American Views Abroad

Saturday, October 30, 2004
Here's a footnote about my registration experiences. I checked with the U.S. Consulate and was informed that the registrations were sent via "pouch mail" to the county clerks of the respective states and counties. So my registration would have gone to the offices of Greg Hartmann, Country Clerk of Hamilton Country, who, by the way, is a Republican. There is no way to determine how it got lost.

I'm noticing the trend that everyone is sick of election news and politics these days. I know that studying the newspapers intensively since the Iraq war began has taken its toll on me. One has to envy people like George W. Bush who do not read newspapers. So I offer here a slight diversion by Mark Twain to help people to take their minds off the election, or at least help move things into another perspective. Please read Mark Twain's Running For Governor.

The headline on the front page of yesterday's International Herald Tribune -- Iraqi Toll is Put at 100,000 ---left me feeling too sick to write about it. Brooklyn Bridge wrote it up yesterday under 100,000 at It needs to be read and passed around.

Thursday, October 28, 2004
Roaming through the political blogs and sites I usually read has left me with an uncanny feeling today. At Unfutz,, who has taken on the huge task of tracking the electoral college votes via many sites, he begins his last Summary with ' It's quiet out there ---too quiet.' Body and Soul, , passes on the tip of having MoveOn's Election Protection Card on you when trying to vote. It gives information about what you can do if someone tries to prevent you from voting and can be downloaded at On in By the Numbers there are two antidotal stories to relieve the tension. Here' mine:

In early December 2000 I ran into another American who lives in my neighborhood and who was just great in fixing up any and all problems one could encounter with a computer. Doing Christmas shopping on a very crowded Saturday afternoon and with the Supreme Court decision still an open wound, whom do I have to find standing in front of me grinning----a Bush voter from Florida. He couldn't resist gloating and I couldn't resist telling him what I thought. One thing led to another and we ended up shouting at each other. The end of it all was my decision to find someone else to work on my computer. Last July - two days before leaving for the US - in one of those situations that just can't be avoided, we ran into each other again, almost in the same place. He extended his hand (automatically done in Germany) and I admit it took me a moment to respond. He jumped to the point with his next remark which was if I knew what the difference between Kerry and Bush is. His immediate response -- Kerry can think. Following his list of outrages, starting with the Patriot Act, he then sheepishly added that even if Gore had won, it wouldn't have made a difference on 9/11. No, I added, he was probably right on that one, but it would have made all the difference in the world afterwards.

For those who have registered but have not received their ballots yet, it is important to fill out and send in a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot. This can be downloaded at This site includes all information concerning individual state requirements and email addresses if you need further information.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Some Americans wishing to register to vote have not received the proper information from certain U.S. Embassies and Consulates. I repeat the mail received from American Voices Abroad in Berlin (see below). If anyone reading this has had problems getting information from the U.S. Consulate in Hamburg please contact us at American Views Abroad so that we can document and follow-up on it. THERE IS STILL TIME TO REGISTER!

My experience with the Consulate is the following: I had called them a few weeks ago inquiring about my registration which never reached the Board of Elections and was given the toll-free number for Germany to get voting information.

Here is the mail from American Voices Abroad:
Dear AVA and Liaisons,

Some of you may have read the New York Times article of Saturday two weeks ago in which it was stated that the Consulate in Argentina had a taped voice message stating that people had to be registered three weeks in advance in order to vote -- effectively disenfranchising anyone who had not yet registered and who heard the message.

Here in Berlin, we have had some similar problems. For example, about two weeks ago we inquired regarding getting a largish number of Federal Write-in Absentee Ballots and were told that the ballots could only be given out one at a time because they all must be notarized at the Consulate! This is of course completely wrong information, since only Mississippi and Puerto Rico require notarization of the ballot.

The most respected city paper in Berlin, the Tagesspiegel, took this up in an article citing me and Henry Nickels of Republicans Abroad, who also complained of the ineptness of the Consulate. There was one immediate result, which is that the Consulate's hours were extended for voting matters. Instead of closing at 12:00, they close at 5:00, and this has made a real difference to some people with jobs who had to go there, for example a Michigan voter requiring notarization of their registration. However, when people call the Embassy, they are still told that the Consulate closes at 12:00.

