Friday, October 29, 2004

NRA Ad Falsely Accuses Kerry
(the website Cheney meant to send you to to get the facts about his lies)

NRA Ad Falsely Accuses Kerry

It says he's sponsoring a proposal to ban "every pump shotgun" and
voted "to ban deer-hunting ammunition." Don't believe either claim.


The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund began airing a TV
ad Oct. 26 falsely accusing Kerry of voting to ban deer-hunting
ammunition. In fact, what Kerry voted for was a proposal to outlaw rifle
ammunition "designed or marketed as having armor piercing capability."

The NRA ad also claims Kerry is co-sponsoring a bill "that would ban
every semiautomatic shotgun and every pump shotgun." That's false.
Kerry co-sponsored extension of the now-expired assault-weapon ban, a
measure that would have expanded the ban to cover military-style shotguns
but specifically exempts pump-action shotguns.


A clear choice

Every election is a referrendum on the incumbent. This election is no exception.
Bush/Cheney et al keep trying to scare the citizens of the USA by saying that we would be attacked by terrorists only if we elect Kerry/Edwards. But hey, wait a minute. We already were attacked, and it was during the watch of Bush/Cheney, who ignored all warnings leading up to the attack, and then when we were attacked, Bush sat like a deer in the headlights in a classroom full of children, potentially endangering all of them by staying there, and failing to act immediately, swiftly, and decisively to find out what was going on and do whatever he could to prevent whatever else was still in progress (like the 2nd, 3rd and 4th planes).

So, when you go to the polls on Tuesday November 2nd, remember who took their eye off the ball and allowed us to be attacked, then took their eye off the ball again and diverted the war on terrorism (not on "terror") from Osama bin Laden to removing from power the guy "daddy didn't get," and to cause the death of over 1000 brave US soldiers who would otherwise still be alive and the wounding of over 8000 brave US soldiers who would otherwise still be whole.

And then, of course, there is the loss of many of our civil rights, taking the biggest surplus (thank you, President Clinton) and turning it into the biggest deficit (gee thanks, President Bush), the loss of millions of jobs, the encouragement by this administration to ship jobs to other countries, record high oil and gas prices, record high health care costs, not enough flu vaccines, (I could go on for a very long time.....). And for those who may be confused, Bush's failure to make any attempts at mediating the tense issues between the Arabs/Palestinians and Israel has made the situation more dangerous for Israel as well as for the US.

The choice is clear: more of the same is not an option.

On November 2, 2004 elect Kerry/Edwards.




NewYorker Magazine


Issue of 2004-11-01

This Presidential campaign has been as ugly and as bitter as any in American memory. The ugliness has flowed mostly in one direction, reaching its apotheosis in the effort, undertaken by a supposedly independent group financed by friends of the incumbent, to portray the challenger—who in his mid-twenties was an exemplary combatant in both the Vietnam War and the movement to end that war—as a coward and a traitor. The bitterness has been felt mostly by the challenger’s adherents; yet there has been more than enough to go around. This is one campaign in which no one thinks of having the band strike up “Happy Days Are Here Again.”

The heightened emotions of the race that (with any luck) will end on November 2, 2004, are rooted in the events of three previous Tuesdays. On Tuesday, November 7, 2000, more than a hundred and five million Americans went to the polls and, by a small but indisputable plurality, voted to make Al Gore President of the United States. Because of the way the votes were distributed, however, the outcome in the electoral college turned on the outcome in Florida. In that state, George W. Bush held a lead of some five hundred votes, one one-thousandth of Gore’s national margin; irregularities, and there were many, all had the effect of taking votes away from Gore; and the state’s electoral machinery was in the hands of Bush’s brother, who was the governor, and one of Bush’s state campaign co-chairs, who was the Florida secretary of state.

Bush sued to stop any recounting of the votes, and, on Tuesday, December 12th, the United States Supreme Court gave him what he wanted. Bush v. Gore was so shoddily reasoned and transparently partisan that the five justices who endorsed the decision declined to put their names on it, while the four dissenters did not bother to conceal their disgust. There are rules for settling electoral disputes of this kind, in federal and state law and in the Constitution itself. By ignoring them—by cutting off the process and installing Bush by fiat—the Court made a mockery not only of popular democracy but also of constitutional republicanism.

A result so inimical to both majority rule and individual civic equality was bound to inflict damage on the fabric of comity. But the damage would have been far less severe if the new President had made some effort to take account of the special circumstances of his election—in the composition of his Cabinet, in the way that he pursued his policy goals, perhaps even in the goals themselves. He made no such effort. According to Bob Woodward in “Plan of Attack,” Vice-President Dick Cheney put it this way: “From the very day we walked in the building, a notion of sort of a restrained presidency because it was such a close election, that lasted maybe thirty seconds. It was not contemplated for any length of time. We had an agenda, we ran on that agenda, we won the election—full speed ahead.”

The new President’s main order of business was to push through Congress a program of tax reductions overwhelmingly skewed to favor the very rich. The policies he pursued through executive action, such as weakening environmental protection and cutting off funds for international family-planning efforts, were mostly unpopular outside what became known (in English, not Arabic) as “the base,” which is to say the conservative movement and, especially, its evangelical component. The President’s enthusiastic embrace of that movement was such that, four months into the Administration, the defection of a moderate senator from Vermont, Jim Jeffords, cost his party control of the Senate. And, four months after that, the President’s political fortunes appeared to be coasting into a gentle but inexorable decline. Then came the blackest Tuesday of all.

September 11, 2001, brought with it one positive gift: a surge of solidarity, global and national—solidarity with and solidarity within the United States. This extraordinary outpouring provided Bush with a second opportunity to create something like a government of national unity. Again, he brushed the opportunity aside, choosing to use the political capital handed to him by Osama bin Laden to push through more elements of his unmandated domestic program. A year after 9/11, in the midterm elections, he increased his majority in the House and recaptured control of the Senate by portraying selected Democrats as friends of terrorism. Is it any wonder that the anger felt by many Democrats is even greater than can be explained by the profound differences in outlook between the two candidates and their parties?

The Bush Administration has had success in carrying out its policies and implementing its intentions, aided by majorities—political and, apparently, ideological—in both Houses of Congress. Substantively, however, its record has been one of failure, arrogance, and—strikingly for a team that prided itself on crisp professionalism—incompetence.

In January, 2001, just after Bush’s inauguration, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office published its budget outlook for the coming decade. It showed a cumulative surplus of more than five trillion dollars. At the time, there was a lot of talk about what to do with the anticipated bounty, a discussion that now seems antique. Last year’s federal deficit was three hundred and seventy-five billion dollars; this year’s will top four hundred billion. According to the C.B.O., which came out with its latest projection in September, the period from 2005 to 2014 will see a cumulative shortfall of $2.3 trillion.

Even this seven-trillion-dollar turnaround underestimates the looming fiscal disaster. In doing its calculations, the C.B.O. assumed that most of the Bush tax cuts would expire in 2011, as specified in the legislation that enacted them. However, nobody in Washington expects them to go away on schedule; they were designated as temporary only to make their ultimate results look less scary. If Congress extends the expiration deadlines—a near-certainty if Bush wins and the Republicans retain control of Congress—then, according to the C.B.O., the cumulative deficit between 2005 and 2014 will nearly double, to $4.5 trillion.

What has the country received in return for mortgaging its future? The President says that his tax cuts lifted the economy before and after 9/11, thereby moderating the downturn that began with the Nasdaq’s collapse in April, 2000. It’s true that even badly designed tax cuts can give the economy a momentary jolt. But this doesn’t make them wise policy. “Most of the tax cuts went to low- and middle-income Americans,” Bush said during his final debate with Senator John Kerry. This is false—a lie, actually—though at least it suggests some dim awareness that the reverse Robin Hood approach to tax cuts is politically and morally repugnant. But for tax cuts to stimulate economic activity quickly and efficiently they should go to people who will spend the extra money. Largely at the insistence of Democrats and moderate Republicans, the Bush cuts gave middle-class families some relief in the form of refunds, bigger child credits, and a smaller marriage penalty. Still, the rich do better, to put it mildly. Citizens for Tax Justice, a Washington research group whose findings have proved highly dependable, notes that, this year, a typical person in the lowest fifth of the income distribution will get a tax cut of ninety-one dollars, a typical person in the middle fifth will pocket eight hundred and sixty-three dollars, and a typical person in the top one per cent will collect a windfall of fifty-nine thousand two hundred and ninety-two dollars.

These disparities help explain the familiar charge that Bush will likely be the first chief executive since Hoover to preside over a net loss of American jobs. This Administration’s most unshakable commitment has been to shifting the burden of taxation away from the sort of income that rewards wealth and onto the sort that rewards work. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, another Washington research group, estimates that the average federal tax rate on income generated from corporate dividends and capital gains is now about ten per cent. On wages and salaries it’s about twenty-three per cent. The President promises, in a second term, to expand tax-free savings accounts, cut taxes further on dividends and capital gains, and permanently abolish the estate tax—all of which will widen the widening gap between the richest and the rest.

Bush signalled his approach toward the environment a few weeks into his term, when he reneged on a campaign pledge to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions, the primary cause of global warming. His record since then has been dictated, sometimes literally, by the industries affected. In 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed rescinding a key provision of the Clean Air Act known as “new source review,” which requires power-plant operators to install modern pollution controls when upgrading older facilities. The change, it turned out, had been recommended by some of the nation’s largest polluters, in e-mails to the Energy Task Force, which was chaired by Vice-President Cheney. More recently, the Administration proposed new rules that would significantly weaken controls on mercury emissions from power plants. The E.P.A.’s regulation drafters had copied, in some instances verbatim, memos sent to it by a law firm representing the utility industry.

