Edward Snowden Is Cold

It’s official. Edward Snowden, holed up in an authoritarian Russian paradise, is happy that an American federal judge has ruled against phone surveillance programs operated by the NSA. Yippee. I can sleep much better now knowing that the man who is spilling the nation’s secrets, or in some cases trying to trade them for a better place to live, has a legal victory under his potentially treacherous belt.

Through his sometimes shady representative in the civilized world, Glenn Greenwald, Mr. Snowden sent this message to Americans:

I acted on my belief that the N.S.A.’s mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts. Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans’ rights. It is the first of many.

Well, it may or may not be the first of many, but we do know that for all his talk of how “the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts,” what Snowden doesn’t want to talk about is why he won’t give those same courts a chance to determine whether or not he has committed high crimes against what used to be his country, a country that was paying him and thus expecting him to keep our secrets from our enemies.

I’ve discussed this before, but what bothers me most of all about the Snowden fiasco is how eager liberals have been to get in bed with him and, in this most recent federal judge’s ruling, also side with the man who brought the so-far successful lawsuit against the NSA. That man, Larry Klayman, is a Tea Party nut job. Just two months ago The Huffington Post reported on a rally in Washington that sort of made him famous:

Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, a conservative political advocacy group, said the country is “ruled by a president who bows down to Allah,” and “is not a president of ‘we the people.'”

“I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come up with his hands out,” he said.

That, my friends, is the man who many, if not most, liberals are in a rhetorical and legal foxhole with, at least in terms of the latest war against the NSA. There has been an ongoing fight against government surveillance programs for years, but Klayman, as he now characterizes it, “hit the mother lode” with a victory in his latest case.  And he hit that mother lode because of Edward Snowden, who apparently finds Russian winters too damn cold and is trying to trade away what’s left of his dignity for warmer climes:

NSA leaker Edward Snowden, now several weeks into the Moscow winter, has published an open letter to “the people of Brazil” offering to help the country resist U.S. spying efforts in exchange for political asylum. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has been highly critical of NSA operations in her country; Brazil also just happens to be where Glenn Greenwald, the American journalist who is Snowden’s closest ally, is based.

By now it ought to be clear to all that Snowden isn’t some kind of “global champion of libertarian ideals and a hero of the struggle for personal freedom against U.S. abuses of power.” If he were, he would come back home and make his case and bring even more attention to it, instead of having people like Larry Klayman do the work for him. Yes, he would be risking jail time. Yes, he might be risking a lot of jail time.snowden But the kind of heroes I studied in history didn’t worry about themselves as much as they worried about the cause they were fighting for or the tyranny they were fighting against. Right now, Snowden seems to be worried about getting warm in Brazil and continuing to do damage to the country he is supposedly trying to save. That’s some champion. That’s some hero.

Well, we’ve seen that kind of behavior before. We’ve seen that kind of blow-up-America-in-order-to-save-it nonsense many times lately. We’ve seen it in the Larry Klaymans and the Ted Cruzes and all the wingnuts on the right who shutdown the government and who are even now plotting on how to use the debt ceiling once again as a way to extract concessions from Democrats, who are trying to keep enough fiscal gas in the nation’s car to keep it running so people can get to work, or at least get to the grocery store to spend their unemployment checks or their tiny ration of food stamps.

I will say this openly to my liberal friends: Yes, there needs to be greater oversight on what the NSA and other national security-related agencies are doing. Yes, there has been some overreach by those agencies. Yes, we can do better in terms of protecting the privacy of Americans. And, yes, let’s run the NSA’s “mass surveillance” practices through the constitutional wringer and see if they come out clean. But I implore all of you not to make Edward Snowden a hero. As Obama’s press secretary Jay Carney—one of our guys, by the way—reminded us yesterday about Snowden:

He has been charged and accused of leaking classified information.  He faces felony charges here.  He ought to be returned to the United States — again, where he will face full due process and protection under our system of justice that we hope he will avail himself of…

That’s what a real American hero, if he turns out to be a hero, would do. Not go to the Chinese and the Russians and now, after finding out that Moscow is not Rio de Janeiro, try to deal his way to a better place. So, if we must fight to find out whether the NSA is doing the country more harm than good, let us at least fight knowing that Edward Snowden does not now deserve our praise or our admiration, at least until he faces American justice for what he has done and proves he deserves our thanks, as opposed to our condemnation.



  1. King Beauregard

     /  December 17, 2013

    On the one hand, I really can’t blame Snowden for wanting to avoid prosecution — why bring needless grief upon one’s self? Because it makes a more heart-wrenching story, or because it is more noble and selfless? The degree of one’s suffering is not a reliable measure of one’s contributions.

    That said, yeah, liberal outrage can have a Mad Libs quality to it, where all intelligence gathering means a police state, all military action means conquest, and so on. It can be like dealing with a slightly smarter species of Teabagger, except liberals do not think Old Man Potter was the hero of “It’s a Wonderful Life”.


