Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

I am Richard Feynman and I approve of this blog

Qualified outsiders and maverick insiders are often right about the need to replace received wisdom in science and society, as the history of the Nobel prize shows. This blog exists to back the best of them in their uphill assault on the massively entrenched edifice of resistance to and prejudice against reviewing, let alone revising, ruling ideas. In support of such qualified dissenters and courageous heretics we search for scientific paradigms and other established beliefs which may be maintained only by the power and politics of the status quo, comparing them with academic research and the published experimental and investigative record.

We especially defend and support the funding of honest, accomplished, independent minded and often heroic scientists, inventors and other original thinkers and their right to free speech and publication against the censorship, mudslinging, false arguments, ad hominem propaganda, overwhelming crowd prejudice and internal science politics of the paradigm wars of cancer, AIDS, evolution, global warming, cosmology, particle physics, macroeconomics, health and medicine, diet and nutrition.

HONOR ROLL OF SCIENTIFIC TRUTHSEEKERS

Henry Bauer, Peter Breggin , Harvey Bialy, Giordano Bruno, Erwin Chargaff, Nicolaus Copernicus, Francis Crick, Paul Crutzen, Marie Curie, Rebecca Culshaw, Freeman Dyson, Peter Duesberg, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, John Fewster, Galileo Galilei, Alec Gordon, James Hansen, Edward Jenner, Benjamin Jesty, Michio Kaku, Adrian Kent, Ernst Krebs, Thomas Kuhn, Serge Lang, John Lauritsen, Mark Leggett, Richard Lindzen, Lynn Margulis, Barbara McClintock, George Miklos, Marco Mamone Capria, Peter Medawar, Kary Mullis, Linus Pauling, Eric Penrose, Max Planck, Rainer Plaga, David Rasnick, Sherwood Rowland, Carl Sagan, Otto Rossler, Fred Singer, Thomas Szasz, Alfred Wegener, Edward O. Wilson, James Watson.
----------------------------------------------

Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy? – Carl Sagan (The Burden of Skepticism, keynote address to CSICOP Annual Conference, Pasadena, April 3/4, 1982).

It is really important to underscore that everything we’re talking about tonight could be utter nonsense. – Brian Greene (NYU panel on Hidden Dimensions June 5 2010, World Science Festival)

I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing ever interfered with my learning was my education. My name as you already perceive without a doubt is George Bernard Shaw, and I certainly approve of this blog, in that its guiding spirit appears to be blasphemous in regard to the High Church doctrines of science, and it flouts the censorship of the powers that be, and as I have famously remarked, all great truths begin as blasphemy, and the first duty of the truthteller is to fight censorship, and while I notice that its seriousness of purpose is often alleviated by a satirical irony which sometimes borders on the facetious, this is all to the good, for as I have also famously remarked, if you wish to be a dissenter, make certain that you frame your ideas in jest, otherwise they will seek to kill you.  My own method was always to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine) One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways. – Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9

(Click for more Unusual Quotations on Science and Belief)

BEST VIEWED IN LARGE FONT
Expanded GUIDE TO SITE PURPOSE AND LAYOUT is in the lower blue section at the bottom of every home page.

Stealing America: hacking put Bush in office

Stealing America doc review makes convincing case that George W. robbed the ballot box twice

End of paper trail resolutely ignored in massive media myopia

NYU professor Mark Crispin Miller got nowhere with taboo topic

But now New York Times allows Adam Cohen to blog reasons to worry about 2008

bushatdoor.jpgOne of the most striking acts of political cowardice by the otherwise topic hungry mainstream media in the US has been their enduring unwillingness to take the cover off what is widely recognized by students of the political scene as a very ripe smelling data dumpster.

We refer to the strong circumstantial evidence that in both 2000 and 2004 that our blithely underqualified president avoided rejection by the voters only by allowing his devoted minions and supporters to hack the voting machines and flip the required number of votes from Gore and Kerry to Bush.

Whether Bush stole votes in seizing the presidential throne for eight years would seem to be the Story of the Century by the standards of traditional journalism whereby a pair of Washington Post reporters did not hesitate to bring down the Nixon presidency by mining the allegations of Deep Throat.

But for some reason unknown to us there has been a mysterious disinclination to get to the bottom of what looks like the greatest and most costly political theft in history. The nettle has not been grasped.

The media apathy about the topic is probably understandable in the absence of hard evidence but it has left the average Times reader seriously uninformed, and therefore naturally skeptical of this allegation as yet another paranoid conspiracy theory from the far left.

Valuable chance to review the story

stealing-america-poster.jpeg But for the next week in New York City a new documentary will do what it seems only documentaries can do these days – parade the evidence and the witnesses in front of our eyes and ears so that we can review the matter in a hands on manner that the ordinary media cannot rival.

Our advice is to hurry to see Stealing America: Vote by Vote when it opens briefly tomorrow in Manhattan, or two weeks later in LA and in other venues around the country. In each case it will only be on for one week, and it seems likely there will be as usual scandalously little media coverage of the significant event.

For Stealing America: Vote by Vote is a persuasive account which makes it painfully clear that there is only one way to explain the evidence that has accumulated: both presidential elections were stolen by Republican operatives who tampered with the new fangled electronic voting machines and reversed the voting outcomes in major states.

The red flags in both cases are the exit polls which predicted an outcome different from the official count. In 2000 the picture was complicated when the vote count of the narrow Florida race, on which the final outcome turned, was actually challenged. The Supreme Court cut this short with its unprecedented “this is not a precedent” 5-4 decision to give George the prize, but the media review a year later found that Florida and the election itself would have been won by Al Gore if the state wide recount had been completed, and one thing was certain: the obstacles placed in the way of free and fair elections interfered with a lot more Democratic votes than Republican.

The evidence of electronic skulduggery became clearer in 2004, when more efficient hacking of the voting machines was apparently all that was needed to achieve a similar coup d’etat. According to the film this was the likely means by which the predicted John Kerry win was neatly reversed in a few hours on Election night in favor of the incumbent George W.

On what does this sickening conclusion rest? Simply that exit polls predicted the Kerry win, and there is no other way to explain why they have suddenly become unreliable indicators.

We challenge anyone with faith in the democratic system to see this movie without being disturbed.

Vote changing in front of your eyes

dorothyfadiman_sm.pngThat is the story persuasively laid out by Stealing America: Vote by Vote by Dorothy Fadiman (pic), which will open August 1 in New York and August 15 in LA (see press release below), which features unusually convincing testimony from key figures involved in a clearly laid out, hour by hour rerun of the overnight election drama in 2004, when the Kerry win flipped to a Bush victory.

The film doesn’t leave any other way of accounting for the stark disparity that has opened up between the previously infallible exit polls and the official counts they reliably matched for thirty years before 1996, when the new fangled electronic voting machines first played their unreliable part. Unreliable because they are as susceptible to failure and hacking as your desktop PC, according to computer experts interviewed in Stealing America.

The heart of the story is 2004, when the biggest conflict to date between exit polling and outcome came about. Kerry was predicted on the basis of exit polling to win the 12 big states that mattered – including Ohio where the crucial official count was barred to reporters owing to a “terrorist threat”, one that national security agency officials later said was new to them – Kerry was expected to win by 51-48%. By the early morning the official vote counts had reversed the outcome and Bush was the winner by about the same margin as (not) predicted – an unprecedented flip of 6%.

The stunning final hour reversal was all the more incredible given the enthusiastic turnout of blacks and college students we see waiting in line many hours to vote in precincts which mysteriously tended to be the ones short of working machines, or to have machines plagued by the strange glitch which registered a vote for Kerry as one for Bush right before the voter’s eyes.

More votes for president were corrupted than any other time in the checkered history of US elections, if the evidence of the film is taken at face value.

Given the tone and style of the witnesses featured and the record they expose it is hard to think of a reason not to do so. There is very little of the conspiracy theorist about any of them, and producer-director Dorothy Fadiman has drawn them from both sides of the political spectrum:

• Bob Hagan – Ohio State Senator and first-hand witness to on-screen vote switching.
• Paul Craig Roberts — Economist and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan and sometimes
called the “Father of Reaganomics.” He is a former editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Business Week
and Scripps Howard News Service, and is at present a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate.
• Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. – Activist, author, environmental lawyer and co-host of Ring of Fire on the Air America Radio network.
• Charles Lewis – Investigative journalist and former 60 Minutes producer. Founder, Center for Public Integrity.
• Bruce O’ Dell and Chuck Herrin – Fortune 100 company computer security analysts.
• Greg Palast – BBC investigative journalist whose reportage on the issue made the front page in U.K. and Europe, but was suppressed in the U.S.
• Dr. Avi Rubin – Director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
• Ion Sancho – Leon County Supervisor of Elections. Appointed by the Florida Supreme Court to count the
votes in the disputed 2000 presidential election, Sancho blazed a trail in proving that it is possible to “hack”
into voting machines and change the totals.
• Dr. Jonathan Simon – Data analyst, who has been focusing on exit poll discrepancies.
• John Zogby – International polling authority.


Media myopia on a taboo topic

reactions_in_ohio_2004_sm.pngAs things went down that night and the numbers rolled in and the great reversal took place the close observers of the election on tv had one plain choice to make in their commentary. Were the exit polls suddenly a poor guide to the final voting outcome, for some unknown reason, or was there a serious need to review and recount the sudden Bush surge?

Apparently loathe to question the system or those in power, the commentators at once all turned into ostriches, and they have by and large resolutely kept their heads in the sand ever since, though Harpers magazine has been an exception.

They were helped along in this attitude by the company doing the exit polling, which immediately rolled over and played dead when their results were contradicted. According to “standard practice” the company (Edison/Mitofsky) simply brought their numbers in line with the official supposed outcome, though not before a computer freeze allowed interested observers to download the real breakdown.

The bottom line is that no one then or since has been able to account for the increasing divergence between exit polling and official vote count over the last decade. From the sixties, exit polls had proved an essential tool of election analysts because they were so helpful. Suddenly they went bad.

Since the emerging discrepancy coincides with the arrival of electronic voting machines the implication is obvious: someone has been manipulating the new electronic voting machines (You Tube video on hacking a Diebold).

Now who could that be? By some even stranger coincidence the bias introduced has been uniformly in favor of the Republicans, amongst whom are the people who run the machine system.

All kinds of electoral interferences took place. Apart from direct hacking, which one computer consultant testified was something a certain Florida politician requested that he demonstrate how to do, the election officials and others interviewed list a litany of outrages aimed at Democrat votes, including a skewed distribution of machines which forced waits of up to 11 hours for some black voters and 12 or more hours for Ohio’s Kenyon college students.

Requests for replacement machines were ignored even when the fact that other polling stations had closed made substitutes freely available.

Tears trickle down both cheeks of one beautiful African American volunteer as she recalls how all her registration work went for nought as even her own vote was hijacked by a machine which translated her Kerry vote to a Bush vote before her eyes. Also interviewed is Ohio State Senator Bob Hagan, whose vote flipped from one candidate to another while he was voting.

A taboo topic

The most astonishing part of the story (except perhaps to readers of this site) is the behavior of the no doubt honorable but apparently critically challenged senior members of the media. There is a vivid shot of Judy Woodruff expressing bewilderment as the numbers changed and their forecasts fell by the wayside.

To a man and woman however she and the liberal media reporters and commentators then and since have resolutely avoided raising the specter of intentional fraud as something apparently unmentionable, perhaps lest the faith of the American voter in the system might be undermined. If so, this matches one motivation of editors and reporters in HIV/AIDS who treat the possibility of grand error in the science of that field as a taboo topic, since if it is true full exposure will undermine the faith of the public in science, science journals and science reporting to an unprecedented extent.

One author stymied by this reaction is Mark Crispin Miller of NYU, whose Fooled Again received few reviews or mentions, yet when he was featured on WBAI in New York City provided much food for thought for listeners.

In this belated exposé—and clarion call for electoral reform—Miller (The Bush Dyslexicon) accuses George W. Bush and his “theocratic militants” of orchestrating electoral fraud to “hijack” the 2004 presidential race. Miller relies on original reporting, secondary sources and unadulterated outrage to make his case, marshaling evidence (much of it circumstantial) of Democratic voter disenfranchisement, mysterious computer snafus and discrepancies between exit poll results and official vote counts. He is especially critical of the press for what he describes as silence in the face of Bush’s and Cheney’s denials of fraud.

Whatever their motives the record stands as evidence of the current social psychology of reporters and talking heads who feel themselves to be invested in the system and more members of the club than independent watchdogs whose profession is to stand guard over the elite and watch where they put their hands on the levers of power.

election_protest_2004big.jpgThat is the story persuasively laid out by Stealing America: Vote by Vote. As the movie reminds us the New York Times led this rush to reassure readers with its astonishing front page item immediately after the November 2004 election, Vote Fraud Theories, Spread By Blogs, Are Quickly Buried , noting that bloggers had raised questions but they had been reliably poo-pooed by knowledgeable mainstream officials and experts and there was no need to worry.

Mr. White also quickly withdrew his own analysis of voting systems in Ohio when he realized the data he had used was inaccurate.

John Byrne, editor of an alternative news site, BlueLemur.com, says it is too easy to condemn blogs and freelance Web sites for being inaccurate. The more important point, he said, is that they offer an alternative to a mainstream news media that has become too timid. “Of course you can say blogs are wrong,” he said. “Blogs are wrong all the time.”

For its part, the Kerry campaign has been trying to tamp down the conspiracy theories and to tell supporters that their mission now is to ensure that every vote is counted, not that the election be overturned.

“We know this was an emotional election, and the losing side is very upset,” said Daniel Hoffheimer, the lead lawyer for the Kerry campaign in Ohio. But, he said, “I have not seen anything to indicate intentional fraud or tampering.”

A preliminary study produced by the Voting Technology Project, a cooperative effort between the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, came to a similar conclusion. Its study found “no particular patterns” relating to voting systems and the final results of the election.

“The ‘facts’ that are being circulated on the Internet,” the study concluded, “appear to be selectively chosen to make the point.”

Whether that will ever convince everyone is an open question.

“I’d give my right arm for Internet rumors of a stolen election to be true,” said David Wade, a spokesman for the Kerry campaign, “but blogging it doesn’t make it so. We can change the future; we can’t rewrite the past.”

Even the worldly Wall Street Journal failed to look into the matter, Paul Craig Roberts complains, he being Reagan’s assistant secretary of the Treasury and an editor and columnist for the normally bloodhound paper.

This and the premature capitulation of Kerry before all the Ohio votes were counted suggests that Democrats have some innate resistance to challenging the integrity of the system they share. When Ohio state senator Bob Hagan saw his own vote switched in front of his eyes and realized what was going on, he called the Kerry HQ, only to be told they didn’t wish the raise the issue.

Meanwhile according to the film, Edison/Mitofsky have never released the raw data for their exit polling. All anyone has been able to prise out of them is a summary report.

Watch out in 2008

Given the results of the 2006 elections,where Democratic hopes of 40-50 new seats were reduced to 28, it seems clear that the same thing is still going on. Meanwhile the Ohio ballots from 2004 have lost or destroyed in a variety of ways, against all the rules. When Dan Rather investigated for CNN he found nothing but stonewalling from the companies involved: AMERICA’S VOTING MACHINES NOT READY FOR 2008 ELECTION” (YouTube video).

Sites to visit include Black Box Voting. A very good source both comprehensive and detailed is this page, Introduction: Did George W. Bush steal America’s 2004 election? Essential documents, by Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman June 16, 2005 and other pages at Freepress.org.

In this volume’s first three documents, we reproduce articles published before November 2, 2004. Widely distributed throughout the Internet weeks before the election, they warned that a wide range of abuses stemming from Secretary Blackwell’s office and other sources had already tainted the outcome of the upcoming Ohio vote.

On Election Day, these warnings seemed tragically prophetic. The balloting throughout Ohio was riddled with a staggering array of irregularities, apparent fraud and clear illegalities. Many of the questions focused on electronic voting machines whose lack of official accountability and a reliable paper trail had been in the news since the bitterly contested election of 2000, four years earlier. (Similar questions also arose in Georgia in 2002, where Democratic candidates for Governor and US Senate had substantial leads in the major polls right up to election day, only to lose by substantial margins).

The most widely publicized Ohio problems came as predominantly African-American precincts turned up suspiciously short of voting machines. Inner-city voters waited three hours on average and up to seven hours, according to election officials and to sworn testimony of local residents. Many voters stood in the cold rain to cast their ballots while nearby white Republican suburbs suffered virtually no delays. The wait at liberal Kenyon College, located in Knox County, Ohio, was eleven hours, while voters at a nearby conservative Bible school could vote in five minutes.

To this day no one can definitively tell how many citizens, seeing the long lines, went home or to work or to take care of their children, thus losing their right to vote.

Could it happen in 2008?

Will Obama lose to McCain owing to similar skulduggery, even now that everyone is watching more closely? A top right front page story in the Times the other day, Influx of Voters Expected to Test New Technology, suggests that this is not unlikely, since its description of continuing problems in the supply and distribution of new paper ballots and laser recorders bodes ill for accuracy. New Mexico has converted entirely to paper ballots but the time for other states to follow is too short.