“I guess you’d say I’m a good steward of the land,” Bush mused dreamily during debate No. 2. Or maybe you’d say nothing of the kind. The President has so far been unable to persuade the Senate to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but vast stretches of accessible wilderness have been opened up to development. By stripping away restrictions on the use of federal lands, often through little-advertised rule changes, the Administration has potentially opened up sixty million acres, an area larger than Indiana and Iowa combined, to logging, mining, and oil exploration.

During the fevered period immediately after September 11th, the Administration rushed what it was pleased to call the U.S.A. Patriot Act through a compliant Congress. Some of the reaction to that law has been excessive. Many of its provisions, such as allowing broader information-sharing among investigative agencies, are sensible. About others there are legitimate concerns. Section 215 of the law, for example, permits government investigators to obtain—without a subpoena or a search warrant based on probable cause—a court order entitling them to records from libraries, bookstores, doctors, universities, and Internet service providers, among other public and private entities. Officials of the Department of Justice say that they have used Section 215 with restraint, and that they have not, so far, sought information from libraries or bookstores. Their avowals of good faith would be more reassuring if their record were not otherwise so troubling.

Secrecy and arrogance have been the touchstones of the Justice Department under Bush and his attorney general, John Ashcroft. Seven weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the Administration announced that its investigation had resulted in nearly twelve hundred arrests. The arrests have continued, but eventually the Administration simply stopped saying how many people were and are being held. In any event, not one of the detainees has been convicted of anything resembling a terrorist act. At least as reprehensible is the way that foreign nationals living in the United States have been treated. Since September 11th, some five thousand have been rounded up and more than five hundred have been deported, all for immigration infractions, after hearings that, in line with a novel doctrine asserted by Ashcroft, were held in secret. Since it is official policy not to deport terrorism suspects, it is unclear what legitimate anti-terror purpose these secret hearings serve.

President Bush often complains about Democratic obstructionism, but the truth is that he has made considerable progress, if that’s the right word, toward the goal of stocking the federal courts with conservative ideologues. The Senate has confirmed two hundred and one of his judicial nominees, more than the per-term averages for Presidents Clinton, Reagan, and Bush senior. Senate Republicans blocked more than sixty of Clinton’s nominees; Senate Democrats have blocked only ten of Bush’s. (Those ten, by the way, got exactly what they deserved. Some of them—such as Carolyn Kuhl, who devoted years of her career to trying to preserve tax breaks for colleges that practice racial discrimination, and Brett Kavanaugh, a thirty-eight-year-old with no judicial or courtroom experience who co-wrote the Starr Report—rank among the worst judicial appointments ever attempted.)

Even so, to the extent that Bush and Ashcroft have been thwarted it has been due largely to our still vigorous federal judiciary, especially the Supreme Court. Like some of the Court’s worst decisions of the past four years (Bush v. Gore again comes to mind), most of its best—salvaging affirmative action, upholding civil liberties for terrorist suspects, striking down Texas’s anti-sodomy law, banning executions of the mentally retarded—were reached by one- or two-vote majorities. (Roe v. Wade is two justices removed from reversal.) All but one of the sitting justices are senior citizens, ranging in age from sixty-five to eighty-four, and the gap since the last appointment—ten years—is the longest since 1821. Bush has said more than once that Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are his favorite justices. In a second Bush term, the Court could be remade in their images.

The record is similarly dismal in other areas of domestic policy. An executive order giving former Presidents the power to keep their papers indefinitely sealed is one example among many of a mania for secrecy that long antedates 9/11. The President’s hostility to science, exemplified by his decision to place crippling limits on federal support of stem-cell research and by a systematic willingness to distort or suppress scientific findings discomfiting to “the base,” is such that scores of eminent scientists who are normally indifferent to politics have called for his defeat. The Administration’s energy policies, especially its resistance to increasing fuel-efficiency requirements, are of a piece with its environmental irresponsibility. Even the highly touted No Child Left Behind education program, enacted with the support of the liberal lion Edward Kennedy, is being allowed to fail, on account of grossly inadequate funding. Some of the money that has been pumped into it has been leached from other education programs, dozens of which are slated for cuts next year.

Ordinarily, such a record would be what lawyers call dispositive. But this election is anything but ordinary. Jobs, health care, education, and the rest may not count for much when weighed against the prospect of large-scale terrorist attack. The most important Presidential responsibility of the next four years, as of the past three, is the “war on terror”—more precisely, the struggle against a brand of Islamist fundamentalist totalitarianism that uses particularly ruthless forms of terrorism as its main weapon.

Bush’s immediate reaction to the events of September 11, 2001, was an almost palpable bewilderment and anxiety. Within a few days, to the universal relief of his fellow-citizens, he seemed to find his focus. His decision to use American military power to topple the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, who had turned their country into the principal base of operations for the perpetrators of the attacks, earned the near-unanimous support of the American people and of America’s allies. Troops from Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Norway, and Spain are serving alongside Americans in Afghanistan to this day.

The determination of ordinary Afghans to vote in last month’s Presidential election, for which the votes are still being counted, is clearly a positive sign. Yet the job in Afghanistan has been left undone, despite fervent promises at the outset that the chaos that was allowed to develop after the defeat of the Soviet occupation in the nineteen-eighties would not be repeated. The Taliban has regrouped in eastern and southern regions. Bin Laden’s organization continues to enjoy sanctuary and support from Afghans as well as Pakistanis on both sides of their common border. Warlords control much of Afghanistan outside the capital of Kabul, which is the extent of the territorial writ of the decent but beleaguered President Hamid Karzai. Opium production has increased fortyfold.

The White House’s real priorities were elsewhere from the start. According to the former counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke, in a Situation Room crisis meeting on September 12, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld suggested launching retaliatory strikes against Iraq. When Clarke and others pointed out to him that Al Qaeda—the presumed culprit—was based in Afghanistan, not Iraq, Rumsfeld is said to have remarked that there were better targets in Iraq. The bottom line, as Bush’s former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill has said, was that the Bush-Cheney team had been planning to carry out regime change in Baghdad well before September 11th—one way or another, come what may.

At all three debates, President Bush defended the Iraq war by saying that without it Saddam Hussein would still be in power. This is probably true, and Saddam’s record of colossal cruelty--of murder, oppression, and regional aggression--was such that even those who doubted the war’s wisdom acknowledged his fall as an occasion for satisfaction. But the removal of Saddam has not been the war’s only consequence; and, as we now know, his power, however fearsome to the millions directly under its sway, was far less of a threat to the United States and the rest of the world than it pretended—and, more important, was made out—to be.

As a variety of memoirs and journalistic accounts have made plain, Bush seldom entertains contrary opinion. He boasts that he listens to no outside advisers, and inside advisers who dare to express unwelcome views are met with anger or disdain. He lives and works within a self-created bubble of faith-based affirmation. Nowhere has his solipsism been more damaging than in the case of Iraq. The arguments and warnings of analysts in the State Department, in the Central Intelligence Agency, in the uniformed military services, and in the chanceries of sympathetic foreign governments had no more effect than the chants of millions of marchers.

The decision to invade and occupy Iraq was made on the basis of four assumptions: first, that Saddam’s regime was on the verge of acquiring nuclear explosives and had already amassed stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons; second, that the regime had meaningful links with Al Qaeda and (as was repeatedly suggested by the Vice-President and others) might have had something to do with 9/11; third, that within Iraq the regime’s fall would be followed by prolonged celebration and rapid and peaceful democratization; and, fourth, that a similar democratic transformation would be precipitated elsewhere in the region, accompanied by a new eagerness among Arab governments and publics to make peace between Israel and a presumptive Palestinian state. The first two of these assumptions have been shown to be entirely baseless. As for the second two, if the wishes behind them do someday come true, it may not be clear that the invasion of Iraq was a help rather than a hindrance.

In Bush’s rhetoric, the Iraq war began on March 20, 2003, with precision bombings of government buildings in Baghdad, and ended exactly three weeks later, with the iconic statue pulldown. That military operation was indeed a success. But the cakewalk led over a cliff, to a succession of heedless and disastrous mistakes that leave one wondering, at the very least, how the Pentagon’s civilian leadership remains intact and the President’s sense of infallibility undisturbed. The failure, against the advice of such leaders as General Eric Shinseki, then the Army chief of staff, to deploy an adequate protective force led to unchallenged looting of government buildings, hospitals, museums, and—most inexcusable of all—arms depots. (“Stuff happens,” Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld explained, though no stuff happened to the oil ministry.) The Pentagon all but ignored the State Department’s postwar plans, compiled by its Future of Iraq project, which warned not only of looting but also of the potential for insurgencies and the folly of relying on exiles such as Ahmad Chalabi; the project’s head, Thomas Warrick, was sidelined. The White House counsel’s disparagement of the Geneva Conventions and of prohibitions on torture as “quaint” opened the way to systematic and spectacular abuses at Abu Ghraib and other American-run prisons--a moral and political catastrophe for which, in a pattern characteristic of the Administration’s management style, no one in a policymaking position has been held accountable. And, no matter how Bush may cleave to his arguments about a grand coalition (“What’s he say to Tony Blair?” “He forgot Poland!”), the coalition he assembled was anything but grand, and it has been steadily melting away in Iraq’s cauldron of violence.

