"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Taking the rare occasion

to agree with Ron Paul (via Andrew Sullivan):

“In a free society, we are supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, we are in big trouble,” – Ron Paul.

My sympathies are not entirely with Assange/Wikileaks, though, which is the context for the quote. After all, we know how leaks can be spun into something they aren't.

On the other other hand, the sort of extralegal enforcement via corporate capitalist revenge being directed against Assange isn't making the choice any easier. If there's any truth to Greenwald's reports, this creative new approach says to someone the establishment doesn't like "we may not have anything we can pin on you but we can make it impossible for you to work in this town, where "this town" is the world. Watch out for this. Regardless of your sympathies or otherwise for Assange this sets a very dangerous precedent. It essentially creates a shadow legal system controlled by bankers where conviction and sentencing is in the hands of an oligarchy. I am not usually inclined to be paranoid but even if you are actually a banker if you can't see the dangers in this one, I can't imagine what you are thinking. There is no reason this couldn't be scaled up, and in the end it is completely random whether whoever has their hands on this machine once it is in gear likes you and your friends or not.

I could imagine one of the Mayors Daley trying to pull a stunt like this, so Obama's hand may be right on this thing in the Chicago tradition. It's one thing to run a city on clout, though, another to play these games on a planetary scale. This is scary, and is enough to make me rethink my support for Obama.

I don't have a lot of Tea Party buttons, but this pushes all of them, and hard.

Update: I agree completely with Clay Shirky. While I am somewhat sadly forced to admit that he is thinking about this and writing about it more clearly than I myself have done, I am happy to point to something that makes complete sense to me. Read his piece. Two key quotes from it:
I am conflicted about the right balance between the visibility ... and the need for private speech among international actors. Here’s what I’m not conflicted about: When authorities can’t get what they want by working within the law, the right answer is not to work outside the law. The right answer is that they can’t get what they want.
If it’s OK for a democracy to just decide to run someone off the internet for doing something they wouldn’t prosecute a newspaper for doing, the idea of an internet that further democratizes the public sphere will have taken a mortal blow.


Ian Bicking said...

I think the legal efforts are a sign that on some level the legal system works well enough that it's not the tool many people in the government want it to be, so they are forced to handle this differently. So I think it's somewhat positive that the conventional tools (legal manipulation, violence) aren't being found as suitable -- because those are altogether worse tools IMHO. It's like people freaking out about "cyberwar" -- but cyberwar is infinitely better than real war, so insofar as it is a substitution I'm all for it.

Michael Tobis said...

Hi Ian! An interesting point, but I respectfully disagree.

Did you elect your bankers? Is there something in the constitution about them being judge and jury? My whole point is that I don't see any obvious limits as to how far this could go.

I suppose, bringing this back to Chicago, that one could argue that it's nothing new. See redlining. Bankers can be a very pernicious proxy for official injustice.

Nosmo said...

Are you surprised? There were many signs since 9/11 that things have been getting much worse recently, (starting with putting nuns on the no fly list, all the way through valarie Plame/Joe Wilson, to holding people without any legal review. But this has always been the case.

This is what happens to people who piss off the powerful.

I haven't been paying a lot of attention to the leaks, but a few things I've heard on the radio have indicated that the reporting in the US, (including the NYTs and WP) is very biased. Heard someone Sunday listing the discrepancies between the Guardian's reporting and the NYTs. Also Al Jezerra English had a bit on the leaks and persecution of Asange this morning. My local Pacifica station is now carrying it. Definitely worth listing to:

Unfortunately the Tea Party is just giving power to those who make this sort of thing easier.

Rich Puchalsky said...

I blog about this a bit (and link back to In It) here.

Dol said...

This little factoid really illuminated things for me. From the Guardian (that link may not last...):

"Charles Arthur, the Guardian's technology editor, points out that while MasterCard and Visa have cut WikiLeaks off you can still use those cards to donate to overtly racist organisations such as the Knights Party, which is supported by the Ku Klux Klan.

"The Ku Klux Klan website directs users to a site called Christian Concepts. It takes Visa and MasterCard donations for users willing to state that they are "white and not of racially mixed descent. I am not married to a non-white. I do not date non-whites nor do I have non-white dependents. I believe in the ideals of western Christian civilisation and profess my belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God."

Dol said...

Also - irony alert: the leaks themselves have, by general consensus, been a little embarrassing but actually shown the U.S up to be a pretty decent member of the community of nations. The U.S. response to those leaks, however, appears to be sending exactly the opposite message.

Hank Roberts said...

Isn't the disclosure of the bank files scheduled for sometime in the next month or so?

I recall seeing a single sentence somewhere suggesting there are leaked bank files yet to come, then that dropped off the radar entirely.

I don't believe the reports of black helicopters lifting executives off the rooftops of major banks, though. I just made that one up.

Seriously, it's obvious somebody's terrified something is going to come out.

Likely not coincidental, a proposal for an alternative to the whole domain naming system that can be yanked out from under anyone to make you non-net-person:

It's Time to Stop ICANN's Top-Level Domain Lunacy! by Lauren Weinstein


"... we've increasingly seen the DNS provides an ideal mechanism for
centralized censorship ..."

Hank Roberts said...


Wikileaks Saga Reveals Governments' Hypocrisy, Deep Fear of Internet

and, a bit earlier:

An alternative Internet name to address mapping system -- fully distributed, open source, fault-tolerant, secure, flexible, and not subject to centralized constraints, meddling, and censorship .....
I'd like to offer a modest suggestion to perhaps help start down this important path.
Please take a look at:


dhogaza said...

"I recall seeing a single sentence somewhere suggesting there are leaked bank files yet to come, then that dropped off the radar entirely."

Apparently they've tarballed the entire set of documents and have distributed 100,000 encrypted copies.

Or so they say.

The idea is that all they need to do is to publish the encryption key, and everything they have will quickly be made available on so many servers that it will be impossible to put the genie back in the bottle.

This is meant to be a disincentive for the more extreme options various governments might be contemplating.

They've also made the full archives available to Der Spiegel, El Pais, The Guardian (which shared them with the NY Times), and Le Monde, but so far the press has only released about 1500 (of 260,000) cables.

As to what's in those roughly 260,000 unreleased diplomatic cables, I have no idea? Do black money op details including banking info get transmitted via normal diplomatic cables? Is there other stuff in the stash of loot?

Brian said...

"Here’s what I’m not conflicted about: When authorities can’t get what they want by working within the law, the right answer is not to work outside the law. The right answer is that they can’t get what they want."

Isn't this the basis of Rep. Barton's apology to BP?

I think the right answer is a little more nuanced.