American Samizdat Guernica
Saturday, February 14, 2004
"But the documents released Friday indicated Bush's transfer to the Alabama squadron wasn't approved until September 1972, months after Bush's presence as recalled by Calhoun." (via Talking Points Memo)
This is a 2¼ minute audio clip from a speech Al Gore gave last Sunday in Nashville and it's pretty amazing. This was no softball attack on Bush, and if Gore had brought this kind of fire to his 2000 campaign, he would have won hands down. The Sideshow has some additional links on this.
Pot Calls Kettle Black:
He Ought to Know
Bush Campaign Ad: Kerry a captive of special interests.
Click to view the ad.
If this is a joke, it's not funny. If it's serious, it is funny. Even the Washington Post is flabberghasted:
IT'S HARD TO RECALL a more brazen display of political chutzpah than the Bush campaign's assault on Sen. John F. Kerry as a captive of special interests. ...

Mr. Kerry's fundraising and his relationships with Washington lobbyists are a legitimate topic, ... But -- how can we say this politely? -- let's consider the source.

Mr. Bush's acceptance of special-interest money and his subsequent rewards to the industries doing the giving dwarf anything in Mr. Kerry's record. ... Mr. Bush has raised more than four times as much from lobbyists during the 2004 race as Mr. Kerry has -- $960,000 for Mr. Bush to $235,000 for Mr. Kerry.

It's really not too hard to see what the Bush campaign is trying to do here. They know that if they allow the subject of special interests quid pro quos to come up during the campaign, Bush will go down in flames on it. They are trying to tar Kerry with the charge early on then so that they won't have to face it later. But while it's true that Kerry does well with special interest groups, placing him in the same league as Bush on this is simply laughable. If the public falls for it, we're in deep trouble.
Friday, February 13, 2004

My name is Dave Louthan.
I'm the guy who killed that mad cow.
Dave was laid off after he disclosed this. Efforts are being made to bring Dave (a quite ordinary guy) before Congressional commitees that address the beef industry. You can find out about contributing to this effort by e-mailing Peter Collins, by going to Dave's website, or by simply sending a check designated for the Dave Louthan effort to:
Collins Media Services
Box 100
Mill Valley CA 94942

I just listened to Dave: I got this stuff all over me. I'll probably die from it. I'm OK with that. But maybe I can help some others to live. "It's necessary."


We are talking about people's dinner here. People's lives. I don't care how much money Big Beef loses. I want to enjoy my food not sit there wondering is this meat going to kill me? Is it going to kill my kids? That's a bunch of crap. It's not necessary. All those greedy yahoos have to do is start testing all the beef for BSE. Not some of the beef, all the beef.
Pay attention here, kiddies. We just got hosed again.

How the Executive Order Fatally Limits Their Agenda
It's even worse than I thought. The President's new Iraq Commission looked like simply a way to delay any progress on the issue until after the election, and it does indeed do that. But more than that, the Executive Order establishing the commission places both the Office of Special Plans (OSP) and the Vice President's Office beyond the commission's scope by limiting it to a review of the "Intelligence Community".

So what's wrong with that? Weren't the OSP and the VP's Office effectively a part of the intelligence community that examined pre-war evidence? Well yes, they were (and they are the two parts of that community that are being accused of fraud), but the order goes on to define the "Intelligence Community" by the definition set forth in the National Security Act, and that act references neither the OSP nor the VP's Office. In other words, regardless of what the OSP and the VP's Office played in pre-war intelligence, their actions are beyond the scope of the committee!

Dean sums this up:

Bush's Executive Order only pretends to look at the issue of pre-war Iraqi WMD intelligence. In fact, it does not look at what is really the issue: the use of that intelligence by policy makers. The questions of what the intelligence said, and how it was used -- specifically, was it exploited or distorted? -- are quite separate. Bush's Commission will answer only the first question.
But read the whole article because there is a lot more:
  • How the commission has no authority to deliver its findings to anyone but the President.

  • Why the commission will not be able to complete even its limited mission by the March, 2005 deadline.

  • How Dick Cheney's experience in past administrations suggests his strong hand in the crafting of this executive order.

And Dean concludes:
Bush should be given an honorary membership in the International Brotherhood of Magicians for his latest political handiwork.
Have I mentioned lately how much I despise these people?
The president's criminal record
The mainstream media is tip-toeing lightly around this issue, but it seems pretty likely to me that the President has a criminal record, probably involving illegal narcotics, dating back to the early 1970s.

There is not yet iron-clad proof that would stand up in a court of law, of course, but I think a reasonable person could put together the known facts and reach the conclusion that President Bush is likely hiding an arrest or conviction on a criminal charge, most likely involving drugs, most likely in Texas.

You don't have to hate Bush, you don't have to imagine the worst about him. You just have to look at the facts and use logic.

For example, if you ask a child five times, "Did you break this lamp rough-housing around the house?" and the child refuses to answer, tries to change the subject, offers that there certainly are lamps that he didn't break, accuses you of hating him and demands defensively why you're asking...well, you don't have iron-clad proof, do you? There's no confession, no smoking gun. But you're allowed to use your brain and assume that it is most likely that the kid broke the lamp.

That's all you have to do with this situation. Just take the known facts, including the President's responses to questions, and apply some common sense.

The known, undisputed facts:

1) NO DENIAL. President Bush and his spokespeople have consistently refused to say whether the President has a criminal record dating to the early 1970s.

2) WELL, OKAY, A WEIRD NON-DENIAL DENIAL OF SORTS. The President has played an odd game, however--in response to questions about cocaine use during his 2000 campaign, Bush said he could have passed an FBI background check when his father was President. Those background checks apparently go back 7, 11 or 15 years, depending. George H.W. Bush took office in January 1989. A conviction for, say, possession of illegal narcotics in 1972 would not be covered by any of the possible time spans. Why would Bush give such an odd response? Why not issue a blanket denial? (FYI, he had no problem issuing a blanket denial regarding sex--he freely claimed, in a very clear way, with apparently no privacy concerns whatsoever, that he had never cheated on his wife.)

