Yesterday as I was driving to work with a morning cappuccino in hand, the phone rang. “What do you think about your book being on Osama bin Laden’s bookshelf?” a reporter inquired.
Bizarre. Odd. Stunning. What does one say about something so unexpected?
“Well the Black Box Voting book has made its way to a lot of unusual places,” I said. And it has: In 2004, I got a call from Washington D.C. telling me to overnight the book. At that time I didn’t even have an organization, and I was traveling. A couple weeks later he called me back. “It’s for the White House Library,” he said. “Where is it?” I guess I didn’t send it timely, but three weeks after the call I did send the book to them. If the White House Library still has it then I guess the book is on Obama’s bookshelf and Osama’s bookshelf. Quite a demographic spread. (Though when it was ordered, George W. Bush was in office.)
Twelve years ago I made the book available for free here on this website, where it’s been all the time — except for yesterday. For some reason no one could access it, nor any other report on this site. Engineers got the site up and running again late last night, and the book is available for free here again:
At the time I published the book, Kindle wasn’t even on the map so there was no e-book. Yesterday I spoke with very helpful people at Amazon.com, who helped guide me through getting it up at Amazon, and reinstating an option to get a physical copy. An updated version is coming out late this year for the 2016 election.
Here is a link to the Los Angeles Times’ article listing the books on bin Laden’s bookshelf:
As I thought about it, I couldn’t understand how Osama could really have gotten his hands on a physical copy of the book. Only about 800 physical copies went out, though by now we’ve had well over half a million downloads of it. The only time physical copies were available, it was only 2 1/2 years after the Sept. 11 attack, and Osama was supposedly hiding in a cave having dialysis or something. When I brought this point up to a reporter this morning she said “maybe someone sent it to him.” Really? Who would have his mailing address back in the cave?
I have since read that he had downloaded a lot of material from the Internet. Mystery solved. He probably had PDF copies, just like you can get right here at blackboxvoting.org.
While searching for a link to a news article about Osama’s bookshelf, I found one slightly slipshod reporter at The Telegraph mentioned Black Box Voting and the Osama bookshelf under the subhead “cashing in,” reporting that some authors spent the day checking to see if their book was on the infamous bookshelf:
Then he quoted a temporary message at this website letting readers know they could get the book on Amazon.com shortly, which apparently he thought was “cashing in.” He omitted the information, in the same paragraph, explaining that the website was down and we were working on restoring it, which we expected to happen in just hours. He never called to ask if we were making it available for free on Amazon just as we do here. There was no need to cast an unfavorable light on the important work we’ve done here for years, and I guarantee you I am too busy to sit around looking for bookshelves where copies of my free book might be.
At least the Black Box Voting book was in good company. The bookshelf included books by John Perkins (Confessions of an Economic Hitman); Greg Palast (Best Democracy Money can Buy), Noam Chomsky, Bob Woodward, and many other authors of note.
I appreciate all of you who posted kind words on Facebook, Twitter etc. I have asked the web folks how to tweak this site to make it more mobile-friendly, and I am continuing to develop new, original, cutting edge work on improving electoral transparency everywhere.
Black Box Voting