Monday, January 31, 2005

Phil Friedman (1955-2005)

My college classmate, who also lived on the second floor of Pennypacker Hall in 1972-73, the kind of experience that marks you for life, apparently committed suicide last Thursday. Phil's obituary in the New York Times ran on Saturday. It's silly to feel badly about, but I forgot to update my email list and I just sent him my most recent column.
The Cyrillic Version of Southern Partisan Magazine

Continuing my infatuation with all things Ukrainian, I wrote this week about the aspect to Ukrainian nationalism that strikes me as their equivalent to the Southern Partisan "respect for history that has nothing to do with race and slavery--yeah, right" view of U.S. history. This might be obscure stuff, but somehow the Bush White House managed to find this guy for a 5-member official delegation to the Yushchenko inauguration. In case you want the links, the Chicago Tribune article mentioned in the column is here; the link to my column on the East Valley Tribune website is here.

East Valley Tribune, Jan. 30, 2005

Last Sunday, Viktor Yushchenko was inaugurated as the third president of Ukraine -- the third peaceful transfer of power since Ukraine became independent in 1991, although one requiring massive peaceful demonstrations, court decisions, and a repeat election. As frequent readers know, Ukraine’s sudden and surprising turn to democracy and the rule of law is good news for the world.

But even as Yushchenko’s election may herald a brighter future, history still plays a potentially ambiguous role there, and here as well. Invoking history may evoke entirely different responses -- and those with pet causes often abuse history for their own purposes.

Before his inauguration, Yushchenko participated in a symbolic Cossack ceremony, a reminder of Ukraine’s past that probably filled many Ukrainians with nationalistic pride. Also, while monitoring last month’s election, I stayed in the Hotel Kozatsky -- the Cossack. However, as someone whose ancestors fled Ukraine due to those same Cossacks, their pride eluded me. It all worked out for the best; without Cossack “help,” I wouldn’t be an American. But it’s still hard to feel all warm and fuzzy about my family’s former tormentors.

This kind of historical dissonance cropped up often in Ukraine. During an informal tour of Kyiv, one of our host officials with the US-Ukraine Foundation pointed out where, during World War II, Russian commandos attempted to blow up an important and historic cathedral where high-ranking Nazis were meeting. The explosives damaged the building, but the Nazis escaped unharmed. Other listeners and I got the strong sense that this current-day Ukrainian considered the damage to the since-restored cathedral far more tragic than the missed opportunity in the fight against the Nazis.

Just as modern-day Ukrainian pride in the Cossacks strikes descendants of those who suffered at their hands as a bit unsettling, perhaps a modern Ukrainian’s strong memories of the more-recent burdens and terrors of the Soviet system may overpower revulsion over the Nazis. Victory in World War II occurred 60 years ago; the Soviet system didn’t crumble until 1991. The horrors of fascism may have faded next to the fresher horrors of the USSR.

Also, the Soviets certainly used their brutal and bloody fight against the Nazis as a political weapon for decades. For some, perhaps any mention of World War II is tainted by association with communism.

Those are the more positive explanations, but there are more troubling ones, unfortunately. Ukraine suffered so gravely under Stalin, when forced collectivization of farming led to famines that killed millions, that stories abound that advancing German troops were welcomed by peasants who approved of any enemy of their enemy.

And even today, some Ukrainians (and Ukrainian-Americans) who feel the world doesn’t fully appreciate how desperately Ukraine suffered under the Soviets may ignore or downplay the depredations of the Nazis -- and even go so far as to blame their victims for Ukraine’s suffering.

It’s way beyond ironic that this past week, when the world, including Vice President Cheney, commemorated the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, the Bush administration also appointed Myron Kuropas as a member of the official White House delegation to Yushchenko’s inauguration.

Kuropas has stated that Jewish organizations “manipulate” memories of the Holocaust to raise money, and that Jews were prominent among the communists responsible for Soviet atrocities in Ukraine. In 2000, Kuropas wrote, “Big money drives the Holocaust industry. To survive, the Holocaust industry is always searching for its next mark. Ukraine’s turn is just around the corner.” When asked by the Chicago Tribune this week, Kuropas didn’t back down, but reaffirmed his views.

Kuropas complains that Ukraine is unfairly tarred as anti-Semitic, then argues that any Ukrainian participation in the Holocaust resulted from anger over Jewish participation in the Soviet atrocities. There were certainly Jewish communists, but both Hitler and Himmler were Catholics. Somehow, collective guilt only applies to Jews.

It’s not necessary to diminish the horrors of the Holocaust to understand the atrocities suffered by Ukraine. It would help if the Bush administration wouldn’t give a platform to those who believe otherwise.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Data Are For Weenies

I'm two days late in sending out last Sunday's column because I spent three days in Kokomo, Indiana, as this year's contribution to the Congress to Campus program sponsored by the U.S. Association of Former Members and the Stennis Center for Public Service at Mississippi State University (major funding provided by Boeing and AARP). I now know much more about Indiana University at Kokomo, and hope that my GOP partner, former Rep. Steve Kuykendall of California, and I maybe inspired a student or two to consider a career in public service. At IUK, however, we started small, in trying to convince students at this rural, all-commuter branch campus (there are no residential dorms or athletic facilities; no fraternities, and one brand-new sorority) that they maybe should think about a 2-week program, because a semester away seems too long to contemplate.

The coolest thing in Kokomo is that the IUK Chancellor, Ruth Person, not only spent a year during her time with the American Council of Higher Education in Phoenix as a Fellow with the Arizona Board of Regents, but she's also a member of the Board of Directors of Steak N Shake Corporation. (The second coolest, and most enthusiastic, was our visit coordinator, the ruthlessly efficient and relentlessly positive Aimee Sadler, the most organized Hoosier I know.) Chancellor Person gave me a Steak N Shake mug as a memento, but I'll have to give it to Sarah, to whom it will mean more in St. Louis.

