Thursday, November 29, 2012

Are We Alone in the Universe?

My 3,200 word, 8 page article“Are We Alone in the Universe?”  is available on the DESIP website.

My article comprises an introduction to and summary of a 1985 article on “Intelligent Life in Space” by Edward Olson, in Astronomy Magazine. Olson’s article radically overturned my earlier views on the likelihood that alien intelligence might exist elsewhere in our universe. Later I also became reconciled to the notion that human travel will never extend beyond our own solar system.  

Four  paragraphs selected from “Are We Alone in the Universe?”  follow.

From “Are We Alone in the Universe?”
by Ronald Bleier

As a high school student, when I learned that our universe was populated by billions of galaxies, many of which are similar to our own Milky Way Galaxy, it seemed logical to suppose that the laws of chance alone would be sufficient to produce perhaps a large number of examples of alien intelligence. In those heady post WWII years, I had little doubt that human destiny incorporated and was given purpose by inter-stellar and perhaps also inter-galactic travel. By no means, I believed, were our frontiers restricted to our own solar system.

The possibility of the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligent life may be of more than academic importance in that it helps to focus attention on critical issues concerning the survivability of our civilization. As we move past the first decade of the 21st century, it's becoming clearer that limits to resources, the deterioration of our environment, and the unpredictable political effects of rising per capita scarcity seriously threaten the long term and even short term existence of our modern technological civilization.

The bulk of Professor Olson’s article is devoted to critically examining the famous Drake equation, a formulation based on the theory that alien intelligence is likely to be a common occurrence. The key point underlying Olson’s article is that we need to take seriously the alternative possibility that we are indeed alone in the universe.  Two critical themes in Professor Olson’s article, summarized below, deserve special emphasis:
1. Intelligent life in the universe is not as prevalent as we might think.
2. Cognitive intelligence is not a necessary or even a desirable survival trait.
Olson  reminds us that if we are indeed alone in the universe, "such an outcome could carry far deeper implications for us than would a galaxy full of other chattering civilizations."  He quotes James Trefil who wrote that "[I]f we succeed in destroying ourselves, it will be a tragedy not only for the human race but for the entire Galaxy, which will have lost the fruit of a 15-billion year experiment in the formation of sentient life."

Read more: 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

From Zionism to Anti-Zionism: A Personal Journey

Twenty years ago I wrote an article for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs entitled, “ Alone Among My Peers at My Yeshiva University High School Reunion,” outlining my political evolution from Zionism to anti-Zionism. The good news and the bad news is that the main theme seems as relevant as ever.

I’ve since made a number of mostly minor edits, annotated a couple of historical references and I’ve added a paragraph defining Zionism.

1992, 2012
Alone Among My Peers at My Yeshiva University High School Reunion
From Zionism to Anti-Zionism: A Personal Journey
by Ronald Bleier
In the spring of 1990 I was one of some forty men and a handful of spouses who attended a reunion on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the graduation of 75 young men in 1960 from Yeshiva University High School of Brooklyn. In the congratulatory atmosphere of renewed camaraderie that suffused those few hours on a blustery Sunday afternoon in April, not a word of politics was spoken. Nevertheless I found myself deeply isolated because, from the many references to Israel by my former classmates, I suspected I was alone among my peers in my support for self-determination and justice for the Palestinian people.

At Crown Heights Yeshiva, my elementary school in Brooklyn, we were all, as a matter of course, indoctrinated in Zionist ideology. As was usual among yeshivas in those days, we all received pale blue and white Jewish National Fund coin solicitation boxes to raise money in support of Israel. I remember the day one of my fourth grade classmates, a tough little guy named Martin, broke into tears because our rabbi insisted that he take a new coin box and turn in the already heavy old one before Martin could fill it to the top.

I recall my confusion by the assertion of one of my rabbis in elementary school that Israel was not an expansionist state, and had no designs on the territory of the surrounding Arab countries. Until then I had no idea that anyone had charged Israel with aggression against its neighbors; nor did I understand how Israel could change its borders. At the same time, I was surprised, when for the first time I saw on a map the tiny size of Israel compared to its neighbors and especially when compared to the vastness of the United States. I was also pained at the way the Jordanian-controlled West Bank jutted out into Israeli territory, taking away so much of "our land."

I didn't question my belief in Zionism for almost a decade after my yeshiva training. After I graduated Brooklyn College in 1964, I joined the Peace Corps and served for two years as an English teacher in Iran. I came to know individual Iranians in ways that I knew my friends and family back home. No longer could I dismiss Iranians and others as faceless third world people irrelevant to me and my concerns.

