November 30, 2004

Bits and Pieces - November 30, 2004

It's been a while since I've done one of these bits-and-pieces entries, so...

Universities and colleges have the right to deny military recruiters access to their campuses without suffering the consequence of the government yanking their government funding. The 1995 Solomon Amendment tied the two together, essentially extorting the schools to allow recruiters full, free access to university grounds so they can sell a military career to students on campus.

A federal appeals court, using a rather odd precedent, decided for the educational institutions--but the government is not backing down. The government is still acting as if the amendment is in force pending their decision to appeal further. And schools know that no matter what the courts say, the government will use its muscle anyway. No one is daring to defy the government for fear of "coincidentally" losing funding (or losing funding should a higher court reverse the decision). Even the plaintiffs remain anonymous.

Music corporations are challenging KaZaA in court. For those of you who are uninitiated, KaZaA is one (and the most popular) of several companies that make software and/or run web sites that facilitate illegal music downloads. The industry is still claiming that their loss of sales is due to online piracy, and not because of the economic downturn that just coincidentally began at just the time their sales dropped.

Already, the industry fights back by using fake song files--that is, files that are the same size and have the same titles as pirated songs, but are fakes--they play the song promised in the titled for a short time, then cut to an annoying high-pitched beep or other alternate sound. Because of the similar name and size, they infiltrate downloads of the real thing.

In both of those respects--suing KaZaA and faking song files--the industry is a bit behind the curve. KaZaA may be the "new Napster" in a way, but there are now a plethora of web sites and software one can use to download music. And just as KaZaA replaced Napster after Napster got sued out of existence, something else is bound to take KaZaA's place if and when it falls.

The U.S. Congress, salivating at the chance to please their big music- and film-industry donors by passing more and more draconian legislation, almost got a bill through Congress that would have taken the music industry's lawsuit frenzy against downloaders and made it a federally-funded program (like that's what we need our law enforcement people doing instead of catching violent criminals).

I tend to agree with Orson Scott Card on this one: downloading MP3s is illegal, but the music industry are parasitic blood-sucking leeches. Additionally, I agree with the argument that the downloads are not really hurting the industry one bit--they're just so greedy that they did not offer an alternative that enough people would accept, although the online music stores are slowly changing that. They're still parasites, though.

It's VHS vs. Betamax all over again, this time for the next-generation high-capacity HDTV DVDs. (Why do new recording formats always come in pairs?). We've had a similar which-one-should-I-buy format battle over recordable DVDs, that being the plus-versus-minus war (now you can get DVD recorders that read and write both formats). The new standards are made by Toshiba and Sony. Toshiba (with NEC) has the "HD DVD" format (really called "AOD"), which can save up to 20 GB of data, a bit more than three times what today's DVDs can save. Toshiba just got the backing of four major movie studios for their format. A consortium led by Sony makes the "Blu-Ray" DVD format, which can save up to 27 GB. Both technologies use a blue laser beam to read and write the data; the higher-frequency blue laser can etch smaller holes into the DVD disc, allowing it to save more data than a standard red laser today.

Toshiba's advantage is primarily that it will likely hit the markets first, before Sony. But Sony, which lost the videotape war to Victor's VHS a few decades back, looks like it will probably win this battle. The Blu-Ray format not only saves more data, but it has a consortium of ten companies, not two. Also, the studios that just decided to back Toshiba can also back Sony's format at the same time to cover their bets.

Meanwhile, Steve Jobs' plan is working. It seems that more and more Windows PC users are switching to Macs because of their iPods. A survey done by a financial analysis firm found that 6% of iPod users have already switched to Macs, and 7% intend to the next time they buy a computer. This trend is expected to continue--but only as long as Apple "keeps that 'cool factor' going."

But there are also people switching for security concerns, and that is also why more and more are switching browsers, from Internet Explorer to Firefox. Now that Firefox has v. 1.0 out and has been very favorably reviewed--with many respected writers urging users to dump Explorer--many are doing just that. Explorer's market share is now between 90% and 93%, and Firefox should have a 10% market share by the end of the year.

I wish I could corroborate that with my own site's stats, but actually my own numbers tell a different story: Firefox mostly takes away from Mozilla, not from IE. Of course, that's just my own little microcosm with a specialized readership. Here, consistently 60% use IE. Mozilla used to get around 20%, but when Firefox came in, that share dwindled to about 10% as Firefox shot up to 10% (in just two months). Apparently that is not market-wide, but at least from people who visit here, the people who are already cool are just getting more cool, is all.

Posted by Luis at 03:51 PM | Comments (4)

November 29, 2004

Those Darn Historians

This from Kyodo News via Japan Today:

Education minister Nariaki Nakayama on Saturday said history textbooks used in Japanese secondary schools contain passages that are extremely "self-torturing" and suggest "Japan has done nothing but bad things."

He told a news conference he should judge textbooks from a "neutral" standpoint given his capacity as minister in charge of screening textbooks. "Every country's history has light and shadow. While we must reflect on bad deeds, we must not conduct education on the basis of a self-torturing historical perspective that everything that has been done was bad."

So, exactly what is he referring to when he says that "everything" done was reported as bad? Was the Unification under Oda, Hideyoshi and Tokugawa represented as evil? Was the Meiji Restoration written as a bad thing? Was Japan's post-war economic miracle never mentioned? Was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki related as a bad deed done by the Japanese people?

I have the feeling that when Nakayama refers to "everything" done, he means "everything bad" that was done. For which he himself gives the answer: we must reflect on bad deeds. But by exaggerating to the point that "everything is represented as bad deeds," he's claiming an excuse to whitewash (excuse me--"view from a neutral standpoint") some of the bad stuff--and you can guess primarily what he's talking about. And no, it's not the wars of the 6th and 7th centuries over the Soga clan's rise to power. Something a lot more recent. Care to guess?

Posted by Luis at 10:06 AM | Comments (1)

November 28, 2004

From the RNC Dictionary

9/11 (noun phrase): a catchall reason to justify any Republican failing, support any Republican agenda, or excuse any Republican crime or malfeasance. See Get Out of Jail Free Card.

abortion (abomination): see partial-birth abortion or baby-killing.

accountability (noun): claiming responsibility while blaming others and accepting no punishment or penalty of any sort. See responsibility.

affirmative action (noun phrase): stealing jobs or university seats from deserving white males and giving them to shiftless, lazy minorities. See special rights.

alternative fuel source (compound noun): oil drilling in new locations, especially protected wildlife areas.

around the corner (prepositional phrase): "never going to happen."

arrogant (adjective): see humble.

bipartisan (adjective): what Republicans are by default, especially when suppressing Democrats and ramming through a one-sided Republican agenda.

cognitive dissonance (noun phrase): a way of life.

constitutional amendment (noun phrase): veto power over the judicial branch when asserting unconstitutional conservative agendas.

darwin (proper noun): a godless heathen whose theories are an abomination except when applied to social and fiscal issues.

evil (noun): not conservative. See traitor.

fundamentalism (noun): see base.

grassroots (adjective): see astroturf.

homeland security (compound noun): an excellent vehicle for forwarding a conservative political agenda while stripping away constitutional rights disliked by the right wing. Otherwise meaningless.

homosexuality ( abomination ): a choice made by godless deviants so they can become child molesters and recruit everyone else into homosexuality.

humble (adjective): see arrogant.

indictment (noun): see DeLay, Tom, and denial strategies. Otherwise, a political tool to be used against Democrats.

legislating from the bench (gerund phrase): whenever a judge or justice interprets the law to your disliking.

lesbian (noun): acceptable in some video entertainment; otherwise: a woman who refuses to go out on a date with a Republican male.

medicaid (noun): a wasteful welfare program. If an American doesn't make enough money, he and his family don't deserve to live in health; see social darwinism.

moderate (adjective): regarding Democrats: a non-existent, mythical being (they are all extremists, especially when running for office); regarding Republicans: see traitor.

most liberal (superlative adjective): any Democrat who runs for president.

nation-building (gerund): what Democrats do when they involve themselves in any foreign affairs; null meaning when applied to conservatives (see liberating).

osama bin laden (proper noun): who?

partial-birth abortion (compound noun): a rare procedure which is used in extreme circumstances to save the life of a mother or when the mother's health is in jeopardy and the fetus is non-viable. the most revolting form of abortion that could be found so as to be misrepresented as abortion in general.

pledge of allegiance (noun phrase): an excellent device to be used when real issues present embarrassing dilemmas.

pro-life (adjective): a philosophy that applies only to those who have not yet been born. After birth, social darwinism applies.

racist (adjective): any Democrats who dares to challenge an extremist conservative judicial bench appointment where the candidate is a minority. Also see affirmative action.

responsibility (noun): something to be avoided at all costs while appearing to embrace it.

science (noun): a field dedicated to proving correct the current conservative agenda. Otherwise, see witchcraft.

second amendment (holy script): the only sacrosanct part of the bill of rights (applies to second half of amendment only).

separation of church and state (noun phrase): see unification of Protestant Christianity and state.

social security (noun phrase): a type of welfare which should be ended as soon as is feasible while appearing to champion, reform and save it so as to garner the valuable senior citizen vote. Unneeded as anyone who is worth their salt will be wealthy enough to take care of themselves upon retirement. In the meantime, a good source of money to steal from. See social darwinism.

special rights/privileges/preferences (noun phrase): whenever a minority or non-heterosexual-male gender group is given the same rights, liberties or protections enjoyed by straight white males.

ten commandments, the (noun phrase): when publicly displayed, a catchall solution to any social problem; also a good wedge to open the door to unification of church and state. See indoctrination.

tolerance (noun): allowing Democrats to vote (or at least to think they are voting)

uniter (noun): someone who divides.

values (noun): what, by definition, conservatives have and liberals do not have. Otherwise, a vague catchall term to add apparent moral strength to any conservative idea.

voter fraud (compound noun): when someone votes for the Democratic candidate, particularly a minority voter.

women's rights (noun phrase): see special rights.

Posted by Luis at 01:02 PM | Comments (0)

Japan Fun Fact #3

Some words get bounced back and forth between languages. A good example of this is karaoke. The word is a combination of the Japanese "kara," meaning "empty" (as in karate, or 'empty hand') and the English "orchestra," shortened in Japanese to "oke," the Japanization--minus the "r"--of the first two syllables of the word. (When compound foreign words are used in Japanese, each element is typicallly shortened to two syllables, as in "seku-hara" for "sexual harassment.") As a result, we get a hybrid Japanese-English word, karaoke.

What's funny is that when the word gets mangled even further when brought back into English. The original Japanese word is pronounced "kah-rah-oh-keh." In English, it gets pronounced "carry-okie," with the English "orchestra" bent almost beyond recognition.

Not that this kind of bending of Japanese pronunciation in English is uncommon. Many Japanese words spoken by English speakers are unrecognizable to Japanese people. Saké is pronounced sah-keh, not sah-kee. Kamikaze is pronounced kah-mee-kah-ZEH, not kah-mah-KAH-zee. And "harry-carry" is a completely mangled form of "hara-kiri," pronounced "hah-rah-kee-ree," with hard "r"s. But we do pronounce tsunami, sushi and tabi correctly. Though "Mt. Fuji-san" is redundant, as "san" means "Mt."

Just so you know.

Posted by Luis at 03:29 AM | Comments (4)

November 27, 2004

Resorting to Bribery

The Marine Corps is now offering bonuses of up to $30,000 to its riflemen to re-enlist for an extra four years. Not that this is necessarily a bad idea; the men deserve the money, no doubt, and it is likely more cost-effective to retain trained men then to train new ones. And they say the strategy is working; the Marine Corps say recruitment is up 10-30% in some areas (though they are silent on other areas).

Nevertheless, throughout the article you will not find any mention of the unspoken corollary: why do they suddenly need to offer thirty large to Marines so they will re-enlist?

Any journalist worth his salt should have immediately spotted that and made it a focus of the story. In fact, the obvious conclusion should be a story in itself--but you never see it printed.

