I've taken a little time and gone through parts of the two reports released today regarding the repeal of the US Military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. My takeaways so far are that the repeal of DADT should go ahead as long as it follows the recommendations of the reports, that the opposition within the services is more than what is being spun tonight, but manageable, and that as details emerge from the reports some opposition to the sexual orientation neutrality of the recommended policies will probably emerge within the civilian gay activist community.
I haven't read all of the two reports that you can find in pdf form here and here, but I think I have read enough to be satisfied that the working groups that produced them have done a very good job of examining the issue in a thoughtful way that takes into account the critical importance of having an effective military and also the dignity and rights of all Service members, straight or gay. I think their recommendation that DADT can be repealed should be followed, but only if all of their other recommendations are also followed.
The spin I've read this evening tries to make it sound like the issue turns out to be no big deal to the members of the military, but that's not entirely true. If you look at the actual survey results question by question, I think it's fair to say that the results broadly fall along these lines when it comes to the Service members who responded:
5-20% feel the repeal of DADT would be positive, depending on the particular question.
30-60% say no effect.
15-30% say equally positive and negative.
20-30% say negative.
Beware of how either side tries to put those numbers together to spin them the most favorable way. The reality is about half of the military doesn't care one way or another, about a quarter are okay or even positive about repeal, and about a quarter are fairly strongly opposed. I think repeal should go ahead despite the risk that those last 25% pose, because as the report notes, many have already served with homosexual comrades but they just don't know it, and education combined with committed and trained leadership will almost certainly go a long way toward neutralizing opposition that is mostly based on fear and ignorance.
I think the above is true, but only with one important caveat: This will only work if during and after the transition the sensibilities of all Service members, straight or gay, are respected.
I think most gay Service members already understand that. I'm not so sure when it comes to civilian gay activists. The reports are very blunt about this:
Motivating many of our recommendations is the conclusion, based on our numerous engagements with the force, that repeal would work best if it is accompanied by a message and policies that promote fair and equal treatment of all Service members, minimize differences among Service members based on sexual orientation, and disabuse Service members of any notion that, with repeal, gay and lesbian Service members will be afforded some type of special treatment.
Included, also, should be a message to those who are opposed to “open” service on well-founded moral or religious grounds, that their views and beliefs are not rejected, and that leaders have not turned their backs on them. In the event of repeal, we cannot and should not expect individual Service members to change their personal religious or moral beliefs about homosexuality, but we do expect every Service member to treat all others with dignity and respect, consistent with the core values that already exist in each Service. These are not new concepts for the U.S. military, given the wide variety of views, races, and religions that already exist within the force.
Like I said, I think most gay Service members already understand this because they have had to coexist in that environment. Will that policy be good enough for civilian gay rights activists or are they going to howl when they read about it?
My guess is howl, but it won't matter. What this report is saying is that attempts to raise protections for sexual orientation to the level of race, religion, or gender are not practical at this time. If activists insist, you can bet the whole thing will fall apart. That's the real issue to watch in this.
Yesterday I wrote that we should think twice about prosecuting the people associated with Wikileaks for publishing the leaked US government documents. it seemed to me that the government would have a hard time singling Wikileaks out without dragging news media and even ordinary citizens into the larger First Amendment issues. It could be though, that Ed Morrissey has noted a distinction that at the very least could provide a useful fig leaf:
On the other hand, Assange may have a defense against selective prosecution, since the US government never prosecuted newspapers and reporters in the US that published national-security secrets, most notably the New York Times and the Washington Post. In those cases, though, the papers didn’t publish the documents verbatim and kept the details — especially on personnel — out of print.
Assuming that last sentence is correct, that may just be the distinction the government needs. While news outlets have published excerpts and summaries, they have not published documents in their entirety. It might work, and it might be enough cover to allow countries that might not extradite otherwise to do so.
But wait, what can of worms does this open? Are we sure we want this precedent either?
