as a wine man...although the mental picture of him in a present-day wine bar is pretty damn discordant.

#24 ::: Jason B ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 03:56 PM:

The guys at Edge of the American West have been discussing this for a while. In fact, they've had some bumper stickers made up.

#25 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 04:12 PM:

#22: I recently read Nancy Isenberg's biography of Aaron Burr, and it seems he might have been a good second choice... Isenberg makes a persuasive case that he was a better guy than popular history made him out to be. Not a paragon, but most of his faults weren't uncommon among early American political types.

On the other hand, you might want to stay on the other side of the bar from Alexander Hamilton.

#26 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 04:21 PM:

PJ #13:

This comment has the scent of those comments by Reagan supporters, all those years back, that he meant well, but was merely mislead by his advisors about what kind of deficits he was running, Iran-Contra, etc. Anyway, if a US Senator and constitional law scholar can't be expected to read the legislation he supports for himself, who the hell can be expected to do so? And why should I expect President Obama to bother reading and understanding legislation sent to him for signing? Won't he be just as likely to be mislead then as now?

I guess this is the part of the campaign where Obama "moves to the center" by abandoning most of the good ideas popular among Democrats, while retaining the bad ones, and adding new bad ideas backed by the Republicans.

#27 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 04:23 PM:

I find it fascinating that Obama "moves to the center" shortly after getting the support of the Clintons...

#28 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 04:37 PM:

#26: The "if not for the advisors" meme is far older than Reagan. It was said about the czars, the kings of France, and probably the emperor Augustus.

I take Obama at his word, as the FISA thing is consistent with other actions of his; particularly over the last several weeks.

#29 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 04:38 PM:

And taking on the Clinton campaign advisors and managers.

I'm disgusted and disappointed and depressed.

That someone who got his law degree in Constitutional Law could reverse himself on the open handgun carry of D.C. and then say that the Constitution declares a militia is an individual?

Why is he doing this? He was ahead in the polls. He isn't going to convince those who really, really, really hate him.

And then giving tax dollars to churches 'to help teach poor kids to read?' I thought our tax dollars went to PUBLIC schools, where kids are supposed to be taught to read.

Feh.

Love, C.

#30 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 05:47 PM:

#28: The "if not for the advisors" meme is far older than Reagan. It was said about the czars, the kings of France, and probably the emperor Augustus.

In the spirit of the day, I'll note that for many years in the lead-up to the Revolution, it was said of King George III, too... until people finally found some, uh, Common Sense.

#31 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 05:48 PM:

#29
Well, the churches in DC and other inner cities might actually do a better job than the public schools in those areas.

I'm not happy with that one either, but not as not-happy as I am about FISA.

#32 ::: Jason B ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 05:49 PM:

... until people finally found some, uh, Common Sense.

That was Paineful.

#33 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 05:54 PM:

And taking on the Clinton campaign advisors and managers.

There's limits to what I think we can blame on the Clintons. Far's I'm concerned, Obama gets every bit of the credit for whatever stinking dead birds he hangs round his neck now that he's the unopposed nominee.

#34 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 06:26 PM:

#18 -- I think that was when Josh and I were at Contata, and Harold Feld asked me for the words to Kipling's "The Old Issue", which he was feeling a great need to sing.

#35 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 07:12 PM:

Lisa #34 -- Yes, it was. I remember that one of you mentioned it in a writeup, and I instantly knew what Harold had been thinking about.

#36 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 07:18 PM:

Ahh, The Old Issue

The original

A while ago, Avram Grumer annotated some of it, although some of the links are 404s now.

Here is naught unproven - here is naught to learn.
It is written what shall fall if the King return.

He shall mark our goings, question whence we came,
Set his guards about us, as in Freedom's name.

He shall take a tribute, toll of all our ware;
He shall change our gold for arms - arms we may not bear.

He shall break his Judges if they cross his word;
He shall rule above the Law calling on the Lord.

He shall peep and mutter; and the night shall bring
Watchers 'neath our window, lest we mock the King

Leslie Fish arranged a version (the latter half of the poem, more or less) as a song - initially published (I think) on The Undertaker's Horse for Off-Centaur, and rather popular around the East Kingdom Royal Artillery campfires, Way Back When.... Unfortunately, Undertaker's Horse is apparently no longer available commercially (although Cold Iron is), which is very much too bad - several really good filkings of Kipling's poems on that tape.

#37 ::: Madison Guy ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 07:55 PM:

In the war against terror, the 4th Amendment is optional. Uncle Sam has a distinctly sinister look these days.

#38 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 08:12 PM:

This is interesting. I support the 4th Amendment as strongly as anyone here. I don't like what Obama said on FISA, I think it was evasive. I wish he'd voted against it. OTOH, I don't have a problem with his 2nd Amendment stand -- in fact, to my horror, I find I am on the same side as Antonin Scalia on this issue, though reluctantly and not for the reasons he gives. And I think Obama's statement on "faith-based" programs is both sensitive and sensible. Which means I disagree with quite a few folks here, I think -- and so what? To quote Mr. Dooley, I'm not a member of an organized political party, I'm a Democrat -- and I prefer it that way.

Why the disgust, anger and depression on the part of people who I would guess do support Obama, or sincerely want to support him? The guy is either (1) a total con man (and I know there are people who think that) or (2) a very shrewd, smart, educated, good-looking, charismatic, liberal Democrat who has figured out a way to get elected President and bring the House and Senate along with him in a time when the process has been poisoned for Democrats for f**king decades. I vote for door #2. Is he perfect? Hell, no. FDR wasn't perfect, and he was as good as it gets. But he's damn good. Do you think John McCain would make space for serious disagreement from his supporters on his public website? I don't. Don't lump them together: they aren't alike.

#39 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 08:40 PM:

James D. Macdonald @19, yeah. That's the game he was refusing to play before, which is why I voted for him. I wanted a candidate who wouldn't play that game. Now I am extremely displeased.

#40 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 08:41 PM:

And pericat @33, yeah. This is all Obama. I put myself on the line to defend him with several people; now I've been hung out to dry.

#41 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 08:58 PM:

Lizzy L @ 38
McCain's campaign would first have to figure out what that website is for. (I'm not sure whether their problems are their own or their candidate's.)

#42 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 09:02 PM:

without addressing any individual comment, it would be well to remember that the first Clinton (and Rahm Emanuel and Bill Clinton) advisor Senator Obama's campaign took on was David Axelrod.

Unless you have solid evidence that Senator Clinton has any influence on this campaign, I think there are far less improbable ways to resolve your cognitive dissonance in this situation than blaming HIllary.

Perhaps less emotionally satisfying, but far, far less improbable.

#43 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 09:10 PM:

Lizzy L, part of our disgust is that the general public agrees with us that this is bad law. It took time, but gradually more and more people out there in Americaland realized just how thoroughly the entire establishment, government and press, were lying to them, and started forming opinions of their own. The media establishment will follow the Republican line pretty much anywhere it goes, with precious few exceptions, but the public at large would like these powers reined in, just as it'd like us out of Iraq and doing other good things.

So we see here Obama sacrificing the obvious meaning of the Constitution for nothing. The Republicans will continue to attack him any way they want, without regard for truth or consistency; their media toadies will parrot it all and invent fresh bunkum of their own, because the press' conventional wisdom favors bluster and stubborn ignorance over actual intelligence and articulate rhetoric. He can surrender any number of points of the Constitution (and basic decency and sound government) and never get a concession from them. But he's costing himself a chance to align with the freakin' majority on the issue.

#44 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 09:27 PM:

How is pitching the Constitution out the window moving to the center?

#45 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 09:34 PM:

Bruce #43: So we see here Obama sacrificing the obvious meaning of the Constitution for nothing.

Obama's not a stupid guy. He's probably not doing this for nothing. He probably figures he can get something for it, though there's no guarantee that it's something we like. Maybe some useful group of swing voters. Maybe the support of the telecom industry.

#46 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 09:37 PM:

Bruce, thank you. That makes sense. If I understand you, you are saying: this is a position that Obama doesn't have to take for political reasons and said he would not take for reasons of principle: so either his political instincts have failed him, or he's willing to bend his principles in an odious, unconstitutional direction, a direction which he explicitly repudiated earlier.

I'm less sure than you seem to be about the attitudes of the general public, but basically, I agree with you. I don't understand why he's doing it, I don't like it, I'm comfortable yelling about it and I will yell about it, up to and past the date of the election, when we beat John McCain's ass. However, it's not a deal-breaker for me. I suppose it will be for some. Indeed, I have hope -- perhaps vain hope -- that President Obama will work with the Democratic-controlled Congress to re-write the damn law back to what it was.

A deal breaker for me would be torture. If Obama were to somehow come out in favor of torture, after having voted against the Military Commissions Act and after having made very strong statements condemning torture, he would lose my support. I think I would write in someone -- Russ Feingold?

#47 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 09:38 PM:

Bruce @ #43, in a comment to this post at Shakespeare's Sister, I wrote:

Is he trying to piss off a segment of the Democratic base every day now? The civil liberties folks with FISA, the pro-choice folks with this, the anti-war folks with his fumbled Iraq statements today -- Are we going to lose this election because our candidate panders to everyone except his own side?

You said it more eloquently.

#48 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 09:41 PM:

Guys like Axelrod apparently define the center by looking at the GOP party, and moving two steps left.

They're trying to get the semi-mythical moderate Republicans and the 'uncommitted' voters, and seem to completely miss that they're losing the people who got them where they are. Or they don't care, which is perhaps worse from the voter's viewpoint.

I keep screaming.

#49 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 11:22 PM:

There is a good deal on the FISA debate on Blakinization. Particularly Why Obama Kinda Likes the FISA Bill (But He Won't Come Out and Say It)

So, let's sum up: Congress gives the President new powers that Obama can use. Great. (This is change we can believe in). Obama doesn't have to expend any political capital to get these new powers. Also great. Finally, Obama can score points with his base by criticizing the retroactive immunity provisions, which is less important to him going forward than the new powers. Just dandy.

It should now be clear why the Obama campaign has taken the position it has taken. And given what I have just said, Obama's supporters should be pressing him less on the immunity provisions and more on the first part of the bill which completely rewrites FISA. Because, if he becomes president, he'll be the one applying and enforcing its provisions.

If you really care about civil liberties in the National Surveillance State, you have to recognize that both parties will be constructing its institutions. The next President will be a major player in its construction, as important if not more important than George W. Bush ever was. That President will want more authority to engage in surveillance, and he'll be delighted for Congress to give it to him officially.

This is followed by even more discussion by guest blogger David Kris in two parts

Here is Part I and Part II

But by all means please read the paper "The Constitution in the National Surveillance State" by Jack Balkin linked to above. (It's a PDF but only 100k.)

The question is not whether we will have a surveillance state in the years to come, but what sort of state we will have. Will we have a government without sufficient controls over public and private surveillance, or will we have a government that protects individual dignity and conforms both public and private surveillance to the rule of law?

It's going to happen whether we like it or not. But we will be far better off if we decide what the character of such a surveillance state will be rather than try to believe it's still 1776.

#50 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 11:32 PM:

Bruce #43:

The only way this makes sense is if Obama, the congressional Democrats, and the guys setting the tone for media coverage see this issue very differently than the American people. Plenty of possible reasons for this suggest themselves, as we've discussed before.

One of the most important ones is that the world just looks different when you imagine you are either a target or the guy who's going to be held responsible for whatever happens. It seems to me that the 9/11 attacks had most of their emotional impact on people at the top in our society[1], and that to this day, the folks at the top are more affected by this, more willing to accept dumb proposals "to keep us safe from terrorists" than the rest of the nation.

More generally, I think the folks at the top have a certain set of values and beliefs, and they're different from the values and beliefs of most Americans. A great many policies and ideas are seen very differently by the folks at the top of government and media than by most other people. The folks at the top appear to me to be much more supportive of widespread immigration, aggressively interventionist foreign policy, use of international organizations to try to reshape other countries' policies, affirmative action, and widespread wiretapping than the surrounding population. The whole ticking time bomb argument seems to be accepted a lot more than you might expect among those folks. A lot of issues pretty much never get covered well in the national media, I assume at least partly because of the values of the people at the top of those organizations, and how that differs from most of the rest of the nation.

[1] The anthrax and DC sniper attacks kept the fear and siege mentality going after 9/11 was over.

#51 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 11:55 PM:

As a matter of fact, I do believe that the Washington consensus is almost as deranged in some ways as, say, the conventional wisdom of Moscow in the mid-1930s. Furthermore, I have some evidence on my side: half the country doesn't vote, and when Obama was rousing hopes among the public at large for an administration more responsive to their concerns, he got a huge turn-out from people who hadn't been involved before. Demonstrably it is possible to mobilize such people, not just to vote but to put time and effort into all the organizational stuff a campaign needs. He does not need that few percentage points of people who vote but are, basically, too stupid and callous to tell whether they favor the Democrats or Republicans on matters like the rule of law, unjustified war, torture, and incompetence.

(Harsh words? Darn tootin'. There've been good pieces in recent years about these "swing voters". and they are a vile lot, bent on doing something and not interested in having any idea whether the thing they'll push for is physically possible, legal, morally desirable, or anything else. Let the Republicans have 'em.)

I don't know why Obama's resolve to change the boundaries of who's involved is failing him now. He could run a perfectly straightforward campaign based on the continued mobilization of those who've been bystanders and supporting "all the rest of America" versus the narcissistic establishment in Washington. He seems to have lost faith in his own campaign, which I find deeply distressing. But I am entirely convinced that this capitulation isn't necessary, and will in fact hurt rather than help his cause.

#52 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 12:51 AM:

Julia @42 - actually, I'm not blaming Hillary. I rather like both Clintons. It's the "centering" campaign strategy I loathe.

Is Bob Shrum anywhere near this campaign?

#53 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 01:27 AM:

Brenda #49:

The thread you reference raised one interesting idea: Telecom lawsuits would reveal a great many more details about the surveillance so far. It's quite possible that those revelations would so shock the American people that the whole program would be shut down. That's one reason to grant telecom immunity, and it might be accepted by someone who wanted to keep most of the program in place, without abuses. That would fit with the way so much of the powerful folks in media and government deal with us clueless goobers, by simply not permitting the kinds of discussions that might lead us clueless goobers to do something silly like shut down a huge amount of wiretapping.

Another possible reason for telecom immunity would be if the telecom lawsuits were inevitably going to reveal even more surveillance that's been going on, which is believed (or claimed) to be very effective against terrorists. I'm not sure what that would be, but it's not a given that it's really effective against terrorists--to have an opinion on that, you need detailed information that very few people are going to have, and the time to dig through it.

#54 ::: G D Townshende ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 02:00 AM:

Politics as usual. Bah!

Americans vote for Republicans because they're tired of what the Democrats are doing, and we get politics as usual. Then they vote for Democrats because they're tired of what the Republicans are doing and, once again, we get politics as usual.

I think those "farmers and tradesmen of 232 years ago" are rolling over in their graves at what the politicians are doing, as well as at what the majority of Americans are doing.

Never in my life have I been as cynical as I am now.

#55 ::: G D Townshende ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 02:04 AM:

Paddy Chayefsky, where are you?

Everyone could use a damned good dose of NETWORK right now!

#56 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 02:45 AM:

Scott, #36 -- Actually, I think the Fish / Kipling The Undertaker's Horse is again in print, as a CD.

#57 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 03:40 AM:

Jason B @ 32: I know my George is rising at the mere thought.

Lizzy L @ 46: "However, it's not a deal-breaker for me. I suppose it will be for some."

I haven't heard anyone say (here or elsewhere) that Obama's cave on FISA will keep them from voting for him. Mostly what I've heard is a lot of people who used to be really, really enthusiastic about Obama and volunteered time and money, who are now unwilling do either. The votes he's losing aren't those of liberals who are too disgusted to vote for him--the votes he's losing are the friends and relatives of those disgusted liberals, who would have been convinced by the former Obama supporter's passion and now won't be.

#58 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 03:56 AM:

What the frack, Obama. :(

#59 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 04:42 AM:

Lizzy L, I fail to see the purpose of getting a Democrat in office if he doesn't stand for anything good.

heresiarch #57: I haven't heard anyone say (here or elsewhere) that Obama's cave on FISA will keep them from voting for him.

Well, it's not this alone, but I'm not voting for him. My state is guaranteed to go for him anyway, and since my opinion of him has gone from mild distaste to utter disgust, I think my vote will be better counted if it goes to his left. If I were in a swing state, I would probably reconsider, but in Rhode Island, I say to hell with him.

#60 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 08:49 AM:

I've seen a lot of people say that they'll stay home rather than vote for him.
I'll vote for him, but I won't donate more money to him, and I've told them why.

Why would he take the word of proven liars over solid legal analysis as to what this piece-o-crap bill would do?
(The telecom immunity is relatively minor compared to some of the other stuff. There is nothing good in it.)

#61 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 08:53 AM:

I'm with heresiarch here. I will probably still vote for him, but I've lost most of my enthusiasm for doing so. I don't see myself sending any money, or arguing very passionately for him, given his recent positions. And like Lizzy, if he bends on the torture issue, I'll vote Libertarian.

#62 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 09:04 AM:

Count me as another still willing to vote for Obama, because even this doesn't put him in the category of nearly as dangerous as McCain. But if there aren't some big improvements, my donations from here on out will go to individual candidates I do trust and to organizations fighting the good fight.

#63 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 09:13 AM:

#44: How is pitching the Constitution out the window moving to the center?

I think the reasoning goes like this:

On the one hand, you have people unwilling to pitch the Constitution out the window.

On the other hand, you have people who pitch the Constitution out the window and then piss all over it.

So if you pitch the Constitution out the window, but refuse to drown it in bodily fluids... then, dude, you're in the center!

#64 ::: Jason B ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 09:16 AM:

heresiarch@57: We probably just need to strengthen our Constitutions . . .

#65 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 09:27 AM:

Lisa Padol @ 56 -
Scott, #36 -- Actually, I think the Fish / Kipling The Undertaker's Horse is again in print, as a CD.

Really?

I know there was a copy produced, back in the 90s (I saw copies at Toronto Trek one year, when I went there instead of Origins - long story), but I have heard neither hide nor hair of anything regarding it in - years (and I checked Fish's website, that of the companies currently pressing her CDs, etc.).

If you have a URL (The Googles, They Do Nothing!) I would be indebted.

#66 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 09:33 AM:

#59:

Lizzy L, I fail to see the purpose of getting a Democrat in office if he doesn't stand for anything good.

Simple: he stands for a lot less evil than the other guy.

Seriously, consider the alternative. With the political system we have (and which there is not time to change before this election, even if there were enough support for changes), one of two men will become the next president of the United States. It matters which one. Even after these policy shifts (which I don't like any more than anyone else on this thread). It matters a lot.

Despite the media's constant attempt to reduce elections to popularity contests, we are not voting for prom king here.

If you want to put some pressure on Obama to actually uphold the Constitution and basic American principles, go right ahead. But when you vote, please vote for effect. The ballot box is not for "sending messages", it's for determining who takes office.

#67 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 10:04 AM:

#66

Tat's why I won't vote for Nader. He seems to confuse ballot boxes with telephone boxes.

#68 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 10:11 AM:

albatross @ 53
Telecom lawsuits would reveal a great many more details about the surveillance so far. It's quite possible that those revelations would so shock the American people that the whole program would be shut down.

And that would not be good for our country because there really are those out there who wish us harm. We need to protect ourselves and FISA does that. I don't care that much about getting the telecoms (I want Bush). What really bothers me about this bill is that it gives too much power to the executive.

PJ Evans @60
The telecom immunity is relatively minor compared to some of the other stuff. There is nothing good in it.

I agree with your first point though not the second. The bill greatly expands protections for US citizens' overseas.

A surveillance state is inevitable. I believe that people need to just accept that fact and deal with the reality. We should be working to get the best possible outcome we can. But we aren't going to roll back time and uninvent the global communications network. I have high hopes for Barack Obama. I think he'll be one of the best presidents in a very long time bar none.

#69 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 10:37 AM:

Heresiarch @57 -
The votes he's losing aren't those of liberals who are too disgusted to vote for him--the votes he's losing are the friends and relatives of those disgusted liberals, who would have been convinced by the former Obama supporter's passion and now won't be.

He's losing another group of votes - the folks who aren't liberals in general political outlook*, but are sick enough of the Republican bullshit of the last 8 years to be willing to give a particular Democrat - especially one who appears to be willing to stop and or roll back some of the most egregious mistakes of the last 8+ years,** even if we disagree with some of his other policy statements or probable decisions.

At this moment, I'm still voting for Obama, because he's still better than The Other Guy. But he had issues I disagreed fundamentally with him on before he got nominated, and now has added more. The scale is tipping away from "Better than the other guy" - and if the Democrats are going to end up just a Parting on the Left, instead of a Parting on the Right... well, if I were in a better mood, I'd suggest that I would need to wail on an air guitar and scream really loud while David Caruso puts on a pair of Really Cool Shades (tm). But I'm not in an especially good (political) mood, especially on the day after the fourth.

*contrary to Mr. Baugh's assertion, not all of us are a "vile lot"....

**the accelerating curve towards a police state has not been a strictly Republican thing. The 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill - which a police officer of my acquaintance (Darth on Tangency, Bruce) whom I actually regard as smart as hell, but, well, Lawful Neutral with Evil tendencies in alignment - has stated contains far more powers for local police to play with than even Patriot Act did) was signed by a Democratic president, and passed overwhelmingly by a Democratic Senate and House.

#70 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 11:15 AM:

Chris #66: The ballot box is not for "sending messages", it's for determining who takes office.

That's true for people who live in states that aren't pre-won. For me, I might as well "send a message" because I have no part in determining who takes office.

Regardless, I'm sure that Obama is in some hypothetical way better than McCain, but right now I'm having trouble seeing it, considering that he's backing down on getting out of Iraq, in love with warrantless wiretapping, and making out with Scalia every chance he has. For instance.

#71 ::: Mary ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 11:20 AM:

For what it's worth, Obama explains his reasons for supporting the bill here.

"This was not an easy call for me. I know that the FISA bill that passed the House is far from perfect. I wouldn't have drafted the legislation like this, and it does not resolve all of the concerns that we have about President Bush's abuse of executive power. It grants retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that may have violated the law by cooperating with the Bush Administration's program of warrantless wiretapping. This potentially weakens the deterrent effect of the law and removes an important tool for the American people to demand accountability for past abuses. That's why I support striking Title II from the bill, and will work with Chris Dodd, Jeff Bingaman and others in an effort to remove this provision in the Senate.

But I also believe that the compromise bill is far better than the Protect America Act that I voted against last year. The exclusivity provision makes it clear to any President or telecommunications company that no law supersedes the authority of the FISA court."

...

"Now, I understand why some of you feel differently about the current bill, and I'm happy to take my lumps on this side and elsewhere. For the truth is that your organizing, your activism and your passion is an important reason why this bill is better than previous versions. No tool has been more important in focusing peoples' attention on the abuses of executive power in this Administration than the active and sustained engagement of American citizens."

...

"Democracy cannot exist without strong differences. And going forward, some of you may decide that my FISA position is a deal breaker. That's ok. But I think it is worth pointing out that our agreement on the vast majority of issues that matter outweighs the differences we may have."

#72 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 11:29 AM:

Brenda @ 68

Senator Feingold on this piece-o-crap bill:
- On retroactive immunity, the bill virtually guarantees it, despite the fig-leaf of a district court review.
- In their infinite wisdom, Hoyer and the negotiators set the bill to sunset in the fall of 2012--just before the next presidential election. This bad bill should not be in effect for that long, and shouldn't be subject to election year politics, again.
- The protections against reverse targeting are inadequate--the guidelines for targeting someone in the U.S. are not subject to judicial review, or the requirement of a court order for that surveillance.
- The bill doesn't prohibit bulk collection--"the collection of all international communications into and out of the U.S. to a whole continent or even the entire world."
- The bill contains a far too broad "exigency" exception to the idea of FISC exclusivity--the Attorney General or DNI can certify that they don't have time to get a court order.
- Even if the FISC determines after that fact that the surveillance violated the law, the government can still keep and use any of the information it obtains under those illegal warrants.
- The bill doesn't provide additional checks and balances for Americans at home whose international communications are obtained because they are communicating with someone overseas.

-- Now, what protection do you think you have?

#73 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 12:29 PM:

Shorter Obama: "I realize this bill is shit. But, it's better than the shit covered with piss that I voted against before, and since they've made some vague handwaves towards your--er, I mean my concerns, I figure my ass is covered. And don't even pretend like you hippies aren't gonna vote for me anyway. Compared to McCain, I'm post-Beatles John Lennon."

#74 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 12:46 PM:

PJ, thank you for that analysis. Mary, Obama's statement on his website is a pile of... fluff. Read Glenn Greenwald at Salon (this post and his prior posts) for a clear analysis of the shortcomings of the bill.

I can see at least three reasons for Obama voting for the bill. (I'm assuming he's not a fool and that he actually knows what it says.)

One: despite what he's said, he's actually unconcerned about Presidential law-breaking, and he wants to continue this behavior when he's President. Brenda is correct, we are heading toward the surveillance state, and the only questions to be determined are the placement of the cameras and who gets to look at the video.

Two: he thinks the Republicans would use a vote against the bill against him in the campaign in some substantive and effective way. If this is correct, he's for damn sure not going to say so on his website.

Three: there are political reasons, having to do with his relationship with Congress,especially the leadership (Democratic and Republican) which are as important to him as voting against the bill. If this is the cause, or even an important but not the only cause, he's also not going to say so, for the same reason that Nathan's hotdogs doesn't put a video of sausage-making on their website.

In the absence of further evidence I'm choosing to provisionally discount One in favor of some combination of Two and Three, and I guess I'm willing to live with it for now, because I think Barack Obama will be a better President than John McCain.

#75 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 01:43 PM:

You can find Greenwald's analysis here, too.
He's a lot more polite about it than I am.
There's also KagroX, at Daily Kos, and emptywheel, who are following this and have been analyzing the bill in its various versions. (The one the House Judiciary committee liked was much better than this one.)

#76 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 01:53 PM:

heresiarch @57

You're hearing it now. I'm not a democrat, but I was a big supporter of Obama from a few weeks after he announced his candidacy until Thursday before last when I heard the comments he made quoted earlier upthread. I wasn't voting for him because I liked his policy, it was because I liked his politics, and I thought he would put a stop to the egregious things the Bush administration has done with its two terms. Supporting this bill tells me very clearly that at best he'll stop doing egregious things, but he isn't going to undo anything. That's a deal breaker.

If Obama doesn't change his mind and vote against the bill when the time comes, he loses my vote. And I am one of those people who has been recruiting friends and family to the cause - many of them disenchanted Republicans, most in swing states.

It was really nice while it lasted.

#77 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 02:42 PM:

anaea, I appreciate your statement. Have you dropped by Obama's website and left him a message stating what you just told us? You could. So could everyone here, and who knows, it might make a difference if he got just thousands of e-mails saying "Don't do this." And yes, I know, it might not mean shit...

