Thursday, April 20, 2006

"Let 'Em Dangle, Let 'Em Dangle..."

While our government cries for blood in the only trial of the only man being prosecuted for any level of participation in the 9/11 attack, and the "coincidental" co-release of two movies on the Flight United 93 (one made-for-TV and streeting on DVD/video the first week in May, the other the 'R' rated feature hitting theaters this weekend) -- all plays on our collective emotions to lash out at "enemies" who are defined by neither national borders, geographic boundaries, or any centralized ideology -- the feeling of one being caught between extremist factions in a holy war in which one is either a player, a martyr, or a pawn escalates.

All render the individual disposable, as either citizen or soldier, unless you move in the highest circles of power.

We feel, as Americans, we have some measure of power over our destiny, individually and collectively, if only as voters. We vote to shape or reshape our reality.

But, hey, that's illusory at best. The fuckers keep stacking the deck, and one really is reduced to pawn status in a world where the bulk of our votes (80%, according to the last election's results) are
  • counted by only two corporations: ES&S
  • and
  • Diebold.
  • And hey, check out that first link closely: like, the vice-president of Diebold and the president of ES&S
  • are brothers.
  • If that doesn't set your dander up a bit, dig it:
  • the chairman and CEO of Diebold was & is a major Bush campaign organizer and donor
  • who publicly stated in 2003 that he was specifically "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
  • Ah, and that he did, and it's worth noting in that context that
  • no international election observers were
  • permitted to monitor the polls in Ohio in 2004.
  • Even more infuriating, note that
  • all -- and I do mean all --
  • of the voting machine errors detected, reported and investigated in Florida
  • were leaning in the favor of Bush
  • and/or Republican candidates alone.
  • Furthermore, while
  • ES&S remains the largest voting machine manufacturer in the U.S. (counting almost 60% of all U.S. votes),
  • over 30% of all American votes are placed on unverifiable touch screen voting machines sans any paper trail.
  • This is distressing news, but even more outrageous is the fact that Diebold's new voting machines
  • produce no verification or "paper trail" of any votes --

  • -- there is no way to verify that the data coming out of the machine is the same as that input by voters.
  • Hmmmm, but wait a minute; Diebold's bread & butter is in
  • manufacturing ATMs, checkout scanners, and ticket machines, all of which necessarily log each & every transaction and give the user the option to print out a paper receipt for their transaction.
  • Makes you wonder, doesn't it? It should. Meanwhile, ES&S has its own dirty laundry: for instance,
  • Republican Senator Chuck Hagel was once chairman of ES&S -- and won his Senate seat based on votes counted by ES&S voting machines,

  • which roused suspicions.
  • Ah, there's also the fact that Senator Hagel, longtime 'friend' of the Bush family & dynasty (and one-time contender as a Vice-Presidential candidate for Bush),
  • was caught lying

  • about his ownership of ES&S

  • by the Senate Ethics Committee.

  • Ah, but most of us here in America don't vote anyway. In fact, I'm willing to bet some of you bothering to read this at all had the thought while reading the above, "see, why vote?"

    What a sham. What a shame.

    We embrace our helplessness, our lack of power.

    And those in power continue to bank on that. However they did it, legitimately or not, they're in power -- but that still doesn't place any of them above the law, exempt from culpability.

    A recent letter to the local Brattleboro Reformer from my friend Michael Dean cites the President Theodore Roosevelt quote, "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

    Which leads me to the careful scrutiny and articulation of this growing outrage in
  • Carl Bernstein's Vanity Fair article "Senate Hearings on Bush, Now."
  • Bernstein writes, "Leaders of both parties are acutely aware of the vehemence of anti-Bush sentiment in the country, expressed especially in the increasing number of Americans—nearing 50 percent in some polls—who say they would favor impeachment if the president were proved to have deliberately lied to justify going to war in Iraq." That old saying about "fooling some of the people some of the time" that President Bush mangled early in his first election campaign has come back to bite him and his Administration, its teeth sinking deeper daily as the fabric of calculated deceit, chicanary, cronyism and lies unravels.

