December 12, 2010

Slowly, the left jumps on board

Cute cartoon in The Australian yesterday, which I can't find online:

PM speech bubble:  Any idea how Howard got away with David Hicks?
AG speech bubble: I'm just checking Wikileaks for clues.

The ALP left finally objects to the government's stand on Julian Assange, having taken more than a week to collect its thoughts ... Gillard's left flank revolts over Assange.

Our AG continues to struggle with basic concepts:
" ... asked to clarify the government's position, Mr McClelland repeated his assertion that it would be illegal in Australia to obtain or distribute classified documents.

"I said by way of analogy that if . . . serving military personnel or officer of the commonwealth had access to a similar database in Australia and took confidential national security classified information off that website and revealed it, I have no doubt it would raise issues of potential criminality."
And again:  Julian Assange didn't steal anything, and nothing was stolen in Australia.  As far as I know, Private Bradley Manning hasn't put his hand up to seek refuge in Australia either, so the AG doesn't have any intellectually or politically challenging problems on his plate right this minute.

Christopher Hitchens leans right - a bit amusing, given that Assange identifies with libertarians, rather than the left - but seems to misunderstand the person and the topic, and being not entirely sure what he's arguing for or against:
"The cunning of the strategy set by Julian Assange, the founder and editor of WikiLeaks, is that he has made everyone complicit in his own private decision to try to sabotage US foreign policy.

Unless you consider yourself bound by the hysterically stupid decision of the Obama administration to forbid all federal employees from downloading or viewing the WikiLeaks papers, you will at the very least have indulged in a certain amount of guilty pleasure.
Well Hitch, given that the actual collaborators were newspapers, and given that newspapers are still deemed the most legitimate mass distributors of information, I doubt that anyone felt guilty doing what they usually do:  reading the daily news.  The cables are far less grubby than much of the flotsam that nowadays passes for news.  Those cables were firstly redacted by the newspapers, and the redacted versions were the very same that Wikileaks published.  Wikileaks asked the US State Department for help with editing, but the request was declined. 

But wait!  Out of nowhere, Hitch finds himself with one leg uncomfortably on either side of the fence, the cables (stolen by someone other than Julian Assange), had some wider value, and warranted publication, in some instances (those instances being judged solely by Hitchens):
"In a couple of important instances, the disclosures are of great value to the regime-change diehards among us."
The key take outs from this:  Assange is "cunning" while Hitchens is a "diehard". 

But enough of the gushing praise, Hitchens gallops into a fantasy fueled psychological evaluation, none of which is supported by the few journalists who have met the man in question and who have analysed in great detail what it means to be Julian Assange:
"The man is plainly a micro-megalomaniac [I didn't know megalomaniacs came in different sizes; I thought "mega" was definitive in itself - Ed] with few if any scruples and an undisguised agenda.

As I wrote before, when he says his aim is "to end two wars", one knows at once what he means by the "ending". [No, we don't.  Spell out your deepest paranoia's next time Hitch - Ed]

In his fantasies he is probably [Can't be sure, haven't met or interviewed him, so lets take a school-boy stab at it - Ed] some kind of guerilla warrior, but in the real world he is a middleman and peddler who resents the civilisation that nurtured him. [By all accounts Assange is quite civilized.  Probably even uses a knife and fork when he eats - Ed]

Recently, in two separate news reports, The New York Times described his little cabal as an anti-secrecy and whistleblowing outfit.

Such mush-headed approval at least can be withheld from the delightful Assange, even as we all help ourselves to his market of ill-gotten goods."
 A little less mush-headed Hitchens might serve us all better.

Ditto the hand-me-down fluff from Miranda Divine who today (in her "influential column") rolled out what she believes must be a true description of all geeks, asserting that Assange is a "socially inept loner". 