Today the Times carries opinion by Adam Cohen which suggests that problems will continue without being resolved:

A Tale of Three (Electronic Voting) Elections:
Electronic voting has made great strides in reliability, but it has a long way to go. When reformers push for greater safeguards, they often argue that future elections could produce the wrong result because of a computer glitch or be stolen through malicious software. That’s being too nice.

There have already been elections in which it is impossible to be certain that the right candidate was declared the winner. Here are three such races. It is not just remarkable that these elections were run so badly, but also that the flaws are still common — and could easily create havoc in this fall’s voting…..

After the 2000 election debacle, Americans demanded a better system of voting. What we have gotten is new technology with different flaws. If the presidential race is close, this year’s “hanging chad” could be a questionable result on electronic voting machines that cannot be adequately investigated.

Note the interesting attitude of the attorney general who threatened a contender with arrest if he did a hand recount with the permission of the local election officials.

” Mr. Siegelman says local officials gave him permission to count the paper ballots by hand, but the attorney general threatened to arrest anyone who did. No count was done.”

July 31, 2008
Editorial Observer
A Tale of Three (Electronic Voting) Elections
By ADAM COHEN

Electronic voting has made great strides in reliability, but it has a long way to go. When reformers push for greater safeguards, they often argue that future elections could produce the wrong result because of a computer glitch or be stolen through malicious software. That’s being too nice.

There have already been elections in which it is impossible to be certain that the right candidate was declared the winner. Here are three such races. It is not just remarkable that these elections were run so badly, but also that the flaws are still common — and could easily create havoc in this fall’s voting.

1. The 2002 Georgia Senate and Governor Races — Senator Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, was defeated for re-election and Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat, was unseated. Polls had suggested that both men would win.

The votes were cast on Diebold A.T.M.-style machines. A whistle-blower who helped prepare the machines reported that secret “patches” — software intended to fix glitches — were installed late in the process without being certified by the state, as the law required.

The unexpected outcomes were likely because of heavy turnout by rural whites, prompted by a Confederate flag dispute, not faulty voting machines. Still, skeptics wonder if the patches contained malicious software that changed votes. Because the Diebold machines did not produce paper records, there is no way to put those doubts to rest.

Lesson: Electronic voting makes large-scale vote theft easy. A patch slipped onto voting machines or centralized vote tabulators can change an election’s outcome. Every piece of software must be scrutinized by neutral experts. If there is not enough time, election officials need a backup plan, such as conducting voting entirely on paper ballots.

2. The 2006 Congressional Race in Florida’s 13th District — The machines said that Republican Vern Buchanan defeated Democrat Christine Jennings by 369 votes. But in Sarasota County, a Democratic area, up to 18,000 ballots, about 13 percent of the total cast, did not record a vote for Congress. That is extraordinarily high; in Republican Manatee County, only 2 percent of ballots didn’t contain a vote for Congress.

Sarasota’s low vote may have been because of a bad ballot design, which made the Buchanan-Jennings race hard to find. But the Jennings campaign said it received hundreds of complaints that the machines would not accept a vote for Ms. Jennings, or recorded a vote for her as a vote for Mr. Buchanan.

Did Ms. Jennings lose a seat in Congress because of a glitch? Could there have been sabotage? We’ll never know, because there are no paper records.

Lesson: Electronic voting machines must produce a voter-verifiable paper trail for each vote so voters can see that their choices register properly. In a disputed election, the paper, not the machine tallies, should decide who wins.

More than half the states require votes to be recorded on paper, but many still don’t. These include battleground states like Virginia.

3. Alabama’s 2002 Race for Governor — Former Gov. Don Siegelman has been in the news because it appears that federal prosecutors may have put him in prison for political reasons. The controversy has brought attention to the odd way he lost the governorship.

Mr. Siegelman went to sleep on election night thinking he had won. But overnight, Republican Baldwin County reported that a glitch had given Mr. Siegelman, a Democrat, about 6,000 extra votes. When they were subtracted, Republican Rob Riley won by roughly 3,000 votes.

James Gundlach, a professor at Auburn University, crunched the numbers and concluded that Mr. Siegelman lost because of “electronic ballot stuffing,” possibly by an operative who accessed the computers and “edited” the results, though others dispute his analysis.

Baldwin County used paper ballots that were then read by an optical scan machine. Mr. Siegelman says local officials gave him permission to count the paper ballots by hand, but the attorney general threatened to arrest anyone who did. No count was done.

Lesson: Paper ballots alone are not enough. There must be strong audit laws that mandate comprehensive hand recounts when an election is close.

After the 2000 election debacle, Americans demanded a better system of voting. What we have gotten is new technology with different flaws. If the presidential race is close, this year’s “hanging chad” could be a questionable result on electronic voting machines that cannot be adequately investigated.In all this our basic point remains: the media seem limited in their coverage in this extraordinarily important matter by a built in reluctance to cross a line in the sand, where they would turn from questioning the machines to questioning the men and women in power.

palastbetter.jpgIf a scandalous abuse of power is sufficiently big in the information arena, it seems that we can count on the media to sweep it under the carpet. Any outcry from the Web will be ignored as just another conspiracy theory.

Will this movie have any effect? It will be interesting to see. Our guess would be, very little.

After all, as Greg Palast, the BBC journalist (pic) who is an investigative terror in this realm and had a lot to do with the film, in which he is featured, says, he has tried very hard to get this material on to the US airwaves and utterly failed.

Influx of Voters Expected to Test New Technology (NYTimes)

Stealing America: the PR Release: STEALING AMERICA: VOTE BY VOTE

For more than 20 years exit polls had accurately predicted election results. Over the last 10 years that reliability has progressively disappeared. What is going on?

STEALING AMERICA: VOTE BY VOTE is Emmy Award winning and Academy Award nominated filmmaker Dorothy Fadiman’s revealing new documentary which brings together seemingly unrelated anomalies of the U.S. electoral puzzle to paint a chilling picture of widespread “glitches” that have the capacity to alter election results. STEALING AMERICA: VOTE BY VOTE will screen at the Netroots Nation political convention in Austin on Saturday, July 19 before opening in New York on Friday, August 1 and in Los Angeles on Friday, August 15, with a national rollout to follow.

Narrated by Peter Coyote, STEALING AMERICA: VOTE BY VOTE brings together behind-the-scenes perspectives from the U.S. presidential election of 2004 – plus startling stories from key races in 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2006. The film sheds light on a decade of vote counts that don’t match votes cast – uncounted ballots, vote switching, under-votes, and many other examples of election totals that warrant serious investigation. The last two presidential elections both came down to a relatively small number of votes, and in both elections the integrity of the voting process has been called into question. With the upcoming election looking to be similarly close, the time has come to ask the questions: What happened in 2000 and 2004? What has changed since? What can be done to ensure a fair and honest tabulation of votes in 2008?

Throughout STEALING AMERICA: VOTE BY VOTE, we hear from voters who experienced a wide range of problems, including those whose votes flipped from one candidate to another when using electronic voting machines and polling places that didn’t have enough machines to serve the number of voters. Investigative journalists describe how their reportage on election fraud was sidelined. First-person citizen testimonies speak of waiting in line for over nine hours to vote. Polling experts’ requests for essential information – such as precinct voting data necessary to examine irregularities – were rejected, while ballots were systematically destroyed, making audits impossible.

Experts appearing in the film include Bob Hagan – Ohio State Senator and first-hand witness to on-screen vote switching; Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. – Activist, author, environmental lawyer and co-host of Ring of Fire on the Air America Radio network; Charles Lewis – Investigative journalist, former 60 Minutes producer and founder, Center for Public Integrity; Bruce O’ Dell and Chuck Herrin – Fortune 100 Company computer security analysts; Greg Palast – BBC investigative journalist; Paul Craig Roberts – Economist and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan and former editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service and presently a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate; Dr. Avi Rubin – Director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins; Ion Sancho – Appointed by the Florida Supreme Court to count the votes in the disputed 2000 presidential election and who blazed a trail in proving that it is possible to “hack” into voting machines and change the totals; Dr. Jonathan Simon – Data analyst, who has been focusing on Exit Polls discrepancies; and John Zogby – International polling authority.

Filmmaker Dorothy Fadiman has been producing media with a focus on social justice and human rights since 1976. She has won more than 50 major awards for her work on such films as WHEN ABORTION WAS ILLEGAL: UNTOLD STORIES, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.

Screening times around the US:1. August 1st thru 7th at the Quad Cinema
GREG PALAST will introduce the film at the early evening
(after dinner) screening. Check the website on Aug. 1 for
for the exact time.
34 West 13th St. New York City, NY
www.quadcinema.com

2. August 15th thru 21st at the Laemmle’s Music Hall 3
BRUCE O’DELL and JONATHAN SIMON will introduce the film
at the early evening (after dinner) screening.
Check the website on Aug. 2 for
for the exact time.
9036 Wilshire Blvd. Beverly Hills, CA
www.laemmle.com/viewtheatre.php?thid=4

3. August 15th thru 21st at the Chez Artiste 3
4150 E Amherst Ave. Denver, CO
www.landmarktheatres.com/Market/Denver/Denver_Frameset.htm

4. August 22nd thru 28th at the Ritz at Bourse
400 Ranstead Street On Fourth Street between Market and Chestnut
Philadelphia, PA
http://www.landmarktheatres.com/market/Philadelphia/RitzatBourse.htm

5. August 29th thru September 4th at the E Street Cinema
555 11th Street NW Washington, D.C.
www.landmarktheatres.com/market/WashingtonDC/EStreetCinema.htm

6. August 29th thru September 4th at the Kendall Sq Cinema
One Kendall Sq. Cambridge, MA
www.landmarktheatres.com/Market/Boston/KendallSquareCinema.htm

7. August 29th thru September 4th at the Lagoon 5
1320 Lagoon Ave. Minneapolis, MN
www.landmarktheatres.com/Market/Minneapolis/Minneapolis_Frameset.htm

8. August 29th thru September 4th at the Devargas Mall Cinema 6
562 N Guadalupe St. Santa Fe, NM
www.fandango.com/TheaterPage.aspx?tid=AAGJF

9. September 5th thru 11th at the Shattuck 10
2230 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA
www.landmarktheatres.com/Market/SanFranciscoEastBay/ShattuckCinemas.htm

10. September 5th thru 11th at the Lumiere 3
1572 California St. San Francisco, CA
www.landmarktheatres.com/market/SanFrancisco/LumiereTheatre.htm

11. September 5th thru 11th at the Regal Arbor Cinema
9828 Great Hills Trail Suite 800 Austin, TX
www.fandango.com/TheaterPage.aspx?tid=AAEUJ

12. September 5th thru 11th at the Varsity 3
4329 University Way NE Seattle, WA
www.landmarktheatres.com/market/Seattle/VarsityTheatre.htm

13. September 26th thru October 2 at Landmark’s Gateway Theatre
50 N. High Street Columbus, OH
http://www.landmarktheatres.com/market/Columbus

nathanleejog.jpgA Times brief notice today (Aug 1 Fri) by hard to please, Village Voice-style critic Nathan Lee (pic) dismisses the film on aesthetic grounds as “might have been this year’s most alarming and patriotic movie if it weren’t so shoddy and dull” and full of “cheesy computer effects, graceless rhetoric and preaching-to-the-choir irrelevancy of the awkward advocacy doc”. Lee claims to share Dorothy Fadiman’s outrage at…”the unprecedented discrepancies between exit polls and final vote tallies, the wildly divergent wait times for differing populations, and the anecdotal frequency of ‘vote switching’ on machines designed as if to encourage hacking,” but is too preoccupied with flaunting his red crayon to take the implications seriously:August 1, 2008
A Glitch in the System
By NATHAN LEE
Published: August 1, 2008

“Stealing America: Vote by Vote” might have been this year’s most alarming and patriotic documentary if it weren’t so shoddy and dull. Remember all those complaints about “An Inconvenient Truth” playing like an aggrandized PowerPoint presentation? “Stealing America,” by comparison, barely qualifies as a glorified Google search.

The filmmaker, Dorothy Fadiman, would argue that that’s exactly the point. In reporting on the suspicious circumstances of recent elections, she relies on information gathered by bloggers, local newspapers and personal testimony as opposed to the “mainstream media” — those TV networks and national newspapers, which supposedly ignored or dismissed evidence of electoral malfeasance.

Ah, “supposedly”! There I go being a tool of the hegemonic MSM.

Personally, I happen to share Ms. Fadiman’s outrage over certain details: the unprecedented discrepancies between exit polls and final vote tallies, the wildly divergent wait times for differing populations, the anecdotal frequency of “vote switching” on machines designed as if to encourage hacking.

Professionally, I prefer to have my paranoid liberal indignation enflamed by a little cinematic savoir faire. A call to arms, then: Let us reform our glitch-ridden electoral system, and while we’re at it retire the cheesy computer effects, graceless rhetoric and preaching-to-the-choir irrelevancy of the awkward advocacy doc.
The New York Sun critic James Snyder is more attentive to the theme but still shows the same level of denial of the logical consequences as the rest of the press, even claiming that Dorothy Fadiman the producer-director “doesn’t want to sell us on the theory of a swindled populace”, even while “she makes a compelling argumenht that now is not the time to take the right to vote, or the security of our voting apparatus, for granted.”:

The documentary is quick to point out that manipulating election results is as old as elections themselves, but conspiracy theories of corruption are not the goal here, despite the ring of the title. What has changed in recent years is the degree of reliance on technology, which is more vulnerable to sabotage and less helpful in terms of verifying or scrutinizing results — not to mention in clarifying who has won a tight race.

‘Stealing America’: When Democracy Loses the Vote by S. James Snyder | August 1, 2008“Stealing America: Vote by Vote,” a compelling examination of modern-day voting practices that opens Friday at Quad Cinemas, is a bold, if slightly dry, act of journalism. The documentary begins with a rather straightforward thesis that has not been examined as thoroughly as it should be: The past two presidential elections, in which victory has been determined by razor-thin margins, have been beset by a skyrocketing number of mishaps at the polls. The mainstream press often dubs them “voting irregularities,” and one doesn’t have to be a supporter of any of the candidates involved to know that they are damaging our concept of free and fair elections.

It wasn’t until the infamous re-count of 2000 and the difficulty in deciding whether, for example, a dimpled chad indicated voter intent, that the average American became familiar with the weaknesses inherent in our voting infrastructure. For her part, “Stealing America” director Dorothy Fadiman became infuriated during the 2004 presidential election about the way in which the confusion, fear, and outright suspicion felt by so many voters went all but unaddressed by major news organizations.

Ms. Fadiman was working as a volunteer at the polls in Florida on Election Day in 2004 when she heard numerous reports of citizens voting for one candidate, only to have another name light up on the electronic screen before them. The director was struck by the mounting frustration of the voters, who could not find acceptable solutions to the problems they had encountered at the polls.

The documentary is quick to point out that manipulating election results is as old as elections themselves, but conspiracy theories of corruption are not the goal here, despite the ring of the title. What has changed in recent years is the degree of reliance on technology, which is more vulnerable to sabotage and less helpful in terms of verifying or scrutinizing results — not to mention in clarifying who has won a tight race.

Not surprisingly, given the results of the 2000 and 2004 elections, the majority of the voters and election volunteers interviewed by Ms. Fadiman are Democrats. But she takes pains to balance the voices in her film in order to show that the irregularities that have come to plague our electoral system represent a bipartisan concern. The dozens of interviewees include state Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat, who witnessed on-screen vote switching; the BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast; Avi Rubin, who runs the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University; the pollster John Zogby, and Ion Sancho, who was appointed to conduct the 2000 Florida recount by the state’s Supreme Court.

“Stealing America” aligns these interviews to support a couple of distinct arguments. First, Ms. Fadiman argues, technological upgrades in the polling booth have left our elections more susceptible to interference, malfunctions, and tampering. In some cases, analysts attempting to re-examine past election results have been told that the raw voting data are proprietary information owned by a private company, and that the only figures available for study are the summaries the company delivered to election officials.

Moreover, the costly equipment and software upgrades for the new machines have not been evenly distributed, leaving many precincts underserved. In 2004, various reports out of Florida and Ohio described citizens waiting in excess of six hours to vote — and in some cases longer.

Ultimately, though, Ms. Fadiman’s ire (as communicated through Peter Coyote’s narration) is directed firmly at the press. Using the firsthand evidence of what she witnessed, not only unreliable computer terminals but election-night results that deviated widely, for the first time in history, from exit polls — a fact that alone should have drawn greater scrutiny — “Stealing America” lambastes the press for its failure to properly dissect the problem. Juxtaposing the exasperation of voters and election volunteers with the calm and steady news reports of the same day in 2004, it’s clear that these are two versions of Election Day that do not mesh.

“Stealing America” suffers from limited production values, arriving complete with canned music, second-rate graphics, and awkward segues between interview and archival footage. It also lacks the flair of a singular personality, such as Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock. But perhaps that’s precisely the point. The movie almost goes out of its way to avoid being provocative for the sake of provocation. It substantiates its arguments, and though it asks big questions, Ms. Fadiman offers a virtual bullet-point list defending why they deserve to be asked.

