Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

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392 Responses

  1. Avatar dhex says:

    there’s a lot more competition and disagreement on what budgets should look like versus what government spying should look like. being “tough on terrorism” is not a losing proposition.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      We need to make it one.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        This is the big issue that I think many liberals and libertarians do not have an answer for: how?

        I think this is a very serious discussion and probably goes deep to the heart of philosophy and human nature. Do the majority of people care about civil liberties or do they prefer safety? There are lots of civil libertarians in the world but when someone like Conor F or Andrew Cohen at the Atlantic post about this, they are largely preaching to the choir.

        Most people probably do not want to live in a totalitarian dictatorship but they are also probably not full on raging civil libertarians either. They are willing to have programs that are not free to keep them safe. Even from very distant and remote threats. The famous Ben Franklin quote on liberty and safety is fine and good but just appealing to the Founder’s will not help promote civil liberties.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          psht. you don’t need to sway a soul. You just need to Organize.

          And that means putting Liberals and Libertarians in one party,
          and putting the ConservaDems in the other.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer says:

            The most conservative Democrats are still further to the Left than the most liberal Republicans.

            A Liberal and Libertarian alliance will not last too long because of fundamental disagreements over economic policy. As a liberal, I have no problem with ending at-will employment, a strong and robust welfare state, laws against discrimination, etc. Many libertarians would jeer that this makes me a supporter of anti-Freedom and an enemy to liberty.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Would you agree to vote for a Libertarian candidate, running on a mostly civil rights platform, using “standard platitudes — moderate version” for economic stuff?

              Not forever-and-always, but long enough for us to get the crazyCons out??Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Probably not. I care too much about economic justice and the need for universal healthcare, universal pre-K, etcReport

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I think we can get some economic justice without some of what you mentioned. capital gains tax, estate tax, etc.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Also I notice very few libertarians are willing to make any concessions on economics issues to form a coalition with liberals. Even the bleeding-heart libertarian movement is largely aimed at convincing liberals to give up on the welfare state.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Allow me to profer a different argument? Are your values so dear to you that you would allow a system to choose our President which is embarrassingly easy to rig, in order to support your values?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I don’t think the BHL crowd wants to give up on the welfare state, they just want it to function better: negative income taxes, direct transfers, means testing, etc. Basically, they want to achieve the same results (“minimum” incomes or “living” incomes) while minimizing the state’s role in accomplishing it.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                We still have the problem then of the BHL crowd seeing government as being bad and/or unnatural. I as a liberal still see government as a potential for the greater good and necessary. Sometimes it works best at a local level, other issues need a large and national policy.

                The idea that government is a natural bad is alien to me. I think it is perfectly natural for people to form societies and governments in order to protect themselves.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                And sometimes protecting oneself means listening to your phone calls.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                Sometimes it is necessary to gather evidence of certain crimes. I think it should be hard for the police to get a wiretapping warrant but I don’t think they should never be granted.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                Only because the government makes certain modes of commerce illegal. If it weren’t for government created black markets, there would be no profit in most conspiracies.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Markets are black for various reasons. Chief among the Wielders of Big Sharpie Markers are those who would repeal regulations on those markets. Those who would complain about the rise of black markets in response to over-regulation should also have a few harsh words for those created by deregulation.

                Put it this way, the market in unregulated risk dwarfs the illegal drugs trade by several orders of magnitude.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Problem is that this isn’t getting a warrant.

                This is storing lots of stuff before they need the warrant. Indeed, before it’s even credible to assume that they’ll ever need a warrant.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                If it weren’t for government created black markets, there would be no profit in most conspiracies.

                That’s tantamount to saying “if there were no government regulations there’d be no profit in violating government regulations.” Which is vacuous.

                What’s really at issue is the limits of government intrusion into markets. I mean, if what you’re saying is true, the profit derived from a conspiracy to commit murder is caused by government. And that may be an accurate analysis! But it’s also a reductio, it seems to me.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                Ok, you’ve all convinced me I’m on board.

                Do I get to personally bail out bankers and ensure poor people and especially young black males go to jail, or do I get to just watch?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Heh. I have no clear idea how badly the Great Recession impacted you personally, but you did personally bail out the bankers as a citizen of this country. You’re also insuring poor people at great expense every time they turn up in the ED with a minor condition gone major because they didn’t see a doctor while it was minor. As for all those young black males in prison, you’re paying for them, too — if you’re a taxpayer.

                Which brings up the question: are you a taxpayer? Wouldn’t you like to see your tax dollar spend on a value for money proposition and not on fruitless wars back by lies? Wouldn’t you like to see a country where the aim is to turn as many citizens as possible into taxpayers?

                Or would you rather see this country run by a collection of moralising jackasses and prostitutes for an unregulated market system in stripped points on CDOs and stripped prisoners sent into privately-run prison systems? There is a choice, you know.

                There is a certain charm to voyeurs. They like to watch, unobserved. Furtive little creatures, almost harmless. They could have what they seek if they’d stretch out their arms and reach for it. They don’t, though. They positively enjoy the notion, that frisson of fear which accompanies the risk of getting caught. It’s just a replacement for the fear of being rejected.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                I was referring to more than narcotics. I was referring to a whole litany of white collar crimes including but not limited to bribery, embezzlement, ponzi schemes, pyramid schemes, corruption, fraud, many laundering.

                Or should all those things be legal as well?Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                We still have the problem then of the BHL crowd seeing government as being bad and/or unnatural.

                I don’t see government as unnatural . That urge you get when you see someone else with something you want, just to take it from him? That’s the most natural thing in the world. It predates civilization, and even humanity, going back hundreds of millions of years.

                The problem with government isn’t that it’s unnatural. It’s that it’s too natural. We’re supposed to rise above our baser instincts, not wallow in them.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Emails used to fall under the ‘postcard rule;’ that the expectation of privacy in an email is the same as that with a postcard.
                Somewhere along the lines, it was determined that First Amendment protections did apply to emails.
                However, First Amendment protections are limited to public speech. Private speech has little, if any, protection under the First Amendment.

                Here’s an excerpt from the casefile of Maldonado v. Municipality of Barceloneta (case no. 07-cv-01992 from the District of Puerto Rico) that gotten a bit of ink. It’s sort of a sideshow to the case itself, which is rather gruesome. This part concerns the use of the message utility in Facebook; from Document 162, pp. 3-4:

                There also appears to be confusion as to the classification of the message in question. Defendants incorrectly claim the message constitutes a “blog.” See Quixtar Inc. v. Signature Mgmt. Team, LLC, 566 F. Supp. 2d 1205, 1209 n.3 (D. Nev. 2008) (defining a blog as “[a] frequently updated web site consisting of personal observations, excerpts from other sources, etc.”); see also Indep. Newspapers, Inc. v. Brodie, 2009 WL 484956, at *3 (Md. Feb. 27, 2009); (Docket No. 151, at 1-2, ¶¶ 2-3.) Plaintiffs incorrectly claim the message constitutes an e-mail. See Am. Civil Liberties Union v. Reno, 929 F. Supp. 824, 834 (E.D. Pa. 1996); (Docket No. 148, at 3, ¶ 9.) This type of communication, a message sent on Facebook, a “social networking website,”1 which has not been considered by this circuit or in any other circuit to the court’s knowledge, is likely a hybrid of the two. Connectu LLC v. Zuckerberg, 522 F.3d 82, 86 (1st Cir. 2008). The message in question is clearly in the latter category: messages sent to a user’s Facebook inbox are not publicly viewable. Thus, they are not in the “public domain,” where First Amendment rights might attach. 2 See Golan v. Gonzales, 501 F.3d 1179, 1193 (10th Cir. 2007).


              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I don’t see government as unnatural . That urge you get when Good comment up there BB. You wrote:

                you see someone else with something you want, just to take it from him? That’s the most natural thing in the world. It predates civilization, and even humanity, going back hundreds of millions of years.

                The problem with government isn’t that it’s unnatural. It’s that it’s too natural. We’re supposed to rise above our baser instincts, not wallow in them.

                I like part of what’s being expressed here: that people have a natural (biological, let’s say) desire to take things they want from others. I get that. What I don’t quite get is the role you think government plays in this. I mean, presumably, government has no desires of its own (being an abstract entity and all), and those desires reside exclusively in human beings.

                So, some questions. Is the worry that government facilitates the desire of individuals to take things that aren’t theirs? Does it legitimize this desire?

                Conversely, isn’t it also the case that the primary, pretty much universally agreed upon purpose of government is to restrict the ability of people to take things that aren’t theirs?

                I’m unclear what you mean in this comment (obvs) because it seems to me you’re identifying one aspect of government and offering it as an analysis of what government is.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Brandon Berg,

                I believe that some licensing requirements are silly especially in haircutting, pedicures, and manicures. There was a story on Planet Money this year about an African-immigrant woman in Utah who wanted to set up a business specializing in African-braids. There were a lot of children in her community who were adopted from Africa. She was shut down by whatever board goes after barbers and haircutters. She took her case to court and won. I support this decision.

                I also think that the overregulation of taxis is bad. Taxi medallions should be unlimited and issued on a more liberal basis at affordable rates. Perhaps there could be a slightly heightened road test but that is all. I also support companies like uber trying to get in and break up the cartel/system.

                However, I still think licensing is important for fields where there is a risk of injury to clients. This involves esthetcians who work with chemicals and wax, massage therapists (the real kind, not the innuendo kind found at the back of alt-weeklies everywhere), lawyers, doctors, nurses, accountants/CPAs, etc.

                Now please tell me an area where you think libertarians can compromise with liberals on regulation and/or the need for welfare state politics at a strong, federal level.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Whoops. “I don’t see government as unnatural . That urge you get when” is the first part of BB’s quoted comment.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                Well, I was referring mostly to the aspects of government on which libertarians and the left disagree. With the exception of anarchists, most agree that restraining plunder is a legitimate function of government. And even many anarchists think that there should be businesses that perform that function privately.

                But government also facilitates plunder. And in a sense legitimizes it. People who wouldn’t dream of robbing a rich person’s house nevertheless have no qualms about pushing to raise taxes on the rich in order to fund their own retirement benefits.

                So all of the above, really.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                It’s not a compromise if it’s something you actually want.

                In point of fact, we’ve been ceding ground to the left for generations, as the welfare state has grown unchecked for eighty years. Come to think of it, our current budget situation is the result of both sides compromising: The Republicans on spending and the Democrats on taxes. Who would have guessed that freebies that nobody has to pay for would be such a big crowd-pleaser?Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                Some transactions should be illegal like organ donation. That is a transaction that can only come from duress and the government needs to ban.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                Also I notice very few libertarians are willing to make any concessions on economics issues to form a coalition with liberals.

                Nor will leftists make concessions on economic issues to form a coalition with libertarians. It seems we’re at an impasse.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                We can’t even get the Libertarians to agree on definitions. And you’re saying we can’t form a coalition? Why don’t Libertarians at least form a coalition among their own?

                Start there. Once you’ve had a little Come to Jesus about your problems with definitions, then we might talk. Because then we might have something to talk about.Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                How can you have a coalition with a bunch of people who identify with a few characters in a bad novel? It’s a right-wing equivalent of a Che t-shirt, just a fashion statement. Good luck with that.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Confusing “libertarians” with “objectivists” is one of those things that makes confusing “progressives” with “totalitarians” emotionally satisfying for “libertarians”.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                A dandy analog for the way that ‘Republicans’ often view the ‘Tea Party.’
                The “Tea Party” is the “libertarian wing.”

                If self would christen offspring in honor of Russky, I’m aiming for Asimov.Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                Confusing “libertarians” with “objectivists” is one of those things that makes confusing “progressives” with “totalitarians” emotionally satisfying for “libertarians”.

                I’m sure that’s supposed to be some kind of devastating comeback but it really just proves my point. If you don’t already know what a Libertarian is, you won’t get any help from Libertarians themselves about it. Most of their posts are about copping an attitude to someone else’s comments, and you’d have a hard time understanding how a Libertarian polity would actually work in practice. Which is kind of the whole point about politics, after all.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                A Libertarian polity. Is that the newest oxymoron?

                You are categorically confused on libertarians. We’ve been quite specific in the LoOG on what a more libertarian vision looks like. It involves less interference and top down, coercive management of the affairs of people. Note it does not involve zero government, or zero regulation.

                To distinguish libertarianish domains from their opposite, just note how screwed up the field is. Products which get better and cheaper over time are usually hallmarks of free enterprise. A simple set of fairly consistent rules which foster bottoms up problem solving and freedom. Progressives have used their magic on the screwed up fields like health care, education, finance, mortgages, and so forth. Indeed, we argue it was their involvement which screwed it up.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Where’s the Secret Decoder Ring, Roger? How ’bout you, Jaybird? I’ve repeatedly said the Libertarians only define themselves by what they aren’t and yet again, you’re making my point. No definitions and therefore no consensus, even among your own. This game is getting old.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                I don’t see government as unnatural . That urge you get when you see someone else with something you want, just to take it from him? That’s the most natural thing in the world.

                That’s what Brandon Berg said above. I think that defines the bizarro world Libertarians live in quite well, they think government is always about to “take theirs” and “give it to someone else” and that there’s no benefit to them ever, or to the overall health of society ever.

                FYIGM is the Libertarian Motto.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’d say that libertarianism is very much a “what are the limits to my jurisdiction?” question when followed up with “is this anybody else’s business?” when it comes to myself.

                So: is my eating bacon and eggs for breakfast your business?
                Is my having sex with someone else your business?
                Is my spending my discretionary income on video games your business? What if I spent it on drugs? On pornography? On Palestinian Schools?

                All that stuff that, if I did it, I’d be able to say “this isn’t any of your business” is stuff that isn’t any of my business when you do it.

                And so there are quite a few things that aren’t any of my business.

                We can discuss such things as “pouring mercury into the river and killing all of the fish and all of the people” and how such a thing *IS* my business (as well as limitations on the concept of “ownership” when it comes to such things as “rivers”) but, for the most part?

                There is a *HUGE* number of things that just aren’t any of my business… and I know that they aren’t any of my business.

                When I see other people come up and say “OF COURSE THIS IS MY BUSINESS!!!”, I do an internal calculus and ask “how much overlap does this argument have with the arguments given by those folks offended by gay dudes holding hands at the mall?”

                More often than not, we’re talking about something a lot closer to gay dudes holding hands than someone pouring mercury into a river.

                So here’s my decoder ring secret of the day: It’s none of my freakin’ business whether you drink your Ovaltine or not.

                Here’s the bonus secret: In any given discussion where you want to explain how I have a responsibility to you and to others to drink my Ovaltine and that that makes it your jurisdiction, my assumption will be that the burden of demonstrating how this is any of your freakin’ business is on you (rather than on me to prove how it’s not).

                Seriously: I hope this helps.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Roger, I think you’re arguing straw. Again. But I have another worry. You wrote: “Progressives have used their magic on the screwed up fields like health care, education, finance, mortgages, and so forth.”

                Two things about this strike me as wrong. The first is that insofar as you think certain aspects of “progressive” intervention into markets has led to bad outcomes, your arguments don’t determine whether those bad results ought to be attributed to the basic fact of government intervention full stop, or merely an excess of policy.

                The second is related to the first. In the case of healthcare, education, finance in particular, I’d be inclined to say that without robust government intervention in the past, those markets/institutions would never have attained enough prominence for us to even debate the merits of less government intervention into them. That is, it’s only because of active government intervention that those markets/institutions are sufficiently stable, complex, interconnected, self-sustaining, etc., that the merits of limiting government is even a plausible issue to discuss.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Jaybird: there’s nothing there. As a Liberal, the only part of your bacon and eggs I care about is when you sell rotten pork or dodgy eggs and even you admit there’s some discussion around those points, every last word of which is part of a progressive agenda.

                So, no it doesn’t help.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Confusing “libertarians” with “objectivists” is one of those things that makes confusing “progressives” with “totalitarians” emotionally satisfying for “libertarians”.

                Which is why on sites like this one, Atlas Shrugged is dismissed as morally horrifying claptrap, while progressive sites celebrate fiction in which the bourgeois government is overthrown and replaced by the dictatorship of the proletariat.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “there’s nothing there.”

                Ironically, that’s also the answer that the Progressives give to the question “what isn’t under your jurisdiction?”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Jaybird, I really think you’re arguing straw here as well. The liberals on this site advocate for regulation of markets, social safety nets, equality under the law, equality of opportunity, stuff like that. The same stuff libertarians effectively argue for. They’re – we’re – all in favor of not restricting who you sleep with, what you eat, that you spend money and time on video games, smoking weed…

                Yet, you still see liberalism as not just mistaken here and there, but fundamentally wrong. So, I don’t think what you’re suggesting above is what you’re actually advocating in your libertarianism. It’s something else, it seems to me.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The Libertarians are full to brimming with simplistic examples about Ovaltine. Bacon and eggs, well, let’s just say they’ve never seen trichinosis-riddled pork in a marketplace.

                Libertarians can only thrive in an already-regulated landscape where food safety is taken for granted. It really is the most effete philosophy imaginable. It projects all evil onto government as surely as credulous priests once projected chaos and evil into the heavens, preaching a future paradise where lions shall lie down with lambs and they shall all eat grass together. That we should be governed by laws and not the will of tyrants is anathema to them. That the Progressives have always been the enemies of rigged government and tyranny never occurs to the Libertarians.

                It was the Progressives who fought the battles for the rights of the poor from the bottom up. It was the Progressives who put an end to child labour in the USA. We brought the principles of open government, of food safety, of regulated banking, of genuine equality to the USA and it irritates me to see a collection of smug little Libertarians who never did a meaningful thing by way of progress tell us who we are. Hateful, spiteful and beyond discussion, not once have I ever seen a Libertarian step out from behind his cant and drivel to admit the Progressives did one good thing. You are, if anything, worse than the Objectivists, who were at least honest in admitting their selfishness.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                They’re – we’re – all in favor of not restricting who you sleep with, what you eat, that you spend money and time on video games, smoking weed…

                If I wanted to have a discussion about making raw milk products available, what do you think would happen within, oh, 7 comments?

