Let the healing begin
I'm not a fool. I realize that discussing politics in Rosebud's after 2am (after my fair share of gin and tonics) is not going to change anything about last week's electionthis week's bitter reality, an American Hangover in and of itself.
I'm not stupid. I know that none of the world's problems get solved at a bar, in Lexington, especially after midnight. However, last Friday I found myself hovering over a bunch of neocons espousing wisdom by shouting at them and calling them fascists. Their retorts were as equally intellectually inspiring, placing their fingers in the shape of the letter L and pressing it tightly to their foreheads. I was called a "tree-hugging hippie" for the first time. That was weirdI shop at Saksbut to tell the truth, I kind of liked it. Yeah
I'm a dirty-hippie
I'll hug a friggin tree
I'll friggin recyclebring it! Now I know that this is a time for healing
but I'm not going to say that it didn't feel good blow off a little steam.
And there is a lot of steam to blow off, especially from my side, the LOSER side.
So what's next? Shall we all caravan to California, New York, maybe Mainethey say summers are nice there, very green. We can set up a commune, share things, relax on our personal hygiene, hey! maybe even set up a democracy that works for everybody as opposed to a Republic, that doesn't. Sounds pleasant, but we'd still have to deal with the toxic fumes rising up from the heartland. Seriously, how is running away from home going to solve any of our community's problems? And yes dirty-Saks-shopping-hippies this IS still OUR COMMUNITY. The basic fact of the matter is that we are going to have to get out there and talk to people. We are going to have to leave the chai-mocha-latte houses and foreign film festivals and do some hardcore activist work.
There are several worthy organizations in Lexington that are in need of support. Some are affiliated with government, others are located within the University, and others have sprung up on their own, servicing a particular concern.
I'm not going to tell you what to jointhat's your dealbut I am going to tell you that your support makes a difference and actually enables a true democracy (de Toqueville style). I'm also going to tell you that the time to do it is now, before that steam melts awayor worseis decadently wasted in an unproductive barroom argument. So I'll leave you with the question of what organization you should join
that and the question of what were morally upright neocons doing in a bar?! Past midnight for that matter!!!
No one will ever convince me that the 2004 election was not stolen. I know I might be wrong, but proof either way is, for all practical purposes, unavailable. Barring a co-conspirators confession or discovery of damning memos or e-mails, there is little reason to imagine that we can ever be certain. I am an investigative reporter and one of the stories I wrote during 2004 was the result of a yearlong examination of electronic voting machines. http://www.mountainx.com/news/2004/0519evote.php Roughly one third of U.S. votes are now cast on machines that create no paper record.
Because this was a news story, I necessarily adhered to the rules of fair and accurate reporting and could not inject opinion. But at the conclusion of my study I was convinced that our modern voting system is ripe for fraud on a massive scale.
Following the Nov. 2 general election it appears beyond question that such fraud occurred. False electronic vote tabulation almost certainly delivered the presidential election to George Bush. The signs are widespread and appear incontrovertible. There is no reason to believe this fraud didnt extend to congressional races as well. In fact, one Florida congressional candidate now says he knows how the vote in his district was hacked and knows who did it. He has called in the FBI. Check out Thom Hartmanns excellent report at: www.truthout.org/docs_04/110804Z.shtml
The principal circumstantial evidence for fraud lies in exit polls. During the course of Nov. 2, the news media reported that exit polls indicated a Kerry landslide in the making. By midnight those polls had been proved wrong by the actual vote totals in state after state. How is it that exit polling has become so inaccurate in recent years? Following World War II, as computers became available to pollsters, the techniques and analysis of exit polls gradually became very sophisticated. By the 1990s it was spot on. In Germany (which uses only paper ballots, by the way) exit polls are reported to be accurate within .1 percent.
Suddenly, in 2000 the models failed. The immediate assumption was that exit polling had somehow proven unreliable, with various explanations offeredprincipally revolving around the supposition that voters lied to pollsters or that pollsters somehow became confused about how to process their results.
This year the failure was more widespreadand alert bloggers have reported that major media outlets are now retroactively adjusting their exit poll numbers to make them appear more accurate.
Furthermore, in every case the difference between the exit polling and the final tabulation broke for Bush. That is statistically nuts. How could it be that all of the mistakes were made in Kerrys favor? Are Bushs supporters, for whom self-defined family values are supposedly very important, more likely to lie to pollsters?
In one precinct in Columbus, Ohio, where only 620 voters cast ballots, George Bush was credited with more than 4,000 votes. This error was revealed, but one necessarily wonders how often this mistake was repeated and not reported. In a similar error during the 2000 vote, one county in Florida ran up a 16,000 vote margin for Gore which suddenly melted as 10,000 votes were shifted to the socialist presidential candidatewith no explanation.
Last week, 30 percent of voters in one precinct in New Mexico apparently did not bother to vote. About 700 voters waited in line, signed in, went into the booth and left without casting a vote in a single raceor so we are expected to believe. In fact, 7000 voters statewide did not vote in New Mexico, primarily in Democratic strongholds like Taos. Does any rational person really believe that people with no intention of voting make the effort to go to the polls?