The 21st century has become an era of neck-and-neck elections that play out moment by moment on 24/7 cable news — elections run by machines and managed by people fixed in the political structure. Ms. Fadiman doesn’t want to sell us on the theory of a swindled populace, but she makes a compelling argument that now is not the time to take the right to the vote, or the security of our voting apparatus, for granted.

ssnyder@nysun.com
The movie “Free For All” on the Ohio experience is available online here for downloads, for DVDs, and for FREE streaming. The film “pulls down the pants of the Ohio election… Follow John Ennis into the colon of American democracy, Ohio 2004. It’s funny as hell – oddly, democracy’s death can tickle your funny bone while laying out the story of the latest quadrennial vote heist.” (Greg Palast).

The bottom line: are there thieves in the machines?

So is the movie saying that the friends of Bush hacked the machines or not?

Here is an interview with Bruce O’Dell Fortune 100 Computer Security Analyst and Co-Producer of STEALING AMERICA: Vote by Vote on A Citizen’s Guide to Voting Technology. He certainly seems well qualified to speak on the issue:

Q: Why are you questioning the honesty of the people who create and program voting machines and who run our elections?

A: I’m not questioning anyone’s honesty—but human nature is what human nature is. There’s ample room for insider misconduct in any organization. Surprisingly enough, the most severe security risks in any organization are from insiders. Despite extraordinary security measures, banks and financial institutions continue to be ripped off by trusted insiders who understand exactly where the weaknesses are in the system. According to Dan Verton’s recent book Identity Thieves, insiders accounted for approximately 70% of the $3.4 billion that banks lost to internal and external fraud and hacker incidents in 2004.

Q: What could possibly motivate so-called “malicious insiders” at the voting equipment companies to risk getting caught?

A: Our elections determine those leaders who command the world’s only superpower military, set the agenda for federal law enforcement and who control the world’s largest checkbook: our federal budget. By the “Willy Sutton” rule, voting systems are truly “where the money’s at.” Common sense tells me that constant, ruthless and highly sophisticated attempts by insiders to subvert voting software must be assumed to be currently underway, given such a valuable target.

Yet when it comes to voting systems, the presumption currently seems to be that attacks by malicious insiders are unthinkable.

A Citizen’s Guide to Voting Technology Bruce O’Dell Fortune 100 Computer Security Analyst and Co-Producer of STEALING AMERICA: Vote by Vote

Q: There are a lot of academics and experts that say voting software is perfectly secure. What basis do you have for questioning their judgment?

A: I’ve made a career of helping my clients protect billions of dollars of other people’s money from thieves, hackers and embezzlers, and I design very large-scale computer systems with extraordinary requirements for security and integrity. At American Express, I led a project to provide customer access to transactions from financial institutions throughout North America. I’ve served as the technical leader of a project to replace the access control software at one of the twenty biggest companies in America. And – unlike some of my academic and professional colleagues, who consult for or provide software to voting technology vendors or their clients – I have never had any financial interest in promoting e-voting technology.

Q: There are a lot of academics and experts that say voting software is perfectly secure. What basis do you have for questioning their judgment?

A: I’ve made a career of helping my clients protect billions of dollars of other people’s money from thieves, hackers and embezzlers, and I design very large-scale computer systems with extraordinary requirements for security and integrity. At American Express, I led a project to provide customer access to transactions from financial institutions throughout North America. I’ve served as the technical leader of a project to replace the access control software at one of the twenty biggest companies in America. And – unlike some of my academic and professional colleagues, who consult for or provide software to voting technology vendors or their clients – I have never had any financial interest in promoting e-voting technology.

Q: Why are you questioning the honesty of the people who create and program voting machines and who run our elections?

A: I’m not questioning anyone’s honesty—but human nature is what human nature is. There’s ample room for insider misconduct in any organization. Surprisingly enough, the most severe security risks in any organization are from insiders. Despite extraordinary security measures, banks and financial institutions continue to be ripped off by trusted insiders who understand exactly where the weaknesses are in the system. According to Dan Verton’s recent book Identity Thieves, insiders accounted for approximately 70% of the $3.4 billion that banks lost to internal and external fraud and hacker incidents in 2004.

Q: What could possibly motivate so-called “malicious insiders” at the voting equipment companies to risk getting caught?

A: Our elections determine those leaders who command the world’s only superpower military, set the agenda for federal law enforcement and who control the world’s largest checkbook: our federal budget. By the “Willy Sutton” rule, voting systems are truly “where the money’s at.” Common sense tells me that constant, ruthless and highly sophisticated attempts by insiders to subvert voting software must be assumed to be currently underway, given such a valuable target.

Yet when it comes to voting systems, the presumption currently seems to be that attacks by malicious insiders are unthinkable. In the wake of a report of what was (at the time) “the worst security vulnerability ever found in a voting system,” David Bear, a representative of Diebold Election Systems, was quoted as follows (New York Times, May 12, 2006):

For there to be a problem here, you’re basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software… I don’t believe these evil elections people exist. Imagine the reaction of a CEO or CFO upon hearing a company representative selling cash management software say that their clients do not need to worry about reports of a major security flaw in their software, because he doubted that any “evil bankers” existed. Heads would roll.

Q: Before it spun off its voting equipment division, Diebold manufactured both ATMs and electronic voting machines. Isn’t casting your ballot on an electronic voting machine just as secure as taking cash from an ATM?

A: That’s a common misconception – but in terms of security, ATM devices and electronic voting machines actually have almost nothing in common. It all comes down to one simple consideration: on the one hand, votes must be anonymous; while on the other hand, electronic financial transactions must be based on strong proof of identity. Electronic financial transactions are as secure as they are – where embezzlement is the exception and not the rule – simply because you must first prove your identity to all the parties involved in any ATM transaction. Voting is ananonymous transaction. Electronic voting machines cannot apply to voting transactions any of the identity-based financial auditing mechanisms universally used by ATM machines. If they did, the secrecy of your ballot would disappear.

Q: I’m not sure I understand – can you give a concrete example why ATMs and electronic voting machines are so different?

A: Just imagine what would happen if an election is run using e-voting equipment that applies the same security standards as banks do to ATMs. You sign on, enter your PIN number, and then cast your “ATM ballot.” Your name is immediately sent to the computers owned by each candidate you vote for, and your name and ballot choices also go to your county and state election officials. You receive a printed receipt listing your ballot selections that is yours to take home with you. When the polls close, there’s little doubt about who won the “ATM” election; every candidate would have a complete a list of all the voters who voted for him or her. You would even receive a statement from your county election office listing all your ballot choices as officially recorded. Since ATM-style security measures can’t be applied in real world elections, voting by computer is extraordinarily risky.
Q: There’s got to be some kind of process that election administrators use to double-check the accuracy of the voting machines after an election.

A: In contrast to banks that always audit all of their transactions, in the real world only a relative few states routinely audit any of their paper ballot records (if they still have any) to independently verify the accuracy of the machine tallies. Those few states that check their paper ballot records, only do so for a few percent of their precincts. If current “best practices” in American election administration were applied to the financial services industry – for example, if there were a bank that chose to independently audit only a few percent of its accounts, or simply trusted that its accounts were all accurate without any independent audit at all – its customers would flee in panic, regulators would shut it down, and its Board of Directors would face possible jail time.

Q: But you make it sound like there are no safeguards in place. Aren’t voting machines certified by independent inspectors and subject to strict testing to make sure they are accurate?

A: The computer industry as a whole does not do a good job when it comes to building security into software products. But both practically and theoretically, it is impossible through testing to determine that any computer system has no flaws – much less, to rule out the existence of secret back-door functions to be triggered on a future date. After all, all computers have clocks and can tell time, and there are a vast number of ways to program them to behave differently when being tested than when deployed in the field during an election.

Q: How does the way Las Vegas protects electronic gambling equipment compare to how we protect electronic voting equipment?

A: Nevada performs elaborate, stringent and intrusive ongoing independent random inspections of the hardware and software of the actual electronic gambling equipment in use at all casinos. In stark contrast, the details of our electronic vote tallying systems are considered by their manufacturers to be “trade secrets” and as such are legally shielded from independent inspection. No voting system has ever been examined and tested in any jurisdiction in America with anything approaching comparable rigor, and if these manufacturers continue to have their way, none ever will. Despite all the stringent measures Nevada takes, insiders at the gaming equipment vendors and at the casinos have successfully compromised computerized gambling machines. Even though successful manipulation of election equipment yields far greater financial returns, those who suggest that electronic election manipulation by insiders is possibly underway are dismissed as “conspiracy theorists.”

Q: But what if someone could inspect the voting machine software? Wouldn’t an inspection of this kind find problems or even deter people from manipulating election equipment?

A: The source code is just a document. Source code, which is readable by humans, becomes translated into a “binary” version that is no longer human readable – but can be run by a computer. So I cannot tell simply by reading the official source code what binary logic is actually installed and running on any particular voting device in the field. “Source code inspection” actually misleads the public, making it seem as if IT professionals have superhuman powers to “know” what is actually running in a particular device in the field during an election – when of course, we do not.The answer, clearly, is Yes. Contrary to the ongoing, oddly myopic presumption of the reviewers, who once again like Nelson bring their telescopes up to their blind eye, the documentary is indeed suggesting there are thieves in the machine.

A fine summary of what is involved here came in Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s piece in Rolling Stone two years ago, “Was the 2004 Election Stolen? Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted — enough to have put John Kerry in the White House. Jun 01, 2006 5:02 PM”. Kennedy appears several times in the film.

Like many Americans, I spent the evening of the 2004 election watching the returns on television and wondering how the exit polls, which predicted an overwhelming victory for John Kerry, had gotten it so wrong. By midnight, the official tallies showed a decisive lead for George Bush — and the next day, lacking enough legal evidence to contest the results, Kerry conceded. Republicans derided anyone who expressed doubts about Bush’s victory as nut cases in ”tinfoil hats,” while the national media, with few exceptions, did little to question the validity of the election. The Washington Post immediately dismissed allegations of fraud as ”conspiracy theories,”(1) and The New York Times declared that ”there is no evidence of vote theft or errors on a large scale.”(2)

But despite the media blackout, indications continued to emerge that something deeply troubling had taken place in 2004. Nearly half of the 6 million American voters living abroad(3) never received their ballots — or received them too late to vote(4) — after the Pentagon unaccountably shut down a state-of-the-art Web site used to file overseas registrations.(5) A consulting firm called Sproul & Associates, which was hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters in six battleground states,(6) was discovered shredding Democratic registrations.(7) In New Mexico, which was decided by 5,988 votes,(8) malfunctioning machines mysteriously failed to properly register a presidential vote on more than 20,000 ballots.(9) Nationwide, according to the federal commission charged with implementing election reforms, as many as 1 million ballots were spoiled by faulty voting equipment — roughly one for every 100 cast.(10)

The reports were especially disturbing in Ohio, the critical battleground state that clinched Bush’s victory in the electoral college. Officials there purged tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls, neglected to process registration cards generated by Democratic voter drives, shortchanged Democratic precincts when they allocated voting machines and illegally derailed a recount that could have given Kerry the presidency. A precinct in an evangelical church in Miami County recorded an impossibly high turnout of ninety-eight percent, while a polling place in inner-city Cleveland recorded an equally impossible turnout of only seven percent. In Warren County, GOP election officials even invented a nonexistent terrorist threat to bar the media from monitoring the official vote count.(11)

`The Kennedy article is notable for providing a reason why the Democrats might have been wary of pushing through reform:

To help prevent a repeat of 2004, Kerry has co-sponsored a package of election reforms called the Count Every Vote Act. The measure would increase turnout by allowing voters to register at the polls on Election Day, provide provisional ballots to voters who inadvertently show up at the wrong precinct, require electronic voting machines to produce paper receipts verified by voters, and force election officials like Blackwell to step down if they want to join a campaign. (205) But Kerry says his fellow Democrats have been reluctant to push the reforms, fearing that Republicans would use their majority in Congress to create even more obstacles to voting. ”The real reason there is no appetite up here is that people are afraid the Republicans will amend HAVA and shove something far worse down our throats,” he told me.

Rolling Stone added an editorial to the piece:
A Call for Investigation: Electronic voting machines pose a grave threat to democracy

There are certainly good reasons to modernize the nation’s ridiculously outdated voting equipment; it was Florida’s ”hanging chads,” after all, that cost Al Gore the presidency in 2000. But mounting evidence suggests that touch-screen machines present a far graver threat to the integrity of America’s elections — and that leading Republicans have taken money from Diebold to push local election officials to adopt its technology. It is time for Congress and the Justice Department to launch a full-scale investigation into the company and its equipment….

Only a complete investigation by federal authorities can determine the full extent of any bribery and vote rigging that has taken place. The public must be assured that the power to count the votes — and to recount them, if necessary — will not be ceded to for-profit corporations with a vested interest in superseding the will of the people. America’s elections are the most fundamental element of our democracy — not a market to be privatized by companies like Diebold.

Update:Both Dorothy Fadiman and Greg Palast introduced the film last night at the Quad cinema in Manhattan on West 13th Street, a premiere complete with a table manned by volunteers distributing leaflets and urging action.

Asked about the reviews in the Times and the Sun playing down the implications in the film that the machines had been electronically manipulated, Greg Palast said that the degree of interference with voting through other means was high enough that it didn’t matter whether any was done electronically or not. Dorothy Fadiman said that her film intentionally left it up to the viewer to decide how likely hacking was.

Contrast this with the PR for the film, which starts off with the sentence

“For more than thirty years, exit polls accurately predicted election results. Over the last ten years that reliability has disappeared. What’s going on?”

The failure of exit polling, in other words, doesn’t necessarily point to electronic fraud. The rest of the interference could cause it. But is this true? Exit polling nails down one simple fact, unless the voter is lying to the pollster: how he/she voted (or thought he/she voted). Any difference between this and the vote recorded must be due to interference at the machine level, a glitch either intentional or technical.

On Palast’s site, we find an introduction to the film ending with these words:

The goal of this film is be provocative, but not confrontational. The filmmakers want to engage viewers who may be uncomfortable looking at what is actually happening to our election system. Fadiman does not want them to become defensive when learning the facts. The goal is to open people’s minds to the irregularities in the technology and open their hearts to the devastating impact of disenfranchising voters. The final question that the film poses is: How can we create an election system in which voters have confidence, and in which they can trust that their vote is being counted fairly?

We found the film to be powerful for exactly that reason. But as far as its consequences go, surely there should be fierce support from everyone associated with it for a very high ratcheting up of oversight and control of electronic voting to ensure that hacking does not take place?

But is this possible? As the film shows, grassroots action in New Mexico achieved a return to paper ballots, and perhaps grassroots action can achieve the same in other states. Whatever the practical solution, it seems crystal clear now that transparency is the key. It may be that electronic voting cannot be transparent enough. In New York, the Re-Media Election Transparency Coalition urges the state in a petition at its site to hang on to the lever voting system which so far has preserved America’s most intelligent community from election fraud. The group states that

The ability for regular people to observe tampering and safeguards designed to enable this detection, along with requirement that the count be reliable and secured before public scrutiny ends, is the crux of the success of NY’s electoral system and is precisely what is constitutional and dead wrong about the planned computerized voting system.

It is not possible to sufficiently safeguard an undetectably mutable software-driven voting system from fraud.”

Of course, some of the trouble is due to the appallingly low technical standard of the machines provided so far, even if they aren’t manipulated.

As the Co-Chair of the New York State Board of Elections Commissioner Dougkas Kellner put it recently, “The voting industry sells crap, and that is the problem.” Providers such as Diebold and ES&S have had to pay millions of dollars in fines for falsely claiming that their machines and software were up to speed when they were not.

But this, of course, cannot account for a consistent bias in outcome toward candidates of Republican stripe.

Rigged USA Elections Exposed (You Tube video) . Computer programmer Clinton Eugene Curtis explains in 2004 to Congressional Committee that anyone can write program to fix elections, it can’t be defended against without strong physical safeguards, cannot be detected by election officials at the time, and afterwards only if the source code is examined and it still contains the simple change of no more than 100 lines of code needed, or if the receipts are checked against the hard paper actual vote total.

tomfeeney.jpgCurtis says he is sure that Ohio was hacked, given the significant discrepancy between exit polling and actual tabulated results. He testifies that Speaker of the House of Florida and now Congressman Tom Feeney (pic), a conservative Republican notoriously subject to accusations of and penalties for corruption, asked him in 2000 to write and show how to use code undetectably to change votes.

Curtis’ penalties for being a whistleblower are described in the Wikipedia entry on Tom Feeney and include two possible murders of investigators into related matters:In one particularly chilling paragraph in the affidavit, Curtis explains what became of Raymond Lemme, the inspector at FDOT who was said to be pursing the allegations against YEI, Tom Feeney and the other reported matters:

“[I]n June of 2003, he told me that he had tracked the corruption ‘all the way to the top’ and that the story would break in the next few weeks and I would be satisfied with the results. A few weeks later, on July 1st, Mr. Lemme was found dead with his arm slashed in a hotel room in Valdosta, Georgia.”…

In 2006, Feeney faced Democrat Clint Curtis in the November general election.

