The Big Leak That Couldn’t

12/04/2010

Since thorough research and reading complemented by careful consideration seem to be out of fashion anyway, I may as well jump on the bandwagon and add my two eurocents’ worth to the latest biggest and juiciest affair of all times.

WikiLeaks site states it is “a non-profit media organization dedicated to bringing important news and information to the public. We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for independent sources around the world to leak information to our journalists. We publish material of ethical, political and historical significance while keeping the identity of our sources anonymous, thus providing a universal way for the revealing of suppressed and censored injustices.”

Whistleblowing as far as I understand it is a legitimate action that allows an employee with a conscience to reveal illegal or negligent behaviour within his or her organisation in order to protect the interests of a wider population. Its official name (in the UK) sums it up nicely: “making a disclosure in the public interest“. The above self-description does make the WikiLeaks site sound like a whistleblowing site.

Motives for Disclosure

But does disclosure or rather the announcement of disclosure of some 250,000 randomly picked diplomatic cables count as whistleblowing? I wonder.

Allegedly, the whistleblower’s motive was to reveal the patronising attitude of the US toward third countries. The US, patronising? What a shocker. As for the WikiLeaks’ founder’s motive?

As seen on ABC via the The Daily Show, Julian Assange explains:

“I’m a combatative person. I like crushing bastards. So, it is deeply personally, personally deeply satisfying to me.”

So let’s get this straight. Confidential diplomatic correspondence has been disclosed, because (allegedly, unconfirmed) a frustrated young American soldier Bradley Manning (who allegedly had social difficulties in the Army attributed to the problems of being homosexual under the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy and had been demoted for assaulting another soldier and scheduled to be discharged early) wanted to show, purely in the public interest, his home country for what it was. Right. No personal vendetta involved. And, because a frustrated not-quite-as-young-an Australian man feels deep personal satisfaction crushing whom he deems bastards. Nothing personal, either, pure public interest at play.

Granted, discrediting a whistleblower in its midst is most probably the first step any organisation is tempted to take once the small wind instrument is blown. So in an attempt to disregard the variety of motives other than serving the public interest, especially since the source of the cablegate leak has not been confirmed, let’s take a look at what has been disclosed.

Subject of Diclosure

What is allegedly about to be disclosed are 251,287 cables exchanged between 274 US embassies around the world and the US State Department. There is supposedly no rhyme or reason as to what is being disclosed. No specified illegal act or act of negligence that should be remedied. Simply, opening a certain country’s diplomatic mail and sharing it .

Manner of Disclosure and Interpretation

Five newspapers (Der Spiegel, El Pais, Guardian, Le Monde and the New York Times) had advance access to the material and while the cables are being posted to the WikiLeaks site in stages that will apparently last for months to come, the newspapers are for all intents and purposes editing the material by choosing what to publish now and how to present the information contained in the confidential correspondence. The tiny nagging voice in the back of my brain won’t stop asking why only five newspapers and if so, why these five. It’s even louder asking why all the cables are not published simultaneously and how their order of publication is determined.

A lovely insight into the importance of editing and interpretation by the select hand-picked media is the case of discussions between the US and Slovenia on the relocation of a Gitmo detainee to our lovely country. Interpretations of the same cable ranged from the US using its might to try and force tiny Slovenia into accepting a detainee to Slovenia’s PM Borut Pahor begging for a 20-minute interview and offering to take in a detainee in exchange. The public depended on these interpretations as the cable was not yet published at the WikiLeaks site. Finally, El Pais came around to sharing it with us: here. Read it yourself and form your own opinion. Slovene media more or less seem to agree that its content constitutes something along the lines of treason. That it reveals servility of Slovene foreign policy and exposes the PM as sucking up to the US.

Then again, a popular Slovene magazine took this text:

“2010 will, we hope, be the year that we focus our attention on partnering with Slovenia in the Western Balkans and ISAF; paving the way for Westinghouse to compete successfully for the construction of a new nuclear power plant; and, perhaps most challenging of all, turning Pahor’s rhetorical support for detainee resettlement into reality.”

and translated “perhaps most challenging of all” into the Slovene equivalent of “probably most importantly of all”. Ah.

Big Sister

Notwithstanding previous whistleblower efforts by WikiLeaks, what I see right now is a case of a quarter million random confidential US State Department cables exposed with no true whistleblower motive. The site does claim the following:

“The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in “client states”; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.”

but seriously, they should publish the cables that effectively prove the above claim and prove some sort of illegal conduct. If they fail to do so, the only reason for media to rave about the material and present it as a sensation (though, truth be told, not much less attention seems to be paid to a President choking on a pretzel, a child presumingly trapped in a hot air balloon or a family dog being rescued) and for the public to accept is as such is the perverse pleasure of peeking into other people’s mail. Heck, the public is used to peeking into people’s whole lives. Big brother, big sister, whatever. Sure, you may have already “known” everything contained in the cables, but you also “knew” everything about the celebrities involved in reality shows, yet having your suspicions confirmed along with millions of other people takes you to a whole new level, doesn’t it? So I hear, anyway.

