Has Obama Institutionalized Bush’s Worst?

Dan Froomkin says Obama is as bad as Bush, if not worse.


Dan Froomkin has returned to blogging at Glenn Greenwald’s Intercept. His debut posting is a doozy:

In a lot of ways, we’re worse off today than we were under George W. Bush.

Back then, Bush’s extremist assault on civil liberties, human rights and other core American values in the name of fighting terror felt like an aberration.

The expectation was that those policies would be quickly reversed, discredited — and explicitly outlawed — once he was no longer in power.

Instead, under President Barack Obama, they’ve become institutionalized.

There will be no snapping back to a pre-Bush-era respect for basic human dignity and civil rights. Thanks to Obama, it’s going to be a hard, long fight.

In some cases, Obama has set even darker precedents than his predecessor. Massively invasive bulk surveillance of Americans and others has been expanded, not constrained. This president secretly condemns people to death without any checks or balances, and shrugs as his errant drones massacre innocent civilians. Whistleblowers and journalists who expose national security wrongdoing face unprecedented criminal prosecution.


Obama has eroded the credibility of any future promises of expansive reform in the area of national security. And, in any case, no such promises are forthcoming: Congressional response to the recent disclosures has been narrowly focused and prone to loopholes; the current leadership of both political parties — and their likeliest standard-bearers in 2016 — aren’t expressing any outrage at all.

As surely — if not as enthusiastically — as his predecessor, Obama has succumbed to the powerful systemic pressures that serve the needs of the military-intelligence-industrial complex.  Secrecy is rampant. Politics drives policy. There is no accountability. Congressional and judicial oversight have become a bitter joke. And the elite press gets tighter and tighter with those to whom it should be adversarial.

Like Froomkin (and Greenwald), I’ve long been concerned about these issues and have been consistent. That is, I criticized the Bush excesses despite having voted for him twice and yet defend Obama from over-the-top charges on the same issues despite having voted against him twice. I am, however, less idealistic on this issues than either Froomkin or Greenwald.

That Obama would largely continue the Bush policies was predictable and predicted. I wrote several posts between Election Day 2008 and Inauguration Day 2009 to the effect that, despite lofty and sincere campaign rhetoric, President Obama would be much more like President Bush than Candidate Obama on these issues. First, because sitting presidents seldom give up power. Second, because sitting in the big chair and being responsible for the security of your country is fundamentally different from being a candidate for said office, much less a US Senator (or a blogger).

Bush and his team didn’t the Global War on Terrorism, open Gitmo, torture a handful of suspected terrorist leaders, start a massive electronic data scooping operation, and skirt the Bill of Rights and the Geneva Conventions out of evil intent. They did so under the enormous pressures of the post-9/11 environment and frustrations that American and international laws and norms were not designed to deal with an incredibly dangerous, stateless, terrorist network leveraging an emerging telecommunications revolution.

By the time Obama took office in 2009, most of the post-9/11 fervor had died down and the Iraq fiasco had soured some of the public’s support for military adventurism. The Abu Ghraib scandal, abuses at Gitmo, and Supreme Court decisions had reminded us about the value of following our ideals. The Bush administration had long since ended our torture policy, for example.

Still, the terrorist threat loomed and public pressure to keep taking the fight to the bad guys and to protect the homeland remained. While I opposed doubling down in Afghanistan and thought the Surge an incredibly cynical ploy, it’s perfectly understandable why a new president—particularly a Democratic president—felt he had to do it. Likewise, while I’ve long thought the drone war counterproductive, its appeal to a commander-in-chief is obvious.

Moreover, some perspective is in order. While it’s absolutely essential that the Greenwalds, Froomkins, and even Joyners continue to point out when our practices fall short of our ideals—whether because doing so impinges on our own liberty, diminishes our national soft power, or is simply counterproductive to our strategic aims—it’s hardly as if Bush and Obama are the worst offenders in this regard. Certainly, the worst excesses of the GWOT pale in comparison with the firebombing of Dresden and rounding up our Japanese citizens into internment camps.

