Thursday, January 26, 2017

Welcome to the Resistance

I've been grappling with what to post as a follow up to the presidential election in November for, oh, about eleven weeks now. I've had dozens of conversations about it and the way forward. Donald Trump and his administration are every bit as dangerous a threat as the pre-election warnings promised. This is the biggest threat to our democratic institutions in a long time, maybe since the Civil War. The delusional premise among some pundits that Trump would move to the middle to find common ground with Democrats was laughable. So now we have a Cabinet full of bankers, oil men, climate deniers, unqualified dopes, and a white supremacist as chief strategist attempting to carry out the bold and divisive campaign promises. Great job, voters.

The Democratic party is powerless at every level of the federal government, save for the bills and nominations the U.S. Senate is able to filibuster. And the GOP has dominant holds on 30+ governors and state houses. So dig in, it's going to be a long 2-4 years. 

And the chances of the Dems retaking one of the two houses of Congress in 2018 are both long shots, unless Trump remains deeply unpopular. The Senate map for the Dems in 2018 is terrible with them mostly playing defense in states Trump won. So realistically the best case scenario is probably just a loss of a few seats and not a disaster, where their minority shrinks to the point that they are unable to win a majority in 2020. 

The House may provide more fertile terrain, but with only 40-50 competitive seats, they will need to do very well to reclaim a majority there. So that's what we're up against nationally. At the state level, there are some prime opportunities to pick up wins in gubernatorial elections in OH, MI, WI, MA, MD, FL, and some other swing or blue states where Dems lost badly in 2010 and 2014. And aside from that just organize locally. Treat things like State Senate elections with increased importance. If Barack Obama didn't win his Illinois State Senate election in 1996, he probably would not have been a presidential candidate in 2008. Start small and pay attention to every election.

But forget all that for a minute because that is the finish line for the first leg of this battle. And we have a lot of work ahead as #TheResistance before we get to the next election. So what can we do in the meantime? I'm not quite sure the leadership of the Democratic party and the old White House media people covering the Trump administration have reckoned with this new reality. I saw an unattributed quote passed around on Twitter this week (sic): "it's like democrats and republicans were playing a board game, then the republicans were like 'fuck it' and lit the house on fire, but dems are still just sitting in the burning house trying to win the board game." And I think this nails a little of bit of my impression of what is happening. The opposition needs to be stronger and better organized.

I knew it was going to be bad, but I didn't quite grasp all of what was coming until after the election. I believe in institutions as a check on power, to make the world more peaceful, to prevent humanity from acting on its worst impulses. The institutions we set up after the 20th century world wars - NATO, the United Nations, International Criminal Court, etc., while imperfect, have served to ultimately keep the world much more peaceful than it was prior to their creation. There is accountability and you risk economic sanctions by not complying with the rules and norms established by the institutions. Free trade also serves to keep us connected and more peaceful, with obvious economic disincentives to go to war. But the last few years have seen right-wing nationalism spread through Europe and now the United States, threatening the institutions, signaling exits from said institutions and trade agreements. There will be a power and influence vacuum and Russia and China seem more than willing to step in to fill the void with unknowable consequences for the rest of the world.

I'm ultimately a liberal institutionalist at heart, so I believed our institutions and rules would protect us from authoritarians and tyrants here in the United States. But there is little I've seen from our institutions so far to give me hope in the near future. You can't count on the Electoral College, Congress, the agencies the Trump regime is attempting to silence, etc. All of the usual checks on executive power will be hamstrung or will be going along in silent agreement. We are left with independent media and hopefully lawyers and courts. And ourselves. We can't assume everything will be OK and that the Democratic opposition and institutions will be sufficient to thwart an authoritarian regime. This is a fight you will need to stay engaged in daily, doing whatever you are able to do. This Sarah Kendzior piece really nails it - required reading for how to handle this regime. 