By the end of the current fiscal year, the financial cost of this war will be two hundred billion dollars (the figure projected by Lawrence Lindsey, who headed the President’s Council of Economic Advisers until, like numerous other bearers of unpalatable news, he was cashiered) and rising. And there are other, more serious costs that were unforeseen by the dominant factions in the Administration (although there were plenty of people who did foresee them). The United States has become mired in a low-intensity guerrilla war that has taken more lives since the mission was declared to be accomplished than before. American military deaths have mounted to more than a thousand, a number that underplays the real level of suffering: among the eight thousand wounded are many who have been left seriously maimed. The toll of Iraqi dead and wounded is of an order of magnitude greater than the American. Al Qaeda, previously an insignificant presence in Iraq, is an important one now. Before this war, we had persuaded ourselves and the world that our military might was effectively infinite. Now it is overstretched, a reality obvious to all. And, if the exposure of American weakness encourages our enemies, surely the blame lies with those who created the reality, not with those who, like Senator Kerry, acknowledge it as a necessary step toward changing it.

When the Administration’s geopolitical, national-interest, and anti-terrorism justifications for the Iraq war collapsed, it groped for an argument from altruism: postwar chaos, violence, unemployment, and brownouts notwithstanding, the war has purchased freedoms for the people of Iraq which they could not have had without Saddam’s fall. That is true. But a sad and ironic consequence of this war is that its fumbling prosecution has undermined its only even arguably meritorious rationale—and, as a further consequence, the salience of idealism in American foreign policy has been likewise undermined. Foreign-policy idealism has taken many forms—Wilson’s aborted world federalism, Carter’s human-rights jawboning, and Reagan’s flirtation with total nuclear disarmament, among others. The failed armed intervention in Somalia and the successful ones in the Balkans are other examples. The neoconservative version ascendant in the Bush Administration, post-9/11, draws partly on these strains. There is surely idealistic purpose in envisioning a Middle East finally relieved of its autocracies and dictatorships. Yet this Administration’s adventure in Iraq is so gravely flawed and its credibility so badly damaged that in the future, faced with yet another moral dilemma abroad, it can be expected to retreat, a victim of its own Iraq Syndrome.

The damage visited upon America, and upon America’s standing in the world, by the Bush Administration’s reckless mishandling of the public trust will not easily be undone. And for many voters the desire to see the damage arrested is reason enough to vote for John Kerry. But the challenger has more to offer than the fact that he is not George W. Bush. In every crucial area of concern to Americans (the economy, health care, the environment, Social Security, the judiciary, national security, foreign policy, the war in Iraq, the fight against terrorism), Kerry offers a clear, corrective alternative to Bush’s curious blend of smugness, radicalism, and demagoguery. Pollsters like to ask voters which candidate they’d most like to have a beer with, and on that metric Bush always wins. We prefer to ask which candidate is better suited to the governance of our nation.

Throughout his long career in public service, John Kerry has demonstrated steadiness and sturdiness of character. The physical courage he showed in combat in Vietnam was matched by moral courage when he raised his voice against the war, a choice that has carried political costs from his first run for Congress, lost in 1972 to a campaign of character assassination from a local newspaper that could not forgive his antiwar stand, right through this year’s Swift Boat ads. As a senator, Kerry helped expose the mischief of the Bank of Commerce and Credit International, a money-laundering operation that favored terrorists and criminal cartels; when his investigation forced him to confront corruption among fellow-Democrats, he rejected the cronyism of colleagues and brought down power brokers of his own party with the same dedication that he showed in going after Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal. His leadership, with John McCain, of the bipartisan effort to put to rest the toxic debate over Vietnam-era P.O.W.s and M.I.A.s and to lay the diplomatic groundwork for Washington’s normalization of relations with Hanoi, in the mid-nineties, was the signal accomplishment of his twenty years on Capitol Hill, and it is emblematic of his fairness of mind and independence of spirit. Kerry has made mistakes (most notably, in hindsight at least, his initial opposition to the Gulf War in 1990), but—in contrast to the President, who touts his imperviousness to changing realities as a virtue—he has learned from them.

Kerry’s performance on the stump has been uneven, and his public groping for a firm explanation of his position on Iraq was discouraging to behold. He can be cautious to a fault, overeager to acknowledge every angle of an issue; and his reluctance to expose the Administration’s appalling record bluntly and relentlessly until very late in the race was a missed opportunity. But when his foes sought to destroy him rather than to debate him they found no scandals and no evidence of bad faith in his past. In the face of infuriating and scurrilous calumnies, he kept the sort of cool that the thin-skinned and painfully insecure incumbent cannot even feign during the unprogrammed give-and-take of an electoral debate. Kerry’s mettle has been tested under fire—the fire of real bullets and the political fire that will surely not abate but, rather, intensify if he is elected—and he has shown himself to be tough, resilient, and possessed of a properly Presidential dose of dignified authority. While Bush has pandered relentlessly to the narrowest urges of his base, Kerry has sought to appeal broadly to the American center. In a time of primitive partisanship, he has exhibited a fundamentally undogmatic temperament. In campaigning for America’s mainstream restoration, Kerry has insisted that this election ought to be decided on the urgent issues of our moment, the issues that will define American life for the coming half century. That insistence is a measure of his character. He is plainly the better choice. As observers, reporters, and commentators we will hold him to the highest standards of honesty and performance. For now, as citizens, we hope for his victory.


Thursday, October 28, 2004

The almost 400 tons of explosives captured on tape *after* American occupation of Iraq

KTSB Minneapolis/St. Paul
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS video may be linked to missing explosives in Iraq
Updated: 10/28/2004 09:03:21 AM

A 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS crew in Iraq shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein was in the area where tons of explosives disappeared, and may have videotaped some of those weapons.

The missing explosives are now an issue in the presidential debate. Democratic candidate John Kerry is accusing President Bush of not securing the site they allegedly disappeared from. President Bush says no one knows if the ammunition was taken before or after the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003 when coalition troops moved in to the area.

Using GPS technology and talking with members of the 101st Airborne Division, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has determined the crew embedded with the troops may have been on the southern edge of the Al Qaqaa installation, where the ammunition disappeared. The news crew was based just south of Al Qaqaa, and drove two or three miles north of there with soldiers on April 18, 2003.

During that trip, members of the 101st Airborne Division showed the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS news crew bunker after bunker of material labelled "explosives." Usually it took just the snap of a bolt cutter to get into the bunkers and see the material identified by the 101st as detonation cords.

"We can stick it in those and make some good bombs." a soldier told our crew.

Soldiers who took a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS crew into bunkers on April 18 said some of the boxes uncovered contained proximity fuses.
There were what appeared to be fuses for bombs. They also found bags of material men from the 101st couldn't identify, but box after box was clearly marked "explosive."

In one bunker, there were boxes marked with the name "Al Qaqaa", the munitions plant where tons of explosives allegedly went missing.

Once the doors to the bunkers were opened, they weren't secured. They were left open when the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS crew and the military went back to their base.

"We weren't quite sure what were looking at, but we saw so much of it and it didn't appear that this was being secured in any way," said photojournalist Joe Caffrey. "It was several miles away from where military people were staying in their tents".

Officers with the 101st Airborne told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the bunkers were within the U.S. military perimeter and protected. But Caffrey and former 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Reporter Dean Staley, who spent three months together in Iraq, said Iraqis were coming and going freely.

"At one point there was a group of Iraqis driving around in a pick-up truck,"Staley said. "Three or four guys we kept an eye on, worried they might come near us."

On Wednesday, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS e-mailed still images of the footage taken at the site to experts in Washington to see if the items captured on tape are the same kind of high explosives that went missing in Al Qaqaa. Those experts could not make that determination.

The footage is now in the hands of security experts to see if it is indeed the explosives in question.


White House of Horrors

The New York Times
October 28, 2004

White House of Horrors

Dick Cheney peaked too soon. We've still got a few days left until Halloween.

It was scary enough when we thought the vice president had created his own reality for spin purposes. But if he actually believes that Iraq is "a remarkable success story,'' it's downright spooky. He's already got his persona for Sunday: he's the mad scientist in the haunted mansion, fiddling with test tubes to force the world to conform to his twisted vision.

After 9/11, Mr. Cheney swirled his big black cape and hunkered down in his undisclosed dungeon, reading books about smallpox and plague and worst-case terrorist scenarios. His ghoulish imagination ran wild, and he dragged the untested president and jittery country into his house of horrors, painting a gory picture of how Iraq could let fearsome munitions fall into the hands of evildoers.

He yanked America into war to preclude that chilling bloodbath. But in a spine-tingling switch, the administration's misbegotten invasion of Iraq has let fearsome munitions fall into the hands of evildoers. It's also forged the links between Al Qaeda and the Sunni Baathists that Mr. Cheney and his crazy-eyed Igors at the Pentagon had fantasized about to justify their hunger to remake the Middle East.

It's often seen in scary movies: you play God to create something in your own image, and the monster you make ends up coming after you.

Determined to throw a good scare into the Arab world, the vice president ended up scaring up the swarm of jihadist evil spirits he had conjured, like the overreaching sorcerer in "Fantasia." The Pentagon bungled the occupation so badly, it caused the insurgency to grow like the Blob.

Just as Catherine Deneuve had bizarre hallucinations in the horror classic "Repulsion,'' Mr. Cheney and the neocons were in a deranged ideological psychosis, obsessing about imaginary weapons while allowing enemies to spirit the real ones away.

The officials charged with protecting us set off so many false alarms that they ignored all the real ones.

President Bush is like one of the blissfully ignorant teenagers in "Friday the 13th'' movies, spouting slogans like "Freedom is on the march'' while Freddy Krueger is in the closet, ready to claw his skin off.

