14 December 2007

the Nanjing Atrocity and the War on Terror

I just read a brilliant article on the Nanjing atrocity. Japan persuaded itself that China was not a unified nation-state and therefore Chinese soldiers and civilians did not enjoy the protection of international law. By the time they extended the war on China to include nations they did recognise they had a an army accustomed to carrying out atrocities that could not be retrained or restrained.

The parallels are uncanny. Not only did japan use the same legal fiction: 'Our enemy is not a nation-state so international law does not apply', they also used the same cover-up: 'Our troops were out of control and there only isolated incidents' when in fact the imperial army repeatedly ordered the commission of war crimes. Japanese conduct at Nanjing was so appalling that the Nazi German consulate in Nanjing denounced it to Berlin as a war crime.

Such considerations shed light on three major underlying causes of the Nanking Atrocity. First, contempt for China as a modern nation led to a deficient concern for applying international law toward it. Just as serious fighting in northern China began, an undersecretary in the Army Ministry sent a notice dated 5 August 1937 to the China Garrison Army’s Chief of Staff: “It is inappropriate to act strictly in accordance with various stipulations in ‘Treaties and Practices Governing Land Warfare and Other Laws of War’.” Similar notices went out to other units as well. The message can only be construed as: “there is no need to obey international law.” Second, this overweening attitude diluted concern for protecting Chinese civilians, as well as foreign diplomats and residents, from the horrors of war. The CCAA was formed haphazardly on 7 November 1937. Since it was not supposed to move far west of Shanghai, it had no supply-and-support units to provision troops, who could only rely on plunder to sustain themselves en route to Nanking. This increased their frequency of contacts with, and opportunities for violence toward, civilians. The SEA and the Tenth Army had no liaison staff or units trained in diplomacy; so those armies’ relations with Japanese diplomatic officials in China were bad, to say the least. Troops viewed diplomats as a thorn in their side; diplomats who tried to stop army brutalities exposed themselves to danger. A third and related underlying cause of the Atrocity lay in the CCAA’s disregard for upholding troop discipline and morality. It had no specialized military police (MP) units, and the few individual MPs who were on hand could not possibly maintain order. As one attached to the Tenth Army bewailed, “With less than 100 of us to control 200,000 men in several divisions, what could we do?”

There may be a WWII precedent for the Bush administration's approach to the conduct of war, but it is certainly not Churchill.

23 November 2007

the jellies that ate Bondi

Well, not quite or at least not yet. Before Southerly Buster stopped blowing for a while, I posted about the exciting saga of the giant jellyfish, a product of ocean acidification, invading Japanese waters Well, according to Shifting Baselines, a swarm of jellyfish, dense pack of about 26 square kilometres and 11 metres deep, yesterday attacked a salmon farm in Northern Ireland and ate US$2 million worth of salmon.

Ocean acidification, driven by global warming and chemical pollution, including agricultural runoffs is having serious effects much closer to home than Northern Ireland. So hum the theme from Jaws next time you surf. But think jellies, not jaws.

22 November 2007

slouching towards Bethlehem

This morning's AM described the Coalition's best case scenario:

CHRIS UHLMANN: Well Tony, that the most likely outcome is a Labor victory. But - and it is a fairly significant "but" - that a Coalition win is not out of the question, and it certainly hasn't given up.

Now, that's based on them sandbagging all of their marginal seats and making it difficult for Labor to take some or all of the 16 that it needs and having to go higher up the tree, if you like, for the low-hanging fruit that's available.

And the way that that would work would be Labor … sorry, the Liberal Party holding the line in Victoria. Now, they need five per cent to take Deakin there, and the seats above it.

And it appears that Labor has stalled in Victoria at around about 4.5 per cent of the vote. So, if that happens and they can just lose three seats in South Australia, two in Tasmania, maybe pick up one in Western Australia, hold the line in the Northern Territory, then the Labor Party is forced to find all of the seats it needs, pretty much, to win government in New South Wales and Queensland.

So, it would be a difficult task, but as I said, that's the masking tape and bailing wire Coalition victory. It could come apart at the seams.

I applied these assumptions to the ABC's election calculator. The first figure shows the Coalition assumptions with no change in NSW or Queensland. I think the outcome is hopelessly optimistic because, out side Western Australia, the polls continue to show a decisive Labor lead. If I were drawing a true picture of what I think will happen outside New South Wales and Queensland I would give Labor 1 or 2 more seats, with the possibility of a major swing in South Australia throwing the calculation completely.

