Saturday, November 27, 2004

Dynamite Article by Naomi Klein: Kerry and the Gift of Impunity

Naomi Klein is one of the best political writers extant. She is fearless and calls it as she sees it. This article reminds me of all the issues I put aside in working to get Bush ousted. In my wish to have a sane and intelligent president, I rationalized that Kerry would likely stop the Iraq War, even if he said he was going to "win" it. I hope that was true, but the longer Kerry stays out of sight, rather than leading the fight for an honest vote count, I wonder.

Klein is right. Nothing was said during the campaign about the War Crimes, about the numerous violations of the Geneva Convention, about the trashing of constitutional rights for those arrested and imprisoned.
Kerry and the Gift of Impunity: "The real-world result of all the 'strategic' thinking is the worst of both worlds: It didn't get Kerry elected and it sent a clear message to the people who were elected that they will pay no political price for committing war crimes. And this is Kerry's true gift to Bush: not just the presidency, but impunity. You can see it perhaps best of all in the Marlboro Man in Falluja, and the surreal debates that swirl around him. Genuine impunity breeds a kind of delusional decadence, and this is its face: a nation bickering about smoking while Iraq burns."
Read the whole article, it's all too terribly true. We simply must stop this madness.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Oppose the Right Wing Likud Attacks on Juan Cole

just checked my campus mail and found a letter in it from Colonel Yigal Carmon, late of Israeli military intelligence, now an official at the Middle East Media Research Organization, or MEMRI. He threatened me with a lawsuit over blog comments I made here at Informed Comment, reprinted at This technique of the SLAPP or Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation had already been pioneered by polluting industries against environmental activists, and now the pro-Likud lobby in the US has apparently decided to try it out against people like me.

I urge all readers to send messages of protest to Please be polite, and simply urge MEMRI, which has a major Web presence, to withdraw the lawsuit threat and to respect the spirit of the free sharing of ideas that makes the internet possible.

Apparently MEMRI took umbrage when Cole dared to suggest that they cherry-pick news to make the Arab countries look bad. As he didn't accuse MEMRI editors of murder, mayhem or stealing,and as corporations or organizations can't be libeled, the threat of litigation seems pretty baseless, but none the less, sending suggesting that they engage in a fair battle of ideas rather than trying to put Cole out of commission with legal fees might be a good idea.

There's Hope With Howard

I'm not at all convinced that the Democratic Party lost the 11/2/04 election. One thing is for sure, if the votes of all the people who showed up at the polls and tried to vote for Kerry were counted, we definitely won.

A part of me thinks that perhaps it was clever of Kerry to immediately concede, and then to wait out the re-counts and lawsuits, thus depriving the Republican Party of ammunition for its predictable attacks on him for not conceding, but does he have to remain this quiet?

Meanwhile, Howard Dean has been traveling all over the country for the last six months to support Kerry and grass roots candidates through his Democracy for America organization. When he spoke to the Hawaii State Convention in May of 2004, he had the hall enthralled with his ideas and constantly on their feet applauding. He is a great rabble rouser, and that is what we need to lead the Democratic Party right now. I hope the DNC will see the light and vote for Dean in February. (Thanks to MYDD for the donkey).

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

My, My, Some Truth Escapes

My Way News:
"'We cannot accept this [election] result as legitimate, because it does not meet international standards and because there has not been an investigation of the numerous and credible reports of fraud and abuse,' Powell said."

Of course, Powell is talking about the Ukrainean election, not the U.S. one. It seems the exit polls don't agree with the poll totals and the U.S. is upset about it. I certainly hope all their criticisms of the Ukrain election may come back to haunt them.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

There's Hope Fraud Can be Proved

The following article by a polling professional appears on's website. Hopefully, its appearance there means that pollster zogby agrees with him. (With thanks to of 11/14/04).

I Smell a Rat

I smell a rat. It has that distinctive and all-too-familiar odor of the species Republicanus floridius. We got a nasty bite from this pest four years ago and never quite recovered. Symptoms of a long-term infection are becoming distressingly apparent.

The first sign of the rat was on election night. The jubilation of early exit polling had given way to rising anxiety as states fell one by one to the Red Tide. It was getting late in the smoky cellar of a Prague sports bar where a crowd of expats had gathered. We had been hoping to go home to bed early, confident of victory. Those hopes had evaporated in a flurry of early precinct reports from Florida and Ohio.