Mr. Bush ignored his own experts' warnings that Osama bin Laden planned to attack inside the U.S., that an invasion of Iraq could create a toxic partnership between outside terrorists and Baathists and create sympathy for them across the Islamic world, that Donald Rumsfeld was planning a war and occupation without enough troops, that Saddam's aluminum tubes were not for nuclear purposes, that U.S. troops should safeguard 380 tons of sealed explosives that could bring down planes and buildings, and that, after the invasion, Iraq could erupt into civil war.

And, of course, the president ignored Colin Powell's Pottery Barn warning: if you break it, you own it.

Their Iraqi puppet, Ayad Allawi, turned on Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush this week, in a scene right out of "Chucky.'' Mr. Allawi accused coalition forces of "major negligence'' for not protecting the unarmed Iraqi National Guard trainees who were slaughtered by insurgents wearing Iraqi police uniforms. Iraqi recruits are getting killed so fast we can't even pretend that we're going to turn the country over to them.

If you really want to be chilled to the bone this Halloween, listen to what Peter W. Galbraith, a former diplomat who helped advance the case for an Iraq invasion at the request of Paul Wolfowitz, said in a column yesterday in The Boston Globe.

He said he'd told Mr. Wolfowitz about "the catastrophic aftermath of the invasion, the unchecked looting of every public institution in Baghdad, the devastation of Iraq's cultural heritage, the anger of ordinary Iraqis who couldn't understand why the world's only superpower was letting this happen.'' He told Mr. Wolfowitz that mobs were looting Iraqi labs of live H.I.V. and black fever viruses and making off with barrels of yellowcake.

"Even after my briefing, the Pentagon leaders did nothing to safeguard Iraq's nuclear sites,'' he said.

In his column, Mr. Galbraith said weapons looted from the arms site called Al Qaqaa might have wound up in Iran, which could obviously use them to pursue nuclear weapons.

In April 2003 in Baghdad, he said, he told a young U.S. lieutenant stationed across the street that H.I.V. and black fever viruses had just been looted. The soldier had been devastated and said, "I hope I'm not responsible for Armageddon.''

Too bad that never occurred to Dr. Cheneystein.


A Hole in the Heart

The New York Times
October 28, 2004

A Hole in the Heart

When you read polls showing a significant number of Americans feel our country is on the wrong track, what do you think is bothering people? I think it's a deep worry that there is a hole in the heart of the world - the moderate center seems to be getting torn asunder. That has many people worried. And they are right to be worried.

American politics is so polarized today that there is no center, only sides. Israeli politics has become divided nearly to the point of civil war. In the Arab-Muslim world, where the moderate center was always a fragile flower, the political moderates are on the defensive everywhere, and moderate Muslim spiritual leaders seem almost nonexistent.

Europe, for its part, has gone so crazy over the Bush administration that the normally thoughtful Guardian newspaper completely lost its mind last week and published a column that openly hoped for the assassination of President Bush, saying: "John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. - where are you now that we need you?" (The writer apologized later.) Meanwhile, French and German leaders seem to be competing over who can say more categorically that they will never send troops to help out in Iraq - even though the help needed now is to organize the first U.N.-supervised democratic election in that country.

How do we begin to repair this jagged hole? There is no cure-all, but three big things would help. One is a different U.S. approach to the world. The Bush-Cheney team bears a big responsibility for this hole because it nakedly exploited 9/11 to push a far-right Republican agenda, domestically and globally, for which it had no mandate. When U.S. policy makes such a profound lurch to the right, when we start exporting fear instead of hope, the whole center of gravity of the world is affected. Countries reposition themselves in relation to us.

Had the administration been more competent in pursuing its policies in Iraq - which can still turn out decently - the hole in the heart of the world might not have gotten so large and jagged.

I have been struck by how many foreign dignitaries have begged me lately for news that Bush will lose. This Bush team has made itself so radioactive it glows in the dark. When the world liked Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, America had more power in the world. When much of the world detests George Bush, America has less power. People do not want to be seen standing next to us. It doesn't mean we should run our foreign policy as a popularity contest, but it does mean that leading is not just about making decisions - it's also the ability to communicate, follow through and persuade.

If the Bush team wins re-election, unless it undergoes a policy lobotomy and changes course and tone, the breach between America and the rest of the world will only get larger. But all Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney have told us during this campaign is that they have made no mistakes and see no reason to change.

The second thing that is necessary to heal the hole in the world is a decent Iraqi election. If such an election can be brought off, the Europeans, the Arabs and the American left will have to rethink their positions. I know what I am for in Iraq: a real election and a decent government. The Europeans, the Arabs and the American left know what they are against in Iraq: George Bush and his policies. But if there is an elected Iraqi government, it could be the magnet to begin pulling the moderate center of the world back together, because a duly elected Iraqi government is something everyone should want to help.

The real question is, What if we get a new Iraqi government but the same old Bush team incompetence? That would be a problem. Even an elected Iraqi government will see its legitimacy wane if we cannot help it provide basic security and jobs.

Last, we need to hope that Ariel Sharon's hugely important effort to withdraw Israel from Gaza will pave the way for a resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians. When there is no peace in the Holy Land, and when America has no diplomacy going on there, the world is always more polarized.

I am no Sharon fan, but I am impressed. Mr. Sharon's willingness to look his own ideology and his own political base in the eye, conclude that pandering to both of them is no longer in his country's national interest, and then risk his life and political career to change course is an example of leadership you just don't see much of any more in democracies.

I wonder what Karl Rove thinks of it?


Abu Ghraib, Unresolved

The New York Times
October 28, 2004

Abu Ghraib, Unresolved

When the Abu Ghraib prison scandal first broke, the Bush administration struck a pose of righteous indignation. It assured the world that the problem was limited to one block of one prison, that the United States would never condone the atrocities we saw in those terrible photos, that it would punish those responsible for any abuse - regardless of their rank - and that it was committed to defending the Geneva Conventions and the rights of prisoners.

None of this appears to be true. The Army has prosecuted a few low-ranking soldiers and rebuked a Reserve officer or two, but exonerated the top generals. No political leader is being held accountable for the policies set in Washington that led to the abuses at Abu Ghraib and at other prison camps operated by the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency in Iraq and Afghanistan, and at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where prisoner abuse was systemic. And we've learned that the administration's respect for the Geneva Conventions, which some senior officials openly disdain as an antiquated nuisance, is highly conditional.

The Times's Tim Golden documented this week the way the Bush administration secretly created a parallel - and unconstitutional - judicial universe for Gitmo. The White House was so determined to suspend the normal rights and processes for the hundreds of men captured in Afghanistan - none of them important members of Al Qaeda and most of them no threat at all - that it hid the details from Secretary of State Colin Powell and never bothered to consult Congress.

The Washington Post and The Times also reported this week that over 18 months, the C.I.A., which has a record of hiding prisoners in Iraq from the Red Cross, secretly spirited a dozen non-Iraqi civilians out of prisons in Iraq to undisclosed locations - another evident violation of the Geneva Conventions. To justify that operation after the fact, the same legal offices that produced the infamous paper on how to pretend that torture is legal drew up a new opinion claiming that the president has the right to decide which prisoners are covered by the Geneva Conventions and which are not.

This happened in secret, at the same time that administration officials were testifying at the Senate's Abu Ghraib hearings about the president's allegiance to the Geneva Conventions and to American constitutional values when it came to the treatment of prisoners.

The gap between the administration's public statements and private actions is enormous. In May, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said civilians captured in Iraq would be treated according to the conventions. And Stephen Cambone, Mr. Rumsfeld's under secretary for intelligence, gave at best a misleading answer when he testified under oath that it was his "guess" that President Bush would take the issue under advisement should it ever come up. Not only had it come up, but the decision had already been made to deny the protections of the Geneva Conventions to certain prisoners.

This issue has barely been discussed by Mr. Bush or Senator John Kerry, but the country needs answers and public accountability. If Senator Kerry wins next week, we hope that he will make this an early priority. If Mr. Bush wins, it will be up to Congress to meet its oversight responsibility. So far, its record is not good. The House has done nothing on Abu Ghraib and related issues. Senator John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, tried to investigate Abu Ghraib despite White House stonewalling. Mr. Warner lost his nerve as the election approached, but we hope he'll get it back next year.


Decision 2004: Fear Fatigue vs. Sheer Fatigue

The New York Times
October 31, 2004

Decision 2004: Fear Fatigue vs. Sheer Fatigue

JOHN KERRY is a flip-flopper. He's "French." Whether he's asserting his non-girlie-boy bona fides by riding a Harley onto Jay Leno's set, "reporting for duty" at the Democratic convention or hunting geese in Ohio, he comes off like a second-rung James Brolin auditioning for a Levitra ad. And let's not forget the words - all those words. When Mr. Kerry starts a sentence, you know you're embarking on a long journey with no interesting scenery along the way and little likelihood that you'll get wherever you're going on time. "Vote for Him Before You Vote Against Him" is one of the more winning slogans at the hilarious Web site Kerry-Haters for Kerry.

If the cliché of 2000 remains true, that entertainment-addicted Americans will never let a tedious president into their living rooms for four long years, then Mr. Kerry, like Al Gore, is toast. But now that Mr. Kerry enters the final stretch of 2004 with a serious chance of unseating an incumbent in wartime, a competing theory also rises: it's possible for America to overdose on entertainment. No president has worked harder than George W. Bush to tell his story as a spectacle, much of it fictional, to rivet his constituents while casting himself in an unfailingly heroic light. Yet this particular movie may have gone on too long and have too many plot holes. It may have been too clever by half. It may have given Mr. Kerry just the opening he needs to win.

