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Terrible Assange Extradition Ruling for Press Freedom

We have a brilliantly authoritarian ruling on the Assange extradition case. The judge (who was endlessly hostile to Assange) ruled he couldn’t be extradited because of his bad health, but said that none of the press freedom arguments worked.

Now this is good news for Assange, but it is terrible news for press freedom. If the judge had approved the extradition of Assange, he would have appealed, and there is a very good chance for a reversal on appeal. Assange isn’t a US citizen; the US has no jurisdiction, and he was clearly acting as a publisher through the entire sequence.

The Australian journalists’ union sums this up well:

MEAA, the union for Australian journalists, welcomes today’s decision by a British judge to prevent the extradition to the United States of our member Julian Assange and calls on the US government to now drop his prosecution.

The court ruled against extradition on health grounds, accepting medical evidence that Assange would be at risk in US custody.

However, journalists everywhere should be concerned at the hostile manner in which the court dismissed all defence arguments related to press freedom.

“Today’s court ruling is a huge relief for Julian, his partner and family, his legal team and his supporters around the world,” said MEAA Media Federal President Marcus Strom.

“Julian has suffered a ten-year ordeal for trying to bring information of public interest to the light of day, and it has had an immense impact on his mental and physical health.

“But we are dismayed that the judge showed no concern for press freedom in any of her comments today, and effectively accepted the US arguments that journalists can be prosecuted for exposing war crimes and other government secrets, and for protecting their sources.

“The stories for which he was being prosecuted were published by WikiLeaks a decade ago and revealed war crimes and other shameful actions by the United States government. They were clearly in the public interest.

“The case against Assange has always been politically motivated with the intent of curtailing free speech, criminalising journalism and sending a clear message to future whistleblowers and publishers that they too will be punished if they step out of line.”

MEAA now calls on the US government to drop all charges against Julian Assange and for the Australian government to expedite his safe passage to Australia if that is his wish.

This is a brilliant way to paint Assange guilty of a crime, who is just being let off for sympathy, when he is not guilty (or if he is, so are hundreds of other journalists who have reported on leaked or hacked data from “dubious” people). The US may be appeal, so it’s not clear whether (as of the time of writing) Assange will go free.

At any rate, mission accomplished: An evil law (The Official Secrets Act) is not declared a dead letter by British courts and so can be used as a cudgel in the future. Assange is a broken man; a shadow of himself, and a warning to anyone else who would reveal American war crimes or that the DNC colluded to elect a specific candidate (Clinton) against another candidate (Sanders.)

And no, I don’t give even one shit who hacked the info: It was in the public interest and the public had and has a right to know about American war crimes and Democratic party election fixing.

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Assange, Wikileaks, and Shooting the Messenger

Julian Assange

So, as you have probably heard, Ecuador, which is housing Julian Assange in its London embassy, has restricted all communication by him to outsiders, save his lawyers. No visitors, no phone, no email.

They have even gone so far as to install radio jammers.

The proximate cause of this is that Assange supported Catalan independence and Spain is furious.

The Intercept has a long piece on Assange’s silencing by Ecuador, and I’d appreciate it if you read it. (The debunking of the “Catalan independence is caused by Russia” is particularly necessary in these hysterical days.)

I’m aware that a lot of people, and especially these days, a lot of left-wingers who loved him when he was goring right-wingers other than Hillary Clinton, hate him, but this is ludicrous.

Catalan independence has a long history in Spain.

And, more to the point, it is legitimate to support people’s right to vote themselves out of countries they don’t want to be in. You may not agree with that, you may think people shouldn’t have the right of self-determination, but it’s a strongly ethical position with a lot of support.

To silence someone for speaking such an opinion is pathetic, and that it is done due to obvious political pressure doubly so.

Wikileaks has been a net positive for the world. A lot of people don’t believe this, but in almost all cases that comes down to disliking WHO Wikileaks has hurt with particular revelations.

Like it or not, the DNC leaks were legitimate news: The DNC interfered in the Democratic primaries to help one candidate, and people should know that–that information is in the public interest.

