The Stupid 365 Project, Day 65: Shame on US

December 4th, 2010

I’m putting this up early because I’m deeply pissed off.

Okay, let’s breathe deeply and visualize a beautiful meadow.

Many American politicians are calling for the arrest and prosecution of Julian Assange.  Some are calling for his assassination, thereby putting him in a very small club, with Osama bin Laden at its head, of people the United States of America — a/k/a my country — wants to kill.

Or, given what we’ve learned lately, perhaps I should say, the people it publicly wants to kill.

Assange’s crime was that he flew several billion pixels directly into the U.S.’s self-esteem.  He’s done it three times now, and every time, American political leaders, a/k/a gasbags, have proclaimed with great solemnity, “This puts lives at risk.”

You know what?  Nobody has died.

In the past week or so, the Land of the Free has:

1. Pressured Sweden into bringing rape charges against Assange even though the young woman who participated (consensually) in the sexual encounter says it wasn’t rape.

2. Pressured Interpol into putting Assange on their “most-wanted” list, an honor usually reserved for mass murderers and the most sub-human Islamic terrorists.

3. Intimidated Amazon to kick WikiLeaks off their servers.

4. Forced the site’s DNS referrer to kick WikiLeaks out on 24 hours’ notice (given at 3AM on a Tuesday), thus making it impossible for web users to find it.

5. Intimidated PayPal to stop accepting donations on WikiLeaks’ behalf.

6. Badgered the British, who seem to know where Assange is, to take him into custody immediately, which, all praise to Britain, hasn’t happened yet.

7. Oh, and a couple of our elected “leaders” are lobbying to place WikiLeaks (a website, for Christ’s sake) on the official list of foreign terrorist organizations.

Is it just me, or does this feel to anyone else like an elephant trampling on a gnat?

Remember “transparency?”  Didn’t “transparency” sound good?  Well, “transparency” has just had its ass kicked once and for all by the president I voted for (can anybody say one term?) at the head of an administration that still holds a legislative majority.  (Can anyone say, we need new parties?)

Remember “hope”?  Is this kind of illegal and immoral bullying compatible with “hope?”

Remember the ideal of the “informed electorate?”  For that matter, remember the quaint notion of “free speech?”

I can list a lot of areas in which the America of today falls short: education, long-term planning, fiscal responsibility, compassion, the all-but-abandoned struggle against corruption in government.  But there aren’t many things about my country that cause me actual physical and emotional shame at being American.  One or two, at most.

And now there’s one more.

17 Responses to “The Stupid 365 Project, Day 65: Shame on US”

  1. Phil Hanson Says:

    Julius Assange should be proclaimed a national hero and given a medal (and probably a lot of cash) for his valuable service to the peoples of the world. We need many more like him.

  2. EverettK Says:

    I’m not AWARE that the US government is behind numbers 1-5 (although it wouldn’t surprise me the slightest bit). And I don’t know the details of the accusations by the TWO Swedish women, so I can’t comment on that one, but it’s certainly highly suspicious. I don’t think Assange is a hero, but I also don’t see him as a villian. The government’s response to this is typical, no matter WHO is in office, they never want to have their dirty laundry aired.

    The news industry, of course, is trying to paint Assange as a villian (sells more of whatever they sell). The people of the US (taken as a ‘whole’, which they are not, of course) are sliding back towards the mentality of the Bush years (how short our memories, how poor our education, how sad our moral fiber…sigh). Knee-jerk patriotism is just as bad as mindless I-don’t-care-and-don’t-bother-me attitudes, although in any given situation one will definitely be more dangerous than the other.

    However, I don’t consider this to be “one more” thing that makes me feel shame for being an American citizen. It’s just one more example of the same BEHAVIOR that always causes me shame when I see fellow American’s exhibiting it. More generally, I’m shamed by these behaviors of all too many Americans:
    1) We’re better than everyone else in the world.
    2) We’re the big dogs, so we can tell everyone else in the world how to behave.
    3) We’re Americans, so we don’t have to learn about other cultures or religions or histories or languages or…
    4) Everyone else should want to be exactly like us!
    5) No one does anything as well as we do.
    6) We’re Americans, so we’re always right.
    7) We don’t want any foreigners here, go home.

    And so on. Need I continue? I didn’t think so. Preaching. Choir.

    Of course, you can take my list above and replace ‘Americans’ with ‘Democrats’ or ‘Republicans’ or ‘whites’ or ‘blacks’ or ‘Christians’ or ‘Jews’ or…. and the same attitudes apply to a vast majority. We’re a clique-ish people, it’s like we’re stuck in High School Purgatory and can’t emotionally or intellectually grow beyond it.


