A Lady's Ruminations

"Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right." -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Rampant Cheneyphobia

Jonah Goldberg has a great new column out at National Review.

It's called "'Oogling My Googling'" and here is an excerpt:

Partisanship is obviously part of the equation. For instance, the heretofore-unknown disease of Cheneyphobia seems to be reaching epidemic proportions. It seems to cause some people to believe that the vice president of the United States has superhuman powers and that he is capable of personally reading hundreds of millions of e-mails while listening to thousands of hours of phone conversations and — simultaneously — scanning trillions of web searches.

Robert Kuttner, writing about a different controversy in the Boston Globe, shows serious symptoms of the affliction when he writes, "Google plus Dick Cheney is a recipe for undoing the liberties for which the original patriots of the American Revolution bled and died."

On the narrow point about Dick Cheney, this is all a bunch of nonsense. The Department of Justice is in a lawsuit with the ACLU over the Child Online Protection Act, which is designed to help prevent kids from being exposed to online porn. The law ran afoul of the First Amendment, according to a lower court, and the Supreme Court asked for additional information pending its final decision on the matter. The Department of Justice asked Google, as well as MSN, Yahoo!, and Time Warner (AOL's parent), to provide data on their search engines from a one-week period. (The Associated Press scarily refers to the request as a "White House subpoena," as if the White House could actually issue subpoenas.) No personal information was asked for and none has been given. Everyone but Google complied, because there's really no reason not to. Google, however, sees itself in a very idealistic light and has decided to stand on principle against the government, prompting huzzahs from all the predictable sources.

But the same crowd celebrating Google's decision has generally been quiet about, for example, public health surveys that ask doctors to report all sorts of really private information (anonymous, of course) for epidemiological purposes. If you're going to consider it a grotesque infringement on personal liberty for the government to find out that some anonymous person Google-searched "lesbian love goats," you'd think you'd also be upset by the National Institutes of Health cataloging how many people fitting your description have had prostate exams in the last year. The intrusion is at least as serious, but because no one imagines that Dick Cheney cares about your prostate — yet! — the First Amendment thumpers don't offer a peep.
For more on Google doing China's biding, visit here.