News Briefs 29-11-2010

If the US government had any capacity for self-reflection, this turning of the tables by Wikileaks might spark a feeling of identification with, and empathy for, its beleaguered citizens, whose Constitutional right to privacy it is currently violating with its airport pornoscanners and sexual assaults, by its warrantless reading and storage of emails, by its warrantless eavesdropping on, and recording of, phone calls, by its analysis and storage of every credit-card purchase, and by its stalking and storage of every click we make, and bit of information we post, on the internet.

Quote of the Day:

There’s a lot of chatter, for obvious reasons, about the Wikileaks document dump and whether or not it’s a dangerous and despicable act. My personal feeling is that any allegedly democratic government that is so hubristic that it will lie blatantly to the entire world in order to invade a country it has long wanted to invade probably needs a self-correcting mechanism. There are times when it’s necessary that the powerful be shown that there are checks on its behavior, particularly when the systems normally designed to do that are breaking down. Now is one of those times.


  1. Cancun
    This is mostly a reply to RPJ’s article about the Cancun shindig, but I can’t leave a comment there, and there are a number of related items in today’s news. So this is as good a place as any:

    These meetings are highly pretentious and ineffective. The policy outcome is predetermined, nothing gets decided there.

    The meetings are very expensive, both in terms of traditional cost measured in money, and in terms of environmental damage done by the meeting itself.

    The policies resulting from these meetings are expensive and ineffective. Ask anyone, the climate catastrophe believers, the skeptics, or a reasonable non-participant. The policies, even if implemented by everyone, won’t save the climate. Yet the cost is immense.

    Many lives could be saved if even a fraction of the cost would go to projects of real life saving purposes.

    Climate risks exist for many countries and for humanity as a whole, regardless of whether the global warming theory proponents are right or wrong. Serious money should be spent towards real research and development into dealing with climate risks and into real alternative energy sources.

    Instead some people are lining their pockets selling wind farms, and/or selling fear and panic. Some people are using the fear and panic to sell their political agenda.

    And as usual, nobody is actually interested in solving the problem – they would have to look for a new line of work.


    1. Thanks!
      Thanks for the comment. I pretty much agree 100% with you.

      The Federal and State government in Cancún spent hundreds of millions of pesos preparing for this conference. One of the expenses was buying nice shiny anti-riot gear for the local police :-/

      PS: I don’t know why one can’t leave comments on that blog post. Let’s see if it can be fixxored later.

  2. Manhattan
    Looks like the high cost of that nuclear weapons project has nothing to do with nuclear weapons. It has to do with the high cost of constructing buildings there. Similar to the actual Manhattan (the island, not the project), the money goes into concrete.

  3. Wikileaks
    Wikileaks is doing an amazing job at releasing documents like these and it’s great that they get so much media attention. Problem is… nothing will change. What are the PEOPLE supposed to do with this information? Only thing they can do is watch the news, go to wikileaks and read some of them, talk about how crazy it is, then hope they can vote for a president that can save the world next time around. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe something will come of this, truth be told though, I believe some of these are intentionally leaked, just like many of our private rights as American citizens are being sqaubbled away. It’s a test, a test to see how far the real power can go without setting something off.

    What? Do these documents surprise you? Probably not… It’s the same reason Arnold swatzstickanegger was elected governor of California! None of these things mean anything to any of us because we can’t do shit about them! We’re trapped and there’s no escape! For this I am truly sad…

    There are no degrees in corruption and ALL politicians are corrupt every-single-one. They have been for eternity.

  4. Drip, drip… drip
    You’d think that something incredibly important or good had occurred… at least from one side. On the other side, of course, the message is entirely negative.

    And as usual, the truth lies somewhere in between.

    If you hadn’t guessed, I am referring to the Wiki Leaks event.

    This is being played on a global stage… but as if the US is the only actor on that stage. Rather than being a glorious expression of forced transparency, it is more an ambush; a shaming by design carried out by people who don’t like America to begin with.

    But, if there had not in fact been all that dirty laundry to discover, there would be nothing for WikiLeaks or Assange to load onto their website. So for the moment, the egg is on the US. There is a lot of explaining to be done before the media shifts the focus.

    Unfortunately, once it does, the outcome will likely be some major… nay, severe restrictions on internet freedoms that will be felt all around the world.

    There are no good guys here; no heroes. In the long term, nothing good will come from the seepage except some very determined plugging.

    1. Watergate 2.0?
      I was 2 years old when Watergate happened, so obviously I have no recollection whatsoever about it.

      So far all the comments about Wikileaks have leaned on the pessimistic side. People are expecting this to be a brief scandal eventually drowned by the next big thing.

      But, can’t we not at least expect some minor changes or consequences out of this? Maybe not as dramatic as Watergate, but I would at least expect it to be as big as Abu Ghraib.

      Not that it is so shocking to find out that the US embassies have always had the double duty of spying on their host country. I mean, D’uh! that’s hardly surprising. What’s interesting is learning the details of the things Americans are concerned with globally.

      They say there’s 2500 reports from the Embassy in Mexico. I’m interested to find out what’s on them —probably concerns about the stability of the Mexican government due to the war on Drugs.

    2. diplomatic language
      What seems to have been revealed so far is mostly that the various diplomats around the world are not entirely open and honest with their carefully worded, polite diplomatic language. Apparently their non-public wording is more direct.

