Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Coincidental deaths as the Democratic convention nears

For part of the day, Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones was reported dead. She was then reported to be in critical condition after suffering a burst brain aneurysm while driving her car last night. Her death has now been confirmed by the Hospital where she fought for her life for the past 24 hours. Jones was a Democratic member of Congress from Ohio, the pivotal state in George Bush’s 2004 Electoral College victory. She was one of the few members of congress to vote against the certification of the electoral college results. She also happened to be the co-chair of the Democratic National Committee. Her disappearance from public life five days before the Democratic convention will no doubt make life much more difficult for the party.

On August 14th, Chair of the Arkansas Democratic Party Bill Gwatney was shot and killed by an assailant at his party headquarters in Little Rock. Fifty year old Timothy Dale, who had just lost his job as a shelver at a Target store, walked into the party office, asked to see Gwatney to discuss volunteering for the campaign, pulled out a pistol, and shot him three times in the chest. Dale then led police on a 50 km highway chase before being killed in a shootout.

Arkansas is of course noted as the home of the political machine that generated the Clinton presidency and era. It was recently governed by Republican presidential candidate and McCain VP short-lister Mike Huckabee. Just like the near-death of Tubbs Jones, Gwatney’s tragically violent end will certainly affect the convention. With rumors of a surprise Clinton move growing, many will miss the Arkansas Chair, who, like Tubbs Jones, and in his capacity as a superdelegate, had recently endorsed Senator Obama after supporting Clinton throughout the campaign. The disappearance of both a co-chair of the DNC and the Chair of the Arkansas Democrats within days of the national convention certainly leaves a disorganising gap that will be hard to fill.

After these quite momentous events, the death of 26 year old Congressional Aid Frederick Hutchins on July 29th now seems a distant memory. Hutchins was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head next to his car on a Virginia road. A handgun was found under his body. He was a rising star of Virginia Democratic politics, predicted by his boss, Senator Jim Webb, to have been in Congress within ten years. Coincidentally, Webb was an early front runner for the VP slot on the Obama ticket. Early in July, he emphatically stated that "under no circumstances" would he accept the nomination, and apparently sent the Obama campaign a note to that effect.

At least there haven’t been any small plane crashes. yet.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Iraq and Georgia: Only the names have changed

On July 25th 1990, Saddam Hussein summoned hapless US ambassador April Glaspie to a meeting. He wanted an official opinion on an eventual American reaction to his planned invasion of Kuwait, or as he later put it, his reclaiming of Iraq’s 18th province. Ambassador Glaspie gave him the textbook answers: "We have no opinion on Arab-Arab conflict" and "the issue is not associated with America". She was under direct instructions from GHW Bush and Secretary of State James Baker to seek a warmer relationship with Iraq.
But Saddam’s long-time allies and supporters in the Reagan-Bush Whitehouse did not react so well to his invasion of Kuwait, launched just a few days after the meeting. On September 11th 1990, GHW Bush told an extraordinary joint session of Congress that the new war in Iraq, now known as Gulf War I, was "a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation. Out of these troubled times...a New World Order can emerge". By January, a half million coalition troops launched an air and later ground assault to drive the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. By doing so, they eliminated one of the most powerful and destabilizing military forces in the region, and ensured American dominance in the Gulf for the following two decades. That dominance was recently reaffirmed, and the American presence increased, in Gulf War II.
I very much doubt that Glaspie was Saddam’s only way of getting the Godfather’s blessing for his venture. She was likely the last check, just a way of confirming officially and on the record what the backchannels had been carrying for months, if not for years. The Soviet Union was in an advanced process of decay, and Saddam had just finished soaking up huge losses as the front man in America’s ten year proxy war on Iran. It only made sense that his friends in Washington would now reward him and allow him to recoup some of those losses.
Instead, they double crossed him in a move worthy of the best Noir scenario. They used him one last time to justify their invasion of the Persian Gulf and their grab at China’s and Russia’s oil future.
On August 7th 2008, US aligned Georgian President Saakashvili launched a military operation to regain control of South Ossetia, a more or less autonomous and pro-Russia Georgian province. The Russians, it seems were just waiting for the word Go, and they responded by over-running northern Georgia within two days.
On August 7th 2008, Democratic candidate Senator Barack Obama began his vacation in Hawaii, leaving the stage open to Republican candidate John McCain. Obama has been criticized for his lack of experience in international affairs, and was universally condemned for being on vacation in paradise while an international crisis was unfolding. Following a cue from a popular electoral advertising campaing, McCain asked where Obama was when his 3 AM moment came.
The result, documented today by Bill Schneider on CNN, is an avalanche of new polls, showing Obama in a dead heat with previously distant McCain. The main factor in McCain’s comeback: Foreign policy experience.
It seems the totalitarians on both sides of the Atlantic have an interest in swinging the US election. They are using old MOs: The strategy of tension, by creating an international crisis and conditioning the voters through fear, and the ruthless sacrifice of minor allies, like pawns in a gambit. In both cases, the only winners are those who run the military-industrial complex.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Against the "big conspiracy" argument

Imagine a group of 5 individuals. Lets call them The Committee. Their goal is to overthrow the US Government.