Posted by Luis at 09:02 PM | Comments (0)

November 26, 2004

Japan Fun Fact #2

I never encounter it in daily life any more, and a lot of younger Japanese have never even heard of it, but in the 1980's, there used to be an expression called "Christmas Cake." Back then, the expression was used to describe unmarried Japanese women over the age of 25. In Japan, cake is a 'tradition' at Christmastime (along with love hotels and boxes or cooking oil, see this post). If it doesn't get sold by Christmas--the 25th--then nobody wants it, is the idea. A rather rude and sexist idea, but it was the 80's and at the time I was living in rural Toyama, and so it came up. I remember one young lady, named Miki, who worked in the office of the school I worked at. She married some guy through o-miai, a matchmaking tradition often used until recently in Japan. A matchmaker would try to match the bride a groom; the couple would usually not meet too many times before making up their minds to get married. At the wedding, in fact, the matchmaker usually has a special place in the ceremony.

All of this came back to me recently when I stumbled across the topic in this news story, which reports--and I have observed personally--that women in Japan today don't worry about their marriage age as much, and Japanese men are not quite so obsessed with age when choosing a spouse--significant reasons why the term "Christmas Cake" isn't heard much anymore.

Posted by Luis at 08:16 PM | Comments (0)

November 25, 2004

Cold Facts

I usually answer comments in the "comments" section, but this one I wanted to answer up front. It comes from a comment to the post "Cold Numbers" on The Expat, a post duplicated on Blogd. From that comment, by Ishmael:

But saying that Bush is going to "stay the course, so..." as if it is a bad idea, you are putting him in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. What would you be saying if he suddenly announced that, after all of those casualties, the US was going to be pulling out of Iraq?
If it were as you say, then he put himself into a "damned if you do/don't" situation, not I. But it is not as you say. Your argument is the classic "either-or" fallacy--you assume there are only two courses of action: Bush's way or hightail it out of there. There are other options, some of which are still open but Bush will never take, some of which could have worked but Bush pissed them away or simply wasn't capable of doing.

The former sort include admitting he made mistakes and opening up Iraq to true international participation (not limiting his "coalition" to simply those who, for whatever reasons, will bow to him and do whatever he wants). If Bush were to collect a true team of skilled diplomats, not just yes-men and party hacks, and get them to represent him, giving them full powers to act on behalf of the U.S., there could still be a chance to open the doors and assign true legitimacy to a peaceful, democratic change in Iraq. But it would mean opening the doors not just to the French, Germans and Russians, but to key powers in the Middle East--like his father did before--and letting go of total U.S. control of the oil fields and of business contracts. Our men and women died, supposedly, for peace in Iraq, not for the oil fields or Halliburton contracts, so we should not give a rat's ass about them if they get in the way of succeeding there. But in order for this to be pulled off, Bush would have to truly open his arms to the international community, and that would mean doing what Bush pledged he would do in the 2000 elections: be a humble nation. Something Bush has done anything but since he was elected. And that includes saying aloud that he made real mistakes, and that we need help.

And guess what: that is God's own truth. We do need help. We can't do everything by ourselves. Doubt me? Look at the casualty counts. Look at the situation on the ground. Are you really so naive as to think that an election where the Iraqis choose between U.S. puppets in January will really solve the problem? If you do, then you also probably thought that the summer handover of power was gonna calm things down, too. They didn't. It won't. We're building bases in Iraq, permanent bases. We're going to be there at least ten years. Period. It's not going to get better. It is only going to get worse.

The latter was to have formed a true coalition from the beginning, especially getting the Arab states involved, get them truly involved, because no primarily external influence is going to make people in Iraq feel that there's even a chance of being free. But the other Arab states don't want to get involved, so that means we would have to get them involved, not an easy task. If Bush could have done that from the beginning, shown that he wasn't going to maintain an iron grip of control and use the country for his own purposes--if the people in that country believed that they really could have their independence and freedom, that they could get the real deal even if it meant a parliamentary democracy to balance the internal groups, then there wouldn't be a fraction of the insurgency there is now, and it would be fought from within. But all of that would require (a) humility, which Bush does not have an ounce of, and (b) an extremely high level of diplomatic skill to balance and handle the vested interests of all the different participants--diplomatic skill which Bush isn't even within light-years of having.

And then there's the other "coulda" option: not invading Iraq in the first place. Believe it or not, it is not the worst option. The worst option is another Vietnam, which is where we're headed (Vietnam actually started much smaller than Iraq did). The worst situation is that in ten years, we're still occupying and yet hundreds of our soldiers are dying every month, sometimes every week, because we just can't bear to let go of the region. You phrased the mindset yourself: we stay like we are now or we pull out. That's how Bush thinks: there is no other option. And if that's how we stay for the near future, if we refuse to leave unless we can leave a stable, orderly and truly Democratic Iraq, then we're not leaving anytime soon--and the longer we stay, the more of our people die, the greater our investment will be, and the less willing we will be to leave, lest we make it seem that those who died did so in vain.

Hussein was a butcher. But so are a dozen other dictators around the world. Kim Jong-il is a far bigger butcher of his people than Hussein ever was and he has a real nuclear program and we know it. There are butchers and madmen on the thrones in many countries, killers of their people all, and yet we survive despite them staying in power. Hussein would have been a nightmare for his people, but now we are a bigger nightmare than he was for the Iraqis, and they are no more free. How many thousands of U.S. soldiers are you willing to send to be killed so we can be "more secure" by invading and occupying them so they become a quagmire? Face it: Iraq. Was. Not. A. Threat. Bush wildly overstated what Hussein was doing and would do, and don't try to say "we all thought Hussein was an immediate threat," because I didn't, and most people didn't. Bush sold that to the people, got it pushed through Washington with political tactics, and sealed our allegiance to his plan with the blood of our soldiers, after which Americans became afraid to admit Iraq was a mistake for fear of besmirching them (something impossible to do, each one died with personal honor completely removed from the actions of the president, no matter what the outcome in Iraq).

We could have lived with Hussein. I have yet to hear anyone who favors the Iraq War explain how North Korea was and is a lesser threat to our security--it obviously is not. And yet Kim is still there, his people are still dying, he's really making nukes, and he's really got ties with terrorists, but somehow it's not as big a problem as Hussein would have been? Please. As galling as it may sound that we might have left Hussein in power, he was contained and containable, and there are far worse things than that. And we are headed straight for one of those worse things right now.

Bush has been on the wrong course from the beginning, and at every turn, he "stays the course" and steers away from any possible workable solutions. So yes, I say it is a bad idea to "stay the course." And I mean it. And I'm right.

Posted by Luis at 11:09 PM | Comments (1)

Japanese Want Out, Japan May Stay In

A new poll by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun says that while only 25% of Japanese want their troops to stay in Iraq, 61% want them to leave. This is not surprising, because it would be difficult for the average Japanese person to see what benefit there is in the endeavor--even if their troops were fulfilling some worthy cause--and it is difficult for the Koizumi administration to sell the extension for what it is, in effect, a wedge to begin remilitarizing Japan and eradicating the anti-war Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.

First off, if the conservative Yomiuri Shimbun had taken the poll, I'd put good money on them finding a majority wanting the troops to stay--the Yomiuri has been vociferous in its support of repealing or de-clawing Article 9, and ever since I came to Japan in the 80's, they've been running constant stories about how most Japanese just can't wait to get rid of the pesky provision. Since the Nihon Keizai is much more moderate, I trust the poll results to be very likely accurate.

Second, what will the outcome be? My own expectation is fairly strong that the LDP will extend the mission. I don't think they care much about 60%--80% maybe, but not 60%--and besides, that 25% that wants to stay on is likely their core base. And Koizumi seems quite persistent in his quest to change the face of Japan's military.

Posted by Luis at 03:35 PM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2004

Another Casualty, Just As Unnoticed

Reader Sean alerted me to this story about a mother dying of heart failure after seeing her son return, dead, from Iraq. Nothing new, in fact--I've seen similar stories over the past year. But still, with people now so used to hearing about soldiers die, this story brings home the reality of the tragedy we're involved in. The pain and suffering only of Americans who have lost loved ones is horrific enough. Then there are the 17,000+ who have been injured in battle--another number the Bush administration wants to hide--with uncounted hundreds maimed, thousands with lifetime disabilities. And we're not even counting the possible tens of thousands of Iraqis killed, far more wounded and maimed for life, numbers not certain because the military intentionally avoids counting them.

I remember in the first few months of the occupation, conservatives on the forums I attended were constantly crowing about how much better things were in Iraq since Hussein was ousted, how many schools were open, or how much electricity had been restored.

They don't talk about that any more.

Posted by Luis at 10:54 PM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2004

Japan Fun Fact #1

The name "Godzilla" (who will make his 'sayonara' appearance in Godzilla: Final Wars coming out in a few weeks) is not a randomly chosen one. In Japanese, by the way, it is pronounced "Gojira," and is not about God or reptiles. It is a composite of two words: "gorilla" and "kujira" (Japanese for "whale"). We can only assume that, in the story, a gorilla mated with a whale, before or after being zapped with radiation. Gojira became "Godzilla" when the film was first brought to the United States. The film series was prompted by a 1954 incident in which a Japanese fishing boat was exposed to fallout from an American H-Bomb test at the Bikini Atoll, killing 1 of the 23 crewmen and making the rest seriously ill. For the Japanese, Godzilla has represented nature's revenge against the nuclear weapons that America used against Japan at the end of WWII.

Posted by Luis at 03:51 PM | Comments (1)

November 22, 2004

They Doth Protest Too Much

After their attempt to slip in a provision that would allow the GOP to see anyone's tax records and release them publicly without regard for privacy or ethics was caught by the Democrats, they are now flailing about madly trying to claim that it wasn't their fault, they didn't do it, and that they are more outraged than anyone else. "I have no earthly idea how it got in there. Nobody is going to defend this," said Senate majority leader Bill Frist on television. This comes after Senator Ted Stevens tried to pass off blame on "some staffer" who, apparently, we are to believe drafted the legal document and put it into pending legislation on a lark.

While Democrats are calling for "appropriate punishment" for those who are responsible, Republicans, represented by Frist, are saying that "accountability will be carried out" against the guilty party. But since Republicans over the past several years have demonstrated continuously and strenuously that "accountability," in their book, means "say it's your fault but at the same time blame someone else and receive no penalty whatsoever," we can expect the same here. Maybe a specific staffer will be set up as the fall guy, but either they won't get fired, or they will and then get immediately re-hired somewhere else within their organization.

Posted by Luis at 02:16 PM | Comments (1)

November 21, 2004

GOP Dirty Tricks Still in Full-Swing

Remember when the Nixon administration used the IRS as a political weapon to crush their political enemies? Apparently the GOP yearns for the good old days, because they tried to slip in exactly such a provision into the must-pass spending bill in the Senate--and got caught red-handed by the Democrats.

If you recall Representative John Conyers in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 ("Sit down, my son. We don't read most of the bills.") then perhaps you will see what the Republicans thought they were doing. The spending bill is 3,300 pages long, and the provision that would allow two Republican committee chairmen and their assistants the ability to read anyone's tax record and make them public, regardless of privacy considerations, was slipped into the bill in the middle of the night just before it was scheduled to pass.

Sen. Ted Stevens, responsible for the provision, has apologized--after being caught, of course, and by way of blaming the whole thing on a staffer.

This after the GOP already snuck in language that would over-rule laws that require doctors and hospitals to fail to inform patients of all family planning options, as well as other measures aimed at prohibiting free choice in choices relating to abortion. When Democrats found the language, they protested a great deal and stalled the vote, but the need for the spending bill was too great and the Republicans too stubborn, and the bill passed with the provisions. Though largely symbolic, the language nonetheless signals the GOP's persistence and dedication to overturning Roe v. Wade, if even one small bit at a time, paying off their fundamentalist base.

However, after the entire scandal of re-writing their accountability rules to allow Tom DeLay to remain party leader despite being indicted by a grand jury (they inserted a provision to oust any party leader under indictment in 1993 when some Democrats were in trouble, and hyped the rules as proof of their ethical superiority), the Republicans already look dirty and corrupt as hell. These latest spending-bill scandals simply emphasize the corruption. But then, this is the time for them to pull this stuff--a full two years away from the next election, and they know full well that voters don't remember this stuff so well after all that time.

In other words, more of the same BS as always from the GOP.

Posted by Luis at 04:39 PM | Comments (1)

Toshiba RD-XS53 Having Meltdown

You pay $1000-plus for a piece of electronic machinery, you expect it to work. I'm speaking of the DVR I got, and blogged about here.