For those of you not familiar with Midwestern mores, Steak N Shake is the In-N-Out Burger of the Central Time Zone. (Special bonus link: The unposted In-N-Out menu!)

East Valley Tribune, Jan. 23, 2005

Next time you hear one of these "eat-our-seed-corn conservatives" (or the page to my left) say that state tax cuts will boost economic growth, ask them to prove it. They can’t. And now there’s new research showing that states that cut taxes the most during the 1990’s actually did worse economically during this decade.

The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities just compared economic performance of the 16 states that cut taxes the most (over 7 percent of overall revenues) with the 34 states that cut taxes less, or not at all. Guess what? The states that cut taxes the most had bigger budget problems, needed larger spending cuts and larger tax increases to fill the gaps, and were more likely to have their bonds downgraded by the rating agencies. The six states that cut taxes the most (more than 10 percent), including one of our local right-wing’s absolute favorites, Colorado, did even worse. (The full study is available here.)

The tax-cutting states also turned in worse economic performance during the 2001-04 recession-and-weak-recovery. They lost more jobs and had slower growth than the more “moderate” states -- three times greater job losses than the average of the other 34 states. They saw slower growth, larger increases in unemployment, and smaller increases in personal income. The six states with the biggest tax cuts had almost four times the payroll job losses in the other 44 states. In five of the six, constant-dollar total personal income has declined, despite increasing nationally.

Conservatives can’t blame the weaker economies on subsequent tax hikes when the fiscal crows came home to the budget roost. The job losses occurred at the beginning of the recession, during 2001, but most states deferred their fiscal medicine until 2002. (Most still had a few budget gimmicks left; the cupboard became bare in 2002.)

Conservatives also can’t say that tax cuts are good economically, but “other factors” overpowered any benefits. That’s sure not what they said going in -- and if these other factors are more important, shouldn’t we do the more important stuff first?

The tax cuts didn’t “pay for themselves.” Instead, states that cut taxes more aggressively found that they had (imagine that!) less money for public services, like schools and transportation. They also had less money when demand increased during the recession for healthcare, job training, and emergency assistance.

Other research, including a major 2002 study by Robert Lynch of the Economic Policy Institute, found that state tax rates have little or no impact on economic growth. Numerous academic studies confirm that state tax burdens matter less than finding qualified workers, proximity to key customers, and quality public services. Tax cuts that reduce the quantity and quality of public services actually can hurt economic growth and lose jobs. It takes so much in tax cuts and economic incentives to impact economic development that the lost revenue may mean more public sector layoffs than any new jobs created.

Such a deal the conservatives offer: You get bigger job losses, worse public services, slower income growth, and lower bond ratings. Eventually, you get bigger tax hikes. Wow.

Watch conservatives fret about the state’s fiscal “structural deficit,” the mismatch between revenues and spending increases required by federal programs, population growth, and voter-approved initiatives. These same conservatives created the structural deficit, by passing wave after wave of tax cuts with claims they would spur the economy and pay for themselves. Well, they didn’t -- and they won’t.

Arizona managed to avoid the fiscal train wreck now afflicting Colorado mainly because of those voter-approved initiatives and an already-antiquated tax system stopped our legislators from being as stupid as they truly wanted to be. But now that our economy is improving, those legislators want another drink of the same fiscal Kool-Aid that has led to lower growth and worse services elsewhere.

The way to cure our structural deficit isn’t with worse schools, roads, healthcare, and public safety. Businesses and new jobs aren’t attracted by policies that lead to bigger deficits, worse services, and lower bond ratings. And if anyone says otherwise, ask ‘em for proof.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Yushchenko Wins, This Time in Court

The Ukraine Supreme Court rejected Viktor Yanukovych's appeal and approved the Central Election Commission's declaration of Viktor Yushchenko's victory in the Dec. 26 revote of the runoff election. The following translation of the final paragraphs of the Court's ruling is from the BBC Monitoring Service, taken from the broadcast in Ukrainian on the One + One Network in Kyiv:

On the basis of Articles 8, 71, 103, 124 of the Constitution of Ukraine, Article 13 of the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Articles 93, 98 of the law of Ukraine "On Ukrainian presidential elections", Article 15 of the law of Ukraine "On the specifics of applying the law on Ukrainian presidential elections in the repeat vote on 26 December 2004", Articles 11, 243/10, 243/20 of the Civil Procedural Code of Ukraine, the Chamber for Civil Cases of the Supreme Court of Ukraine has ruled that the complaint from Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych about inaction by the Central Electoral Commission, its actions to establish the results of the repeat vote in the Ukrainian presidential election on 26 December 2004, about the Central Electoral Commission's resolutions on the results of the repeat vote on 26 December 2004 and the results of the Ukrainian presidential election No 14 dated 10 January 2005, and about the publication of the results of the repeat vote on 26 December 2004 in the Ukrainian presidential election, No 15 dated 10 January 2005, be rejected.

The ruling is final and is not subject to appeal.

Chairman, judges - all signed.

I declare the court hearing closed.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

It's Not Every Day I'm Quoted in Ukrainian

It's just back in October. I found the Newsweek International article from the Nov. 1 issue reprinted in "Ukrainian Pravda." So you can see how my quote (and my name) looks in Ukrainian (it's the last four lines of the eighth paragraph). I was able to cut-and-paste into Word, but Blogger can't handle Cyrillic.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Ukraine Update

The New York Times had a fascinating article on Jan. 17 describing how the Ukrainian security police (the SBU) blocked the Interior Ministry's attempt to use force to disperse the demonstrators in Independence Square. Note the role of various cliques and factions within the SBU--so that the folks who detained me in October may not really have worked for or with the guys who gave the Yushchenko campaign the telephone intercepts they used to prove vote fraud in the court case. I leave you to ponder the irony of KGB alumni turning out to be the guardians of emerging democracy.

