Fight your own battle, damnit.

From John Kerry’s latest email:

Tomorrow, members of Congress will meet to certify the results of the 2004 presidential election. I will not be taking part in a formal protest of the Ohio Electors.

Despite widespread reports of irregularities, questionable practices by some election officials and instances of lawful voters being denied the right to vote, our legal teams on the ground have found no evidence that would change the outcome of the election.

[…]

I want every vote counted because Americans have to know that the votes they stood in line for, fought for, and strived so hard to cast in an election, are counted. We must make sure there are no questions or doubts in future elections. It’s critical to our democracy that we investigate and act to prevent voting irregularities and voter intimidation across the country. We can’t stand still as Congressional leaders seek to sweep well-founded voter concerns under the rug.”

Wouldn’t you think it might be helpful in investigating those “well-founded voter concerns” if the person who might be most obviously affected by them “[took] part in a formal protest”?

Stop being such a pussy politician, Mr. Kerry.

“Screw you, America.”

Wow. I just finished reading this article at The Independent Weekly, and hoo-boy, it is a doozy. Thing is, I can’t disagree with anything the author says. For example:

In your befuddling concession speech, you actually called for unity and healing. Sounds good, clown, but can’t you even imagine for a second that the people who supported you so zealously for the past five months might just see that insincere gesture of good sportsmanship as a betrayal? See, unlike you pols, we voters actually believe in shit. We believe that George W. Bush and his henchpeople are a real threat to the survival of democracy. We believe that they’re killing people for profit. And we believe that they don’t have a goddamn clue about forfending terrorism on U.S. soil.

That’s not a position gap; that’s an ideological gash.

Now, I might have used less-harsh language, but he’s right. “Unity and healing” aren’t what’s called for, standing up and fighting for what we believe in is what’s necessary, and having the putative leader of our movement basically say “they’re not that bad” is disconcerting.

Clinton opened his presidential library the other day, and, standing in the drenching rain, asked his listeners “Am I the only person in the entire United States of America who likes both George W. Bush and John Kerry? Who believes they’re both good people, who believe they both love our country and they just see the world differently?”

Damn right, Mr. President.

You are.

And the fact that you are suggesting that Mr. Bush is somehow “OK”, and wants the same things for the world that John Kerry wanted is abominable.

John Kerry is no saint, but he’s light-years apart from Mr. Bush. To quote the article above,

Last week [the Bush administration] were the imperialist pigs who misled us into war and you were the savior. Now we’re the goddamn Getalong Gang?! Screw that. Fight back or shut up.

And the people who voted for Mr. Bush, the fundamentalists, the Religious Right which came out in such unexpected numbers that exit polls in key counties were completely wrong, they don’t get that there’s a difference. But then, they don’t see differences where they exist, and imagine tremendous differences where there are none. As the article notes, comparing America’s Christian fundamentalists to Muslim fundamentalists,

[Y]ou both hate the same stuff–homosexuality, pacifism, Jews, education, uppity women, enlightenment, short skirts, gangsta rap, tattoos, infidels.

And each group thinks they have God on their side. Ever think that if both of you can’t be right, perhaps both of you are dead wrong?

This article stirred up my anger all over again, a good effect, I say. A co-worker remarked that “it makes me wish I had the energy to be angry anymore”.

Read the article. Find the energy. Be angry.

It’s important.

New budget buys the President a boat.

The new budget passed this weekend (344-51 in the House, and 65-30 in the Senate). Included in that budget, along with all the necessary items like paying for Social Security and “funding” the No Child Left Behind initiative, were several items of, shall we say, dubious need. Among them,”$2 million for the government to buy back the presidential yacht USS Sequoia, sold in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter to demonstrate frugality.”

Yes, our “fiscally conservative” President and Congress have spent $2 million to buy a boat.

