Saturday, May 07, 2005
George Galloway's triumph
But Xymphora has done a thorough review of Galloway's travails, and I leave it to him.
Allegations of British vote fraud begin to surface
According to Sherna Noah of PA News,
Humphrys said that what happened was “disgraceful”.
He made the remarks while interviewing Chairman of the Electoral Commission Sam Younger.
“I went along to cast my ballot and took my little boy to show him how democracy works in action and what happened? I couldn’t vote,” he said.
“They said you’ve already voted. I hadn’t already voted. But the very fact of applying, even though I hadn’t personally applied for a postal ballot, meant the presumption that I had voted. Disgraceful.
“My vote was stolen!”
Following Humphrys’ comments, TV presenter Mariella Frostrup telephoned Today to say a similar thing had happened to her.
She was told at the polling station that she had been sent a postal vote and would not be allowed to vote again.
She said: “I set off with my nine-month-old daughter, showing her what democracy was all about ... I was told that I was registered as a postal voter.
“There was a line through my name, so I couldn’t be allowed a ballot paper.
“That was that, I stood there arguing, they gave me a number to call.
“I was apoplectic as you can imagine. I still don’t understand how it happened. I had to walk away without voting.”
Meanwhile the BBC reported,
Electoral Commission chairman Sam Younger called for voter registration to be improved by people being asked to produce a signature and an address.
The Lib Dems are considering a legal challenge to results in Birmingham Ladywood where they lost to Labour.
The Daily Telegraph features a letter from a voter, John Lally, who witnessed a girl who "could not have been more than 12" turn up with a ballot paper and vote.
Officials had apparently been forced to authorise the ballot paper because they were not able to challenge her identification.
The talk-show hosts who were denied a ballot made a serious mistake: They tried to vote in their own name. Next time they should leave the voting to the children.
Absentee-ballot fraud: A lesson unlearned (4/09/05)
Massive fraud anticipated in Britain's May 5 election; Court will not act (4/21/05)
Republican conservatism today
—Jacob Weisberg in Slate, describing the findings of a Cato Institute study
Friday, May 06, 2005
Quote of the Day
—Henry Adams, as quoted in "The Gatekeepers of the So-Called Left"
Diversion of the Day
It's put out by a libertarian group, so when you see the group results, don't be surprised that so many people who've taken the test turn out to be libertarians.
I took it well over a year ago and went back again today to see if my mind had wandered. (It hadn't.)
Got a minute? Give it a try.
British election results still coming in
According to The Independent's chronology, The BBC's first projection was that Labor would lose 94 seats in Parliament, which would leave it with a majority of 66. Early this morning BBC predicted a Labor majority of 68 based on actual results rather than exit polls.
Both Conservative (Tory) and Liberal Democrat (Lib Dem) parties made substantial gains, but all of the gains for the Lib Dems came from Labor-held seats. Geographically, Labor's greatest losses were concentrated in the London area.
It is not yet clear (to me) what portion of the Tories' gains can be attributed to the drain of Labor support to the Lib Dems in those constituencies held by Labor, but I will hazard a guess that it was substantial.
With respect to the Iraq war, the Tories were not an alternative to Labor. Tory leader Michael Howard has repeatedly and consistently said that he would have gone to war regardless of what is now known about the "facts" that were presented leading up to the war. So British voters whose principal voting issue was the war were left with only the Lib Dems in most constituencies. A minor party "Respect," whose best-known leader is George Galloway, offered an alternative in some constituencies, and Galloway managed to pull off a huge upset in London.
It appears that if the Tories had opposed the war, they would have won this election.
Breaking news: Michael Howard has just announced he will resign from the Tory leadership position, though "he intends to stay on as leader until the Tories have the opportunity to consider whether it wishes to change the rules governing the choice of his successor."
We await a similar bulletin on Tony Blair.
