Thursday, January 6

Roberto R. Gonzales lurches toward confirmation as America's Top Cop.

Conservatives ignored facts to defend Gonzales against allegations that memos authorized torture

Conservative pundits have offered false and misleading claims to defend White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, President Bush's nominee for attorney general, asserting that the actions sanctioned in a series of administration memos -- in particular, an August 2002 Justice Department memo requested by Gonzales -- didn't rise to the level of torture.

On the January 4 edition of FOX News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Hume and Roll Call executive editor and FOX News contributor Morton M. Kondracke agreed that the memos didn't authorize torture:

KONDRACKE: What they seem to permit is things that are short of what we would consider torture, where you almost kill somebody or, you know, beat him to within inch of his life or something like that or pull out his teeth or --

HUME: Cause extreme physical pain.

Similarly, a January 6 editorial in the New York Post asserted that "there is no evidence that Gonzales approved of, or encouraged, anything that any reasonable person would consider torture." A January 6 Washington Times op-ed by former Reagan and George H.W. Bush administration Justice Department officials Lee A. Casey and David B. Rivkin Jr. asserted that "suggestions that Judge Gonzales was somehow complicit in the torture of detainees are nothing short of despicable," noting that the definition of "severe pain and suffering" in the memo had been "drawn from another federal statute in which Congress had defined 'severe pain' for purposes of medical reimbursement."

In fact, the August 2002 memo relating to the use of torture, which Gonzales requested from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, amounts to a brief on the legality of torture. The memo lays out at least three arguments to justify highly abusive interrogation conduct: 1) for the conduct to be prohibited, the pain and suffering must be of an "extreme nature" (further providing that a "certain act may be cruel, inhuman, or degrading, but still not produce pain or suffering of the requisite intensity to fall within [the statute's] proscription against torture"); 2) a defendant violates the law only if he or she intends to inflict severe pain or harm (as opposed to simply knowing that such damage is likely); and 3) even if the acts the administration sought to justify rose to the level of torture, Congress lacks the constitutional authority to prevent the executive branch from carrying them out in a military context.

On the first argument, the Bush administration itself recognized that its definition under the August 2002 memo of conduct egregious enough to constitute torture was problematic. Following the well-documented abuse of prisoners by U.S. military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the Justice Department on December 30 "published a revised and expansive definition ... of acts that constitute torture under domestic and international law, overtly repudiating one of the most criticized policy memorandums drafted during President Bush's first term," according to a December 31 Washington Post article.

On the second argument, the memo noted that the U.S. anti-torture statute (18 U.S.C. 2340-2340A) defines torture as "an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering" [pp. 2-3]. But in discussing possible legal defenses for civilian or military officials charged under this statute, the memo interpreted "specific intent" very narrowly. The memo explains: "Even if the defendant knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent to be convicted" [p. 4]. Under this standard, an interrogator could resort to any act, even one of the severity set out in the anti-torture statute, as long as his or her objective is the extraction of information, rather than the infliction of "severe physical or mental pain or suffering."

Finally, arguing for the president's constitutional authority to order torture in his role as commander in chief, the memo stated: "Even if an interrogation method arguably were to violate Section 2340A, the statute would be unconstitutional if it impermissibly encroached constitutional power to conduct a military campaign" [p. 31].

Following Kondracke's comments on Special Report, Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes insisted: "This [the August 2002 memo] has nothing to do with Abu Ghraib, though. It didn't have anything to do with it. It's completely unrelated to it." Barnes's claim is tantamount to asserting that although the administration laid the legal groundwork for the extreme abuse that was later doled out at Abu Ghraib, those two events are unrelated.

A January 6 Wall Street Journal editorial similarly argued that charges that the memo "created the climate" for what happened at Abu Ghraib are "absurd" because the memo was "an internal discussion, not a policy directive," and was "about al Qaeda, not Iraq."

But a May 24, 2004, Newsweek article laid out a detailed case for a causal link between the administration's development of a legal framework for detention and interrogation -- partly in the series of memos by Gonzales and others -- and the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib. The article noted: "The road to Abu Ghraib began after 9/11, when Washington wrote new rules to fight a new kind of war." It continued:

Indeed, the single most iconic image to come out of the abuse scandal -- that of a hooded man standing naked on a box, arms outspread, with wires dangling from his fingers, toes and penis -- may do a lot to undercut the administration's case that this was the work of a few criminal MPs [military police]. That's because the practice shown in that photo is an arcane torture method known only to veterans of the interrogation trade. "Was that something that [an MP] dreamed up by herself? Think again," says Darius Rejali, an expert on the use of torture by democracies. "That's a standard torture. It's called 'the Vietnam.' But it's not common knowledge. Ordinary American soldiers did this, but someone taught them."

[...]

[A] NEWSWEEK investigation shows that, as a means of pre-empting a repeat of 9/11, Bush, along with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft, signed off on a secret system of detention and interrogation that opened the door to such methods. ... The Bush administration created a bold legal framework to justify this system of interrogation, according to internal government memos obtained by NEWSWEEK.

Ohio Electoral Votes Challenged

Just minutes ago, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) submitted an official challenge to the certification of the Ohio Electors for President.

This has halted the proceedings which would finalize George W. Bush Presidency and has automatically generated a 2 hour debate in both the House and Senate on the merits of the challenge.

