February 15, 2006
By Patricia Goldsmith
tired of playing the self-defeating electoral game. We have no reason
to expect that in 2006, after six years of rigged elections, everything
is suddenly going to work. In 2006, HAVA will really kick in; our
situation could well be worse.
I know in my own state of New York, lobbyists are busily flogging
voting machines. Now and then I get a notice from a committed activist,
and I write e-mails requesting optical scanners with paper ballots,
but it's a pretty secret process. Responsibility for purchase decisions
passed from the state level, where legislators could be attacked
en masse, down to the county level, and I just have this sick feeling
in the pit of my stomach that the people in charge of choosing our
new black box voting systems can be bought for a not-too-fancy lunch.
There's a lot of money sloshing around out there, and there's
a lot of takers. Even Democrats are lobbying for Diebold et al now,
after years of being frozen out. Happy days!
The homophobic black preachers, the journalists taking payola,
Intelligent Design ignoramuses with jobs at NASA, and the good
folks cutting deals for voting machines, on both ends of the transaction:
yes, all the mosquitoes in this Okefenokee are so fat on our blood
they can barely buzz. And this is the moment George W. Bush has
chosen to declare himself dictator.
Of course, he's been acting like one for years now, but people
weren't getting the point, and what's the fun of being dictator
if nobody knows it?
But it's the way he has announced himself that has finally scared
the bejesus out of Congressional thugs and the Mainstream Media:
universal wiretaps. All the
phone companies are in. The Bushitters have secured the whole
flow of electronic communications.
Certain more moderate Bush-backers, like James
Klurfeld of Newsday, have practically begged Bush to restore
the fig leaf of a nominal law: ask for changes in the law if you
need it, just ask:
What baffles me, however, is that there are no compelling national
security reasons for Bush to have instituted his program of listening
to the communications of U.S. citizens without a judicial warrant...
Why isn't [FISA] enough for the Bush administration? And if
it isn't why couldn't Bush have asked for an amendment to the
Claiming unfettered, unchecked, unbalanced power to protect
national security is how dictators operate.
His puzzlement seems genuine, and anguished. Klurfeld, apparently
a moderate Republican, ended the piece, which was entitled "Bush
spying defense: Politically bright, legally dim," with the line,
"This is truly scary."
He at least has the wit to be frightened. Tom Vilsack, the Democratic
governor of Iowa who may be running for president, seems to have
absolutely no inkling of the potential political uses of all the
information that streams through the big switches at AT&T, Verizon,
MCI, and Sprint, the phone calls, e-mails, and faxes of an entire
Mulligan, Director of the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public
Policy Clinic at the UC Berkeley School of Law, speculates as to
how much power the telecom companies have given to BushCo:
That is probably the most troubling issue right now domestically.
So, the telephone companies deal with the law enforcement apparatus
of the United States government all the time. They have incredibly
regular relationships. There are wiretaps going on all the time.
And they know the rules, and they know that whoever came in and
asked them to capture this information wasn't playing by them.
And it's incredibly problematic that they were complicit in this
and remained silent for so long. I mean, this has been going since
2001. And the fact that not a single telephone company stepped
up and complained about this in a way that was public or even,
you can imagine, to the intelligence communities of the House
or the Senate, I think is just totally shocking...
And the FBI, actually, or NSA, could position people at the
telephone companies - right? - who are then able to kind of be
there, and so the level of scrutiny that the telephone companies
have over what the government officials who are engaged in listening
in have, I'm not clear.
Now here's how Tom Vilsack, head of the Democratic Leadership
Council, views our present constitutional predicament:
"If the President broke the law, that's unacceptable. But I think
it's debatable whether he did," Vilsack told Des Moines Register
editors and reporters.
"And I think Democrats are falling into a very, very large political
trap," he said. "Democrats are not going to win elections until
they can reassure people they are going to keep them safe."
No. Democrats are not going to start winning elections until we
go back to fair elections. Vilsack, governor of Iowa, ought
to know better. On election day, 2004, Iowa started building an
electoral tsunami for Kerry in the early afternoon, with results
starting to approach a 60 percent advantage for the Democrat. And
yet, in a stunning reversal, Bush ultimately took Iowa.