Also, yesterday the Ukraine Supreme Court dismissed or denied several motions filed by former Prime Minister Yanukovych, but adjourned without issuing a final ruling on the loser's appeal. It is not clear when the court will finish with the case and clear the way for Yushchenko's inauguration. Morgan Williams, who writes the frequent and lengthy Ukraine Action Report (he make me look terse), says the best current guess for the inauguration is either Jan. 22 or 23. "BE READY TO LEAVE FOR KYIV ON A MOMENT'S NOTICE!" he writes, which isn't an easy thing to do from Phoenix.

Monday, January 17, 2005

"A Government of Laws, Not Men"

I originally wanted to write on something else, but The Tribune's tepid Gonzales editorial got me started. Maybe it got edited down--there's no mention of Gonzales's first name, which makes me suspect that some stuff at the beginning got cut, which could have affected the meaning, but the part that set me off was at the end. "The concern is," indeed.

The newspaper version of my column is here; you can read the original Tribune editorial here. If you have a minute, compare my paper's namby-pamby passive voice harrumphing to that of The Washington Post. It's come to this pretty pass, where we congratulate people because they go out on a limb and oppose torture. Wow. And if the defense is that we only do a few things that constitute torture, while the terrorists are beheading people--I can only wait for the attack that you lack patriotism because you're against beheading people if that's what it takes to defend liberty. Hey, if Jack could defeat the terrorists on 24 by beheading a couple, suddenly you're going to get qualms at that point? Isn't that a little late in this particular game?

East Valley Tribune, Jan. 16, 2005

Naively, I used to think our country was “a government of laws, not men.” But in a remarkable editorial last week, The Tribune disagreed.

Last Tuesday, a Tribune editorial entitled “Reassurances and reservations” reviewed the confirmation hearing testimony of Alberto Gonzales, President Bush’s nominee for Attorney General. The Tribune saluted Gonzales because he, in the editorial’s words, “repudiated” memos written under his auspices as White House counsel which seemed to condone both torture and disregard of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war.

Gonzales offered words: “Contrary to reports, I consider the Geneva Conventions neither obsolete nor quaint.” He also said that he would “ensure that the Department of Justice aggressively pursues those responsible for such abhorrent actions.” The Tribune breathed a huge sigh of relief, saying that senators “couldn’t ask for more concrete commitments.”

After all, everybody knows that everybody in the Bush administration, from the president on down, never says anything without meaning it and always lives up to their promises. Their word is their bond. They never exaggerate. They always underpromise and overperform. You just can’t get “more concrete commitments” than from the Bush administration. Glad we got that one settled, the very week that the Iraq Survey Group abandoned the forlorn snipe hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

From there, the editorial really got woozy. Maybe Gonzales made clear that he personally doesn’t approve of torture. But as The Tribune noted, “a key principle remains unaddressed: Does the president have the power to ignore U.S. laws and international treaties against torture? Does he have the power to order the torture of detainees?” And another question, from the Jose Padilla case: Is it true that “the president has the power to imprison without charge” American citizens indefinitely?

According to the editorial, Gonzales called the torture question “moot” because Bush personally opposes torture. The government lawyers in the Padilla case said the other question was moot because Bush wouldn’t order roundups of other American citizens.

The editorial’s big conclusion: “Clearly the administration would like to reserve those powers for the president. The concern is that while Bush might not abuse such powers, another president might.”

Well, there you have it. This constitution thing, this business about American law and values and international norms -- break out the passive voice, boys, because that’s for other presidents, not this one. We don’t worry because, well, they’re so superfluous when the president is George W. Bush. After all, the guy who took us to war against Iraq’s WMD, who said that his tax cuts were justified by the huge guaranteed budget surpluses, who says that Social Security won’t be able to pay anything in 15 years -- well, we’re just supposed to trust him. He “might not abuse such powers.” Such a relief!

Of course, every defense by the Bush administration since the Abu Ghraib photos first appeared -- that it was few bad apples, that the crimes were limited to the night shift during a few months in 2003, that there was no relationship to interrogations, that no torture occurred at Guantanamo Bay -- turned out to be a flat-out lie. To The Tribune, it’s now tacky to worry about law and limits with such wonderful “concrete commitments” uttered in Senate hearings.

Bush is entitled to his choice of Attorney General. The bigger issue is The Tribune’s abandonment of principle. Now apparently power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely -- except for George W. Bush.

We’re a government of laws, not men -- except when the government is George W. Bush. Then we’ll trust the man, and not worry about the laws, values, or treaties. The question is moot because we’re told Bush personally opposes bad things. Q.E.D.

After all, he’s now the government, and he’s here to help. And being a libertarian apparently now means you want less government -- unless the government is George W. Bush. Law takes a backseat to the personal opinions of one man. We worry only about other future presidents; Bush gets a pass.

What used to be fundamental is now merely moot. See how far the mighty have fallen, in only four short years?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Yushchenko Win Announced; Ukraine to Withdraw Troops from Iraq

Yesterday, the Central Election Commission certified Viktor Yushchenko as the winner of the re-vote of the runoff on Dec. 26; former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said he would challenge the certification in the Ukraine Supreme Court, but previously acknowledged that he did not expect the court to overturn the re-vote results. The court, meanwhile, has dismissed all pending Yanukovych appeals, but apparently the losing candidate could file another round after the CEC announcement on Monday. Meanwhile, not waiting for the new presidential administration, outgoing President Leonid Kuchman announced that Ukraine will withdraw its 1,600 troops from Iraq; Ukraine has the fourth-largest contingent of troops in the coalition. Eight Ukrainian troops were killed in an ambush over the weekend.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Ukraine (The Editor's Cut)

The Tribune really couldn't use 4,500+ words about my week in Odessa and Kyiv, so this week's column is a shorter version of the lengthy post below about monitoring the Ukraine elections.

