Friday, July 15, 2005

Frist Letter, Badmash, Middle East Studies, Watch List, PR, Democracy, Erdogan, ...

1) While rattling around my computer today, I found this letter that I had written to Senator Bill Frist in January 2003. At the time he sent a soothing reply which I recall spewing flowery prose about "standing tall," "remaining resolute," and having "full trust" in the Comamnder in Chief (which I must find again). I tried to publish a similar op-ed in the local paper, but they cut it down to the 300 word level of a "letter to the editor," which isn't sufficient to build an argument. The full letter seems prescient enough, though.

21 January 2003
Senator Bill Frist
Senate Majority Leader
Washington, DC

Dear Senator Frist:

This letter is to express strong opposition to anycommencement of hostilities by US forces against theState of Iraq. Any such attack would be destabilizingin the extreme, highly dangerous for US security athome and abroad, damaging to US stature in the world,and would inevitably result in a great number ofinnocent civilian casualties.

Any unprovoked attack on Iraq would amount to apre-emptive assault on a non-belligerent state --violating a key principle of the UN charter. In 1939Germany breached this prohibition by invading Poland. In 1941, Japan violated this principle by attackingPearl Harbor. In 1990, Iraq broke this principle byinvading Kuwait. In 2003, the US is consideringbreaching this principle by invading Iraq. If thisaction is carried out, the principle of the illegalityof pre-emptive state-to-state military attacks will beirreparably harmed. This is an extremely dangerousproposition, and may ultimately result in thebreakdown of the UN system. In addition, it will makeit diplomatically impossible for the US to preventother state actors from carrying out similarpre-emptive assaults.

The regional implications of this US-initiated war aresimply not known. Advocates of military action arguethat the war can be concluded quickly with minimalcasualties. Even if this turns out to be true, thatwould mark the beginning of the initiative, not theend. A strong argument can be made that the events of9/11 and the maturation of al-Qaida initiatives aredirectly traceable to the US “victory” in 1991 and thepermanent posting of US forces in Saudi Arabia. Priorto 2001, significant US forces were not present in thefollowing areas where they are currently active: Oman,Qatar, Israel/Palestine, Uzbekistan, Georgia, thePhilippines, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Such amassively increased US military presence beyond ourborders has local effects with global implications --and an occupation of Iraq will greatly increase thispresence. Put simply, “blowback” is a reality -- andthe future spin-off effects of a projected US assaulton Iraq are unpredictable.

While many in the Bush administration discount theimportance of Muslim public opinion, it is that publicwhich frequently provides shelter, funding, andsympathy for the sort of extremists the US publicshould really be worried about. One inflames thispublic opinion at one’s own risk. Assaulting andoccupying Iraq will not endear the US government tothe Islamic world -- and that matters in ways thatcannot be immediately known.

The humanitarian effects of this war are unknown. While non-American casualties do not normally receivegreat attention in the US media, they do carry effectselsewhere. The collapse of the Iraqi state may causethe next wave of asylum seekers throughout Europe andthe US -- which will have its own secondary effects ondomestic politics.

The potential cost of this war is unknown, and couldbe well over a trillion dollars. Wealthy as the USmay be, such a great expense could spell the end ofany near-term economic recovery, damage our long termeconomic security, and harm any prospect that latergenerations will continue to see the sorts of socialsupport still in operation today. Considering theparties likely to profit from such governmentaloutlays and the change in global oil markets whichwould likely follow such a war, that expense wouldconstitute a direct transfer of resources from publicto private interests -- a transfer that would furtherdamage a society that is already clearly sick.

Last weekend, an estimated 500,000 citizens marchedagainst this potential war in Washington, and 200,000in San Francisco. Such opposition has beendemonstrated in spite of a blanket refusal by themainstream media to broadcast any but completelyunanimous opinions in support of war. Anyone whodoubts the divisive nature of Bush’s foreign policyinitiatives should note: such massive protest marchescame to pass against a possible war. One can onlyspeculate how divisive an actual war may turn out tobe -- let alone one that proves difficult. As acitizen and voter, I am appalled at the aggressive andunitary conduct of political debate under the Bushadministration -- but I will not be intimidated. Rather, I am just angry enough to get involved -- andI am not alone.

It is said that Iraq is a threat to the US due to itsweapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, Iraqnever successfully developed nuclear weapons, and hasallowed destruction of the vast majority of its formerstock of chemical and biological weapons -- and thecurrent inspection regime is attempting to address anyresidual threats. However, if the US initiates apre-emptive assault, the region may find out the hardway how many WMD’s Iraq possesses. Such a scenariocarries horrifying implications -- and blame would liesquarely with the Bush administration for initiatinghostilities.