As George Will has pointed out, our war in Iraq has now lasted longer than America's involvement in World War I. The span from 9/11 to Election Day 2004 is only three months shy of the 41 months separating the attack on Pearl Harbor from V-E day. And still the storyline doesn't compute. Mr. Bush, having not brought back his original bad guy dead or alive, is now fond of saying that "three-quarters of Al Qaeda leaders have been brought to justice." Even if true, is he telling us the war on terror is three-quarters over? Al Qaeda is, by our government's own account, in 60 countries. Last time I looked we're only at war in two.

The administration tries to finesse such narrative disconnects by creating a noir mood of "perpetual fear" - to borrow Philip Roth's totemic phrase from "The Plot Against America" - in line with what it sees as a perpetual war. But is perpetual war any more coherent a plot line? Mr. Bush calls himself "a war president" any chance he gets, yet he must be the first war president in history to respond to every setback with a call for new tax cuts. There isn't a person in the world, including our enemies, who doesn't know that we have fewer troops than we need, now or in perpetuity, and that we're too broke to spring for more.

As Mr. Bush said of the war to Matt Lauer in a rare moment of candor, quickly rescinded, "I don't think you can win it." Especially if you've so bought into the myth of your own invulnerable star power that you failed to secure nearly 380 tons of explosives destined to blow up American troops. So Karl Rove does what any director does to bolster a weak script - pump up the ominous chords on the soundtrack. He sends out Dick Cheney to keep telling us that it's only a matter of when, not if, a nuke will go off in the middle of one of our cities. But fear-mongering of this intensity and repetition can produce fear fatigue just like NBC's waning "Fear Factor." A long attention span has never been part of the American character.

We like fast-paced narratives with beginnings, middles and ends. We like an upbeat final curtain. "What the American public always wants is a tragedy with a happy ending," said William Dean Howells to Edith Wharton in 1906, by way of explaining why her refusal to let her heroine, Lily Bart, survive ensured that the stage version of "The House of Mirth" would flop. The president hoped to give the tragedy of 9/11 a speedy happy ending by laying out a simple war pitting God's anointed against the evildoers, then by portraying Iraq as the "central front" in that war, then by staging a stirring victory celebration weeks after that central battle began. But when our major combat operations turned out not to be "over," this purported final reel was seen as the one thing the American public hates even more than an unhappy ending - a false one.

The triumphalist cinema that had led up to it, culminating in the toppling of the Saddam statue, was, like "Mission Accomplished" itself, too slick. It whetted our appetite for sequels. But what came instead were pictures by upstart independent filmmakers hawking an alternative scenario to "Shock and Awe": the charred corpses of civilian contractors strung up in Fallujah, the beheading of Nick Berg, the tableaux vivants of Abu Ghraib, the neat rows of 49 slaughtered Iraqi recruits decomposing in the sun. The scenes the administration created to counter them all backfired. A surprise Thanksgiving visit by the president to the troops turned out to feature a "show" turkey supplied by Halliburton. An elaborately staged presidential D-Day address in Normandy was upended by the death of the war-winning president Mr. Bush's handlers hoped to clone, Ronald Reagan. The handover of sovereignty was marred by the shot of Paul Bremer re-enacting the fall of Saigon by dashing to a helicopter to flee. There hasn't been an unalloyed feel-good video out of Iraq since the capture of Saddam. That was before last Christmas.

Last weekend the Rove studio showed its desperation. In Florida Mr. Bush risked ridicule by re-enacting "Mission Accomplished," this time landing by helicopter in sports stadiums to the theme from "Top Gun," the same movie that had inspired the stunt landing on the carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. (The new banner read "Soaring to Victory.") This had been directly preceded by another cinematic misfire. On the same day that the president took to attacking Mr. Kerry for seeing the war on terror as "a metaphor," his own campaign released with great fanfare a new TV ad portraying terrorism as ... a metaphor. The metaphor in this case was a pack of wolves that looked as if they could easily be taken out by the rifle-bearing Kerry depicted in his equally ludicrous L. L. Bean photo op.

Mr. Bush is half right about Mr. Kerry. The Democrat does trade in one particular metaphor, which is Vietnam. Washington wisdom had it that Mr. Kerry was a fool to highlight his war service during his convention, which begat the Swift boats melee. Maybe no one cares anymore what either man did 35 years ago. But the net effect of the long detour into grainy "Apocalypse Now" iconography may not have been so much to adjudicate who was more patriotic or "strong" but to visually establish that quagmire as a metaphor for the war in Iraq without ever requiring Mr. Kerry to explicitly say so.

After Vietnam came the debates, widely dismissed in advance as canned events unlikely to change anything. But here, as in "Mission Accomplished," Mr. Rove's myth-making machinery may have been too successful for the president's own good. "By turning Kerry into a cartoon," wrote Dana Milbank in The Washington Post, "the Bush campaign created such low expectations for the senator that he easily exceeded them." After weeks in which Mr. Kerry had been painted as an effete toy poodle, his tall, ramrod-straight spine alone may have been enough for him to reverse his image deficit on television.

Mr. Bush was, of course, far more entertaining in the debates than his opponent; he may be the most facially expressive president since the invention of television. But in 2004, this may not be the winning formula it was four years ago. Because the audience had seen the unplugged, petulant Bush in the first debate, it knew that his subsequent reinventions were as contrived (if not as effective) as Sally Field's in "Sybil." Unlike such natural performers as Reagan and Bill Clinton, he lets you see all the over-rehearsed preparation that goes into his acting. By the time he tried to mask his rage with inappropriate grinning in debate No. 3, he seemed as fake as the story line by which he had sold the country on the war in Iraq.

Mr. Kerry, by contrast, was nothing if not consistent - consistently leaden. He may flip-flop on policy - though no less so than a president who once opposed nation building and a Homeland Security Department - but he doesn't flip-flop on personality. It wouldn't matter if Hugh Jackman were his running mate or how many of his daughters' hamsters he rescued; charm is not his forte. He'll never be, in that undying pollster's formulation, a guy you want to have a beer with - or even a pinot noir.

But he's also not a man likely to prance around on an aircraft carrier to foment the fiction that a happy ending is imminent. He's already announced his intention to jettison a favorite administration special effect, the color-coded terror alerts. His sepulchral looks and stentorian manner suggest he'd bring us any bad news straight up. Mr. Kerry may seem like the closest thing this country has ever had to an Audio-Animatronic chief executive, but Mr. Bush's action-hero theatrics may have defined "presidential" down to the point where Audio-Animatronics can pass for gravitas.

To Mr. Bush and his cronies, who see the world as an arena in which performance is all and circumspection is antithetical to manly decisiveness, Mr. Kerry is a farcical weakling. That's why they were so obsessed with smearing the senator's Vietnam record, the main refutation of that argument. What they didn't count on is that their man's "Top Gun" stagecraft carries its own baggage. When a real war goes wrong, a considered plan, as Mr. Kerry pedantically refers to his every policy prescription, can start to look preferable to a slam-dunk Jerry Bruckheimer stunt. While the mantra of this election season has it that Kerry voters are voting against Bush, not for Kerry, it's equally possible that some of them see their choice as a vote for mundane, nuances-and-all reality over a hyperbolic fantasy whose budget in blood and money has spiraled out of control. After three years of nonstop thrills, Americans will just have to decide on Nov. 2 whether there could be fates even worse than spending the next four years being bored.


9/11 Families Group Rebukes Bush for Impasse on Overhaul

The New York Times
October 28, 2004

9/11 Families Group Rebukes Bush for Impasse on Overhaul

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27 - The principal advocacy group for families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks blamed President Bush and a group of House Republicans on Wednesday for the failure of Congress to approve a bill to enact the recommendations of the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission and overhaul the nation's intelligence agencies.

In a statement clearly meant to influence voters in next week's election, the group did not explicitly endorse Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, but said Mr. Bush had "allowed members of his own party to derail the legislative process."

The statement, which also singled out Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and five other House Republicans for blame, said, "The president never took time from his campaign to come to Washington himself to see this through," adding: "Election Day is imminent. Now it's our turn."

Efforts by House and Senate negotiators to work out a compromise bill appeared close to collapse on Wednesday, with lawmakers at a stalemate over the powers of a proposed national intelligence director and other issues.

Asked about the group's criticism of the president, a White House spokeswoman, Erin Healy, suggested that Mr. Bush did not deserve the families' blame, and that he had been active in encouraging Congress to agree on a final bill.

"He has urged the House and Senate to come together and resolve their differences," she said. "The administration has been actively engaged in this. We've been up on the Hill. We've been taking part in the conferees' process."

The Kerry campaign instantly seized on the families' statement to attack President Bush. Mark Kitchens, a spokesman for the Kerry campaign, said it showed that "George Bush has squandered this golden opportunity to achieve meaningful and lasting intelligence reform."

John Feehery, a spokesman for the speaker, said the families' criticism of Mr. Hastert was "unfair because the speaker and his staff have been negotiating day and night to get a bill that will make the country safer."

No advocacy group claims to speak for all relatives of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. But the leaders of the Family Steering Committee - in particular, four New Jersey widows who became known as the Jersey Girls - were instrumental in pressuring Congress and the White House to create the Sept. 11 commission in late 2002, and in insisting that the commission be aggressive in demanding documents and testimony from the Bush administration.

Their statement, the most pointedly political one ever issued by the committee, said the group's members were "angry and saddened that the opportunity for significant reform of our country's intelligence structure has been squandered." Nikki Stern, leader of another large victims' family group, Families of September 11, said that her group's nonprofit status barred her from urging voters to support or oppose individual political candidates.