The Coalition battle plan has Labor searching for 13 seats in New South Wales and Queensland. I assigned 8 seats to NSW and 5 to Qld and then adjusted the election sliders to find what swings would bee needed in those states to produce a Labor victory f 76 seats. That gave me my second figure.

I find it hard to see how Labot can win less than 76 seats. Within the 2 states I think Labor will do well in aspirational seats on the edge of Sydney where both Work Choices and interest rates are biting hard. I'm told Labor feels very good about North Queensland where there are 2 marginal seats to be had, and Brisbane where Kevin Rudd is the favourite son. I'm also told Labor is very encouraged by polling in Bennelong and North Sydney. In 1983 many seats went Labor in the bush because it's hard for rural voters to support government candidates when their towns are collapsing in the face of prolonged drought and where I suspect climate change is suddenly a very live issue indeed. Last year I travelled around rural NSW for a week and it was hard to get anyone to talk about anything but the drought and climate change in pubs from Jindabyne to Dubbo.

If the swings in SA, NSW and Qld go far above the numbers in figure 2 then we are looking at an earthquake, not a landslide.

23 October 2007

National security finally hits the election

The AbC's reporting that Howard and Cheney did a deal over Hicks. When this was first raised, months ago, ABC Insiders pooh-poohed the whole idea by saying there was no way for Cheney to communicate the the military commission hearing Hick's case. Later that week we learnt that the sentencing agreement was reached with the chief military prosecutor of the commission, an old Cheney staffer, not the military judges themselves.

Now we have a report from someone present at a meeting between Howard and Cheney. The Age has the anonymousquotes:

"One of our staffers was present when Vice-President Cheney interfered directly to get Hicks's plea bargain deal," the unnamed officer told a contributor for Harper's magazine.

"He did it, apparently, as part of a deal cut with Howard.

"I kept thinking: this is the sort of thing that used to go on behind the Iron Curtain, not in America.

"And then it struck me how much this entire process had disintegrated into a political charade.

"It's demoralising for all of us."

Amazing how well-informed the nameless military source is about Australia. Howard long ago turned national security into a political charade, one that may be about to come home to roost. Howard's bee good at fooling people. It's hard to think of a worse time for one of his charades to come unstuck.

25 August 2007

aspirational justice

The Man of Steel's prime ministerial sermons are gutting increasingly silly and more and more all they do is excuse a group of Australians and banish them beyond the pale. Australians in remote indigenous communities do not get asked about intrusive government measures that will not reduce the incidence of child abuse and are contrary to what the authors of Little children are scared recommended. Australians worried about nuclear power do get asked. Australians worried about local council amalgamations do get asked.

The expanding reach of the Man of Steels passion for talking about anything and everything but his own record has now touched on criminal justice. Australians who protest are clearly not part of the nation either.

More than that, they're guilty of offences they have not yet committed.

22 August 2007

Haneef transcript

The Haneef transcript is in the public domain, where it should always have been. Now we all know that Western civilisation as we know it faces a threat more dire than the invasion of the Mongol hordes under Batu Khan in 1241. So dire a threat that we need an ever-vigilant Federal police to keep us safe in our beds.

That's why I'm a little alarmed to read at least one of our vigilant defenders has a small gap in his technical awareness.

HANEEF: No sometimes I use Skype.

AFP: How does that work?

HANEEF: That's just an Internet calling.

AFP: Okay, I'm unfamiliar with that, that's all. What do you need for that?

I'll read on, as soon as I've carried out my civic duty of telling the AFP about the highly secretive and dangerous Internet technology known as Skype. The highly-trained AFP interrogator also appears not to know what a Yahoo chat is, what years Indians attend school, what a medical intern is, or even the basic geography of Bangalore or the state of Karnataka. In the alternative, the AFP interrogator may know all these things but decided they're so secret they had to be kept from Haneef and his lawyer at any cost.

If this is the best the AFP can do, we should all invest in rubber bed sheets. And while we're at it, we might like to recall the French state was so busy framing Dreyfus they allowed the real spy, Esterhazy to escape.

23 February 2007

How many Libs does it take to change a lightbulb?

In the dismissal election of 1975 the Libs ran on the slogan 'Turn on the lights!', a slogan they stole from the British Labour party which had used it during the UK general election of 1974. Typical Libs! First they want us to turn the things on, now they want us to turn them off!

Send a third stage guild navigator to meet with the prime minister

Here is a recent file picture of Prime Minister Howard meeting with Vice-President Cheney.