I'll write more on the election after final results are in.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
Leftist TV (updated)
"Man Thing" (2005) Matthew Taylor, Richard Le Nevez. A sheriff hunts a bog creature that
File under: Life imitates art
I'd barely posted the movie listing when I got wind of this AP story—
A lawyer working for an oil equipment company shot to death a fellow attorney while the two were sitting at a desk in Houston Thursday morning and then killed himself, police said.I'm locking my doors tonight.
The victim, shot in the head, was a patent lawyer with Cooper Cameron oil services. The men's names were not immediately released. Police said they were in their 50s or 60s.
Capt. Dwayne Ready said police had no immediate clues as to a motive.
Two handguns -- a .357 caliber revolver and a semiautomatic -- were found beneath the chair of the gunman, who was working under contract at Cooper Cameron, which makes pressure-control systems for oil drilling.
The building had no metal detectors, but Ready said homicide detectives were reviewing tapes from the building's security cameras.
First British exit polls announced
British election off with a blast
The blasts went off in concrete flower planters on the sidewalk. With the British Consulate on the 9th and 10th floors of the building, it's doubtful that any slumbering consular officials left in the building would have been awakened, much less rocked.
"This is London" tried to make the most of it—
Two bombs exploded outside the British consulate in New York today in an election-day terror scare.
The blasts rocked the high-rise office building in Manhattan shortly before 4am local time, shattering windows and damaging a car.
They follow warnings by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair that al Qaeda may try to disrupt the general election with a Madrid-style bombing in London. British embassies around the world are on a state of high alert.
Only when we reach the fourth paragraph do we read—
New York police described the bombs as plastic "novelty devices", one the size and shape of a pineapple and the second the shape of a lemon.
While the tabloids do their best to hint at al-Qaeda, I'm more suspicious of Tony Blair. If he hadn't been seen voting at that time, he would have been first on my A-list of suspects, but I'm still not sure it wasn't the work of a British consular official. The bomb sounds like the sort of device that a bureaucrat might make when called upon to work outside his field of expertise.
The timing for today's British election was perfect. Like George Bush, the only thing Blair really had to run on was terrorism—plus the fear of the Tories (Conservatives), who for some are little more than domestic terrorists.
The more upright organs of the British media are reporting the event quite soberly, but reporting they are. So unless a Brit should wander off to the polls without his morning tea and telly, he's bound to have heard the news before casting his ballot.1
I would like to think that such an event would cut both ways, reminding some voters that Blair has "stood tall" against terrorism and others that Blair hasn't done diddlysquat to prevent it. But Blair is no doubt counting on the former, and if the previous American election is any guide, he's probably right.
Massive fraud anticipated in Britain's May 5 election; Court will not act (4/21/05)
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Statistic of the Day
—Harper's Index, February 2005
But who will handle the coverup? (updated)
Colombian police have detained two U.S. Army soldiers near a huge military base southwest of the capital in an alleged arms smuggling plot, Colombian and U.S. officials said Wednesday.
The soldiers, whose identities or ranks were not disclosed, were arrested during a raid Tuesday on a house in Carmen de Apicala, located southwest of the capital and near Colombia's sprawling Tolemaida air base, where U.S. soldiers have been stationed.
[National Police Chief] Castro said police in the village 50 miles southwest of Bogota stopped a suspicious man, who under the threat of arrest led officers to the nearby house where the arms were stashed.
Shortly afterward, the two American soldiers apparently unaware of the police operation entered the house but could not justify their presence.
"In the course of the investigation, two Americans arrived, they did not give a satisfactory explanation and were put at the disposal of the prosecutors' office," Castro said.
The arrests mark the latest U.S. embarrassment in this South American nation. On March 29, five American soldiers were arrested after 35 pounds of cocaine were found aboard a U.S. military plane that flew to El Paso, Texas, from the Apiay air base east of Bogota. One suspect has been released, but the rest are being held in the United States.
Now if you can't guess what this is about, maybe Reuters can help—
The two unidentified soldiers were found with 32,000 9-mm bullets ..., police said, adding they suspected the two might have planned to sell the ammunition to illegal far-right paramilitaries.
