Sunday, November 28, 2010

If a little knowledge is a dangerous thing...

Not at all sure how I feel about this whole WikiLeaks thing. On the one hand, as we sort through the third mammoth batch of secret documentswhose release U.S. diplomats from Hillary Clinton on down tried feverishly to thwartit must be said that WikiLeaks stands for free speech. Very, very free speech. (The first two "document dumps," in July and October, consisted of secret files pertaining to U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.) It must also be said that this bold newish site embodies the kind of enterprise reporting that's all too lacking in a world of celebrity obsession, indolent press-release journalism, and attitude or political agenda dressed up as news. It is also true that governments, ours in particular, often will claim "privilege!" when what they really mean is "dirty little secret!," classifying documents whose release would result more in embarrassment than any grave risks to national security. That seems to be the case with a fair percentage of the material in this latest doc-dump.

On the other everybody entitled to know everything? State Department legal adviser Harold Koh had warned that
this new wave of documents "[endangers] the lives of countless individuals," and now that those documents are out, it's not hard to see why. When your diplomats are functioning at least partly as spies, collecting financial and "biometric" data on their foreign counterparts, the risks to safety are obvious...all the more so when those counterparts are from terrorist nation-states like Iran or North Korea, which are not exactly known for their sympathetic feelings toward dissent and insurgency. Also, as a practical matter, espionage by definition presupposes secrecy. If you can't operate in secret, or if your methods are compromised, then you can no longer conduct espionage. Unless, of course, we want to just throw up our hands as a society and say, "OK, no more spying or any form of secret data collection." And the risks of that in a post-9/11 world should be equally obvious. (This raises the question of whether a government, ours or any, would be within its rights to order a covert-ops strike designed to "take out" WikiLeaks. Does that seem so far beyond the pale, given what's at stake?)

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange clearly sees himself as a hero and a freedom fighter, a self-styled one-man sunshine law. But again, journalism is supposed to be responsible. Is hacking journalism? Is theft of documents journalism? As writer Steve Coll poses at the end of hi
s New Yorker piece, linked above, "[I]f WikiLeaks cannot learn to think efficiently about its publishing choices, it will risk failure, not only because of the governmental opponents it has induced but also because so far it lacks an ethical culture that is consonant with the ideals of free media."

Two questions here. One is, Can we wait for the free market to penalize that lack of an ethical culture? As to the second question, I would direct it to Mr. Coll: Are you freakin' kidding me? An "ethical culture that is consonant with the ideals of free media"? I think maybe Coll needs to step outside the musty, rarefied hallways of The New Yorker and take a clear-eyed look at what's going on around him in today's "free media." What ideals? What ethical culture? The simple facts are, (1) the media suck at policing themselves (I place in evidence MSNBC's handling of the Olbermann mess), and (2) the public, for its part, doesn't want an ethical culture. If it did, we wouldn't have paparazzi feeding mega-circ rags like the National Enquirer, or Glenn Beck making a meteoric ascent to the top of the media pile by ginning up hatred of all-things-Obama in the guise of honest reporting. For that matter, if the public wanted an ethical media culture, an operation like WikiLeaks wouldn't have seen its popularity surge by 168% after its release of secret files pertaining to Afghanistan. In this great land of ours, if someone says he has dirt on someone else, we'll look at it, then we'll heatedly spread the good word, no matter the damage done to a per
son's reputation or life. In this great land of ours, if a girl goes for a joyride in Daddy's Porsche and ends up splitting her head open against a concrete abutment, we'll look at it. (WARNING: The pictures linked in the previous line are extremely graphic. I debated including them here, but I think they have a "redeeming social value" in the context of this discussion. If you're this far into the post, you didn't come here for gore. Unfortunately, millions of your fellow Americans do seek out such photos, and avidly so, as well as those of shotgun suicides, train accidents, etc. Just as millions of your fellow Americans want to know everything that's said and done behind closed doors in Washington.)

In theory, full disclosure
of everything; by everybodymight seem like a good idea, with the exception of wartime strategies and tactics. (Would we have wanted full disclosure of what was going on in and around Alamogordo back in 1945?) The fly in that ointment is that as a practical matter, free-world nations will be put at a major disadvantage unless and until WikiLeaks operatives are able to gain equivalent access to top-secret files in places like Russia, North Korea and Iran. Which is why in the end I think I come down against outfits like WikiLeaks and the mindset they represent.

If a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, then surely, in these troubled times, a little bit more knowledge can be catastrophic.

(P.S. This is the point at which the late, great Leslie Nielsen would chime in
with: "And don't call me Shirley!" He will be missed.)


RevRon's Rants said...

While I'm 100% in favor of freedom of the press, I'm equally in favor of not recklessly exposing those whom we put in harm's way. In the military, anyone who needlessly endangers the lives of others is swiftly and definitively dealt with. I'll be surprised if something doesn't happen to WikiLeaks' servers and principals. Not at the hands of anyone in an official US capacity, mind you, but "accidents" happen all the time.

Steve Salerno said...

Viscerally, I agree with you in wholehearted fashion, Ron. I think that making sport out of people's lives--in this day and age, especially--is a reckless and dishonorable thing to do.

If I were Assange, I'd be careful about which balconies I stepped out onto--or where I drank my tea. (

RevRon's Rants said...

Of course, as we've seen in the Valerie Plame case, there is only minor retribution for exposing one's own operatives, so long as the ones doing the exposing are deeply enough ensconced in the political majority.

Steve Salerno said...

On the other hand, I'm sure Assange would say that the U.S. has played fast and loose with the lives of countless thousands of foreigners (as well as its own troops) in pursuing its overseas policy and its general warmongering.

We'll just have to see how it all plays out.

RevRon's Rants said...

Fast and loose? You mean like when the State Department told Saddam Hussein that the US "had no interest in Iraq's border dispute with Kuwait," thus giving him tacit permission to invade? What scares me worse than the actual, official manipulation and misreporting of events that have repeatedly led us into war is the fact that the manipulation was and is well-documented, yet many citizens choose to just overlook it. Makes me believe we have the government we deserve.

Dave said...

As a retired military type, I actually have more tolerance for the Assanges of the world than I do for the little jerk who stole the documents in the first place. Regardless of calls to "higher purpose" etc., the fact is that he signed a document promising to safeguard any classified information he had access to, and he also took an oath to support and defend the constitution and "obey the orders of the officers appointed over [him]..." which he clearly violated. That said, our government has a bad habit of classifying the most mundane crap, and I'm sure much of what has been leaked is just that, crap. They also scream "methods and sources" as justification when, as you mentioned, what they really mean is "this will embarrass us if it gets out that we are being dirty little spies". The State Department is very jealous of their reputation.

I think you nailed it by touching on the lop-sidedness of the disclosure of information. While he may be mildly concerned with the possibility of direct action (nice euphemism, eh?) against him by the western world, Assange knows that (if he could get his hands on it) his life would not be worth a plugged nickel if he pulled the same crap on China, Russia, Iran, et al.

Overall, nice, thought-provoking post.

Anonymous said...

This post is excellent, one of your best. The photos of that poor girl are horrifying and didn't need to be included. In my opinion, doesn't that make you somewhat guilty of what you're attacking?

Steve Salerno said...

Roger: In my opinion, no, and you kind of missed the point.

Elizabeth said...

Interesting post and follow-up comments. I'm not going to get into the socio-political discussion, which you all are covering admirably. I just wanted to add an aside here: The Manhattan Project was headquartered in Northern New Mexico at Los Alamos, NM. Yes it was detonated in what was then called the "Alamogordo Bombing Range" (now called White Sands), but the Trinity site is nearly 60 miles northwest of Alamogordo. So what was happening in and around Alamogordo in 1945 wasn't nearly as interesting as what was happening in and around Socorro, NM, and didn't hold a candle to the goings on in Los Alamos.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: Your correction is technically true. In my defense, I was using Alamogordo as a (careless) shorthand, and did not really intend for its usage to be taken in a strict geographical sense. Also--not to try to one-up you or anything--I am quite familiar with the Manhattan project, its bearing on the entire region, and the subject of atomic testing as a whole. I once edited and did some rewriting on an award-winning piece, "St. George is Expendable," about the nuclear plumes that drifted downwind into Utah and wreaked generational tragedy on local residents.

Though that piece did not focus specifically on the original A-bomb project, quite a bit of the background research did. I still rank that piece among my finest hours as an editor/writer, even though it appeared in (relatively) unheralded American Legion magazine. Ironically, we gained access to a number of secret documents in the course of reporting that piece, but many of the principals were dead and almost none of them were still in service, so it was not then a matter of national security. Rather, the government's activities fell more into the category of a "cover-up."

Anonymous said...

I want to be sure I understand this. So your snooping into secret documents was award winning journalism but the WikiLeaks people deserve to be killed in a covert op? Maybe you need to put the "hypocrisy" tag on this post, to reflect your own double standard here.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon: No response other than to fall back on the distinctions already drawn (and gray areas noted) in the post and my comments, and also to refer to you the concept of the "greater good." In fairness, I do realize that "greater good" is a blanket defense many would mount, probably including Julian Assange himself.