In other news from Arrakis, the discoverer of the extra-solar planets HD 209458 b and HD 189733 b reports that that they appear to have even less water than the Murray-Darling basin. The scientist comments:

...some of those silicate clouds they found may have been belched up by Shai Hulud

We're yet to learn what tribute the prime minister will be required to pay the vice-president.

trafficking in permits

Sydney is an undisclosed location since Cheney flew in last night. The usual suspects in the Howard government are naturally milking the Cheney trip for all its worth. I suspect they're going to find Cheney a fairly dry teat.

Earlier in the week, the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Elizabeth 2 were both in Sydney at the same time. The result was gridlock around the harbour and an abject apology from Premier Maurice Iemma and various other state officials for not foreseeing the gridlock. I suspect that's got a lot to do with the weird decision-making on the issue of granting a permit for the demonstration against Cheney last night.

The police refused the permit. The demonstrators threatened to march down George St anyway. The police eventually allowed the demo to walk down the side of the street as long as they did not block traffic. 10 people were arrested in between refusing the permit and effectively granting the permit.

Demonstrating is part of the right to free speech.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 20.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

That right should really not be suspended because the government blew the planning for the arrival of two ships and the premier went into panic mode. Sadly, I think we'll see the panic mode get recycled a few more times before the state election on 28 March.

21 February 2007


testing 7, 8. 9...

PS Dear google,

Try not to respam this blog, at least for a couple of days.

16 February 2007


testing, 4, 5, 6...

8 February 2007

Save us from controversial Bills

The Nautilus Institute backgrounds the Fiji coup.

Commodore Bainimarama explained his actions by saying that the Qarase Government was "unable to make decisions to [save] our people from destruction." He said the deposed Prime Minister had "already conducted a 'silent coup' through bribery, corruption and the introduction of controversial Bill[s]".

The Qarase governments' practice of bribery and corruption remains an open question. The 1997 constitution provides for independent watchdog bodies and practices that allow corruption to be addressed. A self-serving military coup is not one of the constitutional options. If governments that bring in controversial bills deserve to be overthrown, then perhaps coup leader Bainimarama should read some of the controversy his emergency regulations, which purport to suspend the constitution, have generated.

Fiji reveals the gap at the heart of Howard's policy. Howard says nothing about human rights and does little about human rights. The Howard government has certainly condemned the coup and imposed sanctions, but a military take-over apparently does not trigger the Howard doctrine. I've argued the whole deputy sheriff thing was never intended for anything more than domestic consumption, but it's hard to see what would trigger the Howard doctrine if the overthrow of an elected government does not. Terror, perhaps, is in the eye of the beholder.

Incidentally, there's a weirdness. Bainimarama spent Christmas 2005 at Turtle Island in the company of several guests, including the Republican frontrunner for president, US Senator John McCain. It'd be nice to know what advice McCain gave him about preserving, protecting and defending the constitution.

7 February 2007

Well, I'm shocked

The model train industry is having a fair in Nuremberg.

One new item in the Viessmann company's catalog is called "Sexy Lovers in Motion." A man and a woman are having sex on a red blanket, in the missionary position. The man moves his buttocks and needs between 14 and 16 volt to do so, AC or DC.

On second thought, if some enthusiast uses an overstrength battery, I guess the man on the blanket may a bit shocked too.

6 February 2007

auditors with guns

I'm rereading Joseph Stiglitz's Globalization and its discontents.

There are at least two reasons why the IMF should consult widely within a country as it makes its assessments and designs its programs. Those within the country are likely to know more about the economy than the IMF staffers - as I saw so clearly in the case of the United States. And for the programs to be implemented in an effective and sustainable manner, there must be a commitment of the country behind the program, based on a broad consensus.

Stiglitz' advice to the IMF stands equally valid for the Prime Minister of Australia. The Howard policy in the Pacific has been hat imposing crude Washington Consensus one size fits all policies is the direct path to a Pacific paradise. When the Man of Steel talks capacity-building he seems to mean covering the Pacific with Australian auditors and police singing the happy refrain: 'I'm from the Australian government and I'm here to help you.'

The policy is an abject failure. PNG's supreme court quite rightly rejected the idea that Australian police and auditors should be immune to the process of their courts. The Solomon Islands rejected the 'Australian' nominee for prime minister. Nuku'alofa's Chinatown went up in flames. Howard refuses to even think about a guestworker program or rescuing the inhabitants of entire states that may be destroyed by global warming. And then there's Fiji.