FILED UNDER: Environment, National Security, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    I’ve never been part of the Greenwald camp. These supposed invasions of privacy trouble me less than similar intrusions by private industry.

    Mr. Obama put an end to torture. I am glad. I think torturing prisoners was a terrible black mark on this country’s honor.

    Guantanamo is open because Congress makes it impossible to close. I disagree with you, James, about the drone war which I think is useful and is a tool I want the government to have. And pulling the trigger on jihadists in hostile or anarchic states does not trouble me in the least.

    I don’t know who the fantasists were who thought Mr. Obama would sweep into office and shut down the NSA and take away the CIA’s drones, (Mr. Obama ran explicitly on expanding the drone war) but that was never going to happen, and thankfully it did not.

  2. the Q says:

    “…..These supposed invasions of privacy trouble me less than similar intrusions by private industry.”

    Sorry Mr. Reynolds, I must disagree. Google won’t throw me in jail if it finds out about my search history, Bank of America won’t exile me to live in Russia if I falsely claim income……Safeway isn’t going to stop selling me whiskey because it has my sales history and throw me in jail because of way excessive purchases….

    The other night I was watching the Will Smith/Gene Hackman movie “Enemy of the State” made in 1997 and it predicted with prescient accuracy the coming electronic eavesdropping state

    Hackman “the government has been in bed with the telecommunications industry since WW2, all your emails, faxes, phone calls are monitored, tracked and recorded. The government knows everything about you….” And this was 4 years before 911.

  3. edmondo says:

    President Obama would be much more like President Bush than Candidate Obama on these issues.

    as well as trickle down economics, crony capitalism, income inequality and shoot-first-and ask questions later diplomacy. Why it’s almost as if Bush never left.

  4. michael reynolds says:

    @the Q:

    Google won’t throw me in jail if it finds out about my search history,

    Neither will the government. They would have zero basis in law since the search would have been warrantless and since, in any event, internet searches are legal. So no crime and no possibility of arrest.

    If you want to postulate a world in which the FBI can arrest people without warrant, and without a crime having even ben alleged, well then that world has got bigger problems than eavesdropping.

    1984 was 30 years ago. Orwell got it wrong. I think it’s time to revise our paranoias.

  5. Jeremy says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’ve never been part of the Greenwald camp. These supposed invasions of privacy trouble me less than similar intrusions by private industry.

    So I take it that you’re not angry about people leaking Jennifer Lawrence’s nude photos all over the place? Because the technology they used was a government tool.

  6. Jeremy says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Neither will the government. They would have zero basis in law since the search would have been warrantless and since, in any event, internet searches are legal. So no crime and no possibility of arrest.

    If you want to postulate a world in which the FBI can arrest people without warrant, and without a crime having even ben alleged, well then that world has got bigger problems than eavesdropping.

    Of course police won’t do this. They’ll just shoot you dead on the street, like Michael Brown.

    Not that it matters. Agents can get warrants at any time. Is there any real resistance in the courts to granting warrants to federal agents? Not at all. How many no-knock warrants have been given to SWAT teams for extremely dubious calls? Hell, look at FISA. Now realize that’s basically replicated everywhere.

    Look at the human rights lawyer who was arrested on the sidewalk because she was waiting for her kids to come out of the bathroom, or the black father tased on the sidewalk because he was waiting for his kids to come out of school. Totally illegal…yet still done.

    You have way too much faith in the federal government, brother.

  7. michael reynolds says:


    The NSA leaked Jennifer Lawrence’s pix? Um, no. And it had nothing to do with government means and methods, it was standard stuff that’s been in use forever. It was private individuals and private businesses, so, blaming the government is kind of silly.

    Agents can get warrants at any time. Is there any real resistance in the courts to granting warrants to federal agents?

    You’re actually not helping your case there. You’re making the case that NSA surveillance is irrelevant. And then you’re conflating SWAT teams and Ferguson, Mo. police with federal “agents” which you are in turn conflating with the NSA.

