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July 9, 2004 5:00 AM   Subscribe

The dog ate my service records. The Pentagon has announced that the payroll records for National Guard service for three months between 1972 and 1973 have been accidentally destroyed. These three months coincidentally cover the disputed period of George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard. (Similar Google link here, via dKos)
posted by XQUZYPHYR (71 comments total)

 
<waves hand>These aren't the files you're looking for. Move along. Move along.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:04 AM on July 9, 2004


In recent news, Justice Department enlightens the whole IT community by revealing copying databases will destroy them. In less recent news, Diebold discovers there could be computer error in countings and in old news Arthur Andersen discovers destroying records and deleting emails is actually more useful then storing them.

Now we learn looking at certain microfilm will make the microfilm vanish and maybe a couple bullets duct taped on your door if you dare ask again. Oh the land of Freedom of Information.
posted by elpapacito at 5:11 AM on July 9, 2004


I'm sure that the dates are purely a coincidence. [cough]
posted by nofundy at 5:15 AM on July 9, 2004


Ahhhhhh-hahahhah! Hee hee...heh. Huh. Fuck.

(I felt bad about actually posting LOL, but I really did laugh out loud. So pathetically incompetent at their lies (and thank god for that, I must add), these folks. Black comedy gold.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:29 AM on July 9, 2004


This boggles my mind. And of course it'll barely be reported, so the public will think this whole thing blew over months ago.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 5:32 AM on July 9, 2004


Microfilm is that brittle, after only 24 years?? Anyone know if that is realistic?
posted by Goofyy at 6:00 AM on July 9, 2004


The sad thing is that nobody really notices these 'obvious' events.

As long as the public is glued to their American Idol and driving their SUVs, nobody is going to give a shit about anything else.
posted by eas98 at 6:02 AM on July 9, 2004


The "fool the American people" saga goes on. When do we actually get really mad? How much does it take until we take to the streets with baseball bats in our hands? Where the fuck is ParisParamus to clear the confusion?
posted by acrobat at 6:14 AM on July 9, 2004


take to the streets with baseball bats in our hands?

Um, you're going to want more than a baseball bat, methinks. Not that I'm suggesting anything, of course, but I would like to point out that the assault weapons ban is due to expire shortly, and certain then-legal devices would be a LOT more effective than baseball bats....
posted by aramaic at 6:28 AM on July 9, 2004


Hey, it could be true; coincidences like this happen. It may not be the devious and immoral lie to protect the president and assure his re-election, that you all think it is.

Somebody slap me, please.
posted by Blue Stone at 6:29 AM on July 9, 2004


Sssshhh, I think I can faintly hear Nixon chuckling in Hell's penalty box.

alternative comment: I think the papers are in Reagan's coffin.
posted by planetkyoto at 6:35 AM on July 9, 2004


Goofyy, microfilm is shite, especially early microfilm (the early 70s would qualify). Current microfilm is supposed to be safer. We'll see.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 6:36 AM on July 9, 2004


I've emailed the link to John Kerry's campaign site.
posted by orange swan at 6:36 AM on July 9, 2004


Well, we can count our slim blessings - that the Pentagon isn't "disappearing" people, or sending them to Gulags/Gitmos, and then photoshopping their images out of official photographs...yet.

This latest bullcrap stinks of Soviet-era methods - both for it's obviousness, and for the uwillingness of the most prostrate press to pick up the story from the NYT.
posted by troutfishing at 6:37 AM on July 9, 2004


What an incredible coincidence.

Terribly rough back-of-the-envelope calculation:

Roughly 9 million people served during the Vietnam era. Let's assume an average term of duty of 3 years (due to deaths, etc). There are 12 months in a year, so there would be 324 million months of data. That these 3 months would be destroyed among those 324 million records by accident is, literally, a 100 million to one shot.

Of course, they don't say how extensive the data loss was. If they lost 100 million months worth of data, this is not quite as impressive.

But for them to loose enough data for this not to be an *INCREDIBLE* long-shot is beyond the probable.
posted by Ynoxas at 6:44 AM on July 9, 2004


What's most striking is the claim that these records were destroyed in 1996 and 1997- mind you, not even just before the whole argument started, but even before 2000, when BUSH HIMSELF claimed that he "released all his records."

