The New York Times
November 13, 2004
Lock and Load
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Nothing kills Democratic candidates' prospects more than guns. If it weren't for guns, President-elect Kerry might now be conferring with incoming Senate Majority Leader Daschle.
Since the Brady Bill took effect in 1994, gun-control efforts have been a catastrophe for Democrats. They have accomplished almost nothing nationally, other than giving a big boost to the Republicans. Mr. Kerry tried to get around the problem by blasting away at small animals, but nervous Red Staters still suspected Democrats of plotting to seize guns.
Moreover, it's clear that in this political climate, further efforts at gun control are a nonstarter. You can talk until you're blue in the face about the 30,000 gun deaths each year, about children who are nine times as likely to die in a gun accident in America as elsewhere in the developed world, about the $17,000 average cost (half directly borne by taxpayers) of treating each gun injury. But nationally, gun control is dead.
So it's time for a fundamentally new approach, emblematic of how Democrats must think in new ways about old issues. The new approach is to accept that handguns are part of the American landscape, but to use a public health approach to try to make them much safer.
The model is automobiles, for a high rate of traffic deaths was once thought to be inevitable. But then we figured out ways to mitigate the harm with seat belts, air bags and collapsible steering columns, and since the 1950's the death rate per mile driven has dropped 80 percent.
Similar steps are feasible in the world of guns.
"You can tell whether a camera is loaded by looking at it, and you should be able to tell whether a gun is loaded by looking at it," said David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. Professor Hemenway has written "Private Guns, Public Health," a brilliant and clear-eyed primer for the country.
We take safety steps that reduce the risks of everything from chain saws (so they don't kick back and cut off an arm) to refrigerators (so kids can't lock themselves inside). But firearms have been exempt. Companies make cellphones that survive if dropped, but some handguns can fire if they hit the ground.
Professor Hemenway notes that in the 1990's, two children a year, on average, died after locking themselves in car trunks. This was considered unacceptable, so a government agency studied the problem, and General Motors and Ford engineered safety mechanisms to prevent such deaths.
In contrast, 15 children under the age of 5 die annually in fatal gun accidents in the U.S., along with 18 children 5 to 9 years old. We routinely make aspirin bottles childproof, but not guns, even though childproof pistols were sold back in the 19th century - they wouldn't fire unless the shooter put pressure on the handle as well as the trigger.
Aside from making childproof guns, here are other steps we could take:
Require magazine safeties so a gun cannot be fired when the clip is removed (people can forget that a bullet may still be in the chamber and pull the trigger). Many guns already have magazine safeties, but not all.
Finance research to develop "smart guns," which can be fired only by authorized users. If a cellphone can be locked with a PIN, why not a gun? This innovation would protect children - and thwart criminals.
Start public safety campaigns urging families to keep guns locked up in a gun safe or with a trigger lock (now, 12 to 14 percent of gun owners with young children keep loaded and unlocked weapons in their homes).
Encourage doctors to counsel depressed patients not to keep guns, and to advise new parents on storing firearms safely.
Make gun serial numbers harder for criminals to remove.
Create a national database for gun deaths. In a traffic fatality, 120 bits of data are collected, like the positions of the passengers and the local speed limit, so we now understand what works well (air bags, no "right on red") and what doesn't (driver safety courses). Statistics on gun violence are much flimsier, so we don't know what policies would work best, and much of the data hurled by rival camps at each other is inaccurate.
Would these steps fly politically? Maybe. One poll showed that 88 percent of the public favors requiring that guns be childproof. And such measures demonstrate the kind of fresh thinking that can keep alive not only thousands of Americans, but the Democratic Party as well.
Saturday, November 13, 2004
The New York Times
Friday, November 12, 2004
Here is a list of some press contacts which I found at
FAIR, the national media watch group.
Ask the media why they are not covering the fraud and corruption investigations that are going on? Why are some of the few who even mention them calling this a "conspiracy theory?" All everyone is asking is for an honest and complete investigation into the record number of problems reported.
77 W. 66 St., New York, NY 10023
General e-mail: email@example.com
524 W. 57 St., New York, NY 10019
CBS Evening News with Dan Rather: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Early Show: email@example.com
60 Minutes II: 60II@cbsnews.com
48 Hours: firstname.lastname@example.org
Face The Nation: email@example.com
One CNN Center, Box 105366, Atlanta, GA 30303-5366
Fox News Channel
1211 Ave. of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
Phone: (212) 301-3000
Fax: (212) 301-4229
Special Report with Brit Hume: Special@foxnews.com
FOX Report with Shepard Smith: Foxreport@foxnews.com
The O'Reilly Factor: Oreilly@foxnews.com
Hannity & Colmes: Hannity@foxnews.com, Colmes@foxnews.com
On the Record with Greta: Ontherecord@foxnews.com
30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112
NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw: firstname.lastname@example.org
NBC News' Today: email@example.com
Dateline NBC: firstname.lastname@example.org
One MSNBC Plaza
Secaucus, NJ 07094
Phone: (201) 583-5000
Fax: (201) 583-5453
Hardball with Chris Matthews: email@example.com
MSNBC Reports with Joe Scarborough: firstname.lastname@example.org
2200 Fletcher Ave.
Fort Lee, NJ 07024
Phone: (201) 585-2622
Fax: (201) 583-5453
1320 Braddock Place, Alexandria, VA 22314
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer: email@example.com
National Public Radio
635 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20001-3753
E-mail: Jeffrey Dvorkin, Ombudsman firstname.lastname@example.org
All Things Considered: email@example.com
Morning Edition: firstname.lastname@example.org
Talk Of The Nation: email@example.com
The Rush Limbaugh Show
1270 Avenue of the Americas, NY 10020
Sean Hannity Show
E-mail: Phil Boyce, Program Director firstname.lastname@example.org
Los Angeles Times
202 West First Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: 800-528-4637 or 213-237-5000
Letters to the Editor: email@example.com
Readers' Representative: firstname.lastname@example.org
New York Times
229 W. 43rd St., New York, NY 10036
D.C. Bureau phone: 202-862-0300
Letters to the Editor (for publication): email@example.com
Write to the news editors: firstname.lastname@example.org
NYTimes Contact Information by Department
How to Contact NYTimes Reporters and Editors
7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22108
Phone: 800-872-0001 or 703-854-3400
Letters to the Editor: email@example.com
Give Feedback to USA Today
Wall Street Journal
200 Liberty St., New York, NY 10281
Letters to the Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Comment on News Articles: email@example.com
1150 15th St., NW, Washington, DC 20071
Letters to the Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Washington Post Writers and Editors
251 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019
Letters to the Editor: email@example.com
Time & Life Bldg., Rockefeller Center, New York, NY 10020
Letters to the Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. News & World Report
1050 Thomas Jefferson St., Washington, DC 20007
Letters to the Editor email@example.com
50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020
General Questions and Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
Partial Contact Information for the Associated Press by Department and Bureau
To send a press release: email@example.com
Three Times Square
New York, NY 10036
Reuters Editorial Feedback
United Press International
1510 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
Press Release: firstname.lastname@example.org
Comment and Tips: email@example.com
FAIR, the national media watch group
FAIR wants to hear about your media activism. Please send copies of your letters to journalists to
112 W. 27th St.
New York, NY 10001
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:54 PM
Good News From Bev Harris
This is amazing and very hopeful! Bev Harris http://www.blackboxvoting.org and Ralph Nader had a press conference in DC today. They have teamed up with http://www.ballotintegrity.org/ and have set up a 527 special fund http://helpamericarecount.org/ to buy recounts. They worked with Bev Harris's lawyer who is an election specialist attorney. They have found a little used law that allows a recount if it's requested by five citizens who voted in that state and did not vote for the candidate who won. The state wants a down payment of ten dollars a precinct, so they need money fast!
Send to the fund http://helpamericarecount.org/ All the funds are for recounts and will be prioritized by the most suspicious counties first. It will be about $200,000 to recount Ohio, which is the first target because it has very provable anomolies that show massive fraud- Bev says, "Very strange and impossible math"; then Florida.
If you go to http://helpamericarecount.org/ or www.blackboxvoting.org and can't get there, it's because their website keeps getting shut down and they keep having to put it back up. They are going to have to switch to a specialist host; a company who specializes in protecting websites that are under attack constantly. So if you can't get there, keep trying.
Also, there is a woman who has, on her own, filed for a recount in Nevada, using the same law.
And, Ralph Nader is going to pay for a recount in New Hampshire to audit the Diebold machines there.
About the Help America Recount Fund from their website:
"The Help America Recount Fund is a new 527 fund affiliated with BlackBoxVoting.org and the National Ballot Integrity Project. The sole purpose of the Help America Recount Fund is to finance presidential ballot recounts in Ohio, Florida and elsewhere, for the 2004 election. For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can reach us at Help America Recount Fund, Law Offices of Lowell Finley, 1604 Solano Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94707-2109"
All this info came from Bev Harris on "Unfiltered" on Air America Wednesday. Go to http://airamericaradio.com. Scroll down to Air America Audio Highlights. (These usually only stay up a day or two). Look for Unfiltered (November 10th, 2004) "Bev Harris, founder of blackboxvoting.org talks to Unfiltered about her latest efforts to look into potential voter fraud, and offers some hope that we may indeed get a recount before the electoral college officially re-elects Bush." (link is on Air America website).
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:24 PM
November 11, 2004 | 12:08 a.m. ET
Recounts and retractions (Keith Olbermann)
NEW YORK— John Kerry or no John Kerry, there could still be recounts in Ohio and New Hampshire— courtesy of the two candidates who got far more grief than votes during the presidential campaign.