In September, Feeney’s campaign launched a website that depicts Curtis as a tinfoil hat-wearing loony-bin candidate. The website is full of references to conspiracies and aluminum hats. Curtis claimed that the attention was actually helping him. [24] The website in question was created by political consultant Ralph Gonzales, who was later murdered in a bizarre double-murder/suicide. [25]

In early October, Feeney’s campaign sent out flyers to 110,000 voters that showed the head of Curtis superimposed on what’s supposed to be the body of Playboy magazine publisher Hugh Hefner. The flyer also mentioned Larry Flynt and Hustler magazine. Feeney said he was using such tactics to inform the voters that Curtis was endorsed by Flynt. Curtis responded that he has never met Flynt or anyone at Hustler magazine.[21]

Feeney refused to debate Curtis on substantive policy issues. It would be a disservice to voters to do so, he said. Curtis countered that Feeney was ducking him.[26]

Feeney was reelected with 58% of the vote in 2006.[27]

We have no idea whether these accounts are completely accurate, but they suggest a level of ruthlessness which may help to account for the odd lack of public interest by the media and other parties in this all important factor in the future of American democracy.

35 Responses to “Stealing America: hacking put Bush in office”

  1. Robert Houston Says:

    This is a great article about a very important issue. It’s a tour de force! Thank you, Truthseeker, for providing so much valuable information and putting it all in such clear perspective. It was also very helpful to include so many links for further exploration.

    Earlier today, I saw the film, “Stealing America: Vote by Vote,” and spoke with Dorothy Fadiman, its director and producer. No writer was credited – she confessed that she also wrote the script. This woman is truly a modern American patriot. Her film is certainly one of the most important and provocative documentaries of our era – on the order of “An Inconvenient Truth” – and should receive an Academy Award as best documentary – for which she’s been nominated in the past. (Ironically, she also directed three films on HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia.)

    Everyone should see “Stealing America” if it comes to their area. Hopefully, it may have wider release and an eventual television airing. Contrary to the statements of the snobby NY Times reviewer, the film was a fascinating and compelling examination of the issues, using the best forms of documentation: actual film footage of the events and interviews with experts and knowledgable citizens who were involved. Graphics were used skillfully to illustrate statistical discrepancies between the exit polls and the “official” tallies: these depictions – dismissed by the Times as “cheesy” – were actually quite professional, dynamic and clear. Ms. Fadiman was unaware of the much more favorable review in the NY Sun, so I gave her a copy.

    As Truthseeker pointed out, the problem of election fraud via voting machines in 2004 was also well examined in the 2005 book “Fooled Again” by Mark Crispin Miller, Ph.D., professor of media studies at NYU. His earlier books were well received and he was asked for many radio and TV interviews when they came out. He has stated that there was a media blackout of “Fooled Again” – only a couple of progressive radio hosts had him on to talk about it. By the way, his book was unusually well-documented: it had 56 pages of notes and references to substantiate his charge that American public was defrauded in the 2004 election, which John Kerry actually won.

    Dr. Miller was also a consultant to “Stealing America”, and we can only hope that this amazing film will generate enough interest and spur enough action to correct the problem sufficiently before we’re fooled again in 2008.

  2. Cathyvm Says:

    “…and the animals looked from Bush to Mugabe, and from Mugabe to Bush, and from Bush to Mugabe again, but they could not tell the difference.”

  3. Robert Houston Says:

    Actually, there was some difference in election methods between Pres. George Bush and Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe (the former Southern Rhodesia). Republican leaders could learn much from Pres. Mugabe in furthering their efforts to nullify democracy. As part of the recent Zimbabwe election campaign, for example, Mugabe arrested the opposition leader. And let’s give credit where it’s due. Mugabe used what may be the strongest campaign slogan in history: “Choose Mugabe or you face a bullet,” according to The Guardian (UK), June 18, 2008.

    Prof. Mark Crispin Miller of NYU was the editor of another book on America’s rigged elections, which was released in April 2008: “Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008.” It contains essays hy him and other election experts on what’s gone wrong and possible remedies. Dr. Miller’s previous book on the topic was “Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too.”

    According to Dr. Miller, Sen. John Kerry has acknowledged that he believes that the 2004 election was stolen and that he was the actual vote-winner. Kerry told him that the other Democratic Senators don’t want to hear about the problems with the voting machines. See the transcript of the interview with Dr. Miller on Democracy Now.

  4. Truthseeker Says:

    Why Kerry of all people should allow this issue to lie dormant is difficult to imagine. Apparently he is willing to go along with the rest of the Democratic senators and overlook the need to question the basic functioning of the system, at least in the extreme form of electronic manipulation which can deliver the desired result in the twinkling of an eye and only a rigorous post-election examination of the machines and their codings by experts can detect any trace of it, and even that may be erased by programs that “eat themselves” as Curtis put it.

    Here we have a genuine electronic Guy Fawkes with gunpowder barrels in the basement about to blow the Parliament of democracy to smithereens and no one wants to send the guards down to the cellars to investigate, despite the sound of a match being lit. Why not? Why are the press reporters and editors of all people telling each other this is simply a conspiracy theory and we should ignore it as under-informed? Given that exit polling went bad and the only possible reason is that someone has tampered with the count what do they think caused it – voter lies? It seems unlikely that many people would lie to a live pollster outside a polling station, if that is where exit polls are carried out. Never seen one at mine. Besides, it wouldn’t make the voter look better with the pollster, which is one reason why people self-censor in polls, according to the piece in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, When Voters Lie (When Voters Lie; It’s a given that people fib in surveys, and this election season is especially tricky with race looming as an issue. How pollsters are trying to uncover the truth. By ELLEN GAMERMAN August 2, 2008; Page W1).

    Of course in this Presidential race there is the Bradley Effect:

    Pollsters look for the “Bradley Effect,” the idea that some white voters are reluctant to say they support a white candidate over a black candidate. The phrase refers to California’s 1982 gubernatorial election, when the late Tom Bradley, a black Democratic mayor of Los Angeles, led in exit polls against white Republican George Deukmejian. Mr. Bradley lost the election. The conclusion: some voters hid their true choice from pollsters. Skeptics say the issue was neither race nor honesty. One theory is that Mr. Deukmejian’s supporters simply didn’t want to participate in polls….

    and the piece mentions others:

    In a recently released study, Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., found nearly 11% of people who have reported being polled said they have lied to pollsters about their views on politics and public affairs. “Why they’re lying is probably as varied as individuals are varied,” says Jerry Lindsley, director of the school’s polling institute. “Halfway through a survey, they might all of a sudden get nervous about the kinds of questions they’re being asked and start to lie or not be totally straightforward….

    “He and researchers at the New School for Social Research in New York recently completed a study using a redheaded computer avatar named Victoria. She comes in two varieties: one who moves, blinks, smiles and even smirks, and a low-tech version who mostly stares blankly. The responses from people who take surveys with the two Victorias are compared with responses given to human interviewers, as well as audio surveys given online.

    Dr. Conrad says that in many cases the more human Victoria looked, the more people lied. When she asked about their TV-watching habits, her pouty lips moving in sync with her questions, more people told her they only watched prime-time TV several times a month compared with online survey-takers, who were more likely to report watching several times a week. They also told Victoria they were thinner than they told the human interviewers, who presumably could see who was lying.

    Dr. Conrad, a boyish 52-year-old, says the results may have been more dramatic because of Victoria’s looks. “She’s a little sexy,” he says. Victoria’s outfit was more revealing than a typical interviewer’s, with her black top scooping down to reveal her collarbones. Dr. Conrad says he had little choice. The software he used offered only one other female avatar, Kim, whose eyes “looked like they might fire yellow laser beams at you and destroy you,” he says. No matter which avatar he picked, he says, his or her gestures and looks would affect the outcome of the survey. That’s the point. “To us, the lesson is, everything matters,” he says.

    A few doors down, Roger Tourangeau looks at ways people change their responses without always realizing it. The researcher in survey methodology was part of a University of Michigan and University of Maryland team studying what he calls “Good Is Up.” If a word is listed at the top of a computer screen, more people are likely to assume it is positive, especially if they don’t know its definition. In one test, he put “riboflavin” on a list of nutrients. When it was at the top of the screen, more people said it was good for them. When it was lower down, it was identified as less healthful.

    But none of this would seem to consistently skew exit polls more and more in the inaccurate direction, over ten or fifteen years.

    One might suspect that Democrats want to avoid opening this can of worms because they have something to hide themselves, but any argument that they are secretly as bad as the Republicans has to explain why the bias has been so much on the Republican side – are they just that much better at it?

    Anyhow the silence of the media in this matter suggests they are chickens with their heads cut off compared with the professionals who once ruled their arena. Seems that the fear of being taken as a conspiracy nut is all powerful these days. Could it be that the Web with its plethora of silly conspiracy theories such as the official repression of many credible reports of alien encounters. 9/11 and such has debased the coinage of this realm and doubled the skepticism of professional investigative reporters? Seems strange if it has since anti democratic conspiracies ie collusions against the public interest are the straws which hold together the bricks of history’s architecture, without which there wouldn’t be much history or even daily news for that matter, certainly in New York where conspiracy is the hallmark of most prosecuted crimes on Wall Street and in local government.

    ‘Conspiracy theorists’ is one of the labels which cripples scientific dissenters in HIV/AIDS and though one could say that critics who reject HIV are not alleging any knowing conspiracy but just the madness of crowds, it has to be said that the general agreement not to question this basic premise is a conspiracy of sorts, however unspoken and even unconscious. It just has the subtlety of political ends achieved by political pressure, which is just as powerful as any explicit command. I am sure Dr Fauci never explicitly told many people to defend HIV and ignore Duesberg or abandon their careers but the rule was there loud and clear in his little hint in the AAAS newsletter when he says that reporters would be blackballed as incompetent and unworthy of interviews with NIH scientists if they pursued the matter.

    But in this case who could have locked the media into this paralysis? Just another herd phenomenon, perhaps. Fascinating how easy it is to get good men and women to do nothing if the skulduggery is threatening enough. The reluctance of the filmmakers to insist on the import of their own film, which work as far as I and anyone I have spoken to says perfectly clearly that the machines were rigged as well as whatever else was going on, looks like the natural discretion of filmmakers these days not to look like conspiracy theorists in order to retain credibility in a world where this means they are instantly discredited.

    The rule is that credibility is maximized by letting the material speak for itself, and the reader make up his/her own mind, even if the message of the film is loud and clear and it is obvious that the filmmakers are not “objective”. Fair enough, since it works very well. It avoids running into the viewers’ preconceptions so hard they suffer from cognitive dissonance and resolve it by resisting your message with denial.

    In the case of the media and the Democrats it seems that this denial is due to cognitive dissonance and it is justified as proving one is sophisticated, just as one proves one is rational by disdaining conspiracy theorists. Thus the investigative reports of Mark Crispin Miller and Greg Palast are shut out of the spotlight just as the investigative reports of supporters of HIV paradigm review and rejection are shut out of the main media platforms, without which they have little influence.

    More and more it appears to us to be a mistake to try and deal with the false demands of the media and the public to appear centrist and unexceptional in your message by retreating from its real conclusion. The better path we believe is to stick to your guns in your paradigm flipping glory but establish your credentials and your credibility by subscribing to the same professional standards and mode of respectable discussion as those you hope to influence. Establish that commonality to pave the way for change.

    That at least is the ethos of this blog.

  5. Baby Pong Says:

    Hmmm…exit polls that were never wrong suddenly become wrong. Steel framed buildings that have never collapsed suddenly collapse.

    Of course the media draw a line in the sand on this issue and many other issues. The reason stories like this are not reported is that, in this case, the truth would cause a new American revolution, with masses of people in the streets demanding justice. And in the case of Aids, the truth might stir the winds of world revolution. Preventing both scenarios is “Job One” for the power elite and their helpers in the media.

    The media in “democracies” is essentially no different than a state-controlled press. I have seen state controlled presses and, in my opinion, the media in “democracies” is even more dishonest. Or perhaps it’s that, in countries with state-controlled media, the people are naturally suspicious of what the media report, whereas in “democracies” where people believe that the media are “watchdogs,” people are much more likely to swallow the media line.

    I knew about this story days after the 2004 election because I frequent those “conspiracy theory” websites. You (and your cherished “thump” on Sundays, the NYT) are four years late with this story.

    Kerry knew that Bush stole the election but didn’t do anything about it because he also knew that he was just role-playing in the big Broadway play called “Democracy.” He knew he wasn’t going to win. He was just playing his part in the script, paying his dues to the system that he is enriched by, by keeping up the pretence of a real election. Just as McCain is doing today.

    I personally think that the whole “dimpled chad” thing in 2000 was staged as a pretext, so that they could pass the “help america vote” act and bring in this more efficient way to rig elections, with the Diebold machines.

    Finally, in the end, does it really make any difference? No. Gore and Kerry would have done 98% the same stuff that Bush did. And Obama will do the same.

    “…the future of American democracy.” Hoo! TS, america probably never was a democracy, and certainly today, with the spying on citizens in every way possible agreed upon by BOTH parties, including Obama, it’s about as much a democracy as Maurice Chevalier is a package of marble halvah.

  6. Maurice Says:

    Um…how can I explain zis to you, Baby Pong? I am Maurice Chevalier, and, because my ashes were scattered over sesame fields in Algeria, and some of zose sesame seeds found zere way to New York, to ze Joyva factory, today, in fact, I AM marble halvah! Sacre bleu!

  7. Truthseeker Says:

    American democracy may have its serious faults but to my mind they are not political so much as sociological. The cause of the gap between the constitution, and the intentions of decent and idealistic men, and the occasionally ugly reality is not that the political system is badly designed. In fact, thoughtful people have long been amazed at how well constructed the system was for these very different circumstances we live in hundreds of years later.

    This kind of easy, reflex extremely one-sided attack on the structure and people of the system is relatively worthless if it simply arises from an attitude easily adopted by those who live far from the center that anything establishment must be rotten. Obviously much of it must indeed be inadequate just because human failings abound and there are bad apples in every barrel. The task of commentators and criics however is to be well informed and know which apples to try and remove from the barrel, not throw the whole barrel away.

    While I admire your sophisticated cynicism for keeping up with the problems the system is allowing to fester personally I reject any facile and wholesale rejection of what is self evidently one of the freest and most rewarding systems on the planet, because what is important is to work out how to steer the ship better, and throw out the rascals who have taken over the wheelhouse, rather than jump ship to some island where no one need listen to what you are saying.

    What country is it that you think sets so much better an example politically than the US of A, setting aside the distortions introduced by Bush and his Republicans? Surely the quality of political society anywhere is mostly dependent on the people in power and influence in whatever country you choose, rather than the ideals some of them often abuse. Yes there is bribery and corruption in the US but compare other countries. Yes there is abuse of power at the top but compare other countries.

    Yes there are media filled with craven lickspittles but compare other countries. Equating Bush with Mugabe is true in outline but hardly in extent. Yes there are banana republic overtones to the Bush election coup d’etats but as you say quite rightly if the media dared to question the system they are part of the populace would rise up in revolutionary fervor. This is a country of 300 million and as far as I know most of them believe in its basic tenets of freedom and rule by the people, and every month we see examples of Governors and Senators and Congressmen and Wall Street con men had up and kicked out for cheating the public they claim to serve.

    The important point is that things are wrong and the sociological workings of the system are keeping the news from the people, and until this kind of self censorship is done away with or counteracted the fundamental basis of democracy, which is accurate voting records, is in danger. Sitting around and saying it is all a system of abuse of power anyway gets us nowhere. One of the marvelous things about the last fifty years is how much has been done to curb abuse of power over women and minorities in terms of prejudice and language and law, in a country which is still young and has to reinvent itself as it goes along.

    If you don’t have faith that America will continually solve its problems then what more dynamic and energetic country have you been living in? The whole idea here is to unleash ambition and acquisitiveness and build bigger and better every year that passes, and then solve the problems of the weak with the abundance created. Of course along the way you are going to see plenty of excesses and the ongoing challenge is to make corrective adjustments in law and politics to curb them as we go. And that is exactly what good people everywhere try to do, once they are aware of the situation.

    The purpose of this site is to raise that awareness in arenas where the mainstream media have proved myopic, probably because of the sociology and psychology of the mainstream system. But they are not criminals. Even the Bush brigade are not criminals, according to their own values. This is human folly well rationalized we are dealing with, not evil.

    If anything I daresay the thing that is going on which we might deplore as undemocratic is the commercialization of the planet, led by the US. Only a few years ago corporate activities and worth were measured in millions, but now we are far into the era of billions. Millionaires, even billionaires are two a penny in the US today, and the rich live well beyond the limitations of the business cycle. The Department of Defense budget used to be gigantic compared with business, but now it amounts to a Walmart or two. International corporations are much bigger than most countries in economic clout. If you are talking about abuse of power it is corporate power which is the villain in most cases.

    One current example is Ecuador where Democracy Now last night showed is now covered in oil slick since Chevron didn’t bother to put in safeguards in extracting oil from the rain forest. The people are suing and the Ecuadorian president is not getting in the way, despite threats of trade sanctions in retaliation which may come about if Chevron lobbyists can get them out of Bush before he leaves.

    Washington money grabbing is chickenfeed compared with what is happening in the international business arena. Check the Davos attendance if you want to know who rules the world. Or maybe check “Superclass”, the new book which tells all by David Rothkopf, subtitled “The Global Power Elite and the World They are Making”. 6000 people are ruling 6 billion. Only six per cent are women.