How could Bush have possibly released all his records in 2000 if, at that time, the Pentagon clearly would have told him part of them were destroyed three years earlier? I'm pretty sure the keyword here is "lying."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:57 AM on July 9, 2004


Um, what are you all doing wasting your time on this non-story? Aren't you aware that Osama bin Laden HIMSELF is plotting terror attacks against us?
posted by crank at 6:58 AM on July 9, 2004


I am shocked--shocked!--to find that gambling is going on in here.
posted by mookieproof at 7:03 AM on July 9, 2004


crank - good point - the so-called "Terror Alert" system really seems to be an "Index of how Scared Shitless the Administration Is Over Breaking News Story."
posted by soyjoy at 7:09 AM on July 9, 2004


Of course, they don't say how extensive the data loss was. If they lost 100 million months worth of data, this is not quite as impressive.

Any single roll of microfilm would contain thousands of records for thousands of people. Not quite as impressive.

And old microfilm sucks. Acetate microfilm from the early 1970s is definitely at risk:

"Microfilm that does not manifest visible signs of deterioration is still at risk. The acetic acid and associated gases released as by-products of the chemical reaction are also a catalyst in the further decay of the film. High temperatures and humidity levels can combine with the acetic acid in the film base, causing an accelerated decay. ... Once acetate film reaches the autocatylitic point, the decaying film begins to 'feed on itself,' and the rate of decomposition becomes very rapid."

"Since many important records are stored on microfilm, preserving the information held on the acetate film is not only vital but may also have legal implications. Therefore, the most significant damage concerning acetate microfilm is not the distortion of the film, but the loss of information on the film. Loss of information is obviously a critical concern for organizations that hold the only copy of certain permanent records."

It's not that surprising that the DFAS would have tried to preserve their old microfilm, or that their success rate was less than 100%.
posted by rory at 7:09 AM on July 9, 2004


Errr, keep in mind this is the same Pentagon who's asking cities:

"Our records show we have 'on loan' to you 3 cannons and a bunch of cannonballs. Please tell us their status."
posted by rough ashlar at 7:11 AM on July 9, 2004


From February 2004:
A former officer in the Texas National Guard said Thursday he once overheard a conversation in which there was a request to sanitize President Bush's Guard records during Bush's tenure as Texas governor.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:55 AM on July 9, 2004


The obvious question seems to be: are these the only records that were "accidentally" destroyed in the project?
posted by casarkos at 7:56 AM on July 9, 2004


Didn't they read the machine...? It clearly said "I eat tapes."
posted by drezdn at 8:05 AM on July 9, 2004


If the microfilm was destroyed several years before Bush even had plans to run for office, what's the "collusion" theory? That Bush had the Pentagon destroy them to cover up...what?
posted by dhoyt at 8:53 AM on July 9, 2004


dhoyt, I suspect Bush has plans to run for office when he was still in diapers.
posted by kgasmart at 9:00 AM on July 9, 2004


I EAT TAPES. I AM NICE TO BUSH.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:02 AM on July 9, 2004


I suspect Bush has plans to run for office when he was still in diapers.

Actually, he didn't.

I remember a television interview just after he was nominated as a Republican candidate for the presidency. The interviewer said something like, "What kind of president are you going to be?" and he said, "Well up until a few days ago, I didn't even know I was in the running!" He seemed genuinely surprised at the possibility, and he's too dumb to act that convincingly. It was something of a joke on his part, but was later used by both liberals and conservatives to either highlight his lack of focus or to celebrate his "beltway outsider" status. I voted for Clinton twice and sometimes miss him being in office, but if you're looking for someone who was considering the presidency when in diapers, he is your man.

So again: why would anyone attempt to destroy his records in '96? Is it what kirkaracha's link suggested?
posted by dhoyt at 9:18 AM on July 9, 2004


"Well up until a few days ago, I didn't even know I was in the running!"

1) a bush lie is the foundation of your argument.

He seemed genuinely surprised at the possibility, and he's too dumb to act that convincingly.

2) two subjective observations bolster your argument.

was later used by both liberals and conservatives to either highlight his lack of focus or to celebrate his "beltway outsider" status.

3) bush lie is treated as fact by political manipulators from both sides.

4) you buy it all.
posted by quonsar at 9:25 AM on July 9, 2004


You call Bush's first statement a "lie" without knowing much about it, and then talk about "subjective observations to bolster" one's arguement??

I'm saying I've "bought" anything, old man. I'm posing a valid question here. No need to feel so threatened. I didn't vote for the man nor do I support 90% of his positions, but when the shit starts getting flung around here, I'd rather ask the contrary questions rather than blindly walking around with outstretched arms like a zombie, muttering, "bush sux...bush sux...."
posted by dhoyt at 9:44 AM on July 9, 2004


"I'm not saying I've "bought" anything..."

ahem
posted by dhoyt at 9:48 AM on July 9, 2004


"Old man"? q is your dad?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:10 AM on July 9, 2004


dhoyt, i can appreciate asking questions and trying not to fall into a rut of "bush bad" thinking...

