Thoughts & Views: Snooping makes the world go round

There’s been a lot of gnashing of teeth over The Guardian’s revelations about how Verizon – and probably others of that ilk – are willingly turning over customers’ electronic data to the government under the cover of the U.S. Patriot Act.

And the government is building a million square foot facility in Utah – maybe it will turn out to be our next national monument – as a repository for the multi-billions of bytes of information about its citizens (and outsiders, too), our comings and goings, who we’re talking to, for how long, etc.

Pretty sophisticated stuff.

I’ve been meaning to clean out my accumulated electronic trash for some time now. The government is welcome to it.

I guess the National Security Agency will be – if it hasn’t already done so – programming high speed computers to match up patterns of communication among terror suspects and maybe then, someone or something – after the President gives the go signal – will dispatch a drone to take out the target.

And, we’re told, at least a few people we elected to Congress bothered to read some briefing papers prepared by the people in charge of official government secrets and began worrying aloud whether this was too much invasion of our privacy and maybe a breach of the Constitution.

And the government got upset, not because maybe our individual liberties may be under siege, but because some darned government bureaucrat entrusted with national security clearance went and told some newspaper reporter about what was happening.

What with China hacking our electronic data bases and the U.S., perhaps in partnership with Israel, playing havoc with Iranian computer systems, this whole snooping business is getting really sloppy.

It reminds me of the really bad old days when the country was battling the Depression – (not like today when government economists cheered the latest unemployment rate because more people were actually going out and looking for work – imagine that!) – and Kaufman & Hart penned a daffy comedy called “You Can’t Take it with You.”

In the play, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1937, Martin Vanderhoff, the central character of an eccentric New York household says he sees no sense in paying the government income taxes because the government won’t know what to do with the money.

Another character, Ed Carmichael, makes homemade candies and prints anarchist slogans on the candy boxes, just for the fun of it.

Things go rather swimmingly for a while until a family hobby goes awry, and a big set of fireworks blows up in the basement, causing much consternation among federal gendarmes.

It all ends happily, of course, with a wealthy industrialist’s son getting hitched to a member of the daffy brood.

The point, here, is that even in what was one of America’s darkest hours, the nation gave itself permission to laugh – perhaps a bit nervously – at its own real fears while showing respect for what we, today, might refer to as “home values.”

Yes, the world can be a dangerous place but all nations can do a better job to make it safer – and healthier – for all of us who live here.

Thousands of Turks have come out to protest the proposed razing of a popular urban park slated to be uprooted by a shopping center, only to be tear-gassed by local police while the government’s leader detached himself from the situation. Simply amazing. – Ron Leir

Learn more about the writer ...