After two months of use, the machine froze at one point. Not unexpected, it is, after all, a computer with an operating system. You run it that long without restarting--which I did, neglectfully--it will crash. But at least after that, you can expect that upon restart, it will function okay. The first time it happened, I restarted--and a good portion of the presets were trashed. I had to work for the better part of an hour to figure out that the local channel setup had to be reset in order for the schedule screen--and thereby everything else--to work. I found all my programming for shows in place, but with the channels erased, so those had to all be reset. Some other stuff too, but suffice it to say that it ate up 2 hours of my weekend (it always happens then, just when I can't call up support). But at least I figured that if I shut down and restarted the machine properly every so often, I could avoid this from happening.

No such luck. Today it hard-crashed. Twice. Both times as I started to play a file. Once just after I had spent an hour prepping a few dozen shows for DVD burning--only to find after the crash, my edits had been wiped, and I'll have to do them all over again.

What's worse is the prospects for the future. Now I'll be nervous every time I start to view any file I have saved. I'm pretty sure that if I call Toshiba, they will tell me that either I have to re-initialize the hard disk(s) in the machine, or I'll have to send the machine in to them. Both are unsavory prospects. I have so much stuff on the disks that it will take so much time to catalog in DVD form--if the machine doesn't keep freezing or fall apart completely--I will have to spend every moment of free time for a week just clearing the system. And not everything will fit neatly on DVDs at that, meaning some mostly-empty disks. Worse, having to send it in means not having the machine at all for two or three weeks or even more. Unless they send me a loaner--which I doubt--that means a huge hole in my current cataloguing of shows, which is what I bought the damn machine for in the first place.

So, in short, I am becoming less and less impressed by this machine. Either I got a lemon, or the machine is just very poorly designed. And either way, dealing with Toshiba's dismal support system will be a nightmare all in itself.

Posted by Luis at 03:08 PM | Comments (0)

November 20, 2004

Next on the "To-Buy" List

My top-rated Canon Powershot S30 is showing its age--and its damage in that I've dropped it on concrete a couple of times. It has served brilliantly over the past couple of years, taking beautiful photos and having the flexibility I really enjoy in a camera. But now the shutter window is kind of messed up from the concrete-dropping (it tends to close shut at the slightest touch and is often difficult to open), and with digital cameras, a couple of years is a long time. So it's time for a new camera.

I am not looking for more megapixels. Really, 3.2 (what the S30 provides) is more than enough if you're not printing 8x10 glossies, which I never do. More megapixels is mostly for print quality--though it could be used as a quasi-zoom, messily--and I use my camera 99% of the time for digital storage, rarely printing images on paper, even 4x6 sized. So I don't mind a 3-megapixel camera. Which is what I'm going for.

In steps the Canon S1-IS (pictured at right). Not new, it's about 8 months old; I've been waiting to buy on the off chance that Canon will introduce a new version, but it looks like that won't happen in time. But the S1 has a lot of what I want.

First and foremost, the 10x zoom with the image stabilization (the "IS" in the name). On far too many occasions I wanted to zoom way more than my 3x S30 will allow. Digital zoom just ain't the same thing. And from what I've read, the image stabilization--a big selling point for such a strong zoom lens--really does work, allowing not just stable long-zoom shots, but also good low-light shots with a relatively fast shutter speed--another thing on my wish list. And the zoom works fast, smooth and silent--allowing zooms to be made during movie shooting.

It still has the wide variety of settings and features that the S30 has, with manual focus, aperture and shutter settings, allowing for special photographic effects like extended exposures and depth-of-field tricks. Improvements include full-frame, full-TV-quality video shooting. Though it takes up lots of space, I intend to buy a 1GB Compact Flash card (I'm glad they're staying with that format) that can hold about 8 minutes of video; as such, it will almost replace my digital video recorder. The longest shutter speed is still 15 seconds (why not 30?), but the fastest has doubled to 1/2000th of a second. And it will work nicely with my Canon printer, plugging in directly so that photo printing--when I want it--will not require the computer to be involved.

I thought the fact that it eats 4-AA Alkaline batteries would be a disadvantage, but after consideration, it beats out the expensive, proprietary battery packs--it's cheaper to have rechargeable AA's, and if the available rechargeables all lose their juice, standard AA's will work nicely.

The down side is the form factor--being a bit bulkier with more protrusions, it will not fit into my shirt pocket like my S30 does--but I can live with that. Maybe it'll still fit in pants or jacket pockets. The lens cap is a nuisance, but can be dealt with. There are a lot of buttons and controls, but not so many that I'll be lost or anything. I also expect the flash and low-light focusing to be sub-par--a common failing among Canon cameras, but well-made-up-for by the image quality and feature set.

Finally, the price is right: about $320 to $350. Though I have to buy it in the U.S.--ironically, the cameras are quite a bit more expensive in Japan, at $510--even with the 15% point-card "discount," it's still a big chunk of change cheaper in the U.S.

I plan to order in the next couple of weeks so that it will be delivered to my folks' house before I arrive for Christmas vacations. The 49ers-Washington game my father's taking me to should provide a good test for the zoom.

Posted by Luis at 10:47 PM | Comments (1)

November 19, 2004

Yet More Evidence of E-Voting Fraud

UC Data, part of UC Berkeley's Survey research Center, has come out with a statistical analysis (PDF file) which they claim all but proves that electronic voting machines in Florida gave Bush 130,000 extra votes (seen as 260,000 if the votes were switched from Kerry to Bush). From the summary (PDF file):

  • Irregularities associated with electronic voting machines may have awarded 130,000 excess votes or more to President George W. Bush in Florida.
  • Compared to counties with paper ballots, counties with electronic voting machines were significantly more likely to show increases in support for President Bush between 2000 and 2004. This effect cannot be explained by differences between counties in income, number of voters, change in voter turnout, or size of Hispanic/Latino population.
  • In Broward County alone, President Bush appears to have received approximately 72,000 excess votes.
  • We can be 99.9% sure that these effects are not attributable to chance.

This report echoes an analysis done a week or so ago which showed reported Republican turnout in Bush-friendly e-voting counties to be ridiculously high, while Democratic turnout was inexplicably low, also suggesting e-voting fraud.

Even if this does not turn the election, it is still an indicator of massive fraud, which is always a serious crime--and it must be investigated. If you ask me, e-voting is and always was a seriously flawed idea. With so much talk about constitutional amendments going around--amend the constitution to ban gay marriages, amend the constitution to ban abortion, amend the constitution to elect Arnie--how about this one: amend the constitution so that all the voting methods be constantly tested, and only the one shown as most accurate and effective would then be used in every precinct in the country--with tamper-proof physical records and an easily verifiable recount system built-in. And no dependence on electronic memory. At all.

Posted by Luis at 10:26 AM | Comments (2)

November 18, 2004

Death Toll in Iraq Skyrockets

*incomplete count
Day
Deaths
11/8
12
11/9
14
11/10
9
11/11
8
11/12
11
11/13
10
11/14
4
11/15
12
11/16
6*

CNN's page doesn't say a thing about it today. CBS has a little Iraq news, but isn't covering the body count. USA Today has nothing on Iraq at all. MSNBC and Fox cover Iraq stories, but not the big one. Only ABC is talking about it.

If I hadn't checked the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count page I would not have even noticed it.

Our soldiers are getting slaughtered out there.

Since November 8, when Bush threw the troops into the Fallujah maelstrom after having decided it wouldn't hurt him so much politically anymore, 95 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq, almost all of them from hostile fire. We are losing an average of more than ten soldiers a day. Even though the casualties started only ten days ago and the first week of the month had few deaths, November has already become the bloodiest month of the war since it started in March 2003. At this rate, November will become the first month in which more than 200 soldiers die--and there is no indication that this will abate anytime soon.

It is also significant to note that in the first three years of the Vietnam War, from 1962 to 1964 (when we had 17,000 troops in-country), the casualty rate was 0.38 per day. Even after massive escalation began in 1965, the average casualty rate was 5 per day. Over the course of the entire Vietnam War, an average of 15 soldiers died every day. Factor in the fact that there were far more troops total in Vietnam, and the numbers become even more significant.

Bush apologists will talk about how many more died in WWII, or on that one day in the Civil War--but that comparison is ludicrous as those wars are quantitatively different: they were not wars fighting local insurgencies in a single country, and they involved far, far more troops. They were not wars of attrition or occupation. Like Vietnam, Iraq requires few in the first few years--but it is very likely that more and more troops will be required as time goes on, just as in Vietnam.

Posted by Luis at 08:47 PM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2004

Ambush

Saw these fellows laying in wait the other day. The embankment they're next to overlooks an underpass. The underpass has two lanes, separated by a yellow line. On days with good weather and heavy traffic, these guys wait up here on their perch, scouting the traffic below. They're looking for motorcycles that cross the yellow line. A completely innocuous offense, never any danger--the underpass is no more dangerous for lane-changing than anywhere else on the street where there's no yellow line, but it's a rule, and the rules rule here. So it is a technical offense, and you can get a ticket for it. So the cops take up their perch and hand out a steady stream of tickets.

Their position is well-chosen: though it's not clear in the photo above, they're overlooking the bottom of the underpass just after the road that crosses over it (see right). To see them, a driver would have to look up over their left shoulder just as they come out from under the overhead street, and none do; the cops, meanwhile, have a bird's eye view of people as they drive by. In other words, it's shooting fish in a barrel.

The ticketing in fact makes no real sense. The offense, as I mentioned above, is a technical one and poses no more danger than any regular merge in traffic. It's not a high-danger area--I go past there every day, and that's not where accidents happen or where traffic is at its trickiest. Furthermore, there will never be any end to offenders--too many new people going through. Nor will it "teach a lesson" to any regular drivers--the cops are always in the same place, every time, so when a driver spots them once, they know where the cops will always be--which in fact frees the drivers to break traffic laws elsewhere, confident in knowing where the cops are located.

The only reason they are in that location is because it's easy to catch and fine people. Period. That's it. I've noted this kind of thing before, in this post from a year and a half ago. But it's nice to note that their consistency hasn't waned. Too bad their incompetence or uselessness hasn't either.

Posted by Luis at 11:57 AM | Comments (2)

November 16, 2004

Exodus

First, the big news most people know about is the game of musical chairs going on in the Bush administration. While Ashcroft's resignation was welcome, his replacement is no great consolation prize. Alberto Gonzales is getting the job not because he's the country's best lawman (same as Ashcroft), but because he's been Dubya's best bud since his governorship, has been helping him get out of jams and fixes since then, probably has a load of dirty laundry on Bush, and his ethnicity will make his confirmation somewhat bulletproof. Among Gonzales' early work that 'qualifies' him for the top law enforcement official was cleaning up Bush's messes:

And then there was the infamous 1996 juror incident. At that time, Bush was randomly selected for jury duty. Wanting to make a PR stunt out of it, Bush made a big deal about how he was just an ordinary guy, and of course, he would do his duty and serve on the jury. He claimed to the press that it is "a feeble excuse" to say he's too busy or important. When he was given the forms for jurors to fill out, there is a section where jurors are required to detail prior arrests and court proceedings they experienced. Bush left that section blank. Apparently, the court did not want to bother the governor with such legal niceties, so he was not required to fill it out as everyone else is. But then Bush ran into a bigger snag: by chance, he was assigned to a drunk driving case, and, as a potential juror, he would without doubt be asked, under oath, if he had ever been arrested for drunk driving before.

Time for a feeble excuse to come to the rescue. Bush asked to be dismissed from jury the night before the trial, and was helped by Alberto R. Gonzales, his legal counsel. (Bush later appointed Gonzales to the Texas Supreme Court, and later as a legal counsel in the White House.) The excuse? "It would be improper for a governor to sit on a criminal case in which he could later be asked to grant clemency." Huh? How often was Governor Bush asked to grant clemency for drunk driving? He was obviously taking positive action to hide his past from the public.

Since then, Gonzales' record has been less than spectacular.

Meanwhile, the only moderately good man in the Bush cabinet, Colin Powell, is leaving, and will be replaced by Condi Rice--though everyone saw that one coming miles away. You have to wonder what in the name of all that is holy Powell was thinking about when he decided not to run for president but instead served as a futile voice of moderation in this chimpanzee's cabinet, constantly and consistently run over by morons and fanatics. While he remains far more respected and legitimate than those he is leaving behind, his credibility is nevertheless decimated by his willingness to prostitute himself for Bush's agenda (at least publicly). What a waste.