If you don’t want to be outed for doing shitty things against the public interest, don’t do them. And if doing shitty things against the public interest helps you lose an election you should have won, well, Jesus, do I have to spell this out further?

Meanwhile, the DNC has decided to sue Wikileaks for publishing the DNC material–material that was clearly in the public interest. (Also the Russian government, Trump, yadda, yadda).

Again, hate Wikileaks or not, publishing the material in question (and the DNC does not claim that Wikileaks participated in the hack) is a legitimate journalistic enterprise, well-covered by the freedom of the press.

Folks, rights do not belong only to people you like for ends with which you agree. That’s why they are rights.

As for the DNC and the Democratic party, their continued desire to blame everyone but themselves for their loss in 2016 bodes ill. Oh, they’ll be back in power in this years mid-terms, and possibly in 2020, but that will remain all they can do: Win when Republicans shoot themselves in the foot.

Remember that 2008 was Democrats to lose, Republicans were reviled. (And, though people forget it, for over a month towards the end of the campaign, Obama was behind. He did his best to lose it.) Then, while Obama stayed in power, Republicans took most State houses, governorships, and both the House and Senate.

Now I hear squealing about how Sanders shouldn’t run in 2020. The reason given is rarely just his age (which is a legitimate concern), it’s usually something like “some of his followers say nasty things” and “he’s divisive.” This is amusing, because he’s the most popular politician in the country; he regularly polls as beating Trump by the largest margin of any likely 2020 Democratic candidate, and yeah, if you care, he is more popular with blacks and women than he is with white males.

Assange is a side-issue. A bogeyman. And for all that Russia did some stuff, so is Russia. US pathologies originate in the US–at most they are taken advantage of by outsiders. The same is true of Spain.

Shoot the messenger, if you must, the message remains the same. Clean your house.

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The Person Most Responsible for Clinton's Loss

Everything Cost Clinton the Election

When the result (in popular vote margin in the key states) is as close as it was in the US election, every factor in play contributed to the result.

Did the Wikileaks release cost Clinton the election? Probably.

Did Comey’s last minute letter to Congress about Clinton’s email cost the election? Probably.

Did Clinton choosing not to campaign in Wisconsin cost the election? Probably.

Did Clinton’s neglect of the Rust belt cost the election? Probably.

Did the Clinton campaign’s refusal to listen to locals cost the election? Probably.

Did the Clinton campaign’s flawed model cost them the election? Probably.

Did Trump’s superiority in earned media cost the election? Probably.

Did Jared Kushner’s innovative ad campaign cost Clinton the election? Probably.

Did voter suppression cost Clinton the election? Probably.

Did calling a quarter of the electorate “deplorables” cost Clinton the election? Probably.

Right. Hopefully you have understood the point.

What is happening right now is hysteria. An attempt is being made to overthrow the election by saying Russia influenced it, through Wikileaks and Guccifer 2.0.

So far there is no hard evidence for this, and Wikileaks, at least denies it. That US intelligence believes it to be true is nice, but almost irrelevant to anyone with enough memory to remember what they believed in”high confidence” about Iraq.

I seriously suggest you READ the NIE on Iraq from 2002. It was essentially ALL WRONG.

So, if the intelligence community and Obama want to make this charge, they need to release the hard evidence. Their word is not good enough, especially that Putin was personally involved.

I point out, once more, that even if true, this amounts to “overturn the election because a foreign government helped release TRUE information about one of the candidates.”

If it actually occurred, I would regard it as a neoliberal coup, similar to the ones which occurred in Greece and Italy, meant to insure policy continuity in the face of someone who doesn’t agree with all the tenets of neoliberalism.

I don’t think faithless electors will throw the election (but who knows), however I note something else important: creating this as the primary storyline mitigates, hard, at looking at stuff which Democrats can actually control: like their own abysmal campaign, at virtually ever level from basics like canvassing (“we don’t need literature”, said the Clinton campaign), to their model, to their message “America is already great”, “deplorables”, to clearning the field so a candidate with huge negatives would be annointed the candidate.

