Saturday, November 6, 2004

GOP Values In Action

From Empire Notes:

These are two email responses to the author's comments on the US attack on Fallujah:

how dare you call Americans ruthless................with the animals that occupy that city


However, having killed my own number of ragheads and my strong support of genocide of the Arab race and Muslim religion, stands. These are a people who have no business living. None of them. Women, children, old men and any other filthy pig fucker. We should systematically eliminate them all.

You just can't make this shit up, and yeah, those were apparently Americans who wrote those comments. So, to take a line from James Blood Ulmer, are you glad to be in America?

Friday, November 5, 2004

How Did Bu$hCo Compare to Other Incumbents?

Not that impressively if we put it into historical context. About the closest reference point to Bu$hCo's margin of victory was Woodrow Wilson's 1916 squeaker - a but amusing when we consider that the neocons who have driven much of Bu$hCo's foreign policy have been labelled as neo-Wilsonian. Go figure.

    • Assuming Bush gets New Mexico and Iowa, he will have gotten the lowest percentage of electoral votes (54%) of any incumbent running for reelection since Wilson. If those two states should swing Kerry's way (NM might), it'll be even lower.
    • He will have won with the lowest percentage of the popular vote (51%) of any incumbent running for reelection since Truman (well, technically since Clinton, but he also ran against Perot, who was a more significant 3rd-party candidate than Thurmond and Wallace were in '48)
    • He will have won by the lowest margin of the popular vote (3.5M) of any incumbent running for reelection since Truman (2.1M, and back then only 50M voted).
    • He will have won the three states that put him over 270 (OH, NM and IA--assuming the last two go his way) by only 161,989 (not counting the provisional ballots, absentee, etc.).

The graphic pretty well says it all. Mandate, my ass.

Another perspective on the 2004 election

This time from Ruy Teixeira:

3. The need for white working class support. The last three elections (2000, 2002, 2004) have all had strong ‘culture war’ components that have severely depressed white working class support for Democrats. Recall that Bill Clinton actually carried the white working class (whites without a four year college degree) by a point in both his election bids. But in 2000, Al Gore lost these voters by 17 points; in 2002, Democratic congressional candidates lost this group by 18 points and this year, the situation appears to have worsened further. That is implied (though not proved) by the finding, cited above, that Democrats lost whites as a whole by 5 points more than 2000 and another exit poll finding that Democrats’ slippage by education group was concentrated entirely among the non-college educated. (Kerry split the college-educated evenly with Bush, just as Gore did in 2000, but, where Gore lost the non-college educated by just 2 (49-47), Kerry lost them by 6 (53-47).)

The fact of the matter is that Democrats cannot win when they do so badly among this very large constituency. John Judis and I always believed that the trends we described in The Emerging Democratic Majority could underpin a majority coalition given reasonable (not majoritarian, but competitive) performance among white working class voters. Alas, this does not qualify as reasonable performance.

Democrats’ difficulties with this group surely have a great deal to do with these voters’ sense of cultural alienation from the national Democratic party and its relatively cosmopolitan values around religion, family, guns and other social institutions/practices. Even the war on terror has increasingly become more a cultural issue linked to patriotism than a true foreign policy issue for many of these voters.

Given this sense of cultural alienation, it must be questioned whether candidates like Gore or Kerry can ever really be viable with these voters. Democrats may have to choose candidates in the future who do not so easily evoke this sense of cultural alienation and who can connect in a genuine fashion with these voters. I come to this conclusion reluctantly because I had hoped that an effective campaign could overcome this obstacle by, in effect, using wedge Democratic issues like health care or jobs to build support among this group. But the messenger appears to matter a great deal, just as having a message does (see point number two, above). The Democrats in the future will have to pay attention to both, I think.

Mr. Teixeira has much else to say, and all of it is valuable food for thought. The Democrat leadership ignores this at its own peril.

Some of the silver lining I was talking about

Yeah, the whole "Junior Caligula: The Sequel" spectacle is a downer for all involved - both here in the US and around the globe, but there are some pieces of good news to be found that still give me some hope for us. Some, obviously from the post of Michael Moore's (see below) regarding the inroads the Democrat Party made in terms of capturing state legislatures, etc. Larry of Lotus - Surviving a Dark Time posts a bit more of that silver lining here:

1) As a result of Tuesday's vote, Montana is now the 10th state to legalize medical marijuana. Sixty-two percent backed the measure.

Paul Befumo, who headed the ballot initiative effort, says in an interview that voters and lawmakers in the mostly-Republican state responded to his group's decriminalization push.

"They kind of heard the message that it's not a good idea to put sick people in jail for using medical marijuana when doctors recommend it," says the investment advisor from Missoula, Mont. ...


Medical marijuana initiatives also passed in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Columbia, Missouri.

2) California voters approved a measure requiring the state to fund $3 billion in stem cell research. The provision, which takes California beyond federal limits on the research, passed with the support of 59% of voters.

Note: Columbia, MO was where my wife and I earned our graduate degrees. University of Missouri, of course, is an excellent institution and Columbia is a genuinely progressive & liberal oasis (the same too can be said of Ann Arbor, which I have had the pleasure of visiting). The control of the federal government may be in incompetent and generally evil hands but one of the beauties of the US system is the potential for states and localities to operate with a fair amount of independence. Granted the Federales in D.C. will not be at all pleased with all of these states and communities allowing the consumption of medical marijuana, and of course are threatening to crack down as they have in the recent past. This is part of the so-called "cultural war" that the hardliners are losing and will continue to lose.

And Yet Another Perspective:

17 Reasons Not to Slit Your Michael Moore

Dear Friends,

Ok, it sucks. Really sucks. But before you go and cash it all in, let's, in the words of Monty Python, “always look on the bright side of life!” There IS some good news from Tuesday's election.

Here are 17 reasons not to slit your wrists:

1. It is against the law for George W. Bush to run for president again.

2. Bush's victory was the NARROWEST win for a sitting president since Woodrow Wilson in 1916.

3. The only age group in which the majority voted for Kerry was young adults (Kerry: 54%, Bush: 44%), proving once again that your parents are always wrong and you should never listen to them.

4. In spite of Bush's win, the majority of Americans still think the country is headed in the wrong direction (56%), think the war wasn't worth fighting (51%), and don’t approve of the job George W. Bush is doing (52%). (Note to foreigners: Don't try to figure this one out. It's an American thing, like Pop Tarts.)

5. The Republicans will not have a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate. If the Democrats do their job, Bush won't be able to pack the Supreme Court with right-wing ideologues. Did I say "if the Democrats do their job?" Um, maybe better to scratch this one.

6. Michigan voted for Kerry! So did the entire Northeast, the birthplace of our democracy. So did 6 of the 8 Great Lakes States. And the whole West Coast! Plus Hawaii. Ok, that's a start. We've got most of the fresh water, all of Broadway, and Mt. St. Helens. We can dehydrate them or bury them in lava. And no more show tunes!

7. Once again we are reminded that the buckeye is a nut, and not just any old nut -- a poisonous nut. A great nation was felled by a poisonous nut. May Ohio State pay dearly this Saturday when it faces Michigan.

8. 88% of Bush's support came from white voters. In 50 years, America will no longer have a white majority. Hey, 50 years isn't such a long time! If you're ten years old and reading this, your golden years will be truly golden and you will be well cared for in your old age.

9. Gays, thanks to the ballot measures passed on Tuesday, cannot get married in 11 new states. Thank God. Just think of all those wedding gifts we won't have to buy now.

10. Five more African Americans were elected as members of Congress, including the return of Cynthia McKinney of Georgia. It's always good to have more blacks in there fighting for us and doing the job our candidates can't.

11. The CEO of Coors was defeated for Senate in Colorado. Drink up!

12. Admit it: We like the Bush twins and we don't want them to go away.

13. At the state legislative level, Democrats picked up a net of at least 3 chambers in Tuesday's elections. Of the 98 partisan-controlled state legislative chambers (house/assembly and senate), Democrats went into the 2004 elections in control of 44 chambers, Republicans controlled 53 chambers, and 1 chamber was tied. After Tuesday, Democrats now control 47 chambers, Republicans control 49 chambers, 1 chamber is tied and 1 chamber (Montana House) is still undecided.

14. Bush is now a lame duck president. He will have no greater moment than the one he's having this week. It's all downhill for him from here on out -- and, more significantly, he's just not going to want to do all the hard work that will be expected of him. It'll be like everyone's last month in 12th grade -- you've already made it, so it's party time! Perhaps he'll treat the next four years like a permanent Friday, spending even more time at the ranch or in Kennebunkport. And why shouldn't he? He's already proved his point, avenged his father and kicked our ass.

15. Should Bush decide to show up to work and take this country down a very dark road, it is also just as likely that either of the following two scenarios will happen: a) Now that he doesn't ever need to pander to the Christian conservatives again to get elected, someone may whisper in his ear that he should spend these last four years building "a legacy" so that history will render a kinder verdict on him and thus he will not push for too aggressive a right-wing agenda; or b) He will become so cocky and arrogant -- and thus, reckless -- that he will commit a blunder of such major proportions that even his own party will have to remove him from office.

16. There are nearly 300 million Americans -- 200 million of them of voting age. We only lost by three and a half million! That's not a landslide -- it means we're almost there. Imagine losing by 20 million. If you had 58 yards to go before you reached the goal line and then you barreled down 55 of those yards, would you stop on the three yard line, pick up the ball and go home crying -- especially when you get to start the next down on the three yard line? Of course not! Buck up! Have hope! More sports analogies are coming!!!

17. Finally and most importantly, over 55 million Americans voted for the candidate dubbed "The #1 Liberal in the Senate." That's more than the total number of voters who voted for either Reagan, Bush I, Clinton or Gore. Again, more people voted for Kerry than Reagan. If the media are looking for a trend it should be this -- that so many Americans were, for the first time since Kennedy, willing to vote for an out-and-out liberal. The country has always been filled with evangelicals -- that is not news. What IS news is that so many people have shifted toward a Massachusetts liberal. In fact, that's BIG news. Which means, don't expect the mainstream media, the ones who brought you the Iraq War, to ever report the real truth about November 2, 2004. In fact, it's better that they don't. We'll need the element of surprise in 2008.

Feeling better? I hope so. As my friend Mort wrote me yesterday, "My Romanian grandfather used to say to me, 'Remember, Morton, this is such a wonderful country -- it doesn't even need a president!'"

But it needs us. Rest up, I'll write you again tomorrow.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Justin Raimondo on Bu$hCo's Victory

One of the things that I will gladly argue is that the reality-based community is truly a diverse one. I've deeply appreciated those conservatives and moderates who have been willing to stand up and utter some hard truths every bit as much as my fellow liberals. Although in Raimondo's case, the more libertarian-than-thou pose gets a bit grating, he is one of those cats who deserves to be read regularly, and I think that any of us who think that the Democratic Party can still be a party for meaningful progressive change should at least consider what he has to say. The most recent salvo of Raimondo's appeared here:

GEORGE W. Bush's thin margin of victory is a mandate for nothing. Instead, it is a testament to the weakness of his political position, the sharp divisions in the country and the frittering away of the most advantageous position any Republican incumbent has held since 1864.

After September 11, 2001, Bush's political position seemed unassailable. This was not entirely a reflexive defiance. The President mobilised the country around him on account of his steadfastness in the face of adversity, his determination to go after the perpetrators and his sense of focus.

As time went on, however, the atmosphere quickly changed. According to the testimony of his closest aides, such as counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke, Bush was fixated early on Iraq, and there are even reports that he was determined to go to war two years before he even became President.

The neo-conservatives who occupied the upper echelons of the Pentagon's civilian leadership had been agitating for war with Iraq for years, and came to Washington eager to implement their agenda. The war party made a concerted effort to tie the 19 hijackers to Iraq, to materialise "weapons of mass destruction" out of the fantasies of their Iraqi hirelings, and to conjure up visions of Iraqi nukes blossoming over American, or Israeli, cities. In short, they lied us into war and then began switching rationales, finally reverting to the Wilsonian (or, really, Napoleonic) rhetoric of exporting democracy at gunpoint.

In the process, Bush II and the leadership of the Republican Party squandered the enormous goodwill built up in the days and weeks after 9/11 and radically alienated something very close to half the nation. But this isn't the same old red-blue dichotomy that animated the Bush-Gore contest. There is a new intensity here, one that cannot be explained solely in terms of cultural divisions over God, guns and gays, although that is part of it. Republicans will wake up today to a world in which Osama bin Laden may be the last fiscally conservative Republican left standing. "As for the size of the economic deficit," scolded bin Laden in his latest communique to America, "it has reached record astronomical numbers estimated to total more than a trillion dollars. And even more dangerous and bitter for America is that the mujaheddin recently forced Bush to resort to emergency funds to continue the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, which is evidence of the success of the bleed-until-bankruptcy plan -- with Allah's permission."

The Republican Party has become the party not just of big government, but of global government. If, as seems likely, the President follows the neo-conservative agenda and takes his war of "liberation" beyond Iraq -- Syria and Iran seem to be the next targets -- the transformation of the Republican Party will be complete: it will become the imperial party, albeit not without dissent from traditional small government conservatives.

The Democrats, for their part, can't blame this defeat on Ralph Nader and will have to come up with a far better excuse than "they stole it". The Kerry campaign, from start to finish, was an exercise in "nuanced" double-talk. What they never understood is what Howard Dean seemed to instinctively grasp: if you dare to speak truth to the people -- or just act as if you are doing it -- voters will respond. The American people can respect someone who isn't afraid to utter a few hard truths.

One particularly hard truth Kerry failed to mention was the Israeli spy scandal, in which two officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Israeli diplomats were recently implicated in the passage of top secret information from Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin, an Iran expert. It was widely reported that this was just the tip of a much larger iceberg, and that Franklin had been outed as part of a two-year investigation of Israeli moles in the Pentagon.

In what other nation on earth would the presence of a spy nest in the highest reaches of government fail to become a major campaign issue? Yet Kerry never breathed a word about it. He pulled his punches -- and lost Florida anyway. Yet he might have gained in other battleground states such as Ohio, Nevada, New Mexico and Iowa.

Kerry appropriated the anti-war movement's arguments, without endorsing the anti-war position. He allowed the Republicans to portray him as indecisive, in contrast with the maniacally single-minded incumbent. This election should have been a referendum on the war, but wasn't: instead the Republicans turned it into a referendum on John Kerry.

Justin Raimondo, editorial director of, is a contributing editor of The American Conservative in Washington, DC

I may consider him a bit rough on Kerry, but in general he's got a point. If the Democrats want to make some inroads, their candidates - from the Presidential on down - need to ditch the nuance and be direct when communicating their message to the voters. To me that was one of the things that Howard Dean did so well as a candidate and continues to do as an activist. The thing that Democratic candidates need to remember about most voters is that they are too busy digest nuance. It's not lack of capability, but a lack of time needed to grasp a nuanced message (in other words, they work for a living, have kids, soccer practices, and other things going on). Keep the messages simple, straightforward. The chances of connecting will improve considerably.

Something else that I will continue to reiterate: the general perception of the Democratic Party is that it's primarily an urban yuppie-oriented party. There's a disconnect between the Democratic establishment and rural and working class Americans. I sincerely believe that a progressive and populist platform that addresses the unique needs of our rural communities and our lower-income workers can make a difference. To do that, the party's brass is going to need to actually listen to those of us who live and work in these communities. Even though the GOP is composed of the most elitist bastards on the planet, those elitist bastards have done one thing remarkably well: that's craft a message that connects in some way with some subset of rural and working-class American concerns. I see no reason why the Democrats can't do the same thing, but by focusing on another subset of rural and working-class American concerns - namely those having to do with survival, quality of life. It's seriously time to ditch the now old "New Democrat" Rethug-Lite approach that has characterized the party's leadership for the last couple decades. It hasn't worked.

My suggestion is simple: have a progressive populist message, keep it simple, and say it with feeling. And to the extent that candidates succeed in getting elected, back those words with actions. There's two years til the mid-term elections. Get it together.

Some thoughts on the youth vote (or continued lack thereof)

The good news was that the young voters (ages 18-29) broke for Kerry. The bad news was that they were no more likely to vote than were their peers four years ago. My age group demographic (ages 30-44, which largely consists of Gen-Xers) showed a bit of a drop this year.

One of the things that has come to my mind is the cultural Zeitgeist that has been in place largely since the 1970s: a general cynicism about government. Nearly all of my life, as far as I can recall (keep in mind I'm 38 & turning 39 in a couple months) the message I've heard repeatedly is that government sucks. That message has only grown louder over the course of my adult life, so I'm not surprised that many of those who were born during the Reagan era are at best lackadaisical about their voting rights and more likely are downright cynical. Why participate in any of the mechanics of government if you believe the government's out to jack you in the first place? I suspect that there are many younger people who simply don't believe that they can make a difference and give up before even trying to become active participants.

If I'm correct that the youth vote problem is largely due to the late 20th/early 21st century U.S. Zeitgeist ("government is bad") then those of us who would like to see more young people participate are going to have to accept that we face an uphill battle when it comes to getting them to the polls, getting them to volunteer, or to contribute funds to candidates and political organizations. Something culturally is broken, and there is no quick fix unfortunately.

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Some preliminary post-election thoughts

First things first: the outcome is obviously a bit disappointing. I figured it would be close in popular vote, but that somehow Kerry would be able to pull upsets in Florida and Ohio. Some of the polling data indicated that it was within the realm of probability. It didn't pan out. Life goes on.

I think it's too early to understand fully what the implications of a second Bu$hCo term are for the country and internationally, but I have at least a few hunches. First, we can expect more deficit spending, with the bulk of the monies going to fund the ever-expanding war in the Middle East. Whoever comes into office in 2008 will have one hellacious mess to clean up. I would say that another recession is quite probable at this point - we're too in debt, are not generating jobs in sufficient quantity to actually fuel economic growth, and our increased dependence on petroleum which is getting increasingly expensive are combining for a bleak next few years. Add to that the fact that our country's deficit spending is being facilitated by the willingness of other nations to buy bonds, such as China, and I think we realize just how vulnerable we really are. If the Chinese demand their money back, the bottom drops out of the dollar. If the Euro becomes the standard for doing business internationally, the bottom drops out of the dollar. The days of stagflation are probably not far off. Aside from those who are most well off, the vast majority of us will see an increasingly diminished standard of living.

The window of opportunity for mending fences with the international community is closing. Whether or not it closes permanently remains to be seen, but for now it will close. We can expect more hostility from around the globe, and we will become increasingly isolated as allies begin to distance themselves. Our closest ally, Britain, will at some point sooner or later have a new PM, and whoever replaces Blair is unlikely to be nearly so cooperative as he was and is. For Bu$hCo's True Believers that is probably of negligible importance. But for those of us in the reality-based community - liberals, moderates, and conservatives alike - such isolation does not bode well for the future.

I would expect further erosion of civil rights and liberties, and with the changes likely to occur on the Supreme Court over the next four years, it's probable that the members of that particular body will be more hostile to civil rights and liberties. To what extent will remain an unknown, but I would wager that a Scalia or Thomas court will have a distinctively right-wing and authoritarian slant. We're likely stuck with the Patriot Act and equally repressive laws for the foreseeable future. The courts won't save us, and the Congress won't either for at least the next couple years. To Bu$hCo's True Believers, that's music to their ears. But then again they don't define such terms as "freedom" and "liberty" in quite the same way that most of the rest of us do.

Expect more war - ideologically driven and incompetently planned and executed. We've seen the blueprint in Afghanistan and Iraq. For my younger readers, this is your generation's Vietnam whether you realize it yet or not. Some form of draft will likely be required to provide the troops necessary for Bu$hCo's Middle East plans. That will regrettably further polarize and radicalize the people in the region.

The one thing that Bu$hCo understands well is that there are two basic emotions that can easily drive social and political behavior: greed and fear. The White House has adeptly played on both. We're going to pay a steep price as a result. Maybe there's cold comfort in the GOP having to take complete ownership of the hard times that are likely to come. I doubt there is much comfort for those men and women who have been sent to fight a war that should never have been started or for those civilians who've been killed and maimed in the process.

That's a pretty dark cloud. Is there a silver lining? Maybe. Stay tuned.

It's been a fascinating election to say the least

Guess I'll know more when I wake up in the morning. Definitely more of a nail-biter than I'd expected. Looks like Ohio is shaping up to be this year's Florida.

This is only the beginning.

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Listening to Rush yesterday

Wow, that dude sounded shrill. My colleague next door had his radio show on, so I took a couple moments to listen in. The first thing that came to mind was Harvey Keitel's character in the movie "Bad Lieutenant" where towards the end he's on the phone with some bookie whom he owes huge gambling debts and the character's voice comes across as desparate, frightened, and increasingly deranged & incoherent. Rush seemed a bit like that yesterday afternoon. Fascinating.

Monday, November 1, 2004

Monday Pre-election Meditation

Who am I voting for? At this point it's pretty obviously Kerry. Why? Having a competent public servant in the White House will be a refreshing change of pace from the ideologically-driven faith-based disaster that Bu$hCo has created. At the end of the day it comes down to two things that matter most to me:

  1. On the cognitive side, I value a data-driven approach to governing, to public service. I am a firm believer in the importance of using data-driven decision making processes in the formation and execution of policies. I equally value policy making approaches that are relatively transparent - where observers can see how a policy came about and know who is accountable. We've seen in four years the consequences of a faith-based and largely secretive approach to governing. Simply stated, it fails miserably. I'll take a reality-based candidate any day.
  2. On the emotional side, it comes down to hope. Kerry and Edwards radiate hope for America and the world in a way that Bu$hCo has proven incapable. The motto "A Stronger America" sums up that hope aptly. There are perhaps many ways that motto could be interpreted. My interpretation: strength comes from awareness of one's own capabilities and limitations, and acting accordingly based on that awareness. Strength is not, then about brute machismo and violence. Strength is often serene, peaceful, based on awareness of what is possible given the circumstances. An America that is stronger in that sense would indeed be a much better nation for not only its citizens, but for the planet. That's at least how I read the Kerry/Edwards motto. Others may read it differently.

Reality-based hopefulness. That's what it's about this year for me.

The final installment on pseudo-fascism

by David Neiwert: Part 7 [Conclusion]: It Can Happen Here.

Just gave it a first reading, and think it makes the must-read list for the eve of the election.

Just for kicks:

You were Gandhi!

You led a life of non-violent and
highly effective protest. People were in awe
of your example and followed it. Because of
your actions, the nation of India won its
independence from the mighty British Empire
without ever firing a single shot.
Unfortunately, your life came to a sudden and
violent end when an assassin shot you in 1948.
The nation, indeed the world, mourned your

Which Leader Were You in a Past Life?
brought to you by Quizilla

I won't argue with that!

Some Thought Pieces For Your Monday Morning Consideration

Pour yourself that piping hot cup of coffee and ponder some excellent offerings from blogtopia:

Rondo I was posted this summer, and as the Inspector notes seems useful for understanding some of the Republican "tolerance" that I've been posting recently. The post juxtaposes excerpts from various social science researchers (most notably to me Richard Hofstadter and Robert Jay Lifton) with illustrative rantings by various right-wingers such as Ann Coulter, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and George "Junior Caligula" Bush.

I assume most of my regular readers have been keeping up with David Neiwert's multipart essay on pseudo-fascism. His most recent installment, Part 6: Breaking Down the Barriers, was posted a week ago, and one more installment is forthcoming. Coupled with Lohman's post, the reader will get a good feel for the paranoid style of politics practiced by movement "conservatives."

The blog Science and Politics offers this take on the right-wing view on higher education: Assault on (Higher) Education - a Lakoffian Perspective . The university is indeed scary to movement conservatives, whether because it's the sort of environment fostered by those who live by the "nurturing parent" metaphor or because the university itself is a metaphor for the very sort of free thinking and openness to experience that right-wingers find so threatening.

Food for thought.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

My own projection for electoral votes

In the for what it's worth department: Kerry 311, Bush 227

I'm assuming Kerry takes both Florida and Ohio, and does well in the upper midwest. I'm also predicting Kerry squeezes out a victory in New Mexico.

NYT's Electoral Calculator

Tolerant Republicans Speak Out: The Continuing Story

This one from a comment at Orcinus:

Another one for your file:

I am currently working for the DNC in Cincinnati, Ohio, a key battleground state. I am amazed at the local actions of local Republicans to stifle and silence public discussion in Ohio...

1.) I have been threatened with a fight by a Marine on leave from Iraq in front of our local Democrat HQ because I do not agree with Bush policies he shouted at me.

2.) My car has suffered 3 flat tires on 3 occasions in the past month when parked close to the county Republican HQ. I strongly suspect that I was "nailed" because I had a Kerry political sign visible in my car and a Kerry bumper sticker.

3.) The local Democrats have had literally HUNDREDS of Kerry/Edwards political signs stolen from residential yards, even after replacing them several times. The local media has barely covered these concerns that are regularly reported because this is a highly partisan election in Ohio.

4.) The local Sheriff's office declined to investigate the hundreds of sign thefts from home owners, other than "take a report" over the telephone that goes into an "inactive" file. I reported 6 political signs stolen with a police officer close by who refused to take a police report while at the site.

The bottom line is that Republicans in this area seem to think they can get away with anything without being caught because the local police do not investigate.

Sunday Pre-Election Meditation

Never underestimate the importance of positive thinking. Sure, this is a close election. Sure, the polls have been maddeningly contradictory. Sure, there have also been various reports of suppression efforts and politically motivated violence. But then there is the up side. The Democrats actually fielded a candidate who has shown that he can hang in there and act presidential regardless of what gets thrown at him. The voter registration numbers have been excellent. The early voting numbers have been record-breaking. There is much reason for hopefulness.

Health psychologists for numerous years have shown that several factors affect how we handle stressful events. People who generally perceive events somewhat positively (psychologist Shelley Taylor refers to this phenomenon as "positive illusions") tend to weather stressors much more effectively than those who view the world negatively. Such positive thinkers are grounded in reality, but choose to see that reality in a better light than their more pessimistic peers. We know that people who are high in self-efficacy (see the work of Albert Bandura) tend to show a great deal more persistence in the face of adversity and generally hold high expectations of succeeding at the task at hand. Locus of control (see the work of Julian Rotter) is another factor to consider: people who have an internal locus of control see themselves as the controllers of their destiny, and tend to react better to adversity than those who have an external locus of control.

Keep the above in mind on Tuesday. Regardless of the weather, regardless of whatever b.s. thrown at you on election day, your can make it to the polls and your vote will count. Whatever dirty tricks the GOP has planned for election day, you can be rest assured that this year's election is being very closely scrutinized. The efforts of the watchdogs on the ground this year are impressive. Foul play will likely be attempted but it's going to be fought. Your vote will count. You have the power to make a difference. You control your destiny on election day.

More Tolerant Republicans Speak Out

Storm warning

Lisa Dupler, a 33-year-old from Columbus, held up a rainbow-striped John Kerry sign outside the Nationwide Arena on Friday, as Republicans streamed out after being rallied by George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger. A thickset woman with very short, dark hair, Dupler was silent and barely flinched as people passing her hissed "faggot" into her ear. An old lady looked at her and said, "You people are sick!" A kid who looked to be about 10 or 11 affected a limp wrist and mincing voice and said, "Oh, I'm gay." Rather than restraining him, his squat mother guffawed and then turned to Dupler and sneered, "Why don't you go marry your girlfriend?" Encouraged, her son yelled, "We don't want faggots in the White House!"

The throngs of Republicans were pumped after seeing the president and the action hero. But there was an angry edge to their elation. They shrieked at the dozen or so protesters standing on the concrete plaza outside the auditorium. "Kerry's a terrorist!" yelled a stocky kid in baggy jeans and braces. "Communists for Kerry! Go back to Russia," someone else screamed. Many of them took up the chant "Kerry sucks"; old women and teenage boys shouting with equal ferocity.

... Dave, a 54-year-old electronic technician, said that if Kerry wins, "I'm going to leave the country and go to a Third World nation and start a ranch." His wife, Jenny, laughed and accused him of hyperbole, but he insisted he's been studying Portuguese, the language of Brazil, "so we'll have an escape route." Sitting near him was Greg Swalley, a blond electrical contractor. "I think Kerry is the anti-Christ," he said, only half-joking. "He scares me."

... Looking at the small knot of protesters, many of whom were chanting, "Four more days," 22-year-old Nick Karnes, wearing a knit ski cap and baggy jeans, yelled, "Shut up!" Then he turned to his friend and said, "We can take 'em."

"I'm definitely gonna vote for him," Karnes said of Bush. "Because he's been the president for four years and nothing bad has happened since Sept. 11. He's kept me alive for four years." If Kerry becomes president, he said, "We'll be dead within a year."

Karnes told me that most of his friends are voting for Bush, too, but a couple are voting for Kerry. "I'm not speaking to them right now," he said.

When the crowd came pouring out of the arena, the vitriol only increased. One clean-cut man, holding his son by the hand, yelled "coward!" at one of the protesters. I asked him what made him say that, and he said, "Because he's demeaning our troops by saying they are fighting a lost cause."

... A few of the protesters, meanwhile, were red-faced from yelling at their antagonists about homophobia and budget deficits and a senseless war. Republicans were incensed. A blond woman dragged her young redheaded son toward the protesters, pointed to them, and said, "These are the Democrats," speaking as if she was revealing an awful reality that he was finally old enough to face. As she walked away with a group of other mothers and children, she was so angry she could barely speak. A friend consoled her by promising her that Bush would win. After all, she pointed out, "Look how many more Bush supporters there were on the street!"

That calmed the angry blond woman down a little. But she was still mad. "We," she said, stammering and gesturing contemptuously at the demonstrators, "we are the way it should be!"

Pretty much speaks for itself, eh?


I know that it's "old" news at this point, but this still pisses me off: 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead, says study

About 100,000 Iraqi civilians - half of them women and children - have died in Iraq since the invasion, mostly as a result of airstrikes by coalition forces, according to the first reliable study of the death toll from Iraqi and US public health experts.

The study, which was carried out in 33 randomly-chosen neighbourhoods of Iraq representative of the entire population, shows that violence is now the leading cause of death in Iraq. Before the invasion, most people died of heart attacks, stroke and chronic illness. The risk of a violent death is now 58 times higher than it was before the invasion.

Last night the Lancet medical journal fast-tracked the survey to publication on its website after rapid, but extensive peer review and editing because, said Lancet editor Richard Horton, "of its importance to the evolving security situation in Iraq". But the findings raised important questions also for the governments of the United Sates and Britain who, said Dr Horton in a commentary, "must have considered the likely effects of their actions for civilians".

The research was led by Les Roberts of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. Five of the six Iraqi interviewers who went to the 988 households in the survey were doctors and all those involved in the research on the ground, says the paper, risked their lives to collect the data. Householders were asked about births and deaths in the 14.6 months before the March 2003 invasion, and births and deaths in the 17.8 months afterwards.

When death certificates were not available, there were good reasons, say the authors. "We think it is unlikely that deaths were falsely recorded. Interviewers also believed that in the Iraqi culture it was unlikely for respondents to fabricate deaths," they write.

They found an increase in infant mortality from 29 to 57 deaths per 1,000 live births, which is consistent with the pattern in wars, where women are unable or unwilling to get to hospital to deliver babies, they say. The other increase was in violent death, which was reported in 15 of the 33 clusters studied and which was mostly attributed to airstrikes.

"Despite widespread Iraqi casualties, household interview data do not show evidence of widespread wrongdoing on the part of individual soldiers on the ground," write the researchers. Only three of the 61 deaths involved coalition soldiers killing Iraqis with small arms fire. In one case, a 56-year-old man might have been a combatant, they say, in the second a 72-year-old man was shot at a checkpoint and in the third, an armed guard was mistaken for a combatant and shot during a skirmish. In the second two cases, American soldiers apologised to the families.

"The remaining 58 killings (all attributed to US forces by interviewees) were caused by helicopter gunships, rockets or other forms of aerial weaponry," they write.

The biggest death toll recorded by the researchers was in Falluja, which registered two-thirds of the violent deaths they found. "In Falluja, 23 households of 52 visited were either temporarily or permanently abandoned. Neighbours interviewed described widespread death in most of the abandoned houses but could not give adequate details for inclusion in the survey," they write.

The researchers criticise the failure of the coalition authorities to attempt to assess for themselves the scale of the civilian casualties.

"US General Tommy Franks is widely quoted as saying 'we don't do body counts'," they write, but occupying armies have responsibilities under the Geneva convention."This survey shows that with modest funds, four weeks and seven Iraqi team members willing to risk their lives, a useful measure of civilan deaths could be obtained."

All so preventable. Sadly even more civilian casualties are being added as we speak, as the major US-led assault against Falluja has begun.