The WSJ’s Washington State Whitewash

December 31, 2008

c_gregoire_06gregTrent England, director of something called the Citizenship and Governance Center at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, sounded off today here in the Murdoch Street Journal, attempting to draw a comparison between what he sees as the “Democrat” Party (scumbag) trying to “steal” the Minnesota U.S. Senate election (in which Dem Al Franken currently leads Repug incumbent Norm Coleman by about 50 votes) in the same manner as Christine Gregoire (pictured) triumphed over Dino Rossi in Washington state’s gubernatorial contest in 2004.

There are a number of issues with England’s “analysis,” and I’ll try to address them here (and I’ll admit that there was a bit of a circuitous path, shall we say, between what transpired in the voting and the declaration of Gregoire’s victory, but I found no evidence of the illegal activity England alleges)…

Election workers in King County (where Seattle is located) “enhanced” 55,177 ballots to make it easier for tabulating machines to read them — even though the county had failed to establish written procedures as required by state law. In some cases, individual election workers modified voted ballots using black felt markers and white-out tape while observers were kept at a distance that prevented meaningful observation. Nine separate times, King County “discovered” and counted unsecured ballots.

(I should also note, by the way, that the Democrats have a voter registration advantage in King County – Chelan County is mentioned later, which is heavy Republican).

In response to England, please allow me to provide the following excerpt from this article (I’m going to come back to this a few more times – I don’t know about his “nine times” claim or “meaningful observation” remark; I couldn’t corroborate that anywhere)…

Washington state law allows for election officials to evaluate voter intent and correct ballots so that the machines can properly read them. For example, on a Scantron or other optical ballot, an election official might fill in a circle that was not properly marked so that the machine may record the vote. Republicans filed a federal lawsuit to stop the visual examination of ballots, claiming that it is not allowed under federal law (Equal Protection Amendment). The Republican Party was contending that the method King County was using was different than in other counties, therefore treating voters in King County differently than in others. However, the court ruled that this was not the case, as King County was counting their ballots in a manner similar to that of other counties.

Also, according to England (skipping around a bit)…

In (the) election, at least 1,392 felons illegally voted, 252 provisional ballots were wrongly counted, and 19 votes were cast from beyond the grave, according to Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges’s opinion in a case brought by (Rossi)…

In response, I should note the following from Wapedia…

On February 26, as a part of the Republican suit (brought on January 7, 2005), Rossi’s legal team produced a list of 1,135 felons, deceased people, or people who allegedly voted twice, whom attorneys claimed influenced the outcome.[citation needed] A substantial number of the felon-voters were convicted as juveniles and were legally permitted to vote. [24] Conservative columnists suggested that felons were more likely to vote for Gregoire, but most of the felon-voters resided in counties won by Rossi.

The trial began on May 23, with both sides presenting their evidence of manipulation. On June 6, 2005, Judge John E. Bridges ruled that the Republican Party did not provide enough evidence that the disputed votes were ineligible -or for whom they were cast- to overturn the election. [25] Judge Bridges noted that there was evidence that 1,678 votes had been illegally cast throughout the state, [26] but found that the only evidence submitted to show how those votes had been cast were sworn statements from four felons that they had voted for Rossi. [26] He stated that the judiciary should exercise restraint; “unless an election is clearly invalid, when the people have spoken, their verdict should not be disturbed by the court.” [27] Nullifying the election, Bridges said, would be “the ultimate act of judicial egotism and judicial activism.” He also concluded that according to his interpretation of the Washington Administrative Code, “voters who improperly cast provisional ballots should not be disenfranchised.” He also rejected all claims of fraud and the Republican Party’s statistical analysis, concluding that the expert testimony of the Republican party was “not helpful” and that the proportional reduction theory was not supported under any law in the state (my note: the “proportional reduction theory,” according to the Repugs, was one that assumed that illegal votes were cast in the same percentages as other votes in the same precinct, which the Dems called “an ecological fallacy,” with Bridges in agreement). Striking another blow against Rossi’s court case, he stated that “the court is more inclined to believe that Gregoire would have prevailed under statistical analysis theory,” rejecting the Rossi campaign’s claim that improperly cast ballots led to Gregoire’s victory. [25]

Also, England tells us that the following occurred immediately after the initial vote count…

An automatic recount reduced Mr. Rossi’s lead to just 42 votes. The Gregoire campaign demanded a state-wide hand recount, a time-consuming and expensive process that state law says the challenger must pay for (if the result changes, the challenger is reimbursed). Big labor unions joined with far-left groups like MoveOn.org to put up the money for Ms. Gregoire’s third-time’s-the-charm ballot shuffle.

