"My brother Jeb has assured me the state of Florida."
"My brother Jeb has assured me the state of Florida."-George W. Bush
- TAKE THIS, JEB, AND SHOVE IT! -
Superficially, the statement, "My brother Jeb has assured me the state of Florida," is one of George W. Bush’s more humorous gaffes. But officially it’s nothing to laugh about. "My brother Jeb has assured me the state of Florida," forms one of Bush’s few complete sentences: subject, predicate, several nouns, a verb, an adjective, pronouns, a period, the works. Its completeness gives it unambiguous meaning. That’s exactly what bothers me. The declarative statement conveys an explicit, unmistakable meaning, a meaning that troubles me as an American. For its meaning elevates Bush’s casual remark to unintended status. The statement gives a troubling insight to Bush’s mindset of four years ago, a mindset that to all indications, has been influenced but little by his time on the world stage. Despite his recent world of experiences, George W. Bush remains nothing if not an unfortunate manifestation of the old saw: You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy. Bush is a simple-minded man who came to the presidency with preconceptions, many of them juvenile, simplistic, and profoundly unworthy of any leader of the "free" world. True to his sort, he maintains those preconceptions: "I’m not about nuancing," says George. "I see things in black and white. You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists." He does not change his mind – not cognitively - this president. He cannot overcome his biases. He ignores evidence and repels knowledge. His handlers call this intractability his greatest strength. I prefer to call it what it is, willful ignorance. Thus George W. Bush’s attitude toward the acquisition of power by questionable means and his apparent disregard for the exercise of constitutional law has changed little if at all since 2000. No American seeking or holding the office of President of the United States has ever been so cavalier when speaking of an election in which he is, was, or intended to be a major party’s candidate. Nonetheless, Bush’s words have, for the most part, been lost in the cascade of malapropisms that form in this president’s addled brain only to flow straight to his smirking lips almost unabated the moment he stops reading his lines and actually endeavors to speak for himself. The words, "My brother Jeb has assured me the state of Florida," spoken in the run-up to the contested 2000 election, got virtually no press coverage outside of Florida and Texas, and even there, enjoyed blessed little ink. Yet, consider how just last month, private citizen and non candidate Theresa Hinds Kerry’s simple admonition, "Shove it," when spoken to a badgering Conservative tabloid hack posing as a journalist in this year’s election run-up, got several thousand times more coverage in one day from the flack’s colleagues in the corporate press than did so blatant a declaration of unwitting treason from an aspiring president in the entire four years the "legitimate press" has had to stew about it. "Shove it," made the front three pages of every mainstream daily in the United States as the mainstream media stooped – hell they dove – to the level of the tabloid they seem so desperate to emulate. Even as this week drew to its close, "Shove it," rose yet again to meet my wondering eyes. This time the drivel assaulted me from the front page article of my Sunday paper – a major big city newspaper that should know better, report better.
Meantime, "My brother Jeb has assured me the state of Florida," spoken in the most contested district amid the most contested presidential election in all of US history, went virtually unreported by both the legitimate press, and the third string rags that at one time lived off their exploitation of this stuff. The story remains largely unknown today.
To the point, though, such publicly touted nepotism is patently antidemocratic and frankly unacceptable in a country founded on its disdain for genetic nobility. When America’s first unelected chief executive since England’s George III can make such outrageous statements, have his Constitutional blasphemy ignored by an ostensibly free press, and not be brought to congressional censure, we’ve abdicated our democracy to America’s fools. If we allow it to happen again in 2004, we will have earned a rightful place among them.
The misstatement, "My brother Jeb has assured me the state of Florida," however clumsy its stylistic grammatical construction or unintended its interpretation, brings back memories of those first darkest of American days. It revives those darker and ever darker weeks then months then years that formed this interminable-seeming cultural night, a night that has fallen across our land, and cast its long shadow across the entire world, enveloping untold thousands of innocent lives, simply because they share that world with the frightened nocturnal monster that is post-millennial, post Florida, post imperial America. I’m speaking of the days immediately surrounding the November 7, 2000 presidential elections and the now nearly four years of fiscally disastrous, blood soaked gloom that have proceeded from them. Bush’s misused phrase recalls a series of shocking and nauseating events comprising what author and patriot Vincent Bugliosi called the betrayal of America.
