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Op Ed: Manning and Snowden Play Russian Roulette

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

manningsnowdenBy Hank Plante
Special to Calbuzz

The only person more upset than Army Pfc. Bradley* Manning this week, other than Manning himself, is probably fellow leaker Edward Snowden.

Manning’s 35-year-sentence and dishonorable discharge is a clear signal to Snowden that he faces a similar fate if he returns home from Russia.

That’s the same Russia where Snowden has fled to maintain his “freedom,” after a stop along the way in that other bastion of human rights — China, in the guise of Hong Kong.

How ironic that Snowden’s mouthpiece, “journalist” Glenn Greenwald, can’t visit his famous source in homophobic Russia without some trepidation.  After all, gay men like Greenwald and Bradley Manning, who is also openly gay, are hardly welcome in Russia these days.

glenn_greenwaldI call Greenwald a “journalist” in quotes because I know of no other legitimate reporter who would react the way Greenwald did this week to his partner being questioned by authorities in Great Britain.

Greenwald told Brazil’s Globo TV, “I am going to publish many more documents now.  I am going to publish a lot about England, too. I have a lot of documents about the espionage system in England. Now my focus is going to be that as well.”

After my 40 years as a working journalist, forgive me if I didn’t know that was a reporter’s role:  to avenge spouses whom we perceive were mistreated.  (My own partner will be thrilled at my new purpose in life.)

But it’s typical of the blurred lines that we’ve seen in these cases, as Snowden and Manning continue to look less like whistleblowers and more like what Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid called Snowden in the Reno Gazette-Journal this week:  “a traitor.”

Did Snowden do America any good by leaking state secrets and stating the obvious:  that the National Security Agency is engaged in spying?  What exactly do people think the N.S.A. does, anyway?  Do people think those satellite dishes on its roof are just there to collect rainwater?

But that’s not the point.  As The New Yorker’s legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin wrote this week, “This is all because a thirty-year-old self-appointed arbiter of propriety decided to break the law and disclose what he had sworn to protect. That judgment—in my view—was not Snowden’s to make.”

osamaThe fact is the world has changed since 9/11. There are extremists who are trying to kill us. That’s why reluctant supporters of the government’s surveillance program have come to the same conclusion as liberal Bill Maher, who said on his HBO show in June, “We live in a world of nuclear weapons.  And there are religious fanatics who would love to get one and set it off here.”

Snowden’s leaks have already hurt America in that battle. ABC News reported in late June, “The intelligence community is already seeing indications that several terrorist groups are in fact attempting to change their communications behaviors based on what they’re reading about our surveillance programs in the media.”

And yes, our enemies do pay attention to what’s leaked.

At Bradley Manning’s espionage trial it was revealed that documents he sent to WikiLeaks were found in Osama bin Laden’s hideout when he was killed.

Yet there are still efforts to portray Snowden and Manning as heroes. This past June, San Francisco’s Gay Pride Parade leaders tried to honor Manning as a parade Grand Marshal, until backlash against the move stopped it.

Many wondered why the Pride Board didn’t choose to give the “Grand Marshal” honor to more obvious heroes, like the plaintiffs and lawyers who had just won the landmark Prop. 8 gay marriage case, but they didn’t.

As for Edward Snowden, he seems to be losing the public relations battle here at home, with a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll finding more than half of Americans believing he should face criminal charges.

HankPlanteAnd his “journalist” spokesman has definitely lost the battle in Russia, where polls show 74% of the citizens think homosexuality should not be accepted by society.

So much for personal freedom.

Hank Plante is an Emmy and Peabody-winning reporter who spent three decades covering politics for the CBS TV stations in San Francisco and Los Angeles.  He lives in Palm Springs where he masquerades as Calbuzz Bureau Chief.

*This piece was written and posted before Pfc. Manning released this statement: ”I am Chelsea Manning. I am female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition.” For the full story see Truthout.

Filner, the Groper, is Worse than Weiner, the Wagger

Monday, August 19th, 2013

weinerfilnerAs loyal readers know, we occasionally round up the Calbuzz Advisory Board of Leading Authorities on Practically Everything to share their wisdom about the most pressing political, ethical and theological issues of the day.  And no question facing our Great Democracy is more salient than this: Who’s a bigger creepo – Anthony Weiner or Bob Filner?

Both repulsive urban politicians have embarassed and humiliated themselves  beyond imagination — New York mayoral candidate Weiner with his weirdo obsession with tweeting close-ups of his namesake and San Diego Mayor Filner for mauling every woman who makes the mistake of getting within 20 yards of him.

The consensus of the California Consultanate, with which the Calbuzz Editorial Board is in complete accord: It’s Filner, hands down. (Interestingly, a number of our Democratic consultants chose Weiner as Wurst, perhaps because they’re loathe to see Republican San Diego lose its first Democratic mayor since infamous money laundress Maureen O’Connor stepped down in 1992.)

As one brilliant Democratic consultant neatly summed up the matter:

Weiner is just a pathetic eighth-grader trapped in a grown man’s body. Filner is a predator and a bully who abused the trappings of his office to prey on women and the weak.

dsm5The Weiner case: Neither the Consultanate nor we minimize the narcissistic depravity and stupidity of Carlos Danger’s digital deviance. He is, according to the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5 Code 666.69), “one sick puppy.”

And a handful of our consultants (all Democrats) opined that Weiner is the more egregious pervert. Said one:

– First of all, they are pathetic. How do you manage to be destroyed by a sex scandal when you don’t even get to have sex?  Filner is a grabber and Weiner a wagger. They both get style points on arrogance, taking it to an Elliot Spitzer level.  Weiner wins by a hair because he used the new technology to press his point.  Neither deserves a place in politics and do not have the common decency to disappear.

