Day 1006

Friday, October 16, 2015

Racquetball in the morning from 5-6:45, then home to write until 6.  It had been years since my dear friend Jeff and I got into an email war, but I encouraged one after Tuesday's debate and Jeff delivered.  He's such a good friend.  I got the ball rolling with this to the Bham crowd:

"Remember our Clinton/Obama debate emails back in '07 and '08?  Is it me or do they feel like another lifetime ago?

Has the world always been this scary or are we just getting older?  Damn!  Build a "Great Wall" across the US/Mexico border?  Good to know channeling Genghis Khan plays so well with the GOP.

As for the "grownup" debate last Tuesday...

Hillary Clinton's Edward Snowden response was so profoundly on the wrong side of history, and yet, given her frustrating flaws, it was sweet seeing her A game as she rendered the boys (Webb, O'Malley, Chafee) totally obsolete and the truth-telling "socialist" sage (Sanders)  progressively on point but ultimately impractical for a party that finds the extremist fearmongering and neo-fascist Republican rhetoric beyond tiresome (and actually quite scary).  I hope Clinton continues to stay sharp and aggressive.  She's far from ideal, but given the choices we have, I see no other option.  Barring any further unforced errors, I think it's her time.  Go Hillary!

Any other views out there or are we all pretty much on the same page here?  Jeff, any other viable option?"

Jeff wrote:

"Snowden?  The only one on the stage that called him hero was Lincoln Chaffe.  Even the only guy who voted against the Patriot Act, Bernie knows he belongs in prison. And for good reasons.

And I say that as someone who considers Daniel Ellsberg a hero and supported privacy reform for US citizen surveillance long before Snowden supposedly outed NSA meta-data surveillance.

Snowden was a pure Casablanca moment in this country - "shocked just shocked that surveillance is going on here."  I mean the US government's access to your emails and wireless communication is about the most benign set of people who have access.  At least you are still protected but a whole array of uses of that information.  The biggest problem with US access to that data was mentioned by the Jim Webb.  It's storage means someone really bad might steal it!   Ignoring the fact that really bad people already can get at it and regularly do.

99% of Snowden leak content wise was not about the NSA meta data program - most of it was garden variety intelligence gathering that was neither illegal nor immoral - the revelation of which makes every person in the world less safe.  He applied for the job solely to access that information.  He lied to get his clearance.  He violated his oath and contract.  he lied and made illegal requests while employed to get to the data he wanted.   He immediately within hours of the leak went to China (that big human rights center of the world LOL) and shared the information with one of the biggest threats to world security there is and then days later went and shared it with Russia where he is being protected.   Putin?  Yeah another glowing icon of human rights, democracy and world peace.

Michael - even Bernie thinks you are nuts."

I responded:

"Parcher, you're a true friend.  You knew exactly what I was craving and you delivered!

We share so much in common.  Our love of America...our support of Hillary...our deep respect and affection for Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.  Here's what Ellsberg said about Edward Snowden in the Guardian last June:  "He should get a Nobel peace prize and he should get asylum in a west European country." (

In Tuesday night's debate, Sanders said, "I think Snowden played a very important role in educating the American people to the degree in which our civil liberties and our constitutional rights are being undermined.  He did break the law, and I think there should be a penalty to that. But I think what he did in educating us should be taken into consideration.”

In January 2014, Sanders said, "In my view, the interests of justice would be best served if our government granted him [Snowden] some form of clemency or a plea agreement that would spare him a long prison sentence or permanent exile from the country whose freedoms he cared enough about to risk his own freedom."

During Tuesday's debate, Chafee said, "The American government was acting illegally.  That’s what the federal courts have said; what Snowden did showed that the American government was acting illegally for the Fourth Amendment. So I would bring him home.”

Here's what Clinton said of Snowden:  "He broke the laws of the United States. He could have been a whistle-blower. He could have gotten all of the protections of being a whistle-blower. He could have raised all the issues that he has raised. And I think there would have been a positive response to that...In addition, he stole very important information that has unfortunately fallen into a lot of the wrong hands. So I don’t think he should be brought home without facing the music.”

John Cassidy in The New Yorker wrote on Wednesday, "From a civil-liberties perspective—and a factual perspective—Clinton’s answers were disturbing enough that they warrant parsing."   (

I shared your "Casablanca" attitude re Snowden, privacy and government surveillance until I read Glenn Greenwald's "No Place to Hide."  It was the sheer scale and magnitude of the NSA's surveillance programs that had me so dumbstruck.  It felt like a total gutting of American civil liberties and the United States Constitution.  At least we're all talking about privacy as an issue, thanks to Snowden.  Yes, he knowingly broke the law, but the way he went about revealing his information was far better than a Wikileaks data dump or any disingenuous whistle-blower trap Clinton so cunningly talks about (Snowden couldn't have chosen better journalists than Glenn Greenwald and Oscar-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras to bring out the truth.)  You should feel very proud of your former student, Jeff.  He's been arguing and debating civil liberties, privacy rights and the principles of our Constitution with all the pro-NSA anti-Snowden hawks and totally sweeping the floor with all of them.  He learned from the best and it shows!