This author calls it something far less kind than would the elegant and reasonable Mr. Bugliosi. I call it the betrayal of humanity’s best by humanity’s worst, plain and simple.
It was a betrayal on the basest level. Florida 2000 was, and remains, a betrayal of that most fundamental and most precious of our democratic and human rights: the right to a voice in our government. The right to vote and to have that vote counted honestly is sacred to thinking Americans. For the right to govern ourselves is more fundamental in our laws, more primal in our American nature than even this president’s simplistic philosophies about what it means to be an American. Yet he – he the betrayer – still presumes to tell us all what it means to be an American, even as his thugs deconstruct our country before his unseeing eyes and dysfunctional brain.
"The Shepard always persuades the sheep that their interest and his own are the same."-- Stendhal.
Now, after three and one half malignantly protracted years since Bush’s ascension to the presidency, another election – and very possibly another betrayal - is fast approaching. And if you think that the upcoming presidential election is beyond being rigged by the Republicans again, you are dead wrong. You are dead wrong. You are dead wrong!
Don’t let the Democrats tough convention rhetoric of the past weeks fool you. Time and again the Dems went to that podium in Boston and declared that this time every vote will be counted. Perhaps that is so. But by whom will these votes be counted, or more accurately – by what?
While the Dems were making claims and shaking their fists in righteous indignation of the loyal opposition’s theft of the presidency, the Republicans have used the intervening years in a most interesting and now commonplace practice: publicly funded public deception. In three and one half years we’ve free-fallen from the most prosperous day in our history to the deepest indebtedness in our history. Yet, actions by members of the Republican National Committee, through the exploitation of a frightened and confused electorate have turned their president’s theocratic savagery, fiscal incompetence, and their own electoral malfeasance of 2000 into the very vehicles that will enable them to commit their crimes against America’s Constitution and its people yet again in 2004. I’m beginning to believe we deserve it. As George W. Bush attempted and failed to say recently: Fool me once, your fault; fool me twice my fault. While we might snicker at their poster boy’s propensity to speak in tongues, the Republicans behind him are all set to fool us twice – or try.
Painful as it is to contemplate, let’s go back to the last presidential "election." Let’s go back, albeit briefly, to Jeb and Katherine’s Florida. It’s the off season down there. Things are quiet and affordable. Let’s touch again on why George W. Bush sits in the White House, while the candidate American voters actually elected sits home clipping his coupons. Then let’s see why the man who would be king plans to remain in the once secular White House another four years, looting and killing and praying, regardless of who gets elected by we the people this time around. He ascended and remains a president oblivious to the public mandate. Read on. I assure you, that "My brother Jeb has assured me the state of Florida," won’t be a laughing matter much longer.
By Florida law, whenever there is a popular vote count difference of 0.5% or less between leaders in an electoral contest, a statewide recount of all votes is mandated. Immediately following the national election of November, 2000, a difference of only 0.02% statewide existed between the Gore and Bush returns. Thus a recount of all Florida votes was mandated by state law. In a little known action, Bush took it to the US Supreme Court, his legal team citing the constitutional clause of "equal protection." On November 24th, the Supreme Court rejected equal protection as invalid in this instance, for to rule in favor of Bush on this grounds would cancel the entire national election – all 50 states. The matter was returned to Florida.
