Saturday, August 28, 2004


"The danger to political dissent..."

Via Buzzflash from the Memory Hole: The Justice Department manages to be both ironic and assinine. Don't miss this one!

Ben Barnes—on relating to the rich

I got a young man named George W. Bush into the Texas National Guard when I was lieutenant governor, and I'm not necessarily proud of that. But I did it. I got a lot of other people in the National Guard because I thought that was what people should do when you're in office, and you help a lot of rich people.
—Ben Barnes, former Lieutenant Governor of Texas

Just when I was getting comfortable in the Holocene

Many people know where they are in space. When confronted by an Alien Immigration Officer demanding papers, an educated earthling says, "I'm a citizen of Earth, third planet of the Solar System, in the Orion spur of the Milky Way galaxy, which is part of the Local Group in the Virgo Cluster, and I'm headed for the Great Attractor."

Then, of course, we are quickly sent back to our planet of origin, since the aliens fear that we're only trying to get on the Intergalactic Welfare Rolls.

But it's a rare earthling indeed who can pinpoint his place in time. Just so you can adjust your watch, we're in the Holocene epoch of the Quarternary period in the Cenozoic era of the Phanerozoic eon. Or we were until a little over 200 years ago.

Paul Crutzen, Nobel prize winner, has noticed that a new geological force has arisen—namely us—and that it is time to reset our geological clocks. We're now in the Anthropocene epoch. And geologists seem to be accepting the term.

Without major catastrophes like an enormous volcanic eruption, an unexpected epidemic, a large-scale nuclear war, an asteroid impact, a new ice age, or continued plundering of Earth's resources by partially still primitive technology (the last four dangers can, however, be prevented in a real functioning noösphere) mankind will remain a major geological force for many millennia, maybe millions of years, to come. To develop a world-wide accepted strategy leading to sustainability of ecosystems against human induced stresses will be one of the great future tasks of mankind, requiring intensive research efforts and wise application of the knowledge thus acquired in the noösphere, better known as knowledge or information society. An exciting, but also difficult and daunting task lies ahead of the global research and engineering community to guide mankind towards global, sustainable, environmental management.

Media are about to break story on Ed Schrock

According to Virginia News Source, The Virginian-Pilot, Newport News Daily Press, and WTKR-TV are looking into Congressman Ed Schrock's outing, and the Washington Post and Pilot "are both planning weekend stories on the events surrounding Schrock."

Republican queen-makers in the district are looking for a possible replacement. And what a wealth of talent there is. There's state Senator Frank Wagner, who "has baggage from overbilling the government on boat contract work at his shipyard a year or so ago." Then there's former cop Ken Stolle, who "has always been in the shadows of police abuse from when he was on the police department."

Is this a political party or a gang in suits?

Related posts:
Another Republican hypocrite outed
Congressman Ed Schrock's closet door swinging wider

Friday, August 27, 2004


Why this election may be decided by the Supreme Court again

I haven't seen anyone writing about this, but it's mind-bogglingly evident.

I mentioned last week that Colorado (9 electoral votes) will have an amendment on the ballot that would change the state's electoral vote award from winner-take-all to proportional. What I didn't mention is that the amendment, if passed, specifies that it will take effect in the current election!

Think about it! If the electoral vote difference is within 9 votes, and if the Colorado amendment passes, there is going to be a legal challenge like no other.

Furthermore, the party making the challenge, of course, will be the losing party, and the position they take may be either to affirm or to deny the amendment, depending upon the popular vote outcome.

What this implies is that both parties are going to have lawyers lined up to take either position: that the amendment is or is not valid, and if valid, that it may or may not take effect for the current election.

Let's say that Kerry wins 271 to 267 and that Bush barely carries Colorado, which gives him 5 votes under the proportional system. But under winner-take-all Bush gets 9 votes, changing the tally to 267 to 271 in favor of Bush.

As in Florida, the Colorado Supreme Court will be called upon to rule on the validity of the amendment, but whichever way the court rules, you may be sure that the party losing under that ruling will take the matter on to the U.S. Supreme Court.

My hunch is that the Supremes will let the Colorado Supreme Court ruling stand, but then who could have guessed their action in the last election.

Related posts:
In case you're worried about the November election...
In case you're worried about November... (revisited)


Bloggers at the Republican convention

This was in my CBS Marketwatch email yesterday:

About a week away from the Republican National Convention in New York, fewer than two dozen people have been identified as planning to write Web logs around the event. published a list of 20 Web bloggers, including Alan Nelson of and as among those ready to give "yet another set of perspectives from the convention."

The writers include independent bloggers, media types and delegates. More than 120 bloggers wrote during last month's Democrat Party convention.

That's 20 Repugs vs. 120 Dems. But what did they expect? The Republicans are not looking for "another set of perspectives." It's more likely that they'll be passing out templates telling bloggers what to write and ejecting anyone who doesn't toe the party line.


Even the capitalists know it's bad...

This is the Quote of the Day on CBS MarketWatch:
"What we're seeing is probably the greatest transfer of assets in history — out of the U.S. and to our foreign creditors. Over time this is going to mean a lowered standard of living for my kids and your kids, and if it happens quickly it will also mean a lowered standard of living for you and me." — Dow Theory Letters
This transfer, by the way, is not unrelated to Bush's tax cut and his war on Iraq.

Rasmussen Electoral College vote update

Rasmussen has just released its latest Electoral College vote projections, and Kerry has fallen to a narrow lead.

