Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Absolutely Killing Me


An Interlude of Politics

Before I go any further let me first establish my liberal credentials. I voted for Kerry in 2004, I voted for Obama in 2008, and I have never voted for a Republican in a local, municipal or national race. I donated money to Howard Dean in 2004, and then Obama this last year. I was at the DNC when he gave his speech, and I was moved when he won in November.

I think that George W. Bush was one of the worst Presidents in recent memory, and I disagree with the stated platforms of the current incarnation of the Republican party. I am pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, and pro-welfare. I believe in the truly conservative value of the government not being able to tell me who I can or can't have sex with, not being able to tell me I have to pray in school or listen to prayers, and not being able to post any kind of religion in any kind of state building. I opposed George Bush's policies on almost every front, except for the one time I applauded him: When he raised veteran's benefits and made that change retroactive to the beginning of the invasion of Afghanistan.

So I cannot tell you how angry I am at my fellow liberals at the moment because they put me in the very awkward position of having to defend the man. But here I go:

If I hear one more person whine on the internet about how the Iranian Presidential Election scandal is exactly the same as the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election, I am going to have to open up a can of Grade A Whoop-Ass, ok?

Told you it was Grade A

I was as pissed as anyone when the Supreme Court handed down a ruling in Bush v Gore. I felt like the election had been stolen, like the voices of the American people had been silenced by cronyism and vote buying, like fraud and corruption had replaced freedom and democracy as the catch words of the American Republic.

But let us all look to Iran and realize that we didn't, even for a moment, know what a stolen election looked like. It's like when you get your first tooth ache and think there is no pain greater than this, and then you get your wisdom teeth out and realize you were wrong. And then you get shot, and realize that once again you had no idea what you were talking about. But the 2000 U.S. Election is not the tooth ache to Iran's being shot; it is the paper cut to Iran's being hit by a bus after being shot.

At the end of the day the 2000 election still came down to the corrupting of 500,000 votes in one state. George Bush by himself, with only the regular corruption inherent in politics, managed to get 50 million, four hundred fifty six thousand and two people to vote for him on nothing more than his own dubious credentials. Out of roughly one hundred million voters, any fraud or coercion in our election came down to half of a percentage point of the total number of voters in the election.

Estimates vary in Iran right now as to the spread of the corruption, influence or lies with the official party line of course being that there were none. However a large number of scholars and journalists have come out and made varying estimates. One estimate, from a professor at the University of Hawaii, estimates that the numbers could be off by something like six million votes, our of a total voting population of 38 million. That is over 15 percent of the total votes cast, if they are true.

In the weeks leading up to the election there had also been campaigns of direct and possibly targeted censorship, which many charge were at the directive of the Government. Wikipedia cites Al Jazeera English charging that the Iranian government forced them to " change their editorials or their main headlines". The BBC had a reporter arrested and his files stolen, and several other nations suffered similar harrasment to their press and correspondents working in Tehran.

Furthermore the government cracked down on sites such as Facebook, which the opposition parties were using to form rallies and protests to gather support for the election. Once again from the inimitable Wikipedia: "On 13 June 2009, when thousands of opposition supporters clashed with the police, Facebook was filtered again...mobile phone services inluding text messaging also stopped or became very difficult to use. Specifically, all websites affiliated with the BBC were shut off, as were ones with The Guardian. The Associated Press labeled the actions "ominous measures apparently seeking to undercut liberal voices." The restrictions were likely intended to precent Mousavi's supporters from organizing large-scale protests."

This is in addition to the already standard censorship in Iran, where anything related to 'counter-revolutionary' ideas (democracy, women's rights, freedom of religion, words you can make from the letters in Ahmadinejad) are routinely deleted or forced to change. In the 1980s a death sentence was given for the creators of a radio program in which a female caller said she most idolized a Japanese soap star, rather than the daughter of Mohammed. So this is not a country that is new to censorship, which makes these acts even more blaring. And most ominously Ahmadinejad said about the protests over the censorship: ""[d]on't worry about freedom in Iran... Newspapers come and go and reappear. Don't worry about it."

I genuinely feel like the voices of a lot of Americans were left out during the 2000 U.S. Presidential Elections, and I genuinely feel that there were a lot of wrong decisions made and terrible consequences that came from them. We were left worse off for the election, in my opinion, and it cast a shadow of illegitimacy over our government and even made it's way to the forefront during the 2004 election. An election was decided by the courts, not the people, and that is never a great situation.

And yet they were decided within the bounds of the law and the Constitution of the United States. In the end the merits and flaws were debated over by scholars, and the men charged to be independent of their parties in the interpretation of our laws; and while I may not agree with the decision, I do not doubt that they were the legitimate source to decide it. I disagree with the interpretation, not the interpreters. While the election might have been given away and might have damaged our nation, we can not say it was stolen.

A stolen election is 15 percent of the votes disappearing or changing sides. A stolen election is when the government decides to keep itself in power, and violently suppress opposition to that move. A stolen election is when any media source that dares to side with the opposition is silenced, blacked out, or arrested. We had no concept of what a stolen election looked like in America, and we still have only ever maybe had the one (the Corrupt Bargain that ended Reconstruction).

So dammit Liberals, don't ever put me in this position again. George Bush did not steal the 2000 election, he blundered his way in to the Oval Office. And Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not a George Bush that speaks Farsi, he is an entirely different animal. Let us not sully our own politics and our own history with the comparison, and let us not be so blind to the realities of the world and the suffering of our brothers and sisters a world a way.

And please, please don't ever make me defend George W. Bush again, alright? I'm wearing a red shirt today and defending George W. Bush and it just doesn't feel right. And if you make me do it again, you know what I'll have to do.


  1. Good post. However, I will remind you that you cried with George Bush senior lost the election! Love you and miss you lots.

  2. While a good point of comparison on the various thefts of elections - be careful that you don't prioritize the issues in appropriately. In any issue selling campaign (ie politics), individuals link their credibility to items of attention, not neccessarily those that represent their core beliefs or the ones they legislate on - just the ones that will meet the circumstances of attention and action on the part of the voters. People who fight about pro-choice v pro-life get elected - the ones who fight about the infrastructure get put in fluky staff jobs and ignored. We don't need the moral issues legislated, we need the infrastructure issues managed.


  3. Dear Matthew,

    Well, alrighty then. Another damned fine piece of writing. I loved the very authentic voice of outrage! I, admitting my bias, once again would encourage you to try and get this published somewhere. So, bravo.

    I will share this far and wide, with the appropriate parental pride. A very good comparative civics lesson for all to read. I also deeply understand your angst at defending Mr. Bush, but it was really a defense of America - and that can't be a bad thing.



  4. Dear Matthew,

    As a member in good, if remote, standing of the Almost Fortnightly Poker Group and Marching Society, I wanted to convey their felicitations and delight in this blog post. Mr. Ashe and Mr. Burton were most amused and impressed with your skill. I just happened to have a printed copy with me to share, and yes the pictures were in color.

    Both of these august gentlemen are in even higher echelons of the techno-peasantry so the notion of actually visiting your blog on their own is highly unlikely. Interesting sentence construct there, but I think you'll grasp the intent.

    Blog on young adventurer! I didn't have your travelog printed, damn. I will do so and mail them (as in with a postage stamp and all) a copy. At our age pictures are nice.




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