Friday, December 31, 2004

Who Is/Was John Macnaughton?

I find the quote I have posted at left on many places all over the Internet.
I love this quote. I find it speaks a truth that I believe strongly.
And yet I can find no additional information about its attributed author?
There are a few books on "stewardship", perhaps by this man, listed on, but they are out of print, have never been reviewed, and seem mysterious to me.
Who is/was John Macnaughton?
If this was one of this thoughts, what were some of his others?????

Not Everyone Has Something To Say

That doesn't stop us from wanting to say something.
I have no idea whether anyone will find anything interesting in any of the blogs I am keeping.
Nevertheless, I find them useful as a forum for expressing my own thoughts.
They are private journals made curiously public.
They put each of us in the position of "victim" of a Peeping Tom. Willing victim.
They make each of us an exhibitionist.
That's why we write -- in the hope that someone will read our ramblings, our musings, our most private thoughts made public.
They allow many of us to assume secret identities.
Oh yeah.

Google Is Doing Me a Wonderful Service

Despite my ineptitude and lack of discipline, the fact that Google makes this blog available to me is a great service. They are a corporation that has truly done something good -- for me, at least.

Today Again

Here's a wonderful sentence, from Seth Mnookin in today's "Slate". Why can't I write sentences like this:
Southern Florida, way down at the bottom of the country, jutting off into the ocean, is a place where people come when things don't work out elsewhere.
Maybe I need to learn to think better. Maybe I need a subject. Maybe I need to learn to write with feeling.
This blog is turning into a chronicle of my attempts to become a writer (again? Looking back, do I think I ever was a writer? Actually, I'm usually pretty impressed when I read things I've written after some lapse of time).
I guess that if I've ever had a calling, communications is it.
It's just that I've never had anything profound to communicate.
Here's another sentence from the same article. Sound familiar?
I still said I was a writer, even though I didn't have the attention span or discipline even to keep a journal.
Of course, he's describing his recovery from heroin addition. What am I recovering from?
This is a great article. From the same PARAGRAPH as the above:
He's finished, he just doesn't know it. He'll never go back to New York, just like that 40-year-old actor will never even audition for the local community theater. Because they're all too fucking afraid of what it would mean to try and fail. I had written the script to his entire life when I realized it was my own.
Okay. This kid is inspiring. Here's a few sentences from the final paragraph:
It's easy to obsess about what might have happened when there are only two possible outcomes. But when you're not exactly sure what futures you're choosing between, whatever path you end up on finally feels inevitable.
I don't know what he'll inspire me to do, but he is a wonderful writer.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


It's a word I use a lot.
What do I mean by it?
One meaning I definitely attach to the word is the willingness to view issues from a broad perspective, to understand how actions affect not only oneself but the larger group, whatever the context. That might be one's peer group, company or society at large.
We think of infants and children as self-centered and focused on the immediate -- in both a spatial and temporal sense. Only with maturity do we begin to see the longer-term consequences and the consequences for those outside our immediate surroundings. This may develop gradually -- we may at some stage be able only to see what effect an action might have on our family, or our neighborhood, or in the next day or two.
As we mature, we are better able -- perhaps because our experiences have shown us many more consequences of many more actions -- to understand longer term and farther outward effects. And we become more understanding and tolerant of the views of others.
Given this definition of maturity, I would suggest that a liberal outlook is likely to be mature, and a conservative one generally immature.

Well, Gee ... That Didn't Work Like A Charm

At least I didn't lose the post I started yesterday by leaving it out all night.
It published fine this morning.
I'm itching today.
I've been itching psychically all week.
Today I'm itching physically.
An irritating sensation that I can't stop.


I finally got around to looking up what ever happened to my favorite NYT movie reviewer, Elvis Mitchell. Seems he resigned in May, largely because he didn't fit into the NYT culture. Interesting. I guess he still does movie reviews on NPR. Maybe I should start listening to that.


Something to stimulate productivity.
Let's leave the blog open all day, so that I can write down thoughts as they come to me without the "pain" of clicking on a website to open it. Will making access a smidgen easier make me a smidgen more productive?
Why is it that I feel that I have something to say but lack the discipline to say it?
What is it that I have to say anyway?


Here's something:
Reading The New York Times this morning, my attention was caught by an article about Shirley O. Corriher, who is writing a book on the chemistry of baking, having written a successful one on the chemistry of cooking in general.
Part of the reason this item caught my eye was that several years ago I had the notion of writing a book about "Kitchen Chemistry". I never did it, of course. But reading this article, I have the faint feeling that I could have and should have and missed the boat. Because of my laziness and/or lack of discipline.
So I bought the book. Spending money is something I never seem to lack the will or capacity to do.


Sunday, December 26, 2004

Boxing Day

It's been 10 days since the last pathetic post. Should I give myself a reprieve because it's Christmas? Or should I spend some time beating myself up over my lack of self-discipline? I need some imposed discipline, I know.
I've had a few ideas over the last 10 days.
The story that begins, "Alice Madigan dreamed about her daughter last night..." and ends, "She heard her daughter's voice. 'Mom? Are you okay? I had a dream about you last night and it worried me."
Trite? Maybe. The coincidence of estranged mother and daughter each dreaming about the other. But maybe there could be some truth in the mother's thoughts as she contemplates her dream and her broken relationship with her daughter. That's really what the story should be about, no?


I finished reading "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" a little while ago. A wonderful, fictional world. Should be inspiring. A first time novelist, obviously middle-aged. She worked on this thing for 12 years. I seem to have time giving up 12 minutes to my writing.
Nevertheless, she proves that it is possible to come out of the chute with something special first time.
I also want to tackle "Gilead", although after two fairly difficult and long books -- "Vanity Fair" and "Strange/Norrell" -- I think I need an easy, light read. I'm not sure whether any of the books I've got waiting really fill the bill. "The Rule of Four"? "Wandering Gods"?
There was one in the Times Book Review today that I want to get on my order list. I'm getting quite backed up on Need to place a January order soon.