    • King B,

      Oh, I understand why he wants to avoid prosecution. I suppose even Moscow in the winter beats a federal prison. But if he is going to insist he has done something noble and selfless, then it only makes sense to actually do something noble and selfless.

      As for the Mad Libs-Tea Party comparison, what has bothered me is that there has been more than the fringe lefties who have gone overboard on the Snowden-is-a-hero thing. And there has been a fair amount of “Barack Obama is the same as Bush” nonsense spread about by, oddly, both righties and lefties, some of them in their respective mainstreams. I like your It’s a Wonderful Life reference. In this case, it’s more like liberals thinking there isn’t much difference between Potter and George Bailey. It’s weird.



      • King Beauregard

         /  December 18, 2013

        Lefties are in love with righteous anger, which makes them extremely unwilling to trade in nuance.

        You and I were discussing the public option efforts at length the other week; I don’t think we came to an agreement, but at least we both agree that the Democrats were trying to work within the limits of what is achievable versus what is ideal. That’s a discussion I can have with you. But on various “news” sites on the Internet — some of which are like a toilet — that whole conversation is a non-starter, because if there wasn’t a public option, it’s because the Democrats were sellouts, plain and simple. It couldn’t be that there are things like “filibuster-proof majorities” to consider, that would require learning things and applying that knowledge to the world around us. It’s far far more enjoyable to be mad at the Democrats for being in the pocket of big business, facts be damned.


        • King B,

          I’m glad you brought up our tête-à-tête over the public option, a discussion I enjoyed very much. Never in a million years would I have thought you and I were having anything but a friendly argument about a counterfactual, something neither of us could definitely prove (especially in my case). I, too, am dismayed over the “sellout” nonsense that I see on liberal websites, especially in the comment sections. It seems to me that most of the commenters (not to mention some of the original writers) are hopelessly cynical or hopelessly ignorant about the way our government works. All of us get frustrated with what is going on in Washington, and that frustration often extends to those who are fighting on our side. But what pisses me off the most is when someone cannot differentiate between the aims of the Tea Party and the aims of, say, President Obama. I have read so many bullshit attacks on Obama and other Democrats, attacks that essentially equate them with the likes of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, that it makes me wonder how Democrats ever win elections. Fortunately, there are those on the other side who also have trouble differentiating between the two sides. I suppose in that crude way, those things balance each other out.



      • King Beauregard

         /  December 18, 2013

        By the way I’m still not sure what to make of Snowden: maybe he sincerely wanted to expose wrongdoing, but damn if he isn’t willing to sell that information to the highest bidder rather than try to get it to parties that will see justice is done.


  2. Jane Reaction

     /  December 17, 2013

    What becomes a hero?

    We already owe NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden a huge debt of gratitude. Even the limited publication of a few of the documents he disclosed to journalists has to date provoked a political and public debate in countries across the planet.

    Privacy is the vital component of free societies. Without that basic right we are unable to freely read, write, speak, plan, and associate without fear of being watched.

    As leaders around the globe run to nationalism to protect themselves against their countrymen, we in America ramp up the punishment for speaking out. Now that a federal judge has said our massive collection program is an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment, I am hopeful we can suspend the gathering and retention of personal data without appropriate warrants from the courts.

    Gerald Malan


    • Gerald,

      I think you already know that I object to your use of the term “whistleblower” for Snowden. Whether he is such, or whether he should enjoy the protections of being one, can only be determined by our justice system, a system he has gone to great pains to avoid. I would submit to you that if we are to have anything like state secrets, we cannot have people with access to them thinking that they can divulge them with impunity, else we will never have state secrets. And unless you are prepared to say that there should be no such things as state secrets, not to mention government surveillance of any kind, I think you have to admit that the Snowden case presents us with more than a civic-minded whistleblower trying to expose corruption or misconduct on the part of the government. It presents us with the binary choice that laws against publicly divulging classified information, especially after you have sworn not to, either mean something or they don’t.

      I would also ask you that if such laws don’t mean anything, if Snowden were to man-up and come home to face justice and win, then what happens to the government’s ability to do certain things that necessarily require secrecy? To me, if Snowden were to win his case and go unpunished, it would endanger our national security interests, since future cases would surely follow. But it seems that there aren’t too many liberals worried about that. And that’s a shame.



      • Sedate Me

         /  December 18, 2013

        I would submit to you that if we are to have anything like state secrets, we cannot have people with access to them thinking that they can divulge them with impunity, else we will never have state secrets.

        If I can’t keep the Empire and/or corporations from knowing my favourite flavour of ice cream, or that I routinely enjoy group sex with supermodels, then why should The State be allowed to keep secrets from me, their supposed boss? I’m old enough to remember that one of the things that made East Germany “evil” was that they spied on their citizens while “protecting” them from dangerous threats posed by the West. For example, they monitored everything figure skater Katrina Witt did, including compiling stats on who she was having sex with and even what was said before, during and after intercourse. (Hmmm. Imagine how handy such knowledge would be!)