Anonymous said...

Surprised you would like Leslie Nelson. Seems very lowbrow for you tastes.

Anonymous said...

Basically, America feels it's manhood is threatened by this airing of it's dirty laundry, and the dent in it's idea of itself as a righteous people of destiny because the world is sick of it's violence and exploitation as much as jealous of whatever freedoms you have.
None of you are going to suffer, so relax.

Anonymous said...

(Not that I'm feeling grumpy or anything).
America bashing aside, is this something unexpected, or does the pentagon put this in it's supercomputer wargames 20 years in advance anyway?

Anonymous said...

Steve, would you rather not know what your government is doing?

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: Let me turn that right back around: Would you want everyone to know everything that your government is doing? Would you prefer that we wait till after the car-bomb goes off at the Christmas-tree lighting ceremony to find out about the sting our government is running on some disaffected Muslim?

Steve Salerno said...

Let me also say in postscript that such discussions make me mindful once again of that memorable declaration, "Democracy is not a suicide pact." Do we believe that? Or not.

Anonymous said...

I do not support a single person (Assange)or entity (WikiLeaks)appointing itself as the decider of who in our society is to be made transparent and to be the agent of forcing that upon those people. The backlash to this use of force is going to be longlasting and harmful to all.

I don;t know one of us who would want "transparency" and integrity forced on us by someone else at their discretion and not our own.

The reason people may be comfortable cheering WikiLeaks is that WikiLeaks lens has not yet been aimed directly at them or at community they are working in, in a way that they immediately experience the impact of the "transparency" that has been forced upon them. As long as it is aimed at some other group *out there* all is well.

WikiLeaks promotes an us versus them world.

Steve Salerno said...

Though I strongly suspect that Anon 11:13 may be someone I have previously banned from this board (and if not, my apologies), I think s/he makes an excellent point. Unless all information can be made public with respect to all parties in any given transaction, negotiation or scenario, then the motives of selective leaking must always be suspect--especially when the source is a confessed enemy of American goals and interests.

And in a more philosophical sense, I think that question--"who decides what to divulge?"--is central to this whole discussion.

Anonymous said...

Steve, 11:13 AM is same banned and BIG fan of Shamblog and critic culture :-) *High five*

Could not resist lobbing a few bits into your Wikileaks discussion.

I question the popular notion of "transparency". "Transparency" seems too often to merely be the weapon of choice that one person or group uses against another. People who conveniently do not practice it themselves nor want it applied to themselves gleefully want it inflicted and force fed to others and usually have an abundant supply of justifications why others are different and need to be in a fishbowl but THEY the individual do not.

Are we going to choose "transparency" as a core value for our society and for ALL of us are we not? Or is "transparency" just going to be a tool to be forced on for those that we don't like or find distasteful or disapprove of or that we personally view as or label soem imaginary abstract label like "too powerful" or "a threat" or "too big" or "someone who owes us something" or "that must answer to us the masses" whatever nonsense we lean on to justify applying "transparency" to them but not to little ol us.

Anonymous said...

I understand from your response(s), Steve, that you'd rather not know what your government is doing -- or not know everything that your government is doing.(?)

Anonymous said...

I think that question--"who decides what to divulge?"--is central to this whole discussion.

Who do you think should decide that?

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: Question, questions!

Of course I "want to know everything." Which is why my government must be protected from me. Because--stepping above the fray for a moment--there are certain things people just shouldn't know. Certainly there are things our enemies shouldn't know--wouldn't you agree?--and I think it's safe to say that if you or I know it, N. Korea and Iran and Al Qaeda know it too.

This, by the way, is the same basic response I give when people respond to my opposition to the death penalty by saying, "Ohh, you're just taking that position because you've never lost a loved one to senseless violence." Exactly. And people who have lost a loved one are the last people who should be trusted with deciding the fate of killers and other major felons. Cooler heads need to prevail.

RevRon's Rants said...

I believe that anyone whose actions adversely affect the well-being of others (and most especially the general populace) needs to be subjected to a higher degree of transparency than do individuals whose actions affect only themselves. That doesn't mean that every official action should be available for public purview, but I do think we need a more effective means of deciding what information is disseminated. As it stands, the determination as to what will be made public is made by those who initiated the actions... foxes watching hen houses.

That said, I do not think it an inappropriate double standard to allow individuals the right to assume that their private (legal) behaviors will remain private. There are instances in my past that would certainly be sources of embarrassment to me, were they made public. The fundamental question we must ask ourselves is whether the public good is served by such disclosures, or whether such disclosure is prompted by little more than the public's voyeuristic inclinations.

Anonymous said...

Steve, two things if I may?

I would say that privacy seems to be one of our shared core values as a soceity, it is certainly one of mine and I take the case that we should treat others how we wanted to be treated. I don't think anyone or any thing should be "fair game" just because that is convenient to me or suits my or Wikileaks agenda.

2. I take the case that Wikipedia's and your and mine and all of our underlying commitments are to really great governance and good citizenry for all with no one left out, but I think Assange's expression of that has turned out to be forceful, manipulative, irresponsible, vindictive, self serving and flawed and will not create the outcome he envisions and we all want and have in common but rather create hostility and harm to us all.

There is evidence that Wikileaks has posted documents from legal cases in Belgium people who turned out in the end to be innocent were smeared and harmed by Wikileaks guerilla approach to information dumping.

Anonymous said...

When is "the public good" is going to ever be agreed upon by the public? Each person will say that their agenda is in the public or greater good. Our elections is the closest way we have coem up with so far . We need educated informed citizens, not more Wikleaks, IMO.

I NEVER want some other persons version of "public good" to be forced on me or you or shoved down others throats. I did not vote for nor grant Wikileaks the authority to be my or others educator on how things should be. What Wikileaks is doing is like FORCING a restrictive diet on an obese person, the results will be short lived and did not come from a creative sustainable place. The fat person will lose weight but will more then likely go back to the same weight as before, the path he was forced on was manipulated from outside.

Anonymous said...

RevRon's Rants

can you provide even one single isolated example of an "individual whose actions affect only themselves"? I cannot think of any.

Sounds like you are building a case, a convenient way to have transparancy apply to "them" but not to "us".

RevRon's Rants said...

Alas, she's back. Wonder how long this time before...

First of all, "public good" - at least on the personal level - is kind of a common sense thing. Like pornography, you know it when you see it.

Second of all, while I don't agree with Assange's actions, it is patently inaccurate to claim he is "forcing" a diet of information on anybody. It's more like he opened the buffet; it's all there before you, and you choose what you're going to eat. Can't really blame the guy (or the "food") if you get fat (or confused).

And finally, in response to the assertion that there's no such thing as a person whose actions affect only themselves: I have a good friend (not me) who grows his own pot for his own consumption. Never drives stoned, and never gets stoned anywhere but in the privacy of his own home. What he does is affecting nobody else. However, if he started selling pot on the corner next to an elementary school, his actions would be affecting others, and would certainly justify a response.

Anything about me that affects my function in the greater world is subject to greater transparency than is my private behavior, which affects only me. No rationalization attempted or necessary, especially since it's not about "me" versus "them." It's about the potential repercussions for given behaviors, and it applies to everyone equally (or would if we weren't such a voyeuristic species).

Anonymous said...

RevRon's Rants

"public good" - at least on the personal level - is kind of a common sense thing. Like pornography, you know it when you see it."

This is a measure you seem to like to espouse but I do not see as reliable as no two people will agree on it. Please do not inflict your "common sense" on me TYVM

" it is patently inaccurate to claim he is "forcing" a diet of information on anybody. It's more like he opened the buffet; it's all there before you, and you choose what you're going to eat. Can't really blame the guy (or the "food") if you get fat (or confused)."

Wikileaks info dumps have FORCED much coordinated damage control efforts by thousands of people and explaining of info that was dumped that may or may not have been accurate.

That is how I was using that metaphor. If the metaphor does not work for you Ron, I cannot argue that it is accurate.

"And finally, in response to the assertion that there's no such thing as a person whose actions affect only themselves..."

Yes Ron, we can for your argument exclude from my comment:

shut-ins who have no living friends nor relatives and who live on dead end streets

we can exclude certain types of monks who have not left their caves and no one knows they are there

we can exclude misanthropes who live under rocks or whom are plunked on a couch in front of a TV 24/7 by themselves and eating only nachos which they grew in their own backyard

we can exclude sick people who have retreated and live alone smoking pot in privacy of their home populated by just them.... argument on that select group of isolated folk Ron. AND I assert that "most people, as E.E Cummings used to call them, who are actually alive and living and a functioning part of society and who are taking actions and even their non actions in the world, profoundly affect other people in some way. This is not hard to prove or display or see. Unless you dont want to see it.

RevRon's Rants said...

