Who keeps you up to date on the news?

As a retired intelligence analyst, I am prompted today to offer my point of view regarding the news industry.

Bob Schieffer, in recent interviews because of his May 31st retirement from hosting ‘Face the Nation’, said some interesting things about his own point of  view : “We now don’t know where people get their news, but what we do know is they’re bombarded with information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Most of the information is wrong and some of it is wrong on purpose. It is our job, I think, in mainstream journalism to try to cut through this mall of information and tell people what we think is relevant in what they need to know.”

When I was in the Air Force, my commanders were in exactly the same position then as we all are in today. How could they know what it was important for them to know? They needed someone to filter the mountains of information and ‘help’ them make sense of reality. (Bob Schieffer suggests that journalists within the mainstream media are assigned this job. I, on the other hand, suggest that hired analysts are a better choice.) Despite what movies and the media itself often suggest, ‘reality’ itself is the arbiter of truth on the battlefield. And intelligence analysts are expected to tell their managers the truth.

Yet, “everyone” lies. This is axiomatic. How can analysts and their employers navigate their way to reality through this fog of war? The answer is “all-source fusion”. This is just a pompous way of saying they gather information from all kinds of sources, both deceitful and reliable, to build a compelling case. Then they draw conclusions about what they believe is the most probable view of reality. They take open-sources (the news media; i.e. “deceitful” sources) and classified sources (secrets they intercept or steal, i.e. “reliable” sources) and sift them to discern the truth. Even propaganda contains truth; the best propaganda is almost entirely composed of truth. Ironically, reading propaganda can save analysts a lot of time and effort doing  research.

The problem for the general public is that we don’t have direct access to intelligence analysts. Instead, we must rely on what politicians or press secretaries tell us. And there is a huge difference between what an experienced but otherwise nameless intelligence analyst knows and what a politician says. For its part, the mainstream media only makes this distance greater; they generate an inference or speculation about what the politicians are talking about and call it “news”. In fairness, they also go out and investigate for themselves. But the intelligence community has a name for such investigation; it is called “HUMINT”, or human intelligence. In short, HUMINT is what people tell you. SIGINT or COMINT and FIGMINT (joke) are secrets that are stolen but HUMINT is what a human wants to tell you. And “everyone” lies. So journalists rely most heavily on two sources. The first is the propaganda uttered by politicians and the second is opinions uttered by unnamed sources. Then they add in something that isn’t even a source at all, they add their own reasoning to the mix. Now that’s comforting. We can all go to sleep knowing that the media has our backs covered.

So, you might ask, am I suggesting that I as a retired intelligence analyst have some corner on the truth and a secret window into reality? No. I am suggesting, however, that the “methods” used by the intelligence community are readily available and accessible to the general public. (But trusting some brand-name media outlet is not “it”.)

All-source fusion is something that we can all do, given the time. First, hire one fully educated but low-profile person to collect and analyze information. (Or do it yourself.) “Information” per se  includes books and reference materials as well as media reports. Note: “Classified Intelligence” is mostly just the same as what the news media publishes–only it is published earlier, often before events unfold. So we do-it-yourself analysts have access to the same facts, just a few days later. By comparing media reports from diverse outlets with knowledge derived from books, academia and reference materials, one can compile a solid set of facts about any topic.

This is not rocket science.

But Bob Schieffer says that the general public can’t do this. He says that they should turn off the “Internet” and return to the mainstream media to “tell people what we think … they need to know”.

Oh. My bad. I guess I’ll just delete this status report and go back to sleep…

If you’re stubborn and you know it clap your hands…

Deuteronomy 29:19

“One who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’”

Stubborn:

a : unreasonably or perversely unyielding : mulish

b: suggestive or typical of a strong stubborn nature as in “a stubborn jaw”.

Some people feel sad when they recognize stubbornness, others take pride in it. What makes he difference? The former occurs when we are looking at our friends, the latter when we are looking at ourselves.

In Deuteronomy Moses is trying to teach the people of Israel what will happen if they remain as stubborn as they have been so far. One would think that 40 years wandering in the wilderness instead of just taking a short hike into the Promised Land would have taught them something about the price of stubbornness. (Yet no man has yet lived who could say such a thing without it being ironical. As Nathan told King David, “You are the man!”)

