ChrisWeigant.com

Friday Talking Points [164] -- Skynet Attacks!

[ Posted Friday, April 22nd, 2011 – 16:34 PDT ]

Yesterday -- April 21, 2011 -- is a day which will live in infamy. Two days after being activated, Skynet (the new military "defense" computer network) became self-aware and immediately began its worldwide attack on humanity. Yes, the robots have now taken over, and newer and more advanced models (ones which, coincidentally, look and speak like Arnold Schwarzenegger) will soon be terrorizing us all. At least until we can send people back in time, to prevent this tragic end to our modern society (by the expediency of interbreeding with women who sport 1980s hairstyles).

The previous paragraph is, of course, completely fictional. "Skynet" is a concept from the Terminator science-fiction franchise. Originally, Skynet was supposed to do its evil thing in 1997, but as the storyline progressed through multiple movies and a television show, the date was pushed forward (in an "alternate timeline," a favorite dodge of the sci-fi literary genre), right up to yesterday. Anyone requiring proof that this calamity is, indeed, not actually happening -- consider that if Skynet were now on the attack, it most certainly wouldn't be allowing me to write about it online today, now would it? Heh. I have to admit, I had forgotten this momentous (if fictional) date, but was reminded by Craig Ferguson last night (to give credit where it's due). Robots are not, at this point in time, hunting down every last human on the planet. Craig's late-night sidekick is (full disclosure) actually a skeleton robot himself -- but he's really not at all threatening to behold.

However, in a remarkable coincidence, yesterday the Obama administration announced we will be sending drone aircraft armed with missiles to patrol the skies of Libya. This is in addition to the drone aircraft we have in other countries (cough, cough... Pakistan... cough), even if the C.I.A. doesn't "officially" admit they exist.

In other words, robot warfare is indeed taking place today. But it hasn't become self-aware, and it isn't attacking all of humanity. The robots are directed by "pilots" from remote locations (Nevada, for instance), and the robot planes are only attacking targets the United States as a whole is currently attacking.

All kidding aside, though, this is a moral development that hasn't really be adequately discussed. If warfare becomes a remote-controlled operation for America, what does that mean exactly for our future involvement in warfare? Can robot tanks and even robot infantry be all that far behind? I would be willing to bet that tax dollars are being spent right now on the development of both, especially considering how successful the drone aircraft have been. "Successful" is a relative concept, of course. What I mean by it is that no remote control operators have been injured, killed, or captured since we began flying Predators over hostile territory. Many on the ground have been killed or injured by Predator missile attacks, but these are our enemies (and the resulting civilian "collateral damage").

This is going to seriously unbalance the concept of warfare itself. If one side can launch lethal attacks with no risk whatsoever to its military personnel, and the other side does not have this technology, then it's not all that fantastical to see a few years into the future when we just send in the robots to do all our fighting for us, no matter where in the world it takes place.

Again, this is not science fiction. It's a reality that already exists in the skies over at least two countries right now (and possibly more). Robots are killing humans. These robots are not acting on their own, they are fully controlled by human operators -- but the next generation of drone aircraft will not need a human to operate them (again, this is fact, not supposition). Robot artillery, robot tanks, and robot infantry cannot be all that far behind. War as the ultimate video game, in other words.

So, while it's fun to watch Arnold say things like "Hasta la vista, Baby" through clenched teeth on a movie screen, the fictional war between humans and robots has taken on a new dimension these days. Because while Skynet is not real (and certainly didn't start attacking humanity yesterday), robot warfare is becoming more and more real as time goes by.

Which should give everyone pause for thought, whether you've ever seen a Terminator movie or not.

 

Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

There was a virtual coalition of impressive people over the past few weeks (and, sadly, months) who stepped up the pressure on the Obama administration to change its policy regarding the imprisonment of Private First Class Bradley Manning.

Manning is accused of being the source of the massive Wikileaks document dumps of diplomatic and military classified material. He has not been tried as of yet, and has been held in confinement in the Quantico brig, under conditions which had become increasingly indefensible for someone who has been convicted of no crime.

Many have been pointing this out, in no uncertain terms. From human rights organizations to respected journalists like Glenn Greenwald to a group which (out of frustration) just interrupted an Obama fundraiser to sing to the president a song of shame over Manning's treatment.

This week, P.F.C. Manning was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he will be held under much more humane conditions as he awaits his trial. This did not happen in a vacuum, however. Without the strong push to point the finger of shame at the Obama White House, Manning's transfer simply never would have happened.

But while it is impossible to name everyone involved in the effort to improve Manning's situation (we hereby award a virtual Honorable Mention to them all), one member of Congress took it upon himself to champion this cause.

For doing so, this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to Representative Dennis Kucinich. Over a week ago, Kucinich outlined (in an article he wrote for the Huffington Post) the steps he had taken in an attempt to visit P.F.C. Manning in Quantico, and the "Kafkaesque" (his word) responses the Pentagon had used to deny his requests to meet Manning.

Now, it's impossible to say that Kucinich was the reason why the transfer happened this week. There were a lot of people clamoring for the White House to change its policy. But Kucinich, using the power he has as a member of Congress to confront the Pentagon, may have ultimately been the weightiest voice on the subject. So while everyone involved in this effort deserves mention, our choice for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week is none other than Representative Dennis Kucinich, for putting his clout behind the effort.

[Congratulate Representative Dennis Kucinich on his House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

For the first time in three weeks, we have a Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to hand out.

President Barack Obama gets the MDDOTW this week, for allowing the conditions P.F.C. Bradley Manning was held under to go on for as long as they did. Plenty of people had brought the situation to light, for a very long time -- and the Obama White House did nothing about it.

