Tag Archives: WikiLeaks

Handwritten notes, and a dying art. The Bradley Manning saga finally ends. And the worst way to get dinner, ever

handwritten note

So the wife and I are knee-deep into writing a whole heaping batch of thank-you notes this week, as we express our gratitude to the guests at our recent wedding.

And midway through thank-you note No. 48 (or thereabouts), as I shook off my hand-cramp, it struck me how rarely we actually write long, hand-written notes anymore.

Everything is email or text, and if we do write notes, they’re usually little reminders to ourselves about doctor appointments or shopping lists or whatever.
Hardly ever do I have to use my penmanship (and it’s pretty awful, let me tell you), and I can’t remember the last hand-written letter I’ve received, besides other people’s thank-you notes and invitations.

At the risk of going all Andy Rooney on you, I think it’s a little bit sad that we don’t write letters anymore; emails, wonderful though they are, just aren’t as personal.

Then again, I never get scolded at for poor handwriting in emails. So maybe it’s not such a bad thing.


**Mercifully, the Bradley Manning verdict was announced Tuesday, as the former Army private first class was convicted of espionage but not guilty of aiding the enemy, a mixed decision that still will likely leave Manning in prison for the rest of his life.

I’m not here today to argue that Manning is innocent; he leaked classified documents, and that was wrong. But what this young kid, an American citizen, has been put through over the past three years, is reprehensible.
I’ve written about this before, about the inhumane treatment Manning faced while awaiting trial; of the 23 hours of imprisonment per day, of the denial of sheets and pillows on his bed.
Manning was not allowed to have any contact with other humans but for one hour per day when he was outside, and was not allowed to access any news programs or have any other contact with the outside world.

Read the chilling details from this 2010 story by Glenn Greenwald, and then tell me if this is how America ought to treat its prisoners, who have YET to stand trial.
Manning risked his life and freedom by leaking documents to WikiLeaks, because he thought what his government was doing was wrong.
And then to get treated even worse than a normal criminal? Awful.


**Finally today, an idea so bad I can’t believe it actually has seen the light of the day.

Ever wonder what to have for dinner, and being unable to make a decision?
Of course, we all have. And in all those thousands of moments, did you ever once think, “Hmm, I wish we could have our neighbor’s leftovers, I bet they’re delicious?”
Of course not. But now you can. There’s a new app called “Leftover Swap” that lets you take a picture of your unfinished meatloaf or chicken parm, and post it on the app’s website.
Also, equally delightfully, app users can scan the website’s “map” for leftovers, then order them and arrange for pickup!

I can’t believe this exists; from a public-health point of view alone, it seems pretty dangerous.
But hey, I’m sure it’ll be a big success for people who don’t care who took that first bite out of the salmon.

Calling in sick has never been a worse idea. And the disgusting treatment of Bradley Manning

It’s bad enough that millions of people in America can barely afford to take vacations anymore.
Now, even sick days are too dangerous to attempt. At least, if you work for companies that are particularly paranoid.
Meet Rick Raymond. He’s a private detective, and he now gets hired by companies to spy on workers who have called in sick. He follows them to the beach, or to the ballgame, or whereever else they might go.
Then he reports back to the boss about where Mr. Jones really went on Thursday.
I don’t know, is this really necessary? Apparently so. A study cited in this story said 57 percent of salaried employees take sick days when they’re not sick.
That seems awfully high to me. Are we really that dishonest of a country?
This whole story makes me ill. Maybe I’ll have to take a day off today…

**You know, I try not to think bad thoughts about my country. I try to believe that things can’t possibly be as bad as some say it is.
And then I read this about the current treatment of PFC Bradley Manning, the former U.S. Army private who has been accused (key word there: accused) of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks.
Check out how Mr. Manning is being treated: He is a Maximum Custody Detainee, which means he is completely alone in his cell in Virginia for 23 of 24 hours each day.  He is not allowed to exercise in his cell.
He is not allowed to have sheets or pillows (and not because he’s a suicide risk). He is not allowed to have any contact with other humans except for that one hour a day he’s outside. He can’t access any news programs or have any idea what’s going on in the outside world.
This is a 22-year-old kid ACCUSED of a crime, an American citizen, and this is how he’s being treated! This is a goddamn outrage, and no one seems to give a hoot. Before a trial, before any evidence is presented in a court of law, Bradley Manning is being treated like a Gitmo terror suspect.
As Glenn Greenwald points out, this used to be classified as torture in the United States. We used to care about the long-term psychological effects this would have on people.
Now, it’s standard operating procedure on a kid like Bradley Manning.
Absolutely disgraceful.

