Fucked-Update: Conspiracy Theorizing

Written by  //  February 28, 2008  //  Fucked-Update, Politics  //  12 Comments

After the little kerfuffle in the comments thread of last week’s post, I’ve decided to clarify a few things. First off, I encourage all readers to comment whenever the mood strikes. This especially holds true for readers who disagree with me (I’m lookin’ at you, Bang Tango’ed). Disagreement sparks discussion and as long as that discussion is productive, I think that’s a good thing. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind here; I’m just spouting off my opinions because…well…because that’s the way I roll. So feel free to tell me that I’m totally off-base. I probably won’t agree with you, but I don’t hold any delusions that my opinions are better-formed or more valid than anyone else’s just because I happen to be the one who blathers on about politics and current events here at Donnybrook. But, I do ask that everybody try to refrain from ad hominem attacks on me or anyone else when they comment. After all, there’s really no way to respond to “Shut up, Cap’n, you’re a stupid dumbface” without the conversation devloving into a stream of am-not-are-too-am-not-are-toos.

Now on to the news….

Ok, so it’s not really “news” that I’m presenting you this week. You see, I have a totally irrational love of conspiracy theories. It’s not that I believe them exactly, but sometimes I’m pretty damn tempted to believe them. The best conspiracy theories are the ones that have some truth to them. It’s the truth that sucks you in and later makes you sound crazy when you repeat them to your friends and family. This week was an especially good week, because I found two–yes! two!–news stories that will make conspiracy theorists feel validated and urge them to continue making up crazy stories for people like me to enjoy.

The Bush Administration: Protecting Us from Terrorists Since…Well…Uh….


Aren’t you glad our safety is in his hands?

It’s no secret that a lot of my ideas for recent posts have come from conversations I have in bars. It’s not because people hanging out in bars in South Carolina are particularly insightful, but they do tend to say some pretty weird things sometimes. For instance, last week I was casually talking politics with a guy sitting next to me at a bar and he made the following statement: “There’s going to be a terrorist attack soon, because we’re due another one.” I’ve heard this same sentiment from other random people and from a few paranoid television pundits, and every time I wonder what the fuck they’re talking about. It’s not the idea that there could be another big attack that I take issue with. It’s the sense of urgency–the idea that we’re facing an imminent threat. Now, if there were some sort of pattern with these things, like…say…every 5 years there’s a huge terrorist attack on American soil, then they might have a point. But, as far as I can tell, that isn’t the case. So why all this residual paranoia? Is it because people still hate us? Because we’re still at war? Because nobody’s caught Osama bin Laden (unless of course, you’re into conspiracy theories, in which case he’s been dead since 2001)? Maybe people have just bought into Bush’s fearmongering propaganda. Well, today I stumbled upon this little gem.

According to ABC news, thousands of foreign students have managed to get around the TSA background check and enroll in American flight schools. Remember after 9/11 when we learned that the hijackers had been trained in American flight schools? And that many of them were known terrorists, but no one found out they were in flight school here until it was too late? Well, the FAA is still training pilots without TSA approval. In fact, former FAA inspector Bill McNease claims that in 2005 over 8,000 foreign students got pilot licenses without going through background checks. Some of them don’t even have the proper visas. This makes me wonder if the people claiming Bush will find an excuse to call off the 2008 election could actually have a point. Ok, I don’t really think Bush will cancel the election. I do think it would be awfully convenient for the Republican party if all those independent voters got the shit scared out of them so they’d vote for John McCain. But, I prefer to think people aren’t really that evil. I mean, I’ll be the first to accuse politicians of lying and manipulating, but I’m not prepared to blame them for mass murder. It does raise some questions about the Bush Administration’s commitment to homeland security. Wiretapping the entire country and invading sovereign nations all in the name of stopping terrorism seem far more complicated than doing background checks on people who enroll in flight schools.

When Karl Rove is Involved, You Know There’s Evil Afoot….


