Politics: September 2006 Archives

Internment Camps

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Today's local news (KING 5) had a story about an "internment camp survivor." OK, I think the U.S. internment camps were a terrible thing ... but "survivor"? That's like saying someone is a Yosemite Park survivor: yes, some people tragically died, but it was rare and they were unfortunate accidents.

Maybe they just couldn't come up with another word. Maybe victim? Too wimpy ... maybe former prisoner? Too blunt ... maybe simply, internee? Whatever you choose, "survivor" implies death was expected, common, or normal, and that's simply not the case at all.

Of course, this is the same news program that earlier in the week had a graphic on the screen about the release of the "Intellegence (sic) Report." slashdot.org

Congressional Sex Scandal

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So the Republican mayor of Spokane, Jim West, is alleged to have had gay relationships with minors, though the allegations were never remotely proven. The left decries him. Typical Republican!, they say.

Now a Republican congressman apparently wrote sexual messages to congressional pages, at least one of whom was a 16-year-old male. The left is tearing him a new one ... so to speak.

Funny, but the left didn't have the same outcry when my former representative, Democrat Gerry Studds, had an actual sexual affair with a minor, male, page. This page was only one year older, 17. Indeed, the left today holds him up as a hero, and attacks the right for "demonizing" him.

Just ... funny. That's all.

(Side note: back then, there were only two openly gay Congressmen, Studds and Democrat Barney Frank. Studds was my rep from when I was born in '73 until '86, and then Frank was my rep from '96 to '03. I don't know much about Studds, since I was young, but my dad says even though he disagreed with him politically, that he was a good Congressman and a hard worker. I felt similarly about Frank. But none of that justifies the impropriety of what Studds did, and the Congress was absoultely right to censure him. Even if he weren't a minor, and regardless of his gender, you keep your hands off the pages, dude.) slashdot.org

Yes on I-933

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I-933 is a Washington State Initiative that, essentially, would force the government to compensate landowners when regulations reduce the value of their land. So if you tell me I can no longer build on 60 percent of my land because of some critical areas ordinance, fine, you have to pay me for that.

The local paper wrote a story this week, "I-933 costs could be billions".

Well, it's not true. A friend of mine -- one of my PCOs -- is a civil engineer who does a lot of work for the county. He intimately knows the technical details of many of the issues involved, and he's a sharp guy. He wrote this letter in response, which I present without comment, because none is needed.

The cost of land use regulations is already billions whether or NOT I-933 is passed. The study might be objective, but the reporting of this story certainly was not. The land use regulations are already costing us billions, the real problem is this cost is now unfairly carried by the few land owners themselves instead of all of the taxpayers, as required by law.

In effect this study confirms that state regulations have unconstitutionally caused regulatory "takings" of private property without compensation. So instead of the cost of these environmental regulations being paid by the taxpayer as they should, they are now carried by the relatively few unfortunate land owners subject to these regulations. If this private land is really worth preserving, under I-933 the lawmakers of this state will have to weigh the legitimate cost to be borne by the state against the presumed value of what we gain by preserving it. Currently the state unfairly requires the landowner to carry all of the cost of preserving the land.

In other words, if the people of the state benefit by preserving private land, either all or in part, than the people of the state should be paying for it, not the individual land owner.

The headline to this article should have more accurately read: "State costs property owners $8 to 9 billion in unconstitutional regulatory takings." Not likely we will ever see a headline like that in the Hearld, or even in the letters section. Clearly the authors of the study, and the reporting of it, were not very objective.

Peter Chopelas



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I just want to point out that this guy could have done this attack in Colorado without a gun. Having a gun just made it harder for people, especially government authorities, to stop him. Which is precisely why we must never take guns away from the people.

Which is also one of the biggest reasons I am working to stop a Democratic takeover of the Congress.

Now Playing: fessler - unkansas12

Clinton Goof

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Watching "Reliable Sources" on CNN today, only one out of six people though that Chis Wallace's questioning of Clinton was in any way inappropriate. And that one happened to be a far left liberal web site guy, John Aravosis. Even Arianna Huffington thought it was just fine.

And Aravosis could not even back up his claim that Wallace did something wrong. Instead, he talked about how it's refreshing that Clinton went into some detail about the issue. Well fine, but that's entirely beside the point that Clinton raised, which was that Wallace was somehow out of bounds to ask the question.

When pressed for a defense of Clinton's claim that Wallace's questioning was a "conservative hit job," he blurted out the tired old ad hominem refrain of the left, "well, it's FOX News!" Except, of course, that this is not merely FOX News, it's FOX News Sunday, a show that existed long before FOX News ever did, and is aired on the main FOX network, and is widely considered to be very fair (by people who actually know something about it, anyway).

