The battle of Fallujah
A compelling account by Tom Lasseter for Knight-Ridder Newspapers. (11/29/04)
Know which corps. bankrolled the GOP
See lists of corporations that directed most of their political donations to the Republicans, as well as corporations that divided their largess more evenly, or favored Democrats. See the most partisan Republican corporations here. Make sure you let them know how much you appreciate their political leanings. (11/21/04)
Who is Ernie Istook and why does he want to see your tax returns?
Rep. Ernie Istook (R-Okla.), source of the offensive IRS snooping provisions found tucked into the omnibus spending bill Saturday night, previously was noted as author of the "Istook amendment," at the heart of the post-Contract With America GOP fight to "de-fund the left" in the mid-1990s, an effort to undermine or eliminate liberal advocacy groups and their opposition to the right-wing agenda, by destroying their funding mechanisms, Kagro X notes at DailyKos.com.
"It ultimately failed, but apparently Istook never gave up on his mission to target and harass liberal advocates, as we learned on the Senate floor last night."
Josh Marshall has more on the latest "Istook amendment."
New Senate GOP rule enforces discipline, threatens moderates
Last Wednesday, Senate Republicans approved a little-noticed rule change that allows the caucus leader to make committee appointments instead of having members choose committees based on their seniority in the chamber. As upd2date notes at DailyKos.com, It may sound innocent enough, but it's not. (11/21/04)
Congress OKs tax return snooping
Republicans slip a provision into the 1,000-page $388 billion omnibus spending bill to allow House and Senate chairs or their "agents" to access anybody's income tax return and do with it what they will with no restrictions whatsoever. The provision nearly slipped through undetected as the bill was rushed to a Saturday deadline for passage, but an alert Senate Democrat discovered it in time to raise holy hell. See Kos diaries for Nov. 20 and Josh Marshall.
The provision apparently was slipped into the massive bill at the last minute by Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla. Democrats were not notified and Senate Republicans insisted they knew nothing about it until Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., pointed it out on the Senate floor.
The Senate went ahead and passed the bill, but added a resolution that the tax snoop provision will not take effect and agreed not to send the bill to the White House until the House also strips the tax snoop provision. House Speaker Dennis Hastert promises that the House will take up the resolution when it comes back to town next week.
This unprecedented attempt to invade the privacy of taxpayers failed to make the leads -- much less get separate stories -- in what passes for our newspapers of record, the New York Times and the Washington Post. (The Post focused on another late House provision that allows health care providers and insurance companies to decline to provide abortion services or referreals. The Times in its second paragraph mentioned that en route to passage the Senate had agreed to "a convoluted procedure to eliminate a newly discovered provision that many lawmakers found objectionable.") AP filed a serviceable account on the tax snoop provision. (11/21/04, updated)
Thanks for small favors: House stalls intel reform
Given the increasing politicization of the CIA under GOP hack Porter Goss, maybe it's a good thing that legislation to dramatically reshape the nation's spy agencies collapsed in the House Saturday in a dispute over military control over battlefield intelligence and an effort to use the bill to crack down on illegal immigrants.
Senators on Sunday raised hopes that they could revive the bill, which would give the Director of Central Intelligence (renamed the Director of National Intelligence) control over 15 agencies that gather intelligence, when Congress meets Dec. 6. With Goss, a former congressman, reportedly in the midst of conducting a purge of agency employees who fail to toe the Bush administration's line, we think congressional leaders should send the intel "reform" bill to the morgue and risk competition in the intelligence community, rather than let George W. Bush put a hack like Goss in charge. (11/21/04)
Voting problems summarized
See the article in Widipedia for a good summary of the story thus far. (11/19/04)
'Stinking evidence' of possible election fraud reported in Florida
Thom Hartmann reports on the exploits of Bev Harris, voter verification activist with BlackBoxVoting.org, who reportedly found election officials at Florida's Volusia County throwing away printouts from optical scan machines. When Harris and an associate compared the discarded, signed, original tapes with the recent printouts submitted to the state and used to tabulate the Florida election winners, Harris says a disturbing pattern emerged, with anomalies of hundreds of votes in each of the precincts they examined. Harris added, "The pattern was very clear. The anomalies favored George W. Bush. Every single time." (11/19/04)
Voting problems reported
VotersUnite! presents a compilation of problems reported in the media about the 2004 general election. See VotersUnite.org. (11/17/04)
New sheriff at Justice
Now that Alberto "Geneva Convention is obsolete" Gonzales is picked to take over the Justice Department, Uggabugga has designed a new seal.
