December 7

Wikileaks: good or bad?

the issue

Julian Assange, the man behind Wikileaks, has recently become a household name – but does he garner fame, or infamy? My first instinct was the former – that Wikileaks (or “WL”) is a “good” thing – but, like any levelheaded political enthusiast should, I decided to take a closer look. Assange has been under attack from the “right” AND “left”, an honor not often bestowed but currently shared by the TSA. Huckabee has called for his execution and Gingrich calls him an enemy combatant, while Obama wants him for espionage and Clinton charges him of “an attack on the international community”. But is there logic and reason behind these flurries of words, or might they be passionate but reckless verbal assaults?

The prevailing charge against Wikileaks is simply that it endangers American and other lives. One would presume that the released documents list names of individuals who would be compromised should they become known to the “enemy”, whoever that may be at the time. However, upon researching, one finds that before being leaked, the documents are first redacted – that is, sanitized of such personal information as specific names. How then does Wikileaks put lives at risk? According to the Pentagon, at least in August: “We have yet to see any harm come to anyone in Afghanistan that we can directly tie to exposure in the Wikileaks documents.”

How, then, can the faces of media outlets make such cursory claims? The answer, of course, is that journalism has become a lost art, at least in the mainstream. High-ranking government officials, too, should be held to a higher standard before lashing out – but at this point in our governmental discourse, we know standards have gone out the window. But never fear, there are some of us remaining out in the Inter-ether who’ve retained the skill of objective and impartial research and reporting, and thus I present “the rest of the story”.

the rest of the story

The most recently-released cables, known as “Cablegate” – while flushing out most of the newest media hype and backlash – are in reality little more than a PR embarrassment for the US, for the majority. However, there is evidence of at least one critical document which was leaked: a list of facilities ‘vital to US security’. To quote the article:

There are obvious pieces of strategic infrastructure like communications hubs, gas pipelines and so on. However, other facilities on the list include:

* Cobalt mine in Congo
* Anti-snake venom factory in Australia
* Insulin plant in Denmark

It is not clear whether the document reveals exact locations of these sites, or merely that they exist. However, let us assume the worst. If the document reveals exact locations of sites ‘vital to US security’, let us ask one question: how was such a document made so accessible to so many with low-level federal clearances? Anyone who isn’t a felon or a raging alcoholic can relatively easily get a ‘secret’ clearance; I’m pretty sure I had one to work for VDOT during a college internship. The highest clearance level of any of the leaked documents was ‘secret’. Nothing was ‘top secret’ or ‘classified’. If such information is so critical… why not?

the conclusion

The reason people are so scared of Wikileaks, particularly the higher-ups in the administration, is because it makes clear on many levels the incompetence of the federal government. It causes embarrassment, and it is easier to band together against a fall guy like Assange, than admit that our own government is vulnerable and, at least to an extent, incompetent regarding such things as potentially important to our national security as “state secrets”.

For the civil liberties-minded among us, the Wikileaks have led to many positive outcomes, such as this headline: UN urges US and Iraq to probe Wikileaks torture claims. There is an old Latin phrase: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” which translates to “Who watches the watchmen?” Watchdog expose’s are often controversial, and while Wikileaks may cause the US gov heaps of embarrassment and pain, the common US citizen must exercise careful deliberation and weighing of all sides (there are more than two here) before joining behind mouthpieces like Huckabee or Gingrich, grabbing the pitchforks, and yelling “kill him!” in common mob mentality. Nobody throws the ‘traitor’ card when other ‘journalists’ convey important leaked information from ‘inside sources’ in the government. There is no principal difference here; only scale.

the moral

In this electronic age, if one document gets into the wrong hands, it can never be taken back. And where one site gets offed, ten more will pop up. Claiming that Wikileaks should be shutdown (or worse) is akin to Senator Jay Rockefeller’s claim that the “Internet should have never existed” because of the high amount of hacking attempts on high-profile DoD databases every day. If DoD databases are vulnerable, take them off the Internet. And if government documents are vulnerable, restrict access to them. But, fedgov, don’t push your intel failures onto a scapegoated watchdog website. That’s Wikilame. WIKILAME.