David Cobb of the Green Party told a California radio station late yesterday afternoon that he is “quite likely to be demanding a recount in Ohio,” with a final decision to be reached and announced during the day
The New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General, meanwhile, told us at Countdown that negotiations are ongoing with Ralph Nader, who at a news conference yesterday not only demanded a recount in a minimum of four districts, but also added another bizarre touch to the proceedings by launching into a brief but surprisingly high-quality Richard Nixon impression.
The central issue in both potential recounts appears to be money. Cobb, whose presence on the ballot in all 50 states is probably coming to your attention only as you read this, said in an interview with the Pacifica station in Los Angeles, KPFK, that a recount would cost the Greens around $110,000, on a basis of approximately $10 per precinct. As you’d probably guess, Mr. Cobb’s doesn’t have the money lying around— but as a presidential candidate, he does have the right. Whether or not he can raise the cash is the operative question.
In New Hampshire, Assistant Attorney General Bud Fitch indicated that reports that Nader forfeited his right to request a recount there because he didn’t get a $2,000 filing fee to them before last Friday’s deadline were erroneous. However, Fitch did raise the bar on Nader, saying that he would have to provide a written guarantee that he would cover all costs relating to a recount, and that the state would probably demand a deposit, or the establishment of an escrow account. Complicating matters still further is Fitch’s admission that New Hampshire really can’t give a good estimate on the final costs.
It’s been twenty years since they’ve had a recount there and Fitch said costs in today’s dollars could be $30,000, $50,000, or even $80,000— although he guesses that the middle figure is the “top end” of what they’re looking at. New Hampshire is a recount-friendly state. Candidates are permitted to base a recount on the results of a particular community, and if they find their doubts resolved, they’re afforded the opportunity to cancel the rest of any statewide investigation.
That Cobb and Nader between them could lead to a resolution of both Democrats’ doubts about the legitimacy of the election, and Republicans’ resentment that there are doubts, contains a delicious irony. To call them “fringe” candidates is to demean their efforts, but they’re hardly favorites at any spot on the political spectrum. Nader, in particular, was trashed on a daily basis by the Democrats who feared he could negatively impact Kerry’s vote totals in swing states, as he clearly did to Al Gore in Florida in 2000. For the rancor, Nader has nobody to blame but himself. Not until late in the campaign did he successfully articulate his reasons for ‘running anyway’— namely, his conviction that breaking the two-party duopoly at lower echelons of government (particularly in the House) will take decades, and had to start at the top and work down.
In any event, if Nader and Cobb are at the edges, questions about Ohio moved back into the mainstream yesterday with another cogent article in The Cincinnati Enquirer. The rationale for the bizarre “lockdown” of the vote-counting venue in Warren County on election night suddenly broke down when it was contradicted by spokespersons from the FBI and Ohio’s primary homeland security official.
County Emergency Services Director Frank Young said last week that in a face-to-face meeting with an FBI agent, he was warned that Warren County, outside Cincinnati, faced a “terrorist threat.” County Commissioners President Pat South amplified, insisting to us at Countdown that her jurisdiction had received a series of memos from Homeland Security about the threat. “These memos were sent out statewide, not just to Warren County, and they included a lot of planning tools and resources to use for election day security.
“In a face to face meeting between the FBI and our director of Emergency Services,” Ms. South continued, “we were informed that on a scale from 1 to 10, the tri-state area of Southwest Ohio was ranked at a high 8 to a low 9 in terms of security risk. Warren County in particular, was rated at 10.”
But the Bureau says it issued no such warning.
“The FBI did not notify anyone in Warren County of any specific terrorist threat to Warren County before Election Day,” FBI spokesman Michael Brooks told Enquirer reporters Erica Solvig and Dan Horn.
Through a spokeswoman, Ohio Public Safety Director Ken Morckel told the newspaper that his office knew of no heightened terror warning for election night for Warren County or any other community in Greater Cincinnati.
Despite the contradiction from both security services, Ms. South again amplified, telling the Enquirer “It wasn’t international terrorism that we were in fear of; it was more domestic terrorism.”
So the media was kept two floors away from the vote counting at the Warren County Administration on election night on the basis of a “10” FBI terror threat that the FBI says was never issued.
Appearing with us on Countdown last night, Newsweek Senior Editor and columnist Jonathan Alter said the Warren ‘terror’ story was likely to grab the interest of the mainstream media: “I think you’ll see in the next few days, other reporters start to get their act together… you’ll hear more about this story in the days and weeks to come.”
It has all even come to the attention of the blithe agitator of the far right, Ann Coulter, who yesterday not only wrote of the election irregularities but, I’m proud to say, slimed and misquoted me. “In a major report on ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann’ last Monday,” my fellow Cornell alum writes, “Olbermann revealed that Bush’s win in Florida— and thus the election—was ‘attributable largely to largely Democratic districts suddenly switching sides and all voting for Mr. Bush at the same time’!”
It made for fascinating reading, because it made me think for a moment that I had been on television while in a coma. I couldn’t recall making such a broadly ridiculous remark— and it turns out I didn’t. Ms. Coulter, living up to her usual standards which many of us in the Alumni Association nightly pray she didn’t learn at the university, took a quote from a transcript of the November 8th show completely out of context, and entirely twisted its meaning.
The actual quote follows, with the key portion discarded by Ms. Coulter indicated in bold face:
“There (Florida), county totals in Tuesday’s election might be attributable largely to largely Democratic districts suddenly switching sides and all voting for Mr. Bush.”
Thus, a comment indicating how President Bush might have legitimately achieved majorities in some Florida counties, is transformed into a contention that the entire election turned on those county margins.
It’s a neat trick— the journalistic equivalent of the dog who learns to balance the biscuit on her nose and then flip it into her mouth on voice command.
Never tried it myself.
What do you think? Email me at KOlbermann@msnbc.com
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:43 AM
Kerry Campaign Lawyers Checking Ohio Vote
Senator Promises To Make Sure Every Vote Is Counted
UPDATED: 8:04 AM EST November 11, 2004
CLEVELAND -- Lawyers with John Kerry's presidential campaign are in Ohio on what they describe as a "fact-finding mission" following the Democrat's election loss to President Bush last week.
Dan Hoffheimer, the statewide counsel for the Kerry campaign, said they are not trying to challenge the election but are only carrying out Kerry's promise to make sure that all the votes in Ohio are counted.
"We're not expecting to change the outcome of the election," Hoffheimer said.
In unofficial returns, Bush outpolled Kerry by 136,000 votes in Ohio.
Hoffheimer said the goal is to identify any voting problems and quell doubts about the legitimacy of the Ohio election being raised on the Internet.
He said the Kerry campaign has compiled a list of more than 30 questions for local election officials. They are asking about the number of absentee and provisional ballots, any reports of equipment malfunctions on election night and any ballots that still listed third-party challenger Ralph Nader as a candidate.
Nader was removed from the ballot by Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell because of evidence of fraud in the circulation of petitions.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:39 AM
Thursday, November 11, 2004
With the announcement of the nomination of the lawywer who said, in essence, to heck with the Geneva Convention, just torture everyone at Abu Ghraib, leading Democrats, including Chuck Schumer of NY and Patrick Leahy of VT have already indicated that Gonzales is an acceptable choice for Attorney General.
This country is in deep, deep, trouble.
Posted by politicalstuff at 3:05 PM
The New York Times
November 11, 2004
A Moveable Feast of Terrorism
By MAUREEN DOWD
During the campaign, President Bush and Dick Cheney gave the ominous impression that there was a dire threat that terrorists could incinerate Americans at any time if that powder puff John Kerry got anywhere near the Oval Office.
We felt the hot breath of the wolf pack bearing down on us. But only a week later, the alarums have dimmed.
The administration lowered the terror threat in New York and Washington yesterday, and the Capitol Hill police were dismantling the elaborate security checkpoints they had put on streets around the Capitol to thwart would-be bombers.
In his handwritten resignation letter, John Ashcroft reassured Mr. Bush that "the objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.''
Mission accomplished. Tell those wolves to scat, and let that eagle soar, baby.
It was a tad surprising that Mr. Ashcroft would want to leave just when he had a mandate to throw blue curtains over every naked statue in town and hold Bible study for government employees in a federal office. (He called his daily devotionals at the Justice Department "RAMP'': Read, Argue, Memorize and Pray.)
The president is putting his own counsel, Alberto Gonzales, who wrote the famous memo defending torture, in charge of our civil liberties. Torture Guy, who blithely threw off 75 years of international law and set the stage for the grotesque abuses at Abu Ghraib and dubious detentions at Guantánamo, seems to have a good grasp of what's just. No doubt we'll soon learn what other protections, besides the Geneva Conventions and the Constitution, Mr. Gonzales finds "quaint'' and "obsolete.''
With the F.B.I. investigating Halliburton and the second-term scandal curse looming, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney want a dependable ally - and former Enron attorney - at Justice. But since the country is controlled by one party and the press has tended toward the pusillanimous, cowed by the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald as he tries to throw reporters in jail, the White House may be able to suppress any second-term problems.
Mr. Bush should quit fiddling around on the domestic side and revamp his war council and national security team. The Bushies can stop mentioning Osama's name and tell themselves that his last, less militant video was a sign of weakness, but it's just part of their dangerous denial. Osama bin Laden killed 3,000 innocents on 9/11; let's nail him.
Even as Karl Rove boasts that "moral values'' swept his boss back into the White House, it never seems to occur to the president that it's immoral to endanger our troops in a war shaped by the political clock, a war with no visible enemy, no coherent plan and no exit timetable.
