Life On Other Planets, Bush-era Tax Cuts, Gays In The Military, Wikileaks

December 9, 2010

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This will be my final article for 2010, and I’ve been pretty darn moderate my last few articles so rather than focusing on one specific issue here I’m going to give my opinions on a bunch of different issues that are making news the past few weeks.  I apologize in advance if I get a little too stream-of-consciousness.

Within the past few days it has been announced both that astronomers found an extra-solar system planet that has water vapor and a lifeform that uses arsenic instead of phosphorus for basic life processes.  This opens up the possibility of there being life in a lot more places out there (including outside of Earth) than we thought previously.  I already know the one question on every Republican’s mind:  Are these lifeforms willing to put a hold on everything just to keep an unnessessary tax cut for the richest of the rich?  (and if so let’s spin that to our advantage)

Ok, about that whole tax issue …

I’m going to break into a little comparison here.  Ok, a big comparison.  Pretend that you work for a big company that has a board of directors that chooses the CEO.  For some strange reason a new CEO gets chosen every 4 years and can only be CEO for a total of 8 years.  Anyway, your CEO announces that he’s giving an across-the-board temporary raise to everyone in the company, and he has it done in contract form so everyone knows it’s temporary.  He’s not entirely sure the company can afford it, but what the heck, it’ll raise company morale, right?  Besides that, it’s temporary and he’s set it to expire while on the next CEO’s watch, so even if it is a problem it will be somebody else’s problem.  Some years later there’s a whole lot of water-cooler gossip because those temporary raises are set to expire.  It’s a new CEO now and he’d like to continue the raise for everyone but the absolute top earners in the company, and those top earners have salaries absolutely dwarf yours (we’re talking quite a few magnitudes of order) scream to the point of holding up any plans to continue that raise and it all falls through.  Do you think it’s dishonest to call that temporary raise expiring, with all the circumstances, a pay cut? 

Welcome to the United States of Goldman Sachs.  I just don’t get how extreme right-wingers can act like Bush’s brand of capitalism is fair when everyone but the top 1% starts at a massive disadvantage.  It is a proven fact that one of the worst ways to improve the economy and create jobs is to cut taxes, and one of the best ways is to keep those without jobs on unemployment.  Why?  Virtually 100% of unemployment money is spent (the jobless don’t save, they barely survive) while the super-rich continually invest/save outside of America.

[Editor’s note: for a primer on income distribution in the US, check out this article – How many people make more than $250,000].

Every Republican and even a few Democrats have swallowed the cool-aid, though, and are calling what’s gong on here a tax raise.  Heck, what the taxes are going back up to aren’t even at Reagan tax levels and people were doing just fine, then.  Finally, why is no one pointing out that this is yet another mess Bush created and will have no hand in solving?  I sure didn’t see Republicans screaming about the debt or deficit when he was starting wars and not using correct accounting methods for their costs, and 1 of those wars was started based on information Dick Cheney knew was false.  I bet South Korea is wishing we invaded the real nuclear threat rogue state right about now.

Speaking of the military, I wonder where John McCain will move his goalposts to next.  2006 he said he’d be fine with repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell if the military was ok with it.  In 2008 he said he’d need a thorough study from the Pentagon saying it wouldn’t cause major impact and he’d be ok with it.  Now that the thorough study is out McCain is insulting the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and our Commander in Chief by saying they don’t really lead military men so this study is invalid.  I bet if by some miracle he had won the presidential election in 2008 he’d say he led troops as Commander in Chief.  Homophobia, like John McCain, is really old.  He froths at the mouth defending positions that not even 50% of Americans want, and then flip-flips on DADT when over 75% of Americans would be OK with gays serving openly.

About Wikileaks …  I’m still not quite sure what to think about Jullian Assange.  It is unclear to me if he is breaking the law or not, or even morally wrong or not.  On the one hand, I understand that government secrets are sometimes a necessary evil but on the other hand I feel like someone has to watch the watchman.  The US Justice Department is going all-out to try and charge him with something, anything – that feels like to me he might just be innocent.  We’re talking about a US espionage service that was able to infect Iranian nuclear processing centrifuges with a virus – and don’t think for a minute that the US didn’t have a hand in it, even if it was just helping Israel do the dirty deed.  If they really had some dirt on Assange, don’t you think they would have him being waterboarded at Quantico right now?

