Every once a while an event happens that shifts the prevailing scheme of things. Julian Assange’s dump and release of US State Department cables (CableGate) for global distribution on WikiLeaks is such an event. It radically alters existing convention and the public’s general perception of normalcy, acceptability and protocol. It brings into question the motives and interests of nations and their leaders. It squarely plops an 800 pound gorilla on the sofa in everyone’s living room and provokes questions that naggingly insist answers. Asking leaders about duplicity, conflicts of interest, distortions, fabrications, fibs and outright lies all done in the national interest. It is how a new Weltanschauung is cast and forged to conform to the needs a new world order. The sun has set on the American Century. Blessedly, America’s days as a self righteous post Cold War marauding superpower are coming to a close. The WikiLeaks disclosures gives us some insights into the thinking and banter world leaders engage as they move the Chess pieces across the board on the great global game of new world order.
There are moral considerations and ethical arguments to be made on each side of Mr. Assange’s incendiary action. CableGate raises complex multidimensional issues of national security, informed citizenry, the protection of information, its public disclosure and citizens right to know. The natural tension between the simultaneous need for confidentiality and transparency is a reality of our complex and interconnected world. The management of these issues have escalated to become a preeminent dilemma of our time. This raises significant challenges to democratic societies and the governance structures of both public and private institutions. It threatens institutional sustainability and undermines institutional capability to function in highly interdependent stakeholder ecosystems. The risk of seeking pathways to safely navigate the virtual minefields of a digitized global world is great and continues to grow.
The most impassioned issue raised by CableGate is the ethical violation of stolen property. The cables were not Mr. Assange’s property and what gives him the right to publish and violate diplomats right to confidentiality and privacy? His actions could endanger diplomatic relationships, compromise government initiatives or derail delicate negotiations. Do governments have a right to privacy? If so, what information needs to be classified as secret and confidential? If all documents are secret then the designation is meaningless and government nothing more then a ruthless leviathan lording over a clueless citizenry.
Another critical question CableGate raises is who is served by the publication of these cables? Certainly American citizens in whose interest the State Department purportedly acts benefits from the added transparency. US citizens must admit there is a certain level of comfort in being able to track the satchel of an Afghanistan Vice President stuffed $52 million of taxpayers money through the U.A.E. Customs.
Detractors of CableGate assert that the leaks are a danger to America and its citizens. If so why is the public aggrieved and who exactly is the “aggrieved public”? Soldiers and servicemen fighting in Afghanistan? Does State Department Cables provide tactical and strategic information on troop deployments? Highly doubtful. More likely it is the special interests enriching themselves at the public troughs by cutting deals to shamelessly engorge themselves as insidious war profiteers. Better to ask why our country has placed our young servicemen and woman at risk in wars that makes little sense and accomplishes nothing.
Another set of critical questions CableGate raises are “Do citizens have a right to truth? Is access to information meaningful? Does the information help citizens of democratic societies understand the actions and motivations of their government? Why do diplomats pursue certain course of action and who is profiting from the course of action pursued? These are critical tenants citizens require to make informed decisions in a democratic society and CableGate certainly supports the notion of information empowerment for citizens.
Arguing the contrary one must ask “is it better to be mislead and be lied too in the name of propriety and protocol then to be victimized by the truth? I’ll take conviction in a court of truth and pray for a life sentence every time.
If you believe that the public can’t handle the truth or needs protection from it; imagine yourself living near a nuclear power plant and it was leaking radiation into your drinking water. Would you like to know about it? What if disclosure led to wide spread panic? I believe that truth and transparency always serves to discover and determine the best course of action to pursue.
CableGate has also shed damaging light on the power exercised by private corporations and the commercial control and open access and free availability of information. Amazon’s cloud computing service had no silver lining for WikiLeaks. After the WikiLeak dump it shut down access to the cables due to the unacceptable risk posed by denial of service attacks mounted by computer hackers. This was followed by PayPal’s closure of WikiLeaks donation solicitation account. Was PayPal’s motive purely patriotic? Where they just pissed at WikiLeaks or were they at risk of aiding and abetting a subversive organization that risked prosecution under certain provisions of THE USA PATRIOT ACT?
