November 30, 2004

The Blind, Uncaring Face Of War

James Blake Miller, a 20-year-old marine from Appalachia, has been christened "the face of Falluja" by pro-war pundits, and the "the Marlboro man" by pretty much everyone else. Naomi Klein writes in the Guardian:
Reprinted in more than a hundred newspapers, the Los Angeles Times photograph shows Miller "after more than 12 hours of nearly non-stop, deadly combat" in Falluja, his face coated in war paint, a bloody scratch on his nose, and a freshly lit cigarette hanging from his lips.

Gazing lovingly at Miller, the CBS News anchor Dan Rather informed his viewers: "For me, this one's personal. This is a warrior with his eyes on the far horizon, scanning for danger. See it. Study it. Absorb it. Think about it. Then take a deep breath of pride. And if your eyes don't dampen, you're a better man or woman than I."
If my eyes dampen, it is not for the same insipid reasons as Dan Rather. I weep for the innocent victims of men like James Blake Miller. I weep for the witless stupidity of these blind, killing fools, and the greedy, subservient masses who cheer them on.
Impunity - the perception of being outside the law - has long been the hallmark of the Bush regime. What is alarming is that it appears to have deepened since the election, ushering in what can only be described as an orgy of impunity. In Iraq, US forces and their Iraqi surrogates are no longer bothering to conceal attacks on civilian targets and are openly eliminating anyone - doctors, clerics, journalists - who dares to count the bodies. At home, impunity has been made official policy with Bush's appointment of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general, the man who personally advised the president in his infamous "torture memo" that the Geneva conventions are "obsolete".

This kind of defiance cannot simply be explained by Bush's win. There has to be something in how he won, in how the election was fought, that gave this administration the distinct impression that it had been handed a get-out-of-the-Geneva-conventions free card. That's because the administration was handed precisely such a gift - by John Kerry.

In the name of electability, the Kerry team gave Bush five months on the campaign trail without ever facing serious questions about violations of international law. Fearing that he would be seen as soft on terror and disloyal to US troops, Kerry stayed scandalously silent about Abu Ghraib and Guant√°namo Bay. When it became painfully clear that fury would rain down on Falluja as soon as the polls closed, Kerry never spoke out against the plan...

There was a message sent by all of this silence, and the message was that these deaths don't count. By buying the highly questionable logic that Americans are incapable of caring about anyone's lives but their own, the Kerry campaign and its supporters became complicit in the dehumanisation of Iraqis, reinforcing the idea that some lives are expendable, insufficiently important to risk losing votes over. And it is this morally bankrupt logic, more than the election of any single candidate, that allows these crimes to continue unchecked.
The Guardian has another good article investigating why the British people are very unhappy with Blair, while many Americans think everything is going fine...
A couple of months ago, a senior British officer in Baghdad said to me: "I have been surprised to perceive the moral strength of the Americans here. Before I came, and remembering Vietnam, I thought that by now they would be cracking. Yet I have not met a single American officer or soldier who questions ... what they are doing".
The same article has a realistic look at Iraq's immediate future:
Iraq's elections will take place as scheduled, because everybody involved has such a powerful stake in them: the Iraqi people, the Americans, the British, even the United Nations. Polling will be impossible in some areas controlled by insurgents, and turnout will be low by international standards. But we should all hope that the outcome possesses credibility.

Whoever is the nominal victor, the most powerful figure in the country will be the Shia cleric Ali al-Sistani, if his health holds out. Most of what happens thereafter is likely to depend on whether Sistani can persuade a majority of Iraqis to rally behind a new government...
Gotta agree with Ted Rall: "The more you make sense, the think about you it more ."
Re-Vote, Not Recount, Required in Ohio

BuzzFlash Contributor Anne Pfeiffer strings together a bunch of numbers for three Ohio counties that have suspicious numbers - Franklin, Mahoning, and Warren - and concludes that a pen-and-paper revote is the only way to clear up the mess.
Don't Get Over It

New and detailed election fraud overviews from Ernest Partridge, Co-Editor of The Crisis Papers, and Scoop.co.nz.
Bad Guys v. Bad Guys: The People Lose Again

Like Gary Leupp at Counterpunch, I find the current election fraud crisis in the Ukraine totally fascinating, but hardly a leftover Cold War question of Good Guys versus Bad Guys (as the Western media portray it). Sadly, the struggle for control of the Ukraine is one of Empire versus Empire and absolute moral authority abides with neither side.

As usual, the real question is money, once again in the form of oil revenues:
Washington wants to gain control over the flow of oil from the Caspian Sea, especially Turkmenistan, and to do so, vies at every step with Russia. Backing regime change in Georgia earlier this year, it has increased its leverage in that former Soviet republic. It woes the former Soviet republics to join its NATO military bloc, which with the end of the Cold War would seem to have little raison d'être except to contain friendly capitalist Russia. While Eastern European allies once buffered the USSR from NATO, the alliance now borders Russia in the Baltics (Estonia and Latvia), and Washington would like to expand it to include Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan, encircling Russia's western flank. Meanwhile it stations U.S. troops and acquires military bases in the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, pursuant to the unpredictably expanding "War on Terrorism."
To highlight the hypocrisy of the USA's moralistic hollering, Leupp quotes David Frum ("former Bush speech writer, author of the notorious "axis of evil" line, implacable foe of a Palestinian state, public proponent of the allegation that Yasser Arafat died of AIDS, Richard Perle associate") who recently said that "independent Russia can be a normal country with a democratic future: [but] Russia plus Ukraine is the Russian empire, which can never be a democracy."
Frum is not necessarily expressing the thinking of administration officials; obviously the latter find no contradiction between the empire in general (surely not the one they're busily expanding) and "democracy" as they perversely conceptualize it. And they realize that the differences between Russia and the U.S. at this point are not ideological, Russia having long since thoroughly and very painfully embraced capitalism. But I expect that such officials will publicly opine that, indeed, a bloc led by Moscow, even limited to the immediately adjoining Slavic lands with intimate historical ties to Mother Russia, is somehow antithetical to democracy and must be prevented. They will emphasize Putin's manipulation of the Russian press (hoping no doubt it doesn't raise the issue of the U.S. press's slavish deference to Bush), and the lack of political opposition in Russia (as though there were some here).

Inter-imperialist rivalry is again the order of the day, as it was before the Russian Revolution, before the socialist alternative and the Cold War. Powerful nations struggle, not over radically different ideas about society, but over mere lucre: markets, labor-power and resources.
P.S. Leupp also has an interesting look at another neo-con takeover target: South Korea.
Killing Anti-US Dissenters

For anyone who doubts that Iraq is predominantly a media propaganda war (being won very successfully within the USA, if not internationally) Mike Whitney at Counterpunch explodes a few misconceptions:
"It was a 'gangland-style hit' intended to put fear in the hearts of the Al Arabiyya reporters who would soon be covering the siege of Falluja. There's no doubt that anyone misunderstood the message that was being conveyed. The Allawi government has repeatedly scolded reporters for stories that have been critical of the occupation; threatening to punish or exile those who continue to offend. In the case of Al Aribiyya, this was just the first shot fired over the bow. Two weeks later their reporter was arrested in Falluja and hasn't been seen since.

Three months earlier, Al Jazeera was exiled from Iraq because its coverage did not follow a narrative that was acceptable to occupation authorities. Al Jazeera had already been bombed twice by US forces in both Baghdad and Kabul, so they knew the risks of providing a view of the conflict that was at variance to the one being seen on American TVs. Free speech is as unwelcome in today's Iraq as it was under Saddam, and its consequences are just as dire...

Last week two Sunni Clerics, members of the AMS, (Association of Muslim Clerics) were gunned down as they left their homes.(in separate incidents) The story has been successfully buried in western newspapers and it hasn't drawn much attention. In Iraq, however, the message is clear; anyone who speaks out against the occupation or the upcoming elections will be killed. The US is now using Mafia-style hit-teams to establish order and quash dissent.

... The real story of Falluja is nowhere to be found in American media. 300,000 people were expelled from the city so that the military could exact its revenge against the killers of four mercenaries. By all accounts, the city is in ruins; bodies left on the streets are bloated and some are being devoured by dogs. Those who chose to stay (many because they were invalid or afraid that their homes would be looted) were left for two weeks without food, water or electricity. Even now, the relief efforts of the Red Crescent have been stymied by the Marines; leaving many of the wounded without medical attention. Half of the city's mosques have been damaged or destroyed; roads and infrastructure have been laid to waste, and upwards of 2,000 people have been killed. This is the real picture of Falluja; a picture that is scrupulously omitted from any mainstream newspaper or TV station in the country.

Everything down to the labeling of the siege ("The Battle for Falluja") has been focus-group tested and picked up by all the main stations. In fact, there was no "Battle for Falluja"; it was a brutal siege in the same tradition as Germany's assault on Stalingrad.
Suffer The Children

Jack Dalton, a disabled Vietnam veteran, highlights the plight of Iraqi children:
Iraq is a nation (or was) of 26 million people with over 50% of them under the age of 18. Half of Iraq is children. We know the effects of PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] on adults, we've seen it with those of our people in uniform that are still affected from the Vietnam war; If adults are affected that severely, what about Iraq's children?