Perhaps those 7000 forgot to push the final button. In that case, knowing that a paper receipt is supposed to printan action completely familiar to anyone who purchases grocerieswould have made it more likely that such voters would complete their transaction. In Florida, almost 1.4 million more voters cast ballots this year than during the 2000 election with almost 80,000 less votes cast for third party candidates. The vote was notably heavy in Democratic strongholds. Polls reported on Nov. 1 and exit polls conducted on Nov. 2 showed a Kerry majority. (And remember, the statewide recount of the 2000 results conducted by major news media showed that Gore won in Florida.) How did that translate into an electoral advantage to Bush in the final results this year? For those counties voting on paperless systems, there is no way to conduct a recount because such machines only store totals. Mistakes or fraud in registration of individual votes are unavailable for examination.
In other counties which use computer-based optical scanners, the ballots can be recounted by handif a recount is ordered. And, note that media attention to possible vote problemsto the extent that attention is paid at allfocuses on those few states where the election was supposedly decided. Fraud in 40 other states could easily slide by without fanfare. What can you do?
It is time to demand a voter verifiable, auditable, paper trail for all electronic voting machines and non-proprietary tabulators for optically scanned ballots.
Democratic hand wringing is surrealy out of hand. Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, darling of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, blames s the perception in the heartland that Democrats are a bicoastal cultural elite that is condescending at best and contemptuous at worst to the values that Americans hold in their daily lives. First, living in the sticks doesnt make you more American. Rural, urban or suburbantheyre irrelevant. San Franciscos predominantly gay Castro district is every bit as red, white and blue as the Texas panhandle. But if militant Christianist Republicans from inland backwaters believe that secular progressives from the big coastal cities look upon them with disdain, theres a reason. We do, and all the more so after this election.
I spent my childhood in fly-over country, in a decidedly Republican town in southwest Ohio. It was a decent place to grow up, with well-funded public schools and only the occasional marauding serial killer to worry about. The only ethnic restaurant sold something called Mandarin Chinese, Midwestese for cold noodles slathered with sugary sauce. The county had three major employers: the Air Force, Mead Paper, and National Cash Registerand NCR was constantly laying people off. Folks were nice, but depressingly closed-minded. My suburb was racially insular, culturally bland and intellectually unstimulating. Its people were knee-jerk conformists. Faced with the prospect of spending my life underemployed, bored and soused, I did what anyone with a bit of ambition would do. I went to college in a big city and stayed there.
Mine is a common story. Every day in America, hundreds of our most talented young men and women flee the suburbs and rural communities for big cities, especially those on the West and East Coasts. Their youthful vigor fuels these metropolisesthe cultural capitals of the blue states. These oases of progressive thinkingNew York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Bostonare homes to our best-educated people, most vibrant popular culture and most innovative and productive businesses. There are exceptionssmart people do move from cities to the countrysidebut the best and brightest gravitate to where the thinking is.
Though there is a religious component to the election results, the biggest red-blue divide is intellectual. How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB? asked the headline of the Daily Mirror in Great Britain, and the underlying assumption is undeniable. By any objective standard, you had to be spectacularly stupid to support Bush. 72 percent who cast votes for George W. Bush, according to a University of Marylands Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) and Knowledge Networks poll, believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or active WMD programs. 75 percent think that a Saddam-Al Qaeda link has been proven, and 20 percent say Saddam ordered 9/11. Of course, none of this was true. Kerry voters were less than half as idiotic: 26 percent of Democrats bought into Bush-Cheneys WMD lies, and 30 percent into Saddam-Al Qaeda.
Would Bushs supporters have voted for him even if they had known or comprehended he was a proven serial liar? Perhaps their hatred of homosexuals and slutty abortion vixens would have prompted them to make the same choicean idiotic perversion of priorities. As things stand, they cast their ballots relying on assumptions that were demonstrably, obviously false.
Educational achievement doesnt necessarily equal intelligence. After all, Bush holds a Harvard MBA. Still, it bears noting that Democrats are better educated than Republicans. You are 25 percent more likely to hold a college degree if you live in the Democratic northeast than in the red state south. Blue state voters are 25 percent more likely to understand the historical and cultural ramifications of Bushs brand of bull-in-a-china-shop foreign policy.
Inland Americans face a bigger challenge than coastal cultural elitists when it comes to finding high-quality news coverage. The best newspapers, which routinely win prizes for their in-depth local and national reporting and staffers overseas, line the coasts. So do the cable TV networks with the broadest offerings and most independent radio stations. Bush Country makes do with Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity syndicated on one cookie-cutter AM outlet after another. Citizens of the red states read lackluster dailies stuffed with generic stories cut and pasted from wire services. Given their dismal access to high-quality media, its a minor miracle that 40 percent of Mississippians turned out for Kerry.