The good news is we are in the majority (if we could stop having purity/purge litmus tests among ourselves that would be great). We need to find common cause with liberals, leftists, #NeverTrump conservatives, and independents. We may disagree with some of these people on many issues, but we all agree Trump is an unprecedented threat to our republic and must be defeated at all costs. I think we all mouthed those platitudes to each other last summer but then went right ahead and allowed our common cause to be divided over petty issues and the result was the person with 46% of the vote, 2.8M less than the winner, becoming President. Let's not repeat that mistake.

If you aren't already you should immediately follow these people on Twitter:

Several of them are experts in covering authoritarian regimes and how they manipulate people. Re-reading a lot of Sarah Kendzior's posts from November are prescient for predicting what was to come in the opening days of the Trump administration. A flurry of activity, seemingly frantic or chaotic. Lots of distractions. Multiple stories being leaked to different reporters, neither of which turn out to be true, so then the administration can attempt to discredit the media. 

Do your best to stop focusing on Trump's tweets or whatever boldface lies the administration told, realized it looked ridiculous, and then walked back that particular day. It provides some comic relief for us liberals, but ultimately it's just an empty sugar rush. Keep your eye on the ball and don't get distracted from whatever executive orders or bills are due to be signed or voted on that day.

What else can you do? Contribute money to the ACLU and other organizations who will be vital in this fight. Call your congressional representative and Senators about every issue that is a concern. Even if you are in a deep blue or deep red district or state, make your voice heard. Order of preference to make an impact: phone calls, handwritten letters, emails. Social media contact means nothing. Check out for more info on where your contact can make the most impact. It'll tell you where your closest geographical swing district is. Join local or national social media groups to find out where protests are happening and how you can be a part of it. 

That's a lot to digest for now. I'll probably be blogging a lot more this year. Hopefully many more short posts rather than occasional long ones. Stay tuned. 

In the meantime, Organize. March. Protest. Resist. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Trump and Trumpism Must Be Defeated

One of the most disturbing parts of this election season for me, and also for our democracy and institutions, is the normalization of Donald Trump by both the Republican party and many in the media. 

There has sadly been little policy discussion this campaign because there is a huge policy gap. Clinton has pages of policy plans on practically every issue, while Trump typically has some vague sentences thrown together like an intern copied and pasted them in the wrong order from conservative web sites. As noted in the link:

Mr. Trump’s health care platform “resembles the efforts of a foreign student trying to learn health policy as a second language,” said Thomas P. Miller, a health economist at the American Enterprise Institute and a harsh critic of President Obama’s health law.

The only detailed plan Trump has touted is a tax cut plan written by the usual supply-siders on the conservative side, which would add over $5T to the debt. It's tough to have a debate of competing policy plans when only one candidate appears to have devoted any staff time and resources to come up with actual plans. 

So to absolve the media a little, this makes it easier to just cover the horse race and the competing, although disproportionate, number of 'scandals.' But not to the extent that they have.

This graph from July shows the percentages of negative stories about the candidates:

For example, Clinton's aide Huma Abedin is still maybe possibly kinda under investigation now for sending a few handfuls of sensitive Clinton emails, out of hundreds of thousands from the private email server to her home computer, without either actually being charged with anything. The statute on this makes it nearly impossible to charge them for being careless. It's a nothingburger.

Whereas, Trump currently is under investigation for massive fraud and possible tax evasion via the Trump Foundation, as well as court dates fighting actual racketeering and fraud charges filed against Trump University on 11/28 and, oh by the way, child rape (!) on 12/16. And there are other lower profile cases against him, most notably not paying contractors what is owed to them for work they did on his properties. But you know, EMAILS! Has the media covered these investigations equally or with the correct proportionality given the severity of the charges?  The fact that some of you reading this post are just hearing about the Trump charges but know about the Clinton case answers that question loud and clear. Also, for all the coverage of the emails I feel like there are maybe 1000 people in the entire country who can actually explain what the accusations are and why there could be a 'there' there. Another giant #FAIL by the media.

And this chart shows the number of stories devoted to Clinton emails 'scandal' vs Clinton's policy proposals.