Moreover, personnel of the Consulate in Berlin still give false advice. For example, a few days ago I called the Consulate and asked whether I could get an emergency write-in ballot to send to Colorado. I was told I could, if I was already registered, and that the Consulate would send it out for me. I said I did not think there was enough time for mailing, since the Consular mail sometimes takes 2 weeks. I asked if the Consulate would fax my ballot for me. Well, I was told that NO states accept faxed ballots! Again false information -- Colorado is a state which does accept faxed ballots. I said that I was certain that Colorado accepted faxed ballots, and the Consular employee looked it up, agreed with me, and said the Consulate would fax my ballot. But what if I had not known the regulations?

Is this just ineptness, or is it purposeful? We in Berlin have trained (in a coalition with Democrats Abroad and Americans Overseas for Kerry) about 60 voting registration volunteers. The training takes between 45 minutes and an hour and a half. Our volunteers make few mistrakes. Why is our Embassy and Consulate not able to train their employees to adequately assist voters?

What is disconcerting is that, if this is a pattern, it amounts to a pattern of disenfranchisement. For example, if someone who does not have enough time left to mail his/her ballot is told that faxing is impossible, that person will give up on trying to vote.

Also, over and over again we have been told by people registering for the first time in their lives -- particularly working-class people here such as African-American ex-soldiers -- that the reason they have never registered before is because of the restricted Consulate hours which would force them to take a day off work to come register there. People here in Berlin also report that the Consulate virtually never picks up the phone during the only phone hours of 2 to 4 in the afternoon.

After the election, we are surely going to want to demand some changes in how absentee voting is handled, for example, moving the FVAP out of the Pentagon. It would also be very helpful to know how the Consulates in a number of countries and areas are performing. THIS IS THE WEEK IN WHICH TO FIND OUT, POSING AS VOTERS IN EMERGENCY SITUATIONS.

Can you help this week? It won't take long. Just ask a few of your members to call your "local" Consulate and ask

1) How to get a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot. Will they mail it to you? What hours are they open? Then ask how to send the Write-in Ballot to the US; for example whether to send it by fax and whether the Consulate will help. (For the latter, be sure to pick a state that allows faxing of the ballot.)

2) How to register to vote and whether the Consulate can help. (Pick a state which allows very late registration such as Nov. 1st.)

etc., etc.

Please make notes regarding difficulties in reaching personnel at the Consulate and the accuracy or inaccuracy of the advice they give.

We would like to put this information together and make use of it in discussions after the election.

Thanks in advance...

Best regards.

Elsa Rassbach
Berlin Liaison

Saturday, October 23, 2004
Do It Like Putin. Sign Kyoto! Large front page photo in today's International Herald Tribune shows Greenpeace activists in Hamburg protesting the US refusal to ratify the Kyoto treaty around a partly submerged replica of the Statue of Liberty on the lake in front of the US General Consulate. Also on the front page Expat Voters Face Range of Snags....'overseas voters are facing a number of problems that are unusual and, in some cases, highly irregular, according to Americans abroad and election monitors in the US.'

The headline in the leading article in today's online New York Times: Big GOP Bid to Challenge Voters at Polls in Key State. It reports 'Ohio election officials said they had never seen so large a drive to prepare for Election Day challenges. They said they were scrambling yesterday to be ready for disruptions in the voting process as well as alarms and complaints among voters. Some officials said they worried that the challenges could discourage or even frighten others waiting to vote.'

In The Election and America's Future, the editors of The New York Review of Books asked some of their contributors for their views for what has been called 'the most consequential election in decades.' Ian Buruma, Norman Mailer and Thomas Powers, among others, have written powerful commentaries.

Last evening the German news on the second channel, ZDF, showed Christian Fundmentalists demonstrating in Washington, DC. They were praying, at times it appeared even wailing, for Bush's re-election. When interviewed, they proclaimed it was homosexuality and abortion rights that were the root of all that's wrong with the US today. At this point my German husband groaned. He asked if I knew of this group. Well, yes, of course, but it isn't something I mention very often here. Hamburg and Berlin both have mayors who are homosexual. In Hamburg's case a far right wing politican tried using this factor to blackmail him at the beginning of this year. It backfired totally. The governing coalition collapsed, new elections were called, and the mayor won a clear majority. Actually winning a majority is rare in a society that doesn't run on a 'winner take all' policy and where there are more than two political parties. What's interesting here is that the mayor belongs to the slightly right of center Christian Democratic Union. The first time he won he had ousted the coalition of Social Democrats and the Green Party, the latter which pushes equality for homosexuals. The last election showed all of the traditional parties gave a clear veto to using anyone's sexual orientation as a tool to defeat someone. More to the point, a clear majority of the people voiced the same. There is a certain line you don't cross and misusing people's private lives for political advantage is abhorred here.

