In this edition: Waiting For The Guillotine – What Goes Around Comes Around - Sludge Examines the US Elections And Its Aftermath
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Sludge Report #40
Waiting For The Guillotine
In the 10 days since the November 7th US Election ended without resolution a lot has happened, much of it confusing. Tomorrow morning at 4am NZT the final vote count is expected to be in – save the recounts now underway - and now seems as good a time as any to have a look through the entrails.
The main question remaining now is whose head is to come off? Sludge, like everybody else, cannot claim to know the answer of course, but that said, Sludge does have a few theories on whose head ought to be on the block.
In this contest there is one Presidential candidate who today sent a man with a mental age of seven to the execution chamber. What goes around comes around.
In addition, Sludge reckons a pattern is starting to emerge.
The first moment worth focussing on occurred well before the electoral count was even partially complete, shortly after the US TV Networks mistakenly called the State of Florida to Vice President Al Gore.
As the news came through George W. Bush, or Dubya to his friends, took an unprecedented move. He called the media into his inner sanctum and told them all that they were wrong.
Brother Jeb the governor of Florida, Dubya said, had rung him and assured him that the networks were wrong. He was certain he was going to win Florida and for that matter Pennsylvania too.
In the end he was right, on the night at least, about Florida, but wrong about Pennsylvania. Shortly after his press conference the networks decided to follow his advice on Florida and put it back into the “too close to call basket” citing “bad data” as the cause.
The question begged by the Texas Governor’s remarkable impromptu press conference, but which no one seems to be asking is this: How did Dubya and his brother Jeb know?
Florida was in everybodies book a very close state. But the exit polls had been right – and were right – in every other state. What was special about Florida for the Bushes that they could be so confident it was theirs?
Later the following morning the another extraordinary development took place.
Fox news network – without it turns out any prompting from the Voter News Service (from whom all the TV networks had been receiving their information) decided to call the election in Florida, and therefore the whole contest, to Bush.
Where Fox news led the rest of the networks followed, and on the strength of these TV broadcasts Al Gore later made his famous concession call to Austin, Texas.
Again the entrails reveal a peculiar picture behind these developments. It turns out that a leading Fox News editorial manager on the night was George Bush’s cousin!
And so it seems Bush family connections with an inside line on the polling results - were everywhere. As Sludge opined earlier, there is a pattern here.
Since that fateful night Bush, and his friends and family, have been understandably very keen to hold onto his victory, however narrow.
Indeed Florida’s Secretary of State Katherine Harris has probably destroyed any chances of a future political career through her repeated – and arguably contemptuous – attempts to prevent hand recounts in a handful of Florida counties.
Harris’s actions - yesterday especially, when she ruled out seemingly arbitrarily the rights of the counties to conduct recounts – smack of extreme desperation. She knows she will have her decisions overturned by the courts but it seems to make little difference.
This desperation, like Dubya’s early evening press conference on election night, again raises a very large question mark. Why is Harris so keen to stop the examination of Florida ballots? Is there something there that needs to be hidden?
Harris’s partisan actions also raise a couple of questions about the sort of administration Dubya is likely to run if he is eventually bidden to the White House.
Barely 10 days after the election – and before he has even been elected – Dubya’s friends (the Fox News news editor and Katherine Harris) have already twice tried to undermine legitimate democratic processes through what look like underhand methods.
While we always knew that Dubya had some unsavoury friends and was not a stickler for the niceties of democracy – remember the subliminal “RATS” campaign advert – few people would have thought that he was quite this venal.
At this point in the analysis of the US Election result Sludge begins to wonder about a few other peculiar things about the Florida vote.
The confusing butterfly ballot in Palm Beach, the thousands of double punched and discarded ballot papers, the reports of polling places closing early, unopened ballot boxes and voters being turned away. All these things, thinks Sludge ought to be looked into in more detail. And for that matter it might be worth having a look at the poll in Pennsylvania where Bush also seemed to believe he had an inside run.
But is it really possible that what we really have in Florida is a corrupt poll? Electoral fraud? An organised deliberate attempt to undermine democracy?
Certainly if that were the case then it might explain the Bush brothers confidence on election night that the pollsters were wrong with their exit polls in Florida.
The most obvious argument against any such speculation is: “How would they have expected to get away with it?”
The response is equally simple. In a State as big as Florida the chances of being caught out would ordinarily be miniscule.
Everyone likes a good quick election, and Al Gore would just look like a sore loser if he complained about a margin of any reasonable size. Consequently the fraudsters could be very confident that there is very little chance that anyone would challenge the result.
Add in the fact that the polling systems in Florida make Zimbabwe’s look sophisticated, and any would be electoral thief would probably consider themselves home safe, but for one extremely unlikely possibility.
And what would that be?
The biggest risk to the electoral fraudster would be a result in which out of six million votes, the margin was razor thin. Just a few hundred votes. The odds of that happening would be minute.
But then in the end, as we all know, that is what happened.
And if that happened what would the electoral fraudster then try to do?
They would be expected to do their best to prevent any thorough examination of the ballot papers. And what exactly is Katherine Harris doing?