"Listen up all you bloviators out there. The Pentagon will be releasing its Don't Ask, Don't Tell study in just a few minutes. We don't want any of you to get hurt, so it's important that you warm up first. I want 20 reps each and we'll start with the cherry-picker. Okay?"
"Alright then, let's go!
"Cherry, pick, three, four...cherry, pick, three, four...C'mon Yglesias, you can do better than that...move it!"
"Okay. Next up is the Jump to Conclusion. I want to see some air between you and reason so you're ready to go. Ready?"
"And...Jump, two, three, four. Jump, two, three, four...C'mon, Benen...you can jump twice that high...you're gonna get hurt out there!"
"Okay! Our final warm up will be the Spin Away Inconvemient Facts. Everybody ready?"
"And...spin and release. Spin and release. Remember to exhale as you bring that spin up...c'mon Sullivan, those tools you call readers are counting on you...spin and release."
"Okay, folks, you should be all warmed up now. Go get 'em!"
I've been mulling over some of the reactions to the Wikileaks revelations and the following from Rep. Peter King got me wondering just what legal options are really out there regarding operator Julian Assange and others associated with Wikileaks:
“This is worse even than a physical attack on Americans, it’s worse than a military attack,” King said.
King has written letters to both U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking for swift action to be taken against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.
King wants Holder to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act and has also called on Clinton to determine whether WikiLeaks could be designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
I don't know about that "worse even than a physical attack" stuff. That may eventually be correct, but I think a more measured response is in order for now. I also think we should not start slinging the term "terrorist" around related to this. I highly doubt that even our staunchest allies are really going to buy that and I think it carries a high risk of knocking us off the moral high ground we can currently use to pressure other nations when it comes to real terrorists.
What about the espionage stuff though? I'm no expert on the Espionage Act, but it seems to me that if the government wanted to charge Assange and anyone else associated with Wikileaks over this they probably have the statutory authority to do so. Should they? I don't think the answer is so open and shut.
I was not a fan of Assange before this last round of leaks and I'm not now. I think he is a morally bankrupt posuer who desperately deserves a good ass kicking. That said though, from what I've read he and the others associated with Wikileaks did not steal any of the information involved in this and previous revelations, it appears that it was given to them by a US soldier who has been charged. So if they just forwarded and published what had already been given to them, should they be prosecuted?
I think we need to take a deep breath and think about it before we plunge into an area as legally murky as that. Clearly the soldier who allegedly forwarded the info to Wikileaks can and must be prosecuted. If he's convicted by the military then I think the feds should definitely try him for treason. However, I don't think it is quite so clear when it comes to a publisher of this info. If we prosecute Assange, why would we not also prosecute the publishers of The New York Times, or The Guardian, or Der Spiegel, or who knows how many media outlets? Would we really want to go down that road?
Be careful with your answer if you are a blogger or someone who thinks that the press shouldn't have special protections regarding speech that are unavailable to the rest of us. Heck, be careful if you do think the press should have special protections. This area is a minefield that easily could have ramifications in other areas, such as political speech for one, that have nothing to do with government secrets. Walking into it is guaranteed to bring at least one Supreme Court ruling that will be deeply divisive no matter what.
Before we head down that path I first suggest a few deep breaths and at least some thought about what could go wrong. And I think that advice applies to pretty much all of us.
The end of today will complete six months tobacco free for me. I haven't even cheated once, the reason being that I'm deathly afraid that one puff would put me right back to a pack and a half a day. Maybe I'm not giving myself enough credit, but my gut says stay away.
The little software calculator I have says I haven't smoked 5500 cigarettes and I've saved over $1500. If anyone can tell me where that $1500 is I would be much obliged.
-This could change any minute I guess, but if this Yahoo blogger's list of top ten revelations turns out to be true then you can list me among the thoroughly unimpressed. I suspect we'll see more than what we have so far.