One thing the new appointments make clear is the fact that this will not be a moderate second term for Bush. Flunkies, fanatics and loyalists are the people in charge now, no more voices of moderation. At the CIA, Porter Goss is busy purging the agency of anyone not completely loyal to Bush (good to see that he has his priorities straight).

Posted by Luis at 08:22 AM | Comments (1)

November 15, 2004

Arts Day Festival

Some images from this year's Arts Day Festival at the college where I work. You'd be surprised by the talent that exists around you but you don't know because you don't see it... until a day like this. Or like the first Arts Day last year.


A gospel choir


Pottery, among various crafts displayed by the students


A hip-hop group


Iyo at the piano


Roger rockin' down


An appreciative crowd, with more artwork displayed along the walls


A cheerleader group


...and a versatile deejay.

My own contribution was a 16-minute video of the students preparing for Arts Day, shot by Iyo, Hitomi and Moto, which I edited together, adding music, transitions, and effects. The video is linked to by the image below. It is a QuickTime movie (QT required, if you do not have it installed already), and although compressed and reduced in size, is still 44 MB, at 17 minutes running time. After watching it, you may have a better idea as to why I did not blog much in the past week or so--it took a lot of time to put it together using nothing more than iMovie.

Note: the movie was not displaying properly, but is now fixed.



Posted by Luis at 09:54 AM | Comments (1)

November 14, 2004

Cold Numbers

46 52 U.S. soldiers killed in just five days (Nov. 8-12), and one British soldier killed in the same time period, making it amongst the bloodiest of the entire occupation, coming close even to surpassing April 2004 in our death toll. 1,176 1,183 U.S. soldiers killed, 74 British and 72 from other countries.

And George W. Bush intends to stay the course, so....

[numbers revised upwards for casualties throughout 5-day period after new DoD press releases--ed.]

Posted by Luis at 01:58 PM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2004

If It Comes Up "Tails" a Hundred Times...

Via Kevin Drum, more evidence that the election was rigged, this time in the form of an academic paper by Steven Freeman (PDF file) on the subject, doing a statistical analysis of the exit poll numbers versus the actual tallies. Take a look at this chart showing what the exit polls predicted, what the actual counts were, and--most significantly--what the difference was between exit polls and the reported counts:

Note how the tallied votes in every battleground state save one just happened to differ from the exit polls in favor of Bush. Had this been simple statistical margin of error in the exit polls, then roughly half the error should have gone towards Bush and half to Kerry. Instead, we see a near-universal shift from exit polls to tallies favoring Bush--a near statistical impossibility.

Look at Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the key battleground states. In Florida, final exit polls showed Bush leading by only a fraction of a percent--but Bush walks off with a 5% win. In Ohio, Kerry was ahead by 4% in the exit polls, but the tally gave the state to Bush by 2.5%, a 6.7% surge. And even in Pennsylvania, where Kerry won, Bush still surged 6.5% in the tally vs. the exit polls. Only in Wisconsin did the polls hit the nail on the head. But outside of Wisconsin, the final Bush tally exceeded exit polls by an average of about 5%. None of them showed a shift to Kerry.

Freeman still gives the benefit of the doubt to the idea it might have been a methodological flaw in the exit polling consortium, one that we don't know about, but frankly, this is yet more evidence to me that there was indeed fraud involved. My reasons: almost all the errors favor Bush. In Florida, the statistics for the voter turnout increases in counties using voting machines made by Bush-friendly Diebold and ES&S... all favor Republican turnout. In Ohio, machine miscounts went to... Bush. Reports of errors by voting machines almost universally reported votes being switched from Kerry to Bush.

It's like flipping a coin and having it come up "tails" a hundred times, like dropping toast and having it fall butter-side up a hundred times, like rolling dice and getting snake-eyes a hundred times. Once, fine, three times, OK, ten times, maybe... but almost every time? There is a point where you have to suspect that something is seriously wrong.

Posted by Luis at 10:41 AM | Comments (7)

November 12, 2004

Recounting Ohio

If the request goes through, there will be a thorough recount of all votes in Ohio due to "voting irregularities." The party candidate statement:

“Due to widespread reports of irregularities in the Ohio voting process, we are compelled to demand a recount of the Ohio presidential vote. Voting is the heart of the democratic process in which we as a nation put our faith. When people stand in line for hours to exercise their right to vote, they need to know that all votes will be counted fairly and accurately. We must protect the rights of the people of Ohio, as well as all Americans, and stand up for the right to vote and the right for people’s votes to be counted. The integrity of the democratic process is at stake."
So, you might think that Republicans are going to go nuts on this one and call John Kerry a sore loser, right? Except that it's not John Kerry demanding the recount. It is, in fact not just one, but two other presidential candidates: David Cobb and Michael Badnarik, the candidates for the Green Part and Libertarian Party, respectively. And it's legal.

What this means is that we're going to see a real, honest-to-god recount here, and if Bush tries to stop it, he'll look really bad--since Kerry already conceded and he's claiming to have won by a comfortable margin. But the recount might include factors not taken into effect in the original count--like paper trails, and possibly discarded punch-card votes--heavily uncounted in Democratic districts. Wait, you might say--punch cards? Didn't Ohio get $113 million to replace those? Yes, but the Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell decided not to spend the money, claiming that none of the other voting techniques were "more secure." Just coincidence that punch cards get more Democratic votes thrown out.

Not that I expect things to change. But it will be interesting.

Posted by Luis at 07:43 PM | Comments (3)

November 11, 2004

Bush Wasn't Advertising This Before Election Day

23 American soldiers dead in the last three days. November--post-election day--becoming one of the bloodiest months of the war. How would you like to be ordered to fight and die on a political schedule? At least the anguish families of the fallen soldiers can be assuaged by the knowledge that their sons' deaths did not inconvenience George W. Bush. But they certainly didn't advertise this during the election; I don't recall hearing Bush on the stump saying, "when I am elected, I will stop holding back the troops from experiencing politically embarrassing deaths and send them into a bloodbath in Fallujah." Well, you could have gotten that by reading between the lines. But he didn't exactly make it clear.

In addition, there will likely be drilling in ANWR, despite concerns for the impact on the fragile environment and the fact that it will do little or nothing to help our energy crisis--and may actually hurt because some people will see it as an excuse to push back the initiative for finding alternate energy sources. So much for Bush being a "good steward" of the environment.

In other news, the economy continues to falter; at least this has a good side for me--a weaker dollar driven by fear of a Bush economy gives me a better exchange rate when I go back home for the holidays. And had Kerry been elected, Arafat's passing would have seemed a momentous opportunity for a new peace in the Middle East. But with Bush in office? If a peace happens from this, Bush will have nothing to do with it--though he would, of course, take full credit for it, naturally.

Posted by Luis at 10:50 PM | Comments (3)

November 10, 2004

Just One Example

This from the Republican Party Platform:

Federal government should not interfere with states’ rights

We must acknowledge that the federal government’s role should be to set expectations in policies, then get out of the way and let the states implement and operate those policies as they best know how. Washington must respect that one size does not fit all states and must not overburden states with red tape attached to its policies.

--Republican Platform adopted at GOP National Convention Aug 12, 2000

Of course, like so many other "principles" of the GOP, this one is not as much a principle as it is a facade justification for a wide range of issues. Many GOP stands have little or no widely accepted justification, so to look legitimate, the GOP resorts to the old standard of states' rights. Abortion? It's a religious issue, but they can't frame it that way because it won't appeal to most Americans, who want separation of church and state. State's rights to the rescue! The states should decide, that's the justification.

But because it is a facade, it is not applied universally: whenever there is an issue which the GOP thinks can or should be banned nationally, or when a state decides that it wants to take a stance that the GOP doesn't want them to take, then the states' rights suddenly vanish and the federal government overrules them:

The Bush administration asked the Supreme Court yesterday to block the nation's only law that allows physicians to help terminally ill patients die more quickly.

The appeal from Attorney General John D. Ashcroft had been expected since May, when a lower court ruled that the federal government could not punish Oregon doctors who prescribed lethal doses of federally controlled drugs.

Oregon voters approved the law, and since 1998 more than 170 people have used it to end their lives. Most had cancer.

This hypocritical use of states' rights as a false justification is bad enough, but it becomes somewhat laughable when the GOP tries to restrict states' rights more often than it pretends to defend them.

Posted by Luis at 02:27 PM | Comments (2)

November 09, 2004

Same Ol' Same Ol'

I've been refraining from blogging political for the past several days, partly out of disappointment and disgust, and partly from burning out--I posted 13 times on election day, and 33 times in the four days preceding, over 50 posts for the week leading up to the election results. That's easily five times more than my usual rate, and considering that most recent news is bad--not to mention that I've had more than the usual amount of work at school lately--I've simply stepped back from the grindstone a bit, give the old nose a break.

Soon after declaring victory in the election Bush did a speed-dial version of what he did in 2000: promised to reach out to Democrats, almost immediately followed by his producing an agenda even farther to the right than before: an agenda he failed to present clearly before the election, wouldn't you know. And now that the election is over and dying soldiers can't hurt his political standing so much, Bush has unleashed an all-out attack on Fallujah, with casualties expected to be very high (an unconfirmed report says that 35 U.S. troops have been captured by the insurgents).

Conservative politicians made no excuses about their extreme partisanship in the wake of the election. Crowing about their "mandate," their claim to "moral values, and how more people voted for Bush than for any other president in any other election, they instantly discarded their false facade of bipartisanship and cooperation and announced gleefully that they would be forcefully pursuing an even more one-sided agenda, threatening to divide the country further still:

The majority Republicans said strongly that they intended to move ahead with President Bush's agenda and wouldn't go out of their way to be conciliatory toward the minority Democrats.
Of course, the "mandate" may be one of the weakest ever heard of. While more people voted for Bush than for any other president, more people voted against him than any other president as well. He won the popular vote by a slim margin. The Congress remains Republican, but they gained only one Senate seat for a 3-seat advantage; the House gains were even slimmer, just four more seats out of 435, and that paltry gain was due to DeLay's illegal gerrymandering in states like Texas--redistricting that may soon be overturned (a bit too late, natch). If not for the outlaw redistricting, the Democrats would have gained seats, and might even have regained control.

So the claims of a mandate are no more then chest-puffing, posturing for the press, and an excuse to be even more partisan and divisive than ever before.

Meanwhile, we still wait to see what investigations into voting fraud may yet reveal. Numbers are being looked at, results tested. The problem with the voting machines is that if they did have a hack to give Bush more votes, it was likely self-erasing by the end of election day, and without proof of programming, no amount of statistics proving rigged voting machines will push any real action forward. Which is why I say that unless they've already been snagged by Diebold or ES&S, somebody better get a hold of their voting machines that broke down on election day--they may still hold the suspicious code, if it lay in the machines. Else it could be in tabulators, little more than glorified PCs.

And though you may not be hearing much about it right now, be certain that there are a lot of people checking and re-checking results, especially in contentious states. I don't know if fraud tipped the election or not, but it is pretty certain there was fraud: the numbers don't lie, and it is just a little bit more than fishy that just about every case of miscounted votes, glitches and "malfunctions" just happens to favor Bush. We'll probably hear more by this weekend, when states like Ohio start counting provisional votes; if those votes take away from Bush's advantage enough to make fraud a possible make-or-break issue, then there will be more of a fight. Right now, people are patiently investigating, and those aware of that fact are still holding their collective breath.

Posted by Luis at 08:07 PM | Comments (4)

November 08, 2004

You Don't Miss It

Something happened to me tonight that rarely ever happens in Japan: I got panhandled. When I lived in San Francisco, and especially when I went downtown, panhandling was a daily nuisance--and you quickly learned never to give them anything, unless you enjoy being followed around for ten minutes by an annoyingly persistent bum making ever-increasing demands for larger denominations to be handed over. I once tried to give a guy what spare change I had, and he kept upping the ante with slick sob stories and lies about when local eateries closed, until he finally tried to convince me to give him $20, but he'd pay me back--he actually told me that he'd just been released from prison and so he really needed the money, but if I gave him my address he'd be sure to mail me back the money. Really, he actually tried that on me. I don't know if he was an idiot, or if he thought I was.

