Saturday, November 06, 2004

How Can 59,054,087 People Be So Dumb?


Health Textbooks in Texas to Change Wording About Marriage

The New York Times
November 6, 2004

Health Textbooks in Texas to Change Wording About Marriage

AUSTIN, Tex., Nov. 5 (AP) - The Texas Board of Education approved new health textbooks for the state's high schools and middle schools on Friday after the publishers agreed to change wordings in the texts to depict marriage strictly as the union of a man and a woman.

The decision involves two of the biggest textbook publishers and is another example of Texas' exerting its market influence as the nation's second-largest buyer of textbooks. Officials say the decision could affect hundreds of thousands of books in Texas alone.

On Thursday, a board member said that proposed new books ran counter to a Texas law banning the recognition of gay civil unions because the texts used terms like "married partners" instead of "husband and wife."

After hearing the debate on Thursday, one publisher, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, agreed to include a definition of marriage as a "lifelong union between a husband and a wife." The definition, which was added to middle school textbooks, was already in Holt's high school editions, Rick Blake, a company spokesman, said.

The other publisher, Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, changed phrases like "when two people marry" and "partners" to "when a man and a woman marry" and "husbands and wives."

"The board expressed an interest in having us" make the change, Mr. Blake said. "We thought it was a reasonable thing to do."

But Mr. Blake said the publisher did not plan to add its definition of marriage in books to be sold outside Texas. A spokeswoman for Glencoe/McGraw-Hill did not immediately respond to questions.

A list of the books that were approved by the board, as well as those that were not, is sent to school districts for guidance when they choose books.

One board member, Mary Helen Berlanga, a Democrat, asked the panel to approve the books without the changes, but her proposal was rejected on a 10-to-4 vote.

"We're not supposed to make changes at somebody's whim," Ms. Berlanga said. "It's a political agenda, and we're not here to follow a political agenda."

Another board member, Terri Leo, a Republican, said she was pleased with the publishers' changes. She had led the effort to get the publishers to change the texts, objecting to what she called "asexual stealth phrases" like "individuals who marry."

"Marriage has been defined in Texas, so it should also be defined in our health textbooks that we use as marriage between a man and a woman," Ms. Leo said.

Texas legislators enacted a law last year that prohibits the state from recognizing same-sex civil unions. The state already had a ban on gay marriage.

Neither publisher made all the changes that Ms. Leo initially sought. For instance, one passage that was proposed to be added to the teacher's editions read: "Opinions vary on why homosexuals, lesbians and bisexuals as a group are more prone to self-destructive behaviors like depression, illegal drug use and suicide."

Randall Ellis, the executive director of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, said the board had overstepped its bounds in suggesting and adopting the new wording.

"Their job is to review for factual information and instead what we see is the insertion of someone's ideology and agenda into the textbook of middle schoolers," Mr. Ellis said.

The board's approval caps months of debate over health textbooks. Much of it had centered on how much sex education should be included.


Broward machines count backward

Broward machines count backward

By Eliot Kleinberg

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Friday, November 05, 2004

FORT LAUDERDALE — It had to happen. Things were just going too smoothly.

Early Thursday, as Broward County elections officials wrapped up after a long day of canvassing votes, something unusual caught their eye. Tallies should go up as more votes are counted. That's simple math. But in some races, the numbers had gone . . . down.

Officials found the software used in Broward can handle only 32,000 votes per precinct. After that, the system starts counting backward.

Why a voting system would be designed to count backward was a mystery to Broward County Mayor Ilene Lieberman. She was on the phone late Wednesday with Omaha-based Elections Systems and Software.

Bad numbers showed up only in running tallies through the day, not the final one. Final tallies were reached by cross-checking machine totals, and officials are confident they are accurate.

The glitch affected only the 97,434 absentee ballots, Broward Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes said. All were placed in their own precincts and optical scanners totaled votes, which were then fed to a main computer.

That's where the counting problems surfaced. They affected only votes for constitutional amendments 4 through 8, because they were on the only page that was exactly the same on all county absentee ballots. The same software is used in Martin and Miami-Dade counties; Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties use different companies.

The problem cropped up in the 2002 election. Lieberman said ES&S told her it had sent software upgrades to the Florida Secretary of State's office, but that the office kept rejecting the software. The state said that's not true. Broward elections officials said they had thought the problem was fixed.

Secretary of State spokeswoman Jenny Nash said all counties using this system had been told that such problems would occur if a precinct is set up in a way that would allow votes to get above 32,000. She said Broward should have split the absentee ballots into four separate precincts to avoid that and that a Broward elections employee since has admitted to not doing that.

But Lieberman said later, "No election employee has come to the canvassing board and made the statements that Jenny Nash said occurred."

Late Thursday, ES&S issued a statement reiterating that it learned of the problems in 2002 and said the software upgrades would be submitted to Hood's office next year. The company was working with the counties it serves to make sure ballots don't exceed capacity and said no other counties reported similar problems.

"While the county bears the ultimate responsibility for programming the ballot and structuring the precincts, we . . . regret any confusion the discrepancy in early vote totals has caused," the statement said.

After several calls to the company during the day were not returned, an ES&S spokeswoman said late Thursday she did not know whether ES&S contacted the secretary of state two years ago or whether the software is designed to count backward.

While the problem surfaced two years ago, it was under a different Broward elections supervisor and a different secretary of state. Snipes said she had not known about the 2002 snafu.

Later, Lieberman said, "I am not passing judgments and I'm not pointing a finger." But she said that if ES&S is found to be at fault, actions might include penalizing ES&S or even defaulting on its contract.


The case for fraud

The case for fraud
Joseph Cannon

Ignore the rightist snickers. Ignore those who would straightjacket permissible thought. We have a right to ask difficult questions.

And the question of the moment concerns exit polls and electronic voting.

Some have criticized my pessimistic attitude toward this election, but I always heeded the warnings sounded by Bev Harris and others regarding the danger of computerized vote tampering. If Kerry did not win handily, he could not win at all. A truly lopsided vote would have been impossible to hide, because oversized gaps between polls and election night counts would prove too suspicious.

Although the vote was tight, such gaps nevertheless exists. And although those gaps were not massive, the pattern is suspicious. Very suspicious.

Remember when networks used to trumpet the accuracy of exit polling? Last night, on-air talking heads (especially on CNN) loudly derided these same exit polls as untrustworthy. Perhaps polling methodology has become sloppy. Perhaps respondents have learned to enjoy fibbing to pollsters.

Or perhaps something in our current vote-tabulation system is fishier than an all-you-can-eat sushi bar.

Before proceeding, recall the commonly-heard axiom that Democrats tend to vote late, while Republicans tend to vote early. Many challenge that belief. Still, keep the notion in mind as you read what follows.

Exit polls published yesterday afternoon (by Slate and a number of blogs) gave this portrait of certain key results:

OHIO: Kerry 50, Bush 49.
FLORIDA: Kerry 50, Bush 49.
NEW MEXICO: Kerry 51, Bush 48.

At times, the poll data was even more favorable to Kerry in these three key states. No exit poll showed a Bush lead in any of these states.

Here we find grounds for suspicion. Electronic voting machines figured heavily in the final tabulation of the results in Ohio, Florida, and New Mexico. Moreover, in all three, paper audit trails do not exist.

These states therefore offered the best, safest opportunity for manipulation of the final count.

Question 1: Even if we grant the potential inaccuracy of exit polls, how likely is it that in all three cases the inaccuracy would show a "false positive" working toward the Democratic advantage? Why doesn't the disparity ever work in the other direction?

Question 2: Why did problems afflict exit polling in three swing states that have widespread computerized voting with no paper trails?

In other states, where recounts are easier to accomplish, the exit polling matched the final results rather well. In Nevada, Illinois, and New Hampshire, computer votes do have paper trails -- and in those instances, the exit polls mirrored the final totals.

To recap: In three states with no paper trails, we have exit poll/final tally disagreement. In three states with paper trails, we have exit poll/final tally congruence.


Let's return to the notion that Republicans vote earlier than Democrats. Many dispute that bit of folk wisdom. Even so, is it likely that the people waiting four, five or more hours in long lines, well into the cold of the night, underwent this endurance test to demand more of the same? Shouldn't the polls have showed Kerry's lead expanding as the night went on, instead of evaporating?

Intriguingly, CNN's exit poll results underwent a mysterious revision not explained by an increased number of respondents.

Black Box Voting plans to file the world's largest FOIA request to uncover the internals of the compu-vote. Don't presume that such an inquest will come up goose eggs:

Such a request filed in King County, Washington on Sept. 15, following the primary election six weeks ago, uncovered an internal audit log containing a three-hour deletion on election night; "trouble slips" revealing suspicious modem activity; and profound problems with security, including accidental disclosure of critically sensitive remote access information to poll workers, office personnel, and even, in a shocking blunder, to Black Box Voting activists.

Today's Boston Globe expands on some of the points I've made here:

Although some of John F. Kerry's leads in the state exit polls narrowed during the course of the day yesterday, there was a significant discrepancy between the actual vote total and the polling numbers, particularly in two states believed to be keys to the outcome.

