Brooks and the Bob Dole Fallacy
Plus--kf's jejune swoon!
P.S.: The most consipicuous battle over data-mining was NYT columnist William Safire's successful crusade against Admiral John Poindexter's "Total Information Awareness" plan, which was a data-mining project. Safire characterized it as an "Orwellian" enterprise in which
every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend. . . . will go into what the Defense Department describes as "a virtual, centralized grand database."
Anti-"privocrat" Heather Mac Donald took on Safire's alarmism in a 2004 City Journal article:
It's okay for Home Depot to buy my digitized credit-card receipts, says the privacy "community," to see whether I would be a soft touch for a riding mower. But if government agents want to see who has purchased explosive-level quantities of fertilizer, they should go store to store, checking credit-card receipts. Data-mining opponents would deny terror investigators a technology in common use in the commercial sector, simply because they think government should be kept inefficient to limit its power ....
Mac Donald also made an astonishing and suddenly eerily resonant claim:
Had a system been in place in 2001 for rapidly accessing commercial and government data, the FBI's intelligence investigators could have located every single one of the 9/11 team once it learned in August 2001 that al-Qaida operatives Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq al-Hazmi, two of the 9/11 suicide pilots, were in the country. [Emphasis added]
It's been obvious for a while that if we're going to match the terrorists in the cyberspace race we'll have to give up some of our privacy. Letting a government supercomputer scan my credit card receipts and Amazon searches seems a relatively inoffensive place to start.** It beats torturing people. ...
** Don't forget my library books! (Do you have an expectation of privacy when you check out a book from ... the government? I don't.)
Backfill: Umansky is skeptical of the whole story. ... Phil Carter beat me to the data-mining defense and has comments from actual government data miners--or their lawyers, anyway. ... [via JustOneMinute] 3:13 A.M.
I'm baffled by the heavily-advertised decline in Bush's popularity, which began not when the war in Iraq was dicey and bloody but when it seemed to be going well, with the successful elections in January. ... Mystery Pollster helps by pointing to the "amazing Professor Pollkatz graphic." It shows Bush in steady, secular decline, punctuated only by small event-related upticks, since 9/11--suggesting that, like a hitter who regresses to his "natural" career average after a hot streak, Bush is simply returning to the level of popularity he would have had if 9/11 hadn't occurred. It's not Schiavo, or gas prices. It's just Bush's natural approval rating. ... P.S.: Except among Rasmussen's robots. They still like Bush! Bush even rose in the Rasmussen poll in the first half of the year. Mystery Pollster can't completely explain it and neither can I. ... 2:23 A.M.
Hitchens, OBE: Dr. Alaa Tamimi, the Giuliani-admiring mayor of Baghdad lauded by Christopher Hitchens only yesterday, appears to have been deposed via seemingly extra-democratic means by a Shiite group led by the elected president of the city council. Iraq's prime minister seem ready to ratify the ouster by accepting Tamimi's previously-offered resignation. ... Since Tamimi was chosen, as the NYT previously reported, "not by a direct election but by a vote of local leaders who were carefully chosen by the American occupation," this may be less of a setback to democracy than it appears, though it will be lamented by those who doubt the decisive virtue of elections alone if they bring to power strict Islamist parties. (Lee Smith, in the course of expressing those doubts in Slate, found even Tamimi too Islamist. One wonders what he thinks of Tamimi's successors.) ... 1:49 P.M.
Photograph of John Kerry by Brian Snyder/Reuters.