  8. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Mr. Obama put an end to torture. I am glad. I think torturing prisoners was a terrible black mark on this country’s honor.

    Without prosecuting those who tortured and those who order torture, I fear Obama has done little more than pause our country’s torturing of prisoners. The practical effect is that whether or not to torture prisoners is a political decision, and that the next administration may either resume torture, or redefine it to allow “enhanced interrogation techniques”

    Ignoring the torturers completely makes it clear that there is no consequence to torture.

    At the very least, the DOJ should indict the criminals. Obama could then pardon them, to “move forward” and “set this behind us” or whatever rationale he has for not prosecuting his predecessor’s administration, but they would be called out explicitly by name (or by redacted name, in the case of CIA officers) and it would establish the precedent that government sponsored torture can be prosecuted, even if we chose not to do so this one time.

    Otherwise, we will eventually have a Republican in office, and since torture is a mainstream Republican position, it will resume.

  9. stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Hey, when you have paranoia, who needs fact? What you don’t realize is that they’re all in cahoots, Mike. Raise your head from the grass, you sheep, and realise that the Ferguson Police Department, the DEA, the FDA, the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, the DOA, the NYPD, Facebook, Google, Apple. Microsoft-they’re all part of one conspiracy!! How else could they cover up the Kennedy assasinations,overthrow governments all over the world , and listen to your thoughts by way of the filings in your teeth?

  10. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds:

    They would have zero basis in law since the search would have been warrantless and since, in any event, internet searches are legal. So no crime and no possibility of arrest.

    I expect that at some point, the government will take all this data, start processing it, and discover that 85% of American men have unwittingly watched porn on the internet with actors under the age of 18. And identify everyone who has called their dealer for some pot. And a whole lot of people who haven’t reported income. And everyone who has “shared” movies on BitTorrent. And everyone who hasn’t paid use tax on out-of-state purchases. And countless other crimes that leave a nice, clear trail on the internet.

    And then, they will face a quandary. After all, you can’t actually indict every single American, there just aren’t the resources.

  11. the Q says:

    Mr. Reynolds, I know you voted for Nixon and now you give tacit approval to the NSA eavesdropping – two black marks in an otherwise stellar career – lol.

    All kidding aside, I have a problem with “warrantless searches”. And wiretaps without any justification, and CIA Directors and NSA Chairman blatantly lyihg to Congress’s watchdog committees about their actions.

    I am not so sanguine that the government can’t throw you in jail if your search history reads “possible bomb materials from everyday resources” or “Secret Service radio frequencies” etc. “how to wax your high school homies with pipe bombs”…..

  12. Dave Schuler says:

    I found Froomkin’s piece a bit breathless. I don’t deny there’s a long-standing problem of ever-expanding executive power. It continues to be well within the Congress’s power to end it if they had the will, something they won’t have as long as partisanship overwhelms a spirit of public stewardship which may well be forever.

  13. James Pearce says:

    Froomkin…..now that’s a name I haven’t heard in a loooong time. I used to read him daily when he was at the Wash Post during the Bush years.

    That said….

    Massively invasive bulk surveillance of Americans and others has been expanded, not constrained.

    Curiously this has corresponded directly to the rise of several well-funded companies whose business models rely on the “massively invasive bulk surveillance of Americans and others.” The US government is going to constrain Google or Facebook and the cell phone companies?

    More likely they’ll do exactly what they did: Want to get in on it.

    This president secretly condemns people to death without any checks or balances, and shrugs as his errant drones massacre innocent civilians.

    Well, at least he didn’t say “condemns American citizens” to death… Too bad, though, he’s harping on the “without checks and balances” crap.

    That “errant drones massacre innocent civilians” stuff seems needlessly inflammatory and inaccurate to boot.

    Maybe I really wasn’t missing much….

  14. MBunge says:

    The problem with Froomkin and Greenwald and, to a lesser extent, Krugman is that they largely or entirely fail to acknowledge or grapple with why their views and opinions don’t carry the day. It’s hard to take their writing seriously because they’re so incredulous about the many, many, many political, geopolitical, economic and practical forces that would savage Obama or any President who tried to follow their advice.

