Monday, June 17, 2013

L'Affaire Snowden Dialog and Sid Turns Political

L'Affaire Snowden

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.
Jack Lippman 

MargaretMy 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.

JackBack 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 more, apparently.  

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 that naive.

MargaretActually, 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!

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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.

Sid's Corner



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 Paul Krugmanthat we could/should use the repair of our decaying infrastructure as the impetus to do the same to enhance our struggling economic recovery. 

Sid Bolotin


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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1 comment:

2harborview said...

The latest round of revelations about the foreclosure mess and Bank of America has set me to reflecting on how the greed of a few, supported by complicity of the many who fear to lose their jobs, and naivete of all the rest of us, result in so much loss and misery. I'm glad the truth is coming out (again) about BoA tactics and I do hope some the perps will now do time in the slammer (and if they do, they'll come out as reformed born-again preachers like the Watergate conspirators did. Whatever works, y'know) but none of that will return all those people to their stolen homes.

On a distantly related topic, here's a quote from NPR:
"Catherine Schultz of the National Foreign Trade Council says companies shift money around in a complex global economy for good reason. And what often seems like tax evasion to the public is really a legal effort by companies to minimize their tax bill.

"If it's legal under the tax rules for them to minimize their taxes, we need to change the underlying tax rules, we need to go to tax reform, we need to fix our system," Schultz says.

Business groups also insist the real problem is that U.S. corporate tax rates are higher than in other developed countries. They say that any effort to crack down on tax evasion needs to be done as a part of an overall reform of the nation's tax code."

I believe this view applies to the foreclosure situation. Corporations don't, and won't, have ethics. What they have is a bottom line, and their whole (and appropriate) purpose is to maximize that. To prevent abuses, there must be very clear laws, and equally clear and strong determination to enforce the law. We seem to have neither!

Appreciated Sid's comments about Medicare.