Assange lashes out


The Christian Science Monitor:

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder compared to terrorists by Vice President Joe Biden, to Thomas Jefferson by the activist-journalist John Pilger, and to Martin Luther King by himself, went on the offensive today against, well, everyone.

In a series of interviews, he lashed out at the Guardian newspaper, one of his closest collaborators in the controlled release of the trove of US diplomatic cables that has infuriated Mr. Biden and many others in the US government. The Guardian and a few other news outlets were given the full data dump, while the number of cables provided to the public so far remains below 2,000.

Mr. Assange told The Times of London that two women who have accused him of rape in Sweden were probably motivated by a desire for revenge or money. He also told the BBC that he was fighting extradition to Sweden because he could expect “no natural justice” there.

[...]

Assange’s falling out with former allies may come as little surprise to many who have worked closely with him. Former WikiLeaks No. 2 Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who formerly went by the pseudonym Daniel Schmitt until breaking with the group earlier this year, has described Assange as “dictatorial” and has said he’s creating a rival group dedicated to releasing government secrets in a more open and transparent manner.

While plumbing Assange’s motivations has become a cottage industry for journalists and pundits, perhaps his most interesting comments published today were aimed at the Guardian. In an interview with the rival paper The Times, his primary complaint seemed to be that the paper had published a leak. About him.

Assange complained that confidential documents about his rape accusations were leaked to the Guardian, that the paper used the information “selectively,” and that it was published as part of an effort to convince a British judge not to grant him bail on Dec. 16.

“The leak of the police report to the Guardian was clearly designed to undermine my bail application,” Assange told The Times. “It was timed to come up on the desk of the judge that morning…. The leak was clearly designed to undermine my bail application … someone in authority clearly intended to keep Julian in prison,” he told the paper, referring to himself in the third person.

The Guardian, for its part, says no documents were leaked to it, though it was allowed to read some of the documents pertaining to his case. The paper says it only published a story with that information after his bail was granted Dec. 16. On his Twitter feed, the Guardian’s David Leigh, who leads the paper’s team combing through the 250,000 US embassy cables provided by Assange, dripped with sarcasm.

“The Guardian published too many leaks for Assange’s liking, it seems,” Mr. Leigh wrote. “So now he’s signed up ‘exclusively’ with Murdoch’s Times. Gosh.” Australian-American media titan Rupert Murdoch owns The Times.

Nick Davies, the Guardian reporter who first reached out to Assange over the summer and suggested he collaborate with established news outlets, also appears to have soured on Assange. “Assange finally admits ‘no evidence of honeytrap’ on Swedish sex claims but does not apologise for misleading the world,” he wrote, referring to sexual assault allegations leveled against Assange.

Jeebus, what a piece of work! This guy reminds me of Obama – fanatical followers and the more I learn about him the less I like.

Here’s another interview:

Continue reading

Anti-establishment hero or rapist?


The Guardian has more information on the allegations against Julian Assange:

The allegations centre on a 10-day period after Assange flew into Stockholm on Wednesday 11 August. One of the women, named in court as Miss A, told police that she had arranged Assange’s trip to Sweden, and let him stay in her flat because she was due to be away. She returned early, on Friday 13 August, after which the pair went for a meal and then returned to her flat.

Her account to police, which Assange disputes, stated that he began stroking her leg as they drank tea, before he pulled off her clothes and snapped a necklace that she was wearing. According to her statement she “tried to put on some articles of clothing as it was going too quickly and uncomfortably but Assange ripped them off again”. Miss A told police that she didn’t want to go any further “but that it was too late to stop Assange as she had gone along with it so far”, and so she allowed him to undress her.

According to the statement, Miss A then realised he was trying to have unprotected sex with her. She told police that she had tried a number of times to reach for a condom but Assange had stopped her by holding her arms and pinning her legs. The statement records Miss A describing how Assange then released her arms and agreed to use a condom, but she told the police that at some stage Assange had “done something” with the condom that resulted in it becoming ripped, and ejaculated without withdrawing.

[...]

The following day, Miss W phoned Assange and arranged to meet him late in the evening, according to her statement. The pair went back to her flat in Enkoping, near Stockholm. Miss W told police that though they started to have sex, Assange had not wanted to wear a condom, and she had moved away because she had not wanted unprotected sex. Assange had then lost interest, she said, and fallen asleep. However, during the night, they had both woken up and had sex at least once when “he agreed unwillingly to use a condom”.

Early the next morning, Miss W told police, she had gone to buy breakfast before getting back into bed and falling asleep beside Assange. She had awoken to find him having sex with her, she said, but when she asked whether he was wearing a condom he said no. “According to her statement, she said: ‘You better not have HIV’ and he answered: ‘Of course not,’ ” but “she couldn’t be bothered to tell him one more time because she had been going on about the condom all night. She had never had unprotected sex before.”

[...]

On Wednesday 18 August, according to police records, Miss A told Harold and a friend that Assange would not leave her flat and was sleeping in her bed, although she was not having sex with him and he spent most of the night sitting with his computer. Harold told police he had asked Assange why he was refusing to leave the flat and that Assange had said he was very surprised, because Miss A had not asked him to leave. Miss A says she spent Wednesday night on a mattress and then moved to a friend’s flat so she did not have to be near him. She told police that Assange had continued to make sexual advances to her every day after they slept together and on Wednesday 18 August had approached her, naked from the waist down, and rubbed himself against her.

There is a lot more. Regardless of whether you believe Assange is guilty or innocent you should read it all. But here is a money quote:

The co-ordinator of the WikiLeaks group in Stockholm, who is a close colleague of Assange and who also knows both women, told the Guardian: “This is a normal police investigation. Let the police find out what actually happened. Of course, the enemies of WikiLeaks may try to use this, but it begins with the two women and Julian. It is not the CIA sending a woman in a short skirt.”

For those of you who think this is a lynch mob, think again. The two women in this case have had their names, photographs, addresses, phone numbers and other personal information posted around the internet. They have been accused of being everything from vengeful sluts to spies. That is wrong.

The article explains the timing of a allegations against Assange – it was based on when the alleged sexual assaults occurred. A legal process has been initiated and while Assange remains innocent until proven guilty, he has thus far tried to avoid the law.

Yes, he did “turn himself in” when Interpol issued a warrant for his arrest. But he did so in England and he is fighting extradition to Sweden where the crimes allegedly occurred.

I have yet to hear a rational and reasonable argument for Assange to be fighting extradition. Sweden is hardly some puppet government that can be counted on to railroad Assange on CIA orders.

Generally the only reasons to fight extradition are a claim of wrong identity or the lack of jurisdiction. Neither of those apply here.

