Friday, September 19, 2008
Lost in the hoopla surrounding the hacking of one of Gov. Sarah Palin's Yahoo e-mail accounts are a couple of key points.
As first reported on HuffPo, the hacking incident gave Palin aides a convenient excuse to delete not one, but two of Palin's Yahoo accounts. After 27 year-old Palin assistant Ivy Frye was notified of the hacking on Wednesday morning, the compromised account (firstname.lastname@example.org) vanished, along with the other private Yahoo account that Palin has acknowledged using for public business (email@example.com).
A public records lawsuit has been filed to release Palin's Yahoo e-mail trail, which is thought to contain multiple e-mails pertinent to the Troopergate investigation into whether she abused her power as governor.
Also important is what exactly was leaked during the hacking.
Forget the screenshots of fairly innocuous e-mails, partial shots of Palin's inbox, two family photos, and her personal contact list. The most intriguing thing posted online was a cut-and-pasted, text-only inbox list showing subject headers, dates and who e-mailed Palin at this account. The inbox list goes back to early August, almost a month before John McCain recklessly picked Palin as his VP.
On July 28, a bipartisan panel of Alaska legislators voted unanimously to hire an independent investigator to probe Palin and her staff over Troopergate, events set in motion by Palin's July 11 firing of DPS (Department of Public Safety) Commissioner Walt Monegan.
Top Palin aide Frank Bailey figures large in the Troopergate scandal. Bailey was placed on paid administrative leave by Palin on August 19 after an audio recording surfaced of a call Bailey had made in February pressuring Alaska state troopers to fire Palin's ex-brother-in-law Mike Wooten. Yet although on leave, Palin's inbox shows another two e-mails from Frank Bailey (using the e-mail address "firstname.lastname@example.org") were received on Sept. 5.
Michael Nizich is Palin's Chief of Staff, and has also been implicated in and subpoenaed over Troopergate. On August 7, he sent an e-mail to Palin's Yahoo account with the subject line, "FW: CONFIDENTIAL Ethics Matter." The following week, on August 13, Palin held a press conference disclosing that in addition to Bailey's phone call in February, members of her staff had made about two dozen contacts with public safety officials about her ex-brother-in-law.
Palin at Aug. 13 press conference
Randall Ruaro serves as Deputy Chief of Staff for Palin. On August 19, the same day Palin announced that Frank Bailey would be placed on paid leave, Ruaro sent an e-mail to her private Yahoo account titled, "FW: DPS Personnel and Budget Issues." The following day, he followed up with another e-mail, "FW: DPS Employee Draft."
At the very least, these leaked inbox glimpses all show Sarah Palin was using "email@example.com" to conduct state business, which she had not previously disclosed, despite an ongoing public records lawsuit to release all e-mails related to her official duties.
She had admitted using "firstname.lastname@example.org" for official business, so why not reveal this second Yahoo account? If not for this week's hacking incident, it would have remained unknown to the world. Why the secrecy? Why try so hard to cover up your e-mail trail? What exactly is Gov. Palin trying to hide?
The irony is that as numerous observers have noted, relying on Yahoo e-mail accounts instead of a propietary, secure system means Palin's accounts have not been deleted forever. E-mail providers like Yahoo keep backups, and the e-mails could be retrieved under court order if subpoenaed as part of an investigation.
Since the McCain campaign is expending maximum effort trying to shut down the bipartisan investigation into Troopergate, one can only conclude that where there's smoke, there was probably a smoking gun or two somewhere in Palin's Yahoo e-mails.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
A strange hacking incident earlier today tied up another loose end for Gov. Sarah Palin.
Overnight, one of Palin's Yahoo e-mail accounts was compromised, allegedly by members of the leaderless collective of hackers known as "Anonymous." A hacker apparently cracked the password to the e-mail address "email@example.com," posted it to a public forum, and then multiple users copied some of the e-mails and information the acccount contained
This morning one user reset the password, notified a Palin aide of the security breach, and the Yahoo account was soon deleted. Simultaneously, a second personal Yahoo account used by Palin, "firstname.lastname@example.org," was also deleted.