                Discussions of discretionary income might turn into “we don’t care what you do with your spare cash”, but I also suspect that any discussion of the downsides of raising taxes could easily turn into accusations of “Fuck You, I’ve Got Mine”. Do you find this particularly unlikely?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                You’re probably right about that. I’m suggesting the reason that happens isn’t only because of liberal intransigence.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Perhaps we should just stick with the bacon and eggs, Jaybird. We haven’t quite gotten past those pesky USDA inspectors just tryin’ to keep a good pork farmer down.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The Libertarians are full to brimming with simplistic examples about Ovaltine.

                When you start discussing decoder rings in the middle of The Christmas Season, to complain about someone else’s reference to Ovaltine is an abuse of your First Amendment Right to Free Speech.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So we’ve established that “They’re – we’re – all in favor of not restricting … what you eat …” isn’t exactly true.

                BUT!!!! It should also be pointed out, the fact that this isn’t exactly true is in the best interest of everyone involved and that everyone’s lives are improved by the restrictions given by those in charge of making these decisions.

                I’m going to go on to say that you’ll find that the whole “this is in the best interest of everyone involved” will be found for every single expansion of jurisdiction and, when it’s found that, technically, there are no areas where they don’t have jurisdiction, we’ll be asked questions about what it was like back when people were allowed to do the wrong thing.

                And how much better off we are now that there are neither nooks nor crannies where Our Betters do not have jurisdiction.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Libertarians can only thrive in an already-regulated landscape where food safety is taken for granted.

                Yeah, that’s it. (I’d probably use the word “libertarianism”, tho.)

                If food safety is a real collective action problem – and in my mind it was and continues to be – then government has a legitimate role to play in resolving it. If – if! – we’re at a place now in which food safety can be ensured via market mechanisms alone, then I’m all in favor of eliminating government intervention into the market. But is there a credible reason to think we’re at that place? Is it an open question whether we might in fact be at that place?

                If so, it’s only because progressive desire for (and implementation of!) top-down solutions that the discussion even has any merits whatsoever.

                {{Unless we’re gonna go completely counterfactual and idealistic and propose logically possible ways order emerges out of chaos and all that nonsense….}}Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                How did the Replacements put it, back in the day?

                A dream too tired to come true
                Left a rebel without a clue
                And I’m searching for somethin’ to do

                Seems terribly apt just about now. Libertarianism is that dream too tired to come true. Them what’s left, still clinging to the illusion, are a truly pathetic lot.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                I like that answer better. What you’re essentially saying – whether it’s factually accurate or not – is on your view, liberals have an ideological view which at it’s very core runs counter to your ideological beliefs. So, on your view, liberals and libertarians cannot ever in principle agree about a policy, or state of affairs, or historical fact. Or anything!

                I think that’s closer to what I was suggesting above.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I don’t think that’s the case. I think that when there are questions where both of us agree that We As A Society have jurisdiction, we’ll find that our answers have some degree of overlap (I might be willing to say that Libertarians are more likely to treat these answers more as engineering problems than moral failings but that’s neither here nor there for right now.)

                The disagreement is more fundamental. We disagree over whether you have jurisdiction and, indeed, whether the burden of proof ought to be on me proving that you don’t have jurisdiction or on you proving that you do.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                That’s what Brandon Berg said above. I think that defines the bizarro world Libertarians live in quite well, they think government is always about to “take theirs” and “give it to someone else” and that there’s no benefit to them ever, or to the overall health of society ever.

                Not really, no. I do all right, but I don’t make enough money to find myself in the crosshairs of the Democratic party. Nobody’s talking about raising my taxes.

                I just don’t feel the sense of entitlement to other people’s money that you and your ilk do.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Entitlement to others’ money? That’s rich. Don’t the Libertarians tell us the market solves all the world’s problems? Who says you’re entitled to drive on roads I paid for? I don’t mind paying taxes, it’s just a fact of life. You want the nice, secure world where 911 works and the fire trucks arrive and the grocery store doesn’t sell rotten meat and the drugs in your pill capsules actually contain what’s printed on the label. You just don’t want to pay for it.

                Curious how this works out in the real world: the people who complain most about confiscatory taxation are the people least likely to actually pay taxes. It’s the phoniest argument ever and it’s only made by a class of effete moochers who want good things but not to pay for them.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                “If food safety is a real collective action problem – and in my mind it was and continues to be – then government has a legitimate role to play in resolving it. If – if! – we’re at a place now in which food safety can be ensured via market mechanisms alone, then I’m all in favor of eliminating government intervention into the market. But is there a credible reason to think we’re at that place? Is it an open question whether we might in fact be at that place?”

                If, or when, top down food safety regulations are superior to market based solutions, then I would agree. I have zero argument with you here.

                “If so, it’s only because progressive desire for (and implementation of!) top-down solutions that the discussion even has any merits whatsoever.”

                Why do you say this?

                “{{Unless we’re gonna go completely counterfactual and idealistic and propose logically possible ways order emerges out of chaos and all that nonsense….}}”

                Huh? I know you are being facetious here, but you do recognize that we do believe order can and does evolve out of chaos? That the Scottish Enlightenment and much of the modern world greatly emerged out of this insight?Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                I don’t mind paying taxes for things best paid for by taxes.

                I don’t even remotely believe that markets solve all the worlds problems. That is absurd.

                I don’t mind paying for solutions to social problems like roads, defense and safe food. I do mind paying more for them than necessary, and I totally dislike the idea of institutionally getting other people to pay for personal benefits where not necessary.

                Your moochers are our rent seekers and parasites, and we not only do not support them, but we are kind of pissed you guys keep trying to create them. But there is logic in your madness. Parasites are among your most loyal party members.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                whether the burden of proof ought to be on me proving that you don’t have jurisdiction or on you proving that you do.

                Sure. I get that. I’m all in favor of that idea as an operating principle in decision-making. In fact, I’ve been pretty clear about that in all the comments I’ve made on this topic. Government policy must meet at least a minimal burden of justification in order to be legitimate. So on that score, it seems to me you haven’t distinguished liberals from libertarians.

                Take the soda ban, for example. Is the ban justified? Well, if you view the costs incurred from diabetes as a collective action problem, then you might think it is. If you view the ban as a violation of (immutable) individual rights, then you might think it isn’t. You might also concede both arguments and advocate for a tax, rather than a ban (as Jason Kuznicki did). The upshot, tho, is that what constitutes meeting the burden of justification depends a lot on the antecedent beliefs a person holds.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I know you are being facetious here, but you do recognize that we do believe order can and does evolve out of chaos?

                I wasn’t being facetious and I do recognize it. That’s why put it in there.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                if you view the costs incurred from diabetes as a collective action problem


                And I’m back to pointing out that the question of “what ISN’T a collective action problem?”, for liberals and progressives, seems to have “nothing” as an answer *OR* that the list of somethings seems to be getting shorter as time goes on and it’s easy to interpret that as being a vector towards the answer being “nothing” (and soon).

                So another disconnect might be how libertarians see that as a problem and liberals don’t. (Because, hey, collective action problems require solutions and if libertarians aren’t willing to solve collective action problems, they’re free-riding on the rest of us.)Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Recycled rubbish won’t fly. Poor people benefit from Progressive policies. Rich people do, too. We’re the people who make the markets work by creating confidence in them.

                Libertarians have alienated everyone going back a lifetime now. They sneered at every meaningful effort to eliminate segregation. They lustily cheered as the risk markets were deregulated. They make sweeping generalisations about markets. They’re overwhelmingly a collection of disaffected white people. We used to call such people “Fiscal conservatives and social liberals”, except their ideas about fiscal conservatism amount to a damnation of government itself and their social liberalism is of the Let Them Eat Cake variety. They never open their mouths except to exchange feet.

                Your precious Free Market system is fuller of shit than a Christmas goose. Slavery was defended on the basis of property rights. Your idealism is beyond useless, it’s positively offensive. You dream up simplistic examples and when I tear into them, you start in stipulating like a flock of pigeons shitting on takeoff. You consistently lie about our motives, you wilfully ignore the obvious benefits of regulation but most deviously, you say we back top-down regulation. We don’t. We want every side of beef inspected for maggots and that means paying for bureaucracy you hate on principle. There is no talking to you.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And I’m back to pointing out that the question of “what ISN’T a collective action problem?”, for liberals and progressives, seems to have “nothing” as an answer *OR* that the list of somethings seems to be getting shorter as time goes on and it’s easy to interpret that as being a vector towards the answer being “nothing” (and soon).

                A collective action problem requires that individual rationality entails collectively worse outcomes wrt to the individual action, yes? So not just any old thing could be a collective action problem. There’s a logical closure to the dynamic.

                With that out of the way, what you’re saying here is just a repeat of what we discussed a couple weeks ago: that you criticize liberals for not having a principled limit on governmental policy. My response then was that neither you nor Hanley (since he picked up the ball with you) have a principled limit for those things. Your limit is pragmatics. For both of you it amounted to “need”. But isn’t a basic need contextually determined? Isn’t it subject to arguments and disputes? Is access to healthcare a basic need? Is a cell phone for the unemployed? Access to a library? Is a room of your own a basic need, or is the provision of shelter enough, where dozens of poor people sleep in cots?

                We determine answers to these questions by ranking our values, it seems to me, and pragmatically evaluating the potential options that emerge. If you think a liberal’s preferred policy is too expansive wrt “entitlements”, it’s not because you have a principled limit and he doesn’t (or the converse!), but because you and he disagree about preference rankings given the facts on the ground. (Or so it seems to me.)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So not just any old thing could be a collective action problem.

                “Drink sizes available from your local 7-11 are not a collective action problem.”

                This is one of those statements that would have elicited a snort of derision in, oh, the 90’s. “That’s a strawman”, people would have argued. “Nobody is going to say that we need to start looking at stuff like Coca-Cola.”

                And yet… here we are. Reasonable people can disagree over whether… how did you phrase it? “Well, if you view the costs incurred from diabetes as a collective action problem, then you might think it is.”

                We’ve gone, in my lifetime, from an argument being a silly strawman to a case where reasonable people can disagree.

                My argument is that, as we go on, the things you deride as strawmen will be issues where reasonable people can disagree.

                And, soon thereafter, people who disagree will be like people who want you to eat maggot-infested meat.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Drink size isn’t a collective action problem. Getting diabetes isn’t either. But insofar as the cost of treating diabetes is born by other people, then that might be a collective action problem.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                My argument is that, as we go on, the things you deride as strawmen will be issues where reasonable people can disagree.

                Which is as it should be. The world is a dynamic place. Why should our normative beliefs about it be static?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                And it is in this way that Public Health Care turns from something where we are meeting obligations into something where we are incurring obligations.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And it is in this way that Public Health Care turns from something where we are meeting obligations into something where we are incurring obligations.

                You’ve already accepted a positive obligation when you concede that we – as a society – have an obligation to provide basic needs to the poor. So I don’t see this comment as invoking the FORCE of PRINCIPLE the way you might.

                But maybe I’m not undestanding what you’re arguing. In fact, I’m sure I don’t, since I’m just describing something and you seem to be rejecting the description.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m sure you remember many of the arguments for Public Health Care. “We, as a society, have an obligation to provide health care to everybody, regardless of their ability to pay.”

                Not a strawman, right? That is something that we said, right?

                Now we’re talking about how drink sizes are now a public health issue insofar as costs incurred from diabetes create a collective action problem.

                Tah-dah! A nice trick.

                I’d be less irritated if I didn’t see a similar trick being pulled between the War On Poverty and the War On Drugs.

                What are the odds that we’ll see a “War On Obesity” before either of us is in the cold, cold ground? “That’s silly,” I can see someone say. “That’s a strawman.”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Now we’re talking about how drink sizes are now a public health issue insofar as costs incurred from diabetes create a collective action problem.

                Tah-dah! A nice trick.

                There’s no trick, Jaybird. Just the facts. People with diabetes will, as a matter of fact, receive healthcare to treat the symptoms and consequences of that disease, and the cost of those procedures will be born by other people.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                You can’t engineer yourself a compelling interest.

                That’s hogwash.

                If you decide that public health provisioning is something that should be – at least to some degree – in the commons (an argument, to be sure, that I find myself aligned with in most cases)… you don’t get to put obligations on participation in the commons.

                It’s the commons. We all get to use it.

                If you don’t like that, don’t put whatever it is in the commons. But you can’t use the fact that you put it in the commons to argue that you now have a compelling interest in everybody’s interaction with the thing.

                That’s flat out not okay.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Every compelling interest since Giglamesh has been to a certain extent, engineered.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                I meant to reply to this post. I replied to this above.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                Kohole’s arguments below and is statements on what Gary Johnson would have done are why liberals and libertarians will never be able to work together probably.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:


          Well, there’s no clear path, that’s for sure, but the fact that Wyden and Udall are making this a political issue means there exists, in principle anyway, a political solution to the problem.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe says:

          “This is the big issue that I think many liberals and libertarians do not have an answer for: how?”

          There was a chance in the last election to vote for Gary Johnson who would dismantled the apparatus per executive power. (as a veto obviously would have not worked with this vote total and timing).

          But electing Barrack Obama was the most important thing in the world.

          This is your bed liberals. Lie in it and embrace it.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Considering the alternative bed was Mitt Double Gitmo, resume active torture Romney this liberal is feelin’ comparatively pretty good with the bed we have thanks. And yes I’m keenly aware that such a statement is just the cliche “the other guy woulda been worse” line redux. Doesn’t make it wrong tho.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer says:

            Why? Why is this so hard for libertarians to understand? That there are plenty of things that liberals believe that a strong federal government is good and necessary for and why we elected and reelected Obama.

            This includes but is not limited to: protecting minorities from discrimination (Civil Rights Act of 1964 which will hopefully be extended to protect LGBT people one day), environmental regulations, Pell Grants, access to healthcare (Obamacare is not single-payer universal but a good step in the right direction), regulation of the financial markets (I’d like to bring back Glass-Steagall), etc.

            These things are important to liberals. Obama delivered on as many of them as possible. Does this mean liberals are happy with everything Obama has done? No, not at all. But it should be a good indication that we would disagree with Gary Johnson on many issues that are important to us?

            Is this really so alien to libertarian thought?Report

            • Avatar Roger says:

              In Rose’s post I was ridiculed for pointing out the progressive bias toward top down solutions. Just saying…Report

            • Avatar Will H. says:

              The Civil Rights Act of 1964.
              I had to look that one up.
              I know it as “Title VII.” It’s just an employment discrimination claim.
              An awful lot of them though. 30% of all cases that went to trial in the Third Circuit from 1996 – 2000 (the single largest category, followed by ‘other civil rights’ at 27%, prisoner civil rights at 12%, patent suits at 8%, and federal employer’s liability at 6%).
              Title VII is a special animal. Not my area of specialty.
              But I do know this: You’re pretty much screwed.
              Better off, in most cases, with tortious interference with a business relationship.
              It’s an easier case.

              So, if liberals are all so out to expand this pointless title VII claim, what do liberals think of the undue (and outright insane) limitations on tortious interference imposed by the Indiana Supreme Court?
              After all, it does affect gays . . .Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Title VII is one part of the civil rights act of 1964.

                There are also the sections that forbid public accommodations like restaurants, hotels, transport, etc from discriminating based on race, religion, gender/sex, etc.

                These were upheld by the Supreme Court in landmark cases like Ollie’s BBQ and Heart of Atlanta.

                Please give me a cite and case name for the Indiana Supreme Court case you a referring to. From what I remember in law school, tortious interference with a business relationship deals with cases when C interferes with a contract between A and B. It is not useful for when an employee is denied hiring or promotion for discriminator animus. Why do you think it is better than Title VII in dealing with racist or otherwise discriminatory employers?

                The act is still useful even if most cases settle. Most cases of all types settle because the stakes of litigation are often too high for all parties involved. Not because of any malice on the part of plaintiff’s lawyers towards their clients.

                This is where libertarians and liberals often seem to split. We seem to be talking about two different freedoms. Right-wingers and libertarians will say that segregation and discrimination are morally and ethically wrong but not as wrong as interfering with property rights or how someone wishes to run their business. I disagree with this. I think it is more important to allow all citizens equal access into full civic life even if it means telling a bigoted restaurant owner that they are not allowed to refuse service to people because of their race, religion, gender/sex, sexuality, nationality, etc.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                We seem to be talking about two different freedoms. Right-wingers and libertarians will say that segregation and discrimination are morally and ethically wrong but not as wrong as interfering with property rights or how someone wishes to run their business. I disagree with this. I think it is more important to allow all citizens equal access into full civic life even if it means telling a bigoted restaurant owner that they are not allowed to refuse service to people because of their race, religion, gender/sex, sexuality, nationality, etc.

                Or allowed to fire a very good employee on the basis that the wife @ home is Nucking Futs, paranoid delusional about someone stealing her husband and desperately in need of mental health treatment, and it’s cheaper to fire the employee than get the wife’s issues treated.

                Sadly in that case we have the old lecherous geezers of the Iowa supreme court deciding otherwise, and we’re going to see this one duked out in court soon.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                the sections that forbid public accommodations like restaurants, hotels, transport, etc from discriminating based on race, religion, gender/sex, etc.

                Those things are already guaranteed here, which is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (correct me if I am wrong on this point).