My Peace Corps experience, however, did not immediately alter my Zionist views. During the 1967 war I recall my joy and exultation at what I considered a wonderful victory for Israel and for the Jewish people. I was spending an academic year at Reading University, not far from London, when, shortly after the war, in a blaze of enthusiasm and naiveté, which still mortifies me, I approached two Egyptian students and asked them if they didn't agree that the Israeli victory established the basis for a lasting peace. "Never," they responded with the greatest passion. "We will never give up. We will continue to fight."

A few weeks later I had my first political discussion about Israel with someone with strong anti- Zionist views. Lunching with a lecturer in the English Department, I was shocked to hear that she felt the Israeli victory was a disaster for Middle East peace. She went on to explain that in her view the very establishment of the Jewish state was profoundly unjust. I disagreed with her very strongly. I couldn't understand how a progressive person could attack the state of Israel on principle.

Nevertheless, the views of my British interlocutor may have set the stage for the cognitive dissonance I experienced following the 1967 war. During the 1969-70 "war of attrition" I was amazed and dismayed to read in the New York Times that Israeli planes were dropping bombs ten miles outside of Cairo! The Times printed a map with Cairo at the center of a bull's eye. The circles around the area showed how close to the city center the bombs were falling. As I read of the destruction of schools and factories and the loss of life I found my pro-Israeli views stretched to the limit.

Fear of Menachem Begin
As a committed Zionist, I put doubts about Israeli policy as far from the center of my consciousness as I could until the June 1977 elections in Israel approached. I remember asking a friend at the time: "Is it possible that Menachem Begin will actually become prime minister?"

Begin was the charismatic founder and leader of the right wing Likud party. I regarded him with the kind of fear and loathing that I felt for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. I was particularly distressed when, in the aftermath of Begin's election victory, the powerful American Jewish community didn't rise up in protest against the redoubling of Israeli settlement and land annexation policies. Menachem Begin helped me to understand, perhaps for the first time, that there was a government in Israel that was not interested in a peaceful solution to the conflict with the Arabs.

At the time I attributed Menachem Begin's belligerent attitude to his annexationist, greater Israel world view. So I was surprised to read an op-ed article in the Times which argued that even if the Labor party were to take back power in the upcoming 1981 elections, there would be no significant change in the basic policy of an indefinite military occupation of Palestinian territory. I began to understand that there was no fundamental difference between the Likud and the Labor parties because the policies of both were rooted in a huge injustice that was done to the Palestinians when Israel was established.

My developing understanding led me to explore the meaning of Zionism. I understood that proponents defined it as the national movement for a Jewish “homeland.” But that definition omitted consideration of the political and civil rights of the non- Jewish residents. I came to understand that the ideology that a Jewish state should replace the former Palestine – my own definition of Zionism -- meant in practice and also in theory, the expulsion of the bulk of the non-Jewish residents and the restriction to second class citizenship and military occupation for those who remained.
By 1982, like many concerned Israelis and Americans, I could see war coming again. The absence of a legitimate casus belli did not hinder the Begin government's defense minister, Ariel Sharon, from invading an essentially defenseless Lebanon that June.

The Palestinian Refugees
The media spotlight on the 1982 attack on Lebanon illuminated the terrible cost in lost and devastated Palestinian and Lebanese lives and helped me to focus on the effects of Israeli policy, in particular, on the Palestinian refugees. In my yeshivas, the Palestinian refugees were never humanized as people with legitimate rights to self-determination. As a result, I started out with the vaguest of notions of who they were and how they came to be where they were.

From time to time as I was growing up, I would notice media references to Palestinian doctors or diplomats or lawyers. I couldn't understand how they managed to become members of the professional classes. I had imagined them as poor and miserable denizens of awful refugee camps, out of whose ranks arose the terrorists who stubbornly refused to allow the people of Israel to live in peace.

Media reports that 20,000 Palestinian and Lebanese were killed and that many more thousands were made refugees by Israel's war against Lebanon led me to reconsider the original Palestinian refugees of 1948. I realized that some of the Palestinian refugees so recently uprooted in Lebanon must be the same people the Israeli military forced out of their homes and lands in Northern Palestine in the 1948 war -- -- termed the “War of Independence” by Israelis, and the “Nakba,” “the great catastrophe” by Palestinians.