The other possibility is where the suspect has reason to fear persecution on account of their membership of a social group or political beliefs. I’m sure that is what Assange will claim.

But Assange doesn’t get to litigate the allegations from England. If the warrant is deemed valid he should be turned over to Swedish authorities.

And while Assange has been exercising his right to remain silent, his lawyers have been spreading misinformation about the case. “Sex by surprise” and sex without a condom are not crimes in Sweden. Sex without consent is a crime.

We should all be wishing for this matter to be resolved as soon as possible. The truth is what it is, and let the chips fall as they may.


NOTE:

The comments here and at other blogs on this issue have been getting overly heated.

While I tend to believe the stories of the two women in this case, that is just my opinion and others will surely disagree. But regardless of your opinions I am assuming all the regulars here are a people of good character and not dupes or rape apologists.

Feel free to disagree with me and each other, but please keep it polite and don’t make it personal.


Monday: Planes, Trains and the Obama-McConnell deal

Yesterday, I went to NYC to see the Rockettes at Radio City for the first time.  They’re every bit as good as you would expect.  The show is glitzy and, as Brooke would say, “kinda cheezy”.  But if you are looking for a pick-me-up during the Christmas season, you can’t beat the Rockettes. In fact, the Rockettes put on their first extravaganza in 1932 during the Great Depression.  It must have done the trick because they’ve been doing it ever since, with a brief hiatus during the 70′s.

The part that sucks is of low quality is actually getting into and out of Manhattan from the Joisy side.  I’ve written about this before.  Three years later, the process is even worse than before, if that can be believed.  Last night, when I took the Northeast Corridor train from Penn Station to Newark where my car was parked, the same, stupid, dehumanizing procedure happened again.  We arrived at the pink granited NJ Transit waiting area, a step up from the fluorescently lit but still dark and dingy laboratory mazes of underground Penn Station (NJ residents don’t get beautiful masterpieces like Grand Central.  Nooooo, they tore down the original Penn Station in the 60′s and parked Madison Square Garden on top of it.)  The NE Corr. train comes only once an hour, which is itself insane.  NJ is the densest state in the union and we get on measly train once an hour out of NYC?  Ok, so the waiting area is already almost out of seats at 20 past the hour.  The tickets are about 30% higher than the last time I bought them a couple months ago.  (Thanks, Gov. Christie!).  Over the next 20 minutes, the waiting area is packed full of tired, cranky, sweaty commuters.  Then the departure board assigns a track number and this heaving mass of humanity sprints for two narrow staircases.  There’s a lot of pushing and shoving and glancing at watches to see if you’ll have time to get a decent seat on the train.  Then there’s the Olympic Run-Walk down the platform to the front of the train because half the doors on the back end and closest part of the train to the stairs are closed.  We walk and walk for what seems to be forever while Brooke hobbles on her four inch heels (“I told you not to wear those shoes.”).  The train is the older style with one level.  The seats are about as comfortable as first class economy on Continental.  10 minutes later, it lurches out of Manhattan and lumbers v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y back to Newark.  And why do we park the car at Newark when there is a closer train station to house in the town over?  Because it costs $22 round trip *per person* to get in and out of Manhattan 36 miles away from my house and the nearest train station.  And that’s with a transfer at Newark.  It makes more sense to park the car in Newark and pay for parking there than spend $44 to take the train.  Normally, we take the PATH train into Manhattan from Newark, but in the evening, the PATH reroutes to Hoboken from Manhattan before it doubles back to Newark.

Every time I do this routine, I ask myself, is this any way to run a railroad???  I’m a big believer in mass transit.  My grandfather was a bus driver in Pittsburgh.  I’ve done the Paris metro (which is a dream) and the London Underground, which is also pretty good.  So, I can’t understand why our major cities are so bad at this.  Neither NYC or Chicago has a train system that we could call world class.  Our trains are old and slow, infrequent and expensive.  This is inexcusable, especially when we have abandoned commuter rail tracks all over the state of NJ that no one is using anymore.  I spend hours and hours waiting for trains, changing trains and paying a fortune to get into Manhattan.  Next time, I’m driving.

Ok, I’m done.  Moving on.

Krugman has labelled the new stimulus package, er, tax plan, the “Obama-McConnell” plan.  Seems fitting, seeing how the Republicans pretty much wrote the terms and Obama, crippled by his stupid 11 dimensional chess moves with the first irresponsibly inadequate stimulus package has been forced to make this bad deal.  (Howz that media darling working out for you BTD?)  Paul sums it up in Block those Metaphors:

The point is that while the deal will cost a lot — adding more to federal debt than the original Obama stimulus — it’s likely to get very little bang for the buck. Tax cuts for the wealthy will barely be spent at all; even middle-class tax cuts won’t add much to spending. And the business tax break will, I believe, do hardly anything to spur investment given the excess capacity businesses already have.

The actual stimulus in the plan comes from the other measures, mainly unemployment benefits and the payroll tax break. And these measures (a) won’t make more than a modest dent in unemployment and (b) will fade out quickly, with the good stuff going away at the end of 2011.

The question, then, is whether a year of modestly better performance is worth $850 billion in additional debt, plus a significantly raised probability that those tax cuts for the rich will become permanent. And I say no.

The Obama team obviously disagrees. As I understand it, the administration believes that all it needs is a little more time and money, that any day now the economic engine will catch and we’ll be on the road back to prosperity. I hope it’s right, but I don’t think it is.

What I expect, instead, is that we’ll be having this same conversation all over again in 2012, with unemployment still high and the economy suffering as the good parts of the current deal go away. The White House may think it has struck a good bargain, but I believe it’s in for a rude shock.

Unemployment is personal to me.  I’ve seen what the current job market has done to the morale of people I care about.  But I find it shocking that so many people in conservative red areas of the next state over are so heartless and cruel to their fellow unemployed Americans.  My own relatives huff and puff mightily and fume, “Why don’t they take a job, ANY job?”  The answer is: Because there ARE no jobs.  In my area, Pfizer laid off 19,000 people.  That was just one of many ongoing and terrifying pharmaceutical company layoffs.  Even if you wanted to sell your house and move to another job, there just aren’t any.  So, paying the unemployed to hang on for another year with barely a penny to their names while they struggle to pay their housing costs is not going to cut it.  The money isn’t going to go back into the economy.  It’s going to whoever holds the mortgage.  And that bank will sit on it or lend it out at a higher interest rate.  Seriously, Paul, who benefits from this bill?

