Economic and political analysis-Window on culture-Media criticism

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New Hampshire Recount, a Tale of Two Speeches, and the Endless Surge

New Hampshire Recount

The recount has discovered mass discrepancies in the vote totals. Hand-counted ballots accurately reflect exit and pre-poll numbers. Vote-counting machines run by LHS Associates, a company run by GOP supporters with two felons in leadership positions, show results that differ considerably from pre- and exit polls.

The Mainstream Media refuses to discuss even the possibility of an inaccuracy. Diebold's machines have been hacked in repeated experiments; for the Media, this doesn't raise the slightest doubt about the accuracy of the New Hampshire results.

Bev Sanders at blackboxvoting has been following this unfolding story that the MSM chooses not to cover. Bradblog has been covering the issue; in a post here they talk about how the recount has been halted. The reasons for the stoppage are unclear although the New Hampshire Secretary of State website claims Kucinich's funds ran out. The limited counting results revealed so far show votes to be off substantially.

Gardner switched off the Democratic recount to do a Republican one. GOP Primary results matched pre- and exit poll results, so that recount appears to be nowhere as important as the Democrats'. What few numbers Gardner has disclosed showed Hillary gaining a fair number of votes and Obama more or less the same. Voting tallies have not been thorough, nor will they be revealed anytime soon, so the scope of the discrepancy remains unknown. So the Republican recount has become the perfect distraction to the very damning admission that the recount totals had been way off.

I'm going to speculate that the recount is being suspended until after Super Tuesday. The postponement allows other jurisdictions to ignore problems that they may have with their voting systems considering the fact that many of them use the same vote-counting software and machines as shown in HBO's Hacking Democracy.

Adding confusion and/or doubt to the felicity of a Hillary comeback would disturb the media narrative, which has attributed her New Hampshire win to good luck--or a cry--and has long sinced moved on. Interesting, though, to think what an Obama victory would have done--and still could do--to weaken Hillary and make him the front-runner. If winning New Hampshire were a simple task of sending a big check to LHS Associates, it surely would have been money well-spent by Hillary supporters.

I was pleased to report the vote discrepancies here as early as possible. I was not willing to attribute Hillary's surprise win to failed media predicitions as our self-infatuated media is prone to do. The New Hampshire SoS attributes the discrepancy in hand- versus machine-counted votes to isolated case(s) of human error. The lack of transparency creates an atmosphere where public deception is far easier. For those responsible, better a cover-up than the admission that Americans are having their votes lost, miscounted, or stolen. A key enabler, the Mainstream Media perpetuates the voting improprieties by limiting public scrutiny.

Of course I am but a single blogger so I lack the ability to follow up on the story, though I did provide a string of links in my comments to the original post. Here are a few more:

Bev Harris has a camera in hand as she interviews the New Hampshire Secretary of State Gardner about the chain of custody in the ballot recount in this youtube video. Blackboxvoting.org's forums offer a post discussing ballot seals. This post by Paul Joseph Watson of prisonplanet is on the discrepancies, which were quite considerable, if the mainstream media cared. Finally, The Economist weighs in on America's digital voting and vote-counting system.

Tale of Two Speeches

On Monday, in a rising set of speeches, Senator Edward Kennedy, Patrick Kennedy, and Caroline Kennedy all gave their endorsements to Obama. The event was wholly positive, change-oriented, and uplifting. Taking place on the American University (the location of John F. Kennedy's last speeches), the audience was youthful and enthusiastic. It was hard not to be excited in the presence of three Kennedies whose charisma has transcended the times.

It might just be me, but it seems as if Americans do hunger for broad social changes like those the Kennedy brothers urged before their deaths. Without criticizing Bush, the Kennedys decried the "politics of fear". The Democratic Party that the Kennedys represented seemed quite alive as an open tent, populist movement that differs considerably from the drab and dour Gore and Kerry campaigns.

For the Kennedys not to back Clinton says a great deal of what they think of her. Regardless of Clinton's political position, Obama does seem to characterize the Kennedy style of speech-giving and leadership.

Whatever Obama's electability, the Kennedy endorsement spoke legions of Hillary's high negatives. The fact she was not liked among a group of liberals may not speak well for her general popularity if liberalism is indeed on the upswing after seven years of Bush's stodgy rule.

The Kennedy endorsement may be worth several million votes just in the primary. CNN, unfortunately, claimed the Maxine Water's endorsement could be worth more (read below.)

Could Obama's popularity overcome his negatives in a general election? Obama would be a unifier of diverse ethnic groups, and help bring in independents and young voters. I;ve read Hillary has considerable pull with Hispanics, who will constitute a large chunk of Democrats in California. If the Democratic Party returns to its open tent roots, which advocate policies of inclusion, shy away from corporate influence-peddling and lobbyists, it could pose a broader popular appeal.

If the Dems try to look like Republican Lite, they will be competing outside areas seen as their traditional political strength, like national security and international issues. Still, the popular perception that the GOP has advantage on national security argument is weakening, according to national polls. Media consultants have harped to Democratic leaders about the significance of looking strong versus terror, but support for the war has since trailed off.

The Other Speech

Contrasting with the roaring Kennedy endorsement fun times, the State of the Union Address was remarkably unremarkable. Lacking any fear buttons on overt themes of militarism, Bush had little to interest the general public, no major new initiatives, just an occasional recommendation. Trumpets have faded and the war siren's shrill cry seems to do less and less to motivate the people's representatives, at least the now-in-the-majority Democrats who've seen their political futures brighten with the continuance of the unpopular occupation.

Bush steered the speech toward partisanship early on, and Democrats didn't stand nearly as much as they had in previous speeches. I guess they decided that it wasn't necessary to rise to their feet in order to prove they were as loyal as the Republicans when prompted. Judging by the chilly reception by Democrats during the SOTU, the war is unpopular enough so politicians no longer feel compelled to stand up and cheer for the commander-in-chief every time he talks about his plans for Iraq. Mercifully, 9/11 was not mentioned.

Are the Democrats growing a backbone? Perhaps the FISA law passage with its accompanying telecommunication immunity will be a good test of just how far from their bland, neo-corporatist roots they're willing to stray. The Senate will naturally be tempted to immunize their coporate benefactors in the telecommunications industry; Bush holds the bill hostage, claiming FISA will expire unless immunity is granted, which is a complete fabrication.

What you see is not whaat you get now that Bush's war policies have soured his legacy. Republicans are caught in the narrrow divide of supporting the President despite his stance on the war and trying to create political cover out of the most recent "success", which is the result of escalation in troop deployments, what we might call the continuous surge.

Update: Bush is hedging on his SOTU promise to begin bring the soldiers home. This from Robert Burns, writing in Huffington Post:
The first sign Bush might endorse a pause in troop reductions came earlier this month when he recounted for reporters his meeting with Petraeus in Kuwait on Jan. 12.

"My attitude is, if he (Petraeus) didn't want to continue the drawdown, that's fine with me, in order to make sure we succeed," Bush said. "I said to the general, if you want to slow her down, fine; it's up to you."

In his State of the Union address Monday, Bush emphasized the risks--with no mention of the benefits--of continuing the cutbacks beyond July.

"Any further drawdown of U.S. troops will be based on conditions in Iraq and the recommendations of our commanders," Bush said. "General Petraeus has warned that too fast a drawdown could result in the `disintegration of the Iraqi security forces, al-Qaida-Iraq regaining lost ground, (and) a marked increase in violence.'"

He added: "Having come so far and achieved so much, we must not allow this to happen."

The continuation of the war (more of a police action) creates a political dilemma. Presenting the dire consequences of a US withdrawal allows Bush to justify more soldiers and money for the war. To attains the political equivalent of victory Bush needs to appear to be pulling troops out, like Nixon did in Vietnam, and reduce the occupation to pre-surge levels.

Achieving these very political goals would do damage to our military strategy, if indeed the higher troop numbers qualify Iraq as a success. If Iraq is such a success then why can't we scale down the mission, Americans are no doubt asking themselves. No pullout means no victory and therefore no political credit. The "centrocrat" Democrats have triangulated their Iraq War positions based on the near certainty that Iraq will continue to be a political liability. By ditching Iraq, Democratic leaders can increase their popularity from the largely antiwar populace after the election.

Limits of the War Machine

The war state continues to grow like a bloated tapeworm, with expenditures on the Pentagon approaching $700 billion for the next fiscal year. When will the economy and fiscal resources of our government fail? It seems we will have to chose between war or social and health services at some point; a recession and new President will likely face that tough choice. Sky-rocketing military costs are in a race with health care for the last dribbles in the federal trough. Then we'll just start printing the money--look at the price of gold.

It's deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra said. In our war on terror we have any ethereal enemy who can never be entirely annihilated. Nor can we increase our effectiveness by escalating and creating more animosity towards the US. I've made the comparison to Vietnam; the MSM has made it a point to describe how different that war was. The public has been slowed to anger by the Media's anemic response to Iraq. Timid political opposition by the Democrats has also delayed the inevitable reality that we're in an unwinnable, Vietnam-style dog and pony show. Right-wing politicos have directed a media campaign which equates dissent with disloyalty, and equates antiwar views with a lack of support for the troops.

Absent a draft which would accelerate the antiwar movement, mobilizing popular resistance to the war could take some time. On my way to the DC Protests in September, during my conversation with angry veteran "D." (link), he had indicated that in one weekend in '71 some 10,000 protestors had been arrested!

Maintaining sufficient manpower for the surge will make a draft more likely. With Democrats content to nurse antiwar views until the next election, the only political force restraining a broadening of the war to Iran is the firestorm that a draft would create.

