RFK at it again

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BWV 1080
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RFK at it again

Post by BWV 1080 » Tue Jun 06, 2006 11:00 am

I mentioned RFK's ridiculous piece on the supposed autism-thimerisol link a few months back. Now he has made an equally spurius allegation regarding the Republicans "stealing" the 2004 election:

From the Respectful Insolence Blog

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2006/ ... st_not.php
I'm probably going to regret posting this article, as I normally don't venture much into these areas. Chalk it up to its being 6/6/06 and say that the Devil made me do it, but I plan on diving in. Besides, I feel the need for a brief change of pace.

Regular readers of this blog know my low opinion of RFK Jr. It began nearly a year ago when he published a deceptive conspiracy-mongering article about the alleged link between thimerosal and autism in Rolling Stone and Salon.com last year, in which he completely misrepresented a conference held about vaccines as a massive conspiratorial coverup based on quote mining of the Simpsonwood Conference and misrepresentation of the Institute of Medicine report on vaccines. My opinion of him sank even lower when he dropped yet another big stinky turd on the blogosphere in which he tried on the flimsiest of evidence to postulate a grand conspiracy at the CDC to keep thimerosal in vaccines. To me, RFK Jr's credibility is about as low as it could be without falling into negative numbers.

Now, it would appear, he's at it again, this time about the 2004 election, which, according to RFK Jr, was "stolen."

First, let's get one thing straight. I don't doubt that there were problems and probably some downright chicanery in Ohio last election, and, as regular readers of this blog know, although I tend to lean somewhat conservative, I'm no fan of President Bush. He's done something that I thought no Republican could do: Drive me away from being a pretty reliable Republican voter in national elections. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if the Bush campaign engaged in dubious tactics. The question (which RFK Jr. answers emphatically in the affirmative) is whether the Republicans "stole" the election. How Kennedy comes by this answer seems to me to be typical of his previous M.O. when covering the alleged link between thimerosal and autism: cherry picking and misrepresentation of sources, coupled with quote mining.

Ironically, such a bastion of far right wing propaganda as Salon.com (the very same online opinion magazine that trumpeted RFK, Jr.'s allegations regarding vaccines, has published a detailed rebuttal that picked up on things that I had wondered about regarding RFK Jr.'s use of sources and a few that I had not. Before I saw any rebuttals of RFK, Jr. by anyone else, one thing that I noticed right away was that RFK Jr.'s argument seems to hinge very heavily on the claims of a single statistician (and his group) who asserts that exit polls are almost never as incorrect as they were in the 2004 election, when exit polls showed Kerry ahead and then later Bush managed to win the election. It is argued that, statistically, the chances of a discrepancy between the exit poll numbers and the final election result being so large is infitessimally small, meaning that massive voter fraud must have taken place to produce such a result. If exit polls can be incorrect far more frequently than the statistician RFK Jr. quotes claims, then one major pillar of his argument falls. As Farhad Manjoo put it in Salon.com:

Kennedy relies on a band of researchers whose research on election fraud has long been called into question by experts. Especially in his section on Ohio's exit poll, Kennedy reports his sources' theories uncritically, even though many have been debunked, or have at least been the subject of tremendous debate among experts. Reading Kennedy's article, you'd never guess that some of his star sources' claims have fared quite badly when put to people in the field.
Sound familiar? Think Kennedy's quoting of Mark and David Geier uncritically about the role of mercury in vaccines in causing autism, and you get the idea. I wondered how reliable RFK, Jr's and his source's claim of reliability for exit polls really was; something about it didn't pass the "smell" test to me, but I didn't have sufficient background to judge if my suspicions were correct. It turns out that polling experts have characterized RFK Jr.'s source's faith in the accuracy of exit polls as misplaced:

U.S. exit polls have been wrong before. In fact, according to the Edison-Mitofsky report, they have shown a consistent discrepancy favoring the Democrats in every presidential election since 1988. And while the 2004 discrepancy was the highest ever, they were almost as far off in 1992. More specifically, the "within precinct error" (WPE) reported by Edison-Mitofsky showed differences favoring the Democrat of 2.2 points on the margin in 1988, 5.0 in 1992, 2.2 in 1996, 1.8 in 2000 and 6.5 in 2004 (see p. 34).
Go back and watch the classic political documentary, The War Room -- or easier, go back and read my post from January 2005 -- and you will see that that leaked exit polls on Election Day 1992 provided as distorted a view as those leaked in 2004. The difference was that the leaked exit polls in 1992 were known mostly to insiders and served to exaggerate the size of Bill Clinton's eventual victory. Clinton won by less than those early exit polls suggested, but he still won the election, so there was little lingering outrage.


