Sunday, October 31, 2004

Election Day

A true story on Election Day 2000: An Israeli postdoc in the US came to work and said "I have watched the conventions and seen the debates. I have studied the platforms and as much news analysis as I could get hold of. After serious consideration I decided that, if I were allowed to vote, I would vote for Bush." An American computer scientist walked in soon thereafter and said "I woke up this morning and decided to vote for Nader." Draw your own moral.

With the US elections on Tuesday and politics on everyone's mind, let's open the comments for anyone who has anything they want to say about the presidential race. Get it off your chest. I only ask you to be civil. And don't forget to vote.


  1. I don't understand the point of your comparison. It
    seems like a plug for Bush couched in a semi-objective
    way. Why not state your preference and explain
    your reasons?

    Bush does not believe in the power of reason and
    has amply demonstrated that. And he is afraid to
    admit a mistake which comes about from his
    fear of doubt. Everything has to be clear and
    for him this is only through faith. It is not
    how I view the world. Kerry is not great but
    I believe he will do at least as well as Bush
    simply by the constraints of the office and
    by being able to change direction if necessary.
    A second term to Bush and Cheney will make them
    even more certain in their views of the world
    which I am at odds with.

  2. The problem for myself and I suspect many other readers is that, like the Israeli postdoc, we can't vote in this election. Since we are "US persons" but not citizens, we just have to watch. This doesn't seem to make our debates any less vigorous, but does leave us feeling somewhat incapable.

    -- Graham Cormode

  3. The NYT did an excellent profile of Bush recently. It doesn't rant. Instead, it tries to explain him, though of course it's clear which way the author leans. Link:

    I lean the same way myself.

  4. After serious consideration, I've decided that as a proud member of the reality-based community, I'm going to vote for Kerry.
    Read that NY Times Magazine article on Bush-- it's quite scary. As if there wasn't reason enough to be scared of the man!

  5. I too am confused by your post because it does sound like a soft coached argument for Bush.

    Frankly, it seems like Bush has created a mess.

    1. Pushing through his agenda for a war in Iraq (see comments by Richard Clarke former Bush Terrorism Czar) even though there was no proof of a connection between Al-Qaida and Iraq.

    2. Extra tax cuts for the rich (see comments by Paul O'Neill former Bush Secretary of the Treasury) even though they had already received tax cuts.

    3. Exposing a CIA agent (see comments by former ambassador Joseph Wilson who worked for the CIA in 2002) which is a crime.

    Given these outcomes (and the others that I'm probably not even aware of) I don't see how any one could come to the conclusion that Bush is the best choice for President. He has certainly not done a good job. He has failed miserably. Bin Laden is still making video tapes and laughing at us at this moment.

    Kerry may not be a great choice for president but he is by far a better choice than Bush. We know what Bush is like and that choice is unacceptable.

    P.S. I also hated how Bush flagrantly lied during the second debate when Kerry stated that Bush was unconcerned about bin Laden and Bush shrugged his shoulders and said "I never said that." He most certainly did and I saw the video tape of him saying it many times before the debate. What a liar.

  6. I don't quite know how to organize my feelings of loathing for both candidates, but here goes:

    1. Don't forget about intimidating the chief Medicare actuary with termination from his job if he told Congress that the real cost of the proposed "$400 billion" bill was actually a little higher ($200 billion, to be somewhat precise -- a slight discrepancy).

    2. The "tax cuts for the rich" so many people complain about is unfair. If the money from a tax cut is distributed proportional to how much you pay in taxes, of course the rich will get most of the money, because they pay the vast majority of the taxes. If you do it some other way you're implementing a socialist wealth redistribution scheme. I think the tax cuts were probably one of the only good things Bush has done during his time.

    3. That Bush and/or his administration had designs on Iraq well before September 11 is clear -- one need only consult the "Project for a New American Century" report which clearly lays out the benevolent imperialism policy which is now being (poorly) in Iraq. The report was published in 1999 and can still be freely read on the Internet. Richard Perle and Dick Cheney have close ties to the organization responsible for producing that report.

    4. Kerry is almost certainly a communist sympathizer. The actions of his organization, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, are despicable. Among other things, they staged protests involving mocking the immortal image of Marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima -- the hippies Kerry associated with decided to spit on all WWII veterans by putting on ridiculous facial expressions and raising the flag upside down. The people Kerry associated with not only hated the military leadership of the 1960s, they hated the American military and they hated America. I only gave one example of how they demonstrated over and over that their opposition was not to just the Vietnam war but American society and culture as a whole. I don't claim this is a case of guilt by association but I do think it's fair to draw conclusions about Kerry's worldview and general disposition.