While the exit data had Kerry winning Florida and Ohio by a narrow margin, the actual tabulated vote late last night had Bush carrying Florida by about five points and winning Ohio by two. In addition, a projected Kerry win of about five points in Wisconsin turned into a very tight contest, and what was projected as a close race in North Carolina turned into a double-digit win for Bush.

Again: Note the pattern. Why do exit polls always go wrong in the same way? Pundits who assail these polls never address this question.

Logic tells us that about half the exit polls would show false positives for the Republican side. But in the past two presidential elections, they have almost always (perhaps I should strike out the word "almost") delivered false positives for Democrats, and Democrats only.

The simplest explanation: The Democratic false positives are not, in fact, false. The computerized tally is false.

Remember: If malign parties have tampered with the electronic result, then our first, best -- and perhaps only -- indication of fraud will be a conflict between the exit poll data and the "official" results.

A pattern of false positives functions much like a canary in a coal mine. It's a warning. Something is wrong.

As for what to do about it: May I suggest a visit to

Update: Others are catching the whiff of brimstone in the air. From News Target Network...

Another burning question is surfacing: if this was such a record turnaround, with long lines all over the country, where did all the votes go? Because the vote totals don't show much of a difference from the 2000 election. It's as if a few million votes just vanished...

And from the good folks at the Raw Story:

In Wisconsin, where exit polls put Kerry up seven percent, Bush has a lead of one percent, an unexplained difference of eight percent.

In New Mexico, Kerry led Bush by 3.8 percent, yet Bush leads Kerry by 3 percent in actual reported voting.

In Minnesota, where a new law sharply restricts reporters’ access to polls, Kerry led 9.6 percent in exit polling. Actual voting counts found that Bush trailed by 5 percent, with a 5 percent discrepancy favoring Bush.

Ohio, which does have paper trail capability but does not mandate receipts, had exits showed Kerry and Bush in a dead heat; in the near-final results, Bush led by three percent.

Exit polls put Kerry up by 8 percent in Michigan; actual results show Bush trailing by just 3 percent.

Two states with mandated paper trails for electronic voting were within 0.1 percent margin of error.

Finally, at the Murdochian New York Post, Dick Morris notes the astounding coincidence of Democratic false positives -- and implies that they prove a liberal conspiracy! This is not, of course, the first time Dick has suffered from foot-in-mouth syndrome.

Mr. Morris, your theory does not explain why exit polls proved accurate in "paper trail" states. My theory does.


Electronic-Voting Critics Scrutinizing U.S. Election

Electronic-Voting Critics Scrutinizing U.S. Election

By charlie smith

A Seattle-based nonprofit organization has announced that it is conducting the largest freedom-of-information action in U.S. history to examine computer voting in the November 2 U.S. election. Bev Harris, a founder of, told the Straight that her group plans to file requests for the internal audit logs of all computerized voting machines used across the country.

"Any system that is counted by computer has the vulnerability that some programmer somewhere, who we don't know, has some sort of proprietary code that we can't review," she alleged.

Harris, author of Black Box Voting: Ballot-Tampering in the 21st Century, said that her group recently obtained records from the King County primary election six weeks ago and discovered that three hours had been deleted from the audit log. "The audit log is like the black box in an airplane," she said. "It automatically generates reports of who got access into the system and the different types of actions they took. So when you have an audit on election night that has had three hours deleted, you've got to raise your eyebrows."

She estimated that 20 million votes were counted using electronic voting machines across the U.S. on November 2. She claimed that one of the biggest risks of tampering occurs when results are sent by telephone modem from polling stations to a central election site.

Harris claimed that it's possible to tamper with results because voting records are copied and stored in different repositories inside the program. "We found that counties didn't realize the access phone number is very sensitive information," she said. "You get that number and you can dial in and control the server."

In July 2003, researchers at Johns Hopkins University and Rice University released a paper alleging that people can access the touch-screen system off-site and vote repeatedly. The manufacturer of the most widely used touch-screen system, Ohio-based Diebold, issued a lengthy technical response on its Web site ( on July 25, 2003, offering assurances about its system.

"A continuous or unmonitored internet or modem connection would be necessary in order for last minute or stealth changes to be downloaded to a voting terminal," the company stated at the time. "As installed by Diebold, this voting terminal contains neither. Diebold does not connect its voting terminals to the internet."

Harris said it's "insane" that the U.S. conducts elections without any formal way of auditing the votes. She said that no candidate should concede an election until after this occurs.


Presidential Votes Miscast on E-Voting Machines Across the Country

Presidential Votes Miscast on E-Voting Machines Across the Country

Voters from at least half a dozen states reported that touch-screen voting machines had incorrectly recorded their choices, including for president.

Voters discovered the problems when checking the review screen at the end of the voting process. They found, to their surprise, that the machines indicated that they voted for one candidate when they had voted for another. When voters tried to correct the problem, the machine often made the same error several times. While in most cases the situation was reportedly resolved, many voters remain uneasy about whether the proper vote was ultimately cast. Meanwhile, voting experts are concerned that other voters are experiencing the problem, but failing to notice that the machine is indicating the wrong choice on the "summary" screen.

Election observers with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Verified Voting Foundation (VVF) reported yesterday that the problem, which some voting officials initially attributed to "voter error," is evidently widespread and may even be relatively common with touch-screen machines. Incorrectly recorded votes make up roughly 20 percent of the e-voting problems reported through the Election Incident Reporting System (EIRS), an online database in which volunteers with the Election Protection Coalition, a coalition of non-partisan election observers dedicated to preventing voter disenfranchisement, are recording and tracking voting problems.

For voters, these incidents underscore the need to carefully review ballots during the final portion of the electronic voting process. But they also point to the larger issue: using touch-screen voting systems vulnerable to this kind of error, combined with poll workers and voters unfamiliar with the new systems, substantially increases the chances of voter disenfranchisement.

EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman said: "As a short-term measure, we strongly encourage voters who use touch-screen voting machines to proof their ballots at the review stage. But while we can try to address obvious, visible problems like these, the problems we really worry about are the ones that the voters and poll watchers can't see. Often the only you catch these flaws are through audits - yet most of these machines lack even the most basic audit feature: a voter-verified paper trail."

Election Incident Reporting System:


Palm Beach County Logs 88,000 More Votes Than Voters

Palm Beach County Logs 88,000 More Votes Than Voters
November 5, 2004 04:56 PM

According to the official election results posted on the Palm Beach County election website, 542,835 ballots were cast for a presidential candidate while only 454,427 voters turned out for the election (including absentee). This leaves a discrepancy of 88,408 votes cast for the presidential candidates.

Palm Beach County's supervisor of elections is Theresa LePore who is known for the 2000 Presidential Election and the notorious "butterfly ballot" that caused confusion among seniors and other Floridians.

Other election oddities occurred throughout Florida with some counties registering a 400% increase in expected voter turnout among Republicans while Democrats supposedly experienced a -60% decline in expected support within certain counties. The 50+ counties experiencing the high percentage fluctuations in expected turnout used optical scan voting machines on November 2nd.

Vote discrepancies were also found in Gahanna, Ohio which gave an extra 4,000 votes to President Bush. The error was explained away by Franklin County administrators as a "glitch" in the electronic voting system.

Update: Palm Beach County has updated their numbers and added 91,802 absentee ballots and 1,041 provisional ballots. The vote totals for president increased by 1,543. To view an archived copy of the previous report, click here. While Palm Beach County appears to have accounted for the discrepancy, this underscores the flaws in the system and data compilation.


Machine Error Gives Bush Extra Ohio Votes

Yahoo! News
Machine Error Gives Bush Extra Ohio Votes

Fri Nov 5, 6:04 PM ET

By JOHN McCARTHY, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio - An error with an electronic voting system gave President Bush (news - web sites) 3,893 extra votes in suburban Columbus, elections officials said. Franklin County's unofficial results had Bush receiving 4,258 votes to Democrat John Kerry (news - web sites)'s 260 votes in a precinct in Gahanna. Records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct. Bush's total should have been recorded as 365.

Bush won the state by more than 136,000 votes, according to unofficial results, and Kerry conceded the election on Wednesday after saying that 155,000 provisional ballots yet to be counted in Ohio would not change the result.

Deducting the erroneous Bush votes from his total could not change the election's outcome, and there were no signs of other errors in Ohio's electronic machines, said Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell.

Franklin is the only Ohio county to use Danaher Controls Inc.'s ELECTronic 1242, an older-style touchscreen voting system. Danaher did not immediately return a message for comment.

Sean Greene, research director with the nonpartisan Election Reform Information Project, said that while the glitch appeared minor "that could change if more of these stories start coming out."

In one North Carolina county, more than 4,500 votes were lost in this election because officials mistakenly believed a computer that stored ballots electronically could hold more data than it did.

And in San Francisco, a malfunction with custom voting software could delay efforts to declare the winners of four races for county supervisor.

In the Ohio precinct in question, the votes are recorded to eight memory locations, including a removable cartridge, according to Verified Voting Foundation, an e-voting watchdog group. After voting ends, the cartridge is either transported to a tabulation facility or its data sent via modem.