And the rest of Aravosis' defense amounted to, well, the right is always attacking Clinton, so this is how he responds to that. Kurtz asked the obvious question: "Why is it in an attack?" Aravosis had no answer. It was amazing. He misrepresented what Wallace did (said Wallace claimed a certain book attacked Clinton, when he in fact did no such thing), and then went on to talk about the ABC movie from a few weeks ago, which Wallace was not a part of, and didn't bring up.

It was just amazing watching Aravosis accuse Wallace of things he didn't do, and blame Wallace for things other people have done, in an attempt to justify Clinton's actions.

I thought Wallace did a very good job in the interview, except for two points. First, his first question, I thought, should have had more detail in it, been more specific. Anyone who knows the real facts (as best they can be known) knows Clinton didn't do a lot that he could have, and there are many specific examples.

My second problem with Wallace's interview is that once Clinton opened the door to all this and then came back with incorrect statements of his own, I wish Wallace would have challenged Clinton. Clinton said, "I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill him," but there are many examples where he explicitly refused to give such authorization. Clinton said, "The CIA and the FBI refused to certify that bin Laden was responsible (for the Cole attack)," but Clinton had the authority to act regardless, or to go to Congress if he felt he needed to. Clinton said Clarke got demoted, but most people (other than Clarke) didn't think so at the time. And finally, and most importantly, Clinton kept bringing up Clarke, yet Clarke said -- more than anyone else, before or since -- that Clinton's administration repeatedly bungled opportunities to get Bin Laden.

Clinton's main problem (he even said the questions were legitimate!) was that, as Aravosis said, the questions came from someone at FOX News. Well, boo hoo. Sorry, but saying "I don't mind being asked that, but not by YOU" of a journalist that you agreed to sit down with makes you look like a baby or a moron. slashdot.org
So in researching the last journal entry about RFK Jr.'s article about Ohio, I e-mailed Jasjeet S. Sekhon, associate professor at UC Berkeley, and one of the members of the Ohio Election Task Force and researchers for the DNC report about the 2004 elections.

I asked him, in the context of what RFK Jr. wrote, about the statistical proof that there was causation, not mere correlation, regarding the low voter turnout where machine/voter ratio was low.

He didn't answer that question directly, pointing me to the paper I quoted in the last entry, and saying "sometimes it is possible to answer if one brings enough data and cleverness to the question." He asserted the butterfly ballot did cause Gore to lose in 2000: I'm skeptical, but I don't have the inclination right now to dig in, so I'll just link to the paper. Anyway, as mentioned before, I think the aforementioned paper failed to even claim proof of causation.

However, that's all a minor point, since, as Sekhon says repeatedly, "voting allocation issues were not large enough to change the outcome."

Regarding RFK Jr., though, he stated what I've been saying, that most on the left think I'm all wet about. Judge for yourself what this Democratic expert who thinks Gore won in 2000 has to say about RFK Jr., and claims that Kerry won in 2004:

RFK's article is misconceiving, socially damaging and simply wrong---much like his previous one on autism and vaccines. RFK selectively cites the DNC report. More voters supported Bush in Ohio in 2004 than Kerry. There is no scientific evidence that they did not. There were some irregularities (such as the allocation of voting machines), but they were not large enough to change the outcome. Bush won in 2004; Democrats have to admit that he really did if they are to fix their electoral problems much like how an alcoholic first has to admit that s/he has a problem.

Ouch. slashdot.org
Jaskeet Sekhon, one of the Democrats' statistical experts who put together the DNC report that RFK Jr. largely based his article on said in another article (from May 2006, a week before the RFK Jr. article as published):

... unlike Florida in 2000, there is no scientific evidence that any of the reported irregularities in Ohio [in 2004] rose to the level of changing the outcome.

So that would mean, in answer to RFK Jr.'s question, "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?," the DNC's own expert is saying: as far as the science tells us to this point ... No. No, it was not stolen.

The article is primarily about exit polling. Remeber this gem from RFK Jr.:

Over the past decades, exit polling has evolved into an exact science. Indeed, among pollsters and statisticians, such surveys are thought to be the most reliable.

When I read that, I was incredulous. Could he really think that? Sekhon doesn't buy it:

Exit polls have always been as much art as science and their problems have been getting worse just as presidential elections have been getting closer.

No kidding. And:

Given what we know, it appears to be the case that the official vote count for all of its difficulties was more reliable than the exit poll.

Not much more to say about that.

Anyway, I was looking all this up because Sekhon's name in the DNC report was the only reference to causation. RFK Jr. claimed scarcity of voting machines caused long lines which "forced people to leave" the polling place, and the DNC report didn't back that up. But I wanted to dig a little deeper.