#78 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 02:56 PM:

Lizzy, there's a group over on his website. It has more than 19,000 members (it's the larges group there, and has been for several days). Join (free), and you not only get to post comments, you get to have your own blog page.

If you do this, I also strongly recommend turning off e-mail except for the daily digest. It's kind of a pain - the site is not well-designed in some ways - but it keeps the mailbox from filling up with ten zillion pieces of mail. (Use something like a gmail address.)

#79 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 03:07 PM:

anaea $76, by "democrat", I assume you mean "Democrat", in the sense of a supporter of the Democratic Party in the USA. It's a bit jarring, especially to a non-USian, to think that you're claiming to be, say, a monarchist or supporter of some kind of authoritarian one-party rule.

#80 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 03:39 PM:

PJ @ #78, I didn't join the Reconsider FISA group, but I did use the contact form to let his campaign know I thought he was selling out (more politely than that). The group's existence was (I think) what prompted the response Greenwald has analyzed. It went from 0-8900 in about three days, which would certainly get MY attention.

Definitely turn off mail; even my brief exposure to his site got me a few.

Now if someone could explain why I get mail from John McCain and surveys from the RNC. . .

#81 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 04:16 PM:

I also chose not to join the group; I left a message asking him to reconsider his support for the bill. So far I've only gotten one robot e-mail in response.

#82 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 04:24 PM:

Lizzy, I heard about this on the evening of June 26th. The morning of June 27th I called his office in D.C. and sent an email. I am still phrasing my rejection as a conditional "If he votes for it, then I'm not voting for him," but I don't expect a reversal. I don't trust him anymore.

Mez @ 79, you are quite right, I meant a capital"D". Thanks for the catch.

#83 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 04:33 PM:

Anaea, thanks for responding. I would love to know how many e-mails, phone calls, etc. Obama's gotten on this topic. That's one good reason for joining the group complaint on the website -- it adds to the public numbers. The trouble is, 9000 folks is not a whole lot of folks. Bruce upthread stated that the public thinks this is a bad law, and I hope it's true, but am not convinced.

#84 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 05:17 PM:

Lizzy, 19000 (just checked: officially 19,495) members. That ought to get any politician's notice. I've sent several communications via the campaign contact page, which does get you a robo-reply (not at all unusual). The response thread to his statement Thursday cleared 1600 comments.

(At least they're allowing it: can you McCain's campaign hosting a group that's telling him he's full of it? That's assuming they even could figure out how to have self-organizing groups.)

#85 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 05:34 PM:

19,000 is better than 9000. Good.

#86 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 06:44 PM:

The person who posted here that the real loss that the Obama camp appears not to have taken into account the numbers of us who were able to persuade others that Obama was a good person to vote for is right.

I've been one of those people.

I no longer am. He just -- deflated me with his deliberate choices. Which it does seem he began making as soon as he took on board the Clinton advisors and strategists. Nor was there any reason for him to do so. He was winning on not doing those things. It happens over and over.

We need a new party.

Love, C.

#87 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 06:53 PM:

I've wondered about this "Hillary advisers move to Obama's campaign" statement; I hadn't seen anything about it, so I Googled for it. Turns out I just missed it. The NY Observer has a story about it.

#88 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 08:42 PM:

Brenda, there are no expanded protections in the new FISA bill. The already-existing FISA bill, which is not going to expire, already has all the protections with none of the problems introduced by the new one.

The fact is that we don't need any new FISA bill. The only reason FISA exists at all is because Republicans don't obey the 4th Amendment. Now they don't obey the FISA law, either.

The expanded program obviously doesn't protect us from terrorists, since Bush expanded it before 9/11 and it didn't do any good. Whereas Clinton didn't expand it, and managed to catch terrorists and stop further terrorist action.

The effectiveness of our security is not about the ability to spy on everyone all the time, it's about the willingness of our government to do its job properly. You don't get that by giving your rights away.

#89 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 09:44 PM:

PJ Evans @ 72
Immunity is a problem for me, I don't like it. If I had my way I would go after the Telecos and therefore the Bushies. But we don't always get our way do we? I am glad that Feingold et al have been able to delay but in the end I think it'll pass. There are simply too many powerful forces that want it. Therefore I'm resigned to the reality that I won't get everything I want.

I don't think this issue is anywhere near as simplistic as some would have it. It is a complicated issue made even more so by the confusing by the opaque legislative process. And there is a real need to modernize FISA. Better would be nice but given this congress and the still conservative state of this nation as a whole, I'll take what I can get.

#90 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 10:00 PM:

Avedon @ 88: "The fact is that we don't need any new FISA bill. The only reason FISA exists at all is because Republicans don't obey the 4th Amendment. Now they don't obey the FISA law, either."

Too right. The claim that we "need" a new FISA law goes something like this:

(1) Bush wiretapped US citizens without a warrant.
(2) This was not illegal under current law.
(3) Therefore, we need a new law.

But (2) is not true. What Bush did is illegal under current law--the problem, rather, lies with the weak, ineffective Democratic-controlled Congress who is refusing to do their fucking job and prosecute the criminals. If they pass a new FISA bill, all they will accomplish is teach the surveillance-crazy authoritarians of the Republican party that they can break the law, and Democrats will just redefine the law to make it not a crime. They'll also have taught industry that cooperating with illegal government requests is a win-win situation--you cozy up to the people in power, and you'll never face any charges. This bill is (hat-tip: Lee) fractally wrong: no matter what aspect you examine, large or small, it is still total bullshit.

#91 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 10:02 PM:

ethan @ 59, anaea @ 76: Okay, I guess I was wrong--there are people who're dropping Obama cold over this. However, I still think you're outnumbered by those of us who've simply lost enthusiasm.

#92 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 10:07 PM:

Avedon @ 88
there are no expanded protections in the new FISA bill.

Have you read it? Are you even aware that there is a part one and a part two?

The fact is that we don't need any new FISA bill.

This is simply false. We do need a new FISA, we really do.

The expanded program obviously doesn't protect us from terrorists

Bush is a moron. Not much can protect you from that. We should try not electing morons twice in a row.

The effectiveness of our security is not about the ability to spy on everyone all the time

It doesn't appear that this bill permits that. It's difficult to know for sure. The issue is very technical and the bill is complicated. To get a flavor of just how complicated please read the links I have already provided above to the discussion on Balkinization. Or just go to the front page and do a search for "FISA". This will give you a much better idea of the issues involved.

Still, I do accept Prof. Balkin's position that, like it or not, a national security state is coming and that our best bet is to try to shape the coming security state to our needs rather than sticking our heads in the sand. Thank the gods for Obama and for a renewed netroots powered Democratic party.

#93 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 12:05 AM:

Brenda, FISA doesn't need modernizing, at least not the way they're trying to do it.

The FISA judges said last year that it worked; they've never had problems approving warrants; they've done it outside the courtrooms and outside normal hours when there's been an emergency.
The phone companies said last year that they didn't need immunity - they have some of the best first-amendment lawyers around, they ought to know.

What immunity is for is protecting Bush and Cheney (and probably several Congresscritters) from the consequences of their own criminal actions.

And I do not approve of that. Neither should you.

(Why the heck are they trying to redefine WMDs so they include butane lighters, exported cars, and gas and oil tankers?)

#94 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 12:24 AM:

heresiarch #91: Well, I never had any Obama enthusiasm to begin with (of the eight original Democratic candidates, he was at best my sixth choice), so dropping him isn't much of a stretch. And to clarify, FISA is just one of many issues that have, combined, convinced me to go third party in my safely blue state this year.

Constance Ash #86: We need a new party. A-frackin-men.

#95 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 12:27 AM:

Brenda @ 92: "This is simply false. We do need a new FISA, we really do."

Reading your links, it seems there is an argument that FISA does need to be updated to deal with modern global communications. However, this bill isn't it. Also according to your links, the new version of FISA allows Justice Department officials to order service providers to start wiretaps based on their own certification that all the rules are being followed. All the FISA Court does is review the guidelines by which the JD makes its decisions. The Court is cut out of the loop--JD officials could issue any sort of taps for whatever reason, and the Court would never know.

"Bush is a moron. Not much can protect you from that."

Bush is a criminal. That's exactly what the courts are supposed to protect us against.

"It doesn't appear that this bill permits [spying on everyone all the time]. It's difficult to know for sure."

In the sense that it doesn't disallow it, it does. Under the new FISA bill, we would never know if they were, nor would the FISA court. That's the whole point of FISA--without oversight, without accountability, the government will do whatever it can get away with.

#96 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 01:09 AM:

Reading your links, it seems there is an argument that FISA does need to be updated to deal with modern global communications.

Thanks.

However, this bill isn't it.

True. ALL I'm saying is that yeah, it isn't it, but it's likely as good as we'll get from a congress that doesn't have the will to impeach. So maybe we should cut Obama a little slack.

On the other hand maybe my strategy of pragmatism isn't the best one. Maybe it's better to fight tooth and nail to the bitter end. I really wish I knew for sure. Buuuttttt... politics is also the art of compromise, of cutting your losses and knowing when to accept defeat.

#97 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 04:14 AM:

Brenda @ 96

This is probably pretty meaningless coming from me given my voting track record, but there are things about which one should not compromise. There are things about which pragmatism is appropriate - I was willing to give Obama a shot on universal health care which I think is a very nice idea that can't be implemented effectively in this country. I was willing to risk destroying what stability Iraq has by getting out too early if it meant we got out at all. I was going to swallow a tax hike to fund a program that would make it easier to graduate from college without massive amounts of debt despite a mild allergy to taxes. My support of him was one giant pragmatic compromise, and I found very exciting. I've spent the last year doing a lot of, "Who knows, maybe he's right and I'm being too uncreative/cynical/penny wise and pound foolish."

But there are lines I absolutely cannot condone crossing. This is one here. If it's not for you, fine, but do think about and decide where your lines are so that you know when their under siege. I don't plan to accept defeat on my issues, and I don't expect to win, so I'll be there railing with you when the time comes.

#98 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 06:26 AM:

Brenda @ 96: "True. ALL I'm saying is that yeah, it isn't it, but it's likely as good as we'll get from a congress that doesn't have the will to impeach."

I disagree. As is, the FISA court suffers from the problem of protecting slightly more than it was originally intended to. This is, in my opinion, inconvenient for American intelligence agencies but far, far, better than legally absolving the executive branch of seeking any judicial consent at all, much less absolving them of willfully violating the law as it stood, and telecoms of violating it right along with them.

So, no. It's a terribly law even without telecom immunity, and a significant step backwards no matter how you cut it. Obama is wrong to support it in any form.

#99 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 07:31 AM:

James MacDonald at 44 --

I realize you know this, but constitutions matter because people believe in them. (The dead hide of some sheep doesn't rise up and smite the wrongdoer; legal and political processes have to do that.)

People believe in them generally because that's the construction of legitimacy that they prefer; the government is legal and right not because of heredity, divine right, or success in battle, but because of the consent of the governed and the rule of law.

Thing is, Teresa (and a good many others) are wrong when they call the current administration and many of its supporters and enablers a criminal conspiracy; it's not that they're not criminal and it's not that they're not a conspiracy, but it's also not that their motivations are limited to financial gain.

They've been going after the construction of legitimacy for awhile; substantially since the New Deal, much more since Civil Rights.

Some of that has been an immediate belief that any government that would treat women and blacks as equal to white men before the law is automatically illegitimate; much more of that is the belief that rich people are just better than non-rich people, and that you should be able to buy the political result you want. (Autocratic corporate control mechanisms and the disastrous 'money is speech' decision both contribute heavily to this.)

One of the notable successes has been establishing enough media control that candidates who do not treat the weird 'center' of the corporate proxy media as their core source of legitimacy don't get far enough in the process to get nominated. (Dean, Edwards, recently and obviously, but it goes way back.) They can't necessarily pick the candidate but they can certainly stop a candidate, which is really all that's essentially required to achieve their goals.

But, anyway; if the consent of the governed and the rule of law aren't where about 30% (it's probably more like 60% when the economy is good; most people who have jobs have a job in that corporate utter autocracy and associate autocracy with money and social advancement) of the population derive their belief in the legitimacy of government from, and this group has a lot of money and a deliberate policy goal of moving the functional source of legitimacy away from the rule of law and the consent of the governed, what you've really got is, well, it's never called an insurgency because the times people are killed by it aren't connected to it in that kind of narrative.

But that's more or less what it is; it's a determined attempt to take over the mechanisms of government and the construction of governmental legitimacy to serve the specific ends of a small class of people (who happen to be rich).

Obama may be part of that attempt; he might think that the current bill, while not very good, would leave him, as President, with enough purchase on the problem to do what he considers necessary, in some subtle way that is not immediately obvious to the folks trying to immunize Bush and Cheney; he might think that the bill is going to pass in some form no matter what, so the best that can be done is to get the least-bad version of the bill; he might think something else entirely, including such a comprehensive commitment to a view of the democratic process that he takes the view of any elected representative seriously because they are an elected representative; it might be something else entirely.

It's just about impossible to tell what it might be from here.

But, anyway; not really a criminal conspiracy, more a class-driven attempt to extend the corporate autocracy into control of public life, that necessarily considers the constitution entirely irrelevant other than as a modest obstacle.

#100 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 10:20 AM:

Brenda:

One natural question to ask is, why must we accept the inevitability of a national security state? I mean, the government isn't some group of space aliens who landed in DC and took over, it's us and people we elect. It is no more inevitable that we'll have a national security state than that we'll have an apartheid state--something we had in a lot of the country for a hell of a long time. It's no more inevitable than a foreign policy of endless war and empire.

If we don't want to accept that stuff, we have one major problem--the MSM overwhelmingly accepts it all, and tends to marginalize or paint as a wacko anyone who disagrees. It's not really relevant for this discussion to try to figure out if this reflects the beliefs of the reporters/editors/advertisers, very effective spin and disinformation techniques used by government, blackmail photos and bribes, or whatever else. The point is:

a. Anyone who calls these basic (and overwhelmingly bad) ideas into question will be marginalized, painted as a wacko, spun as dangerous and unbalanced, etc.

b. In order to resist this, it's necessary for us to stop accepting and following that spin, even when it's directed at people we don't like, and even when it's said by people with whom we identify.

A long list of people who have challenged these ideas have fallen to this spin, ranging from Dennis Kustinich to Ron Paul.


The power of spin is the power to keep you from listening to, reading, or thinking about some ideas. That's often done by showing you only the crazy parts of Kustinich's ideas (looped, with extensive commentary, taken out of context) in order to keep you from seriously thinking about the sensible parts, or looping Dean's funny-sounding scream over and over again on the radio with a pithy label (the "I have a scream" speech) in a way that pushes people away from serious thought about what he has to say. A different side of that spin helps you see only the sensible parts of mainstream politicians' positions and their followers' positions--I think you'd have a hard time showing that Huckabee or Guiliani are noticeably less wacky than Ron Paul, for example, but the coverage tended to spin that way.

This hits the left at least as hard as the right. It's not at all uncommon to hear people express pride in never reading anything by some person they know they disagree with (because they've been told so), or to associate reading or listening to some stuff with being evil--the notion that if you watch Al Jazeera, you're supporting the terrorists, or that if you read a book by Pat Buchannan, you're helping the racists. Those beliefs are wonderful ways to keep people from reading or hearing any "dangerous" (to the current belief structure) ideas.

We need to stop falling for them.

#101 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 11:26 AM:

Albatross: Well, the practical reason we're stuck with a national security state is that it suits a plurality of those with real wealth and power, and that they've felt this way in various combinations since at least 1943 or so.

This does not, of course, let us off the hook for using the power we have, and pushing the structure of things to allow us more, which we must then also use as wisely as we can.

#102 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 01:09 PM:

I no longer am. He just -- deflated me with his deliberate choices. Which it does seem he began making as soon as he took on board the Clinton advisors and strategists.

and then the Clinton advisors and strategists used their position as refugees from a failing campaign which was repudiated by essentially everyone in any position of power in the national party to fast-track the legislation and push it through without it being read?

They must be awfully talented.

Senator Obama is, and has been since he's been in the Senate, a centrist, as defined by the faction in congress which calls itself centrist. The Occam's razor suggests that the explanation for his taking positions which are obliging to centrists is not that someone else is forcing him to do it, or has managed to punk him out of his beliefs in the course of a week.

If for no other reason, you can't possibly believe that a campaign in thrall to the Clintons would be floating Sam Nunn for VP...

#103 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 01:09 PM:

I no longer am. He just -- deflated me with his deliberate choices. Which it does seem he began making as soon as he took on board the Clinton advisors and strategists.

and then the Clinton advisors and strategists used their position as refugees from a failing campaign which was repudiated by essentially everyone in any position of power in the national party to fast-track the legislation and push it through without it being read?

They must be awfully talented.

Senator Obama is, and has been since he's been in the Senate, a centrist, as defined by the faction in congress which calls itself centrist. Occam's razor suggests that the explanation for his taking positions which are obliging to centrists is not that someone else is forcing him to do it, or has managed to punk him out of his beliefs in the course of a week.

If for no other reason, you can't possibly believe that a campaign in thrall to the Clintons would be floating Sam Nunn for VP...

#104 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 01:10 PM:

ack. Sorry about the doublepost

#105 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 03:59 PM:

there are things about which one should not compromise

Agreed, but then as I understand the process of writing and passing legislation, you'd be a very unhappy camper in any representative body. You might be happier outside the process functioning as an activist.

why must we accept the inevitability of a national security state?

It is thinking about this problem that has lead me to lean towards pragmatism. So let's do that.

The ship of state is very large and it takes forethought and planning to get to where you need to be. So what do we see coming in the future that we need to act on now so that we have a chance of coping with? Nine billion people is one. Technological innovation that marches forward at a non-linear pace is another. Global warming is a third.

The sheer crush of that many people means you have to surveil. It's just impossible to "police" a huge number like that. We should accept that surveillance will be a fact of life and try to make sure that controls are in place to prevent abuse.

Technological innovation has a potential to be very destabilizing. Right now there are videos on YouTube showing you how to build a "gun" from an old microwave oven that can put a person down at 200 yards. People are nuts. Remember what happened when laser pointers came out? Now imagine the kind of world we'd have if a device like that could kill. It wouldn't be anything like Star Trek, it would be a nightmare. Monkeys just can't be trusted with phazers you know.

But I'm just getting started. What if everything I needed to synthesize any organic compound I wanted could fit in a suitcase? My neighbor pisses me off? I make a virus that targets just him/her. Or maybe I don't like blacks or men or for that matter, anyone.

But the most likely scenario is I think environmental collapse due to global warming. And, since I doubt we'll do a damn thing about it and given we're at a tipping point now. Well, I'll be surprised if any democracy survives. It's Canada that should be building a fence.

#106 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 05:49 PM:

Brenda --

Policing doesn't get any more difficult with more people; the same rough ratio of one peace officer per between five hundred and a thousand persons works fine.

Imposing authoritarian dictat on a disaffect and disadvantaged population, that gets harder, but that is, as they say, optional.

The core problem is that while there are mechanisms that would allow the people making decisions to know what is really going on -- which they most certainly do not do at the present time -- implementing these mechanisms would alter how authority is socially constructed and require people to give up a lot of personal power. This makes the change very hard to make; it's quite possible that only something like the side effects of global warming will present an adequately stark choice between innovation and destruction. (Much of the British industrial revolution came about because Napoleon presented the British landed aristocracy with just that choice.)

And, really, that bit about being unable to know what's really going on? That's probably the strongest single pragmatic argument against authoritarian forms of organization right there.

#107 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 10:14 PM:

albatross @ 100: "One natural question to ask is, why must we accept the inevitability of a national security state?"

Well, the one good argument I can think of is that, very simply, the tech is there now. It's so easy to record everything, pace Charles Stross, that it will be. However, I don't think that's an argument for the inevitability of the government having those powers, only for the people to have those powers. As you say, it's our government--in theory--and if we refuse to grant them those powers, then they won't have them.

Brenda @ 105: "Monkeys just can't be trusted with phazers you know."

Good thing we're talking about people, not monkeys, right? Right?

"What if everything I needed to synthesize any organic compound I wanted could fit in a suitcase? My neighbor pisses me off? I make a virus that targets just him/her."

Or you could, you know, shoot him. Or knife him. Or poison him. Or blow him up. Or use any number of other nasty, lethal technologies that humans have built over last several centuries.

Brenda, the ability of humans to prevent other humans from being able to kill them more or less any time they want went out the window with the invention of the firearm, if not sooner. (I'm pretty sure that very bad-ass, well-protected people were getting knifed in their sleep and poisoned fairly regularly before that.) There is no way to guarantee that no one will able to kill you, no matter how much surveillance you put in place. Let me repeat that, because it's pretty important: there is no way to guarantee you own safety from attack. None. Ever. The best way that anyone has ever figured out to keep people from killing each other is to make sure that people don't want to. Preemptive surveillance is...just insane, I'm sorry. Its uses in preventing crime are miniscule compared to its uses to elites wanting to maintain their power. It's more trouble than it's worth.

Your entire argument reads like you've bought into the idea that people are animals who need to be protected from their own worse instincts. That's not a liberal argument. That's an authoritarian argument.

#108 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 10:51 PM:

Brenda, I'm rather thrown by most of your post. What are you proposing for dealing with the microwave gun? Shutting down YouTube? Censoring it? Putting alarms in microwaves that alert the authorities when they're tampered with? Putting cameras in everybody's house so you can see if they're tampering? Each of those solutions has serious problems for implementation, and you will stomp all over the rights of everybody not building microwave guns in order to catch the one person who actually does. Then there's the issue of whether or not it's actually illegal to build the microwave gun, or just to use it. I'm allowed to own a gun (most places), the problem is when I use it to shoot my neighbors for being obnoxious. (Also, could I have a link to that video? I'm curious about how that's supposed to work, given the short range of microwaves.)

For the deadly laser pointer you're stretching my suspension of disbelief, and I watch Doctor Who. I argue that we don't need to start legislating against deadly laser pointers until they're actually a threat and that we should then treat it the same way we'd treat any other potentially deadly device, which would depend on where and how it's used etc. etc. The best way to prep for that eventuality is to deal with what's going on now that'll serve as a precedent when it arrives.

Your suitcase would require a lot of training to use, and we're a long way off from it existing, so you are again presenting a threat that isn't reality-based given the current state of reality. I'm not interested in giving up freedoms I have today because of something scary that might happen next decade. We can talk when the scary thing actually shows up.

I'm really lost at your global warming point. Are you arguing that in preparation for the collapse of society due to climate change, we should start getting used to authoritarianism now? I rather think we should build and plan with an eye toward the future climate trends, plan for the effects on agriculture a longer growing season and more extreme weather patterns will cause, convince people that while hybrid cars are nifty and all they're just a distraction from a real solution to the impending absence of oil, etc. These are all things that can be done without taking away my right to have extensive telephone or IM conversations with my sister without the government listening in.

Have I missed the logic in your point entirely?

#109 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 11:01 PM:

Having been entering genealogy in the computer, there were some interesting (for some value of interesting) deaths listed:
- hung, drawn, and quartered
- beheaded
- burnt at the stake
- poisoned
- assassinated while hawking
and a whole lot of men who died in just two fairly well-known battles. (These were all 15th and 16th century, too. Think of William Rufus, much earlier, killed in a hunting accident which may not have been accidental.)

So, yeah, there is absolutely no way to guarantee your neighbor or family member (probably) or a complete stranger (possibly) won't try to kill you. I don't believe there is any law that can prevent it, and certainly no law-enforcement agency can.

#110 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 11:59 PM:

P.J. And the arms race to defeat the defenses.

There were very small stilletoes made, with a triangular blade; that the close mail worn beneath the shirt might be penetrated.

Anyone can be gotten; if the attacker is willing to pay the price.

#111 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 12:00 AM:

Heh. Hiibel. Terry Stop. Plain Sight doctrine (especially when combined with Terry or Hiibel stops). Measuring the temperature of the walls of your house from a helicopter isn't, you know, a search of the house or anything.

It's not like the Fourth Amendment meant anything before last week, anyway.

#112 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 12:19 AM:

I think Harold Feld has it right about the probably reaction among many folks who support Obama here, e.g., while it will be a deal breaker for some, for most, it will mean deciding not to go that extra mile for the campaign.

And, for completeness, here's his take on Obama's explanation, as well as a coinage of a new word.

#113 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 03:06 AM:

anaea
Have I missed the logic in your point entirely?

Yes you have. We're just talking ya know. Someone asked why there would be a perceived need for a security state. Off the top of my head those are a few things I can think of why. They don't have to be good reasons, it's not like our government is sane you know. I was not trying to say "these are reasons why we should spy on everyone right now". They were just examples or... maybe pointers is a better word. They point to possible future weapons 10 or 100 times more powerful.

The government does worry about such things. The Russians are known to have built directed energy weapons, microwave weapons that are the size of a beer can. They are portable and we don't know how many they may have lost track of. Set one of these off in Wall Street and you'll fry every single piece of electronic equipment and they won't magically come back. This is today's tech, what about 25 years from now? 50 years?

heresiarch
Your entire argument reads like you've bought into the idea that people are animals who need to be protected from their own worse instincts. That's not a liberal argument. That's an authoritarian argument.

Well you could be right. Perhaps the past 8 years have so frightened me that I'm susceptible to that. Please don't misunderstand, I'm very liberal or at least I think I am. It's just more interesting to me to poke at the edges of things than to nod along with everyone else. But this administration has so soured me on... well, people that yeah, I do expect the worst. Every hope that I've had has been torn to shreds.

But... we are monkeys (yes I know, primates) and given enough people and the right circumstances and that primitive nature will rise up. I believe Freud was right, culture is but a thin veneer, a mask of sanity. It doesn't take a whole lot for people, left or right, to tear that off and show their true nature. Like for instance no longer being able to afford to heat your home, or feed your family. This winter is going to be.... interesting.

#114 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 03:25 AM:

Brenda @ 113: "But... we are monkeys (yes I know, primates) and given enough people and the right circumstances and that primitive nature will rise up. I believe Freud was right, culture is but a thin veneer, a mask of sanity. It doesn't take a whole lot for people, left or right, to tear that off and show their true nature."

Here, you speak only for yourself.

#115 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 04:36 AM:

Here, you speak only for yourself.

Oh, you're a cephalopod then? Hopefully your brother Cthulhu is still sleeping. Seriously though, come on, this is pretty basic stuff. We are primates. Our instinctual imperatives are at odds with the demands of civilization. A lot of social antagonisms flow from that basic reality.

Recommended reading:
Civilization and Its Discontents

This is nearly 100 years old by one of the most important thinkers since Nietzsche. It's really quite uncontroversial by now and should be included in any introductory course in the liberal arts. As it was for me thirty years ago. Have things really gotten that bad since then?

#116 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 09:35 AM:

Brenda, two things. First, citing Freud is not a particularly good move. Second, cut the snark. It's not helpful.

