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Friday, April 02, 2004
Political Posturing

Well, the phone keeps on a-ringing. And this was the result of a plea for information by TODAY ..........

Statement of HD 8 Candidate Hart Williams to the Committee on Political Education Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation University of Oregon

Thank you for the opportunity to make a short statement.

I fundamentally grew up in and around the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming, from the age of 5 until the age of 14. I froze in their stands at football games, swam in their pool, studied at their library, saw Presidents, musicians and rodeos in their field house, and was baby-sat (baby-sitted? Baby-sited?) at the University's married housing (where I was, with my brother, once honored with a vicious haranguing by a younger, more hirsute but no less nasty Dick Cheney).

I believe that higher education is the doorway to success in our society and that it is the investment that Oregonians have held most dear since the 1840s. I live on College Hill, whose history and name attest to that tradition.

I believe that the University of Oregon is one of the most important assets that we have, and I fully appreciate the vital inter-connection between a community and a university.

I believe that Oregonians have invested their tax monies and their personal funds in the University as an investment in the future of Oregon's citizenry and strongly oppose "fiscal" schemes to shove Oregonians to the back of the line in favor of more "lucrative" out of state payees of high tuition. I do not believe that "student retention" is more important than education, and I want to see education as the top priority, not schemes and marketing gimmicks. I don't believe that students should take the "hit" of lessened tax revenues via whopping tuition hikes. If anything their tuitions need to be lowered during hard times.

To that end, we have to recognize how much of the burden of that education increasingly falls on "gradasses" and compensate them fairly. They are entitled to their union, and we should not be in an adversarial relationship with them. I am a member of the National Writers Union, AFL-CIO.

The Representative from HD8 will truly be the "voice of the Ducks" in Salem, and I am in this race, to a large extent, because I do not believe that either of my opponents are well qualified to serve the interests of the university community.

I will admit that, as a professional writer since 1976, I have been more an autodidact than a formal scholar, but I have always understood that human intelligence and skill is, in the final analysis, the ONLY commodity, and we need to value the University as our state's greatest asset.

Besides, I write much more elegant html code than either of my opponents; I do my own flash animations. I continue to read books on a regular basis, and I don't consider the Discover Channel to be the ne plus ultra of scientific information.

I append the biography from my website, in part. I would ask that you visit my website at www.hartwilliams.com/hd8 and read a bit of my blog to get a better feel for my candidacy I would look forward to negotiating the cranky parking of the campus to meet with you. Thanks.

***

Unfortunately, this wasn't enough.

A series of cookie cutter and simplistic questions were then sent on a number (seven) of complex questions, with this note:

Dear Mr. Williams,

I called the secretary at school, and she put your fax in my mailbox. I appreciate your response. Here are a few questions that I have for you. I would like to present an equal amount and quality of information on each of the House District 8 candidates to the GTFF members tomorrow. I've already asked these of your opponents. I apologize if they are already covered in the information that you faxed to me.

Frankly, I not only covered a lot of this, but when the requestors don't have so much as the simple courtesy and grace to look at what was sent (at THEIR request) I can't understand why I should be compelled to take an essay test as well. This simply places me in the position of child. Of supplicant and mendicant for a prize I never sought. I aced my SATs and I left university several novels ago.

If you like what I stand for vote for me. If you don't then don't. But you might have noted that my views and thinking -- while straight-forward and generally UN-complex -- do not fit easily into the pigeon-holes of what passes for political thought nowadays.

So, will they endorse me? And, do you think their endorsement actually means anything profound in a purely practical sense?

Interesting existential conundrums.

Writers and politicians are natural rivals. Both groups try to make the world in their own images; they fight for the same territory.
--Salman Rushdie The Observer (London, February 19, 1989

golb. golb. golb.
Thursday, April 01, 2004
"what a day, what a day for an Auto-da-Fé."

I arrive appropriately enough at the Sacred Heart Hospital's Oregon Heart Center. (I am an Oregon Hart, after all.) While I was stuck in an unanticipated jam of traffic, I have been thinking of the excuse I shall use to hoipefully excuse my tardiness. It is 5:38. I was scheduled for 5:30. I TRY to be punctual, but the world often seems to mitigate against it.

The excuse? "Eugene has a rush hour! Who KNEW!?!"

Luckily for me, I am actually over half an hour early. Another fellow in a Hawaiian shirt is waiting. It is Senator Jeff Kruse (R). He introduces himself. He pretends that he is interested, but as another politico comes out of the room, it is as I weren't there at all. The classic politician: act interested, but, really, who gives a rat's posterior WHO the heck you are? You are ONE vote. They want it, but not badly enough to put up with you.

Right?

Down that road I pray my soul never goes. But he does have a good piece of advice: I only go to some of these, he says. Many I just ignore. (Good advice. And he should know. He's been here before.)

I cool my heels. They have really good art prints on the wall at the Oregon Heart Center. There is a particularly nice rendering of a herd of horses in a field of grass. Exceptional composition. Exquisite use of color. Too bad it is so poorly and dimly lit. Most of the genius of the painting is wasted, unseen.

I am called before the Inquisitors. I have been waiting a shade over 38 minutes.

I point out that my mother is an RN and MSN. That she is "selfishly" pursuing a geriatric practice. We all laugh. I point out that, while my campaign slogan is "NO CUTS IN LINE," this is a crazy notion if applied to triagé. It is a very pleasant interview.