Kimball Brace, president of the consulting firm Election Data Services, said it's possible the fault lies with the software that tallies the votes from individual cartridges rather than the machines or the cartridges themselves.

Either way, he said, such tallying software ought to have a way to ensure that the totals don't exceed the number of voters.

County officials did not return calls seeking details.

Matthew Damschroder, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, told The Columbus Dispatch that on one of the three machines at that precinct, a malfunction occurred when its cartridge was plugged into a reader and generated a faulty number. He could not explain how the malfunction occurred.

Damschroder said people who had seen poll results on the election board's Web site called to point out the discrepancy. The error would have been discovered when the official count for the election is performed later this month, he said.

The reader also recorded zero votes in a county commissioner race on the machine.

Other electronic machines used in Ohio do not use the type of computer cartridge involved in the error, state officials say.

But in Perry County, a punch-card system reported about 75 more votes than there are voters in one precinct. Workers tried to cancel the count when the tabulator broke down midway through, but the machine instead double-counted an unknown number in the first batch. The mistake will be corrected, officials say.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, a glitch occurred with software designed by Election Systems & Software Inc. for the city's new "ranked-choice voting," in which voters list their top three choices for municipal offices. If no candidate gets a majority of first-place votes outright, voters' second and third-place preferences are then distributed among candidates who weren't eliminated in the first round.

When the San Francisco Department of Elections tried a test run Wednesday, some of the votes didn't get counted. The problem was attributed to a programming glitch that limited how much data could be accepted, a threshold that did not account for high voter turnout.


Friday, November 05, 2004

Kerry Got More Votes Than Any Challenger in US History

Kerry Got More Votes Than Any Challenger in US History

Senator John Kerry received more votes in this election than any challenger in US History, and any previously elected President.


Exit Polls vs Supposed Votes

Pay close attention. Note that the exit polls in the states with paper ballots are practically identical with the actual reported votes. Now compare that to the exit polls in states with electronic voting machines vs the reported votes.

Anyone still think this election wasn't fixed?


World War III

Bush will now celebrate by putting Falluja to the torch

The world is fated to four more years of brutal confrontation. (The Guardian)

Islamist Web Surfers Foresee World War III

Islamists used the Internet yesterday to vent their anger at US President George W. Bush's re-election, with one accusing the American people of choosing "the logic of war". "The logic of war has won over the Americans, who chose Bush," said one remark on an Islamist website, overflowing with passionate reactions to the Republican victory. (AFP)

The Cost of Silence

There can be no equivocation over the slaughter of hostages in Iraq. It must be roundly condemned. (Al Ahram Weekly)

Iran: U.S. Nuclear Fears Overblown

More than 18 months of intrusive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Iran failed to produce a smoking gun. In fact, the report released in September by the IAEA confirmed the organization's original finding from November 2003 that "to date there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities were related to a nuclear weapons program." (LA Times)


The Exit Polls Were NOT Wrong!

The press continues to fail to report that the problem is not that the exit polls were wrong. The real story that no one seems to want to write, is that the election was stolen. The e-voting machines registered votes different from what were entered. There is much annecdotal reporting about this from the various states that used these machines -- people reporting that they voted for Kerry but the machine confirmed a vote for Bush. In other reports, voting for a proposition where there were multiple props on a screen resulted in ALL the propositions being pre-filled with the same yes or no choice. In addition to the e-voting problems, many precincts around the country had other problems, such as missing voter logs, hundreds of thousands of requested absentee ballots never getting to voters or getting lost or destroyed once sent in. The military votes have yet to be counted. The provisional ballots have yet to be counted. There has been extreme fraud and corruption, yet no one seems to be reporting on this. The exit polls were right, just like they were in 2000 in Florida, where disenfranchisement and "lost" and uncounted votes fraudulently led to Bush being appointed President.


O.K., Folks: Back to Work

The New York Times
November 5, 2004

O.K., Folks: Back to Work

An iron rule of life is to be careful what you wish for.

President Bush can take his re-election victory to the bank, and his political portfolio has been bolstered by enhanced Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. That's the good news for the president. Nearly all the other news is bad.

A story in the business section of yesterday's Times noted, "Even as President Bush was celebrating his election victory on Wednesday, his Treasury Department provided an ominous reminder about the economic challenges ahead."

With budget deficits exploding, the government will have to borrow $147 billion in the first three months of 2005, a quarterly record. But the record won't stand for long. The government is hemorrhaging money, and the nation has a war to pay for. A new record is almost sure to be set before the year is out.

Managing money is not one of this president's strong points. Plus and minus signs mean nothing to him. If he were actually writing checks, they'd be bouncing to the moon. The federal government's revenue was $100 billion lower this year than when Mr. Bush took office, and spending is $400 billion higher.

Yesterday, at his press conference, the president made it clear that his campaign promise of more - not fewer - tax cuts for the wealthy is at the top of his second-term agenda.

Much has been made of the support Mr. Bush has gotten from religious people. He's going to need all of their prayers that some miracle happens to suspend the laws of simple arithmetic and keep his fiscal house of cards from collapsing.

Meanwhile, the situation in Iraq, overshadowed by the election, is as grim as ever. Insurgents blew up a critical oil pipeline on Tuesday, the latest severe blow to efforts to get the Iraq economy on track. Three British soldiers were killed in an attack yesterday. The assassinations, kidnappings and car bombings continued. The humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders announced that it would cease operations in Iraq because of the unrelenting danger. And Hungary became the latest U.S. coalition partner to announce that it would withdraw its troops from Iraq.

In other words, nothing has changed. Mr. Bush's victory on Tuesday was not based on his demonstrated competence in office or on a litany of perceived successes. For all the talk about values that we're hearing, the president ran a campaign that appealed above all to voters' fears and prejudices. He didn't say he'd made life better for the average American over the past four years. He didn't say he had transformed the schools, or made college more affordable, or brought jobs to the unemployed or health care to the sick and vulnerable.

He said, essentially, be very afraid. Be frightened of terrorism, and of those dangerous gay marriages, and of those in this pluralistic society who may have thoughts and beliefs and values that differ from your own.

As usual, he turned reality upside down. A quintessential American value is tolerance for ideas other than one's own. Tuesday's election was a dismaying sprint toward intolerance, sparked by a smiling president who is a master at appealing to the baser aspects of our natures.

Which brings me to the Democrats - the ordinary voters, not the politicians - and where they go from here. I have been struck by the extraordinary demoralization, even dark despair, among a lot of voters who desperately wanted John Kerry to defeat Mr. Bush. "We did all we could," one woman told me, "and we still lost."

Here's my advice: You had a couple of days to indulge your depression - now, get over it. The election's been lost but there's still a country to save, and with the current leadership that won't be easy. Crucial matters that have been taken for granted too long - like the Supreme Court and Social Security - are at risk. Caving in to depression and a sense of helplessness should not be an option when the country is speeding toward an abyss.

Roll up your sleeves and do what you can. Talk to your neighbors. Call or write your elected officials. Volunteer to help in political campaigns. Circulate petitions. Attend meetings. Protest. Run for office. Support good candidates who are running for office. Register people to vote. Reach out to the young and the apathetic. Raise money. Stay informed. And vote, vote, vote - every chance you get.

Democracy is a breeze during good times. It's when the storms are raging that citizenship is put to the test. And there's a hell of a wind blowing right now.



No Surrender

The New York Times
November 5, 2004

No Surrender

President Bush isn't a conservative. He's a radical - the leader of a coalition that deeply dislikes America as it is. Part of that coalition wants to tear down the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt, eviscerating Social Security and, eventually, Medicare. Another part wants to break down the barriers between church and state. And thanks to a heavy turnout by evangelical Christians, Mr. Bush has four more years to advance that radical agenda.

Democrats are now, understandably, engaged in self-examination. But while it's O.K. to think things over, those who abhor the direction Mr. Bush is taking the country must maintain their intensity; they must not succumb to defeatism.

This election did not prove the Republicans unbeatable. Mr. Bush did not win in a landslide. Without the fading but still potent aura of 9/11, when the nation was ready to rally around any leader, he wouldn't have won at all. And future events will almost surely offer opportunities for a Democratic comeback.

I don't hope for more and worse scandals and failures during Mr. Bush's second term, but I do expect them. The resurgence of Al Qaeda, the debacle in Iraq, the explosion of the budget deficit and the failure to create jobs weren't things that just happened to occur on Mr. Bush's watch. They were the consequences of bad policies made by people who let ideology trump reality.

Those people still have Mr. Bush's ear, and his election victory will only give them the confidence to make even bigger mistakes.

So what should the Democrats do?

One faction of the party is already calling for the Democrats to blur the differences between themselves and the Republicans. Or at least that's what I think Al From of the Democratic Leadership Council means when he says, "We've got to close the cultural gap." But that's a losing proposition.

Yes, Democrats need to make it clear that they support personal virtue, that they value fidelity, responsibility, honesty and faith. This shouldn't be a hard case to make: Democrats are as likely as Republicans to be faithful spouses and good parents, and Republicans are as likely as Democrats to be adulterers, gamblers or drug abusers. Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the country; blue states, on average, have lower rates of out-of-wedlock births than red states.