                Meanwhile, the tendency in section 1985 jurisprudence has been to restrict that cause of action even more, and to require the animus to be no other than race-based. [See Kush v. Rutledge for a discussion of 42 USC 1985(2), and Griffin v. Breckenridge for discussion of 42 USC 1985(3)]
                Where previously there had been a movement away from that, even permitting a “class of one” theory (don’t remember which case that was) in instances where no other class-based animus was obvious, from the Maldonado v. Municipality of Barceloneta cited above, document 91 (order on motion to dismiss):

                Recently, the First Circuit narrowly construed § 1985 claims to those based on racial animus, and not those dealing with either a political, economic or commercial basis. Perez-Sanchez v. Public Building Authority, No. 07-1869, slip op. at 3 (1st Cir. Jun 30, 2008). Accordingly, in order for Plaintiffs to have a viable claim, they must belong to a constitutionally protected class under § 1985(3).

                I’m not sure where Indiana set the precedent, but this is from Rice v. Hulsey,No. 49A02-0409-CV-799:

                The elements of tortious interference with a business relationship are: “(1) the existence of a valid relationship; (2) the defendant’s knowledge of the existence of the relationship; (3) the defendant’s intentional interference with that relationship; (4) the absence of justification; and (5) damages resulting from defendant’s wrongful interference with the relationship.” Felsher v. Univ. of Evansville, 755 N.E.2d 589, 598 n.21 (Ind. 2001) (citing Levee v. Beeching, 729 N.E.2d 215, 222 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000)). Additionally, our supreme court has held that “this tort requires some independent illegal action.” Brazauskas v. Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, Inc., 796 N.E.2d 286, 291 (Ind. 2003), cert. denied, 541 U.S. 902, 124 S. Ct. 1602 (2004); see also Watson Rural Water Co., Inc. v. Indiana Cities Water Corp., 540 N.E.2d 131, 139 (Ind. Ct. App. 1989) (“In the State of Indiana, an element necessary to prove this cause of action is that a defendant acted illegally in achieving his end.”), reh’g denied, trans. denied.

                Which tells me that, if you have a tortious interference claim in Indiana, you’re better off relocating to another state before trying to bring that claim.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            Because there’s no chance that, given actual power and responsibility, Johnson would have taken a different approach. We know this because libertarians are the moral equivalent of hobbits and cannot be tempted by the Ring.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        “We need to make it one.”

        from your lips to the unfeeling vast blankness of space’s ears and all, but that ain’t gonna happen. anytime anything happens, the should-‘aves will always come out. appropriate or reasonable or the opposite, more laws and more money to throw at those laws will always be on the table. there’s no downside to saying “we will do this and it will keep you and your children safe” regardless of the scenario.

        there is no angle in “sometimes fished up spackle happens, dudes” if you are a politician.
        (trying to keep with league cultural rules regarding cursing.)Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        Until and unless there’s actual tangible consequences for most people, this is just one of those things that really doesn’t have any impact on people’s daily lives.

        And given the vast amounts of information people voluntarily provide to data aggregators and social networks on a daily basis, I’m not entirely sure the government’s actually doing anything that’s particularly nefarious, vis Google or Facebook.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Polling the internet is very different from “finding needle in haystack.”
          Just saying.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          They’re doing it via the credit agencies and the financials. Google / Facebook are nothing compared to what they’re looking at in your money trail. Put it this way, when 9/11 went down, the first orifice the US starting probing with its big ugly fingers was SWIFT.Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

            Credit reporting agencies truly are frightening. And they keep a hell of a lot more data than the government’s gathering here. Also they’re 1. unregulated more or less and 2. private entities with no oversight.

            …so…again. Priorities?Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Put it this way, the government is leaning on the financial industry to thread the needles for TFTP. I’m doing an app for exactly this problem.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              And they keep a hell of a lot more data than the government’s gathering here.

              No, no, they don’t.

              Also, credit reporting agencies may well be unregulated, but they could be. Right now, nobody other than the government can provide oversight or audit for this program, and they’re refusing to do so.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                That’s debatable, though they are gathering a great deal of information. Most of NSA’s problem is determining what to keep. It’s a filtration problem, as is the problem of consciousness.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe says:

              when Experian has Predators with Hellfire missiles, I’ll start prioritizing it over the United States Government.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I’m not really worried about a Hellfire dropping on my house.

                However, there’s more than reasonable cause to assume that somebody that I work with might disappear off the face of the earth for six months and then reappear only to be told, “Sorry, we really didn’t mean to kidnap you and send you off to Egypt for torture based upon faulty email analysis, our bad.”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Heh. As if Experian always sells your data to people with your best interests in mind. Even that little idiot Bradley Manning didn’t sell his trove. I find your faith in the Free Market disturbing.Report

            • Avatar dhex says:

              “…so…again. Priorities?”

              debt and it’s related psycho-demographics may be like a cage, but a cage is an awful lot like a cage. what with being a cage and all that.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:


      This vote was held up for months and passed today. Friday. Last voting day of the year. Right before a four-day weekend. Where the official Congressional record on the Congress.gov web site won’t be updated until next Wednesday.

      For something with no downside, the Senate has certainly done all it can to downplay the actual voting record.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        that’s a fair point, and though my initial knee jerk is to dismiss it as coincidence, maybe the whole outcry over sopa gave indication that this sort of thing has more legs than commonly believed?Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          Probably not.

          But I’ve noticed in recent years that our elected representatives are getting really cagey about trying to keep things that might generate outrage down on the down-low. If they’ve learned anything from the advent of social media, it’s that people unpredictably seize upon stuff and go hog wild with it.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        As linked to in different places, the Senate.gov site actually has the voting record up well before the weekend.

        I think that might in fact just be a coincidence at this point.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          That’s true (sorry, I didn’t update the post).

          That’s the first time I’ve seen that happen since I started dog-watching Senate.gov, which – admittedly – I haven’t done in over a year. So it may be routine now.

          It used to take at least a working day to put the results up on the site.Report

  2. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    This was a damn good piece, Pat.

    I confess to having a certain amount of pride as I read it in knowing that Sen. Wyden is our guy.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      You have two guys. Check the other guy.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        I can only seem to find record of what happened in the House. I can’t find anywhere that notes who voted Yay on Nay in the Senate.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          It won’t be up until Wednesday at the earliest.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              The Nays are:
              Akaka (D-HI)
              Baucus (D-MT)
              Begich (D-AK)
              Bingaman (D-NM)
              Brown (D-OH)
              Cantwell (D-WA)
              Coons (D-DE)
              Durbin (D-IL)
              Franken (D-MN)
              Harkin (D-IA)
              Leahy (D-VT)
              Lee (R-UT)
              Menendez (D-NJ)
              Merkley (D-OR)
              Murkowski (R-AK)
              Murray (D-WA)
              Paul (R-KY)
              Sanders (I-VT)
              Schatz (D-HI)
              Tester (D-MT)
              Udall (D-CO)
              Udall (D-NM)
              Wyden (D-OR)

              Of the 23, 20 caucus as Democrats.

              In addition Boxer and Lautenberg didn’t vote.

              So of the 73 Ayes 41 were Republicans.

              Leaving 32 Dems that either need replacing or spine transplants.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Note the relatives:
                Way more from the Pacific(4/4)
                More from the Coastal West(4/6)
                Some from the Mountain West(6/16)
                Some from the Midwest (4/14)
                Less from the South (1)
                Less from the Northeast (3/20)
                And none from the empty quarter.

                As a Democrat, I’m much more annoyed with the Northeast, where at least some of the Senators are SAFE. Californians are right to be upset about their senators!Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                The only conclusion I drew from the list was that Southerners are police state loving fascists.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                If only it were limited to the South.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Since the reauthorization of this bill will come during the term of the senators that were just elected in the past election, it’s worth wondering how the votes might change.

                Arizona: John Kyl -> Jeff Flake. Likely to remain “Yea” as Jeff Flake voted in favor of H.R. 5949.

                Connecticut: Joe Lieberman -> Chris Murphy. Yea to Nay. Murphy voted against H.R. 5949.

                Hawaii: Dan Akaka -> Mazie Hirono. Likely to remain a “Nay” as Hirono’s consistently been a dovish member of congress and has voted for restrictive measures involving FISA.

                Indiana: Dick Lugar -> Joe Donnelly. Likely to remain a “Yea”, as Donnelly voted for HR 5949. (Possibly one of the votes that might be flipped with sufficient pressure)

                Maine: Olympia Snowe -> Angus King. Possible switch from Yea -> Nay. King’s a hard one to read, but he’s a northeastern moderate.

                Massachusetts: Scott Brown -> Elizabeth Warren. Likely switch from Yea -> Nay. Warren’s rhetoric and her base being strongly dovish suggests this sort of switch.

                Nebraska: Ben Nelson -> Deb Fischer. I have no freaking clue. Fischer professes to be a limited government type. But given that she’s been pretty mainstream orthodox in her campaign promises as a Republican, she’s likely to vote with her party.

                New Mexico: Jeff Bingaman -> Martin Heinrich. Likely a Nay to Yea. Heinrich voted in favor of H.R. 5949.

                North Dakota: Kent Conrad -> Heidi Heitkamp. Possibly a Yea to a Nay. Hard to read Heitkamp at the moment.

                Texas: Kay Bailey Hutchinson -> Nutjob…err Ted Cruz. Remaining a Yea.

                Virginia: Jim Webb -> Tim Kaine. Possibly a Yea to a Nay. Kaine’s much less hawkish than Webb, but he’s also a mainstream Democrat (I mean really how much more mainstream can you get than DNC head) so I think this depends on how much of a fuss the Democratic base makes on FISA.

                Wisconsin: Herb Kohl -> Tammy Baldwin. Likely a Yea to a Nay. Baldwin voted Nay on H.R. 5949.

                Of the 12 seats we have:
                112th congress Votes
                Yea – 10
                Nay – 2

                Possible 115th congress votes:
                Yea – 5
                Nay – 7

                Now this is all speculation and these flips wouldn’t really have changed the outcome of a reauthorization vote. But it does seem to point in the right direction.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I’m dazed and confused by the level of analysis in this comment. How the heck do you know all this stuff?

                Good work Nob! I think.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          301-118 in the House…Jesus.

          As for Jeff Merkley, he more or less is close to Wyden on most issues and he cosponsored Wyden’s amendment in the Senate, so he’s likely with the Udall brothers and Wyden on the final vote. (Maybe)Report

  3. Avatar Kim says:

    They can’t get it all. The internet is vaster than their storage.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      I used to think that, too.

      They don’t “get” it all. They touch most of it, and keep some of that (probably a lot more of it than you think possible, and keep it for a lot longer than you would suspect).

      Which is actually the worst possible result… pre-selected epidemiology. It’s one big poisoned well.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I don’t think they’ve got that fast of a connection.
        How much of the internet is porn, anyway?

        Keeping all e-mails and text is easy and cheap.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko says:

          Keeping all e-mails and text is easy and cheap.

          Au contraire, mademoiselle Kim. It is expensive and technologically challenging. But the government seems bent on doing it anyway.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            2 billion seems cheap, by which we mean doable at all. How much is the entire internet worth, anyway?Report

            • Avatar Burt Likko says:

              I understood the $2B figure in the article to refer to the cost of the physical plant, not the cost of operation or of the technology that the buildings will be stuffed full of. Maybe not. $2B isn’t chicken feed, either way.

              But you’re right, if it can be done, then the government is going to do it and the cost is probably irrelevant.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          They’re running very large capacity fiber bypasses through a pretty sophisticated slurping box and tunneling that all elsewhere. They have these installed at all the major telecommunication nexuses in the United States, which covers most of the Internet traffic in the entire world (although some countries are building their own peer-level routing to bypass having all of their stuff bounce through New York, Chicago, San Francisco, or Los Angeles).

          See this? https://ordinary-times.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/2010-Submarine-Cable-Map-v3.jpg

          That’s where the money is.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            Holy crap, there’s that much cabling circumnavigating Africa?

            Do you know why so many of the trans-Pacific cables seem to terminate in Los Angeles as opposed to the Bay Area?Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:


              Er, that’s a long post.Report

            • Avatar Michael Cain says:

              Holy crap, there’s that much cabling circumnavigating Africa?

              Yep. Consult one of the NASA composite maps showing lights at night (here’s a fairly-high-res one). That’s an enormous expanse where there is little infrastructure, an antagonistic physical environment, and in many places a difficult political environment. When the rebels in a civil war cut your cable, it’s difficult to fix. Across equatorial Africa, there’s no paved highway or direct rail service yet; no one is going to route fiber that way, no matter the cost of sub-sea cable.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I used to work with a cranky-ass expat British guy who spent the long arc of his career working for British Telecom.

                He has a few photos of himself riding up into the Pashtun area to fix an overland cable, toting an AK-47 and riding with a bunch of guys who were at the time members of the mujaheddin and probably are now right back up in those hills shooting at our guys instead of the Russians.

                Undersea cables are a lot safer.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                This is a long piece, and it may not speak specifically to Burt’s question, but I think it does in general, and is a classic in any case:

                Neal Stephenson on the longest wire on earth:


              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                It’s always interesting to review how difficult it can be to run the wires/fibers in inconvenient places, even in “civilized” areas. I transferred to USWest in the late 1980s. At the time, the company still owned a couple of strings of mules that were the least-cost method to haul equipment for repairs up into parts of the mountains. A couple of years later I worked with a guy who was doing state-of-the-art hacks on fiber systems to get a link across a stretch of desert in the Southwest sans repeater to avoid the cost of paying the power company to extend service 80 miles from the nearest point where they had wires. At one point, he owned the world record for commercial non-repeatered distance-times-bitrate on fiber, pissing off a lot of people who had undersea cables.

                Kazzy, this is the place that you make fun of those of us who live out where there are still big empty places :^)Report

  4. Avatar Will H. says:

    Hopefully, they’ll never put the ATF in charge of investigating domestic terrorism.

    If the FBI only had this back before Watergate . . .

    Obama was re-elected, btwReport

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      I would hazard a guess that if you polled Obama voters, a goodly number of them wouldn’t realize that his speeches back during President Bush’s term are not indicative of his signing record, as President.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        We can’t even get people to agree on whether they want or do not want an assault weapons ban… you think they do better with actual data???Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        What really concerns me about this are those common law immunities I’ve brought up earlier. They really don’t comport with our current system of law.
        Again, the proposition: Prosecutors must necessarily be permitted to perform any and all manner of illegal acts in the course of their ordinary duties, else prosecutors would be impeded in the performance of their ordinary duties to the extent that they would no longer be permitted to perform any and all illegal acts.
        The application in American law is through the sovereign immunity of the states– even though “perform illegal acts” is not included in the job description.
        Now, there is a legitimate reason for it. Say, if a state passes a law, and the prosecutor prosecutes violators of this law, and the law is later declared to be unconstitutional, everything’s good.
        The problem is more of one that prosecutorial immunity is construed broadly (try Googling “Kenny Hulshof“).
        What this is is a values judgment: that the right of a state to obtain a wrongful conviction is held to be in greater esteem than the right of any citizen not to be convicted wrongfully.
        And that’s pretty damned sick.
        Not to mention the fact that any determination that persons should be wrongfully convicted is a de facto determination that criminals should walk scot-free.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Reasonable suspicion doesn’t equate to probably cause, but it’s sufficient for it. That’s another nice move gaining traction. I mean, who isn’t suspicious of someone engaging in reasonably suspicious behavior?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Stop and frisk is only unpopular in the high crime communities, I understand.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            who isn’t suspicious of someone engaging in reasonably suspicious behavior?

            Sounds reasonable!

            The problem is more of one that prosecutorial immunity is construed broadly…
            Not to mention the fact that any determination that persons should be wrongfully convicted is a de facto determination that criminals should walk scot-free.

            Preach it brother. Prosecutorial immunity is out of control. And as you say, every innocent guy that gets railroaded is not only a wrong on its own terms, it also means the real bad guy is still out there. It’s a lose-lose. (Not to derail, but this is sort of similar to something I never understand when some people talk about vote shenanigans, and they say that bogus votes aren’t really important to them conceptually, but disenfranchised ones are. Dude, a bogus vote IS a disenfranchising action, as every bogus vote cancels out one legitimate one. It’s cool if you think that bogus votes don’t, or only rarely, happen; but to the extent they do, it’s just as much of an issue as illegally throwing away some other guy’s legitimate ballot or illegally purging him from the rolls or whatever).Report

            • Avatar Will H. says:

              . . . and just to show how little encouragement it takes to get me going . . .

              It’s a failure of the judiciary at the root.
              I’ve seen it where:
              A good editor can take a stable of writers and mold them into better writers;
              A good weld inspector can come into a shop full of welders and make them into better welders–
              It only stands to reason that a good judge can make those prosecutors appearing in his court all the time into better prosecutors, and make the law enforcement officers into better ones by making them toe the line rather than giving them every bit of leeway they could ever ask for.

              And I included the wrong link above.
              This is the correct link.Report

  5. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Pat, you and I share that same Senator. And the alternative to her this time around was… Elizabeth Emken, a candidate who did not strike me as likely to do any better on this particular subject, and who was flatly unacceptable for multiple other reasons.

    (Democracy: it’s better than a dictatorship, but it ain’t all that and a bag of chips.)Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      I did not vote for either Senator in the last election.

      Passing over that section of the ballot made me feel very angry. Even thinking about voting for Emken made me feel all squicky and dirty.

      And the fact that I was forced by our beloved two-party system to choose between them as a substantive judgment made me even angrier.Report

  6. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    The biggest thing that could transform this would be if the Party of Liberty became the party of liberty.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      Or if the Democrats possessed anything resembling gumption.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        That would net maybe twenty votes at most. Yes, it would be good, but lack of spine is also not contrary to any basic stated principle of the party, which largely defines itself by “pragmatic” compromise at this point. If the GOP simply included actual liberty as part of its definition of liberty, for as much as they put that value in the center of their political pitch, that would garner 45 overnight in this Senate (the most extreme crazies being the most reliable votes against these measures), and more over time as the political benefits from completing their commitment to liberty flowed in.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          You know that the Democrats still outnumber the GOP in the Senate, right?

