The hot story in the Blogosphere is that the "erroneous" exit polls that showed Kerry carrying Florida and Ohio (among other states) weren't erroneous at all - it was the numbers produced by paperless voting machines that were wrong, and Kerry actually won. As more and more analysis is done of what may (or may not) be the most massive election fraud in the history of the world, however, it's critical that we keep the largest issue at the forefront at all time: Why are We The People allowing private, for-profit corporations, answerable only to their officers and boards of directors, and loyal only to agendas and politicians that will enhance their profitability, to handle our votes?
From the Gilded Age to the Great Depression to today, the economic agenda of conservatives has been easily summarized in two words: "cheap labor." Nowhere was that more clearly on display than in the recent decision by Judge William S. Howard that "relieved" coal companies from having to pay already-earned retirement benefits to coal miners in Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana, and Illinois.
In an eerie juxtaposition during the second presidential debate, both George W. Bush and Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia - each in their own sort of code - were saying at the same time that if Bush is elected in 2004, women who get abortions will probably face criminal prosecutions, and our rights of privacy will evaporate.
If you fly over the country of Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, the island on which Columbus landed, it looks like somebody took a blowtorch and burned away anything green. Even the ocean around the port capital of Port au Prince is choked for miles with the brown of human sewage and eroded topsoil. From the air, it looks like a lava flow spilling out into the sea. The history of this small island is, in many ways, a microcosm for what's happening in the whole world.
...In the days since the debate, that clip and its related Bush spin has been replayed so much and so often by the media that it's likely more Americans have heard it than heard the original debate itself. And of those who heard the debate, by this time most have probably forgotten Senator Kerry's actual words, and only a few may have noticed the impeachable High Crime committed by George Bush to which they pointed.
The CBS/Rather/Bush/Guard affair - regardless of how it ultimately turns out - has brilliantly deflected the issue of George W. Bush having strings pulled to get him into the Guard, and then not fulfilling his service requirements. Anytime the issue is raised in the future - regardless of facts or context - partisan Republicans will simply dismiss it by saying, "Those documents were forged." That four-word sound byte will be remembered long after the details of Bush's failures have dimmed from popular memory. Politically, it was a masterstroke. And not only does it hurt Bush family enemy Kerry, but also gets back at Bush family enemy Dan Rather, against whom they've nursed a 16-year grudge.
In 1988, the Bush campaign planted a lie in the media that Michael Dukakis had suffered from depression after losing an election for governor. According to Susan Estrich, his campaign manager, it cost Dukakis six points in the polls. A Bush family friend planted another lie that Dukakis' wife, Kitty, had once burned a flag at a demonstration - and Dukakis took another hit in the polls. The Bush family is at it again, with the now-well-documented lies told from the pulpit - er, podium - of the Republican National Convention, including lies told directly to the American people by George W. Bush himself.
There is nothing new about the Swift Boat ads. German filmmaker Fritz Kippler, one of Goebbels' most effective propagandists, once said that two steps were necessary to promote a Big Lie so the majority of the people in a nation would believe it. The first was to reduce an issue to a simple black-and-white choice that "even the most feebleminded could understand." The second was to repeat the oversimplification over and over. If these two steps were followed, people would always come to believe the Big Lie.
The frauds and deceptions of the Bush administration are legion and, sadly, to be expected, based on the Bush family's past (from sweetheart business deals going back to WWII, to smearing John McCain in South Carolina in 2000, to lying to the American people just before the election of 2002 about the threats Iraq posed). But few people expected Ralph Nader - one of America's finest defenders of the public interest and the commons - to employ deception in an election.
The Republican National Committee has recently removed from their website an advertisement interspersing Hitler's face with those of John Kerry and other prominent Democrats. This little-heralded step has freed former Enron lobbyist and current RNC chairman Ed Gillespie to resume his attacks on Americans who believe some provisions of Bush's PATRIOT Act, his detention of American citizens without charges, his willingness to let corporations write legislation, and the so-called "Free Speech Zones" around his public appearances are all steps on the road to American fascism.
There is nothing "normal" about a nation having a middle class, even though it is vital to the survival of democracy. As twenty-three years of conservative economic policies have now shown millions of un- and underemployed Americans, what's "normal" in a "free and unfettered" economy is the rapid evolution of a small but fabulously wealthy ownership class, and a large but poor working class. In the entire history of civilization, outside of a small mercantilist class and the very few skilled tradesmen who'd managed to organize in guilds (the earliest unions) like the ancient Masons, the middle class was an aberration. If a nation wants a middle class, it must define it, desire it, and work to both create and keep it.
Having lived in Germany and extensively interviewed many (now elderly) former members of Hitler's Nazi Party (and one spy for him) for a book I was writing on the religion of the Nazis, I can say categorically that Hitler had (or at least his people believed he had) a Vision. It was a vision of a world at peace (for 1000 years, no less), a world purified of disruptive or "undesirable" people, a world united in what Hitler called "A New Christianity," a world where things worked smoothly and people were happy because of "strong, steady leadership" (even during times of change), a world guided by a leader who held tenaciously to a singular vision.
Rush Limbaugh has, at various times, claimed credit for the elections of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush - and given how narrow electoral margins have been recently, he may be right. But now, in a free-market fashion that even conservatives have to salute, the tide is turning.
Many of the world's mature democracies require every high-school graduate to serve a year or two of either military or nonprofit service. At first blush, this may seem like an oppression by government, but history shows it's actually one of the best ways to prevent a military from becoming its own insular and dangerous subculture, to prevent the lower ranks of the military from being overwhelmed by people trying to escape poverty, and to keep military actions of the government accountable to the people. The Founders of America extensively considered this same issue.
Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon thought they could bomb Vietnam into accepting democracy. George W. Bush thinks he can do it with Iraq. But the first American president to consider how best to grow democracies - Thomas Jefferson - had some very different thoughts on the issue. LBJ and Bush would have done well to listen to his thoughtful words in a letter he wrote on February 14, 1815, to his old friend in France, the Marquis de Lafayette.