Falluja, supposed to be a defining battle, showed only how undefined this guerrilla war is. The Marines swept into a city deserted by most of the insurgents, who were terrorizing and kidnapping Iraqis elsewhere.
"Falluja isn't Masada or the Alamo,'' Fred Kaplan wrote in Slate, "some last-ditch outpost where the rebels whoop their final battle cry, rally one more round of resistance, then pass into history when their last rifleman falls.''
Last night, the military said it dominated 70 percent of Falluja. But what good does that do if 98 percent of the bad guys have already moved on, or if 100 percent of the Sunnis boycott the elections out of anger over the assault? It's just like when Mr. Bush says 75 percent of Al Qaeda's leadership has been killed or captured. What good is that if Al Qaeda has become an inspirational force for 100 percent of the jihadists?
The math is self-defeating. Pictures of forces taking a Falluja mosque will no doubt spur a surge of Islamic terrorist recruits, who won't be fooled by the marines' new camouflage: their Iraqi vanguard.
Just as there is talk here that John Kerry may want to run again, there is also talk that Donald Rumsfeld wants to stay on to continue his transformation of the military. Rummy's stubborn need to show we could do more with less is what kept us from having the strength to secure Iraq at the start, turning our troops into targets for a ghostly foe armed with the explosives and missiles looted by insurgents from unguarded caches.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:47 PM
Don’t blame gay folks for John Kerry’s loss
BY JAMES NEAL
No sooner had John Kerry given his concession speech than did liberal pundits, media and political alike, jump the gun and lay blame for John Kerry’s loss at the feet of gay Americans.
The argument was that the push for same-sex marriage recognition resulted in a massive turnout by conservative voters motivated to support constitutional amendments
barring gay marriages. The pundits’ position was buttressed by polling that showed just as many Americans cited “moral values” as did terrorism or the economy in
deciding for whom to vote.
According to published reports, in the ﬁnal weeks of the election Bill Clinton had urged the senator to endorse anti-gay marriage ballot measures in 11 states, a suggestion Kerry refused to embrace. After the election, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Barney Frank and editrix Tina Brown attributed Bush’s victory to gay rights supporters having moved too fast. Brown went so far as to declare in her weekly Washington Post column that the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts resulted in the loss of health care beneﬁts for 45 million Americans.
Did the gay community’s push for same-sex marriage legislation cost John Kerry the election? The facts, as opposed to the punditry, say no.
Gary Langer, ABC News’ director of polling, argues that in asking voters in exit polling questionnaires what the most important issue was in their decision (moral values, taxes, education, Iraq, terrorism, economy/jobs and health care), inclusion
of the amorphous concept of “moral values” is comparable to including a concept such as “patriotism.”
The exit polls reveal much about the national attitude toward key moral values: 55 percent of voters said abortion should be legal in all or most cases; 25 percent supported gay marriage and another 35 percent supported civil unions. Ergo, a total of 60 percent of Americans support some form of civil recognition of same-sex relationships.
In terms of the popular vote in Ohio, Kerry came two percent closer to victory than did Al Gore in 2000. And President Bush did not gain signiﬁcantly in the other 10 states with gay marriage referendums. The data cited above are from an exit poll survey co-sponsored by the television networks and the Associated Press.
A ﬁnal word on gay civil rights. Federal law confers 1,049 beneﬁts to heterosexual couples wed in a civil marriage. Gay people enjoy none of these. The goal of any civil rights movement is to gain equal rights, and that goal is not negotiable according to the timetable of any political party, elected ofﬁcial or political candidate. No one can predict how tolerance will shift. After all, the nation’s most popular Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has endorsed gay marriage. And its highest elected ofﬁcial, President Bush, endorsed civil unions one week before the election. That’s progress in the face of adversity.
JAMES NEAL is a lecturer on politics and media at The New School, where he also sits on the Board of Governors.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:36 PM
Bush wants Social Security privatized
Fresh off reelection, President Bush is dusting off an ambitious plan to overhaul Social Security, a controversial proposal that had been shelved because of politics and the administration’s focus on tax cuts and terrorism. Bush envisions a framework that would partially privatize Social Security with personal investment accounts similar to 401(k) plans.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:33 PM
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
President Bush has nominated Alberto R.Gonzales for Attorney General, to replace John Ashcroft.
The New York Times
Excerpts From Gonzales's Legal Writings
As a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, Alberto R. Gonzales wrote a majority opinion issued on June 22, 2000, in a case in which a minor was seeking to have an abortion without notifying her parents, as state law required. Then as counselor to the president, Mr. Gonzales drafted a memorandum dated Jan. 25, 2002, about the application of the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War (G.P.W.) to the conflict with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Following are excerpts from those writings:
An Abortion Ruling
Our role as judges requires that we put aside our own personal views of what we might like to see enacted, and instead do our best to discern what the Legislature actually intended. ... Once we discern the Legislature's intent we must put it into effect, even if we ourselves might have made different policy decisions. ...
The dissenting opinions suggest that the exceptions to the general rule of notification should be very rare and require a high standard of proof. I respectfully submit that these are policy decisions for the Legislature. And I find nothing in this statute to directly show that the Legislature intended such a narrow construction. As the court demonstrates, the Legislature certainly could have written section 33.033(i) to make it harder to bypass a parent's right to be involved in decisions affecting their daughters. ... But it did not. Likewise, parts of the statute's legislative history directly contradict the suggestion that the Legislature intended bypasses to be very rare. ... Thus, to construe the Parental Notification Act so narrowly as to eliminate bypasses, or to create hurdles that simply are not to be found in the words of the statute, would be an unconscionable act of judicial activism. As a judge, I hold the right of parents to protect and guide the education, safety, health and development of their children as one of the most important rights in our society. But I cannot rewrite the statute to make parental rights absolute, or virtually absolute, particularly when, as here, the Legislature has elected not to do so.
Prisoner of War Status
As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war. It is not the traditional clash between nations adhering to the laws of war that formed the backdrop for G.P.W. The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities or war crimes, such as wantonly killing civilians. In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions requiring that captured enemy be afforded such things as commissary privileges, scrip (i.e., advances of monthly pay), athletic uniforms and scientific instruments.
Although some of these provisions do not apply to detainees who are not P.O.W.'s, a determination that G.P.W. does not apply to Al Qaeda and the Taliban eliminates any argument regarding the need for case-by-case determination of P.O.W. status. It also holds open options for the future conflicts in which it may be more difficult to determine whether an enemy force as a whole meets the standard for P.O.W. status.
By concluding that G.P.W. does not apply to Al Qaeda and Taliban, we avoid foreclosing options for the future, particularly against nonstate actors.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:24 PM
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Warren Co. defends lockdown decision
FBI denies warning officials of any special threat
By Erica Solvig and Dan Horn
Enquirer staff writers
LEBANON - Warren County officials, facing scrutiny of their decision to lock down the administration building on election night, say they were responding to a terrorist threat that ranked a "10" on a scale of 1 to 10.
The information, which Commissioner Pat South said was previously deemed confidential, is coming out a week after the public was barred from viewing the Warren County vote count. The Ohio Secretary of State's office doesn't know of any other county in the state to impose such a restriction.
County officials initially said they feared that having reporters and photographers present could interfere with the ballot counting. They subsequently cited homeland security concerns.
Now, they say an FBI agent told them that Warren County ranked a "10" on a terrorism scale. However, state and federal homeland security officials said Tuesday they were unaware of any specific threat against the county.
County officials locked down the administration building on Justice Drive after the polls there had closed. Officials say having both a polling place and the board of elections in one location increased security concerns.
"It wasn't international terrorism that we were in fear of; it was more domestic terrorism," South said Tuesday. "I much prefer sitting here today telling you why we did implement security rather than why we didn't."
County board of elections officials had compiled a list of people who were approved for after-hours access, but that list didn't include reporters.
It also didn't include an approved ballot-count watcher.
"I was denied admission myself," said Jeff Ruppert, the Warren County counsel for the Kerry-Edwards campaign. "I had to present credentials."
Besides locking the doors, the county had two pickup trucks out front, police in the building and a bomb-sniffing dog.
While the administration building was the top security concern, other precautions were taken countywide, according to Frank Young, the county's emergency services director. That included asking local law enforcement to keep an eye on the various polling places.
Young said he recommended the security precautions after getting information from an FBI agent during a conversation about general Election Day threats. Young refused to identify the agent Tuesday.
The county passed on some precautions, such as use of metal detectors. Young declined to go into detail on security preparations.
Officials at the FBI, which oversees anti-terrorism activities in southern Ohio, said they received no information about a terror threat in Warren County.
"The FBI did not notify anyone in Warren County of any specific terrorist threat to Warren County before Election Day," FBI spokesman Michael Brooks said.
A spokeswoman for Ohio's top homeland security official, Public Safety Director Ken Morckel, knew of no heightened terror warning for either Warren County or any other Greater Cincinnati community on election night.
Earlier this year, federal homeland security officials issued a broad warning about potential terrorist strikes leading up to elections in the United States. Anti-terrorism experts said the warning was based on intelligence that indicated terror groups hoped to disrupt the elections.
Elections officials in many counties responded with tighter security measures, including metal detectors, police officers, identification badges and restricted access to some public areas.
Hamilton County's director of homeland security, Mike Snowden, said the goal was to improve security while allowing the public access to the board of elections.
"You can do it," Snowden said. "Hamilton County complied with the law and at the same time maintained security."
