diumenge, de novembre 28, 2010

Por qué filtraron lo que filtraron

US embassy cables: The job of the media is not to protect the powerful from embarrassment

It is for governments – not journalists – to guard public secrets, and there is no national jeopardy in WikiLeaks' revelations

Is it justified? Should a newspaper disclose virtually all a nation's secret diplomatic communication, illegally downloaded by one of its citizens? The reporting in the Guardian of the first of a selection of 250,000 US state department cables marks a recasting of modern diplomacy. Clearly, there is no longer such a thing as a safe electronic archive, whatever computing's snake-oil salesmen claim. No organisation can treat digitised communication as confidential. An electronic secret is a contradiction in terms.

Anything said or done in the name of a democracy is, prima facie, of public interest. When that democracy purports to be "world policeman" – an assumption that runs ghostlike through these cables – that interest is global. Nonetheless, the Guardian had to consider two things in abetting disclosure, irrespective of what is anyway published by WikiLeaks. It could not be party to putting the lives of individuals or sources at risk, nor reveal material that might compromise ongoing military operations or the location of special forces.

In this light, two backup checks were applied. The US government was told in advance the areas or themes covered, and "representations" were invited in return. These were considered. Details of "redactions" were then shared with the other four media recipients of the material and sent to WikiLeaks itself, to establish, albeit voluntarily, some common standard.

The state department knew of the leak several months ago and had ample time to alert staff in sensitive locations. Its pre-emptive scaremongering over the weekend stupidly contrived to hint at material not in fact being published. Nor is the material classified top secret, being at a level that more than 3 million US government employees are cleared to see, and available on the defence department's internal Siprnet. Such dissemination of "secrets" might be thought reckless, suggesting a diplomatic outreach that makes the British empire seem minuscule.

The revelations do not have the startling, coldblooded immediacy of the WikiLeaks war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan, with their astonishing insight into the minds of fighting men seemingly detached from the ethics of war. The's disclosures are largely of analysis and high-grade gossip. Insofar as they are sensational, it is in showing the corruption and mendacity of those in power, and the mismatch between what they claim and what they do.

Few will be surprised to know that Vladimir Putin runs the world's most sensational kleptocracy, that the Saudis wanted the Americans to bomb Iran, or that Pakistan's ISI is hopelessly involved with Taliban groups of fiendish complexity. We now know that Washington knows too. The full extent of American dealings with Yemen might upset that country's government, but is hardly surprising. If it is true that the Pentagon targeted refugee camps for bombing, it should be of general concern. American congressmen might also be interested in the sums of money given to certain foreign generals supposedly to pay for military equipment.

The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment. If American spies are breaking United Nations rules by seeking the DNA biometrics of the UN director general, he is entitled to hear of it. British voters should know what Afghan leaders thought of British troops. American (and British) taxpayers might question, too, how most of the billions of dollars going in aid to Afghanistan simply exits the country at Kabul airport.

No harm is done by high-class chatter about President Nicolas Sarkozy's vulgarity and lack of house-training, or about the British royal family. What the American embassy in London thinks about the coalition suggests not an alliance at risk but an embassy with a talent problem.

Some stars shine through the banality such as the heroic envoy in Islamabad, Anne Patterson. She pleads that Washington's whole policy is counterproductive: it "risks destabilising the Pakistani state, alienating both the civilian government and the military leadership, and provoking a broader governance crisis without finally achieving the goal". Nor is any amount of money going to bribe the Taliban to our side. Patterson's cables are like missives from the Titanic as it already heads for the bottom.

The money‑wasting is staggering. Aid payments are never followed, never audited, never evaluated. The impression is of the world's superpower roaming helpless in a world in which nobody behaves as bidden. Iran, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, the United Nations, are all perpetually off script. Washington reacts like a wounded bear, its instincts imperial but its power projection unproductive.