#117 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 12:51 PM:

Brenda: I am a primate. I am not a monkey. That a book is old, does not grant it (even if widely read) legitimacy. Freud isn't the best. On the madness of crowds might have been a better example. It's older, better researched and more on point.

To go to the meat of your arguments:

You didn't offer up those reasons as "what ifs" and gov't rationales. You said we ought to be pragmatic "It is thinking about this problem that has lead me to lean towards pragmatism. So let's do that."

It was after that where you gave us a list; a reasonable person would think such a list was yours. Your later language, "But I'm just getting started" adds to that sense of the source/thrust of your position.

So, I took those to be things you (the pragmatist) were worried about (as classes of things, not as specific threats) to accept the level of surveillance you say you are now just getting willing to put up with, because it can't be avoided (the "lie back and think of England philosophy).

More you went on: 'The sheer crush of that many people means you have to surveil." You didn't say the sheer number will make any gov't feel it needs to surveil. You said it was needful; outside of gov't desire.

We disagree. If you'd like, I will be more than willing (though at the moment I seem to not be in my best humor) to discuss the actual questions of pragatism in the matter of massive surveillance, but the conclusions I've come to are quite different from yours.

#118 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 01:13 PM:

citing Freud is not a particularly good move. Second, cut the snark. It's not helpful.

Snark? That was gentle (and loving) humor, seriously. And what's this about Freud? What planet is this anyway? Where am I? How can you possibly understand the worlds around and within you if you lack even the most basic tools for doing so? Even worse, it is no liberalism that I am familiar with that is unable to even countenance an idea.

Maybe it's the primate thing. Are you so proud that you are unaware of what you are? We truly are animals, primates, and we share a long history, not to mention 99.1% dna, with our siblings Pan troglodytes. We are much more than simply of this world, we are embedded deeply within it.

As for Freud, I understand that people squick out at certain central ideas. I didn't bring them up. All I was talking about is the fairly unremarkable observation that civilization is built on neuroses. Then referring to that as a reason why I am less than enthusiastic about everyone possessing some hypothetical SiFi type weapon.

If certain authors are "not to be talked about" perhaps you could give me a list? Seriously, (no snark) I'd like to know what ideas or theses are simply too hot to even be mentioned here. Freud I got but is Quine on it? Please don't tell me W.V. Quine is too. Maybe Deleuze, yeah I bet he is. It's all so very sad.

#119 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 01:20 PM:

Brenda, it isn't that people here are squicked by Freud, it's that so much of his theory is just plain wrong.

#120 ::: Jason Aronowitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 01:38 PM:

John Dean (remember him?) stated that the FISA bill does not confer CRIMINAL immunity, only civil. Is this correct?

http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dean/20080702.html

#121 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 01:57 PM:

Brenda @ 113 -
The government does worry about such things. The Russians are known to have built directed energy weapons, microwave weapons that are the size of a beer can. They are portable and we don't know how many they may have lost track of. Set one of these off in Wall Street and you'll fry every single piece of electronic equipment and they won't magically come back. This is today's tech, what about 25 years from now? 50 years?

They have? Do you have credible cites for this? (Globalsecurity.org or FAS.org would be good places to start, in terms of credibility - they can be a little sensationalist, but aren't totally loony.) Because my understanding of the SOTA for directed HERF devices is that they are more like "might fit in the back of a decent sized van", at least for one capable of knocking out all of Wall Street (and maybe larger than that - Wall Street is a pretty big place).

Additionally - going all 1984 over someone HERFing Wall Street is bad insecurity management, and bad risk management as well - destruction of servers, etc. is something that Wall Street IT teams think about, and have plans for, often including off-site backups, pre-imaged servers and desktops stored off-site for rapid deployment, etc. etc.

You'd think they had a massive cataclysm right nearby to learn from, or something....

Well you could be right. Perhaps the past 8 years have so frightened me that I'm susceptible to that. Please don't misunderstand, I'm very liberal or at least I think I am. It's just more interesting to me to poke at the edges of things than to nod along with everyone else. But this administration has so soured me on... well, people that yeah, I do expect the worst. Every hope that I've had has been torn to shreds.

"Liberal" is not the cross-way of "Authoritarian" - it is eminently possible to be a Liberal (or at least left-wing) and still believe that Something Must Be Done By The Authorities.

Expecting the worst is not a way to plan social policy. Planning for the worst is different than expecting it - and in most cases, you don't actually plan for the worst (the worst is inevitably on the lines of "a Gamma-Ray Burster went off twenty thousand years ago, and its death blossom is going to hit us twenty minutes from now, destroying all life on the planet except some microbes in the Marianas Trench."). Instead, you plan for some subset of "likely worsts" - and try and build infrastructure and systems that are resilient enough to withstand unlikely worsts that are survivable (nothing we do, short-term, will protect us from a GRB going off within our local space, or a wandering black hole, or whatever other celestial calamity might whack us).

But that means operating on numbers and facts and estimates, not feelings and fears.

But... we are monkeys (yes I know, primates) and given enough people and the right circumstances and that primitive nature will rise up. I believe Freud was right, culture is but a thin veneer, a mask of sanity. It doesn't take a whole lot for people, left or right, to tear that off and show their true nature. Like for instance no longer being able to afford to heat your home, or feed your family. This winter is going to be.... interesting.

While I may think that "(almost) Everything Is Better With A Monkey", I am not a monkey. (or a number). I do not believe that humans are inevitably savage, brutal, etc. I believe that all people respond "each according to their nature" - but that the inherent nature of most people is not "nasty, brutish, and short" - there are too many counter-examples for that to be true.

Too much pessimism is as toxic as too much optimism - maybe moreso. Preparing for the worst, while hoping and counting on the best, is usually a better outlook, I've found, than planning for the worst, expecting it, and hoping vaguely that you might be disappointed in not getting the worst. (and those who hope for the worst are just sick).

Me? I don't always live up to that ideal. "But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be a shepherd."

#122 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 02:01 PM:

Jason: It's correct, but not a big deal, alas. Because the presidential pardon power extends to criminal actions.

#123 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 02:01 PM:

Brenda: I think the problem isn't so much Freud, per se, but the follow on...,"It's really quite uncontroversial by now." which is hard to say about any work of Freud's, even those, the primary theses of which have been widely accepted into the collective unconscious.

Part of it is, to our detriment; though hard to avoid, is that we don't know you yet; so quirks of delivery aren't yet known. To be honest, the, "you ain't seen nothing yet" about snark is something I dislike, because it makes me feel atagonistic toward you, which isn't really fair.

It also constrains me, because to avoid starting a fight, some of my turns of phrase have to be edited, lest you decide I am attacking you, when I'm not (which is a topic we've been discussing in a couple of parallel threads right now, the world is recursive).

#124 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 02:13 PM:

Brenda, shut up. I'm not being rude, it's just gentle humor.

If you think Freud is a basic tool for understanding the world around you, you don't understand the world around you. You can bring him up, obviously (I didn't say he was too "hot" to mention, just that he's not a good citation if you're trying to prove anything), just be aware that he wasn't a very good scientist or a very clear thinker and he was, as P J Evans said, wrong most of the time. When I talk about the shape of the solar system, I don't refer people to Ptolemy, not because he's too "hot" or because his ideas squick people, but because he was wrong about the shape of the solar system.

Who was unable to "countenance" an idea? People disagreed with you. Is that allowed? Or are you the only one allowed to disagree?

I never claimed that I wasn't a primate. I told you that your tone was unhelpful and your sources unreliable. I said nothing about the content of your statements. Please keep what people said and what they didn't clear.

And please take the quotation marks off of that phrase "not to be talked about". If they're scare quotes, they're unwarranted, because no one tried to keep you from talking about anyone or anything. People tried to engage with what you were saying and you acted like doing so was ridiculous. If, on the other hand, the phrase was meant to be quoting someone, it was certainly no one in this thread, because no one said that until you did, and implying that anyone did is disingenuous at best.

#125 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 02:26 PM:

Not piling on, but -- Brenda, why would you assume that folks at this blog aren't capable of discussing or might not wish to discuss Freud, or Quine, or Deleuze? Say something insightful or challenging or merely interesting and bring in any of these three thinkers to support your point -- you will certainly get a hearing and possibly a discussion, especially if you drop the snarky/rude tone. But simply claiming that "civilization is built on neuroses" -- how do I know? Freud said so -- will get you nowhere here. That's not making an argument; that's presenting revealed truth.

#126 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 02:50 PM:

Bruce Baugh... how does pardoning a corporation work?

Seriously, I'm trying to figure out how to pass capital sentence on corporations, in the interest of making adhering to the law in the interest of shareholders. It's been niggling at the back of my head for years.

Make those who make the decisions personally liable for criminal acts (and some level of, "following orders" has to move up the chain. Conspiracies need to be pressed up the food chain to the top)

#127 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 03:03 PM:

Terry, I believe that first one must appoint the Lord High Executioner...

#128 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 03:06 PM:

PJ
"it isn't that people here are squicked by Freud, it's that so much of his theory is just plain wrong."

Let me introduce you to W.V.O. Quine's "Two Dogmas". The Positivists believed that for any meaningful claim to be false there must be some observations that can be made that would prove it false.

Quine taught us that this is wrong. No theory is ever tested against observations alone. How do we decide what is relevant evidence? What we accept as valid evidence for or against any hypothesis is mediated by a host of assumptions. Our confidence in those assumptions and how strongly they inform the hypothesis under debate is always going to depend on our background theory. Hence we can agree with what is observed and still disagree with what it proves.

What this means is that you and I might disagree on the validity of some truth claim and yet there could easily be no possible observation that could tells us who was right. Evidence that you take as falsifying I explain away by rejecting your ancillary hypothesis. You don't accept that but your reasons for doing so involve assumptions that I in turn reject. And so it goes.

This is not because either of us is irrational or that we are using words in different ways. Observation is theory laden.

Both of our theories could still be very good theories. Each able to predict or explain or do everything a good theory should do. They could also be equally good at practicable things like building bridges or healing trauma.

But one of these theories must be false, no? The original story is that one of them must make logically contradictory claims. Unfortunately, given the above we must come to the conclusion that a false theory might nevertheless be as empirically adequate as a true one. Empirical evidence underdetermines truth.

This leads us rather directly to a central anxiety of our times. The collapse of Logical Positivism brings with it questions about Realism. If empiricism cannot be trusted to lead us to the "real world" then what use is it? Of what use is talking about the real truth of the world if it is not only unknowable but also unnecessary for building bridges that don't fall down or planes that fly? Truth is relative to whatever theory we happen to hold.

This brings me back to your claim that Freud's theories are false. No, emphatically, they are not. He was of course not perfect and pre-scientific. But I find the ideas of Freud as well as those of Lacan and Žižek, to be extremely helpful to me in understanding and explaining the world around me. As well as my own inner world. I can't help but think you would too. But please don't attack me because I do not think exactly how you think. The universe is bigger than that.

#129 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 03:45 PM:

I haven't read Zizek. I find Lacan impenetrable (no pun intended. Well, maybe a little...) Sorry. I am not sure why you bring in Quine to defend Freud. Quine does not say that statements or theories cannot be treated empirically as true, only that no statement can be proved true absolutely based on sense data. (Boy am I boiling that one down.) A case for or against Freud's theories can be made on a pragmatic basis, which is what most people here would choose to do.

However, let me state right now: I am not going to get into a discussion about philosophy of language; it's been too many years since I read or studied the field, and I am bumping up against the holes in my own knowledge very quickly here. So if you, Brenda, want to discuss Quine, someone else will have to be your discussion partner. Have fun.

#130 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 03:46 PM:

Terry Karney
some of my turns of phrase have to be edited, lest you decide I am attacking you

And I have not been doing the same? I assure you that I have been editing and editing quite a bit. I feel that I have been bending over backwards to be calm and polite while simultaneously trying to talk about something that is apparently taboo.

ethan
Brenda, shut up. I'm not being rude, it's just gentle humor.

No ethan, you're being a jerk. Knock it off.

Scott Taylor
They have? Do you have credible cites for this?

Explosively pumped flux compression generator

An EPFCG can be used only once as a pulsed power supply since the device is physically destroyed during operation. An EPFCG package that could be easily carried by a person can produce pulses in the millions of amperes and tens of terawatts, exceeding the power of a lightning strike by orders of magnitude.

The Russians build some of these too. Did they lose any? Were some sold on the black market? Good reason, I believe, for FISA and to make damn sure they don't fall into the wrong hands.

#131 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 03:53 PM:

Explosively pumped flux compression generator

Are you sure any of these devices that you keep citing were ever built?
Because something has been designed, or is theoretically buildable, doesn't mean that it's in use or has even been built.

#132 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 04:23 PM:

Brenda: And I have not been doing the same? I assure you that I have been editing and editing quite a bit. I feel that I have been bending over backwards to be calm and polite while simultaneously trying to talk about something that is apparently taboo.

Want my honest opinion? If you have so been bending... you are doing a poor job of it.

Telling people that the things they see as snark are nothing more than mild... provocative.

Accusing those who are debating with you (that is disagreeing, and explaning why), of refusing to let you talk about something which is "taboo"... provocative.

Telling me, when I explain what, and why, I am treating you more gently that I would a regular; out of fairness, and the presumtion you are acting in good faith; that I am not giving you enough credit... provocative.

You are being snarky, and asking for brownie points that you aren't being more so. That's not good manners. I admit it, I am in a pissy sort of mood right now, and asked for some small credit on that score. Not the best thing... it implied I wanted to be nasty; which isn't true. I wanted to not be nasty and see that I am not on my best game right now; but also felt I had to say something. So I let you know that I was out of sorts.

You are telling me you are in sorts, and still want to be more aggressive; it seems an ox of yours (the validity of Freud) is being gored. Sorry, but Freud isn't taboo. We (at least those of us who have commented, the silent majority is just that) disagree. We rejected your appeal to authority.

And you did make such an appeal... when you tried to pre-emptively slap down criticism of the text/theses by telling us, "It's really quite uncontroversial by now,". and adding that it needs to be taught as a canonic text in liberal arts education.

That's an assertion which begs for response. That you didn't get the response you wanted (though I suspect expected) is just the way it goes. Because it is up for discussion.

As to your theories... We made a couple really small warhead (small in size, yield). We know the AF has lost track of some. Maybe they are hiding more losses. Perhaps we ought to just chuck all of the 4th amendment; just to be safe.

We can chuck out the Double Jeopardy and self-incrimination bits too..., what price safety against the threat of a movie plot terrorist?

I am making a reductio ad absurdem, because I think the premise absurd. I can think of a lot of really devastating things to do by way of effective attacks. Stuff that would only be catchable if I told someone what I was planning to do (because they don't need a second person).

Simple gumshoe work is going to do more than massive surveilling. You get information glut. Even an only moderately efficient system provides information glut (just look at the East German Stasi, and the things which matter; the real plots, get lost.

So spending the money to have a decent ratio of police; who have local connection, and local accountability, is the more pragmatic approach.

A police state, isn't, and I don't (with my semi-pessimistic view of Gov't) think one can give powers to gov'ts, which they can't, and won't, abuse.

I'd rather have the terrorism, than the surveillance.

#133 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 04:51 PM:

I'll add to Terry, by saying that the danger from terrorism in this country is a lot lower than the current administration wants you to believe. The best estimate on the number of actual terrorists is a few hundred people, maybe.
The chance that you'll be killed in a terrorist attack is less than the chance that you'll be struck by lightning.
And the chance that you'll be struck by lightning, while measurable, is still far lower than that of being killed in a car accident (tens of thousands die in the US every year).

This doesn't mean not doing anything about it, but it does mean being reasonable about what you do. Wholesale surveillance is not the answer. Giving up the rights we have, tattered though they are, is not the answer.

I'm tired of being told all the time to be afraid, be very afraid. Aren't you?

#134 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 05:01 PM:

One additional minor point, by the way, which nobody seems to have made explicitly explicitly yet: when people in this discussion have objected to being called monkeys, it's not because of some kind of romantic "Oh what a work is man" thing. It's just that it's wrong. We (those of us who are homo sapiens anyway---most of us, as far as I know) aren't monkeys. The last common ancestor of humans and monkeys was a long time ago. We're apes.

#135 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 05:06 PM:

P J Evans @ 133... I'm tired of being told all the time to be afraid, be very afraid.

I'm also tired of taking my shoes off at the airport.

#136 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 05:57 PM:

Terry
You are telling me you are in sorts, and still want to be more aggressive

How on earth am I being the least aggressive? Or snarky or asking for brownie points???? ::boggle:: When I say above that I feel like I'm in an unfamiliar world I mean that. I don't understand you. I don't understand why the hostility I have received. I am at a loss.

We rejected your appeal to authority.

As you will recall I said that one reason a future weapon would be unsafe in a world of nine billion is "you can't trust a monkey with a phaser." Which I thought was quite funny (still do). I always go for the joke ya know. Which I then further explained by pointing out that we are indeed primates and that our base instincts are at odds with the demands of civilization. I still have no reply to this by the way.

Did I make an appeal to authority? Well no, I simply referred to a basic liberal arts text written by Freud and which I was taught long ago. While I am aware that there is some hostility to his ideas I did not think that this quite elementary text of his was. That assumption of mine turned out to be wrong, which leads me to believe there must be some kind of taboo about discussing him.

It is not possible anyway not to make some kind of an appeal to authority. It cannot be done. And it most certainly is not practicable to run every single argument down to first principles. At some point we all have to point to a text, a study, a publication in a journal, an author or the body of an author's work. And for reasons explained above you cannot even appeal to evidence.

When you get down to it all we have is language. We know nothing about the world of things. All we have are our ideas and our perceptions of the world.

spending the money to have a decent ratio of police; who have local connection, and local accountability, is the more pragmatic approach.

Well there is something that I can agree with you about. This is a good thing right? Can we at least agree on that?

PJ
Wholesale surveillance is not the answer.

That wasn't my point. My original assertion was that it's coming whether we like it or not. Whether it's a sane policy or not. Then I gave examples of why I thought that might be. Which lead to an endless morass.

Matt
It was a joke intended to lighten things up a bit. And backed up every single time by also saying that yes, we're primates.

#137 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 07:02 PM:

Brenda@68: A surveillance state is inevitable.

This sets off massive "citation needed" flags, and points to deeper wordview/framing issues than whether Freud is relevant or not.

My original assertion was that it's coming whether we like it or not. ... Then I gave examples of why I thought that might be. Which lead to an endless morass.

The morass is probably more because you think a surveillance state is inevitable and less because you invoked Freud. Freud was just something folks can point to and say is obviously wrong. I mean, Freud is wrong, it's just pretty much irrelevant to your actual point of surveillance state inevitability.

But mainly, you asserted that something particularly bad is inevitable and didn't really prove it in any significant way. And there are a number of people here who think that individual political action can make a difference, myself included, and anything "inevitable" cuts pretty deeply, so you'll need some serious references to back it up, or you'll probably have to tone the rhetoric down.

But it basically comes down to your "can't do anything about that" assertion has crashed into a hornets nest of "individual actions can change the world".

#138 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 07:22 PM:

When you get down to it all we have is language. We know nothing about the world of things. All we have are our ideas and our perceptions of the world.

The trouble is, Brenda, you've fallen into a hotbed of logical positivists, who don't know that one cannot appeal to scientific evidence and experience as proof, and may, indeed, continue to request you to provide it...

But I assure you, no one here is being hostile. Perhaps our style of discourse is unfamiliar or markedly different from the places you usually hang out. No one is intending insult and truly, you haven't yet mentioned any taboo subjects. When you do, our Esteemed Moderators will let you know.

#139 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 08:10 PM:

Greg
This sets off massive "citation needed" flags

Citation was given. Did anyone bother to read it? It was central to my position that a surveillance state is inevitable, indeed it is here now, and that we should accept that and shape it to our needs. A surveillance state need not be an oppressive thing. We have a choice.


The Constitution in the National Surveillance State

The War on Terror may be the most familiar justification for the rise of the National Surveillance State, but it is hardly the sole or even the most important cause. Government’s increasing use of surveillance and data mining is a predictable result of accelerating developments in information technology. As technologies that let us discover and analyze what is happening in the world become ever more powerful, both governments and private parties will seek to use them.
The question is not whether we will have a surveillance state in the years to come, but what sort of state we will have. Will we have a government without sufficient controls over public and private surveillance, or will we have a government that protects individual dignity and conforms both public and private surveillance to the rule of law?
The National Surveillance State is a way of governing. It is neither the product of emergency nor the product of war. War and emergency are temporary conditions. The National Surveillance State is a permanent feature of governance, and will become as ubiquitous in time as the familiar devices of the regulatory and welfare state. Governments will use surveillance, data collection and data mining technologies not only to keep Americans safe from terrorist attacks but also to prevent ordinary crime and deliver social services. In fact, even today providing basic social services and protecting key rights—like rights against employment discrimination—are difficult if not impossible without extensive data collection and analysis. Moreover, much of the surveillance in the national surveillance state will be conducted and analyzed by private parties. The increased demand for-- and the increased use of-- public and private surveillance cannot be explained or justified solely in terms of war or emergency.
The National Surveillance State grows naturally out of the Welfare State and the National Security State; it is their logical successor. The Welfare State governs domestic affairs by spending and transferring money and by creating government entitlements, licenses and public works. The National Security State promotes foreign policy through investments in defense industries and defense related technologies, through creating and expanding national intelligence agencies like the CIA and the NSA, and through the placement of American military forces and weapons systems around the globe to counter military threats and project national power world-wide.

But it basically comes down to your "can't do anything about that" assertion has crashed into a hornets nest of "individual actions can change the world".

The surveillance state is here, now. No amount of individual actions are going to change that. And there is still far more to come. Part of being effective is knowing what you can do something about and what you can't. You can change the character of the surveillance state but there is no reason to believe you can stop it or roll back history.

It was on this that I based my second point. That the FISA legislation was probably about as good as we were going to get out this congress with this president. I am not so wedded to this and will happily accept a better deal. Who knows? Maybe I am wrong and we can get a better law. Will the president sign it? Will there be the votes to override? But the really big question is "Will opposing the FISA compromise and insisting immunity be removed lose Obama the election?" I don't know but I think it possible. That would be a huge, huge mistake.

#140 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 08:19 PM:

Brenda: Where did you make what I saw as an appeal for credit/brownie points? When you said, in response a comment that you were being snarky: "Snark? That was gentle (and loving) humor, seriously." My read that you were asking for credit seems to have been in error, forgive me, but I also still think it has an air of, "if you think that was snark, you ain't seen snark."

You did make an appeal to authority, as I explained above. You asserted that work of Freuds was uncontroversial, and ought to be taught as part of the core canon of liberal arts. That's claiming a pretty high level of authority. You went on to say that people ought to read it, "But I find the ideas of Freud as well as those of Lacan and Žižek, to be extremely helpful to me in understanding and explaining the world around me. As well as my own inner world. I can't help but think you would too." which was at the tail end of talking down to P.J. Evens, with, "let me introduce you...."

Without meaning to talk down to you, perhaps your ideas of humor might need some rethinking, as they are falling flat. I don't really see the "humor" in saying we need a police state (or, if you prefer, a surveillance state) because people are all animals.

My thought on that is, where are you going t find non-monkeys? It's not a good argument. Either you think we are all animals (in which case I see no grounds for hope) or some are animals, and the non-animals have to be appointed over them.

I like neither option.

To answer this, It is not possible anyway not to make some kind of an appeal to authority. It cannot be done. And it most certainly is not practicable to run every single argument down to first principles. At some point we all have to point to a text, a study, a publication in a journal, an author or the body of an author's work. And for reasons explained above you cannot even appeal to evidence."

It can be done, you did it at the tail end..., "I found it useful." The authority there is you. Your experience is good. Making a statement that something isn't controversial is closing off questions about it. Your citation (the wikipedia link) says it has to be taken in the context of post-war Germany, that right there implies, to me at least, some remaining questions about just what relevance it has today.

I don't think a surveillance state is an unavoidable end. I sure as hell am not going to just roll over and accept it. If I can stop it, I will, and your examples of what might be useful (the stopping of those fantastic plots) are, in my experience, useless. They only serve as some incomprehensible uncertainty to make it easier to persuade people of the need for something unnneeded.

They are equivalent to the ticking bomb rationale for torture.

But I'm glad we agree that accountable police is a good thing.

#141 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 08:36 PM:

Brenda: I note you offer refer us to Balkin. I like Balkin. I read his work, link to it, and quote it. I disagree with him on the inevitability of the surviellance state.

His natural growth smacks of Marx/Engelsian historical inevitability. The Corporate State rises inevitably out of the democratic Republic is only true in hindsight. With a minor shift of the US Supreme court, post US Civil War, and we wouldn't be where we are today.

Can it be rolled back from it's present condition? Sure. But it takes effort, will and the flat out refusal to accept its inevitiabilty.

The FISA legislation is as good as this Administration might be willing to accept, but you know something... this Congress didn't have to bring to it to the floor. A committee chair, the majority leaders, they can kill pretty much anything they like. One of the reasons some of us were dancing on the grave of Jesse Helms is that he used that ability to stifle things The People wanted. It's not too much to ask that something The People don't want be quashed.

The real problem, as Greg states, is that we disagree on the basic premise.

#142 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 08:51 PM:

a surveillance state is inevitable, indeed it is here now, and that we should accept that and shape it to our needs. A surveillance state need not be an oppressive thing. We have a choice.

I think most people here choose not to have the new FISA bill pass. Since you live in a world of language, rather than of real things, maybe you can spin that into something that makes perfect sense to you, but at what point does the real world become oppressive if you have no choice?

So, while you're playing language games with us being in a surveillance state already and that it doesn't have to be suppressive and that we have a choice, real people are opposing a real bill which appears is being shoved down our throats against our wills.

Certainly one could play similar games with the idea that a "police state" doesn't have to be suppressive either. That if implemented properly, or if implemented at the hands of a benevolant dictator, that it'll all work out allright.

One could even go so far as to suggest that a pure tyrrany doesn't have to be suppressive, and logically, that is true. And given the ideal person in the ideal position, it might work out to be ideal.

But the promise of "it doesn't have to be suppresive" doesn't seem to reflect with real world experiences of how real people in real governments end up really operating.

Separation of powers exists for a reason.
Checks and balances against government exist for a reason.
Individual rights as a stop against state power exist for a reason.

Those reasons are very real and very bloody and very much based on the actual experiences of people throughout history over hundreds of years.

So, explain to me how I should ignore centuries of history and embrace your world where I can have a nonoppressive surveillance state based on personal choice and freedom?


#143 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 08:58 PM:

Terry - not to mention that, if Shrub decides he doesn't like (or is told he doesn't like) a provision, he's perfectly happy to use a signing statement to say he's going to do whatever he feels like doing, regardless of what the law actually says.

Why Congress hasn't called him on that yet is beyond me.

#144 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 09:08 PM:

from your link:

As technologies that let us discover and analyze what is happening in the world become ever more powerful, both governments and private parties will seek to use them.

it has never been a requirement that government must use them.