"This [public good" - kind of a common sense thing] is a measure you seem to like to espouse but I do not see as reliable as no two people will agree on it. Please do not inflict your "common sense" on me TYVM

Nobody's inflicting anything on anybody. If you don't acknowledge that there is a pretty clear standard by which society gages acceptable behaviors, it would be ludicrous to attempt to "inflict" something as subjective as common sense on you, anyway. YW

"Wikileaks info dumps have FORCED much coordinated damage control efforts..."

Thus, they have impacted others with their behavior, including (IMO), the public good. As such, I think their actions warrant greater transparency than do the private behaviors of most individuals.

The examples you offer of the only kind of people whose actions have little or no impact upon those around them are unrealistic extremes, and hardly representative of the nuanced existence of the vast majority of people. I've known monks, but none whop lived in caves. I've known shut-ins, but have rarely found any who had no friends, relatives, or contact with the outside world. One did live on a dead-end street, however. And I have, in my 60 years on this planet, never encountered even one example of those "misanthropes who live under rocks or whom are plunked on a couch in front of a TV 24/7 by themselves and eating only nachos which they grew in their own backyard." And for the record, none of the people I know who do smoke pot fit the description you offer. Perhaps things are different in your neighborhood... I'd recommend moving, and quickly! :-)

As to whether most people "profoundly affect other people in some way," perhaps some of their actions do have an effect upon those around them, but I'd assert that *most* of their actions - especially those done in private - have no effect on anyone else, and are, in fact, none of anyone else's business. There are, of course, some who see it as their right - even their duty - to act as judge and arbiter of everyone else's behavior, both public and private. It is typically such voyeurs who fail to see the inappropriateness of their own behaviors, or to make the distinction between private behavior and public.

Cosmic Connie said...

Part of this issue comes back down, it seems, to the human desire to have our cake and eat it too. I know I rag about this a lot, but it just keeps coming up. Most of us employ double standards, even if we don't like to admit it to ourselves. We want, for example, to charge and receive premium prices for our own work, but we want to pay bargain-basement prices for other folks' products and services (unless we're conspicuous consumers whose whole point is to show the world that we can afford "the best"). More relevant to this post: We want the ability to access information about everyone else whenever we desire it, but we want to maintain strict control over the information about *us*. We want a front-row view of the gory accident on the street, as well as the right to take pictures of it -- but probably wouldn't be too pleased if we were the one lying in our own gore, and dozens of onlookers were taking pics of us with their cell phones and then putting them on the Net.

WikiLeaks is, if nothing else, another opportunity for us to examine these double standards we have, and to re-examine the whole concept of "right to know."

While I think that our favorite Anon friend has raised some good points, I also very much agree with Ron that we all deserve greater transparency from people in leadership positions than we do from our across-the-street neighbor or the person in the cubicle next to ours. Whether they're political leaders or religious or self-help "leaders" who make millions telling other people how to run their lives, we deserve, I think, to know something about the people who are doing so much to influence our quality of life.

Ron is also right about our species having voyeuristic tendencies, and I don't think Anon would disagree on that one point. I do not think we have any inherent right to know the details of public figures' private lives, however -- unless, as in the case of all too many self-help gurus, they use their private lives as marketing tools. And this is an argument I've had with Anon on my own blog. (Case in point: A certain favorite snarget of this blog and mine has frequently employed the boast that he lives on a multi-million dollar estate, which was supposedly tangible proof that the stuff he teaches "works." In truth his "estate" was appraised at about $320,000 -- still nothing to sneeze at, but why did he have to lie? And if he lied about that, what else is he lying about? And so on. I will say this: after he was publicly outed about his real estate exaggeration, he did alter all the copy and now just describes his place as being "lovely.")

Political leaders' private lives shouldn't be fair game either, unless, for example, they are trying to legislate morality in a way that affects the lives of millions, and yet in private they are violating the same codes they would force upon others. An example would be a born-again leader who campaigns furiously against gay rights while enjoying his own homosexual dalliances in private.

Sometimes, I think, the exposure of hypocrisy does serve the greater good.

That said, I'm still kind of up in the air about this whole WikiLeaks thing too. Assange is looking less and less like a hero to me, but I can't go along with any of those who would wish him a violent end.

OMT: if Leslie Nielsen is "lowbrow," as one contributor said, count me among the knuckle-draggers who love his work.

Anonymous said...

Team RonConn,

For better or for worse I support the goverment I elect and I also advocate citizens on educating themselves about politics and on what it takes to create and elect good governments that work and that operate with integrity. We seem to have a long long way to go.

But perhaps you think, at least in part, that a goverment or a goverment official's trespasses, mistakes, folly, errors or poor judgement or lack of integrity JUSTIFIES the use of force, and transparency shoved down their thoats, or terrorism and manipulation, smearing, spreading of gossip and hearsay, comments out of context and incomplete "facts" and all kinds of behavior directed at the goverment to force and shame them into proper behavior that pleases the masses? I do not.

I would prefer that Wikileaks and such kind of irreponsible cavalier enforcement of others and terrorism not be the path we choose for growing as citizens. That is where I stand about it.

Steve Salerno said...

ED.NOTE: I have now had to kill/censor comments on both sides of the aisle. I think this is a lively and meaningful discussion--I dare say, an important one--but I am adamant that we have it without ad hominem finger-pointing. There are ways to make the same exact points that folks on both sides are trying to make without resorting to remarks like, "Oh yeah? Well I know what you're all about, you hypocritical, no-good so-and-so...!" Or words to that effect.

Anonymous said...

You tickle me, Steve. You really do.

RevRon's Rants said...

I must have been experiencing a senior moment when I supposedly advocated "the use of force, and transparency shoved down their thoats, or terrorism and manipulation, smearing, spreading of gossip and hearsay, comments out of context and incomplete "facts" and all kinds of behavior directed at the goverment to force and shame them into proper behavior that pleases the masses," because I don't recall ever advocating anything even remotely resembling such responses.

Once again, you have jumped to absurd extremes, rather than consider what has actually been stated. And that is not an ad hominem, but an accurate reflection of the direction in which you seem to prefer taking the discussion.

You seem to overlook the fact that I have clearly stated my disagreement with disclosures such as those in Wikileaks, which leads me to believe you're adopting a Vonnegut-esque badge with your comments, rather than defending a viewpoint. That is, of course, your right, just as it is my right to point it out.

RevRon's Rants said...

I'd have never pegged you as someone who was into being tickled, Roger. Learn something new every day. :-)

Anonymous said...

RevRon's Rants

"You seem to overlook the fact that I have clearly stated my disagreement with disclosures such as those in Wikileaks"

In my desire to rant about "transparency" I did steam roll that and see that you did express the above.

Steve Salerno said...

ED.NOTE: Just received another comment from one of the participants here, probably not intended for publication, but the point I'd simply like to say in response is...well, let me give a little illustration. And please, forgive me if I sound patronizing or pedantic, but it's just that so many people seem to have trouble with this. And certainly not just on SHAMblog. I see how many comments on other blogs either end up being "deleted for objectionable content" or simply ignite a firestorm of ridiculous he-said/she-said that veers very far away from the issue at hand and deteriorates into nothing but name-calling--a blogosphere version of "the dozens."

Anyway, as to my illustration. Let's suppose someone were to say to me, "You're just an Italian, and Italians are all dirty greaseballs and gangsters who contribute nothing to society and should all be deported back to the homeland, if not executed outright!"

I could have two responses to that. One is, "Who the hell are you calling a no-good greaseball, you moth*%$^%$#*@ing a*$hole! Why, if I knew where you lived...!" Etc.

But the other level of response is to simply deal with the points as presented. Refute the contentions. Maybe talk about what Italians have contributed. Maybe talk about why the deportation laws, as currently structured, don't apply here. Maybe talk about why the offenses committed by my so-called paisans don't rise to the level required by statutes governing capital punishment. Maybe point to the variety of high-profile Italians in the public eye who are not greaseballs or gangsters. Maybe point out that I don't even consider myself Italian in the first place.

Isn't the latter approach better?

RevRon's Rants said...

Glad we got that cleared up, anonymous. Now I can go back to searching for the videos of Roger giggling maniacally as he's being tickled. The mere mental picture leaves me nostalgic for a good John Cleese performance. :-)

And please don't take offense, Roger... I'm just teasing with you.

Anonymous said...

Certain on line critics, whose point of view is IMO lopsided, and whihc is invested all about in "debunking", invalidating and casting doubt on others they personally find unattractive, are not individuals whose views on the useful applications of "transparency" I would be inclined to trust.

Those same critics will justify why those that the critics target should be and must be FORCED to be "transparent" why it is unacceptable and suspicious that those that the critics target are not "transparent" enough ( to the critics standards), and how those that the critics target have to be more "transparent" then anyone else in society. This is only .....fulfills...the ...critics.... agenda. Not because it is in the publics interest. Just because a critics say it is for the common good does not - that it is for the common good.

It is unsaid but seems to me that Wikileaks is selling to anyone who will listen that Wikileaks is representing all our interests. Wikileaks does not represent me in any way shape or form. Wikileaks notion of transparency is it's own, not mine and not societies.

