Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Washington Post: Money Good, Gay Marriage Bad

From yesterday's Editor & Publisher Web site:
Anti-Gay Marriage Advertorial Rankles 'Washington Post' Readers

By Joe Strupp

Published: November 23, 2004 4:35 PM ET
NEW YORK A 16-page advertising insert espousing a strong argument against gay marriage ran in some editions of The Washington Post Sunday, sparking more than 1,000 e-mails and phone calls, according to Ombudsman Michel Getler, who said most of the comments opposed the publication as offensive.

"They were overwhelmingly negative about the Post distributing this thing," Getler told E&P, noting that many of the responses were from outside the Post circulation area, indicating a formal campaign against the publication may have begun. "People were upset and they let the paper know."

The advertorial did not run in the metro edition of the Post, according to Getler, but could be found in about 200,000 zoned copies. It was labeled "BothSides Magazine" and appeared to be a creation of Grace Christian Church, with support from a number of Virginia area churches.

Formatted like a magazine, the publication included articles that argued against comparing gay-marriage rights to civil rights and criticized same-sex couples as parents.

"In the homosexual marriage movement, they have moved beyond asking for tolerance and are demanding a national endorsement," one column states. In another Q&A section, the publication says, "Q. What is wrong with letting homosexuals marry? A. Everything. Marriage is defined by the God of nature, and a wise society will protect marriage as it has always been understood." ....
and it goes on. Here's the letter I just sent to WaPo:


I understand the Washington Post let African-American evangelicals buy 16 pages of advertorial to express their views on gay marriage. Bully for you. I’m glad to see that the Post is open to publishing ideas outside the mainstream. While you’re at it, I have some other suggestions.

The North American Man/Boy Love Association wants you to carry a glossy insert as part of a national membership drive. What do you say?

I understand the Klan has some tasteful collateral materials that would go just perfectly in your Sunday section—and they’re willing to pay cash. Sounds like a marriage made in heaven (or at least, the section reserved for White folk).

The American Nazi Party is just dying to share its viewpoint on how to handle race relations, but it can’t seem to break into your Op/Ed pages. This seems like a perfect (if not exactly Final) solution, no?

My point? Either you have an advertorial vetting process or you don’t. Either you approve some material and allow it to become part of your editorial product, or you allow everything in without concern as to its content. If you say no to NAMBLA, the Klan, and the Nazis, but yes to the homophobes, you endorse the homophobe position. End of story.

You choose the kind of newspaper you want to publish.

Dead Ducks & Big Bucks

Will there be a recount in Ohio? So far the answer appears to be yes, if Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell and his crew of electonistas ever finish the first count. But according to MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, the first rumors of a Republican suit to halt the recount have started to surface.

Meanwhile Olbermann also reports that the Kerry campaign issued a press release saying it had (finally) “joined” the recount efforts in Ohio, only to issue another release a few hours later saying that it is merely “participating in” the recount. A typically resolute maneuver from Mr. I Shoot Small Animals But Don’t Want to Be Seen Carrying A Dead One.

Memo to the Kerry Kamp: You Lost. Maybe not fairly, but… Teresa ain’t out shopping for new curtains for the Lincoln bedroom. So, by definition, you have NOTHING TO LOSE. Surely Kerry couldn’t be delusional enough to think he’s the frontrunner for 2008 (assuming we still have an elected government by then). The last major party candidate to run after a loss was Nixon in ‘68. The last Demo to get a second shot at the Big Chair was Adlai Stevenson. You guys squirreled away $15 million on post-election lawyering. Time to spend it.

Rhymes With Loonie

Only a paper owned by Moonies would publish a screed by Ohio Secretary of State and Kathryn Harris Wannabee Kenneth Blackwell, titled “How Ohio Pulled it Off.” (And no, he’s not talking about how the GOP managed to steal the election—at least, not intentionally.) The November 17 Op/Ed in the Washington Times wallowed in self-glorification and half-baked statements like this one:

“As our nation moves forward, adopting more modern tools to manage voter lists, register voters, and cast and count votes, let's remember that at the center of the system are people — not software and hardware.”

Especially when the people are corrupt. This comes from a guy who a) tried to invalidate thousands of voter registrations because they were printed on the wrong paper stock, b) forbid provisional ballots from being counted if they were cast in the wrong precinct, c) provided generous numbers of voting machines in conservative suburban districts but suspiciously few near colleges and urban centers, and d) supported the use of Republican “challengers” to intimidate voters.

However, Mr. Blackwell modestly omitted one of his finer accomplishments: He stopped the dragons who live at the edge of the earth from devouring Cleveland.

The Com Before the Org

Just because the foundations of democracy are being subverted doesn’t mean you can’t make a few bucks on the side. Take, a site whose primary purpose seems to be to confuse people who are really looking for

The .org site contains an impressive collection of data concerning voter fraud and voting machines, and is run by two former members of David Dill’s Verified Voting group. You’ll also find a useful collection of links to sites with information about voting machines and possible voter fraud in one of its forums.

The .com site has virtually no content, is littered with pop-up ads, and is clearly shilling for donations to its owner, Edward S. Leon of Tarpon Springs, Florida. Hence this semi-literate note on the Donations page:

“…To make this possible we need your support to for [sic] our daily press releases and to maintain this site. …To keep up with daily press releases we need to raise at least $250 a day. So we ask each of you who are interested in continuing these efforts to make a donation between $1 to $500 by clicking the paypal link above.”

(By “daily press releases” he means three since last June.) Two days ago the site initiated a “nationwide recount” by posting a survey where you could pick Kerry or Bush. His stated goal is to get 100 million votes by January. So far, 316 people have voted, and Kerry is winning 85% to 15%. That’s good enough for me—let’s march on Washington.