The good news for Kerry supporters is that this doesn't reflect any gains in the number of states for Bush. What it means is that Minnesota (10 votes) has now been placed in the "Toss-up" category. Their standings: Kerry 193, Bush 183, Toss-up 162.

Rasmussen requires a 5% lead to declare a state for a candidate.


Straight Pride parade tomorrow in North Carolina (updated)

Via AMERICABlog, one of the ClearChannel radio stations is hosting a "Heterosexual Pride" parade tomorrow in Chapel Hill, NC.

Since it has long been assumed that virtually everyone living in the Chapel Hill-Raleigh-Durham area is homosexual, I for one am glad to see some of them trying to shed their feathers and act straight. Straight people have been in the closet for so long there that some people wonder if they really exist.

Unfortunately, I don't live close enough to attend. But I would give anything to see what straight people really look like. Is it true they put grease in their hair?

If anyone should happen to be there with a camera, I'd be happy to post some pictures. Try to be discreet. Take pictures of them from behind, as the Washington Post always used to do at the Gay Pride parades. But see if you can catch some of them holding hands, or other body parts.

Of course, I would never reveal the identity of any person captured on camera. Many of them are likely to be in long-term gay relationships, and I would hate to think I was a home-wrecker.

P.S.—They'll be trysting near the Jiffy Lube in the parking lot of Passport Motors. This could be a trap. Look out for the Vice!


Blackbox voting update

Bev Harris at has just released four new "consumer reports" on problems with Diebold's GEMS software.

The first concerns a vulnerability in Diebold's GEMS central tabulator that accumulates the votes from the polling places.

On Aug. 8, 2004, Harris demonstrated to Howard Dean how easy it is to change votes in GEMS, on CNBC TV.

The resistance of public officials even to look at the problem is breathtaking. Of course, they know that if they look at the problem, they will not be able to deny responsibility later on. This is a MUST READ! But really, all these reports are MUST READS!

The second report is concerned with multiple databases in use in the tabulation software. It's equivalent to keeping more than one set of books. As a former dabbler in databases, I can personally attest that this is an unnecessary vulnerability—in fact, it violates elementary principles of good database design.

The data tables in accounting software automatically link up to each other to prevent illicit back door entries. In GEMS, however, by typing a two-digit code into a hidden location, you can decouple the books, so that the voting system will draw information from a combination of the real votes and a set of fake votes, which you can alter any way you see fit.

That's right, GEMS comes with a secret digital "on-off" switch to link and unlink its multiple vote tables. Someone who tests GEMS, not knowing this, will not see the mismatched sets of books.

Black Box Voting has traced the implementation of the double set of books to Oct. 13, 2000, shortly after embezzler Jeffrey Dean became the senior programmer. Dean was hired as Vice President of Research and Development in September 2000, and his access to the programs is well documented through internal memos from Diebold. The double set of books appeared in GEMS version 1.17.7.

During this time, while Jeffrey Dean was telling the prosecutor (who operated from the ninth floor of the King County Courthouse) that he was unemployed, he was in fact employed, with 24-hour access to the King County GEMS central tabulator -- and he was working on GEMS on the fifth floor of the King County Courthouse.

The third report explores a host of vulnerabilities associated with the GEMS software and Microsoft Access.

The following things can be done when you go in the back door in GEMS using Microsoft Access:

1) You can change vote totals.

2) You can change flags, which act as digital "on-off" switches, to cause the program to function differently.

According to internal Diebold memos, there are 32 combinations of on-off flags. Even the programmers have trouble keeping track of all the changes these flags can produce.

3) You can alter the audit log.

4) You can change passwords, access privileges, and add new users.

And that's not an exhaustive list of the problems.

Finally, Report 4 makes some recommendations and takes a look at how much money various states have invested in Diebold software.

Blackbox Voting is still signing up volunteers as part of an Election Watch Crew. This is a very necessary step in securing the results of this election. Volunteer if you can.

Related post: Lend Bev Harris a hand and make your vote count


Quote of the Day

Commenting on Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert's remark in his new book that after the 9/11 attack "already we heard voices asking, 'Who's going to pay for this? How much will it cost?'"

Hastert is not complaining about the cost of rebuilding Iraq, yet he complains about rebuilding New York?
—Jose Serrano, Democratic Representative from the Bronx

Thursday, August 26, 2004


Congressman Ed Schrock's closet door swinging wider

So far the major media have held off on the outing of Ed Schrock, closeted gay Republican Congressman from Virginia. But it looks as if the pressure is building—both on the media and on Schrock.

Since Friday August 20 Virginia News Source (VNS), a right-wing site that clearly intends to serve the heavy concentration of military personnel in the Tidewater Virginia area, has been trying to get a response from Schrock to the allegation. Today's headline: 7-days and no response yea or nay from 2nd District Rep. Ed Schrock to reports he's living a secret gay lifestyle.

The site features a letter from a reader calling on Schrock to step down if the allegation be true. According to the letter, VNS reported that "A Republican insider Monday told VNS that many hardcore GOPers would vote for a gay before a Democrat..."

All of which reminded me of a tale told by Molly Ivins last year.

A board member of the ACLU of Texas was asked recently if there had been any trouble with gay bashing in Midland. "Oh, hell, honey," she drawled, "there's not a gay in Midland who will come out of the closet for fear people will think they're Democrats."

