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‘Recount’ Gets It Right, Even if America Didn’t

Posted on May 28, 2008

By Brad Friedman

(Page 2)

The infamous sleaze of the man—- he’s portrayed cahooting with the Bush campaign and steamrolling the Florida House into legislation that would seat Bush’s electors no matter the decisions of either the FL or US Supreme Courts—- comes through in thuggish spades. He’s shown doing what he does best (lying to the media), even if the actor who portrays him (Antoni Corone) is a large, burly fellow rather than the puny, pathetic little figure/tool of a man that Feeney actually is.

But that’s rather small potatoes, as we appreciated the filmmakers having pulled out the accurate, if oft-overlooked, illustration of a man and a party willing to put power and politics far before country.

The rest of the cast was largely spot on. Laura Dern, in our opinion, actually underplayed the role of walking caricature, FL SoS Katherine Harris, who’s seen awaking into her dream role as the ultimate GOP power broker able to hand the “victory” to Bush in Florida, while advised by the ever-present Republican lobbyist J.M. “Mac the Knife” Stipanovich (Bruce McGill), who somehow was able to obtain direct access to the inner-sanctum office of the SoS/Co-chair of Bush’s Florida campaign.

That Dern actually underplayed the role—- despite having brought so much camp, the only thing missing was a tent, a sleeping bag and a flashlight—- is a point made strikingly clear during the film’s closing credits as shots of the actual historical players, just portrayed in the film, flash by in dreadful reminder that what we just saw was, sadly, all too real. The actual Harris, far more camped-out and tramped-out then anyone could possibly play “credibly”, is seen, on horseback, celebrating her rich post-Election theft reward as a new U.S. Congresswoman (only to fall in disgrace just one Congressional session later), out-camping Dern hands down and breasts up.

While Steve Heller was unable to watch much of the film without it driving him crazy (yes, he and his wife would pay a great personal price for this Administration’s anti-democratic electioneering some years later, as he was forced to fend off felony charges for having been instrumental in revealing that Diebold Inc.‘s powerful Republican law firm, Jones Day was instructing the voting machine company on how they might avoid their own criminal charges for lying to the state of California about having secretly and illegally installed uncertified hardware and software in 2004), his wife Michelle was enthralled by the breathless ups and downs of the contest as it played out in the film.

An election junkie herself during the ensuing years, given her husband’s key role in successfully taking on the giants of Diebold and Jones Day in 2004, if only temporarily, she hadn’t followed those infamous 36 days quite as closely when they actually played out. She had no idea, until watching the film, that it had been as insane as all of that. It was.

Yes, the very real back and forths and ups and downs in the real life saga was as impossibly stunning when they occurred in real time, perhaps even more so, as they come across during the two hour depiction. I can imagine no Indiana Jones film with as many gasp-inducing twists and turns as this story when it actually played out back in 2000, and even during its HBO re-telling. But remember, this is pornography to guys like me.

(Another Election Integrity junkie, Utah’s Barbara Bellows TerraNova is a bit more critical, and not without reason, for a few important points the film either didn’t get exactly right, or otherwise omitted entirely. Read her less laudatory take on Recount here.)

Hacking Democracy’s Rob Cohen seemed similarly impressed after we watched it together. He was justifiably pleased that his all-too-real documentary film, which begins with the scuttled 2000 recount, may have helped pave the way at HBO for the Recount theatrical film.

Both films cover the -16,022 votes (that’s negative 16,022 votes) that were discovered as tallied for (actually against) Al Gore on optical-scan voting systems in Volusia County, Florida. That negative number would lead to Gore’s original concession on Election Night, followed by his infamous un-concession an hour or so later after the “error” was discovered.

More on that machine, and Volusia’s continuing use of them, even still in 2008, was published by M.C. Moewe at Daytona News-Journal over the weekend. Moewe has been diligently trying to get to the bottom of that failure in Diebold’s op-scan system for years. She writes in her article this weekend, which used Recount to help further the largely untold and almost wholly un-investigated story of those negatives votes in Volusia:

In Volusia County, the same “crazy” optical scan machines that delivered Gore’s negative vote total are still in use.

