Julian Assange: Neither Saint Nor Sinner

The WikiLeaks controversy is unfolding in exactly the way almost everything else in this country unfolds – in a yawning divide lined with yapping dachshunds.

The lefties see WikiLeaks’ head drip, Julian Assange, as a crusader to be hailed, not jailed. The right wants to off the miserable terrorist (Note to righties: Look up the defnition of terrorist before any more name calling) on general principles. The whole sordid affair has become a thermonuclear Jerry Springer show of freaks, geeks, and an audience cheering and jeering so loudly no one can think.

The vast majority of the 250,000-plus cables are mundane. The administrivia that keeps a bureaucratic juggernaut juggering. While a good number of these are classified, the nation probably would’ve suffered little if they had been declassified.

Karzai is Incomptent? I’m Shocked!
Then, there are the embarrassing missives. Unflattering things that local ambassadors said about their hosts. Memos along the lines of “Hamid Karzai is an incompetent pootiehead who can’t be trusted to run sheep herd, much less a country riven by war. And he wears a cape too for Chrissake.”

Karzai a cloaked incompetent? Who knew?

These revelations come as no surprise to those on the receiving end.  Cables from any other country on the planet contain similar comments almost word for word.

And mixed in with the rainforest-sized pile of dubious junk are those cables that actually reveal something important.  It’s rumored that some of them may actually contain truly classified information and would probably be better left secret.

Face it, the world needs whistleblowers. They help give the general public a bit of leverage against the crushingly powerful government and corporate  citizens. But as Assange is finding out, they usually end up in ruin. Ask Daniel Elsberg and the ratter outers of Philip Morris.

In the end, America will be unlikely to suffer any lasting damage other than a bruised ego. The hurt feelings will go away. However, the truly classified parts will casue some short-term dangers. But, aside than the sheer size of the leak, this is the kind of stuff that spies steal every few years. It may turn out that the most important task is figuring out how someone got so many of the crown jewels instead of containing the current damage.

With Assange under arrest, next up comes the legal wrangling.

The charges of rape sex by surprise (WTF?) may just be a way to hold onto Assange until they can get him on the higher charges or it cold be a political charade. Remember, one of the women making the allegations may have connections with a CIA operative. In any case, investigate and if there is sufficient evidence, try him.

Of the lesser leaks, either drop the charges because no actual damage was done or treat them lightly. You’ll have lots of other opportunities to shackle him in his cell at a country club federal pen.

Throw the Books at Him
Of the larger leaks, throw the book at him commensurate with what the evidence and law suggest. Not for treason as Moosilini wants (Note to Sarah: He’d have to be an American to charge him with treason.). Not as a terrorist, because (and I assume here that you righties aren’t still reading the definition) he isn’t one. Try him under US espionage laws. But if he drops his promised dime on the US banking system, I vote AMNESTY!

He broke those laws and he’s entitled to a fair trial under them. We can’t just become a lynch mob of Newt Gingrichi and hang him without a trial elst we cause more damage to our image than calling Putin a crook (Again, what a frickin’ surprise!).

In a way, the real issue here isn’t what he released or didn’t release, it’s who is impartial enough to decide which secrets are the ones we need to keep. Sunshine and legitimate national security secrets don’t always go well together.

If we leave the task solely to the agencies involved, you’d get a disaster similar to Gingrich’s newest great idea – letting companies decide how much tax they should play. Leave it solely to the professional politicians and every little securo-turd that flushes down the pipe will be thrown at their opponets before James Bond could get a plan together to steal them.

We need some balance, a referee. Perhaps Tony Hayward or  Joe the Plumber are available.

I hear they already have the striped shirts, whistles, and the poor (in)sight of any NFL referee.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Where Have All The Democrats Gone?

Where have all the Democrats gone? Long time passing Where have all the Democrats gone? Long time ago Where have all the Democrats gone? Hiding in their bunkers every one When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn? – Remake of Where Have All The Flowers Gone

I hope Pete Seeger won’t mind my remaking of his beautiful song, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”, but it seemed appropriate considering the times we are living in. If anyone still believes that the Dems are gonna fight for the middle-class of this country the next few days should remove all doubt about where their loyalties lie. The truth be told there is no longer any Party that speaks for the middle-class of this country or speaks to the issues that are crushing them. The dreaded Bush Tax Cuts that were the bane of the Party just a few months ago will be extended.

