Wednesday, June 12, 2013

L'esprit D'escalier Time Machine

In which our Libertarian friends continue to use a big ol' lie to whittle the consequential NSA/Snowden story into bachi with which to beat their very large "Partisans on both sides are so awful" taiko drum.

Which, I will  remind you, is exactly what I told you they were doing.

Today's drum-major is Nick Gillespie -- he of the Authorized Libertarian "Hey, Young Liberty Lover, Let's Rap About John Galt!" Leather Jacket and Koch brothers'-funded magazine.  And from the heart of Galt's Gulch comes his missive in which he tries to float the same lie that Mr Greenwald tried to float a couple of days ago.

To wit, 
In late 2005, The New York Times and others exposed broad-based, constitutionally dubious NSA surveillance programs of American citizens. If memory serves, there was a Republican in the White House, and the GOP held both houses of Congress too.

In January 2006, Pew Research asked whether it was OK to collect info on “people suspected of involvement with terrorism by secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading emails between some people in the United States and other countries, without first getting court approval to do so.” A slim majority of all respondents—51 percent—said yes while 47 percent said no.

The partisan breakdown, however, was vastly different, with 75 percent of Republicans finding it acceptable and just 23 percent dissenting. When it came the Democrats, only 37 percent of Democrats signed off on NSA snooping, with a whopping 61 percent saying screw off.

Fast-forward to June 2013, when a Democrat occupies the Oval Office after an easy reelection and his party controls the Senate. Pew asked respondents whether it’s OK that the NSA “has been getting secret court orders to track telephone calls of millions of Americans in an effort to investigate terrorism.” This time around, it’s Democrats who overwhelmingly support collecting collecting yottabytes and exabytes of metadata on us all, with 64 percent saying they are totally fine with NSA surveillance programs and a measly 34 percent disagreeing. Among Republicans, enthusiasm for eye-in-the-sky surveillance has taken a major hit, with only 52 percent agreeing and 47 percent saying no.
In order to keep his particular grift from folding up and blowing away, Mr. Gillespie -- like David Brooks or Andrew Sullivan -- absolutely requires the Left and Right to be equally and oppositely awful. Unfortunately his problem today is the same as Mr. Greenwald's yesterday: the survey over which he croooooows to prove that everyone who is not Nick Gillespie or a Nick Gillespie Libertarian is a hypocritical partisan asshole simply does not say what he wishes it said.   

Unlike Mr. Greenwald who merely dumped his deeply misleading chart on Twitter and walked away, leaving it to his supporters to Retweet and tsk-tsk over it 900 times without ever pausing to find out if it actually proved what Mr. Greenwald said it proved --
-- Mr. Gillespie is stuck with a longer format with a comment section and thus stuck with explaining away why the fact that Pew asked two entirely different questions in 2006 and 2013 was in no  way related to the entirely different results those questions yielded.

A tough beat, but Mr. Gillespie coped with that substantial gap between his data and his conclusion in typically bold Libertarian fashion:  just ignore that data, cats and kittens, because People are Stoopid:
(Don’t let the constitutional fig leaf about “secret court orders” in the newer version of Pew’s question fool you. To the extent that anyone knows anything about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, they know it’s a freaky hybrid of a kangaroo and a rubber stamp that even Dr. Moreau couldn’t have conceived at his most demented. In roughly 34,000 requests spanning 33 years, FISA courts have turned down applicants for surveillance orders a total of 11 times.)
Oh bullshit, Gillespie.

First, as I clearly recall but you would clearly rather not, the entire fucking debate in 2006 was around the FISA court, because pretty much the entire fucking debate in 2006 was about the illegality of what George Bush was doing.  

It was in all the newspapers.  Even USA Today!
It was the subject of a million blog posts.
It was the subject of Congressional hearings.

I believe it might even have been mentioned on that Jon Stewart Big Time Comedy Cavalcade Half-House which all the young people seem to like so much.

It is perfectly legitimate to debate NSA overreach.  It is perfectly legitimate to ask hard questions about how much a nation that gives away it's privacy for free to corporations can be persuaded to wind that habit back when it comes to government.  But no amount of legitimate debate about NSA overreach will change the fact that that was not the fucking question people were asked back in 2006.  They were asked about illegal wiretapping without court supervision NOT about legal-but-sweeping wiretapping conducted with the approval of a duly constituted court.

In 2006, legality -- not overreach -- was at issue.  It was the critical pivot on which the entire question turned.  I know this because no less of an authority than Glenn Greenwald told me so:
"The scandal is not about whether or not we should be eavesdropping: we're going to eavesdrop -- we should be eavesdropping. The question is about whether the President will exercise the awesome power of being able to eavesdrop on the communication of the American people in violation of the law -- meaning without judicial oversight, without anyone knowing what he is doing --  or in accordance with the law, meaning with judicial approval by the secret FISA court.  