The question is not whether we will have a surveillance state in the years to come, but what sort of state we will have.

He has rendered the meaning of "surveillance state" meaningless. Government has always wanted information on its citizens. The medium through which it got that information is irrelevant. Individual rights requireing the state to have a Warrant and Probable Cause are restrictions against the state on what information it can get, prohibits "fishing expeditions", and other uses which can abuse state searches.


Will we have a government without sufficient controls over public and private surveillance, or will we have a government that protects individual dignity and conforms both public and private surveillance to the rule of law?

This has always been a valid question from day the US Constitution was signed till now. Techonology doesn't change the quesiton of whether we restrict the government to the rule of law.

Also, this becomes circular reasoning because the rule of law is the very thing that restricts the State from abusing its power to Search. If the rule of law is rewritten to have no restrictions against the state, what exactly is the point of the law other than to act as a rubber stamp of "whatever state wants, state gets"?

if "rule of law" is to mean anythign at all, it must mean something now when it restricts government. If rule of law cannot restrict government now, then what makes you think it can restrict government in the future?

The National Surveillance State is a permanent feature of governance

No. Warrants are a permanent feature of governance. Individual rights as a restriction against unlimited State Power is a permanent feature of governance.

Talk about language games. This guy is throwing slop.

#145 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 09:11 PM:

Brenda, "We need to protect ourselves and FISA does that."

Tell me how; I don't follow the reasoning.

#146 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 09:18 PM:

Over at Mark Kleiman's place, James Wimberly parses down to what he thinks is a reasonable amount of data mining, and FISA it ain't. I don't hold with all his argument, but I'm with him on two essential points: Give the numbers on how many are being spied on and acknowledge that non-citizens have privacy rights.

#147 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 09:44 PM:

Brenda -
Explosively pumped flux compression generator
The Russians build some of these too. Did they lose any? Were some sold on the black market? Good reason, I believe, for FISA and to make damn sure they don't fall into the wrong hands.

None of the information I was able to pull off of the fas.org or globalsecurity,org websites on HPM (High Power Microwave) weapons suggest that the Soviet Union or CIS have ever actually produced such weapons - they are vague, in fact, on whether or not we have actually produced or deployed such weapons (there are suggestions that we might have deployed e-bombs in 1991 (GW1) or in 2003 (GWII).*

It is certainly the case that we have been researching these weapons - both as offensive devices (wide-band "bombs" and narrow-band "DEMP guns") and means of defending them (beyond the well-known Faraday cage and circuit hardening), probably since the late 1940s or early 1950s (at the least, since the Starfish Prime test detonation in 1962).

The problem is that the problem is... big, and a lot of the variables are still not well known. And even if anyone has built e-bombs (of the explosive pumped or vircator type), they certainly do not fit into a beer can - or a beer keg, for that matter, at least not ones that have any kind of radius -

As with a conventional munition, a microwave munition is a "single shot" munition that has a similar blast and fragmentation radius. However, while the explosion produces a blast, the primary mission is to generate the energy that powers the microwave device. Thus, for a microwave munition, the primary kill mechanism is the microwave energy, which greatly increases the radius and the footprint by, in some cases, several orders of magnitude. For example, a 2000-pound microwave munition will have a minimum radius of approximately 200 meters, or footprint of approximately 126,000 square meters.
Global Security article on High Power Microwave munitions

- any form of non-directed energy weapon falls prey to the inverse square law. Worse, in an atmosphere, quantum absorption effects are also at play, reducing effective power at a given range even farther. The unclassified stuff is still large, bulky, inefficient, and sucks down huge amounts of power, even for the pulsed devices. Even if the classified stuff is ten times as efficient, and one tenth the size, large-scale weapons of this type are still going to be pretty big, with current technology or with foreseeable advances.

Yes, it is (barely) feasible for people with 1940s level technology to make an explosive-pumped HPM weapon. Take enough copper, and wrap it around enough toluene, and you can even get a pretty effective one - you'll need a semi to haul it, and the energy coupling will still be poor, but you'll be able to wreck merry havoc with it - once.

DEMP and HERF weapons are, in fact, a problem that we are going to have to face - and possibly sooner than later. But they are not an insoluble one, nor even a particularly drastic one - on a battlefield, they can be deadly. Against a foe with insufficient resources to rebuild infrastructure - and insufficient intelligence to keep offsite backups - they are crippling. In the short term, (to an opponent that keeps backups, and can buy new computers) they can be annoying, and even lethal in some cases (detonating one outside a hospital, for example, or knocking out sufficiently large sections of a high-speed traffic grid, for example).

But while they are dangerous - and we have not done nearly enough to harden our military - let alone civilian - command and control infrastructure against them - they are not the end of the world (until and unless you get up into the nuclear range - and detonating two or three high-yield nuclear devices over the US is something that, even today, only two countries could do - and one of them is us). They are certainly not enough to wrap all Americans and visitors to this nation in an omnipresent security mantle of continuous observation and data mining.

I'm not sure anything is, to be honest.

*In fact, most of the material I skimmed suggests that China, rather than the Soviet Union, may currently be the second most likely deployers of such weapons, after the US and UK. But how much credence to give such information is a question - many defense wanks like to portray China as the New Soviet Union, the Big Oligarchical Threat of the 21st Century.

#148 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 09:57 PM:

Brenda @ 136

Did I make an appeal to authority? Well no, I simply referred to a basic liberal arts text written by Freud and which I was taught long ago. While I am aware that there is some hostility to his ideas I did not think that this quite elementary text of his was. That assumption of mine turned out to be wrong, which leads me to believe there must be some kind of taboo about discussing him.

WADR, I was taught Dora, which is an elementary text of his.

Without weighing in on the rest of the discussion, it was among the most evil books I've ever read in my life. The man came right out and said that his patient was broken because she discussed - with her therapist - something which actually happened but which he felt that propriety should have made her keep silent about.

And then said she was insane because she left therapy.

A great deal of Freud is very controversial. It's not an authority you're going to escape scrutiny by appealing to.

#149 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 09:57 PM:

#147
I'd think that using an oil or LNG tanker as a very large FAE would be more likely and easier to do. And I know-for-a-fact that at least one study of the effects of that has been done.

#150 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 09:58 PM:

Do you know what an actual terrorist conversation will sound like?

"Hey, Fred, are you coming to the party on Saturday?"

"I wouldn't miss it. Jules is bringing the coleslaw."

"Great! Give Ethel all my love."

Rather than finding weird ex-Soviet EMP weapons, total US wiretapping will make it certain that Halliburton is never again surprised by a competitor's bid. And that's its real purpose, isn't it?

#151 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 11:23 PM:

Brenda, discussion of Freud isn't a taboo here. If it were, your post would soon look like this:

Dd mk n ppl t thrty? Wll n, smply rfrrd t bsc lbrl rts txt wrttn by Frd nd whch ws tght lng g. Whl m wr tht thr s sm hstlty t hs ds dd nt thnk tht ths qt lmntry txt f hs ws. Tht ssmptn f mn trnd t t b wrng, whch lds m t blv thr mst b sm knd f tb bt dscssng hm.

It doesn't, so you are free to mention Freud. And everyone else is free to react as they see fit.

#152 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 11:23 PM:

PJ Evans @ 149 -
I'd think that using an oil or LNG tanker as a very large FAE would be more likely and easier to do. And I know-for-a-fact that at least one study of the effects of that has been done.

It depends on what you want to do. If you want a high body count and a lot of destruction, an LNG tanker is just about the best non-nuclear weapon you can hope for.

But if you want to try and make a huge impact on an enemy - while at the same time avoiding the "We are all Americans"* effect of a massive body count, a HERF weapon against an unprepared target is a great way to hit hard without garnering massive opposition.

Think about it - if Al Qaeda had set off a large-scale HERF weapon in the middle of Wall Street on 9/11, instead of wiping the Twin Towers off the map of the City, what are the impacts?

1 - minimal loss of life. Oh, you'll kill some people - folks who are very close to the actual device when it goes off will get their neurons scrambled, people with pacemakers or undetected heart murmurs, etc. (even discounting the actual explosive impact - we'll assume for the moment that's reasonably minimal), but it will be maybe in the dozens, not the thousands (and potentially tens or hundreds of thousands).

2 - huge economic impact. Pre-911 a lot of companies - even financials - were less assiduous and paranoid about their backup schemas - while they had offsite backups, they were often not managed as well as they could be, etc. So beyond the immediate impact of losing a day or three of trading, and replacing trading floor computers, rewiring buildings, etc. etc. you've got the problem of decayed backups, backup systems that don't actually work, etc. Immediate economic impact (although diffused somewhat by economic opportunity for computer geeks, electricians, cabling experts, etc.) is high - mid-long term, as people try to recreate the Market from backups that in some cases are already bit-rot infested? Much higher.

3 - minimal sympathy for the target. Oh, in the eyes of folks tuned to the Financial Times, or CNN/FN, or what have you, this is the biggest attack since... well, in absolute dollar terms, maybe ever. But it's harder for Joe Britannia to get worked up over a bunch of Wall Street "Greed is Good" fucks losing their shirts, ey wot? Besides, it's not like many people died... (You can see this, to an extent, in the response some folks have to the mortgage crisis - it's all just funny money anyways, right?)

4 - because of 3, lower impetus (and approval) for large-scale response. It will be harder to convince people that this is a Big Crisis, because, well, only twenty people died - that crazy kid on that college campus killed more people.

The trick, of course, is to minimize the actual damage that such a weapon can do - decentralize economic and political centers of power (a hundred years ago Wall Street was a necessity. Now it's a dangerous boondoggle). Optimize backup routines and make sure they work efficiently, frequently, and smoothly. Make sure that disaster recovery locations are set up and configured for "instant on" operations. Design infrastructure to minimize impact of such weapons, make repair and replacement easy, and for systems to fail-safe whenever possible. Faraday cage construction for server rooms. etc.

But, of course, this kind of careful attention to infrastructure weaknesses and decentralization schemes isn't glamourous like super-spies who know all and see all, and giant computers that index all information gathered. The Department of Resource Hardening and Decentralization just doesn't roll off the tongue like No Such Agency does....

*not that we're likely to get such any more, thanks to eight years of political capital squandering.

#153 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 11:41 PM:

The paper I saw on using an LNG tanker as, um, a device, involved how close it was to a nuclear power plant. Possible outcomes are, as they say, left as an exercise for the reader. (I'd prefer not to find out the results in practice.)

#154 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 11:46 PM:

One thing that's crucial to me about the observation (entirely true) that we're primates: Primates vary. When it comes to sex, for instance, we have bonobos and orangutans. We have many different primate styles about violence, social organization, and everything else. Primates are not all alike, and to say "we are primates" is not to condemn us thereby to lives of inevitable misery, brutality, and isolation.

#155 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 12:14 AM:

Brenda, #113: "I believe Freud was right, culture is but a thin veneer, a mask of sanity."

Regardless of Freud's faults and virtues, we now know enough to say that that is wrong. Without culture, humans are tribal apes, not very different from chimps or bonobos, our closest evolutionary relatives. Historically, the problem with your line of argument is that policies based on it invariably make matters worse; instead of putting the smartest, most decent people in charge, the invariable result of what you argue for is that the most brutal and destructive people are instead put in charge. It is, in other words, the road right back to ape tribalism, but with advanced weapons. Consider, if you would, the possibility that there might be another road.

#156 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 12:25 AM:

Brenda #130: No ethan, you're being a jerk. Knock it off.

Exactly what I said to you to begin with, only I said it nicer the first time around. Do you get the point yet? Examine the way you use words, because they don't come out the way you claim you meant them.

Also, refer to great thinkers all you want, but to me at least you're giving the impression that you want to blow our minds us with how well-read you are. And trust me, that ain't gonna happen.

#157 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 02:13 AM:

Terry
My read that you were asking for credit seems to have been in error, forgive me, but I also still think it has an air of, "if you think that was snark, you ain't seen snark."

Could you please point out to me where I said that? Please don't put words in my mouth.

I don't really see the "humor" in saying we need a police state (or, if you prefer, a surveillance state) because people are all animals.

I didn't make a joke about a police state. Please don't put words in my mouth.

It can be done, you did it at the tail end..., "I found it useful." The authority there is you.

Interesting. I take it you've thrown off your empiricism and are a pragmatist now?

My thought on that is, where are you going t find non-monkeys?

We aren't going to of course. By fully understanding the dynamic between nature and culture we are in a better position to have the kind of life we wish. Rather than being blown around by unknown forces we barely comprehend. It's the difference between choosing a course for one's life and it choosing you.

I read his work, link to it, and quote it. I disagree with him on the inevitability of the surviellance state.

How so? If it's not enough for me to make declarative statements then the same is true for you. I've gone on at considerable length defending my position and I've repeated my main points several times. Let's hear your side.

Greg
Re: Language games etc.

I'm not playing a cynical game Greg. Though I understand that it might feel that way. I'm quite serious, language is the warp and woof of all that we know. "Reality" is that which resists symbolization.

Randolph Fritz
Regardless of Freud's faults and virtues, we now know enough to say that that [culture is but a thin veneer] is wrong. Without culture, humans are tribal apes, not very different from chimps or bonobos, our closest evolutionary relatives.

Fascinating Randolph, absolutely fascinating. Are you aware that you refute yourself almost instantly?

Allan Beatty
Re: If the subject were truly taboo I would have been disemvoweled.

I don't think you fully understand the difference between taboo and moderation policy. One can easily run afoul of the former without violating the latter.

#158 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 03:07 AM:

Terry Karney @ 132: "I'd rather have the terrorism, than the surveillance."

Yes, exactly. Except that, with pervasive government surveillance, you'd get the terrorism too--it's a common mistake to think that terrorism is something that only non-governmental entities do, or even do better. Compare Al Qaeda with the Khmer Rouge, with Stalin, with Pinochet and you might get an idea of why I'm slightly more afraid of giving the goverment the power to read my mail than of a handful of crazy, isolated fundamentalists with bombs.

Brenda @ 128: "If empiricism cannot be trusted to lead us to the "real world" then what use is it? Of what use is talking about the real truth of the world if it is not only unknowable but also unnecessary for building bridges that don't fall down or planes that fly? Truth is relative to whatever theory we happen to hold."

@ 136: "When you get down to it all we have is language. We know nothing about the world of things. All we have are our ideas and our perceptions of the world."

This is a grossly distorted reading of Quine. He wasn’t saying that we don’t know anything, and that it’s all just words, man, and all truths are equally valid. He was saying that no single thing can be proved, independent of everything else. So if you want to prove something, you have to show how it fits with everything else.

[from Wikipedia] "Instead of reductionism, Quine proposes that it is the whole field of science and not single statements that are verified. All scientific statements are interconnected. Logical laws give the relation between different statements, while they also are statements of the system."

So, no, you don’t get to make claims and then pretend like asking you for evidence is philosophically unsound. If you want to convince us that a surveillance state is inevitable and even desirable, you’re going to have to actually provide evidence of how that statement fits in with everything else that we know about the world. And no, citing Freud as your evidence that we're all a fingernail's width from reverting to some Hobbesian war of all-against-all isn't going to get you far. I read Civilization and its Discontents in college too, where I also learned how to read critically.

Civilization is equally as much a product of our instincts as it is a rejection of them. Our desires for social harmony are as much an underpinning of civilization as language is, or math or science. None of it would be possible if we weren't building upon innate desires for cooperation and hierarchy. Can you imagine a civilization of sociopaths, built from beings without sympathy or kindness? Those emotions are just as "natural" as rage, anger, or selfishness, and it shows--in any breakdown of social order, you can find plenty of stories of people committing terrible crimes, and you can find an equal number of people refusing to surrender their "civilized" virtues, even when it costs them their lives. Civilization isn't an imposition of unnatural strictures. It is a refinement and enhancement of pre-existing qualities.

When I said "here, you speak only for yourself," that is exactly what I meant. If you feel that you will "throw off your thin veneer of culture and sanity" at any moment, and that you need to be protected from yourself by constant surveillance, then I cannot argue--you know yourself better than I do. But if you are trying to imply that that is the general state of humanity, then I call bullshit. I can monitor my own behavior just fine, thank you, and so can just about everyone else I've ever met. That is one of the bedrock principles of liberalism: that given the chance people will generally protect themselves from their own worst nature, and that government's job is to help people accomplish this. The idea that people need to be protected from themselves is a view of human nature that leads inevitably to authoritarianism.

#159 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 09:46 AM:

Brenda@157: I'm not playing a cynical game Greg. Though I understand that it might feel that way. I'm quite serious, language is the warp and woof of all that we know. "Reality" is that which resists symbolization.

Of everything I posted, the supremacy of reality over language is the only thing you bother to respond to?

OK, let's play language games. Here's a word for you, "consequence". Are there any consequences to having a State with no Checks and Balances? Are there any consequences to having a State that can Search its people at any time, any place, for any type of information it wants? Because you're argument rests on the lamest handwave I've heard in a while: it doesn't have to be oppressive.

What? Are you kidding me? Sure, maybe in college, when we're staying up into the morning talking about life, the universe, and everything, someone might say, dude, if we just had a benevolent dictator the amount of government waste could be dropped to zero. Everyone would take a hit off their mind-altering drug of choice, and nod in agreement. Sure, I've had these sorts of conversations... in college, at four in the morning, while drunk.

What you've done is assert in language that there are hypothetical outcomes of a surveillance state that are not oppressive. I'll even go so far as to agree that hypothetically, with ideal people, it's possible.

What you've FAILED to do so far, is show that your hypothetical situation is more likely to occur than all the various real world abuses that have occurred in history when the State has the power to Search without restrictions.

And I can only assume it's your infatuation with language, your infatuation with maybe, possibly, it might happen that it ends up being a good thing, that you think merely asserting a hypothetical somehow overrides centuries of reality, of history showing what happens when real people in real situations have that sort of real power. And I can only assume that you think simply because you say it, that you think you get to override reality.

Well, sorry, but you've failed to prove anything about the real world here. All you've done is make some assertions about hypotheticals without any regard to real world historical data that shows other, far more uglier outcomes are much more likely.

So, what you've asserted that has yet to be grounded in reality is that (1) we always have choice in a real world surveillance state, and that (2) a surveillance state in the real world is likely to produce a non-oppressive outcome.


#160 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 11:01 AM:

"Fascinating Randolph, absolutely fascinating. Are you aware that you refute yourself almost instantly?"

No, actually. Care to explain?

#161 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 11:06 AM:

Brenda, try this on for size:

Congress is playing high-stakes poker with Bush.
They're about to draw to an inside straight, based on what he's told them.
Bush has built his entire career on lying and cheating.

Your advice to Congress is what?

#162 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 11:28 AM:

To paraphrase Captain Aubrey... "Don't you know that one must always choose the lesser of two weasels?"

#163 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 12:28 PM:

Greg
Of everything I posted, the supremacy of reality over language is the only thing you bother to respond to?

I can't possibly reply to everyone.

Are there any consequences to having a State with no Checks and Balances?

No one is proposing such a thing. You are conflating a surveillance state with a dictatorship.

What you've FAILED to do so far, is show that your hypothetical situation is more likely to occur than all the various real world abuses that have occurred in history when the State has the power to Search without restrictions.

Probably because I haven't even attempted to. What I have consistently said, over and over in this thread, is that a surveillance state is coming and that we should make sure it serves our needs. Prof. Balkin discusses the alternative types, an authoritarian and a democratic surveillance state, and goes on to talk about what is needed for the later. Questions about the likely hood of success are, in my opinion, moot. It's coming regardless of what we do, therefore we should try for a better outcome.

So, what you've asserted that has yet to be grounded in reality is that (1) we always have choice in a real world surveillance state, and that (2) a surveillance state in the real world is likely to produce a non-oppressive outcome.

I have said no such thing, neither 1 nor 2. What I have said is that we have the ability to choose now. Especially with a majority in congress and the senate. And it seems we might get a president with a brain. I see this as a golden opportunity to influence the coming surveillance state in a positive direction.

#164 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 12:28 PM:

Brenda: You are not good with the snark (re my throwing off empiricism, for pragmatism).

As to empiricism/pragmatism, I have always been a bit of both, but rejecting your use of Freud (who was as bad when he tried his hand at anthropology as he was at treating female patients, in part becuase the people he used as source material were wrong... you were right, he's not controverial, he is, to quote an anthropolgist of my acquaintance [yes, an appeal to authority, though if you like she can join us], "completely debunked) doesn't make me a pragmatist.

What getting your experience, as the modifier (instead of saying there's no controversy; which local facts show to not be true) does is make it possible to deal with Freud, and you, and what it is you think valuable.

Instead we have to waste time arguing about the myth of Freud the taboo (another rhetorical trick which is, IMO, poor use of language; we are talking about him, we were talking about him before. You are not bravely bucking the powers that be/of gross denial of obvius truth, which is how that, in my experience, plays out. THe pragmatic course would be to abandon talking about how much we can't talk about it, and actually argue your case, not the meta-case of local culture preventing you, but I digress).

I didn't put words in your mouth. I told you the impression your words gave me. No, you didn't make a joke about a police state, per se. You made a joke which was meant to justify the arguments for a police state (can't trust monkeys with lazers).

As for our sides, you aren't looking, I've said the surveillance state will create more signal than noise (example, the Stasi of the DDR). I've said the potential for abuse is great (pick a state, any state, and show me the lack of abuse of police powers) and then said (which you agreed with) the better answer isn't surveillance, but local policing with accountability. Imputing that all I have done is make a declarative statement is either a lack of attention, or a willing mistatement.

For someone claiming language is all we have (which I disagree with, see comments above about that, said better than I am likley to) you seem pretty casual about it's use, and (as Greg has said) a bit sloppy in how/what you respond to.

As a rule, the more frequent commenters here tend to be fairly careful in what they write; we like language here. Being sloppy with it, esp. in argument, is one of those cultural things which doesn't go over well.

#165 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 12:38 PM:

Brenda: re this congres: I said it before... This congress, this senate, didn't have to bring this forward. They did it at the behest of this administration.

Based on the evidence of this adminstrations past behavior... that's a bad bet. Worse than a blunder, it's a mistake. This administration has broken the laws as they were (and admits it, even boasts that it intends to keep doing it).

Those are not the people to whom one hands more power. Wait six months, a new congress, and a new president. Then look at the issues.

That, is precisely what you say we need to do. Accept the, inevitable, surveillance state, and bend it to our will. Well, if that's what we have to do, THIS bill isn't the one I want, because THIS bill isn't accountable to the people, but rather lays an even stronger foundation for the auhtoritarian state (see above, about how it cuts out warrants, in lieu of affadavits, from the cops, that the cops are doing it by the book... nothing to see here move along; we'll police ourselves and see to it no abuses take place).

You have yet to make an argument about the real goods this will do, instead we get bon mots about monkeys and lazers, and vague worries about movie plot weapons.

#166 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 01:04 PM:

Brenda, read the ad here (assuming the server-squirrels are working), then tell us again how wonderful this piece-o-crap bill is.

#167 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 01:40 PM:

heresiarch
Except that, with pervasive government surveillance, you'd get the terrorism too

It doesn't have to be that way. As noted above Prof. Balkin distinguishes between and authoritarian and a democratic surveillance state. Along with prescriptions for getting the latter.

This is a grossly distorted reading of Quine. He wasn’t saying that we don’t know anything, and that it’s all just words, man, and all truths are equally valid.

I know. That phrase of mine is more like Berkeley than Quine. But even there you are grossly exaggerating me. I'm not saying that we cannot know anything worth knowing. I'm saying that the mistake that positivists often make is to confuse our descriptions of the world for the world. That the physical and mathematical laws we have created in order to explain our perceptual experiences are not Nature's own language. The Real is located beyond whatever our symbolic representation of it might be. It is undifferentiated and exists outside of language. The very process of signification introduces a cut or a scar in the real. It is the world of words that creates the world of things.

If you want to convince us that a surveillance state is inevitable and even desirable, you’re going to have to actually provide evidence of how that statement fits in with everything else that we know about the world.

This is a blog so no, I don't have to provide a detailed thesis publication for every single thing I say. What I have done from the beginning is to provide links to scholarly materials with which I am in substantial agreement with. I feel that is more than adequate.

Civilization isn't an imposition of unnatural strictures. It is a refinement and enhancement of pre-existing qualities.

If you want to convince me that a civilization is just a refinement and enhancement of pre-existing qualities, you’re going to have to actually provide evidence of how that statement fits in with everything else that we know about the world. Thanks.

Sorry, I'm being flip. More seriously, I didn't say that civilization is the imposition of unnatural strictures. Neither does Freud. Have you ever been hungry? I mean really hungry with no sure knowledge that you won't starve. Hungry enough to eat out of a garbage can and be thankful for the privilege. That drive is always there. It's in you right now structuring your behavior. The only reason that you don't do that is because you don't have to. But if things really truly got desperate you'll grab a spoon and start rutting around in no time. In fact, you'll kill anyone who threatens to take your garbage can away from you. That's what I'm talking about.

#168 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 01:55 PM:

Brenda, how about coming down from the clouds and back to earth? There's no air up there, anyway.

This is not theory we're discussing here, it's the real world, snd you seem to be missing that.

(By the way, Kit Bond (R-show-me-the-money) says theis is essentially the same piece-o-crap bill the Senate turned down last time.)

#169 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 02:20 PM:

Terry
you were right, he's not controverial, he is, to quote an anthropolgist of my acquaintance [yes, an appeal to authority, though if you like she can join us], "completely debunked)

This strikes me as unfair. If the standards here are that all appeals to authority are disallowed then I'm going to have to reject it. You are not permitted to do the very things I am not permitted to do. Nor do I consider an anthropologist to be a proper authority on psychoanalysis. That's a lot like the physicist Dyson critiquing climatology.

I didn't put words in your mouth. I told you the impression your words gave me. No, you didn't make a joke about a police state, per se. You made a joke which was meant to justify the arguments for a police state (can't trust monkeys with lazers).

More mind reading. The joke I made was not intended to justify a police state. Frankly, I'm pretty God Damned pissed off at your constant attempts to tell me what I think and how I feel. Please stick to what I actually say and do not insert your interpretation as if it were my own.

What you said:
I also still think it has an air of, "if you think that was snark, you ain't seen snark."

You quote me as saying something that in fact I never said. You compound your error by claiming that this is what I really meant. In the future I will thank you to not manufacture false quotes about me and if you need to know what it is I think or feel you may ask me.

As for our sides, you aren't looking

I'm having a hard time getting past the general disrespect for interpersonal boundaries. Stop telling me what I think and how I feel and maybe we'll get somewhere.

#170 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 02:42 PM:

PJ
This is not theory we're discussing here

I've already said that I'll take a better FISA if I can get it. I have even admitted that I could have been wrong and have expressed my own doubts about accepting the compromise vs fighting for a better one. However I don't think the compromise was necessarily that bad. The reason is that the 4th amendment was circumvented long ago anyway and, like prof. Balkin, I have my doubts on the ability of congress to provide oversight. Simply as a pragmatic matter of procedure it will be very difficult. Therefore it might be better for the executive to issue letters and to then put in place transparency and accountability. That is the gist of his paper i.e. that we watch the watchers (and make damn sure that we do). So no, I'm not quite as upset about it as others.