The Committee hire a specialist, whom we will call Control. The Committee draft a series of objectives for Control to accomplish: Carry out a major terror campaign against US interests. The campaign must have significant economic effects. It must create a climate in which civil liberties can be eroded.

Control has no idea what The Committee's goal is. It could be to bring down a major corporation, to swing an election, to get a certain piece of legislation through congress, or it could be to overthrow the USG. Control has no interest in finding out and doesn't spend much time worrying about it.

Now picture a number of branches radiating out from the center where Control is located. Each of those branches is thick at first and runs to twigs at its end. The head of one branch knows that the goal is to crash aircraft into the WTC, Pentagon and White House. The head of another branch knows that the goal is to embezzle money from charities to secretly fund martydom operations, perhaps in the Middle-East. The head of a third branch knows that the goal is to cripple the US postal service. And so on. One branch is very short and thick. We can call it The Cleaners. More on them later.

None of the heads of branches know that there are other branches, and none of them know that they are part of something larger. Why should they? Control knows the job. Meanwhile The Committee know nothing of the means Control is using to accomplish the mission.

Moving down the branches, the head of a twig knows that the goal is to make a few thousand dollars by providing housing for 5 brothers for three months, quietly. This twig might be a Dutch widow with a heroin habit and a few empty bedrooms. Or it might be a Midwestern property owner with an expensive daughter. Why should the twig care where the money is coming from? Why should the twig suspect that it is lying at the end of a large branch connected to a center? The twig rents rooms.

Another twig might know that the goal is to highjack an American airliner out of Boston to secure the liberation of Political prisoners in Israel. Yet another twig might know that the goal is to warehouse an old friend's milling equipement in her basement while his business moves from one location to another. Perhaps there is a slip here, perhaps she dies of inhaled Anthrax. There are many such slips at the level of the twigs, but who would think of connecting them?

In this system, information moves downstream, always. Never upstream. Control gets information from the Committee, and control gives information to the heads of branches. Control certainly has no need or desire to find out who The Committee might be.

In such a long-range campaign (certainly years, perhaps decades), The Committee has no idea what the operations are, and certainly doesn't want to find out ahead of time. But The Committee must know which events are part of the campaign, because they have their own moves to carry out in the wake of these events. Yet, for security reasons, Control can't initiate communication with The Committee.

But any yahoo can blow up a bus or a tube in a large capital. In fact, the Committee is fervently hoping that Control's activities will be emulated. It can only help them. The Committee has specified an open code that Control is to use to reveal his operations. A code that will be self-evident to those who know it, but largely invisible to those who don't.

There is another security measure. The dangerous operatives, those that could easily guess what they are a part of (or those that have), must be eliminated. Hence the Cleaners. The Cleaners know absolutely nothing. They get a name, photo, and travel advance. Control probably uses a different cleaner every time, and avoids recruiting them from the same source.

How large is this conspiracy to overthrow the USG? Five people who know what the goal is, but have no idea what the means will be. One person who knows what the means will be, but has no idea what the goal is. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of individuals who will never have any idea that they are part of it.

Control might deal directly with a total of 8 or 9 people, all under false pretense, and most under false flags. So 15 people might have knowledge that might be recognized as dangerous by someone who knows the whole plan. But no one knows the whole plan. The rest is a constellation of unconnected dots.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Something is happening

There is an intriguing report from Dubai via Britain that OBL has been 'located'. This coincides with an American report that a message from Al Q is expected to call for the use of WMD against the West.

Whether this is another scare tactic (and by whom) is unclear. However, the signals that a major WMD attack is coming have been multiplying since the Madrid attacks. A consistent theme of the Al Q messages since then has been that preparations for an operation, variously known as Winds of Black Death, the Gift of Al-Aqsa, or the Gift of the Sheik, are nearly completed. At the same time, OBL himself has published a number of calls for Westerners to convert, and has asked for an opinion by religious scholars on the use of WMD against civilians in the West. In his last known video, he appeared with a dyed beard, which is apparently permissible in strict Islam only when on active military operations.

A final piece of the puzzle may be a recent message from al Zawahiri, in which he ends by repeating three times the last lines spoken by Mohamed before his ascent to heaven. This message is very different from the others published by al Zawahiri, and may have contained some sort of activation message.

Whether this is psychological warfare, disinformation, or a presage, it will be interesting to watch events in the next few weeks and months.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Of commies and crystal skulls

The latest installment of the Indiana Jones quadrilogy is very creepy. Its central message seems to be that only communists and other assorted enemies of freedom insist on asking meaningful questions and seeking knowledge to answer them. Decent folks, meanwhile, are quite content with merely following instructions beamed directly into their brains by unknown external agencies.