By 3 AM, conversation had died and we were grimly sipping beers and watching as those two key states seemed to be slipping further and further to crimson. Suddenly, a friend who had left two hours earlier rushed in and handed us a printout.

"Zogby's calling it for Kerry." He smacked the sheet decisively. "Definitely. He's got both Florida and Ohio in the Kerry column. Kerry only needs one." Satisfied, we went to bed, confident we would wake with the world a better place. Victory was at hand.

The morning told a different story, of course. No Florida victory for Kerry--Bush had a decisive margin of nearly 400,000 votes. Ohio was not even close enough for Kerry to demand that all the votes be counted. The pollsters had been dead wrong, Bush had four more years and a powerful mandate. Onward Christian soldiers--next stop, Tehran.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics

I work with statistics and polling data every day. Something rubbed me the wrong way. I checked the exit polls for Florida--all wrong. CNN's results indicated a Kerry win: turnout matched voter registration, and independents had broken 59% to 41% for Kerry.

Polling is an imprecise science. Yet its very imprecision is itself quantifiable and follows regular patterns. Differences between actual results and those expected from polling data must be explainable by identifiable factors if the polling sample is robust enough. With almost 3.000 respondents in Florida alone, the CNN poll sample was pretty robust.

The first signs of the rat were identified by Kathy Dopp, who conducted a simple analysis of voter registrations by party in Florida and compared them to presidential vote results. Basically she multiplied the total votes cast in a county by the percentage of voters registered Republican: this gave an expected Republican vote. She then compared this to the actual result.

Her analysis is startling. Certain counties voted for Bush far in excess of what one would expect based on the share of Republican registrations in that county. They key phrase is "certain counties"--there is extraordinary variance between individual counties. Most counties fall more or less in line with what one would expect based on the share of Republican registrations, but some differ wildly.

How to explain this incredible variance? Dopp found one over-riding factor: whether the county used electronic touch-screen voting, or paper ballots which were optically scanned into a computer. All of those with touch-screen voting had results relatively in line with her expected results, while all of those with extreme variance were in counties with optical scanning.

The intimation, clearly, is fraud. Ballots are scanned; results are fed into precinct computers; these are sent to a county-wide database, whose results are fed into the statewide electoral totals. At any point after physical ballots become databases, the system is vulnerable to external hackers.

It seemed too easy, and Dopp's method seemed simplistic. I re-ran the results using CNN's exit polling data. In each county, I took the number of registrations and assigned correctional factors based on the CNN poll to predict turnout among Republicans, Democrats, and independents. I then used the vote shares from the polls to predict a likely number of Republican votes per county. I compared this `expected' Republican vote to the actual Republican vote.

The results are shocking. Overall, Bush received 2% fewer votes in counties with electronic touch-screen voting than expected. In counties with optical scanning, he received 16% more. This 16% would not be strange if it were spread across counties more or less evenly. It is not. In 11 different counties, the `actual' Bush vote was at least twice higher than the expected vote. 13 counties had Bush vote tallies 50--100% higher than expected. In one county where 88% of voters are registered Democrats, Bush got nearly two thirds of the vote--three times more than predicted by my model.

Again, polling can be wrong. It is difficult to believe it can be that wrong. Fortunately, however, we can test how wrong it would have to be to give the `actual' result.

I tested two alternative scenarios to see how wrong CNN would have to have been to explain the election result. In the first, I assumed they had been wildly off the mark in the turnout figures--i.e. far more Republicans and independents had come out than Democrats. In the second I assumed the voting shares were completely wrong, and that the Republicans had been able to massively poach voters from the Democrat base.

In the first scenario, I assumed 90% of Republicans and independents voted, and the remaining ballots were cast by Democrats. This explains the result in counties with optical scanning to within 5%. However, in this scenario Democratic turnout would have been only 51% in the optical scanning counties--barely exceeding half of Republican turnout. It also does not solve the enormous problems in individual counties. 7 counties in this scenario still have actual vote tallies for Bush that are at least 100% higher than predicted by the model--an extremely unlikely result.

In the second scenario I assumed that Bush had actually got 100% of the vote from Republicans and 50% from independents (versus CNN polling results which were 93% and 41% respectively). If this gave enough votes for Bush to explain the county's results, I left the amount of Democratic registered voters ballots cast for Bush as they were predicted by CNN (14% voted for Bush). If this did not explain the result, I calculated how many Democrats would have to vote for Bush.

