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December 07, 2010

Howls of Derisive Laughter

I've returned from my Fortress of Solitude to snort at the hilariously transparent lies of the U.S. government generally, and Democratic politicians specifically.

1. Glenn Greenwald looks at the completely lawless attacks on Wikileaks via Amazon, Paypal, Mastercard, their Swiss bank, etc., even as top U.S. political figures call for Julian Assange to be assassinated.

2. Assange was arrested this morning in England. I didn't previously believe this, but I'd say the chances the Swedish charges are an intelligence operation are at least 50%. And of course even if not, the chance is 0% that Sweden would be sending Interpol after him if he weren't the face of Wikileaks.

3. Barack Obama bloviated about his hatred for internet censorship when asked about it by Chinese students on a visit there, November 16, 2009:

I'm a big believer in openness when it comes to the flow of information. I think that the more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable. They can begin to think for themselves. That generates new ideas. It encourages creativity.

And so I've always been a strong supporter of open Internet use. I'm a big supporter of non-censorship. This is part of the tradition of the United States that I discussed before, and I recognize that different countries have different traditions. I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free Internet -- or unrestricted Internet access is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged.

4. Hillary Clinton bloviated more at the Newseum, aka The Museum That's Like Living Inside Cable TV, on January 21, 2010:

...technologies with the potential to open up access to government and promote transparency can also be hijacked by governments to crush dissent and deny human rights.

In the last year, we've seen a spike in threats to the free flow of information. China, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan have stepped up their censorship of the internet...

On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress. But the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world's information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it.

Well, the internet was nice while it lasted.

P.S. Until this morning I thought the Monty Python Bruces sketch included the line "hails of derisive laughter." But now I believe it's actually "howls," although it sounds like hails thanks to their mock-Australian accents. And Assange is Australian. IT ALL FITS TOGETHER.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at December 7, 2010 08:31 AM

We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas.

Hooray, this means the government is going to give subsidized broadband access to everyone who cannot afford it, and also set net neutrality in stone. Right?

Posted by: Cloud at December 7, 2010 11:13 AM

Assange's lawyer just a few days ago on the quality of the charges.

The reinstatement of a once-dropped, bogus charge isn't an intelligence operation. It's a diplomatic operation.

Posted by: Nell at December 7, 2010 11:28 AM

Dang: here's the lawyer link.

Posted by: Nell at December 7, 2010 11:32 AM

Clearly, more coffee needed, if not bourbon. This is the link to the comments of Assange's lawyer.

Posted by: Nell at December 7, 2010 11:35 AM

From the WikiLeaks archive:

"Reporters are constantly in search of information that public officials or powerful businessmen want to keep secret. If they manage to obtain the information, and it is explosive enough, they may find themselves showered with awards and accolades."

It's the lede paragraph of New York Times news a story on the curious case of a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter's criminal prosecution and a "negotiated" multimillion dollar financial settlement between the Enquirer/Gannett Corp. and Chiquita Brands International.

Possibly the presence of the Chiquita directory of articles in the Wikileaks archive indicates that the whistleblowers understand that they are more likely to be charged --as the Enquirer reporter was-- under theft of information charges than they are to be chrged with espionage, or "electronic terrorism."

Some background here:

and here:

Wikileaks archive here:

Posted by: Funny, Funny Journalismo at December 7, 2010 11:51 AM

Wikileaks has been cut off by PayPal, Visa, and MasterCard. Wire transfer to this account is the fastest and surest of the still-possible ways to support WL:

Skulagötu 19, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
Landsbanki Islands Account number 0111-26-611010
ACCOUNT/IBAN:IS97 0111 2661 1010 6110 1002 80

Posted by: Nell at December 7, 2010 12:56 PM

We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas.

Well yeah, as long as none of it is dangerous to the ruling class.

Posted by: Happy Jack at December 7, 2010 01:15 PM

Nell, I was convinced by a cursory look at this that it's at least possible that it originated as an intelligence operation. In any case, I certainly agree that if it didn't, it has since been a diplomacy operation.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at December 7, 2010 02:25 PM

Not that the two are easily meaningfully distinct, anymore.

Posted by: Nell at December 7, 2010 02:49 PM

Leftie blogger farts in Obama's general direction

Jonathan, while you were away at your Fortress of Solitude you may not have seen a fairly recent posting by Ian Welsh (the Toronto-based blogger, not the Scottish politician), which are related to your quotes from Obama, in which our President says all the right things. Welsh asserts that, when it comes to action, Obama does not DO the right thing.

He always wanted tax cuts. He gave away the public option in private negotiations near the beginning of the health care reform fight, not the end. He never even proposed an adequate stimulus bill. He bent arms, hard, to get TARP through.