The abject failure of Australian policy in Fiji is best captured in a recent post from intelligentsiya:

Yesterday, Chief Intelligentsiya got a call from an Associated Press reporter in Australia who was doing a story on intelligentsiya and freedom of speech in general in Fiji.

He asked if we were afraid the military would get to us. Now, we hope the military doesn’t think we are irritating enough to haul up to Queen Elizabeth Barracks. But we probably think they will detain us, once they find out who we are. But in the meantime, we’ll continue to publish.

Howard's policy is an abject failure because, like much of his politics, it's all about how and never about why. Pacific states lack capacity because they have not, in most cases, developed a broad consensus on what they want to be. Without that, development is going to stay uneven, unstable and unfair. Howard's policy also, just quietly, assumes total Australian dominance in the region, a dominance which China and Taiwan are increasingly eager to challenge. Pacific peoples, quite reasonably, want something more, and no amount of bean counters with guns is going to give it to them.

It's really no surprise that Howard's Pacific misadventure is an inflexible and uninformed policy whose results are uniform failure. All he's really doing is trying to run the Pacific the way he runs Australia, by insisting there's no alternative. He's King Canute in a lae.

Yes, Sorry, there is a Virginia

Virginia has apologised for slavery and its treatment of Native Americans.

"The General Assembly hereby expresses its profound regret for the commonwealth's role in sanctioning the immoral institution of human slavery, in the historic wrongs visited upon native peoples, and in all other forms of discrimination and injustice that have been rooted in racial and cultural bias and misunderstanding," the resolution states.

The resolution was sponsored by Democratic Delegate A. Donald McEachin, whose great-grandfather was born a slave. Although he initially wanted an outright apology, McEachin said the final version of the House resolution "doesn't sugarcoat the matter either."

McEachin said it marked an important step in the state's effort to move beyond its history of stormy race relations, which included governmentsanctioned resistance to integration during the 1950s.

"There is some pain at first, but there is a beautiful product at the end," McEachin said of his colleagues' decision to embrace the resolution. "Virginia had nothing to do with the end of slavery. It had everything do with the beginning of slavery."

That makes it official. The Man of Steel is now behind the former seat of government of the Confederate States of America in his willingness to apologise for past wrongs. The idea of redress for past wrongs is apparently even more foreign to him.

31 January 2007

Cheney in Oz

from the Man of Steel's website
I am pleased to announce that the Vice President of the United States of America, The Honorable Richard B. Cheney, will visit Australia from 22 to 27 February.

The Australia-US alliance is of enduring importance to both countries and makes a significant contribution to international security. Australia and the United States continue to work together toward our common goals. We are cooperating closely to fight terrorism, address global environmental challenges and enhance energy security, prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and promote an open international economic order. Vice President Cheney’s visit will be an important opportunity to reinforce the strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Australia and to consult on major international issues such as regional security challenges, Afghanistan, Iraq and the war against terrorism.

Vice President Cheney is no stranger to Australia. He visited previously when he was US Secretary of Defense and several times in a private business capacity.

Perhaps the prime minister and the vice-president can discuss:

  • how the Iraq insurgency is in its last throes
  • how the multinational force is having enormous success in Iraq
  • when David Hicks will finally be charged with something and whether the penalty for the charges, if they ever happen, will include 5 years plus

It's just ridiculous for the prime minister to announce this as if Iraq were the cakewalk he was told it would be, although Cheney's desire to get away for a few days is understandable.

PS oddly enough, this press release from the Prime Minister of Australia is spelt as if it had been written by an American ('honorable', 'defense'). The words were spelt 'honourable' and 'defence' on 23 January. Maybe the world changed on 26 January.

If the commenters at the conservative Wall Street Journal's blog feel like this, what is the rest of the country saying?

30 January 2007

the other side of Chickenhawk Mountain

I've blogged before (the sad state of blogger's block that hit me a while ago makes it really easy to find) that I think Bush and Cheney will probably not serve out their terms. Shoving that argument firmly to one side a moment, let's say that's true. After all, in 1974 no-one really expected Agnew to bite the dust before Nixon. Especially, no-one expected Agnew to bite the dust over a separate scandal completely unrelated to Watergate.

Anyway, the situation is all neatly covered (or not) by the US constitution. You'd really wonder how those Democrats seeking the nomination for 2008 would feel if they woke up one morning to watch President Pelosi being sworn into office. We'd probably be able to hear the gnashing of teeth all the way cross the Pacific.