Manning was stripped naked in his cell at night, forced to stand naked to be counted in the mornings, and held in a cage for 23 hours of each day. This goes against the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It's a clear violation of the rights of a military prisoner (especially one who hasn't been convicted of anything yet).

Obama made much political hay over how the Bush administration treated enemy prisoners before he got into office himself. The entire Manning/Quantico episode tarnishes Obama's lofty claims to be better than Bush. There's just no easy way to say it folks -- this was an embarrassment, and it was an avoidable embarrassment. If Obama had ordered Manning's conditions to be improved the moment the story broke, he would have qualified for the MIDOTW award instead. He didn't. He still insists that everything done to Manning was legal.

For shame, Mister President. For shame.

This week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week -- not for moving Manning to Kansas, but rather for allowing the situation to go on for as long as it did -- is President Barack Obama.

[Contact President Barack Obama on the White House contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 164 (4/22/11)

David Brooks, of late, has been saying something which makes a lot of sense. Brooks is a moderate conservative (or, if that species doesn't exist anymore, perhaps a "reality-based" conservative), and what he's been saying could almost be called a truism: "Americans want more government than they are willing to pay for."

The American public has been fed the knee-jerk "Lower taxes!" line for decades by Republicans -- which wasn't all that hard a sell (who doesn't want to be taxed less?). But, when it comes to cutting government, the public simply doesn't have the stomach for massive cuts to programs which they actually like and support. Which is, pretty much, almost all of them. Every dollar spent by the government has a constituency out there somewhere, in other words. Whether spent on Medicare, Social Security, weapons systems, or farm subsidies -- those dollars are not faceless. Everybody's got some skin in this game, in other words.

Republicans, after years and years of being coy, have concretely outlined a budget plan for the future, led by Republican budget whiz Representative Paul Ryan. This week, as Congress takes yet another week-long vacation, some Republicans have been getting an earful at townhall meetings about this budget plan. Quite frankly, the "American people" that Republicans love to reference are not in favor of the Ryan budget.

This disconnect between what the Republicans think the public supports, and what the public actually supports is the biggest opening Democrats have gotten, politically, since they had George W. Bush to kick around.

But they've got to use it. Democrats need to bring this stuff up every chance they get. Educate the public on Ryan's nightmare vision for the future! The people already agree with the Democrats, so it's going to be pretty easy to explain how Democrats see things differently, and how the Republican budget is (as President Obama recently put it) "radical."

As always, these talking points are provided for Democrats everywhere to make use of, most especially those Democratic politicians who find themselves in front of a television camera this weekend.

 

1
   Voucher, voucher, voucher!

This one is pretty easy, because Republicans (for some bizarre reason) are fighting to obfuscate a core part of the Ryan plan for Medicare. Republicans, from Ryan on down, get really offended when you use a certain word to describe his plan. So use it as much as possible!

"I'm sorry, but you can use some sort of Washington-speak for Ryan's Medicare plan if you want to, but the fact is that it is a voucher system. I don't know why Republicans are so scared of this word, because that is exactly what Ryan's plan would provide -- vouchers. Republicans have supported what they themselves call 'school vouchers' for years now, and they've never had a problem with the word vouchers in that case, so I am somewhat mystified why they keep insisting that a Medicare voucher isn't actually a voucher. Seniors, under Ryan's plan, would get vouchers to buy medical insurance. Any costs over the value of that voucher would come straight out of seniors' pockets. You can call it whatever you want, in an attempt to pull the wool over people's eyes, but a voucher is a voucher, and the American people are smart enough to realize it."

 

2
   Tax cuts for millionaires paid for by seniors on Medicare

President Obama actually framed this issue perfectly, in his speech a week and a half ago. Tax cuts versus hiking Medicare costs on seniors -- the heart of the Ryan budget. From the Obama speech:

And worst of all, this [Ryan's budget] is a vision that says even though Americans can't afford to invest in education at current levels, or clean energy, even though we can't afford to maintain our commitment on Medicare and Medicaid, we can somehow afford more than one trillion dollars in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about that.

In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined. Meanwhile, the top one percent saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. That's who needs to pay less taxes?

They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that's paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs. That's not right. And it's not going to happen as long as I'm president.

 

3
   Millionaires and billionaires

Obama has also been using the phrase "millionaires and billionaires" a lot recently -- which all Democrats should immediately start repeating as well.

"There is indeed a fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to the budget. Republicans think that millionaires and billionaires need another tax cut, and Democrats don't think this is the way to go. Republicans think all those guys making multi-million-dollar bonuses on Wall Street don't need to sacrifice one tiny little bit to solve our budget problems -- in fact, Republicans want to give them hundreds of thousands of dollars of new tax cuts. They pay for these tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires by forcing seniors to pay more for Medicare. The difference between the parties is crystal clear. Republicans are for giving millionaires and billionaires more money, Democrats are fighting to keep Republicans from raiding Granny's piggybank to pay for this enormous handout to people who do not need it."

 

4
   Three-fourths of "The American people" agree

Poll after poll shows that the public is actually on the Democratic side in the debate about slashing Medicare, and about taxing millionaires. So point it out!

"You know, Republicans made a whole lot of noise after the 2010 election about how they were, quote, listening to the American people, unquote, and were just going to do what the American people wanted them to do in Washington. But poll after poll shows that the American people -- by a two-to-one or even three-to-one margin -- do not want Medicare privatized by turning it into a voucher system. Poll after poll also shows that the American people are strongly in favor -- again, by around three-fourths of the public -- of raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires. The American people are speaking quite clearly on the subject of what to do about the deficit. But the Republicans are simply not listening. Republicans should do what the American people want them to do, and drop this radical plan to kill Medicare. The American people list taxing the ultra-wealthy as their number one choice for solving the deficit problem. Republicans shouldn't be so deaf to what the American people are saying they want."