          I mean, granted, if the GOP gave as much of a shit about the fourth as they do the second, we’d probably be aiight on that score, but there’s a plank and an eye story going on here.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            I guess I view all the talking about liberty and then having these positions on these issues as more than a speck of sawdust. If that party actually had the commitment to liberty they claim to have, it would make the question of who controls the chamber moot on the issue – the measures wouldn’t pass. As long as strong bipartisan majorities support them, they will pass, again, regardless of the what party the 51st vote resides in.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        Roughly 2/5ths of the Democratic Senators voted against the bill whereas 9/10ths of Republicans voted for it.

        Moreover, if we include the new Democratic senators that’ll be taking their seats in the 113th congress, the numbers would wind up with roughly half of the Democratic caucus voting against the bill.

        Now maybe that’s not enough, but I don’t think the problem is the Democrats here.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          Also, look at the House results.

          227 Republicans voted for, while only 7 voted against.
          Meanwhile 74 Democrats voted for it, while 111 voted against.

          The numbers similarly lopsided in the Senate, remember.
          Yea – 42
          Nay – 3
          No Vote – 2

          Yea – 31
          Nay – 20
          No Vote – 2Report

        • Avatar James K says:

          The Democrats are a problem, it’s just that the Republicans are a bigger problem.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            Right now, they’re both dysfunctional on civil liberties.

            And neither is interested in addressing their dysfunction. This presents a serious problem.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              I don’t think this is true. The Democratic caucus is, if slowly, moving in the right direction. Chris Murphy, Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin are all better than the people they’re replacing. The House Dems overwhelmingly voted against the measure. Etc.

              But when you have what is essentially a bipartisan consensus, one party moving toward something is completely meaningless when the other is lockstep still for a policy.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                The Democratic caucus is slowly moving in the right direction as long as it is safe for them to do so.

                When the chips are down and it presents a challenge to their seat or their President, they fall in line. Not all of them, of course, just enough so that it doesn’t matter that the rest of them make their pious exclamations regarding how terrible it is that this is going on.

                It’s been 12 years, dude. That’s plenty of time to self-correct, if you’re actually interested in self-correcting.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                It’s been 12 years, dude. That’s plenty of time to self-correct, if you’re actually interested in self-correcting.

                You’re personifying a political party, yes? I think that’s a mistake. There is no “self” correction here. It’s a process that requires at least some input from outside the structure you’re identifying as a “self”, it seems to me.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                That would be a mistake, yes. That’s a fair point, I’m being too free in that comment and that is open to interpretation.

                Organizations aren’t like individuals. However, they’re also not like animals, either 🙂

                The internal will isn’t there, to clarify. In order for the Democratic party to change, external forces have to be applied to it. In politics, that’s a pretty broad bag of potential motivators.

                But the party is very likely not going to change on its own.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                It won’t, no.

                But writing it off as lacking “gumption” when several party leaders (say Dick Durbin who is the #2 guy in the Senate) voted against, and they allowed a conscience vote rather than the lockstep voting of the GOP suggests their behavior is alterable.

                Meaning, you should praise those who deserve praise.

                Meanwhile, Feinstein is in fact, probably the closest thing to the “statist” charicature of a Democrat that exists as an actual legislator.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Oh, I’ll give credit where credit is due, your list of the naysayers includes a bunch of people I’d gladly see take Feinstein’s seat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

                And hey, the Democratic party actually rebuking one of their own and putting one of those folks in that chair would go a long way towards making me look at the Democratic party as a functional organization worthy of support… rather than a loose coalition of individuals, some of whom I like quite a bit and others I wouldn’t cry too much over if they died in a fire.

                That sounds pretty terrible, but I’m at the state where about a third of our standing representatives (most of ’em not Democrats, mind you, but enough) could never work in politics again, and another third (same conditional) could actually die in a fire and I would shed not one tear for them. For some of their family, yes, I don’t actively wish this ill upon anyone.

                But they have done wretched collateral damage to largely defenseless people in the name of increasing their political power, and their position on my charity meter is well below the basement.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Parties, until relatively recently, were even less organized bodies in the US than they are now. Strom Thurmond and MLK Jr. were in the same party at the same time only forty years ago.

                If you want parties strong enough to remove people from positions of power for voting against the party whip, move to Canada, the UK, or wait about another generation here in the US.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Well, at least you didn’t encourage me to move to Somalia.

                Hey, Jesse, howzabout you police some of those party members you vote for so enthusiastically?

                I mean, you ostensibly want them in office. I’m doing what I can to police ’em. Why aren’t you?Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Look, a non-trivial portion of the Democratic caucus in both houses of Congress voted against reauthorization.

                Less than ten members of the GOP caucus voted against it in BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS COMBINED.

                So let’s say we could reallocate 200 seats total in the House of Representatives.

                Which is more likely to kill the FISA modifications?

                200 Democrats?
                200 Republicans?
                100 of each?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Depends on who those guys are replacing, Nob.

                I get your point. Stipulated, the GOP is worse. Said it already.

                IF the people who vote (D) never rebuke the (D)s who vote for this stuff, in any way shape or form, what is the likelihood that the (D)s who voted for it change their mind?Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                I guess generally I think it’s less likely you change minds of already serving people as it’s more likely you simply replace them within the party with better folks.

                Feinstein is for better or for worse not going to change. (For the worse probably)

                The thing to do for now is to reward the members of California’s Dem delegation that voted against and hope they’re her replacement come 2018.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                That is generally the plan.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                I agree. I think Planck said the same thing about scientific theories in a famous quote. They became accepted when the old scientists died, not because the theory proved itself on its own merits. What this says about The Scientific Method and Human Nature is not necessarily great though.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      New Party Needed!
      (seriously! I’ll even bring the champagne)Report

  7. Avatar NSA BOT #36593-A33 says:


  8. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    I have to wonder if the logistics of this sort of system is more intended to create a psychological barrier against using electronic communications than it is a useful form of signals intelligence.

    …then there’s the other part of how much information Americans willingly and voluntarily put on the internet that makes me think they don’t really care if someone’s reading it or not.Report

  9. Avatar M.A. says:

    Great. You know why stuff like this passes?

    Because the side you want to stand against it are scared to death of having the right wing media machine come back on them with “Senator X stood on the side of terrorist!” rhetoric in the next election cycle. And because the people who listen to the right wing media machine are dumb enough, and credulous enough, to believe it because it will be the drumbeat story all over the only media bubble they listen to.

    That odious toadlike excuse for a human being Mark Belling was sitting in for Limbaugh today. The “special interview guest”? The guy who wrote this slanderous pile of dog feces. This guy’s making the rounds in the echo chamber this week, and it’s the latest round of “we didn’t lose the election, the democrats cheated” rhetoric they’re passing around to each other to double down on the “MOAR CONSERVATIZM” meme that’s causing the fiscal-cliff impasse in the first place.

    And yet look at those who heap praise on it. You’ve got a who’s-who list of the same people who have no trouble painting anyone who stands against warrantless surveillance as “standing with the terrorists.”

    If you want to change things, if you want to rein in the power of government surveillance, then the fascists of the right wing noise machine have to go. I look forward to hearing how you’d go about getting rid of them.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Pew Study Conservadem. Learn the term. Understand the demographic.
      Some of these people are playing to their own team.Report

      • Avatar M.A. says:

        Baloney. I’ve talked to some of these representatives or their staff members.

        You want to know how this really works? 99% of Democrats oppose this stuff. They think it’s bad law. They don’t like it. They really, really hope that Patrick’s prediction that most of it never gets used or exposed is correct.

        But on the other side they just watched 2010’s elections. When the Tea Party pricks and the GOP media machine spent months on end screaming about how Democrats were the party of pro-terrorism, Barack Obama was a secret muslim spy for trying to close Gitmo, and all the other rhetoric that allowed the GOP to sweep in and not just capture the House, but actually capture enough state houses to go around redistricting us into an even more partisan, insane mess than we had been in 2008.

        2014 is coming. The party whose leadership is in the White House traditionally loses seats in a mid-year election. And the last thing many of these representatives want to do is hang a giant albatross around their own necks that can plausibly be construed as “defending the terrorists” by taking away tools that the secret and not-so-secret “security forces” like to use, constitutionally and/or morally OK or not.

        Again I’ll say it. You are not going to find Republicans willing to stand up against this shit, they are the ones who passed it bill by bill under Bush post-9/11 and they stand behind it to this day. You need to work with the other side. You are asking those who stand against laws like this to hand their opposition a knife and you need to work on it to show those proposed allies that you aren’t just going to turn around and allow them to be stabbed in the back with that exact knife.

        Libertarians want to be against this? BE against it. Show your support for those who are actually on your side. Show them that when the GOP comes with a knife in their backs, when the right wing fascist media machine comes round to accuse them of “siding with the terrorists”, the libertarians will stand up against that with equal force.

        Historically, we know that’s not the case. The libertarians will stand up now and talk a good game, and then when the time comes and the GOP is accusing anyone who stood against stuff like this of being “for the terrorists”, the libertarians will duck and cover and pretend not to notice as they always do.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          In their defense, Murkowski, Paul and Lee voted against.Report

          • Avatar Just Me says:

            Most tea partiers are against the patriot act and many of the steps the government took to keep us the citizens “safe”.Report

            • Avatar Don Zeko says:

              If that’s the case, then they’ve done a damn poor job of communicating to their representatives that they actually give a flying fish about this position.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              You’re going to want to check the House voting record against your list of tea party candidates.

              And I suggest you have a drink ready for when your illusions are spattered all over the place.Report

              • Avatar Just Me says:

                That is because most of the tea party candidates do not represent those that self identify as tea partiers. I think there is a disconnect between those who run as tea party candidates and those of us who went to tea party rallies because we were fed up with the government stomping on our civil liberties. Maybe we were stupid to think we could actually get candidates who both wanted to protect our civil liberties while being fiscally responsible. Instead most, not all were all talk in order to get electred, just like most politicians are.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                sadly, the fiscally responsible party is the Democrats. Imagine that!Report

            • Avatar Just Me says:

              I should change most to I and most of the tea partiers I know.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I think the tea party really needs to solve its self-identity problem.

                Because right now, it’s Untrue Scotsmen all over the place.Report

              • Avatar Just Me says:

                From what I remember tea party in Wisconsin was more focused on local elections and getting more “every day folk” involved in local politics. They were more focused on school boards and city councils than national politics. My local tea party provided information and mentoring for those who felt a civic duty but didn’t think that they could be involved in a meaningful way in politics. Then all of the sudden the GOP jumped on the tea party bandwagon and national figures started trying to define what the tea party really was. I don’t feel the tea party should be or is a Party.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                If you’re unclear on who you are and what you stand for, very shortly you find a majority of people who claim your label voting for things you find ideologically reprehensible. And a bunch of people who are sympathetic to the squishier parts of your cause suddenly start voting on the label instead of the ideals.

                And then you get 203 GOP House members who identify with the tea party, and label themselves as tea party people, who are elected by people who find the tea party label interesting… voting for the national security state.

                Congrats, you’ve just been co-opted.Report

              • Avatar Just Me says:

                True that. But then it seems to me that every party in our government has been co-opted at some point. Bandwagoners are an invasive species who have taken many a good cause or idea and turned it into something for their own greed. Not that the tea party stood a chance either. When people who are trying to do what they feel is right are constantly told that they are a bunch of racist homophobic loser know-nothing hicks they eventually say to hell with all that I’m gonna go back to mumbling to themselves how they wish things were different. Then the racist homophobic losers get to take over and prove everybody right.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Not that the tea party stood a chance either.

                Just to be clear here, you’re talking about the Ron Paul Tea Partiers and not the Koch Bros TP, right?Report

              • Avatar Just Me says:

                Speaking for myself that would be neither. I don’t consider Ron Paul as having a tea party or being a tea party leader. I also know it is cute to talk about the Koch brothers tea party. Once again I reject that. The tea party…notice the little t and p, is not one organization. The tea party is or was individual local groups who were sick of feeling like they were being marginalized by the political establishment. These local tea parties were wooed by those who promised them that they would help them make a difference. That they would stand with them if they only aligned themselves with their party. At the rallies I went to their were many who were not registered to any particular party. Many who like me had volunteered for candidates of both Dems and Repubs in the past. Many who like me ended up being horribly disappointed that the direction of those who ended up representing the tea party groups on the national level sold out the ideals of the tea parties by getting into bed with one political group. I could go on but my kindle is giving me fits right now as I try to type.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          M.A., I would believe or excuse this if I seriously thought that most of these people had a credible challenge to their position if they voted against it.

          Feinstein isn’t leaving California politics until she dies. I’ve long given up any hope that there would be a credible Democratic challenger or a GOP rival that had the pull with the center that could possibly dislodge her.

          She’s voted for this thing since day one. And the Patriot Act, and every other civil liberties eroding bit of the unnecessary and (IMO) illegitimate expansion of governmental power since 9/11.

          She isn’t doing this because she’s afraid of the goddamn tea party.

          Just admit it, dude, there’s a sizable chunk of the Democratic party – most of the ones who have been in the House or the Senate since Clinton, in fact – who are legitimately okay with the government having this power. At least, as long as there’s a guy who wears a blue tie in the White House.Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

            If 7.5 million of your fellow Californians are voting for her, perhaps the problem is with the voters as much as it is with the politicians.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              This thought has occurred to me.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                This is what I meant by how.

                Civil Liberties especially civil liberties for criminal defendants and suspects are things that I suspect people support in an abstract nature but get a bit more wishy-washy when confronted with reality. By people, I mean your average non-ideological citizen. I do not mean law and order types or civil libertarians.

                The current remedy for violations of the 4th Amendment is that the improper evidence is exlcuded from the prosecution’s case in chief. This is a gross simplification of the complicated in and outs of the 4th Amendment. I think most people will support this in theory but begin to hem and haw if you gave them a really bad case and I read some dozies in law school. Most 4th Amendment cases deal with narcotics. There are plenty that deal with more serious crimes like serious white-collar crime and in one case that made it to the Supreme Court twice, the murder of a 10 year old girl. The evidence in question was her body.

                Nob was probably right above when he said that many people support or have no opinions on this legislation and will not until it gives very totalitarian or abused. Simply most people do not see themselves as ever being the defendant in a criminal case or having a program like this used against them. This includes when they engage in criminal behavior no matter how low level like shoplifting or minor naroctics use.

                So the challenge for civil libertarians is on how to convince the maority that this kind of stuff is very bad.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                If there’s another successful terrorist attack on the U.S. (which, unfortunately, is quite possible), any officeholder who’s on record as voting for something that can be spun as soft on terrorism will be toast. Given that here’s no upside that comes closes to matching that downside, the fact that there are any no votes at all amazes my cynical self.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Do you you really think another terrorist attack is quite possible? Not even on the 9/11 scale but more on a suicide bombing scale.

                Everything is possible but I am not sure I would put another Al-Queda terrorist attack in the “quite possible” category.

                But I otherwise agree with your analysis. This is something that civil libertarians often forget.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Given sufficient time, the probability of another religious-inspired terrorist attack approaches 1.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                That’s what I was thinking. Enough time, and it’s a certainty.

                Meanwhile, public mood (as adequately expressed by Mike S above) is to bet a possibility against a certainty:
                That the possibility that something might happen is so, so terrible that it’s necessary to, without any further thought, waive any and all manner of rights which once we held.

                Foolish, in my view.
                The world is always going to be a dangerous place.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                No Doubt but define sufficient time. Are we talking 5 years? 10 years? 20? More?Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                It’s already happened, I believe; and been thwarted by measures other than the extreme ones we see Congress considering.
                That car bomb in the van (van bomb?) in NYC that was reported by a cab driver (or something like that) as an abandoned vehicle– how many people did we have to torture to get that information out of the cab driver?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                What Will said.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Pat and Will nailed it. We keep catching them. One day, we won’t.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Well, Mike, I’m not even certain that we qualify as “catching” them.

                A good number of them are stupid enough to catch themselves. Stuff like this gigantic digital dragnet helped catch Richard Reid, Faisal Shahzad… not at all.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The main thing saving us is the love of theatrics.

                If (bad people) were willing to resort to unremarkable attacks, we’d have a blast talking about the 2nd Amendment, what percentage of snipers are white males, probably loners, probably libertarians for that matter, and how we need to give the government more power to keep us safe. Wait, there’s a democrat in office at the moment? Yeah, we need to give the government more power to keep us safe.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                A good number of them are stupid enough to catch themselves.

                And a good thing too, but eventually one won’t be that stupid, or will be lucky (which is always better than smart.)Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            Just admit it, dude, there’s a sizable chunk of the Democratic party – most of the ones who have been in the House or the Senate since Clinton, in fact – who are legitimately okay with the government having this power.

            There’s a sizable chunk of the Democratic Party that in 2010 and 2012 had to run on a platform including a “I’m Not Nancy Pelosi” plank while the right wing prick squad on the radio tried to use every possible bill Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid ever supported as Reasons Why Democrats Are Verminous Traitors Who Support Terrorists.

            Excuse me while I shed not a single tear for your libertarian friends, who want my side to sign on to opposing legislation knowing it will be used as a knife in their backs while gleefully twisting the same knife when it comes to election time.

            I’m still coming back to James Kuznicki’s screed about how libertarians never get “half credit” from Liberals when you support positions we support? THIS IS WHY. Because you never stand up to defend us when our support of those same positions is used by the right wing bigot/racist/sexist/hate squad to stab us in the back and call us “UnAmerican.”

            It gets old fast and the dishonesty is as plain as the nose on your faces.Report

            • Avatar Mr. Blue says:

              There’s a sizable chunk of the Democratic Party that in 2010 and 2012 had to run on a platform including a “I’m Not Nancy Pelosi” plank

              Yeah, but that’s not the chunk of the Democratic Party that voted in favor of this bill. I like the image of you thinking that Democrats in California and the northeast are scared of the Big, Bad Right Wing Machine, though.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                He just can’t admit it.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                I don’t see any libertarians answering my questions on concessions above either.

