Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

August 3, 2013

Traitors and cheaters have become so blurred the lines run together

This Edward Snowden, who was a former contractor for the National Security Agency, has seemingly managed to bring something akin to the old cold war feelings between the United States and Russia.

After he leaked information about how the NSA gathers data, Snowden has been lying low in Moscow since June 23 to avoid extradition to America. He has been accused of espionage and relations between the two countries are described by U.S. officials as — rock bottom — although the Russians say the incident is a small affair.

Although members of Congress are generally very angry that Snowden divulged facts about the NSA, several  — along with growing numbers of Americans  — are publicly questioning just how much the government is entitled to monitor its own citizens.

In fact, a recent poll suggests that more than half of U.S. citizens think that Snowden is/was not as much a traitor as a whistle-blower. Phone call records, access to Internet accounts, and review of non-U.S. citizens abroad are part of the controversy.

Members of both political parties have condemned Snowden ‘s actions, saying that the information belongs to the American people and he had no right to share it with the world. At the same time, those like Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.) have raised the question of when is  enough, too much? A massive government monitoring of phone, e-mail, and Internet records has become enough of a concern to perhaps finally prompt Congress to rein it in, although that remains to be seen.

Anyone who has been forced to stand in line at public buildings, has decided to simply buy clothes or other items at a destination rather than try to take them through check-in at an airport, or have been searched at entry/exits over and over has probably begun to wonder if the terrorists have not already won a kind of victory.

We often seem to be prisoners in our own country, the land of the free. While Snowden’s actions are not admirable and no patriotic American wants to stand against the government, it does seem sometimes that Uncle Sam’s Big Brother intelligence network is making your and my business everyone’s business.

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Recently, the old St. Louis Cardinal second baseman, Red Schoendienst, was asked about the money he made when he broke into the majors back in 1945.

He said he got $4,000 a year and 15 cents a day meal money. Schoendienst went on to say that if he stayed at the park and ate lunch he got a nickel of that money back, which was significant.

Times have certainly changed, and no one can live on $4,000 a year these days.

Nevertheless, it is amazing to many of us average working folks to hear that New York Yankees infielder Alex Rodriguez may be suspended and lose as much as $34.5 million in salary over the next years. That is related to the Biogenesis drug investigation.

The players are not completely to blame, of course, in view of the incredible salaries being offered. How could one not be at least tempted to cheat with such great rewards to be gained?

TV is the culprit in most of this, with huge contracts  being signed at all major league levels, no matter what the sport.

There is no way ticket sales can account for these incredible salaries. Consider, for instance, just what Rodriguez earns. That $34.5 million covers 217 games, meaning that for every game the New York third baseman earns about $158,986. Can you imagine? What are your hourly wages? Does your job matter?

It would seem that a player making almost $160 thousand dollars per game would have to hit a grand slam home run every at bat and catch every ball hit by the opposing team to earn that kind of salary.

But don’t blame the player. If we were offered $10,000 to go get the boss a cup of coffee, or maybe a hundred grand to sweep up the office, we would gladly take it.

Who knows, for instance, how much money the sports networks can make simply by covering the latest messes they inadvertently helped to create?

 Larry Hypes is a teacher at Tazewell High School and a columnist for the Daily Telegraph.p

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