Certainly those on the right will argue that this is "sour grapes" and simply the act of "sore losers", however even if the resulting vote on the merits of the challenge were to prevail - the most likely result would be for the House of Representatives to themselves vote in place of the Electors and any reasonable person could not think that the overwhelmingly Republican dominated House would ever select John Kerry as President.

There is no way that George W. Bush will not be the next President.

This is not an attempted coup.

Rep Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) "This is about election reform, not election result. The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy. As the Supreme Court noted, no right is more important (than the right to vote) and that all other rights are illusiary, if the right to vote is undermined."

Even Cliff Arnebeck, the lawyer who has filed suits challenging the Ohio results on behalf of the Green and Libertarian Party has repeatedly stated that he only wishes that the process be corrected, not that John Kerry become the President.

All that can occur at this point is for our Representatives to debate the core issues : Should ever y persons vote count or not? Should every person who has a legitimate right to vote, not have a reasonable and fair oppurtunity to do so? And most importantly - did they or did they not in Ohio?

Were Black and minority Voters deliberately disenfranchised? That itself is debatable. The Democratic head of Election commitee in the county which include Columbus has stated that the long lines which occured in many urban districts was the result of excessive turnout, not the deliberate undersupply of voting machines. Regardless of the cause, or any malice, the result is that many voters were unable to wait for 8 to 10 hours, or willing to risk their health while standing in the rain and as a result did not vote. Exactly how many can not be known, and that is the problem.

There were numerous reports that votes on electronic machines which were entered for Kerry - automatically switched to Bush on the summary screen and required three or four retries in order to be corrected. It doesn't really matter whether this was a deliberate attempt to steal votes or not - it is simply unacceptable and completely undermines the legitimacy of the voting process.

Many other issues have been brought up, some more serious than others. Democratic registration forms were destroyed. Democrats were called and told they should vote on November 3rd. Some counties in Ohio which were heavily Democratic reported incredibly low turnout percentages in the certified vote while other areas recorded over 90% turnout. But in my view it actually doesn't matter whether or not the results would have been different. There is a core principle - a core value at stake here.

People of all stripes deserve the right to vote. This has been ratified by the enactment of the 15th Amendment, 19th Amendment, 23rd Amendment, 24th Amendment, 26th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

If someone were to - either accidently or deliberately - set fire to your house, but not quite burn it down would you be a "sore loser" to wish to have the house repaired?

I think not.

If we continue down this road of evasion and minimization of fact, where continue to allow partisan dirty tricks to disrupt our Democracy - returning to the time when such tactics as the POLL TAX or LITERACY TEST were used to block the access of citizens to their most primary right of the we very well risk losing that very Democracy.

Elijah Cummings (D) : "One vote denied is one vote too many!"

Torture: An Isolated Event?

Terror Suspect Alleges Torture

Detainee Says U.S. Sent Him to Egypt Before Guantanamo

By Dana Priest and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, January 6, 2005; Page A01

U.S. authorities in late 2001 forcibly transferred an Australian citizen to Egypt, where, he alleges, he was tortured for six months before being flown to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to court papers made public yesterday in a petition seeking to halt U.S. plans to return him to Egypt.

Egyptian-born Mamdouh Habib, who was detained in Pakistan in October 2001 as a suspected al Qaeda trainer, alleges that while under Egyptian detention he was hung by his arms from hooks, repeatedly shocked, nearly drowned and brutally beaten, and he contends that U.S. and international law prohibits sending him back.

Habib's case is only the second to describe a secret practice called "rendition," under which the CIA has sent suspected terrorists to be interrogated in countries where torture has been well documented. It is unclear which U.S. agency transferred Habib to Egypt.

Habib's is the first case to challenge the legality of the practice and could have implications for U.S. plans to send large numbers of Guantanamo Bay detainees to Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other countries with poor human rights records.

The CIA has acknowledged that it conducts renditions, but the agency and Bush administration officials who have publicly addressed the matter say they never intend for the captives to be tortured and, in fact, seek pledges from foreign governments that they will treat the captives humanely.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on Habib's allegations, which were filed in November but made public only yesterday after a judge ruled that his petition contained no classified information. The department has not addressed the allegation that he was sent to Egypt.

An Egyptian official reached last night said he could not comment on Habib's allegations but added: "Accusations that we are torturing people tend to be mythology."

The authority under which renditions and other forcible transfers may be legally performed is reportedly summarized in a March 13, 2002, memo titled "The President's Power as Commander in Chief to Transfer Captive Terrorists to the Control and Custody of Foreign Nations." Knowledgeable U.S. officials said White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales participated in its production.

The administration has refused a congressional request to make it public. But it is referred to in an August 2002 Justice Department opinion -- which Gonzales asked for and helped draft -- defining torture in a narrow way and concluding that the president could legally permit torture in fighting terrorism.

When the August memo became public, Bush repudiated it, and last week the Justice Department replaced it with a broader interpretation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which prohibits the practice under all circumstances. The August memo is expected to figure prominently in today's confirmation hearing for Gonzales, Bush's nominee to run the Justice Department as attorney general.

In a statement he planned to read at his hearing, made public yesterday, Gonzales said he would combat terrorism "in a manner consistent with our nation's values and applicable law, including our treaty obligations."