When Evil Goes to Funkytown

This conspiracy is actually really complicated and considerably less exciting than all those 911 conspiracies floating around. But, I actually think this one might have some basis in reality. Democrat Don Siegelman served as governor of Alabama from 1999 to 2003. As soon as he took office, his political opponents launched investigations trying to get him on corruption charges. He lost his re-election bid to Republican opponent Bob Riley in 2002. But the election was a little suspicious. Initially Siegelman was told that he won, but before he had a chance to give an acceptance speech, Riley announced his own victory. Siegelman checked around to figure out what was going on and was told that there were two sets of data coming from one of the counties. Then, a group of Republicans not officially authorized to do a recount, double checked the ballots and came up with a completely different total and announced that Riley had one. The Democrats in the county tried to get another recount with Democrats present, but the Republican attorney general, William Pryor, sealed the ballots and told them no one had the authority to unseal them. So Siegelman lost.

In 2005 Siegelman attempted to make a political comeback and was then charged with 32 counts of bribery and miscellaneous corruption charges. He was convicted on 7 charges and sentenced to 7 years in prison. He wasn’t permitted to be out on bail during his appeals process and has been moved several times to various out-0f-state federal prisons, sometimes without his lawyer being told where he is. The trial was pretty fucked-up. For one thing, all the judges and federal prosecutors involved were Bush appointees with ties to the campaign of Bob Riley, Siegelman’s 2002 opponent, and to Pryor, the Alabama attorney general who was responsible for the weirdness in the 2002 election. So how does Karl Rove come in? He was the one who convinced the Department of Justice to go after Siegelman on the trumped -p corruption charges. Coincidentally, he worked on Pryor’s campaign for attorney general in the late 90s.

All of this blew up when one of Riley’s campaign attorney’s, Dana Jill Simpson, came forward and testified that Riley, Rove, and the US Department of Justice had all been involved in fixing the 2002 election. Shortly after coming forward, someone burned Simpson’s house down and later tried to run her car off the road. She’s testified before the House Judiciary Committee about the Siegelman case and several US attorneys have reviewed the court transcripts and found some serious problems with the case–the biggest problem being that there isn’t much evidence Siegelman ever did anything illegal. Slowly, people are hearing about Siegelman and trying to get him out of jail.

Of course, it doesn’t help much that the mainstream media isn’t covering this case. I realize there’s a lot of other stuff going on in the country and everyone is focusing on the election, but it seems that a case like this is especially important in an election year. I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t handle another election year with Bush v. Gore style drama. So if there really is anything to all these charges of Republican election fraud, then something should be done about it.

Last Sunday, 60 Minutes ran a segment on the Siegelman case. When word got out they were going to air a story on Siegelman, Dana Jill Simpson, as well as the journalists working on the story came under attack again. CBS decided to show the Siegelman story anyway, but oddly enough, it wasn’t aired in northern Alabama. Viewers of 60 Minutes in Huntsville and Mobile were faced with black screens during the Seigelman story. Of course, the rest of the episode was fine. CBS says the problem was with the feed coming out of New York, but it seems kind of strange that the only place with a problem was Siegelman’s home state.

See…I told you all this was complicated. If you’re at all interested in Siegelman’s case after that lengthy, not at all thorough explanation, I recommend you check out some of the stuff written on the case by Scott Horton for Harper’s and Larisa Alexandrovna for Huff Po and The Raw Story.

Ever Wonder What Eminem, Metallica, and Barney Have in Common?

They’re all on the Torture playlist! Mother Jones has handy little player with all the songs so you can go listen and be grateful that you’re not a detainee trapped in some hell hole while they play the theme from Sesame Street over and over again. Feel free to leave suggestions for other torture-worthy songs in the comments.

About the Author

Cap'n Colleen

Cap'n Colleen is Donnybrook's political columnist and militant, dangerous, international activist.

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12 Comments on "Fucked-Update: Conspiracy Theorizing"

  1. Angora February 28, 2008 at 9:46 am · Reply

    Oh. my god. That list was fucking hilarious. I would agree with Meow Mix and David Gray’s “Babylon.” Some of them are less obvious gems (of torture).

    This reminds me of the one frat guy I ever talked to: he told me certain fraternities create a week of hell for the hazee by following them around with a boombox playing terrible music. The guy I knew had to deal with “Mambo # 5″ for like a week straight. I’m talking during sleep, everything. “Alittle bit of Jennifer, in my life, a little bit of blah blah blah, shoot me, please…”

    Not like I hang out with frat people…

  2. Bang Tango'ed February 28, 2008 at 10:57 am · Reply

    First, If you like the comic above, check out the rest of them at xkcd.com.. This is my personal favorite

    http://xkcd.com/150/

    Second, Outside of sleep time Mambo #5, I think I would welcome it the rest of the time. I’d be a non stop dancing machine.

