23 November 2006

Do the Guardian leader writers read their own newspaper?

Today's Guardian leader is called Death in Beirut and talks about cui bono - who benefits? - in relation to the assassination of Pierre Gemayel.

It says "most see two likely suspects behind the assassination of the industry minister, Pierre Gemayel. Neighbouring Syria is still a powerful player in the Land of the Cedars despite having been forced to withdraw its troops and intelligence agents last year after being blamed for the murder of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister...The other prime suspect in this latest case is Hizbullah"

Don't they even read their own bloody newspaper?

In a special report in today's Guardian "Who benefits? Rival theories over the murder of Gemayel", Clancy Chassay writes:

"There are two competing theories in Beirut for who killed Pierre Gemayel."

"The US-backed government and its supporters accuse Syria and, in some cases, its ally Hizbullah." Note that the US is one of its supporters.

"The other main theory accuses the US or its allies in Lebanon of killing Mr Gemayel to stop the opposition, led by Hizbullah, from bringing down the government and curtailing American influence. It also suggests an attempt to isolate Syria once again, just as the west wants to re-engage Damascus over possible help in Iraq. "The killing of Gemayel gave the embattled government a bit of breathing space and reinvigorated the pro-government forces' withering anti-Syrian cause, which has been primarily fuelled by the assassination of its leaders," said Amal Saad Ghorayeb of Beirut's Carnegie Middle East Centre."

This is completely ignored by the leader writer. Why?

I mean how blinkered can you get?

It couldn't possibly be the US or Israel, could it? I mean they have absolutely nothing to gain have they? Neither of them have a history of international terrorism, using targeted murders, or are experts in the art of carbombing, are they? Neither of them have special forces and intelligence that indulge in false flag operations, do they?

Michael McClintock, Director of Research at Human Rights First has written a book called "Instruments of Statecraft: U.S. Guerilla Warfare, Counterinsurgency, and Counterterrorism, 1940-1990", which was published in 1992 by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

It is now available free online here.

In the preface he writes:

"Since World War II, assassination, sabotage, kidnaping, torture, the overthrow of foreign governments, and other terroristic activities have been intrinsic to US national defense policy. These have been justified time and again as necessary to combat communist insurgency and, more recently, terrorism-as the only effective response to the barbarism ascribed to, or projected onto, US enemies- be they Sandinistas or the PLO." (We could also add later examples like Saddam Hussein, Iran, etc.).

"So it is that America has maintained forces -including the OSS, the CIA, the Green Berets, and the Delta Force-that have specialized in dirty warfare with impunity, in Nicaragua, Lebanon, Laos, Vietnam, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Africa, Cuba, Central America, and Greece, among other places."

In 2002 we first heard about the Proactive and Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG) from an article in the LA Times by its military affairs analyst William Arkin "The Secret War".

"In what may well be the largest expansion of covert action by the armed forces since the Vietnam era, the Bush administration has turned to what the Pentagon calls the "black world" to press the war on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

The Defense Department is building up an elite secret army with resources stretching across the full spectrum of covert capabilities. New organizations are being created. The missions of existing units are being revised. Spy planes and ships are being assigned new missions in anti-terror and monitoring the "axis of evil."

"The development of the Pentagon's covert counter-terror capability has its roots in the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. The Army created a highly compartmentalized organization that could collect clandestine intelligence independent of the rest of the U.S. intelligence community and follow through with covert military action.

Known as the Intelligence Support Activity, or ISA, when it was established in 1981, this unit fought in drug wars and counter-terror operations from the Middle East to South America. It built a reputation for daring, flexibility and a degree of lawlessness."

"Today, the ISA operates under the code name Gray Fox"

"Rumsfeld's influential Defense Science Board 2002 Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism says in its classified "outbrief" -- a briefing drafted to guide other Pentagon agencies -- that the global war on terrorism "requires new strategies, postures and organization."

The board recommends creation of a super-Intelligence Support Activity, an organization it dubs the Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group, (P2OG), to bring together CIA and military covert action, information warfare, intelligence, and cover and deception.