What we need are jobs, not more checks.  And we need real wage increases.  And this bill does nothing to help us.  It’s a bill written by Republicans for the benefit of the wealthy.  If I had my way with them, I’d redirect their private jets to the Cayman Islands and not let them off.  That way, they could spend all eternity with their obscene wads of cash and stop bothering the rest of us.  Yep, right smack dab on Hurricane Alley… with no way off the islands…

Anglachel has a new post up about Wikileaks. Check it out.  While I was catching up on podcasts last night, I heard someone say that State Department computers are configured to disallow copying to USB keys and other external drives.  So, whoever it was at the Pentagon who casually stumbled onto 250000 cables did it deliberately.  It might have been Private Manning.  But if the State Department secures its secrets among its own employees, you gotta figure that only some super sysadmin has privileges to access these files on some remote server.  That’s the way most pharmas work.  If you don’t have a need to know, you don’t have access, even if you’re on the same project.  So, who is really behind the leaked cables and what are they up to?  Anglachel provides some possibilities:

Let’s look ahead at the unwinding of events. While the left has been captivated by the human drama of the great man, deprived of flunkies to fuck and threatened by the diabolical Swedish court system, obsessed about how it could be me next!, there’s something rather important coming up in January, namely a change of government in the US. While I know that I lose all my Left Blogistan credibility by saying this, there really is a difference between the behavior of the major political parties when in majority power. The Republicans have no interest in compromising on anything and regard all other sources of political power (however ineptly wielded) as not just the opposition, but as an enemy to be terminated.

They’ve already made clear that the next two years are not going to be used to advance specific pieces of legislation – indeed, why should they since Obama has kindly moved their agenda for them – but to take down the enemy, and I don’t think anyone on the Left really understands just how ruthless they will be. Their control of committee chair positions means that the agenda from January 2011 through December 2012 will be investigate everything that could possibly be turned to their advantage.

It’s key that these documents were released under a Democratic administration. The focus will not be on who released the files, but that there were releases at all, just as the focus on Plame was not that someone outed her, but that she was connected to Joe Wilson. The actual crime, which is the act of taking documents and handing them over, will be elided – unless there is someone at the State Department who has shown a bit too much knowledge of and interest in some specific piece of data and who happens to be of liberal political inclinations, and then we’re talking a show trial along the lines of the House Un-American Activities Committee. That is why the State Department is saying to its current and would-be staff – do not have contact with that now-tainted information, do not discuss it, do not show special knowledge.

(By the way, I don’t think I ever personally said that the Republicans will try to impeach Obama.  They may not have to go that far.  But continually bombard him with hearings and inquisitions, the legal equivalent of harrassment, and waste his time?  Yeah, I think they would do that.  He’s not immune and he looks incredibly vulnerable.  It’s just like the Republicans to go for the old, the sick and the weak first.)

The NYTimes has discovered that the world really is run by a small, evil group to which no one we know belongs.  In A Secretive Banking Elite Rules Trading in Derivatives, we are told:

On the third Wednesday of every month, the nine members of an elite Wall Street society gather in Midtown Manhattan.

[...]

In theory, this group exists to safeguard the integrity of the multitrillion-dollar market. In practice, it also defends the dominance of the big banks.

The banks in this group, which is affiliated with a new derivatives clearinghouse, have fought to block other banks from entering the market, and they are also trying to thwart efforts to make full information on prices and fees freely available.

Banks’ influence over this market, and over clearinghouses like the one this select group advises, has costly implications for businesses large and small, like Dan Singer’s home heating-oil company in Westchester County, north of New York City.

This fall, many of Mr. Singer’s customers purchased fixed-rate plans to lock in winter heating oil at around $3 a gallon. While that price was above the prevailing $2.80 a gallon then, the contracts will protect homeowners if bitterly cold weather pushes the price higher.

But Mr. Singer wonders if his company, Robison Oil, should be getting a better deal. He uses derivatives like swaps and options to create his fixed plans. But he has no idea how much lower his prices — and his customers’ prices — could be, he says, because banks don’t disclose fees associated with the derivatives.

“At the end of the day, I don’t know if I got a fair price, or what they’re charging me,” Mr. Singer said.

What we got here is a cartel.  Too bad we don’t have any reliable referees, let alone hard and fast rules, to protect Americans from small groups gaming the system.  You can thank Obama and the Republicans for that.

Which brings me to my final point, and I think I do have one.

I’m getting fed up with reading stupid crap from African American journalists threatening to take the African American community with them if Obama doesn’t get a second term.  If I were one of the millions of African Americans out of work and hurting during the Obama years, with no end in sight in his second term but more tearing apart of the social safety net, I’d be really offended by these people speaking for me.  How insulting to think that someone would pass up a better candidate just because they have an insufficient amount of melanin in their skin.  That’s what the likes of Colbert and Read are saying.  That the single most important thing to African Americans when making a political decision is not whether the politician is going to help them get a job or put food on their plates but whether he has right skin color.  It’s also insulting to women, who make up a far greater percentage of the Democratic base than African Americans and whose votes could be much more critical to the Democrats political prosperity in 2012.  Next time there is an election year, Democrats won’t be able to pull that Roe shit because no woman in her right mind will believe them.  And in the end, who cares?  The Rpeublicans don’t want Roe rescinded.  They get their voters to the polls with it.

But it is the cynical “pols will be pols” people I get most irritated with.  In the end, it didn’t really matter whether the politician in the White House was a New Democrat or an Old Democrat.  What mattered was that the Democrat was a leader, which Obama most definitely is not.  In this day and age, in this particular economic crisis, what was and still is required, was a person who would not let propaganda and and the machinations of the ruthless, predatory Movement Conservative Republicans and their noise machine stand in the way of doing what was right.  That person didn’t have to have a secret 11 dimensional chess strategy.  That person had to want to do the right thing for America and the vast number of people that are not rich and well connected.  That person saw what was coming and would have done anything to stop it, including exhausting their own personal wealth to win the nomination.  That person was and is a dedicated public servant who like Lincoln and FDR, would have put aside their own personal aspirations to do the right thing for the country.

That person is NOT Obama.  And now everyone knows it.  Now that we know, only the truly insane and disconnected will want to foist him on us for a second term.

Thursday: Saddle point

Do you get the idea that we have reached some kind of turning point?  Is there nowhere to go but up or are we sliding sideways into oblivion?  Will the public finally see what the Republicans really are once they take over the House during the mother of all recessions or has the preincubation of visions of GlennBeckistan done its job?  Will the masters of the corporate universe take a look at the balance sheets and finally realize that outsourcing is wasting the valuable productivity time of their remaining employees or will they keep forcing us into smaller workspaces with fewer resources to show that their beautiful management theories work in spite of all of the ugly facts?

