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Thursday, December 15, 2005

First, some blatant propaganda from the Associated Press:
Iraqis Turn Out to Vote in Large Numbers
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraqis voted Thursday in one of the largest and freest elections in the Arab world, with strong turnout reported in Sunni areas and even a shortage of ...
That isn't news, kiddies. That's Soviet-style propaganda. It props up a discredited "patriotic" war rationale, and blatantly slants a straight news item: that the third vote this year took place in Iraq. This time, putatively, for an Iraqi Parliament. We don't know the results. We don't know if the Parliament will ever exist, and we certainly don't know that it's "one of the largest and freest elections in the Arab world" -- which is language usually reserved for supermarket and auto dealer ads: "one of the largest selections of RVs in the Pacific Northwest," or "one of the largest and most varied selections of flowers in the Greater San Diego area," or "one of the largest and safest condoms, according to Consumer Reports."

Just remember, THIS article will be reprinted on the front page of countless papers around the US, from sea to shining sea, in cities great and small. For those of us who grew up listening to the crowing about OUR freedom, and Soviet censorship (and now Chinese repression) this is just plain embarrassing. What a sad, shameful day for our country that this kind of crap passes not only as news, but is in virtually every newspaper in the land.

That's AD copy, not AP copy.

What "liberal media"? Where? The rumors of its non-demise have been greatly exaggerated.

I received mail from Nancy Stapp last Friday on a blog issue that cropped up on the radio show. Refer back to the Monday, December 5 blog for details on what the listener is addressing. Nancy forwarded this to me, since, evidently, the correspondent didn't see the "contact me" link on the sidebar of my blog, but instead clicked on the "posted by Harto" link, which doesn't do anything because I don't do "comments" and trackbacks. (It's hard to keep us these days)
Thought you might want to respond to this.

-----Original Message-----
From: [Name and Address Withheld]
Sent: Friday, December 09, 2005 10:04 AM
To: Nancy Stapp
Subject: Harts Blog

Hi Nancy,

I read Hart's blog, like he asked me to do. I wanted to e-mail a response, but could not find a contact link on his site.
On the sidebar at the right, there is a clickable link that says: "Contact me."

So for now I will just give a quick response of what I thought, to you. I noticed he refereed to my letter, but did not succeed in putting it down. He made a snide comment about me not understanding how government works, but did not give any evidence that showed why.
The "snide" comment was, precisely:

STAPP: Well, the mailbag, I just wanted to get to that. Terry Robinson wrote me this week, said "I'm getting very frustrated with the way the Mayor [Kitty Piercy] is getting ripped for her vote on the parkway project. I'm not talking about people who voted for the project and are critical of her vote. I'm talking about people who claim to be against the project but think she should have just adhered to her vote. Or their vote. Uh, if our city council is just there to carry out the will of the majority votes, why do we need them at all?"

NOTE: Guess who she's talking about? And consider the absurdity of this argument: Evidently, if the City Council wants to overturn an advisory vote that THEY THEMSELVES put on the ballot, they should do this because we elected them, and if we don't give in to their "superior" wisdom, we must dissolve representative government, and vote on ALL bills, laws, ordinances, etcetera that would normally be handled by any representative. Not only is this impossible, but it reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of the electoral and representative process, begs the question, and presents an impossibility as a viable alternative. (We would spend our entire lives just voting.)
As to whether the comment was snide and I was being insulting, it was not my intention to so do. But the point that it is a logical absurdity, and, therefore a fundamental MISunderstanding of representative democracy is not belittling; it is a purely rational conclusion. Were the concepts of the popular vote on issues, and legislation through representative bodies mutually exclusive (i.e. one could not exist in the presence of the other) then we have never voted on a ballot initiative. This is logically preposterous. We know that we have.

Moreover, history informs us that one hundred and one years ago, in 1904, the Ballot Initiative process was first enacted in the United States (as a reform measure in Oregon), to have a way of expressing the will of the people over the objections or stonewalling of the legislature. This was enacted to add a check on the power of the government, and whether it has been successful or not, nearly every state in the union has a similar law.

So, it CANNOT be that if an initiative, (or, as in this case, a REFERENDUM, or what do the people want?) is voted on, legislative functions, e.g. the City Council would have to be dissolved.

Let's presume that what the letter writer states IS, in fact, true, then city budgets would be approved, zoning variances, takings of property, sale of property, rotation of city assets, union contracts, regulations on the number of dogs one could own, and a plethora of similar minutiae would always require a vote of the people. These votes would, in many cases, require a very short time line, as in, say the contract between the city and the Firefighters' Union, which would mean at least, say, a vote a week.