...but for how long are to we to extend the bush administration the benefit of the doubt?

- bush just happened to sell his harken stocks before they devalued

- cheney just happens to go duck hunting with a supreme court justice while a case of his is being decided by the supreme court

- blacks in florida, who tend to vote for democrats, just happen to be disproportionately affected by a voter purge

- bush's records for a critical three month period about which many people are asking questions just happen to be among those "inadvertently" destroyed.

and those are just a very few examples. at a certain point, extending the benefit of the doubt to this administration ceases to be a decent thing to do, crosses over into disingenuousness, and veers closely towards wilful ignorance.

on the other hand, maybe i'm being too cynical, and it's just that these dudes need to forget about being politicians and head to vegas for no-limit blackjack and poker, because things that "just happen" and benefit them tremendously seem to occur with amazing frequency.
posted by lord_wolf at 10:12 AM on July 9, 2004


If the microfilm was destroyed several years before Bush even had plans to run for office ...

That would depend on which office wouldn't it? He was, after all, campaigning to become the governor of Texas in 1997. You don't think people running for governorships try to clean up their records as well? And you don't think he was thinking about running for governor before he did?
posted by Orb at 10:30 AM on July 9, 2004


The really strange thing is, the microfilm did exist just three weeks ago, according to the people who were dealing with the AP.

Associated Press Assistant General Counsel Dave Tomlin told me yesterday that AP reporters began trying to get the documents back in February, but hit roadblock after roadblock. Tomlin said the AP has been informed that the microfilm in question does indeed exist. Tomlin said that because paper records can vanish and be tampered with, the microfilm "would erase any questions."
posted by soyjoy at 10:41 AM on July 9, 2004


That would depend on which office wouldn't it? He was, after all, campaigning to become the governor of Texas in 1997.

Orb wins!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:44 AM on July 9, 2004


Looks like the 1996-7 date is yet another lie. Here's what was said earlier:

Associated Press Assistant General Counsel Dave Tomlin told me yesterday that AP reporters began trying to get the documents back in February, but hit roadblock after roadblock.

Tomlin said the AP has been informed that the microfilm in question does indeed exist. Tomlin said that because paper records can vanish and be tampered with, the microfilm "would erase any questions."


Either way there's a LOT of lying going on. And I think I know where it is coming from. [Looks towards White Wash House]
posted by nofundy at 10:58 AM on July 9, 2004


Uhh.. what soyjoy said ... much faster than I did!
posted by nofundy at 10:59 AM on July 9, 2004


Too bad, I hear that the microfilm proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that Bush killed Vince Foster.
posted by rks404 at 11:02 AM on July 9, 2004


And besides, they CLAIM the records were destroyed in 1996 or 1997. Let's see some actual proof of that, shall we?

XQUZYPHYR's observation:

"How could Bush have possibly released all his records in 2000 if, at that time, the Pentagon clearly would have told him part of them were destroyed three years earlier? I'm pretty sure the keyword here is "lying.""

is most astute. Clearly, the Pentagon should have notified Bush and everyone else in 2000 that those records had been destroyed. I think it's all a lie, and that the records have been "retroactively eliminated." However, some more information on the full extent of the destruction of such records would be helpful... but this just smells like the same old thing.

I pretty much predict such skullduggery will continue, and that this election coming up may already be completely rigged. We'll see. I've been thinking to myself for a long time now that if we don't get the Bush cabal out of the White House this November, we never will again. This just adds fuel to that fire for me. Makes me sad to think about, too... that people will see this constant pattern of lies and coverups, and rationalize it away until it's far too late.

*sigh*

On preview: yep, Orb got it right. *sigh* again. Lies, lies, lies... and more than half the country is so snowed by the perception of Bush as a "manly, strong" man and President because he's not afraid to start wars, that they will not see it.

*sigh*
posted by zoogleplex at 11:12 AM on July 9, 2004


Orb wins!

Conceiving that a MeFi discussion has "winners" and "losers", even as a joke, is something I really hate about this place sometimes. This ain't Fark.

