Scott Walker Did Not Graduate From College, But…

The recent comment made by Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker is rather stunning if you think about it.

In an effort to stymie union contracts that have been negotiated over the past months Walker asked legislative leaders to not schedule a special session aimed at passing them.  State workers are now 18 months without a contract.

When making his plea for concessions from the Democrats and union members Walker had this to say.

“People elected me to be a leader and they didn’t set a time frame on that,” said Walker.

Well, yes Scott, the people of Wisconsin did set a time frame on that!  Had Walker paid more attention in civics class this would all be well understood.

First, there was a scheduled election, followed by a transition period, and then the state constitution allows for power to be placed in Walker’s hands come Inauguration Day in January.  And not one minute sooner.

There is no place that Scott Walker can turn for remedy.  The constitutional safeguards and laws limit his thirst for power before he is sworn into office.  Ask any sixth grader from Superior to Appleton, down to Lone Rock and over to Milwaukee.  Any school kid across the state could help Scott figure this out.

I suggest some remedial education for the new governor.  Any kid have some free time after his last class to sit with Scott for a few afternoons?

And Scott, please, no bullying the kids.

Leaked Cables: What America Thinks Of World Leaders

Does anyone recall how Richard Nixon would respond when asked about world leaders.  He would have wonderful short summations of each one mentioned.  I thought of that today when reading from the treasure trove of insights from the leaked State Department cables.  Nixon would be fuming about the leaked cables, but he would be reading every tidbit just like the rest of us.  He would have (grudgingly) loved the newspapers today.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy: ‘has a thin-skinned and authoritarian personal style’ and is an ‘emperor with no clothes’

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi: ‘feckless, vain and ineffective as a modern European leader’. He is a ‘physically and politically weak’ leader whose ‘frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest’

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev: ‘plays Robin to Putin’s Batman’ and is ‘pale and hesitant’

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin: an ‘alpha dog’

Chancellor Angela Merkel: ‘avoids risks and is rarely creative’

Iranian President Mahmoud Amhadinejad: like ‘Hitler’ (It should be noted the Daily Mail got this one wrong…this was not from an American source, but instead from a Middle East leader in the U.A.E.)

Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi: is ‘strange’ and ‘accompanied by voluptuous blonde Ukranian “nurse”’

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan: governs with ‘a cabal of incompetent advisors’

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il: ‘flabby old chap’ who suffers from ‘physical and psychological trauma’

Afghan president, Hamid Karzai: ‘driven by paranoia’ and ‘an extremely weak man who did not listen to facts but was instead easily swayed by anyone who came to report even the most bizarre stories or plots against him’

Zimbabwean tyrant, Robert Mugabe: ‘the crazy old man’

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan is said to ‘float along on paranoia’ and is dismissed as ‘an extremely weak man who did not listen to facts but was instead easily swayed by anyone who came to report even the most bizarre stories or plots against him’.

Kim Jong-il, the ailing dictator of North Korea is described as a ‘flabby old chap’ who had suffered ‘physical and psychological trauma’.

Leaked State Department Cable: 14 Hour Horse Ride Over Mountain In Freezing-Cold

Movie waiting to be made.

It’s not all embarrassment and scandal in the WikiLeaks dump: Contained in the cables is the story of a 75-year-old American man who escaped Iran via horseback. Hossein Ghanbarzadeh Vahed visited Iran in May 2008; he flew in, but then was trapped there for seven months after the country confiscated his passport and refused to hear his appeals. So he staged a daring escape. He got on horseback, hired two guides, and rode a horse over a mountain for 14 hours on a freezing-cold night. He arrived in Turkey and took the bus to the U.S. embassy in Ankara, arriving in January 2009.

NEWSPAPERS Reported The Leaked State Department Cables Story

In this day and age too few hear the ‘thump’ of the morning newspaper each morning land against the front door.  I thought of that again when the biggest news story since the elections blazed all over the front page of The New York Times.  All media sources were linking to ‘The Gray Lady’ today and using their extensive coverage of the leaked State Department cables. 

It took highly respected, and world-known newspapers to report this story.  That fact should not be forgotten in this time when news consumers are all over the map when trying to find ways to stay informed.  Newspapers have the space, the ability, the experience to report the big stories.  No one else can do it the way newspapers can.

The news of the leaked  cables could never have been told on the CBS Evening News, or even on PBS’ NewHour in the way The New York Times did on almost five full pages.  And this is only day one.

Because of  solid reporting newspapers still rank at the top of the news pyramid.  With rock solid journalism, the time and space to do the story right, and with a broad audience newspapers are able to report a story that others might shy away from.

Over and over I repeat the same thing.