The negative votes in 2000 could have been caused by four problems according to internal e-mails written by the machine’s manufacturer, then called Global Election Systems. A corrupt memory card, an invalid read from a good card, corruption of memory or a card from an “un-authorized source.”

Students at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania won a court battle to keep the e-mails public.

If it was a memory card failure problem, those issues still plague elections here.
The agency charged by law to act as a clearinghouse for information on voting systems nationwide, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, said in November that it could not tell local election officials about the potential problem because a state or local agency had not yet told them.

They still have not been informed, said Commission spokesman Bryan Whitener.

“There is not the slightest bit of authority that this agency has to get information,” Whitener said.

Whitener’s comments, of course, are nonsense. There is nothing in the EAC’s mandate from the Help America Vote Act (HAVA)—- which created the agency, in part, to serve as a clearinghouse for voting system problems—- that would disallow them from informing states about problems, such as the one that still remains on Diebold op-scan systems littered across the country.

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By Brad Friedman, June 3, 2008 at 1:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Conspiracy? Dozens of newspapers and universities joined together to count every ballot in the state, finding Gore won by ever conceivable counting standard and that’s a “conspiracy theory”?

Yes, grow up, indeed. And while you’re there, stand up for your Constitution and American Values. Unless you hate them and would rather ignore such things and the democracy that is supposed to come along with them.

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By John Smith, June 2, 2008 at 10:06 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sounds like some people really enjoy some good, beefed up, cracked out conspiracy. Gore lost. Get over it. I watched recount and found myself laughing at the idea of people being turned away from polling boothes and chad being not counted because they were dimples. Im sure that there were plenty of Bush votes not counted because of the same reason. People just love the idea of some one trying to screw them. Thats what it comes down to. No one on either side was evil or trying to steal an election at the expense of the American people. Grow up. There was too much at stake, to many careers at stake.

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By pete lor, June 2, 2008 at 7:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

James Baker loved it so much he organized a private screening for he and his pals.  I heard about it on NPR.  I haven’t seen the film but its lost a bit of its credibility after hearing of this revelation.

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By Bill Blackolive, June 1, 2008 at 9:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We can have the 3rd in a row stolen election because this voting (half the population do not vote) population are intimidated, too fucked to muster any energy.  What next.  So go to Patriotsquestion9/11 to dodge schizoprenia.

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By Conservative Yankee, May 31, 2008 at 5:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

” It’s a sickness…Hyper partisan nonsense”

Well, no, it is well documented and on the money, the Republican’s stole the 2000 election, at a time when I was a registered Republican. But don’t be upset, far from being “Hyper partisan nonsense” it is one of a series of NON-partisan election thefts over the Nation’s history. Some from names long forgotten like Samual Tildon, (who won over Rutherford B. Hayes in an election where Florida again played a part) and some from the more recent past, the 1960 election when Mayor Daley in Chicago and LBJ in Texas stole the election for JFK.

There’s more, in actuality the thefts began with the election stolen by John Quincy Adams!

It’s as American as apple pie!

want to read about it?

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CJ's avatar

By CJ, May 29, 2008 at 8:34 pm Link to this comment

StephenL’s got one thing right: “Tell a lie often enough, it becomes ‘truth.’” Rove-led Bushies (big media all too ready to go along) would know all about how that works—from “Recount” that was never allowed to go forward (thanks to a majority of Justices willing to go to length of disgracing their high office, if not so much themselves since we knew about them already. One of the most pernicious lies is the claim Justices aren’t really political appointees, even if accidents sometimes happen) to WMD (which must yet be there somewhere) to how “Brownie” did a fine job (Wards yet to recover). Not to mention “truth” that claims tax cuts are means to economic expansion. (War and occupation really do—in truth—benefit those least in need.)

“Recount” turned out an occasion for a bit of earthly truth-telling, which must be how come big media across the board hasn’t said much since airing. (Anyone who pays attention to anything printed in the “New York Times” should reconsider priorities. I’d sooner read the “Post”—good for a couple laughs anyway. “Times” would be too were it not for nagging fact that people actually take that paper seriously. Has Judith Miller been forgotten already?)