In 41 of 52 counties, this did not explain the result and Bush must have gotten more than CNN's predicted 14% of Democratic ballots--not an unreasonable assumption by itself. However, in 21 counties more than 50% of Democratic votes would have to have defected to Bush to account for the county result--in four counties, at least 70% would have been required. These results are absurdly unlikely.

The second rat

A previously undiscovered species of rat, Republicanus cuyahogus, has been found in Ohio. Before the election, I wrote snide letters to a state legislator for Cuyahoga county who, according to media reports, was preparing an army of enforcers to keep `suspect' (read: minority) voters away from the polls. One of his assistants wrote me back very pleasant mails to the effect that they had no intention of trying to suppress voter turnout, and in fact only wanted to encourage people to vote.

They did their job too well. According to the official statistics for Cuyahoga county, a number of precincts had voter turnout well above the national average: in fact, turnout was well over 100% of registered voters, and in several cases well above the total number of people who have lived in the precinct in the last century or so.

In 30 precincts, more ballots were cast than voters were registered in the county. According to county regulations, voters must cast their ballot in the precinct in which they are registered. Yet in these thirty precincts, nearly 100.000 more people voted than are registered to vote -- this out of a total of 251.946 registrations. These are not marginal differences--this is a 39% over-vote. In some precincts the over-vote was well over 100%. One precinct with 558 registered voters cast nearly 9,000 ballots. As one astute observer noted, it's the ballot-box equivalent of Jesus' miracle of the fishes. Bush being such a man of God, perhaps we should not be surprised.

What to do?

This is not an idle statistical exercise. Either the raw data from two critical battleground states is completely erroneous, or something has gone horribly awry in our electoral system--again. Like many Americans, I was dissatisfied with and suspicious of the way the Florida recount was resolved in 2000. But at the same time, I was convinced of one thing: we must let the system work, and accept its result, no matter how unjust it might appear.

With this acceptance, we placed our implicit faith in the Bush Administration that it would not abuse its position: that it would recognize its fragile mandate for what it was, respect the will of the majority of people who voted against them, and move to build consensus wherever possible and effect change cautiously when needed. Above all, we believed that both Democrats and Republicans would recognize the over-riding importance of revitalizing the integrity of the electoral system and healing the bruised faith of both constituencies.

This faith has been shattered. Bush has not led the nation to unity, but ruled through fear and division. Dishonesty and deceit in areas critical to the public interest have been the hallmark of his Administration. I state this not to throw gratuitous insults, but to place the Florida and Ohio electoral results in their proper context. For the GOP to claim now that we must take anything on faith, let alone astonishingly suspicious results in a hard-fought and extraordinarily bitter election, is pure fantasy. It does not even merit discussion.

The facts as I see them now defy all logical explanations save one--massive and systematic vote fraud. We cannot accept the result of the 2004 presidential election as legitimate until these discrepancies are rigorously and completely explained. From the Valerie Plame case to the horrors of Abu Ghraib, George Bush has been reluctant to seek answers and assign accountability when it does not suit his purposes. But this is one time when no American should accept not getting a straight answer. Until then, George Bush is still, and will remain, the `Accidental President' of 2000. One of his many enduring and shameful legacies will be that of seizing power through two illegitimate elections conducted on his brother's watch, and engineering a fundamental corruption at the very heart of the greatest democracy the world has known. We must not permit this to happen again.

- By Colin Shea, The Freezer Box

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

My Country Commits War Crimes: Bush Must Be Stopped!

U.S. Reportedly Firing White Phosphorous Rounds

The Washington Post reports that the U.S. has begun firing white phosphorous rounds that create a screen of fire that cannot be extinguished with water. Iraqi doctors are reporting that corpses are being brought into the hospital with their skin melted -- a reaction consistent with white phosphorous burns.

Report: 20 Medics Killed in Clinic Bombing

The city's medical system is in shambles. The Chinese news agency Xinhua is reporting that dozens of Iraqis, including 20 medics, were killed when the US bombed a medical clinic in Fallujah yesterday. The clinic was just erected to substitute for the main hospital which was seized by the U.S. on Monday. One doctor told Reuters "There is not a single surgeon in Fallujah. We had one ambulance hit by US fire and a doctor wounded. There are scores of injured civilians in their homes whom we can't move. A 13-year-old child just died in my hands."

Red Cross Warns About Actions in Fallujah

The International Committee of the Red Cross issued a statement on Fallujah. It read in part "The ICRC urges the belligerents to ensure that all those in need of such care - whether friend or foe - be given access to medical facilities and that medical personnel and vehicles can function without hindrance at all times." In the initial days of the attack, the US has destroyed one hospital, seized a second, destroyed a medical supply center and bombed a first aid clinic.