Thursday, October 21, 2004
Single-Minded, An Independent Journal of Fact and Opinion, is back with a weekly essay in Something To Think About at This week's essay, Manifest Destiny, is introduced with a quote from a book written in 1960 on how the unique good fortune of never having experienced a fiasco has isolated America rather dangerously. He proceeds to follow this line of thought discussing Bush's foreign policy and what it is driven by, the Vietnam and Cold War era, the fall of the Soviet Union and what resulted from that and concludes with the following:

Too often we have ignored the forces of history at our peril. We didn't understand the roots of the Vietnam conflict. We chose to ignore the historical record of chaos that often comes with the breaking up of empires. We chose to ignore the evidence that Saddam was a small time dictator who just wanted to be left alone. Instead, we pushed forward with our dreams of spreading democracy, even though in our lifetime few if any of those efforts had borne much fruit, and such fruit as there was often turned bitter.

On the nightly news on ZDF, the second channel on public German TV yesterday, the anchorman reported on America electing a new president----or----at least trying to. This comment was followed by a detailed report on what is going on in Colorado. There is a proposal there to change the winner take all in the Electoral College seats Colorado has. Could this law, should it be voted in, have any affect on who gets elected this time around was the question posed, as well as if the present US system really is One Person, One Vote.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004
As a follow-up to Fred's quest in getting his ballot and voting on time, today's LATimes gives the bigger picture in Americans Abroad Are Itching to Get Their Hands on Ballots It reports on how hundreds of thousands who live abroad have demanded ballots stirred by a partisan sense of urgency unsurpassed in previous years. Though there is little surveying of overseas Americans' voting intentions, in August, a Zogby poll found support for Kerry over Bush 58 - 35%. According to Americans Overseas for Kerry, Florida counts 306,000 overseas voters. Pennsylvania has 252,000 listed. In Michigan the number is 192,000 and in Washington there are 198,000. Ohio counts 162,000.

New York City sent out rather easy to fill out paper ballots to my household last week. We are considered special federal voters and can only vote for President, Vice President, Senator and Congressman. In the end we simply had to fill in four ovals completely and send it all off.

The German media reported on early voting in Florida and Texas yesterday. It showed how people had to wait in long lines, how some paper ballots were incomplete and how some voting machines were not functioning properly.

I've completed my Ohio absentee ballot. There's a set of instructions and then the ballot itself. Both are a bit overwhelming at first. There are more boxes on the ballot than you need (228 in all), and the instructions have printing of different sizes, some upper case some mixed case, some in bold telling you what to do and what not to do, most of it boxed in with lines of varying thickness. So it takes a moment to orient. Also, it's a punch card, and I haven't seen one of those since the early 80's. But once you settle down and read through everything carefully there should be no problems. I think it's a fair ballot. At least it doesn't seem to be biased towards any one party. There's also an instruction to remove the chads, which I dutifully did. Here they are:

There are of course mistakes that could be made if the instructions are not followed. If you try to act without reading the instructions you might think the first page of the instruction brochure is the actual ballot and make your selection directly on the brochure. Another source of error might of course be punching out the wrong box, or chad, as they are now known. Here's a portion of the ballot to help make my point:

Let's say you are supposed to punch out 101. First you look for 101. You find it. Under it is a line. Under the line is a dot. You see this all at once. What I remember from my psychology of perception classes is that people tend to perceive separate objects as belonging together if they are near each other. Anyhow, the dot you see first near the 101 belongs to 102. Not to 101. It isn't immediately obvious that the dot above 101, towards the top of the box is the one to punch out. So on this ballot you have sets of a number, a line, and a dot, and it's easy to see them as belonging together, although they don't. So it could be confusing. It's almost a reflex action to punch out the wrong box because you keep wanting to, it being closer to the number. If you follow the instructions exactly it does explain properly what to do. But it still seems a little like an IQ test. I hope I passed.