The Times They Are A-Chokin'

The People’s Email Network, a site that automates political email campaigns, is urging people who are unhappy with the recent election to reach out to their neighbors and talk to them about getting organized. They’re also seeking donations to continue their efforts. Contributors will receive a free CD with the PEN theme song, “It’s Up to Us Alone.” There’s a sample of the song on the site. It sounds like Bob Dylan choking on a chicken salad sandwich, set to strings. Perhaps if you give them a large enough donation they won’t send the CD.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Searching for the WMDs (Wimpy Media Dickheads)

Over the past four years the mainstream media has taken to the Bush administration’s lies, distortions, and evasions like pigs to a trough. As Iraq turned sour and the bigger Bush Whoppers became too obvious to ignore, some outlets went in the other direction. Even then, most still dutifully reported whatever slop came streaming out of the Bushie's mouths.

But when it comes to stories like the wholesale theft of our democracy, they have more important things to cover—Ashlee Simpson’s lip synching, for example.

So when UC Berkeley researcher Michael Hout announced his team had analyzed e-voting results in Florida and found something seriously awry, the silence was deafening. Yes, the story was covered well by several Bay Area papers, smaller Web sites, and a suprising number of my brethren in the Geek Press. Keith Olbermann of MSNBC continues to doggedly pursue this story, despite the public snickering of his colleagues. But the New York Times? Nothing. Washington Post? Nada. USA Today? Nyet.

A handful of US papers ran a story by AP technology writer Rachel Konrad under headlines like “Academia Still Fixated on John Kerry” (LA Times, San Jose Mercury News) and “Conspiracy Theorists Still Question Bush’s Victory” (Miami Herald). Konrad’s story is a textbook exercise in how the media stalks a story in order to kill it. She begins:

John Kerry conceded defeat more than two weeks ago, and President Bush has already revamped his Cabinet. But as states certify final election returns, an academic debate over their accuracy is heating up.

None of the experts examining the returns has discovered voting anomalies significant enough to have swung the election.

She follows this with a quote from a joint MIT-Caltech report that says, essentially, the election of 2004 was fraud free. End of story. Not until Paragraph 7 does she actually mention the Berkeley study – which is, one assumes, what prompted her to write the story in the first place. (In journalism lingo, this is known as “burying the lead.”)

Worse, it turns out the MIT-Caltech report she quoted from was published on November 11 – a week before the Cal team announced its findings. According to an Oakland Tribune story that appeared on November 19, the author of MIT-Caltech report (Dean Charles Stewart III) corroborated Professor Hout’s analysis and said it deserved further investigation. Here’s the real kicker: Stewart examined Hout’s data at the behest of the Trib and the Associated Press—Konrad’s employer. Somehow, Konrad failed to note any of this. I can find no subsequent stories by her or AP about the Berkeley findings.

Was Konrad somehow in cahoots with the e-voting cabal? No. She was just lazy. At some point over the last few weeks she’d decided what the story was — that electronic voting was perhaps flawed but not fraudulent -- and those who would suggest otherwise were paranoid, partisan, or simply not credible. Anything else that failed to fit the script got punted.

This is the Fourth Estate in the year of our Lord 2004. With media this compliant, who needs Joseph Goebbels?

Postcards From a Whacko

It’s a little-known fact that the New York Times tests their employees for drug use. Perhaps they should start testing their columnists as well.

In his column in yesterday's Sunday Times, titled Postcards from Iraq, Thomas Friedman argues that we should stay in Iraq until our own troops stage a full-scale rebellion against the occupation:

Readers regularly ask me when I will throw in the towel on Iraq. I will be guided by the U.S. Army and Marine grunts on the ground. They see Iraq close up. Most of those you talk to are so uncynical - so convinced that we are doing good and doing right, even though they too are unsure it will work. When a majority of those grunts tell us that they are no longer willing to risk their lives to go out and fix the sewers in Sadr City or teach democracy at a local school, then you can stick a fork in this one. But so far, we ain't there yet. The troops are still pretty positive.

By this logic, of course, we’d still be in Viet Nam. Heck, we’d still be trying to make Canada the 14th colony. Friedman wants military personnel, who’ve been trained to obey orders, to tell us when it’s time to stop obeying orders. And until then, what the hell, let’s blow up some more mosques.

He precedes this statement with something nearly as silly:

We are trying to host the first attempt in the modern Arab world for the people of an Arab country to, on their own, forge a social contract with one another.

I really like the use of “host” in that sentence. Makes it sound like we’re over there serving white wine and canapés. “Would you care for a touch more Chardonnay? It goes quite well with that incendiary device in your pocket.”

He then follows it with a quasi-racist discussion of how American-style tolerance isn’t in the Iraqis' DNA:

Despite all the mistakes made, that is an incredibly noble thing. But for Iraqis to produce such a social contract, such a constitution, requires a minimum of tolerance and respect for majority rights and minority rights - and neither of those is the cultural norm here. They are not in the drinking water.

Right. Just like the boundless tolerance our current administration has for differing opinions, or inconvenient facts, or political dissent, or the rights of the non-evangelical majority to worship--or not—in any manner they choose. I don’t know what water Friedman has been drinking, but it’s not what’s coming out of my tap.

Does Friedman really believe that democracy is the reason we’re in Iraq? Does he really believe this administration would tolerate a freely elected Iraqi government that was not a puppet of US policy? (“Anything you want, Prime Minister al-Sadr—and you can have all your oil back, too.”) Did he cut class the day they covered the list of countries where Washington has muscled aside elected governments it didn’t like and supported dictatorial allies? Is he completely ignorant, or just conveniently ignorant?

Iraq is a disaster that no sham elections will fix. We need clear-headed thinking about what we’re doing there and how we’re going to get out before we do even more damage. We need intelligent opposition to wrong-headed policies. We don’t need more apologists, drunk on the sludge that’s being piped out of Washington DC. We have a surplus of those.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Apparently the RNC Does Believe in Democracy

Just not in places like Florida and Ohio.