Cosmic Connie said...

Jeez, Anon, I don't know which "online critics" you have in mind, but I've never advocated that anyone be forced to do anything. Let's revisit a scenario I just wrote about. Let's suppose that...

1. A New-Wage guru makes specific verifiable claims about his personal life, and he makes these claims in order to influence people to give him their money.
2. Someone else, without really doing much work at all, finds public records that show his claims to be patently false.
3. I mention, on my blog, the facts that these other parties have discovered.
4. At the same time, I also link to the guru's site(s) so people can see what he has to say about himself and his work.

How is that 'forcing transparency' on anyone? And even if you don't find merit in my reporting and opinion-expressing, or Steve's, or Ron's, is it not possible that others might?

You've made it obvious that you don't trust the online critics, Anon. Even so, I think you and I may be more in agreement about WikiLeaks than you seem to realize.

Of course if you were not referring to me in your last comment, then I apologize for wasting your time.

Anonymous said...


it is I who apologises, I misunderstood you. I thought you had been promoting that the targets of your criticism SHOULD BE more transparent then the rest of us and that society should and has a right to expect that of them.

RevRon's Rants said...

Anon, IMO anyone... ANYONE who holds themselves up as a model for others to emulate should recognize that they are going to be held to a higher standard of behavior than is some everyday mucket who simply strives to plod through his or her own life. If someone is telling you how to live a joyous life, yet is a seething bag of resentment and rage, that someone is a fraud, and deserves to be exposed as such. And if they preach integrity, yet knowingly deceive and use others for their own profit, their followers have a right to know that what their "guru" is preaching doesn't even work for him. It's the kind of information any investor would demand before committing their energy and treasure to the "guru's" enterprise. Can you not see the logic in that?

Anonymous said...

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

OK, how is it dangerous for me to see wikileaks released footage of snickering gunship pilots mowing down innocents?

If it was down to you I think I would believe that every war was a John Wayne Righteous Crusade, rather than extermination for profit.

When it becomes profitable to exterminate you and yours, I'm sure that's what will happen.

"the U.S. has played fast and loose with the lives of countless thousands of foreigners."

Countless because the U.S. doesn't keep count, does it?

Anonymous said...

"You're just an Italian...etc..."

1. Great food
2. Great art
3. Great clothes

I'd love to go to Italy again.

Anonymous said...

If you are interested in Assange's thinking then you may gain some insight here.

Anonymous said...


Isn't the latter approach better?

(crickets; more rumble)




[he] now just describes his place as being "lovely."


Anonymous said...

Without wading into the on-going (and expiring, it seems?) discussion, I'd just like to say (and that's apropos my earlier question/comment) that I consider Assange's work to be extremely valuable in many respects, not only for the content of the information he's revealed, but also the discussion (and then some) WikiLeaks has spurred on freedom, censorship, transparency, the role of journalism in a democracy, etc.

The witch hunt we are witnessing against the man is very instructive in itself, as is the curiously* distorted coverage of the WL's revelations in the American MSM.

Personally, I want to know it all. Yes, I'm that greedy. I know this is physically impossible, so I'm willing to compromise: I want to know as much as it is humanly possible. :)

Especially when it comes to actions of my government which is supposed to represent me and work on my behalf -- and, after all, is supported by my money.

Last but not least: if our "free" press were doing its job, WL wouldn't exist -- there just would not be any need for it.

*Not really.

Anonymous said...

Then again, could be all this.

Anonymous said...

Team Ron Conn

"Can you not see the logic in that?" <--sounds like a loaded question to me.

I see no shortage of upset individuals in history (and in the present era) who viewed or view a specific group of "others" as a threat to themselves and to the common good and who proceed to try and convince and rally and incite and enlist a mob to also view that group of "others" as a threat.

The internet has become the latest tool for those upset individuals. Said individuals are invested in casting doubt on those others using rhetoric and in more extreme cases violence and force: Wikileaks, Adolf Hitler, individuals who burned witches Al-Qaeda and (fill in the blank whoever) come to mind.

I have no doubt that said upset individuals opinions or world view makes perfect logical sense to them and they have TONS of evidence for their world view.

I have observed that there is nothing humans do better then collect evidence for a point of view, no matter how distorted it may be to me and then they become invested in it and convinced by it and passionate about selling it to others. Team Ron Conn, I just do not view the individuals or groups you are passionate about invalidating as a threat . I also do not view the government I and the other citizens elected as a threat and fair game that need to be dealt with by any means possible as Wikileaks would like to have us all believe.

Anonymous said...

"Personally, I want to know it all. Yes, I'm that greedy. I know this is physically impossible, so I'm willing to compromise: I want to know as much as it is humanly possible. :)"

Elizabeth, this is what I don't get in all of this. Are you willing to be and have your family and immediate community all be transparent as well and for every one to know as much as is humanly possible about you and them? Or is this "transparency" just reserved for those *others* over there far away from you, that you and a few other special upset individuals deem applicable out of your personal set of prejudices? It seems a little convenient that we want it for them way over there, those bad people * points* ....but not for us.

I am not for that. I don't want that for myself, and if I am given a say, nor for you, nor my government. I want us to agree on what level of transparency we want as a society and then educate the citizenry and elect good government who will go to work on what we all value. I don't want TERRORISTS with their own agenda setting the bar for my society and shaming people into "good" behavior that pleases a few TERRORISTS.

IMO, yes, we have a long way to go, but I am willing to use and empower and support our democratic process till we figure it out.

Anonymous said...

Team Ron Conn

I don't know ANYONE who self describes themselves as such and who explicitly "holds themselves up as a model for others to emulate." I doubt such a person exists in reality outside of your personal world view.

Who am I to say what others "SHOULD recognize"? I am not even sure what I need to recognize.

I don't know nor label anyone in my world as an "everyday mucket who simply strives to plod through his or her own life." Who views people this way?

No one has ever told me "how to live a joyous life", if they did I would have probably been inclined to thump them. I have not thumped anyone yet.

I have never met nor do I know anyone who is "a seething bag of resentment and rage" or anyone that IS an immutable "fraud". I doubt such a person exists.

I am not in position to say who "deserves to be exposed as" anything. Maybe God is if there is a God but I am not in that position. I also don't see Wikileaks in this postion.

I don't know of anyone who has ever preached "integrity, yet knowingly deceived and used others for their own profit".

I don't know any followers who have a "right to know" anything.

I do not mis-use the Hindu word "guru" to label people in the West. It is a sacred word with a long tradition behind it. I see such use of a word in bad taste and it is mostly used by critics. I have never heard a single person who viewed themselves as an expert in a certain area, refer to themselves or describe themselves as a "guru". If you have an example of a person calling themselves a "guru, I would be edified to see it.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: I sort of have to go with our irrepressible Anon here. Are you really willing to have your own life be that transparent? Are you willing to have everything disclosed about, for example, your finances and sexual preferences? Because once you opt for full disclosure, I think it's dirty pool to start drawing lines.

Some time ago, when reporters were really, really into zinging politicians for their sexual indiscretions (i.e. when it was fairly "new," a la Gary Hart), I proposed in a column that--before undertaking such exposes--reporters should state for the record their own romantic history in full. (Certainly any reporter who is reporting on the president with an implied tone of moral outrage should be willing to have his own life opened up for examination, no?) I had no takers, and in fact I got QUITE a bit of angry feedback from my peers.

But I must also ask Anon: You know of no one who is "a seething bag of resentment and rage" or an immutable "fraud." No one? Or are we parsing language again?

You know of no one who has preached "integrity, yet knowingly deceived and used others for their own profit"? Let's get real here. That has to be overstatement. Or else you don't know (or know of) very many people.

RevRon's Rants said...

My name is Ron, and I'm an everyday mucket who simply strives to plod through his own life. There ya' go, anon. Time to check that one off the list of things you claim to have never seen. And based upon the other items on that list (at least, the ones you've shared), I'd suggest that you're either trying to blow your typical LGAT-issue smoke or you don't get out much. I'm guessing it's a combination of the two.

Team RonCon... nice ring. :-)

Steve, while I don't think we deserve to know *everything* about public figures, neither do I think an individual who lives a basically private life should be held to the same degree of transparency as a public figure who has - and exercises - the power to affect many people's lives. Everyone deserves a degree of privacy, but when the bar of one's private behaviors is significantly lower than the one they set for others, IMO, they deserve to be called on their hypocrisy.

Anonymous said...

But I must also ask Anon: You know of no one who is "a seething bag of resentment and rage" or an immutable "fraud." No one? Or are we parsing language again?

Nope. I don't know of anyone who IS that, is that like an immutable thing. AND I don't see this as a small or unimportant distinction to be making and maybe "parsing" is what is needed here. Anger and rage are ways of being. People be these ways when they do. I don't know any people who are FIXED angry raging things. Just because a person views or labels a person as an angry raging thing does not make them that.

"You know of no one who has preached "integrity, yet knowingly deceived and used others for their own profit"?