Academic freedom also seems to have taken a blow due to CableGate. This weekend, Columbia University warned its students not to download or distribute WikiLeak cables because it may affect future employment opportunities with the State Department. Government employees were also warned not to read or access the cables because they had no security clearance to do so. If they were caught accessing the leaked cables it could cost them their jobs. Even though the cables are published in great detail everyday by newspapers throughout the world, government employees must be careful not to notice for risk of losing their employment. This is truly a Kafkaesque dilemma for some, a divine comedy for others and a growing political drama for everyone.
I’m still not sure that Cablegate is what it purports to be. As the old saying goes and the cables affirm nothing is ever as it seems. I find it most improbable that a Private First Class sitting at a PC in Baghdad could download the Iraq War Logs and throw a great superpower into a first class crisis of the new world order. I liken the leaks to the past practice of “special unnamed high placed sources” leaking inside information to the liberal mainstream media outlets. Its done to float trial balloons about new government directions. They do it to test the waters of public sentiment to new ideas, or change in policy course or potentially damaging information to see how the public reacts. Not one to be of a conspiratorial mindset, I perceive CableGate in this light. As expected the public reaction thus far has elevated our collective sense of outrage to a heightened level of ambivalence.
In many respects Iraq War Logs supports the construction of a new narrative about an exit strategy from Iraq and Afghanistan. The revelations of wastefulness, corruption and back room deal making with a full caste of sordid characters reinforces the public perception about the uselessness of these wasteful and expensive misadventures. The cables may prove to be the documentary evidence of America’s Waterloo and CableGate may be seen by future generations as the historical high watermark of an expired global empire.
As the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs helped to prepare the public psyche for an exit strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq; CableGate helps construct a narrative surrounding the need to “cut off the head of the snake in Iran”. These cables implicate Arab States in a desire to undermine the apostate Persians and abrogates Israeli culpability as the driving force behind an attack on Iran.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the cables psychological warfare. I don’t doubt for a second that atomic weapons in the hands of Iran is a dangerous development that needs to be mitigated. That does not mean that we should employ bombers to destroy Iranian nuclear processing facilities. This would only create an environmental disaster and political crisis that further destabilizes the region. It would secure the enmity of new generations of Muslims and no doubt stoke the escalation of the Crusade against Islam.
In the Far East,China’s growth as a world super power and ascending rival to US dominance makes for compelling reading. Here its no surprise that cables assess a strengthening China, its growing nationalism and military readiness. Reading these cables against the backdrop of rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, China’s complicity in helping North Korea ship nuclear materials to Iran and the changing sentiment in the US concerning the largest note holder of government bonds may prove to carry grave consequences for harmonious US/China relations. The cable revealing China’s ambivalence toward its North Korean surrogate state is laid bare as long as it can secure preferred trade agreements with a unified Korea.
The revelations offered by Pakistan’s leaders about support for the Taliban and a growing concern about the safety of their nuclear arsenals raised the possibility of a US military move to quarantine or neutralize Pakistani weapon systems. Though so far India seems to come off unscathed by the cables it must be heartening for India’s leaders to know that its budding friendship with the US may encourage a move to disarm the nuclear capability of its northern antagonist and the worlds sole Islamic atomic state.
These WikiLeaks offer up a brand new narrative for an emerging new world order. The damaging realization of the spillage of confidential proprietary discussions and dialogs between world governments and the mishandling of those documents diminishes the stature of US federalism. The undermining of federalism and its suitability as a governance structure for the new millennium foreshadows the growing antagonism of global corporate entities like Google and the nationalistic government of the People’s Republic of China augers an era of conflict between statism and corporatism.
CableGate is a deliberate attempt to have institutions open up with greater transparency and construct a democratic narrative that force governments to change. Mr. Assange’s avowed goal is to, “allow governments and institutions to become more transparent or force them to become more opaque” Depending on the what side of the fence your sitting on, openness and transparency benefits the public interest. The struggle for democracy requires the open access and the free flow of information.
In the digital age denial of free, open and equal access to information is tantamount to fascism. Withheld, it will encourage people to rise up demanding the means to pursue conscious enlightenment. This may spur political activism that demands institutional accountability, and the practice of democratic governance based on constitutional principles. Failing that once free citizens will be forced to accept the meager lies and obfuscations of leaders and power elites whose self interest is the sole interest of government.
