Saturday, December 18, 2004

Never Buy Chocolate as a Present for Someone Else

I did. I have been eyeing the package for two days, and tonight I attacked it, tore away the fancy wrappings and devoured the contents. Now I feel....sated. Not guilty at all, but it's not a good idea for me to buy chocolate that is marked out-of-bounds, especially if it has to stay in the house for a while. It's one of those natural laws that have no exceptions: Echidne Will Eat Your Chocolate.

Even Wingnuts Fear Wingnuts!

This article by Chuck Baldwin is going around the blogosphere. Baldwin is a pro-life Christian conservative. Where he differs from the other wingnuts is in his political affiliation: he doesn't vote Republican. In other ways he's a radical extremist, as he reassures us in the article.

Its main point, though, is to say that he thinks the Christian fundamentalists have gone too far. For example:

The willingness of the Religious Right to give President Bush king-like subservience is easily seen in the way they demonize anyone who dares to oppose him. This is very unnerving.
Are we heading for a modern day religious inquisition, this one led not by the Catholic Church but by the Religious Right? Are we witnessing the type of marriage between Church and State that America's founders originally feared?
I used to believe that liberals were paranoid for being fearful of conservative Christians gaining political power. Now, I share their trepidation.

I'm cynical about these kinds of conversions. Maybe Chuck would just like to have more wingnuts vote for his Constitutional Party instead of Georgie? But what he says here happens to be true, too.

Then Chuck ruins it completely by stating the following:

Of course, the sad truth is, neither George W. Bush nor the Republican Party in Washington, D.C. represents genuine Christian or even conservative principles. If they did, they would take their oaths to the Constitution seriously and then neither liberals nor conservatives would have anything to fear, for the U.S. Constitution protects the rights and freedoms of all men.

(Bolds mine.)
Via Kos diaries.

A Job Announcement

Want to work for me? I have expanded my blogging activities, and now need someone to make up my department of government relations.
The requirements? Here they are:

"Importance: High We need to hire a junior lobbyist/PAC manager. Attached is a job description. Salary is $85-90K. Must be a male with Republican stripes."

Just kidding. This is not my job search, it's one by the Viacom International. Honest. They haven't checked their federal lawbooks recently, I guess, or maybe they're just ahead of the crowd. Soon advertizing for male workers only will be every bit as acceptable as it was in the 1960's.

Christmas Thoughts

Well, sort of. I was thinking of good presents for wingnuts of various types, not that I buy presents to wingnuts, but if I would, what would be suitable?

Those who read might like Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, or George Orwell's 1984 or Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here (though it's not a good book, it is a wonderful description of the U.S. in the Bush era). Or maybe the Bible, given that most religious wingnuts don't actually seem to have read the book.

Those wingnuts who are into abstinence education would love to unwrap a box containing a chastity belt! They now make them for men, too, so it would be possible to be an egalitarian abstinent wingnut. Or maybe one of those inflatable dolls could have its very own safety belt? This would be a good present for those wingnuts who already have the doll.

I'm mean today. That's because I have to get all the meanness out of my system before next week when I will be hosting frail elderly relatives. You can take it. There's more of my vitriol on The American Street on Saturdays, and when I wake up I'll come back and post more drivel here, too.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Funniest Radio Commercial one I hear over and over when I listen to Air America. It tries to sell me a penis hardener which works for more hours than Viagra but doesn't take as long to work as herbal supplements! I'm offered my money back if it doesn't work, so I'm very tempted..

Anyway, the commercial touts some scientific sounding results: "In a medically supervised anecdotal study..." I love the cheekiness of whoever made this up. But it's still sort of wrong of course.

Faith-Based Research

Our friends at The Parents Television Council, the group that's responsible for practically all complaints about indecency on television, except those about Janet Jackson's mammary gland, are now trying their hand on research!

What they appear to find, based on the title of this article: "Study: Religion Portrayed Negatively on TV", is that the television entertainment programs bash religion. In fact, what they said they found was something quite different:

Television entertainment programs mention God more often than they did in the mid-1990s but tend to depict organized religion negatively, a study released Thursday said.
The Parents Television Council watched every hour of prime-time on the broadcast networks during the 2003-04 season and logged 2,344 treatments of religion. They judged 22 percent of the mentions positive, 24 percent negative and the rest neutral.

Given the obviously biased stance of these people, I'd love to see how they judged when a mention was negative! Actually, I'm pretty angry at this article. Research is something that people study for years before they attempt to do any;research is a difficult skill and requires a lot of care. It's not something that fanatic proponents of one view can do just like that and it's not something that articles should report as if it was real research. What's next? Echidne of the snakes' extensive investigation of the slurs against snake goddesses in the wingnut media?

This "study" also found out that members of the cergy were mentioned more negatively than religion in general:

But any mention of a religious institution or member of the clergy was at least twice as likely to be negative than positive, the council said.
"Ninety percent of the American people believes in God," said Brent Bozell, the council's president. "It is an important issue to most people. Hollywood is attacking the very thing that they consider important in their own lives. Perhaps Hollywood ought to be changing its world view."
Negative examples varied widely: from comic Jimmy Kimmel joking on the American Music Awards that winners should resist thanking God, to a Catholic priest admitting on "The Practice" that he had had sex with a woman who was later murdered.
Well-publicized scandals about pedophile priests made Catholics particularly vulnerable, the council found.
"Catholicism is in the bulls-eye of the entertainment medium," Bozell said.