-This is not the first group of leaked US government info that Wikileaks has released. Previously they have released a batch related to Afghanistan, one batch on Iraq, and a video from Iraq that purported to show US helicopter pilots murdering reporters. The short video that was highlighted was a transparently stupid hatchet job that edited out key context from a longer video. The furor died quickly once that context was explained. The other releases died down more quickly than I expected.
-I think the issue with the Afghanistan info was it consisted of mostly military after action reports and though it was riddled with data of local significance, for the average person it was just boring. I think the Iraq info died down because too much of it contradicted established narrative. It wasn't the Americans committing atrocities against Iraqis, it was the Iraqis doing it to each other. It put American abuse at Abu Ghraib back in 2004 into perspective compared to the horrific torture and killings by Iraqis themselves. The data also mocked body counts of 600,000 to 1,000,000 and clearly established the terrible damage that IEDs did to Iraq. Far more damage than what the Americans did.
-Given those previous revelations, it's a good thing that OMB is today cracking the whip on federal agencies about security. That only took about seven months...why, the speed is blinding! Not to mention how comforting this is about keeping our medical records, or financial records, or even network security records all safe and secure.
-Related to the above(via Mr. B.), if it is true that as many as 3 million people had clearance and access to this data then how can anyone be astonished that it leaked? The most astonishing thing is that degree of access, not the leaks themselves.
I had a secret clearance when I was in the service, though I can only think of a couple of times I actually needed it and even then it seemed pretty silly to me. That was pre-Internet days, but even without "need to know" stamped on it I wasn't allowed to read just anything marked "secret." Had I walked into HQ and asked to peruse the "secret" files for the heck of it I would have had my ass handed back to me in pieces. I would think that with electronic documents and networks there would be even more attention paid to "need to know", and not less.
I was under the impression that the soldier suspected of leaking this had access because he was in an intelligence unit. If it's true that access was(is?) much broader than that then I'm utterly astonished.
-I have looked through some of the cables and here's an interesting one regarding Iranian influence in Iraq from about a year ago. The cable recounts a meeting with influential Shiites in Najaf, the center of Shiite clerical power in Iraq. I've harped on this in the past, but it doesn't hurt to show another example of how simplistically wrong it is to equate the toppling of Saddam with Iranian victory. Iraq is not Iran's pawn and if someone tries to tell you so then you can be absolutely certain that you are talking to a fool. Yes, Iran has influence in Iraq because it is next door, relatively powerful, and ruthless. There is also the Shia connection, of course. But there are also ethnic and nationalist loyalties that counter that connection and even strains between Iraqi and Iranian Shiites as that cable notes.
-I read a story over the weekend that claimed that Turkey was allowing arms to get to al Qaeda in Iraq and that the US was arming anti-Turkish PKK terrorists operating out of Iraq. Either of those stories would seem to be explosive. I searched for the cables that make those assertions and couldn't find them.
What I did find though, seemed to show the US and Turkey cooperating to a degree that surprised me. Here's one cable in advance of Secretary Gates arriving in Turkey for a visit earlier this year. I wonder now if what is damaging here is not that the US and Turkey are helping each others enemies, but the revelation that the two nations are cooperating far more than the Turkish public realizes.
-We'll see what else pops up.
One more thing: Nancy Youssef from McClatchy makes the case that the claim that Wikileaks will get somebody injured or killed are overblown because there has been no evidence presented to show that previous revelations have resulted in that.
Well, maybe, but how much looking has Nancy Youssef done? My guess is none. If some farmer in the village of Stone Age, Afghanistan, revealed as an informant a few months ago, was whacked by the local Taliban last week would we know? I doubt it, because it's funny how passive a reporter can get when facts contrary to a narrative would be a bit inconvenient. And make no mistake, Nancy Youssef does not work to inform you of the news regardless of how the chips may fall, she's there to serve you the narrative that she and her editors want you to see. Even if she did find out that my hypothetical farmer had been murdered I suspect that she would scrupulously report any detail, however small, that would point to anything other than Wikileaks. Perhaps that opinion is not fair to Ms. Youssef, but I spent years watching her and other so-called reporters filtering out positive news from Iraq. They have no credibility in my book. None.