This transfer of wealth will be extended because once again the most powerful political party in America is incumbency and the word is out if you want political donations you wash the hand that feeds you and that includes Dems, wing-nuts, and tea-baggers. The wealthy in this country have co-opted both political parties and are laying the foundation for the outright theft of this country. The Dems talk about fighting for the middle-class but it is empty rhetoric. What the Dems have become is Republican lite. What kills me is all the internet chatter about how much better the Dem candidates are than the wing-nuts and tea-baggers and what that demonstrates is how pathetic we have become. Are we so desperate that we are willing to accept anybody who is not a wing-nut just to have somebody?

Here is what is not being discussed seriously by the media or the politicians, it doesn’t matter who the candidate is or what party affiliation they hold. The weapon being used against us is not politics, it is distraction. The goal of the wealthy is to keep the public so distracted with nonsense that no one notices that the country is being stolen right under their noses. This is why we are more concerned about Bristol Palin on "Dancing With The Stars" than we are about who is underwriting her mother’s new show or who is buying her books to keep her on the best sellers list when everyone knows she can’t write. Why Sarah Palin? Because Sarah Palin will not bring solutions to this country instead she will bring more distractions to the public discourse.

If the Dems were really concerned about the middle-class they would be doing the following. They would let all the Bush tax cuts expire, they would penalize every corporation that is shipping jobs overseas, they would focus on infrastructure improvements, and they would make college affordable again. Those four things would benefit the middle-class of today and create a larger middle-class in the future more than any of the red herrings being debated in Washington. By letting the Bush tax cuts expire we would return to the tax rates of the Clinton years.

Let’s look at this for a minute, under the Clinton tax rates more than 8 million jobs were created while under 10 years of Bush tax cuts we have lost jobs.

We have got to, got to, got to… give tax break to billionaires. I mean that’s what this whole place (Congress) is about, isn’t it? They fund the campaigns they get what’s due to the…” - Senator Bernie Sanders

Manufacturing in the US as a percentage of GDP has shrunk to its lowest levels in history since before the industrial revolution and we have tax breaks in place for those companies that are shipping American jobs overseas. Manufacturing was one of the major impetus for creating the middle-class and yet over the last 30 years we have not only allowed corporations to participate in this race to the bottom on cheap and slave labor we have funded it with tax dollars. If we are to ever return America back to competitiveness we must once again manufacture something. Less than 30% of the American public graduates from college so even if we were to find all of those clean high tech jobs we were promised while our dirty manufacturing jobs were shipped overseas we don’t have the workforce to sustain them. What are we going to do with the 70% of Americans with a high school diploma or less?

In order to be competitive globally in the future we need to rebuild our infrastructure. It lays the foundation for future growth and it also provides good jobs now. If history has taught us anything it is that during times like these we need to focus on putting Americans to work and if the private sector is unable or unwilling then the government must be willing to fill the gap until they are. This isn’t rocket science we have gone through depressions and recessions before but because of the influence of the wealthy every time we go through these cycles it is always like the first time. It’s as if we have no history to reflect on or policies to institute.

Finally, college affordability must be addressed. Education is the foundation of our upward mobility, it is known as the great equalizer. Education allows the child of an immigrant to move beyond his birth into the American dream. If we continue to allow our college graduates from lower classes to graduate with crushing debt into jobs at Wal-Mart we will have sealed our fate as a banana republic once and for all. For the life of me I cannot understand why anyone under 30 is not up in arms and protesting in the streets concerning the impending collapse of the middle-class. It is your country that is being stolen. It is your future that is being sold off. It sort of reminds me of the slow boiling frog. You may think that you are in a nice warm sauna but you are really in the steam pot. There is no profit in getting a degree and then owing 100,000 dollars before you get your first job. This game is rigged and you continue to bet. The sad truth is that instead of having to drag you to the polls to vote you should be screaming at the top of your lungs, but I guess “Call of Duty” or “Snookie” is more important than your future.

If anyone is still expecting one of these impotent political parties to stand up and fight for the middle-class then you have another thing coming. The fight will not happen unless you do the fighting. Both of these groups have been bought and sold and with it so has your future. As long as you continue to be distracted by this nonsense the pillaging will continue unabated. Where are all the Democrats? They are hunkering down in their fox holes waiting on Armageddon or the next election whichever comes first.