On a personal note, as a native-born Arab-American ofmixed descent, I have relatives in three cities ofIraq. If any of those relatives -- all civilians --fail to survive hostilities initiated by the Bushregime, I intend to take those directly and legallyculpable for their deaths (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld,Wolfowitz, and others) to court for damages. If theBush administration utilizes US WMD’s in theprosecution of this war, I intend to help initiate warcriminal proceedings against these same officials --inside or outside US jurisdiction. In this too, Iwill not be alone.

Senator Frist, I am asking you to withdraw yoursupport for the Bush administration’s proposed assaulton Iraq. If you are able to do so publicly, you willhave proven yourself a courageous politician and canbe assured of my support for years to come. If youonly feel able to do so privately, then you canconsider yourself an ethical person and responsiblepolitician. However, if you actively support thiswar, you will be at least partially culpable for thenegative effects described in this letter. Due toyour elected position, your stance matters. I hopeyou find the courage to make the right decision --millions are watching, including this interestedvoter.

Yours sincerely,Nabil Al-Tikriti

2) This is a great video, in the spirit of Jon Stewart. Click on the featured video, "Harlan Mcraney, Presidential Speechalist 5000." I also recommend the "Peugeot commercial."

3) Daily Kos on Juan Cole and Middle East Studies field against the neocon extremists -- go to original article for full links:

Cole et al vs. Neocons and Kramer: Understanding JuanCole's fight
by mikepridmore
Tue Jul 12th, 2005 at 10:48:22 PDT

To get an understanding of what Juan Cole is upagainst you need a peek into what others in his fieldare saying. A recent symposium at GeorgetownUniversity provided the perfect opportunity to do so. A synopsis of that symposium is available online here. Several themes are apparent. First, and this is thebiggest concern for Cole's fellow academics, Arabstudies programs are having to defend the need fortheir very existence if they refuse to toe theofficial government line. Here is an excerpt from a2002 piece by Martin Kramer, who also happened toattend the symposium (link):

Diaries :: mikepridmore's diary :: ::

Boycott! Since 9/11, the leaders of Middle Easternstudies have had one aim: to exploit the disaster toexpand their empire. More money, more appointments,more students: if we receive more, they have argued,the United States will be better prepared than it wason September 11.

But in the various departments of the U.S. government,there are no illusions. Expanding Middle Easternstudies won't make America more secure if thisexpansion fails to produce graduates willing to servegovernment .

And Kramer is not the only attacker. Related to this,there is a concerted effort by lobbyists tomarginalize those who disagree with Bushadministration policies. At the Georgetown symposium,Peter Gran of Temple University mentioned the effectof Arab studies nemeses such as Daniel Pipes:

Peter Gran of Temple University said lobbyists had asignificant impact on research topics. Citing Arabstudies nemesis Daniel Pipes' remarks that truepatriotism consisted of upholding market sovereigntyrather than the needs of the American people, Granargued that there was a growing trans-national meshingof elite goals, along with the simultaneousdevelopment of a social movement substituting"rapture" for economic health...
As'ad Abukhalil of California State University atStanislau argued at the Georgetown symposium that theoverall intent of Pipes' group Campus Watch was tokeep the academy out of the debate by delegitimizingscholars. Juan Cole caught Pipes's group in the actof targeting him in 2002 and threatened legal actionif they didn't take him off a watch list that hadresulted in spam attacks on him. One can questionwhether threatening legal action was the right courseof action by Cole, but Martin Kramer inadvertentlyreveals his close association with the group by theamount of detail seen in his attack on Cole here. Kramer intended to make Cole appear batty forincluding him in the e-mail threatening legal action. But Kramer's obvious familiarity with all the detailsshows that Pipes and Kramer were likely collaboratingbehind the scenes as Cole suspected.

Leila Hudson of the University of Arizona mentionedanother nemesis of Middle East academicians: "...some,like the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI),distract the public from scholars' opinions." Colealso had a run-in with Kramer related to MEMRI. Hereis Cole's defense of statements he made with regard toMEMRI. Here is Kramer's attack piece where he yetagain tries to marginalize Cole by making him appearbatty. Here is a helpful explanation of MEMRI thatincludes a Guardian piece.

