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Here's an exchange of Emails between a follower of the blog and myself concerning the recent "leaking" of classified NSA information by Edward Snowden. Make up your own mind.
Margaret: My view on what the leaker leaked: the
problem as I see it is not that they are collecting this data but that they are
doing it without knowledge of the citizenry. We are entitled to decide
for ourselves whether we want to expose ourselves by using electronic
communications methods, in full knowledge that they are in fact gathering data.
But have we not noticed that Verizon isn't the government, and neither
are facebook or twitter? Social networking sites, which are private
enterprise, are and have been collecting data on our movements and habits all
along. They sell it for profit. That the spy apparatus is also feeding at
tt trough should not have come as a surprise.
I think whistleblowers should be neither
punished nor rewarded. Being honest is its own reward. And after all they
are at least in their own minds revealing skullduggery... we are all glad the
truth is out, aren't we? - what we really think is that the whistleblower
is working for "the people" - our treatment of him should reflect
that view. To punish someone who did something we wanted done and from
which we benefit is hypocrisy. I hope he manages to elude capture.
I saw in the news just now that a Kremlin spokesperson has said that if
he applies for asylum there, it will be considered "on the facts."
I think the American people will not take it well if he is treated as
Bradley Manning is being treated. It would be in our best interests to
let him slip away into a new life among the Russians.
A point to consider is that some people go into
the spy business because they are instinctively attracted to the whole world of
covert combat, like chess; and others go into the same business out of
idealism. These two sorts of people do not understand and do not like and
do not respect one another. Somebody like Snowden comes to realize that
he and his work are just pawns in a dirty game, he tries to confront that from
within and is just brushed off, and, occasionally, somebody like that decides
to strike a blow for idealism no matter what the cost to himself. Of
course covert combat will go on forever and so will idealism. Nobody
wins, nobody loses, it's just another trip around the wheel.
Jack: Back in the late 50's, the work I did in the
service was classified, and I knew it. I also knew the penalties for
passing on classified information. I also knew that I had been checked
out before getting my security clearance. I knew one fellow whose parents
had been immigrants from Eastern Europe in the 20's or 30's who couldn't get
his clearance because of that. Many years later, a neighbor's son went to
work for the CIA. Since I had watched him grow up, they got to me and
asked about him before he was hired. The point I want to make is that people
who had security clearances used to be thoroughly checked out. No
I am appalled by the fact that Snowdon, a high
school dropout and someone who couldn't make it in the Army, managed to get a
job requiring a security clearance. Back in my day, jobs like that went
to those who had served in the Army for four or six years, were discharged and
went to work for the government (doing the same job) as Department of Defense
civilian employees. Now, such jobs are farmed out to consulting firms,
like Booz-Allen, who hired Snowden, probably with only minimal
investigation. Penny-wise, dollar-foolish!
As for the ethics of what was done, everyone
should realize that there is no such thing as privacy any longer. Once
your car's warranty runs out, how many firms peddling warranties contact
you? How did they know? Buy a tube of toothpaste, and watch the
coupons come to you just about the time that tube is running out. How do
they know? There is no reason that the government shouldn't be equally
intrusive as the private sector is into our lives. Their interests are
much more crucial than the sale of products. They are defending the
nation's security. And since the information they accumulate is
done by impersonal computers, and not really handled by people, it is a
sanitary way of watching what is going on. While there are no
pronouncements of what they are doing, I find it hard to believe that this
is being done without the knowledge of the citizenry. Americans are not
Margaret: Actually, many Americans are that naive :-( Please feel free to edit as you wish and post to
your blog if you like.
David, your cousin-in-law, has been tight-lipped about where he went and
why he went there in the Vietnam years (he was in the Air Force) from then til
now. But I don't know what he would have done had he seen something that
created extreme cognitive dissonance about our true role there.
My son Nicholas was sent with his
weekend-warrior unit to Kuwait for a year. He came back chastened and
wiser. Most Americans don't believe we can do wrong because they don't
want to believe. When confronted beyond any further resistance, they take
it pretty hard!
* * * *
As I said at the top, you make up your own mind!
A word about privacy, however. In a recent column in the Washington Post, Kathleen Parker commented that a couple of years ago, she "googled" a designer handbag she was interested in. Finding its price to be about $1200, she dropped the idea of getting it. Her computer, however, didn't and she still gets Emails trying to induce her to purchase pricey designer handbags. And don't think that any political ideas you post or search for online aren't on record somewhere, someplace, even if no one has ever looked at them, or associated them with you. And that includes this blog.