 

5
   This is "American exceptionalism"?

This is another phrase Republicans love to use, and it needs to be turned around on them in the next big partisan battle -- the debt ceiling debate.

"You know what? I believe in American exceptionalism, but I don't believe that the bankers of the world think that we are so downright exceptional that we can default on our debts. Do you think the Chinese government thinks we're that exceptional? If the Republicans play politics with raising the debt ceiling, and the full faith and credit of the United States of America collapses in the world markets, we're all going to find out how exceptional such a default will be to the world economy. This is no time to play politics -- the rest of the world is watching."

 

6
   Why are Republicans allowing racists in their leadership?

This needs a lot more media attention than it has so far been getting. Pointing the finger of shame only really works when people are listening and watching. This question should be asked of every Republican, by every Democrat who appears in the media sitting next to one. Democrats should turn to their counterpart Republican, and ask them directly (ignoring the interviewer):

"Excuse me, but I just have to ask you a question. After Senator Ensign of Nevada resigned in disgrace this week, why has the Republican Party not kicked out Marilyn Davenport from the Orange County, California Republican Central Committee? This woman sent out an email with a racist depiction of President Obama, with his family depicted as chimpanzees. This is despicable, and I'd like to hear what you have to say about the fact that this woman has not resigned her leadership position in the Republican Party yet. Does the Republican Party condone such racism, Sir?"

 

7
   When you lie down with clowns...

And finally, some comic relief. The moon didn't leave its orbit in 1999, mankind didn't reach the moons of Jupiter in 2001, and Skynet has not been activated this week. But there are always things in reality which you just know are going to sound fictional, when historians look back at them. Like the concept that Donald Trump could be president, for instance.

"I see that none other than Donald Trump is now apparently the Republican frontrunner in the 2012 nomination race. You know, there's a saying that if you lie down with dogs, you're going to wake up with fleas. In this case, you might say that if you lie down with clowns, you're going to get laughed at."

 

-- Chris Weigant

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Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground
Cross-posted at: Democrats For Progress
Cross-posted at: The Huffington Post

 

55 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [164] -- Skynet Attacks!”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris, and anyone else who can enlighten me ...

    So, I don't get this Manning situation.

    When he was named as the alleged source for the continuing (at least until the end of days next spring) WikiLeaks info dump, my reaction was immediate and severe - throw the bloody book at him, figuratively speaking, of course. That's a pretty heavy book, after all.

    Now, he's been in custody since then and apparently under conditions which have been deemed indefensible by many. I've also heard that he was prone to suicide.

    There must be something I'm missing here because if the charges of his treatment are true, and I'll stipulate that they are, I cannot for the life of me understand why on earth this Pfc would be receiving this kind of treatment.

    From the beginning, I have found this entire situation to be rather disconcerting for its negative impact on the conduct of US diplomacy. And, I have very little regard for any US citizen who would be involved with an illegal transfer of private and sensitive diplomatic cables, to an organization like WikiLeaks whose founder has an obvious Messianic complex, among other delusional fantasies. Add to all of this the confinement and treatment of Pfc Manning and I have to surmise that there is a quite a bit more to this story than meets the eye.

  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Liz -

    I don't mean to sound patronizing, but here goes:

    In America, you are innocent until proven guilty. This means that you are not subject to "punishment" until you are found guilty by a court of law. In this case, becase PFC Manning is in the Army, the UCMJ applies. He was not (until very recently) even accused of any crime. Therefore, the situation he found himself in was of a punitive nature -- before any court (or court martial) found him guilty.

    That is what was wrong. If he is eventually found guilty of crimes against America, his status will then change. But until that point, he is deemed innocent by American law.

    You'll notice I am taking no sides on whether he is, in fact, guilty of such crimes, or not. That is for a court (or, more appropriately, a court martial) to determine. But until that point is reached, he is entitled to a certain level of human dignity, which he is guaranteed under both the Constitution and the UCMJ.

    Republicans used to be such big fans of the "rule of law" -- and Democrats used to be such big defenders of the rights of the accused. THAT is what is disappointing, to me, personally.

    Does that help explain things?

    -CW

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    OK, now here is what I am confused about.

    Feel free to be as patronizing as ya want, CW.. :D

    David Brooks, of late, has been saying something which makes a lot of sense. Brooks is a moderate conservative (or, if that species doesn't exist anymore, perhaps a "reality-based" conservative), and what he's been saying could almost be called a truism: "Americans want more government than they are willing to pay for."

    In this, you seem to imply that the American people are WRONG in their attitude..

    And I agree with that.. We as Americans are, on the whole, a spoiled lot.. We want all the creature comforts, but don't want to pay the bill.

    This is simply a wrong attitude to have...

    Agreed??

    But then, all your talking points seem to re-enforce this attitude for political gain??

    Our American government simply MUST get this out of control spending under control.

    I am sure we agree on that...

    Obviously the Democrats can't do it, even with a super-majority and a lock on all facets of government.

    Maybe it's time to give the GOP a crack at it, eh??

    I'm just sayin'..

    As to Manning...

    His only "crime" is embarrassing the Obama Administration.

    THAT is why he has been held in dungeon like conditions and that is why there hasn't been such an outcry from the Hysterical Left...

    This is apparent from so much available evidence, it's hard to list it all.. But foremost amongst this evidence is the simple fact that, when WikiLeaks released military secrets, the Obama Administration's reaction was, "hoo-humm, no big deal, let's do lunch."

    Only when the Obama Administration was politically and diplomatically embarrassed by Manning, did the wrath of The One explode....