Germany v Downer

After the hors d'oeuvre he touches on the German army's mission in Afghanistan. But it isn't until the main course is served that Steinmeier asks: "Do you want to talk about it now?" After a rundown of the world's crises he knows it's time for him to turn to his own personal trouble spot: The case of Murat Kurnaz, who spent four and a half years in detention at Guantanamo Bay where he was mistreated.

Steinmeier is earnest and seems a bit irritated but is by no means defensive. He insists that he feels deeply troubled by Kurnaz's story. But then he adds that, as head of the German Chancellery, it was his job to look out for German security -- and, shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, Kurnaz was considered a security risk.

What if Kurnaz, after returning from Guantanamo, had been involved in an attack, he asks? "You have to imagine what would have happened," he says, answering his own question, "if there had been an attack and it later turned out that we could have prevented it." Steinmeier is a calm person but at this point he talks himself into a rage. "I wouldn't decide any differently today," he says.

It's a strong sentence by someone who is intent on sticking to his position. Rather than make proclamations of repentance, Steinmeier wants to convince critics that his actions were necessary.

A committee of the German parliament is investigating their government's response to the War on Terror. The investigation has found that Steinmeier, now the foreign minister and then head of chancery (roughly a minister assisting in our terms) took a decision not to accept an offer of release for a Guantánamo detainee in 2002. Now that David Hicks' unlawful detention at Guantánamo has passed the five year mark, someone should ask our foreign minister and our government if they received a similar offer. It'd be strange, if not impossible, if the US was less generous to Australia than Germany.

Perhaps the government could refer the question to a competent US psychologist, since it seems they consult competent US jounalists on psychological questions.

The next question to the Australian government, if they tell us there was a US offer to Germany but not Australia, is: 'Why not?'.

27 January 2007

Don't drink the bollocks!

Eau, no: Clean, healthy and pure? Hardly. Bottled water is killing the planet
Bob Geldof said: 'Bottled water is bollocks. It is the great irony of the 21st century that the most basic things in the supermarket, such as water and bread, are among the most expensive. Getting water from the other side of the world and transporting it to sell here is ridiculous. It is all to do with lifestyle.'

Dr Michael Warhurst, Friends of the Earth's senior waste campaigner, said: 'It is another product we do not need. Bottled water companies are wasting resources and exacerbating climate change.

'Transport is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, and transporting water adds to that. We could help reduce these damaging effects if we all simply drank water straight from the tap.'

According to the EPI report, tap water is delivered through an 'energy-efficient infrastructure', whereas bottled water is often shipped halfway across the world, burning huge amounts of fossil fuels and accelerating global warming. In 2004, for example, Finnish company Nord Water sent 1.4 million bottles of Helsinki tap water to a client in Saudi Arabia. In the same year, producing the plastic bottles that delivered 26 billion litres of water to Americans required more than 1.5 million barrels of oil - enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a year.

Bottled Twaddle
Apparently we would. In March 1999 the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) published the results of a four-year study in which they tested more than 1,000 samples of 103 brands of bottled water, finding that "an estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle--sometimes further treated, sometimes not." If the label says "from a municipal source" or "from a community water system," it's tap water.

Even more disturbing, the NRDC found that 18 of the 103 brands tested had, in at least one sample, "more bacteria than allowed under microbiological-purity guidelines." About one fifth of the waters "contained synthetic organic chemicals--such as industrial chemicals (e.g., toluene or xylene) or chemicals used in manufacturing plastic (e.g., phthalate, adipate, or styrene)," but these were "generally at levels below state and federal standards." The International Bottled Water Association issued a response to the NRDC study in which it states, "Close scrutiny of the water quality standards for chemical contaminants reveals that [the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's] bottled water quality standards are the same as [the Environmental Protection Agency's] tap water standards." Well, that's a relief, but in paying exceptional prices one might hope for exceptional quality.

One problem is that bottled water is subject to less rigorous purity standards and less frequent tests for bacteria and chemical contaminants than those required of tap water. For example, bottled-water plants must test for coliform bacteria once a week; city tap water must be tested 100 or more times a month.

If bottled water is not safer (a 2001 World Wildlife Fund study corroborated the general findings of the NRDC), then surely it tastes better? It does ... as long as you believe in your brand. Enter the water-wars hype. Pepsi introduced Aquafina, so Coke countered with Dasani, a brand that included a "Wellness Team" (meet Susie, Jonny and Ellie, the "stress relief facilitator," "fitness trainer" and "lifestyle counselor," respectively) on its Web site. Both companies charge more for their plain water than for their sugar water.

