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All public salaries, including pensions, need to kept public

Monday, July 22, 2013
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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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July 26, 2013
12:35 p.m.
tplansing says...

Mr. Barlyn, It would sound like you work for the private sector, probably for some company like Global Foundries, General Electric, or one of the many sub-contractors for those big business corporations. Just exactly how would you feel, having your retirement benefits posted in the press for all to see? Especially if you are in upper level management, where you receive stock options, better health benefits, and other little benefits that your employees under you might not get? Do you think that might put you a little on the defensive? Do you think that your employees might be a little distraught about how much they get when they retire, compared to what you would get when you retired? How about having your address being published for the world to see? Put yourself into the shoes of a judge, or police or fireman. Do you ever think what that information might do down the road? What kind of harm might occur later on down the road to those people and/or their families? Or are you one of those no minded liberals who has his head stuck in the sand thinking that this could never happen in this peaceful world we live in.

Well, pull your head out of the sand and wake up and smell the coffee! Our world as we have known it is changing! Crime is on the upswing, believe it or not, and not because of guns, but because of lack of jobs. Jobs that were performed in this country that are now being performed (outsourced) to a foreign country to save "money" and eliminate the jobs of American jobs. Instead of worrying about what public employees get for their pensions, why not close down your foreign plants, and reopen the American Plants, and put the American Worker back to work. And keep the American Made product, American Made! What a concept!

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