“The sound shivers through the walls, through the table, through the window frame, and into my finger. These distraction-oholics. These focus-ophobics. Old George Orwell got it backward. Big Brother isn't watching. He's singing and dancing. He's pulling rabbits out of a hat. Big Brother's holding your attention every moment you're awake. He's making sure you're always distracted. He's making sure you're fully absorbed... and this being fed, it's worse than being watched. With the world always filling you, no one has to worry about what's in your mind. With everyone's imagination atrophied, no one will ever be a threat to the world.” - Chuck Palahniuk

The Disputed Truth

Palin’s Monday Morning Leak Plugging

The world’s new infant terrible, WikiLeaks head Julian Assange, is the water cooler topic this week for dropping 250,000 secret State Dept. documents on an unsuspecting populace. There’s no dearth of analysis of the documents. There are numerous pieces citing the most damaging documents and lots of embarrassing sniping like thinking Hamid Karzai is an incompetent pootiehead – a “revelation” that could hardly be called a secret.

Opinions about whether the leak was a good thing or bad thing depend largely on where you stand. Journalists don’t necessarily say Assange was right, they mostly just concentrate on mining the information for interesting bits for reportage. Politicians and diplomats are foursquare against it since the cables are embarrassing and potentially dangerous. As usual, the public is schizophrenic.

Unless you’re a complete pollyana that believes all governments are intrinsically good and that speaking publically and directly between countries is always the right strategy, you miss the point that there are bad guys out there – sometimes even including the US. To deal with the bad guys, a certain amount of secrecy, spying, and circumspect diplomacy is required.

But not all secrets are created equal.

Not All Secrets are Created Equal
The government frequently classifies information more tightly than is probably warranted. After all, classifying secrets is a subjective task. I’m sure the leaks reveal some of these over-protected facts, but that’s not necessarily a reason to release them. Some are things the public has a right to know, others are better kept quiet. In other words, The Big Dick™ keeping his appointment calendars secret surely carries less weight – some would say no weight at all – than a memo revealing nuclear launch codes, but that’s “above our pay grade”.

Once the leaks are in the open, journalists are faced with their own dilemma – report on them thereby expanding their dissemination or keep mum even though the information represents a horse that has already escaped the barn. There are points to both positions.

The public is of both minds, although both minds probably read the leaks with interest and sometimes amusement – even the folks who are against the release. They’re like people who go to NASCAR races and swear they aren’t there to see the crashes.

Then in our present rancorosity, charges, counter-charges, rumor, and fact congeal into a dirty mess. Sarah Plain leads this camp. Big surprise here, she thinks Obama is an incompetent boob who let it happen. She trumpets that the administration should be pursuing Assange like Osama Bin Laden. She also thinks Assange is a traitor, apparently unaware that he is Australian so if there is any treason, it’s between him and the Land Down Under.

In fact, Obama is ultimately responsible because it happened on his watch, but that doesn’t mean his response is any more incompetent than Sarah’s would be in the unlikely event she was in Obama’s shoes.

Spying and leaks are notoriously difficult to detect beforehand. Normally, the culprit either needs to be the incompetent one or the information has to leave the building before you even know there’s a problem. To one degree or another, this has happened to every administration. The Obaminites already have Army Specialist Bradley Manning in custody and is conducting additional investigations to catch any new culprits and tighten security.

Hunting down Assange like the second coming of the Cave Dweller might sound all mavericky, but it isn’t necessary. Sweden has a detention order out for him and his lawyer has regular contact with him. Finding him using the investigative power of the entire western world shouldn’t be that hard. Heck, we could even send The Big Dick™ or his sock puppet George out to waterboard the lawyer to find Assasnge.

Legal Remidies are Never Quick
The administration isn’t letting the legal issue go away. AG Eric Holder is conducting an “active, ongoing criminal investigation” into the leak. However, it’s not clear exactly what the US can do legally to apprehend and prosecute an Australian who may be in Sweden and is already in legal hot water there not to mention the other countries looking for his crapulent hide. Legal remedies are never quick, especially with multiple countries involved.

As for freezing funds, the US can’t freeze funds elsewhere or as is likely in this case protected or hidden, without the legal help of those countries. Besides, I’m not sure anyone knows how much WikiLeaks or Assange has.

