Saturday, January 26, 2008

Caroline Kennedy endorses Barack Obama

I felt the past and present collide today, in a miraculous way.

Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President John Kennedy, endorses Sen. Barack Obama in tomorrow's New York Times, online now. She says, with typical Kennedy eloquence:
... Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.

We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960. ...

Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign. He has spoken eloquently about the role of faith in his life, and opened a window into his character in two compelling books. And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning. ...

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.
Read the whole thing.

I just saw Obama's acceptance speech after his big South Carolina win. I cried. I so want to live in the America he describes. I refuse to believe it's unachievable. As much as I know, as much as I've learned, I know that, despite our apparent differences, deep down, most of us want the same things: affordable healthcare, clean air, fairness and decency for ourselves and others.

For someone who had almost forgotten how to hope, it's hard. I've been burned before. We all have. As a line in Disney's Little Mermaid production on Broadway says, "happiness is not wanting impossible things." But I want a seemingly impossible thing. I want a united, not a divided, America. I want conservatives and liberals to stop demonizing each other. I want a president who wants to lead all of us into a better future.

Thank you, Caroline Kennedy. I agree. No one has espoused the sense your father, and his brother, has, in my lifetime either. Until now. I hope, again. And I'm working to turn that hope into a reality. I am a precinct captain for Obama. I worked four weeks in that last three at my regular job, but in my very precious spare time, I've been making calls on his behalf.

I wish all of you some hope, in these dark times. I hope all of us find a way to build a better America together.

Obama wins SC, and not just because he's black!

I find the recent narrative regarding South Carolina ridiculous, because nearly a year ago, in their February 1, 2007 issue, Time magazine asked, Is Obama black enough?
[When Senator Biden called] Obama the "first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," the implication was that the black people who are regularly seen by whites -- or at least those who aspire to the highest office in the land -- are none of these things.

"Obama's mother is of white U.S. stock. His father is a black Kenyan," Stanley Crouch recently sniffed in a New York Daily News column entitled "What Obama Isn't: Black Like Me." "Black, in our political and social vocabulary, means those descended from West African slaves," wrote Debra Dickerson on the liberal website Salon. Writers like TIME and New Republic columnist Peter Beinart have argued that Obama is seen as a "good black," and thus has less of following among black people. ...

The black-on-black argument seemed to be bolstered by recent polls showing Obama significantly trailing Hillary Clinton among black voters. But reading into poll numbers that way is a clever device, hatched by mainstream (primarily white) journalists who are shocked -- shocked! -- to discover that black people aren't as dumbstruck by Obama as they are.

What they fail to understand is that African-Americans meet other intelligent, articulate African-Americans all the time. In almost every cycle since 1984, at least one of these brave chaps has run for President. Forgive us if we don't automatically pledge our votes to Obama and instead make judgments based on things besides skin color -- like, heaven forbid, issues.
Here's what Debra Dickerson had to say in that Salon article mentioned by Time:
Not descended from West African slaves brought to America, he steps into the benefits of black progress (like Harvard Law School) without having borne any of the burden, and he gives the white folks plausible deniability of their unwillingness to embrace blacks in public life. None of Obama's doing, of course, but nonetheless a niggling sort of freebie for which he'll have to do some groveling.

Which brings me to the main reason I delayed writing about Obama. For me, it was a trick question in a game I refused to play. Since the issue was always framed as a battle between gender and race (read: non-whiteness -- the question is moot when all the players are white), I didn't have the heart (or the stomach) to point out the obvious: Obama isn't black.

"Black," in our political and social reality, means those descended from West African slaves. Voluntary immigrants of African descent (even those descended from West Indian slaves) are just that, voluntary immigrants of African descent with markedly different outlooks on the role of race in their lives and in politics. At a minimum, it can't be assumed that a Nigerian cabdriver and a third-generation Harlemite have more in common than the fact a cop won't bother to make the distinction. They're both "black" as a matter of skin color and DNA, but only the Harlemite, for better or worse, is politically and culturally black, as we use the term.
While I personally find Dickerson's comments bizzare, they were representative of a segment of the writing population at that point in time.