Will this potential source of error cause someone to unintentionally vote for someone they did not wish to vote for? In the case of Bush vs. Kerry: probably not. Bush is 7 and Kerry is 9. The worst that could happen is a person might intend to vote for Bush and select 8, thereby invalidating the vote. But the same thing might happen if trying to vote for Kerry and selecting 10 instead of 9. In each case, this error is a no-vote. So its balanced. Well, unless voters of a particular candidate turn out to have a lower average IQ. They would tend to make more mistakes thereby invalidating their choice.

Concerning the Senator and Congressman a mistake could be made, as they are consecutive numbers on the punch ballot. But the mistakes would be balanced for each party. In the case of the Senator, the Republican is listed second and would receive unintentional votes if this type of error is made. The two candidates for Congress are also consecutive numbers, but the Democrat is listed second, thereby receiving the advantage, if there is one. This is all a result of alphabetical listings, but it seems to work out fair and balanced, to repeat a catchphrase which may be so overused nowadays that it means nothing.

Conclusion: An easier ballot to fill out would have the candidate's name right next to where the hole has to be made. But until the easy ballot exists: read the instructions of your (absentee) ballot through carefully until you understand them. If they are confusing, ask for help. It is your responsibility to fill out your ballot correctly. If you take your right to vote seriously you owe it to yourself to be sure your vote is not wasted by a silly error. Don't guess anything. Follow the instructions to the letter.

Anyhow, I'll send off my ballot today by express mail because according to the instructions the ballot must be received by November 2nd. Nowhere does it say "postmarked by". This will of course be a disadvantage to the candidate (if any) who has more support among absentee voters.


Here's a short follow-up to yesterday's post: I've heard from two friends in Ohio with some information:
1) It's not a good idea to click "unsubscribe" on spams, as some spammers take this as a validation that the e-mail exists, and then spam more. It's better to register with the spam reporting service:
2) The Republican party uses mailing lists, and this could be how they got my information. I had included along with the registration a business card containing my e-mail address. So maybe this was entered into some mailing list database. My registered letter was received on October 6th. The spams began on the 7th. You recall, I registered as a Republican because my first registration, as a Democrat, got lost. I didn't want to take any chances.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Good news. My absentee ballot has arrived by first class mail. I'm going to read the instructions carefully ten times before I do anything with it.

Voter registration update:

As Gloria announced in her previous post I am back from an enjoyable and relaxing vacation in Poland. I absolutely wanted to relate my further experiences with registering to vote and receiving the absentee ballot.

On the recommendation of the Cincinnati League of Women Voters I had sent an e-mail to John Williams, director of the Board of Elections in Cincinnati, and another e-mail to the Ohio Secretary of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell. These mails would have been received in the morning of the Friday workday, October 1st. I mentioned my concerns about my initial registration getting lost, and how could I be sure that my second registration would go through. Mr. Williams answered my mail about an hour after we left for Poland on Saturday morning. He assured me that Democratic registrations are not discarded and suggested I send my new registration via express mail. I had already sent it registered mail Thursday afternoon (September 30th). I was able to answer his e-mail that Sunday morning and asked if it would be possible for someone to notify me after my registration was processed. He assigned an employee to check the voter records each day and report to me when my ballot was sent. I received occasional messages that I wasn't yet in the system, one I will quote here:

We have 16,000 registration applications yet to process not counting the ones that have not arrived. For example, many people send their applications to the Secretary of State's office and then they forward those forms to us. We may receive thousands more from them. These forms would be from people who had the October 4th, or before, postmark. My point is, at this time, registration forms are not being processed the day they come in. It could be five days.

I had already felt appreciative at the way the Board of Elections took my request for help seriously and went out of their way to help me. I was sure that the weeks before the election would be their busiest. They are not just working banker's hours either. Mr. Williams' first answer to me was sent Friday 10:30 PM, Cincinnati time, and the employee searching for my registration wrote once after 8 PM. I had the impression of professional people doing their job well, and I would like to thank them all publicly. It also made me a little proud. That's how we Cincinnatians are. It also went a long way towards restoring my faith in the system.

So now I am waiting for my ballot, and hoping it will arrive here on time.

J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio Secretary of State by the way did not answer my October 1st e-mail. Upon returning I could guess why. Reading through all the recent news I discovered that he had attempted to block registrations not printed on standard paper: see Dailykos. I might add that anyone printing the registration form in Europe will not have a form on 8 1/2 by 12 inch paper. I have some I brought with me from America, but you can't buy that size here.