By all reliable public reporting, he is charming and absorbing company.   The quite forensic narratives of his days in Sweden, in August, suggest that he was socially, not just sexually, surrounded, and quite enjoying himself.   Even the women whose accusations later resulted in the pending sexual assault charges against him continued to socialize with him following their assaults, one throwing a party for him, the other in going out to breakfast.  A tweet from one of the women (now deleted), three days after Assange allegedly raped her boasted that she was hanging out with THE COOLEST people ... that would be Assange.


Middleman peddles his ill gotten gains


The less than influential or accurate Miranda Divine

18 comments:

  1. Jacob9:13 PM

    Sorry, forgot the

    // RANT ENDS //

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  2. Latest vanishing:

    - open both comments on Blackberry; do not delete them

    - open blog page, see that "2 comments" have been safely onboarded to the thread

    - open comments

    - one comment.

    Here's the first one:

    Jacob: Sun, Dec 12, 2010 at 9:10 PM

    The impression I get reading Hitch, here and going further back, is that the sub-text of a lot of his commentary is retrospective validation of his support for the Iraq war, which seems to be becoming more urgent, and indeed quite poignant, in light of his mortality staring him in the face. Have to say that, apart from the rank human tragedy of it, his grave illness is appalling because the guy's bloody brilliant.

    Turning from brilliance to fucking rank mediocrity, what can one say about Andrew Bolt's schlok-pop-psychological assessment of Assange's alleged inner oedipal conflict, in which Bolt is "struck by the fact" (THE FACT!) that Assange's subversive activities are attributable to Assange being a child from an allegedly "badly broken home," such that he wants to "sock it to The Man, the Government... the Father."

    Jesus wept, I could wax so lyrical about Bolt's filial fixation upon Daddy Rupert, and his desperate, sad, sad, sad desire for the approval of the Biggest Daddy of Them All, the conservative establishment (whoever the bloody hell they are), which so animates the man to, for example, make patently absurd claims about Kevin Rudd "giving aid to Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe."

    But I wouldn't expect ANYONE to take such waffle at all seriously, in the sense of being clinically diagnostic!

    Is it even possible for a fucknuckle like Bolt to play the ball rather than the man??

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  3. Hitchens has written some brilliant pieces about being on the way out, and I look forward to more from him, during whatever time he has left.

    The piece in The Australian was so sloppy that I kept rechecking the name, as I thought I'd misread, perhaps it was some other Hitchens.

    Bolt is hilarious.

    Oh dear, the number of amateur psychologists jumping into the public domain on this is frightful.

    It doesn't seem to occur to them that Assange might genuinely believe that governments lie to us, relentlessly - and that's in the democratic countries - we're all dupes, and transparency in government is an oxymoron. We relive the lies every single day, every week, every year.

    Maybe, just maybe, Assange believes this to be WRONG. Maybe he believes that people have the right to know more about how our governments make the decisions upon which local and global realities play out - our lives, and the lives of others (in the case of military or economic actions), in other words.

    Perhaps he's a deluded fool, but even we deluded folk often truly believe that to which we cling. It might be wrong, but the beliefs are genuinely held.

    I don't happen to think that Assange is wrong. I also don't think that there's some subtle, incremental manner in which the point he is making could possible me made. This is crash through or crash stuff. Except that the crashing through will only be temporary, before secrecy becomes more brutally applied.

    Our local governments frequently tell us that they will ensure and increase "transparency". The more they talk about it, the more secretive they become. So much so that even the spending of our taxes is deemed too secret to reveal basic content of contracts.

    No, I don't think Assange is wrong, and I don't think his *shattered* childhood did him any huge harm. It certainly held him in good stead for frequent address changes.

    He has, it seems, demonstrated lots of ordinary and "normal" human traits, like spending eight years fighting in courts for access (or custody?) of his son, before giving up. Sounds like a good father, particularly given that he was only 18, a point in life when many young men would have taken the walk-away and forget about it option.

    He has studied at university, albeit, without any interest in graduating (ah, I can think of a few of us who have done exactly that ... ).

    His personal crusade, his high IQ, can hardly be put down to being to a neglected and shattered childhood. He seems to have come out of an unsettling and unconventional upbringing remarkably well.

