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margin call
lawyers cash in; you can too
by tom scarpelli

Publisher's Note: I SWORE up and down I wasn't running an election piece -joe

The greatest and biggest multiple choice test is upon us. It has only one question and about 500 answers, give or take a dimple.

What number is going to represent the winning margin in Florida?

Al Gore started this year as the Defending Democratic Hopeful, and the election was his to lose, which he probably did by allowing himself to exhale too loudly. George Bush did his telltale exhale years ago when he was stopped for drunk driving and no one seemed to care much. Which just proves being a blowhard in prime-time TV is much more damaging than failing a breathalyzer a couple of decades ago. It's not who you blow; it's when you blow.

This election is the first one with its own thermometer. George Bush is up, George Bush is down. Al Gore is hot, Al Gore has cooled down. The West Palm Beach voters are frozen out.

Qualified voters, more than one hundred million of us, are being asked to select the MAGICAL MARGIN OF VICTORY number in the state of Florida. The capital letters belong to me, a reminder to emphasize the weightiness of the decision.

There is, after all, nothing lowercase about a big lotto win.

I know how serious this is. Millions of dollars are riding on a random number. Online gambling sites and Las Vegas are deluged with speculations on the final tally. It figures that in an era where we must define "is," we also have to define "final." There's the election night final; the machine recount final; the hand recount final; and the as-yet-to-be-determined final. A side bet is the final number of recounts, but let's not get carried away here.

In theory, any number can win, but, of course, in theory, Jim Carrey as "The Grinch" could win an Oscar. This adds up to about 500 candidates. The way I make my decision is to start there and work backwards, because in chads I trust.

Once I exclude the high end, I lop off the bottom end too, because I have great faith in the manipulation-by-mob mentality of the GOP. I am now at a manageable number. I then begin attacking the problem along traditional lines. I didn't get to be a qualified voter by not paying attention to trends.

I resist picking numbers in the 700-1000 range because I don't think the lawyers on either side are going to allow a landslide of that proportion. Conversely, a Bush victory of less than 100 votes could send the Democratic, guilt-ridden, ballot bumbling, predominantly Jewish nanas of Palm Beach County leaping from their ground floor windows in a Masada-style death swoon.

So, how do we derive a number?

I eliminated all the scientific data, recounting, lawsuits, pending lawsuits, pundits' predictions, and I was laughing over the sight of ballot inspecting, googly-eyed Republican Judge Robert Rosenberg, when it hit me; the number 131.

Why 131, you ask? Because Judge Rosenberg's bulging eyeballs reminded me of Mr. Enkowitz.

Mr. Enkowitz was the Special Education teacher at the junior high school I went to. In the very unpolitically correct days of the mid 1960s, we usually referred to Mr. Enkowitz's students as "retards," and that was probably the most polite term. His kids were decidedly out of touch, and out of step with the rest of the school. We laughed at the antics in that room, and never understood what the hell they were up to. Mr. Enkowitz's kids were to our school what Florida is to the nation today - - an oddity that we wish would go away but won't, so we deal with it. The point of this trip down Memory Lane is that Mr. Enkowitz's class was held in room 131.

Of course, 131 just also happens to be the number of prisoners executed in Texas during W's watch as warde.... I mean, as governor. But that's just a very interesting coincidence.

There you have it. My pick is 131. All I care about is the number, because actual, personal, live examination of candidates is not necessary. This I learned a long time ago to be a tradition carried over from electing municipal judges in Cook County.


more about tom scarpelli


hunnerd and still counting
i can't wait for the all-star break - - gwb
by tom scarpelli
topic: humor
published: 12.30.99

hunnerd and counting
gwb: prioritizating is my priority.
by tom scarpelli
topic: humor
published: 12.30.99


jeffrey walker
12.1.00 @ 9:57a

I am offended by the insinuation of Republicans acting as a "mob" in Miami. Americans are given the right to assembly… it’s right there in the first amendment. Republicans saw a “hand count” process, which is a highly subjective way to interpret a ballot, being taken from an open room with representatives from both sides into a back room where only the election board of all democrats could decide what the ballots said.

Even agreeing that a mob = manipulation, which would YOU consider more manipulative: A group of demonstrators, or a huge political organization that says in public, “we want a fair recount,” but threaten you with a lawsuit if you don’t decide the way they want? You can always call the police who are more than happy to yank out their tear-gas and billy-clubs to break up a mob. But in this country, when you are sued, you MUST hire counsel and go to court for as long as the plaintiff wants to drag you there OR as long as it takes to run out of appellate level courts

jeffrey walker
12.1.00 @ 9:58a

(continued from above)

to go to (which can take years). A defendant in this country has NO POWER to end a lawsuit until the plaintiff wants to. You could rack up thousands in legal fees, and hundreds of hours in court only to learn that your position was correct all along, and have NO WAY to recover your lost time or money. And to date, the Democrats have not only threatened a MUCH greater number of lawsuits, but filed a higher number as well. Who’s the real manipulator?

adam kraemer
12.5.00 @ 9:28a

The brother of the Republican candidate, who also happens to be the Governor of the state in question. It seems a little too convenient to me....

jeffrey walker
12.5.00 @ 11:09a

Convenient? If his brother can win the state as governor, where is the surprise that the other brother would , too, carry the state?

tim lockwood
12.5.00 @ 11:37p

See? I TOLD youse guys, but none of you would listen. You should have voted for Leslie Nielsen. Now look at the mess we're in. No matter who wins, we'll wind up with a President that half the country can't stand because of his behavior during this debacle, among other reasons.

I'm curious what it would take to get a "do-over" on this election. Let's just all admit we were wrong about these guys and start over fresh, whattya say?

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