You know what? I've done eight minutes just now and I'm not really in a creative mood. I'll try to write again tomorrow and maybe get back to my daily routine, if it ever was that.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Welcome Back

Between travel and internet connection problems, it's been a few days since I've written. My 15 minutes/day rule has been blown all to hell. But, as with dieting, the gym and other things, I've learned that a lapse is not an excuse not to pick up the charge again.
So here I am.
Adding to the notes I offered the other day on "The Business," I had an idea while up in Vegas for a chapter called "First Inning." It's the story of a classmate of the daughter/heroine, a varsity softball player whose name came to me as Clara Davenport. I have no idea why any of this popped into my head, BTW.
The idea of "First Inning" is that the daughter had always disdained Clara, and referred to her as a "lez." It turns out that Clara is not a lesbian, and that the whispered rumors about her all through high school have taken a toll. Daughter encounters Clara working in the porn industry.
She spreads the news that she and her friends had all been mistaken about Clara. She "ins" her -- hence the title.
Now part of the reason this came to me is that my own daughter has been watching "Mean Girls," incessantly for the past few weeks, and "Mean Girls" has a subplot about a girl falsely accused of being a lesbian.
But accusations and gossip also are a key part of adolescence, I think, so this story is a valid one.
I guess I'm also relating back to Linda, my own school classmate, to whom I believe I owe an apology.
Linda was a very nice person who I and others treated horribly throughout junior high and high school. We appended the word "pig" to her name, and made malicious fun of her. All she ever was to me was nice. I have guilt feelings stretching back 30 years over that one.
At one point I thought of writing a story about apologizing to Linda and having her rip me a new one for all the pain I caused her. Would it be self-serving to write that? Can I even imagine the pain that we all put her through?
Guilt is a terrible thing, but I think a valuable emotion.It helps us to keep perspective on our actions, and to deal with our responsibilities and behavior. I'm glad I feel guilty about misdeeds. I think that if I did not, I would be a sociopath.
More later.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Here's Another Title I Like

Don't have a place for it yet, but just so I don't forget:
"The Excesspool"

Chapter 1

Tentative title for Chapter 1 of "The Business": "The Coast". Again, a double entendre. Refers not only to our move to Southern California, but pegs that move as the beginning of the daughter's "coasting" from academic excellence into mediocrity.
Not insanely clever, but has a point.

We moved to the coast in April 2001. Vera began to coast a few months later.

An Idea

Here's an idea that popped into my head this morning.
Can't really say why -- just some sort of synthesis of thoughts about my career, my family, the need to work for a living, etc.
Anyway, it's an idea for a novel. Working title: "The Business".
Plot: A 50-year-old white man and his 18-year-old mixed race daughter compete against each other to land a job in the entertainment industry. It's about both the relationship between the old man and his grown-up baby, and attitudes towards age, race and gender.
Why the entertainment industry? I guess because that's where I see my daughter possibly heading. It also seems to be an industry that might be somewhat friendly to a girl without a college education, which is part of the idea -- again, based on the concerns I currently have about my daughter.
Just a glimmer at the moment, but worth keeping in mind.
I should do some research on how people break into " the business", just to see if I can flesh it out at all.
I'm sure I can flesh out the father-daughter side of it.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

A Few Great Directors

John Boorman

  • Key Films: Hope and Glory, Excalibur
  • Assessment: All great directors have had their flops, but few of those who can be considered great have been as wildly inconsistent as Boorman, whose pictures range from the sublime ("Hope and Glory") to the ridiculous ("The Exorcist Part II"). Unerring taste is not a description you would apply to Boorman, but passion is, and his best movies give us unexpected, visually and psychologically stunning perspectives on familiar film themes -- whether World War II as seen through the eyes of an 8-year-old boy seeking adventure, or the Arthurian legends as a Jungian dream.
Fred Zinnemann
  • Key Films: From Here To Eternity, The Nun's Story, The Sundowners
  • Assessment: The virtual opposite of an emotionally drivcen, impressionistic artist like Boormann, Fred Zinnemann is one of the most consistent directors in film history. His pictures -- the ones listed above and many others, including High Noon, The Member of the Wedding, A Man For All Seasons, Julia and more -- are remembered for the taste and discretion with which their stories were told.
Roman Polanski
  • Key Films: Knife In The Water Rosemary's Baby, Tess, The Pianist
  • Assessment: Let's set aside his controversial and sometimes horrific personal life. Over the past 40 years, Roman Polanski has created an impressive and varied body of work. Horror often has been both a theme and a technique. But even in his most shockingly violent film, the 1971 Macbeth, filmed shortly after the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, by the Manson-LoBianco gang, his work has been carefully filmed and well acted.

Franciois Truffaut

  • Key Films: Jules and Jim, The Wild Child, The Story of Adele H.
  • Assessment: A great director who left us too soon. His best films are heartfelt, humanist stories that combine great sophistication with direct emotional contact.

Salon Comes Through Again

Eric Boehlert's article on Rumsfield points out the way that the press corps has fawned over this nefarious Bush administration official. Again, thank God for Salon, the only semi-mainstream news organ that seems to have any interest in questioning the government during these times of crisis.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

It's An Adventure

One of my new favorite things to do is to hit the "Next Blog" button at the top right of this screen and see what turns up. It's amazing what people have out there in the blogosphere.
As someone who is still very new to this, I learn new things and get new ideas every time I look around.
At my age, wandering through the blogosphere is like reverting back to childhood, where everywhere you turn someone is doing something or saying something that you have never heard before.
This may sound trite, but I am actually amazed.
There really is something new under the sun.