Screenshot of one of Palin's Yahoo e-mails
Screenshots of some of Palin's e-mails and photos were posted online. Wired's Threat Level blog has confirmed the authenticity of at least one of the hacked e-mails.
An e-mail from July between Palin and Alaska Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell gives insight into Palin's tendency to demonize her political opponents. In reference to local talk radio host Dan Fagan, who has refused to back Parnell's bid for Congress, Palin commented, "His fighting you reveals some evil stuff going on with him."
Last week, the Washington Post reported that Palin regularly used one of the two Yahoo e-mail accounts that was deleted today, "email@example.com," to conduct public business, and copied her husband, Todd, on some e-mails. A Republican activist in Anchorange, Andrée McLeod, has filed suit seeking to have 1,100 e-mails made public that Palin has withheld from an open records request, on suspicion that Palin aides engaged in political activity on state time.
McLeod calls Palin's use of Yahoo accounts for official state business "the most nonsensical, inane thing I've ever heard of." Todd Palin was often copied on e-mails relating to the Troopergate scandal, says McLeod, which nullifies her claim of executive privilege for witholding the e-mails. According to an appeal filed last week to release the rest of Palin's Yahoo e-mail trail:
"(Gov. Palin) has allowed Todd Palin -- who has not been elected by the people of Alaska, who is not a state employee -- to entangle himself apparently as he sees fit in the operations of the executive branch of the state government."
Palin's reliance on personal e-mail accounts for her official duties makes a mockery of her 2006 pledge while campagning for Governor of Alaska to run an "open and transparent" administration. "Where you've got a governor apparently using a Yahoo account for state business, that's kind of a complete inversion of what ought to be happening in terms of public records," said Charles Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.
Special assistant Ivy Frye, whose name appears in screenshots of the hacked account's inbox, was one of the Palin appointees who tried hard to find loopholes in the law that would allow Gov. Palin to continue conducting state business on personal e-mail accounts without fear of disclosure. Frye, 27, worked as a receptionist before joining Palin's gubernatorial campaign, and her frequent interactions with the Palin children have earned her the title of "the babysitter" among Alaska legislators. As the Washington Post revealed:
"On March 17, minutes after peppering a state official about whether e-mails about state business contained on a personal BlackBerry could become public, senior Palin aide Ivy Frye addressed a message to both Palins and two other aides: 'In sum, it's just as I thought -- questions of confidentiality are still unanswered by law.'"
The Anchorage Daily News confirms Palin "has one of the devices (which allow users to read and send e-mails) for state business, another for personal matters, but those worlds intertwine."
Palin and her two BlackBerries, backstage at McCain VP announcement rally in Ohio on Aug. 29
Anonymous is the same group of hackers embroiled in an ongoing feud with the Church of Scientology. Last January, members were responsible for posting an internal Scientology training video featuring an interview with Tom Cruise on YouTube. It was widely viewed and ridiculed. Soon after, they coordinated denial-of-service attacks against Scientology websites, prank calls, and sending black faxes to Scientology centers.
Taking its activism offline, Anonymous helped organize protest marches in cities around the world against Scientology on March 15, including Boston, Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Vancouver, Toronto, Berlin, and Dublin.
Two weeks later, the collective was blamed for allegedly posting flashing computer animations on the Epilepsy Foundation of America's website, which could induce seizures in epileptic viewers. Anonymous members denied responsibility for the attack, suggesting the Church of Scientology was actually behind it, attempting "to ruin the public opinion of Anonymous."
The truly troubling part of this episode is that both of Sarah Palin's Yahoo e-mail accounts were deleted this morning - not just the compromised one, but also the other personal Yahoo account that Palin acknowledged using for public business (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Has this hacking incident given Palin a convenient way to dodge the eventual release of whatever else she had hidden in her Yahoo e-mail accounts?
(UPDATE 9/18 - Wired has posted a supposed first person account of the hacking. There is debate over whether the individual who first hacked Palin's e-mail was a self-identified Anonymous member, or simply posted the account's password to an on-line message board frequented by Anonymous hackers.)