Vilsack's spy comments came at exactly the moment when Republican
opposition to the warrantless spying - and other
BushCo initiatives - is mounting, a pattern that has been repeated
over and over throughout the Bush presidency. The more
resistance to the initiative, the more imperative it is to have
a figure with hefty lefty cred come out for it, someone who can
raise a thoughtful finger and say, consider before you automatically
condemn our brave commander-in-chief.
Rather than asking the American people if they would approve of
wiretapping in order to capture terrorists, pollsters ought to be
asking if they'd approve of illegal wiretapping so that Karl
Rove can have access to every electronic transaction in America.
As to what Herr Rove's been doing with this stuff for the past four
years, use your imagination. And don't be afraid to think big; Rove
The intelligence industry is currently building facilities to
mine the information, organize it, and zero in on key words and
phrases. Or names. The new operation, centered in Colorado, will
be able to store the
electronic equivalent of the Library of Congress every two days.
good gray Democrat, Vilsack lacks - or studiously strives to
suppress - the slightest curiosity about the political possibilities
of spying on such an unprecedented scale.
Milton Mayer [They Thought They Were Free: the Germans, 1933-45,
University of Chicago Press] describes how it happened under Hitler:
Hitler got them to a pitch and held them there, screaming at
them day in and day out for twelve years. They were uneasy through
Now I see a little better how Nazism overcame Germany - not
by attack from without or by subversion from within, but with
a whoop and a holler. It was what most Germans wanted - or, under
pressure of combined reality and illusion, came to want. They
wanted it; they got it; and they liked it.
I came back home a little afraid for my country, afraid of what
it might want, and get, and like, under pressure of combined reality
and illusion. I felt - and feel - that it was not German Man I
had met, but Man...
If I - and my countrymen - ever succumbed to that concatenation
of conditions, no Constitution, no laws, no police, and certainly
no army would be able to protect us from harm. For there is no
harm that anyone else can do to a man that he cannot do to himself,
no good that he cannot do if he will. And what was said long ago
is true: Nations are made not of oak and rock but of men, and,
as the men are, so will the nations be.
Mayer, a Jew, says of the ten Nazis he profiles, "I liked
them. I couldn't help it." They weren't at all monstrous. They were
just small - that's how they referred to themselves, as "little
men." The Unitary Executive is talking to the very same little
man when he sternly warns the nation that the "plotters and planners"
haven't gone away, and probably never will.
It makes my skin crawl to watch Bush
stories about preventing an attack on the "Liberty" (actually
Library) Tower in Los Angeles, wondering if the trick will work
again. Kristol is right about paranoid
liberals. I am starting to have truly lurid suspicions about
BushCo have done, and what
they're capable of.
Strangely enough, it's only the left that prohibits any account
of conspiracy in the ordinary workings of the world, even though
it is the left that lost an entire generation of visionary activists
to political assassination in the sixties.
Coretta Scott King's death last week was an uncontrollable whiff
of 1968, the smell of cities on fire from coast to coast: both Martin
and Bobby. Spying and political assassination; wiretapping and cold-blooded
murder: could there conceivably be a connection? Unlike Jackie
O, who merely whisked her children away from the good ole USA to
Greece and the protection of an international business magnate with
more money than God, Mrs. King said publicly that she and her family
did not believe James
Earl Ray killed her husband. Imagine.
Now imagine what we're going to do without
The sooner we face the truth, the better. When we are finally
able to digest the fact we have lost the vote, it will become obvious
that we have to take a page from the
Greens and concentrate on the
corporations. If and when the sleeping giant wakes, we have
to make damn sure John and Jane Q. Public know who to blame. We
need to channel that energy, and we better start now. But I'm betting
that on that fateful day, Dems and Rethugs will be able to agree
on one very important thing: big money is behind all of it.
We need to take to heart the Cree prophecy sent to me by a new
Only after the last tree has been cut down
Only after the last river has been poisoned
Only after the last fish has been caught
Then you will find out that money cannot be eaten