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)

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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