Thursday, December 23, 2010

Defending Assange

WikiLeaks personality Julian Assange is free from imprisonment because his rich friends threw his bail to get him out of jail. If he is extradited from Britain to Sweden and found guilty of sexual assault, that is the type of offense that even zealous Assange defenders should not forgive. However, there is the possibility the charges were a conspiracy of intelligence agencies. I never thought that I would rise to the defense of WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks has embarrassed the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice is out to get Assange for Wikileaks publishing embarrassing U.S. Department of State cables. Who would have guessed that there is corruption in Afghanistan, Russia and Pakistan? Is anyone surprised that the President of Yemen told his people that U.S. drone attacks on al-Quaida targets in Yemen that the bombs were Yemeni?

It used to be that newspapers like the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and other daily newspapers competed to scoop each other. The New York Times published the Pentagon papers of Daniel Ellsberg. The Washington Post parlayed a third-rate burglary at the Watergate into bringing down a U.S. President. Now the grey ladies are chiefly the lapdogs of the spin cycle of a Democratic Administration. They were stern critics of the government only when George W. Bush was President.

WikiLeaks stepped into this void and has exposed official corruption around the world. Assange is only a visible figurehead of a bigger organization of editors, fact-checkers and network administrators. Is he anti-American? Does anyone else remember when Rupert Murdock was accused of this?

When it suited their purpose, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hectored the Chinese and Iranians to allow greater Internet freedom. Now that their own ox has been gored, they mean to crack down on the same Internet freedom. Do as I say, not as I do.

What will this mean to my friends who post Internet complaints about the Transportation Security Administration, U.S Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner, the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment or the gun-toting part of the Second Amendment? It might only be permissible to blame Republicans in the future to escape official blocking like the U.S. government has waged against WikiLeaks.

Vilifying Assange is a convenient mask for how the U.S. Departments of Defense and State forgot how to expose moles it developed when the USSR was spymaster. Espionage is bigger than Assange. The U.S. government prefers not to think about spies from China, India, Israel, Pakistan and stateless fundamentalist Islam, for example.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Treating American Air Travelers like Potential Criminals

It is no secret that I flew round trip from O’Hare in Chicago to Honolulu, departing for Hawaii two days before Thanksgiving. There were two reasons for my going to Honolulu: it was the 55th wedding anniversary for my parents and my older son serves at Pearl Harbor and I had not seen him since he was 21. He is now 25.

At O’Hare, Transportation Security Administration personnel were overwhelmed by the number of travelers who were leaving in mid-morning, including me. I never know what to expect when I fly so I wear slip-on shoes, nice socks and if I have a carry-on bag, it usually is a lap-top computer. I already had my driver license in my shirt pocket to be compared with my boarding pass.

It was a long flight from Phoenix to Honolulu against the Jet Stream. It was weird to have to sign a mandatory state Department of Agriculture form about whether I was bringing flora or fauna to Hawaii before we landed. I was glad to show my driver license to the guard to board a U.S. Navy vessel tied up at Pearl Harbor after surfing at a U.S. Navy beach.

My experience on the return flight on November was unexpectedly awful. Agents seemed to be working for the Transportation Insecurity Administration. For those who remember when I was fat, I am now thin and my belt, that has almost no metal, holds my pants up. I had to remove my belt and wallet. I had to lift my hands in a full-body scanner and my pants fell down. I am afraid that made me snap.

When I was in seventh grade, there was a picture of Kareem Abdul Jabbar as a Milwaukee Buck in the Milwaukee Journal. Kareem had both middle fingers raised at the referee. I thought of this picture when I raised my arms, both middle fingers extended. The Transportation Insecurity Administration agent called this gesture was unnecessary. Of course, it was unnecessary. It was unnecessary to remove my belt. Stunned by the bald stupidity of this remark, I smiled at him.

“How many terrorists has TSA caught?” I asked, knowing that he was only implementing a stupid policy made in Washington. I answered my own question by making the zero sign. He leapt to the defense of his agency. I know that TSA has denied permission for soldiers returning from the long trip from Afghanistan to use the airport restroom because there were firearms on the airplane, for example.

Unstated was that I was flying to Phoenix to lead a jihad against illegal aliens. That would be ironic because Arizona already has a jihad against illegal aliens. Also unstated was that they had me confused with some other terrorist that is also a middle-aged, near-sighted Danish-American. I fly often enough that I do not want to be on a No Fly List like friends with more common American names or more ethnic names.