America's foreign policy is revealed as a slave to rightwing drift, terrified of a bomb exploding abroad or of a pro-Israeli congressman at home. If the cables tell of the progress to war over Iran or Pakistan or Gaza or Yemen, their revelation might help debate the inanity of policies which, as Patterson says, seem to be leading in just that direction. Perhaps we can now see how catastrophe unfolds when there is time to avert it, rather than having to await a Chilcot report after the event. If that is not in the public's interest, I fail to see what is.

Clearly, it is for governments, not journalists, to protect public secrets. Were there some overriding national jeopardy in revealing them, greater restraint might be in order. There is no such overriding jeopardy, except from the policies themselves as revealed. Where it is doing the right thing, a great power should be robust against embarrassment.

What this saga must do is alter the basis of diplomatic reporting. If WikiLeaks can gain access to secret material, by whatever means, so presumably can a foreign power. Words on paper can be made secure, electronic archives not. The leaks have blown a hole in the framework by which states guard their secrets. The Guardian material must be a breach of the official secrets acts. But coupled with the penetration already allowed under freedom of information, the walls round policy formation and documentation are all but gone. All barriers are permeable. In future the only secrets will be spoken ones. Whether that is a good thing should be a topic for public debate.

diumenge, de novembre 07, 2010

Zaaaz, culebras... ya hasta revisionistas hay de las eleccions de 2008


Would we be better off under a President Hillary Clinton?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

As I sat in the East Room last week watching a forlorn President Obama account for his shellacking, I listened with concern as he described the presidency as a "growth process" and suggested that the midterm setback was somehow inevitable. "You know, this is something that I think every president needs to go through," he said.

It brought to mind Hillary Clinton's 3 a.m. phone-call ad from the 2008 campaign, and her withering criticism of Obama: "When there is a crisis . . . there's no time for speeches or on-the-job training." I wondered whether Democrats would be in the fix they're in if they had chosen a different standard-bearer.

Would unemployment have been lower under a President Hillary? Would the Democrats have lost fewer seats on Tuesday? It's impossible to know. But what can be said with confidence is that Clinton's toolkit is a better match for the current set of national woes than they were for 2008, when her support for the Iraq war dominated the campaign.

Back then, Clinton's populist appeal to low-income white voters, union members and workers of the Rust Belt was not enough to overcome Obama's energized youth vote. But Clinton's working-class whites were the very ones who switched to the Republicans on Tuesday.

Back in '08, Clinton's scars from HillaryCare were seen as a liability, proof that she was a product of the old ways of Washington. But now that Obama has himself succumbed to the partisanship, his talk of a "growth process" in office makes Clinton's experience in the trenches look like more of an asset.

Clinton campaign advisers I spoke with say she almost certainly would have pulled the plug on comprehensive health-care reform rather than allow it to monopolize the agenda for 15 months. She would have settled for a few popular items such as children's coverage and a ban on exclusions for pre-existing conditions. That would have left millions uninsured, but it also would have left Democrats in a stronger political position and given them more strength to focus on job creation and other matters, such as immigration and energy.


The Clinton campaign advisers acknowledge that she probably would have done the auto bailout and other things that got Obama labeled as a socialist. The difference is that she would have coupled that help for big business with more popular benefits for ordinary Americans.

Clinton, for example, first called for a 90-day foreclosure moratorium in December 2007, as part of a package to fight the early stages of the mortgage crisis with a five-year freeze on subprime rates and $30 billion to avoid foreclosures. But an Obama campaign adviser dismissed Clinton's moratorium, saying it would "reward people for bad behavior."

Calls for a moratorium returned a few weeks ago with news of lenders' foreclosure abuses. Polls indicate public support for a moratorium, but Obama ruled it out. It's a safe bet Clinton would have done otherwise.

Some differences would have been stylistic. As a senator from New York, Clinton had good relations with Wall Street. As the heir to her husband's donor base, she would have had more executives in government - envoys who would have been able to ease the uncertainty about tax and regulatory policy that has been crippling business.

Most important, there can be little doubt that, whatever policies emerged, she would have maintained a laser focus on the economy; after all, she did that during the 2008 campaign, when it wasn't as central an issue. She got little credit, for example, when she gave a speech in Iowa in November 2007 warning about the dangers of new financial instruments. Now, it seems prescient; then, it sounded boring.

