Florida’s new electronic ballot is available —

It’s here (thanks, DC!).

Speaking of fraud, intimidation, and disenfranchisement —

I hope NYT doesn’t mind if I quote their whole editorial, because it’s important:

Be Part of the Solution

Published: October 11, 2004

The 2000 mess in Florida was supposed to make the nation more dedicated to ensuring that elections are fair, but it appears to have had the opposite effect. The chances of having an election in which all qualified citizens can cast votes that are counted accurately seems more remote than ever. Local election officials have been choosing electronic voting machines of questionable reliability that do not produce a paper record. Secretaries of state have been rejecting valid voter registration forms on technicalities. And rather than trying to attract supporters to their own candidates, some political operatives are concentrating on disqualifying voters on the other side.

As bad as things have been so far, the most vulnerable time for a democracy is Election Day itself. Polling places can be closed or moved at the last minute, with little or no notice. Registered voters arrive at polling places where they have been voting for years, only to find that their names are not on the rolls. “Ballot integrity” teams show up in heavily minority precincts, trying to intimidate people into leaving without voting. Voting machines fail to start up properly or develop troubling glitches.

Ordinary Americans can, and should, become more involved in monitoring the election process. National and state political parties, and candidates at every level, have a long tradition of sending out volunteer poll watchers to observe the voting on Election Day. These partisan poll watchers can play an important role in keeping elections honest – though it is important that they be committed to helping all citizens to vote, and not interfere with those who appear most likely to support the opposition. If there is a party or a candidate you feel strongly about, see if the group will send you to observe the voting in a precinct where problems are anticipated.

This year, for the first time, there is also a nationwide nonpartisan election-monitoring program being run by a coalition of public interest groups, which include the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and People for the American Way Foundation. Election Protection will be putting volunteers on the ground in states like Florida and Ohio to distribute voters’ bills of rights and identify and report problems at the polls. These groups say that volunteers will be trained to provide immediate help to voters who have problems, and will also have access to roving teams of lawyers, who will be prepared to go to court if necessary. Volunteer lawyers are also being recruited to staff a toll-free nationwide hot line (866-OUR-VOTE), answering questions and fielding reports of trouble.

There is a special program coordinating law-student volunteers, Impact2004, which is providing them with low-cost transportation to the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Verifiedvoting.org, a leading critic of electronic voting in its current form, has started up an election protection program called TechWatch, which hopes to sign up thousands of volunteers, particularly computer scientists. TechWatch says its volunteers will observe the pre-election “logic and accuracy” done on the voting machines, watch actual voting on Election Day and then monitor the postelection vote counting. The goal is not only to identify electronic voting problems in this election, but to also start developing a database that can be used to evaluate and improve electronic voting in the future.

We hope these election protection programs will have the added benefit of helping to bring about more serious consequences for election officials who flout the law. There have been widespread reports from all parts of the country of officials doing everything from insisting on photo ID from voters when it is not required to installing uncertified software on electronic voting machines. If monitors witness these things firsthand, their reports could help remove irresponsible election officials from their jobs, or even have them criminally prosecuted.

In a well-run democracy, the government would be running elections of such unquestioned integrity there would be no need for volunteer projects like these. But the mechanics of American democracy are deeply flawed, and Congress, state governments and local elections officials have been unwilling to do what is necessary to fix them. If this election is going to be a fair and honest one, concerned citizens will have to do their part to ensure that every vote counts.

Somehow, thinking of Florida in 2000 makes me think of Ohio in 2004 —

Where Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell is doing everything he can to be the next Katherine Harris. Here’s an excerpt from Salon’s story:

“What’s happening in Ohio,” says Talley, “is that the secretary of state has issued a statement saying that provisional ballots should not be issued if voters are in the wrong polling location.” With tens of thousands of newly registered voters, confusion about where to go is likely. Withholding provisional ballots — which the Help America Vote Act, passed in 2002 in the wake of the 2000 election debacle, specifically mentions as an alternative voting method when valid registration is in doubt — will result in many people simply not voting.

We “sent a letter to the secretary of state saying that it’s a violation of the Help America Vote Act,” says Talley. Not getting an adequate response, the Ohio Voter Protection Coalition filed a lawsuit on Tuesday. The Ohio Democratic Party has already sued on this issue, and a judge is expected to issue a ruling on that suit by Oct. 15.

Provisional ballots might seem like small potatoes in the scheme of things. But one professor at Case Western Reserve University — site of the recent vice presidential debate in Cleveland — has crunched some numbers and he’s not at all convinced this issue is of little consequence.