    As Bernstein notes, "In terms of imminent, meaningful action by the Congress, however, the question of whether the president should be impeached (or, less severely, censured) remains premature. More important, it is essential that the Senate vote -- hopefully before the November elections, and with overwhelming support from both parties -- to undertake a full investigation of the conduct of the presidency of George W. Bush, along the lines of the Senate Watergate Committee's investigation during the presidency of Richard M. Nixon." We've reached a strange almost-critical mass wherein certain GOP members would love nothing more than a premature motion to censure or impeach: after all, one of the dirty non-secrets (it's simply not spoken of in context of the reality of those times) of the Reagan Presidency is that the assassination attempt on that low-in-the-polls President is what regalvanized national support of the man and the office. A premature concerted political attack on President Bush might similarly galvanize dwindling public support of the President, or so the logic goes according to high-profile Republican pundits and cautious (is there any other kind?) Democrats.

    These things take time, and the more time that passes -- as the lies continue to publicly unravel, as Katrina-ravaged New Orleans continues to be the national shame (as a new article in the New England Journal of Medicine exposes the current medical care beneath that the US mobilizes for the Iraq War or even Third World countries like Haiti), as clowns like Michael Brown pop up on Comedy Central as surreal 'guest stars' -- the wider the seams split in the once-unified, secrecy-obsessed Bush Administration. Bernstein asks (and answers), "How much evidence is there to justify such action? Certainly enough to form a consensus around a national imperative: to learn what this president and his vice president knew and when they knew it; to determine what the Bush administration has done under the guise of national security; and to find out who did what, whether legal or illegal, unconstitutional or merely under the wire, in ignorance or incompetence or with good reason, while the administration barricaded itself behind the most Draconian secrecy and disingenuous information policies of the modern presidential era.... The first fundamental question that needs to be answered by and about the president, the vice president, and their political and national-security aides, from Donald Rumsfeld to Condoleezza Rice, to Karl Rove, to Michael Chertoff, to Colin Powell, to George Tenet, to Paul Wolfowitz, to Andrew Card (and a dozen others), is whether lying, disinformation, misinformation, and manipulation of information have been a basic matter of policy—used to overwhelm dissent; to hide troublesome truths and inconvenient data from the press, public, and Congress; and to defend the president and his actions when he and they have gone awry or utterly failed."And that's just the tip of the iceberg (go on, read the entire article).

    The ongoing spin is maddening. As Bernstein correctly notes, "After Nixon's resignation, it was often said that the system had worked. Confronted by an aberrant president, the checks and balances on the executive by the legislative and judicial branches of government, and by a free press, had functioned as the founders had envisioned." We now hear journalists who should be hanging their heads in shame claiming "journalism is working" because we, the public, are beginning to see & hear almost daily accounts of the duplicity that lay behind the post-9/11 manipulation of our collective sense of anger, fear, outrage and eagerness to do something, anything to redress the once-unimaginable attack on our country. But they failed, themselves terrified, and the Congress failed in its primary imperative of working as a check and balance to the power of would-be monarchies, despots, and tyrants.

    The spin efforts are still shamelessly indulged: with the recent unprecedented call for Rumsfeld's head from General Gregory Newbold (the retired three-star Marine Corps general who served as director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the planning of the Iraq War) and his fellow retired generals (some of whom retired in 2005 specifically to be able to at last voice their outrage without betraying their country, their duty, their beloved respective branch of the service), the shameful spectacle of the press playing along anew with the ad hominum attacks on those speaking out avoids the obvious: the reality of rank in any branch of the service makes it impossible to speak out against the Commander in Chief, the highest possible rank in the military chain of command. Thus, we are reading/seeing/hearing 'spin' that scrupulously avoids that core military reality, carrying on as if the retired generals taking this remarkable stand were, for various reasons, worthy of contempt or inherently suspect (one military official in the arena attacking those calling for Rumsfeld to step down stated Tuesday that "the time to speak out was at the moment of their retirement," as if there were one and only one window of opportunity in which the criticism of Rumsfeld were credible, and never thereafter). This may seem arcane to some, put growing up as I have in a military family, it's the blatant 'elephant in the room' in this current sickening example of typical Karl Rove retaliation tactics, which have ruthlessly savaged any and all soldiers, vets, and military families who've dared to speak up or out against the War, the Secretary of Defense or the President.

    These six generals, following others, consider the Secretary of Defense so unfit to lead that they have given up their livelihoods to speak. Is there any greater bravery possible, save that demonstrated under fire? So now, they find themselves under fire -- and the most dispicable "friendly fire" imaginable at that.

    Understand that although Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is indeed a citizen not a soldier, criticism of Rumsfeld is inherently criticism of the Commander in Chief, who selected and continues to support Rumsfeld without equivocation.