We're talking about 12-13 million children that have been subjected to almost daily bombings for over ten years and are currently being bombed by an occupying Army. What will be the result of all this on them? I can only imagine, but I do know from my own experiences that it will not be anything nice. In all probabilities, the next generation of insurgents, freedom fighters, and radicalized fundamentalists are being born out of the madness that has become Iraq.
Slow Momentum In Ohio

More insights courtesy of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, who begins by noting that a Jesse Jackson press conference has significantly raised the profile of the vote fraud scandal:
Jackson may or may not have also introduced a new rotting fish into the pile of evidence that suggests Ohio did a very lousy job of running an election four weeks ago. “We don’t want to be presumptuous, but these numbers in Butler, Clermont, Warren and Hamilton counties are suspicious.” Jackson refers in part to what several voters’ groups see as the incongruity of an underfunded Democratic candidate for the Ohio Supreme Court, C. Ellen Connally, getting a net 45,000 more votes in Butler County relative to her Republican opponent than Kerry did relative to his. She finished ahead of her party’s presidential nominee by 10,000 net votes or more in five Ohio counties; by 5,000 or more in ten others.

It is not unprecedented for a statewide candidate - especially a popular, well-publicized one - to finish “ahead of the ticket.” But Connally was a retired African-American judge from Cleveland, and Butler County is as about as far away from Cleveland (on the Indiana border, and 40 miles north of Kentucky) as you can get and still be in Ohio. Moreover, The Cleveland Plain Dealer noted that the Republican candidates in the three Supreme Court races raised 40% more in official campaign funds than did Connally and the other Democrats. The Toledo Blade showed that the fund-raising, and thus visibility, was far more lopsided than even the party documents would suggest: “Citizens for a Strong Ohio, a nonprofit arm of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, raised $3 million to fund TV and radio ads that gave the winners exposure Democrats couldn't match,” the newspaper reported on November 4th.

The fun continues throughout the Buckeye State. The Cincinnati Post Saturday quoted Chairman Tim Burke of the Hamilton County Board of Elections as saying that approximately 400 of the 3,000 provisional ballots invalidated in his jurisdiction were thrown out for an extraordinary reason. In some cases, one polling place served more than one voting precinct - and though they were in the correct building, voters were disqualified because they got in the wrong line. “400 voters were in the right place,” Burke says, “but not at the right table.” The newspaper says Burke plans to object to those disqualifications when Hamilton County meets Tuesday to certify its vote.

Other discarded provisional ballots will be sued over. Cuyahoga County tossed a third of all its provisionals, and a group called ‘The People for the American Way Foundation’ filed Friday for a writ of mandamus against Secretary of State Blackwell in the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals, asking the court to order Blackwell to notify each of the 8,099 disqualified voters and afford them the opportunity to contest their disenfranchisement.

And lastly, though he legally has until December 6 to certify the Ohio vote, Cincinnati television station WCPO reported Sunday that Blackwell is in fact expected to do so on Wednesday of this week.
At this stage, the mainstream US and international media is not touching the Jackson allegations, although the Boston Herald and the Guardian mention it.

"We can live with winning and losing. We cannot live with fraud and stealing,'' said Jackson. "This is about the integrity of the vote. This is not about the Kerry campaign."

In response, Carlo LoParo, a spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, said, "There are no signs of widespread irregularities."

At this stage, that is already sounding totally laughable.
Delicious Irony

It's funny. For half a century, the USA (with Israeli pressure) has been demanding that Germany make amends for WWII and track down and prosecute War Criminals wherever they may be. Now the neo-Fascists in the White House are facing war crime cases under German law.

November 29, 2004

Neo-Cons Turn On Rumsfeld

The Sunday Times has an interesting article claiming a "growing chorus of conservative commentators" want Rumsfeld replaced by "a figure with wider appeal".

As the article notes, however, Bush and Cheney are still strong supporters. I strongly doubt they would humiliate him with a public sacking, or even a nod-and-a-wink sacking like Powell's.

Who knows more about what's really been going on in the Bush White House, for instance? A pissed off Rummy would be a walking timebomb. I think retirement due to medical reasons is more likely... when Rumsfeld is good and ready to go.

Meanwhile, Canadians are also eagerly debating the merits of arresting Rumsfeld if and when his Diplomatic Immunity ever expires. The Tyee has a good article looking at such Canadian ruminations.

Given the implications of such matters, it's little wonder the USA is increasing the pressure on governments around the world to give them exemption from action under the International Criminal Court. Wouldn't it have been much simpler if they had just joined the ICC and removed Saddam through the UN Security Council, in accordance with the Geneva Convention?

Oh, but then they wouldn't have oil deals and US bases in Iraq... Silly me.
Gandhi Hits 10,000

For the record, visitors to this site since April last year (when I installed the counter) have now topped 10,000... Not much compared to some other blogs, but it's something. Thanks to all who have visited.

The battle for truth and accountability rages on...
Intelligence Reform and the Death of the US Republic

Alternet today has a must-read article by the very well-informed Chalmers Johnson*.

The article looks at the current debate over intelligence reform in relation to previous actions and attitudes. A telling sign of the times is that the infamous US "military-industrial complex" ( a term beloved by "conspiracy theorists" of the 1960s) has now become - in Johnson's carelly chosen words - the "military-industrial-congressional complex" of the 21st Century. And it is no longer a conspiracy theory, it is stark, screaming reality. Johnson thinks that Bush's call for intelligence reform along the lines recommended by the 9/11 commission was just pretense:
The president and the Speaker of the House both said they favored enactment of the proposed legislation, but many experienced observers thought it was all Grand Kabuki by the Republican Party, intended to make it appear that the White House favored reform while ensuring that reform did not actually occur. In killing the reform bill, the Pentagon unambiguously displayed the raw political power of the military-industrial-congressional complex. During October 2004, Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, without the public approval of any civilian leader of the Defense Department, wrote to Congressman Hunter expressing his support for sabotaging change.
Johnson also has some revealing details about Porter Goss, Bush's new CIA head:
Goss represented the 14th district of Florida for some 16 years in the House of Representatives, but before that, between 1962 and 1971, he worked in the CIA's Directorate of Operations (DO). He was stationed primarily in Latin America, and rumors persist that he left the agency under a cloud. In 1995, he was appointed to the House's Intelligence Oversight Committee and in 1997 became its chairman. There is no evidence that he did anything at all in this position, including investigating the intelligence lapses that preceded 9/11 or the failure of the CIA to have placed a single spy anywhere within Saddam Hussein's regime...

Goss is a highly political bureaucrat, who raised eyebrows when he gave speeches earlier this year attacking John Kerry for slashing intelligence funding without mentioning that, in 1995, he himself had co-sponsored a measure calling for firing 20 percent of all CIA personnel over five years. Goss has also dismissed the efforts to find out who in the Bush administration identified, and so outed, undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame – wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson who had embarrassed the administration over its Iraqi nuclear claims – to the press as "wild and unsubstantiated allegations."
Johnson claims that Goss has now been "ordered to make it appear that the agency misled the President (rather than the other way round, as actually happened). He is then supposed to shake up what he calls a "dysfunctional" organization." But it is hardly a good time to be playing at power-grabbing politics, as Johnson concludes:
With several wars underway (in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel-Palestine, Colombia, Kashmir, Sudan, and Chechnya, to name only the most obvious), Iran and North Korea on the cusp of becoming nuclear powers, a looming possibility of a global flight from the dollar, the emergence of China as an economic powerhouse, and the polar ice caps melting, this is not exactly a good time to be blinding ourselves. The only groups who will profit from a crippling of what is left of the CIA's early warning and analytic capabilities will be the Bush-Cheney White House and Rumsfeld's Pentagon.
The present sorry chapter in the rise and fall of the CIA reflects trends in the U.S. that are bolstering an "imperial presidency" and its handmaiden, militarism. Although the CIA was created to help inform presidents about threats to the country, it is clear that the President and his top officials no longer want or need its intelligence functions...

The Agency may have become little more than a speed-bump for an imperial president who also dominates the Congress and the courts, but it is still part of the checks and balances of power within the executive branch of our government that make the U.S. a democratic republic and protect us from an imperial usurpation of power. With the re-election of President Bush and the appointment of Porter Goss to bring the CIA under White House control, it becomes increasingly hard to see how the republic will survive.
The main value in Johnson's article, I think, it the powerful reminder of just how corrupt and incompetent the CIA has been over the years (not to mention those charged with overseeing it). For example:
When Congressman Charlie Wilson (D-TX) became chairman of the House's Intelligence Oversight Committee, he wrote to his friends at the CIA, who were then secretly enlarging the supply of weapons to the mujahideen in Afghanistan, "Well, gentlemen, the fox is in the hen house. Do whatever you like."
There is no reason to imagine that the present incumbents are any better. In fact, there are a good number of reasons to believe they are far worse. Someone will pay the consequences for this, one day - will it the the Bush cartel or the US people, or suffering citizens around the globe dying every day to keep the "American Dream" alive?

* Chalmers Johnson's latest books Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (Metropolitan, 2000) and The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (Metropolitan, 2004) are the first two volumes in a trilogy on American imperial policies. The final volume is now being written. Between 1967 and 1973 Johnson served as a consultant to the CIA's Office of National Estimates.

November 28, 2004

Falluja Massacre: Eyewitness

Testimony from an Iraqi survivor:
The American warplanes came continuously through the night and bombed everywhere in Fallujah! It did not stop even for a moment! If the American forces did not find a target to bomb, they used sound bombs just to terrorize the people and children. The city stayed in fear; I cannot give a picture of how panicked everyone was.