Part of what Cole alleged was that MEMRI had a muchlarger budget than it was admitting. The moneyconnection is more apparent elsewhere, as in thepro-Bush policy think tank where Kramer now hangs hishat. From the synopisis of the symposium:

Despite the active participation by Martin Kramer ofthe Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP),his most significant comment lay partly in what he didnot say. Kramer argued that the academy should notstigmatize the few who take Middle East training anddecide to work for government or advocate its currentpolicies. However, he neglected to address the issueof the stigmatizing of those Middle East experts whospeak out against governmental policy--something hehas done in his own book.

Although it is not at first apparent, WINEP = AIPAC =Big PAC money and influence. Here is a history ofWINEP with this key graf that reveals its currentslant:

At the onset of the second Bush administration,WINEP's influence dimmed as neoconservatives at theAmerican Enterprise Institute and Project for the NewAmerican Century successfully pushed for a completebreak from previous policy frameworks toward theIsraeli-Palestinian conflict and the Middle East.WINEP, which also had several leading neocons on itsboard of advisors including Richard Perle and PaulWolfowitz, has over the past four years also movedeven further to the right and toward the hard-linepositions of the Likud party militarists. Theinstitute includes such right-wing Zionists in itsranks as Michael Rubin, Martin Kramer, Daniel Pipes,and Joshua Muravchik. Another new figure at WINEP isJonathan Schnazer, who was previously a researchfellow at Daniel Pipes' Middle East Forum.

WINEP was originally founded as a think tank that wasless partisan than its current incarnation. But, morethan anything else, it is and always has been a policyinsitute. Here is more detail of the actions of WINEPand AIPAC, among others, during the currentadministration. AIPAC and WINEP work together. WINEPserves as an a quasi-academic source of policies thatAIPAC then works to make official US policy. As forthe influence of AIPAC, you need look no further thanthis statement by Fritz Hollings that connects theIraq War with a powerful push by AIPAC on behalf ofIsraeli security.

To get some idea of what WINEP is doing other thanusing Martin Kramer as an attack dog against opposingvoices, note that some WINEP participants, like DennisRoss, tell different stories in the US than they do toother audiences, giving anti-Palestinian bias to theircomments. From the symposium link:
University of Arizona professor Charles Smith pointedout that Dennis Ross, President Bill Clinton's topMiddle East negotiator, had told a French audiencethat both Israel and Palestine should be heldaccountable for the failure of the peace talks betweentheir former heads of government, Ehud Barak andYasser Arafat. Ross told an American audience,however, that the Palestinians were to blame. Ross'U.S. version was dangerous, Smith said, because itwould be believed for years to come, despite moreaccurate versions available from Clayton Swisher andRobert Malley, both of whom were present at the CampDavid talks.

There was also a lot of discussion at the symposium ofthe effect on academics of the selective listening ofthe Bush administration. Lisa Anderson, president ofthe Middle East Studies Association (MESA) and a deanat Columbia University, said that, "rather thanacademics influencing policy, policy was influencingthe academy." (To give a little insight into what sheis facing, you can take a look at this venomous andchildish hit piece on MESA by Martin Kramer.) Ambassador Edward Walker of the Middle East Institute(MEI) agreed with Anderson, saying that the door topolicy advisement was open mostly to people whoalready have served--and even then, mostly to those inagreement with the current administration.

University of Arizona professor Charles Smith alsopointed out that Princeton professor Bernard Lewis(who said that imperialism was "a consequence, not acause" of weakness in Middle Eastern states, despitethe fact there were no Middle Eastern nation statesprior to European imperialism) was consulting withSecretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld before 9/11,making the point--as had Walker--that it was academicswho agreed with administration policy whose advice wassought.

Leila Hudson of the University of Arizona addressedthe issue of the application of Arab studies to policyas it was practiced by those in agreement with currentpolicy. Neo-con ideas like those espoused by symposiumparticipant Martin Kramer, she explained, traced backto the University of Chicago's Albert Wohlstetter andled to such phenomena as what Hudson described as a"think tank masquerading as an educationalinstitution."

As mentioned above, Kramer thinks academics shouldaccept it when quasi-scholars supply theadministration with the info it wants to hear. Hudsoncannily noted that policies based on the advice ofnon-experts (like Kramer) were failing:

Unfortunately, Hudson said, these groups drown out theexpert voices of scholars in fields like anthropologyand history. However, Hudson also noted, policy basedon the tactics of such groups was failing becausepolicymakers have declined to consult experts andhence lack detailed knowledge.

