Friday, December 31, 2010

Wikileaks is not frivolous or trivial - Accomplishments so far

This was posted by Digby on Hullabaloo, from CBS:

How WikiLeaks Enlightened Us in 2010
Posted by Joshua Norman, CBS News

WikiLeaks has brought to light a series of disturbing insinuations and startling truths in the last year, some earth-shattering, others simply confirmations of our darkest suspicions about the way the world works. Thanks to founder Julian Assange's legal situation in Sweden (and potentially the United States) as well as his media grandstanding, it is easy to forget how important and interesting some of WikiLeaks' revelations have been.

WikiLeaks revelations from 2010 have included simple gossip about world leaders: Russia's PM Vladimir Putin is playing Batman to President Dmitri Medvedev's Robin; Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is crazy and was once slapped by a Revolutionary Guard chief for being so; Libya's Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi has a hankering for his voluptuous blond Ukrainian nurse; and France's President Nicholas Sarkozy simply can't take criticism.

However, WikiLeaks' revelations also have many major implications for world relations. The following is a list of the more impactful WikiLeaks revelations from 2010, grouped by region.

The United States

- The U.S. Army considered WikiLeaks a national security threat as early as 2008, according to documents obtained and posted by WikiLeaks in March, 2010.

- Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his top commanders repeatedly, knowingly lied to the American public about rising sectarian violence in Iraq beginning in 2006, according to the cross-referencing of WikiLeaks' leaked Iraq war documents and former Washington Post Baghdad Bureau Chief Ellen Knickmeyer's recollections.

- The Secretary of State's office encouraged U.S. diplomats at the United Nations to spy on their counterparts, including collecting data about the U.N. secretary general, his team and foreign diplomats, including credit card account numbers, according to documents from WikiLeaks U.S. diplomatic cable release. Later cables reveal the CIA draws up an annual "wish-list" for the State Department, which one year included the instructions to spy on the U.N.

- The Obama administration worked with Republicans during his first few months in office to protect Bush administration officials facing a criminal investigation overseas for their involvement in establishing policies that some considered torture. A "confidential" April 17, 2009, cable sent from the US embassy in Madrid obtained by WikiLeaks details how the Obama administration, working with Republicans, leaned on Spain to derail this potential prosecution.

- WikiLeaks released a secret State Department cable that provided a list of sites around the world vital to U.S. national security, from mines in Africa to labs in Europe.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Season's Greetings from Bill O'Reilly: “Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born. Without Christmas, most American businesses would be far less profitable.”

NewsCorp sent all Fox employees a "Happy Holidays" card. Why does Rupert Murdoch hate Jesus?


"Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) — who will become chairman of the House Financial Services Committee in the 112th Congress — continually criticized the financial reform effort. He falsely characterized the legislation that ultimately became the Dodd-Frank financial reform law as creating “permanent bailout authority,” and he staunchly opposed the creation of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

"Bachus, in an interview Wednesday night, said he brings a 'main street' perspective to the committee, as opposed to Wall Street. 'In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks,' he said."
"Back in October, Bachus told a crowd of 100 financial services industry lobbyists that banks should really be making campaign contributions to Republicans, because Democrats 'hammered' the banks by enacting the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform law. The banks responded by giving more heavily to Republicans than Democrats in the home stretch to November’s election. And it seems that Bachus is now fully prepared to give them what they paid for.


"First, Republicans killed the omnibus spending bill that would have funded the operations of government for the next year. Now they’ve made it clear that they won’t approve any bill that provides funding for the financial reforms in this year’s bill.

"What will happen if they get their way? The agency that will make sure credit ratings aren’t rigged by the banks, the way they were in the run-up to the economic collapse: Gone. The budgets that will allow the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission monitor reckless and/or illegal bank activity: Gone. Even the office that would protect investors – that is, people who buy stocks – would be eliminated. And the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and its aggressive chief, Elizabeth Warren, is the next target in their sights.

"That's the formula: put fewer cops on the beat, make sure the cops are docile, and harass the ones who aren't. Cut the garlic budget just as the vampires prepare for their midnight run. That makes it safe for the Wall Street casino to reopen as if nothing ever happened—and put us at greater risk for another financial collapse."


