Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

December 15, 2000

LET' S REWIND to election night, Nov. 7, 2000:

Minutes after the CBS television network's Dan Rather called Florida for Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, the news anchor stepped to one side of the room to confer with a man who appeared to be an aide with a message. Rather went back to the anchor desk and reported that the chief campaign operative for Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush had protested the network's announcement that Vice President Gore had won in Florida. The same complaint went to other networks. Soon, the networks took Florida away from Gore and put it in the undecided category.

The networks declared the winner of a state based on a number of factors, including interviews of voters after they exited their precinct voting places. Most of the information was provided to the networks by Voter News Service. The only state where the networks' formula was badly skewed was Florida.

QUESTIONS ARISE about how did the campaign honcho for Texas Governor Bush, who spent election night with him in Texas, know that Florida was not won by Gore? Was there a pre-election "fix" in place?

Later, Florida was put in the Bush column, and in time Bush was declared the winner of enough Electoral College votes to gain the presidency. The first network to call Bush the winner of the presidency was the right-wing Fox operation owned by the ultra-conservative Australian-born media billionaire, Rupert Murdoch. What most voters don't know is that the leading news executive in Fox's decision to declare Bush the winner is a first cousin of the Texas governor and, according to the New York Times, "spent much of the night in communication with the candidate" by long-distance telephone calls. He should get a key job in a Bush Administration, if there is one.

AS THE POST-ELECTION Florida imbroglio dragged on and put Florida's outcome in doubt, it became apparent that tens of thousands of probable Gore voters, many of them blacks or other minorities, were disenfranchised - either by being turned away at the polls over questionable registration problems or having their votes thrown out for reasons criticized by civil rights leader Jesse Jackson.

Is it only a coincidence that major voting and vote-counting foul-ups, intentional or not, took place in Florida, the one state in 50 where the governor is Republican Jeb Bush, a brother of Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush?

Florida also is the only state where the chief elections officer, the Republican secretary of state, was a campaign co-chair of a candidate - Republican Bush. And she was hell-bent on certifying him as the winner even though it was apparent that thousands of Floridians' votes had not been counted. She should get a seat in a Bush Cabinet, if there is one.

REUTERS NEWS SERVICE reported that Gore would have defeated Bush in Florida "if all the state's contested ballots had been error-free and completely counted." Reuters was reporting the results of an analysis of Florida voting patterns commissioned by the Miami Herald. Keep in mind that Democrat Al Gore received more votes nationwide than George W. Bush.

Republicans were so determined to keep all of Florida's votes from being counted that yahoos like Mississippi Senator Trent (Vacant) Lott and Texas Congressman Tom (Exterminator) DeLay organized the financing of mercenary mobs, most flown in from elsewhere, to stage phony protests outside Florida re-counting offices to intimidate the counters and either slow them down or completely stop an honest tally of votes that might wipe out Bush's slim lead.

EARLY IN THE FLORIDA FIASCO, a broadcast talk show host in San Francisco said on a network cable news program: "The Bush family tried to steal the election, and got caught at it."

National AFL-CIO President John Sweeney put it this way: "We stand firmly with the Gore campaign for the right of every citizen to vote and to have his or her vote counted." Sweeney added that Bush is "trying to take by coercion and presumption what he failed to show he won legitimately at the ballot box."

BUT, ALAS AND ALACK, as this issue's deadline neared, it appeared that a Republican majority on the United States Supreme Court seemed eager to drive the getaway car in the great election heist of the millennium.


RETIRED UNION LEADER Bob Scarrioffini's ire was triggered by the sharp escalation in the premiums and fees for the Providence Medicare Extra insurance policy of his wife, Jackie.

Scarrioffini, a longtime officer of Portland School Employees Local 140, said the Sisters of Providence Health Plan jumped the cost of Jackie Scarrioffini's Medicare supplement coverage by 99.5 percent. His reaction was to go to the Providence's northeast Portland office and complain vehemently. "We feel sorry for you people" was the Providence response, he told the NW Labor Press.

MRS. SCARRIOFFINI'S monthly premium will jump from $35 to $69.50 on Jan. 1, 2001. Here are some of the other cost escalations in her coverage: Office visit co-pays for specialists will double to $20. Outpatient surgery co-pays will zoom from $10 to $75 per use. Ambulance service co-pays will go from zero to $50, with the charge to be waived if the patient is admitted to one of the Sisters of Providence hospitals.

In-patient hospital care co-pays will skyrocket from zero to $300, as will inpatient mental health care.

"I'm concerned about how retirees are going to make it with these kinds of rate increases," Scarrioffini told the Labor Press.

Bob, himself, is more fortunate than his wife because his Medicare supplemental insurance, while also with Providence, is part of a group plan through the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). He said the increases to PERS enrollees were minimal - in the $10 and $15 range. Bob is in PERS because he worked as a custodian for the Portland School District. He's a 36-year member of Local 140 and held the offices of president, vice president and secretary-treasurer in his three decades as a union officer. He was a vice president in the Oregon State Council of Service Employees.

BOB'S WIFE, JACKIE, did not have the benefit of a union in her job as a banquet waitress in a downtown hotel. She retired on disability 14 years ago after she injured her back while lifting a heavy tub of ashtrays. She suffered four herniated discs.

Scarrioffini said that retired workers should pay close attention to changes in the fee and premium schedules of their Medicare supplemental or Medigap insurance and their health maintenance organization, and to shop around for the best deal.

When Scarrioffini was employed as a school custodian he took an interest in the students at the schools where he worked by teaching them how to tie fishing flies, and he took many of them fishing.


THE NIHILISTS - such as motor-mouth William Lee (Bill) Sizemore and millionaire Frank Eisenzimmer of Oregon Taxpayers United, millionaires Don McIntire, Loren Parks, Mark Hemstreet and others - peddle a number of political lines, including one that Oregonians, especially themselves, are over-taxed.

That's not so, however, according to 1999 figures compiled by the Associated Press news service based on statistics issued by the United States Census Bureau.

According to the AP, Oregon ranks 35th among the 50 states in per capita state taxes. Oregon's per person state taxes total $1,610.72. The U.S. average is $1,835.27.


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