4) There but for the grace of God go each of us:

Published on Thursday, July 7, 2005
Who's Watching the Watch List?
by John Graham

Heading for Oakland from Seattle to see my grandkidslast week, the Alaska Airline check-in machine refusedto give me a boarding pass. Directed to the ticketcounter, I gave the agent my driver's license andwatched her punch keys at her computer.

Frowning, she told me that my name was on the nationalterrorist No Fly Watch List and that I had to bespecially cleared to board a plane. Any plane. Thenshe disappeared with my license for ten minutes,returning with a boarding pass and a written notice from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)confirming that my name was on a list of persons "whoposed, or were suspected of posing, a threat to civilaviation or national security."

No one could tell me more than that. The computer wascertain.

Back home from Oakland, I called the TSA 800 number,where I rode a merry-go-round<>of pleasant recorded voices until I gave up. Turningto the TSA website, I downloaded a Passenger IdentityVerification Form that would assist the TSA in"assessing" my situation if I sent it in with apackage of certified documents attesting to who I was.

I collected all this stuff and sent it in. Anothertwenty minutes on the phone to the TSA uncovered nolive human being at all, let alone one who would tellme what I'd presumably done to get on The List.Searching my own mind for possible reasons, I've beenmore and more puzzled. I used to work on nationalsecurity issues myself for the State Department andI know how dangerous our country's opponents can be.To the dismay of many of my more progressive friends,I've given the Feds the benefit of the doubt onhomeland security. I tend to dismiss conspiracytheories as nonsense and I take my shoes off for the airport screeners with a smile.

I'm embarrassed that it took my own ox being gored forme to see the threat posed by the
Administration'scurrent restricting of civil liberties. I'm beingaccused of a serious--even treasonous--criminalintent by a faceless bureaucracy, with no chance (thatI can find) to refute any errors or false charges. Myability to earn a living is threatened--I speak oncivic action and leadership all over the world,including recently at the US Air Force<>Academy. Plane travel is key to my livelihood.

According to a recent MSNBC piece, thousands ofAmericans are having similar experiences. And this isnot Chile under Pinochet. It's America.My country and yours.

With no real information to go on, I'm left to guesswhy this is happening to me. The easiest and mostcomforting guess is that it's all a mistake (apossibility the TSA form, to its credit, allows). Buthow? I'm a 63-year-old guy with an Anglo-Saxon name. Ionce held a Top Secret Umbra clearance (don't ask whatit is but it meant the FBI vetted me up the whazoo formonths). And since I left the government in 1980, mylife has been an open book. It shouldn't be hard forthe government to figure out that I'm not a menace tomy country.
But if they do think that>Heroes Project, a nonprofit that moves people to sticktheir necks out for the common good. In the traditionof Gandhi, King and Mandela, that can includechallenging public policies people think are unjust.But in 1990, the Project's founder and I were honoredas "Points of Light" by the first President Bush forour work in fostering the health of this democracy.I've just written a book about activating citizens toget to work on whatever problems they care about,instead of sitting around complaining.

I'm also engaged in international peacemaking, workingwith an organization with a distinguished 60-yearrecord of success in places ranging from post-warEurope to Africa. Peacemakers must talk to allsides, so over the years I've met with Cambodians,Sudanese, Palestinians, Israelis and many others. Youcan't convince people to move toward peacefulsolutions unless you understand who they are.

As I said, I'm not into conspiracy theories. But Ican't ignore this Administration's efforts to purgeand punish dissenters and opponents. Look, forexample, at current efforts to cleanse PBS and NPR of"anti-Administration" news. But I'm not Bill Moyersand the Giraffe Heroes Project is not PBS. We're asmall operation working quietly to promote realcitizenship.

Whether it's a mistake or whether somebody with thepower to hassle me really thinks I am a threat, thestark absence of due process is unsettling. The worstof it is that being put on a list of America'senemies seems to be permanent. The TSA form states:"the TSA clearance process will not remove a name fromthe Watch Lists. Instead this process distinguishespassengers from persons who are in fact on the WatchLists by placing their names and identifyinginformation in a cleared portion of the Lists" (whichmay or may not, the form continues, reduce the airporthassles).

Huh? My name is on a list of real and suspectedenemies of the state and I can't find out what I'maccused of or why, let alone defend myself? And I'mguilty, says my government, not just until proveninnocent or a victim of mistaken identity--but forever?

