[The original version of this post appeared at the Washington Examiner on Nov. 29, 2010]
Well somebody really doesn’t like the United States now, do they? Or perhaps, as childish antics often turn out to be, Julian Assange’s provocations are really cries for attention from the most powerful nation in the world. Then again, maybe he just needs a nap. Whatever the actual reasons, Mr. Assange and Wikileaks do not warrant being treated as public enemy number one.
“This is worse even than a physical attack on Americans, it’s worse than a military attack,” King said.
King has written letters to both U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking for swift action to be taken against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.
King wants Holder to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act and has also called on Clinton to determine whether WikiLeaks could be designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
All hyperbole aside, Rep. King’s suggested course of action — i.e. pursuing judicial remedies — are a bit over the top, but at least somewhat within reason. I’m not sure that anything Assange has done is actually prosecutable since he did not steal the information, and there is no discernible difference between his release of the information and that of, say, the New York Times. But at least criminal prosecution is within the realm of reason.
I’ve heard others mention much more violent courses of action for Assange, up to and including assassination. That would be truly ludicrous, especially given that the information leaked thusfar has done little more than expose the diplomatic corps as petty, niggling and dishonest.
Is that even news? If exposing stuffed shirts to embarrassment is all that is necessary to hurl the globe into World War III, so much so that assassination is deemed an appropriate penalty for the likes of Assange, then that would sort of obviate the need for diplomats in the first place. And while a world without pompous and pampered scolds pretending to be in charge of everything does seem like paradise, knocking off some waifish ex-Aussie just seems like a really poor way of bring that about.
So what do we do then?
Well, the first thing would be for the U.S. government to get a better hold on anything it deems “secret” or “confidential.” Step 1 might include such precautions as limiting access to sensitive information to something less than 3 million people:
The US embassy cables are marked “Sipdis” – secret internet protocol distribution. They were compiled as part of a programme under which selected dispatches, considered moderately secret but suitable for sharing with other agencies, would be automatically loaded on to secure embassy websites, and linked with the military’s Siprnet internet system.
They are classified at various levels up to “secret noforn” [no foreigners]. More than 11,000 are marked secret, while around 9,000 of the cables are marked noforn.
More than 3 million US government personnel and soldiers, many extremely junior, are cleared to have potential access to this material, even though the cables contain the identities of foreign informants, often sensitive contacts in dictatorial regimes. Some are marked “protect” or “strictly protect”.
Step 2 should probably involve an intense training program for all State Department personnel called “The Internet is Forever” including a two-day workshop on “What not to write in an email accessible by over 3 million people.”
Although I am being glib, I don’t find anything redeeming about the behavior of Assange and Wikileaks, and if there is some law akin to charging them with receipt of stolen goods, then sobeit. Bradley Manning, if he is indeed the leaker, should face much stiffer penalties, primarily because he was placed in a position of trust and he violated the duties commensurate with his position. Facing the death penalty for treason is too much, but a court martial and potential jail time would appear to fit the crime at this point.
What we should not do is overreact. Assange and his cronies are acting like children, and that’s how they should be treated — i.e. neither ignoring the bad behavior outright, nor giving undue attention that will ensure further incidents of such behavior. Getting into a high dudgeon just gives the insolent mite the reaction he’s looking for. It is true that the leaks have caused a great deal of embarrassment for the United States, but other than the first four French Republics, no nation has been rent assunder by embarrassment.
Let’s not act like that’s the danger we’re facing.[ad#Banner]
Because we all know that ET would much prefer to speak with an “obscure Malaysian astrophysicist”, for sure:
THE United Nations was set today to appoint an obscure Malaysian astrophysicist to act as Earth’s first contact for any aliens that may come visiting.
Mazlan Othman, the head of the UN’s little-known Office for Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa), is to describe her potential new role next week at a scientific conference at the Royal Society’s Kavli conference centre in Buckinghamshire.