Among other things, this body would launch secret operations aimed at "stimulating reactions" among terrorists

According to Seymour Hersh, Gray Fox was recently (2005) given a new code name and was formally assigned from the Army to the Special Operations Command (socom) in Tampa in July 2002. The aim being to take away Congressional oversight according to an anonymous Republican member of Congress with a substantial role in national security oversight quoted in the Washington Post in January 2005 "It sounds like there's an angle here of, 'Let's get around having any oversight by having the military do something that normally the [CIA] does, and not tell anybody.' That immediately raises all kinds of red flags for me. Why aren't they telling us?".

There is enough information in the public domain to conclude that Gray Fox is now P2OG.

Asia Times reported: "Defense Science Board (DSB) conducted a 2002 "Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism". Excerpts from that study, dated August 16, were leaked and obtained by the Federation of American Scientists, which posted them on their website. The report was produced by a 10-member panel of military experts that included Vice Admiral William O Studeman, former director of the National Security Agency.

Although the study is filled with lots of the usual buzzwords and phrases that Pentagon planners love, such as "robust connectivity, agile ground forces, adaptive joint command and control and discriminant use of force", one thing that does stand out is its call for preemption/proaction/interdiction/disruption/quick-response capabilities

The other thing that stands out in the DSB Power Point presentaton which is available online, is the reference on p.26 to

"Highly specialized people with unique technical and intelligence skills such as information operations, PSYOP, network attack, covert activities, SIGINT, HUMINT, SOF, influence warfare/deception operations "

Project Censored is right when it says: "Exactly what type of actions would be required to "stimulate reactions" by terrorist groups has yet to be revealed."

Chris Floyd has suggested "agents provocateurs, perhaps, who infiltrate groups then plan and direct the attacks themselves?--they can then take measures against the "states/sub-state actors accountable" for "harboring" the Rumsfeld-roused gangs. What kind of measures exactly? Well, the classified Pentagon program puts it this way: "Their sovereignty will be at risk.""

Some of us have no doubts.

07 November 2006

Guardian Leader writer Richard Adams and "the Republican party's awesome vote-winning machine"

Richard Adams, a Guardian leader writer, has unwittingly slipped up big time.

His Freudian slip in the subtitle almost gave the game away, but it's in this paragraph that the real damage was done:

"The Republicans achievement in this election will be to blunt the progress of the Democratic party, just as it was beginning to gain momentum. And if they do it won't be because of Saddam Hussein's death sentence or electronic voting devices. It will be because the Republicans have built an awesome and well-oiled machine (oiled by money and people)."

Note his turn of phrase "to blunt the progress of the Democratic party".

This "well-oiled machine" and how it blunts the progress of the Democratic party is what Greg Palast has been investigating for some time, and put in an article written for the Guardian's Comment is Free. Here's just one example:

"A legion of pimple-faced Republicans with Blackberries loaded with lists of new voters is assigned to challenge citizens in heavily Black and Hispanic (i.e. Democratic) precincts to demand photo ID that perfectly matches registration data.

Sounds benign, but it's not. The federal HAVA law and complex new ID requirements in states like New Mexico will easily allow the GOP squads to triple the number of voters turned away. Rather than deny using these voter suppression tactics, Republican spokesmen are claiming they are 'protecting the integrity of the vote.'

I've heard that before. In 2004, we got our hands on fifty confidential internal memos from the files of the Republican National Committee. Attached to these were some pretty strange spreadsheets. They called them "caging lists" - and it wasn't about zoo feeding times. They were lists (70,000 for Florida alone) of new Black and Jewish voters - a very Democratic demographic - to challenge on Election Day. The GOP did so with a vengeance: In 2004, for the first time in half a century, more than 3.5 million voters were challenged on Election Day. Worse, nearly half lost their vote: 300,000 were turned away for wrong ID; 1.1 million were allowed a "provisional" ballot - which was then simply tossed out.

Tomorrow, new federal ID requirements and a dozen new state show-me-your-ID laws will permit the GOP challenge campaign to triple their 300,000 record to nearly one million voters blocked

Adams ignores all the facts about the systematic disenfranchisement of black voters in today's US., and disguises what is really happening by the use of unexplained phrases such as highlighted above: "awesome and well-oiled machine (oiled by money and people)". Why didn't you explain what you meant Mr Adams?

I suggest Adams, and anyone else for that matter, watches the award-winning documentary 'American Blackout' to get a real understanding on how the dienfranchisement works. It was the winner of the Special Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

American Blackout chronicles the recurring patterns of disenfranchisement witnessed from 2000 to 2004 while following the story of Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who took an active role in investigating these election debacles.