Your assertion that Snowden went to China and shared information with the Chinese is factually wrong.  He flew to Hong Kong knowing the US government would be on his ass the millisecond they realized what he'd done.  That's why he met Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras at his Hong Kong hotel (haven't you seen "Citizen Four" yet?).

Your assertion that Snowden then went to Russia to share information with the Russians is also factually wrong.  Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow enroute to a South American country seeking asylum, but the US annulled his passport at the Moscow airport and put pressure on Cuba not to allow any plane holding Snowden to land.  One month later, Snowden was granted asylum in Russia, where he still lives today.  How ironic.

When the dust of Snowden story eventually settles, maybe twenty years from now, Snowden will be seen as a hero.  Clinton is on the wrong side of history on this one (just like she was in 2003).  But for the time being, who cares.  She's our girl and she needs to continue kicking ass!"

Jeff responded:

"Glenn's an old friend of mine.  And not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.  If a Republican is elected in 2016 he's going to be joining Snowden in federal prison I suspect.

My Casablanca point isn't that the surveillance wasn't massive.  It's that Americans already KNEW or ASSUMED it was massive.  And they don't care.  Government reading of emails is soon going to be seen as walking through a body scan.  A necessary violation of privacy.  I don;t want that world - but its coming.

Let me group all of your stuff and challenge you with this: name one person hurt by the NSA surveillance program?  A person you know thrown in jail or whose reputation was destroyed illegally or who lost something.

I'll concede to you that flying to the China protectorate had the additional motive of saving his ass - but the real question is why did they let him in?  Why did they refuse extradition?  What did Snowden give them in exchange for protection from the U.S.?   Do you naively think China wanted to know just how extensively Americans were being watched or do you think maybe China was interested in the other 99% of the data?????

The naive notion (absurdly constructed by Glenn who should never play in my business - ie spin) that Russia just happened to be the stopover point enroute to Cuba is well - come on dude.  Cuba doesn't give in to US pressure - you don't need a US passport to enter Cuba.  Russia wanted Snowden.  Do we really have to guess as to why?????

As to the wrong side of history.  I'm pretty doubtful that we are entering a renaissance age of privacy delivered by Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald. The attacks coming from inside and outside of this country will have people begging more than ever to give up the privacy they already care very little about.

Ellsburg didn't run to North Vietnam.  He didn't issue silly statements of praise for monstrous human rights violators like Putin and Xi.

Ellsburg stood his ground.  And stood trial. And fought his case under the rules of democracy.  And he proved democracy works.  That option is no longer available for to Snowden because unlike Ellsburg he acted like a traitor and hence is likely to be treated like one."

I responded:

"Time for a bet:

In October, 2035, if Snowden is seen more as a hero than a traitor, you're buying me dinner.
In October, 2035, if Snowden is seen more as a traitor than a hero, I'm buying you dinner.

If Glenn Greenwald was a dull bulb when you knew him back in college, these days he's grown to become a very bright star atop your Christmas tree.  He's become an articulate pitbull when debating privacy issues and civil liberties.  I've watched many of his debates on YouTube and I find him persuasive and impressive.  He's also a strong writer.  I think your good friend deserves a re-evaluation.

In answering your question re "Name one person hurt by the NSA surveillance program?  A person you know thrown in jail or whose reputation was destroyed illegally or who lost something," I'll let Glenn Greenwald speak to that, since he wrote a long piece in Salon about Laura Poitras more than a year before Snowden handed over his NSA cache to Greenwald and Poitras in Hong Kong.

Nope, I don't see Snowden as the villain here.  He affected change and that's a start.  At least he cared enough to do something.  He's a hero.  Yes, he broke the law, but so did Martin Luther King back in the '60s."

When Jeff and I go at it, to me it means the presidential election season has officially begun.

After 6, I made mashed potatoes and headed over to Mark Slatter's for his annual poker party complete with steaks and wine.  I was there until midnight playing with bad cards.  I think I won two pots and that was it.  I only ended up losing $10, so that was something.  I came home after midnight and immediately went to sleep.  Tomorrow's the big doubles tournament at Active Sports. 

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