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This Solves Nothing, or Everything

Post-election thoughts, opinions and considerations
Rick Gagliano | 11/04/04

On Wednesday, 1:00 pm Eastern time, the presidential election of 2004 became almost official. John Kerry, Democratic challenger, conceded the election to George W. Bush, and Bush will be happy to serve another four years as commander-in-Chief.

Kerry's resignation and concession is good enough for W. and the nation for now. There's probably not even the batting an eyelash over the closeness of the election, it was, as they say, "in the bag," after all. They did their job, and the American people liked it. Hooray!

One should note with interest that Dick Cheney was the first to banter about with the word mandate, as though he and his running partner had somehow achieved one with 12 electoral votes over the minimum threshold and 51% of the electorate. Bush and Cheney won a bare majority in a deeply divided nation, and they had to work their tails off to get that. The only mandate is the one that exists in the vacuous recesses of the neocon mindset - that Tuesday's result gives them the tacit authority to do what they please and affirms their perfection in what they already have done.

In reality, the president was elected by the slimmest margin ever for an incumbent. One would advise him to step lightly, having such a tenuous hold on the mood of the country, though since he cannot run again, he can do pretty much as he pleases in his second term and, not surprisingly, he seems so inclined.

Judging by the election results, he should face serious opposition on just about any legislation he proposes, but that kind of antagonism would require a Senate or House with conviction (and possibly a Democratic majority in either chamber), something this legislative branch is sorely lacking.

And there's the rub. We're in a new age. An age of electronics which few of us understand, and age of pandering to NASCAR kick-ass mentality, an age in which $2 a gallon gasoline and an SUV make sense, an age in which over half the electorate thinks starting wars, shipping American jobs overseas, running up enormous government and trade deficits is a good thing. At the risk of sounding disingenuous or unreligious, all the talk on the media in the aftermath of the election about how moral values won it for Mr. Bush makes me want to disgorge. I want to live a free and peaceful life as much as the next guy. I simply don't want to have to ask permission to do so.

If this election was won on the basis of moral values, I think America and democratic principles lost. American democracy is not about Christianity, as much as it is not about Hinduism, Scientology or roller-blading. I was raised Catholic and still adhere to my faith, probably more now than ever before. Because of that, I cannot stomach those who would pervert the truth for their own ends, I cannot sit idly by when I see so much bravado and bluster in the name of "just ends."

The essential problem I have with the Bush administration is that I do not trust them because they have continually shown a propensity to delay scrutiny, disparage their critics, change rationale, take no responsibility and admit no wrongdoing, all the while attempting to control public opinion. You can make all the arguments you like about how a public of free mind reelected George W. Bush on moral grounds; I will continue to assert that we were not as free-thinking as we believe. We were fear-mongered, cajoled and jaw-boned into making a judgment.

Fact of the matter is that we were "given" only one choice in this election, either way. There may have been - I'm almost certain there are - better choices for the office of the president than the two from which we had to choose. I don't believe the American people had an opportunity to see those choices. Who besides the two major parties could afford to spend as lavishly as they did on this election? So much for the effectiveness or sustainability of third parties and the viability of their candidates, open government and election reform. He who outspends, outwins!

It's absolutely not the end of the world, though it may be for the Democratic party, which is now comprised of an odd coalition of gays, blacks, urbanites, single people and poor to middle class wage earners. Bush is only president and he will only be in office for another four years. And he's only one guy. Granted, he is the guy who commands the most powerful force on the planet, that of the presidency and administration of the world's self-proclaimed super power, though China may have something to say on that point - and they did, in opposition to Bush, just before the election.

The problems and solutions for this country are not the sole province of the presidency. The Congress certainly has done their share to go along, be strung along, go about the people's business as if it were their own and spend without restraint. If Bush doesn't do us in, the Congress certainly will. They're now lopsided to the Republican side, and whenever the balance of power is in the hands of one party in Washington, our system of checks and balances reveals its fatal flaw - that having all three branches in control of one party strains the entire system as that party aspires to represent itself and its ideology in all that it does and reticence and moderation become victims in an orgy of self-aggrandizement.