There was plenty not to like about Clinton's campaign, particularly her persistence in the race long after she had a chance. Had she beaten Obama, she might have introduced her own problems (a new entanglement with Iran, perhaps?). But a failure to connect with the common man would not have been among them.

Back in April 2008, a Clinton ad delivered a populist blow to Obama: "When the housing crisis broke, Hillary Clinton called for action: a freeze on foreclosures. Barack Obama said 'no.' . . . People are hurting. It's time for a president who's ready to take action now."

Obama survived the challenge then. But times changed, and the president, feeling "removed" from the people, asked in the East Room how he can give Americans "confidence that I'm listening to them?"

The answer is simple: Do what Hillary would have done.


dijous, de novembre 04, 2010

Una reforma legal termina con la prevalencia del apellido del padre

Una reforma legal termina con la prevalencia del apellido del padre

Las parejas acordarán el orden o se impondrá el alfabético - El proyecto no clarifica el problema de las madres solas obligadas a declarar un progenitor

MARÍA R. SAHUQUILLO - Madrid - 04/11/2010

Se acabó la prevalencia de los apellidos del hombre sobre los de la mujer. El proyecto de ley de Registro Civil determina que los padres deberán especificar qué apellidos lleva su hijo. Ya no se dará por supuesto que priman los del varón. Si la pareja no se pone de acuerdo o no precisa nada, los apellidos del bebé se decidirán por orden alfabético. La nueva ley, aprobada en Consejo de Ministros el pasado julio y que inicia ahora su trámite parlamentario, pretende incorporar el principio de igualdad también al simbolismo que suponen socialmente los apellidos. También facilitará su modificación e incluso contempla el caso especial, y por procedimiento urgente, para víctimas de la violencia familiar.

Desaparece la inscripción sobre si los hijos son de un matrimonio

El riesgo es que a la larga dominen las primeras letras del alfabeto

Mónica Castellanos no ha logrado poner primero sus apellidos a su hija

La norma agiliza el cambio de apellido para víctimas de violencia doméstica

Hasta ahora (desde 1999) una modificación en el reglamento de la actual ley -de 1957- permitía a los padres decidir el orden de los apellidos de los hijos; si no había acuerdo primaba el del padre. Siempre. También si no se especificaba claramente lo contrario. Alterar después el orden de los apellidos podía suponer, además, un auténtico calvario burocrático. Algo que la nueva ley también pretende flexibilizar. "Se facilitará la modificación de los apellidos siempre que sea por causas justificadas, y teniendo en cuenta que los apellidos son elementos de identificación de la persona", explica una portavoz del Ministerio de Justicia que ha participado en la elaboración de la nueva ley.

Con la norma actual, se puede solicitar el cambio tramitando un expediente ante el Registro Civil o el Ministerio de Justicia solo en unos pocos casos. Las modificaciones, además, son complicadísimas. Mónica Castellanos lo ha experimentado. Hace un año tuvo una hija. Su deseo y el de su pareja es que llevara sus apellidos primero. Todavía no lo han logrado. "Mi marido fue a inscribir al registro a la nena y le dijeron que por ley, para cambiar el orden debía presentarme yo en persona", cuenta por teléfono. Como no pudo hacerlo porque se estaba recuperando del parto, se impusieron los apellidos paternos. "Cambiarlos está resultando dificilísimo", se queja esta mujer, quien afirma que la ley actual discrimina a las mujeres.

Para alterar el orden de los apellidos de su hija, Castellanos -que ha interpuesto varios recursos de queja- debe esperar cinco años para solicitar la modificación por el llamado "sistema de uso y costumbre". Es decir, deberá alegar que por costumbre su hija utiliza en primer lugar sus apellidos. Para ello, siempre que puede inscribe a la pequeña con el apellido Castellanos primero. "Es una forma de buscar pruebas que luego me sirvan para interponer la reclamación", explica. "Para otros puede suponer una tontería, pero para mí era muy importante que mi hija tuviera mis apellidos primero", afirma.