England’s snide innuendo notwithstanding, can you tell me anything that he described in the prior paragraph which is illegal? Also, it should be noted that Rossi requested a revote on December 29th, 2004, before the legal action transpired, but his request was denied by Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed because Washington’s election law contains no re-vote provision, leaving the lawsuit filed on January 7th as the only other option for Rossi.

And as noted here, England suggests later on that all contested ballots in future elections should be posted online, making anyone who cast such a ballot subject to harassment (imagine the “Brooks Brothers Riot” being played out in chat rooms everywhere, cousins).

Leave it to the Journal to bring us unsubstantiated innuendo and “evidence” of conspiracies that don’t exist, such as England’s fanciful musings (and who knows what they’re already cooking up for ’09).

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The 2008 Political Year In Review

December 30, 2008

Some memorable images from the year now drawing to a close…


Siegel’s Screed Of Solecism Against Suburbia

December 29, 2008

suburbs(At least, that’s what he claims, anyway – trying to improve my word power, as they say…).

You really have to hand it to the Murdoch Street Journal; on what is, for the most part, a slow news period except for the Israeli/Hamas missile attacks (nice to see that those talks in Annapolis turned out to be so constructive) and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (the other major stories seem to be in a bit of a “holding pattern” for now), you can always count on them to serve up some truly outrageous posting material.

One such item is this review by Lee Siegel of the new movie “Revolutionary Road” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet; as nearly as I can tell from Siegel’s steaming heap of nonsense, the movie (and book upon which it was based) has to do with a marriage in decline. And this gives Siegel the feeblest of pretexts to say stuff like the following…

The cultural chasm between liberals and conservatives that first appeared in the ’60s was largely one between the city and the suburbs. The liberal “idealism” that had created the catastrophe in Vietnam now got blamed, unfairly or not, for failing economic and social policies.

On the matter of supposed liberal “idealism” that led to our involvement, it should be noted from this Wikipedia article (and please help them with a donation if you can, by the way) that “Military advisors arrived (in Southeast Asia) beginning in 1950. U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s and combat units were deployed beginning in 1965. Involvement peaked in 1968 at the time of the Tet Offensive.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the period from 1950 to 1968 spans the terms of four presidents, including one Republican, Dwight Eisenhower. Is Siegel seriously calling Ike a “lib” here?

Continuing…

For marginalized conservatives, the suburbs were living refutation of the crumbling ethos that had guided the crime-ridden, decaying urban centers. For embattled liberals, people leaving the cities for safer and cleaner outlying towns were racists and cowards who had no respect for shared public space.

Oh, and here’s more from Siegel…

…life’s complexity and surprise follow you everywhere, even over the city-line, across the river and into the suburban trees. You wonder why the creators of the film “Revolutionary Road” are blind to such an obvious fact of human existence. But, then, Hollywood is the most illusion-soaked, soul-hardened and materialistic suburb in the world.

If you wish to endure more of this propaganda from Siegel by reading his column, be my guest; he manages to name every single movie in at least the last ten years that maligns the suburbs (including “American Beauty,” which pretty much erased the line between reality and parody, thought I personally thought it was good; Siegel, however, seems to have missed the ultra-creepy “Arlington Road” with Tim Robbins and Jeff Bridges) as proof of Hollywood’s alleged moral bankruptcy.

However, I thought this post from The Smirking Chimp made some good points in response, including…

…(the claim that liberals hate the suburbs) is just a variation on a theme that is the hallmark of Fox News. That is, that the smarties, who really aren’t so smart, hate normal people. Now let me stipulate that life is what you make it. People can have just as fine lives in the ‘burbs as anywhere else. But the truth is, it just takes more work. The phenomenon of suburban despair won’t be dispelled by conservatives taking a scalpel to liberal conceits, if they are conceits. The fact is that commuting in cars is an artificial condition, which no amount of wholesome childrearing going on at home is going to compensate for. The hours people spend getting to their suburban homes are intimately related to the poisonous success of talk-radio. That goes for left as well as right, but the right is worse and more successful at it than the left. What is bizarre about the Journal’s contention is that movies seem so thoroughly dedicated to reinforcing suburban ideals as to seem strict about it. For every sardonic look, there are hundreds of street scenes with basically good folks going about there (sic) lives. Of course there is some truth to it. But how much? And there is the rub.

