This Week’s Daily Banter Mail Bag! NSA Eavesdropping Bombshell, the Michelle Obama Heckler and the ‘Game of Thrones’ Season Finale!!!

FILED TO: Media and Entertainment

mail_bag_game_thronesWelcome to this weeks edition of The Daily Banter mailbag!! Today, Bob, Ben, Chez and Banter blogger Jessica Furst discuss the NSA eavesdropping bombshell, the Michelle Obama heckler and the Game of Thrones finale.

1. OK, listen. I’m was willing to let AP and Fox News slide in the name of plugging leaks but in one day there’s the Verizon story and now the NSA and FBI data-mining from US internet companies. Is this Obama’s fault or do we now just have to accept that we really are living in a surveillance state and we’re ALWAYS being watched?
— Todd


Chez: I’m going to be very honest about all of this. Even when Bush was president I wasn’t completely infuriated by the Patriot Act. The reason wasn’t that I didn’t think it was awful, simply that I tend to overlook things that aren’t right in my face. Sure, it’s lousy on my part, but I’ve always kind of felt that panic over things you can’t see are for people who don’t have enough day to day things right in front of you to be afraid of. It’s a luxury I can’t even imagine. I also always assume the government is up to something horrendous and I’m a firm believer in Bentham’s panopticon: that we’re always being watch and that we often even do it to ourselves through the internet. That said, yeah, there’s a lot of really shitty reality to come out in just 24 hours — not counting AP and Fox. I know Greenwald’s doing the Snoopy dance over all of this and certainly over his own role in it, so that bugs me. But with everything we’re seeing I think somebody seriously needs to reconsider the Patriot Act and somebody needs to limit it. I do partially blame the Obama administration, but I also believe what the Times said today, which is that left to its own devices, every administration will push the limits of the power it’s given.

Ben: The scope of the surveilling going on by the NSA is truly shocking – and so is the complicity of companies like Google and Facebook. Is this Obama’s fault? Yes – he’s given the surveillance the green light, and even if he didn’t set it all in motion, he’s still culpable. To a certain degree, we’re going to have to accept living in a surveillance state. The technology that helps connect us with all our old friends around the world also gives companies the ability to find out exactly what we are up to pretty much all of the time. I personally don’t have too much of a problem with it if the information gathered about me is used to sell me crap through advertising, but that info going to the NSA is another story altogether. It’s a monumental breach of civil liberties and needs to be reversed.

Bob: First of all, I think we’ve always known that this was going on. But yes, we have our very own surveillance state in which nothing seems private any more thanks to Mark Zuckerberg and The Facebook, which turns everything you ate for dinner into a public meme — wait, that’s not the NSA. Never mind. Seriously, I’m quite frankly shocked that so many people, especially the Republicans, are shocked. Prior to this NSA story, the Republicans were screaming, “We need eavesdropping! You can’t have a Constitution if you’re dead!!! Why does Obama suck so much at catching evildoers?!” And now, after the NSA story, everyone from Newt Gingrich to Ann Coulter is screaming, “Fuck you for spying, Obama!” But once the intelligence community is unraveled the far-right can go back to attacking Obama for being weak on the terrorism.

Jessica: I don’t really understand the problem. I’ve always thought it incredibly useful to have someone or something who is also paying close attention to what I’m doing. It saves me losing stuff and saves me from getting lost in the wilderness.

2. Can somebody please explain to me what that woman who heckled Michelle Obama was thinking? Please?
— Carol

Ben: Some people should get heckled – Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, war criminals and other major league asshole types. But Michelle Obama? She’s not a politician, has no power over policy, and is pro gay rights. It was ridiculous and counter productive. Oh, and boring.


Jessica: Carol, I’ve seen comedians deal with hecklers with such hilarity I thought it impossible for me to laugh any more. I think that’s what the heckler was going for, but Michelle Obama clearly was not up for it. That’s called ‘when a joke falls flat’.

Chez: She just couldn’t stay silent any longer and had to interrupt the First Lady of the United States at a private event with that one fucking thing that was pissing her off — that had been clawing at the inside of her head for ever and ever. Because her pissy little concerns are what’s really important in a room full of people who paid to see someone other than her. Or something like that.

3. So what happened on this week’s “Game of Thrones.” I missed it.
— Curious

Chez: Ask Bob.

Bob: I also haven’t watched it. But I think Bruce Willis is a ghost the whole time.

Jessica: stopped watching Game of Thrones after the first 5 minutes of the first episode. I don’t do well with scary and violence. From what I hear it’s still not as frightening as World War Z. I prefer things with piped laughter and girls who moan how all men are shit. You know the sort.

Ben: I just got back from having dinner with Chez (I’m in LA at the moment) and he regaled me with what happened in the episode. I don’t watch Game of Thrones, and probably won’t start after hearing about what went down. It sounded utterly horrific.


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  • RilesSD

    Ben – you here to hang with Obama? If not, don’t come to the Westside today. Traffic will be a nightmare.

  • David Latona

    Ben, you should start watching Game of Thrones. You would catch up in just 28 hours, and I bet you wouldn’t regret it… that British History-inspired tale of corruption, power, intrigue and social inequality could very well be to your liking, even if Chez had to go and spoil the best part for you… the books ain’t bad, either. Same goes for Jessica, give ’em a try. It’s at times some pretty interesting stuff.

  • RilesSD

    Spolier alert on the Bruce Willis thing, Bob!! I haven’t seen A Good Day to Die Hard yet.