      Some people in the media act as if this is shocking news. Some of these shocked people are otherwise in the business of explaining what the diplomats really mean when they are being diplomatic.

      So what is actually new here?

      I didn’t know, for example, that Jordan is among the countries who wanted the USA to arrack Iran. But it isn’t really all that surprising.

      The wikileaks twitter channel often sounds quite partisan in their anti-US point of view. It also sounds quite self important, occasionally whiny. They certainly seem to need money.

      What is peculiar about wikileaks is they seemed to change their tune a few months ago. They were apparently unable to maintain their infrastructure, and needed help. Then a while later the site came back up with a decidedly more anti-US point of view. It would be interesting to know who is now funding them.

      This is a dilemma – a small group of whistle blowers can anonymously provide valuable information to the public. But when the influence of that group becomes significant, the public needs disclosure about them as well.

      1. Anti-US
        I think the recent tone of Wikileaks is not so much a possible hint to some obscure enemy funding them, but rather a natural reaction to the harassment and personal threats Julian Assange, Wikileak’s founder, has received in the past few months.

        Obviously the guy feels the US is plotting to frame him, and so he responds by focusing Wikileak’s efforts exclusively on the US’ activities. Self-serving? definitely. But only natural.

        1. perhaps
          I don’t know. Why would the US be harassing Assange if he is not anti-US to begin with?

          One factor in all this could be, possibly, that Assange/Wikileaks is going for the low hanging fruit in the secret information arena. Chinese diplomatic secrets are harder to get than US or European. And at the same time, anti-US revelations have a bigger market value than Russian revelations, in terms of getting attention.

          1. Or…
            Or maybe they just simply went with the US documents because someone happened to have the chance to acquire them.

            Like the Gary McKinnon case: they try to go against the guy, but it’s more about the embarrassment of the incident showing just how easy it was to acquire all this sensitive material.

            We don’t know how the world would react with the hypothetical disclosure of Chinese or Russian documents. Maybe it would be even bigger, depending on how explosive they were.

            But once again, we return to the discussion we had last week. That maybe the reason these news cause so much ripples is because the Americans were *supposed* to be the good guys. Maybe with some people the interest comes from a sense of outrage, maybe for others it stems from a sense of anti-US feelings; or maybe to some it originates from plain old morbidity —chances are it’s a complex mixture of all of the above.

          2. good guys
            I’m sure there is disappointment in the world about the US not being the pure white knight good guys.

            At the same time there is also the old European anti-US resentment from the good old days of the aristocracy ruling that continent. They haven’t gotten over the US revolution after 230 years or so.

            It is one of those ironic things that the most anti-aristocratic movements in Europe, the socialists, share this anti-US feeling with the aristocrats. The anti-aristocratic movements there also prefer the top down organization of society as the aristocrats – another highly ironic feature.

            And then there are the old fashioned communists. They lost about 20 years ago, but that is no reason to give up. They are proposing their preferred systems and spreading their views as they have been for a long time.

            Those are some factors, and sure, all of them are at work here too, plus a bunch of others.

          3. Lesser of two evils
            Sounds to me that you view the American foreign policy system as the lesser of two evils. That those socialists and communists would mess things so much, that all the things the Americans do to keep them at bay are justified, when viewed on the larger picture.

            And it probably is the lesser of two evils. But that’s no reason enough to diminish the moral outrage caused by all these blatant transgressions of the civility that should be maintained in the relations between sovereign nations.

            “National Security” is nowhere reason enough to keep lying to the American people, to keep treating them as stupid children who don’t know any better, who can’t handle the truth, who should just obey silently. “Global Stability” is also not reason enough to offer an open hand to their so-called “allies”, while spying and conspiring against them should the need arise.

            There are many reasons why there’s resentment against the US. Some are not justified; yet some are. And this is not something that started 10 or 5 years ago; maybe with this new scandal the American government will begin to realize that they’d better change their tactics, because it’s a whole new ball game out there.

          4. sure
            Certainly there is resentment against the US in many parts of the world for good reason. This sort of thing builds up over time, cultures have long memories.

            I’m just saying there is also resentment by aristocrats and socialists simply because the US is their competition to running the world.

            And as always, governments and bureaucracies have to be kept honest by actions such as free speech. They don’t stay honest by themselves, even if they start out that way.

            One of the founding fathers of the US constitution guessed that they needed a revolution every 60 years or so.

            One thing that causes me great concern is the present tendency to react to a real or perceived threat by western governments, including the US, with regulations and limitations of the citizens they are supposedly protecting.

            The situation is basically that there is a fox to be afraid of, so they lock up the chickens. They don’t count how many chickens suffer and die from being locked up, versus how many suffer and die as victims of the fox.
            And of course they don’t consider that the government doesn’t actually own the people.

          5. Locking the chickens away

            The situation is basically that there is a fox to be afraid of, so they lock up the chickens. They don’t count how many chickens suffer and die from being locked up, versus how many suffer and die as victims of the fox.

            And some times, there’s no fox to being with —it’s just the imagination of the farmer.

  5. Wikileaks
    Today, someone in our office jokingly proposed we start a pool on how much longer Wiki Assange has to live before he meets a premature, accidental, or “natural causes” demise at the hands of _________ (fill in the name or names of your choice). I won’t join in on such a pool even as a joke, but I do agree Assange is probably at risk. If you pull the tiger’s tail . . .

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