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What you need to know for 07/21/2017

All public salaries, including pensions, need to kept public

All public salaries, including pensions, need to kept public

*All public salaries, including pensions, need to kept public *Don’t compare Snowden with Daniel Ell

All public salaries, including pensions, need to kept public

The July 12 AP article by Michael Gormley is of enormous significance.

He states that the state Court of Appeals will soon decide whether the pensions and names of teachers in public pension plans can be obtained by the Empire Center, which has been denied the data applied for under the Freedom of Information Act because a lower court cited the precedent of a previous case upholding this privacy of information regarding police pensions.

According to this excellent article, if the Court of Appeals supports the teachers union position, henceforth the privacy privilege could be, in effect, applied to all governmental pensions, even including those of judges.

Presently, the pension information of publicly held, nongovernmental businesses regarding CEOs, managers and board members is open to scrutiny for logical reasons. Just because state courts have erred in the past with regard to police pensions, the judiciary need not be bound by absurd and incorrect precedent.

The fact that the case was accepted to be heard flies in the face of common sense, sorely lacking in many government entities. The obviously correct logic derives from the theory that the power of the government derives from the people who are responsible for it or, if you will allow, possess the ultimate power of oversight. Except in the case of national security, [oversight] cannot be carried out without information and transparency, especially regarding costs and the flow of money derived from the taxes we pay.

In essence, there should be no secrecy or “privacy” regarding what the government pays its employees, even if they are retired, because pensions noted in hiring contracts are seldom the numbers seen at the time of departure.

Furthermore, perhaps it is impossible for the government to judge itself with regard to its own behavior, especially when it comes to moral and ethical appropriateness that may eventually involve disclosure of judicial pensions.

There is little room for “privacy” involving the finances of government.

Lyle W. Barlyn

Niskayuna

Don’t compare Snowden with Daniel Ellsberg

In some circles, the actions of Edward Snowden, leaker of the National Security Agency surveillance programs, have been lauded and compared to the actions of Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon Papers. I believe that such praise is ill- placed on several levels.

In 1970, Mr. Ellsberg shared the classified Pentagon Papers with The New York Times. These documents revealed that the government had knowledge that the Vietnam War could most likely not be won, and that continuing the war would lead to many more casualties than was ever admitted publicly. Eventually excerpts from the Pentagon Papers were published in The Times.

In June 1971 Mr. Ellsberg publicly surrendered to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and said, “I am prepared to answer to all the consequences of this decision.” Mr. Ellsberg stood trial in 1973, but all charges were eventually dismissed due to the revelations of the Watergate break-in. Thus, Mr. Ellsberg leaked the documents to protest the war and save lives. He surrendered to the American justice system and stood trial.

Mr. Snowden has defended his leaks as an effort “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” It is not yet clear that these leaks have resulted in any real benefit to the public and certainly will not end surveillance in this post-9/11 era.

Mr. Snowden has not faced the consequences of his actions, but rather has sought asylum in countries such as China, Russia and Venezuela. These countries are not known as advocates of public dissent.

Whatever one may think of Edward Snowden, his actions in no way compare to those of Daniel Ellsberg.

Don Steiner

Niskayuna

Column on trial verdict far superior to cartoon

Your July 17 editorial page showed a remarkable contrast between the Gazette’s poor choice of a political cartoon and Richard Cohen’s column.

Mr. Cohen tried to elevate the post-Zimmerman trial conversation, pointing out the high crime rate among young black men. He wrote of the need for change in the culture, including the black community, so that ordinary citizens of all races no longer need to be leery of young black men.

The cartoon served no constructive purpose and was, in fact, reprehensible. The depiction of Zimmerman getting away with murder served only to further divide the races.

John D. Hanshaw

Clifton Park

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