Not one to rest on her laurels, Florida’s Secretary of State, Katherine Harris – at once the official state arbiter of elections and nothing less than the co-Chair of George W. Bush’s Florida election campaign – simply ordered the recount be stopped. Harris issued this order when it became clear that the recount was favoring Democrat Al Gore. At this point in the partial recount George W. Bush’s lead had shrunken from 1700 to 350 votes. On December 8, 2000, the Florida Supreme Court reversed Harris’s baseless order and reinstituted the recount as lawfully mandated. As they should have, the Republican National Committee, among others, appealed again. Nothing untoward here. Federal courts are generally saught by Republicans, as they tend toward conservative interpretations. State courts tend toward the liberal. The US Court of Appeals in Atlanta denied the appeal, thus continuing the recount. That should have been the end of the shenanigans. With the results still favoring Gore, it was not to be. The Gore team, despite the law quite clearly saying a statewide recount was there for the taking, concentrated on recounting only the four (heavily Democratic) counties where the irregularities seemed most evident. With the law being abundantly clear and unambiguous, even the stupidity of the timid Gore strategists left little hope for Bush and the Republicans. So, in order to give their own strategists a little time to think, a Republican mob attacked the Palm Beach office of elections, disrupting and stopping the recount with verbal threats and posturing. Many of the organizers of the demonstration were later identified as Republican congressional staffers down from Washington to perform as party operatives and Florida rabble-rousers. One resident told me that for the first time in her memory, pick-up trucks seemed as common as Rolls Royces on the streets of Palm Beach.
The stall tactics worked, giving five more Republicans their opportunity to obviate the Gore votes of 50,000,000 Americans and appoint a president for them. Those five Republicans were the conservative justices of the US Supreme Court.1
Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, O’Connor, and Kennedy contrary to their oath of office and behind closed doors invented an inapplicable distortion of the very same US Constitution’s and invoked, you’ll never guess: the 14th Amendment Clause of Equal Protection. By invoking this inappropriate rationale, they directly contradicted the ruling they had made in this matter just two weeks earlier. Repeating, on November 24th they denied a petition by the same plaintiff as being not within their purview. Now, with no honest lawful options left, the Supreme Court with neither precedent (except their own of 11/24/00, which they ignored) nor any authority to do so under law simply reversed their own and the appellate and state courts’ decision. They overruled the Florida Supreme court and the US Court of Appeals in Atlanta on the invalid grounds of equal protection. They wrongly assumed jurisdiction, deliberately misinterpreted and misapplied the constitutional provision as their basis, fabricated a deadline for manual recounting of the vote in blatant violation of specific election law, and did so because the Florida vote recounts – the constitutionally and state mandated recounts which were well under way – if allowed to go forward would most probably evaporate their surrogate’s currently contested lead in that state. Lose Florida and Bush would lose the election.
Nationally, Bush was trailing by an insurmountable 350,000 popular votes, not the famous 537 votes the media loves to post. But, through the Electoral College, the popular vote could be obviated. Florida, with its (then) 25 electoral votes and its princely governor Bush was the Republicans’ last best hope. The lawful alternative is spelled out in Article II of the US Constitution. It mandates that the states, not the federal judiciary, are the final arbiter of votes. This states rights staple is an absolutely fundamental tenet of Conservative political ideology. One must presume then, that a nation wide amnesia – no doubt promulgated by Muslim terrorists, and affecting only conservative thinkers – was launched between November 24th and December 12th of 2000. Tom Ridge will investigate, I’m certain. Article 15, section 3, of the US Federal Code further mandates that the congress (not the Supreme court) will resolve any electoral vote conflicts beyond the state level. That is pretty simple stuff, fundamental to the electoral process. In the event of a national recount, Amendment 12 of the US Constitution, says the president of the Senate would be responsible for officiating the count. At the time, the president, pro tempore, of the Senate was Al Gore.