"They didn't break the law by eavesdropping.  We all want eavesdropping -- aggressive eavesdropping on Al Qaeda.  They broke the law by eavesdropping without the judicial oversight that law requires."
But even granting Mr. Gillespie that (which I do not) -- even if you believe that knowledge and memory of the Bush Illegal Wiretapping scandal is confined to cheese-eating, cut-and run Liberal surrender-monkeys like me -- the idea that a nation weaned on...
21 Jump Street,  24,  240-Robert,  48 Hours,  77 Sunset Strip,  Adam-12,  Alias,  America's Most Wanted,  Amy Prentiss,  Andy Barker P.I.,  Angela's Eyes,  Awake,  B. J. and the Bear,  Bakersfield P.D.,  Banacek,  Banyon,  Baretta,  Barnaby Jones,  Barney Miller,  Baywatch Nights,  Beauty and the Beast,  Beverly Hills Buntz,  Big Apple,  Blue Bloods,  Body of Proof,  Bones,  Booker,  Boomtown,  Boston Blackie,  Bourbon Street Beat,  Brimstone,  Brooklyn South,  Buddy Faro,  Burke's Law,  Burn Notice,  Cagney + Lacey,  Cannon,  Car 54, Where Are You?,  Castle,  CHAOS,  Charlie Wild, Private Detective,  Charlie's Angels,  Chase,  CHiPs,  Close to Home,  Cold Case,  Columbo,  Common Law,  Cool Million,  COPS,  Coronado 9,  Covert Affairs,  Cracker,  Crime + Punishment,  Crime Photographer,  Crime Story,  Criminal Minds,  Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior,  Crossing Jordan,  CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,  CSI: Miami,  CSI: NY,  Dan August,  Dark Blue,  Dateline NBC,  David Cassidy: Man Under Cover,  Death Valley,  Detroit 1-8-7,  Dexter,  Diagnosis: Murder,  Dick and the Duchess,  Disorderly Conduct: Video on Patrol,  Dragnet,  Eleventh Hour,  Ellery Queen,  Eureka,  Eyes,  Fallen Angels,  Fastlane,  Father Dowling Mysteries,  FlashForward,  Follow the Sun,  Forever Knight,  Fringe,  Funky Squad,  Gabriel's Fire,  Griff,  Grimm,  Hack,  Hardcastle and McCormick,  Harry O,  Hart to Hart,  Hawaii Five-0,  Hawaiian Eye,  Hawaiian Heat,  Hawk,  Hec Ramsey,  High Incident,  Highway Patrol,  Hill Street Blues,  Homicide: Life on the Street,  Honey West,  Hong Kong,  Hot Pursuit,  Human Target,  Hunter,  In Justice,  In Plain Sight,  In the Heat of the Night,  Ironside,  It Takes a Thief,  J. J. Starbuck,  JAG,  Jake and the Fatman,  Jigsaw,  Joe Forrester,  Johnny Midnight,  Johnny Staccato,  Judd, for the Defense,  Justified,  K-Ville,  Kaz,  Keen Eddie,  Kidnapped,  Kojak,  L.A. Heat,  Lanigan's Rabbi,  LAPD: Life On the Beat,  Las Vegas,  Law + Order,  Law + Order: Criminal Intent,  Law + Order: Los Angeles,  Law + Order: Special Victims Unit,  Law + Order: Trial by Jury,  Leg Work,  Leverage,  Lie to Me,  Life,  Life on Mars,  Lincoln Heights,  Link Men,  Longstreet,  MacGruder and Loud,  MacGyver,  Madigan,  Magnum, P.I.,  Major Crimes,  Man with a Camera,  Mancuso, FBI,  Manhunt,  Mannix,  Markham,  Martial Law,  Martin Kane, Private Eye,  Matlock,  Matt Houston,  McCloud,  McCoy,  McMillan + Wife,  Medium,  Meet McGraw,  Memphis Beat,  Miami Vice,  Michael Shayne,  Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer,  Midnight Caller,  Millennium,  Monk,  Moon Over Miami,  Moonlight,  Moonlighting,  Most Wanted,  Mr. Lucky,  Murder 101,  Murder One,  Murder, She Wrote,  N.Y.P.D.,  Naked City,  Nash Bridges,  NCIS,  NCIS: Los Angeles,  New Amsterdam,  New York Undercover Night Court,  Numb3rs,  NYC 22,  NYPD Blue,  O'Hara, U.S. Treasury,  Ohara,  Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law,  Pacific Blue,  Painkiller Jane,  Palace Guard,  Parco P.I.,  Perception,  Perry Mason,  Person of Interest,  Peter Gunn,  Police + Thief,  Police Academy: The Series,  Police Squad!,  Police Story,  Police Woman,  Police Woman of Broward County,  Police Woman of Maricopa County,  Prison Break,  Pros +Cons,  Psych,  Quincy, M.E.,  Raines,  Remington Steele,  Reno 911!,  Richard Diamond, Private Detective,  Riptide,  Rizzoli + Isles,  RoboCop: The Series,  Rookies,  S.W.A.T.,  Saving Grace,  Search,  Sergeant Preston of the Yukon,  Shades of Truth,  Shaft,  Shotgun Slade,  Silk Stalkings,  Simon + Simon,  Sledge Hammer!,  Snoops,  Sonny Spoon,  South of Sunset,  Southland,  Special Unit 2,  Spenser: For Hire,  Standoff,  Starsky and Hutch,  Street Justice,  Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye,  Surfside Six,  Switch,  T.J. Hooker,  Tenafly,  Tenspeed and Brown Shoe,  The Academy,  The Amazing Mr. Malone,  The Andy Griffith Show,  The Blue Knight,  The Brothers Brannagan,  The Chicago Code,  The Closer,  The Commish,  The Dead Zone,  The Defenders,  The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor,  The District,  The F.B.I.,  The FBI Files,  The First 48,  The Fugitive,  The Glades,  The Good Guys,  The Huntress,  The Investigators,  The Kill Point,  The Killing,  The Last Precinct,  The Law and Harry McGraw,  The Man From Blackhawk,  The Mentalist,  The Michael Richards Show,  The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo,  The Mod Squad,  The New Adventures of Charlie Chan,  The New Detectives,  The Pretender,  The Profiler,  The Rockford Files,  The Rookies,  The Shield,  The Streets of San Francisco,  The Strip,  The Thin Man,  The Untouchables,  The Unusuals,  The Vise,  The Wire,  The X-Files,  Third Watch,  This Man Dawson,  Twin Peaks,  Unforgettable,  V.I.P.,  Vanished,  Vega$,  Vengeance Unlimited,  Veronica Mars,  Walker, Texas Ranger,  White Collar,  Wild Card,  Wiseguy,  Without a Trace,  Wolf and Women's Murder Club 
...would be flummoxed by the difference between this question -- "How do you feel about the President illegally and secretly eavesdropping on people?" --  and this question -- "How do you feel about the government getting a court order and then legally eavesdropping  on people?" -- is simply too idiotic to bother with.