But getting back to Trumpism.....

Many in the conservative intelligentsia were apportioning blame for the rise of Trump over the summer. Some of the soul-searching critiques and explanations were good by the #NeverTrump writers at the Wall Street Journal, National Review, and Weekly Standard. But I felt like some of them had a underlying tone of decrying Trump only because the racist, misogynist, xenophobic candidate their primary voters had chosen would harm their short and long term electoral prospects, not because of the multitude of other reasons he and his campaign were unacceptable. "Trump's appeal to the white working class on trade is totally screwing up our chances to cut taxes and regulations" or "His rhetoric about the wall is going to cost us votes with Latinos!" was what I got out of many of the columns.

Trump has normalized unprecedented campaign maneuvers like not releasing his tax returns, not severing his multiple national and international business relationships before running for President, claiming the election is rigged if he loses and preemptively laying the groundwork for not honoring the results, openly cheering on a foreign adversary's partisan criminal activity, and the FBI's partisan procedural breaches in trying to influence an election, and dozens more outrages.

But more disturbingly a fascist campaign strategy has been normalized. "Only I can fix it" is what a dictator says, not a President of a parliamentary democracy. The many things Trump has said in the course of this campaign are gross, racist, sexist, and sadly accepted and/or seconded by a scary number of his supporters. Has anyone ever seen more people feeling comfortable openly saying c*nt and b*tch in public at his rallies? They feel like they are in a safe space at Trump rallies. Not to mention the antisemitic chants, racist remarks and offensive swag being sold with racist memes disparaging women, blacks, Latinos, and Muslims.

His overt and covert appeals to the Alt-right is beyond the pale. White supremacists, neo-Nazis, the KKK and other hate groups have not had a candidate making so many open appeals along with the usual covert signaling to them since segregationist George Wallace.

But again, what did we expect? Trump basically launched his political career with Birtherism - a racist signal of not accepting the citizenship and legitimacy of the first black President. That is what made him a star in conservative circles and got him booked on Fox News so often. The rise of Trump began the day the spineless leaders of the Republican party didn't denounce the Birtherism conspiracy theories on the Alt-right because they were hoping to gin up turnout to win back the House in 2010. The entire party owns this. 

Here are clips of Republicans in Congress literally running away from reporters in 2009 so they could avoid answering whether they believed President Obama was born in the United States:

Birthers on the Hill

Birthers on the Hill, pt 2

So, the party leadership uses a disgusting racist smear in order to try to win back or hold power. This is a common theme. Many of the people waving confederate flags and complaining about high taxes in 2010 at Tea Party rallies are now claiming 'economic anxiety' in 2016 at Trump rallies waving confederate flags and also spouting racist and sexist memes. That's how far we've normalized this in just 6 years. The excuses for their anger keep changing. Yet they keep showing up waving confederate flags and hanging their political opponents in effigy. Something is going on, but I don't think it's high marginal tax rates or economic anxiety.

So who is really to blame?

- Mainly, Republican leaders. They didn't denounce Trump and Trumpism early on frankly because they recognized many of his base as their base and didn't want to aggravate them. And that impossible position has carried on through the entire election. That's why so many Republican politicians seeking re-election are trying to have it both ways denouncing every disgusting thing Trump says and does, but also still supporting his candidacy for President or "supporting the ticket" or "supporting the platform" or however they phrase it. RNC Chair Reince Preibus, Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Jason Chaffetz, et own this.

And John McCain, geez come on. A draft dodger dishonored your military service and bravery as a POW, one of the most genuinely heroic acts by any American serviceman in the last 50 years. And McCain still endorsed him and supported him throughout the entire campaign, up until about a month ago when the Billy Bush tape came out. Was winning your 137th term in the Senate really worth it to endorse a person we all knew you hated and knew was unacceptable? Which begs the question - was everything else Trump said and did from 1975 until October of 2016 totally OK with you before that? This was the last straw? Come on. The Straight Talk Express must have left the station without McCain on board in 2016.