Yes, 9/11 changed a lot. Tougher internal securitymeasures (like thorough screenings at airports andboundary crossings) are a dismal necessity. But, inprotecting ourselves, we can't allow our leaders tocontinue to create a climate of fear and mistrust, todestroy our civil liberties and, in so doing, tochange who we are as a nation. What a victory thatwould be for our enemies! And what a betrayal of realpatriots, and to so many in the wider world who stillremember this country as a source of inspiration andhope.
I don't think it's like Germany in 1936. But look atGermany in 1930. Primed by National Socialistpropaganda to stay fearful and angry, Germans indroves chose not to see the right's extreme views andactions as a threat to their liberties.

And don't forget that frog. You know that frog.Dropped into a pot of boiling water, he jumps out tosafety. But put into a pot of cold water over a steadyflame, he won't realize the danger until it's too lateto jump.
So how hot does the water have to get? When the Fedscan rifle through your library reading list? When theycan intimidate journalists? When a government agencycan keep you off airplanes without giving you a reason? When there's not even a pretense of dueprocess? We're not talking about prisoners atGuantanamo; it's you and me. Well, after last week, itsure as hell is me and it could be you, next.

Oh yes. Washington State just refused to renew mydriver's license on-line, a privilege given others. Ihad to wait in line at the DMV before a computer<>decided I could drive home. This conspiracy theorydebunker smells a connection to the Watch List.

I know what I will do. If my name is not removedcompletely from the Watch List in 45 days I will useevery resource I've got to challenge the government ofa country that I love and have served. In all thepress about identity theft, I find myself railing athaving my identity as a patriot stolen

Friday, July 15, 2005
The Ghost of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan

John Aravosis at AmericaBlog brings up the awfulpossibility, based on an ABC report, that the PublicRelations-hungry Bush administration may haveinterfered with a British and Pakistani investigationof an al-Qaeda plot to bomb London that ties into July7.

The question is whether Bush played politics withterror around the time of the Democratic NationalConvention in late July, 2004. Jim Lobe reminded us atthe time that ' The New Republic weekly quotedPakistani intelligence officials as saying the WhiteHouse had asked them to announce the arrest or killingof any "high-value [al-Qaeda] target" any time betweenJuly 26 and 28, the first three days of the DemocraticConvention. At the time, former CIA officer RobertBaer said the announcement made "no sense." "To keepthese guys off-balance, a lot of this stuff should bekept in secret. You get no benefit from announcing anarrest like this." '

In response to White House pressure, the Pakistaniswere in fact able to make an arrest, which wasannounced during the Democratic National Convention.That arrest, of a Tanzanian named Ahmad KhalfanGheilani, in turn led to the capture of Muhammad NaeemNoor Khan, a young computer expert who had oldal-Qaeda documents on his laptop as well as a morerecent archive of email correspondence with al-Qaedain the UK. Among the old data were pre-9/11 plans forattacks in New York and elsewhere.

The Bush administration issued a heightened securityalert just as the Democratic National Convention wasending. Many at the time suspected that thisannouncement was an unsubtle attempt to play to thegeneral public's perception of Bush as better atfighting terrorists than the Democrats. USA Todaywrote:
"some questioned the timing and tone of Ridge's Sundaynews conference. Former Democratic presidentialcandidate Howard Dean suggested it might have been aneffort to bump Democratic presidential nominee JohnKerry from the headlines after a convention in Bostonthat focused heavily on his credentials to becommander in chief. "I am concerned that every timesomething happens that's not good for President Bush,he plays this trump card, which is terrorism," Deantold CNN. Kerry's aides have said they do not believethe timing was politically motivated. But otherDemocrats have been quietly grumbling. And thatprompted Ridge to proclaim Tuesday, for the secondtime in less than a month, that "we don't do politicsin the Department of Homeland Security." The last timehe said that, he was standing on the Bostonwaterfront, just days before Kerry's politicalconvention, answering charges he was hyping thepossibility of terrorism around the convention to grabattention from Kerry. Some law enforcement officialsworry that disclosing detailed information would tipoff terrorists and dry up intelligence sources. ButRidge said the public has a right to know. "Thedetail, the sophistication, the thoroughness of thisinformation, if you had access to it, you'd say we didthe right thing," he said Tuesday. "It's not aboutpolitics. It's about confidence in government tellingyou when they get the information."

The information reported by Ridge was based on datathat was three years old, raising real questions abouthow urgent such an announcement could possibly havebeen and raising further suspicions about the timing.