On the Tuesday, October 5th I began receiving spam mails at the e-mail address from which I had written my three (mostly identical) mails to the League of Women Voters, the Board of Elections, and the Secretary of State ( The spams multiplied and as of this writing they seem to be coming in at an average of one every ten minutes. But it gets weirder: Some of the spam mails use information that could only have been obtained from my mail sent aboout four days before the first spam. It pairs my name and e-mail address with a street address in Norwood, Ohio that I haven't used for years, but which I mentioned in my mail. It certainly does not appear anywhere in the Internet in connection with my name or current e-mail address.

My suspicion is that this has something to do with my mail to the Secretary of State's office. I do not wish to make any accusations, as there are other explanations, even if they seem to me as far-fetched and absurd as the notion that Ohio's Secretary of State, or someone at his office, would place my address on a spam list. E-mails can be intercepted and read as they are underways, and that may be what happened, although the address returned in the spams was subtly changed, adding a zip code, abbreviating the state, dropping the . following the ave. abbreviation, although an apartment number immediately follows. I'm sure an automated program could do that: parse a street address from an e-mail and put it in a standarized form. But does that ever happen? I've sent my current address in e-mails dozens of times, ordering things, etc. Never once has it bounced back to me as spam. The spams begin on October 7th.

Is this just some isolated incident of e-mail interception or does anyone know of similar occurrences? Another unanswered question is what happened to my original registration? Did the U.S. Consulate send it to the Ohio Secretary of State's office, where it then was discarded or lost? I will contact the Consulate in Hamburg and try to find out the path my registration would have taken.

To be continued...

Footnote: The spam mails as a whole (I had more than 500 waiting for me this Monday) seem to be for quasi-legitimate products. No scrambled headers, no viagra ads, et al. It looks like they might be mailings you can subscribe to when registering for something/anything via Internet and you are offered all these checkboxes to click "Would you like information about..." I am going through and clicking the unsubscribe link in the mails in hopes that the stream of spam will eventually die down.

Monday, October 18, 2004
There is a 40 minute foreign affairs journal on German TV on Sunday evenings on the first channel, ARD, called Weltspiegel. Yesterday it reported on an international team arriving in the US to watch-over how voting will be conducted in various states. It highlighted Georgia which has switched to touch screen machines that leave no paper trail and how there is little confidence in these machines among voters and all the problems and miscounts that can occur. Florida was next in the report and the drive there to get blacks registered. It mentioned how almost no one in the Cuban community, which usually votes Republican, has problems registering but it interviewed a black man whose name is on a list of former felons who are denied the right to vote. However, the charge he was sentenced for was over 20 years ago and he was given back his full citizenship rights years ago as well. The second spot on the US reported on the former guards and workers at Guantanamo who are now talking out about the harsh treatment the prisoners there have to endure. The third spot showed Bush 'wired up' and was a farce on how someone, in this case a young German, was doing his talking for him. This morning a Hamburg newspaper reports on how Bush misspoke at a rally in Florida and called for a military draft. He then corrected himself and claimed he meant the opposite --- a voluntary army. The same article then mentions The New York Times editorial supporting Kerry for President. No one expected the NYT to support Bush but it is stunning how critical and harsh it is in it's review of Bush's first term. The stinging, rousing editorial appeared in today's Herald Tribune and deserves to be read in full. An Alternative and More: John Kerry for President can be read at Here the sentences the Hamburg paper highlighted:

'We look back on the past four years with hearts nearly breaking, both for the lives unnecessarily lost and for the opportunities so casually wasted. Time and again, history invited George W. Bush to play a heroic role, and time and again he chose the wrong course.'

Fred is back from his vacation in Poland and will soon be blogging again on his attempts to register and vote in Ohio. He sent me an interesting link It is worth taking a look at.

Sunday, October 17, 2004
Elfriede Jelinek who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature this year is a writer with a griping, difficult style and language that lingers with a reader long after you have put down her works. At least, that's how I find her. She is also a woman who speaks out and takes part in political activism and thus it seemed a signal to me that she was selected this year. Yesterday the International Herald Tribune ( reprinted an editorial from The Boston Globe on her. In part it wrote:

'Jelinek's Nobel Prize for work with an unsparing view stands in sharp contrast to the rhetoric of an election season in the United States, when ordinary criticism is fiercely branded as 'pessimism.' If there is a lesson in Jelinek's award and in all uncompromising literature, it may well be the warning not to look away from complex, ugly problems. Even worse would be to look at the world's troubles but refuse to describe them seriously.'

