Jefferson Davis and Edward Snowden

Jefferson Davis and Edward Snowden

Summary: Davis, the only president of the Confederate States of America, may be the only traitor with his own state holiday. What does that have to do with Edward Snowden?

TOPICS: Storage

Throughout the South there are celebrations of Davis's birthday — June 3, 1808 — and he is memorialized in Georgia, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Alabama even has a state holiday for Davis's birthday, the first Monday in June. Is Edward Snowden next? After all, while many, perhaps most, would call Davis a traitor, there are clearly Americans who believe otherwise.

What is a hero? Snowden made a deep personal sacrifice by collecting the evidence of the NSA's trampling of the Constitution and the rights of all Americans. By giving the documents to independent journalists he's honored the role of a free press, much as Daniel Ellsberg did by giving the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.

Then, many considered Ellsberg a traitor for sharing the government's own record of lies and duplicity on the Vietnam war. But the reason we have a free press is to expose government failings - however much discomfort it may cause our representatives.

The thin line between governing and controlling. We invest government with enormous powers over us as citizens. Inevitably that power is abused.

It is simple economics: the power and wealth easily won from oppressing one's own people is far greater than the much riskier gains from invading a neighbor. That calculus has ensnared many leaders and their unhappy people.

What Snowden exposed is an out-of-control national security apparatus that is willing to lie and smear while hiding behind stringent secrecy laws. When the head of the NSA Director of National Intelligence, Admiral James Clapper, lied to Congress – our representatives, his paymaster – about the extent of NSA surveillance he crossed a bright line. But not the only one the NSA has crossed and surely not the last.

History of lies. Sadly, the government and has often found it expedient to lie to Americans. Some samples:

  • Bush's rationale for the Iraq war. 
  • Reagan negotiating with terrorists. 
  • Nixon's secret plan to end the Vietnam war. 
  • Johnson's Gulf of Tonkin resolution that legalized the Vietnam War.

The human propensity to deceive is why the founding fathers insisted on a free press.

Americans are practical people. We understand that we don't need to know everything the government does in our name. We expect the separation of powers and our free press to keep things under reasonable control.

But what Edward Snowden showed us is an intelligence community that is out of control. Sweeping up petabytes of data on Americans, compromising security protocols, tampering with high-tech exports, spying on our closest allies, prepared to smear and harass critics, cravenly concealing their malfeasance behind draconian laws.

Snowden, almost single-handedly, has made Americans debate what we mean by freedom in the digital age. He has exposed abuses that will cost American companies tens of billions in lost sales and how many lost American jobs.

America was founded by traitors - to the British crown - who saw a distant king and parliament that cared little for our opinions. So they did something about it: a revolution.

When Jefferson Davis assumed the presidency of the CSA - a nation founded on the unholy principle that all men are NOT created equal - he committed treason. And yet he was allowed to live out his life in freedom and is honored by some to this day.

Surely Snowden's transgressions are less than that of Davis, who led one side of America's bloodiest war. While Davis tried to sunder America, Snowden is asking all of us to take it back.

Back from the military-industrial-surveillance complex. Back from the faceless bureaucrats and analysts whose access to unlimited data, storage and computes is a loaded gun pointed at the heart of American freedom. For any power that can be abused, will be abused. Count on it.

Comments welcome, of course. What do you think of Snowden, hero or villain?

Topic: Storage

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  • Wow, what a revisionist history

    Davis was committed to States Rights. Each state had the right to make its own laws. Snowden is committed to being a traitor, selling SECRETS and having the gall to call it patriotic.

    No one ever tells the right story of the Civil War, that in fact slavery as it always has been, turned out to be an economic burden holding the South back. You can't buy people and have a happy economy. It never worked long term in the ancient world, and it never worked here. But because Lincoln got on his high horse, slavery then became an issue of States Rights, so the South didn't have the opportunity other nations had had, of gradually getting rid of slavery. They wanted to do that, but it had to be gradual, lest the slaves have no other occupation in which they could prosper, and the owners have no compensation for the labor lost. It was a constant debate in the south, from inception, and was also a constant debate in Britain (viz., Disraeli's position).