03 November 2006

Professors Michael Spagat, Neil Ferguson & their conflict of interest in criticising Lancet report

Media Lens Message Board
Professors Michael Spagat, Neil Ferguson & their conflict of interest in criticising Lancet report
Posted by David Sketchley on October 22, 2006, 12:13 pm, in reply to "Re: exchange with Les Roberts re "main street bias""

Is it really any wonder that Professors Michael Spagat & Neil Ferguson want to discredit the Lancet report?

I think not when you look closely at their work and in particular some of their latest research papers which Spagat tells us proudly on his website "has been written up in Nature, the Economist and the Guardian":

Welcome to Michael Spagat's Home Page!"

"I am also proud to announce the launching of a new web site called Civil Conflict Analysis Resources that I hope will become a major resource for conflict researchers, especially economists and political scientists. This site is the brainchild of my infinitely energetic and entreprenuerial PhD student, Jorge Restrepo, who is about to finish his disseratiation on the Colombian conflict. Also please visit the web site of CERAC, a think tank that we have set up in Bogota specializing in the analysis of conflict and violence.

New on the research page you can find a paper on Iraq, Colombia and global terrorism that finds surprising similarities between the three. This work has been written up in Nature, the Economist and the Guardian."

The research paper is called:

""From Old Wars to New Wars and Global Terrorism," with Neil Johnson, Jorge Restrepo, Juan Camilo Bohórquez, Nicolás Suarzez, Elvira María Restrepo, and Roberto Zarama.
This paper has received press coverage in the Economist, The Guardian and Nature."

The important thing to notice however is that Professor Michael Spagat uses data from IBC for all his conflict analysis research that includes Iraq. This also applies to Professor Neil Johnson.

Obviously if all their reserach is based on IBC figures, then their findings would be virtually useless if the Lancet figures were correct.

Hence their desire to discredit it.

They are most definitely not 'honest brokers' in this affair:

"From old wars to new wars and global terrorism"N. Johnson1,7, M. Spagat2,7, J. Restrepo3,7, J. Bohórquez4, N. Suárez5,7, E. Restrepo6,7, andR. Zarama41 Department of Physics, University of Oxford, Oxford, U.K.2 Department of Economics, Royal Holloway College, University of London, Egham, U.K.3 Department of Economics, Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia4 Department of Industrial Engineering, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia5 Department of Economics, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia6 Department of Economics, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia7 CERAC, Conflict Analysis Resource Center, Bogotá, Colombia
"Our analysis uses our ownunique dataset for killings and injuries in Colombia, plus publicly available data forcivilians killed in Iraq."
"For the Iraq data we work with killings of civilians as provided by the Iraq Body Count Project."

"Universal patterns underlying ongoing wars and terrorism"Neil F. Johnson1,6, Mike Spagat2,6, Jorge A. Restrepo3,6, Oscar Becerra6, Juan Camilo Bohórquez4, Nicolas Suárez6, Elvira Maria Restrepo5,6, and Roberto Zarama41 Department of Physics, University of Oxford, Oxford, U.K.2 Department of Economics, Royal Holloway College, University of London, Egham, U.K.3 Department of Economics, Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia4 Department of Industrial Engineering, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia5 Faculty of Economics, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia6 CERAC, Conflict Analysis Resource Center, Bogotá, Colombia

"Our findings are backed up by extensive statistical tests on carefully prepared datasets, as discussed in the Appendices."