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  4. Jacob9:43 PM

    Wow... well saved! You should play for Manchester Bloody United!

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  5. Forgot: yes Jacob, baby Jebus is definitely doing a lot of weeping!

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  6. "It certainly held him in good stead for frequent address changes."

    Hmm, somewhat as Hitch's "unconventional" etc. childhood prepared him for "exile".

    Thank baby bejesus we won't have to suffer any unflattering character sketches of Hitch from the Murdoch media. Because he "turned" their way -- or so they think.

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  7. http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/41934.html

    Sorry you guys just can't agree.
    Assanges's motives, I believe are not entirely altruistic.

    As Melbourne writer Luke Walladge says.(see above link for full article)

    "Confidentiality is not corruption. Exactly what moral cause does Julian Assange pursue."

    I just don't see the point to all this shit..
    Assange is not telling us anything new here.

    Really.!! Why reveal personal conversations between world leaders?

    Assange is just a glorified gossip columnist.
    And yes, I do believe that the little prick is a megalomaniac.

    Bit like Rudd really.

    Made all the decisions without consultation with collegues.

    Assange's former right hand man apparently plans to launch a rival site after accusing him of behaving like some kind of emperor or slave trader.

    "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely."

    Lets not make a hero out of this dickhead, eh?

    Though, Gillard is trying her darndest to do so. (Another dickhead) With her ridiculous comments of illegality..

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  8. Anonymous10:04 AM

    On the 4th August 1964 the US destroyer Maddox was attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. President Johnson captured this incident to wage open warfare against the North Vietnamese.

    The rest is history; 500 Australians, 50,000 Americans and probably over one million Vietnamese were slaughtered. What we all know now, or should know, is that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a fabrication, a lie - a (toxic) meme engineered for one purpose only: to justify a war of choice long desired by the US military industrial complex.

    More recent examples of toxic memes engineered and spread like a virus by the Powers that Be: "weapons of mass destruction", "mushroom clouds", "the war on terror", "they hate us for our freedom" etc. And now we are engaged in more wars of choice long desired (and planned) by the US neo-conservative policy makers and the US military industrial complex.

    Personally, I don't give a rats whether Julian Assange's actions were unethical, illegal or simply bad manners, I'll leave that debate up to the arm chair warriors, lawyers and opinion writers.

    Me? I'm just pleased to know the truth, no matter how it reveals itself, or who reveals it, or what state of mind led them to do it.

    "Time is the father of truth, its mother is our mind." Giordano Bruno.

    j

    PS. I wonder what all those arm chair physcs would have made out of that nut case Bruno?

    PPS. Caz, hope this finds it's way to you - gremlins willing.

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  9. Saying Assange is a glorified gossip columnist makes me think of when Bob Hawke called airline pilots glorified bus drivers.

    Which is yet another exercise in idle pigeon-holing.

    This whole business has been reduced to a gossip-columny thing where Assange is this, Assange is that, oh did you hear who did what to whom, uh oh, the guy has an "underground lair". Yep, he's like Blofeld. Nope, he's like bin Laden.

    The likes of Bolt et al condemn and then psychologise the guy, "Oh, he's from a broken home and we all know what kids from broken homes are like." Then Bolt doesn't hesitate to use wikileaks material to give his hate-object Rudd the shaft.

    What this thing is, is a circus. Kind of like a circus without any rings or a show band or dancing ponies, but Assange is the trapeze guy... or the ringmaster. Yes that's it, he's the ringmaster.

    But a ringmaster without any rings? Next analogy...

    Seriously though, granted Luke Walladge does make a couple of interesting and important points, such as confidentiality <> corruption, etc.

    And I agree with you in at least one respect, Kath, which is that Assange is probably more like Rudd and less like Hicks.

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  10. Kath

    Why? Same as any other game-changing leak, whether it is from a pharmaceutical company, the tobacco industry, or film of the US army bombing civilians with extreme precision. Might passengers like to know that uranium is taking illegal trips on commercial air flights? Maybe.

