Archive for April, 2008

Is Jeremiah Wright a colossal disaster for Barack Obama or a press trick?

April 30, 2008

Gotta run but here’s something to ponder from Steve Pizzo:

Index of Posts for April 2008

April 30, 2008

Mr. McCain goes to Inez (KY) and tells women what we need
Guerrillas in the Garden
Bush Accuses Dems in Congress of Economic Inaction
New York Political Leaders on Sean Ben Murder Acquittal
Making a Killing from Hunger
Food Aid in Gaza Suspended Due to Fuel Shortage
Report: 60% of EPA’s staff scientists say they have suffered political interference
The Pennsylvania Primary: Polls, Exit Polls, Live Blogging and What’s Next
Artivist Film Festival: Merging Art and Activism
Fact Check: Clinton & Obama TV ads mislead about lobbyists and PAC contributions
NYT: “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand”
Green Gadgets
States to Resume Death Penalty: Supreme Court Upholds Lethal Injection
Comcast and AT&T et.al. snub FCC broadband hearing
Anne Enright
Senate Commerce to hold mark up on Dorgan’s Cross Ownership Bill April 24
World Bank on the Food Price Crisis
Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell, Tenet, Ashcroft approved torture
KBR medic complicit in rape of colleague by soldier
Claudia Emerson
US Consultants help bust UK labor unions
Check out The Belmont Club: History and Hisotry in the Making
Zimbabwe tumult continues as Barry Bearak of the NYT freed
Speculation on Drugs and Torture
California Health Care Workers Press SEIU
Seton Hall’s Center for Social Justice Sues
WHO concerned about Gaza patients dying while awaiting
McCain’s economic advisors
On the Road Again

Mr. McCain goes to Inez (KY) and tells us what women need

April 29, 2008

Bruce Dill’s photograph of Lilly Ledbetter for Robert Barnes’s 2/20/07 WaPo story, “A Hearing Without Being Heard: As Justices Take Case, Plaintiff Finds It Has Little to Do With Her Anymore.”

*
As economists and pollsters talked about a recession and as consumers, facing increased gas and food prices, worried about the security of their jobs, April was a good month to remember the wage gap. Women are averaging 77 cents for every dollar men earn for comparable work.

April 22, in addition to being Earth Day, was Equal Pay Day, calling attention to when women’s wages catch up to men’s wages from the previous year. If you doubt the pay gap still exists, just ask Lilly Ledbetter, a supervisor at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s plant in Gadsden, Ala., who found out that after a 19-year career she was making $6,500 less than the lowest-paid male supervisor.

Ledbetter’s case gained prominence April 23, when the press covered Senator John McCain’s stop in Inez, KY on his “It’s Time for Action” tour, as he sought to emphasize his attention to the powerless in our country. In this rural eastern Kentucky town, where poverty is worse among women than men, McCain addressed Ms. Ledbetter’s case and George Miller’s (D-CA) H.R. 2831, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007, which had passed the House by a vote of 225-199 July 31, 2007, along almost entirely partisan lines. McCain suggested what women need is not more legal redress for discrimination, that education and training will suffice.

*

I know about Inez, KY from covering the largest environmental disaster in the southeastMassey Energy‘s Martin County Coal Sludge Spill–and from covering the work of federal mine inspector, Jack Spadaro, who refused to sign onto a Bush administration whitewash and got locked out of his own office on the orders of Secretary of Labor Elaine Cho.

What I had not remembered about Inez was Lyndon Johnson’s visit to launch the War on Poverty which McCain reminded us of on his stop there. McCain had launched the tour April 21 in Selma Alabama, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge site of “Bloody Sunday, March 6, 1965. That 1965 assault on marchers contributed to the federal Voting Rights Act‘s passage, following upon the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Bill Moyers, who was Johnson’s press secretary, reports that on the evening of signing the 1964 measure, Johnson said, “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come.”