The President said our surge strategy had been a success. Claiming partial victory ignores the swing away from violence in Iraq that has occured as the ethnic cleansing subsided.

On the military side, if the surge has been a military success, it offers evidence that we didn't had insufficient numbers of troops on the ground earlier, in time to perhaps forestall the burgeoning insugency. General Shinseki was fired for recommending a larger force.

The war can only be "won" by a continuous surge. We are now trapped in the most basic of conundrums: if we draw down, we risk losing the benefits of the surge. The net impact is that the political imperative to start bringing the troops home--pulpable in the divided SOTU audience--clashes with Petraeus' demand for more troops.

The supposed success of the surge is also its political anchor chain condemning Republican politicians as in 2006. The Democrats' hesitancy to act in stopping the war now becomes a political bludgeon in the Election Year environment. The partisan political atmosphere in Washington has made continuation of the war a fait accompli. Victory would end the liability, and with it the Democrats best weapon as the American people tire of the war dragging on.

According to Bush, Petraeus is concerned too quick of a drawdown will destabilize Iraq, which are told is an ally in the war for freedom. I've had a very hard time understanding how bombing people is on the side of freedom against nebulous terrorists who I presume are those who dare oppose us or our occupation.

Long-term Entanglement

Defining our friends--by establishing extralegal treaties called "Status of Forces Agreements" as Bush is wanting to do with Iraq--by virtue of their opposition to a common foe is a risky task. We thought the Shah of Iran and the Nicaraguan Somozas were America's friend because they opposed communism, who were the enemy last time round.

On Tuesday the 29th, CNN anchor Kyra Phillips had a heated conversation with a pair of Congressmen where she tried to define what kind of agreement that the US government was trying to scope with Iraq. The first Congressmen, from New York, explained that the Congress had been completely excluded from discussing the terms under which a long-term agreement could be established. At no time has talk of a treaty come up; treaties must be ratified by Congress. The Bush administration has chosen to circumvent Congressional oversight by starting the equivalent of a "Status of Forces Agreement" similar to the we have in effect with some 80 countries.

Phillips followed up, uncharacteristically for the MSM, on the length of time US forces would spend in Iraq under the agreement. She seemed somewhat surprised to hear that the negotiations under way with Iraq would force the US to defend attacks on Iraq from both external and internal rivals.

Looking at the three-way dog race now happening in Iraq, which the Shia appear to have control of Iraq at least in Baghdad and the predominantly Shia regions of the country. The Shia control over Iraqi government does not however mean that the whole of Iraq is governable by the Shia. Shia control appears to rest on a sequence of compromises with Kurds and Sunni. If the Shia, cooperating perhaps covertly with Iran, were to launch raids on Kurdish or Sunni territories like those in oil-rich Kirkuk, they will invite a military reaction. The US will have to ride to their rescue if the Shia don't do so well with their military efforts. The US will have to bail them out for whatever mess they get their country into.

Back to CNN. During Phillips' interview, I'd begun to contemplate that Phillips was really discovering facts that the MSM hasn't shown, or cared to investigate. Of course it took CNN a few minutes to let me down. Between Philips' interviews, Don Lemon came on with "breaking news" that Maxine Waters of California was endorsing Hillary Clinton. Then Lemon said that Waters' endorsement would bring more support than the Kennedy endorsement. Lemon seemed to stutter a little bit as he read that line, as if he didn't believe what he'd said.

Holding our government to acccount is the primary duty of a free press. Ever since Bush assumed office, the American public has been subjected to a torrent of lies that a completely pliant media has passed on as truth. Inserted between parcels of celebrity worship were buried news items like the unratified treaty with Iraq, that could lock us in to Iraq for decades. The Right would appear to have their endless war.

Who benefits from the MSM blackouts, government propaganda, and spin? Corporations do who sell to the war machine; their consoldiation under Bush's FCC has been relentless. Now just a few media companies control almost all of our "news". Did they start the war simply because they could? Doubtful, but profit motive can't be the only reason the Media wanted a war. Politics could be a big reason: NBC was owned by Republican mogul Jack Welch. Another motive could be Israel: sympathy for the Jewish state dominates the media establishment. Zionists are plentiful among the owners of the mainstream media. Their aggressive posture is highly anti-Islamic. Neocons have operated under a plan called Clean Break that called for the ouster of Saddam and destabilization of the Muslim Middle East.

Media Influence

The pro-Hillary bias is massive in the CNN newsroom because Hillary is thought to represent the best interest of the Israel. I've said that mainstream news editors are Jewish and highly sympathetic to the defense of the state of Israel. While all candidates on both sides of the aisle, with the exception of Ron Paul, have pandered to this Israel-First crowd, Hillary has gone to extreme lengths to proclaim her allegiance to the Jewish state.

Perhaps the best way a Congresscritter can show their loyalty is by cradling anti-Iranian bellicosity. Hillary's sympathies to Zionism brought into legislative existence the Kyl-Lieberman Act, which declared a branch of the Iranian military to be a terrorist force.

The most powerful lobby, AIPAC has been able to avoid being labelled the "agent of a foreign government" which would impose draconian reporting regimes on its lobbyists. The Jewish lobby, characterized in Mearsheimer and Walt's seminal book, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy", employs also the services of sayanin, who are Jews and Non-Jews who've pledged to do what they can to help Israel.

MSM newsrooms are packed with sayanin. The network of Jewish directors, media producers, and writers is highly penetrated by unconditional devotion to the cause of Zionism, which seeks to expand Israel's borders through the use of military aggression.

With Hillary doing the most to demonstrate her loyalty to the Zionistic cause, media people do what they can for her. The Lemon comment--not his own but rather read by him through the telestrator--tried to diminish the impact of the Kennedy endorsment by claiming Maxine Walters's endorsement would sway more voters.

Is Lemon a Zionist? No, but almost certainly someone feeding him his lines was, as a matter of fact a Israeli sympathizer likely lurks in every major media newsroom in America. The CIA ran a major operation where it owned media companies, paid writers, annd inserted propaganda during the Cold War, called Cointelpro.

Now there is the possibility that Waters, being black, might create a schism between black voters who'd vote for Obama versus those who'd vote for Hillary if we over-inflate the political power of a single Californian congresswoman simply on the basis of her race. For the sayanin and Israel-first crowd feeding Lemon his lines, there's a concerted effort to diminish the impact of the Kennedy endorsment precisely because it meant so much.

Using this reverse logic, any MSM reporting will do what it can to beef up Hillary and demean the credibility of those who support other candidates. Rather than simply sit back and report the news objectively, corporations look at their media monopolies as an opportunity to pass on some part of the corporate agenda. Iraq was a superb example of how key facts were omitted and agitation/propaganda used to stir the case for war.

With a few prominent exceptions, like Olbermann's outbursts, the argument could be made that the MSM has been backing Bush ever since. One reason is the role of media owners in the military industrial complex, another is the staunch support for Zionism among media staff who see it as their duty to advance the politics of their selected pro-war, pro-Israel candidate.

By a narrow majority, American Jews did not support the Iraq War. The sayanin and Hillary/Bush-supporting Jews are quite different, much farther to the Right than mainstream American Jews. Many Zionists take pride in their loyalty to Israel; paradoxically many orthodox Jews are rabid anti-Zionists like the Neturei Karta.

Despite many of their critics being Jews themselves, charges of anti-Semitism are always directed at any criticism of the Israeli Right and their policies of Zionism. If there are unbiased Jews--as there are indeed--criticism of Israel-First coverage is not discriminatory but rather legitimate. Rather than persecute Jews by spotlighting these abuses of media power, the allegations can serve a valuable purpose for those who believe that neither Zionism nor the Iraq War are in the best interests of the Jewish people.

Unfortunately it's my belief that Hillary has been pre-selected as the President. Some on the blogs have fawned this conspiracy theory based on the Bilderberg Group or some shadowy star chamber. I became convinced of this fact when I saw the way the media spun Hillary's inexplicable comeback "win" in the New Hampshire primary. Particularly troubling was the total absence of any scrutiny of the election results themselves. The primary had been framed as if the media had been horribly wrong, but Hillary had won anyway. Even the Huffington Post concluded that there'd be something wrong with the media in being so far off their predictions.

Outright denial of the possibility of vote rigging by the mainstream media became a blinking red light to me. Unlike most of the population, however, I wasn't content to let the media narrative determine my conclusions for me, no siree. I swam through the blogs until I found sources that would report the New Hampshire primaries from the very reasonable conclusion that electronic vote fraud could have occurred. I say very reasonable because I think it must be the duty of every responsible person to consider the possibility that our electoral system is corrupt based on the 2000 and 2004 elections, as well as a mounting pile of evidence that all is not well with our digital voting and vote-counting systems.

I was made suspicious by the absence of any alternate conclusion to the initial claims that the media had been way off. Ever since 9/11, it's seemed to me that media omissions are intentional, and thereby provide strong evidence of a cover-up. Not only the inability--but the complete abject ignoring of the possibility, no matter how tiny, that there had been bombs in the towers became in my mind prima facie evidence that there had been bombs in the building.

Bill Pullman, in a favorite movie of mine called the Zero Effect, repeated the Sherlock Holmes axiom that the only way to solve a mystery is to prove beyond the possibility of a doubt that all alternative explanations are factually wrong. The 9/11 non-investigation, on the other hand, begins with the conclusion--that Osama did it--and seeks to recreate the event around that premise. Not only are competing explanations as to why the towers fell dismissed, they're rejected outright: a methodology completely the opposite of the Zero Effect. Like the laws of physics on that fateful day, the rule of reason appears to have been suspended indefinitely. See a recent Paul Craig Roberts article about lingering doubts over 9/11.

