Friday, October 28, 2011

Argentina threatens reporting by newspapers on inflation problems; bloggers next?

The Washington Post on Friday has an important editorial about “shooting the messenger”, particularly in Argentina, concerning the re-election of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, link here

The editorial reports a campaign to silence media, particularly major newspapers (Clarin and La Nacion), that repot the truth about Argentina’s inflation problems.  There have been attempts to force newspapers to sell assets or possibly submit to government takeover.

Not discussed here would be the impact on bloggers, so much an issue in the Middle East (with the Arab Spring) and China, or the role of social media, where, again, the anonymity policies (which seem to be changing) could be important.

Will Electronic Frontier Foundation report in this problem?

Fareed Zakaria covered Argentina on Oct. 30, and said that Kirchner has hiding inflation in order to have unsustainable social programs and temporary prosperity. 

Is this the time to watch Sigourney Weaver in  the 90s film “Death and the Maiden”? 

Wikipedia attribution link for Argentina topographical map. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Wikileaks suspends publication of new material on site, says MC/Visa/Paypal blockade threatens its existence

Wikileaks (link) has announced that it has suspended publication of any new information, since its source of funds is dessicated by the Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, and Western Union bans which wipe out 95% of the financial support. Quote: "We are forced to temporarily suspend publishing whilst we secure our economic survival." 

The archives of information by individual country appear to still be up at the site.

There are many stories, such as this one by Reuters, where Assange says the “blockade” threatens the site’s existence.  Of course, the government has jawboned the major financial institutions into blocking the ability of Assange to receive support in a normal manner. What if the government could do this for just political reasons? Is this like "The Pentagon Papers" case?

Assange makes his plea for donations (how?) on YouTube.

The American Constitution Society has a presentation, “Some Insight on WikiLeaks and First Amendment Protection”,  dated Dec. 1, 2010, here 

The video asks the question, if you have a shield law, do you “license the press”?  What are the “proper controls” for putting out information that could jeopardize troops?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mixed reactions in Basque region to ETA declaration to end all violence

The militant group ETA has declared it will abandon violence in its attempt for political autonomy in Spain, but tens of thousands of separatists staged a street rally in Bilbao today, according to the Huffington Post, here.

I visited Bilbao in April 2001 to visit the Guggenheim and stayed in a hotel a few blocks away from ETA but the scene was quiet.  There was a marathon run there that Sunday.  But the city seems strange, a bit like it was on another planet.   The city has street signs in both Spanish and Basque.  I also visited San Sebastian-Donesta on that trip.  Only the latter was reached by train; you take a bus 60 miles through coastal mountains t reach Bilbao. 

An AP story in the Taiwan news, that Spain hails the decision, is here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hit-run incident in China leads to questioning of moral values in the "Peoples' Republic of Capitalism"

Keith Richburg has multiple stories on The Washington Post about an incident in China where bystanders refused to help a child after being struck by a hit-run driver, such as one on p A7 Thursday, here

The story suggests that atheistic values may contribute to apathy. But there are legal considerations. In the Chinese system, good Samaritans might be implicated, and the driver himself pays less in fines if the patient dies (I wondered, why doesn’t he go to jail?)

While materialism is discusses as a cause, I’m struck by reports of the collective moral instruction that circulated decades ago about the Cultural Revolution.  Today that period is seen as indicative of a lack of human rights in China.  But at the time, the far Left sometimes praised it as a way of making everyone “pay his dues” and “share a common vision”.  I recall a “People’s Party “ candidate for Congress in northern New Jersey in 1973 who actually praised the Chinese for their “morality” and decried the profit motive. Then he went along to set up the “Make Up Your Mind Bookstore” in Madison, NJ, which I visited once. 

Does anyone remember Ted Koppel's 2008 Discovery Channel report "The People's Republic of Capitalism", as written up by Felicia Lee in the NY Times here  (see TV blog, July 9, 2008).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gaddafi reported killed (or at least captured) by rebels in Libya; story developing

Various news sources report that Muammar Gaddafi has been killed by rebels in his hometown of Sirte, Libya. Some sources say he was “merely” captured.

