Environmental Ethics
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Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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The Gadfly Bytes -- February, 2002

Night Falls Upon the American Democracy

Ernest Partridge
"The Online Gadfly"


As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.

William O. Douglas

Make no mistake, Al Gore won in Florida. Under any consistent legal standard of counting the ballots, Gore won. The fact that the media consortium is lying about the results is ... an indication of just how debased our democracy has become.

Paul Lukasiak

"Bush Wins Florida" – NOT

On November 11, 2001, the "Media consortium" finally released its report of the Florida recount project. While the media accounts of that study told us very little that we did not know about that election, they it revealed a great deal about the state of political reporting in the United States today.

Consider some of the headlines that announced the consortium study:

  • "Bush Still Had Votes to Win in a Recount, Study Finds." (Los Angeles Times)

  • "Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did not Cast the Deciding Vote." (New York Times).

  • "Study: Recounts Would have Favored Bush." (Washington Post)

  • "Florida Recount Study: Bush Still Wins." (CNN.com)

  • "Recount: Bush" (St. Petersburg Times).

And so on.

Those who troubled themselves to read below the headlines and lead paragraphs would generally have found a different story: on virtually all recount scenarios, Gore would have won Florida and the Presidential election. For example, after the third paragraph, the New York Times proceeds to dismantle the confident assertion in its headline, and late in the article concedes, "If all the ballots had been reviewed under any of seven single standards, and combined with the results of an examination of overvotes, Mr. Gore would have won." ( See Gore Vidal's priceless "Times Cries Eke!  Buries Al Gore,").

Even the scenario that appeared to favor Bush, as trumpeted in the above headlines, is suspect – as I will explain below. ("The ‘Losing' Gore Scenario")

Lost in this journalistic smoke-screen is the stark fact, conceded by virtually all observers, that when the Floridians went to the polls (or attempted to do so) on November 7, 2000, tens of thousands more voters intended to vote for Gore than for Bush. Why they failed to do so is by far the most significant aspect of this debacle – and coincidentally, the aspect least discussed in the national media.

The 2000 Florida election, and the Consortium report thereof, might be compared to a poker game between, let us say, Sneaky George and Honest Al.

The game is rigged in George's favor, from top to bottom. He "owns" the dealer, who deals him high cards, which are marked. A spectator behind Al's back signals the poor chump's hand to Sneaky George. Poor Al appears to be in a hopeless match. And yet, somehow, he draws a strong hand which, despite all of George's cheating, just might win.

Fully aware of this threat, the dealer halts the play and awards the game to George. When the hands are shown, it turns out that George had a slightly stronger hand after all. And so, the house announces (to paraphrase the New York Times), "A study of the disputed poker hands finds the dealer did not decide the game." From this, we are asked to conclude that Sneaky George won "fair and square."

Yeah, sure! So long as we ignore how the hands were dealt.

And that is exactly what the Bush supporters and the national media would have us do – ignore the preceding conditions and events that led to a tally sufficiently close to allow the Supreme Court to appoint the President of the United States.

There were dozens of irregularities in the Florida vote, virtually all of them deliberately designed to favor George Bush. Most of these irregularities were, by themselves, sufficiently damaging to Al Gore to cost him the election. The following is a partial list of the most conspicuous and notorious manipulations of the Florida election.

  • A private firm with GOP connections, Database Technologies, was hired by Gov. Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris to "purge" the voter rolls of the names of "felons" (many of whom were, in fact, convicted of misdemeanors and thus eligible). Thousands of eligible voters with identical names were denied access to the polls – in some cases, these were county election officials. (Cf. Gregory Palast: "Florida's 'Disappeared Voters':  Disfranchised by the GOP," The Nation, 2/5/01).

  • In heavily Democratic precincts, polling places were moved without prior notification, voters standing in line at poll closing were not allowed to vote (contrary to law), and there were reports of sealed ballot boxes that were not collected.