Related post: Another Republican hypocrite outed


CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-b(6)

Today's segment of the transcript of William Karel's documentary CIA: Secret Wars

CIA: Secret Wars, Part III-b(6)
"One war begets another"
[The Clinton years - continued]

The speakers:
Dale Watson, FBI- Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence (1999-2002)
Robert Steele, CIA - Covert operations
Robert Baer, CIA agent - Covert operations
Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, CIA-Director of the Counterterrorist Center (1986-89), reprimanded for his role in the Iran-Contra affair

The love between the FBI and the CIA is really evident in this segment.

VOICEOVER: The American government decided to strengthen its counterterrorism working-group, to give it a new momentum by combining elements of the FBI and the CIA, the two enemy agencies, within the same service. They nominated Dale Watson, in charge of (counter)terrorism at the FBI, to join up with the ranks of the CIA.

DALE WATSON: When I asked what the work consisted of, he said, “We need somebody to join with the CIA.” I replied then: “I want to point out to you that I don’t know those people over there, that I don’t like them and that I don’t want to go over there.”

But he insisted: “You’re going to go anyway.” In a way they forced me to go there. We even joked about what we later described as “the hostage-exchange program.”

FBI agents were forced to go to the CIA; and at the same time, two guys from the CIA were summoned and were rumored to have been told: “One of you two is going to leave for the FBI.” They replied—and I know that this is true: “We don’t like those people, we don’t know them, we don’t want to go over there.”

ROBERT STEELE: Because the FBI is a nullity in counterespionage.

ROBERT BAER: His most important mission consisted of destroying the CIA.

DUANE CLARRIDGE: They took the agents and field officers of the CIA for shirkers, baboons or whatever.

DALE WATSON: And so began the cooperation between the CIA, the FBI and counterterrorism.

Related posts:
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-a(1) (Beginning, the George H.W. Bush years)
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-b(1) (The Clinton years)
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-c (The George W. Bush years)


Absentee ballots on sale in Miami

Just finished reading a Slate article by Ann Louise Bardach: "Why is Florida's voting system so corrupt?" If you're a Floridian, or you just want to see what we're facing in this election, you should definitely read it.

But as an avid follower of Florida's corrupt voting system, there was little in the article to surprise me, until I came to this:

Buying ballots is another current problem. In 1998, an election volunteer was caught selling ballots to undercover agents. And just last week, the Cuban exile columnist Max Lesnik reported that absentee ballots were being sold on Miami's Calle Ocho for $25 apiece.

I've searched for Lesnik's writing on this (it's mostly in Spanish), but could find no mention. However, Lesnik also has a radio show in Miami, so it could have fallen below the search-engine radars.

If anyone can find a reference, please pass it along.

Meanwhile, Bob Herbert of the NY Times has been conducting what appears to be a one-man crusade to expose intimidation of elderly black voters in the Orlando area by Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigators.

The officers, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which reports to Gov. Jeb Bush, say they are investigating allegations of voter fraud that came up during the Orlando mayoral election in March.

Officials refused to discuss details of the investigation, other than to say that absentee ballots are involved. They said they had no idea when the investigation might end, and acknowledged that it may continue right through the presidential election.

The state police officers, armed and in plain clothes, have questioned dozens of voters in their homes. Some of those questioned have been volunteers in get-out-the-vote campaigns.

I asked if all the people interrogated were black.

"Well, mainly it was a black neighborhood we were looking at - yes," he said.

He also said, "Most of them were elderly."

When I asked why, he said, "That's just the people we selected out of a random sample to interview." [emphasis added]

Gee, who would have guessed that a random sample of voters in the Orlando area would have turned up so many black elderly voters? There's been quite a change in the demographics of the area since I last looked.

In a follow-up column of August 20, Herbert writes,

It turns out that a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation, in which state troopers have gone into the homes of elderly black voters in Orlando in a bizarre hunt for evidence of election fraud, is being conducted despite a finding by the department last May "that there was no basis to support the allegations of election fraud."

State officials have said that the investigation, which has already frightened many voters and intimidated elderly volunteers, is in response to allegations of voter fraud involving absentee ballots that came up during the Orlando mayoral election in March. But the department considered that matter closed last spring, according to a letter from the office of Guy Tunnell, the department's commissioner, to Lawson Lamar, the state attorney in Orlando, who would be responsible for any criminal prosecutions.

The letter, dated May 13, said:

"We received your package related to the allegations of voter fraud during the 2004 mayoral election. This dealt with the manner in which absentee ballots were either handled or collected by campaign staffers for Mayor Buddy Dyer. Since this matter involved an elected official, the allegations were forwarded to F.D.L.E.'s Executive Investigations in Tallahassee, Florida.

"The documents were reviewed by F.D.L.E., as well as the Florida Division of Elections. It was determined that there was no basis to support the allegations of election fraud concerning these absentee ballots. Since there is no evidence of criminal misconduct involving Mayor Dyer, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement considers this matter closed."

And how are the officers going about their "investigation"?

The officers were armed and in plain clothes. For elderly African-American voters, who remember the terrible torment inflicted on blacks who tried to vote in the South in the 1950's and 60's, the sight of armed police officers coming into their homes to interrogate them about voting is chilling indeed.

One woman, who is in her mid-70's and was visited by two officers in June, said in an affidavit: "After entering my house, they asked me if they could take their jackets off, to which I answered yes. When they removed their jackets, I noticed they were wearing side arms. ... And I noticed an ankle holster on one of them when they sat down."

Though apprehensive, she answered all of their questions. But for a lot of voters, the emotional response to the investigation has gone beyond apprehension to outright fear.

So while absentee ballots are for sale on the main street of Cuban Miami, the FDLE is investigating a closed case in Orlando among blacks.