Take the 2012 primary, for example.  Yesterday, Matt Bai in the NYTimes just idly speculated whether it was time for the Democrats to consider alternatives.  Predictably, Matt Bai, being from that tiny but vocal minority of the Democratic party that thinks it’s swell for non-viable personal favorites to run instead of people who actually like to practice politics has floated Howard Dean’s name to the top of the list.  Whatever.  The intellectual masturbation post of Bai’s generated 805 comments before the discussion was cut off (soooo not fair for those of us at work).  Russ Feingold also got some attention.  I have nothing against Feingold but he strikes me as a bit of an enigma.  You get the idea that he votes on principle but his principles are a bit quirky for everyday consumption.  I’m not sure the average Joe will *get* Feingold and, unless you’re living in Iran, the votes of the average Joe are still sort of necessary.  Hillary’s name is floated by many, many people who regret voting for Obama.  LOTS of regrets.

Over at Naked Capitalism, there are hints of another Black Swan event on the near horizon. It turns out that when Obama cut his deal, the nitwit forgot to get a guarantee on raising the debt ceiling from the Republicans.  Since the government will run out of money sometime during the first quarter of next year, we can probably look forward to a government shut down.  (Oh, no they woo-ent.  Oh yes, they would.)  Then there’s some stuff about municipal bonds that will be phased out next year, putting some big states at risk of insolvency.  It’s just so thrilling it makes me squirm with anticipation.  The speculation is that these moves are designed to put a huge amount of pressure on a fragile economic system and that Americans will cut loose their public service unions and slit their throats in order to avoid a major collapse of the global financial system.

If I were the president, I’d call the Republicans global terrorists and have them arrested for pulling that shit on us.  But that’s just me because I’m uncouth and rude while also being sanctimonious and pure.  Picture Joan of Arc with a beer gut.  Come on, Barry, you and Versailles have me all confused.  I have no idea what I’m supposed to be.  Just tell me this, am I still a virgin?

And then there are those annoying liberal Democrats who insist on sticking to their core principles.  Like Al Franken, who has the chutzpah to quote the New Testament and he’s not even a Christian.

(see this link for the rest of Franken’s excellent shellacking of the president and the Republicans)

Ehhhh, what does he know.  Today’s Christians don’t mess around with the New Testament.  I mean, if you read THAT side of the bible, you’d think that Jesus was a fricking Liberal or something.  And Franken keeps bringing up carpenters for some reason.  Jesus was a carpenter.  Of course, if Jesus were alive today, he would have just lost his pension to some greedy con artists on Wall Street who sold his pension fund a bunch of worthless tranches.   Good thing he was the Son of God or he’d be eating catfood.

(Hey, did you know that the Atheists community is the biggest contributor to Kiva?  Who knew?  They beat the pants off the Christians.)

But Obama, who kind of implies that everyone should have a faith or they’re worthless human beings, is a different kind of Christian.  You know, the kind that likes to court Evangelicals for political gain but thinks that it’s gauche to get all wrapped up in values and principles.  They would just get in the way of his “accomplishments”.   Jeez, Barry, why don’t you just take up needlepoint or some charming ideas for a painted table or something?

Anyway, Al’s suggestion that you help out someone in need for the holiday season is a pretty good idea.  Why not buy a disadvantaged kid you don’t know a present for Christmas?  (Or, I’m 1/8 Jewish so I’m entitled to one day of Hannukah, right? )  Your workplace may be sponsoring such an opportunity, like mine has for years now.  Take advantage of it and you will make a kid happy for the day.

Podcast for the day: On yesterday’s Fresh Air, Terry Gross interviewd David Sanger of the NYTimes regarding the Wikileaks document dump from the State Department.  Count how many times they mention Hillary’s name.  It’s pretty hilarious.  They keep dancing around the subject of how well the State Department is doing these days and how forceful its response has been to Iran.  They even go so far as saying that the Iranian sanctions are nothing like what Barry had in mind when he was running for president.  They make a passing reference to Hillary calling him *naive* but are careful not to credit her with the harsher sanctions.

It is becoming more clear to me that if the Republicans are allowed to botch the country into third world status, it will be because Whole Foods Nation progressives just can’t get their heads out of their asses.  They would rather let the country die, die, die! before they let some “Blue dog” {{snort!}}, war hawk, triangulating, DLC loving, New Democrat like Hillary Clinton inflict her steely resolve and competence on Washington DC.

So, if we all end up poor and yoked to our billionaire masters of the universe, don’t blame it on Republicans.  Blame it on the self described “creative class” Democrats who want to replace Barack Obama with candidates who are not capable of winning or running the White House.  Yeah, that oughta learn them lousy Republicans.  Take that.

Ok, sports fans, I’m off to buy a Visa check card for Christmas for a 14 year old girl I don’t know.

Go and do likewise.

Monday: The Awakening is Very Rude

I lived with my grandmother for some short stretches of time when I was a kid.  I had a tiny little bedroom tucked under the eaves with a window that overlooked the woods adjacent to the house.  Every night, my gran would turn down my bed and send me comfortably off to sleep.  And then, some eight hours later, there would be a sharp THWAPP!, the shade on that window would fly up and flap, flap, flap and my gran, definitely a morning person, would sing in a loud voice:

“Lazy Mary, will you get up, will you get up, will you get up
Lazy Mary, will you get up, so early in the Morn-ning!”

Irritating?  You betcha.  But very effective.

Last night’s Virtually Speaking featured two bloggers who sounded like they got the Lazy Mary treatment.  After a week of outrages, the left blogosphere is waking up to the very real scenario that they picked the worng guy.  Very wrong.  Marcy Wheeler (aka emptywheel) and Stuart Zechman are finally outraged.  They have reached the stage of outrage and righteous indignation that we felt in 2008 when Obama and the DNC decided that votes for Hillary Clinton from the big states did not count (or if you were living in MI or FL, counted for half a person).  Doesn’t feel so good, does it guys?  And he doesn’t have to listen to you.  Nope.

What’s more disturbing is the number of somewhat reasonable bloggers who started to doubt Obama some time ago who are railing against Hillary now.  It’s like bombing Iraq for something Al Qaeda in Afghanistan did.  Some have even suggested that Hillary is some nefarious anti free speech authoritarian Josephine Stalin, chasing down Julian Assange, disconnecting Wikileaks from the Tubez and personally ending the free internet as we know it.  They overlook the fact that the long awaited State Department cables were released and circulated for days before any action was taken by Amazon to stop hosting Wikileaks.  They forget that Hillary has handled this crisis in a cool, level headed fashion with steely resolve and that this may have a stabilizing effect on diplomacy.  But what really seems to be incensing them is that the rest of the world isn’t incensed with that brazen hussy.  Give it a rest guys.  And I do mean guys.  Your pathology is showing.