    Third, Angora hangs out with Chads.

  3. Cap'n Colleen
    Capn Colleen February 28, 2008 at 11:00 am · Reply

    Doh! Thanks for linking to the xkcd site. I forgot to stick that in there.

    I love them too.

    I don’t, however, love Mambo #5.

  4. Bang Tango'ed February 28, 2008 at 11:00 am · Reply

    I almost forgot. I just watched a film called The Hunting Party. Very good, true to life, conspiracy theories brought to the big screen. It was pretty entertaining, and is relevant to the Osama being dead conspiracy theory.

  5. Ivyy February 28, 2008 at 11:03 am · Reply

    YES!! Born in the USA made the list!!! I feel as if i’m being tortured every time i hear that song, for sure.

    On another note- I read some article somewhere (I honestly can’t remember where) about the new electronic voting machines that have been used in recent years in elections. Apparently some non-partisan group hired some computer hackers to see what up. The hackers came back and basically said someone with a 2nd grade knowledge of computers could hack ANY voting machine using only a credit card and a paperclip or something, and make it count ANY way the person wants. I don’t think conspiracy theories are necessary when a simple voting machine snafu can win you an election.

  6. Bang Tango'ed February 28, 2008 at 11:11 am · Reply

    As an computer security professional myself, I’m not sure I believe the validity of that claim.

  7. Cap'n Colleen
    Capn Colleen February 28, 2008 at 11:14 am · Reply

    Yes, Bang Tango’ed, but you probably care about keeping things secure for the purposes of your job.

    I’m not convinced Diebold (or any other voting machine companies) is.

    It would be possible to keep them secure, but it would also be possible to intentionally leave them unsecured, yes?

  8. Bang Tango'ed February 28, 2008 at 11:26 am · Reply

    I had to look into this a bit more. Basically the hack goes as follows.

    1. You have to first break into the machine by either obtaining a copy of the key that gets into them, which I’m sure isn’t easy to come by, or pick the lock, which is probably not as difficult as the first idea but still relatively challenging.

    2. After you gain access to the machine you have to flip a switch on it’s motherboard to allow it to load new software. If someone was to leave the switch flipped it would be obvious evidence that someone had tampered with the machine.

    3. You close the machine back up, take the software from the people who came up with the hack at http://itpolicy.princeton.edu/voting/, and load it onto the machine.

    4. In order to not get caught you would than have to open the machine back up and flip that switch again to cover up your trail.

    So still frighteningly easy, but requires a bit of knowledge to get the job done.

    I also went to diebold’s website to see what kind of changes they have made to their system to prevent these sorts of things. Basically it’s hardwired now so that no matter what you can’t load new software onto the system. They removed any external peripherals so that you can’t just plug in your USB thumb drive and load software onto the system. The final thing I found is that they added steps to ensure that any sort of tampering with the device, i.e. picking the lock and tinkering with it, will be caught. I imagine this probably comes in the form of booby traps, like a hair across the locking mechanism that will fall if tampered with.

    Thats what I would do.

  9. Cap'n Colleen
    Capn Colleen February 28, 2008 at 11:30 am · Reply

    While we’re talking Diebold, everyone should watch this.

    Why? Because it’s brilliant.

  10. Bang Tango'ed February 28, 2008 at 11:34 am · Reply

    Thats great Colleen. Reminds me of this.

    http://www.cbc.ca/arts/music/story/2008/02/24/blackcrowes-review.html?ref=rss

    The lesson is, get your music advice from Father Guido, not douchious maximus.

  11. Cap'n Colleen
    Capn Colleen February 28, 2008 at 11:40 am · Reply

    Holy Hell! That’s ridiculous!

    I mean, my standards for Maxim aren’t high, but that is just silly.

  12. Bang Tango'ed February 29, 2008 at 7:09 am · Reply

    I don’t know what’s funnier. That they did it, or that they defend doing it.

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