That was the first time I recognized the phenomena of refugees expelled from their homes multiple times by the Israelis. I began to realize that just as there were many thousands of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, there were hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria and the Gaza Strip who were forced out in 1948 and 1967. And, contrary to my previous notion that the Arab countries had stabbed the Palestinians in the back, I realized that neighboring Arab countries were forced to expend limited resources on the Palestinian refugees ever since Israel expelled them.

In 1987, when I read Simcha Flapan's The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities, I was so confused that it took me a second reading to come to terms with what he wrote at the outset: that the 1948 war was as needless and unnecessary for the "security" of Israel as was the Israeli invasion of Lebanon of 1982. Flapan argues that the Arabs were unprepared for war and would have eagerly reached an accommodation with the new Jewish state if only the Israelis would have been willing to reach an agreement on territory and the Palestinian refugees.

I learned that, according to this so-called revisionist view, the 1948 war was not defensive, but an opportunistic, proactive war waged by the Israelis to gain more territory than the U.N. had allotted for the Jewish state and to "cleanse" the area of Palestinians. I learned that even before the May 15, 1948 declaration of the State of Israel, Jewish forces had succeeded in expelling some 300,000 Palestinians from their homes. Yet another 400,000 Palestinians remained in areas that the Jews coveted. Since the Jewish population of Palestine in 1948 was about 600,000, the Israeli leadership decided on war in order to rid the new state of most of its Arab population.

It took me twenty years, but I finally decided that my British lunch companion was right.

By demonizing Palestinians we were essentially blaming the victims of expulsion and land acquisition policies followed by Ben-Gurion's and every successive Israeli regime. Such policies demanded endless belligerence and war, and explain why Israel's leaders were determined to build a nuclear arsenal. The Israelis understood from the beginning that they required the military power to prevail against the supporters of those who wished to regain their territory.

I returned home from my class reunion convinced that I would find no understanding there for my defense of Palestinian rights. I understood that many of my former classmates championed the state of Israel, and blinded themselves to the crimes committed in its name, because they too were seared by the Holocaust that traumatized their parents' generation. But couldn't they see that by politically and financially supporting persecution and oppression, they were perpetuating that which they professed to abhor?

At my reunion I found no opportunity to talk politics. If there had been, I doubt that I would have found others ready to question with me why there should be an exclusively Jewish state in Palestine rather than a sharing of the land by all of its people. Perhaps this article will be my way of challenging my classmates and others to take a similar journey. I would invite them to join me on a path that substitutes friendship and peace for the arrogance of power and the yoke of oppression.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Attacking Iran: Israel the Lobby or Obama?

My article on the Iran crisis “Attacking Iran: Israel, the Lobby or Obama?”  (about 7 pages, 3000 words plus footnotes)
is available on the DESIP website at:

“Attacking Iran”   raises the question of responsibility for the current impasse in the negotiations with Iran.  The article is based on analysis especially by three writers: David Bromwich who essentially summarizes Trita Parsi’s record of the Obama administration's handling of the Iran negotiations; and  articles by Robert Wright  and Stephen Sniegoski on the Israel Lobby's role in directing President Obama’s hand. 

My article is pretty much open ended, but my personal conclusion, as the title hints, is that the main problem is with the Obama administration, not the Lobby.
Read more:

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Hacking the Vote

July 2012


Hacking the vote

By Ronald Bleier

It wasn’t until some time after the passage of the Help America Vote Act in October 2002 that I was alerted to widespread election fraud, often by means of manipulation of the electronic vote count. If memory serves it was an article by Thom Hartmann reprinted in the summer of 2003 in the Progressive Populist, which alarmingly warned that due to the ease of hacking computerized voting machines, the electoral process was liable to subversion and that our democracy was at risk.

The first sentence of Hartmann’s article, “The Theft of Your Vote Is Just a Chip Away” encapsulates the theme in a question: “Are computerized voting machines a wide-open back door to massive voting fraud?[i] The article emphasized that vote totals on these machines were unreliable because they could easily be gamed. Paper trails to verify the computer vote count were not available or simply mirrored the electronic count. Moreover the companies supplying the voting machines apparently all had ties to the Republican Party and thus had obvious partisan interests.

Later I learned that the new voting systems also made possible the hacking of central tabulating machines so that region wide and statewide results could be changed, again with no provisions for oversight or accountability. Another distressing development was the decline, especially in the mainstream media, of the acceptability of exit polls as a check on the reported vote. This devolutionary trend gained considerably after the 2004 election when exit polls showed Kerry winning in several critical states including Florida and Ohio. [ii]Since the official results showed Bush not Kerry winning, exit polls had to be downplayed, ignored or eliminated, at least from mainstream media notice.