    Being right means little if you never win and those three do little or nothing to help their viewpoint actually succeed in the public square.


  15. Scott F. says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Thank you. This isn’t stated nearly enough.

    “Nature abhors a vacuum.” The expansion of executive power has occurred in direct correlation with the contraction of Congress’ ability and willingness to confront critical national problems. The House, in particular, was designed to be responsive to the dynamic will of the people, yet it is perpetually frozen in inaction by fear of those people. Methinks the ire directed at the Executive is misplaced.

  16. Andre Kenji says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Mr. Obama put an end to torture.

    That´s pretty low standards; I always thought that the widespread use of torture was a symbol of the incompetence and inefficiency of the Brazilian Police. i always thought that efficient and ethical security forces did not use torture.

  17. anonymous-stat says:

    @michael reynolds

    I find your lack of outrage disturbing. You don’t know the power of the
    dark side.

    But seriously, a guiding principle underlying our republic is that when you
    give power to a group with strong vested interests and no accountability,
    that power will be abused. This has been a persistent issue throughout
    our history, of course, but with the potency of technological tools at our
    disposal, it has become in many (though not all) ways more severe. There
    is a clear pattern — at levels from federal to lcoal — of increasing
    over-criminalization, abuse of power, self-dealing, and the consequent
    injustice. The examples are varied and the victims tend
    to be those with the least power or voice. When one is unlikely to be
    target — to be arrested arbitrarily, to have your wedding party blown
    up, to have your house forfeited, to be electroshocked by a judge for
    speaking out, to face Kafkaesque rules and fines, and so on — it is easy
    to say that this or that does not disturb you. But I would argue that
    the overall pattern and the opportunities for abuse and injustice that
    it affords should be disturbing to all of us in their own right.

    For instance, when the government reads your email, tracks your whereabouts,
    can seize your computer at the border and demand your passwords, they can
    put pressure on you in many ways, gross and subtle, from searching for behavior
    that counts as illegal to merely disincentivizing free expression
    with fear of reprisals. Journalists and others who would expose bad actors
    are obvious targets of such pressure. Most of us are not, but we could
    be if we were to “cause trouble”. And the boundary between government and
    private/corporate use of this data is highly permeable.

    The NSA introducing back doors and compromising the security of the internet
    might not seem to harm you much, but if they can exploit those compromises
    so can others who would harm you.

    Drones launching missiles at bad guys might be satisfying, but how many
    mistakes would get you to reconsider that satisfaction. Are the lost lives
    of innocents in other countries not troubling in the least?

    We could discuss countless different kinds of examples, like this, but
    ultimately the issue seems to be that people are not too troubled
    by unjust or corrupt systems that do not (seem to) directly threaten
    them. One problem with unjust or corrupt systems like this, however,
    is that the injustice and corruption tend to spread until they
    affect us all to some degree.

  18. James Pearce says:


    Are the lost lives
    of innocents in other countries not troubling in the least?

    That dude looked pretty untroubled in his “I’m gonna decapitate these guys” videos, so maybe this is the wrong question.

  19. michael reynolds says:

    I should make something clear: I’m not happy about the NSA reading my phone records any more than I’m happy about airport security or drunk driving road blocks or any number of other intrusions. I just don’t see the end of the Republic in any of this. I see a reaction to genuine security concerns, and beyond that I see a country whose best defense against future overreaction is by avoiding future terrorist attacks.

    Look at this way. Let’s say 9-11 degraded our personal privacy by 10%. How much more degraded would it be if we suffered ten more incidents like 9-11? Faced with Pearl Harbor we rounded up and interned Japanese-Americans. Even today you’ve got Americans screaming about the need to plant land mines along the Rio Grande to keep out Guatemalan children. Americans are not mellow folk, they are action-oriented. Give us a crisis and we have a tendency to go off the deep end.