Los apellidos tienen un alto contenido simbólico. No hay que olvidar que hasta que se permitió la alteración de orden de los apellidos, tener un varón era la única manera de garantizar la continuidad y pervivencia del apellido. Sin embargo, se solicitan cambios o alteraciones en ellos no solo por estas cuestiones. O por el propio hábito de haber dejado de utilizar un apellido de uso común en aras de otro más llamativo o con el que uno se identifica más. La nueva ley incorpora, por ejemplo, la posibilidad de que se pueda solicitar su cambio, y por procedimiento urgente, en los casos de violencia de género. Un paso "clave" para la abogada de familia y presidenta de la Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Mujeres para la Igualdad (Compi), Consuelo Abril. Y es que se han dado casos de hijos de mujeres que han sido asesinadas por sus parejas que han buscado por todos los medios eliminar el rastro del maltratador, extirpando, incluso, sus apellidos. "Se impone el sentido común. Para algunas personas acciones como estas son importantísimas. Para algunos hijos de mujeres asesinadas o maltratadas es un auténtico drama llevar el apellido de ese hombre", dice Consuelo Abril. Queda pendiente del desarrollo cómo aplicar esto en caso de menores de edad.

La decisión de dejar al orden alfabético la elección de los apellidos en caso de conflicto genera cierta polémica. Justicia sostiene que se ha buscado ese criterio como el más objetivo para que no prevalezca, y se fomente la igualdad, ni el apellido del padre ni el de la madre. Para ello, explica, se ha estudiado la legislación de otros países en los que se puede elegir el orden de los apellidos. En Alemania, por ejemplo, se lanza una moneda al aire para tomar la decisión, en caso de que los padres no se pongan de acuerdo.

Patricia López Peláez, profesora titular de Derecho Civil de la Uned, explica que ese sistema alfabético puede provocar que, en unos años, terminen prevaleciendo los apellidos de la primera parte del alfabeto. "Pero es cierto que se ha buscado un criterio objetivo para no discriminar ni favorecer a ninguno de los miembros de la pareja", explica.

Si todo va bien, y la nueva ley se aprueba en su trámite parlamentario sin cambios, entrará en vigor dentro de dos años. Un largo plazo que se explica por la extensa reforma a la que se enfrenta el Registro Civil. Y es que la reforma no solo se ciñe al cambio en las inscripciones de los nacimientos. También se pondrá en marcha una renovación profunda del sistema informático. Dejarán de expedirse, por ejemplo, los tradicionales libros de familia; y cada ciudadano tendrá una ficha personal y única donde constará todo su historial civil (matrimonios, separaciones...).

Pero al margen de la intensidad de la reforma y sus consecuencias sociales, la nueva ley deja un fleco suelto en espera de un desarrollo normativo posterior: no reglamenta qué hacer con las mujeres solas que, en algunos registros, se siguen encontrando con la exigencia de cumplimentar el apartado del padre. Una norma que nació con la intención de evitar a los hijos el posible estigma de no tener padre conocido, planteamiento hoy en día superado. El artículo 191 del reglamento del Registro Civil dice que cuando no se conozca quiénes son los padres del niño se pondrán en el lugar de los nombres de padre o madre otros de uso corriente. "Algo que se hace como mecanismo para identificar a una persona", explica el profesor de Derecho Civil de la Universidad de Navarra Javier Fajardo. "Una fórmula para hijos abandonados que la dirección general de los registros ha aplicado cuando solo consta la filiación de la madre y no quien es el padre; así que se suele inscribir un nombre usual cuando no se tiene constancia de quién es el padre", sigue Fajardo. Justicia asegura que esto ya no es así. Los expertos, sin embargo, señalan que se sigue produciendo.

El proyecto de ley sí regula claramente uno de los elementos discriminatorios que no recogió la reforma de la ley del 1957: la mención de hijos matrimoniales e hijos no matrimoniales. La norma que ahora inicia su trámite parlamentario no permitirá ninguna referencia al estado civil de los padres. "Con esto ahondamos en el tratamiento igualitario y adaptamos más la ley a los tiempos", dice una portavoz de Justicia.