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    • What Hungary’s Purge of Senior Military Officers Can Teach Us All
      Victor Orban is not a stupid man even though I disagree with him on a great deal: Hungarian military leadership is receiving a purge. Over 170 generals and high-ranking officers were fired in a matter of a couple days. A deNATOization is occurring in the Hungarian command purging those that were socialized in NATO and international partnerships. Now, it’s ea […]
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WikiLeaks vs. The Law of Unintended Consequences

(Oh no he didn’t) (Oh yes he did)
The Atlantic:

How WikiLeaks Just Set Back Democracy in Zimbabwe

Last year, early on Christmas Eve morning, representatives from the U.S., United Kingdom, Netherlands, and the European Union arrived for a meeting with Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Appointed prime minister earlier that year as part of a power-sharing agreement after the fraud- and violence-ridden 2008 presidential election, Tsvangirai and his political party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), are considered Zimbabwe’s greatest hopes for unseating the country’s long-time de facto dictator Robert Mugabe and bringing democratic reforms to the country.

The topic of the meeting was the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by a collection of western countries, including the U.S. and E.U. Tsvangirai told the western officials that, while there had been some progress in the last year, Mugabe and his supporters were dragging their feet on delivering political reforms. To overcome this, he said that the sanctions on Zimbabwe “must be kept in place” to induce Mugabe into giving up some political power. The prime minister openly admitted the incongruity between his private support for the sanctions and his public statements in opposition. If his political adversaries knew Tsvangirai secretly supported the sanctions, deeply unpopular with Zimbabweans, they would have a powerful weapon to attack and discredit the democratic reformer.

Later that day, the U.S. embassy in Zimbabwe dutifully reported the details of the meeting to Washington in a confidential U.S. State Department diplomatic cable. And slightly less than one year later, WikiLeaks released it to the world.

The reaction in Zimbabwe was swift. Zimbabwe’s Mugabe-appointed attorney general announced he was investigating the Prime Minister on treason charges based exclusively on the contents of the leaked cable. While it’s unlikely Tsvangirai could be convicted on the contents of the cable alone, the political damage has already been done. The cable provides Mugabe the opportunity to portray Tsvangirai as an agent of foreign governments working against the people of Zimbabwe. Furthermore, it could provide Mugabe with the pretense to abandon the coalition government that allowed Tsvangirai to become prime minister in 2009.

The Guardian:

Assange defended one of WikiLeaks’ collaborators, Israel Shamir, following claims Shamir passed sensitive cables to Belarus’s dictator, Alexander Lukashenko. Lukashenko has arrested 600 opposition supporters and journalists since Sunday’s presidential election. The whereabouts and fate of several of the president’s high-profile opponents are unknown.

Of Shamir, Assange said: “WikiLeaks works with hundreds of journalists from different regions of the world. All are required to sign non-disclosure agreements and are generally only given limited review access to material relating to their region. We have no reason to believe these rumours in relation to Belarus are true.”

If people die as a result of WikiLeaks’ disclosure of classified information, do we just write them off as collateral damage? What liability, if any, should WikiLeaks and the original leakers (if they can be identified) have for those deaths?

Back to The Atlantic for this piece by Jaron Lanier:

The Hazards of Nerd Supremacy: The Case of WikiLeaks


Openness in itself, as the prime driver of events, doesn’t lead to achievement or creativity.

One problem is that information in oceanic magnitudes can confuse and confound as easily as it can clarify and empower, even when the information is correct. There is vastly more financial data set down in the world’s computers than there ever has been before, including publically accessible data, and yet the economy is a mess. How can this be, if information is the solution?

A sufficiently copious flood of data creates an illusion of omniscience, and that illusion can make you stupid. Another way to put this is that a lot of information made available over the internet encourages players to think as if they had a God’s eye view, looking down on the whole system.

A financier, for instance, might not be able to resist the temptations of access to seemingly endless data. If you can really look down on the whole market from on high, then you ought to be able to just pluck money out of it without risk, which leads to the notion of a highly computerized, data intensive, brobdingnagian hedge fund. This is fine, for a while, until other people start similar funds and the whole market becomes distorted.

The interesting similarity between Mr. Assange and a typical financier who overdid it is that both attempted to align themselves with a perceived God-like perspective and method made possible by the flow of vast information on the Internet, while both actually got crazy and absurd. Wikileaks and similar efforts could do for politics approximately what access to a lot of data did for finance in the run up to the recession.

There is an old legal trick that is sometimes called “the needle in a haystack.” In response to discovery requests or subpoenas you give them everything including the kitchen sink. You bury the other side in paperwork and hope they won’t find the one or two key documents. (You also run up their legal fees because somebody has to go through all that stuff.)

