Blogging Left

With the darkness now covering the land, the progressive spirit of the Enlightenment is getting dimmer and dimmer. But at the same time, the blogosphere allows folks an alternative means of communication that allows the truth to be known and someday, the progressive agenda will be realized.

Name:
Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

When I was an undergraduate, I read Escape From Freedom in an anthropology course, wow did I think that was cool stuff when I was 19, but how can you make a living doing that kind of stuff. Well, somehow I pursued an interdisciplinary education and trained to become a shrink, but with strong social and political values. (I did spend several years at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. Well, somehow I got caught up in protesting the war in Viet Nam, moved from a more individualistic perspective to a sociological perspective, and voila, here I am, having made a career in sociology and what am I doing, Frankfurt School critical theory....yes maybe Nietzsche is right about eternal return. If interested in my professional work, see my website-tho it has not been updated lateley. I will soon have a volume of papers on alienatioun out. I am now working on a book on the carnivalization of our culture, how the degeneration of taste destroys the mind and fosters political indifference.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

U.S. Losing in Iraq

U.S. Losing in Iraq Knight Ridder Analysis:
By E&P Staff Published: January 22, 2005 10:00 AM ET
NEW YORK In a startling new analysis, Knight Ridder reporters Tom Lasseter and Jonathan S. Landay, who have done some of the best reporting on Iraq during the past two years, declare that unless something “dramatic” changes, “the United States is heading toward losing the war in Iraq.” The lengthy article, distributed Saturday, is based on what the reporters call an analysis of U.S. government statistics, which show the U.S. military “steadily losing ground to the predominantly Sunni Muslim insurgency in Iraq. "The analysis suggests that, short of a newfound will by Iraqis to reject the insurgency or a large escalation of U.S. troop strength, the United States won't win the war.”A number of opinion polls in the U.S. this week showed, for the first, that a clear majority of Americans now believe that invading Iraq was a mistake.

Unfavorable trends cited in the Knight Ridder report include:

U.S. combat deaths rising to an average of 82 per month with 808 wounded per month. *
Attacks on the U.S.-led coalition since November 2003, when statistics were first available, rose from 735 a month to 2,400 in October 2004.*

Electricity production has been below prewar levels since October. *

Iraq is pumping about 500,000 barrels of oil a day fewer than its prewar peak of 2.5 million barrels per day as a result of sabotage. *

Despite some positive developments, such as the desire by many Iraqis to vote, the insurgency is getting larger and “more effective,” according to the KR reporters. “At the close of 2003, U.S. commanders put the number of insurgents at 5,000,” they write. “Earlier this month, Gen. Mohammed Abdullah Shahwani, the director of the Iraqi intelligence service, said there are 200,000 insurgents, including at least 40,000 hard-core fighters. The rest, he said, are part-time fighters and supporters who provide food, shelter, money and intelligence.”

Monday, January 17, 2005

Religious left needn't be ashamed to speak up

Religious left needn't be ashamed to speak up

BY REV. CLARE BUTTERFIELD

The ability of the progressive religious movement to claim public space, it seems to me, is at low ebb. How does the religious left invite itself back into the public conversation? And how do we claim our own ground of hopefulness -- and move the public conversation away from fear, where it currently resides?

The current neo-conservative viewpoint expresses itself with great certainty. It asserts that there is a battle between good and evil playing out across the political stage right now, and it's easy to know which side is which. People want certainty. The right offers it.

The left doesn't. And we can't. Certainty isn't part of our package. I can't honestly say that if we live according to what I consider moral and religious values we won't get attacked again. I don't actually think that angry crazy people doing hateful evil things is preventable. I don't think it ever was, and as humans live in closer and closer proximity we're all going to see a lot more of it.
We can reduce its frequency by not causing quite so much anger in the world, but we can't prevent it. We can't eliminate the terrible possibility -- we can only eliminate our fear of it. That loss of fear will come from the religious reckoning with our own mortality, and the acceptance that while we do not understand how, God's goodness, or the re-emergent good, or whatever you prefer to call it, makes the fact of our mortality acceptable and not a thing to be feared.

