Free Markets, Free People
As Bruce points out below, the failure of the Super Committee should come as no surprise to anyone who was paying attention. Even where committees arrive at an agreed solution, it rarely ever gets implemented. What’s worse, in this case, the Super Committee was operating under the sword of automatic spending cuts to domestic and military programs should it fail to arrive at a consensus — i.e. no side had any incentive to deliver more or less than what would automatically go into place anyway. Of course, Pres. Obama running a re-election campaign based on a “do nothing” Congress certainly didn’t inspire his Democratic brethren on the Super Committee to find common ground either.
But these aren’t the real reasons for the Super Committee failure. Instead, as Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) writes in the Wall Street Journal today, the underlying problem is one of ideological impasse:
Ultimately, the committee did not succeed because we could not bridge the gap between two dramatically competing visions of the role government should play in a free society, the proper purpose and design of the social safety net, and the fundamentals of job creation and economic growth.
For the members of the Super Committee, the choice seemed to be between raising taxes on a small percentage of earners and making no cuts or reforms to the shibboleths of Medicare and Social Security, or reducing taxes and modestly curbing entitlements at some point in the future. In other words, it was a choice between expanding or slightly retarding the growth of government. However, it’s not just the specifics that make compromise difficult, if not impossible. Where one side believes that government is always the answer to what ails us, and the other (at least nominally) operates from the premise that individual effort leads to greater prosperity for all, there is only so much compromise that can be reached between the two. Eventually, government will be either too small or too big for the other side to bear.
This is the crucible in which somehow a compromise was to be reached on federal spending.
As it stands now, government spending is equal to about 35% to 40% of GDP, while our national debt is around 100% of GDP. At the federal level, we are borrowing 40 cents of every dollar that we spend, and entertaining trillion dollar plus deficits year after year for as long as we can reasonably forecast. This is the vision of those who see government as playing the primary role in most every aspect of society since it costs a lot of money to execute that vision. Yet, despite the fact that government has done nothing but grow over the past sixty years, they are convinced that anything smaller than what we currently have will lead to economic and social ruin. To be sure, after finally getting the government foot in the door of universal health care, the liberal base is not about to countenance any willing walk-back on those gains. The Democrats on the Super Committee were well aware of this, and that accepting changes to Medicare and Social Security or any other dearly loved social program would result in a deep backlash from those who believe that all of life is dependent on government.
Opposing that vision are those who think that government should be smaller and less intrusive, especially with respect to our economy. They look at our ever-growing debt and anemic, if not illusory, economic gains and see nothing but trouble down the road we’re traveling. Unfortunately, while total government spending is often publicly recognized as the problem, too many of these visionaries think that simply reducing tax rates will flood the federal coffers and all will be right with world. It’s true that raising taxes in a declining or struggling economy will tend to exacerbate, not alleviate, the problem. But Republicans on the committee also know that their base stand ready to punish any member who suggests raising taxes, now or in the future, regardless of the fact that the spending cuts necessary to get our debt problems under control simply aren’t feasible. And they won’t have much better luck at the ballot box if they even hint at reforming Medicare or Social Security.
Even where they are willing to take that chance, however, the Democrats can’t politically afford to compromise:
The Medicare reforms would make no changes for those in or near retirement. Beginning in 2022, beneficiaries would be guaranteed a choice of Medicare-approved private health coverage options and guaranteed a premium-support payment to help pay for the plan they choose.
Democrats rejected this approach but assured us on numerous occasions they would offer a “structural” or “architectural” Medicare reform plan of their own. While I do not question their good faith effort to do so, they never did.
Republicans on the committee also offered to negotiate a plan based on the bipartisan “Protect Medicare Act” authored by Alice Rivlin, one of President Bill Clinton’s budget directors, and Pete Domenici, a former Republican senator from New Mexico. Rivlin-Domenici offered financial support to seniors to purchase quality, affordable health coverage in Medicare-approved plans. These seniors would be able to choose from a list of Medicare-guaranteed coverage options, similar to the House budget’s approach—except that Rivlin-Domenici would continue to include a traditional Medicare fee-for-service plan among the options.
This approach was also rejected by committee Democrats.