If Democrats had gotten even one or two of the things listed above which were in their control right, and which did not depend on their opponents actions at all (and the list is incomplete) Clinton would almost certainly be President-elect today.

Running against Russia in the election was stupid; the act of a Goldwater girl who doesn’t understand that the USSR fell almost 30 years ago. Making them the primary actor in Clinton’s loss and Trump’s win pushes attention away from the things which can be fixed by Democrats unilaterally, and is dangerous to boot, both domestically, by degrading political norms even further, and internationally, by hyping a heavily nuclear armed state as an enemy when America has almost no actual interests in opposition to Russia’s. (Syria and the Ukraine are unimportant to the US’s interests. Period.)

Meanwhile, the Democrats have spent the last eight years being slaughtered at the State and local levels. In February of 2009, I wrote that Obama was planning to ditch the 50 state strategy, and received a torrent of abuse (mostly from Kossacks.) The Whitehouse said that was bullshit; their hero wouldn’t do that!

He did.

Self-goal. Something completely under the party’s control that they chose to do, which hurt them.

In the end, whether or not Russia released some derogatory–but true–information about Clinton and other Democratic candidates, that act was only one of many factors which cost Clinton the election.

Concentrating on it is stupid, demagogic, and dangerous and allows people whose fuck-ups were far more responsible for the loss to largely slide.

Democrats should concentrate on what they can control, and understand that, as the side with less guns, constitutional norms protect them more than they do the other side.

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Whistleblowers vs. Democrats?

I believe Assange when he says that if he had material on Trump he would release it. An institution like Wikileaks is dependent on what it receives from whistleblowers.

That said, there’s an edge to Wikileaks with reference to Clinton which is undeniable.

I think it’s also understandable, if you understand that Clinton was part of the Obama administration and agreed with Obama’s policies towards whistleblowers.

Consider that Manning has tried to commit suicide twice. She is kept in strict isolation, which is known to cause the same sort of brain damage as active torture. Effectively, Obama is torturing her, and his administration (and no, don’t tell me the administration didn’t have discretion) threw the book at her.

When Snowden fled, the Americans were so desperate to stop him they had France force down Evo Morales’ presidential plane. Snowden wound up in Russia, one of only two countries in the world which could protect him if they chose to do so (the other being China, where he tried to flee the first time).

Obama has been far worse on whistleblowers than Bush. He has gone after them relentlessly and thrown them in jail. He is the worst president on whistleblowers in history.

Whistleblowers believe that they are releasing information that the public should know, that what they do is like the Pentagon Papers release; because it is information the public should know, it is journalism, and they should not go to jail.

Obama does not agree, and there is every reason to believe Clinton does not agree either.

You start going after people to throw them in jail, and effectively torture them, and you expect them not to do what they can against you?

Idiot mythologies about Democrats being better aside, the FACT is that the last Republican president was better to whistleblowers than the current Democratic president.

So, yeah, I don’t imagine Assange wanted Clinton in the White House. Again, I believe him that he would publish anything he had on Trump, but if he doesn’t like Clinton or Obama, that’s perfectly understandable.

If you go after a class of people who have the means to fire back, expect them to do so.

And, as it happens, I think that Obama was absolutely wrong in how he treated whistleblowers, and if misplaced gratitude makes President Trump treat them better and pardon some of them (and I wouldn’t count on it), then that would be a good thing.

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Assange and Wikileaks: the basics


read the actual accusations.  They have been translated into English
.   They are also, straight up, he said, she said, and rest entirely on credibility.  There are no witnesses to the actual acts other than Assange and the two women (who spoke to each other before going to the police) and no physical evidence.  This is not to say that if Assange did what he is accused of he did not do something wrong.  If.  You don’t know if he did, and neither do I.  Only 3 people do.

Assange has not been charged, he is wanted for questioning.  Sweden is refusing to question him in England.  I note that they have questioned a man accused of murder in another country.

The way the case has been treated is vastly disproportionate to how people wanted for questioning about such a crime are usually treated.

Ecuador said they would hand over Assange under one condition: Sweden promised not to extradite him to the US.  Sweden refused.