        But back to what I wanted to say. As we all argue about Snowden: Hero or Traitor, we have to acknowledge that, without such leakers, we would otherwise be completely in the dark about what our governments do in our name and with our money, possibly for forever. However, what I’ve rarely seen discussed in any serious way is the inherent problems associated with merely collecting stadiums full of data on anyone with a pulse.

        Let’s assume that everything the Security Complex says about itself is 100% true and that their motivations are 100% pure (Just as mine are with your daughters.) Snowden was just one drop-out working for one of countless private NSA contractors. Bradley Manning was just one analyst who should (as a quasi-open homosexual during Don’t Ask Don’t Tell) have never been working at the military base where he decided one day to copy some Top Secret info onto his Lady Gaga CD. If the databases of the most powerful & secretive outfits in existence can be so easily & massively compromised, distributed and possibly edited by Lone Crazed Gunmen who could have just walked away had they decided not to go public “for the public good”, then literally every detail in every database is up for grabs to anyone with any agenda.

        Manning and Snowden just wanted some secrets out. Imagine if any one of the millions working in the Military-Industrial-Spy-Complex didn’t have the completely pure motives we’re told they have…well except for those two Lone Crazed Traitors. Imagine the potential havoc even just a few imperfect humans could bring upon the nation, or individuals within it, in just a momentarily lapse of emotionless perfection.

        Now imagine how much easier it is to get your hands on less protected, but often more invasive, databases.

        Just another angle of approach on the topic; that the very existence of such databases are not just the result of abuse perpetrated by the collector, but essentially guarantee abuse from other parties.


        • I confess I did a lot of Katarina Witt peeping myself. That’s the one thing I can forgive those nasty East Germans for doing. I’ll never forget that Playboy spread (I think it’s still around the Ponderosa somewhere; I’ll have to look). God, I hope the government doesn’t find out what I was thinking at the time.

          Did Snowden’s unlawful leaking accomplish anything of value? Too early to tell. But that in itself doesn’t get him off the hook, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a big Biden deal that those we trust with our secrets should know that revealing them to the world is a punishable offense. But it is a stretch to say that without his tattling we would be “completely in the dark about what our governments do in our name and with our money.” What do you think all those ACLU lawsuits have been about?

          You wrote,

          …what I’ve rarely seen discussed in any serious way is the inherent problems associated with merely collecting stadiums full of data on anyone with a pulse.

          At least now we have something of real substance to talk about. Sure, having all that data at the ready for mining can be quite problematic, especially for the ex-girlfriend of some analyst somewhere who is snooping around to see what’s happening in her love life or worse. But I still don’t see the larger, cosmic implications that you do, should someone without the imputed “pure motives” of Manning or Snowden decide to do real damage to the country via that vast database of text messages and emails and phone records, or whatever it is that the NSA has captured and stored. You said,

          Imagine the potential havoc even just a few imperfect humans could bring upon the nation, or individuals within it, in just a momentarily lapse of emotionless perfection.

          Okay. I’m trying to imagine. Exactly what is the nature of that national havoc? I don’t see it. If people don’t know by now that somewhere someone has a record of their every move in cyberspace then they haven’t been paying attention to what the tech revolution has done to one’s privacy. Beyond that, I don’t see it as all that perilous for my personal privacy that the government has only potential access to such information, so long as there are safeguards in place that limit the government’s mining of the available data to cases where real terrorism might be involved.

          That being said, I agree with you that it is reason to worry that what Manning and Snowden apparently did with ease is an indication that there is something seriously wrong with the system. Oddly, that is the biggest problem that those two have uncovered, even if neither of them meant that fact to be the one we should focus on. But we should focus on it. The following is the most important point you, or anyone else I have heard for that matter, can make relative to this issue:

          If the databases of the most powerful & secretive outfits in existence can be so easily & massively compromised, distributed and possibly edited by Lone Crazed Gunmen who could have just walked away had they decided not to go public “for the public good”, then literally every detail in every database is up for grabs to anyone with any agenda.

          Apparently that is the case. And the fact that it is the case, or at least was the case, should make us all a little nervous. But not because there is some sort of national danger directly involved with a building full of servers that have mostly meaningless data stored on them. But because it indicates that our government, especially our national security establishment, is ripe with incompetence. That, my friend, does worry me and should, in my opinion, should be the focus of any serious inquiry and discussion.



  3. I like the President. He has, however, from time to time, disappointed me. He’s not the same as Bush (thank goodness) — but he needs to fix this NSA bullshit. That Snowden would seek sanctuary from pissed-off US government prosecution is a mark of understanding and sanity. As for Tea Party piling on — who gives a shit?
    I think the ACLU says ismply how I feel on the matter:
    “When Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA, he single-handedly reignited a global debate about government surveillance and our most fundamental rights as individuals. And on Monday, a federal judge vindicated Snowden’s actions by declaring unconstitutional the NSA’s spying program, labeling it “Orwellian”—adding that James Madison would be ‘aghast.'”