But that's not all. Similarly, as he as done so many times in the past with regard to thimerosal and autism, Kennedy selectively quotes from a report but ignores important parts of it, such as its overall conclusion:

It's worth noting, too, that a team of political scientists hired by the Democratic Party to investigate what happened in Ohio also used statistical analysis to search for any pattern of obvious shifts from Bush to Gore in the vote count. That group saw no evidence of fraud (PDF). "The tendency to vote for Kerry in 2004 was the same as the tendency to vote for the Democratic candidate for governor in 2002," their report noted. "That the pattern of voting for Kerry is so similar to the pattern of voting for the Democratic candidate for governor in 2002 is, in the opinion of the team's political science experts, strong evidence against the claim that widespread fraud systematically misallocated votes from Kerry to Bush."
They added: "Kerry's support across precincts also increased with the support for Eric Fingerhut, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, and decreased with the support for Issue 1 (ballot initiative opposing same-sex marriage) and increased with the proportion of African American votes. Again this is the pattern that would be expected and is not consistent with claims of widespread fraud that misallocated votes from Kerry to Bush."

Kennedy cites parts of their report several times, but he does not mention this conclusion.


Does this sound familiar as well? It should. It's the same sort of thing that Kennedy did when he quote mined the transcript of the Simpsonwood meeting to make it sound as though a massive coverup by the CDC to cover up a supposed link between mercury in vaccines and autism and then gave the Institute of Medicine report the same treatment to "prove" that the CDC supposedly paid off the IOM to bury this alleged link between mercury and autism.

Kennedy also engages in his time-honored ploy of misrepresenting something as ominous that is not really ominous if you know the context. For example, Kennedy claims that Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio's right wing Secretary of State, engineered a "purge" of 300,000 voters in Ohio's major cities, most of which are Democratic strongholds:

Claim: Blackwell engineered a "purge" of 300,000 voters in Ohio's major cities.
Kennedy writes that "Blackwell permitted election officials in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo to conduct a massive purge of their voter rolls, summarily expunging the names of more than 300,000 voters who had failed to cast ballots in the previous two national elections. In Cleveland, which went five-to-one for Kerry, nearly one in four voters were wiped from the rolls between 2000 and 2004."

He concedes that there were "legitimate reasons to clean up voting lists: Many of the names undoubtedly belonged to people who had moved or died. But thousands more were duly registered voters who were deprived of their constitutional right to vote -- often without any notification -- simply because they had decided not to go to the polls in prior elections." Kennedy estimates that 10 percent of these 300,000 voters represented actual voters who were disenfranchised. He concludes that Blackwell's actions put 30,000 votes in the missing column.

Reality: Scrubbing the voting rolls of people who hadn't voted in prior elections isn't an arbitrary move. It's the law. Here's the relevant section of the Ohio code, 3503.19, which states that a person who "fails to vote in any election during the period of two federal elections" shall have his registration "canceled." To be sure, people who intended to vote and weren't aware of this rule could have been cut from the rolls, and you might say that's unfair. But that's an argument for a better election law, and not proof that the purges were part of a Republican election-theft plot.


This sounds familiar, too. Indeed, it resembles how Kennedy took a simple letter from a pharmaceutical company trying to gain a lock on an exclusive contract for thimerosal-free vaccines and the CDC's rejection of that company's offer as "evidence" that the CDC was trying to keep thimerosal in vaccines, rather than the CDC's true reason for refusing the offer, which was to safeguard U.S. vaccine supply (see handout) amid concerns that this company could not deliver on its promises by not tying itself to a single supplier. Blackwell may have done other questionable things with respect to the 2004 election in Ohio, but "purging" these voters from the rolls was not one of them.

The other problems with Kennedy's report are numerous and have been covered well elsewhere (see below). My purpose in mentioning the specific examples above is to show that RFK, Jr's techniques of "argument" regarding the "stealing" of the 2004 election are very similar the sorts of fallacious arguments that he has used before in arguing that the mercury in thimerosal causes autism and that there has been a massive coverup by the CDC and big pharma regarding this alleged link. In other words, he's at it again, only this time over a different topic.