The Ohio Secretary of State's office provides advice, but leaves decisions about access to the ballot count to the local boards of elections "based on their facilities and their security plans," spokesman James Lee said.
Since the lockdown was first reported in the Enquirer, Warren County's situation has gotten national publicity and drawn criticism from across the country. But South said she didn't regret the county's decision.
"Was it overkill?" South said. "That was hotly debated before we even made the decision. In hindsight, yeah, it was probably overkill."
Posted by politicalstuff at 10:26 PM
RIGHT-WING COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVE QUOTE OF THE DAY
"You watch the voter turnout on the near south side, heavily Hispanic, and compare it to the voter turnout in any other election, and you're going to see every wetback and every other non-citizen out there voting." – Radio host and regular Rush Limbaugh substitute Mark Belling, 10/27/04. Belling has since been suspended by Clear Channel station WISN.
Posted by politicalstuff at 9:32 PM
CIVIL LIBERTIES – 1942 ALL OVER AGAIN?
Members of a Census Bureau advisory board panel yesterday told top officials that the Census Bureau's decision “to give to the Department of Homeland Security data that identified populations of Arab-Americans was the modern-day equivalent of its pinpointing Japanese-American communities when internment camps were opened during World War II.” Barry Steinhardt, a civil liberties lawyer and member of the panel, charged, "This for the Arab-American community is 1942. Thousands of Arab-Americans have been rounded up and deported." Charles Louis Kincannon, the Census Bureau director, acknowledged that even if handing that information to the DHS broke no laws, “the agency had undermined public trust, potentially discouraging Arab-Americans or other minority groups from filling out future census forms.”
Posted by politicalstuff at 9:31 PM
EDUCATION – TEXAS COOKS THE BOOKS
In its efforts to advance a conservative agenda, the Texas State Board of Education is failing its students. Last week, the group voted on standards for new health textbooks, deciding “abstinence should be taught without any textbook discussion of contraception.” The newly approved textbooks don't mention condoms; instead, for example, “one offers strategies such as going out in groups, avoiding alcohol and drugs, and getting plenty of rest to avoid having 'to make a tough choice when you are tired.'” The Board of Education also decreed textbooks have to “be explicit about marriage as a union between a man and a woman.”
Posted by politicalstuff at 9:30 PM
The Merck-y Case for Tort Reform
Mounting evidence suggests that, for at least five years, pharmaceutical company Merck aggressively concealed evidence that its painkiller Vioxx was associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke – recklessly endangering tens of millions of people. Meanwhile, the Bush administration is working actively to ensure that drug companies like Merck don't have to pay one red cent to the patients they harm. In December 2003, FDA Chief Counsel Daniel Troy promised a group of drug industry lobbyists that "the FDA would exercise its intervention powers to protect [drug industry] defendants" from lawsuits. The FDA's actions back up Troy's words. Since Bush took office, the FDA or Department of Justice has intervened repeatedly in cases on behalf of pharmaceutical company defendants, each time claiming the FDA's own judgment to approve the drug means that drug companies can't be held responsible. The administration's broader tort reform agenda – including caps on how much a patient can recover – would provide further protection for companies like Merck. If the Bush administration gets its way, drug companies like Merck will be able to push products they know are dangerous to the public with impunity.
MERCK KNEW ABOUT THE DANGERS OF VIOXX FOR YEARS: An e-mail written on 3/9/00 by Merck's research chief, Edward Scolnick, acknowledges that results of a study conducted by a company showed cardiovascular events "are clearly there" among those who take the drug. The data showed "a fivefold increase in heart attacks in patients taking Vioxx compared with those taking an older painkiller, naproxen." Scolinick's e-mail, obtained by the Wall Street Journal, called the results "a shame," especially since the risk of heart attack or stroke was "mechanism based," meaning it was a risk inherent in Vioxx.
MERCK WILLFULLY COVERED UP THE DATA: The following month, Merck released a press statement saying the data from the trial showed "NO DIFFERENCE in the incidence of cardiovascular events" between Vioxx and older painkillers like aspirin. The WSJ also obtained a 16-page internal training document entitled "Dodge Ball Vioxx." Each of the first 12 pages lists one question that may be raised by doctors, including, "I am concerned about the cardiovascular effects of Vioxx" and "The competition has been in my office telling me that the incidence of heart attacks is greater with Vioxx than Celebrex." The last four pages contain a single word written in capital letters: "DODGE!"
MERCK THREATENED ACADEMICS WHO RAISED QUESTIONS: Merck attacked medical researchers who raised questions about Vioxx's safety. A Merck official called the Stanford Medical School to complain that a professor there, Gurkipal Singh, was giving lectures that were "irresponsibly anti-Merck and specifically anti-Vioxx." On the call, the Merck official, Louis Sherwood, said if Singh's conduct continued "Dr. Singh would 'flame out' and there would be consequences...for Stanford." Other academics (and their superiors) received similar calls.
MERCK UNDER CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION: The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have launched criminal investigations into Merck's conduct. The Justice Department probe is investigating allegations that "Merck misled regulators or perhaps caused federal health programs to pay for the prescription drug when its use was not warranted."
VIOXX SHOULD HAVE BEEN PULLED BY THE FDA MORE THAN THREE YEARS AGO: There is another reason why FDA approval should not insulate pharmaceutical companies like Merck for liability: the FDA hasn't been doing its job. Jerry Avorn, a Harvard University drug safety expert, described the probes by the Justice Department and the SEC as "doing the FDA's work at a time when the FDA has been asleep at the switch in its regulatory function." Avorn's view is bolstered by a recent study in the prestigious medical journal Lancet that found Vioxx's "heart risk was evident in studies four years before the drug was recalled." By the end of 2000, "the evidence was strong enough to initiate discussion of whether the drug should be recalled." The Lancet study concluded that "too often the FDA saw and continues to see the pharmaceutical industry as its customer – a vital source of funding for its activities – and not as a sector of society in need of strong regulation." Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) said, "It looks like the FDA saw a lot of red flags from the beginning. The agency must address what looks like systemic problems when it comes to putting safety first and public relations second."
MERCK'S IRRESPONSIBLE ADVERTISING BLITZ: Why did 20 million people take Vioxx when, for most, it was no more effective at pain relief than aspirin? Marketing. In 2003, Merck spent half a billion dollars marketing Vioxx to health care professionals. In 2000, Merck spent more money advertising Vioxx to the public ($160 billion) than was spent marketing Budweiser ($146 billion) or Pepsi ($125 billion).
Posted by politicalstuff at 9:24 PM
The Case For Election Reform
Though we may have avoided the “major mishaps and controversies that tainted the 2000 election,” preliminary analysis of last week's vote underscores the fact that “substantial problems remain in the nation's electoral system.” Election experts pointed to machine glitches, long lines, confusion over provisional and absentee ballots and the lack of paper trails for lost votes as proof of major structural deficiencies in the way America votes. Computerized voter databases and upgraded technology, both mandated by the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA), but so far under-funded and inconsistently enforced, should help resolve some of the problems by 2006. Other solutions, however, could come from a careful analysis of exactly what went wrong in this year's election.
EXTRA VOTES: Ever since election night, the evidence has mounted that computer glitches in electronic voting machines caused substantial errors. In a suburban Columbus precinct in Ohio, “An electronic voting machine added 3,893 votes to President Bush's tally…even though there are just 800 voters there.” MSNBC's Keith Olbermann reported that “in Cuyahoga County, that is greater Cleveland, the official records of 29 different voting precincts show more votes than registered voters to a total of 93,000 extra votes in that county alone.” Similar glitches were discovered in e-voting machines across the country. In Broward County, FL, “software subtracted votes rather than added them.” There were as many as 10,000 extra e-votes cast in Nebraska and 19,000 mysterious “extra ballots” were added on electronic machines elsewhere in Florida.
CODE AUDIT: Machine miscounts could have been caused by fraud or hacking, but the problems were most likely the result of voting software code errors. So far, none of the major e-voting vendors has agreed to release its code to the public “for fear of competitors stealing trade secrets.” But unofficial audits of some of the codes revealed security weaknesses and potentially dangerous glitches. The quixotic behavior of the machines in the 2004 election underscores the need for the federal government to audit the machines before they are used in elections.
PAPER TRAIL: In North Carolina's Carteret County, “more than 4,000 early votes were lost because the electronic voting system could not store the volume of votes it received.” The mishap was a perfect argument for a verifiable paper trail. With a voter-verified paper-trail system, says e-voting software expert Avi Rubin, "If the electronic votes were lost due to a computer malfunction, the paper votes would still be there and could be counted." As it stands, the votes cannot be recovered. In Nevada, the “only state with a large number of electronic-voting systems with voter-verified paper-trail capabilities, only a handful of problems were reported.”
PROVISIONAL BALLOTS: Had President Bush's margin of victory in Ohio been any slimmer, there would have been a fierce legal battle over the 155,337 provisional ballots cast in the state. Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell had ordered election officials to “only issue provisional ballots to voters in the right polling places,” prompting two federal lawsuits and possibly disenfranchising crucial votes. His edict would seem to violate HAVA, which mandated that provisional ballots be offered to any voter whose name is not on the rolls. But a federal clarification of the law's standard for counting the votes is clearly needed. “If Ohio's votes had been challenged by Democrats, legal experts said, the election overhaul law would have left plenty of other unanswered questions, particularly about provisional ballots.” The ballots created confusion in other states as well: in Colorado, Secretary of State Donetta Davidson inexplicably decided she would count provisional votes for president, but not for the state's tight U.S. Senate race.