Our public faith might say I do not believe that bad events are preventable, but I also do not believe they are the will of God. I do not believe that we can be made safe from every ill-intentioned human on the planet, but I do believe that God's goodness overrides evil and that whatever befalls us, it cannot separate us from the love of God. And that love, in which I have faith, releases me from fear and allows me to be hopeful.


The right is very quick to claim God's anger. The left -- and I mean the religious left -- ought to be just as quick to claim God's love. But being liberal, we are afraid that by claiming God's love for ourselves we might somehow be impinging on the right of someone else to claim it, or impinging on the rights of those who don't share our religious views, and we would like to pause and think very well about our options before committing ourselves to a position one way or the other on a matter of such great importance. The religion of the right might demand blood sacrifice, but the religion of the left is all therapy -- it demands nothing at all.

But, again, I'm looking for where the conversation lies. In short, the progressive religious people are going to have to get over our usual discomfort with being religious in public. And we're going to have to reclaim some of the ground that we have ceded, by excessive deliberation, to the conservative religious movements. And in order to do that we are going to have to do some work on what we believe and what our beliefs imply.

Religion demands something from us. We might not all express our faith in the same terms -- it is not important that we do -- provided that we agree that being part of a progressive religious community means that we are called to be active in the world. Learning to express this belief in terms that the larger world recognizes as religious may take some effort in our congregations, but it is, I believe, an effort worth making. Only you know what you mean by the word God. Something you believe in allows you to live hopefully in an ambiguous world. Name it.

Otherwise the only people who will be seen in the public square to speak as religious will be extremists of one kind or another. Whether people who decapitate in the name of God, or people who are sure that their armed conflict is the will of God, I am not prepared to surrender my faith to their public definition.
To the religious of the left I say "leap." Find what you can commit to and commit to it -- leap into the arms of God. Know what you believe -- be responsible for that -- and do not allow the things you hold most dear to be defined away from you by anyone.
Rev. Clare Butterfield is a Unitarian Universalist Community Minister who preaches at the Unity Temple in Oak Park, and Executive Director of Faith in Place.

