Monday, January 10, 2005

Tolles Civil Liberties Redux (Part Two)

7. Similarly, snidely referring to the "science of 'hang ups'", doesn't change the fact that 'hang ups' are a very real survey problem and one that major pollsters invest a lot of effort into overcoming. Click read more.

Smaller research projects like this one don't deal with it at all save for ex post facto weighting. In fact, weighting is in some senses an explicit acknowledgement of the problem of hang ups. I have worked at a public policy center, have designed surveys, have worked with pollsters, and have published research based on survey responses. Weighting and hang ups are problems. Period.

8. Points 6 and 7 don't mean that all surveys are worthless, they just mean that some thought needs to be put into them and how much information you can extract from them. I think your initial post went way over the top and I think you were all too willing to look at the veneer of scientific respectability supporting a prejudice of yours and run with it.

9. To address the point again. I am aghast at the "registering your whereabouts" question. But before I would use it as a jumping off point for implying that America was just this side of fascism, I would think through it a little more. I would be much more worried about the state of the union if there appeared to be a politician seeking to implement a registration of Muslims requirement. I am sure you see this creeping fascism in about 40% of the congressional republicans, but I don't sense that at all. Leaders of both parties are running away from even sensible discussions on something like immigration reform for fear of seeming to be racist.

10. This difference (I am assuming we differ) of perception extends to another point you make that I did not clarify. First, you have me out on this point. I said that sloppiness of this sort wouldn't pass for a second year grad student (I'll come back to the sloppiness). I stand by it. You catch me on a bit of sloppiness of my own: I didn't tie down the KKK example at all. Here is the deal: The KKK is nominally a Christian organization and is nominally both civic and volunteer. We know who they are in fact. I suspect people would support FBI infiltration of the Klan. When I read the survey question about infiltrating Muslim civic and volunteer organizations I assume the FBI would be doing so with a reasonable understanding of the true activities of the organization. In other words, I trust that the FBI would target the KKK but not the Knights of Columbus. Why? Because they know one is up to no good and one is not.

Similarly, when applying the question to Muslim groups I would expect the same thing. I am not reading it as "The FBI will harass all Muslim groups"; I am reading it as "The FBI will infiltrate KKK-like groups of Muslim origin." That Muslim civic and volunteer groups have been large financial supporters of terrorist groups around the world is not speculative. It is as factual as the wealthy Boston Catholics who supported IRA terrorism for decades. Is there potential for abuses if we allow the FBI to do this? Absolutely. Is it pushing us down the road to fascism? Not if proper safeguards are in place, as I said in my original piece.

I strongly suspect you read the question as: "should the FBI be allowed to spy on all Muslim groups at any time for any reason." Or something similar. If the question were worded that way, I would be 100% against it. If it were worded the way I read it, I would be mainly for it. My question to you is this: if two intelligent people can read the question and draw radically different interpretations of its intent, how certain are you that it is a valid question? How certain are you that it measures what you think it measures and not what I think it measures? Put one final way: what if Rs categorically read it the way I am reading it and Ds categorically read it the way you are reading it? How smug could you continue to be about your Ds superiority on this question? I am not being mean here. Maybe your response is: totally smug, because even your reading is reprehensible to me. But it seems like it is worth a little thought before pointing out similarities between social security reform and the Reichstadt fires.

You didn't answer the question. Would you support infiltration of the Klan (or Catholic groups supporting the IRA)? You also pass by whether the other civil liberties questions are about civil liberties at all.

11. You greatly miscatagorized my point about 1930s Jews and 2000s Muslims not being equivalent. Muslim leaders have declared war on us. Jews were not at war with Germany. I know most Muslims are not at war with us, but to suggest that there is no difference is nonsense. Plus, you conveniently glide past a much more apt example of the Japanese internment camps. I suspect we might pass through a stage much more like 1940s America before jumping to 1930s Germany. But to point that out, you would end up comparing Bush to FDR rather than Hitler so it probably doesn't sit well.

12. The Churchill quote (paraphrase, actually) was simply inserted as a reminder that America is a *good* country, an observation that has stuck in your craw more than once. Look, you stop suggesting that America is one step away from fascism and I'll stop saying it is a great country. We can both continue to believe what we want. Or keep uncovering clear indications that Bush secretly communicates with Hitler via séances, and I'll keep pointing out that it is highly unlikely.

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