#171 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 03:58 PM:

Brenda #170:

Have you read any of David Brin's writings on the transparent society? He has the idea (badly summarizing his ideas--I've read some stuff by him, but not his book on this topic) that widespread surveillance is inevitable as a result of technology, and that the best that can be done is to make sure that everyone is under the surveillance of everyone else. He would (I think) see the alternative to this as everyone under surveillance of a powerful few, who can use the power inherent in that surveillance to do all kinds of nasty things. I am not convinced by what I've seen of his argument, but it does lead to a better endpoint than a straight surveillance state.

#172 ::: sherrold ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 03:59 PM:

Mostly I'm just here to agree vigorously (and verbosely, of course) with Terry @132 I'd rather have the terrorism, than the surveillance. and P J Evans @ 133 the danger from terrorism in this country is a lot lower than the current administration wants you to believe.

I only just realized that during the nineties, more than twelve hundred people were killed in terror attacks in Egypt. That's in an intensively surveilled (and secret police'd) state. Compared to that, our lives are so safe! I can't imagine living like that with weekly attacks -- in a state that (nominally at least) isn't at war, not even a civil war. (This is from a fascinating June 2nd New Yorker article by Lawrence Wright -- which says, among other things, "Indeed, nearly eighty per cent of Al Qaeda’s members in Afghanistan were killed in the final months of 2001."
Thud goes my heart.
If only we hadn't invaded Iraq. If only there was some way to undo the last 6 years.)

Back to Brenda @ 89; back to where we started this thread:
And there is a real need to modernize FISA.

No, there isn't. There isn't a single reason this bill needs to pass now. There isn't anything expiring that we need. There isn't any capability that our government is in danger without. There is no reason we shouldn't wait to pass a new FISA bill until we have 5-10 more Democrats in the Senate, and a Democratic President. And if I can see that, I know Obama can see that.

And I get that there are all sorts of reasons why he can't tell us what his reasons are. But that just leaves me with three choices:
a) he's an idiot
b) he's a knave
c) the world is a shitty place, and there's no way for a citizen to have any idea what's really going on any more.

I don't even want to play a game where those are my choices. So I work to make more choices possible, whereever I can.

#173 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 04:03 PM:

Brenda at 170, I am also less upset than other people seem to be, mostly because I had no real expectation that Congress was going to fight the Bush administration on this one; i.e. I expected to lose this battle. However, I remain troubled -- I hope that in losing this particular battle we have not lost the war.

Here's some of what the NYT editorial said about this bill today. "It would make it much easier to spy on Americans at home, reduce the courts’ powers and grant immunity to the companies that turned over Americans’ private communications without a warrant. It would allow the government to bypass the FISA court and collect large amounts of Americans’ communications without a warrant simply by declaring that it is doing so for reasons of national security. It cuts the vital “foreign power” provision from FISA, never mentions counterterrorism and defines national security so broadly that experts think the term could mean almost anything a president wants it to mean. The real reason this bill exists is because Mr. Bush decided after 9/11 that he was above the law. When The Times disclosed his warrantless eavesdropping, Mr. Bush demanded that Congress legalize it after the fact."

You may be right that this bill is necessary for national security reasons -- but I'm way skeptical. A different bill could have responded to national security issues and still held the telecoms and the administration accountable. It's very clear to me, the Bush administration has to have this version to protect itself, and that's why Congress, spineless as they are, is passing it.

#174 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 04:21 PM:

Lizzy L, over at Emptywheel's place, the question was 'are they trying to change the Constitution without an amendment?' which does seem to be exactly what they're trying to do. And they ought to know better. [supply your own deleted expletives here]

I hope they get Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, and Hancock beating them up in their dreams every night.

#175 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 04:39 PM:

PJ: sure... And given the makeup of the SC, there's no way we can rely on the Courts to intervene. Screwed.

#176 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 04:51 PM:

Lizzy, #173: the missing piece is that Congress is probably also protecting itself, or at least some influential members--that's why it rolled over and did something really unpopular. The real question in my mind, now, is how long before the general public really begins to feel that they're the subjects of universal surveillance, and when is it going to dawn that it's not making them safe.

#177 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 04:57 PM:

Marat we're poor
And the poor stay poor
Marat don't make
Us wait anymore
We want our rights and we don't care how
We want our revolution -- now...

#178 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 05:24 PM:

sherrold @ 172: If only there was some way to undo the last 6 years.

The last 8.

Please.

#179 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 06:49 PM:

albatross @171: Have you read any of David Brin's writings on the transparent society?

I recall some of it in his novel Earth. Set about 50 years in the future, an ethos has evolved that various resources and databases must permit public access. I.e., the CIA can still put up the spy satellites, but Greenpeace (or anyone else) has access to the live feeds to monitor industrial pollution. The credit card companies can still collect consumer info, but those databases are open and the data can be easily seen and contested if in error.

He claims he came up with this notion looking for an event that few people would have predicted in the next fifty years. Just as in 1900 few people would have expected World Wars I & II (concluding with atomic weapons), his story had as a history, a global war against Switzerland, culminating with the nuking of the Alps and a diaspora of the surviving Swiss as boat people.

Having decided on the shocking historical event, his rationale was this transparency ethos took root, Switzerland was reluctant to abandon its traditional banking practices, and by the time they realized the depth of the resulting anger, it was too late.

I prefer this to the surveillance society we're getting, where the government can spy on us without any notice, but we're not allowed to know what the government is up to. Let's be even-handed: cameras to cover Supreme Court proceedings, cabinet meetings, and no secret energy task force meetings allowed.

#180 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 07:35 PM:

One of the sure effects of support for immunity from both Democrats and Republicans is confidence on the part of telecom companies that, no matter what the written law says, they will never be held liable for breaking the law if they obey the administration. (By contrast, they may well face some serious consequences if they disobey the administration.) This fits with a broad trend to use private companies to do domestic surveillance in ways that dodges FOIA laws and legal challenges. This sets a kind of precedent that says that the surveillance agencies will protect their friends, even if they step past the limits set by the law. It's hard to imagine a worse precedent being set.

#181 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 08:13 PM:

I now see my mistake. I should have quoted a SciFi author. I would have gotten a free pass.

#182 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 08:29 PM:

I should have quoted a SciFi author. I would have gotten a free pass.

Depends which one. Some of them know what they're talking about, when it comes to sociology and politics. Some don't.

Boojum?

#183 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 08:46 PM:

Brenda

Quoting authors is not the point. Anyone can quote an author.
Understanding what the author meant is the point.
You appear to be trying really hard not to understand this.

#184 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 09:09 PM:

On FISA, the one last best hope--small as it could be-- is The Bingaman Amendment. If you could call your senator first thing tomorrow, it could be helpful.

If the telecom companies really didn't do wrong, and really didn't install boxes capable of reading several million simultaneous communications, and really did things legally, then why not establish it before giving them a pardon? Let the Inspector General inspect.

As Greenwald says:
"The rationale behind the amendment is clear and simple: namely, members of Congress, the vast majority of whom know virtually nothing about what the telecoms did, shouldn't grant immunity unless they know what this illegal spying program entailed. If the IG Report reveals that the program (even though illegal) was devoted to a benign and proper purpose, then Congress (if it is so inclined) can grant immunity then. But if the IG Report reveals the spying program to be something other than what the President and the telecoms claim it to be -- if it entails far more invasive surveillance of Americans or was abused for improper purposes -- then immunity would obviously be wildly inappropriate."

And whatever happens, consider giving a blog shout-out and a financial donation to the EFF. Their 30-month-long court battle is why Congress wants to give telco's a pardon. If even the president can't stop you, and it takes an act of Congress, you have to be good.

#185 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 10:00 PM:

In the More Irony Than We Really Need Department: a bipartisan study group in Washington chaired by James Baker (yes, that one -- why, did you think he was dead?) and Warren Christopher (yes, he's alive too!) have proposed that Congress pass a law requiring that before the President takes the country to war, he must get Congress's okay.

Just like Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution says.

#186 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 10:04 PM:

Sorry, it's better than that. He doesn't have to ask in an emergency. (Like, maybe, a terrorist attack....?) That sound you hear is my mind, boggling.

#187 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 10:40 PM:

Lizzy L, I looked at that, saw that it only requires permission if they expect the military action to last more than 7 days, and wondered what universe they live in.
Because you can nuke a country in a lot less time than that, and under the proposed law, the Preznit wouldn't have to ask Congress for permission. (And, if it was someone like Shrub or Cheney, probably wouldn't even tell Congress first.)

I was just giving DiFi a piece of my mind for her robomail on FISA which is, top to bottom, BS. Then I went over to Obama's site and gave him another piece of it. I expect better from Senators than lies and more lies, and oathbreaking on top of the lies. I was, however, reasonably poite. The worst word I used to either was 'bullshit'. Correction: 'BULLSHIT'.
(I don't know: is it really rude to refer to DiFi as 'madam'? that is, without an 'e' on the end? Do you think she knows the difference?)

#188 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 10:43 PM:

PJ -- Whom am I not understanding?

The problem with the Bingaman amendment is that Bush will probably stuff his toadies into the process. You see, you can never really win in politics. Never, ever, ever. Why? Because there are other people in the world who do not share your/our ideas about how things should be. Even a petty tyrant like Mugabe doesn't get all he wants.

This is insanely frustrating to the ego. Which is why I got such a harsh reaction when I suggested that perhaps a compromise was not evil incarnate. Politicians are unfairly criticized I think. What they do demands a careful considerate even plodding kind of person. They only get what they want in fits and dribbles. The current admin is quite the exception.

#189 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 11:09 PM:

Brenda, you come across as a 20-something philosophy major, who still believes that all the answers are in those books.
Those books are theory, not the real world.
This is the real world: messy, contradictory, and not conforming to theories about what goes on inside people's minds.

Do you write poetry?

#190 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 11:33 PM:

Brenda #169: Stop telling me what I think and how I feel and maybe we'll get somewhere.

And again you repeat what I said to you to begin with, in ruder terms. Apply your own advice to yourself. Thanks.

#188: Which is why I got such a harsh reaction when I suggested that perhaps a compromise was not evil incarnate.

No, you got a harsh reaction because people tried to engage you in conversation and you acted like a child who wasn't being given any ice cream.

Lizzy L #173: I hope that in losing this particular battle we have not lost the war.

That's my big fear, as well. The Bush administration was blatant enough in its crimes that I thought we might finally get some kind of investigation into what the hell goes on in Washington. And I've been watching every opening for that investigation get systematically closed, one after another, and I worry that this might be the last.

#191 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 11:41 PM:

PJ's attempt at mind reading -- fail! The Amazing Randi is safe from you. (This is a joke, you know, that just kidding thing? So please don't run around with your hair on fire, kay?)

You didn't answer the question. You tell me I didn't understand someone, I ask who, you wander off mumbling how I don't understand books aren't like the real world...

#192 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 12:37 AM:

Brenda 169: Did somebody call for an anthropologist? Not that this needs a particularly good one; this is fairly basic stuff.

This strikes me as unfair.

Does it?

If the standards here are that all appeals to authority are disallowed then I'm going to have to reject it. You are not permitted to do the very things I am not permitted to do. Nor do I consider an anthropologist to be a proper authority on psychoanalysis.

Psychoanalysis takes place between a therapist and a patient. On the matter of Freud's theories on psychoanalysis, I am not even an improper authority.

As soon as he starts talking about cultures and societies, on the other hand ... he's out of his field. And in mine.

Yes, I have read, and studied, quite a lot of Freud, most intensively Totem and Taboo, Moses and Monotheism, and Civilisation And Its Discontents. Under Naomi Goldenberg, with whose extensive writings on Freud you are doubtless familiar.

The study of psychology is the study of individuals within society. As soon as Freud gets into cultures and societies and how they function and mis-function, he's doing Anthropology and Sociology.

And the theories you are leaning on are his theories on culture, and yes, they are debunked. Extensively and some time ago.

Freud had effectively no experience of cultures outside the West. His psychoanalytic theory, whatever one thinks of it, and I remain agnostic, came from his own direct clinical experiences.

His theories about culture were amateur and armchair. Not only have I read him, I've read his sources. He relied extensively on Durkheim -- particularly on his work on Australian Aborigines, see Elementary Forms -- and Fraser, and to a lesser degree on Marx, all three of whom were themselves armchair: Durkheim and Fraser developed their theories by looking at whatever they could find about other cultures from what sources were available, which was mostly explorers, travellers, and soldiers -- nothing wrong with explorers, travellers and soldiers, but there's a deal wrong with assuming that everything they saw was everything there was to be seen, and Marx largely developed his theories of culture by beginning with his own experiences and extrapolating outwards with the aid of accounts by others.

So, yes. Freud on culture has been debunked, once, for all, and beyond saving. It's not that his theories are outre or even that they are outdated -- it is that his data was corrupt -- in the technical sense -- and can be shown to have been corrupt.

If you want to use Freud's theories about the effects of cultural and social constraints on the psychology of the individual, that's certainly a valid form of engagement.

But if you're going to try to use his admittedly fascinating and creative handwaving about the effects of individual psychology on society and culture to prop up anything but a bookcase -- Moses and Monotheism is, btw, an excellent size for this -- well. No.

And I promise not to try to tell you what you are thinking. I haven't the faintest idea what you are thinking, and am happy to admit it.

#193 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 12:58 AM:

Brenda, your arguments aren't doing any more for you here than they did at Pharyngula.

Do you knit? crochet? do anything other than read dead philosophers?

#194 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 01:09 AM:

A simple set of analyses and proposals:

No change to the FISA laws is needed at this time, at least not for any reason cited by the administration. Everything lawful they seek is already covered; the rest should be resisted.

From a civil libertarian viewpoint, the laws governing surveillance should in fact be tightened substantially, with a lot more mandatory reporting and harsher criteria for acceptance of surveillance requests.

But that's not going to happen this term.

What the administration seeks is bad from head to toe, with no good in it. The proper sensible thing to do would be to oppose it altogether. Compromise is just settling for whittling away at some constitutional rights and restraints rather than stabbing them through the heart.

Nonetheless, compromise is going to happen, unless complete capitulation happens instead.

Therefore, the practical thing for lovers of law and liberty to do is to encourage every sign of opposition, to support only those compromises that support authority outside the executive branch, and to show that there's money as well as voices in favor of being better stewards of the Constitution.

And that's my pragmatic reading of the situation.

#195 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 01:41 AM:

Did somebody call for an anthropologist?

Oh oh, they brought in a ringer. Ima gonna get pwnd now.

And I promise not to try to tell you what you are thinking.

That is reassuring. You know Marna you didn't really say a whole lot. Do you know why or in what context it was that I referred to "Civilization And Its Discontents"? Well you see there was this big argument about whether this thing called "the surveillance state" was inevitable or not. I was second guessing on why it might be that security types would feel a need for greater security in a world of over population, ubiquitous communication, exponential technological innovation, global pandemics, terrorism, climate change etc.

So what I said was:
given enough people and the right circumstances and that primitive nature will rise up. I believe Freud was right, culture is but a thin veneer, a mask of sanity. It doesn't take a whole lot for people, left or right, to tear that off and show their true nature. Like for instance no longer being able to afford to heat your home, or feed your family. This winter is going to be.... interesting.

That is, under the kind of extreme stresses above, the social order might have a tendency to break down and that therefore this might be a valid reason for security concerns.

Is there something wrong with that? Are you saying that under duress societies do not experience a break down in the social order. You know, looting, rape, murder, psychological trauma, hysteria, mob behavior etc. And just to be clear. I know perfectly well that much of Freud has been depreciated these days. But things hardly ended with him. There has been a good deal of revision, correction, reinterpretation, recontextualization and so on. I just didn't want to bring up the whole post-modern bugaboo just to make one little point. I simply thought that here was something that we might have in common that I can point to.

I also said this:
Our instinctual imperatives are at odds with the demands of civilization.

That is, there is a fundamental conflict, an antagonism, between my basic needs for survival and the demands of civilized society.

Again, is there a problem with that? It seems unremarkable to me. Why else do we have laws?

BTW, this caught my eye:
But if you're going to try to use his admittedly fascinating and creative handwaving about the effects of individual psychology on society and culture to prop up anything but a bookcase

Where does civilization come from if not from the collective actions of the individuals who comprise that society? So wouldn't understanding how people work help us to understand human culture? wouldn't psychoanalysis be one tool that might prove helpful?

#196 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 01:48 AM:

PJ
your arguments aren't doing any more for you here than they did at Pharyngula.

The behavior of the Pharyngulites was beyond despicable. Are you proud of how you all behaved PJ? Because if you really wanted to hurt me, you did. You hurt me pretty bad. Do you get off on that?

#197 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 01:49 AM:

I'm still stuck on a couple of basic assertions here:

a surveillance state is inevitable,

First of all, it's becoming abundantly clear to me that if Brenda is going to use this term, she needs to define it with far more clarity than she has thus far. Is a surveillance state simply an information state? A state based on bits and data and what not? And the constitutional checks against state use of this technology is still in place. Or is a surveillance state specifically talking about removing constitutional checks against state power?

If surveillance state is some weird synonym for "information age", sure, I'll go along with the idea that it's already here. But if "surveillance state" brings along with it some trojan horse assumptions that say we must give up constitutional checks against state power, someone needs to back it the hell up and start with agreed upon premises, present a logical argument, and prove that conclusion.


indeed it is here now,

This doesn't even make sense given the ambiguity of what a "surveillance state is.

and that we should accept that

Also doesn't make sense given the ambiguity of the definition so far.

and shape it to our needs.

Someone needs to explain this in concrete terms. Does this mean we get to shape and control the checks against State power?

If we don't get to control the checks against state power, how, exactly does one shape the way the state uses its powers for Search and Seizure if not though constitutional checks against state power?

Do we "shape" it by using baseball bats? Revolution? Do we roll over and just let it happen until we're so fed up with it that we put on the Guy Fawkes masks and have percussive party?

A surveillance state need not be an oppressive thing.

Weirdly enough, I still don't know what this means. What is oppressive, exactly? Normally, I would define it as a function of what individual rights are guaranteed to the citizenry and can be exercised and which have been taken away. Rights against undue Search and Seizure being one. Right to Free Speech, Religion, Press, and so on, being another. The right to dissent, the right to redress our grievances, the right to due process.

If a law takes away the individual right to be free from unreasonable Search and Seizure, if it takes away Free Speech because of the fear that wide mouth searches will create, if people cannot dissent, if people cannot get the government to redress their grievances regarding these unreasonable searches...

then what in the hell is left that keeps it from being oppressive? Pictures of unicorns?

Specific measurable things here. Not just language games. Bob can do this. Alice can't do that. and why that isn't oppressive.

We have a choice.

Exactly how does on exercise this choice? Does one write their representiatives if they find a law relating to search adn seizures to be unreasonable? Does one get a redress of grievances? Does one publicly speak out against these sorts of laws and dissent?

Or is there some unicorn pictures that I look at until I get a nice warm feelgood feeling about the way my government has turned out?

Again, specific measurable actions here. What does Bob do to exercise his choice around the surveillence state. How does Bob choose to not have it be a suppressive state? What sorts of things does he do?

Brenda seems to be so far off into the field of langauge that all these terms could mean just about anything, or just about nothing, when you try to apply them in the real world. I need it to be made more concrete.

#198 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 01:51 AM:

re the antropologist: I told you what I was doing. I'll tell her you want a detailed explication (which I, up front offered. In other words, I didn't say something was uncontroversial, and then claim the local polity was repressing me when their is, in fact, controversy)

Nor do I consider an anthropologist to be a proper authority on psychoanalysis.

When your psychatrist is spouting anthropology, an anthropologist is most certainly justified. Unless you are giving him a free pass because he was working outside his discipline.

Brenda: read what I say, and stop putting words in my mouth, and thoughts in my brain. I am telling you the effect your words are having on me. If you want to be pragmatic the empiric evidence of my, consistent, interpretaion of your means and meanings might warrant a change. If you like you can go over to Got it in one and look at the posts I put up on Communications - Theory (where I am not appealing to any authority, as it's something I know, really well).

I am not quoting you, I very clearly say it is something I see, "as an air of," with the quotation marks to define the sense of it being a mood, a sense of what it meant.

If you will read what I say, instead of turning my statements about me into allegations about you, (and how in the world my telling you what effect your words are having on me is a violation of interpersonal boundaries... coming from someone who told ethan to shut up, it's a little rich).

Better to read the arguments I make, before telling me I have been derelict in something you claim (just upthread of this) you are not obliged to do. You might get a little more of the respect you don't seem to understand you've gotten.

#199 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 01:53 AM:

Brenda @ 167: "I'm not saying that we cannot know anything worth knowing. I'm saying that the mistake that positivists often make is to confuse our descriptions of the world for the world."

No, what you’re doing is using metaphysics to cut the ground out from under the people who disagree with you. When someone argued that Freud is wrong, you tossed out Quine as a defense, claiming that because Freud helps you create a model of the world that you find useful, criticizing Freud or your world view is philosophically impossible. You’re arguing for a kind of ontological relativism, wherein the only judgment that matters is the individual’s opinion. But that isn’t what Quine was saying: he was saying that given equal explanatory power, different models of the world would be equally valid. But we’re not arguing that your view of the world is wrong because it's different, we’re arguing that your model of the world is wrong because it doesn’t explain things as well. It’s fine to disagree with that, but you still have to prove how your model provides a better explanation of the world than ours does. This you haven’t done.

"This is a blog so no, I don't have to provide a detailed thesis publication for every single thing I say."

True, you don’t. But if you want us to agree with you, you do have to convince us, and we are theones who decide whether your arguments are adequate. So far, you haven't had much success. This failure may have something to do with your style of argument.

Let’s take a look back, shall we?

Me @ 107: "Your entire argument reads like you've bought into the idea that people are animals who need to be protected from their own worse instincts. That's not a liberal argument. That's an authoritarian argument."

You @ 113: "Well you could be right….But... we are monkeys (yes I know, primates) and given enough people and the right circumstances and that primitive nature will rise up. I believe Freud was right, culture is but a thin veneer, a mask of sanity. It doesn't take a whole lot for people, left or right, to tear that off and show their true nature."

Me @ 114: "Here, you speak only for yourself."

You @ 115: "come on, this is pretty basic stuff. We are primates. Our instinctual imperatives are at odds with the demands of civilization. A lot of social antagonisms flow from that basic reality….This is nearly 100 years old by one of the most important thinkers since Nietzsche. It's really quite uncontroversial by now and should be included in any introductory course in the liberal arts."

P J Evans @ 119: "Brenda, it isn't that people here are squicked by Freud, it's that so much of his theory is just plain wrong."

You @ 128: "Let me introduce you to W.V.O. Quine's "Two Dogmas"….What this means is that you and I might disagree on the validity of some truth claim and yet there could easily be no possible observation that could tells us who was right. …Truth is relative to whatever theory we happen to hold."

"This brings me back to your claim that Freud's theories are false. No, emphatically, they are not. He was of course not perfect and pre-scientific. But I find the ideas of Freud as well as those of Lacan and Žižek, to be extremely helpful to me in understanding and explaining the world around me. As well as my own inner world."

Terry Karney @ 132: "We rejected your appeal to authority."[*]

You @ 136: "Did I make an appeal to authority? Well no, I simply referred to a basic liberal arts text written by Freud and which I was taught long ago. While I am aware that there is some hostility to his ideas I did not think that this quite elementary text of his was….It is not possible anyway not to make some kind of an appeal to authority.[**] It cannot be done.… When you get down to it all we have is language. We know nothing about the world of things. All we have are our ideas and our perceptions of the world."

Me @ 158: "So, no, you don’t get to make claims and then pretend like asking you for evidence is philosophically unsound. If you want to convince us that a surveillance state is inevitable and even desirable, you’re going to have to actually provide evidence of how that statement fits in with everything else that we know about the world."

So, to recap: when I disagreed with your view of the world, you brought up Freud, who, as it turns out, I also disagree with. So then you bring up Quine, who I agree with, but who isn’t saying what you think said he is saying. Through it all, you show a surprising anger at the idea that we want you to do something more than cite other people's arguments and tell us to stop criticizing you. The only argument I've seen you offer here for the inevitability of a surveillance state is that it flows logically from Freud's view of humanity. All the other arguments have been meta-arguments about the politeness or appropriateness of that first argument. Maybe that's why you've had no luck convincing anyone that a surveillance state might be inevitable/desirable: you haven't spent much time trying.

*By the way: we didn't reject your appeal to authority because appeals to authority are taboo. We rejected it because we don't agree with your authority. Appeals to authority are only as strong as the authority being appealed. MLK will get you further than Jesse Helms, f'rex.

**Stand in awe of the self-contradiction happening after a single paragraph right there.

#200 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 02:35 AM:

heresiarch: *By the way: we didn't reject your appeal to authority because appeals to authority are taboo. We rejected it because we don't agree with your authority. Appeals to authority are only as strong as the authority being appealed. MLK will get you further than Jesse Helms, f'rex.

Thank you. I failed to make that clarification; it might have served me well later to have done so, and it's important to keep in mind.

#201 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 02:49 AM:

Oh oh, they brought in a ringer. Ima gonna get pwnd now.

..."NOW?"

You know Marna you didn't really say a whole lot.

Nope.

As I am enjoined not to guess at what you are thinking, kindly explicate what else you were wanting. An explanation of what "falsifiable" means?

Do you know why or in what context it was that I referred to "Civilization And Its Discontents"?

I know in what context. As for why, that's between you and your theories. Am I to understand that if people understood you, they'd agree with you?

Well you see there was this big argument about whether this thing called "the surveillance state" was inevitable or not. I was second guessing on why it might be

Goodness. Was there?

It's an interesting guess, but the data does not support you.

given enough people and the right circumstances and that primitive nature will rise up.

And that's where you first went wrong. Because one of the things that Freud and his sources are, in fact, dead wrong about, is that whole Primitive Nature/Primal Hoarde schtick.

I believe Freud was right, culture is but a thin veneer, a mask of sanity.

Freud was dead wrong. His error followed naturally from his method: he dealt with individuals, mostly disordered ones, self-reporting on their relationship, as individuals, with their surroundings. You might look at Peter Berger's work on Social Reality for a good discussion of how physical reality, individual humans, and social realities interact and continually alter one another.

"Culture" is the first thing human beings in groups generate, the very second their immediate physical needs are met. People get one meal ahead, they start writing songs. Two meals and a change of clothes ahead, they're embroidering their shirts. A nice solid roof that will last out the winter and they'll invent a form of government and start planning to build a church.

It doesn't take a whole lot for people, left or right, to tear that off and show their true nature.

Nonsense. People starve for culture, in the sense we are using the word. They go cold for it. They suffer considerable physical pain and emotional anguish for it. They leave perfectly nice houses to go to where people are cold and hungry and unsheltered. They leave perfectly peaceful countries to join armies and be shot at in conditions of considerable discomfort. They take the food that is inadequate for their own immediate needs, tear it in pieces, and hand it to children.

