The Excuses We Make

Poverty.jpeg

So on the way to the airport, I am talking with the Uber driver. 


“There is such a discrepancy between the rich and the poor here,” I say.


“Yeah,” she says, “When I drive and stop at the lights, there are many poor people that come up to the car looking for a handout.”


She continues, “I usually have a few dollars here” pointing to the little cubby hole under the parking break. 


“But my friends make fun of me saying, they [the panhandlers] are just going to go out and buy a beer!”


Excuse #1 not to give poor people–they’ll misuse our charity and buy alcohol, drugs, or prostitutes. 


The driver says, “But so what…if I were in their shoes, I’d buy a beer too.”


I’m thinking, hey this is nice…she’s fighting the bad inclination and her friends pressure and still wants to give–this is great!


Sure enough, we stop at a red light, and a really poor man starts walking up to the window to ask for help.


This person is dressed in dirty battered rags of an undershirt, and has sores on their arms and body.


The driver says, “Yeah, if I gave him, he’d probably just switch his shirt inside out later [as if the other side would be magically less dirty and ripped] and go home to his Rolls Royce!”


Wow, when excuse #1 doesn’t hold…


Excuse #2–the poor people are just faking it…really they aren’t poor, but rather they are fantastically rich and trying to pocket some more money for free.


It’s like the evil inclination sitting on one shoulder telling us “don’t give,”  even as the good inclination is sitting over our other shoulder beseeching us to have mercy and “give, give, give.”


In this case, the evil inclination won out. 


I reached for my wallet and wanted to open my window, but honestly this person looked scary–dirty and maybe sick–I was afraid of this person. 


I hope G-d forgives me, because I feel it wasn’t my evil inclination making excuses, but this time it was genuine for me. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

No Such Agency (NSA) Listening To No Such Information (NSI)

No Such Agency (NSA) Listening To No Such Information (NSI)

The National Security Agency (NSA) frequently referred to by the secretive surname of No Such Agency is at the forefront of our signals intelligence (SIGINT) and in protecting America–they are amazing!

Recently, there is a lot of controversy about the PRISM program for sifting through communications looking for terrorist contacts, plans, and imminent attacks to be foiled.

Is this necessary for security or a violation of our privacy?

Of course, we value our privacy and generally wish we had more. (For me growing up in the busy and crowded city that never slips, I craved a little more quiet and secluded life and that’s how I ended up in the Washington D.C. suburbs).

Anyway, if your an average hard-working Joe or Jane, what do you fear about PRISM?

For me, if “they” are tracking calls or listening–this is what they hear:

– The occasional squabble with my loving wife (yes, we drive each other nuts sometimes).

– My teenage kids hanging up their phone on me, not wanting to hear my brilliant (in my own mind) parental advice and guidance.

– My elderly parents lecturing me and telling me that I should go to synagogue more often.

– The daily life transactions with the plumber, the cable service, and the credit card company.

If your honest and loyal, and the system works fairly, the way it’s supposed to, your communications are just some transmission packets travelling through cyberspace to carry out your life’s goings on.

Then again, if you’re crooked, a traitor, or planning to or have hurt someone, well then your up against some very powerful technology tools and (hopefully) your going to get caught and get what’s coming to you.

The big concern then is not when the system works well and fairly, but when it’s used corruptly, fraudulently, or for political ends.

Then it’s not what someone overhears you say or sees you do that’s a real concern, but rather, with all the advanced electronics and technology, what can be made up about you to address personal or political gripes, grievances, or just settle a score.

You don’t have to be afraid (generally) of what you do honestly, instead you need to fear the dishonesty of those who can or are apt to misuse the technology for their own ends.

Then what you really did or said, can be taken out of context, exaggerated, edited, spliced, or otherwise doctored to something else entirely.

This is why the integrity and ethical backbone of those who run the country and our vital institutions are of paramount importance.

With honesty, ethics, and justice–a surveillance system can greatly enhance national security. Without these things, they can be a tool of corruption. The best protection is not unplugging the system, but hooking in lots of internal and external controls to keep it honest. 😉

(Source Photo: here by LittleBirth)