But Democrats are not going to get the support of people whose votes are motivated, above all, by their opposition to abortion and gay rights (and, in the background, opposition to minority rights). All they will do if they try to cater to intolerance is alienate their own base.

Does this mean that the Democrats are condemned to permanent minority status? No. The religious right - not to be confused with religious Americans in general - isn't a majority, or even a dominant minority. It's just one bloc of voters, whom the Republican Party has learned to mobilize with wedge issues like this year's polarizing debate over gay marriage.

Rather than catering to voters who will never support them, the Democrats - who are doing pretty well at getting the votes of moderates and independents - need to become equally effective at mobilizing their own base.

In fact, they have made good strides, showing much more unity and intensity than anyone thought possible a year ago. But for the lingering aura of 9/11, they would have won.

What they need to do now is develop a political program aimed at maintaining and increasing the intensity. That means setting some realistic but critical goals for the next year.

Democrats shouldn't cave in to Mr. Bush when he tries to appoint highly partisan judges - even when the effort to block a bad appointment fails, it will show supporters that the party stands for something. They should gear up for a bid to retake the Senate or at least make a major dent in the Republican lead. They should keep the pressure on Mr. Bush when he makes terrible policy decisions, which he will.

It's all right to take a few weeks to think it over. (Heads up to readers: I'll be starting a long-planned break next week, to work on a economics textbook. I'll be back in January.) But Democrats mustn't give up the fight. What's at stake isn't just the fate of their party, but the fate of America as we know it.



Why We Lost

The New York Times
November 5, 2004

Why We Lost


On Wednesday morning, Democrats across the country awoke to a situation they have not experienced since before the New Deal: We are now, without a doubt, America's minority party. We do not have the presidency. We are outnumbered in the Senate, the House, governorships and legislatures. And the conservative majority on the Supreme Court seems likely to be locked in place for a generation. It is clearly a moment that calls for serious reflection.

I had the honor of working for both Al Gore and John Kerry. I believe America would have been fortunate to have had them in the Oval Office. That neither won is not primarily a commentary on them. Nor were their defeats really the result of the mistakes, attacks and tactics that pundits are so endlessly fascinated by: Al Gore's sighs in debates or John Kerry's slow response to the Swift boat veterans; Bill Clinton's campaigning (or lack thereof) in 2000 and 2004; the handling of the Elián González and Mary Cheney controversies. Any time Democrats spend in the coming weeks discussing the merits of our past candidates' personalities or their campaigns' personnel will be time wasted.

The overarching problem Democrats have today is the lack of a clear sense of what the party stands for. For years this has been a source of annoyance for bloggers and grass-roots activists. And in my time working for Al Gore and John Kerry, it certainly left me feeling hamstrung.

Democrats have a collection of policy positions that are sensible and right. John Kerry made this very clear. What we don't have, and what we sorely need, is what President George H. W. Bush so famously derided as "the vision thing" - a worldview that makes a thematic argument about where America is headed and where we want to take it.

For most of the 20th century, Democrats had a bold vision: we would use government programs to make Americans' lives more stable and secure. In 1996, President Clinton told us this age had passed, that "the era of big government is over." He was right - the world had changed. But the party has not answered the basic question: What comes next?

It's not the sort of question that gets answered in the heat of a national election. A presidential campaign feels like running full speed across a tightrope. If you're working on its message, you spend your days sitting around conference tables in poorly lighted rooms, surrounded by spent pizza boxes and buzzing Blackberries, with the clock ticking down on another day and another speech. This is not the place to devise a new thematic direction for the party. What you wind up offering are quips and quibbles, slogans and sound bites, and heaping portions of poll-tested pabulum.

The press also seems to overstate what staff changes can do within a campaign. Much was made of the "who's in, who's out" reports about the Kerry team, with reporters devising narratives about a supposed "shift to the middle" or a "lurch to the left." While new advisers can alter tactics and form new messages, efforts on their part to create a larger vision will fail. That has to happen long before the primaries - and it requires that the party knows where it is going.

Throughout the campaign, voters told reporters and pollsters that they wanted a change, but didn't "know what John Kerry stands for." Our response was to churn out more speeches outlining the details of policies that Senator Kerry would then deliver in front of a backdrop that said something like "Rx to Stronger Health Care." Of course, it turned out that Americans weren't very interested in Mr. Kerry's campaign promises - perhaps because they no longer believe politicians will follow through on their commitments. They wanted to know instead how he saw the world. And we never told them.

Misguided as they may be, the Republicans have a clear vision of America's future. Confronted with their ambitious agenda we have not chosen to match it. Instead, we have adopted Nancy Reagan's old antidrug motto, "Just Say No." As in "Stop George Bush's Assault on the Environment," "Repeal George Bush's Tax Cuts for the Wealthy" and "End George Bush's Policy of Unilateralism." These are good stands. But they are not enough. And the Republicans ended up defining John Kerry because we did not.

I don't pretend to know exactly what the party should do now. But I do know that we better start answering some important questions. What is our economic vision in a globalized world? How do we respond to the desire of many Americans to have choices and decision-making power of their own? How can we speak to Americans' moral and spiritual yearnings? How can our national security vision be broader than just a critique of the Republican's foreign policy? If we sweep this debate under the rug, four years from now another set of people around another conference table will be struggling with the same issues we did. And America cannot afford the same result.

Long after midnight in November 2000, I stood in the rain in Nashville and listened to the Gore campaign chairman, William Daley, tell us there would be no victory speech. On Wednesday, long after midnight, I stood in the rain in Boston listening to John Edwards tell us the same thing. I'm sick of standing in the rain.

Andrei Cherny, the author of "The Next Deal," was director of speechwriting and a special policy adviser to John Kerry from February 2003 to last April.


Why They Won

The New York Times
November 5, 2004

Why They Won


The first thing Democrats must try to grasp as they cast their eyes over the smoking ruins of the election is the continuing power of the culture wars. Thirty-six years ago, President Richard Nixon championed a noble "silent majority" while his vice president, Spiro Agnew, accused liberals of twisting the news. In nearly every election since, liberalism has been vilified as a flag-burning, treason-coddling, upper-class affectation. This year voters claimed to rank "values" as a more important issue than the economy and even the war in Iraq.

And yet, Democrats still have no coherent framework for confronting this chronic complaint, much less understanding it. Instead, they "triangulate," they accommodate, they declare themselves converts to the Republican religion of the market, they sign off on Nafta and welfare reform, they try to be more hawkish than the Republican militarists. And they lose. And they lose again. Meanwhile, out in Red America, the right-wing populist revolt continues apace, its fury at the "liberal elite" undiminished by the Democrats' conciliatory gestures or the passage of time.

Like many such movements, this long-running conservative revolt is rife with contradictions. It is an uprising of the common people whose long-term economic effect has been to shower riches upon the already wealthy and degrade the lives of the very people who are rising up. It is a reaction against mass culture that refuses to call into question the basic institutions of corporate America that make mass culture what it is. It is a revolution that plans to overthrow the aristocrats by cutting their taxes.

Still, the power of the conservative rebellion is undeniable. It presents a way of talking about life in which we are all victims of a haughty overclass - "liberals" - that makes our movies, publishes our newspapers, teaches our children, and hands down judgments from the bench. These liberals generally tell us how to go about our lives, without any consideration for our values or traditions.

The culture wars, in other words, are a way of framing the ever-powerful subject of social class. They are a way for Republicans to speak on behalf of the forgotten man without causing any problems for their core big-business constituency.

Against this militant, aggrieved, full-throated philosophy the Democrats chose to go with ... what? Their usual soft centrism, creating space for this constituency and that, taking care to antagonize no one, declining even to criticize the president, really, at their convention. And despite huge get-out-the-vote efforts and an enormous treasury, Democrats lost the battle of voter motivation before it started.

Worse: While conservatives were sharpening their sense of class victimization, Democrats had all but abandoned the field. For some time, the centrist Democratic establishment in Washington has been enamored of the notion that, since the industrial age is ending, the party must forget about blue-collar workers and their issues and embrace the "professional" class. During the 2004 campaign these new, business-friendly Democrats received high-profile assistance from idealistic tycoons and openly embraced trendy management theory. They imagined themselves the "metro" party of cool billionaires engaged in some kind of cosmic combat with the square billionaires of the "retro" Republican Party.

Yet this would have been a perfect year to give the Republicans a Trumanesque spanking for the many corporate scandals that they have countenanced and, in some ways, enabled. Taking such a stand would also have provided Democrats with a way to address and maybe even defeat the angry populism that informs the "values" issues while simultaneously mobilizing their base.

To short-circuit the Republican appeals to blue-collar constituents, Democrats must confront the cultural populism of the wedge issues with genuine economic populism. They must dust off their own majoritarian militancy instead of suppressing it; sharpen the distinctions between the parties instead of minimizing them; emphasize the contradictions of culture-war populism instead of ignoring them; and speak forthrightly about who gains and who loses from conservative economic policy.