  3. Gary Says:

    Not my place to comment on American politics. But we have a celebrated whistleblower in Australia called Andrew Wilkie, who blew the whistle on the lies parroted by the Australian Government to get us into the Iraq war. Our then Prime Minister had him hounded out of his Government job.

    So Andrew Wilkie stood for Parliament as an Independent – and won! And because our last election left us with a hung Parliament, Andrew Wilkie is now one of three Independents who hold the balance of power. And the major political parties now have to listen to him, whether they like it or not.

    Whistleblowers don’t always lose.

  4. Suzanna Says:

    Assange, like Daniel Ellsberg before him, is heroic in the sense that he has taken great personal risk to lift the veil of secrecy that surrounds the misconduct of nations around the world, not just the U.S. Of course the U.S. government would like him to be arrested, and the Wikileaks organization shut down for good. Truth is power and the U.S. government is loathe to share the power to control how it is perceived. The secrecy that surrounds the misconduct of our own government is no less a threat to our national security than the misconduct of other nations.

  5. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, there —

    I think this goes beyond governmental misbehavior into full-fledged abuse of power, interfering with the sovereignty of other states, breaking international laws — you name it.

    Gary, as you probably know, Assange is an Australian. In an interview with the Manchester Guardian this morning he said he’s been told the Australian government will arrest him the moment he sets foot in his own country — at the request of the United States. So far, there’s been no denial of that, and it’s also been said widely (and not denied) that the US government is exerting considerable pressure on the Brits to arrest Assange. God bless them, they’ve declined to do so. It’s great when a whistle-blower (or any other kind of populist hero) is elected, but what we need are 150 million of them to turn these arrogant scoundrels out, starting with President Disappointment.

    Everett, when I see a hand puppet, I don’t need to see the hand inside to know it’s there. This is a thoroughgoing, organized, consistent campaign to isolate and destroy WikiLeaks and to put away the guy in charge. I agree with you on all your points, but many of them characterize individual behavior abroad — I think German tourists were put on earth to make us look good, something that no other people can do. But this is a concerted international effort by the U.S. government to put a stop to an internationally based website that has not caused a single verifiable death or injury. Assange should spend the rest of his life in jail while Scooter Libby is pardoned? And the news industry is, to a certain extent, championing Assange — all except the far, far right. And then you’ve got the ONLY ELECTED OFFICIAL TO DEFEND ASSANGE — RAND PAUL.

    I mean, honest to God — I have to feel proud of a Tea Partier? (But I do.)

    Phil, you’re right on the nose. I’m sure he’s a humorless, self-obsessed egomaniac, but so was Ralph Nader back when Nader was a useful, if not indispensable, member of society. Assange should be guaranteed safety wherever he goes.

    Can you imagine the reaction of the gasbags in American government if the CHINESE treated someone like this? Can you imagine the level of outrage, the cries of “human rights abuse?” The most dread of all politically correct words of censure would be dragged out: “Inappropriate.”

    By the way, could we find a way to erase “inappropriate” from the language?

  6. Laren Bright Says:

    I’m still trying to make sense of whether he’s a hero or a villain. Jury’s still out inside of my head because I suspect all countries do similar stuff and also because I’m really not certain just how diplomacy is conducted in terms of posturing, etc.. However, I will say you forgot one of the top names for assassination heard in this country: Barack Husein Obama (well, adn Nancy Pelosi).

  7. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Suzanna, “The secrecy that surrounds the misconduct of our own government is no less a threat to our national security than the misconduct of other nations.” Absolutely, positively. Wish I’d said that.

    “Secret” is an interesting word when applied to government documents. Only the government can declare a document secret, and it can apply the term to any bloody thing it wants. Nixon’s White House tapes were secret. The Pentagon Papers were secret. The government says it’s secret, so it is. But what of the documents that are classified because their publication would reveal governmental (or military) stupidity or cupidity or corruption or wrongdoing. They’re exactly as “secret,” legally speaking, as the plans for Victory in Europe were in WWII. Are the people in power to be allowed a free hand to classify everything that might reflect negatively on them, that might even put them in jail? Every once in a while, someone like Assange is absolutely necessary to prevent (or at least slow) the corruption of good governance.

    Laren, no one who was elected to office called for Obama’s assassination. And I think it’s bewildering that the only person in power to speak up in Assange’s behalf is Rand Paul. Just convinces me even more firmly that the old left-right political spectrum has become meaningless, and the only real us vs. them is between the people who sell the nation to the highest bidder, and the people they steal from in order to do it.