We can read Deuteronomy 29 and get so caught up in the horrifying foretelling of disaster, defeat and exile that we fail to see how tiny was the seed from which all this grew. The seed of stubbornness.

There’s a lot to be said about stubbornness–because as humans we are so creative about how we express it. One Proverb tells how men have made lying into an art form; well, I think we have made stubbornness into an art gallery!

Yet Deuteronomy 29 doesn’t dwell on the specifics of stubbornness. This might be because God assumed that we would just quibble about the details if he was more specific. In Malachi, for example, each accusation God leveled against the people was met with an outcry of denial. “Wherein have we done (this or that)?” Or it might be that God has left cryptic clues within the text that can lead us to discover a great secret.

Deuteronomy 29:26

“They went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them.”

Sometimes you can read a sentence and not notice one or another particular detail. In this case, the final phrase about these false gods not being “allotted to them” can get overlooked. Nearly every time the word allotted or apportioned was used in the Old Testament it referred to the division of an inheritance among the heirs.  God apportioned all of creation to mankind as an inheritance just as he apportioned the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants

So why in verse 26 did God tell Israel through Moses that any false gods they might be tempted to worship have not been apportioned to them? We could speculate about whether this implies that such gods were apportioned to other peoples or possibly that such gods were just not available to be passed on to Israel. Or, preferably, we can look to see what else might have been apportioned to Israel, specifically something not to be worshipped (just as they were warned here about).

Deuteronomy 4:19

“When you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars–all the heavenly array–do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the Lord your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven.”

We see here that the moon and stars actually were apportioned to all people, but specifically not as gods to be worshipped.

So which is it; did God in Deuteronomy 29 just want to gloss over the many ways we humans can be stubborn or did He want to highlight one specific category of stubbornness, one fatal flaw suffered by all of us? I suggest that the key might lie in the concept of apportionment and how each of us handles our portion.

The “big deal” in chapter 29 was the worship of gods not apportioned to the people. For that sin Israel would ultimately be taken into captivity.  Centuries later, they were here told in advance, people would actually talk about this in detail and correctly link the result with the cause. Yet back In chapter 4 they were told that the moon and sun (and, elsewhere, any created thing) were in fact apportioned to all mankind, but only for what they really were and not to be worshipped as gods.

So the problem even today is not what is apportioned to us but how we handle our God-given portions. Handling them wrongly was, in the text, what they did out of stubbornness. God gave the moon and stars to all, but they stubbornly decided to thank the moon and stars for being themselves rather than thank God himself who made them all.

Romans 1:19-25

“What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

“For although they knew God they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.”

In short, our stubbornness expresses itself in the alternatives we find in our quest to rationalize our ingratitude. Israel looked to the moon and stars and worshipped them instead of being grateful to God for them. We today might not worship the things God apportions to us, but we might still “bless ourselves inwardly, saying, ‘we shall be safe, though we walk in the stubbornness of our own reasonings.’”

Postscript:

You might be thinking, “Well, that certainly was, uh, vague!” And you would be right. Lots of sermons have told us that we are self-centered and self-serving, even stubborn. So what’s the point, what brilliant insight comes from Deuteronomy 29?

The key lies in whether or not we understand our portion, our inheritance. There are two ways to use that portion. We can stubbornly claim the right to use it in some clever schemes of our own devising. Or we can gratefully accept it from the Lord, with gratitude.

“That’s still vague!”

I am not finished yet. This passage identifies the problem areas as being those which particularly goad our stubbornness. It’s one thing to be persistent; it’s another to be stubborn. And we usually know exactly when we are being one or the other.

Polarized America?

The article linked at the end of this (lengthy) status update is typical of a stream of articles flooding public discourse lately, especially since President Obama’s 2008 political campaign. On the surface, this “argument” makes sense. In reality, political polarization has been a staple of the American scene since Jefferson and Adams slugged it out as President and Vice President. Ironically, they also represent the reality of such polarization–that is, it is bogus.