But enough Ukraine, you say. Sam, you ask, how did you do in the Rock-n-Roll Arizona Marathon yesterday? Why, thank you for noticing. I finished in 4:29:28, which is pretty darn good for me, and just over 33 minutes better than last year. So I'm happy, but I'm also being very, very careful not to drop anything because it really hurts to bend over to pick it up. UPDATE: Here's the link for marathon results. (It's tricky--you have to scroll down to the very bottom of the page to find the scroll bar for moving right, or just use the right arrow on your keyboard.) Here's the link for the newspaper version of the column, at least for a while.

East Valley Tribune, Jan. 9, 2005

Here’s hoping, when it comes to Ukraine’s elections, that the third time’s a charm.

I spent the last week in December in Ukraine again, this time as an international election monitor with the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation and the Association of Former Members of Congress. Our little band of three dozen U.S. and European former elected officials were part of a veritable army of international observers, over 12,000 strong.

Ukraine’s election law specifically encourages international observers, giving them the right to watch (and photograph) all aspects of the election process. That openness is one of the oft-cited “international standards” which we in the United States demand of other countries but may not provide ourselves, depending on what each state’s laws happen to say.

I’ve put my (embarrassingly long) “Ukraine diary” on my website, for those interested in the places, the process, the result, or links to region-by-region vote totals. (Do your own “blue oblasts vs. orange oblasts” maps!) But now that the “Orange Revolution” has triumphed and democracy actually marched, it’s absolutely crucial that we don’t forget Ukraine. Having done what many thought impossible, Ukraine now needs the West to respond both in kind and in proportion.

Ukraine sees itself as an integral part of Europe, not as a bridge. Ukraine wants a closer relationship with the European Union and to work toward EU membership once its economy improves to making membership feasible, both of which the U.S. should encourage. More awkwardly, Ukraine also wants a closer relationship with NATO, which would antagonize Russia more than it would reward Ukraine. The U.S. and Europeans may need to dance around that one.

But there are three specific things the U.S. should do now to recognize and reward this new Ukraine. First, pretty much any Ukrainian student wanting to study in the U.S., or any Ukrainian businesspeople wanting to expand trade, should be allowed to come. The dramatic declines, particularly in student visas, following 9/11 has impaired one of the best tools of American diplomacy. We need to resolve any homeland security issues and let Ukrainians visit as much (and as many) as possible.

Second, the Jackson-Vanik amendment imposed trade sanctions against the Soviet Union and other countries that blocked minority emigration and religious exercise. As a former part of the USSR, Ukraine remains subject to Jackson-Vanik. Since Ukrainian independence in 1991, each U.S. administration has given Ukraine an annual waiver. But Ukrainians see the waiver process as potentially risky and definitely insulting, and want permanent “graduation” instead. Scoop Jackson may be dead, but in our delegation former Rep. Tom Sawyer reported that even Charlie Vanik, now retired in Florida, thinks the law has long since served its purpose and should be repealed.

It may be surprisingly difficult to repeal a law that few -- including, in our delegation, former Reps. Elizabeth Holzman and Robert Drinan, who proudly voted for it in the 1970’s -- realize is still on the books. It’s a classic political problem, where a small but extremely agitated minority opposes repeal that would benefit, if only slightly, the vast majority. Repealing a now-outdated law would be a strong (if merely symbolic) reward to a democratic Ukraine.

Third, perhaps to demonstrate his independence from the U.S., President-elect Viktor Yushchenko promised during the campaign to bring Ukrainian troops home from Iraq immediately. While people around Yushchenko say that the withdrawal won’t be precipitous, 1,600 Ukrainian soldiers will depart, probably soon after Iraq’s Jan. 30 elections, while the U.S. scrounges for more troops to fight the insurgency. The Bush administration cannot let short-term Iraq troop requirements overpower our long-term strategic interests in a democratic Ukraine.

It’s truly thrilling to be in Ukraine now. People in Kyiv, both young and older, are quite proud of what they have accomplished. They appreciate the admiration that we Americans have shown, and they really enjoy that visitors from Moldova, Belarus, and especially Russia are openly jealous of Ukraine’s burst into democracy. But now comes the boring-but-vital part. Let’s fix the visa system, graduate Ukraine from Jackson-Vanik, and encourage Ukraine’s economic and political integration into Europe. It’s the least we must do to keep democracy on the march.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Ukraine Diary. All 5,000 Words of It.

I've written up my experiences observing the rerun of the Ukraine presidential election runoff in late December. It's embarrassingly long, but you really don't have to read it all:

Here’s hoping, that when it comes to elections in Ukraine, the third time’s the charm.

Background to the New Election

On Dec. 26, Ukrainians voted for the third time in 8 weeks for a new president. Following widespread reports of improprieties in the Oct. 31 first-round election and major fraud and vote padding in the Nov. 21 runoff, the Ukraine Supreme Court had invalidated the election and ordered it the runoff election repeated within a three-week period. That period ended on, yes, Dec. 26, which the Ukrainian Parliament chose as the date for the repeat election.

It looks like this election result will hold. On Dec. 31, the losing candidate, Yiktor Yanukovych, resigned as prime minister and admitted that his challenges to the vote had little chance of overturning the provisional results; the winner, opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, has claimed victory and started planning his inauguration in Kyiv’s Independence Square (the Maidan Nezalezhnosti) and considering who will play what role in his government. International observers have noted some problems, but have called the revote fair and generally in conformance with international standards.