In my inbox last night was an ad for a book from my 'friends' at the GOP. It read, in part:
In Natan Sharansky's new book, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror (Public Affairs), he affirms President Bush's belief that peace can be achieved in the Middle East if we stay true to the ideals of democracy and the principles that make America thrive.

Optimism. President Bush relies on it as a key element for securing peace and freedom around the world. Sharansky agrees with the President's optimistic approach. He doesn't question whether we can bring democracy to the Middle East, but argues that it's critical for security around the world, and with strength, determination, and fierce optimism, we will combat tyranny and terror and make great strides towards world peace.
So we send an army to install democracy in the middle east (justification #237 in a series on Why We Invaded Iraq), while the GOP actively attempts to disenfranchise voters in swing states. Nice.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Update on Florida E-Voting

Kim Zetter of Wired News has written an excellent account of the UC Berkeley findings called "Researchers: Florida Vote Fishy." It's the first mainstream(ish) account of the report, and she really did a nice job -- getting comment from ES&S (makers of the suspect touchscreen machines) and Florida Election officials on very short notice, and including some factoids -- like the fact the study was reviewed by 7 Berkeley profs before being made public -- that weren't in the press release or in other stories. (But she's apparently still pissed at me for criticizing her earlier story, and is so far the only person who's asked to be taken off my email list. Oh well.)

There are a few possible scenarios as I see it. One is that this story flares up briefly and dies for lack of interest by Media Sloths, or gets tepid coverage and inspires cries for "e-voting reform" from the usual suspects and then gets forgotten. The other scenario is that other researchers examine the study and decide to apply this methodology to other states, other counties, other precincts. Then... who knows? Personally I have little hope of reversing the atrocity of this election, especially given the Demos' utter uselessness in this fight. But if the electronic house of cards starts to fall, both in Florida and Ohio, anything can happen.

Hey, the Red Sox won the World Series, and the Cal Bears have a very good shot at the Rose Bowl this year. Miracles do happen. So let's all now bow our heads and pray.

We Are Shocked, Shocked to Find Voter Fraud in Florida!

In a press conference today, researchers at UC Berkeley (my alma mater) say the chances of electronic voting in large, heavily Democratic Florida counties being accurate are 1 in 1000. These anomalies may have accounted for a surplus of 130K to 260K votes for Bush in Florida. (FYI, these are counties using touchscreen machines, which cannot be manually recounted.) The researchers are being cautious and calling this a 'Smoke Alarm' -- in other words, they believe there's a fire in Florida, but they can't say what caused it or how to put it out.

What's interesting is that the UC researchers set out to debunk claims made by others that the numbers in Florida did not make sense -- largely in the Op Scan counties. And while they didn't find anything statistically odd about those results, they apparently stumbled onto this finding.

This is big. Or at least, it should be big. So far, I've found one story from The Moderate Independent. Here's a quote from it:

We can be 99.9% sure that these effects are not attributable to chance,” the report says. “Compared to counties with paper ballots, counties with electronic voting machines were significantly more likely to show increases in support for President Bush between 2000 and 2004. This effect cannot be explained by differences between counties in income, number of voters, change in voter turnout, or size Hispanic/Latino population.”

“The data show with 99.0% certainty that a county’s use of electronic voting is associated with a disproportionate increase in votes for President Bush,” according to the report.

Says Professor Michael Stout, who headed up the UC Berkeley research team behind the report: "Something went awry with the voting in Florida."

Uh huh. Now we need to get the Media to start listening.

Later On, We'll Conspire...

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Electronic voting in 2004 suffered “a few glitches” that have been exaggerated by “Internet conspiracy theorists” who are “sore losers.” And thus, we’re all just wasting our time by insisting on recounts in New Hampshire and Ohio (and hopefully Florida and maybe, just for kicks, New Mexico).

With scant few exceptions that’s the line taken by mainstream media, when they’ve chosen to look at this story at all.

But if you want to read something really chilling, check out the tally of electronic voting screw-ups by vendor at Let's start with Election Systems & Software. Voters Unite lists 26 pages of ES&S errors – 22 pages worth over the last two years, with around half involving optical scan machines. The litany of foul-ups includes failing to count thousands of votes, counting votes that were never cast, counting votes twice, reversing vote totals so that Candidate A was assigned the votes cast for Candidate B, and assigning all the votes to a single candidate. In other words, just about any kind of mistake you can imagine.

Need I add that the same models of voting machine were used a few weeks ago in Florida, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Ohio? I didn’t think so.

You’ll find a similar litany of incompetence or worse for Diebold (18 pages), Sequoia (18 pages), Microvote (6 pages), and others. These are just the screw-ups we know about. And we only know about them because somebody looked at the results and said “something in here smells like bad feta cheese,” then went back to check them. In other words, they audited the results and, when possible, performed a manual recount.

So there’s really no need to dust for the slime-encrusted fingerprints of Gollum (Karl Rove), or sniff out deliberate malfeasance by RNC-friendly executives at Diebold et al. A history of simple, mind-blowing stupidity is reason enough.

I suspect if we’re able to dig deep enough we may actually uncover errors that favor Senator Kerry. (Maybe.) That’s something I’d like to see.

In other news: Here’s a nifty song-and-slide presentation that probably sums up the feelings of all of us sore-losing conspiracy theorists. (Just don’t listen to it in the same room with the kiddies.) Thanks to John B. for bringing this to my attention.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Heat & Light, Continued

Yesterday a friend wrote in response to my last post:

You seemed to suggest that Beverly Harris has not been particularly effective. She is one incredibly dedicated, very hard-working citizen. She has to depend on you and me for funding. I admit that she is like a mosquito trying to get the attention of an elephant, but I sure appreciate what she has done.