    • General,

      Yep. Obama, who I admire and respect very much, has disappointed me, too. Remember card check? Yeah, I bet you forgot all about it because it wasn’t such a big deal to the President when it counted. (To be fair, it wasn’t such a big deal to some congressional Democrats either, even though they promised the unions they would initiate action.) But I understand, or think I understand, the nature of politics and the nature of campaigning and the nature of governing. I refuse, at least at this point, to get so cynical that I can “see through” everything, which, as I have noted many times, is the same as not seeing at all.

      The NSA bullshit is, hopefully, going to be fixed (Obama’s panel has come out with what I consider sensible recommendations).

      Sure, Snowden is doing the right thing in terms of his own personal freedom, but the wrong thing if he wants to go down in history as a courageous defender of civil liberties. His courage, at least right now, is in doubt, as far as I’m concerned.

      Finally, that federal judge will not have the last word on the NSA program. But whatever the case, it is a stretch to call NSA data aggregation “Orwellian.” That analysis does a disservice to real totalitarianism. And it doesn’t impress me much that James Madison would find such things distasteful, especially since he didn’t find slavery distasteful enough to stop owning slaves.



      • King Beauregard

         /  December 18, 2013

        “Remember card check? Yeah, I bet you forgot all about it because it wasn’t such a big deal to the President when it counted.”

        Oooh, we’ve got something else to debate! I was all for most of the provisions of EFCA, except for card check — that was an absolute deal-breaker for me.

        Just to be super clear on what the issue was, in case 1) I have a basic misunderstanding or 2) I have the details wrong in such a way that I’ve come to a dumb conclusion. In a union drive, the initial step is a card check: workers sign cards to indicate nominal interest in a union, and if a majority express interest, the union drive proper can start, leading to a secret ballot election weeks or (more likely) months later. EFCA proposed that, if a majority of workers sign the cards, the union gets in, period.

        I have two main objections to this. The first is: this is still America, and if you’re casting a vote, you should be granted a secret ballot. The card check already leaves employees open to intimidation, but if the card check were to become what determined unionization once and for all, unions would quickly discover that the best way to operate is to intimidate and pressure employees to sign that all-important card, at all costs. Now I grant you, a lot of unions would be too principled to do that — but at least some would not be, and what we would quickly see is an environment that helped the worst unions thrive while the better ones would either weaken or stop being more principled than they can afford.

        My second objection is that the period between the card check and the secret ballot election is useful: unions can promise the moon to workers without hearing any sort of rebuttal from the other side. I’ll have you know that King Beauregard was on the board of a hippietastic, labor-friendly food co-op when a group of workers decided to unionize — they didn’t have any actual grievances, they just felt that a union would be better — and sure enough they found a union that was willing to tell them exactly what they wanted to hear. Increased wages? You bet! A closer employee parking lot in the middle of a city where there was no available land? Um, sure, why not! But what about union dues? Don’t worry, union dues are voluntary! The period between the card check and the secret ballot was instrumental in dispelling a lot of the bullshit that was coming from the union, and when it came time for the secret ballot election, they lost in a landslide.

        I appreciate the goals of EFCA — trying to cut down the window of opportunity management has to squelch a union drive through illegal practices — but rather than make employers more honest, EFCA’s approach is to encourage dishonesty practices in unions. Whatever short term goals might be achieved through EFCA, its long-term impact would be to discredit unions, and kill Joe Hill in ways the copper bosses never could.


        • Yes! I loves me some good debatin’!

          Let me start where you ended. I declare that the attempt by anti-union forces to “discredit” unions is almost complete. At least here where I live. People, who know next to nothing about how unions really work, and who desperately need the bargaining power that they bring, hate them. That’s how well unions have been discredited. People aren’t just opposed to joining a union, they’re opposed to the very existence of unions for anyone. That is pretty much a propaganda coup. And I fail to see how card check will make things worse.

          But on to your points: I will first address your secret ballot concern. You said, “this is still America, and if you’re casting a vote, you should be granted a secret ballot.” Yeah, well, that would have been news to all those New Englanders in colonial times (and in some small towns today) who went (go) to town meetings and often voted (vote) right out there in the open for the entire community to see. Besides that, in the real world, in the process of organizing a union, by the time the thing is done, one way or the other, it isn’t much of a secret where the individual employees stand. Workroom floor chatter, breakroom discussions, management tactics designed to persuade workers not to join up or tactics that threaten this or that or that play up phony charges of union “bullying,” all together will have most workers openly revealing, one way or another, where they stand. In this special case of organizing the workplace, there isn’t much of a secret left.

          But beyond all that, your concern is intimidation. You mentioned that the initial card check already carries with it possibilities of intimidation and you claim that for some unscrupulous unions the temptation to intimidate would be too great to resist, should card check actually make the union the representative of employees. Okay, I’ll grant you that there are some bad actors out there. But the kind of intimidation, both overt and covert, that comes from management can’t be compared with one of your fellow workers urging you to vote in the union, or some union organizer standing outside the fence and trying to talk you (or even pressure you) into signing up.