- Most of the Republican presidential candidates. They didn't denounce Trump early on for the same reasons. They wanted his base to come join their campaign after Trump inevitably flamed out. And they were afraid Trump would run as an Independent and split the party after he lost. At the first debate if all 10 or 12 of the other candidates had just taken on Trump and his unfitness for the office, hammered him on the stuff we all knew about, we may not be here. But again more political cowardice on display. Most spineless of all were Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio who changed their position on Trump so often I can't keep track. From "He's unacceptable and cannot be President" to "He's unacceptable but I will support him if he's the nominee" to "I will not endorse him and fight for the nomination at a brokered convention" to "Vote your conscience and the constitution" to "OK, fine I will endorse him, but I still find him unacceptable and may or may not vote for him and will not be photographed standing next to him ever." Enough, cowards! You knew how dangerous and repugnant he is. History will not treat you kindly. I'm keeping a list of all of you and checking it twice.

- Republican voters. Not the "deplorables" or the Alt-right types. I'm talking about your average suburban somewhat moderate Republicans or "constitutional conservatives" or "small government conservatives" or "fiscal conservatives" or whatever they brand themselves as when try to explain to Democratic friends their ideological reasons for voting Republican. These voters know better. They know Trump isn't fit for the office. They know he's a loathsome person. They disagree with him on so many things. But they are enabling Trumpism by "voting for the platform" or "voting for SCOTUS appointments" or however they justify voting for the most unqualified major party candidate and frankly worst human being to get this close to the Presidency in several generations. This isn't a normal election. Get it together and focus, people.

- Some in the media. As mentioned previously some in the media have aided and abetted in this election by normalizing Trump because that is the only way they are equipped to cover a Presidential campaign. There seems to be a real inability to cover an unqualified, unfit, pathologically dishonest, grotesque candidate in any way other than the usual "generic Democrat vs generic Republican" choice. It's just horse race or 'scandal' coverage and it must be he said/she said, both sides,"some Democrats have said this, some Republicans have said that, so things are totally normal" coverage. Treating it as equal when one candidate says dishonest things 78% of the time and the other candidate 18% of the time (78% is WAY higher than the average politician and 18% is more honest than the average politician), is a failure to cover things in the proper context and proportion. This failure was exposed in a poll this week where respondents found Trump to be the more honest/trustworthy candidate. It is mind-boggling. And I also think people associate not being politically correct with being honest for some reason. Saying whatever is on your mind, even if it is not politically correct may be a more honest expression of how you feel, but that doesn't mean the words that are coming out of that mouth are actually true.

Others in the media have done an excellent job this election season - most at the Washington Post, particularly David Fahrenthold, as well as the New York Times, some of the political magazines and numerous conservative-leaning newspapers who have refused to endorse Trump, and for that we who enjoy our little 240-year democratic experiment are eternally grateful. When I refer to media failure it's mainly the websites and news shows that will do anything for clicks and eyeballs and shares on Facebook.

And kudos to the Bush family, John Kasich, Lindsay Graham, Ben Sasse, and some other notable elected Republicans who were #NeverTrump from the beginning and pretty much never wavered. And also my in-laws, lifelong Republicans, who are voting for a Democrat for President for the first time ever on Tuesday.

Currently we have low unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates, stocks are up, wages are up, crime is down except for in a few big cities, net immigration is flat, imports are down, exports are up and yet a candidate like Trump still has an outside shot to win. Luckily this isn't a "change" election. Obama is going to leave office with the highest approval rating of an exiting President in the modern era. We dodged a giant bullet, America. If Trump had run say in an environment like 2008, where the country was dying for change to shake things up and we were on the brink of a Depression, there's a good chance he'd have won. Germany had the misfortune of Hitler running at the right time in the early 1920's with the country still ravaged from World War I. Authoritarianism, nationalism, and racial/ethnic scapegoating is a much easier sell when everything is terrible.