That was my opinion, as well; I spent the week of the election in Ukraine as an international election monitor. I volunteered for a program sponsored jointly by the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation and the Association of Former Members of Congress, which in turn affiliated with the association for former members of the European Parliament. Our hardy band of three dozen U.S. and European “former honorables” headed out across Ukraine, becoming part of a veritable army of international observers estimated at greater than 12,000.

The Ukrainian election law specifically encourages and registers international observers, giving them the right to be present and to watch all aspects of the election process; that openness is one of the “international standards” which we in the United States demand of other countries but may not provide ourselves, depending on what each state’s laws happen to provide.

Observing in Odessa

I spent the election itself in Odessa, in southern Ukraine along the Black Sea. I requested Odessa both because my paternal grandfather traced his descent from the region and I wanted to see at least part of my heritage, and because due to its more southerly location and the sea’s effects, Odessa is warmer than Kyiv, and hey, I’m an Arizona guy. If I enjoyed winter, I’d be living somewhere else.

I flew more or less directly from Phoenix to Odessa, which meant changing planes (and losing my luggage for 4 days) in Minneapolis, Amsterdam, and Kyiv. I only had enough time to use an ATM machine at Kyiv’s Boryspol Airport, which caused the credit card company to call my wife about unusual account activity; she had to explain that for us, a cash withdrawal in Kyiv is normal.

In Odessa, we saw the statute of the French nobleman with the English cannonball from the Crimean War embedded in its base, atop the famous Potemkin Steps; you may recall the baby carriage falling down those steps either in the original Eisenstein movie, The Battleship Potemkin, or perhaps from the homage in Brian de Palma in The Untouchables, or the parody of the homage in a Naked Gun movie. Unfortunately, the reality doesn’t live up to the cinematic treatment; the steps do not end at a chapel or even a view of the sea, but rather at a busy four-lane commercial street and the noisy clamor of the harbor and warehouses. The adjacent funicular railway closed for repairs in 1999 and has yet to reopen. And the steps themselves seem dirty, smaller, and less than majestic. Once again, reality can be disappointing compared to the ideal, but unlike the movie version, it actually exists. Just like democracy itself.

So what did we see? From everything I saw and heard from other members of our team, the election generally went well. You would have found much that seemed familiar in the process. Despite an emotional and pitched national campaign full of invective, misleading claims, and emotional appeals, I saw a high level of respect and cooperation at the local level, where election workers from the two different campaigns knew each other and worked well together in common cause of counting votes accurately and completely. I saw the residue of a difficult campaign, where just as in America supporters of one candidate readily admitted their guy’s flaws but believed the absolutely worst rumors about the other guy, but that campaign didn’t affect how local folks got along and conducted the people’s business.

And I also saw significant regional divisions, where results in the great majority of provinces went overwhelmingly -- by margins of 2-to-1 or more -- for one candidate. Out of 27 voting regions, in only one (Kherson) was the winning candidate’s margin less than 20 percent. In 12, the winning candidate won by more than 4-to-1; Donetsk gave Yanukovych 93.54 percent, while 93.74 of Lviv voted for Yushchenko. (Yanukovych carried the entire Odessa region 67-30, with about 3 percent for neither candidate; in the urban election district containing the polling station where I monitored the vote count, Yanukovych won by 59-34, with 5 percent voting for neither candidate.) On TV maps, all provinces to the west were colored orange, the campaign color of Yushchenko, and those to the east were blue, the color of Yanukovych’s campaign. That’s a potentially big problem for the future unless the new government can find a way to defuse linguistic, regional, religious, and cultural tensions and build unity. (Results by region in English are posted by the Central Election Commission here.)

Ukrainian Election Procedures (Nuts-and-Bolts for Political Junkies)

Ukraine’s election differs from our procedures in several ways. First, the election is very low-tech: paper ballots, lots of manual processing, and multiple signatures for every ballot. To vote, a citizen needed to be listed on the rolls, which were available at polling stations in advance of the vote. If you weren’t on the roll, you had to file an application with the local court to obtain an order putting you on the list of registered voters.

Second, when a voter arrived at the polls, they presented specified identity documents, then signed the voter roll and the top portion of their ballot, what we would call the ballot stub. Unlike in America, however, a local election committee member then signed both the voter roll page and the ballot stub, which then was stamped with the official seal of the polling district. Under the revised procedures adopted by the Parliament for this additional election, the poll workers were evenly balanced, with half appointed from each campaign, and at the polls they worked in pairs. If the Yanukovych poll worker signed the ballots, the Yushchenko worker controlled the voter list pages and handed the actual ballot to the voter -- but to do so, the second committee member used a ruler to tear off the top of the ballot stub, with the voter’s name, number, and signature, because the ballots weren’t perforated. The ballot, after removal of the stub, was slightly larger than a business (not personal) check.

Voters then went to a polling booth, all of which appeared rather small by our standards, and marked their choice, for either of the two candidates or for “neither candidate.” The voter then put the completed ballot in one of several boxes; each polling station, no matter how small, had multiple ballot boxes, not just one. And the boxes, each approximately 4 feet high, were made of clear plastic, and most voters (about 80 percent) did not fold their ballots. Often, you could tell how a voter voted by viewing the ballot through the clear walls. We asked several voters if they had concerns about this potential lack of secrecy, but everybody we asked said that they preferred the clear boxes, because that would help prevent classic ballot box stuffing or removal of valid ballots by stealth. I suspect most Americans would be upset at the potential loss of secrecy and never consider the possibility that opaque ballot boxes could be compromised more readily.