Two remarkable anomalies

Among a number of anomalies, Hartmann cited two remarkable examples of Republican wins in Senate races that stuck in my mind as indicative of the threat that the new computerized voting regime represented. Perhaps the most worrisome thing overall was that no matter how clear to the general public that the tallies were manipulated and results flipped, there was no mechanism for accountability and no visible political leadership able or willing to ensure that the decisions of the electorate would prevail.

One of the examples Hartmann cited was Republican Chuck Hagel’s 1996 “stunning upset” win in the Senate race over popular former Nebraska governor Ben Nelson. In this first run for elective office, Hagel received 56% of the vote “winning virtually all demographic groups including many black precincts that had always voted Democratic in previous elections … and becoming the first Republican in twenty-four years to win a Senate seat in Nebraska.” (Wikipedia). According to Neil Erickson, Nebraska’s deputy secretary of state, 85% of the Nebraska vote was counted by computer voting machines manufactured by ES&S (then called American Information Systems) chaired by Chuck Hagel until he resigned in March 1995, two weeks before he launched his Senate campaign. [iii]

Years later it was found that Hagel neglected to disclose that even after he stepped down as chairman of AIS, he held investments of between $1 and $5 million in the McCarthy Group which owns about 25% of ES&S according to Hagel’s chief of staff Lou Ann Lineham.[iv]

The numbers in Hagel’s successful re-election victory in 2002 over his Democratic opponent Charlie Matulka were even more remarkable — perhaps too remarkable to actually be credible. The official tally landed him with 82.7% of the vote. One could be forgiven for wondering whether such an outsized and unprecedented result was actually intended by the Hagel team or whether it wasn’t the result of a technical blunder made by overzealous or simply sloppy aides. In any event, despite Matulka’s loud protests there seemed to be no means of achieving a recount or enforcing any accountability.

A second notable example mentioned in the Hartmann article was the 2002 Georgia Senate race between Republican Saxby Chambliss and decorated Vietnam War veteran, Democrat Max Cleland. In 2002 Georgia was one of the first states to use only electronic voting machines statewide. Diebold Elections Systems provided virtually all of the Georgia voting machines. In the final pre-election poll Cleland led by five points and most observers expected him to win re-election handily.

In 2002 Chris Hood, a consultant for Diebold now known as Elections Solutions was on the ground helping prepare for the election. The votes cast on Diebold machines were stored on unprotected memory cards, which could easily be altered. These memory cards not only carried vote data, but they also carried programs and updates known as patches. As one of his responsibilities, Chris Hood was asked to place a software patch on machines in certain counties before the election. According to Hood, after he and his colleagues arrived at the warehouse, Bob Yerosovitch, the president of Diebold arrived with a stack of memory cards and announced that we needed to patch the machines because the clock wasn’t working properly. He also said that the State wasn’t to know about this.

When the actual votes were counted the Republican candidate, Saxby Chambliss, won by seven percentage points, a 12-point reversal, in a state that for the first time had deployed a 100% Diebold touch screen electronic equipment. [v]


A confusing interview

In the succeeding months and years, as more and more information regarding vote count manipulation and irregularities accumulated, I began to formulate a theory about a scene from the evening of the Bush-Gore election of 2000, that I later concluded was more than a minor footnote to the main event.

On the evening of November 7, 2000 shortly after the some of the networks announced that Florida and the presidency had been won by Democrat Al Gore, the TV cameras were invited to the Bush hotel suite in Florida where about a dozen family members were gathered to watch the election results. The atmosphere in the room, I recall, was calm, if not actually upbeat. The spokesperson — was it George W. Bush himself? -- said that despite the TV network predictions, the family wasn’t worried. He maintained that they had received information suggesting that the margin of victory was much narrower than current reports indicated, and the final result was far from clear.

In the end I came to the conclusion that Al Gore probably won Florida by a considerable margin, perhaps tens of thousands of votes, despite the presence of Ralph Nader on the ballot, and despite Governor Jeb Bush’s voter suppression tactics, including purging many thousands of likely Democratic voters from the rolls, etc. Why was the Bush family so confident that evening? What were their sources of information? I theorized that the Bush people controlled key local and central tabulating machines and they were in position to change electronic totals at will. 