    That Kerry has not apologized for his egregious, contemptable actions is appalling. He has repeatedly claimed in the last several months that he is proud of his actions regarding the Vietnam war.

    5. The repugnant nature of the candidates we are presumably choosing from is reinforced by a complicit press corps which constantly gives presidential polls in a fallacious, bifurcated, "Bush-vs-Kerry" format, as if no one is interested in Badnarik or Nader, and as if a trend of increasing interest in third partis would say nothing about the political climate of the United States. Therefore this sordid electoral season occurs against a backdrop of a mass media which is guilty of not fulfilling its implied obligation to look out for the interests of the public and challenge them to think critically about current events.

    This election is very much a case of "choose and lose."

  7. I'm an American graduate student in computer science. I have watched the conventions and seen the debates. I have studied the platforms and as much news analysis as I could get a hold of. After serious consideration I decided to vote for Kerry.

    I have friends who have supported Bush for the last four years, who know he's a bad candidate, who know he's done a bad job as president, and will be voting for him anyway. Draw your own moral.

  8. I was set on voting for the Democratic ticket almost no matter who they nominated. I followed the race closely anyway, and found out that Kerry is actually close to the ideal.

    Policy-wise, Kerry is great; but I'm sure we all wish he had the charisma of Clinton-- but at least he's got more than Gore ever did. But I care more about Kerry's healthcare plans and energy plans, which I'm sure few in America could even describe.

  9. I don't think this post was intended as a subtle plug for Bush. I think he's just pointing out the irony in:

    - Person who can't vote: "I have watched the conventions and seen the debates. I have studied the platforms and as much news analysis as I could get hold of. After serious consideration I decided ..."

    - Person who can vote: "I woke up this morning and decided to vote for ..."

    Who these people ended up deciding on is not the point -- it's that the many who are actually able to vote in this election are less informed (or poorly informed) or just don't care as much as the rest of the world. In a Democracy, a coin-flip vote counts as much as a carefully informed vote. Oh well, at least the person in the second example was voting.

  10. The results of the online survey for non-Americans to vote is up.
    Bush got only 9% of the 110K votes. Kerry got 77%.
    Surprisingly, Bush got 37% in the Middle East (out of only 800 votes). I wonder if there are more Israelis for Bush.


  11. I can't say that I have absorbed as much information as that other Israeli postdoc mentioned in your post. However, if I were allowed to vote, I would vote for Kerry.

    A main reason is the war in Iraq. While the world is probably much better without Saddam in power, that doesn't mean that it was worth spending thousands of lives, 200 billion dollars, and alienating most of the world to get this done. Also, regardless of whether the war was a good or bad idea, the process leading to it was certainly flawed and the public was not given the real reasons nor realistic plans for this war. I personally think that the money alone, if spent wisely in countries such as Nigeria, Egypt, and others, could have gone a long way towards "unradicalizing" Muslim countries, and promoting US interests. Of course some money (along with some intense diplomatic pressure on all sides) could be used to make some progress in the Israeli-Palestenian-Arab conflict, which would probably be good not just for us, but also for the Americans.

    Another reason is that as an Israeli, who is used to an OK universal healthcare system, at a fraction of the price of American health insurance, our system makes more sense to me than yours. It also seems strange to me that terrorism takes such a center stage in this election, when there is no comparison between the number of people that die from terrorism (even if there was an attack of Sept.11 magnitude every year) and the number of people that die from being without health insurance (and so see a doctor much less frequently than they should).

    Boaz Barak

  12. Being from a third world country, I am disturbed by two trends in the Bush administration which are common in less developed countries: Irrationalism and corruption. Recently, the website published an article that said Bush attacked Iraq because his fellow religious nuts had identified Saddam as the antichrist (who the Bible had prophesized will appear in Babylon). Also, I believe the corruption involved in awarding massive no-bid contracts to Dick Cheney's company is also unprecedented in the US history.

  13. I didn't realize how deeply I felt about this until I talked to a friend of mine. I am an American graduate student. While I haven't been as up to date as the Israeli postdoc, I have been following the campaigns. I will be voting tomorrow, but not for Bush.

    On one level, I am better off today than I was four years ago. I started graduate school, for one thing. I have more time to focus on research, and I've done just fine economically.