The vote count was recorded on a form called a protocol, in a labor-intensive process. There wasn’t one official protocol form; instead, after finishing the count, each election committee had to produce by hand a duplicate original protocol (with multiple signatures from each committee member and from all officially-recognized observers, including me) for everyone entitled to one. Thus, at the polling station where I observed the count, it took almost as long to write out the final results in 20 or so original protocols (multiple copies for each campaign, plus for the observers, plus the officially-required copies) as it did to count all the votes. Even though most polling stations were located in government buildings, none apparently had access to a photocopier, so all forms requiring copies were copied -- and signed repeatedly -- by hand.

Prisons and Other "Controlled Votes"

Another striking difference with U.S. elections is that in Ukraine, prisoners don’t lose their voting rights -- and inside the prison, everybody votes. I observed voting inside a medium-security prison in Odessa, where I was most surprised by the limited internal security. The guards did limit the number admitted to the polling station, located in the small prison library, to about 20 at a time. However, there were no guards in the library itself (the election law prohibited police and guards inside polling stations), and nobody thought that a crowd of prisoners voting presented any threat at all to the poll workers and various observers -- which would not have been the case in virtually any similar U.S. prison. It looked like all prisoners were voting, and they voted fairly overwhelmingly for Yanukovych, the ruling party candidate. Yushchenko supporters attributed the support to Yanukovych’s past convictions under Soviet rule, which have since been expunged, but I don’t think if U.S. convicts could vote, they would support the incumbent administration which, after all, put them in jail. In any case, prisoners didn’t vote absentee; they all lined up and all voted that morning. The 100 percent turnout is a bit suspicious, but it’s not as if the prisoners had other places to go that day.

"Mobile Voting"

Finally, Ukraine had very limited absentee, and no early, voting. (Voters could apply to vote at other polling stations if business or school took them away from home, but had to apply in advance and then appear at a “live” polling station to vote.) An elderly or handicapped voter had to apply for “mobile voting” privileges, where the election officials took a ballot and a small mobile box (about the size of, yes, a toaster) to the voter’s home. Parliament changed the procedures after percentages of votes cast by allegedly disabled voters in Yanukovych areas were so large as to defy credibility. But the Yanukovych campaign challenged that change, and the Constitutional Court struck down some of the more restrictive provisions as incompatible with the legal rights of disabled voters. The court’s decision, however, came the day before the election, and wasn’t made official until publication at around 6 pm that evening, and required that all applications under the court-revised rules be submitted by 8 pm. So there were two different sets of rules for applying for mobile voting, depending on if the voter submitted the request (which required original physician certifications of disability to be attached) before the court decision, or in the window created by the court decision the day before the election. No local election officials had time stamps, so most treated applications submitted on Dec. 25 as falling within the window, even if they may have arrived before the court decision was announced or became official on publication.

The confusing and quite difficult procedures for qualifying to vote at home, plus the last-minute court-ordered revision, made mobile voting a key flashpoint between the two campaigns. In Odessa, a Yanukovych region, Yushchenko campaign workers spent much of election day challenging mobile votes as not proper due to such formalistic problems as not having original physician certificates attached, or because the request wasn’t written entirely by hand by the applicant; they interpreted the law’s requirement that the applicant submit the letter as meaning that nobody else could help write it. It’s not clear if they were challenging typed letters on the grounds that the applicant might not have done the typing, but it was the kind of strict compliance with election law requirements in enemy territory (and perhaps not in their own favorable regions) that is the stock in trade of any American election lawyer. William Rehnquist, call your office.

But we saw in the Odessa region that many elderly or handicapped voters, lacking transportation to the polls and with polling stations located in buildings without elevators or access, were disenfranchised in order to prevent the kind of widespread fraud that probably accounted for 5 percent of Yanukovych’s totals in the tainted Nov. 21 election. The Parliament needs to fix the mobile voting rules, and Ukraine needs to revisit the whole mobile voting process, which makes basic ballot-box-stuffing and ghost-voter cheating far too easy.

After observing at the prison, I spent the afternoon of election day visiting various polling stations with former Sen. Larry Pressler (R-SD), who had given me the coat off his back when he learned my luggage was still missing. The day’s highlight was stopping, at his insistence, at a horse-cart for photographs in between two polling stations in rural Odessa region. I guess being on the Senate Agriculture Committee is a lifetime calling. After making our inspections of polling places and Ukrainian agriculture, we then headed back to town to observe the counting at a polling station close to the city center chosen because of the high numbers of students living in hostels nearby might present opportunities for vote fraud.

Counting Votes in Odessa

At that polling station, I saw that people in Odessa managed to deal with some aspects of the law in a more practical manner. The commission at Polling Station 78 in Territorial Election Region 137 had a Yanukovych appointee count the ballots for Yushchenko, while a Yushchenko designee counted the Yanukovych ballots. Everybody ruled together on disputed, invalid, and “neither candidate” ballots.

The commission also found “creative” ways to deal with certain aspects of required procedures. The station was located in a municipal building, and we were warned that the doors would be locked at 8 pm and we wouldn’t even have access to a bathroom until the count finished. But the commission members consisted of 10 women and 2 men, and three of the younger women were quite striking. The room adjacent to the polling station was some sort of police substation or security office, and some of the younger policemen found reason to visit their substation, and to talk with those particular three female commission members during breaks in the counting. All that flirting meant that despite the padlock ostentatiously placed on front gate, we could duck out through the police substation and use the downstairs facilities as needed. I declined to report this possible violation, both at the time and now. I’m with the security guys on this one.