"It's a lot of ammunition and it's a very suspicious case," Colombian Police commander Gen. Jorge Castro told local radio.
Well, not to worry—
Under a treaty, U.S. personnel serving here come under U.S. jurisdiction and Colombia does not have the right to sentence them in its courts.
But all this ammunition is not likely intended for its usual victims—Colombian villagers. In one of those wonderful coincidences the AFP reports today on Rumsfeld's assurances of the benign intentions of the U.S. toward Venezuela—
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday that the United States would not intervene to remove the government of President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and suggested to an audience it could eventually lose power on its own.
Rumsfeld’s frank comments during a question-and-answer session at the Council of the Americas came in response to an audience member’s assertion that Venezuelans appeared incapable of removing the Chavez government themselves and that the United States would have to step in “to bring some sanity there.”
“You indicated you don’t think anything can happen unless the United States does something,” Rumsfeld replied. “I don’t know that I agree with that.”
I could find no photo of the event. I would have liked to see if I could spot Rumsfeld's crossed fingers. Well, no matter. What Rumsfeld did not say was that the U.S. would not be arming proxies—specifically, right-wing Colombian paramilitaries—to destabilize Venezuela.
Meanwhile, back at the State Department... Reuters reported on Monday that
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has discarded her failing tactic of confronting Venezuela publicly in favor of working behind the scenes in Latin America against a country she says threatens the region's stability.And anything else they can think of.
The shift, evident in a Latin American trip last week, came after Rice's tough talk earlier this year against the "negative force" of President Hugo Chavez backfired by burnishing the populist's anti-American credentials and irking governments in a region wary of US interference.
Mark Weisbrot of the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research think tank predicted the new reluctance to challenge Chavez publicly meant Washington would only seek to intensify international pressure on Venezuela in other ways.
Noting Washington has already imposed sanctions on Venezuela by blocking World Bank loans, he said, "They lost when they attacked head-on but now they'll focus on using multilateral forums against Chavez."
The Colombians have dutifully handed over the soldiers to the Americans, as the treaty granting immunity to American soldiers, American contractors and American household pets requires. But after the U.S. exercised those same rights only a month ago in the case of the soldiers exporting cocaine, elements of the Colombian government are hopping mad over their loss of sovereignty. It went so far that, as the BBC reported,
A senior Colombian official, Inspector General Edgardo Jose Maya, tried to have their deportation delayed, and asked for further examination of a treaty granting them immunity in Colombia.According to the AP,
[Ambassador] Wood ruled out lifting the diplomatic immunity given to the soldiers under a 1974 treaty between the two nations. However, he said: "If Colombia wants to change our accord, we are always prepared to receive its proposal."
While the U.S. government dangles a 3.3 billion-dollar military-aid carrot over their heads, it is unlikely that the Colombians will require a change in arrangements any time soon. It is equally unlikely that the U.S. would acquiesce even if they tried.
But the U.S. has decided to offer a small sop to the Colombians—
The United States on Friday said Colombian prosecutors could question two U.S. soldiers accused of selling arms to far-right death squads.
The U.S. concession came amid growing anger in Colombia over Washington's refusal to allow the suspects to be tried in Colombia. But U.S. Ambassador William Wood said the soldiers will be severely punished if found guilty by a U.S. military court.
"Immunity does not mean impunity," he said.
Wood made the comments during a visit to western Tolima state where Warrant Officer Allan N. Tanquary and Sgt. Jesus Hernandez were arrested Tuesday at a luxury estate and accused of plotting to deliver 40,000 rounds of ammunition to a paramilitary militia.
But here's what the story's about—
Tanquary's father, who said he had not spoken to his son since his arrest, defended the soldier.
"I've got great faith in my son, but I don't know anything about it other than what I've read in the papers," Jim Tanquary said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from his home in Hendersonville, N.C. "Whatever has transpired down there (in Colombia), it's not something he's done for his own personal gain."