Wither the Dems


Life Of The Party
By Robert L. Borosage,
The Nation
Posted on January 17, 2005,
Printed on January 17, 2005
http://www.alternet.org/story/21005/
For a nanosecond after November's election defeat, the Democratic unity forged by the radical provocations of George W. Bush seemed intact. From the corporate-funded Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) to Howard Dean's new Democracy for America, Democrats drew similar conclusions from the election about what needed to be done: Challenge the right in the so-called red states and develop a compelling narrative that speaks to working people – don't simply offer a critique of Bush and a passel of "plans." Champion values, not simply policy proposals. Don't compromise with Bush's reactionary agenda. Expose Republican corruption, while pushing electoral reform. Stand firm on long-held social values, from women's rights to gay rights. Confront Bush's disastrous priorities at home and follies abroad.
But this brief interlude of common sense and purpose quickly descended into rancor and division. Peter Beinart of The New Republic and Al From of the DLC rolled out the tumbrels once more, calling on Democrats to purge liberalism of the taint of MoveOn.org, Michael Moore and the anti-war movement. Apparently anyone who worries about the suppression of civil liberties at home, doubts that the reign of drug lords in Afghanistan represents the dawning of democracy, prematurely opposed the debacle in Iraq or isn't prepared to turn the fight against al Qaeda terrorists into the organizing principle of American politics is to be read out of their Democratic Party.
Then, normally staunch Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi floated for chair of the party former Congressman Tim Roemer, a New Democrat distinguished mostly for his opposition to women's right to choose, his vote to repeal the estate tax and his ignorance of grassroots politics. Consolidating its corporate backing, the DLC solemnly warned against "economic populism" or "turning up the volume on anti-business and class welfare schemes" – despite the corporate feeding frenzy that is about to take place in Washington and Bush's slavish catering to the "haves and have-mores," whom he calls "my base."
After a year in which progressives drove the debate, roused and registered the voters, raised the dough and knocked on the doors, the corporate wing of the Democratic Party is trying to reassert control. Its assault on MoveOn.org and the Dean campaign – the center of new energy in the party – is reminiscent of 1973, when corporate lobbyist Bob Strauss became head of the party and tossed out the George McGovern mailing list, insuring that the party would remain dependent on big-donor funding.
This time, however, the entrenched interests aren't likely to succeed, no matter who becomes party chair. That's because progressives have begun building an independent infrastructure to generate ideas, drive campaigns, persuade citizens, nurture movement progressives and challenge the right. It includes a range of new groups such as MoveOn.org, Wellstone Action, Progressive Majority, the Center for American Progress, Air America, Working America and America Coming Together, along with established groups that have displayed new reach and sophistication such as ACORN, the NAACP, the Campaign for America's Future (which I help direct) and the League of Conservation Voters. These groups – and their state and local allies – came out of this election emboldened, not discouraged. Just as the infrastructure that the right built drove the Republican resurgence, these groups and their activists – not the party regulars or the corporate retainers – will stir the Democratic drink.
The challenge to the electoral malfeasance in Ohio provided an early example. Inside the Beltway, protesting the president's electors was unimaginable. But progressive organizers, together with third-party activists, liberal lawyers, internet muckrakers and civil rights groups, kept the heat on. Rep. John Conyers responded with a report detailing the outrages in Ohio, where the secretary of state – shades of Katherine Harris – was co-chair of the Bush campaign. The Rev. Jesse Jackson and others called on senators to support progressive House legislators who were demanding a debate. When Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) stood up, the public learned more about the shabby state of our democracy and the need for drastic electoral reform. The lesson is clear: When progressives move, Democrats will follow. "Don't expect this place to lead," says Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.). "Organize and force us to catch up."
As the buildup to his inaugural address shows, Bush's provocative agenda, which unified movement progressives and party regulars in the last election, will help organize the opposition in Bush's second term. By posing a continued threat to America's future, Bush also provides the opportunity for movement progressives to frame a large argument about the country's values and direction. Progressives should be mobilizing unremitting opposition to Bush's wrongheaded course, and demanding the same from their elected representatives.
A majority of Americans already express doubts about Bush's handling of foreign and economic affairs and the Iraq War. These doubts will increase as Bush pursues an economic policy that rewards the few while the many lose ground, fails to respond to the broken healthcare system, opposes a living wage and defends trade and tax policies that accelerate the flight of jobs abroad and the decline of incomes and security at home.
Bush's drive to privatize Social Security, the centerpiece of his agenda, will expose the right and put Republicans at risk. Bush touts a fraudulent immediate crisis in a program that's in relatively good shape to rationalize deep cuts in benefits while borrowing $2 trillion so Wall Street can feed on the savings of citizens. Progressives will use the fight over privatization to contrast the benefits of shared security with the risks of the right's policies, which leave citizens on their own in a global economy of accelerating instability. Opposition will enable progressives to forge a broad coalition ranging from the Catholic Conference to the AARP and the AFL-CIO. This fight to defend America's most successful retirement and anti-poverty program can and must be won.
Bush's new budget will call for extending tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans while cutting investment in education and healthcare. This offends the common sense of most Americans and offers progressives the opportunity to challenge the President's perverted priorities while making the case for public investment in areas that Americans agree are vital to their families and our country's future. Bush's pledge to pack the courts with zealots will mobilize progressives in defense of equal rights, women's right to choose and corporate accountability. (Spooked by Sen. Tom Daschle’s defeat in South Dakota, many Senate Democrats are skittish about this battle, and will need to feel the heat from the activist base of the party.) The debacle in Iraq indicts the militarist unilateralism of the Bush administration and provides progressives with the obligation to push for an exit strategy from an occupation that a majority of Americans now oppose. In this effort, the anti-war movement can make strategic alliances with much of the realist establishment, from George Bush Sr.'s national security adviser Brent Scowcroft to growing portions of the uniformed military as well as intelligence and State Department professionals.
At the same time, progressives should develop and push positive ideas for change: minimum- and living-wage campaigns, progressive tax reform, strategic initiatives like the Apollo Project for good jobs and energy independence. A "blue-state strategy" – elaborating a state and local agenda on such issues as healthcare and education reform – can provide models and demonstrate the attractiveness of progressive ideas.
None of this will be led by the lobbyists and retainers of the Democratic Party machine, such as it is. In the House, minority leader Pelosi will keep the caucus generally unified in opposition to the Bush agenda, but House boss Tom DeLay brutally locks Democrats out of the room whenever he pleases. Progressive champions like Jan Schakowsky, Hilda Solis, John Conyers, new Black Caucus chair Mel Watt, Barney Frank and others will help guide and support outside progressive mobilizations. The barons of the Senate are less organized and more frightened, as illustrated by minority leader Harry Reid's bizarre public acceptance of the idea of Antonin Scalia as Chief Justice. Sens. Dick Durbin, Jon Corzine, Barbara Boxer and newly elected Barack Obama will help define the debate, but external pressure will be vital.
All stripes of Democrats agree on the need to persuade voters, not simply mobilize the base. But persuasion requires committed activists, passionate in their cause, ready to enlist and challenge their neighbors. Progressives haven't yet made up for the decline of union halls, nor matched the right's ubiquitous media clamor. But the pathbreaking house parties organized by MoveOn.org and the Dean campaign, and the extraordinary training provided by Wellstone Action, provide new models for educating activists and encouraging them to organize their neighbors.
So forget about the chattering classes and the corporate wing of the party, now fantasizing about purging the new energies unleashed in the last election. What matters isn't what they say in Washington, but what progressives do on the ground across the country. We have just begun to build. The radical agenda of the Bush administration – and its abject failure – will continue to set the stage not for a retreat to the center but for a fierce, passionate reform movement.
© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/21005/