In the mornings I found Fallujah empty, as if nobody lives in it. Even poisonous gases have been used in Fallujah-they used everything-tanks, artillery, infantry, poison gas. Fallujah has been bombed to the ground. Nothing is left.

Most of the innocent people there stayed in mosques to be closer to God for safety. Even the wounded people were killed. Old ladies with white flags were killed by the Americans! The Americans announced for people to come to a certain mosque if they wanted to leave Fallujah, and even the people who went there carrying white flags were killed!

There was no food, no electricity, no water. We couldn’t even light a candle because the Americans would see it and kill us.

This suffering of the people, I would like to ask everyone in the world if they have seen suffering like this. The people in Fallujah are only Fallujans. Ayad Allawi was a liar when he said there are foreign fighters there.

There are bodies the Americans threw in the river. I saw them do this! And anyone who stayed thought they would be killed by the Americans, so they tried to swim across the river. Even then the Americans shot them with rifles from the shore! Even if some of them were holding a white flag or white clothes over their heads to show they are not fighters, they were all shot! Even people who couldn’t swim tried to cross the river! They drowned rather than staying to be killed by the Americans.
And just to be fair and balanced, here's a 2-part article from the perspective of a reporter embedded with ignorant young US troops who actually performed the dirty work for Bush & Co:
"You know we're going to destroy this town," said Barreto, 22.

"I hope so," replied the soldier sitting next to him...

Later, Bailey said it felt like the enemy was coming from every direction.

"So we just went ape shit with the cannon, shooting everything," he said.

How many people did they kill? Bailey shrugged his shoulders...

"You think that killing people for your country is cool, but when you do, it just numbs you."

... On his way out, Laird turned and said he'd been thinking about his son.

"I don't want my boy to know his daddy's a killer," he said. With that, he picked up his gun and walked out the door.
"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

- H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
10 Questions For G.W. Bush

From an "inquiring supporter":
1. Leviticus 25.44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not to Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21.7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness (Leviticus15.19-24). The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord. (Leviticus 1.9) The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35.2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Leviticus11.10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there degrees of abomination?

7. Leviticus.21.20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus19.27. How should they die?

9. I know from Leviticus 11.6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean. May I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19.19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Leviticus 24.10-16) Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, as we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Leviticus 20.14)

November 26, 2004

Exposed: The Real Number of US Wounded

Raed in the Middle reveals that the official US figures for wounded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are a total lie:
"The official number of US soldiers wounded in Iraq that was announced by the US DOD (department of defense) is 8458 in Iraq and 423 in Afghanistan.

Can anyone believe that the US military hospital at Germany (alone), the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, announced that 20,802 troops have been treated at Landstuhl from injuries received in "Operations Iraqi Freedom" (occupying Iraq) and "Enduring Freedom" (occupying Afghanistan).
Know Your Enemy

Bush is obviously too stupid to become President of the USA all by himself. So who put him there and why?

Well, these are the same people that backed his father, obviously. And where is Bush Snr these days? On the board of the Carlyle Group, one of the world's top private-equity firms (for a revealing look at the Carlyle Group, see this documentary from ICH). But what exactly is a private-equity firm, what do they do, who runs them and what do they want?

This week's cover story at The Economist has a very good look at who these people are.
In 1985, ... private equity was a cottage industry that few people had heard of. There had always been family-owned private firms, but family owners did not usually aim to sell off the business; they passed it on to the next generation.

Until the late 1970s, the main activity in private equity—buying shares in private companies in the hope of selling them at a higher price later—had been carried out mostly by the investment arms of a few wealthy families, such as the Rockefellers and Whitneys in America [and, presumably, the Bush/Walker clan], and had generally been confined to venture-capital investment in small, fast-growing businesses.
Then came the "Greed is Good" 80's, with highly publicized hostile takeovers which often resulted in companies being carved up and sold off in pieces. Nowadays such unpopular takeovers are less common: private-equity firms tend to move in more quietly, with mountains of cash and political muscle at the ready to gently "fix" companies' problems. Because everything is done behind closed doors in this private world, there is not much transparency at all about what exactly they do and how they do it.
“If you examine all the major corporate scandals of the past 25 years, none of them occurred where a private-equity firm was involved,” noted Henry Kravis, one of the founders of KKR, in a recent speech. Private-equity firms, he said, are “vigilant in our role as owners, and we protect shareholder value.” On the other hand, if there were any impropriety in a private company, the public might not get to hear about it.
A lot of "smart money" has been thrown at these funds, and they have grown quite astronomically over the past two decades:
In Britain, for instance, one-fifth of the workforce outside the public sector is employed by firms that are, or have been, invested in by a private-equity firm, according to the British Venture Capital Association. Worldwide, there are more than 2,700 private-equity firms, reckons Goldman Sachs (maybe many more, because in this private world small firms can easily drop below the radar screen). As pension funds, endowments and rich individuals have become increasingly keen investors, the amount of private equity has soared. In 2000 alone, the peak year so far, investors committed about $160 billion to private-equity firms (much of it to venture capital), up from only $10 billion in 1991...

In 1980, the world's biggest fund (KKR's) was $135m. Today there are scores of funds with over $1 billion each. J.P. Morgan's latest one is currently the biggest, at $6.5 billion, ahead of Blackstone's (see chart 2, next page); Permira has Europe's largest, at around $6 billion at today's exchange rate. A $10 billion fund can be only a matter of time, if only for the fabulous annual fees.

Blackstone, which started life as a two-man band working from a single room, has become, in its own words, “a major player in the world of finance”. It employs over 500 people in plush offices in New York's Park Avenue, Boston, Atlanta, London, Paris and Hamburg. The 35-40 firms in which it has a private-equity stake together have over 300,000 employees and annual revenues of over $50 billion—which, were they lumped together as a single conglomerate, would make Blackstone a top-20 Fortune 500 company. Other big private-equity firms can point to similar numbers. TPG's portfolio of firms has 255,000 staff and collective annual revenues of $41 billion; Carlyle's has 150,000 workers and revenues of $31 billion.
Picture a lush green prairie field, swamped by herds of eager buffaloes. Now the field is becoming sparse and trampled, and the weaker buffalo are already feeling the pinch... Squabbles break out... Something's gotta give...

Smaller private equity funds have begun seeing losses, and shareholders who have been burned are publicly demanding answers. Many such shareholders are actually public pension funds, whose investors had no idea what was happening to their money. So what does the herd do now?
Will private-equity firms be able to maintain their privacy when transparency is increasingly expected in every walk of life? The answer may depend on politics as much as on economics. Most private-equity firms fiercely oppose greater transparency, arguing that it will rob them of their magic. Many tacitly accept that their performance will soon become subject to much more intense scrutiny, and that they will have to adopt sensible industry standards for valuing their portfolios. But they are desperate to avoid having to disclose details about the performance of individual firms in their portfolios...

But change is on its way, if only because of the growing amount of money being invested in private equity through public pension funds. In America, freedom of information acts have prompted some public pension funds to provide details of the performance of their investments in different private-equity firms, to the horror of most of the firms concerned. Yet, as Thomas Lee, founder of the eponymous private-equity firm, concedes, “We are using so much public money that we have an obligation if not to be transparent then to be a little less invisible than in the past.”
The Truth Is Out There

The Seattle Times has some good coverage of the vote fraud today, including a link to this PDF from University of Pennsylvania faculty member Steven Freeman. This PDF is a second version of his much-discussed paper titled "The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy."

Freeman has compiled raw exit poll data for statistical purposes, but is still asking for reader help with the missing pieces of the jigsaw:
If anybody has *Virginia*, that's all I need to complete the data set! If you viewed the Virginia exit poll on election night, please let me know. You may still have it in your computer memory!

I also need sample size for NY, NJ, or NC.
Meanwhile, Mystery Pollster has details of a discussion with Liz Doyle of Edison Media Research (the company that ran the exit poll along with Mitofsky International), who says their raw exit poll data will not be made public for another three months - why not?
Ms. Doyle politely informed me that the [raw] data I was requesting would be available via the Roper Center and due to the unprecedented demand for the data, the NEP was working as quickly as possible to prepare the data for public use. However, these unweighted data couldn’t be expected for at least three more months.
I suggest everybody contact Edison Media Research and the Roper Center and ask them to explain the reasons for such a long delay.

November 25, 2004

Economic Armageddon Predicted

Stephen Roach, the chief economist at investment banking giant Morgan Stanley, says America has no better than a 10 percent chance of avoiding economic "armageddon."

Story here.:
1 in 5 Don't Believe US Election Results

Olbermann at MSNBC today describes a TV interview with pollster John Zogby, who mentions a recent poll showing only 20% of respondents believe that Bush was fairly elected. And that's in spite of the fact that the mainstream media has hardly dared to touch on this issue!

As Zogby says, "That just hasn't existed for a long, long time in our system. We need to restore, I think, some semblance of legitimacy and honor to the system."
Murdering Iraqis: Reality TV Entertainment

Dead-Check in Falluja by Evan Wright is very disturbing reading. The article responds to the recent videotaped murder of an unarmed Iraqi, showing that this is far from an isolated case - in fact, US forces are trained to do this, it's called "Dead-checking".
Late that afternoon, the Humvee I was in was following about 50 feet behind a Marine Light Armored Vehicle when it pulled alongside a Toyota pickup pushed to the side of the road, its doors riddled with bullet holes. The head of at least one occupant was visible in the truck, but I couldn't determine if he was moving or not. Nor did I see any weapons. As our Humvee stopped behind the truck, a Marine in the vehicle ahead of us leapt out, pointed his rifle into the window of the pickup and sprayed it with gunfire. It was a cold-blooded execution...

