Texas -- In the national "Crossfire" that passes
for political debate these days, we observe much
arm-waving over whether the latest "terrorist
threat" warnings are on the level or merely designed
to take voters' minds off bad job news, bad Iraq
news, bad Afghanistan news, etc. I boldly suggest
not a single mouth-flapper on either side has
any idea. How the hell would any of them know
what Al Qaeda is up to?
If you want to make the point that Karl Rove is
perfectly capable of using terrorist threats for
political purposes, go right ahead, but that doesn't
mean he's done so.
Meanwhile, we might more profitably continue our
efforts to keep a grip on reality by paying attention
to some of those little things, those itty-bitty
things that are observably so.
Florida, the Fun State, is off to a fast start
on election shenanigans this year. Undeterred
by the state's electoral disgrace in 2000, elections
officials there have all but publicly announced,
"We're going to cheat again this year." In July,
voting rights groups asked for the audits of the
2002 gubernatorial election, supposedly collected
by new electronic voting machines. Ooops. Records
Two computer crashes last year, officials said,
erased the records of both the primary and general
elections. Here's my favorite part: A spokesman
for the Miami elections office said the reason
no announcement was made at the time was officials
believed "it was merely a record-keeping issue."
Said Seth Kaplan, "There's always a fine line
between speaking out about things that are truly
necessary to speak about and not unnecessarily
alarming the public." How true that is.
Furthering the festive atmosphere is the unfortunate
fuss over the felons' list. You may recall that
in 2000, thousands of Floridians were deprived
of the right to vote because they have the same
names as someone, somewhere who was once convicted
of a felony. If, for example, a "Bill Smith" in
Kansas City had done time for burglary 20 years
earlier, any "Bill Smith" in Sarasota, Seminole
or Solana also found himself knocked off the voter
rolls. It was a horrendous injustice and a scandal
at the time. Who would have guessed that Gov.
Jeb Bush would choose to simply repeat it? This
guy has chutzpah out the wazoo.
In 2000, a firm with GOP connections was hired
by then Secretary of State Katherine Harris (also
chair of the state Bush-for-Prez campaign) to
scan felon records nationwide and then purge Florida
voters with similar -- or almost similar -- names.
Bush officially carried Florida by 537 votes that
year. Florida newspapers later found 8,000 of
the blacklisted voters had been convicted of misdemeanors,
This year, same song, second verse. Gov. Bush
tried to purge 47,000 supposed ex-felons. A Miami
Herald investigation of the new list found it
named Democrats by a three-to-one margin and wrongly
listed 2,100 people whose citizenship had already
been restored through a clemency process.
The Tampa Tribune produced an even more startling
discovery: While half of those on this year's
list are black, the list contains the names of
fewer than 100 Hispanics. Hispanics in Florida
tend to be Republican-leaning Cuban-Americans.
Gosh, Gov. Bush was just astonished about the
no-Hispanics thing -- except the state had been
repeatedly warned about it. He finally withdrew
the list on July 11. Then, on July 14, the First
District U.S. Court of Appeals in Tallahassee
ruled the state must help felons fill out the
form they need to win back the right to vote after
serving their time. Instead, Gov. Bush eliminated
One tries not to be alarmist, one tries not to
be paranoid, but this doth smelleth. Is there
any Republican who would be happy if the role
of the parties were reversed here and only Hispanic
felons had been on Jebbie Bush's little list,
but no blacks? Come on.
The Republican Party in Florida is now urging
its voters to use absentee ballots so they will
have a paper trail in case of a recount. Hey,
if it's good enough for Republicans ...
Here are a few more little items: The Department
of Defense is now outsourcing the job of preparing
the national defense budget to ... private defense
contractors. Isn't that special? The Center for
Public Integrity has found at least three private-sector
contracting firms advertising jobs for analysts
to work on the development of the president's
More good news: Those vigilant folks at Homeland
Security are allowing the nuclear industry's leading
lobby to develop the teams of mock-terrorist attackers
who will supposedly probe and evaluate security
at nuclear power plants. According the Project
on Government Oversight, "The lobby, called the
Nuclear Energy Institute, in turn hired the company
with the biggest financial stake in finding no
problems at the plants -- Wackenhut Corp., the
nation's largest security plan provider."
"This is more than a case of the proverbial fox
guarding the henhouse," said the project's director.
"It is not an apparent conflict of interest, but
a blatant conflict of interest."
To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features
by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists,
visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
Posted: August 17, 2004