                I’ve asked more than once in this community when the economic impasse has come up. I’ve laid out that these are current economic concessions that I am willing to make and believe in and should make libertarians happy. Then I ask, what are there concessions on economics and regulation. The answer is always silence.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                What concessions would you be willing to make on Abortion policy?

                A waiting period of at least a week between the initial consultation and the procedure?

                A session with a therapist discussing other options before the procedure takes place?

                A session where pictures of the various stages of fetal gestation are shown prior to the procedure?

                Surely you are willing to make *SOME* sort of bargain when it comes to abortion…

                There are some things where you’re compromising with the stuff that belongs to other people… and calling it virtuous. I imagine such is easy to see when the topic is abortion.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Yes obviously each side as things that they are not willing to concede on. Also there are plenty of Democratic voters and politicians who are ambivalent on the morality and ethics of abortion. Some of them are even elected officials from conservative states.

                But politics in a representative democratic republic is still the art of the possible and compromise is necessary.

                I find it telling and also damning that libertarians can’t find anything to compromise on. This is probably why you howl in the wilderness the most. Also the fact that most people disagree with you.

                But hey, enjoy your purer than though attitudes and maybe one day there will be two people like Conor F writing blogs for the Atlantic. Or you can start planning the great Libertarian coup d’etat and absolute monarchy.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                I’d happily take a deal with pro-life forces that guaranteed first three months of abortion on demand, with the last six months only in the case of rape, incest, or the life of the mother with it actually being considered the life of the mother at stake, no psychological loopholes. As in deal, I mean, no laws at the state, local, or federal level from either side, no lawsuits, and so forth.

                But, here’s the thing. But, I’m not a woman so that’s not really much of a right in the grand scheme of things for a white male like me to give up, pro-life forces would never take that deal, and I wasn’t aware libertarians considered limiting reproductive free a top priority.

                But, I do find it kind of amusing that you’re kind equaling the amount of paperwork a business has to fill out to something like abortion. Again, I’m stunned libertarianism is mainly a white male niche with views like that.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                I think there is a lot more Donderoooo in the average libertarian than he would like to admit.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                But, I do find it kind of amusing that you’re kind equaling the amount of paperwork a business has to fill out to something like abortion.

                It’s more that I’m equalling the willingness to compromise on shit that doesn’t affect me with willingness to compromise on shit that doesn’t affect me.

                I’m not considering myself virtuous for trading away that which is not mine to give.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I really hate hearing arguments like:
                But, I’m not a woman so that’s not really much of a right in the grand scheme of things for a white male like me to give up
                because they sound, for all the world, to me exactly the same as:
                But I don’t live in Newtown, Conn. so why should I care how many kids there get shot all to hell?

                Just sayin’

                And though in our current times, and in its current context, abortion is spoken in terms of a ‘right to privacy’ (which it isn’t, really) or the ‘right of medical care/access to a physician’ (which it isn’t, really), in future times (and likely less than 200 years from now) it will be spoken of more as mandatory in the interest of the state.
                Which, I believe, underscores the necessity of being honest about the matter, rather than being merely forthright.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                There’s a possibility I might one day get shot. Now, my personal possibility is far less than many people in this nation, but it’s still something that could happen.

                OTOH, there is literally, at least in terms of modern medical science, 0% chance I will have to choose whether or not to have an abortion. Which makes it a little different than the tyranny of having to maybe buy two 32 oz bottles of soda.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I remember the old Curtis-Mathes black-and-white television set that I used to watch as a child.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Well, ND, I’m not a libertarian, but the concessions that I’ve seen you lay out have been to my mind reasonable.

                But your rejoinder, here, is not exactly a fair comparison.

                Liberals generally claim to be civil libertarians. Libertarians don’t really claim to be economically liberal. So a Liberal asking Libertarians what concessions they’d make on the economy isn’t quite the same thing as Libertarians (or some schmoe, like me) asking Liberals to fess up that there are people in the Democratic party right now… leadership positions, in fact! Heads of committees! … who are *NOT* civil libertarians, by any stretch (just like those dorks on the Science Committee that were ridiculed recently as having no business being on the Science Committee come to think of it)Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                The Democratic Party is still a large and big tent party. It is true that the most conservative Democratic politicians are still more liberal than the most liberal Republican politicians. However, I think you will find a wider scope of ideological difference between the most conservative Democrat and the most liberal Democrat as compared to the most liberal and conservative Republicans. Basically, there is a world of difference between Patrick Lehey and Ben Nelson and not so much between Susan Collins and Jim DeMint.

                Nob laid out a good analysis above. Many if not most of the elected Democratic politicians in the house voted against the measure. A little more than half of the Democrats in the Senate did. Nob correctly predicts that the vote would be different in the newer Senate with more liberal Democrats.

                I do not deny that there are many elected Democrats who are furhter to the right than me on civil liberties and national security issues.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                There are also many voters in the party who are further to the right than me on civil liberties and national security issues. Many of these people use to be called Rockefeller Republicans but were chased out of the Republican party. This is going to change the nature and composition of the Democratic Party.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                The simple rejoinder to that is, well, liberals aren’t economically libertarian, so why should we give on those areas if libertarians aren’t going to accept that the next Democratic President isn’t going to destroy the national security state?

                But, indeed, even using your Brodean false equivalence shows a bit of a stretch. There’s a difference between not believing in scientific facts and believing this law or that law doesn’t fall afoul of the Constitution. After all, there’s an argument to be made that every President since Adams has committed impeachable crimes if we’re going by the letter of the Constitution (OK, maybe not William Henry Harrison).

                I’ll happily admit there are non-civil libertarians in positions of power in the Democratic Party. The problem is that the vast majority of American’s aren’t civil libertarians, when it comes to people who they don’t know or don’t feel immediate sympathy for. There’s a reason why it took until the 60’s, despite everything being so “obvious” in the Constitution, for criminals to get very basic rights we all take for granted.

                America has never been and probably never will be a civil libertarian country when it comes to issues of security.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Jesse also brings about a good point about Constitutional Interpretation. Plenty of legislators do vote against laws that they consider unconstitutional and there are changes made when politicians bring up points of constitutionality.

                However, it is still the job of the judiciary to determine whether a law is constitutional or not and law is still more of an art than a science. We have been arguing about this for over 200 years. One person’s constitutional law is another person’s end of liberty as we know it. Look at the arguments made by both sides during the Obamacare debate. Look at how many Supreme Court cases end in 5-4 decisions.
                If law was a science, then they should be a lot more 9-0 decisions.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I’ll happily admit there are non-civil libertarians in positions of power in the Democratic Party.


                The problem is that the vast majority of American’s aren’t civil libertarians, when it comes to people who they don’t know or don’t feel immediate sympathy for. There’s a reason why it took until the 60?s, despite everything being so “obvious” in the Constitution, for criminals to get very basic rights we all take for granted.

                I’m not talking to all of them, at the moment, Jesse.

                I’m talking to you.

                If you lived in California, would you vote for Feinstein? FTA:

                Even though Sen. Wyden sits on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, he says he has been told next to nothing about how FISA is used to target Americans. During Thursday’s debate, though, the committee’s chairperson, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), rebuffed Wyden’s concerns.

                “No one should think the targets are US persons,” Feinstein said. “Thirteen members of the intelligence committee who have voted on this do not believe this is a problem.”

                “Without Senate action these authorities expire in four days and that’s the reason the House bill is before us,” Feinstein said on Thursday. “That is why I urge my colleagues to vote no on all amendments.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                I did vote for Feinstein but I am also a multi-issue* voter and a pragmatic. I don’t believe in symbolic sacrifices of third party votes. There are many issues on which Feinstein’s view is similar to mine. This is not one of them. When she retires from the Senate, my guess is that she will be replaced with someone more liberal considering the trajectory of California politics but this is only a guess.

                The same thing goes for Kohole’s comment above when he told liberals to lie in it for reelecting Obama instead of voting for Gary Johnson. How about all the other issues on which liberal-Democrats agree with Obama’s position like gay marriage, healthcare, labor rights, environmental regulation, taxes on the wealthy, social safety net programs. How about the simple fact that Gary Johnson had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning and a Romney Presidency would probably result in Supreme Court (and other judges) who make Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalialook like a bleeding hearts?

                *As far as I can tell, single issue voters seem to exist more on the right than the left. Guns and Taxes being prime examples.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Have you ever done anything to communicate to the distinguished Senator that you find certain of her voting trends to be distasteful and you would prefer she alter her behavior?

                I get the “I’m going with this person because they’re closer than the alternative” (although honestly, in California you have pretty close to carte blanche to vote third party as a protest vote and change the outcome not at all).

                But politics isn’t fire-and-forget, dude. You give somebody a seat for six years (or in Feinstein’s case, two decades), it’s kind of on you to own it. Have you done one thing to communicate your disagreement on this issue with your representatives?

                Why would you expect them to change, if not?Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Patrick, kudos for reminding people that it’s not just voting that matters, it’s communicating with the people who win office.

                They represent us, the voters. And polls are a shitty way to let them know what they should be doing.

                Best, I’ve been told, is talking to them in person if you’ve got the chance for a meet-and-great; second best is a letter, third a phone call, and email is nearly useless.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                In 2000, I was a pretty reliable Democrat, my exposure to politics being Reagan, GHWB, and Clinton. I saw Gore run a terrible campaign and lose to a huckster. But I figured the economy was about to tank (dot com bust being obvious to all of us who were there), Bush would eat the blame for a terrible economy and not doing anything with his Presidency (which, really, he hadn’t prior to 9/11) and then the Democrats would win in 2004.

                And then 9/11 happened, and the country freaked out, whole kit and kaboodle. And then the ramp up to the Iraq war happened, and the AUMF came up for a vote, and all of the Democrats who voted for it voted for it, but… Saddam let the inspectors back in. Crisis averted, right? The Democrats did the pragmatic thing, agreed to let GWB raise the pot over the top, and Saddam folded.

                And then the next six months happened, and everything went to hell. And not once anywhere in those six months did the Democrats do anything to stop it. And then it got worse, the Democrats ran a wooden stick against a sitting President in the middle of a war, and they lost, and the NSA wiretapping program was revealed, and they didn’t stop it, and then extraordinary rendition was revealed, and they didn’t stop it, and then… Jesus, I could go on but it makes me ill to go through the laundry list again.

                How anyone can be an enthusiastic Democrat after the last 12 years just buggers my imagination. It’s one thing to be a delusional Team Red cheerleader, they’re at least doing a good job of crafting doublespeak messages that let the True Believers think They Really Mean It, This Time.

                The Democrats failed every test of leadership between 2000 and 2008, and then when they were promoted for this failure in 2008 (on account of, granted, the other guys *were* still worse), they doubled down on virtually every failure. They even punished their newly elected President for his first (and to date last) principled stand in his attempt to close Guantanamo.

                Obama has had his problems, and his failures, and I don’t much like him as a President. But for the most part, I don’t blame him for most of his failures. Even the NDAA. This Democratic Congress is full of people who need to go. They’re the ones who have failed.

                Jesus Christ, Al Franken is a better legislator than anyone the Democrats have sitting in office who has been there since 1998.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Pat- You are generally correct about the D’s and foreign policy/nat security. They are still better then the R’s which doesn’t say much. However on domestic policy they are generally much better. Enviro policy, gay marriage, supreme court the D’s are all better. Health Care…well the D’s are the only player so they win that by default, but they do actually have decent ideas.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                That doesn’t excuse us from trying to make them better, does it Greg?Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Of course not. I never said it did. Pol’s are shaped by pressure from their constituents. Parties evolve based on what wins. The D’s need pressure to move in a better direction. I wish i had much of D party here to try to push.

                I actually have a D senator, Begich, who is decent but is only in due to luck mostly and isn’t likely to be reelected. He is going to steward Alaska industries like all the pols do here and try to avoid voting for anything that will upset the majority of Alaskans so he can be prepared to fight against whatever raving nutter the R’s put up against him.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                Your last paragraph sounds like someone who is still heartbroken over a break-up and incomprehensible than anyone can still like or even the ex that jilted you.

                To say that the Democratic Party failed every test of leadership between 2000-2008 is extremely subjective and impossible to prove or disprove. Yes there are a lot of people out there that are upset that the Democratic Party is not as far to the left as the Republican Party is to the right but the Democratic Party is and always has been a much broader coalition especially now that we are getting a lot of people who were essentially kicked out the Republican Party.

                A lot of the Democratic Senators and congress people who voted the way you wanted (and you seem to disacknowledge them as if they were invisible) have been elected since 1998. There are a whole crop of new Senators who are more liberal than their predecessors in either party. But Democratic politicians in states like North Dakota, Montana, and Alaska going to be very different than Democratic politicians from Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Hawaii. California is large and diverse enough to ensure a broad Democratic party and Feinstein was always known as a more centrist Democratic politician. This is from her time as a member of the Board of Supervisors onward.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                I am also not talking about picking between the lessor of two evils.

                I am choosing between a politician that I agree with 70-90 percent of the time on policy and issues as compared to a politician who I agree with 0-30 percent of the time. No one (except Libertarians it seems) is ever going to find a politician or party that they agree with 100 percent of the time.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Your last paragraph sounds like someone who is still heartbroken over a break-up and incomprehensible than anyone can still like or even the ex that jilted you.


                Dude, again. This isn’t really about me. It’s about you.

                You’re still not answering my question… have you done anything to participate in the direction of your party? Have you done anything outside your party to encourage your party to go somewhere?

                Are you doing anything other than voting for the guy you agree with 70% of the time instead of the guy you agree with 30% of the time?

                If not, then hey, I’m going to suggest that rather than compare me to a guy who is heartbroken over a breakup, let’s find a more appropriate analogy…

                We’re both friends with Bob. Bob is a nice guy and we both really like Bob quite a bit. Bob developed a really bad drinking problem in 2001. We both shoulder some possible responsibility for ignoring how bad the problem was getting, but he’s been getting into progressively worse accidents and situations. I’ve been trying to talk to Bob, I’ve suggested Bob go to AA, I even drove him there a couple of times. When Bob started hitting us up for loans, at first I helped out because Bob’s family needed the lights on and the food coming in.

                Then we discovered that Bob is just spending the money here and there. Sometimes he brings home food for the family, sometimes he doesn’t.

                Bob’s not listening to me. I stopped giving Bob money. Occasionally I drop by his place and check on the wife and kids. But Bob isn’t going to change until you and I make Bob change.

                Are you doing anything other than enabling Bob?


                If not, rather than just assume that me telling you that Bob has a fucking problem is about how disaffected I am with Bob, maybe you ought to just admit that Bob has a problem and stop making excuses for Bob. Stop pointing out the 7 times he brought the money home to pay for the rent. Stop telling me that Bob isn’t as bad as that other guy Joe that we remember from college and neither of us really like.

                Help me help Bob.

                Or, just admit that you don’t think Bob’s drinking is an actual problem. Or that you think Bob’s drinking is actually a good idea.

                But stop telling me this is about me and Bob. Bob’s fucked up, dude.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                He didn’t deny it, nor has anyone been in this whole thread. You’ve been working off of a false premise this entire time – that anyone thinks there isn’t a a sizable chunk of Democratic elected officeholders that aren’t even close to being good on civil liberties, or that even claims to be. That chunk, being up to 50% and at time or on some questions more, of the party in Congress, is just the plain, obvious baseline reality that we’re all working off of. I wish you wouldn’t pretend there are people saying otherwise in this thread. There really aren’t – even M.A. isn’t denying it (though he’s making excuses).Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Michael, this post went up on the 28th. On 12:32 am on the 30th… that was the first time one of the left members of the commentariat posted a comment that included a party mea culpa. Up to that point, nobody started off with a comment acknowledging that the current crop of Democrats is not good on civil liberties.

                Even there, Jesse had to go and accuse me of Broderism.

                Here’s his dodge: “There’s a difference between not believing in scientific facts and believing this law or that law doesn’t fall afoul of the Constitution. ”

                Certainly, certainly.

                Can anyone on the Left (or the Right, all this stuff did start under Bush, after all) provide an honest defense that they think this program doesn’t fall afoul of their own interpretation of the Constitution? Really? Extraordinary rendition – which Democrats howled about during the Bush administration, has been replaced by extraordinary rendition and a fucking kill list.

                You want to defend that, you go right ahead. You believe it’s justifiable, put your battle uniform on and get in this thread or write a guest post and tell me not that you think the Democrats are the least worst option on civil liberties and security but that they’re a justifiable best option on civil liberties and security.

                Or, if you find this repugnant, tell me how far you’re willing to go to change your party. Are you going to write your Congressperson? Withhold campaign funds? Tell your local campaign organizer that you can’t in good conscience participate? Donate to the ACLU or the EFF? Quit the party?

                Because if you’re not willing to try and force your party to change, you’re on the hook for the way it is now. It’s true we can’t be held responsible for everything our officials do, but when they exhibit both a pattern of behavior and no willingness to do the hard work to change, continuing to support them is supporting what they do.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                People were not denying, nor failing to acknowledge, the baseline reality of the party members’ positions, as your more recent comments have suggested they did.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                They weren’t? I saw an awful lot of “but”s before I saw a “Yes, but”.

                Maybe I’m getting too punchy on this topic.

                Sure seemed like they’d rather talk about anything else.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                …If there weren’t enough comments affirmatively doing so for your taste, well that’s just your taste. It’s an objectively true point that no one should shave to affirmatively comment on one way or another to avoid being accused of denying it. It’s just there.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                Perhaps I’m being uncharitable in my reading of the commentary.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Patrick, I don’t think you’re being uncharitable. If anyone’s charitable on this thread, it’s you. (And North. And Mark T. And Burt. And …) I just think you have both unrealistic expectations of people* as well as a perhaps overly principled view of how people ought to construct their beliefs.