This election may leave a lasting stain on our country, no matter the outcome. And I fear a close Trump loss will only encourage more candidates like Trump who are a little more polished and experienced stoking the same fires. Or at the very least some will follow the same campaign footsteps making the same appeals, more norms being destroyed, more playing footsie with white supremacists, more acceptability of detestable monsters as just business as usual. 

For that reason, I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically endorse Hillary Clinton for President. She's not perfect and she may be boring, but she's sane, competent, smart, measured, and experienced. Her policy proposals are impressive. On domestic policy I think she'll actually govern to the left of Obama when possible, as Sanders' policies become more mainstream in the party platform. She'll inevitably disappoint the left when she cuts deals to move the ball forward a few yards on a given policy, rather than risking a 2-yard loss for a 20-yard gain. But we all know what to expect. She'll be a more left-wing version of Bill Clinton's presidency. And she won't embarrass the country at home or abroad. She'll be someone our children can look up to and admire.

So I look forward to casting my vote for the first female President on Tuesday and encourage everyone who is voting for her to pull a straight Democratic ticket and not putz around with ticket-splitting for a "divided government, checks and balances, blah, blah blah." I have long despised ticket-splittersThat would send the message that this was kind of a normal election with two normal candidates.

No! Splitting tickets at this point only continues to empower the cowards and extremists in the Republican party who have continually enabled Trumpism for political gain. This condition can only be cured with an amputation not antibiotics. So a complete up and down ballot rejection at the polls is the only answer so the Republican party can finally cleanse itself of this disease and return to being a functional governing party again.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Moderate GOPers Are the Problem

Charlie Dent (R-PA) (Lehigh Valley Live) - part of the problem

Peter King (R-NY) (Huffington Post) - part of the problem

For all the Tea Partiers who have been complaining about RINOs the last several years, I have to admit I agree with them that the alleged "moderate" GOPers are part of the problem, but obviously not for the same reasons. And I don't just mean the alleged moderates in Congress. I'm also talking the moderate GOP voters.

Jonathan Chait wrote about a potential plan for moderates to depose John Boehner as Speaker of the House and create a real governing coalition between Democrats and moderate Republicans. Chait nails the problem with moderates in this passage:
Say you live in Pennsylvania and your representative is Charlie Dent. Representative Dent is fighting hard against the leadership to prevent a shutdown. If you’re following him in the news, you can read the hometown newspaper’s report explaining Charlie Dent’s opposition to his party’s tactics. But Charlie Dent is the one who is giving power to the very right-wing fanatics he is decrying, by supplying the decisive votes to the Republican majority. If you want to stop Ted Cruz from paralyzing the government, you need to vote against Charlie Dent. That is confusing.
The problem is this assumes "moderates" like Dent and Peter King aren't just posturing for the media to seem moderate to continue being re-elected in their more moderate districts, while continuing to vote with the most radical members of their party 95% of the time. So as Chait wrote if you are a moderate Republican who isn't happy with how Ted Cruz is operating, unfortunately for you the answer in 2014 is to vote Democratic, not to send a moderate Republican back to Congress. I think some Republican voters think and vote this way splitting their tickets in Presidential elections (possibly being horrified by the positions their eventual Presidential nominee is forced to take in order to win the primaries), but not in Congressional elections. And that needs to change.

You see daily polls showing that 50+ % of registered Republicans agree with the Democratic Party's position on several key issues. Whether it be immigration reform, a balanced deficit-reduction plan, background checks on guns, etc. So what does it say about a party that it is so unresponsive to the majority of their base? Issues that get 50+% Republican voter support sometimes result in zero Republican votes in Congress. Issues that get 75-80% Republican voter support may end up forcing the hand of a handful of Republicans, as you saw with the Manchin-Toomey background checks bill, but not enough to pass even with 90+% support nationwide.