Sweden engaged in illegal extraditions on behalf of the US in the past, and handed people over to be tortured.  No one has gone to jail for those crimes.  Since no one was punished, I can’t see why Sweden wouldn’t do it again.  Certainly Assange would be a fool to take the chance, because if he winds up in the US he will be thrown into an isolation cell and treated in a way which amounts to torture.  This isn’t in question, the US has done it in other high profile cases.

Anyone who thinks this is just about sexual misconduct…


As for Assange, his long game is simple.  He will run, in absentia, in the next Australian elections.  He is more than popular enough to be elected.  Once he is an MP, he can’t be touched.

What Assange did, with Wikileaks, was engage in actual journalism.  He was the last attempt to play under the rules of the current, corrupt system.  What Wikileaks did was straight up journalism, no different than the Pentagon papers.  Immediately afterwards, VISA, Mastercard and PayPal shut down all donations to Wikileaks, despite the fact that Wikileaks had been convicted of no crime.  If an individual or organization can be shut out of the modern payments without any legal procedings, then there is no rule of law that matters.  It is impossible to live in the modern world beyond a subsistence level if one is shut out of the electronic payments system.

Now Britain has threatened to storm an embassy.  Be assured that if they are stupid enough to do it, British diplomats WILL die as a result.  Even now, with Britain, the US and Canada saying there is no right to asylum, there will be huge consequences.  The entire asylum system is now threatened, because any nation unhappy with someone being offered Asylum in any of those countries will just say “but you said you don’t believe in asylum.  We’re not letting this person out of the country.”

Britain itself has given asylum to people accused of far, far worse crimes than Assange, and yet they are willing to trash the Asylum system over this?  This isn’t about sexual misconduct.  Anyone who is stupid enough to think that anyone not named Assange would have caused Britain to threaten to violate an embassy is too stupid to be allowed out in public.

Correction: I stand corrected.  The charges would amount to rape in the UK.  Or, at least, so the courts have ruled.  You can read the ruling here You can read the argument otherwise here, claimed offense #4 is the key issue.  I tend towards the latter argument, but the courts have determined that it was rape.  Make your own decision.  I have removed text indicating that the allegations would not amount to rape as of 3:25 EDT, Aug 19, 2012.

Pinochet had women raped by dogs and Britain wouldn’t extradite him

Yes, he did. (graphic)

So I don’t want to hear anything from Britain about how important extradition is to them or how important rape accusations are.

On Stratfor

Wikileaks has dumped a bunch of internal Stratfor documents, which they presumably received from Anonymous.  Years ago I used to read Stratfor’s briefs.  After a while I stopped, because their economic analysis was absolutely awful, straight up cookie cutter consensus macro, which missed the important events.  Since Stratfor’s briefs were supposed to give insight into what was going to happen, and since they were wrong about something so important, I decided they weren’t worth reading except as a gloss on what a certain part of the foreign policy establishment was thinking (the guys who think they’re cowboys.)

I think that Michael Brenner’a appraisal of Stratfor themselves, that they’re a immature, unprofessional and hustlers is true.  The incredulity, reading them, is “people pay for this?”

Which leads to the question of how much of worth there is in the files.  The main problem isn’t whether the files are really from Stratfor, I believe they are, the problem is that Stratfor seems somewhat clueless.  So, for example, if true, that Russia and Israel sold out those who bought military equipment from them is fascinating and important:

According to the leaked document, Israel gave Russia the “data link codes” for unmanned aerial vehicles that the Jewish state sold to Georgia, and in return, Russia gave Israel the codes for Tor-M1 missile defense systems that Russia sold Iran.

I’m inclined to believe it, but really, who knows.  I should add that countries who are serious about their defence, really should make their own equipment if they can.

I am now an American Express Cardholder because of Wikileaks

Since Mastercard and Visa, in cutting off Wikileaks from donations, decided that they knew better than me who I should be able to give money to, I applied for and have now received an American Express card.  Granted, American Express isn’t always a good actor, but at least they are willing to allow me to spend my money, my way.

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