What is more likely, of course, is that Democratic officialdom will simply see this week's disaster as a reason to redouble their efforts to move to the right. They will give in on, say, Social Security privatization or income tax "reform" and will continue to dream their happy dreams about becoming the party of the enlightened corporate class. And they will be surprised all over again two or four years from now when the conservative populists of the Red America, poorer and angrier than ever, deal the "party of the people" yet another stunning blow.

Thomas Frank is the author, most recently, of "What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America."


California to the Rescue

New York Times

California to the Rescue

Published: November 5, 2004

When California voters enacted a lavishly financed stem cell program on Tuesday, they performed a valuable service that should help keep this nation in the forefront of one of the most promising areas of biomedical research. It was especially important given the big role that religious conservatives, who are strongly opposed to embryonic stem cell research, played in re-electing President Bush. There seems to be little chance that Mr. Bush will retreat from his limits on federal support for such research, and a Congress that has shifted rightward may try, once again, to ban therapeutic cloning, the most promising area of embryonic stem cell research. Now that California has enshrined stem cell research and therapeutic cloning in its Constitution and state law, it may be the engine that keeps the nation moving.

The ballot measure won almost 60 percent of the vote, thanks in part to strong support from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who agrees with many moderate Republicans that the research holds enormous potential for treating intractable diseases. California is now authorized to borrow up to $3 billion over a decade for research in the state's universities, nonprofit institutions and private companies. The money would be doled out at a rate that could reach $300 million a year. This is a staggering sum of money, 12 times as much as the federal government spent last year on embryonic stem cell research under the president's restrictive policies.

The new gusher of support is apt to tilt the playing field toward California in the race to attract top scientists and expand the biotechnology industry. California's universities are already plotting to lure top scientists from other states or even other nations with newly built laboratories and hefty research budgets. States that aspire to scientific preeminence may soon find themselves under pressure to spend to avoid losing top talent.

This is not the way any rational nation should organize its support of scientific research. Ideally, the National Institutes of Health, the government's top biomedical research agency, would award grants to the best scientists and research proposals wherever they might be. Only Mr. Bush's reluctance to support this research and his opposition to therapeutic cloning can justify a state-by-state approach.

Unfortunately, ballot measures are crude instruments for carrying out complex undertakings. The new program is largely insulated from legislative and gubernatorial oversight. That means the program's managers will need to take great care to prevent conflicts of interest, keep all proceedings as open as possible and ensure that the state receives a fair share of royalties and patent benefits. They must also make certain that they support high-quality work, no easy task when pouring money into a field that is still relatively small. The governing board, stacked with representatives of institutions that stand to benefit from the program, must ensure that its decisions are beyond reproach.


Warning for 2006 Is Seen in Failures at Polls in the City

The New York Times
November 5, 2004

Warning for 2006 Is Seen in Failures at Polls in the City

The New York City Board of Elections knew that Tuesday would be a big day, with 400,000 new voters who had been added to the rolls expected to flood polling places for the presidential election.

Yet when Election Day rolled around, the board was seriously unprepared. Its Web site and phone lines, where thousands went looking for information about where to vote, failed. Tens of thousands of voters stood for hours at polls, where they frequently found befuddled workers who could not locate basic paperwork and gave incomprehensible directives, including, in one case, telling voters to segregate themselves by party affiliation. Antiquated mechanical voting machines at times broke down, and there were not enough mechanics on hand to fix them.

These failures came as no surprise to critics of the board and even some of its own members, who cite its aging systems and a tradition of hiring workers whose main qualifications are their loyalty to political party operatives, making it one of the last citadels of political patronage in local government.

Further, this week's problems presage possible mass confusion in 2006, when the state is expected to begin using electronic voting machines.

"The two aspects of their technology that were overwhelmed this year - their phone system and Web site - are simple compared to what they will need to deal with in order to successfully implement and operate electronic voting technologies,'' said Gino P. Menchini, the head of the city's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

The board's structure makes it an anomaly in government. It is financed by taxpayer dollars, but under state law, the Republican and Democratic Parties in each borough choose its 10 members. Recent members have included the associates or even relatives of various lawmakers, among them the father of former State Senator Guy J. Velella, who left the board two years after his indictment in a corruption scandal involving his son.

The members, in turn, pick the executive director and his two top subordinates. The board's staff members are also usually connected to elected and party officials, and often lack skills for the complex tasks they are assigned, board members and other officials say. "There are people who work at the Board of Elections who are not properly qualified for the positions they have and are protected politically," said Douglas A. Kellner, one of the board members.

Just before the election, when a technician charged with setting up voting machines in Queens was found by the board to be performing poorly, State Senator Serphin R. Maltese, a Republican, intervened to make sure he was accommodated elsewhere in the system. Why? "Because he was a Republican," Mr. Maltese said in an interview.

Poll workers also flow from political machines, and are often undertrained and sometimes do not bother to show up, even on Election Day. A report by the city's Independent Budget Office in 2001 found that "on average, only 70 to 80 percent of those who work on Election Day have completed training."

The director of the board and others fear that getting these workers trained for electronic voting will be a Sisyphean task. "The board has so many problems with election administration," Mr. Kellner said. "Our biggest problem is recruitment and training and having an adequate supply of poll workers. You have 30,000 workers and they work one or two times a year administering an increasingly complex set of rules."

Alarmed by the board's problems directing voters to the polls, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said on Election Day that the board "better get their act together by next year." But the board is subjected to almost no significant oversight by the mayor, and the chairman of the City Council committee charged with monitoring the Board of Elections is married to the board's administrative manager.

The board's executive director, John Ravitz, who is viewed by many as working hard to professionalize the agency, defends his board as working as hard as it can with a shoestring budget and says that much of his staff is dedicated. But that view is shared only in part by most election experts.

"To me, it is not so much that unqualified people are at the board, it is the lack of accountability," said Gene Russianoff, a lawyer for the New York Public Interest Group, which monitors elections. "They really are dedicated to their mission, and I think Ravitz is a credible guy. They are poorly paid, underresourced and they have a fleet of jalopies to deal with. But that doesn't excuse 5 percent of machines breaking on Election Day."

In an interview, Mr. Ravitz said high voter turnout caused the board's problems on Tuesday. In the 1984 presidential election, polling sites erupted in chaos when the antiquated voting machines malfunctioned around the city.

Mr. Ravitz said the board was able to attract better poll workers after Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani increased their pay to $200 a day, but he said more money was needed. "We have gone on record now for two budget cycles saying we need to improve our systems," Mr. Ravitz said.

Board members insist that money is also needed to train workers on the electronic voting machines, and to improve things like their phone systems, which did not have enough operators to handle the calls on Monday from people seeking the locations of polling sites. "The problems with the phones have been well known for a long time," Mr. Kellner said. "And there is no commitment on the part of the city government to spend the money necessary to gear up for peak usage."

Mayor Bloomberg's press secretary, Edward Skyler, said, "With a $3 billion budget deficit, we can't afford to start handing out raises in the hopes it will improve this archaic system." The board's operating budget has increased by more than 50 percent since the 2000 election, according to city budget documents.

The board is further hampered by the State Legislature's inability to figure out what it wants to do with federal money aimed at improving voting systems and how to institute electronic voting.

"One of the reasons I was interested in this job is moving New York into a new era of voting," Mr. Ravitz said, adding that he had hoped to try electronic voting in the election just ended in at least one borough and in two more in 2005. "But 2004 came and went and I don't see us doing anything in 2005," he said, faulting a lack of action by the state.

But critics say the political hiring practices at the board stand out as a problem. Until recently, Vincent J. Velella remained on the board after narrowly escaping prosecution with his son, Guy. Victor Tosi, a Bronx Republican who once worked for Mr. Velella, was the board's personnel director and is now deputy chief clerk for the board in the Bronx.

The third in command, Pamela Green Perkins, is the wife of City Councilman Bill Perkins, who oversees the committee that monitors the board. Another board member, Beth Fossella, is the mother of Representative Vito Fossella.

The board members' ties to political parties have sometimes prompted accusations that there is a conflict of interest between their duties to the board and to their parties. Some board members were infuriated after Mr. Maltese used his influence when the Queens poll machine worker was given a job in the board's main office. Others said the worker should be strictly disciplined and demoted. But Republican officials defended their handling of the matter.

"He has been a model employee since he came to the general office," said Stephen Weiner, the Republican Queens representative on the board. "Senator Maltese wanted one month probation and I advised him that that was not possible," he said, adding that the worker got three months' probation instead. "I am sure I mentioned Senator Maltese" during the board's discussions of the incident, he said.

Mr. Ravitz sounded disgusted when asked about the incident, and said he had "no tolerance for things like that," but offered no recipe for ending that system.

Mr. Weiner conceded that the board's public image has suffered under such a politicized system. But, he said: "Just like democracy is the worst form of government except for the alternatives, the Board of Elections is the worst way to run the system except for the alternatives. It is clear that people come out of the political world, but it is clear you can tell where they come from. Under another structure, the politics would be concealed."


Press still in denial, thinks exit polling was wrong rather than investigating voting fraud

NOTE: The following article shows that the press is once again failing to do their job. They are making the very incorrect assumption that the reported vote was right and the exit polling was wrong. The many and increasing stories of people voting in various states on the new e-voting machines voting for Kerry but the machine changing the vote to Bush should be leading the press to raise loud questions and do some serious investigations. So far that is not happening.