Travelling Today

Interesting thoughts all the way through a long coast-to-coast flight.
Thought about just taking them down on the laptop and pasting them in here, but decided not to - not sure why.
I may start another blog for things I don't want to put into this journal.
I've got a dinner to go to for this conference I am at -- not really excited about it, but I guess I should show up. I'd rather hide out in the room and not appear until the morning.
I imagine I'll be able to hide out tomorrow night, unless I run into someone I need to take to dinner or something.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Amazing Ohio Voting Irregularities

I won't normally do this, but this letter should be given to anyone who can be persuaded to read it:

One Hundred Eighth Congress Congress of the United States
House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington DC 20515-6216 (202) 225-3951

December 2, 2004

The Honorable J. Kenneth Blackwell
Ohio Secretary of State
180 East Broad Street, 16th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215

Dear Secretary Blackwell:
We write to request your assistance with our ongoing investigation of election irregularities in the 2004 Presidential election. As you may be aware, the Government Accountability Office has agreed to undertake a systematic and comprehensive review of election irregularities throughout the nation. As a separate matter, we have requested that the House Judiciary Committee Democratic staff undertake a thorough review of each and every specific allegation of election irregularities received by our offices.
Collectively, we are concerned that these complaints constitute a troubled portrait of a one-two punch that may well have altered and suppressed votes, particularly minority and Democratic votes. First, it appears there were substantial irregularities in vote tallies. It is unclear whether these apparent errors were the result of machine malfunctions or fraud.
Second, it appears that a series of actions of government and non-government officials may have worked to frustrate minority voters. Consistent and widespread reports indicate a lack of voting machines in urban, minority and Democratic areas, and a surplus of such machines in Republican, white and rural areas. As a result, minority voters were discouraged from voting by lines that were in excess of eight hours long. Many of these voters were also apparently victims of a campaign of deception, where flyers and calls would direct them to the wrong polling place. Once at that polling place, after waiting for hours in line, many of these voters were provided provisional ballots after learning they were at the wrong location. These ballots were not counted in many jurisdictions because of a directive issued by some election officials, such as yourself.
We are sure you agree with us that regardless of the outcome of the election, it is imperative that we examine any and all factors that may have led to voting irregularities and any failure of votes to be properly counted. Toward that end, we ask you to respond to the following allegations:
I. Counting Irregularities
A. Warren County Lockdown – On election night, Warren County locked down its administration building and barred reporters from observing the counting. When that decision was questioned, County officials claimed they were responding to a terrorist threat that ranked a “10" on a scale of 1 to 10, and that this information was received from an FBI agent. Despite repeated requests, County officials have declined to name that agent, however, and the FBI has stated that they had no information about a terror threat in Warren County. Your office has stated that it does not know of any other county that took these drastic measures.
In addition to these contradictions, Warren County officials have given conflicting accounts of when the decision was made to lock down the building. While the County Commissioner has stated that the decision to lockdown the building was made during an October 28 closed-door meeting, emailed memos – dated October 25 and 26 – indicate that preparations for the lockdown were already underway.
This lockdown must be viewed in the context of the aberrational results in Warren County. In the 2000 Presidential election, the Democratic Presidential candidate, Al Gore, stopped running television commercials and pulled resources out of Ohio weeks before the election. He won 28% of the vote in Warren County. In 2004, the Democratic Presidential candidate, John Kerry, fiercely contested Ohio and independent groups put considerable resources into getting out the Democratic vote. Moreover, unlike in 2000, independent candidate Ralph Nader was not on the Ohio ballot in 2004. Yet, the tallies reflect John Kerry receiving exactly the same percentage in Warren County as Gore received, 28%.
We hope you agree that transparent election procedures are vital to public confidence in electoral results. Moreover, such aberrant procedures only create suspicion and doubt that the counting of votes was manipulated. As part of your decision to certify the election, we hope you have investigated these concerns and found them without merit. To assist us in reaching a similar conclusion, we ask the following:
1. Have you, in fact, conducted an investigation of the lockdown? What procedures have you or would you recommend be put into place to avoid a recurrence of this situation?
2. Have you ascertained whether County officials were advised of terrorist activity by an FBI agent and, if so, the identity of that agent?
3. If County officials were not advised of terrorist activity by an FBI agent, have you inquired as to why they misrepresented this fact? If the lockdown was not as a response to a terrorist threat, why did it take place? Did any manipulation of vote tallies occur?
B. Perry County Election Counting Discrepancies – The House Judiciary Committee Democratic staff has received information indicating discrepancies in vote tabulations in Perry County. For example, the sign-in book for the Reading S precinct indicates that approximately 360 voters cast ballots in that precinct. In the same precinct, the sign-in book indicates that there were 33 absentee votes cast. In sum, this would appear to mean that fewer than 400 total votes were cast in that precinct. Yet, the precinct’s official tallies indicate that 489 votes were cast. In addition, some voters’ names have two ballot stub numbers listed next to their entries creating the appearance that voters were allowed to cast more than one ballot.
In another precinct, W Lexington G AB, 350 voters are registered according to the County’s initial tallies. Yet, 434 voters cast ballots. As the tallies indicate, this would be an impossible 124% voter turnout. The breakdown on election night was initially reported to be 174 votes for Bush, and 246 votes for Kerry. We are advised that the Perry County Board of Elections has since issued a correction claiming that, due to a computer error, some votes were counted twice. We are advised that the new tallies state that only 224 people voted, and the tally is 90 votes for Bush and 127 votes for Kerry. This would make it appear that virtually every ballot was counted twice, which seems improbable.
In Monroe Township, Precinct AAV, we are advised that 266 voters signed in to vote on election day, yet the Perry County Board of Elections is reporting that 393 votes were cast in that precinct, a difference of 133 votes.
4. Why does it appear that there are more votes than voters in the Reading S precinct of Perry County?
5. What is the explanation for the fluctuating results in the W Lexington AB precinct?
6. Why does it appear that there are more votes than voters in the Monroe Township precinct AAV?
C. Perry County Registration Peculiarities
