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To the Viktor Go the Spoils
by Mark Drolette
November 25, 2004

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I was so heartened to read this quote about the presidential election from Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), as reported by Associated Press writer Natasha Lisova: “It is now apparent that a concerted and forceful program of election-day fraud and abuse was enacted with either the leadership or cooperation of governmental authorities.”

Ha -- at last!  Plainly spoken words from a U.S. Senator -- a Republican, no less -- about the highly suspicious goings-on concerning the election.

And upon what evidence does Lugar base his charge?  Well, for starters, how about the exit polls that showed the challenger heading the incumbent?  And, according to Lisova, election overseers “said there were extensive indications of vote fraud, including people apparently voting multiple times and voters being forced to turn over absentee ballots to state employers.”

Unfortunately, Lugar wasn’t complaining about, nor was Lisova reporting on, the U.S. presidential election.  They both were alluding instead to the voting concluded this past week to determine the president of Ukraine, and the good senator made his comments while in Kiev as George Bush’s “envoy.”

It seems the U.S.-favored candidate who garnered large leads in the exit polls, Viktor Yuschenko, was allegedly bested in the actual balloting by Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovych, a pol who both favors, and is favored by, Russia.

Before we continue on, though, some housekeeping is in order (mainly to help me keep things straight).  Because of their similar monikers, I think it’ll be easier to call each Ukrainian candidate simply by his first name.  Thus, we have Viktor and then we have, uh, Viktor.

Well, so much for that.  Perhaps nicknames are best.  From here on, we’ll call Yuschenko “Yushy” and Yanukovych, “Yanni.”

OK, OK.  How about this, then: we’ll refer to Yuschenko, the U.S. guy, as “the U.S. guy,” and Yanukovych, the Russia guy, as “the Russia guy.”


Back to the action: You know, every article about this whole affair should be entitled “U.S. Reaction to Ukraine Election Drips with Irony.”  The Bushies (rightfully) get their knickers knotted over numerous accounts of balloting shenanigans in the Ukraine and exit polls that show one thing while purported vote totals show another, yet when the same thing happens in America, it suddenly belongs in the realm of Internet mad hatters and sore losers.

Lisova reports the U.S. State Department didn’t waste any time chiming in on reported Ukrainian voting irregularities, immediately (and ominously) urging “Ukraine’s government to investigate the allegations of fraud or risk a changed relationship with the United States.”  Just to make sure the message was clear, spokesman Adam Ereli reiterated American consternation and urged Ukraine “to act to ensure an outcome that reflects the will of the U.S. government.”  (Actually, he said “the will of the Ukrainian people,” but there’s no proof he wasn’t thinking otherwise.) 

(It could not immediately be confirmed that Ukrainian authorities, finally catching their collective breath after laughing uncontrollably, responded by oh-so diplomatically urging U.S. government representatives to “go &#*% yourselves, you hypocritical &%*#s.”)

It’s exceedingly rare I agree with the Bush administration on anything, but I do so here, while still also being fully aware the Bushies couldn’t care less about democracy and are really solely interested in which foreign leaders/lackeys best serve the administration’s insane Project for the New American Century-influenced vision of global American dominance.

But fair’s fair, and the fact remains that ample evidence exists of fraud in Ukraine’s election.  And there are also those pesky exit polls, used for decades as incredibly accurate predictors of winners of political races and strong checks against voting fraud.  In the Ukraine, exit polls showed the U.S. guy whupping the Russia guy by a mammoth 11 percentage points.

Stateside, none of John Kerry’s exit poll margins on November 2 in the all-important swing states were nearly that large, but still sizable and widespread enough to make the most sane and sober individual wonder just what the heck happened when the alleged final voting totals ended up keeping Dubya in the White House.

And, of course, we had a few voting problems of our own on Election Day: Jim Crow-reminiscent tales of lines of many hours’ duration and poll “challengers,” mainly in mostly minority precincts; electronic voting machines that recorded anywhere from negative 25 million votes (Youngstown, Ohio) to thousands of overvotes; EVMs that automatically switched the presidential vote on a straight Democratic ticket over to the GOP (Austin, Texas); too few voting machines (in mainly Democratic areas, natch); more votes than registered voters in numerous Ohio precincts; poll tapes thrown in the trash in Florida; uncounted ballots still being found; backward-counting machines; the fact that almost every single “anomaly” reported so far has been in Bush’s favor…

For a thinkin’ person, all of this (and so much more) just kinda makes one wonder why this sort of electoral bunk is correctly repudiated elsewhere but deemed perfectly acceptable here.

(The most comprehensive article I’ve seen about U.S. election misdeeds is a meticulously detailed piece by Alan Waldman in Online Journal.)

And once again, those of us who pay attention are left to ask (all together, now): Where’s the outrage?

In the Ukraine, that’s where.  Yessirree, Bobski, in this topsiest and turviest of worlds, it is not Americans, the self-proclaimed keepers of liberty’s flame, who have taken to the streets en masse to protest the theft of democracy, but rather Ukrainians, folks brand, spankin’ new to the whole concept of self-governance, willing to gather by the thousands in bracing winds and freezing temperatures to say (in Ukrainian, of course): “We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take this anymore!”

