Archive for September, 2006

Entry for September 30, 2006

September 30, 2006

The graph comes from the Virginia coverage of a site  I’ve already recommended,  Electoral-Vote.com.

As of today, it predicts 51 seats for Republicans, but has downgraded Allen’s chances to “barely.”  The Votemaster has this to say,

Virginia is shaping up to be a real close race, so it is attracting more polling. We have two polls today. SurveyUSA puts incumbent Sen. George Allen (R-VA) ahead of former Reagan Navy Secretary turned Democrat Jim Webb 50% to 44%, while Mason-Dixon puts the race at an exact tie, 43% to 43%

The SurveyUSA poll, released September 27, was sponsored by WDJB-7, our Roanoke CBS affiliate, along with WUSA TV in Washington, D.C.  September 24-6, the pollster asked 1,200 Virginia adults (979 of whom were registered and 628  judged to be “likely” voters):

If the election for United States Senator were today, and you were standing in the voting booth right now, who would you vote for? Republican George Allen? Democrat Jim Webb? Independent Green Gail Parker Or some other candidate? 

The results given were for the likely voters.  The site comments:

Since an identical SurveyUSA poll 2 weeks ago, Allen is up 1 point and Webb is down 1 point. BUT: day-to-day data shows that the race is volatile. On Sunday 9/24, after Allen had been accused of using racial slurs in college, he led by 7 in SurveyUSA Sunday-only data . On Monday 9/25, after Allen strongly denied the accusations, he led by 11 in SurveyUSA Monday-only data. On Tuesday 9/26, after more people corroborated the accusations, Allen trailed Webb by 3 points, in Tuesday-only data. The 5-point Allen advantage shown here, when the 3 days of data are combined and averaged, cannot be considered stable. Earlier polls had shown the race narrowing after publicity over comments Allen made to a Webb campaign worker. Today, Allen gets 87% of Republican votes. Webb gets 86% of Democrat votes. Independents are split. Allen leads by 12 points among men, trails by 1 point among women. Allen leads by 16 in Rural VA, leads by 10 in Suburban VA. Webb leads by 16 in Urban VA. The election is in 6 weeks, on 11/7/06. The Republicans have a 10-seat majority in the U.S. Senate. Allen’s seat had been considered safely Republican…

The Mason-Dixon poll  conducted September 23-7 shows the two candidates tied at 43% was  was conducted for MSNBC and the McClatchy company, whose papers include The Miami Herald,  the Sacramento Bee,  the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Charlotte Observer.  The poll asks additional questions about approval ratings for Congress, the war on terror and other topics.

*

Another interesting source of news is Congressional Quarterly’s site, which includes a map predicting the outcome of  House, Senate and governors’ races.   Last night Greg Giroux posted an interesting article, “Four Incumbents Fell From the Heights, With No Safe Landings for GOP.”

Most of the House contests in which Democrats are staging strong bids to take over Republican-held seats were predictable as early as Election Night 2004.

For example, Democrats are again targeting Indiana’s 8th District, where Republican Rep. John Hostettler has won six terms but never by an overwhelming margin, and Pennsylvania’s 6th District, where two-term Republican Rep. Jim Gerlach faces a rematch with Democrat Lois Murphy after edging her by just 2 percentage points in 2004.

But if the Democrats manage to make the net gain of at least 15 seats they need to take control of the House, the difference could be made in a handful of longtime Republican strongholds — all of which appeared “safe” for the GOP when the current election cycle started — that came into play only because of the personal downfalls of long popular Republican incumbents.

Today’s front page on Washington Post featured staff writers Charles Babington and Jonathan Weisman, “Rep. Foley Quits In Page Scandal: Explicit Online Notes Sent to Boy, 16.  The six term representative’s actions were no secret to his party’s leadership.

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last night that he had learned this spring of inappropriate “contact” between Foley and a 16-year-old page. Boehner said he then told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Boehner later contacted The Post and said he could not remember whether he talked to Hastert.

It was not immediately clear what actions Hastert took. His spokesman had said earlier that the speaker did not know of the sexually charged online exchanges between Foley and the boy.

ABC New investigative reporter Brian Ross  provided the content of the emails on September 29.

Do I make you a little horny?

In another message, Foley wrote,

You in your boxers, too? … Well, strip down and get relaxed.

Foley also disturbed a page with his emails, according to Citizens for Ethics. The St. Petersburg Times  political blog  reported on an emergency meeting at the Capitol among Florida Republicans after Foley’s resignation.  Another representative, Bill Young revealed that

someone at the meeting said there are 36 pages of incriminating emails

Ironically, Foley had chaired the House caucus on exploited children.  More later.