From Sekhon's work I was led over to a paper by his colleagues, Walter Mebane and Michael Herron, also experts who produced the DNC report. This paper delves deeper into the data the DNC report references. They restate the primary claim:

Not providing a sufficient number of voting machines in each precinct was associated with roughly a two to three percent reduction in voter turnout presumably due to delays that deterred many people from voting.

Note that they do not say there was any provable causation. "Was associated with" is another way to say "correlation." They continue:

The key [statistical] result here supports the claim that a scarcity of voting machines caused delays (i.e., long lines) that deterred many people from voting.

Slam dunk for RFK Jr., eh? Weeeeeell ... no. They are not saying it proves the claim, only that it supports it. They continue:

The results are also compatible with an alternative explanation, however, which is that [Boards of Elections] allocated machines to precincts in relationship to their expectations regarding voter turnout and those expectations tended to be accurate at least in terms of the differences in turnout between precincts.

Obviously, we know from anecdotal evidence that long lines did exist. And we know that this would have been alleviated to a large degree with more working machines available. But what we do not know is whether, and to what extent, this actually caused low voter turnout, and how much other factors may have contributed.

Their data and analysis cannot prove that voter turnout discrepancies were caused by anything in particular; that is why they used the word "presumably," both in this paper, and in the DNC report. They can only support claims, not prove them. But RFK Jr. turned a low voter turnout "presumably due to delays" into an invented notion that voters "were forced to leave" because of delays.

Apart from him ignoring the fact that the data does not prove causation, RFK Jr. goes further and lies by saying these people showed up and left (the data just says they didn't vote, not that they ever came to the polls in the first place), and that they were forced to leave, rather than assuming that perhaps at least some of them left (or didn't show up) merely because they really didn't care all that much about voting; the lines may have discouraged more than forced, or, indeed, may have had a completely negligible impact altogether.

And then there's also the fact that the data suggests only a "roughly two to three percent reduction," and RFK Jr. takes "three percent" and treats it as a fact. So when RFK Jr. says, "[Because of long lines] three percent of all Ohio voters who showed up to vote on Election Day were forced to leave without casting a ballot," he is making up "three percent," "who showed up to vote," "were forced to leave," and "because of long lines."

Other than that, he's right on the money!

He could have said this more accurately, but it would have been far less sensational. Consider: "It is likely that long lines helped cause a two to three percent drop in voter turnout, with some people deciding to not show up to vote at all, and some leaving before getting a chance to vote." That in itself is fairly damning, and accurate. But it doesn't support his thesis statement -- that the Republicans stole Ohio -- so he lied.

The pair also offers evidence against more of RFK Jr.'s claims, especially on vote shifting, based on analysis of voting patterns between 2000 and 2004:

Strong similarities at the precinct level between the vote for Kerry (instead of Bush) in 2004 and the vote for the Democratic candidate for governor in 2002 (Hagan) present strong evidence against the claim that widespread fraud systematically misallocated votes from Kerry to Bush.

Remember, these are the DNC's experts, the people who wrote the report RFK Jr. heavily borrowed from (and misrepresented). slashdot.org

Shield Laws, Again

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Some San Franisco Chronicle reporters are facing possible jail time for refusing to testify about their supposedly confidential sources. Their lawyer said, "It would be a shame if they go to jail for doing their job."

Funny, that's what the drug dealers' lawyer said, too! slashdot.org

Chuckles Chavez

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Wow. Hugo Chavez. I've not seen a bigger clown in politics since George Galloway.

Even Charles Rangel and Nancy Pelosi are saying Chavez is an idiot.

I don't even consider what Chavez says worth responding to directly, except to say that it's incredible to me that people like Galloway (who calls Fidel Castro a saint) and Chavez come to America and call Bush the devil who is so terrible for freedom ... when if someone went to Venezuela or Cuba and said similar things about those leaders, they'd probably never leave.

It's kinda like all these dumb suburban kids who wear Che Guevara t-shirts, who, if they were living under Guevara, would have been some of the first lined up against the wall and shot.

Now Playing: Foo Fighters - Resolve

"Email voting"

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I got mail this afternoon, apparently in response to the article from today, which had the subject "Email voting," and read as follows:

What an atrocious idea. Email isn't secure and their are too many people who would want to hack to rig elections to prevent it. I believe we should have all mailballoting or at least paper balloting with counting done by hand just as when there is a recount. This is the only way I would feel comfortable with the results of our elections. I believe that Bush won both times by rigging the votes in Florida and Ohio. Thank you [NAME REDACTED]

Election Problems in Snohomish County

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I am running, unopposed, for Republican Precinct Committee Officer (PCO), the party representative of the precinct. These races are conducted, in the great state of Washington, during the primary every two years. On the electronic voting machines this year (made by Sequoia Voting Systems), my name was not listed. It was on the paper ballot, just not on the voting machine.