Now and then a few facts are disseminated, despite best efforts on the part of those whose sole occupation is preventing telling of any truth. Occupation is to make truth appear lie at the same time lie is made to appear truth.

Kudos to all involved in making, “Recount,” as mass audience was—for a refreshing change—presented with truth that wasn’t constructed of lies intended to appear as truth. Facts matter, for the simple reason we’ve not much more to work with, but for facts as humans understand facts to be means to knowledge. Claims that “scientism” is just one more dogma notwithstanding.

Elections are a relatively simple (in places like Venezuela and Palestine, to cite two examples) matter of counting votes to see who got more. Not, as they say, “rocket science.” Closer to first-grade arithmetic: One plus one plus one plus one…until all ballots have been counted. Emphasis on word, “all,” since the entire point of voting exercise is to count “all.” If that’s not the point, then why bother: first, to vote; second to count votes? Never mind cost of arranging so any (not exactly “any”) and all are able to vote.

Gore got more, as any number of independent journalists, who actually did hard work of finding out, reported years and years and years ago. Journalists of integrity are not as a general rule granted access to power. They’re not to be found among stenographers who daily attend press briefings held by various government departments.

The thing I most appreciated about “Recount” is that Gore doesn’t comes off looking good. Appropriately not. When anyone has too much respect for abstraction that is every institution, he/she isn’t likely ever to make a whole lot of difference, whether he/she happens to speak occasional truth or not. Finally, talk really is cheap. Talk is two-faced: means by which to convey truth, as well as means by which to disguise truth. (Linguistics is a lot more complicated than “rocket science” ever was or ever will be.)

Our winner-take-all, two-party system is one more case of an institution for which far too many think far too highly. Democrats (whether liberal right or liberal center) have just as often attempted to make lie appear truth, truth appear lie. “Recount” alludes to that fact too. It really is a pretty smart bit of docudrama, beyond being factually accurate.

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By i,Q, May 29, 2008 at 3:57 pm Link to this comment

If counting the votes would eventually lead to Bush’s victory, why work so hard to suppress a recount?

StepenL is a prime example of the pot calling the kettle black.

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By Eric Barth, May 29, 2008 at 7:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yeah! And the really funny thing is that Joe Lieberman turned out to be a Bush Republican!! How’s that for dramatic irony?

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By hippy pam, May 29, 2008 at 6:08 am Link to this comment

“BULLSH*T” leaves OFFICE[if he doesn’t just declare martial law so he can hold on to power]-We can call it “BULLSH*T DAY” and [just like April Fool Day]-YA GOTTA RUN A LINE OF “BULLSH*T” ON EVERY ONE!!!!!

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By Konnie, May 29, 2008 at 5:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Democratic party should run educational ads
in all areas where there were voting irregularities.

Tell The Voters to verify their registration.
to Verify their precinct.  Check their ballots.
Make extra sure they did everything correctly
on the ballot.  If there are chads involved,
make sure your intended vote will count.  Do
not “x” boxes, but color them in totally. 
Advise Older voters to ask for help.  Forget
about your pride.  We know you have voted for
60 years unassisted. Isn’t the world worth a momentary
embarrassment?  And remind everyone else to get off
their behinds. This election, at This time is too
important to screw up, or let anyone else steal.

