Brad Plummer on Whistleblowing and Government Secrecy

Brad Plummer is a very intelligent and promising journalist who is given to some fascinating writing, such as the article he wrote today. This one is on Porter Goss’s bristling condemnation of whistleblowers who run to the media to report what they believe to be illegal actions which are classified as state secrets. Wow! Mr. Goss really means business, doesn’t he?

Plummer’s arguments against Goss’s indignation are as sound as you can make them, even if ~ as Mr. Plummer freely admits ~ very few people would agree with his own broader opinion of state secrets.

I would add, though, that the whole premise of indignation against blowing state secrets kind of goes out the window for the Administration at large when they themselves leaked the identity of Valerie Plame. Sure, Scooter is claiming (among other things) that this was a simple slip-up on his own over-worked part, but really, how plausible is that given all the facts of the indictment which show a fairly clear circumstantial path of intent? And of course, those who leaked the NSA wiretapping project revealed what is almost certainly illegal activity on the part of the Administration, whereas the leak of Valerie Plame’s identity can be chalked up to nothing better than political poison.

Beyond that, as Mr. Plummer points out, what constitutes classified information has always been arbitrary, and where this Administration is concerned, downright absurd. In fact, one could argue that such a pattern of secrecy as this Administration has displayed almost certainly creates the conditions for leaks of all kinds. Remember: the TIA (Total Information Awareness) program was initially developed under the Clinton Administration, about half-way through thier tenure, but you never really heard anything about that until after 9/11.

Actuaries forced to keep the Medicare bill’s bills a secret, NASA scientists stiffled from revealing the results of thier studies, the Administration’s refusal to reveal the creators of thier energy policy, and how many other things can you name which are all attempts by this Administration to keep what they’re doing out of the press and away from the public? So yeah, I think that the pattern fits the result.

Sad News at the Seneca Park Zoo

Poor Genny C.!

After a year and a half of gestation, Genny C.’s calf has died during labour. It is a dark day for the people at the Seneca Park Zoo, I am sure, and for those of us in the public who have been anxiously awaiting the new arrival.

But worst of all for poor Genny C. Those who do not take much stock of animals and thier behaviour might find this hard to believe, but elephants are among the most deeply emotional animals on the face of the earth. In fact, elephants in the wild have often been seen returning to the scene of a loved one’s death years after the fact, in what some have coined the “elephant graveyards.” For Genny C., a creature held in captivity however beneficent, this must indeed be a tragedy. Veteranary doctors and zoo keepers are anxiously observing Genny’s behaviour for any signs of distress that might lead to unfortunate actions, which with an animal as large as Genny, can be quite unfortunate indeed.

Those of you who are spiritual or religious might want to say a prayer for Genny C. Those of you who are not, perhaps just keep her in your thoughts and hope for the best.

Duffy Taps Maryland Police Chief for Rochester

Announced today, the lastest ~ and I believe the last ~ member of the core Duffy Team has been named: David Moore, police chief most recently from Laurel, MD. Moore has been a cop in three different cities, and in two of them, the top cop.

Certainly, experience helps. But what has his experience thus far been? Well, I’m still working on the preliminary research, but so far, it seems that in Laurel the experience wasn’t necessarily so good. Pulling crime statistics for the city for the last three years, it seems that Laurel has seen a steady increase in crime throughout his tenure save his last. Specifically in the area of violent crime.

Only the Good Retire Young

What a sad day for the scientific community. George C. Deutsch, the 24-year-old glimmering sign of hope for reasoned, intelligent debate on the issue of the meaning of the word “Theory,” has stepped down from his post as the NASA public affairs official most responsible for bringing much-needed Intelligent Design language into the lexicon of the Space Program.

Evidently, there was some flap about a degree in journalism which as it turns out he never actually had.? Big deal!? He wasn’t even doing any journalism!? Why in the world would you need a journalism degree for that?? And I think that his work for the Texas A&M Battalion more than proves he’s the man for the job, anyway.

A Subtle Rejoinder to Bush’s Democracy

The DMI Blog always has some colorful posts, no less so this one. It is indeed a statement on the bubble that is Dubya’s World that he lives in Texas, a few hundred miles from Haiti, and espouses democracy as the balm that cures all wounds.

Haiti is perhaps one of the best examples of the notion that democracy ~ to say nothing of democracy arrived at through war ~ does not hold anything more than a promise of a better life, but holds a great deal more danger for that promise. Do not misread: I am not suggesting that democracy is a bad thing. Rather, that any rational person can see that people who can elect presidents can elect bad ones, and that democracy in its best form is an incredibly delicate thing.

I have commented on this in the past, at great length. The American path to democracy is not at all a model for the rest of the world to emulate, even if the end result is something we can be proud of. In fact, it’s a miracle that our democracy ever survived two well-documented wars, between which we suffered many lesser-known injustices and shedding of blood.