Using data from the 2000 election, the professor, Norman Robbins, calculates conservatively that as many as 13,000 Clevelanders will have to use a provisional ballot as a result of clerical and other errors.

The typical discard rate for provisional ballots means that nearly 2,300 of those will be invalidated. But this doesn’t include all the people who show up at the wrong polling place and don’t get a provisional ballot at all. Multiply this by the eight urban areas around Ohio and the potential for disenfranchisement is high.

Considering that Al Gore lost Ohio by 165,000 votes and Ralph Nader (who will not be on the ballot) took 117,857 votes, it could impact the election not just in Ohio, but affect the outcome of the national race.

“Who does this provisional ruling affect most?” asks Robbins. “People who move. Census data shows that low-income people are 90 percent more likely to move. If you’re poor, you’re twice as likely to have to vote provisionally. On top of that, when they get a provisional ballot, they’re likely to encounter [poll workers] who give them unclear information on a complex form. That’s already difficult.

“Now, if you’re in the wrong precinct, don’t bother voting because your provisional ballot is going to be thrown out, even if it was a clerical error that got you into provisional world. These are the people who are most likely going to have two jobs. They’re not going to be able to go to another poll. They might have kids in day care. They may have no car. This ruling disproportionately targets one part of the Ohio population.” And they are, needless to say, most likely Democratic voters.

Refreshing candor from the Bush administration —

They admit that the election is more important than soldiers’ lives or tactical flexibility.

The other arm of BushCo’s state run media —

Sinclair Group
plans to air an anti-Kerry “documentary” in 62 battleground markets during prime TV viewing hours for two solid weeks. Each of these links has suggestions for things to do about it: LeftCoaster, MyDD, Sinclair Watch, Stop Sinclair.

Remember that word I use for Republicans? —

(I should have known, I’m not the only one) Feel free to use it as you read the rest of the Boston Globe series on their seizure of Congress. I forgot to link back to the final two installments, but Kevin Drum does that here, and provides a nice synopsis.

The Kerry interview that Bush and Cheney are misquoting today —

Is here. Once you get through the psychoanalytic nonsense in which the author “reads” Kerry’s innermost thoughts about bottled water, it’s both interesting and informative. And Bush and Cheney’s response today is telling and characteristic: confronted with a superior idea, their response is to contort and misrepresent it. If you don’t have time to read the whole interview, here’s a good segment:

In 1988, Kerry successfully proposed an amendment that forced the Treasury Department to negotiate so-called Kerry Agreements with foreign countries. Under these agreements, foreign governments had to promise to keep a close watch on their banks for potential money laundering or they risked losing their access to U.S. markets. Other measures Kerry tried to pass throughout the 90’s, virtually all of them blocked by Republican senators on the banking committee, would end up, in the wake of 9/11, in the USA Patriot Act; among other things, these measures subject banks to fines or loss of license if they don’t take steps to verify the identities of their customers and to avoid being used for money laundering.

Through his immersion in the global underground, Kerry made connections among disparate criminal and terrorist groups that few other senators interested in foreign policy were making in the 90’s. Richard A. Clarke, who coordinated security and counterterrorism policy for George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, credits Kerry with having seen beyond the national-security tableau on which most of his colleagues were focused.

”He was getting it at the same time that people like Tony Lake were getting it, in the ’93 -’94 time frame,” Clarke says, referring to Anthony Lake, Clinton’s national security adviser. ”And the ‘it’ here was that there was a new nonstate-actor threat, and that nonstate-actor threat was a blended threat that didn’t fit neatly into the box of organized criminal, or neatly into the box of terrorism. What you found were groups that were all of the above.”

In other words, Kerry was among the first policy makers in Washington to begin mapping out a strategy to combat an entirely new kind of enemy. Americans were conditioned, by two world wars and a long standoff with a rival superpower, to see foreign policy as a mix of cooperation and tension between civilized states. Kerry came to believe, however, that Americans were in greater danger from the more shadowy groups he had been investigating — nonstate actors, armed with cellphones and laptops — who might detonate suitcase bombs or release lethal chemicals into the subway just to make a point. They lived in remote regions and exploited weak governments. Their goal wasn’t to govern states but to destabilize them.

The challenge of beating back these nonstate actors — not just Islamic terrorists but all kinds of rogue forces — is what Kerry meant by ”the dark side of globalization.” He came closest to articulating this as an actual foreign-policy vision in a speech he gave at U.C.L.A. last February. ”The war on terror is not a clash of civilizations,” he said then. ”It is a clash of civilization against chaos, of the best hopes of humanity against dogmatic fears of progress and the future.”