Also yesterday, the American Civil Liberties Union released new documents showing that 26 FBI agents reported witnessing mistreatment of Guantanamo Bay detainees, indicating a far broader pattern of alleged abuse there than reported previously.

The records, obtained in an ongoing ACLU lawsuit, also show that the FBI's senior lawyer determined that 17 of the incidents were "DOD-approved interrogation techniques" and did not require further investigation. The FBI did not participate in any of the interviews directly, according to the documents.

The new ACLU documents detail abuses seen by FBI personnel serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, including incidents in which military interrogators grabbed prisoners' genitals, bent back their fingers and, in one case, placed duct tape over a prisoner's mouth for reciting the Koran.

In late 2002, an FBI agent recounted that one detainee at Guantanamo Bay had been subjected to "intense isolation" for more than three months and that his cell was constantly flooded with light. The agent reported that "the detainee was evidencing behavior consistent with extreme psychological trauma," including hearing voices, crouching in a corner for hours and talking to imaginary people.

<> According to the e-mails, military interrogators at Guantanamo Bay tried to hide some of their activities from FBI agents, including having a female interrogator rub lotion on a prisoner during Ramadan -- a highly offensive tactic to an observant Muslim man.

Habib was taken to the Guantanamo Bay prison in May 2002.

Three Britons released from the prison -- Rhuhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul -- have said Habib was in "catastrophic shape" when he arrived. Most of his fingernails were missing, and while sleeping he regularly bled from his nose, mouth and ears but U.S. officials denied him treatment, they said.

Habib's attorney, Joseph Margulies, said Habib had moved to Australia in the 1980s but eventually decided to move his family to Pakistan. He was there in late 2001 looking for a house and school for his children, Margulies said. U.S. officials accuse Habib of training and raising money for al Qaeda, and say he had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Australian media have reported that authorities in that country cleared him of having terrorist connections in 2001 and have quoted his Australian attorney as saying he was tortured in Egypt.

On Oct. 5, 2001, Pakistani authorities seized Habib, and over three weeks, he asserts in a memorandum filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, three Americans interrogated him.

The petition says he was taken to an airfield where, during a struggle, he was beaten by several people who spoke American-accented English. The men cut off his clothes, one placed a foot on his neck "and posed while another took pictures," the document says.

He was then flown to Egypt, it alleges, and spent six months in custody in a barren, 6-foot-by-8-foot cell, where he slept on the concrete floor with one blanket. During interrogations, Habib was "sometimes suspended from hooks on the wall" and repeatedly kicked, punched, beaten with a stick, rammed with an electric cattle prod and doused with cold water when he fell asleep, the petition says.

He was suspended from hooks, with his is feet resting on the side of a large cylindrical drum attached to wires and a battery, the document says. "When Mr. Habib did not give the answers his interrogators wanted, they threw a switch and a jolt of electricity" went through the drum, it says. "The action of Mr. Habib 'dancing' on the drum forced it to rotate, and his feet constantly slipped, leaving him suspended by only the hooks on the wall . . . This ingenious cruelty lasted until Mr. Habib finally fainted."

At other times, the petition alleges, he was placed in ankle-deep water that his interrogators told him "was wired to an electric current, and that unless Mr. Habib confessed, they would throw the switch and electrocute him."

Habib says he gave false confessions to stop the abuse.

The State Department's annual human rights report has consistently criticized Egypt for practices that include torturing prisoners.

After six months in Egypt, the petition says, Habib was flown to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

U.S. intelligence officials have said renditions -- and the threat of renditions -- are a potent device to induce suspected terrorists to divulge information. Habib's petition says the threat that detainees at Bagram would be sent to Egypt prompted many of them to offer confessions.

His petition argues that his "removal to Egypt would be unquestionably unlawful" in part because he "faces almost certain torture."

The U.N. Convention Against Torture says no party to the treaty "shall expel, return or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture."

"The fact that the United States would contemplate sending him to Egypt again is astonishing to me," said Margulies, the attorney.

Researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.




Newly Released Reports Show Early Concern on Prison Abuse

By KATE ZERNIKE

Published: January 6, 2005


Harry Cabluck/Associated Press
Specialist Charles A. Graner Jr., right, accused of prisoner abuse, with a military police investigator, Joe Wilson, at Fort Hood, Tex., last month.





In late 2002, more than a year before a whistle-blower slipped military investigators the graphic photographs that would set off the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, an F.B.I. agent at the American detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, sent a colleague an e-mail message complaining about the military's "coercive tactics" with detainees, documents released yesterday show.

"You won't believe it!" the agent wrote.

Two years later, the frustration among F.B.I. agents had grown. Another agent sent a colleague an e-mail message saying he had seen reports that a general from Guantánamo had gone to Abu Ghraib to "Gitmo-ize" it. "If this refers to intell gathering as I suspect," he wrote, according to the documents, "it suggests he has continued to support interrogation strategies we not only advised against, but questioned in terms of effectiveness."

When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke last spring, officials characterized the abuse as the aberrant acts of a small group of low-ranking reservists, limited to a few weeks in late 2003. But thousands of pages in military reports and documents released under the Freedom of Information Act to the American Civil Liberties Union in the past few months have demonstrated that the abuse involved multiple service branches in Afghanistan, Iraq and Cuba, beginning in 2002 and continuing after Congress and the military had begun investigating Abu Ghraib.