The United States has denied secretly helping the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, which has been blamed for countless atrocities in its two-decade dirty war against Marxist rebels. Washington has labeled the AUC a terrorist organization.
You may count on it that most Latin American governments are viewing this incident with a great deal more interest than is demonstrated by the American media.
Leaker to plead guilty
In 2002 the mayor of Providence, RI, and his assistant were convicted on federal corruption charges. (Mayor Cianci was the first Republican mayor of Providence since the great depression.) A portion of the evidence was a videotape that showed his aide Frank Corrente taking a bribe.
The federal judge issued a gag order on everyone involved in the case, and before you could say "leaker" the videotape was shown on NBC-affiliate WJAR-TV by reporter Jim Taricani.
An investigation was launched. Taricani was subpoenaed and refused to reveal his source. In March the judge held Taricani in civil contempt and imposed a $1000-per-day fine. As in the cases of Miller and Cooper in the Plame affair, the judge stayed the fine pending appeal. Taricani lost his appeal and NBC began paying his fines, which mounted to $85,000.
When Taricani still wouldn't talk, the judge held him in criminal contempt in November. This would have normally merited a prison term, but Taricani had received a heart transplant. Since execution-by-imprisonment would have been a bit extreme, the judge sentenced him in December to six months of house arrest instead.
The house arrest was severe. Tracy Breton of the Providence Journal reported that—
While in home confinement, Taricani, a heart transplant recipient with a pacemaker, has not been allowed to leave his house for any reason except to visit doctors. He can't give interviews, use the Internet or even go to the curb to fetch his mail. His visiting hours have been from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m.
His wife said yesterday that Taricani has been out of their house only three times since Dec. 9.
Taricani served four months and was released on April 9.
Meanwhile the special investigation into the leak continued and defense attorney Joseph Bevilacqua Jr., who was representing neither the mayor nor his aide but a third defendant, confessed to the leak under oath in November of last year.
The lawyer was charged this past Monday. According to the AP,
Joseph Bevilacqua Jr., 55, agreed to plead guilty to contempt and perjury for violating a court order not to release the footage, then lying about it under oath, U.S. Attorney Robert Clark Corrente said.
No date has been set for Bevilacqua to enter the plea. The perjury charge carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The contempt charge carries no specific maximum, Corrente said. Prosecutors would not say what punishment they will seek.
David Curtin, chief counsel at the state Supreme Court's Disciplinary Board, said he will recommend that Bevilacqua be disbarred.
Bevilacqua has said he never asked Taricani to keep his name secret, which Taricani disputes.
Bevilacqua represented the city tax assessor in the corruption investigation. His late father was a Rhode Island Supreme Court chief justice who quit in 1987 amid accusations he associated with mobsters.
One remarkable aspect of this case is that Bevilacqua made his confession before Taricani began serving his term, and the judge imposed the sentence on the reporter despite that. All of which raises this question: If the leaker in the Valerie Plame affair does come forward as I discussed in a previous post, and Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper continue to refuse to talk, will we have the spectacle of reporters from the NY Times and Time going to jail anyway? It appears it could happpen.
John Dean: Jail likely for Judith Miller unless she talks (5/2/05)
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Under the weather
The Bushes: compare and contrast
—George H.W. Bush, August 27, 1987
The great thing about America ... is that you should be allowed to worship any way you want, and if you choose not to worship, you're equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship.
—George W. Bush, April 28, 2005
Poem of the Day
Feared the dark would cause her fright.
"Four angels guard you," low she said,
"One at the foot and one at the head —"
"Mother — quick — the pillow!! — There!!!
Missed that angel, skimmed his hair.
Never mind, we'll get the next.
Ooh! but angels make me vexed!!"
Mother, shocked, gasped feebly "Anne!!!"
(A pillow disabled the water-can.)
Said Anne, "I won't have things in white
Chant prayers about my bed all night."