So as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tries to plug the leaks in a failing dike system, we cannot content ourselves to live with our heads buried in the sand, filling our minds with reality TV reruns of Jack Ass Three and Bristol Palin bustin a move on Dance Fever. I’ve heard it said that the best way to influence the future is to invent it. Mr. Assange has given us a world of insights and a basic tool set to start constructing a foundation for a new world order.
You Tube Music Video: REM, End of the World As We Know It
Risk: diplomacy, international relations, governance
Locked and loaded their going for bear in New Jersey’s Highland Region. The Highlands is one of the states last stand of expansive underdeveloped woodlands and critical watershed that provides drinking water to over two million state residents. The Highlands is also the preferred habitat and home to most of the states black bears. But starting Monday, the Highlands will become a deadly killing ground for the lovable species as the state appeals court threw out a suit brought by two animal rights groups to halt a six day bear hunt.
Environmental Commissioner Bob Martin signed off on this year’s hunt, saying it’s needed to help control a growing black bear population. The agency estimates the state’s black bear population at 3,400, up from 500 bears in 1992.
“The Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy is full of scientific flaws and outright fabrications,” APL contends. “In their zeal to hold a recreational trophy hunt, the council has slapped together a scientifically sloppy, self-contradictory document that pretends the hunt is necessary when in fact, the science does not support a hunt.”
The suit filed by the Animal Protection League (APL) contends that the scientific assessment of the bear population and its environmental impact is flawed and its findings are biased. The suit also alleges that proponents of the hunt, The New Jersey Outdoor Alliance made illegal contributions to Gov. Chris Christie’s election campaign. The New Jersey Outdoor Alliance disputes the claims made by the APL and issued a response that appears on the Ammoland website.
During public hearings comments ran 3 to 1 against the bear hunt. Public opposition to the hunt has been vocal and considerable. If the voice of the public counts for nothing why go through the charade of soliciting public comments? A recent public hearing on the expansion of the El Paso Corp gas pipeline through the Highland region had a similar tenor to it. Of the twenty of so citizens and groups who spoke at the meeting not one supported the expansion of the pipeline. Local residents and groups affected by the El Paso expansion initiative are concerned that their opposition to the project is falling on deaf ears of regulators and government officials responsible for green lighting the project. If the project is a fait accompli regardless of public criticism why solicit public comment and go through the motions of participatory democracy?
The Highlands Commission was formed to determine how the resources of the region are managed and how the area will be developed. The Highland region is a critical watershed area and a vital open recreational space for an overwhelmingly urban state. The Highlands Commission is the stewardship body chartered to reconcile the competing interests of a complex community of stakeholders. The immediate needs of wildlife preservation, smart development and long term sustainability of an environmentally stressed ecosystem will require effective engagement of all Highland Community stakeholders. Governor Christie’s slate of nominees to to the Highland Council is being criticized as too pro development. This may auger well for stakeholders like El Paso Corp but it may have deadly consequences for endangered bears and other species struggling to hang on in an increasingly hostile environment.
You Tube Video: Junglebook, Bare Necessities
Risk: environment, bears, sustainability, water, open spaces, democracy
This little ditty on NPR this morning about the Smithsonian Exhibit, Hide and Seek, an exhibition of Gay portraiture. Seems Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor and Bill Donahue, President of the Catholic League is upset that taxpayer money is being used to showcase what they consider to be unacceptable art. Here’s the link:
Its a doubled edged sword when government underwrites the creation of art. Exhibitions can confer a type of sanction that promotes censorship in service to state sponsored propaganda. From my perspective that is not the issue at stake here; but if you listen to the audio Bill Donahue condemns museums as “liberal elite institutions”. Mr. Donahue probably considers Hide and Seek as the latest subversive initiative by Obama’s Politburo to undermine American Family Values.
Mr. Donahue, still smarting from Andreas Serrano’s Piss Christ gets off his best shot in America’s escalating culture war by asserting that “working people, like himself, (read real Americans) don’t go to museums. He says they go to WWF wrestling matches.” He sarcastically suggests that perhaps government funding of the arts would be better spent underwriting WWF ducats for the masses. Beholden to his dogma, Mr. Donahue fails to recognize the difference between pedestrian commercial camp and artistic pursuit. He confuses the spectacle of bread and violent circus with aesthetic encounter, discovery and contemplation.
