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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
Some fifteen years after the Internet became a common household phenomenon in the United States, a bill has finally been introduced in the House of Representatives which would post all public government information online:
On Monday, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rep. Steve Israel (D-New York) introduced complementary legislative proposals in the House and Senate that are intended to improve public access to government records. The Tester-Israel Public Online Information Act (POIA, pronounced poy-ah) would require all government-held information that’s already supposed to be public to be posted online. “By freeing government information from its paper silos, the Public Online Information Act gives the public what they need to participate in government as active and informed citizens,” said Ellen Miller, executive director and co-founder of the Sunlight Foundation.
The liberated information will include reports on lobbying activities by government contractors, financial filings of high-level government officials, and information on the trips made by executive branch officials and paid for by non-government third parties.
More than five months after being transferred from Kuwait to the Quantico Marine Brig, Bradley Manning is still subject to torturous, highly unconstitutional conditions:
Manning’s cell consists of a bed bolted to the wall, a mattress with a built-in pillow, a quilted cover of jean-like fabric, water fountain/sink, mirror, and toilet. The entire front wall of Manning’s cell is bars, so he can see the guard when he/she passes. He can talk to any other detainee in the wing, but cannot see them. Villiard would not verify whether there are other detainees in Manning’s wing.
There is a different area in the brig for detainees held in “solitary confinement.” Those cells do not have open bars in the front, and the detainee cannot see out except for a small window, nor can he hear or speak to others.
The military distinguishes between being held in a solitary cell for 23 hours per day and being held in “solitary confinement” . . . a fine point, indeed. The Geneva Conventions ban solitary confinement as cruel and unusual punishment.
I realize that my post yesterday recapping 2010 was perhaps a bit on the pessimistic side. Although 2010 was a pretty horrendous year, there was one bright spot in an otherwise uninterrupted stream of gloom: WikiLeaks.
This is an issue about which I’ve written quite extensively but, at the risk of seeming obsessed, I feel it’s worth revisiting. Overwhelmingly, 2010 was another year in which the ordinary masses were crushed just a bit more under the weight of the corporate heel. The year was notable perhaps only in that the utter disdain for democracy and progressive values became so painfully obvious; it seemed to be a year in which the corporate elite just did away with all the facades and just openly admitted, “We’re soulless bastards on the hunt for maximum profits, so go fuck yourselves.” Granted, their charade of superficially respecting the principles of democracy has always been paper-thin, but this year they really seemed to outdo themselves in terms of their open contempt for us lowly plebes.
The year seemed devastatingly grim in most respects. Our “liberal” president unequivocally revealed himself as the corporate tool he has always been, and, inexplicably, the nation swung even further rightward during the disastrous 2010 mid-term elections, courtesy of the absolutely ridiculous Teawads and their ignorant ilk. The repeal of DADT, while obviously a welcome development, felt more like a slap in the face than a genuine achievement for the progressive movement. It seemed like a carefully contrived political move to appease those “purist” lefties, at precisely the moment when the veil had blown off the Democrats’ face and revealed a money-grubbing elephant with dollar signs for eyeballs. But really, what had we expected?
The BBC reports that the health of Bradley Manning, the alleged source for Wikileaks, is deteriorating after months in custody:
Pte Manning, a US soldier, is being held in solitary confinement in a high-security military prison at Quantico marine base, Virginia.
US journalist David House, who has been visiting him since September, told the BBC World Service he looked “frazzled”. …
The 23-year-old was arrested earlier this year and charged with stealing secret information. One accusation is that he handed Wikileaks video of an Apache helicopter killing 12 civilians in Baghdad in 2007.
However, there has been no formal indictment and no date for a trial has been set, according to Mr House.
“He is being kept in a kind of punitive fashion before his trial and it is definitely weakening his mental state,” the journalist said.
When Mr House first visited Pte Manning in September, he found him mentally “very alert” and, physically, he looked to be “in very good health”.
“Over the months, I’ve seen his condition deteriorate. Mentally, he now has trouble keeping up with some topics of conversation. He has bags under his eyes and he appears to be very weak.”
This information comes after earlier reports that the UN was investigating the treatment of Manning, after allegations surfaced that the conditions he is being held under equate to torture. It is impossible to know precisely how Manning is being treated, since his situation is cloaked in so much secrecy. But it is not difficult to surmise that, at the very least, Manning is being intentionally mistreated in an attempt to coerce him into cooperating.
The character assassination of Julian Assange has taken some strange twists in recent days. In the latest from Gawker, we learn of Assange’s creepy email (and limited real-world) stalking:
Julian Assange, the founder of the world’s most notorious secret-sharing operation, has some embarrassing documents in his own past. We’ve obtained a series of emails detailing his stalkery courtship of a teenager in his pre-Wikileaks days.
Although the emails are wholly irrelevant to the WikiLeaks story, there is something morbidly fascinating about reading them. Perhaps it’s because they contain such literary gems as:
A man feels that which is soft, warm and yielding in his arms must also be in other circumstances. But like Maugham’s Mirriam you are hard above the neck; voice salted and manner typical of your class when not trying to impress… You pulled a tiny pedal off my world just when I thought you were to add one but all around in the meadow, where I shall again dance and skip and sing till some fool girl should brush my wing.
The Obama administration grows more similar to the Bush regime with every day that passes. Today we observed more of that transformation as smilin’ Joe Biden flashed his true, Cheney-esque colors:
Vice President Biden today said that by disclosing classified documents and diplomatic cables, Wikileaks has endangered lives and “done damage” to U.S. diplomacy. In an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Biden confirmed reports that the Justice Department is looking at possible charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“Look, this guy has done things that have damaged and put in jeopardy the lives and occupations of people in other parts of the world,” Biden said. The Vice President went on to say that Wikileaks has “made it more difficult for us to conduct our business with our allies and our friends,” citing his own meetings with world leaders.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that those in positions of power are the most vocal opponents to WikiLeaks. And unfailingly, the argument has to do with national security: we need secrets, they claim, in order to protect the American people. After all, there are evil boogeymen out there who are intent on destroying America merely because, in the words of the immortal ‘tard, “they hate our freedom.”