We are talking about the realm of opinion here no?. I have no knowledge of any person ever knowingly doing what is described above. I know you and Team Ron Conn are invested that there are people who are that but that is just your point of view. It is not something you would ever prove.

I suppose I know of news stories that report on a supposed financial investor who I will assume portrayed his operation as integrous and above board and who turns out to be conning others. But even then I do not know that person nor do I know what really actually happened.

But I DEFINITELY do not know anyone who preached "integrity, yet knowingly deceived and used others for their own profit". This point of view is yours and Team Ron Conns, I know you will fight it tooth and nail.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron: But do you agree with me about journalists and other media members? Clearly the potential influence they wield is enormous. And when you're reporting on other people in power, issues like hypocrisy, conflict of interest and personal agenda become highly relevant. Don't they? If a reporter is doing a sympathetic report on homelessness, don't we deserve to know that he (or someone in his family) was homeless, or close to it? Same with the justice system. Don't we deserve to know if financial correspondents were ever bankrupt, if they pay they credit cards on time, etc?

For that matter, shouldn't the voting record of every political correspondent be posted under his name each time he talks?

Anonymous said...

Team Ron Conn

"My name is Ron, and I'm an everyday mucket who simply strives to plod through his own life."

If you say so. You get to say who you are in this world, and I will not say boo.

You may have wound up as a person in life who views others as "muckets" or "seething bag of resentment and rage" or soem other fixed THING and that is your privilege. But I will not be taking cues or instruction from Team Ron Conn any time soon about who or what other people are.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon: I so fear that we are in danger of going down that same, sorry road as before. We cannot be so reductivist in our use of language that we do with words (and their meanings) what Mandelbrot did with fractals. Because at that point communication becomes impossible.

No, you do not know anyone who is--literally--"a seething bag of resentment and rage." Nor do most of us know--literally and personally--anyone who is "a prince of a guy." In its most restrictive sense, that phrase refers primarily to a couple of young men who live over in the UK, their Dad, a handful of kids in such places as Saudi Arabia and Jordan and a few other Third World fiefdoms, and that's it. Yet we all use the phrase and it has a commonly understood meaning. In this society, we discuss things in terms of memes and symbols and metaphors and convenient understandings, and though I do get your point--that it is all too easy to use such phrases too loosely and indiscriminately without thinking about whether they really apply--the simple fact is that it would be nigh impossible to navigate daily life in a world in which we had to strain to express ourselves entirely in literal meanings.

As far as frauds, was Bernie Madoff a fraud? Or not? If you're going to say no, then I don't think there is any further point to discussion, either on this issue or any other.

Besides, if the two of us happened by chance to be in some woods, and I said to you, "Don't go down that path, there are wild animals," would you engage me in protracted debate about the precise nuance of the word "wild," and whether humans in their own way were "wilder" than the creatures we so blithely judge, and so forth...or would you just steer clear of the damn path?

Anonymous said...

People, what are you on about. How can you possibly compare the privacy rights of a private individual with the secrecy abuses of a deadly military power?
Has Elizabeth got prisons, troops, aircraft carriers, secret bases and trillions of dollars of taxpayers money to throw around the world?
This is the internet age and your life already is transparent, or don't you think that all email gets hoovered up into data storage as a matter of course along with all your financial transactions, TV choices, phone calls, driving habits etc etc.
So far I expect you have passed the sniff test and you smell of apple pie. That may or may not stay like that in the future, your economy may have a long way to fall yet and you may have something someone wants.

You are perhaps also missing the point that everything is going to be transparent to artificial intelligence very soon, institutions are going global and national and public/governmental boundaries may simply become irrelevant.

RevRon's Rants said...

I agree up to a point, Steve. While I would agree that a political analyst should be forthcoming about his or her personal ideology (and the inherent influence upon analyses therein), I wouldn't demand to know everything about their sexual preferences unless their "calling" was to expose the sexual preferences and idiosyncrasies of their subjects. It's all about intent and context.

Connie and I are inclined to shine a light upon what we perceive as the misdeeds of some of the hucksters we've talked about, and if we engaged in similar behavior, it would be only fair for those behaviors to be made equally public. The key word in that statement is IF. Trust me, a couple of the hustledorks have made it clear that they'd love to find something with which to embarrass or discredit us, but there's just nothing there that is even remotely pertinent.

Anonymous said...

People, what are you on about. How can you possibly compare the privacy rights of a private individual with the secrecy abuses of a deadly military power?
Has Elizabeth got prisons, troops, aircraft carriers, secret bases and trillions of dollars of taxpayers money to throw around the world?

Wow, thank you, Anon! You've made my point for me better than I would have, since I'm desperately pressed for time today.

But exactly -- we are not comparing piddly private secrets of small people that are of little consequence to anyone but their small circle of family and friends, to huge and world-changing machinations of our governments -- are we? I'd hope not. I certainly did not mean to, and if my call to "know everything" sounded like it, I apologize for it being misleading.

I don't care about Ron's mucketing(?) or Roger's tickling habits, or even Steve's Italian ways -- private people should do as they privately please -- but I do care, very much so, about what our government is doing in my name at any place and time. This I want, need, to know, if simply because I don't trust these guys much (read: at all).

Steve Salerno said...

I still think that's a very self-serving way to look at the problem. Where are the lines drawn, then? Only governments get to have their secrets exposed? I have a feeling you wouldn't mind looking at Exxon's or BP's secret files, either. OK, so then we add corporations to the group who are ripe for exposing. But...what about media types, as I've asked previously? Isn't it important to know more about the people who serve as gatekeepers to our "routine" flow of information? (And by the way, does it not trouble anyone that Assange, currently under arrest in the UK, has basically declared himself an enemy of the United States? If these breaches cause the loss of U.S. lives or even some lesser downfall, that probably fits with his agenda. That matters, doesn't i? If he had other secret documents that made us look good (or might give us some kind of advantage in international diplomacy), you think he'd be as inclined to "dump" them?

So anyway, we've discussed nations and corporations and media types. Now let's move to the neighborhood. If there were a spy program that enabled you to know that your neighbor up the block watches kiddie porn...don't you want to know that? (For that matter, if your daughter were about to go on a date with Julian Assange, might you not want to know about his sexual "misunderstandings"?) Or, how many of your neighbors (a) have guns and (b) drink? That might be relevant too.

Where does it end, once you start?

Anonymous said...

"Where does it end, once you start?"

Steve, I assert that the whole approach is out of step with our core values and that people are just resigned about how to have good governance and empowered citizenry. That is why radical voices start to sound attractive.

Leonard Cohen once said something to the effect of 'radical extremist voices were beginning on to make more and more sense to him' then they ever had in the past. And he was making a comment on the appalling gap between the rich and the poor he observed.

IMO we need an upgrade as a world and I want it lead by us as voting society not by a few perturbed extreme individuals taking things into their own hands.

Where does Wikileaks type conduct stop indeed. I like the question you asked. Thanks for asking it.

Anonymous said...

does it not trouble anyone that Assange, currently under arrest in the UK, has basically declared himself an enemy of the United States?

Wait. What do you mean, Steve?

Tell me you are not falling for the American MSM drastically skewed portrayal of the man? That would be disappointing, I'd say.

You have it exactly backwards. The US has "basically" declared Assange an enemy of the US -- but he did no such thing.

The US has orchestrated the smear campaign and witch hunt for the man, based on trumped up sex by surprise* charges concocted with some help from women with CIA ties**. I know, it sounds like a seedy thriller -- and this is one of the reasons why we need to fight for transparency in our media and government, because this kind of stuff is being perpetrated daily against the most valuable people, those who dare to point out and document the ruling elite's abuses.

Last but not least, WikiLeaks is NOT centered on unearthing just the US (dirty) secrets, contrary to what the American propaganda would like us to believe. Please familiarize yourself with the site, as well as the man and his methods.

I could send you a long list of WikiLeaks disclosures that have shown corruption and crimes of governments in Africa, Asia and Europe, as well as corporate crimes and malfeasance all over the world. But you're a smart guy, you can surely do the research yourself, using the WL site and related sources.

Thank you.

*I think you may have some opinions about that.

**That particular link, to a story on Raw Story site, has been down since this morning, although was still accessible last night.

If it does not pop back up, you may also follow up on the CIA connection of Assange's accuser here.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: We'll see how it plays out. But to me, there's something in your position (and overall narrative) that much reminds of the OJ juror who, after the trial, was asked if seeing a videotape of Simpson committing the crime would've been enough to make her vote "guilty."

"No!" she replied vehemently. "They can fake videotapes, too!"

Anonymous said...

That's unfair and prejudicial, Steve. Unfortunately, that quote better describes your reaction to my presentation of facts -- yes, facts, do check them out -- than my stance on the Assange affair.

What's sadly ironic is that Americans glorify people like Assange -- Mandela, Solzenicyn­­, Walesa, Liu Xiaobo, and Aung San Suu Kyi -- as long as they are exotic enough, live in far off places, and do not threaten their own status quo. Those dissidents are championed and revered by our powers-that-be and regular folks who follow the mainstream narrative.