Yesterday, in response to some of the documents, the Pentagon said it would investigate F.B.I. reports that military interrogators in Guantánamo abused prisoners by beating them, grabbing their genitals and chaining them to the cold ground.

Questions on the handling of detainees will be central to Senate hearings today on the nomination of the White House counsel, Alberto R. Gonzales, as attorney general and to the court-martial of the accused leader of the Abu Ghraib abuse, which begins Friday in Texas.

An article in today's issue of The New England Journal of Medicine says that military medical personnel violated the Geneva Conventions by helping design coercive interrogation techniques based on detainee medical information. Some doctors told the journal that the military had instructed them not to discuss the deaths that occurred in detention.

No one predicted the acts that showed up in snapshots from Abu Ghraib - naked detainees piled in a pyramid or leashed and crawling - but the documents showed many warnings of mistreatment, most explicitly from the F.B.I.

"Basically, it appears that the lawyer worked hard to write a legal justification for the type of interviews they (the Army) want to conduct here," one agent said in an e-mail message from Guantánamo in December 2002.

The Pentagon now says 137 military members have been disciplined or face courts-martial for abusing detainees. A separate federal investigation in Virginia is looking into possible abuses by civilians hired as interrogators. Several military investigations are still pending, including ones into the deaths of about a dozen detainees.

The charges against the 137 service members, officials say, reflect a zero-tolerance attitude toward abuse - and a small percentage of the 167,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Our policy is clear," said Lt. Col. John A. Skinner, a Pentagon spokesman. "It has always been the humane treatment of detainees."

Civil liberties groups complain that no high-level officers have been held accountable for abuse.

"When you see the same thing happening in three different places, you see abuses being committed with impunity, then it ceases to be the sole responsibility of the individual soldiers," Reed Brody, special counsel to Human Rights Watch, said. "At a certain point, it becomes so widespread that it makes it look like a policy."

Colonel Skinner said that while Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said he believes the abuse was limited, "the secretary has also been clear that we're going to have multiple lines of inquiry to really fully understand what took place, and to have the appropriate investigations to find out any wrongdoing that's occurred." Three of eight military reports on the abuse, he said, have yet to be concluded.

An Army officer, Brig. Gen. John T. Furlow, will lead the new investigation at Guantánamo.

Wednesday, January 5

Top 10 Most Outrageous Statements of 2004

TOP TEN MOST OUTRAGEOUS STATEMENTS OF 2004

Here are the Top Ten most outrageous statements we have heard this year from members of the media. From anti-Semitic comments and attacks on women, gays, and lesbians to reprehensible acceptance of the Abu Ghraib prisoner torture, these statements are acutely representative of the conservative hate speech we found in the news media:

  • Rush Limbaugh on the Abu Ghraib photos: "I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off?"
  • Ann Coulter: "[Senator John] Kerry will improve the economy in the emergency services and body bag industry."
  • Tony Blankley called philanthropist George Soros "a Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust."
  • Michael Savage: "When you hear 'human rights,' think gays. ... [T]hink only one thing: someone who wants to rape your son."
  • Oliver North: "Every terrorist out there is hoping John Kerry is the next president of the United States."
  • Pat Robertson on gays and lesbians: "[S]elf-absorbed hedonists ... that want to impose their particular sexuality on the rest of America."
  • Pat Buchanan: "[H]omosexuality is an affliction, like alcoholism."
  • Bill O'Reilly to Jewish caller: "[I]f you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel."
  • Bill Cunningham (Clear Channel radio host who appeared as a guest on The Sean Hannity Show): The election is over because "Elizabeth Edwards has now sung."
  • Jerry Falwell: "And we're going to invite PETA [to "wild game night"] as our special guest, P-E-T-A -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. We want you to come, we're going to give you a top seat there, so you can sit there and suffer. This is one of my special groups, another one's the ACLU, another is the NOW -- the National Order of Witches [sic]. We've got -- I've got a lot of special groups."

Misinformer of the Year : by Media Matters.org

MISINFORMER OF THE YEAR

Since our launch in May 2004, Media Matters for America has monitored, analyzed, and corrected conservative misinformation in the news media 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our staff recently reviewed the misinformation we've identified and corrected during those eight months in order to choose our first annual "Misinformer of the Year."

Of all the news anchors, columnists, pundits, and reporters whose work we've critiqued and corrected, one stands above all the rest. We're pleased to announce that with at least 75 (we stopped counting) lies, distortions, and mischaracterizations, television host, columnist, radio host, former Inside Edition anchor, man of the people, and Harvard University graduate Bill O'Reilly can now claim the title: 2004 Misinformer of the Year. We've compiled a list of some of his most egregious false and misleading claims of 2004 for your reading pleasure. We've left out comments that were merely offensive, but you can see where he ranks on our list of the Top Ten Most Outrageous Comments of 2004 here.