Welsh uses intemperate language, and claims to know what Obama's real sentiments are:

He’s a Reaganite. It’s what he believes in, genuinely. Moreover he despises left wingers, likes kicking gays and women whenever he gets a chance and believes deeply and truly in the security state (you did notice that Obama administration told everyone to take their objections to backscatter scanners and groping and shove them where the sun don’t shine, then told you they’re thinking of extending TSA police state activities to other public transit?)

Not satisfied with these crass vulgarities, Welsh becomes even more extreme [emphasis added]:

Let me put it even more baldly. Obama is, actually, a bad man. He didn’t do the right thing when he had a majority, and now that he has the excuse of a Republican House he’s going to let them do bad thing after bad thing. This isn’t about “compromise”, this is about doing what he wants to do anyway, like slashing social security. The Senate, you remember, voted down the catfood comission. Obama reinstituted it by executive fiat.

Finally, Welsh gives some advice to Americans from his Canadian home:

If the left doesn’t stand against Obama and doesn’t primary him, it stands for nothing and for nobody.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at December 7, 2010 03:46 PM

Good to see you Nell.

I'd guess it's 50/50 odds of Assange being guilty vs. framed if I had to. If Assange is one of those guys who can't accept "no" for an answer, he should go to jail. But I hope wikileaks continues in any event.

It's a little depressing to see some liberals at Obsidian Wings (my chief hangout at the moment) are opposed to wikileaks. To be fair, maybe more are for him, including one or two of the front page posters. But I was genuinely surprised to see the number of "liberals" who have such concerns for the privacy rights of government (??) and who harp on the possible damage to our diplomatic efforts by this breech in security. Listing all the stuff that depresses me about anti-wikileaks arguments would just depress me further.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at December 7, 2010 04:59 PM


Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 7, 2010 05:11 PM

I'm guessing those charges will disappear as soon as Assaunge hits Swedish airspace. And SO will Assaunge.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 7, 2010 05:19 PM

Watch how fast the Brits sell out THEIR principles against torture.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 7, 2010 05:22 PM

WE'VE got the world by the nuts with mortgage backed securities. Ain't LOVE GRAND???

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 7, 2010 05:25 PM

Jon and Nell and Donald Johnson and all:

I don't even really believe there is much of a difference between an intelligence and a diplomatic operation, but I suppose the difference is whether Assange was framed by somebody like Jason Bourne. I think it hardly matters. Give Assange credit for guts, because he had to know this was coming.

To the historically interested, one of the first non-military intelligence agencies in the US was the State Department's Bureau of Secret Intelligence, which Secretary of State Robert Lansing, uncle of Alan and John Foster Dulles, had established in 1916 before Woodrow Wilson lost all trust in him. Robert Lansing was quite the anti-Bolshevik, just like his nephews. Surprise, Lansing went to work for oil interests after he left State. Back then Mexico and Russia were were the big sources of foreign oil, so having a reactionary former Secretary of State on the payroll was handy. Everything is so different now.

Our National Security bureaucracy seems fairly united these days, and it certainly spans both the intelligence and diplomatic corps. The divisions between the Cheney hardliners and the let's-just-make-money crowd could resurface at any time and eventually certainly will, but usually all those chummy opportunists play well together. Julian Assange has made himself a real pain in the ass to them all by telling the ordinary citizens of the Empire all this gossip that a few million bureaucratic insiders apparently already know--it's not like this stuff was President's Eyes Only--so Assange's problems arrived right on schedule. I read somewhere that most of this Wikileaks material was on pretty accessible State Department servers, though I was busy and didn't pay close enough attention. The real problem is obviously that The Truth needs to be kept out of sight or mobs start forming.

So, as usual, you're all probably right.

Posted by: N E at December 7, 2010 05:46 PM

" don't even really believe there is much of a difference between an intelligence and a diplomatic operation"

Much as I disagree with you on some issues, I think your 5:46 post is pretty much dead right from start to finish. Unfortunately.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at December 7, 2010 05:59 PM

Roman Polanski, tried and convicted of truly gruesome sexual assaults, what countries did he visit when he was on the lam? Was an Interpol warrant ever issued for him?

Posted by: Butch in Waukegan at December 7, 2010 07:05 PM

In an interview a day or so ago (damned if I can find it now) Assange's London lawyer said that the Swedish had been saying they just wanted to get information from Assange and his lawyers had been continually offering to arrange for that to happen but didn't see why he had to be in Sweden to do it.

(Technically not connected): Oz activists and luminaries suggest our government should grow a spine.

And JA hisself has an op-ed in Murdoch's local broadsheet, The Australian. Yes, that's funny for all sorts of reasons. They by-line him as "Wikileaks Editor-in-Chief" which I imagine sparked some angry muttering in the pundits' stable.