Steve Holland of Reuters UK reported,

McCain was driven through the mountains to that wood frame house Johnson visited but now it was padlocked with the front porch fenced off, a “No Trespassing” sign posted and car parked in a driveway with a blanket covering a broken window.

John McCain had come to Inez not to praise Johnson, but to (re)bury him in this the centennial year of his birth. At a news conference at the old Martin County Court House, McCain told reporters, according to AP writer Libby Quaid,

I wouldn’t be back here today if government had fulfilled the promise that Lyndon Johnson made 44 years ago.

*

The main thrust of Quaid’s story was not Inez at all (her dateline was New Orleans). Instead, she emphasized McCain’s failure to return to the Senate to cast his vote on H.R. 2831. The measure would have reverted suits against employers to the prior clock, which allowed court consideration not just within six months of the original discrimination, but at the time of any discriminatory paycheck.

After threatened presidential veto, on the evening of Wednesday, April 23, there were 56 votes in the Senate to move the measure forward, 4 short of the 60 votes are needed to stop a filibuster. (Actually there may have been 57, as Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) spoke in favor of cloture but voted against it–I’m thinking for some kind of procedural reason which would allow him to bring the matter up again.

Republicans voting to stop a possible filibuster were were Coleman (MN), Collins (ME), Smith (OR), Snowe (ME), Specter (R), Sununu (NH) . Coleman had been targeted by People for the American Way in web and radio ads.

For years, Lilly Ledbetter was paid far less than the men in her factory for doing the same work — and she proved it in court. But when the company appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, a new justice nominated by George W. Bush and supported by Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman wrote the opinion that denied her equal pay.

Tell Norm Coleman we need judges who will protect workers — not take our rights away.

Reid had delayed the vote to give McCain’s Democratic rivals, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama time to return to Washington to support the measure. As a result, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) argued,

A vote to proceed to the Ledbetter bill is a vote to proceed away from the veterans bill. This is really highly ironic because my side was taking a pounding Monday and Tuesday for allegedly holding up, if you will, the veterans bill. Of course, that was not the case. We have ended up, in order to accommodate the schedules of those who are frequently not here–and understandably not here because they are running for President–we had the Senate, in effect, not in session until 5 o’clock this afternoon. While Americans are waiting for Congress to do something about the economy, jobs, and gas prices, our friends on the other side decided to close shop in order to accommodate the uncertainties of the campaign trail. Finding solutions for the concerns of all our constituents should be our top priority, not just accommodating the travel schedules of two of our Members.

Reid responded,

Their schedules were very difficult recently. They could be here at 6 o’clock. So I made the suggestion, which I thought was reasonable–we haven’t been able to legislate on the veterans bill since last Thursday; how about doing it on Wednesday, until 5 o’clock. That would be 6 hours more than we have done since last Thursday. There was a refusal to allow us to do that. To have my friend, the Republican leader, come here and say we haven’t done anything today because we had a vote scheduled at their convenience–he didn’t use the names, but Senators CLINTON and OBAMA–that is absolutely without any foundation. I have trouble understanding how my friend would have the gall to stand on the floor and make the comment he did, but he did.

*

Opponents said there needs to a restraint on law suits. Proponents said that discrimination laws need to be enforceable and that the Supreme Court had erred in its 5-4 decision May 29, 2007 giving workers only 180 days to file a discrimination suit.

In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote,

The Court’s insistence on immediate contest overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination. Pay disparities often occur, as they did in Ledbetter’s case, in small increments; cause to suspect that discrimination is at work develops only over time. Comparative pay information, moreover, is often hidden from the employee’s view. Employers may keep under wraps the pay differentials maintained among supervisors, no less the reasons for those differentials. Small initial discrepancies may not be seen as meet for a federal case, particularly when the employee, trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment, is averse to making waves.


Ledbetter told the House in her House testimony in a hearing June 12, 2007 before Miller’s Committee on Education and Labor,

according to the Court, if you don’t figure things out right away, the company can treat you like a second-class citizen for the rest of your career. That isn’t right. The truth is, Goodyear continues to treat me like a second-class worker to this day because my pension and social security is based on the amount I earned while working there. Goodyear gets to keep my extra pension as a reward for breaking the law.