Here are some of the other lessons I learned while watching this disjointed series of improbable action sequences. First, it is ok for academics to work for the military and for intelligence agencies. More than that, it seems to be part of their civic duties. What a coincidence that Anthropology is currently in the grips of a debate about whether the discipline should facilitate relations between the US military and local power structures in Afghanistan and Iraq. Disturbingly, the 2008 debate on this topic is much less controversial than its 1973 counterpart on the role of Anthropologists in Viet-Nam. If all Anthropologists followed Dr. Jones' example, there would be no controversy at all.

Second, and this follows the overall theme of the film, asking questions is dangerous. Asking too many questions and seeking too much knowledge will get you nothing but an exploding head and a hellish case of spontaneous combustion.

Third, thank goodness the FBI and other agencies breached civil rights and restricted free speech and free thought in the 50's, because the Red Menace was absolutely real and very immediate. Dangerous communist infiltrators were capable of entering the most secret facilities in the US at will, and carting off its most powerful secrets. But never fear, the G-Men were on the job, and even at the price of suspending tenured professors or forcing them to resign, they kept us safe.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I learned that next time I drive through the Amazonian plain at a high rate of speed, I must absolutely watch out for that thousand foot cliff beyond the next bend in the road.

Monday, January 21, 2008

New Hampshire Recount: Statistical oddity

The New Hampshire primary vote recount is generating some interesting and unexpected results. The county that has been recounted so far shows wide differences between the vote and recount only in three precincts, in which there clearly were either malfunctions or manipulations of the voting machines. Overall, the recount does not affect the results on the Democratic side.

However, the distribution of differences between vote and recount (the errors) by precinct size is extremely intersting. As expected, the errors are smallest for the smallest precincts. If there are fewer votes to count, counting errors will of course be smaller. The spike in errors, however, is clearly in the mid-range of precinct sizes. The largest precincts, where we would expect to see the largest errors, actually have smaller errors.

In fact, it looks like there is an "expected" distribution of errors near the bottom of the graph, that slowly increases from small to large precincts. But in the region between 1000 and 2500 total votes (x axis), there seems to be a "hill" of unexpected results above the expected line (and the three outliers further above). This is a very unexpected pattern, and I am really not sure how to explain it right now.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The differences between the machine and hand counted votes in New Hampshire were real and significant

While I continue to work on the possible socio-economic differences between similar sized precincts that use different voting methods, I can confirm (thanks to a friend who ran the tests using R) that the differences between the machine counted and hand counted vote totals in New Hampshire's primary are real and significant. When regressed against precinct vote total and vote counting method, the percent differences between Obama and Clinton in the 2008 New Hampshire Primary are statistically significant for counting method.

The P value for vote total (a good proxy for precinct size) is 0.88 (not significant), while the value for voting method is 2.4 E-6 (very significant). In other words, there is a 0.0000024% chance that there is no relationship between the Obama-Clinton percent difference in votes and the vote counting method. So yes, the difference is real. Now there remains the question of whether it can be explained by differences between similar sized precincts that use different vote counting methods. I haven't seen anything so far that points in that direction, but I am still looking.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Are socio-economic differences between hand counted and machine counted precincts responsible for the New Hampshire discrepancies? A preliminary look


This guy is coming up with some results that look very much like mine (see previous posts). Note that in his analysis, Obama, Clinton and Edwards are the only ones to be affected by the machine vs hand count. That sort of flies in the face of expectations. If there are really fundamental differences in voting behaviour between similar sized reporting units, they should affect all candidates. Typically, the other candidates combined have fewer than 100 votes in even the large reporting units. Because of the much smaller sample, we should expect more variance in their vote, not less. Chance variation should have a larger effect on them than on Clinton, Obama, or Edwards.

I've started doing a little exploratory stuff on the socio-economic factors. I won't have time for anything systematic for a while. But for now, it looks like for a group of 10 similar sized reporting units around the smallest machine counted unit (in terms of vote total), Clinton won the machine counted one and 3 hand counted ones, while Obama won the remaining 6 hand counted ones.