In that case, why did they allow such a close result? I speculated that perhaps out of relative inexperience Republican operatives allowed the numbers to fall in such a way as to produce a virtual tie, instead of a clear margin of victory.

If that was their mistake, they made sure not to allow such an eventuality again. In the 2004 election, not only did they produce a sufficient victory margin in Florida, but they went over the top and gave Bush a winning margin of more than three million votes nationally, seemingly embarrassed that they had overlooked this detail in 2000.

My theory as to the underlying meaning of the Bush 2000 election night interview was spurred, I later realized, by some of the examples in Hartmann’s 2003 article. One of the saddest of such examples that Hartmann cited was the Alabama governor’s race in 2002, which many believed was stolen from incumbent Democrat Don Siegelman. His vote total in Baldwin County was originally given as 19,070, was sufficient for a narrow victory. Overnight, however, it was “discovered” that a “glitch in the software” had produced an error, and that Siegelman’s Baldwin County total was reduced to only 12, 736. Although Siegelman not unreasonably “claimed results were changed after poll watchers left” there was, apparently, no politically viable means to follow up on his claim, and he lost the race and the Governor’s mansion to his Republican challenger by 2,752 votes.

An even more striking example from the Florida 2000 presidential contest may well illuminate some of the means by which vote totals were manipulated electronically and the election result flipped.

The most famous example of election flipping occurred in the hotly contested 2000 presidential election in Florida when the tabulation system for Diebold's optical-scan system subtracted votes from Al Gore's total. While hanging chads distracted the nation, a few people noticed that in a Volusia County precinct where only 412 people voted, a Diebold system actually deleted votes for Gore, giving him minus 16,022 votes. Bush received 2,813 votes. Some news media had already called the win (PDF, see page 20) for Bush when someone noticed the numbers.

Diebold spokesman David Bear said the problem wasn't the machine but the result of someone uploading a second, faulty memory card to the county server after workers had already uploaded the real precinct results from another card.

"This error was immediately detected through normal auditing procedures, and the votes were re-tabulated," Bear wrote in an e-mail. [vi]

Could one be forgiven for imagining any number of other similar anomalies — some perhaps more deftly managed -- that escaped notice? Only a few of these together could have turned the election. Many such examples could have obscured a relatively large victory for Al Gore and the Democrats, and in the end changed history by settling extraordinary executive power on a team whose agenda, which up until that time, turned out to be arguably the most destructive in United States history.

[i]  AlterNet, July 30, 2003,
[ii] Rick Holmes, Hacking the Vote, MetroWest Daily News (Mass.), June 17, 2012,  (h/t MCM)
[iii] Kim Zetter , “How E-Voting Threatens Democracy” Wired Magazine, March 29, 2004.
[iv] Ibid.
[v] These three paragraphs are a summary when they are not an exact transcription of a two-minute video on youtube: “Saxby Chambliss Max Cleland 2002.”
[vi] Kim Zetter, note 3 above.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bleier on Cashill: Did Obama write Dreams from My Father

My  12 page, 4,000 world article,  “Jack Cashill’s Expose: Who wrote Obama’s Dreams from My Father?” 
 is available on the DESIP website.
 The article is the first of a proposed two- part essay under the heading: “Searching for Obama.”
Except for part of the first paragraph, the selections copied below are from the final sections of the article.

Excerpts from:  

“Jack Cashill’s Expose: Who wrote Obama’s Dreams from My Father?”
                                                             by Ronald Bleier

In early 2011 on CSPAN’s Book TV program I watched author Jack Cashill present his controversial and startling theory regarding Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father (1995). Summarizing the findings he set out in his recently published Deconstructing Obama,[i] Cashill contended that Obama’s memoir was ghostwritten by Bill Ayers.

Authorship of Dreams-- A Matter of Importance?

The  question of whether Dreams from My Father  was ghostwritten or not rose above the trivial for me because  by early 2011 I had come to believe that President Obama had been relentlessly pursuing an extremist right-wing Republican agenda.   In foreign policy he continued and escalated the destructive militarism of his predecessors revealing a lack of compassion and ruthlessness that rivaled his bloody predecessors. I felt that Oliver Stone was not exaggerating when he termed President Obama “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” referencing his militarism and his efforts to scuttle Constitutional rights of due process. Domestically Obama has promoted and continues to favor a damaging program of austerity and tax cuts, including the more than a trillion in tax cuts that he has already pushed through in 2009 and 2010[ii]; with apparently more to come in 2012-2013.

