Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Theatre of the Real, statement of potential affairs concerning contemporary politics

Hillary choked-up. Edwards’ haircut cost $400. Huckabee hunts. A McCain supporter called Hillary a bitch. Mitt Romney tacitly agreed to arrest [possibly taser? –ed.] someone suffering from muscular dystrophy. Obama’s bodyguards stiffed Bill-O. Rudy Giuliani actually implied Dick Cheney might be his vice president. Kucinich saw a UFO.

For years people have railed on the absurdity of media news coverage. Triviality trumps thoughtfulness as twenty-four hour news programs and hyperreal newsrooms exude a histrionic portrayal of simultaneous sincerity and intensity. For me, the issue comes when these slightly quirky tales obstruct true discussion of national issues or problems facing the candidates.

In celebration of today’s primary caucus, I’d like to forward my own outlandish possible stories into the echo chamber. While they may seem ridiculous; while they will obviously add to the drone; and while they may never happen; I’ll do my best to explain their (if even remote) possibility of occurrence.

Voter Fraud

“When I die, I want to be buried in Louisiana, so I can stay active in politics.”

Governor Earl Long

My buddy Dave suggests I just cite the Simpson’s and leave it be.

Political corruption is as American as the metropolis city. It should be no surprise then the emergence of discussion concerning rigging polls, stuffing ballot boxes, etc. For example, an op-ed in yesterday’s NYT discussed the dark paranoia concerning (specifically Republican) voter fraud. While we like to think our politics are honest and sincere, in actuality, American politics may just be normal. In a recent documentary (completely unrelated to the story), Actor Janeane Garofalo makes a comment to the effect of: “We see obvious voter fraud in Pakistan, in African countries, but when it comes to America, nooooooooooo, totally impossible. Unthinkable.” The reality of corruption in America politics highlights extremely well the divorce Americans have between what we would “like” to do and what we “actually” do.

Last month, Colorado pulled its electronic voting machines citing “accuracy and security” problems. Anyone who does a bit of homework can tell electronic voting machines created by so-called security firms lack in actual electronic security. It seems to me this security gap stems primarily from the difference in “security” in the real-world and electronic world.
Security in the pre-Internet world meant having enough muscle behind your will to supress others’. Security in the electronic world means being clever enough to outthink any nerd willing to dedicate possibly all waking hours to cracking a code. Security flaws, such as manipulating machines with a magnet or opening the machine with a hotel key, show companies producing electronic voting machines aren’t considering the more subtle forms of security breaches.
If voter fraud does occur, public opinion seems to believe it will be Republican driven. I don’t just mean buying votes or raiding the graveyards for concerned citizens [perhaps this method of voting fraud gave rise to the cultural figure of zombies? –ed], we’re talking nuanced fraud. For example, while I was canvassing Northern Ohio for John Kerry in 2004, Republicans employed so-called poll watchers in minority-heavy districts. These poll watchers were able to challenge an individual’s right to vote, based solely on the name, which lead to a process of verification. Practically, Republicans challenged those with Hispanic last names to either: 1) Scare off people thinking their citizenship would be challenged, and 2) Run up poll lines in districts Republicans most-definitely would lose.
Ohio, one of the last contested states in 2004, eventually went to George W. Bush.

Historical Precedent: JFK’s defeat of Nixon in the 1960 Democratic National Caucus.

Many believe Richard Daley worked the Chicago graveyards to assist Kennedy’s win of the national election. From Slate.com:

The race was indeed close—the closest of the century. Kennedy received only 113,000 votes more than Nixon out of the 68 million ballots cast. His 303-219 electoral-vote margin obscured the fact that many states besides Texas and Illinois could have gone either way.

Nixon claims he resisted protesting the election, believing to do so would divide the country and ruin his political reputation.

Steven Levitt (of Freakonomics legacy) claims he asked Richard Daley’s eldest grandson (read: Future Mayor of Chicago) if Grandfather Daley stole the 1960 election. The answer? <gasp> No!

