Big Brother

One definition of “to watch out for” people is to watch over and care for them. For example, “When I was a kid, my older brother always watched out for me.”

That’s what the U. S. government says it’s doing by collecting so much information about its citizens. It’s trying to protect us from terrorists.

On the other hand, some of us think of another use of the term — we would like “to watch out for” people in government having too much power with no accountability or oversight. As we’ve recently seen from the IRS scandal, it’s tempting for people in government to use their power against their political enemies, not just enemies of the country.

What about you? Do you think the National Security Agency has been given too much authority to collect data and listen to phone calls without a warrant? Or do you think the program makes the U.S. safer? Do you think this article is unfair in calling the NSA the Keystone Cops for giving someone with Snowden’s limited background so much access and power?

Thanks to Ursula, Mike, tammy, bikehikebabe, Dixie, Rummuser and Nick for commenting on last week’s post.


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28 Responses to Big Brother

  1. nick says:

    Personally I’m not too bothered by who might or might not be looking at my Facebook updates or my emails or my Google searches. I know it all sounds a bit Big Brotherish but out of all the billions of people in cyberspace what are the chances of anyone taking an interest in me in particular, unless I’m already under suspicion for some reason? I shan’t lose any sleep over it.
    nick´s last blog post ..Sharp as knives

  2. Mike says:

    Some people say they don’t care because, “I don’t have anything to hide.”

    That was my thought initially, but there are so many federal, state and local laws and regulations now, how can anyone be sure they have nothing to hide?
    Mike´s last blog post ..Vintage Color Photography–#3.

  3. bikehikebabe says:

    Invasion of our privacy or protecting U.S. from terrorists in our country. Privacy vs Terrorists. I don’t need to answer that. The collected data is just phone numbers. If we’d have had that… 9/11 probably couldn’t have happened.

    Snowden—He’s a traitor. 🙁

  4. bikehikebabe says:

    I like this better:

    Invasion of our privacy or protecting U.S. from terrorists in our country. Privacy vs Terrorists. I don’t need to answer that. The collected data is just phone numbers.

    Today with that data base 9/11 wouldn’t happen. Back then, probably. We weren’t so concerned.

    Snowden—He’s a traitor. 🙁

  5. tammyj says:

    well. first there was hoover who kept files on everyone. kind of his own little SS. now it’s done electronically. that’s all.
    the marine asked if i was picturing a room full of people who were listening in and pulling up every blog or email or facebook account… i had to admit yes… that’s the scenario that was in my mind. he said “think about it. not on the scale they’re talking about. it’s done with machines. computers. picking up key words that mean something to them. words used over and over possibly … ” he went on to explain more but by then i was thinking… “oh good grief.”
    just another reason to go to the abbey of my mind.
    i tire of the politics of the day. knowing FULL WELL that it is not a good thing to be an ostrich. someone has to keep watch i guess. for the sake of the rest of us who are being watched! i just don’t want to do the worrying or the watching.
    that’s no doubt what helped herr hitler to get a foothold.
    but… man. i hate it ALL. it depletes my energy. and i have so little energy these days. LOL!
    tammyj´s last blog post and snoopy

  6. Jean says:

    A lot of Americans agree with you. Especially the younger ones. The problem isn’t so much our information being transparent to the government, it’s that when there’s so much secrecy about the government it’s an invitation to all sorts of shenanigans. And whistle blowers will be a lot more vulnerable now.

    All the rules and regulations are a real problem. I’ve read stories about people who were acting reasonably getting prosecuted because of some poorly written law. As I recall some laws are even retroactive — you’re guilty because of something you did before the law was passed. It’s scary.

    In fact they had enough information to stop 9/11 at the time. It’s just that they didn’t connect the dots. It may be their computer codes might be able to do that now.

    I’m the last person to say that you “should” be paying more attention. It wouldn’t help your health, and you wouldn’t be changing the state of the world. Keep on doing what you’re doing. I love your posts!

