A few thoughts on Edward Snowden

Updated: Thursday, August 8, 2013
A few thoughts on Edward Snowden story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The flap over Russia granting asylum to Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker, has led to President Obama canceling a summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Some diplomatic analysts suggest that the matter is returning the relationship between the countrires to cold war status.

Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says it's a shame it's so serious, because it reads like a dark comedy.

=====================

In case you've forgotten, Edward Snowden is a 29-year-old high school dropout who went on to get his G.E.D., take a few computer courses at a community college, get hired as a security guard for the NSA,  get promoted, and wound up working for a private information technology—I.T.--contractor for the U.S. government, living in Hawaii on an income of $200-thousand dollars a year.

While agents for the NSA were subjected to intense background checks, Snowden, with his limited IT credentials, was sort of just handed the highest security classification our nation has to offer and access to absolutely everything the NSA was doing. Everything!

And he didn't like what he saw. So after much consideration, which included the chucking of his own lifestyle, he blew the whistle.

He told The Guardian newspaper that he did so because he'd seen abuses—the framework, he said, for an architecture of oppression.

He said he could, on his own, as a computer specialist just sitting at his desk, wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge, or even the President. All he needed was a personal e-mail.

Truly chilling, Orwellian stuff. And the NSA was doing it not only to whomever it pleased all over the world, it was doing it here in the United States as well.

Millions upon millions of personal bits of information were intercepted, stored, and ready to be examined at a whim—all in the name of national security.

Reaction was widely mixed. I have a brother who diminished it all, and immediately gave up fourth amendment rights, by saying, "It really doesn't bother me if the government knows I like pepperoni on my pizza."

And I have a friend who amplified my brother by saying, "Big deal. If you haven't done anything wrong, what are worried about?"

Both comments immediately bring to mind Benjamin Franklin's famous thought that if you are willing to forgo individual rights in the name of security—you deserve neither.

Let Snowden answer my brother:

"It's getting to the point where you don't have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you have ever made, every friend you've ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer."

All the classified information he gave to The Guardian—notice, he "gave," did not "sell;" and there was a lot of it—has inspired all kinds of debate in Washington.

Enough people there are sufficiently shocked, if not creeped out, to start thinking maybe, just maybe, the NSA is overstepping its bounds a bit.

So here we have a poorly-credentialed I.T. guy who tells the world the U.S. government is spying on them and its own citizens. In doing so he inspires congressional debate and a national dialogue.

He knows that his own country would like to lock him up, so he flees to Russia, where he gets sanctuary and is now looking for a job.

Now our president is also angry at their president who granted Snowden asylum—like we wouldn't—and cancels a summit meeting.

Meantime, we are repeatedly assured, and we have the word of our politicians on this, that all the stored information will be properly safeguarded and will never be abused.

Sure.

This from the same gang who hired a high school drop out to do some computer work -- and then gave him the keys to the kingdom.

With a little effort, we could stage a musical.

From this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on March 03, 2015 18:41 GMT

FINANCIAL MARKETS

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks have given up much of yesterday's gains, as the Nasdaq composite retreats back below 5,000.

The Nasdaq closed above that milestone yesterday for the first time since the dot-com era 15 years ago. John Manley at Wells Fargo Fund Management says it's natural to see "a little flutter" after such a milestone, adding that it could continue "for a few days."

In the S&P 500, eight of the 10 industry sectors are down, though energy shares are up with the price of oil edging above $50 a barrel.

With nearly all companies in the S&P 500 having reported their latest quarterly results, S&P Capital IQ says earnings per share look to have risen a healthy 7.7 percent. But financial analysts expect earnings to drop for the next two quarters.

AUTO SALES

DETROIT (AP) -- Freezing temperatures and drifts of snow likely took a small bite out of U.S. auto sales last month, but most automakers are still reporting gains thanks to the strong economy.

Toyota led major automakers with a 13.3 percent gain over last February. Others came in below analysts' predictions. Chrysler, General Motors, Honda and Nissan all saw gains of 6 percent or less.

Ford's U.S. sales were down 1.9 percent, as dealers lacked the inventory to meet demand for the new F-150 pickup truck.

Volkswagen's sales fell 5.2 percent.

Falling unemployment, low interest rates and new versions of big sellers like the Jeep Cherokee -- which saw sales jump 19 percent in February -- drove buyers to dealerships in many cities.