  8. Maurice Says:

    Truthseeker, I, ze late Maurice Chevalier, agree wiz you! And in your honor I shall sing zis song and dedicate it to you:

    When ze sky is a bright canary yellow
    I forget every cloud I’ve ever seen,
    So zey call me a cockeyed optimist
    Immature and incurably green.

    I have heard people rant and rave and bellow
    Zat we’re done and we might as well be dead,
    But I’m only a cockeyed optimist
    And I can’t get it into my head.

    I hear ze human race
    Is fallin’ on its face
    And hasn’t very far to go,
    But ev’ry whippoorwill
    Is sellin’ me a bill,
    And tellin’ me it just ain’t so.

    I could say life is just a bowl of Jello
    And appear more intelligent and smart,
    But I’m stuck like a dope
    With a thing called hope,
    And I can’t get it out of my heart!
    Not zis heart…

  9. Robert Houston Says:

    Let it be duly noted that what Monsieur Chevalier has posted above is not his own invention but a gallicized version of a lyric by Oscar Hammerstein II for the song “A Cockeyed Optimist” from the 1949 musical “South Pacific” (music by Richard Rodgers).

    Having seen the movie “Stealing America” again today, I found it even more powerful and provocative than on the first viewing. The documentation and evidence it presents certainly indicate that at the Presidential level America has not been a democracy since 2000. The administration of the last 8 years headed by George W. Bush was a pirate usurpation of the American government contrary to the democratic will of a majority of the voters.

    A particularly telling piece of data was the consistent accuracy of exit polling for 30 years and its increasing divergence from the official count starting with the introduction of electronic voting machines in the late 1990s. Although we may hope this will not happen in November 2008, there’s no indication that the fundamental problems have been solved. Democrats in Congress have generally looked the other way on the issue, and even become scornful when the subject is raised. Under a rightwing administration, the Justice department, which should have conducted massive investigations and prosecutions regarding election fruaud, has instead done next to nothing. As the movie makes clear, the corporate media has promoted the line that any irregularities represented isolated glitches rather than systematic fraud. Thus, the basic problems that so warped the 2000 and 2004 elections remain uncorrected.

    The practical meaning of the problems exposed by this important film is that regardless of what the polls may show, the announced election of President John McCain is now a certainty.

  10. Cathyvm Says:

    Truthseeker you are reading too deeply into a short comment. I was simply making the point that they are both cheats. It wasn’t a wholesale swipe at US democracy (such as it isn’t). In Orwell’s story the point wasn’t whether the pigs had come by their power by better or worse means than the men – it was that at that final moment, the animals couldn’t see the difference in what they had become .

  11. Robert Houston Says:

    In the comment mentioning Mugabe, Truthseeker was responding mainly to a long comment by “Baby Pong,” who did seem to take “a wholesale swipe at US democracy…” Truthseeker’s only comment concerning Cathyvm’s rewrite of the last sentence of “Animal Farm” was to say:

    “Equating Bush with Mugabe is true in outline but hardly in extent. Yes there are banana republic overtones to the Bush election coup d’etats but as you say quite rightly if the media dared to question the system they are part of the populace would rise up in revolutionary fervor.”

    The “you” who said that was Baby Pong, who wrote, “the truth would cause a new American revolution…” Is Cathyvm suggesting that she’s Baby Pong”?

    By the way, the statement in my last comment concerning the apparent certainty of a McCain victory was a personal opinion and was not the message of the movie, “Stealing America.” The film urged greater vigilance by media and officials and more citizen involvement in the election process to help prevent a replay this November of what appear to have been election piracies in 2000 and 2004.

  12. Cathyvm Says:

    No I’m not Baby Pong, and thanks for clarifying Robert.

  13. Maurice Says:

    But of course, Robert! It was not ze intention of Maurice Chevalier to take credit for somebody else’s fine song! Of course, “Ze cockeyed octopus” is now being heard nightly on Broadway in ze revival of South Pacific, playing just a short distance from ze Broadway play called “American Democracy,” ze one cited by ze noted critic Baby Pong.

  14. Baby Pong Says:

    I am skeptical whenever the media gang up on somebody like they do Mugabe. Firstly, the Guardian story might not be true. The Guardian is no different than the rest of the media, and cannot be trusted. Secondly, this alleged “Vote for Mugabe or face a bullet” if you actually read the article, does not mean that Mugabe’s goons have threatened to kill anyone who doesn’t vote for him, as the quote suggests. From my quick reading of the introductory paragraphs of that article, I see that the quote meant:

    “They are saying we will die if we don’t vote for Robert Mugabe, that there will be war if we don’t vote for Robert Mugabe,” said a wary young woman holding a small child.”

    Not, as Robert Houston implies, that Mugabe’s men will kill people if they don’t vote for him.

    If you expand your horizons a bit from the mainstream media pap that so many dissidents still revere like some bible on subjects other than aids, you will find that the US has a habit of finding “human rights violations” anywhere they have a strategic interest and need a pretext to either move in and steal a country’s wealth or in other ways discredit a country. Sudan is one of these countries, hence the manufactured outcry over Darfur. Here is a sampler of the info you can find on the Darfur genocide fraud if you broaden your horizons from the mainstream media:

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=opera&rls=en&hs=XQB&q=darfur+fraud&btnG=Search

    Here is an article that explains the real reason for the outcry over Mugabe:

    http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9707

    Here is an article that shows the real reason for the orchestrated outcry over Tibet (like, did you ever read in the mainstream media the fact that the CIA has been financing the Dalai Lama for decades, to the tune of millions of greenbacks, in order to discredit China?)

    http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Articles9/Parenti_Tibet.htm

    You folks who are so smart about hiv-aids are still wearing blinders…the media lies are everywhere, not just in Tijuana. And on most every subject, not just aids.

  15. Truthseeker Says:

    Generalized suspicion of official policy and government and corporate motives is not really a great interest here at this site, you should know. Since it smacks of reflex Web armchair paranoia it discredits the site. Paranoia finds corruption concealed everywhere, and that in itself proves nothing, since broadly speaking all actions and policies can be interpreted in different ways and involve ulterior motives of a self interested kind concealed beneath a cloak of virtuous justifications, whether Bush justifying the Iraq adventure with false facts or earlier colonial powers ruling Africa or Asia and extracting their minerals while Bible thumping and bringing civilization to the benighted primitives.

    When interpretation goes both ways and which way you choose just reflects attitude why should anyone take it seriously? Unless it is backed up with real facts and specifics it just tends to suggest that what we think are important and serious critiques such as the reasoned, evidence-based suspicion and therefore actual danger that McCain will steal America yet again from the voters are also paranoid hot air.

    The idea that there is no mass killing and rapes in Darfur is against the copious facts and personal testimony reported and screened in the mainstream media and dumb on the face of it, yet this claim is the theme of more than one of your Google search results. Such a list and the assertions without evidence in the texts it sends us to is not evidence worth discussing, and it only suggests this place is a refuge for conspiracy theories without substance. This site is not intended to be, and we hope it will never be. It starts with the scientific literature as the basis for rejecting the common belief that HIV causes AIDS, and any other questionable paradigm, as the front page heading states.

    So we urge those who are convinced that any mainstream paradigm is false not to mention it without adding some factual evidence of some kind to justify the skepticism. For example, in Stealing America we have the exit poll-final count correlation vanishing over the years. What is the equivalent for Darfur? Showing that many people are taking advantage of the issue to suggest they are unselfish compassionate idealists proves nothing – that is one motive common to most if not all activists. Where’s the evidence that it is all a mistake?

  16. Robert Houston Says:

    If there were a Broadway play called “American Democracy”, no doubt Master Pong would be picketing it outside with a placard proclaiming that “the ony true democracies are Zimbabwe and Darfur!” Accustomed to ranting oddballs, New Yorkers like myself would probably give him little notice, even if “Baby Pong” wore diapers.

    The June 19th Guardian (UK) article that I cited (“Zimbabwe voters told: choose Mugabe or you face a bullet”) conveyed by its title the essence of the Mugabe’s campaign of intimidation, which involved killings, beatings, house burnings and arrests, all aimed at supporters of the opposition party. The actual statements to the public were, as expressed by one of his generals further inthe article, “If you don’t vote for Mugabe we will bring a war.” A war involves bulllets, and was not directed against other nations but against the opposition party. Talk about sore losers! That such threats and intimidation were real, and not just a journalistic fiction, is pointed up by the fact that the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, withdrew so as to spare the lives of his supporters.

  17. MacDonald Says:

    Mr. Houston is as always eruditely but woefully misinformed. Baby Pong is not the nickname of the poster but a tribute to his girlfriend, named after a popular Southeast Asian bar game.

    According to the Broadway play called “Democracy American Style”, I do not see anything remarkable in Mugabe’s campaign rhetoric except perhaps that it shows a remarkable restraint and lack of foreign policy ambition.

    A much more serious and globally responsible campaign rhetoric would be to tell the voters that if they vote for the opposition, a mysterious cave-dwelling cult will inevitably blow up New York within the next 4 years using box cutters and fertilizers; and that another branch of the. . . same(?) cult is working ceaselessly on secret energy programs whose only purpose are to wipe Israel off the map thereby committing suicide in the resulting Middle-East-wide nuclear holocaust.

    “World, either you’re with us or you’re against us: Vote for Captain AmeriMcCain or Face Apocalypse NOW!” There’s a real campaign slogan for you. Mugabe is an amateur.

  18. Truthseeker Says:

    Perhaps it would be better if commenters a) had something worthwhile and informed to contribute and were capable of addressing the topic at hand in intelligible terms a la Houston and b) used their own names or if they have some genuine reason to fear retribution, some moniker which didn’t give rise to the association in readers’ minds with dirty nappies, and their associated odor, however appropriate this might be on the abstract level.

    Especially when the topic is of extraordinary importance, however cynical one might be that there is any solution likely, which should only add to its urgency.

  19. MacDonald Says:

    Oops, the one only and original “you’re unintelligible” charge already? Duck and cover. Duck and cover!

    Ok, here goes Mr. TS. These are your words:

    If anything I daresay the thing that is going on which we might deplore as undemocratic is the commercialization of the planet, led by the US. Only a few years ago corporate activities and worth were measured in millions, but now we are far into the era of billions. Millionaires, even billionaires are two a penny in the US today, and the rich live well beyond the limitations of the business cycle. The Department of Defense budget used to be gigantic compared with business, but now it amounts to a Walmart or two. International corporations are much bigger than most countries in economic clout. If you are talking about abuse of power it is corporate power which is the villain in most cases.

    How would corporate power be what it is if this anti-democratic world take-over was not facilitated by the US government? You can talk about the ideal or the vision that was briefly America all you wish, but why can Mr. Pong not talk about the dirty realitites perhaps best expressed by his diapers.

    Have you not noticed that in America the distinction between government and corporation is fast disappearing? Have you not followed the telecom amnesty case, the general outsourcing of intelligence gathering to the corporate sector, the steady stream of lobbyist scandals, corporation-media-government collaborations such as Fox News, the privatization of war taken to new extremes in Iraq. Why do you persist in making a distinction that is largely an illusion?

    BTW, do you or Mr. Houston, whose otherwise sober mind so sadly was overcome by the associations raised by Mr. Pong’s girlfriend’s first name, which has also been the inspiration of some unforgettable lines on the silver screen, have a link to a site where one could see these exit poll vs. election results discussed in greater detail?

    I did notice that in the Democratic Primaries, the exit polls were not all that accurate. And somehow the election results seemed to keep going Rove’s and Limbaugh’s way, endlessly prolonging the democratic battle. Should one read something into this?

  20. Truthseeker Says:

    Good point, if true, that last one, primaries can be fiddled as well. But in this case, presumably a shyness about the race and sex factors might have affected the exit polling of the Democratic primaries. After all, these are central to the choice for some, and easily the type of thing buried in discretion ie lying when accosted by a busybody pollster one doesn’t want to offend. However, one would expect a good poll to be balanced in that regard. So are we now saying that exit polls, famously the gold standard of political polling, are growing corrupt anyway? If so, what factors would make them so? Difficult to imagine any new ones.

    A link to a site where one could see these exit poll vs. election results discussed in greater detail? You didn’t see any in the humunguous post? It was updated perhaps after you read it, and will be added to any moment in another broadside when priorities allow. Try the links quoted eg BlackBoxVoting and the subsequent ones.

    Have you not noticed that in America the distinction between government and corporation is fast disappearing? Have you not followed the telecom amnesty case, the general outsourcing of intelligence gathering to the corporate sector, the steady stream of lobbyist scandals, corporporation-media-government collaborations such as Fox News, the privatization of war taken to new extremes in Iraq. Why do you persist in making a distinction that is largely an illusion?

    Didn’t intend to make that much of a distinction, except that those things you refer to specifically are surely more a function of the takeover of the Republican party by ideologically camouflaged semi-crooks than any general tendency for corporate and political power to meld into one. That may be happening too, but slowly and surely to a limited extent. You have a noticeable acceleration when Bush Republicans are installed and abuse power, sure, but we hope that can be reversed when Democrats take over – if they do. A part II post for all of that rumination , though please comment freely if you want to improve our aim.

    The issue is surely whether corporate power really can take over political levers to any significant extent in a world where meetings like Davos are simply exercises in formulating and consolidating conventional wisdom, and politicians still have as their chief concern consolidating their power base rather than simply making money from it, which appears to be the preoccupation of corporate chieftains unless their market is affected by public pressure.

    Of course when that same selfish and publicly irresponsible mentality takes over the US administration then we get into deep trouble, as has been shown in the last eight years, but short of that, it is surely the flow of money from lobbyists to reelection campaigns which remains the sole political lever of business, unless you are talking outright bribes and blackmail in underdeveloped countries, and surely that (lobbyist money) avenue of control in the US will be reformed now the Bush Republican stranglehold on power is being broken, and the Web is proving such a rich source of campaign finance.

    However, if McCain and Obama end up in a neck and neck final lap then a little electronic flipping and America will go down the other path even further with McCain in charge, unless his independent character takes over and he applies his own reforms. Something about McCain suggests to us that is not impossible.

  21. Nick Naylor Says:

    TS, a technical point (arrrghhhh what else from this guy huh?), but if the corporation that manufactures the voting machine tells us that they are unable to provide a paper-ballot back-up for every electronic vote (for techne reasons) and their CEO is an avid Bush supporter, what is a reasonable person supposed to conclude?

    By posing that question I mean to provide another example of those areas the CORPORATE media are not supposed to delve into in terms of resolving a burning issue.

    But now I’m going way beyond the original intent of a brief post as a wave comes over me …

    Do you think that the “conspiratorial wars” of the past 100 years had nothing to do with the power of the oil companies?

    It is a simple fact that such “corporate war conspiracies” prevent the electorate from understanding the true history of the past 100 years. The investigative reports that would use this true history and bring to a wider public the information that indeed can still be accessed from books just don’t reach mass media as controlled by the corporations!

    So another question: how will our lap-dog mass-media deal with what we know now from Ron Susskind’s latest revelations (Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! Show of today)? I say certain journalists without-a-doubt knew at the time what he’s now publicized about a White House order to produce fraudulent intelligence that Sadam was linked to Al Qaeda. But it would have ended their careers trying to get this out in 2003. That’s my conspiracy theory solely based on reasonable inference and (gasp) extrapolation from all the other evidence that our precious American Republic is in Constitutional Crisis and a New Civil War.

    Do you know the real reason for the Iraq War? It has nothing to do with lobbyists but the fact that Sadam was going to switch Iraq’s oil sales to denomination in the Euro. (see globalresearch.ca and Kevin Phillips’ “American Theocracy”)

    Look, this is the most oil dominated administration, right now, in American history and Obama is the only hope in terms of preventing this country from being reduced to serfdom under the reigning petro-pharma-military industrial complex. Our country is being bankrupted thanks to economic conspiracies by McCain’s economic advisers like Phil Graham … etc. …

  22. Truthseeker Says:

    Much as we love being contrarian in order to stir debate and therefore learn more than we already know, which is the main purpose of parading our renowned ignorance in public, all of the above, Nick, seems unexceptional. Yes, wars such as the adventure in Iraq have much to do with resources, especially oil, that seems inarguable, since even vast genocide is insufficient to get the United States to intervene in such cases in Africa, it seems clear. Yes big business has some huge influence to exert in decision making that involves such interests.

    So we agree with what you say is the general picture, we just think it is much more a matter of the individuals who have taken over the levers of power, rather than any great tendency for those who run the ever mushrooming oligopolistic world economy to dominate politics in the international arena. Thus surely to substitute the word “corporate” for the word “resources” doesn’t add anything to our understanding of what is going on.

    To point out that Bush’s personal connections with the Saudis and his family’s prosperity was/is rooted in oil is more crucial to our mind since it suggests that what is wrong with America is that one family and their confederates managed to shanghai the nation, something that can now finally be reversed with the Democratic takeover soon to be led by a literate and clearminded national leader and man of Destiny who understands that the main national and global goals of the 21st Century have to be justice for the poor and conserving as much as exploiting resources – reversed, that is, unless the election machines and their use and distribution are rigged, which it seems too likely that they will be.

