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Friday, January 01, 2016

Patriot Act Regains Majority Public Support

by JASmius

If you think my New Year is off to an entirely expectedly crappy start - did I mention the $722.93 repair bill for one of my cars yesterday? - take a gander at that of Kentucky Senator and GOP presidential candidate (he thinks) Rand Paul, whose vicarious White House campaign for his father is meeting the exact same ruinous fate as the past direct ones did, and now his greatest Senate achievement - the gutting of the Patriot Act - is starting to slip away as well:

A majority of Americans say they support warrantless government surveillance of the Internet communications of U.S. citizens, according to a new poll by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

It's at least somewhat important for the government to sacrifice freedoms to ensure safety, most say in the survey....

According to the new poll, 56% of Americans favor and 28% oppose the ability of the government to conduct surveillance on Internet communications without needing to get a warrant. That includes such surveillance on U.S. citizens. [emphasis added]

Close to a two to one margin even figuring in the comparatively large number of undecideds.  I'd call that a dramatic about-face from seven months ago.

Majorities both of Republicans (67%) and Democrats (55%) favor government surveillance of Americans' Internet activities to watch for suspicious activity that might be connected to terrorism. [emphasis added]

To be fair, I'm guessing that the Dem figure is more of a reference to Obama's NSA spying on congressional Republicans.  Something with which Tea Partiers should be happy, because that way we can all find out just how "complicit" in Donk budget priorities Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell REALLY are.

Independents are more divided, with 40% in favor and 35% opposed. Only a third of Americans under thirty....

i.e. Young people who haven't lived long enough to know any better.

.....but nearly two-thirds thirty and older, support warrantless surveillance.

Listen to your elders, kids.

The poll finds that for most Americans, safety concerns trump civil liberties at least some of the time.

The William Stryker Principle.  Or, put another way, it was all fine and good for Benjamin Franklin to say, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety" a quarter-millennium ago when "Barbary pirates" weren't pouring into American territory to murder its inhabitants, but it's just as sensible to point out that one cannot enjoy one's essential Liberty in the grave.  The reasonable compromise between the two philosophical bails of hay being the Patriot Act, by whose corpse Rand Paul's burro is now philosophically starving to death.

More than half — 54% — say it's sometimes necessary for the government to sacrifice freedoms to fight terrorism, while 45% think that's not necessary. On a more general level, 42% say it's more important for the government to ensure Americans' safety than to protect citizens' rights, while 27% think rights are more important and 31% rate both equally.

Goodness gracious, now what could possibly have transpired, do you think, that could have brought about such a dramatic shift of public sentiment back towards doorknob common sense?

Oh.  Ohhhhhh:

Concerns about terrorism have risen since 2013. In the latest poll, nearly six in ten Americans say they are at least somewhat concerned that they or their family might be victims of a terrorist attack, after just three in ten said so two years ago.

Nothing doubles public awareness of danger like hard, grisly evidence of actual danger.

Six in ten Americans now think that the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, indicate an increased risk of attacks against Western countries, while 37% think the risk is about the same as it was before. Three-quarters of Republicans and majorities of both Democrats and independents think the attacks are an indication of increased risk.
Americans are similarly concerned about both domestic terrorism and possible attacks by Islamic [Fundamental]ist groups, with about six in ten saying they're at least somewhat concerned about each.

Democrats and Republicans are about equally likely to say they're concerned about domestic terrorism, but Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to say they're concerned about attacks by Islamic [Fundamental]ists, 67% to 47%. [emphasis added]

But even that last Democrat figure is still a near-majority of them.

Call it the Calvin & Hobbes Principle.  In one Sunday edition of the popular and way too short-lived comic strip, Calvin is at school one morning, his head propped on his hand, day-dreaming about dinosaurs instead of paying attention in class.  His teacher, Miss Wormwood, thwacks a yardstick down on his desk two inches in front of his nose to get his attention.  It works....for a while.  Over the final three panels, he goes from his eyes being as big around as hubcaps gradually back to being once again obliviously riding pterodactyls in the clear, blue, cloud-flecked skies.

That's the way it is with human nature and the need for constant vigilance.  Something terrible happens, like 9/11, that seizes everybody's attention, but the more time that passes since the terrible event, the more the public's attention wanes and their lazy, complacent decadence reasserts itself.  And thus is the next terrible event facilitated, after which the futile cycle repeats itself.  We the People went from shock and anguish and fear and vengeful anger in 2001 to electing an Islamocommunist president in 2008.  Several lucky dodged bullets (the pantie bomber nearly blowing up an airliner over Detroit, Michigan six years ago, the Times Square bomber almost blowing up that iconic location with a truck bomb the following spring) reinforced the lazy, complacent decadence sufficiently to re-elect the Islamocommunist in 2012, and seven months ago the Patriot Act was dismantled and the walls of separation and bureaucratic hoops of jumping-through were rebuilt.

And now cometh Paris and San Bernardino and all the attacks yet to come, and the vicious cycle starts anew.  It's a pity human nature isn't malleable, huh?  T'is also a pity that Senator Paul's philosophical carcass is too small to use as a blunt-object tenderizer of it.  His burro is really starting to reek.

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