Obviously neither of these lawful and clearly delineated options was acceptable to the Republicans. The thought of Al Gore ratifying a recount was unthinkable. So, in the time-tested Bush family tradition of getting fat on the public teat, Prince Jeb let the government foot the bill for making his brother, Prince George, president. He threw his state employed publicly funded lawyers behind the Republicans’ private sector effort. Though this is illegal in itself, it was a small, unnoticed matter in this high stakes game. Florida, more a principality than an actual functioning US state during this period, saw no dichotomy. So, with Jeb Bush’s staff of public servants advising them, five US Supreme Court Justices - Republicans all - simply forsook the justice they are sworn to uphold, and behind closed doors plotted instead to impose what many legal scholars consider criminal brute force under the false veil of authority and appointed Jeb’s brother, George W. Bush, President of the United States on the grounds that to not do so, to let the recount proceed, would be denying Bush his rights of equal protection under Amendment 14 of the Constitution of the United States. It mattered little to the 5 conservative Supremes that this ruling, if valid, obviated the entire election in the entire United States, the reason they cited for denying Bush’s earlier appeal. They simply changed their minds, limiting the ruling to the state of Florida. An action the high court has never taken in its 230 year history, thus giving us yet another reason why GWB is not really the president. But more troubling, is the recorded legal reality that our United States Supreme Court, the court whose principles of fairness these five Republican justices had sworn to uphold, had already (November 24, 2000) rejected Bush’s appeal and ruled that the premise of equal protection was without merit in this case, thus leaving themselves – declaring themselves – as having no basis for jurisdiction.
To this travesty the TV pundits, those talking heads who tell most American couch potatoes how to interpret their government’s doings, only response is to smirk, roll their shifty, overpaid eyes and say things like, "Only a Liberal would be naïve enough to think the Supreme Court is not political." As usual, that misses the point. To them I say, the crafters of our constitution were adequately naïve to think that such a body as the Supreme Court could be apolitical. They swore them to an oath to that effect. It says when they make a decision based on politics rather than law, they should be held accountable and subject to impeachment. Having sworn such an oath, the justices themselves were apparently equally naïve. Either that or they acted pejoratively.
When our constitution is violated by the very human court sworn to uphold it, I, like most Americans, am proud and pleased to place myself among those naïve simpletons who crafted that exquisite document, and demand an accounting by its most heinous violators. Few things are as distasteful as a corrupt judge. The justices who ratified this decision are incompetent or they are criminal. If we get a regime change in this country, and a congress that represents all the people, an inquiry into the behavior of, at the very least, Scalia and Thomas should be addressed. If guilty of violating their oath of office, they should be impeached.
I’ll not dwell on this further. The complexities are daunting, beyond the scope of this article, and frankly so difficult a strain on plausibility that it would require 100 footnotes and references to validate. But you can do the research yourself. Suffice to say there is literature without end on the matter. Virtually all of it that troubles to maintain a basis in law stands in agreement with my humble effort at summation (TV pundits versed in the art of smug, smirk, "get over it," and "yeah right," do not qualify as bases in law, not even the skinny blonde one with the legs and law degree.) Perhaps the most telling official judicial statement comes from US Supreme Court itself. At the time of the crime, Justice Stevens, in his minority dissent wrote these incredible and unforgettable words: "Although we may never know with complete certainty the winner of this year’s presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law." While I doubt that there will be room in our children’s school books, what with the inclusion of important things like Creation "Science," I’m certain the children of tomorrow’s advanced democracies will read Mr. Justice Stevens’s words often and far into the future. One can only hope they are not included in a textbook entitled The Decline And Fall Of The American Empire.
To those interested in getting to the legal and constitutional meat of this thing, I first recommend turning off the O’Reilly Factor and wading into Vincent Bugliosi’s 164 page seminal work, The Betrayal Of America.1 The little book is a font of rigorously cited and researched information on a genuine travesty of American justice. For those seeking a bit lighter, but adequately informative fare, the paperback Jews For Buchanan, by John Nichols and David Deschamps, will give you the straight skinny.
Go to the literature. Go there yourself. Because as has every propagandist tyrant since the advent of the written word, it is precisely what the criminals who have taken or country expect you will not trouble yourself to do. Read of this travesty. Go to your public library. Get your name on John Ashcroft’s Patriot Act list of those who read subversive literature. Check out The Betrayal Of America, Jews For Buchanan, the US Constitution. All are brilliant. All are factual. The truth is there for the learning. But, just like voting, reading any of this stuff will take time, work, and brains. But whether or not you read Bugliosi or any of the scores of other scholarly works on this president’s theft of power, I still recommend turning off the O’Reilly Factor. Doing that takes only brains.
(If you are committed to TV, however, the DVD documentary, "Unprecedented," by producer Robert Greenwald is a fast and easy way to get up to speed fast on all this stuff.)