  7. Evan says:

    I’ll just say that Julian Assange is one of the Australians I am most proud of.
    Evan´s last blog post ..Dealing with Distress #2food

  8. Rummuser says:

    I am not a citizen of your country and would not like to comment. If it happened in my country, I would not mind as I would rather be a live citizen than a dead one. I would however expect a quid pro quo in that I would like our government to be open in its decision making and our politicians open about their sources of funding.
    Rummuser´s last blog post ..Story 1. Life Outwardly Perfect.

  9. bikehikebabe says:

    I sent this post to friends & got this reply:

    Yes, Snowden is a traitor. His generation does not remember the perils of Nazism and Japanese megalomania! We are constantly under attack from some lethal force gnawing at the roots of democracy but we aren’t aware most of the time due to the diligence of our protective agencies and their dedicated personnel. I lived in Washington 24 years and knew a few of the “spooks” and other agency folks. Folks like Snowden are immature and have an axe to grind with a supervisor somewhere down the line and need to go off and grow up!!! Just feeding his juvenile ego!

    Times have changed since 9/11 and we have lost our innocence. Terrorism is an insidious menace and a constant threat to the safety of all everyday Americans so lets start appreciating the efforts of our unseen civil servants who work for us!!!!

  10. Evan says:

    Good grief. The naivete is extraordinary bhb.
    Evan´s last blog post ..Dealing with Distress #2food

  11. bikehikebabe says:

    You’ll have to elaborate if I’m to understand you. No time—that’s OK. BTW that last comment was from a friend.

  12. Evan says:

    Briefly, about to head off.

    What was it about the fascists and communists that was wrong? Other than them not being ‘us’?

    If it was not respecting civil liberties and human rights then we need to discuss Mr Snowden’s civil liberties and human rights. I take it that sacrificing the individual for the sake of the collective is part of what was wrong with fascism and communism.
    Evan´s last blog post ..Dealing with Distress #2food

  13. Evan says:

    Your friends comment seems to be at the level of goodies and baddies. Security personnel being the goodies.

    You only have to look at J Edgar Hoover to know that things aren’t quite that simple.
    Evan´s last blog post ..Dealing with Distress #2food

  14. Jean says:

    I wrote this but didn’t send it before your latest comments:

    The Economist has just written:

    The attack on Mr Snowden’s reputation is in no small part a rearguard action to keep America’s spies and generals beyond the reach of suspicion, to maintain their relative immunity from serious democratic scrutiny so that that the public will continue complacently to trust them when they say, in so many words, “Trust us…or else”. But it is democratic affirmation, not uniforms and security clearances, that makes state power legitimate. When the state acts without proper democratic authority, it acts as a rogue operation—as just another band of thugs with money and guns and a dangerous sense of self-righteousness. Whether the NSA’s monitoring programmes are actually legal and effective may be more pressing questions than whether Mr Snowden deserves our esteem. But it became possible to address those questions openly only because Mr Snowden chose to speak up. If we wish to keep similarly pressing policy questions available for public examination, we must defend the honour of whistleblowers like Edward Snowden.

    I assume you agree with that position?

    That sounds like a good trade to me!

  15. Jean says:

    Thanks for letting us know what your friend thinks. I disagree with her statement: “lets start appreciating the efforts of our unseen civil servants who work for us!” As I understand it private contractors, not civil servants, are doing a lot of the surveillance. And they get big bucks for doing it. There’s a lot of money to be made in this activity.

  16. Jean says:

    About regulations — There’s an article in today’s Wall Street Journal talking about the need for lawyers in the health care field. One insurance executive said trying to keep up with the regulations is like trying to drink from a fire hose. There are just too many of them being generated. A lot of people worry they will run afoul of the law either because they forgot something or they didn’t even know of one of the regulations.

  17. Cathy in NZ says:

    I can’t comment…I have no idea what is happening here, although at times there seems to be political jousting going on about security, but who/se I do not know.
    Cathy in NZ´s last blog post ..Taking The Tour…

  18. Jean says:

    You’re not missing anything!