But here in Japan, it almost never happens. The first time it did was way back in the 80's when I was traveling in Japan, and a street person approached me as I finished buying a train ticket and asked for change--a good perch for him, people could not easily deny they had change after collecting it from the machine. There may have been one other time in the intervening years, but if so it has receded far enough into distant memory that I cannot recall the specifics. So it was a bit of a jar to have someone come up to me tonight and ask for money. I don't know if the panhandlers target foreigners, but I suspect they do--I have the feeling that other Japanese would probably simply ignore him. Not from callousness, but rather because his behavior is unusual and strange, and the automatic reflex is to ignore such things, pretend they aren't happening. As for me, I had just finished dealing with an enormously frustrating situation (another story) and did not feel quite so generous--regretted in hindsight, actually. But not too much. Just like some elderly people on the train tend to spot me on the rare case I get a seat and come to stand right in front of me because they'll know I'm most likely to give it up, I often tend to resent it when I feel I'm being hit up because of my ethnicity.

Fortunately, I don't have to deal with the panhandling every day here. It's something you don't even realize is missing until you see it like I did today. But you really don't miss it.

Posted by Luis at 10:54 PM | Comments (2)

November 07, 2004

Clever Spam

My last post got a comment which seemed legit at first, pointing out that I had been mentioned in a Daily Kos diary. When I checked my stats, it indeed seems that I was mentioned--but the link did not lead to any real story. That means that the story which referenced me was deleted for some reason--or this was perhaps one of the most clever spam attacks I have experienced.

Already I am pretty sure that the comment itself was spam: the link was to a commercial news site, and the text was terse and standardized enough to seem automated--it mentioned my "research," which is an awkward way of referring to what I wrote, but is general enough to apply to a wide variety of situations. Not to mention that what I wrote wasn't much as "research" goes. And the compliment "Great work" is a classic standard in spam comments. So I get the impression that spammers are now scouring the popular sites for links to individual blogs, and leaving spam links to themselves in the form of notifications about how people have been mentioned on popular sites. Pretty clever just at that, you have to admit: such links will be appreciated by bloggers, who like to know when they get mentioned somewhere else, especially somewhere in the spotlight. They usually won't question that kind of comment, and won't delete it as spam. So the link gets preserved instead of deleted, and that's a great plus for the spammer.

But the broken link to the Daily Kos diary makes me wonder if there ever was a Daily Kos link to my page in the first place. How many Daily Kos diaries get deleted like that? Maybe it was just that, but my recent headaches with referral spam suggested something different. Referral spam can pretend that people are coming to your site from a link that does not exist. They simply tell your referral logs, "I'm coming from this address," and your logs accept it. Which means that the 39 visits from the Daily Kos address could just as easily have been referral spam generated by the same entity that spammed the comment. If that is the case, and I'm not just being overly paranoid, you would have a combination spam that would generate a very convincing illusion of legitimacy to a blogger.

I'll have to keep my eyes open to see if this kind of thing occurs elsewhere. In the meantime, the comment still stands, though the spam link has been removed.

Posted by Luis at 10:34 AM | Comments (2)

November 06, 2004

Absolutely Something Fishy Here

This web site chronicles the fact that while one type of voting machine in Florida (E-Touch) recorded similar heightened turnout numbers for both Republicans and Democrats, another voting machine type (Op-Scan) almost universally recorded unbelievable turnout for Republicans--as high as 433% increases--while at the same time had Democratic turnout fall by large amounts--as much as 70%.

The Op-Scan machines made by Diebold and ES&S--both corporations with strong Bush connections--had voter turnout for Republicans increase an average of 135%, while Democratic turnout averaged a 22% decrease. The E-Touch machines recorded a turnout increase of 27% for Republicans, 23% for Democrats.

Sorry, but you can't tell me that's a coincidence. While the numbers I am looking at have not been confirmed, this is exactly the kind of thing I mentioned before about evaluating the voting machine results. If these numbers bear out, then this is virtual proof of vote-rigging on the part of Republicans.

Posted by Luis at 11:29 AM | Comments (1)

Ohio Machine Gave Bush 4000 Too Many Votes; Search For More Irregularities Continues

While I have more or less accepted the reported results of the election and do not hold out much more than an iota of hope that anything could change, I nevertheless stand by my earlier statement that we should not simply throw up our hands and let things go. There is still much to look at.

Case in point: Some precincts in Ohio are reporting erroneous vote count results. Commenter Sam alerted me to the story, and the San Francisco Chronicle carries a full account:

An error with an electronic voting system gave President Bush 3,893 extra votes in suburban Columbus, elections officials said.

Franklin County's unofficial results had Bush receiving 4,258 votes to Democrat John Kerry's 260 votes in a precinct in Gahanna. Records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct. Bush's total should have been recorded as 365.

That machine was apparently the only of its kind in Ohio, but irregularities abound elsewhere. 1,100 e-voting "glitches" were found in Florida, with a majority of them just 'happening' to take votes away from Kerry and give them to Bush. In each state, we have to examine things to death--especially in Ohio, where the margin is slimmest. We should not simply or meekly accept the idea that this is a one-shot error. There are thousands of precincts in Ohio, and all of them must be checked for this type of discrepancy before the tally is made official.

For those of you who would say that the election is officially over: it's not. The vote must be certified starting in mid-November and lasting until December 13th. Until then, Bush declaration of victory or not, Kerry concession or not, the vote is not official. That means that if miscounts are found and reported, the corrected count can be adjusted--and if, say, 100 Ohio precincts out of the thousands reporting have a 4000-vote surplus for Bush, the state would, by law, be required to go for Kerry, who would become president.

Like I said, it's a way-off unlikely possibility, but it should be checked into. Every precinct, and not just in Ohio, but in all of the six states that used electronic voting machines this time around. Fortunately, there are advocates out there unwilling to give up yet: Black Box Voting (www.blackboxvoting.org) is making a huge FOI inquiry to gain access to voting machine records.

We may not pull this one out of a hat, but we damned well better scrutinize the results as well as we can.

Posted by Luis at 10:44 AM | Comments (0)

November 05, 2004

The Burnham Internet Sales Cockroaches

I found out where all the referral spam is coming from, by the way. Curious, I followed one of the links to the people who are spamming the living hell out of me, and lo, it led me to a page which contained almost every single spammer on my list. Their individual sites appear different from each other at first glance, but a quick investigation reveals that they are all linked through the mother site. It's all the same company. And the name of these lowlifes is "Burnham."

More specifically, "Burnham Internet Sales." Not a chance that I am linking to them, of course. But by mentioning their name in this entry, maybe some people will be routed here by the search engines so they can hear about what scum these lowlifes are.

Last month, they spammed my site over 4000 times. Just in the first week of this month, their spam is all over my referral pages again (the referral pages are password-protected, so no, I don't encourage them that way). When I blocked them with a .htaccess file, they were deterred for all of one day, after which they started spamming me again full-force--meaning that they have people checking on how successfully they spam, and when they see themselves blocked, they take direct action to ram right through the block and spam the site anyway.

They are by far the most egregiously obnoxious referral spammers I have yet heard of. And you'll love this: on the contact page of all of their domains, they actually have the gall to print:

Due to the fact that there are people who want to ruin the internet by harvesting e-mail address from website for sending spam we have been forced to use a contact form.
Isn't that just precious? The worst spammers on the net whining about others trying to ruin things for them. What scum-sucking rodents these people are.

Here is their contact information:

Burnham Internet Sales
2793 Bechelli Lane
Redding, California 96002
Phone: 877-430-3716
Fax: 530-221-2321
Don't buy any damned thing from them at all. No matter what.

Posted by Luis at 11:05 PM | Comments (10)

November 04, 2004

Kerry Concedes...

But I am far from conceding that this was a clean race. For my tastes, Kerry went noble far too soon, before any indications or evidence of voter machine fraud could be investigated--and there were thousands of reports.

So now we have four more years--of massive deficits, stolen civil liberties, corporate and government corruption, a weaker economy, a stacked Supreme Court, unchecked growth of al Qaeda, global alienation and disdain, environmental destruction and bitter partisanship, among what will undoubtedly be a host of other maladies.

So the Democrats have two choices: lie down and get kicked some more in the gut in the name of a bipartisanship that will never be returned by the other side... or spend the next four years fighting as bitterly and as sharply as the GOP has all these years. We discovered that if the other guys have all the responsibility and turn the country to crap, they can still win by lying their asses off--and if you give them even an inch and don't call them out and pin them to the wall as hard as possible, they'll get away with it.

The Democrats tried cooperating, tried working with the opposition, tried bipartisanship for the good of the country, and at every turn the GOP has screwed them thoroughly. Well, enough. The GOP has never been bipartisan, they show no signs of it, so to hell with that. Time to be as viciously bloodthirsty as the other guys. Howard Dean taught us that the people respond best when you unabashedly and unashamedly call a lying bastard a lying bastard. So the gloves come off.

Next stop: taking back the Congress in two years.

Posted by Luis at 12:46 AM | Comments (3)

November 03, 2004

You Have to Admit, Something Is Fishy Here

Maybe there's no great underhanded trickery going on, but let's review a few points: all the indicators going in were pointing to Kerry. Bush lost the debates. His popularity never went above 50%. Voter turnout was high. Bush did not break over 48% in most of the polls, and undecideds almost always break from the challenger. Add to that the fact that the economy is poor and Iraq is in a quagmire. Hell, the Washington Redskins even lost.

All of these points favored Kerry, everything was trending towards him. And yet somehow Bush came out so far ahead in the popular vote, and very well may scramble away with the electoral votes of Ohio?

Now focus on Florida. In the last days of polling, Kerry was out ahead of Bush by 2% to 5% of the vote. 25% to 35% of all eligible voters in Florida voted in advance, favoring Kerry by 56% to Bush's 40%. Turnout in Florida was record-breaking.

And yet somehow Bush runs away with a 5% lead. Against all indicators. In direct contradiction to early voting, he goes from 40% to 52%? He performs up to 10% better than some of the polls suggested? Even 'just' 7%? Now consider that huge chunks of Florida have had their votes counted by machines made by Bush's campaign manager in Ohio. I know some will call me paranoid, but the differences between the results and everything that came before are just too damned big. Or am I misreading something major here?

Someone had better go get a microscopic evaluation of the new electronic voting machines. Start by finding the ones that leave paper trails and recount those. Look for statistical aberrations in the Bush vote in counties with the machines, and scrutinize the hell out of things. Find machines that broke down before the polls closed and examine their software. Do I expect that will happen or that evidence of fraud could be proven? Frankly, no; if fraud did take place, they'll have been thorough enough to make sure it can't be. I'm probably tilting at windmills here. But that doesn't mean that all of this doesn't sound like massive fraud, or that this doesn't deserve some major scrutiny.

At the very least, the official declaration can be held up--probably by the 11-day Ohio lag--long enough for some digging to be done. Fortunately, it looks like Ohio, despite Republican control of the election, doesn't have a Katherine Harris--though if things get tough and tight, if pressure is put on people, that could change.

Posted by Luis at 06:17 PM | Comments (11)

It Ain't Over Until It's Over

Edwards just came out with a short message to the crowds, essentially telling the crowd that

CNN, CBS and ABC are holding back from calling Ohio for either candidate, though MSNBC jumped onto the Fox bandwagon and is calling it for Bush. Neither Fox nor MSNBC has had the cajones to call the whole election for Bush--a far bigger jump than calling Ohio, though they really equal the same thing. It will be interesting to see what happens when they project New Mexico for Bush and put him over the top. Will they say he won? Or will they backtrack and go "green" or some other color on Ohio?

CNN just called Michigan and Hawaii for Kerry, though they are latecomers for calling Minnesota for Kerry. (By the way, the reason I'm reporting on CNN so much despite my recent distaste for them is because they're the only live TV network I can get here--Hobson's choice).

One of CNN's commentators put forth the possibility that people could go to sleep tonight with John Kerry being ahead in electoral votes but behind by 3 million votes in the popular count. Then he asked if his colleagues saw that happening.

"Depends on which network you watch," retorted another.

Posted by Luis at 03:41 PM | Comments (0)

CNN Calling Ohio "Green"

...Which means it's too close to call and will be for some time. Kind of surprising, kind of like them calling it "polka-dot" or something.