There were two lines under PCO: one was blank, and the other was for write-in. Imagine this picture (from two years ago), except instead of saying "Chris Nandor," there's simply an empty space. If you check off the blank space, my name shows up in the Review section (before you confirm your choices), and if you then cast the ballot, my name prints to the paper audit trail. But on the ballot selection itself, my name was just not being displayed.

Snohomish County Elections Manager Carolyn Diepenbrock looked into it and apparently, my name -- the name of the guy who was in the paper this very morning criticizing the County Auditor's office -- was the only one affected by whatever the problem is. Of all the names that would fail to display, it was mine. That seems very suspicious, though I think it is merely an incredibly embarrassing coincidence.

They tried and failed to fix the problem. Thankfully, as I am running unopposed, and won't be affected by this. And hopefully, it really did affect no other races. But they need to fix this before the general election in November, or at least make sure it doesn't affect any other races in that election.

I don't see this as evidence for why we should not have electronic voting machines; I see it as evidence for why we should require open source software for them. slashdot.org

Pudge and Newspaper

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The local paper published an article about me and all-mail voting. slashdot.org

Kennedy Jr. Again

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A few months ago I posted an article thoroughly debunking the primary claims made in an article RFK Jr. wrote for Rolling Stone, that 357,000 people were denied the right to vote for President in Ohio in 2004.

Well, this nonsense was posted on Slashdot this weekend. So if you saw that but didn't see the debunking, now may be a good time to revisit it, if you care.

Normally I don't care about such things to spend time on them, but RFK Jr. is flat-out lying, and Rolling Stone published it, and far too many people took these claims at face value.

Trust no one. Verify sources. Even if you hate Bush and think Ohio was maybe stolen, if you're a thinking person, you should be offended by the lies that RFK Jr. tells.

Now Playing: Pudge - I Did It Again


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Saw this silliness in a sig. The problem? For avid reader of this space, it's obvious: not one of the things he mentioned has anything to do with "neoconservativism." Indeed, "neo-cons" are more likely to agree with liberals on those issues than most other conservatives.

This user's only other journal entry is hilarious. It's called Intelligence vs Arrogance, which is funny because his only other journal entry is completely ignorant; and then he writes, "Pompous arrogant jerks have to tell the world why they don't need (or want to) communicate with those they deam (sic) less capable than themselves," which is especially funny since he has comments turned off.

Midday unintentional humor!

Now Playing: Monty Python - Meaning Of Life

More Ads

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So I saw a new ad, this time against John Groen, in favor of Gerry Alexander. It uses the word "EXTREME" a lot. It starts off with "Justice for sale?"

Then it says, "John Groen and far-right extremists are trying to buy our Supreme Court." If you count "running a campaign according to the laws set up by the legislature in order to win a seat on the Supreme Court" as "buying the Supreme Court," then sure. But then again, so Gerry Alexander, except he is doing it with "left-wing extremists."

"So extreme, they want to gut protections for our clean air and water." Yes, some of his contributors do. But Groen's only interest is upholding the law.

"They oppose stem cell research and a woman's right to choose." Not only are these not representative of Groen's views, they are entirely immaterial to the campaign, as these issues have little relevance in Washington state.

Then the whopper: "Special interests: skirting campaign finance laws; bankrolling John Groen."

"Skirting campaign finance laws" refers to the fact that the legislature set up new campaign finance rules for judges that went into effect June 1, and said that any money raised under the old rules before June 1 had to be spent by June 1. No problem: Groen did just that. And now he is being attacked for following the law.

It closes with "Keep our courts fair and impartial: vote for Gerry Alexander." Except, of course, they never even remotely made the case that Groen would not be fair and impartial. They only made the case that he has accepted donations from special interest groups, which is precisely what Alexander has done.

This ad -- from the left-wing Citizens to Uphold the Constitution (funded by service workers and teachers unions, local Indian tribes, and environmentalists) -- is not quite as dishonest as the BIAW ad supporting Groen, but it's pretty close. slashdot.org
Awhile back I thought about running for the county Charter Review Commission. My residency was six months or so short of required to be on the Commission (need three years), so, I didn't.

But another opportunity arose to participate. Six amendments to the County Charter were offered by the Commission for inclusion on the November election, and I volunteered to write some of the voter pamphlet statements. I'll be co-authoring the con statement for biennial budgeting, and the pro statement for moving the Performance Auditor under the County Council instead of the County Auditor.

I'll work with two other people on each of the 250-word statements. They are due September 26, and then the other side (pro vs. con) will get the statements, and then have three days to compose a 75-word rebuttal.