Monday, January 10, 2005

Election 2004: Stolen or Lost??

Election 2004: Stolen or Lost

By Russ Baker, TomPaine.comPosted on January 10, 2005, Printed on January 10, 2005http://www.alternet.org/story/20934/

Many of us fear that the Ohio election was stolen because people – like talk-show sleuths, blogger number-crunchers, forensic attorneys, crusading professors and partisan activists – keep telling us so. We don't even know most of these people, yet we gladly forward their e-mails and web links, their pronouncements, analyses, essays and statistical exercises. While their credentials may not be that impressive, we listen to their conspiracy theories because – frightened by the direction our country has taken – we want to believe them.

As an old-style investigative reporter, I, too, was alarmed by charges that outright fraud might have changed the outcome of the most important presidential election in recent times. So I recently traveled to Ohio – where I connected with a group of attorneys who were fighting to have the Ohio presidential results overturned, and the state – and, by extension, the presidency – awarded to Kerry. In legal pleadings known collectively as the "Contest" these attorneys are not shy about using the F-word: "While a variety of methods were used to perpetrate the election fraud of which there is clear and convincing evidence in the form of the exit polls, ... it is likely that traditional easily detectable means were one of the principal methods of the election fraud."
Strong words indeed. Among the evidence supporting them:

Specific instances in which strange or troubling things happened when people voted or while votes were being counted.

The discrepancy between exit polls and the final result.

This week, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., released a report that catalogues widespread problems in the Ohio vote. The report concludes that the "massive and unprecedented" voting irregularities in Ohio were in many cases caused by "intentional misconduct and illegal behavior." Sounds like fraud to me.

Conyers' report is considerably tamer and more cautious than earlier pronouncements out of his office, and certainly more so than many of the allegations being circulated on the internet. Much of his report, however, is based on charges emerging from the Contest. Let's see how such charges hold up under close scrutiny.