To a greater or lesser degree, we all know what happened in Florida in 2000. In its aftermath we suddenly find ourselves with a single-minded, single party government, an extremist government devoid of those checks and balances the founders thought were inviolate. With a Republican legislature, judiciary, and executive all dancing to the same ideological tune, with Tom DeLay, Antonin Scalia, and Karl Rove respectively, bullying the idiots who serve them, nothing has been done to curtail their party’s mischief since the travesty of 2000. They are in fact, "party" to it. The Republican National Committee, the White House, and the majority leader have – on a state by state basis – coordinated efforts to spare no expense (yours), and no effort in seeing that what happened in Florida in the year 2000 does not happen again. But only because a repeat would be too obvious for even their faithful, edgy, unemployed voters to swallow. So, they’re enacting another plan to steal the presidency. It’s a better one. It’s called electronic touch screen voting. That’s right, your congress is looking out for you again. There will be no more dangling chads, no more voter roll purges of alleged felons who committed no felonies but happen to be African-Americans and Democrats,2 no more subjecting Florida’s poor overworked Secretary of State, Katherine Harris to the rigors of sharing her valuable time between her three important jobs: that of Florida Secretary of State, Florida’s Chief Elections Officer, and co-Chair of Florida’s George W. Bush For President campaign organization. (So much to do, so little time.) Each of these jobs is demanding in and of itself, so it’s a good thing that Katherine has been elevated to the Senate this year. Her experience will no doubt help our struggling Republican congress to avoid future voting pitfalls. But most important of all, there will be no need to subject the president’s handsomer, smarter brother Prince Jeb to assuring his sibling, the family idiot, the state of Florida again. This time – like a Conservative theorist’s version of Wal Mart - the right wing fraud is going national.
In order to never have a situation like the one that so embarrassed the Bush principality of Florida again, the United States of America is going electronic. The old archaic paper ballot voting system that elected George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln FDR, JFK, and Al Gore will be obviated by computer touch screen machines in much of the nation this year. These computer polls are especially prevalent in not only Florida, but in the Midwestern swing states such as Ohio for some strange reason. After all, the Midwest didn’t have any dangling chad problems of note in 2000. That was only in Bush-governed Florida. Oh, well, we’re being preemptive I guess. Because the computers are being deployed there nonetheless, and with impressive urgency. Despite that many Midwestern states are little more than bankrupt links in Bush’s outsourced rustbelt, the machines are being deployed in a really big hurry. Born of a fear that the fake voting problem might spread across the country like post-9/11 stupidity, these states are buying unproven machines in order that their faithful citizens won’t be subjected to a repeat of the travesty that only the heavily Democratic precincts of Jeb Bush’s Florida experienced in 2000. These other states are pulling out all the deficit spending stops to deploy these new machines. As everyone whose ever used a computer knows, they work absolutely flawlessly the first time you hook one up and use it to run failed software. But physical reliability aside, the states are moving so fast that many won’t even have time to fully (or fairly) evaluate voting machines built by competitive companies. Like those no-bid contracts that Halliburton overcharged us for in Iraq, there will be no compelling effort at second-sourcing in the voting machine purchases either. The largest group of districts are going with electronic voting machines build by a company named Diebold. The Diebold machines will be pretty much everywhere. And America’s media-fed hatred for paper ballots is even carrying over to a hatred of paper of all kinds when it comes to voting, thanks to the Republicans’ propaganda campaign. For example, the extremely important Midwestern swing state of Ohio had a choice between two brands of electronic voting machines, both brands built right in their own state. They come from the Diebold Corporation and a company that I’ll not name because it’s name is not relevant. It’s balloting system and technique, however, is highly relevant.
The Diebold machines have a screen upon which all of the candidates names will appear. The voter touches his choices, touches Cast Ballot, and gets a thank you and good bye.