The Huffington Post report is here

Reportedly he died of gunshot wounds to both legs, which sounds medically unusual, unless, say, a femoral artery were hit.

This is what people “suspected” on May 1 before the announcement of bin Laden’s death.

ABC's early announcement Thursday.

WJLA has a graphic photo here.  Early Thursday afternoon, major media sources confirmed the Gaddafi's death.

Could this overthrow have happened without social media (Facebook and Twitter) used anonymously (a controversy since Facebook now forbids anonymity or false identities, necessary to oppose authoritarian regimes). Is "Arab Spring" migrating into "Arab Autumn"?  This had all started with the beating of a street vendor in Tunisia, and look how it expanded.

CNN has a graphic video of Gaddafi's last moments alive"

Monday, October 17, 2011

My quick visit to the Embassy of Israel

In conjunction with Reel Affirmations 20, I visited the Embassy of Israel this evening, at Van Ness St. and International Ave.  True, there are no electronics at all allowed (so no direct photography), and when you go through security you walk into an outdoor courtyard that from which you then go to a meeting room.  (I’ll do the movie review tomorrow.)   One can park at the University of the District of Columbia garage on Van Ness for $8.  

But the Embassy had a lot of  take-home literature to offer, emphasizing the progressive and open nature of its society. The government has a president in charge of everything, and a prime minister, and a unicameral legislator, so it is probably less partisan than ours.  (That would please CNN's Fareed Zakaria, as he talks about partisanship on his "Global Public Square".)  The offered free literature has a pamphlet called “Letter from Israel” with a picture of “The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel” (1948).

It was pointed out that Israel has allowed gays to serve openly in its military since 1993 (after some period of being expected to “live at home” as was discussed in the 1993 Rand report, which considered Israel rather progressive and possibly helpful to Clinton’s plan to lift the ban in the US), and has equal rights for LGBT couples.  Well, not quite, if you read the Wikipedia article, or this one.True, Israel honors gay marriages performed abroad.

But the important aspect of life in Israel is the national socialization, which everyone how emigrates there must accept. Military service is usually compulsory. There can be considerable pressure to live in the controversial settlements.  One probably does not want live there if one does not accept the idea that group expropriation of the rights of others (Palestinians on the West Bank) is necessary for security. The conservative idea of living under a “shared vision” passed along through family can be tried by those living there.

From my knowledge, I pretty much share Jimmy Carter’s criticism of “Palestinian apartheid” (Books blog, Dec. 25, 2007).   I can remember when working in NYC in the 1970s that coworkers with Jewish background at NBC would say, “give the Palestinians their homeland and we can have some peace.”  And then they would say, they weren’t supposed to be quoted saying that.  The two-state solution has been discussed again recently, and to me it makes a lot of sense.

In the spring of 1982, MCC Dallas sponsored a trip to Israel. I did not have the vacation time to go, but people who did go reported conversations in which they were told "every adult citizen of Israel is a soldier."

Wikipedia attribution link for Temple Mount picture, similar (but not as wide-ranged) to picture in auditorium

Friday, October 7, 2011

IMF figurehead predicts European meltdown, 2008-style, by end of October as debt-laden countries fall like dominoes

IMF Advisor Robert Shapiro has predicted total global financial meltdown by the end of October, according to a story on leftish AlterNet, link here.  The meltdown would start in the sovereign debt area and spread to all major financial institutions in Europe and Britain. 

The AP has a story today on credit downgrades for Italy and Spain, which are the next dominoes to fall after Greece, Yahoo! copy here.

But US markets were relatively flat today.

More of my clips from “Occupy DC” aka “Occupy Wall Street”.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

EFF analyzes the dangers of social networking site policies banning anonymous, pseudonymous registration, as particularly damaging overseas challenging dictatorships, criminal cartels

Eva Galperin has a detailed story Oct 3 on the Electronic Frontier Foundation site about the serious potential ramifications overseas of strict “true identity” policies enforced by some social networking sites, especially Facebook and now Google Plus.