Mr. Donahue’s insistence that his position should be viewed in the same light as Muslims reaction when depictions of the Prophet Muhammad appear in visual art presentations is disingenuous. Muslims prohibit all visual representations of the Prophet Muhammad. The same prohibitions of promoting visual images of Jesus Christ is not a common practice of Christian denominations. Secular democracies also do not sanction fatwas and post bounties for jihadists to take out apostates and infidels. That is a unique blessing of secular societies that fundamentalists, religious zealots and Mr. Donahue fail to perceive.
File this one under the dumbing down of America Series, Triumph of the Willfulness.
Walt Whitman: Calamus Poems
You Tube Music Video: Aaron (Gay American) Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man
Risk: culture, censorship, homophobia
This is how the world ends
This is how the world ends
This is how the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper
The Hallow Men TS Elliot
A few interesting news items recently passed without much notice. Two nuclear reactors located in the Northeast had to be brought offline due to operational failures. The Vermont Yankee reactor sprang a leak and had to be shut down. The other incident occurred at the thirty six year old Indian Point reactor located about twenty miles north of New York City. The cause of the problem at Indian Point was a transformer fire. Both reactors are owned and operated by Entergy and mirror similar problems at the Excelon operated Oyster Creek reactor located in south central New Jersey.
These incidents are endemic to aging nuclear power facilities. These plants came on line during the the 1970’s and are now approaching the half century mark of service. When these plants were commissioned it was believed they would have a shelf life of 40 years. As the expected useful life span of these facilities approach regulators routinely grant extensions to the operators. Operating these facilities past that point heighten potential risk factors. As nuclear reactors age, the stress on these complex systems and containment facilities raise risk factors heightening the potential of system failure that lead to catastrophic events.
Leaky plumbing at the Oyster Creek nuclear plant is the culprit in poisoning the Cohansey Aquifer with 180,000 gallons of tritium contaminated water. Regulators and environmental officials assert that the level of radio active isotopes in the water supply that serves South Jersey and parts of Philadelphia is well within acceptable levels for human consumption. I guess that all depends on your definition of human; but I and many others remain skeptical on the subject of drinking radioactive laced water.
The aging nuclear infrastructure of the United States is a growing cause for concern. The nuclear power industry was halted in its tracks in the 1980’s by a strong No Nukes environmental movement. At the time it was generally understood that the cost of catastrophic risk and the industries inability to solve the long term problem of disposal and management of nuclear waste turned the public against the industry.
The Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania and the disastrous meltdown at Chernobyl in the Russian Caucuses led to a moratorium on new plant construction in the United States leading to the actual abandonment of plant construction in the Washington and New York. It created a capital market crisis as the fear of defaults on WPPSS revenue bonds spread to cast long shadows on the entire Muni Bond market. The state of New York stepped in to purchase the facilities of Long Island Power in order to make bondholders of the closed facility whole with tax payer money. It was kind of like socialism for investors.
While most of the world has continued to build nuclear plants to address growing energy needs; the United States has not built a nuclear plant since the 1980’s and has lagged the world in using nuclear power to address energy needs. Sentiment on the desirability of nuclear power is beginning to change. The Pickens Plan, former VP Dick Cheney’s secret meetings to develop a national energy strategy, the Gulf Oil Spill, the need to reduce dependence on foreign oil and the growing acceptance that the burning of fossil fuels is slowly cooking the planet has placed nuclear power back on the table as a viable component of America’s energy portfolio.
China is committed to building 100 nuclear power plants to wean itself from its crippling dependence on coal. The United States is charging hard to keep up with its fast growing Asian competitor in a 21st Century nuclear power race. The aggressive pursuit of nuclear plant development will increase the power and control of corporate entities charged with their construction, management and on going administration. To accomplish a dramatic build-out in nuclear infrastructure large areas of land situated near a plentiful water supply will need to be secured. Environmental impacts, regulatory oversight and public transparency will be sacrificed at the alter of cost efficiency, expedience in implementation and security to protect the vulnerable facilities against the pervasive armies of terrorists that lurk in the shadows near every nuclear plant.
