Some days the news is just too much of not enough. (More)
For example, if you follow Memeorandum or have any conservative friends on social media, you’ve probably read about The Biggest Scandal Ever … “Worse Than Watergate!” … President Obama ordering the NSA and FBI to wiretap thousands or millions of innocent U.S. citizens. That hogwash is wingnut spin on a story broken by the New York Times and Washington Post – which wingnuts now insist the Times and Post have ignored.
It’s a complicated story that dates back to the 2001 STELLARWIND project, which authorized the NSA to conduct wide-ranging surveillance of ‘foreign targets’ (cough) in defiance of statutory and FISA Court limits. The Bush administration got Congress and the FISA Court to sign off on the program in 2007. The (cough) because the program not only let the NSA vacuum up internet and phone records by those ‘foreign targets’ but also records about those targets … including thousands of domestic emails, chats, and phone calls between Americans, as the NSA admitted to the FISA Court in 2011.
The court said that violated the Fourth Amendment and the NSA agreed to a rule that forbade them from searching their raw database – supplied by “backbone” telecoms like AT&T and Verizon – for records of domestic communications. But a 2016 Inspector General Report found that “[NSA] Controls for Monitoring Query Compliance Have Not Been Fully Developed.” In other words, procedures to monitor violations of that FISA Court-ordered rule went on the back burner. And because the monitoring procedures were never fully developed, some NSA employees may still have searched for records of domestic calls.
Yes, that’s a real problem. No, it’s not “worse than Watergate.” There is no evidence that President Obama – or indeed anyone – ordered the NSA to delay those monitoring procedures. There is no evidence that anyone in the White House knew the NSA had not completed those procedures. Indeed it’s likely that, until the IG Report came out, not even senior NSA officials knew the people tasked with developing those procedures had let that slip through the cracks. To quote Bernard Ingraham:
Many journalists have fallen for the conspiracy theory of government. I do assure you that they would produce more accurate work if they adhered to the cock-up theory.
But hey, it’s a great “scoop” by right-wing “journalists” … if you ignore the fact that they got the story from the New York Times and Washington Post. And it’s a wonderful shiny ball to distract the God-King’s supporters …
… to whom we owe more respect, insists Michael Tomasky at The New Republic:
But there’s one thing a lot of elite liberals haven’t gotten around to dealing with yet: They haven’t made their peace with middle America. Which is a pretty big deal, given that middle America is extremely large, and encompasses most of the country, and generally determines the outcomes of most presidential elections.
He wanders around his navel about ‘vanguard’ vs. ‘anti-vanguard’ movements before finally getting to what he insists is the nut of the matter – elite liberals are intolerant:
I read a line not long ago – I wish I could remember where – that went something like this: You could put a bunch of conservatives in one room and a group of liberals in another and present each with a list of 100 items. If both groups came to agreement on only three things, the conservatives would emerge boasting that they’d reached three triumphant points of agreement. The liberals would come out grousing that they were hopelessly deadlocked on 97 points.
This glass-half-empty mindset must change, and it must change most dramatically with respect to how elite liberals view the rest of the country. There are plenty of liberals out there in middle America, and plenty of liberalish moderates, and plenty of people who lean conservative but who aren’t consumed by rage and who think Barack Obama is a pretty cool guy and who might even have voted for him. These people are potential allies. But before the alliance can be struck, elite liberals need to recognize a fundamental truth: All of these people in middle America, even the actual liberals, have very different sensibilities than elite liberals who live on the coasts.
First, “I read a line not long ago – I wish I could remember where” is a pretty weak source for a core premise. As it happens, Democrats are more ideologically diverse than Republicans, and Tomasky himself argued against the urban-rural ideological split back in 2009. He’s careful to claim that he’s lecturing “elite liberals” like himself … but in a way that damns anyone left-of-center:
I would go so far as to say that this chasm between elite liberals and middle America is liberalism’s biggest problem. It’s how we isolate ourselves. It’s one of the reasons a lot of middle Americans didn’t vote for Hillary. And bridging the gulf is on us, not them. It requires that we accept certain realities. A person can still be “on the team” even if they think the minimum wage should be raised only to $10, or don’t consider the placement of the crèche on the courthouse square for two weeks in December a constitutional crisis, or haven’t yet figured out how they feel about transgender bathrooms. If we don’t find a way to welcome them, they’ll go to the other side. That isn’t how majorities are built. Unfortunately, it’s how elections are lost.
Rhetorically, the big issue dividing liberal elites and middle America is less the existence of different lifestyles, and more the feeling that lefties are implicitly lecturing them all the time. You are bad for eating factory-farmed meat. You are bad for enjoying football. You are bad for owning a gun. You are bad for driving an SUV. You are bad for not speaking the language of microaggressions and patriarchy and cultural appropriation. Liberals could go a long way toward solving this by being more positive about these things, rather than trying to make everyone feel guilty about all the things they enjoy.
Substantively, liberals might have to shift a little bit, but not by a lot. We don’t have to become pro-life, but we need to be more tolerant of folks who are a little uneasy about the whole subject. We don’t need to become Second Amendment zealots, but we should be more tolerant of folks who don’t want to be sneered at for keeping a gun around the house for self defense. We don’t need to tolerate racism, but we should stop badgering folks for not being able to express themselves in the currently approved language of wokeness.
I’m not sure exactly who these “liberal elites” are, but I wish they’d get over their guilt complex.
People working to replace factory farming with more humane, more healthful alternatives are not saying “You are bad for eating factory-farmed meat.” People working to hold the NFL, NCAA, and high school athletic associations accountable for player safety are not saying “You are bad for enjoying football.” People working for more sensible gun laws are not saying “You are bad for owning a gun.” People concerned about climate change are not saying “You are bad for driving an SUV.”
But that’s what those “middle Americans” hear, because our nation is awash with precious snowflakes who insist that anyone who doesn’t bow to their every whim must hate them.
Thus we get to “the language of microaggressions and patriarchy and cultural appropriation.” That is, white straight Christian men insisting that white straight Christian men must be free to hurt women, people of color, and LGBTs, not merely with words but with laws limiting women’s health care choices, voters’ access to polls, and access to public restrooms. Because if we dare to protest those laws … we must be ever-so-careful not to offend the white, straight, Christian men who propose and defend those laws. Because those precious snowflakes hear any disagreement as “contempt.”
So yeah, today I’ve had way too much of not enough.
Photo Credit: Alamy
Good day and good nuts