    So, it is up to our Congress at last. The President may rotate his spokesmen out of circulation, but it's clear nothing, nothing fundamental is going to change in this den of jackals.

    Addressing that failure of our elected Senators to act when we needed them most, Bernstein concludes, "The system has thus far failed during the presidency of George W. Bush—at incalculable cost in human lives, to the American political system, to undertaking an intelligent and effective war against terror, and to the standing of the United States in parts of the world where it previously had been held in the highest regard."

    When even Republican diehards like William F. Buckley are beginning to acknowledge the increasingly apparent reality, critical mass has indeed been reached (per Bernstein, Buckley has stated: "...It's important that we acknowledge in the inner counsels of state that [the war in Iraq] has failed so that we should look for opportunities to cope with that failure. ...Mr. Bush is in the hands of a fortune that will be unremitting on the point of Iraq... If he'd invented the Bill of Rights it wouldn't get him out of this jam....The neoconservative hubris, which sort of assigns to America some kind of geo-strategic responsibility for maximizing democracy, overstretches the resources of a free country..."). Ah, but it's the coming elections that are prompting much of this apparent awakening, as the President's declining stature threatens to topple one of the most corrupt GOP murder of crows in over 100 years.

    But what about that upcoming election? One of the most discouraging aspects of this President and Administration's abuses of power is their evident belief that they will remain forever in power (why else support a Presidential power that they wouldn't have suffered for a moment during the Clinton Presidency?). We must as a people acknowledge the distinct possibility of our democracy having been insidiously and irrevocably undermined by the reliance on voting-booth technologies that are not only impossible to scrutinize but transparently & blatantly partisan (per the emphatic support for Bush the CEO of the largest voting booth manufacturer voiced last election) and inherently corrupted.
    From the still-troubling
  • 'mystery votes' for Bush in Ohio back in '04
  • to the ongoing reports of
  • "programming snafus" yielding suspicious wins for candidates and uncanny "voting spikes"
  • (the latter from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in good ol' Texas, seat of much Republican political chicanary over the past decade or more), one must ask if we can even pretend to a functional democracy any longer. There has been an attempt in some quarters to revalidate the voting process:
  • is pushing for voter-verified paper records of every vote,
  • the need for which is becoming increasingly necessary given the basic unaccountability of 'touch screen' voting technologies currently in use, and of course
  • is actively rallying on numerous fronts,
  • advocating nationally for paper records (including organized face-to-face meetings with Congressional representatives on this core issue), successfully pushing for legislation requiring voting machines that print paper records of votes in North Carolina, Colorado, Hawaii, Connecticut, and California (thus far in 2006, 19 more states required a paper record of every vote, bringing the total to 27 states -- easing past the half-way point, hopefully of no return). States like North Carolina are passing new laws
  • placing explicit restrictions on voting machines,
  • and this, too, is a heartening turn of political will. California went a step further,
  • outlawing all Diebold voting machines
  • due to the lack of security and accountability
  • (in fact,
  • here's a little movie for you high-speed access folks about how a chimpanzee hacked the audit logs Diebold claimed could not be hacked!).
  • Connecticut recently passed what some consider "the most sweeping campaign finance reform in the nation's history" (thanks in part to organizations like Public Campaign, Common Cause, and; still, Republican efforts to marginalize voters (particularly the usual disenfranchised populace: black, Hispanic & Latino voters, the elderly, low-income, ex-convicts and the disabled) continue, though states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia have rejected such proposed provisions. But will it manifest needed change in time for the November elections?

    As the call to another war (Iran) builds momentum, as you sit in a theater this weekend like millions of other Americans and feel the rush of fear, anger, outrage that United 93 rallies in your heart, as our President and his cabal continue to play upon 9/11 as the end-all and be-all justification for whatever their latest subversion of democracy and naked abuse of power might be -- don't lose your own footing.

    The powers-that-be want to spin that impetus that prompted the folks on that fateful United 93 to act -- they want to divert that toward your extending continuing, unquestioning devotion to this President, these policies, these wars.

    Hell, I just want to find a way to keep from those-in-the-cockpit from steering our country into further disastrous, self-destructive holy-war lunacy.

    Come voting season, you might keep that Elvis Costello tune in mind:

    "Let 'em dangle, let 'em dangle..."

    And we don't mean 'chads.'

    [PS: Michael Dean's letter is
  • here.]