    On another level, I am much worse off. From 1991-1995, I lived as an expat in Al-Khobar, in Saudi Arabia. A few months ago, terrorists took over a housing compound in Al-Khobar and executed hostages. I had friends who lived there (thankfully they'd all moved years before the terrorists struck). In Jeddah, terrorists walked into the offices of a civil engineering company and shot everyone in sight -- that could have been my father if we were still in the Kingdom.

    Recently I came across a US State Department travel advisory concerning Saudi. It says that all non-essential diplomats have been ordered out of the country and encourages civilians to leave and not come back. The way of life I knew is gone, completely gone. I haven't lived there in years, and I don't plan to live there ever again, but this brought it home, again, that the world has changed.

    In contrast, the changes in the US after 9/11 have been more subtle. Maybe it's that I've been too close to it -- I was in New York on the day and have lived in the USA since. I am deeply concerned about civil liberties, and so I am upset about the PATRIOT Act, Secure Flight, and the rise of profiling databases in the name of Homeland Security. It scares me to think that the only thing between me and a no-fly list is the good graces of some set of rules somewhere which I am not allowed to know. It scares me further that I wonder if my posts to cypherpunks or a weblog will cause me to show up on a watch list.

    Bush has done good things. For example, I think the invasion of Afghanistan was the right response to Al-Qaida. The Department of Homeland Security, despite its terrible name, is a response to a real administrative problem within the federal government.

    The key problem for me is that it seems clear now that Bush was either lying or incompetent when he took the nation to war with Iraq. The reasons given for going to war didn't hold up. Friends of mine now have family members in combat, and for what? The occupation may still turn out well, but we entered for bogus reasons, and Bush should have known that and should have told us. I can't vote for him.

    As it happens, I also oppose many of Bush's domestic policies. I am for gay marraige, for stem cell research, and against mixing church and state. This strikes me as less important, because Congress is a much better check on the President for domestic issues than foreign policy. I am also concerned about Supreme Court appointments, but justices have a way of counfounding their appointers.

    Do I think Kerry will be better on the foreign policy and civil liberties issues? Maybe, but I wouldn't bet much on it. He's said he's for the PATRIOT Act in general, but just wants to re-examine parts of it. If Clinton's presidency is any guide, we will have our share of policies to fight. Remember, the Clinton administration fought tooth and nail against allowing export of strong encryption, where "export" was interpreted to include "giving an assignment with source code to a cryptography class with foreign students in it." Because I work in cryptography, there was a period when I thought I might have to choose between my US citizenship and my work. I haven't forgotten.

    With foreign policy, I don't think Kerry can convince other countries to help shoulder the burden of Iraq. I haven't heard anything else truly new from him for running the occupation. That's OK, but it's not better than Bush.

    In the end, though, I will probably vote Kerry. Maybe Badnarik, who has a host of his own problems. Because I'm in California, it won't hardly matter anyway.

    Oh, also -- before any of us leap to judge a coin-flip voter, remember that some US states used to have measures in place to make sure only "educated" people voted. Mostly in practice they were used to exclude African-Americans in Southern states. I prefer tolerating coin-flips to disenfranchising whole subsections of the population, and I don't know how to avoid one without inviting the other.

    --David Molnar

  14. I just voted Kerry. I think the current administration has been a disaster. At worst, they have lied repeatedly over and over again about important and basic issues that I care about, like war and science. At best, they are simply incompetent and have made a number of big mistakes.

    But hey, just my opinion. I get my news from Jon Stewart.

  15. It looks like Bush just won. Tell me, are the majority of Americans as smart as an Israeli computer science post-doc? Am I really that stupid for voting for Kerry?

  16. The subject of this story is clearly about that Israel postdocs decide after reading newspapers and debates, while american computer scientist decided a few hours before electiong.
    I do not see any political agenda or an advertisment if any particilur candidate dobe by Lance Fortnow.
    I do not understand why many people become so angry and tried to turn this story into political debates. There are many political forums for debates.
    Fortunately, american are no so crazy like europeans. My friends told me that in banana republic France, 23 hours/day local TV were devoted to american elections.
    One could be stopped on the street by left activitists trying to beat you if you are not like Kerry and gays

  17. "It looks like Bush just won. Tell me, are the majority of Americans as smart as an Israeli computer science post-doc? Am I really that stupid for voting for Kerry?"

    Bush's base consists mainly of evangelical Christians who believe Bush is one of them.

    These voters are firmly opposed to abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research. Most of them do not believe in evolution.

    These results simply indicate that Karl Rove was very succesful in turning out his base.

    So I would say smartness has very little to do with it. It is simply a reality that different voters are motivated by vastly different issues.