Well, there is a reason for that, Mr. Bozell, and most sane people would agree that pedophile priests are hard to discuss without appearing negative. The right to practise a religion may be guaranteed in the United States, but I don't see anything that guarantees the members of the clergy immunity from criticism. Come to that, I don't see anything that requires us not to criticize religions when they deserve criticism.

Mr. Bozell is trying to make hay on the supposed election results about moral values being important to the voters, even though this has been shown to be false. He wants the media of this gigantic country to reflect the values of only those who belong to the Parents Television Council. Now that is immoral. And so is the way in which the linked article discusses the findings.

Today's Action Alert

Led by Media Matters for America and supported by MoveOn,, Free Press, Working Assets, Robert Greenwald (Director, Outfoxed), Alternet, and The Campaign for America's Future, we have launched a campaign to protest Sinclair Broadcast Group's continued misuse of public airwaves to air one-sided politically charged programming without a counterpoint.
Sinclair vice president Mark Hyman reacted to the nationwide initiative during an interview with Broadcasting & Cable magazine Tuesday, pointedly challenging "As soon as allows me to use their email lists and post to their Web site, maybe then we will have a conversation."

Media Matters for America today distributed a press release on behalf of supporters, questioning Hyman's attempt to equate his broadcasting company with an advocacy organization and announcing's counter-challenge. Hyman's comments prompted executive director Eli Pariser to offer, "If Sinclair will agree on a way to share its license to broadcast into millions of homes, we'll gladly send our members an email with a Sinclair message."

The campaign aims to spur action against Sinclair's use of the 62 television stations it owns or operates to systematically promote partisan political interests. Of particular concern is a nightly "news and commentary" segment titled "The Point", in which Sinclair vice president Mark Hyman consistently attacks progressives and prominent Democrats and ardently supports President Bush and conservative policies.

We are hopeful advertisers will join our effort to encourage Sinclair to balance the content of their news programming by offering equal air time for a counterpoint.
Please write a letter to at least one of the following large Sinclair advertisers: Kraft, Staples, Target, Geico, McDonalds, or Sprint. Urge them to encourage Sinclair to balance the content of their news programming by offering equal air time for a counterpoint.. The address for each of these advertisers can be found at Thanks!

Dreaming About a Victorian Revival

I read a book about Victorian England last night. The nineteenth century was not a good time to be poor. The tenements were full of families slowly starving to death. Work was at the will and on the terms of the employer, and there was no medical insurance or old age pensions for the poor. What they had, of course, was the ability to have very large families which they then couldn't feed. If the children survived, they might be lucky to find work in the mines and other places where being small was an advantage.

Of course I then dreamt about this, with the expected twist of having it all happen in the Bush era. For this is the direction to which the Republican party is slowly but surely steering the country. The privatization of Social Security is just one of the first baby steps in their long-range plans. Once privatization and cutting the benefits is accepted by all and sundry, it won't take very long before those who are better off will refuse to pay anything towards the old-age security of others. Let the churches take care of them! Well, that's what they said in the Victorian England, too.

An important obstacle in the way of this Victorian revival is the Interstate Commerce Clause. This innocent-looking clause is what is used as the constitutional hook to justify various laws, from those banning the use of child labor, through the civil rights laws of the 1960s to environmental protection. If this clause could be killed, the road to serfdom to some, great riches to others, would be so much easier to navigate. It is not likely to happen right now, but maybe in the not-so-distant future:

If the Supreme Court drifts rightward in the next four years, as seems likely, it could not only roll back Congress's Commerce Clause powers, but also revive other dangerous doctrines. Before 1937, the court invoked "liberty of contract" to strike down a Nebraska law regulating the weight of bread loaves, which kept buyers from being cheated, and a New York law setting a maximum 10-hour workday. Randy Barnett, the law professor who represented the medical marijuana users, argues in a new book that minimum wage laws infringe on "the fundamental natural right of freedom of contract."
In pre-1937 America, workers were exploited, factories were free to pollute, and old people were generally poor when they retired. This is not an agenda the public would be likely to sign onto today if it were debated in an election. But conservatives, who like to complain about activist liberal judges, could achieve their anti-New Deal agenda through judicial activism on the right. Judges could use the so-called Constitution-in-Exile to declare laws on workplace safety, environmental protection and civil rights unconstitutional.

Think of that. Scary, isn't it? Perhaps I'm exaggerating the threat here, but it seems that something strong is needed to counteract the constant hum from the media wingnuts (Social Security is in trouble! Culture of death! The poor at the teats of the government! Christians are oppressed!), the slow eradication of anything based on the moral values of fairness, justice and compassion.

Squeaky Clean Recounts in Ohio

The Ohio recounts are going on right now. The Ohio law states that three per cent of ballots must be hand-counted. These are then fed into the machines and if the two totals match, no general hand count of the county is necessary.

This seems a little silly to me. The only thing it is measuring is the ability of the machines to provide the correct tally now rather than on November 2, and only on those votes which were then deemed acceptable. Undervotes and overvotes are not looked at, and in most places the recount witnesses have not been allowed to study the polling book which would have the signatures of voters in it. This seems a total waste of time, and probably is not what the third party candidates had in mind when they asked for a recount.