3) HE STOPPED FLYING WITH THE GUARD IN APRIL 1972. This is unusual--the Texas Air National Guard does not take lightly the inactivity of its very expensively trained pilots.

4) HE DIDN'T SHOW UP FOR HIS MEDICAL EXAM IN MAY 1972. As a result, he was officially grounded by the Air Guard. This remarkable fact remains unexplained to this day. David Niewert posts the latest evasions:

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Why did the President miss his physical?

MR. McCLELLAN: Are you talking about when he -- whether or not he -- I put out a response to that question yesterday, about whether or not he was rated by his commanders as a pilot.

Q Can I just ask you today, in 2004 --


Q -- why he missed his physical?

MR. McCLELLAN: Elisabeth, there are some that -- again, this is a question of whether or not he served. That question has been answered through the documents that were released yesterday, and released previously.

Q I just want to hear from the White House Press Secretary --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not -- no, there are some -- Elisabeth, we've already addressed this issue. I'm not going to engage in gutter politics. I'm going to focus on what we're doing to make the world safer, to make the world a better place, and to make America more prosperous. If others want to engage in gutter politics, that's their choice. But I think that --

Q How is asking that question engaging in gutter politics?

MR. McCLELLAN: But I think the American people -- I think the American people deserve better.

Q Scott, how does that engage in gutter politics if I ask that question?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've been through these issues. I wasn't accusing you. I'm accusing some -- (Laughter.) But, you see, we went through --

Q -- the answer to that question today?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, we went through these -- no, we went -- we've already addressed this issue. We went through it previously. We went through it four years ago, for sure.

Yes, with similar evasions--a disingenuous claim that "the question has been answered." If it had been, McClellan would just give a quick recap of that answer and move on.

5) BUSH APPARENTLY PERFORMED COMMUNITY SERVICE FOR SEVERAL MONTHS IN 1972. This was totally out of character. He was a carousing young man, then he suddenly became a charity worker for a few months, then he went right back to carousing again. Why the sudden, temporary urge to perform community service? Weird. And unexplained.

The evasions regarding community service are now getting bizarre. Josh Marshall put the latest weirdness up on his site. An excerpt:

Q: So you won't answer the question or you won't try to find out?

Scott McClellan: Well, I'm asking you, what's your interest in that question? I'm just curious, because rumors --

Q: Did he have to do any community service while he was in the National Guard?

Scott McClellan: Look, Helen, I think the issue here was whether or not the President served in Alabama. Records have documented --

Q: I'm asking you a different question. That's permissible.

Scott McClellan: Can I answer your question? Sure it is. Can I ask you why you're asking it? I'm just -- out of curiosity myself, is that permissible?

Q: Well, I'm interested, of course, in what everybody is interested in. And we have a very --

Scott McClellan: Let me just point out that we've released all the information we have related to this issue, the issue of whether or not he served while in Alabama. Records have documented as false the outrageous --

Q: I asked you whether he had to do any community service while he was in the National Guard.

Scott McClellan: Can I walk through this?

Q: It's a very legitimate question.

Scott McClellan: And I want to back up and walk through this a little bit. Let's talk about the issue that came up, because this issue came up four years ago, it came up four years before that -- or two years before that, it came up four years before that --

Q: Did my question come up four years ago, and was it handled?

Scott McClellan: Helen, if you'll let me finish, I want to back up and talk about this --

Q: Don't dance around, just give us --

Q: It's a straightforward question.

(Did I say the evasions were getting "bizarre"? Actually, I guess "sinister" might be more accurate. Asking journalists why they want to know as a response to a question? Um, is this still America?)

6) BUSH HAD A NEW DRIVERS LICENSE NUMBER ISSUED IN 1995. This is another unusual event with no apparent explanation. But it is what one would do if one wanted to help cover a trail that might lead to an expunged criminal record.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist. Every fact above could have an innocent explanation, just like a broken lamp on the floor could have an innocent explanation. But Bush refuses to provide those explanations, which wouldn't be all that hard to do if they existed.

There's a good movie on the festival circuit. It's called "Horns and Halos," and I highly recommend seeing it if you can (UPDATE: Cinemax Feb. 18, 7 p.m.). It tells the story of the publication of "Fortunate Son" by J.H. Hatfield. Short version: Hatfield writes book for major publisher suggesting Bush was convicted on drug charges in Texas in 1972. Hatfield himself is exposed as having a criminal record--for solicitation of murder. Publisher says "Yikes" and pulls book. Indie publisher picks up rights and publishes book. Hatfield, facing unrelated fraud charges, later commits suicide.

Hatfield cannot at all be considered reliable. However, one conversation he relates in "Fortunate Son" is worth reading, if only because some enterprising reporter might want to check out where it may lead (not that there aren't several doing so already).

Here's the (edited) excerpt of Hatfield's conversation with Madge Bush (no relation), for 31 years the director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Community Center in Houston, which was rumored in 2000 to be the place where young George W. Bush had performed community service as a legal punishment. She tells Hatfield she's denied the story to more than 50 reporters, then Hatfield says (p. 311)...

"Ma'am, I know Governor Bush wasn't ordered by a judge to perform community service at MLK Community Center for illegal drug use."

"Finally, someone believes me. Then if that's the case, what do you want to talk to me about?"

"I've done my homework, and I know you serve as a Texas state executive committee woman, precinct judge, and treasurer of the Harris County Democratic Party in Houston."

"You got a point to this call or is this where I hang up?"

"Yes, ma'am, I understand you've been hounded by the press and for that I'm truly sorry. But I just want to know if a diehard Democrat like youself would tell the truth about the governor if the right question was asked?"

"What do you mean by the 'right question?'"

"Did Governor Bush perform community service at another agency in Houston or elsewhere in Texas other than the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center?"