*

Another problem for Republicans is former House Majority Leader Tom Delay’s  Texas’  seat, which is currently leaning towards the Democrats.  Delay refused to step aside and won the primary.  He then said that he was moving to Virginia.  Democrats sued to prevent the Republicans from substituting a new and politically stronger candidate and the courts sided with them,  preventing the Republicans from placing a new nominee on the general election ballot.  As a result, the Republicans have conduct a  write-in campaign on behalf of their replacement candidate, Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs.  Gov. Rick Perry scheduled a special election for the remainder of DeLay’s unexpired term, which will coincide on Nov. 7 with the election for the full term.

 In Ohio’s 18th, Representative  Ney won a sixth term in 2004 with 66 percent of the vote, and an easy win was expected again this year until Jack Abramoff told federal prosecutors that he and his lobbying associates plied Ney in exchange for favorable legislative action.  Ney announced in August that he would relinquish the GOP nomination he had won in May and state Sen. Joy Padgett was  nominated September 14 to take his place.  The next day, prosecutors announced that Ney would plead guilty to two federal counts of conspiracy and false statements, after previoiusly proclaiming his innocence. Democrat Zack Space, an elected municipal attorney,  is airing a television ad that links Padgett to Ney and Republican Gov. Bob Taft, whose job approval ratings have tanked because of controversies about his own ethics. Space’s campaign regularly refers to Padgett as Ney’s “handpicked successor.” 

Pennsylvania’s 10th in northeastern Pennsylvania is normally so dependably Republican-leaning that the Democrats did not even field a candidate against Sherwood in 2002 and 2004revelations that the married incumbent had an affair with a woman who also settled out of court on an accusation of  physical abuse. In the May primary election, Sherwood took just 56 percent of the vote against a political unknown. Democrat Chris Carney, a political science professor, began airing a television ad on Thursday that addresses Sherwood’s personal problems.  Joseph Lech, who describes himself

a Republican who supported Don Sherwood from the very beginning

is featured in an ad that says

He campaigned on family values and he didn’t keep up to his promise.

*

Incidentally, Survey USA’s poll also found that of 612 likely voters, 52% are undecided about how to vote on the proposed amendment to deny all legal recognition of any unmarried relationships, gay or straight.  I’m not surprised, given this vague question, which fails to list the contents of the proposal:

Also on the ballot is Question 1, concerning marriage. On Question 1, are you certain to vote yes? Certain to vote no? Or, are you not yet certain how you will vote on Question 1?

The vaguenesss was intentional, however, compared to a September 13 poll, where a summary of the amendment was read.

 Today’s release shows that 52% of Virginians do not yet have a clear understanding of what Question 1 will do to the Virginia Bill of Rights, and may be persuadable on this issue. Of those who have made up their mind for certain, Republicans support the measure, Democrats and Independents oppose it. The older the voter, the more likely he or she is to vote “Yes.” As the forces who support and the forces who oppose Question 1 spend money to raise the awareness of Virginia voters about just what the implications of Question 1 may be, SurveyUSA expects the number of “certain” voters to increase, the number of “not yet certain” voters to decrease. 

  Here is Equality Virginia’s discussion of the amendment. 

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Entry for September 29, 2006

September 29, 2006

The Club for Growth, which, for instance, opposes subsidies to Amtrak as anti-growth (although it seems to take no position on airline subsidies or highway funding esven, as far as I know, on Ted Stevens (R-ALASKA)’s “bridge to nowhere” was busy in the Republican primaries this year, despite a FEC lawsuit in 2005 about the 2004 election (“FEC Sues Pro-Republican Political Group” by Sharon Theimer, AP, 9/19/05).

The club claims 36,000 members, although some of them probably subscribe just to follow  what the group is up to,  because as unlike more forthcoming groups, such as Focus on the Family, Club for Growth requires a log-in for much of its content.  On of the benefits of membership is that you get bulletins, like this one September 14 from Pat Toomey:

 …the Club’s PAC racked up 9 wins against just 4 losses. It’s a record we’re proud of, especially given that our endorsed candidates competed in races with nearly 50 major opponents. In most cases our candidate was the underdog, as in yesterday’s Rhode Island race. The Washington Post reported yesterday that the Club’s PAC “had an extremely successful run so far this cycle.

And the Club’s PAC scored its first-ever knockout of an incumbent when Tim Walberg defeated Rep. Joe Schwarz in the Michigan Republican primary. We accomplished something vitally important in Rhode Island despite the vote tally.

Politicians are risk-adverse. Every Republican in Congress knows what we did in Rhode Island. They realize that Club members donated an incredible $725,000 to Chafee’s challenger. They know that the Club for Growth PAC spent an additional $515,000, mostly on TV ads, and took a challenger from being down 2 to 1 in the polls to the edge of an upset. As senators cast their votes on key bills, wavering Republicans will have to wonder if they could withstand the same punishment.