In any case, the Ohio machines are so precise that fourteen counties have produced flawless results: not a single vote had to be reassigned! One that had less success decided to order a new machine and to test if that one would work flawlessly, too, instead of going on with the required hand-count. I'm not sure if I should laugh or cry, though it's all pretty funny.

The statistical likelihood of the recount matching the election findings exactly in so many counties is extremely small if the recounts were real. There are always the odd hanging chads or unclear markings by voters. But not in Kenneth Blackwell's Ohio, it seems.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Question of the Day

How many representatives of labor did president Bush invite to his economic conference?

Answer in the comments to this post.

Reframing the Debate

Here are some of my suggestions for new terms in the cultural war that has been declared by the wingnuts:

Old term: Eggs
New term: Unborn chickens

Old term: Children
New term: Unborn adults

Old term: Living human beings
New term: Undead corpses

We must take back the framing!

Good News from Botswana

Mosadi Seboko has been appointed chief of the Baletes tribe in Botswana. Overcoming the centuries' old tradition only allowing men to become tribal leaders, Seboko leads one of the eight largest tribes in her county. Seboko, whose first name means "woman" in the local language, was opposed by members of her late father's family who promoted her male cousin for the position. In response, Seboko, backed by her mother, seven sisters, and women's rights leaders, maintained to the tribal leaders that Botswana's 38-year-old constitution guaranteeing freedom from discrimination, and not custom, should prevail according to the New York Times.

Very nice. Too bad that we here in the U.S. appear to be sliding in the other direction: into more and more traditions and ole time ways of doing things. And yes, if you didn't get the secret message of this post, I'm fighting to try to get Christmas totally debunked. Or that's how a wingnut would read this post.

I'm not against traditions, actually. Many traditions are wonderful, such as worshipping snake goddesses. But unexamined copying of old mistakes is not, and here the Botswanans are showing us a better way of doing traditions.

Today's Message from the Wingnuts

Cynthia Davis is a Republican Missouri state Representative and a warrior in the war the wingnuts are waging on the rest of us. She is working on two bills, one to ban the teaching of contraception in Missouri schools and the other one to require the teaching of creationism in the same schools.

She tells us how we (the supporters of birth control and mainstream science)are like the 9/11 murderers:

"It's like when the hijackers took over those four planes on Sept. 11 and took people to a place where they didn't want to go," she added. "I think a lot of people feel that liberals have taken our country somewhere we don't want to go. I think a lot more people realize this is our country and we're going to take it back."


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Headache from Living in Sin?

That's how the most recent study about the relationship between health and marital status could be interpreted. Many studies have shown a positive correlation between good health and being married, though at least some of the early studies found this only for men. The popularization of this finding is to say that marriage is good for your health. In fact, these studies can't prove causality, and if causality exists, it could run in either direction: either marriage makes people healthier or healthy people are more likely to get and stay married. The most recent of these health-marriage studies is commendably careful about this:

Married people are healthier than other adults, other than a tendency for husbands to pack on some extra pounds, says the National Center for Health Statistics.
The center's report on Wednesday, based on a survey of more than 125,000 people, didn't specify reasons. But health statistician Charlotte Schoenborn said in an interview that there are two major theories.
One is that marriage may be protective of health. For example married couples may have advantages in terms of economic resources, social and psychological support and encouragement of healthful lifestyles.
A second possibility is marital selection, "the theory that healthy people get married and stay married, whereas less healthy people either do not marry or are more likely to become separated, divorced or widowed."

There are yet other possibilities. This study, for example, is based on answers from the individuals themselves, not on actual medical data. Maybe married people report their health differently from others? More importantly, age and marital status are linked and the very old tend not to married anymore. This could bias the findings if age has not been controlled for in the findings, as increasing age is the best single predictor of poor health. Some support for this idea comes from the fact that this most recent study found that the widowed had the worst self-assesment of health, and this group is likely to have a high average age.

Most of these health-marriage studies don't ask the respondents about domestic violence. This makes it hard to judge what the overall correlation between marriage and health might be, but it seems likely that marriage has a positive effect on at least the individuals' social health. It is well known that people with good social support networks have better health outcomes than those who are social loners. It would have been interesting to see how the results differ between people who have good marriages and those who do not.

The study didn't ask about how good the marriages were. Instead, they compared the married people's health to the health of those who were cohabiting, and here's the hidden moral message: cohabiting is bad for your health:

For most negative health indicators, adults living with a partner had higher rates than married adults: they were more likely to be in fair or poor health, to have some type of limitation of activity for health reasons and to have experienced low back pain and headaches ... and serious psychological distress," Schoenborn reported.

This is a little odd. Those cohabiting are likely to be younger, on average, than the married sample. I would dearly love to see the actual data here (on age, income and education at least) as well as some real medical data on the two groups. In fact, this finding is so odd that it makes me suspicious of the motives of the researchers. Is this another arrow in the war organized by the descendants of the moral majority movement?