But our own, not so much.

In fact, our own dissidents are treated with the same ruthlessness and (borderline?) criminality that characterizes those authoritarian regimes we so eagerly condemn when it's convenient for us.

But it is thanks to people like Assange that regimes all over the globe fall eventually (and therein lies the explanation of the murderous rage being stirred against the man).

It is thanks to people like Assange that Communism fell in Europe in 1990s. I know some of them. I know how it was done and what was done to those people. What's being done to Assange now is eerily similar. Just keep that in mind, please.

You are a journalist, for whom the ideals of freedom of speech and press are dear. You deal with SHAM, of all things. I hope you can retain your objectivity long enough to see the value of Assange's work, see through the smoke and mirrors, and not fall victim of the predictable propaganda against him.

Anonymous said...

"....this is one of the reasons why we need to fight for transparency in our media and government, because this kind of stuff is being perpetrated daily against the most valuable people, those who dare to point out and document the ruling elite's abuses..."

I definitely don't want anyone "fighting" for the above view of the world, on my behalf.

'ruling elite's abuses" is a particular view of the world and of others that while it may be real as the floor and ceiling for some, but does not exist for me and I hope it never does. For me we have people just like you and me who we elected into a government where we have not all yet worked out how to have it run with efficiency and integrity and we have along way to go. There are no good guys and bad guys. Just people. We have serious problems to deal with, no doubt. But I don't view an entity like Wikileaks as my or my neighbors representative.

Anonymous said...

One more thing and I'll be off.

About the American anti-WikiLeaks propaganda -- yesterday, American MSM were inundated with the stories of WL exposing industry and infrastructure vital to the US daily functioning and interests.

Understandably, more angry voices arose calling for Assange's head, throwing around images of our electric plants, water supply, etc. destroyed by terrorists as the result of the disclosure.

The anger rose fast, and, predictably again, without much reason or a desire to fact-check.

One could speculate that it was almost by design (but then one would be "gifted" with that O.J. juror's "tape" comment, so one will refrain from such speculation, for now).

But the released document in question showed something completely different, though no less fascinating.

Here it is -- see for yourself, if you can -- it is quite possible the page may "be disappeared" by the time you try to access it:

As you see (I hope), the cable shows that it is our own State Dept which wants to know about, among other things, infrastruc­­ture in other countries, which, if destroyed (in a case of a war, say) would negatively impact the US:

Departmen­­t is surveying posts* for their input on critical infrastruc­­ture and key resources within their host country which, if destroyed, disrupted or exploited, would likely have an immediate and deleteriou­­s effect on the United States. We expect posts, after consultati­­on among all sections and agencies, will in many instances immediatel­­y recognize whether such CI/KR** exist in their host country. Posts are not/not being asked to consult with host government­­s with respect to this request.

That last sentence means -- as you well understand­­ -- that our diplomats are to gather all this important info about other countries' infrastruc­­ture without the countries' knowledge or permission (I think it's called spying). None of the CI/KR listed (and it's a long list) below in the cable are located in the US, to be sure.

There is more in terms of enlighteni­­ng instructio­­ns of this sort there, so go see for yourself if you still can.

And consider that perhaps the outrage so skillfully and predictabl­y manufactur­­ed in our MSM over the content of this particular cable ("Aargh! Reveals sensitive American infrastruc­­ture!") was created to cover up the fact that it was *us* spying on the sensitive infrastructure in other countries.

As long as we can stir up easy rage for convenient scapegoats, no one stops to ask the right, or any, questions (see also Iraq, WMDs, 2003).

Meanwhile, when everyone was spewing outrage over non-existent "outing" of American industry and infrastructure (both still existing somewhere, one hopes as an aside), these disclosures, released by WL yesterday were not discussed in American MSM at all.

*Posts -- diplomatic employees, etc.

**CI=critical infrastructure, KR= key resources.

Steve Salerno said...

I think we're missing one key ingredient here: We live in America. We also live in a hostile, competitive world. In the end, if push comes to shove, we need to prevail. So in that sense--speaking not as a journalist but as an American--I do not think that quid-pro-quo or "moral equivalence" apply. In a war of attrition, I want to see my side decimate the enemy. I do not want to see the enemy decimate me. I want to see the USofA win. So if we're spying on the other guy, that's just fine with me. That does not mean I have to support the idea of the other guy spying on me; in fact I'd do everything within my power to prevent that.

Anonymous said...

Then just consider Assange own words, from an editorial published today (I'll leave it at that):

WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?

Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest. WikiLeaks has revealed some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption.

People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies. If a war is justified, then tell the truth and the people will decide whether to support it.

If you have read any of the Afghan or Iraq war logs, any of the US embassy cables or any of the stories about the things WikiLeaks has reported, consider how important it is for all media to be able to report these things freely.

Anonymous said...

Steve, you need to go on holiday, out of the USA for a while. It needn't cost much, give the cat to the neighbours, pack your socks and go see what life is like outside Hobbiton.

Anonymous said...

It's still you who is being spied on the most, though you seem happy with that submissive position as long as you get to think of someone else in their turn being submissive to you. Have you had you balls fondled by the TSA recently?

With respects to your wanting USA to be number one, it reminds me of something. I recently watched Steven Chu saying he wanted the US to be number one in combating climate change and getting an alternative energy infrastructure running.
Why, what's so important about being number one?
The last thing anyone wants to hear on something that requires global cooperation is that the US wants to beat them into second place, that something that should be based on cooperation will be turned into competition, and that number one will be the aim instead of being the best possible.
Being number one and being the best you can be are two different things, the first is based on the animal desire to dominate and the second is about transcending your own limits and fulfilling your potential.
The USA prefers to be dominant animals than to be transcendent humans - it flips your switches harder.

Steve Salerno said...

No, this isn't about flip-switching or any of that competitive-ranking nonsense. I don't care if "we're No. 1!" in climate change or anything else so long as we're No. 1 in survival if push comes to shove. And I only care about that for the sake of my children and grandchildren, really.

As for going on holiday outside of the U.S...I simply have no desire. Maybe I'd like to go to places where there are really cool animals, but beyond that, I'm just not interested, and in fact it used to rankle the hell out of me when my college students, as soon as they were able to scrape together two dimes, made plans to visit Paris or London or whatever. See everything in the U.S. first, I say. It's a gorgeous country, and it's yours. If more of us had more of a proprietary feeling about that, we wouldn't be in the pickle we're in, and we wouldn't owe half our kids' legacy to China.

For the record, I did go abroad once, in 1972, when my first marriage dissolved. Couldn't stand the "feel" of Germany, though the ladies were pretty; the prettiest I saw anywhere in Europe. I was in France for four days and had a fistfight with some very unfortunate male native on three of them. (I was a very large and dangerous human being in those days, and I did not suffer fools. I'm still large, but I'm calmer now.) Italy was filthy and full of ruins, unless you went to where the people weren't, and if I wanted to see ruins there were perfectly good ones in Harlem and the South Bronx, where I then worked much of the time as a salesperson. Plus the women were hideous and all the men were 5-7. I literally had to crouch down to stand on the buses.

Anonymous said...


Wikileaks is positioning itself as a police officer of others. I don't have any issue with Julien Assange perceiving himself as a savior or Napoleon or as a cop of in his private thoughts. I just do not, I DO NOT grant him the authority to act it out in my society or neighborhood. I don't think most people do. He has crossed a line with no authority to do so.

The people we have elected have also crossed lines, serious ones but we voted them in now we all have a problem as good citizens and a good government - we are out of integrity. I don't want to see the use of terrorism be the agent that forces and directs us onto the course we all want to be on. Where does that kind of militant self appointed self important behavior (terrorism) end? Assange may speak for you and a few other people who find the US and government unattractive, and THAT is unfortunate.

Anonymous said...

But Steve, the pushing and shoving is coming mostly from the US.
I am glad to hear that you went to see The Europe, even if you didn't like it much. The ruins are the whole point Steve, you are meant to go and marvel at them and the span of time they represent and identify with the roots of your civilzation, not wish you were back in Harlem looking at a run down tenement.
I would recommend Old York for ruins, knocked up by your boys the Romans, and lovely and clean.

Steve Salerno said...

The way I see it, I have no roots. Roots are what cause problems--whether those roots are ethnic, racial, religious, whatever. In my view, we'd be better off if each of us tried to think and act as if we are existential accidents who have no link to what came before us; nor does anything that comes from us have any link to us. That doesn't rule out familial love (or nation-love, for that matter), and anyone who knows me knows that I have loved my family dearly. But those are mere happenstance, byproducts of birth and circumstances. My family (or my supposed forebears) are not me, and I am (certainly!) not them.

As my poor late sister would say to me now and then: "Where did you come from, Stephen?" I often wonder.

RevRon's Rants said...

The whole concept of tribal identity/loyalty would be the stuff of great comedy, but for the fact that it has been the cause of widespread suffering and death throughout history. What I am - and whatever value there is to me - has little or nothing to do with my being a Texan, an American, a Buddhist, or a Caucasian, so I need to ask myself why I sometimes take pride in those labels. I think it boils down to a need to make myself feel special, typically by making others less special by inference.