    Have to say also that if the corporate lobbyists have gained critical influence under the current system it still doesn’t quite amount to a petro-industrial-media complex running the country like a North American banana republic, since at least certain lobbyists who went beyond the law are still ending up in jail, and there still seems a high chance of reforming the system even if McCain ends up running the the show.

    The mental paralysis of media opinion makers and high level reporters is another thing altogether and remains to be analyzed in our next post offering a certain amazing example if and when we get past resource limitations which have temporarily forced a backlog of posts thicker than a logjam on the Shuswap River.

  23. Nick Naylor Says:

    TS, it’s nice to see that we’re not so far apart this time; your points are well taken.

    I would respond that in the broadest and indeed scientific sense, corporate-industrial-military-complex public relations since World War I have increasingly gained the upper hand in bringing about the “mental paralysis” or what I like to call “professionalized incompetence” of today’s journalists. I think the case can be made with any well-read person’s bibliography that there is a conspiracy against the middle class being well informed by mass-media, especially television, which is a principle activity of the “middle class”.

    In these mysterious books it’s documented how “coercion technology” is strategically layed out in accordance with scientifically measured so-called typical social and individual behaviors – as every schoolgirl should know. Fear-based HIV mongering comes to mind as a good example of this strategy (someone just posted documentation of this at AME.)

    Of course there are exceptions such as Ron Susskind (again on today’s Democracy Now! with Rep John Conyers). Let me assure you the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is taking his conspiracy facts quite seriously.

    As you and I both have a love of language, I’m sure you can appreciate also that mass repeating of “Rovian” Republican talking points in the last 10 years is literally breathing together or con-spiring.

    “Thus surely to substitute the word ‘corporate’ for the word ‘resources’ doesn’t add anything to our understanding of what is going on.”

    Of course what would a Gene post be without an objection at some point. Surely you’ve heard of Jack Perkins and “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”. He was recruited by the NSA but wound up in a private engineering firm with the title of Chief Economist. The thrust of his employment was to conspire with corrupt third world leaders to extract resources dirt cheap on behalf of corporations, not to benefit people of the particular country. If he failed and encountered leaders such as Hugo Chavez, then it was time to call in the “jackals” (assassins). One of his conspiracy facts is the assassination of Panama’s Omar Torres in 1979 by “jackals” who were secret contractors for the American Government.

    So my point was not to “substitute” one word for another but to mention the invaluable resource known as books that may add “everything” to “our understanding of what is going on”.

  24. MacDonald Says:

    If any of you yearn for the good old blog skirmish days, check out Orac being hoisted on his own petard.

    A foxy little number calling herself Undergrad-gal, and her girlfriend, Dawn, seem to have provoked the good doc. Orac by picking on him and his hero Steven novella, in this thread

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/08/why_medscape_why.php#c1053187

    The battle spilled over into this thread as well, while the duo was working its way through the usual line-up of low-ranking goons.

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/08/jenny_mccarthy_might_have_some_competiti.php#c1053056

    Orac felt compelled to write a chest- thumping Post:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/08/the_cost_of_antivaccinationism.php

    But it seems he now has a creeping feeling that by doing so he walked into a trap set for him by Undergrad-gal who has an agenda of her own. Orac is squirming and methinks the cavalry will soon arrive. this is the one to watch

    BTW TS did you know that Steven Novella has “kicked your ass” here.

    http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=65

    The context is found in the “The cost of antivaccinationism” thread. linked above

  25. Truthseeker Says:

    Thanks for the heads up, MacD, we rely on you and your exemplary attentiveness to the hellish lower regions of this debate to tip us off to the satisfying evidence that the newbie paradigm defender Novella a year ago tried out an ineffective response to our analysis of his PLoS exhibition of political and social trust in claims he hasn’t examined carefully enough, evidently on the assumption that his superiors in the scientific order would never mislead him, and that all mainstream critics must be “denialists” and thus by definition be wrong and thus not worth listening to and checking the sources they refer to.

    Since we have come to roughly the same conclusion in reverse – after 22 years we have lost hope that any of the promised validations of HIV=AIDS will prove out – we can sympathize with his time saving reductionism.

    More and more it has become clear to us that our expectation that people who are in science as a profession and in the academic world to boot might be capable of genuinely thinking for themselves is equally naive, just as our expectation that reporters and commentators in journalism might surely think for themselves has proved equally unrealistic.

    Apparently thinking for oneself is a character trait and just because one can doesn’t mean one will. It is also something which is discouraged by constant social pressure to think in line with the flock one flies with, so that most “thinking” is imitation of and coordination with the leader and fellow followers of the swarm of intellectual starlings or bats as it swoops and bends around in the sky before alighting on its tree or returning to its cave.

    A hawk, peregrine or falcon might dive bomb this cloud of coordinated confusion and emerge with a victim in its claws, but it makes no difference to the flock, which remains unaffected in its group formation and disciplined agreement with itself.

    Steven Novello’s kicking of our royal ass is a fine specimen of this syndrome, and surely he is right in his feeling that those who disagree with the prevailing unison of belief are mostly sorry malcontents who are a threat to the comforts of the majority. He has forgotten how science advances, it seems. That is, if he ever knew. Does an apple polisher ever change his spots? Never, because that is a character trait too.

    The only way for the dispute to be resolved in favor of truth and reason is for a Congressional Committee to make a public enquiry and take testimony before the cameras of the world, and even that process seems likely to be compromised and defeated by politics and what might be called the Novello syndrome, just as the court case in Australia was. The trouble is that you need judges who can think for themselves, and such people tend not to be appointed judges, but to be served a cup of hemlock.

    This blog exists mainly to defend exemplary mavericks such as Peter Duesberg and his best followers and colleagues in their attempt to move us on from this debacle, not to try to persuade the militarized mob of paradigm promoters or its sergeant defenders such as Novello. When the buffalo herd is stampeding across the plain in fright from a firecracker one doesn’t stand in front of it waving it in the reverse direction. One hides behind a tree and reaches out to rescue those running from it if they come within reach.

    Buffaloes or birds or bats, herds and swarms are unstoppable except by leaders of historic stature. Unfortunately we are not of that ilk. We try however to be reliable and consistent, ie worthy of trust. Reliable in that we believe and warranty every word on this blog to be true according to the best research, and consistently in search of that truth according to reason, evidence and thinking for ourselves.

    Certainly not trying to come in line with any group, even that of the dissenters in HIV/AIDS and other rotten or shaky paradigms in science or society, except with the tiny group of those human beings who believe in searching for the truth and thinking as individuals.

  26. MacDonald Says:

    TS. Since this may have some historical value, I will post the essentials here. Please move to a more suitable thread if you find it out of place.

    Introduction:

    When we come in, Undergraduate-gal has opened up two fronts against Orac et al. The first (the gambit) is gardasil/Merck, and the other drug use and AIDS. What should interest NAR is the circumstance that mainstream studies directly supporting Duesberg’s drugs-AIDS hypothesis have begun to come out. For analysis and overview, please have a look at McD. and Darin as well as Prof. Bauer’s Post:

    Orac and fellow goon “PAIMD”, have previously promised a room full of experts to put some fear of Real Science into Undergrad-gal. But the only one of note, or just minimum requirement reading skills, is the always delightful Dr. Trrll (PhD Biol. Sci. or something like that) while continun gthe gardasil skirmish, Undergrad-gal confronts him with the new Cook et al. study showing that crack cocaine use is a direct cause AIDS. (see link above). Please note that Trrll is no amateur; the ease with which Undergrad-gal runs rings around him is more a reflection of Dr. Trrll’s huge disadvantage trying to defend the indefensible than Undergrad-gal’s (admittedly considerable) debating skills. Editorial comments in […]

    ——————————————-

    Whoa” steady there Trrll. Sprinkle some ARVs on your cornflakes and take a deep breath. I know it must be exciting for you to think you have finally scored a point on a denialist [Commenter Dawn], but the point has already been made. Of course nobody thinks they tested this [gardasil] on girls in the age group the marketing campaign is actually targeting.

    But since you are here, I think your expertise would be more gainfully employed if we could persuade you to comment on the controverversial study 013, which seems to suggest a role for “cofactors” in cervical cancer almost greater than the one they play in AIDS – if that is possible?

    Posted by: Undergraduate-gal | August 15, 2008 3:24 AM

    ——————————————-

    Chris,

    It seems we agree om most of the “facts” about transmission, [of HPV] sexual or otherwise. However, we don’t agree about the implications of them.

    I take exception to you calling the FDA stoopid.
    I don’t think they wrote anything stoopid in this particular quote about persistent infection.

    It may very well be that, “Most cases of cervical cancer are require a HPV infection to cause cell changes”. But if that is so, they forgot to demonstrate it in your reference:

    -Walboomers JM, Jacobs MV, Manos MM, et al (1999). “Human papillomavirus is a necessary cause of invasive cervical cancer worldwide”. J. Pathol. 189 (1): 12-9.

    I have never called HPV a risk factor. Presumably this is again the FDA, which you have quoted inaccurately. I may, however, have called HPV a marker pending better proof of causation.

    Soren,

    I am aware that Steven Novella has smeared rethinkers, or cherry-picked and misrepresented “arguments” such as those from Truthseeker, then triumphantly “rebutted” them. Bill O’Reilly does the same with reader mail 6 days a week. Do you consider that “asskicking”? If this is your definition of fair debate, no wonder you’re all so smug about nothing.

    Posted by: undergraduate-gal | August 15, 2008 6:26 AM

    ——————————————-

    [Orac quoting Undergraduate-gal] “PAIMD, I am not sure why you keep asking for my hypothesis or points concerning HIV?AIDS here.”

    My guess is that he’s doing it because your comments show muddled thinking and it’s not clear exactly what you are arguing. You’re all over the place. His request is simply a device to try to get you to focus and make a coherent point.

    Clearly, PalMD has failed in his endeavor. You are steadfastly refusing to focus.

    Posted by: Orac | August 15, 2008 8:00 AM

    ————————————————–

    Dr. Orac, are you still here?!

    Since you’re in the guessing mode, as usual, tell me have you figured it out yet? You know the one about why HIV positive drug addicts have a shorter life expectancy than non-drug using HIV positives.

    Or is that question not focused enough for you?

    Posted by: Undergraduate-gal | August 15, 2008 10:47 AM

    What a friggin moron.

    Did it ever occur to you that being a drug addict isn’t particularly good for you? Ignoring HIV, drug addicts have shorter lives than non-drug addicts. The question itself is idiotic.

    UG, keep practicing your “would you like fries with that?”

    Posted by: PalMD | August 15, 2008 10:49 AM

    —————————————–

    Ah, but Undergraduate-gal apparently thinks that the reason IV drug abuse is bad for you is because it, not HIV, is The Real Cause of AIDS, aside from the fact that sharing needles is a great way to transmit HIV from one person to another.

    Posted by: Orac | August 15, 2008 11:08 AM

    ———————————————–

    Tsk tsk PA[IMD], you should have learned by now that you need to check before you call somebody a “friggin moron”. These are your boyfriend ORAC’s words, not mine:

    “Being an IV drug abuser is good for the loss of around 10 years. It’s unclear exactly why, although it’s been speculated that the difference between IV drug abusers and those who do not abuse IV drugs may be due to poorer compliance with therapy in the former group.”

    I think it’s pretty moronic as well, but I don’t think it’s very nice of you to use that kind of language about your loved ones, or anyone else for that matter.

    Dearest Orac, I think drug use can be bad for you for a number of reasons, but what has that got to do with HIV transmission? Is your hypothesis that when HIV is transmitted via needle-stick it kills you 10 years faster?

    BTW., needles don’t seem to be such a great way to transmit HIV and especially AIDS among health[care] workers.

    Posted by: Undergraduate-gal | August 15, 2008 11:44 AM

    ———————————-

    [Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “I know it must be exciting for you to think you have finally scored a point on a denialist, but the point has already been made.”

    The point that I am making is just how crazy denialist thinking actually is. Even an instant of rational thought would have told Dawn how unlikely it is that Merck somehow found a test group of young women who had not received their normal childhood vaccinations. Why would they do such a thing? It would be hard to find such a population, and since such a group would not be representative of the target population expected to be vaccinated in practice, it would not help Merck with their FDA application.

    [Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “Of course nobody thinks they tested this on girls in the age group the marketing campaign is actually targeting.”

    Well, let’s check and see what age group the marketing campaign is actually targeting.

    Here’s what Merck’s web site says in its “Information for Parents” section

    GARDASIL is for girls and young women ages 9 to 26.
    Here is what it says in the Prescribing Information for Gardasil

    INDICATIONS AND USAGE GARDASIL is a vaccine indicated in girls and women 9-26 years of age

    The same prescribing information gives data from the groups they tested it on. What were the ages? 9 to 26.

    Now the stupidity here really is comparable to that in Dawn’s posts. Think about it rationally for a moment, if you can. The FDA maintains tight control on the marketing of pharmaceuticals. Do you really imagine that the FDA would permit Merck to market Gardasil to an age group in which it has not been tested?

    [Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “But since you are here, I think your expertise would be more gainfully employed if we could persuade you to comment on the controverversial study 013, which seems to suggest a role for “cofactors” in cervical cancer almost greater than the one they play in AIDS – if that is possible?”

    Possible? Obviously. Axiomatically, it is always possible, for any disease, that there are unidentified cofactors. Clearly, HPV is an important determinant of disease in the study populations, based on the vaccine’s clearly demonstrated efficacy. But if you could find a cofactor of equal or greater importance, and develop a treatment against it, then you could go into competition with Merck.

    [Note Dr. Trrll is as aggressively pompous as always, but at least he shows some comprehension of the points being discusses and constructs actual arguments. This was not observed for boastful blogger and steven Novella fan Orac at any point, before or after, in the debate]

    Posted by: trrll | August 15, 2008 12:16 PM

    ————————————–

    Trrll,

    Please, stop huffin’ and puffin’ for a minute! You bite on anything, don’t you sailor? The age/marketing thing was a joke fer cripe’s sake! But fair enough, maybe you weren’t around when we discussed shooting up neonates and fetuses [with gardasil].

    Anyway, here’s the link to the [gardasil] study, which you were commenting on obviously without having a clue as to what it was.

    http://www.naturalnews.com/downloads/FDA-Gardasil.pdf (p. 13)

    It’s the first of Merck’s two phase III gardasil trials – with no study subjects under the age of 16 funnily enough (-;

    Posted by: Undergraduate-gal | August 15, 2008 1:47 PM

    ——————————–

    Citing Mike Adams! That must be a violation of of Orac’s corollary to Scopie’s Law… [which in essence prohibits quoting “antivaccination” sites in blog debates]

    Posted by: PalMD | August 15, 2008 1:53 PM

    ————————————–

    Hey Palmist, [PaIMD]

    Instead of classifying an FDA document as an antivax site (you must be a centipede if you’re still walking after all the times you’ve shot yourself in the foot just in this thread), how about the lesson you were going to teach me about HIV purification and viral gold standards. [An earlier challenge which also remained unanswered by Orac and PaIMD]

    Your and Orac’s contributions haven’t exactly been impressive lately. If that’s what you guys call kick ass, you’d better not give up your dayjobs in mum’s basement.

    Posted by: Undergraduate-gal | August 15, 2008 2:10 PM

    —————————————————

    [Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “You bite on anything, don’t you sailor? The age/marketing thing was a joke fer cripe’s sake!”

    I’m afraid that I’m going to have to continue taking everything you write seriously. If I discarded everything you’ve written that has been so nonsensical that I’ve wondered if you might be joking, there wouldn’t be anything left at all.

    [Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “Anyway, here’s the link to the study which you were commenting on obviously without having a clue as to what it was.”

    Yes, I’ve already seen that study, but it is not necessary to refer to any study to answer your question about whether it is possible that there are cofactors–because it is axiomatic no matter what the disease, there is always a possibility of unidentified cofactors.

    [Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “It’s the first of Merck’s two phase III gardasil trials -with no study subjects under the age of 16 funnily enough”

    Try to think rationally about it for a moment, if you can. Can you figure out why it might be better to have multiple studies looking at different age ranges, rather than a single study with all of the ages mixed together?

    Posted by: trrll | August 15, 2008 2:55 PM

    ——————————————–

    I’m not surprised at the likes of Orac and PALMIST, but usually you don’t chicken out like that Trrll.

    According to the FDA document, those two studies were the sum, the whole, the totality of the phase III trials given to the FDA for consideration.

    “Phase 3 Studies
    Two randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled phase III studies evaluated the clinical efficacy and safety of Gardasilâ„¢. The two studies, the FUTURE I and FUTURE II studies, evaluated the clinical endpoints of CIN 2/3 or worse and external genital lesions due to HPV.”

    Perhaps YOU have read in that treasure trove, Merck’s “Information for Parents section”, the phase III studies where they do age group 24-26, Dumbo? [None of the phase III trials included the age groups 9-15, 24-26. Dr. Trrll hadn’t checked]

    Now are you now going to tell us how 3% more smokers translates into 44.6% increased risk of precancerous lesions, or are you going to continue to dodge like all the other chickenshits here?

    Posted by: Undergraduate-gal | August 15, 2008 4:15 PM

    ——————————————

    [Undergraduate-gal after several Commenters had been gloating about Trrl’ss phantom victory concerning age-groups] OMG It just hit me, you don’t even know it yourself!

    Both studies were limited to age-group 16-23.