I ask if someone can validate my parking. They are surprised because no one else has asked, but yes, they can. I get my parking for free. They have apologized for making me wait so long, but I tell them that they are a good 12 minutes faster than SEIU, and they find this amusing, as well.

It is a very pleasant interview.

Tomorrow, I am to be interviewed by Jackman Wilson at the REGISTER-GUARD, who has been publishing my "letters to the editor" for years now without actually knowing what I look like. And I have to get someone's questionnaire back by closing time tomorrow.

Oh, and, finally, I have a meeting of the local Steering Committee of Lane County for Kerry at 7.

Busy day. But first, the tax night: 1040s and OR40s until Dawn.

Blog. Slog.

In the immortal words of a very wise writer: "I do not like them, Sam-I-Am. I do not like Green Eggs and Ham!"
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
The Reasons for my sudden Uncommunicativeness

I am inundated with questionnaires, all of which seem to be due tomorrow. We begin the round of "interviews for endorsement" tonight with the Nurses. While there is some question as to whether the "endorsement" of any group in town has ever led to a single vote being cast, this is a part of the game that no candidate can shun. Whether it has electoral value or not, these groups must be honored, and their questions answered forthrightly.

Of course, I think I'm going to forego the Oregon Family Council. I can just tell from their questions that they ain't gonna like what I have to say. They do, however, have a snazzy letterhead for a bunch of Right Wing Fanatical Types.

Tomorrow, I am to appear at the Register-Guard, the local newspaper, to be questioned. So I have been to busy filling out "My Universe in Fifty Words or Less."

Now. Must make twelve copies. Must shower and shave. Must dig up change for the Sacred Heart parking garage ... which is SPENDY!

More later.

***
Monday, March 29, 2004
The Law, Part Deux

"WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

It seems funny to me that you can cherry-pick the parts of the Constitution that you want to enforce, but the first thing they tell you when you get to law school is: This isn't about justice. It's about the LAW. If you're concerned with justice, KEED, get out of here, because you won't find it. The law …".

And then Professor Kingsfield proceeds to terrorize the class. I've heard the same story from every friend of mine who ever became a lawyer, and that's the reason that I veered away from pre-law in college in favor of writing. Writing, at least, was about Justice. (And, perhaps, even Truth, which is another unpopular conception amongst the barrister class.)

The funny part? Well, I never thought that the preamble was a meaningless piece of window dressing. Nope. You notice is says "establish Justice"? I have a sneaking feeling that's exactly what was meant. But then again: I'm not a lawyer. Still, it seems to me that we've put entirely too much of our faith in words. We KNOW that words only communicate a portion of the truth. We tend to forget that the map is NOT the territory. The story about the burglary -- the map -- is NOT the burglary. But entirely too often, the map of the Law is used in exact opposition to the Territory of Justice.

Oh, law isn't about Justice? I beg to differ. When justice ceases to be the basis of law, and when justice is openly sneered at by Law School Professors, and by smarty pants lawyers, again, something is broken.

We have forgotten what it means to be a "lawful" society.

Let me tell you a little story. Once upon a time, my mentor, the science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon -- whom you might know either via his "alter-ego" of Kilgore Trout admittedly the model for Trout, according to Kurt Vonnegut , or for his creation of the phrase "Live Long and Prosper" in STAR TREK -- told me a story that his mother, Felix used to tell him. Felix wasn't actually her name. The creator of Felix the Cat, Otto Messmer, was a friend of hers: HE nicknamed her Felix, and the nickname stuck. Even her sons knew her as Felix. So, Felix used to tell how on old Staten Island, where Ted was born, they used to put out signs that said: "Please don't walk on the grass," or even just "Please."

And people would acquiesce and politely refrain from walking on the grass.

But, Felix told her son, when Prohibition came in, people became enraged. Not just at the Prohibition law. At ALL laws, and she started seeing people going out of their way to walk on the grass, even though the grass didn't have ANYTHING to do with the Prohibition law!

That always impressed Ted, and, in turn, his story impressed me. Years later, I learned that this wasn't a new story. Lao Tzu said the same thing a few thousand years ago: "Make a few laws and people will be lawful. Make too many laws, and no one will obey any of them."

Well, that's what I have seen.

Or let me tell you another story: I grew up in Wyoming and New Mexico, and both were pretty open in terms of their laws. There weren't all TOO many volumes of law, and personal responsibility was considered to be a big part of being an adult, so when I first got to Massachusetts in 1974, or California in 1976, there was a huge "sticker shock" at the profusion of laws!

I mean there was a law about EVERYTHING! I spent years fuming that there were so many laws and rules and regulations until one day I realized "Hart! You dummy! You're just about the only person you know who actually tries to obey them all!"

And, I had to admit, I was right.

Nobody paid any attention to the laws at all. There was a certain "lip service" paid to them, but the vast majority of laws were just ignored. It was only later that I learned about Lao Tzu, and about Felix' "Please" signs.

We still need to establish justice.

The problem is, the way the laws seem to be written and administered is mostly a code of giving different people cuts in line. And it is this overwhelming sense of unfairness that has created the misperception that we are in an eternally antagonistic relationship with our government. We SHOULD be our government. That's the way it's written.

But that's not at all the way it's practiced.

(more to come)
hart williams
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