Saturday, December 04, 2010

Something to talk about









"I will not agree to let this bill go forward." The US Senate Armed Services Committee held another hearing on Don't Ask, Don't Tell today and the big news in the long hearing took place a little after noon when Ranking Member John McCain declared, "I will not agree to let this bill go forward." The sentence really demands an explanation point but McCain wasn't being forceful when he made the statement, he was being whiney. In fact, today he offered one long whine, like an ambulance siren, only higher pitched.
Senator Carl Levin is the Committee Chair and he noted at the start, "The Committee meets this morning to continue receiving testimony on the Department of Defense's report on implementation of a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Yesterday we heard from Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm [Mike] Mullen and the co-chairs of the Deptartment's working group on this issue. Today we hear from the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen James Cartwright, and from the senior military office of each of the services: Army Chief of Staff Gen George Casey, Chief of Naval Operations Adm Gary Roughead, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen James Amos, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen Norton Schwartz and Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm Robert Papp. The chiefs are tasked to organize, train and equip our military forces. That's an important and challenging task and we are all grateful to the service of each of you to this nation. If we repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, as I believe we should, the legislation stipulates that repeal will not take effect unless and until there is a certification by the President, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs that they have adopted the necessary implementatin steps to assure that we maintain our standards of military readiness and effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruiting and retention."
In the first round of questioning, Chair Carl Levin established via the witnesses Casey and Amos that the task could be carried out. Amos quoted back Levin from yesterday ("If not now, when?") in his response. When Ranking Member McCain went, he played repeatedly with his ink pen which only drew attention to his power pink tie begging the question: How often do you see a man in a power pink tie who is opposing LGBT rights?
"I don't have a lot of questions," he would say after a mini-sermonette. And it was strange that he didn't have a lot of questions when he stated before that, "It's very obvious to me that there is a lot more scrutiny and work to be involved before passing this legislation." If more hearings are needed -- and he would advocate that throughout the hearing -- one would assume that this was to get answers and answers generally are preceeded by questions. Possibly the bulk of McCain's thinking cap moments Friday ended with the selection of his tie?
While McCain was the most annoying, it was Senator Roger Wicker that appeared to be beamed in from another planet. He used his hearing time to argue against repeal because service members (his opinion) would never support serving with gays and lesbians and, in some sort of book-end argument, insisting that Don't Ask, Don't Tell discharges resulted from gay members coming forward and saying they wanted to discharge because they were gay. So, orbiting the planet earth from who knows what galazy, Wicker believes that gays and lesbians don't want to serve with straight or straight passing people who also don't want to serve with gays and lesbians. It was a circular kind of irrationality. Early on, Wicker stated, "I do have to wonder if the American people watching this are wondering why are we here?" Probably a lot of people wondered why Wicker was here and what planet he was visiting from.
Senator John Thune, who opposes repeal, tried to float the need for another step in the process. He stated that there was a difference between the chiefs appearing before the Committee today giving their advice and them being able to sign off. It wasn't a smart move on Thune's part. The response was universal: They all feel they are listened to by Gates and Mullen and that the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is where the decision belongs. Thune also accused the working group from the Defense Department which composed the study of manipulating data by emphasis (particularly page 49). Having failed at both efforts, he then declared readiness was his primary issue -- strange since he asked no questions about his primary issue.
Were it not for McCain's drama, the big story coming out of today's hearing might be Senator Scott Brown announcing he supports repeal. (As Ava guessed yesterday.)
Casey stated in the first round (to McCain) that he supported the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell "eventually." (He repeated "eventually" twice in his answer.) Schwartz stated he did not favor repeal now "but, not in 2011, but 2012 at the earliest, that would be an acceptable approach to me." Yet when Levin asked him what the difference was between 2011 and 2012, Schwartz couldn't name one leaving the impression that he was just throwing up road blocks. Levin had to use the bulk of his second round time correcting distortions made by Jeff Sessions and John Thune about Levin's remarks.
John McCain wanted to give a lecture about "it's tough" -- a long lecture. Rather surprising considering his rude remark where he dubbed Levin's questioning a "lecture." You really see such open bitchery in the Senate but few are as catty as John McCain. After insisting it was tough and bobbing around in his chair for about three minutes, he finally declared, "I will not agree to have this bill go forward and neither will, I believe, that 41 of my colleagues will either because our economy is in the tank -- our economy is in the tank and the American people want that issue addressed."