                I’ve said it before on this thread, but the idea that Gary Johnson would have done anything differently in broad outline than Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter….. is pure fantasy. The idea that a vote for Gary Johnson is justified as signalling something or other is also – in my view – a misguided idea. People should vote for their beliefs. Signalling is just an exercise in propaganda.

                The changes you’d like to see require a shift in culture. And that’s accomplished what you’re doing: not only writing the post but also explaining why this issue is an important one. It seems to me there’s a certain cultural threshold that needs to be met before positive changes of entrenched policy can be enacted. But that’s just part of democracy and cultural/political progress.

                *This probably deserves some elaboration, but I think a moment’s reflection will reveal what I mean.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Stillwater, I’ve always had unrealistic expectations of people. Even now, when I’m continually disappointed in their inability to meet them. Even now, after forty years, when I know *why* my expectations are unrealistic. Can’t help myself, buried under my surface cynicism and jaded view of humanity dwells a secret optimist.

                Don’t tell anybody.

                Every once in a while they surprise me and meet them.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      Obama could shoot a corgi in the head on live TV and it still would be talk radio’s fault, wouldn’t it?

      We were tired of the wars and the war excesses in 2006, so we got a Democratic congress. But we were told, oh no, we can’t do anything with Bush in the White House.

      Then we got Obama in the White House, but then we were told, oh no, we can’t do anything until the Minnesota Senate seat is resolved to give us 60 votes.

      Then we finally got Franken in that Senate seat, and then…

      and then…


      Being a Democrat means never having to take responsibility for *anything*. Because between Bush, and Boehner, and talk radio, it’s *ALWAYS* someone else’s fault.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Your gripe is focused on foreign policy, yes?, and how the Democrats aren’t any better than the Republicans? Let’s run with that for a bit. If two diametrically opposed political parties both broadly agree on foreign policy, doesn’t that imply that the foreign policy is not being determined by partisanship, but rather something else? If you’re inclined to attribute policy to elections, then you’d say that other thing is “the will of the people”. If you’re inclined to conspiracy theories, you’d attribute it to the Trilateral Commission. If you’re inclined towards an institutional analysis, you’d say this is the inevitable result of a lack of checks on the exercise of executive power, or just power fullstop.

        But given the potential explanations for the policies you disapprove of, what makes you think that Gary Johnson would have made a dent in any of this if he’d been elected?

        What you’re doing sounds a lot like complaining that the world is what it is instead of a different thing.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          See, Stillwater, when Bush43 needed all those ‘Strordanary Zeckutive Powahs to Combat Turrism, that was Just Great.

          Now they’re howling about Zeckutive Overreach?

          What the GOP can’t stand, what just chaps their fluffy asses most horribly, is the notion some Kenyan Marxist Usurper now has those Powahs. Send them a large bottle of Lubriderm or something, when the GOP was in the ascendancy, we could go to war on the basis of a pack of lies and torture prisoners, those bastards would re-elect him and Cheney too.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Out of curiosity, was Bush impeachable? I tend to think that “signing statements” are sufficient grounds for impeachment but I’m told that I’m crazy.

            Was what Bush did, the powers he accrued to himself, something worth impeaching a President over?

            Because, from here, it seems that the democrats complain but, in their heart of hearts, they can’t wait to hold the new and improved whip that the Republicans build.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              was Bush impeachable?

              Surely. I think he was impeachable on enhanced interrogation, extraodinary rendition, as well as lying about the threat posed by Iraq.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Does that mean that Obama shouldn’t be impeached if, heaven forfend!, Obama ever does something impeachable?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Of course! {{Praise to Obama!!}}Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Remember that when Republicans start making “Obama should be impeached” noises starting next year. You don’t want your arguments to be of the form “Bush did this, and that, and this other thing!!!”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                No, Obama should be impeached according to the same criteria that anyone should be impeached for, which is limited to (the Kenneth Starr-Chamber notwithstanding) +/- high crimes and misdemeanors (tho interestingly misdemeanors are usually something pled down to…).

                The list I presented probably isn’t exhaustive. There were lots of things the Bush WH and Bush himself prolly should have been impeached for.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              That’s a damned good question, Jaybird. The Bush ‘n Cheney Show was a veritable Augean Stables. The country didn’t know whether to shit or go blind with each successive falsehood.

              But I don’t think Bush43 accrued such powers to himself. I remember my fellow Dems going crazy at the time. I kept saying to those folks, watch out, it’s our own Democratic Party ceding these powers to the Executive — why aren’t we all over our own Congresscritters for granting such sweeping mandate to anyone?

              There’s a tale told of Barack Obama, back when he was in the Illinois Senate. I’ve told it before around here. Obama approached his boss, Emil Jones for advice and support on Obama’s thought about running for the US Senate. Emil Jones, amused by Obama’s audacity, asked why he wanted to run for the US Senate. Obama leaned forward and said “I want the pow-ah.” Jones nodded and rounded up the needed support for Obama’s run.

              Really, it’s all about the pow-ah. Congress doesn’t want to make the tough calls. They’re in constant re-election mode. They’re like gerbils on a wheel. That analogy fails particularly early because the gerbil at least puts in some effort. Congress just shirks. The Congress has been ceding power to the Executive for many decades. SCOTUS make the rest of the tough calls. Every time I hear a Republican talk about Activist Courts, I have to laugh: they’re the biggest collection of pussies and sham artists on the planet. They’re a waste of space, all of them. If they were Strict Constructionists, as they claim, we would have an Activist Congress, as it was set up, with an essentially populist House and a circumspect, august Senate to temper the hasty judgements of that House, with a President who would spend most of his time dealing with what legislation could get through the Congress. As it is, they can’t delegate enough of the tough decisions to other Branches of Gummint.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                As it is, they can’t delegate enough of the tough decisions to other Branches of Gummint.

                This is actually why I’m a fan of limiting the jurisdiction of this gummint, for the record. If no one is willing to take responsibility for it, we might as well let the responsibility lay in the hands of The People.

                Goodness knows, if Congress won’t do its job, the courts won’t do their own, and the executive won’t do his and all of them complain about the others, we could do a lot worse than just saying “if you ain’t gonna do the job, you ain’t gonna get the jurisdiction”.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                This is actually why I’m a fan of limiting the jurisdiction of this gummint, for the record. If no one is willing to take responsibility for it, we might as well let the responsibility lay in the hands of The People.

                I’m with you on that. But on a case by case basis.

                The wholesale rejection of gummint is what I irritated by.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                That’s a contradiction in terms. Men are not angels.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                No, but they do have fewer guns than governments.

                Even here in the U.S. of A.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          I don’t think that his complaint is that “they aren’t any better” as much as “they are like Republicans when it comes to the spending but the Democrats are still explaining that the Republicans would be even worse, just like the Republicans did when it came to the spending.”Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        We Democrats do take responsibility for things. That’s our default role in life, to pick up the pieces after the GOP has screwed the aforementioned pooch and left the country in a fiscal forest fire with two wars a-blazing overseas.Report

      • Avatar DRS says:

        Corgis deserve to be shot. Have you ever met one? Golden retrievers on the other hand are a different matter.Report

  10. Avatar Kazzy says:

    You didn’t *really* think the Elf on the Shelf was really just a Christmas toy, did you?Report

    • Avatar just me says:

      Is that where he goes when Christmas is done? Back to report on all he has seen and heard?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Department of Homeland SantaClausing.Report

      • Avatar St. Nicholas says:

        You think THAT’S bad? The Feds just subpoenaed my naughty/nice list, replaced 8 of my reindeer with drones, and implanted a bug in Rudolph’s nose. 🙁Report

        • Avatar just me says:

          Dastardly! As long as they don’t put a hidden camera on you. You go to everyone’s house. Imagine all the intel they could get!Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            I do think the whole Elf/Shelf thing is really pretty dastardly. Kids seem to enjoy it… But the whole, “YOU’RE BEING WATCHED THING!” is a bit much. Plus kids should be taught to act well regardless of who is watching.Report

          • Avatar St. Nicholas says:

            Those pictures go into Santa’s “private” collection, if you know what I mean. Not even Mrs. Claus knows where I keep those.




            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Mrs. Santa has long since rooted your boxes, Nick.

              Some years back, I was dragooned into purchasing some last minute toys for my cousin’s four kids who were coming back from Africa just in time for Christmas. As I was standing in line, a disgusting little boy was harassing his mother “What’s Santa gonna get me for Christmas? He’d better get me [insert various expensive toys here]!”

              His weary and indulgent mother left him in the queue and hurried back to the toy department.

              “Young man” I said to him. “Santa might not come at all this year.”

              “Whaddaya mean?” He eyed me nervously. “Of course Santa’s coming.”

              “Well, last year Santa was delivering presents in Detroit last year. As he was coming down a chimney, someone mistook him for a burglar and shot him.”

              The boy’s eyes opened wide in horror. “But he survived. He spent several months in the hospital. Mrs. Claus had to come down from the North Pole and get him and that wasn’t until the middle of March and by then, Santa’s factories were having serious problems, far behind production quotas. And Santa had developed a very bad attitude and took to drinking schnapps with the Chief Elf in the break room and you can only imagine how screwed up things got then. Lots of elves resigned and went to work in China.”

              “As Santa’s drinking got worse, the factories shut down entirely. Then Mrs. Claus divorced him and went to live with her sister in Minneapolis. But then the Canadian Mounted Police arrested Santa for driving his sleigh while drunk and the last I heard he was out on bail and his flying license is suspended and he won’t even get a court date until January at best….”

              About then the little devil’s mother returned and flew into a rage at me… “You horrible, horrible man!”

              “Mom, is Santa really an alcoholic? Did he get a DUI?” Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Between this story, and the one you told recently about trying to teach some boys about how to play war “for real”, I am torn between putting BlaiseP down for “Best Uncle Ever”, or for “Worst Uncle Ever”.

                Either way, it’s an all-expenses paid trip to Albuquerque!Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Berst Uncle.

                “It was the best of times, it was the blorst of times!?!?”Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Stupid monkey!Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I had a few precious moments with my brother’s kids. My brother’s never let his cats play with strings. Says they’ll eat the strings.

                So my niece is sitting on the couch, cuddling with her kitty, just after my brother had told me not to play with the cat using a string. My brother went off to relieve himself. We’d both been drinking a fair bit.

                I said “It’s just as well, your dad’s right about cats eating strings. I heard tell of these people who’d left their cat in the house for a few days, they’d left plenty of food for the moggie. But they’d left a ball of twine around, and when they got back, the string had gone all the way through the cat and you could pick the cat up from both ends by the string…”

                At this point, my sister in law yells out from the kitchen “Blaise, shut the hell up!”Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                That was fantastic.
                Gave me a chuckle.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        One of my buds has decided that “Elf on the Shelf” sucks with its current mythology. Instead, he uses the Elf to do mischief after the kid has gone to bed. For example: If the kid left his crayons out, the elf uses them to draw on the (easily cleanable) nearby surfaces.

        This makes for a much more entertaining holiday season.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          I knew a teacher… A TEACHER… that used a similar mythology with a St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun. He’d destroy the room while kids were out. Lots of tears. Lots.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Yeah, the kid in question couldn’t believe that Buddy did that and burst into tears before writing a letter to Santa saying that “Buddy, NOT ME, wrote on the tile.”Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              Man, that’s terrible. That’s like getting your kid a mogwai for Christmas.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                At the company christmas party, I told him that I’ve been talking to Buddy. His eyes got really big.

                I probably shouldn’t have enjoyed that half as much as I did.

                Anyway, the following Monday, the dad told me that the entire drive home, the boy kept talking about how Santa knew about Buddy.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I get the kid mistaking you for Santa. But how did he not now the elves were in cahoots with the big guy? Did he just think the elf was into watching naughty children for kicks? Even creepier…Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The child in question is three. I mean to cast no aspersions upon him when I say that he’s gullible enough for adults working in concert to fool him when it comes to the elf on the shelf.Report

  11. Avatar Roger says:


    “It was the Progressives who fought the battles for the rights of the poor from the bottom up.  It was the Progressives who put an end to child labour in the USA.”

    Actually, it was free enterprise which created rising standards of living. This allowed people to become well off enough to no longer use their kids as working slaves. Prosperity eliminated (or at least reduced) poverty and child labor and longer work weeks and workplace danger. Once these became rare, progressives then stepped in and passed a boatload of regulations and claimed credit for something they did little or nothing to support. In some cases they passed so many regulations that they choked off the decentralized processes that delivered the progress. See health insurance.

    There is a lot of literature of the problems people have in recognizing bottoms up forces. It is difficult for some of us to see, but is worth the effort if you try.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Prosperity eliminated (or at least reduced) poverty and child labor and longer work weeks and workplace danger. Once these became rare, progressives then stepped in and passed a boatload of regulations and claimed credit for something they did little or nothing to support.

      Precisely. The proper response to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire (and its recent doppleganger in Baglandesh) is simply to work harder, knowing that the real solution is increased profitability, not socialistic fire regulations.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

      This whole paragraph is why libertarians and progressives can neveer truly be a coalition. Because we both look at the same events and see two entirely different stories. As long as libertartians like Roger truly believe progressives just “stepped in and took the credit” for the improvements during the early 20th century, there’s no reason for him to think that further regulation will help matters, since it was genius of the free market that solved things in the first place.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        since it was genius of the free market that solved things in the first place.

        Would have solved things in the first place. And, of course, those problems themselves were caused by top-down coercionism. Take the regress all the way back, and the source of all our problems is top-down coercionism. QED!Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

          Well, ya’ know, God telling Adam and Eve not to bite the apple is just the first example of Big Government in action.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            If only people listened to Their Betters, we wouldn’t have these problems.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

              Well, according to libertarians, those who are successful in life by amassing wealth are our Betters, so we shouldn’t strap them down with horrible regulations against treating employees however they want.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                Oh, hey, look. Someone who doesn’t understand libertarianism well enough to say even one sentence about it without grossly mischaracterizing it thinks he’s qualified to criticize it.

                Never seen that before.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Hey BB! I wrote a response to one of your comments upthread. Have you seen it? Currently # 24. I’d love to talk about that some more, bro.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                Ah, yeah. I was meaning to get back to that. But it’s long, and reasonable, and that means responding takes more effort than snarking back at Jesse’s garbage.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                Major detour from the path of least resistance.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Well, don’t stress too hard about it. If you don’t get around to writing it I’ll just come to a reasonable interpretation of your views and … you know … attribute them to you. 🙂Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Heh. It’s pretty easy to interpret what you wrote as implying that you and Roger are our Betters, JB. I know you didn’t intend that, but…Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                My inclinations that I have to force people to stop being so fucking stupid and to be better and to pass laws making them be better and stop being so fucking stupid are why I know that I ought never be trusted with the power to make other people live a certain way.

                It’s one of the reasons I’m a Libertarian.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

          Also, Roger did say the free market (mostly) fixed the problem, “Prosperity eliminated (or at least reduced) poverty and child labor and longer work weeks and workplace danger.” and dirty socialists like me just took the credit.Report

    • Avatar DRS says:

      Wow. Is this a talking point from something? Because it’s certainly not history. I notice you don’t cite anything for this ridiculous claim.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

        It’s the same line of thought that says FDR make the Depression worse, the Great Recession happened because certain people got mortgages, and people on welfare are living high on the hog.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:


        I am actually surprised and mildly amused that anyone would actually ask me to prove it. It is like demanding I prove that Santa doesn’t exist.

        If you are interested, I would gladly agree to engage you and all the top down,master planning progressives here on the historic record of standards of living, child labor and workplace safety trends. In every case, progress occurs in a bottoms up fashion from rising levels of productivity followed by regulations (which may or may not help continue the trend).

        I am glad though that the progressives have uniformly abandoned the pretense of denying that they believe progress comes about in a top down, rational master plan from progressive intellectuals and regulators. You have all now shifted to plan B: instead of denial you have shifted to proving Santa does exist and is the driving force of prosperity.

        To summarize… If you want to debate history and institutional progress, I am game.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Ho ho. Like the King of Hearts, “sentence first, verdict after.” The entire historical record stands in opposition to your argument.

          All persons more than a mile high to leave the court. You’re perfectly useless.Report

    • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

      Roger’s argument that market forces (alone) reduced poverty and child labor and every manner of bad things, is a classic example of what I call the Perpetual Motion Machine theory of politics.
      That there there are forces like technology or markets that if allowed to operate without restraint or intervention will inevitably result in Good Outcomes (or “win-win” outcomes).

      The end result is a state of affairs in which good outcomes arise without cost to anyone- no one’s interests are ever harmed, since all engagements are voluntary and win-win, resulting in universal betterment, without ever a downside for anyone.

      This is of course the mirror image of doctrinaire socialism; The state really has no part to play in establishing a just ordering of power, since everyone is equally empowered. At most, the state simply handles purely functionary tasks like defense or crime.

      Notice also that human nature and morality don’t exist in this view; For example, was child labor a moral crime that needed government intervention to stop? Ha ha, no, not at all! Why, it was merely a symptom of inefficient market forces, which naturally and automatically disappeared when the balance between labor and capital reached the optimum level and rational actors no longer needed to send children to the coal mines.

      As with socialism, there is something escapist and utopian about all this; that the eternal struggle over power and agency can be solved permanently by the perfect mechanism of abstract forces, without the need for people to make moral decisions and difficult choices.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:


        Awesome comment on the perpetual motion machine. I even like your term, even if tongue in cheek.

        To clarify, I do indeed believe that it is possible to establish (top down or bottoms up) institutions which foster systemic problem solving systems using primarily voluntary, positive sum interactions. The scientific method is one such system, free enterprise is another. They share the same structure. Both involve a decentralized arms race for problem solving within their defined domains that involve a constructive competition to solve problems via experimentation, today then spread and replicate good solutions and which then improve upon or build upon the solution sets.