When Ledbetter sued she maintained that earlier decisions by supervisors kept her from making more. She told the House,

The plant manager flat out said that women shouldn’t be working in a tire factory because women just made trouble. One of my supervisors asked me to go down to a local hotel with him and promised if I did, I would get good evaluations. He said if I didn’t, I would get put at the bottom of the list. I didn’t say anything at first because I wanted to try to work it out and fit in without making waves. But it got so bad that I finally complained to the company. The manager I complained to refused to do anything to protect me and instead told me I was just being a troublemaker. So I complained to the EEOC. The company worked out a deal with the EEOC so that supervisor would no longer manage me. But after that, the company treated me badly. They tried to isolate me. People refused to talk to me. They left me out of important management meetings so I sometimes didn’t know what was going on, which made it harder to do my job. So I got a taste of what happens when you try to complain about discrimination.

On behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, Neal D. Mollen argued against Ledbetter, in supporting the Supreme Court, saying that the new law, in restoring the paycheck provision would have

frustrated Congress’ design for attempting to resolve such matters, at least in the first instance, without litigation.


*
Senate Republicans did not need McCain’s vote to kill the bill. But although McCain left no legislative footprints, Quaid quotes him:

I am all in favor of pay equity for women, but this kind of legislation, as is typical of what’s being proposed by my friends on the other side of the aisle, opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems…..This is government playing a much, much greater role in the business of a private enterprise system.

So what’s a woman to do? I’d have liked to have known Mr. McCain’s suggestion for Ledbetter and the rest of us. He told folks in Inez, women

need the education and training, particularly since more and more women are heads of their households, as much or more than anybody else…And it’s hard for them to leave their families when they don’t have somebody to take care of them….It’s a vicious cycle that’s affecting women, particularly in a part of the country like this, where mining is the mainstay; traditionally, women have not gone into that line of work, to say the least.

Actually, women do mine coal.

Between 1974 and 1980, almost 2,400 women were hired as underground coal workers in the East. …In the mid 1980’s when the underground coal mining industry started to decline, many women lost their mining jobs because of the rule, “last hired, first fired.”

Actually mining employment continues to decline, as mountaintop removal uses far fewer miners as conventional methods. Jack Spadaro, who I mentioned ast the outset of this article has told me that the ratio is one MTR job for 200 conventional jobs and the coal companies would still make tremendous profits hiring the 200.

Actually the higher education rate for women already exceeds that for men. Jonathan Rauch wrote in the January 15, 2008 libertarian Reason magazine,

According to projections by the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2017 half again as many women as men will earn bachelor’s degrees. In the early 1990s, six women graduated from college for every five men who did so; today, the ratio is about 4-to-3. A decade from now, it will be 3-to-2—and rising, on current trends.

But those are as they say, “inconvenient truths.”

Or, as Gail Collins pointed out in Sunday’s New York Times,

Was McCain saying that it’s less important to give working women the right to sue for equal pay than to give them help taking care of their families? There have been many attempts to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act to protect more workers who need to stay home to take care of a sick kid or an ailing parent. “We’ve never gotten his support on any of that agenda,” said Debra Ness, the president of the National Partnership for Women and Families.

We also have yet to hear a McCain policy address on how working mothers are supposed to find quality child care. If it comes, I suspect the women trying to support their kids on $20,000 a year are going to learn they’re in line for some whopping big income-tax deductions.

Let them eat dinner mints.

Guerillas in the Garden

April 29, 2008

My friend Jason pointed out a book by Richard Reynolds. There’s a nice article by stringer Alexandra Topping in the 6/22/06 WaPo, “Guerrillas in the Garden: Neglected London Plots Beautified on the Sly.”

The library is closing. I’ll finish tomorrow.