Well, I couldn't have said it better myself. There is an interesting interview with her in the FAZ Weekly, The Not-So-Prized Possession by GeorgDiez at FAZ Weekly is the English language edition of this Frankfurter newspaper and the interview is in Arts and Leisure from October 15.

Thursday, October 14, 2004
Several times a week I get political emails from Patricia down in Munich. Today she sent out a newsletter written by a friend who had attended the fourth annual Women and Power conference in NYC. It was a high energy meeting of 1500 women committed to creating a global future more compassionate, humane and just and attended by many larger-than-life celebrities as well. However for her, the real star of the conference is a Benedictine Prioress, an author and international lecturer, Sr. Joan Chittister.

'...Sr. Joan spoke to us of the real cost of the war, the fact that over 90% of the victims are women and children. She spoke of rape camps, starvation, and the fact that the women of Iraq are much worse off now than they were before the US invaded. The propaganda about how women are being freed is just that. She spoke of political lies and the reprehensible use of religion as a platform to grab power. She also spoke of the shadown side of religion, and how it can promote violence rather than compassion. When she finished the entire crowd was swept as one into a standing ovation.'

She urges us to google up Joan Chittister's September 30 column in the National Catholic Reporter, entitled 'An Appeal for America to be American.' One point Sr. Joan makes, and backs up with facts, is that 30 out of 35 major countries are solidly pro-Kerry. 'We are viewed in the world as a radically transformed US whose aim is no longer benign. Instead, we are seen as seeking domination of the world and in the process, making the world far less safe than it was before, ironically using the fear of terrorism to unleash a potentially deadly global arms race.'

Wednesday, October 13, 2004
There has been a lot written about Hitler recently and Cicero, a monthly magazine here, is no exception. The cover of its October issue highlights the centerpiece of Otto Dix's 1933 work of art, The Seven Deadly Sins, which is Envy as a dwarf with Hitler's features. The lead article, Brother Hitler - You Can't Pick Your Relatives, begins with the question if Germans are obsessed with Hitler. This is, of course, a lead-in to a discussion on whether or not the latest film about his last days has any advantage or benefit. It claims Hitler has received so much attention in the last few years that it is as if a tidal wave has hit, yet hardly any new facts about Germans and their relationship to him have been found. The article includes two rather large photos of Hitler, taken out-of-uniform, in 1923 and 1933 and is followed by Thomas Mann's 1938 essay, written in exile, Bruder Hitler.

Paging through the latest issue of The New York Review of Books, there is a nuanced review of Der Brand: Deutschland in Bombenkrieg 1940 - 1945 by Ian Buruma. Entitled The Destruction of Germany, it includes a photo of Dresden after the Allied bombing on February 1, 1945. It talks about the 'Hamburgerization' of Berlin, i.e., the two years of daily destruction it took to flatten much of Berlin. It states how by the end of the war in the spring of 1945, up to 600,000 people had been burned or choked or boiled to death in the firestorms that raged with the force of typhoons after the bombings. It mentions Thomas Mann declaring in exile how the Germans were reaping what they had sowed and discusses if all the victims of WW II are equal in their suffering. One point noted --- and interesting in view of the debate on Iraq between Kerry and Bush --- is how there were those back then in Washington and London who believed 'that Germans had to be taught a lesson once and for all.' One US Air Force general was convinced 'that Germany's wholesale destruction would be passed on from father to son, and then on to the grandchildren which would suffice to stop Germans from ever going to war again.' The article is worth reading, but in order to read it online, one has to purchase it at However, another thing struck me yesterday. In The Myth of the Olympics which reviews five books on the history of the games, the only photo in the article is of Hitler at the opening ceremony of the 1936 games in Berlin. Further on, in What Was Fascism? there are two photos of him. One taken in 1923 and in 1938 with Mussolini. Just as the film on his last days was opening, the two part BBC series on the rise of Hitler was being shown for the first time on German TV. This was aired on US TV in 2003.

There is the war in Iraq and there is the so-called cultural debate on Vietnam. But there are the demons of an even larger war looming in the background, still present.