The Congressional Budget Office, the Medicare trustees, and the Government Accountability Office have each repeatedly said that our health-care entitlements are unsustainable. Committee Democrats offered modest adjustments to these programs, but they were far from sufficient to meet the challenge. And even their modest changes were made contingent upon a minimum of $1 trillion in higher taxes—a move sure to stifle job creation during the worst economy in recent memory.
Even if Republicans agreed to every tax increase desired by the president, our national debt would continue to grow uncontrollably. Controlling spending is therefore a crucial challenge. The other is economic growth and job creation, which would produce the necessary revenue to fund our priorities.
Meanwhile, we operate under a tax system that is so heavily skewed towards the highest income producers that our government is dependent on about five percent of the taxpayers for a majority of its revenue, and only a quarter of all tax payers for more than 85% of that revenue. To the Democrats, this is apparently a good start. Republicans, on the other hand, see an unfair system that, if properly reworked, could raise even more revenue. Either way the spending, and thus the government, grows.
The definition of “priorities” is the real sticking point. It means either that everything from price and income support to cradle-to-grave health care is a priority, or that only the basic structural necessities of national defense, courts of law and last-resort safety nets qualify. There has been a great deal of compromise on that definition over the past several decades (albeit, always resulting in an expanding government), but it seems that we’ve finally reached the limit where any further acquiescence by one side results in unbearable loss to the other side. It’s difficult to see how we can successfully move forward as a unified country with such diametrically opposed visions for the role of government. Indeed, maybe we can’t for very much longer.
That’s a quote
from attributed to Abraham Lincoln* as delivered by Richard Epstein in his discussion of economic inequality (a meme that is all the rage right now). Interestingly enough, this interview was conducted and broadcast by PBS (as tree hugging sister notes “I’m sure whoever’s idea it was has been sacked. Along with all the llama trainers”).
In any event, this is as good a retort to the #OWS nonsense as you’ll likely find. Enjoy (HT: Insty):
ADDED: Although Epstein doesn’t say it explicitly, essentially he describes “economic inequality” as a benign effect, rather than a malignant cause. Understanding the difference leads to understanding why allowing for the greatest number of opportunities works better at increasing everyone’s wealth instead of trying to equalize outcomes.
* Thanks to DWPittelli for pointing out this misattribution in the comments (“It was the Reverend William John Henry Boetcker (1873–1962) who wrote “you cannot help the poor by destroying the rich” and 9 other related aphorisms in 1916. A printing error in 1942 led to the confusion between some Lincoln quotes and these Boetcker quotes.”).
After much agitation from the “birther” crowd, and the recent pressure from Donald Trump, President Obama finally released his long-form birth certificate. And it is wholly unremarkable:
The President believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn’t good for the country. It may have been good politics and good TV, but it was bad for the American people and distracting from the many challenges we face as a country. Therefore, the President directed his counsel to review the legal authority for seeking access to the long form certificate and to request on that basis that the Hawaii State Department of Health make an exception to release a copy of his long form birth certificate. They granted that exception in part because of the tremendous volume of requests they had been getting.
Nothing about whether his parents were married, or what his religion is, or really anything else. Just the fact that he was born in Honolulu (which many of us already knew).
Of course, the fully committed will still carry on with the conspiracy theory, but hopefully those who were simply skeptical because Obama was so reluctant to release the document will now be satisfied. And then maybe we can all concentrate on the myriad real world reasons why Obama is unqualified to be President of the United States.
So we’ve reached an agreement. I’m not surprised. The entire argument — over money, of course — was nothing more than a prelude to an inevitable act.
Foreplay, if you will.
Oh sure, the back and forth was heated at times, but was there ever any doubt that the money-spenders would arrive at a deal? I mean, you cut off a gold-digger from the credit cards and concessions will inevitably be made. Not at first of course (even whores have their pride), but once it becomes inevitable that the spigot will be cut off, even the lowliest scum whores will come to obeisance. It’s what they do.
Without the sweet ambrosia of federal income, the power brokers — a.k.a. your elected officials — would lose all of their power, ephemeral as it may be. And powerless whores are the lowliest whores of all.