I agree with you that we need to turn up the heat, but frankly I don’t know on whom. Starting with the witch hunt for Bill Clinton and then through the 2000 election I have written letters, made phone calls, donated money, sent faxes and emails to my representatives and to anyone else who I thought had some power in the situation. Talk about a mosquito … So I would love to hear your ideas about who should be pressured, and in what way, in order to wake up the media or the Democrats.

First, I meant in no way to diss Bev Harris. I am a big fan of her efforts to bring transparency to electronic voting. But I do think her site and her communications style could use more polish. She desperately needs the services of a good Webmaster, designer, and PR consultant. Anybody out there willing to volunteer their services?

Second, I wish I had a magic solution to the ‘how to turn up the heat’ problem. But I don’t think there is a quick fix. I think the answer is to continue to do what many of us are already doing—challenging stupidity and arrogance and willful blindness everywhere it appears—only more of it. I think the answer is to pump up the volume, both in terms of how loud we are and how many of us are doing it.

An example: Yesterday I wrote a letter to a columnist in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review who wrote a snide, poorly-researched piece about how Keith Olbermann’s coverage of the voter fraud story is turning into another ‘RatherGate’. His claim: a “real journalist” would have called elections officials to debunk the story. I don’t know what this guy’s politics are, but it’s typical of the hit pieces that come from right-wing trolls. I said a real journalist would look at all the facts—including the many sophisticated statistical analyses available on the Web--and not just chat up a handful of 90-year-old poll monitors in the Florida panhandle.

As someone who gets letters from readers on a regular basis, I can confirm that they do have an impact. I ignore the “F U a**hole ones,” of course, but a well-reasoned letter can get me to reconsider something I’ve written. And if I get a lot of email chiding me about something, I know I’ve probably screwed up. I’m not saying it will work in all instances – the right wing media machine seems particularly inured to criticism – but it’s a start.

One mosquito is a nuisance. Fifty million of them are much, much harder to swat.

Monday, November 15, 2004

First Heat, Then Light

Just as the kettle on the Election Fraud issue was starting to boil, in rushed the mainstream media to turn down the gas. "Vote Fraud Theories, Spread by Blogs, Are Quickly Buried," read one headline in the NY Times. "Florida E-Vote Fraud? Unlikely" read another from Wired News. And these are from two venues that are sympathetic to the idea that when people vote their counts should actually be counted and should actually count.

The problem with these stories is that they covered only some of the issues at hand (optical scan voting machines in the Florida panhandle), and then only partially, prompting a swift rebuttal from Kathy Dopp, the mathematician ("Internet enthusiast" in the Times story) who discovered the optical scan anomalies in the first place. I exchanged vaguely unpleasant emails with the Wired writer, who used to be an employee of mine back in the day and took offense at what she perceived as criticism of her work. (It wasn't.) She says she's working on a followup article regarding the rebuttal, but it hasn't appeared yet.

The good news? A week of blogs rubbing against this issue caused enough heat for the Men in Suits to take notice, even if they reacted in typical "we didn't find this story, so it couldn't possibly be true" fashion. Even better news is that it looks like we're going to get a recount in Ohio and New Hampshire, as MSNBC's Keith Olbermann reports. (Olbermann has become the new darling of the pinko blogs, simply because he's covered the story that everyone else in his tax bracket was waiting to dry up and wither away.)

At least, until the RNC files the inevitable lawsuit attempting to block them.

Meanwhile, after a week in which's site was either inaccessible or as exciting to watch as an oil painting, the site was finally updated with a spate of news, including the item that Beverly Harris and her team of intrepid investigators have "launched a fraud audit" of Florida counties that haven't complied with the Freedom of Information Act requests she filed back in October. Lord only knows what "fraud audit" means, but -- you go, girl.

In a 15-minute radio interview with Randi Rhodes on Air America, Harris says she's been scheduled to appear on several news shows, including Olbermann's, to talk about the "F word" (fraud), but that it's always been nixed by someone higher up the food chain. And the reason? Not some massive conspiracy by the Men in Suits, nor some cabal cooked up by Karl Rove (though if there's a cabal to be cooked, he's the master chef). It's because no one "official" on the opposition side is pressing the issue, just a bunch of rabid bloggers who tend to shoot their mouths off first and ask questions later. That's how Big Media works -- if you don't have proper credentials, you can be safely ignored.

Fortunately, as we've discovered a few times this frenetic election season, if you generate enough heat online someone with an appropriately tailored suit will start to sweat. And if you keep generating heat it's possible to actually get some questions answered.

That's all I want. I want to know who won this election, fair and square. If the Republicanazis really did snooker all those people into voting against their best interests, and they can prove it, then so be it. We live at the mercy of the snookered. But if they didn't.... I'm stockpiling torches and pitchforks.

So. Read the blogs. Write letters to the media questioning their assumptions and their assertions. Ask our elected representatives to kindly please represent us. Keep generating heat. And then, maybe, we'll start to see some light.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Election Fraud for Fun & Profit: The New Mexico Connection

Say the words "New Mexico" and I automatically think of turquoise jewelry, new age grooviness, and nuclear bombs. But now, having perused a spreadsheet of election results from that one-time swing state, I am beginning to think of NM as Florida with a Southwestern twist.

It appears that, just like in Florida, an astounding number of registered Democrats in New Mexico crossed over to the Dark Side. In some counties, particularly the small ones, Bush received from 100% to 180% of the registered Republican vote -- in other words, he captured all of the Republicans, plus a hefty percentage of Independents and Democrats. Mighty strange in a state where the registration splits 50% Demo, 33% Repub, and 17% Other.

Some academics have pooh-poohed the notion that Florida's optical scan voting machines were rigged, saying that what we were looking at was simply the revenge of the Dixiecrats. But what's the explanation here - Mexicrats?

As in Florida, the urban centers (Albuquerque, Santa Fe) skewed toward Kerry while the less populated areas went strongly for Bush. Is there some deeply felt resentment of Democrats festering in the country, but not so deep that people are willing to change their registration status? Are there really that many evangelicals hidden away in the desert?

