Tuesday, November 30, 2010


One of the stories I have let sail past me is the Wikileaks story. This issue strikes right at the heart of the sorts of cognitive dissonance we live with now. Which is to say one of, perhaps the biggest, disappointments with the Obama administration has nothing to do with increasing the deficit to stimulate the economy, or health care. That disappointment is the large scale continuation of business as usual in the executive branch. Now, the current Afghan surge is possibly part of that situation (that is sort of ambiguous), but the sorts of things revealed in the Wikileaks dump clearly is. Without having gone through them, I gather there have been secret talks where our middle eastern allies are pushing us to at least bomb Iran.

Glenn Greenwald has been covering this story, and delves into government and media reaction to the Wikileaks release. And to me, that is where things get interesting. The government is objecting to this theft of secret documents and the media is largely agreeing with them. Bill Keller admits to checking with the administration as it went to publish parts of the release, to make sure lives would not be endangered. So how is that different than Judith Miller publishing information about WMD's that she got from the (previous) administration without independent confirmation in the run-up to the Iraq war?

However, since this is the Obama administration, many people are caught between their automatic support for a Democratic administration and their desire to support whistle-blowers standing up to authority. Actually, I'll allow that any given person's support for Obama may be more nuanced than "automatic", but any one who steps back and tries to look at this situation dispassionately has to wonder why the Obama administration is acting so much like the Bush administration. Most nobody is stepping back. And that is a problem because it will have a further chilling efect on whistle blowers elsewhere in the government and in private industry.

The movie "Inside Job" also noted that many of Obama's top advisers, including Timothy Geitner and Lawrence Summers, have strong ties to banks and Wall Street (including sitting on boards). Now, I won't say that Obama's administration should have been a complete break with the past. But I think that an attempt at more balance, bringing in some people who were less inclined to place the financial industries' interests over the rest of the country, would have been a good thing. Increasingly, Obama is inhabiting the worst of all worlds. He is villainized by the right, excoriated by the Tea Party, and yet serves the interests of super rich and the military industrial complex. Can we get something, either Obama cutting his ties to industry and secrecy, or for the right to acknowledge Obama has done them a lot of good?


EdHeath said...

Well, you sort of have a point, except that I am going to agree with those who reviewed the CLimategate emails, that there was nothing damning in the emails. Further I am going to say that 97% of climate scientists say that climate change is occurring, and I will say that I suspect an overwhelming majority of them say it is caused or at least accelerated by human activities. Now, if a Climate Change researcher had stolen the emails and released them as a whistle blower to expose some kind of deception, that would be one thing. Instead, we don't know the identity of the thief, which pretty much indicates he/she is not a whistle blower, and had only bad intentions. And the climate denier community jumped on the emails as proof that climate change is a myth without ever offering a specific shred of proof.

Let me repeat, it is one thing to release secret government activities that indicate the government is lying about its intentions versus its actual actions, it is another to steal emails (business and personal) from an academic institution with the intent to distort and twist the information in them.

That said, there are some interesting issues involved. If the Obama administration were as interested in transparency as he had claimed it would be when he was campaigning, we would expect a more neutral response to Wikileaks activities.

Greenwald's piece indicates the irony of the NYTimes position. It recieved the Wikileaks release not from Wikileaks, but rather from the (UK) Guardian. And as I said, it has or is still running what it publishes by the Obama administration. The NYTimes has a ways to go before (re)establishing that it is an independent source of news.

EdHeath said...

OK, weird. My comment above was a response to a comment Heir to the Throne left a little while ago. But when I posted my comment, his went poof. Here is the text of his comment from the email Blogger automatically sends (some italics removed by the copy and paste, as while as a hyper link, see bottom):

Heir to the Throne has left a new comment on your post "Wikileaks":

and their desire to support whistle-blowers standing up to authority.
Quite a double standard when compared to the progressive defense of Climategate emails.
Climategate emails in the NY Times
“The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.” Andrew Revkin, Environment Editor, New York Times Nov 20, 2009.
Wikileaks in the NY Times
“The articles published today and in coming days are based on thousands of United States embassy cables, the daily reports from the field intended for the eyes of senior policy makers in Washington. The New York Times and a number of publications in Europe were given access to the material several weeks ago and agreed to begin publication of articles based on the cables online on Sunday. The Times believes that the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match.” New York Times editorial 29/11/2010

Posted by Heir to the Throne to Cognitive dissonance in Pittsburgh and beyond at November 30, 2010 1:15 PM

This is the removed link: http://ace.mu.nu/archives/308825.php

Heir to the Throne said...

climate change is occurring,
I believe that the climate changes all the time.
it is another to steal emails (business and personal) from an academic institution with the intent to distort and twist the information in them.

From Andrew Revkin, Environment Editor, New York Times Nov 20, 2009.

Second, in the rush on the day the files were distributed across the Web, I called them "private" when, in fact, I should have said their senders had presumed they were private. As I've said off and on since then,
given that much of the research discussed in the exchanges was done using taxpayers' money, any expectation of privacy wasn't justified.]
BTW, Wikileaks claims the next leak will be from a large private bank.
How You Can Stop Worrying And Learn To Love This Wikileaks Bank Data Dump, Liberals
Or does the your standard only apply to taxpayer funded academic institutions?

EdHeath said...

Well, HTTT, I understand *your* double standard. You believe that anything progressives do is inherently evil. Except that scientists, whether climate or otherwise, don't have an agenda, or more accurately don't let their personal feelings affect their work. If they tried to use science to further a particular agenda, their colleagues in other countries would point this out.

Absolutely the public policies that follow from scientific conclusions about the state of the climate are created by politicians with their own agendas. That is a political can and should take place. But this bullshit you are spreading "I believe that the climate changes all the time." is simply an attempt to weasel out of the fact that you are supporting the Republican/conservative/Tea Party anti-intellectual attack on our culture. Or do you support a 100% tax on gas and the closing of factory farms in America?

By the way, I don't know if the researchers at East Anglia are paid for with government money or not, but if they are the money is pounds, not dollars.

And given what I saw in "Inside Job", a Wikileaks dump from a financial institution hardly seems like a bad idea. This is another place where our government is falling short, and some transparency would be a good thing.