Posted by: weaver at December 7, 2010 07:45 PM

*sigh* "Swedish prosecutor". I probably shoulda stuck with "Swedes".

Posted by: weaver at December 7, 2010 07:51 PM

Hillary isn't as good a bullshitter. Maybe it's because she knows who pays her. Maybe it's because she's not as brainwashed as Barack.

Posted by: LT at December 7, 2010 10:16 PM

I've been calling bullshit on the "sex by surprise" charges against JA since they first surfaced. Good to see some evidence to help confirm it:,01.shtml

Posted by: Coldtype at December 7, 2010 10:51 PM

HEY, think ole Julian gets ANY sleep these dayz in lockup? I wonder if he gets cuffed to the bars quite a lot of if the heat gets turned on since its winter? I wonder how OSAMA BIN LADEN doing these dayz? I wonder if George W. "Ole wanted dead or alive" Bush could go after OSAMA BIN LADEN and NOT get his ass arrested on war crimes charges after leaving the Good Ole USA?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 8, 2010 12:22 AM

Donald Johnson--that's probably because i have become jaded and cynical and lost all my faith in great Presidential leadership. Unfortunately.

Posted by: N E at December 8, 2010 06:25 AM

My, my. EVERYBODY'S gettin' chippy about the prospects for Hope and Change now that the velvet glove is getting threadbare and the metal fist that it previously concealed is becoming more visible.

My, my.

Posted by: JerseyJeffersonian at December 8, 2010 02:29 PM

Re: Donald Johnson depression over “liberal” criticism of WikiLeaks.

I’m not surprised to see opposition to WikiLeaks. Then again, I’m stuck in the past.

Remember MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail? At the time of its writing, there were plenty of middle-class (and richer) white folks who considered themselves moderates -- that’s a variant of rightwinger, but I’ll get to that in a second -- who objected to the “pace” of the civil rights movement. As a matter of fact, they objected to the movement in the first place, but were being disengenous (as MLK pointed out with an elegance I typically never attempt to even approach).

Here’s my point: those people didn’t cease to exist after the civil rights movement ended. This being the site that it is, we all know that the segregationists didn’t evaporate as soon as de jure segregation was made illegal -- alas, life is not a video game and the villain’s henchmen do not explode, nor does his castle crumble, as soon as he is slain. (Such a phenomenon would totally be worth the ubiquitous, pointless, fluid-filled deathtraps that would fill the landscape if video games became our reality.) This is something our mainstream media likes to pretend happened, however. There is a mysterious and completely unaddressable break between the “bad old days” and now, where the actors of that era evaporated or transformed into their modern counterparts.

More sinsterly, the “moderate” did not die a screaming death as the movement that troubled it so died a quiet one. The moderate does not stand equidistant between liberals and rightwingers; such a notion is absurd. He takes the rightwing values of selfishness and self-aggrandizement and, instead of wedding them with absolutist lies, combines them with a liberalism that only applies to himself and people he likes. So thinking of him as a “failed liberal” or a “poor liberal” is wrong. Better to think of him as a selfish person or an authoritarian with too much dignity to wallow in the blanket absurdity practiced by rightwingers.

So it doesn’t surprise me to find people criticizing WikiLeaks. It also doesn’t surprise me that these calls for a more, ah, “moderate” way of leaking are tantamount to ending useful leaking altogether. (Illegal leaking encouraged by the state is kosher, of course. Fuck you, Plame.) The same anti-liberal assumptions and lies apply:

• The state has our best interest at heart, and leaks prevent the state from creating policies that benefit us all (through some undisclosed mechanism).

• The state was improving things until big, bad WikiLeaks (or whoever the agitator-of-the-week is) came along and “ruined things” -- again, through an undisclosed mechanism.

• The wretched actions of WikiLeaks has murdered countless people in our government, none of whom the critic can actually name.

• WikiLeaks is responsible for each and every action the government takes in response to the leak, in a scope that can be arbitrarially extended by the critic at any time without any cause given. Did the government execute an innocent person in retaliation for the leak that it executes innocent persons? WikiLeak’s fault. Again, this works for any agitator. (“Those activists were asking to get lynched by coming down here and not allowing us to break the law.”)

• The truly beautiful lie is the biggest one: the government is not responsible for any wrongdoing resulting from a wrong policy during a period of time where that policy’s existence is leaked to the public. For one, brief, shining moment, stretching through the media cycle, the U.S. is off the hook for deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan: it’s WikiLeaks doing the killing now. This lie is implicit from the above lie; since WikiLeaks takes on all of the responsibility from the government’s actions for the murderous policy itself, the government suddenly finds itself above-board on anything having to do with it. No media challenge required; nothing to see here.