"But we do say that those people who are responsible for not helping push through legislation that supports the 9/11 commission will be held accountable on Nov. 2," she said. "We're encouraging everyone to vote."

Congressional negotiators have been meeting for a week to try to reconcile House and Senate bills intended to enact major recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission, most importantly its call for the creation of the job of a national intelligence director to coordinate the work of the government's 15 spy agencies, including the C.I.A. Congressional leaders had asked that a final bill be ready in time for it to be signed into law by President Bush before the election on Tuesday.

But lawmakers say the talks have been at a virtual standstill this week, with House Republicans refusing to accept the wording of the bipartisan Senate bill, which would grant broader budget and personnel authority to a national intelligence director than would the House bill.

House Republicans say they have been willing to make concessions about the intelligence director's authority, but that they cannot make concessions that would hamper the work of intelligence agencies within the Pentagon, like the National Security Agency.

Their position has been endorsed by senior officials at the Pentagon, which has proved awkward for the White House to explain in recent days since President Bush has offered his public support to the Senate provisions, which have also been endorsed by the Sept. 11 commission. The House Republicans have also insisted on the inclusion in a final bill of several law enforcement and immigration provisions from the House bill that have been strongly criticized by civil liberties groups and were never addressed by the commission.


Poll Finds Most Americans Have Not Prepared for a Terror Attack

The New York Times
October 28, 2004

Poll Finds Most Americans Have Not Prepared for a Terror Attack

Americans are closely divided on whether they think the United States is prepared to deal with another terrorist attack, but the overwhelming majority have done nothing to prepare for such an attack themselves, according to a recent New York Times poll.

The poll found that most Americans are not worried that they or a family member will become a victim of terrorism, with the majority of the respondents saying they do nothing different even when the government raises the terror-alert level.

The survey was conducted for use in a documentary produced by New York Times Television on the status of security in the United States.

While domestic security has been a major issue in the presidential campaign with Republicans and Democrats warning that another terrorist attack is inevitable, the Times poll suggests that for most Americans the issue is not a preoccupation.

"I guess the reason I'm not terribly worried about it is probably the location I'm in," Angela Loston, 24, a writer from Dallas, said in a phone interview after the survey. "Even though I'm in a major city, I am in the state of Texas, so I don't really see something happening here."

David Ropeik, who teaches risk communications at the Harvard School of Public Health, said the survey results reflect a well-established, intuitive human response to risk known as optimism bias, in which individuals disproportionately believe that they will not be victims of a peril even though they widely acknowledge that it will occur.

"We see the same phenomenon with smoking, obesity and natural disasters. If you don't think it will happen to you, then you won't take any precautions," Mr. Ropeik said. "When it comes to terrorism, there is some truth here. If an attack happens, it's unlikely that you or I will be a victim. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be prepared."

In the survey, 46 percent of the respondents said they did not think the United States was prepared for a terrorist attack, while 43 percent said the country was prepared. To questions of personal readiness, 61 percent responded that they did not have a stockpile of food and water at home in preparation for a terrorist attack. More than 70 percent said they had not selected a family meeting place in case of an evacuation due to terrorism, nor had they established a plan to communicate with relatives.

Asked why her family had not designated a gathering place or plan to stay in touch, Gloria Peters, a retiree from San Pablo, Calif., said, "We really haven't discussed that, but we should." She added, "The roads are going to be so packed jammed that it's going to be insane."

The survey found that women were more likely to regard both the country and their local communities as ill prepared to deal with another attack. Women are also more apt to express concern that someone in their family could become a victim of terrorism: 46 percent of women said they were very or somewhat concerned compared with 26 percent of men.

The Times poll, of 554 adults, was conducted nationwide by telephone Oct. 12 to 13 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Citing the federal government's handling of the current flu vaccine shortage, Eugene Ladisky, a retired engineer from New York, said: "I get the impression that were there a terrorist attack, our government would let us fend for ourselves."


MISSING EXPLOSIVES: 4 Iraqis Tell of Looting at Munitions Site in '03

The New York Times
October 28, 2004

4 Iraqis Tell of Looting at Munitions Site in '03

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 27 - Looters stormed the weapons site at Al Qaqaa in the days after American troops swept through the area in early April 2003 on their way to Baghdad, gutting office buildings, carrying off munitions and even dismantling heavy machinery, three Iraqi witnesses and a regional security chief said Wednesday.

The Iraqis described an orgy of theft so extensive that enterprising residents rented their trucks to looters. But some looting was clearly indiscriminate, with people grabbing anything they could find and later heaving unwanted items off the trucks.

Two witnesses were employees of Al Qaqaa - one a chemical engineer and the other a mechanic - and the third was a former employee, a chemist, who had come back to retrieve his records, determined to keep them out of American hands. The mechanic, Ahmed Saleh Mezher, said employees asked the Americans to protect the site but were told this was not the soldiers' responsibility.

The accounts do not directly address the question of when 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives vanished from the site sometime after early March, the last time international inspectors checked the seals on the bunkers where the material was stored. It is possible that Iraqi forces removed some explosives before the invasion.

But the accounts make clear that what set off much if not all of the looting was the arrival and swift departure of American troops, who did not secure the site after inducing the Iraqi forces to abandon it.

"The looting started after the collapse of the regime," said Wathiq al-Dulaimi, a regional security chief, who was based nearby in Latifiya. But once it had begun, he said, the booty streamed toward Baghdad.

Earlier this month, on Oct. 10, the directorate of national monitoring at the Ministry of Science and Technology notified the International Atomic Energy Agency that the explosives, which are used in demolition and missiles and are the raw material for plastic explosives, were missing. The agency has monitored the explosives because they can also be used as the initiator of an atomic bomb.

Agency officials examined the explosives in January 2003 and noted in early March that their seals were still in place. On April 3, the Third Infantry Division arrived with the first American troops.

Chris Anderson, a photographer for U.S. News and World Report who was with the division's Second Brigade, recalled that the area was jammed with American armor on April 3 and 4, which he believed made the removal of the explosives unlikely. "It would be quite improbable for this amount of weapons to be looted at that time because of the traffic jam of armor," he said.

The brigade blew up numerous caches of arms throughout the area, he said. Mr. Anderson said he did not enter the munitions compound.

The Second Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division arrived outside the site on April 10, under the command of Col. Joseph Anderson. The brigade had been ordered to move quickly to Baghdad because of civil disorder there after Mr. Hussein's government fell on April 9.

They gathered at Al Qaqaa, about 30 miles south, simply as a matter of convenience, Colonel Anderson said in an interview this week. He said that when he arrived at the site - unaware of its significance - he saw no signs of looting, but was not paying close attention.

Because he thought the brigade would be moving on to Baghdad within hours, Al Qaqaa was of no importance to his mission, he said, and he was unaware of the explosives that international inspectors said were hidden inside.

Pentagon officials said Wednesday that analysts were examining surveillance photographs of the munitions site. But they expressed doubts that the photographs, which showed vehicles at the location on several occasions early in the conflict, before American troops moved through the area, would be able to indicate conclusively when the explosives were removed.

Col. David Perkins, who commanded the Second Brigade of the Third Infantry Division, called it "very highly improbable" that 380 tons of explosives could have been trucked out of Al Qaqaa in the weeks after American troops arrived.

Moving that much material, said Colonel Perkins, who spoke Wednesday to news agencies and cable television, "would have required dozens of heavy trucks and equipment moving along the same roadways as U.S. combat divisions occupied continually for weeks."

He conceded that some looting of the site had taken place. But a chemical engineer who worked at Al Qaqaa and identified himself only as Khalid said that once troops left the base itself, people streamed in to steal computers and anything else of value from the offices. They also took munitions like artillery shells, he said.

Mr. Mezher, the mechanic, said it took the looters about two weeks to disassemble heavy machinery at the site and carry that off after the smaller items were gone.

James Glanz reported from Baghdad for this article and Jim Dwyer from New York. Ali Adeeb contributed reporting from Baghdad, and Khalid W. Hussein and Zainab Obeid fromAl Qaqaa.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Election by Litigation?

Election by Litigation?

By Robert J. Samuelson

Wednesday, October 27, 2004; Page A25

Curtis Gans, the director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, expects between 118 million and 121 million Americans to vote next week, up sharply from the 105 million who voted in 2000. The larger figure would represent a turnout of 60 percent of eligible voters, the highest since 1968, and is just one indicator of the passions aroused by this campaign. But regardless of turnout and your preferred candidate, we all ought to hope for this outcome: The victor wins by a big enough margin to avoid an aftershock of contested ballots, lawsuits and court decisions.

We don't need a repetition of Florida, perhaps on a grander scale. The danger is not simply a delay in knowing who the next president is, or the prospect that he'll be hampered in governing, or the probable fury of the loser's supporters that the election was "stolen." The more unsettling danger is that, having engaged in two rounds of post-election combat, party warlords will make this a permanent part of the political process.

Election by litigation is a sensationally bad idea. Undertaken piously to guarantee voters' "rights" or to prevent "fraud," it would erode popular confidence in elections' integrity. We'd be bombarded (as we already are) by endless complaints about how compromised or corrupt voting practices have become. Sooner or later, many Americans might cynically conclude that the side with the busiest poll watchers, cleverest lawyers and friendliest judges had secured an unfair advantage.

We aren't there yet. A new opinion poll from the Pew Research Center finds that only 11 percent of registered voters fear that their votes won't be accurately counted (62 percent are "very confident" that votes will be correctly counted, 26 percent "somewhat confident''). But anything that taints the voting process corrodes trust because voting is so symbolic. We see it as an inalienable right that's always been at the core of American democracy. This is a psychological truth and (unfortunately) a historical half-truth.