Cohabiting should provide the same social support as marriage does, and this is what makes the finding so odd. If cohabiting actually is correlated with lower health in the United States this might be due to the way marital status is bundled together with goodies such as health insurance for the spouse. Those who live together without being married may have less access to medical care, which could result in long-term untreated health problems. In some areas of the country, "living in sin" could also cause societal disapproval and this could cause psychological problems in those exposed to it.

Whatever the truth about this, it's important to stress that these studies are not telling us to add marriage to our health promotion activities.

A Silly Picture

Via Democratic Underground.

Added: Darryl in the comments found the original photo:

Today's Action Alert

Today's Action comes from Kate at Eschaton:

Hey guys! Heads up!

Congressman Conyers has put out a call to action: he's hoping to get one million emails demanding that the entire House Judiciary Committee hold full hearings into the 2004 Election.

It's an easy thing to do, to send an email demanding a full investigation. Let's help him out, and assist him in getting an avalanche of a response. Cut and paste the address into an email and don't forget to send it to friends:

The Washington Post on Ohio

I'm posting on the elections in Ohio because the question of transparent and fair elections comes to a head there. This is the most recent article on some of the problems that voters in Ohio faced:

Electoral problems prevented many thousands of Ohioans from voting on Nov. 2. In Columbus, bipartisan estimates say that 5,000 to 15,000 frustrated voters turned away without casting ballots. It is unlikely that such "lost" voters would have changed the election result -- Ohio tipped to President Bush by a 118,000-vote margin and cemented his electoral college majority.
But similar problems occurred across the state and fueled protest marches and demands for a recount. The foul-ups appeared particularly acute in Democratic-leaning districts, according to interviews with voters, poll workers, election observers and election board and party officials, as well as an examination of precinct voting patterns in several cities.
In Cleveland, poorly trained poll workers apparently gave faulty instructions to voters that led to the disqualification of thousands of provisional ballots and misdirected several hundred votes to third-party candidates. In Youngstown, 25 electronic machines transferred an unknown number of votes for Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) to the Bush column.
In Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo, and on college campuses, election officials allocated far too few voting machines to busy precincts, with the result that voters stood on line as long as 10 hours -- many leaving without voting. Some longtime voters discovered their registrations had been purged.

But something more disturbing may have gone on with the "preparation" of the tabulators for recounts. The first two samples in the recount matched the original results exactly. This might be as astonishing as large deviations between the two.

Embroidered Activism

I wonder what George Bush thinks about this activist judge:

A rural Alabama judge began wearing a robe embroidered with the Ten Commandments to his Andalusia courtroom this week, echoing the statement made by the state Supreme Court chief justice ousted over a Ten Commandments display.
Covington County Presiding Circuit Court Judge Ashley McKathan said he ordered the robe and had it embroidered using his own money. He said he did it because he felt strongly that he should stand up for his personal religious convictions.
"Truth is an absolute value," McKathan said, "and you can't divorce the law from the truth. I feel we must resist the modern attempts to discount the truth."

The embroidery is in gold letters less than an inch tall.

I guess that this might be a new occupation for all those unemployed people: embroidering religious quotes on judges' robes...

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

New York Times on the Ohio Incident

I posted about this quite recently. This is what the New York Times reports on the incident:

Among other things, Ms. Eaton says in her affidavit that a representative of Triad Governmental Systems, the Ohio firm that created and maintains the vote-counting software in dozens of Ohio counties, made several adjustments to the Hocking County tabulator last Friday, in advance of the state's recount, which is taking place this week.
Ohio recount rules require that only 3 percent of a county's votes be tallied by hand, and typically one or more whole precincts are selected and combined to get the 3 percent sample. After the hand count, the sample is fed into the tabulator. If there is no discrepancy, the remaining ballots can be counted by the machine. Otherwise, a hand recount must be done for the whole county.
Ms. Eaton contends that the Triad employee asked which precinct Hocking County planned to count as its representative 3 percent, and, upon being told, made further adjustments to the machine.

The president of the Triad company said that adjusting the machines for a recount is standard procedure.

Indecent Olympics

The FCC seems to be investigating the opening ceremonies of the 2004 Summer Olympics because of at least one indecency complaint it has received! This is beginning to remind me of the Victorians who are said to have covered the legs of their pianos because they were called "legs". In any case, a diary on Kos suggests that this picture might be the aim of the investigation:

Too bad that such vile and indecent pictures are an inherent part of Greek history.

Oh, in Ohio!

Some heady rumors abound!

David Cobb, the unsuccessful Green Party presidential candidate, aired startling allegations at the Democratic House Judiciary Committee's Columbus hearings Monday, alleging that a voting company representative tampered with voting equipment in Columbus last Friday and attempted to plant false information into the Ohio recount.

Cobb says that a witness who had requested anonymity watched a representative of Triad Systems enter the Columbus Board of Elections unannounced and tamper with a vote tabulator which then lost all data.

The representative then, Cobb said, tried to convince employees to post false information so that it would appear as if the data was valid and had never been lost.

On Competitions

My previous post on the Koufax nominations left me with this "worms in the stomach" feeling, a mixed feeling of embarrasment and shame and some guilt thrown in, too. Because I really do hate competitions of all types. I have either always won the competitions in my life or come dead last in them, and this may have something to do with my hatred. That, plus the fact that intellectually I know competitions of this sort to be very uninformative.