For the Latin-impaired, the motto translates: "The ends justify the means." (11/16/04)
Ohio recount going forward, thanks to Greens and Libertarians
John Kerry and the Democratic Party are still standing by, hoping that more than 155,000 provisional and an unknown number of absentee ballots in Ohio eventually will get counted, but otherwise clearing the way for a second term for George W. Bush. But thanks to Green and Libertarian candidates for president, David Cobb and Michael Badnarik, all 5.5 million Ohio votes will be recounted.
"Due to widespread reports of irregularities in the Ohio voting process, we are compelled to demand a recount of the Ohio presidential vote. Voting is the heart of the democratic process in which we as a nation put our faith. When people stand in line for hours to exercise their right to vote, they need to know that all votes will be counted fairly and accurately. We must protect the rights of the people of Ohio, as well as all Americans, and stand up for the right to vote and the right for people's votes to be counted. The integrity of the democratic process is at stake," the two candidates said in a joint statement.
The candidates also demanded that Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican who chaired the Ohio Bush campaign, recuse himself from the recount process.
The two parties raised $150,000 to pay the filing fee and costs for the recount. They are now raising $100,000 to cover the costs of monitoring the recount. To contribute to the recount costs, see www.votecobb.org/.
US Rep. Dennis Kucininich, D-Cleveland, notes that, contrary to popular impression, no Diebold electronic voting machines were used in Ohio.
VerifiedVoting.org notes that only six of 88 Ohio counties used touch-screen voting. Thirteen used optical-scan voting and the rest used punch cards.
Meanwhile, voters told of waiting more than five hours to vote, voter intimidation, under-trained polling-station workers and too few or broken voting machines largely in urban or heavily minority areas were retold Saturday, Nov. 13, at a public hearing organized by voter-rights groups. (11/15/04)
Math, not conspiracy theory, calls for election review
Bob Harris is among the bloggers linking to a paper by Dr. Steven Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania, who examined the available exit poll data that was at variance with vote counts in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania and found the exit poll data fundamentally sound.
Harris writes: "What jumped out at a lot of people on the night of the election was how the 'errors' in the exit polls consistently occured in the same direction.
"Without getting into all the state-by-state details -- I'll let Prof. Freeman tend to the numbers -- what happened last Tuesday, where a wide variety of extremely accurate exit polls suddenly turned out to be at the extremes or even beyond their margin of error, was exceedingly unlikely -- even if the benefits of these errors had been evenly distributed.
"But they weren't evenly distributed. They favored Bush. Over and over and over. That's the coin flipping. And flipping. And still coming up heads. Heads in Florida. Heads in Ohio. Heads in a bunch of other swing states (even while the exit polls remained relatively accurate elsewhere). Almost everywhere the election was close, the coin just kept coming up heads.
"How bad was it?
"According to Dr. Freeman's analysis... 1 in 250,000,000."
Harris wrote that nobody seems to want to talk about the possibility that election fraud occurred, but "We already know that allies of this twice-unelected president in Florida and Ohio screwed with the voter rolls, screwed with people's ability to vote, and are working right this very minute to continue distorting the vote, right before our eyes. Is screwing with the votes on election day somehow qualitatively different?
"No one should need reminding that Karl Rove has always broken any rule necessary to win at all costs, and that there have been no costs for cheating since this administration took office. Someone near the top of this administration has already committed treason by leaking Valerie Plame's name to the press, and received nothing but protection ever since.
"And let's not forget that this very same band of merry men conspired for over a year to lie their way into an illegal war and generate rationalizations for torture, indefinite detention, and even disappearances -- a series of high crimes against the constitution, existing law, and humanity which makes electoral tinkering seem tame by comparison.
"I mean, what sort of behavior is necessary to start suspecting the beneficiaries of the obvious rigging in their favor? Does Karl Rove have to come to the house personally and start humping the furniture?"