The pertinent response to being asked "where are you from" would be "from the (hopefully) loving union of two people. No hyphens required, and nothing that requires defense. If we could apply that kind of objectivity to the full breadth of our individual and collective self-image, it would mean the end of a great deal of suffering. But as I've often stated, if grasshoppers carried .45s, mockingbirds wouldn't screw with them.

Speaking of hyphens, wouldn't it be a treat if individuals who hyphenated their nationality were required to hold dual citizenships? I mean, if someone is that proud of their geographic heritage, it would only make sense that they align themselves officially, rather than just taking the lazy man's approach and slapping a trendy hyphenated title on.

Assange? Well, if given the assignment by my government, there was a time when I'd probably have capped the guy. Not because he's inherently evil, but simply because he represents a real threat to the safety of people in *my* country whom I don't believe deserve to be harmed (and to me and my loved ones by extension). The "evil" label, I would retain for those whom, in the name or spirit of that tribal identity, intentionally do harm to others or, for that matter, those who knowingly come up with policies that diminish the safety, overall well-being, and honor of their chosen country (including this one).

Anonymous said...

"The "evil" label, I would retain for those whom, in the name or spirit of that tribal identity, intentionally do harm to others or, for that matter, those who knowingly come up with policies that diminish the safety, overall well-being, and honor of their chosen country (including this one)."

I like what you wrote, the tribe metaphor is enticing. How would you suggest we as a community , including our whole "tribe" which includes the rich and our government, agree on who gets labeled what and which labels we get behind as a community? Do you see individuals like Team Ron Conn and Steve and Assange and others, who get skilled at attracting an internet audience to a blog or web site as trustworthy reliable representatives of the anyone besides themselves and their own opinion?

It seems to me that Assange assigns great value to his own opinion of others, and that he goes too far with his view of his opinions importance of others and, I imagine he imagines himself representing the tribe and there for is justified in hurting and embarrassing others and that the government and anyone associated with the government is fair game and that that is where Asange has gotten into trouble.

Anonymous said...

Like Wikileaks, those thugs who promote violance into a peaceful legal demonstration, or those cyber terrorists who sent computer viruses to VISA, Amazon, and Mastercard as payback for Wikileaks being banned from those services are where are what we are talking about. People who think they are above the law and see themselves as authorities on what society is and what we should all should be and not be and how we are to arrive at those values. These are the true bad apples we do not need.

Force just begets more force.

RevRon's Rants said...

"Do you see individuals like Team Ron Conn and Steve and Assange and others, who get skilled at attracting an internet audience to a blog or web site as trustworthy reliable representatives of the anyone besides themselves and their own opinion?"

Not at all. I am arguably the most qualified to represent my own opinion, and that is what I do. And despite your implication, "Team RonConn" does not have an absolutely unified opinion. We agree on many things, and disagree on others. But nowhere do we assert that our opinions are beacons of absolute truth.

In my experience, most people who accuse others of making such assertions do so simply because they do not share the perspective(s) described, but are unable to refute the arguments made. Thus begins the obfuscation that is so deleterious to meaningful dialog.

Steve Salerno said...

In my experience, most people who accuse others of making such assertions do so simply because they do not share the perspective(s) described, but are unable to refute the arguments made. Thus begins the obfuscation that is so deleterious to meaningful dialog.

That pretty much covers it, from my point of view. For the life of me, I still don't understand why people can't work with ideas disembodied from the people who speak them. Sure, there is a time and place for connecting up people and their ideas, and that time is when we're making decisions involving money. And that is why I wrote SHAM: not because I'm opposed to "personal improvement"--that very notion is laughable--but because I don't trust the sincerity (or the acumen, or the competency) of the people who are extracting money from millions of unsuspecting dupes in order to enrich themselves.

There is no money changing hands on SHAMblog, and there is no money at stake, so far as I know. The only currency here exists in the realm of such concepts as logic, empirical knowledge, and common sense. Why can't we stick to that instead of constantly dragging the personality factor into it? For example, who gives a crap whether two people who live together happen to present a united front much of the time! Shouldn't the emphasis be more on what they're actually saying? And what difference does it make of someone who posts here also posts cynically on another board? What matters is, What is the person saying HERE?

Anonymous said...

Thus begins the agreement and wordsmithing that is so deleterious to enforcing a point of view about "evil doers" out there who you are superior to.

Like Assange you are self appointed experts, who have convinced yourselves that your point of view is reality and you are the voice os logic and reason and everyone else who does nto agree with you is duped or in on the con.

I dont support liars, ne'er-do-wells or criminals or opportunists who cause harm to others in any industry, whether it is the personal growth Industry or other. I just also happen not to support you and Team Ron Conns using outing and shaming and splattering or hearsay and gossip tactics to enforce your views on others you happen not to like.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 11:26, I let that slide because I do think it's relevant...if it's true. However, those are some pretty strong and sweeping statements, and to make them in the absence of documentation makes your own argument sound personal and melodramatic, even if it isn't.

Anonymous said...

This is one case where I *wholeheartedly* agree with Steve with no reservations or qualifiers. If we limited this discussion to actual ideas or even ideologies about 75% of what has been said in this thread would be redacted. I don't see why it always degenerates into namecalling or why people think the only way they can attack an idea is by discrediting the person. That's a very weak debating style.

It too often works in our society and political structure, unfortauntely, because so few people think critically anymore.

Anonymous said...


I thought for sure that one was going straight to the trash bin :-) Thanks for your generousity on that one Steve.

I agree that them were some sweeping statements with no documentation. I am not the first to do this on your blog though, seen you and Team RonConn do it at least once in the past, so no pride of authorship on my part.

RevRon's Rants said...

Anon, nobody is forcing you or anyone else to accept the viewpoints we offer. However, I would be willing to listen to any pertinent refutation you (or anyone else) has to offer to the opinions expressed. My only qualification is that you at least attempt to refute the points being made based upon their content, rather than upon some image of a bogeyman that you choose to create and project upon contributors.

If you can offer something substantive to disprove or otherwise disqualify what I or anyone else has to say, please do so. But if all you've got is your attempts to vilify those whose opinions you don't like, don't be surprised at being ridiculed or ignored altogether (which I suspect would be a far worse experience in your eyes). The responses you get will quite likely be at least as pertinent as those you offer... at least, until you get yourself banned again.

Anonymous said...

roger o'keefe

How is it that "critical thinking" cannot also be applied to people (the critics themselves) and to the approaches or techniques or tactics critics use in presenting their ideas?

Why is that so off side and frowned on in the critical thinking discussion? Why is talking about the critic so taboo? People seem plenty comfortable including discussion and speculation about Assange in this recent Blog.

These blogs sometime present ideas that are not balanced or not fair or paint people in simple extreme strokes, either all bad or all victim. I think from time to time, discussing the discussion itself and discussing the critics themselves who are promoting themselves as sort of experts who are superior to that which they are critiquing could contribute and foreword a discussion or part of a discussion no?

Steve Salerno said...

Haha... I thought for sure that one was going straight to the trash bin :-) Thanks for your generousity on that one Steve... I agree that them were some sweeping statements with no documentation....

See, now this is what gets me--and frankly irks me. You know that you're making sweeping, unfounded statements--but you make them anyway? Does that not strike you as reckless and irresponsible? Seriously, I would like an answer to that one. Why do it if you know going in that you're just talking for the sake of talking? And tarnishing people's reputations in the process...?

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, just to be clear... I don't feel that anon's comments have the power to tarnish anyone's reputation but her own. Were her accusations supported by anything beyond her own distaste for the ideas being presented, she might be afforded a degree of credibility. Lacking that supporting information however, her collective contributions can be boiled down to something that is the intellectual equivalent of Pee Wee Herman's classic, "I know you are, but what am I?"

She does serve one useful purpose, which at least offers me some small incentive to wade through her obfuscation: She has actually offered a plot of common ground upon which Roger and I can stand... a significant feat, in and of itself! :-)

Anonymous said...

"Does that not strike you as reckless and irresponsible?"


"Why do it if you know going in that you're just talking for the sake of talking?"

Either we are all just talking just for sake of talking and then yes I would go along with that leading question Steve, I am, or no, I do not just talk for the sake of talking. I talk to contribute to and lead parts of the discussion in a direction I value.

"And tarnishing people's reputations in the process...?"

"Tarnishing" others seems to be a prefectly acceptable and lauded tactic and core value in yours and Team RonConn's * Blogs. And, when in Rome.....

*You may argue that those you or Team RonConn take aim at, either have brought tarnish to themsleves or tarnished themselves or deserve to be tarnished or whatever justification you choose to lean on. It is the way of the land here IMO.

Cosmic Connie said...

Amen, Steve (12:01 PM, December 9). Anon has repeatedly accused me, here and on my own blog, of malice and character assassination, implying that my disorganized amalgam of opinion and satire is somehow doing real harm.