She is scheduled to tell delegates that the recent discovery of hundreds of planets around other stars has made the detection of extraterrestrial life more likely than ever before – and that means the UN must be ready to coordinate humanity’s response to any “first contact”.
You’ve got to love the UN deciding to glom on to this. Hey, another reason to increase dues.
Can you imagine a worse institution to have represent humanity than the UN? And frankly, if intelligent aliens ever turned up here and were first greeted by representatives of the UN, my guess is we’d be a cinder fairly quickly after that, being deemed by the aliens as not intelligent enough to warrant further survival.
However, in Dr. Othman’s case, I have to profess some admiration. She certainly has established herself in a secure job for, well, millennia if she can figure out how to stay alive that long.
And yes folks, your tax dollars, in the form of UN dues, will indeed go toward paying for her new duties.
Live long and prosper.
What was always suspected, yet never proved, has now been exposed:
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change misled the press and public into believing that thousands of scientists backed its claims on manmade global warming, according to Mike Hulme, a prominent climate scientist and IPCC insider. The actual number of scientists who backed that claim was “only a few dozen experts,” he states in a paper for Progress in Physical Geography, co-authored with student Martin Mahony.
“Claims such as ‘2,500 of the world’s leading scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate’ are disingenuous,” the paper states unambiguously, adding that they rendered “the IPCC vulnerable to outside criticism.”
You’re shocked I’m sure. But just who is Mike Hulme that he’d have any credibility to make such a bold claim? As it turns out, he’s not only a professor at the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia (yes, that one), and the founding Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, he also was a co-ordinating lead author on a portion of the IPCC
Not exactly a climate-denialist. But you do have to wonder why he’s making this claim now? Why didn’t he expose the consensus fraud while in the middle of his work on the IPCC?
Actually, if you read the paper (pdf) in which his statement appears, it seems that Hulme wasn’t so much making an accusation as he was simply making an offhand comment:
Since its origins, the IPCC has been open and explicit about seeking to generate a ‘scientific consensus’ around climate change and especially about the role of humans in climate change. Yet this has been a source of both strength and vulnerability for the IPCC. Understanding consensus as a process of ‘truth creation’ (or the more nuanced ‘knowledge production’) which marginalises dissenting voices – as has frequently been portrayed by some of the IPCC’s critics (see Edwards & Schneider, 2001; Petersen, 2010) – does not do justice to the process.
Consensus-building in fact serves several different goals. As Horst and Irwin (2010) have explained, seeking consensus can be as much about building a community identity – what Haas (1992) refers to as an epistemic community – as it is about seeking the ‘truth’. Equally, as Yearley (2009) explains, IPCC consensus-making is an exercise in collective judgement about subjective (or Bayesian) likelihoods in areas of uncertain knowledge. Consensus-making in the IPCC has been largely driven by the desire to communicate climate science coherently to a wide spectrum of policy users – ‘to construct knowledge’ (Weingart, 1999) – but in so doing communicating uncertainties have been down-played (van der Sluijs, 1998). As Oppenheimer et al. (2007: 1506) remark: “The establishment of consensus by the IPCC is no longer as critical to governments as [is] a full exploration of uncertainty.”
Without a careful explanation about what it means, this drive for consensus can leave the IPCC vulnerable to outside criticism. Claims such as ‘2,500 of the world’s leading scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate’ are disingenuous. That particular consensus judgement, as are many others in the IPCC reports, is reached by only a few dozen experts in the specific field of detection and attribution studies; other IPCC authors are experts in other fields. But consensus-making can also lead to criticism for being too conservative, as Hansen (2007) has most visibly argued. Was the IPCC AR4 too conservative in reaching its consensus about future sea-level rise? Many glaciologists and oceanographers think they were (Kerr, 2007; Rahmstorf, 2010), leading to what Hansen attacks as ‘scientific reticence’. Solomon et al. (2008) offer a robust defence, stating that far from reaching a premature consensus, the AR4 report stated that in fact no consensus could be reached on the magnitude of the possible fast ice-sheet melt processes that some fear could lead to 1 or 2 metres of sea-level rise this century. Hence these processes were not included in the quantitative estimates.