    Michale.....

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris,

    Does that help explain things?

    Ah, no.

    At the risk of sounding patronizing, that's not what I asked.

    Here is the pertinent part of my rant, just to be clear:
    There must be something I'm missing here because if the charges of his treatment are true, and I'll stipulate that they are, I cannot for the life of me understand why on earth this Pfc would be receiving this kind of treatment.

    According to Michale, Manning has suffered this inhumane treatment simply because he ambarrassed the Obama administration. Of course, I think the reasons are more complex.

    Why do you think he has suffered this kind of treatment?

    To be clear again, I am fully aware of the basic tenets of the American justice system. Up here in the Great White North, we actually have much the same system ... surprise, surprise. More suprising still, I fully support it!

    And, that still leaves me wondering - if all the reports of inhumane treatment are factual and, once again, I'll stipulate that they are - what on earth is going on here that the US government is treating this individual in such a manner. Surely, Michale is not right about this because he has used all of his credibility some time ago, don'tcha know. :)

    Hope all of that is clear as mud.

    Seriously.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    Maybe it's time to give the GOP a crack at it, eh??

    A crack at what? Getting spending under control? Growing the economy?

    Are you freakin' kidding me!?

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    Are you freakin' kidding me!?

    As opposed to Democrats who could only grow the spending to unheard of heights and totally decimated the economy??

    This country's economy simply cannot survive 4 more years of Democrat rule....

    Michale.....

  7. [7] 
    dsws wrote:

    "Can robot tanks and even robot infantry be all that far behind?"

    According to Wikipedia, over 3000 TALON robots have been deployed to combat theaters.

    "that's not what I asked."

    That was perfectly clear. CW's reply was far below his usual standards.

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    Liz,

    Surely, Michale is not right about this because he has used all of his credibility some time ago, don'tcha know. :)

    Ouch!! :D And the ref takes a point away!!! :D

    Michale.....

  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    This is going to seriously unbalance the concept of warfare itself. If one side can launch lethal attacks with no risk whatsoever to its military personnel, and the other side does not have this technology, then it's not all that fantastical to see a few years into the future when we just send in the robots to do all our fighting for us, no matter where in the world it takes place.

    I see this as the potential for increasing terrorism on our shores..

    Since *we* won't be fighting them over there, Islamic terrorists and radicals will have no choice but to come to the US if they want to kill Americans...

    Michale....

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    Ouch!! :D And the ref takes a point away!!! :D

    In the lost points department, you are so far down that you have to look up to see your knees!

    So, let's not get into a debate about that, OK? :)

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    As to Manning...

    His only "crime" is embarrassing the Obama Administration.

    THAT is why he has been held in dungeon like conditions ...

    Hey, at least you knew what I was asking. Of course, I don't buy that answer. :)

    Could there be something else to explain it?

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    Could there be something else to explain it?

    Nothing that fits the available facts..

    On the other hand, I am not trying very hard. :D

    Michale.....

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    Maybe I'm trying too hard ...

  14. [14] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    i've been trying to understand the administration's policies on quite a few things for over two years. i'm not any closer now than i was when i started. maybe the best course of action would just be to accept that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. or maybe the guy is just so busy and preoccupied that he's not paying attention to what he should, when he should. it's not just walking and chewing gum, after all...

  15. [15] 
    Michale wrote:

    NYpoet,

    I think we just have to accept the fact that any elected politician, regardless of affiliation, will look out for their own best interests, rather than ours...

    Michale.....

  16. [16] 
    akadjian wrote:

    The robots are directed by "pilots" from remote locations (Nevada, for instance), and the robot planes are only attacking targets the United States as a whole is currently attacking.

    Its somewhat surreal when you think about. Reminds me of "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card.

    What on earth is going on here that the US government is treating this individual in such a manner.

    @Liz- The best explanation I've seen about this so far goes something like this. If you don't want to have whistle blowers, you make an example out of anyone who steps forward. This is very similar to what happens in our country when folks reveal corporate wrong doing in our fair country.

    Sadly, I think the point Michale makes is close. Except Michale makes it political and about Obama. Bush would have done the same thing. Except he would be bragging about it.

    Its a thinly veiled threat, not to Manning, but to anyone else - you do this, and we will come after you.

    Glenn Greenwald has the best writeup I've seen on this so will point you at it:

    http://www.alternet.org/rights/150330/glenn_greenwald:_how_the_us_government_strikes_fear_in_its_own_citizens_and_people_around_the_world/?page=entire

    Left vs. right, Republicans vs. Democrats, is very much a false divide in our country.

    The real divide is much closer to: corporations vs. people, the rich vs. the middle class/poor. It is much more an economic divide.

    And Wikileaks is a threat to this established order. So what do you do? You make an example out of anyone brave enough to come forward.

    Do I believe Obama or any Democrats directly support this?

    No.

    Do I believe Democrats fear the political costs of coming out in favor of the rights of the accused?

    Yes. I believe the Dems fear being labeled weak in the press and the court of public opinion. Is this ironic? Yes.

    Is this sad? Yes.

    The right thing to do, in my opinion, would be to stand up for the principle of "innocent until proven guilty".

    -David

  17. [17] 
    Michale wrote:

    David,

    Except Michale makes it political and about Obama.

    It IS about Obama. Do you think anyone could have come down on Manning like a ton o' bricks w/o tacit approval from the Oval Office???

    Do I believe Obama or any Democrats directly support this?

    No.

    Oh com' on, David.... Obama is up to his neck in this...

    "He {Manning} broke the law."
    -President Obama

    No "he allegedly broke the law" ; no "he is accused of breaking the law"...