National Review yesterday wrote that Laffey’s “loss was by no means an exercise in futility: Sometimes it’s better to fight and lose than not to fight at all. Two years ago, Pat Toomey nearly defeated Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s GOP primary. Yesterday, Laffey gave Chafee a genuine scare. Both Toomey and Laffey received crucial support from the Club for Growth [PAC]. Senators are a notoriously risk-averse crowd. And now, for the second election cycle in a row, Republican senators have received a sharp reminder that if they behave too much like liberals, they may not be senators for long.

Pat Toomey tried to displace Senator Arlen Specter (PA) as a RHINO (Republican in name only).  The breakdown of club member support for the eight candidates other than Laffey, according to the group’s website:

  • Sharron Angle (NV)–lost but members  contributed over 605,000
  • Tim Walberg (MICH)–won over the incumbent with over $600,000 in donations
  • Doug Lamborn (CO)–won with over $200,000
  • Kevin Calvey (OK)–came in fourth after over $249,000
  • Phil Krinkie (MN)– withdrew, as pledged, when he didn’t receive the party’s endorsement.  Received over $154,000
  • Jim Jordan (OH)–won and received over $92,000
  • Henry Cueller (TX)–won and received over $170,000
  • John Campbell (CA)–won in 2005 and received over $118,000

*

Blog statistics:

During the first six months: 985 individuals viewed 12,053 pages in this blog.  July – August added 984 new individuals who read 14,289 pages. September added another 8,555 page views, with another 400 new readers.

 

 

 

 

Entry for September 28, 2006

September 28, 2006

On the heels of a less than favorable assessment from the U.S. comes a British Defense assesment that calls the Iraq war a “recruiting agent,” according to this story in  the Guardian.  

Yesterday,  the New York Times, in “Declassified Key Judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate on Global Terrorism”  provided those portions of the the National Intelligence Estimate dated April 2006 released the day before by the Bush administration.

Although we cannot measure the extent of the spread with precision, a large body of all-source reporting indicates that activists identifying themselves as jihadists, although a small percentage of Muslims, are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion….The Iraq conflict has become the cause célèbre for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.

Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1) entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq jihad; (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-U.S. sentiment among most Muslims — all of which jihadists exploit. .. 

Fighters with experience in Iraq are a potential source of leadership for jihadists …

In her AP story, “Report Open to Interpretation” Katherine Shrader wrote today that  
Robert Hutchings, who headed the National Intelligence Council when the estimate was launched in 2004 and now serves  at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School , called the document

a very severe indictment of, not just the administration, but where we as a country have found ourselves five years after 9/11….It says the jihad is spreading, expanding and intensifying.

Hutchings says that intelligence analysts are trained to avoid policy judgments that would entwine them in politics., but that the key judgements go beyond normal bounds.  Hutchings said the United States must vigorously address the conflicts that jihadists have successfully exploited.

The administration will say that is what they are doing, but that is not true….We are back to paying no attention to Palestine because we don’t like Hamas… [and in Lebanon] by encouraging Israel to extend its attacks, we have helped destabilize that country….We think we can isolate Iran and are surprised when no one joins us.

According to Scrader, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow ridiculed Hutchings’ remarks, and those of Clinton’s  Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who said the Bush foreign policy is a “mess” in an e-mail: 

Surely they jest…In terms of the accuracy and aptness of their criticisms, they are batting a perfect .000.

Democrats continued their push to release of the rest of the report.  Said Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA)

The American people deserve the full story, not those parts of it that the Bush administration selects.

In “Rumsfeld says can’t measure if terrorism growing,”  Reuter’s  Kristin Roberts reported today that U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reacted to questions on the report by saying intelligence could be faulty and sometimes “flat wrong.”

Are more terrorists being created in the world? We don’t know. The world doesn’t know. There are not good metrics to determine how many people are being trained in a radical madrassa school in some country that’s being funded by an extremist teaching young people to go out and kill people. There’s no metric that you could gather all that information and pull it together and know what’s being produced…..At any given day, at any given week, at any given month, is the pool going up or down?….The implication  that if you stop killing or capturing people who are trying to kill you that therefore the world will be a better place is obviously nonsensical….Anyone who thinks that there is a single answer or a single reason or a silver bullet that can solve the problem can’t be right. It’s too complex. It’s going to take time and it’s going to take a lot of work by a lot of people who are patient and who believe in freedom.

Matt Rothchild of The Progressive published his analysis, “A Closer Reading of the National Intelligence Estimate: Iraq a Bigger Factor in the Rise of Terror than Reported. Plus, Anti-Globalization Forces Equated with Terrorists!” September 27.

A United Nations report released on Wednesday said the Iraq war provided al Qaeda with a training center and recruits, reinforcing the U.S. report blaming the conflict for a surge in Islamic extremism. More later.  The bus will leave soon.