You may call out “ah-hah, but that is not private correspondence, it is correspondence exchanged by public servants paid by our taxes. Basically our employees!” True, but what is these folks’ job that you’re paying them to perform and excel at? If you are a tax-paying US citizen, what do you expect your diplomats to do for you? I’d almost expect you to want them to build solid country-to-country relations, secure your best interests, to gather information that might help your country secure its/your best interests and to behave professionally in public while sharing their private thoughts that may or may not contribute to your country’s policy-making process, privately. And I’d expect the same of any country’s diplomats, i.e. to work in the best interest of their countries without breaching law or duty.

“Openness” and “transparency” sound mighty fine, but may not really be conductive to the objectives of diplomacy as such. When sensitive subjects are being discussed, carrying out the entire process in the open would likely render any negotiations lengthy and fruitless. Negotiations mean making concessions and reaching a compromise that is not the ideal solution for any side involved, but one that all can live with. Again, when sensitive subjects are concerned, try to imagine the public reaction to any of the sides “giving in an inch”. End negotiations right there.

Positive changes in diplomacy and world politics as such are not achieved overnight. As a rule, they are not the result of a single act, but rather of a series of events and acts pushing in the same direction following eternal shifts of power, adapting to new circumstances, negotiations and renegotiations, all based on a certain level of trust. 

People, snap out of the reality show mode and engage common sense.

Whazzup? Nothing much…

10/13/2010

Just another day in Paris. One of a precious few I have left in this magnificent city that I’m falling for head over heels.

First thing in the morning, I gave a nice tip to a gypsy singer on the metro. Partly for her singing effort, which was not too bad, and admittedly partly to say thanks for not begging, stealing or trying the “have you just dropped this ring” con line on me.

After school, I went for a long walk and tested HTC Desire and Samsung Galaxy S to compare with the iPhone4 I handled last week. Both were rather impressive and I actually found both easier to type on than the iPhone, which is quite a consideration. But must go back and try the Apple toy again.

On my way to the concert, I stopped at a nice grocery store to get some fruits and was just slightly surprised to notice a nicely clad (white) lady of some 50 years stealing a stick of butter. At least it was organic. Off to the metro where a group of little old Italian ladies with a little help from the local men managed to hold on to two young (12 y/o?) gypsy girls who’d stolen cash from a wallet in one of the group member’s purses.

Santana

The concert was just fantastic. So much good music played by true artists. Nearly 17,000 people in there and maybe 30 of them up and dancing unless specifically asked to stand up. Guess what I was doing for the better part of the event. To round up today’s leitmotif, Gypsy Kings came on stage to do the Bamboleo. We did also get to see and hear the future Mrs Santana on the drums, but it was the other musicians who made our night. The solos, the jam sessions, the ‘best of’ items, they were all pure joy to soak up. I’ll forgive the preaching bit at the end since his spirituality undoubtedly contributes to the man’s music.  Besides, he said it was important to forgive. Oh, one of Santana’s thoughts of the night… It’s important to make the ladies feel good. Because when they feel good, the economy… rises. So there you are.

Jam!

Finally, somebody understands the media

10/06/2010

Pavillion 2/2 at the Paris motor show (photo by dr. fil)

Morning runs are a bitch… Not :)

10/05/2010

Breaking news: Eiffel Tower is still in one piece.

Photos by dr. fil’s Blackberry. Too bad I can’t run with my ‘real’ camera.

Pošteno plačilo za pošteno delo

09/30/2010


Pazi, v kaj boš zagrizel. (Detajl kipa pred Musée d’Orsay; foto dr. fil)

Stavka dela javnega sektorja? Vem le, da

  • je izračun vrednosti mojega (davno prepisanega) stanovanja prispel na naslov prejšnje lastnice;
  • je sicer zelo uporabni in dobrodošli sistem podaljševanja veljavnosti prometnega dovoljenja takrat, ko sem ga potrebovala, zaradi tehničnih težav sprejel samo možnost plačila z Moneto, ko se je postopka lotil kolega, pa niti to ni več bilo mogoče. Vsaj v mojem primeru je bila komunikacija s tehnično podporo počasna in neuporabna;
  • sem že pred leti spremenila naslov svojega stalnega bivališča, vendar davčna uprava strašno zahtevnega postopka vnosa spremembe nekako ne zmore opraviti, tako da se mi je pred kratkim spet zgodilo, da mi je neko ministrstvo, katerega računovodski program (?) je pač vezan na davčne številke, račun poslalo na stari naslov;
  • program javne televizije in radia prek interneta že dva tedna lahko spremljam samo v živo, ker se posnetki, kadar arhiv ni sesut, vztrajno zatikajo. (Popravek 1/10/2010: arhiv zdaj deluje bp. Hvala!)