LONG LINES: The most common problem of all in this year's election was long lines. The large voter turnout “caused hours-long waits throughout the country and prompted judges to order voting hours extended in some polling places long past scheduled closing times.” In Ohio, “lines were horrendously long,” even though turnout was below what Secretary of State Blackwell had predicted. And there “appeared to be disproportionately long lines in some low-income areas,” stemming from an inadequate number of voting machines. "There is a feeling here that the long-line problem was a problem of disparity that fell along socioeconomic lines," said Ohio election law professor Edward Foley. "There were isolated instances of long lines here in the seven- to nine-hour range.” For future elections, the nation should commit itself “to providing enough voting machines and election workers to make waiting times reasonable.”
Posted by politicalstuff at 9:22 PM
Democrats Vow to Hold Bush Accountable
By Charles Babington and Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 10, 2004; Page A07
Congressional Democrats returned to Washington in a defiant mood yesterday, making no apologies for the campaign in which they lost congressional seats and the presidential race and vowing to hold President Bush accountable for his handling of the deficit, the Iraq war and other issues.
In his first public comments since conceding defeat to Bush, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) did not rule out a bid in 2008 and promised to keep pushing the issues he championed this year.
"Let me tell you one thing that I want to make clear," Kerry said in a brief meeting with reporters in the Capitol. "Fifty-four-plus-million Americans voted for health care, they voted for energy independence, they voted for unity in America, they voted for stem cell research, they voted for protecting Social Security. We need to be unified, and we have a very clear agenda. And I'm going to be fighting for that agenda with all of the energy that I have and all the passion I brought to the campaign."
Asked about his brother Cameron's comment, published in yesterday's Boston Globe, that it was "conceivable" Kerry would run for president again, the senator quipped: "I was intrigued by it. I called him up and said, 'Where did you get that?' " He added: "It's inconceivable to me that anybody is even talking about that stuff right now."
Returning to the Capitol, where he will resume serving his fourth Senate term, Kerry met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who will succeed Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) as Senate minority leader.
Pelosi, addressing reporters after lunching with about 100 House Democrats, said her party will speak out when it believes Bush and the GOP-controlled Congress are mismanaging Iraq, tax policies or the deficit. "The president won't be able to blame anyone, because the Republicans have full control," Pelosi said. Although Republicans have controlled the White House, Senate and House for two years, she said, "the American people did not know that. And now they do."
Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) rejected arguments that Republicans care more than Democrats do about traditional values. "We are the party of moral values," he said. Cutting taxes "for the very rich" increases the deficit and forces spending cuts in education, health care and housing, he said. "And so throughout the next two years, you're going to hear a lot [from Democrats] about moral values."
Meanwhile, the Democrats' post-election self-examination continued at a forum hosted by the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.
DLC founder Al From said the 2004 election continued a "40-year slide" for the party, interrupted only by the elections of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Democrats must close the security, reform and culture gaps, he said, adding: "You can't have everybody who goes to church voting Republican."
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who won reelection, said Democrats must trust voters' instincts and intelligence. "We can only lead people that we trust, and they'll only follow if they trust us," she said.
Some congressional Democrats also say the party needs to do more soul-searching, but most are lying low. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), the party's second-ranking House leader, did not join Pelosi, Rangel and others who addressed reporters. Hoyer "wants to think things through" but will not challenge Pelosi or surrender his post as party whip, said a source close to him.
Pelosi must choose a successor to Rep. Robert T. Matsui (Calif.) as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Those interested include Reps. Mike Thompson (Calif.), Janice D. Schakowsy (Ill.) and Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), Capitol insiders said.
Posted by politicalstuff at 9:19 PM
A New Start on Courts
Wednesday, November 10, 2004; Page A26
PRESIDENT BUSH'S reelection with an enlarged Republican majority in the Senate presents him with a pivotal choice on judicial nominations. He can act as a national leader to begin defusing the war over the courts, or he can flex his new political muscle and try to maximize short-term conservative gains on the bench. The temptation to pursue the latter course undoubtedly will prove strong. The Republican Party's social conservative base is giddy with victory, believing it made the difference in the election, and it sees the courts as part of its due. Conservatives responded with outrage to the suggestion by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who by seniority is in line to chair the Judiciary Committee, that Mr. Bush should think twice about a provocative Supreme Court nominee hostile to abortion rights. There is talk of changing Senate rules so that a minority could no longer engage in filibusters to block judicial nominations, the one point of leverage that Democrats in the Senate retain. Pressure for unilateral action will be hard for Mr. Bush to resist, even if he wants to.
But he should. The judicial nominations process has been in a downward spiral for two decades. The ultimate losers are the courts and Americans' faith in impartial justice. We opposed obstructionist tactics deployed against some of Mr. Bush's qualified nominees during his first term, just as we opposed such tactics when they were wielded against President Bill Clinton. With 55 Republicans coming into the Senate, Mr. Bush may decide he can overcome such tactics with raw power. He would do the country a far greater service if he took this opportunity to break the spiral.
He could do so without jettisoning any of his principles or campaign promises. Mr. Bush has said consistently through two campaigns that he would nominate judges who would strictly interpret the Constitution and who would not legislate from the bench. Democratic senators and liberal interest groups need to accept that, having won the election, Mr. Bush is entitled to name men and women he believes will adhere to his stated judicial philosophy. But as Mr. Bush's history with nominations has shown, not every such person is offensive to Democrats. Most of Mr. Bush's appellate nominees have been confirmed without controversy -- a fact that neither Republicans keen to paint Democrats as obstructionists, nor Democrats keen to paint Mr. Bush's nominees as right-wing extremists, like to emphasize. Some have even provoked energetic support from Democrats. There are plenty of qualified conservative candidates, in other words, who could command broad ideological support. By turning to them, rather than to obviously confrontational nominees, Mr. Bush could bring a cease-fire to the judiciary wars -- and demonstrate true leadership.
Posted by politicalstuff at 9:07 PM
Forgotten POWs, Forgotten Honor
By John Norton Moore
Wednesday, November 10, 2004; Page A27
As a matter of national honor we owe a special debt to our prisoners of war. Surely this country also should adhere to treaty obligations that are designed to deter torture of our POWs, including the obligation in the POW convention never to "absolve" a torturing state of "any liability." Indeed, in the aftermath of the detainee abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison, President Bush has reaffirmed our national commitment to this convention. Shockingly, however, while the administration pours billions into Iraq, it continues to stiff the American POWs tortured by Iraq.
During the Persian Gulf War, Iraq brutally tortured U.S. prisoners of war. Saddam Hussein's secret police broke bones; shattered skulls and eardrums; and whipped, burned, shocked, beat, starved and urinated on our POWs. Yet these brave Americans, as did generations of POWs before them, refused to give in to their captors. One extraordinary Marine was knocked unconscious so many times he lost count; he returned home with a fractured skull for refusing his captors' orders to criticize President George H.W. Bush. Because Iraq would not notify families of POWs, spouses did not know whether they were wives or widows. The result was serious and lasting injury to the POWs and their families.
Before the current Iraq war, 17 of these Gulf War POWs and 37 of their family members brought a historic suit to hold Iraq accountable and to deter such torture in the future. They did so courageously, despite being required to give Saddam Hussein their home addresses, something the POWs had refused to do under torture. And they won a judgment in federal district court that is the most important deterrent to date against torture of American POWs.
But rather than offering the former prisoners the support of a grateful nation, a decision was quietly made in the Bush administration to prevent the POWs from holding Iraq accountable. When (before the Iraq war) 20 distinguished American national security officials, including a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, requested that the president set aside funds from frozen Iraqi assets to enforce the POWs' judgment, they did not even receive an answer.
This decision to stiff the POWs, made by administration lawyers in the climate of misguided legal advice now exposed in the detainee abuse scandal, resulted in the administration's seizing the blocked Iraqi assets the POWs had been counting on to enforce their judgment. In seizing the entire $1.7 billion, leaving nothing for the POWs, the administration argued that the money was urgently needed for the "reconstruction of Iraq."
Even more shocking: The administration then intervened in court on the side of Saddam Hussein and Iraq to erase the POWs' judgment from the books. Sadly this effort recently succeeded in persuading a court of appeals to set aside the POWs' judgment (along with the rule of law), presumably again in the interest of the "reconstruction of Iraq."
Even after winning this victory, the administration has refused to open talks with the POWs. And while the administration was attacking the POWs in court, Scott McClellan, the president's press secretary, responded to questions about the case by repeating five times in one news conference the mantra: "There is simply no amount of money that can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through."
Eighteen months after the decision to set aside our treaty obligations and stiff the POWs, most of the funds for reconstruction remain unspent. And many other claims against Iraq are being honored. Some $30 billion is being paid to Kuwait from Iraqi oil revenue. Saudi Arabia has insisted on payment of its $25 billion in war debts. France is insisting on at least 50 percent payment of its governmental loans to Iraq. Russia is insisting on payment of 65 percent of its loans plus payment on commercial contracts. The United Nations still has $98 billion in unresolved Gulf War claims against Iraq. Even the Bush administration supports some retention of governmental loans to Iraq.
For the long run, Iraq has oil reserves that may rival those of Saudi Arabia. Surely it is a country that can pay its debt of honor. And just as surely, whatever the price of Iraqi reconstruction, it is shameful to ask American POWs brutally tortured by Iraq to pay for that reconstruction. Billions in legal claims against Iraq will be honored, but there seem to be no funds for American national honor.
Just as President Bush set aside the misguided legal advice in the detainee abuse scandal, he can, with but a word, direct negotiations with the POWs to hold Iraq accountable for their torture. Such negotiations were twice urged by the Senate, unanimously. Absent presidential intervention, this shameful companion to the detainee abuse scandal will remain a scar on our national honor.