Interesting idea. But certainly not our present system in any wise, and a little sober reflection might well conclude that should the expressed will of the people through their policy statement: Yes, we want to do this, would not necessarily be in conflict with their choice of City Council members that we have chosen to carry out the minutiae of carrying out that statement, yes, we want to do this. But, soft ...
He never did answer the question of why we need the representatives if they were just there to be a rubberstamp and vote however they were told to vote by the public.
Yes. The writer is entirely correct. Let me correct that: I do not accept the proposition that what a representative does is "rubber stamp" the vote of the public. Technically, they serve the public, as expressed via the vote, both through initiatives/referenda, and via their own election. In other words, if they DON'T represent the public, then they are voted out of office.

But there is a strange standard held up here: if the representatives "rubber stamp" the voters' intentions, why is that NOT doing their job? And if the representatives oppose the voters' intentions, how can that be "representing"? As stated, the proposition is self-contradictory and anti-tautological -- if the term exists. If not, it ought to.

I thought his comparison to the stolen election was way off base.

Arguing with an analogy is fundamentally a matter of value-judgment. You
either accept the analogy or you do not. Argument by analogy is fundamentally
inductive reasoning, not deductive reasoning. So, for that matter, is
government. Here is the comparison in question (by me):
The issue of overturning the election, and the anger of many voters just disappeared. We're RE-debating the issue, and Corcoran masterfully IGNORES the 2001 election to talk about the election twenty years earlier. This is the common tactic to cast both elections into disrepute, even though, as my friend Mac points out, people weren't parsing every jot and tittle: they were voting FOR or AGAINST a West Eugene Parkway. The ISSUE of what happened to those votes is conveniently ignored. Compare this to the Republican response to the phony election results in Florida in 2000. Either we stand for principle, or else we accept LACK of principle by BOTH parties (or, in this case, the "Yes" and "No" voters on the issue). The RESULTS of the election are discarded in favor of general griping about the ISSUES of an election that Corcoran doesn't, by his own admission, "know enough about the details of the two votes." Compare Corcoran's rhetorical flight of fancy with this quote: "This is a film that doesn't require us to actually view it to know that it's filled with factual inaccuracies." -- White House Spokesman Dan Bartlett on "Fahrenheit 9/11"
Our correspondent continues:
The city council did not deny the vote count. They were asked to vote on an issue and they voted their hearts and minds. Hart seems to believe they do not have the right to vote their hearts and minds if the people have voted on an issue. That would be undemocratic.

If he does not like the fact that issues can be reopened by the city council, then my suggestion would be to create an initiative that makes it illegal for the council to take a vote on an issue that has already been endorsed by the voters. I personally think that would be a land planning disaster, but he could probably get it done, if I know Eugene voters.
Now, who's being snide? But, again, this begs the question. If, as I suggest, votes are routinely held, and the results ignored if the "representatives" who scheduled the vote aren't happy with them, it would be logically absurd for me to try and put an initiative on the ballot.

Let's call it "Measure X"

On the other hand, if, as our letter writer suggests, the results of initiatives that don't fit the "hearts and minds" of the representatives, my "Measure X" would be guaranteed of an overturning.

Hmmm. This is a lose/lose for me: heads they win, tails I lose. Which is precisely what I've been saying all along.

Three of the Eugene Councilors who were on that City Council when the referendum was placed on the ballot in 2001 are still there. All three were opposed to the question, but in favor of referring it, thinking possibly that a "no" vote would nail the coffin door shut on the WEP question.

The vote was held. The vote was "yes." NONE of the three representatives who voted "NO" before have changed their minds as a result of the referendum that THEY asked for. Setting aside for a moment the monumental insult this represents to EVERY citizen who campaigned, contributed, phoned, walked, leafleted, organized, debated, etc. etc. -- because it says: "What you did doesn't matter as much as my opinion" -- setting that aside for a moment, then how is that NOT "Heads I win, tails you lose"? And that creates a dishonest system that surely does not represent me.

Nowhere is it written in the Bible of Democracy that the "Will of the People" must be wise ... or even smart, for that matter. They have a right to be dumb -- as much because I fear the "brilliance" of wise tyrants, as I subscribe to the old saw "vox populi, vox dei." History is stupid, and, should you feel that the referendum was "Dumb," well, that's still not a valid reason for ignoring the RESOLUTION of the debate, as expressed via vote.

Surely this principle has its bedrock in Athenian soil.
What Hart seems to forget is our constitution also protects the minority, so that they are not exploited by the majority.
I fail to see how this argument can possibly apply to the question of a road being built through a swamp -- which is what is at issue here. What minority is being exploited by the majority here? The "people who don't want to build the road" minority, or some distinct ethno/religious/racial minority? To the best of my reading, this argument is a non sequitur, or, translated, "it does not apply."