The argument is that if President Obama has pursued these policies with the full awareness of the consequences for the economy and for his re-election (see below) it can be deduced that counterintuitively he prefers a hobbled economy, a weakened Democratic Party, an undermined and demoralized middle class—his base-- in order to pursue a Republican agenda of attacks on labor, the middle class, Social Security and Medicare.

Similarly his escalation and continuation of the drone strike program in Pakistan and Yemen is particularly egregious and telling. Critics of these attacks often point out that that a chief consequence of the program which reportedly kills more civilians than “militants” by a factor or 2 or 3 or 4 or more, is to radicalize the local population and in the end, create more “terrorists.” In other words, if the purpose of the drone program is counterterrorism, then the program is counterproductive—not to speak of its appalling destruction and the perilous precedent it sets for the future security of all nations.

Since these effects must be as plain to the White House as they are to critics, the implication is that Obama’s “anti-terrorism” rhetoric masks a more sinister program. The drone program seems designed to allow free rein to the most militaristic and aggressive elements of the U.S.’s national security state, embodied in Obama’s hawkish national security advisor, John Brennan. The evident intention of the deadly drone attacks—not to mention other regular and special forces U.S. military operations-- is to wreak havoc and destabilize vulnerable areas of the world as part of an endless war agenda favored by extremist hawks, neoconservatives and others.

Does Obama really wish to be re-elected?

If President Obama is a faux Democrat, a serial traitor to his party and to his core supporters, then it would be understandable if he were not wholly comfortable in his high profile leadership role. A second term would, among other things, only widen his exposure as a fraud, as the great deceiver,[iii] as the more effective evil[iv] as some are beginning to see.  Developments in a post 2013 Obama administration would continue to peel away at the veils of his deception.  If he leaves office after only one term, he would be leaving, relatively speaking, at the top of his game. 

If he left the White House in January 2013 he need have no fear as to the continuation of his political program since he has already made giant strides in institutionalizing an extremist right wing and totalitarian agenda. Due to the terrible and groundbreaking precedents of the past decade and more, a real Republican like Mitt Romney should have little trouble persevering on the road to heightened national and international instability, global unsustainability and more rigorous control everywhere from the top.

One sign that Obama is not deeply committed to a second term would be if his re-election campaign machine turns out to be not as smoothly run as it was in 2008. Could his June 2012 political faux pas, when he allowed that “the private sector is doing fine” be a sign of a lack of focus or interest?  More such blunders, as well as a campaign lacking in direction, could be signs of Obama’s inner intentions.
Read more:

[i] Jack Cashill, Deconstructing Obama: The Life, Loves, and Letters of America’s First Postmodern President (2011).
CSPAN Book TV aired Jack Cashill’s book talk regarding his newly published, Deconstructing Obama in March 2011. The Book TV website offers the following summary of the Cashill presentation.
Jack Cashill questions whether President Obama wrote his memoir, Dreams from My Father.  Mr. Cashill argues that Barack Obama was assisted in the writing of his 1995 memoir by Bill Ayers and contends that the President's life story is different than the one presented in his biography.  Jack Cashill presents his argument at the Kansas City Public Library in Kansas City, Missouri.

[ii] Jack Rasmus, “Obama’s Economy,” Z Magazine, April 2012.
[iii] Yves Smith, “Barack Obama, the Great Deceiver,” May 14, 2012. (h/t Xymphora).
[iv] Glenn Ford: Why Barack Obama is the More Effective Evil, 3.21.12,

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Jonathan Simon: Did Scott Walker really win his recall vote?

NYU professor, author and election fraud activist, Mark Crispin Miller, distributed the commentary below by Jonathan Simon on the Wisconsin/Scott Walker recall vote. The main points are that the exit polls are as fishy as the actual vote count which is managed in secret by Republican leaning vote counting companies. Author Jonathan Simon doesn't mention it, but the  paper ballots accompanying the voting machines are rendered meaningless when the winning margin isn't close. No problem if your side is doing the "counting."
My guess is that this election was stolen just as were the 2000 and the 2004 presidential elections to name just two.

Jonathan Simon

With the exit polls—as usual—”adjusted,” Walker “wins” Wisconsin! (Who’s surprised?)