The New York Times
November 5, 2004

Report Says Problems Led to Skewed Surveying Data

The new $10 million polling system used by many news organizations to predict the outcome of the presidential race had a number of problems that led to the early erroneous impression that John Kerry was heading for victory, according to a report prepared by the system's architects.

The report, written by Joe Lenski and Warren Mitofsky and obtained by The New York Times, details systemic glitches that skewed the data in ways of which several news organizations, who paid tens of thousands of dollars for the service, were not aware.

In some cases, the report said, survey takers could not get close enough to the polls to collect adequate samples of voters opinion. They were often stopped by legal barriers devised to keep people electioneering - not necessarily bona fide poll canvassers - away from voters.

The report also theorized that the poll results more frequently overstated support for Mr. Kerry than for President Bush because the Democratic nominee's supporters were more open to pollsters. Whatever the case, according to the report, the surveys had the biggest partisan skew since at least 1988, the earliest election the report tracked.

"We share all the members' concerns about the inaccuracies in the projections produced by the early waves of exit poll data and we are personally miffed about the early results,'' the report said.

The new system was engineered to avoid such problems. It was built by the National Election Pool, a consortium of the major television networks and The Associated Press, after an earlier set-up, the Voter News Service, helped lead the networks to call the state of Florida in the 2000 election first for Al Gore, then for George W. Bush, then for neither. The system broke down almost entirely on Election Day 2002.

Since Tuesday, the networks have played down errors caused by the system. They said that the data problems were rectified as the night went on, so that the final poll, highlighting why certain blocs voted the way they did, was accurate. Perhaps most important, they say, it never led them to make a wrong call. And even critics of the system agree that many of the problems highlighted in the report are typical of such polls, which are devised to correct themselves as more data accrues.

But the problems with the data seemed seriously exacerbated this year, resulting in a number of angry subscribers.

Officials with some of the newspapers that subscribed to the service said the ultimately misleading polling data forced them to scramble late at night to change some articles. The presumption of a Kerry victory built a head of steam late in the day, when the national survey showed the senator with a statistically significant lead, one falling outside the survey's margin of error.

"The last wave of national exit polls we received, along with many other subscribers, showed Kerry winning the popular vote by 51 percent to 48 percent, if true, surely enough to carry the Electoral College,'' Steve Coll, managing editor of The Washington Post, wrote in an online chat with readers Wednesday.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Coll said his newspaper had to scramble to make last-minute changes to an article analyzing why voters voted the way they did that was based in part on the poll data when it was clear that no such victory for Mr. Kerry was possible.

"We think it wasn't worth what we paid for it, that's for sure,'' Mr. Coll said of the survey data.

The New York Times removed an analytical piece about the vote based in part on the Election Day survey from its later editions.

Officials with the consortium said they did not yet have a full explanation for why the national poll skewed in Mr. Kerry's favor. But Mr. Lenski acknowledged that subscribers should have been made more aware of the problems that were becoming apparent through the day, as all of the partners running the system were. He said no subscribers had asked for their money back.

But while newspapers and the networks avoided any major missteps that might have been caused by the flawed data, the report struck an alarmed tone over the way the information spread throughout Internet sites. Millions of people viewing those sites may not have approached the data with enough skepticism, the report said, in part because many of the sites did not include specific or detailed caveats that the results were preliminary and many fell within margins of error.

The report saved some of its harshest words for the networks and subscribers, whom it accused of allowing the data to leak.

"If it were not for leaks we would not have much of the problem forced on us by the leakees: the nonsubscribing media and the politicos,'' the report said. "They don't know how to evaluate what is being leaked, and then they demand that the leaked results be accurate in midday before it is vetted and before it is complete."

It went on, "We made a mistake in not realizing the full impact of these leaked exit poll numbers on the political discourse of the day.''

Even Tony Blair, the British prime minister, was fooled. In an interview with The Times of London, Mr. Blair said he had gone to bed thinking Mr. Kerry was the next president of the United States, only to wake up to learn otherwise.

It is unclear if the poll information affected the vote. Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster who worked for Mr. Kerry, said it was a matter of debate whether information about how one side or another is doing ever affects turnout significantly.

But the survey data this time around certainly created a sense of demoralization among Democrats who had seen the Election Day polling data, leading some of Mr. Kerry's supporters to speculate that the data was accurate but the actual vote was fraudulent. A participant in Mr. Coll's online chat asked him, "What about the possibility that the exit polls are right and the vote count is wrong?'' The report debunked that as a possibility.

Bill Wheatley, a vice president at NBC News, a partner overseeing the operation, said he would suggest that in future elections the survey data be reported later in the day, to shorten the time in which it could be leaked.

"We have begun discussions already with the group to see if it's feasible to delay the release of the data,'' Mr. Wheatley said.


Despite G.O.P. Gain, Fight Over Judges Remains

The New York Times
November 5, 2004

Despite G.O.P. Gain, Fight Over Judges Remains

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 - When Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, faced the toughest primary race of his political career, President Bush went to his rescue, campaigning with Mr. Specter at every turn. But when both men were re-elected this week, Mr. Specter promptly made remarks that seemed to warn the president against nominating Supreme Court justices who would overturn the 1973 ruling legalizing abortion.

The Senate, Mr. Specter said, would be unlikely to approve "judges who would change the right of a woman to choose.'' On Thursday, as outraged conservatives demanded that the Senate block Mr. Specter's rise to the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the senator issued a statement clarifying those remarks.

"I did not warn the president about anything and was very respectful of his constitutional authority on the appointment of federal judges," Mr. Specter said, adding, "I have never and would never apply any litmus test on the abortion issue."

The controversy suggests that, despite talk of a political mandate, the long-running battle over federal judgeships will be in full bloom when the new Congress convenes next year under strengthened Republican control. Although Republicans made significant gains on Election Day, their majority of 55 senators still falls five votes short of the 60 needed to break a Democratic filibuster.

"The magic number in the Senate is 60, not 50," Senator Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said in an interview. Mr. Schumer added, "If the president nominates people who are not part of the mainstream but who are far off, who will try to make law, not interpret it, and who will be way over to the ideological extreme, the controversy over judges will be alive."

But Senator Rick Santorum, another Pennsylvania Republican and a staunch opponent of abortion, said in a statement he looked forward to getting more judges approved.

"Senate Republicans are committed to approving all of the president's judicial nominations, despite the Democrats' rhetoric that they are committed to block judges who fail their litmus tests," Mr. Santorum said. With 55 Republicans, he added, "I am hopeful that with this increase we can overcome the Democrats' filibustering tactics."

In a telephone interview, Mr. Specter, whose support for abortion rights is well known, said he issued his statement at the suggestion of Mr. Santorum, who is a member of the Republican leadership. He said he was not worried about losing the chairmanship and added that he thought he could be a bridge between Democrats and the White House.

"I think I can be helpful to the president on getting his nominees confirmed," Mr. Specter said.

As the second-most-senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Specter is in line to replace the current chairman, Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, who must step down under Senate rules that limit the terms of chairmen to eight years. The position will give Mr. Specter, a centrist known for an independent streak, great influence over the judicial confirmation process.

The issue of judicial nominations percolated throughout the elections, including Mr. Specter's own. This spring, he faced a difficult primary challenge from Representative Patrick J. Toomey, a conservative Republican, who labeled Mr. Specter a Ted Kennedy liberal who would block conservative judges if he ascended to the chairmanship.

With help from the White House, Mr. Specter won that race, and then on Tuesday went on to win a fifth term in the Senate, handily defeating his Democratic challenger, Representative Joseph M. Hoeffel. Fresh from his victory, Mr. Specter was asked at a news conference on Wednesday about possible retirements on the Supreme Court, and what he would do if the president nominated abortion opponents.

"When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely" that they would be approved, Mr. Specter said at the news conference, referring to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal.

He added, "The president is well aware of what happened, when a number of his nominees were sent up, with the filibuster."

On Thursday, he said in the interview that he was simply noting "the political reality of the Senate on the Democrats' filibustering."

Political analysts said they had not been surprised by the comments. Jenny Backus, a Democratic strategist, viewed them as "a little bit of payback to the conservative right for making him go through a punishing primary." She said Mr. Specter was "sending a signal that he is a force to be reckoned with inside the Senate."

G. Terry Madonna, a professor of public policy at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania who has watched Mr. Specter for years, said: "This is in a sense a declaration of independence."

But the reaction was intense. Abortion rights advocates, feeling beleaguered after Senator John Kerry's loss to Mr. Bush, said they were encouraged by Mr. Specter's remarks.

"Welcome back, Senator Specter," said Elizabeth Cavendish, interim president of Naral Pro-Choice America, in a reference to what she views as the senator's recent efforts to distance himself from abortion rights. She called his remarks "an important statement to the president that he should not interpret the election results as a mandate to take away fundamental freedoms."

But abortion opponents were beside themselves. Aides to Senate Republicans who oppose abortion said their phones rang with complaints about Mr. Specter. One group, the Concerned Women of America, declared that Mr. Specter had "Borked himself" - a reference to Judge Robert H. Bork, whose appointment to the Supreme Court was doomed after sharp questioning from Mr. Specter, who crossed party lines to vote against him.