What a drama queen. This is the same John McCain who turned nervous nellie in 2008 and announced he was suspending his campaign for president and wanted a debate postponed. Now, please note, in the midst of the Civil War -- as well as during WWII -- the country held elections. But McCain thinks only one thing can be done at a time? Maybe he has low energy levels and needs to retire? If he can't handle more than one issue at a time, it may be a sign that the mind is gone.
His snide and bitchy ending was so bitter it will probably even overshadow Jeff Sessions trying to argue his case by insisting "I think I am in accord with the ACLU in that view." It was the sort of once-in-a-lifetime statement. (He was stating that the ACLU knew that the Court would not repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell and that he knew it too.) John McCain, scene stealer.
Yesterday the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell review the Pentagon conducted. Ava's covered it at Trina's site with "Senators Scott Brown and Roland Burris (Ava)," Wally's covered it at Rebecca's site with "Senate Armed Services Committee" and Kat's covered it at her own site with "Where I find time to praise Ben Nelson." A better moment that was not included in the above was Senator Evan Bayh noting, "There just seems to be something fundamentally wrong when we ask men and women to lay down their lives for their country and yet they cannot be honest about who they are." One person had more "worst moments" than anyone else: John McCain who marched against equality and attempted to mow down several witnesses, his colleagues on the Committee and the American justice system. On the last one, McCain declared of WikiLeaks and its revelations, "So far all we know is that one Private First Class is responsible for all of this." Is he trying to say PFC Bradley Manning is running WikiLeaks? Or is he trying to say Bradley Manning was the leak to WikiLeaks?

Neither makes any sense because Bradley Manning hasn't had a trial, hasn't entered a plea. In the United States, you are innocent until proven guilty. It's not a difficult concept but, for some reason, John McCain struggles with it. Today, WikiLeaks' Julian Assange declared, "For the past four years one of our goals has been to lionise the source who take the real risks in nearly every journalistic disclosure and without whose efforts, journalists would be nothing. If indeed it is the case, as alleged by the Pentagon, that the young soldier -- Bradley Manning -- is behind some of our recent disclosures, then he is without doubt an unparalleled hero." Assange was taking questions in an online news conference at the Guardian.
Where in the world is WikiLeaks? Currently click here. Ravi Somaiya and Alan Cowell (New York Times) report, "An American provider of Internet domain names withdrew its service to the WikiLeaks Web site after a barrage of attacks by hackers that threatened to destabilize its entire system, according to the provider and WikiLeaks itself on Friday. But within hours, WikiLeaks said it had registered its domain name in Switzerland." The WikiLeaks Twitter feed has remained up:

  1. WIKILEAKS: Free speech has a number:
  2. You can also easily support WikiLeaks via
  3. WikiLeaks,org domain killed by US after claimed mass attacks KEEP US STRONG
  4. Pilger: The War You Don't See (interview on new film)

