Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – July 30, 2010

The summer progresses but slowly, almost imperceptibly, the days get shorter and the sunset comes a little earlier every evening. Now more than ever, it is time to savor the season as we contemplate the past week:

I’ve Got A Secret?

This week began with the seemingly incredible story that the Wikileaks organization/site and released 90,000 classified files related to the United States war effort in Afghanistan covering the years 2004-2009. There is not enough time or space to get into the discussion as to whether the Wikileaks leak has actually breached U.S. national security interests. There is a monumental debate that could take place over whether the release of information from six years ago endangers some aspect of America today.
What we did learn however, is that in the search for the perpetrator(s) of this leak to Wikileaks, there are over 800,000 people with something called “top secret security clearance”! These are men and women in the American military, in the federal government and in the workforce of the legions of corporations that service the military intelligence complex. Keep in mind that this 800,000 is close to twice the population of Washington, D.C., a huge number within any context.
One can only hope that someone, somewhere, will wonder how any item of information can remain “top secret” if close to a million people have access to that information. Either that information is not really worth of being “top secret” or this is a classic case of “over classification” run amok. In the rush to identify to “leakers”, it is important that at some point the entire “top secret” classification process is questioned. There simply has to be a more intelligent way to handle intelligence.

Ticket to Ride

It was announced today that President Obama is going to Michigan to accentuate the remarkable recovery of the American automobile industry. For the first time since 2004, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler are reporting quarterly profits. All three of the Big Three are hiring workers and extending shifts to increase production. Good news for the American economy it would seem.
President Obama will be right to remind the naysayers in the Republican Party of No that General Motors and Chrysler, two of the aforementioned Big Three, are recipients of bailout funding, and he will remind Americans that, without the bailout funding so maligned by the Party of No and its Tea Party subsidiary, at least a million more Americans would be out of work right now. No responsible economist can accurately calculate the consequent collateral damage to the American economy that would have ensued if the much touted “free market” had been allowed to run its course and General Motors and Chrysler had gone out of business, but it stands to reason that most of us would be suffering the consequences of that damage.
The bailout of the auto industry was far from perfect. The bailout of the auto industry seems to have worked. The bailout of the auto industry may be one more step in progressing from the disastrous precipice over which we peered at the beginning of 2009. The Party of No and its Tea Party subsidiary would have us believe that no disaster was averted. Their hindsight is astigmatic and suspect.

Recommended Reading

This week’s edition of the New Yorker Magazine (August 2, 2010) has a cover story about end of life medical care in the United States. It is not a feel good happy story, but it is one that should be read. Medical technology has developed a capacity to keep people alive long past anything resembling quality, dignity or comfort. Because we have been conditioned to medicine being able to “do something” we now find ourselves in a situation where “something” may entail keeping the human organism alive even after the spirit and soul and essence of the person within has departed.
The anguish and emotional assaults endured by patients and their families can be, at times, unspeakable as well as enormously expensive. The article does indicate a non-technological solution, however – talking. Studies indicate that when individuals have open and frank and honest conversations with their doctors and families about how they want to spend the last days of their lives, the result is a more fulfilling and peaceful end of days.
Ironically, one of the earlier versions of the Healthcare legislation provided Medicare funding for these patient-doctor conversations. And then the mindless yammering about “death panels” and “pulling the plug on grandma” ensued and this item was yanked from the final version. And so, as a nation, we still have to come to grips with the reality of mortality and seize the opportunity to greet the end of days on our own terms instead of being in the thrall of a technological hamster wheel that will prolong existence, but not life.

Have a great weekend!

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