Here are the variables I have so far for the units. The machine counted unit (Clinton) is first, and the hand counted ones (Obama) follow:

PopDens; Per Capita Income; Median Household Income
26,9; 16944; 38654; (Clinton, Machine)
55,7; 28503; 60433; (Clinton)
25,9; 23263; 44659; (Obama)
19,9; 19617; 48125; (Obama)
20,1; 19973; 35556; (Obama)
35,4; 17089; 36000; (Clinton)
130,1; 19675; 46150; (Obama)
10,1; 17998; 28523; (Clinton)
34,3; 17169; 38125; (Obama)
32,2; 23112; 55000; (Obama)

The machine counted Clinton unit is only remarkable for having the lowest Per Capita Income (not by much), but it has a relatively healthy Household Income. Both Obama and Clinton won in high and low Population Density areas, and in high and low Income areas. Clinton won a very low Density/low Income area as well as the highest Income area (with the second highest Density). If these rough numbers are any indication, finding clear demographic differences between the machine and hand counted units of similar size will not be easy.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The results are in

Using the results for every county, it becomes clear that Obama was robbed. First, the numbers, then the graph. If we consider each reporting town or precinct as a contest between Obama and Clinton, Obama won 62% of the contests when the votes were hand-counted, and only 35% of the contests when the votes were machine-counted.

Larger towns or reporting units tend to machine count their votes. The smallest ones tend to hand count. There is a middle range of reporting unit size in which both methods are used. If we use only the reporting units larger than the smallest machine-counter and smaller than the largest hand-counter (in other words, the mid-range in which both methods are used), we find that Obama won 63% of contests if votes were hand-counted, and only 39% if votes were machine-counted.

In the above graph, the data points below the mid-line show contests won by Obama, while the data points above the line show constests won by Clinton. The blue circles are hand-counted totals, and the red crosses are machine-counted totals. As the numbers above suggest, there is more blue below the line, and more red above, especially in the mid-range of vote totals.

This analysis eliminates the size of the reporting unit as a factor in the vote totals difference. The main factor seems to be the method of counting votes. Hand counting favours Obama, machine counting favours Clinton. It is quite clear. It isn't that people in different sorts of places vote differently. It is that people in different places use different methods of vote counting.

I have a few more ideas to tease out the method they used in greater detail. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Quick New Hampshire machine vote fraud update

I see that the vote totals for the missing counties have now been posted on

While I was waiting for them, I added some linear regression lines to the original graphs and came up with some very interesting results.

The first thing to notice is that for Obama, the hand counted totals regression is right on the expected line. This means that he scored exactly as the polls predicted when votes were hand-counted. The machine-counted totals regression has a very different slope, because he got many fewer votes than expected in the small and medium towns, but scored according to expectations in the larger ones. This is pretty unimpeachable if it holds up when I add the missing data.

Not surprisingly, both regressions for Clinton are above the line, and the machine-counted totals regression is almost exactly shifted up from the expected line. She beat the polls consistently, independent of voting method. The straight shifting up of the machine-counted totals is odd, but not terribly worrisome.

Again, the pattern for Edwards is a mirror image of Obama's. The slopes of the regressions differ per voting method, and the machine-counted totals for small towns seem elevated.

Now, I'll go plug in the new data.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Hampshire 2008 Primary fraud: Subtle

There are still four counties that have not posted detailed results for the Democratic candidates. But going on currently available data, it looks like there is a difference between hand counted (blue circles) and machine counted (red crosses) vote totals for Obama, in small and medium towns.

In the above graph, the diagonal represents Obama's expected vote totals, on the basis of the infamous January 6th CNN poll. For the bottom portion of the line, the small and medium sized towns, the hand counted vote totals are distributed around the line, above and below. That's normal. He's above expectations in some places, and below in others. For the same portion of the line, his machine counted vote totals are systematically below the line. This is not normal. It means that his hand counted votes and his machine counted votes are not behaving the same way for same-sized locations.

In larger towns, at the top part of the line, the distribution of machine counted vote around the expected line becomes fairly normal again. Some vote totals are above expectations, some are below. This is important. It means that a test of statistical significance is not likely to detect the deviation from normality in the smaller locations. The larger locations, with their higher vote counts and normal distribution will overwhelm the smaller locations. In other words, most tests of significance will be blind to the fraud.

Ok, so Obama lost some machine counted votes. But a fraud in which the combined vote totals don't match the overall number of votes cast is not a very subtle fraud. Where are the missing votes? Giving them to the winner is equally unsophisticated. In fact, it is clear that Clinton really did beat the polls. There is no real difference between her hand counted and her machine counted votes.

If we look at Edwards' vote totals however, we see a mirror image of the Obama pattern. In low and mid-sized towns, his machine counted vote totals are systematically above the expected line, while they abruptly go back to it for the larger locations.

Giving the votes to the third place guy who has no hope of winning is clever. Subtle. In fact, that is exactly what I would do. I'm devious that way. Here's another devious thing I would do. I would create a big stinky red herring to cover the subtle scent of my operation. For example, I might start loudly claiming that tens of thousands of votes were taken away from Ron Paul. I would make the story easily debunkable, and I would make sure that it immediately associates any talk of fraud in New Hampshire with the fringe, kooky element.

A subtle fraud, involving just enough votes to generate the desired outcome, a pattern that flies below the statistical significance radar, and a big stinky red herring. A job well done.