        Although nobody is allowed to be directly harmed (scientists and entrepreneurs aren’t allowed to use violence or coercion to harm their competition), they are actively encouraged under the rules of science or free markets to outperform their competitors. There is a zero sum dimension within a broader positive sum process (knowledge and prosperity being the outcomes of the two processes).

        It is possible in both systems for there to be total losers. In the case of free enterprise, safety nets are essential in some cases to support these losers. Some safety nets are possible within the market (insurance) some are needed outside the process.

        I guess classical liberalism can be described as the mirror image to state planned socialism, though it does not require any assumption that peopl are equally empowered. Indeed I believe we assume everyone is not.

        Understanding human nature is essential to recognizing constructive verses destructive institutional arrangements. As to your child labor, I am sorry, but at two dollars a day in per capita productivity, if we attempt to limit child labor, we may very well be sentencing the children to death. I’ll gladly discuss morality with you.

        “As with socialism, there is something escapist and utopian about all this…”

        The difference is that I can lay out an empirical history of liberal institutions that led to exactly these results. I can cite a dozen or so summaries of the transition from Malthusian poverty to modern prosperity by economists and historians.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Well just you try to dig up some citations. Every single society works top-down, imposing rules by the enforcement of laws, protecting the weak and restraining the strong. You have well and truly shit in your own dinner plate.Report

          • Avatar Roger says:


            Your attitude and language is venomous and hateful. The point of this forum is to have a gentlemanly discussion among diverse individuals. I am simply unable to wade through your insults to find anything worth discussing in a productive fashion. If anyone finds they can find any reasonable arguments buried in what he writes, feel free to champion his point in a rational way and I will gladly respond.Report

            • Avatar Will H. says:

              Please don’t consider me to be a champion of these positions; but I’ll act as translator, as best I can.
              There are several points here.

              First of all, Zappa never wrote one song about these things you say. Unless I misunderstood the lyrics. In which case, point that out to me.

              Without the force of law, what else would require that Gov. Schwartzenator to bang his maid in the missionary only half the time?
              Following the enactment of the ERA, the maid is required to be in the superior position (roughly) 50% of the time.

              Also, the force of law is the onle thing to prevent the Schwartenator from fisting immigrants at the Home Depot. Without it, we would be lost.

              And lastly, how’s about a tv dinner?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Well-put. Except Zappa had plenty to say about this sort of thing.

                One ‘n one is eleven!
                Two ‘n two is twenty-two!
                Won’t somebody kindly tell me,
                What the government’s tryin’ t’ do . . .

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Forgot about that one.
                You must-a jarred a loose memory chip in the ol’ noggin, because I came up with this:

                Act I


                Desperate nerds in high offices all over the world have been known to enact the most disgusting pieces of legislation in order to win votes (or, in places where they don’t get to vote, to control unwanted forms of mass behavior).
                Environmental laws were not passed to protect our air and water… they were passed to get votes. Seasonal anti-smut campaigns are not conducted to rid our communities of moral rot…they are conducted to give an aura of saintliness to the office-seekers who demand them. If a few key phrases are thrown into any speech (as the expert advisors explain to these various heads of state) votes will roll in, bucks will roll in, and, most importantly, power will be maintained by the groovy guy (or gal) who gets the most media coverage for his sleaze. Naturally, his friends in various businesses will do okay too.
                All governments perpetuate themselves through the daily commission of act which a rational person might find to be stupid or dangerous (or both). Naturally, our government is no exception… for instance, if the President (any one of them) went on TV and sat there with the flag in the background (or maybe a rustic scene on a little backdrop, plus the flag) and stared sincerely into the camera and told everybody that all energy problems and all inflationary problems had been traced to and could be solved by the abolition of MUSIC, chances are that most people would believe him and think that the illegalization of this obnoxious form of noise pollution would be a small price to pay for the chance to buy gas like the good ol’ days. . . .

                CENTRAL SCRUTINIZER:
                This is the CENTRAL SCRUTINIZER…it is my responsibility to enforce all the laws that haven’t been passed yet. It is also my responsibility to alert each and every one of you to the potential consequences of various ordinary everyday activities you might be performing which could eventually lead to The Death Penalty (or affect your parents’ credit rating). Our criminal institutions are full of little creeps like you who do wrong things… and many of them were driven to these crimes by a horrible force called MUSIC! Our studies have shown that this horrible force is so dangerous to society at large that laws are being drawn up at this very moment to stop it forever! Cruel and inhuman punishments are being carefully described in tiny paragraphs so they won’t conflict with the Constitution (which, itself, is being modified in order to accommodate THE FUTURE).

                Ahhh, the classics . . .Report

        • Avatar Major Zed says:

          What you said. You can’t improve peoples’ lives by wishing away reality.

          “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics. ” – Sowell, Is Reality Optional? and Other Essays

          “That people should wish to be relieved of the bitter choice which hard facts often impose upon them is not surprising. But few want to be relieved through having the choice made for them by others. People just wish that the choice should not be necessary at all. And they are only too ready to believe that the choice is not really necessary, that it is imposed upon them merely by the particular economic system under which we live. What they resent is, in truth, that there is an economic problem.” – Hayek, The Road To SerfdomReport

          • Avatar Roger says:

            The odd thing is that though this thread pretty decisively proves my theory that progressives are heavily biased toward top down, master planned, coercive solutions, even I don’t believe they actually think benevolent regulators solved the problem of child labor or workplace safety or poverty. I can’t help but thinking they are being somewhat facetious.

            Perhaps I should write a guest post on the nature of the Big Kahuna fallacy (which conservatives fall for just as badly as progressives).Report

            • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

              You keep accepting that social welfare programs are necessary and effective; then attack “top down, master planned, coercive” solutions as it they were self-evidently bad or unjust and we should recoil from them in horror.

              Is it possible that “top down, master planned, coercive solutions” are sometimes necessary and effective?Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Yes. When the barbarian hordes have surrounded the city, and the problem and solution are blindingly obvious and collective in nature, then I would lean heavily toward a top down, central and coercive solution.

                At a broader level, I think there are great rational arguments for using a thin layer of master planning to establish and maintain the basic bottoms up playing field.

                As with everything else, I am intending to be pragmatic. There is nothing inherently wrong with master planning. The problems play out in the dynamic of using coercion. Just as importantly, it is critical that we address longer range problems with an adaptive problem solving technique which uses variation and competition.Report

              • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                Except you aren’t explaining what any of this means, so it all remains impossible to identify or falsify.

                For example, I could easily assert that Obamacare is exactly the “adaptive problem solving technique which uses variation and competition” that you are talking about. Individual states are free to experiment with different solutions, and businesses are free to select the insurance coverage that fits their needs.
                Its adaptive! And uses variation and competition!

                So is the Americans with Disabilities act- it is the perfect example of “thin layer of master planning to establish and maintain the basic bottoms up playing field”. The Feds issue a thin master planned statute, and individual states interpret it as they see fit, and the local official enforces it according to local directives, but all on an equal playing field.

                And furthermore, neither of them is coercive in the least! In the case of HCA, people are free to pay an extra tax and go without insurance. In the case of ADA, investors are free to invest their money in something other than buildings, if they voluntarily choose not to comply with accessibility regulations. In all cases, decisions are made by rational actors freely choosing what options best fit their goals.

                Win-win, voluntary self-actualization, creative, opportunity-seeking, dynamic synergistic collaboration, bottoms-up crowdsourcing and freedom all abounding!Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I can’t figure out what the dispute is here, but I’m beginning to suspect that you hit the nail on the head in your first comment. In a weird way I think Roger is challenging us liberals on two levels. The first is to justify our own views, but since the ideology he attributes to us is false (and question-begging) we cannot in principle meet his demands. The second challenge is to refute his ideals on the supposition that if we can’t refute them, then we must accept them as valid. But since his ideals are a logical possibility they’re impossible to refute. Even empirical evidence can’t do that.

                I mean, it’s utopian, even tho he keeps saying it’s grounded in pragmatics.

                So we dance around and around…Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                I don’t even agree that you think my belief is false. My belief is that progressives are biased toward rational, top down, master planned, coercive regulations. Even I admit that in some cases this is necessary, so obviously none of these terms are inherently bad. The question then becomes, biased compared to what? Obviously compared to libertarians on one level. But this then just shifts the discussion from opinion, to one of “which one works best in which situation.”.

                I am indeed suggesting that you could accomplish more, even per your goals with more decentralized and evolutionary thinking than from your preferred approach. This can be argued, and would be a productive way to debate various topics… That is, what are the pros and cons of centralized, coercive vs decentralized and voluntary approaches to solve this or that problem.

                To repeat and clarify though. I do not believe any progressive really believes that they are NOT on one side of the spectrum and libertarians are on the other. We clearly are. The only real debate is which approach is more successful based upon the problem, the context and our goals.

                Can you agree?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                No, I dont’ think I can agree.

                The question then becomes, biased compared to what? Obviously compared to libertarians on one level. But this then just shifts the discussion from opinion, to one of “which one works best in which situation.”.

                I’d characterize the bias instead like this: liberals are biased in favor of pragmatics and libertarians are biased in favor of idealism. Our bias towards pragmatism lets us down when a solution that used to work no longer does (and that’s a real problem for liberals in particular but also people generally). You bias towards idealism lets you down because an ideal cannot ever in principle fail. (It can only be failed.) It can never be falsified or refuted.

                Now, I know that sounds uncharitable to your views, and perhaps justifably so. Most libertarians at this sight aren’t advocating for utopia but rather incremental movements in a more individual-oriented, less government-oriented direction. (Jaybird’s vectors!) But insofar as you’re reducing the dispute between us to ideological differences, then I think the criticism is justified. And accurate.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                I am amazed that you do not agree that libertarians and progressives are divided along a dimension of decentralized/voluntary and centralized/coercive. But, so be it…

                I’m not sure I get the idealist bias, especially when I’ve never presented myself as anything other than pragmatic. Can you help me out with examples?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I am amazed that you do not agree that libertarians and progressives are divided along a dimension of decentralized/voluntary and centralized/coercive.

                Oh, I never said that…Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                There’s a fair amount of new institutional economics and of political economy in general that’s both substantially left of center, but also decentralized in any meaningful definition of the word.

                Centralization is a problem, but a lot of the problematic centralization and hierarchical organization that’s occuring in global trade these days is more to do with private entities doing so in industries that have substantial positive economies of scale.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                I think we are better off going with my P&C insurance example to Don. An example which if memory serves you have agreed with me in the past.

                I understand that in a complex world there is no distinct line between thin and thick, simple and complex, impartial and activist, decentralized and master planned, or even voluntary and coercive. However I believe we can all recognize that there are spectrums involved in each of these.

                Can you agree?Report

              • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                Of course. Which is the problem. You are making statements so constructed of platitudes and euphemisms as to be universally agreeable.
                Who would argue that there are not spectrums of differences, in anything anwhere?

                What is underlying this, where I jumped into the comments, is the discussion about the benefits of progressive changes, e.g., child labor and whatnot.

                What I meant by the Perpetual Motion Machine is your insistence that IF ONLY :
                We could find the correct balancing mechanism of regulations and voluntary engagements-
                THEN all sorts of good things would materialize. Automatically, simply as an end product of the mechanism, without the distortions of political intervention.

                Which is very nearly the definition of a utopia.

                Your example of the “best” mechanism of regulating insurace- or the entire marketplace- cannot possibly be answered without agreeing on the end product of the mechanism:

                What- if any- benefit to the public should a marketplace in insurance deliver? Why should the public enforce insurance contracts?

                Your choice of the “best mechanism” will change drastically depending on your answer to the end goal.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                If I were a religious conservative (which I am of course not), I’d be tempted to state the following:

                Liberalism is the heresy that man is perfectible.

                Libertarianism is the heresy that system are perfectible.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                I agree completely that differing end goals will lead to different expectations out of a system.

                The research on child labor laws shows that by the time the laws became prevalent in 1930, child labor (age 10-15) was already down to just over six percent with most of that in agriculture. Before the advent of widespread free enterprise, child labor was both endemic and necessary as the alternative was starvation. I am not pro child labor, but the regulations were pretty much after the fact, and were well known as supported by unions which cared more about eliminating competition than about the welfare of kids.

                But let me get on to your central point… You state that my recommendation of the proper balance of regulation with voluntary competition and cooperation is utopian. I disagree strongly.

                Let me be clear. Establishing a system of constructive competition can indeed lead to an arms race of problem solving. The premier example is the scientific method. Scientists agree to a basic set of rules, and then compete among themselves to be the first to publish data or explanations of the natural world. This creates an arms race of knowledge. Scientists gain status by making significant discoveries that stand up to scrutiny based upon the standards of science within that particular research domain. They can also gain status by debunking, improving, building upon or replacing a theory.

                The scientific method is not utopian. It is not perfect. It is not capable of solving all problems, and it does occasionally lead to negative side effects. But it is progressive, meaning that it can solve more problems better in more domains over time.

                The same is true in well established markets. They are capable of solving more problems better for more people in a wider domain of areas over time. Indeed, human prosperity has increased twenty fold for substantially more people over longer lifespans greatly because of free enterprise and science.

                Feel free to point out where I am wrong (preferably without the one liner snarks from the peanut gallery… I am really interested in hearing what people disagree with here)Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                Could you elaborate, please? I am being serious.Report

              • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                Roger, lets look at it from another perspective.

                Consider the health insurance marketplace. We both agree that the marketplace cannot exist without the permission of the taxpayers to enforce contracts. Further we both agree that enforcing these contracts – generally speaking- provides many benefits to us as a society, and we should encourage them.

                So has the free market solved this problem?
                Not at all! Marketplaces solve problems by rationing by price.

                I assert, that because of the santity of the human person, and moral laws, health care should be made universal. That this universality is so important that it trumps the right of contract.

                So I question whether health care contracts should even be enforced; I question whether the taxpayers are getting any benefit from this marketplace and maybe we should withdraw our support in favor of a Canadian style health care system.

                I know you would disagree. But thats my point. I don’t think there exists a system where our goals and visions can always exist in a win-win scenario where we both feel our they have been satisfied.

                One of us is going to be in a political minority, and go along with the system only under protest.
                And this is where economics and science leaves off, and politics begins.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                It is entirely rational to reject a decentralized market in health care and to instead desire a centralized, rationally designed, master planned system. I believe it will accomplish your short term goals of universal health care. I even agree it is probably better than the hybrid mess we have today.

                For the record, I don’t believe it is anywhere remotely like a free and rational market today. I don’t think that a centrally planned universal system would ever have led to the quality of health care we have today. And I don’t think future generations will benefit as much if we do manage it centrally. But these are both debatable and our conclusions will differ based upon our goals and values.

                Do you still think I am utopian?Report

      • Avatar Turgid Jacobian says:

        Great comment, LWA. Especially that last paragraph.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      Roger –

      You seem to be creating a false dichotomy here.

      You are correct, of course, that in order for wealth to be spread around there actually needs to be wealth. Had the United States been given the choice of child labor, seven day work weeks and no meal breaks or living in hopeless squalor, they no doubt would have chosen the former. So that point is well taken.

      However, stopping there and saying that progressives had nothing to do with the legislative changes that occurred to effectively eliminate the US operating on the backs of a serf class is silly. What’s more, it ignores the reality that proponents of business and free enterprise bitterly fought all of those things that you say they “gave” us.

      Are workers in a better place than they were 120 years ago because of greater wealth, innovation, and opportunity, or are they in a better place now because progressive legislation limited the degree to which an employer could rules the lives of people? The answer to that question, I think quite obviously, is “Yes.”Report

      • Avatar Roger says:


        I basically agree with you. I do not deny any possible improvement from progressive regulations.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          But if you’ve conceded that much, Roger, then you’ve conceded everything the liberal is arguing for – or at least, that I was arguing for on this particular topic. Activist coercive government intervention has as a matter of fact yielded good results wrt both individual outcomes as well as establishing/developing/maintaining effective institutions. Do liberals sometimes get stuff wrong? Absolutely. But what you’re arguing isn’t that liberals sometimes get stuff wrong, but that we necessarily get stuff wrong. That we necessarily can’t get anything right.Report

          • Avatar Roger says:


            I definitely do not believe that you necessarily get everything wrong.

            Let me be very clear and intentionally less teasing…. I believe progressives are drawn or biased towards rational, centralized, top down planning in their problem solving. This does not mean it never works, just that they would be more successful if less biased in this direction. I believe progressives would be more successful at improving the lives of people if they placed more emphasis on the value of adaptive, decentralized, evolutionary progress.

            In general, I believe the best results come from a blend of top down and bottom up. The top down rules are thin and fairly consistent and non activist in most (not all) cases. They establish a positive sum playing field which encourages constructive as opposed to destructive problem solving. See my notes on insurance regulation to Don.Report

  12. Avatar Roger says:


    “insofar as you think certain aspects of “progressive” intervention into markets has led to bad outcomes, your arguments don’t determine whether those bad results ought to be attributed to the basic fact of government intervention full stop, or merely an excess of policy.”

    You are just getting back to James’ point about rules. Markets do need rules, and government can be a very useful way to deliver these rules. Where it goes astray is where government steps beyond the impartial rule monitor and instead tries to use the rules and coercion to shift the field of play. It is the difference between being an official of a decentralized problem solving system as opposed to believing be role of the official is to micromanage the problem solving itself. We want impartial rules and officials, NOT activist officials acting as coercive players.

    “In the case of healthcare, education, finance in particular, I’d be inclined to say that without robust government intervention in the past, those markets/institutions would never have attained enough prominence for us to even debate the merits of less government intervention into them. That is, it’s only because of active government intervention that those markets/institutions are sufficiently stable, complex, interconnected, self-sustaining, etc., that the merits of limiting government is even a plausible issue to discuss.”

    I can see that as perhaps true with child education (mandated, but not micromanaged from the top). Why do you think government micromanagement is necessary in finance, home loans or health care/insurance? Why can’t we thrive in these fields with impartial officials?Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      You are just getting back to James’ point about rules.

