Snowden – Hero or Menace?

June 18th, 2013

Let me say right at the start that Snowden appears unhinged.  The look of an IT fanatic who has been in the basement too long and had more than one too many shots of espresso. Paranoiac at best. Megalomanic might be most appropriate. Whatever good intentions he might have thought he had – he has plunged over the cliff.

But “wait a moment,” you say,  “he has exposed scandalous activity by the U.S. government!” Well, maybe. More likely, he has captured the attention (“squirrel!”) of many who looked the other way as the Patriot Act and other legislation were passed by Congress and signed by the President(s). So, a small positive here – as President Obama noted, it helps spur necessary debate.

Maybe that would have justified to some small extent a breach of trust and of oath. But not heroic.

But Snowden has gone beyond merely stimulating debate.  Exposing the existence of the programs would have been sufficient for that. However, his paranoid, anti-government statements diminish his credibility or add to public distrust of government, depending on your political leaning this week.

Whatever his original thoughts might have been about taking these actions, it now appears that it is really all about him.  Some self aggrandizement or martyrdom complex is driving him toward more self serving and outlandish remarks, all the while claiming the need to protect himself from a murderous government.

And beyond all this narcissistic behavior, to the extent to which he has exposed specific details of intelligence efforts, he could do real damage, whether that was what he wanted or not. Yes, we need the debate to achieve a balance between public needs and private rights. It would have been enough to expose the general form of the government’s alleged breach without delving into details.

Bottom line: the Weekly Observer must question Snowden’s intent or his sanity, whichever is wanting.


A Divided Nation?

April 30th, 2012

A beginning of a series.

We have hard choices to make.   There are issues that affect all of us.  The economy, health-care, energy, education, defense — to name a few.  For all of these, there are strong disagreements on how to proceed.  What there should not be any disagreement about is that all of these issues are intertwined.  And, because this is the case, any sustainable solutions will have to be crafted from multiple perspectives.  It is highly likely that all of us will have to make some sacrifices in order for us to succeed.  Right now, at this immediate point in time, it feels as though so many are only pursuing their self-interest — in a most cynical reading of the pursuit of happiness.  On the other hand, others are demanding that individuals sacrifice their rights in the public interest – especially in a dangerous “Post 9/11” world. At some point, a balance again must be achieved between the individual and the people.  But the word balance here is key — individuals need to be accountable for the harm they may do to others but we can’t allow the crowd to trample the individual either. 

So, a small first step.  Each of us should consider the effect our decisions have not just on ourselves, but also on our family, our friends, our community and our nation.

Dual purpose body scan

December 26th, 2010

The federal government is always looking for opportunities for efficiency and effectiveness.  In a discussion over the holidays, a suggestion was raised that, should it be implemented, could address simultaneously at least two major problems facing our nation in this difficult time.

The proposal is to combine full body scanning at airport entry points with leading edge medical technology to provide all of those who fly with up-to-date diagnostic or preventative health information.  So we could address two problems at once: (1) ensuring the safety of air travel, and (2) reducing the cost of health care.  Why, just think of the savings to Medicare with all of the snowbirds being scanned for free!

It is this kind of innovative, out of the box thinking, that is going to save us from the looming debt crisis.  Let’s look for more opportunities like this.  (BTW – the next word in the Online Merriam-Webster Dictionary as of today is “loon”!)

on the solstice eclipse (12/21)

December 23rd, 2010

above Orion

the Moon glows dull burnt sienna in a cold crisp night

wisps of moisture as thin clouds, almost mistaken for the Milky Way

a rare night on a special day, the first of Winter

our entire family and a few friends gathered to watch the spectacle in the wee hours

it has been centuries since this could last be seen

our children, if they live very long, but more likely our grandchildren, could see this the next time

The new normal – not so very new?

December 23rd, 2010

Perhaps it is because of the industry in which I mainly work – information technology – that I haven’t fully identified with the statements I have heard or read in the news media: that the world of work in America has fundamentally changed over the past two years.  It seems to me that the rest of the country is simply catching up to the reality that I have been experiencing for decades.

Admittedly, more than once I wished I could have had the dependable, single-employer type of career that my parents’ generation enjoyed – that might have been less stressful and not taken such a toll on health and family.  But that was not to be the case.  In my business, so many of us had to take charge of our own future and deal with continual change.  Contracts come and go, and companies form and fall apart, in only a few years at best.   For a period, I could count the number of managers I had worked for as a multiple of the years I had been employed.  Any stability I might have perceived at the time – mostly earlier in my career – was illusory.  