From Jonathan Simon:
What we got tonight in Wisconsin was the same old stench, coming from the same old corner of the room. To wit, there was a huge turnout (highly favorable to the Democratic candidate Barrett), in fact they’re still waiting in line to vote in Milwaukee and elsewhere nearly two hours after poll closing; and the immediate post-closing Exit Polls had it a dead heat, 50%-50%. But the only place those polls were posted was as
 a Bar Chart in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Not a single network posted any Exit Poll numbers, though they all have been regularly posting them throughout the 2012 primary season within a few minutes of poll closing. But they all called the race “extremely tight,” since they were looking at the same 50%-50% Exit Poll that the Journal Sentinel at least had the courage to post in some format.
In short order, and quite predictably, the race was Walker’s, the networks anointing him the winner as the Exit Poll “Adjustment” Process played out. You could actually see it on the Journal Sentinel’s Bar Chart: the blue bars shrinking and the red bars lengthening every 20
 minutes or so. It will take a bit of visual measuring but the adjustment process was egregious, on the order of an 8-10% marginal disparity between the Unadjusted Exit Polls and the Adjusted Exit Polls congruent to the eventually-to-be-announced “official results.”
We’ve seen this before, election after election, the familiar “Red Shift.” And it’s the Exit Polls that are always “off,” because the Votecounts must always be “on.” Except that the Votecounts are secret and in the full control of outfits, with strong right-wing affiliations, like Dominion Voting and Command Central. Votes counted by partisans in complete secret–is this sane?
Today massive robocalls were reported to have been placed to targeted Barrett supporters, telling them they didn’t have to vote if they had signed the recall petition, and others that they couldn’t vote if they hadn’t voted in 2010. An obvious question: is there a bright ethical line between making (whoever actually made them) targeted robocalls telling your opponents’ supporters they don’t have to vote if they signed
 the recall petition versus setting the zero-counters on a bunch of memory cards to, say, +50 (for Walker) and -50 (for Barrett) so at the end
 of the day the election admin sees a “clean” election and you’ve shifted 100 votes per precinct? Do you believe that operators who have clearly not blanched at doing the first would for some reason blanch at doing the second–much neater and more efficacious as it is?
And if you’re thinking “well the pre-election polls predicted a Walker win,” you should know that the methodology for all of those polls, even
 the ones run by left-leaning outfits, was the Likely Voter Cutoff Model (google it, by all means), which disproportionately eliminates Democratic voters (students, renters, poor, minority) from the sample and so skews it conveniently anywhere from 5% to 10% to the right (the pollsters
 all would have been out of business by now if they had kept using a sound methodology and getting competitive elections wrong with it).
This election was dubbed “the second most important election of 2012;” it will “foretell” November just as the Massachusetts Special Senate Election (Coakley-Brown) “foretold” November 2010. And there was a massive red shift and even more than the usual indicators that it was rigged. Can anyone live with that, just give it a pass, and sleep tonight?
–Jonathan Simon

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Is Obama AWOL on mortgage relief? Schneiderman replies

Is Obama serious about re-election? If so, why doesn't he show us?
by Ronald Bleier

  Daily News headline

Obama’s mortgage unit is AWOL

New York Daily News,  April 18, 2012,


The title of the New York Daily News op-ed tells much of the depressing story. Almost three months after President Obama’s announced his latest plan to relieve struggling homeowners, two activists sought out New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who was appointed by President Obama to co-chair a new mortgage relief task force.

Mindful of Schneiderman’s reputation for standing up to pressure from the Obama administration, the authors of the op-ed, Mike Gecan and Arnie Graf, were among many who hoped that at long last, the president was indeed serious about “speeding assistance to homeowners.”  The authors remind us that there are reportedly 12 million homeowners who are a collective $700 billion underwater. We also learn that this latest task force, called the Residential Mortgage Backed Securities Working Group, is the sixth such mortgage task force created since Obama took office in 2009.

Their sad, but unsurprising, finding is that Obama’s use of the word “speed” is belied by contrary information. Interviewing Schneiderman in early March and then again in early April, the authors learned that the attorney general had traveled especially to Washington twice to oversee his task force responsibilities. Both times he found that there was “no office, no phones, no staff and no executive director for his task force.” The authors report that the total staff hired in all five previous groups was ONE.

As we stand in awe at the administration’s brazen chutzpah, it would seem difficult to exaggerate the implications of Obama’s inaction on an issue so fraught for the economy and for his re-election--but I’ll try. Obama’s handling of the mortgage issue is part of a larger pattern of willful neglect and is consistent with policies that suggest little or no White House interest in spurring the larger economy.