 

 

 

Entry for September 27, 2006

September 27, 2006

I reeived an email alert today from the Progressive Democrats of America, asking for phone calls and emails in support of the  Voter Confidence Act of 2006.  No copy was available today on Thomas or through the GPO,  so I obtained a copy from Brad Friedman, from Los Angeles , who posted to  his blog yesterday  commentary and a link to a  preliminary copy of  the bill. 

To reach your Senator, the toll-free number for the Congressional swithboard is 888-355-3588.  If  that doesn’t work from your area, try 202-225-3121. 

 Ian Urbina, with Carl Hulse contributing, reported in the New York Times today, in  “Bill Would Reimburse States for Printing Alternate Ballots ,” that Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA)  and  Christopher Dodd (D-CT) have been joined by  Russ Feingold (D-WI) in submitting the emergency legislation on September 26.  The bill would reimburse states for printing paper ballots in case of problems with electronic voting machines on November at the rate of 75 cents for each backup paper ballot that a precinct prints. If ballots are printed for half the 27 million voters expected to use touch-screen machines that would amount to $10.1 million. 

Said Boxer,

If someone asks for a paper ballot, they ought to be able to have it

To pass, the measure would have to advance without opposition from any senator and then make it through the House before Election Day.

Widespread problems this year  in primaries including  Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland and  Ohio have led local and state officials to worry that systems purchased under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA)  might not be ready in time for the election.  Lack of a paper trail on most touch-screen machines will leave no way to verify votes in case of fraud or computer failure.

Last week, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of Maryland, a Republican, joined the skeptics, saying he lacked confidence in his state’s new $106 million electronic system and suggesting that state officials offer all voters paper ballots as an alternative.

Barbara Burt, vice president and director of election reform programs at Common Cause commented, 

Lack of funding has been the main excuse that local election officials have used to avoid implementing paper precautions. This takes that excuse away from them entirely.

Burt  would have preferred, however,  a requirement that precincts to provide paper ballots in federal elections. Boxer replied,

I think Big Brother dictating something to local jurisdictions is a big mistake, because they will balk at it,” she said. “What we’re saying here is that you run your own elections, and we are going to help you run it properly. If local officials don’t take advantage of the option to take precautions, then they’re the ones on the line.

Dodd  was one of the original co-sponsors of the HAVA legislation of 2002 which this bill would amend. Friedman says that until now, the co-sponsors have been relunctant to open HAVA to amendment.   Just wish the three had submitted the legislation earlier.

On September 25, the Committee on House Administration announced in a press release that it  will hold a hearing tomorrow, “Electronic voting machines: verification, security, and paper trails.”    Testifying will be:

the machine, in light of real election procedures, shows that it is vulnerable to extremely serious attacks. For example, an attacker who gets physical access to a machine or its removable memory card for as little as one minute could install malicious code; malicious code on a machine could steal votes undetectably, modifying all records, logs, and counters to be consistent with the fraudulent vote count it creates. An attacker could also create malicious code that spreads automatically and silently from machine to machine during normal election activities—a voting-machine virus. We have constructed working demonstrations of these attacks in our lab. Mitigating these threats will require changes to the voting machine’s hardware and software and the adoption of more rigorous election procedures.

On September 20, in his blog, Freedom to Tinker, he refuted Diebold’s September 13 defense  of the machine.

That guidelines be developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), through the EAC, for a scientifically sound, independently verifiable audit trail for direct record electronic (DRE) voting systems and that such guidelines not be restricted to contemporaneous paper replica but also include guidelines for electronic, audio, video or other media to provide verification of the integrity of recording and tabulating votes…..That, for DRE voting systems, guidelines be developed by NIST…for the contemporaneous recording of each ballot record, on a secure medium, to provide a redundant record of votes [and that] states develop procedures to safeguard and retain any paper record receipt in the polling place to preserve secrecy of the voted ballot.

All voting systems — particularly computer-based electronic voting systems — embody careful engineering, strong safeguards, and rigorous testing in both their design and operation; and,

Voting systems should also enable each voter to inspect a physical (e.g., paper) record to verify that his or her vote has been accurately cast and to serve as an independent check on the result produced and stored by the system. Making those records permanent (i.e., not based solely in computer memory) provides a means by which an accurate recount may be conducted.
 

  • Keith Cunningham, Election Director, Allen County, Ohio, who in his March 21 testimony before the Committee on the 2004 election stated,

despite the rhetoric and sometimes hysterical mania, the 2004 Presidential Election in Ohio was fairly administered and absent of fraud.