[Editor’s note: check our Squeaky’s article, What should we do about Wikileaks, for more commentary on Wikileaks and Julian Assange.]

Finally, I’d like to give a big middle finger to political correctness and say Merry Chrismas, Happy Hanukkah, and a joyful whatever else you celebrate.  Most of what we celebrate these days has Pagan roots anyway, and it’s all capitalistic.  I wish the world would stop being so greedy and just learn to love their fellow man.

What Should We Do About Wikileaks?

December 2, 2010

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This week we all read and heard about the recent dump of classified information into the internet, a scandal called wikileaks named after the website (wikileaks.org) that divulged the information.  The website was founded in 2006 and is famous for gathering information from anonymous sources then placing them on their website for all to view.

The most recent information disclosed private communications between the US and 270 embassies and consulates.  The information is embarrassing at the very least.  It will undoubtedly fuel already boiling tempers in the East.  Years of goodwill will be destroyed as private conversations and name calling is made public.  Leaders of countries will now know exactly what other leaders think of them, as very candid and (assumed) private conversations are revealed.

One of the scariest revelations for me is that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now knows that his neighbors view him as a trouble maker and asked the US to destroy the nuclear facilities in Iran before they were functional.  Without a doubt this will be an irritant to Iran and probably lead them to be less cooperative (if possible) in the future considering that the US did not act even though a number of our Middle Eastern allies asked us to.

So, what do we do with Wikileaks, its founder (Julian Assange) and Army PFC Bradley Manning?

Wikileaks will claim freedom of speech and that it has a right to disclose information that it did not steal or obtain illegally.  The question that will likely need to be sorted out in court is did Wikileaks (or its owner) have any obligation to protect classified or secret military information?  Julian Assange will be the one to receive any direct punishment since he is the founder, owner and one that makes the decisions for wikileaks.  PFC Manning is the one that illegally obtained the classified, secret and normal electronic transmissions.  Manning then provided this information to wikileaks for some reason unknown to me.

The losers in this situation: 

  1. Manning.  He will pay the highest price for this.  He’s currently serving in the military; he knowingly, intentionally and voluntarily downloaded the information and allegedly provided the information to Wikileaks.  Manning was discovered to be the “alleged” perpetrator only after he confided his actions to a reformed hacker named Adrian Lamo.   That hacker reported the confession to the government.
  2. Currently serving military personnel.  Information never intended to be shared with the opposition has likely been leaked and will be read by insurgents.  There will be lives lost because operations and locations have been disclosed.
  3. Diplomacy.  Communication from world leaders shared with various government officials known as “cables” were downloaded and shared.  Some of these communications were extremely damning of other countries and was never intended to be read by anyone but the intended recipient.  There will be hard feelings, growing distrust between countries and leaders will be hesitant to speak freely any longer over email with diplomats and leaders from other countries.

This whole event is disturbing to me because you have a very low level analyst (Private First Class) able to scour servers for classified, secret and even top secret reports and emails, download them and burn them to CD,  place them on a flash drive or even email them to anyone that he wanted without detection.  This will undoubtedly hurt our soldiers serving in the Middle East because those documents likely detail many of our Operations as well as identities of embedded spies.  From an IT perspective I’m mystified by many reports I have heard indicating that PFC Manning had the authority to access server logs and erase the footprints that would have implicated him as the downloader.  In other words, not only did he have top secret clearance, he had the ability to destroy any evidence that he ever viewed and/or downloaded the information.  This is an incredible oversight and needs to change immediately.

I fail to see how this leak provides any benefit to anyone short of those working for the opposition.  We may for a very long time wonder what motivated an active military enlistee to disclose this harmful information.  For now I will watch as the events unfold as additional information is disseminated through the media.  We can be assured that since this information has hit the web it will forever be out there.  The files are currently accessible by downloading the torrent using a P2P program … they are roughly 350 MB per the wikileaks.org site.

Wikileaks founder has found his moment of fame and is trying to draw it out by indicating his next disclosure will bring down a very large and prominent US bank (rumored to be Bank of America). The documents are rumored to demonstrate unethical behavior.  Assange told Forbes.com in an interview (about the bank), “You could call it the ecosystem of corruption.

My question—how will the media portray Wikileaks and Julian Assange?  Will they be made a hero or a villain?  How about PFC Manning?  Will he be a martyr?  I personally think they should both be locked up for what they have done with classified information.