In Perry County, there appears to be an extraordinarily high level voter registration, 91%; yet a substantial number of these voters have never voted and have no signature on file. Of the voters that are registered in Perry County an extraordinarily large number of voters are listed as having registered in 1977, a year in which there were no federal elections. Of these an exceptional number are listed as having registered on the exact same day: in total, 3,100 voters apparently registered in Perry County on November 8, 1977.
7. Please explain why there is such a high percentage of voters in this County who have never voted and do not have signatures on file. Also, please help us understand why such a high number of voters in this County are shown as having registered on the same day in 1977.
D. Unusual Results in Butler County
In Butler County, a Democratic Candidate for State Supreme Court, C. Ellen Connally received 59,532 votes. In contrast, the Kerry-Edwards ticket received only 54,185 votes, 5,000 less than the State Supreme Court candidate. Additionally, the victorious Republican candidate for State Supreme Court received approximately 40,000 less votes than the Bush-Cheney ticket. Further, Connally received 10,000 or more votes in excess of Kerry’s total number of votes in five counties, and 5,000 more votes in excess of Kerry’s total in ten others.
It must also be noted that Republican judicial candidates were reportedly “awash in cash,” with more than $1.4 million and were also supported by independent expenditures by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
While you may have found an explanation for these bizarre results, it appears to be wildly implausible that 5,000 voters waited in line to cast a vote for an underfunded Democratic Supreme Court candidate and then declined to cast a vote for the most well-funded Democratic Presidential campaign in history. We would appreciate an answer to the following:
8. Have you examined how an underfunded Democratic State Supreme Court candidate could receive so many more votes in Butler County than the Kerry-Edwards ticket? If so, could you provide us with the results of your examination? Is there any precedent in Ohio for a downballot candidate receiving on a percentage or absolute basis so many more votes than the Presidential candidate of the same party in this or any other presidential election? Please let us know if any other County in Ohio registered such a disparity on a percentage or absolute basis.
E. Unusual Results in Cuyahoga County
Precincts in Cleveland have reported an incredibly high number of votes for third party candidates who have historically received only a handful of votes from these urban areas. For example, precinct 4F in the 4th Ward cast 290 votes for Kerry, 21 for Bush, and 215 for Constitution Party candidate Michael Peroutka. In 2000, the same precinct cast less than 8 votes for all third party candidates combined.
This pattern is found in at least 10 precincts through throughout Cleveland in 2004, awarding hundreds of unlikely votes to the third party candidate. Notably, these precincts share more than a strong Democratic history: the use of a punch card ballot. In light of these highly unlikely results, we would like to know the following:
9. Have you investigated whether the punch card system used in Cuyahoga County led to voters accidentally voting for third party candidates instead of the Democratic candidate they intended? If so, what were the results? Has a third party candidate ever received such a high percentage of votes in these precincts.
10. Have you found similar problems in other counties? Have you found similar problems with other voting methods?
F. Spoiled Ballots
According to post election canvassing, many ballots were cast without any valid selection for president. For example, two precincts in Montgomery County had an undervote rate of over 25% each – accounting for nearly 6,000 voters who stood in line to vote, but purportedly declined to vote for president. This is in stark contrast to the 2% of undervoting county-wide. Disturbingly, predominantly Democratic precincts had 75% more undervotes than those that were predominantly Republican. It is inconceivable to us that such a large number of people supposedly did not have a preference for president in such a controversial and highly contested election.
Considering that an estimated 93,000 ballots were spoiled across Ohio, we would like to know the following:
11. How many of those spoiled ballots were of the punch card or optical scan format and could therefore be examined in a recount?
12. Of those votes that have a paper trail, how many votes for president were undercounted, or showed no preference for president? How many were overcounted, or selected more than one candidate for president? How many other ballots had an indeterminate preference?
13. Of the total 93,000 spoiled ballots, how many were from predominantly Democratic precincts? How many were from minority-majority precincts?
14. Are you taking steps to ensure that there will be a paper trail for all votes before the 2006 elections so that spoiled ballots can be individually re-examined?
G. Franklin County Overvote – On election day, a computerized voting machine in ward 1B in the Gahanna precinct of Franklin County recorded a total of 4,258 votes for President Bush and 260 votes for Democratic challenger, John Kerry. However, there are only 800 registered voters in that Gahanna precinct, and only 638 people cast votes at the New Life Church polling site. It was since discovered that a computer glitch resulted in the recording of 3,893 extra votes for President George W. Bush.
Fortunately, this glitch was caught and the numbers were adjusted to show President Bush’s true vote count at 365 votes to Senator Kerry’s 260 votes. However, many questions remain as to whether this kind of malfunction happened in other areas of Ohio. To help us clarify this issue, we request that you answer the following:
15. How was it discovered that this computer glitch occurred?
16. What procedures were employed to alert other counties upon the discovery of the malfunction?
17. Can you be absolutely certain that this particular malfunction did not occur in other counties in Ohio during the 2004 Presidential election? How?
18. What is being done to ensure that this type of malfunction does not happen again in the future?
H. Miami County Vote Discrepancy – In Miami County, with 100% of the precincts reporting on Wednesday, November 3, 2004, President Bush had received 20,807 votes, or 65.80% of the vote, and Senator Kerry had received 10,724 votes, or 33.92% of the vote. Miami reported 31,620 voters. Inexplicably, nearly 19,000 new ballots were added after all precincts reported, boosting President Bush’s vote count to 33,039, or 65.77%, while Senator Kerry’s vote percentage stayed exactly the same to three one-hundredths of a percentage point at 33.92%.
Roger Kearney of Rhombus Technologies, Ltd., the reporting company responsible for vote results of Miami County, has stated that the problem was not with his reporting and that the additional 19,000 votes came before 100% of the precincts were in. However, this does not explain how the vote count could change for President Bush, but not for Senator Kerry, after 19,000 new votes were added to the roster. To help us better understand this anomaly, we request that you answer the following:
19. What is your explanation as to the statistical anomaly that showed virtually identical ratios after the final 20-40% of the vote came in? In your judgment, how could the vote count in this County have changed for President Bush, but not for Senator Kerry, after 19,000 new votes were added to the roster?
20. Are you aware of any pending investigations into this matter?
I. Mahoning County Machine Problems – In Mahoning County, numerous voters reported that when they attempted to vote for John Kerry, the vote showed up as a vote for George Bush. This was reported by numerous voters and continued despite numerous attempts to correct their vote.
21. Please let us know if you have conducted any investigation or inquiry of machine voting problems in the state, including the above described problems in Mahoning County, and the results of this investigation or inquiry.
II. Procedural Irregularities