And the nice thing about these freshly minted ballots on sale in Miami is that after the 2000 election, the Florida legislature (Republican, of course) removed the requirement for an authenticating witness's signature on those ballots. More convenient, less fuss.

Related post: In case you're worried about the November election...

Wednesday, August 25, 2004


Memphis cops are clean!

Cops and firemen in Memphis, TN are apparently a lot more fun than their peers in most parts of the country.
Sunday's event, "Battle of the Shields: Memphis Firefighter and Police Fashion Gala," came under fire after a columnist from The Commercial Appeal wrote that she saw nearly nude men on stage, their private parts covered in soapsuds.

First rule: Never invite a reporter to a "fashion gala."

At least two women, Wendi C. Thomas wrote, were "hoisted in the air, their legs around men's waists." At least one person swung a badge, and others wore department pants and held nightsticks, she wrote.

Memphis police must have permission to wear their uniforms outside work, while firefighters can't wear their uniforms away from work at all.

So what's the problem? Are soapsuds the uniform there?


A parent's rage

Carlos Arredondo of Hollywood, FL looked out and saw three Marines walking towards his door. "My husband immediately knew that his firstborn son had been killed - and my husband did not take the news well," his wife Melida said.
The father ... then walked into the garage, picked up a can of gasoline, a propane tank and a lighting device.... He smashed the van's window, doused the van with gasoline and set it ablaze, despite attempts by the Marines to stop him....

Mr. Arredondo is currently hospitalized with severe burns to his arms and legs.

As Mr. Arredondo had surmised, the Marines had come to tell him that his son Alexander had been killed in Najaf.

Luz Marina Arredondo, Alexander's grandmother, felt the government was at fault for her grandson's death.

"I blame them a lot," she said. "They send them like guinea pigs over there."

No decision has been made on what charges will be brought.


CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-b(5)

Today's segment of the transcript of William Karel's documentary CIA: Secret Wars

The speakers:
Joseph Trento, journalist-historian;
Milton Bearden, CIA, former Director of the Soviet/East European Division, oversaw funding of the Afghan mujaheedin against the Soviets;
Robert Baer, CIA agent - covert operations;
Dale Watson, FBI- Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence (1999-2002)

CIA: Secret Wars, Part III-b(5)
"One war begets another"
[The Clinton years - continued]

Bin-Laden's time in Sudan. But for American fear of upsetting the Saudis, bin-Laden would be a very minor historical footnote.

VOICEOVER: The CIA had located bin-Laden who had set himself up in Sudan. But Bill Clinton didn’t want—right in the middle of the electoral campaign—to overturn the Presidential Order of Gerald Ford that for 20 years had forbidden all assasinations. In February 1996, he finally signed a top-secret mission order authorizing the CIA to use all means necessary to destroy the al-Qaeda network and bin-Laden.

JOSEPH TRENTO: Sincerely, if they could have assassinated bin-Laden, they would have done it. Clinton had signed the order: “Kill him!” But they didn’t find him. Clinton wanted Osama bin-Laden dead, but the CIA never found him.

VOICEOVER: In March ’96, a month later, the government of Khartoum, under pressure from the U.N., decided to expel Osama bin-Laden and his 10,000-man-strong secret army. They proposed to the Saudis to send bin-Laden back to them, but the royal family refused. The Sudanese then turned to Bill Clinton and made him the same offer.

MILTON BEARDEN: The United States and the Saudi government warned the Sudanese. They told them: “Bin-Laden is posing a problem for us.” And the Sudanese, who were anxious to improve their relations with Saudi Arabia and the United States, asked: “OK, what do you want, you want us to send him to you?” And the Saudis responded: “We don’t want him.” They didn’t want bin-Laden to come back home. They just wanted him to disappear.

ROBERT BAER: The Sudanese proposed to give bin-Laden back to Saudi Arabia for them to put him in prison. They couldn’t expel him from a Muslim country except to another Muslim country. Which is to say that he would have found himself in prison in February ’96. The Sudanese tried desparately to redeem themselves in the opinion of the United States.

MILTON BEARDEN: The Sudanese then said to the American government: “We’re going to give him to you.” But the Americans responded: “Definitely not. We can’t charge him, we can’t accuse him of any crime, we can’t take him.” That’s exactly how it happened.

DALE WATSON: It would have been necessary to have precise charges, a reason to charge him, a complaint or an arrest warrant; and I remember that in ’96 we didn’t have any proof in order to be able to bring him back to the United States to prosecute him.

ROBERT BAER: And the United States didn’t exert any pressure on Saudi Arabia to take bin-Laden. I know exactly where and when the meetings took place. They even stated: “If taking bin-Laden poses a problem for you, don’t do it.” I was completely informed of the correspondence that was exchanged at that time.

MILTON BEARDEN: And the Sudanese threw him out. He left for Afghanistan, and you all know the rest of the story.

Related posts:
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-b(6) (The Clinton years - continued)
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-a(1) (Beginning, the George H.W. Bush years)
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-b(1) (The Clinton years)
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-c (The George W. Bush years)


Notes on a fake beheading

On August 8 I did a post on Benjamin Vanderford's fake beheading video in which I concluded, among other things: "He's exposed the gullibility of the media."

I was searching today to see if anything was coming from the FBI on their "investigation" of Mr. Vanderford when I discovered the "Iraq Beheading Video Hoax Press Release" by Vanderford and the two others involved in the production, Robert F. Martin and Laurie Kirchner.