So our guy lost the election. Why shouldnt those of us on the coasts feel superior? We eat better, travel more, dress better, watch cooler movies, earn better salaries, meet more interesting people, listen to better music and know more about whats going on in the world. If you voted for Bush, we accept that we have to share the country with you. Were adjusting to the possibility that there may be more of you than there are of us. But dont demand our respect. You lost it on November 2.
After President Bush's decisive victory on November 2, I was curious to see what t he response would be from those individuals who launched an unceasing, groundless, personal assault on his character for the last year. I guess I naively hoped they might have the grace to accept the decision of their fellow Americans with some degree of good will and be willing to move forward and work for a positive future for our nation.
Boy was I wrong.
If John Kerry had been elected, although I felt very strongly that it would not have been the best thing for our country, I was prepared to accept the decision of the people and work to make the best future possible. We do, after all, live in a democracy.
But instead of accepting the result of the election with a degree to dignity, you choose to lash out at everybody who you perceive has let you down, including the candidate that you claim to have supported (who is, after all, not a bad man)....
It is one thing to disagree with the policies of our leaders and to call these issues into open debate. That is the right of every American. It is another thing altogether to launch profane, malevolent personal attacks that have nothing whatsoever to do with anything other than a twisted and obsessive personal dislike. During the campaign I don't know how many bumper stickers I saw that made no political statement at all, but were merely tacky, ignorant personal remarks about the president.
Anyone with that degree of stupidity and self-loathing is in need of some serious therapy.
In 2000 the citizenry of Cochabamba, Bolivia mobilized against the privatization of water. The company that the government had contracted with, "Aguas de Tunari" was but a window-dressing name for the transnational corporate behemoth that is now privatizing services in IraqBechtel. The mass protests in Cochabamba spread across the nation.
It took great sacrifice. There were a half dozen deaths, hundreds injured, but new alliances were made across class and ethnic lines.(I lived in the capitol city of La Paz at the time, one block from the main public university. Students protested in solidarity and shut their school down. Police responded with much force; many were wounded. My Bolivian wife and I had to flee our aprtment on numerous occasions due to the clouds of tear gas). Bechtel was eventually driven out, and the water services are now controlled by a citizen's group, the Coalition in Defense of water and Life, and local government.
Corruption seeps into every government. Corporate CEOs are beholden only
to the corporation's stockholders and their job is secure in so far as they turn a profit for them. When these forces collide the scales of power are forcefully weighed against us, the people/el pueblo. The citizenry must always remain diligent and must remember that, in the words of ther British activist/folk singer Billy Bragg, we must allow "no power without accountability." I believe that this is a value that we can all agree upon. Maybe it is the one that might very well bind back together our country.
In regards to water, we should keep in mind the central tenets, the inalienable rights, set forth in "The Cochabamba Declaration"(drafted and signed at an international seminar entitled, "Water: Globalization, Privatization, and the Search for Alternatives, convened by the Coordinadora de Defensea del Agua y de la Vida, Cochabamba, Bolivia, December 8, 2000): "Water belongs to the earth and all species and is sacred to life, therefore, the world's water must be conserved, reclaimed and protected for all future generations and its natural patterns respected. Water is a fundamental human right and a public trust to be guarded by all levels of government, therefore, it should not be commodified, privatized or traded for commercial purposes. These rights must be enshrined at all levels of government. In particular, an international treaty must ensure these principles are noncontrovertable. Water is best protected by local communities and citizens who must be respected as equal partners with governments in the protection and regulation of water. Peoples of the earth are the only vehicle to promote earth democracy and save water."
Heres how a voter-verifiable paper record for an electronic voting machine works.
After a voter is finished voting, a printer attached to the voting machine prints the results on a tape, just the way a modern grocery store cash register prints a receipt naming all of the items you have purchased. The voter can read the results and confirm that the paper printout is accurate. If it is not, the voter can demand a chance to revote and the previous paper record is invalidated. Once the voter is satisfied with the paper record, it is stored in a secure container. If there is any question about the election results, the paper records can be scanned and tabulated.
Experts recommend that every jurisdiction should routinely conduct random recounts of the paper record to verify that the electronic system is working. For extra security it would be useful to require that the system and computer program used to scan the paper ballots not be manufactured by the same company that manufactures the voting machines. This applies to optically scanned paper ballots as well. There is no reason not to use open source software that any computer expert can examine for the recount.
A bill to mandate this simple fix has been introduced in Congress and has many cosigners. Republicans in the House of Representatives blocked a vote on this bill and will presumably continue to do so with their new, larger majority. A bill to mandate this change at the state level is in the works in North Carolina. (Nevada and New Hampshire already have such a requirement, and Maines elections are still all-paper.) But there is no reason to wait for national or state action which can be blocked by politicians who are more than happy with the status quo. In most states, voting equipment is purchased county-by-county. Every voting machine company makes add-on printers which can be fitted to existing machines. We can demand that our local officials create voting systems we can believe in.
We can and should make this change before the 2005 election, in order to test such systems before the next national races in 2006. n