In any case:
It'd be interested to see if the records-destroying is/was related to his governorship and not his presidency. Anyone know the punishment he'd face if he's found guilty of colluding with Pentagon or Nat'l Guard folks in destroying them? Just curious how the legal procedures would occur, if there wasn't outright impeachment.
posted by dhoyt at 11:18 AM on July 9, 2004


zoogleplex, your thoughts echo my own. at this point, the only hope and dream i cling to is that i get to finish reading the dark tower series before the imminent apocalypse engulfs us all.

anyone know the punishment he'd face if he's found guilty of colluding with Pentagon or Nat'l Guard folks in destroying them?

ha ha! never, never in a gajillion years, would this president actually be found guilty of something. even if this were pursued and undeniable evidence of malfeasance was discovered, the blame and punishment for it would fall upon an aide to an assistant to a deputy to an adjunct rather than bush. and that person would most likely be rewarded sub rosa for publicly taking the hit for dear leader.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:40 AM on July 9, 2004


anyone know the punishment he'd face if he's found guilty of colluding with Pentagon or Nat'l Guard folks in destroying them?

from who? Ashcroft and the Justice Dept.? the Republican-controlled Senate? The CIA? The FBI?
posted by amberglow at 11:48 AM on July 9, 2004


From the article:

It said the payroll records of "numerous service members," including former First Lt. Bush, had been ruined in 1996 and 1997 by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service during a project to salvage deteriorating microfilm. No back-up paper copies could be found, it added in notices dated June 25. [emphasis added]

What some other folks say about microfilm:

The enduring popularity of preservation microfilm is because of its practicality. Unlike its digital counterpart, microfilm is the product of a nearly static, tested technology that is governed by carefully crafted national standards. When created and stored according to these standards, microfilm boasts a life expectancy of 500+ years. It is also worth noting that, while digital data require use of a sophisticated retrieval system to access their treasures, microforms (i.e., microfilm and microfiche) can be read by the naked eye using only light and magnification.

'Course, anything can happen. WMDs, terrorist connections, and microfilm all sometimes spontaneously start to decay, you know.

From the article:

Military records that could help establish President Bush's whereabouts during his disputed service in the Texas Air National Guard more than 30 years ago have been inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon.

Some of the Kos folks note that this seems to be a natural meme for this administration:

The Bill of Rights--inadvertently destroyed
Jobs for millions--inadvertently destroyed
Fiscal sanity--inadvertently destroyed
International credibility--inadvertently destroyed
Iraq - inadvertently destroyed
Afghanistan - inadvertently destroyed
Geneva Convention - inadvertently destroyed
Noncombatants - inadvertently destroyed
The Environment - inadevertently destroyed
Medicare - inadevertently destroyed
Patient's Rights - inadevertently destroyed
Freedom of Information Act - inadevertently destroyed


Or maybe the dog just ate them all, eh?

Conceiving that a MeFi discussion has "winners" and "losers", even as a joke, is something I really hate about this place sometimes

Really. One can't possibly imagine why that would bother you and yours so much.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:51 AM on July 9, 2004


"These aren't the microfilm you've been looking for..."

Proof once again Dick Cheney is Darth Vader.
posted by aaronscool at 12:12 PM on July 9, 2004


My smugness meter just exploded.
posted by dhoyt at 12:15 PM on July 9, 2004


False consciousness. Go read some Karl Marx.
posted by Keyser Soze at 12:18 PM on July 9, 2004


And so y'all head further up shit creek without a shit paddle.

[droll] What a wonderful time to be an American, eh?
posted by five fresh fish at 12:21 PM on July 9, 2004


Yawn......
posted by Durwood at 1:33 PM on July 9, 2004


/me barfs up a chewed-up roll of microfilm

arf!
posted by trondant at 1:41 PM on July 9, 2004


So what's the status now? The government has no record of paying him? Fine.

Has anyone asked the IRS to dig up how much was on the W2 form from the DoD?

Acrobat: I'm old enough to remember an occasion or two some 33 years ago when folks were mad enough to be running in the streets (with and without baseball bats). However, be aware that--even then--the National Guard had these really slick jeeps with 20-ft-wide barbed wire barriers mounted to the fronts. Line a few of those up and they decide where you run. Jus sayin . . .
posted by ahimsakid at 1:42 PM on July 9, 2004


blacks in florida, who tend to vote for democrats, just happen to be disproportionately affected by a voter purge
This statement is untrue. While African Americans tend to vote democratic and the voter purge process was flawed:

- The Palm Beach Post claims 20 of 67 counties did not use the voter purge list at all

- "Of the 19,398 voters removed from the rolls, more than 14,600 matched a felon by name, birthdate, race and gender."

While it's not made clear, I believe that 19,398 number is the total number of people on the voter purge list that were actually used by county election officials in 47 counties.

- "But a review of state records, internal e-mails of DBT employees and testimony before the civil rights commission and an elections task force showed no evidence that minorities were specifically targeted."

- "The commission says it has no evidence of a conspiracy but would like an investigation to find out if any of the disparity was intentional. "

- The NAACP and others sued election officials in seven counties and Katherine Harris. The case was settled by her replacement, Jim Smith with no apparent admission of guilt.