What it it about Hillary that drives guys straight into crazyland anyway?  Do they secretly regret not voting for her now that she’s shown herself to be the real deal and Obama’s, um, not?  Now they must punish her for being who we always said she was?  Does she make them feel impotent that they can’t validate all of the crazy ass shit they threw at her?  That’s she’s not that bad, seems to know what she’s doing and that the cables haven’t uncovered any smoking guns against her, or at least nothing the general public isn’t perfectly willing to live with?

It’s not our problem if they made a monumentally huge mistake in 2008. They’re the ones who chose to overlook the fact that the party, with Obama’s blessing, trashed the fair reflection of 18,000,000 Democratic primary voters.  Yep, denied them a voice, stole their votes, stole whole states of delegates at the convention and these blogger activists raised nary a peep.  It’s a little ironic now to be accusing Hillary Clinton of authoritarianism after the fraudulent sham primary elections of 2008 where the rest of us were shut out of the democratic process and were told to surrender our votes to the Lightbringer.  You didn’t really think that you were exceptions to the rule and that Obama was going to give you a seat at the table and treat your concerns seriously after you just stabbed half of your party in the back for him?  Did you?

But the constant harping on Hillary, blaming her for everything they don’t like about the Obama administration is starting to verge on self parody.  Get over it, guys.  If you wanted less of a unified executive, less torture and no wars, you shouldn’t have voted for a man who was too greedy for power to wait his turn and too inexperienced a politician to deliver those things for you.  And in case you aren’t aware, acting on the things you care about is not Secretary of State’s job.  She doesn’t get to make those decisions.  Hillary Clinton is not the president.  Remember?  You had a hand in that.  Therefore, you can’t hang the albatrosses of this administration’s failures around her neck.  Obama is the guy who is perpetuating wars and torture.  Obama is screwing over the unemployed.  Obama is the guy who appointed the catfood commission.  Obama is the guy who is negotiating to give away whatever is left in the safe to the uber wealthy.  Obama is the guy who appointed the FCC regulators overseeing the Comcast dispute with Level Three.  Obama is the guy who is blowing you off.

Hillary is only the secretary of state who is diligently doing her job, which is limited to diplomacy.

I think we know how the next couple of days will go.  The Marcys and the Stuarts will continue to fume indignantly about how Obama betrayed them but the CDS trolls will infiltrate their blog comment threads and the trigger words will come out, “NAFTA”, “Welfare Reform”, “triangulation”, will be repeated ad nauseum to the vulnerable to get them back in line.  Nothing is scarier than the prospect of having another Clinton in the White House.  Let’s not even go there.

Well, if that’s what they want.  I guess they’re stuck with Obama then, because the other proposed candidates for primarying Obama are non-starters. They are still living in crazytown if they think that they can appoint the next candidate to run for president and that the other uncouth, dirty working class side of the party is just going to go along with it.  The rest of the party doesn’t much care for their way of getting presidents.  Denying people a real choice is a sure fired way to reduce the size of your party.

So, they can continue to knock themselves unconscious bashing themselves on Hillary Clinton’s image, a lot of pointless sound and fury, signifying nothing.  If they want to complain about Obama and make an impact, beating up on his secretary of state whipping boy is about as ineffective a strategy as they’re going to get.  Direct your ire at the man in charge or continue to be rudely awakened.

For the record, here’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on internet freedom, about as close as she’s going to get to influencing domestic policy on the issue:

Thursday: Dear Julian

Bank of America's new headquarters?

Please pay attention, Julian.

For the last 4 days, the country’s newspapers have been in a tizzy over the leaked State Department cables full of juicy gossip and how nobody likes Iran and whether Hillary should resign because she authorized American ambassadors to snoop on their buds at the UN.  (Ummm, no, that’s not a resignable offence.) And all this time, you’ve been sitting on the real bombshell: leaked documents from the Bank of America.

Why the f%^& have you been wasting our time with this note passing crap from the State Department?

Dish, Julian!  We want to know what the bastards have been up to and what they’ve been saying about us while they’ve taken trillions of dollars in taxpayer money to make up for the other-people’s-money they gambled away.  Oh, sure, we already know they think they’re the smartest dudes on the planet and we’re all a bunch of stupid suckers. (See Money Never Weeps from This American Life.  Priceless.)  But we want to see some perp walks, Jules.  You know, dudes shedding their bespoke suits for some neon orange jumper.  And for Gawd’s sakes, do it before Interpol catches up with you and the world shuts down your servers.

The scope of the theft of taxpayer dollars is breathtaking.  Am I reading this right?  Citigroup alone helped itself to $2.2 trillion?  From the AP, Fed ID’s Companies That Used Crisis Aid Programs, we get this (very short) summary:

New documents show that the most loan and other aid for U.S. institutions over time went to Citigroup ($2.2 trillion), followed by Merrill Lynch ($2.1 trillion), Morgan Stanley ($2 trillion), Bear Stearns ($960 billion), Bank of America ($887 billion), Goldman Sachs ($615 billion), JPMorgan Chase ($178 billion) and Wells Fargo ($154 billion).

The New York Times has a more detailed article on the Fed Bailout in Fed Documents Breadth of Emergency Measures.  It’s a wonder we didn’t have another Great Depression.  Once again, the Yanks come to the world’s rescue and bails out foreign banks as well.  The bastards have soaked us for every penny in the past couple of years, raising interest rates on credit cards and foreclosing at the drop of the hat, and they brought several countries to ruin.  Ireland, Spain, Greece, Iceland and now Italy, have all been taken to the cleaners by the monumental greed and carelessness of these jerks.  They should have been taken over two years ago.  Instead, they’re still walking around free, rewarding themselves generously and sticking it to the rest of us.

Citibank, Jules, do you have anything on Citibank?  Merill-Lynch?  Get it out there, Julian.  Don’t waste a minute more of our time.

Speaking of Citigroup, Peter Orszag, Obama’s former budget director, is in negotiations to join their investment banking unit. Wait!  Isn’t there some kind of rule about joining the corporation you might have been protecting in your previous capacity as a public servant?  Don’t you have to wait a couple of years?   (Ah, yes, here is an article from Aug 2010 that refers to the waiting period for ex-legislators and regulators before they can lobby.) Or does that only apply to actual public servants, like the Clintons, who were forced to divest themselves before Hillary became Secretary of State so as to avoid even a hint of a conflict of interest?  I guess that level of scrutiny and ethics doesn’t apply when it is a guy who has left the Obama administration, even if it once applied to Congress and everyone else in government.

So, Orszag is going to join one of the criminal organizations that held up the country at gunpoint.  Yeah, that doesn’t look the least bit sleazy or unethical.  I’m sure they’re going to say, “But he’s not going to lobby.  He’s just going to join the investment banking unit.  That’s not a conflict.”  Uh-huh.  If the Obama administration doesn’t dissuade this deal and doesn’t immediately institute new rules about how long its former officials have to wait, then we can pretty much dispense with that whole notion that somehow Obama’s administration will be holier than any previous administration of either party.