Cunningham came in for special mention in Steve Rosenfeld, Bob Fitrakis, and Harvey Wasserman (authors of What Happened in Ohio) in the  March 24, 2005 report for Columbus Ohio’s  Free Press,  “As Blackwell Says, Ohio’s in 2004 was a National Model.”  Asked about Knox County, where Kenyon College  students had to wait until 4 a.m. to finish voting  because there was only one working machine, Cunningham, who was also president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, said that problem was blown out of proportion because that

was only one precinct.

 Rep. Millender-McDonald  replied,

Come on. No one should be denied the right to vote. 

When asked what preparations were made in preparation for Ohio’s battleground state role, Cunningham said heightened scrutiny  by the public, press and partisans was problematic.  

We never had attorneys in our office. We never had activists in our office. They were very disruptive… People were trying to create chaos and confusion to exploit.

  • James Dickson, Vice President of Government Affairs, American Association of People with Disabilities who has testified before the Senate Rules Committee in 2001 and in 2005, joined with other civil rights activists in opposing a national voter card system.  His critique, “The Not So Secret Ballot”. was published by the International Foundation for Election Systems. 

 

Lever machines can be subtly altered so that a fraction of votes for a particular candidate will not register and the alteration can be disabled from outside the machine (to escape being detected in testing). Paper media, such as punched cards and mark-sense ballots, are unreliable because their origin cannot be established after they have been deposited in the ballot box. That is, we cannot tell whether they were filled out by a legitimate voter or were replaced by an intruder. I hold that electronic systems are far safer than any prior method of voting because they implement redundant security checks and audit trails and are much tougher to tamper with because of the size and nature of their tabulating components. I do not claim that electronic voting is free of troubles, but instead urge that its advantages far outweigh its risks.

His 2004 paper, “Paper v. Electronic Voting Records – An Assessment” also proposes alternatives to paper backups.

Shamos is no friend of Diebold, however, calling problems with  the Pennsylvania machines, according to Verified Voting,

 the most severe security flaw ever discovered in a
voting system.

 

Entry for September 26, 2006

September 26, 2006

The illustration is by Jonathan Barkat, a photographer and illustrator based in Philadelphia, where he is on the faculty of the University of the Arts.  An artist statement can be found at the site for Germantown Academy.  An article on how Barkat uses photoshop can be found here.

It accompanies Robert Kennedy Jr.’s new article for the October 5  Rolling Stone, “Will the Next Election be Hacked?” which is a sequel to his article in the same publication, “Was the 2004 election stolen?”

Suprise, surprise.  Kennedy reports what I’ve been saying for months.  The Help America Vote Act which was supposed to upgrade the nation’s election systems will make it even easier to commit fraud and harder to verfy results.  He reports on the mysterious patch applied to the paperless touch-screen systems in Georgia just prior to the Chamblis/Cleland election; the presence of Diebold elections division president Bob Urosevich in the tabulation room in MD in 2002; Diebold’s interest in downplaying, hiding the significance of several scientific reports in 2004 warning of the vulnerabilities in their machines; Rep. Bob Ney’s (R-OH) involvement with former staffers and Diebold lobbyists in passing the HAVA and more

He adds a wrinkle I hadn’t heard of when I reported on the Criegh Deeds debacle, whete Judges wouldn’t allow a true recount when 320 votes was the margin by which Deeds was defeated.  

In Florida, an astonishing new law actually makes it illegal to count paper ballots by hand after they’ve already been tallied by machine.

Twenty-seven states now require a paper trail.  According to Kennedy, the best solution has been put forth in New Mexico.  Voters use paper ballots, which are then scanned and counted electronically.   He quotes Governor Bill Richardson (D)

We became one of the laughingstock states in 2004 because the machines were defective, slow and unreliable.  I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to go through this again.’ The paper-ballot system, as untechnical as it seems, is the most verifiable way we can assure Americans that their vote is counting.

Meanwhile in Maryland, elections are doubtful about fixes to the Diebold machines that had so many snafus in the primary.  The Baltimore Sun’s Melissa Harris reported today in “Vote check-in glitch declared to be fixed: State is skeptical of e-poll books; other problems linger,.”

Diebold Election Systems Inc. said yesterday that it has solved a design flaw that caused the state’s electronic check-in computers to crash repeatedly during this month’s primary, overwhelming poll workers and leading to long waits at precincts.

But after watching a demonstration of a corrected e-poll book, state elections administrator Linda H. Lamone said she would not be convinced that the equipment was ready to use in the Nov. 7 general election until it passed a daylong test scheduled for next Tuesday. 
 
The company still has “a big task” ahead, she said.

As of today, the Vote Master at ElectoralVote.com predicts a tied Senate, even with Allen winning (and Virginia is now called a “weak Republican state.) 

 

Entry for September 25, 2006

September 26, 2006

The Denver Post’s Mike Keefe’s September 14 cartoon on the upcoming election.  For another of his on electronic voting machines, see September 20.