  • The Florida election laws, reaffirmed by the Florida Supreme Court, explicitly state that ballots indicating "the clear intention of the voter" are to be counted. (Identical to a Texas law which was signed by Governor George Bush). "Overvotes" which show a "punch" by a candidate's name and in addition that same candidate's name in the write-in line, unquestionably indicates "the intention of the voter." Contrary to Florida law, these were not counted. Had they been tallied, Gore would have won.

  • Military absentee ballots, either without postmarks or postmarked after election day (thus invalid) were counted in Republican counties.

  • In at least two heavily Republican counties, GOP campaign workers were give free access to the voting rolls, whereupon they selected and mailed absentee ballots exclusively to Republican voters.

  • A mob (later identified as GOP Congressional staffers) shut down the recounting in heavily Democratic Miami-Dade County.

Consider this last, for a moment. Suppose a Mafia Don were on trial, and a gang of thugs broke into the courtroom and attempted to disrupt and end the trial. Or suppose a Congressional vote were interrupted by a mob of lobbyists entering the floor of the House of Representatives. One can not doubt the outcome: the culprits would be arrested forthwith, tried and convicted, and the official business would continue as before.

The recounting of those Miami-Dade ballots was official business, disrupted by a pack of hooligans imported from Washington GOP congressional offices, intent upon putting an end to that business. They succeeded fully. No arrests, no charges, no convictions. Why Not?

The "Losing" Gore Scenario. Those triumphant headlines – "Bush Wins" – rest upon two scenarios: (a) Gore's original request that the 43,000 "undervote" ballots of four counties, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Broward and Volusia, be examined. Had those votes been scrutinized, the Consortium reports, Bush's margin would have been reduced from 537 to 225. (2) Had all 67 counties been tallied by that standard, Bush would have won by 493 votes.

Trouble is, that had the Supremes allowed the recount to continue, the overvotes would have been counted, as required by the Florida Supreme Court. (The Judge supervising that recount, one Terry Lewis, has so indicated). Advantage, Gore.

And keep in mind, these virtual ties are all predicated upon the dastardly and illegal shenanigans, partially listed above, that preceded and attended that election. In an honest and fair election, Gore would have won hands down.

Even so, there is something fishy about those "Gore Scenario" tallies of the four counties. The stench increases as we ponder this line from the LA Times report of the Consortium Study: "Florida's counties could not locate every uncounted ballot." 

Soon after the Consortium Study was announced (November 11, 2001), I took the trouble to download the Report of the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) on which the Consortium Study is based and the Official Florida Election Returns of November 7, 2000. There I found that the distribution of the legal ballots in those four counties was Gore --59.6%, Bush 38.6, and "others" 1.8%. Yet we are asked to believe that an examination of 43,000 ballots (presuming they showed the same 60/40 distribution) gains Gore a mere 312 votes?

Then consider this: statewide, the percentage of "spoiled ballots" was 2.93%. In the four counties of the Gore scenario, the percentage was 2.36%. But now, consider further: 90% of the "Gore scenario" votes (Volusia county excluded) were by punch cards, which yield 3% errors. Most Florida counties use the more accurate (.07% errors) optical scan ballots. (NORC reports that most statewide votes are cast by punch cards, but these voting machines are disproportionately in the poorer, i.e., Democratic, precincts). Therefore, the percentage of spoiled ballots in the four Gore counties should be significantly higher than in the state as a whole.

What happened to those other "spoiled ballots?!"

How many lost ballots? Perhaps we can offer a conjecture. The four counties in the Gore scenario accounted for 30.4% of the entire tallied Florida vote (about six million). But the same four counties yielded 24.5% of all the statewide "spoiled ballots." Had the percentage of spoiled ballots in the four Gore counties been consistent with percentage of valid statewide votes (30.4%), then the NORC "coders" would have had, not 43,000, but 53,355 undervote ballots to examine from Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Broward and Volusia counties.