Sunday, October 10, 2004
David Corn, the Washington editor of The Nation, has an excellent analysis of the second debate which talks along the same lines as the commentary in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Friday. Corn writes: The second debate also reinforced a stylistic divide that is far from superficial. Kerry deployed facts to land blows on Bush. He came across as the prosecutor he once was. Bush relied more on meta-principles. His goal was to emphasis his-I-know-what-I-believe quality, which he claims is essential to strong leadership. In fact, these two men are offering different methods of leadership. Kerry embraces -- he embodies -- rational analysis. Bush sells himself as a cut-to-the-chase guy. Corn's article offers detailed examples from the debate. He concludes stating that after reading the transcript of the debate Kerry scored many more points than Bush. But on stage, the fight looked close to even. ....'With the US stuck in Iraq, do swing voters want a told-you-so detractor instead of a can-do, let's kick-some-butt-and-prevail protector (even if he's the one who created the fiasco)? ....The contest, in a way, is a Rorschach test for the nation.'

Friday, October 08, 2004
On the opinion page of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung today there is a commentary on the US election campaign 'Words and Truth.' In short it describes the campaign as a magnificent spectacle of rhetoric with one important exception --- a refusal to abide to the normal rules of debate and allow sharp logic and concrete facts to cut through the contradictions and unclarified points. The author goes so far as to say that Bush, his team and his Iraq policy personify contradiction. Irregardless of how many commissions state the reasons for going to war were not based on fact, Bush continues arguing half lies, one on top of another, and drawing conclusions based on these and, more to the point, he doesn't pay a price for doing this. Bush ignores the latest report by CIA inspector Duelfer and argues --- in order to frighten the voters --- that Kerry would not protect America and it would be a danger for America to elect him. Bush intensifies the debate, bringing it into another sphere altogether, by ignoring the facts and drawing conclusions that have nothing to do with the facts. His style is difficult to swallow, but could lead to him winning. Bush's permanent refusal to play by the rules is more-or-less accepted in the US because the historical memory of its citizens is short and there is a wider acceptance of a coarse battle of words than on an honest reckoning with history. Under these circumstances what the commissions are saying about the Iraq war might not be enough to turn the tide and win the election

Thursday, October 07, 2004
The Draft - First came troubling emails about a reintroduction of the draft at the beginning of the year. By summer newspapers were reporting about how this 'rumor' was getting out-of-hand. President Bush even went so far as to affirm committment to an all volunteer army during the first debate. For all the difficulties an overseas citizen may encounter when trying to vote, which has been a regular item on this site, one thing that functions perfectly when abroad is registering for the Selective Service. Young men are informed when applying for a passport that they have to register within five days of their 18 birthday and a special page is set up for those residing outside the US. Thus this theme is as relevant for us abroad as for those at home. James Carroll in a column on Tuesday in the Boston Globe notes that 'anguished talk of the draft is in the air again.' His line of thought runs that neither Bush nor the Pentagon want a draft, but he continues....'Horrors unfold in Iraq...largely because they remain abstract, and therefore not so horrible, to the American population. What would it take for Americans to feel the full weight of that reality? ...Even in anticipation, the draft is disturbing because of its proven character as a moral crucible in which distant policies of an impersonal government become intensely personal. The question moves from, What do you think of Bush's war? to, Would you kill people because Bush told you to?' Though he opposes a restoration of the draft, he concludes it would be the one thing that would actually stop Washington's wars.

Voter Suppression - Harold Meyerson's column Voters Excluded in Iraq - and at Home appeared in The Washington Post on Wednesday. He begins by discussing the enormous task of trying to register Iraqi citizens for the supposed upcoming elections in January. He wonders if opposition forces there are gearing up to fight when voter registration there starts. Then he proceeds to bring this theme very close to home on how Republican election officials are working to reduce the number of black and Latino voters in battleground states. He concludes by stating that the largest efforts at voter suppression will occur on Election Day itself 'when thousands of registrants in the minority communities of battleground states are sure to have their right to vote challenged at the polls.' He also discloses that the Democratic Party unveiled a task force of thousands of volunteer lawyers the party plans to deploy at the polls and in the courts on November 2.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004
A second update on Fred's registration odyssey: Fred did indeed receive an immediate response from John Williams, the Director of the Board of Elections in Hamilton County in Ohio. Williams advised him to send the registration via express post. He had already sent out a registered letter with new registration forms on September 30. He feels uncertain if it really is the postmark and not the date of receipt which counts which could well be a few days past the deadline of October 4. He has requested a confirmation of registration but will not be online again for about a week since he is currently on vacation in the mountains of southern Poland.