The pamphlets will then be mailed out in mid-October. slashdot.org

Crazy Ad

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Washington Supreme Court Justice Gerry Alexander is running for re-election (yes, we have elected judges here) and an ad against him ran tonight about a comment he made three-and-a-half years ago when a colleague on the Court, Bobbe Bridge, was arrested for drunk driving (with a blood-alcohol content of 0.219).

What was his comment? "I told her we were fully supportive of her. ... I think she's going to handle it in a forthright and honorable manner."

The ad says: "The very next day, Chief Justice Gerry Alexander publicly expresses supports for Bridge. Alexander backs bridge, despite her driving drunk with a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit."

Then it shows former Lewis County Sherrif John McCroskey saying, "What Gerry Alexander did was wrong. Justices must live by the same laws as everyone else."

Voiceover returns: "Gerry Alexander: Justice for who?"

I am not voting for Alexander. But where in the quoted story, or anywhere else, did Alexander even remotely imply that Bridge should not held accountable for her violation of the law? That she didn't have to "live by the same laws as everyone else"? That she should somehow not receive justice?

Alexander's opponent is John Groen. I don't believe he had anything to do with the ad. It was funded by "Time for a Change," the BIAW's PAC. The BIAW is a developer lobbying group that often funds and campaigns for Republicans and other conservatives. I can't find the ad online, though they do have this pro-Groen ad, which I have no problem with. It's straightforward and not deceptive.

But the one I saw tonight about Bobbe Bridge sure looks deceptive to me, and way below the belt.

On a related matter ... local Judge David Hulbert was cited for DUI a couple of years ago (although he refused breathalizer, because he said he was on meds that could confuse the machine, and he lost his license anyway); Senate candidate Mike McGavick recently made an admission that he was arrested for DUI 13 years ago. What is it with drunk driving officials in this state?

If I ever run for office, I can say: "Vote for me! I am a teetotaller, so you know I'll never drive drunk!" slashdot.org

Blanket Primary

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In the last few years, the political parties in the state of Washington have successfully overturned the so-called "blanket primary," which allows voters to vote across party lines on the primary.

The basic idea is simple: the primary exists for the purpose of choosing the party's candidate for the general election. If you choose to not affiliate with a party, then why should you get to help the party choose their candidate?

It's a compromise. The parties -- private organizations -- open up the process to the public, and in return, ask that the voters who choose to participate at least affiliate themselves with the party for the purposes of the primary.

And this is not even new to Washington: the caucus system here has always worked that way. If you caucus with one party, you can't caucus with another party. It's the exact same idea.

So fast forward to this year. The mail-in ballots require you to choose a party if you are to vote in partisan races. A whopping 22% in a random sample in Snohomish County failed to choose a party. Other counties had numbers from 5 to 14 percent. (Oddly, Snohomish County was one of the few counties -- I think King was the only other -- to have a primary last year, under these new rules; but I suppose turnout was so low, that most of the people who voted are more involved, and therefore better understand the issues involved, and were less likely to make mistakes or throw a fit.)

From that number alone, it's hard to tell if these were protests against the new blanket system, or mistakes, or merely choosing to not affiliate with a party.

Sam Reed, the Secretary of State, replied: "Any of these numbers are too high, when you consider a governor's race was decided by a fraction of a percent, the fact that these votes aren't going to be counted, I think is something that is alarming."

But it is perfectly reasonable to think that five or more percent of a population simply doesn't want to help either party select its candidates. But Sam doesn't understand that. By comparing this to the general election, he shows he has no understanding of what a primary actually is for. The partisan primary is not for everyone. It is only for you if you want to help one of the parties select its candidates. If you do not want to do that, you should not participate, because that is the only reason to participate. By definition.

Frankly, I think Sam Reed is just grasping at straws. You see, he is a Republican, but many Republicans -- for reasons just like this -- don't like him. He benefitted from the blanket primary because he got a lot of crossover votes from Democrats. That's not going to happen when he runs the next time. And that is as good a reason to be against the blanket primary as any.

One more thing about this stuff: a lot of people are complaining that their ballot should still count; that it shouldn't be discounted just because they made an "honest mistake." No, that's not how it works. If you can't follow simple and clear directions, your ballot should not count. That said, I wouldn't mind a rule that said if a ballot contained partisan votes only for one party, then that should have the same effect as having explicitly chosen that party. I don't see why that would be a problem. But it's too late now to change that rule.

The good news is that the partisan primary is -- in most of the state -- meaningless, as there's few seriously contested races. The only meaningful votes for most of the state are local ballot initiatives, and Supreme Court and other local judicial races, all of which are nonpartisan. So hopefully all this confusion and animosity won't have a deleterious effect, and will work itself out for the next time around, when it will matter a lot more. slashdot.org

Joseph Ralston

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Madeleine Albright's main complaint about "Path to 9/11" so far is that she didn't do something the film says she did (warn the Pakistanis about a missile attack on al Qaeda in Afghanistan). The 9/11 Report does not name who did it: it was Joseph Ralston. It only says it was "Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs." Ralston is named in only one place in the Report, on page 482, in a separate footnote related to the incident.