Delala sem v obeh sektorjih in s precejšnjo gotovostjo trdim, da se marsikdo v javnem ne zaveda, kakšen luksuz so med drugim predvidljiv delovni čas, možnost načrtovanja dopusta, gotovost o izplačilu plače in njeni višini. Da, v zasebnem sektorju je mogoče zaslužiti več, ampak ob večjem tveganju in – za resničen preboj – ob večjem vložku energije, časa in sivoceličnega napora. To je podjetništvo. Ki bo državo in z njo tudi javni sektor nekoč potegnilo iz krize, če mu nove davčne uteži ne bodo preprečile, da bi izplaval in pošteno zajel sapo.

Za trenutno stanje in nezadovoljstvo v javnem sektorju seveda je odgovorna vlada. Ne le sedanja, ampak tudi vse prejšnje, ker niso poskrbele za (v celoti) učinkovitejši državni aparat. Za slabo organizacijo dela in za neučinkovito delo podrejenih so odgovorni njihovi šefi. Rešitev verjetno ne tiči v takšnem ali drugačnem uravnavanju višine plač ob ohranitvi obstoječega sistema.

Pétanque Kid

Photos by dr. fil, Jardin du Palais Royal, Paris

What Gets Me Down On My Knees

09/29/2010

Photo by Hirkani: dr. fil not acting very ladylike on Boulevard Saint-Germain . I do get points for not putting my handbag on the floor 😉

Photo by dr. fil: the culprit

Kindling Here, Kindling There, Kindling, Kindling Everywhere

09/21/2010

Photo: Kindling @ Tuileries, Paris (20 Sept 2010, 24°C; couldn’t resist)

I’ve been meaning to write a post on my latest toy for a couple of months now, but it was so much more fun to read than to type up a comprehensive post. So here’s a compromise. I’ll just jot down a few of my impressions and get back to reading.

Having been sceptical about the whole electronic book affair, I started with a light version, just a Kindle application for my BlackBerry. It was an instant hit that helped me finally read the incomplete Stieg Larsson series and join the crowds that regret his never having had the chance to finish it. But while quite doable, reading on a small BB screen is less than comfortable. It does the of job keeping one calm in queues, however.

Anyhoo, a few months after my birthday I managed to decide what I wanted for a present and my auntie was her usual wonderful self. Enter Kindle.

The first book I read on it was “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” recommended by BigWhale and from then on I just couldn’t stop. Needless to say I never managed to read the manual. The gadget is fool-proof enough. A big plus. What I first discovered (gosh, I so want to type “en utilisant” right now, can you tell we’ve been brushing up on the gérondif) while using it, was that

  • The screen is very kind to the eyes and dimly lit, i.e. it requires external illumination in the dark;
  • It’s very lightweight;
  • Makes it a whole lot easier to meet budget airline luggage weight limits;
  • It comes with a dictionary; just place the cursor in front of a word and its definition will show up at the bottom of the screen (useful if reading a masterfully written book such as Hitch-22);
  • You can mark text and insert your comments or just underline it;
  • The selected text can be shared online with others (eg. via Twitter);
  • A book can be bought pretty much anywhere, thanks to the “whispernet”
  • Supports various e-book formats.

What I truly appreciated was the fact that there were no distractions. No incoming e-mail, no urge to look up a phrase on the internet and drifting away. Even to check what time it was, I had to bring up the menu screen.

Thinking about the downsides, I’d say:

  • Very few books in languages other than English;
  • Once read, the books cannot be given away or lent to friends, not even for a fee;
  • Doesn’t come with a jacket (and I’ve been too busy or to lazy to provide it with one up until now);
  • Mine doesn’t come with WiFi so it’s a bit limited as the basic browser worked in Croatia, but it is blocked in Luxembourg and in France;
  • Ease of purchase – I’ve spent more on books than I intended to.

With regard to the first and the last point, I’ve only just (re)discovered the perfect site. First, thanks go to peroksid for opening my eyes to the “non-Amazon” e-books. One thing led to another and I found/remembered Project Gutenberg. It wasn’t all that interesting while I had to read the texts on my computer, but with Kindle, it’s a whole different ball game!