    Atop this problem, a lot of blacks did not want to be freed, because they enjoyed security. Same problem the Jews had, when God freed them at the Exodus, longing for the leeks and garlic of Egypt (the Jews were very much abused, but at the same time also well treated, as they were TEMPLE BUILDING SLAVES, which had the cushiest jobs). So many blacks chose to fight for the South in the Civil War, some units really distinguishing themselves.

    No story of the South is wholly abusive or wholly nice. No story of any kind is wholly pure bad or pure good. But today, only the caricature version survives, and the evil Lincoln himself promoted -- which ended up making the life of blacks miserable during Reconstruction, exploiting them further -- that evil, seldom sees the light of day.

    You can't compare the TRAITOR SNOWDEN with any of this. Shame on you for even trying.
    • Slavery was a large part of it

      Abraham Lincoln was the first explicitly anti-slavery President to be elected since John Quincy Adams in 1824 (36 years earlier) and six states seceeded before he even took office, even though he promised not to interfere with slavery in the states. Most southern Democrats couldn't even accept Stephen Douglas, who was explicitly neutral on the issue as their Presidential candidate, even though he agreed with the Southerners on both economic policy and the division of authority between the Union and the States; and was the best hope for peaceful resolution of the dispute (though he was a strong nationalist who sided with the Union as soon as war broke out). The efforts to formulate a compromise that took place in the months before the shoorting started dealt almost exclusively with the slavery question.

      And had the Confederate States remain in the Union, the Democratic opposition would have had a majority in both houses of Congress, well equipping them to block any attempts Lincoln might have made to centralize authority in Washington.
      John L. Ries
      • And...

        ...had the Democratic Party not split on the choice of Presidential candidates, Douglas would surely have been elected President, and war wouldn't have started in 1861, though it might well have happened later (a Republican was going to be elected sooner or later). John C. Breckenridge didn't have a "snowball's chance in hell" of being elected and he and his supporters knew it.
        John L. Ries
    • As idiotic as comparing Linux to Communism

      Just how paranoid American imperialism and its worshippers can become. Comparing Snowden to slaveowner and advocate of white superiority is some how similar how pathetic Steve Ballmer compared Linux to Communism.

      In real life Snowden have been an American patriot and Windows is the real Stalinist OS locking people on Redmond Gulag.
      • If you think secession was the right thing to do in 1861...

        ...then chances are, you're not a big fan of American imperialism. If the split had been permanent, the US would not likely have emerged as a great power in the early 20th Century. Curiously enough, most Democrats, both northern and southern (many of the latter former Confederates), favored giving immediate independence to the former Spanish colonies won in the war with Spain; and opposed US annexation of Hawaii and Eastern Samoa. This early effort to establish an American empire was almost entirely a Republican project.
        John L. Ries
        • The roots of American Imperialism go well beyond 1861

          The Monroe Doctrine dates back to 1823 (even if it was not originally named as such):

          The U.S. annexation of the State of Texas in 1845 and subsequent war with Mexico:

          Rabid Howler Monkey
          • True

            But a United States that ended at the Potomac (if not further north) would hardly have been in a position to follow up on that during the later years of the 19th century. Indeed, I think a good case could be made that the United States would have ceased to exist by 1900 had secession succeeded (it would definitely have set a precedent).
            John L. Ries
      • Mac, I'm not comparing their actions

        I'm comparing our reactions. If we can forgive Jeff Davis, who led an insurrection and hundreds of thousands of deaths, why can't we forgive an Edward Snowden, whose revelations have touched off an extremely important debate over the limits of state power in the digital age.

        R Harris
        • entirely different matters

          One was essentially a domestic dispute that led to a domestic war, the other leaked and damaged the U.S. governments standing with other nations and then leaked information about 3rd party countries and damaged their relations with yet more countries.

          Perhaps if Snowden had only released the information directly related to domestic spying by the NSA then there might be some grounds to form the comparison - but that isn't the case and so therefore there aren't the grounds for comparison.
          • Is not...

            ...the bloodiest war in US history a considerably weightier matter? And while foreign powers didn't intervene, the US Civil War was a matter of great controversy outside of our borders.