"They teach us to do dead-checking when we're clearing rooms," an enlisted Marine recently returned from Iraq told me. "You put two bullets into the guy's chest and one in the brain. But when you enter a room where guys are wounded you might not know if they're alive or dead. So they teach us to dead-check them by pressing them in the eye with your boot, because generally a person, even if he's faking being dead, will flinch if you poke him there. If he moves, you put a bullet in the brain...."

In fact, commanders in the Marine Corps during the period I was embedded with them in the spring of 2003 repeatedly emphasized that the men's actions would not be questioned. As one of the officers in the unit I followed used to tell his men, "You will be held accountable for the facts not as they are in hindsight but as they appeared to you at the time. If, in your mind, you fire to protect yourself or your men, you are doing the right thing. It doesn't matter if later on we find out you wiped out a family of unarmed civilians."
What the article reveals is how a sick society, which worships violence in Hollywood blockbusters and video games, has exported this voilence and now happily watches the sanitized version of it on Reality TV news bulletins each night. And just like the movies, the Good Guys are always right - there is not need to even contemplate the merits of their actions.

As one Marine says:
"What does the American public think happens when they tell us to assault a city? Marines don't shoot rainbows out of our asses. We fucking kill people."
Or, in another Marine vet's words:
"Americans celebrate war in their movies. We like to see visions of evil being defeated by good. When the people at home glimpse the reality of war, that it's a bloodbath, they freak out. We are a subculture they created and programmed to fight their wars. You have to become a psycho to kill like we do. To most Marines that guy in the mosque was just someone who didn't get hit in the right place the first time we shot him. I probably would have put a bullet in his brain if I'd been there. If the American public doesn't like the violence of war, maybe before they start the next war they shouldn't rush so much."
Wright is the author of a book, Generation Kill, about his experiences as an embedded journalist in Iraq.
SUPPORT JUAN COLE!

Juan Cole, author of the invaluable blog Informed Comment, has come under attack from the Middle East Media Research Organization, or MEMRI, a biased pro-Israeli group that functions as a PR campaign for Likud Party goals.
"I urge all readers to send messages of protest to memri@memri.org. Please be polite, and simply urge MEMRI, which has a major Web presence, to withdraw the lawsuit threat and to respect the spirit of the free sharing of ideas that makes the internet possible. "
Florida Needs YOU

Latest news from Black Box Voting:
"The following counties have refused to be held accountable for the 2004 presidential election, by declining to produce basic audit documents until after all election contest periods have lapsed: Palm Beach County, Ft. Myers County, Pasco County, Highland County, Holmes County, Indian River County, Lee County, Levy County. Black Box Voting is requesting citizen audit groups to work with us to take these counties into full audit mode in December. Other counties may be added to this list."
The UK's latest effort to impeach Blair "stands virtually no chance of being passed in a vote. With only 23 lawmakers backing the motion, campaigners are more than 300 votes short of the majority they would need to prevail in the 659-member Commons. No members of Blair's governing Labour Party have signed the motion and [they] are under intense pressure from party officials not to do so."
Re-Defeat Bush!!!

Sign up at Peacefully Protest Crimes Against Democracy

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Here is our top ten list of what you can do:

1. Come to Columbus, Ohio on Saturday 12/4 from 1 to 4 PM to protest the refusal of federal, state and local authorities to conduct the recount as specified in Ohio law before the results are certified and Ohio's electoral votes assigned. For more information visit CASEOhio.org. If you want to go by bus from Washington, DC leaving at 6:00 AM on 12/4 and returning to Washington about 11:00 PM the same day please let us know.

3. Please sign our petition calling on Ukraine to send election observers to Ohio and New Hampshire, and sign our petition to law enforcement authorities to indict the perpetrators for treason, which is what the crimes against democracy amoun to, and ask your friends to sign them, too.

3. Please make a contribution so that we can do more of everything. Each of these demonstrations costs us about $2,500 so if you can help financially the need is urgent.

4. Please download our Top 10 Questions About the Legitimacy of the 2004 Presidential Election and e-mail it to your friends.

5. Please sign up for our newsletter to keep up with our activities and participate in them.

6. Make plans to join us in Washington on 1/20/05 for the Counterinaugural, including for the first time a Counterinaugural Ball at which ReDefeatBush's new identity will be revealed. This will be an extravaganza like none you've ever seen before, we promise. If you are in DC and can house some out-of-town visitors please post your offer here.

7. Learn Spanish and prepare yourself to be an effective campaign volunteer in the next battleground -- the southwestern U.S.

8. Plan your next vacation in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio or Virginia, which are the states Bush claimed with less than 55% of the vote. Better yet, retire to one of these states and begin methodically adopting children who are at least 14 years old.

9. Write a letter to the editor expressing your mistrust in the local election authorities in Republican-controlled states and your concern that reports of irregularities be fully investigated and the criminals brought to justice.

10. Open up a ReDefeatBush chapter in your community and we will help you make it a success.

November 24, 2004

Want to know what's going on with the whole 2004 stolen election thing?

Maureen Farrell has a rip-roaring article with literally dozens of great links to a multitude of relevant issues. Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:
Of course it would be irresponsible for any major network to say that this election was stolen or rigged or riddled with fraud without proof, but wasn't it also irresponsible for America's most prominent pundits to immediately conclude, as Good Morning America's Charles Gibson did, that "the exit polls got it flat wrong"?

A University of Pennsylvania professor placed odds that the exit polls were that wrong in that many states at 250 million to one while renowned pollster John Zogby likened the 2004 presidential election to 1960's suspicious contest. "Something is definitely wrong," Zogby said, adding "we're talking about the Free World here."

After all, even if recounts do not alter the end result, aren't threats to our democratic process story enough? Three presidential candidates have asked for recounts, six Congressmen have asked the GAO to investigate, Ohio's presidential vote is being challenged and the League of Women's Voters is asking for an investigation into voter irregularities, proving that such concerns are more mainstream than most in the mainstream media are letting on.
Read the full story here.
Legalize It!

An article by Marjorie Cohn, Litigating the Election, makes a good companion piece to the US Vote Fraud For Dummies article below. Cohn's story looks at all the various anomolies and legal actions currently underway across the USA.

As she notes:
Curiously, virtually all of the so-called "anomalies" in the voting results favor Bush.
US Vote Fraud For Dummies

Sean Sabatini at OpEdNews presents a well overdue piece, Exit Polls and Voter Fraud: A User-Friendly Explanation, an overview of the US vote fraud in simple terms. Even George could understand this:
A look at how the polls differed from the official results in each swing state should make things pretty clear. Note that we’re looking at original numbers here, not the revised data now posted on major news sites.

First off, we have to throw out New Hampshire, which Kerry won by one point. Early polls showed him with an unrealistic 17 point lead , and while it later dropped to 10, that’s still an improbable lead for a state that Bush won in 2004. Sadly, the numbers for New Hampshire are too unreliable to analyze properly. But here are the other states, with percentage points rounded off:

In Arkansas, the polls had Bush up by 7-9 points, depending on which numbers you use. He won by 9 points.

In Missouri, Bush closed up 5-8 points. The official result: Bush by 8 points.

On the Kerry side, we have Maine, a state where they still use paper ballots, and even count 35% of them by hand. It’s hard right now to get the exit poll numbers for this state, but they seem to have matched Kerry’s 8 point victory pretty well. So far, so good.

Moving over to Iowa, things get a little more interesting. Here we see Kerry either tied, or up by 1-2 points, all day. But in the official tally, Bush gains 2 points. Not a big shift, but enough to win a state that he lost in 2000.

In Colorado, the exit poll numbers fluctuate a little more widely throughout the day. But Bush is always leading. The final polls show him up 1-3 points. He wins by 5, another gain of at least two points.

Wisconsin is just the opposite: Kerry leads all day and ends with a 3-5 point advantage. But he wins by just one point, another shift of at least 2 points--again in Bush’s direction.

In Louisiana, exit polls give the President a whopping 11-13 point lead. But he does a little better still, winning by 15.

In hotly-contested New Mexico, Kerry is slightly ahead all day, ending with a slim 1-2 point lead. When the votes are counted, though, Bush comes from behind and wins by one point. The 2-3 point shift gives Bush another state that he lost in 2000.

Up in Michigan, Kerry maintains a solid lead all day, ending 4-6 points ahead in the polls. But he wins by a single point, a 3-5 point gain for Bush.

Minnesota produces some unrealistically high pro-Kerry numbers early on, but by the evening they have settled down, possibly because of corrective steps taken by the polling company. Kerry ends up with a 6-10 point lead--again, depending on which numbers you use. He wins by 3; another gain of at least 3 points for Bush...

In West Virginia, the polls show Bush trouncing Kerry by 9 points. When the votes are counted, Bush is up by 13, having picked up another 4 points.

A far closer race occurs in Nevada, where the candidates run neck and neck all day, with the lead shifting between them. It’s a good test for Nevada’s new all-electronic voting system, which produces a voter-verifiable paper record in case of recounts. Kerry ends the day just barely up by one point in the polls, but Bush wins by 3. Another impressive gain of 4 points for Bush, and, incidentally, just enough of a margin of victory to keep Nevadans from asking for a recount.