Besides, you want to talk about movies celebrating suburbia? Try “E.T.,” “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids” (and its sequels), “Gremlins” (and at least one sequel, I believe), “Edward Scissorhands” (yes, some of the characters are a bit neurotic, but it looks like a nice place), “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Sixteen Candles,” “Fun With Dick And Jane” (the ‘70s version with George Segal; I never saw the Jim Carrey remake) – need I go on? And that’s pretty standard Hollywood fare, people; not too many “Sundance Film Festival” or IFC nominees in THAT bunch (and I left out the depiction of the suburbs in animated movies of the last few years).

I realize this post won’t stop the Lee Siegels of the world (to say nothing of the Michael Medveds) from continuing to resurrect this whole “liberals are bad because they hate the suburbs” blather, but every now and then, I feel like I just have to take a shot at calling them on their idiocy.

And I should let you know that movies are on my mind a bit at the moment since the young one and I saw “Marley and Me” yesterday based on the book by former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist John Grogan, and it was well done (hard to admit that since I have a low tolerance for Jennifer Aniston, but she and Owen Wilson were both good; the only part that left me scratching my head was the fact that the two of them, after living in what appears to be a bungalow in Miami in a neighborhood with incidents of crime, could somehow afford a Chester Springs, PA farmhouse on only his salary when they move to this area near the end of the film).


Add This To The “Legacy” Too

December 26, 2008

medicallogoIn today’s New York Times, we learn the following (here)…

NASHVILLE — Although the number of uninsured and the cost of coverage have ballooned under his watch, President Bush leaves office with a health care legacy in bricks and mortar: he has doubled federal financing for community health centers, enabling the creation or expansion of 1,297 clinics in medically underserved areas.

For those in poor urban neighborhoods and isolated rural areas, including Indian reservations, the clinics are often the only dependable providers of basic services like prenatal care, childhood immunizations, asthma treatments, cancer screenings and tests for sexually transmitted diseases.

As a crucial component of the health safety net, they are lauded as a cost-effective alternative to hospital emergency rooms, where the uninsured and underinsured often seek care.

OK, so this got me to thinking, and I wondered (among other things) what Bushco has done concerning “medically underserved areas.”

And it didn’t take me long before I found my answer; this tells us, among other things, that Dubya and his pals tried to implement rule changes last June, that would…

…change how the Department of Health and Human Services designates areas as medically under-served or short of primary care doctors. Those designations bring in federal dollars for new clinics and enable clinics and hospitals to recruit doctors through special programs for under-served areas.

And even if a clinic is declared a safety net center in a community that no longer is designated as a shortage area, there’s no clear understanding of how much, if any, of its funding it would receive.

That’s exactly the predicament of the Fremont-based Community Health Services. Sandusky County (Ohio), where Fremont is located, is now considered a primary care shortage area but won’t be if the proposed rules are enacted.

“They (federal officials) told us recently, it wouldn’t affect our financing,” said Joe Liszak, chief executive of Community Health Services, which offers dental, primary care and pediatrics at several locations. But Liszak said there’s no guarantee.

However, Liszak said he was told it would affect their ability to recruit physicians through a special program that allows foreign doctors to stay in the U.S.

The clinic relies heavily on those doctors, who are required to work for three years to get permanent residency, to treat the growing number of uninsured and Medicaid patients that private local doctors refuse to take. Federally qualified health centers take all comers, regardless of ability to pay, and are subsidized by the government to be the safety net provider.

Officials have twice extended the period for public comment on the proposed changes, which now will continue through June. The first was granted after outcry from public health officials and a few strongly worded letters from U.S. senators requesting the extension. The second was granted last week.

And I should also note that, in the story, Diana Espinosa, deputy associate administrator for health profession (?) at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), said, “those worrying (about the changes) are doing so needlessly,” even though Peter Shin, associate research professor at George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services, said, “Our recommendation is to withdraw this rule . . . and start negotiated rule making so everyone knows.”

And fortunately, that’s what happened; as noted here…

“The proposed regulations would have jeopardized the ability of community health centers to provide care to underserved populations nationwide,” said Julio Bellber, president and CEO of the RCHN Community Health Foundation. “The input of hundreds of respondents across the country, coupled with the thorough and timely research by the (Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative), was crucial in leading the HRSA to this important decision.”