I don't like to win, because if I win, others lose, and it's my fault. But I don't like to lose, either, because then I'm a worthless goddess, good for nothing. These are the emotional (and immature) reactions. My intellectual responses are more complex, and vary by type of competition. The types that depend on a jury that compares the performances of the competitors on several dimensions are problematic, and the more so the more varied the dimensions of this performance are.

Blogs are very different from each other, and any attempt to rank them by competitions is bound to fall short of perfection. In some ways the Koufax nominations are like trying to have one big competition for all written word, from Shakespeare to the most recent issue of your local newspaper. This doesn't make sense, but that's what we do, and having several categories doesn't help very much.

Some blogs are like large chatrooms, with many bloggers mainly passing out short links to news events that the participants then discuss. Other blogs are written by professional journalists. Yet others are written by specialists who have spent years studying one topic in detail. Most blogs are by amateurs who also have jobs and families and other responsibilities. It's not fair to compare such diverse forms of blogging, even if group blogs and expert blogs are made into separate categories.

Even the way "politics" is defined varies among the many lefty blogs. Some of us define politics more widely than others, and these wider definitions are not universally accepted. The narrowest definition of a political blog seems to require that it blogs about the Bush administration and the war on Iraq. If these two are not included, then the blog is not truly "political". This leaves out some very interesting political blogs. Also, many blogs that I read contain more than just pure politics, and such blogs, too, are underrepresented among the Koufax nominees.

All this means that I don't have much trust in the ability of any award, including the Koufax award, to rank blogs in a meaningful way. Why then, you might ask, did I beg people to nominate me? The answer is in the visibility one gains by doing well in these kinds of competitions. If I believe in what I'm doing with this blog (and I do believe in it, most days), then I want to have more readers, and the publicity of a nomination will help with that.

But it gives me worms in the stomach.

It's OK If Republicans Do It

This is Ann Coulter attacking Donna Brazile, who is a Democrat and an African-American:

Sure enough, Brazile was instrumental in not letting a couple of white boys - named Al and Joe - win the election. I guess that's liberals' idea of a "competent" black woman

This is Ann Coulter attacking Harry Reid, who is a Democrat and white, for criticizing Justice Clarence Thomas who is African-American:

Most recently -- at least as we go to press -- last Sunday Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, had this to say about Justice Clarence Thomas: "I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written." You'd think Thomas' opinions were written in ebonics.


The 2004 Koufax Nominations

These nominations are now open. The Koufax awards are all about lefty blogs, and there are several different categories for various types of blogs. I strongly urge you to go and nominate those blogs that you think deserve more attention. As things are, the same well-known blogs are nominated over and over again, and though they obviously deserve the attention, it would be nice to see some more competition there. Especially from blogs by women which is right now an underrepresented category in the nominations.

All this means that you should go and nominate my wonderful blog in any category that you see fit. I'm too modest and too well-behaved to nominate myself, though I clearly deserve to be up there with the other divinities. I write well, for example. Don't I? And I have a really good series called Rara Avis*. And I'm funny. Of course there are people better than me in all these categories, but I could at least be nominated. Couldn't I?

You know, I hate this "blow your own trumpet" stuff, but it is so important these days to do exactly that.
*Here are the links:
Rara Avis I: Wendy McElroy
Rara Avis II: Rush Limbaugh
Rara Avis III: Laura Schlessinger (Dr. Laura)
Rara Avis IV: George Will
Rara Avis V: Caitlin Flanagan
Rara Avis VI: George Bush

Monday, December 13, 2004

On Today's Ohio Hearings

This is an interesting article on the Ohio hearings. A snippet:

Affidavits were also filed in support of the election challenge suit raising questions about manipulating exit poll results and computer tabulation of county and statewide votes.
In one exit poll affidavit, Jonathan David Simon, an expert witness, notes that at 12:53 a.m. the exit polls altered the projected winner – even though the same number of votes had been cast. "Although each update reports the same number of respondents (872), the reported results differ significantly, with the latter (12:53 a.m.) exit poll results apparently having been brought into congruence with the tabulated vote results." In other words, the exit polls were made to conform to a political decision to declare Bush the victor.
Another exit poll affidavit, filed by Ron Paul Baiman, an economist and statistician at the University of Illinois and University of Chicago, said the swing in national exit poll results, recorded at 12:33 a.m., when Kerry was winning with 50.8 percent of the vote, to Bush winning with 51.2 percent, was, "in lay terms, impossible."
"This is more than a 100 percent swing in the other direction of the exit poll margin, he said. "There is less than a one in 25,000,000 (1/25,507,308) chance of this occurring."
Another affidavit by Richard Hayes Phillips, a geomorphology Ph.D. from University of Oregon with a special expertise in spotting anomalous data, found dramatic examples of erroneous voting patterns – with votes taken away from Kerry - that can only be explained by computer manipulation.
For instance, in 16 precincts in Cleveland, he found votes that were shifted from Kerry to other candidates. In at least 30 precincts, there was ultra-low voter turnout reported – as low as 7.1 percent or 13.05 percent – and seven entire wards where total turnout was below 50 percent. He writes, "Kerry won Cleveland with 83.27 percent of the vote to 15.88 percent for Bush. If voter turnout were really 60 percent of registered voters, as seems likely based on turnout in other major cities of Ohio, rather than 49.89 percent as reported, Kerry's margin of victory in Cleveland has been wrongly reduced by 22,000 votes."
Phillips points to other counties where has says "there is compelling evidence of fraud." In Miami County early on election night, when 31,620 votes had been counted, and later, when 50,235 votes were counted, "Kerry had exactly the same percentage, 33.92 percent, and the percentage for George Bush was almost exactly the same, dropping by 0.03 percent from 65.80 to 65.77 percent. The second set of returns gave Bush a margin of exactly 16,000 votes, giving cause to question the integrity of the central counting device for the optical scan machines. "
He cites many other examples, but summarizes his findings: "It is my professional opinion that John Kerry's margins of victory were wrongly reduced by 22,000 votes in Cleveland, by 17,000 votes in Columbus, and by as many as 7,000 votes in Toledo. It is my further professional opinion that John Kerry's margins of defeat in Warren, Butler, and Clermont Counties were inflated by as many as 37,000 votes in the aggregate, and in Miami County by as many as 6,000 votes. There are still 92,672 uncounted regular ballots that, based upon the analysis set forth of the election results from Dayton and Cincinnati, may be expected to break for John Kerry by an overwhelming margin. And there are still 14,441 uncounted provisional ballots."

I can't comment on the accuracy of any of this as I was unable to participate in the hearings. Too much religious stuff to do with the snakes; winter solstice is nearing.

The End of Men?

Christine on ms. musings notes that the NPR's All Things Considered will air a three-part program titled "The End of Men". The first part will be aired this afternoon.

I'm not going to listen to it, but this is what the NPR website tells us about the plot of this interesting science-fiction story:

The Y Chromosome: A Primer
Each of our cells contains 23 pairs of chromosomes. Twenty-two of those pairs are matched pairs, shared by men and women. The 23rd is different.
In women, the 23rd pair is made up of two X chromosomes. In men, it's made up of an X chromosome and a Y chromosome. That Y chromosome determines maleness in humans -- it holds genes necessary for forming testes and making sperm.
Y So Lonely?
The fact that it doesn't have a matching pair poses a bit of a problem for the Y chromosome.
All the other chromosomes come in two copies. Every time a cell divides, mistakes in genes can creep in. In paired chromosomes, that means that if there is a mistake on one chromosome, a cell can always get the correct gene sequence from the other chromosome.
Over time, mistakes have crept into the Y chromosome, too. But every time a gene on the Y chromosome went bad, it basically disappeared. Scientists theorize that the X and Y chromosome started out with about the same amount of genes -- about 1,000. Today, the Y chromosome has less than 80 genes.
Hope for Y's Future
Some geneticists think the Y chromosome is now little more than a genetic wasteland that will eventually just disappear. If that were to happen, it would certainly spell the end of sexual reproduction.
But David Page of MIT's Whitehead Institute vigorously disagrees. "At the same time that it is continuing to lose genes, it's found some new ways of replenishing itself," Page says.
Last year, Page and his colleagues reported a finding that brightened the outlook for the future of men: The Y chromosome has been secretly creating backup copies of its most important genes. These are stored in the DNA as mirror images, or palindromes -- which read the same way forwards and backwards. ("Madam, I'm Adam" is a famous example.)
In Y chromosome palindromes, the first half contains the gene and the second half contains the same information, just in reverse.
That means that many of the genes on the Y chromosome do occur as pairs. Page says members of these pairs appear to be swapping out or recombining with each other -- allowing the genes to repair themselves when they get damaged.

This is all just plain silly. Men are not dying out. They are roughly one half of all human beings, and there is no practical method of nonsexual reproduction for us humans. I'm not sure why NPR would want to broadcast this particular series, but I can guess some of the impact it might have: it sensationalizes something that is really just speculation within the biological science, and it oversells the importance of whatever is being discussed. This is science-fiction, after all, at least as far as anybody living now or in the foreseeable future is concerned.

It might also add wind to the sails of the "men are oppressed" camp, especially if victimization is ok for them but not for other groups. Whether this happens depends on how the series actually runs, but I'm pretty disappointed in the NPR not only going more wingnut but also more sensational.

Compare this approach to how the media talks about the disappeared girls in India and China. We don't hear about "The End of Women?", though the actual evidence here is much stronger.

Ok. I admit that I have written a whole post based on the advertizing on the NPR website, and that I should really listen to the series before I open my divine mouth. But that is boring and this is my blog.

Europeans Don't Like Bush

And they don't like the Americans very much anymore, either, at least in some countries. According to a new AP-Ipsos poll:

Polling found that Bush is viewed favorably by a majority of people in the United States. But that is not the case in Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
A majority of people in Britain, America's strongest ally in the Iraq war, have an unfavorable view of Bush. Six in 10 Britons said they were disappointed he was re-elected.
In Canada, about the same number of Canadians said they were disappointed with the re-election. The president was asked last month during a trip to Canada about various polls that show Canadians and Americans drifting apart.
"We just had a poll in our country where people decided that the foreign policy of the Bush administration ought to stay in place for four more years," he replied.
Just over half of the people in France, Germany and Spain had an unfavorable view of Americans, but a solid majority in Australia (69 percent), Britain (60 percent), Canada (80 percent) and Italy (56 percent) expressed a favorable opinion.

The most interesting finding of this poll is that what the Europeans are expressing is not the usual anti-Americanism, but something different:

The polls suggest an increasing lack of understanding about Americans in Europe, rather than a surge of anti-Americanism, said Corman, who studies public opinion trends in Europe.
"The predominant feelings about Bush's re-election in the European countries are disappointment and surprise more than anger," he said, noting that anger about Bush's re-election was higher in Spain.
"Above all, they appear to be worried about the consequences of this election," Corman said.

This is correct, I believe. The Europeans I have talked to simply don't understand what's going on in this country. They ask me if Americans have gone crazy, and then I have to give them a long educational lecture on the wingnuts. European wingnuts are mostly of a much tamer subspecies, though of course they have more Islamic extremists there. There is a continental chasm and it's getting wider, I'm afraid.

The Bush administration doesn't care about the public opinion abroad, because Bush is, by their own definition, always right. So if foreigners don't like what we are doing it's because what we are doing must be the right thing to piss off all those hostile foreigners. And in any case, foreigners are wussy wimps and the U.S. doesn't need the approval of wussy wimps. Besides, Europe may very well be the continent where the Devil will rule when Rapture comes about.

Saner Americans do worry, of course.

Today's Action Alert

Reverend Pat Robertson called Kwanzaa "an absolute fraud" during the news segment of Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club December 6. After lamenting that "left wing educators, left-wing judges are stripping every vestige of our Christian heritage," Robertson, host and Christian Coalition of America founder, said: "Kwanzaa is an absolute fraud. You know, there was no festival in Africa called 'Kwanzaa.' I mean, it's made up by a bunch of hippie-types on the West Coast. I mean, it's not something that goes back to Africa. No way."
Kwanzaa is an African American holiday celebrated in African communities around the world. It was founded in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, professor and chair of the black studies department at California State University, Long Beach. The official Kwanzaa website notes that Karenga founded Kwanzaa as "an African American and Pan-African holiday" based on ancient African history and culture. Celebrated from December 26 through January 1, Kwanzaa is rooted in "the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name." According to Karenga, "The name 'Kwanzaa' is derived from the phrase 'matunda ya kwanza' which means 'first fruits' in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language." Karenga also notes that Kwanzaa "draws from the cultures of various African peoples, and is celebrated by millions of Africans throughout the world African community."

Today's action is to write a letter to your local newspaper calling Robertson a bigot and asking why he feels the need to criticize other people's holidays.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Kerry Joins in the Ohio Recount Effort

Breaking news, as they say. Apparently John Kerry has sent a letter to the eighty-eight county boards of election in Ohio, and this letter spells out eleven items that Kerry wants to see addressed in the recount. Among them is this one:

Democrat John Kerry is asking county elections officials to allow his witnesses to visually inspect the 92,000 ballots cast in Ohio in which no vote for president was recorded, a Kerry lawyer said Sunday night.

Other points in the letter concern the accuracy of the equipment used in the counting process.

It's kind of interesting that tomorrow is the day when Ohio electors cast their votes for George Bush.
Link via Democratic Underground.

Election Inaccuracies: a Review of the Evidence

I have been following all the different threads of evidence, debate and discussion about the 2004 presidential elections, and this has sometimes meant donning the tinfoil armor and still getting bombarded by rotten tomatoes. Many want to just forget about the elections and to focus on the future, others wish some sort of closure before they can start reading about "Bush Disasters, Chapter 2". If you belong to the former group, stop reading right here. This is intended for the latter group and for all the tinfoil hat folks among us.

What I want to do here is to give a very short summary of the various avenues that have been taken in trying to understand whether these elections were acceptably non-fraudulous and accurate or whether they were not. My intention is not to make a theory about what happened or to indicate any overall judgment on the outcome; simply, I hope to show what is happening in this field outside the so-called liberal media and outside the so-called Democratic Party.

If all you want is a very very short summary of the issues, this article by Alan Waldman covers most of the issues and gives the major pieces of evidence. Its tone is somewhat partisan but there are no actual distortions.

The Evidence

This consists of several types:

1. Evidence indicating that voters were mislead or hampered in their attempts to vote. The number of incidents is very large from all parts of the country, but there are states which are especially nasty in this respect, and Ohio is one of them. Some people argue that voting machines were allocated so that voters in predominantly Democratic areas did not have the same ability to vote as voters in predominantly Republican areas. Minorities, in particular, suffered from this.

2. Evidence of problems in vote counting in recording. Once again, these problems come from many areas of the country, but most of the research has focused on Ohio. Several Ohio counties have shown impossible vote totals (higher than the number of registered voters) and extremely perplexing patterns of more votes to the libertarian party candidate than Kerry in predominantly black areas of Ohio. Other oddities abound. The Warren County lockdown on election night in Ohio is one of these oddities and it has not been adequately explained.

3. Unacceptable conduct by some election officers, especially by Kenneth Blackwell in Ohio. His directives have been based on party-politics and recently he appears to have put a lockdown on Ohio voting information. This is not legal if it is true.

4. Circumstancial pre-election evidence. All the traditional signs before the election indicated a different outcome than the one that took place. No satisfactory explanation has been given for the remarkable turn in the events.

