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Black Box

November 10, 2004
By The Plaid Adder

November 2, 2004

I wake up excited, as if it's Christmas morning. I go out to vote as soon as I'm dressed, before I even eat breakfast. After that I kill the whole day getting ready for the victory party I'm hosting. I clean the house. I bake challah for the first time in forever. It's the only kind of bread I feel safe making because even if something goes terribly wrong with the yeast the enormous number of eggs involved will take care of the rising. When everything is done and it's finally time for the network news coverage of Smackdown 2004 to begin, I turn on the television.

As soon as I see Peter Jennings on the screen surrounded by that election-night set, my gut turns into a cold, shuddering lump.

My head is still hopeful. I have been reading all the polls. I know Bush's support hasn't broken 50% in a long time. I know about the incumbent factor. I know what all the battleground states are and how many Kerry needs to put together 271 electoral votes. I know we can afford to lose either Ohio or Florida if we get Pennsylvania. I know it can be done. For weeks I have been sure that Kerry will win. But I haven't been watching television much lately. I don't have cable, and all the network shows I used to watch are either canceled or in the toilet. Most of the time the TV is a black box that just sits there in the family room, brooding.

Now that the black box is awake, I find that my body is reacting to it as if it were a cobra coiled up and ready to spring. My head knows all about the process and how long it will be before we have the results. But all my body has to go on is the conditioning it's learned through experience. And my body is telling me loud and clear: nothing good ever comes out of that box.

November 3, 2004

I pass by a USA Today, and though I try to avert my eyes I still see the headline. "Bush calls win 'historic.'"

It's historic all right.

By his math, he's now the most beloved president ever. By my math, he's the most hated president ever. According to the constantly-being-adjusted-yet-mysteriously-final vote tally, the country is so bitterly, and almost evenly, divided that both of those things are true.

The question of how we managed to give Bush another four years in office after he embroiled us in a disastrous and unnecessary war, presided over the tanking of our economy, lied repeatedly to the American people about stuff that really mattered, and performed so badly in all three of his presidential debates that a story about a mysterious 'bulge' that might have been the battery pack for a wireless earpiece through which his handlers were transmitting his answers actually went mainstream for a while, will be of intense interest to historians. Right now, to me, that question is just a yawning black hole of depression waiting to swallow me whole.

How did it happen? This is a man whose advisors openly stated, in the final days of the campaign, that "anything that makes people fear for their personal safety helps" bolster his popularity. It didn't occur to 51% of my fellow Americans that it is not a good idea to elect someone whose own political survival depends on keeping us all scared shitless? 51% of the people I share this country with thought he was doing a good job? 51% of Americans want another four years of color-coded terror alerts, gay-baiting, outsourcing, surveillance, detention without trial, deficit spending, profiteering, corruption, torture, and unending, expensive, and ineffective war? What the hell is the matter with people?

I remember the theories my partner and I talked about in the small hours, as we lay there trying to sleep, but really just holding each other and bracing ourselves against the coming shock of the morning news. We did everything we could, I said, but this country has just beaten us. There are not enough of us. All through history, I said, it's the same story: nobody ever walks away from a chance to rule the world. People love being part of an empire - at least until it falls. The Romans loved it, the British loved it. Why did I think we would be any different?

Of course "Do you want to be the Empire?" is not a question they ask on the exit polls. It's always about security, or terrorism, or weapons of mass destruction. Nobody in that black box ever talks whether all this fear is justified, or whether having sustained a devastating terrorist attack once three years ago inevitably compels us to conquer the world. For the people in the black box, it is always enough that we are afraid, that we feel a need for greater security, that we believe that the way to be safe is not to clean our own house but to go abroad raiding other people's.

But when people say that they believe Bush will protect them from terrorism - despite his not having been able to do it on September 11, 2001 - what they really mean is that the more conquering we do, the safer they will feel. The more war we make, the better off we'll be.

Maybe that's all it was, in the end: the fear that anything less than all-out war on the world would lead to another terrorist attack. The exit polls seem to indicate that voters for whom terrorism was the #1 issue voted overwhelmingly for Bush, perhaps because for the last month or so of the campaign, every time you turned on the black box you saw either Bush or Cheney insisting that John Kerry's election would lead immediately to another terrorist attack. I always wondered how they knew. Maybe it's best I won't find out.

In the light of day, though, that just doesn't seem like enough to me. And anyhow I hear the exit polls were kind of screwy this year.

November 2, 2004

It's late in the evening. We are all waiting for the battleground states to be called; but so far, the only results up there seem to be the foregone conclusions and Pennsylvania, which has gone for Kerry. The networks are not announcing the results of the exit polls but they know what they are, of course, and so apparently does the Kerry campaign, because they seem cheerful and ready to talk to anyone, whereas the Bush campaign has been oddly silent.