(UPDATE 10/8 - David Kernell, 20, of Memphis, TN, was indicted yesterday on a single count of "intentionally accessing without authorization" Palin's Yahoo e-mail account. Kernell, who was arraigned today and pleaded not guilty, is the son of Tennessee state Rep. Mike Kernell, a Democratic state legislator.
But far from being a Democratic Party operative or even activist, Kernell appears to have allegedly hacked Palin's e-mail for other reasons, describing the incident as "just some prank to me" in a purported first hand account previously published by Wired. He is also a troubled individual who claims to have been hospitalized twice for depression.
In a post from June, 2003 on a blog he kept for a short time called "Apocoliptic visions," Kernell wrote:
"My name is David Kernell I am 15 a white cacasian male i live in memphis, TN. My favorite and only hobby is chess, more like an obsession. I am not afraid to say that i have acute depression and have been institutionalized twice, one at th age of 9 in Texas and one this past year. I have been strugleing with this for my entire life...")
Friday, September 12, 2008
(UPDATE 9/13 - 70 newspapers in swing states have been paid to distribute Obsession this weekend and next, which means not all the DVDs have been delivered yet. Check the list at the end of this post to see if your newspaper is one of them, and let them know how you feel about their participation in this shameless propaganda campaign.)
This week, 28 million copies of a right-wing, terror propaganda DVD are being mailed and bundled in newspaper deliveries to voters in swing states. The 60-minute DVDs, titled Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West, are landing on doorsteps in a campaign coinciding with the 7th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Funding is coming from a New York-based group called the Clarion Fund, a shadowy outfit whose financial backers are unclear.
The program was originally shown on Fox News in the days leading up to the 2006 mid-term elections, and far right-wing activist David Horowitz toured the country screening the film on college campuses during 2007. Mainstream religious groups have called Obsession biased and divisive. It cuts between scenes of Nazi rallies and footage of Muslim children being encouraged to become suicide bombers.
Talking heads in the film include infamous anti-Muslim, self-proclaimed "islamophobes" like Daniel Pipes and Walid Shoebat. In 2001, Pipes claimed the "presence" and "enfranchisement" of Muslims in the U.S. presented "true dangers to American Jews." Shoebat is an evangelical Christian who falsely claims to be a former Muslim terrorist. Last year, Shoebat told the Missouri Springfield News-Leader, "Islam is not the religion of God - Islam is the devil."
As detailed in an OffTheBus report on HuffPo two days ago, the DVDs were distributed last weekend in national editions of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal within selected swing states. These included Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia.
Sally Lopez of Lemoyne, PA displays a copy of the DVD that came in the mail.
Here in North Carolina, another battleground state that John McCain must win to reach 270 electoral votes, 160,000 copies of the DVD are to be distributed tomorrow by the state's leading newspaper.
The Raleigh News & Observer reported yesterday on its Under The Dome politics blog that the paper is preparing to bundle copies of the DVD with this Saturday's newspapers. Jim McClure, vice president of display advertising for the N&O, said the "ultimate decision" to distribute the DVDs had been made by publisher Orage Quarles, and compared the propaganda to harmless household samples.
"'Obviously, we have distributed other product samples, whether it's cereal or toothpaste,' he said. He declined to say how much the agency paid."
The News & Observer recently announced deep buyouts and layoffs for its employees. It is owned by the struggling McClatchy news chain, which is slashing newsroom jobs and pages at the papers it owns around the country. Advertising revenues have plummeted during the ongoing economic downturn, and it appears the N&O is now auctioning off its journalistic integrity to the highest bidder.
The paper's announcement touched off immediate criticism from angry subscribers:
"A box of cereal? Toothpaste? Does a box of cereal or a tube of toothpaste encourage me to look with hatred and suspicion on my law abiding neighbors who have a different religion than mine? Does cereal and toothpaste lead to pogroms, religious harassment, fear and intimidation? The trailer for this video is about hate, pure and simple, and shows the video has only one goal -- to instill fear and hatred of neighbor against neighbor.
If I receive this DVD in my paper, that day, after 22 years of receiving the N&O, will be the last day of my subscription.
