Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Philosophy Edition: Land of the Free?

Is it conceivable that after four years, a contested previous election, and a contentious and controversial set of nationally dividing rather than unifying events that our elites would be so clueless so as to invite civil anarchy or even civil war? Yes it seems like it is so. Krugman writing in the NYT has some chilling words about the electoral transparency of our system.

It's election night, and early returns suggest trouble for the incumbent. Then, mysteriously, the vote count stops and observers from the challenger's campaign see employees of a voting-machine company, one wearing a badge that identifies him as a county official, typing instructions at computers with access to the vote-tabulating software.

When the count resumes, the incumbent pulls ahead. The challenger demands an investigation. But there are no ballots to recount, and election officials allied with the incumbent refuse to release data that could shed light on whether there was tampering with the electronic records.

This isn't a paranoid fantasy. It's a true account of a recent election in Riverside County, Calif., reported by Andrew Gumbel of the British newspaper The Independent. Mr. Gumbel's full-length report, printed in Los Angeles City Beat, makes hair-raising reading not just because it reinforces concerns about touch-screen voting, but also because it shows how easily officials can stonewall after a suspect election...

This shouldn't be a partisan issue. Think about what a tainted election would do to America's sense of itself, and its role in the world. In the face of official stonewalling, doubters probably wouldn't be able to prove one way or the other whether the vote count was distorted - but if the result looked suspicious, most of the world and many Americans would believe the worst. I'll write soon about what can be done in the few weeks that remain, but here's a first step: if Governor Bush cares at all about the future of the nation, as well as his family's political fortunes, he will allow that independent audit. [emphasis added]

Billmon has a less than charitable interpretation of the election snafu's in Florida.
The good news, I guess, is that at least one of the screw ups (intentional or unintentional) that turned Florida into Floriduh four years ago won't be repeated this year. (The fact that the hanging chads will also go away is offset by the black box problem, which may be even worse).

But by now you really have to wonder: How long would Jeb Bush be able to stay off the Florida felon list himself if he wasn't the brother of the president and a member of one of the most powerful political dynasties the country has ever seen? I mean, when your kid tells you the dog ate his homework once, you might not believe it, but you might give him/her the benefit of the doubt. But twice?

How many times does the Bush family have to steal a Florida election before they finally get it right?

Election dirty tricks and dirty elections are nothing new. Some of them have been in recent history, such as the close election between Nixon and Kennedy. There was even a third candidate that time around. There are some Republicans that feel, me included, that Kennedy stole the election from Nixon using the Daly Democratic machine in Chicago, Illinois where the dead voted. Then again the dead vote in Missouri too.

Let's not be wide-eyed virgins here folks. There have been election shenannigans before. There is no reason to conclude that there won't be this time around. Usually, it's just that one side concedes to the other or the margin is too large to fudge electorally. The Press in investigating the Florida election mechanics is doing its job at least partly, but there is a lot more weird stuff going on out there.

Normally, to be frank I wouldn't care too much about the cheating. However we have a perilous situation on our hand. We have a President who is at best weak, surrounded by powerful selfish individuals with an ideological agenda and who don't care about the people of the United States of America. Their latest plan seems to beat the war drums for Iran. That would be a catastrophe.

I will make the prediction that if this election is stolen and there are no consequences, that America will effectively ceased to be a democratic Republic. It may still keep the trappings for a while, but we will have a Caeser and an imperium, perhaps a very short-lived one as we go to war in the middle-east and the Far East all at once.

There aren't a lot of things I have to say to praise Kerry about, but the DNC has made a point of putting "no unnecessary foreign wars" on their agenda. Normally, I am a hawk but if we go to war now it will be disasterous. We need time and somebody to fix the military. If we go to war now, it will be with draftees with minimum training and with insufficient bullets and armored vests and everything else. A land war in Asia in other words, as usual, would be historically disasterous for us at this point.

If we invaded Iran, I don't see how we could avoid destabilizing Turkey, Saudi Arabia, or Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan already marginally stable at best would certainly destabilize. Also it would leave us vulnerable to a pinch in the Far East over Taiwan and Korea, with an emboldened China in the face of a weakened USA. It will take three years minimum to effectively overhaul and adjust our military structure. Going to war in any time less than that would create large and unnecessary losses, and if limited to conventional war even outright defeat. The USA is powerful but it is not omnipotent. Our resources are already over-stretched.

Even victory under those conditions would be Pryhhic. The distraction from the domestic policy side of economic restructuring and the inability to impose fiscal discipline would doom the USA barring heroic coordinated measures to a period of economic depression like that of the Great Depression. These next few years to a decade is when all the bills start coming due, and it ain't gonna be pretty.

I wish GWB were being managed by different handlers, but he's not and despite the wishing otherwise with the McCain or Powell Veep speculation there is no indication that Cheney et al. and the ominiously lower-profile neo-cons are going to give up their chokehold on power. We here on America are on the cusp of a revolution, but it's not a revolution in the good sense. It is a slippery slope where we can degenerate so that we are no longer effectively a democratic society.

Now I would not blame this exclusively on the Republicans. Certainly if for nothing else, Democratic leaders deserve the blame for being too weak and providing too little an alternative vision to inspire Americans. In addition, they've allowed their progressive liberal agenda to be discredited by pandering to special interests and bloated bureaucratic corruption. However when it comes down to the final analysis, I don't think that my former party the Republicans are going to give up power and they've reconsolidated their base.

I am getting a lot of word at the grass roots level from my contacts, that the base is firming up behind GWB. He should have a solid turnout this November. That means it's down to two things, if Kerry can winover the independents and wavering moderates and how far the fingers go into the election machinery pie. I don't put it past either side to try to fix this election, but I know for a fact that right now the party machinery and party loyalty of the Republican party are more disciplined and capable and ready to pull this off.

If there is an attempt to slide this election from a lose to a win column, and there's no protest about the sanctity of the democratic process then it's over. A new America will be born, but it will not be the home of the brave or the land of the free. As Benjamin Franklin said, we have a Republic - if we can keep it.

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