There is no way that this nation can do without newspapers.

To hold government accountable there must be a line of seasoned and resourceful newspaper reporters with pen and notepad in hand.

Newspapers Have Right To Publish Leaked State Department Cables

The New York Times had it right today when they wrote about why they went to press with the leaked State Department cables.  These cables were going to be made known one way or the other, so why not deal with the story in a professional journalistic method.

Of course, most of these documents will be made public regardless of what The Times decides. WikiLeaks has shared the entire archive of secret cables with at least four European publications, has promised country-specific documents to many other news outlets, and has said it plans to ultimately post its trove online. For The Times to ignore this material would be to deny its own readers the careful reporting and thoughtful analysis they expect when this kind of information becomes public.

While I think the stolen cables will make for troubles with crafting foreign policy, and working with international contacts, I also recognize the value in knowing what our government does in our name.  We all should care about that.

The New York Times addressed that matter today.  I have always stood by the press when reporting stories for these reasons, and do so again at this time.  There will be the usual remarks about the press, and The New York Times in particular. Those comments are now so often used they are beyond trite.  Those who scream the loudest are the ones least able to understand the need for a free press, or the role the press serves in our democracy.  For the rest of us the need is obvious.

But the more important reason to publish these articles is that the cables tell the unvarnished story of how the government makes its biggest decisions, the decisions that cost the country most heavily in lives and money. They shed light on the motivations — and, in some cases, duplicity — of allies on the receiving end of American courtship and foreign aid. They illuminate the diplomacy surrounding two current wars and several countries, like Pakistan and Yemen, where American military involvement is growing. As daunting as it is to publish such material over official objections, it would be presumptuous to conclude that Americans have no right to know what is being done in their name.

Other newspapers around the world had this state department cables story dominate their front pages.  The Guardian in an editorial comment made this statement. 

 Anything said or done in the name of a democracy is, prima facie, of public interest. When that democracy purports to be “world policeman” – an assumption that runs ghostlike through these cables – that interest is global.

The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment. If American spies are breaking United Nations rules by seeking the DNA biometrics of the UN director general, he is entitled to hear of it. British voters should know what Afghan leaders thought of British troops. American (and British) taxpayers might question, too, how most of the billions of dollars going in aid to Afghanistan simply exits the country at Kabul airport.

No harm is done by high-class chatter about President Nicolas Sarkozy’s vulgarity and lack of house-training, or about the British royal family. What the American embassy in London thinks about the coalition suggests not an alliance at risk but an embassy with a talent problem.

Some stars shine through the banality such as the heroic envoy in Islamabad, Anne Patterson. She pleads that Washington’s whole policy is counterproductive: it “risks destabilising the Pakistani state, alienating both the civilian government and the military leadership, and provoking a broader governance crisis without finally achieving the goal”. Nor is any amount of money going to bribe the Taliban to our side. Patterson’s cables are like missives from the Titanic as it already heads for the bottom.

The money‑wasting is staggering. Aid payments are never followed, never audited, never evaluated. The impression is of the world’s superpower roaming helpless in a world in which nobody behaves as bidden. Iran, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, the United Nations, are all perpetually off script. Washington reacts like a wounded bear, its instincts imperial but its power projection unproductive.

America’s foreign policy is revealed as a slave to rightwing drift, terrified of a bomb exploding abroad or of a pro-Israeli congressman at home. If the cables tell of the progress to war over Iran or Pakistan or Gaza or Yemen, their revelation might help debate the inanity of policies which, as Patterson says, seem to be leading in just that direction. Perhaps we can now see how catastrophe unfolds when there is time to avert it, rather than having to await a Chilcot report after the event. If that is not in the public’s interest, I fail to see what is.

Clearly, it is for governments, not journalists, to protect public secrets. Were there some overriding national jeopardy in revealing them, greater restraint might be in order. There is no such overriding jeopardy, except from the policies themselves as revealed. Where it is doing the right thing, a great power should be robust against embarrassment.

What this saga must do is alter the basis of diplomatic reporting. If WikiLeaks can gain access to secret material, by whatever means, so presumably can a foreign power. Words on paper can be made secure, electronic archives not. The leaks have blown a hole in the framework by which states guard their secrets. The Guardian material must be a breach of the official secrets acts. But coupled with the penetration already allowed under freedom of information, the walls round policy formation and documentation are all but gone. All barriers are permeable. In future the only secrets will be spoken ones. Whether that is a good thing should be a topic for public debate.