And let us not forget that it was Peter Orszag who recently wrote that ridiculous opinion piece in the NYTimes about how we should turn Social Security into a welfare program.  Let’s recap: Peter Orszag, former acolyte of Robert Rubin, is present during the worst days of the banking crisis and has a hand in structuring that pathetic stimulus package after the banks crippled the economy and now, he’s going to work for the very same guys who fleeced us.  He now tries to persuade taxpayers who have been diligently paying for their retirements all of their working lives to take a haircut on Social Security because he and his new buddies don’t want to pay back their generous tax breaks.  Have I got that right?

As for Social Security and the “new and improved” Bowles-Simpson charade of a deficit reduction proposal, Paul Krugman says this in Destroying Retirement in Order to Save It:

Let’s think about that. Right now we have a retirement system that has the great virtue of not being intrusive: Social Security doesn’t demand that you prove you need it, doesn’t ask about your personal life, doesn’t make you feel like a beggar. And now we’re going to replace that with a system in which large numbers of Americans have to plead for special dispensation, on the grounds that they’re too feeble to work for a living. Freedom!

It’s worse than that, Paul.  It’s more like having to beg your ex for child support and having him plead to the court that if he gives you money, you’re just going to spend it.  Alan Simpson does not like the obligation to pay Social Security to the people who invested in it.  F^&* that $hit.  I’m not going to be made to feel like a spendthrift floozy for wanting my hard earned money back when I retire.  If I don’t get it back, it will be like paying extra taxes all my working life so that the wealthy don’t have to pay theirs for all the public services government provides them.  Social Security works and I’m sick to death and angry as all hell when people like Alan Simpson trash it.  And Obama better not think he can act like some kind of hero by saving it.  Politicians who play games with people’s retirements to score votes are in for a rude awakening.

I don’t know what must be done to punish the wicked and hit the reset switch to get rid of the virtual debt all of us responsible, hard working people are being forced to pay to the gambling addicts.  But politicians better get a move on it.  There are a lot more voters than bankers and these days, you don’t have to watch campaign ads on TV if you have a DVR.  People are paying attention.

Am I done ranting yet?  For the moment.

Onto some promising news in the area of education.  It appears that an alert superintendant and a principal in Texas have discovered what I have long suspected: teachers reward compliance over actual knowledge mastered and this is showing up in standardized tests.  (I can just see this thread being highjacked by opponents of standardized testing.  Get over it, guys.  In the rest of the world, standardized tests are, well, standard.  This is a losing battle.)  In A’s for Good Behavior, the students with the best grades in the class were not always the students with the best test scores in terms of mastery of material.  Conversely, some of the students who got poor grades in class and seemed turned off by school, scored better than their honor roll counterparts.

I’ve seen this in action with my own eyes.  For nine miserable years, Brooke floundered in school.  Her tests were always outstanding, putting her in the top 1-2% in the state and nationally.  But this kid never made the honor roll.  Her teachers were constantly on my case to force her to turn in signed test papers that never made it home, fill out reams of pointless worksheets covering material she already knew and write drafts of papers with corrected mistakes that she never made.  She was misdiagnosed as having ADHD, was sent to detention on multiple occasions for minor infractions and humiliated in front of the class by one of her teachers for not having a pencil.  Points were taken off for breathing too loud.  For nine long years, I struggled to get the kid out of bed in the morning because she didn’t want to go to school.  She wasn’t a troublemaker.  She was bored out of her mind and tired of spinning her wheels in class not learning new material.

High school has been a blessing for Brooke.  She has skipped grades in several subjects and she’s now doing the work.  But it has been a constant struggle with the educational establishment and has been personally expensive as I have born the costs of additional testing, summer courses in math to keep her at her level and online courses to substitute for what the high school couldn’t or wouldn’t provide for her.

But Brooke is lucky in some ways.  I knew there was something wrong with the way she was being educated and took steps to correct it.  In my own extended family, I’ve seen what happens when a kid doesn’t have that kind of advocacy.  It’s not pretty. The study in Texas suggests that up to 10% of their students were being underserved because they failed to meet the teacher’s standards of compliance.  Meanwhile, a significant number of A students thought they were smarter than they actually were.

They’ll probably grow up to be bankers.

Spies R U.S.

God told Moses to send twelve men to spy out, or look secretly at, the land of Canaan so that they would know what kind of people lived there, what kind of houses the people lived in, and whether the land was good for growing things. One of the spies was named Joshua; he was a special helper to Moses. Another man’s name was Caleb.

The twelve spies left the camp and went into Canaan. They climbed the mountains and looked down at the cities and the fields. They saw some the people of Canaan. They cut down a very big bunch of grapes and put it on a pole to carry back to the camp to show the people what good food could be grown in the land God had promised them. Joshua, Caleb, and the other spies were gone 40 days.

When they come back to the camp, though, all the spies except Joshua and Caleb said to Moses and the people, “This is a very rich land with much grass and water and food, but the people there are very big and strong. Their cities have great high walls. Some of the men are like giants and make us feel like grasshoppers beside them. We cannot fight them and win the land.”

But Joshua and Caleb said, “The men are strong; that is true. But God has promised us this good land and we can win it, for God is with us and will help us.” Numbers 13:1-30

Thanks to Julian Assange and Wikileaks there are a lot of people with their panties in a wad.

From Time:

Hillary Clinton, Julian Assange said, “should resign.” Speaking over Skype from an undisclosed location on Tuesday, the WikiLeaks founder was replying to a question by TIME managing editor Richard Stengel over the diplomatic-cable dump that Assange’s organization loosed on the world this past weekend. Stengel had said the U.S. Secretary of State was looking like “the fall guy” in the ensuing controversy, and had asked whether her firing or resignation was an outcome that Assange wanted. “I don’t think it would make much of a difference either way,” Assange said. “But she should resign if it can be shown that she was responsible for ordering U.S. diplomatic figures to engage in espionage in the United Nations, in violation of the international covenants to which the U.S. has signed up. Yes, she should resign over that.”


Do we spy on other countries? Hell yes.

Friends and allies too? Damn straight!

We spy on them, and they spy on us. Literally, “everybody does it.” Everybody also denies doing it too.

Spying is the old fashioned term for what is now called “intelligence gathering.” It is in our nation’s best interest that our leaders know what the rest of the world is up to. We need to know what their capabilities are as well as their intentions. We also need to verify if what they tell us is the truth.

So we spy on them.

Of course everybody tries to keep secrets. They also try to spread misinformation to confuse everyone else. It’s kinda like poker – you keep your cards close to your chest and occasionally run a bluff.