- Even though Harris even acknowledges there were problems, the evidence does not point to intentional disenfranchisement of any political, racial or ethnic group.

- The disenfranchisement of felons is an entirely separate issue.

- In 20 the twenty counties that did not use the voter purge list, it was possible for a felon to vote. There is evidence that felons did vote.

- "the evidence points to just the opposite, that election officials were mostly permissive, not obstructionist, when unregistered voters presented themselves. (Miami Herald Report, p. 105)"
posted by sequential at 1:50 PM on July 9, 2004


*stares at immense pool of bullshit* "Look, Marge...I'm soaking in it!"
posted by FormlessOne at 2:25 PM on July 9, 2004


"- The Palm Beach Post claims 20 of 67 counties did not use the voter purge list at all"

forgive me, but i don't understand how this claim that less than half the counties did not use the list excuses anything.

- "But a review of state records, internal e-mails of DBT employees and testimony before the civil rights commission and an elections task force showed no evidence that minorities were specifically targeted."

they might not have add access to all the records.

the pdf you sent me seems to take a particularly indignant tone, while acknowledging that there were some issues. i found the section where they mentioned the intimidation by state troopers amusing: they seem to argue that b/c only two witnesses mentioned it, that means it didn't happen or it wasn't worth noting. in the immediate aftermath of the election, i seem to recall more widespread reports of such things being done.

in any event, things are a little less simple than i had perhaps allowed earlier. in which case, for purposes of clarity and to increase the efficacy of my argument, i withdraw that statement.

however, i'm sticking to the idea that mr. president has seemed to benefit quite a bit from things just happening.
posted by lord_wolf at 2:41 PM on July 9, 2004


My guess is that the paper records will be found eventually. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, and most definitely not before the election, but truth has this annoying tendancy to eventually bubble to the surface.
posted by drezdn at 2:43 PM on July 9, 2004


My guess is the paper records are long gone. I know where they would be -- right over there, in the National Personnel Records Center. They've already had their record destroying fire, so it'll have to be something else.

There is exactly one piece of paper I want to see from Bush's service record. The DD-214 We've seen both of Kerry's (the one discharging him as an enlisted man to attend OCS, and the one separating him as an officer.)

All I want to see is the RE Code -- the Reenlistment Eligibility. It'll tell us everything we need to know about how he left the service.

Why we haven't seen this form, despite Bush releasing "all" of the records? I can't say. But I'm betting on an 2-something.
posted by eriko at 3:09 PM on July 9, 2004


*oops*

Oh those crazy, clumsy Republicans - another unfortunate & inadvertent loss of data!
posted by madamjujujive at 3:55 PM on July 9, 2004


forgive me, but i don't understand how this claim that less than half the counties did not use the list excuses anything.
No one is making excuses. What it means is that in 20 counties, felons were allowed to vote.
they might not have add access to all the records.
Did you even read this link?
Yet Harris' office says it withheld records of what it termed personal e-mails from the computers used by Republican lobbyist J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich and political consultant Adam Goodman before providing data to news organizations a few weeks ago.
These "records" are on a personal computer. At best, they'd indicate intent to manipulate the recount.

What missing emails on a two computers "of two Republican operatives who came to work in Harris' offices during the 36-day presidential recount period" has to do with the voter purge which predated them by over a year is beyond me.
the pdf you sent me seems to take a particularly indignant tone,
It's a dissenting opinion. It's not meant to represent my opinion, but it at least fills you in on the opinion of people who did not agree with the US Civil Rights Comission. Whether you agree with everything the dissenters say is irrelevant. Their point is that the US Civil Rights Commission did not report all of the facts and by doing so they did some harm to their argument by making it a partisan argument. The tone and some of their evidence may be subject to further scrutiny but their message was clear.
however, i'm sticking to the idea that mr. president has seemed to benefit quite a bit from things just happening.
That's not a bad idea. Fool me once, shame on.... shame on.

By the way, I'm most certainly not a shill for Mr. Bush, Republicans in general or even trying to simply play devils advocate. All I really care about is that in elections the law is evenly applied and everyone has the same opportunity to vote. This didn't happen in Florida in 2000, but the uneven application of the law benefited Bush and Gore. The felon disenfranchisement law disgusts me, but I think the 1998 law that moved the power to create the voter purge list from county officials to state officials is a good idea that was implemented VERY badly. How Harris went unscathed and became a member of the House of Representatives is well beyond me.
posted by sequential at 5:42 PM on July 9, 2004


Conceiving that a MeFi discussion has "winners" and "losers", even as a joke, is something I really hate about this place sometimes.