I looked at the 11 counties that use optical scan equipment (according to the records at Verified Voting), seeing if there was a discernible pattern among them. All were relatively small; a total of 71,000 votes were cast, with the largest county at around 20,000. The average gain for the republicans was 127% -- meaning that if all registered Republicans showed up and voted for Bush he also drew 27% of the remaining voters. Average turnout for Democrats in these counties was 50% -- or 13 points below the statewide turnout. (Bush "won" by 6,939 votes, or less than 1% -- so these small counties could well have carried the day for him.)

Nearly all the voting machines in these counties were Optech III-P or Optech III-P Eagles built by Election Systems and Software, which as many folks have noted has strong ties to the Christian fundamentalist movement.

ES&S also made many of the optical scanners used in Florida -- all of which produced results heavily in favor of GWB, according to this analysis. Votes cast on ES&S machines in Florida went for Bush by 60% to 40%, and accounted for 10% of all machine votes in the state.

This page also goes on to note several major "glitches" with ES&S machines in previous elections:

ES&S has had problems with their machines in the past. I managed to find some thorough voting machine documentation here (PDF). Among ES&S's slipups, these stood out as most relevant to me:

  • September 2002, Union County, Florida. A programming error caused ES&S Model 100 machines to read 2,642 Democratic and Republican votes as entirely Republican in the September 2002 election. The ballots program in the memory packs read the ballots incorrectly. The vendor, ES&S, accepted responsibility for the programming error and paid for a hand recount.
  • November 2002, Scurry County, Texas. A landslide victory for two commissioner candidates caused poll workers to question the results. The chip in the ES&S 650 contained an incorrect ballot program. ES&S sent a new chip, and the county officials also counted the votes by hand. The opposing candidates actually won by large margins.
  • November 2002, Taos, New Mexico. A software programming error caused the Sequoia Optech optical scanner to assign votes to the wrong candidates. Just 25 votes separated the candidates in one race; another race had a 79-vote margin. After noticing that the computer was counting votes under the wrong names, Taos County Clerk Jeannette Rael contacted the programmer of the optical machine and was told it was a programming error.

Union County, the county named in the September 2002 incident, returned a 73/27 Bush victory this year, on ES&S Model 100s. Only 9 of Florida's 67 counties were more decidely in favor of the President.

There is no smoking gun in the Florida elections, but the results still have their pecularities. It's true that if optical scan votes were not counted, Kerry would have won with about the same margin that Bush did. It's true that rural counties tended to use optical scan machines more, and the wideheld view is that rural voters prefer Bush. It's true that machines manufactured by ES&S, a company that has had problems on the past, gave a higher percentage of votes to President Bush than did other machines.

Can we concluded definitively that ES&S has rigged its machines? No. Can we conclude definitively that fraud has occurred in Florida, New Mexico, and God Only Knows Where Else? Not yet. Would a shift in NM's 5 electoral votes do squat to the final results in Fiasco 2004? Not unless it's evidence of a deep and sinister cabal that reaches beyond that state's borders.

Even I am not that paranoid....yet. But this issue deserves much closer scrutiny, and not the cursory treatment it has so far received from the major media. For more information on how to get involved in this investigation, visit (if you can get on the site--I've been locked out of it all morning) and send a letter to your elected representatives, courtesy of Working Assets.

We got screwed in 2000; the American people deserve nothing less than a full accounting now.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Religious Right's Secret Agenda

Amazingly, this memo totally escaped the notice of the mainstream media…

From: American Association of Evangelicals
To: K. Rove, D. Cheney
Re: The President’s Agenda

Thanks for asking our help in setting the agenda for the President’s triumphant second term. Here’s what we propose:

1. Tax reform is Job #1. We propose to do away with a “progressive” tax based on income and instead levy tax according to peoples’ intelligence. Using a base tax rate of 10 percent, individuals will be taxed at 2% of their income for every IQ point above 100. Those with IQs registering less than three digits—as well as corporate executives and government officials living more than 30 miles from any US coastline--will be eligible for tax credits. This will be informally known as the “Jew Tax.”

2. Freedom of speech is an essential part of our democracy. To preserve Americans’ rights to political dissent, we propose establishing a national free speech zone in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Anyone disagreeing with administration policy will be provided a free one-way ticket to the FSZ.

3. Along with banning the teaching of evolution, the Bush administration should eradicate all junk science from our nation’s schools—including the global warming myth, the dinosaur fallacy, and the deluded belief in a heliocentric solar system.

4. September will hereafter be known as National Velveeta Month.

5. Americans will be prohibited from using words in excess of three syllables or sentences using more than one dependent clause in public settings. However, individuals will be free to use such phrases in the privacy of their own homes or during their daily “quiet time” with the Creator.

6. Just as sexual orientation is a choice, so is clothing. Men should be prohibited from wearing pastels or referring to any article of apparel as “an accessory.” Women will be required to wear skirts at least three inches below the knee and heels not less than 2 inches in height, except during certain activities such as bowling.

7. Starting in fiscal year 2005, the entire budget for the National Endowment for the Arts will be devoted to works involving macrame.

8. We support a Constitutional amendment defining “sex” as an act between a man and a woman involving genital-to-genital contact and lasting not more than two minutes. “Deviant sex” will be defined as any position in which the man is not on top or moves in a manner suggestive of disco dancing. This will not be tolerated.

9. The potential for election fraud could undermine the very foundation of our government. Thus we propose doing away with all ballots, both paper and electronic. Instead, federal officials will be elected by proclamation. All in favor say “Aye.” All those opposed, please see agenda item #2.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Remember, God is Listening

So today, in my email, I get a press release from One Christian Voice, a nationwide telecom dedicated to spreading Jesus' love and cheap long distance service to every heathen in the land. This particular bit of drivel was about how popular the service is in New York, of all places. (Well, I guess they know where all the sinners are.)