Freeman's 11-page report is available in PDF format (see Harris' post for a link) but his summary follows:
"My purpose in this paper ... has not been to allege election theft, let alone explain it. Rather, I have tried to demonstrate that exit poll data is fundamentally sound, that the deviations between exit poll predictions and vote tallies in the three critical battleground states could not have occurred strictly by chance or random error, and that no solid explanations have yet been provided to explain the discrepancy. In short. I have tried to justify the discrepancy as a legitimate issue that warrants public attention.
"The unexplained discrepancy leaves us with two broad categories of explanations: the polls were flawed or the count is off. The most important investigations concern verification of the tallies and allegations of fraud on one side; and examination of the exit poll's methodology and findings on the other. Some useful statistical analyses would compare the 'shift' in battleground states vs. non-battleground states, and in states, counties and precincts where safeguards are strong vs. those where they are suspect. Obviously, if the polling consortium would release their data, that would allow us to do more definitive analyses.
"Given that neither the pollsters nor their media clients have provided solid explanations to the public, suspicion of fraud, or among the less accusatory, 'mistabulation,' is running rampant and unchecked. That so many people suspect misplay undermines not only the legitimacy of the President, but faith in the foundations of the democracy.
"Systematic fraud or mistabulation is a premature conclusion, but the election's unexplained exit poll discrepancies make it an unavoidable hypothesis, one that is the responsibility of the media, academia, polling agencies, and the public to investigate."
Dr. Freeman is on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania; his areas of expertise include resilience, innovation, and research methods. He obtained his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Contact him at stfreema©sas.upenn.edu.
Harris also notes that Blogging of the President 2004 is a "central link festival for the ongoing developments in this stuff." (11/13/04)
BUSH -- THE NEW CROMWELL?
Half of Catholics voted for Bush, which indicates that many Irish Americans have forgotten who Oliver Cromwell was. Cromwell, for the history-impaired, was a 17th-century English Puritan who, among other things, assumed the role of "Lord Protector" of England and dissolved Parliament when it failed to prove godly enough to suit his tastes. Cromwell gained notoriety with his 1649 campaign to bring civilization to Ireland by massacring Irish Catholics wherever they resisted the "Plantation" of British Protestants on land confiscated from the Irish. Cromwell reputedly excused the murder of Irish civilians, including children, at Drogheda with the statement, "Nits breed lice." His actions were popular in England but British soldiers are still patrolling Ulster streets 355 years later. After an estimated 100,000 civilian deaths in Iraq already, Arabs may remember Dubya 350 years from now -- if we last that long. (Leo Leahy, 11/12/04)
WATCHDOG ON A LEASH. Todd Gitlin writes a scathing review of the media’s recent (and not so recent) performance as public watchdog entitled “The Great Media Breakdown,” in the November/December issue of Mother Jones. In it he accuses journalists and pundits of becoming a “megaphone” for the administration and abandoning the fact-checking duties of a free press. The reasons for this dereliction are, according to Gitlin, various and range from fear of being shut out by newsmakers to a desire to please superiors leery of “getting out ahead” of public opinion and corporate interests. The Great Breakdown has come at a particularly inopportune time for the American people. Gitlin writes, “If ever there were a time for unbridled journalism, this would be it: terrorist mayhem, war, corporate scandal, ecological crisis, economic upheaval. Public passion and curiosity have been stoked. But the potential investigators have been, to a considerable degree, otherwise occupied.” And this inability to practice good journalism in the right place at the right time has aversely effected events from the Florida recount to the war in Iraq. At some point, if it cares at all for the welfare of the public, the media will have to come to grips with the reality that it must challenge an administration committed to disseminating misinformation even at times when it might be uncomfortable to do so. Or, as an unnamed New York Times reporter puts it “when the president says the sun rose in the west, we take it upon ourselves to say no.”
CREATIONISM ON THE MARCH. Associated Press reports the decision of one Wisconsin city’s school board to permit the teaching of creationism. “More than 300 biology and religious studies faculty members” and “43 deans at Wisconsin public universities” have sent letters protesting the move that would allow “various models/theories of origin to be incorporated” into the curriculum. Don Waller, a University of Wisconsin-Madison botanist, argues “insisting that teachers teach alternative theories of origin in biology classes takes time away from real learning, confuses some students and is a misuse of limited class time and public funds.” Despite similar objections from academics and educators, other school boards from Pennsylvania to Ohio are beginning to follow suite, requiring that theories such as “intelligent design” be taught alongside evolution.