Sadly, the American people seem to be buying the lies:
One of the most interesting aspects of the emergence of WikiLeaks as a global phenomenon is the unexpected range of responses that it has provoked. The very nature of the WikiLeaks agenda is not necessarily one which readily adheres to traditional left or right wing ideology, so predicting any given person’s reaction has proven remarkably challenging. Take, for instance, the revelation that Vladamir Putin has openly expressed solidarity with Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks movement, implying that the leaks have been beneficial for democracy:
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has led growing support from some world leaders for the beleaguered WikiLeaks founder, describing his detention in Britain as “undemocratic”….
Putin railed against the detention of the 39-year-old Assange, the Australian founder of the website which has been releasing thousands of secret US diplomatic cables as well as Pentagon communiques.
“Why was Mr. Assange hidden in jail? Is that democracy? As we say in the village: the pot is calling the kettle black,” Putin said.
“I want to send the ball back to our American colleagues,” Putin added.
Putin is not someone who is renowned for his embrace of democratic principles, so his vocal support for WikiLeaks is initially somewhat worrisome. Particularly when we consider that Christopher Hitchens, a highly intelligent and generally ethical individual, has spoken out against the actions of Assange and WikiLeaks:
Yesterday I concluded my post with the following ominous observation:
It will be interesting to observe how the story continues to unfold, but ruthless retaliation against Wikileaks and Assange is almost certainly assured.
Today that brutal retaliation was initiated, as Julian Assange was arrested in London on dubious charges of rape and sexual molestation:
LONDON – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange surrendered to London police Tuesday to face a Swedish arrest warrant, the latest blow to an organization that faces legal, financial and technological challenges after releasing hundreds of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.
Assange was at Westminster Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday afternoon, waiting to attend a hearing. His Swedish lawyer told The Associated Press his client would challenge any extradition from Britain to Sweden. …
Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, has been accused by two women in Sweden. He faces rape and sexual molestation allegations in one case and sexual molestation and unlawful coercion in the other. Assange denies the allegations.
His British attorney Mark Stephens says the allegations stem from a “dispute over consensual but unprotected sex” last summer. …
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, visiting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, was pleased by the arrest.
“That sounds like good news to me,” he said.
It is impossible to know how accurate these allegations might be, but it seems highly likely that they have been fabricated in an attempt to smear Assange’s name and, by extension, the reputation of WikiLeaks. The accusations could also serve several important functions beyond mere reputational harm. First, as long as Assange is detained he cannot actively assist in furthering the WikiLeaks agenda. Second, as long as Assange is in custody he stands the risk of being held – and tried – for charges not yet pressed. Third, Assange and WikiLeaks will undoubtedly be devoting a great deal of money towards extricating Assange from this legal quagmire.
“…the main significance of the cables that have been released so far is what they tell us about Western leadership. So, Hillary Clinton and Binyamin Netanyahu surely know of the careful polls of Arab public opinion. The Brookings Institute just a few months ago released extensive polls of what Arabs think about Iran. And the results are rather striking. They show that Arab opinion does—holds that the major threat in the region is Israel, that’s 80 percent; the second major threat is the United States, that’s 77 percent. Iran is listed as a threat by 10 percent. With regard to nuclear weapons, rather remarkably, a majority, in fact, 57 percent, say that the region will be—it would have a positive effect in the region if Iran had nuclear weapons. Now, these are not small numbers. Eighty percent, 77 percent say that the U.S. and Israel are the major threat. Ten percent say that Iran is the major threat.
Now, this may not be reported in the newspapers here—it is in England—but it’s certainly familiar to the Israeli and the U.S. governments and to the ambassadors. But there isn’t a word about it anywhere. What that reveals is the profound hatred for democracy on the part of our political leadership and, of course, the Israeli political leadership. These things aren’t even to be mentioned. And this seeps its way all through the diplomatic service. So the cables don’t have any indication of that…”
And the money quote, when asked about some particularly unscrupulous behavior by the U.S. with regards to Hamas:
“That should not come as much of a surprise. Contrary to the image that’s portrayed here, the United States is not an honest broker.”
Chomsky’s assertion here, although intended specifically for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, seems to apply more broadly to everything that Wikileaks has revealed thus far. We now have documentary evidence to support what most knowledgeable people have long surmised – namely, that United States government and its representatives act according to their own interests and not those of the common citizen. Chomsky’s citation of the poll which revealed the United States and as Israel as being the greatest perceived threat in the region, along with the failure of any of the diplomatic cables to acknowledge this reality, highlight that our government representatives are operating in a world completely detached from the concerns of ordinary plebes.
Reposted from Mike Flugennock:
“It’s often been said, ever since the days of Usenet and Tiananmen Square, that the Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. As it was in those bygone days, so it is today, as the US State pressures Wikileaks’ “cloud” provider and DNS service to take steps in an attempt to silence dissent.
The problem is — at least, if you’re the US State, it’s a problem — Wikileaks can still be reached on the Web via any number of alternate links, such as through its numeric ‘dotted quad’ IP addresses here and here. It can also be reached through its alternate domains in Switzerland and the Netherlands.
I’d like to encourage everyone reading this to follow that grand old Web censorship-defeating tradition of ‘mirroring’ and passing alternate links around, and post these links to your blog or Web site:
Tough luck, Barack. Better luck next time, Hillary.“