One Hundred Thousand Iraqis Dead, and More from Falloojeh

So this is how Bush kicks off his second term. More bloodshed.

"Innocent civilians in that city have all the guidance they need as to how they can avoid getting into trouble,"

How do they do that Rumsfeld? While tons of explosives are being dropped upon your neighborhood, how do you do that? Do you stay inside the house and try to avoid the thousands of shards of glass that shoot out at you from shattering windows? Or do you hide under a table and hope that it's sturdy enough to keep the ceiling from crushing you? Or do you flee your house and pray to God you don't come face to face with an Apache or tank or that you aren't in the line of fire of a sniper? How do you avoid the cluster bombs and all the other horror being dealt out to the people of Falloojeh?

From Riverbend

9-11 Commisioners Took Oath to Deceive Voters?



Aired November 8, 2004 - 20:00 ET

ZAHN: And joining me now, a Democrat who has served as both a governor and U.S. senator. Bob Kerrey also was a member of the 9/11 Commission and is now president of the New School University here in New York.

You better not do much more, because I can barely get that all into the introduction.

BOB KERREY (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: That's it. That's it.

ZAHN: Welcome back...

KERREY: .....
George Bush knows when to kiss the baby. And that's a hard thing to teach. In fact, it's an impossible thing to teach. He's very good on the street and he's good with the message. His message was, I will keep you safe, and the other guy won't. And when you are the incumbent, it's a much higher standard for an opponent to prove that you're wrong. So...

ZAHN: The American public, by and large, didn't think John Kerry was the guy to do that.

KERREY: That's correct, because the president had a case, a very simple case to make: I am the commander in chief. I won the war in Afghanistan, even though John Kerry supported it, even though, by the way, there's a credible case that the president's own negligence prior to 9/11 at least in part contributed to the disaster in the first place.

ZAHN: How so?

KERREY: Well, the 9/11 report says in chapter eight -- now that it's beyond the campaign, so the promise I had to keep this out of the campaign is over.

The 9/11 report in chapter eight says that, in the summer of 2001, the government ignored repeated warnings by the CIA, ignored, and didn't do anything to harden our border security, didn't do anything to harden airport country, didn't do anything to engage local law enforcement, didn't do anything to round up INS and consular offices and say we have to shut this down, and didn't warn the American people.

The famous presidential daily briefing on August 6, we say in the report that the briefing officers believed that there was a considerable sense of urgency and it was current. So there was a case to be made that wasn't made.


ZAHN: But what we continue to hear from this administration is that the threat was much too diffuse. There was no way you could zero in on the fact that al Qaeda was going to use jets as bombs and ram them into buildings.

KERREY: That is a straw man.

The president says, if I had only known that 19 Islamic men would come into the United States of America and on the morning of 11 September hijack four American aircraft, fly two into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and one into an unknown Pennsylvania that crashed in Shanksville, I would have moved heaven and earth. That's what he said.

Mr. President, you don't need to know that. This is an Islamic jihadist movement that has been organized since the early 1990s, declared war on the United States twice, in '96 and '98. You knew they were in the United States. You were warned by the CIA. You knew in July they were inside the United States. You were told again by briefing officers in August that it was a dire threat.

And what did you do? Nothing, so far as we could see on the 9/11 Commission. Now, that's in the report. And we took an oath not to talk about it during the campaign, I think correctly so, to increase the capacity of that commission's report to be heard by the people's Congress.

But the report, I think, it's difficult for a challenger. If I had been the challenger, it's difficult to make that case when you are running against an incumbent. He can stand back and say, oh, you're just grousing.

ZAHN: Oh, we couldn't connect the dots is what we heard.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Stunned into Silence, Shocked into Action, Give to

On November 2nd, as the first exit polls were reported, I was amazed to see Kerry leading by huge margins. Pennsylvania was 60% to 40% for Kerry, Minnesota was almost a twenty point spread too. Was it possible that we were really going to win, to get the neo-conservatives out of power?

Then, less than ten hours later, the reports had Bush leading. It was Wednesday morning here in Hawaii when Kerry conceded. How was it possible that Kerry could concede? There were still thousands of votes to be counted in Ohio and Florida, not to mention Iowa and New Mexico.