A. Machine Shortages
Throughout predominately Democratic areas in Ohio on election day, there were reports of long lines caused by inadequate numbers of voting machines. Evidence introduced in public hearings indicates that 68 machines in Franklin County were never deployed for voters, despite long lines for voters at that county, with some voters waiting from two to seven hours to cast their vote. The Franklin County Board of Elections reported that 68 voting machines were never placed on election day, and Franklin County BOE Director Matt Damschroder admitted on November 19, 2004 that 77 machines malfunctioned on Election Day. It has come to our attention that a county purchasing official who was on the line with Ward Moving and Storage Company, documented only 2,741 voting machines delivered through the November 2 election day. However, Franklin County’s records reveal that they had 2,866 “machines available” on election day. This would mean that amid the two to seven hour waits in the inner city of Columbus, at least 125 machines remained unused on Election Day.
Franklin County’s machine allocation report clearly states the number of machines that were placed “By Close of Polls.” However, questions remain as to where these machines were placed and who had access to them throughout the day. Therefore, what matters is not how many voting machines were operating at the end of the day, but rather how many were there to service the people during the morning and noon rush hours.
An analysis revealed a pattern of providing fewer machines to the Democratic city of Columbus, and more machines to the primarily Republican suburbs. At seven out of eight polling places, observers counted only three voting machines per location. According to the presiding judge at one polling site located at the Columbus Model Neighborhood facility at 1393 E. Broad St., there had been five machines during the 2004 primary. Moreover, at Douglas Elementary School, there had been four machines during the spring primary. In one Ohio voting precinct serving students from Kenyon College, some voters were required to wait more than eight hours to vote. There were reportedly only two voting machines at that precinct. The House Judiciary Committee staff has received first hand information confirming these reports.
Additionally, it appears that in a number of locations, polling places were moved from large locations, such as gyms, where voters could comfortably wait inside to vote to smaller locations where voters were required to wait in the rain. We would appreciate answers to the following:
22. How much funding did Ohio receive from the federal government for voting machines?
23. What criteria were used to distribute those new machines?
24. Were counties given estimates or assurances as to how many new voting machines they would receive? How does this number compare to how many machines were actually received?
25. What procedures were in place to ensure that the voting machines were properly allocated throughout Franklin and other counties? What changes would you recommend be made to insure there is a more equitable allocation of machines in the future?
B. Invalidated Provisional Ballots
As you know, just weeks before the 2004 Presidential election, you issued a directive to county election officials saying they are allowed to count provisional ballots only from voters who go to the correct precinct for their home address. At the same time, it has been reported that fraudulent flyers were being circulated on official-looking letterhead telling voters the wrong place to vote, phone calls were placed incorrectly informing voters that their polling place had changed, “door-hangers” telling African-American voters to go to the wrong precinct, and election workers sent voters to the wrong precinct. In other areas, precinct workers refused to give any voter a provisional ballot. And in at least one precinct, election judges told voters that they may validly cast their ballot in any precinct, leading to any number of disqualified provisional ballots.
In Hamilton County, officials have carried this problematic and controversial directive to a ludicrous extreme: they are refusing to count provisional ballots cast at the correct polling place if they were cast at the wrong table in that polling place. It seems that some polling places contained multiple precincts which were located at different tables. Now, 400 such voters in Hamilton county alone will be disenfranchised as a result of your directive.
26. Have you directed Hamilton County and all other counties not to disqualify provisional ballots cast at the correct polling place simply because they were cast at the wrong precinct table?
27. While many election workers received your directive that voters may cast ballots only in their own precincts, some did not. How did you inform your workers, and the public, that their vote would not be counted if cast in the wrong precinct? How many votes were lost due to election workers telling voters they may vote at any precinct, in direct violation of your ruling?
28. Your directive was exploited by those who intentionally misled voters about their correct polling place, and multiplied the number of provisional ballots found invalid. What steps have you or other officials in Ohio taken to investigate these criminal acts? Has anyone been referred for prosecution? If so, what is the status of their cases?
29. How many provisional ballots were filed in the presidential election in Ohio? How many were ultimately found to be valid and counted? What were the various reasons that these ballots were not counted, and how many ballots fall into each of these categories? Please break down the foregoing by County if possible.
C. Directive to Reject Voter Registration Forms Not Printed on White, Uncoated Paper of Not Less Than 80 lb Text Weight
On September 7, you issued a directive to county boards of elections commanding such boards to reject voter registration forms not “printed on white, uncoated paper of not less than 80 lb. text weight.” Instead, the county boards were to follow a confusing procedure where the voter registration form would be treated as an application for a form and a new blank form would be sent to the voter. While you reversed this directive, you did not do so until September 28. In the interim, a number of counties followed this directive and rejected otherwise valid voter registration forms. There appears to be some further confusion about the revision of this order which resulted in some counties being advised of the change by the news media.
30. How did you notify county boards of elections of your initial September 7 directive?
31. How did you notify county boards of elections of your September 28 decision to revise that directive?
32. Have you conducted an investigation to determine how many registration forms were rejected as a result of your September 7 directive? If so, how many?
33. Have you conducted an investigation to determine how many voters who had their otherwise valid forms rejected as a result of your September 7 directive subsequently failed to re-register? If so, how many?
34. Have you conducted an investigation to determine how many of those voters showed up who had their otherwise valid forms rejected to vote on election day and were turned away? If so, how many?
We await your prompt reply. To the extent any questions relate to information not available to you, please pass on such questions to the appropriate election board or other official. Please respond to 2142 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 by December 10. If you need more time to investigate and respond to some of these inquiries, we would welcome a partial response by that date and a complete response within a reasonable period of time thereafter. If you have any questions about this inquiry, please contact Perry Apelbaum or Ted Kalo of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff at (202) 225-6504.
Rep. John Conyers, Jr.
Rep. Melvin Watt
Rep. Jerrold Nadler
Rep. Tammy Baldwin