Final Words

As much as war-supporters would like to claim "this one is different", Iraq is not the central battlefront in the War on Terror as Bush has said. It's simply a nation that happens to sit on a great deal of oil that the US would like to control, smack dab in the middle of a region with great strategic importance to an oil-addicted American economy. If Peak Oil--the idea that we've already consumed half the world's easily extracted supply of oil--is accurate, then the US may have a strategic reason to use its military, the world's strongest.

The geopolitical lessons lie there in the near past, waiting for anyone who cares enough to look back a few decades, where they will find them easily enough. Jim Jones, cult leader at the Guyana tragedy, had a placard in his camp which read that those who fail to remember the past are doomed to repeat it. Custer and Little Big Horn would be another older story, or Dien Ben Phu, if anyone actually bother to check out the inevitable consequences of occupying a hostile nation. Supply lines to Iraq are thin as the insurgency wears on; five US troops died the day of the President's speech.

This is a battle for the survival of our way of life, Bush might have said in his most recent SOTU. With seven exhausting years under his regime, the US military effort in the Middle East is in dire need of help. The initial drawdowns reflect the reality that at some point we must choose between paying for what we need at home or what we might do to potentially help others abroad. Our history shows we tend to exhibit isolationist tendencies, as we did in the period between World War I and II. If change is inevitable, we must expect a military and geopolitical circling of the wagons, a retreat to the duties of ruling an empire confined largely to the Western Hemisphere.

Expecting that 9/11 opened an endless new opportunity for war mongers would defy all historical precedent. Even great empires contract; some empires like that of Alexander the Great--the last conqueror of Afghanistan--almost needed to be in a state of constant expansion. If the string of victories were to end, perhaps through the death of Alexander or the loss of a key battle, so too would the chart of history, and the empire will stop expanding, then contract. The Romans lasted over 500 years, the Spanish less, and the English only 150 or so. How long will Pax America continue?

Additional Sources

"Deadly Embrace, Zion Power and War: From Iraq to Iran" by James Petras explores what he calls the ZPC, Zionist Power Configuration.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Final Battles in the Last Days of the Regime

I think the progressive community still has much to do in the 361 days Bush has remaining. The threats are still substantial and many more political battles will have to be fought on behalf of the American people whose representatives have abandoned them in favor of corporate interests and the wealthy.

Families wrecked by Bush's senseless wars may not be put back together, but there will be time for healing and for new generations to be born who will hopefully grow up free of violence and destruction. However, environmental impacts persist and combatting environmental damage is perhaps more urgent. The Appalachian mountains whose tops have been removed have been forever scarred.

The environment is one area where Bush's last months can do much harm. Curtailing a fire sale of federal land and mining rights will do a great deal to reduce the permanent environnmental damage which is sure to be Bush's legacy. The for-profit business model implemented by Bush and his cronies during their time in government has always tried to squeeze as much profitability as they can from their authority and control. Their final days in power are likely seen as the best last chance these business interests have to buy public land on the cheap and/or devastate the environment to make a fast buck.

The Bureau of Land Management spews forth some concession to industry on a weekly basis these days--I know because I get regular alerts as to their nefarious activities from groups like the National Resource Defense Council.

Bush appointees in positions of responsibility have been free to abuse their power. Often they are former lobbyists themselves, with warm relations with key people in the industries they purport to regulate. Federal bureaucrats likely see the end of the Bush administration as an end to their political careers and will thus try to endear themselves to companies that look to mine or exploit publicly held lands. The more favorable the leasing terms, and less attention to long-term environmental impacts, the more profitable it is for companies doing business with the government. Eager to do their part, the higher-level government bureaucrat likely seeks gainful employment at the end of their career with one of the companies where they've been dispensing favors in their last days in office.

Capitalistic excess has an anarchistic bent, which is its tragic flaw like in the Greek drama. In a culture of greed, loyalty will eventually break down as self-interest dominates. The group goal--to make as much money as possible--eventually encourages defection as by its nature greed requires loyalty to self first and group second. The needs of the nation and its people may come in as a distant third. Look at Katrina for one example of where federal priorities lie in an age of privatized disaster recovery and no-bid contracts to crony corporations.

Seven years ago, Bush Republicans were uniformly behind a belief in smaller government, which they interpreted to mean fewer laws and regulations. Looking back now at the effects of that phillosophy, we see the emergence of a YOYO (Your On Your Own) world where those with money live with lower taxes. Companies selling to government, through the auspices of "supporting the troops", enjoy higher profit margins, and have bloated with the froth of federal disbursements. So smaller government was never the real intent but rather the political spin used by Rove and others to popularize the GOP.

Republican Political Tactics

GOP strategists like Karl Rove used whatever methods they could do distort the debate and were able to win, or at least come close, in a pair of elections. Support for the Republican party has trailed off in the wake of Bush's leadership, which shows tactics like swift-boating can't possibly achieve long-term impacts.

Rovian tactics are meant to secure a very short-term advantage, which is precisely why they are so dangerous when it comes to initiating wars. Launching the Iraq War was itself a Rovian technique: a method to secure a re-election method based on the nationalistic push drives support for the sitting President. Yet the geopolitical and military limitations associated with warfare transcend domestic politics.

Looking now at all the lies that prefaced the war, the theory that the war was launched in large part as a means to a political end has gained a great deal of credibility. In hindsight, the complete absence of strategic benefits denies a logical rationale for launching the war.

The real story of the Bush years has been how Republican witch doctors have succeeded in altered the focus of the debate.

Rove used wedge issues like homosexual marriage to galvanize the GOP base, unifying them in their hatred of gays' rights. On the eve of a gubertorial election against Anne Richards, anti-gay hate materials found their way to Church parking lots, planted there by Rovian operators who sought to make the issue a topic despite its irrelevance. No wonder George grew to call Rove his "turd blossom".

It's been so easy to dismiss Rovian tactics as unfair and unethical and thus unworthy of serious respect, but Rovian tactics worked, giving proof to H.L. Mencken's declaration that no one has ever gone broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

I recently read into a quote that I saw on needlenose.com. I thought it went far in explaining the strategy of the Republicans:

"Karl Rove thinks an ideologically polarized electorate will always tilt towards the GOP since self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals by a three-to-two margin. At any given moment, you can expect Bush to be pushing at least one major initiative that literally makes Democrats crazy with rage. That rage, in turn, will make the actual policy dispute look like nothing more than a partisan food-fight to much of the non-polarized electorate, thus shifting the center of gravity of any given debate sharply to the right. Rove and Bush have pursued this strategy again and again."— Ed Kilgore, NewDonkey.com

I thought the "crazy with rage" part was applicable to the unprecedented environmental destruction we are seeing. Mountaintop removal is an outrage like so many other reforms in federal environmental policy. Seeing mountains stripped bare drives me "crazy with rage." That reaction could be made to seem like partisanship if I were a Democrat, which I am only marginally.

Systemic environmental destruction, global warming, Katrina response, are like flaming daggers hurled at the green and progressive community. It's harder to put out all the fires at once, so starting a lot of fights is an effective means to overcome resistance to the stealthy changes made in the federal regulatory environment. My crude analogy of this is like dropping dung onto a fan and forcing the people who care to clean it up, everywhere, at once.

Smear tactics work in a similar way by barraging the victim with a slew of false allegations which could individually be easily disproved, but lumped together and replayed in the media are much harder to dismiss. As Rove and other smear artists know, evne acknowledging a smear gives it credibility, so the smeared must be careful not to ignore the smears as John Kerry largely did in 2004.

The media context of any political campaign is crucial. Perception management trumps reality--people believe what they see on their TV screens. Spin is therefore a crucial political technique today, despite the fact fewer and fewer people still trust the mainstream media, whose content really has been dumbed down. It seems as if the present Presidential campaign is really a pageant. Media coverage is so rarely about issues but rather tries to frame the political debate around superfluous side issues, whatever that might catch the media's attention on any given day. Like the celebrity gossip dominating our corporate news, mainstream political coverage tends to look at itself as a form of entertainment rather than an arbitrator of political debate. Even the so-called "debates" have devolved into discussion of non-issues.

Red Herrings

A conventient perception management technique is creating red herrings (or straw men)--easily destroyed misperceptions that grossly mischaracterize an opponents' argument. Perhaps the most effective and persistent of these is the premise that liberals are "pro-tax" and "anti-business". Conservatives can therefore position themselves as low tax, knowing full well that economic self-interest is the chief motivator of people who go to the polls. Another accusation is that liberals are "soft on terror"; being opposed to liberals, conservatives are by default "hard on terror". Levelling criticism allows one side to define where they stand, without admitting it, which would reveal just how crass and partisan they really are and destroy whatever impression they'd sought to make.

Stereotypes prevalent in the media are a key conduit for establishing red herrings. In the case of the environment, the straw man is that environmental regulations are "anti-business". Yet people concerned about the environment can't be lumped together as a single political group. Many "environmentalists" are Republicans; a majority of people claiming to be environmentalsits actually drive SUVs.

Environmentalists don't constitute a distinct political group. If these Republicans are pro-business, they don't fit neatly into the definition of a hippie, tree-hugging liberal, thus the Rovian technique can't work.

While environmentalists might be enraged by the anti-environmental promiscuity of the Bush administration, these people aren't traditional ideological foes. Some demogogues on the right will call environnmentalists tree-hugging hippies, and this does tend to "polarize the electorate", but a straw man like that is easily dismissed and could even alienate Republican support.