What became of those (apparently) missing 10,000 ballots from the "Gore counties"?

Is it just possible that those ballots (in the custody of the Jeb Bush administration) were "cherry-picked" and several hundred Gore ballots "de-selected" before the NORC investigators got to them? NORC never posed the question, nor did the media Consortium. In fact, I have nowhere encountered this question. No testimony or material evidence of such tampering has been brought forward, and further investigation falls outside the reach of my sheet of Florida election returns, the NORC Report before me, and my desk calculator. The answer might only be found through the use of subpoenas, sworn testimony, and an army of investigators and lawyers such as those unleashed on the Clintons. Not likely during the current Administration.

Even so, the statistical evidence remains troubling, to say the least of it. 

And keep in mind, that comment from the LA Times: "Florida's counties could not locate every uncounted ballot." 

For still more about this very troubling election, see the References and "Ammunition" list at the close of this article.

In the meantime, "The Gadfly" steadfastly refuses to "get over it." And so, my written comments and complaints about the 2000 Election and Bush v. Gore will remain on this site "for the duration" – perhaps even longer than Dubya's open-ended "war on Terra." (See "On Politics," this site)


The Press and Party Symbiosis

"Facts are stupid things." Ronald Reagan, 1988

"I don't care what the facts are." George H. W. Bush, 1988

With the published and broadcast accounts of the NORC study of the 2000 Florida election, the American mass media continued undiminished, its campaign of spin, distortion and outright lies, in behalf of the illegitimate Bush regime.

That campaign was apparent to the critical spectator during the 2000 Presidential contest, as the media engaged in a deliberate slander of Al Gore, concocting baseless accusations that Gore was an unscrupulous liar and exaggerator, while at the same time covering-up George Bush's manifest lack of qualification for the Presidency. Immediately following the Presidential debates, where Gore displayed clear superiority of knowledge and intellect, "pundits" and fake "focus groups" drew attention away from substance and competence and toward such irrelevancies as "body language" and "likeability."  (See our "Post-Modern Politics" and Eric Boehlert's "The Press vs. Al Gore").

The great media bootlick continues today, with a cult of personality that a Stalin would envy – Howard Fineman's groveling Newsweek cover story on "the first family," CNN's "Profiles in Leadership," focusing exclusively on GOP Bush operatives, Tom Brokaw's kowtow, "Inside the Real [sic] West Wing," and so on, ad nauseam. (All this and more brilliantly expounded on "Media Whores Online.").  Occasional TV "house liberals" such as Mark Shields, Al Hunt and Bill Press serve as tokens and targets, as their moderation is overwhelmed by the dominating conservative bias of the broadcast (and especially the cable) media.

Outside of a very few liberal renegades at such liberal enclaves as Boston, New York and San Francisco, "talk radio" hosts in the heartland are wall-to-wall, dawn to dusk, coast to coast right-wing ranters. 

Heretofore reliable sources of independent reporting and liberal opinion such as the Washington Post and the New Republic have defected to the "conservative" side. Bob Woodward has been promoted to establishment hack, and Carl Bernstein has disappeared without a trace. (Didn't I see his face on a milk carton the other day?). A repeat of the Woodward-Bernstein exposι of Watergate, or the publication of the Pentagon Papers under current conditions is unthinkable.

Authentically progressive voices are occasionally found on CSPAN and such PBS programs as Frontline and, most admirably, Bill Moyer's new program "Now." But these are so rare, that we have given up on the mass media, and turn now for our information and opinion to the "small magazines" such as The Nation, and The American Prospect, and via the internet to the foreign press and independent liberal web sites (in "The Internet: Last Refuge of the Liberal").

In the Soviet Union, the government completely controlled the media. That is not the condition today in the United States. Here, the Bush administration and the media are symbiotic – they mutually nourish and serve each other. And both media and administration are subsidiaries to their "investors" – the ten publishing conglomerates and five media empires that control virtually all of the print and broadcast media. (See The Nation's study of media empires, January 7/14, particularly  "The Big Ten,"  and the articles in that issue by  McChesney and Nichols, and by Martin Crispin Miller.  See also, pages 60-76 and 259-276 of Miller's The Bush Dislexicon.)