Without further ado:

  1. O'Reilly falsely claimed Bush didn't oppose 9-11 Commission. O'Reilly defended President George W. Bush from a Kerry-Edwards '04 TV ad highlighting Bush's opposition to creation of the 9-11 Commission by denying that Bush had ever opposed the commission. In fact, Bush did oppose the creation of the 9-11 Commission. (10/21/04)
  2. O'Reilly falsely claimed Iraq had ricin. O'Reilly responded to a caller to his radio show by defending the Iraq war: "They did have ricin up there in the north -- so why are you discounting that so much?" In fact, the Duelfer report (the final report of the Iraqi Survey Group, led by Charles A. Duelfer, which conducted the search for weapons in Iraq following the U.S.-led invasion) indicates that Iraq did not have ricin. (10/19/04)
  3. O'Reilly repeated discredited claims on Iraq-Al Qaeda link. O'Reilly interrupted a former Clinton administration official who tried to correct the record on O'Reilly's claim that terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi constitutes a direct link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. He also allowed a conservative guest to repeat without challenge other discredited claims about Iraq's supposed involvement in terrorism -- claims O'Reilly has himself cited in the past. (9/27/04)
  4. O'Reilly fabricated "Paris Business Review" as source for success of French boycott. O'Reilly falsely claimed "they've lost billions of dollars in France according to 'The Paris Business Review'" due to an American boycott he advocated of French imports. Media Matters for America found no evidence of a publication named "The Paris Business Review." (4/27/04)
  5. O'Reilly cited phony stats to argue that taxes on rich are excessive. O'Reilly tried to "blow off" the argument that wealthy Americans ought to pay more taxes by citing phony statistics about the tax burden the rich currently bear. (6/30/04)
  6. O'Reilly confused on elementary economics. O'Reilly told a caller on his radio show, "We [the United States] have a trade deficit with everybody, because everybody wants our stuff, and we're not wild about snails" -- indicating that he doesn't know the definition of "trade deficit" and implying that the United States runs a trade surplus with France. In fact, in the first four months of 2004, the United States had a $3 billion trade deficit with France. (6/10/04)
  7. O'Reilly doctored quotation to suggest Soros wished his own father dead. During his smear campaign against progressive financier, philanthropist, and political activist George Soros, O'Reilly doctored a 1995 quotation by Soros to make it seem as if Soros wished his own father dead. (6/1/04)
  8. O'Reilly questioned if Kennedy would show up to Democratic convention ... as Kennedy spoke behind him. O'Reilly teased an upcoming segment of The O'Reilly Factor, broadcast live from the Democratic National Convention, by saying of convention speaker Senator Edward Kennedy: "When we come back, we'll let you listen to Ted Kennedy for a while, if he shows up." In fact, Kennedy had already shown up and had been speaking for several minutes, as O'Reilly need only have turned around to see. (7/27/04)
  9. O'Reilly disparaged Democrats with trifecta of voter falsehoods. In a discussion about what went wrong for Democrats in the November 2 election, O'Reilly claimed that Democrats "lost votes from four years ago"; that "18- to 24[-year-old]s didn't go" to the polls; and that "[c]ommitted Republicans didn't carry the day for the president; independents did." All three claims are false. (11/4/04)
  10. O'Reilly on the radio: Three lies, one broadcast. Lie No. 1: Bush tax cuts didn't create the budget deficit. Lie No. 2: "Socialistic" French, Germans, and Canadian governments tax at 80 percent. Lie No. 3: Canadian, British, and French media are "government-controlled," but Italian media is free. (7/7/04)

Posted to the web on Thursday December 23, 2004 at 6:17 PM EST

Tuesday, January 4

Ann Coulter : Setting the Record Strait?

2004: Highlights And Lowlifes December 29, 2004


The single biggest event of 2004 was the Election Day exit poll, which, like John Steinbeck's "The Short Reign of Pippin IV," made John Kerry the president for a few moments.

But in a move that stunned the experts, American voters chose "moral values" over an America-bashing trophy husband and his blow-dried, ambulance-chasing sidekick.

The second biggest event in 2004 came on Sunday, Dec. 26, when The New York Times referred to an organization as a "liberal research group." (I think it may have been the Communist Party USA, Trotskyite wing, but, still, it's progress.)CBS eminence Dan Rather was driven off the air in disgrace after he tried to take down a sitting president by brandishing Microsoft Word documents he claimed were authentic Texas Air National Guard memos from the '70s. By liberals' own account, the pompous blowhard was exposed by people sitting around their living rooms in pajamas.
Books

John Kerry's meal ticket, Teresa Heinz, continuously made remarks that were wildly inappropriate, such as when she strangely referred to the "seven-year itch" in relation to herself and John Kerry, creating at least three images I didn't want in my head. On the other hand, for any voters who considered the most important campaign issue to be whether the first lady was an earthy, condescending foreigner who had traveled extensively and spoke several languages, Teresa was a huge asset.Surprisingly, Teresa never became a major campaign issue. It turned out that supporters of a phony war hero who preyed on rich widows were also OK with the notion of a first lady who might use the F-word during Rose Garden press conferences.

By the same token, anyone who was put off by the not-so-affable Eva Peron of American politics already didn't like John Kerry -- thanks largely to John O'Neill and the Swiftboat Veterans. Like the archers of Agincourt, John O'Neill and the 254 Swiftboat Veterans took down their own haughty Frenchman.

Meanwhile, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom is nipping at O'Neill's heels as the man second-most responsible for Bush's re-election. Thanks largely to Newsom's hard work, gay marriage was big news all year. In retrospect, the Democrats would have been better off if they had found every gay guy in America who actually wanted to get married and offered each one a million dollars in exchange for the Democrats not having to talk about gay marriage. (Finally -- a problem that could have been solved by throwing money at it!)

