It's not a secret that ideology divides much of Daily Kos these days.
This division results in two sides, factions or tribes. The easiest way to tell them apart is probably their respective view of the President of the United States. Convenience, laziness or utter disgusted frustration, take your pick, calls them – us – Roxers and Suxers. We are proud peoples, locked in battle.
Well, at least my tribe is proud. The other side, probably because they live in holes down by the river and subsist mainly on snails, is angry and bitter, not worth listening to. They are also wrong, on everything, always, a Platonic Ideal of Wrong. Which is why we, the good, smart, not-wrong people, fight them. Rumor has it they feel the same way about us, not that we care what the snail-gobblers think. Like I said, they are always wrong. Wretched hole dwellers.
Forgive the sarcasm, please. I'm not actually writing this with the intent of attacking anyone or wasting your time. Nor is there a mantle of sainthood I could credibly claim in talking about this fight. What I have learned is that some enemies aren't, that we have common ground, and now is the time to seek it. A time to stop fucking around and get serious.
Say, about the NSA spying scandal.
Per whistle-blower Ed Snowden, the NSA, an agency within the Executive Branch of the United States government, is developing and exercising the capability to look at the electronic data of every American and indeed, the rest of the world. This agency is creating a tool, in secret, that could fundamentally transform this country; Daniel Ellsberg speaks of a turn-key police state. This tool is already in use, facts about it knowingly misrepresented to Congress, something I seem to recall used to be called perjury. NSA's activities could well be in violation of the Fourth Amendment. I wasn't aware 'Amendment" meant 'Suggestion' back in the day.
The international standing and alliances of the United States have been damaged by this leak, and it is entirely likely that U.S. business interests abroad have been and will continue to be damaged as well. Trust in government in this country is already at historic lows, at the very least, these revelations will not improve it.
It's that bad.
As problems go, I'd say we're somewhere in the You-Have-Got-To-Be-Fucking-Kidding-Me class of problems. To be clear: there is no question in my mind that the President, to be blunt, fucked up. As did his administration. Arguing about the definition of whistleblower or ripping a journalist in Brazil doesn't void the fuckup.
I cannot, and will not, defend or excuse it. Anyone looking for an apologia, sorry to disappoint. I may change my mind, but let me finish the howling in rage thing I'm doing before I get back to you.
That does not change the mistake it is to make this a debate about the merits of the personalities involved. Barack Obama could just be here on loan from his angel duties in heaven for all I care, Edward Snowden fuck goats and various other livestock companions in the middle of Red Square in broad daylight, neither would matter.
The capability of our government to spy on its people, that's what matters. Lying to Congress because terror sets a reckless precedent I don't even have the language for.
Rox vs. Sux is great for flamewars. Not for analysis.
Policy does trump personality.
Which is why this card-carrying fanboy left the comfort zone of friendly opinion and crossed enemy lines. Not an easy journey, or for that matter, initially well received. There is too much poison in the air between us, poison I've added to myself, to expect otherwise. Obama critics are free to doubt my sincerity in this writing, by the way. Suspect timing at the least. A hoax, perhaps, another distraction in the ongoing meta-war.
He was kind enough to send me this as well:
An appeal to my fellow administration critics:I'll say this as a Roxer with impeccable credentials: I'm willing, we should all be, to find that common language and purpose. Our government is spying on us. Building the capacity to do so more rigorously. We can honorably disagree on the merits of this President. We cannot tolerate our rights being infringed. If that's not reason to seek common ground, what is?
NSA domestic surveillance programs have become the latest political chew toy being fought over in our never-ending pie wars. This issue is too important for that. It is imperative that every member of this community -- and every citizen of this country -- joins together in unison to deliver the message to our government that the programs recently revealed are unacceptable and go beyond the limit of what the Constitution permits. In order to give this message the power it must have, we must put aside our squabbles and find a way to come together in a common purpose.
MBNYC is reaching out to the administration's friends here, hoping to allow them to have a dialogue out of which we may find a common language with which to speak to our leaders, clearly and unmistakeably. Please, PLEASE allow the administration's friends to have this conversation. Avoid the temptation to squabble over personalities. Do not bring past grudges in here. There are plenty of other opportunities to do that. Engage helpfully, constructively and with open heart, or sit back and let them work it out for themselves. Time is growing short for us to influence change on this vitally important issue, and we must seize our opportunity. United we can be powerful; divided we will be irrelevant.
And if someone of Dallasdoc's obvious integrity and insight is foe not friend, whatever the pretext, something is wrong. Too wrong to be justified, only regretted. Like I said: we all lose.
The President is asking for trust on the issue of domestic surveillance. Why don't we ask him instead to prove that we're still a nation of laws, not of men? A new web site for the NSA is a great idea; as an official response to what we now know about the agency's activities and abilities, it is laughably insufficient bordering on offensive.
Espionage is and always has been a tool of statecraft; Julius Caesar had spies. I have no issue with espionage as a concept or knowing that this country engages in it, as other nations do as well. I do expect, we all should, that it not explode into a global PR debacle. Reminder: the idea of spying is to benefit the nation, not turn it into the laughingstock of the entire planet. Kind of like it just did.
We have a new consumer watchdog at the Federal level, the CFPB. Why not a privacy watchdog? It might be helpful to create an Information Commissioners Office modeled on that in the United Kingdom. ICO is part of the Ministry of Justice and tasked with securing Britons’ privacy and, neat bonus, promote government transparency. The president has called for greater oversight and transparency. Wonderful. Make it happen, sir.
If only for the surely spectacular tea party explosion of crazy a Privacy Office would cause. Now that would be epic entertainment.
Congress makes paralytic stupor look like an Ibiza nightclub with free cocaine, but here’s a crazy theory: nobody actually wants to get wiretapped. This is one of those really basic assumptions I’d guess aren’t even polled, comparable to “Do you like food?”. The recent close defeat of Conyers-Amash indicates that the House could pass a bill to protect privacy with some prodding and if the White House gets out of the way. We as citizens would even get the added benefit of seeing those lobbyists-in-waiting do some work for their paychecks.
The FISA Court? John Roberts is packing it with right-wing judges. Simple fix: If this court has indeed evolved into a second Supreme Court, as if one weren’t bad enough, then use the same process to seat judges on both courts. Still no guarantee of better outcomes, but again personally, if I'm going to get screwed, I prefer to know who's doing it, not to get fucked in the dark.
Just some ideas for the here and now. But what really terrifies me, and should terrify you as well, all of us really, is what the future may hold if we do not act. Forget this President and think maybe two or three down the line. Love him or hate him, President Obama will leave office. And then what?
Modern U.S. history has patterns. One of them is a steady waxing of Presidential power. Arthur Schlesinger coined the term Imperial Presidency in 1973, for something that has existed in embryonic form since at least Theodore Roosevelt, became manifest in the FDR/Truman administrations, and has only grown stronger since. The Executive Branch, regardless of who happens to head it, accrues power steadily, relinquishes it seldom if at all. This process has been going on for generations, drip by steady drip, largely unnoticed and I’d guess, unlikely to stop anytime soon.
Obama's successors, whoever they will be, will inherit the infrastructure and regulatory environment being built right now around the NSA. It is critical, no, of absolutely historic importance, that we get this framework right. The NSA will not be abolished, if anything, it will grow. So will its capabilities assuming just the normal operation of Moore's Law.
We’ve had 44 presidents, will have many more, and have mostly been lucky in our choices. But there is no historical rule that a Nixon or a Bush represent a floor in terms of executive depravity.
We could see worse. Let's limit the tools they could use against our kids.