      No, I’m making a different point. Insofar as those rules didn’t exist prior to what you want to call “progressive top-down coercive solutions”, then the very existence of those rules was caused by processes you’re rejecting. Now, you could of course say that those rules would have emerged in any event, but that’s a) counterfactual (of course), b) only a logically possible outcome rather than a necessarily entailed one, and c) based on an a priori model derived from idealized first principles.

      We want impartial rules and officials, NOT activist officials acting as coercive players.

      I don’t even know what this means, Roger. I think a union engaging in collective bargaining is impartial, that preventing individuals from collective bargaining is a form of coercion. Now, maybe the outcomes of permitting CB are suboptimal wrt to preferred value and we advocate for eliminating CB rights altogether. But if that’s the case, we’re acting as activist officials using coercion to achieve our ends. We’re the ones not acting impartially.

      Why can’t we thrive in these fields with impartial officials?

      Again, I don’t know what this means. I don’t know what you mean by “can’t”, and I don’t know what you mean by “impartial”.

      If you’re implying that it’s withing the realm of conceptual possibility that we can eliminate regulation and oversight of these institutions and by doing so we will “thrive” (??), then I don’t have a disagreement. It’s imaginable that people will act different than they do, that market mechanisms include safeguards, checks and balances to the degree that total utility is maximized, and that government intervention is limited to merely enforcing contracts with no deleterious effects. I can imagine such a thing, I think. It’s just wildly counterfactual and idealized.

      Regarding impartial, I don’t think that term means anything until you’ve provided a metric by which impartiality is measured. If it’s simply “rule enforcer” then we haven’t made any progress.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        I am surprised I need to define what an impartial official is. Think sports. An impartial official ensures that the players follow the rules. An activist official would try to play an active role in the game.

        Sorry for brevity. I am on iPhone.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          And as I right above your comment – here, I’ll quote it: “If it’s simply “rule enforcer” then we haven’t made any progress.”

          It seems to me that you’re primarily not arguing for better rule enforcers (tho that’s part of it), but for different rules. So impartiality (largely) drops out of the argument.Report

          • Avatar Roger says:


            Why do you suggest that less activist rule enforcers preclude the possibility of progress?

            I am definitely NOT arguing for better enforcers. I think that is a fool’s errand. The more power and influence we give them the greater the incentive for scoundrels to struggle to get the reigns. Minimally interfering rules may or may not be different from today, but impartiality is not something that I am projecting on the enforcers, but on the nature and extent of the rules. Indeed, I am assuming the need for less activist enforcers partially because I recognize they will act in a biased manner if allowed to, and because of the nature of how they act. Rules and regulations are top down, coercive mechanisms that create winners and losers almost by definition.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

          We all know what impartial officials are: ones who agree with our ideas of the rules.Report

          • Avatar Roger says:

            No Mike, that is not what I am suggesting. You are missing the issue by an entire level of abstraction.

            I am asking for the type of game which leaves the action on the playing field. The rules are consistent and relatively thin, primarily monitoring for rule infractions. Enforcers or judges or referees are chosen based not upon whether they are rooting for one side or the other, but based upon just enforcing the rules. I am well aware that this is anathema to progressives, who want officials to determine outcomes.

            An impartial ref is one both teams would agree to before the game starts, and stick with through the season. Of courses either team would prefer a biased ref that favors them. By expecting both teams to mutually agree on a ref though, those biased are eliminated. The game is only played if the teams can agree to the impartial refs.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            I know, the sort of impartial umpire who in his majestic fairness, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread, and who allows CEO and six-year-old alike to work at the wage determined by the impartial workings of the free market.Report

            • Avatar Roger says:


              Who are you arguing with? Neither one of us is arguing for those rules.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                It’s not clear at all what you mean by impartial, so we’re trying in (mostly) good faith to figure it out. What I think would be helpful would be some specificity. So let’s take a field in which we have a disagreement about the appropriate role of government rule-makers: finance. What makes a bank regulator impartial? What makes him partial? Is it the types of rules that are being enforced, i.e. are leverage limits always partial? Is it how they are applied? Give us something more to work with.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Thanks for the question, Don.

                I don’t know much about finance, but I know a lot about another similar field, P&C insurance, so let me use that.

                A thin, impartial set of regulations would be such requirements that companies not cheat, lie, steal or bamboozle customers or other companies. One such reasonable requirement is that companies be adequately reserved so that they can afford to pay out in times of catastrophe. Implicit in this type of regulation is the expectation that consumers will use their choices to affect the market between actively competing companies with no restrictions on entrance into the market.

                The inverse of this is activist regulations. For example, some states determine who can be insured and at what rate. They establish the exact product definitions, the prices, the acceptance requirements, the profit levels. They pass regulations requiring that everyone have the product whether they want to or not. You get hundreds of pages of detailed rules that determine who, what, how and so forth. Officials and their bureaucrats then decide on the details based upon their desires and needs.

                The first is a set of thin regulations which basically assumes a decentralized problem solving system emerging out of the actions of insurers and insureds. The second is activist and attempts to micromanage the industry to achieve certain aims.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:


                Thanks for the reply, but I am unfortunately not feeling a great deal of clarity. It sounds to me like you’ve identified a difference in degree, not a difference in kind. So let’s take your example of a reasonable, “thin” regulation: insurers being required to maintain adequate cash reserves. The first problem I see with your distinction is that ‘what amount of cash reserve is adequate” is a very complex question. After all, insurers would rather hold less cash, but customers want them to hold more so as to decrease the risk of being unable to collect when the insurer collapse. So we have to decide how seriously the industry should prepare for high-cost, low-probability events, how to weigh the competing interests of insurers and the insured. We might also need to figure out what sorts of assets are sufficiently liquid to satisfy this requirement. obviously we don’t want to require insurers to keep a bunch of cash under their mattresses, but that means we have to decide what assets are liquid, and whether or not a larger amount of less liquid assets can still satisfy the requirement. By this point, we’ve easily produced hundreds of pages of rules and we’ve been making value judgments that will create winners and losers at every step along the way. So what distinguishes this from your example of activist regulations?Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                I am using the word “thin” rather than simple because as you point out, they may need to be fairly complex.

                Next, I admit that there is a blurry line between where a single grain turns into a heap.

                In your (actually my) example, a “thin” paragraph or two can easily define adequate reserves as a formula between assets and liabilities using established accounting terms and practices.

                The opposite of this is indeed to stretch this into hundreds of pages of explicit rules, requirements, exceptions, caveats and so forth that are enforced by three or four agencies with oversight responsibilities, auditing requirements, preapproval processes, and so on. And this is just one requirement. Add in a few thousand pages on how rates are set for every class, how large price changes are allowed, what rules are acceptable for underwriting, and so on.

                No, there is no magic point where thin and impartial turns into activist micromanagement. Can you see the range though?Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                Is it fair, then, to characterize your point as follows:
                “We should in general avoid regulation of industry. When we do regulate, the purpose of the regulation should be some clear public good or the correction of an obvious market failure. Those regulations that we pass should aim to err on the side of simplicity and universality within a given market”

                Because if that’s where we’ve wound up, I don’t think we (in principle) disagree.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                Yeah, that is pretty much it. Nice summary.

                I will actually strengthen it a bit and say that I think minimal regulation is necessary for well functioning markets.Report

  13. Avatar Will H. says:

    Hey, Pat; I know you work in IT, and you would probably be in a good position to answer this question.
    I was looking through the California statutes to find a state statute similar to 18 USC 2701, Unlawful access to stored electronic communications.
    The thing is that both Yahoo and Google are headquartered in California; meaning an awful lot of the nation’s e-mails go through there.
    All I could find in the Calif. statutes were things to do with immigration & birth certificates.
    What gives? Doesn’t California have a law against this?
    I’m pretty sure that have a law against at least one of everything else . . .Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      They’re not reading the mail from Google’s store. They’re intercepting it in transit, as the packets travel on the backbone network.

      Technically, anybody sitting on a node between hops in a mail transfer who is capturing the network traffic can read your mail; it’s not encrypted unless you use PGP. All the packets are sent in the clear.

      They’re clear on the exceptions:

      (c) Exceptions.— Subsection (a) of this section does not apply with respect to conduct authorized—
      (1) by the person or entity providing a wire or electronic communications service;

      PacBell, Cingular, Sprint, rolled over and gave the government access to her backbone when they asked. (Qwest said no, they are since on board)Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        Thanks for that.
        I stay in hotels a lot and use the wireless service there. Sounds like I ought to be encrypting my e-mails when I do.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Perversely, encrypted traffik starts waking up the beast. Here’s a rough set of principles I use for privacy:

          1. Cover yourself end to end. I use gmail. It always uses the https:// secure protocol. Reflexively check to make sure your browser is using https:// when you’re about to enter any personal data.

          2. Encrypt email attachment files, not email itself.

          3. Make sure the person at the far end can properly decrypt the attachment and doesn’t save local copies of the decrypted document. This is always the weakest link in the chain.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            That’s not end-to-end. It’s close, though.

            Using encrypted mail protocols (like SSL or StartTLS) only covers you between your node and the mail service that is processing your mail (encrypted protocols are mostly to protect your password, not the mail).

            Interestingly, we find that when people are traveling it’s not uncommon for them to be unable to send mail through our mail service unless they’re on the VPN, because the hotel either blocks 25 traffic, or attempts to re-route it through a proxy (and if you force end-to-end encrypted traffic between your mail server and connecting clients, that breaks).

            At the next hop, though… when the mail server handling your mail opens up a connection to another mail server to handle your mail, it’s all port 25, unencrypted, plaintext packets. Those packets typically hit about 10-20 intermediate nodes (routing equipment) between your mail server and the mail server handling the incoming mail for whoever you’re sending mail

            Encrypting attachments is a good idea. PGP is a better idea.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              I’m not sure how you conclude SSL isn’t secure, end to end. Does anyone still run SMTP raw on port 25 any more? I haven’t seen that in over a decade.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                SSL is secure, between your email client and your SMTP server.

                Your SMTP server is most likely talking to some other SMTP server, out there on the Internet – the receiving server, that is – in plaintext.

                Google’s does. When their sending email servers connect to our mail host, they’re not negotiating an encrypted session.

                So it works like this:

                Your email client <-- SSL tunnel through the Internet --> Google’s mail host <---> plaintext communication within Google’s mail cluster <--> unencrypted SMTP traffic across the Internet <---> your destination address’s MTA <--> plaintext communication within their mail cluster <---> mail delivery <---> IMAP/POP reading of the mail store <---> (typically) SSL tunnel through the Internet —> Your destination party’s email client.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                (It’s that middle part that gets you)Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                Well, I’ll be hornswoggled, Google has entered the 21st century.

                I just sent meself a test message from Google, and there is in fact a negotiated anonymous TLS connection from Google’s mail cluster to ours.

                (I’ll note, though, that this is still not the overall norm. I see a lot more unencrypted connections to our mail cluster than encrypted ones).Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Great, isn’t it?Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                Ah, it’s not mandated, it’s just default.

                If your mail cluster doesn’t support SSL, gmail will fall back to unencrypted SMTP.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Out of curiosity, given that most folks are using Exchange Server, why would anyone not check TLS encryption support?Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                There are a *lot* of legacy email servers on the Internet.

                A *lot*.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                At one point, we mandated incoming TLS on our mail cluster, just to cut down on spam.

                We had to reverse the change, as we were rejecting an awful lot of mail from people who have very bad IT staff. That was, admittedly, a few years ago. Things are probably better. I should compare the log reports and see how many incoming unencrypted sessions we get now. Most of them are probably rejected by the RBLs as spam, but it’s a good question.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I’ll defer to your experience with antique email structures. Some folks get quasi-annoyed with me and my insistence on getting the security right before anything else is done on the projects I manage. But then, the people who really matter, the network admins, the DBAs, the infrastructure people, the security guys, clued-in management, those folks are greatly pleased to find themselves involved early and often. Far too often, they’re the last people consulted and the first people blamed for security breaches, when it’s the idiotic developers and their manglement who create these horror stories.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Another few principles:

          Don’t use any form of RSA encryption. NSA has long since broken it. They haven’t broken AES. If the governments have broken it, the crooks have broken it, too.

          Use strong passwords. And set yourself up for routine password changes.

          Don’t worry so much about the Big Bad Gummint, which isn’t to say don’t worry at all about them. If you’re involved in a criminal enterprise, they’ll be looking for you along many vectors, most of which have to do with your money trail. Worry more about the crooks who are after your money, the industrial spies who are after your company’s data and the griefers who want to trash your drive.

          Coordinate with your own network administrators on how to safely interact with your corporation’s data remotely. They’re always the best guide to these things.

          If at all possible, quit using Windows. Get a Linux or an Apple machine.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            Windows really doesn’t matter so much, for this. It’s all client software that matters.

            I will say this for Windows, their whole drive encryption option (BitLocker) isn’t great, but it’s by far better than anything available from Apple, and you *can* get full disk encryption at the hardware level on a Windows laptop. Macs don’t do full drive encryption.

            Linux’s encrypted file system is good, but for non-power users, a Windows laptop with full disk encryption is pretty easy to use, and there’s no alternative that’s not commercially friendly.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              BitLocker is a nightmare waiting to happen. I watched it trash two Lenovo boxen.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Backups. Backups.

                Carrying around an encrypted terminal is of course a nightmare waiting to happen, if you don’t have backups. Even hardware encryption can fail and render your box a boat anchor.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                SELinux does a perfectly respectable job of handling file security. I get so tired of this argument about “non-power users” and how hard Linux is to administer. What this really means is the IT people are clueless and management is too stupid to live.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Typically, attempts to go all-Linux on the desktop fail at most organizations.

                Typically, they fail for a lot of reasons, but lack of will on the part of the IT department isn’t one of them. Management, maybe.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                That’s not been my observation. Typically, most attempts at Linux fail because IT has no practical Linux experience. Once the developers prise the door open and get a few dev boxes on the network, things change, but not one minute before.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I will hazard a guess that in this particular problem domain, I have a bit more experience than you do, Mr. P.

                End-user adoption of technology is much more often to be driven by institutionally-“required” applications or long-standing embedded business processes than technical aspects.

                Generally. Not always. You’re a good egg, and you’re good at your job, and you encourage the right things, and you price yourself accordingly… so it’s likely that your personal experience is colored somewhat by self-selection bias: the types of guys who will hire you or who you’ll work for are less likely to be dysfunctional than the average org.

                The average org is pretty dysfunctional.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                That’s probably true. By the time I arrive onsite, things are bad enough to warrant substantive changes. I am currently in the process of refactoring, well, let’s call it what it really is, destroying and rebuilding an obsolete infrastructure.

                Inertial momentum, corporate dumbassery, it’s all of a piece. Ordinary users are easy to convert: the Linux desktop(s) are good enough these days and the office suites (OpenOffice/LibreOffice/Google Apps) are substantially easier to use than what MSFT is inflicting on its user base. It’s the petty dukes and princes of the corporate fiefdoms who perpetuate the problems.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Typically, attempts to go all-Linux on the desktop fail at most organizations. Typically, they fail for a lot of reasons…

                In my limited experience, lack of a software suite completely compatible with Office is one of the most common reasons. At some point, the discussion comes down to “Finance is invested very heavily in VBA and/or Solver,” which says that Windows/Office will have to continue to be supported, no matter what the rest of the company does. Things have gotten better over the years as the alternatives have worked hard on their import capabilities, but there’s nothing that’s a drop-in replacement for Office, and for Excel in particular. Occasionally things get worse — Office 2008 for Mac dropped VBA support, for example.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Excel is a curse. Every time I see some bloated, hideous Excel ssheet turning up in my in box, it’s a sure sign business data has escaped from the relational databases. It’s generally sent around to one of the DBAs for some analysis.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Don’t Libre Office or Open Office fill the need for Office Software?

                I understand that some Microsoft features are not supported; but I found, over time, I prefer Libre Office. It’s comfortable.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Ecch… here’s the problem: Open/Libre import MSFT Word and Excel docs reasonably well. But it’s not a perfect translation, especially not when there are loads of macros or specialised fonts involved.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:


                Typically, when this isn’t an intra-organizational problem, it’s still an extra-organizational one.

                Office has puked all over the workplace; even if you don’t need anything beyond Office 95 for your own documents, people send you stuff in Office XP or Office 2003 or Office 2008 or Office for the Mac…

                And while OpenOffice has done a pretty good job of trying to keep up the converter utilities with the moving target of MS Office, they’re always behind.

                Reformatting a 23 page word document because your import utility screwed the pagination, margins, and fonts is not an acceptable use of time, for the average Office worker. It could take me a half-day to clean up something sent to me in Office 2k10 if presentation matters.

                Plus, sometimes you don’t have a choice. For a while, the US Army used to require incoming proposals to be in Primavera Project Planner format, but the last time I saw a RFP the mandated submission was Office 2003 and MS Project.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Don’t get me started on USArmy. They’re marching headlong into the 1980s.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:


                If you were starting from scratch, one of the other tools might be fine. When I’m just doing scratch work for myself, I use OpenOffice Calc. The big Excel headache is when you discover that a critical non-IT department (budget offices are notorious) has been in the software development business for the last dozen years, with VBA as their language and Excel as their execution environment.

                Now they have a few hundred thousand lines of accumulated code. Some of it written in-house, some of it downloaded from the Internet, some purchased. Most of it undocumented. None of it with test cases outside of the spreadsheets in which it’s embedded, which are far from comprehensive. Multiple versions of almost everything. No tracking of where it’s been installed. Often it’s buggy as hell –every academic study of spreadsheet quality that I’ve ever read has found error rates that would be completely unacceptable in any other form of software.

                The point, though, is that no one is willing to take the grief necessary to move that department into a non-Excel environment.Report