On the basis solely of media coverage, Abu Ghraib was the biggest story of 2004, maybe the biggest story ever. And for good reason: An American soldier was caught on film not only humiliating Iraqi prisoners -- but smoking! The New York Times even had to drop its coverage of Augusta National Golf Course to give Abu Ghraib due prominence. Only the Rumsfeld autopen scandal was big enough to knock Abu Ghraib off the front page. I personally haven't been so singularly disturbed by an atrocity since I had to sit through all of "The Matrix: Reloaded." By contrast, the least important story -- again, judging by media coverage -- was the peculiar development of a Clintonite caught trying to get into his own pants. Sandy Berger was spotted by National Archives staff repeatedly stuffing top-secret documents into his undergarments in preparation for defending the Clinton administration's record on fighting terrorism before the 9/11 Commission. If you happened to take a long nap the day the Berger story broke, you would have missed it entirely.

On the bright side, The New York Times has adopted an all-new standard for covering the extramarital affairs of public figures. With no fanfare, the Times quickly abandoned its earlier position that a U.S. president molesting White House staff -- including while on the phone discussing sending troops into battle -- is not news. The new rule rolled out for Bernie Kerik makes extramarital affairs major front-page news deserving of nonstop coverage, even after the public figure has withdrawn his name from consideration for any government office. American hero Pat Tillman won a Silver Star this year. But unlike Kerry, he did not write his own recommendation or live to throw his medals over the White House fence in an anti-war rally. Tillman was an American original: virtuous, pure and masculine like only an American male can be. The stunningly handsome athlete walked away from a three-year, $3.6 million NFL contract with the Arizona Cardinals to join the U.S. military and fight in Afghanistan, where he was killed in April. He wanted no publicity and granted no interviews about his decision to leave pro football in the prime of his career and join the Army Rangers. (Most perplexing to Democrats, he didn't even take a home movie camera to a war zone in order to create fake footage for future political campaigns in which he would constantly palaver about his military service and drag around his "Band of Brothers" for the media.) Tillman gave only an indirect explanation for his decision on the day after 9/11, when he said: "My great grandfather was at Pearl Harbor, and a lot of my family has gone and fought in wars, and I really haven't done a damn thing as far as laying myself on the line like that." He said he wanted to "pay something back" to America. He died bringing freedom and democracy to 28 million Afghans -- pretty much confirming Michael Moore's view of America as an imperialist cowboy predator. There is not another country in the world -- certainly not in continental Europe -- that could have produced a Pat Tillman.

On the anniversary of D-Day, as Americans like Pat Tillman risked their lives to liberate 50 million Iraqis and Afghans, in a year when Americans poured into theaters to see a movie about Christ and reaffirmed their support for moral values at the polling booth, America's greatest president died. Ronald Reagan appealed to what is best about America and so transformed the nation that we are now safe to carry on without him.

The Vote Don't Not Compute

Published on Monday, January 3, 2005 by the Free Press (Columbus, Ohio)

Ten Preliminary Reasons Why the Bush Vote Does Not Compute, and Why Congress Must Investigate Rather Than Certify the Electoral CollegePart One of Two
by Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman

The presidential vote for George W. Bush does not compute.

By examining a very wide range of sworn testimonies from voters, polling officials and others close to the administration of the Nov. 2 election; by statistical analysis of the certified vote by mathematicians, election experts and independent research teams who have conducted detailed studies of the results in Ohio, New Mexico, Florida and elsewhere; from experts who studied the voting machines, tabulators and other electronic equipment on which a fair vote count has depended; and from a team of attorneys and others who have challenged the Ohio results; the freepress.org investigative team has compiled a portrait of an election whose true outcome must be investigated further by the Congress, the media and all Americans -- because it was almost certainly not an honest victory for George W. Bush.

Crucial flaws in the national vote count, most importantly in Ohio, New Mexico and Florida, indicate John Kerry was most likely the actual winner on November 2, as reported in national exit polls. At very least, the widespread tampering with how the election was conducted, and how Ohio's votes were counted and re-counted, has compromised this nation's historic commitment to free and fair elections.

On Thursday, January 6, the Electoral College will be challenged by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and other members of Congress under a law passed in 1887 in reaction to the fraudulent election of 1876. A fuller investigation requires assent by at least one Senator.

As this vote nears, Ohio’s certified presidential vote (and quite likely those of at least Florida and New Mexico) is simply not credible. George W. Bush’s ‘victory’ appears to have resulted from multiple frauds – a GOP ‘do-everything’ strategy to win the state that swung the election.

In today's article, we list the top ten glaring flaws in the Ohio vote that have allowed Bush to gather the votes to ‘win’ the presidency in Ohio with an apparent margin of 118,775 votes - the result from an official recount that manually examined only 3 percent of ballots cast.

This list involves very large totals of uncounted, tainted or fraudulent votes. Taken together, they exceed Bush's margin of victory in Ohio.

These expert analyses are based on state and local Board of Election statistics, U.S. Census reports, and other public documents. They were not conducted with any assistance from John F. Kerry’s campaign. All the conclusions presented can be re-checked among the wide range of documents posted at freepress.org under the Election 2004 department. The authors will also respond to specific journalistic inquiries at truth@freepress.org. Additional key sources are specified below.