The writer is a former ambassador and counselor on international law to the State Department. He is serving as co-counsel on behalf of the POWs and their family members in the case of Acree v. Republic of Iraq.
Posted by politicalstuff at 8:37 PM
Liberal Christians Challenge 'Values Vote'
By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 10, 2004; Page A07
Liberal Christian leaders argued yesterday that the moral values held by most Americans are much broader than the handful of issues emphasized by religious conservatives in the 2004 presidential campaign.
Battling the notion that "values voters" swept President Bush to victory because of opposition to gay marriage and abortion, three liberal groups released a post-election poll in which 33 percent of voters said the nation's most urgent moral problem was "greed and materialism" and 31 percent said it was "poverty and economic justice." Sixteen percent cited abortion, and 12 percent named same-sex marriage.
But the religious leaders acknowledged that the Christian right had reached more voters than the Christian left. Some said it was time for "moderate and progressive" religious groups, as well as the Democratic Party, to rethink their positions.
"One of the things a few of us are talking about is a reassessment of how the Democrats deal with an issue like abortion -- could there be a more moderate ground, where even if they retained their pro-choice stance, they talked about uniting pro-choice people together to actually do something about the abortion rate?" said Jim Wallis, editor of the liberal evangelical journal Sojourners.
If the Democratic Party were to "welcome pro-life Democrats, Catholics and evangelicals and have a serious conversation with them" about ways to reduce teenage pregnancy, facilitate adoptions and improve conditions for low-income women, it would "work wonders" among centrist evangelicals and Catholics, Wallis said.
In a conference call with reporters to discuss the election and the new poll, Wallis and three other Christian leaders argued that many religious Americans do not fall neatly into liberal or conservative camps.
They contended that there is a vast religious middle, including "progressive evangelicals," "resurgent mainline Protestants" and "socially conservative African Americans," that could be attracted by biblically based "prophetic" appeals to make peace, fight poverty and spread social justice.
"The values that were promoted most within the conservative religious community were almost always tied to a fear factor, and that was not necessarily the case in the Democratic strategy, and I would say should not be the case," said the Rev. Welton Gaddy, head of the Interfaith Alliance.
The nationwide telephone poll of 10,689 voters was conducted by Zogby International for the Catholic peace group Pax Christi, the New York-based civic advocacy group Res Publica and the Washington-based Center for American Progress, a think tank allied with Democrats. It had a margin of error of plus or minus one percentage point.
The poll found that 42 percent of voters cited the war in Iraq as the "moral issue" that most influenced their choice of candidates, while 13 percent cited abortion and 9 percent same-sex marriage. Asked to name the greatest threat to marriage, 31 percent said "infidelity," 25 percent cited "rising financial burdens" and 22 percent named same-sex marriage.
Tom Perriello, an organizer at Res Publica, said the poll shows that "while there may be a solid 20 percent who are very focused on abortion and gay marriage, for most Americans of faith, there are other moral issues of greater urgency, and that's where the religious middle is."
Throughout the presidential campaign, opinion polls showed that frequent churchgoers were far more likely to support Bush than his Democratic rival, Sen. John F. Kerry. Exit polls on Election Day found that 22 percent of voters cited "moral values" as the key to their vote, and they tilted 4 to 1 toward Bush.
The answer to this "God gap," Perriello said, "is that progressives need to embrace the deep moral critique that people are looking for and make that case on poverty and Iraq, and not just try to talk more about God or outpace the Republicans on gay marriage or abortion."
According to Perriello, liberal religious groups registered 500,000 new voters, made 400,000 get-out-the-vote phone calls, and raised $1.75 million for newspaper and radio ads during the campaign. But he said the post-election poll found that 71 percent of voters had heard from the religious right while 38 percent said they had heard from the religious left.
Posted by politicalstuff at 8:32 PM
Note: "Moral Values" means different things to different people. The press seems to be ignoring that and continues to perpetrate the Republican point of view on the meaning of this term.
The New York Times
November 10, 2004
'Moral Values' Carried Bush, Rove Says
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 - President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, said Tuesday that opposition to gay marriage was one of the most powerful forces in American politics today and that politicians ignored it at their peril.
"This is an issue on which there is a broad consensus," Mr. Rove said, discussing a presidential election that took place as voters in 11 states backed constitutional amendments barring same-sex marriages.
"In all 11 states, it won by considerable margins," Mr. Rove said, adding, "People do not like the idea or the concept of marriage as being a union between a man and a woman being uprooted and overturned by a few activist judges or a couple of activist local officials."
He said he was not certain that the votes necessarily helped Mr. Bush to defeat Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. He noted that Mr. Kerry had won Michigan and Oregon, where the amendments passed by large margins.
"I do think it was part and parcel of a broader fabric where this year moral values ranked higher than they traditionally do," he said, adding: "I think people would be well advised to pay attention to what the American people are saying."
Mr. Rove suggested that the Republican Party's success was even broader than some Democrats had acknowledged, citing increased Republican vote totals in states like Hawaii and Connecticut.
"You're starting to see some growth of the Republican Party in places where you might not think there was a chance for growth," he said.
Mr. Rove appeared to stifle a grin when asked whether he was "indebted" to Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, who opened his City Hall to gay marriages until he was blocked by a court, and to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, for ruling that gay couples have a right to marriage.
"If you look at things that intrude into American politics through a nontraditional method - through a judicial vein - they tend to have a huge impact," he said.
On Capitol Hill, Mr. Kerry met with Democratic leaders - Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader, and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the incoming Senate minority leader - as he prepared to return to the Senate.
Posted by politicalstuff at 8:27 PM
The New York Times
November 10, 2004
Ashcroft Quits Top Justice Post; Evans Going, Too
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 - Attorney General John Ashcroft, one of the most high-profile and polarizing members of the Bush cabinet, said Tuesday that he would resign, after a tumultuous tenure in which he was praised for his aggressive fight against terrorists but assailed by critics who said he sacrificed civil liberties in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans, a close friend of President Bush who spent years promoting the administration's tax cuts across the country, also submitted a letter of resignation on Tuesday.
The two were the first in a series of departures from the administration that are expected before Mr. Bush is inaugurated in January for a second term.
Larry Thompson, who served as deputy attorney general until last year and is a personal favorite of the president, is the leading candidate to replace Mr. Ashcroft, according to a Republican close to the White House. If named, Mr. Thompson, 58, would be the first African-American ever to lead the Justice Department. Others mentioned as possible successors include Marc Racicot, who was chairman of Mr. Bush's re-election campaign, and Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel.
In his letter of resignation, Mr. Ashcroft indicated that he would stay in the job to ensure a smooth transition until his successor was nominated and confirmed.
Mercer Reynolds, a Cincinnati businessman who was Mr. Bush's campaign finance chairman, is a top candidate to replace Mr. Evans, the Republican said.
In a hand-written resignation letter to Mr. Bush, dated Nov. 2, that was released by the White House on Tuesday, Mr. Ashcroft said, "The demands of justice are both rewarding and depleting."
He added: "I take great personal satisfaction in the record which has been developed. The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved. The rule of law has been strengthened and upheld in the courts. Yet, I believe that the Department of Justice would be well served by new leadership and fresh inspiration."
The resignation of Mr. Ashcroft, 62, had been widely expected, even as some Justice Department officials in recent days had suggested that he might want to stay on.
But Mr. Ashcroft had been sidelined for nearly a month last March when he underwent surgery to remove his gall bladder after a severe case of pancreatitis. In addition, he never developed a close relationship with Mr. Bush and annoyed some members of the White House staff who thought he was at times a grandstander who was overtly politicizing the Justice Department. One Republican close to the White House said on Tuesday night that Mr. Ashcroft had gotten a "strong signal" from the administration that his resignation would be accepted.
Mr. Bush, in a three-paragraph statement released by the White House, praised Mr. Ashcroft for his work over the past four years.
"I applaud his efforts to prevent crime, vigorously enforce our civil rights laws, crack down on corporate wrongdoing, protect the rights of victims and those with disabilities, reduce crimes committed with guns and stop human trafficking," the statement said. "I appreciate his work to fight Internet pornography. I am grateful for his advice on judicial nominations and his efforts to ensure that my judicial nominees receive fair hearings and timely votes."
But Mr. Ashcroft's critics were caustic. "We had an attorney general who treated criticism and dissent as treason, ethnic identity as grounds for suspicion and Congressional and judicial oversight as inconvenient obstacles," said David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University. "He was a disaster from a civil liberties perspective but also from a national security perspective."
Republicans close to the White House said they expected Mr. Ashcroft's successor to be announced on Wednesday. Naming Mr. Thompson, who is widely regarded as a moderate and is respected by both Democrats and Republicans, would be a critical early signal that Mr. Bush is making a move toward the political center.
"You would hopefully see a more modulated approach by the Justice Department on the issues that John Ashcroft was very aggressive on," said Alan Vinegrad, who served as United States attorney in Brooklyn early in the current administration.
Mr. Thompson, the general counsel at Pepsico in Purchase, N.Y., left the Justice Department in August 2003. But he has kept up his ties to the administration, and earlier this year joined Mr. Bush at a ceremony in Buffalo to mark the anniversary of the USA Patriot Act, an antiterrorism law. "Larry, we miss you over there," Mr. Bush said at the ceremony. "Don't get too comfortable."
