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
Its official. The battle has been joined and America’s values are alive and well in the War Against Christmas. A lead news story on CNN this morning is of a family setting up a tent at the doorway of a Best Buy in Orlando. These intrepid people, steeped in wholesome pursuit of real family values have staked a claim to be first in line for the annual Black Friday deathcage match. These gladiators of consumer capitalism are toughing it out. They choose to courageously suffer the discomforts of the bleak concrete jungle. Their bivouac is a full week in advance of the day after Thanksgiving orgy of shopping that has become an annual rite of American’s unabashed prostration to consumer excess.
This family are truly free market heroes. They will be joined with armies of fellow patriots. Together they will tramp to the Malls of America armed with nothing more then a wallet full of limit challenged credit cards in their battle to stimulate demand for Chinese manufacturers and to thoroughly route the enemies warring against Christmas.
This family is unselfishly sacrificing quality family time. Each member will take turns standing post in this righteous encampment. This will allow other family members rest at home or go about the daily activities of civilian life. For these product purchasing patriots even Thanksgiving will need to be sacrificed at mammon’s alter so they can stand as vigilant sentinels guarding their place at the head of the Best Buy line. The thought of missing bargains or failing to secure the purchase of this years newest hot product due to an expired inventory is a fate just to terrible to contemplate.
This family clearly has their priorities strait. They are determined to satisfy the Christmas wishes of family and friends. These radical entitle-istes will not be denied their 10% discount on X Boxes and Ipods. This family will not rest until the mission to buy a Medal of Honor Black Ops or Mafia 2 “The City of Lost Heaven” video game for the special children in their lives is secured, wrapped and placed under the family’s silver coated Tannenbaum.
Like all thoughtful people this family will pause on Thanksgiving Day or sometime during their 168 hour vigil to express deep gratitude that their tent is much nicer then the typical residences recently springing up on the outskirts of Port-Au-Prince.
Soldier on you bold armies of the night. Solider on.
You Tube Video: Tenting Tonight
Risk: values, culture, priorities
Everybody knows the story about Shoeless Joe Jackson. When the infamous Chicago “Black Sox” star Joe Jackson emerged from the courtroom after admitting his guilt for taking money to throw the 1919 World Series, a boy implored his hero to uphold the integrity of the game by asking, “say it ain’t so Joe.” A newspaper account reports that a shame filled Shoeless Joe admitted his guilt to the crestfallen young fan before walking away through a raucous crowd. The next day, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis kicked Shoeless Joe out of the game and forever banned his name from inclusion in the Hall of Fame. Such are the wages for the actions of unscrupulous cheaters.
On learning the news about Keith Olbermann’s suspension from MSNBC I feel like that young adoring fan. I refuse to believe that my favorite news commentator would violate the sacred tenant of a free press and compromise his integrity by making financial contributions to candidates running for public office.
The reported amounts of dollars Olbermann reportedly contributed to 3 democratic congressional candidates is minuscule. Citizens are limited to a contribution ceiling of $2,400 per candidate and Olbermann allegedly hit that limit in support of two candidates from Arizona and one in Kentucky.
Its hard to believe that Olbermann would compromise his integrity for such a paltry sum. If these allegations are true, the greater irony is that as a result of his ill considered action, the priceless value of Olbermann’s nightly critique of reactionary republicanism is now jeopardized. The risk of losing a vital and robust voice of progressive politics on a major cable channel is a real possibility. This one really hurts.
Some have offered a defense for Olbermann by pointing to Fox News extreme partisanship and financial support of Republican candidates. Rupert Murdock reportedly made a $1 million contribution to the Republican Governors Association and point to Glenn Beck’s Tea Party activism or the use of GOP leaders like Karl Rove and Sarah Palin as paid political commentators. This argument misses the point about Olbermann’s trespass. Like the Juan William’s dust-up after his termination from NPR, Olbermann’s transgressions falls into the same category. Olbermann violated a term of his employment that prohibits news reporters from making contributions to political candidates. In my mind that’s a fair rule if a network wants to maintain a semblance of objectivity. We expect news professionals of Mr. Olbermannn’s stature to uphold a level of integrity that protects the sacred mission of the free press in a free society. Edward R. Murrow would expect nothing less. Olbermann’s violation of the rule prohibiting contributions to political candidates goes to the heart of a compromised free press. With no transparency or disclosure, Olbermann’s actions has demeaned the MSNBC brand by compromising its ability to present the news without fear of favor. There is no equivocation or quid pro qou when it comes to upholding the standards of excellence for ethical behavior.
We know where Fox News stands in its political deposition. We also know the space that MSNBC tries to occupy. Fox’s shameless partisianship is not the issue. Fox’s corporate rules of behavior and standards of ethics for employees is not the issue. The issue is MSNBC’s standards of ethics for its employees and how they enforce those standards when they are broken. If Mr. Olbermann violated that ethical standard he should in all good conscience resign from MSNBC.
Please, say it ain’t so Keith. Please.
You Tube Music Video: Ludwig Von Beethoven: 9th Symphony, 2nd Movement
Risk: free press, ethics, disclosure, transparency