  8. Robb Royer Says:

    All right dammit, I’m gonna swim against the tide a little (this won’t surprise Tim a bit). Surely we’re not claiming that a government has no right to even have secrets. How would you ever conduct business/diplomacy/negotiations with the Chinese, Russians, Saudis… whoever, in an atmosphere where they’re allowed to have secrets and we’re not! This would be like playing poker in a table where you’re the only one with an open hand. You can bet there are no Chinese, Burmese or North Korean whistle blowers. (on this subject I would recommend a book called Bodyguard of Lies). I don’t know much about this Assange fellow (cept what’s an Australian doing with a French name, ever think of that?) and there’s no question that the government’s response to him has been way over the top, but I do have a problem with one man deciding HE in his infinite wisdom is going to torpedo govt. policy without taking responsibility for any and all of the ramifications. To me he is neither a hero or a villain, just another guy looking for his 15 minutes.

  9. fairyhedgehog Says:

    I’m pleased but surprised that the UK government isn’t giving in to the US on this. We usually follow the lead of the US and we’re not above using heavy-handed government tactics ourselves: look at police reactions to recent student protests, and the Twitter joke trial.

    I’m very concerned about the way that both our countries are turning themselves into police states where the governments can be as heavy-handed as they like.

    So yes, I’m pissed off too.

  10. barbara macdonald Says:

    ummm, Robb, then what’s an Australian name?



  11. Robb Royer Says:


  12. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Robb — I’m probably overstating my case here (you remember that I always went about 190% overboard and then had to defend it). I think what Assange did may well be damaging. I also think that we’ve had multiple instances in the past 50 years where it became clear that governments classify as a weapon, often with no national security purpose whatsoever. The very statement, “A document is secret because the government says it is” worries me — especially now that I believe most political interests are identical; in the old days, the “loyal opposition” could call out an administration for hiding behind classification, could fight to get material unclassified. Who’s the “loyal opposition” now that everyone’s in the same boat, taking money from the same sources?

    But what I was really reacting to, and continue to react to, is the Draconian approach (now we’ve gotten the “neutral” Swiss to close his bank account — have we managed to get them to close Al-Queda’s? Have we even tried?) I’m personally appalled by the response. Okay, excoriate him, make it known he’ll be arrested the moment he sets foot on American soil, assign a special prosecutor to identify what crimes, under American law, he’s committed and to define the extent and/or limits of our jurisdiction. And on and on. But what they’ve done reeks of arrogance and contempt for due process and WOULD NOT pass uncriticized by us if the Chinese were to do the same. I think what’s being done here is new territory, and I find it very, very uncomfortable.

    BTW, my new post goes on a bit about this and concludes with a riveting excerpt from an interview in the Manchester Guardian.

    FHH — looks like they’re criticizing at any rate — Assange was raked over the coals today for “exposing the locations” of sensitive sites within Great Britain and making them potential targets of terrorism. I have no idea whether it’s true that the nature of these sites wasn’t already widely known, or at least easily discoverable, but this might be a reasonable charge. Still, so far, it’s statements, not bug-squishing action.

  13. Bonnie Says:

    This is in response to an announcement on a subversive librarian listserv I subscribe to that the Library of Congress has blocked access to Wikileaks.

    Blocking Access to Wikileaks May Harm CRS, Analysts Say.
    (Secrecy News)

    The Library of Congress confirmed on Friday that it had blocked access from all Library computers to the Wikileaks web site in order to prevent unauthorized downloading of classified records such as those in the large cache of diplomatic cables that Wikileaks began to publish on November 28.

    Since the Congressional Research Service is a component of the Library, this means that CRS researchers will be unable to access or to cite the leaked materials in their research reports to Congress. Several current and former CRS analysts expressed perplexity and dismay about the move, and they said it could undermine the institution’s research activities.

    Nose, face, spite, cut…

  14. Timothy Hallinan Says:


    This isn’t Bush any more. This is Mr. Hope. What a colossal fraud.

  15. Bonnie Says:

    Same subversive librarian listserv posted this link today with the word “irony” added to the caption:

    “World Press Freedom Day”

  16. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Bonnie — that is way, way too funny. I think I’ll post the release in the next day or two.

  17. Bonnie Says:

    Now, this is the kind of story that makes Wikileaks seem like an unlimited public benefit:

    You can just picture those State Department pinheads patting us on our topknots and murmuring “There, there, don’t worry your pretty little heads about these complex, grown-up international relations policies.”

    Assholes. 🙁

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