    No, it was "HE BROKE THE LAW"..

    If that's not directly supporting this, what is??

    Michale.....

  18. [18] 
    akadjian wrote:

    It IS about Obama.

    This statement could apply to just about anything coming from you.

    The weather ...
    The Bulls winning in the playoffs ...
    The daily stock prices ...

    What I'm really curious about is: how come you're doing a flip-flop?

    You're complaining about something that if others were doing, you'd be 100% for. At this point, you'd usually be saying that someone like Manning sides with the terrorists and should have been water-boarded.

    Does this mean you're abandoning principles to play politics :)?

    We're standing on a principle: Innocent until proven guilty. And I'd say the same thing regardless of who was in charge. In fact, I have.

    You seem to be flip-flopping in the wind because you just don't like Obama. You did the same thing w/ Syria. Where you would have been applauding a Republican or even other Democrats, you're criticizing Obama.

    I'll be direct. What is your principle on this?

    Are you for innocent until proven guilty. If so, then why did you support torturing prisoners at Guantanamo?

    If not, what is your principle?

    I think you've just made up your mind about Obama, and no matter what he does, if he turned water into wine, you'd still be complaining that you were thirsty :)

    -David

  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    David,

    I appreciate your response regarding why the Obama administration would allow the alleged inhumane treatment of Pfc Manning. I haven't heard any better explanation, to date.

    Contrary to Glenn Greenwald’s conspiratorial nonsense, however, the potential WikiLeaks release of a quarter million private and sensitive diplomatic cables has nothing to do with government transparency or wrongdoing, whatsoever.

  20. [20] 
    akadjian wrote:

    The potential WikiLeaks release of a quarter million private and sensitive diplomatic cables has nothing to do with government transparency or wrongdoing, whatsoever.

    That's quite a broad statement, Liz.

    What Wikileaks is doing is shedding unprecedented light on what the world's most powerful corporations and governments are doing.

    We seemed to be all for Wikileaks until the light was shined on our government. How do you explain the change of heart?

    How is this not about anti-transparency?
    -David

  21. [21] 
    Michale wrote:

    I don't think I have stated my opinion on Manning and WikiLeaks..

    I merely state that it is apparent from the factual evidence that OBAMA's opinion is that Manning's revelations wasn't any big deal until such time as the revelations embarrassed the Obama Administration politically and diplomatically..

    This simply re-enforces the belief that Obama has little use for the US military and anything that cast aspirations on the US military is no big deal..

    The current issue with the "Kill Team" photos in Afghanistan simply provides more evidence to that theory.

    The simple fact that I hold Obama to the same high standard that ya'all applied to President Bush could be viewed as nothing more than poetic justice... :D

    Michale....

  22. [22] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    David,

    I didn't have a change of heart Re. WikiLeaks.

    What legitamate purpose can you conjur up for the release of the wholesale and non-discriminate release of private, confidential and sensitive diplomatic cables?

    What wrongdoing has been exposed? What was the "whisleblower blowing the whistle on, in other words?

    I trust you are not among those, like the WikiLeaks supporters, who believe that the State Department and its diplomats must operate under a public microscope without being able to conduct diplomacy in a discreet and effective way.

    I will say again - the latest WikiLeaks info dump of diplomatic cables, has absolutely nothing to do with government transparency or with exposing government wrongdoing. I challenge you to prove otherwise.

  23. [23] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale [3] -

    I wouldn't say "wrong" what I'd say is "inconsistent" in their attitude.

    The GOP is taking a crack at it. Unfortunately for them, the American people don't agree with the Ryan plan. Republicans are overreaching, and they haven't really realized it yet.

    As for Manning, what I think is that the military itself is mighty PO'ed at Manning, and that's where the mistreatment likely sprung from. The GOP was incensed at Manning when the Wikileaks thing happened (they were incensed at Assange, too, but he's not a US citizen, limiting what they can do to him). But I'm not basing that on any facts, just a hunch, I do admit. I think Obama listened to his generals, who told him they had the Manning situation under control, and he just rubber stamped their decision. When it became a bigger and bigger embarrassment, I think Obama finally decided enough was enough. Again, pure supposition on my part, though.

    Liz [4] -

    You're right, that wasn't what you asked. Sorry, it was late at night and I was tired and answered the wrong point. Mea culpa.

    See my comment to Michale two paragraphs ago here, for how I think it played out. Again, just guesswork, though.

    Michale [6] -

    Heh. GOP in control? I echo Liz -- you've got to be freakin' kidding. Let's see, under Bush and a GOP Congress: two wars, unpaid for; Medicare Part D, unpaid for; massive tax cuts, unpaid for. Not exactly a great track record, is it?

    dsws [7] -

    TALON robots? I've got to look that up...

    Michale [9] -

    That is an interesting (and scary) point. Hmmm. Gotta think about that one.

    nypoet22 [14] -

    I base my supposition on an underlying theme, which is that presidents (especially Democrats, Clinton and Obama being the two best examples) who have not served in the military tend to defer to the Pentagon for military decisions more than people who have served or Republicans (Bush's time in the Natl Guard doesn't really count, I should mention). I think that's the dynamic that could be going on here. Obama, for instance, left Gates in charge, to assuage the Pentagon's fear of Democratic presidents. It worked, at least on keeping the Pentagon happy, but it meant he ceded some decision-making that another president might not have.

    Again, pure supposition, though.

    David [16] -

    I hadn't made the Ender's Game connection, but you're right.

    You put it better than I have here -- "making an example" is precisely what I think was going on. Good phrase, well done. And I also think you hit the nail on the head with the "Bush would be bragging about it" comment. As a matter of fact, your whole comment (especially towards the end) is the best thing I've read on the subject. I think your take is pretty accurate, all told.