But bad weather in the mid-South and on the East Coast hurt sales. One Volkswagen dealer in Massachusetts says it had almost no customers for a two-week period at the start of the month.

BEST BUY-DIVIDEND

UNDATED (AP) -- Best Buy shares are higher today after the company announced it is hiking its regular quarterly dividend by 21 percent. The nation's largest consumer electronics chain also will give stockholders a one-time payment from proceeds of legal settlements.

The Minneapolis chain says it will raise its cash dividend to 23 cents per share from 19 cents, and it will pay shareholders a dividend of 51 cents per share culled from the proceeds of some legal settlements over the price of liquid crystal displays, or LCDs, sold in the United States.

LCD technology is used in consumer electronics like flat-panel TVs, computers, and phones.

Best Buy Co. Inc. will pay the special cash dividend and the regular quarterly payout on April 14 to shareholders of record at the close of business on March 24.

EXECUTIVES-ECONOMY

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Top business executives are pressing Congress to give President Barack Obama greater authority to negotiate international trade deals. In a report by the lobbying group Business Roundtable, the CEOs say their expectations for the economy have improved but that business needs more confidence to increase hiring.

The group's survey of 120 executives found that more than half of the CEOs said trade would allow them to hire more U.S. workers.

Forging a 12-nation trade deal with Pacific Rim countries is one of Obama's top priorities this year. Most Republicans support broadening trade. But a majority of Democrats say such agreements put the United States at a disadvantage.

Obama wants power to negotiate deals that Congress can only approve or reject, but not amend.

PFIZER-PNEUMONIA VACCINE

NEW YORK (AP) -- Pfizer's blockbuster vaccine against pneumonia and other bacterial infections has won another approval, for use in European Union residents aged 18 and older.

Prevnar 13, called Prevenar 13 in some countries, is the best-selling vaccine ever.

It protects against 13 strains of pneumococcal disease, the most common bacterial cause of pneumonia and a top cause of death and hospitalization worldwide. It also causes children's ear infections, bloodstream infections and other illnesses.

New York-based Pfizer says more than 750 million doses have been distributed worldwide. Last year, Prevnar's global sales reached $4.5 billion, making it the No. 2 product for the company, which also makes Lipitor and Viagra.

Prevnar 13 is approved in more than 120 countries. In the U.S., it's approved for children from six weeks through 17 years old and adults over 49.

TESTOSTERONE DRUGS-FDA

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Food and Drug Administration is warning about the overuse of testosterone-boosting drugs taken by millions of U.S. men, saying the popular treatments have never been proven safe or effective for treating common signs of aging like low libido and fatigue.

The agency says drugmakers must clarify that their drugs are only approved to treat low testosterone levels caused by disease or injury, not general aging. Additionally, the FDA warned Tuesday that the drugs can increase the risk of heart attack and said drugmakers must add that information to their warning labels.

The federal rebuke comes after years of industry marketing for new pills, patches, gels and injections that promise relief from low testosterone or "Low-T." The advertising blitz has pushed sales of testosterone drugs to over $2 billion.

SUPREME COURT-COLORADO INTERNET TAX

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A unanimous Supreme Court says federal courts have the authority to rule in a dispute over Colorado's Internet tax law.

The ruling Tuesday is a win for business groups that want to challenge the state's so-called "Amazon tax" that requires extensive reporting by retailers that don't collect the state's 2.9 percent sales tax from Colorado customers.

Online retailers challenged the law, claiming it violates protections for companies doing business in other states. A federal court agreed that the law violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

But a federal appeals court ruled that tax cases can only be filed in state court.

The high court reversed, finding that retailers were not challenging the actual collection of taxes, only a law giving state officials information about people who owe taxes.

EUROPE-TAX FRAUD RING

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- European Union officials say they have broken up a cross-border gang responsible for cheating EU member countries of 150 million euros ($168 million) in tax revenue.

Europol and Eurojust, the EU agencies for law enforcement and criminal prosecution, said nine people were arrested Tuesday in a fast-moving operation that kicked off early in the morning.

Those arrested are suspected of participating in organized fraud that deprived Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and the Czech Republic of major sums of value-added tax payments.

Europol's head of organized crime operations, Michael Rauschenbach, said his agency has had a fully dedicated team in place for six years to fight such tax fraud.

He said the Tuesday crackdown sends a message that the EU is determined to pursue and catch people engaged in such crimes.

advertisement
Washington Times
advertisement