But even if you accept Mr. Gillespie's twaddle, which I do not, this is still the case: 
Let's take a closer look at these numbers:
The Republican response went from 75% to 23% under George W. Bush to 52% to 47% under Barack Obama. If we assume the swing was entirely partisan--that is, if we exclude the possibility that some Republicans opposed the policy under Bush and favor it now--that means 52% of Republicans are consistent in support and 23% consistent in opposition.
The Democratic response went from 37% to 61% under Bush to 64% to 34% under Obama. Making the same assumption as above, that means 37% of Democrats are consistent in support and 34% consistent in opposition.
Add the figures together and you come up with 75% of Republicans and 71% of Democrats consistent in their positions, which would mean that well under one-third of partisans switched for partisan reasons.
Granted, the proportion of Libertarians who switched is likely much lower. But who cares?
You'll get no argument from me that partisanship exists and that it can lead some people to pirouette wildly based on the changing positions their party takes, or the relative importance of their most important issues within their party.  But if Mr. Gillespie -- or Mr. Greenald, or anyone else -- wants to use this poll to prove some point about partisan asshattery, then they either have to ask the same people in 2013 the same question they were asked in 2006...or they have to build a L'esprit D'escalier Time Machine and travel back to 2006 so they can ask survey participant the question they wish they would have asked back then.

L'esprit D'escalier: (literally, the spirit of the stairway, idiomatically staircase wit) is a French term used in English that describes the predicament of thinking of the perfect retort too late.


Anonymous said...

I don't think the main issue here has anything to do with the different poll questions that were asked in 2006 and in 2013. Nor is the issue if more registered Republicans or more registered Democrats are in favour of the massively intrusive global surveillance state. The question is not even if this story is just old news or a breaking story with new revelations coming out daily.

The issue is that America has a rapidly expanding surveillance state that is becoming increasingly proficient at eavesdropping and storing enourmous amounts of personal data on perfectly harmless Americans AND THIS EXPANSION IS TAKING PLACE REGARDLESS OF WHO IS IN THE WHITE HOUSE OR IN CONGRESS.

(Sorry about the all caps, I don't know how to use the HTML tags for bold or italics.)

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess it's all fun, games and pulitzers until somebody gets hurt..

Anonymous said...

I read the second little green footballs article. The guy who wrote it is more than a little confused. Snowmen should not be charged with treason, someone in te US government needs to be charged espionage.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

That was a great post, dg. AND I READ IT ALL. TWICE.

Batocchio said...

Gillespie is convinced he's a genius and outside the normal political system. Actually, he's gotten rich shilling for plutocracy, shredding the social safety net (Social Security and health care) and destroying the Commons (privatizing pubic libraries, among other things). Like Rand Paul, he's hoping you'll join him in opposing the government spying on him smoking pot in his hot tub, and you'll ignore what an absolute scumbag he is on almost every other issue.