Voting Irregularities
Charge: Misallocation of voting machinesFinding: TrueIntentional? Probably not
The Contest petition lists specific counties where voting irregularities occurred, including Franklin and Trumbull: "In Franklin County there was a discriminatory assignment of more voting machines per registered voter to precincts with more white voters than African-American voters. ..."
William Anthony is the chairman of the Franklin County board of elections. As an African American and a Democrat himself (in fact, he is the county chairman and works as a union representative) Anthony resents the suggestion that Franklin County authorities somehow worked to help Bush. "I worked my ass off in those precincts," he says of African-American areas of the county.

A precinct-by-precinct historical comparison of registered and actual voters, and of voting machine assignments, does show that some precincts with a large African-American population ended up with fewer machines per person than some mostly white precincts. But Anthony points out that Franklin County faced a number of challenges. For one thing, it was using very old electronic voting machines that under new state law will be defunct by the next presidential election, when every county will be required to have a paper trail for recounts. Given the short lifespan of the machines, it didn't make economic sense to buy more of them. So it was a matter of allocating a scarce resource. That resource was stretched thinner by an increasing population. Franklin County had a spurt of growth in outlying areas, with blocks of apartments sprouting recently where cornfields had been. Suddenly, authorities had 29 additional precincts to conside – requiring approximately 200 more machines.

Also, although incoming voter registration figures showed surges in certain areas, that didn't mean the newly registered would necessarily vote. And certainly not in greater numbers than in many established precincts where a high percentage of registered voters typically went to the polls.

When the county elections director recently explained the machine assignment process as "a little bit art, a little bit science," he was ridiculed by the critics. But in fact, what he meant was that a whole multiplicity of factors had to be considered – it wasn't a simple formula.

Significantly, the people making these decisions aren't necessarily Bush partisans. Every county in Ohio, by law, divides its elections personnel evenly between the Democrats and Republicans. This means that where the chief administrator of elections is, say, a Republican, the chairperson of the elections board is a Democrat. In the case of Franklin County, two individuals shared the task of allocating machines – and one was a Democrat.

Charge: Miscounting of absentee votesFinding: False
A Contest attorney who asked that his name not be used told me that he considered irregularities in Trumbull County perhaps the most damning of all. Here are the specifics: Dr. Werner Lange, a Trumbull County resident, examined poll books in county offices, looked at 106 precincts and calculated that, in all, "580 absentee votes were cast for which there was no notation of absentee voting in the poll books." Extrapolated statewide, this pattern – if it existed – could translate into 62,513 fraudulent votes, or, more than half of Bush's advantage.

Lange, who – according to his affidavit – holds a Ph.D. in political science and is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament, told me that he had suspicions because the area was heavily Democratic, but that Bush had done surprisingly well.

Then I checked in at the Trumbull County offices. "Mr. Lange came in here looking for problems and he didn't want to ask us anything," says Rokey Suleman, the deputy director of the Trumbull County Board of Elections. Suleman explains that the poll books Lange looked at had been printed before absentee voting ended – including those who voted in the final days before the election at the Board's offices. The books would – according to practice – be updated to include everyone. Like Anthony in Franklin County, Suleman is a Democrat.

Charge: Tampering with voting machinesFinding: Probably false

There were a number of anecdotal claims that personnel from voting machine companies came into several counties and seemed to do something improper with the machines before the recount began. I had the opportunity to listen to an audio tape of a film crew interviewing an official of Triad, a ballot counting contractor accused on the internet of various indiscretions – in which the man appears to be very patiently and logically explaining the exact role of company personnel in preparing machines for recounts. I asked Contest attorneys if they wanted to listen to the tape, but they were too busy rushing out filings – which included allegations involving Triad.

In a couple of precincts in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), third party candidates did inexplicably well. In one precinct located in a predominantly African-American area, Kerry got 290 votes, Bush 21 and Michael Peroutka – candidate of the anti-immigrant Constitutional Party – got 215. In another precinct that voted at the same high school, the tally was Kerry 318, Bush 21, and Libertarian Michael Badnarik 163. These are, for the moment, mysteries, but they are not indications of widespread fraud.

