Driving Blind: I Spy


Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, gamingvulture.tumblr.com. And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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44 Responses

  1. Avatar Herb says:

    This story brings to mind Ricky Roma’s sage advice: “Never open your mouth until you know what the shot is.”

    I strongly suspect there’s more to this story and it will turn out to be less “ACK! They’re spying on us!” and more “Oh, well that makes sense,” when it’s all said and done.

    Something tells me the NSA wasn’t sifting through all this data to see what they can find. I would bet they were looking for something specific.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      At least we can trust the government to not use its agencies against its political opponents.Report

      • Avatar Herb says:

        Hmmm….are we talking about the IRS? If so, I’m not sure asking a few obnoxious questions before approving tax exempt status really qualifies as “using its agencies against its political opponents.”

        But I get your point.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        “the government to [] use its agencies against its political opponents”

        Well, the White House is the government, but then the IRS is also the government – but it is also an agency of the government. So that “use” is a pretty ambiguous construction there, as is “political opponents” (who are the IRS’ political opponents – or, who aren’t?). So that allows you to insinuate an idea you know you can’t actually assert on current evidence. Which I’m not saying you are or aren’t doing.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          So that allows you to insinuate an idea you know you can’t actually assert on current evidence.

          How much of the benefit of the doubt do you believe the government deserves?

          I’m assuming it’s a lot more than I do.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            You should be clear about what you’re saying is all I’m saying.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              “The government doing blatantly unconstitutional things in the name of keeping our The Children safe would bug me a shitload less if it hadn’t a demonstrated track record of these same things being used to annoy, harass, and otherwise mess with political opponents.”Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                …Again, “the government,” when the problem really is (even for you, I think), who (in the government) was actually in control of these things, and why did they do what they did? And “being used.” That’s as far as you can go, because you know it’s as far as you can go.

                Also, still with the vagueness. “Unconstitutional things…”; “these same things.”

                Sending questionnaires pursuant to making a judgement the agency is tasked with making isn’t the same thing as secretly looking at your phone records or watching you write an email. But then who knows if any of these things are the things you’re talking about? You don’t say.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So how many examples would you need me to give you of government malfeasance at the expense of the citizenry would it take for you to say “okay, you can make that joke”?

                It’s the weekend, I can devote an hour or two to this project.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:


                You can make that joke. And I can ask you questions about it and point things out about how you (don’t) say the things you say.

                What are you talking about?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                And I can point out that the government’s excesses have upset me enough to the point where I am going to make snarky jokes about it. And you can point out that the government’s excesses have not been established well enough for me to make snarky jokes without having to have conversations like this one.

                How many examples would you need for you to acknowledge that, okay, maybe someone could have enough footing to make a joke like the one I made?

                Seriously: it’s the weekend. I am more than happy enough to devote an hour or two to this.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Footing to make the joke? Or standing to make it without having to discuss it?

                I don’t get it. You can make all the jokes you want. But you don’t come here to do it expecting not to be engaged in conversation about what you say, do you?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m afraid that I don’t understand your criticism. Is it that I made a snarky comment about the government without also…


                Ah, hell. I’ll rephrase my joke, make it non-snarky, and you can respond to it below. See you there.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                I didn’t introduce the question of snarkiness as a part of the probme with your rhetoric i was criticizing, so maybe you can explain its relevance to my criticism.

                If you think my criticism of what you said (which I actually didn’t take as a joke, even though the method used snarkiness – specifically arch sarcasm, which had nothing to do with the criticism) is unclear, that’s okay. I think it’s clear enough, and it’s on the record, which is what I really care about. At this point I’d be a little incredulous if you suddenly started to claim that you yourself really care about what my criticisms of you do or don’t consist of.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Also, if the same problem with your joke remains in your new non-snarky rhetoric, I’m probably not going to bother re-stating my criticism. And if not, I probably won’t comment on that either. You can stare at what I wrote and see if it starts to make sense, whether it applies to the new thing or whether you’ve addressed it there – all up to you.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                It’s not like your jokes don’t have a serious point. It seems like you’re saying I’m telling you you can’t make a joke if respond to them by trying to clarify and interrogate the serious points you are making with them. And that’s not the case.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            …But yeah, it probably is more. So?