You may have seen the latest ad by the Allen Campaign against James Webb.  Today, Viveca Novak of the Annenberg Center’s Fact Check has this interesting piece, “Casting Credentials Away in the Old Dominion.”. In the ad, the announcer says,

Twenty years ago, fiction writer James Webb served in the Reagan Administration.  After 10 months, he quit. Webb attacked Reagan policy.  Now Webb wants you to believe the late  President would support him.  Nancy Reagan doesn’t .

On screen, you see news clipping and headline “Nancy Reagan tells Webb to pull footage of husband from ads,” The Virginian Pilot  and a letter from Nancy Reagan’s office.  The announcers continues,

She called on Webb to  take down his ad, Webb refused. Would Ronald Reagan really endorse a candidate who hires people who call him a fool? And disrespects the wishes of his widowed wife? That’s just fiction.

Then Allen comes on screen,

I’m George Allen and I approve this message.

Here’s Fact Check’s analysis:

Republican Sen. George Allen tries to portray his opponent, Democrat James Webb, as a lightweight, identifying the Marine-turned-novelist as a “fiction writer” who served under former President Ronald Reagan for only 10 months before quitting. It also criticizes Webb’s continued use, in his own ad, of a clip of Reagan praising him in a 1985 speech despite widow Nancy Reagan’s request that he stop using the footage.

The Allen ad is wrong about Webb’s service in the Reagan administration. It’s true Webb served only 10 months as Secretary of the Navy but he was an Assistant Secretary of Defense for three years under Reagan before that. And Webb is legally entitled to use the footage of Reagan’s speech, which did in fact praise the future Democratic candidate profusely.

Fact Check describes Webb’s service:  
 
Webb joined the administration in 1984, when he was nominated and confirmed as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. The Vietnam veteran, who was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts for his military service, resigned to write another book in 1987, but almost immediately then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger asked him to become Secretary of the Navy.

Webb was confirmed to that post, but it was a short stay. He had conflicts with Weinberger’s successor, Frank Carlucci, and didn’t agree with the way Carlucci wanted to implement cuts in the Pentagon’s budget that had been mandated by Congressional and White House agreement. Specifically, Webb publicly objected to cutting the Navy fleet as Carlucci proposed. Webb’s leavetaking was indeed turbulent.

About Reagan’s statement,

In fact, Webb never claimed the late President endorsed his current candidacy, and we find that the Webb ad is historically accurate, whatever Mrs. Reagan may think of it….  Here’s what Reagan said in 1985:

Reagan: One man who sat where you do now and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968 is another member of our Administration–Assistant Secretary of Defense James Webb, the most decorated member of his class. James’ gallantry as a Marine officer in Vietnam won him the Navy Cross and other decortions, including two Purple Hearts. James wrote several books about American servicemen and women. In his book, a Sense of Honor, he describes the life that you have chosen.

Reagan then quotes from Webb’s book.

Mrs. Reagan’s aide Nancy Drake had written Webb:

The use of video footage of President Reagan, or the use of photographs, likenesses and/or quotes in this manner is neither authorized nor appropriate. Using the President’s name, image or likeness implies endorsement which is neither fair nor respectful of any candidate, certainly not after President Reagan’s death. At the direction of Mrs. Reagan, please refrain from the use of her husband’s name, video footage, photograph, likeness, and/or quotes in any further campaign materials, including television advertisements.

So who did Webb hire who called Reagan a fool?  Steve Jarding and Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, who helped Democrat Mark Warner win the Virginia governorship in 2001Their book, published in March, Foxes in the Henhouse: How the Republicans Stole the South and the Heartland and What the Democrats Must Do to Run ’Em Out

was not written in connection with the Webb campaign, but Allen’s right — they did call Reagan a “fool,” and worse.

 

Sources

John H. Cushman, “James Webb’s New ‘Fields of Fire’,” The New York Times, 28 February 1988.

 

Letter to James Webb from Joanne Drake, 8 September 2006.

 

Entry for September 24, 2006

September 26, 2006

The cartoon is by Mike Lane, at Cagle carttons.  (He used to be with the Baltimore Sun, but apparently has left.

On September 6, Bush resubmitted the nomination of former coal mine executive Richard Stickler to head MSHA.  The nomination had been returned to the White House before the August recess.

Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) placed a legislative hold on Stickler’s nomination for 3 months, saying that Stickler failed to demonstrate that safety was a priority during his tenure at the Pennsylvania Bureau of Deep Mine Safety and while working at  Beth Energy Mines.

Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), joined Byrd in moving to send the nomination back to the White House, saying that they hoped this action would provide Bush with an opportunity to nominate “someone more dedicated to miner safety.”