The results took two days for a “provisional” announcement by the country’s Central Election Commission, but while the provisional results gave Yushchenko a 8-point victory, the Yanukovych campaign filed a huge number of complaints -- several thousands in all, none of which appear sufficient to change the result, but which will require time to hear and resolve. Observers with the International Republican Institute estimated that the reported 8-point margin is about half of the real margin, due to some electoral trickery in key eastern Yanukovych districts. Of course, in drawing that conclusion, these U.S. Republicans are demonstrating their belief that exit polls are absolutely valid when conducted in a foreign language and different alphabet in a country only independent for a dozen years where people have a long-standing reticence to discuss politics with strangers. Lacking those handicaps, U.S. exit polls aren’t as well-regarded.

Spending election day (which didn’t end until early the next morning, after filling out all those original protocols) and the next day in Odessa meant that I missed the excitement on the streets of Kyiv. People in Odessa voted strongly for Yanukovych, and while there were many Yushchenko supporters, particularly in the central part of the city, Odessa did not have any sort of celebration or party, unlike Kyiv. But when I got to Kyiv on Monday night, I’d missed that party the night before. Most Ukrainians now seem relieved that the election is finally over, that the political temperature can drop back to “normal,” whatever that is. The most common sentiment we heard as a group was that we should come back to Ukraine, but not for another election -- at least not for a while. The Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, Volodynyr Lytvyn, told us Tuesday that “Ukrainian society has been exhausted by these elections.” However, despite that exhaustion, 70 to 75 percent of eligible voters voted in three elections held over the past 9 weeks, turnout we Americans can only dream about.

What Caused the "Orange Revolution"?

There were three reasons why Ukraine did not have to accept the flawed Nov. 21 elections, which would have meant five more years of the current system of government power assisting private wealth, and vice versa. First, the demonstrations in Kyiv surprised everybody in their size and organization. It turned out that the government was right to fear Pora, a student group raided several days before the initial election in October (I was detained by the Ukrainian security service in a parallel raid on Znayu, a nongovernmental organization affiliated with the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation). The government wasn’t able to plant explosives and make those trumped-up charges stick, but Pora did lead an amazingly disciplined, months-long street demonstration and encampment of hundreds of thousands of people.

Second, key aspects of the state saw the demonstrations and essentially came over to the opposition. The security services (the same folks who raided Pora and who detained me at Znayu in October) were the only realistic source for much of the key evidence of fraud submitted by the Yushchenko campaign to the Supreme Court, such as telephone intercepts. Similarly, the mayor of Kyiv allowed the students to maintain their “Tent City” on several blocks of Khreshchatyk, the principal central city boulevard, which made traffic miserable as drivers were forced take narrow side streets. Americans would be upset if somebody interfered with our right to vote, but we’d be outraged if mere electoral fraud made traffic that bad. Ukrainians were willing, probably due to the novelty of it all, to take the longer view.

Finally, current President Leonid Kuchma, no true democrat, deserves some credit for acting like Gorbachev at the fall of the Soviet Union. Kuchma declined to use force to remove the protests and enforce the stolen election. I don’t want to praise anybody too highly for merely not committing murder, but Kuchma didn’t use bullets to save his regime. Many of us didn’t know if he could resist that temptation, but he did.

What Next for Ukraine?

Now that the elections are essentially over, the almost-as-important but certainly-less-exciting part begins. Yushchenko has to form his cabinet and develop a government that can lead all Ukraine, including the substantial numbers of people who voted for Yanukovych. He needs to lower the political temperature and begin speaking not just to his supporters, but to all. On one particularly heated but not particularly fruitful issue, language, we saw some of the emotions that could interfere with democratic and legal reform and economic progress.

Ukrainian and Russian are, I’m told, about as similar as Spanish and Portuguese; similar but certainly not identical. Much of Ukraine speaks Russian, which during the Soviet era was the official and “status” language, with Ukrainian being the “peasant” language. Part of Ukraine, like Crimea and Odessa, are both linguistically and ethnically Russian, and few people speak Ukrainian. Many of the Russian-speakers don’t know Ukrainian and don’t want to learn; in Odessa, if I spoke my halting Ukrainian (which consisted of “yes,” “no,” “thank you,” and several brands of beer) they asked that I speak Russian (in which I’m a bit less fluent). But in Kyiv, saying “thank you” in Russian to the wrong person was a major faux pas, because many Ukrainian speakers see their language as a political statement. It will take considerable political skill to avoid a “Quebec problem” in Ukraine, what with language issues having such political resonance and with Russian-speaking (and geographically separate) Crimea already having substantial autonomy within the national system.

What Should the U.S. Do?

There’s much hard, boring, and necessary work for the U.S. and Europe as well. First, during the campaign, Yushchenko promised to bring home the Ukrainian troops serving as part of the coalition in Iraq. People around Yushchenko say that the withdrawal will not be sudden and will take into account the elections in Iraq at the end of January, but at a time when U.S. troops are having tours extended to increase troop levels leading up to the election, removing the 1,400 Ukrainian troops could present problems for the U.S. military in Iraq. If the Bush administration pressures Ukraine to delay the withdrawal to serve U.S. military needs, it could cause Yushchenko domestic political problems for backing away from one of his major campaign promises.

Next, having taken to the streets and transformed their system, the Ukrainians now expect to have the U.S. and Europe take significant, if symbolic, steps to acknowledge the transformation. We heard many times that Ukraine is part of Europe and that Ukrainians are Europeans, which means that to the great majority, they do not see their country’s future through any relationship with Russia that excludes their full participation in western institutions. At the same time, Ukrainians recognize that geography and their economic, linguistic, cultural, and historic ties with Russia mean that they will continue to have close ties with Russia. The current government also can point to improvements in Russia-Ukraine relations, particularly regarding Russian law on visas, registration of foreign nationals, and in electing not to tax energy exports, both of which greatly impact Ukraine, that any new Ukrainian government would not want to jeopardize. But as Konstyantyn Hryshchenko, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, told our group, Ukraine doesn’t want to be a bridge between Europe and Russia; it wants to be a part of Europe, in the heart of Europe. The Ukrainians will be strongly disappointed is Europe is more interested in Russian energy security and the U.S. is more interested in Russian assistance in fighting terrorism than in democracy in Ukraine. To the Ukrainians, these goals should not be contradictory, but they need to see evidence that Ukrainian democracy is just as important as oil and anti-terror cooperation.

