The recent tu quoque of conservatives apoplectic about Obama on the golf course [I call it a tu quoque because of how the left constantly complained about Bush’s vacations at the ranch] brought about this exchange between @superbus (a libertarian video games writer from CT) and myself:
Hey GOP: By your logic, if the country was doing well enough for Obama to golf, you’d have no chance at election in ’12. Pick your poison.
@superbus Yep. It’s tough to play the “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” card, when you consider Nero’s stated policies to be gasoline.
Given that nobody on the right thinks Obama’s doing the right thing, why would they want him doing anything at all of consequence?
I’m not normally I huge fan of Fred Thompson as a politician, but he is a bit witty. Here is his take on Christina Romer:
Obama Econ Adviser: spend more stimulus money. Bet she repeatedly pushes the elevator button trying to make it come faster, too.
I’ll admit, I got a chuckle. But then, since I was reading this at Kevin Drum’s blog, it turned around quick when Kevin said this:
Of course, what Romer really wants to do is reopen one of the elevator banks that’s been out of commission for a while and replace some of the broken magnets for the motors so they run a little closer to their normal speed, which would get more people to their destinations faster than before.
His mistaken analogy pointed out a flaw both in his and Thompson’s ideas — they both suppose that someone wants to ride the elevator! It’s a demand problem, not a supply problem.
The government’s response is to fix the broken and unnecessary elevator, and then you’ve got one more elevator rising and falling each day, empty. Or, to pay people to ride up and down the elevators for no reason.
Downside of #topsecretamerica: It’s watching everything you do. Upside: It doesn’t know what it’s seeing.
I believe that’s intended to be reassuring. What I’m not sure Ezra understands is that this is probably WORSE, because it’s less likely to be indiscriminately applied. Rather, it’s far more likely to be abused for political or personal ends.
Think of it this way. Let’s say you’re an average joe who gets a bit creative on your income tax return. You casually invent a few things, casually omit a few things, and end up maybe increasing your refund by $1K. All this data probably won’t mean that you’ll get caught for your transgression. You can go about your merry way without worry, because the government doesn’t have the ability to filter out and recognize based upon all the data that reality isn’t congruous with what’s on the form.
But let’s say that there’s a reason for government to target you. Let’s say, for example, that you’re a political blogger who is a thorn in the side of one of your state legislators. That legislator has a few connections. They work to mine the data looking for something to damage your credibility. All of a sudden they find that your weekly golfing buddy just happens to have 2nd-level connections to guys who are tied to fundraising for an Islamic “charity” group that’s on the state department list of terrorist groups. And you’ve become acquainted with them through email, facebook, etc. All of a sudden it doesn’t matter that you barely know these guys, it doesn’t matter that those guys think they’re contributing to a charity helping people. All of a sudden you get blindsided by rumors that you’re tied to terrorist groups, and have to dig out of that with your extended family, your neighbors, your boss, etc.
I’m not saying this is an exceptionally likely scenario. But all this data ensures that if someone in power has a reason to target you, they can find something that you’ve done wrong, or manufacture enough circumstantial evidence to destroy your reputation. The mountains of data probably won’t help them find you — government isn’t competent enough for that. But if they know you and hate you, the mountains of data will give them all the ammunition they need to destroy you.