This might seem a bit like going to the ATM, putting in your money, and getting a thank you and good bye. Hammer on the thing all you want, there will be no paper receipt of your transaction. Of course any company stupid enough to build such a paperless ATM would stay in business about fifteen minutes, during which time we’d all be hiding our money under the mattress. I’m being charitable. Not so with Diebold electronic voting machines. No sir. This no receipt thing is the norm. It saves paper. Hey, if you don’t like it, stay home on Election Day. Because like it or not, that’s how the Diebold machines work.
The competitive machine, the one from the company that lost the bid, works a little differently. Same touch screen. Same candidates names displayed the same way, same price for the machine. You touch your choices, press the VOTE button, and then right before your eyes something magical happens. Two identical paper ballots are printed out behind the glass. You are instructed to inspect them and be certain they accurately reflect your choices of candidates and are identical to each other in every way. If so, you press Cast Ballot. One of the identical paper ballots falls into the locked ballot box that is part of the machine. It is your vote. The other – identical - paper one falls into your hand. It’s just like the receipt you get at the ATM, the gas station, the supermarket. Your vote is cast physically, registered electronically and immediately, but the board of elections gets a paper receipt, just in case. But as important, so do you. What a concept.
Yet another type of machine is being ignored in favor of the paperless pollers as well. This paper ballot machine also prints a ballot behind the screen. You examine it, and it drops into the ballot box when you cast your vote. This system has been adopted in California, but only after that state found numerous problems with its already deployed base of no-paper Diebolds. The Diebolds were subsequently removed and decertified. California, being first about everything, went electronic right after the 2000 fiasco in Florida. This is essentially the only empirical test to which the Diebold electronic voting machines have been subjected (Unless you count the one in Georgia where 60,000 votes were lost). They failed in operation, and failed miserably. Further, if there is a malfunction in the machine, only a Diebold employee can open the machine. The machines are isolated from the boards of elections. Simply stated, that means the voting process is privatized. Diebold says it’s in the interest of maintaining the security of their computer source code. That code, by the way, an iteration of which was allegedly posted to the internet by hackers – in its entirety - in 2003, is also proprietary and cannot be audited by any but Diebold employees. Suppose one of those employees has programmed in an electronic "back door." For example, if a voter with inside info touches an unlikely combination of choices all at once, a combo he and other insiders have been given, it forces the machine to cast a vote – a thousand votes - for Bush. How will we know without an independent source code audit or receipt? These is absolutely no traceability.
So, the overwhelming probability is that neither you, nor most other voters will get to use the paper-receipt-giving machine. The Diebold company has won a substantive share of contracts nationally. In the three swing states that really matter in an Electoral College sense this year, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and you guessed it, Florida, there will be no paper receipts. The people who follow this stuff tell me that a win by either candidate in these three states will create an insurmountable electoral vote lead that the loser will not be able to overcome with any statistical probability. This might be because their Republican state legislators don’t like all that paper being wasted on receipts and are thinking ecologically as is so characteristic of Republicans. I would submit, however, that they are more concerned about saving Bushes than trees, but I’m obviously a cynic. Or, as some of the more pragmatic America hating Liberals contend, it might be because the chairman and CEO of Diebold is Ohio’s largest Bush contributor and fundraiser. He’s also active in Bush’s actual reelection campaign in Ohio. Some would say that this is sort of like the national-level equivalent of Katherine Harris on steroids. But you know those America hating Liberals. They see dishonesty everywhere Bush is involved. But if that were so, if the CEO of Diebold intended to resort to technological influence peddling, would he draw attention to himself as he did one year ago this month by saying in a fundraising letter that he is "…committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president (Bush) next year." 3
The letter from Walden O'Dell, chief executive of Diebold Inc. went out to invited guests at a $10,000.00 a plate Bush fundraiser in Columbus on August 14, 2003.
That is exactly what he said, but don’t look for it in your newspaper. What with really important campaign quotes like "SHOVE IT!," to report, there’s just no room for trivia like quoting the CEO of the leading voting machine company as being "…committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
I’m not making this stuff up. Really, I’m not.
"A people gets the government it deserves."-- Thomas Paine
Mr. Stasi, an enginner, is a widely published science and technology writer living in Los Angeles.