These flaws involve very large numbers of votes. But they cannot fully explain how the results were recorded on Election Day for one crucial reason: the paper and digital record trail needed to analyze the actual voting has been sealed from public scrutiny by Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State, Kenneth Blackwell, who both administered the state's election and served as the co-chair of Ohio's 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign.

Blackwell and other Republican officials continue to discount such criticisms. Blackwell has written that the election ran "smoothly." His office has refused subpoenas requesting him to testify, terming them a form of "harassment." Ohio Republican Party Chairman Robert Bennett has said that this year's election had "fewer glitches" than previous ones. "We have bipartisan (election" boards and very specific rules and procedures," he says. "To have fraud within the counting process in Ohio, you would have to have massive collusion."

Nearly 85 percent of the state used paper ballots. Most were tabulated electronically – meaning an evidence trail exists, if it has not been destroyed or fatally compromised. But we have reason to believe this destruction has already occurred in a number of Ohio counties, rendering a full recount and audit impossible.

While the anomalies we have found in the Ohio vote are deep and serious, an in-depth study now indicates shocking parallels in New Mexico, which we will discuss in tomorrow's article.

The Bush-Cheney ‘do-everything’ strategy in Ohio covered a very wide range of tactics, from disenfranchisement of minority voters to discarding of ballots to tampered tabulators and much more.

Taken as a whole, this compendium of error, fraud, cover-up and contempt indicates that this was not a legitimate election, and is not worthy of being certified by the Congress of the United States:

1. More than 106,000 Ohio ballots remain uncounted. As certified by Blackwell, Ohio’s official results say 92,672 regular ballots were cast without indicating a choice for president. This sum grows to 106,000 ballots when uncounted provisional ballots are included. There is no legal reason for not inspecting and counting each of these ballots. This figure does not include thousands of people who did not vote, despite intending to do so in Ohio’s inner cities, due to a lack of voting machines, having no available ballots, intimidation, manipulation of registrations, denial of absentee ballots and other means of depriving American citizens of their rightful vote.

2. Most uncounted ballots come from regions and precincts where Kerry was strongest. In Hamilton County, 4,515 ballots or 51.64 percent of the uncounted county total, came from Cincinnati, where Kerry won 67.98 percent to Bush’s 31.54 percent. In Cuyahoga County, 4,708 ballots or 44 percent of the county total came from Cleveland, where Kerry won all 65 precincts. In Summit County, 2,650 ballots or 48.72 percent of the county total came from Akron, which Kerry won 68.75 percent to Bush’s 28.00 percent.

3. Of the 147,000 combined provisional and absentee ballots counted by hand after Election Day, Kerry received 54.46 percent of the vote. In the 10 largest Ohio counties, Kerry’s margin was 4.24 to 8.92 percent higher than in the certified results, which were predominantly machine counted. As in New Mexico, where George W. Bush carried every precinct whose votes were counted with electronic optical scanning machines, John Kerry's vote count was significantly lower among ballots counted on Election Day using electronic tabulators.

4. Turnout inconsistencies reveal tens of thousands of Kerry votes were not simply recorded. Systematic mathematical scrutiny reveals that the certified results at the statewide and precinct-to-precinct level display key patterns against a backdrop of implausible results. Most striking is a pattern where turnout percentages (votes cast as a percentage of registered voters) in cities won by Kerry were 10 percentage points or more lower than in the regions won by Bush, a virtually impossible scenario.

In Franklin County, where Columbus is located, Kerry won 346 precincts to Bush’s 125. The median Kerry precinct had 50.78 percent turnout, compared to 60.56 percent for Bush. Kerry’s lower numbers are due to local election officials assigning more voting machines per capita to Republican-leaning suburbs than the Democrat-leaning inner city – a political decision and likely Voting Rights Act violation. If Kerry-majority precincts in Columbus had a 60 percent turnout, as recorded throughout the rest of the state, he would have netted an additional 17,000 votes.

5. Many certified turnout results in key regions throughout the state are simply not plausible, and all work to the advantage of Bush. In southern Perry County, two precincts reported turnouts of 124.4 and 124.0 percent of the registered voters. These impossible turnouts were nonetheless officially certified as part of the final recount by Blackwell. But in pro-Kerry Cleveland, there were certified precinct turnouts of 7.10, 13.15, 19.60, 21.01, 21.80, 24.72, 28.83 and 28.97 percents. Seven entire wards reported a turnout less than 50 percent. But if the actual Cleveland turnout was 60 percent, as registered statewide, Kerry would have netted an additional 22,000 votes. Kerry is also thought to have lost 7,000 votes in Toledo this way.

6. Due to computer flaws and vote shifting, there were numerous reports across Ohio of extremely troublesome electronic errors during the voting process and in the counting. In Youngstown, there were more than two-dozen Election Day reports of machines that switched or shifted on-screen displays of a vote for Kerry to a vote for Bush. In Cleveland, there were three precincts in which minor third-party candidates received 86, 92 and 98 percent of the vote respectively, an outcome completely out of synch with the rest of the state (a similar thing occurred during the contested election in Florida, 2000). This class of error points to more than machine malfunction, suggesting instead that votes are being electronically shifted from one candidate to another in the voting and counting stage. All reported errors favored Bush over Kerry.