Meet the new Boss, Same as the old BossVice President Dick Cheney

Some on the losing side are not going to just roll over and take it now that Bush has won. The wounds from his first term are still festering, the protests over the Patriot Act, the war in Iraq, and all the assorted rhetoric associated with terror or the lack thereof will continue. Some of it will be silenced, some muted, toned-down or tempered with the understanding that most Americans barely care, and therein lies the danger. While a president elected and serving in the interests of the people is most desirable, we cannot allow government further intrusions into our privacy or free rein over information and technology.

One comment I heard today concerning the proliferation of electronic voting machines in this election was poignant. It went something along the lines of "It's a good thing all those people got out and voted yesterday for the last time because from now on the government will do it for us."

As frightening as that may seem, there are those who think that much of the process is rigged and a partial fraud. Highest on the list of what the Bush-pushers would call conspiracy nut jobs are radio talk show host Alex Jones (inforwars.com and prisonplanet.tv) and Bev Harris, author of Black Box Voting (blackboxvoting.org), the book that uncovered hundreds of voting irregularities caused by electronic and other voting machines and who continues to champion the cause of fair, honest and open elections.

These two may sound like they're from another planet, but both take themselves and the rights of Americans seriously. While Jones sounds the alarm that we are being herded into a mind-control police state, Harris contends that we may have already conceded our rights by not keeping a careful eye on the election process. Alex Jones' articulates the fears of those who value peace and freedom most highly. The riveting style of his documentaries touch a nerve in even the mildly skeptical. Especially in his documentary film, 911 The Road To Tyranny, Jones' sensational mix of images and his non-stop, defiant commentary produce a chilling message of a world gone mad. He portrays a militant government bent on preparing the American public for martial law with a ceaseless barrage of fear, paramilitary drills and psychological conditioning, and backs it up with exceptional real footage and probing questions.

Jones is not alone in his quest to uncover the motives behind terror. Recently, the BBC broadcast Adam Curtis' excruciating The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear as a three part documentary series. In it, Curtis challenges the most basic assumptions of the war on terror, blaming the politicians for ratcheting up and over blowing the security threat for personal and political gain. Critics have called the documentary provocative and "riskily counter-intuitive." The work of creative investigators like Jones and Curtis make Michael Moore's over-hyped Fahrenheit 911 look tame and amateurish by comparison. Naturally, in the superficial global village, Moore's film became a commercial success while more serious work was overlooked.

Bev Harris takes a more even tempered, and some may say, parochial approach to the perceived threat of vote tampering by means electronic and otherwise. In Black Box Voting, she exposes the internal workings of the companies which manufacture the voting machines in wide use today, particularly Diebold and how sensitive code and information is often left completely unguarded, a target for hackers and vote-riggers.

In fact, it was some sensitive information left out in the open that first awakened Ms. Harris to the danger and prompted her to write the book, which is freely available on her web site. Since then she has been vigilant to the cause, appearing on radio talk shows and keeping the web site operational, though it seems she is in need of much more help. Perhaps it is just that Bev Harris thinks the unthinkable - that elections can be rigged and the right most basic to our democracy stolen - that makes people shy from serious inquiry on such a vitally important aspect of governance. Then again, she is opposing and exposing some very powerful people and companies, so the risks are quite high.

Contemplating the myriad ways computer data can be rigged, hacked, overwritten, fudged, smudged and thoroughly destroyed, Harris merits attention.It pays to keep a little skepticism stored away when one couples the advance of electronic voting with the implications of the Patriot Act, the war on terror and the Bush/Cheney penchant for stifling dissent (do a search for Republican Convention dissent and you'll see what I mean).

We may be entering a time of serious change in America or we may already be in it and few have noticed. It depends upon which side of the argument you're on. During the campaign, Bush and Cheney were not above the use of scare tactics, promoting the idea that we would be less safe from terrorism with John Kerry in the White House. That anyone in their right mind - and obviously the mind-numbing message worked on millions of Americans - thinks terrorism is actually a serious threat in this country must give one pause to reflect upon the full extent terrorist activity in the US in the first place.