My conclusion? Like Michael Moore, RFK, Jr. is primarily an activist and propagandist, not an objective journalist. He latches on to a point of view and then presents only data that supports that point of view. He did most outrageously it blaming vaccines for autism, and he appears to be doing it, albeit not quite as glaringly, regarding the "stealing" of the 2004 election. Recall that RFK Jr.'s claims regarding the mercury in thimerosal as being the cause of autism on the surface sounded very persuasive because he ignored all the evidence that goes against his thesis. It's when you dig deeper that you discover the flaws. Sadly, in his zeal to "prove" that the 2004 election was "stolen," he distracts from the discussion of valid flaws in our system of voting, most of which are arguments for reform of our election laws, not convincing arguments that the 2004 election was "stolen." Unfortunately, through his conspiracy-mongering, quote mining, and highly selective quoting of data, RFK, Jr. overstates his case to the point of destroying it.


For more rebuttals, some from decidedly non-conservative sources, see:

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2006/ ... ex_np.html
Last edited by BWV 1080 on Tue Jun 06, 2006 10:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Fugu

Post by Fugu » Tue Jun 06, 2006 11:06 am

The 2000 election was stolen. The 2004 election wasn't stolen, it just reached a level of ridiculousness with the religious right having far too much of a voice.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jun 06, 2006 11:59 am

Dan Ferguson wrote:The 2000 election was stolen.
BS. At what point was Gore ever, EVER, ahead in Florida?

What I want to know is why that twit is injecting himself in to real politics instead of the phoney baloney environment twaddle he usually pontificates on.
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Post by Werner » Tue Jun 06, 2006 12:23 pm

He was never ahead in Florida because the Bush forces, headed by Katherine What's-her-name managed to abort a true vote count.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jun 06, 2006 12:43 pm

Werner wrote:He was never ahead in Florida because the Bush forces, headed by Katherine What's-her-name managed to abort a true vote count.
If Gore was never ahead, he was the one trying to steal the election. If the silly Democrats couldn't train the illegals, the felons, and the ignorant minorities how to punch the excedingly low-tech ballot in the areas where they controled the election machinery, Gore was a victim of his party's operatives being too clever by half. Got all those people out to vote for him and then didn't tell 'em how to make it happen. When they finally realized to their mistake to their horror they had to get into court to give the political operatives enough time to generate "found" boxes of votes, in the finest Democratic tradition. I'll have none of this crap that the Republicans "stole" the 2000 election, as if it matters now.

And let's discuss the thousands of Republican voters in the panhandle who were told by the MSM that Gore won Florida before the polls closed in the panhandle, so they went home.
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Post by Donald Isler » Tue Jun 06, 2006 1:12 pm

1) Everyone who can read knows that Gore won the popular vote in 2000, though in our peculiar country that sometimes isn't enough to win the election.

2) Much as Corlyss would like to have us believe that we Democrats are mostly "illegal immigrants, etc." I think the election was settled when the Supreme Court decided that another recount of the votes should NOT take place. (I would be interested to know Ralph's take on this.)

So what the Republicans wanted was not a careful counting of the votes. That was what they FEARED.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jun 06, 2006 1:19 pm

Donald Isler wrote:1) Everyone who can read knows that Gore won the popular vote in 2000, though in our peculiar country that sometimes isn't enough to win the election.
Not in Florida he didn't.
2) Much as Corlyss would like to have us believe that we Democrats are mostly "illegal immigrants, etc."
If you're gonna use scare quotes, why not quote what I actually said?
I think the election was settled when the Supreme Court decided that another recount of the votes should NOT take place. (I would be interested to know Ralph's take on this.)
And everyone in the country knows that every recount run in 2001 by the 3 MSM outlets found that Gore would have lost.
So what the Republicans wanted was not a careful counting of the votes. That was what they FEARED.
What the Republicans feared was that the Democrats would do what they usually do, "find" uncounted boxes of fraudulent votes which just coincidently happen to deliver the election to the Democrat. This is not a subject for debate. It's amply documented that that is how the Dems win elections, especially thru their control of urban areas within a state.
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Dies Irae

Post by Dies Irae » Tue Jun 06, 2006 1:34 pm

Any of these allegations or counter-allegations may be true, or they may be false.

It doesn't matter to me, one iota.

GW Bush is a disaster as a person, and is an even greater disaster as the Pres. of The U.S.

If RFK Jr was running as an opponent to GWB (yeah, yeah, I know he can't run again), RFK Jr. would have, not only MY vote, but the votes of many of those that voted for "Dubbya" in 2004.