Aside from cut-rate service and the fact that 20% of your monthly bill goes to Christian-based charities, every subscriber gets a free three-minute sermon "from top Christian leaders" delivered to his voice or email inbox every blessed day. Praise the Lord!

But these folks aren't content to preach to the choir. They want their subscribers to spread the word to everyone. This is from their About Us page:

The value of these messages is twofold: first, they support a national Christian effort to promote a consistent daily “Quiet Time” where a Christian deepens his relationship with God through Biblical reflection and study; and second using technology to spread God’s word by Christian Media subscribers forwarding the voice messages to non-subscribers’ email accounts so that even the most introverted of Christians can blossom in their faith, become evangelists, and pursue the Great Commission of spreading the Word to the world.
In their defense, at least they're upfront about their agenda. It's not like opening a desk drawer at the Marriott Hotel and being shocked to find the Book of Mormon waiting for you. So you know to say "Hell no!" when they ask you to sign up. (At least, that's what I'd say.)

Oh yeah: The site's FAQ page is blank. Apparently subscribers feel no need to ask questions or, more likely, when they have questions they know WHO to ask.

Monday, November 08, 2004

My, What a Large Florida You Have....

Since I'm nuts about maps, here is a really interesting cartogram showing the distribution of "red" and "blue" states by population size. (I swiped this from Talking Points Memo, FYI.) Essentially it shows that, when it comes to actual people, we (the "blue" voters) are not as outnumbered as it might seem by looking at an electoral map. This graphic and several others like it can be found at a site run by (I assume) University of Michigan grad students, which includes a number of other ways to look at this data. For example, maps that show results by county demonstrate that most of California is "red" (as anyone who has lived there can tell you) and that many urban centers in the south are "blue" (as someone who lives there now can confirm). Another map on that page displays results in red, blue, or purple, depending on the percentage of demo/repub votes in each county. In that one the country looks mostly purple -- kind of like a bad bruise -- with only intermittent splotches of pure red or blue. Finally, a cartogram of this data sorted by county population looks completely freakish, like something you'd see in a nightmare. Somehow that seems wholly appropriate.

Posted by Hello

Election Fraud for Fun & Profit, Part Deux

The story of the optical scan discrepancy has started to circulate around the blogosphere and even made a brief appearance on MSNBC, but is otherwise MIA on the non-Internet media. At the very least, we deserve an investigation into why optical scan ballots produced such an overwhelmingly Republican result in counties with overwhelmingly high numbers of registered Demos.

A thread at Princeton discusses the scan results but dismisses them with a cursory sneer. That's just the nature of Dixiecrats, they say -- they've been registered as Demos since Claude Pepper was a pup, but they vote for God & Guns and against Gays. Smaller towns just happen to use optical scan equipment instead of touchscreens, so that's purely coincidence. Some contributors to the thread note that most of the changes were in small counties that were Bush strongholds in 2000 as well. OK, fine. But there are a few problems with this explanation:

1.) Nationally, voters stayed faithful to their party registration 9 out of 10 times, according to exit polls. For these results to be accurate, some of these counties would have to vote against party affilation by a rate of 60 to 90%. Is it really plausible to assume Florida is so radically different than the rest of the nation? (Yes, they did produce Anita Bryant and they do name freeways after professional football coaches, but come on now.)

2) It's not just small towns. Duval County, with 378,000 votes cast, saw a surge of 56% for Republican votes, and a drop of 9% off expected Democratic results. This is not, as some on that thread suggest, within the range of the touchscreen machines. With touchscreen machines, vote totals rose for both sides in almost every precinct, which is what you'd expect with a massive turnout.

3) Yes, the results do track with Bush v. Gore in 2000. But maybe they were cheating then, too. (In fact, we know they were cheating elsewhere; maybe this form of cheating got lost in the noise).

There is a simple solution to all this. Manually recount vote samples in the counties in question, as Avi Rubin suggested to me when I emailed him about it. That will tell you very quickly whether the scan results jibe with actual votes.

Here's the problem: Florida law requires that recounts be made (wait for it) by the same optical scan machines that ran the faulty numbers in the first place! If the two sets of numbers match (and why wouldn't they?) the recount is over. If they don't match, the scans are run again through the machines. If there are still errors, then a manual recount may take place (though exactly who makes this decision and how they make it isn't spelled out in the recount procedures the Florida Division of Elections has posted on its site.)

To quote Avi Rubin,
"Requiring that they be recounted on the same machines is brain dead. If the machines are faulty or rigged, the same incorrect result will be reached. The whole point of having the paper ballots is to do an independent recount that checks for problems with the original count."
Brain-dead elections in Florida. Gee, who would have expected that?

In other news: The flap about the "extra" 200,000 votes seems to have disappeared. Why? The Florida elections board posted new numbers about voter turnout that now absorb the votes which were unaccounted for yesterday. Is this just a clerical error or yet another fiendish subplot of this conspiracy story? Tune in tomorrow for another chilling installment of As the Scan Turns....

Upon Further Reflection....

It was wrong of me to call Peggy Noonan a whore in my post last week (“Who needs Ipecac When You’ve Got Peggy Noonan?”). I have no evidence that Ms. Noonan has ever exchanged sexual favors for cash. In fact, I have no evidence that Ms. Noonan has ever exchanged sexual favors for anything. And if she had, I’m not sure I’d call them “favors.”

That reference, and the one about hand jobs, were merely metaphors for someone whose political opinions have been bought and paid for in advance. (For you Republicans out there, a metaphor is “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in drowning in money)”, per Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary). So to Ms. Noonan, my apologies.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled rant, already in progress.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Election Fraud for Fun & Profit

While the Bushies prance, preen, and put together dossiers of their opponents ("Congratulations, you've just won an all-expenses paid trip to Guantanamo Bay!"), a handful of statistics geeks are pouring over the numbers in Florida. And things in the Sunshine State are starting to stink like overripe mangoes.