            The issue is that your construction of “the government to use its agencies against its political opponents” construction is totally vague and commits you to nothing.

            I have no problem if you just want to come out and say, “I don’t trust this (or any government), so I believe, regardless of the evidence, that it is 76.4% likely that the White House directed the IRS’ 501c(4) Tea Party group actions.” That would be great. Believe what you want to believe.

            The issue is that you play with language in such a way as to avoid saying that, while still communicating it. We’re all friends here; you can just say it. Heck, you’re still giving yourself a 23.6% out on being wrong if you said what I suggested rather than the not-thing that you chose to say.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Are conservatives and/or libertarians the only ones we’re allowed to make snarky one-liners about?

              If that’s going to be the rule, let’s just put it out there.

              My vote is for “against”, for the record.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                How does anything I’ve said disallow you from saying what you said?

                I’m merely noting and criticizing your rhetorical methods. And your rhetorical aims for those methods are entirely earnest and serious, however much snark is employed. So why shouldn’t I do that?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Gotta criticize something, I guess.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Cuz obviously it shouldn’t be you?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                In this particular case, given the past couple of weeks’ worth of revelations with regards to excess on the part of the government, I, personally, would probably have immediately focused on something other than “criticisms of the government”.

                But I’m a Libertarian. Of course I would.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                I don’t like your methods, dude. I’ve been clear and consistent about that for a long time.

                No, that you’re using them to criticize a government that deserves it doesn’t change that today. Sorry. You could just as easily use good methods to voice the same criticism.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It seems to me that my methods are used by many on this website (to be sure, many use it with a defter hand) but in service of mockery of different targets.

                It seems to me that it is not my method that you find offensive, but the fact that I use it against “your” side.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                It seems to you not like it is, then. Yes broadly, some of your methods do get used by others, and you might be right that it’s your inaptness with those methods that bugs me. But I’m talking about something much more fine-grained and specific to you that is common in the inaptness with which you use those commoner methods, which i have come to see as another method all its (your) own over time. A particular way that you fudge distinctions using vagueness in order to advance your snark – not the snark itself (which is what I take you to be talking about when you say that others use the methods too).

                If you want to believe I only see that in you cuz you’re on the other “side” that’s fine. Again, I perceive it as unique to you – I see other libertarians fudging distinctions as well as liberals doing so, and I don’t criticize their methods like I do yours. It’s something about your consistency and haughtiness, as well as something about your particular rhetorical approach (which again, I really do perceive as particular, though of course that could be bias on my part) in how you do it that provokes my criticism. But I understand if you are inclined to think I’m just picking on you because you’re a libertarian.Report

              • Avatar kenB says:

                It’s always a joy to read one random guy on the internet offer a disquisition on the faults of another random guy on the internet as if the first random guy’s opinion on such matters is somehow authoritative.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                But I understand if you are inclined to think I’m just picking on you because you’re a libertarian.

                That’s not what I said.

                But I understand that that’s how you’d probably want to frame what I said.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                I really do understand, first of all.

                And second, I didn’t mean to, or want to, wrongly frame what you said. I just misremembered. I *don’t* understand what difference you think it makes to me rhetorically. It was just an error of expedience.

                So, for the record, I would understand if you you are inclined to think I’m just picking on you because (you think I’m motivated to because) you use it against (what you think I perceive as) “my” side.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Also, I don’t get where you take that implication. Were you under the impression that I objected to your question about how much benefit of the doubt I think the government deserves? Nothing wrong with that question (I didn’t even take it as snark); it just wasn’t to my point in my view.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                How much homework will I have to do in the future before I make a snarky one-liner without having to get out a frog-dissection kit?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                None. You can certainly let my responses stand unrebutted.Report

  2. Avatar Just Me says:

    Is anyone else wondering what is going on between April 25 and July 19? I really, really don’t like this. I am wondering what kind of systems they have to troll through that much information and why if they know enough to know that the people they are trying to spy on have Verizon they can’t just get warrants for their specific phone records. Though, if they are doing this to Verizon, I would not be surprised that they are doing it to all phone companies.