"President Bush says his only litmus test for judges is whether they will interpret the law and not write it," said Jan LaRue, the group's chief legal counsel. She said Mr. Specter had disqualified himself from the chairmanship. "Senator Specter is openly opposed to the president and the Constitution on this."

In his statement, Mr. Santorum did not go so far as to say Mr. Specter would be chairman, but nor did he indicate that Mr. Specter was in danger of losing the chairmanship. "In the new Congress," he said, "I look forward to working with Senator Specter to guarantee that every judicial nominee put forth by President Bush has an up-or-down vote on the floor of the United States Senate."


Bush to dismantle Social Security, claims unwarranted mandate

NOTE: Contrary to the assertions by the reporter of this article, who should have checked his facts first, the election, assuming that all votes were/are actually counted as cast, was not, as this reporter states, a "decisive win." In point of fact, Bush won by the smallest margin since 1918. Bush also has the distinction of having more votes cast against him than any President in US history. So when Bush declares that he "earned capital in the campaign, political capital," he is talking out of the side of his mouth.

The New York Times
November 5, 2004
Confident Bush Outlines Ambitious Plan for 2nd Term

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 - A confident President Bush vowed on Thursday to move quickly and vigorously to enact the ambitious agenda he set out during the campaign, saying, "The people made it clear what they wanted."

In a 40-minute news conference a day after he declared victory over Senator John Kerry, Mr. Bush said he would begin work immediately on his proposal to overhaul Social Security, one of the biggest goals in his second-term agenda. He called for Congress to move speedily to limit lawsuit awards against doctors, said he would push for tougher educational standards for high schools and signaled that he had settled on broad principles for rewriting the tax code.

"Let me put it to you this way: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it," Mr. Bush said, asserting the power he held after a decisive win and reclaiming the national stage as his own after sharing it for months with Mr. Kerry.

Mr. Bush said repeatedly that he wanted to reach out across party lines after a campaign that emphasized ideological divisions and produced raw feelings on both sides. But he left unclear how much, if at all, he would compromise especially after an election that gave him a majority of the popular vote, strengthened conservative Republicans in Congress and left Democrats weaker.

"My goal is to work on the ideal and to reach out and to continue to work and find common ground on issues," he said at one point. But at another, he suggested that his idea of common ground would be very close to the platform he ran on.

After a long campaign, he said, "there is a feeling that the people have spoken and embraced your point of view, and that's what I intend to tell the Congress."

When the questioning turned to perhaps the most ideologically charged issues facing Mr. Bush in a new term - the likelihood of his making one or more nominations to the Supreme Court - Mr. Bush gave no indication of how he would balance pressure from the evangelical Christians who played an important role in winning his re-election and his stated desire to reduce the nation's partisan tensions. He said only that no vacancy now existed and that when one did he would choose "somebody who knows the difference between personal opinion and the strict interpretation of the law."

Asked whether the support he received from conservative evangelical Christians raised concerns about the nation's becoming split politically between people for whom religion is very important and those for whom it is less so, Mr. Bush said, "I will be your president regardless of your faith, and I don't expect you to agree with me necessarily on religion."

The president was jocular and assertive during the session with reporters, held in an auditorium on the Eisenhower Executive Office Building before he left for a long weekend at Camp David to recover from the last grueling leg of the campaign.

He said he would think about changes to his cabinet and the White House staff, noting that departures are inevitable but adding that he had made no decisions.

With rumors already swirling about who will stay and who will go, his aides said that he intended to move quickly on personnel issues to minimize the speculation and assure that he had his new team in place for a fast start to his second term. The aides said he had not asked for any resignations, but had told cabinet members on Thursday morning that if they planned to leave, they should tell Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff.

In the news conference, Mr. Bush also addressed foreign policy and his plans for Iraq. Asked about the planned offensive by United States and Iraqi forces against the insurgents who effectively control Falluja and several other cities, Mr. Bush replied, "In order for Iraq to be a free country, those who are trying to stop the elections and stop a free society from emerging must be defeated."

He provided no timetable for an offensive, though the intensive preparations on the ground suggest that it could be imminent. He said that he expected 125,000 Iraqis to be trained as security forces by the time of the first round of Iraqi elections in January, but that he had not had any requests from military commanders to place more American troops on the ground to help assure that the elections come off.

Last month, the Pentagon ordered about 6,500 soldiers in Iraq to extend their tours, strengthening the American military presence there in preparation for the elections.

Mr. Bush restated a central campaign theme, that spreading freedom and democracy was the best long-term solution to fighting terrorism and its causes. He said he still had faith in his plan to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and when told erroneously by a reporter that Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, had died, he said, "God bless his soul."

Mr. Bush called on the outgoing Congress to break the impasse between the House and the Senate on legislation that would create a national intelligence director, one of the main recommendations of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks. He also made clear that he would put a full set of substantively and politically complex domestic policy proposals before the new Congress when it convenes in January, starting with Social Security but also including education, limits on lawsuits and rethinking the tax code.

"I readily concede I've laid out some very difficult issues for people to deal with," Mr. Bush said.

Aides said Mr. Bush planned to begin talking to members of Congress about Social Security in coming weeks, and to begin a big push to sell the public on his approach in his inaugural address, his State of the Union Message and his budget, all early next year.

As he did in 2000, Mr. Bush campaigned this year on his proposal to add voluntary personal investment accounts to Social Security, letting workers divert part of their payroll taxes into stocks and bonds for their retirement. But he has never answered the big questions that would accompany any effort to remake the system, starting with how, in an era of large budget deficits, he would continue to pay for full benefits for current retirees if payroll taxes from current workers are partially diverted to private accounts.

Personal accounts could provide greater returns than those earned by the system currently. But they are unlikely, by themselves, to address Social Security's long-term financial problems, which will become acute over the next several decades as the baby boom generation begins reaching retirement age and life expectancies continue to rise.

Mr. Bush has never said what steps he might support, along with the creation of personal accounts, to pay for the new system and fill the long-term financial hole projected by Social Security's trustees. Beyond higher returns through investment, the menu of options is not appealing to either political party: benefit cuts to reduce expenses or tax increases to increase the amount of revenue flowing into the system.

Mr. Bush acknowledged the political difficulties in the news conference, but said that doing nothing would be an even worse option. He said he would start by referring both parties in Congress to the report done for him three years ago by a commission whose co-chairman, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, was a Democrat. Mr. Moynihan, the four-term senator who died last year, was one of only a few Democrats in Congress to support the idea of personal accounts.

"I'm not sure we can get it done without Democrat participation, because it is a big issue, and I will explain to them and I will show them Senator Moynihan's thinking as a way to begin the process," he said.

Mr. Bush has also been vague about how he wants to approach changing the tax code. Aides said he would appoint a bipartisan commission by the end of the year to explore all the ideas on the table, including a single-rate flat tax and a national sales tax. The commission, which Mr. Bush first proposed at the Republican convention in September, is to report to Treasury Secretary John W. Snow as early as possible in 2005.

Mr. Bush said at the news conference that he wanted any changes in the tax code to be "revenue neutral," meaning that he did not envision it as a tax cut by another name. He also signaled he would be open to keeping some of the most popular deductions and tax breaks, like the deductions for mortgage interest and charitable giving, in any new system.

When he was pushing for a new tax bill as governor of Texas, he said, "I always noted how important it was for certain incentives to be built into the tax code, and that will be an interesting part of the debate."


Thursday, November 04, 2004



Soldiers Describe Looting of Explosives
Iraqis piled high-grade material from a key site into trucks in the weeks after Baghdad fell, four U.S. reservists and guardsmen say. (LA Times)

MSF aid agency stops work in Iraq
The aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says it is pulling out of Iraq because of the danger to its staff. (BBC)

Key Saddam trial evidence 'lost'
Human Rights Watch says it is likely crucial evidence for the trials of Saddam Hussein and other former Iraqi officials has been lost or tainted. (BBC)

Three Iraqi guards 'beheaded'
Three Iraqi guardsmen have been beheaded by militants, according to al-Jazeera television.(BBC)

Clue to Attack in Iraq Started With Eyes
A military convoy hobbled by mishaps was the target of a suicide car bomber last week. Eight Marines died, nine were hurt. (LA Times)




A Good Dirty Fight

The New York Times
November 4, 2004

A Good Dirty Fight

As we sift through the results of Campaign 2004, let us pause to praise negative campaigning. Bemoaning attack politics is, of course, de rigueur for All the Right People. When President Bush began his fusillade against John Kerry in May, Prof. Darrell West of Brown University predicted "the most negative campaign ever," and many analysts agreed.

President Bush hammered Senator Kerry as unprincipled, uncertain, unsteady. "He looks French," sniffed Commerce Secretary Don Evans.

Persuaded by focus groups that swing voters don't like negatives, the Kerry campaign initially turned the other cheek. During the Democratic National Convention, Kerry strategists scrubbed every speech, excising attacks on President Bush. They even complained that former President Jimmy Carter was too anti-Bush; when you think a Nobel Peace Prize winner is too mean, you're really running a positive campaign. The Kerry camp found itself trailing by double digits after the Republican National Convention in September.