First, take a look at the charts put together by titled "Surprising Florida Presidential Election Results." (Thanks to Phil H. for this tip.)

Yes, looking at the numbers for more than two minutes will give you a migraine, let alone trying to decipher all those scatter plots, but the skinny is this: In counties where optical scan voting equipment was used, Republicans got a huge spike in the number of votes cast--well beyond the numbers of people in those counties actually registered as Republicans. The Demos either lost votes or broke even in those counties. Overall, the GOP got 600,000 more votes than expected, based on party registration numbers -- nearly twice their margin of "victory" in that state. For this to be true, an enormous number of Democrats had to abandon their party and vote Republican. Nationally, around 90 percent of registered Democrats voted for Kerry, according to exit polls (the same held true for the GOP).

To take one example: In Calhoun County there are 993 registered Republicans. Bush got 3780 votes. There are 6879 registered Demos. Kerry got 2116 votes.

There are only three possible conclusions:

1) John Kerry really did something to piss off Florida Democrats (maybe when he started speaking French from the podium);

2) The Republicans fucked us again, but good; or

3) Voodoo.

Oh yeah, possible reason number four: This is all just another conspiracy theory cooked up by the Liberal Media, and please, pay no attention to those election officials behind the curtain.

Interestingly, the stat wonks at ustogether did not find any significant differences in the more notorious e-voting touchscreens. And the smaller the county where optical scanners were used, the bigger the gains made by Repubs (of course, statistical differences always get magnified when you're dealing with smaller numbers of people).

Wait, it gets better. The folks at IdeaMouth looked at the total votes cast for president versus the total turnout reported for each precinct, and discovered through the magic of mathematics that the number of voters and number of votes cast in 13 Florida counties do not match up. For example, Florida election board records show that 452,000 voters showed up to the polls in Palm Beach (a Demo stronghold) but they managed to cast 542,000 votes for president. Miami-Dade had around 52,000 "extra" votes. Volusia County had about 19,000 phantom voters, as did Osceola; a few more had around 8,000, and the rest of the discrepancies were in the hundreds. (All of these numbers can be found Florida's state-run Web sites.)

So let's recap: We have optical scan results that show a heavy Republican bias defying both logic and statistical probability, something in the neighborhood of 200,000 nonexistent voters, and headlines that say "electronic voting goes smoothly." Smells like Florida 2000 all over again.

But then again, I'm probably just one of those pinko conspiracy theorists.

What a Difference 144 Years Makes

Thanks to Bill K. for directing me to this map, eerily similar to the one below, save that this is the US in 1860. Red states are slave states, green are abolitionist, and the brown ones are open to slavery. You'll find the original at the Annenberg's site. Posted by Hello

Friday, November 05, 2004

Greetings From Jesusland!

In the past 48 hours I received five copies of this new map from various friends. I take this as a good sign -- that people are starting to rediscover their senses of humor, and they won't be cowed by the holyrollers. Unfortunately for me, I live in the green part, not the pink. Posted by Hello

Six Ways to Save America

Through mourning yet? Well, get over it, because we’ve got work to do. Here are six ways to survive the Bush Theocracy.

1. Let the Shit Hit the Fan

We all know GWB is going to fuck things up even more than he already has, and that it will eventually catch up to him. It’s inevitable. Unlike Ronald Reagan, he left his Teflon suit at the dry cleaners a long time ago. So eventually he will be covered in the shit that blows back from his failed polices. Unfortunately, the cost of this approach could be extreme—drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the loss of a woman’s right to choose, systematic persecution of gays, bankrupting the treasury, gutting public education, and a Supreme Court straight out of the 19th century. It’s too ugly to even contemplate. So sitting back and letting him destroy himself is simply too risky. We need to speed the process.

2. Pressure the Media

The major network, cable, and newspaper executives are such sheep you could knit cardigans from their hides. Even the so-called ‘liberal’ media followed Bush slavishly until they sensed the mood of the country shifting. With the “mandate” upon us, they’re likely to start kow-towing all over again. Don’t let them.

If your favorite news show quotes ridiculous administration assertions without questioning them, or presents every issue as ‘he said/she said’ without evaluating the credibility of either side, or entirely ignores important stories to focus on fluff, call them on it. Literally, call them—dial the numbers of the station. Light up the switchboard. Bury them in email and snail mail. Organize your friends to do the same. Let the media know they can’t get away with it this time. Yes, the Dark Side will eventually respond and match us in volume and passion. But most of them are dumb as fence posts. Most of us can write in complete sentences and make cogent arguments. Here’s one area where intelligence may actually count for something.

3. Pressure the Democrats

Unfortunately, this is one area where intelligence won’t count. As in the past, the Democratic Party leadership will likely read this election as a signal they have to shift even further to the Right. This argument is totally flawed. Clinton only won because Ross Perot sucked nearly 20% of the vote from Bush I in 92, and then because Robert Dole was such a weak-ass opponent in ‘96. Still, the Demos are likely to roll over on just about everything. We can’t let them. We need to remind them of where most of their support came from in 2004—from people and organizations to the left of John Kerry. That means more letters and phone calls. It means demonstrating power in numbers. We need to inspire the few leaders we have to loudly oppose the forces of evil, even if they don’t have the votes to carry the day.

4. Stand up to the Bullies

The next time some moron quotes Fox News, or makes some wildly inaccurate statement about a social or political issue, walk up to that individual and ask for proof. Where did that idea come from? Do the facts support it? Why do they believe this? Were they aware of information from [fill in the blank] that contradicts this statement? Asking questions is a much more effective method of rebuttal. Most people don’t question why they believe what they believe, and this might get some of them started. It also puts them on the defensive, where they don’t know what to do. That’s far more effective than simply telling them that if it wasn’t for Darwin they’d still be walking on four legs.