I was stunned into silence for several days. Until Friday, when I chanced upon, which stated that they believed some of the vote totals were fraudulent, citing Florida. Florida was a key state. I began looking at the figures for Florida counties, and saw that the counties having optical scan machines had almost uniformly given Bush at least a 5% margin over Kerry, and the totals were discrepant with the exit polls.
In counties using other methods, there was no discrepancy with the exit polls.

Then I noticed that the votes in Palm Beach County totaled over a hundred thousand votes more than the number of people registered to vote in that county. Another discrepancy, this one yielding over 137,000 questionable votes.

Between Florida and Ohio, it looked like massive fraud was committed to make Bush the winner. But why was I surprized. I had known that any president corrupt enough to take his country to war on lies would not hesitate to manipulate vote totals if it was necessary to keep him in power. And, based on the exit polls, Bush was losing and needed to manipulate the votes to stay in power.

I had expected that Bush might stage a terrorist attack just prior to the election, even declare martial law and suspend the election "until the danger has passed". Why was I so naive to think that he wouldn't just change the vote totals. So much simpler, cleaner, to give yourself a "mandate" for the next four years.

Now, with his self-created "mandate" Bush is setting upon the Iraqis of Falluja. They took out the hospitals first because they don't want the hospital staff to report on the number of dead and wounded civilians. Bombing hospitals is, of course, a war crime. Add that to the lengthy list which I pray will one day be prosecuted.

Bev Harris of is making freedom of information act requests all over the country to chase down defective machines and stolen votes. That's expensive to do, as the
counties charge by the page of information. Documents here could run into the hundreds of thousands.

We need to fight the fraud. Just got an e-mail saying that there is a demonstration in front of Baldwin Beach Park today. Hopefully, this will happen all over the country. Meanwhile, donate at

'Watching tragedy engulf my city'

From Falluja:

'Watching tragedy engulf my city'

US and Iraqi forces are locked in desperate street battles against insurgents in the Iraqi city of
Falluja. The BBC News website spoke by phone to Fadhil Badrani, a journalist in Falluja who reports for the BBC World Service in Arabic.

Translation from Arabic by Jumbe Omari Jumbe of

11/09/04 "BBC" -- I am surrounded by thick black smoke and the smell of burning oil. There was a big explosion a few minutes ago and now I can hear gunfire.

A US armoured vehicle has been parked on the street outside my house in the centre of the city.

From my window, I can see
US soldiers moving around on foot near it.

They tried to go from house to house but they kept coming under fire.

Now they are firing back at the houses, at anything that moves. It is war on the streets.

The American troops look like they have given up trying to go into buildings for now and are just trying to control the main roads.

I am sitting here on my own, watching tragedy engulf my city.

Looks like

I was with some of the Falluja fighters earlier. They looked tired - but their spirits were high and they were singing.

Recently, many Iraqis from other parts of the country have been joining the local men against the Americans.

No one has had much sleep in the past two days of heavy fighting and
of course, it is still Ramadan, so no one eats during the day.

I cannot say how many people have been killed but after two days of
bombing, this city looks like

Large portions of it have been destroyed but it is so dangerous to leave the house that I have not been able to find out more about casualties.

Mosques silent

A medical dispensary in the city centre was bombed earlier.

I don't know what has happened to the doctors and patients who were there.

It was last place you could get medical attention because the big
hospital on the outskirts of Falluja was captured by the Americans on Monday.

A lot of the mosques have also been bombed. For the first time in Falluja, a city of 150 mosques, I did not hear a single call to prayer this morning.

I broke my Ramadan fast yesterday with the last of our food
- two potatoes and two tomatoes.

The tomatoes were rotten because we have no electricity to run the fridge.

My neighbours - a woman and her children - came to see me yesterday.

They asked me to tell the world what is happening here.

I look at the devastation around me and ask - why?

Translation from Arabic by Jumbe Omari Jumbe of

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/11/09
14:12:13 GMT

Thanks to

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Baghdad Burning

On the U.S. Election Outcome:

Baghdad Burning: "Baghdad Burning

... I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls can mend...
Thursday, November 04, 2004

Well, what is there to say? Disappointment doesn't even begin to describe it...

To the red states (and those who voted for Bush): You deserve no better- I couldn't wish worse on you if I tried. He represents you perfectly... and red really is your color. It's the color of the blood of thousands of Iraqis and by the time this four-year catastrophe in the White House is over, tousands of Americans, likely.

To the blue states (and those who were thinking when they voted): Condolences. Good luck- you'll need it. "