Loser.

Lighten up.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:21 PM on July 9, 2004


What missing emails on a two computers "of two Republican operatives who came to work in Harris' offices during the 36-day presidential recount period" has to do with the voter purge which predated them by over a year is beyond me.

again, i ask your pardon. what i meant to illustrate with that link was that it was not beyond the group associated with overseeing the election in florida to delete records that they know they should not have. meaning that i believe it likely that just b/c the commission investigating the allegations of discrimination got records from this group doesn't mean they got all of the records.

No one is making excuses. What it means is that in 20 counties, felons were allowed to vote.

but if the purge-list was formed in reaction to the scandal in a miami vote, if the officials were so concerned about seeing to it that the scandal wasn't repeated, why didn't they see to it that there was 100% compliance with the list? forgive me if this was discussed in one of the links you provided. i was at work trying to, uh, multitask, and you hit me with quite a bit to read while "multitasking." ;-)

By the way, I'm most certainly not a shill for Mr. Bush, Republicans in general or even trying to simply play devils advocate.

it's all good, brother. (or sister, if that's more appropriate.) i come to mefi to discuss things like this b/c, sadly, i don't know everything and i can only learn by being engaged and debated. plus when i talk about things like this with people around me, their eyes glaze over after about 2.5 minutes....
posted by lord_wolf at 7:51 PM on July 9, 2004


Correction: The Poor Man now reports that the exact documents requested by the AP do not include those that accidentally got shredded forcibly deteriorated. I had no idea their suit was so specific - I thought the whole point was that Bush had to make good on his promise to release all the records - but apparently not. This fellow Paul Lukasiak says otherwise, and he seems to have been following the whole matter pretty closely.
posted by soyjoy at 9:45 PM on July 9, 2004


it's all good, brother. (or sister, if that's more appropriate.) i come to mefi to discuss things like this b/c, sadly, i don't know everything and i can only learn by being engaged and debated. plus when i talk about things like this with people around me, their eyes glaze over after about 2.5 minutes....
I don't see you as an adversary in any way. Instead, I've enjoyed our dialogue immensely. I feel the same as you about MeFi (and discussion in general).
why didn't they see to it that there was 100% compliance with the list?
There are two possibilities that are possibly true at the same time.
  1. From a data analysis perspective, DBT did their best combining multiple datasets with individual data points that had disperate properties. When they believed they had an accurate list, they were told to be overly cautious. Basically, DBT increased their margin of error from 3% to 15% and netted a lot of false possitives. They did this by using some fuzzy matching of birthdates and surnames with their existing list. Accuracy is hard in this scenario. DBT's employer, the state of Florida, instructed them specifically to be less accurate. (From what I understand, this is well documented.)
  2. The Miami scandal included 100 felons and 1 dead person voting. If anything, the way the 1998 law was carried out under Katherine Harris, the 2000 Presidential election was far worse than the Miami ordeal. 5,600 felons voted, an unknown number of people were unallowed to vote, the same standard of judging votes was not applied to all ballots... the list goes on. By taking the voter purge records out of the control of 67 individual counties control and giving it to the state to handle, they created a single point of failure. And it failed miserably.
The reason the whole DBT thing came to light in the first place is that the original list handed out to the counties contained some 8,000 felons convicted in the state of Texas. This list was given by then governor of Texas George W. Bush. This caused a ruckus and was the initial point at which county officials called into question the validity of the list.

I think it's safe to conclude that individual operators were playing partisan politics at the state and county level. What hasn't been proven is that there was intentional disenfranchisement of individual political, ethnic or racial groups. There's a world of difference between the two, yet they look nearly identical. Why didn't Harris hang for this?

Katherine Harris resigned her position as the Florida Secretary of State amidst another elections controversy. Jeb Bush appointed Jim Smith as her temporary replacement
until January 7, 2003, when the Florida Department of State became an agency under the office of the governor.

In the first month of his second tenure as Florida Secretary of State, he settled the lawsuit brought forth by primarily by the NAACP and asked the US Justice Department to help stave off yet another elections fiasco in 2002.

He was replaced by former Mayor of Orlando, the Honorable Glenda E. Hood. In just two years, she has been involved in not one, not two, not three, but four election scandals. She responds to her critics briefly to the New York Times. When is it time to call shenanigans?

Sorry, that's more reading. ;-)
posted by sequential at 10:16 PM on July 9, 2004


Bush/Cheney '04: Returning honor and integrity to the White House.
posted by moonbiter at 12:33 AM on July 10, 2004


can they wash the blood out of the carpet while they're at it?
posted by trondant at 8:20 AM on July 10, 2004


When created and stored according to these standards, microfilm boasts a life expectancy of 500+ years.