Please, please reconsider this decision!"
Although supposedly a 501 c(3) non-profit, this week the Clarion Fund's website featured an article supporting John McCain. Yesterday, the Patriot-News in PA reported on the DVDs showing up in Pennsylvania, and noted:
"On Wednesday, though, there was an article on the group's new Web site, www.radicalislam.org, that backed Republican presidential candidate John McCain. The article discusses both candidates and concludes: "McCain's policies seek to confront radical Islamic extremism and terrorism and roll it back while [Barack] Obama's, although intending to do the same, could in fact make the situation facing the West even worse."
According to Clarion Fund director of communications Gregory Ross, the article "crossed the line" and would be removed.
Where else exactly are these DVDs landing, and who's funding the Clarion Fund?
If you'd like to give News & Observer executives a piece of your mind, executive editor John Drescher can be reached at (919) 829-4515, or email@example.com. Or ask for publisher Orage Quarles at the paper's main phone number, (919) 829-4500.
(UPDATE 9/13 - Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher has more details. And here's a state-by-state list of most of the 70 newspapers in swing states that have agreed to deliver this garbage to their subscribers:
Colorado - Boulder Daily Camera, Centennial Citizen, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post, Fort Collins Coloradoan, Greeley Tribune
Iowa - Daily Nonpareil, Des Moines Register, Iowa City Press Citizen, Quad City Times, Sioux City Journal
Florida - Daily Commercial, Florida Times-Union, Ft. Lauderdale El Sentinel, Ft. Myers News Press, Miami Herald, Ocala Star Banner, Orlando Sun Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Tampa Tribune, Tallahassee Democrat, St. Petersburg Times, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Michigan - Detroit Free-Press, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Lansing State Journal
Missouri - Springfield News-Leader
Nevada - Las Vegas Review-Journal/Sun, Nevada Appeal, Reno Gazette-Journal
New Hampshire - Portsmouth Herald News, Union Leader
New Mexico - Clovis News Journal, Hobbs News-Sun, Rio Rancho Observer
Ohio - Canton Repository, Columbus Dispatch, Dayton Daily News, Hamilton JournalNews, Middletown Journal, Morning Journal, Springfield News-Sun, Toledo Blade, Youngstown Vindicator
North Carolina - Charlotte Observer, Raleigh News & Observer
Pennsylvania - Bucks Co. Courier Times, Erie Times-News, Morning Call, Philadelphia Inquirer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Reading Eagle, The Patriot-News
Virginia - Sun-Gazette, Virginian-Pilot
Wisconsin - Green Bay Press-Gazette, Janesville Gazette, Journal Times, La Crosse Tribune, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
(UPDATE 9/15 - Only two papers bravely refused to push this poison on their communities - the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in Missouri and the Greensboro News & Record in North Carolina. The American Muslim website has posted a lengthy list of "Resources for Responding to Obsession DVD Mass Distribution," and a detailed look at organizations and individuals involved in the production, promotion and distribution of the film - "Who is behind Relentless, Obsession and The Third Jihad?"
The progressive Jewish group JewsOnFirst.org has a thorough report on the Clarion Fund’s background and role in pushing these hate DVDs. Highlights include the film's past ties to the Republican Jewish Coalition, Clarion's rent-an-address location, its incorporator, New York attorney Eli Greenberg, spokesman Gregory Ross’ implausible denial that the Fund also paid to distribute Obsession at both the Democratic and Republican conventions, and Ross’ statement that the Clarion Fund will not disclose its donors’ names.
Obsession at the conventions.
However, one detail in this report seems mistaken, that "because it was established only recently, the Clarion Fund has not yet filed its first required disclosure (Form 990) with the IRS." According to the New York Secretary of State’s website, the Clarion Fund was incorporated nearly two years ago, on December 28, 2006. So where are their Form 990's? Hello, IRS?)
(UPDATE 9/26 - NPR's Secret Money Project has picked up the trail of who's behind the Clarion Fund, and posted good information HERE and HERE. Earlier today, NPR also aired a story on Morning Edition - "Charity Floods Swing States With Anti-Islam DVD." Omid Safi of the American Academy of Religion has exhaustive coverage of Clarion Fund backers in his post, "Who Put Hate in My Sunday Paper?")