Voting was long a limited privilege, as Harvard historian Alexander Keyssar shows in his book "The Right to Vote." In 1790 most of the original 13 states restricted the vote to white men who either owned property or paid local taxes. Perhaps 60 to 70 percent of white men could vote, Keyssar says. By the Civil War, most property restrictions had disappeared. "If a man can think without property, he can vote without property," one state leader said in 1845. But there was a constant tension between demands to expand the electorate and more restrictive pressures: selfish fears by ruling elites that more voters would threaten their power; and principled worries that too much democracy (that is, letting "undesirables" vote) would destroy democracy.

Even in 1824, not all states allowed citizens to vote directly for president; some state legislatures still selected presidential electors (the Constitution lets states decide how to pick electors). Later, war often served to expand voting. Congress passed the 19th Amendment (guaranteeing women's right to vote) in 1919, partly because women had helped so much in World War I. They "feverishly sold bonds . . . knitted clothes, and gave gifts to soldiers," Keyssar writes. In the Vietnam War, Congress lowered the voting age to 18; it was hard to ask soldiers to die if they couldn't vote. After the Civil War, blacks received the right to vote via the 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870.

Of course, the 15th Amendment was often nullified. Physical intimidation, literacy tests and poll taxes kept huge numbers of blacks in the South from voting. But that shameful chapter is now past. Keyssar judges that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and various court cases constitute a "revolution" in voting access. Indeed, it is because voting rights are now greater than ever that the potential for disillusion is so great.

We know from Florida and from history that, when votes hang in doubt, all heck breaks loose. In a four-man race, Andrew Jackson won the popular vote in 1824 but not a majority of electoral votes. The House of Representatives selected John Quincy Adams; Jackson and his enraged followers saw this as political theft. In 1876 Democrat Samuel Tilden won the popular vote, but, amid charges of fraud, four states submitted competing electoral votes. Congress chose Rutherford B. Hayes, often referred to as "Rutherfraud."

Against this backdrop, it's hard to be optimistic about next week. The Post reports that Democrats plan to have 10,000 lawyers "at the polls in battleground states''; Republicans say their lawyers will be "covering 30,000 precincts." Charges of voter intimidation and fraud are already common.

Campaigns can never be "fair," but elections should be. People need to have confidence in the honesty of the process. The next president ought to fashion a bipartisan consensus over acceptable election procedures and technologies. But this will be hard if there's a post-election legal slugfest and the outcome is settled by litigation. Here's what we really need: The winner takes 52 percent of the popular vote and enough electoral votes so that a few close and contested states don't matter.


Tuesday, October 26, 2004




Bush Relatives For Kerry

Even his relatives want him out of the White House!!


Consumer confidence falls on job worries, oil


Consumer confidence falls on job worries, oil
By Barbara Hagenbaugh, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Consumer confidence fell for the third straight month in October as high energy prices, slower-than-expected job creation and presidential campaign mudslinging weighed on consumers' psyches, a report out Tuesday showed.

The Conference Board said its closely watched index of consumer confidence fell to 92.8 this month, down 4% from September and the lowest level since March. The decline was led by a large drop in consumers' expectations for the economy in six months, which also fell to the lowest level in seven months, the private firm, which surveys thousands of households every month via mail, said. Consumers' assessments about the current state of the economy also slipped.

Straszheim Global Advisors President Donald Straszheim called the numbers "ugly," saying the heightened rhetoric about the economy in the presidential campaigns is likely adding to other worries.

"People are ... nervous about the economy in 2005," he says. "Energy prices are up a long ways and the robust growth typical of early in a recovery is past."

While views about the current job market improved, expectations fell. Some 16.5% said they expected there will be more jobs six months from now, down from 17.8% in September. The percentage of consumers who said they expected there will be fewer jobs in six months was the highest since February .

Confidence is watched closely because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of all U.S. economic activity.

But economists cautioned against becoming too gloomy, noting what consumers do is much more important than what they say they are feeling. On that front, a report out Tuesday from the International Council of Shopping Centers showed while sales at chain stores fell last week from the prior week, purchases were up a healthy 3.7% from a year ago.

"The overall sales' pace remains strong," ICSC's chief economist Michael Niemira says.

And some economists said they expect the decline in confidence will soon be reversed.

"Confidence should begin to improve in the next few months," says Scott Hoyt, director of consumer services at, expecting job growth to pick up. "However, the gains will likely be slow ... and additional setbacks are not out of the question."

One of those setbacks could be continued high energy prices, Hoyt says. The news was not encouraging on that score Tuesday. The price of a barrel of crude oil trading in New York was up 8 cents in midday trading, leaving prices near the all-time high of $55.17 reached Friday.

High energy costs are seen as a drag on the economy because they force consumers and businesses to spend more money on energy and less in other parts of the economy. In addition to higher gasoline prices, consumers are facing large increases in their heating bills this winter for houses heated with not only heating oil but also with natural gas.


A Culture of Cover-Ups

The New York Times
October 26, 2004

A Culture of Cover-Ups

Aides to John Kerry say that if he wins, he'll replace Porter Goss as head of the C.I.A. Let's hope so: Mr. Goss has already confirmed the fears of those who worried about his appointment by placing Republican staff members from Capitol Hill in key positions and raising fears about a partisan purge.

But the flap over Mr. Goss is only a symptom of a much broader issue: whether the Bush administration will be able to maintain its culture of cover-ups. That culture affects every branch of policy, but it's strongest when it comes to the "war on terror."

Although President Bush's campaign is based almost entirely on his self-proclaimed leadership in that war, his officials have thrown a shroud of secrecy over any information that might let voters assess his performance.

Yesterday we got two peeks under that shroud. One was The Times's report about what the International Atomic Energy Agency calls "the greatest explosives bonanza in history." Ignoring the agency's warnings, administration officials failed to secure the weapons site, Al Qaqaa, in Iraq, allowing 377 tons of deadly high explosives to be looted, presumably by insurgents.

The administration is trying to play down the importance of this loss, arguing that because Iraq was awash in munitions, a few hundred more tons don't make much difference. But aside from their potential use in nuclear weapons - the reason they were under seal before the war - these particular explosives, unlike standard munitions, are exactly what a terrorist needs.

Informed sources quoted by the influential Nelson Report say explosives from Al Qaqaa are the "primary source" of the roadside and car bombs that have killed and wounded so many U.S. soldiers. And thanks to the huge amount looted - "in a highly organized operation using heavy equipment" - the insurgents and whoever else have access to the Qaqaa material have enough explosives for tens of thousands of future bombs.

If the administration had had its way, the public would never have heard anything about this. Administration officials have known about the looting of Al Qaqaa for at least six months, and probably much longer. But they didn't let the I.A.E.A. inspect the site after the war, and pressured the Iraqis not to inform the agency about the loss. They now say that they didn't want our enemies - that is, the people who stole the stuff - to know it was missing. The real reason, obviously, was that they wanted the news kept under wraps until after Nov. 2.

The story of the looted explosives has overshadowed another report that Bush officials tried to suppress - this one about how the Bush administration let Abu Musab al-Zarqawi get away. An article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal confirmed and expanded on an "NBC Nightly News" report from March that asserted that before the Iraq war, administration officials called off a planned attack that might have killed Mr. Zarqawi, the terrorist now blamed for much of the mayhem in that country, in his camp.

Citing "military officials," the original NBC report explained that the failure to go after Mr. Zarqawi was based on domestic politics: "the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq" - a part of Iraq not controlled by Saddam Hussein - "could undermine its case for war against Saddam." The Journal doesn't comment on this explanation, but it does say that when NBC reported, correctly, that Mr. Zarqawi had been targeted before the war, administration officials denied it.

What other mistakes did the administration make? If partisan appointees like Mr. Goss continue to control the intelligence agencies, we may never know.

This isn't speculation: Mr. Goss is already involved in a new cover-up. Last week Robert Scheer of The Los Angeles Times revealed the existence of a devastating but suppressed report by the C.I.A.'s inspector general on 9/11 intelligence failures. Newsweek has now confirmed the gist of Mr. Scheer's column.

The report, the magazine says, "identifies a host of current and former officials who could be candidates for possible disciplinary procedures." But although the report was completed in June, Mr. Goss has refused to release it to Congress. "Everyone feels it will be better if this hits the fan after the election," an official told the magazine. Better for whom?

What really happened on 9/11, or in Iraq? Next week's election may determine whether we ever find out.


Counting on Controversy

The New York Times
October 26, 2004

Counting on Controversy


Presidential elections are not always decided on Election Day. In 1800, the election produced an Electoral College tie, resolved after seven contentious days in the House of Representatives in favor of Thomas Jefferson over Aaron Burr on the 36th ballot. The 1876 election took several months and the creation of a special commission consisting of members of Congress and Supreme Court justices before Rutherford B. Hayes prevailed over Samuel Tilden by a single vote in the Electoral College.

And no one can forget the five weeks of tumultuous legal theatrics, including three decisions from the Florida Supreme Court and two from the United States Supreme Court, culminating in the razor-thin Bush-Cheney victory over the Gore-Lieberman ticket in 2000.

Are we destined to experience something similar this year? The leading political and legal indicators all suggest that the possibility is not trivial.

First, if the polls are even remotely accurate, the election promises to be exceedingly close. Tight elections offer hope to the trailing candidate and an incentive to challenge the outcome.

Second, Ralph Nader's involvement, despite his diminished standing with voters this year, may mean that neither candidate will receive a majority of the popular vote. That, standing alone, is not all that unusual. Eighteen presidential elections have been decided in favor of a candidate who did not achieve a majority of popular votes, and four presidents (John Quincy Adams, Hayes, Benjamin Harrison and George W. Bush) have won despite losing the popular vote.