Meaning modern polyester microfilm used widely since the 1980s. Pre-1980s acetate microfilm is a different matter altogether.

Leaving questions about possible White House cover-ups to one side, it is plausible that microfilm records of this vintage were considered to be at risk, and that some were damaged in the attempt to preserve them. Some of you in this thread are responding as if the very idea of microfilm being lost is pure fantasy, but it's not. Read Nicholson Baker's Double Fold for more on the dangers of microfilm and microfilming to our historical and literary record.

Question the White House's claims, by all means, but suggesting that acetate microfilm will last for centuries is misguided.
posted by rory at 8:49 AM on July 10, 2004


The Times article linked in the FPP now has this correction:
An article yesterday about the destruction of some payroll records of National Guard members, including President Bush, misstated the record of White House acknowledgment of the loss. The White House indeed took note of the missing information last February when it released hundreds of pages of Mr. Bush's military files. In a briefing paper for reporters on Feb. 10, summarizing those files, it noted that payroll records for the third quarter of 1972 had been lost when they were transferred to microfiche.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 3:54 PM on July 10, 2004


Basically, DBT increased their margin of error from 3% to 15% and netted a lot of false possitives.

In other words, they prevented fifteen ordinary citizens from voting in the name of preventing one or two released felons from voting. Oh, that makes eversomuch sense.

the numbers are wrong, the idea is not: they barred a few more felons at the cost of barring far more valid voters
posted by five fresh fish at 5:17 PM on July 10, 2004


sequential - you're cherry picking your quotes. Bad form.

For example, take this quote you cited, from an AP story you linked to :

"The commission says it has no evidence of a conspiracy but would like an investigation to find out if any of the disparity was intentional."

You seem to have omitted what I find to most significant in the story- the HEADLINE sentence : "The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights approved a report Friday that suggests blacks disproportionately had their ballots discounted in Florida's elections, leading to widespread violations of the Voting Rights Act. ".

Selective quotation.

So, the original question stands - If "accidents" tend to skew disproportionately to the benefit of one political interest group, what do we call this ?

And, another funny coincidence, indeed :

Track the fallout from the NAACP lawsuit (your link) :

""The most significant part of the settlement is how the central voter database will be set up, restoring to the rolls the people who were wrongfully purged," said Anita Hodgkiss, a plaintiffs' attorney with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights."

Alas! - Somehow, those voter purge roles remained in effect in Florida in the 2002 election and, indeed. should also be in effect in November 2004.

The numbers may also be considerably greater than those you cite.

"Caltech-MIT team finds 4-6 million votes lost in 2000 election; Nationwide reforms outlined in report" :

"Four to six million votes, a number which is double the population of Chicago, were lost in the 2000 presidential election due to problems with ballots, equipment, registration or at the polling place, according to a joint analysis by experts at the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology."

Sorry for the big blocks of text, but they do tend to fend off certain behaviors :

"One Million Black Votes Didn't Count in the 2000 Presidential Election

It's not too hard to get your vote lost -- if some politicians want it to be lost


by Greg Palast
 
In the 2000 presidential election, 1.9 million Americans cast ballots that no one counted. "Spoiled votes" is the technical term. The pile of ballots left to rot has a distinctly dark hue: About 1 million of them -- half of the rejected ballots -- were cast by African Americans although black voters make up only 12 percent of the electorate.

This year, it could get worse.

These ugly racial statistics are hidden away in the mathematical thickets of the appendices to official reports coming out of the investigation of ballot-box monkey business in Florida from the last go-'round.

How do you spoil 2 million ballots? Not by leaving them out of the fridge too long. A stray mark, a jammed machine, a punch card punched twice will do it. It's easy to lose your vote, especially when some politicians want your vote lost.

While investigating the 2000 ballot count in Florida for BBC Television, I saw firsthand how the spoilage game was played -- with black voters the predetermined losers.

Florida's Gadsden County has the highest percentage of black voters in the state -- and the highest spoilage rate. One in 8 votes cast there in 2000 was never counted. Many voters wrote in "Al Gore." Optical reading machines rejected these because "Al" is a "stray mark."

By contrast, in neighboring Tallahassee, the capital, vote spoilage was nearly zip; every vote counted. The difference? In Tallahassee's white-majority county, voters placed their ballots directly into optical scanners. If they added a stray mark, they received another ballot with instructions to correct it.

In other words, in the white county, make a mistake and get another ballot; in the black county, make a mistake, your ballot is tossed.