Victoria Ward (Telegraph of London) explains
, "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the development was an example of the 'privatisation of state censorship' in the US and is a 'serious problem'. [.. .] WikiLeaks has released a file that it dubbed its 'insurance policy'. The file is encrypted with a code that is so strong it is deemed impossible to break. It is said to be planning to release a key that unlocks the files if anything happens to the site or its founder, Julian Assange." Jane Wakefield (BBC News) adds, "The net appears to be closing in on Wikileaks as more and more companies it relies on distance themselves from it. Shutting down the main .org site will cause problems but it is by no means the end. Its Twitter feed remains defiant, urging fans to log on via its IP address with the tweet 'Free speech has a number:'. In some ways, any attempts to cut off Wikileaks could be a case of too little, too late." Matthew Campbell (Bloomberg News) reports, "It is 'not acceptable' for servers in France to host the site, French Industry Minister Eric Besson said in a letter to the CGIET technology agency. The minister asked for measures to bar WikiLeaks from France, where it is partially hosted by Roubaix, France-based OVH SAS." It's already lost one French host. Deutsche Welle reports, "A second French host, Octopuce, based in Paris, was also a WikiLeaks host for approximately the last six weeks up until this week, when the WikiLeaks site sustained a decent-sized cyberattack of 10 gigabits per second." Who's doing these attacks? The one on the US server should result in Eric Holder assigning an investigative team. Failure to do so will result in more rumors that it is indeed the US government attacking WikiLeaks in an attempt to take it offline for good. Tara Kelly (Time magazine) notes, "It's not known where the cyber attacks are coming from, however, WikiLeaks claimed that intelligence agencies from the U.S. and elsewhere have been targeting its site. The reason? It's spilled thousands of embarrassing U.S. diplomatic cables as well as classified U.S. military documents that has angered the U.S. and other governments." A caller to the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) today asked about the cyber attacks. James Kitfield responded, "I assure you there are some reporters who are on that story. Whether they will get to the bottom of it, I don't know. It's very hard, as we've seen, in all the hacking done against our systems, it's very easy to hide the fingerprints of who the hackers are. But it wouldn't suprise me at all if this was the US government. I mean we have an offensive cyber war capability. This is obviously seen -- as [demonstrated by] a Justice Dept investigation of him for spying -- obviously seen as a national security threat. And for them to actually try and take down the sites would not -- I have no proof, no evidence -- but it would not surprise me."
The Library of Congress has joined in censorship and so have others as Gawker reports:
U.S. soldiers in Iraq who try to read about the Wikileaks disclosures -- or read coverage of them in mainstream news sites -- on unclassified networks get a page warning them that they're about to break the law.

The federal government seems to have lost its mind in a manic game of internet whack-a-mole aimed at getting the Wikileaks State Department cables thrown down the memory hole: First, Sen. Joe Lieberman successfully nudged Amazon into kicking the site off its servers. Then the Library of Congress blocked the site for all employees and users of its computer terminals. Now we learn that the State Department is warning prospective hires that if they write about Wikileaks on Twitter or Facebook, they might not get that job. And now Gawker has learned that military installations in Iraq are trying to keep soldiers from reading about Wikileaks.

Mohammad Fadhel: Good morning. My name is Mohammad Fadhel from Agence France Presse. My question is to Secretary Clinton. In order to contain the damages which have been caused by all these leaks through WikiLeaks, what are you going to tell your allies, especially those in those parts which touches your allies exactly? Thank you.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Well, of course, we have very clearly stated that this action was illegal and regrettable, that we have close and important relationships that will not be affected, or certainly not damaged, but that the United States will continue to engage in the important diplomatic work that I am doing here, bilaterally, and more broadly tonight. And I think that many people who are experienced in diplomacy, as many of the diplomats here in Bahrain are, know that many of these alleged statements are taken out of context. But most importantly, they do not represent the policy of the United States. The policy of the United States is made in Washington. The President and I are very clear about the direction that the United States is taking in supporting our partners, and that will continue.
The attacks on WikiLeaks are coming from all over. Wednesday, Marcia noted some of the attacks including that Amazon had dropped WikiLeaks after hearing from Senator Joe Lieberman's staff. Marcia announced she's now boycotting Amazon over the censorship. That night Betty debunked the sillies and the crazies. If you've missed it, a number of Hillary supporters in the 2008 Democratic Party primary have created 'theories' that WikiLeaks exists to take Hillary down. They also maintain that Julian Assange "called" for Hillary to resign. (And some news outlets have also printed that false charge.) Betty provided the walkthrough on how you call for a resignation and what actually happened with Assange (Time magazine asked him if Hillary should resign -- at the end of a long interview). Betty then noted how Lambert (Corrente) was attacked by Hillary zealots for insisting there was a standard of behavior that all had meet -- which is what led to hostility aimed at Lambert in the comments of that post. Betty rightly argued (at her own site):
Now I understand the reaction to a degree. Hillary has been wrongly and unfairly blamed and accused for so many things and that was especially true in 2008 when so-called Democrats were hurling mud at her from the gutter of Matt Drudge and beyond. And I understand the need to defend her.
But I don't defend her when she's wrong. If she's broken a treaty or a law, then she's wrong.
Sadly, a lot of us are becoming as knee jerk as the Cult of St. Barack. We need to take a strong look at that. And we need to prove that we were right, Hillary was the best choice in 2008.
She was the best choice because she was smarter, she had more experience, she had a better record and her core supporters were not afraid to say, "Hillary, you're wrong."
Contrast that with the so-so intelligence of Barack, the lack of experience, the sorry record and his core supporters who insist that, as Ava and C.I. like to mock, he pees rainbows.
We're not those people, we're not the Cult of St. Hillary. We know she's not perfect and we know she makes mistakes. We know we have to hold her and every other politician to a standard and we also know that even if she disagreed with us on what we saw as a standard, she would support the holding of her feet to the fire. We know that because she spoke of it time and again, how she wanted to work for us.