Bush Accuses Dems in Congress for Economic Inaction

April 28, 2008

This is a tough time for our economy. Across our country many Americans are understandably anxious about issues affecting their pocketbook, from gas and food prices to mortgage and tuition bills. They’re looking to their elected leaders in Congress for action. Unfortunately, on many of these issues all they’re getting is delay.

Americans are concerned about energy prices, and I can understand why. I think the last time I visited with you it was like — I said it was like a tax increase on the working people. The past 18 months, gas prices have gone up by $1.40 per gallon. Electricity prices for small business and families are rising, as well.

I’ve repeatedly submitted proposals to help address these problems. Yet time after time, Congress chose to block them. One of the main reasons for high gas prices is that global oil production is not keeping up with growing demand. Members of Congress have been vocal about foreign governments increasing their oil production; yet Congress has been just as vocal in opposition to efforts to expand our production here at home.

They repeatedly blocked environmentally safe exploration in ANWR. The Department of Energy estimates that ANWR could allow America to produce about a million additional barrels of oil every day, which translates to about 27 millions of gallons of gasoline and diesel every day. That would be about a 20-percent increase of oil — crude oil production over U.S. levels, and it would likely mean lower gas prices. And yet such efforts to explore in ANWR have been consistently blocked.

Another reason for high gas prices is the lack of refining capacity. It’s been more than 30 years since America built its last new refinery. Yet in this area, too, Congress has repeatedly blocked efforts to expand capacity and build more refineries.
As electricity prices rise, Congress continues to block provisions needed to increase domestic electricity production by expanding the use of clean, safe nuclear power. Instead, many of the same people in Congress who complain about high energy costs support legislation that would make energy even more expensive for our consumers and small businesses.
Congress is considering bills to raise taxes on domestic energy production, impose new and costly mandates on producers, and demand dramatic emissions cuts that would shut down coal plants, and increase reliance on expensive natural gas. That would drive up prices even further. The cost of these actions would be passed on to consumers in the form of even higher prices at the pump and even bigger electric bills.

Instead of increasing costs and increasing new roadblocks to domestic energy production, Congress needs to clear away obstacles to more affordable, more reliable energy here at home.
Americans are concerned about rising food prices. Unfortunately, Congress is considering a massive, bloated farm bill that would do little to solve the problem. The bill Congress is now considering would fail to eliminate subsidy payments to multi-millionaire farmers. America’s farm economy is thriving, the value of farmland is skyrocketing, and this is the right time to reform our nation’s farm policies by reducing unnecessary subsidies. It’s not the time to ask American families who are already paying more in the check-out line to pay more in subsidies for wealthy farmers. Congress can reform our farm programs, and should, by passing a fiscally responsible bill that treats our farmers fairly, and does not impose new burdens on American taxpayers.

Americans are concerned about making their mortgage payments and keeping their homes, and I don’t blame them. Last year I called on Congress to pass legislation that would help address problems in the housing market. This includes critical legislation that would modernize the Federal Housing Administration, reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and allow state housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to refinance sub-prime loans. Yet they failed to send a single one of these proposals to my desk. Americans should not have to wait any longer for their elected officials to pass legislation to help more families stay in their homes.
Americans are concerned about the availability of student loans. The recent credit crunch makes it uncertain that some students will be able to get the loans they need. My administration is taking action through the Department of Education’s “lender of last resort” program, which works to arrange loans for students who are unable to secure one from a lender on their own. In other words, we’re helping. Congress needs to do more by passing a bill that would temporarily give the federal government greater authority to buy federal student loans. This authority would safeguard student loans without permanently expanding the government’s role in their financing.
In all these issues, the American people are looking to their leaders to come together and act responsibly. I don’t think this is too much to ask even in an election year. My administration will reach out to Congress. We will work to find areas of agreement so that we can deal with the economic pressures that our American taxpayers and American families are feeling. I ask Congress to do its part by sending me sensible and effective bills that I can sign, instead of issuing or sending bills that simply look like political statements. We can work together. We can help Americans weather this difficult period. We can keep our country moving forward.

