Research methodologist Steve Freeman and statistics professor Josh Mitteldorf, in the 2/15/05 In These Times, write that a report by last year's exit pollsters failed to show that the exit polls were inaccurate. On 1/19/05, Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, the two companies that polled for a consortium of the nation's five major broadcasters and the Associated Press, reported that the discrepancy between the exit polls and official tallies in key states were "most likely due to Kerry voters participating in the exit polls at a higher rate than Bush voters." But the body of the report offers no data to substantiate this position, Freeman and Mitteldorf write. "In fact, data presented in the report serve to rebut the thesis, and bolster suspicions that the official vote count was way, way off. The report states that the difference between exit polls and official tallies was far too great to be explained by chance ('sampling error'), and that a systematic bias is implicated."
On average, across the country, Bush did 6.5% better in the official vote count, relative to Kerry, than the exit polls projected. The study found the greatest variance in precincts with touch screen, optical voting and punch-card systems. Only in precincts that used old-fashioned, hand-counted paper ballots did the official count and the exit polls fall within the normal sampling margin of error.
The biggest discrepancies were noted in Republican strongholds, Freeman and Mitteldorf noted. "In those precincts that went at least 80% for Bush, the average within-precinct-error (WPE) was a whopping 10.0 -- the numerical difference between the exit poll predictions and the official count. That means that in Bush strongholds, Kerry, on average, received only about two-thirds of the votes that exit polls predicted. In contrast, in Kerry strongholds, exit polls matched the official count almost exactly (an average WPE of 0.3)." And while the pollsters claimed that the discrepancies may have been due to Kerry voters being were more likely to complete the exit poll interview than Bush voters, in fact, Bush voters were slightly more likely to complete the survey: 56% of voters completed the survey in the Bush strongholds, while 53% cooperated in Kerry strongholds.
"The exit polls themselves are a strong indicator of a corrupted election. Moreover, the exit poll discrepancy must be interpreted in the context of more than 100,000 officially logged reports of irregularities during Election Day 2004. For many Americans, if not most, mass-scale fraud in a US presidential election is an unthinkable possibility. But taken together, the allegations, the subsequently documented irregularities, systematic vulnerabilities, and implausible numbers suggest a coherent story of fraud and deceit.
"What's more, the exit poll disparity doesn't tell the whole story. It doesn't count those voters who were disenfranchised before they even got to the polls. The voting machine shortages in Democratic districts, the fraudulent felony purges of voter rolls, the barriers to registration, and the unmailed, lost, or cavalierly rejected absentee ballots all represent distortions to the vote count above and beyond what is measured by the exit poll disparity. The exit polls, by design, sample only those voters who have already overcome these hurdles."
Ironically, Freeman and Mitteldorf noted, the Bush administration used the discrepancy between exit polls and official results in the Ukraine to insist that election was stolen.
See the Freeman's and Mitteldorf's article and a comprehensive analysis of the Edison/Mitofsky report at www.inthesetimes.com.
The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005, HR 550 by Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., requires voter-verified paper ballots plus mandatory manual audits, increased security, prohibits undisclosed software and more. The Voting Integrity and Verification Act of 2005, S 330 by Sen. Jon Ensign, R-Nev., and HR 704 are narrowly focussed on voter-verified paper ballots. For more information see verifiedvoting.org. A new bill, the Count Every Vote Act, sponsored by Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, provides a voter verified paper ballot for every vote cast in electronic voting machines and ensures access to voter verification for all citizens, including language minority voters, illiterate voters and voters with disabilities. The bill mandates that the paper ballot be the official ballot for purposes of a recount. It also improves security measures for electronic voting machines, designates Election Day a federal holiday and requires early voting in each state.
AARP SURROUNDED BY CRITICS: AARP is under attack from the organizers of last year's swift boat veterans who slandered John Kerry's Vietnam service. USA Next, a right-wing group that has supported George W. Bush's proposals on tax cuts, energy and the Medicare pharmaceutical subsidies, has hired the swift boat veterans' consultants to lead the assault on the seniors organization for opposing Bush's Social Security privatization campaign. It plans to spend as much as $10 million to attack AARP (2/21/04 New York Times). USA Next's first ad, "The Real AARP Agenda," was a typical slimer that showed an X over a picture of a US soldier in desert fatigues, and a checkmark over a picture of two men kissing, without offering any explanation. Nathan Newman notes at NathanNewman.org that AARP is still taking shots from progressives for supporting Bush's Medicare prescription drug plan last year. Newman notes that the Medicare prescription drug plan was "less than ideal," but the 2006 fiscal budget has a new line item of $46.7 bn for the Medicare drug benefit. "To the horrors of many conservatives, that is a massive expansion of the program and, whatever its flaws, it irrevocably established the principle that prescription medicine should be covered by Medicare -- which will just increase pressure to expand the scope of the program in coming years," Newman writes.