... We feel that this video (and especially what it has become) exposes problems with the media. We rely much too heavily on large agencies such as Reuters and Associated Press for our information, at least one of which failed to do any fact checking when reporting our story as real. After the Middle Eastern networks aired the videos obtained via the internet--not posted on any websites by us as reported by fox news, AP and Reuters picked it up. Then plenty of news organizations began playing it as fact. Stop and think how a similar, but much more harmful hoax could be conducted. Physical evidence should be the new standard in the modern digital age, rather than grainy videos.

We want to also make it clear that we never distributed it to the Arab networks that reported it as true. The only means of distribution was sharing the file on peer to peer networks (Kazaa and Soulseek, specifically). Also, we did not use the name for the file that has been widely reported. It is not as if we purposefully dragged this hoax out in any manner, or ever attempted to represent the video as true to any law enforcement, news or other agencies. To the contrary, as soon as he was contacted at 4am on Saturday morning, Benjamin Vanderford immediately confirmed that he was alive. Perhaps if they had attempted to contact Ben before publishing the story as true, none of this "hoax" business would have ever occured--after all, his home address is in the video. Shortly after the video was made we forgot all about it--that is, until Saturday August 7th. [emphasis added]

And, of course, the media howled.

We also find it ironic that we were lambasted on Fox and other networks for our video. We are criticized for belitting the real beheadings; however this was not our intent, nor do we think that we are responsible for any pain caused to the families. The media's sensationalism is the cause of this pain; had they spent 20 or 30 minutes checking into the name Ben Vanderford, or his home address which is said in the video (which many of the reporters we have talked to had actually not seen!), they could have easily found out the video was a fake and given it the amount of coverage it originally deserved--none. Now that it has been shown how easily the media can be duped, it's certainly newsworthy--but before it really wasn't much of a story.

Geraldo got into the righteous-condemnation act, but had created his own hoax a decade earlier, though—as best I can tell—he has never acknowledged it as a hoax:

Estimates are that there are over 1 million Satanists in this country...The majority of them are linked in a highly organized, very secretive network. From small towns to large cities, they have attracted police and FBI attention to their Satanic ritual child abuse, child pornography and grisly Satanic murders. The odds are that this is happening in your town.

Well, you can imagine the hosts of loonies that that brought out of the woodwork.

But the best part of their page are the links to voicemails left by Reuters, CBS and the New Hampshire Hippo Press, which "is sorry for Ben's loss, but would also like to talk to Ben for a statement"!—the loss being, of course, Ben's head.

Related post: Beheading for the hell of it (corrected)


Among the freedoms lost—academic freedom (updated)

The Network of Activist Scholars of Politics and International Relations (NASPIR) is a primarily British undertaking that welcomes anyone to participate. From an email today at their Yahoo group site:
Professor Tariq Ramadan prohibited from entering the United States: petition in defense of academic freedom

In February 2004, the renowned Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan was appointed Henry B. Luce Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame (South Bend, USA). A visa of residence and work (H1) was originally granted to him on 5 May. On 2 August the American Embassy in Berne (Switzerland) informed Professor Ramadan that the US Homeland Security Department had decided to revoke this visa. No explanation was given.

This arbitrary decision currently leaves Professor Ramadan unable to fulfill his academic duties to provide tuition on "Islamic ethics" as timetabled for the fall semester 2004-2005. If the situation remains unchanged it will also prevent him from participating in a number of high profile conferences, which include: the University of Stanford on 12 - 14 September, by invitation of the France-Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary Studies; a visit to New York on 27 September by invitation of former President Bill Clinton; and an engagement in Florida on 19-21 November at the invitation of William S. Cohen, the former US Secretary of Defense.

The decision to revoke Professor Ramadan's visa threatens to set a dangerous precedent for the restriction of academic freedom and freedom of speech in the USA. By this action, the US administration has not only targeted the wrong individual in the name of its 'war against terrorism'. It is also silencing the voice of a scholar who has a long and proud record of denouncing extremism, narrow literalism and anti-Semitism within Muslim communities and societies. [emphasis added]

If you are an academic you may sign a petition stating

We, the undersigned, condemn the decision to revoke the visa of Professor Tariq Ramadan as a breach of human rights and academic freedom. We demand that this decision is overturned without delay.

To sign the petition, email with the following details:

Academic Title - Name - Department - University

Agence-France Presse reports some speculation as to the reasons for the visa flip-flop.
Ramadan`s appointment caused something of a stir in fringe Jewish circles this side of the Atlantic -- the author has been accused of anti-Semitism by Jewish groups in France -- and some see the hand of his critics in the latest development.

Several US academics told the Tribune they suspected that Jewish groups that have waged a campaign against scholars and public intellectuals whose views on Islam and the Middle East conflict with their own, might have had a role in Ramadan`s visa being rescinded.

"At the heart of it, people refuse to distinguish moderate Muslims from extremists," John Esposito, an expert on Islam at Washington`s Georgetown University, told the daily.

The author of several books, including "Western Muslims and the Future of Islam," Ramadan has called for greater assimilation of European Muslims and has been an outspoken critic of the Muslim community`s inclination towards insularity.