"PART 2: Data and methods...For Iraq we work with the CERAC Integrated Iraq Dataset (CIID). The CIID builds on the event description from three datasets that monitor violence in Iraq: Iraq Body Count (http://www.iraqbodycount.net/), iCasualties (http://iCasualties.org/oif/) and ITERATE (http://www.cba.ua.edu/~wenders/). All three sources contain event data on the Iraq war from its beginning on March 20, 2003. The first two are continually updated whereas ITERATE is updated on an annual basis so at present only extends through the end of 2004. As we discuss below, ITERATE has a very small impact on CIID so the fact that it stops early does not affect the work of this paper.The Iraq Body Count Project (IBC) monitors the reporting of more than 30 respected online news sources, recording only events covered by at least two of them. For each event IBC logs the date, time, location, target, weapon, estimates of the minimum and maximum number of civilian deaths and the sources of the information.vii IBC attaches the most confidence to their figures on the minimum number of killings in each event so the figures in the paper are based on these minimum numbers. However, figure S8 (below) shows that Figure 1 changes very little if we substitute the maximum number of killings for the minimum number of killings. The concept of civilian is broad, including, for example, policemen. The list of events, posted online, covers the full range of war activity, including suicide bombings, roadside bombings, US air strikes, car bombs, artillery strikes and individual assassinations.The IBC data has two principle drawbacks which need to be addressed in order for the reader to have confidence in our results. First, some lines in the IBC spreadsheet contain entries that are not proper events. The most important entries of this form are based on reports from morgues around Iraq. For example, entry x355a lists 26 deaths between May 1, 2003 and May 31, 2003 described as “Violent deaths recorded at the provincial morgue of Karbala”. The following hypothetical calculation illustrates how IBC handles these entries. The Karbala morgue actually reports a higher figure, say 39 violent deaths for May of 2003. However, IBC already has two events in Karbala for May of 2003, a car bomb killing 4 and a suicide bombing killing 5. It is likely that these 9 deaths are included among the 39 violent deaths recorded by the Karbala morgue so IBC subtracts them off, leaving 30. In addition, the murder rate in Karbala before the war was 4 per months so we might expect that 4 out of the remaining violent deaths would have happened even without the war. IBC subtracts off these 4 leaving the figure of 26 which is the one they enter into the database. This procedure is reasonable on its own terms, however deeply problematic for our purposes in this paper for two reasons. First, most of the deaths in entries of this form are likely to have occurred as single homicides since larger conflict events would be likely to have their own entry. Clearly we would not wish to treat 26 individual homicides as one event in which 26 people were killed. Second, most of the killings in events of this form are more tied to crime than to the conflict directly and we prefer to focus on a narrow definition of conflict killing. For these reasons we delete from the IBC database entries of this nature. We provide a list of events we deleted from IBC in Part 4 of the Appendices.The second drawback of IBC is that it measures only civilian deaths, albeit with a wide concept of civilian. Therefore, to get of fuller picture of the conflict we have added in events from iCasualties in which coalition military personnel and contractors are killed in conflict events (but not in accidents). This is a highly reliable source as the military services keep solid records on the fate of their own personnel. Finally, as a check for coverage of IBC and iCausualties we also integrated events from ITERATE, which is a global terrorism database that records terrorism events of international significance.This integration required careful matching of events between the three sources to avoid double counting. The following Venn diagrams give the results of this matching work, with event counts and numbers of killings accounted for by these events in parentheses below. They show that most of the deaths in CIID come from IBC alone but that iCasualties does make a significant contribution. The overlap between IBC and iCasualties is small, since they are measuring different things. However, there is some overlap because sometimes both military personnel and civilians are killed in a single incident. The impact of adding ITERATE into CIID is negligible, indicating that IBC and iCasualties give very full coverage of the Iraq war."

When we go to the website Spragat's protegé Restrepo has set up - the Civil Conflict Analysis Resources, we find that they too use IBC data for their research:

"Country specific datasetsIraq Body Count
Ron Francisco's civil war data (Spain and US Civil Wars)
Sutton Index of Deaths in Northern Ireland
Restrepo-Vargas-Spagat Colombia Civil War Dataset (1988-2002"

Update 03/11/06:

In fact the website which notes IBC as a country specific dataset is the Dept. of Economics at the Royal Holloway. I discovered this while I was writing the following mail to Dr. Madelyn Hsiao-Rei Hicks. :

Dear Dr, Hicks,

I have recently read an analysis by you of the new Lancet study of deaths in Iraq that was posted by Josh Dougherty on the Media Lens Message Board: A comment on the methodology described by Burnham et al. used to estimate ‘Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq’ published on October 12, 2006 in the Lancet

I am interested in how you came to write this analysis. In particular I am interested to learn whether you were approached by anyone specifically asking for your comments. If so, was it , by chance, someone from IBC, Iraq Body Count, or perchance from the Royal Holloway, University of London or the Dept. of Physics at Lincoln College, University of Oxford?

I ask because I notice that you are a research associate of CERAC, and as such, you are a colleague of Prof. Neil Johnson and Prof. Mike Spagat who are also "academic visitors" to CERAC, and who also, curiously, recently criticised the latest Lancet report.