This is Julian Assange answering Richard Stengel's (Time magazine) question of whether Hillary should resign as Secretary of State.
JA: I believe ... I don't think it would make much of a difference either way. But she should resign if it can be shown that she was responsible for ordering U.S. diplomatic figures to engage in espionage in the United Nations, in violation of the international covenants to which the U.S. has signed up. Yes, she should resign over that.
That's not controversial. If you break the laws, you resign. Regardless of whom you are. I personally like Sandy Berger but have noted here that when he copped a plea that should mean he could no longer hold appointed office. He could run for office and if the voters of whatever area wanted to trust him, that was one thing. But having agreed that he violated the law and a trust, he shouldn't be appointed to any government position. Again, I like Sandy. But right is right. I like Hillary as well. But if she broke laws -- that includes treaties the US is a signatory to -- then she would need to resign. If. The documents released thus far do not prove that she did. (Which is something Wally and Cedric were tackling this week.) Even Julian Assange says "if it can be shown". But the myth that he's calling for her resignation has led all the loons to come out charging. Some, see Marcia's take down of Riverdaughter last night, are so stupid that they (a) accept the lie that something's been proven regarding Hillary and (b) then insist that it doesn't matter as they minimize what the documents show. (The cable shows law breaking -- that's reality, know the law -- it does not show Hillary authorized it. "Of course, we don't know asked by whom," Diane Rehm pointed out on the second hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show. Watch this weekend and you may see a walkback by several outlets as they try to address the CIA involvement and need to figure out how -- since they don't want to run corrections, though they should -- they twist the story around.)
Let's stay with realities. Reality: I'm not attracted to mincing men so I avoid Robert Gibbs when possible. But the White House plus-size spokesmodel came up yesterday afternoon when we were speaking with a group of students. WikiLeaks has stolen government documents! It's true because Tubby Gibbs said so! Eric Holder hasn't said that. Robert Gibbs is a professional liar -- that job requires one. Robert Gibbs declared that there was "an ongoing criminal investigation about the stealing of and the dissemination of sensitive and classified information." WikiLeaks didn't steal anything. They have copies of government documents. Gibbs is a fat-ass liar. Or, in fairness, he may just be that ignorant. This issue has been dealt with repeatedly in this country. Let's use the Pentagon Papers. Copies were passed on to the press. Not the original. To have been in possession of the original would have put the press in possession of government property. WikiLeaks did not steal information and they are not in possession of stolen government documents. Bradley Manning -- who has not been found guilty of anything -- is charged with leaking material -- even he is not charged with theft.

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