Incredibly, Hulme’s point here is that making completely false claims, such as that a consensus on AGW has been reached by “2,500 of the world’s leading scientists” (or maybe it’s 4,000!), is merely the aggressive flip-side to being too conservative in failing to make unsupported claims on which no one agrees. At least, he compares these two “criticisms” of the IPCC efforts to build consensus as if they were two ends of a spectrum. Sadly, when it comes to climate “science” this is exactly where the problem lies.
Instead of dealing in actual science (where hypotheses are proposed, experiments and data-collection ensue, and actual results inform us as to what is happening), we instead are offered catastrophic theories unsupported by little if any actual data but that, by golly gee, sure do have a whole lot of “consensus” behind them. After all, who are we peons to doubt the “experts”? It’s not as if a group of people has ever been persuaded to … ahem, “adjust” their arguments in order to acquire sweeping political power. One wonders if the word “cabal” exists in any dictionaries in the University of East Anglia’s libraries.
If anyone working on the IPCC wants to know why their reputation is in the tank, perhaps they’d better take a look at what the public “consensus” is regarding fraudulent claims designed to increase the fraudsters’ power. And then maybe they should reacquaint themselves with actual science.
Well I’m pretty sure Iran is just horrified at the new sanctions – the toughest ever as our president claimed.
“With time, we got a resolution that we felt was very meaningful and credible and significant,” said Susan E. Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations. “But had we wanted a low-ball, low-impact resolution, we could have had that in a very short period of time.”
Good thing they went for the brass ring and didn’t take a low-ball, low-impact resolution, by gosh. I mean, check this beauty out:
The main thrust of the sanctions is against military purchases, trade and financial transactions carried out by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which controls the nuclear program and has taken a more central role in running the country and the economy.
Right – so now they’ll set up front companies and do their business through willing countries like Turkey, Brazil and Venezuela. Moving on:
The sanctions tighten measures previously taken against 40 individuals, putting them under a travel ban and asset freeze, but adds just one name to the list — Javad Rahiqi, 56, the head of the Isfahan Nuclear Technology Center.
Whoa – they added one person to the sanctions of travel bans and asset freezing for a total of 41? My goodness, the humanity. That has a terrific chance of stopping any nuclear program dead in its tracks.
The sanctions require countries to inspect ships or planes headed to or from Iran if they suspect banned cargo is aboard, but there is no authorization to board ships by force at sea. Iran has also proved itself adept at obscuring its ownership of cargo vessels.
So, wait, other countries can try to inspect Iranian ships they suspect of carrying banned cargo, but they cannot use force to board that ship. In other words, all the Iranian captain has to say is “no” and refuse to allow them on board, and the “inspection” is over? Thank goodness they didn’t go for low-ball, low-impact sanctions. They’d have probably allowed the Iranians to board the inspecting ship.
Another aspect of the sanctions bars all countries from allowing Iran to invest in their nuclear enrichment plants, uranium mines and other nuclear-related technology, and sets up a new committee to monitor enforcement.
Well there you go – the one positive aspect of this whole thing: the UN has managed to form yet another committee which will offer employment to a plethora of 3rd world diplomats who might otherwise have to do something useful to earn their keep without it.
The almost childlike belief by this administration that it can accomplish anything through the UN, especially stopping Iran from achieving a nuclear device, is incredible on its face. But to think the list of “sanctions” above equals “tough” is mind-boggling.
There is no appetite among the 3rd world to punish Iran in favor of the US’s policy desires. And especially now that they see a weak horse in charge here. The Obama administration can call this anything they want, but calling them “tough sanctions” is embarrassing. Thank goodness they didn’t opt for the low-impact, low-ball option. I’m sure that included a strongly worded letter.