By creating a false image, of gays, environmentalists, or any others who might oppose their Corporate-First agenda, Rove's political legacy demonstrated an ability to marginalize the political opposition in the media, using stereotypes, so the merits of opposing arguments degenerate into cesspool of political debate about which Americans tend to care little. If the environmental consequences were framed as personal and direct impacts--like the people of Appalachia who live in the shrinking shadow of mountains levelled by explosives--the people might well be concerned. But by making any who oppose the anti-environmental approach into "anti-business" types, the politicization process can undercut the true impact of the issue.

Using perception management based on the media, politically motivated charges can seem apolitical, even quite natural, to a public that hears the same mistruths again and again. Rove devoted much effort to repeating the same messages to the media. Early every day, GOP operatives would fax a set of talking points to like-minded groups, so the media would hear the same fabrications from numerous sources, who'd repeat the official line presented by Rove.

So dedicated to massaging perception had the Rove White House been that it created a White House Iraq Group to market the conflict. In Iraq's case, the incessant lie was that Saddam had WMD and had been involved in 9/11, a red herring which to this day persists among Americans, so effective had the propaganda effort been.

The impact of Rovian shenanigans will be felt, but there can be quite a delay before changes in the air we breathe, water we drink, etc. make it clear to Americans just how bad it is to pollute and destroy our environment, and ultimately how expensive (read inevitably higher taxes to clean it up) pollution is.

The popular illusion of regulatory overburden has led to cutbacks in federal agencies that oversee our foods, imports, drugs, air, and water. The misperception that federal regulations stymie economic growth has been one of the most effective Republican myths out there. Until people stop buying into the media narrative, this illusion and others like it will continue to be exploited for political purposes by the Right.

Blowback can ensue once the public realizes they've been had, but the effects do seem to lag considerably behind the transgressions. One reason the continuing war in Iraq may be tolerated is the fact that relatively few Americans have been directly affected. Yet some day future Americans will feel the pinch, whether in their wallets, or their families as young ones are sent off to die in foreign wars.

Bush's Impact

In the years since Bush took office in a 5-4 Supreme Court recount halting the recount authorized under Florida state law, we've seen a pattern of abuse of environmental laws and regulations. {Astute readers might note that my referral to Bush's appointment would be deemed highly partisan.)

Bush represents the interests of minning and resource-exploiting firms, who intend to use their influence with politicians to get what they want. Enron was the best example of an variance granted to the regulatory climate. Enron gave Bush's 2000 campaign more money than any other company. An investigation by federal authorities was quashed on orders from the White House. In the months that followed, investors saw the value of Enron's stock plummet while those in charge were able to sell out with huge profits.

Chalmers Johnson also brings up Enron in Going Bankrupt; Why the Debt Crisis Is Now the Greatest Threat to the American Republic":
The military adventurers of the Bush administration have much in common with the corporate leaders of the defunct energy company Enron. Both groups of men thought that they were the “smartest guys in the room,” the title of Alex Gibney’s prize-winning film on what went wrong at Enron. The neoconservatives in the White House and the Pentagon outsmarted themselves. They failed even to address the problem of how to finance their schemes of imperialist wars and global domination.

Enron comes up here in "Who Will Take On the Banks?" by Robert Scheer:
"...excesses that are at the root of the financial chaos we have visited upon the world. As with the Enron scandal, which was the direct result of the bipartisan-supported deregulation of the energy industry, so too the subprime mortgage and easy-credit scandals now upon us. For decades, banking lobbyists have pushed through legislation freeing them to wreak havoc on our lives while they profit from lucrative personal bailouts even as their own companies suffer.

Deregulation became the mantra covering corporate theft in both Republican and Democratic administrations, and it is amazing that not one of her interlocutors at the South Carolina debate asked Sen. Clinton about her husband’s signing of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, which permitted banks, stockbrokers and insurance companies to merge, overturning one of the major regulatory achievements of the New Deal."

Scheer hits on the popular misperception that over-regulation is strangling our economy. Controlling the mortgage lending market is a fundamental task for government, neglected in the days since Enron and Bush.

Like substandard pollution controls, the total costs to our economy will surpass whatever temporary gains given the companies riding the housing bubble. Ironically, the crisis has been created through intervention--buckets of easy money spawned through the Federal Reserve.

Despite the crisis, the biggest banks and brokerages pour money to their CEOs, as was the case in the $161 million dollar golden parachute for a CEO fired by Merrill Lynch, which had record losses under Stanley O'Neal's tenure. Year-end bonuses at the top five Wall Street banks totaled a record $39 billion, according to Robert Borosage in HuffPo. Naturally, the wealthier patrons on the Right won't be affected as deeply by the crisis, riding their golden parachutes and bonuses. Of course this doesn't keep them from demanding a federal bailout.

See more on the initial response, a mortgage freeze first suggested as a means of responding to the crisis, here. The banks would be responsible for administering the program. Considering their role in causing the meltdown, it remains extremely unlikely that the crisis is still at a manageable stage. Even the huge dollops of Federal Reserve loans available to banks won't forestall the effect, nor will the emergency rate cut. The interest rate cycle is shrinking so each alteration does less and less and requires more and more follow-on cuts to provide any stimulative benefit.

Historical examples are only one aspect to the clear and present danger that Bush's administration will represent for the rest of the term. Even greater schemes for enriching the private sector are currently underway. The past does however teach us a vital lesson in understanding the tactics which are being used today.


These abuses of power and our democracy may be in the past, but the techniques behind them stand to be repeated if Americans aren't informed. They clearly arn't being served news by objective sources concerned with truth, and justice, so they must educate themselves to prevent further abuses. Bush most dangerous precedent may be reflected in what future Presidents--elected by Diebold--can do to draw on the enheightened powers of the Office of the President.

In issues supported by the Right, extremism in the pursuit of righteousness is no vice, to twist a Barry Goldwater quote. Pro-life forces would be willing to do anything to assure Bush's re-election in 2004; whatever ethical shortcuts that might be involved were secondary to getting Roberts and Alito appointed. As I blogged a few posts ago, evidence that the New Hampshire primary was rigged are very strong. The total blackout on a recount done at Kucinich's behest shows that there is something to the story.

The MSM's loss of credibility has led to entire new media fronts opeing up on the internet. Interesting how the absence of MSM news coverage has become as a blinking light to Americans suspicious of the motives and selective coverage of the corporate-owned MSM.

People are also learning a great deal via word of mouth. As time passed, and lies once prevalent in the media dissolve, the truth slowly emerges. The MSM will most likely discover that it lost control over its audience, and that the more it did to preserve stereotypes and enable Rovian perception managemetn techn iques, the further its validity diminished. Without any real news cotnent, Americans will turn elesewhere for the information they need and need not look back.

There's clearly enough time left for Bush policies to do substantial damage to our environment. Already our global staure is in tatters, the economy is crashing, and we are beginning to experience only the first residual waves of Bush's incompetence and the abuse of power on behalf of business cronies and foreign powers, in particular the Israel-first crowd trying to get us involved in yet another needless war in the Mideast.

Great harm has been done to what is left of the Constitutional Republic; the potential for even greater impostions on personal liberties will likely be forthcoming, perhaps in the name of fighting terror.

Progressives can claim to have been but one group opposing Bush & Co. from the start. Others, like the Native American movement, have been fighting the federal government for decades. The abuses of power seen under Bush are to them merely a continuation of the exploitation they've had to endure.

Using the Law to Fight Big Government

The law may be the last hope for the Republic. Law limits the power of men and the President. Without law, we are ruled by a king or dictator, which is precisely what our nation was formed not to be. One area which has seen the law work as it should has been in the realm of reassertion of Native American water rights in the Southwest under tribal treaties, some of which date back to the 19th century. A test of the law's importance to a society is its permanence--a fact Congress and the President so eager to add signing statements should not forget in their haste to churn out new legislation.

Not all laws and treatied have been enforced. As appeals by Native Americans fell on deaf ears in the federal Courts, Yucca mountain was turned into the nation's largest storehouse of nuclear waste. This despite the fact the mountain sits on a earthquake fault in the Western Shoshone Nation. The Shoshone and Paiute tribes revere the site, which they viewed as being seized by the federal government (like my Liberty Dollar silver!):

The 60 million acres of Western Shoshone territory in Nevada, Idaho, Utah, and California, which includes Yucca Mountain, was never deeded to the U.S. government. According to the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty that the Shoshone signed with the government, most of the area now used by the U.S. military for nuclear weapons testing and the proposed waste storage site was explicitly recognized as Shoshone land. However, the U.S. government now claims 80-90% of it, meaning that the Shoshone are unable to control what happens on their ancestral land. Legislators continue to try to persuade the Shoshone to accept financial compensation for this land, which most view as a way to extinguish aboriginal title and preclude future land claims, easing the way for renewed nuclear weapons testing and waste storage, as well as resource extraction.

Based on treaties with tribal communities, lawsuits charging the violation water rights have been met with some success in Federal Court. I remember one suit regarding Maricopa County, Arizona, location of the city of Phoenix, and two tribes--the Gila River and the Tohono O'odham nation--resulting in the Arizona Water Settlement Act, introduced by U.S. Senator John Kyl who has apparently been quite supportive of the cause, according to one article.

Other court cases have far-reaching legal implications for Natives seeking to protect their rights to water throughout the West, as competition by rapidly expanding developments and hungry agriculture threatens Native access. Environmentalist have to applaud the establishment of water-theft limits, so that development can hopefully be slowed. The restoration of Native American water rights helps establish the primacy of sustainability, with water as the limiting factor.

For anyone who's lived in the Southwest, as I have for close to two years, it takes no genius to realize people use too much water and that the water resources cannot sustain current population growth. The Colorado River is being systematically drained to the point it no longer reaches the Sea of Cortez.