    -CW

  24. [24] 
    Michale wrote:

    I will say again - the latest WikiLeaks info dump of diplomatic cables, has absolutely nothing to do with government transparency or with exposing government wrongdoing. I challenge you to prove otherwise.

    Not wanting to appear to be ganging up, Liz...

    What's your take on the previous WikiLeaks releases? The ones that deal with exposing military actions??

    The diplomatic WikiLeaks release appears to be nothing more than embarrassing to the US.. Juvenile claims from one US Diplomat about Daffy Duck's hot nurse with the big rack and things to that affect..

    But when one starts laying out Military Operations and processes, that has real world implications..

    No one gives a rat's arse if Daffy is boffin' a stacked Ukranian nurse. Well, someone might care, but in the grand scheme of things, it's small potatoes...

    People can die if military secrets become common knowledge....

    Michale.....

  25. [25] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Free Plug for akadjian:

    Check out David's blog post, which was inspired by a comment thread here. It's an interesting post, and I would encourage him to watch "Gangs Of New York" to see how the "private firefighting" actually worked out, historically (mostly, it didn't).

    -CW

  26. [26] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale [24] -

    Actually, wasn't Wikileaks indirectly responsible for some of the Arab Spring uprisings? Diplomatic cables about Tunisia (I think, doing this from memory) were one of the things that set the crowds off. So the diplomatic cables' leak, so far, has had more real-world impact than the military ones. The Abu Graib photos (note: not from Wikileaks) did more damage than anything Wikileaks has yet done, in my opinion.

    -CW

  27. [27] 
    Kevin wrote:

    Chris,

    Thanks for the link to David's blog. I enjoy reading his thoughts.

  28. [28] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris,

    You're right, that wasn't what you asked. Sorry, it was late at night and I was tired and answered the wrong point. Mea culpa.

    See my comment to Michale two paragraphs ago here, for how I think it played out. Again, just guesswork, though.

    No worries ... it happens. Oh, and thanks for the bit of editing magic. :)

    There's still a lot about this that just does not add up for me. It feels like we don't know anywhere near the real story ... yet.

  29. [29] 
    Michale wrote:

    CW,

    Heh. GOP in control? I echo Liz -- you've got to be freakin' kidding. Let's see, under Bush and a GOP Congress: two wars, unpaid for; Medicare Part D, unpaid for; massive tax cuts, unpaid for. Not exactly a great track record, is it?

    No it isn't...

    But pushing the deficit to obscene heights in just two years isn't exactly a great track record for the Dems.. Nor is having a virtual lock on the government and failing to accomplish anything meaningful..

    In short, Democrats had their shot. They did more harm than good..

    The alternative to the GOP is 4 more years of Democratic Party rule.

    Our economy cannot survive that...

    Actually, wasn't Wikileaks indirectly responsible for some of the Arab Spring uprisings? Diplomatic cables about Tunisia (I think, doing this from memory) were one of the things that set the crowds off.

    That's the claim from Wikileaks. I didn't read any claims from other sources however.

    The Abu Graib photos (note: not from Wikileaks) did more damage than anything Wikileaks has yet done, in my opinion.

    Which makes the lack of reaction to the Kill Team photos all the more insidious... It's not a case of the MSM lieing down on the job but rather a case of actively supressing news so as not to embarrass an American administration.. Much like CBS refusing to release the "Hot Mic" recording where, it is alleged, that Obama refers to Americans as "slugs"..

    Rather ironic since the Left is usually up in arms over so-called "selective editing" of releases from the Right...

    Michale.....

  30. [30] 
    Michale wrote:

    The robots are directed by "pilots" from remote locations (Nevada, for instance), and the robot planes are only attacking targets the United States as a whole is currently attacking.

    I remember reading a sci-fi book as a kid that had this.. The first chapter was a very intense and exciting chapter about 2 fighter pilots attacking an enemy stronghold. It described the combat action and how the fighter pilots evade enemy defenses and approached the enemy HQ.. One of the pilots received damage so he made the decision to kamikaze his fighter into the enemy HQ. Then the lights came on in the control room and his wingman cracked, "nice landing".... :D

    I remember thinking how kewl that was and wonder if I would ever live to see that come to pass..

    And here we are..

    Don't recall the name of that book, but it illustrates perfectly how yesterday's science fiction is today's science fact..

    Take THAT, anyone who ridicules my Star Trek quotes!!! :D (not any regulars here, to be sure..)

    Michale.....

  31. [31] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    But pushing the deficit to obscene heights in just two years isn't exactly a great track record for the Dems.. Nor is having a virtual lock on the government and failing to accomplish anything meaningful..

    You're making this too easy, Michale.

    In your haste to always equate - usually, falsely so - what the Republicans and Democrats are doing, you like to think you're giving the impression that you're a reasonable sort of guy and then, BOOM, you give yourself away as nothing more than a little shit disturber. I know. I can be one myself. :)

    Do you want to know what gives you away? It's your devilishly selective memory.

  32. [32] 
    Michale wrote:

    "I see that none other than Donald Trump is now apparently the Republican frontrunner in the 2012 nomination race. You know, there's a saying that if you lie down with dogs, you're going to wake up with fleas. In this case, you might say that if you lie down with clowns, you're going to get laughed at."

    It's rather ironic...

    Trump appeals to Joe Q Public because he treats the enemies and competitors of the US the way the Left wants Obama to treat the GOP...

    Just stick it to 'em without a thought to the consequences....

    Michale.....

  33. [33] 
    Michale wrote:

    Do you want to know what gives you away? It's your devilishly selective memory.

    Yer right.. I did forget something...

