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Get ready for the Next Battle in the Republican Spin and Propaganda Exaggeration War (SPEW)
Part II: Parsing the New York Times Absentee Ballot Investigation

Aaron M. Cohen

In one of the longest articles in recent memory, The New York Times on July 15 published the results of its investigation of absentee ballot counting irregularities in Florida [1].

These most recent revelations strengthen the argument that, indeed, our government is under the siege of a coup d'etat. There are enough smoking guns hinted at in these articles to warrant commencement of an immediate Federal investigation into possible criminal behavior by George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris, Republican operatives, and some Florida election officials.

Because the facts presented in this article - and four accompanying articles and sidebars speak for themselves - I will not dilute the knowledge a full reading gives by summarizing the powerful conclusions reached. Instead, I use this opportunity to build upon the observations I made in Part I by pointing out some of the more subtle aspects of the articles.

The Coup-Like Characteristics of Republic Spin

In his often-reprinted "Coup d'Etat: A Practical Handbook," U. S. intelligence expert Edward Luttwak says that lack of reaction on the part of the people is all a coup needs to stay in power: "This lack of reaction is the key to the victory of the coup..." [2]

In his discussion of how coup leaders and beneficiaries exploit their "monopoly" of the mass media to discourage resistance to the coup, Luttwak speaks of making constant use of the "motif of isolation." This strategy must emphasize that "isolated" resistance is the product of the obstinacy of a few misguided or dishonest individuals. Furthermore, it must emphasize that law and order have been re-established which "should have the effect of making resistance appear as dangerous and useless."

Now, considering these strategies, look at the White House reaction to the Times's findings:

"This election was decided by the voters of Florida a long time ago. And the nation, the president and all but the most partisan Americans have moved on."
- Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman

The White House is SPEW-ing a fallacious fact. The voters of Florida did not decide the election. It was decided by the Supreme Court, Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris, Republican operatives, some law-breaking Florida election officials, a corporate-controlled media whose owners would benefit financially, and a propaganda machine started by James Baker III.

The White House is also making great use of Luttwak's "motif of isolation." Protestors of the coup were first called "the fringe" by George W. Bush, and now Fleischer further dismisses us as "the most partisan Americans."

A New Spin on the NORC Study

In what is almost a throwaway paragraph in the main NYT article, the authors state:

"Separate from this investigation, a consortium of newspapers, including The Times, has hired experts to examine all ballots cast in Florida to see whether the official count was affected by faulty voting machines. The results are expected later this summer."

(The experts of which the Times speaks is NORC, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, which was hired by the Times, Washington Post, CNN, Time, the Palm Beach Post, et. al. to produce the "definitive archive of the disputed ballots from the recent presidential election in Florida.")

As someone who is quite familiar with the NORC study and its methodologies, this is the first statement I know of that places the emphasis on "faulty voting machines" rather than voter error.

In Part I, I suggested that to counteract the predictable Republican spin which will greet the imminent release of the NORC's Florida ballot study - i.e., "voter error" - more attention needs to be given to the under-discussed issues of machine error. I lightly touched upon my own observations about the frequency of machine error that is evident from an inspection of the ballots. And I suggested two avenues of investigation that are needed:

1) Determining whether system-caused invalidation of votes was a product of benign indifference and incompetence - or may be felonious actions on the part of election officials who did not properly maintain and test these machines as required by Florida law.

2) While the NORC study will add important knowledge about Florida's undervotes and overvotes, a further investigation is needed that extends beyond some of the limitations in the NORC methodologies to fill in some of holes about the role of machine problems in the spoilage of such an unprecedented number of ballots.

I suggested mining and following-up the investigative leads provided in "The Miami Herald Report: Democracy Held Hostage." [3] Two chapters in this book suggest that the real culprit in Florida was due to machine error, NOT voter error.

How Republic Spin Has Obscured the Facts

An excellent example of the perpetuation of the Republican spin that "voter error" cost Gore the election is in another section of the July 15 New York Times. In the "Book Review" section, Ethan Bonner reviews the just-published "Supreme Injustice" by Alan M. Dershowitz and "Breaking the Deadlock" by Richard A. Posner, which will be published in September. (Note: Vincent Bugliosi's seminal book has not been reviewed by the Times, although it does get one mention here. Instead, in its quest for "balance" the reviewer and Book Review editors chose as as-yet-unpublished book to counter Dershowitz's slam at the Supreme Court decision).

In discussing Posner's book, which is a defense of the Supreme Court ruling, Bronner highlights Posner's argument that the Florida Supreme was overreaching when it mandated a hand recount based on Florida law that permits such a recount if there is "an error in the vote tabulation which could affect the outcome of the election." Bronner explains: "Posner says the Florida court and its defenders have confused 'tabulation' error with 'voter' error. Voters must fully punch through their ballot cards. If they fail to do so, the machines are programmed not to count them. This is what happened in Florida: no law was broken."

Excuse me? I have not read Posner's book, but if this is a crucial part of his argument, both he and the reviewer need to revisit the facts and the law. Malfunctioning machines that prevent voters from punching through are unlawful, under both Florida law and Federal law. Furthermore, both State and Federal laws were violated when voters requested, but were denied, a new ballot. Moreover, as I observed in Part I, anyone who looks at the ballots cannot help but conclude that machine malfunction was one of the many ways in which Gore was denied victory.

We must put a stop to the Republican propaganda machine that keeps blame focused on the voters, diverting attention from criminal behavior.

Adolph Hitler wrote: "The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over."

Sound like a familiar tactic? Recall James Baker III standing before the microphones. Recall Republican Senators, Representatives, and Governors standing before the microphones. Listen to Bush and his henchmen.

Then recall how the mainstream media has devoted little or no coverage to protests. Then refer back to Luttwak's book where he observes that not only must resistance be isolated - "We must therefore make every effort to withhold such news [about it]."

A Federal Investigation Must Commence

The New York Times's report of its investigation of absentee ballots is a goldmine of actions that scream out for a formal investigation. Additionally, amidst all of the words are intimations of a cover-up.

Given all the Federal investigations over the last three decades, is it not mind-boggling that we still have no investigation?

How might Shakespeare put it? "If this not be a coup…"

[1] "How Bush Took Florida: Mining the Overseas Absentee Vote" by David Barrow and Don Van Natal, Jr., Front page

[2] Coup d'Etat: A Practical Handbook," Edward Luttwak (Harvard University Press, 1968, 1979, 1985). Luttwak was a special national security advisor to President Reagan, and has been associated with many think tanks connected to U.S. intelligence. He is now a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

[3] St. Martin's Press, 2001

Copyright 2001 Aaron M. Cohen

Aaron M. Cohen is editor and publisher of The Democracy Chronicle, www.kiosk2000.com.