Wise Czar

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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More people attended the Chicago Blackhawks victory rally than attended the end of World War II celebration in Times Square.

Over 2 million people descended upon the Windy City this past Friday for the Chicago Blackhawk’s Stanley Cup victory rally. The downtown Loop area was a sea of red, as supporters and fans, some of whom arrived in the wee hours of the morning, came out to worship and adore their beloved hockey team.

Meanwhile, 5,000 miles away in Sao Paulo, Brazil, millions of people continue to rally in support of massive government reforms. Originally assembled in response to high transportation costs, the protests have evolved to address the lack of healthcare and education resources for many middle and lower class Brazilians.

Furthermore, Brazil will be hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and many protesters are decrying the amount of money their government is willing to spend on soccer stadiums, while millions live in neglected shanty towns, called favelas, located on the outskirts of major cities.

Comparing these two rallies side by side, a third party observer might conclude that things must be pretty great in the United States, since people can afford to rally in droves to support a group of entertainers who are paid millions of dollars to skate around and hit a puck into a net.

But things are not super great here, at least not great enough to justify being so carefree. The unemployment rate is 7.6 percent (as of May 2013), 6.5 percent of Americans do not have access to healthcare due to cost, our education system ranks 17th in the world, the national debt is rapidly approaching $17 trillion, our government is spying on us, and the list goes on and on.

Where are the droves of Americans rallying in the streets to address the issues that actually matter? With the exception of hit and miss protests held by polarizing groups like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party, Americans rarely come together to voice their collective concerns about the state of the country.

Instead, the only causes that seem to bring us together revolve around pleasure and entertainment. That is fine, and there is a place for such festivities in every society. But always placing “play” over work or choosing what is “fun” over what matters is not a good long-term strategy for our country.

To put things into perspective, this Blackhawks rally brought together more people than Martin Luther King Jr’s.  March on Washington in 1963; it saw more people in attendance than the 2013 presidential inauguration; most spectacularly, it  surpassed the amount of people who gathered in Times Square, New York on the day World War II ended, which was around 2 million!

So less people turned out to celebrate the end of the most destructive war in human history than turned out to celebrate a hockey team winning a giant cup. If that doesn’t reveal that we don’t have our priorities straight, then I don’t know what does.

There is a lesson to be learned from the events in Brazil. Traditionally a soccer-obsessed nation, the Brazilians, like the Americans, often placed sports on the highest pedestal. But now, as they realize just how much the World Cup will cost to run and how lacking their country is in the areas of healthcare and education, the people have chosen to rise up and address the issues that actually impact their lives.

Back in the states, we still have not woken up. To be sure, all those millions who attended the Blackhawks rally had a great time, and no one should begrudge them. After all, it was a nice, relaxing way to end the week. But at the end of the day, most of those people have to go back to reality and face the high gas prices, the high healthcare costs, etc. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks players and owners, enriched at the fans’ expense, have no such worries because we have essentially made them demigods.

We need to get our priorities straight here, like the people have in Brazil. Life does not revolve around sports and entertainment. In ancient Rome, the rulers used to heavily promote mass entertainment for the common people. It did not take long for the Roman populace to become so obsessed with “bread and circuses,” that they paid little attention to politics or what those in power were doing. This ignorance lead only to abuse, corruption and the decline of Roman society. Let us not follow in the same path.

Sources

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/29/blackhawks-rally-2013-att_n_3522201.html

http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/28/world/americas/brazil-protests-favelas

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/access_to_health_care.htm

http://www.ibtimes.com/us-17th-global-education-ranking-finland-south-korea-claim-top-spots-901538

Feinberg, Alexander. “All City ‘Lets Go,'” New York Times  (New York, NY), Aug 15, 1945

        A spy thriller is playing out before our very eyes as Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who revealed the United States government’s surveillance program of U.S. citizens, is seeking asylum in Russia. Reports have arisen that Snowden plans ultimately to seek refuge in the South American nation of Ecuador. Meanwhile, the U.S. is desperately seeking to extradite him for prosecution, resulting in a manhunt worthy of a Jason Bourne film. 1332361939-whistleblower

            All of this is vaguely familiar. It resembles the 2010 hunt for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who apparently leaked a host of secret U.S. diplomatic and military records on his website. Thus far, Assange has avoided extradition by seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

            Both Snowden and Assange have a broad base of supporters who argue that they should be pardoned, and that it was right for them to reveal those secrets to the world. Indeed, on the surface, it appears that both men represent the same breed of whistleblower. Some will argue that both are traitors to their country, while others will praise them as heroes.

            However, the nature of each man’s whistle blowing is different, and the differences should be taken into account when deciding whether the action was treacherous or noble.

            Julian Assange is a hacker and has been so since his teenage years. He published sensitive diplomatic and military cables on his website that had been obtained through various means, among which was likely hacking.

            This diplomatic and military material does not infringe on any rights held by U.S. citizens. Instead, much of it deals with military operations and relations between governments that are all part of maintaining a tactful U.S. foreign policy. Public dissemination of such knowledge can quickly result in damaging consequences like straining a strategic partnership between the U.S. and another country or endangering the lives of soldiers on a secret mission.

            Thus, although perhaps some of this material can safely be released, it is better to keep, especially the more sensitive information, secret to avoid unnecessarily endangering American lives or foreign policy in any way. In other words, there is good reason to keep such material classified, and whoever steals and irresponsibly releases it is going down a dangerous road, although he will not be judged here.

            Edward Snowden’s case differs significantly. He revealed that the U.S. government is monitoring its citizens’ phone calls and possibly even e-mails and social media accounts. In essence, the government is directly infringing upon Americans’ right to privacy.

            This fact is disturbing enough. Worse still is that the government wanted to keep this a secret. Unlike sensitive documents detailing specific military strategies, public knowledge of government phone and e-mail tapping in no way endangers lives. If Americans know they are being monitored, it does not undermine the government’s attempts to monitor them.

            A government spokesperson may argue that this knowledge might make potential terrorists more careful in communicating and thus harder to catch; but if the government’s surveillance program is as thorough as Snowden alleges, they won’t be able to communicate at all short of using carrier pigeons.

            Thus, Snowden’s revelation seems to do no visible damage to his country. How is his action then treasonous? Just because Americans know that their government is spying on them does not mean it will stop doing so. Perhaps the NSA will actually begin more effective and ethical monitoring now that it must answer to the public to some extent.

            The U.S. government is seemingly ignoring this logic as it continues actively to seek Snowden’s extradition and prosecution. Snowden is not Assange. The information he released harms no one. Instead, it increases government transparency, something that every freedom-loving American, including those in power, should support.

Sources

http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/23/politics/nsa-leaks

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/06/07/100607fa_fact_khatchadourian?currentPage=all

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia-pacific/2010/11/2010112961154954144.html