My conservative compatriots probably think my point smells as bad as that of the Republican Governors endorsing gay marriage, but I stand by it. Americans of all parties, in my observation, actually overlap as much as 90% in the policies they support. The absurd hot button issues overwhelming current public discourse are nearly irrelevant “in practice” and only serve to win votes from the undecided fringes. .

The article I highlighted (below) is exemplary. Words that seem to convey objective facts turn out to  only be links between editorializing and speculation. The article covers, it says, “almost all of our major policy choices”. Hah! It actually covers only a tiny fraction. For supporting premises the article considers “a few recent headlines”. These media list gay marriage, abortion, the budget, immigration and, by implication,  equal protection under the law. Yet the real message is found in phrases like “revealing, if dispiriting”, “pulling apart at an accelerating rate”, “a background of polarization, separation and confrontation”, “is dominating our decisions at every level”, “did not ‘break the fever of polarization'”, “have conceded nothing to his majority”, “at a stalemate”, “states… are separating at a frenetic pace”, “restored gay marriage”, “a remarkable 2013 (legislative) march for gay marriage”, “the consensus is solidifying fast enough”, “as settled law”, “may be an early straw in that breeze”, “embrace of equal protection arguments”, “support… among younger voters to dissolve the resistance to the idea”, “the nation could remain a ‘house divided'”, “for longer than many may expect”, “red states are competing to impose the tightest restrictions”, “established the national right to it”, “making it more difficult for…  providers to transfer patients to public hospitals”, “impose stringent new safety requirements that would shutter most… providers”, “all of this follows a cascade of legislation”, “there’s little sign of convergence”, “hopes… are flickering”, “who recently collapsed into chaos”, “are pledging to block any reform”, “an indispensable component of legislation”, “the Supreme Court looks just as chronically divided”, “all of this reveals a political system losing its capacity to create common ground between party coalitions divided along economic, racial, generational, and even religious lines”, “states are now diverging to an extent that threatens to undermine even equal protection under the law”, “the reluctance to compromise–most intractable among”, “prevents us from confronting common challenges”, “our contemporary politics is ignoring the simple truth”, “our choices ultimately come down to bridging our differences or surrendering to endemic separation”, “an excellent opportunity to consider how ominously our own ‘political bands’ are fraying”.

Whew! What a barrage of innuendo. Yet every single one of these boilerplate assertions clearly supports presuppositions for which not a single shred of evidence is provided. That is, the objective facts in the article are NOT related to these assertions even slightly. This is archetypical propaganda technique. Linking emotional statements to unrelated facts is, almost by definition, propaganda.

So what is the truth? Uh, not the propaganda from the other (my) side. As a  career intelligence analyst, my experience suggests that disinformation is the “natural state” of the human mind. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Intelligence analysts have to guard against groupthink in every moment. Think about it; what supervisor would want to be told falsehoods by his analysts? No, the intelligence community wants first to know the truth–and then the decision makers can distort that truth any way they choose. Analysts are paid (and evaluated) for their ability to discern the truth. What boss would want to be told lies and base his distortions on a fog of ignorance? (This principle trickles “up”, ironically even  showing up in current movies.)

We need to forget our polarized political campaigns and market-driven media fluff and trust our own eyes and ears. When we hear unadulterated BS from both our friends and our foes can should freely dismiss it as bunk. Smirking is always an option.

Smirk…

http://www.nationaljournal.com/columns/political-connections/red-divided-and-blue-fly-this-independence-day-20130703

Theology versus the Bible

Which church is “right”?

Theoretically, every Christian wants to attend the same church God does. That may be a funny way to put it, but it all really boils down to that. Where can we find God? Many people have found (and founded) many religions in answer to this  seemingly primal urge to find God. History has suffered several millennia full of people trying to sort out these competing answers. Today we have only a few survivors that really matter and one or two of those are morally bankrupt.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam hold the global high ground as far as religion is concerned. Christianity because it is true; Islam because it is virulent; and Judaism because it is sincere. Those attributes, of course, are more whimsical than accurate, but the point is that only these three have a serious claim to being global religions with any substance. All the other philosophies, it has been said, are just the random gleanings left behind by every passing wise man. They shouldn’t be taken seriously except by atheists. If there is a God, men ought to try to find him and not settle for less. Islam, for its part, is so violent and perverted that no rational human ought to have any part of it. Most Christian religions were no better, historically. So allowing orthodox Christianity to be regarded as a serious religion probably requires some sort of waiver. (If you watch for it, you’ll probably discover that waiver below.) Finally, Judaism has endured so many centuries of oppression, persecution and abuse while continuing to promote peace and morality that I’m tempted to award it the Blue Ribbon. “The One True Religion”, it would say. But Moses himself condemned Judaism from before it was planted in the Promised Land–because it would soon reject its own Scriptures.