            I'm given to understand that more Americans died in the Civil War than all other wars combined until Vietnam. This was a very big deal.
            John L. Ries
          • You obviously

            have no clue what Snowden leaked! Why not STFU with your assumptions like they are facts.
          • I think it was...

            impossible to cherry pick the data since so many things related... I am an veteran of many years service and I believe that our ovt and th military need to have secrecy... but this whole thing, from the white house, to the state dept, to the pentagon.. is sheer treasonous in my view! If we are going to slab a traitor label on Swonden, then YOU (and your fan base) BETTER be ready to slap that same label on many within our govt... including dept heads, high raning military and all the way up to the POTUS! Otherwise you are a sheer hypocrit and have no say in anything anymore!
        • Your point is actually a good one

          There is no doubt that Davis' offense was much more serious than Snowden's could possibly be. But pardoning ex-Confederates was a rational step to reuniting the country. AFAIC, it didn't go far enough, but we've been dealing with the bitter fruits of Reconstruction for a long time. On the positive side, I think it did inform our efforts to reconstruct the Axis powers after WWII, which turned out very well indeed.

          Snowden appears to have committed a much less serious offense, but the consequences of prosecuting him, as unpopular as that might be (and jury nullification would be a very realistic possibility) would not be nearly as dire as prosecuting Davis and other high ranking Confederates would have been.
          John L. Ries
          • Elaboration

            Back in the 1940s, the US Civil War was still a living memory. The senior US politicians and commanders had parents and grandparents who lived through the war and its aftermath. And some had fathers or grandfathers they never met because they went off to war and never came back. The area around Independence, Missouri (Harry Truman's home town) was a hotbed of Confederate guerilla activity, which led to horrific consequences for the locals. Gen, Douglas MacArthur's father fought in that war and served in the Army long enough afterwards to command US forces in the Phillippines. I have to think that President Truman and his advisers thought a good deal about the Civil War and Reconstruction, as well as WWI and its aftermath (which Truman himself fought in) when considering how to treat the defeated Axis powers after WWII. For us, it was something we read about in the history books (but visiting a Civil War battlefield and thinking about what happened there is a sobering experience indeed). For them, it was like WWII is to us; something they heard about in childhood from their older relations and other adults who lived through it.
            John L. Ries
          • Correction...

            ...I don't think there were a lot of politicians left who were born in the 1860s (80 years before), so not fathers who never came back; but certainly grandfathers.
            John L. Ries
      • You do know...

        ...that you walked in on a family fight. We've been arguing over the US Civil War since it happened and will likely continue arguing over it for centuries to come.
        John L. Ries
    • Make no mistake - slavery was the major issue

      You've bought into the revisionist "state's rights" hokum. The only right where the CSA constitution differed significantly from the US Constitution was slavery. Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas specifically stated - in their Declaration of the Causes of Secession (Google it) - that slavery was the main issue. Here's Mississippi: "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world."

      Furthermore, your fantasy that the South wanted to give up slavery is baseless. They were angry because the abolitionists in Congress kept slavery out of the territory won from Mexico. Hardly an argument for gradualism.

      Likewise for ". . . a lot of blacks did not want to be freed." Pure fantasy, same as Cliven Bundy.

      My grandfather's older brother fought for the South and I have many slave owning ancestors. But I can tell the difference between fact and fantasy.

      R Harris
      • ""state's rights" hokum"

        Hokum or no, the Civil Was was a death blow to States rights in the U.S. Imagine, State militias (I'm speaking of the National Guard) being called to action in the Gulf and Iraq wars.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • Only because...

 came to be tied with slavery and Jim Crow. Federalism is a necessary part of the constitutional framework. Indeed, I don't believe that the US or any other comparably large country can be democratically governed in any other way (and no, I don't think Indonesia is viable in the long term as a unitary democratic state; it needs to go federal to stay democratic).

          The fight over slavery and the ensuing fight over civil rights gave federalism a very bad name, and we've been paying the price for that ever since.
          John L. Ries
        • Forgot to mention...

          ...the President's authority to call state militia into federal service is explicitly provided for in the US Constitution and always was. I even seem to recall that militiamen were called up during both the War of 1812 and the Mexican War (though I could be wrong).
          John L. Ries