          I’ve told this story before, but in the 1970s I worked for a garment manufacturer. In the employee handbook, the owner of the company explicitly said that if employees (mostly women) were to organize a union (a major fear in that industry), he would shut down the company. He explained that he had nothing to lose, since he owned the building and the sewing machines and other equipment outright. (I’m pretty sure the statement in the handbook was illegal under the NLRA, but I can’t say for sure. I was just a kid then and didn’t know anything about labor laws.) Now, you tell me what kind of intimidation coming from a union organizer or a fellow employee could match that? Directly threatening you with your job, or, more likely these days, indirectly threatening your job, is the ultimate intimidation and nothing, short of threatening your life, could compare to it. (This doesn’t even include management’s attempt to tell workers that the union “bosses” will control their lives and other bullshit.)

          So, even granting that there would be some, likely small, amount of intimidation on the union side, such intimidation wouldn’t even be in the same ballpark as what management could, and almost always does, employ. I can’t emphasize this point enough. There is not a level playing field in the industrial or other workplace setting. You know that management harasses organizers, threatens to fire them, in some cases does fire them for phony reasons. And good luck with filing an unfair labor practice charge against management. The law is notoriously weak, the enforcement is notoriously lacking, and management notoriously doesn’t really give a shit whether it has violated the law or not. There isn’t much of a price to pay compared with the price management would pay if it were forced to negotiate wages and benefits with a union.

          As to your second objection, notwithstanding your anecdotal evidence, my experience as a union officer was that the union often downplayed what it could accomplish. Workers who are organized often think the union can do more than it can actually do, since even with a collective bargaining agreement, management always has “the right to manage,” even “manage stupidly.” I often heard employees say, “Why can’t the union do anything about….” And I would say, “Look, management has the right to manage the place and I can’t make them manage it intelligently.” But you are right that before organization, in the selling phase, the union might promise more than it can deliver and that extra time before the actual vote does give them time to sell it, even oversell it. But, again, the opportunities for mischief by management don’t even compare to some over-promising by the union. Also, if you are worried about union intimidation, why wouldn’t your worries be multiplied if there were an interim period before an actual vote was conducted? It seems to me, with an existential vote pending, with everything riding on that particular vote, that the temptation for intimidation on the part of the union would be much greater and that, if you are worried about such intimidation, such a worry would be an argument in favor of card check authorization.

          Finally, I recognize the sacredness (at least as things have evolved) of the secret ballot. That is one of the objections advanced by those who (unlike you) vehemently oppose the goals of the EFCA. That argument is advanced precisely because of the value folks put on secret ballots and it is an effective argument for that reason and it thus serves the anti-union cause. However, unions, too, recognize the value of secret ballots (we use them), but I try to think of it this way: If a majority of workers have the guts to sign their names to a card authorizing a union, if a majority of people are willing to stick their heads out of the foxhole and risk getting shot at by management (or by other anti-union workers), why should there be yet another step in the process? Why should management be given time to hold “training” sessions or “informational” meetings that are simply ways to tell lies about union membership or subtly or not so subtly suggest to the workers that the union will end up killing their jobs? Why, under such circumstances, should management be given the opportunity to use real, concrete, ultimately devastating intimidation tactics to stop the certification of a union, when a majority had the courage to express themselves openly?

          For me, the fact that a majority of workers are willing to put their names on a card, for all the world to see, that majority ought to be rewarded for it by getting the union representation they want.



          • King Beauregard

             /  December 19, 2013

            “Besides that, in the real world, in the process of organizing a union, by the time the thing is done, one way or the other, it isn’t much of a secret where the individual employees stand.”

            So employees who don’t want to take a public stand either way are SOL? That ain’t right.

            And the secret ballot DOES take away the power of intimidation; it allows employees to tell anyone whatever they want to hear, while voting their consciences, whether the secret ballot election is held one week or one year later. In the case of my anecdotal story, some employees who signed the card count came up to the GM of the co-op the next day and told him they didn’t like the union but were pressured into signing. Unions can intimidate employees too — and by the way, that is also an employee’s defense for signing the card, if they ever feel threatened by management.

            You say the laws constraining management are weak; I don’t know if that’s the case, so much as the task of managing inherently grants management all kinds of loopholes that nobody has yet figured out how to close. For example, it’s illegal to fire anyone for union activity, so if you fire a single pro-union employee it looks suspicious; management can instead decide to close that employee’s entire department on grounds of redundancy. What sort of law can you possibly come up with to prevent that? Even with a union in place, management can decide it needs to close a department; “just cause” can mean so many things. Or whispering campaigns to make an employee feel uncomfortable: how do you police that?


          • King Beauregard

             /  February 5, 2014

            Weeks later, I’ve thought of a positive change in the law, which serves to improve information to workers while reducing the chances of intimidation. Take away employers’ right to hold workday meetings or assemblies for the purpose of expressing the pro-management perspective, and replace it with written materials, Internet videos, and the like.