Then came Iowa. And Iowa changed everything, as Bill Schneider at CNN pointed out:
Barack Obama just won a state whose population is less than 4 percent African-American. On January 26, he will be on the ballot in a state with a considerably higher percentage of African-Americans: South Carolina, where that demographic makes up nearly 50 percent of Democratic primary voters there.

African-Americans have been intensely loyal to the Clintons, and continue to support Hillary Clinton over Obama in the Palmetto State. But that gap has significantly narrowed in recent weeks -- and with this key win tonight, it's unlikely they will stand in his way there.
I present these quotes to show that for months, Obama was at a disadvantage among black voters. They didn't think he was black enough, didn't share their history. They were "intensely loyal" to the Clinton machine. They had doubts that Obama could win anywhere BUT the south.

What the pundits aren't mentioning today is that for the last several months of last year, the polls in South Carolina had Clinton up, often by 10 points or more, over Obama. It wasn't until his Iowa victory that, as Schneider predicted, South Carolinians started giving Obama a second look.

But don't miss the point here. Until Obama won a nearly all-white state, his victory in South Carolina was far from assured.

As a white woman voter, I had to wait to see if Obama could win in Iowa too. That mattered to me. I needed to know how far beyond race issues our country was willing to move. Iowans spoke up loud and clear, and told us race doesn't matter. I didn't want to support yet another candidate who didn't have a chance of winning. I've been down that route too many times. I know the roadside stops by heart. Neither did a lot of people in South Carolina.

It's not just because he's black. Yes, he's black enough. But that was never the full story, and we need to hold the media's feet to the fire to remind them that being "black" has never qualified Obama for instant support. Being a winner, with a strong message, is what caused the upswing of support for Obama in South Carolina.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Oswald's Ghost? The truth is HERE, Alex Beam.

Alex Beam wrote a column yesterday that shows the poverty of knowledge in the anti-conspiracy press. He's discussing that propaganda coup "Oswald's Ghost," a masterfully presented, if wildly underinformed special on the Kennedy Assassination.

Beam, who obviously knows little about the case, finds the special persuasive. It doesn't occur to him that the special was a deliberately one-sided presentation designed to try to persuade conspiracy believers that there was no conspiracy.

How do I know he knows little about the case? Because he can write this:
Monday night U.S. public television aired "Oswald's Ghost," an elegantly crafted, 90-minute obituary for the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy. On the one hand, filmmaker Robert Stone reports that about 70 percent of Americans still disbelieve the official investigation into Kennedy's killing. Veteran conspiracy jockey Mark Lane crows that, unlike the major networks and editorial boards of The Washington Post and The New York Times, "I have been right all along" about the plot to kill Kennedy.

But a more impressive roster of experts, including Norman Mailer, Priscilla MacMillan, and Todd Gitlin, has arrived at a different conclusion. Edward Jay Epstein, who has criticized the official Warren Report on the assassination, now thinks there was no anti-JFK conspiracy. "As we cover decade after decade, not a shred has come out that would indicate what this conspiracy was," Epstein says. "After 40 years none of the theories pan out."
Does Beam really not know that he just used three CIA favorites and one guy who admittedly didn't follow the minutia of the case to rebut the notion that the CIA was involved in the Kennedy assassination?

Let's get rid of Gitlin off the bat. In his book The Sixties, Gitlin wrote:
From the national mélange of rational optimism and free-floating paranoia, and in the face of widely cited mysteries drifting foglike from cracks in the official accounts of the assassination, there emerged conspiracy theories galore. The Warren Commission Report, released on September 27, 1964, was shoddy enough, but something else was operating to discredit it: a huge cultural disbelief that an event so traumatic and vast in its consequence could be accounted for by a petty assassin. Popular books, starting with Mark Lane’s 1966 best-selling Rush to Judgment, punched holes in the Warren Commission’s finding that Oswald was the lone assassin. Serious journals like The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, and Ramparts, not to mention the more sensationalist underground papers, regaled their readers with tale after tale about exit wounds, gunshots from the grassy knoll, missing frames of the Zapruder film, the accuracy of Mannlicher-Carcano rifles, exotic Cuban émigrés, mysteriously murdered witnesses, double agents, double Oswalds. Many objections to the official line were convincing, but one had to become a full-time assassination obsessive to keep up with the intricacies.
In other words, Gitlin, through lack of interest or lack of obsession, couldn't keep up. So he really has no right to dismiss the evidence discovered by those who have kept up.