But the prize must go to the Bible and not to any religion.

Fortunately, most Christians grudgingly agree. True orthodoxy, true religion is found only in the Bible, they all say. This common principle alone is why most Christians don’t accept Roman Catholicism. (The Council of Trent explicitly stated that the traditions as authorized by the Pope were all that were necessary for faith and that the Bible itself was no longer central.)

Protestant Christianity, therefore, is the only remaining religion that holds itself accountable to the Scriptures alone.  They say.

Yet so-called confessional Christianity contradicts this on a regular basis. They keep saying that the Bible is their standard, but they consistently turn to various signed confessions and quotes from Calvin and Luther (and even Augustine) to resolve nearly every hermeneutical challenge. It’s no wonder that liberal theology keeps getting spun off from these Reformed denominations. (Once one accepts the words of mere men as authoritative, it no longer matters what the Bible actually says. This is the essence of liberal theology.)

So the “right” church could possibly be the church, any church, that affirms the Bible alone as its sole basis for existence. But how can any person hope to tell whether a specific church really conforms to that standard? That’s easy; just compare what they teach to what the Bible actually says.

Here’s where things get a little tricky. Propaganda, by definition, is the method deceivers use to entice sincere people into joining their movement or group. And good propaganda consists almost exclusively of true, factual statements. Almost. The process allows deceivers to gain credibility because of the very hard work they do researching facts and searching out truths. Once they have earned the readers’ or listeners’ trust, they drop in a very reasonable sounding falsehood. The entire process is designed to convey this one tiny portion of deception, the one piece that will carry the most weight in persuading the hapless masses to join up.

So false teachers in “wrong” churches will spend most of their time teaching truth. Sometimes you can wait a long time before hearing anything deceptive. Since no one wants to attend a church for months before discovering that God doesn’t go there, we need a shortcut to discernment.

Fortunately, there is one litmus test that always works. Eschatology.

This might seem strange and highly unlikely. After all, there are scores of denominations and almost none of them base their distinctive claims to orthodoxy on eschatology. But there’s a simple explanation for this: They are all wrong; at least, they are all wrong eschatologically. This test doesn’t discriminate between them; it discriminates against them all.

Orthodox Christianity (including virtually all these errant denominations) accepts the Trinity and the Atonement in general terms. They quibble and split over the terminology they use to explain these and other core theological points, but they feature Jesus Christ prominently and tell of his incarnation and sacrifice and resurrection, along with selected portions of his teachings. They also agree on his current seat at the right hand of the throne of God and his role as the spiritual head of the church. This is the truth. This is the true, or at least biblical, portion of their propaganda.

But ask them what comes next and then check out the Bible to see if what they say is true. They’ll all start with “Jesus is coming again!” Pause. But then they’ll split into three distinct and mutually exclusive tracks: Premillennial, Amillennial and Postmillennial Theology.

Premillennialism says that Jesus is coming back before the long-prophesied Kingdom. Postmillennialism says that Jesus is coming back after the (already in progress) Kingdom. Amillennialism actually contradicts its own label; rather than saying that there isn’t any Kingdom at all, this school of thought says that Jesus is coming back both before and after his Kingdom. Before the earthly (“new earthly”, technically; which might be called the “eternal”) Kingdom and after the spiritual Kingdom (the church).

That all three of these contradictory views exist must mean that the Bible is unclear. Or, possibly, it could mean that their proponents don’t actually believe the Bible. Fortunately, you can read it for yourself and then decide whether or not any specific church or preacher believes the Bible based on whether or not they believe what the Bible says–to you!