International conglomerates, purchased politicians, and toady media are wrapped into a tight embrace that is squeezing the life-blood out of our democracy. Because the media barons apply A. J. Liebling's rule: "freedom of the press belongs to those who own the presses," independent critics of the "established order" are having an increasingly difficult time finding the means to express their views to a large and significant audience. (See our "Free to Agree"). This is not what the founders of our Republic had in mind when they established the free press in the first of our Bill of Rights.

After these two years of spin, misinformation, and outright lies, one would be naive indeed to afford much trust in the commercial media – least of all the broadcast and cable media.

This dreadful situation is not without remedy. When Rupert Murdoch decided to add to the right-wing propaganda machine, he founded the Fox cable channel and put GOP propaganda guru, Roger Ailes, in charge. It is past time to set up a progressive alternative to Fox – and to CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, and NBC. The resources are out there, in the hands of such wealthy liberals as George Soros and Ted Turner (who must be gagging over what has become of his prodigal media child, CNN). Also there are the Hollywood liberals such as Steven Spielberg, Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, Paul Newman, Barbra Streisand and, of course, "President" Martin ("Jed Bartlett") Sheen. I understand that Streisand has floated the idea of a liberal news channel.. Well, why not? Surely the financial resources are there – and, my Gawd!, think of the talent and the charisma! Boffo! In the meantime, I read somewhere that Redford is starting up a Sundance Documentary channel. Could be very helpful.

But one cannot overstress the importance of establishing an alternative, dissenting, progressive broadcast voice – adding a discordant note to the monotonous right-wing drivel that is the mass media today.

During the past two years we have experienced an unprecedented assault upon our system of Constitutional democracy. "Liberalism" has been successful characterized as some kind of subversion,. With the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, the mass media have become unchallenged and unrefuted "Ministries of Truth" for the right-wing establishment. The will of the American voter has been nullified, first by an unscrupulous Florida state government, and then by a treasonous decree of five Supreme Court justices. A fanatical Attorney General threatens to take away our Constitutional civil rights, while the President has unilaterally decreed the Freedom of Information and Presidential Records Acts to be null and void. The Vice President has announced that he and his office are not subject to Congressional oversight. National energy policy has been dictated, and federal regulators effectively appointed, by private corporate interests that have "invested" in the President. And finally, due to its disregard or outright violation of numerous international treaties, combined with its unilateral acts and threats of violence, the United States of America is widely regarded in the international community as a "rogue state."

And the people responsible for these radical betrayals of our founding political principles and heritage, dare to call themselves "conservatives."

Meanwhile, the same press which has manipulated us and lied to us these past two years, now tells us that Bush's "approval rating" (whatever that means), is now at 83%. Well, maybe.

The condition of the American democracy is grave, and the prospects are grim – but not hopeless. After all, despite the bias, spin, slander and lies of the captive media, a plurality of voters cast their ballots for Al Gore, and the Democrats managed to gain control of the Senate (thanks to the principled decision of a maverick Republican).

However, in the face of the media opinion polls reporting high approval of the Bush administration, the opposition of the Democratic Party has so-far been feeble, and the opposition of the progressive press and citizens has been disorganized and incoherent. Even so, there are considerable moral and tactical resources available to the progressive counter-revolution.

We enumerate these "resources" in our March (2003) editorial:  
Don't Just Get Mad – Get Smart!

Copyright 2002 by Ernest Partridge


Mark Crispin Miller on being willing "to do anything to get elected."

Or, "Consistency, thy name ain't GOP."