Is there something wrong with that? Are you saying that under duress societies do not experience a break down in the social order.I just didn't want to bring up the whole post-modern bugaboo just to make one little point. I simply thought that here was something that we might have in common that I can point to.

... oops?

I also said this:

Our instinctual imperatives are at odds with the demands of civilization.

That is, there is a fundamental conflict, an antagonism, between my basic needs for survival and the demands of civilized society.

Again, is there a problem with that?

Yes. It's wrong. "Civilised society", i.e. culture, is fundamental to human survival and the drive to form cooperating groups of ever increasing complexity is one of the strongest "instinctual imperatives' we possess.

It seems unremarkable to me. Why else do we have laws?

Laws, customs, mores, rules... because we generate them. Obsessively. Instinctually. Invariably. Which I think you will find tends to suggest that the 'thin veneer' argument is, well, cracked.

Where does civilization come from if not from the collective actions of the individuals who comprise that society?

See reference to Berger, above: of course that is one place that it comes from, but it remains the case that if you want to know where it is going, you can't start with a finite group of individuals, analyze them in detail as individuals, and extrapolate to generate a model that tells you when you need to know, because what we experience as our individual selves isn't all of us by a long shot. We are also our position and function in the group and our position in an relationship to physical reality. We are not the only generators of the stories we tell ourselves about who and what we are, much as we like to think it.

So wouldn't understanding how people work help us to understand human culture? wouldn't psychoanalysis be one tool that might prove helpful?

Certainly. Used properly. Which is not as a tool for understanding how societies and large groups within them handle large-group interactions and environmental stressors.

#202 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 03:24 AM:

Greg
if Brenda is going to use this term, she needs to define it with far more clarity than she has thus far.

I have given you all you need. See 139 above

Terry
I am telling you the effect your words are having on me.

I can assure you that it is absolutely impossible for me to make you or anyone feel anything through words. This is a very basic tenet that any psychotherapist will tell you. Other people cannot make you feel things (without physical contact of course).

heresiarch
we’re not arguing that your view of the world is wrong because it's different, we’re arguing that your model of the world is wrong because it doesn’t explain things as well.

Who decides what is valid explaination? You see, that is kind of a large impasse right there that you just gloss on over like it isn't even there. You aren't going to be able to paper over this as easily as you think.

What exactly is "my model" or at least what you understand it to be? If you look at my reply to Marna at 195 you'll see what I think is a good summary of what I've been trying to say. At least in regard to that one particular point. Is there anything in comment 195 that you find highly objectionable?

we are theones who decide whether your arguments are adequate.

And I get to decide whether your replies are sufficient. Would this be an appeal to authority? Is that permitted now or only for you?

Through it all, you show a surprising anger

I'm angry? This is news to me. You know, reading back I'm impressed with how calm and collected I am though most of this. I got angry once at comment 169. Other than that I don't see any that contain words one might usually associate with anger.

The only argument I've seen you offer here for the inevitability of a surveillance state is that it flows logically from Freud's view of humanity.

No, I did not make that argument. Here is what I said at 113

Yes you have. We're just talking ya know. Someone asked why there would be a perceived need for a security state. Off the top of my head those are a few things I can think of why. They don't have to be good reasons, it's not like our government is sane you know. I was not trying to say "these are reasons why we should spy on everyone right now". They were just examples or... maybe pointers is a better word.

Do I sound angry? Am I trying to say that a surveillance state flows logically from Freud's view of humanity? As far as offering an argument on the inevitability of a surveillance state I started to at 105. That seemed to freak a lot of people out. But again at 139 I provide a link and a summary and an invitation to read Prof. Balkin's paper. Said paper gives what I think is an adequate argument for the inevitability of a surveillance state. Is that acceptable?

#203 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 03:30 AM:

Terry Karney @ 200: Thanks.

Marna Nightingale @ 201: "Yes. It's wrong. "Civilised society", i.e. culture, is fundamental to human survival and the drive to form cooperating groups of ever increasing complexity is one of the strongest "instinctual imperatives' we possess."

Thanks, I was trying to say that earlier, but it didn't seem to stick.

...And if I may divert the conversation back towards, well, the new FISA bill, Ars Technica presents The New FISA bill: it's worse than you think.

#204 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 03:55 AM:

Brenda, if no one can make anyone feel anything... how did Pharyngula's comment threads cause you pain?

In my experience (I play with people's minds, professionally) words can "make" people feel things. I can (to muddy the waters of psych, and anthro), exploit variations of Maslow's hierarchy of needs to cause fears, hopes and desires (to do this I have to know what the subject want's fear and needs).

But, to play the game, you didn't make me feel those things.

Rather your inept use of language, and complete inability to analyse your audience caused you, repreatedly, to fail to convey any more clear meaning of your words than those which I told you I perceived.

Is that better?

#205 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 04:09 AM:

You know Marna I can do without the smug condescension thank you. It really makes you appear very ugly.

culture, is fundamental to human survival and the drive to form cooperating groups of ever increasing complexity is one of the strongest "instinctual imperatives' we possess.

You were so busy patting poor stupid little ol' me on the head that you didn't address the central issue. What I hear you saying is that because culture is fundamental to human survival there is nothing to worry about. There will always be some kind of culture no matter what.

Well sure but people who are concerned about terrorism or a global pandemic are not reassured that if they fail to protect society at least people will still embroider their shirts while hunting for deer in central park. The whole point is for that not to happen in the first place.

Your reply appears to give the impression that there are no conflicts that can arise from within a society that stem from subconscious motives or desires. Is that correct?

#206 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 05:15 AM:

Brenda, setting aside the issue of who should be lecturing whom about condescension...let's try some overtness.

I'm fairly sure we all agree that pretty much everyone wants to feel safe - the details differ, but it's a nearly universal desire. And the vast majority of us agree that it is a proper function of the state to tend to the security of the people and their stuff. (I'm not trying to be insulting in my usage, and ask your pardon if it comes across that way. I'm in one of my fits of liking non-technical language wherever possible, and find that it sometimes illuminates issues obscured by jargon.)

So the question is, are the folks asking for surveillance worth trusting, or should be take their claims skeptically? This is where history comes in handy.

One of the first things we find is that this bunch in the current administration weren't just wrong but actively hostile to informed sources from the previous administration warning them about the terrorist threat. They were committed to a model in which only nation-states pose serious threats, and anyone looking independent is really a stooge of some nation who is the real problem. Hence, among other things, their dismissal of an August intelligence briefing about Osama bin Laden's plans to attack the US.

Going forward, we see them systematically disorting or suppressing inconvenient facts to suit their agenda. But that wouldn't have been any surprise if we look back at their history: they are consistently there supporting every brutality and crime against humanity as long as the perpetrators claim to be anti-communist, creating new threats in the form of people with very legitimate grievances against us, exaggerating or outright inventing some perils (like the PNAC long-standing obsession with Iraq) while neglecting well-documented real challenges. Their lack of attention to port security now is of a piece with their conviction in the late '80s that the Soviets were faking it with glasnost and preparing a master stroke against the West.

They are, in short, violence-craving bozos who don't care about the truth, only whatever they think will advance their current pet agendas. They have no documentable history of supporting American security in any consistent way, and in fact have often undermined it through bad policy and bad budgeting.

This is a big part of why some of us are urging resistance to their demands at every step. There is, literally, no path to American safety and well-being that doesn't start with undoing a lot of the harm they've done. The Democrats should be out explaining just that, in simple words and vivid images. Precisely because safety is important and worthwhile, all this stuff that will have to be undone for real safety is infuriating.

It's not that there is no point in looking at unconscious and concealed motives. It's that looking at what's visible in the public record is so overwhelmingly urgent and important that a lot of us don't really see the point in digging further, until we've dealt with what's at hand.

#207 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 05:47 AM:

(Shorter me: I.F. Stone and Noam Chomsky have a sound methodology worthy of adoption.)

#208 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 07:39 AM:

Brenda @ 202: "Who decides what is valid explaination?"

I get to decide what is a valid explanation to me, and you get to decide it for you. That's how discussions work: I say, "I believe A, because of X" and you say, "I believe B, because of Y," and then we go back and forth pointing out places of disagreement or inconsistency or whatever and refine our arguments, until hopefully at least one of us says, "Hmm, that's very interesting, I now know something I didn't know before." Worst case, we both say, "No, that doesn't make any sense," and we walk away no wiser. But that isn't what you are doing. You said, "I believe A, because of X" and then I said, "I believe B, because of Y," and then you said "What! That's not fair! Why don't you see how good my argument is!" You never got around to explaining why I was wrong, you see.

"What exactly is "my model" or at least what you understand it to be? If you look at my reply to Marna at 195 you'll see what I think is a good summary of what I've been trying to say. At least in regard to that one particular point. Is there anything in comment 195 that you find highly objectionable?"

Yes. I find nearly everything you said @ 195 to show (what is to me) a remarkably distorted understanding of human nature. I explained my objections to this view @ 158, and Marna gave similar ones @ 201. We disagree with you. Really. We're not just pretending to disagree with your principles because we find your conclusions unpalatable. We don't buy any of it.

"And I get to decide whether your replies are sufficient."

Yes, you do. When you find them insufficient, you remain unconvinced. That's how it works.

"I got angry once at comment 169. Other than that I don't see any that contain words one might usually associate with anger."

In this comment, you said "Is that permitted now or only for you?" were you being angrily sarcastic? That is how it reads. I don't know how you feel, only what you type, and what you type gives off a consistent impression of offended dignity.

"Do I sound angry? Am I trying to say that a surveillance state flows logically from Freud's view of humanity?"

In that snippet? No, and no. That's not the paragraph anyone's been objecting to, either. The paragraph that I took issue with was a little lower down, and it's a view that you reiterated @ 195--"I believe Freud was right, culture is but a thin veneer, a mask of sanity. It doesn't take a whole lot for people, left or right, to tear that off and show their true nature." This is a far cry from "under the kind of extreme stresses above, the social order might have a tendency to break down." In the former, you're making claims about the fundamental reality of human nature. In the latter, you're making a factual observation. Do you see the difference? Now, I still don't think that the breakdown of social order under extreme conditions justifies constant widepsread surveillance, but at least that's a disagreement that might be somewhat productive.

#209 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 07:48 AM:

Y'all are responsible for how your words make Brenda feel.

Brenda, however, is not responsible for your own reprehensible responses to her own completely innocent words.

Just sayin'.

#210 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 08:12 AM:

Brenda, before I decide you're a troll, can you take a day off from throwing your thesis in philosophy at us and actually read the thread: our comments, your comments, our responses to your comments, your comments on our responses, our responses to your comments?

Right now, what I'm seeing is someone who's apparently lacking in reading comprehension. This is what got you in trouble at Pharyngula, too: you read a sentence or two (and probably misunderstand it), post a comment, misread the reaction, and make it worse.
(Quoting Blaise Pascal is probably not a good idea, when at a blog full of atheists. That's bigtime misreading. Just saying.)

The world is not run on pure theory, no matter how much you want it that way.

#211 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 08:20 AM:

Bruce Baugh @ 207... I.F. Stone and Noam Chomsky have a sound methodology worthy of adoption

What's that about the Stones and sound?

#212 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 09:19 AM:

Brenda #105:

The big question here involves the inevitability of a surveillance state. This interests me a great deal, and I wish I had a bit more time to discuss it. I will try to read Balkin's essay when I get a spare few minutes.

You pointed out a number of reasons why she believes we will need a surveillance state (or at least will get one). Mostly, I didn't find these reasons convincing as justifications for needing a surveillance state. In particular, increasing world population from six to nine billion seems like a really strange reason to need a surveillance state. Global warming seems similarly bizarre.

From later stuff in this thread (amidst arguments about the arguments and irrelevant digressions) I gather that you are concerned with bad circumstances in the US leading to civil unrest. (I think that's what you were getting at with your Freud reference, but I'll admit I'm not sure.) The problem here is, for widespread civil unrest, it's very hard to see what good a surveillance state will do, even assuming it's under the control of the unambiguous good guys. That kind of unrest is not lurking in shadows until it strikes, it's out on the streets burning stores down and dragging truckers out of their trucks to beat them to death.

The place where I can see a better argument for the surveillance state involves improvements in technology and the greater ability, over time, for bad people to do destructive or disruptive things. This comes in a couple different flavors:

a. Changes in technology may make terrorism work better--easier to coordinate, easier to carry out.

b. Changes in technology may make it easier for individuals or small groups to change the world in big ways; some of those changes will inevitably be bad, and maybe some will be catastrophic.

I suspect (a) is the best argument around for the surveillance state. I'm not convinced (because we need to think about the costs as well as the benefits), but it's at least a plausible argument. I think the same notion applies to organized crime and terrorists, and also to all sorts of other informal groups of people spontaneously building social networks. It's easier to communicate with like-minded others far away, whether that's like-minded Picard-Worf slash fans or like-minded bomb-building terrorists.

Your comment about monkeys with phasers and homemade HERF guns and makes me think you're concerned about (b). The problem is, a surveillance state isn't remotely enough to deal with this. We would also need large-scale regulation of tinkering and experiment and self-study in a bunch of areas of science and technology that are potentially dangerous. As dangerous innovation becomes reachable for millions of people, we would need to block those millions from getting hold of the information and equipment to do the innovation.

This would have horrifying costs. The software and biotech revolutions have taken place largely because the barriers to entry were low, so that many tens of thousands of people could enter the fields and start doing useful work and innovation. Licensing entry into these fields and access to the information used will inevitably slow innovation way down. Who would have authorized a nobody like Linus Torvalds to start monkeying around with hardware and OS internals on a computer?

Even worse, the main risk you're describing is the ease of getting access to information now. Google and wikipedia and blogs and websites and PLOS and such make that information much easier to come by; what used to be guarded by gatekeepers (have you paid tuition? are you a registered student? do you have the prerequisites for being in this class?) is now mostly available online. Blocking that will decrease the risk of dangerous innovation, but it will do so at the cost of also decreasing the risk of useful innovation.

And even worse, outside of movie plot threats, I don't think most high tech tools are as effective as weapons as straightforward stuff like bombs and guns. That Japanese cult that gassed the subway in Tokyo apparently tried a bunch of biological attacks, with little effect. If they'd given up on clever technology and brought a bomb onto the Tokyo subway, they'd have raised their meager body count by a factor of 20 without even trying very hard.

All this ignores the rather high likelihood that a surveillance state will not be run by unambiguous good guys, but instead by (at best) career civil servants who will mostly follow the laws and minimize their risk of getting into career-damaging trouble. (At worst, the surveillance will be run by people who are supporting or using some of the terrorists or organized criminals. This is pretty common, as with the Pakistani intelligence service's links to fundamentalist Muslim groups, and various Latin American right wing governments with links to death squads.)

#213 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 10:51 AM:

From today's Threat Level blog at Wired:

Online Movement Aims to Punish Democrats Who Support Bush Wiretap Bill
"Online activists from the right and the left announced an unprecedented campaign Tuesday to hold Democratic lawmakers accountable for caving in to the Bush administration on domestic spying..."

#214 ::: sherrold ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 11:09 AM:

One of the many reasons that "thin veneer of civilization" is risible is that it is now believed that hunter/gatherer groups (what Freud would have thought of as pre-civilized) were more egalitarian, physically healthier, and had more free time than most civilized people in history .

But on the more general issue I *think* Brenda is raising -- how close are we now to breakdowns of civilization, and how bad is it likely to be if it happens? -- I find myself undecided. Largely, I think individual people are good (or at least, capable of having their better natures' appealed to). But scared people in groups (and "they" have been consciously trying to scare people for a long time now) scare me.

But even if I did think we were inches from a horrible violent breakdown of our society (and I don't!), I wouldn't think cameras everywhere and non-stop phone tapping were the ways to combat it.

#215 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 01:22 PM:

Greg if Brenda is going to use this term, she needs to define it with far more clarity than she has thus far.

Brenda: I have given you all you need. See 139 above

OK. I'm only going to say this one more time, and if you fail to hear it, you're either failing to hear it on purpose or you're too far gone to hear it and there isn't anything I can do to help you. So, here it is:

No. You're not. You didn't. You haven't.

Seriously. Stop. Read again.

You haven't defined what you're talking about. Citing someone else's paper means you either don't understand it yourself, or you can't define it in simple terms.

What do YOU mean by surveillance state? Does it involve checks against the State to Search? Or not?

What do YOU mean it doesn't have to be oppressive? I've got a list of rights enumerated in the constitution, how many of those still stand? How many fall?

What do YOU mean when you say we have a "choice"? When people CHOOSE to oppose FISA now, why do you come out and say 'don't fight the inevitable'? How do we CHOOSE if we can never say NO.

You have refused to put these terms (surveillance state, oppressive, choice, etc) into concrete, what does it mean to real people, terms.

If you don't want to put it into concrete terms, then you can't be too upset when people take your wavy gravy language and make it mean a bunch of different things, some of them terrible enought that they should oppose them. And if YOU don't want to put it into concrete terms, then why are YOU in this thread?

If all you're going to do is quote Balkin, but when people call you on something that doesn't make sense or is outright wrong, you merely give people a link to Balkin, then why are you bothering to quote Balkin? "Balkin says so" isn't enough to prove anything. Can you explain these terms yourself? Or not?

Othewise, it's starting to turn into

Brenda: Balkin says we're already in a surveillance state.

Greg: I'd rather keep checks against State powers.

Brenda: Balkin says we can have choice.

Greg: But aren't people choosing NOW to oppose FISA? Isn't it being done against our will?

Brenda: Balkin says it doesn't have to be oppressive.

Greg: Maybe you ougth to send Balkin in to discuss this.

I'm seriously starting to feel like I'm dealing with an Eliza program because you don't actually answer any questions I have, but come back with pretty generic comments that have almost no context relating to what I actually said. Other than to use my name once in a while.

Can you answer my previous questions about defining Surveillance state, choice, and oppression in your own words?

#216 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 01:37 PM:

Greg #215: I'm seriously starting to feel like I'm dealing with an Eliza program

Oh! Duh! Of course! OK, Brenda makes sense to me now. It also explains why she keeps accusing people of behaving the way she does--she picks up isolated phrases from us and spits them back out.

#217 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 02:32 PM:

Greg @215: I'm seriously starting to feel like I'm dealing with an Eliza program
What makes you feel you're seriously starting to feel like you're dealing with an Eliza program?

Ethan @216:Brenda makes sense to me now.
I'm so glad that Brenda makes sense to you now.

It also explains why she keeps accusing people of behaving the way she does--she picks up isolated phrases from us and spits them back out.
Please don't spit at me, it's rude! Maybe you could tell me why you are upset?

#218 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 04:45 PM:

A Roster of Senatorial Oath Breakers: Alexander (R-TN), Allard (R-CO), Barrasso (R-WY), Baucus (D-MT), Bayh (D-IN), Bennett (R-UT), Bond (R-MO), Brownback (R-KS), Bunning (R-KY), Burr (R-NC), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Chambliss (R-GA), Coburn (R-OK), Cochran (R-MS), Coleman (R-MN), Collins (R-ME), Conrad (D-ND), Corker (R-TN), Cornyn (R-TX), Craig (R-ID), Crapo (R-ID), DeMint (R-SC), Dole (R-NC), Domenici (R-NM), Ensign (R-NV), Enzi (R-WY), Feinstein (D-CA), Graham (R-SC), Grassley (R-IA), Gregg (R-NH), Hagel (R-NE), Hatch (R-UT), Hutchison (R-TX), Inhofe (R-OK), Inouye (D-HI), Isakson (R-GA), Johnson (D-SD), Kohl (D-WI), Kyl (R-AZ), Landrieu (D-LA), Lieberman (ID-CT), Lincoln (D-AR), Lugar (R-IN), Martinez (R-FL), McCaskill (D-MO), McConnell (R-KY), Mikulski (D-MD), Murkowski (R-AK), Nelson (D-FL), Nelson (D-NE), Obama (D-IL), Pryor (D-AR), Roberts (R-KS), Rockefeller (D-WV), Salazar (D-CO), Shelby (R-AL), Smith (R-OR), Snowe (R-ME), Specter (R-PA), Stevens (R-AK), Sununu (R-NH), Thune (R-SD), Vitter (R-LA), Voinovich (R-OH), Warner (R-VA), Webb (D-VA), Whitehouse (D-RI), Wicker (R-MS).

With so many involved, it just doesn't seem practical to impeach all of them for their crime.

#219 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 04:59 PM:

Earl, I didn't expect much from most of them, but Ghu take them all, I expect better from law professors.
DiFi didn't even understand what the bill actually does. She claimed it restricts surveillance ....

This coalition is planning to moneybomb a bunch of these guys on August 8th. Give money to them, or to BlueAmerica, or to people you know are good.

Better Democrats, not just more Democrats.

#220 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 05:00 PM:

If all of the superdelegates who are undecided or currently support Obama changed to support Clinton, would that be enough delegates to give her the Democratic nomination?

#221 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 05:02 PM:

Earl @ #218, I'm about to write a(nother) letter to Inouye asking him why, as a Medal of Honor winner, he felt compelled to throw the 4th Amendment to the Constitution he fought for over a cliff.

I'll once again get a nice form letter patting me on the head, but I'll feel better.

#222 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 05:30 PM:

I'm currently drafting a letter to Sheldon Whitehouse. I'm having trouble making it sound angry and disappointed enough. I'm not surprised by the overall result, but I'm feeling extremely let down by him specifically.

Jack Reed can still be trusted to pull through, though. I like that guy.

#223 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 05:39 PM:

me #222, addendum: I like Jack Reed as far as it's possible to like any Senator. I object to a lot of things about him, but relative to the other 99 he's pretty damn likable.

#224 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 05:51 PM:

The biggest thing I see missing from Brenda's argument: after all this time I still don't know just what she's arguing for. She says that a surveillance state is inevitable. As Greg said, one interesting question is just what "surveillance state" means. But let's leave that to one side for the moment. What I find even more important is that she hasn't been specific enough about what kind of inevitability she's talking about.

I can think of three very different sense in which she might argue that it's inevitable:

(1) She thinks that a surveillance state is necessary and desirable, and the arguments that it's necessary are so compelling that everyone else will eventually agree with them. (There's a sub-split here, by the way: you might think it's desirable, or you might think that it's undesirable but necessary to prevent something even worse.)
(2) She thinks that a surveillance state is undesirable, but it's inevitable anyway because other people mistakenly believe that it's necessary and desirable, and there's no way to convince those people otherwise.
(3) She thinks that technological determinism will inevitably lead to a surveillance state even if nobody wants it.

There are actually some plausible arguments (horrifying, but plausible) in favor of each of those claims. It's just that you need to present a different argument depending on which claim you're arguing for. It would be nice to know which of those things we're talking about.

#225 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 05:51 PM:

It seems entirely appropriate that the 60th vote, the vote which will allow the Senate to roll back the Bush administration's pay cut for doctors who treat Medicare patients, was just cast by Ted Kennedy.

He got a standing O to welcome him back.

A bunch of Republican Senators changed their votes to Yes after it passed. They will now tell their constituents that they supported the legislation when they actually tried very hard to kill it. F**kers.

#226 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 06:23 PM:

Saddening, although one of my senators did vote against it.

#227 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 06:29 PM:

Linkmeister@ #221 - I want to do the same thing to Uncle Ted (who actually has a viable opponent this year, OMG!!!), but I know I'll get the same form letter.

Uncle Ted and Uncle Dan - bringing home the Spam to AK & HI for untold decades.

#228 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 06:34 PM:

Brenda, #195: "Oh oh, they brought in a ringer. Ima gonna get pwnd now."

No, but all your vowels may fall out.

#229 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 06:41 PM:

So, looking at Earl's link at 218, I'm wondering if there's an easy way to get the votes listed by the number of years before the senator is up for an election.

I wonder how much of the voting correlates to yeas being cast by folks up for election this year or in two years, and to "nays" being cast by folks up for election in 4+ years.

Is it telco money driving the votes or is it fear of a fearful American voter that's driving the vote? Cause america may disprove of Bush by 80%, but that doesn't mean many of those American's don't see terrorists in every shadow.


#230 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 07:26 PM:

On the Democratic side, it's paranoia. "We got burned in 2002 and 2004 because we weren't perceived as 'strong on national security,' so we're going to abdicate Congressional responsibility for oversight and throw the 4th Amendment out just to prove we are so!"

#231 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 07:26 PM:

Lance Weber, your #217 made me blow root beer through my nose. Ow, but good work.

#232 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 08:06 PM:

Bruce Baugh #231: The same thing happened to me! And the weirdest part is that I haven't had root beer in months.

#233 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 08:08 PM:

I haven't been keeping score. How many squares on the card have been X'ed out so far in this thread?

#234 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 08:35 PM:

Hm, it doesn't seem that the amount of time between now and a senator's next reelection impacted how they voted.

There are three classes of senators. A senator's term is 6 years long. But every two years, one of the classes of senators is up for reelection to keep rotating new ones in and old ones out.

class 2 = 2009
class 3 = 2011
class 1 = 2013

All republicans voted "Yea" to bill, so ignoring them.

class 2 democrats
total 12
yea: 5 42%
nay: 7 58%

class 3 democrats
total: 14
yea: 5 36%
nay: 9 64%

class 1 democrats
total 21
yea: 9 43%
nay: 12 57%

If the amount of time till reelection had an effect, I would expect the percentage of total democrats in a class to shift in a consistent manner, such as

hypothetical results:
class 2 dem yea's = 60%
class 3 dem yea's = 40%
class 1 dem yea's = 20%

I was thinking maybe the further away they got from reelection, the more stones they might have. But I guess not. the percentages don't seem to have a huge correlation to classes.

actual results:
class 2 dem yea's = 46%
class 3 dem yea's = 36%
class 1 dem yea's = 43%,

It seems the amount of stonage is relatively fixed, and independent of how far away reelection is.

Oh well. Maybe someone could find data that shows if any of the "yea" dems got political contributions from telcos or their buddies recently.

Otherwise, it appears to be a problem indemic to the Democratic party in general and there isn't anything I can see to do about it.