—William Empson, 1920, at age 13
Monday, May 02, 2005
Rabid German foxes
I have the solution: The Germans should invite in the English foxhunters who now must go to France for their bloodsports. On the other hand, if the English just stay put in France, maybe the foxes will come to them.
Vaguely related post
The unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible (9/26/04)
Quote of the Day
—Erna Flegal, nurse to Adolf Hitler
Navajo president vetoes same-sex marriage ban
According to the AP,
President Joe Shirley Jr. said in a statement released Sunday that he strongly supports family stability but the proposed measure said nothing about domestic violence, sexual assault and gangs on the Navajo Nation - problems that are rampant.
"Same-sex marriage is a non-issue on Navajoland," he said. "So why waste time and resources on it? We have more important issues to address."
Shirley said the measure also goes against the Navajo teaching of nondiscrimination and doing no psychological or physical harm to others.
However, Shirley said if members of the tribe wanted to take a position for or against same-sex unions, he would support their decision to do so through an initiative rather than a Tribal Council vote.
Q: Why isn't this man running for office somewhere?
A: Because he has too much sense to be elected.
And some action that I'd missed—
Last year, the Cherokee National Tribal Council in Oklahoma voted to define marriage as between a man and a woman after a lesbian couple successfully filed for a tribal marriage application.
Navajos adopt ways of the White Man (4/26/05)
Blinded by the Right
He has a post on Pat Robertson's declaration that liberals, and especially liberal judges, are more dangerous than al-Qaeda. He reluctantly admitted having to link to Think Progress, "a left-wing asshat site," for the text.
He got so upset by Robertson's comments that he started giving Democrats advice—
You know what I would do if I was the Democrats? As a preview of the 2008 presidential race I would, in 2006, find a reasonably pro-war Democrat who is running for senate. Then I’d take this video of Pat Robertson, and other conservative social leaders, all of whom have made statements as stupid as this. And then I’d have a voiceover that says something like, “Do conservatives really understand the threat we face from terrorism? Or do they view terrorism primarily as an excuse to enact their far-right social agenda?” You’re going to tell me a reasonably moderate, pro-defense Democrat couldn’t use that to win? Come on. The conservatives in this country are being shot in the foot by idiots like Robertson.
Not a bad scenario except for the "pro-war Democrat" business. That has been tried recently.
While blogger Lee thought Robertson was pretty crazy, he soon discovered that he was out of synch with his readers. His Comments section began to fill and he did a second update—
This is one of those “moment of truth” posts. When I read Robertson’s words this morning I thought they were the highest kind of lunacy. I mean, disagree with liberalism all you like (God knows I do), but to actually believe that gay marriage is a bigger threat than terrorism is, to me, self-evident lunacy. And then I read the comments to the post, where a whole lot of ostensibly mainstream conservatives agree with what Robertson is saying. It’s like being hit in the head with the hammer of reality sometimes.
Well, I read the Comments and thought they were pretty calm and reasonable by right-wing standards.
Then Lee did a post on the state pension fund scandal in Ohio, where the state has invested about $50,000,000 in the rare coin market through an attorney who's a big Bush supporter.
To Lee's consternation it's the Republicans who've done this. But he finds himself unable to point the finger—
Lest you think this is some kooky liberal scheme, this guy Noe was Bush’s campaign manager in Ohio. So both parties suck equally at this sort of thing. The only solution is to get government out of the retirement business as much as possible and let us handle our own money.
...and turns all libertarian on us.
These are but two examples, but there were others. I ended up feeling almost sorry for the guy. He seems so basically decent yet so "religiously" devoted to his right-wingerism. The cognitive dissonance must be dreadful.
I wondered if I should send him an application to register as a Democrat. That would hardly place him on the Left, but at least it might ease the pain.
March 1 memo a fake
Attorney General Lord Goldsmith today called in the police to investigate the circulation of a forged document purporting to be a memo from him to the Prime Minister.
The memo, dated just over two weeks before the start of the Iraq War in 2003, appears to show the Attorney telling Tony Blair that military action may well turn out to be illegal.