Here's a blog I encountered and recommend looking at:

And Unfortunately, A Dark Spot

More specifically the dismissal by the media, and even by the Democratic Party, of 2004 election irregularities in that state.
It's the state that gave us 4 more years of Dubya.

Why is it that everyone feels compelled to say they don't expect a recount to overturn the results?
If there have been misdeeds, wouldn't the intent have been to falsify the results?

I just got an e-mail from Terry McAuliffe saying he doesn't expect a recount to overturn the results.
That pisses me off.
Let's have the statewide recount first, then decide what its impact is.

More Bright Spots

I don't know -- maybe somehow I'm being infected by some bit of holiday generosity.
Maybe it's that the top 10 lists are starting to appear.
Anyway, I decided it's time to list a few individuals and outlets in the US press that we should be grateful for:
  • Paul Krugman -- The best and most interesting of The New York Times' columnists. See my earlier post, "A Bright Spot".
  • -- The most consistently interesting of the on-line journals. The only one that follows up on the many stories from the blogosphere that the mainstream press chooses to ignore or belittle.
  • David Edelstein's movie reviews in Slate -- The best movie critic since Pauline Kael.
  • -- The pieces often are not particularly well written, but they express the kinds of liberal thoughts that are increasingly being shut out of the daily papers and the TV networks.
  • The New York Review of Books -- This venerable publication has become the best outlet for reporting on the Iraq war and other misdeeds of the Bush administration. Norman Mailer's piece on the war was his strongest writing in years, and a reminder of why he should be treasured.
  • The Nation -- What can I say? It's the house organ of the American left. Yes, it infuriates me sometimes, but it offers Katha Pollitt, Eric Alterman, Patricia Williams and so many others who might not otherwise be published. It's indispensable.
  • Robert Greenwald's documentaries -- They are not high art, and they don't advance the medium, but these quickly made exposes on current events make lucid and convincing arguments about the 2000 election, the PATRIOT USA act, Fox News and other atrocities.
  • Molly Ivins -- The wittiest of all political writers.
  • Arianna Huffington -- A former conservative who has seen the light and isn't afraid to talk about the issues that made her evolve.
  • Media Matters for America -- David Brock's web site attempts to hold the major media accountable for their biases and misstatements.
  • Air America Radio -- Finally, talk shows that you can listen to if you have half a brain and a conscience. Randi Rhodes is the best of the hosts, but Al Franken isn't bad either.

A Bright Spot

Paul Krugman is, to my mind, one of the bright spots in the American media today.
I have read his columns faithfully for the past few years, and greatly admire the way he lays out difficult economic issues and, in particular, spells out the ways in which Americans are being misled by the Bush administration.
Today he wrote about the Republicans' manufactured "crisis" in Social Security, which supposedly is leading them to privatize this venerated public system. From Krugman, we hear that Social Security is actuall runnin a surplus today, thanks to an increase in the payroll tax during the Reagan administration that enabled us to set up a Social Security "trust fund" to hedge against the approaching "Baby Boom" retirement years when payouts are expected to increase enormously.
Yes, revenues will begin to lag behind payments in about 10 years, but only because the Republican administration and Congress are unwilling to take the most sensible step: Make another small increase in the payroll tax.
Even at current rates, the system will be able to meet its obligations for about another 50 years, at which point the ability to meet payments would fall to about 80 per cent, based on current projections.
So why is this a crisis?
Krugman doesn't write this, but I will:
Because of Grover Norquist and his cronies, that's why.
Grover, who has made it a stated goal to bankrupt the federal budget so that we have no choice but to cut entitlement programs, is pushing the crisis scenario heavily in an effort to push the privatization option.
Thank goodness for Paul Krugman, who manages to cut through the hype to get to the bottom of issues like this, in column after column.
Krugman stands in stark contrast to some other "pundits," in particular the Times's Maureen Dowd, who drives me crazy with her insistence on ridiculing everyone and everything. We deserve better than her snide repartee.


I'll post again later. Haven't done my 15 minutes, but I need another wave of inspiration.

Monday, December 06, 2004

From Across Space and Time

Yesterday was quite a day for renewed communications.
I spoke over the phone to Barni, my painting teacher and a great friend, who was turning 90.
I e-mailed Carole, once an unrequited love, but always a funny and cynical conversationalist.
And Reggie, a colleague from a few years back, came over to help us put up the Christmas tree and have dinner.
Three different periods of my life. Three good friends with whom I had been out of touch.
All in all, an excellent day.
Unfortunately, I got extremely drunk on red wine and don't remember how it ended.
I don't remember Reggie leaving, or making my way into bed.
I woke up at 3, then again close to 6 to begin work with a terrible hangover.
My daughter tells me I was pretty loud and obnoxious at the end of the evening. Probably true.
I called Reggie to see that he got home okay, and to ask whether I had said anything I need to apologize for.
He didn't seem to think so.
We tentatively made plans to get together again on Boxing Day.
This morning, I had an e-mail reply from Carole. It was like picking up a conversation again after 20 years --and it has indeed been about 20years since we have spoken. She went to our 30th high school reunion. I did not. I did report my contact details for the directory, which I received in the mail Friday. That inspired me to write to Carole.
I'm leafing through the reunion directory again. Maybe I'll try writing some more later. I'm kind of dragged out at the moment.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Lost another draft in the publishing process

Damn it!
It was the first draft of my father's story.
That one I will recreate.
But not now.
I'm pissed off about its disappearance. Am I just not supposed to write more than once a day, even if I'm inspired?
Or do I give too much credence to fate?