However, it does not look too good. If you look at Ohio county-by-county, it looks like most of the precincts not reporting in yet have gone more for Bush than Kerry--if CNN's counting system is to be believed. They report that Cuyahoga County is 99% reported.

On the other hand, CNN is also reporting that as many as 600,000 votes are still uncounted in Ohio. And let's not forget that Ohio is the Diebold State, where many of the voting machines were made by the Bush campaign manager. Challenges to those counts may be forthcoming, especially if there are apparent statistical irregularities.

CNN also just reported that due to broken optical-scanner counting machines and other factors, Iowa will not make an official report on their cote until tomorrow at best. Iowa currently is razor-thin, with Bush leading by 11,000 votes exactly with 94% of precincts reporting. Ohio is now at 95% of precincts reporting, bush still ahead of 100,000. New Mexico should be called for Bush soon, though Nevada is still in the air.

Posted by Luis at 02:53 PM | Comments (0)

1000th Post: Still Too Close to Call

Okay, I don't think that anything definitive will come before the 999th post becomes ridiculously long, so I'm steaming ahead to the 1000th post on this blog.

First of all, confirmation of the very bad news in the Congress: Republicans have solidly won majorities in both the House and the Senate, and they're already talking about going even more aggressively for their partisan agenda, pushing for more tax cuts favoring the wealthy and more attacks on the environment, such as opening up with wildlife preserves in Alaska for oil drilling.

The only thing that can stop them is if Kerry pulls this one out of the hole, and gets Ohio with the rest of the inside straight. Bush's lead in Ohio has jumped back up to 130,000 votes (and a few minutes later, jumped back down to 100,000), but now some are saying that as many as 250,000 provisional votes may exist. If Kerry can cut the Bush lead significantly enough, then it may come down to those provisional ballots and we may not see a final result for some time.

Fox has called 269 electoral votes for Bush, effectively pronouncing him president.

Posted by Luis at 02:35 PM | Comments (0)

Florida Falls to Bush; It Comes Down to Ohio

I'm still wondering what the hell happened down there--everything should have gone Kerry's way there, with overall turnout and minority turnout working for Kerry to what should have been a strong degree. I suspect that there will be some very close looking-into of the electronic voting machines, but for the time being, Florida is in Bush's column.

So that makes Bush and Kerry tied in the Three Big Ones, and makes things much darker for the Democrats--but Ohio is still in play, and despite Bush's current razor-thin lead at present, missing Democratic districts could put the state into Kerry's column. Kerry, however, will have to pull what James Carville called "an inside straight"--in other words, he has to win the north midwest, including Michigan, Minnesota (both very likely to go his way), Wisconsin, Iowa (leaning for Kerry now, but still too close for comfort), and, of course, Ohio. With 76% of precincts reporting, Bush maintains a 51% lead, with Kerry at 48% or 49%, depending on who you listen to. Predictably, if Ohio goes to Kerry by a small margin, Republicans will explode in a frenzy of fraud claims and legal challenges.

CNN just called Colorado and Montana for Bush, while Oregon has been called for Kerry on C-SPAN (which still has the best web page electoral map, by the way).

This is post #999 on this blog, by the way--I was hoping to reserve #1000 for a declaration of Kerry's win, but it looks like I might go over the landmark before we can say either way. Nevertheless, I may simply add updates to this post unless it looks like this will go on a lot longer than just a few hours.

UPDATE 9:44 PM PST: Fox, of all networks, calls New Hampshire for Kerry, and Minnesota has been called for Kerry as well, but neither have settled into the maps by the bigs yet. Washington just predictably went for Kerry. However, it looks like Thune may have won over Daschle in South Dakota--but it seems pretty close still, as it's within 1,000 votes, and from what is being reported on Political Animal, the Indian reservation votes--strongly for Daschle--have not been added to the tallies yet.

UPDATE 9:50 PM PST: Fox, echoing their scandalous Florida declaration four years ago, has called Ohio for Bush, and is more or less declaring Bush president again. Hopefully, the rest of the media will restrain themselves from slavishly following their lead--though spin, at this point, is pretty much moot. All that's left to do is count.

We should also remember that a huge number of absentee and provisional ballots remain uncounted in both Florida and Ohio, and Ohio will not even count the provisionals for eleven days. Yikes. I am not going to give up hope, not by a long shot. But still, things are not exactly conducive to hope at the moment.

UPDATE 10:10 PM PST: Ohio is not out of the running for Kerry, folks--Bush had a 130,000 vote lead in Ohio with 84% of the precincts counted, but when 87% of the precincts were reported, Bush's lead fell to 100,000 votes. This indicates that the Kerry-heavy urban areas can blow that Bush lead away as the final numbers tally up. But then there are still about 125,000 provisional ballots, which may not be counted until November 15th.


Posted by Luis at 01:29 PM | Comments (0)

Yes, It Is Going to Be a Nail-Biter

Will Florida go for Bush? CNN is reporting that "many" of the precincts from heavily Democratic counties in Florida have been counted, but they don't say how many, or how many votes in total remain to be added to the tally. Bush retains a 52% to 47% lead with 95% of the precincts counted (remember, those are precincts, not total voters; the remaining 5% of precincts can contain far more than 5% of the population). Still, it is not looking all that good, and at best will be a squeaker. Kerry people are saying that they may indeed have not won Florida. One thing for sure: the networks are not going to be calling Florida until they're damned sure this time.

Meanwhile, Kerry just inched ahead in New Hampshire, and now Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Michigan have Kerry out ahead by a small amount, while Ohio still gives Bush a lead (though Kerry-heavy precincts are mostly unreported). If Kerry can get Ohio, however, and if the Wisconsin-Minnesota-Michigan-Iowa block, that could give it to them.

But if Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico go for Bush, then that could set up Wisconsin to be the most important state--because if it goes to Bush, then an electoral tie could result, and if the Congress does indeed stay in Republican hands, then it would select Bush and Cheney.

The national popular vote is closing in, and will close in Kerry's favor more as more west-coast votes come in.

Posted by Luis at 12:42 PM | Comments (0)

Kerry Wins Pennsylvania!!!

The Keystone State Goes for Kerry! That's one of the three big states, and with New Jersey, makes Kerry the winner in the only two important calls of the evening. Great news! So far, with about 2/3rds of the Pennsylvania precincts reporting, Kerry maintains a 15% lead.

Remember once again: The precincts reporting are mostly rural areas where there are fewer voters, and so they can close earlier and report earlier; urban precincts, heavily Democratic, have far more voters and so longer lines, and they're reporting later.

On the less-encouraging side of the news, trends seem to indicate that the Democrats may not win back either house of Congress.

Posted by Luis at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)

Bush's Wave Has Mostly Passed, Kerry's Wave Still to Come

Montana, Missouri and Arkansas are going for Bush, again as expected. People seem to be fretting that Bush already has 193 electoral votes vs. Kerry's 112. I don't see why--they're all expected turnouts for Bush, while Kerry got a state that was on the line. They only reason bush has so many EVs so far is because his heavy-duty states have been called so far. When the west coast reports in, Kerry will jump from 112 to at least 167, and possibly up to 185, with a probably Michigan win bringing him up to 202.

Keep your eyes on the ball, folks. Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania are the key states, with Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and New Hampshire being important as well.

So far, the states have been falling so predictably that they all agree with my own projection which has Kerry winning 308-230. In other words, while Bush's numbers are high, it is because most of his safe states have been called, while many of Kerry's have not yet been called--and the battleground states are still completely up in the air. Still quite a bit of time left to go.

Update: Excellent point made by Joe Lockhart on CNN just now: the numbers in Florida and Ohio look unnaturally leaning to Bush because of incredibly high turnout in Democratic precincts, some voter lines so long that polls will stay open until midnight--meaning those votes are not being added to the tallies yet, and they represent a very large chunk of the Democratic vote. CNN is also reporting that Ohio is going more for Kerry than it went for Gore in 2000, and that seniors in Florida have shifted from strong for Bush to leaning for Kerry.

Posted by Luis at 11:30 AM | Comments (1)

Still No Crucial Data In Yet

Utah went for Bush. Again, no big surprise. Still, the only big info was New Jersey, because it defied the polls, in Kerry's favor.

Republicans in Ohio are reportedly sending out lawyers to shut down voting at polls even for people who were in line by the time the deadline came.

C-SPAN has an electoral map that also presents the percentage of precincts reporting. However, which precincts are even more important, as with Florida, where heavily-Democratic areas are still not reporting, and the heaviest Democratic districts may not have the absentee ballots counted for a day or two yet.

Wait--Air America is reporting that some numbers are coming in from Miami-Dade, with the numbers heavily favoring Kerry. No returns from Palm Beach yet, either--and Bush is only holding onto a 4-point lead without these numbers.

Posted by Luis at 11:10 AM | Comments (0)

Premature Excitement by the Republicans

Louisiana and Mississippi have gone to Bush, again no surprises. For Missouri, Kansas City is going stronger for Kerry, a surprising result. Republicans are "feeling the momentum" and are excited, but it seems to be lost on them that they're seeing lopsided numbers. Florida, for example, is mainly reporting from heavily Republican areas, and from reports, the Florida numbers do not include early voting numbers, which constitute 30% of eligible voters and probably a higher percentage of the total number of people who will go to the polls, and those numbers were strongly for Kerry.

Josh Marshall is reporting that the "let the people vote and not the lawyers" Republican party is sending out lawyers across the nation to try to shut down voting at the polls as early as possible and fighting every attempt to let people vote where problems have arisen.

By the way: Ralph who?

It's still wait-and-see, folks. Can't get excited for either side yet.

Posted by Luis at 10:45 AM | Comments (0)

More of the Same

Bush has won Texas, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska (at least 4 of the 5 electoral votes there), Virginia and North & South Dakota, and North & South Carolina. Kerry wins New York and Rhode Island.

No surprises there. All as predicted.

Tom Daschle is fighting for his life in South Dakota. Coburn seems to have lost his Senate challenge in Oklahoma, bad news all around--even the Republicans don't really want him in the Senate.

CNN is finally reporting that their report about Alleghany Country polls being open an extra hour and a half are wrong; it was just one precinct, and only for voters who had been turned away so they can cast provisional ballots. Tucker Carlson was whining about it, of course. Josh Marshall reported on this half an hour ago. Real swift there, CNN.

Posted by Luis at 10:08 AM | Comments (0)

Media Calls New Jersey for Kerry; All Other Projections As Expected

OK, the hour has turned and now a large number of states (and D.C.) have fallen into Kerry's column: Maine, Illinois, New Jersey, Delaware, Washington D.C., Maryland, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Bush, meanwhile, picks up Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Alabama.

Most of these are still deep red or blue states, but a few races are telling: New Jersey, which had been even in the polls, has been projected for Kerry even before any official numbers are reported. Meanwhile, South Carolina, considered a heavily pro-Bush state, is not being called for Bush, indicating the possibility of weak support for the president in his heartland. Exit polls in New Jersey say that a majority of voters worried about terrorism are voting for Kerry!

At the current tally, Kerry has 77 electoral votes to Bush's 66.

Polls are closing throughout the East, but remember that anyone in line by the time the polls close can still vote, so the numbers will still be coming in well past closing time for some of the polling places with longer lines.

Zogby is calling the election for Kerry, 311 to 213, with 14 (Colorado and Nevada) too close to call. As you may recall, my own projection is for 308 to 230.

One thing to remember: some states will probably not be reporting final numbers for some time. Florida will not report on all the absentee ballots until Thursday, and Pennsylvania may not have final numbers for a week. If neither candidate wins by a reasonable margin in those states, we could be some time waiting for the results; if the electoral count is too close to call without those states, we may not know who wins the election for several days at least--and that's without legal challenges.

By the way, my vote for best running-tally electoral map is from ABC, located here.

Posted by Luis at 09:10 AM | Comments (0)

Down to Business

Awake again! I am very glad to hear reports that voting is going relatively smoothly, mostly upset just by long lines due to turnout. I am also delighted to have been wrong about the GOP "observers" not abusing their power to the Nth degree and jamming up polling places--so far, at least--and instead we're just hearing scattered reports of some abuse. Extremely glad to hear it.

I'd like to take the chance to say it--since February I've been saying it!--turnout is huge, and that alone could win it for Kerry, and perhaps even swing the Senate for the Democrats.