So how did we deal with this emerging world where the traditional relationships among employers and workers were breaking down?  Many of us had to continually retrain ourselves – including spending our own hard-earned money – to keep up with the rapid changes in the industry: new technologies, new modes of service delivery, constant intense competition (from other companies, but also from our aggressive peers).  We became accustomed to the fact that our work was in the form of mostly short-lived projects – all temporary, and each one different (unlike Crowther’s twisty little passages, all alike, or not?). 

On the plus side, especially for those of us with short attention spans, there always has been something new – a new problem to solve, a new technology to learn, new people to meet, new spaces to experience…  On the down side, there have been periods for many of us when we have been un- or under-employed. 

In defense of the media I have been questioning, the current unemployment situation is much more serious than has occurred in our or the previous generation – this is not normal.  But I have yet to be convinced that it is the new normal.  That being said, for those who had been fortunate enough to live in the old world of work for a few years, perhaps there is a new normal for them.  But this has been the normal for us in the information technology industry for many years now.  If you are new to this normal, then you will have to learn to shift with the times – to be more agile and constantly learning.   Welcome to the future! 

New Orleans – 2010

April 28th, 2010

Spent the weekend in New Orleans, including a day at the Jazz and Heritage Festival.  N.O. is such a tightly woven tapestry – the single day at the festival spilled over into the other two days we were there.  So we saw Anders Osborne and Eric Lindell at Rock ‘n’ Bowl, and Better Than Ezra, Simon and Garfunkle, the Antioch Baptist Church Gospel Choir and a host of others at the festival proper.  And music spills out into the streets everywhere, with local groups (and national) setting up in clubs, even in the street itself.  This is music at its best – simultaneously public and intimate, large and small. 

N.O. itself still struggles.  Empty buildings, broken streets.  Certainly broken lives.  But there are signs of new growth – like early spring when there are just tiny buds on the trees to give us hope.  At least when there is a big event in town like the Jazz Fest, the restaurants and cafes are full, teeming with life.  This is as N.O. should be.

Perspectives on Art – A

January 25th, 2010

Read the rest of this entry »

Still feeling…

November 27th, 2009

A comment in the office — “Things are OK in spite of bumps in the road.  Unfortunately, I am feeling those bumps”

If you are still feeling things, then you must still be alive.  I imagine what death must be like — anesthesia without the subsequent return of sensation, unconsciousness without awakening.  All disappears, nothing remains, the world is a blank slate.

– mch 23 November

Consequences of Bad Choices

June 24th, 2009

The recent fatal collision on Metrorail near Fort Totten (Washington, DC) highlights an ongoing problem.  Given a choice between improving deteriorating, overwhelmed infrastructure and indulging ourselves, we have been choosing the latter.  We would rather build trophy stadiums for the toy teams of the wealthy than maintain safe transportation for the public.  However, this malady is not limited to this specific situation.  We see these same bad choices affecting us in every aspect of our lives – from the severe challenges faced by American industry to the collapse of investment banking; and at the individual level, the sacrifice of prosperity for fool’s gold.  It is time, at least in government focus, to emphasize the long term over the short term, and to serve the greatest good instead of the special interest.

– mch

Tragedy in Washington

June 13th, 2009

It was not my intention to begin the Weekly Observer with such a grim topic.  But the tragic incident this past Wednesday at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum brought a number of issues to the forefront.

There are people living among us who do not share fundamental American values — because they disagree with them, because they are unclear as to what those values are, or because they are of unsound mind.  Ironically, disagreement, even lack of clarity, is something that we protect — the irony grows as we struggle to preserve rights, even for those who, given the power, would deny those same rights to those with whom they disagree — even to the extent of killing them.

Perhaps I make too much of this, after all the case can be made that the perpetrator  in this instance was not of sound mind — an anomaly.  But I think this raises another issue: All of us need to remain vigilant and confront hate, confront bullies, confront anything that harms life or liberty — whether the source of the threat is external or internal. And we need to call out those who promote hate — especially if they are popular “infotainers”.  We all have to work to preserve our community — to prevent, to the extent we can, this sort of random act of hate and violence.

— mch 12 June 2009

After writing this, I found some interesting additional reading:
Gerson, The Washington Post
Eye Opener: Does Holocaust Shooting Validate Homeland Security Report?