    If privacy is compromised 10% by 9-11 a second incident or worse would likely silence the Greenwalds of the world and lead to far worse intrusions.

    I’ll take the 10% as a preventative against the 20% or 50% or more that would likely come from an America that felt itself genuinely threatened.

  20. Dave D says:

    @michael reynolds: @stonetools: I don’t know if you’re being purposefully dense or since this is a non-issue to you, that you don’e keep up on it. But the DEA has been arresting people based on NSA “tips” that then is hidden from defense attorneys.
    Some defense lawyers and former prosecutors said that using “parallel construction” may be legal to establish probable cause for an arrest. But they said employing the practice as a means of disguising how an investigation began may violate pretrial discovery rules by burying evidence that could prove useful to criminal defendants.

    If that isn’t scary because they are only now targeting drug dealers, it will spread. Just like all other things done to “protect” us from “terrorism” creeps to drugs, because in truth there isn’t that big of a threat in most of the country from terrorism, and then to normal everyday things. Look at the advancement of no-knock warrants used in completely mundane things now because they can. So not worrying that the government is scooping up everything and passing it on to other agencies who then lie about where they got said information is a terrifying prospect.

  21. Dave D says:

    @Dave D: My apologies for messing up the block quote, although it probably bothers me more than anyone else.

  22. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave D:

    Actually the piece you link to does not say that Americans are being arrested on drug charges because of NSA information. It says NSA has passed information to a group within DEA. Which of course is what they’d do if, for example, they found a foreign embassy official running drugs in a diplomatic pouch since NSA has no arrest powers. I assume they’d go to the FBI if it were a non-drug-related issue.

    As for the block quote, I can’t find it anywhere on-line. Do you have a source?

  23. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave D:

    Oh, I see re: block quote.

  24. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave D:

    You’re basically making a slippery slope argument, which doesn’t mean it’s necessarily wrong, but also doesn’t prove anything. We did not follow up the internment of Japanese-Americans by interning other groups. We didn’t go from 1950’s commie-hunting to rounding up other groups, on the contrary, we stopped the witch hunts. Just as Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus did not lead to indiscriminate arrests from that day forward.

  25. Dave D says:

    @michael reynolds: The part that is troubling is how the NSA got the information to pass on to the DEA. We keep being told that they need warrants for the domestic spying. The question is what they present to the FISA court which is basically a rubber stamp at this point. To mine the data swept up they need the warrants, but the warrants are supposed to target foreign communications and terrorism suspects. Drug dealers don’t fit into the current warrant paradigm as being presented to the public vis a vie the FISA courts. So either the NSA is getting much more leeway for obtaining warrants, which again is another slippery slope argument, or they are lying to the FISA courts about why they need the warrants or possibly mining and seeking warrants in hindsight. All of which is possible since Feinstein has proven that accountability for domestic spying can only come if Senators are having their rights infringed.

  26. Dave D says:

    @michael reynolds: Let’s look at slippery slopes that did continue sliding Presidential powers, Indian removal, the southern strategy, post stonewall gay rights, the cult like worship of guns, the military industrial complex, POLICE MILITARIZATION, etc. This country has a long and sometimes confusing history, but civil rights don’t seem to be a thing we ever get back once the population accepts something as the norm. Traditionally when “we” would lose rights because of wartime secrecy congress would take up restoration post war. When we are at perpetual war with the abstract concept of terrorism there is no post war America, there is the collective shrug of at best begrudging acceptance.

  27. Stan says:

    @MBunge: Krugman provides predictions and analysis based on his understanding of economics. He’s been right most of the time, particularly about the harmful effects of cutting spending during a recession and the importance of consumer demand in sustaining our economy. His opponents, the people who’ve been predicting disaster because of deficit spending, qualitative easing, and the Affordable Care Act, have been spectacularly wrong and refuse to admit it. I have a feeling you’re in this group.