Before 9/11 there was one terrorist attack in the United States - the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Since that was not sufficient, 9/11 happened and - for purposes of this argument, we'll use a round number - 4000 were killed on that day by terrorists. Since then - over 3 years - terrorists have killed a grand total of ZERO US citizens on US soil. That works out to under 4 a day when you average it out.

Now, if the terrorists are going to kill Americans at the rate of 4 per day, it would take them 191,780 years to completely wipe out 280 million Americans. By then they will have killed us all. Unfortunately for them, we'll all have been dead for thousands of years. Yes, in the year 193784 the Islamic psychoterrorists will have won, well, assuming a population growth rate of zero. I, for one, am not worried.

I hate to say this, but John Kerry was right when he referred to terrorism as a "nuisance." Anything that kills an average of four people a day is not something we need to marshal the combined forces of our military, police, intelligence and all internal and external security to combat. We are the mightiest nation in the world, no doubt, but fighting terrorists to us should be akin to fly swatting, and we don't need - as this administration has continually asserted and the idea of which it has aggressively pursued - hundreds of tanks, ships, bombers and assorted air craft, smart bombs, dumb bombs, ground troops, support personnel, radio and television propaganda and the corresponding burgeoning military and domestic security budgets.

We also didn't need to fight a war in Iraq to defeat the terrorists. There were no terrorist camps or bases there, there were no WMDs as we found out too late, and Saddam Hussein was not plotting to wreak havoc on the United States. He had no connection to bin Laden or Al Queda. The man was more concerned with killing off his own people and hoarding US twenty dollar bills. To the point, he was a psychopathic, deteriorating sot of a dictator whose power, both inside and outside his own country, had been seriously deflated by sanctions and no fly zones. He was never a threat to us in any serious sense of the word.

Many have made the case that Bush has protected us from the evil terrorists - Al Queda in particular - by beefing up security at home and fighting the terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. I'll give him one out of three. Going after Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan made sense, politically and militarily. But we never got him. He's still out there and he was able to tape and deliver a tactical scare message that may have turned the election in Bush's favor.

Once again, the US public was completely blind sided by the appearance of bin Laden. Most astute observers the the terrorism tableau expected and predicted the appearance of the bogey man from high in the hills of the Himalayas.

Naturally, most Americans just saw the most recent bin Laden tape as another signal that we are not safe, rather than the rational question, "Why haven't we caught this guy?"

As for Homeland Security, we've spent billions of dollars on all kinds of gadgets, screeners, sniffers, scanners, testers and assorted expensive high-tech gear, but we've done little in the one area that could actually keep terrorists and their weapons out of the country - beefing up security at the borders. Wouldn't those 100,000 troops have been better sent to Texas, New Mexico, Wyoming, North Dakota and on the seas surrounding the US, than to the Persian Gulf and Iraq? They're now there, according to the president, "securing the freedom of the Iraqis." Too bad they're doing such a poor job. Over 100,000 Iraqi citizens have died in this quest for freedom.

Strangely enough, the Vietnam War became a focal point issue in the campaign of 2004, partially due to the service records of the candidates, partially to the fact that we are at war in Iraq. The protests over the war in Iraq have not been particularly convincing, but they have been well-attended and organized even though the media will only give them the most cursory of lip service. But every protest has a rallying cry, theme or lyric and the current one is not without its own. Many of the Kerry campaigners and war protesters are particularly fond of the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again."

Read the lyrics carefully. Townsend and the Who delivered a rather cryptic message that seems to come home today. Originally, the song was a protest of the Vietnam War since it was originally published in 1971 and released on the album "Who's Next," though it still sounds as desperately defiant as it did more than thirty years ago:

Won't Get Fooled Again

We'll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgment of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that's all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
No, no!

I'll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I'll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?

There's nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again
No, no!


Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss