Friday, 19 November 2004


Can you say disproportionate? Thanks to NPR for this story.
Hemnauth Mohabir ... in the spring of 2002, returned to Guyana to visit his mother, who was ill. On his way back to New York that April, an immigration agent at Kennedy International Airport noticed Mohabir had a criminal record: Six years earlier, he'd been convicted of possessing about $5 worth of drugs. The judge fined him $250 for a misdemeanor and let him go.

Because of that past conviction, Mohabir was deported to Guyana and banned from ever coming back to the United States. But before returning to his native country, Mohabir was detained for almost two years at New Jersey's Passaic County Jail, where he alleges that guards taunted and beat detainees and terrorized them with dogs.
So how does Gonzales replacing Ashcroft help us?
Read Mohabir's own story in the Detainee Newsletter.


My fave so far from

Friday, 12 November 2004

Letter from Dennis Kucinich

Thirteen months ago Dennis Kucinich spoke on my island, and fired me up about what might yet be possible in American politics. Sure I realized that if a vegan who talked about forming the "Department of Peace" ended up being the standard bearer for the Democrats there would be many who would try to make him into a laughingstock, and probably successfully. But in person he had intellect, appeal, and integrity that demanded my support. So launched my political year. Thank you Dennis!

His email letter mass mailed to all of us on his list stands as one of the nicer post election commentaries I've read. He will probably never be electable to national office, but those who dismiss him as a simple ideologue have only watched him reduced to brief sound bites in debates or clips from stump speeches. Here's his letter:

Hi everyone, Dennis here. Welcome to part of my library. I've been doing a lot of reading and thinking in these past 24 hours since we have seen the outcome of the election - so different than what we had hoped for.

I have to admit, myself, to being surprised that John Kerry lost the election. I did everything I could to try to make it possible for America to take a new direction - even to the point of beginning my own presidential candidacy almost two years ago.

All of us in the Kucinich campaign poured ourselves into John Kerry's campaign so that America could make a new beginning - and I've heard from so many of you around the country expressing great concern about this outcome, and asking, "Where do we go from here?"

This is a critical moment, where everything we believe in is being tested, and everything we stand for and hope for remains on the line. George Bush will have another four years in the White House. We can predict the direction he'll take this country and the world.

But what we also need to be able to predict is what we shall do. What our intention is for this country, the world, the role that we hope to play. Because, certainly, the feelings of anger and even depression which abound in so many of the circles that so many of us move in - despite that anger and depression we have to see things as they are and move beyond this moment to create some new possibilities in America.

Because, while George Bush is certainly going to have a lot to say about what happens in the next four years, he's not the only one.

You, I and those with whom we've worked over the last few years have the opportunity to participate in creating a whole new dialog in America and the world. We may not have the kind of momentum we had hoped for, which we hoped a Kerry victory would bring, but we do have our own courage - and our own quality of heart - which will hold us in good stead in what will surely be some very challenging times ahead.

I think we need to go through this period of grieving over the election, and then we have to get ready to bring some closure and move on, and go to a place of real action again, of real heart-centered action, of willingness to take on the challenges which this administration is bringing to our nation and the world.

We need to rededicate ourselves to working for peace. Not just further empowering the anti-war movement, but to look at peace as a creative endeavor, where we bring ourselves into working for peace in our relationships, in our communities.

The Department of Peace becomes ever more imperative. And the eleven states whose Democratic delegations took a strong stand in favor of a Department of Peace will be focal points of all our efforts to get congressional delegations to begin to sign on in support of this concept, which is aimed at making non-violence an organizing principle in our society. If there was ever a time when we needed that approach, it's now.

On health care: in many states across this country, new iniatives are being aimed at the state level to help develop a kind of a universal health care approach within a state. People in Oregon tried it a few years ago and I think they're going to come back. There's a burgeoning effort in the state of Ohio. We need to look and see what we can do to promote health care in this country, and to get people organized around it.

The environment: we know this administration is not going to be good for the environment - but we also know that we have the opportunity to push forward, at every level, development of alternative energies.

You know, we're looking at soaring natural gas prices in the next few months. This gives us some leverage to get popular support for an effort to develop energy alternatives. (As if we didn't need that - get that - with the higher gas prices.) But we know with the oil companies having a resurgence in political power with the re-election of George Bush, it gives us also the ability to galvanize public support for the development of alternative energy.

There'll be so many things that we can talk about in the days ahead. But I just wanted to take a few moments of your time to remind you that, while it would appear that so much was lost on election night, so much remains for us to do. We have to be firm in our resolve. We have to remember the commitments that brought us into this contest. That it wasn't just about John Kerry - it was about us. It was about our hopes, our dreams, our intentions to create a better nation and a better world. Those commitments remain. They help to empower us daily.

So, let's grieve over the loss of this election, but let's come together and realize that it's the unity that we have expressed over these last few years which gives us real power to bring forth creative change. That, even in this moment of seeming political darkness, we can find some light - and that light is within each of us.

This isn't the first time in our nation's history that we've seen bitter divisiveness - it was in 1865 in March that Abraham Lincoln faced a nation that was horribly divided in a civil war with massive casualties. And in his second inaugural address, Lincoln said these words: "With malice toward none, with charity for all." He gave us a lesson that's valid in our times - not to get pulled into the bitterness and the divisiveness - to still be heartfelt in our communications - to at some point separate ourselves from the anger which we all feel and to move past it, to try and connect with each other once again - through the heart.

This campaign, for us, began with an understanding of the world being interconnected and interdependent. It is our connection to all people that causes us to achieve a higher level of compassion.

So let's remember Lincoln's words - and let's remember our own resolve. And let's make sure that when we begin a new chapter in the politics of this nation, we come forward with ever more resolve, ever more courage, ever more heart, ever more of a spiritual approach - that will enable us to be better-prepared to help create this new world that we know is just waiting to be called forward.

So, thank you - thank you for participating in this election. Thank you for your efforts on behalf of John Kerry and thank you for still believing that we can come together through a collective effort to achieve a transformation of our social and political structures.

We must never yield to disappointment and to discouragement, because we build our victories for tomorrow from today's defeats.

So, I look forward to continuing our ongoing discussions. You'll be able to watch a lot of activity at - there are going to be a lot of exciting things happening on this Web site.

I hope to speak with you soon - and if I don't talk to you before Thanksgiving, I hope that you and your families have much to be thankful for in your own lives and loves, notwithstanding this unfortunate result of the election.

Thank you, and thanks to John Kerry, Teresa Heinz Kerry, John Edwards, Elizabeth Edwards and their families for giving this nation an opportunity for hope again, and for showing us a level of decency that reflects well on the potential that all of us have to touch our fellow citizens.

Thanks, and good day.

Thursday, 11 November 2004

My Purple America

Those red and blue maps always make the country look more Republican than it is. For one, rural areas which tend to be more Republican cover more acreage, and for another red and blue ignore both the red sentiment in the blue areas and the blue sentiment in the red areas. Enough already with all the secession talk. Let's paint a more accurate picture instead.

Here we divide by county, then represent each county's size in proportion to its human population, and color each according to the percentage of the vote that went to the R or D choices.

Thanks to Gastner, Shalizi, and Newman at the U of Mich for the graphic.

Wednesday, 10 November 2004

Day of Rage

I've been reading articles, mostly tongue in cheek, about the stages of grief some of us need to pass through post election. It seems I rushed too quickly to acceptance and have been rollercoastering through the various stages in random order over the last week. My day of rage actually lasted the better part of two days, beginning on Sunday evening and lasting until mid-morning on Tuesday. . . . I was pretty useless for getting anything productive done other than searching the internet for evidence of vote fraud. I'm visualizing the steam that must have been coming out of my ears. It felt particularly galling to find all of the evidence for fraud, and nary a mention of it in the mainstream media. It was clear to me from the start that when pundits were trying to rationalize why the exit polls were so wrong, there was always a different explanation that was at least worth investigation. Indeed prior to the election, I posted about the importance of the audit function of exit polls.

There is a case that inflammatory reporting is imprudent until there is more than speculation to back it up, but still to not acknowledge even the possibility of it seemed like a cover-up or a coordinated taboo. Tuesday morning, I finally found an article in Slate which did acknowledge the speculation, while countering with numbers suggesting it wasn't so. While not convinced, this did calm me down, and I was able to pull out of my altered state. As I told my relative who pointed out more plausible explanations for the mismatch between exit polls and actual returns, "your explanation is plausible, but Karl Rove has demonstrated no scruples, so I'll assume none." Indeed I'm convinced that there is analysis which can and should be done which should show pretty conclusively whether massive fraud was perpetrated or not. Given the number of systems used with no paper trail, and the number of mismatches reported so far, the analysis certainly should be done.

A few links I found Monday:
Counterbias: The Case for Fraud
Joseph Cannon

Dissident Voice
None Dare Call it Voter Suppression and Fraud

Taipei Times
'Blog' blunder sparks debate on US exit polls

Did Bush fix the elections?

Common Dreams
Bill C. Davis

The ostensible narrative this week is that gay marriage ruined the Democrat's chance to defeat Bush. Statistics and polls are being fired at us like buckshot on a goose hunt. But beneath it all is the steady rumbling that the exit polls, as in Florida 2000, were right and that the machines and the vote count were rigged. This would replace the ostensible narrative with a more troubling story. That story would be that they – the occupants; the current force majeur – refuse to lose and they orchestrate their wins on a mechanical, technical level to secure the presidency of an essentially amoral man and then say he was elected because of moral values.

There are, of course, a lot more. And a recent email I received suggests Kerry has hinted that he might consider "unconceding". The ultimate Flip-Flop - what fun!

[UPDATE: As I continue to receive missives from various sources about fraud, from the credible to the ridiculous, it seems the most likely case for fraud that could have made a difference is from none other than South Florida. Slate reports. I have come to the conclusion that the media is wise to go slow on this and not fan flames prematurely.]

Saturday, 6 November 2004

Moving forward

America has made a grievous error.

I'm not going to spend much effort analyzing why. As Matthew Yglesias notes, "these things are multicausal. Elections are complicated." When elections are very close it's easy enough to make the argument that the results hinged on one particular cause (e.g., the Massachusetts gay marriage court decision), but there are dozens of factors that moved significant chunks of votes one way or another. It's simplistic to single out one or two as being crucial.

I was surprised by the result. Nonetheless the best I was hoping for was a 52-47 break for Kerry. Either way we're talking about closely split electorate. A real surprise would have been for either candidate to have a 10 point victory. It's really remarkable how the media pundits imbue the opinions and feelings of what's really a small minority of voters - those voting for the first time, or those who remained on the fence until the end - with so much meaning. Of course they are very important, because they have a great deal to do with the ultimate result. But let us not confuse their decision with the decision of the country at large. An overwhelming majority of Americans voted the way they had planned to vote two years ago, even before we knew who the Democratic nominee would be.

Too much of all that; what now?

In the last several years millions of progressives have made connections through organizations like MoveOn, Democracy for America, and countless other issues oriented groups which have been energized by a commitment to fighting against disturbing trends in our nation's governance. As awful as a continued Bush presidency is likely to be, it does provide a nucleus around which to rally our resolve. Bush may talk about reaching out to those who voted for his opponent, but the fact remains that his agenda for this country remains an anathema to many of us who value economic justice, stewardship of the environment, respect for various cultures, scientific inquiry unburdened by the agenda of profiteers, consumer protection, and world peace.

But let's be honest. Many if not most of Bush's supporters share a large portion of those values, and earnestly believe we are mistaken about how best to get there. If what is heard most from the 'left' is how stupid and ignorant the yahoos that voted for Bush are, then we will marginalize ourselves, and give credence to mockery from the other side. Plenty of intelligent and compassionate people made a weighted decision that the country would be better off with Bush than with Kerry. Plenty of them don't even particularly like Bush. Attacking Bush's supporters is simply counterproductive. Attacking the 'religious right' generically as zealous hypocrites, when they know themselves, and know that they do care about the less fortunate in our society, and even in poor nations around the world, simply cements their belief that we are the arrogant know-it-alls who don't, in fact, know it all.

What needs to happen instead is to focus investigation on policy and its effect. Bush will be able to enact a great deal of legislation in the next four years which will have deleterious effects on many undeserving victims. We will need to find those stories and tell them, relentlessly. We will be well served to be civil in our discourse, but we need not avoid harshness when it's warranted. And I'm afraid it will be frequently warranted. We need to define our alternative policies and get our representatives to vote for them. Filibusters may be occasionally appropriate, but if they become the order of the day, Democrats will just be seen as obstructionists and lose further ground in Congress in 2006. It is better to vote against the bad bills and lose, and let the blame rest squarely where it belongs when the results of those bills come home to roost. There's no particular reason to believe bipartisanship will be strong in the next four years. Alliances with moderates across the aisle could be important in removing some of the worst pieces of legislation, but I don't hold out much faith for that being a major source of solace.

We also must continue the organization and movement that is now one of the strongest progressive movements America has ever known. We have tools at our disposal, and the Bill of Rights has not yet been overturned. If the administration overreaches in stifling our free speech rights, I still believe a majority of Americans will cry foul, even if they don't agree with our speech.

The arts will remain a major source of free expression, and one that can reach across ideological boundaries. We should expect an explosion of activity from creative people the world over, whether it's street theater, web humor, public poetry slams, or more conventional writing and theater presentations.

Personally, I will continue my crusade to push the point that reasonable people can have radical ideas, and society can benefit by synthesizing wisdom from disparate perspectives. Good people abound throughout society, including positions of influence in government or the boardrooms of industry. Alliances with these people are essential in keeping our hope alive.

The results of this election are a bitter disappointment. Some grieving is appropriate. But as I keep hear people saying, tomorrow the sun will still rise. People will still strive to move forward and great hope always remains. In the coming months, I plan to start featuring profiles of heroes and sages, both of our time and of times past. These people who persevered through monumental hardship to accomplish great strides provide enormous inspiration to those of us who may see obstacles to our progress as overwhelming.

Keep the faith!

Tuesday, 2 November 2004

The Long Haul

It was really nice to see Kos wax eloquently over at one of the most read progressive blogs on the net: was merely a battle in a long war. The GOP built its electoral dominance over 40 years by building a massive, well-funded message, training, and media machine.

We started putting ours together last year.

You all have much to be proud of. But please don't think your job is done, or that your hard work was all for naught. It's not, and it wasn't.

This is just the beginning, not the end. Regardless of who takes that oath next January we still have a war to wage. We won't wage it with violence, but by building a solid foundation for a new progressive movement.
If Bush pulls out this win, as now appears likely, there will be some intemperate responses by some on the indignant left. But much more common will be the tempered, determined, and coordinated efforts for the causes of peace, justice, dignity, and the protection of our natural world by people of moral conviction all over this planet. Many ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

We can take lessons from extraordinary people who have come before, and as Kos suggests even from that which we can admire in the "opposition". Indeed, we need to be ready to find allies where we might least expect them, for we cannot win progressive change through isolation and alienation, but only by sharing a moral vision wherever and whenever we can. Heroes who have come before struggled through much worse and kept on going in the bleakest of circumstances, while we still have a presumption of rights from which to start, and means for coordination that Harriet Tubman, for instance, never could have dreamed of.

There's no time for despair - let's keep moving.

Monday, 1 November 2004

Sometimes Subtlety Screams

We may not be a battleground state, but there's no dearth of yard signs on my little island. Big and small, they're all over (including the ones I put at the end of my own driveway). But once name recognition is accomplished, I'm pretty sure most of us don't even really see them anymore, much less allow them to influence our vote.

A week or so ago, I was driving down the highway into town, and noticed a small sign (maybe 4 x 12 inches) on a short stick with one line of white text on a blue background, saying only: COULD IT BE . I noticed it a couple of times and was looking for another sign to complete the message, but it wasn't there. It showed up a couple of days later, in exactly the same dimensions and style 180 feet down the highway: BECAUSE HE LIED?


If you've been directed here by a web search for a particular Congressional race, this is where you (may) want to go.

[Update: If you want to see how wrong I was click here.]

Prognostication is not why I'm here, but it is fun to guess.

Mine is the 10-5 prediction.
10% is the increase in raw votes for W over what he received in 2000.
5% (or more) is how much Kerry will win by in the popular vote.

How does that happen? Huge turnout.

I don't think the electoral college will be that close. I really expect Kerry to take FL, PA, OH, WI, IA, NH, MN, & NM, plus perhaps a surprise or three.

I've already been pushing the idea that Republican control of the House is in jeopardy, and I'm sticking with that, though truth be told it would be more likely to see a pickup of 9 seats by the Dems, leaving them 6 seats short of the majority. Instead I'll be rash and predict a 4 seat majority for the Democrats when the smoke clears.

In the Senate, where the South is likely to produce Democratic losses, I'm predicting an effective tie - 50 R, 49 D, & Jeffords. If the South Carolina "NAACP" shenanigans backfires though, an Inez victory should give the Dems majority control.

And finally, I think we will know by midnight on election day who the President will be.