Why are they (i.e. Congress, the White House) whores? Because no matter what, regardless of any consequences, our “betters” have declared themselves to be more concerned with maintaining their ability to lord their will over our money (being realistic, our credit), than they are with protecting our ability to spend it as we see fit. Their main worry is that they won’t be able to control how we spend that money, and — most importantly — that it won’t go to the “correct” people. Frankly, if they can’t control our income/wealth/money, then they can’t control us. Indeed, without access to our tax dollars, congress-critters will have no influence at all. And that will not abide for too many if them.
Whatever the deal may be, the only certainty is that, like any John, we’re screwed. And that we will still be paying maximum price for that pleasure.
I don’t mean to make light of the fact that the House was able to wrestle some budget cuts away from the opposition. Kudos are definitely due. But they are paltry … i.e. cuts of $39,000,000,000 in the face of a $1,650,000,000,000 deficit just for this year, which is about a 2.4% cut. Seriously? Who cares?
The unfortunate answer is, “your representatives of all stripes and colors.” Because they need that money to dole out the gifts that keep them in power. A government shutdown means that there will be no incoming money to buy the power and influence our rulers crave. They may whinge about seniors dying and children crying, but what they truly care about is the power of the purse. With that power they can pay off favored constituents whom they will eventually call to account for the government’s distribution of largesse (witness the current fear-mongering about budget-cutters wanting to “kill women” and starve the elderly). They are simply using our tax dollars to buy their own power.
Our elected money-spenders will always bleat in earnest when their source of power is interrupted. So, of course a budget deal was cut. Like a wanton slut, they will always strike a deal to keep the money flowing.
The mantra amongst the warmist community is that if we don’t curb our carbon emissions drastically, the planet will warm severely and wreak all sorts of havoc. While the actual science doesn’t support that notion, the levers of power around the world are encouraged to heed the warmists’ warnings by curbing freedom and subsidizing things like the “green economy.” The London suburb community known as Muswell Hill took some initiative in that regard and built The Living Ark:
The LivingARK is a zero-carbon cabin designed to facilitate education on low carbon building technologies and raise awareness of climate change. It will be used to showcase sustainability not only to Muswell Hill Primary School pupils but to other local schools, community groups and residents. There are educational information boards both inside and outside the ARK which will explain the concept of a zero-carbon building and will also cover wider ranging topics such as sustainable transport, food-growing and an explanation of climate change.
Presumably, it’s called an Ark in reference to the massive flooding that’s supposed to happen thanks to Anthropogenic Global Warming. Ironically, its designed to prevent such a catastrophe from happening in the first place. Unfortunately, the designers forgot that England doesn’t get a whole lot of sun:
Eco-campaigners who built a classroom powered by the sun believed they were paving the way for the future.
Instead they have been taught a valuable lesson – there is not enough sun in North London to sufficiently heat their building.
It boasts laudable green credentials and is made from sustainable wood, sheep’s wool and soil. The roof is made of mud and grass and it has its own ‘rain pod’ and solar panels.
But there is snag – its solar panels only provide enough energy to power a few lightbulbs.
As a result the classroom is bitterly cold and uninhabitable for lessons.
Oops. And at a cost of just over $40,000, and rather expensive “oops.”
Local councillors, at Labour run Haringey council, who were behind the initiative, opened it with great fanfare in December as a beacon of their climate change policy.
But today a local parent at the 419-pupil school said teachers weren’t allowing pupils into the classroom because it was too cold.
‘What is the point of a classroom that can’t be used when it’s a bit cold outside? My kids have been told it’s too cold for them to use as nobody can figure out how to heat it,’ said the parent, who did not want to be named.
‘This is just an expensive piece of hollowed out wood and no use to anyone. We are living in Britain, not the Caribbean.’
The ‘waste’ of money comes as councils across the country are facing a severe shortage of school places.
By 2018 they will need to find an additional 500,000 primary places due to a population surge.
Once again cold, hard reality smacks down attempts to wish a fantasy world into existence. Maybe they, and the rest of the warmist cult, should pay a little more attention to that science stuff that nanny-staters are always claiming to be so fond of.
Since the tragedy in Arizona, where nineteen people were shot (including U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords) and six murdered, talk of “civility” has been plentiful. The right side of the political spectrum was called to the mat for using such horrible words as “target” and “socialism” and having the temerity to employ Hitler/Nazism comparisons in protest signage (that, the truth be told, they weren’t even carrying). Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement were specifically denigrated for employing uncivil “eliminationist” rhetoric that was directly responsible for Mr. Jared Lee Loughner pulling the trigger in that awful event on January 8, 2011.
