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A few questions about WikiLeaks


Ian Welsh has a post up:

I am now an American Express Cardholder because of Wikileaks

Since Mastercard and Visa, in cutting off Wikileaks from donations, decided that they knew better than me who I should be able to give money to, I applied for and have now received an American Express card. Granted, American Express isn’t always a good actor, but at least they are willing to allow me to spend my money, my way.

I know what some of you are thinking (Oh Gawd, here he goes again!) but I have no problem with how Ian chooses to spend his money. It’s a free country.

I did have some questions for him though:

Just out of curiosity, Ian, do you know where your donations to Wikileaks are going?

How much money are they taking in? How much of it goes to overhead (server fees, etc) and how much goes to salaries? Who gets those salaries, and how much do they receive?

Is there some place where we can examine their books?

I think everyone should be interested in the answers to those questions.

Would people feel the same way about WikiLeaks if Julian Assange was raking in millions for himself?

Where the money comes from is another question. One can argue that the sources of the money should remain secret in order to protect them, but the government can get that information fairly easily if it really wants it.

This is a group dedicated to transparency. What if some neocon billionaire was a major donor? How about a foreign government? Wouldn’t that change your perception of WikiLeaks?

Just wondering.


The Cult of Assange


Michael Lind at Salon:

An invisible, stateless, global Panopticon, manned by hidden zealots subjecting everyone in every country to potential surveillance and public humiliation, is a Foucaultian nightmare. Here is the creepy message sent to Wired magazine before a wave of criminal cyber-attacks launched by supporters of Assange:

We are the clear logic used to unveil wrongdoing. The general public, clouded by misleading information mostly by the media with a political agenda, fails to see and understand this wrongdoing. Because of this, those who do the wrongdoing escape unpunished. Anonymous is here to ensure punishment does not go unserved to those who deserve it.

The masked vigilante Batman could not have put it better, in a note to the citizens of Gotham City. This juvenile posturing is worthy of the Symbionese Liberation Army or Subcommandante Marcos or the Unabomber. Or Julian Assange in his online anarcho-libertarian manifesto, according to which all public and private organizations are authoritarian conspiracies — except, of course, for his own organization.

Like other illiberal sects, the cult of Assange rationalizes its contempt for law and ordinary politics by dismissing the “general public” as passive fools brainwashed by the “media with a political agenda.” So much for democracy.

As in other forms of anti-liberal thought, like anarchism and fascism and Marxism-Leninism and radical Islamism, the central idea of cyber-anarchism is that society must be saved by a self-appointed vanguard of vigilantes who themselves are above the law and whose motives are beyond question: “Anonymous is here to ensure punishment does not go unserved to those who deserve it.” So much for liberalism, which dreads arbitrary power, fears hero worship and assumes that charismatic rebels as well as bureaucratic authorities are likely to be fallible, biased and corrupt.

Cult-like political and intellectual movements can be identified by their nonfalsifiability. Cultists deflect criticism by defaming critics. If you criticize Freudianism, you must be sexually repressed. If you criticize Marxism, you must be bourgeois or brainwashed by the bourgeoisie. If you criticize WikiLeaks, as I have done, you must be an agent of the authoritarian “national security state” or its brainwashed dupe. According to Assange himself, Mastercard, PayPal and Visa, which have refused to process money for WikiLeaks, are “instruments of U.S. foreign policy.” By the logic of the cult, the two Swedish women who have accused Julian Assange of sexual abuse can only be part of a global conspiracy at the highest levels to bring him down. The Birthers and Birchers and Truthers now have company.

I’m not going to add anything. Res ipsa loquitur. Let me just repeat this one sentence:

If you criticize WikiLeaks, as I have done, you must be an agent of the authoritarian “national security state” or its brainwashed dupe.


Confidence Men


It’s no secret I’m skeptical of WikiLeaks. It really seems to piss some people off that I don’t think the organization is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Sorry, but I’m a foliehatt and don’t trust anyone.

Neither does this guy:


Wikileaks: a Big Dangerous US Government Con Job

The story on the surface makes for a script for a new Oliver Stone Hollywood thriller. However, a closer look at the details of what has so far been carefully leaked by the most ultra-establishment of international media such as the New York Times reveals a clear agenda. That agenda coincidentally serves to buttress the agenda of US geopolitics around the world from Iran to North Korea. The Wikileaks is a big and dangerous US intelligence Con Job which will likely be used to police the Internet.

[...]