Here’s the follow-up research to Grandson Daley’s claim:

I once had a research assistant spend a month going through old voting records to find any evidence of fraud in the 1960 presidential election in Illinois. We couldn’t find a thing. There are lots of ways to cheat that we wouldn’t have detected, but the easiest ones we likely would have found. Honestly, I was shocked we found nothing.

Well, Steven Levitt’s done it again: thorough research, totally unbiased perspective and a well-written piece positively proves Chicago’s well-documented history of corruption, graft and, most importantly, nepotism did not effect the 1960 Democratic Caucus.

What a douchebag. Honestly.

Bush Announces State of Emergency/Terrorist Attack

The 2008 election might be the death certificate for American neo-conservative political rule as it began with Newt Gingrich’s takeover of Congress in the mid 1990s. Perhaps the party is tired from all the battling for America’s soul. Perhaps they suffer from the hubris of power. Or maybe people are waking up to their corrupt ways. Either way, it seems extremely difficult for a Republican president to win the national election.

One possibility for helping would be the announcement of a deferred terrorist plot or the occurrence of an actual plot. As Naomi Klein writes, the so-called Shock Doctrine of terrorist activities can be used to cajole and shepherd undecided voters toward the more conservative party. Capturing Osama would be a nice kept promise for the Republican Convention, but probably too debilitating to the War on Terror. More likely, there will be some horrendous “dirty bomb” scare, similar to the announcement by John Ashcroft which turned out to be false hype intending to hurt the criminal proceedings of Jose Padilla, first Bush-administration-declared "enemy combatant" to see the light of a courtroom.

An event close to the above described has already occurred. Blasted by the Huffington Post, but played down by many other sites, the Clinton headquarters pipebomb terror scare succeeded in creating a terror incident while failing to boost Hillary’s assertion of her ability to take on terrorism. Why do I believe the pipe-bomb scare to be a hoax? It was carried out by a wealthy businessman from Westchester who decided not to purchase an actual explosive, but rather make his own pipebomb. He called CNN more than he called the police. He claims “the state of American healthcare” drove him to do such a lunatic spectacle. Finally, he will serve insignificant jailtime for his acts, as he has been checked in to a mental health clinic.

Historical Precedent: J. Edgar Hoover and Truman, during Korean War.

A oft-forgotten period of history, the Korean War led Truman to cite a National State of Emergency for extended executive privilege, most importantly the suspension of habeas corpus. Leading up to the election of 1952, J. Edgar Hoover attempted to bring a list of 12,000 individuals (“97%” of which were American citizens) to be detained in military prisons for treason, espionage and sabotage.


I’ll admit I wept during Obama’s Iowa Caucus victory speech. I was able to fight the tears until I realized I “wasn’t” dreaming. Obama is a bit too good to be true—a self-made man, first African American editor of Harvard Law Review, community organizer in South Side Chicago while managing to avoid too much corruption.

After I realized Obama was, in fact, actually giving the speech was to wonder whether or not someone would assassinate him. Benazir Bhutto, running an eerily similar populist/progressive campaign, reminded the world regardless of a vast conspiracy, it eventually takes only one person to pull a trigger. A friend who attended Obama’s rally in Washington Square Park commented on the apparent lack of security detail. This, actually, seemed to be reasonable. Heavy security would seem to contradict the Obama theme of commonality and non-elitism.

How unsettling, then, to read “>this piece in the Washington Post today. A comfort the campaign and government are taking steps towards protecting a promising and inspiring candidate. A fear the nightmare will become reality.

Historical Precedent: Assassination of Democratic Hopeful Bobby Kennedy in 1964

Running a successful and popular “peace” campaign against LBJ in the 1964 election, a young Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed by Sirhan Sirhan. Ironically, Bobby Kennedy's assassination gave rise to the mandate of Secret Service attending to presidential candidates, the very one now granting extra protection to Barack Obama.

The death came on the footsteps of the suspected assasination of John F. Kennedy, Jr.; Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Malcolm X and drove the country to elect, perhaps by default, LBJ, a conservative Southern Democrat who disagreed with Bobby Kennedy's peace approach to Vietnam. LBJ, once winning the nomination and presidency, ended up creating tokenism race-related legislation and escalating American involvement in an increasingly brutal civil war.

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