Although these sites do not mechanically prevent pseudonyms from being used, they will suspend (sometimes with little warning) users reported by others to not be using real names, according to the EFF story. These would invite political or criminal enemies of social network users to “report” users to shut them down.

It is true that in western countries, governments have been concerned that anonymous use of social networking (and perhaps blogging) sites facilitates cyberbullying, identity theft, and possible enablement of vandalizing flash mobs, and perhaps “stegonographic” use by potential terrorists.  From a purely public policy approach, this can be a tough problem.  Facebook, particularly, has sided with US and British governments in these concerns and has said that use of multiple identities or anonymous identity demonstrates lack of “integrity”.  On the other hand, the ACLU has vigorously defended a fundamental right to public anonymous speech.

EFF also encourages overseas users to become skilled in TOR and use encryption (https). Without the use of these technologies and also the use of anonymity or pseudonymity, the “Arab spring” revolutions might well not have happened.  Social networking site policies could have a big effect on the success of these populist uprisings.

It’s also true that western countries (especially Britain) have long recognized writing books  -- especially novels – under pseudonyms or pen names, as legitimate.  How should social networking sites handle this kind of use? It’s also true that many writers or artists derive “stage” names from nicknames given to them.

EFF points out that organized crime (like drug cartels in Mexico or Latin America or mafia-like groups in countries like Russia) also goes after blogger who write about their activities under their “legitimate” identities, again a problem for social networking site identity policies.  The EFF story is quite graphic on this point.

It would seem that social networking companies, especially Facebook and Google+, should consider very carefully how they want to deploy "identification" policies for overseas use, because there can be enormous consequences overseas for some users to use their true identities. This could amount to a major strategic decision for any such social networking or publishing-service company planning to expand overseas (and eventually be able to work effectively in China) -- to "rule the world" with a kind of "techocracy".  Possibly companies need to consider different policies in some countries overseas (as compared to policies for use within "democracies").  Such companies ought to meet (maybe again) with the Administration and State Department on the matter (as well as with similar aspects of British and other western governments) in a little "parlor diplomacy". Keep in mind, too, that Americans (or any westerners) traveling in non-democratic countries could get in trouble for Facebook (or similar use, including Blogger or Wordpress, Twitter, etc) use when tracked to them, even possibly for use done at home before they entered potentially "hostile" religious or otherwise non-democratic countries.  I wonder if this issue could exist for American bloggers thinking about visiting China even now (that includes me). 

The link for detailed the EFF story is here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Yes, we all learn our lessons from the Knox case. "All's well that end's well?" Not quite

I guess the Amanda Know re-verdict will be followed by years of lectures on how Americans must behave overseas.

In this case, the prosecutor seemed caught in his own trap, having to rationalize a course he had gone down for political reasons.  But that happens here in the US (as in the little film “Incendiary”, which I saw today).

There was no DNA evidence, and yet Knox’s behavior is said to be odd, inappropriate. A lesson, to be careful when you’re a guest in another country.

Timothy Egan has a perspective in the New York Times here (the column is called "Opinionator"!)

If the prosecution wins on appeal, extradition has practically zero chance of happening, according to Dan Abrams of ABC (but she can never set foot in Italy, or event the EU).  The judge also recognized a three year sentence for "slander", shocking that this would be a crime in the US (given all our carelessness about "online reputation"). 

Don't forget: it was Italy that tried to hold YouTube responsible with "downstream liability" (civil)  in defamation cases that result in eventual injury. 

Here’s AC360’s coverage.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

CIA strike in Yemen raises questions about due process, but also about Web speech

CNN interviews Leon Panetta in a discussion as to whether the CIA drone strike against Anwar al-Awlaki when “out in the open” in Yemen was a legal “evasion” of the normal need to exercise due process against American citizens overseas, here.


But the most relevant issue may be the way the “target” had used the Internet (in English) to “win converts” to his extremist ideology.  The upshot could be further government monitoring of the way “amateurs” propagate ideas on the Web – but that concern was expressed right after 9/11.

CNN is also reporting the capture of a Haqqani Network leader in Afghanistan, story here