But he has also been accused of anti-Semitism by French Jews, stung by his criticism of what he called their "blind support for Israel," while others have reportedly claimed he has ties to Al-Qaeda.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


How NBC News sees the Swift boat story

NBC's "First Read" is a semi-internal document that they issue daily for news-planning purposes. Its value to me, if any, is to view big media's take on the latest. Today's email was more interesting than most:
The swiftees story lives on into Day 20 despite the fact that President Bush said nothing yesterday that was really new (we don't consider "that ad, every other ad" to signify a shift in position), and Kerry said nothing. Both sides claim the story could help them: Democrats argue that at worst, it turns out to be a wash and at best, they turn it against Bush by making it a character issue, as Edwards tried to do yesterday. The GOP thinking is that at worst, it turns out to be a wash that dogs Kerry for two-plus weeks and at best, it undermines his national security credentials.

So far the story isn't increasing attention to Bush's own Guard credentials and how they measure up against Kerry's service. At the same time, it's overshadowing Kerry-Edwards efforts to focus on issues that favor them, including Edwards's assault on Bush's overtime rules yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Swift Boaters' second TV ad goes up today in a couple of states after one of the most successful free-media efforts in recent campaign history. (emphasis added)

Related post: The dog that didn't bark


Quote of the Day

The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, "I love to make a grown man piss himself."
—Charles Graner, military policeman at Abu Ghraib prison

CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-b(4)

I'm rather tardily posting the next segment of the transcript of William Karel's documentary CIA: Secret Wars, but it's a doozy.

CIA: Secret Wars, Part III-b(4)
"One war begets another"
[The Clinton years - continued]

In this segment we hear from Robert Baer and Robert Steele, both CIA, both from covert operations. What emerges immediately is the political naivité of these CIA “grunt workers.” But government leaders depend upon this naivité to conduct many of their enterprises.

Baer’s account is one of the most amazing of the documentary. Clinton’s selling of the White House became quite well known, but the suppression of Baer’s testimony is not. The threat of psychiatric commitment, a well-known practice of the Soviet Union for controlling dissidents, was employed here.

VOICEOVER: It was completely by chance that Robert Baer discovered in the very bosom of the White House how the oil lobbies helped Bill Clinton finance his campaign for his reelection to the Presidency of the United States. He ran into Roger Tamraz26 there, the director of several oil-producing companies, who was invited to participate in a barbecue with the President for the modest sum of $300,000 that was to go to feed the coffers of the Democratic Party.

ROBERT BAER: I saw this Lebanese who was taking out his wads of bills. They showed him the list of services—a private conversation with the President, a night in the Lincoln bedroom, a flight on the President’s airplane Air Force One, even some cufflinks. Everything was for sale. There was a list with the prices, a real catalog. I believed he was lying.

ROBERT STEELE: Even before the end of his first term, he very quickly understood what was the importance of oil and of Wall Street.

ROBERT BAER: The only thing I regret is having been so stupid as not to have understood earlier how the system worked. I began to send some reports on the financing of the campaign. Since it’s forbidden for the CIA to spy on Americans, then imagine when it’s a matter of the President of the United States. I sent some information on the President to my director; he was quite simply horrified. But I was paid by the CIA to tell the truth and I wasn’t going to stop. I don’t give a damn about politics—what I reported was true. I crossed the Rubicon when I began to write up the reports on the President of the United States. That is never done in the CIA! While being aware of that, I continued. I decided to go before Congress to tell them what was happening, without knowing how all that worked. But I had to talk about it with someone beforehand, with a friend who was working in Congress and who, incidentally, was later found dead in a motel bedroom, his head blown off, a gun at his side. But we’ll speak about that another time.

VOICEOVER: Baer decided to put his foot in it and go testify before Congress to describe the influence of the lobbies in American political life and the Presidential election and the somewhat-less-than-orthodox methods employed by Bill Clinton’s entourage.

The administration plays hardball.

ROBERT BAER: The very day that I went to testify on campaign finance before the Grand Jury, my apartment was visited by some burglars, but nothing was taken. The members of the Grand Jury didn’t even want to get close to the question of campaign finance. Nothing, not a word. And every time I tried to say something about the way the system worked, the prosecutor cut me off while threatening me in a condescending manner.

He asked for a break in the session and had me come over to tell me privately: “If you go back over one more time—only one—the financing of the electoral campaign, the court is going to expel you and we are going to send you to prison.”

The system had gone crazy, completely mad. When they realized that they weren’t going to succeed in shutting me up, they shifted the investigation onto me. It was pure intimidation worthy of a police state and on the very premises of the CIA.

Next, the medical expert arrived and told me: “You need a psychiatric exam.” I told him: “Go fuck yourself—it’s out of the question. I’ll never take the psychiatric exam.” You would have thought you were under Stalin. They make you take an exam, put you in the hands of a psychiatrist who works under their control and can do with you anything he wants. They can commit you to St. Elizabeth’s, Washington’s mental hospital, lay you off, send you back home, decide whatever.

I told them: “Ok, we’ll drop it.” I knew I had nothing to blame myself for. I had discovered from the outside how the whole system worked, and I suddenly realized that the moment had come to leave.

VOICEOVER: Robert Baer retired and was awarded the prestigious medal that crowns an exemplary career in the service of the CIA.

ROBERT BAER: If the law had allowed, the CIA would have blown up my house with me in it.


26 Tamraz testified before the Senate Government Affairs in 1997 during an investigation of the financing of the 1996 election campaign. Read the report!

According to the committee,

Roger Tamraz, an international financier and entrepreneur in the oil business, is presently wanted by police in at least two countries. A naturalized American citizen, he has been ordered by a French court to pay the equivalent of some $57 million in connection with the collapse of a French bank and faces an Interpol arrest warrant for allegedly embezzling between $154 and $200 million from the failed Al Mashreq Bank in Lebanon, of which he had been the chairman. In June 1995, Tamraz—who had left Lebanon in 1989 with the assistance of Syrian authorities—was also sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison by a military court in Lebanon. Tamraz has also been closely involved in business dealings with Libya's state-controlled National Oil Company, to which he sold or with which he merged his own Tamoil company.