This is unfair and disingenuous, of course. If you believe what the Bible says you will read and interpret the Bible literally. And all the mainstream denominations and all the proponents of amillennialism and postmillennialism clearly tell you that they DON’T interpret the Bible literally. They say that it CAN’T be taken literally–unless…, unless you wish to break with their long tradition of theology.

Where does that leave us, as we struggle to find the right church?

Easy. If we accept what all the orthodox Christian churches “say” that their foundation is–the Bible, then we can reject all amillennial and postmillennial denominations  as being false and heretical. We can do this not because of their eschatology, but because they explicitly reject the literal (and normal) interpretation of the Bible. They must do this in order to not break with their theological traditions. They all allegorize (they say “spiritualize”) the extensive portions of the Bible that teach the Jesus is coming back before taking the Davidic throne and reigning over a Millennial Kingdom. They all reject the literal interpretation which points to premillennialism.

Many of you, no doubt, will know that reading the Bible and sorting out all these prophecies and eschatological teachings is not something that “anybody” can just do on a Sunday afternoon. So how can I say that this offers an “easy” way to find the right church? That’s easy. (“Not again!” I hear you thinking.) But if you read what I said above, I did NOT say that the false and heretical churches were wrong because of their theology. I said they were wrong because they are not based on the Bible. They actually tell you that their theology is not based on the Bible.

So you don’t need to thoroughly understand pre-, a- and post-millennialism for yourself. You just need to take this checklist and ask a church’s leaders two questions:

  1. What is your eschatology?
  2. Does this eschatology come from a literal interpretation of the Bible?

You could also ask two follow-up questions, just to be friendly and appear interested:

  1. Does your theology come from tradition or from the Bible?
  2. Which tradition?

So this is good news. You can find the right church with only a few short questions!

Not so hasty. If you read carefully, I actually only said that you can find the wrong church by asking these questions. Sure, this might narrow down the field a lot. But even premillennial churches might not be where you can find God.

So, now you at least know how to find the wrong church.

You’re welcome.

Conception, Perception and Deception: The consensus that launched World War III

The world is at war; few would dispute that. Just as the entangling alliances following the Congress of Vienna launched World War I and the scheming of despots following the Treaty of Versailles launched World War II, the directors on the global stage doom humanity to playing bit parts leading up to the last battle. The show must go on, it seems.

Whether the dynamic follows a simple Skinnerian model of stimulus and  response guided by sentient calculations of where the surplus of benefit lies or a complex trajectory built on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the course of civilization resonates with the pulse of the potentates du jour. Even the omnipotent one foresees no way out of this endless cycle–unless someone intervenes.

The world is ready, ripe even, for an intervention. (Theological note: Just because the End Times will ‘happen’ at the appointed time without any help from us doesn’t mean that we aren’t under obligation to carry on with the Ministry of Reconciliation’ in the meantime. We aren’t bringing in God’s Kingdom; we’re citizens of the Kingdom who have the privilege of being God’s servants and partners every day.)

So mankind in general continues to look for a solution from the same sources, the same thoughts and ideas that have so far just replicated the problem. Power politics and heroic deliverance–exciting scenarios for both schemers and dreamers. Schemers like Stalin and, lately, Putin; dreamers like Hitler and, lately, every Islamist warlord with his eye on the caliphate. To counter this trend, saner minds have come up with a plan for shock and awe by coalition forces–not recognizing the pattern they are following (let alone the hollowness of “Long Live the Coalition” as a battle cry).

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Or not. What if there a way to step off the conveyor belt? Could we start with a hypothesis and discover the truth; could we do it fast enough and in sufficient numbers to make a difference? It will only cost us a little mental effort, so why not give it a try?

Us and them. Let’s hypothesize that the source of global conflict today lies in the ways we look at ourselves and others. Totalitarian regimes have indoctrinated some to change this mindset by dedicating ourselves, our ‘us’, to ‘us all’. And we know how well that turned out. So simply lying to ourselves and others isn’t a very sustainable plan. (Admittedly, politicians and ideologues have shaped world history through just such plans of intentional lying, but each instance has in the end failed to endure.)