7. In Miami County, two sets of results were submitted to state officials. The second, which padded Bush's margin, reported that 18,615 additional votes were counted, increasing Bush’s total by exactly 16,000 votes. Miami County’s turnout was up 20.86 percent from 2000, but only had experienced a population increase of 1.38 percent by 2004. Two Miami County precincts were certified with reported turnouts of 98.55 and 94.27 percent. In one of the precincts this would have required all but ten registered voters to have cast ballots. But an independent investigation has already collected affidavits of more than 10 registered voters that did not cast ballots on Nov. 2, indicating that Blackwell's officially certified vote count is simply impossible, which once again favoring Bush.

In Warren County, in southern Ohio, an unexplained Homeland Security alert was cited by Republican election board officials as a pretext for barring the media and independent observers from the vote count. In Warren and neighboring Butler and Clermont Counties, Bush won by a margin of 132,685 votes. He beat Gore in these counties in 2000 by 95,575 votes, meaning an implausible pickup of almost 40,000 votes.

But Bush’s numbers meant 13,566 people who voted for C. Ellen Connally, the liberal Democratic candidate for Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice, also voted for Bush. In Butler Country, Bush officially was given 109,866 votes. But conservative GOP Chief Justice Moyer was given only 68,407, a negative discrepancy of more than 40,000 votes. Meanwhile, Connally was credited with 61,559 votes to John Kerry's 56,234. This would mean that while Bush vastly outpolled his Republican counterpart running for the Supreme Court, African-American female Democrat running for the Supreme Court on the Democratic side outpolled Kerry. By all accounts such an outcome is inconceivable. Again, it indicates a very significant and likely fraudulent shifting of votes to Bush.

8. Democratic voters were apparently targeted with provisional ballots. These ballots require voters to fill out extensive forms at the poll. Under extraordinary rules established by Blackwell these ballots were set to be discarded if even minor errors were committed. Poll watchers in Cleveland and Columbus have testified that most provisional ballots were given to minority and young voters. The same is true with presumed liberal college and university students. In Athens, where Ohio University is located, 8.59 percent of student ballots were provisional. At Kenyon College and Oberlin College, liberal arts institutions, there were severe shortages of voting machines when compared with nearby religious-affiliated schools. Students at Kenyon waited up to eleven hours to vote. Provisional ballots were also required of mostly African-American students at Wilberforce College.

9. Ohio's Election Day exit poll was more credible than the certified result, according to intense statistical analysis. In-depth studies by Prof. Ron Baiman of the University of Illinois at Chicago shows that Ohio's exit polls in Ohio and elsewhere were virtually certain to be more accurate than the final vote count as certified by Blackwell. Ohio's exit polls predicted a Kerry victory by percentages that exceeded their margin of error. Compared to the voter access, voting technology and vote counting problems in Ohio, the exit polls were far more systematic and reliable. Critics of the exit polls’ accuracy say too many Democrats were sampled, but a detailed analysis of that assertion shows no credible evidence for it. The stark shift from exit polls favoring Kerry to final results in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio all went in Bush's direction, and are, according to Baiman, a virtual impossibility, with odds as high as 150 million to one against.

10. The Ohio recount wasn’t random or comprehensive and may have involved serious illegalities. Under Ohio law, 3 percent of the ballots in a precinct are examined by hand. If the numbers match what was counted on Election Day, then the rest of the ballots are compiled electronically. In many districts, Republican Secretary of State Blackwell chose the precincts to be counted in a partisan manner, weighing the choices toward precincts where there were no disputes while avoiding those being contested. Moreover, there have been numerous confirmed instances where employees of the private companies that manufactured the voting machines had access to the machines and the computer records before the recount occurred. In at least two counties, technicians from Diebold and Triad dismantled key parts of voting machines before they could be subjected to audits for recount. In some counties, vendor companies conducted the recount – not public election officials. At least one county---Shelby---has admitted to discarding key data before the recount could be taken. In Greene County unrecounted ballots were left unguarded in an unlocked building, rendering the recount moot.
These ten points are among the most serious clouding the electoral outcome in Ohio, but are only part of a larger pattern. Their correlation with similar evidence in New Mexico, Florida and elsewhere gives them added gravitas. Scores of sworn affidavits and the on-going work of teams of attorneys, statisticians and other experts have revealed far more points of contention and suspicion, many of which we will present in tomorrow's article.

The sources used for this report are available at http://freepress.org. The statistical analysis was primarily done by Richard Hayes Phillips, PhD. A transcript of his deposition in the election challenge lawsuit detailing these findings can be found at: http://freepress.org/images/departments/Dep_Phillips.pdf. The exit poll analysis was by Ron Baiman, PhD, and a transcript of the deposition describing his analysis can be found at: http://freepress.org/images/departments/Dep_Baiman.pdf. Additional material appears in court filings in Moss v. Bush and related legal actions filed with the Ohio Supreme Court.

Taken together, these ten points involve votes that cumulatively exceed Bush's 118,775 vote margin in the state.

These flaws must be thoroughly investigated before Congress ratifies the Electoral College. The legitimacy of the presidency and American Democracy is at stake. In tomorrow's article we will outline more of the evidence leading up to Thursday's historic vote.