I found only one article about the film mentioning Ralston's name, too. After I found the name, I Googled for "ralston albright pakistan" and came up with a single CNN story that mentions him (and a few other places where this story was reprinted).

Just thought some of you might want to know. slashdot.org

The Path to 9/11: A Scorecard

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I am working on a "scorecard" for the ABC film to air tonight.

Feel free to send me information to include on it. I can't do this whole page on my own. slashdot.org

Howard Kurtz Spreads 9/11 Lie

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Howard Kurtz this morning on Reliable Source had an interview with William Cohen, in which they discussed the decision to not attempt to get Bin Laden in 1998.

Cohen said: "The recommendation was not to go, and it came from the CIA, not from Sandy Berger." Kurtz replied, "And that's what the 9/11 Commission says as well."

This is, of course, not true. The 9/11 Commission draws no conclusion about who made the decision, and says quite clearly that at least one of the people involved thinks the decision came from Berger. Maybe Kurtz has not actually read the 9/11 Report and is just regurgitating what others have told him?

Cohen goes on to say that we should not have the "real people who are involved in making decisions, and then have them saying or doing something that is completely contradicted by the record." Of course, portraying Berger making this decision is not contradicted by the record, since the record says maybe he did.

It's just boggling how many people get this wrong. It is a lie to say that the record says Berger did not make the decision. The claim that the record says Berger didn't do it is simply, totally, untrue.

Cohen also said what I've been claiming, which some on the left have said is nonsense: that however you slice it, the Clinton Administration tried, and failed, to get Bin Laden. They failed. He said, "We tried to get Bin Laden. We failed." Duh. That's the point.

At worst, this scene highlights the substance of that failure: either the plan was bad, or the decision-making was bad, or the opportunities were bad -- or all of the above -- but it was still a failure of the Clinton administration.

David Gergen said later in the show, "This is the very reason that this ABC miniseries is so objectionable. ... It gives [doubters of the 9/11 report] more ammunition to say, 'You see? They had a chance to grab him, and they didn't.'" Except that's true: they did have a chance to grab him, and they didn't.

Maybe it wasn't a good chance; frankly, what would be far more objectionable to me than the possibly true portrayal of Berger making the decision to kill it is inaccurately portraying why the decision was made, and I don't know how they portray that. If it was killed because there were serious doubts about the plan's viability (trustworthiness of the tribals who would execute the plan, Bin Laden's security measures, and so on) and the possibility of collateral damage, then that's fine. If it is for some other reason not mentioned in the 9/11 Report, that's not fine.

Kurtz also asked Cohen a remarkably stupid question, whether it was fair for ABC to ask Tom Kean to consult on the film, but not ask Cohen or any of his colleagues. Cohen properly answered that though Kean is balanced and fair, it might have made sense to ask Lee Hamilton as well, but that they had no obligation to ask any of the figures actually portrayed in the film.

And the same goes, by the way, for review copies. Giving prior review to subjects themselves is normally just not done. Many critics on the left don't understand that there's a big difference between commentators and historians (e.g., Limbaugh and Ben-Veniste), and the subjects themselves (e.g., Cohen and Berger). Apparently, Kurtz has a similar problem. Or maybe he just slipped up.

One more thing about all this: every movie ever made about historical events has had fictionalized scenes. Period. I've heard so many people complain about fictionalized scenes, you'd think that this was a reasonable criticism. It is, I suppose, if you attach this crticism to every single movie ever made about historical events. How is that interesting?

Some pundit this morning said, "CBS should have a stronger disclaimer." Stronger than "this movie contains fictionalized scenes and composite characters," or whatever similar statement that have already said they would have? If you're stupid enough to think this movie would possible be entirely true, even without a disclaimer, then a disclaimer isn't going to help you.

Max Blumenthal writes, "On Tuesday, ABC was forced to concede that 'The Path to 9/11' is 'a dramatization, not a documentary.'" "Forced to concede" something that was obvious to everyone, something they've said since the beginning of the project? What moron could possibly think this is a documentary? "What, you mean Harvey Keitel isn't a real FBI agent? And funny, that doesn't LOOK like Condi Rice ..."

It's one thing to criticize some things in the movie, say they are wrong. But to turn that into grand statements about how dramatic movies should never do something that dramatic movies always do in every single case ever, is just retarded.