The gross mendacity (and unintentional preterition) of these charges against the right generally, and the Tea Partiers specifically, is bad enough. That they are leveled with abject hypocrisy is even worse. But politics is not a sport well-played in a tit-for-tat fashion. Everyone is guilty of hyperbole and hypocrisy at some point, regardless of political afflialiation.
What’s truly galling is the way that “civility” is suddenly determined by the language an opponent employs. Civility has nothing to do with words, but instead, everything to do with action. On that score, Democrats are behaving in as uncivil a manner as is possible.
A civilized nation conducts itself according to a defined, written, universally applicable and executable set of laws. Adherence to such laws are the immutable backbone of any society capable of survival. Wanton disregard of such laws inexorably leads to chaos and tyranny. Ergo, “civility” does not depend on people speaking nicely about one another, but upon everyone playing by the same rules.
The current flouting of the legal process in Wisconsin and now Indiana, (and what previously occurred in Texas), is the true definition of uncivil. Ignoring and actively undermining the electoral process is the epitome of “uncivil” action. Whatever harsh words may or may not have been spoken before, civility is still entirely dependent upon the process for determining the course of action in pursuit of public goals. Running away in avoidance of legislative duties smacks of cowardice and worse. It uproots the civil process.
A common observation of the democracy holds that voting is simply a proxy for violence. Fleshed out a bit, the process of electoral action is made in lieu of battle. We could decide the course of society based on bloody battle alone, and let might make right. Instead, civil societies have chosen to allow the consent of the governed to rule, the best of which societies have done so through a responsive and accountable republic. When the governors cease to heed to will of the governed, however, civil society becomes endangered and trouble is inevitable.
No less than Thomas Jefferson warned of the dangers in pursuing “uncivil” means of governance in the “shot across the bow” leading to the American Revolution, entitled “A Summary View of the Rights of British America” (emphasis added):
And this his majesty will think we have reason to expect when he reflects that he is no more than the chief officer of the people, appointed by the laws, and circumscribed with definite powers, to assist in working the great machine of government erected for their use, and consequently subject to their superintendance …
To remind him that our ancestors, before their emigration to America, were the free inhabitants of the British dominions in Europe, and possessed a right, which nature has given to all men, of departing from the country in which chance, not choice has placed them, of going in quest of new habitations, and of there establishing new societies, under such laws and regulations as to them shall seem most likely to promote public happiness. That their Saxon ancestors had under this universal law, in like manner, left their native wilds and woods in the North of Europe, had possessed themselves of the island of Britain then less charged with inhabitants, and had established there that system of laws which has so long been the glory and protection of that country … Their own blood was spilt in acquiring lands for their settlement, their own fortunes expended in making that settlement effectual. For themselves they fought, for themselves they conquered, and for themselves alone they have right to hold …
But that not long were they permitted, however far they thought themselves removed from the hand of oppression, to hold undisturbed the rights thus acquired at the hazard of their lives and loss of their fortunes. A family of princes was then on the British throne, whose treasonable crimes against their people brought on them afterwards the exertion of those sacred and sovereign rights of punishment, reserved in the hands of the people for cases of extreme necessity, and judged by the constitution unsafe to be delegated to any other judicature. While every day brought forth some new and unjustifiable exertion of power over their subjects on that side the water, it was not to be expected that those here, much less able at that time to oppose the designs of despotism, should be exempted from injury. Accordingly that country which had been acquired by the lives, the labors and the fortunes of individual adventurers, was by these princes at several times parted out and distributed among the favorites and followers of their fortunes; and by an assumed right of the crown alone were erected into distinct and independent governments
Jefferson later simplified his empirical understanding of how societies work with the infamous quote: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
Another way of comprehending the principle is that a nation of laws only survives as long as the laws are adhered to. Every sovereign, whether composed of one or many, can only retain the authority entrusted to it by the people for as long as it respects that trust. Once it strays, enough to undermine the confidence of the governed, those “sacred and sovereign rights of punishment” will come into play. While such an extreme consequence may be remote at this time, there is no good that can come from enacting the foundations for its execution.