Shameless segue and slight-digression-but-it’s-all-connected-you’ll-see-in-a-moment moment: The above line (in English, though), is, of course, from the 1976 movie Network, a flick I finally saw for the first time recently.  Man, talk about chilling prescience.

If you want to know a prime reason why millions of American just sit there like bumps on logs when they should be screaming bloody murder about how their country has been hijacked by warmongering greedmeisters, rent Network, or read its brilliant script by Paddy Chayefski, and tell me if you don’t get bumps of your own.

A non-stop morality tale about the all-controlling, all-consumptive power of corporations and their use of television to achieve and maintain planetary dominance, two scenes in particular stand out and are jaw-droppingly relevant to today’s happenings.

In the first, Howard Beale (Peter Finch), a former news anchorman-gone-mad whose on-air rantings, compellingly delivered and imbued with great, ugly truths, have garnered a huge following (and terrific ratings for the network), tells his studio and viewing audience:

“So, listen to me! Television is not the truth!  Television is a goddamned amusement park, that's what television is!…

We'll tell you any shit you want to hear!  We deal in illusion, man!  None of it's true!  But you people sit there-- all of you -- day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds -- we're all you know.  You're beginning to believe this illusion we're spinning here.  You're beginning to think the tube is reality and your own lives are unreal.  You do whatever the tube tells you.  You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you think like the tube.  This is mass madness, you maniacs!  In God's name, you people are the real thing!  We're the illusions!  So turn off this goddam set!  Turn it off right now!  Turn it off and leave it off.  Turn it off right now, right in the middle of this very sentence I'm speaking now – “

Beale then faints and collapses on stage.

In the other scene, Beale’s latest televised sermon has pricked the rarified world of the network’s CEO, Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty), one of the world’s privileged few who truly know how things work, by mobilizing enough Americans to stop a huge business deal (“The Arabs are simply buying us!” Beale screams to his audience) that will adversely affect Jensen’s ability to do business as usual.  The unhappy executive calls Beale into a massive, perfectly appointed boardroom (“Valhalla,” he calls it) to divulge the true gospel:

“You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen, and howl about America and democracy.  There is no America.  There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and A T and T and Dupont, Dow, Union Carbide and Exxon.  Those are the nations of the world today…

We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale.  The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable by-laws of business.  The world is a business, Mr. Beale!”

Jensen then tells Beale he wants him to “atone” for his misstep by “preach[ing] this evangel.”  When Beale tremblingly asks why, Jensen tells him: “Because you're on television, dummy.  Sixty million people watch you every night of the week, Monday through Friday.”  Jensen shrewdly figures that not enough Americans, even when Beale delivers to them the harsh, naked, bald-faced truth, will rise up to upset the “world as a business” applecart, and instead just continue on with their television-stupor-induced lives.

He’s right.

In today’s America, television spews homogenized, “on-message,” tightly-spun pap as “news,” and millions upon millions of Americans receive the bulk of their information this way, hearing what the corporate-run government wants them to hear, buying what it wants them to buy, remaining silent while it wants them silent.  Certainly other reasons exist for our nation’s current maladies, but TV is undoubtedly the number one controlling mechanism for the power structure, and it’s as true today as it’s ever been: whoever controls the message, controls the power.

But, oh joy!  Oh hope!  The Ukrainians are no longer swallowing the hocus bogus they’ve been force-fed forever.  Conditioned for decades by one of history’s ultimate propaganda machines -- the Soviet Union disinformation apparatus -- it makes their current adamantine refusal to buy the party line that the Russia guy is the real winner even more remarkable.

So just how has it come to pass, then, given this history of ongoing institutional brainwashing far more insidious than what Americans have endured, that 200,000 or so wide-awake Ukrainians are out there in the bitter cold raising a ruckus about how their election was stolen?  (Most are wide awake, as some have managed to find enough time during the demonstrations, per Lisova, to partake of “mulled wine and vodka, gulped down with salted fish.”  Mmm, yum-ski.)

Apparently, they’ve decided they truly aren’t gonna take it anymore, and instead of just going to their windows and shouting out angrily at the tops of their lungs and then sitting back down to be mesmerized yet again by the insidious doping tube, they’ve marched right out to the streets to emphatically show they’ve had enough of the lies and the manipulation and the being screwed over and over again, and that they take this democracy stuff pretty damn seriously.

In a true “isn’t life strange?” moment, it is now the good citizens of Ukraine who are giving Americans and the rest of the world an object lesson about who is really supposed to possess and wield the power in a democracy.  We could serve our own critically ill nation well by taking serious note of the passionate Ukrainians and emulating their patriotic actions.

Well, all except for the drinking mulled wine and eating salted fish part, that is.

Mark Drolette is a political satirist/commentator who lives in Sacramento, California. He can be reached at: