Friday, December 10 2004
BENDING DEMOCRACY UNTIL IT BREAKS:
On Wednesday U.S. Representative John Conyers, ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, held an "unofficial hearing" to review voting irregularities in Ohio. Conyers opened the hearing by saying:

"The one question I am asked more than any other about the voting irregularities in Ohio is whether John Kerry was the true winner of the election. My answer is that I do not know."

According to the text of his remarks, the Michigan Democrat followed this by declaring quite conspicuously in the present tense that "I very much want John Kerry to be the next President of the United States." With his very next breath, however, Conyers assured the public that, "this is not about John Kerry, this is about the voters."

The Reverend Jesse Jackson was on hand to demagogue the issue with remarks so rote and predictable they can be summed up accurately, if not comically, by their seven word title: "From Selma to Palm Beach to Columbus." In a fit of delusion so great it would make Don Quixote blush, Jackson said, "I urge the Congress to act before Michael Moore comes back and exposes the violations and the capitulation again." You simply cannot make this stuff up.

Other objective voices of moral and professional authority speaking before the Conyers "hearing" on Wednesday included Steve Rosenfeld, a senior producer for Air America Radio.

And Representative Sheila Jackson Lee stood out by delivering a stem winder full of reprehensible rhetoric and racial divisiveness. Here is but a small taste from Ms. Lee:

"Sadly, I can ask question after question about this election and hear nothing but silence from the Republican Party. The reason for this silence is evident; they fear the truth is not in their favor. Truth is the friend of those who are righteous and the devil of those who seek injustice."

Now, given all that you've just read, you would expect the Conyers hearing would be agitating over voting irregularities so great, so egregious and so systemic that they constituted a massive conspiracy to specifically disenfranchise African-American voters. You would, of course, be wrong.

Here are a few examples from the summary of irregularities Conyers and Co. are investigating:

  • Cuyahoga County. [MACHINE] Arrows on absentee ballots don’t line up with the correct punch hole. “If absentee voters cast their vote by trying to line up the arrow with the punch card, they could punch the wrong number.”
  • Franklin County. [MACHINE] In Columbus, Ohio, overcharged batteries on Danaher Controls ELECTronic 1242 systems kept machines from booting up properly at the beginning of the day. Matt Damschroder, Franklin County Board of Elections Executive Director, admitted to Franklin County Commissioners that 77 machines malfunctioned on Election Day.
  • Knox County. [LINES AT POLLS] Where voters use touch-screen units, long lines developed and voters turned to a federal judge for help as the time grew near for polls to close. To speed the voting, some of those voters were given paper ballots.
  • Hamilton County. Cincinnati. [LINES AT POLLS] People stood in line for over an hour in the rain in some places only to find they were in the wrong line. A lot of them gave up and went home.
  • Hamilton County. [ABSENTEE BALLOTS] At least two absentee ballots did not include Kerry’s name. Workers accidentally removed Kerry when removing Ralph Nader’s name.
  • Hamilton County. Cincinnati. [MACHINE] Problems with punch card voting machines delayed the start of voting for up to an hour Tuesday morning at a suburban precinct. Voters were unable to slide their punch-card ballots all the way into any of the six voting machines that had ALL evidently been damaged in transit.
  • Hamilton County. Cincinnati. [INTIMIDATION] Voters and vote monitors complained that the GOP precinct judge was questioning every voter about his or her address and “being a jerk about it.”
  • Mahoning County. [MACHINE] One precinct in Youngstown, Ohio, recorded a negative 25 million votes, which was discarded from official results. [ES&S iVotronic voting machines]
  • Mahoning County. [MACHINE] The glass on top of one ES&S iVotronic voting machines was too far from the screen, making it difficult for people to use their fingers to cast ballots. A screen went blank on a Youngstown voter while he cast his ballot.

This doesn't look like a massive conspiracy to me. Nor does it look anything like Selma in the 1960's. What it does look like, and what it really is, is an open election held by human beings in a state in which more than 5.6 million people cast ballots.

Elections will never be perfect. Voters will make mistakes. Election officials will make mistakes as well. Machines will break and there will be confusion. It's foolish to think otherwise when you're trying to facilitate a process for 120 million people to express their opinions within the space of a single day. You can wail and moan over the imperfections in the system, but that really only amounts to crying over the spilt milk of democracy.

Of course we should strive for perfection, even if it is unattainable. And we should do our best to wring instances of fraud and intimidation out of the system as much as humanly possible.

But that's not what is going on here. This is partisan political theatre of the worst sort designed to undermine the integrity of the process. This is a group of Democrats, in the wake of losing another bitter election, taking the myriad of imperfections inherent in our process and blowing them up, stringing them together and assigning heinous motives of conspiracy and racial oppression.

As I mentioned on Wednesday, they do all of this using the self-righteous, morally superior credo that they want to "count every vote." Except they're only interested in counting "all the votes" in Ohio, because that is the only state in America where the outcome of the Presidential election could possibly be altered.

Let's be even more specific: only the truly delusional believe the outcome of the election will be changed. The Democrats don't even believe it themselves, which is why they aren't willing to call for a delay to the certification of the results. But by continuing on with lawsuits and "investigations" alleging voter intimidation and suppression in Ohio (and its decisive 20 electoral votes), Democrats can cast doubt and illegitimacy over Bush's reelection. This isn't going to improve the process or enhance American democracy, but it will help sow racial distrust and division and further the warped Oliver Stone conspiracy theories and the "we wuz robbed" mentality of many on the left.

It would be funny if it weren't so damn tragic. There is something otherworldly about the sight of partisan demagogues who prance and preen under the auspices of saving democracy when what they're really trying to do is to subvert it. - T. Bevan 11:30 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Wednesday, December 8 2004
ONE WAY TO AID WOUNDED TROOPS:
From Hugh Hewitt's excellent blog:

The number ONE request at Walter Reed hospital is phone cards.

The government doesn't pay long distance phone charges and these wounded soldiers are rationing their calls home. Many will be there throughout the holidays.

Really support our troops --Send phone cards of any amount to:

Medical Family Assistance Center Walter Reed Medical Center 6900 Georgia Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20307-5001

They say they need an "endless" supply of these -- any amount even $5 is greatly appreciated.

I'm sure there are many ways to support the troops, but this seems simple, straightforward and sounds like it will be much appreciated by our wounded troops. J. McIntyre 5:56 pm Link | Email | Send to a Friend

BRINGING BALLOTS BACK FROM THE DEAD: Many of you won't be shocked or surprised by this article in today's Seattle Times. In the impending third recount in the Washington state governor's race, Democrats are petitioning the state Supreme Court to compel counties to reexamine some 15,000 previously rejected ballots. In other words, they want county officials to look at and rule again on ballots that each respective canvassing board has already looked at and declared invalid.

Presumably, Democrats would be on hand to issue challenge after challenge to these ballots, turning the entire system inside out and upside down to come up with the 43 votes they need to get their candidate into the governor's mansion.

All of this is happening despite a 1996 memo issued by the Secretary of State that said quite clearly that:

"The recount procedure provided for by statute is a mechanical function of re-tallying the ballots cast and accepted as valid by the precinct election officers or the canvassing board during the canvass of the election. The decision of the canvassing board with respect to the inclusion or exclusion of a particular ballot during the canvass is not open to question during the recount."

Furthermore, many county election officials in the state including Dean Logan, the head of elections for the largest county in the state, say they flatly disagree with the interpretation of the recount statute Democrats are using as the basis of their lawsuit:

"I don't see anything in the statute that gives us the ability to go back after the election," said Dean Logan, head of King County elections. "I think the recount statutes are written in a way that contemplates you're only going to recount ballots that were counted in the first place."

I know what I'm about to say will sound intensely partisan, and perhaps it is. But once again we have an example of Democrats running roughshod over election law in pursuit of power, all the while self-righteously wrapping themselves in the mantra that "every vote must be counted." Frankly, it's sickening.

So is the implication that by following the law Republicans are somehow obstructing democracy and preventing all the votes from being counted. All the ballots in this race that were cast validly have been counted and recounted according to the letter of the law. Now they are going to be counted a third time.

To be honest, in the larger scheme of things I could care less whether the governor of Washington state is a Republican or a Democrat. What I do care about is that regardless of the outcome, both parties adhere to the law and not try to retroactively engineer a victory through the courts when following the law doesn't produce the desired results. The only exceptions to this rule should be cases where substantial evidence of vote fraud or voter intimidation/suppression exists. That is certainly not the case in this race.

Nor was that the case with the Bush-Gore debacle in Florida in 2000 or in the Torricelli-Lautenberg switcheroo in New Jersey in 2002. Whatever your political persuasion, it's an undeniable fact that over the last few years Democrats have been increasingly willing to turn to partisan lawyers and legal shenanigans as a tactic to gain and hold political power. Instead of resolving real and legitimate election disputes, Democrats are now using the courts as a tool for creating them. - T. Bevan 9:30 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Monday, December 6 2004
THE GOVERNMENT ON 'ROIDS:
Yesterday on FOX News Sunday Senator John McCain said it's time to to "introduce legislation if necessary" to deal with the ongoing steroid scandal in Major League Baseball. McCain offered the following justification:

Now, somebody watching right now is going to say, "How is it any of your business?" Anti-trust exemption was granted by Congress to organize baseball, and also it's got to do with interstate commerce. So we do have a role to play.

"We do have a role to play." Interesting phrase. You don't have to be an unrepentant free-market libertarian to see this as a colossal overreach and a true waste of government resources.

Let me digress for a moment to say that I am not even remotely close to an expert on this issue. But the anti-trust exemption McCain is talking about originated in a 1922 decision by the Supreme Court. Furthermore, the exemption's primary aspect over the years has dealt with the ability of owners to move franchises and players to move among teams. Finally, no other sport has ever been granted a similar exemption, though boxing, football, basketball, hockey and golf antitrust exemptions have all been sought - and denied - by the courts.

Back to the issue at hand. McCain says we must pass legislation for the good of kids everywhere:

The important aspect of this issue is not Barry Bonds or Jason Giambi or Gary Sheffield. The important aspect of this issue is that high school kids all over America believe that this is the only way they can make it. Ask any high school coach.

This is the tragedy of steroids. And we all know that it will destroy a young person's body. And that's why we've got to bring this to a halt.

McCain says it's not about the individual players, it's about the drugs. He wants to separate the two, because otherwise you'll know that what he's really trying to do is legislate the behavior and the ethics of role models in professional sports - something that simply can't be done.

Barry Bonds is a hero to hundreds of thousands of kids around the country. But it also looks like he's a cheater. That's a crushing blow to some and a disappointment to others, but the choices Barry Bonds or Jason Giambi or Gary Sheffield make are not something the U.S. government should be involved in trying to manage.

Major League Baseball is a business and a brand. They can and should manage their business in whatever manner they see fit to try and make it both as popular and profitable as possible. If Bud Selig thinks it is in baseball's best interest to have a bunch of jacked-up roid mongers swatting balls out of the park every night, fine. But odds are he won't do that because in the long run it will lessen the appeal of the nation's favorite passtime. In other words, it's bad for business.

It's the same reason David Stern dropped the hammer on Ron Artest and friends last month in response to the Pistons-Pacers brawl. Stern is concerned, quite rightfully, that the NBA brand is jeopardy of being overrun by the image that NBA players are out of control thugs.

Unfortunately, the one thing that McCain is probably right about is that President Bush would "love" to sign legislation mandating drug testing in baseball. President Bush is a fan of baseball. So am I. But I also believe in smaller, less intrusive government. Isn't that what the President constantly says he believes in too?

THE BIG, BAD BCS: While we're on the subject of sports, the undefeated Auburn Tigers and the Cal Bears, whose only loss came against top-ranked USC, got shafted by the BCS last night. Instead, Big East champ Pittsburgh got a birth in the Fiesta Bowl with a 9-3 record.

I suggest we get John McCain to propose new legislation to deal with the unfairness of the BCS formula. Young people's lives are being ruined by it.

Congress has already tried unsuccessfully to meddle on this issue once before, but what the heck. Since there are millions of additional dollars at stake for BCS Bowl bids, McCain can claim government authority under the auspices of regulating "interstate commerce." And Bush can sign the bill because he's a big fan of college football.

THE OBSESSION OVER NEWSPAPER ENDORSEMENTS: People obsess over newspaper endorsements every election year. This year, however, you may recall in the two weeks leading up to the election many on the left and in the media seemed particularly obsessed with them.

Specifically, there was a great deal of attention paid to the fact that some 40-plus papers that endorsed George W. Bush in 2000 either switched to endorse Kerry or refused to endorse a candidate at all. The suggestion made by some was that this shift among the editorial class was a possible harbinger of a move against Bush among the broader electorate. I guess not.

According to Wikpedia, Kerry finished the endorsement race with 208 papers with circulation totaling 20,791,336 and Bush came in with 189 newspaper endorsements with a combined circulation of 14,455,046.

One final ironic twist. This year, the percentage of endorsements each candidate received represented an almost exact inversion of the percentage of electoral college votes they received:

 
Newspaper
Endorsements
Electoral College
Votes
Bush
47.6% (189)
53.2% (286)
Kerry
52.4% (208)
46.8% (252)

This year merely confirmed yet again what we know to be true: while newspaper endorsements have some influence in local and state races where voters may not know the candidates and are seeking some guidance, at the federal level newspaper endorsements don't mean squat. Of course, this won't stop some from obsessing over who endorses whom in 2008. - T. Bevan 10:30 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

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