CONVERSIONS ON ROAD TO REALITY: David Sirota of the Center for American Progress (thinkprogress.org) noted 2/21/05 that the behavior of several right-wing Washington, D.C., politicians who have headed back to their states as newly-elected governors shows just how out of touch today's conservative ideology is with solving real problems. "As a congressman, Ernie Fletcher was a reliable vote for Bush administration cuts to health care and Medicaid. Now, as governor of Kentucky, Fletcher told Fox News in January that he's 'very concerned about any cuts' to Medicaid proposed by the president," Sirota wrote. "Similarly, as a congressman, Bob Riley was a reliable vote for Bush-backed tax cuts to the richest 1% of the country. But as governor of Alabama, Riley pushed a statewide initiative to raise taxes on the rich and wealthy corporations. But perhaps the biggest hypocrite of all is Mitch Daniels. As President Bush's Budget Director, Daniels was a top point man in ramming massive tax cuts for the wealthy through Congress, and gutting spending for critical programs. Now, as governor of Indiana, he is facing the ramifications of his actions in Washington -- and proposing exactly what he railed against.
"In some ways, it is laudable that Daniels and other right-wingers are embracing more progressive positions. But the sincerity of their ideological conversion is dubious -- they are merely up against budgetary reality, and desperate for solutions. And that is exactly why what they are doing is so dangerous to conservative hacks like Grover Norquist. The actions of Daniels and his fellow converts, motivated by a need to address reality rather than push ideology, provides proof that the progressive agenda can better address America's real-world challenges."
BUSH DRUG HYPOCRISY: When a tape emerged 2/20/05 with George W. Bush discussing his use of illegal drugs in his youth, it was no surprise to people who knew Bush in Houston, or at Yale, or during his checkered stint in the Air National Guard in the 1970s. It would be unseemly to dwell on personal problems that he apparently has put behind him, except that as governor he signed bills that tightened the state's drug-sentencing laws, OK'd 16-year-olds in adult jails and slashed funding for alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs in Texas prisons. As Robert Bryce noted for Salon.com (8/24/1999), then-Gov. Ann Richards had pushed 14,000 treatment beds at a cost of about $160 million per year. She cited a 1988 study that said almost 80% of Texas inmates had some form of drug abuse and 54% needed treatment for severe addictions. Bush attacked Richards' idea, saying "Incarceration is rehabilitation." He prevailed at the ballot box and in 1995 the Legislature, with Bush's prompting, cut Richards' program from 14,000 beds to 5,300. Since becoming president Bush has channeled federal drug and alcohol rehabilitation funds through faith-based organizations, many of which rely on scriptural readings and proselytization instead of drug or alcohol counselors.
US WANTS DEMS TO STAND UP: Fully 60%, including one-fourth of Republicans, say Democrats in Congress should make sure Bush and his party "don't go too far," a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll reported 2/18/05. Just 34% want Democrats to "work in a bipartisan way" to help pass the president's priorities. By 45% to 5%, Democrats say new Democratic Chairman Dean will project a positive image rather than a negative one; Republicans say the opposite by 37% to 19%. Independents divide more evenly.
DEAN DRAWS DEM INTEREST: While many "mainstream" pundits ridiculed the Democratic National Committee for selecting Gov. Howard Dean as its new chair, Democrats.org, the online home of the DNC, has experienced 120% jump in the number of daily visitors since Dean was selected, Garance Franke-Ruta noted 2/18/05 at The American Prospect Online. The huge spike in interest from Democrats across the country was matched by an increase in new members -- the rate of new people joining the Democratic Party online has jumped by over 60% since Gov. Dean took office.
STATES ACT ON MINIMUM WAGE. Congress shows little inclination to increase the federal minimum from its current $5.15-an-hour level, which is 40% below the purchasing power of the 1968 level, so state and local authorities are taking up the responsibility. US Sen. Edward Kennedy's bill to raise the federal minimum to $7.25 is going nowhere, but 123 cities and counties have passed living-wage laws, which mandate higher minimums for certain categories of workers, and city-wide minimum wage hikes covering all workers were approved in four cities (D.C., Santa Fe, San Francisco, and Madison). The campaign for decent wage standards has shifted to the state level, as 31 of the states, plus the District of Columbia, have either set a higher minimum wage or have bills in their legislatures that would do so. David Swanson of the International Labor Communications Association (ilcaonline.org) wrote 2/21/05 at DavidSwanson.org that 14 states, plus D.C., have created minimum wage levels higher than the federal, although, in the case of Florida, the law has yet to take effect. Washington, Oregon and Florida have indexed their minimum wage levels to automatically increase each year with the cost of living, thus eliminating the need for an annual campaign to prevent the minimum wage from losing value. Even where minimum wage bills are bottled up by legislators, petition campaigns are underway, led by the community group ACORN, to put living-wage propositions on ballots in Arizona, Ohio and Michigan in 2006. Voters in Nevada, like those in Florida, passed a minimum wage increase last November, but initiatives in Nevada must pass twice. The second vote will come in 2006. See www.livingwagecampaign.org.