So before we heap too many plaudits on Dubya for actually not screwing up something (even though he tried his best), let’s add this episode to the proverbial record also (even more ridiculous that the changes weren’t negotiated for something as complicated as making the determination that a community is underserved). Also, this tells us that the so-called “conscience” rule from His Fraudulency affects medically underserved areas also, of course, and is actually more damaging to these people because they have so few options for health care.

Update: Writer Kevin Sack should have read the following editorial from his own newspaper, which states in part that…

A parting gift to the far right, the new regulation aims to hinder women’s access to abortion, contraceptives and the information necessary to make decisions about their own health. What makes it worse is that the policy is wrapped up in a phony claim to safeguard religious freedom.

The law has long allowed doctors and nurses to refuse to participate in an abortion. (HHS Secretary Mike) Leavitt’s changes elevate the so-called right to refuse beyond reason to an increased number of medical institutions and a broad range of health care workers and services — including abortion referrals, unbiased counseling and provision of emergency contraception, even to rape victims.

The impact will be hardest on poor women who rely on public programs for their health care.

Some “legacy” that is!

Also, according to here…

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has completed its annual determination of the States that qualify as Medically Underserved Areas under the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program for calendar year 2009. This is necessary to comply with a provision of the FEHB law that mandates special consideration for enrollees of certain FEHB plans who receive covered health services in States with critical shortages of primary care physicians. Accordingly, for calendar year 2009, the following states are Medically Underserved Areas under the FEHB Program: Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming. For the 2009 calendar year the State of Illinois is being added.

Why do I get the feeling that that list of states is woefully incomplete?

Finally, this takes us to information on H.R. 1601, the Telehealth and Medically Underserved and Advancement Act of 2007; this is a bill that has been “referred to committee” without any further progress. Part of the intent of the bill is, “to make recommendations for coordinating federal and state efforts to increase access to health services, education, and information in rural and urban medically underserved areas.”

The sponsor of the legislation was William Jefferson of Louisiana’s 2nd U.S. House district; seeing as how he was caught with $90 grand in the freezer and subsequently voted out of office, I’ll look forward to another Democrat doing his or her best to move this bill along after the 111th Congress begins its session in a few weeks.


Merry Christmas 2008

December 25, 2008

Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds sing “White Christmas” from 1942, I believe (if so, then it’s from the film “Holiday Inn”)…


Merry Xmas, From Dubya

December 23, 2008

Pissant to the very end…

Update 12/25/08: And leave it to him to screw up something as simple as issuing a pardon here (h/t Atrios).


Some Words About Holiday Giving

December 22, 2008

nkristof2In yesterday’s New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof attempted to shame liberals into increasing our donations to those most in need this season (here, including the following)…

Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad. Yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates.

Arthur Brooks, the author of a book on donors to charity, “Who Really Cares,” cites data that households headed by conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than households headed by liberals. A study by Google found an even greater disproportion: average annual contributions reported by conservatives were almost double those of liberals.

Other research has reached similar conclusions. The “generosity index” from the Catalogue for Philanthropy typically finds that red states are the most likely to give to nonprofits, while Northeastern states are least likely to do so.

It’s hard for me to criticize someone like Kristof, who has reported courageously from some places of true hardship in the world. I consider him someone generally well qualified to act as a voice for those most destitute individuals who have no one else to speak out on their behalf.

However, I’d like to point out a few things.

I don’t know by what means Brooks was able to determine who was liberal and who was conservative; even though I’m sure Brooks asked someone point blank, Kristof’s column, for example, claims that conservatives also give more blood than liberals. Now you have to provide a lot of information to the Red Cross before you donate, which is only right, but political inclination isn’t one of them, and no one has ever asked me that (maybe “Do you want some cookies, a bag of pretzels or an iced tea?” after donating, but never which party I support or which candidate, not that such a question would make me happy anyway).

Kristof, though, actually addresses his own concern I believe when he notes above that “liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad.”

Now I haven’t studied this issue, but I believe that it makes much more sense to allocate tax dollars for the purposes of providing for those most in need than to make individual contributions (and I think this supports that argument, in particular the following)…

Americans strongly favor government aid to the poor. The Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in the summer of 2007, found that 62% of Americans agree that the government should do more to help needy Americans, even if it means going deeper into debt. There is considerable agreement among members of major religious traditions, including the unaffiliated, on this point. But Americans are divided on who they think can do the best job of providing social services for the needy. According to an August 2008 survey by the Pew Forum and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 31% of Americans say religious organizations can do the best job. The same number (31%) says federal and state government agencies can do the best job, and about as many (29%) say nonreligious, community-based organizations can do the best job.