BOTTLED WATER: Pouring Resources Down the Drain
In contrast to tap water, which is distributed through an energy-efficient infrastructure, transporting bottled water long distances involves burning massive quantities of fossil fuels. Nearly a quarter of all bottled water crosses national borders to reach consumers, transported by boat, train, and truck. In 2004, for example, Nord Water of Finland bottled and shipped 1.4 million bottles of Finnish tap water 4,300 kilometers (2,700 miles) from its bottling plant in Helsinki to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia can afford to import the water it needs, but bottled water is not just sold to water-scarce countries. While some 94 percent of the bottled water sold in the United States is produced domestically, Americans also import water shipped some 9,000 kilometers from Fiji and other faraway places to satisfy the demand for chic and exotic bottled water.

Fossil fuels are also used in the packaging of water. The most commonly used plastic for making water bottles is polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is derived from crude oil. Making bottles to meet Americans’ demand for bottled water requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel some 100,000 U.S. cars for a year. Worldwide, some 2.7 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year.

After the water has been consumed, the plastic bottle must be disposed of. According to the Container Recycling Institute, 86 percent of plastic water bottles used in the United States become garbage or litter. Incinerating used bottles produces toxic byproducts such as chlorine gas and ash containing heavy metals. Buried water bottles can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade. Almost 40 percent of the PET bottles that were deposited for recycling in the United States in 2004 were actually exported, sometimes to as far away as China—adding to the resources used by this product.

In addition to the strains bottled water puts on our ecosystem through its production and transport, the rapid growth in this industry means that water extraction is concentrated in communities where bottling plants are located. For example, water shortages near beverage bottling plants have been reported in Texas and in the Great Lakes region of North America. Farmers, fishers, and others who depend on water for their livelihoods suffer from the concentrated water extraction when water tables drop quickly.

So let's see. Bottled water is expensive, (largely because of branding issues) bad for the planet, bad for you, and most of us can't tell it from tap water. Doesn't seem like a hard decision, really.

26 January 2007

How not to recount an election

Ohio election workers convicted of rigging 2004 presidential recount
Jacqueline Maiden, elections coordinator of the Cuyahoga County Elections Board, and ballot manager Kathleen Dreamer each were convicted of a felony count of negligent misconduct of an elections employee. They also were convicted of one misdemeanor count each of failure of elections employees to perform their duty.

����Prosecutors accused Maiden and Dreamer of secretly reviewing preselected ballots before a public recount on Dec. 16, 2004. They worked behind closed doors for three days to pick ballots they knew would not cause discrepancies when checked by hand, prosecutors said.

��Defense attorney Roger Synenberg has said the workers were following procedures as they understood them.

����Ohio gave President Bush the electoral votes he needed to defeat Democratic Sen. John Kerry in the close election and hold on to the White House in 2004.

Convictions in Ohio Recount Tampering Case
Why would they do such a thing? Does this mean that the election really was stolen after all?


The prosecutor in the case didn't allege that the recount was rigged for political reasons. Rather, it appears that the officials did so in order to avoid having to manually recount over 600,000 punch card ballots. Had they really selected the 3% of ballots at random, it's likely that the hand and machine counts wouldn't have matched. Remember that Cuyahoga was using punch card ballots. An inherent problem with this equipment is that hanging chad can get pressed back into place when put through the machine. Sometimes, chad can actually come out during the recounting process. A truly random recount would likely have meant that all the ballots in Cuyahoga County would have to have been recounted. As I mentioned at the time the indictment came down, I wouldn't be surprised if the allegations are true. In fact, I suspect that officials in Ohio's other counties did the same thing.

To be clear, this isn't at all to excuse the conduct in which these officials engaged, or to deny that they deserve to have been convicted. Where the law prescribes a particular procedure, it's critically important that those procedures be followed -- even when it's certain that the outcome won't be affected. The failure to follow prescribed procedures will only contribute to public distrust of the integrity of our election system, something that nobody wants (except that small cadre of pundits who have made a career out of spinning conspiracy theories about stolen elections). The crimes of which these officials have now been convicted are therefore serious ones ... even though they didn't affect the outcome of the 2004 election.

Okay, the Kerry Administration stays in the realm of alternate history, but it's ridiculous that election laws can be blatantly ignored, there's no way to test that by a proper recount, and the only form of review is a criminal prosecution 2 years after the election. Even if the Ohio case had shown now that Kerry should have got Ohio's votes, that would not undo the count in the electoral college where Ohio's votes elected Bush.