"No comment...I'm not getting into anything about George except that he's the governor of Texas. That's all I'm gonna say about George W. Bush."

[Hangs up.]

Do I care if George W. Bush did some blow in the early 1970s and got caught? Not really. Bush, a Democrat, whoever--I wouldn't change my vote one way or another based on anyone's drug use as a young person. It's not a disqualifier.

But this is a guy who has fought the drug war like a motherfucker. There are people sitting in jail for life right now, in Texas, for doing what Bush himself may have done. He was their governor, and he did whatever he could to punish them even more.

He is accountable for that.

[Originally posted to Brian Flemming's Weblog.]
... like some kind of nightmare reanimation of Richard Nixon's corpse. ...the public drew the only possible conclusion: Their president was either a murderous liar or a dangerous fool.Chris Floyd:
Well, that's it then. The show is over. The scales have fallen. The monstrous gears of the dark satanic mills that spewed their poison fog across the land have ground to a halt at last.

George W. Bush's performance in his nationally televised interview this week was so abysmal, so completely divorced from the waking reality of the rest of the world, that even his faithful spear-carriers in the far-right horde -- not mention the power-worshipping poltroons of the mainstream media -- reacted as if they'd been slapped upside the head with a particularly dank and smelly mackerel. They're shocked -- shocked! -- to find incompetence in this establishment!

"... the public drew the only possible conclusion: Their president was either a murderous liar or a dangerous fool."
Now we've actually got something to take to court. The party's on!

See also:

And for the record, "domestic partnerships" are currently recognized in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., though the rights granted by each of these states vary.
Thursday, February 12, 2004
Conservative television news anchor Bill O'Reilly said on Tuesday he was now skeptical about the Bush administration and apologized to viewers for supporting prewar claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
Two members of the Air National Guard unit that President George W. Bush allegedly served with as a young Guard flyer in 1972 had been told to expect him and were on the lookout for him. He never showed, however; of that both Bob Mintz and Paul Bishop are certain.

Toronto Globle and Mail:
Made in . . . deplorable conditions

If there are people out there who still think globalized markets are always a win-win proposition, I invite them to look at the report on worldwide labour rights that was issued this week by Oxfam International.

Titled Trading Away Our Rights: Women working in global supply chains (link [4 MB, PDF] is to the full report, a summary is here [327 KB, PDF]), it depicts the savagely competitive world of global manufacturing and food production, and traces its effect on workers and farmers. It shows that the blessings of unprecedented choice many Canadians currently enjoy in fresh produce and stylish fashions come at a price.

In China, Honduras, Bangladesh, Chile, Kenya, Cambodia or Colombia, the pattern is the same: long hours, pay below minimum wage, increased health risks, intimidation and harassment for the legions who produce these goods. Often they are migrant workers. Increasingly they are women. All of them -- not only workers, but plant owners and middlemen -- are cogs in a system that is largely beyond regulation or control.

Dominated by a few giants -- Wal-Mart is a name that comes up repeatedly -- the global manufacturing industry aims to turn on a dime to find the cheapest possible way of filling orders. Elementary rights such as the freedom to associate, reasonable hours and safe working conditions often go by the board. Even companies that have ethical production standards violate them, sometimes unwittingly, as suppliers cut under-the-table deals with subcontractors to lower costs or satisfy just-in-time demand.

Wake up, kiddies. All those cheap Wal-Mart prices? Slave labor. And when you buy them, you sanction slavery. You might as well own slaves yourselves.

And you women? You're the ones they want first as their slaves. They think you are more controllable. They're probably right.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Between 1827 and 1941, the Negro press collectively had developed a well-deserved reputation for militancy. It was not going to turn its cheek while its Negro boys joined a Jim Crow Armed Forces in a Jim Crow country to "make the world safe for democracy" for the second time in three decades. Negro soldiers were being segregated against and harassed by White soldiers and White civilians, and Negro labor leader A. Philip Randolph had to scare President Roosevelt with the idea of a Washington march before White America allowed Negroes to work in the defense industries.

So when a Negro man wrote to The Pittsburgh Courier, then the nation's most powerful Negro newspaper, and suggested that the White America's "V" (for Allied Victory) campaign be doubled for the Negro, The Courier, with at least a decade behind it as a muckraker, seized on the idea as a campaign.

The first V was for victory over facism abroad, the second for victory over racism at home. Perhaps now the campain can be brought back, for victory over facism and racism at home and abroad.
E-Vote problems in New Hampshire?
A Black Box Notes feature story.
Original post:
Did New Hampshire voters select their favored Democratic presidential candidate based on how their votes were counted? While this might sound rediculous, the results clearly suggest this:

If you used:You favored Kerry over Dean by:
Hand-counted ballots4.7%

[Note: I just got this in and don't have any links for it yet. If anyone knows one, please send it along.]
Reader Jerry provides the link to the original research on this. This is a rather extensive set of articles by Martin Bento, the person who actually put these statistics together, and includes both the study results themselves and a full explanation of the methodology used to create them. These last two links are to the individual articles with reader comments to them, and Bento's results are not without detractors:
  • Jonathan Wand refutes Bento's analysis (first of two posts) directly using a geographical proximity analysis (different counting methods in adjoining voting districts), and concludes that his method shows Bento's analysis to be false. Wand clearly has a talent for statistics that exceeds mine (and probably yours), so I will not undertake a further analysis of them. Clearly Wand has taken a good bit of time and personal skill and applied them here.

    But even Wand admits to elements of the vote counting process that his analysis cannot account for. Specifically, his results cannot account for bias in the selection process of voting count technology. This is a hated point for me, because it brings the possibility of partisanship back into this debate.

    Look, vote fixing is not a non-partisan issue. No one who fixes votes does so in a non-partisan manor. And yet eventually, this element is indeed a factor. Claims that claims of vote fixing are partisan might well be true, but they are no more partisan than vote fixing itself.