    Froomkin, Greenwald, and Edward Snowden are birds of a different feather. They’re moralists, not analysts. They feel that government snooping into our private affairs is sinful, and they’re agin it. I disagree. When people say they’re going to kill you because of your religion, I take them seriously. I think most of the surveillance measures carrried out by the government are justified, given the situation. But I’m still glad that Froomkin et al are around, and I think they’re as patriotic as I am, if not more so.

  28. James Pearce says:

    @Dave D:

    When we are at perpetual war with the abstract concept of terrorism there is no post war America, there is the collective shrug of at best begrudging acceptance.

    Dave, I appreciate where you’re coming from, I really do.

    But I would ask you….ask anyone….to consider the alternatives. Do you think a McCain-Palin administration or a Romney administration or even a Clinton administration would better reflect your national security priorities? Who is the hero that would tell the NSA not to datamine the same shit Google and Verizon and Facebook are mining right now?

    I’m not getting the sense of a “collective shrug” or even a “begrudging acceptance.” Instead I’m getting a sense of a phony culture that just doesn’t understand how this stuff works but sure does like to do a lot of philosophizing about it. I hope it will pass.

  29. Dave D says:

    @James Pearce: I think the difference between FB and Google would have been they are data mining to maximize making money off you. The reason I also worry about them now is seeing the NSA mine their data through subpoenas and gag orders or by outright hacking them. Then there are revelations of things like the NSA knowing about Heartbleed for years and using it to exploit data. I’m not a tin hat everybody stop using the internet conspiracy theorist. I dislike the government spying on me in the same way I dislike the police treating the citizenry like the enemy. I’m sure if the NSA doesn’t need a dragnet that covers every person in the country, in that too much data can obscure meaningful data. The idea that they just collect your information but won’t do anything with it unless they have “probable cause” and show the FISA courts they have probable cause with whatever passes for proof to a secretive court just seems wrong. I especially have no reason to believe all of this is happening above the board when all of these intelligence officials go before congress and lie in the face of oversight over and over and get caught. Sunlight is the best disinfectant and if the government needs to monitor so much of our lives, they need actual and effective oversight since what passes as oversight now is a joke.

  30. Dave D says:

    @James Pearce: I don’t think this should be a D/R issue. I agree that a President McCain or Romney would be just as bad if not worse. But the disillusionment with the system comes from being told time after time that settling for shitty but not as shitty is a sustainable strategy. I guess I am an idealist that thinks impotent/nonexistent oversight is a real issue when it comes to the government spying and extreme secrecy. I keep getting told about all these times in American history I haven’t been cognisant (born in 1986) when the government did its job. Congress oversaw things and separated powers, congressional appointed heads of very secretive National Agencies had consequences for getting caught lying to congress, and terrorism and national security wasn’t a blanket excuse to shut down dialog and obscure facts. The brazenness of Congress abdicating it’s responsibilities to the Nation and their constituents has produced nothing but problems. But when one party sets out to sabotage the government to prove the government doesn’t work these are the obvious results. Aided by a Supreme Court that thinks free speech zones don’t abridge our rights I have little faith that they think these intrusions violate their already neutered interpretation of the 4th Amendment.

  31. Tyrell says:

    I did not agree with the Bush/Chaney decision to go into Iraq. Afghanistan was necessary to get rid of Osama. But it seems that every time a discussion involving Iraq comes up somebody wants to blame it all on Bush. I understand some of that, but it seems to me Iraq has belonged to someone else for the past six or so years. If you buy a used car from someone, the problem is now yours. We could also blame it on Johnson for creating the Vietnam syndrom: no more lost wars. We had to win one to finally get over the Johnson – Vietnam malaise.
    It is kind of like me blaming General Sherman for current problems in the south (“if Sherman hadn’t come down here tearing everything up we could have won that war”).

  32. MBunge says:

    @Stan: I have a feeling you’re in this group.

    It’s not a question of being right. It’s a question of winning the political argument so you can do what is right. Go watch the “debate” between Krugman and Scarborough and you might see what I mean. I believe Krugman has all but admitted he got his ass kicked.