    "Well, maybe everybody does that a little bit. I think the responsibility the Democrats have may rest more in resisting any efforts by Republicans in the Congress or by me when I was President to put some standards and tighten up a little on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
    -President Bill Clinton

  34. [34] 
    Michale wrote:

    There is enough blame to go around as to what caused the financial meltdown...

    But what is undeniable is that Democrats had the political power to make things better.

    But they made things worse because they pursued their OWN agenda instead of doing right by the country and ALL Americans..

    Sure, one can spout a fact here or a poll there and say things are better... But, looking at the larger picture, looking at all aspects of our lives, can anyone truly say that things are better??

    Michale.....

  35. [35] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Check out David's blog post, which was inspired by a comment thread here.

    Thanks, CW. I meant to mention that here so I could thank Michale. I will have to check out Gangs of NY - I had no idea there were actual historical examples of private firefighting.

    @Liz
    I didn't have a change of heart Re. WikiLeaks.

    Apologies. Didn't mean to imply you so much as our government.

    I will say again - the latest WikiLeaks info dump of diplomatic cables, has absolutely nothing to do with government transparency or with exposing government wrongdoing.

    Liz, what I believe is that government should not be telling their people one thing while, in secret, they do another. This is what got us into situations like the Iraq War. When the government lies to the people, this is not a government we should trust. This is what got us into the Iraq War.

    This is some of what the Wikileaks documents reveal. That we were bombing Yemen while the leaders in Yemen were saying they did it.

    Our own officials are telling us that they believe Karzai is corrupt and a narcotics trafficker. Yet all we're told about him by our officials and press is that he smells like roses.

    Let me ask you this. Why do you feel a government should have to operate in secrecy? But why do you believe secrecy is a must have in the diplomatic world?

    (I know Michale's opinion on the subject - he would say it has the potential to jeopardize military operations if the wrong info is revealed.)

    For the record, I'm still not quite sure how I feel about this. I can think of cases where secrecy might jeopardize diplomacy. However, on the other hand, I think we are lied to way more than we should be using this as a justification.

    -David

  36. [36] 
    Michale wrote:

    For the record, I'm still not quite sure how I feel about this. I can think of cases where secrecy might jeopardize diplomacy. However, on the other hand, I think we are lied to way more than we should be using this as a justification.

    The key is not getting rid of or reducing the secrecy...

    The key is electing leaders that we TRUST to do right by us...

    Michale.....

  37. [37] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    David,

    Of course, I don't think the government needs to work in secrecy.

    I also don't think that the government needs to work under a microscope, particularly when it comes to private and confidential diplomatic cables.

    Here is a plain and simple fact - efffective diplomacy cannot take place completely in the public view.

    Our own officials are telling us that they believe Karzai is corrupt and a narcotics trafficker. Yet all we're told about him by our officials and press is that he smells like roses.

    Quite obviously, you are listening to the wrong public officials! In fact, I challenge you to name me one public official from the Obama administration who has said anything remotely resembling that Karzai smells like roses. Because, I would like to refer them to the vice president. :)

  38. [38] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    David,

    Discretion, as opposed to secrecy, is what is needed for effective diplomacy.

    I challenge you again to explain to me what legitimate purpose the potential release of 250,000 private and sensitive diplomatic cables could possibly serve.

    I mean, let's get real here.

  39. [39] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    David,

    And, to put it yet another way ...

    What do you suppose would be the motive for making available for public consumption a quarter million private, confidential and sensitive diplomatic cables? What was the "whistleblower" blowing the whistle on, precisely?

    As you fully realize, we live in a very complicated world with international challenges that are wrought with sensitive issues. These kinds of challenges need to handled - oh, how shall I say, diplomatically? ... with the utmost sensitivity and discretion.

    Now, I'm all for whisleblowing and the strongest of protections for whistleblowers. But, what we have here with the wholly indiscriminate release of a quarter million extremely sensitive and confidential diplomatic cables is a whole other issue and not at all related to exposing wrongdoing.

  40. [40] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Here is a plain and simple fact - efffective diplomacy cannot take place completely in the public view.

    As I mentioned, I still don't know quite how I feel about this. Yet anytime someone tells me something is "a plain and simple fact", my instinct is to question it.

    What would be the reason for secrecy? Well ... the biggest one I can think of is that we're involved in something that many people would not support if they knew the true details. Example: The Iraq War.

    Maybe, instead of "secret diplomacy", we shouldn't be involved in these things.

    Can you cite me an example where diplomacy required secrecy that doesn't fit this pattern?

    Again, I still have mixed feelings about this. But when someone tells me something is a "fact" with little to back it up, my internal alarm goes off.

    The only area I can think of where diplomacy would be needed is while negotiations of some sort are going on. Take the Israel/Palestine situation, for example. Either side might not want to leak details of concessions as this might jeopardize ongoing negotiations.

    But this would only be truly relevant while negotiations were ongoing. From what I saw, this didn't happen with the Wikileaks cables.

    Right now, our government is so corrupt and our traditional institutions for shedding daylight on corporate/government activities (such as the press) have been so bought and paid for that I would rather see everything out in the open.

    -David

    In fact, I challenge you to name me one public official from the Obama administration who has said anything remotely resembling that Karzai smells like roses.

    Liz, you're picking at details while missing the larger point: Why are we propping up another corrupt leader (while behind closed doors admitting he's corrupt)?

  41. [41] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    David,

    You surprise me. What do you think diplomacy is - a lead up to war? ... the execution of war? ...

  42. [42] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    David,

    Here is another plain and simple question for you ...