    That’s it for me. Please stay out of it from now on children and let Trrll handle the rest. There’s a required minimum level if not of intelligence then at least ability to be embarrased by yourselves. If it’s of comfort to you, I think Steven Novella would have fared only marginally better.

    Trrll, I know you’re an expert on unidentified cofactors. How does this strike you – rather how does this strike Ascher et al. and Kaslow et al.?

    “Persistent crack users were over three times as likely as non-users to die from AIDS-related causes, controlling for use of HAART self-reported at 95% or higher adherence, problem drinking, age, race, income, education, illness duration, study site, and baseline virologic and immunologic indicators. Persistent crack users and intermittent users in active and abstinent phases showed greater CD4 cell loss and higher HIV-1 RNA levels controlling for the same covariates. Persistent and intermittent crack users were more likely than non-users to develop new AIDS-defining illnesses controlling for identical confounds. These results persisted when controlling for heroin use, tobacco smoking, depressive symptoms, hepatitis C virus coinfection, and injection drug use. CONCLUSION: Use of crack cocaine independently predicts AIDS-related mortality, immunologic and virologic markers of HIV-1 disease progression, and development of AIDS-defining illnesses among women” (Cook et al., “Crack cocaine, disease progression, and mortality in a multicenter cohort of HIV-1 positive women”, AIDS 22 [2008] 1355-63 ).

    Posted by: Undergraduate-gal | August 15, 2008 4:46 PM

    —————————————————-

    Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal], “I know you’re an expert on unidentified cofactors. How does this strike you – rather how does this strike Ascher et al. and Kaslow et al.?

    “Persistent crack users were over three times as likely as non-users to die from AIDS-related causes, controlling for use of HAART self-reported at 95% or higher adherence, problem drinking, age, race, income, education, illness duration, study site, and baseline virologic and immunologic indicators. Persistent crack users and intermittent users in active and abstinent phases showed greater CD4 cell loss and higher HIV-1 RNA levels controlling for the same covariates. Persistent and intermittent crack users were more likely than non-users to develop new AIDS-defining illnesses controlling for identical confounds. These results persisted when controlling for heroin use, tobacco smoking, depressive symptoms, hepatitis C virus coinfection, and injection drug use. CONCLUSION: Use of crack cocaine independently predicts AIDS-related mortality, immunologic and virologic markers of HIV-1 disease progression, and development of AIDS-defining illnesses among women” (Cook et al., “Crack cocaine, disease progression, and mortality in a multicenter cohort of HIV-1 positive women”, AIDS 22 [2008] 1355-63 ).”

    Have you ever actually met any crack users? They are generally in generally poor health even if they are not HIV-infected. Like other stimulants, cocaine suppresses the appetite, so stimulant users tend to eat poorly and often do not get proper nutrition. Cocaine also produces a high level of sympathetic nervous system activation, which is a stress on the body. One would expect a crack user to be more likely to die from any virus, whether it be influenza or HIV. This is pretty basic. What is your point here? That there are other factors in addition to HIV that influence survival? Do you seriously believe that anybody disputes that?

    What is abundantly clear, however, is that crack in the absence of HIV may result in poor health, but it does not result in AIDS.

    Posted by: trrll | August 16, 2008 1:42 AM

    —————————————-

    Do I seriously believe anybody disputes the direct causal link between drug use and progression to AIDS?

    Yes, Dr. Trrll, Dr. Orac, for example wasn’t aware of it.

    Over at AIDStruth.org, where I get all my news, don’t you? they say it’s a denialist myth. Are you a denialist, Dr. Trrll? Don’t you know that:

    “M.S. Ascher and team examined the drug use data of several research cohorts and found no correlation between drug use and AIDS.”

    That’s no as in NO CORRELATION whatsoever, Dr. Trrll.

    And just so you won’t try and twist it, Kaslow et al. drive the point home for you:

    “No evidence for a role of alcohol or other psychoactive drugs in accelerating immunodeficiency in
    HIV-1-positive individuals. A report from the Multicenter AIDS Cohort”

    Coates et al chime in:

    “No significant association with risk of progression to AIDS was noted for use of various recreational drugs (singly or in combination), history of specific infections, age at enrollment, or smoking and drinking status at enrollment. Only estimated duration of HIV infection appeared to be associated with increasing risk of development of AIDS”.

    You want something newer?

    Chao et al:

    “In the 2008 published study, Recreational drug use and T lymphocyte subpopulations in HIV-uninfected and HIV-infected men, which studied the issue in the MACS cohort, the conclusion was “no clinically meaningful associations between use of marijuana, cocaine, poppers, or amphetamines and CD4 and CD8 T cell counts, percentages, or rates of change in either HIV-uninfected or HIV-infected men.”

    NIAID has looked at the whole bunch of these studies and quite authoritatively says:

    “Observational studies of HIV-infected individuals have found that drug use does not accelerate progression to AIDS (Kaslow et al., 1989; Coates et al., 1990; Lifson et al., 1990; Robertson et al., 1990). In a Dutch cohort of HIV-seropositive homosexual men, no significant differences in sexual behavior or use of cannabis, alcohol, tobacco, nitrite inhalants, LSD or amphetamines were found between men who remained asymptomatic for long periods and those who progressed to AIDS (Keet et al., 1994). Another study, of five cohorts of homosexual men for whom dates of seroconversion were well-documented, found no association between HIV disease progression and history of sexually transmitted diseases, number of sexual partners, use of AZT, alcohol, tobacco or recreational drugs (Veugelers et al., 1994).”

    http://www.aidstruth.org/new/denialism/myths

    Now all you turncoats – Dr. Orac excepted of course as he is still mulling over the mystery of how drug abuse could cut life expectancy for HIV+ – are saying it is common sense that drug abuse accelerates progression to AIDS?

    Are you calling all AIDS researchers liars, Dr. Trrll?!

    Btw, did you find those phase III gardasil studies for me where they include age groups 9-15 and 24-26?. You did read Anonymous Antivaccinationist’s Comment didn’t you? [excellent Comment, which can be enjoyed here: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/08/the_cost_of_antivaccinationism.php#comment-1053872%5D

    The Merck denialists are proliferating, Dr. Shll, and I thought you said above you were very serious about defending Merck’s honour. But now cat’s got your tongue it seems.

    Posted by: Undergraduate-gal | August 16, 2008 2:40 AM

    ———————————————

    [Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “Do I seriously believe anybody disputes the direct causal link between drug use and progression to AIDS? Yes, Dr. Trrll, Dr. Orac, for example wasn’t aware of it.

    Are you calling all AIDS researchers liars, Dr. Trrll?!”

    Here, we have a prime example of the distortions of denialist thinking and argumentation. Rather than responding to what I actually said:

    “That there are other factors in addition to HIV that influence survival? Do you seriously believe that anybody disputes that?”
    …the denialist confabulates a straw-man statement and attacks that. And then goes into a stupid quote-mining exercise, and ends by implying that I am “calling all AIDS researchers liars” based upon her disagreement with the imaginary statement that I never made.

    So why try to shift the discussion from cofactors in general to AIDS and drug use? Probably because one of the most thoroughly disproved crackpot notions about AIDS is that it is a consequence of illicit drug use. And in fact, many studies have failed to find any correlation between drug use and progression to AIDS, but even there the literature is hardly absolutely unanimous. For example Chao et al. (2008), in their study of the outcome for non-injecting drug users note:

    These findings are consistent with previous reports that recreational drug use was not associated with HIV disease progression in MSM ([Chaisson et al., 1995], [Di Franco et al., 1996], [Kaslow et al., 1989] and [Page-Shafer et al., 1996]). A lack of association was also observed among injection drug users ([Chaisson et al., 1995] and [Vlahov et al., 1998]). A randomized, placebo controlled trial among HIV-infected persons found no short-term (21 days) effect of marijuana smoking on immune phenotypes, including the proportion of CD4 and CD8 T cells (naïve or memory), B cells and natural killer cells (Bredt et al., 2002). Our prospective study, together with a previous epidemiologic analysis (Ascher et al., 1993), did not find short-term or long-term adverse effects of use of marijuana on CD4 cell count. Although an adverse effect of use of cocaine on CD4 cell count has been suggested by others ([Larrat et al., 1996] and [Siddiqui et al., 1993]), this association was not observed in our study, even in those who used cocaine weekly or more frequently.

    It is worth noting the difference between the kind of balanced discussion of conflicting results that you get from a scientist versus our denialist’s confabulation of that into “That’s no as in NO CORRELATION whatsoever, Dr. Trrll.” Of course, a scientist would never say “no correlation whatsoever” because that would imply the ability to prove a negative, which is impossible. Scientific conclusions are more along the lines of “If there is a correlation, it is too small for us to detect with our study protocol.” But of course, that doesn’t provide an excuse to imply that somebody is lying.

    So maybe there is a little bit of an effect, but it is so small it is hard to detect. Indeed, The recent Lancet meta-analysis by The Antiretroviral Therapy Cohort Collaboration concluded–after pooling results of fourteen different studies (for maximum statistical power) of HIV individuals on modern antiretroviral therapy ends up concluding the same thing as Dr. Chao–no effect on mortality of use non-i.v. recreational drug use. But i.v. drug users do a bit worse, with life expectancy about 8 years shorter.

    So does that mean that somebody is LYING? Not necessarily. The older studies were carried out on a population that had not have the benefit of the most modern antiretroviral therapy. So it would not be at all surprising that the greater life span afforded to HIV patients of all types has unmasked a small effect of i.v. drug use that simply wasn’t detectable back in the early days when the drugs could only extend survival by a year or two. And in fact, as cited in the Lancet article, other recent studies are detecting a negative correlation of i.v. drug use and survival. The Lancet study discusses a number of possible explanations

    For example, the disparity in life expectancy between HIV-infected injecting drug users and non-injecting drug users is very large. This finding is consistent with previous findings Lloyd-Smith et al., 2006; Sterne et al., 2007) There may be several reasons for this discrepancy, such as issues of adherence, inadequate or unequal access to treatment, active illicit drug use, hepatitis C co-infection, higher rates of smoking and alcohol use, and socioeconomic status.

    Another that occurs to me is that multiple reinfections by different strains of HIV results in gene transfer that accelerates development of HAART resistance.

    Needless to say, none of this even remotely supports the HIV denialist fairytale that “mainstream” scientists somehow have failed to consider the possibility that other factors besides HIV infection may affect survival.

    Posted by: trrll | August 16, 2008 1:44 PM

    ————————————————————

    Dr. Trrll, you have, if nothing else, demonstrated that you’re the only person resembling an expert in this urinal. You should really keep better company.

    A few points:

    1. I am not quote-mining. I have kept to the AIDStruth.org quotes and linked to them. You are not suggesting that AIDStruth.org would engage in quote-mining, are you? (-:

    2. I did not write that Ascher said “there is no correlation between drug use and progression to AIDS whatsoever”. I wrote Ascher reported that they had FOUND none whatsoever. That’s why they didn’t even have to come up with the “drug users have poor treatment compliance” line.

    3. All the popular “cofactors” that are routinely suggested were controlled for, and crack use remained a powerful independent predictor of progression to AIDS and death, so you citing studies speculating about anything else is not to the point.

    4. This study lasted eight years with a mortality of 25%. Persistent crack users had considerably lower baseline CD4 count, 3 times higher baseline viral load and 3 times the death rate of non-crack users. Regular or intermittent crack users were nearly 60% more likely to develop an AIDS-defining illness than non-users. After controlling for other factors, crack use remained the single most important influence on viral load and CD4 count.

    Dr. Trrll, are you in all seriousness calling this a “small effect”? Are you seriously suggesting that all pre-’96 studies were so short-lived (forgive the pun), or the study protocol so poor, that all these differences were completely undetectable, even in people with heavy or multiple drug use?

    Your sources single out IV drug use as the worst health risk. Crack cocaine is not an IV drug. So per your own argument, IV drug use would have an even bigger effect. But still it was not large enough to be detectable, singly or in combination with other drug abuse, pre-’96.

    General Trrll, despite what I view as your rather extraordinary efforts in your testimony both yesterday and today, I think that the reports that you provide to us really require the willing suspension of disbelief.

    Posted by: Undergraduate-gal | August 16, 2008 3:07 PM

    ————————————————————-

    Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “Dr. Trrll, are you in all seriousness calling this a “small effect”? Are you seriously suggesting that all pre-’96 studies were so short-lived (forgive the pun), or the study protocol so poor, that all these differences were completely undetectable, even in people with heavy or multiple drug use?”

    As I noted before, the simplest explanation is that prior to the availability of highly effective antiretroviral therapy, crack was a minor factor, in the same way that cancer did not even make top 5 leading causes of death in 1900, because people usually did not live long enough to get cancer–they were killed off by infectious diseases first. With the advent of antibiotics, lifestyle risks that previously played a minor factor became dominant. It may be that something similar has happened with HAART.

    Of course, it is also possible that by targeting persistent female users of crack cocaine, they managed to identify a particularly vulnerable population of heavy cocaine users. It is notable that 8-year survival of the group that they identified as intermittent crack users did not differ significantly from non-users. So it could well be a small effect in a study that considered all cocaine users, or for which the study population did not include a large number of heavy users. Cook et al comment:

    “One caveat to our findings is the non-representativeness of our longitudinal cohort, limiting the generalizability of our results.”

    Cook et al offer additional caveats:

    “our analysis does not conclusively demonstrate that crack use causes AIDS-related morbidity and mortality. We have not ruled out other processes that could account for these associations, such as greater sexual risk taking, poorer diet and nutrition, substandard living conditions, and other unknown confounders.”

    Greater sexual risk taking is a major confound here, as heavy female crack users frequently engage in prostitution to support the expense of their habits. So as with IV drug use, we have again the possible phenomenon of multiple re-infection with different HIV strains increasing the possibility of picking up genes for antiretroviral resistance.

    Of course, as I’ve commented before, it would not surprise me at all if heavy crack use contributed to a poor prognosis, as even in the absence of HIV, heavy use of cocaine is associated with overall poor health. So while HAART may be able to keep HIV at bay in somebody who is eating and sleeping properly, it may not be able to do so in a person who is suffering from poor nutrition, sleeping irregularly, and in a continuous state of drug-induced physiological stress. If the poor prognosis arises from the failure of HAART, then it would not be surprising that earlier studies did not observe such an effect.

    Posted by: trrll | August 16, 2008 4:56 PM

    ————————————————

    Dr. Trrll,

    Of course Cook et al. would come up with caveats, possible alternative explanations, “unknown confounders”. As you’ve just told us, that’s what scientists – especially HIV scientists – do.

    However, the “multiple re-infection with different HIV strains” story also adds multiple strains on my suspension of disbelief. That is assumption heaped on assumption

    Most of the other factors Cook has attempted to control for. But the possible causes are not so important as the fact that groups with similar profiles have been studied often before and none of this ever came out. The question is why?

    We both know that studies like Ascher et al. and Kaslow et al. have been used to hit Duesberg over the head and close the case on chemical AIDS, poor nutrition-related AIDS, drug abuse-related AIDS, medicinal as well as illicit – incidentally the same things you’re now pulling out of the hat as possible “confounders” and “cofactors”.

    So how does the AIDS establishment divert attention from that uncomfortable fact and maintain their monocausal religion of HIV/AIDS? Just like you, they try to shift the focus to the second person in the Trinity, namely HAART, and postulate that all these “cofactors” interfere with the effects of HAART, rather than allowing that they could cause AIDS in any direct way, shape or form.

    But this comes at a cost. In order to exalt HAART you have to throw AZT under the campaign bus. AZT is now admitted to be so ineffective that no amount of “sexual risk taking”, drug use and general ill health were able to ,ake a dent in the results of pre-’96 studies… at the time when this utterly useless, highly toxic drug was hailed as Saviour.

    The average period from infection to death in natural history infection is now estimated at 11 years on average. AZT would have had to actually shorten that period considerably in order to disguise the adverse effects of (other) “cofactors” such as crack use.

    AZT is still widely used.

    Apart from that, I am pleased to see that you pesronally are open to the possibility that all kinds of physical and psychological stress factors can contribute directly to the progression of “HIV disease”.

    [Undergraduate-gal quoting Anonymous Antivaccinationist] “AA: Baiting the people that frequent this forum is futile.”

    Aw shucks AA! Are you saying there’s no chance a room full of kickass experts like that sexy Novella dude are gonna come out from under their rocks and help a poor dimwit Undergrad-gal with her summer epi exams?!

    Posted by: Undergraduate-gal | August 17, 2008 12:51 AM

    ———————————————-

    [Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “Of course Cook et al. would come up with caveats, possible alternative explanations, “unknown confounders”. As you’ve just told us, that’s what scientists – especially HIV scientists – do.”

    Yes, it is what all scientists do. Consider both the strengths and the limitations of the evidence in the light of alternate hypotheses. As opposed to what denialists do: cherry-pick out the bits and pieces that fit their biases.

    [Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “Most of the other factors Cook has attempted to control for. But the possible causes are not so important as the fact that groups with similar profiles have been studied often before and none of this ever came out. The question is why?”

    And here, of course, you dismiss the obvious, logical hypotheses that explain all of the data, because they don’t fit with your prejudices.

