GORE'S FLA. LEAD WIDENS. Al Gore would have been elected president and George W. Bush would still be signing death warrants in Texas if Palm Beach County officials had counted every dimpled punchcard ballot cast in last November's election, the Palm Beach Post reported March 11. A review of ballots in Palm Beach County showed a net gain of 784 votes for Gore if the county's three-member canvassing board had counted every ballot that had a hanging chad, pinhole, ding or dimple. That would have erased Bush's Florida 537-vote margin.

On Jan. 27, the Post reported that a review of 4,513 "undervotes" that had been disputed by Democrats or Republicans because of dimples or hanging chads showed a net gain of 682 for Gore. The March 11 report reflected the review of all 9,150 "undervotes."

The Post also found a net gain of 19 votes for Bush in Martin County, but a net gain of 111 for Gore in St. Lucie County.

The Post also found that confusion over the county's "butterfly" ballot cost Gore about 6,600 votes. The ballots show 5,330 Palm Beach County voters, many in Democratic strongholds, invalidated their ballot cards by punching chads for Gore and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, whose hole on the punch card appeared just above Gore's. Another 2,908 voters punched Gore's name along with Socialist David McReynolds, whose hole on the card appeared just below Gore's. The two Gore combinations, minus those who voted for Bush and Buchanan, add up to 6,607 lost votes for Gore. "What it shows is what we've been saying all along -- there is no question that the majority of people on Election Day believed they left the booth voting for Al Gore," said Ron Klain, Gore's former chief of staff and his lead legal strategist in Florida.

The Orlando Sentinel on Feb. 11 reported that Gore would have gained 203 votes in Orange County if ballots that were rejected by scanners but clearly showed presidential preferences had been counted. However, the only recount that has received widespread media attention was the Feb. 26 report that Gore would have picked up only 49 votes in Miami-Dade County if the hand count of ballots ordered by the Florida Supreme Court had been completed and "dimpled" chads had been counted, according to a study done for USA Today, the Miami Herald and Knight Ridder Newspapers.

MEDIA IGNORES CIVIL RIGHTS REPORT. Jerry White of liberalslant.com noted that the US Commission on Civil Rights' blistering preliminary report on voter disenfranchisement in Florida, released Friday, March 9, received little attention by the news media. After two hearings in Florida, the commission found that prior to election day key state officials anticipated that there would be an increase in voter turnout, but failed to ensure that precincts in all communities received adequate resources to cope with the greater influx of voters, with the short shrift most glaring in working class and minority neighborhoods. White noted that Berry's politically explosive report was the lead story on CBS radio news at 11 a.m. Friday, shortly after the report was issued, but CNN's Headline News made no mention of the commission report, nor did the evening TV news broadcasts of NBC, nor CBS, nor ABC.

R'S MOVE QUICKLY ON JUDGESHIPS. The Bush administration is moving with extraordinary swiftness to put its stamp on the federal courts, Neil Lewis of the New York Times reported March 11, as more than 50 candidates already had been interviewed for judgeships, with an emphasis on filling vacancies on the federal appeals courts. Alberto R. Gonzales, a former Texas judge who is the new White House counsel heads a committee of about 15 people from the White House and the Justice Department who are screening lawyers for judgeships. Of 862 federal judgeships, there are currently about 100 vacancies, with 29 on the appellate courts. Of the 13 regional circuit courts, eight currently have majorities of judges appointed by Republican presidents, two have Democratic majorities and three have equal numbers. During the Clinton administration, some Republican judges said that even though their circuits had unfilled slots, there was no need to name any new judges since they could handle their workload. Gonzales said that Bush would, nonetheless, try to name new judges to fill those vacancies.

US TRADE REP SUED FOR HIDING PAPERS. While new US Trade Rep. Robert Zoellick was urging Congress to grant George W. Bush new international trade powers, a lawsuit was filed against him down the street in US District Court, challenging Zoellick's decision to keep the public in the dark about negotiations for the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, which would expand the North American Free Trade Agreement to include 34 nations in the hemisphere. The lawsuit, filed March 7 by Earthjustice on behalf of the Center for International Environmental Law, seeks to force the USTR to disclose written proposals it has made to other governments concerning the FTAA treaty, which would bind the United States to powerful new trade rules. USTR refused CIEL's request to make the documents public. A copy of the complaint is available online at www.earthjustice.org.