5. Exit poll discrepancies with the actual votes. The exit polls appear to have been either correct or biased towards Kerry. While this is possible, the actual data on the exit polls has not been made available to outside analysts, which means that it is not feasible to study whether this actually is the case. The study of exit poll data by statisticians such as Steven Freeman may indicate that the likelihood of the observed exit poll deviations from the actual vote is very small if the exit polls are truly drawn from the same population as the votes. Thus, either the exit polls were biased, but not in all states, or the voting results themselves are incorrect.

It would be possible to cast further light on this by looking at exit polls for other races than the presidential one. If these races show the same bias in exit polls as the Kerry-Bush race, then it is more likely that something was wrong in the exit polls themselves. But this data is proprietory!

6. Statistical analyses looking at aberrations in the voting data. Several of these kinds of studies have appeared on the internet, some much better than the others. Refutations also abound. The problem with statistical studies of this kind is that they cannot tell why any particular voting data would seem aberrant. Thus, however important these kinds of studies might be, they are not actual evidence of voting problems. What they do provide is information on the places where one should dig deeper.

7. Possible information of actually fraudulent acts in the elections. Here is where we enter the twilight zone in some ways. It is important to stress that I have no way of judging which evidence is reliable and which evidence is not, but in general the amount of evidence that has been made public by various individuals is insufficient for the evaluation that is needed.

I am aware of three major strands of work into this:
a) The efforts by Beverly Harris and her Blackboxvoting crew in Florida.
b) The articles by Wayne Madsen on the alleged financing of vote fraud in the elections.
c) Clint Curtis' affidavit. He is an alleged whistleblower on election fraud.

None of these strands seems to have provided evidence that I would call reliable and convincing, but this doesn't necessarily meant that none of them has any merit. I just have no way of knowing whether that is the case or not, but I'd recommend extreme care and sceptism before venturing into a deeper study of these theories.

In addition to these theories, various accusations have been made in Ohio and elsewhere.

I have omitted much and simplified the rest. There is no real alternative to that if I wish to spend less than a thousand pages on this topic. I have also said nothing about the activities that are taking place concerning possible election inaccuracies, and there are many such activities. Google Cliff Arnebeck if you want to know what might happen in Ohio tomorrow.

On Family and Marriage as Wingnut Memes

"Family" and "marriage" are political codewords these days. They are both something that the conservatives are supposed to support and that us liberals are supposed to hate. As one of my friends said to me during the 1990's early family campaigns, "Who on earth hates the family?" We do, it seems. But his point is an important one: the word "family" means something very different to the conservative movement than what it might mean to most of us. We are likely to think of our own families or families in general when we hear this word.

But the conservatives have in mind a very specific type of family, and that is the only type of family for which they are fighting. This family has a father who goes out to work long hours every day, it has a mother who stays at home and it has lots of children that the mother probably home-schools. The father is the head of the household and the mother is his helpmate. The children obey the parents in everything.

Understanding this is crucial. This is the family that is being advocated through the wingnut websites. These sites have a lot of information about the dangers of daycare and the perils of wives who work. They also have many quotes from the Bible to support the idea of the servant-leader husband.

When feminists, for example, attack the wingnut campaigns they are immediately labeled as evil for hating the family. What they are criticizing, of course, are all these hidden underpinnings which aim to make sure that women are brought back into the patriarchal framework, but this is hard to make clear when the word "family" doesn't have the wingnut definition for most people.

The same analysis applies to the more recent campaigns about marriage. The conservatives are not trying to defend just any old marriage, and to argue that marriage in general is under threat is insane. What is under threat, however, is the patriarchal marriage, and when you analyze the conservative language closely you notice that this is the concept of marriage that conservatives apply.

The conservatives view marriage as the place where patriarchy is recreated: where a new generation is born and educated in the conservative ideology. A marriage without children is not therefore really a marriage in their eyes. In a way, marriages are the factories which have been built to produce children, and any other view of marriage is ridiculous in their eyes.

But there is something deeper to this view of marriage and that is the subjugation of women. When conservatives say "traditional marriage" they mean a marriage in which the man rules the roost. This is intricately tied to the previous bit of definition, for what are women for if not for making babies and bringing them up as good conservatives. A real conservative marriage will not have wives who go out to work or wives who are equal to their husbands.

Once marriage is interpreted in this manner, the whole resistance towards same-sex marriage is understandable. If the two spouses are of the same gender there is no "natural" way to assign leadership, there is no "natural" way to decide who is to be subjugated, and the whole concept of the patriarchal marriage collapses. No wonder that same-sex marriage is such a button-pushing issue for the conservatives.

New campaigns have been created to fight "voluntary childlessness" and according to some rumors, the Catholic Church will be joining the wingnuts in these. It is easy to see why conservatives oppose childless marriages for other than natalistic reasons: they allow far too much freedom for the women. Hence also the drives to ban contraceptives, of course.

The subjugation of women is such an integral part of all types of fundamentalisms that it might as well be called their major defining characteristic. Take out the unequal status of women and most fundamentalist ideologies are left with nothing to tie their rules together. It might be a good idea for us feminists and profeminists to look at every fundamentalist argument using this lens. We might be astonished and aghast at how much it explains.