To conceptualize what I’m talking about, we might reexamine each of today’s global conflicts and see if a pattern emerges. A list of those conflicts might be the best place to start:

  • International Terrorism
  • Russian Imperialism
  • Socialist Banana Republics
  • Chinese or Korean or Iranian or …

(This blog is only an example. I could go on to present the cause of war and the solution that will usher5 in world peace. But that would eliminate the need for you to start blogging yourselves, so I’ll delay world peace for a semester or two…)

NSA and you

(Since I’m a retired intelligence analyst, many people seek my opinion about Snowden and the current media frenzy regarding spying by the NSA. Many other former and current spies have shared their opinions all over the internet, so I’ll join them and briefly describe my perspective.)

This article from today’s paper about the NSA spying scandal is typical–and illustrates how reasonable all the various opinions about spying are. On the one hand we believe in privacy; on the other hand we’ve always known and accepted that police and government agencies need access to private data in order to do their jobs, to catch criminals and to uncover threats to national security. Here’s one article as an example, and I’ll continue with my comments below. (Don’t forget to scroll down and keep reading.)

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2013/nov/04/nsa-spying-methods-likely-to-change/

The media try to appear objective by reporting both sides. They quote current intelligence officials as being shocked that people might object to their important work guarding Americans from our foes. They also report the outrage both domestic and foreign politicians express about the morality of intelligence collection efforts. The media imply and readers often concur that all “normal” citizens can easily tell right from wrong. They imply that Wikileaks and Snowden (and those who further publish those documents) may have broken the law but that the real disgrace lies in the unrestrained audacity of the intelligence community.  The bottom line, according to the media, is that Congress (i.e., politicians) ought to do something about this mess.

Good luck with that!

I believe the real issue is character. What kind of character do we demand from politicians that we elect? What kind of character do we require for civil servants?

Pluralism and postmodernism have permeated American culture so deeply that it now seems to be a character flaw to hold to any character standards at all. Despite this political correctness, I believe most Americans actually still privately believe in character. My very liberal friends and my very conservative friends appear to me to share nearly identical standards for character. So where does this problem really come from and why are our politicians so devoid of character?

There are two big issues. The first is the rise of the straw man. As an intelligence analyst I used to read the private thoughts of nearly everyone. (Not really, but analysts do seriously try to get into the heads of both friends and foes.) I personally concluded that nearly all people are terribly misinformed about their enemies. We all project what we speculate “they must be thinking” to do the outrageous things (and vote for the outrageous candidates) that they do. We are wrong. (Remember, I used to read a small sampling of what some people “thought” privately.) This is just my opinion, but I really believe that nearly everyone is not as crazy as they appear.

The second issue is the role played by “undecided” (often called “moderate”) voters. This bloc of idiots consists of the swing voters who decide the outcomes of our elections. How hard is it to actually know what you think and to vote based on what you believe in? Any adult of sound mind can do that. To be “undecided” means that one simply refuses to think, refuses to use even the limp form of critical thinking that our schools still inculcate in healthy young minds. (The attitude expressed in this paragraph is solely that attitude of the author and doesn’t reflect or presume the more rational and calm views of the readers.)

How does all this apply to whether or not the NSA should be allowed to spy on the world using the universally available channels that currently exist? There is a disconnect between the character of our officials and civil servants and the character needed to ensure that abuses of power cannot fester and grow until we are all oppressed by a totalitarian state. Our “system” elects people with no scruples, people who can charm enough undecided idiots to control who rules in Congress and the White House.

I suggest that we shouldn’t worry about the NSA. “They” (we) have always spied on everyone and we are a “free country” because of the work they do. Even today, most of the intelligence community is staffed by people of some character. They work under conditions that hinder secret cabals of anti-democratic perverts from getting away with anything very damaging. Too many people are involved in every single operation. (Note: Global politicians know that nothing is private. In the US it is even illegal for most politicians [heh] to have private communications about work topics. Why should we be offended when civil servants use information to protect us but not be offended that unnamed employees at Google use the same information to send us targeted advertisements?)

Instead, I recommend that we worry about those whose votes actually count in our elections. Be afraid; be very afraid!

(I guess I should interpret my vague allusion: NSA employees are our friends; the “undecided” voters who swing our elections are not.}