Suddenly, apropos of nothing, Peter Jennings announces that the Bush campaign has broken with tradition and is inviting the media up to his hideout in the White House for a photo-opportunity. There is a shot on the screen of a pack of camera and sound men charging up the steps toward the door, surging forward, bursting with the excitement of the chase.

One of the guests says, "Look at them. They're like a pack of dogs that just heard their master's voice."

In fact, Bush has nothing to say. He just wants them to film him as he sits there being happy and confident. He does at some point say that he thinks he's going to win. Later, Vanessa Kerry comes on the screen. She predicts a decisive victory, but she does not look happy. All of a sudden, subtly but surely, the tone of the coversation on the ABC set shifts. They're no longer considering possible reasons why Bush might lose. They're now talking about possible reasons why Kerry might not win.

Something just happened, but nobody in the box will tell us what it is.

November 6, 2004

I happen upon a piece at the BBC online site that credits Rove as the "architect" of this victory:

Early exit polls quoted by media seemed to give Mr Kerry the edge, but colleagues said Mr Rove indicated right away that they did not tally with his information.

He used his own data to put Ohio and Florida in the Bush column - bringing cheers from the president and his family when he went into the Roosevelt Room and told them.

And when the TV networks gave either Ohio or Nevada to Mr Bush but not both - which would have led him to be declared as the winner - Mr Rove was one of the president's aides who got on the phone to news chiefs to try to pressure them to change their minds.

So that's what happened. Rove went into the Roosevelt room and called Ohio and Florida for Bush, and the media went running up to record the happy event. He did this based on "his own data." Then he called up all the heads of all the network news shows to try to get them to call the election for Bush.

None of this surprises me, really. But I do have one question.

Where did Karl Rove's data come from?

Does he have informants working the polls? Is his PC hooked up to the vote tabulators in Columbus? Has he learned how to astral project so that he can know the secret conscience and intention of every one of Ohio's voters? Does he have thousands of surveillance cameras positioned in ward offices all over the swing states secretly recording each ballot and transmitting the information to him instantaneously? Is the Secretary of State for Ohio giving a running commentary to Rove but not to anyone else?

How is it that a man who was never elected to any public office, is not supposed to be part of the mainstream media, and has made his name and fortune based primarily on ruthlessness and a complete lack of moral scruples, gets to be the one man in the country who can call a presidential election? Why in the name of anything should he have been the only person in America who really knew what the Ohio results were?

Or was he just making them up?

* * * * * * * *

We can indeed count on the Bush team trying to steal Florida again, and who knows what else; but we can also count on Kerry not to be bullied into conceding the election, or to be suckered by any sweet talk about how he has to give up a legitimate victory so as not to divide the country. Four years after the candidate who won the majority of the popular vote accepted the Supreme Court's decision in favor of his rival because he thought it would be the best thing for the nation, we now know better. The best thing for the nation is to bring integrity back to the democratic process.

- The Plaid Adder, "October Surprise," October 20, 2004.

Earlier today, I spoke to President Bush, and I offered him and Laura our congratulations on their victory. We had a good conversation and we talked about the danger of division in our country and the need - the desperate need - for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together. Today, I hope that we can begin the healing. In America it is vital that every vote count, and that every vote be counted. But the outcome should be decided by voters, not a protracted legal process.

- John Kerry, November 3, 2004.

* * * * * * * *

November 8, 2004

I still wake up every day thinking about election fraud.

Is it possible that Bush 'won' this election through fraud? Absolutely. The folks over at BlackBoxVoting.org will be happy to tell you all about how easy it would be to hack the vote. Diebold comes in for a lot of the criticism, but we can also thank Bill Gates; the votes are tabluated, it appears, on PCs running Windows. How many security patches have you had to download to fix holes in Windows that MicroSoft didn't know about until some asshole wrote a virus that exploited them? Sure it's possible.

Is it likely? Well, that's what's waking me up at 4:00 a.m. every morning.

After watching Rove in action for four years, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind on at least this one point: if he thought he needed to steal the election, he absolutely would. I know most of America finds that unthinkable; but you know what, Rove got to where he is today by being willing to do the unthinkable.

The Swift Vet smears show you how willing he is to lie; the nationwide campaign of misinformation and intimidation that was directed at poor and minority voters in the run-up to this election shows you how comfortable he and his minions are with cheating; so why should we believe that, with not only his candidate's second term but his own ass on the line, he would have any problem with stealing? What would stop him? His conscience? Oh my God, get back to me in an hour after I'm done laughing. Fear of getting caught and exposed by the media? OK, now you're going to have to give me three.