To suggest that Steve, or that "Team Ron Conn" are "outing" or "shaming" anyone is ludicrous. (BTW, the Team prefers to spell it RonCon.) To my knowledge none of us has ever blogged about anything that is not already public knowledge. It's not as if we're going through people's garbage or hacking into their email accounts or intercepting private cables. By the time we get to them, they're already pretty much "outed."

And once again (and oh, this argument is getting old) -- Anon, NO ONE is forcing any opinions on you. If you don't want to read my blog, or Steve's, or Ron's, you can simply choose not to.

I also would suggest, Anon, that if criticizing the critics has a place on this thread, then criticizing the critics of the critics does too. Where does it end? What really gets resolved? Not a thing.

I must concur with Roger that if the personality issues were redacted from this thread, it would be much shorter.

Steve Salerno said...

Let's be clear about one thing with respect to "tarnishing people's reputations."

It is one thing to say, e.g., that on October 6, 2008, a federal judge, acting on information and advice from the FTC, banned Kevin Trudeau for doing infomercials for a period of three years and also ordered him to pay sums in excess of $5 million for making false claims in his book about weight loss. That is a matter of public record. And it is consistent with a pattern of activities for which Trudeau has been called on the carpet.

It is quite another thing to say that so-and-so "is a fraud and a cheat and a liar and a scumbag and shouldn't be allowed to poison anyone's mind with his garbage-talk."

Both items "tarnish someone's reputation." But in the first case, the tarnishing occurs simply via the reporting of fact; one can thus say that Mr. Trudeau, in effect, "self-tarnished."

In the second case, absent substantiation, it's just a bunch of malicious gossip.

RevRon's Rants said...

"I talk to contribute to and lead parts of the discussion in a direction I value."

Then by all means, you should start a blog or other forum of your own, where you could rightfully insist that discussions follow the direction you value, rather than hitching a ride on other people's forums and insisting that they adhere to your preferred criteria.

If you value your perspectives, an act of integrity would be to commit to those values publicly, rather than sniping anonymously from the fringes. Your previous rationalization for not doing so, claiming a fear of stalkers and the like, simply doesn't ring particularly true. We've been doing this for years now, and have irritated some people who might be considered likely to avenge being exposed, and haven't had any problems. Not one. Neither have the vast majority of bloggers and journalists.

To be blunt, it is dishonest to portray yourself as one who is "fighting the good fight" and demanding honesty of others if you're unwilling to even be honest enough to sign your name to what you write. That kind of behavior is the realm of muckrakers who put all their energy into attempts to discredit others without a shred of evidence to support their attacks... Oh, wait... I've just described your MO!

What I say about others, I'd have no problem saying to their faces, and in many cases, have done so already. I haven't been sued because I haven't said anything that was untrue. For the most part, my offerings are based upon information already in the public domain. For the remainder, I have reported my own personal dealings with the individuals.

That is where we're different from you. We provide factual support for our assertions and stand behind what we say. Anyone is welcome to agree or disagree with our conclusions. So long as the challenges are based in established fact or at least supported with something more viable than personal dislike, we're more than willing to engage, and to do so in a respectful manner. For those whose entire game is one of distraction, obfuscation, and personal attack that lacks anything resembling justification, no respect is warranted and little, if any, will be afforded.

Get used to it. This isn't a grade-school playground, and if you want to play with the adults, you'll need to learn how to play by adult rules or risk getting sent home again.

Anonymous said...

Steve, would you say that you or Team RonCon ever post the 2nd kind of tarnishing amounting to malicious gossip without substantiation? In my experience you do and I could pull lost of examples to display that on occasion you certainly do, insomuch as anyone else does. And so we understand each other, I do not regard "logic" or "common sense" or "what everybody knows" as "substantiation". "Substantiation" means substantiation, irrefutable concrete facts. substantiation is not building a story around a story or something a person saw a talking head say on CNN or Nancy Grace on TV.

I assert that newspaper and TV consuming human beings relationship to reality and to facts and to the concrete is very weak if not non-existent. And that what most people conveinently label substantiation is actually not substantiation.

Anonymous said...

Team RonCon

Of course criticizing the critics of the critics is perfectly valid. It needs no more an "end" nor to "resolve" anything anymore then any other discussion in this or your blog.

Where does your ridiculing and invalidating and belittling the people you take aim at "end"? What has gotten "resolved" by your one year campaign and relentless mocking of the sweat lodge guy resolved? Not a thing. And "end" and resolution and moving forward does not seem to be the objective here. So why are you suggesting that I am not doing something that really no one on here is doing?

Steve Salerno said...


Anonymous said...

I 2nd that Wow

RevRon's Rants said...

"Steve, would you say that you or Team RonCon ever post the 2nd kind of tarnishing amounting to malicious gossip without substantiation? In my experience you do and I could pull lost of examples to display that on occasion you certainly do, insomuch as anyone else does."

Please go ahead and post "lost of examples" of malicious and unsubstantiated gossip from any of us. And remember: taking comments wholly out of context won't fly. You've made that offer previously, but somehow never came through with the examples you claimed to have. We'll wait (just as before)...

If you choose not to provide your examples, we'll assume that you can't find any, and this distraction from the topic of discussion can (finally) be terminated.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 4:47, you even want to one-up me on the "wows"?

Anonymous said...

Steve, I was joining you in the wow, it was meant as a "one-up".


Steve Salerno said...

Anon: Somehow I suspect that if you understood the thinking behind the "wow," you wouldn't join me in it. But I like the "peace" comment. Let's end on that note, shall we?

Anonymous said...

damn typos!!

Steve, I was joining you in the wow, it was NOT meant as a "one-up".


Steve Salerno said...

Hmmm. Damn Freudian typos, eh?

Anonymous said...

Accepting your invitation to complete (my part at least) on a peaceful note. Thank-you.

Dimension Skipper said...


* Not sure if that superscript cubed power will render properly for everybody or in all browsers, but it looks OK for me in preview mode in IE. Just havin' a bit o' fun tweakin' the wows up yet another notch... Of course, eventually we'll get to...

[ Wow × ∞ ]
[ Wow × ∞ ] + 1

...and maybe into even higher math levels with integrals [∑] and various other Greek symbols [π Ω Ф] thrown into the mix as well.**


** Again, not sure all those special symbols will "compute" and translate well into blogger for everybody. Oh well, I tried, if only for the sake of a little levity. Yeah, very little!

If they don't look right to you Steve, feel free to not publish (or delete) this as obviously it's not the least bit important or relevant, I just couldn't resist trying some things out for the sake of a potential chuckle or two. Feel free NOT to publish this also if you just find it simply too stupid. Personally I like both low brow humor (Leslie Nielsen) AND high brow humor (?? well, nerdy math humor anyway).

Whew, took the long way around to some of those jokes, didn't I?!***

*** Sorry, I see subsequent comments terminated the WOWs in the meantime. But I went to all this trouble composing, I just gotta try to submit it anyway... Timing is everything in comedy—well, maybe timing and formatting in this case—but I'll just have to rely on excessive footnoting.

Steve Salerno said...

DimSkip, you are an original. Seriously. And I mean that in only the most admiring way.

idioteque said...

When I first heard of WikiLeaks, I thought "Well, they're probably things I already know when it comes to US interventions in world conflicts". (I used to be a student activist in the university.)

But just blew me away...especially the cables about the US military presence in the Philippines. I do respect Assange more than the original government insider who obtained the classified information (so much for confidentiality).

BTW, is that the "Porsche Girl" gory link? My BF told me about that, and I woefully regret Googling that. -_- I think society has taken a turn for the worst when people get off on exploiting such a horrid tragedy AND will gladly give away their entire life savings for James Arthur Ray "retreats" while their house is being foreclosed on...but that's a whole other can of worms.

Dimension Skipper said...

New leaks sites set to proliferate
By Paul Marks, Senior Technology Correspondent for "Short Sharp Science" at New Scientist

. . . .

Since mid September, an organisation called Openleaks has been quietly registering web domains around the world and is planning an imminent launch as a rival "leak engine" to Wikileaks—albeit one with a slightly different management ethos and modus operandi. Peopled by former Wikileaks staffers dismayed that the organisation's high-profile founder, Julian Assange, is often at the heart of the story, Openleaks will take a different tack, says one of its founders, Daniel Domscheit-Berg.

Leak submission, presumably, will be similar to Wikileaks: furtive delivery of discs/USB sticks, via the online Tor anonymising network, or even paper documents. But OpenLeaks promises distributed management sans a personality cult—and unlike Wikileaks, it currently plans not to publish every leak it receives. Instead, it will choose relevant media partners with expert subject knowledge and leave it to them to publish stories or video news packages based on them.

. . . .

In addition, region-specific leak sites are springing up. Last week, Indoleaks in Jakarta and BalkanLeaks were established. But as the webmaster of the oldest leak site, John Young of—set up in 1996—says: people must beware of all such websites. "Some are in fact run by intelligence agencies hoping to catch whistle-blowers in the act," he told New Scientist a couple of years back.

. . . .