            Even 20 years ago, this wouldn’t have been a realistic approach, it would have been tantamount to taking away management’s voice. But these days we’ve got the technology and the easy Internet access to make it possible for management to make their points in a way where intimidation is effectively impossible. It would also put management’s words in the public eye, so that threats / intimidation / promises / spying would be very easy to document.


  4. Sedate Me

     /  December 18, 2013

    First off, Edward Snowden doesn’t live in Russia. He lives right here in Canuckistan. In fact, he lives across the street from me. I’m NOT shitting you! It’s either him, or a stunt-double FAR better than Saddam ever had. He’s the spitting image of the man; right down to the glasses, that half-assed facial hair and the fancy murse he carries his gadgets in. Perhaps this is why I’m more sensitive about drones than ever before. I’m just not that keen on being declared “collateral damage” an “enemy combatant”, seeing as I’m a male of military age. (Because that’s how drone stats are compiled…and then kept secret.) For crying out loud, my neighbourhood already has dumb-ass punks who think flashing a bunch of laser-pointers on the foreheads & torsos of pedestrians is funny.

    As Obama’s press secretary Jay Carney—one of our guys, by the way—reminded us yesterday about Snowden: “ some generic bullshittery designed to portray dissent as criminal, unpatriotic, behaviour

    Our guys? Excellent! Exactly what we need, more Team Blue vs Team Red when the reality of the situation is more like Team Military Industrial Spy Complex vs The Insignificant Suckers Who Pay The Bills.

    Jay Carney is a sock puppet. If I were President, I’d make him read dirty limericks to the Press Corpse (sic) every day and he’d do it with either faux concern or an emotionless smile on his face, depending on which side the coin I tossed landed on. Outside of the partisan “news” channels who’d promote/ condemn me according to my party affiliation, the press would regurgitate it faithfully without asking many questions or (profit forbid!) any in-depth investigation.

    I’m really tired of the shoot-the-messenger gymnastics regarding Snowden (Assange, & Manning). Lefties are expected to rally to defend Obama and attack Snowden because he’s some kind of selfish Libertarian kook. (Is there any other kind?) Righties who would normally consider Snowden a dangerous traitor exposing vital secrets (few of which are surprising), consider Snowden a friend-of-convenience in the War On Obama. Everything in Washington, even menu choices or light bulb purchases, now has to be framed as a partisan battle for control. However, the truth is that it doesn’t matter much which party is in charge. They all do what they’re “advised” to by the very people running this snoop-fest. Colour me surprised when their advice is to allow them do whatever they want “because every American life is constantly under threat, sir.”

    The only way anything might improve is if the courts decide to save us from our own stupidity (don’t hold your breath) and make the right call, as this ruling seems to. This driftnet fishing approach is as much a violation of rights as it is pointless & expensive. The Security State is so bloated, so unchallenged and the budget so bottomless, it’s become distracted. Like giving school kids free iPads and expecting them to be used only for school work instead of 8 hours a day of playing Angry Birds and taking up-skirt shots, our irrational fears of the goat herding Muslim hoards has handed the Security State everyone’s iPad. Not surprisingly, they’re wasting a lot of time & money playing 6 Degrees of Osama Bin Bacon with French vineyard workers, Montana cowboys and Polish bathroom attendants. So much so, they can’t stop a guy from lighting his underwear on fire even when his family is begging them to do something about him.

    On the upside, my ballooning Military-Industrial-Spy-Complex stock portfolio will allow me to retire decades earlier than planned.

    ” But the kind of heroes I studied in history didn’t worry about themselves as much as they worried about the cause they were fighting for…”

    If that’s your “hero” threshold, I suppose you’re really impressed by suicide bombers -eh?

    Welcome to 21st century North America, Duane. Nobody studies history anymore, never mind avoids repeating past mistakes. And NOBODY is willing to sacrifice anything, no matter how serious the cause/problem. (See: Climate Change) Like it or not, this Snowden dork is about as “heroic” as you’re probably ever going to get again. Do you really expect better from anyone younger than The Greatest Generation? Pshaw! If you’re young enough to figure out how to operate modern tech-devices, you’re too young to know how to spell the word “sacrifice”, let alone make one. Snowden could probably get into the upper 1 percentile of “heroic tendencies” just for logging off Loserbook long enough to go vote.

    To me, a hero ain’t nothin’ but a sandwich. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Hero_Ain%27t_Nothin%27_but_a_Sandwich_%28film%29 As such, I don’t consider Snowden a hero. I consider Snowden a guy who took a big risk to let the public know some things they should have known all along; things that should have been debated & designed in public (and legally cleared) before they started. If something that basic requires a “Hero”, we are truly screwed.


    • I appreciate the time it took to put your well-written (and entertaining) response together.

      1) We all have Ed Snowden look-alikes in our hood. It’s the government’s way of watering down the import of his revelations. Pretty clever, if you ask me.