The media will never expose Rove. They will never expose him because he exerts some kind of fascinating power over them that forces them to do his bidding even as they marvel at his moral bankruptcy and their own fawning submission. It's as if they would rather be bamboozled by him than get the truth from someone else. It goes beyond the pressures of having to produce a disposable product every hour on the hour, beyond laziness, beyond a taste for melodrama and sensation. It's a romance; it's a seduction; it's an unholy coupling that has given birth to this bastard of a future.

After all, there is more than one way of fixing an election. Stumping on the campaign trail is all very well, but the vast majority of Americans who go to the polls will vote based on what they have seen on television. The print media endorsed Kerry by an overwhelming margin, but that doesn't reach that segment of the American population that has long ago given up on print. If you control what comes out of that black box, and if the people sitting in front of it have nothing else to go on, then you control the opinions they form. And that's what Rove has always relied on.

It bothers me to wonder whether the results of this election are legitimate. In what is supposed to be the greatest country in the world, we shouldn't even have to ask that question. It bothers me that so many of our votes our counted on machines that do not produce a material, verifiable, auditable record, and that so many of the people responsible for tallying those votes are Republican operatives who are up to their eyeballs in Bush's campaign. And until we solve those two problems, I maintain that we do not have a process that we can trust, and that there will always be some doubt, amongst the dissident 49%, about whether the election we just had was real or whether we are being put through the motions in order that we might not realize that democracy is dead in this country, and that there is no chance that anything we do with our ballots will actually cause power to change hands.

But what bothers me more than the still-nagging doubt about the election's legitimacy is my absolute certainty about one thing. If clear evidence of fraud did ever emerge, the mainstream media would exclude it as irrelevant and incredible, the way they have excluded the results of their own exit polls. We do not own the media; they are owned by the money that pays them, the money that buys their networks and funds their air time and produces the crap they sell us. And the money, like any spoiled rich brat, likes the people who worship it and let it have its way all the time, and hates people who try to discipline it.

And that's why the money will always be against us, on everything from terrorism to moral values. After all, Republican moral values are really all about sex; and sex doesn't cost anyone anything. The money doesn't care who you have sex with as long as you buy plenty of cosmetics and trendy clothing and Viagra before you do it. If you're a Republican you get to be as moral as you want and it doesn't cost you a dime. If you're a Democrat, well, being moral involves helping the poor, working for equality, striving for social and economic justice, that kind of thing. The money doesn't like that. That's why our politicians are afraid to talk about their moral values; they don't want to make the money nervous. And so that's why, according to the black box, Republican moral values are the only ones that exist.

And since the money is what owns the mainstream media, the mainstream media will not do anything that's going to upset the money. Money likes stability. It likes decisive elections that don't fluster the stock market too much. It likes continuity, and it likes defense spending, and it likes tax cuts and deregulation and the 'ownership society.' And so like many other stories, election fraud is a story that simply will never come out of that black box. Whether or not it's true.

November 10, 2004

My partner works in a blue state. I work in a red state. We live our lives along a line stretched between them. For us, civil war is not an option.

Bush did not get a second term because the red overwhelmed the blue. No matter what you read in the papers, 51% is not a mandate. It is, however, a controlling interest.

For anyone else, the margin of victory would matter; but as far as the Bush team is concerned, as long as they own 51% of this country, they get to control it, and the minority can go piss up a rope, even if the 'minority' is almost half the country. That's not how a republic is supposed to work; but that's how a corporation works, and as long as it's red against blue, that's all this country is going to be.

I don't know how we get out of here. Right now, I feel like it will be a miracle if I live through the next four years. We all know how the Bush administration treats a conquered enemy; and every time I see one of our Democratic leaders using the word "unity" right now, I want to throw up.

But I have been banging my head against the heinosity of this election all day long and all I can come up with is this.

Red against blue is what Rove counts on; it's what keeps the elections close enough to steal. Or win, if you call it 'winning' when you direct the media to assassinate your opponent and then suppress his party's turnout by paying people to destroy registration forms, call people up and tell them their polling places have been moved, deliberately spread misinformation about who's eligible to vote, and let faulty equipment and malfunctioning machines tie up the polls so long that working people can't afford to wait to get to the voting booth.

Bush's victory on Tuesday happened because red and blue were so busy strangling each other that neither one noticed they both got screwed by green. Money is what ran off with this election. Money is what owns the black box; and so money is what holds our party leadership captive, and what carries Bush and Rove and the rest of the moral values crowd back into office. Until red and blue - not the party leaders, but the voters themselves - can unite against green, our choices and our future will always come to us straight from the black box.


The Plaid Adder's demented ravings have been delighting an equally demented online audience since 1996. More of the same can be found at the Adder's Lair.


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