    Our soldiers are being killed and seriously injured in Afghanistan, ditto army personnel from many other countries over there. It’s no longer gossip that our pollies, including the PM, have stood up in parliament to claim our Army is in Afghanistan for reason “X”, contrary to advice given (and documented), and none of them even believe there is a chance of being “successful” or that there is some point to it all. They have lied.

    Thing is, I would never have minded the US, Britain and Australia heading into Iraq to – yet again – bomb it to oblivion, I just didn’t like the lie underpinning it. Not for one second, not from day one, did I believe that Sudam had WMD. How? Making them out of string and paper bags? But if the US wanted to head in there and depose Sudam, just for the hell of it, or because baby Bush wanted to show off for Dad, well, fine, go ahead, but don’t spend a decade lying about the reasons. Man up and tell the truth.

    Same with Afghanistan. Why are our men and women over there if the PM can’t tell us and them the truth? Any leader who sends people into a war zone has a moral obligation, first and foremost, to the people being sent – our front line people have been lied to.

    I’ve already posted on another thread, listing all of the accusations against Assange, and noting that Openleaks will launch (today, I believe). Power / corruption? Huh? Assange owns the company, in effect (see longer points in the relevant post) – he doesn’t have to be democratic or consultative about something that belongs to him (at least at the moment; it can and will go on in one form or another without him, if need be); no different to any other small business – the owner gets to make the rules.

    Governments would be, indeed want to be, reassured that the masses are outraged, so that they can not only continue with business as usual, but now become even more furtive, more secretive about things they do in our name (and with our money, our armed forces, our resources, our infrastructure). That’s never going to end well.

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  11. Jacob – see most recent thread: there is no commonality or comparability between Hicks and Assange. None. It’s a wrong-headed and useless analogy. I really hope those setting the public framework, the public discourse, drop all reference to Hicks quick smart.

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  12. Me? I'm just pleased to know the truth, no matter how it reveals itself, or who reveals it, or what state of mind led them to do it.

    Agree!

    Human fondness for ignorance has always disturbed me Justin. (At a macro and micro level.)

    The truth is frequently ugly, often unbearably ugly, and just as often prosaic. There are truths I’d rather never have know, for entirely selfish reasons: my own peace of mind, my own equilibrium. Not knowing, or refusing to accept truths doesn’t change them, it just makes it worse, and makes us all complicit in the lies.

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  13. Hi Justin. It's maybe stretching a long bow over the River Kwai to equate or otherwise compare the egregious Gulf of Tonkin deception with anything that's so far come out of wikileaks.

    Having said that, disclosures such as about the Government's "pessimistic" assessments of 'our' prospects in the Afghanistan war are important, because it plainly contradicts the front the Govt puts up for we the gullible people and, most importantly, the troops and their families, as Caz points out.

    I guess maybe Assange is hanging out to expose an outrage of the dimensions of a Gulf of Tonkin, much like like an old surfer yearns for the perfect tube. Some day... some day...

    It's, like, like that, I, like, think.

    Hi Caz, yeah I do realise the Assange/Hicks comparison is chalk/cheese. An(other) failed attempt at irony on my part. Beyond the similarity that they were both 'sacrificed' by the Govt of the day, the bogan adventurer twit Hicks is risible (albeit he's entitled to his day in court as much as the next person).

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  14. Apologies Jacob, I wasn’t having a little dig at you, nor was the irony in any manner failed; just taking the opportunity to point to a subsequent post, on the matter of Hicks.

    Yes, Hicks - any person - is entitled to their day in court. That's about the only sensible thing I can think of to say in relation to Hicks.

    Being a dolt isn't a crime, but, err, there are days ...

    Much higher priority is to the new post from this morning, quoting from journalist in The Australian … so much to like! You’ll enjoy.