Then, spurred by a conversation with former President Bill Clinton, Mr. Kerry went on the offensive. He accused the president of dishonesty and incompetence in the prosecution of the Iraq war. Tough stuff, that, and the race was soon a dead heat.

And so it went - Republicans ran ads with wolves; Democrats countered with an ostrich. There was a brief moment last week when both men pledged not to politicize the Osama bin Laden tape. Then they both did exactly the opposite - with Mr. Bush asserting the tape was a reminder that America could ill afford Kerryesque vacillation in the face of evil, and Mr. Kerry countering that the only reason Mr. bin Laden was making videotapes was that Mr. Bush had "outsourced" his capture to Afghan warlords.

After such a brutal campaign, one would expect voters to be turned off. Indeed, the political scientists Shanto Iyengar and Stephen Ansolabehere have written that negative campaigning "may diminish the power of civic duty and may undermine the legitimacy of the entire electoral process."

But to the surprise of the handwringers, the viciousness of the campaign inspired voters to stand in line for hours in a rare display of the power of civic duty. And Mr. Bush's relentlessly negative campaign earned him the ultimate legitimacy - a solid majority of the vote in a high-turnout election.

To be sure, all negative campaigning is not created equal. Criticisms of ideas and issues are more successful than personal attacks on character. Case in point: when Republican Congressional candidates attacked Democrats relentlessly on issues - in their Contract With America campaign of 1994 - they won handily. But after the relentless assault on President Clinton's character over the next two years, he became the first president in more than a century to gain Congressional seats in the sixth year of his presidency.

Americans are tough, and we expect our politicians to be tough. Say what you will about President Bush and Senator Kerry, but you must admit they're tough guys who ran tough campaigns. And the voters rewarded their negativity by turning out in droves.

Paul Begala, co-host of CNN's "Crossfire" and a former aide to President Bill Clinton, is a professor at the Public Policy Institute of Georgetown University.


The Day the Enlightenment Went Out

The New York Times
November 4, 2004

The Day the Enlightenment Went Out

Evanston, Ill.

This election confirms the brilliance of Karl Rove as a political strategist. He calculated that the religious conservatives, if they could be turned out, would be the deciding factor. The success of the plan was registered not only in the presidential results but also in all 11 of the state votes to ban same-sex marriage. Mr. Rove understands what surveys have shown, that many more Americans believe in the Virgin Birth than in Darwin's theory of evolution.

This might be called Bryan's revenge for the Scopes trial of 1925, in which William Jennings Bryan's fundamentalist assault on the concept of evolution was discredited. Disillusionment with that decision led many evangelicals to withdraw from direct engagement in politics. But they came roaring back into the arena out of anger at other court decisions - on prayer in school, abortion, protection of the flag and, now, gay marriage. Mr. Rove felt that the appeal to this large bloc was worth getting President Bush to endorse a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage (though he had opposed it earlier).

The results bring to mind a visit the Dalai Lama made to Chicago not long ago. I was one of the people deputized to ask him questions on the stage at the Field Museum. He met with the interrogators beforehand and asked us to give him challenging questions, since he is too often greeted with deference or flattery.

The only one I could think of was: "If you could return to your country, what would you do to change it?" He said that he would disestablish his religion, since "America is the proper model." I later asked him if a pluralist society were possible without the Enlightenment. "Ah," he said. "That's the problem." He seemed to envy America its Enlightenment heritage.

Which raises the question: Can a people that believes more fervently in the Virgin Birth than in evolution still be called an Enlightened nation?

America, the first real democracy in history, was a product of Enlightenment values - critical intelligence, tolerance, respect for evidence, a regard for the secular sciences. Though the founders differed on many things, they shared these values of what was then modernity. They addressed "a candid world," as they wrote in the Declaration of Independence, out of "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind." Respect for evidence seems not to pertain any more, when a poll taken just before the elections showed that 75 percent of Mr. Bush's supporters believe Iraq either worked closely with Al Qaeda or was directly involved in the attacks of 9/11.

The secular states of modern Europe do not understand the fundamentalism of the American electorate. It is not what they had experienced from this country in the past. In fact, we now resemble those nations less than we do our putative enemies.

Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? Not in France or Britain or Germany or Italy or Spain. We find it in the Muslim world, in Al Qaeda, in Saddam Hussein's Sunni loyalists. Americans wonder that the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous, so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed.

It is often observed that enemies come to resemble each other. We torture the torturers, we call our God better than theirs - as one American general put it, in words that the president has not repudiated.

President Bush promised in 2000 that he would lead a humble country, be a uniter not a divider, that he would make conservatism compassionate. He did not need to make such false promises this time. He was re-elected precisely by being a divider, pitting the reddest aspects of the red states against the blue nearly half of the nation. In this, he is very far from Ronald Reagan, who was amiably and ecumenically pious. He could address more secular audiences, here and abroad, with real respect.

In his victory speech yesterday, President Bush indicated that he would "reach out to the whole nation," including those who voted for John Kerry. But even if he wanted to be more conciliatory now, the constituency to which he owes his victory is not a yielding one. He must give them what they want on things like judicial appointments. His helpers are also his keepers.

The moral zealots will, I predict, give some cause for dismay even to nonfundamentalist Republicans. Jihads are scary things. It is not too early to start yearning back toward the Enlightenment.

Garry Wills, an adjunct professor of history at Northwestern University, is the author of "St. Augustine's Conversion."


The Red Zone

The New York Times
November 4, 2004

The Red Zone


With the Democratic Party splattered at his feet in little blue puddles, John Kerry told the crushed crowd at Faneuil Hall in Boston about his concession call to President Bush.

"We had a good conversation," the senator said. "And we talked about the danger of division in our country and the need, the desperate need, for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together. Today I hope that we can begin the healing."

Democrat: Heal thyself.

W. doesn't see division as a danger. He sees it as a wingman.

The president got re-elected by dividing the country along fault lines of fear, intolerance, ignorance and religious rule. He doesn't want to heal rifts; he wants to bring any riffraff who disagree to heel.

W. ran a jihad in America so he can fight one in Iraq - drawing a devoted flock of evangelicals, or "values voters," as they call themselves, to the polls by opposing abortion, suffocating stem cell research and supporting a constitutional amendment against gay marriage.

Mr. Bush, whose administration drummed up fake evidence to trick us into war with Iraq, sticking our troops in an immoral position with no exit strategy, won on "moral issues."

The president says he's "humbled" and wants to reach out to the whole country. What humbug. The Bushes are always gracious until they don't get their way. If W. didn't reach out after the last election, which he barely grabbed, why would he reach out now that he has what Dick Cheney calls a "broad, nationwide victory"?

While Mr. Bush was making his little speech about reaching out, Republicans said they had "the green light" to pursue their conservative agenda, like drilling in Alaska's wilderness and rewriting the tax code.

"He'll be a lot more aggressive in Iraq now," one Bush insider predicts. "He'll raze Falluja if he has to. He feels that the election results endorsed his version of the war." Never mind that the more insurgents American troops kill, the more they create.

Just listen to Dick (Oh, lordy, is this cuckoo clock still vice president?) Cheney, introducing the Man for his victory speech: "This has been a consequential presidency which has revitalized our economy and reasserted a confident American role in the world." Well, it has revitalized the Halliburton segment of the economy, anyhow. And "confident" is not the first word that comes to mind for the foreign policy of a country that has alienated everyone except Fiji.

Vice continued, "Now we move forward to serve and to guard the country we love." Only Dick Cheney can make "to serve and to guard" sound like "to rape and to pillage."

He's creating the sort of "democracy" he likes. One party controls all power in the country. One network serves as state TV. One nation dominates the world as a hyperpower. One firm controls contracts in Iraq.

Just as Zell Miller was so over the top at the G.O.P. convention that he made Mr. Cheney seem reasonable, so several new members of Congress will make W. seem moderate.

Tom Coburn, the new senator from Oklahoma, has advocated the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions and warned that "the gay agenda" would undermine the country. He also characterized his race as a choice between "good and evil" and said he had heard there was "rampant lesbianism" in Oklahoma schools.

Jim DeMint, the new senator from South Carolina, said during his campaign that he supported a state G.O.P. platform plank banning gays from teaching in public schools. He explained, "I would have given the same answer when asked if a single woman who was pregnant and living with her boyfriend should be hired to teach my third-grade children."

John Thune, who toppled Tom Daschle, is an anti-abortion Christian conservative - or "servant leader," as he was hailed in a campaign ad - who supports constitutional amendments banning flag burning and gay marriage.

Seeing the exit polls, the Democrats immediately started talking about values and religion. Their sudden passion for wooing Southern white Christian soldiers may put a crimp in Hillary's 2008 campaign (nothing but a wooden stake would stop it). Meanwhile, the blue puddle is comforting itself with the expectation that this loony bunch will fatally overreach, just as Newt Gingrich did in the 90's.

But with this crowd, it's hard to imagine what would constitute overreaching.

Invading France?