  33. bill says:

    so much for “hope & change”. not too many people with 3 digit iq’s thought he actually meant he would accomplish what he said he would- but maybe i’m just jaded.
    i could really care if they sort through my lame cell/text/email records to see what’s happening in my life- if it saves 1 American life then it was worth it. most of you idiots “thought” that would “change” that- and he didn’t, so you make excuses for him,-which is really funny at some level.
    that he totally bailed on the mid-east (and gave them notice) is probably the worst thing he did since obamacare.

    @Tyrell: some good points there, it’s kinda weird that so many prominent democrats voted for it and then bailed as soon as some people died. and after 5+ years so many are still blaming others for whats happening now.

  34. Kari Q says:

    I’m largely with michael reynolds on this. I think we overlook and ignore the extent to which private industry is running and controlling our lives because it’s more subtle and indirect than the police kicking in someone’s door, which allows us to tell ourselves it is merely capitalism at work. We forget that private corporations are able to do many things that the government is legally prohibited from (I know that doesn’t always stop them, but there is at least some recourse when the violations become public).

  35. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:


    And then, they will face a quandary. After all, you can’t actually indict every single American, there just aren’t the resources.

    Your comment is Michael’s point, I expect. Unfortunately, they will pick the “low-hanging fruit” and engender another generation of “driving while Hispanic” equivalencies. After all, they’ll have to do “something.”

    But that bell has already rung.

  36. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Dave D: I see your point. But at some other further point, if there is no alternative to the status quo, all of your warnings are, as my Korean students put it, blah, blah, blah. Beyond that if you are arguing (it seems you are, by implication at least) that this slippery slope is inevitable, you are simply a more erudite, non-racist, version of Superdestroyer.

  37. Stan says:

    @MBunge: Scarborough is much more adept at debating than Krugman. But that doesn’t make him right. Krugman’s role isn’t a professional politician, and it shows. But that doesn’t make him wrong.

  38. HelloWorld! says:

    Some of the comments on the pro-government survallance side are quite presumptive. Why do I have to be a consiracy theorist to want my information that I want private to be private? What is so wrong with wanting laws that limit how my data can be used? Why shouldn’t I be deeply upset that the NSA lied to congressonal over site committees and got away with it? Additionally, when the anti-survallance side is just warning and discussing potential dangers of misuse of data it is a very rational and productive contribution to disussion. It is a disappointment that the Obama admin hasn’t done more, and congress have no interest in the subject.

  39. Dave D says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: I don’t thread jack every comment section with my seemingly insane belief that if the government is going to collect every bit of our online lives there should be actual oversight. I didn’t mean to drone on, I would just like the government to either prove they need to collect this data and adequately oversee it or not collect the data.
    All that said Obama continuing GWB’s most intrusive, civil liberty violating policies just proves America is on a path to a one party system etc, etc, etc.
    All that said if it isn’t too late in the year you should check out the pine mushroom festival in Yangyang. It was beautiful country (close to Seorak-San) which was tremendous and at the end of one of the trails had a solid “restaurant” with some pretty good haemul pajeon, the mushrooms are great, and they use them to make the only Makgeolli that didn’t give me a hangover. And i guess all of that proves whites will end up losing out when America becomes a one party country.

  40. James Pearce says:

    @Dave D:

    “I think the difference between FB and Google would have been they are data mining to maximize making money off you.”

    Is it so much nobler for FB and Google to mine this info for profit than it is for the NSA to mine FB and Google for national security reasons? If you’re fine the with the former, what’s the problem with the latter?

    Worried about abuse? Fine, let’s put some limitations on it. If the FISA court is a rubber stamp, it’s a rubber stamp that is completely missing from the private for-profit operations of these companies.

    You say you’re not “a tin hat everybody stop using the internet conspiracy theorist” and I believe you. What then I wonder could possibly assuage your concerns?

  41. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Once again, a “progressive” shows that most of them have no political principles, cannot be consistent in their political beliefs, and that all of the anti-war movement during the Bush Administration was just another face of anti-conservative politics. I guess when politics is just a form of status seeking that progressives will agree with whatever the “cool kids (popular Democratic Party politicians)” are doing and will find a way to justify the political stances of people that they deem as being the fashionable politicians.