At its base, most wars are a fight over resources and power. The wars waged by governments and quasi-governmental agencies over revenue are really no different – they too are constantly looking for the resources to extend their power. Take the UN’s World Health Organization:
The World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations’ public health arm, is moving full speed ahead with a controversial plan to impose global consumer taxes on such things as Internet activity and everyday financial transactions like paying bills online — while its spending soars and its own financial house is in disarray.
The aim of its taxing plans is to raise “tens of billions” of dollars for WHO that would be used to radically reorganize the research, development, production and distribution of medicines around the world, with greater emphasis on drugs for communicable diseases in poor countries.
WHO resents the fact that most of the research done in the world is done on non-communicable diseases such as cancer instead of communicable diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis mostly effecting poor countries. WHO points to a 1986 study (1986?) that claims only 5% of global R&D was applied to health problems of developing countries. Of course most understand that the developed countries already have effective methods of dealing with those communicable diseases that could be transferred to poorer countries, but that would kill their bid for this massive money and power grab.
Anyway, here’s the plan. WHO presented a “suite of proposals” for “new and innovative sources of funding” to WHO’s Executive Board in January. Apparently they got the go-ahead then:
Now the proposals are headed for the four-day annual meeting of the 193-member World Health Assembly, WHO’s chief legislative organ, which begins in Geneva on May 17.
The Health Assembly, a medical version of the United Nations General Assembly, will be invited to “take note” of the experts’ report. It will then head back with that passive endorsement to another Executive Board meeting, which begins May 22, for further action. It is the Executive Board that will “give effect” to the Assembly’s decisions.
What it all means is that a major lobbying effort could soon be underway to convince rich governments in particular to begin taxing citizens or industries to finance a drastic restructuring of medical research and development on behalf of poorer ones.
The scheme would leave WHO in the middle, helping to manage a “global health research and innovation coordination and funding mechanism,” as the experts’ report calls it.
In effect, the plan amounts to a pharmaceutical version of the U.N.-sponsored climate-change deal that failed to win global approval at Copenhagen last December. If implemented as the experts suggest, it could easily involve the same kind of wealth transfers as the failed Copenhagen summit, which will send $30 billion a year to poor nations, starting this year.
An international cap-and-tax plan failed in Copenhagen, but never fear, there will always be some international organization with “innovative, new ideas” about tapping your wallet. And all it needs, as was the case in Copenhagen, is enough gullible governments to agree to need for the tax (thankfully in this country, the Senate must ratify any such foolishness and to this point, at least, has refused such nonsense). The “new and innovative” taxing, er, funding methods include:
• a “digital” or “bit” tax on Internet activity, which could raise “tens of billions of U.S. dollars”;
• a 10 percent tax on international arms deals, “worth about $5 billion per annum”;
• a financial transaction tax, citing a Brazilian levy that was raising some $20 billion per year until it was canceled (for unspecified reasons);
• an airline tax that already exists in 13 countries and has raised some $1 billion.
I bring all of this up to point out that whether this particular bit of nonsense goes anywhere, there are people and organizations all over the world (the UN in particular) which are constantly trying to establish “new and innovative” ways to increase their power and take your money. These attempts, in the wake of this global economic downturn, are going to intensify in the years to come. WHO is only a harbinger of these types – both domestic and international – who are going to try to tax us till we drop. Revenue sources are the new key battleground for governments and NGOs, and when it all is boiled down to it’s essence, your earnings are the primary source for their future expansion of power.
The best way to counter this addition to power is to follow Nancy Reagan’s advice and just say “no”.
I often call it the “third world debating club” because it gives visibility and a platform for such third world “notables” as Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. And it often does bizarre and totally absurd things like this:
Without fanfare, the United Nations this week elected Iran to its Commission on the Status of Women, handing a four-year seat on the influential human rights body to a theocratic state in which stoning is enshrined in law and lashings are required for women judged “immodest.”
How do you take seriously a body which elects to its “Commission on the Status of Women” – a commission “dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women” – a country which openly and proudly oppresses its women?
Only the UN can answer that question.