The stupidest thing about this is that everything I've heard about this film so far, in the worst possible case, still makes it far more accurate than something that actually WAS a documentary, about the same subject: Michael Moore's mostly fictional "Fahrenheit 9/11." Yet most Democrats didn't seem to care that Moore fictionalized his documentary, and indeed, many of them praised it. And now they complain about tiny and mostly irrelevant fictionalized elements in a dramatic miniseries, which is supposed to be fictionalized.

So got that? According to these people, it is wrong for a fictionalized miniseries to be fictionalized, but perfectly fine for a supposedly accurate documentary to be fictionalized.

It boggles the mind.

I am not in favor of having Berger make the decision in the film; while the 9/11 Report does not say he didn't, and indeed says he may have, the strongest evidence is that it was Tenet. I am not in favor of having incorrect elements in the film in general, where they are avoidable. And I might even think the changes are inexcusable.

But let's keep some perspective: to most people it doesn't matter -- and shouldn't, because it is not important to their lives or perspective about the world around them -- whether it was Berger or Tenet who called off the meeting. These crimes of historytelling are not big deals, and certainly not as significant as Moore's many crimes, which the left excused categorically. slashdot.org

The crux of the leftwing attack on the new 9/11 film on ABC is that it depicts Clinton's National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, calling to tell our men in Afghanistan to cancel a planned attack on Bin Laden.

There is no dispute I can find that this phone call took place. However, if it is merely a dramatization of Berger's making the actual decision to call off the attack, then it is not so bad. Berger and the others on the left say no, that was Tenet. Look at the 9/11 Report!

Either they have not done so themselves, or are hoping you won't.

On page 114 of the 9/11 Report, the commissioners say:

Impressions vary as to who actually decided not to proceed with the operation. [Richard] Clarke told us that the [Counterterrorism Security Group] saw the plan as flawed. He was said to have described it to a colleague on the [National Security Council] staff as "half-assed" and predicted that the principals would not approve it. [The chief of the Counterterrorist Center, whom we will call "Jeff,"] thought the decision had been made at the cabinet level. [James Pavitt, the assistant head of the Directorate of Operations at the CIA,] thought that it was Berger's doing, though perhaps on Tenet's advice. Tenet told us that given the recommendation of his chief operations officers, he alone had decided to "turn off" the operation. He had simply informed Berger, who had not pushed back. Berger's recollection was similar. He said the plan was never presented to the White House for a decision.

So according to the 9/11 Report, we don't know who called it off, but one person intimately involved thinks it was Berger, and another thinks it was "Cabinet-level" (neither Berger nor Tenet are on the Cabinet, although many people think of the National Security Advisor as a member of the Cabinet, and certainly Berger would participate in most, if not all, Cabinet-level meetings on this topic).

Sandy Berger knows what happened, presumably. He can claim he never made the decision. But at least two other people much more knowledgable about it than anyone who is talking about it (except for Berger himself; and Clarke, who certainly doesn't know better than either of them) say they think Berger, or someone else higher than Tenet, made the decision. And them's the facts. slashdot.org

9/11 Miniseries

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My theory is that this 9/11 miniseries is far more critical of Bush than of Clinton, and that the Democrats are taking a page out of the Karl Rove playbook, complaining in order to drum up publicity for it, so more people watch it, and thereby get fed the anti-Bush propaganda.

Now Playing: hobbes - Let Go

Secret Prisons

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OK, hit me. Tell me why it is wrong -- either illegal, or why it should be illegal -- for the U.S. to have secret prisons for high-profile, non-U.S.-citizen, terrorists, where extra information about those suspects could be a security risk.

Also, I realize they may violate the laws of the countries they are in, but that's a separate issue. Not an unimportant or unrelated issue, but separate.

I am not saying I necessarily approve of them, and I absolutely do not approve of them for U.S. citizens, or bona fide prisoners of war. But apart from simply saying "secrets are bad, mmmmkay?," or "our allies don't like it," or "Kofi Annan says it's illegal," is there a reason why this is actually wrong or illegal?

Convince me! slashdot.org

We Are More or Less Secure

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Republicans and Democrats are bickering over whether, because of U.S. actions taken in the War on Terror, we are safer.

The problem with this argument should be obvious to everyone: the answer is unknowable.

There are two things to measure: how safe we are now, and how safe we were "before." "Before" can be defined in two ways: how safe we were prior to action being taken, or how safe we would be now without any actions being taken.

But none of those three things can be accurately measured. Of course, we obviously cannot know how safe we would be today if things had been different, since that requires speculation on what these past five years would have brought us, which is just impossible: I can just as easily argue that we would have been hit again, as I could argue that nothing more would have happened.