And if the West doesn’t recognize and reward Ukraine’s transformation, then that will send a discouraging message to small-d democrats in the “GUUAM” states (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova), and even in the six CIS states (more properly, the former Soviet republics remaining in the Collective Security Treaty, namely Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Belarus, and Russia, which are generally doing far worse than their GUUAM neighbors in terms of freedom and democracy). Both sets of countries need to know that the West can act as well as just talk.

The easier issues involved in making Ukraine an integral part of Europe are economic; it’s clear they would like a relationship with the European Union and to work toward possible EU membership once Ukraine’s economy recovers and grows to the point where membership is feasible. The more difficult issue is the Ukrainian’s desire for a closer relationship with NATO, which would antagonize the Russians more than it would reward the Ukrainians. We may need to find a way to dance around that one for a while.

But there are specific things the U.S. could do immediately to recognize and reward the new Ukraine. First, we have to figure out a way, immediately, to resolve any Homeland Security issues so that pretty much any Ukrainian student who wants to study in the U.S. can come here, and to make it easier for Ukrainian businesspeople to visit the U.S. as well. The increase in paperwork and processing times and the decrease in issuances of student visas following Sept. 11 is taking away one of the best tools of American diplomacy, and we need to make fixing the system a key priority.

Second, back in the Soviet days, Congress adopted the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which raised sanctions against countries (primarily the Soviet Union) that refused to allow emigration of minorities and free exercise of religion. As part of the USSR at the time, Ukraine is subject to Jackson-Vanik. Since independence, the U.S. administration has given Ukraine a waiver from Jackson-Vanik because the country now allows free emigration and religious exercise. But Ukrainians want the law changed; they see the annual waiver process as possibly subject to delay or denial, and want the symbolic satisfaction of permanent “graduation” from Jackson-Vanik. Scoop Jackson is deceased, but in our delegation former Rep. Tom Sawyer (D-OH) reported that Charlie Vanik is still living in retirement in Florida, and even he thinks Jackson-Vanik should be repealed as well. The law has served its Cold War purpose, and repeal now would reward a democratic Ukraine.

It will be surprisingly difficult to repeal a law that few people realize is still on the books. It’s a classic political problem, where there are small but extremely agitated minorities that are opposed to repeal, while graduation benefits the vast majority of Americans and Ukrainians, but only slightly in practical terms. When the well-organized minority faces off against the disinterested majority, you get U.S. policy toward Cuba -- and continuation of the awkward annual waiver for Ukraine of Jackson-Vanik. It’s time for repeal, or graduation, or whatever you want to call it, for Ukraine.

Our delegation included both former Representatives Elizabeth Holzman and Father Robert Drinan, who each recalled voting for Jackson-Vanik back in 1974, proudly -- but who didn’t realize it was still on the books today. Father Drinan seemed absolutely surprised that given the changes since then that we were still using this tool of Cold War diplomacy, which no longer fits and which is actually seen as an insult by people whom we wish to encourage and reward. As Foreign Minister Hryshchenko said, repeal (or “graduation”) is overdue by at least a day.

Third, Yushchenko promised during the campaign to bring home Ukrainian troops from Iraq. While people around Yushchenko have promised that the withdrawal will not be precipitous or sudden, it still means that 1,600 Ukrainian troops will be leaving, probably shortly after the Jan. 30 elections, at a time when the U.S. is scrounging for as many boots as possible on the ground. The Bush administration cannot let short-term troop requirements overpower our long-term strategic interests in a democratic and free Ukraine.

Stop Reading, and Go to Kyiv Already

It’s truly thrilling to be in Ukraine now. In Kyiv, twenty-somethings from around the world are working with their Ukrainian counterparts to transform a country. It really is democracy on the march, and it can happen without a war and it seems to be happening with more power because many countries are helping, not just the U.S. But Americans also need to act, in small and symbolic ways that don’t make good television and which won’t compete with pictures of natural disasters, war, and mass demonstrations, to acknowledge what Ukraine has accomplished this fall and winter; to encourage them to accomplish more; and to provide a successful example so that in neighboring Belarus and Russia, maybe not next year or the year after, but we can hope -- and work hard -- so that eventually democracy will be on the march there as well. Let’s fix the visa system, graduate Ukraine from Jackson-Vanik, and assist with their integration into Europe.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Dick Swett Reports from Ukraine

I assume everybody finding this blog already is reading the Slate diary from Kyiv, so I'm only going to link to the more obscure things, like these two diary entries from my colleague, former Rep. (and former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark) Dick Swett, who also participated in the recent US-Ukraine Foundation-Association of Former Members monitoring mission. I met Dick at the Amsterdam airport, but he went to Dnipropetrovsk while I went to Odessa. You can read Dick's reports here and here. There are supposedly 3 diary entries but I only found two of them.

Dnipropetrovsk voted for Yanukovych 61-34 percent, with 5 percent voting "neither candidate" in the Dec. 26 voting. By comparison, according to the "official" results for the Nov. 21 vote, the vote was also for Yanukovych by 64-31, with 5 percent neither. Turnout was lower in December however, with 2.02 million reported as voting this last time but a reported 2.19 million last time. I don't have any analysis of whether turnout changed, or if the lower numbers are the result of less ballot-box stuffing and mobile-voter fraud.

NOTE: The link for oblast-by-oblast (region) voting results in English is here on the Central Election Commission website. Link courtesy of the Head Heeb, see link to right.