Then the plot thickens. The 250,000 pages end up at the desk of Julian Assange, the 39-year-old Australian founder of a supposedly anti-establishment website with the cute name Wikileaks. Assange decides to selectively choose several of the world’s most ultra-establishment news media to exclusively handle the leaking job for him as he seems to be on the run from Interpol, not for leaking classified information, but for allegedly having consensual sex with two Swedish women who later decided it was rape.

He selects as exclusive newspapers to decide what is to be leaked the New York Times which did such service in promoting faked propaganda against Saddam that led to the Iraqi war, the London Guardian and Der Spiegel. Assange claims he had no time to sift through so many pages so handed them to the trusted editors of the establishment media for them to decide what should be released. Very “anti-establishment” that.

The New York Times even assigned one of its top people, David E. Sanger, to control the release of the Wikileaks material. Sanger is no establishment outsider. He sits as a member of the elite Council on Foreign Relations as well as the Aspen Institute Strategy Group together with the likes of Condi Rice, former Defense Secretary William Perry, former CIA head John Deutch, former State Department Deputy Secretary and now World Bank head Robert Zoellick among others.

[...]

The latest sensational Wikileaks documents allegedly from the US State Department embassies around the world to Washington are definitely not as Hillary Clinton claimed “an attack on America’s foreign policy interests that have endangered innocent people.” And they do not amount to what the Italian foreign minister, called the “September 11 of world diplomacy.” The British government calls them a threat to national security and an aide to Canada’s Prime Minister calls on the CIA to assassinate Assange, as does kooky would-be US Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin.

Most important, the 250,000 cables are not “top secret” as we might have thought. Between two and three million US Government employees are cleared to see this level of “secret” document, [1] and some 500,000 people around the world have access to the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRnet) where the cables were stored. SIPRnet is not recommended for distribution of top-secret information. Only 6% or 15,000 pages of the documents have been classified as even secret, a level below top-secret. Another 40% were the lowest level, “confidential”, while the rest were unclassified. In brief, it was not all that secret. [2]

Most of the revelations so far have been unspectacular. In Germany the revelations led to the removal of a prominent young FDP politician close to Guido Westerwelle who apparently liked to talk too much to his counterpart at the US Embassy. The revelations about Russian politics, that a US Embassy official refers to Putin and Medvedev as “Batman and Robin,” tells more about the cultural level of current US State Department personnel than it does about internal Russian politics.

But for anyone who has studied the craft of intelligence and of disinformation, a clear pattern emerges in the Wikileaks drama. The focus is put on select US geopolitical targets, appearing as Hillary Clinton put it “to justify US sanctions against Iran.” They claim North Korea with China’s granting of free passage to Korean ships despite US State Department pleas, send dangerous missiles to Iran. Saudi Arabia’s ailing King Abdullah reportedly called Iran’s President a Hitler.

[...]

What is emerging from all the sound and Wikileaks fury in Washington is that the entire scandal is serving to advance a long-standing Obama and Bush agenda of policing the until-now free Internet. Already the US Government has shut the Wikileaks server in the United States though no identifiable US law has been broken.

The process of policing the Web was well underway before the current leaks scandal. In 2009 Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller and Republican Olympia Snowe introduced the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (S.773). IIt would give the President unlimited power to disconnect private-sector computers from the internet. The bill “would allow the president to ’declare a cyber-security emergency’ relating to ’non-governmental’ computer networks and do what’s necessary to respond to the threat.” We can expect that now this controversial piece of legislation will get top priority when a new Republican House and the Senate convene in January.

(No! WikiLeaks is GOOD!)

Think I’m crazy? More than a few people have noticed that so far WikiLeaks is helping the neocon case for a war with Iran. On the other hand, what big secrets have they revealed? Oh sure, they’ve released a few things that were previously unknown, but they haven’t upset any big apple carts, now have they?

The term “con job” comes from the term “confidence men” which is an old-timey term for scam artists. A good con man lures you in by giving you a taste of riches, then once they have your confidence they clean out your life savings.

Imagine this – WikiLeaks releases a document that reveals the identities of C.I.A. agents, operatives and/or sources inside Iran. These people are then promptly arrested and executed as spies.

Not only would that discredit liberals and help gin-up a war with Iran, but it would be used to justify new government controls and oversight of the internet. Hello, Big Brother.

Oopsie!

That’s not exactly the rosy scenario that WikiLeaks supporters are dreaming of, is it?