It suggests that war in Iraq could pave the way for "planned future conflicts that have been discussed, like Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia".
But Lord Goldsmith's office this afternoon denounced the document, sent to media newsdesks, as "a complete forgery".
A spokesman said: "A document has been sent to newsdesks today claiming to be a minute from the Attorney General to the Prime Minister, dated 1 March 2003.
"The document is a complete forgery and the matter has now been referred to the Metropolitan Police for investigation."
Statewatch, which has the PDF, has apparently not gotten the word yet.
I decided to check further today because, as written, it is just too explosive to be ignored—which it has been. Then there was the matter of the grammatical error that I noted in the document, which doesn't seem like the sort of thing that should be coming from the AG's office.
Nevertheless it looks good, and I think I'll just leave it up till after the May 5 election so that everyone will have a chance to see what a fraud looks like.
Lord Goldsmith's March 1 memo (5/1/05)
John Dean: Jail likely for Judith Miller unless she talks
Both reporters have refused to testify before a grand jury investigating the Valerie Plame affair, and in October of 2004 were held in contempt by a U.S. district judge, who prescribed jail time and a $1000-per-day fine. Neither is in jail or paying a fine at the moment because the judge stayed the order while the two appeal.
Their appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals was rejected in February of this year, and now their petition for a rehearing by the full court was rejected on April 19. So there's only the Supreme Court between the reporters and the pokey.
Dean thinks the Supreme Court will refuse them a hearing. For one thing, Chief Supreme Court Justice Rehnquist supported the 1972 decision in Branzburg, the case that is at the heart of the government's power to compel the reporter's testimony.
The most intriguing part of all this is the sealed affidavit that the government's Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald presented to the judge. No one knows what it contains, but the judge referred to it in a ruling in November—
"In his ex parte affidavit, Special Counsel outlines in great detail the developments in this case and the investigation as a whole," he [the judge] explained. "The ex parte affidavit establishes that the government's focus has shifted as it has acquired additional information during the course of the investigation. Special Counsel now needs to pursue different avenues in order to complete its investigation." (An ex parte affidavit is one to which the other side in the dispute is not privy.)
Another point of interest is an idea that Dean put forth in a previous column. Dean thinks it likely that the actual leaker was a National Security Council (NSC) staffer rather than a White House employee. But he reasons that federal fraud and conspiracy statutes may apply to members of the White House staff—
It is difficult to imagine that President Bush is going to say he hired anyone to call reporters to wreak more havoc on Valerie Plame. Thus, anyone who did so - or helped another to do so - was acting outside the scope of his or her employment, and may be open to a fraud prosecution.
What counts as "fraud" under the statute? Simply put, "any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing, or defeating the lawful function of any department of government." [emphasis in original]
As for Miller and Cooper, Dean thinks their best hope is either that Rehnquist retires and is replaced by a more press-friendly justice (fat chance!) or that someone steps forward to assume responsbility for the leak—
It is time for anyone who leaked information to either of these reporters to step forward and reveal themselves—
This is particularly true if the person (or persons) who leaked information to Miller and Cooper was also the person (or persons) who leaked Valerie Plame's CIA identity to Novak and others. For that source to watch Miller and Cooper go to jail for their principles, would be craven indeed: A case of the innocent suffering to benefit the guilty....
Only Miller and Cooper's source(s), by stepping forward, can prevent a potential miscarriage of justice. He or she must do so forthwith.
Statistic of the Day
Amount that U.S. divorce attorneys would gain if gays also divorced at the same rate: $1,900,000,000
—Harper's Index, March 2005
Sunday, May 01, 2005
Lord Goldsmith's March 1 memo
This is an absolute MUST–READ!
Quote of the Day
DAHR JAMAIL: That this administration has no intention of withdrawing from Iraq, and the only way that this is going to happen is if they are forced to withdraw, because they're certainly not going to do it on their own volition.
Dahr Jamail is "one of the few independent, unembedded journalists reporting in Iraq for months."