WikiLeaks State Department Cables Are Utterly Fascinating

Mind-numbing is the only word to use after reading Day One of the impressive story concerning the leaked State Department cables.   While history buffs read parts of cables that make it into books years after the events took place, the four pages of insight and material that made it into The New York Times, and pages of other papers all over the world today is alarming, but also utterly fascinating.  There is no way be a news junkie and follow international news daily, and not be thrilled with reading this material.  I love to follow what is happening all over the world and so this insight about the names and events that make up my morning newspaper every day is impossible to not talk about.  On the other hand there is no way not to be highly troubled that these cables were stolen and will impact international relations. 

Apart from those feelings the news organizations around the world, including the much respected New York Times, has every right to report this story.  There will be more about the freedom of the press aspect to this story here on CP in the hours to come.  After all, the press does not work for the government.  They work for us.

The news from these leaks are absolutely fascinating and demand a full read.

In part some of the highlights are here.

The cables, a huge sampling of the daily traffic between the State Department and some 270 embassies and consulates, amount to a secret chronicle of the United States’ relations with the world in an age of war and terrorism. Among their revelations, to be detailed in The Times in coming days:

¶ A dangerous standoff with Pakistan over nuclear fuel: Since 2007, the United States has mounted a highly secret effort, so far unsuccessful, to remove from a Pakistani research reactor highly enriched uranium that American officials fear could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device. In May 2009, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson reported that Pakistan was refusing to schedule a visit by American technical experts because, as a Pakistani official said, “if the local media got word of the fuel removal, ‘they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,’ he argued.”

¶ Thinking about an eventual collapse of North Korea: American and South Korean officials have discussed the prospects for a unified Korea, should the North’s economic troubles and political transition lead the state to implode. The South Koreans even considered commercial inducements to China, according to the American ambassador to Seoul. She told Washington in February that South Korean officials believe that the right business deals would “help salve” China’s “concerns about living with a reunified Korea” that is in a “benign alliance” with the United States.

¶ Bargaining to empty the Guantánamo Bay prison: When American diplomats pressed other countries to resettle detainees, they became reluctant players in a State Department version of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Obama, while the island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in Chinese Muslim detainees, cables from diplomats recounted. The Americans, meanwhile, suggested that accepting more prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.”

¶ Suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government: When Afghanistan’s vice president visited the United Arab Emirates last year, local authorities working with the Drug Enforcement Administration discovered that he was carrying $52 million in cash. With wry understatement, a cable from the American Embassy in Kabul called the money “a significant amount” that the official, Ahmed Zia Massoud, “was ultimately allowed to keep without revealing the money’s origin or destination.” (Mr. Massoud denies taking any money out of Afghanistan.)

¶ A global computer hacking effort: China’s Politburo directed the intrusion into Google’s computer systems in that country, a Chinese contact told the American Embassy in Beijing in January, one cable reported. The Google hacking was part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government. They have broken into American government computers and those of Western allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since 2002, cables said.

¶ Mixed records against terrorism: Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda, and the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar, a generous host to the American military for years, was the “worst in the region” in counterterrorism efforts, according to a State Department cable last December. Qatar’s security service was “hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals,” the cable said.

 An intriguing alliance: American diplomats in Rome reported in 2009 on what their Italian contacts described as an extraordinarily close relationship between Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian prime minister, and Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister and business magnate, including “lavish gifts,” lucrative energy contracts and a “shadowy” Russian-speaking Italian go-between. They wrote that Mr. Berlusconi “appears increasingly to be the mouthpiece of Putin” in Europe. The diplomats also noted that while Mr. Putin enjoyed supremacy over all other public figures in Russia, he was undermined by an unmanageable bureaucracy that often ignored his edicts.

¶ Arms deliveries to militants: Cables describe the United States’ failing struggle to prevent Syria from supplying arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has amassed a huge stockpile since its 2006 war with Israel. One week after President Bashar al-Assad promised a top State Department official that he would not send “new” arms to Hezbollah, the United States complained that it had information that Syria was providing increasingly sophisticated weapons to the group.

¶ Clashes with Europe over human rights: American officials sharply warned Germany in 2007 not to enforce arrest warrants for Central Intelligence Agency officers involved in a bungled operation in which an innocent German citizen with the same name as a suspected militant was mistakenly kidnapped and held for months in Afghanistan. A senior American diplomat told a German official “that our intention was not to threaten Germany, but rather to urge that the German government weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the U.S.”

The 251,287 cables, first acquired by WikiLeaks, were provided to The Times by an intermediary on the condition of anonymity. Many are unclassified, and none are marked “top secret,” the government’s most secure communications status. But some 11,000 are classified “secret,” 9,000 are labeled “noforn,” shorthand for material considered too delicate to be shared with any foreign government, and 4,000 are designated both secret and noforn.