Rather reminds me of Ahmed Chalabi’s resumé. [back]

Related posts:
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-b(5) (The Clinton years - continued)
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-a(1) (Beginning, the George H.W. Bush years)
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-b(1) (The Clinton years)
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-c (The George W. Bush years)

Monday, August 23, 2004


Quote of the day

On Oct. 23, just 10 days before the election, the war in Iraq will have lasted as long as the 584-day U.S. involvement in World War I, from the April 6, 1917, declaration of war to the Nov. 11, 1918, armistice.
—George Will, column 8/19

Constitutional ban on gay marriage fails to make ballot—for now

Anti-church-freedom groups in Michigan have apparently collected enough signatures to place an amendment to the state constitution on the ballot. The initiative would ban gay marriages at the constitutional level.

Michigan already has a law forbidding gay marriage. But the initiative sponsors fear that a rogue legislature or judge may in some future time overturn the law.

But the signatures have to be certified by a state elections board, the Board of State Canvassers. The board is equally divided between Republicans and Dems, and the two Democrats have refused to certify the signatures.

Democrat board member Doyle O'Connor said he is concerned the amendment's wording would mean employers cannot provide benefits to same-sex partners. He also said it could violate equal-protection laws and prohibit churches from deciding whom to marry.

"There comes a point when we have to say, 'No, this doesn't and can't fly,'" he said. [emphasis added]

I think you've got a point there, Doyle. This is a religious-freedom issue if there ever was one. No government should ever be in the business of deciding whom churches may marry. And it's so Conservative. Oooooh!

Furled link: Michigan Elections Board Fails to Put Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment on Ballot


Paying extra to be spied on

According to the CBS MarketWatch newsletter (8/16/04) we may see our ISP rates going up soon.

Add Internet phone calls to the list of things that were too good to be true for very long. The Federal Communications Commission has decided that Internet-based phone services should be just as accessible as conventional phone calls for wiretapping for national security and law enforcement purposes.

Loss of privacy might not be the only outcome. Under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, the costs of surveillance are to be borne by service providers, and those costs could be passed on to consumers. [emphasis added]


The dog that didn't bark

I've had no desire to get into the Swift Boat slime machine charges and countercharges. Reporters and bloggers are hanging on every word—dissecting, investigating. So if you're intensely interested in it, I'm afraid you will have to follow it somewhere else.

This is a campaign tactic—sliming—that I and plenty of others have already written about. It isn't news, but more important, it isn't relevant to anything this country is facing. And this country is facing a lot—a new Vietnam, fundamentalist Islam, poverty, the destruction of the middle class, loss of civil liberties, loss of health care, a looming energy crisis—just to mention a few of the real, very real issues that this campaign might be about if the media gave a shit.

That said, the Kerry forces have made and are making mistakes. The first was to try to ignore the story when the first ad appeared. The Kerry campaign had sworn on their grandma's teat that they would never allow a Republican attack to go unanswered. But Democrats that they are, they thought that maybe just this once they could ignore it and it would go away. The high ground they thought they were taking looks a lot like a sink hole from here. As Jim Lehrer noted this past Friday,

An Annenberg survey out today shows that half the country already knows about these ads and they only ran in three states in a very minor way because everybody... the talk show people and everybody picked them up.

Now that they've belatedly decided to counter the attack, they've been seized by a "can't see the forest for the trees" mentality, which tactically may be disastrous. As the Bush surrogates make charges, the campaign dutifully answers the specifics of the charges, trotting out Kerry defenders on the talk shows and penning op-ed articles for the press. This only serves to keep the issue alive.

Tom Oliphant, columnist for the Boston Globe, appeared with John O'Neill, the Swift Veterans attack dog, on the PBS News Hour last Thursday. It was passing strange. What can you make of this?

John O'Neill: This was an episode in which Kerry claimed that five swift boats on March the 13th had a mine go off; they fled and John Kerry came back and rescued a man named Rassmann.

What actually happened on that day is that a mine went off, a boat, PCF-3, was disabled. All boats went to the aid of PCF-3 with one exception, John Kerry. He left the area and returned later and did, in fact, pick up Rassmann.

A caveat: I'm not a combat veteran of anything but the inner city, so maybe my visualization of this episode is all wet. But for the life of me I can't understand how it was that 5 boats, with the exception of Kerry's, "went to the aid" of the damaged boat (under no weapons fire, they claim) and left poor Rassmann in the water, leaving it for Kerry to come back and pick him up. Does that make sense to you?

But Oliphant, instead of getting into the minutiae, said,

I think this is an allegation that has a credibility problem that I believe I can address on journalistic as opposed to political grounds.

One of the things we look for, I mean, there is nothing new about a dispute over a war record with many of us in journalism that have been through many, many times. We look to see if somebody said something at the time.

That's a problem for Mr. O'Neill's group because no one appears to have made an issue of this when it was actually happening. [emphasis added]

Oliphant a few minutes later raised this point, which for me was a first hearing:

.... [A]t the time that Kerry first became a public figure, the very first thing that happened in the Nixon White House, aside from the support given to Mr. O'Neill and his cause, was to look back to see if there was anything in Vietnam they could use against John Kerry.