MY TAKE RE GOVERNMENT
When I was thirty-two in 1965, the enactment of Medicare was not of any
significance to me. I was young, reasonably healthy, gainfully employed, and
had health insurance provided by my employer…a prominent aerospace company in
Massachusetts with various R&D contracts funded by the government.
After I turned sixty-five and became covered by Medicare, my costs for
medical services were not overly burdensome and were comfortably met by Medicare
in conjunction with the med gap supplement partially funded by the company from
which I retired.
Sid gets "hip"
So, when the orthopedic surgeon told me I needed to have my hip
replaced in April, 2013, I agreed without a single query as to the cost…after
all I had coverage.
Well, the charges are now coming in, and I’m flabbergasted. Although I
knew from fifteen years experience with the Medicare Program and the magical
system of providers’ fees versus Medicare allowable, versus my med gap limits,
I was not prepared for the magnitude of what seems like sleight-of-hand
delineated by charges created by my procedure.
The surgeon presents his fee of $7335; Medicare says its allowable,
contracted fee for a hip replacement is $1600 and pays him 8o% ($1280)…leaving
me responsible for the remaining 20% of $320. Because my med gap pays half this
amount, my out of pocket becomes $160.
Repeating the process for the surgeon’s assistant’s fee of $1834 leaves
me with an out of pocket cost of $22. So my total labor cost for the bionic hip
is a paltry $180. However, to this must be added the labor costs of the
anesthesiologist and other attending physicians.
The hospital charges are another matter because they come under
Medicare Part A and are subject to a different set of calculations. For my
three night stay they start out at $103,000, get whittled similar to the Part B
manipulations illustrated above, and leave me responsible for $890…subject to a
20% discount if I make a one-time-payment.
I am not complaining. I am exceeding grateful that I have Medicare, and
that I was also able to have a job career that were both “pump-primed” by the
government. I’m not as academically savvy in “pump-priming” or “jobs creation”
as my friend, Jack Lippman often demonstrates in his blog “Jack’s Potpourri”,
but I do know that without JFK’s “fly me to the moon” endeavor and development
of intercontinental ballistic defense systems during the years of the Cold War,
I would have had no jobs nor ten years of company funded attendance at night
colleges to get my degrees and support my family.
Such government backed programs are not unusual or alien. Lincoln
launched the transcontinental railroad; FDR’s administration had the Hoover
Dam, Tennessee Valley Authority, Works Progress Administration (WPA), New Deal,
and Social Security; Eisenhower created our interstate road system: Reagan had
his Star Wars Space Defense Initiative (SDI). And I’d be remiss if I left out
the Manhattan Project wherein billions were spent to develop the atomic bomb
during World War II. Thomas Jefferson got Congress to provide $2,500 (which
ultimately reached $50,000) for the Lewis and Clark expedition to explore our
newly acquired Louisiana Purchase in 1803. As I write this, the House is
preparing to consider a half trillion farm bill just passed by the Senate. And,
of course, there is FEMA for providing relief for victims of disasters like
Sandy and the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma. I certainly understand that there
are abusers of these programs as clearly presented in AMC’s “Hell on Wheels”
series about Lincoln’s railroad project; but a sink-or-swim purely libertarian
philosophy would be unmerciful.
All of the above create jobs, and I have to agree with the likes of
Jack and economist Paul Krugman that we could/should use the repair of our
decaying infrastructure as the impetus to do the same to enhance our struggling
Scandal Mongering at Fox
If you really want
to feel bad about the condition of the United States, watch Fox News for a few
minutes.Neil Cavuto, Sean Hannity and their cohorts
spend their time attacking the President, talking about his popularity
dropping, and treating any negative news, however trivial, about him or the
Administration as if it were a scandal.
None of these alleged “scandals” (IRS extravagance at training
conclaves, IRS investigation of tax-favored status of “social welfare”
organizations, the Justice Department pressuring reporters as to the sources of
leaked information, the Snowden leaks …. discussed elsewhere in this posting …
and of course, Benghazi) approach the magnitude of real scandals such as the
Reagan Administration selling arms to Iran to fund revolution in Nicaragua,
Nixon’s henchmen breaking into the Democratic Party's Watergate offices, and of
course, our going to war with Saddam Hussein under the pretext that he was
responsible for 9/11 and had weapons of mass destruction, neither of which were
true.These “scandals” caused far more
deaths than those magnified by Fox News on a daily basis.And of course, the costly ignoring of the
warnings of the 9/11 attack by those in charge at the time should not be
forgotten, either. On whose watch did these events occur?
These were real
scandals, but you witll never hear questions about them raised on Fox News.
It is a great tragedy that so many Americans get their news, appropriately contaminated, from Fox News.
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