    I guess that is why the future of politics will be elites demanding a certain type of behavior from others while refusing to do it themselves. The modern definition of leadership is making demands on others.

  42. MBunge says:

    @Stan: But that doesn’t make him wrong.

    Krugman isn’t a movie reviewer. He’s an advocate for a certain viewpoint and certain policies.

    I read something where Krugman dismissed taking a job with Obama, saying he has more influence as a commentator. What influence? I think it’s time to stop petting Krugman on the head for being right and start asking him to find a way to translate that into actually impacting the political debate.


  43. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave D:

    And yet, we have more freedom than ever before in my 60 years of life. Given your slippery slopes, how do you explain that? When I was a kid you couldn’t be a guy and wear your hair long without there being trouble. I couldn’t get a job if I wore bell bottoms. Women were systematically shut out of half the jobs they do now. African-Americans were still drinking out of separate water fountains when I was young. Freedom has expanded and come to encompass far more people than before.

    If we’re all on a slippery slope to tyranny, how is it that thanks to technology and the First Amendment I have instant access to a million times more information than I had before?

  44. michael reynolds says:


    Literally no idea what you’re talking about. I was not anti-war, I strongly supported the war in Afghanistan and mildly supported the war in Iraq. My complaints about the Iraq war were that Mr. Bush had taken on a very difficult task and then botched it beyond all belief. Torture was just another facet of Mr. Bush’s incompetence.

    So, once again, rather than address actual people and actual facts, you go right to the unfounded assumptions.

  45. Eric Florack says:

    Has Obama Institutionalized Bush’s Worst?


    And that connection is one big reason Ive never been much of a Bush fan.

    Next question.

  46. Grewgills says:

    @Eric Florack:
    Be specific about what you consider the worst, because I remember you supporting the things talked about here when it was Bush doing them.

  47. michael reynolds says:


    Yes, Eric has slowly come to realize that his attacks on Mr. Obama are regularly undercut by people pointing out that Mr. Bush set the table. Now Eric attempts to adapt. If he remembers to say that Mr. Bush was also not good, he believes his arguments against Mr. Obama will get more traction.

    Might have worked, say, five years ago.

    Processing speed is very important.

  48. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Dave D: Thanks for the tip about Yangyang. I’ll remember that next year–school has started and festival travel is problematic because of my teaching load. I was at Seorak-san a couple of years ago. Beautiful area.

  49. Eric Florack says:

    @Grewgills: well, first, lets consider that the only successes Obama has had, have been Bush policies he’s carried over. and ya know what? I said as much in january of 2009…

    ….predictions which were confirmed mere months later.


    as for ‘worst’, I think the bowing on the altar of a non-existant southern border to be worst among them.

  50. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    I figured that was part of it along with entirely different priorities that have him choosing a very different ‘worst of Bush’ and an imaginative version of both Bush and Obama’s presidencies unmoored from reality. The “worst of” Bush that we see Obama continuing are the ”few successes” he sees and vice versa. Of course in his reality Bush really was a liberal as are almost all Republicans since Saint Reagan. Of course if he could admit what Reagan really did, that wouldn’t stack up to his ”real conservative” standard either.

  51. Eric Florack says:

    @Grewgills: what *are* you smoking?

  52. the Q says:

    Pop quiz. Everyone knows the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th amendments, but what was the 3rd amendment?

    “No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law”. Easily the most non controversial of the first 5 amendments and one thats never been challenged Constitutionally to the SCOTUS.

    So what really is the difference in having a government agent directly reading all your mail, listening to all your phone conversations, downloading all your search history but doing this all remotely as opposed to actually being in your house spying on you and your neighbors?

    The only difference is technoloy. Do any of you really think for one nanosecond the Framers would not consider the current privacy situation as completely unconstitutional?

    To quote Ocho Cinco – “Chile’ Please”.