Does the Obama adminsitration deserve criticism for what has happened? Yes, it happened on their watch, just like 9/11 happened to the last administration’s. Do things need to be changed? Yes, there always are when something happens and you find holes in what you’re doing. Has the administration been slow on the uptake? Yes, but probably not any more so than similar problems happening in earlier administrations.

Assange says his next docudump is on a large US bank (rumored to be Bank of America).  Once this one comes around will Obama again be at fault or accused of some nefarious plan to intentionally cause the leaks as some have charged this time? I suspect so, but we’ll see. Miracles do happen, but there are some who believe Obama is some sort of Machiavellian schemer who “hates America”, which would seem to be at direct odds with the same people who think he’s too incompetent to tie his shoes.

The truth is none of us know what he’s doing or will do or how fast he will do it. At this point, it’s a secret.

You know, that thing he is supposed to be unable to keep.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Fairness and the Bristol Stomp


by Walter Brasch


            Almost all children hear a set of conflicting statements from their parents, relatives, and friends. They're told if they study hard, if they work hard, they can achieve whatever they want. It's the "American Dream." But they're also told that life isn't always fair.

            Looking for internships or jobs, America's children learn that no matter how much they studied or worked, it was the boss's niece or a boss's friend's son who was hired. Sometimes, the reason for rejection could be as simple as the boss thought the best candidate was intellectually superior or that the applicant had curly black hair and he liked only blondes.

            Later, on another job, while the boss bought yet another vacation home, the worker was one of dozens laid off, their jobs going to Mexico, China, or Pakistan.

            It's not fair that reality TV "stars" and pro athletes make 10 to more than 100 times the salaries of social workers and firefighters. But Americans seldom protest.

            The owner of a mid-sized carpentry shop loses a contract to a large corporation, not because of a lack of quality work but because the corporation cut deals with suppliers. It's not fair; it's just reality.

            One person driving 65 m.p.h. in a 55 m.p.h. zone is stopped by police; another, doing 80, speeds along. It's not fair. But it happens.

            It probably wasn't fair that Bristol Palin, 20-year-old unwed mother with no discernible job skills, was selected over thousands of other celebrities for ABC-TV's "Dancing With the Stars." It had nothing to do with fairness or her ability; it had everything to do with a reality that Palin's presence on DWTS would bring in ratings, and ratings bring in advertising income. The first show brought in 21 million viewers who watched 30-second commercials from companies that paid almost $190,000 each, among the highest on all television—broadcast or cable.

            To assure that Palin had  a chance to stay on the show for at least a couple of weeks, the producers gave her a special advantage—her professional dance partner was Mark Ballas, DWTS champion twice in the previous 10 seasons.

            Even with one of the best professional ballroom dancers as her partner and coach, Palin was still at the bottom of the judges' ranking four times, and near the bottom most of the other times. According to the scoring system, each of three judges give each contestant pair—a celebrity and a professional—a score of 1 to 10. A perfect score is 30. But, viewers can vote by phone, website, or by texting. Their vote is worth half the total score. Neither Sarah nor Bristol Palin made any special requests of the viewers that we know about. They didn't have to. Hundreds of conservative blogs and talk show hosts did it for them, urging their flocks to vote. Many may have even scammed the system. At least one viewer told the Washington Post he not only had used fake emails to vote hundreds of times, he also told others how to do it.

            Willing accomplices and accessories, of course, were the producers who made sure that Mama Palin was seen on several shows—sometimes with speaking roles, sometimes with as many as nine cutaway shots. The audience did as they were told. For nine weeks, Bristol Palin, one of the weakest dancers in the show's 11-season history, defeated celebrity teams who had near-perfect and perfect scores.

            The week before the finals, it finally seemed destined that Bristol Palin would be off the show, having again placed at the bottom of the judges' scores. But, it was Brandy and professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who had done near-perfect routines, who were voted off. Shocked, the audience began booing. It didn't matter. Palin was now one of three celebrity finalists.

            The first of a two-part final the following week drew an audience of 23.7 million, highest for any entertainment program this season. However, this time, it was Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough, who had finished at the top of the judges' lists several times, who finally won. Second were actor Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer; Palin and Ballas finished third.

            It makes little difference if numerous celebrities weren't selected for Dancing With the Stars because the producers gave the slot to the less talented Bristol Palin. It doesn't even matter that more talented celebrities were eliminated from the show because a cult of the home audience voted for Bristol Palin. In the American election system, the best candidate, for any of a thousand reasons, including blatant lies and distortion by the opposition, often doesn't win an election.