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Purple Girl's avatar

By Purple Girl, May 29, 2008 at 5:55 am Link to this comment

Michigan Prim Was Rigged. Date change -intentional cluster F*ck, scambled (only Dem) Ballots fed in to Preprogrammed (alphabetcial order) SCAMtrons, Media mantra ‘Clinton the ONLY dem on the Ballot)and of course the silver platter was handed to Clinton by none other then our Good Ol’ Sen Levin (Armed Services Cohort).
Then lest look at the timing of the ‘Photo ID” ruling by SCOTUS- ONE WEEK before the Prim, so convienently IN CONVENIENT for the voters, The Denial to vote by Even Clergy? and of course the old stand by , machine malfunctions in minority areas and far too few available causing Long Waits….
It is happening Again- the PROOF of the ‘00 Theft is laying right ontop of the ‘08 ‘pudding’.
Have no doubt either theri latest Trick is to Put 2 Horses in the Race- divide & conquer, a Win/Win, Hillary or Mac is a win for the Corp Sponsored Neo Cons (DLC is a Neo CON group camoflagued in Blue- LIEberman is still a memeber, tells you alot about the rest AH?)Hillary’s RED Slip has been Showing since she Took the Senate Seat. Seh has proven to be nothing more than a covert Operative, a Protege for the Cheney Doctrine….“Obliterate Iran” with NUKES? Buddying w/ Scaife, parroting Rove,Changing th eGoal lines to suit HER,Needs a Constant Interpretor because she is so arrogant she thinks we are all Idiots, ‘assasination ’ Innuendo- ACTS (and Inacts) like a traitor , sounds like a traitor, she’s a traitor! She NEVER gave Up her Repug Corp Whore Allegience!Shit they Crowned her Queen at that ‘Lucheon’ With W, that’s why she’s CRAZY pissed, we aren’t buying the BS anymore! Look down Dear your Red slip is showing and Your mask has Fallen OFF- YOU ARE ANOTHER P.O.S. IN HISTORY!

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By JimM, May 28, 2008 at 7:58 pm Link to this comment

These right wing pro bush judges on the Supreme Court should be sued for negligence and interference in a presidential election. Remember the Saturday that Al was leading in the recount and at the behest of the veniable James Baker, the Supremes abruptly aborted the recount.
What a horrible memory to carry and the more horrible results that followed

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By jltnol, May 28, 2008 at 7:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again.

Why didn’t they wait ‘til in the FALL to release this film?  By the time the election comes around, this will be forgotten by everyone.

Same thing with Mr. Moore’s film.. Great to make money during the summer, but had F9/11 been released on or after Labor Day, he may not be as rich, but Bush would have not been re-elected.

While I applaud the filmmakers vision, releasing this closer to the election would have had much MUCH more impact.

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By Brad Friedman, May 28, 2008 at 7:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The key line in your comment is:

“Tell a lie often enough, it becomes ‘truth’.”

Fair enough. So if you bother to watch the film (or just check the historic, well-documented record), you’ll learn that the ballots were never actually recounted. No matter how “often” the Republicans tried to make that claim.

18 counties did nothing more than push the button to get the same results from the memory cards again (same results, not a surprise).

And of the counties that did bother to re-run their ballots, they were re-run through the machine, not counted by hand as they were supposed to have been.

Of course, once such a hand-count began, it was immediately stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A full hand-count that actually took place thereafter (by a news and academic consortium) found that by whatever standards one used to count ALL of the ballots in the state (hanging, dangling chads, whatever), Gore beat Bush every single time.

As you appear to be more interesting in repeating the nonsense “often enough” in hopes that “it becomes truth”, and thus didn’t bother to read the actual evidence offered in the article above, I’ll be kind enough to deliver it to you again.

Read, learn:
...and then I’ll happily accept your apology for otherwise arguing in favor of undermining American values such as democracy. I’m sure you don’t hate them *that* much, right?

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By David Ulrich, May 28, 2008 at 6:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr StepenL, Your comment above makes it clear that you are woefully uninformed. My suggestion would be for you do a little research on this subject before you throw out statements like you did above. I am sorry but it just makes you look like a deluded dito head.

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By StepenL, May 28, 2008 at 6:16 pm Link to this comment

was that however they counted it, Bush kept winning.  And their third suggestion which ultimately the supreme court killed also would have made Bush the winner.

No one believes it’s true that the “election was stolen” but some filled with hate keep pushing it in an effort to gain believers among the ignorant.

Tell a lie often enough, it becomes “truth”.  Whenever democrats lose a major election these days…it’s “stolen”.  When they win one, “the will of the people has prevailed”.

It’s a sickness…Hyper partisan nonsense.

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