The WikiLeaks scandal doesn’t move me. And an incredible Billy Joel interview

So the entire media world seems to be going crazy over this newest WikiLeaks scandal, involving thousands of leaked diplomatic cables that were top-secret.
Thanks to someone who’s leaking this stuff, we’re supposed to believe, thanks to a hysterical press corps, that national security has been threatened, diplomacy ruined, and the entire world may come crashing down.
Please. Been reading about the WikiLeaks disclosure for a little while tonight, and it sounds to me like much ado about very little.
We have learned, for example, that the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called Iranian officials “big, fat liars,” and that the U.S. has tried to persuade Pakistan to give America some of its nuclear weapons.
There is other stuff in there, unflattering stuff about world leaders, but I mean really, everyone knows that people talk behind each other’s back. That’s what makes the world go round: gossip.
I just don’t see what the big deal is. Maybe I’m missing the boat here. Or maybe, once again, my friends in the media are making this out to be a way bigger deal than it really is.

**It’s fairly required that if you grew up on Long Island in the 1980s, you’re a Billy Joel fan. So of course I was, and still am, a huge fan.
Billy was one of us, just a working-class schlub from the Island who wrote songs on the piano that became the soundtrack to many of our lives. I saw him in concert once, back when I was in high school around 1991 or so, and it was freaking incredible.
Anyway, Billy’s songs have always meant so much to me, from the beautiful “She’s Always a Woman” and “And So it Goes” (a wildly underrated Joel classic) to “Piano Man” and “Summer Highland Falls.”

Howard Stern? I’m so not a fan. But last week Howard had Billy on his satellite radio show for 90 minutes, and it was an incredible interview. Stern came off as just a regular guy, asking questions, and it was fabulous. Billy talked about how he wrote certain songs, how lyrics “muck up” beautiful music, and of his days banging Elle McPherson, and then Christie Brinkley (it was a rough life for Mr. Joel).

If you don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, here’s Part 1. All six parts are on YouTube, if you’re interested. It’s truly a fantastic conversation.

WikiLeaks and the Times give us real story on Afghanistan. And some parting New York thoughts

I finally had the time Tuesday to read the New York Times’ huge, and hugely important, series of stories about the thousands of leaked Afghanistan war documents that WikiLeaks discovered several weeks ago, and gave to several media outlets.

There was some pretty horrific stuff in there, about members of the Pakistan intelligence agencies supporting and encouraging the Taliban, all the while pretending to help the U.S., and about the Taliban possessing heat-seeking missiles and other high-tech weapons we weren’t aware they had.

But I was left with one overriding feeling after reading the series: Despair. Nine years in to this war, and I don’t really think we’re any closer to finishing the job, and ridding the area of terrorists, than we were on Sept. 12, 2001.

I’m sorry, I just don’t see a successful way out for America here. I have faith in President Obama, and General Petreus, to do as good a job as possible in turning around the country.

But it’s such a massive job, with so many competing elements that want us to fail, that I just don’t see it happening, ever.

And I wonder how many more American soldiers have to die before Obama and Co. realize that too.

Read those stories. Hear the voices of the soldiers and commanders in them. And then tell me how you can possibly feel optimistic.

**So unfortunately my vacation is over; had to head back to Florida Tuesday night, back to real life, high humidity, and what I’m sure is a stack of work emails you could choke a horse with.

But I had a wonderful two weeks in New York; a few parting thoughts that I wanted to share:

**I’ve never seen this in any other city: Monday afternoon, about 12:30 p.m., my wife, father-in law and I were walking in Manhattan. And there was a line at least 30 people deep, waiting to get into a restaurant that apparently had “great salad.”
There were 17 other eating options on that block alone. Yet these people stood in the 90-degree heat at lunchtime just to get in to this one restaurant. Nuts.

**Went to Bethesda Fountain (above) in Central Park Monday for the first time. About a million movies have been filmed there, if it looks familiar to you. Very cool place.

**I wish I saw the name of the business the following slogan was advertised, but we drove by it too fast. On the side of the truck it said “Trust God first. Then trust us for good service.” I love it.

**Always love listening to the hilarious and delusional hosts and callers on New York sports talk radio station WFAN. Spent a huge chunk of my childhood listening to the FAN; now I only hear it when I come home.

What kills me more than anything is that when they talk about baseball players and the trade deadline, which they did all this week, it’s just a given that other teams’ best players will or should eventually become Yankees or Mets stars. Joakim Soria, the Royals’ ace closer? He’s coming here. Dan Haren of the Diamondbacks? He’s here. And Roy Oswalt? Of course the Yanks will get him.

It’s kind of sickening how fans and the hosts think the rest of the league exists just to stock the Mets and Yankees.