IMO GWB is absolutely, and by far, the worst, most incompetent President ever to serve in the Oval Office.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jun 06, 2006 1:40 pm

Dies Irae wrote: IMO GWB is absolutely, and by far, the worst, most incompetent President ever to serve in the Oval Office.
Where're Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan when you really need them for context?
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Post by Werner » Tue Jun 06, 2006 2:40 pm

Safely in oblivion and disrepute, where GWB will join them shortly.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jun 06, 2006 2:55 pm

Werner wrote:Safely in oblivion and disrepute, where GWB will join them shortly.
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Post by RebLem » Tue Jun 06, 2006 6:37 pm

Yeah, Corlyss, its always the minorities who are stupid. White people are never stupid. Especially not white Republicans. Except, of course, in the Florida Panhandle. Republicans are always saying they don't want people to come out to vote just to get the voting stats up, because they think the people who will do that are Democrats, not all those genius Republicans. But what does one say about the intelligence level of someone who hears that someone has already won the presidential race and so goes home, as if none of the other races on the ballot mattered? And Republicans are always screaming about how the allegedly liberal media are always distorting everything. So why did those Republican panhandlers believe them?

Oh, yeah, Corlyss, and one more thing. No media outlet can count ballots that were never cast because people were illegally disenfranchised. There were about 57,000 black "felons" who were illegally struck from the rolls. They roughly fell into two categories--the largest group was people who had names similar or identical to that of a convicted felon. Does every Tyrone Washington have to be disenfranchised just because one was a convicted felon? I say not. Jebby and Katie said yes.

The other group was people who had been convicted in other states. Florida had entered into consent decrees before in which they agreed not to do this. If a man is convicted in a state which restores civil rights to felons once they have completed their sentences, the full faith and credit clause of the US Constitution requires that they honor that. But Florida chose to flout the law and violate those consent decrees, but nobody did anything, once again, because nobody goes to jail in this country for violating the rights of black people unless it is by actually murdering them. Never mind that it murders democracy.

Oh, and you "don't want to hear it?" Well, brace yourself. You're going to be hearing a lot more for lots of people who don't give a third of a turkey turd what you don't want to hear, both here and in the public prints and on television, and, gee whiz, Batman, all over the place.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jun 06, 2006 6:58 pm

Corlyss_D wrote: What I want to know is why that twit is injecting himself in to real politics instead of the phoney baloney environment twaddle he usually pontificates on.
Okay. I forgot that Ken Blackwell is doing well in Ohio. That's why.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jun 06, 2006 7:17 pm

RebLem wrote:Yeah, Corlyss, its always the minorities who are stupid. White people are never stupid. Especially not white Republicans.


You're going to have to show me where I said that. The Democrats consider the minority populations in this country their rightful propterty. They weren't trolling the investment banking firms for voters (money yes, voters no). It's a documented fact that the Democrats did exactly what I said they did. If you want to chide someone, chide the Democrats for not training their property to do the job demanded of them.
Except, of course, in the Florida Panhandle. Republicans are always saying they don't want people to come out to vote just to get the voting stats up, because they think the people who will do that are Democrats, not all those genius Republicans.
If it's so widely known that Republicans say that, I'm sure you can supply me with a legitimate source for that.
But what does one say about the intelligence level of someone who hears that someone has already won the presidential race and so goes home, as if none of the other races on the ballot mattered?
You mean why did they believe the MSM that you liberals always swear has absolutely no bias? You got me. Why? Never mind. You must not recall all the uproar about the MSM calling national races at the close of the polls in the East depressing turnout in the west. That's why it was crucial for the MSM to refrain from calling any races until the polls closed. But the MSM didn't do that in the case of Florida. They called the race while the polls were still open in the panhandle. I guess its a human trait not to waste time in pointless exercises.

No media outlet can count ballots that were never cast because people were illegally disenfranchised.
There have been many documented studies of voting behavior by the federal government since the 70s. None of them have ever proven that voters are routinely disenfranchised.
There were about 57,000 black "felons" who were illegally struck from the rolls.
Another bogus charge amply disproven by the Civil Rights Commission, a non-partisan federal agency. I personally have no problem with convicted felons voting as an idea. I object to convicted felons being recruited by Democrats and deployed in states where state law forbids convicted felons from voting. If they want so fervently to exercise their civic rights, how come they never think of it until the day before the election when Democratic activists arrive at their doors to bribe them to go commit just one more crime for the team?
because nobody goes to jail in this country for violating the rights of black people unless it is by actually murdering them. Never mind that it murders democracy.
You are getting carried away with your own eloquence. Nobody goes to jail for voter faud in this country. That's the real disgrace. We have an electoral system in this country that no third world country would tolerate. That's the real disgrace. We can't fix the system because it would require the Democrats to give up their criminal apparatus to steal elections. That's the real disgrace.
Oh, and you "don't want to hear it?" Well, brace yourself. You're going to be hearing a lot more
I'm ready because I have the facts, not the shamefully lying Democratic talking points.
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