The announcement set off a frenzy of press interest inthe basis for then Homeland Security secretary TomRidge's alarm. Either from a Bush administrationsource or from a Pakistani one (each government blamesthe other), they came up with the name of MuhammadNaeem Khan, a recently arrested al-Qaeda operative inPakistan, and published it. But it turns out that thePakistanis and the UK had "turned" Khan and werehaving him be in active email contact with theal-Qaeda network in the UK so as to track them down.
On August 3, the Bush administration released the nameof Abu Eisa Khan, a suspected al-Qaeda operative inthe UK who had been arrested. The motive for thisshocking lapse in security procedure appears to havebeen the desire to trumpet a specific arrest.

All of these public pronouncements by the Americansinfuriated the Pakistani and British police.
For the sake of three year old intelligence, the Bushadministration had helped blow the first inside doubleagent the Pakistanis and the British had everdeveloped. The British had been preparing a set ofindictments and pursuing the investigation, in part byusing Khan. They were forced to move before they wereready. Some suspects escaped on hearing Naeem Khan'sin the media. Of those who were arrested, several hadto be released for lack of evidence against them.

Muhammad Sadique Khan, one of the July 7 bombers, wasapparently connected to one of the suspects undersurveillance in early August, 2004.

It would be really nice to think that Howard Dean'sdark suspicions were unwarranted. But we already sawin summer of 2003 how Karl Rove was willing to damagethe CIA for petty political gain by leaking to thepress the fact that Ambassador Joe Wilson's wifeworked for that agency. That Rove would have beeneager to use the terror issue to blunt the impact ofthe Democratic National Convention is all tooplausible. If he did so, he may well have gottenpeople killed.

The connection to the Noor Khan plot helps explain whyTony Blair and Jack Straw were so unequivocal aboutJuly 7 having been an al-Qaeda operation so soon afterthe blasts.

6) Best Democracy money can buy:

RNC VOTE FRAUD?Team Bush Paid Millions to Nathan Sproul—and Tried toHide It
by Mark Crispin Miller and Jared Irmas

In the months before the 2004 presidential election, afirm called Sproul & Associates launched voterregistration drives in at least eight states, most ofthem swing states. The group--run by Nathan Sproul,former head of the Arizona Christian Coalition and theArizona Republican Party--had been hired by theRepublican National Committee.

All the payments by the RNC to Sproul add up to awhopping $8,359,161. Where did all that money comefrom? Why did the RNC suppress their realexpenditures? And what exactly did Sproul do for allthat pay? Sproul got into a bit of trouble last fall when, incertain states, it came out that the firm was playingdirty tricks in order to suppress the Democratic vote:concealing their partisan agenda, tricking Democratsinto registering as Republicans, surreptitiouslyre-registering Democrats and Independents asRepublicans, and shredding Democratic registrationforms.

The scandal got a moderate amount of local coverage insome states--and then the election was over. Nowanyone who brought up Nathan Sproul, or any of theother massive crimes and improprieties committed on orprior to Election Day, was shrugged off as a dealer in"conspiracy theory."

It seems that Sproul did quite a lot of work for theRepublicans. Exactly how much did he do?

Morespecifically, how much did the RNC pay Sproul &Associates?

If you went online last week to look up how much moneySproul received from the Republicans in 2004, youwould have found that, according to the party (whosefigures had been posted by the Center for ResponsivePolitics), the firm was paid $488,957.

In fact, the RNC paid Sproul a great deal more thanthat. From an independent study of the original datafiled by the Republicans with the Federal ElectionCommission, it is clear that Sproul was paid astaggering $8.3 million for its work against theDemocrats.

How the true figures came to be revealedOn Dec. 3, 2004, the Republican National Committeefiled their Post-General Report with the FEC,accounting for all expenditures between Oct. 14 andNov. 22.Among the Itemized Disbursements there were listed sixexpenditures to Sproul & Associates, amounting to atotal sum of $4.5 million. Three of them were for"Political Consulting," and the other three were for"Voter Registration Costs." The RNC paid Sproul thebiggest amount on the day before the election:$1,668,733.

On Jan. 7, 2005 and again on May 3, 2005, the RNC sentin revised reports. Those items were unchanged in allof them.

After they received the RNC's second revised report,the FEC expressed dissatisfaction with the vaguephrase "Voter Registration Costs." In a May 18 letterto Michael Retzer, Treasurer of the RNC, the FECrequested that itemized disbursements labeled thus befurther clarified.

On June 17, the RNC submitted a (third) revisedreport. In it, those three suspicious Sproulexpenditures labeled "Voter Registration Costs" hadbeen changed to "Political Consulting." As a"clarification," it was as vague as possible. Althoughit only raised more questions, there seems to be noletter in the FEC database concerning that unedifyingcorrection.