All politicians have the occasional slip of the lip and Sarah Palin's recent North Korea one was just as minor as most others, including the list of Barack Obama's above. As Palin makes obvious at the link, she does not really want Obama to get the same amount of scorn heaped on him as has been heaped on her the last day or two. She just wants the same benefit of the doubt, or even outright pass, given to other politicians such as, oh, I don't know, Barack Obama.
I understand the urge to chuckle about such things when one's political opponents blurt them out. I've done it myself. But to blow this up into this latest round of Beavis and Butthead crap from some Democrats and the blatant hypocrisy of it all is pretty stupid. I decided a long time ago to not get angry with people who behave this way, but I sometimes wonder if they realize how foolish they look to people who don't drink that particular flavor of Kool-Aid. And I wonder if they realize how obvious it is to so many others that they have made themselves into one of the poles in the polarization of society. Do they know how many of us smirk when they turn around and decry how divisive political debate has become?
Heh, sorry. That last one just a rhetorical question.
A Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. If you live somewhere that it is not a holiday today, just let me know and I'll have some more turkey and potatoes in your honor. I'm willing to make that kind of sacrifice because that's just the kind of guy I am.
When I went to bed last night I was thinking that maybe I wasn't going to get to the feast today. I started sneezing on Tuesday night. Then yesterday was all sneezes and sniffles, a headache, and a bit of a queasy feeling in my stomach. Classic flu symptoms. I did my usual thing for that last night: Big dinner, lots of fluids, and good night's sleep. Maybe there's a shot or two of whiskey in there also.
Anyway, I slept in really late this morning and I feel great. No sniffles at all and no fever. I think I can make it to dinner without worrying about spreading the wealth so to speak, though I will be taking extra precautions about washing my hands, no hugs etc...just in case. I hope your day is looking up too.
I hope this Thanksgiving eve finds you ready for a safe holiday. We're getting some snow here and more further north of here so travel may be a bit dicey around these parts today. It's nothing we haven't seen before though, so I anticipate that things will be fairly cleaned up by tomorrow. No travel plans here, Little Bro is hosting things and he's about 5 minutes away.
I don't hit the bar scene anywhere near like I used to, but back then the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving was a big night for the bars. The local pub's parking lot is pretty empty this evening though. Have things changed or do you suppose it's the snow? That didn't use to stop us, but times change.
I managed to pull out my first win in six weeks in my fantasy football league this past weekend. I'm just playing spoiler for the last couple of weeks. After that the goal will be to win in the first round of consolation play to avoid the ignominy of the Toilet Bowl and if that can be done, maybe pick up some consolation money. There's a bit of a jam at WR for me right now. I have Desean Jackson(no brainer), Mike Wallace(no brainer-I think), Nate Washington(2 TDs and 2 100+ games in his last three weeks), Braylon Edwards(2 TDs his last three weeks) and Vincent Jackson(just off suspension). I'm thinking of going with Vincent since the game doesn't really matter. It'll give me an excuse to watch Sunday Night football if for no other reason.
Tragedy was averted when Bristol Palin did not win whatever dancing thing the Palin haters were all in a huff about. The way that some people were writing about it, if she had won we would have seen people walking around today who were bleeding from their ears, they would be so pissed about it. I don't get it in more than one way.
There's no good way to deal with North Korea, as they once again have shown. A US-South Korea show of force seems a pretty weak response to such an act of war, but a stronger response would probably come with a price that no rational person wants to pay. The only solution to North Korea is China and until they are motivated to prevent this crap it's not going to stop. My preference would be a boycott of goods imported from China, but fat chance of that happening unless we get into a full-blown war and US troops start to die there. China understands what that would mean, right?