Meanwhile various US newspapers report on an upsurge in new voter registration forms being handed in. Nearly 600,000 new voters applied in Florida. In Pennsylvania six million have registered instead of four million in 2000. The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that officials in Ohio were swamped with applications from first time voters. It quoted an elections specialist working with the Board of Elections in Hamilton County as declaring the situation there as 'a zoo -- this is absolutely the craziest we have ever seen it.' The county has already processed 64,000 new registrations, more than double the figure in 2000 and has a backlog of several thousand more. According to various polls and emails from friends there, it is deadheat which way the state will go.

Though absentee ballots from New York City often arrived rather late in October in past years, I was still concerned enough to phone the Brooklyn Board of Elections at 718 797 8800 yesterday. According to the messages on tape, such ballots were sent out on August 14. However, a call to the League of Women Voters at 212 725 3541 informed me that the ballots were still at the printers and should be sent out very soon. I could easily access the FVAP website to obtain these numbers and to find out that registration in New York is possible till the end of October. Ballots have to be postmarked by the day before the election to be counted.

Various German newspapers are reporting on the possibility of a computer chaos on election day in the US. Sueddeutsche Zeitung in Munich had a detailed article on September 29 headlined Two Plus Two Equals Five. Among discussing the Help America Vote Act and the difficulties the new voting machines have, in particular leaving no paper trail, it mentioned an article in The Economist which reported on a case in Indiana where 5352 voters cast 144,000 votes. In Virginia, however, there were less votes cast than voters who actually went to the polls. The Hamburger Abendblatt has a photo today of one of those new touch screen machines with a subtext on how they leave no paper trail. The headline claims the new machines are not reliable and the political parties are already arming for out and out court battles. It also ran an article about the right of overseas Americans to vote and claimed there are 18,000 Americans in Hamburg. Hm. The real number is probably closer to 4,227 according to a report on Hamburg and its US sister city, Chicago.

Friday, October 01, 2004
President Eisenhower's son dumps Bush. John Eisenhower, son of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and a lifelong Republican, declares that he is switching to Independent and voting for John Kerry in November.

As son of a Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, it is automatically expected by many that I am a Republican. For 50 years, through the election of 2000, I was. With the current administration's decision to invade Iraq unilaterally, however, I changed my voter registration to independent, and barring some utterly unforeseen development, I intend to vote for the Democratic Presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry.
The fact is that today's "Republican" Party is one with which I am totally unfamiliar. To me, the word "Republican" has always been synonymous with the word "responsibility," which has meant limiting our governmental obligations to those we can afford in human and financial terms. Today's whopping budget deficit of some $440 billion does not meet that criterion.

Responsibility used to be observed in foreign affairs. That has meant respect for others. America, though recognized as the leader of the community of nations, has always acted as a part of it, not as a maverick separate from that community and at times insulting towards it. Leadership involves setting a direction and building consensus, not viewing other countries as practically devoid of significance. Recent developments indicate that the current Republican Party leadership has confused confident leadership with hubris and arrogance. [...]

Sen. Kerry, in whom I am willing to place my trust, has demonstrated that he is courageous, sober, competent, and concerned with fighting the dangers associated with the widening socio-economic gap in this country. I will vote for him enthusiastically.

Republicans, to the lifeboats. Save yourselves (and all of us) while you can

With many thanks to!

Update on my registration odyssey: On Gloria's advice I contacted the League of Women Voters in my home town via e-mail and detailed the situation, telling them my concerns of having the registration go through, and receiving assurances that my absentee ballot is counted. I received a friendly and helpful response a few hours later which I will quote in part:

Registration in Hamilton County has been incredibly heavy this year; reports are that over 50,000 new voters have registered this summer/early fall. The Board of Elections personnel is working very hard to process all the registrations but that might be one reason why you are having problems getting an answer. Registration deadline is Monday October 4 so you do need to get this solved quickly. They will accept mailed registrations that are postmarked by October 4.
The person answering did not think my problems had anything to do with registering as a Democrat. Members of both parties serve in the Board of Elections and the current chairman in Hamilton County is a Democrat.

They also advised me to contact the Ohio Secretary of State or the Director and Deputy Director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections. This I have just done and will hopefully receive a response before leaving on my vacation.

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