New York Political Leaders on Sean Bell Murder Acquittal

April 27, 2008

Sean Bell, died at the age of 23 in a hail of 50 police bullets on the morning of what would have been his wedding day in November 2006. He and two of his friends who were also shot, but survived, all were unarmed. On Friday a judge acquitted three undercover police detectives of all charges in the shooting death.

Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, Charles Rangel, Towns, Clarke And Cheeks Kilpatrick,
New York State Senate Minority Leader Malcolm A. Smith And Southeast Queens Elected Officials Joint Statement On The Sean Bell Verdict on April 25

A year and a half ago, three police officers fired a total of 50 bullets at three unarmed and innocent young men, killing Sean Bell and severely wounding Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield. This incident occurred in the morning of what was supposed to be Sean Bell’s wedding day. The past seventeen months have been extremely difficult for Nicole Paultre Bell, Sean Bell’s fiancee, his daughters, and his parents, William and Valerie Bell.

It appeared that the evidence presented by the prosecution during a six week trial was compelling and conclusive. Yet, the verdict rendered by Judge Arthur Cooperman this morning acquitted all three officers of all charges.

We do not accept that this is the end of this case. We have joined with the families and their attorneys in filing a compliant with the U.S. Department of Justice requesting an investigation of violations of the civil rights of Sean Bell, Joseph Guzman, and Trent Benefield. Indeed, this afternoon the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it’s Civil Rights Division, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New York Field Division will conduct an independent review of the facts and circumstances surrounding the Nov. 25, 2006, shooting of Sean Bell and two of his friends.

Although we understand and share the frustration that many New Yorkers are feeling at this moment, we caution against giving into that frustration. Instead, we urge all who are disappointed with the decision to channel their energy into monitoring this review and utilizing their right to peaceful assembly to seek a redress of their grievances over today’s decision.

In the near future the Tri-Level Legislative Taskforce, formed in the wake of the Bell shooting and which held city-wide public hearings on the excessive use of police force, will release its final recommendation.

We must all remain committed to creating a justice system that is fair to all and building police-community relations that respect the lives and well-being of all.

Making a Killing from Hunger

April 26, 2008

http://www.grain.org/articles/?id=39

Food Aid in Gaza Suspended Due to Fuel Shortage

April 25, 2008

Ironically, a check of Google news shows only two sources reprinted with a byline AP Writer Ibrahim Barzak’s April 24 Story, “UN stops distributing food aid in Gaza Strip; cites fuel cutoff by Israel.” One was the Canadian Broadcasting system, the other Fox News. Democracy Now published a summary without a byline.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The United Nations has stopped distributing food to Palestinian refugees in Gaza because of the Israeli blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory.

Adnan Abu Hasna of the UN Relief Works Agency says the UN is taking the action because there is no fuel for its vehicles. He says all regular food operations have stopped and 700,000 Palestinians won’t be getting basic food packets as a result.

Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized control of the territory last summer in a battle with Fatah, it’s western-backed rival.

Israeli authorities have shipped fuel for Gaza’s power plant, but continues a ban on gasoline and diesel fuel….

There is some fuel stored in Gaza but a local strike by distributors means it is not reaching the public.

Palestinian distributors have been refusing to pick up about one million litres of fuel that Israel pumped earlier this month into the Palestinian side of a border fuel depot. They say the quantity is insufficient.

On Wednesday, UNRWA director John Ging acknowledged the “complicated fuel situation,” but said Israel “must provide enough fuel for daily needs.”

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the UN has been forced to suspend aid deliveries to the Gaza Strip. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency says it’s run out of fuel because of Israel’s blockade. The UN delivers aid to two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.4 million people. The top UN official in Gaza, John Ging, said Israel had ignored the agency’s warnings.

While the Canadian version, posted at 1:55 says that

There was no immediate Israeli comment about the UNRWA move.

The Fox version, which has not time stamp includes this information:

Col. Nir Press of the Israeli military liaison unit with Gaza said Israel agreed to allow fuel shipments for the U.N. agency to keep its vehicles on the road, but Hamas stopped the delivery.