(Oh, myiq, why won’t you drink the WikiLeaks Kool-aid? Are you some kind of authoritarian?)

Why should I trust WikiLeaks? I don’t even know who they are. Do you?

Seriously, who are they?

According to Wikipedia:

WikiLeaks is an international new media non-profit organisation that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified media from anonymous news sources and news leaks. Its website, launched in 2006 and run by The Sunshine Press,[3] claimed a database of more than 1.2 million documents within a year of its launch.[7] The organisation describes its founders as a mix of Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians, and start-up company technologists from the United States, Taiwan, Europe, Australia, and South Africa.[3] Julian Assange, an Australian Internet activist, is generally described as its director.[8] WikiLeaks was originally launched as a user-editable wiki site, but has progressively moved towards a more traditional publication model, and no longer accepts either user comments or edits.

[...]

The wikileaks.org domain name was registered on 4 October 2006.[4] The website was unveiled, and published its first document in December 2006.[31][32] The site claims to have been “founded by Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and start-up company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa”.[3]

The creators of WikiLeaks have not been formally identified.[33] It has been represented in public since January 2007 by Julian Assange and others. Assange describes himself as a member of WikiLeaks’ advisory board.[34] News reports in The Australian have called Assange the “founder of WikiLeaks”.[35] According to Wired magazine, a volunteer said that Assange described himself in a private conversation as “the heart and soul of this organisation, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organiser, financier, and all the rest”.[36] As of June 2009[update], the site had over 1,200 registered volunteers[3] and listed an advisory board comprising Assange, Phillip Adams, Wang Dan, C. J. Hinke, Ben Laurie, Tashi Namgyal Khamsitsang, Xiao Qiang, Chico Whitaker and Wang Youcai.[37] Despite appearing on the list Khamsitsang said that while he received an e-mail from WikiLeaks, he had never agreed to be an advisor.[38] Adams said he’d also never met Assange or been asked for any advice and suggested that other members of the board hadn’t either.[37]


Do you know any of those people? I sure don’t. That’s the “advisory board.” But who actually runs WikiLeaks?

Not Julian Assange, not lately anyway. He’s too busy playing the International Man of Mystery. So who runs Wikileaks? Where are their loyalties and what are their goals?

More importantly, where are the leaks coming from?

Whistleblowers are like criminal informants. Most of them are bad people with ulterior motives. Their consciences kick in and they start ratting about the same time they get fired or screwed over by the people they rat on.

I don’t believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy or the Great Pumpkin (okay, maybe the Great Pumpkin.) That’s magical thinking.

WikiLeaks is magical thinking.

This organization of people we don’t know much about will use sources we don’t know anything about and via the awesome power of the internet the world will be transformed into a paradise filled with fluffy bunnies. Riiiiight.

Remember the Progressive Blogosphere 1.0? They were going to use the awesome power of the internet to transform politics and turn America into a Liberal paradise filled with fluffy bunnies.

How did that work out?

(But WikiLeaks hasn’t broken any laws!)

Maybe not. But even if it isn’t against the law to publish classified and/or stolen information on the web now, it will be soon. Bet on it.

But there are some other laws involved here. Like the Law of Unintended Consequences and Newton’s Third Law:

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Oh, you thought that law just applied to physics? Silly you.

One last point – I think it’s funny how WikiLeak supporters are outraged that the banks are cutting ties to WikiLeaks. Glenzilla mentions in yesterday’s post. Some people think the government is forcing the banks to do that. Hello?

That’s the tail wagging the dog.

Did it ever occur to anyone that the banks are distancing themselves from WikiLeaks so that when the fit hits the Shan they won’t be anywhere in the vicinity?

Who will be in the vicinity?

Progressive bloggers. Michael Moore. Liberals.

There are no shortcuts. Confidence men offer “get rich quick” schemes. WikiLeaks offers a “get government reform quick” scheme. Don’t trust either one.

Government needs to be reformed, but WikiLeaks isn’t the answer. There are no magic wands to wave and fix everything. Just hard work.



UPDATE:

CIA launches task force to assess impact of U.S. cables’ exposure by WikiLeaks

[...]

The irreverence is perhaps understandable for an agency that has been relatively unscathed by WikiLeaks. Only a handful of CIA files have surfaced on the WikiLeaks Web site, and records from other agencies posted online reveal remarkably little about CIA employees or operations.

If WikiLeaks is a CIA plot then they wouldn’t be hurt by its disclosures, now would they?

Where’s my foliehatt?


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.

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