Another Democratic consultant offered a more tactical analysis:

– Weiner is the better scandal because his name leads to a lot more puns. And because it’s a more interesting story. You have the social media angle (how social media is changing and impacting our lives and politics); the Clinton connection/angle; the redemption angle (or failed redemption, rather); and what to do about [Weiner's wife] Huma?

At first she was a sympathetic figure, but now I’m not so sure, since she was aggressively campaigning for him and behind him and must have known this could have happened. There’s also the fact that Weiner jumped into the race, zoomed to first and is now plummeting.

Filner is a simpler story — he’s a dirty old man who sexually harasses women (and is pretty abusive to people in general).

nypost-weiner-resigns_560A couple of other Democrats also gave the edge to Weiner:

— Wow. Who can choose? They are both oblivious, they are both as obnoxious as hell, both disgusting to all women everywhere. The only reason I give a slight tip (ha) to Weiner is because as far as I know he has yet to accomplish much and shows no reason for anyone to give him the reins of power over the City of New York. But by a hair.

– Tough call but I’d have to go with Wiener for now — at least until Filner gets caught again after he has been “cured.” Wiener is dragging down his wife with him, and in a strange way, his net also has caught the Clinton’s up in it. Now I have to go take a shower after just thinking about the two of them. 

Filthy Filner: While Weiner has given a bad name to Kosher meat, however, Filner, with his lecherous, toothy Big Bad Wolf grin, his licking and slobbering and grabbing, is an actual hands-on sexual harasser. Twenty-two years after Anita Hill, Filner still hasn’t gotten the memo about what’s inappropriate in the workplace. Not surprisingly, more of our panelists say Filner is worse.

Democrats

– Filner, by a factor of 10 — or maybe 100. Wiener didn’t know and never met the women he was sexting. Filner was sexually harassing women who worked for him or had just had meetings in his own congressional and mayor’s offices. Wiener is sick, but more a voyeur and exhibitionist. Filner is unbelievably sick, and an in-your-face serial harasser and abuser, using his positions of power and official standing to line up and attack victims. Not even close to being comparable to what Carlos Danger was doing.

– Not even close. Filner is far worse. 

Republicans

– Filner. He acfilnergrintually used his authority to be a predator. Weiner just took his wiener to the Internet.  Or as John Oliver pointed out on the Daily Show, at least Weiner’s dick pics don’t leave a residue on your cheek like a forced Filner kiss.

– Has our public discourse come down to this? I would say Filner is worse because, in many cases, he took advantage of his superiority in the work environment to harass women whose jobs depended on his good graces. Wiener couldn’t even tell if he was being noticed, and his “advances” were easily ignored. Elliot Spitzer and Mark Sanford were veritable saints compared to these two.

– Filner is worse, because what headline writer can have fun with a name like that? Seriously, they are both pig people who are shameless, sick and unrepentant. They should do everyone a favor and just go away.

– Anyone who would defend either of them is worse (SD Building Trades for example, in Filner’s case). However, between the two, it’s Filner by a long shot cause his actions are so disgusting, there are so many women and it’s been a long, long term pattern of behavior. 

– Weiner and Filner are both sociopaths but there’s really no comparison on who’s worse: Filner by several dozen headlocks.

Weiner and Filner are both arrogant, narcissistic creeps but what Weiner did was consensual. There wasn’t even any physical contact. Filner, on the other hand, is a sexual predator and bully who systematically used his office to hit on, harass and even sexually assault women with groping, headlocks and other unwanted physical contact. Particularly disgusting is his attempt to leverage his help as a government official for an injured veteran (if he received sexual favors from her nurse and caretaker) as well as using his Veterans Affairs Committee chairmanship to harass female veterans who had previously been victims of sexual assault. Filner has emerged as one of the most disgusting and vile humans to ever hold office in California history — and Calbuzz knows that’s saying a lot.

Finally, both men refuse to exit the public stage because they lack any semblance of grace, self-awareness, concern for others or connection to reality. But Weiner is only embarrassing himself and his wife. Filner is embarrassing both himself and a major city — one whose government is in crisis and leaderless. His refusal to resign a month ago forced some (14 so far out of dozens if not hundreds) of his victims to reluctantly come forward to bravely speak out publicly against him. That is particularly unforgivable.

– Filner. Alvin Toffler once said the future would be “high tech, high touch.”  Weiner represents high tech; Filner high touch. Weiner’s conduct, though gross and narcissistic, was consensual. Filner’s is gross, narcissistic and tortuous, if not criminal, as it comes to his relationships with women.

On top of that, you have his general boorish behavior toward everyone (a tie with Weiner), but you also have borderline corruption issues with the shakedown of developers for contributions to pet projects. If Filner were based in NYC, it wouldn’t even be a contest.

Whatever It Takes

Weiner is on the verge of being swept into the dustbin of history – at least as a candidate for high office in New York City. But what to do about Filner, who not only refuses to step down but has even had the chutzpah to ask San Diego taxpayers to pick up his legal bills?

caponeThe answer may lie in an obscure provision of the San Diego City Charter,  Section 108, approved by the voters in 1931. According to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, under the provision, “every city officer who willfully approves or allows an unauthorized payment from the city treasury is subject to removal from office.”

So while the City Council may not be able to remove Filner for sexual harassment, they might be able to oust him for using his city credit card on personal expenses like pizzas, a juicer and expensive lunches. Kinda like going after Al Capone for tax evasion.

Bottom line: Yuck.