“We don’t control the internal situation in Gaza between Hamas and UNWRA,” he said. “I hope the Hamas will allow UNWRA access to the fuel we have supplied.”

Press said Hamas is creating an artificial crisis. “It serves their propaganda purposes and creates a false pretense of a humanitarian crisis that doesn’t exist,” he told reporters in a group telephone interview.

The reporter has been excoriated by CAMERA since 2003 and by Palestine Media Watch in 2003 and by Omri Ceren, in 2007. The failure of the CBC to update the story makes me wonder how much of this criticism is fair and how much to blame on the MSM’s failure to print the whole story. But I would have to do more research to be able to answer that question.

Report:: 60% of EPA’s staff scientistssay they have suffered political interference

April 24, 2008

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released http://ucsusa.org/news/press_release/hundreds-of-epa-scientists-0112.htmlApril 23, an investigation of the Environmental Protection Agency which found that 889 of nearly 1,600 staff scientists reported they had experienced political interference over the last five years. The UCS had already published invesatigations of the Food and Drug Administration, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and climate scientists at seven federal agencies, which also had revealed significant administration manipulation of federal science.

Francesca Grifo, director of UCS’s Scientific Integrity Program, said

Our investigation found an agency in crisis…Nearly 900 EPA scientists reported political interference in their scientific work. That’s 900 too many. Distorting science to accommodate a narrow political agenda threatens our environment, our health, and our democracy itself.

Congress is currently investigating administration interference in a new chemical toxicity review process as well as California’s request to regulate tailpipe emissions. And in early May, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is expected to hold a hearing on political interference in the new EPA ground-level ozone pollution standard.

The investigation included dozens of interviews with current and former EPA staff members, analysis of government documents, and a questionnaire sent to 5,419 EPA scientists by Iowa State University’s Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology. The questionnaire generated responses from 1,586 scientists, but not all of the respondents answered every question.

Additional findings:

  • 394 scientists (31 percent) personally experienced frequent or occasional “statements by EPA officials that misrepresent scientists’ findings.”
  • 285 scientists (22 percent) said they frequently or occasionally personally experienced “selective or incomplete use of data to justify a specific regulatory outcome.
  • 224 scientists (17 percent) said they had been “directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information from an EPA scientific document.”
  • Of the 969 agency veterans with more than 10 years of EPA experience, 409 scientists (43 percent) said interference has occurred more often in the past five years than in the previous five-year period. Only 43 scientists (4 percent) said interference occurred less often.
  • Hundreds of scientists reported being unable to openly express concerns about the EPA’s work without fear of retaliation; 492 (31 percent) felt they could not speak candidly within the agency and 382 (24 percent) felt they could not do so outside the agency.P
  • political interference is most pronounced in offices where scientists write regulations and at the National Center for Environmental Assessment, where scientists conduct risk assessments that could lead to strengthened regulations.
  • Nearly 100 scientists identified the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as the primary culprit. … “Currently, OMB is allowed to force or make changes as they want, and rules are held hostage until this happens…OMB’s power needs to be checked as time after time they weaken rulemakings and policy decisions to favor industry….OMB and the White House have, in some cases, compromised the integrity of EPA rules and policies; their influence, largely hidden from the public and driven by industry lobbying, has decreased the stringency of proposed regulations for non-scientific, political reasons… real reasons can’t be stated, the regulations contain a scientific rationale with little or no merit…..”They … have inappropriately stopped agency work that has been in progress for years due to their lack of scientific understanding.”

The Pennsylvania Presidential Primary: Polls, Exit Polls, Live Blogging and What’s Next

April 22, 2008


Chart from Gallup.

It had been six weeks since the last Democratic primary between Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. Pennsylvania has 158 pledged delegates to be awarded proportionally and while AP had called the race for Clinton shortly after 10 p.m. last night , th eexact split remains to be seen. In any case, the race will now continue.