When the basis of a democratic republic — i.e. the electoral process — is entirely ignored and, worse, evaded as a politically inconvenient nuisance to the preferred outcomes of the very people entrusted with the public duty to uphold the republic, is there any doubt that it will fall?
Civility in our political language is certainly useful and desirable, if not actually attainable. In contrast, civility – i.e. respect for the process and outcomes thereof – is the sine qua non of our democratic institutions. While we may prefer the former, we really must insist on the latter.
There is a new opinion from U.S. District (DC) Judge Kessler ruling that the individual mandate imposed by ObamaCare is constitutional. The primary importance of the ruling is that it is squarely at odds with the Judge Vinson opinion from the District of Florida on one key issue: that deciding not to purchase something is an “activity” that can be regulated under the Commerce Clause. I’m still going through it, and will have more to say, but a few things really leaped out at me.
(1) Kessler places a lot of emphasis on the “free riders” who consume medical services but don’t pay for them. According to the judge, these free rider problems are illuminated by the congressional findings found in the Affordable Care Act (at pp. 39-40):
The findings on this subject could not be clearer: the great majority of the millions of Americans who remain uninsured consume medical services they cannot pay for, often resulting in personal bankruptcy. In fact, the ACA’s findings state that “62% of all personal bankruptcies are caused in part by medical expenses.” ACA § 1501(a)(2)(G), as amended by § 10106. Of even greater significance to the national economy is the fact that these uninsured individuals are, in fact, shifting the uncompensated costs of those services–which totaled $43 billion in 2008–onto other health care market participants, as well as federal and state governments and American taxpayers. See ACA §§ 1501(a)(2)(F), (G),as amended by § 10106; Thomas More Law Ctr., 720 F.Supp.2d at 894.
Because of this cost-shifting effect, the individual decision to forgo health insurance, when considered in the aggregate, leads to substantially higher insurance premiums for those other individuals who do obtain coverage. According to Congress, the uncompensated costs of caring for the uninsured are passed on by health care providers to private insurers, which in turn pass on the cost to purchasers of health insurance. “This cost shifting increases family premiums by on average over $1,000 a year.” ACA §1501(a)(2)(F), as amended by § 10106. Thus, the aggregate effect on interstate commerce of the decisions of individuals to forgo insurance is very substantial.
There are many problems with these “findings” chief among which is an innumeracy problem. According to the first two quoted sentences, we are supposed to infer that 62% of all personal bankruptcies are made up of those “who remain uninsured” and “consume medical services they cannot pay for.” Indeed, according to Kessler’s understanding of the findings, the foregoing population is the “great majority of Americans who remain uninsured.” The only problem is, even if we assume that the 62% statistic is correct (which is a stretch), the number of personal bankruptcies every year does not even reach 2 million. Indeed, 2009 saw personal bankruptcies soar by 32% … to 1.41 million. Sixty-two percent of that is just 874,200, which is far, far fewer people than the “great majority of the millions of Americans who remain uninsured.”
(2) Another glaring issue is that the “cost-shifting” complained of is entirely the fault of the federal government, not “free riders,” thanks to Congress passing EMTALA in 1986, pursuant to which practically every hospital in the nation was forced to accept any and every patient who requested “emergency services.” In short, Congress created the free riders with this legislation.
Now let’s follow the logic here: (a) hospitals refuse to treat patients who can’t afford their medical services, therefore Congress must force hospitals to treat regardless of ability to pay (i.e. costs shifted to hospitals); (b) Patients who can’t afford the medical services, but who hospitals must treat, raise costs of medical services, which are mostly paid by insurers who raise their rates and pass them on to paying patients (i.e costs shifted to service-providers, then insurers, then paying patients); (c) insurance costs are entirely too high because uninsured patients, who can’t afford insurance or medical services, but whom hospitals must treat anyway, which drives up the costs of services and therefore the costs of insurance, and therefore Congress must force everyone to buy insurance (i.e. costs shifted from paying patients to those who can’t afford services or insurance); (d) because some people can’t afford insurance, they must be subsidized in their mandated purchase of insurance by taxpayers (i.e. costs re-shifted back to paying patients).