This stands in significant contrast to the Bush doctrine, which holds that the war on terror, if not exactly a clash of civilizations, is nonetheless a struggle between those states that would promote terrorism and those that would exterminate it. Bush, like Kerry, accepts the premise that America is endangered mainly by a new kind of adversary that claims no state or political entity as its own. But he does not accept the idea that those adversaries can ultimately survive and operate independently of states; in fact, he asserts that terrorist groups are inevitably the subsidiaries of irresponsible regimes. ”We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients,” the National Security Strategy said, in a typical passage, ”before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends.”

By singling out three states in particular- Iraq, North Korea and Iran — as an ”axis of evil,” and by invading Iraq on the premise that it did (or at least might) sponsor terrorism, Bush cemented the idea that his war on terror is a war against those states that, in the president’s words, are not with us but against us. Many of Bush’s advisers spent their careers steeped in cold-war strategy, and their foreign policy is deeply rooted in the idea that states are the only consequential actors on the world stage, and that they can — and should — be forced to exercise control over the violent groups that take root within their borders.

Kerry’s view, on the other hand, suggests that it is the very premise of civilized states, rather than any one ideology, that is under attack. And no one state, acting alone, can possibly have much impact on the threat, because terrorists will always be able to move around, shelter their money and connect in cyberspace; there are no capitals for a superpower like the United States to bomb, no ambassadors to recall, no economies to sanction. The U.S. military searches for bin Laden, the Russians hunt for the Chechen terrorist Shamil Basayev and the Israelis fire missiles at Hamas bomb makers; in Kerry’s world, these disparate terrorist elements make up a loosely affiliated network of diabolical villains, more connected to one another by tactics and ideology than they are to any one state sponsor. The conflict, in Kerry’s formulation, pits the forces of order versus the forces of chaos, and only a unified community of nations can ensure that order prevails.

One can infer from this that if Kerry were able to speak less guardedly, in a less treacherous atmosphere than a political campaign, he might say, as some of his advisers do, that we are not in an actual war on terror. Wars are fought between states or between factions vying for control of a state; Al Qaeda and its many offspring are neither. If Kerry’s foreign-policy frame is correct, then law enforcement probably is the most important, though not the only, strategy you can employ against such forces, who need passports and bank accounts and weapons in order to survive and flourish. Such a theory suggests that, in our grief and fury, we have overrated the military threat posed by Al Qaeda, paradoxically elevating what was essentially a criminal enterprise, albeit a devastatingly sophisticated and global one, into the ideological successor to Hitler and Stalin — and thus conferring on the jihadists a kind of stature that might actually work in their favor, enabling them to attract more donations and more recruits.

Cheney was against sanctions before he was for them —

What a difference 6 months makes.

Feeling safer? —

The likelihood of insurgents getting chemical weapons has increased since the US occupation:

“An exhaustive report* released last week by Charles Duelfer, the CIA’s chief weapons investigator in Iraq, concluded that Saddam Hussein destroyed his stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in the early 1990s and never tried to rebuild them.

But a little-noticed section of the 960-page report warns that the danger of a “devastating” attack with unconventional weapons has grown since the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq last year.”

(*note, this is the report Bush cited repeatedly Friday night as proof that he was right to invade Iraq.)

Watch and worry —


No particular reason —

I just think it’s important to reflect from time to time on the immortal words of our current Commander in Chief, as quoted in Bob Woodward’s sycophantish “Bush at War”: “I do not need to explain why I say things. — That’s the interesting thing about being the President. — Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.”

More paintballs from the NYT —

Instead of linking you directly to their latest puffery on Kerry’s wealth (which is now sure to be mentioned in some way in everything they write about him – more often than not simultaneously downplaying Bush’s multimillionaire status), I’ll instead link you to James Wolcott’s (and Bob Somersby’s) swift dispatch of it.

And speaking of Attack Poodles —

Because Cokie Roberts has, in the last 5 or so years, so brutally disabused me of my youthful admiration for her quick-witted and seemingly objective commentary, I must share another Wolcott gem: “I can’t decide who’s worse, Cokie Roberts or NBC’s Andrea Mitchell. Maybe it’s like the controversy that once raged over who was the worse actress, Candace Bergen or Ali MacGraw, and Pauline Kael’s answer was: Whichever one you’re watching at that moment.”

Credit where credit is due —

You don’t hear a lot about Emma Thompson’s work on the AIDS crisis in Africa, which is apparently how she wants it. But Time magazine commends her for it.


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