Next, let's dismiss Priscilla Johnson McMillan. By her own admission, and according to a sheet in her 201 file at CIA, McMillan was a "witting collaborator," meaning, not only did she do things in support of the CIA, but she knew she was working for the CIA (as opposed to others who serve the agency without realizing it, who are characterized in the CIA as "unwitting assets"). She was working for the CIA at the same time she was interviewing Oswald in the USSR, and when she was trying to befriend Marina. Draw the appropriate conclusions here. And I wish I had bought the tabloid in which McMillan was featured on a cover saying she had slept with President Kennedy. Had I known anyone would pretend to give her any credibility I would have paid for it and scanned it and posted it permanently on the Web.

In addition, Priscilla Johnson married George McMillan, author of a book about James Earl Ray who claimed, provably inaccurately, that Ray decided to kill King after watching him on TV in prison. His prison had no such TV viewable from Ray's cell, but facts don't seem to matter to either McMillan.

As for Edward Jay Epstein, come on. By his own admission, he was a protégé of James Jesus Angleton, under whose close watch the Oswald file was created and hidden away in Angleton's personal back-pocket group, CI/SIG - the "Special Investigations Group" within his CounterIntelligence department. So not only is Epstein close to the CIA, he was very close to the one man who had quite a lot of control over Oswald's pre-assassination CIA file, and likely, the man himself. I wrote a long two-part article laying out the case for Angleton's probable involvement in the Kennedy assassination. Get my book, The Assassinations if you want to read it.

And finally, let's talk about Norman Mailer. Mailer had, in his turbulent middle years, spoken out against the CIA quite loudly. Maybe a little too loudly, because I didn't buy it when I read about it later. It sounded more like he was running a false flag operation among the literary elite, painting himself as a CIA critic when he may have been working with them all along. Speaking of false flag operations, I think the fact that Mailer lived in an apartment directly below Rudolph Abel, a valuable Soviet spy we traded for the downed U2 pilot Francis Powers, at a time when Mailer was working on a book about a writer involved with a spy (Barbary Shore), is interesting. I find his latter day near boast, "I could have been a [spy],"1 even more interesting. I find his novel "Harlot's Ghost," (Harlot being James Angleton) in which he hints that the CIA was involved in Kennedy's assassination, extremely interesting. And perhaps most interesting of all, even the New York Times was surprised when Mailer received a standing ovation at a speech he gave at the CIA, by invitation.2

So we have two CIA cheerleaders and one person who didn't care enough to follow the evidnece where it led telling us the CIA didn't kill Kennedy. Is it hard to understand why I can't take that seriously?

Beam went on to say:
I don't know what Stone's agenda was in making "Oswald's Ghost." I understood it as a fairly subtle commentary on time. If there had been more truths to reveal about the Kennedy assassination, time would have yielded them up. But it didn't.
But it did, Alex. Had you read Probe magazine in the 1990s, you would have seen revelation upon revelation stemming from the release of long sequestered files on the case by the Assassination Records Review Board. John Newman, himself a former intelligence analyst, to write Oswald and the CIA, a lengthy book in which he carefully, if perhaps too subtly, lays out the case that the CIA was controlling Oswald and moving him around like a pawn on a chessboard. In The Assassinations, I and others discuss many specific pieces of information that make a strong case for the CIA's involvement in the crime. None of this information, as Jim DiEugenio points out in his review of "Oswald's Ghost", is debunked, because none of it is even mentioned. Stone frames the case by keeping it locked prior to the release of the information that much more clearly makes the case for conspiracy.

Is the special persuasive? Sure, to the uninformed. But consider this. Would you be comfortable serving on a jury where the prosecutor was allowed to present both his case and the defendant's case? Absolutely not. But curiously, some, like Alex Beam, have no problem accepting it when the media does it.