Pennsylvania, like Minnesota, starts off with some out-of-whack numbers in the morning, but then settles down. By the end of the day, Kerry has a solid 7 point lead. He wins, but only by 2 points--a disturbing 5 point jump for Bush.

In the crucial state of Ohio, we see Kerry with a steady lead all day. When the polls close, all eyes are on Ohio, and the unauthorized numbers on the internet have Kerry ahead by 2 points. Then CNN posts exit poll data showing Kerry up by a good 4 points. Somehow, Bush pulls off a mysterious 6 point gain and wins by 2 points.

North Carolina is a real beauty. It was a pro-Bush state, but Democrats had hoped to swing it their way by having favorite son John Edwards on the ticket. It didn‘t work. Bush was ahead in the polls all day, and ended with a strong 4 point lead. Amazingly, though, he ended up winning the state by 12 points, an inexplicable gain of 8 points.

Meanwhile, down in Florida, 1.6 million more people were voting for President than had done so in 2000, the year that Bush and Gore essentially tied. Exit polls showed more new voters were going for Kerry, as predicted, and far fewer voting for Nader this time. Not surprisingly, Kerry was slightly ahead all day and ended with a 2 point lead. But of course, Bush won. And not by one or two points, as he did in Ohio and New Mexico. In Florida, where vote-tallying machines have been seen counting backwards, Bush gained a full 7 points on his exit polls and beat Kerry by 5 points.

Detailed mathematical analyses of these and other data are now available on the web, but you get the idea.
Sabatini concludes that - although initial, frenzied attempts to link exit poll discrepancies to states without paper trails was misguided - the evidence of vote fraud is irrefutable and needs urgent investigation:
Most states use a combination of voting methods, both electronic and manual. But even paper ballots are usually counted electronically, and the data is transmitted to central computers, often over phone lines. It’s a system that computer experts from Stanford, MIT and Johns Hopkins have criticized as weak and easily corrupted.

What needs to be done? First, we need to shake off the notion that widespread voter fraud could never happen in America. Computer hacking may be a relatively new phenomenon, but crooked elections are not. And corruption is as old as politics. Then, we have to discover the truth. As traumatic as it may seem, we need manual recounts, wherever possible, in Ohio, New Mexico, Iowa, Nevada, and Florida. We need to have computer security experts examine every aspect of the electronic voting system for signs of tampering. With the evidence that's coming in now, we may well need a full-scale criminal investigation in Florida.
Israeli Hawk Advises Bush

An article in the Washington Post details a very revealing meeting between Bush and an extremist Israeli hawk. Coming just nine days after Bush latest vote grab, the meeting indicates Bush's top priorities for the next four years. And it's also interesting that White House staff who were invited to the meeting seem to have already been hand-picked for promotion...
Those looking for clues about President Bush's second-term policy for the Middle East might be interested to know that, nine days after his reelection victory, the president summoned to the White House an Israeli politician so hawkish that he has accused Ariel Sharon of being soft on the Palestinians.

Bush met for more than an hour on Nov. 11 with Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident now known as a far-right member of the Israeli cabinet. Joined by Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., incoming national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley and administration Mideast specialist Elliot Abrams, Bush told Sharansky that he was reading the Israeli's new book, "The Case for Democracy," and wanted to know more. Sharansky, with co-author Ron Dermer, had a separate meeting with Condoleezza Rice, later chosen by Bush to be the next secretary of state.

Sharansky made waves this spring when he rallied with Jewish settlers to oppose the Likud prime minister's plan for a unilateral pullout from Gaza -- a plan that Bush had endorsed. Sharansky, head of a Russian immigrant political party, said Sharon's plan, though supported by a number of Likud hard-liners, would be "encouraging more terror." A figure who has previously railed against the "illusions of Oslo" and described that famous accord as "one-sided concessions," Sharansky resigned in 2000 from Ehud Barak's government over the Labor prime minister's plan to attend a peace summit in Washington.

"He's been suffering in the political wilderness in Israel with these ideas for some time," Dermer said of his co-author. But when it came to Bush, Dermer said, "I didn't see a lot of daylight between them."
And I just loved this quote from Sharansky:
"When a free people governs itself, the chances of a war being fought against other free peoples is removed almost entirely."
Go tell that to the Iraqis...
In other electoral news...

Josh Marshall looks at the case of a Texan Republican who was beaten by a Vietnamese-American Democrat, the first Democratic gain in the Texas state House in 32 years. And the winning margin was only 32 votes, so a recount is not unexpected. But the Texan Republicans may be looking at avoiding a recount by tossing out the result based on "irregularities" and "voter fraud."

As Marshall comments, "actualy trying to pull this off would be amazingly bold and brazen. But then, look who we're talking about..."

I think this also fits into a GOP pattern of deliberately obscuring the message by attacking with the same ammunition that is being used against them. For example, when allegations of Fascism and the shadow of Nazism began to cloud Bush's image, GOP voices started calling all the terrorists "Islamofascists." Even Democrats became Fascists.

Now, with allegations of vote fraud refusing to die quietly, the GOP strategists could be just fuelling their barrels with some fresh gunpowder to help confuse the media message. Dim-witted pro-Bush TV viewers could soon get a "fair and balanced" 2-minute segment showing allegations of vote fraud being thrown back and forward, which would easily be dismissed as the usual partisan chicanery.

November 23, 2004

Has The US Public Embraced Authoritarian Rule?

An interesting - and refreshingly realistic, as opposed to the blinkered "get over it" attitude many Democrats are adopting - perspective from an Arab American:
Prior to elections in Afghanistan, U.S. politicians asked, "Are the people ready for democracy?" implying that life under the rule of a repressive regime had stunted their capacity for participating as free people in the running of their government. In the reverse, those of us who are dismayed by officials' and citizens' conduct during recent U.S. elections are asking, "Have the citizens of the United States decided that authoritarian rule is to be preferred over Liberty?"

The public's tolerance of flagrant violations of candidates' and voters' rights indicates yet another instance where sacrifice of individual rights has become acceptable, with the assumption, I suppose, that it will always be the other fellow's rights that is sacrificed.
AP Covers Vote Fraud

Associated Press has the following story today. I wonder if any mainstream newspapers will run with it?
Two third-party presidential candidates filed a federal lawsuit Monday to force a recount of Ohio ballots, and a spokesman for the state Democratic Party said it intends to join the suit.

The lawsuit was filed Monday evening in U.S. District Court in Toledo, according to Blair Bobier, a spokesman for Green Party candidate David Cobb, who brought the suit along with Libertarian Michael Badnarik. Court officials could not be reached for comment Monday night. The case did not immediately show up on the court's Web site.

The third-party candidates have said they are not interested in overturning President Bush (news - web sites)'s victory in the state. But they say they are concerned about reports of voting irregularities and believe a recount is necessary to ensure accuracy.


Dan Trevas, spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party, said the party would join the recount request after the secretary of state certified the results, or sooner if an early recount is ordered by a court.

Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, has said results will be certified by Dec. 6, and said Monday it would not be feasible to conduct a recount beforehand because there are no final numbers.

Bush led Democrat John Kerry (news - web sites) by 136,000 votes in the unofficial count, and Kerry conceded that there were not enough provisional ballots to change the outcome. But Kerry supporters have made numerous claims of voting irregularities in Ohio.

The two third-party candidates received a combined 0.26 percent of the vote in unofficial results.

Keith Cunningham, director of the Allen County Board of Elections and incoming president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, called the lawsuit "frivolous," adding that he might mobilize counties to resist a recount.

"Commissioners are beginning to understand — and if they don't, will understand soon — what kind of financial impact this is going to have on them, in a year when elections already cost a great deal more than expected," said Cunningham, a Republican.

The two former third-party candidates have said they raised more than $150,000 to cover the state's fee for a recount. Ohio law requires payment of $10 per precinct, or $113,600 statewide, but election officials say the true expense would be far greater.

LoParo has estimated the actual cost at $1.5 million.
No Accountability: Phony Florida Felons List Was Just An Accident

FLORIDA election officials were lax in their oversight of the company that created a flawed database of felons and dead voters, but there was no intent to disenfranchise anyone, an internal audit of the project found.

The audit by the Department of State's inspector general, released yesterday, concerned the state's now-cancelled contract with the consulting firm Accenture, which was paid $US2.3 million ($2.95 million) to create the database.

The list, primarily intended to help local elections officials purge voter rolls of convicted felons without voting rights and people who had died since the last election, matched a list of registered voters with other lists of deaths and criminal records sent in by other state agencies.

Secretary of State Glenda Hood's office abandoned the project earlier this year after acknowledging that 2500 former felons were on the list even though their voting rights had been restored and that, due to a technical glitch, Hispanics were largely absent from the list. Hispanics often vote Republican in Florida, and some critics questioned whether there was intent to purge some felons, but not others.
A Prescient Piece From Nov 1, 2004:

If this Election is Stolen, Will it be by Enough to Stop a Recount?
So, how can an election be stolen and recounts avoided?

First, eliminate paper ballots. Thirty percent of all voters will use paperless computerized voting machines that are easy to rig and impossible to detect. Republicans in Congress successfully fought off legislation sponsored by Democrats in the House and Senate that would require voting machines to produce a paper trail. Even with this legislation, paper ballots were only to be used in case of a "close" election.