  • Christopher Foxx

    It’s as if prior to the NSA and AP stories, the Republicans were screaming, “We need eavesdropping! You can’t have a Constitution if you’re dead!!! Hussein is weak on the terrorism! Why does he suck so much at catching evildoers?!” And now, after the NSA story, everyone from Newt Gingrich to Ann Coulter is screaming, “Fuck you for spying, Obama!”

    Why is this a surprise? It’s been teh Republican playbook for decades.

    The Republicans would react that way no matter what the topic is. Giving full-throated support to something terrible and then vehemently opposing it (while being shocked, shocked that it is happening) once Obama (or Clinton before him) supports it.

  • Steven Skelton

    I thought Michelle Obama handled it perfectly. I hate hecklers….and it doesn’t matter to me if its POTUS, FLOTUS, SCOTUS or the local PTA meeting. When people are gathered to hear a speech, you sit quietly while the speaker talks. If you have something you would like to say, try to get on the platform. If you can’t do that, then organize your own event. Or go stand on the streetcorner, but don’t be fucking rude.

  • Steven Skelton

    Could Obama do anything that Bob couldn’t blame on Bush?

    • Christopher Foxx

      You really havne’t been paying attention, have you?

  • decgem

    Just so you know, it wasn’t the season finale.

  • blackdaug

    You guys being media types and all, perhaps you may remember this better than I ……but didn’t the NSA director basicly admit to monitoring “all phone calls” on none other than the obscure, rarely seen news program “60 Minutes” ….like 5 or 6 years ago?
    In fact, I seem to remember him even discussing that there were computer algorithms that used key words while listening in to figure out which ones warranted further investigation.
    How exactly is this “breaking news” any different from the “secret” that was leaked out on the longest running news show in history……before the Kenyan usurper took office?
    I too am appalled to discover gambling going on in this casino!

    • formerlywhatithink

      USA Today did a story about the surveillance program back in 2006 (link). To me, a lot of the outrage is artificial. If the story was broken in 2006, why wait until now to get mad? Greenwald has been trying, since Obama was elected, to equate Obama to Bush and this seems to be his swan song in that respect. But, to reiterate, he has not broken any new information, this was available seven years ago, and any back slapping for Greenwald is bullshit. If you look at the USA Today story, Greenwald isn’t reporting anything new, other than a leaked FISC warrant.

      But, the PRSIM thing is new, and if true, scarier than the NSA scooping up cell phone calls.

    • MrDHalen

      You’re right, this all seems like manufactured outrage to me. The media is hitting the summer slump and outside of storm season, there really isn’t much going on for the 24 hour news biz.

  • dbtheonly


    Hanging in LA when a named storm is headed up the East Coast. Better to be lucky than good.

    Is this the time to finally have the discussion about what privacy we can have in the “hyper connected” world?

    Bob’s right that we knew the monitoring was going on. If he’ll think about it; he’ll see that the monitoring was always to the insane degree. They’re pushing ads for stuff we’ve looked at in the past. The advertisers are monitoring our every click. It’s okay if advertisers do it & insane when the government does it? It’s the same information.

    If you object to the Government having the power; would having a private company, say Skynet, doing it make it any better?

    I’ve got no answers & am just looking for opinions to help me sort mine out.


    I’m not too worried about you getting lost in the American woods. But to someone from the UK; the USA is big. Really big. Things don’t look that big on the map; but they are. You might easily get lost on the roads.

    And they drive on the wrong side of the road, so all your driving instincts are WRONG. When you’re driving ALWAYS pay attention. Don’t let your mind wander because all your driving experience is a hindrance here.

    • Benthedailybanter

      dbtheonly, I don’t like private companies being privvy to my activities online, but I choose to use facebook, google, buy apple products etc etc, and that’s how they make their money. To be honest, that’s what we do to a certain extend here – we collect data on the activity of our audience and allow relevant advertisers to promote whatever it is they are selling. We do it in a pretty limited and open way (doing surveys, looking at where our readers are located, how long they stay on a particular article etc), but the principle is the same. People come on our site, we collect data and use it to sell our ad space. I agree that Facebook/Google etc are doing it in a FAR more invasive way, and I can see a strong argument for limiting how much data they can access.

      • dbtheonly


        Okay. You guys collect information too. I understand & I come here voluntarily. I wish my on line activities were private; but I know they’re not.

        So is there a law about what & how much can be collected? If there is; I don’t remember any serious discussion of the issue. So unless & until there is some sort of overall privacy guarantee for the internet; the practices are entirely legal?

        And if Apple, Google, Facebook, & such can & do gather the information why can’t the Government have access to it? Ought there be some sort of Internet/User privacy privilege? But they sell that information to advertisers. So what’s the shock about the Govt.? They can use the information to try to sell you stuff but not to make the connections to terrorist activities?

        I’m leaning to blackdaug’s opinion that this is just another “scandal du jour” with which to hammer the President. Equivalent to the writer of the “Patriot Act” expressing shock that President Obama would actually use the powers it conferred.

    • Jessica

      Oh, the USA is big? I had no idea. It’s clearly a given I can’t read a map and you guys drive on the wrong side of the road as well? Thanks for the advice not to let my mind wander. I will ALWAYS pay attention. Good to know.

      • dbtheonly


        I have every confidence you can read a map. I have every confidence you are a good & safe driver. Still, your first X years driving & all your training & experience were training you to drive in a way which is now suddenly backwards. Urging you to extra care may be presumptuous but is hardly unwarranted.

        Remember Churchill almost died because of a moment’s inattention.


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