And Chuck Coalson's office and other people involved politically with President Nixon did that back then.
... [Chatter]
The navy secretary, the second navy secretary for the Nixon administration was ... John Warner. Today he is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he has a view of this that is quite similar to Sen. McCain's. And it was his department that reviewed the documentary and other evidence at the time. Nixon was desperate to get this guy.

Nixon is the dog that didn't bark. If there had been anything, anything of an evidentiary nature to harm Kerry, Nixon would have used it. Today's generation has little inkling of what a slimeball Richard Nixon was. But the Vietnam veterans, whether they supported or opposed Nixon, know full well that he would not have ignored this opportunity if it had existed. And it's the veterans who seem to be most affected by this controversy.

Oliphant wrote a column yesterday reiterating some of the points he made on the NewsHour.

What gets short-shrift these days is that Nixon also wanted to bend heaven and earth to find some aspect of Kerry's Vietnam service -- anything -- that could be used to discredit him. In fact, much of what we call today the politics of personal destruction was pioneered by Nixon's White House. He had a firm control of a fearful government in those pre-Watergate days -- and he used it.

My suggestion to the Kerry campaign: Kerry needs to say something like this.

My fellow Americans. I have been under sniper fire before, not once but repeatedly--both in Vietnam and in politics. While I felt it was my duty to serve my country, I stood up against the decisions the politicians were making to send our boys—my brothers—into harm's way in Vietnam.

President Richard Nixon was in office at the time. You remember Richard Nixon, don't you? He was the first President in American history to make the decision to resign rather than face impeachment. And he was as ready to smear my record then as George Bush is today. In fact, this John O'Neill, who's been making all these claims against me, was used by Nixon back then to do the very same thing.

The fact that I'm standing before you today is evidence—evidence that I'm a fighter and a survivor, and that the greatest slime machine in American history was not able to bring me down. If the charges they are making were true, I would never have become a U.S. Senator, and I would not be here running for President today.

It's not wrong for the American people to want to know what my record is. It is wrong when people try to distort that record. And I'll put my record up against George Bush's any day.

Now let's turn our attention back to the problems that George Bush is ignoring and hopes that you will ignore....

Let's hear it, John.

Sunday, August 22, 2004


Horse race 8/22/04

This must be my day for polls. I just can't seem to stop writing about them.

Since my morning post on Rasmussen's Electoral College projections, they've released a new projection that places a lot of Kerry's states into the "toss-up" column. Their latest projections are Kerry 203, Bush 183, and Toss-up 152. (Rasmussen considers any lead of less than 5% a "toss-up.")

Of course, I was expecting something like this (or worse) with the Republican Convention, but it seems a little early to pin this shift on the convention. I suspect this is more the result of the "sliming" by the Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth."

Furled links:
Red/Blue Chart 8/22

Related posts:
Horse race 8/20/04
In case you're worried about the November election ...


Letter to a pollster

Earlier today I gave the Rasmussen Electoral College vote projections and noted that by their poll, New Mexico had slipped into the "toss-up" category for Kerry. I had hardly hit the "Publish post" button when I came upon another poll by American Research Group showing Kerry significantly ahead in New Mexico.

Their description of the results was so interesting that I had to write them a little note:

I was fascinated with your description of the latest New Mexico poll results. In a three-way race with Nader1 your poll found Kerry leading Bush 49% to 42%, and in a two-way race Kerry leads Bush 52% to 42%. The margin of error is 4%.

Even though in the three-way race Kerry leads Bush by almost twice the margin of error, and in the two-way race by more than twice the margin of error, you describe Kerry's lead as "slight."

Then, in the breakdown by party, you hasten to add:

While Kerry performs worse among Democrats than Bush among Republicans, registered Democrats account for nearly half of all likely voters, thus giving the overall edge in the ballot to Kerry.

Kerry polled at 80% among Democrats and Bush at 83% among Republicans. If the margin of error for the overall sample is 4%, the margin of error for the subsample is certainly no less. Hence, there is no basis for asserting that Kerry performs "worse" among Democrats than Bush among Republicans. A more accurate statement would be "Within the margin of error, Kerry and Bush are tied for support from their respective parties."2

On the other hand, you show a favorable-unfavorable rating for Bush of 43%-50%, as compared with 45%-48% on July 19—a move from a net 3% unfavorable to a net 7% unfavorable. While I can't tell from the data as shown, I presume this rating is based on the overall sample. I would have been interested to know if this move in Bush's favorability rating was significant.

If I didn't know better, I might get the impression that you were spinning the poll results.


1 Nader is not on the ballot in New Mexico, by the way. [back]

2 I'm glossing over the fact that the question of whether Kerry leads Bush, based on a sample of 600 likely voters, is a different statistical problem from the question: "Does the support for Kerry among Democrats (226/282) in the sample represent a significant difference from the support for Bush among Republicans (169/204) in the sample?" But I'll stick by the assertion that the margin of error is greater, and leave it at that. The point of all this is spin, not statistics. [back]


Horse race 8/20/04

The Rasmussen Electoral College projection has moved a bit, more negatively for Bush than for Kerry. "Red" state Colorado has gone over to the "Toss-up" category for a loss of 9 EC votes for Bush, while "blue" state New Mexico has moved to "Toss-up" for a loss of 5 EC votes for Kerry.

Current standing: Kerry 223, Bush 183, Toss-up 132

Furled links:
Red/Blue Chart 8/17
Red/Blue Chart 8/20

Related posts:
Where the Electoral College votes stand today (8/9)
The horse race (8/17)

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