Are the NSA the good guys?
December 1013 "What Do You Think" editorial broached on the topic of personal privacy being degraded by the US federal government's security agencies. Since then more startling revelations have come to light regarding the National Security Agency's use of computer hackers to contaminate personal computers with spy-ware. The assertion that the American citizen is safe from these activities and only enemies of the US are being targeted is being viewed as skeptical by privacy advocates who point to previous government promises that later proved false.
The story is that a covert team of computer geeks were assembled by the NSA to gain access to personal computers of anyone deemed to be a threat. The ability of hackers to gain access to even the most secure systems is legendary with even NSA data susceptible to spying. Anyone believing world governments do not hack each other's data collection computers is living in a dream. Likewise, it would be stupid to believe one's own computer is safe and because security agencies now routinely operate on the premise that anyone outside the agency's inner circle be classified as suspect, it would be unlikely that American citizens computers are not being compromised for many reasons other than national security. Most people are aware that considering the continued growth in new laws and regulations, violating one law or another is almost unavoidable by people who are otherwise model citizens. If the data on all these petty actions are stored every American is susceptible to being accused of anything our security personnel wants to hash up. Imagine the effect on free speech and private association this kind of snooping could have on the population. This idea makes Soviet KGB exploits seem like an afternoon picnic by comparison.
It is sad to say that polls show over 8 out of 10 people do not trust the federal government, probably about the same as Soviet citizens do their government. Employees of the federal government right up to the president himself, are routinely being caught lying to the American people about their actions without any punishment. Many of these actions are contrary to the protections guaranteed by the US Constitution and other protections ordered by Congress. How can we expect to retain our rights and preserve our freedom and privacy when it is continually being usurped by an untrustworthy government.
What do you think would have been the answer by a soviet citizen before the collapse of the USSR of who he would have been the most afraid; the KGB or the CIA?
Now ask yourself of who you are most afraid; US national security agencies or al-Qaeda?
If you still believe al-Qaeda, the latest revelation about hacking of personal computers, even your own computer by our government, may soon persuade you otherwise.
The NSA is fast becoming the new, and much more dangerous, American KGB.
Soon it will be too late to stop the abuse.
That's what I think.
Divine help with Interstate Highways
This editor finds himself driving longer distances mainly because he believes the Transport Security Administrations airport screening process arbitrary, degrading, and inefficient. Refusing to pay to be abused and treated like a criminal required a shift to the interstate highway system for long trips. Surprisingly, some of those trips do not take much longer than a flight when you figure in the ride to the airport, the two hour preflight check-in time, and ride from the airport to the final destination. Also it is less expensive even with gas prices as high as they are. It is also more convenient and cheaper to have the use of your own vehicle at your destination. I don't think I will ever be tempted to routinely use air transportation again, even if security was returned as an airline responsibility.
Anyway, while driving the interstates I have come to some conclusions, good and bad.
Generally, the interstate system is a remarkable achievement. It is one of the few times I can actually praise the work of the federal government. I am of the opinion that these highways were meant-to-be for the traveler. As if God overlooked their inclusion in His master plan and decided to add them later. This belief could account for the uncharacteristic success the federal government has had developing the system. Divine involvement, or government anomaly, the result has probably done more to make the United States the successful nation it has become, than any other single project.
To me, interstate highways are more than just roads going from A to B. They are works of art which naturally intertwine with nature that also allow us to easily interact with fellow Americans and their communities in a way that would be difficult without them. Yes they were expensive to build, and even more expensive to maintain, an expensive result of government involvement, but one of the few examples I can honestly say could not have been achieved any other way. Hence my belief in divine interference with the federal government.
I did say the conclusions I had come too were both good and bad. You probably would not be reading this editorial just to hear me praise the federal government, after all, one of the few benefits the taxpayer gets from them is the pleasure of bemoaning the fact that even with divine guidance they are still managing to screw up. A little like a four year old finger painter trying to improve the Mona Lisa.
They have been widening a 20 something mile stretch of Interstate 75 in southern Georgia for more than five years to my knowledge. They have closed a lane both north and southbound and reduced the speed limit. When construction crews are working, there seems to be no logic to the madness. First on this section of 20 miles, then on that, digging up what had already been completed. A closed northbound lane has miles of square holes cut in the roadway that have been there so long they each have developed their own ecosystem, all the while causing holdups and inconvenience to the motorist who are footing the bill. Remember, this has been going on for years and is likely happening all over the nation.
There is a 511 motorist information number to call for traffic reports that is worse than useless. It is hard to fathom what the people who run the system are doing but it does not appear they are doing a good job. Twice while gridlocked in jams the 511 system has reported no delays despite there being traffic cameras at both locations to prove otherwise.
The new electronic signs erected at intervals along many interstates seem also to be as useless as the 511 system. They tell you things you don't need to know or already know, like it is five miles to so-and-so exit and will take 5 to 10 minutes, while the interstate mile marker system already gives the distance. Occasionally these signs will warn of roadwork or "Click it, or Ticket" but these warnings are already being given by traditional signs. It likely cost hundreds of millions to erect them and teams of people to monitor them, and for what?
There may have been divine intervention in creating the original interstate highway system but it seems in the last few years God has withdrawn his support and left the federal government to do what they're best at.
That's what I think. What do you think?
You can make your feelings known immediately, by commenting on this editorial through our blog, The Grapevine.