APPALLING. Tom Tomorrow remembers at ThisModernWorld.com that when he visited the museum at the former Dachau concentration camp, many years ago, there was an exhibit of photographs intended to viscerally illustrate the sheer inhuman brutality of life in the camp. One of these photos showed a prisoner hanging from a tree by his wrists, which were tied or cuffed behind his back -- one of the more painful positions into which the human body can be forced, according to the exhibit's accompanying text. "I hadn't thought of that image in several years -- until I read this: 'An Iraqi whose corpse was photographed with grinning US soldiers at Abu Ghraib died under CIA interrogation while in a position condemned by human rights groups as torture -- suspended by his wrists, with his hands cuffed behind his back, according to reports reviewed by The Associated Press. The death of the prisoner, Manadel al-Jamadi, became known last year when the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke. The US military said back then that the death had been ruled a homicide. But the exact circumstances under which the man died were not disclosed at the time. The prisoner died in a position known as 'Palestinian hanging,' the documents reviewed by The AP show. It is unclear whether that position was approved by the Bush administration for use in CIA interrogations."
US OK'D ILLICIT IRAQ OIL SALES. The Treasury Department provided assurances that the US would not obstruct two companies' plans to import millions of barrels of oil from Iraq in March 2003 in violation of UN sanctions, according to an email from one of the companies. Diplomats and oil brokers have said that the US had long turned a blind eye to illicit shipments of Iraqi oil by its allies Jordan and Turkey, the Washington Post reported 2/17/05. But the email, along with others released by Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), ranking Democrat on the Senate Governmental Affairs panel's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, provides evidence that the Bush administration directly abetted Jordan's efforts to build up its strategic reserves with smuggled Iraqi oil in the weeks before the US invaded Iraq in March 2003.
RIDGE MET WITH GOP POLLSTERS DURING CAMPAIGN. Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge met privately with Republican pollsters twice in a 10-day span last spring as he embarked on more than a dozen trips to presidential battleground states, according to records obtained by The Associated Press reported 2/17/05. Ridge's get-togethers with GOP strategists Frank Luntz and Bill McInturff during a period the secretary was saying his agency was playing no role in Bush's re-election campaign were revealed in daily appointment calendars obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act. "We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security," Ridge told reporters during the election season. His aides resisted releasing the calendars for over a year, finally providing them to the AP three days after Ridge left office this month. "We did not discuss homeland security in a presidential campaign context," said Susan Neely, a former assistant homeland security secretary who attended the May 17 session with Luntz and Ridge. "We asked him his impression of how well we were explaining whatever the issues were of the day. There was no follow-up meeting."
ED SEC'Y: US AGAINST THEM: New Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who took office in January, told the *New York Times* (2/14/05) that Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, had invited her to Utah and she expressed eagerness to visit there. "These are Republicans," she said. "These are our people."
AMERICAN UNION PLANNED. An influential tri-national panel has considered a raft of proposals for an integrated North America, including a continental customs union, single passport and contiguous security perimeter, the Toronto Star reported 2/16/05. According to a confidential internal summary from the first of three meetings of the Task Force on the Future of North America, sponsored by the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, discussions also broached the possibility of lifting trade exemptions on cultural goods and Canadian water exports. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow said the summary, a copy of which was obtained by the Star, was "disturbing" and "shocking."
"What they envisage is a new North American reality with one passport, one immigration and refugee policy, one security regime, one foreign policy, one common set of environmental, health and safety standards ... a brand name that will be sold to school kids, all based on the interests and the needs of the US," she said.
CATHOLIC CAUTION ON FRANKENFOODS. Catholic leaders around the world are standing up against the biotech industry's claim that the Vatican endorses genetically engineered (GE) crops. Biotech proponents have trumpeted a portion of a report released by the Vatican last year. In one part, the report stated that it is the Catholic Church's stance that God gave humans the right to manipulate and control the natural environment on any level, including genetic engineering. The biotech industry failed to mention that the report also states that GE crops should not be spread unless they are conclusively proven to be safe for human health and the environment. The Vatican report elaborates on that point, indicating that the Catholic Church does not believe adequate testing of GE crops has been done, saying, "available scientific data are contradictory or quantitatively scarce. It may then be appropriate to base evaluations on the precautionary principle." See www.organicconsumers.org.