"I think incompetence is the most likely explanation in most of these cases," says Mark Griffin, who ran the legal team for Kerry that oversaw the provisional ballot count and recount in Cuyahoga. "If there's fraud, it's in the tabulation. But it wouldn't be in Cuyahoga, where we got a big turnout."

Challengers May Have Good Intentions But Bad Facts
The lawyers on the Contest team are well-meaning, intelligent people. However, like all lawyers, they're about arguing their side, not getting to the bottom of things. Each time I checked in, one of them (always the same person, always insisting that our conversations were "off the record") would introduce a new operative theory of what had happened, of what "evidence" was the most meaningful indicator of the shenanigans that had gone on.

By the day I left, my "source" was telling me that the legal discovery process was not going well, and so they could not, in a timely fashion, get the information needed to show how the "fraud" was perpetrated.

Attorney Don McTigue, a senior official in the Ohio Secretary of State's office when a Democrat held the office, now devotes his entire legal practice to elections. "We don't have evidence of fraud," says McTigue, who represented the Kerry campaign for the recount, an entirely separate proceeding from the Contest, which resulted in almost no change in the vote totals, and left Bush with a hefty 118,000-vote margin.

You wouldn't have much of a case for conspiracy if you didn't have Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell. As Ohio's chief elections official and the Bush state campaign chairman, he was already juggling a couple of hats that should have been nowhere near each other. Furthermore, Bush traveled to Ohio on election day to meet with Blackwell. There's no doubt that Blackwell consistently ruled in a manner that seemed to favor Bush. But the impact of these rulings on the election was probably minimal. For example, Blackwell ruled that Ohio voters could not cast provisional ballots outside their designated precinct. Local officials had hoped to alleviate confusion over polling places by letting people come to "zones" – regional locations where they could cast a ballot when their assigned precinct was in doubt. When Blackwell blocked this option, a number of counties, including Franklin, went ahead and accepted provisional ballots at polling places from people who signed a statement explaining why they were in the wrong place, why they didn't have time to go to their designated precinct, etc.

Blackwell's attempt to disqualify voter registration cards that didn't meet an 80-lb paper test also failed, as did his push to get counties to switch from punch cards to "black box" balloting (using Direct Recording Electronic machines, or DREs) Paradoxically, if he had prevailed on DREs, the election would likely have been closer, because punchcards generate more spoilage. Electronic voting, i.e. "black box" balloting where there is no paper trail, existed only in a handful of counties. Franklin is the largest of these – and Kerry did better than expected there, even with the long lines.

Charge: Voting company fraudFinding: Unlikely
As for Diebold and other vilified companies, in all probability, they didn't, and wouldn't, risk the ignominy and consequences of fixing an election. The primary reason so many people are suspicious of Diebold in the first place is because of the CEO's ill-advised promise, in a GOP fundraising letter, to do everything he could to see Ohio's electors awarded to Bush. That was an outrageous thing to say, but even on its face more likely a sign of cluelessness than of hidden plans to alter the outcome.

Charge: Exit poll results were more accurate than actual ballotsFinding: FalseExplanation of Problem: Imperfect nature of polls
Now to the central issue: the claim that exit polls, which never lie, showed Kerry winning. Our understanding of this – and the argumentation in the Contest – is based largely on an analysis by Steven F. Freeman, Ph.D. But Freeman is not an expert in polling. According to his affidavit, he is a visiting scholar in the Graduate Division, School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania Center for Organizational Dynamics.

To get some insight into this issue, I spoke with a source who, in the common parlance, is "familiar with the thinking of" Warren Mitofsky, the "father" of the exit poll.

Asked about Freeman's analysis, my source told me that it is "all wrong." We spent several hours going through Freeman's specific claims, and reviewed how exit polls – and Mitofsky's in particular – work.