The controversy surrounding the collusion of government and business to exploit the Marcellus Shale natural gas vein is an instructive model of what we can expect from the stakeholders pursuing an aggressive campaign to develop Americas nuclear power infrastructure. The dismissal of regulatory controls, the eminent domain of corporate interests, the opaque wall that shrouds risks factors and hides the environmental degradation resulting from the practice of fracking and the sacrifice of watersheds and aquifers to the expeditious extraction of natural gas are some of the documented behaviors of a wanton corporate will imposed on the body politic. Tragically this near sighted perspective willfully sacrifices the sustainable ecology of communities to the sole purpose of the profitable extraction of resources to serve shareholders of private corporations. The nature of the nuclear beast will require that its interests be enforced by courts of law guided by extreme prejudice and protected by police battalions, state guard units and private security groups in the name of national security interests.
The recently discovered Stuxnet computer virus is an indication of how the stakes are being raised in the nuclear power shell game. The launch of a successful cyber attack on a nuclear facility anywhere in the world is a real game changer. Self deluded uber patriots act more like real pinheads if they believe that the destruction of Iran’s nuclear power capability is a harbinger for Middle East peace or enhances the security of either Israel or the United States. A nuclear event in Iran or North Korea are real game changers for the course of human history and the well being of humanity. A clandestine service that can take out Iranian nuclear reactors can also be deployed to take out a reactor that is twenty miles north of New York City. Or consider the consequences of a summer heat wave ravaging the citizens Philadelphia dying of thirst because the water supply is contaminated with radiation. The extent of civil unrest would be extreme overwhelming the local law enforcement and judicial capabilities. If these bleak scenarios come to pass, Americans will be pining away for the good old days when a quick feel up at the airport by a TSA gendarme is fondly recalled like a high school make out session. The pernicious yoke of marshal law under the nuclear challenged corporate security state will be incessant in practice and swift, sure and dire in its execution.
You Tube music video: No Nukes Concert 1979: Doobie Brothers Taking it to The Streets
Risk: democracy, energy policy, nuclear power, civil liberties
Bristol Palin is tap dancing her way into the hearts of Americans. The Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) gamboling Gidget seems poised to surpass the celebrity status of her political superstar Momma Grizzly in Chief Sarah. Despite consistently low scores Bristol and her dance card partner Mark Ballas tip toe over the competition each week due to the outpouring of support from devoted fans of Sarah’s sashaying youngster.
Last night to the chagrin of discerning DWTS affectionados, Bristol and her partner dispatched the elegant and clearly more talented Brandy and Maxwell to the loser circle. DWTS judges awarded Brandy and Maxwell higher scores then Bristol and Mark. In response to this misjudgment of the liberal mainstream media machine, Palin’s peeps overloaded the telephone banks and text message tally boards with a landslide of support for Bristol’s bouncy ballet. The will of the electorate would not be denied. The voice of the people will be heard and heeded.
The well oiled machinery of the Tea Party is suspected of stuffing the ballot box to aid Bristol, Sarah and ultimately country through the precise execution of Operation Bristol.
Operation Bristol is an example of the dangers of plebiscites and a good lesson about the perversion of the democratic process and the illusion of democracy. Tea Party zealots text their DWTS votes along party lines failing to consider the dexterity, skill and artful presentations of the other contestants. The pernicious political pursuit of Operation Bristol undermines the honest contemplation of aestheticism and defiles the artistic purpose of art to exclusively serve the bombast of politics. It is the hallmark of fascist culture that dresses up the banality of pedestrian art in service the higher ideals of idealogical purpose. Not that I consider DWTS even remotely connected to art. But you just gotta love those freedom loving, liberty for all Tea Baggers selling out their DWTS vote for a bit of political satisfaction. Operation Bristol is good practice for 2012. Yeah I know all about Woody Guthrie’s “This Machine Kills Fascists” slogan on his worn guitar. So in the interest of balance and in service to transparency Bristol should consider a “This Machine Kills Democracy” tattoo across her provocative thighs.
You Tube Music Video: Dizzy Gillespie, Things To Come
Risk: art, democracy, culture, entertainment, politics, political theater