    I am far less impressed with the following detractor however.

  • Mark Gubrud calls outright for a retraction: In addition to referencing Wand's analysis, Gubrud claims that the presentation of Bento's results is unscientific:
    Also, you should realize that it is unscientific for you to magnify the anomaly you saw by taking the difference between the Dean and Kerry votes and dividing by the smaller of the two. Suppose an ad agency interviews 10 people, and finds that 6 like Coke while 4 prefer Pepsi. Not satisfied with a statistically insignificant 20% difference in popularity, an ad man following your procedure would come up with "Coke is 50% more popular than Pepsi!" That's more dramatic, but just as statistically invalid.
    Statistically invalid? Gubrud's politics may be showing here. Gubrud's claim is essentially that statistics should be presented in a fashion that minimizes differences rather than maximizes them. That might very well be Gubrud's preference for displaying statistics, but there is hardly anything scientific about that preference.

    Gubrud then goes on to say:

    By now, your findings are undoubtedly oozing through the internet as evidence that Kerry is the beneficiary of some Skull & Bony conspiracy to control the world. This sort of thing can be far more damaging, especially to voter turnout among the disaffected, than you might think. So frankly, you have done some (small) damage to our hopes of unseating Resident Shrub in the Fall. It doesn't seem as if that was your intention, but the damage is done, and I think it is your responsibility to try to repair it as well as you can.
    This is patently absurd. Gubrud is essentially arguing that it is better to keep the electorate unaware of potential problems in their voting systems than it is to educate them as to the possibility that their voting systems might have problems. This sort of Platonic/Straussian elitism would please even the staunchest of Neocons.

    Gubrud later corrects another reader, pointing out that this is not a paper trail issue (New Hamshire is 100% paper balloting -- see below), but he ignores the fact that the e-voting security issue is not limited to the DRE voting terminals.

So what are we to conclude from this? In my mind, Gubrud's objections can simply be dismissed. While I will stop short of calling him partisan (I don't know), his complaints simply beg the presentation. Wand offers a far more credible challenge however, though he admits to factors outside of his analysis that could negate his results (objections not acknowledged by Gubrud). So the issue remains in play.

It seems to me that further professional analysis at this point offers nothing beyond additional opinions. But New Hampshire does have paper ballots that can be recounted, and they have not been. Were I a resident of New Hampshire, I would be asking for this. Not a full recount, but just a statistical sampling that might indicate whether there might indeed be a problem. This seems to me to be a small price to pay for voter confidence.

Even Gubrud suggests that voter confidence is critical to voter participation. I could not agree more. But the way to give voters confidence is not to dismiss claims that might reduce this confidence. The way to do this is to do the things necessary to increase that confidence.

Other items from this worth mentioning:
  • Andy Stephenson points out that Diebold's New Hampshire optical scanners were using firmware version 1.92T, and that this version was never certified. Yes, Andy, if this is true, it is a violation of federal election laws. (Andy is a candidate for Secretary of State in Washington State. He is quite concerned with E-vote technology, and as Washington's Secretary of State, would no doubt have a significant impact on that state's E-vote implementation.)

  • sCandidate nicely keeps track of the current delegate vote counts for the 2004 Democratic Primary Election, as well as listing caucuses and primary to come.

  • bonovoxlvx offers the standard "Money = Power" DLC mantra:
    Anyone following the campaign over the last year, will note that Governor Dean’s message ... has also now become the message of the establishment candidates. This is nowhere more obvious than in that of their anointed ‘front runner’ Senator Kerry. This shows our power. We can do more than just vote and influence voters. As a consolidated block, we can influence not only the nomination for our candidate but the party platform and in turn national dialogue and debate.
    He wants you to throw some money at his power politics.

  • Wand offers a further analysis in the form of a preliminary paper on the New Hampshire 2004 Democratic primary. Bento responds:
    The paper deems it unlikely that a single tamperer could access multiple machine types. According to Lynn Landes, who is a journalist researching this matter, and who cites Anthony Stevens and John Silvestro, CEO of LHS, as sources, a company called LHS Associates does all election-specific programming of vote-tabulation computers of whatever type in New Hampshire and in some other states as well. Silvestro himself appears to be someone who has held political office. I'd never heard of LHS and am seeking more information. If this is true, however, he assumption that the company that built the machine is the same as the one that progams it for a particular election does not appear to be sound.
    I have not heard of LHS before either.

Reader Jerry also calls into question my earlier post, N.H. Among Few Using Paper in Vote Records:
The technology troubles that could bedevil elections this year in California, Georgia, Florida and elsewhere were absent in New Hampshire this week. That's because it is among the few states that require a paper record for every ballot cast.
I picked this up from a Yahoo News article, and must confess that I also was originally somewhat confused on this. Here's what I found.

New Hampshire does indeed use 100% paper ballots. Where the Diebold and ES&S voting machines come in is in the counting of those paper ballots via optical ballot scanners. (As of 2/4/2003, Diebold machines were used to count the votes for 9 cities and 41 towns in New Hampshire.)

This of course is quite significant. In the case of Diebold, this means that GEMS was used. GEMS in some form or other has been in use on optical vote scanners as far back as 1988, and as the research of Jim March (see "Will the Election Be Hacked?" below) has pointed out, the GEMS component of the Diebold voting system is by far the easiest to hack and provides the greatest "bang for the buck" to a hacker's efforts. Indeed, numerous studies by professional groups have confirmed this, especially the recent RABA study of the Maryland's Diebold hardware and software. One participant in this latest study even noted that it seemed that it wasn't that Diebold had done a bad job of implementing security, but rather that they had ignored the security issue entirely.

Many root the ideological justification for current Bush administration policy to the development of what might be reasonably called a neocon theology, focused especially on Leo Strauss.