Mr. Thompson, who has been a visiting professor at the University of Georgia law school and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, came under scrutiny in 2002 when a conservative public interest group, Judicial Watch, filed a lawsuit that accused Mr. Thompson of helping artificially inflate the stock of the Providian Financial Corporation when he was a director there. Mr. Thompson, who made at least $1 million from the sale of his stock, denied any wrongdoing.
The resignation of Mr. Evans had also been widely expected. Mr. Evans, who has known Mr. Bush for more than three decades, had made it clear to associates before the election that he wanted to step down even if the president won a second term. Mr. Evans' family had recently moved back to Texas, and Mr. Evans has been a Republican favorite to run for governor of the state.
In his letter of resignation to the president, dated Nov. 9, Mr. Evans said, "While the promise of your second term shine bright, I have concluded with deep regret that it is time for me to return home." He added, "It is a blessing to have served America with such an extraordinary leader and a true friend."
Mr. Bush, in a statement released by the White House, called Mr. Evans "one of my most trusted friends and advisers" and "a valuable member of my economic team." Mr. Bush added: "To encourage job creation here at home, Don has worked closely with me to reduce taxes, open markets for American goods and services and promote a level playing field abroad."
Mr. Evans' departure is part of a broader reshuffling expected in the administration's economic team, which includes John W. Snow, the treasury secretary. A prominent Republican with close ties to the White House said on Tuesday that while Mr. Snow will remain for now at Treasury, he will probably step down after six months or a year.
Extending Mr. Snow's tenure would reward the treasury secretary, a 65-year-old former railroad executive who aggravated Bush campaign officials when he traveled to Ohio in October and called job losses under the president nothing more than "myths." But Mr. Snow has also been a tireless salesman for Mr. Bush's tax cuts and a cheerleader for his economic policies.
Administration officials are also contemplating a shift for Stephen Friedman, who is currently director of the White House National Economic Council. Mr. Friedman, a former top executive at Goldman Sachs, is under consideration as the United States trade representative and would be in charge of negotiating international trade agreements.
It remains unclear what will happen to Robert B. Zoellick, Mr. Bush's top trade negotiator for the past four years. Mr. Zoellick, who made progress on global trade talks and negotiated free-trade agreements with Chile, Australia and nations in Central America, had been looking for a new post in a second Bush term.
Republicans also said on Tuesday that Roland W. Betts, a close friend of the president and a Democrat, is a leading candidate to become chairman of the inauguration festivities in Washington in January. Mr. Betts, an owner of the Chelsea Piers sports and entertainment complex in Lower Manhattan, has known Mr. Bush since their days together at the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity at Yale University, and spent election night at the White House with Mr. Bush.
Edmund L. Andrews contributed reporting from Washington for this article, andAdam Liptak from New York.
Posted by politicalstuff at 8:12 PM
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Ralph Nader Challenges Kerry and Edwards on Ohio Election: Fulfill Your Promise to Make Every Vote Count!
November 9, 2004
Ralph Nader Challenges Kerry and Edwards on Ohio Election:
Fulfill Your Promise to Make Every Vote Count!
Washington, DC: Ralph Nader issued a challenge today to John Kerry and John Edwards to follow through on their post-election promise to the American people to make sure every vote counts, starting in Ohio. In his own introductory remarks to John Kerry's concession statement, John Edwards said, "In America it is vital that every vote count, and that every vote be counted."
According to a November 5th article by the Associated Press, elections officials admitted that an error with an electronic voting system gave President Bush 3,893 extra votes in a Gahanna precinct. Franklin County reported Bush with 4,258 votes and John Kerry with 260 - a suspicious count since only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct. Election officials in that county now say a cartridge from a voting machine generated errors after the precinct closed - and only 365 people voted for Bush. Additional machine errors in Ohio reported by VotersUnite.org, include:
* Mahoning County. The glass on top of one electronic screen was too far from the screen, making it difficult for people to use their fingers to cast ballots. A screen went blank on a Youngstown voter while he cast his ballot
* Mahoning County. 20 to 30 machines that needed to be recalibrated during the voting process because some votes for a candidate were being counted for that candidate's opponent
* Mahoning County. About a dozen machines needed to be reset because they essentially froze
* Cincinnati. Problems with punch card voting machines delayed the start of voting for up to an hour Tuesday morning at a suburban precinct. Voters were unable to slide their punch-card ballots all the way into any of the six voting machines that had ALL evidently been damaged in transit.
* Columbus. Overcharged batteries on Danaher Controls ELECTronic 1242 systems kept machines from booting up properly at the beginning of the day
The resulting delays, combined with higher voter turnout, resulted in lines of several hours—in one case, 22 hours!—led to some citizens' voting rights being taken away by administrative default.
The situation in Ohio and other states bears out what Nader warned against before the election. Computers are inherently subject to programming error, equipment malfunction, and malicious tampering. Paperless electronic voting machines make it impossible to safeguard the integrity of our vote thereby threatening the very foundation of our democracy.
However, the Democratic National Committee has remained silent on the issue since Election Day. Neither the DNC web site nor the Ohio Democratic Party site offered any response or any advice to voters on where to turn.
"With the extensive pre-election effort to prevent election fraud, including international observers, activist poll watchers and attempts to enforce paper trail backups, the Democratic Party's silence on Ohio is puzzling," said Ralph Nader.
Regardless of whether it changes the outcome, the Democrats should follow through on their promise to make sure every vote counts in Ohio and other states discovering similar problems with electronic voting machines and other irregularities.
"It is imperative to find out whether changes are needed in the equipment," he said. "At a minimum, the Democrats should put the state on alert to clean up its act."
Other trouble spots exist in Ohio, including rules that allow officials to reject some of the 155,000 provisional ballots being cast in that state. Before Election Day, Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell (a Republican who co-chairs President Bushs statewide campaign) was challenged by voters-rights organizations for denying citizens their voting rights on the basis of a rule (later rescinded) requiring voter registration forms be printed on 80 pound paper stock. Voter registration forms were submitted on newsprint in Cuyahoga County after being printed in the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer. Blackwell is also accused of trying to suppress the registration of poor and minority voters who most often vote Democrat.
Nader says major electoral reforms are needed to ensure that every vote count—that all voters are represented through electoral reforms like instant run-off voting, none-of-the-above options, and proportional representation; that non-major party candidates have a chance to run for office and participate in debates; and that elections are publicly financed.
Ralph Nader calls upon John Edwards and John Kerry to be serious about their post-election promise: "Our offices are being flooded with faxes and e-mails asking for assistance in resolving these irregularities - a lot of them are citizens who voted for you. You must now take action to give our nation the fair accounting it deserves from the 2004 election and to protect democratic processes in future elections. Although your party extended considerable funds and manpower to drive us off the Ohio ballot, in the spirit of good government, I urge you to make this effort now."
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:55 PM
When the Personal Shouldn't Be Political
By GARY HART
Kittredge, Colo. — If America has entered one of its periodic eras of religious revival and if that revival is having the profound impact on politics that is now presumed, to participate in a discussion of "faith" one must qualify oneself.
I was raised in the Church of the Nazarene, an evangelical denomination founded a century ago as an offshoot of American Methodism, which, the church founders believed, had become too liberal. I graduated from Bethany Nazarene College, where I met and married my wife, who was also brought up in the church. I then graduated from the Yale Divinity School as preparation for a life of teaching religion and philosophy.
The Nazarene Church abhorred drinking, smoking, dancing, movies and female adornment, believed in salvation through being "born again" and in sanctification as a second act of grace, and resisted most popular culture as the devil's work. In doctrine and practice, it was much more evangelical than fundamentalist.
A neglected thread of church doctrine was the social gospel of John and Charles Wesley, the great reformers of late 18th-century Methodism. The Wesley brothers preached salvation through grace but also preached the duty of Christians, based solidly on Jesus' teachings, to minister to those less fortunate. My political philosophy springs directly from Jesus' teachings and is the reason I became active in the Democratic Party. Finally, in the qualification-to-speak category, I will seek to pre-empt the ad hominem disqualifiers. I am a sinner. I only ask for the same degree of forgiveness from my many critics that they were willing to grant George W. Bush for his transgressions.
As a candidate for public office, I chose not to place my beliefs in the center of my appeal for support because I am also a Jeffersonian; that is to say, I believe that one's religious beliefs - though they will and should affect one's outlook on public policy and life - are personal and that America is a secular, not a theocratic, republic. Because of this, it should concern us that declarations of "faith" are quickly becoming a condition for seeking public office.
Declarations of "faith" are abstractions that permit both voters and candidates to fill in the blanks with their own religious beliefs. There are two dangers here. One is the merging of church and state. The other is rank hypocrisy. Having claimed moral authority to achieve political victory, religious conservatives should be very careful, in their administration of the public trust, to live up to the standards they have claimed for themselves. They should also be called upon to address the teachings of Jesus and the prophets concerning care for the poor, the barriers that wealth presents to entering heaven, the blessings on the peacemakers, and the belief that no person should be left behind.
If we are to insert "faith" into the public dialogue more directly and assertively, let's not be selective. Let's go all the way. Let's not just define "faith" in terms of the law and judgment; let's define it also in terms of love, caring, forgiveness. Compassionate conservatives can believe social ills should be addressed by charity and the private sector; liberals can believe that the government has a role to play in correcting social injustice. But both can agree that human need, poverty, homelessness, illiteracy and sickness must be addressed. Liberals are not against religion. They are against hypocrisy, exclusion and judgmentalism. They resist the notion that one side or the other possesses "the truth" to the exclusion of others. There is a great difference between Cotton Mather and John Wesley.