As long as the moderates keep giving the GOP candidate their votes, they are enabling the radical nutty wing of the party. I understand you may be a Northeastern moderate Republican who is pro-choice and in favor of same-sex marriage (or at least indifferent enough on those issues that they aren't decisive when it comes to casting your vote). And you vote Republican usually because you want your taxes lower, you don't like the welfare state all that much, and you'd prefer less regulations and "smaller government" (whatever that means at any given moment). But the thing is that even though you are voting for your moderate GOP Congressman, in doing so you are empowering the Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Louie Gohmert, Michelle Bachman wing of the party. They are the ones who hold the power in Congress and/or have the national talk-show celebrity status to drive the daily conversation. 

If you think those politicians are bad for your party in the long run and that wing of the party embarrasses you as a card-carrying Republican, then you need to think long and hard about what your vote means when you vote locally. I'm not saying you should vote for a Democrat whom you disagree with on most issues. But chances are if you are in a Republican-leaning district, the Democrat opposing your Republican incumbent is going to be a moderate to center-right Democrat, if he/she has any hope of winning. The Democratic candidate will vote much more moderately than whatever Republican you elect. 

But yet the majority of the base continues to vote for people who then don't represent their views. And the alleged moderate politicians continue to go along with the most radical elements of their party, out of fear that the radical voters will outnumber the moderates in primaries. So if moderate Republican voters really want to exert some political power, their best option is to vote for Democrats, at least right now. And then eventually (maybe) Republican politicians will moderate and begin adopting some of those positions to truly represent the will of the electorate.

The Republican party used to always be considered the "daddy party", while the Democrats were the "mommy party."  But as we've seen the last several years the Republican party has been governing like an abusive dead-beat daddy party. And perhaps moderate GOP voters should consider putting mommy back in charge of the household until daddy goes through counseling and rehab.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

My one and only child will soon turn nine, so this is my ninth Fathers' Day as an actual father and caretaker of another human being. And on this and on Mothers' Day, we as a society rightfully honor the parents and grandparents who have reared offspring in this crazy, mixed-up world. 

So fine, for the 9th year in a row, I'll enjoy my day, take my bow as being "World's Greatest Dad" (sorry Izzy Mandelbaum), consume my medium-rare steak dinner, and watch the final day of the U.S. Open. But really no bows are necessary. And as Chris Rock noted, certainly no cookie rewards are warranted for literally doing the least you could ask of a human being who brings children into the world.

See, in spite of the thousands of parenting advice books and blogs devoted to documenting every mundane and insignificant part of raising kids, being a half-decent parent is basically the easiest job in the world. Sure, Drew Magary wrote a great book and some humorous Dadspin posts on the subject of the trials of parenting. And being a "perfect" parent is certainly probably impossible. That's the point. But being a good parent basically just means you have to love your kids unconditionally and try as hard as you can. The End.

There are no perfect parents and no singly perfect parenting style, and there doesn't have to be. The beauty is your kid will likely still turn out just fine even if you are a far-from-perfect parent. Granted, our lack of government funding for programs to ease the costs and burdens of working parents, sometimes make it more challenging, but it's still a relatively easy job. And it actually gets easier once they get old enough to communicate clearly on their own. The importance of being a good parent in no way increases the degree of difficulty. It may put more pressure on you, especially later in your child's life, to keep them on the righteous path, but I don't think it makes the job any harder. 

Now the outrageously rising costs of child care and education are a completely different animal, but that's a different topic for a different day. Yes, earning and/or saving enough money to provide your child with the very best chance of success as an adult is very challenging and seemingly becoming less attainable for the average family every single year. But as long as you the build foundation with your child, he or she will still be fine, doing whatever it is they end up doing. And the foundation is the easy part. Being a passably good parent just requires love, empathy, minor sacrifices, and occasionally your undivided attention. And the more you give them, the more you will get back (whether you like or not :-) ).

Happy Fathers' Day!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Big Brother and the Data Holding Company

I just can't for the life of me work up any shock or outrage over the latest disclosures over PRISM and the NSA. I think we all had a reason to assume that this was being done since shortly after 9/11. And actually this 2006 report in USAToday pretty much confirmed it already. Obviously, the scope of the program has grown since then. But I have a problem with the government collecting more information to help "connect the dots." As Jeremy Bash, chief of staff to former C.I.A. director Leon Panetta put it. "If you’re looking for a needle in the haystack, you need a haystack." Or perhaps a whole barn full of haystacks.