Adding to this literature, an excellent article from Peter Waldman of the Wall Street Journal draws attention to the role that the Princeton historian and famed Orientalist Bernard Lewis has played in shaping how many on the political right have come to view the often overlapping Arab and Muslim worlds. Here's a relevant excerpt from the piece, but it deserves a full reading:

Call it the Lewis Doctrine. Though never debated in Congress or sanctified by presidential decree, Mr. Lewis's diagnosis of the Muslim world's malaise, and his call for a U.S. military invasion to seed democracy in the Mideast, have helped define the boldest shift in U.S. foreign policy in 50 years. The occupation of Iraq is putting the doctrine to the test.

For much of the second half of the last century, America viewed the Mideast and the rest of the world through a prism shaped by George Kennan, author of the doctrine of "containment." In a celebrated 1947 article in Foreign Affairs focused on the Soviet Union, Mr. Kennan gave structure to U.S. policy in the Cold War. It placed the need to contain Soviet ambitions above all else.

Terrorism has replaced Moscow as the global foe. And now America, having outlasted the Soviets to become the sole superpower, no longer seeks to contain but to confront, defeat and transform. How successful it is at remolding Iraq and the rest of the Mideast could have a huge impact on what sort of superpower America will be for decades to come: bold and assertive -- or inward, defensive and cut off.

As mentor and informal adviser to some top U.S. officials, Mr. Lewis has helped coax the White House to shed decades of thinking about Arab regimes and the use of military power. Gone is the notion that U.S. policy in the oil-rich region should promote stability above all, even if it means taking tyrants as friends. Also gone is the corollary notion that fostering democratic values in these lands risks destabilizing them. Instead, the Lewis Doctrine says fostering Mideast democracy is not only wise but imperative.

After Sept. 11, 2001, as policy makers fretted urgently about how to understand and deal with the new enemy, Mr. Lewis helped provide an answer. If his prescription is right, the U.S. may be able to blunt terrorism and stabilize a region that, as the chief exporter of oil, powers the industrial world and underpins the U.S.-led economic order. If it's wrong, as his critics contend, America risks provoking sharper conflicts that spark more terrorism and undermine energy security. [more]
Following up on what I posted here a couple days ago (Feds Win Right to War Protesters' Records), looks like the system actually worked in this case. Please read below:

U.S. Officials Drop Activist Subpoenas
Judge lifts Drake gag order in probe of anti-war protest

Federal authorities retreated Tuesday in their investigation of an Iowa anti-war demonstration, withdrawing grand jury subpoenas delivered last week to four peace activists and Drake University.

The shift came as the investigation drew nationwide condemnation from civil liberties advocates, politicians and peace activists. [more]
A Salon special report reveals how new voting machines could result in a rigged presidential race -- and we'd never know.
A great article which uses the Georgia 2002 election to showcase the efforts of black box advocates nationwide. A nice segment of the work of Jim March concludes:
While I sat at his computer, March helped me open a file containing actual results from a March 2002 primary election held in San Luis Obispo County, Calif. -- a file that March says would be accessible to anyone who worked in the county elections office on Election Day. Following March's direction, I changed the vote count with a few clicks. Then, he explained how to alter the "audit log," erasing all evidence that we'd tampered with the results. I saved the file. If it had been a real election, I would have been carrying out an electronic coup. It was a chilling realization.
If you want an article to get someone interested in the E-vote issue, this one should be high on your list. And if you weren't aware, Jim has instructions on his web site on how to do on your own computer exactly what he showed the Salon reporter.

[Original Salon link.]

Tuesday, February 10, 2004
Prosecutors said there was "undisputed proof that Karni, using an American broker, acquired nuclear triggering devices from their manufacturer in Massachusetts, after falsely representing that they were destined for a hospital in South Africa."

The device, a spark gap that can send a synchronized electronic pulse to detonate a nuclear weapon, is also used by hospitals to destroy kidney stones.

"Instead, after the goods arrived in South Africa, Karni re-exported them to Pakistan. By structuring the transaction in this manner he avoided the requirement of obtaining an export license for the products," the motion said.

Karni is an Israeli, and was released on bail to a Rabbi's home. No secret prisons or courts for him, as the Judge was confidant that sending him to his Rabbi's house for supervision would be enough.
Mass Distraction
I'm starting to lose track of all the Bush scandals. We have GuardServicegate, Plamegate, Oilgate, Harkengate, Yellowcakegate -- I'm sure I must have missed some. But of course none of this matters because -- horror of horrors -- John Kerry is a
Massachusetts Liberal!
Paul Krugman:

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
Krugman takes a walk through recent employment statistics and finds Bush's cheerful outlook to be anything but warrented:
Yet employment as measured by the payroll survey rose by only 112,000 — well short of the increase needed just to keep up with a growing population. If employment were rising as rapidly as it did when the economy was emerging from the 1990-1991 recession, we'd be seeing monthly numbers more like 275,000.

Taking a longer view, the payroll numbers tell a dismal story. Since the recovery officially began in November 2001, employment has actually fallen by half a percent, while the working-age population has increased about 2.4 percent. By this measure, jobs are becoming ever scarcer.

The household survey, on which the official unemployment rate is based, tells a less dismal but far from happy story. (Why the discrepancy? We don't know.) The number of people who say they have jobs has risen since the recovery began — but has still lagged behind population growth.

The only seemingly favorable statistic is the unemployment rate, which has recently fallen to 5.6 percent, the same as in November 2001. But how is that possible, when employment has grown more slowly than the population, or even declined? The answer is that people aren't counted as unemployed unless they're looking for work, and a growing fraction of the population isn't even looking. It's hard to see how this is good news.

Other indicators continue to suggest a grim job picture. ...

So why is Bush putting on such a pretty face? Krugman thinks:
In the light of these dreary statistics, President Bush's recent cheerfulness seems almost surreal. ... We expect politicians to place a positive spin on economic news, but to insist that things are going great when many people have personal experience to the contrary seems foolish. ... Why is Mr. Bush — whose poll numbers are a bit worse than his father's were at this point in 1992 — running the risk of repeating his experience?