The U.S. Civil Rights Commission looked into the smelly pile of spoiled ballots and concluded that, of the 179,855 ballots invalidated by Florida officials, 53 percent were cast by black voters. In Florida, a black citizen was 10 times as likely to have a vote rejected as a white voter.

But let's not get smug about Florida's Jim Crow spoilage rate. Civil Rights Commissioner Christopher Edley, recently appointed dean of Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley, took the Florida study nationwide. His team discovered the uncomfortable fact that Florida is typical of the nation.

Philip Klinkner, the statistician working on the Edley investigations, concluded, "It appears that about half of all ballots spoiled in the U.S.A. -- about 1 million votes -- were cast by nonwhite voters."

_______________

A fine PR show, technically speaking and - based on your behavior in this thread - you need to convince me that you're not pushing a scripted, prepackaged, bought-and-paid-for agenda.

I dislike harsh words.


Meanwhile - back to the issue of GW Bush's mysteriously disappearing records........( Good derail! )
posted by troutfishing at 10:18 PM on July 10, 2004


rory - an appropriate point, yes.

Acetate becomes unstable with age, sure.

Regardless, the destruction of evidence in this case has all the precision of a surgeon's scalpel.
posted by troutfishing at 10:23 PM on July 10, 2004


Incidently, the New York Times is now reporting this:
Of nearly 48,000 Florida residents on the felon list, only 61 are Hispanic. By contrast, more than 22,000 are African-American. About 8% of Florida voters describe themselves as Hispanic, and about 11% as black... black voters are overwhelmingly Democratic, while Hispanics in Florida tend to vote Republican... The paucity of Hispanic voters on the felon list was first reported Wednesday, by The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, but officials said then that the problem was not systematic. After The New York Times examined the data, state officials acknowledged that the method for matching lists of felons to those of voters automatically exempted all felons who identified themselves as Hispanic... The exclusion of Hispanics from the purge list explains some of the wide discrepancy in party affiliation of voters on the felon list, which bears the names of 28,025 Democrats and just 9,521 Republicans, with most of the rest unaffiliated."
To my eyes, that looks like pretty damning evidence that the felon's list was designed to specifically reduce the Democrat vote.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:05 AM on July 11, 2004


a) the 2000 felons’ exclusion list had a considerable number of errors in it, probably between 20% and 30% of the names on the list were on there in error;

b) these errors were racially biased, such that more African-American registered voters were on the list in error than either Whites or Latinos;

c) that the decentralized process by which the felons’ list was used to purge the voter rolls resulted in a sometimes judicious but sometimes partisan purging process – Democratic county supervisors were less likely to use the felons’ list than Republican ones, but even the latter found considerable, biased errors in the list. (1) Formatted for clarity
The argument and sources I present above, despite troutfishing's attempt to skew my words otherwise, were not intended to say there was no disenfranchisment in the 2000 elections. Instead, I present the narrow argument that the implementation of the voter purge list was inconsistent and did not amount, in my point of view, to disenfranchisement.

For the record and to fend off any more back stabs by people who's politics I regularly identify with, I do believe disenfranchisement happened, is happening and will continue to happen. Furthermore, I want to firmly state that I believe this is wrong, patently un-American and criminal. I thought I made it clear when I asked why Harris didn't hang or when I linked to several papers about fellon disenfranchisement that clearly illustrate it's not a good thing. What is not clear to me is the way the purge list was used, in 43 counties, but not in 24 counties, amounts to disenfranchisement. The intention of the list is clearly to influence the vote, though I only have circumstantial evidence.

I believe the manner in which the list was created was, in fact, politically motivated. The manner in which it was implemented at the county level was, too, politically motivated. These inconsistencies were what the 1998 law sought to address, but over and over again, since 1998, 2000 and 2002, the voter purge list has been a mess. Now it has been abandoned by the secretary of the state of Florida and tossed back in the county officials hands. (2) This too appears to be politically motivated and will, undoubtedly, give either candidate a leg to stand on for legal challenges when they lose the state.

Florida is a fucking mess. It has gotten worse. (3)

The NYT article five fresh fish cites (reprint) is referring to the voter purge list in 2004. As previously mentioned, this list has been abandonded and will not be used in the 2004 elections.

My opinion on the voter purge list is not, in any way, final - I just don't have enough data and the data I have smells fishy. And I admit, it is subjective. Up until recently, I believed precisely what troutfishing and lord_wolf believed. However, the water is a lot murkier than the pundits would have you believe. In time, it appears that historians, not judges or voters, will have the last say in all of this.
posted by sequential at 12:49 AM on July 18, 2004


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