      2) Yep, I am on Team Blue. You see, there is something I like about being on a team, at least when there is a game being played. And if you don’t think there is a game being played, with lots at stake, then I guess you have a different view of politics than I have.

      3) You said, “Lefties are expected to rally to defend Obama and attack Snowden because he’s some kind of selfish Libertarian kook.” No. I don’t expect lefties to rally to reflexively defend Obama at all. I just expect lefties to realize that Obama is not their enemy. So many of them do, you know. Just visit a few of the hard-core sites and you’ll see what I mean. And I also don’t expect lefties to attack Snowden. Just don’t turn him into some kind of folk hero while he’s sitting in Moscow trying to trade his classified knowledge for a day (or life) on the beach in Brazil, that’s all. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, do you? For the record, I don’t fashion him a “selfish Libertarian kook.” I don’t know what he is. But I’d like to find out. The only way of doing that is for him to come back home and face the music. Then he can demonstrate to us what kind of guy he is. He might convince me his motives are as pure as the wind-driven snow. Who knows. But as long as he is willing to continue to do damage to his country (after he has made his point), I ain’t buyin’ what he’s sellin’.

      4). You also said, “the truth is that it doesn’t matter much which party is in charge.” Oh, yeah? Have you forgotten the Bush administration already? The Reagan years? I don’t have enough time to compare and contrast, but the old “both sides are equally guilty” meme is demonstrably false. But it sounds good rolling off the tongue, or the fingers. It allows one to avoid being on that Blue or Red team and merely sit in the stands and throw rocks at both combatants. And they are, at times and in important ways, combatants, you know. Even though there is some overlap–after all, we are all Americans, right?–one side is flying one policy flag and one side is flying another. It matters to me which flag prevails, even though at times I get pissed off at the guys waving the flag I like. The flags they fly represent their vision for the country, and if you don’t think the current vision of the Republican Party is fundamentally at odds with the current vision of the Democratic Party, no words from me will persuade you. It is axiomatic, as far as I’m concerned.

      5. You presented me with somewhat of a contradiction. You cite the recent federal judge’s decision as evidence that the courts just might “save us from our stupidity.” Then you say that the Security State is “unchallenged.” I’m not sure that computes. It has been challenged for years and finally, some right-wing nut got a federal judge to say that the collecting of mass amount of data (not even usable unless there is some probable cause to examine it in detail) might be unconstitutional. It didn’t help that the government put on such a poor case, at least from what I’ve read. Perhaps the government’s heart isn’t really in it anymore, or maybe it really is “distracted” as you say. Either way, the Security State is on the run right now, as both the right and left are after it (as you suggest). Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it isn’t. Time will tell. In the mean time, I haven’t lost a minute’s sleep thinking about all my emails resting comfortably on some server somewhere, waiting for the government to find out I’ve been peeping at and forwarding to my wife funny Dachshund pics.

      6) Good luck with your early retirement, even though you will have obtained it through apparently personally disreputable means!

      7) As for heroes, I don’t have a hard time distinguishing between people who fly planes into crowded buildings in order to please Allah, and people who die on foreign battlefields to save the world from, say, Nazis. I do, though, have a hard time figuring out if Sam Adams was a no good terrorist or an American hero. I admit I need help with that one.

      8) Finally, some partial agreement: the public should have known that the government, especially after 9/11, was taking all that terrorist bidness seriously. Seriously enough to try to stop it. And I agree (as does Obama) that the balance between security and liberty should be debated publicly, just so long as we can agree that there is in fact a “balance” to be had. Sometimes I wonder if you think we actually have enemies that our national security agencies can help defend us from.

      In any case, I do appreciate your way with words, even if I don’t share your crusty cynicism.



      • And please let me also say — in the spirit of the season and this mightly blog — (smiling and weeping slightly) I love you guys! Where else, but in America and this (The Erstwhile Conservative) noble endeavor can an old PR hack like myself get to gobble up the thoughtful and deliciously clever wordsmithing of this crew of talented and insightful citizens. I DO enjoy and appreciate all your good work. Thanks for letting me listen in.


        • Just when I was getting ready to rip you over that Game of Thrones reference, you had to go and say something nice!

          I return your platonic love, my friend. Advancing in age and thus in need of constant mental exercise, I am daily stimulated by the conversations we have on here and the challenging thinkers involved. Thanks for participating and contributing to the excellence.

          In the name of Bill O’Reilly, Happy Holidays!



  5. I certainly think Snowden would be a lot more admirable if he’d could come home and face the music for what he did. Civil disobedience implies willing taking the legal consequences of your action until the law is changed, not hiding in another country.


  6. henrygmorgan

     /  December 19, 2013

    Duane: One of the hardest tasks I ever faced as a teacher was getting my classes to understand that Henry David Thoreau, did indeed argue that if a person deems a law, rule, or practice to be morally unsound, he or she had an obligation to oppose that law, rule, or practice. That part of the argument was easy; the hard part was getting the students to understand that Thoreau also said that we had to be willing to accept the consequences of our act, that that willingness to accept the consequences was the price we have to pay to validate our action. Hence, Thoreau’s famous jailing for refusing to pay his taxes to a government that entered war with Mexico. Emerson’s famous visit to the jail and his question, “Why Henry, why are you here?” and Thoreau’s classic answer, “Why Waldo, why aren’t you?” clearly demonstrate the strength of Thoreau’s argument.