Much of the belief that the election was stolen was based on "screen shots" of raw numbers provided by CNN. In exit polling, raw numbers mean almost nothing – since the essence of a successful exit poll is to interview a sampling of voters, and then apply a variety of methods in order to adjust to the most probable accurate assessment. "To say you want the raw data is ludicrous," said the source. "You can't use it until you do something with it. You're talking about a bunch of naïve people that had [only] the first course in statistics."

Bill Leonard, a former CBS News VP who was a polling pioneer, has called exit polls "blunt instruments." The widely circulated notion that they are always right is dead wrong.

The notion that a single definitive number showing Kerry winning ever existed is also wrong. "We never had unadjusted unofficial totals," said the source. "As we get more data, we're always adjusting."

In this case, what most likely happened was that more Bush supporters failed to complete exit poll surveys than Kerry backers. The reason for that can be as trivial as a sampler skipping someone who looks unfriendly or voters not liking the race or demeanor of the sampler.

(For what it is worth, I learned that Mitofsky is a lifelong liberal and apparently holds no brief for Bush. But a job's a job, and a professional is a professional.)
Conclusions

While it's appallingly easy to mess around with a computer, it's a lot more difficult to rig an election.

To have a conspiracy of this magnitude, you'd need more than a bunch of individual mishaps – you need a plan and coordination. And you'd need a large number of collaborators willing to commit felonious and treasonous behavior of the highest order.

None of this is to say that election fraud could not, theoretically, happen – particularly in a truly opaque system that produces no paper trail. Indeed, with 88 counties, a bewildering variety of voting systems, and often conflicting decisions by courts, and state and local officials, it's a wonder that elections work at all.

More allegations of fraud in the 2004 election will be floated. The problem is that those who float these claims don't bother to perform any measure of due diligence. So far, every claim of fraud that I have examined has turned out to have a credible alternate explanation.

Legitimate avenues of inquiry remain. Exploring how particular companies get contracts is one; the appropriate role and behavior of top state elections officials is another. Then there are the kinds of bad administrative decisions made at the county level.

Certainly, there were many instances of small-scale cheating and intimidation – as there probably always are. Limited numbers of voters received phone calls and letters on bogus official letterheads, telling them they could not vote; in one egregious instance, elderly Democrats were "informed" that it might be more comfortable for them to vote on Wednesday, when lines were shorter. But there's no evidence or even likelihood that this was authorized from on high; it's far more like that such amateurish interventions were locally conceived.

Technical and administrative failings were certainly apparent. The inadequate distribution of machines was just one. Another was the fact that poll workers couldn't get through continuously busy phone lines to county officials.

"Overall, Ohio has a good system," said Democratic election lawyer McTigue. "Like any system, if you scrutinize it enough, you're going to find weaknesses."
One conclusion seems obvious: Because of the growing partisan animus and attendant suspicions, everyone connected with the electoral process is going to have to be a whole lot more careful and a whole lot more forthcoming. That goes, especially, for those responsible for creating the system, installing and maintaining it, making the decisions. "Times have changed," says Chris Wilson, Franklin County's election technology administrator, and a "Republican" hire who is well-regarded and insists on his independence. "You can't go in and do maintenance without everybody knowing what's going on. You can't talk gobbledygook anymore."

Sadly, it appears that much of the blame for the Bush victory rests with those who wished it were otherwise. In Cuyahoga County, for example, Republicans worked very aggressively to get out their voters, while Democrats often did not. Mark Griffin, the former Kerry campaign attorney, recalls being told by colleagues that, according to the numbers, a county with 1.4 million people had only a couple of dozen swing voters.

"I don't think the evidence shows a conspiracy," says Griffin. "It doesn't show the Republicans stole the election. It shows we are continuing to have mechanical and systemic failures that, in a closer election, could have flipped the results."
Half-baked conspiracy theories are damaging to the public confidence in democracy. We could use a few less conspiracy theorists, and a few more Griffins. It takes a pretty big person to admit that one's own side screwed up, or was simply bested in a fight (even a nasty one), or to accept, and tackle, the growing alienation of potential voters in America. And the unexciting, labor-intensive process of analyzing and fixing the machinery of the people's will.

© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/20934/