The Native American museum at the University of Arizona offers great exhibits and information on the struggles of Native Americans in preserving their acccess to water, which in some languages of peoples native to the Southwest can be translated to "life". If you are ever in Tucson, see the Arizona State Museum there on the campus.

I remember one Native being quoted as having said that if they waited long enough, control over their territory would revert back to them. The White man would be forced to leave their land because they couldn't last in the dry climate, so the logic goes. If Americans living in the Southwest can't adapt to their climate, eventually the megacities there will have to shrink as the water supply dwindles.

Additional Sources
A large body of treaty laws and legal precedents can be found in a University of Arizona database.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Real ID Cometh; New Orleans Bleeds

Stephen Lendman writes about institutionalized spying in a good new article. He talks about RealID, a piece of noxious legislation that forces states to comply with federally mandated rules on driver's licenses.

Much of the impetus for the Act came out of post-9/11 impulses which framed the event as essentially preventable had better security procedures been in place. Numerous hijackers had been able to acquire fraudulent identification through state driver's license branches. Theoretically, the Real ID provisions will make it harder for terrorists to obtain identification which could then be used to access the transportation grid.

States have objected both out of the costs involved and the sheer bureaucratic nightmare of proving people's identities through their birth certificates, which are issued by thousands of different agencies.

Lendman explains:
The Real ID Act of 2005 required states to meet federal ID standards by May, 2008. That's now changed because 29 states passed or introduced laws that refuse to comply. They call the Act costly to administer, a bureaucratic nightmare, and New Hampshire said it's "repugnant" and violates the state and US Constitutions.

The federal law mandates that every US citizen and legal resident have a national ID card that in most cases is a driver's license meeting federal standards. It requires it to contain an individual's personal information and makes one mandatory to open a bank account, board an airplane, be able to vote, get a job, enter a federal building, or conduct virtually all essential business requiring identification.

Illegal immigrants will be targeted, and documentation will be impossible. This will make it certain that illegal immigrants won't have proper identification and therefore be denied access to vital things like car insurance. If an illegal immigrant is facing deportation, why should they care about the trouble that causes their arrest, as long as it doesn't force a long jail sentence? Short of a serious felony, the severity of the infraction would matter little to the deported.

While illegal immigrants might not commit murder to escape apprehension, but they would most likely flee if they could, knowing that they'd be deported if caught. Who knows how many unlucky Americans will die or be grievously injured in the crashes which are far too often the way these police chases end. And if the illegal immigrant facing apprehension is in fact wanted for serious charges, they have even less to lose. Post-accident drive-offs would be common, as would hit-and-run as we know the 20 million or so illegal immigrants share our roadways.

Workplace Enforcement

"...States must begin checking license applicants' Social Security and immigration status over the next year" Lendman says.

Employers have been lax about Social Security identification processes and reporting. About a year ago, I'd read an article by David Bacon about a ICE raid on a Smithfield (N.C.) meat-packing plant raid where union activity had presented a threat to the lower wage opportunism that illegal immigrants seem to offer their employers. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid hadn't been a chance enforcement action but rather a preemptive strike at the union and threat it posed. One-by-one, non-US citizens working there illegally were pulled into a back office and detained prior to deportation.

If immigrants were to organize, the benefits of lower cost labor would vanish. The managers of the meat packers have an incentive to keep illegal immigrants coming. Enforcement is selective, and appears vulnerable to political sway: the bosses at Smithfield were Republicans well-connected to the Bush administration.

The justification for using cheap labor is lower prices for the consumer. Clearly if we had to pay union wages, our products would be more expensive. Still, the lower wages aren't entirely passed on--owners of the plant do capture a big chunk of the savings on labor, assuming it stays non-union. So-called conservatives like to frame the immigration debate in economic terms, in the lower cost of labor's benefit to the price levels and affordability, sort of the same argument many use to defend low-cost Chinese imports by an unrestrained behemoth Walmart.

The "pro-business" aspects of using illegal immigration to lower the cost-of-wage pool don't play to fondly to downsized Americans. For those slaving at peasant wages, the appearance of large amounts of cheap Mexican labor might inspire them to work harder and longer just to keep their low-paying, service sector jobs. Paradoxically, these "business iconoclastic" tendencies separate Republicans from their largely anti-illegal immigrant base.

Feeding the Monster

Corporate demands and lobbying anchor the appetites of a national security state, so it's no surprise that RealID reflects the desires of businesses who sell to the federal government. Spying is a big opportunity and the legal limitations are nothing more than a speed bump in the desire of corporations to make money from security contracts. The new police state offers unprecedented wealth-making opportunities, especially when few remaining legal constraint of privacy are being systematically ravaged by a federal government held sway to the corporate profit motive.

With RealID, the corporate motive is in selling software and technologies that expedite data-collection and monitoring. Lendman pinpoints the corporate organization trying to create feeding space at the federal trough:

"...the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) is lobbying for Real ID's passage. Its members include high-tech card makers like Digimarc and Northrup Grumman and data brokers like Choicepoint and LexisNexis that profit by selling personal information to advertisers and the government."

Whatever the profitability of private sector data harvesting and collection, inaccuracies in the data will make tracking extremely inaccurate means of preventing crime and terrorism. Marketers would undoubtedly glean whatever commercially beneficial information they can from tracking the movement and behaviors of potentially everyone. Data mining is the plumb for the companies who claim to be protecting the national security.

Part of the RealID process involves cross-referencing data using Social Security numbers. So many states have complained to the Department of Homeland Security to the point implementation of RealID was pushed years into the future. The National Security State has succeeded in aligning social security numbers with reporting of criminal activity in real-time, nationwide, and feed notification of an arrest to your employer.

Corporations who profit from using illegal immigrant labor might also find the law a major threat that can lead to fines and other punitive measures, should the government chose to enforce the law. Preventing illegal immigrants from getting government-issued identification may be a goal of the Act, but that hardly means illegal immigrants won't still be working the jobs they do now. If anything, the RealID act will push this employment further underground, where employers will be able to maintain sub-standard working conditions which violate labor laws. Government itself would lose whatever employment taxes are paid by illegal immigrants. Payroll taxes would be likely collected by unscrupulous employers but never sent in, due to the obvious fact that such reporting would lead to prosecution of the employer.

Lendman explains that many databases contain fraudulent information, which is hard to correct. Ask any victim of identity fraud how easy it is to purge one's record of inaccurate credit reporting items. Imagine the effect of being confused with a terrorist in today's topsyturvy world of paranoia and fear.
Simply sharing a last name could mean lengthy detentions in places where ID is required, which Lendman identifies as "airports, border checkpoints, other points of entry and other security-related areas."

Simply expanding a security cordon could bring unwitting passersby into a high security zone, where IDs would be demanded by security personnel. It's also quite likely the private sector security forces would demand RealID in places like shopping malls, parking garages, and anywhere there's the possibility of violence.

Accessing your identification card could allow private sector employees to access whatever information is digitally housed in the bar code. Future plans include microchips inserted into the ID, where they could be scanned from a distance, both by authorized personnel and anyone with the technical means to scan the card's data.

I'd read that terrorists could use RFID scanners to determine the nationality of people with a simple reader, from up to 15 feet away, which would identify people in order to separate or target them. A plane hijacking would be one place where screening could be used to identify hijacked passenger's race and ethnicity as well, assuming the biometric data on the microchips include that information. Anyone who's followed actual hijackings by radical Islamic fundamentalists knows this will put Jews at far higher risk of harm.

Positively terrifying is the technical side of microchips. Lendman describes a futuristic, Orwellian scenario of unprecedented spying opportunities:
"RFID technology is advancing, and one company plans deeper implants that can vibrate, emit electroshocks, broadcast a message to the implantee, and/or be a hidden microphone to transmit conversations. It's not science fiction, and what's planned for the UK will likely come to America."

Lendman's article explores a connection between chip implants and cancer. The idea of a microchip constantly radiating energy waves, or infrared signals passing through the skin can hardly be healthy.

I couldn't help remembering of new weapon research in the field of crowd-control. There now exists in the US arsenal a machine that can send a stream of microwaves to a group--presumably demonstrators. Those in the affected zone immediately feel a burning sensation and run to escape. Apparently the weapon leaves no traces, which raises the possibility of its use as a untraceable torture weapon, or in other non-violent, crowd-control situations.

The US Navy also developed a device that can allow words to be transmitted, delivered at a distance to the inner ear of the affected. The beam could send a warning to the helm of a speeding boat--as in the recent Iranian speedboat blowup--as easily it could implant whispers and voices to an unknowing victim who'd most likely be driven crazy. The long-term health affects of these new weapons may be unknown or simply ignored as they are with Depleted Uranium weaponry.

RealID will be required to fly as soon as May, 2008 by those states that comply with the federal directives. Access to Federal buildings may be restricted for those under 50 years of age or so--an age which DHS claims typically younger terrorists are unlikely to have reached. Legal employment in the absence of a RealID could become impossible which of course leads to increases in illicit and thus un-taxable employment.

I wonder how many perfectly authentic US citizens would contemplate going off the books if they could, like the hippie gypsy in the Who song, with employer-withheld taxes and Social Security constituting up to 50% of employee pay.

Some states consider the legislation a legal challenge to their state constitutions, or hold well-founded fears about the loss of privacy and potential for illicit data mining of the contents of the new IDs. Expect challenges for RealID in the future. Enforcement on the Social Security work provisions will likely become lax and states and cities will find ways around the cumbersome, expensive, unfunded mandate which will do very little for our security.

New Orleans Chicanery

You may have seen a powerful video on the demonstrations outside New Orleans City Hall in December. Here's another video of the appeal by public housing residents and activists in the chambers of the New Orleans City Council, as people are forcibly kept outside. Both videos contain some overlapping footage but are worth watching closely. A Tazering is shown.