And in terms of conservatives donating privately versus liberals, I think that a 2-to-1 ratio favoring conservatives, given the latter’s antipathy to government, is about where it should be.

I realize this is a matter of political philosophy concerning what, say, a liberal or progressive thinks government should do versus someone who is a conservative, but it makes sense to me to use the force of government (that is to say, us) to see to it that the donated money is allocated as efficiently as possible by the charitable institution, and there is less of a chance of that happening if you’re talking about a mass of individual donations to any charity under the sun (again, though, as the Pew post notes, many people think faith-based groups should be part of this process).

As for me, I think another reason government should be “calling the shots” is due to the truly sad state of our economy. I know a few people who are out of work right now, as I’m sure many of you do also; their politics are similar to mine, and I can guarantee you that charitable giving isn’t at the top of their list at the moment – they’re more concerned with making the mortgage payments and paying for utilities and feeding and clothing their families. And I actually think it’s kind of crass for Kristof or anyone else to wag a metaphorical finger at people because donations are down; I’m sorry we’re not all a well-ensconced, widely known and celebrated columnist for the New York Times who has the means to donate as he chooses, but we’re not.

(And if you choose to donate individually, you’re going to be dealing with an onslaught of phone solicitations, and with economic times being what they are, that’s going to make the proverbial donation pie even smaller when fewer people are able to say yes.)

So with this in mind, I would ask that you look at this analysis of how much money Bushco has provided for faith-based organizations to perform charitable work (you knew I’d lead back to them on this, didn’t you?) and how that money has been misused (such as having to defend itself in lawsuits such as the Prison Fellowship Ministries case), as well as other circumstances in which some of these groups proselytize where they shouldn’t (see David Kuo’s book “Tempting Faith: An Insider’s Story of Political Seduction” here to get an idea of how Bushco typically played the fundies, in particular, including those like Kuo who set out to do good).

As Kuo tells us here…

I worked for William Bennett and John Ashcroft in the mid-1990s on issues like immigration, welfare, and education as they tried to promote a more compassionate Republican approach. While pure (compassionate conservatives) were never terribly powerful in Republican circles, Bush’s endorsement of this progressive conservatism was exciting. And when he became the president, there was every reason to believe he’d be not only pro-life and pro-family, as conservatives tended to be, but also pro-poor, which was daringly radical. After all, there were specific promises he intended to keep.

Sadly, four years later these promises remain unfulfilled in spirit and in fact. In June 2001, the promised tax incentives for charitable giving were stripped at the last minute from the $1.6 trillion tax cut legislation to make room for the estate-tax repeal that overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy. The Compassion Capital Fund has received a cumulative total of $100 million during the past four years. And new programs including those for children of prisoners, at-risk youth, and prisoners reentering society have received a little more than $500 million over four years–or approximately $6.3 billion less than the promised $6.8 billion.

Kuo also tells us that, as far as he’s concerned, both political parties “played to stereotype — Republicans were indifferent to the poor and the Democrats were allergic to faith” (and though I think it’s odious that Barack Obama is dealing with Rick Warren the way he is given the latter’s homophobia, for better or worse, he’s trying to bury that canard about the party for good).

And as Bill Berkowitz’s post tells us, there are three issues that I believe should be addressed concerning the effectiveness of faith-based groups:

  • Secularization. Why should the government recruit a religious group to provide services if the first condition of getting the government money is that the services must not involve religion? Why should a faith-based organization take the money on this condition?
  • Size. Because much of this government money goes for general “capacity-building” for sectarian organizations’ charitable programs, is the government also paying to expand recipients’ capacity for overtly religious programs?
  • Effectiveness. Are religiously inspired groups better, or worse, than secular groups at providing social services? Devout providers say that their faith matters, but does it make a measurable difference in outcomes?
  • So to recap, Dubya has basically been pushing faith-based donations as part of his “compassionate conservative” con, but when push comes to shove, those funds have always been sacrificed for those “unfortunates” of the pay-no-price, bear-no-burden investor class who always managed to receive tax cuts even though they were never needed. And since those cuts resulted in monies not paid to our government to keep our infrastructure running efficiently (to say nothing of the pitiful job creation numbers during the last eight years), that resulted in fewer donation dollars for the rest of us.

    And even though Brooks and Kristof may think that “the financial ability to contribute to charity, and the willingness to do so, are strikingly unrelated,” I can most definitely tell you in our case that that is not true (and speaking of holidays, Happy Hanukkah to those who will begin their celebration tonight).


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