Important Links

  • http://sowhyiswikileaksagoodthingagain.com
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11882092
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11632839
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11923766
June 5

Shenandoah

I watched the old movie Shenandoah today. Since I’d be surprised if anyone who reads this has seen it before, it’s a 1965 Western-style movie about a Virginian man and his family caught up in the Civil War. It’s a Jimmy Stewart flick, full of chuckle-inducing quips & one-liners. But my favorite part was its conventional wisdom:

Mr. Anderson: It’s no easy job, Sam, to take care of a woman.
Sam: No, Sir.
Mr. Anderson: They expect things they never ask for, and when they don’t get them, they ask you why. Sometimes they don’t ask, and they just go ahead and punish you for not doing something you didn’t know you were supposed to do in the first place.
Sam: What, for instance, Sir?
Mr. Anderson: Well that’s a very difficult question to answer, Sam. You’re never quite sure. It’s sorta, you might say, relative.
Sam: Relative to what, Sir?
Mr. Anderson: To how they’re feeling at the moment.
Sam: And how’s that?
Mr. Anderson: You never know.
Sam: Well, I don’t believe I really understand what you’re trying to tell me, Sir.
Mr. Anderson: I know, I know, I never understood it myself. It’s just one of those things, Sam. It’s around; you just don’t ever see it. Now suppose Jenny started to cry one day. You don’t know why, so you ask her what she’s cryin’ about. You ask her, and she won’t tell ya. And that’s when you ask what you did that caused her to cry. She still won’t tell you, and that’s when you start to get angry. But don’t get angry, Sam. She won’t tell you why she’s cryin’ because she doesn’t know. Women are like that, Sam. It’s exasperating, it’s, it’s—! But don’t let it make ya angry. When she gets like that, just walk up and hug her a little bit. ‘Cause that’s all they really want when they’re like that, Sam. A little lovin’. You understand me, don’t ya?
Sam: No, Sir.
Mr. Anderson: You don’t, huh?

[next scene]

Mrs. Ann Anderson: Here’s something else you must remember: husbands like to be alone once in awhile.
Jennie Anderson: Why?
Mrs. Ann Anderson: You never know why, but I can always tell when James wants to be alone. A mood comes over him. I can always see it in his eyes before it gets there. I don’t know where the mood comes from or why, but that’s when I leave him alone. It seems sometimes things get so fickle in a man that he comes to feel that everything is closing in on him – and that’s when he wants to be left alone. You understand, don’t you?
Jennie Anderson: No!

So true, so true. Go rent (download) it! Leave your thoughts below :)

January 30

HOPE

I wrote this post on HOPE for my friend Danny at Waking Ideas.

So, a little over one year into the Obama presidency, and here we stand. The depression has deepened, the homeless and jobless rate is skyscraping, but The Administration insists the worst is over. The war is expanding into new territories, even though we stretched our military too thin years ago. Civil liberties are being taken at a record pace, for any reason our rulers can find to take them. We’re spending money we don’t have like it’s going out of style, to the point where other countries are refusing to lend to us anymore, and for good reason. Picking up in almost every way where the Bush administration left off, Obama’s approval rating is below 50% and dropping fast, and America’s praise for his colleagues on the Hill is barely half that high.

And therein lies the hope.

Recently the people of Massachusetts, the most liberal state in the nation, rattled the Democrats’ cage when they elected a Republican senator, a clear and outright rejection of the anti-capitalist, anti-free-market, anti-freedom policies of Obama and his party. Because of popular outcry, the government healthcare takeover bill has been severely weakened and even has a good chance of failing, forcing Congress to go back and take a fundamental look at what they are trying to accomplish and work towards it slowly instead of ramming something through. Ron Paul’s initiative to, for the first time ever, audit the Federal Reserve, the keeper of America’s fiscal policy, is growing wings. The man himself can be seen on news programs almost daily, a surprise but yet an encouragement to people like myself who support his platform.

Even if it is, for now, a bit overshadowed by the faux/pseudo-libertarian neocon movement, the true libertarian party is growing, its ideology spreading. Americans are starting to reject the Republicans and the Democrats, realizing they are just two wings of the same party. An intellectual the likes of Peter Schiff who, four years ago, was being laughed at for his economic outlook, is now running for Senate with a great shot at winning, and there we can take hope in the gradual restoration of sound money policies and Constitutional values. The libertarian ideology’s threatening effects to the establishment can be seen in the removal of people like John Stossel and Lou Dobbs from the airwaves. Andrew Napolitano will probably be next. But we must take hope that it’s too late to chill a movement that’s already taken hold.

It has become clear that Obama, his administration, and much of the Congress have lost touch with the American people. But there is hope. When the banks and corporations are bailed out before the people, they start to call Obama’s false populist promises for what they are: lies. Civil disobedience against the State is making a comeback, in a way that would make Thoreau proud. The number of thought insurgents is growing every day. Baby roots of iconoclasm are growing in our culture. The paradigm is shifting. The curtain is being torn, and the man behind it may finally have to show his face soon.

People are waking up. The insurgency is alive.

Category: economy, healthcare, politics, war | Comments Off on HOPE