Drug Policy Alliance's basic tenets of harm reduction--"There has never been, is not now, and never will be a drug-free society. Harm reduction approach acknowledges that there is no ultimate solution to the problem of drugs in a free society, and that many different interventions may work. Those interventions should be based on science, compassion, health and human rights."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Media Misinformation

A quote from a HuffPo article by Hacker and Pierson: "If an economic catastrophe befalls Americans and no one in power hears it, did it happen? That was the question raised by a new Yale/Rockefeller Foundation report released yesterday that looks at the economic experiences of Americans during the Great Recession."

At one point, they pose the question: What's wrong with our politics that so much hardship evokes so little response? They suggest two possible answers: (1) The political system is broken (duh); and (2) The politicians are so insulated from reality they don't understand the urgency of the situation.

One thing that really concerns me is media manipulation of public opinion. For example, the American media were nearly unanimous in their cheerleading for the Iraq invasion. The European media in 2002/2003 were skeptical; Europeans were shown a broader picture. The present concern over the national debt seems similar. Who the hell cared about the national debt with 10% unemployment? I read one comment that a poll showed the national debt was a serious concern to an "enormous, overwhelming 4%", while a "minuscule, insignificant 56%" were concerned about unemployment and the sluggish economy. But comments like that were scarce. Generally, the media -- and, of course, the right -- were screaming loudly and incessantly about the debt. The "concern" of the public is bogus. It's been manufactured and hyped by constant reference in the media. (Fox News, of course, but other big MSM outlets as well.)

It's Keynes 101: Forget about the national debt until the economy recovers. Spend whatever it takes to get things humming again. (The trick is to be careful that as things improve, inflation is kept under control.) The Friedmanite right, of course, don't agree. I'm not looking forward to The Mad Hatter and his crew running amok in the new House.

I swear to tell the truth ... the whole truth?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Zadroga bill, passed in the House with bipartisan support months ago, was intended to (finally!) pay for health-care costs of 9/11 responders who developed problems as a result. But the bill was defeated in the Senate, to universal outrage. Peter Johnson Jr., with a cool jazz soundtrack, commented in lyrical style on Fox News:

But what about ... the rest of the story?

In the introduction, Gretchen Carlson mentioned that the Senate vote was 57-42, one senator being absent. But somehow, neither she nor Johnson got around to mentioning that the 57 votes in favour were cast by Democrats; all 42 Republicans voted against it.

Fortunately, we can depend on Jon Stewart for another perspective:

Sunday, December 12, 2010


- the inflatable roof on the Metrodome in Minneapolis caved in. I thought it was yet another example of America's crumbling infrastructure, but found out that Minneapolis got 18" of snow overnight, and the roof had caved in three times previously ('81, the year it was built; '82 and '83), also from heavy snowfall.

- got five transcripts published yesterday by Karoli on Crooks & Liars. She posted clips from Bernie Sanders' tax-cut "filibuster" and mentioned that she would publish transcripts if they became available from C-Span, so I sent them in. Her response: "Update: HUGE thank you to C&L community member tequilamockingbird, who took the time to prepare and mail transcripts of these videos. I am forever in your debt." (Jeez, that was easy.)

- two big topics on the news: The Obama/Republican tax proposals and Wikileaks.

- My knee-jerk reaction to the tax-cut thing was negative; it seemed like Obama made his deal with the Republicans before consulting the Democrats in Congress, and he seemed to have given up too much, too soon. (In his press conference, Mr. O compared the left-wing reaction to the uproar caused by the lack of a public option in the health care bill; I agree. He should have asked for more -- like single-payer -- and then fought like hell for a public option. Instead, single-payer was a non-starter, and he gave up the public option without much of a fight.) He was widely condemned by The Professional Left, but after listening to Mr. O and then to Lawrence O'Donnell, I had second thoughts.

Obama impresses the hell out of me every time he speaks. The right were freaking out at his "anger" and "rage" -- I guess because he furrowed his brow and pointed his finger a time or two -- but he seemed to me to be calm and reasonable, as always, if a little annoyed. The critics do have a point, though, when they say that he was admonishing his supporters rather than opponents who have vowed to thwart him. It seemed to be his judgment that with the imminent end of the tax year and a right-wing-freak Republican House in January, this was the best he could get.