Completely unnecessary, the public housing crisis is essentially ethnic cleansing--the removal of predominantly African-American residents from largely undamaged apartments which are demolished to make way for private sector housing.

Lawyer Bill Quigley is now studying the HUD actions in New Orleans. He wrote Eighteen Months After Katrina.

Public housing in New Orleans is being demolished on order from Washington, D.C., according to Quigley, through HUD. Worse, private development has replaced the public, in a picture perfect example of disaster capitalism: "...the demolition and private development would be financed by federal funds and federal tax breaks designed to help Katrina victims!" (link)

Quigley continues:
"Nearly $100 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds were designated for the private developers. Another $34 million in Katrina Go-Zone tax credits were also donated to the developers."

I've commented on Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine here before. The brute conversion of New Orleans public housing to private exemplifies corruption at the highest levels. The public interest is subverted by corporate greed as it works the puppet strings of a government it controls. The money flows not to the needy, or even the victims of the disaster but instead the already wealthy who can expend vast amounts of political influence to sway governmental decisions and redirect the flow of federal contract through crony relationships with those in power.

In disaster capitalism, a natural or man-made catastrophe serves as the anvil against which functioning remnants of government are hammered out and converted into opportunities for private-sector speculation and right wing social experimentation. In the wake of the crisis, Money dries up, schools are shuttered, municipal workers furloughed. Local government services decline in response to the tragedy and unresponsive bureaucracies like HUD take over.

The reason for de-fanging local authority and control in the rebuilding process is highly conspiratorial. A federalized response allows public projects like demolishing perfectly adequate public housing to be auctioned off to the bidder with the most political influence in Washington. Often the goal is not to recover and repair but rather to exploit economic opportunities generated for the benefit of the for-profit sector. The fabric of their culture left in tatters by the disaster, the remaining population becomes guinea pigs for social experimentation, government down-sizing, and predatory capitalism. Charter schools are brought in, public hospitals realigned, and additional government functions privatized or abandoned.

The actual results of recovery are secondary to public perception that something is being done. Doing its part to mold perceptions, MSM coverage tends to foster a mistaken belief in the inadequacy of government-led responses. In New Orleans, FEMA has mismanaged everything, which of course makes private sector efforts appear more efficient. Meanwhile, micromanagement of the recovery from Washington means that many rescue resources were denied access. In the continuing recovery, local efforts have been stymied in favor of dispassionate bureaucratic remedies implemented from afar, which contrast so vividly with the activists in the videos who demand that the New Orleans City Council and police allow people from outside to enter the public building.

Aid has flowed not to where it is needed--like the beleaguered Ninth Ward--but to large outside contractors. Motivated by profit, these companies in turn outsource much of the actual work. Several companies have been accused of hiring illegal immigrants; Bush suspended Davis-Bacon wage requirements just for the occasion.

Transparency is another hallmark of disaster capitalism in action. Should people realize the scope of the theft and exploitation of the tragedy, they'd surely be forced to act. But the mainstream media ignores the plight of the victims. Oversight from the federal government is lax and no-bid contracts make accountability difficult. Like Iraq, the privatization creates nothing more than a string of uncoordinated, ineffectual profit centers for Big Business. None of the contracts seem to require actual results and therefore much of the Ninth Ward remains in tatters to this day.

Additional Resources
"DHS Issues Proposal for States to Enhance Driver’s Licenses", Press Release dated March 1st, 2007.

"Lobbyists Advise Katrina Relief" from the Los Angeles Times.

Save Public Housing in New Orleans, a well-done video including an interview with Bill Quigley.

Quigley both wrote about two priests arrested at Fort Huachuca, Arizona and defended them in federal court. He also covered demonstrations at Fort Benning's School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.)


Labels: , , ,

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Hampshire Rigged? Electronic Vote Fraud a Possibility

Were the New Hampshire results fraudulent? In shades of the underreported Ohio election scandal in 2004--which saw the imprisonment of two Cuyahoga County Elections officers--the '08 New Hampshire Primaries saw large unexplained discrepancies between polls and the results.

Speculation is rampant that people from outside the State could have shown up and voted. I guess the sheer variety of explanations for why Hillary was able to engineer a spontaneous turnaround is a product of suspicion. While electronic vote fraud cannot be proved, it's hardly been disproved either. I'll guess that more theories will arise to explain Hillary's statistically improbable victory as more analysis comes out concerning poll discrepancies.

I haven't been able to dive into polls and have chosen rather to monitor what others have been saying about the issue. I'm not going to make a case for fraud but rather address the incongruities that suggest the election results were not accurate.

McClatchy Newspapers has an article out about "Why are polls sometimes so wrong?", an interesting twist on the notion that New Hampshire primary results were rigged. Rather than raise the possibility that the polls were right and the election results wrong, the easier and far less confrontational (trouble-brewing) response is to blame the polls for being way off, even if the polls have a very low probability of being off as much as they were.

It's deja vu all over again, to borrow the Yogi Berra classic. We saw all this before in Ohio in '04 and before that in Florida, where we were led to believe that the unprecedented variation between exit polls and actual results was merely a statistical anomaly. Well apparently these statistical anomalies are occurring at a rate that will put their rare status in danger.

Maybe the exit and pre-election polls matter less and less and that the deviations between actual and projected results is becoming too complicated to analyze. But statistics has in itself the means to account for variation. And the averages themselves mean that results should be within a range of standard deviations. This is the + (plus) or - (minus) with some percentage that we see associated with poll reporting.

When we see polls err so badly, I think we can at least question the legitimacy of electronic voting used to tabulate results. The widespread adoption of electronic voting machines appears to be the chief difference between the historical monitoring of poll results vs. election results and the present age. Since the dawn of black box voting, historical averages seem to have become increasingly irrelevant which would make pre- and post-voting polls less accurate.

Is the unpredictability of anticipated results from exit and other polls a product of electronic voting? I don't know, but it is clear that whatever statistical deviations that pollsters use going forward need to embrace the greater unpredictability of the new norms. Historical precedents need to succumb to the modern age, I guess, but this doesn't mean exit- and pre-polling can't determine results or that the final tally is beyond rigging. If anything the uniformity of electronic voting standards brought forth by Help America Vote Act has ushered in an unprecedented opportunity for vote manipulators and illicit programmers to rig results using undetectable methods.

I guess your willingness to accept the real results versus those anticipated in polling is a function of whether you supported the winning candidates or not. Accusations of vote-rigging and electronic manipulation are easy to make but hard to prove. Yet if hadn't been for the discrepancies in Ohio in '04, I really wouldn't be as skeptical as I am today. Like 9/11, the absence of a thorough investigation into vote-rigging allegations also makes me skeptical.

Now if our voting system is privatized, which voting rights advocates like Bev Harris of blackboxvoting.org claim, both political sides are exploiting the system in order to subvert the popular will of the people as expressed through the impartial recording and counting of their votes. Now if Democrats win an election, Republicans will make allegations of electronic vote fraud and vice-versa, so out of that political milieu must come a nonpartisan effort to make sure votes are counted, not an easy chore. This will most likely require a paper trail, as I cannot assume that Diebold or Sequoia will willingly admit their machines have fault. And even if Diebold isn't actively changing results, a major point in the HBO documentary Hacking Democracy proved that anyone who had access to the machines could do so, in an untraceable way using only basic PC skills. [See my post on consortiumnews--available in its entirety below.]

Gary Langer, director of Polling at ABC wih more than 15 years experience, raises the serious problems he has between analyzing polling results and those of the Primary. In a technically troubled link courtesy whatreallyhappened, Langer says:
There will be a serious, critical look at the final pre-election polls in the Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire; that is essential. It is simply unprecedented for so many polls to have been so wrong. We need to know why.

I'm analyzing the results, but there are clearly grounds to question the election outcome. Here is one post, by Doug, under the article Langer entry on abcnews.com:
If you look at the pre-vote polls for ALL other candidates, they match up exactly. I mean exactly. Then, it is as if the Clinton/Obama results are reversed. They're both off by 5+% each. The statistical odds of this happening by chance must be astronomically small. This should cause a serious investigation into potential vote fraud.

Among those posting, reactions swing from highly doubtful from guarded suspicion to firm beliefs in the integrity of Clinton's victory, alongside accusation that the doubters are anti-women.

Another poster, Linda, says of Clinton that "she was supposed to lose in almost every poll by at least 10 percentage points."

JC posts to the same abcnews posting on January 9th:
Our poll here in Iowa before the caucus ran by the Des Moines Register was dead on with the Clinton/Obama results. Why are the NH polls so off? I guess when the votes are counted behind the scenes vs. out in the open like the caucus, then results can be WAY different.

I couldn't help but think of the quote by Stalin: "It's not the people who vote that count. It's the people who count the votes."

One voter, brendan, brings up the contradiction between New Hampshire's independent-mindedness and the selection of the two most establishment candidates, Clinton and McCain. I believe McCain won the Republican primary there in 2000, so perhaps McCain might appeal to the independent spirit of the people of New Hampshire as an maverick candidate even though he may have changed to a more mainstream ideology. Personally, I think McCain's promise to keep the US in Iraq for 100 years is sheer madness.

In some of the narrative accepted by the MSM, the unexplained swings are attributed to Clinton's tearful admission at the last minute, playing a victim as she had done in New York to win her Senate seat, one poster explained. Was the shedding of tears a modern day equivalent of husband Bill's proclamation in 1992 that he would stand with New Hampshire voters "til the last dog died"?

My opinion of Hillary's tear-filled antics was that they made her look old and sad. Using even my own very active imagination, I couldn't stretch the political significance of what was clearly the verge of an emotional breakdown into positive currency no matter how hard I tried.

