Off the Grid: A Good Time for Bad News

My take on Snowden, Iraq, dope-smoking columnists, and “Duck Dynasty.”

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 09: Jase Robertson and Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty visit 'Late Night With Jimmy Fallon' at Rockefeller Center on September 9, 2013 in New York City.
National Journal
Ron Fournier
Jan. 6, 2014, 5:26 a.m.

Back on the grid and catch­ing up on hol­i­day-sea­son news:

“Ed­ward Snowden, Whistle-Blower” ““ In a Jan. 1 ed­it­or­i­al, The New York Times urged the gov­ern­ment to of­fer Snowden “a plea bar­gain or some form of clem­ency” for ex­pos­ing the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency’s sur­veil­lance op­er­a­tions. My view has been con­sist­ent since the scan­dal’s out­break:  Snowden is neither a hero nor a trait­or (“Why I Don’t Care About Ed­ward Snowden“).

He is a du­pli­cit­ous me­ga­lo­ma­ni­ac who ex­posed le­git­im­ate in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions. Like Fred Ka­plan of Slate, I be­lieve the ed­it­or­i­al glosses over Snowden’s less-than-hon­or­able ac­tions (read Ka­plan’s even-handed ana­lys­is here).  At the same time, Snowden re­vealed NSA sur­veil­lance of Amer­ic­an cit­izens that is far great­er than ac­know­ledged by the U.S. gov­ern­ment or per­mit­ted by the secret FISA court. His ef­forts may lead to crit­ic­al re­forms. He ex­posed our lead­ers’ lies.

Snowden shouldn’t be charged with treas­on, as NSA loy­al­ists in­sist. Nor should he go un­pun­ished. A thought: What is the stand­ard pen­alty for ly­ing to Con­gress? Let’s in­dict and try Dir­ect­or of Na­tion­al In­tel­li­gence James Clap­per for his in­ex­cus­able lie dur­ing con­gres­sion­al testi­mony about NSA’s data col­lec­tion, and then have him share his sen­tence (if not a jail cell) with Snowden.

“Al-Qaida-linked Force Cap­tures Fal­lul­jah Amid Rise in Vi­ol­ence in Ir­aq” ““ Con­ser­vat­ives seized on this tra­gic news as evid­ence that Pres­id­ent Obama’s stra­tegic with­draw­al from Ir­aq has failed. Time may prove them right. The pres­id­ent and his team have been less than deft in car­ry­ing out his 2008 man­date to pull out of Ir­aq. But his­tory has already proved Pres­id­ent Bush and con­ser­vat­ives wrong for go­ing to war against Ir­aq in the first place — un­der false pre­tenses (there were no weapons of mass de­struc­tion) and muted motives (it’s clear now that Bush and his team ex­ploited 9/11 to topple Sad­dam Hus­sein).

“De Bla­sio Draws All Lib­er­al Eyes to New York City” ““ Bill De Bla­sio’s vic­tory doesn’t ne­ces­sar­ily por­tend a lib­er­al groundswell na­tion­ally. It may not even change things in New York. It’s one elec­tion, people, a shift away from three-term may­or Mi­chael Bloomberg. To be sure, a weak eco­nomy, in­come in­equal­ity, and fal­ter­ing so­cial mo­bil­ity cre­ate a fa­vor­able na­tion­al en­vir­on­ment for pop­u­list can­did­ates. But mad-as-hell pop­u­lism could emerge just as eas­ily from the right as the left.

“A&E Wel­comes Phil Robertson Back to Duck Dyn­asty” ”“ This story ex­posed the enorm­ous em­pathy gap between blue and red Amer­ica. Many con­ser­vat­ives don’t seem to un­der­stand that free­dom of speech is a pro­tec­tion against gov­ern­ment cen­sor­ship, rather than a li­cense to es­pouse bigotry. Phil Robertson’s re­marks about ho­mo­sexu­als and minor­it­ies war­rant con­dem­na­tion.

Many lib­er­als don’t seem to un­der­stand why a show like Duck Dyn­asty is so pop­u­lar. What at­tracts people is not ra­cism or buf­foon­ery; it’s the very re­lat­able dy­nam­ic of a quasi-dys­func­tion­al fam­ily stick­ing to­geth­er des­pite their quirks and dis­putes. At the end of each epis­ode, the fam­ily gath­ers for din­ner and prays.

 “Weed: Been There, Done That” ““ A Col­or­ado law leg­al­iz­ing the re­cre­ation­al use of marijuana caused a spate of colum­nists to ad­mit their dal­li­ances with dope.  Good time to be off the grid.

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