In a statement released September 7, Byrd said,

The White House apparently has greater concern for politics than for mine safety.  The Senate rejected this nomination in August, and I hope that the Senate will do so again.

Kennedy, in another statement, said he found it

appalling that the president would renominate Richard Stickler for this critical mine safety position in the face of intense opposition from miners and their families.

Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, said that by renominating Stickler,

President Bush has ignored the will of the U.S. Senate and added insult to injury to coal miners and their families.

Stickler currently has a 6-month contract to work as an advisor to the Department

Entry for September 23, 2006

September 23, 2006

The February 15, 2005 cartoon, “Pajamas at the Gate”  is by Cox and Forkum (email).

Plowshare Peace and Justice Center, here in Roanoke, Virginia ,  just sent me an announcement that David Swanson, the co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org will facilitate a local teach-in about President Bush’s impeachment  October 6 from 7 to 9 PM at the Unitarian-Universalist Church, 2015 Grandin Road.  For more
information contact Angela Conroy at 365-8621.  .  You also read Swanson’s writings at his  his blog, LetsTry Democracy.org.   UPDATE:  Make that October 20!

AfterDowningStreet has an open letter from Dennis Kucinich (D-MI)

In the past few months reports have been published in Newsweek, ABC News and GQ Magazine that indicate the US is recruiting members of paramilitary groups to destabilize Iran through violence. The New Yorker magazine and the Guardian have written that US has already deployed military inside Iran. The latest issue of Time writes of plans for a naval blockade of Iran at the Port of Hormuz, through which 40% of the world’s oil supply passes. Other news reports have claimed that an air strike, using a variety of bombs including bunker busters to be dropped on over 1,000 targets, including nuclear facilities. This could obviously result in a great long term humanitarian and environmental disaster.

Earlier this year, I demanded congressional hearings on Iran and was able to secure the promise of a classified briefing from the Department of Defense, the State Department and the CIA. When the briefing was held, the Department of Defense and the State Department refused to show and are continuing to block any congressional inquiry into plans to attack Iran.

Just this past week, the International Atomic Energy Agency called “erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated” statements relating to Iran’s nuclear program which came from a staff report of the House Intelligence committee. Other intelligence officials have claimed over a dozen distortions in the report which, among other things, said Iran is producing weapons grade uranium. The Washington Post wrote: “The IAEA called that ‘incorrect’ noting that weapons grade uranium is enriched to a level of 90 percent or more. Iran has enriched uranium to 3.5% under IAEA monitoring.”

I have demanded that the Government Oversight subcommittee on National Security and International Relations, of which I am the ranking Democrat, hold hearings to determine how in the world the Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, viewed the report without correcting the obvious inaccuracies before it was published. Once again a case for war is being built on lies.

Kucinich is referring to a September 12, which IAEA wrote Peter Hoeskstra (R-MI), Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, complaining about errots in the Committee’s August 23 report,“Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States.”

According to IAEA letter,  its first public  dispute over U.S. allegations about its Iran investigatio, the report

  • overstates that the uranium enrichment level  is to weapons grade, when in fact that grade is 90% or more, not the 3.6% of Iran’s program
  • misleading portrays Iran’s production of polonium 21o as covert, when reporting on that substance is not required  by the Non-Proliferatoin Treaty (NPT)
  • mistated that one inspector was removed by IAEA because he reported that Iran was a nuclear threat, when in fact that inspector, only one of 200, was removed, as allowed by treaty, by Iran
  • did not include the UN’s commendation of IAEA for its professional efforts, nor consult with IAEA.

In Washington Post Septembe 14 story, “U.N. Inspectors Dispute Iran Report By House Panel Paper on Nuclear Aims Called Dishonest,” staff writer Dafna Linzer explains the background of the complaint.On

The IAEA openly clashed with the Bush administration on pre-war assessments of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Relations all but collapsed when the agency revealed that the White House had based some allegations about an Iraqi nuclear program on forged documents.

After no such weapons were found in Iraq, the IAEA came under additional criticism for taking a cautious approach on Iran, which the White House says is trying to build nuclear weapons in secret. At one point, the administration orchestrated a campaign to remove the IAEA’s director general, Mohamed ElBaradei. It failed, and he won the Nobel Peace Prize last year.

 

Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), a committee member, told Linzer

that the House report was “clearly not prepared in a manner that we can rely on.” He agreed to send it to the full committee for review, but the Republicans decided to make it public before then.  The report was never voted on or discussed by the full committee. Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), the vice chairman, told Democratic colleagues in a private e-mail that the report “took a number of analytical shortcuts that present the Iran threat as more dire — and the Intelligence Community’s assessments as more certain — than they are.”

Privately, several intelligence officials said the committee report included at least a dozen claims that were either demonstrably wrong or impossible to substantiate. Hoekstra’s office said the report was reviewed by the office of John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence.