Moreover, there are some big surprises buried in thepaperwork. It turned out that the RNC paid Sproul notonly for their pre-election work, but also paid themfor work after the election. According to theirYear-End Report, filed on Jan. 28, 2005, the RNC paidSproul for "Political Consulting" in December--longafter all the voter registration drives had ended.

And two months later, when the RNC filed their amendedYear-End Report on May 3, the dates of those Decemberexpenditures mysteriously changed. A payment of$210,176, once made on Dec. 20, was changed to Dec.22. A payment of $344,214, initially recorded on Dec.22, was changed to Dec. 9.

As to why Sproul was being paid in December, and whythe dates were changed, one can only speculate. But itmay be worth noting that the Ohio recount took placefrom Dec. 13 through Dec. 28.

Because these amendments were made in 2005, the Centerfor Responsive Politics' website mistakenly allocatedthat money to the 2006 cycle. When we informed them ofthese missing numbers yesterday, CRP was quick toadjust them. They also included two more expenditures:a $323,907 payment for more "Political Consulting"(10/12/04) and $450,257 for "Mailing Costs"(10/04/04).

And there was more--much more.

Fuzzy mathThe documents also suggest that the RNC may havechanged the dates of nine payments to suggestexpenditures in 2005, thereby shifting focus from the2004 election.In going through the documents, CRP located nineexpenditures from the future: Sproul somehow receiveda total of $1,323,154 between Sept. 2 and Sept. 29,2005. Another $472,642 is hidden in 2005. Four ofthose prospective items were (or will be) for "GenericMedia Buys" or "Lodging, Transportation." The otherfour are (or will be) for "Voter RegistrationEfforts"--surely an expense incurred in September oflast year, not this year.

Larry Noble, executive director of CRP, considers suchfuture expenditures for, say, "Lodging,Transportation" rather odd, but he gives the RNC thebenefit of the doubt. "My guess is that it's anerror," he suggests. "It's possible that they'recleaning up voter registration lists in September, butit's also possible they made a mistake."

Even if that mistaken date is just a typo, it is, tosay the least, not likely that they made the samemistake in nine uniquely dated items for 2004.

In any case, all the payments by the RNC to Sproul addup to a whopping $8,359,161--making it the RNC'seighth biggest expenditure of the 2004 campaign.

Sproul is currently under investigation by the OregonAttorney General's office, for altering the voterregistration forms of several thousand students inthat state. Whether the new numbers are in partmistaken, they represent a huge expense for theRepublicans. Given Sproul's history of seriouselectoral mischief, affecting countless Democraticvoters in the last election, it is important that weask some sober questions: Where did all that moneycome from? Why did the RNC suppress their realexpenditures? And what exactly did Sproul do for allthat pay? If we're going to get some reasonableanswers, the FEC must undertake a very thorough auditof the books.


Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of culture andcommunication at New York University, is author ofseveral books, including Boxed In: The Culture of TV,Mad Scientists: The Secret History of ModernPropaganda, The Bush Dyslexicon and Cruel and Unusual:Bush/Cheney's New World Order. Jared Irmas is a juniorat New York University. Additional reporting by JohnBrakey.

Published by the Baltimore Chronicle with permissionof the authors. Originally published on Thursday,
June30, 2005 at News From Underground

7) Here's an interesting spin off story from the London bombings:

Turkish PM denounces BBC, Reuters over Kurd rebel label

ANKARA, July 14 (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday denounced British-based news organisations the BBC and Reuters for not describing the armed separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as a terrorist group. Erdogan, speaking to the Ankara Chamber of Industry after observing a two-minute silence for the victims of last week's bomb attacks in London, warned against double standards in tackling terrorism in Turkey and in Britain. "I condemn and curse two important global television and media companies, BBC and Reuters, for both declaring the PKK terror group in Turkey to be a militia," Erdogan said. "I call on the global media to show an objective stance at this point. If this mentality continues, they should know that the terror which strikes Turkey and the children of this country today will strike them tomorrow, and will cause them pain." His comments were met by applause from Chamber of Industry delegates. The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984, demanding Kurdish independence in a conflict that has claimed more than 30,000 lives. Turkish officials have frequently rapped Western media for the way they cover the Kurdish separatist conflict, which is a highly sensitive subject in Turkey. Reuters, the British Broadcasting Corporation and other international news organisations avoid describing armed groups as terrorist, unless the term is attributed, in line with policies of avoiding emotive language. Erdogan, who has driven human rights reforms that helped win Turkey an October start date for European Union entry talks, has often criticised domestic and foreign media on a range of issues but has not previously lashed out so pointedly over the PKK. PKK violence abated after the 1999 capture of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, but has been on the rise again since the group called off a unilateral ceasefire in June 2004. Both the United States and the European Union include the PKK on their list of terrorist organisations. Suicide bombers linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network struck Jewish and British targets in Istanbul in November 2003, killing more than 60 people. Suicide bombers who struck London last week are also thought to have had al Qaeda connections.