Dad, Chapter 1

I have never doubted that my father loved me.
I worry that he may have questioned whether I loved him, or respected him.
But I know that he loved me and my siblings, without question. It was evident in the way he lived his life. We were the center of his universe.
These are some of the things I know about my father's background and childhood:

  • He was born close to midnight on January 31, 1920. In fact, he always celebrated his birthday on February 1, and until he obtained a copy of his birth certificate as an adult he did not know that his official birth date was a day earlier.
  • He was the eighth of 12 children of Simon and Mary, Russian emigrants who settled in Baltimore. Nine of those children survived to adulthood. My father was in the exact middle -- fifth -- of those nine.
  • His father was a barkeep in a black neighborhood in west Baltimore. After my grandfather's death, my oldest uncle took over the bar and ran it for another 30 years, until his own death. When I was growing up, we spent many Sunday afternoons at the bar, celebrating one family occasion or another.
  • My father's parents were married in Russia, and emigrated to the United States around 1913, ending up in Baltimore. Family legend has it that my father's oldest sister, Anna, was born on the ship while in passage. My aunt died a decade ago; we are not certain that she ever was a citizen of the United States.
  • As a young boy, my Dad used to watch silent movies at the Fulton Theatre on Fulton Street in west Baltimore.
  • Two of my father's brothers drowned as children. They are buried in the family plot in the Russian Orthodox cemetary near Baltimore. Another child supposedly died in Russia before my grandparents emigrated.
  • When my Dad was 7, his mother died. Near the end of his life, it bothered him enormously that he had no memories of her.
  • Dad told me that his father had beaten him with a rubber hose when he was a kid. My mother told a funny story about Dad and his brother hiding under the bed from their father, who pulled off the mattress so he could get to them to beat them. I never got the sense that my Dad was abused -- this was standard discipline for the times, nothing out of the ordinary, as far as I can surmise.
  • After his mother's death, my Dad's oldest sister, Annie, raised the children. She didn't marry until the youngest child -- my Aunt Vera -- had graduated from high school. When I was growing up, Aunt Annie was the closest thing we had to a grandmother. If we weren't at the bar for a family occasion, we were at Aunt Annie and Uncle Mickey's house.
  • Dad was graduated from Baltimore's City College in the class of 1938. Under his picture, the text read, "To enter business."
  • When Dad was 18, his father died.
  • When my father married my mother, he was 22 and she was 17. Both have told me they were virgins at the time of their marriage. My mother did not know the "facts of life" until her wedding night, she once told me.

Sunday Soliloquy

It has been many years since I last watched a real snowfall, a long, deep, heavy snowfall that blankets the ground, and cars, and bushes and trees and everything else outside the window from which I observe.
This thought came to me this morning as I read The New York Time Book Review. In an appraisal of Truman Capote, the author quotes an early Capote story, in which he wrote of footprints filled in and, thus, erased by snow.
There has always seemed to me to be a quiet and peacfulness about falling snow that has been a source of joy. It's one of the childhood images that stays with me, and one of the reasons I miss living in a climate that enjoys a cold winter.
Southern California's climate is wonderful in many ways. Even Florida, despite my complaints about the humidity and the bugs, has a wonderful, extended springtime in which flowering after flowering makes the landscape a beautiful riot of color.
But my favorite climate is that of the snowy North, where steel-gray skies loom close to the ground until they begin silently to yield those icy yet deliciously soft flakes.


That prose may be pretty purple, but, hey -- it shows that I definitely need the practice in descriptive writing.
Let's forget narrative for the moment.
It's been a long time since I really even tried to describe a scene in detail that evokes a picture for the reader. Have I ever really done that successfully? Even as a reporter?
Although I like to draw and paint, my writing -- even my architectural writing, oddly -- never has been long on pictorial description.
When I have tried my hand at fiction, it has been mostly in the form of inner monologues and -- as I think about it -- resentful assessments of characters perceived to be more privileged than the narrator.
Is that my theme?
Have I just discovered something about my attempts at writing?
The best stories I've written: "Rain and a Blonde," "Here Comes That Damned Nigger Again," the fragment of "The King of Nowhere," all written by resentful, middle-aged white men looking (sneering, then struggling to understand) an "other".
That I never have been that character in life is interesting.
I am the child who got the privileges -- well-educated, well-married, always with an interesting, if only sometimes lucrative, job.
Was my Dad that character?
Maybe, in part.
He fit the blue-collar mold, and certainly struggled to express his thoughts. I imagine he also struggled to understand the changes in the world he observed. But we never really talked about things like that.
Have I been, in all of these fitful attempts over the years, trying unknowingly to get at some idea about my father, and possibly the way he viewed me, struggled to understand me, the child to whom he had given so many privileges and who he very obviously admired but wondered about?
Maybe I need to write more overtly about my Dad to try to understand him and his world better.
Sadly, I don't have him around to talk to, but I have some vivid memories.
I'll try to go there.
But not right now.
I have the strange feeling that I've had some sort of breakthrough writing this morning. Let's stop now to think just a little more before starting the story of my father.

Saturday, December 04, 2004


Now I don't know whether I'll get around to recreating the entry that was lost yesterday.
I'm on to a related topic.
The main issue still is our irresponsible press.
The item that has me hot and bothered today is David Brooks's column in this morning's New York Times.
He's describing a phone conversation with Senator Lindsay Graham, who called him from a pub in Ireland to discuss Social Security reform. And there's a comment from Brooks about descending into "wonkery".
I hate that word.
It seems to me that the press used to consider it a positive thing to be well-informed about current events and issues of public importance.
Now -- and I guess since some time early in the Clinton administration -- it's derided as "wonkery".
Those of us who care about the state of our country and its policies are laughed off. Heaven forbid we should be diverted from the really important things like shopping, TV-watching and ridicule of the various "elites" who seem to thrive on threatening our red-stated American "values".
I happen to think Social Security reform is an extremely important topic that all Americans -- not just "wonks" like me -- should be discussing in social situations everywhere. Irish pubs are one good venue, but so are good old American bars, football stadiums, even kitchens.
Maybe it's partly that as I grow older, my retirement income seems a more important topic to me. And I see the Bushies threatening it with their every move to weaken our economy through their irresponsible deficit spending practices.
I am amazed that Bush was allowed in one of the debates to ridicule Kerry as a "liberal from Massachusetts, " over a spending issue, without the press, the public and the Democratic party falling over themselves to get at him for his hypocrisy.
This is the man who has turned a large and healthy surplus into the largest deficit this country has ever seen -- in four short years!
But those of us who think about this are just "wonks" with too much time on our hands. I guess I should be criticized for not being at Wal-Mart getting my shopping done. How dare I actually pay attention to the content of Bush's remarks. How dare I notice how cynically he and his staff are backing the United States into a financial corner, so that at some point in the near future we may have no options except to begin slashing entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, that protect the basic dignity of our senior citizens.
That backing of the US into a financial corner is, by the way, a stated objective of one of the president's key tax advisors, Grover Norquist -- unfortunately a college classmate of mine.
This Saudi-funded right-wing terrorist has caused as much damage to our economic security as Osama bin Laden has to our physical security -- and yet he roams free. And I have to believe it is at least partly because his party has led the charge in ridiculing well-informed Americans as "wonks."
Forget "fag," "nigger," "cunt", and all the other nasty slur words around. "Wonk" is one that should offend us all, regardless of race, gender or sexual preference.
Scream about it.
It's time to kill this term.


