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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Iran 2009 Florida 2000

Like everyone I found the recent images from the protests in Iran to be at once inspiring and horrifying: Inspiring in that an oppressed people rose up despite the risks and let their anger be known; and horrifying in the images of unarmed peaceful protesters being beaten and even shot to death and yet continuing to protest. I am sure people from every nation on earth felt the same. As an American though, I felt an additional twinge of irony that perhaps others did not feel. The horrible bitterness and anger that had long ago subsided in my gut from the disgrace of the Presidential vote dispute in Florida in 2000 suddenly rose from the ashes.

The parallels between the defrauding of the voters in Iran in 2009 and in the United States in 2000 are few. Oh sure, you could say that in each case a "Supreme" decided who won. In the United States it was five out of nine Supreme Court Justices while in Iran it was the Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah. It might also be pointed out that neither the Supreme Court Justices nor the Supreme Leader was elected by the people. But the similarities end there. In Iran it is unclear whether the votes were ever counted, while in the United States, Five Supreme Court Justices ordered the voting in Florida to stop while four Supreme Court Justices thought it should continue. This included stopping the voting while the Supreme Court was deciding the case! Apparently someone was concerned that the American people might learn the result of the election. In the end, Justice Scalia, one of the cabal of conservative justices who ruled that the vote count in Florida should stop justified his actions thusly: "The counting of votes that are of questionable legality does in my view threaten irreparable harm to petitioner Bush, and to the country, by casting a cloud upon what he claims to be the legitimacy of his election." It was unclear then and it is unclear now why a Supreme Court Justice was so concerned with the legitimacy of a candidate's election instead of simply deciding the case based on the facts and the law before him. Regardless, it is all history now, although I am sure even old Scalia wishes he could take back his vote given the plunging value of his retirement portfolio.

But what really struck me most about the people's protest in Iran was that, well, there were protests. Despite 223 years of democracy in various forms in the U.S. there was nary a peep from the citizenry as a bare majority of Supreme Court Justices pulled the foundation out from under the people and took away their right to elect a leader. The truth is that many Americans probably did not understand what was happening. Most folks I talked to at the time were not really sure what the Electoral College was and still others had voted for Bush and so they were happy regardless. Of course a few of the educated elite in the U.S. sounded the alarm like about 150 constitutional law professors who took out full page advertisements in national papers denouncing the decision as corrupt. There was even a few protests I heard of in Los Angeles and maybe some in New York but over all it was business as usual. The lack of understanding by many Americans could explain the lack of a reaction. Iran, I am told has a highly educated population. The other explanation is that Americans have grown fat, lazy and complacent. One thing is for sure, the failure to pay closer attention to who is running for President can have disastrous consequences. When Bush took over the Presidency the American economy was at its economic zenith. During his tenure Bush presided over the beginning of the worst economic disaster in 80 years. It could be that the laws of nature sent Bush to rid of us of our complacency by causing us to lose our jobs. More importantly though it showed that five Supreme Court justices were wrong in their pick of who would be the better President. It also showed that denying the democratic process in America can cause a horrible result.

Let Freedom Ring.



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