Monday, December 27, 2004

The greatest story never told
The greatest story never told
by Robert Lockwood Mills

There’s a story to tell this Christmas season about evil and redemption, about hope for the future. No, it isn’t the one about King Herod and the Babe of Bethlehem. That story has been told thousands of times, and has inspired Christians and even many non-Christians for two millennia. The new Christmas story hasn’t been told, because as was the case in Palestine two thousand years ago, the public isn’t quite ready to receive the news. There’s no room in the inn…not yet, at least.

The United States of America began as a secular country that welcomes religion, not as a religious country that tolerates secular humanism. It is a nation of laws, not men. Our founding fathers were mostly God-fearing gentlemen, but contrary to popular belief, the late 18th-century was not a time when religious observances were prevalent. We’ve become a religious nation, which is good, but in the evolution we’ve lost sight of the guiding principles on which America was founded.

Among our cherished institutions is freedom of the press. John Peter Zenger, a German immigrant, wrote an article in a New York newspaper in 1733 that portrayed William Cosby, a Governor appointed by King George II to keep the colonies in line, as a tyrant. Zenger was brought up on libel charges, but in a landmark decision, he was acquitted in court on the grounds that he had written the truth. Under kings, any criticism is libel, truthful or not; but in a democracy, truth has dominion over despotism.

The United States is in crisis, 271 years after Zenger established press freedom as a precious right of Americans. A new despot has emerged in the form of corporate control of media. Our big-city newspapers and TV networks have consolidated; what the public learns and what it doesn’t is governed by a handful of oligarchs more concerned with the financial status quo, about their earnings and pleasing Wall Street, than about informing citizens. In 1733, what King George didn’t want printed was libel. Today, what the media barons don’t want read might not be libel…but it doesn’t get printed, either.

The present writer was in Florida on Election Day, as a poll watcher for Election Protection Coalition, a non-partisan group concerned with preventing a repeat of the 2000 election debacle. What he saw first hand persuaded him that fraud had occurred on a massive scale--- in Florida, Ohio, and probably in other battleground states.

At his polling site, a largely minority area in Hillsborough County, half as many voting machines were in use as had been used for the earlier primary. Across town, the same situation prevailed. Long lines forced many potential voters to choose between their civic duty and privilege (voting) and their work and family responsibilities. Hillsborough County was the tip of the iceberg, as it turned out; the same happened all throughout Florida and Ohio. But in predominantly Republican neighborhoods, plenty of voting machines were on hand, lines were normal, and everyone who wanted to vote, did.

I saw another apparent anomaly. A touch-screen voting machine “flipped” a woman’s vote from John F. Kerry to George W. Bush. The woman was visibly upset, but it seemed to us poll watchers like a mere computer glitch, no different than a super market checkout machine that records an incorrect price for lettuce. It seemed that way, at least, until reports came in from all around the country about other electronic vote flipping. In Youngstown, Ohio, it went on all day without the machines being fixed.

Was a rash of faulty computers to blame? Possibly. Except that almost without exception, every switched vote went in the same direction…from Kerry to Bush.

Within 48 hours of John Kerry’s concession on November 3, no fewer than 57,000 complaints had been lodged about one voting irregularity or another: unfair allocation of voting machines, penalizing minority neighborhoods; votes switched from Kerry to Bush electronically; minority voters being told by “election officials” that because of the long lines, they could vote on Nov. 3 if they wished; voters threatened with having their cars towed if they didn’t leave the queue; others denied provisional ballots on invalid premises, still others directed to the wrong polling stations by people posing as election monitors.

Late in the afternoon of Nov. 2, exit polls were forecasting a clear Kerry victory in both the Electoral College and popular vote. At the White House, Bush adviser Karen Hughes told the president he’d lost. She knew that exit polls, because of their reliability, have often been used by the United States to measure the legitimacy of foreign elections; indeed, the Ukraine election was discredited on that very basis. Dick Morris, who once worked for Bill Clinton but is now a Republican adviser, said, “Exit polls are almost never wrong.”

But the tabulated vote told a different story. George W. Bush was winning. The exit polls, as it happened, had been very accurate in states that used mostly paper ballots. But they were wildly “inaccurate,” always favoring John F. Kerry, in states using predominantly electronic voting machines. Touch-screen and optical-scan voting equipment is manufactured exclusively by corporations with ties to the Republican Party. The source code inside these machines (which could reveal if they had been tampered with) is considered proprietary information, not subject to review or audit by non-partisan or Democratic election officials. The opportunity for non-detectable fraud is manifest.

Open-minded people, none of whom work at a major American newspaper or for a major television network, began to wonder, “Maybe the exit polls were right all along. Maybe it’s the tabulated vote that was manipulated in George W. Bush’s favor.” Reports circulated on the Internet, a combination of reported facts and theories. College professors analyzed the election data and concluded that the likelihood of all the anomalies and inconsistencies occurring in one candidate’s favor was infinitesimal.

The New York Times devoted several front-page stories to the fraudulent election…in the Ukraine, that is. Its one front-page article on allegations of election fraud in Florida and Ohio carried a headline suggesting that Internet bloggers had been devising wild conspiracy theories, but that sensible folks were quickly debunking them. Meanwhile, Senator John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, held hearings in Washington and Columbus, Ohio at which witnesses detailed gruesome incidents of voter intimidation and disenfranchisement. A software programmer offered an affidavit stating that in October, 2000, a Florida state legislator (now a congressman) had asked the programmer’s company to devise a vote-rigging prototype, which the programmer did…in time for the 2000 election. The congressman in question had been Jeb Bush’s running mate in a 1994 gubernatorial race. The allegation has not been refuted, except in the form of a non-specific blanket denial by the software company and its lawyer. The congressman remains silent.

None of the above news has reached holiday revelers in this Christmas season. The same media that failed to investigate Bush administration claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq now won’t explore what happened on Nov. 2. They’re eager to report to us on fraudulent elections in Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Romania, Kazakhstan, even Puerto Rico. But the very notion that an administration that deceived the American people about why it engaged in preemptive war against a country that wasn’t threatening us, would also rig an election in its own favor, is somehow incomprehensible.

King Herod killed babies in ancient Palestine. One newborn, later to be called the Prince of Peace, somehow escaped to Egypt and survived. Three Wise Men journeyed from the Far East to herald the miracle of His birth, guided by a bright light that symbolized truth.

Where are our Three Wise Men today? Where is the Star of Bethlehem in 2004? Will the truth be known? It would be a wonderful Christmas present for a country that has lost its way.