And when someone calls you after dinner to raise money for a faith-based organization, feel free to share your opinions about the separation of church and state. These people hate us already. There’s no reason to be polite about it.

5. Recruit Republicans

We’ve already seen a number of major defections from the ranks of sane Republicans, and as the Bush agenda shifts toward the radical right we’re going to see a lot more. Court these people. Talk to them about issues they care about, like fiscal responsibility and the capricious use of our military, or about government intrusion into peoples’ private lives. I bet you’ll find common ground.

While you’re at it, talk to the 11% of blacks who voted for Bush, or the 23% of gays, or the astounding 48% of women. Remind them that’s it like the Roadrunner voting for Wile E. Coyote, or the Three Little Pigs stumping for the Big Bad Wolf. They’re all going to end up as ham sandwiches.

6. Civil Disobedience on a Massive Scale

What do you think would happen if 55 million Kerry supporters didn’t pay their taxes? How many do you think the IRS could catch and prosecute? A few thousand? So we take a small percentage of the money we withhold from the government and set up a fund to pay the penalties and interest of the few who get nailed. If you pay estimated taxes, it’s easy—don’t write those checks. If taxes are withheld from your paycheck, see if you can change your withholding status and pump up your tax-exempt savings accounts. I’m not saying we do this forever, just long enough to prove that they can’t operate without us. Say, maybe a year.

Here’s another idea. Just over 90% of Washington DC went for Kerry. He won Maryland with 56% and got 1.4 million votes from Virginia. What would happen if every Kerry supporter stuck in rush hour traffic on I395 and I495 outside DC suddenly decided to turn off their engines and go for a cup of coffee? Say, on the morning the Senate was about to confirm a troglodyte for the Supreme Court? Do you think the other side might notice? Do you think the media might cover it?

The Repubs proved adept at using technology to organize their campaign, but they still seem a little clueless about its potential for mischief. (Witness the Sloganator debacle.) Surely there must be some hackers out there who share our disgust. Think what a well-designed worm could do to the email accounts at the Republican National Headquarters ( Or what a denial of service attack could do to the servers at the NRA ( or the Family Research Council ( I’m not suggesting anyone target systems vital to our national security or human services, just the ones that allow them to attain and abuse power.

Let’s remind the Evil Doers where their power really comes from.

The possibilities are endless. Let us not despair.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Who Needs Ipecac When You've Got Peggy Noonan?

Here's more proof that Republicanazis are living in an alternate universe: this essay by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal. Forget the gloating, the unctuous self-congratulatory tone and the inane repetition:

George Soros cannot buy a presidential election. Savor. "Volunteers" who are bought and paid for cannot beat volunteers who come from the neighborhood, church, workplace and reading group. Savor.

The leaders of the Bush effort see it this way: A ragtag band of more than a million Republican volunteers who fought like Washington's troops at Valley Forge beat the paid Hessians of King George III's army. Savor.

What's most obnoxious about this is the idea that, somehow, while we were all watching "Desperate Housewives," the Right Wing Echo Chamber saved the country:

Every time the big networks and big broadsheet national newspapers tried to pull off a bit of pro-liberal mischief--CBS and the fabricated Bush National Guard documents, the New York Times and bombgate, CBS's "60 Minutes" attempting to coordinate the breaking of bombgate on the Sunday before the election--the yeomen of the blogosphere and AM radio and the Internet took them down. It was to me a great historical development in the history of politics in America. It was Agincourt. It was the yeomen of King Harry taking down the French aristocracy with new technology and rough guts. God bless the pajama-clad yeomen of America. Some day, when America is hit again, and lines go down, and media are hard to get, these bloggers and site runners and independent Internetters of all sorts will find a way to file, and get their word out, and it will be part of the saving of our country.
Unlike many of her counterparts on the Dark Side, Noonan isn't stupid. She's a talented speechwriter (though you wouldn't know it from this essay) and an amusing public speaker. But she's been giving handjobs to the GOP for so long that her calluses have calluses. She's a well-paid whore -- Enron gave her somewhere between $25K and $50K to write a single speech -- but a whore nonetheless. Like the reptilian Ann Coulter, the polysaturated Limbaugh and the oily Hannity, she's paid to use her mouth in the service of her masters. But it's her readers who end up gagging.

Orwell Was Right, His Timing Was Just a Little Off

Now that we’re gearing up for four more years of enlightened fascism, we’ve all got to learn a new way to speak. Here’s the beginning of a brief guide to Bushspeak. (I’m happy to consider submissions from anyone out there who stumbles across this.) Please print this out and place it near an appropriate passage in your Bible. You’ll be tested on this Later.

Bushspeak ---> Oldspeak

NASCAR Dad ---> Redneck
Security Mom ---> Browbeaten Housewife
National Healing ---> Christian Conversion
Military Tribunals ---> Judgement Day
Clean Air Act ---> Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Defense of Marriage ---> Kill All the Fags
Mandate ---> Election Fraud
Treason ---> Dissent
Terrorist ---> Muslim
Crusade ---> Crusade
Compassionate Conservative ---> Your Worst Nightmare

“Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. …. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. …. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers….”
- George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”

No Retreat Baby, No Surrender

OK, I admit it, I'm depressed. The Hatemongers, Homophobes, and Hummer owners have won. Whether they won fair and square or cheated their fat asses off (again), we don't know yet. I'm betting on the latter, but it won't matter much by the time we find out.

But the only way to fight these assholes is to fight these assholes. Not in the street (yet) -- they've got more guns than we do -- but with our brains. We need to be more vigilant and more vocal, to take no quarter and give back ten times what they dish out. We need to put our bodies upon the gears and the wheels and all the apparatus of hatred, and bring it to a grinding halt.

Take the rest of the week to lick your wounds, then report to duty on Monday. We need you.

"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"

- Mario Savio, December 3, 1964
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