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Current Topic: Society

WikiLeaks and the trouble with transparency
Topic: Society 12:28 pm EST, Dec  7, 2010

By Richard Cohen
Monday, December 6, 2010
The Washington Post

What the Clinton scandal and the WikiLeaks disclosures have in common is a sad collapse of the mainstream media's gatekeeper role. Newsweek presumably had good reasons to postpone publication of Isikoff's story - reasons that Drudge did not share. The Times had good cause to parse the WikiLeaks cache - lives could be in danger - but Assange launched them into cyberspace anyway, not caring if American interests were damaged. In fact, that might have been the whole point.

The natural reaction is to want to pop Assange in some way, possibly by indicting him for violating the totally impractical Espionage Act of 1917 or, in the superheated imaginations of some, by declaring him a terrorist and targeting him for something irrevocable. The trouble with any of this is that you inevitably get entangled with the Times and other newspapers such as The Post, which also has devoted considerable space and talent to the stories. They all enabled Assange to reach a wider audience - raise your hand if you actually visited his Web site - and moreover gave him what amounts to a journalistic Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval: See, this stuff is important.

Governments, like married couples, are entitled to their secrets - from us, from the kids and from the neighbors. Total transparency produces total opaqueness. If everything's open, no one says anything. If you want to know why there is no document detailing exactly when George W. Bush decided to go to war in Iraq, it's because of something Dick Cheney once said: "I learned early on that if you don't want your memos to get you in trouble someday, just don't write any." On Iraq, he and Bush followed that rule.

The WikiLeaks brouhaha will pass. Diplomats will once again be indiscreet at cocktail parties and rat out one another in the same way some people marry repeatedly, each time forever. The only thing worse than indiscretion is efforts to punish the miscreants by eroding the core constitutional right to publish all but the most obvious and blatant national security secrets. The government has to get better at keeping secrets. Muzzle the leakers - but not the press.


WikiLeaks and the trouble with transparency

Newspaper, Businesses Feud in Tennessee Over Claims of 'Hate Rhetoric'
Topic: Society 11:30 am EDT, Jul  1, 2010

A small Tennessee-based newspaper has become the center of a free speech firestorm after it was banned from a grocery store chain and a KFC for allegedly publishing "hate" speech. The Rutherford Reader, a family owned and operated business, runs feature columns of local interest, many of which lately have related to controversy surrounding a mosque being built in Rutherford County.

The columns didn't sit well with at least one patron who complained to several companies that they amounted to hate speech after a guest columnist in April referred to Islam as "evil." One month later, the Reader was dropped from Kroger grocery stores, and soon after from a local KFC. Now the paper is threatening to sue, saying this is a blatant breach of its First Amendment rights.

U. S. Constitution, Amendment I:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The last time I checked, Congress doesn't run grocery stores or fast food restaurants... only banks and automobile manufacturers (and possibly oil companies). ;)

Newspaper, Businesses Feud in Tennessee Over Claims of 'Hate Rhetoric'

Justices extend gun owner rights nationwide.
Topic: Society 11:00 am EDT, Jun 28, 2010

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court held Monday that the Constitution's Second Amendment restrains government's ability to significantly limit "the right to keep and bear arms," advancing a recent trend by the John Roberts-led bench to embrace gun rights.

Writing for the court in a case involving restrictive laws in Chicago and one of its suburbs, Justice Samuel Alito said that the Second Amendment right "applies equally to the federal government and the states."

Justices extend gun owner rights nationwide.

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day
Topic: Society 3:45 pm EDT, May 19, 2010

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day! is a protest against Islamists who attempt to restrict freedom of speech by threatening violence against anyone who offends them or Islam. It originally began as a protest against censorship of South Park episode "201" by Comedy Central in response to death threats from radical Islamists. It started with a drawing posted on the Internet on April 20, 2010, the suggestion in it that everybody create a drawing representing Muhammad, the founder of Islam, on May 20, 2010, as a protest against efforts to limit freedom of speech, and the movement in support of that protest.