"The whole rightist propaganda mill that ran the country ragged following election day [November, 2000]... was so blatant, and the propaganda so pervasive, that you couldn't not notice the hypocrisy – unless you were a part of it, in which case you believed that the hypocrisy was wholly on the other side. Thus it is, of course, with all hermetic propaganda systems, be they democratic or authoritarian. Indeed, that big, loud network of Republicans – shifting ground from one hour to the next, bitterly attacking principles that they had just now bitterly defended, and screaming at the Democrats for doing things that they themselves had done or were about to do – behaved exactly like their erstwhile enemies in Moscow (and New York), executing endless swift volte-faces to toe the party line.

"Thus we had the GOP – the long-term bastion of states' rights – now demanding, then defending, the use of Federal power to overturn a ruling by the high court of the state of Florida. The party that had long decried – and was even now decrying "judicial activism" was also gratefully applauding the Supreme Court's highly activist decision to itself elect the nation's president. The party that was even now decrying judicial interference with the legislative3 branch was also now applauding the Supreme Court for having halted a state recount on the grounds that there was "no clear standard" for the process – when the standard had been written by the Florida legislature. The party that was vehemently arguing that hand recounts are wholly unreliable and absolutely not to be allowed was at the same time calling for hand recounts in New Mexico, and was supporting as its leader, the very man who had approved the passage of a Texas law permitting hand recounts in close elections. The party that had just pulled off a massive keep-out-the-vote campaign I Florida's most heavily Democratic precincts, disenfranchising tens of thousands of black, poor white, and Hispanic voters, now hailed the Supreme Court's decision to abort the recount under the equal protection clause in the Constitution. And even as they frantically demanded, then defended, all those shifts and gimmicks, the Republicans assailed Al Gore as one ‘who would do anything to get elected...'"

The Bush Dislexicon, pp. 56-7.

At this site ("The Online Gadfly"): 

We Dissent (Collected Comments on Bush v. Gore).
Day of Infamy: Bush v. Gore
The Hijacked Election
Post-Modern Politics
The Myth of "The Liberal Media"
Newspeak Lives!

Eric Boehlert, "The Press vs. Al Gore: How Lazy Reporting Cost Him the Election," Rolling Stone, November 28, 2001.

Joseph Bugliosi,  "None Dare Call it Treason," The Nation.

Joe Conason, "A Year Later, It's Still a Sham," New York Observer, Nov. 23, 2001.

Democrats.com, Floridagate, "[Documents] nearly sixty crimes committed by the Bush campaign, Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the TV networks."

Bob Fertik, "Recount Spin: First they Stole the Election, Now They are Stealing the Truth," Democrats.com. 

For Fessenden and John M. Broder, "Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote," The New York Times, November 12, 2001. (Charge: $2.50)

Mickey Kaus,
"Everything the New York Times Thinks about the Florida Recount is Wrong."

Mickey Kaus, "Update: Hot Recount Docs!"

Paul Lukasiak,
"Florida Recount Media Critique: Gore Wins, Media Lies (Yet Again)."

Robert McChesney and John Nichols, "The Making of a Movement" The Nation, January 7/14, 2002.

Doyle McManus, Bob Drugin and Richard O'Reilly, "Bush Still Had Votes to Win in a Recount, Study Finds," Los Angeles Times, November 12, 2001.

Mark Crispin Miller, The Bush Dislexicon, Norton, 2001.

Mark Crispin Miller,  "What's Wrong With This Picture?,"  , The Nation, January 7/14, 2001

The Nation, "The Big Ten," January 7/14, 2002.

Gregory Palast, "Florida's 'Disappeared Voters':  Disfranchised by the GOP," The Nation, February 5, 2001.

Robert Parry, "So, Bush Did Steal the White House," Consortium News.

Robert Parry, "Dissing Democracy," Consortium News.

Danny Schecter, "After the Recount, Who Will Apologize to the People?" MediaChannel.

Jeffrey Toobin, Too Close to Call

Gore Vidal, "Times Cries Eke!  Buries Al Gore," The Nation, December 17, 2001.



Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .