Revolt of the children

A 16-year-old boy in the Netherlands was arrested for bringing down the MasterCard and Visa websites in retaliation for their refusing to process payments for Wikileaks. More young hackers are promising more attacks.

In the meantime, British university students have been rioting in protest of that country’s new austerity program, which includes raising tuition rates to a fraction of what American students pay. The British students, notorious for their political apathy previously, are breaking windows, smashing shops, burning cars, and assaulting police officers. They even attacked Prince Charles and his wife as they were driving by, smashing a window in their car. See TUITION FEES VOTE PROTEST: Charles and Camilla’s car attacked as thousands of students descend on Parliament | Mail Online.

So will young people–unused to any kind of austerity, indignant at established authority,and able to use the internet really well–rise up and overthrow the adult world?

Sex by surprise

It is being reported that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been charged in Sweden with rape.  Actually, that most tolerant of nations is charging him with having sex without a condom.  Under certain conditions, apparently, that is a crime in that country.  So says this report:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is facing arrest for violating a Swedish law about sex without condoms, rather than a mainstream interpretation of “rape.” Yet that’s the charge reports often levy against him. Behold the smear campaign.

The New York Times wrote about the case on Thursday, noting that Swedish authorities were hunting Assange on charges of “rape, sexual molestation, and unlawful coercion.” It commented on the alleged offense, stating claims by two women that “each had consensual sexual encounters with Mr. Assange that became nonconsensual.”

The Swedish charges aren’t exactly new, though. Some of the media had reported “rape” allegations back in August, and the Daily Mail even asserted the first alleged illegal act occurred when a condom broke, and the woman concerned “whatever her views about the incident,” then “appeared relaxed and untroubled at the seminar the next day.” At this seminar, Assange met the second alleged victim and “a source close to the investigation said the woman had insisted he wear a condom, but the following morning he made love to her without one.”

Assange has questioned the “veracity” of the two women’s statements, as the Times report notes. Assange’s former lawyer yesterday “confirmed” the charges were to do with sexual misconduct concerning sex without condoms. Assange’s current lawyer then revealed Swedish prosectors had told him they were not seeking Assange for “rape” at all, instead the alleged crime is “sex by surprise,” which carries a penalty of a fine, although the details of the allegations haven’t been revealed yet.

Thanks to Webmonk for pointing this out. The cosmopolitan Australian is not being prosecuted for publishing classified documents or endangering American security, though the soldier who gave him the documents might be. At any rate, what intrigues me here is Swedish law. Does a country extradite someone for a misdemeanor? Or in Sweden’s legal system is this new crime of “sex by surprise” a felony, but a felony punishable only by a fine? This all seems exceedingly strange.

Wikileaks’ head as James Bond villain

British police are reportedly closing in on Julian Assange, the man behind Wikileaks, with plans to arrrest him on Swedish sexual assault charges. But now Assange, playing the role of a James Bond villain, has devised a doomsday weapon set to go off if anyone interferes with his fiendish plans:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has reportedly released an encrypted “poison pill” file that contains sensitive data related to Guantanamo Bay, Afghan military ops, Bank of America and the BP oil spill.

The file – known as insurance.aes256 – is locked-down with a 256-digit key deemed virtually unbreakable by even the US Department of Defense (DoD).

Assange, who is using the sensitive data to hold governments hostage, states: “We have over a long period of time distributed encrypted backups of material we have yet to release. All we have to do is release the password to that material, and it is instantly available.”

WikiLeaks threatens “poison pill” if site shut down Assange explains that if any government tries to stop WikiLeaks by downing the website or detaining him, he will disseminate the “poison pill” password, allowing anyone to access the highly-embarrassing documents.

Meanwhile, the leaks keep coming.  The latest goes far beyond diplomatic embarrassments.  It is a direct attack on U.S. national security tailor made for international terrorists:

A long list of key facilities around the world that the US describes as vital to its national security has been released by Wikileaks.

In February 2009 the State Department asked all US missions abroad to list all installations whose loss could critically affect US national security.

The list includes pipelines, communication and transport hubs.

Several UK sites are listed, including cable locations, satellite sites and BAE Systems plants.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says this is probably the most controversial document yet from the Wikileaks organisation.

The definition of US national security revealed by the cable is broad and all embracing, he says.

There are obvious pieces of strategic infrastructure like communications hubs, gas pipelines and so on. However, other facilities on the list include:

* Cobalt mine in Congo

* Anti-snake venom factory in Australia

* Insulin plant in Denmark

In Britain, the list ranges from Cornwall to Scotland, including key satellite communications sites and the places where trans-Atlantic cables make landfall.

A number of BAE Systems plants involved in joint weapons programmes with the Americans are listed, along with a marine engineering firm in Edinburgh which is said to be “critical” for nuclear powered submarines. . . .

The geographical range of the document on installations is extraordinary, our correspondent says.

If the US sees itself as waging a “global war on terror” then this represents a global directory of the key installations and facilities – many of them medical or industrial – that are seen as being of vital importance to Washington.

Some locations are given unique billing. The Nadym gas pipeline junction in western Siberia, for example, is described as “the most critical gas facility in the world”.

It is a crucial transit point for Russian gas heading for western Europe.

In some cases, specific pharmaceutical plants or those making blood products are highlighted for their crucial importance to the global supply chain.

The critical question is whether this really is a listing of potential targets that might be of use to a terrorist.

via BBC News – List of facilities ‘vital to US security’ leaked.

The Fall of the American Empire

Foreign affairs think tanker Robert D. Kaplan argues in the Washington Post that the United States and the Soviet Union constituted, in effect, two empires that organized the world between them.  Other countries mostly aligned themselves with one side or the other.  The Soviet Empire collapsed, leaving the United States alone in the imperial role.  But now, according to Kaplan, the American empire has collapsed.

Because of our military quagmires, our economic problems, our diplomatic weakness, and our overall popularity abroad, the United States no longer carries much clout with other countries.  We can’t influence even the little ones any more to do what we want.

China is on the verge of replacing  the United States as the world empire.  But it isn’t quite ready yet.  In the meantime, Kaplan predicts global instability since “no one is in charge.”

This raises lots of questions:

(1)  Do you think he is right?

(2)  Does the United States have any business being a de facto global empire?  (The old empires, like that of the Romans and the British, at least profited from their takeover of other countries, unlike the United States with its “soft empire.”)  Wouldn’t it be better for this country if we just hunkered down behind our own borders, letting the rest of the world go its own way?  (On the other hand, didn’t Rome try that, only to find there were no more buffers to keep the Barbarians away?)

(3)  What do you think the world will be like under a de facto Chinese empire, with its free market communism, that strangely effective blend of totalitarian government with money-making enterprise?

via Where’s the American empire when we need it?.

The bloodiest war since WWII

If Ben Affleck is right, a slaughter that approached Holocaust proportions happened, but hardly any of us noticed:

Ask many Americans to name the bloodiest war since World War II and chances are that most would not know the answer. If you told them it was in Africa, they might guess Rwanda or the ongoing conflict in Sudan. They’d be wrong.

By far, the deadliest conflict was in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1998 to 2003. Eight African nations participated in the fighting on Congolese soil, many hoping to seize control of its vast mineral wealth. Some 4 million Congolese died during the conflict and nearly another 1 million have died in the lawless aftermath from starvation, conflict and preventable disease. Tens of thousands of children were forced to become soldiers, and as many as two out of three women were victimized by rape and other forms of sexual violence.

This is still happening today.

via Ben Affleck – Ben Affleck: How the United States can help secure Congo.

Lessons from Ireland’s economic collapse

Ireland may have saved civilization at one time, but now Ireland may be pulling down the European economic system.  Robert Samuelson explains what is going on with the Irish economic collapse and the European bailout of yet another country in the Euro-zone:

That Ireland, after Greece, has come to grief is ironic. Until recently, it was admiringly dubbed the Celtic Tiger for emulating Asian countries in attracting foreign investment – Intel and others – and achieving rapid export-led growth. From 1987 to 2000, annual economic growth averaged 6.8 percent; unemployment fell from 16.9 percent to 4.3 percent. But then solid growth gave way to a housing boom and bubble whose collapse left Irish banks awash in bad loans.

One cause was easy credit occasioned by the euro. With its own currency, Ireland could regulate credit. If it seemed too loose, the Central Bank of Ireland could raise interest rates. Adopting the euro meant Ireland surrendered this power to the European Central Bank (ECB), which set one policy for all euro countries. The ECB’s rates, though perhaps correct for France and Germany, were too low for Ireland and some others. Moreover, financial markets pushed rates on government bonds of euro countries down to lower German levels. In 1995, Ireland’s rates were more than a percentage point higher than Germany’s; by 2000, they were almost identical. . . .

So now the reckoning. In Ireland, the burst housing bubble left a massive budget deficit and lifted unemployment to 14 percent. Most European economies suffer from the ill effects of some combination of easy money, unsustainable social spending and big budget deficits. Countries are interconnected, so there are spillover effects. European banks – led by British, German, French and Belgian banks – have $500 billion in loans and investments in Ireland, reports the Financial Times. Large losses could snowball into a broader banking crisis.

Europe’s challenge is no longer just economic. It’s also social and political. Cherished values and ideals are under assault. The euro, intended to nurture unity, has bred discord, as countries assign blame and argue over sharing costs. The social contract is being rewritten, with government benefits and protections being cut.

via Robert J. Samuelson – In Ireland’s debt crisis, an ominous reckoning for Europe.

A single currency set by a central authority, indifferent to individual country’s economy sounds like an experiment that didn’t work.  This is another kind of argument for federalist-style de-centralization.


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