(h/t Lambert for the Lanier piece)

“Teen Mom” busted for domestic violence


Prosecutors in central Indiana have filed felony domestic battery and child neglect charges against a star of the MTV reality show “Teen Mom.”

Anderson police began investigating 20-year-old Amber Portwood after a September episode showed her slapping, choking and kicking the 24-year-old father of her daughter.


Detective Mitch Carroll tells The Herald Bulletin that the child neglect charges stem from Portwood’s then-1-year-old daughter being present during two filmed instances of domestic violence.


Anne Houseworth of the Indiana Department of Child Services said dozens of viewers called the state’s child abuse hotline to report Portwood’s outbursts.

What I want to know is what took so long? She allegedly assaulted him three times in 2009, with one of the assaults being filmed by MTV.

If he had hit her the way she was hitting him the show would have included film of him being hauled off to jail. Instead the camera crew just watched and did nothing and the cops didn’t get involved until the show aired.

There are stories reporting that Portwood was encouraged by MTV to attack they guy. If that’s true she is still just as guilty, but MTV may be subject to criminal and civil liability as well.

Tuesday: crying all the way to the bank

Promises, Promises . . . They say President Obama is a little testy these days when questioned about some of his unfulfilled promises. And who wouldn’t be grumpy? WE might have known Obama was just saying what he had to say to get through the (long) primary and election seasons. But, a fair number of voters fell under the sway of his pretty words and they’re starting to wonder what happened to some of his shiny presents:

The promises Obama wants you to keep forgetting

In early December, a combative President Obama challenged reporters at a press conference: “Look at what I promised during the campaign. There’s not a single thing that I’ve said that I would do that I have not either done or tried to do. And if I haven’t gotten it done yet, I’m still trying to do it.”

Given the president’s challenge, and the fact that we’re about to reach the halfway mark of his administration, we took the opportunity to check in on his campaign pledges. As it turns out, there are plenty of clearly stated promises, in areas big and small, that Obama has not kept.

While the graphic for the story is a hoot, the list presented isn’t earth-shattering … things like flying to the moon, expanding the Peace Corps and an annual “State of the World” speech.

But, it was interesting to see the Hart-like challenge to the press. (shrugging) I don’t actually think Obama cares whether they find unfulfilled promises or not. I think that (like Liberace) he’s crying all the way to the bank.

I’m always been a happy receiver of gifts — kind of like a kid who just wants to play with the wrapping paper and boxes. We even have a tradition in our family of wrapping anything bought from about 2 weeks before Thanksgiving through Christmas just to make our present pile hilariously tall. And we get a lot of laughs when we open some of those mostly boring household items.

Still — apparently the hassles surrounding the return of unwanted gifts is a HUGE deal for online retailers. and (OMG!!) — Amazon has a plan for preemptively saving all those who are stuck with gifts they can’t stand:

Amazon is working on a solution that could revolutionize digital gift buying. The online retailer has quietly patented a way for people to return gifts before they receive them, and the patent documents even mention poor Aunt Mildred. Amazon’s innovation, not ready for this Christmas season, includes an option to “Convert all gifts from Aunt Mildred,” the patent says. “For example, the user may specify such a rule because the user believes that this potential sender has different tastes than the user.” In other words, the consumer could keep an online list of lousy gift-givers whose choices would be vetted before anything ships. check its price – is hardly the same as unwrapping the item at home.

. . .

Amazon’s patent is 12 pages long, with numerous diagrams, including a “Gift Conversion Rules Wizard” that shows how a user could select rules such as, “No clothes with wool.” The document makes for curious reading, reducing the art of gift giving to the dry language of patentry.

. . .

Most cleverly – or deviously, depending on your attitude toward this sort of manipulation – the gift giver will be none the wiser: “The user may also be provided with the option of sending a thank you note for the original gift,” according to the patent, “even though the original gift is converted.” (Alternatively, a recipient could choose to let the giver know he has exchanged the item for something else.)

(blinking) As a gift-giver the implementation of this idea would make me extremely reluctant to have gifts sent directly from Amazon to friends & family. Does the giver have the right to specify, “No substitutions”? I’ve given several gifts that were unwanted at the time they were received but, VERY welcome sometime later. How does Amazon’s fancy algorithm handle that possibility?

And as a programmer, I don’t see why this has to be so complicated. How about a box in account settings that says, “Confirm gifts with me before mailing” …. Then an email goes out anytime a gift is addressed to this user. Why do they need this virtual Rube Goldberg Contraption?