So as much as the Bush Administration likes to pin some of us against the rhetorical, “you think democracy is a good thing, don’t you?” argument, the truth is that there are very good reasons to pause before insisting on opening the Pandora’s Box of democratic institutions. Democracy is not a thing to enter into lightly, and even if every human is entitled to self-determination, that entitlement does not also grant us the entitlement of forcing the issue as suits our purposes.

David Corn on “Greymail” and Scooter

David Corn makes some interesting points on the new Scooter Libby defense strategy: subpoena things you know you won’t get from the White House and CIA, then claim that you cannot mount a defense without it.? How will this fly with a judge or a jury?? My guess is that it won’t go very well at all, but that this is a stall tactic for the moment.? After all, if anyone should know what can and cannot be given up by the White House, it’s Scooter Libby.? If there is a question, he can always ask his former boss, Dick Cheney.

Normally, such defenses are mounted by CIA operatives under investigation, at least as Corn tells it.? In those cases, I imagine the person in question is pretty low-level, and thus has a great deal of beaurocracy to fight against in order to get information.? In this way, such a defense seems plausible for those people.? However, for Scooter Libby it just seems downright silly.? In fact, there might be an argument to be made that if those documents were released, Libby might be violating his security clearance trust yet again.

This will be an interesting one to watch play out.? Fitzgerald is obviously a man with some small sense of humor, being that the only documents he made sure got released were the ones that made Scooter look worse than he does already.


Phish On! All’s Well That Ends Well

Thank goodness that at least eBay responds quicker and with a bit more grace than does PayPal. I sent off my email to the address, and within an hour, received my reply. The reply was a very gracious message of appreciation for alerting them to the problem, along with some tips on avoiding such predators. Now, this new phishing site appears to be relatively new: one security site only seems to have acknowledged this particular bugger as recently as this week; however, there does seem to be an enormous amount of phishing aimed at PayPal customers.

McCain Gets Rough with Obama

Oooh!? Snap!

McCain gets all up in Obama’s grill, calling him a “junior Senator,” “disingenuous,”? and a “punk-ass bitch.”?? Well, OK, I made that last bit up.

But McCain decided that if he was going to get rough with someone, better to choose the “junior Senator,” and do so by mail.? It’s less painful that way.? And his reasoning for this little flame?? Well, Obama wanted to get a bill into committee and on the front burner, whereas McCain believes that the best way to get things done is to form a committee.

Now, I’m no senior Senator, goodness knows, so there’s a possiblity that I have the wrong impression.? Nevertheless, generally speaking I have always taken it as an article of faith that one can never be more assured that something is going to come to nothing as when a Senator tells me he is forming a committee.? In fact, from my perspective, it seems like he’s holding the hatch open whilst the rats jump off the ship.? He knows all about that.

Cracking Down on Minnesotans

You just cannot trust people from Minnesota, especially seniors, not to start importing drugs from Canada. These hell-on-wheels octogenarians have no respect for the rule of law, no concern for the welfare of drug companies, and if you get to close to them, they’ll whack you with thier steely canes of doom. So much the better, then, that US Customs is finally starting to crack down on these blue-haired ne’er-do-wells:

Charlotte Bystrom of Crane Lake, Minn., was expecting a package of six medications in mid-January. Instead, the 69-year-old got a letter from U.S. Customs and Border Protection telling her the $600 shipment had been “intercepted.”

The letter gave her two options: She could voluntarily “abandon” the drugs and waive any rights to the property; or she could request that they be sent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for testing and disposal. Either way, she wasn’t getting her medications back.

In fact, the situation keeps improving, with the Canadan drug cartel ~ known as a “pharmacy association” in the Great White Northern Satan ~ that deals with these miscreants reporting as much as 10 percent of thier illicit trade being stopped on the borders.

Your tax dollars at work: keeping kids off drugs.

Gone Phishing Part Deux

You might have thought that PayPal would take phishing attacks done in thier name seriously, but alas, at least one representative of this company does not seem to get it. Here is the response to my email alerting the company of a phishing expedition:

Dear Thomas Belknap,

Thank you for writing to PayPal regarding the email you received.

Time Reports on Google in China

Following up on my previous post of the day concerning Google in China, here is an interesting read from (of all places) Time Magazine Online.

The author makes a point to muddy the waters as much as possible to try to give Google some cover, but there are some interesting points to be made here. Much of the logic stems from the “Everybody’s doing it,” field of corporate moral relativism, arguing that China is a market that cannot be ignored, and therefore a little evil is OK.

Panorama of Decline. . .

Rochester DISSIDENT has an interesting, if depressing post, showing a sweeping panorama of decline in Rochester, from the Federal level on down to our inept and possibly hallucinating local government. Worth a read, for sure.

I’ve only just discovered this guy from the RocWiki blog listings, but he’s absolutely going to be more read by this author from now on.