8) Here's another op-ed on the London bombings:,16141,1528997,00.html

Our leaders must speak up
Failure to oppose the official line creates extremists
Salma Yaqoob
Friday July 15, 2005
The Guardian

When Tony Blair describes the London bombings as aperversion of Islam, I agree. The shoddy theology thatendorses the killing of innocent people must bechallenged. The chilling calculation peddled by somefanatics legitimises innocent deaths as collateraldamage for the higher cause of shattering thecomplacency of western governments and getting westerntroops out of Muslim lands. To sacrifice your life, onthe battlefield or in a suicide bombing, is to achievethe high status of martyr. And the innocent peoplekilled will go to heaven anyway, so their sufferingand that of their loved ones is worth the politicalaim.
Clearly this is a convoluted equation, but one we mustpay attention to if we are to get to grips with thethreat that faces all of us in Britain today. What isregrettable is that the more simplistic versionoffered by Tony Blair is setting the parameters ofdebate. According to him the "perversion of Islam"driving a minority of Muslims boils down to this:hatred of the western way of life and freedom meansthat Muslims (wherever they live) should kill and bombpeople to force them to be Islamic. This formulation ensures that any contextualisationwill remain absent. The suffocating consensus alreadyachieved may well protect Blair (how can he permit anylinkage to the Middle East without implying his ownguilt) - but it does not protect ordinary Britishpeople.

Moreover, as British Muslims we must brace ourselvesfor a backlash - coming not from ordinary people, butfrom the need of politicians to deflect attention fromtheir own role in this tragedy.
Because what is undeniable is that the shoddy theology- no matter how "unIslamic" and easily condemned bymost Muslims - is driven by political injustices. Itis the boiling anger and hurt that is shaping theinterpretation of religious texts into such grotesquedistortions. Such extreme interpretations exist onlyin specific political circumstances - they certainlydo not predate them, and the religious/politicalequation breaks down if there is no injustice to driveit.

This leaves British Muslims in a very difficult place.To bring in these wider questions requires them todissent from the government line. This is difficultfor them, keen as they are to avoid furthermarginalisation. However, if Muslim leaders succumb tothe pres sure of censorship and fail to visibly opposethe government on certain foreign policy issues, thegap between the leaders and those they seek torepresent and influence will widen, increasing thepossibility of more dangerous routes being adopted bythe disillusioned.
This cycle of violence has to be broken. By confininganalysis to simple religious terms, however,politicians are asking the impossible of our securityservices as well as Muslim leaders. No number ofsniffer dogs or sermons denouncing the use of violenceagainst innocents can detect and remove the pain andanger that drives extremists to their terrible acts.The truth is that shoddy theology does not existwithout a dodgy foreign policy.

· Salma Yaqoob is national vice-chair of Respect andchair of Birmingham Stop the War Coalition

9) A true Onion moment -- sometimes reality immitatessatire. Note this journalist's punchline, providedwith brilliant understatement in the form of a closingquote:,1280,-5139943,00.html

Fla. Town Officials Apologize Over Song
Thursday July 14, 2005 5:31 AM

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. (AP) - City officials apologizedfor playing a song during Fourth of July celebrationsthat was mixed with voiceovers of 911 calls from theSept. 11 terrorist attacks.
About 70,000 people had gathered to celebrate theFourth of July when the song ``God Bless the U.S.A.''was played. The version had voices of people recordedduring the terror attacks.

One voice on the mix said, ``Oh my God, another planehas just hit.'' Another said, ``Some of the casualtiesare in the collapsed building.''

People at the celebrations said the mood of the nightchanged when the song was played.

``Everybody was in a really good mood, and all of asudden this cloud of doom,'' said Siobhan Mangan.

``Itjust seemed terribly inappropriate.''

Vince Kendrick, the town's director of parks andrecreation, took responsibility on behalf of cityofficials Tuesday in a written apology. He did notname the employee who put the song in the lineup.

``If it was Memorial Day, no one would have minded,''Kendrick said.

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