DANGEROUS DAIRIES. R.M. Arrieta examines the plight of California’s dairy workers in the September/October Dollars and Sense. Lorenzo Bravo Salgado is one of the many victims of worker exploitation. Salgado worked 18-hour days (sans overtime) at Soares Dairy until he was kicked in the chest by the cow he was milking. Now he can barely walk and is without work or compensation. According to Arrieta, “Exploitative dairies pay workers barely enough to eat; force them to work 12 to 16 hours a day, six or seven days a week; deny workers meal breaks; and withhold overtime pay. Some abuse workers both physically and verbally; many expose employees to safety hazards on the job and house employees in rundown buildings onsite.” Roy Chernus, executive director of Legal Aid of the North Bay is on the lookout for such abuses and notes that “these are extremely vulnerable workers.” Unfortunately, concern for the dairy industry’s image and a lack of funds to study and prevent worker mistreatment has resulted in many injured and abused laborers falling “through the cracks.”
DIRTY IRRIGATORS. Utne magazine on Nov. 4 highlights Fred Pearce's article in the New Scientist of the disturbingly common practice of irrigating crops with sewage water. Farmers like the nitrogen- and phosphate-rich effluent, because it acts as a fertilizer and is free of charge, but untreated sewage is illegal and poses serious heath risks to both farmers and consumers. In countries such as India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka farmers routinely irrigate with contaminated water as their governments, more concerned with profit than safety, turn a blind eye. Sewage water is, predictably, cheap and readily available and in some urban areas it accounts for 100% of the water used for irrigation. One survey presented at the Stockholm Water Symposium estimates that one-tenth of the world's crops are irrigated with sewage, much of it raw and untreated. “The problem is particularly acute in developing nations, where farms that yield nearly one-fifth of the world's food supply are either in, or on the fringes of a large, congested city, where freshwater is scarce,” Elizabeth Dwoskin writes. Dwoskin includes links to related stories.
-- Charles Cullen (11/11/04)
Worse than 2000?
Tuesday's Electoral Disaster
Remember Florida's 2000 election debacle? William Rivers Pitt argues that what happened during the 2004 presidential election in Florida, Ohio and a number of other states was worse. (11/08/04)
17 Reasons Not to Slit Your Wrists
Michael Moore puts the election in perspective. We would add to his list, "Because slitting your wrists is precisely what the Bushites are hoping you'll do." (10/6/04)
Don't Mourn, Organize
Bush elected with 51% of the vote, possibly with the help of Diebold et al., and small Republican gains in the House and Senate do not a mandate make. What the vote indicates is that people respect candidates who say what they mean and stand on principles.
This is usually the time that liberals engage in bitter recriminations of Democrats and other fellow progressives. Get over it. Learn from the defeat. Get back up off the ground and get back in the fight.
As for bipartisanship, which Bush favors as long as it involves passing whatever he sends to Congress, Democratic Congress members shouldn't expect any credit from the voters for rolling over and showing the Republican leadership their bellies. If Bush wants to privatize Social Security or undertake other "reforms" of domestic programs or appoint more right-wing judges, let him find the 60 votes to get his bills or nominees to the Senate floor with somebody else besides Democrats. Progressives have no alternative but to Stand and Fight. (11/3/04)
Update: Howard Dean puts the election in perspective: We won some on Tuesday, too.
Watchdogs Spot E-Vote Glitches
The jury is still out on e-voting machines used in the election but reports collected Nov. 2 by election watchdogs seem to contradict assurances by voting company representatives that the election should "put to rest the unreasonable suspicion" about e-voting machines. The National Protection Coalition, composed of several nonpartisan groups that include the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Verified Voting, reported Tuesday afternoon it had received more than 600 calls from voters complaining about problems with e-voting machines around the country. (11/3/04)
Planning for Nov. 3
Tuesday's election is only the start for a progressive populist movement. Max Sawicky has some suggestions for the anti-globalization movement for the Day After Tomorrow. (11/1/04)