Putting it all together, according to Kessler’s opinion, Congress must be able to force individuals to purchase insurance because individuals who can’t afford insurance, but still consume health services (thanks to Congress), are causing the health insurance market to become distorted. (Oh, and by the way, those who can afford insurance are going to have to subsidize those who can’t and are therefore responsible for this whole mess in the first place.) Does that make any sense?
(3) The one other thing that really struck me as worrisome is Kessler’s emphasis on the infamous Wickard v. Filburn case (at p. 40):
In this case, the link [between the activity and the market being regulated] is strikingly similar to that described in Wickard: individuals are actively choosing to remain outside of a market for a particular commodity, and, as a result, Congress’s efforts to stabilize prices for that commodity are thwarted. As Wickard demonstrates, the effects of such market-distorting behavior are sufficiently related to interstate commerce to justify Congress’s efforts to stabilize the price of a commodity through its Commerce Clause power.
This is the reasoning underpinning Kessler’s holding (at p. 38) that “[b]oth the decision to purchase health insurance and its flip side–the decision not to purchase health insurance–therefore relate to the consumption of a commodity: a health insurance policy.” In this view, any decision made about an arguably economic subject, even the decision not to participate in a market concerning that economic subject, is subject to regulation by Congress.
Accordingly, should Congress decide to regulate the market for U.S automobiles, your decision to not purchase a vehicle can be regulated and even penalized by federal law. In fact, if Kessler’s view of the Constitution is correct, then Congress could require that you purchase a GM or Chrysler vehicle in order to stabilize the price of that commodity. Or perhaps, because of free rider problems, you can be penalized for choosing not to have children who would grow up, enter the labor force and pay the Social Security and Medicare taxes necessary to support you in your older years. If Kessler is correct, then the only limit on Congressional power is the inability to conjure up a market to be regulated, since any decision (participate/not participate) will have a substantial effect on that market when considered in the aggregate.
I would submit that this cannot be the correct view. The Commerce Clause power has already been distended far beyond what was intended when it written. If the Supreme Court adopts this decision, or something similar, the Congress would effectively have carte blanche to regulate whatever it desires.
In any event, those three things stood out to me. I’ll try to have some more on the opinion itself by tonight.
This is part of a very long post regarding the meme being shaped by the left:
If even a left-winger can’t resist Rush Limbaugh’s commands to kill when he doesn’t even hear them, what possible chance is there that the 60% of the Tea Party which is primed to murder will resist his call when they do hear it?
As they say, RTWT.
[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.
Outside of Libertarian Party types, few people probably even remember who former Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) is anymore. He was most famous, of course, for spearheading the prosecution of Pres. William J. Clinton’s impeachment. However, Barr was also a fierce “Drug Warrior” and a leading proponent of the Defense of Marriage Act, which drew the wrath of many libertarians. After his House district was combined with another Republican, Barr was ousted from office much to the delight of liberals and libertarians.
Two years later, Mr. Barr is using his role as putative head of the Libertarian Party to make endorsements of congressional candidates such as … Russ Feingold:
What I look for in Washington are folks in the Senate and the House who put the Constitution first. Not the “R” or the “D”, not partisan politics but the Constitution. And what you have in Russ, and I have worked closely with him over a number of years to try to rein in the Patriot Act, to try to rein in the government surveillance and so forth — this is a man who understands the Constitution, who supports and fights sometimes against his own party to defend the Constitution in the Congress of the United States in ways that are much more consistent and much more proactive than a lot of Republicans.
That’s right, folks, Bob Barr believes that Russ Feingold — the man who helped bring us that delightful attack upon our First Amendment rights known as “McCain-Feingold” — “is a man who understands the Constitution.” Now, I suppose Barr could have meant that Feingold knows the Constitution in that Kierkegaardian sense that one must know it so intimately and thoroughly in order to fully oppose it. But some how I think not.
Instead, Barr intends to throw the weight of the Libertarian Party behind a politician who thinks that political speech can be legislatively restricted, that it is the job of government to provide everyone health care, that Congress can and should set compensation for each and every one of us based on gender, and who takes myriad other anti-freedom positions. Which, for the 3,209th time, is why I will not ever be associated with the Libertarian Party.