Here's the raw data, in case I counted wrong.

class 2 democrats
total 13
yea: 6 46%
nay: 7 53%

3 Obama (D-IL), Yea (classs 3, but running for prez)
2 Baucus (D-MT), Yea
2 Johnson (D-SD), Yea
2 Landrieu (D-LA), Yea
2 Pryor (D-AR), Yea
2 Rockefeller (D-WV), Yea

2 Biden (D-DE), Nay
2 Durbin (D-IL), Nay
2 Harkin (D-IA), Nay
2 Kerry (D-MA), Nay
2 Lautenberg (D-NJ), Nay
2 Levin (D-MI), Nay
2 Reed (D-RI), Nay


class 3 democrats
total: 14
yea: 5 36%
nay: 9 64%

3 Bayh (D-IN), Yea
3 Inouye (D-HI), Yea
3 Lincoln (D-AR), Yea
3 Mikulski (D-MD), Yea
3 Salazar (D-CO), Yea

3 Wyden (D-OR), Nay
3 Boxer (D-CA), Nay
3 Dodd (D-CT), Nay
3 Dorgan (D-ND), Nay
3 Feingold (D-WI), Nay
3 Leahy (D-VT), Nay
3 Murray (D-WA), Nay
3 Reid (D-NV), Nay
3 Schumer (D-NY), Nay


class 1 democrats
total 21
yea: 9 43%
nay: 12 57%

1 Carper (D-DE), Yea
1 Casey (D-PA), Yea
1 Feinstein (D-CA), Yea
1 McCaskill (D-MO), Yea
1 Conrad (D-ND), Yea
1 Nelson (D-FL), Yea
1 Nelson (D-NE), Yea
1 Webb (D-VA), Yea
1 Whitehouse (D-RI), Yea

1 Akaka (D-HI), Nay
1 Bingaman (D-NM), Nay
1 Brown (D-OH), Nay
1 Byrd (D-WV), Nay
1 Cantwell (D-WA), Nay
1 Cardin (D-MD), Nay
1 Clinton (D-NY), Nay
1 Menendez (D-NJ), Nay
1 Stabenow (D-MI), Nay
1 Tester (D-MT), Nay
1 Sanders (I-VT), Nay
1 Klobuchar (D-MN), Nay

#235 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 08:40 PM:

Wow. Thank you for the work and presentation, Greg.

#236 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 08:46 PM:

All republicans voted "Yea" to bill, so ignoring them.

class 2 democrats
total 12
yea: 5 42%
nay: 7 58%


CRAP! That should say:

class 2 democrats
total 13
yea: 6 46%
nay: 7 53%


I put Obama in that group since he's running for president. I corrected the numbers in one spot, but not the one at the very top.

Crap. Crap. Crap.

#237 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 09:19 PM:

Good work, Greg.

#238 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 09:33 PM:

Tania @ #227, that's one of the things I hold against Inouye, actually. His coziness with your guy (Ted Stevens, for those who don't get the allusion) on legislation is bad enough, but when Dan hosts a fund-raiser for the recalcitrant, dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks Republican Stevens, he's gone over my line.

#239 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 10:02 PM:

On the bright side, we now have a very concrete list of which Democrats need to face primary challenges from their left every election from now until the end of time.

#240 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 10:12 PM:

Allan Beatty: Brenda is not a troll.

She just uses a very different means of trying to persuade people of her points. They aren't very effective here; worse some of them are offensive to the people she is using them with.

But I think she is behaving sincerely, and in good faith; it's just not working well for her here.

Brenda: I'm not sure how to say this without sounding patronising, but please take me at face value.

The real problem here isn't Freud, or Balkin, nor even that you believe there is merit to a, "surveillance state," rather it's the, massive, difference in debating style.

This is a well read, and appallingly educated group. Many of us are auto-didacts. Many of us are also experienced in written debated. We have acquire habits and styles; adapted them to this medium (fast, asynchronus response).

I realise this is hard to take (and probably not any easier coming from me), but read the comments about how you are saying things, and what it is we aren't seeing you say.

If you go back, and address some of those issues, you will find a much less hostile reaction; not least because the frustrations of getting the same; largely non-responsives, replies.

I understand this probably feels as if we are demanding you do all the work, but you've gotten lots of response, and it doesn't seem you are willing to meet us halfway.

#241 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 10:13 PM:

Except for the one we're going to reward by making him President.

Which we *have* to do, don't get me wrong, but it's discouraging.

#242 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 10:14 PM:

Gender also appears to be completely irrelevant to the vote.

There are 16 female senators right now.

All 5 female republican senators voted in favor
Hutchison (R-TX), Yea
Murkowski (R-AK), Yea
Snowe (R-ME), Yea
Collins (R-ME), Yea
Dole (R-NC), Yea


11 democrat senators total
5 votes aye
6 voted nay

Or about 55% voted against the bill, which is pretty much how the whole democratic party split on this bill.


Lincoln (D-AR), Yea
Feinstein (D-CA), Yea
Landrieu (D-LA), Yea
Mikulski (D-MD), Yea
McCaskill (D-MO), Yea


Boxer (D-CA), Nay
Stabenow (D-MI), Nay
Klobuchar (D-MN), Nay
Clinton (D-NY), Nay
Murray (D-WA), Nay
Cantwell (D-WA), Nay

I used to have a good link to a site that would show you who is getting contributions from whom. I can't seem to find it anymore. I was thinking I'd try ot look into money as being an influence. Anyone have a good link for political contributions?

#243 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 10:24 PM:

Greg @ #242, try Open Secrets.

#244 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 10:39 PM:

#241 Except for the one we're going to reward by making him President.

Which we *have* to do, don't get me wrong, but it's discouraging.

So, mount a challenge from the left in 2012.

#245 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 11:05 PM:

Something that I rarely see mentioned in the discussion of pervasive surveillance is the Base Rate fallacy, as it relates to the relative proportion of terrorist-related activities to benign ones.

Let us suppose that XYZ has developed a 99.999% accurate method of differentiating a terrorist conversation from a non-terrorist conversation. That sounds like a good deal, but if there are 100 million phone calls per day in the United States, that means that XYZ will mistakenly identify 1 in 100,000 of those conversations as a terrorist conversation, or 1,000 false positives a day. Someone has to do the work of sorting through those false positives to find the true positives - presuming there are any.

Pervasive surveillance after 9/11 led to thousands of leads provided to the FBI. These leads were crap.

Among the reasons to oppose this bill is that it makes us less safe, not more safe. Security and privacy are not precisely balanced in opposition - it's quite possible to sacrifice privacy without increasing security.

#246 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 11:11 PM:

I can't decode the contributers information. The biggest contributers to most politicians appear to be law offices, which I assume, are acting as a intermediary for some other group who wishes to remain off the records.

Anyway, here are all the democrat senators, with a link to each of their contributions page on Open Secrets


Akaka (D-HI), Nay contribs
Baucus (D-MT), Yea contribs
Bayh (D-IN), Yea contribs
Biden (D-DE), Nay contribs
Bingaman (D-NM), Nay contribs
Boxer (D-CA), Nay contribs
Brown (D-OH), Nay contribs
Byrd (D-WV), Nay contribs
Cantwell (D-WA), Nay contribs
Cardin (D-MD), Nay contribs
Carper (D-DE), Yea contribs
Casey (D-PA), Yea contribs
Clinton (D-NY), Nay contribs
Conrad (D-ND), Yea contribs
Dodd (D-CT), Nay contribs
Dorgan (D-ND), Nay contribs
Durbin (D-IL), Nay contribs
Feingold (D-WI), Nay contribs
Feinstein (D-CA), Yea contribs
Harkin (D-IA), Nay contribs
Inouye (D-HI), Yea contribs
Johnson (D-SD), Yea contribs
Kennedy (D-MA), Not Voting contribs
Kerry (D-MA), Nay contribs
Klobuchar (D-MN), Nay contribs
Kohl (D-WI), Yea contribs
Landrieu (D-LA), Yea contribs
Lautenberg (D-NJ), Nay contribs
Leahy (D-VT), Nay contribs
Levin (D-MI), Nay contribs
Lincoln (D-AR), Yea contribs
McCaskill (D-MO), Yea contribs
Menendez (D-NJ), Nay contribs
Mikulski (D-MD), Yea contribs
Murray (D-WA), Nay contribs
Nelson (D-FL), Yea contribs
Nelson (D-NE), Yea contribs
Obama (D-IL), Yea contribs
Pryor (D-AR), Yea contribs
Reed (D-RI), Nay contribs
Reid (D-NV), Nay contribs
Rockefeller (D-WV), Yea contribs
Salazar (D-CO), Yea contribs
Schumer (D-NY), Nay contribs
Stabenow (D-MI), Nay contribs
Tester (D-MT), Nay contribs
Webb (D-VA), Yea contribs
Whitehouse (D-RI), Yea contribs
Wyden (D-OR), Nay contribs


Maybe someone can make sense of the dollars being pushed around.

#247 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 11:16 PM:

What is the surveillance state?

The National Surveillance State is a special case of the Information state. It uses surveillance, data collection and analysis to identify problems, confront potential threats, govern populations and deliver social services.

Is the surveillance state inevitable?

The rise of the surveillance state is the predictable result of advances in information technology. Global communication, the internet and cheap and powerful computers allow us to understand what is happening in the world. Both governments and private parties will naturally seek to enhance their ability to predict problems and deliver services.

A surveillance state is a way of governing and is the natural successor of the welfare state. It is not the product of war or terrorism nor necessarily the repressive machine some believe. It is a permanent feature of governance. In order for a bureaucratic nation state to deliver welfare benefits, tally votes or administer services. Personal information must be collected and documented. As electronic communication and computing power becomes cheaper and more widely available there will be a natural tendency for government departments to take advantage of decreased cost and increased productivity.

Must a surveillance state be oppressive?

It need not be. It can be either authoritarian or democratic. For some time now the GOP has had it's hand at crafting the surveillance state. Hopefully we will now have a say. The two most important things that I think we need to do are insure accountability and remove secrecy. Secrecy is especially deadly. If you ran time backwards, made everything the same but removed the blanket of secrecy I think the last eight years would have been entirely different.

We have a choice in shaping the character of the national security state. We do not have the choice to undo it. Not without eliminating the welfare state or opening up this country to terrorist attack.

#248 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 11:23 PM:

Greg, I've heard that Reid, Schumer, Pelosi, and Hoyer got a total of $110,000 from the various telecoms. I don't believe anyone in Congress got as much as $30,000 from those lobbyists, judging from the reports I've seen.

If we'd known how cheap it was to buy those four, we could have done it ourselves, and kept some of these crap bills from reaching the floor.

#249 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 11:38 PM:

Lizzy is right that the Republican Senators who tried to kill the Medicare bill and will now try to take credit for it are horrible and dishonest, of course, but it's also a structural problem. The US Constitution, and the broader constitution in the sense of all of the fundamental written and unwritten rules by which our government works, makes the process of creating law so complicated that it's very hard for voters to understand how to hold a particular legislator responsible. Especially for Senators, but for Representatives as well, there are so many different steps, so many different possible veto points, that it takes quite a lot of digging to find out which one was decisive in each instance and what role a particular politician played in that decisive step. (Which is why mechanical rankings of politicians by voting record are as useless as mechanical rankings of programmers by lines of code written or numbers of bugs fixed. It doesn't take long for any moderately bright person to learn how to game a mechanical ranking system.)

The US governmental system makes it easy for dishonest politicians to cast votes in a way that obscures their true positions. We shouldn't be surprised that dishonest politicians avail themselves of the opportunity.

#250 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 11:40 PM:

Brenda @247: Must a surveillance state be oppressive?

Yes. It is inherent in the nature of surveillance states to be oppressive. The pre-FISA American surveillance state engaged in political sabotage and outright murder. It took blatant interference in the democratic process to put a stop to it.

We live in a time when blatant interference in the democratic process is allowed to stand. What makes you think we'll somehow be able to create history's first-ever benevolent surveillance state?

#251 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 11:52 PM:

Matt, it's a little harder now, because a lot of the votes are available on the web. The House clerk's office posts theirs (not exactly in an easy-to-use form), and there's also Thomas, which can get you the text, the sponsors, and a lot of the roll-call votes.

Once upon a time, newspapers actually reported this sort of thing, and you could actually see how they voted on the final bills.

#252 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 11:54 PM:

Brenda @247: The two most important things that I think we need to do are insure accountability and remove secrecy.

Remind us again why you're defending the passage of legislation that guts accountability and bolsters secrecy.

#253 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 11:56 PM:

greg
The real problem here... (is) ...the, massive, difference in debating style.

No, I'm not sure that would be my take. I'd say I have an inability to not point out the elephant in the room. Chaos ensues, rinse, repeat.

This is a well read, and appallingly educated group. Many of us are auto-didacts. Many of us are also experienced in written debated.

I wouldn't know. I never had your advantages. I never went to college, it wasn't allowed for me. I was recently homeless and am currently very poor. And BTW I still am not done with Freud. Even though Marna was right, sue me for referring to something I learned 30 years ago, I still think I was correct in the overall point that I was making.

If you go back, and address some of those issues

I really don't feel like it. What's in it for me? Besides I feel ok with 90% of what I said. I was calm through most of it except the last bit there. I wouldn't make the Freudian argument again but I would make essentially the same point in a different way. But it isn't really that important because it was never more than a comment that I made as an aside.

I understand this probably feels as if we are demanding you do all the work

Several times I have asked others to provide their counter argument. I don't see anything. I don't see any replies to any questions that I asked. What I see are a bunch of bullies who gang up on someone who doesn't spout the party line. I know you don't like to hear that but sorry, since we are all being so honest, that's what I see.

It's pretty easy to criticize. It's pretty easy to pile on and make demand after demand. To pick a word here are a phrase there and distort it out of all proportion. Hell I can do that, anyone can.

BTW, FISA is not the end of the world. No one knows the future, it's open, wide open. Hope is only where despair is.

#254 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 11:57 PM:

Brenda@247, er, I think you missed a critical piece of my questions. I specifically asked you to answer them in your own words.

Pretty much all of your answers are eliza level reprints of Balkin's paper, with slight modifications here and there.

You put nothing into your own words, you take Balkin's words and do basic search and replace stuff on simple terms to avoid direct matches, yet the sentences are nearly identical in form and content.

Brenda: It uses surveillance, data collection and analysis to identify problems, confront potential threats, govern populations and deliver social services


Balkin, page 3: Governments will use surveillance, data collection and data mining technologies not only to keep Americans safe from terrorist attacks but also to prevent ordinary crime and deliver social services.


Brenda: The rise of the surveillance state is the predictable result of advances in information technology.

Balkin, page 2: Government’s increasing use of surveillance and data mining is a predictable result of accelerating developments in information technology.

Brenda: Global communication, the internet and cheap and powerful computers allow us to understand what is happening in the world.

Balkin page 2: As technologies that let us discover and analyze what is happening in the world

Brenda: Both governments and private parties will naturally seek to enhance their ability to predict problems and deliver services.

Balkin, page 3: both governments and private parties will seek to use them.

Balkin, later page 3: to prevent ordinary crime and deliver social services.


Brenda: A surveillance state is a way of governing and is the natural successor of the welfare state.

Balkin, page 3: The National Surveillance State is a way of governing.

Balkin, Page 4: the Welfare State and the National Security State; it is their logical successor.

Brenda: It is not the product of war or terrorism nor necessarily the repressive machine some believe.

Balkin page 4: the surveillance systems of advanced bureaucratic nation-states are not so much the repressive machines that pessimists imply

Brenda: It is a permanent feature of governance.

Balkin, page 3: The National Surveillance State is a permanent feature of governance

Brenda: In order for a bureaucratic nation state to deliver welfare benefits, tally votes or administer services.

Well, that's not an actual sentence, so...

Brenda: Personal information must be collected and documented

Balkin: personal details must be documented.

Brenda: As electronic communication and computing power becomes cheaper and more widely available there will be a natural tendency for government departments to take advantage of decreased cost and increased productivity.

Balkin (website): Once governments have access to powerful surveillance and data mining technologies, there will be enormous political pressure to use them in everyday law enforcement and for delivery of government services.

And this was from me, not even actually reading Balkin's paper. I just did a search on key words until I found the sentence you had used as its original.

The eliza program issue is freaking me out a bit here. You wouldn't be Balkin by any chance? Or know him in some way?


#255 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 12:02 AM:

repeating myself @215 to Brenda:

Citing someone else's paper means you either don't understand it yourself, or you can't define it in simple terms.

What do YOU mean by surveillance state?
What do YOU mean it doesn't have to be oppressive?
What do YOU mean when you say we have a "choice"?

#256 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 12:12 AM:

Remind us again why you're defending the passage of legislation that guts accountability and bolsters secrecy.

Because it's the best you're going to get from a Senate that will not impeach and voted 69-28 for this bill. It was a rout. There was no way it wasn't going to pass.

Second, it means that Obama doesn't have to expend political capital revising FISA during his term. And he is free to interpret it as he wishes, which he no doubt will and will be infinitely better than McCain.

#257 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 12:30 AM:

Brenda:
Find a library with a dictionary and look up 'autodidact'.

Stop thinking that we all have college degrees, or that someone with a degree is automatically an expert in everything. What we have is lots of input, or 'wastebasket minds' as some put it.

Read more, in more subjects. Try science (not philosophy), try books about food and cooking, try crafts (read the Yarn Harlot's books sometime), try fiction in various genres (don't neglect the classics like Austen). Breadth of reading is important. More breadth will allow you more depth, too.

#258 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 12:32 AM:

253: I wouldn't know. I never had your advantages. I never went to college, it wasn't allowed for me.

Quite a number of "us" never had "our advantages", either.

Brenda, I started university at the age of 27, after I had been on my own for the better part of ten years. Someday, I may get the last of the loans paid off.

Outside my own specialty, I'm as much, and no doubt as spottily, self-educated as you are.

I was snarky in my tone to you because you pulled the exact same thing you're accusing others of pulling: came in here guns blazing -- trying to conceal your self-educated status as if it were something to be ashamed of, I suspect -- and were snarky, condescending, smug, and generally nasty. And hurtful.

These people you seem to think are infinitely above you? THEY do not think so. They can be hurt by nasty remarks and by having their words twisted. They can be hurt by things YOU say.

I should have recognised the approach, actually. I used to be very good at it myself.

Nobody cares, okay? There are people on here who make me feel like a subliterate moron on a regular basis, and some of them went to very good schools indeed and some of them just went to the public library a lot.

And while, yes, I was nasty, I was actually dead serious: you should read those people. They're available at the library, mostly, and they're mostly interesting. Durkheim isn't, but if you're interested in Social Sciences you need to read him anyway, because otherwise lots of stuff that IS interesting won't make a lot of sense to you, because he's insanely influential. Berger, on the other hand, is a delight.

256:

Because it's the best you're going to get from a Senate that will not impeach and voted 69-28 for this bill. It was a rout. There was no way it wasn't going to pass.

Second, it means that Obama doesn't have to expend political capital revising FISA during his term. And he is free to interpret it as he wishes, which he no doubt will and will be infinitely better than McCain.

Now, THERE is a defensible argument. You may want to consider starting fresh from there as if none of the previous had ever happened. I predict you will be AMAZED at how quickly it is possible to retrieve a reputation around here, just by, well, honestly trying to join the debate instead of dominate it.

#259 ::: Falstaff ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 12:34 AM:

Because it's the best you're going to get from a Senate that will not impeach and voted 69-28 for this bill. It was a rout. There was no way it wasn't going to pass.

Brenda, while I don't disagree with the above -- it seems pretty self-evident in itself -- I don't understand why you're using it as a defense of the idea of a Security State. "Because it is happening" (which is how I understand what you're saying) doesn't seem like much of an answer to "Why do you think this ought to happen?"

And, just as a personal aside, while I think you're wrong about the bullying factor, I'll agree: this is awfully intimidating company to debate in. I read Making Light daily, but I don't really comment very often, because I don't have anything especially interesting to add, and with some of the people here being as erudite as they are, well, I can feel pretty conscious of that.

Anyway, I just thought I'd ask the question, because I'm confused.

#260 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 12:37 AM:

Brenda: First... Yes, I suppose I've had advantages. I wasn't homeless when I was working my way through the college I did go to. I don't have a degree (though I did complete the primary course of study I was interested in).

Mind you, I was slaving to make that happen.

I can't help you with the difference you see in what's going on. You honestly believe this is all in response to you pointing at elephants. Mind you, the big elephant you started with was our unwillingness to accept Freud as being a good argument... which you now say you see that Marna is correct about... which is the argument we were making.

We have made counter arguments.

Scott Taylor did it here

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/010403.html#279818

and here

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/010403.html#279924

I made some here

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/010403.html#279910

and here

Greg London did it here

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/010403.html#279911

and here

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/010403.html#279917

julia did it here

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/010403.html#279929

Randolph Fitz did it here

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/010403.html#279960

and heresiarch did it here (in great detail)

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/010403.html#279985

I'd make a longer list, but I really this one is probably too long. My point is this, I can't help it that you don't see the answers to your questions, but I think a large part of the problem is, we have been answering your questions, and it's really frustrating that you treat us as though we haven't.

#261 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 12:38 AM:

Brenda #253: I'd say I have an inability to not point out the elephant in the room.

Brenda, in my experience, this kind of self-congratulatory proclamation of oneself as a person who just can't help speaking the truth correlates very strongly with being full of shit.

BTW, FISA is not the end of the world.

This right here is right. It may be the first thing you've said in this thread that I agree with. Though I suspect you actually mean the Protect America Act renewal with telecom immunity, not FISA, since FISA's been around for decades.

Still, right, today's vote granting the executive branch tremendous surveillance powers isn't the end of the world, or of the US, or of the democratic republic. We've been here before -- it's why FISA was passed to begin with. It's a setback, but not the end of things.

#262 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 12:45 AM:

came in here guns blazing

I do not see this at all. Not in the least.

Now, THERE is a defensible argument.

It's also my first argument boiled down but unchanged. One I have repeated several times.

You never answered my questions. Neither have you PJ. Greg can suck on a rock.

#263 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 12:56 AM:

Avram: I have a comment in moderation, could you look at it?

#264 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:12 AM:

Falstaff
I don't understand why you're using it as a defense of the idea of a Security State.

You mean a surveillance state. A security state is what we had during the cold war. No, I'm not using the FISA compromise to justify the surveillance state.

"Why do you think this ought to happen?"

I think it's unavoidable. How else do you imagine the government would administer the welfare state, decide who has a right to vote or who is here legally or do all those things that we want the government to do for us? With increased technology criminals and terrorists are better able to hide or commit new crimes such as electronic identity theft or attacks on our information infrastructure. How do expect any government to protect it's people without the ability to collect, collate and analyze data on the activities of potential threats? Some sort of surveillance is needed. You can't run a modern society without it. The trick is, who watches the watchers? Well, we do, or ought to.

Avram
This right here is right. It may be the first thing you've said in this thread that I agree with.

Not the first time I've said it.

#265 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:18 AM:

Marna: came in here guns blazing

Brenda: I do not see this at all. Not in the least.

You came in handing out innumerable, irrefutable, undeniable, and absolute truths about surveillance states, their inevitability, that oppression is optional, and that we have choice. Yet much of what you have asserted as truth directly contradicts what some people here see in the world.

And what I'm left with is that pretty much half of what Balkin says about surveillance states is flat out wrong, and the other half is so ambiguous that it has at least three different meanings.

And I don't know if you noticed, but you keep asserting that everything that Balkin says about surveillance states is true. And to prove it, you keep quoting Balkin.

Which is another reason to have you put it into your own words. So you're not simply cutting and pasting what Balkin says to prove Balkin's points.

Greg can suck on a rock.

num. num. num.

#266 ::: Falstaff ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:23 AM:

Brenda --
You mean a surveillance state.

I did say I was confused!

I guess we're talking about different things, really -- you and I, anyway. I think I get what you're saying, as far as it goes (thank you for explaining for me, by the way), but you're talking about expect and decide and I'm talking about ought. Not so much "These things are necessary and shall happen" as "But is it in fact right that these things should happen?"

Of course, I'll be the first to say that of all the people involved in this conversation, I'm the most ignorant on the subject at hand. I'm trying to learn more, but I don't know much about these matters (as my 'security state' mixup illustrates nicely). It's entirely possible that I've just mucked the conversation up, so... well, if that's the case, I'll just let everyone get back to it. Anyway.

#267 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:27 AM:

who watches the watchers?

That is exactly what the fourth amendment is for. To restrict the State's power of Search and Seizure.

How is it when specific fourth amendment restrictions are whittled away by a law, you say "it's inevitable" and "it doesn't have to be oppressive" and "we have choice"?

And then you invoke "who watches the watchers" almost with no other context. What does this mean? We have (had) the fourth ammendment to restrict the State. Take that away, and we've got nothing. How do we watch the watchers in a constitutional republic if the constitution says teh State can do whatever it wants?

Do we watch the watchers outside the rule of law?

Why isn't the fourth amendment a good way to watch the watchers and keep them from overasserting their powers of Search and Seizure?

#268 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:28 AM:

Brenda: First... Yes, I suppose I've had advantages. I wasn't homeless when I was working my way through the college I did go to. I don't have a degree (though I did complete the primary course of study I was interested in).

Mind you, I was slaving like hell to make that happen.

I can't help you with the difference you see in what's going on. You honestly believe this is all in response to you pointing at elephants. Mind you, the big elephant you started with wasn't the inevitabilty of the surveillance state, it was our unwillingness to accept Freud as a good argument... which you now say you see Marna is correct about... which is the same argument we were making.

We have made counter arguments.

julia did it here

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/010403.html#279929

Randolph Fitz did it here

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/010403.html#279960

and heresiarch did it here (in great detail)

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/010403.html#279985

I'd made a longer list, but I really think this one is ought to be enough (the other list is in moderation). My point is this: I can't help it that you don't see the answers to your questions, but I think a large part of the problem is, we have been answering your questions, and it's really frustrating that you treat us as though we haven't.

#269 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:28 AM:

I'm quite happy to stand up and say that I think most of the Balkinization posters are way, way too comfortable with vast governmental powers. They're part of the governing culture, though, even when they disagree with particular decisions, and don't have a direct sense of what it's like to be faced with massive power exercised by people who aren't like you and hate you. I think they're also far too tolerant of monstrosities perpetrated by their subcultural peers, like the Volokhs. In short, I gladly refer to them for explanations of how proposed laws and regulations would work in detail, but routinely disagree in their assessments of what that would mean for society at large.

Just so someone actually does say it.

#270 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:31 AM:

Brenda, in my experience, this kind of self-congratulatory proclamation of oneself as a person who just can't help speaking the truth correlates very strongly with being full of shit.

It correlates with trolls who are typically right wing extremists, outsiders. I'm also an outsider but I'm neither left or right or middle. The Right has a point you know. Liberals can be smug elitists. I know it's hard to believe but it's true. No social class can see itself as well as other classes can. Just ask your wife.

Greg
And what I'm left with is that pretty much half of what Balkin says about surveillance states is flat out wrong

Pot meet kettle. You don't get to make flat assertions if I don't so prove it engineer boy. And I expect footnotes.

#271 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:36 AM:

Brenda: No, I didn't. But lots of other people have, and I'm not actually obligated to.

Greg: Rock candy party in the corner!

#272 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:42 AM:

Brenda #269: It correlates with trolls who are typically right wing extremists, outsiders. I'm also an outsider but I'm neither left or right or middle. The Right has a point you know. Liberals can be smug elitists. I know it's hard to believe but it's true. No social class can see itself as well as other classes can. Just ask your wife.

Do you have a point here? Other than painting yourself as someone who transcends the common political spectrum, oh wonderful you?

Not that I'm a big fan of the "left-right" spectrum model of political behavior, but you're not exactly improving on it, here.