The answer, I think, is that the younger Mr. Bush has no choice. He has literally gone for broke, with repeated tax cuts that have fed a $500 billion deficit. To justify policies that more and more people call irresponsible, he must claim that wonderful things are happening as a result.

The movement of American factory jobs and white-collar work to other countries is part of a positive transformation that will enrich the U.S. economy over time, even if it causes short-term pain and dislocation, the Bush administration said Monday.

The embrace of foreign outsourcing, an accelerating trend that has contributed to U.S. job losses in recent years and has become an issue in the 2004 elections, is contained in the president's annual report to Congress on the health of the economy.

"Outsourcing is just a new way of doing international trade," said N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, which prepared the report. "More things are tradable than were tradable in the past. And that's a good thing."

Here's an idea. If Bush thinks that losing a good job is "a good thing", we ought to let him try it out for himself. John Kerry agrees:
"I've got a feeling this report was prepared by the same people who brought us the intelligence on Iraq. I don't think we need a new report about jobs in America. I think we need a new president who's going to create jobs in America and put Americans back to work."
John Edwards is baffled:
"These people, what planet do they live on?"
But such is the mantra of the free traders:
"Maybe we will outsource a few radiologists," (Bush Council of Economic Advisors chairman N. Gregory) Mankiw told reporters. "What does that mean? Well, maybe the next generation of doctors will train fewer radiologists and will train more general practitioners or surgeons... Maybe we've learned that we don't have a comparative advantage in radiologists."

"The market is the best determinant
of where the jobs should be."

Perhaps, but what are we supposed to do with the current generation of radiologists in the meantime? That's question that the free traders won't ask because they have no answer for it.

[Note: Both the NYTimes and the LATimes move articles to paid ($) archives.
  Permanent links: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Bush Supports Shift of Jobs Overseas.]

The View from Benedict's "Oval Office":
Criticize free trade and immediately one is branded as some sort of idiot or worse. Free trade is the Holy Grail of modern economics, the "science" that throughout its history has failed to ever predict anything accurately. Go against that Holy Grail though and one is immediately dismissed as having a small mind. Indeed, if you have ever taken even an introductory course in macroeconomics, the very first thing you were taught was the quite simple math that explains the "perfection" of the free trade model.

Let's talk about models for a minute. Models are simplified representations of things. Models leave things out, and do so for a good reason. By leaving things out, you can greatly lower the cost and complexity of testing a design or theory, and that's a good thing. The problem facing the model maker lies in selecting what to leave out of the model without compromising the intended use of the model. You can leave the engine out of a jet and still get a quite useful model for a wind tunnel test, for example, but if you leave the wings off, it's another matter entirely.

Modeling is central to economics. Indeed, without modeling, little if anything of value could be accomplished by economists. There are simply too many variables present in economics to achieve useful results if one attempts to include all of the variables in one's study. But as with other types of models, it is imperative that the economic modeler carefully select which variables to exclude based on what he or she is attempting to test. Exclude the wrong variable, and the most beautiful economic theory in the world becomes meaningless.

Which gets us to the free trader's mantra: "The market is the best determinant of where the jobs should be." Obviously, this statement is the based on a model that shows this to be the case. But what is that model, or more specifically, does that model include every significant variable needed to make the free trader's claim true in the real world?

Well first, "the market" is simply the exchange of goods (physical of services) for compensation (money or other goods). The free market model obviously must include more than this to produce results, things like the cost of raw materials, the cost of labor, and the cost of moving goods to their markets. These together are the supplier costs and supplier costs are borne by capital before the exchange of goods can take place.

Now, under this model, capital will aways seek the lowest supplier costs, and one would suspect that this would always drive capital in favor of the lowest labor costs. That is fine as far as it goes, but our Economics 101 model (take the course or trust me) shows that it is not the actual labor costs that determine the flow of capital, but rather the relative efficiency of labor that determines where capital goes. In other words, at some point, higher wage areas win out over lower wage areas because they simply do the job better. This really works in the free trade model, and is the basis of the claims of the free marketeers. So where are they wrong?

They are wrong because capital does not move anything anywhere for lower production costs. They are wrong because they have falsely identified the operating variable; that lower costs of production are the motivation for capital (and jobs) transfer. The only motivation for capital transfer is to increase the return on capital investment. Capital will move to the highest labor costs if that move will increase the return on investment.

So how does that affect the free trade model? The model well recognizes the price of labor, but eliminates the conditions of labor. It assumes that the condition of labor is a constant (an eliminated variable), and produces a false result because of this. It assumes that the "rising tide lifts all boats" benefit of free trade is actually realized in every labor market, and this is simply not the case. An important variable has been left out of the free marketeer's case model. So how does this play out in the real world? How is the free trade model wrong?

It is wrong because capital will always favor the labor market in which labor has the fewest rights. Labor rights cost money, and catering to them diminishes profit. And profit (not production costs) is why capital moves. Take the case of China, for it offers even another variable that the free trade model does not encompass.

The "rising tide lifts all boats" mantra of free marketeers assumes that the benefits of new employment actually go to the labor that creates the traded goods. It assumes that labor will use its increased purchasing power to buy products from the markets that they took their new jobs from. But what if these laborers did not actually recieve a just benefit from their new employment? What if their government stripped off all of the profits before labor ever saw them? Then the "rising tide" predicted by the free trade model would fail. And this is indeed what has happened. What we have here is the "rogue operator"; the variable that the free traders avoid in their model. And we have why their model fails.

The free trade model fails for the same reasons that Socialism, Marxism, and Communism have failed; because it fails to account for the quite human motivation of greed. It has in effect left out that variable from the calculations of its model. It has produced a false result as a consequence. By eliminating the variable of the conditions of labor, it has advanced a quite beautiful theory in which all will benefit. The theory only has one failing. It is wrong.