(UPDATE 9/30 - On Sept. 26, four days after the Dayton Daily News in Ohio distributed Obsession to its subscribers, there was a cowardly attack on three hundred American Muslims at a Dayton mosque. Unknown assailants, described by a witness as two white men, sprayed a toxic substance through a window of the mosque into a room where infants and children were waiting as their parents conducted Ramadan prayers. Chris Rodda of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has the full story, including excerpts from a graphic e-mail sent out by a family member of children who were gassed. Dayton police are refusing to treat the attack as a hate crime.
The incident has received little mainstream media attention since it occurred, except for one post from yesterday by Philadelphia Daily News senior writer Will Bunch. Not surprising, because it's pretty damning evidence that the newspapers who distributed Obsession DVDs have stirred up intolerance and hatred in their communities and encouraged this kind of terrorism.)
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Until last week, recent events in the presidential race might have seemed too strange for fiction. A movie about a candidate battling age-related concerns, who would be the oldest president in history if elected, choosing the least experienced VP ever, and announcing the choice on his 72nd birthday? It would have been laughed off the screen. Thanks to John McCain's warped judgment, no one's laughing now.
Add in the fact that the McCain campaign rolled out Sarah Palin by focusing on her family and biography, managing to whitewash most of her extreme right-wing views, and you'd have more cause for disbelief. Yet the mass media was celebrity-struck. McCain played the Paris Hilton card against Barack Obama, accusing him of being too famous. Still, McCain wanted his own infotainment soap opera star to juice up his lackluster campaign, and in Palin he got one.
Palin has rallied the far right Republican base, drooling at the 1 in 3 actuarial chance that McCain will die in office if McCain/Palin win. Since she wants to ban abortions with no exceptions for rape or incest, what would a President Palin's Supreme Court picks look like?
But she's also got Democrats and independent voters mad as hell that McCain would gamble with the future of our country so recklessly.
So what to do? How can progressives channel our outrage over the prospect of an unqualified, dangerously far-right wing ideologue, rabidly partisan pitbull with lipstick like Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency?
Here's a simple solution. If there's an Obama campaign office near you, get down there and volunteer. Don't fool yourself into thinking one more volunteer won't make a difference. It will, and they need us. If your state is true blue or red and not in play this cycle at the presidential level, you can volunteer for a Democratic candidate for Congress. And it's not too late to donate or raise some money from friends for Obama. Log onto MyBarackObama.com to get started.
Four years ago, I worked for John Kerry in North Carolina. Based in Durham and Orange counties, the most liberal part of the state, I oversaw a voter registration effort that added more than a quarter of all the voters registered that year by the N.C. Democrats.
The most important factor was that we mobilized a huge number of local volunteers into a grassroots voter registration army. In 2004, Democrats were fired up to get rid of George W. Bush. Even folks normally detached from politics were energized by the unfolding disaster of Bush's first term in the White House, and the mess he'd gotten us into by invading Iraq.
By the voter registration deadline, more than 400 volunteers were working with us to register voters in both counties, with teams on the ground three shifts a day. From the Durham Democratic party office, we deployed volunteer voter registrars to high-traffic sites - grocery stores, bus stations, college campuses, libraries, concerts, festivals, and anywhere else we could think to register likely Democratic voters. As our volunteer ranks exploded, the number of voters we added to the rolls reached into the thousands.
The weekend before election day, U.S. Rep. David Price was on hand to watch the crowd of get-out-the-vote volunteers streaming into our headquarters, so big they filled the parking lot. "They trained 1,000 people in Durham," he was overheard saying later, in wonderment. It was the largest outpouring of support ever seen for a North Carolina election.
Yet even with all the volunteers we had, and all we accomplished in our office, we could have done a lot more. We did everything we could to get volunteers in the door, but there were still many nights in the campaign's final two months with work to be done, and not enough hands on deck to do it.