Second, make sure the paper ballots that do exist are counted on computerized ballot scanners and not by-hand. This includes absentee ballots. Ballot scanners are also easy to rig and are owned by the same handful of corporations. Even in Nevada, where touchscreens must produce paper ballots, the ballots will only be counted in case of a close election. In California, which is allowing voters to choose paper ballots in the upcoming election, ballots still won't be hand-counted; instead they'll be scanned by computers.

Third, and most importantly, steal the election by enough electronically-tabulated votes so that a recount will not be triggered.
Democrats Back Ohio Recount - Finally!

Keith Olbermann at MSNBC reports on a news release from Ohio's Democratic chairman, Dennis White:
"As Senator Kerry stated in his concession speech in Boston, we do not necessarily expect the results of the election to change, however, we believe it necessary to make sure everyone's vote is counted fairly and accurately." White called for witnesses, volunteers, and donations.

The statement ends nearly three weeks of official Democratic ambivalence towards the formal recount process in the election's decisive state. As late as Friday, Senator Kerry's email to 3,000,000 supporters contained a seemingly ambiguous reference to that process, which began with the phrase "Regardless of the outcome of this election, once all the votes are counted, and believe me they will be counted, we will continue to challenge the administration."

It had been left to the independent parties, the Greens and Libertarians, to do the initial work demanding a recount in each of Ohio's 88 counties. Their combined effort led to a bond of $113,600 being posted with the state last Friday to guarantee the coverage of expenses incurred. Just today, the "Glibs" amplified their demands in Ohio, filing a federal lawsuit that, if successful, would require the completion of the "full, hand recount" before the meeting of the Electoral College on December 13.

The Ohio Democrats did not attach themselves to the lawsuit. "The recount can begin after the official results are certified, which likely will be in the first week of December," reads the news release. "The Democratic party wants to be fully prepared to begin a recount immediately."
Olbermann also notes that the "drop-dead date" is not December 13, but January 6. A piece reprinted in the Smirking Chimp has some more interesting info:
It is noteworthy that the announcement of a legal challenge made it into weekend editions of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Columbus Dispatch, the Associated Press wires, and other publications. The Columbus paper even mentioned something curious. "Earlier this week, the Ohio Democratic party announced it would join a lawsuit arguing that the state lacks clear rules for evaluating provisional ballots, a move the party said will keep its options open if problems with the ballots surface."

This makes a little more sense out of a confusing item that appeared in an obscure weekly paper in Westchester County, New York, last Wednesday, in which a reporter named Adam Stone wrote "A top-ranking official with Democratic Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign told North County News last week that although unlikely, there is a recount effort being waged that could unseat Republican President George Bush." Stone quotes Kerry spokesman David Wade as saying: "We have 17,000 lawyers working on this, and the grassroots accountability couldn't be any higher - no (irregularity) will go unchecked. Period." Gives a little context to Senator Kerry's opaque mass e-mail and on-line video statement from Friday afternoon.

The Ohio newspaper coverage suggests that even the mainstream media is beginning to sit up and take notice that, whatever its merits, the investigation into the voting irregularities of November 2nd has moved from the Reynolds Wrap Hat stage into legal and governmental action...

Meantime, The Oakland Tribune not only devoted seventeen paragraphs Friday to the UC Berkeley study on the voting curiosities in Florida, but actually expended considerable energy towards what we used to call 'advancing the story': "The UC Berkeley report has not been peer reviewed, but a reputable MIT political scientist succeeded in replicating the analysis Thursday at the request of the Oakland Tribune and The Associated Press. He said an investigation is warranted."

In fact, he - MIT Arts and Social Sciences Dean Charles Stewart - said more than that. "There is an interesting pattern here that I hope someone looks into." Stewart is part of the same Cal Tech/MIT Voting Project that had earlier issued a preliminary report suggesting that there was no evidence of significant voting irregularity in Florida. Dean Stewart added he didn't necessarily buy the Berkeley conclusion - that the only variable that could explain the "excessive" votes in Florida was poisoned touch-screen voting - and still thought there were other options, such as, in the words of The Tribune's Ian Hoffman "absentee voting or some quirk of election administration."

Neither MIT nor Cal Tech has yet responded to the comments of several poll-savvy commentators, and others, that its paper was using erroneous statistics. Its premise, you'll recall, was that on a state-by-state basis, the notorious 2004 Exit Polls were within the margin of error and could be mathematically interpreted as having forecast the announced presidential outcome. It has been observed that the MIT/Cal Tech study used not the "raw" exit polls - as did Professor Steven Freeman of Penn did in his study - but rather the "weighted" polls, in which actual precinct and county official counts are mixed in to "correct" the organic "Hey, Buddy, who'd you vote for" numbers. The "weighted" polls have been analogized to a football handicapper predicting that the New Orleans Saints would beat the Denver Broncos 24-14, then, after the Broncos scored twenty points in the first quarter, announcing his prediction was now that the Saints would beat the Broncos 42-41, or even, that the Broncos would beat the Saints 40-7.

None of the coverage of the Berkeley study clarified a vitally important point about its conclusions regarding the touch-screen wobble in the fifteen Florida counties, and that has led to some unjustified optimism on the activist and Democratic sides. Its math produced two distinct numbers for "ghost votes" for President Bush: 130,000 and 260,000. This has led to the assumption in many quarters that Cal Tech has suggested as many as 260,000 Florida votes could swing from Bush to Kerry (enough to overturn the state). In fact - and the academics got a little too academic in summarizing their report and thus, this kind of got lost - the two numbers already consider the prospect of a swing:

a) There may have been 130,000 votes simply added to the Bush total. If proved and excised, they would reduce the President's Florida margin from approximately 350,000 votes to approximately 220,000;

b) There may have been 130,000 votes switched from Kerry to Bush. If proved and corrected, they would reduce (by double the 130,000 figure - namely 260,000) the President's Florida margin from approximately 350,000 votes to approximately 90,000.

On the ground in Florida, uncounted ballots continue to turn up in Pinellas County. Last Monday, an unmarked banker's box with 268 absentee ballots was discovered "sitting in plain sight on an office floor, with papers and other boxes stacked on top of it," according to The St. Petersburg Times. On Friday, the same paper reported that County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark found twelve more - ten provisionals in a blue pouch at a loading dock, and two absentees in a box headed for a storage facility. "I'm sick about this," the paper quoted Clark, whose office also whiffed on 1400 absentee ballots on Election Day 2000, and counted another 600 twice. Asked by a reporter if the election is over, she replied "I certainly hope so."



November 22, 2004

Bush's War Of Choice: More Innocent Victims

Child malnutrition soared in Iraq, agencies report:
"Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the United States led an invasion of the country 20 months ago, according to surveys by the United Nations, aid agencies and the interim Iraqi government.

After the rate of acute malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily declined to 4 percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7 percent this year, according to a study conducted by Iraq's Health Ministry in cooperation with Norway's Institute for Applied International Studies and the U.N. Development Program. The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from 'wasting,' a condition that takes in chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein.

Iraq's child malnutrition rate now roughly equals that of Burundi, an African nation torn by more than a decade of war. It is worse than rates in Uganda and Haiti."
Call It What It Is: Callous, Brutal, State-Sanctioned Murder

War correspondent Kevin Sites, in his own words about his Falluja shooting video:
"While I continue to tape, a Marine walks up to the other two bodies about fifteen feet away, but also lying against the same back wall.

Then I hear him say this about one of the men:

'He's fucking faking he's dead -- he's faking he's fucking dead.'

Through my viewfinder I can see him raise the muzzle of his rifle in the direction of the wounded Iraqi. There are no sudden movements, no reaching or lunging.

However, the Marine could legitimately believe the man poses some kind of danger. Maybe he's going to cover him while another Marine searches for weapons.

Instead, he pulls the trigger. There is a small splatter against the back wall and the man's leg slumps down.

'Well he's dead now,' says another Marine in the background.

I am still rolling. I feel the deep pit of my stomach. The Marine then abruptly turns away and strides away, right past the fifth wounded insurgent lying next to a column. He is very much alive and peering from his blanket. He is moving, even trying to talk. But for some reason, it seems he did not pose the same apparent 'danger' as the other man -- though he may have been more capable of hiding a weapon or explosive beneath his blanket.

But then two other marines in the room raise their weapons as the man tries to talk.

For a moment, I'm paralyzed still taping with the old man in the foreground. I get up after a beat and tell the Marines again, what I had told the lieutenant -- that this man -- all of these wounded men -- were the same ones from yesterday. That they had been disarmed treated and left here.

At that point the Marine who fired the shot became aware that I was in the room. He came up to me and said, "I didn't know sir-I didn't know." The anger that seemed present just moments before turned to fear and dread."
As Juan Cole puts it:
If guerrillas had stacked four wounded American Marines up somewhere, and then a second set of guerrillas came in, and a guerrilla shot one of the unarmed, wounded Marines in the head on camera, I guarantee you no one in the American media would be talking about extenuating circumstances. This act would be seen as cowardly and perfidious, with no need for further investigation.
Funny Ironic

Ukraine's Early Results, Exit Polls Differ: once again we see corrupt foreign leaders taking their cues from the Bush game plan, leaving the US in a position where it is really difficult to criticize without appearing hypocritical.

In this case, it is the pro-Russian guy in the red corner, while the pro-US guy is the contender ahead in the exit polls but falling behind in the actual count. Mind you, one of the exit polls was "conducted by anonymous questionnaires under a program funded by several Western governments," so perhaps their reliability is questionable.
No, Seriously...