A lot of Democrats insist he should have (a) fought until December 31 before caving; or (b) fought on into January and beyond. Option (b) would have caused a lot of pain to the bottom tax bracket, whose rate would have gone up to 15% from 10% -- how would you like a 50% increase in your federal taxes? Lawrence O'Donnell, whose credentials as a lefty are impeccable and who knows process, having worked for years as a congressional aide, said that a retroactive fix would be a nightmare to write and impossible to administer. So the low-income people would just have to suck it up. No more Fancy Feast; it's Purina from now on.

Fighting to December 31 would have the same result; some suggested that December 10 was the latest the tax rules could be changed so that the bureaucratic paperwork could be done in time for New Year. And if you're going to cave anyway, it's just sound and fury, signifying nothing. In any case, before the opening gavel stopped echoing in the new Republican House, John Boehner would introduce a bill -- Tax Cuts For All! -- so the Republicans could claim to be the champions of the people, not like those scheming Democrats with their political games.

- Wikileaks. It seems pretty plain to me that Julian Assange was simply doing what the administration-lapdog MSM were not. If the media were doing their job, this stuff would have come out earlier. Wikileaks behaved responsibly in releasing only a few hundred of the 250,000 documents with their big-name media partners (like The Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde), apparently responsibly redacted to prevent individuals from harm. WiLe even asked the U.S. government if they would assist in the process, but the U.S. refused -- can't negotiate with terrorists, you know. The word "terrorist" is being connected to Assange a lot, along with suggestions that he be prosecuted by the U.S. as an enemy combatant in a military tribunal, or even that he be assassinated. Nicole Belle on C&L said that Bob Woodward had revealed more damaging secrets and caused more individual harm with the information in his books. How can Wolf Blitzer and other establishment media figures argue that there should be MORE government secrecy? Daniel Ellsberg says Assange and Bradley Miller (bradass84 -- not too swift, Brad), are heroes; I agree.

- a crowd of rioters attacked and did damage to Charles and Camilla's limo in London, actually breaking a window. Some were chanting, "Off with their heads!" The rioters were students protesting the tripling of university fees in Britain's austerity program. C&C weren't planned as targets, though -- it seems a breakoff group of rioters came upon the limo accidentally.

- Palin visited Haiti, where a Fox News crew covered her posing with refugees. Now she's got international experience!

- November 2012: economy's bad, Obama's unpopular, Palin is the Republican nominee -- what if there's a credible third-party candidate, like Bloomberg? George Wallace got 18% of the popular vote in 1996. 33% for Obama, 32% for the third party -- hello, President Palin! Scary thought.

Monday, July 5, 2010


I have an idea for a blog. Each week, I'd like to have a panel of prominent local people in various fields comment on a series of five or six suggested issues. Panelists would be free to comment on any or all of the subjects.

I would try to get as large a number of knowledgeable panelists as possible. I would approach national and provincial politicians; city councillors and the mayor; prominent business people and union representatives; people from the schools, the University, the College, vocational schools -- professors, teachers, administrators; people active in various community charities and activities; doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs.

Each week -- say, Friday afternoon -- I would e-mail each of the panelists with the issues for that week. I might start with three questions or issues of interest to the city, one for the province, one national issue, and one international. The panelists would be free to respond to one or more of the topics, or to none at all; with a large panel, I would hope that each subject would get at least some responses, which could range from a couple of lines to several paragraphs.

In this scenario, I would allow the weekend plus Monday for panelists to respond. Monday evening, I would publish the contributions I had received. They would remain for a week, while the general public could comment. I would edit the comments, deleting anything offensive and sorting good comments into an "Editor's Choice" section. I would also invite general readers, as well as panelists, to make suggestions for future topics for discussion. After a week, those posts and comments would be archived, and a new set of replies from the panelists would replace them.

Most blogs have one or more articles, each on a different topic, with comments (which are mostly pretty useless). My idea is that if the topic is, for instance, the shortage of family doctors or long lines in the hospital waiting room, I would hope to get numerous responses from people directly involved and with some knowledge of the subject -- hospital administrators, doctors, nurses.

Okay, so the chances of this actually happening range from slim to bupkis. It's just a thought.