But wait, that’s not the end of the story, as USA Today notes. The budget includes a total of 11,772 “special projects” totaling $15.8 billion in extra spending. Some highlights? From that USA Today article:

  • $25,000 for the study of mariachi music in Nevada’s Clark County School District.
    $225,000 for the National Wild Turkey Federation in South Carolina.
    $1 million for the Missouri Pork Producers Federation to convert animal waste into energy.
    $75,000 for renovating the Merry Go Round Playhouse in Auburn, N.Y.
    $100,000 for a weather museum in Punxsutawney, Pa.
    $800,000 for “soybean rust research” in Ames, Iowa.
    $75,000 for “hides and leather research” in Wyndmoor, Pa.
    $1,593 for potato storage in Madison, Wis.
    $1 million for a world birding center, Texas.
    $150,000 to pay for beaver management and damage in Wisconsin.
    $200,000 for the American Cotton Museum in Greenville, Texas.
    $100,000 for a swimming pool in Ottawa, Kan.
    $70,000 for a “Paper Industry International Hall of Fame” in Appleton, Wis.
    $1.5 million for the Rep. Richard Gephardt Archive at the Missouri Historical Society.

$1 million to convert hog waste into energy in Missouri?

Talk about your pork.

Undecided? Get a clue!

A friend pointed me to this article at The New Republic. It talks about the undecided voter:

Undecided voters aren’t as rational as you think. Members of the political class may disparage undecided voters, but we at least tend to impute to them a basic rationality. We’re giving them too much credit. I met voters who told me they were voting for Bush, but who named their most important issue as the environment. One man told me he voted for Bush in 2000 because he thought that with Cheney, an oilman, on the ticket, the administration would finally be able to make us independent from foreign oil. A colleague spoke to a voter who had been a big Howard Dean fan, but had switched to supporting Bush after Dean lost the nomination. After half an hour in the man’s house, she still couldn’t make sense of his decision. Then there was the woman who called our office a few weeks before the election to tell us that though she had signed up to volunteer for Kerry she had now decided to back Bush. Why? Because the president supported stem cell research. The office became quiet as we all stopped what we were doing to listen to one of our fellow organizers try, nobly, to disabuse her of this notion. Despite having the facts on her side, the organizer didn’t have much luck.

The level of amazement I felt as I read this article can’t be properly put into words (at least, not while I’m in this state). And yet, while I’m amazed, I’m not truly surprised. I’ve always felt that if you’re paying even the least bit of attention, and care even the tiniest amount about how politics affects your life, you have a basic idea of how you want to vote. You might not be sure that’s the right vote to make, but you aren’t “undecided” in the sense of not knowing who you’d like to vote for.

This country is filled with these “undecideds”, and they’re the ones who are making the difference in our lives. By not caring enough to care, those of us who do have to work that much harder to ensure their vote isn’t the deciding vote.

That borders on the absurdly unacceptable.

It’s a red, red, red, red world?

The elections are over, and George W. Bush was (re-) elected to the presidency. Despite the increased turnout for John Kerry, and more votes for Kerry than any other presidential candidate before him, Bush managed an even greater turnout and over three million more votes than Kerry.

The electoral map shows a huge swath of red across this country. Seeing that makes me think this country is doomed.

But step back for a moment. Take a look at this map, from the New York Times [interactive version on their site]:


NYTimesMap.png

What this map tells me is Bush gets his support from many small counties across the country, while Kerry overwhelmingly wins in the few large counties across the country.

Even in staunch Bush country, like Orange County, CA, Bush manages to win only by 155,010 votes (his largest margin of victory by some 42,000 votes). Meanwhile, Kerry’s largest margin of victory comes from Cook County, IL (Chicago, basically), where he won by 805,857 votes.

This country isn’t divided by Red States and Blue States. No. It’s divided by Big Cities and Rural Counties. It’s not which state do I live in, it’s what city.

For example, you won’t see me moving to the O.C. anytime soon….

The Liberal Base.

There are 40 million or more people in this country who will never vote for  a Democrat, or anyone considered “Liberal”. Pro-choice? Fuggedaboudit. Pro-gay-marriage? Get outta here. Pro-Affirmative-Action? You betta step.

Forget these people. They may be intelligent, civilized and well-meaning, but they are stubborn in their distaste for the “Liberal Agenda”. A candidate who can get elected by this group cannot, almost by definition, get elected by Democrats.