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  15. Anonymous2:08 PM

    Jacob, I doubt that JA will ever been given the opportunity to expose a Gulf of Tonkin thingy - such deceipt, in this day an age, would be encrypted by the experts - even JA and kind would take many years to unlock such docs.

    But for many, including me and some of my mates (one lost a leg) and another lad from the same school bought it - finished - gone.

    Another mate was in the Navy, spent 4 hours or so in enemy waters and retired at 48 with all the gongs and benefits of having fought a war - what a joke, he was grinning all the way to the bank.

    Anyway I digress, you see, as we know all wars are based on deception - when people deceive me I get pissed. Back in the Vietnam days I suddenly found that I was no longer in contriol of my life - the government was, and if my number came up my life could have been well and truly on the line.

    Anyway I decided that if my number was drawn I would do the training bit, but if selected to do the fighting bit I would excercise my free will and do a Mark Twain - desert.

    You see I had no intention to kill or be killed for reasons that did not make sense, reasons that were later exposed as a lie. Having access to the Pentagon Papers would have been most welcome by many back in the 60's - especially some of me mates.

    In this current world of deception JA is small potatoes, but at least we can now point the finger, with certainty, at those who deceive.

    Recorded history: is it the battle of interests, or the eternal war of truth?

    Thank god for raw data.


    j

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  16. Justin – you’re correct, of course.

    And as much as all things Wikileaks is getting obsessive coverage (oops, yep, guilty as charged), this too will pass.

    Whether it’s Wikileaks or the newly launched Openleaks, the publishers of the sites – and any others that are spawned – they will only exist and having something to publish if others have access and motivation to provide data or information that is of interest, and if those individuals don’t get caught while in the act. All four prior conditions have to be met.

    MSM journalists have a steady drip of gossip and leaks as well as a never ending churn of press releases to keep them in a job. Wikileaks is only trading in leaks, which is a niche market, so there’s no such thing as a news cycle, no steady stream of people willing and able to supply hugely interesting material, let alone continual caches that are in the public interest.

    One of JA’s stated aims is to provide what he calls “scientific journalism”. It’s no such thing, of course, but he can make up new terms all he wishes, doesn’t cost anything and it does me no harm. All he’s talking about is going to primary sources, except that he really means it. Parliamentary records are a primary source, for example, but JA insists that we need to go beyond the traditional primary sources, the official public records, because that’s not where the truth lies. He’s right.

    Yes, thank god for raw data.

    Recorded history: is it the battle of interests, or the eternal war of truth?

    The battle of interests Justin. Hence why the winner always gets to write history. Perhaps that’s the essence of this paradigm shift: the war of truth has started?

    Oooh, while I think of it: wasn’t Laurie Oakes awarded for being the recipient of leaks during the 2010 federal election campaign?

    The only difference is degrees.

    Leaks have always been the bread and butter of journalism.

    Watergate anyone? Oh! Looky there: more award winning journalists!

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  17. Jacob6:26 PM

    Yeah, the battle of interests. It's forty years since the Pentagon Papers broke, and it appears by and large no lasting lessons have been learned. I wonder how many people born since that time even know about the Pentagon Papers and what it meant?

    Nixon and Kissinger pulled every dirty trick under the sun to try to get Ellsberg. Because they believed they owned the game and that the proles had no right to know why they or their kids were being sent over to kill or be killed.

    So they illegally tapped Ellsberg's phone, seeking to vilify him with 'leaks', and had his shrink's office raided by 'burglars' looking for more dirt to 'leak' to the press.

    This is why my bullshit detectors go on high alert whenever any dirt appears about someone like Assange. The times and circumstances are different, and most likely Assange is not the heroic figure Ellsberg was, but those who 'own' the game regard him as no less of a threat.

    Getting high-profile Assange, as getting Ellsberg was back then, is imperative to stopping all leakers. The message will be: If you fuck with us, you will be hounded, and possibly become stateless.

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  18. Solomon7:46 PM

    Comparing Assange to Rudd is the most devastating thing anyone has said so far.

    I must confess I laughed.

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