Well now we got caught sneaking a peek at everybody else’s cards. Big deal. Ignore the fauxrage cuz nobody really cares. The only thing that is gonna change is we’ll be more careful in the future.

As for Hillary Clinton I don’t think she should resign. I think Barack Obama should fire her.

Seriously.

If he fires her then she can pack her suitcase and head for Iowa.



Tuesday Morning: Falling Chips

How to speak to the public without a teleprompter for 15 minutes:

Yes, dear World, we passed her up for this (skip to 1:51 to hear Hillary’s response):

It appears that Obama is following Hillary’s foreign policy.

Just sayin’.

Meanwhile, WaPo is reveling in the damage that Wikileaks has done to our foreign policy.  Instead of investigating how such a breach could have happened in the first place (I am with myiq and Anglachel on this one.  An army private shouldn’t have this much access.  It’s unnatural.), the post is {{GASP!}} appalled that such a thing has ruined, RUINED everything we have tried to accomplish in the past 230 years.  And it was on Hillary’s watch.  Yeah, the paper of Sally Quinn must just love that.  But Benjamin Netanyahu has what seems like a logical assessment of the situation:

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the WikiLeaks disclosures will make it harder for American diplomats to be honest in their assessments of political situations abroad and will inspire more caution among foreign leaders when they are dealing with U.S. officials.

“It’s clear this will happen,” he told the Association of Tel Aviv Journalists.

“Diplomacy is built on secrecy,” he added. “Journalism is built on revelations. And the result of what happened with WikiLeaks, in my view, is that it will be harder for you to do your work and it will be harder for us to do our work.”

That pretty much sums it up.  The leaked cables will make everyone more skittish that their every word will be reported.  Stuff will still need to be discussed, non-trivial tidbits passed on, intuition related, but now they’ll have to do it through Skype, where the encryption method has been only partially cracked.  Or they’ll be reduced to interpreting body language.  It’s not fatal and the countries that are “lamenting” the loudest are just taking advantage of an awkward situation.  The fallout reminds me of those days in middle school when one girl finds a note from another girl she thought was her friend and she now realizes that her “friend” has been talking trash about her to someone else and now everyone’s feelings are hurt. Oh, Please. Is this what countries around the world have been reduced to?  Petty sniping between adolescents?  Adolescents with nukes?   But diplomacy will go on, because it *has* to.

Moving on.  I take that back.  We must continue to observe that President Obama does not know what he is doing and that the Obots (who are even more clueless than Palinophiles) pushed him on us without thinking:

Obama Orders Pay Freeze for Federal Workers

Well, that ought to make all those surly clerks more user friendly.  Yes, stick it to virtually the only sector that has any kind of protection at all.  Do not try to impress on the public the consequences of this action, such as decreased spending during a recession, more unemployment and decreased tax revenue.  THERE!  That will show them nasty Republicans.  Obama will triangulate before it’s even necessary to triangulate AND he’ll pursue even more pointless and harmful policies that will add to the deficit and recession.  Take THAT, GOP!  You’re not going to push Barry around, nosiree.

Gawd, this is so depressing.

BTW, for an enlightening podcast on Barry’s childhood in Indonesia, check out this episode of Witness from BBC.  You’ll have to sit through a few painful moments of Barry reading from one of his bestsellers but the recollection of one of his Indonesian childhood friends is very interesting.  We should have seen this coming.

Merrill Goozner has a crack at the new liberal version of a deficit reduction plan.  He suggest that it may represent the “new silent majority”, that would be us, oh Best Beloveds, who no political party wants to be beholden to but who tend to vote anyway.  Here are the money quotes:

Some historical perspective: the debt-to-GDP ratio remained below 50 percent throughout the Great Depression; peaked near 120 percent after World War II; fell steadily to around 33 percent in 1980; but rose quickly after Ronald Reagan became president and continued except for a few years near the end of Bill Clinton’s term in office. It stood at 57 percent when George W. Bush became president and spiked to 93 percent as a result of the Great Recession that began late in his term.

The liberals want to stabilize near this higher number (no new additional debt, but no pay down, either) because they see a long-term role for public investment in rebuilding America. The Bowles-Simpson plan would use some of its new revenue (from eliminating tax expenditures like corporate tax loopholes and all middle-class tax expenditures like the home mortgage deduction) to both pay down debt and lower income tax rates across the board.

The Bowles-Simpson plan also preserves some room for spending on infrastructure and research and development. But it is nowhere near the amounts called for in the liberal plan, which would use the money raised from higher taxes on corporations (they only remove so-called tax expenditures when they benefit high-income households) to invest in “quality child care, infrastructure, public transit, rural broadband connectivity, and research and development.”

The liberal alternative also steps up a number of income transfer programs like the earned income tax credit. The cash comes from eliminating corporate tax loopholes and a new carbon tax. “Despite having a higher-than-average statutory tax rate, because of preferences embodied in the tax code the United States collects just 2% of GDP in corporate tax revenue, compared with 2.5% across other developed nations,” the report says. “We suggest several changes that would broaden the tax base for corporations, including eliminating fossil fuel production tax credits, limiting the deductibility of financial corporate debt interest payments, closing the dividend loophole for foreign source income, and removing active financing tax deferral for financial firms.”

Translation: tax oil and coal companies, big banks, and the overseas operations of multinational firms while discouraging corporate debt. Instead of using all of that money for deficit reduction, transfer some to low-and-moderate income workers, whose increased consumption will stimulate the economy, and invest in infrastructure that promotes long-term growth.

The plan asserts that too much of the public debate to date has focused on Social Security, which plays only a minor role in the long-term deficits facing the country. Then there’s health care, whose skyrocketing costs will turn everybody’s deficit reduction plans into so much confetti unless brought under control.

I like this guy.  Check him out.

Anyway, I have to hit the shower, sports fans.  It’s off to work, for as long as it lasts.  Might as well enjoy it.

I leave you with this ditty from the coolest girl at the lunch table, Gwyneth Paltrow, who in addition to being a talented actress and easy on the eyes, turns out to be able to sing and play a guitar.  The song says it all: we will get through this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ship of state is the only known vessel that leaks from the top


I’m sure you’re all aware of the Wikileaks kerfluffle. The official story is that this was all the work of a 23 year-old Okie cybergeek:

Bradley Manning: The prime suspect of giving files to WikiLeaks

Bradley Manning, 23, enlisted in the US Army in 2007 and became an intelligence analyst in Iraq, sifting through classified information at Forward Operating Base Hammer, 40 miles east of Baghdad.

[...]