WASHINGTON — The movement of American factory jobs and white-collar work to other countries is part of a positive transformation that will enrich the U.S. economy over time, even if it causes short-term pain and dislocation, the Bush administration said yesterday.

The embrace of foreign "outsourcing," an accelerating trend that has contributed to U.S. job losses in recent years and has become an issue in the 2004 elections, is contained in the president's annual report to Congress on the U.S. economy.

"Outsourcing is just a new way of doing international trade," said N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, which prepared the report. "More things are tradable than were tradable in the past. And that's a good thing." [more]

Ok, so the loss of millions of American jobs is ok because . . . "more things are tradable." Fuck that nonsensical bullshit. Kucinich talks about getting into office and stopping corporations from moving factories overseas by declaring it an "issue of national security." I love that guy; I hope he continues to add to the national conversation after the primaries. Kerry speaks of "Benedict Arnold CEOs." We should remember the most apt term for what these transnational corporations are doing today by continuing to move their labor to whatever country happens to be cheapest at the time: "a race to the bottom."

If progressives need a unifying vision--and I believe that they do--it will take shape in a new form of globalization: a humans-first globalization instead of a corporate-first globalization. From the bottom up, and that means a livable wage, decent working conditions and an environmental standard which fits in with the Kyoto Accord. The current transnational race to outsource (starting in manufacturing in the US and now growing within the white collar sectors)--and not just out of the US, but from one cheaper country to another--is a race back in time to the beginnings of the industrial age circa 19th century. Fuck that shit. This planet can do better.
Hijacked for God?
[Title shamelessly stolen from Pax Nortana.]
Terrified passengers tried to call relatives on their mobile phones.That little stunt by the American Airlines pilot ("raise your hand if you're a Christian") that I mentioned earlier seems to be attracting a lot more attention. From CNN ("Pilot's proselytizing scares passengers") and the BBC ("Christian question alarms flight") come additional details, and it seems that more than a few passengers were really freaked out:
Passengers were "shocked," said Karla Austin, who had flown on Friday's Los Angeles to New York Flight 34. Some reached for their mobile phones and others used the on-flight phones, she said.

"Just given the history of what's happened on planes in this country, anything can happen at this point. So we weren't sure if something was going to happen at takeoff, if he was going to wait until JFK (John F. Kennedy) to do something," Austin said. "But there was definitely implication there that we felt that something was going to happen."
. . .

He then suggested non-Christians talk to the Christians about their faith.

He went on to say that "everyone who doesn't have their hand raised is crazy", passenger Amanda Nelligan told CBS news.

"He continued to say, 'Well, you have a choice: you can make this trip worthwhile, or you can sit back, read a book and watch the movie'," she said.
. . .

Ms Nelligan said passengers had thought the pilot's behavior was "bizarre" and wondered whether his comments were a threat.

Flight attendants notified ground control.

Quite a stir, I'd say. American Airlines, who did not identify the pilot but did say he hasn't flown since, offered this understatement: "It falls along the lines of a personal level of sharing that may not be appropriate for one of our employees to do while on the job." Indeed.

Perhaps the strangest thing however is that the pilot was identified and interviewed at the conclusion of the flight by The Advocate ("Exclusive: Interview with American Airlines pilot who told Christian passengers to raise their hands"):

"If you have five minutes, I'll tell you why I did it," American Airlines captain Roger Findiesen told as Flight 34 had all but emptied out after its arrival at New York's JFK Airport, on Friday, February 6. "I felt that God was telling me to say something [to the passengers]."
. . .

In the suddenly hushed coach section of the airplane, a few nervous passengers raised one hand, most no higher than shoulder level, none above tops of the seats.

"I want everyone else on board to look around at how crazy these people are," the pilot continued, with an intonation suggesting he was using the word "crazy" in a positive, even admiring manner.
. . .

(Findiesen) went on to explain that he felt God wanted him to witness to the passengers on his first flight upon returning to work for American Airlines after his mission. Despite this feeling, he said, he had decided not to say anything--but then he got another sign from God.
. . .

While Findiesen repeated to (interviewer) Steele that he was sorry his fellow crew members had taken heat for his comments, he expressed no regret for having made them and no regret for not having apologized to the American Airlines customers he was serving on the flight. But, he added, "I won't do it again, if you want to make a big deal of it."

Good idea. But why is this interview so strange? Because The Advocate is a gay and lesbian magazine!

The blogs are also hopping all over this. Pax Nortana thinks that "passengers dialed relatives, perhaps in fear that they'd booked a ticket on a Christian Identity suicide mission." Body and Soul asks us to "try to imagine the response if this guy had been a Muslim.". corrente suggests that "(i)f American doesn't fire hold this guy accountable—say, by firing his ass—we're in for a long season of aggressive SIC proselytization on the airlines." Discount Blogger wonders about "Flying the Fundie Skies". The Secret Tango Dancer believes, "It's the end of the world, really."

And Fuck everything thinks it's "(j)ust what we need, more religious zealots piloting planes," but asks "Where the fuck is al Qaeda when you need them?"

President Bush's Plastic Surgery

The pictures above are undoctored.

The nose? Not so sure.

The political significance? Zero.

Nonetheless, it is very important to speculate as much and as loudly as possible. Experts should be consulted. Columns written. International attention gained.

We need to focus. What matters is not that this doesn't matter. What matters is that we're open-minded enough to have a discussion--nay, to inflame a discussion--about how it might be possible that it could matter. For example, what if everyone started to talk about it, so even though it doesn't matter it starts to matter?

This is a realistic possibility, so it is vital that we start talking as much about it as possible right now.


Thanks to John Staedler.

And a very very special thanks to MATT DRUDGE!!!!!!!

[Originally posted to Brian Flemming's Weblog.]
Monday, February 09, 2004
RYAN J. FOLEY -- Associated Press

In what may be the first subpoena of its kind in decades, a federal judge has ordered a university to turn over records about a gathering of anti-war activists.
In addition to the subpoena of Drake University, subpoenas were served this past week on four of the activists who attended a Nov. 15 forum at the school, ordering them to appear before a grand jury Tuesday, the protesters said.