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day

Topic: Society 10:52 am EDT, Apr 29, 2010

PowerPoint has become public enemy number one for many US officers who find themselves battling slide presentations rather than insurgents. Some have gone as far as to declare all-out war on the software after the military command was over-run with mind-numbing 30-slide presentations.

Brigadier General H.R. McMaster went one step further and banned the presentation package when he led an offensive in Tal Afar, Iraq, in 2005. "It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control," he told the New York Times. "Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable."

I'm going to start using the term "bullet-izable" at work.


James Lovelock: Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change
Topic: Society 11:40 am EDT, Mar 30, 2010

One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is "modern democracy," he added. "Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while."

A recent Rahm Emanuel quote comes to mind.

Lovelock, who 40 years ago originated the idea that the planet is a giant, self-regulating organism – the so-called Gaia theory...

I stand corrected; the man is insane, not retarded.

James Lovelock: Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change

A Call To Wear Black For Johnny Cash
Topic: Society 10:36 am EST, Feb 26, 2010

"February 26th, 2010, is Johnny Cash’s 78th birthday, and to celebrate his life we’re encouraging everyone worldwide to wear black for Johnny on this day..."

A Call To Wear Black For Johnny Cash

Senator Dikembe Mutombo Blocks Record Amount Of Legislation
Topic: Society 10:19 am EST, Feb 26, 2010

The Onion - Onion Sports
February 26, 2010
Issue 46•08

Following the rejection, Mutombo glared at Dodd from the Senate podium and said, "Get that weak-ass legislation out of my house," in a yell that was reportedly heard in the top rows of the Senate Chamber.

"He reminds me of myself out there, just rejecting stuff left and right," said former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), who retired in 2007. "Even when he gets called an obstructionist, or for goaltending, he's established psychological dominance and made his point: You don't come through his part of the floor."

Mutombo 2010!

Senator Dikembe Mutombo Blocks Record Amount Of Legislation

State Sovereignty - Giving Phil Bredesen Credit
Topic: Society 9:56 am EDT, Jul 22, 2009

While seven states – Tennessee, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Alaska and Louisiana – have had both houses of their legislatures pass similar decrees, Alaska Gov. Palin [R] and Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen [D] are currently the only governors to have signed their states' sovereignty resolutions.

The resolutions all address the Tenth Amendment that says: "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

I often disagree with Bredesen, but I certainly support him on this issue.

State Sovereignty - Giving Phil Bredesen Credit

Why has Daniel Hannan become an Internet sensation?
Topic: Society 5:46 pm EDT, Mar 26, 2009

Excellent speech!

Andrew Sparrow at asks a question he can't quite answer.

But this does not fully answer the question. Why did this speech take off? Hannan himself admits to being "slightly perplexed" because he's been making similar speeches for years. Having listened to it a couple of times, and read the text, I don't think it's a great speech (and some of the arguments are relatively easy to dismantle, as Sunny Hundal and Sunder Katwala have demonstrated). But it's much clearer and more concise than the speeches normally delivered in Congress or at Westminster. And, at three minutes long, it's just the right length for YouTube.

MEPs in the European parliament are sometimes only allowed to speak for one minute. They don't get heckled, in the way that MPs do at Westminster, and they don't have to use any of the archaic language about "honourable friends" etc. This makes the place quite soulless. But it also makes it much better for YouTube. Hannan's the last person I would expect to applaud European parliamentary procedure, but he should; it's one factor, I think, that has helped to make him an internet star.

Hundal and Katwala have dismantled nothing, and Sparrow will never get why this speech took off the way it did (especially in the U.S.A.). Hannan's words (and to an equal, if not greater, degree, his attitude) resonate with many people here who want what's best for their country, now and for future generations, and who have been greatly disappointed by the Republican Party's failure to adhere to the principles of capitalism and conservatism. This is the type of speech that Republicans in Congress should've been directing toward George Bush for the past several years. Today, as a guest on The Sean Hannity Show, Hannan himself stated that even he preferred Obama as a candidate over a continuation of the Bush policies. I think many Americans thought the same way in 2008, and the Republicans can blame only themselves.

Why has Daniel Hannan become an Internet sensation?

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