    Snowden has been willing to accept no consequences for his actions; to the contrary, he has done everything in his power to avoid it. His refusal makes his actions cowardly, not heroic.
    Henry Morgan


    • King Beauregard

       /  December 19, 2013

      Thoreau spent one night in jail, and capitalized handsomely off that night for the rest of his life. Yeah, I’m a cynic.


      • Yeah. I’m a cynic, too. Surely we’ve all noted over the years how peace activists get prosecuted by the local police. We saw abuse a-plenty with OWS. I do not begrudge Snowden’s survival instincts. He’s at least a damn sight smarter than Game of Thrones “hero” Eddard Stark. Think Snowden would get his head lopped off if he played the “honor-obsessed” hero straight out of a wordy novel? You betchua. But, honestly, it sounds like that what some people want. Snowden’s acts have no less value to society because he sought cover. NSA spying and actions of that ilk are insideous. They don’t taper-off well. Think it would have worked out to get al-Bashir to slow down the slaughter in Sudan to say 500 a week for a few months and then down to 250 a week for a few months, etc.? Oh, right — that DIDN’T work. The NSA and its international kin need ardent exposure and disposal. At least now more people know some of what’s happening.

        But — this discussion has been interesting, hasn’t it?


    • Henry,

      Thanks for making exactly, and much more succinctly, the point I was trying to make.

      When I was a teenager drifting through high school, I became a fan of Thoreau. I had this strange desire to go out into the woods and live like he had lived at Walden Pond. Don’t know where that came from (since I was raised in town), but he either created or (more likely) validated my lust for non-comformity at the time. The amazing thing is, when I was a right-wing conservative, I still felt like I was a non-conformist. I felt like I was still swimming against the tide. And when I began to reject conservatism, I also felt like I was bucking the trend because at the time (around the time Bush came into power) conservatism seemed to have a lock on things. In any case, I am glad you brought Thoreau up in this context. His defense and explanation of secular-based, as opposed to religion-based, civil disobedience cannot be ignored, even though some might disagree with parts of his reasoning. He has thus been a part of subsequent history, as various dissenters used him as their inspiration to challenge injustice.

      But one thing I think folks forget about Thoreau, especially related to his amazing essay on civil disobedience, is that he was not one of those people who thought it wise to make a career out of such disobedience. Living life was his primary thing. “I came into this world, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it, be it good or bad.” Now, it is true that for some people life forces them into chiefly making “this a good place to live in” because the injustices are so great. And it is a tribute to him, as well as something of a paradox, that so many of those people, the Ghandis and Kings and Mandelas and other life-giving activists, found so much inspiration in his little essay, and in a man that Emerson eulogized as, at least to some degree, a “hermit and stoic.”



  7. I have much enjoyed the back and forth by all you very literate and sensible guys on the Snowden and other topics. You haven’t left much for this onlooker to add, except perhaps to observe that Snowden remains an enigma. To me he seems too young to be purely an idealist in committing his momentous act, but I can’t deny the possibility. He’s clearly an egghead in several ways, including getting hired by the NSA without a college degree, so maybe he is some kind of new Thoreau. I have read no evidence that he profited financially from his act. As several of you pointed out to Duane, who opines differently, Snowden can hardly be blamed for not coming home to certain harsh punishment and likely life imprisonment. If he is an altruist, continued communication would be important to him and they would have him sealed tighter than a sardine.

    I agree with Duane that the Democrat party ought not be seen as making some kind of hero out of Snowden. Too much mischief has already been committed in the name of blind patriotism and that would merely enable more of it. It just might be that justice is adequately served in the status quo. Snowden has forfeited his citizenship and his own culture, not to mention his girl friend and family. He’s a Phillip Nowlan.


  8. henrygmorgan

     /  December 20, 2013

    King: Would, say, 27 years in jail, oh, on a remote island somewhere, have more completely validated his case? Henry


  9. johnx

     /  January 3, 2014

    Show me where you challenged the NSA and such before Snowden and it will bolster your credibility.

    The fact is that without him pointing stuff out, we would be presuming the emporer was clothed.


    • I never challenged the NSA before because I assumed it was doing all, or at least most, of the things Snowden revealed. And I don’t have a problem with the things it was doing, at least in terms of the aggregate collection of data, data that has no meaning without mining it for details. And that mining operation, whenever it occurs, ought to be overseen by courts. To the extent the courts are not doing their jobs in that regard, I have a problem with it. Otherwise, it doesn’t bother me. We give out private information almost mindlessly to private entities every day and no one blinks an eye. The minute someone finds out the government is stockpiling phone records then some folks lose their common sense.


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