I say curiously, because the overwhelming body of opinion of scientists in the field of bio-statistics, actually supports the Lancet methodology.

I also find it interesting that Prof. Neil Johnson and Prof. Mike Spagat were the co-authors of a research paper called "Universal patterns underlying ongoing wars and terrorism"(2), an updated version of a previous research paper called "From Old Wars to New Wars and Global Terrorism"(1).
Curiously, in both research papers, calculations and conclusions were made, based on data for civilian killings provided by: IBC.
(1) "For the Iraq data we work with killings of civilians as provided by the Iraq Body Count Project."
(2) Appendices PART 2: Data and methods "For Iraq we work with the CERAC Integrated Iraq Dataset (CIID). The CIID builds on the event description from three datasets that monitor violence in Iraq: Iraq Body Count , iCasualties and ITERATE."

In fact, apart from CERAC using IBC as part of its Integrated Iraq Dataset (CIID), it transpires that the Dept. of Economics at the Royal Holloway, University of London, also uses IBC in its country specific datasets (click on 'datasets' link).

This leads me to believe that there is a conflict of interest here. If IBC figures are wrong, and the Lancet figures are correct, then the conclusions reached in these research papers and indeed any other that used the IBC figures, could be seriously compromised. Therefore, the scholars in question cannot possibly be 'honest brokers' in this affair but are merely defending their own interests.

And as a colleague of theirs at CERAC which also uses IBC, there also appears to be a conflict of interest.

I would be grateful for any comments you could find the time to make.

Yours Sincerely,

David Sketchley
Seville, Spain

02 November 2006

"Why are the Republicans so worried? Diebold ARE still making the electronic voting machines, aren't they?"

"Why are the Republicans so worried? Diebold ARE still making the electronic voting machines, aren't they?"

This was someone called ikiwisi's post in reply to Sydney Blumenthal's piece on Karl Rove in today's Guardian. My answer:

Possibly they're worried that their scam has been found out...

"Security Assessment of the Diebold Optical Scan Voting Terminal" Department of Computer Science and Engineering,University of Connecticut October 30, 2006

"We identify a number of new vulnerabilities of this system which, if exploited maliciously, can invalidate the results of an election process utilizing the terminal. Furthermore, based on our findings an AV-OS can be compromised with off-the-shelf equipment in a matter of minutes even if the machine has its removable memory card sealed in place. The basic attack can be applied to effect a variety of results,including entirely neutralizing one candidate so that their votes are not counted, swapping the votes of two candidates, or biasing the results by shifting some votes from one candidate to another. Such vote tabulation corruptions can lay dormant until the election day, thus avoiding detection through pre-election tests."

Voter Registration Fraud Scheme in Santa Ana

Jefferson County Voters Continue To Raise Concerns About Voting Machines October 28,2006

"Early voting runs through Friday, November 3rd. KFDM continues to get complaints from Jefferson County voters who say the electronic voting machines are not registering their votes correctly. Friday night, KFDM reported about people who had cast straight Democratic ticket ballots, but the touch-screen machines indicated they had voted a straight Republican ticket. Some of those voters including Lamar University professor, Dr. Bruce Drury, believe the problem is a programming error. Saturday, KFDM spoke to another voter who says it's not just happening with straight ticket voting, he says it's happening on individual races as well, Jerry Stopher told us when he voted for a Democrat, the Republican's name was highlighted. Stopher said, "There's something in these machines, in this equipment, that's showing Republican votes when you vote for Democrats, and I know Ms. Guidry's a nice lady, and she's working hard, but her theory that my fingernail was somehow over the Republican button is just unrealistic, my fingernail was not. The equipment is not working properly as far as I can tell."

Electronic Vote Machine Security - Google Video
Professor Avi Rubin demonstrates how electronic vote machines can be compromised.

Report Warns of Potential Voting Problems in 10 States
By Amy Goldstein Washington Post Staff WriterWednesday, October 25, 2006; Page A03

Electronic Voting Machines Could Skew ElectionsThursday, 26 October 2006, 12:30 pm
Article: Scoop Link
Electronic Voting Machines Could Skew Elections
Researchers, candidates have little confidence in machines designed to make elections easier to call
By Jake Tapper, Rebecca Abrahams and Eduardo Sunol ABC News Sunday 22 October 2006 See Full Story