Chief among those polices has been President Obama’s continuation of the ruinous tax cuts of the previous administration.  Writing for Z Magazine, (April 2012) Jack Rasmus points out that Obama cut $300+ billion in taxes in 2009 and another $802 billion in 2010 (who knew?). At the same time, before the advent of the Occupy movement, he used his bully pulpit to echo Republican calls for austerity and deep budget cuts. (Among all the damaging reductions to non-military spending overseen by the president, is it too frivolous to point to current plans  to strip PBS of significant funding for some of its most popular cultural and political programming?)

A depressed economy predictably means trouble for the incumbent and his party. Thus the Obama administration’s pursuit in early 2009 of a relatively small stimulus designed to largely peter out by the end of 2010 and riven with tax cuts suggests that the large losses of Democratic Congressional seats in the fall 2010 elections may very well have been a case of failure by design.

Could it be that Obama is only pretending to be a Democrat? Is it possible, as Oliver Stone charged in January 2012 (in connection with Obama’s wars and his attacks on Constitutionally protected freedoms), that the president is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing?

If Obama is not really the sincere and focused Democrat that we supported, that could explain why we’re so disappointed and dispirited and why current polls suggest that his lead over Mitt Romney, the presumptive  Republican nominee, is minimal at best?

Schneiderman responds. 

Daily News headline

Attacking the foreclosure crisis

New York's attorney general pushes back on recent reports

 By Eric Schneiderman 

 New York Daily News April 26, 2012,

A week after the publication of the Gecan and Graff op-ed, Attorney General Schneiderman replied in the same forum with his own op-ed in the New York Daily News entitled, “Attacking the foreclosure crisis.”  Schneiderman’s rebuttal might have reminded readers that in their article, Gecan and Graf called on the attorney general, who they emphasized  “has acted boldly and honorably,” to resign from Obama’s “cynical arrangement.” They appealed to him to “go back to working effectively with fellow attorneys general in Delaware, Massachusetts and Nevada.”

Without specifying the authors by name, or mentioning their op-ed, Schneiderman explained that he was writing to correct recent “mischaracterizations” of the mortgage backed working group. Schneiderman reminded readers that  $7 trillion was lost in household wealth when the housing bubble burst.

As evidence of the president’s purposeful action, Schneiderman pointed to the administration’s request for an additional $55 million “to ensure that we have the resources to do a thorough job.” But this assertion, if anything, seemed to weaken his case. First of all, the appropriation must get through the House of Representatives, and if past is prologue, a wink and a nod from the White House will be more than sufficient, if necessary, to ensure that the Republican led House won’t pass such a measure even if they trouble to take it up. Moreover, if Obama was serious about adding such funds, why weren't these funds mentioned in January?

More directly rebutting Gecan and Graff's information, Schneiderman claimed  “more than 50 attorneys, investigators and analysts have already been deployed to support our investigations, with many more on the way.” Yet, once again, Schneiderman’s assertion raises more questions than it might seem to answer.

Skeptical readers might wonder if these new personnel actually exist, and if they do, have they been specifically attached to Schneiderman’s task force?  If so, were they deployed only in the last week, or have they been working on the issue for weeks if not months? In the latter case, why then did Schneiderman tell Gecan and Graf a different story in March and April?

In his op-ed, Schneiderman references an additional $15 million in funds from the “settlement” that his office succeeded in obtaining “to expand legal services and housing counseling” that were otherwise set to expire on April 1. Now, he writes, these services will be available for three more years.

Readers could be forgiven for wondering if the $15 million in presumably new money was sufficient to get Schneiderman on board to front for a president who once more has shown little action. Obama’s eloquence seems intended to mask his bewildering indifference to the trillions in homeowner losses and the consequent effects on the larger economy.

The episode is a reminder that an inspiring element of the Kennedy administration was the sense that it intended to unleash the talents and energy of the most dedicated Americans in many fields, not least in politics.  Today, as we head deeper into election season, we watch while President Obama seems to block the efforts of a spirited public servant and turn him into a party apparatchik.

Unfortunately it will take more than ringing pronouncements to convince us that the president and attorney general Schneiderman will make much progress as they attack the foreclosure crisis.


NB: For a distinctly less flattering analysis of Schneiderman’s  independence on the mortgage crisis issue, see nakedcapitalism. com, April 23, 2012..

"The Ministry of Truth Speaks: American Prospect Tries to Pass Off Mortgage Turncoat Schneiderman as Hero"