You can see these lies in action if you go visit Greenwald’s page on Salon. If it seems insulting, it is. It’s the same insult you feel if you’re black and told by whites who benefit from your suffering that you should “wait” until it’s convenient for them to seek equal rights. It’s the insult women were given when seeking the vote. Poor people get this slur when seeking -- well, um, anything.

What it comes down to is this: a moderate position has, at bottom, a complete disbelief in the personhood of the aggrieved party as compared to the aristocracy. The moderate may find rightwingers distasteful, hateful, racist, and factually challenged, but his own “liberalism” will be little antidote because he or she doesn’t really think the persons hurt most by the state count for shit. WikiLeaks will never, under any circumstances be justified for leaking in a moderate worldview because WikiLeaks addresses the harms to humans who are not people. “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.”

A rightwinger claims you have no personal sovereingty and claims the right to cut off your arm. Aghast, the moderate holds that doing so is uncouth, but complaining about it would be moreso, and settles the issue by authorizing the dismemberment of your fingers.

So remember: the King is the state, your husband represents you in the polity, employees can vote with their pocketbook just like a corporation, and blacks should settle down and stop aggravating the already overblown “negro problem.” And WikiLeaks is a bunch of criminal rabble-rousers that are doing nothing useful -- unlike the useful support for Obama we are advocating. Same shit, different day.

It makes sense once you realize that you’re not real people -- at least, not when compared to your betters.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at December 8, 2010 04:34 PM



Phil Ochs captured this fundamental hypocrisy in his song "Love Me, I'm a Liberal". The lyrics have been subsequently updated as the years have rolled by by others such as Jello Biafra and Kevin Devine.

Posted by: JerseyJeffersonian at December 8, 2010 07:01 PM

OK, folks, here's a nice, fat review of the whole Swedish Affair. Not including the fun conspiracy theories, I know, but what the hell.

Posted by: Steve Jones at December 8, 2010 07:03 PM


Thank you very much for that. That was freakn' awesome.

I love the Malcolm X line as well. As un-innocent as I am, when I heard a white person speak of Malcolm X with scorn, as a safe black target, I was actually taken aback for a moment. That sort of nastiness takes serious work.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at December 8, 2010 08:12 PM

Wikileaks really didn't LEAK anything. They didn't download those cables from a government computer; they only published what was leaked to them.

Daniel Ellsberg was charged and tried for espionage for leaking the Pentagon Papers, not Katharine Graham of the Washington Post for publishing them. Furthermore, I don't remember National Review William F. Buckley ever calling for the murder of Katharine Graham as National Review Jonah Goldberg is now calling for the murder of Julian Assange.

Posted by: Paul Avery at December 9, 2010 02:05 AM

Rightwingers called for the bombing of the New York TImes during the Bush Admin. as well, do recall. The difference is, wikileaks isn't part of the establishment and death threats to them from the government are serious. The mainstream media doesn't perceive the threat this represents to themselves, most likely because they are convinced their servitude protects them. So long as that servitude continues to increase, they're probably right.

And yes, wikileaks didn't leak anything. That's why charging them with a crime is such a bother. It is remarkable that the people whose crimes were described in the information released by wikileaks aren't even considered for investigation. There isn't even lip service paid on the notion.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at December 9, 2010 07:29 AM

Steve Jones

That article is very interesting. I had no idea that in Sweden there is an offense called "Rape, less serious crime" punishable by no more than four years in prison, a "crime" which apparently consists of having sex without a condom and refusing to be tested for STDs. That sounds to me more or less like "murder, less killing someone" or "bank robbery, less robbing a bank." If that article is right, I doubt anyone needed to get Jason Bourne involved to get Assange to have sex without a condom and not return a call from some woman he hardly knew. You don't need to run Wikileaks to have a reason not to return that call.

Remember, use protection people!

Posted by: N E at December 9, 2010 08:53 AM

Jon, can you comment on the rumors that you were forced into prostitution and drug-dealing in a desperate attempt to keep up with your skyrocketing Five Dollar Friday debts, which surely must have reached the millions since your reckless promise to double the amount for every Friday you forget to post?

Posted by: . at December 9, 2010 09:39 AM

Those who admire or are curious about Malcolm X, a remarkable person, can go read this long but fascinating article from The Realist written back in 1967:

If they want a shorter, more recent look, not quite as good but on a great site, they can look at:

Posted by: N E at December 9, 2010 04:07 PM

People all over the world are protesting Assange's arrest. I wonder how much protests WE will see here in the land of The 1ST Amendment? I'm gonna guess zero.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 10, 2010 03:18 AM

Spy indictement is on its way.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 11, 2010 04:32 PM

Seeing as the Reuters overview has been mentioned, here's a timeline, that differs from the Reuters piece in some respects, from Crikey!'s European correspondent, Guy Rundle.

Posted by: weaver at December 13, 2010 06:40 AM