Federal prosecutors refuse to comment on the subpoenas.

In addition to records about who attended the forum, the subpoena orders the university to divulge all records relating to the local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, a New York-based legal activist organization that sponsored the forum.

The group, once targeted for alleged ties to communism in the 1950s, announced Friday it will ask a federal court to quash the subpoena on Monday.

"The law is clear that the use of the grand jury to investigate protected political activities or to intimidate protesters exceeds its authority," guild President Michael Ayers said in a statement.

Representatives of the Lawyer's Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union said they had not heard of such a subpoena being served on any U.S. university in decades.

Those served subpoenas include the leader of the Catholic Peace Ministry, the former coordinator of the Iowa Peace Network, a member of the Catholic Worker House, and an anti-war activist who visited Iraq in 2002.

They say the subpoenas are intended to stifle dissent.

"This is exactly what people feared would happen," said Brian Terrell of the peace ministry, one of those subpoenaed. "The civil liberties of everyone in this country are in danger. How we handle that here in Iowa is very important on how things are going to happen in this country from now on."

The forum, titled "Stop the Occupation! Bring the Iowa Guard Home!" came the day before 12 protesters were arrested at an anti-war rally at Iowa National Guard headquarters in Johnston. Organizers say the forum included nonviolence training for people planning to demonstrate.

The targets of the subpoenas believe investigators are trying to link them to an incident that occurred during the rally. A Grinnell College librarian was charged with misdemeanor assault on a peace officer; she has pleaded innocent, saying she simply went limp and resisted arrest.

"The best approach is not to speculate and see what we learn on Tuesday" when the four testify, said Ben Stone, executive director of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, which is representing one of the protesters.

Mark Smith, a lobbyist for the Washington-based American Association of University Professors, said he had not heard of any similar case of a U.S. university being subpoenaed for such records.

He said the case brings back fears of the "red squads" of the 1950s and campus clampdowns on Vietnam War protesters.

According to a copy obtained by The Associated Press, the Drake subpoena asks for records of the request for a meeting room, "all documents indicating the purpose and intended participants in the meeting, and all documents or recordings which would identify persons that actually attended the meeting."

It also asks for campus security records "reflecting any observations made of the Nov. 15, 2003, meeting, including any records of persons in charge or control of the meeting, and any records of attendees of the meeting."

Several officials of Drake, a private university with about 5,000 students, refused to comment Friday, including school spokeswoman Andrea McDonough. She referred questions to a lawyer representing the school, Steve Serck, who also would not comment.

A source with knowledge of the investigation said a judge had issued a gag order forbidding school officials from discussing the subpoena. [Miami Herald, by way of Radio Free Beowulf]
The researchers over at the Center for American Progress must have done some serious overtime this weekend, because this is great stuff. Apparently, CAP got a transcript of the interview just after it occurred (on Saturday), and before the night was out, they had hyperlinked into the transcript 47 of their own previously-published talking points. An absolutely outstanding truth vs. spin deconstruction of the interview.

And something I noticed in it: Numerous times in the transcript, there are long gaps without any CAP hyperlinks. Those are fun to read. They're all the times when Bush was stumbling over his words, essentially saying nothing.

[Via Tom Paine's Common Sense blog.]

[An expanded version of this article with additional commentary appears at Benedict@Large.]

Watching Wal-Mart:
By now, everyone has pretty much heard about Wal-Mart locking in its employees at night, their use of illegal and sub-minimum wage labor, and their love of products made by Chinese slave laborers. So naturally it comes as no surprise that Wal-Mart is now starting to run "image" ads, trying to curb all of the criticism.

Now come a few other "fun facts" about our nation's largest employer:

  • Wal-Mart was the second highest campaign contributor in 2002, sending well over $1 million to incumbents' campaign coffers. This is a fairly new thing for Wal-Mart. When founder Sam Walton was still alive, campaign contributions from Wal-Mart were almost non-existent.

  • It would take the combined payroll of every single one of the 504,000 Wal-Mart retail clerks to equal the compensation given to Wal-Mart's top 400 employees. Doing the math, that means Wal-Mart's top 400 employees average 1,260 times the compensation of their average retail clerk. Nice job if you can get it.

  • Perhaps for this reason, Wal-Mart is instructing their retail employees in how to apply for welfare using the Internet. Now that's employee relations!
Question (multiple choice):
  1. The State of the Union address was worse.
  2. The Tim Russert interview was worse.
  3. Someone should keep this guy off TV.
Sunday, February 08, 2004
Reverend Al Sharpton, it appears, has Roger Stone, the Republican strategist who co-ordinated the sweep of paid GOP activists from around the nation into Florida that stopped the Miami -Dade recount with the threat of mob violence(Miami's Rent-a-Riot) heavily involved in his campaign. It appears that they are so buddy buddy that Stone has "loaned" Sharpton nearly 300,000 dollars. Read the Village Voice article "Sleeping With The GOP" linked here at News From Babylon. An amazing story of political chicanery. This is not the first time Mr Sharpton has sidled up with the Republican Right for personal political gain. Please read the full article
Budgeting for Another Florida
Bush Budget Slashes HAVA Funding
Just wonderful:
  • The president's new budget provides only $40 million of the $800 million promised for election improvements at the state level this year.
  • The Election Assistance Commission was given only $2 million for its operating expenses this year, not the $10 million it was due.
  • Hundreds of millions of dollars have been allocated for making improvements at the state level, but the commission is too short of cash to distribute it. By law, the money cannot be disbursed until the states' plans appear in The Federal Register, and the commission cannot afford the $800,000 publishing cost.
When President Bush signed the Help America Vote Act, he declared that "when problems arise in the administration of elections, we have a responsibility to fix them." Apparently he doesn't take that responsibility very seriously.

This article previously appeared on Black Box Notes.

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