Outside the oil and gas junta that controls two and a half branches of our government
(the half soon to be whole is the judiciary), there was a good deal of envy at
the late British election among those Americans who are serious about politics.
Little money was spent by the three parties and none for TV advertising. Results
were achieved swiftly and cheaply. Best of all, the three party leaders were quizzed
sharply and intelligently by ordinary citizens known quaintly as subjects, thanks
to the ubiquitous phantom crown so unlike our nuclear-taloned predatory eagle.
Although news of foreign countries seldom appears in our tightly censored media
(and good news, never), those of us who are addicted to C-SPAN and find it the
one truly, if unconsciously, subversive media outlet in these United States are
able to observe British politics in full cry.
I say “subversive” not only because C-SPAN is apt to take interesting
books seriously but also because of its live coverage of the Senate and the House
of Representatives, the only look we are ever allowed at the mouthpieces of our
masters up close and, at times, most reflective of a government more and more
remote from us, unaccountable and repressive. To watch the righteous old prophet
Byrd of West Virginia, the sunny hypocrisy of Biden of Delaware-as I write these
hallowed names, I summon up their faces, hear their voices, and I am covered with
C-SPAN goose bumps.
At any rate, wondrous C-SPAN has another string to its bow. While some executive
was nodding, C-SPAN started showing us Britain’s House of Commons during
Question Time. This is the only glimpse that most Americans will ever get of
how democracy is supposed to work.
These party leaders are pitted against one another in often savage debate on
subjects of war and peace, health and education. Then some 600 Members of Parliament
are allowed to ask questions of their great chieftains. Years ago the incomparable
Dwight Macdonald wrote that any letter to the London Times (the Brits are inveterate
letter writers on substantive issues) is better written than any editorial in
the New York Times.
In addition to Question Time, which allows Americans to see how political democracy
works, as opposed to our two chambers of lobbyists for corporate America, C-SPAN
also showed the three party leaders being interrogated by a cross section of,
for the most part, youthful subjects of the phantom crown and presided over
by an experienced po-lit-i-cal journalist. Blair was roughly accused of lying
about the legal advice he had received apropos Britain’s right to go to
war in Iraq for the US oil and gas junta. This BBC live audience asked far more
informed and informative questions than the entire US press corps was allowed
to ask Bush et al. in our recent election. But Americans are not used to challenging
authority in what has been called wartime by a President who has ordered invasions
of two countries that have done us no harm and is now planning future wars despite
dwindling manpower and lack of money. Blair, for just going along, had to deal
with savage, informed questions of a sort that Bush would never answer even
if he were competent to do so.
So we have seen what democracy across the water can do. All in all a jarring
experience for anyone foolish enough to believe that America is democratic in
anything except furiously imprisoning the innocent and joyously electing the
guilty. What to do? As a first step, I invite the radicals at C-SPAN who take
seriously our Constitution and Bill of Rights to address their attention to
the corruption of the presidential election of 2004, particularly in the state
One of the most useful members of the House-currently the most useful-is John
Conyers, a Michigan Democrat who, in his capacity as ranking minority member
of the Judiciary Committee, led the committee’s Democratic Congressmen
and their staffers into the heart of the American heartland, the Western Reserve;
specifically, into the not-so-red state of Ohio, once known as “the mother
He had come to answer the question that the minority of Americans who care
about the Republic have been asking since November 2004: “What went wrong
in Ohio?” He is too modest to note the difficulties he must have undergone
even to assemble this team in the face of the triumphalist Republican Congressional
majority, not to mention the unlikely heir to himself, George W. Bush, whose
original selection by the Supreme Court brought forth many reports on what went
wrong in Florida in 2000.
These led to an apology from Associate Justice John Paul Stevens for the behavior
of the 5-to-4 majority of the Court in the matter of Bush v. Gore. Loser Bush
then brought on undeclared wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the greatest
deficits in our history and the revelations that the policies of an Administration
that-much as Count Dracula fled cloves of garlic-flees all accountability were
responsible for the murder and torture of captive men, between 70 percent and
90 percent of whom, by the Pentagon’s estimate, had been swept up at random,
earning us the hatred of a billion Muslims and the disgust of what is called
the civilized world.
Asked to predict who would win in ’04, I said that, again, Bush would
lose, but I was confident that in the four years between 2000 and 2004 creative
propaganda and the fixing of election officials might very well be so perfected
as to insure an official victory for Mr. Bush. As Representative Conyers’s
report, Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio (www.house.gov/conyers),
shows in great detail, the swing state of Ohio was carefully set up to deliver
an apparent victory for Bush even though Kerry appears to have been the popular
winner as well as the valedictorian-that-never-was of the Electoral College.
I urge would-be reformers of our politics as well as of such anachronisms as
the Electoral College to read Conyers’s valuable guide on how to steal
an election once you have in place the supervisor of the state’s electoral
process: In this case, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who orchestrated
a famous victory for those who hate democracy (a permanent but passionate minority).
The Conyers Report states categorically, “With regard to our factual findings,
in brief, we find that there were massive and unprecedented voter irregularities
and anomalies in Ohio. In many cases these irregularities were caused by intentional
misconduct and illegal behavior, much of it involving Secretary of State Kenneth
J. Blackwell, the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio.” In other
words, the Florida 2000 scenario redux, when the chair for Bush/Cheney was also
the Secretary of State. Lesson? Always plan ahead for at least four more years.
It is well-known in the United States of Amnesia that not only did Ohio have
a considerable number of first-time voters but that Blackwell and his gang,
through “the misallocation of voting machines, led to unprecedented long
lines that disenfranchised scores, if not hundreds of thousands, of predominantly
minority and Democratic voters.”
For the past few years many of us have been warning about the electronic voting
machines, first publicized on the Internet by investigator Bev Harris, for which
she was much reviled by the officers of such companies as Diebold, Sequoia,
Es & S, Triad; this last voting computer company “has essentially
admitted that it engaged in a course of behavior during the recount in numerous
counties to provide ‘cheat sheets’ to those counting the ballots.
The cheat sheets informed election officials how many votes they should find
for each candidate, and how many over and under votes they should calculate
to match the machine count. In that way, they could avoid doing a full county-wide
hand count mandated by state law.”
Yet despite all this manpower and money power, exit polls showed that Kerry
would win Ohio. So, what happened?
I have told more than enough of this mystery story so thoroughly investigated
by Conyers and his Congressional colleagues and their staffers. Not only were
the crimes against democracy investigated, but the report on What Went Wrong
in Ohio comes up with quite a number of ways to set things right.
Needless to say, this report was ignored when the Electoral College produced
its unexamined tally of the votes state by state. Needless to say, no joint
committee of the two houses of Congress was convened to consider the various
crimes committed and to find ways and means to avoid their repetition in 2008,
should we be allowed to hold an election once we have unilaterally, yet again,
engaged in a war-this time with Iran. Anyway, thanks to Conyers, the writing
is now high up there on the wall for us all to see clearly: “Mene, mene,
tekel, upharsin.” Students of the Good Book will know what these words
of God meant to Belshazzar and his cronies in old Babylon.