The principle of Occham's razor is very important here. We cannot conclude that simply because the vote results did not match up with the polls election fraud occurred. Occham's razor is useful in de-link effects from causes and helps shut down conspiracy theory; it does not however give us proof that the election results were not rigged.

Even if we did know that the Diebold machines were hackable does not prove that they were hacked. Their hackability is in large part a function of the ethics of the companies which have been accredited, licensed, and chosen to maintain and distribute the machines.

For those familiar with the HBO documentary Hacking Democracy, the Diebold machines can be easily reprogrammed through their data cards. One test of a Diebold machine, yielded a completely untraceable outcome when new paper ballots were entered. I discussed this very important revelation in a previous post; people who want to see their votes counted should be extremely concerned about this vulnerability. Clearly if nothing has been done to rectify the security concerns, the potential for vote-rigging persists.

I'd say the risk of digital manipulation is particularly high when a partisan outfit is given responsibility for installing and programming new machines. Zealotry is a notable and in some way respectable trait that can often digress into wanton cheating in the absence of legal or regulatory authority.

John Kerry's unwillingness to confront the outcome of the voting in Ohio shows the very unassuming attitude that prevails in accepting the outcome of digitized, black box voting. And even where no hackable machines are used, we can see the effects of other schemes that discourage participation in places like Kenyon College (liberal college where students waited over five hours to vote) or in urban areas populated by minorities who traditionally vote Democratic--where machine shortages forced would-be voters to wait needlessly as additional machines idled in a suburban Columbus warehouse, at the discretion of Ohio Secretary of State Blackwell, who led Bush Cheney's reelection effort in that state. The chief executive of Diebold--also a main Bush campaign contributor-- likewise promised the state would go to George W. Bush.

For more on these crimes, see the excellent article by Kennedy in Rolling Stone on the stolen election in Ohio. {BTW, Rolling Stone just came out with a great story on the Drug War by Ben Wallace-Wells.}

I just posted on consortiumnews.com, a good site run by Robert Parry, which had the gall to claim that the McCain and Clinton's victories signified proof that the Iraq War no longer mattered in the campaign. However sweet that might sound to the Israel-first MSM and ruling elite, the fact is that Iraq is more unpopular than ever. It's mostly been the control over the debates by the MSM that's supported the theory that Iraq is irrelevant--in at least one Republican debate, any and all discussion of Iraq was prohibited.

The underlying article on their site is by Mary MacElveen under the awkward title "Where are the Tears for GIs, Iraqis?" (no direct link available). Here's the response I posted there:
I'm sorry but the Editor's Note is highly inaccurate: Iraq is a very important issue in this campaign. Iraq has simply dropped off the M$M radar. It's unfortunate that consortium news has bought into the theory that Iraq doesn't matter to Americans. A recent poll showed that Iraq was tied to the economy as the #1 issue of importance to Americans.

I would not presume that Iraq has diminished the slightest in its importance to Americans. As a matter of fact, resistance to the war is stronger than it's ever been.

Presuming that the Iraq war is of diminished significance because Hillary and McCain won the voting is illogical. As a matter of fact, I would say the preponderance of data from both the 2000 case in Florida and the 2004 presidential election in Ohio shows that the Diebold machines are vulnerable to hacking.

The New Hampshire Primary employed systems vulnerable to hacking and run exclusively by a Republican consulting outfit out of Connecticut. You may have seen the video titled "Silvestro the cat and the New Hampshire election" on youtube. The video might only be the tip of an iceberg of interlocking relationships between Republican business donors and the increasingly privatized network of vote machine vendors with exclusive distribution rights, like Silvestro's company, LHS Associates, which programs up to 81% of all New Hampshire's voting machines, according to the youtube video. Bev Harris offers an article on Silvestro here; rumormillnews cites that article in a post here.

Is the accusation all wild conjecture? We do have some large anomalies to think about like the Presidential election in '00 and '04, where polls did not match election results. In New Hampshire, we have evidence that vote total fell and votes disappeared in at least one town, Sutton.

We cannot at this point assume that the election results were not fraudulent. I don't have proof that they are fraudulent, nor do I think any evidence could be produced if the testing done by Ion Sanchez of Leon County, Florida, as shown in Hacking Democracy is in fact accurate. See this post on Sanchez's test. It's worth mentioning that Sanchez put hundreds of thousands of Help American Vote Act dispensations from the Federal government at risk by failing to certify the machines, which to Sanchez's credit would have been far easier than challenging the machines.

I have plenty of links on the '04 election fraud. Here is one by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman. The authors have been very active documenting and combatting electoral cheating in the State of Ohio; they've received no MSM coverage that I am aware of. They have a new book out on the topic.

For those who fear not the light of truth, the absence of MSM coverage should be a green light to learn more, especially when the facts are presented as effectively as they are by Fitrakis and Wasserman. See their site freepress.org for more.

An accurate and ongoing investigation is needed to track the key players in the Ohio election saga, which may unfortunately represent a new pattern in voter disenfranchisement through the use of paperless electronic voting. For an account of the dealings of two-time felon Michael Vu, a Cuyahoga County elections official fired in Ohio and hired in san Diego County, see this summary by Rady Anada, with some good links at the bottom.

I think the idea of hacking democracy to bring results in line with the desired media narrative is quite plausible. Obama winning New Hampshire might not be the storyline the MSM wants. Theoretically, the Clinton machine had the means and opportunity to influence Silvestro's LHS or others in control of the vote-counting software. The election results do appear to defy statistical precedent and the most recent and accurate poll data available, although my analysis is far from complete.

Update: 1-10-07 5:00 PM
I found two articles on the vote fraud issue in New Hampshire. Apparently hand-counted ballots differed considerably in the allocations between Hillary and Obama from those counted by Diebold machines. See Ron Corvus' post on opednews for specific numbers.

Also on opednews, this article by Jean Hay Bright addresses the discrepancies.


Saturday, January 05, 2008

Follow Up and Pictures from September 15th

I attended the September 15th rally in Washington, D.C.. For more on the march, see either my post Reporting on DC or my onlinejournal article.

ANSWER (Act Now To Stop War and End Racism), one of the rally sponsors, just issued a press release dated January 4th.

Referring to the trials of 11 defendants arrested on the steps of the Capitol, ANSWER had this to say:

An important victory was won yesterday, January 3, in the case of 11 defendants who were arrested at the Sept. 15 March on the Capitol, which drew 100,000 anti-war protestors to Washington, DC.

Judge Henry Greene of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia dismissed all charges against the defendants, who were accused of crossing a police line. The government's case collapsed in the early stages of the trial during the the testimony of a witness from the Capitol Police.

The protestors asserted that the government and the Capitol Police had illegally and unconstitutionally sought to prevent demonstrators from engaging in First Amendment protected speech and assembly in an area in front of the Capitol building routinely kept open to tourists and others. This attempt to exclude people engaging in free speech activities could not form the basis for a lawful arrest or conviction for "crossing a police line."

The government's case disintegrated as protestors' attorneys demonstrated that the government had withheld key evidence from the defense.

Under pressure from the defense, the government revealed that they had withheld documents and material that was central to the defendants' challenge to the government's efforts to prevent demonstrators from exercising their First Amendment rights at Congress under the pretext of "national security," including a "police sensitive" document supposedly related to "terrorism." The defense argued that the government was using this pretext to prevent antiwar protest at a time when General David Petraeus was making the Bush administration's case that Congress should continue to fund the Iraq war.

The police in their riot regalia lined up like a group of third world paramilitaries, ready to bash and crush any who'd dare to cross the line. My photo here shows the back line of police, while another line stood just on the other side of the wall, batons at the ready. The crowd was agitated but the wall and crowd control barricades appeared to both physically impede them, with psychological reinforcement from the multiple lines of police behind it.

And protesters did cross the perimeter, where they were taken into custody. The people arrested were taken from the far side of a wall that lies at the base of the Capitol steps. Police would periodically escort handcuffed arrestees up the Capitol steps. To their credit, the arrestees undertook no resistance whatsoever once they'd been arrested. See my photo.

The police presence was heavy and was really looking to control the event through limiting its movement, rather than bash heads or force confrontation. The flow of arrests went well, and I believed this worked to the advantage of both sides. Arrestees succeeded in getting providing proof of their conviction by subjecting themselves to arrest, while at no time was the crowd threatening to get out of control and rush the barricades.

The event was not one of rebellious rioters but peaceable demonstrators more reflective of mainstream America, as I've explained in my other posts. Most threatening were the pack of bike-riding thugs who'd confronted demonstrators in Lafayette Park.

I would later learn that counter-demonstrators got in a physical confrontation with the father of deceased Marine. In that incident the picture of the man's dead son had been ripped off the coffin and had allegedly reclaimed it through force, suffering injuries in the process.

Confrontations were staged by the counter-demonstrators, in this case a pro-war motorcycle-cadre called the Gathering of Eagles. The Eagles had fought with the father of an dead Iraqi war veteran by the name of Carlos Arredondo, who is quoted on the Eagles' website as saying: "I was assaulted by a group of pro-war people. They come into the ground, and they kicked me and punched me. As a citizen of this country, it’s my duty and my responsibility to participate. As a father, who I lost my son in Iraq, I got to honor my son."

Arredondo pulled a coffin during the march, and had taken to driving between protest locations with his son's coffin in the back of his pickup, in a lonely pilgrimage mixing protest with his obvious grief. It was hard not to be moved by his loss. Even the most ardent war supporters should have let him cope with his grief in the manner of his choosing.