There is also the disturbing tendency to insert theocratic principles into the vision of America's role in the world. There is evil in the world. Nowhere in our Constitution or founding documents is there support for the proposition that the United States was given a special dispensation to eliminate it. Surely Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator. But there are quite a few of those still around and no one is advocating eliminating them. Neither Washington, Adams, Madison nor Jefferson saw America as the world's avenging angel. Any notion of going abroad seeking demons to destroy concerned them above all else. Mr. Bush's venture into crusaderism frightened not only Muslims, it also frightened a very large number of Americans with a sense of their own history.
The religions of Abraham all teach a sense of personal and collective humility. It was a note briefly struck very early by Mr. Bush and largely abandoned thereafter. It would be well for those in the second Bush term to ponder that attribute. Whether Bush supporters care or not, people around the world now see America as arrogant, self-righteous and superior. These are not qualities of any traditional faith I am aware of.
If faith now drives our politics, at the very least let's make it a faith of inclusion, genuine compassion, humility, justice and accountability. In the words of the prophet Micah: "He hath shown thee, O man, what is good. What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" And, instead of "O man," let's insert "O America."
Gary Hart, the former Democratic senator from Colorado, is the author, most recently, of "The Fourth Power: A Grand Strategy for the United States in the 21st Century.''
Posted by politicalstuff at 9:39 PM
November 9, 2004
Electronic voting angst (Keith Olbermann)
NEW YORK — Bev Harris, the Blackbox lady, was apparently quoted in a number of venues during the day Monday as having written “I was tipped off by a person very high up in TV that the news has been locked down tight, and there will be no TV coverage of the real problems with voting on Nov. 2… My source said they’ve also been forbidden to talk about it even on their own time.”
I didn’t get the memo.
We were able to put together a reasonably solid 15 minutes or so on the voting irregularities in Florida and Ohio on Monday’s Countdown. There was some You-Are-There insight from the Cincinnati Enquirer reporter who had personally encountered the ‘lockdown’ during the vote count in Warren County, Ohio, a week ago, and a good deal of fairly contained comment from Representative John Conyers of Michigan, who now leads a small but growing group of Democratic congressmen who’ve written the General Accountability Office demanding an investigation of what we should gently call the Electronic Voting Angst. Conyers insisted he wasn’t trying to re-cast the election, but seemed mystified that in the 21st Century we could have advanced to a technological state in which voting— fine, flawed, or felonious— should leave no paper trail.
But the show should not have been confused with Edward R. Murrow flattening Joe McCarthy. I mean that both in terms of editorial content and controversy. I swear, and I have never been known to cover-up for any management anywhere, that I got nothing but support from MSNBC both for the Web-work and the television time. We were asked if perhaps we shouldn’t begin the program with the Fallujah offensive and do the voting story later, but nobody flinched when we argued that the Countdown format pretty much allows us to start wherever we please.
It may be different elsewhere, but there was no struggle to get this story on the air, and evidently I should be washing the feet of my bosses this morning in thanks. Because your reaction was a little different than mine. By actual rough count, between the 8 p.m. ET start of the program and 10:30 p.m. ET last night, we received 1,570 e-mails (none of them duplicates or forms, as near as I can tell). 1,508 were positive, 62 negative.
Well the volume is startling to begin with. I know some of the overtly liberal sites encouraged readers to write, but that’s still a hunk of mail, and a decisive margin (hell, 150 to 62 is considered a decisive margin). Writing this, I know I’m inviting negative comment, but so be it. I read a large number of the missives, skimmed all others, appreciate all— and all since— deeply.
Even the negative ones, because in between the repeated “you lost” nonsense and one baffling reference to my toupee (seriously, if I wore a rug, wouldn’t I get one that was all the same color?), there was a solid point raised about some of the incongruous voting noted on the website of Florida’s Secretary of State.
There, 52 counties tallied their votes using paper ballots that were then optically scanned by machines produced by Diebold, Sequoia, or Election Systems and Software. 29 of those Florida counties had large Democratic majorities among registered voters (as high a ratio as Liberty County— Bristol, Florida and environs— where it’s 88 percent Democrats, 8 percent Republicans) but produced landslides for President Bush. On Countdown, we cited the five biggest surprises (Liberty ended Bush: 1,927; Kerry: 1,070), but did not mention the other 24.
Those protesting e-mailers pointed out that four of the five counties we mentioned also went for Bush in 2000, and were in Florida’s panhandle or near the Georgia border. Many of them have long “Dixiecrat” histories and the swing to Bush, while remarkably large, isn’t of itself suggestive of voting fraud.
That the other 24 counties were scattered across the state, and that they had nothing in common except the optical scanning method, I didn’t mention. My bad. I used the most eye-popping numbers, and should have used a better regional mix instead.
Interestingly, none of the complaining emailers took issue with the remarkable results out of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. In 29 precincts there, the County’s website shows, we had the most unexpected results in years: more votes than voters.
I’ll repeat that: more votes than voters. 93,000 more votes than voters.
Talk about successful get-out-the-vote campaigns! What a triumph for democracy in Fairview Park, twelve miles west of downtown Cleveland. Only 13,342 registered voters there, but they cast 18,472 votes.
Vote early! Vote often!
And in the continuing saga of the secret vote count in Warren County, Ohio (outside Cincinnati), no protestor offered an explanation or even a reference, excepting one sympathetic writer who noted that there was a “beautiful Mosque” in or near Warren County, and that a warning from Homeland Security might have been predicated on that fact.
To her credit, Pat South, President of the Warren County Commissioners who chose to keep the media from watching the actual vote count, was willing to come on the program— but only by phone. Instead, we asked her to compose a statement about the bizarre events at her County Administration building a week ago, which I can quote at greater length here than I did on the air.
“About three weeks prior to elections,” Ms. South stated, “our emergency services department had been receiving quite a few pieces of correspondence from the office of Homeland Security on the upcoming elections. These memos were sent out statewide, not just to Warren County and they included a lot of planning tools and resources to use for election day security.
“In a face to face meeting between the FBI and our director of Emergency Services, we were informed that on a scale from 1 to 10, the tri-state area of Southwest Ohio was ranked at a high 8 to a low 9 in terms of security risk. Warren County in particular, was rated at 10 (with 10 being the highest risk). Pursuant to the Ohio revised code, we followed the law to the letter that basically says that no one is allowed within a hundred feet of a polling place except for voters and that after the polls close the only people allowed in the board of elections area where votes are being counted are the board of election members, judges, clerks, poll challengers, police, and that no one other than those people can be there while tabulation is taking place.”
Ms. South said she admitted the media to the building’s lobby, and that they were provided with updates on the ballot-counting every half hour. Of course, the ballot-counting was being conducted on the third floor, and the idea that it would have probably looked better if Warren had done what Ohio’s other 87 counties did— at least let reporters look through windows as the tabulations proceeded— apparently didn’t occur to anybody.
Back to those emails, especially the 1,508 positive ones. Apart from the supportive words (my favorites: “Although I did not vote for Kerry, as a former government teacher, I am encouraged by your ‘covering’ the voting issue which is the basis of our government. Thank you.”), the main topics were questions about why ours was apparently the first television or mainstream print coverage of any of the issues in Florida or Ohio. I have a couple of theories.
Firstly, John Kerry conceded. As I pointed out here Sunday, no candidate’s statement is legally binding— what matters is the state election commissions’ reports, and the Electoral College vote next month. But in terms of reportorial momentum, the concession took the wind out of a lot of journalists’ aggressiveness towards the entire issue. Many were prepared for Election Night premature jocularity, and a post-vote stampede to the courts— especially after John Edwards’ late night proclamation from Boston. When Kerry brought that to a halt, a lot of the media saw something of which they had not dared dream: a long weekend off.
Don’t discount this. This has been our longest presidential campaign ever, to say nothing of the one in which the truth was most artfully hidden or manufactured. To consider this mess over was enough to get 54 percent of the respondents to an Associated Press poll released yesterday to say that the “conclusiveness” of last week’s vote had given them renewed confidence in our electoral system (of course, 39 percent said it had given them less confidence). Up for the battle for truth or not, a lot of fulltime political reporters were ready for a rest. Not me— I get to do “Oddball” and “Newsmakers” every night and they always serve to refresh my spirit, and my conviction that man is the silliest of the creator’s creations.
There’s a third element to the reluctance to address all this, I think. It comes from the mainstream’s love-hate relationship with this very thing you’re reading now: The Blog. This medium is so new that print, radio, and television don’t know what to do with it, especially given that a system of internet checks and balances has yet to develop. A good reporter may encounter a tip, or two, or five, in a day’s time. He has to check them all out before publishing or reporting.
What happens when you get 1,000 tips, all at once?
I’m sounding like an apologist for the silence of television and I don’t mean to. Just remember that when radio news arose in the '30s, the response of newspapers and the wire services was to boycott it, then try to limit it to specific hours. There’s a measure of competitiveness, a measure of confusion, and the undeniable fact that in searching for clear, non-partisan truth in this most partisan of times, the I’m-Surprised-This-Name-Never-Caught-On “Information Super Highway” becomes a road with direction signs listing 1,000 destinations each.
Having said all that— for crying out loud, all the data we used tonight on Countdown was on official government websites in Cleveland and Florida. We confirmed all of it— moved it right out of the Reynolds Wrap Hat zone in about ten minutes.
Which offers one way bloggers can help guide the mainstream at times like this: source your stuff like crazy, and the stuffier the source the better.
Enough from the soapbox. We have heard the message on the Voting Angst and will continue to cover it with all prudent speed.
Thanks for your support.
Keep them coming... Email me at KOlbermann@msnbc.com
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:19 PM