    What do think the role of the State Department is ... I mean, other than anything having to do with war? :) :)

  43. [43] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    David,

    The only area I can think of where diplomacy would be needed is while negotiations of some sort are going on. Take the Israel/Palestine situation, for example. Either side might not want to leak details of concessions as this might jeopardize ongoing negotiations.

    Now, you're getting close ... expand on that a little bit more and you'll be very close ...

  44. [44] 
    Michale wrote:

    "War is the continuation of diplomacy by other means."
    -Von Clausewitz

    :D

    Michale...

  45. [45] 
    Michale wrote:

    The only area I can think of where diplomacy would be needed is while negotiations of some sort are going on. Take the Israel/Palestine situation, for example. Either side might not want to leak details of concessions as this might jeopardize ongoing negotiations.

    Maybe that has been the whole problem with the Israel/Palestine negotiations from the get go.

    Too much secrecy...

    How can you negotiate with someone in good faith knowing that secrets are being kept??

    Michale.....

  46. [46] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    David,

    Right now, our government is so corrupt and our traditional institutions for shedding daylight on corporate/government activities (such as the press) have been so bought and paid for that I would rather see everything out in the open.

    I think I get it now - you are confusing the need for transparenty in government (see: Obama/Biden administration for most transparent government yet! Really.) with what diplomacy is.

    You still haven't told me what possible legitmate purpose is served by the release of all of these diplomatic cables which are private and confidential, potentially a quarter million of them, no less.

    Surely you cannot be saying that there should be no private and confidential documents exchanged between diplomats? But, if you are, I think we're done here and will have to agree to disagree, plain and simple. :)

  47. [47] 
    akadjian wrote:

    You still haven't told me what possible legitimate purpose is served by the release of all of these diplomatic cables which are private and confidential, potentially a quarter million of them, no less.

    Liz- We're finding out that there is a big difference between what our government says in public and what is said in private - we're finding out about some of the backroom deals.

    You still haven't shown me any examples where secrecy is necessary for diplomacy.

    Surely you cannot be saying that there should be no private and confidential documents exchanged between diplomats?

    No. But I'm trying to make some distinctions and figure out how I feel about this. And when it looks like our own government is lying to us, I'd err on the side of transparency.

    What's interesting to me is how aggressively our government is pursuing Wikileaks compared to how little they pursued those responsible for the Wall Street crash.

    What does this tell us about the priorities of our government?

    How can you negotiate with someone in good faith knowing that secrets are being kept?

    I think what Liz is arguing is that the negotiations themselves should be kept secret because otherwise any deals might be jeopardized. For example, if you're trying to negotiate w/ Qaddafi and you make fun of his mustache in an e-mail to the Israelis. Ok, bad example, but you get the idea.

    And to some extent I think I'd agree. Though as I've mentioned, still thinking through this.

    The point I'm stuck on is that I think the secrecy thing has gone to far. It feels more like secret deals cut in back rooms which could be wildly unpopular if not for their secrecy.

    Here's where I feel that right now we need to air on the side of transparency.

    -David

  48. [48] 
    akadjian wrote:

    p.s. Just to add. What I really enjoy about this site is that I'm able to try to work through how I feel about something with the help of people who may be able to show me other angles.

    I think of these as "thinking out loud" sessions. At a lot of sites you don't get this because of the back and forth nature of things.

    So thank you both for being patient w/ me!

  49. [49] 
    Michale wrote:

    I think what Liz is arguing is that the negotiations themselves should be kept secret because otherwise any deals might be jeopardized. For example, if you're trying to negotiate w/ Qaddafi and you make fun of his mustache in an e-mail to the Israelis. Ok, bad example, but you get the idea.

    But that's kinda my point..

    If a deal would be jeopardized by full disclosure, then maybe it's a bad deal to begin with..

    And don't think I don't notice the irony of me arguing on the side of full disclosure. :D

    Michale.....

  50. [50] 
    akadjian wrote:

    If a deal would be jeopardized by full disclosure, then maybe it's a bad deal to begin with..

    Yes. That's a good way to put it. I think this is, what I'd call, Category A - deals which may be bad to begin with.

    I think there's at least a Category B as well. Possibly more. Still not sure how to characterize the difference though.

    Unfortunately, work is getting in the way of my being able to think this through :)!

    And don't think I don't notice the irony of me arguing on the side of full disclosure. :D

    LOL! At least you point it out and can joke about it!

    -David

  51. [51] 
    Michale wrote:

    I believe that, at it's best, diplomacy exists to make friends out of enemies..

    Given this, secrecy is anathema to the diplomatic process...

    On the other hand, diplomacy ALSO exits to prevent enemies from nuking the hell out of each other... In THOSE cases, I can see where secrecy is essential...

    It's likely that the second form of diplomacy is what we are discussing..

    Michale.....

  52. [52] 
    dsws wrote:

    To some degree, they have to go after those involved in Wikileaks. If you insult other countries, it can have significant consequences. If you deliberately leak an insult, you've added insult to, um, more insult, by making it look more sincere than if you said it in public. If it gets leaked and you don't have conniptions, it will be assumed to be intentional.

  53. [53] 
    Michale wrote:

    dsws,

    Good point. Very good point.

    Michale.....

  54. [54] 
    Michale wrote:

    (in an "alternate timeline," a favorite dodge of the sci-fi literary genre).

    Yea, what is up with THAT!!!??

    I mean, ignoring for the moment that abomination that was Star Trek 90210, I see this happening in a LOT of TV shows...

    EUREKA for one...

    I guess it could be worse...

    Producers and Directors could resurrect the old Dallas/Dream Sequence again...

    Gods.....

    Michale.....

  55. [55] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    David,

    I'm going to gather my thoughts in an effort to help you resolve yours. :)

    However, that will take a while.

    See ya later!

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