"My Government has a strong dollar policy," Mr Bush told leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum in Chile:
"As far as our short-term deficit goes, I'll present a Budget that continues us on the path to reducing our deficit in half over a five-year period of time... My commitment to the international world is that we'll deal with the short-term deficit and the long-term unfunded liabilities, so that people can then take a look at our dollar in terms of fiscal austerity in Washington."
Back home, the Senate was budgeting for a new Presidential yacht:
"The Senate voted 65-30 for the legislation late on Saturday that sets aside funds for a range of priorities including a presidential yacht, foreign aid and energy."
And in New York, the Bush twins were reportedly turned away from a restaurant to the delight of diners:
Freemans, tuesday night the 16th of nov. the bush twins , along with 2 massive secret service men, tried to have dinner. they were told by the maitre'd that they were full and would be for the next 4 years. upon hearing, the entire restaurant cheered and did a round of shots...
They shouldn't be cheering. Such intolerance is a sure sign of a society in decline.
Vote2004.eRiposte.com lists 145 cases of vote fraud anomalies - and counting!

November 21, 2004

Sunday Update

Votergate.tv has video of the Volusia county election fraud uncovered by Bev Harris of blackboxvoting.org (see the post below). It certainly seems that Volusia at least will require a new vote, and a swing against Bush would surely raise questions about the validity of the whole election in the US public's mind (and in the mainstream media) - wouldn't it???

Meanwhile the Nader recount in New Hampshire (where Kerry won anyway) is progressing slowly, with results expected next week.
Election officials hoped to finish recounts in five of Nader’s 11 precincts Thursday, but only finished two by 4 p.m., Gardner said. Those areas, Litchfield and Manchester’s Ward 7, showed little change from the official tallies.
One can only wonder if the Nader campaign are even recounting REAL votes or not... Common Dreams has a fresh update on the whole vote fraud issue here, in which pollster John Zogby expresses serious concern about the November 2 result.

In Iraq, where new outbreaks of violence are exploding across the country, captors have freed a blonde female Polish hostage (believed to be the only blonde female hostage in Iraq). So who was the blonde lady on the alleged Margaret Hassan video?

It's being reported that the United States, Germany and other G7 nations have agreed to write off up to 80 per cent of Iraq's $US120 billion foreign debt. But have they really? The same report says that "the tentative agreement would be put to other Paris Club members, who have been meeting in Paris" and "sources said there was still a disagreement about the timetable for debt reduction and conditions."

November 20, 2004

Vote Fraud: The Smoking Gun?

Another amazing article from Thom Hartmann in OpEdNews today. Hartmann describes how Bev Harris, from blackboxvoting.org, found election poll tapes being thrown in the garbage and caught it all on camera with police present. Furthermore, when it became clear that there were two sets of data (those in the garbage and those sent to the Electoral Office), a comparison showed anomalies "favouring Bush every single time":
Bev showed up bright and early the morning of Wednesday the 17th - well before the scheduled meeting - and discovered three of the elections officials in the Elections Warehouse standing over a table covered with what looked like poll tapes. When they saw Bev and her friends, Bev told me in a telephone interview less than an hour later, "They immediately shoved us out and slammed the door."

In a way, that was a blessing, because it led to the stinking evidence.

"On the porch was a garbage bag," Bev said, "and so I looked in it and, and lo and behold, there were public record tapes."

Thrown away. Discarded. Waiting to be hauled off.

"It was technically stinking, in fact," Bev added, "because what they had done was to have thrown some of their polling tapes, which are the official records of the election, into the garbage. These were the ones signed by the poll workers. These are something we had done an official public records request for."

When the elections officials inside realized that the people outside were going through the trash, they called the police and one came out to challenge Bev.

Kathleen Wynne, a www.blackboxvoting.org investigator, was there.

"We caught the whole thing on videotape," she said. "I don't think you'll ever see anything like this - Bev Harris having a tug of war with an election worker over a bag of garbage, and he held onto it and she pulled on it, and it split right open, spilling out those poll tapes. They were throwing away our democracy, and Bev wasn't going to let them do it."

As I was interviewing Bev just moments after the tussle, she had to get off the phone, because, "Two police cars just showed up."

She told me later in the day, in an on-air interview, that when the police arrived, "We all had a vigorous debate on the merits of my public records request."

The outcome of that debate was that they all went from the Elections Warehouse back to the Elections Office, to compare the original, November 2 dated and signed poll tapes with the November 15 printouts the Elections Office had submitted to the Secretary of State. A camera crew from www.votergate.tv met them there, as well.

And then things got even odder.

"We were sitting there comparing the real [signed, original] tapes with the [later printout] ones that were given us," Bev said, "and finding things missing and finding things not matching, when one of the elections employees took a bin full of things that looked like garbage - that looked like polling tapes, actually - and passed by and disappeared out the back of the building."

This provoked investigator Ellen Brodsky to walk outside and check the garbage of the Elections Office itself. Sure enough - more original, signed poll tapes, freshly trashed.

"And I must tell you," Bev said, "that whatever they had taken out [the back door] just came right back in the front door and we said, 'What are these polling place tapes doing in your dumpster?'"

A November 18 call to the Volusia County Elections Office found that Elections Supervisor Deanie Lowe was unavailable and nobody was willing to speak on the record with an out-of-state reporter. However, The Daytona Beach News (in Volusia County), in a November 17th article by staff writer Christine Girardin, noted, "Harris went to the Department of Elections' warehouse on State Road 44 in DeLand on Tuesday to inspect original Nov. 2 polling place tapes, after being given a set of reprints dated Nov. 15. While there, Harris saw Nov. 2 polling place tapes in a garbage bag, heightening her concern about the integrity of voting records."

The Daytona Beach News further noted that, "[Elections Supervisor] Lowe confirmed Wednesday some backup copies of tapes from the Nov. 2 election were destined for the shredder," but pointed out that, according to Lowe, that was simply because there were two sets of tapes produced on election night, each signed. "One tape is delivered in one car along with the ballots and a memory card," the News reported. "The backup tape is delivered to the elections office in a second car."

Suggesting that duplicates don't need to be kept, Lowe claims that Harris didn't want to hear an explanation of why some signed poll tapes would be in the garbage. "She's not wanting to listen to an explanation," Lowe told the News of Harris. "She has her own ideas."

But the Ollie North action in two locations on two days was only half of the surprise that awaited Bev and her associates. When they 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.

"The difference was hundreds of votes in each of the different places we examined," said Bev, "and most of those were in minority areas."

When I asked Bev if the errors they were finding in precinct after precinct were random, as one would expect from technical, clerical, or computer errors, she became uncomfortable.

"You have to understand that we are non-partisan," she said. "We're not trying to change the outcome of an election, just to find out if there was any voting fraud."

That said, Bev added: "The pattern was very clear. The anomalies favored George W. Bush. Every single time."
Full story here.

Now surely that is a newsworthy story for the mainstream media to cover? You would think that TV stations like FOX and CNN would be falling over each other for a copy of Bev's video, wouldn't you?
Wolf! Wolf!

After all this time, what have we learned? Not much, apparently... The Post reports that Colin Powell's recent information on Iran comes from a single, unvetted source who "walked in" from God knows where (and presumably "walked out" with wads of cash.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell shared information with reporters Wednesday about Iran's nuclear program that was classified and based on an unvetted, single source who provided information that two U.S. officials said yesterday was highly significant if true but has not yet been verified.
After the Iraq WMD fiasco, as David Kay suggests, it's going to be a little harder to convince people to invade Iran:
"U.S. intelligence capability to warn -- and the secretary of state's capability to warn -- about weapons programs has been seriously impeded by the false warnings given about Iraq.

"This intelligence seems to be based on dissident groups," he continued. "In the case of Iraq, dissident groups fed us misinformation. And then finally, the (International Atomic Energy Agency's) own capability in Iran is seriously in question. For 15 years they missed a program. So you can say it's likely, but it's going to be very hard to convince the Europeans and others that that is what is happening."
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hussein Moussavian, puts it all in perspective:
"This allegation is timed to coincide with the next meeting of the board of governors of the IAEA. And every time just before the meeting there are these kind of allegations either from the United States or terrorist groups. And every time these allegations have proven to be false."

November 19, 2004

Will Canada Arrest Bush For War Crimes?

In Candada, a country Bush is due to visit next month, anti-Bush sentiment is widespread and vocal. Indeed, the Canadian prime minister has today expelled an MP from the ruling Liberal Party because of her outspoken criticism of US President George Bush. This included stamping on an effigy of Bush during a TV comedy show.

As Thomas Walkom at the Bellaciao collective suggests, Bush seems a perfect candidate for prosecution under Canada's Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act:
This act was passed in 2000 to bring Canada's ineffectual laws in line with the rules of the new International Criminal Court. While never tested, it lays out sweeping categories under which a foreign leader like Bush could face arrest.

In particular, it holds that anyone who commits a war crime, even outside Canada, may be prosecuted by our courts. What is a war crime? According to the statute, it is any conduct defined as such by "customary international law" or by conventions that Canada has adopted.