So far, Indiana, Kentucky and Georgia have been called for Bush, and Vermont for Kerry; although everyone is reporting that Bush is "ahead" 39 to 3, all of those states were heavily for one candidate or the other, so no one is really "ahead" so far. Hell, I'll call New York and California for Kerry and Texas and Louisiana for Bush, right now. None of those states will provide any surprises.

The interesting thing here is that, unlike in 2000 and prior elections, the news organizations will put more emphasis on getting it right than on getting it first. Well, all except Fox, probably. I wonder if Bush's cousin is still in charge of their Florida news desk?

Posted by Luis at 08:36 AM | Comments (0)

November 02, 2004

Sleeping Through the Early Voting Hours

At some point, I've got to get some sleep, so I figure earlier is better. It's now about 11 hours before the first polls close, so I'll catch some shuteye then be back for the full action early in the morning, Japan time. Well, early for me.

Posted by Luis at 09:12 PM | Comments (2)

And So It Begins

Voters are coming out to the polls as I write this. They opened a little more than an hour ago on the east coast, at 6 am. Turnout is expected to be at record numbers today, although it is raining in Ohio and western Pennsylvania. High turnout is usually good for the Democrats.

A look at www.electoral-vote.com at the start of election day paints an excellent picture for Kerry: he wins, 298 to 231. His leads in Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa have solidified beyond a 5-point lead, much more of the northeast has gone dark blue, and Ohio and Pennsylvania are both leaning his way, by 2 and 4 points respectively.

Ohio, however, got a setback as the 6th Circuit Court overturned by 2-1 a prior decision to block GOP "observers" from issuing tens of thousands of challenges at Democrat-heavy polling places, potentially allowing them to abuse their power and jam up the polling places where Kerry is most heavily supported. Democrats hope to get the Supreme Court to act on this, and fast. I wouldn't have thought there would be enough time for that, but then again I did not think the GOP would have enough time to appeal, either. We can only pray that the GOP won't be successful in their attempts at intimidation or polling-place slowdowns. Meanwhile, you can keep up with all the Ohio vote suppression news at this site.

In the meantime, conservatives are already positioning themselves to blame a variety of people and/or factors for Bush's possible defeat. The right-wing Washington Times is already blaming the U.N. for releasing the information about the looted explosives. Instapundit, a right-wing blogger is already blaming the mythical "liberal media" (yeah, right, that's a laugh). My own suspicion is that the right-wingnuts are going to use those bogus "undeliverable mail" lists, claiming that if Kerry wins key swing states by less than 35,000 votes, it'll be because Democrats cheated, and so the election would be stolen.

So let's hope for a Kerry to win big through unexpectedly high--and relatively under-polled--youth, minority, and general Democratic votes.

Get out there and vote! I shouldn't have to tell you to vote for Kerry, if you've been reading this blog and keeping an eye on reality lately, it should be blindingly obvious by now.

Posted by Luis at 08:38 PM | Comments (1)

A Terrifying Thought

What if the recent tape released by bin Laden is indeed a message to sleeper cells inside the U.S., and their mission is to suicide-bomb voting places throughout the day? That would not be nearly as hard to pull off as a 9/11--all it would require is some home-made explosives and a triggering device, almost ridiculously easy to make--and yet the impact could be, in many ways, even more jarring and far-reaching than 9/11 was.

First of all, there would be no way to stop such attacks. Explosives could be hidden under clothing. All a terrorist would have to do would be to walk into a polling place, shout "Allahu Akbar!" and detonate. One of these would be bad enough, but I would expect that there would be many, at least a dozen, all over the United States. Whether they would be simultaneous or spread throughout the day is questionable--simultaneous would make it impossible to stop subsequent attacks, but would make everyone feel like "it's over," while attacks throughout the day would allow security to be enforced, but that security might not mean anything and the idea that the attacks were ongoing would frighten people away from the polls.

The effect would be devastating: people would stop going to the polls. People would be afraid to go out and vote, meaning that turnout would dwindle to a slow trickle--and the results of the election, if it is carried to its end that night, will be absolutely in question. And it could go both ways: low turnout from attacks could favor Republicans in addition to bringing to mind security issues (people would be frightened for their lives as they voted, Bush could not ask for more than that); on the other hand, a lot of advance voting has been done, and much of that is pro-Kerry in the swing states, so a low election-day turnout could hand the election to Kerry (bin Laden may not have considered early voting in planning such an attack).

Then there is the question of whether or not the election would go forward. Condi Rice sent up a trial balloon some months back about postponing the election day in the case of a terrorist attack; if the attack is aimed at polling places and is devastating enough, such a possibility could materialize--as could a constitutional crisis.

In short, it would be an unholy mess.

Let's hope it does not happen.

Posted by Luis at 12:30 PM | Comments (0)

...While the GOP Tries Its Last-Minute Dirty Tricks

Like calling Michigan voters masquerading as a Kerry caller urging voters to support John Kerry if they support gay marriage (Kerry has voiced opposition to gay marriage). Or Bush administration reports on how they are "really close" to catching bin Laden. Or Florida State and Florida A&M university students who "signed petitions to legalize medicinal marijuana or impose stiffer penalties for child molesters, unknowingly had their party registration switched to Republican and their addresses changed." So now they're counted in records as the GOP faithful and their addresses are incorrect, fueling the GOP list of people to challenge with affidavits at the polls (a trick also done in Pennsylvania), while fliers have been found in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and other states urging minority voters to vote on November 3 or 4, claiming draconian ID requirements and telling them that they will be arrested at the polls if they have parking tickets or other infractions on their records.

Not surprisingly, almost all the dirty tricks reported are Republican in origin.

Posted by Luis at 08:33 AM | Comments (2)

Polls Show Last-Minute Surge for Kerry

If you've been paying attention, you'll know that the outlier CNN/Gallup poll went from Bush +5 to a 49-49 tie between Bush and Kerry, primarily by using the 9-1 ration for the challenger formula, which is usually how it works. But that's not the only good polling news for Kerry.

A newly released Marist poll of likely voters has Kerry ahead, 49% to 48%, the poll including Sunday calls only.

FOX News (PDF file), of all sources, has Kerry up by two, with half their calls from Sunday.

TIPP, which had been calling the race for Bush by 5 points, changed to Bush by 2 points--a 3-point gain for Kerry--when they added Sunday calls.

CBS/NYT, similarly, had Bush over Kerry by three, but by adding Sunday callers, Kerry gained two points to cut the Bush lead to one point.

The only major poll that didn't go Kerry's way was Zogby, which switched from a tie to a one-point lead for Bush.

In short, almost all the polls show a surge for Kerry over the weekend in one for or another, this after a slow turn for Kerry over the past several days. The trend is your friend, or in this case, Kerry's.

And Florida is staying firmly in Kerry's column, by the way, while Kerry's electoral lead in the state polls consolidates to 298 votes to Bush 231 as Ohio leans towards Kerry. Freepers, meanwhile, after dropping their beloved Gallup poll and embracing Pew, which had numbers they like, are now similarly eschewing FOX for calling it for Kerry--having Kerry 5 points ahead in Florida, too--and after searching, found that the little-known Quinnipiac University polls were far more accurate because they show a big lead for Bush in Florida.

Posted by Luis at 08:10 AM | Comments (0)

One More Time: He's Not What You Think

Probably you've heard Republicans for Bush telling about what a kind, decent, generous, caring, loving person he is. Yes, he had a few "youthful indiscretions," but that was the alcohol acting, not sweet, gentle George. And since he's gone clean and sober, he's a good Christian and a kindhearted soul.

Well, usually.


QuickTime movie, 1 MB; Click photo to play

And let's not mention that time Bush cruelly mocked the woman on death row in Texas who had become a born-again Christian and was doing good works, with religious leaders begging Bush to reduce her sentence to life imprisonment. How he joked about her dying with reporter Tucker Carlson while using the word "f***" repeatedly.

This instance was well after Bush "recovered," when he was Governor of Texas. Just like he was in the video clip above.

You see, when someone takes on the appearance of a saint but every so often you see a sinner's face, it is the saintly face that is almost certainly the facade. There not really much getting around that.

Posted by Luis at 03:53 AM | Comments (0)

Bush-Kerry Timelines

If you would like to see what Bush and Kerry were both doing throughout their lives and compare them side by side, visit this site. They've done a pretty good job, and it is not hard to see where Kerry is the far more competent, honorable, and accomplished man.

I have my own Bush Record page, visited 559 times in October despite the fact that I don't advertise it--at least, not until now. People just found it. It takes you through a lot of Bush's history up to his being elected president.

While Kerry, in the Naval Reserves, is regarded a "top-notch officer in every measurable trait," Bush gets a 25% on his pilot aptitude test and yet is accepted into a champaign unit of the National Guard; while Kerry earns his rank of Lieutenant and goes off to the Mekong Delta where he earns a Silver Star, Bush is promoted without merit and stays at home. While Bush goes AWOL and then is given an easy early out from the guard, Kerry, back at home, is district attorney putting organized crime figures behind bars. Meanwhile, Bush gets arrested for drunk driving. As Bush drives his first family-money-backed business into the ground and begins his second failed business with Saudis funding him, Kerry gets elected to the Senate without even using PAC money.

While Kerry gets appointed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, supports deficit reduction and stops a Dick-Cheney sponsored oil tax, Bush gets involved in a variety of insider trading and other questionable activities; this is also about when he drunkenly explodes in a hail of obscenities and threats against newspaper editor Al Hunt, his wife and their four-year-old child. Kerry, meanwhile, is on the job rooting out corruption as he chairs the Senate subcommittee on the Iran-Contra hearings. The same year Kerry saved the life of Republican Senator Jacob "Chic" Hecht by using the Heimlich maneuver, Bush buys the Texas Rangers in a sweetheart deal and trades away Sammy Sosa. Bush violates the law at least three times in insider trading, tax law violations, and other financial scandals, but as the son of the President is not investigated by the SEC. Soon afterward, Kerry works closely with John McCain to investigate US soldiers still missing in Vietnam, eventually working to normalize relations with Vietnam.

Bush gets elected Governor of Texas and immediately gets a new driver license number to wipe the public records of his criminal past. He accepts a call to jury duty and leaves the legal forms referring to his criminal record blank; he soon has his staff finagle him out of jury duty when he gets assigned to a drunk driving case and will be asked under oath if he was ever arrested on that charge. Kerry, meanwhile, co-sponsors the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Bill, and fights for better pay and benefits for soldiers, veterans, police, and teachers. Bush, on the other hand, gets involved in a corporate scandal and lies under oath to get out of having to testify.

This is just a partial list. Read the two pages and get a better idea of how the two men spent their lives. An alcoholic, draft-dodging three-time-loser in business with an abusive character and a criminal record, versus a decorated Vietnam War vet with a conscience, spending his life putting bad guys behind bars and rooting out corruption.

Not really much of a challenge to pick the better man.

Posted by Luis at 02:46 AM | Comments (14)

Half-Crazed Paranoia

Sometimes it is both amusing and scary reading what the Freepers put up there:

KERRY MOVES TO SOLIDIFY CONTROL AND POWER

January 21, 2005 (the day after inauguration day)

One day after being sworn in as President of the United States, John Kerry moved to solidify his power and influence on every day America. Just two months after the Democrats stunned Republicans, conservatives and libertarians by winning the White House and regaining control of both the Senate and House of Representatives, Kerry announced massive changes to happen in the next 30 days. Among the many items that Kerry moved on were:

Immediately signed an executive order outlawing conservative talk radio. In that order, any talk deemed anti-democrat by the newly appointed Czar of the Airways, Al Frankton, and the stations would be immediately shut down and the show hosts arrested for hate speech. Targets include Rush, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, and Dr. Laura.

Signed an executive order outlawing the NRA and like groups. The NRA is to be disbanded immediately.

Signed an executive order outlawing all political parties other than the newly renamed Democratic Party, which is now to be called: The National Socialist Democratic Party of America. ...

You get the idea. You can read the rest if you want to. In short, Kerry becomes the new Adolf Hitler and Transforms the United States into the New Soviet Union overnight.