  19. Evan says:

    Hi Jean, mostly agree sorta. I think the problem is that loyalty can be an admirable quality but it can become attached to the organisation instead of the (professed) goals of the organisation.

    There are systems considerations beyond the individuals being nice people – even if they were absolutely and always altruistically motivated.

    Generally I think transparency is important and helpful.
    Evan´s last blog post ..Dealing with Distress #2food

  20. Mike says:

    A couple of the blogs I read are from people who own businesses, one of them operating recreational facilities in multiple states — and the regulations were overwhelming them before the new health care law and it’s ensuing plethora of implementing regulations.

    And who is going to be responsible for collecting the health care related revenue and enforcing the regulations? The Internal Revenue Service. hmmpff!!!
    Mike´s last blog post ..Dust, Drought, and Depression #9 – 1937

  21. Jean says:

    I agree. Certainly one sees loyalty among policemen, doctors, etc. that doesn’t always benefit the public, patients, etc. And it happens a lot in politics.

    I agree the whole thing is crazy. The IRS can’t even handle its present job well.

  22. Jean says:

    About your friend’s statement that the spying is done by civil servants — this New York Times column points out that 70% ($56 billion this year) is done by private contractors. These contractors aren’t subject to Congressional oversight, and there are plenty of chances for corruption. I keep thinking of the bank robber who was asked why he robbed banks. “Because that’s where the money is.” Now Washington is experiencing a new gilded age (according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal). No surprise. That’s where the money is.

  23. Dixie says:

    I find it hard to understand what qualified Snowden for the position in the first place? Was it someone’s intention that it turn out this way? And why go to Hong Kong?

    Culture upon culture has been abused in some fashion here. Is this something new under the sun? I once read, “when men start to pray for each other, they ‘ll no longer prey on each other.” (Use your own definition regarding prayer.)

    Sure, newer technology… but when an organization or group feels threatened…paranoia and the need to control… escalate. “They” have a new world order to implement. (Think 1984).

    Then again… I could be wrong! I’m still hoping real statesmen will return. Haha.
    Dixie´s last blog post ..making beds to lie in…

  24. Jean says:

    Does anyone remember why Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize? According to Snopes it’s a hoax that the Nobel Committee has asked him to return it. Statemanship ain’t what it used to be.

    About praying for others — I’ve seen even that idea used as an insult. As in, “I’ll pray for you,” when the other person is doing something the speaker disapproves of.

    Apparently Snowden was hired because he is, in his own words, a “computer wizard”. Sometimes it pays to be a geek. At one point he was getting $200K a year.

  25. My only comment is that police states tend to the safest places in the world in terms of being free from violence perpetrated by its citizens. You’ll think twice about even walking around with a spray can of paint when you know that folks who get caught doing graffiti get their arms chopped off.

    Well, I need to amend this to say that police states are safe until all hell breaks loose.
    Square Peg Guy´s last blog post ..Tanka Bar — A Great Lo-Carb Snack Bar

  26. Evan says:

    Square Peg Guy. For deterrence to work people need to be sure they will be caught. Police states breed corruption.

    Ever since Sam Johnson observed pick-pockets working the crowd at a hanging it has been clear that the deterrence story has some interesting twists and turns to it.
    Evan´s last blog post ..For a Satisfying Life Engage with the Process (whatever it is)

  27. Cathy in NZ says:

    Square Peg Guy – but no one has terribly much freedom, including all kinds of things that are not particularly related to violence. As you say when they unravel then problems escalate which is turn is not great for the ordinary citizen who has “played the game” and been what might be called the model citizen. These type usually end up at the wrong of the “stick” when unravelling gets under way…and the state bosses either escape the country or somehow because the victims!
    Cathy in NZ´s last blog post ..Taking The Tour…

  28. Jean says:

    Square Peg Guy,
    I’m not sure I would have felt very safe in Hitler’s Nazi Germany or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. And I’m reading too many stories about corruption in China today. The ordinary folk get ripped off by the local authorities and they have no recourse. If they protest they get thrown in jail.

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