There is always some potential for lower-level abuse in any data-mining endeavor or at any large government agency or corporation, for that matter. We've just spent four weeks talking about lower-rung employees at the IRS giving a little more attention to conservative-sounding political groups seeking tax-exempt status. And similarly your credit card number may get poached when you purchase things on-line. Several times a year a bank or another company ends up having to apologize for a security breach that results in thousands of credit card numbers being publicized. It's the electronic, on-demand world we live in and most people just shrug and assume the risks with everyone else.

But just as you wouldn't close down banks, the internet, or any government agency because of some minor abuses or privacy violations, neither should you shutdown the N.S.A. programs over the "potential" for abuse.

So it's extremely important that there be dogged oversight and transparency to provide some public assurance. Will Saletan of Slate made some great points in regards to this earlier in the week. However, since the information is classified, the public will have no choice but to trust that Congress will provide the necessary oversight. And that is hopefully what the Edward Snowden revelations facilitate.

The most surprising revelation for me from this entire story is that so many (roughly 500K) contractors have security clearances to access top secret information. Now of course there's access and there's "access", but still even if the real number is 100K, it's a little worrisome. Our government contracting out over 30% of this type of work is another issue for another day. Do we really want so many civilian contractors working with such sensitive data? In this instance it's about time to revisit the old Republican canard about the private sector always being better, more efficient, etc, than the public sector. That may not be the case when it comes to defense and intelligence. And when the private companies have mostly sweet no-bid deals with the government, then it leads to the same inefficiency we harp on about Big Government.

I'm generally pretty liberal on most issues. Crime (both the prevention of and prosecution of) and counter-terrorism are areas where I'm pretty authoritarian. I don't really support Stop-and-Frisk because it has proven to be ineffective. But if it worked, I'd be on board. Perhaps, due to living in several different neighborhoods in a big city like Philadelphia with more than its share of violent crime, these issues are never just abstract philosophical civil liberties debates for me. It's a real thing I need to think about literally every time I walk down a city street. People who grew up in similar environs have much more practical, real-world takes on gun-control as well. It's tough selling the libertarian "virtues" of less gun regulation and drug decriminalization in neighborhoods like, say, North Philly, which have been ravaged by guns and drugs, as opposed to, say, rural enclaves in central PA.

So my perspective on this issue is that crime or fear of crime eventually curtails liberty. So a reasonable sacrifice of a little privacy to help reduce or prevent crime and terrorism is the foundation that allows us to achieve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Michael Grunwald sums up this point of view in Time more eloquently here.

Most of the extreme slippery-slope arguments against any law tend to be presented in absence of more legitimate points that address here-and-now particulars. "This may make sense now or may prevent x, but in 40 years y could happen!" should not be taken seriously as an argument. The same lazy argument could be used against any law that's on the books.

The government won't be taking your guns if background-check laws are enacted. And the government will not be viewing your cell phone call logs unless you call someone, who called someone, who called someone, who called a suspected terrorist at some point in the last five years. It's a high-tech version of police detectives dropping by your house to "ask you a few questions" about a particular case if they believed you might be tangentially connected to one of the suspects.

Rightly or wrongly, the executive branch and the intelligence agencies are held accountable for any potential terrorist attack. The natural human response then is for people in those positions to do everything legally and technologically possible to prevent terrorist attacks. And the same "cover your ass" incentives line up politically for those people to keep their jobs, as it should be in a responsive, functioning democracy. It would be unrealistic for us to expect our leaders to not use every technological advantage at their disposal to prevent crime/terrorism and keep tabs on our enemies. The surveillance state will continue to get bigger, not smaller. This is the path our country has been on since the beginning of the Cold War and there's no turning back.