At first I decided not to post this because it seemed far too loony, way out there as half-crazed paranoia or over-the-top satire. It sat in my draft area for a while. And then on Talking Points Memo, I saw the following right-wing flier mailed out to Florida residents, and suddenly the Freeper post seemed a lot more in line with what the far-right wingnuts seem to take seriously:


Frankly, it is both amazing and alarming. I mean, I have strong fears about what will happen under Bush if he is re-elected, and I have real evidence to back that up, but I wouldn't go nearly this far. All the right-wingers have is their paranoia and imagination--and their public smear campaigns quickly get disgustingly ugly.

When Kerry wins, Republicans will almost certainly get more and more ugly--perhaps even topping the destructiveness they displayed under Clinton for eight years.

Posted by Luis at 01:21 AM | Comments (0)

November 01, 2004

Ohio Challenger Ruling: LA Times Article

The Los Angeles Times (subscription, but you should get one) has a much better article on the Ohio decision by Judge Dlott. You should read it.

It also reports on the fact that the Bush Justice Department is trying to interfere, urging Judge Dlott to change her mind so those poor honest Republicans can rightfully challenge those nasty, cheating urban minority voters.

Hopefully, it's too late for the Bush administration to push this up to the same Supreme Court that selected him as president four years ago. With luck, the Ohio voters will be allowed to vote unmolested.

Posted by Luis at 09:06 PM | Comments (0)

Ohio gets a Reprieve from GOP Election Assault

This out from the Associated Press:

A federal judge issued an order early Monday barring political party challengers from polling places throughout Ohio during Tuesday's election.

U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott found that the application of Ohio's statute allowing challengers at polling places is unconstitutional.

She said the presence of challengers inexperienced in the electoral process questioning voters about their eligibility would impede voting.

Dlott ruled on a lawsuit by a black Cincinnati couple who said Republican plans to deploy challengers to largely black precincts in Hamilton County was meant to intimidate and block black voters.

Republicans said they wanted to prevent voter fraud.

Dlott said in her preliminary injunction order that the evidence "does not indicate that the presence of additional challengers would serve Ohio's interest in preventing voter fraud better than would the system of election judges ..."

Just yesterday I posted on my greatest worry--that Republicans would abuse the "observer" loophole to the effect of jamming polling places--and wondered aloud as to who could stop them from doing it. Well, in Ohio at least, we now know. That state will be safe from the GOP's biggest dirty trick. Florida and Wisconsin are still facing the GOP's front-line election-stopping troops, but maybe courts in those states will follow suit. If they do, they'd better hurry...

Posted by Luis at 08:50 PM | Comments (0)

What a Difference a Day or Two Can Make

A few days ago, Freepers were rejoicing about the Gallup numbers which had Bush up by 5%, and crowing about how accurate Gallup is:

Take Gallup for instance. Their final poll was actually amzingly accurate measuring George Bush. They came within 1/10th of 1 percent. But Gallup figured Nader would garner about 4%. That's the norm for all pollsters: Nader would get 4%. Some had 3% (NBC, ABC); others had as high as 5%. Nader wound up with only 1.4 percent, losing 2.6%, or 2/3rds of his total, to Gore.
...
So before anyone panics, keep this in mind: In 2000, Gallup correctly predicted that Gore and Nader would receive 50% of the vote to Bush's 48%. In 2004, Gallup (so far) has Bush leading by 5 percent. That amount may shrink with the release of today's poll, but I would very definitely be surprised if the lead disappeared.
Well, guess what. The lead disappeared, and Gallup's final poll has Bush and Kerry tied at 49% each--a 2-point loss for Bush and a 3-point gain for Kerry. And guess what else: Freepers suddenly flip-flop and find that Gallup is notoriously inaccurate about these things:
Beware the Gallup Poll (The Big Trick They Played to Get That Sudden Tie):

That 49-49 result is due to Gallup's decision to allocate the remaining undecided voters based upon a tried-and-true formula -- 9 to 1 for the challenger.

Pew, on the other hand, decided to allocate the undecideds they found equally. This is what Pew had to say: "Pew's final survey suggests that the remaining undecided vote may break only slightly in Kerry's favor."

So, it appears that Pew's data told them something that the CW of undecided voters, i.e. their breaking toward the incumbent, is off. Gallup just did what my 9th grade geometry called a "plug and chug." As Polipundit notes, The New York Times survey indicates the same result as Pew. They found that undecideds do not seem to be breaking for Kerry.

Talk about infidelity. The first Freeper was not even comparing similar polls--he took a final poll from 2000 and compared it to a daily tracking poll 4 days before the 2004 election. But since it put Bush out ahead by 5 points, he was in love. Now Gallup is predicting a tie--and they were predicting a 2-point win for Bush in 2000, not surprising in light of the fact that they usually over-weight on the Republican side. And so suddenly Gallup is playing "big tricks" and can't be trusted.

How consistent.

Posted by Luis at 08:09 PM | Comments (0)

Winner for Best Political Analogy

"Bloggermann" Keith Olbermann at MSNBC:

After six months telling us that Tuesday is going to be tighter than Britney Spears’ pants, ....

Posted by Luis at 02:17 PM | Comments (0)

See, Now This Is What I'm Talking About

When I say that minority voters are making a point of going to the polls to vote this time (From Josh Marshall):

At today’s early vote in the College Hill district of East Tampa -- a heavily democratic, 90% African American community — we had 879 voters wait an average of five hours to cast their vote. People were there until four hours after they closed (as long as they’re in line by 5, they can vote).

Here’s what was so moving:

We hardly lost anyone. People stood outside for an hour, in the blazing sun, then inside for another four hours as the line snaked around the library, slowly inching forward. It made Disneyland look like speed-walking. Some waited 6 hours. To cast one vote. And EVERYBODY felt that it was crucial, that their vote was important, and that they were important.
...
The best of all was an 80 year old African American man who said to me: “When I first started I wasn’t even allowed to vote. Then, when I did, they was trying to intimidate me. But now I see all these folks here to make sure that my vote counts. This is the first time in my life that I feel like when I cast my vote it’s actually gonna be heard.”

To see people coming out — elderly, disabled, blind, poor; people who have to hitch rides, take buses, etc — and then staying in line for hours and hours and hours... Well, it’s humbling. And it’s awesome. And it’s kind of beautiful.

Sometimes you forget what America is.

I think there’s hope.

Posted by Luis at 10:03 AM | Comments (2)

Voting on Death's Door

This article from USA Today tells of "Ghost Ballots," where people who are dying cast absentee ballots before election day die before the official day of counting (for the election, that is) comes around. The article implies that such ballots should not be counted, and seems to cast the idea of Ghost Ballots being counted as an unfavorable thing. The question is, why? What, these people didn't earn the right to vote? You're going to tell an American of so many years that they can't have their vote counted because they couldn't hold on a few more days? And as the article points out, what if the vote comes from a soldier in Iraq who dies before November 2?

Frankly, I don't care if Ghost Ballots are more Republican than Democrat--it simply offends me that these people, having come so far and so close, should be denied one last chance to cast their vote. They've earned it.

Posted by Luis at 09:51 AM | Comments (0)

Green Bay Wins, Bush Loses

Or at least so the prophecy says. Green Bay 28, Washington 14. Either Kerry will win, or a 75-year streak will end. Still, with all the other portentous indicators, such as the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series--and the more serious ones, like Bush's approval being under 50 in most polls, the way Ohio is breaking and all the others--almost every indicator is pointing to a Kerry win. Hardly proof, of course, but comforting nonetheless.

Posted by Luis at 09:43 AM | Comments (1)

2nd Quarter: Green Bay 10, Washington 0

For three-quarters of a century, the final home game played by the Washington Redskins before the election has, without fail, predicted who would win the election. If the Redskins win, the incumbent wins. If they lose, he loses.

In the second quarter, Green Bay leads. I'd love to stay up and follow this one, but I gotta get some sleep.

Posted by Luis at 03:02 AM | Comments (1)

Americas Younger Voters Speak Out

And they're supporting Kerry, 55% to 40%. This from a poll by Zogby of those with mobile phones instead of land lines, revealing what the major polls have not to this point shown: the hidden young Americans' block:

Polling firm Zogby International and partner Rock the Vote found Massachusetts Senator John Kerry leading President Bush 55% to 40% among 18-29 year-old likely voters in their first joint Rock the Vote Mobile political poll, conducted exclusively on mobile phones October 27 through 30, 2004. Independent Ralph Nader received 1.6%, while 4% remain undecided in the survey of 6,039 likely voters. The poll is centered on subscribers to the Rock the Vote Mobile (RTVMO) platform, a joint initiative of Rock the Vote and Motorola Inc. (for more information: http://www.rtvmo.com). The poll has margin of error of +/-1.2 percentage points.

The poll also found that only 2.3% of 18-29 year-old respondents said they did not plan to vote, and another .5% who were not sure if they would. The results of the survey are weighted for region, gender, and political party.

Right on. Especially that part about how many plan to vote.

Posted by Luis at 02:35 AM | Comments (0)

Such a Great Story, Too Bad They Can't Use It

While the GOP is putting on a big show about how much voter fraud there will be due to duplicate or false registrations by Democrats, none of their accusations have any real evidence to prove any of the allegations whatsoever. So you would think that when the Associated Press came out with a story about how 27,000 voters have duplicate registrations in Ohio and Florida and could vote in both elections, they would jump all over it. After all, this story has actual documentation behind it. But the Republicans are not touching this one with a ten-electoral-vote-pole. Why?

A majority of the double-registrants are Republicans.

11,000 are Republicans and 9,600 are Democrats, with 6,400 independents. And with Democrats out-registering Republicans, that only emphasizes how many more Republicans are double-dipping. Oops.

Posted by Luis at 02:29 AM | Comments (0)

Because Bush Wants to Say It But Is Too Chicken

From the AP, in the SC State:

A new videotape of Osama bin Laden was meant to help elect Sen. John Kerry president, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson says.
...
"There's no question in my mind, and I think to anybody who knows how close this election is," Thompson later told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in an interview. "Osama bin Laden would not give out a video report 72 hours before the election unless he wanted to influence it."
The rest of the article shows the depth in which Thompson discusses his belief. The inappropriateness of such a bald declaration by an administration official is staggering; if, say, John Edwards or any Kerry campaign official had said that bin Laden wants Bush elected, we'd be hearing Bush decry the act as "shameful" all the way to election day.

The fact is, Bush has played into bin Laden's plans--and vice versa--almost so seamlessly that one can hardly fault the conspiracy theorists that believe they are in cahoots. Bin Laden gave a failing Bush presidency a gigantic boost, allowing Bush to get almost every political agenda point he could wish for rammed through Congress, and to this day provides Bush with his strongest rallying point; if Bush wins the election, it will be because of bin Laden. Conversely, Bush has provided bin Laden with exactly what he wanted: an administration with its eye off the ball so that the 9/11 attacks could be carried out (unlike Clinton, who foiled the Millennium attacks), propelling bin Laden and al Qaeda to stratospheric fame; Bush then alienated the U.S. from a sympathetic world, deprived his own people of their freedoms, and let bin Laden escape while they invaded Iraq, an action which drove tens of thousands of new recruits into the waiting arms of al Qaeda, whilst the Bush administration only succeeded in capturing a few dozen noted members of the terrorist organization. In short, both Bush and bin Laden have gotten exactly what they wanted through each others' actions.

Bin Laden does not want Bush re-elected because he quakes in his boots at the idea of a Kerry presidency; rather, he wants Bush re-elected because Bush's policies are what bin Laden wants: an isolated America, focused on a fracturing Middle East war that fuels terrorism while it does little to attack al Qaeda directly. Kerry, on the other hand, would bring America back into the world fold, strengthening its ability to fight terror, and would be more sympathetic in the eyes of the people of the Middle East--forming alliances and winning hearts and minds instead of invading nations and turning millions against him. The only way Kerry stands more of a chance to get bin Laden than Bush is in that Kerry will not put all his energy into Iraq or whatever next Big War Bush will get us into. But the whole point is not really to catch bin Laden, but rather to fight al Qaeda. And that's what Kerry will do better, and that's what bin Laden would prefer not happen. See this post for a longer explanation of why bin Laden prefers Bush stay in office.

There. I can say that, because I'm not an senior official in either campaign. Thompson is, which is what makes his statement reprehensible and worthy of note and attack by the Democratic side.

Posted by Luis at 02:12 AM | Comments (4)