As he spent his time looking through classified information for up to 14 hours a day, he is believed to have become increasingly disillusioned by US foreign policy, once describing “military intelligence” as an “oxymoron”. Manning is said to have tracked down and communicated with Adrian Lamo, a well known former computer hacker in the US, who he thought would help him get information out.

But Lamo later alerted the US authorities and provided them with a series of online exchanges between the two men.

Manning was alleged to have told Lamo that he had found “incredible, awful things that belonged in the public domain and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington, DC”. He was also said to have boasted that he had used blank CDs to download classified information while pretending to be listening to Lady Gaga.

Manning’s clearance would have given him access to the Secret internet Protocol Router Network used by US military personnel, civilian employees and private contractors. However, investigators are trying to establish whether he had help, both from inside the military, and from civilians.


I was a nerd but not a geek. I still can’t figure out how to set the timer on my VCR. But apparently I carry the gene because my oldest son is a super-geek. When he was in junior high his hero was Kevin Mitnick. (if you don’t get the reference ask Dandy Tiger)

I was in the army though, so I do know a little about that organization. The Army does not give PFC’s the keys to the officer’s latrine unless they want the toilets cleaned.

Private First Class is the third-lowest rank there is. Most soldiers make PFC after one year in service. (When I was in some people actually started out at that rank, such as graduates of high school Junior ROTC.) If you stay out of trouble a promotion to Spec 4/E-4 is pretty much automatic after two years.

“Intelligence analyst” with a Top Secret clearance isn’t exactly a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) for high school drop-outs. The geekier your MOS, the faster you’ll make rank. A G-2 tech job is about as cushy as it gets in the Army. They stay “in the rear with the gear.”

If Manning was in the service working at Divisional G-2 for three years and is only a PFC then he’s had some troubles. It couldn’t have been anything serious enough to get him kicked out but he must have been reduced in rank due to an Article 15 at least once.

Once upon a time the Internet was like the wild west but instead of gunfighters it was ruled by hackers. Those days are long gone. Those 15 year-old hackers from 20 years ago are now highly paid 35 year-old cyber-security consultants

The idea that a PFC stationed in an overseas hot zone could not only access but download about a million documents without anyone noticing what he was doing doesn’t past the laugh test. Bradley Manning is not David Lightman and Siprnet isn’t WOPR.

To access classified government information a person needs two things – the proper clearance and the “need to know.” The government has security programs in place so that if someone tries to go exploring in cyber-places they don’t belong their activities will see off alarms.

I know this is true because I know an IRS employee who got in big trouble when he decided to take a peek at the tax returns of his ex-wife’s new boyfriend. If they have these programs for the IRS they have ‘em for the military and the State Department too.

We’re not talking about somebody accidentally stumbling across a couple of documents. We’re talking about somebody spending hours and hours searching through classified archives and downloading them.

If it were that easy to do then the rest of the world would have already done it.

Why is this important? Anglachel:


This much information being released does not happen without some serious coordination and power. This wasn’t done by a few outraged whistle-blowers.


I don’t know who was behind this mess but it wasn’t somebody at the bottom of the food chain. Spys like Robert Hanssen and John Walker spent decades getting into positions of trust and they couldn’t have pulled this off.

The person or persons responsible for this are or were occupying high positions in our government. Some people suspect Dick Cheney. I’m not suggesting he had anything to do with this but he probably knows the people who did.



Last but not least, I find this piece of information offensive:

After arriving in Iraq the young soldier, who is gay, complained of feeling socially “isolated” in the military.

What does Manning’s sexual orientation have to do with anything? One of the bullshit arguments against allowing gays to serve in the military and other branches of government was that they could be blackmailed into betraying our nation by a foreign power threatening to expose them.

But that argument only works if being gay is a crime or something to be ashamed of. Throwing that information out there like that reminds me of what the Navy did to Clayton Hartwig.



Wikileaks the State Department

Click on pic for the game "Diplomacy"

The cables are out and now is the time to sift through them and come to our own conclusions about what they contain.  For those of you who want a running commentary, Peter Daou recommends Greg Mitchell’s blog at The Nation.

I’m not surprised that we’re spying on UN officials  and gathering intelligence from around the world.  Didn’t we learn from Joe Wilson that diplomats are sometimes deployed to get information about uranium shipments?  Even a Democrat must understand that keeping tabs on foreign nationals who reside in our country and are operating at a high level in world affairs should be monitored.  We legitimately object when our government spies on American citizens but I’m pretty sure that even Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson understood the value of keeping your foreign friends close and your enemies closer.  Let’s not be naive and let the world head for the smelling salts.  If Hillary authorized some of the surveillance, it shouldn’t come as a shock.  That’s her job.  What’s more important is how discriminant she or her predecessors were in applying it.

What is more surprising is how the NYTimes reports a remarkable lack of agency with these cables.  There is no indication who sent them or with what authority.  Are we to understand that no one in the Bush White House was responsible?  Things just happened?  Who should get credit for negotiating hard bargains in the current administration?  Specific people cause specific things to get done or not get done.  The NYTimes is cheating the casual reader of knowing who is responsible when the agents are referred to so vaguely.  The paper needs to clarify when the actions were taken and by whom.  I think we will all wait in vain for level headed analysis.  The reader is advised to dig into the cables and consult multiple sources for discussion.

In the wake of 9/11 and the Bush administrations heavy handed approach to diplomacy, we shouldn’t be surprised if American foreign service is in the midst of some serious rebuilding years.  A 2007 report that appeared in the Washington Post blamed Condoleeza Rice for poor morale at the State Department:

The report from the Foreign Affairs Council, which includes retired ambassadors and senior diplomats, also said morale is dropping among diplomats.

“In the first two years of Secretary Rice’s stewardship almost no net new resources have been realized,” the report said. It noted that Congress has twice denied money for Rice’s plan to rearrange diplomatic postings away from the Cold War model, which was heavy on jobs in Europe, and toward modern challenges in places like China and India.The council found a severe staff shortage and holds Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice partly responsible. The State Department needs 1,100 more employees, especially since recent staff additions have gone to fill jobs in Iraq, Afghanistan and other difficult posts, the report said.

Back in the Bush era, when conservative ideologues started permeating the State department, some career diplomats quit in disgust and some of them quite publicly. Some were given an ultimatum: to serve in Iraq  during the most dangerous period of the insurgency or resign.  As the WaPo article reports, Rice had a hard time getting funding.  None of these problems have gone away.  The Secretary still has to ask Congress for money.  The ideologues are still there. Let’s keep this in mind as we read through these cables.  Bush screwed up.  Putting it back together requires hard work and ingenuity.  The question is, will the people now in charge take responsibility?  How much is the fault of Rice/Bush/Cheney?  How much is still salvageable?  Who has stepped up and who hasn’t?

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