*

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s derestricted its August 31, 2006 report, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” on  September 14.

IAEA started as the world´s “Atoms for Peace” organization in 1957 within the United Nations family and works to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.  Its secretariat, led by Director General Mohamed ElBaradei,  is headquartered in Vienna, Austria and includes  2,200 multi-disciplinary professional and support staff from more than 90 countries.

Interrrogating Suspects (09/22/06)

September 22, 2006

The cartoon is from Amnesty International’s annual report.

Yesterday, the White House and rebellious Senate Republicans announced an agreement on rules for the interrogation and trial of suspects in the war on terror. The Bush administration agreed to drop one provision narrowly interpreting international standards of prisoner treatment and another allowing defendants to be convicted on evidence they never see.  The president, however,  has the authority to enforce Geneva Convention standards and enumerates acts that constitute a war crime, including torture, rape, biological experiments and cruel and inhuman treatment.

Yesterday, the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees also gave Bush a victory when they  passed a measure to expand NSA  and other government surveillance powers.  Judiciary Republicans passed  Bush’s proposed rules for interrogating enemy combatants, after initially failing to muster enough votes.

Heather Wilson’s (R-NM)  House bill, H.R. 5825, The  Electronic Modernization Surveillance Act, would allow warrantless eavesdropping and searches of homes in the event of an “imminent threat” that involves loss of life, bodily harm or economic damage; and eliminate a requirement that all members of the Intelligence Committee be apprised of warrantless spying.

Democrats accuse the president and Republicans in Congress of playing politics with national security and attempting to cast Democrats as blocking measures to make the United States safer.

James X. Dempsey, Policy Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology appeared before the House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security September 6 to testify on “Updating FISA.” 

The Administration, caught in its secret violation of FISA, is now seeking radical
changes in the law, changes that go farther even than ratifying the President’s program.

He cautions that the Wilson bill,

 appears to exclude data mining activities from coverage under the statute, and, given the breadth of warrantless surveillance permitted under the Wilson bill, amounts to a Total Information Act program, in which the government collects large amounts of data without court order, keeps it forever, and analyzes it at any time without court approval. The Specter bill does not include this definition.

He adds,

The most radical proposal is that of Chairman Specter, which would effectively gut FISA by repealing its exclusivity provision, making it merely optional for the Administration to seek a court order for electronic surveillance inside the United States against American The bill co-sponsored by Chairman Sensenbrenner, while it would preserve the nominal exclusivity of FISA, not only would ratify the President’s program of warrantless surveillance for foreign-to-US communications, but also would permit much more warrantless surveillance of purely domestic calls. The result would be to cast a cloud of constitutional uncertainty over what the Administration claims is a valuable tool in preventing terrorism.

 His talk includes his  critique of

  • H.R. 4976, the “NSA Oversight Act”
  • H.R. 5113, the “Fairness and Accountability in Reorganizations Act of 2006”
  • H.R. 5371, the “Lawful Intelligence and Surveillance of Terrorists in an Emergency by NSA Act”
  • H.R. 5825, the “Electronic Surveillance Modernization Act”
  • S. 2453, the “National Security Surveillance Act of 2006”
  • S. 2455, the “Terrorist Surveillance Act”

 

 

Net Neutrality (09/21/06)

September 21, 2006

The illustration is from Salon.com.

Since Verizon has been fighting net neutrality, I was disappointed that the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, or at least its Chairman, Ted “Bridge to Nowhere” Stevens (R-Alaska)  would  issue a press release on September 18  taking  the company’s sponsored poll   as reflecting voters’ opinion on the need for legislation preserving this principle.

In looking at how the poll is constructed, it looks like the questions were constructed to manufacture a show of support for Verizon’s point of view.   I find the Committee’s September 18 press release () about the poll is odd, indeed.

The survey found, according to the release,

very few registered voters are familiar with the issue of network neutrality. In some regions of the country, only 5 percent of likely voters had even heard of “Net Neutrality.

How, if hardly anyone has heard of network neutrality,  can a majority of Americans be against it? How do questions about whether respondents want a choice of video providers show that Americans are against network neutrality?

I’d prefer the committee look at this September 12 analysis of  the benefits of net neutrality from AeE, the trade association for the tech industry.

Stevens has been trying to get his telcom bill  passed to no avail.  Now according an article on the website, TV Technology, “Telecom Bill May Have to be Dismembered,”

Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) said that if opponents of the legislation couldn’t be appeased in time to pass the total package this year, Plan B was to “take the bill in pieces.”

The Nation’s Jeff Chester examines Steven’s news release September 19, as does Save the Internet’s blog entry of September 20.

Free Press has a form letter you can send to your internet provider asking it to stop fighting net neutrality, with a copy sent to your members of Congress here.