By the way, I think Bush's remark about the "liberal from Massachusetts" and his outrageous spending proposals was made at the third debate, which was roundly derided as a "wonkfest" by the panel on MSNBC, the worst and most dishonest of the cable networks in covering the debates. This is the channel that actually had Andrea Mitchell -- wife of Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan -- on board as a "journalist"!!!


Since my 15 minutes aren't up yet -- I write fast when I'm angry -- let's go back to yesterday's topic for a few moments.
The gist of my writing was that as a former member of the press, I am appalled by the failure to hold the Bush administration accountable for its words and actions. It seems to me that there were a few years -- the "All the President's Men" era, as it were -- when a brave press was deemed essential to preserving democracy.
But then the right wing caught on to the power that the press had wielded in holding Nixon accountable, and began the slander of the fourth estate as the "liberal media". Since that time, it seems to me, the press has first gone overboard in giving voice to unsupported right-wing lies and then -- as corporate takeovers transformed outlet after outlet from independent voice into megaphone for fat-cat-supporting business -- into unapologetic voices of the right.


I'm done.

Friday, December 03, 2004

What Happened to "Our Pandering Press"?

The blog just ate my post. Too bad -- it was a pretty good one. I'll try to reconstruct it. Later.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Rites of Passing (the Buck)

I almost forgot to write today.
Can't let that happen quite so soon.
In theory, I would like to be writing first thing in the morning, when my mind is fresh, instead of at the end of a long day, when I'm tired and worn down by work.
But let's make my work day the topic today.
Often, in my company we talk about getting things "off our plates." In theory, this is a positive step, a completion of a task that frees us up to concentrate on the next priority.
In practice, getting something off one person's plate simply means scraping it onto a colleague's dish or even chewing on it a bit then spitting it out onto the nearest convenient plate.
Today, I got a couple of unpleasant problems "off my plate." I did so by positively addressing one request, and spitting another onto the plate of a higher-ranking colleague in a different department.
Could I have resolved the problem myself? Probably not, I say. At least not to the satisfaction of my senior executives.
At my authority level, and with the resources available to me, I could have resolved the issue only by saying "no" to one of the competing requests that were causing me problems. I had chewed on botht o a certain extent, weighing the probabilities of success at tackling either problem individually or both simultaneously.
My decision: One of the problems could not likely be resolved by me using the resources available to me (basically, the people who report to me). I chose to get this one off my plate by diverting it to a vice president in another department.
Unfair? Actually, no. Completely fair. The issue at hand was a service issue, and the VP to whom I handed it oversees the services organization. I am in the marketing organization.
I nevertheless ended up feeling like I had somehow passed the buck, because the situation really hasn't been resolved, just moved.
To feel the satisfaction of getting something off one's plate, I think one has to actually believe the matter is resolved. That's what I don't feel.
Maybe headed in a better direction than before. Maybe placed in the hands of someone who actually can do something about it. But not resolved.
What can I say?
My 15 minutes are up.
I'm going to get today's posting off my plate, and go watch some TV.
Tonight is OC night and North Shore night.
Time to vegetate and let my brain cells darken a little.
More from this source tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Happy Birthday to Me

Here I am, 48 years old today.
Forty-eight years into a life that has been in no way spectacular, but in many ways interesting and rewarding.
I'm also 20 years into marriage, 14 years into parenthood, 2 years into my current job, 12 years on my current career path.


I went to the dentist today, and was told that I am, literally, long in the tooth. My gums are receding so that more and more of the tooth is visible.
The dentist has recommended a procedure which he believes is necessary for preservation of my teeth. The cost is $100 a tooth. The insurance company says it is a cosmetic procedure and they will not pay for any part of it.
A small, small tale in the annals of health insurance, but just the sort of detail to drive me around the bend on that issue. In the recent presidential campaign, Carol Moseley Braun was the only candidate brave and foolish enough to support a single-payer healthcare system. While Ms. Braun was in many ways a terrible candidate -- and was a terrible senator before that -- I thank God that at least one person in the political arena spoke out about the need for a fundamental change in the way that health care is funded and delivered in this country.
The US healthcare system is, simply, an outrage.
The insurance companies and HMO's have put clerical staff in charge of our healthcare decisions.
Only those working-age people fortunate enough to have jobs that provide healthcare insurance, or private fortunes can afford to see a doctor.
Children are being punished, by denial of treatment, when their parents have committed the "sin" of poverty.
And yet our political leaders tell us we have the finest healthcare system in the world, and warn us of the horrors of "socialized medicine".
Horrors, schmorrors. I have lived in the United Kingdom, and been a recipient of "socialized medicine," and I can tell you it was a damned sight better than what I get here.
The doctor's offices weren't filled with plush furniture and cheesy artwork that matched the upholstery, but I received the treatment I needed without delay or question, and never saw a bill or a piece of paperwork after I filled out my initial personal health profile.
It was a dream come true.
Today at the dentist, I was ordered to fill out a set of forms that I have filled out with exactly the same information year after year. Could I just point out changes? No. They need new forms.
I made them illegible and incomplete, just to be ornery.