A big part of the reason Bush was able to add three million votes in 2004 to his popular vote totals from 2000 was because Karl Rove masterminded a sweeping Republican voter registration drive during those years. GOP activists all over the country signed up voters at conservative churches and events like state fairs, NASCAR races, and country music concerts.
During 2008, the Obama campaign has flipped the script. Our efforts in 2004 were funded by the N.C. Democratic Party. By contrast, Obama has directly invested in voter registration as part of his national strategy. Obama field organizers started registering voters during the primary season, and have picked up where they left off in every state being contested for the general election.
And it's working. News accounts have trickled out all year long about Democrats adding voters to the rolls since 2004, while Republican registrations have declined.
September is possibly the month in an election cycle when volunteer help is the most productive. Voter registration deadlines in most states (the ones without same-day registration) don't occur until early October. If you show up to volunteer now, you can bank votes for Obama. You can roll up your sleeves and transform your distaste for Sarah Palin and John McCain into on-the-ground activity that will help win this election.
Plus, you'll have a good time. I met my wife on the campaign trail in 2004. Campaign offices are social places. You'll meet dedicated, good-hearted people who share your views and have fun fighting for a common goal. Make time to do it. Turn the local Obama office into your hang-out spot for the next couple months.
Four years ago, after John Kerry failed to respond forcefully to a month of swiftboating attacks, we saw a marked decrease in volunteer enthusiasm in our office. The energy picked back up, but it was valuable time lost. At a moment when McCain is coming off his convention bounce in the polls, Republicans would love it if we lost hope again, sat back on our hands and did nothing.
The stakes are high. Go volunteer today.
Friday, September 5, 2008
I got a fascinating e-mail from a Wasilla, Alaska resident who was witness to Sarah Palin's tenure as mayor. Except for a New York Times article this week that explored how Palin ran as an anti-abortion candidate of the Christian right, I haven't yet seen much detailed reporting of exactly what she did as a local government official in Wasilla. How did Palin handle the "actual responsibilities" of a small-town mayor that she bragged about to the nation on Wednesday night, when she was officially nominated as John McCain's VP?
For starters, Palin "turned Wasilla into a wasteland of big box stores and disconnected parking lots" while lowering taxes for businesses and increasing the sales tax burden on residents. Far from being a fiscal conservative, she "oversaw the greatest expansion of city government in Wasilla's history." Palin borrowed taxpayers' money to fund an unprofitable sports complex "in a city without a sewage treatment plant or storm drainage system," and "built streets to early 20th century standards."
This account lays it all out, from an observer who says she "attended more City Council meetings during (Palin's) administration than about 99% of the residents of the city." She was one of roughly 100 Wasilla citizens who stood up for the city librarian when Palin tried to fire her in 1996, early in her first term as mayor.
But what really struck me was the picture this author paints of Palin's ruthless, unbridled ambition, and willingness to try and fire or destroy anyone who stands in her way. Even though national reporters are hunkering down in Alaska, the details of Palin's life and political career emerging from her hometown will probably be distorted and whitewashed. Her own neighbors are afraid to speak out about what they've witnessed during her quick rise to power, scared to cross her, fearful of retribution.
If this side of Sarah Palin was more widely known, it would frighten and disgust most of the U.S. voting public. Haven't we had enough of incompetent, crony-driven leadership from George W. Bush over the past eight years? Do we really want someone in national office who believes rabidly partisan, personal political loyalty tests should continue to be the sole qualification for government employment? Someone who keeps enemies lists, and surrounds herself with appointees who are "loyal to the point of abusing their power to further her personal agenda"?
Here's more excerpts from the e-mail...
(UPDATE 9/8: This e-mail is no hoax. Its author is Anne Kilkenny, a homemaker and education advocate from Wasilla, Alaska. She wrote it on August 31 and sent it out to friends and family, but asked that it not be posted online with her name attached. It went viral anyway. Later in the week, with her permission, it was published online by various media outlets including the Anchorage Daily News, Crosscut Seattle, and The Nation. Yesterday Anne herself posted the full text of her e-mail on HuffPo.)
Even More Outrage via Leftweets.org