While it would be a fantastic coup to sway these people our way, we need to focus instead on doing what George W. Bush and his team did so successfully this year: shore up our base of supporters, and ensure they would likewise never consider voting anything but Democratic.

The question, of course, is how do we shore up this liberal base without alienating the moderates who are sympathetic to our cause?

I’ll get back to you on that.

Torture, it's not so bad.

Alberto Gonzales, in his capacity as White House counsel, once (OK, twice) suggested that torture might be an acceptable method of interrogation. Not in so many words, mind you. No.

He called parts of the Geneva Convention’s provisions “quaint”, and it’s limitations on interrogation “obsolete”.

He noted that ignoring the Geneva Convention would make it easier to escape war crimes prosecution.

And he wrote that the “new war” on terrorism “places a high premium on… quickly obtain[ing] information from captured terrorists”.

And now, he’s George W. Bush’s selection to be the next Attorney General.

John Ashcroft, the current Attorney General, tendered his resignation after the election, and it was announced today. Ashcroft may be best remembered for his staunch support of the US PATRIOT Act, an amazing piece of legislation which makes it legal to detain U.S. citizens without allowing them access to either a lawyer or their family, and the government can continue holding them, without charges, indefinitely. After all, who needs “due process” anyway? If you’re not guilty of anything, they’d never hold you in the first place, right?

So we’re going from a man who thinks it’s OK to keep you locked up for no reason to a man who thinks it’s OK to use interrogation techniques considered illegal by every other civilized country.

Ah, progress.

Democrats defect? Or Dastardly deeds?

Did Democrats in several counties in Florida defect in mass numbers to George W. Bush this election? That is what we’re asked to believe.

According to at least one report, some counties, such as Nassau, saw a nearly 29% reduction in the number of Democrats voting, while Sumter saw a 10% drop. There was a corresponding 48% and 43% increase in Republicans voting in those counties, respectively.

But that’s not the surprising stat.

Those two counties used “E-Touch” — or electronic touch screen — voting machines, and are notable outliers compared with the rest of the counties using the same type of machine. Across the board, there is an increase in Republican voting, from 8.8% (Martin county) to 51.2% (Hillsborough county), along with an increase in Democratic voting, from 11% (Hillsborough) to 51.5% (Martin). Except for Nassau and Sumter, there were increases everywhere for both Republicans and Democrats.

Hold on, I still haven’t given you the startling stats.

There was another type of voting machine used in some counties, an “optical scan” machine. These are the typical voting machines, where you color in a circle, or punch out those infamous chads. Those physical marks are then counted by these optical scanners. In these counties, there were also some notable changes in voting pattern.

Republicans saw dramatic increases in many counties, between 25.2% (Flagler county) and 712.3% (Liberty county). Yes, a 700 percent increase in votes for Republicans in one country.

You might expect similar increases in these counties for Democrats wouldn’t you?

No such luck.

In thirty-six of fifty-two counties using optical scan machines, Democrats saw a reduction in votes, between -3.1% (Highlands county) and -70% (Holmes county). In the counties that showed increases, they ranged between 3.2% (Marion county) and 37.6% (Monroe county).

Let’s review that.

In “E-Touch” counties, all showed increased voter turnout for both Republicans and Democrats, except for two counties, which showed drops for Democrats.

But in “optical scan” counties, all showed increased voter turnout for Republicans, and 36 of 52 of them showed drops for Democrats.

These optical scan machines, by-the-way, received much less scrutiny this year than the electronic touch-screen voting machines, and the method of collecting the data from the optical scan machines uses a standard Windows™ PC, and a database which can be opened up in Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Access, and edited without any trace of the changes. (There is a great write-up of this whole mess at Common Dreams Newsletter. There is also a live video demonstration showing this in action at VoterGate.tv.)

The tin-foil-hatter in me wonders why there’d be such startling decreases in Democratic votes across so many optical scan counties, while showing increases everywhere for Republicans. Did Democrats really defect in such huge numbers to vote Republican? Or did the numbers get manipulated after the fact?

And, more importantly, will the media outlets pursue this story?