This story sent a shiver down my leg when I read it yesterday:

Obama looks to Chicago for campaign headquarters

Never in modern history has a U.S. president attempted to win reelection with a campaign operation based beyond the Potomac.

But that’s what President Barack Obama is apparently proposing to do. It’s a daring move that strategists hope will enable him to recapture some of his 2008 magic.

Obama’s top advisers have concluded that potential drawbacks to locating the headquarters in his home base of Chicago are outweighed by the benefits they anticipate from a break with precedent. And with Republican contenders already circling, there’s a sense of urgency toward beginning to set up the reelection effort.

. . .

Why worry about all of this with 20-plus months to go before the 2012 election? It’s never too early to start fundraising, for one, especially when you’re expected to raise nearly $1 billion. Nor is there such a thing as too soon to begin reinvigorating the national grassroots network that famously powered Obama in 2008. And as Republican contenders become less shy about declaring their intentions, Obama will need a means of responding to their attacks that doesn’t distract from his official presidential activities.

Maybe you thought that The Cheeto’s new beta version looked a little plain? I guess it’ll soon be jazzed-up with some spiffy new ads!

Here in Kansas the weather hasn’t been worth mentioning. But, it sounds like it’s been a miserable couple of days for some of you on the east coast:

Stranded on the Subway, Some Through the Night

Around 9 p.m. on Sunday, Grigoriy Zilbergleyz, 64, bid farewell to a friend he was visiting on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and began his journey home to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. He hopped on a C train, transferred to a D and was riding on an aboveground N when he called his wife around 10:55 to let her know that he was only three stations away.

“ ‘In five minutes, I will be home,’ ” Mr. Zilbergleyz recalled saying. He allowed a rueful laugh. “And after that, I only came home after 15 hours.”

Mr. Zilbergleyz’s train stalled at the New Utrecht Avenue station, paralyzed by a snow-clogged third rail, its propulsion and heating systems rendered useless. Its passengers, huddling in winter jackets, waited all night for a rescue train that never came.

. . .

Snowdrifts up to four feet high saturated the electrified third rail on some stretches of outdoor track, officials said, making it difficult to dispatch rescue crews to the stranded trains. And with many roads unplowed, shuttling passengers by bus was not an option. So they waited. Some were luckier than others: those stalled at a station platform could at least exit the train for periodic exercise, cigarettes or bathroom breaks.

Mr. Zilbergleyz eventually left the train and walked home, arriving around noon on Monday. “Every time when I see the situation like this, I’m very proud of the American people,” said Mr. Zilbergleyz, who immigrated to New York 11 years ago from Belarus. “No panic, no yelling. Just understanding.”


Starve the Beast: The Republican Plan to De-Fund the Health Care Law

Republicans have made absolutely clear what they intend to do to block the new health care law — starve it.

Incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, recently told Fox that “We can dent this, kick it, slow it down to make sure it never happens. And trust me,” he emphasized, “I’m going to make sure this health care bill never ever, ever is implemented.”

Brad Blakeman, who worked in the Bush White House agrees, saying, “They are going to be looking at the budget items that affect healthcare. They are going to be dissecting that 2000-page bill and picking apart those parts of the bill that can be defunded now.”

They say their hope is to defund and stall the health law’s implementation, at least until they have more power to stop it.

Brad Blakeman says Republicans are taking the long view, “Hopefully we’ll be able to defund and stall enough of the implementation that we’ll make it into 2012, hopefully with a new president and perhaps take the majority in the Senate.”

Well, I’m glad to see they’ve got their priorities straight (snort).  This starve the beast shit makes me sick.  This isn’t a GAME. The bill stinks but, it’s not like these guys are attempting to come up with something better for regular people who are desperate for a real solution to the Health Care Crisis:

Number Of Uninsured Americans Soars To Over 50 Million

As the Great Recession has sown unemployment and downgraded work even for those people who have held on to their jobs, the number of Americans lacking healthcare has swelled beyond 50 million, according to a sobering new report from the Kaiser Foundation.

Among the report’s most troubling findings: The number of Americans without any health care coverage grew by more than four million in 2009. That left almost one-fifth of non-elderly people uninsured. Among those between 19 and 29 years old, nearly one-third lacked coverage.

The study underscores the degree to which the recession has accelerated the loss of basic elements once viewed as inextricable pieces of a middle class life. The number of Americans lacking medical coverage now exceeds the population of Spain. [emphasis mine]

4 million more without Health Care Insurance.  And President Obama challenges reporters to find unfulfilled promises & sets up his re-election campaign.  Isn’t THAT special?