Meanwhile, news reports indicate that negotiations for the free trade expansion may be troubled by rivalries among the negotiating nations as well as the growing group of protesters opposed to free trade expansion without binding health and labor standards. They are preparing to turn April's Summit of the Americas in Quebec City into a replay of the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, the Toronto Globe & Mail reported on May 5. Draft texts written by nine groups negotiating the framework for the proposed hemispheric trade deal have yet to be made public, but one person who has seen them described them to the Globe & Mail as having so much "bracketed text" -- areas where the countries couldn't agree -- that they look like "Swiss cheese."

Fast-track authority, which would allow the USTR to hammer out a deal that Congress could vote for or against, but not amend, is seen as key to picking up the pace of negotiations. To contact your Congress member call the Capitol switchboard, 202-224-3121 or write c/o US Senate, Washington DC 20510 or US House, Washington, DC 20515.

'HIRED GUN' TAPPED FOR KEY REGULATORY POST. John Graham, nominated to be the Bush administration's regulatory gatekeeper as head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), is a prominent, industry-backed academic who is hostile to basic health, safety and environmental standards, according to Public Citizen. His appointment would give industry a back door to the White House and enable it to step up its campaign to dismantle basic consumer protections under the pretense of applying "sound science," according to a report released by Public Citizen. The report, available at www.citizen.org, details how the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, which Graham runs, has been funded by industry groups that fight enforcement of health, safety and environmental safeguards. The report also outlines the regulatory rollback crusade Graham has embarked on in recent years to dismantle these standards. "The president has nominated someone intent on eradicating basic government safeguards to head the very office charged with overseeing them," Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said. "The public may never have heard of John Graham, but he could dramatically affect the quality of the air they breathe, the wholesomeness of the food they eat and the safety of the cars they drive. This is an obscure but powerful office."

STATES ATTACK COMMODITY SECRECY. Attorneys general in a dozen states are opposing efforts by large agribusiness corporations to keep secret the commodity prices paid to individual farmers, George Anthan reported in the Des Moines Register on March 11. Carefully worded clauses in contracts offered by commodity buyers have caused farmers to fear that, if they revealed their price information, even to a banker or lawyer, the disclosure would void the contract. The clauses prevent farmers from knowing whether they are being offered a competitive price. The states' attorneys are drafting model legislation similar to an Iowa law that prohibits confidentiality clauses in producer contracts.

OFFICIAL SECRETS -- Quick -- which department of government is getting the largest increase under the first Bush budget? If you read the Washington Post summary, you might have guessed the Education Department since the head read, "Education -- Up 11.5%: Highest Among Agencies."

Unfortunately, humans do not live by percentage points but by dollars, so the correct answer -- consistently skimmed over by the media -- is the Defense Department which would get $14 billion more as opposed to Education's $4 billion increase.

Now a really hard question -- how much of George Bush's $1.6 trillion tax cut will come in the first year? The well hidden answer is less than 2% -- a measly $31 billion. We will publicly honor any reader who can produce an account in the corporate press that mentions this fact in, say, the first three paragraphs of a story. Incidentally, the first year cut is a little less than the increase in the military budget between 1998 and this year, which reminds us that when Washington is handing out money, defense contractors always come first.

In fact, after five years down the merry fiscal path of Bushdom, taxpayers will have received only 29% of the $1.6 trillion promised them. At that level of languor, we ought to make the president pay interest on his promise. Of course, some citizens will do better than others. By the time average Americans have received less than a third of their promised cut, George and Laura Bush will have saved themselves, according to a study by Citizens for Tax Justice, $267,200 (see www.ctj.org).

In further fact, there is no way anyone can predict with reasonable accuracy what the country's fiscal condition will be ten years from now, so the whole idea of a $1.6 trillion tax cut amounts to a rhetorical fraud, one that our servile and slanted press is quite willing to encourage. -- Sam Smith, editor, The Progressive Review's Undernews, March 1 (see prorev.com).

UNION AGAINST UNIONS is a new book that offers a detailed portrait of the Citizens Alliance (CA), a group of Minneapolis business owners that employed any means necessary to squelch the power of organized labor during the first half of the 20th century. The association blacklisted union workers, ran a spy network to ferret out union activity, and, when necessary, raised a private army to crush its opposition, which included socialists, labor unions, the Nonpartisan League, and the Industrial Workers of the World. The book examines the philosophies and tactics of the Citizens Alliance from its inception in 1903 to the passage of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, legislation that effectively inhibited the power of unions. For more information call 1-800-647-7827.

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