War crimes also specifically include any breach of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, such as torture, degradation, wilfully depriving prisoners of war of their rights "to a fair and regular trial," launching attacks "in the knowledge that such attacks will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians" and deportation of persons from an area under occupation.
Another Brick In The Wall

Geov Parrish looks at how far the anti-globalization movement has, and hasn't, come since the Seattle protests five years ago:
The Seattle demonstrations, and the resulting WTO gridlock, gave rise to a new generation of fair trade activism, particularly in South America. The anti-privatization protests in Bolivia in 2000 and 2003 (the latter of which deposed the government), the Argentinian fiscal meltdown of late 2002 (which did the same), the popular protests that kept Venezuela's anti-globalization leader Hugo Chavez in office, and a continent-wide wave of elections of left-leaning leaders critical of the 'Washington Consensus' are all part of a lineage that runs through Seattle. Those governments, particularly Brazil and Venezuela, have given rise in turn to a powerful new bloc opposed to American trade policy; in 2003 that bloc stymied WTO expansion (at Cancun) and further negotiation of the FTAA (in Miami)...

During the Clinton and then Bush Administrations, there has been no abatement in the U.S. commitment to free trade. But, due to the Seattle-inspired difficulties at the WTO, there has been a significant shift in tactics. Rather than relying on the WTO and other global institutions to enforce its trade agenda, Washington has turned more to bilateral agreements and limited regional multilateral ones such as the Andean Initiative and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). As more countries in the South have, in recent years, come to be controlled by skeptical governments, this new approach has allowed the U.S. to pick and choose its trade partners, focusing on conservative governments and countries vulnerable to American economic and diplomatic pressure. ..

The WTO protests in Seattle were a quantum leap forward in terms of public awareness of trade issues. Since then, however, U.S. organizers - unlike their brethren in Latin America - seem to have been stuck, trying to take their influence to the next level. With initiatives like CAFTA, time is not on their side. While the public education process goes on, each time a trade agreement is completed is another brick in a wall of a particular corporate trade structure, one that, once built, will be hard to tear down. That, ultimately, is the organizers' goal.
Stolen Election: Update

Highly-charged, jam-packed hearings in Columbus, Ohio, have cast serious doubt on the true outcome of the presidential election.
On Saturday, November 13, and Monday, November 15, the Ohio Election Protection Coalition’s public hearings in Columbus solicited extensive sworn first-person testimony from 32 of Ohio voters, precinct judges, poll workers, legal observers, party challengers. An additional 66 people provided written affidavits of election irregularities. The unavoidable conclusion is that this year's election in Ohio was deeply flawed, that thousands of Ohioans were denied their right to vote, and that the ultimate vote count is very much in doubt.

Most importantly, the testimony has revealed a widespread and concerted effort on the part of Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell to deny primarily African-American and young voters the right to cast their ballots within a reasonable time. By depriving precincts of adequate numbers of functioning voting machines, Blackwell created waits of three to eleven hours, driving tens of thousands of likely Democratic voters away from the polls and very likely affecting the outcome of the Ohio vote count, which in turn decided the national election...

At the Columbus hearings, witness after witness under oath gave testimony to an election riddled with discrimination and disarray. Among them:

Werner Lange, a pastor from Youngstown, Ohio, who said in part:
“In precincts 1 A and 5 G, voting as Hillman Elementary School, which is a predominantly African American community, there were woefully insufficient number of voting machines in three precincts. I was told that the standard was to have one voting machine per 100 registered voters. Precinct A had 750 registered voters. Precinct G had 690. There should have been 14 voting machines at this site. There were only 6, three per precinct, less than 50 percent of the standard. This caused an enormous bottleneck among voters who had to wait a very, very long time to vote, many of them giving up in frustration and leaving. . . . I estimate, by the way, that an estimated loss of over 8,000 votes from the African American community in the City of Youngstown alone, with its 84 precincts, were lost due to insufficient voting machines, and that would translate to some 7,000 votes lost for John Kerry for President in Youngstown alone. . . .”

“Just yesterday I went to the Trumbull Board of Elections in northeast Ohio, I wanted to review their precinct logs so I could continue my investigation. This was denied. I was told by the Board of Elections official that I could not see them until after the official vote was given.”

Marion Brown, Columbus:“I am here on behalf of a friend. My friend came to my home very upset while she was away standing four hours in the voting, her husband passed away. The funeral was on yesterday, November 13th, at 2:00. Perhaps had she not stood so long in the line, she may have been able to save her husband.”

Victoria Parks:“In Pickaway County, oh, my goodness, in Pickaway County, I entered there, I was shown a table, 53 poll books were plunked down in front of me. I noticed there were no signatures on file in any of the poll books, in any of the poll books, and furthermore, a minute later the director of the Board of Elections of Pickaway County came into the room and snatched the books away from me and said you cannot look at these books. I said are you aware that what you are doing is against the law? She said I have been on the phone with the Secretary of State and he has instructed me to take these books away and you cannot see them. I paraphrase very slightly here. She took them away. I was persona non grata. I did not want to risk arrest, and I left. . . . There were no signatures, and furthermore, the writing in the book seemed to have been written in the same hand, because that is a requirement.”

Derek Winsor, Columbus:“Out of the six total voting machines that were at 14 C, three of them showed some type of malfunction that at one point or another during the three our so hours that we were waiting, and between my wife and me, we had asked poll workers individually if they could explain what was going on and what kind of reassurances they could give us that, for one machine in particular that the votes had already been posted on, that machine would be counted, and the response was just, oh, they will be counted. And how can you be sure of that? What storage mechanism do they use to ensure that the votes are stored, and, again, the response was just, well, they just are. And that was a bit of a concern here.”

Carol Shelton, presiding judge, precinct 25 B at the Linden Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library:“The precinct is 95 to 99 percent black. . . . There were 1,500 persons on the precinct rolls. We received three machines. In my own precinct in Clintonville, 19E, we always received three machines for 700 to 730 voters. Voter turnout in my own precinct has reached as high as 70 percent while I worked there. I interviewed many voters in 25 B and asked how many machines they had had in the past. Everyone who had a recollection said five or six. I called to get more machines and ended up being connected with Matt Damschroder, the Director of the Board of Elections. After a real hassle -- and someone here has it on videotape, he sent me a fourth machine which did not dent the length of the line. Fewer than 700 voted, although the turnout at the beginning of the day would cause anyone to predict a turnout of over 80 percent. This was a clear case of voter suppression by making voting an impossibility for anyone who had to go to work or anyone who was stuck at home caring for children or the elderly while another family member voted.”

Allesondra Hernandez, Toledo:“What I witnessed when I had gotten there about 9 A.M. was a young African American woman who had come out nearly in tears. She was a new voter, very first registered, very excited to vote, and she had said that she had been bounced around to three different polling places, and this one had just turned her down again. People were there to help her out, and I was concerned. I started asking around to everyone else, and they had informed me earlier that day that she was not the only one, but there were at least three others who had been bounced around. Also earlier that day the polls had opened an hour late, did not open until about 7:30 A.M. The polling machines were locked in the principal's office. Hundreds of people were turned away, were forced to leave the line because they needed to be at school, they needed to be at work, or they needed to take their children to school. The people there who were assisting did the best they could to take down numbers and take down names, but I am assuming that a majority of those people could not come back because of work and/or because of school, because they had shown up to vote, and that was the time that they could vote, and that is why they were there. Also along the same lines, they ran out of pencils for those ballots.”

Erin Deignan, Columbus:“I was an official poll worker judge in precinct Columbus 25 F, at the East Linden School. We had between 1100 and 1200 people on the voter registry there. We had three voting machines. We did the math. I am sure lots of other people did too. With the five-minute limit, 13 hours the polls were open, three machines, that is 468 voters, that is less than half of the people we had on the registry. We stayed open three hours past 7:30 and got about 550 people through, but we had one Board of Elections worker come in the morning. We asked if he could bring more machines. He is said more machines had been delivered, but they didn't have any more. We had another Board of Elections official come later in the day, and he said that in Upper Arlington he had seen 12 machines.”

Matthew Segal, Gambier:
“In this past election, Kenyon College students and the residents of Gambier, Ohio, had to endure some of the most extenuating voting circumstances in the entire country. As many of you may already know, because they had it on national media attention, Kenyon students and the residents of Gambier had to stand in line up to 10 to 12 hours in the rain, through a hot gym, and crowded narrow lines, making it extremely uncomfortable. As a result of this, voters were disenfranchised, having class to attend to, sports commitments, and midterms for the next day, which they had to study for. Obviously, it is a disgrace that kids who are being perpetually told the importance of voting, could not vote because they had other commitments and had to be put up with a 12-hour line.”


Meanwhile, where the hell is John Kerry and the Democrat Party?
Once again, the Democrats have dissed the grassroots. Once again, a candidate who promised democracy has disappeared with barely a whimper in the face of those who would destroy it. His silence has allowed an orgy of media bloviation in homage to a bigoted, war-crazed America that, if it won at all, took this election not by national consensus, but by the Rovian staples of dirty tricks and voter suppression.

The upcoming Ohio recount is fraught with danger. The Republicans battled successfully to prevent the state's voting machines from including paper trails that can be reasonably recounted. These "black boxes" will require extreme sophistication to be properly evaluated. Unless intensely supervised down to the last detail, the Republicans who control these machines will turn this recount into a "proof" that the election "went smoothly."

So a true recount will require serious additional financial resources and a very aggressive, well-organized team. So far we hear not a peep from the mainstream Democrats. So far, they seem utterly deaf to the cries of fury and despair from those who were so wrongly deprived of their right to vote.

Democracy itself was lynched in Ohio on November 2, by both high and low tech means. Our freedoms may be the ultimate victim. But where is the Democratic Party?

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