Wider Issues

Here's what I had to say about the situation in my post on September 20th:
"Accountability is completely lacking in Washington, this I felt when the march concluded on the lawn of the Capitol Building. The interests of the majority were clearly constituted among the protesters, held at bay by a line of police separating them from their supposed representation. Justice can't come from lawmakers disconnected from the popular will who hide behind police."

I'd thought the sight of the arrested being led up the Capitol steps like Guantanamo detainees a superb contradiction of modern day American democracy. As a matter of fact, one duo demonstrated at the event dressed in Guantanamo orange, see the photo here.

After the event I did see limited coverage. The mainstream media video clips did show one arrestee thrashing about on the ground at the time of his arrest. His thrashing could be seen as resistance, and a justification for a full body press by knee to the neck but his writhing could well have been from the pain of the knee or PPCT--Pressure Point Control Tactics--used by the police, or possibly by a chemical agent or Tazer (The use of Tazers has the unfortunate consequence of making the victim behave uncontrollably, hardly a desirable means to bring them under control.)

MSM coverage had dissipated by Monday the 17th, however. I'd written on the coverage angle in my blog from Washington at the time. Cynical as I am about the MSM, I'd been surprised to see any coverage whatsoever, so when it did come up--all 40 seconds of it on Headline Prime and CNN--I'd been pleased, and took some pride in my participation in the rally. Though I had come to the DC rally to cover it, I could at least claim my status as an independent blogger who sought to got the real story out.

Photo Breakdown

I've shrunk the size somewhat from my Mothman photo postings. These are currently 800pixels by 600. You can e-mail me at lordfraser(AT)yahoo.com if you are interested in higher resolution. I intend to make these photographs available to the general public, as the demonstrators intended to have their images shown there.

These are only a first grouping. I hope to have more available on my website when I launch it.

Protest March Photos

A group composed solely of veterans had led the march. The organizers would not let any non-veterans in, and had a moving cordon around the group from start to finish. See # 10, you can identify Iraq Veterans for Peace members that form the honor guard. #11 is a close up taken as the lead group formed.

I've said that the iraq Veterans for Peace appeared highly disciplined and very capable. Wearing their desert fatigues with the Iraq Veteran for Peace in white lettering on black T-shirts beneath gave them a look like they'd come straight off the battlefield.

The main protest stretched on for over twenty minutes, moving at a steady pace. You can see the video I took on the link on the right hand side of the blog, under Videos-Windows Media Required. It may give something of a sense of how big the event was. The signs and regalia were extremely diverse, powerful, and purposeful. I hope making these photos available to you will prove just how strong the movement is. The level of belief in the righteousness of ending the war was remarkable and came through quite clearly in the march, as you can hopefully see through my pictures.

Note: Be careful not to close your browser window after viewing the pictures, as they may not open up in a new window and you might have to hit the back button to get back here.

Here are the linked pictures:
Lafayette Park (Pre-March)
01- Peoria
02 - Victory Over Stupidity
03 - RIP Democracy
04 - Congress You're Fired
05 - Fifth Grader ( This is a Classic)
07 - Soup Not War
08 - Lone Texan

15 - Front Edge of Main Body
16 - March 1
17 - March 2
18 - Draft Bush Twins
19 - March 3
20 - Code Pink (These women impressed me.)
21 - Frat Boy
22 - Univ. Maryland
23 - When A**holes Rule
24 - I Feel You(r Pain)
25 - W-W-W

Capitol Lawn
27 - Peace Flag

Massaging the Numbers

ANSWER's press release refers to the 100,000 who'd come to the rally. I'd be leery of that figure, but I was outraged by a Reuters article by Andy (not Andrew) Sullivan that had estimated attendance at 10,000! Naturally that article was trying to spin dubious theory that popular support for the antiwar movement had been going down. It's highly likely that the mainstream media would attempt to diminish the strength of the antiwar movement. Both Commondreams.org and alternet carried the article. They apparently didn't bother to check on Sullivan's estimate--I guess he was even there--, or the magnitude of difference between Sullivan's estimate and ANSWER's. I'd guessed 30-40,000 participants, with maybe another 10,000 along the march route down Constitution Avenue, which probably consisted of 1-2 thousand counter-protestors at most.

I posted on this error in judging attendance at indypendent.org, which is part of the unaffilitated, non-mainstream global news network consisting of independent news media centers in dozens of cities. I like the indy media for coverage of events like the 9-15 march. They tend to be a sounding platform for anyone with something to say that the mainstream media will ignore.

To me, it seemed like the MSM wasn't misreporting the attendance numbers without a purpose. I've always made it a point on this blog to analyze the mainstream media, in order to deconstruct false reporting. Now if ANSWER's estimate were high, they of course had a motive--to prove the size and strength of the antiwar movement. Judging from Sullivan's account, the mainstream media must have wanted to deflate the attendance numbers; unlike ANSWER though, we don't know their motives other than the fact that the MSM has been uncritical of Bush Iraq war policy and failed miserably, perhaps well beyond the possibility of mere incompetence.

Diminishing the antiwar movement is typical corporate behavior. Judging by how our media have been consolidated, coverage decisions are made by corporate entities and editors are forced to maximize entertainment-style news. Iraq war protests clearly serve no corporate constituency, so the MSM may be sinning by omission rather than spewing forth outright propaganda, although plenty of that has made its way into the front-page of supposedly reputable sources like the New York Times, who fielded numerous fabrications on Iraqi WMD passed on to Judith Miller via the White House Iraq Group (Scooter, Cheney) that the Paper of Record has to this day failed to correct.

Committed to getting the facts, I like accessing information from these sources before the pro-war filters of the mainstream media screen out the truth in order to spin some fake narrative. Sometimes, posts at alternative sites tend to be anti-capitalist and anarchist, but if you can factor out the rebelliousness, the underpinnings of these fringe cause can sometime make quite a deal of sense, whether you agree with their methodologies or not.

Now as for the effectiveness of the 9/15/07 march, not much was achieved in terms of ending the war. Advocates of radical change are surely disappointed with the pace of political change, which is in regard to Iraq slower than a snail's pace. Sometimes hardcore protest types tend to radicalize their definition of protesting to the point they fail to see the broader appeal of their cause. Just because a protest march doesn't end in violent confrontations with the police doesn't mean it didn't have an effect of any substance. If anything, in this day of a cocooning, atomized lifestyle, getting average people to get off their asses and go to protest the war is a great achievement.

Gathering a bunch of squares out to protest is an achievement in that it shows just how mainstream the antiwar movement has become. A few hundred arrests and no heavy-handed police reactions may be signs of protest inadequacy for radicals but the mainstreaming of dissent surely goes a long way in broadening popular support for an end to the war. People will feel welcome to come out and voice their opinions, which in the case of the majority is the desire to end the war. Politicians will have to one day heed the call, if indeed people participate and if truly antiwar candidates are available.

Saying this protest had no impact also encourages apathy, which I believe is a tool used by the establishment to minimize political participation, alongside the manipulation of fear. Results matter and numbers may be down, but there's hasn't been any increase in opposition to the war among politicians, many of whom rode a wave of antiwar sentiment in order to get elected. The appeal of being anti-Iraq War could motivate the politicians to actually end it, however they haven't and the reason can't be that the protests have been too weak or non-violent.

Under the political catharsis that grips the supposedly antiwar Democrats, who could blame the antiwar majority for losing confidence that protesting could achieve anything meaningful? The betrayal of the antiwar movement by Democratic politicians and in particular their leadership is but one more tool by which people can lose faith in the electoral process in American politics. Expecting a march, even of 100,000, to achieve instant results in ridiculous. As a matter of fact, during Vietnam, in one weekend in 1971, over 10,000 people were arrested! (This according to a ex-D.C. cop (subject of my October 17th post) I ran into in Maryland on my way to the 9/15 protest.)

By Vietnam-era standards, attendance of 30-50,000 would be paltry. Because the political system nowadays isn't responsive to the voters--clearly a majority of Americans want us out of Iraq and have elected politicians who've chosen not to extracate us--no crowd would be large enough to influence the way things are going. Given the rally's timing--a Saturday--when politicians weren't in session and most likely weren't even in town, the only way for them to find out about the rally was through the mainstream media, should they happen to arrive on the minute or less of MSM coverage on the rally as they channel-surfed from the comforts of their homes.

There is however a backdoor way in that relies predominantly on word-of-mouth. This is the same way people have always discovered what really goes on. None of the politicians in Washington would ever publicly admit that they'd followed coverage of the rally, but the march must have left an impression in the conscience of even the most cynical politician. The march showed just how upset Americans were about the war and that they were actively trying to stop it. Hide as they might from their constituents who undoubtedly composed part of the crowd, politicians had to realize that the antiwar movement would try and hold them accountable for their failure to follow campaign promises and continue to put pressure on them to follow the popular mandate to end the war.

If the protest were completely peaceful, there'd be little justification for police violence and the march might be less attractive as a news item. This doesn't mean, however, that the protest must be violent to influence policymakers; to the contrary, large scale non-violent protest has been shown to be the most effective method of political confrontation. Anarchists yearning for more radical forms of protest might not be pleased with the results. Still, the antiwar movement is growing and its non-violent nature adds to its mainstream appeal.

Yes, larger numbers will mean more of an impact. There will be more protests as these war drag on and the prospects for victory continue to dim. If a draft is instituted though, more violence should be anticipated and the September 15th March might be one of the last of its kind: an orderly confrontation devoid of violence whose arrested participants are processed fairly in the Courts. Unfortunately, though, one protester did end fact end up dying when his pacemaker failed, so there's been at least one casualty in the effort to end the war. Most likely there will be more; far fewer though than will die as the result of the continued occupation.


Labels: , , , , ,