Nov 30 2010

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

The Pundit and Political “Poutrage” about the recent release of over 250,000 documents by Wikileaks, or as Keith Olbermann so aptly phrased it, “Wiki TMZ”, is below the fold.

John Kampfner: Wikileaks shows up our media for their docility at the feet of authority

Mr Assange is an unconventional figure, a man who lives in the shadows and enjoys doing so

You should never shout “fire” in a crowded theatre. Once you have accepted this old adage, you accept that there are limits to free expression. The important word in the first sentence is not “fire”, but “crowded”. A crowded theatre would lead to a stampede. Where there is a real and identifiable danger, restraint should be shown. Context is everything in the free-speech debate; risk to life is an undeniable caveat. Most other caveats are, however, mere ruses by the powerful to prevent information from reaching the public domain.

It is within these parameters that the furore over Wikileaks and its exposures should be seen. The latest document dump is larger than the Iraq files and potentially more embarrassing, with its State Department assessments of governments and statesmen – from Hamid Karzai to Silvio Berlusconi to Nicolas Sarkozy. Diplomats have launched a frantic round of damage limitation. Oh to have been a fly on the wall during the excruciating conversation between the US ambassador and Downing Street. The Americans are entitled to put their side of the story, to seek to assuage any inconvenience caused.

Robert Reich: National Fiscal Hypocrisy Week

Welcome to National Fiscal Hypocrisy Week.

Today (Monday), Congress takes up a measure delaying by one month a scheduled 23 percent cut in federal reimbursements to doctors. The cut will automatically go into effect unless Congress acts. But of course Congress will act. Doctors threaten to drop Medicare patients if their rates are cut. Congress has delayed scheduled Medicare cuts for years.

The best outcome would be an agreement to contain future health-care costs by allowing Medicare to use its bargaining power with drug companies and medical suppliers to reduce rates; by allowing Americans to buy drugs from Canada; by applying the antitrust laws to health insurers; and by giving the public an option to buy their health care from a government-run public option.

The likelihood of any of this happening over Republican and Democrats-in-name-only (DINO) objections is zero.

Pearl Korn: Deficit Commission Member Rep. Jan Schakowsky Offers a Better Plan

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), one of the 18 members of the Deficit Commission, has offered her own plan in response to the Commission’s proposals, which she has rejected. Rep. Schakowsky’s major concern is that the Commission’s recommendations to raise the age of enrollment in Social Security and cut Medicare benefits will take a serious toll on the middle class. Indeed, the two “deficit Hawks” chairing the Commission have shown their willingness to privatize Medicare and end Social Security, with an out-of-control Alan Simpson blustering, “Medicare is like a cow with 300 tits that keeps on giving” and casting Americans who receive support from government programs as worthless, undeserving, lazy people with his “lesser people” comment. Of course, Simpson should have been dumped then and there.

John Nichols:

But those who might want, for reasons of partisanship or ideology, to imagine the end of the Bush-Cheney era ushered in more frank and responsible spokespeople will surely be disabused of that foolish notion by the response of White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to the latest WikiLeak.

On Sunday, Gibbs achieved the rare combination of utter shamelessness and utter shamefulness when he claimed that by releasing classified diplomatic communications “WikiLeaks has put at risk…the cause of human rights.”

Reasonable people may debate the way in which WikiLeaks obtains and releases classified documents. But for Gibbs to try and claim that transparency and openness pose broad threats to the cause of human rights-in the face of all of the compromises of US administrations over the past several decades-is intellectually and practically dishonest.

Norman Solomon: WikiLeaks: Demystifying “Diplomacy”

Compared to the kind of secret cables that WikiLeaks has just shared with the world, everyday public statements from government officials are exercises in make-believe.

In a democracy, people have a right to know what their government is actually doing. In a pseudo-democracy, a bunch of fairy tales from high places will do the trick.

Diplomatic facades routinely masquerade as realities. But sometimes the mask slips — for all the world to see — and that’s what just happened with the humongous leak of State Department cables.

“Every government is run by liars,” independent journalist I.F. Stone observed, “and nothing they say should be believed.” The extent and gravity of the lying varies from one government to another — but no pronouncements from world capitals should be taken on faith.

Richard N. Haass: How to Read WikiLeaks

The latest unauthorized release, i.e., leak, of some 250,000 documents by WikiLeaks does not appear to constitute a national security crisis, although it will cause more than a little near-term awkwardness and create some longer-term problems for the United States and its partners.

Much of what we have seen thus far confirms more than it informs. We are not surprised to read U.S. diplomatic cables reporting that corruption in Afghanistan is rampant; that prominent Sunni Arab leaders are more worried about Iran and its nuclear program than they are about Israel; that it has been difficult to get other governments to accept Guantanamo detainees; that Syria’s government maintains close ties to Hezbollah despite assurances to the contrary; or that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is a man of questionable character.

In some cases, though, the publication of these documents will likely cause immediate problems. Working with Pakistan’s weak government to ensure that its nuclear materials remain under tight control — a process described in the WikiLeaks papers — will prove even more difficult. Counterterrorism efforts in Yemen might also be set back as the leadership there might well feel the need to distance itself from the United States.

Patrick Cockburn: America should be glad anyone is paying attention to its inconsequential messages

The US State Department should stop complaining about Julian Assange and Wikileaks publishing a quarter-of-a-million of its cables. It should instead be grateful to the leakers for impressing the public with the idea that its diplomats do something so important that secrecy is essential.

Much of the reaction by governments and the media to the Wikileaks revelations is mean-spirited and misleading. The State Department cables are interesting, informative and amusing, but they certainly do not contain the deep secrets of American foreign policy.

Since several million people potentially had access to this data via America’s online repository only information which was not particularly sensitive was included. Newspapers promoting or denouncing supposed insights into the way the US deals with foreign government to be gained from the cables are not dwelling on how well-known and unsurprising are these disclosures.

Rupert Cornwell: After 9/11, it was always going to be impossible to keep secrets

The massive leak of US diplomatic cables by the Wikileaks organisation is in part an unintended consequence of a decision to step up data-sharing between government agencies to prevent a repeat of the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

It quickly emerged from postmortems on 9/11 that vital information that might have thwarted the attacks did not reach the right people because of barriers between departments and bureaucratic turf wars, not least between the CIA and the FBI

Accordingly, the Bush administration ordered a wider pooling of information, and a sweeping expansion and reorganisation of the country’s fragmented intelligence and security community

. The overhaul also entailed a huge increase, to between 500,000 and 600,000, in the number of people with access to Siprnet – the Secret Internet Protocol Network – used by the Pentagon to transmit classified information.


  1. TMC
  2. ek hornbeck

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