The other two are in theory possible to measure. But if we really had a good idea of how safe we were before 9/11, then I think we would have actually been able to stop 9/11. We didn't have the intelligence at the time, so I am highly sketpical that we can look back now and gain significantly more intelligence about that time than we had then.

And that brings us to how safe we actually are today: and again, we simply don't know. We may think we are in danger, and then nothing ever happens, and maybe it's because of precautions, maybe it is because we thought we knew something we didn't. Ask Americans on September 10, 2001 how safe they thought they were, and the answer is clear: they thought they were a lot more safe than they actually were.

I am not trying to scaremonger here. I think it is simply obvious fact that we don't know a lot more than we do know, and both sides are full of crap when they try to tell us categorically we are, or are not, safer. slashdot.org

John Adams Miniseries

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All-Mail Voting Moves Us Backward

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No one denies that mail voting has its advantages. You can vote whenever you want to vote, and you don't have to spend the extra time going to the polling place. And, of course, if you are physically unable to go to a polling place, this mere convenience becomes a necessity.

But the problems inherent in mail voting outweigh the benefits, when extended to the entire county. We should still keep mail voting for those who need it, but it should be the exception and not the rule; and it certainly should not be required for everyone.

The greatest problem with mail voting is simple: it is far more prone to error. The County Auditor himself, Bob Terwilliger — the man who pushed us to go to all-mail voting — argued as much just two years ago in the Herald when he explained why we purchased the then-new electronic voting machines (at a cost of $5 million). He noted that:

  • Mail voting is more prone to undervote problems, where voters may have mistakenly skipped a vote
  • Mail voting is prone to overvote problems, where voters may vote too many times in a section (which is impossible on the electronic machines)
  • Mail voting sometimes requires poll workers to guess what a voter's intent was, if there is any stray or unclear mark (which, again, is impossible on the electronic machines)
  • Mail voting tabulation is much slower, and much less accurate

And it's clear that more chances for error means more chances for fraud.

Similarly, recounts, like we had in 2004, are much slower with mail ballots, requiring long and expensive recount procedures. If such long and expensive procedures had a desirable outcome, they would be worth it; but such recounts are also much more error-prone, as ballots become damaged or lost, or new ballots found.

Of course, mail voting also relies on shuffling ballots to and from the voter via the postal system, which introduces even more opportunity for error.

If you never get your ballot, the onus is on you to resolve the problem by contacting the Auditor, presuming you realize there is a problem before it's too late. And, worse, if your ballot is stolen and filled out on your behalf, you might never even realize it.

If you contact the County about your missing ballot in time, they can void the forged one, if they haven't already rejected it via signature verification; but don't rely on that, as it's hard to have faith in signature verification done by pollworkers who received only a few hours of training, and it is easy for potential forgers to get access to signatures through the county's own web site, for anyone who has signed a public document, such as a deed on a house, or a PCO candidacy declaration. Signatures are not nearly as secure as in-person ID verification.

Even if you do receive your ballot and send it in, the onus is on you to follow up by contacting the County to make sure they received it (which, for this year at least, has to be done in person or over the phone, not online). And even then, you can't know that your ballot was tabulated properly.

Yes, most of these problems are not new ones, and indeed, many of them are inherent to all forms of paper voting. But in Snohomish County, we went to electronic voting machines because we recognized that there was a better way, one that solved, or mitigated, most of these problems. And we spent a lot of money to do it.

It's true that electronic voting machines have some problems of their own, but all of them are fixable; that's why the Secretary of State is requiring a paper trail, so we can accurately, if necessary, make sure the number in the machine is correct by checking it to the paper record.

But instead of moving forward to get the best voting system we can, we've taken a huge step backward, just to save a few bucks: literally, just $2.25 per voter, per year, over the first five years (if you accept the county's estimate of $600,000 per year for storage of the new machines, and ignore the increased costs associated with all-mail voting).

The County has done a fine job of upgrading its facilities and procedures to be more effective and to reduce error. They seem to be doing just about the best job that can be done with a mail voting system, and are to be strongly commended for that. But it doesn't change the fact that it's still a mail voting system: it still uses the postal service, it still uses amateur signature verification, and it is still far more prone to error and fraud than any other voting method in use in this state.

There is a single electronic voting machine available for use in Snohomish County. It's in the County Auditor's office, intended for use by disabled voters, but the County Auditor himself said they will not turn anyone away from using it. It can be used during regular Auditor hours from September 8 to Primary Election Day on September 19, and will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the 19th.

I am angry that the County has now made my vote more likely to be lost, destroyed, or improperly tabulated; in effect, because of the increased error rates, my right to vote has been diminished, along with everyone else's. Exercising my right to vote on the one voting machine in use by the County is one thing I can do to ensure that my own vote, at least, is properly counted.

Read more at http://pudge.net/voting/

<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from September 2006.

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