I warned the readers of this blog that we were entering a year of disinformation on the assassinations because we're in a 'big' year, the 40th anniversary of the MLK and RFK assassinations, and the 45th year of the JFK case. "Oswald's Ghost" is only the opening salvo. Much worse is coming.

1. Mary V. Dearborn, Mailer (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1999), p. 409.
2. Elaine Sciolino, "Mailer Visits C.I.A. and Finds He's in Friendly Territory. Really." New York Times, February 3, 1992.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Clinton's and Obama's votes flipped in NH?

These numbers beg a legitimate explanation! It sure looks like the votes may have been "misprogrammed" (because we'd never say "deliberately flipped" in America, right?) to have given Clinton's votes to Obama, and vice versa, on the machines.

Analysts at the Election Defense Alliance (EDA) have confirmed that based on the official results on the New Hampshire Secretary of state web site, there is a remarkable relationship between Obama and Clinton votes, when you look at votes tabulated by op-scan v. votes tabulated by hand:

ClintonOptical scan91,71752.95%
ObamaOptical scan81,49547.05%
ClintonHand-counted 20,88947.05%
The percentages appear to be swapped. That seems highly unusual, to say the least.
I have little patience for speculation. But I have a voracious appetite for data. And THIS data is provocative as hell! Thank goodness Kucinich is requesting a recount. (See below.)

Kucinich requests a recount in New Hampshire!

From the Associated Press:

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Democrat Dennis Kucinich, who won less than 2 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary, said Thursday he wants a recount to ensure that all ballots in his party's contest were counted. The Ohio congressman cited "serious and credible reports, allegations and rumors" about the integrity of Tuesday results.

Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said Kucinich is entitled to a statewide recount. But, under New Hampshire law, Kucinich will have to pay for it. Scanlan said he had "every confidence" the results are accurate.

In a letter dated Thursday, Kucinich said he does not expect significant changes in his vote total, but wants assurance that "100 percent of the voters had 100 percent of their votes counted." Kucinich alluded to online reports alleging disparities around the state between hand-counted ballots, which tended to favor Sen. Barack Obama, and machine-counted ones that tended to favor Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. He also noted the difference between pre-election polls, which indicated Obama would win, and Clinton's triumph by a 39 percent to 37 percent margin.
Thank you, Representative Kucinich! You are a true patriot!!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New Hampshire Results

I want to say something re the New Hampshire results. Brad over at Bradblog is saying Obama shouldn't have conceded so soon.

I was concerned at first too, very much so, because how could all those voters flip overnight? ALL the polls, from news media organizations to campaign polls in the Obama and Clinton camps showed Obama with a large margin.

But the polls that matters most, to me, in terms of verifying the accuracy of our vote, are the exit polls. And the CNN and MSNBC exit polls (which may be the same poll - they looked similar but I'm too tired to compare) showed that of the people polled, about 2% more favored Hillary.

So, barring evidence that the exit polls were manipulated, the results seem, however surprising, legitimate.

Of course, I'd like to know for sure, and that's the problem with electronic voting. It's impossible to be certain our votes are being counted as cast without rigorous auditing of a paper trail. Some states audit a percentage of the precincts after an election, but often in quantities too small to be statistically sufficient for us to have confidence in our vote.

And the really bad news? It's been that way since 1968. Computer voting is not a new development, and ways to game the system have been around ever since such systems were introduced. I'm not suggesting elections have been gamed, only that they could have been, without us ever knowing, because we have no useful way to verify the computer counts.

Still, all that said, at this point, lacking any other information, I see no reason to challenge the NH results.

I suspect strongly that the polls undersampled women, who voted strongly for Clinton over Obama in this contest. And I can understand that. When I saw Hillary get choked up yesterday, it was the first time I found myself liking her. All women have been in that place, in that moment, and I felt an instant bond. I am now strongly in Obama's camp so it didn't change my preference, but if people were undecided, I can see how that glimpse, where she seemed so sincere, so genuine, won her some new supporters.

So my only question now is, were the exit polls reported accurately? They've been altered after election results have been posted in the past. But in this case, again, I have no evidence of alteration, and lacking that, no real reason to mistrust the results.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Obama wins Iowa!

Barack Obama just made history. Watch the victory speech to see why Iowa chose him over the other Democrats.