So this morning, I downloaded a number of French books from this wonderful website. I’ll be staying in Paris for a few weeks and reading French seems the right thing to do. I did entertain the thought of typing this post in French, but I need to accept my (current) limitations.

Alo spat, banda mačja!

07/12/2010


Kot angelček, kaj? Videz vara! Na fotki: Zmelkoow Balkonski

Tako, če lahko svoj dragoceni čas in prostor na strežniku trošim za vsako lahko temo, ki se primaje mimo in jo reši sposobna ženska, so lahko najmanj tolikšne pozornosti deležni tudi kosmati hudički, s katerimi smem deliti stanovanje.

Danes je imela mlajša generacija precej preprosto nalogo. Zadrževali naj bi se v svoji ogromni škatli, kaj malega prigriznili, v tej vročini veliko popili in po potrebi obiskali peskovnik, predvsem pa veliko dremali in rasli.

Tamali kot tamali so si seveda zamislili drugačen dan. Šli so se plezalne vaje. Ko sem prišla domov, je bila v škatli samo piflarka. Od daleč se je zaslišalo neutolažljivo cviljenje. Moja slušna koordinacija ni najboljša in sem potrebovala nekaj časa, preden sem ugotovila, da me mali kliče z balkona. Splezal je čez rob odprtih vrat, ki je z balkonske strani višji, tako da ni mogel nazaj. Škatla se mu je v hipu zdela super udoben in prijeten kraj. Sestrice pa ni bilo nikjer. Nobenega mijavka, nobenega sledu. Ne pod kavčem, ne pod mizami, ne v kuhinji, ne pod posteljo, sploh pa ne na balkonu. Ko sem jo iskala in gledala prek balkonske ograje, sem za seboj priprla vrata. Male ni bilo videti nikjer. Seveda so se vrata zaprla in je vse kazalo, da ne bom mogla nazaj v stanovanje. Vhodna vrata pa sem zaklenila.

Če ne gre zlepa, gre pa zgrda, sem se naučila pri prodajnih avtomatih. Preden sem začela kričati na pomoč v petih jezikih, ki bi jih znali v Luksemburgu govoriti spodajidoči, sem butnila v vrata, ki so se prav elegantno vdala in zdrsnila v stran.

Zbezljala sem po stopnišču in preiskala okolico stavbe, pogledala v vsak okoliški koš za smeti in poskušala ohraniti mirne živce. Počasi sem se vendarle odpravila nazaj v stanovanje in ravno, ko sem razmišljala, kako bom ‘doma’ povedala, da je bil najdrznejši mladiček preveč pogumen, se je mala pošast zaspano prikazala izza nočne omarice.

Življenje skrajšano za kakšno leto, pokojninska blagajna cvili od veselja.

Uvajamo dodatne varnostne ukrepe.

Aja, konec dober, vse dobro 🙂

Matej Lahovnik Superstar

07/08/2010

OK ok, spet pišem (pre)pozno, ampka tole se mi že tri dni svaljka po glavi in bom napisala vsaj tri stavke.

Gospodarski minister Matej Lahovnik se mi je nekoč zdel prava faca. Mlad, očitno inteligenten in sposoben fant. Izgledal je kot tisti reveži, ki so v šoli preskočili nekaj razredov in se zato nikoli niso res ujeli s svojimi sošolci. In imel je smisel za humor.

Moje navdušenje je hitro uplahnilo, ko sem dobila občutek, da je v njegovem svetu najpomembnejši on sam. Morda zdrav pogled na splošno, ampak precej moteč element, kadar se ustvarja politika in v sodelovanju z drugimi iščejo prave poti do želenih ciljev.

Pred kratkim je v debati nekdo omenil, da “nobody likes a turncoat”. Upravičenost takšnih občutkov se potrjuje vedno znova. (Ali Churchill šteje?)

S kombinatoriko, razlogi za njegovo vedenje in dejanja naj se ukvarjajo bolje obveščeni. Jaz samo tipkam prvo stvar, ki mi pade na pamet. In to je, da je Matej Lahovnik v želji po oblikovanju podobe priljubljenega, neupogljivega, duhovitega in bistrega ekonomista šel predaleč in kljub pretežno strpnemu okolju, ki je poskušalo miriti njegove izpade, svojo pozornost preusmeril s tistega, kar je resnično pomembno in kar je bil morda v resnici tudi sposoben izpeljati, na malenkostna obračunavanja in boje z mlini na veter.

Precej lažje je biti frajer na fakulteti kot stisniti zobe, biti in delati kot del ekipe ter si status zvezdnika zagotoviti z uspešnim delom v pomembnem vladnem resorju. Ampak za to moraš imeti, kar ima Magnifico.

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