    Quick Facebook thought: I have seen more twenty somethings who normally never post about politics posting about this on Facebook. Those twenty somethings are not very happy either.Report

    • Avatar Just Me says:

      Ok, I just read the links and now I realize that they have been doing this for seven years. The dates don’t have any meaning. And they are doing the same with other phone companies too. Just same old same old, it’s for your own goodness.Report

  3. Avatar George Turner says:

    Eh, it’s nothing compared to how they suck in everything from Microsoft, Google, Skype, Facebook, Apple, etc. WaPo link on Prism.

    They also keep their own copies of all your e-mails. The Atlantic link

    Voice, video chat, pretty much everything.Report

  4. Avatar Just Me says:

    PRISM….not just metadata. Once again they tell us it is only focused on foreign traffic that flows through the U.S. Isn’t that how the phone information gathering started too?Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      Yes. It is. I know for a while they were routing some domestic calls through offshore switching centers just to make things all legal.

      What’s more disturbing is that somehow the NSA convinced Americans to text instead of call, since texts are much, much easier to search and vastly easier to store. They’re also probably behind all the cat videos, but I’m not sure why or how unless the cats really are pulling the strings.

      Seriously, though, this couldn’t come at a worse time because the public trust has been broken by Benghazi and the IRS scandals, with the executive showing that it really will target ordinary Americans for partisan purposes and leak their personal information to their enemies. It may be that such behavior is what convinced some of the NSA leakers that the data they gather could be getting abused and that the administration can no longer be trusted with such an invasive and expansive program.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Hey, the AP is reporting that Richard Ramirez died.Report

  6. Avatar Lyle says:

    Real terrorists have watched law and order and know to conduct business on prepaid cell phones that are disposed of every so often. So your trying to catch the less adept and knowledgeable terrorists. Also I wonder what records are kept of priority mail and the like. If you can prepay with stamps, then there is no record of who the sender is and you can use any return address you like. Things are a bit slower but 24 hours in the scheme of things is nothing. A flash drive fits well in an envelope as well.Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird says:

    One thing that bugs me about the government collecting this data is that I don’t trust it to be used solely for anti-terrorism law enforcement, but that I downright expect it to be used in a partisan hostile fashion against political opponents.

    Not necessarily “democrat vs. republican”, mind, but in the sense of “agency vs. people who would agitate to cut the agency’s funding”. (I’ve no doubt that there are republicans who knew about the IRS targeting the tea parties… and they didn’t care because they knew that the tea parties are more than happy enough to primary the crap out of insufficiently ‘republican’ (whatever that means this week to the tea parties) candidates and slowing the tea parties down is to the benefit of such politicians.)

    I’m wondering if the next shoe to drop will be that this information that has been collected has, in fact, been used inappropriately.

    It will not surprise me for one moment if it does.

    (Additionally, I have no doubt that there would be people in this scenario who, instead of screaming about the government using this data inappropriately, would talk about how it shouldn’t reflect poorly on Obama. Perhaps they would talk about Bush. Perhaps they would talk about Congress. Perhaps they would talk about how much information millions give to Facebook voluntarily. Perhaps they would even go so far as to tell me to not be so naive. What they would not do is acknowledge that the government would have had betrayed the trust of the citizens.)Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      If the NSA were caught listening in on Tea Party conversations, I could write a defense tomorrow. Using a lot of the same rationales we heard last week, in concert with that DHS report from 2009. The argument is there. The NSA was just doing due diligence. The administration would denounce it, of course, but that would just be arse-covering over the mere appearance of impropriety.

      And on and on.

      Truthfully, I generally lack the trigger that gets immediately outraged at discoveries like this. Not like other people do. Generally speaking.

      But it’s been that kind of month.Report