One county, too many voters

Cuyahoga County in Ohio might be destined to become famous. Or would that be infamous?

It turns out there’s a chance more votes were cast in Cuyahoga during the 2004 election than there are actual people in the county. For example, in the district of South Euclid, there were 16,902 registered voters, and 16,917 votes. That’s just over 100% turnout in a country with about 60% turnout.

A voting machine glitch, you say? Fifteen people trying to game the system, perhaps?

Maybe.

But how do you explain an 11,291 vote difference?

Yep, in Orange CSD, there were 11,640 registered voters, and 22,931 votes. That’s 197% turnout.

Remember, you can’t have more than 100% turnout.

But that’s not the most shocking number, not by a long shot. That distinction goes to Woodmere Village, where there were 558 registered voters and 8,854 votes, a (wait for it) 1,586% turnout.

Don’t believe me? Look at the numbers yourself, from the Cuyahoga County’s very own Board of Elections website. Or download this spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel) which just takes those numbers and puts them in an easier to read format.

Think the elections weren’t stolen from John Kerry?

Perhaps it’s time to think again.

Why am I here?

No, this isn’t a comment on some misrepresented, long-forgotten vice-presidential running mate quip. Instead, it’s a brief introduction to why I feel the need to add to the pollution within the blogosphere.

Briefly, it goes like this:

I’m not from around these parts. Not originally, anyway. Born in the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago to be exact, I moved to the U.S. when I was eleven. I lived in New York for eighteen or so years, before moving to San Francisco, where I’ve been for the last seven.

I’m not a citizen.

For most of my time here, I didn’t care much for politics. I didn’t identify with a political party for a long time, but I was always a social liberal, and a somewhat financial conservative — how most people in this country would likely describe themselves.

I would say I started to come of age, politically, during the Clinton years. It was during this time that I started to self-identify as a Democrat, in part because the things they were saying resonated with me, but also to a significant extent because of how the Republicans chose to spend much of those eight years. I couldn’t understand how things like oral sex and weird travel documents were important when education sucked and equal rights for all was a bad joke.

Those were baby steps, however. I entered my political adolescence right around the end of the 2000 Presidential campaign. Like many others, I instinctively disliked George W. Bush, but wasn’t sure Al Gore should be President (except, of course, for the fact that I found Gore intelligent, well-spoken, and, well, Democratic).

I remember being riveted to my television at 3, 4 in the morning when Florida “happened”. I couldn’t believe Bush had won, yet I figured “what the hell. He’s not that smart, he barely won, how much harm could he do in four years? He’ll be one-termer, just like his dad.”

As they say, famous last words.

Being a long-time New Yorker, the terrorist attacks devastated me, more so that I wasn’t — and couldn’t — be there to comfort and assist. When George W. Bush used those attacks to launch a war against Iraq a year later, I was dumbstruck. Somehow, after one of the most devastating attacks on U.S. soil, and following one of the most genuine outpourings of grief and solidarity from the rest of the world, George W. Bush managed to squander a tremendous opportunity to bring the U.S. and the world closer, to unite us.

His divisiveness shook me to the core, as I watched his arrogance grow, never admitting to any errors in judgement, or attempting to bring opposing viewpoints together.

When the 2004 Presidential campaign started, I became more involved than ever. Once John Kerry was nominated, I threw as much support as I could behind him, making my first ever political donations to Kerry, the Democratic National Committee, MoveOnPac and American Coming Together.

Despite the polls, I truly believed John Kerry would be our next president, and this nightmare four years would be over.

Instead, we have reports that the election was rigged or otherwise gamed.

And so I’m pissed off. I want to make a difference. I don’t much enjoy the thought of George W. Bush selecting two, three or more members of the Supreme Court, all of whom are expected to lean right and ride roughshod over civil rights, privacy, and church-state separation, among other things.

I want explanations about why vote counts seem to be so far off in so many places. I want to help document the problems, comment on them so my friends and family can read this and think “hm. that’s not right.”

So there you have it: why I’m here — to learn just how much of a difference one person can make.

Join me in my political discovery.