Gallup Daily released four polls April 22:

According to Gallup,

Neither Democrat can claim stronger positioning against John McCain at this point. Among registered voters nationwide, McCain and Obama are even at 45%, while McCain outpolls Clinton by a single point, 46% to 45%.

Voting locales opened at 7 a.m. Eastern time in PA and closed at 8 p.m. At about 6:00 p.m., the Associated Press released its preliminary exit poll information.

[f]rom a partial sample of 1,421 Democratic primary voters conducted in 40 precincts across Pennsylvania by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for The Associated Press and television networks.

That’s the National Election Pool, folks, started in 2003, a consortium of ABC News, Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News. AP actually

collects voter returns from all counties in the United States and from cities/towns in the New England states. They provide tabulations…

The first information was demographic in nature. Divulged votes in past races had led to criticism that the exit polls could affect the outcome if revealed while the voting was still going on. Since 2003

Edison/Mitofsky does not provide its information to the public. Each of the members has its own analysts who review the Exit Poll results and the tabulated data as it is collected. Each news organization makes its own decision about what to report to the public.

Projections of a winning candidate are based on models that use votes from…Exit Poll interviews with voters, vote returns as reported by election officials from the sample precincts, and tabulations of votes by county. …Projections of a winning candidate are only made after all the polls in a state are closed and when the best model estimates show a clear winner.

So here’s what AP told us at 6:00:

  • one in 10 changed their party registration since the start of 2008 in a race open only to registered Democrats. Those switching were split about evenly between registered Republicans and the unaffiliated. About 3 percent were voting for the first time in Pennsylvania.
  • voters were “overwhelmingly” white and there were more women than men. About 30% were age 65 or over. Almost 50% were from families that earned less than $50,000 last year, while about 25% had household income exceedomg $100,000. About 25% reported having a postgraduate degree. 30% were union members or had one in their household. About 40% reported having a gun owner in the household.
  • About 20% said the race of the candidates was among the top factors in their vote and about the same number named gender.
  • About 20% said they chose their candidate within the past week, about half of those today.
  • About 40% said the country is in a serious recession and an equal number called it a moderate recession. 10% said the economy is not in recession. At least 50% said the economy was the most important issue facing the country.
  • About 25% said Iraq was the top issue. Health care came next.

Brendan Loy posted yesterday morning on the predictive power of early election results–(hint: not much, unless Clinton pulled ahead from the start.) For the real political junkies among my readers, Mark Blumentahl live blogged the results over at Polster.com, as did the thread at Real Clear Politics.

With a close race, things had deteriorated in negative campaign ads, and a game of gotcha about Obama’s ties to Reverend Wright and his statement to supporters in San Francisco that blue collar voters are “bitter” and Hillary’s refuted tale of coming under fire in Bosnia. Both those speak to character, but in the policy arena Clinton was also saber rattling about Iran.

Yesterday, McCain senior adviser Mark McKinnon told USA Today reporter David Jackson,

We’re for anything that keeps it going.

Jackson added that Senior McCain adviser Mark Salter smiled while saying,

we don’t want to intrude on their process. We want them to carefully deliberate their choices.

The next stop will be North Carolina and Indiana on May 6. Montana and South Dakota hold the last Democratic primaries stateside June 3. Then there’s the Puerto Rican and a Guam caucus to be finished by June 7. To date, Clinton is still maintaining that Michigan and Florida, which she won, should count. She stayed on the ballot after the party leadership disqualified those states for jumping ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire.

All this probably leaves the Republicans hopeful that either Democrat will emerge as damaged goods come the Convention. And, meanwhile, it also leaves many of us tired. But for those of you who still have the energy to study up for your dcivic engagement, you can find dossiers compiled by the bi-partisan Project Vote-Smart on Obama, Clinton and their Republican rival, Senator John McCain. All three have refused to fill out the group’s “political courage” survey, although McCain at one time sat on the Board. And don’t forget “OntheIsssues.org, although the material there is a bit dated.