Accountability

Today’s assigned reading:

http://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez/2013/06/10/the-destroyer-of-words/

I don’t always agree with Richard Fernandez but he is a brilliant essayist and this piece stimulated my thinking very effectively. Among the points he makes which articulate what I had been thinking and feeling:

1) Snowden’s whistleblowing is not reprehensible in the same way that many other leaks are, because he didn’t reveal anything about the US government’s capabilities that wasn’t already known; all that he revealed that wasn’t publicly known was their intentions (in the broadest sense, not in any detailed sense), which is something that (in the broadest sense) ought to be public since they are accountable to us. I also support the revealing of more detailed information precisely when it contradicts previous public statements or previous (not necessarily public) testimony to Congress. The government has the right to keep secrets only about details and not about their overall policy in the broadest sense; and the executive branch does NOT have the right to lie to Congress (especially in official testimony to duly cleared committee members).

2) The biggest reason our system is failing now is that it presumed that the individual human beings who held offices in it would have a level of internal moral restraint that, in general, they no longer have. This is partly because fewer people with the capability for office are virtuous in the right way, and partly because the people in general have lost the ability to select from among themselves those with either virtue or capability for office, as well as the interest and commitment to hold corrupt and disloyal officials accountable.

3) What he said about technology. I had not realized the Nobel prizes came about because of a random error by a newspaper editor; on the whole I think the prizes originally established by Nobel have been a good thing for the world, although the ones in Peace have done little good and occasional harm and have little credibility, and the ones in Literature have had no significant impact or influence. (Many of the ones in Economics have done harm, but Nobel didn’t create those.)

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