Nor are you disabusing me of my beliefs about self-congratulatory proclamations of truth-speaking.

#273 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:53 AM:

Terry
I think a large part of the problem is, we have been answering your questions, and it's really frustrating that you treat us as though we haven't.

I've read the answers, I just don't think they really addressed the question. Or the question was misunderstood. Or an unimportant detail was blown out of proportion. Or people were too eager to get their diggs in. And since I am the only one defending my position I am quickly over whelmed. To me it feels like people want me to agree in order to agree. I can't do that.

Maybe I just see things differently but I'm bone headed enough not to shut up about it.

#274 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:55 AM:

Brenda: "How else do you imagine the government would administer the welfare state, decide who has a right to vote or who is here legally or do all those things that we want the government to do for us?"

Same way we did before. Records, paperwork. How will listening, secretely to my phone calls keep track of how much money I kicked into Social Security, the status of my residence and voting status? what will it tell the Gov't about my being a citizen (and so a legal resident)?

Those are all non-sequitors.

As to foiling terrorists, as has been said before, this won't do it. Lets assume, for sake of argument, that the false positive rate only produces the 1,000 false leads stipulated in the base rate fallacy offereed earlier.

Assume each of those false leads only takes ten man hours to resolve. That's 100,000 man hours, per day, needed to get the people who were mistakenly suspected of being terrorists off the chart (and, speaking as one who has some experience in this... The Army has a very nice course on Intelligence in Combating Terrorism, ten man hours would be a really fast resolution, 24 is more the ballpark average I would expect).

You keep saying this is the best we can hope for. It's not. FISA, as originally written, was just fine. It allowed for surveillance on people, had allowances for exigent need (72 hours to petition for a warrant when time was of the essence) and had real oversight.

It was, also, a repealling of the previous surveillance state. So rolling it back can be done.

(note, this is all answers to specific questions you asked/arguements you made)

You keep saying this bill allows us to watch the watchers (at least that's what it looks like, since you say this bill is acceptable, and it's our job to watch the watchers) So how does it make this happen?

#275 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 02:04 AM:

Avram
Do you have a point here?

Yes, I do. I feel outside of everyone and everything. All the time. Sort of like... Tuck Everlasting. No, it isn't wonderful.

#276 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 02:16 AM:

Brenda: No one "wants [you] to agree." We'd like to feel you are actually arguing with us, instead of just telling us you are right, and we are ignoring you.

You may not (I would say almost certainly don't, at this point) see it that way, but this is the first time you've said we made arguments. Prior to that you said the quesstions weren't answered.

Not the answers didn't satisfy you, they wern't answered: to quote you, "You never answered my questions. Neither have you PJ. .

Never answered. That's not didn't persuade, it's not failed to cover "x", it's saying they didn't answer you.

You don't like the answers, fine. Tell us why. Make us defend our positions, don't just tell us we are wrong, and expect us to buy it.

For some things this can be done. If I tell someone they don't understand interrogation; or that something is torture, people here will, pretty much, just take that as revealed truth. But that's because they know me.

When someone who doesn't know why they do this shows up, and I tell them this, and they say something like, "Who the hell are you to say that?', I tell them.

Because I know that they can't know, without some support, that my position is one of expertise.

When I use an outside source, I say so, and will explain why I think it useful (as with my commenting on having spoken about Freud with an anthropoligist).

Those are the standards we have here. Make a case. Defend it. Cite your sources. Don't be offensive/rude. Heated is fine. Hard language can be done. Rude is right out.

It's really not that hard, and you have the basics already.

#277 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 02:21 AM:

Brenda, you might find yourself less alienated if you were listening more. You've clearly done a lot of reading and thinking, but you don't seem quite willing to believe that anyone else, and particularly not to believe that they might know things they'd like to share with you that you don't yet know. If you advance confrontationally, expecting every encounter to be a confrontation, you will get what you predict. But that doesn't mean confrontation was inevitable regardless of what stance you might take.

In my experience, Making Light works best when I come prepared at any moment to jettison what I've been thinking about a subject because someone else has the facts or interpretation that opens up a whole new way of looking at it. It's not that I often do, it's just that (in my experience) it can happen at any time, and reminding myself of the contingency of my views is a really good exercise.

#278 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 02:34 AM:

Terry
Same way we did before. Records, paperwork.

You want to go back to filing cabinets, paper forms and manila folders? That's pretty unrealistic not to mention highly inefficient and far more mistake prone.

You don't know what false positive rates are or even what the software they use is capable of. Bush is a fucker but there are people in the government who are decent and just want to catch the bad guys.

You keep saying this bill allows us to watch the watchers

Nope, never said that. I think it would be a good idea, we should do that. I don't know how.

Not the answers didn't satisfy you, they wern't answered: to quote you, "You never answered my questions. Neither have you PJ.

Because they didn't, literally. I asked Marna for a clarification. She refuses to reply. I asked PJ who it was I misunderstood. He refuses to respond.

It's like... you have really concrete thought processes... I see that in a lot of people these days... it worries me.

#279 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 02:53 AM:

Bruce
If you advance confrontationally, expecting every encounter to be a confrontation, you will get what you predict.

I'm well aware of the script that I follow. You see there is this hole in the sidewalk. I didn't see it and I fell in. Took me awhile to climb out and I saw the next hole. But I fell in. And so it goes.

#280 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 03:08 AM:

279: You see there is this hole in the sidewalk. I didn't see it and I fell in. Took me awhile to climb out and I saw the next hole. But I fell in. And so it goes.

I get that a lot, myself. Here. You can share my icepack.

278: I asked Marna for a clarification. She refuses to reply.

In fairness to myself, I use my head badly when it's just been bitten off.

Please restate what you want me to clarify, and I'll have a go at it, okay?

#281 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 03:26 AM:

Brenda: But if all you do is repeatedly fall into holes, maybe it's the wrong path. It seems from here like you have a protocol built on the assumption that you will never, ever find a congenial community, because there doesn't seem to be any room in it for friendly interaction.

It reminds me of a bit in an sf story whose author I don't remember, with the characters crewing a relativistic-speeds ship surveying star systems. They work out a routine for efficiently surveying systems that involves zooming through...only to realize upon finding a system they want to study further that they had rigged upon the assumption that they'd just want to move along. Slowing down to engage with their target takes a lot of work.

#282 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 03:48 AM:

Brenda: I have a really central question.

Do you think the bill we are talking about is a good law.

Follow up: If it is good law, what makes it good?

If you don't think it's a good law, why are you defending it?

You want to go back to filing cabinets, paper forms and manila folders? That's pretty unrealistic not to mention highly inefficient and far more mistake prone.

Now you are putting words in my mouth. Not all records are paper. But that said, your assumption that electronic records are better/more efficient isn't something I can agree with. If you want to see some examples of how they aren't you can look at the thread The modern office. You're also changing the subject. How will surveillance make those records better?


As for answers... I guess the longer list of answers is really needful. Because I, julia, Randolph Fitz, Scott Taylor, Marna, PJ, and others, HAVE answered you. In greater depth and detail than you have answered us; esp. because you have said you don't see the need to answer anyone. That speaks a great deal to the charity of those people who have answered you since then.

No, I don't now what the false postive rate is. I can know the rate posited in the example is a very low rate. Keyword searches and datamining applications will lack discernment. They will spot all sorts of things which aren't terrorrism related (me discussing rocket fuel).

Based on my experiences (some of which is in surveillance) the false positive rates will be somewhere between 50-70 percent, because terrorists are rare, but things which might be terrorism are easy to think one sees.

Just look at the false positives from people observing things; trained people like cops.

#283 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 03:55 AM:

Marna
me at 205
Your reply appears to give the impression that there are no conflicts that can arise from within a society that stem from subconscious motives or desires. Is that correct?

You don't like Freud, fine. But the way to understand him is to recontextualize what he said. Wherever he said "penis" one replaces it with "power" and everything he said is true. This was the project that Lacan and other French philosophers undertook.

That is what I was going for when I "handwaved" Freud's Discontents. Just as in the person there are currents just beneath the surface. It's a dynamic system full of competing drives, the will to power, the libido etc. Constantly at war with itself. Too big of a stressor and it could potentially fall apart. I guess I should have referenced Klein's "Shock Doctrine" but I didn't think of it.

#284 ::: Brenda ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 04:17 AM:

Terry
your assumption that electronic records are better/more efficient isn't something I can agree with

It doesn't matter because the pressure will always be there to adopt new technologies. So... it just ain't gonna happen. Even if you were able to get the government to go back to punched cards the rest of the world would not. Surveillance and data mining allows the government to be proactive rather than reactive.

#285 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 04:25 AM:

Brenda @283 -- if you had written your last paragraph in that post in your first mention of Freud/Discontents, we would all have understood you better.

#286 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 04:47 AM:

Brenda: It's like... you have really concrete thought processes... I see that in a lot of people these days... it worries me.

Which you follow in a later post with It doesn't matter because the pressure will always be there to adopt new technologies. So... it just ain't gonna happen and Surveillance and data mining allows the government to be proactive rather than reactive. which are pretty rigid views.

You are also "palming a card" you asked me what I wanted. When I told you, you said... ain't gonna happen, don't waste your time. All it with a sens of fatalism which I don't/can't/won't share.

I also would like to know why you think surviellance will improve these systems (which is different from using electronic databases from being mined... which is something other countries have put much stronger safeguards on than we have... in effect rolling back the surveillance state. See, for example, Britain, which has a huge (and, so it seems, mostly useless) camera network in London. I was just reading a report in which it was said almost no crimes were foiled by it, and far fewer than might be expected were solved with them.

For false positives... the man hours are the least of the problems they raise. We can look at the problems with the no-fly list; were unknown thousands of people have to use paper IDs, and spend extra time; proving they aren't someone suspected of being a terrorist.

For more troublesome effects of false positive: Jean Charles de Menezes, who was killed because it was thought he was a terrorist.

That was in Britain, a place less prone to shoot first, ask later, than the US is, so I'm not happy with the idea that such mistakes are being made easier; and therefore more likely.

#287 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 04:52 AM:

I don't dislike Freud, actually. I like him very well for some things. I just don't think he's good at or for understanding groups. He's great on art, often, but art is usually the work of one mind, sometimes filtered through a small group of other minds that that one mind is more or less dominating (as with plays, or movies). He did a great job of blowing the lid off of the society he lived in in terms of identifying the PROBLEMS. His solutions are... often a bit wonky.

Your reply appears to give the impression that there are no conflicts that can arise from within a society that stem from subconscious motives or desires. Is that correct?

Ah, okay.

In theory, yes, they can arise from that.

In practice, no. Because subconscious motives and desires drive individual behaviour in a manner that can be recognised when it presents as illness or distress, and can even sometimes be loosely predicted, but by the time it gets to the point where you have a conflict that is affecting a noticeable chunk of a culture, no.

The weather will affect how a riot plays out, but not necessarily predictably, or enough to matter.

There is doubtless a lot of subconscious stuff going on in the people affected, but you're extremely unlikely to get a grasp of the situation by looking at it.

There are too many minds involved, and minds in groups don't act like minds on their own, and there are too many other factors getting into the mix.

So I'm with the "look how people actually ACT in a given situation, and at the goals they set and how they go about reaching them, and at the stories they collectively tell about who they are and what they are doing."

#288 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 05:53 AM:

Brenda, #283: "You don't like Freud, fine. But the way to understand him is to recontextualize what he said. Wherever he said 'penis' one replaces it with 'power' and everything he said is true. This was the project that Lacan and other French philosophers undertook."

Wow, Freud's writings as divinatory tool. How postmodern. Well...well...um...I suppose that's how most psychological writing is used, really. But why come down on the side of penis/power, then? Because that's what you're doing.

#289 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 07:35 AM:

Brenda: I've read the answers, I just don't think they really addressed the question. Or the question was misunderstood. Or an unimportant detail was blown out of proportion. Or people were too eager to get their diggs in. And since I am the only one defending my position I am quickly over whelmed. To me it feels like people want me to agree in order to agree. I can't do that.

I'm a little confused about this. Nobody here knows anything about you. Not your history, your viewpoint, your circumstances, how your mind works, your sensitivities, or how you use words.

People responded to you, and you found their responses unhelpful because you felt they distorted or misunderstood your point, but you chose not to point that out, and instead claimed that the effort hadn't been made at all. It also sounds a great deal as if feeling you're being condescended to (and again, nobody here knows anything about you but what you've written) has left you unwilling to clarify the points on which you feel you've been misunderstood.

Sadly, that leaves you not _able_ to make your case, not because nobody is listening, but because your presumption of bad faith on the part of others leaves you unwilling to engage them.

Sadly, because you appear to be reading the response to your unsuccessful communication strategy as a confirmation of the view of the world and your place in it that caused you to develop the unsuccessful communication strategy to begin with.

The problem here is that there are a whole lot of folks having a debate about the surveillance state, and then on the other side there's you, feeling alone, and engaged in a parallel dialog about how feel about what you assume people think of you.

The anger you're clearly feeling may well be completely appropriate within the context of the interaction you're engaged in. You just need to realize that it's not the same interaction anyone else is engaged in. You're responding to the pain of feeling marginalized. The people you're interacting with are talking about FISA and getting caught in the fallout from your internal narrative.

Yes, you should absolutely defend yourself from people who attempt to marginalize you. If, however, you reserve the privilege to frame debate as an unannounced referendum on your self-esteem, you really should try and look at it from the other side for a moment.

From the perspective of someone on the other side who is debating with you in good faith, your assumption that they aren't dealing in good faith is insulting and unjustified; and if your feelings of beleaguerment spring from things that are outside their knowledge or control, your "self defense" is an unprovoked attack.

It's not an uncommon problem, really. It's a very popular form of self-defeat. It's even romanticized a fair amount in our culture.

No-one can tell you how to look at the world. What I can tell you - from years of bitter experience - is that if you start to realize that people are responding negatively not to you, but to the way you're behaving, and in a hostile way not to you, but to the hostility you're approaching them with, _you get to stop_

It's behavior. It's habit. It's a pattern. It's not intrinsic, it's not built into you, it's not who you are. It's learned, it can be unlearned, and _you get to stop_

I highly recommend it, myself.

#290 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 08:43 AM:

Greg: And what I'm left with is that pretty much half of what Balkin says about surveillance states is flat out wrong

Brenda: Pot meet kettle. You don't get to make flat assertions if I don't so prove it engineer boy. And I expect footnotes.

Brenda, meet a logical fallacy called shifting the burden of proof.

Say you come in and assert that aliens built the pyramids.
A bunch of people say no, that isn't right.
And then you respond with "Show me your proof that they didn't".

That isn't how it works. First assertion isn't free and then all others have to prove themselves.

You haven't defined what a surveillance state is. You haven't proven that it is inevitable. You haven't proven that it won't be oppressive. You haven't proven we have choice around a surveillance state. You assert those points over and over. When pushed, you quote Balkin, but the bits you quote are simple assertions by Balkin and don't define or prove it either. So you haven't proven anything.

And when people object to your assertions, you can't simply say "you haven't proven your assertion either" and that somehow makes your assertion true.

#291 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 08:56 AM:

Brendagate is distracting us from the core goal of dissing FISA; at this point, I think it is useless to attempt to convince her of anything at all. She's a lost cause.

#292 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 10:33 AM:

Brenda @ 253: "I never went to college, it wasn't allowed for me. I was recently homeless and am currently very poor."

I'd like to apologize for my comment @ 158 where I said: "I read Civilization and its Discontents in college too, where I also learned how to read critically." I was operating from the assumption that you had gone to college, and so the comment became much more insulting than I had imagined it would be. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hold formal education as a club over your head.

If you wouldn't object to continuing talking with me, I still have some questions for you.

@ 264: "How else do you imagine the government would administer the welfare state, decide who has a right to vote or who is here legally or do all those things that we want the government to do for us?"

I don't think that the government's increased need to handle information implies a need for surveillance. I feel like passive, or at least non-invasive information-gathering techniques would be sufficient for figuring out who can vote, or who needs welfare. Why will the government need to tap my phone to decide whether I can vote?

"With increased technology criminals and terrorists are better able to hide or commit new crimes such as electronic identity theft or attacks on our information infrastructure."

It's true that developments in technology have opened up new avenues of criminal activity. Crimes exist now that weren't even imaginable a couple of decades ago, and the government and judicial system are going to have to adapt (Some changes in FISA might result from that). But law-enforcement has been able to do a good job of preventing physical crime while obeying constraints on physical searches, so why is electronic crime any different? Why can't electronic crimes be prevented while still respecting people's right to protection from warrantless searches and seizures?

#293 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 10:54 AM:

Brenda, as somebody who frequently skims the comment threads here and rarely posts because I literally do not have the time to engage in this format of discussion properly, I can assure you that based on the times I have posted the people here are quite happy to engage with somebody who fundamentally disagrees with them on issues. I vehemently disagree with huge tracts of the platform generally accepted around here, but when I pop in to ask for clarification or, (because I'm baking brownies that weekend and deluded that I'll be able to keep it up) to disagree, everybody is quite on point and civil. I can think of one post from one poster in one thread over a year ago that might be an exception, but that's it.

You are not being pounded on because you disagree. You are not getting picked on for pointing out things the people here deliberately ignore. You've stated your arguments badly (see my post trying to dissect your logic last weekend and your response to it if everything else in the thread is too inflammatory) and gotten defensive when people demanded better of you. Honey, they wouldn't do that if they didn't think you were capable of providing it - they'd ignore you.

Feeling left out and excluded is a powerful thing, but it's not something anybody here is responsible for. Put up your feet, take a breath, and either drop it and wait for next time or try to start over fresh.

This bill is very frightening to many of us. If you have a different point of view you'd like to share, please do so. I'd like to discover that I'm wrong on this.

#294 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 11:26 AM:

Brenda #264:

I think it's unavoidable. How else do you imagine the government would administer the welfare state, decide who has a right to vote or who is here legally or do all those things that we want the government to do for us?

I find it hard to link this to anything FISA related, or related to "surveillance" as it's normally understood. This looks more linked to stuff like a national ID card using biometrics, something that various government agencies have pushed for a long time. (In practice, we have a kind of leaky, cobbled-together national ID card in the form of state drivers' licenses, and an attempt to glue them all together into a federal ID card of sorts.) There are a lot of related issues about detailed data being kept on all Americans in order to provide services and track well being and such, and it's an important issue that most people don't really pay enough attention to, but it doesn't really seem to be closely related to surveillance in the sense we normally would mean the word. In particular, when the government interacts with me and keeps a record of the interaction, we're not in the realm of violations of the 4th amendment. There are interesting questions about who should have access to that information (John McCain ought not to have access to Michelle Obama's medical records), but it's kind-of hard to see how government would provide services without keeping that data. (Both the power to decide when to provide services, and the information kept to do it well, represents power held by government which can be misused, and that's worth worrying about, however.)

Normally, by surveillance we mean stuff like listening in on phone and email and IM conversations, using call routing information to build graphs of who talks to whom, compromising peoples' computers to check out what they're up to on them, putting microphones in peoples' homes, putting cameras all over the place and using the footage to put together detailed profiles of what's going on, using cellphone signals to track peoples' movements, infiltrating churches, political groups, clubs, etc., to get information on people, maintaining networks of paid or coerced informants who report on what people are doing, using IR and other imaging technology to see what's going on inside peoples' homes, etc. That tracks better with the second part of this paragraph:

With increased technology criminals and terrorists are better able to hide or commit new crimes such as electronic identity theft or attacks on our information infrastructure. How do expect any government to protect it's people without the ability to collect, collate and analyze data on the activities of potential threats?

A major question we want to ask here is what kind of surveillance is really valuable and necessary, and how do we know? There's a pretty long history, still going, of the agency running the surveillance being the only one with the information needed to evaluate its performance. It can't be a surprise that agencies almost always discover that they're doing a heck of a job, and need a bigger budget, more staff, and more powers. When these claims are subjected to critical review by someone with access to the relevant information, they often look a great deal less impressive. (For example, what's come out about our torture program and the data from intercepts fed to the FBI suggests that a lot of the information recovered is just not very useful.)

It's also important to recognize that surveillance that's driven by technological changes will probably be used extensively by private parties and criminals. To the extent your security from eavesdropping relies on people not violating the law and listening in on your cellphone or cordless phone conversations, the police may (or may not) wait for a warrant to do it, but the crooks will definitely not ask anyone's permission. That makes a strong case, to me, that we ought to be hardening a lot of our commonly-used services against eavesdropping and other privacy violations. Historically, a great deal of opposition to this has come from the surveillance agencies--NSA and DOJ in particular--because it would make their jobs harder. We've paid, and will continue to pay, in less day-to-day security against criminals of all kinds as a result.

And finally, imagine that we lived in a world in which telephone and email conversations were impenitrible. That world could come pretty quickly, as the basic technology to do it is all there. Would police work get harder? Yep. Would modern civilization become impossible to maintain? I can't see how. Even if we got a 9/11 scale attack every year, we'd be noticeably better off than the UK during the battle of Britain, or Germany under allied bombing, and those societies were demonstrably productive enough to stay in a hard-fought war for many years, and to continue cranking out fighter planes and tanks and such.

Indeed, it might be that society would work better, because many of the bad guys exploit bad computer security, weak or nonexistent crypto, etc. As far as anyone can tell, this is mostly done for crime, but it's probably impossible to find out how much damage is done by quiet eavesdropping that lets you make a slightly lower bid than your competitor, front-run some big trades, gather blackmail material, know what news coverage is coming a couple days in advance, etc.

#295 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 11:48 AM:

I am as worried about corporate data mining, and the power of private entities like credit reporting bureaus, as I am about the federal government spying on me. And I am very worried about the federal government spying on me.

#296 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 02:04 PM:

Nancy C Mittens -- Me, too. Speaking of data mining..... I'm honestly not sure what I think of this scheme.

#297 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 07:10 PM:

Greg@234

There IS a pattern but it isn't time until next election (although that does seem to interact a bit with the main effect).

If you look at group 2, all five senators in this group from states carried by Bush in both 2000 and 2004 voted for the FISA bill. Obama also voted for the FISA bill but he's running for national office and is also very interested in turning red states his way.

Meanwhile, 6 of the 7 senators in group 2 who voted against came from states carried by both Gore and Kerry and the other one (Harkin) comes from a state carried by Gore.

A similar pattern holds for groups 1 and 3 (the senators not facing an immediate election), but not as strongly.

(Shorter version: Democratic senators from politically conservative states were more likely to support the FISA bill.)

#298 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 07:40 PM:

Michael@297: Democratic senators from politically conservative states were more likely to support the FISA bill

That probably explains it far better than anything else I've seen.

#299 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 08:12 PM:

OK, here's the vote tally for the Dems compared to whether the state went Democrat or Republican in the 2004 election. Bottom line, most senators voted for the bill if their state leans red, and most senators voted against the bill if their state leans blue.

Democracy in action, folks.

class senatorname (party-state) fisa-vote 2004-state-result

2004-state-result => which presidential candidate won 2004 vote for that state d=democrat, r=republican

-----

up for election in a couple months, vote matches exactly the 2004 presidential vote

3 Obama (D-IL), Yea d

vote follows 2004 presidential result
2 Baucus (D-MT), Yea r
2 Johnson (D-SD), Yea r
2 Landrieu (D-LA), Yea r
2 Pryor (D-AR), Yea r
2 Rockefeller (D-WV), Yea r

vote follows 2004 presidential result
2 Biden (D-DE), Nay d
2 Durbin (D-IL), Nay d
2 Harkin (D-IA), Nay r
2 Kerry (D-MA), Nay d
2 Lautenberg (D-NJ), Nay d
2 Levin (D-MI), Nay d
2 Reed (D-RI), Nay d

-----

Up for election in 2 years, the vote mostly matches the 2004 presidential results

vote follows 2004 presidential result
3 Bayh (D-IN), Yea r
3 Lincoln (D-AR), Yea r
3 Salazar (D-CO), Yea r

democratic state, but voted for bill anyway? sellout?
3 Inouye (D-HI), Yea d
3 Mikulski (D-MD), Yea d

republican state but voted against bill anyway! brave soul
3 Dorgan (D-ND), Nay r
3 Reid (D-NV), Nay r

vote follows 2004 presidential result
3 Wyden (D-OR), Nay d
3 Boxer (D-CA), Nay d
3 Dodd (D-CT), Nay d
3 Feingold (D-WI), Nay d
3 Leahy (D-VT), Nay d
3 Murray (D-WA), Nay d
3 Schumer (D-NY), Nay d

-----

up for election in 4 years, the vote starts going a little wonky.

vote follows 2004 presidential result
1 McCaskill (D-MO), Yea r
1 Conrad (D-ND), Yea r
1 Nelson (D-FL), Yea r
1 Nelson (D-NE), Yea r
1 Webb (D-VA), Yea r

democratic state, but voted for bill anyway? sellout?
1 Whitehouse (D-RI), Yea d
1 Carper (D-DE), Yea d
1 Casey (D-PA), Yea d
1 Feinstein (D-CA), Yea d

republican state but voted against bill anyway! brave soul
1 Bingaman (D-NM), Nay r
1 Brown (D-OH), Nay r
1 Byrd (D-WV), Nay r
1 Tester (D-MT), Nay r


vote follows 2004 presidential result
1 Akaka (D-HI), Nay d
1 Cantwell (D-WA), Nay d
1 Cardin (D-MD), Nay d
1 Clinton (D-NY), Nay d
1 Menendez (D-NJ), Nay d
1 Stabenow (D-MI), Nay d
1 Sanders (I-VT), Nay d
1 Klobuchar (D-MN), Nay d

-----

So, it looks like the closer to reelection, the more likely the senators will vote whatever their state votes.

There's some weirdness though for a few senators who represent states that voted Blue, but those senators voted for the bill anyway.

3 Inouye (D-HI), Yea d
3 Mikulski (D-MD), Yea d
1 Whitehouse (D-RI), Yea d
1 Carper (D-DE), Yea d
1 Casey (D-PA), Yea d
1 Feinstein (D-CA), Yea d

Plus there are a couple senators who represent a red state and voted against the bill anyway, which seems pretty brave compared to their compatriots:

3 Dorgan (D-ND), Nay r
3 Reid (D-NV), Nay r
1 Bingaman (D-NM), Nay r
1 Brown (D-OH), Nay r
1 Byrd (D-WV), Nay r
1 Tester (D-MT), Nay r


Not sure if there are any patterns in those two smaller groups.

So, the question is: If Obama voted against the bill, would he lose the presidential election?

Do the right thing, bill gets passed anyway, AND he loses the presidential election. That would be about the worst case outcome.

#300 ::: Mark Wise ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2008, 10:58 AM:

I just gave $100 to the ACLU and faxed the receipt to Obama's office. The cover letter explained that the ACLU got the money rather than his campaign due entirely to his recent FISA vote and the ACLU's lawsuit in opposition to the FISA update.

#301 ::: Debbie sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2012, 06:36 AM:

Dude. Four years too late.

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