Winning the popular vote is therefore akin to amassing the most hits in a baseball game. Nice, but not how the contest is scored. Nevertheless, litigation is a great deal less likely if one candidate not only wins a decisive Electoral College victory, but the popular vote as well. Candidates tend not to want to appear to be a sore loser to a popular opponent.

Third, the number and types of opportunities for election litigation seem to be limitless this election. For example, new federal legislation requires the use of provisional ballots for voters whose names do not appear on the list of eligible voters at their polling places. How and under what circumstances these requirements will be administered, as well as how and when provisional votes will be tallied, are matters already being disputed in numerous states. There were 10,000 provisional votes in just one county in Ohio in the last election. At the same time, the outcome in states like Florida and New Mexico was decided by less than 1,000 votes. The potential for contests and challenges over provisional votes is great if the election is close.

Provisional ballots are only one potential tinderbox. There are many other issues that could become crucial: disputes over absentee ballots, voter identification systems, military ballots, the voting rights of felons, and registration and voting by mail. There are concerns over computerized voting and the threat of hacking, as well as punch-card ballots and the infamous hanging, pregnant or dimpled chads. There are accusations of gerrymandering in redistricting after the 2000 census. And there are complaints about every kind of voting mechanism from paper ballots to touch screens and optical scanners. The United States has already sued Pennsylvania regarding the time that overseas voters are given to cast their ballots - an issue that has produced legal disputes in eight swing states.

In short, for disappointed candidates and their lawyers, litigation fruit is abundant and hanging within easy reach.

Fourth, in this election, the stakes are not only the presidency, but also the House and Senate. And neither campaign has forgotten that the presidency and the Senate hold the key to the selection of justices of the Supreme Court, and a potential generational shift in the balance on the court. All three branches of government are in play. The stakes could not be higher.

Regiments of lawyers have already been assembled and sent to battle stations in anticipation of next week's election. New campaign finance laws provide opportunities for fund-raising for this purpose. Anyone who thinks that these litigation-hungry warriors will not do what they have been born, bred, paid and inspired to do if the election is close does not understand the species. Even a candidate otherwise inclined to accept a defeat graciously will be hard pressed to go quietly in the face of an army of highly charged, well-financed litigation teams eager for courtroom victories.

It would be vastly better for our Republic, of course, to avoid the chaos, uncertainty and lingering hostility that a lawsuit-driven presidential election would inevitably produce. But it seems unlikely that either campaign would be inclined to open negotiations for something analogous to a prenuptial agreement in order to forestall a postelection war. You might get better odds on an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty.

Theodore B. Olson, solicitor general from June 2001 to July 2004, represented George W. Bush before the Supreme Court in 2000.


Bush's misbegotten invasion of Iraq appears to have achieved what Saddam Hussein did not: putting dangerous weapons in the hands of terrorists

The New York Times
October 26, 2004

Making Things Worse

President Bush's misbegotten invasion of Iraq appears to have achieved what Saddam Hussein did not: putting dangerous weapons in the hands of terrorists and creating an offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

The murder of dozens of Iraqi Army recruits over the weekend is being attributed to the forces of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has been identified by the Bush administration as a leading terrorist and a supposed link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. That was not true before the war - as multiple investigations have shown. But the breakdown of order since the invasion has changed all that. This terrorist, who has claimed many attacks on occupation forces and the barbaric murder of hostages, recently swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden and renamed his group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

The hideous murder of the recruits was a reminder of the Bush administration's dangerously inflated claims about training an Iraqi security force. The officials responsible for these inexperienced young men sent them home for leave without weapons or guards, at a time when police and army recruits are constantly attacked. The men who killed them wore Iraqi National Guard uniforms.

A particularly horrific case of irony involves weapons of mass destruction. It's been obvious for months that American forces were not going to find the chemical or biological armaments that Mr. Bush said were stockpiled in Iraq. What we didn't know is that while they were looking for weapons that did not exist, they lost weapons that did.

James Glanz, William J. Broad and David E. Sanger reported in The Times yesterday that some 380 tons of the kinds of powerful explosives used to destroy airplanes, demolish buildings, make missile warheads and trigger nuclear weapons have disappeared from one of the many places in Iraq that the United States failed to secure. The United Nations inspectors disdained by the Bush administration had managed to monitor the explosives for years. But they vanished soon after the United States took over the job. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was so bent on proving his theory of lightning warfare that he ignored the generals who said an understaffed and underarmed invasion force could rush to Baghdad, but couldn't hold the rest of the country, much less guard things like the ammunition dump.

Iraqi and American officials cannot explain how some 760,000 pounds of explosives were spirited away from a well-known site just 30 miles from Baghdad. But they were warned. Within weeks of the invasion, international weapons inspectors told Washington that the explosives depot was in danger and that terrorists could help themselves "to the greatest explosives bonanza in history."

The disastrous theft was revealed in a recent letter to an international agency in Vienna. It was signed by the general director of Iraq's Planning and Following Up Directorate. It's too bad the Bush administration doesn't have one of those.


Do not be intimidated into not voting

Do not let anyone intimidate you into not voting. You have the right to vote. If your polling place does not show you as registered, insist on a provisional ballot. The polling place is required by law to provide it. If you have a problem and need help call 866-OUR-VOTE from the polling place for assistance.


If you vote with a provisional ballot

If, on election day, you end up voting with a provisional ballot because your polling place does not show you as being registered to vote, you have the right to learn whether your ballot was counted. Each state must set up an easy way for you to check, like a toll-free phone number or a Web site. If your vote was not counted, the state must tell you why it wasn’t.


5 Things You Need to Know on Election Day and Why They Matter

From (League of Women Voters)

5 Things You Need to Know on Election Day and Why They Matter

Fact Sheet

1) Your Ballot, Your Vote Don’t panic if you registered to vote but your name is not on the list. Get help from a poll worker to make sure your vote is counted. You may be directed to another polling place or given a provisional ballot.

Provisional/interim/conditional ballots are intended as a safeguard for voters whose eligibility is in question on Election Day. These include those whose voter registration is in doubt, those who may have been erroneously purged, or first-time voters who registered by mail and have I.D. problems.

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires that provisional ballots be counted if the voter is eligible to vote by state law. However, some election officials have chosen to apply standards for counting provisional ballots that are unrelated to voter eligibility, such as casting the provisional ballot in the proper polling place and filling out the enclosing envelope correctly. Provisional ballots are the safety net so that no voter coming to the polls will be turned away.

However, provisional ballots should not be considered a backup for poor polling place operations or a catch-all for all problematic situations. Election officials should make every effort before the election to reduce the need for numerous provisional ballots, by improving the registration system and by other means to allow the voter to cast an ordinary/regular ballot. Too many provisional ballots will increase the post-election administrative burden on election officials and delay election results.

2) I.D. – Don’t Go Without It You may need to show I.D. To be safe, bring your driver’s license, or a paycheck, utility bill or government document that includes your name and street address.

HAVA requires that first-time voters who register by mail present I.D. prior to voting on Election Day unless the state has already verified their identity. Unfortunately, many states have gone further, and are requiring all voters or all first-time voters to present I.D. In addition, while HAVA says that the application of the new requirement must be “uniform and non-discriminatory,” many states have neither established mechanisms for ensuring uniform and non-discriminatory application, nor informed the public as to what forms of I.D. are acceptable in their state. Because this is a new requirement, it could lead to problems such as unequal and discriminatory treatment, and ultimately lead to wrongful disenfranchisement on Election Day.

3) Writing on the Wall Look at the signs at the polling place for directions on how to use the voting machines, a list of your voting rights, and instructions for filing a complaint if your rights have been violated.

Voters will face many changes in the polling place this year. Many will experience new procedures, some will see new equipment, others will see the same equipment as before but now wonder if they failed to cast their vote properly, and many will be first-time voters. To address these realities, HAVA also requires that basic voting information be posted in the polling place. Election officials should work with design and usability professionals to ensure the readability of the information they’re providing in the polling place. Information/instructions should be written clearly and simply and provide illustrations. Voting machine instructions should include how a voter can review his or her ballot, and how to check for overvotes and undervotes. And, information regarding what constitutes a spoiled ballot and instructions for securing a new ballot should be provided.

4) When in Doubt – Ask Poll workers are there to help you. They’ll show you how to work the machines and give you a provisional ballot if you need one. If you’re at the wrong polling place, they should tell you how to get to the right one.

Poll workers are volunteers from the local area, who are committed to helping voters. Ultimately, the successful administration of elections lies in the hands of poll workers. However, in too many cases, there are too few of them and/or they have not received the necessary tools from election officials. Such tools include appropriate training, easily searched reference information to answer questions, and the official list of all voters, with their polling place identified, for the election registrar’s entire jurisdiction.

5) In and Out You probably won’t have to wait too long. But even if the line is long, don’t leave without voting. The outcome of this election will be important!

Many voters state that they don’t have time to vote and that’s why they haven’t participated in the past. Creating a sense of a positive voting experience and giving voters the tools they need to achieve this – such as the League’s 3 Ways to Make Voting a Breeze – will go a long way in increasing voter turnout. The League is urging TV and radio stations to help with this by giving regular updates on Election Day on wait times at polling places in their area.


Know What to Do if You Experience Election Day Problems

Call toll free --- 1-866-Our-Vote --- to report problems and to receive advice on what to do. This hotline is being operated by the Election Protection Coalition, which is composed of many organizations including the League of Women Voters.