            It doesn't seem fair. It's just the way it is.




Sarah Palin as Policy Wonk

It would have probably been fair to say of Sarah Palin that until a few days ago 'policy wonk' would have been an unlikely description, love her or loathe her, of any facet of her complex relationship with American politics. But now this:
I’m deeply concerned about the Federal Reserve’s plans to buy up anywhere from $600 billion to as much as $1 trillion of government securities. The technical term for it is “quantitative easing.” It means our government is pumping money into the banking system by buying up treasury bonds. And where, you may ask, are we getting the money to pay for all this? We’re printing it out of thin air. Sarah Palin via Robert Costa- Palin to Bernanke: ‘Cease and Desist’ National Review 7 Nov 10
That's very interesting on a lot of levels. The piece is coherent and sober and, more importantly, it is aimed directly at a weak point in the current administration's monetary policy and an electoral vulnerability in the allegiances of establishment Republicans in the newly constituted House of Representatives. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the champion of this recently announced second round of 'quantitative easing,' promised Congress on 3 June 2009 that the Federal Reserve would not 'monetise the debt' of the US government, in other words just print money "out of thin air." But that seems to be exactly what we are now proposing to do and there are dissenting opinions within the Federal Reserve system itself:
For the next eight months, the nation’s central bank will be monetizing the federal debt. This is risky business. We know that history is littered with the economic carcasses of nations that incorporated this as a regular central bank practice. So how can the ['quantitative easing'] decision made last Wednesday be justified? Richard W Fischer - Recent Decisions of the Federal Open Market Committee: A Bridge to Fiscal Sanity? Federal Reserve of Dallas 8 Nov 10
So which is it? Well, that all depends on whose telling the story. But it's already a done deal. There is a lot of chatter on the financial blogs that 'quantitative easing' is a stealth bailout, that it is an opportunity for financial institutions to improve liquidity by taking positions in advance of government bond purchases and that it will result in considerable inflation of basic commodities and weaken the dollar internationally. And it is hard to argue that this analysis is inaccurate given the Federal Reserves somewhat desperate position to get money moving again in the US economy without it being squirrelled away by the manufacturing and retail sectors against better times. In fact, there are increasingly vocal objections from the Left and the Right over this latest Federal Reserve policy. So what is Sarah's play? Well, back on 22 September the third-ranking Congressional Republican weighed in:
Washington, DC – Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference, released the following statement today after the Federal Reserve announced it will inflate the currency by $600 billion in a new round of "quantitative easing." "I am strongly opposed to the Fed’s decision to debase the American dollar by $600 billion.  While the Fed claims its action will ‘stimulate’ the economy, it will fail just as badly as President Obama’s ‘stimulus’ because it promotes short-term consumption, debt, and uncertainty in the private sector while penalizing working families, retirees, and especially entrepreneurs who need a large pool of savings to start new businesses, expand current ones, and stay on the cutting-edge."   Karl Denninger - Cathy McMorris (R-WA-5) Condemns Bernanke Market Ticker 3 Nov 10
But since then? Crickets... Interestingly enough most within the establishment Republican leadership have said nothing on this issue. No prizes guessing why. And Sarah has now stepped up to the plate with a policy Republicans will be squirming to argue against, no matter what their lobbyists are telling them. This seems a reasonably mainstream Republican position for the Tea Party caucus to rally behind as an opening gambit against traditional House Republicans with the Obama administration as the ultimate target. We'll see. The price of petrol at the bowser and basic commodities like food will be the success indicators for this strategy and if they go up one could expect some mileage out of this in the short term. Sarah seems to be betting they will and she may be taking good advice. Anything else is just wishful thinking. As for more long term issues, consider the long-standing and rarely mentioned Tea Party policy of 'auditing the Fed.' This has support from both the Tea Party and some progressives. Have a look at HR 1207, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009, a Ron Paul bill from the 111th Congress with three-hundred and twenty cosponsors, including Michelle Bachmann, Alan Grayson and Dennis Kucinich. That's the kind of populist issue that might prove an easy victory to the first claimant. Establishment Republicans may be in for more than they bargained for with their Tea Party cohort but if this wave catches it could be enough to inundate unwary Democrats as well. The presidential election in 2012 will be fought on issues of economic populism and Sarah Palin may have just fired the opening salvo. Cross-posted at Daily Kos and Red State


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