    You cannot consider that the fact that the results have changed could mean that conditions have changed. What has changed? HIV infected patients are surviving much longer than before, due to HAART. And if heavy cocaine use interferes with the life-prolonging effect of HAART, then we will see a deleterious effect of cocaine that was not evident before, when HIV patients received less effective medications and survival was much shorter.

    [Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “We both know that studies like Ascher et al. and Kaslow et al. have been used to hit Duesberg over the head and close the case on chemical AIDS, poor nutrition-related AIDS, drug abuse-related AIDS, medicinal as well as illicit – incidentally the same things you’re now pulling out of the hat as possible “confounders” and “cofactors”.

    And harping on a single study of an extreme sub-population–heavy female users of crack cocaine, a tiny fraction of the total population affected by AIDS and HIV–does not rescue Duesberg’s drug abuse notion, which has been overwhelmingly disproved by study after study. Again, it is typical of denialist thinking to dismiss all of the many studies that don’t fit your prejudices, while seizing upon the single one that does–even if it means ignoring the limitations that the study’s authors themselves have so clearly explained.

    [Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “But this comes at a cost. In order to exalt HAART you have to throw AZT under the campaign bus. AZT is now admitted to be so ineffective that no amount of “sexual risk taking”, drug use and general ill health were able to ,ake a dent in the results of pre-’96 studies… at the time when this utterly useless, highly toxic drug was hailed as Saviour.”

    Times change. The evidence is clear that AZT monotherapy extended life of HIV patients, but not by nearly as much as HAART. We are several generations beyond AZT, and each succeeding regimen was accepted because it extended life better than the one before. And longer survival means more opportunities for other factors to come to the fore, just as happened with antibiotics, in which better treatment of bacterial infections unmasked the hazards of unhealthy diets and drugs that increase the risk of heart disease and cancer (I imagine that germ theory denialists are convinced that antibiotics cause heart disease and cancer, just as HIV denialists are convinced that antiretroviral drugs cause AIDS)

    [Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “The natural “latency period” from infection to first AIDS event is now estimated at 11 years on average. AZT would have had to actually shorten that period considerably in order to disguise the adverse effects of (other) “cofactors” such as crack use.”

    From 96-99 to ’03-’05, average life expectancy with HIV infection has increased by over 13 years, and that doubtless underestimates improvement since the era of AZT monotherapy, since the the first protease inhibitor came into use in ’95. That’s a lot of time for the deleterious effects of steady crack use to add up, even if crack use (or associated factors like poor nutrition and unsafe sex) does not specifically interfere with the effectiveness of the HAART regimen, as seems quite probable.

    [Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “AZT is still widely used.”

    Who, specifically, is still using AZT monotherapy? The main reason why the benefits of AZT were so limited was the rapid development of resistance. Modern antiretroviral regimens use combination therapy that greatly slows development of resistance.

    [Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “Apart from that, I am pleased to see that you personally are open to the possibility that all kinds of physical and psychological stress factors can contribute directly to the progression of “HIV disease”.

    As I’ve noted, this would not be particularly surprising, especially now that the greatly extended life-span of HIV-infected people gives much more time for the effects of such factors to accumulate. But the notion that the medical “establishment” did not recognize the possibility that there could be cofactors influencing the progression of HIV/AIDS is a sheer denialist fantasy. Moreover, none of this alters the fact that the notion that AIDS is somehow a consequence of illicit drug use (or even more idiotically, of the therapies that have so dramatically extended survival and health) has been definitively disproved. Heavy cocaine use may well worsen the prognosis of HIV infected women–but heavy cocaine users who don’t have HIV do not develop AIDS.

    Posted by: trrll | August 17, 2008 2:37 AM

    —————————————————

    Trrll,

    I repeat:

    1. Almost all studies in the developed part of the world have been carried out on “extreme subgroups”.

    2. The estimated net median survival time, without AIDS meds, even in poor Africans, is now 11 years. In the latter case, it’s up from nine – close to a 20% miscalculation, and nobody says they’ve gotten it right yet. So much for the data that goes into the different models of HIV-disease.

    3. You are claiming AZT extends life. That means even in the ’80s median survival time in a developed country should have been well into the second decade, depending on how much credit you want to give to AZT. That’s easily long enough for the influence of “cofactors” to show itself.

    There is no way you can reconcile Ascher et al., Kaslow et al., NIADS sweeping statements etc. with Cook et al. One or the other has to go, and the trend is clear: the early studies were ermm… not reliable. I guess we can only wait and see if the powers that be think it’s politically expedient to allow more studies like Cook et al.

    Posted by: Undergrad-gal | August 17, 2008 3:02 AM

    ——————————————–

    [Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “1. Almost all studies in the developed part of the world have been carried out on “extreme subgroups”.

    When you start playing these kind of games with language, it is obvious that you are clutching at straws. “Subgroup” has a technical statistical meaning; it refers to an analysis that is restricted to a small portion of your study population. And we are talking about one very specific subgroup of the larger population of people infected with HIV: extremely heavy female users of one particular drug of abuse: cocaine. Subgroup analyses are fraught with statistical hazards, because the variable by which you select out which subjects to study and which to ignore is inevitably going to be correlated with other potentially confounding factors (some of which may be unknown). So it is easy to get fooled. As Cook et al. point out, persistent use of crack by women is likely to correlate with risky sexual behaviors and poor nutrition. But of course, that doesn’t fit with your biases, so you simply ignore it.

    [Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “2. The estimated net median survival time, without AIDS meds, even in poor Africans, is now 11 years. In the latter case, it’s up from nine – close to a 20% miscalculation, and nobody says they’ve gotten it right yet. So much for the data that goes into the different models of HIV-disease.”

    Uh, yes, poor Africans with HIV for the most time do not have access to the optimum HAART treatment, and their survival time is much shorter, even though they generally or not heavy crack users. Do you have a point here? Both studies that we are discussing were of patients in the developed world.

    [Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “2. The estimated net median survival time, without AIDS meds, even in poor Africans, is now 11 years. In the latter case, it’s up from nine – close to a 20% miscalculation, and nobody says they’ve gotten it right yet. So much for the data that goes into the different models of HIV-disease.”

    I said I would take everything you say seriously, but this is so nuts that I have to ask: are you joking? You cannot compare survival of patients in Africa, with different HIV strains, different endemic opportunistic diseases, different nutrition, different access to health care, different treatment compliance, etc., etc. to that of patients in the developed world.

    [Trrll quoting Undergraduate-gal] “There is no way you can reconcile Ascher et al., Kaslow et al., NIADS sweeping statements etc. with Cook et al.”

    And here we see once again the fundamental difference between scientific rationality and denialist rationalization. Scientists look for the explanation that fits the data; denialists look for the data that fits the explanation. To the scientist, they are not at all difficult to reconcile; it is obvious that these are very different studies, of very different patient populations, receiving very different medical treatments. It is not at all surprising that the outcomes should be different, and there are multiple simple potential explanations of why this should be the case. But the denialist is not trying to consider all of the evidence in the light of multiple hypotheses–she is just looking for an excuse to ignore a result (or in this case, multiple carefully repeated results) that if considered rationally would require her to dicard her pet notions.

    And of course, the ironic thing is that even the Chao et al. data is inconsistent with the notion that AIDS is a consequence of drug abuse. But there is a (very small, specialized) patient subpopulation taking drugs that is sicker, and for the denialist, desperate for anything that she can twist to buttress up her prejudices, that is close enough.

    Posted by: trrll | August 17, 2008 9:17 AM

    —————————————

    [At this point Boastful Blogwarrior and Team Trrll cornerman, Orac, started witholding Undergraduate-gal’s posts for “approval” It is at this point not known if the following will ever appear on that fearless blog. So far it doesn’t look good]

    Dr. Trrll, I think we are getting into the wilful misunderstanding zone now.

    You’re damn right I can’t compare Africans with poor access to health care to for example the US (outside certain inner city areas apparently) and Europe. HIV+ in developed countries ought to be surviving longer. But your initial argument was that they didn’t survive long enough, even on the “life-prolonging” AZT, for cofactors to play a detectable role in the early studies. You are per ususal arguing against yourself.

    As for the rest, you’ve got to be kidding! Of course Cook et al examined “special subgroups”, not only of heavy crack users but of regular users, intermittent users, non-users. That’s how you get the friggin’ comparisons in a reasonably well-planed study! More drug use = more AIDS. A clear gradation.

    And get off your “risky sexual behaviour” hobby horse already. Show me a large study population, especially in the early days, which didn’t consist largely of drug abusers and/or gays, and/or prostitutes and or haemophiliacs – in other words people practicing all kinds of risky behaviour involving exchange of bodily fluids, and/or eating poorly. What, in your opinion, makes crack addicts so special in these regards?

    There were plenty of subgroups with the same “confounder” profile as crack, but still all the studies from the first decade and a half found NO CORRELATION between drug use and progression to AIDS. Even Mary Jane Kreek’s 1989 study concluded that “heroin is a blessedly untoxic drug”, and was consequently used against Duesberg by AIDS Inc. hitman Jon Cohen in his 1994 Science article:

    According to Rockefeller University’s Mary Jeanne Kreek, who studies immune responses in heroin addicts, heroin users do not experience a decline in CD4 counts unless they are infected with HIV. Indeed, in 1989 Kreek reported in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics that 11 long-term heroin users had a mean of 1500 CD4s—a significant elevation from the norm and the opposite of what is seen in AIDS. “Heroin is a blessedly untoxic drug,” concludes Kreek.

    These days of course, Kreek is not so cool anymore. But Dr. Trrll, you can’t tell us that the HIVists back then weren’t tripping over themselves to tell us just how harmless the drugs were, and just how dangerous the microbe.

  27. MacDonald Says:

    Missing link to Bauer, Darin, MacD:

    http://hivskeptic.wordpress.com/2008/08/12/crack-cocaine-causes-aids/#comment-1209

  28. Truthseeker Says:

    MacD, without slogging through all this in its detail I don’t know whether this is important enough to clog a thread which is concerned with the uselessness of arguing about the trees when the forest has an obvious shape which reveals what is going on, and everyone standing in the way of recognizing the reality is busy quarreling about the meaning of the trees (details) in what is really a closed minded mode because they are 100% governed by their universal premise, that the current belief is correct, or they simply won’t even discuss them (in the case of the machine rigging potential). So whatever points are scored off them on the tree level they remain blind to the obvious unreality of their position. Perhaps one should give it a page of its own, since it is a good specimen of the Novell syndrome, judging from your recommendation. But I am not sure that those who like to print out the Comments of posts would want it in the sequence. Is that OK?

    As I noted above scoring points off a sergeant of the paradigm defense leagues is an activity which every passing month shows is more useless, unless it can be immediately understood by newcomers who might have some leverage on the politics of the issue. Why don’t you say what you think is the beef in this exchange which we might put on the plate of the outsider who is largely uninformed on the overall issue?

    The uselessness of the activity is my excuse for not completing the line by line correction of the Tara-Steven masterpiece on PLoS which somehow got loose and drifted downstream after seven episodes.

  29. MacDonald Says:

    I thought I had identified the beef in the burger: The first mainstream study concluding there’s a direct causal connection between crack cocaine use and AIDS. The Duesberg hypothesis in other words, if you’ve forgotten.

    What Graduate-gal is asking the sergeant is how he proposes to reconcile this with Ascher et al, Kaslow et al. Kreek et al. etc.

    The significance? Had the Cook et al. study come out 25 years ago, Duesberg might have had a dusty old Nobel Prize on his mantelpiece today.

    That all, no biggie. Let me not distract you further from your political meanderings

  30. Baby Pong Says:

    MacD,

    It’s “hoist on one’s own petard” not “hoisted.” I know because I once wrote a verse containing that expression and had to research it.

    But I’m sure today practically everybody says hoisted. One of those numerous cases where the error becomes the accepted idea. (so many examples of that…the qwerty keyboard, the idiotic crotch-killing bicycle seat, the suppression of the superior bicycle design–the recumbent, in favor of the dumb diamond frame… the lack of arch supports in sandals, low entryways to bathrooms in SEA that force you to stoop or knock your head [what is the reason for that anyway? are they stooping to humble themselves before Buddha because they are about to do a shameful thing–use the toilet? Even in new construction you still often find this] So many more examples that dwive me cwazy…

  31. Baby Pong Says:

    TS wrote:
    “…something that can now finally be reversed with the Democratic takeover soon to be led by a literate and clearminded national leader and man of Destiny who understands that the main national and global goals of the 21st Century have to be justice for the poor and conserving as much as exploiting resources…”

    Omigosh, you mean Obama? You mean you still believe in him? Even though the first thing he did upon securing the majority of nominating votes was to head to the Bilderberg conference in Virginia to get his new marching orders from David and Co.?

    Your naivete, well-meaning TS, is one of the wonders of the blogosphere. Of course, I hear that at Oxford they inculcate you with stuff like this, the idea that the elite are virtuous people. Is that where you went? I read that somewhere.

    It should be abundantly clear to every thinking person by now that Obama is just more of the same pretending to be something different.

    http://operationawakening.wordpress.com/2008/06/07/hillary-obamas-secret-bildeberg-meeting/

  32. Truthseeker Says:

    Crack coke causes “AIDS” ie immune problems? Glad to hear this was finally established, as per Duesberg so long ago. (Those studies by Ascher etc were exploded by Duesberg and others on the basis of a large amount of research since showing immunosuppressive effects from recreational drugs except not marijuana, partly because they suppress the appetite and starve the body of protein and trace elements vital to the immune system such as selenium and zinc, witness all those rail thin, bedraggled drug abusers without the money to hide).

    So what do we have? Since HIV causes nothing, then this and other, designer drugs must have caused AIDS in gays who patronized their extreme nightspots in the late seventies/early eighties. In Africa, we have “AIDS” as a relabeling of other ways health is sabotaged, from insufficient food of the right kind to myriad tropical diseases including especially severe TB.

    Heterosexuals in the West need not worry, except that Dr Fauci and the CDC will have them all tested if they don’t watch out and since a certain number have HIV from their mothers, they risk iatrogenic AIDS through the current drug regimen which even loyal gay activists and drug spokesman Magic Johnson take “holidays” from, since buffalo humps and liver damage are not pleasant to endure.

    Surely not. This is all too simple and clearcut. Modern science has proved that things are much more complicated than that. In the first place, nothing works unless it is fundable and patentable and costs money, and you are suggesting that if people keep away from crack and other abuses of their complex and sensitive bodily systems they will avoid “AIDS”. This is far too simple. Where would the jobs be? What would Dr Fauci do for fun? No, you can’t fool me. I am not that naive. You must be one of them denialists. Please, step back. We need to keep this area clear.

    Back to our political meanderings, we resist this cheap undermining of the reputation of Barack simply because he is adapting to the endless foolishness of the electorate in this uninformed country. He is a fine fellow, and if you can’t tell by his manner and his clearminded exposition of his sophisticated and nuanced position on the major issues that he is a totally new order of political leader then you will follow these simple points on a lower level which is the plane of media talking points, of which we have to confess we are thoroughly tired now we have seen what the possibilities are, ie the application of genuine intelligence to the vital problems faced by the world in the 21st Century.

    You can see all this if you just look at the reaction of his colleagues to Obama in Congress and the Senate. They respect him, all of them. Even Hillary said she was honored to be in his presence. Keep the faith, bro!

    The bottom line is that national policy these days is infernally difficult to formulate sensibly while you are busy running a campaign into the wee hours every day and so much error has been built into the system by the current Administration. Give the guy a break. Winning by a landslide looks more and more unlikely and short of that the machines could well be rigged. So we will all have to put up with McCain anyway. May we suggest that in this light, Obama will look like a disastrously lost opportunity?

  33. MacDonald Says:

    Mr. Pong,

    How is it possible? There is no such other thing in the entire English language as,

    “Being hoist”

    TS.

    Well if Duesberg exploded those studies long ago, everything in AIDSland should be hunky dory by now. I’ll just quit being a denialist, then, and turn to worshipping that bland coloured guy you’re so fond of.

  34. Truthseeker Says:

    ‘Hoist on your own petard’, MacD, is a common predicament. Yes, it would be very admirable if you turned from fighting battles which are long over, intellectually speaking, and turn to politics, which is the plane on which things actually get decided in a world where education, judgement, insight and being well informed counts for less and less, judging from the current Presidential campaign. Exhibit One: McCain’s responses on health reform to the mighty AARP, compared with Obama’s. Nothing bland about the latter, compared with the blather of the former, unspecific and revealing of how McCain lacks any moral and political compass other than defending the gains of the new robber barons of the 21st Century, the Bush led thieves of Washington. Nothing blander than the criminal busy pocketing the loot while professing ideology to those who have caught him in the act, or his friend who is standing by to take over the franchise, wouldn’t you agree?.

  35. Baby Pong Says:

    MacD,

    http://www.google.com/search?client=opera&rls=en&q=hoist+petard&sourceid=opera&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

    This is from Shakespeare I believe; are you saying that he didn’t know his grammar?

    Fortunately an explanation appears in that link:

    AUE: FAQ excerpt: “hoist with his own petard””Hoist” was in Shakespeare’s time the past participles of a verb “to hoise”, which meant what “to hoist” does now: to lift. A petard (see under “peter out” …

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.


Bad Behavior has blocked 117 access attempts in the last 7 days.