That is why we have several local districts and individual representatives for those districts. An interesting experiment would be, to have each district vote on the issue of the parkway and then see how the majority of districts vote.
But we've already established that, should the outcome of such votes go against the "wisdom" of our "representatives" that they should overturn said votes. What would be the point? And wouldn't several more elections play into the "no WEP" camp to deny the prior two votes? What about the exploitation of the majority? Don't they have any rights?

I've an alternative proposal: let's vote on WEP one more time. That will make three votes on the issue, and best two out of three wins. That's fair.

Or, at least, as fair as the prologue has been.

You would most likely see that we would be in a tie and that the Mayor would have to break that tie. And low and behold the majority of voters picked a progressive mayor that was always against the parkway.


[Name and Address Withheld]
I do not agree that the voters who chose Kitty Piercy were "low" in any way. In fact, I was one of them. But we mischaracterize the situation when we suggest that Kitty did other than break a tie -- which is all that a mayor CAN do. Otherwise, the mayor doesn't even get to vote. The real issue is the divided city council.

The key issue here, really, is the honor and integrity of the "representatives." Since the referendum was an "advisory" vote, a "non-binding" vote, the crux of the issue lies not in debating or re-debating the issues of the vote, but in whether the representatives who called for the vote will honor the results of the vote. I suppose one could reasonably discern what the honor quotient of the three "NO" councilors from that City Council, still serving, is, with regard to the vote for which they now bear as much or as little responsibility for as they choose to bear.

It is not the issue that I am divided on or passionate about, rather, it is the process by which the issue remains unresolved following the implicit promise, in 2001, that we would resolve the issue via our vote. The issue is not whether a road is built or not built -- the issue is the validity of the vote itself, and, whether it is fraud in Florida, tricked-up voting machines, or the grand Oregon tradition of "you vote until we win," undermining the vote undermines ALL that self-rule might do.

And that, I would submit, is a far more serious issue than whether or not somebody builds a road through a swamp.

I hope that you appreciate that I am not trying to belittle you, correspondent, but, rather am trying to explain in more detail what I am talking about that you either feel was not explained well enough, or why our opinions differ. I think it is your right to disagree with me, and don't have a problem with disagreements.

After all, the ability of "reasonable [persons] can disagree reasonably" is the bedrock of OUR representative democracy.

I rather hope that our representative democracy were healthier. Mutual respect is a big part of that, and I respect your disagreement, even as I respectfully disagree.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

9:11 AM. There was no blog yesterday. I spent the day answering some complex email regarding pressing ontological and epistemological questions. And here I was going to complete the "A Oregon Driver License" odyssey. Or, at least the tale.

I called the nice lady at DMV information, and, surprise of surprises, a real, honest-to-gosh human being answered with relative dispatch. She suggested that I needed to return to the DMV to get the "B" (corrective lenses, i.e. glasses) restriction off my license. I knew that there was already an error: I was asked my weight. Saw the DMV clerk type it in. The weight on the strange License was the weight from four years ago.

"There is no charge," the DMV Info Lady said, "Except for your time."


Went down. The lady who'd administered the test in the morning didn't recall. I suggested that we just retake the test. We did that. I passed with flying colors, but, to be sure, I asked explicitly, "Did I pass?"


I am instructed NOT to take a number (they do the deli thing, even to the LED "Now Serving" signs in several locations. One is burned out, evidently). I am instructed to simply go to the next available clerk. I stand near the front of the line.

A gentlemen about 62-years old who, were you requested to guess what kind of vehicle he was driving, would instantly evoke a not-new/not-old pickup truck, probably used for his work, gruffly inquires, "You standing in line?"

I paraphrase my instructions. He says nothing, but, in typical Oregon fashion, he's secretly fuming. When someone comes open down the file, he scuttles at full speed, to make sure I didn't cut into HIS place in line.

The next clerk comes available right in front of me, everyone apologizes, they are very nice. The "B" is removed, and a new, and less horrific "A Oregon Driver License" photo is now taken. I am even offered a look at the "proof" on the computer screen, and asked if I would like to take another shot.

Nope. My photo is just exactly perfectly weird. I am captured in a strange rictus of a smile, vaguely bewildered, but seemingly harmless. It is exactly the sort of photo that you'd like a paranoid State Trooper to look at three A.M. on a foggy interstate, and laugh.

Which is what's important about that picture. The rest doesn't matter. Mission Accomplished. I toodle down to CD World and treat myself to an old AC/DC remaster on CD, some vintage R.E.M. that I'd been neglecting and a sound effects CD. The balm of music is applied with birthday money after the birthday torture by the bureaucracy has reaffirmed my driving "privilege" for the next eight years, and confirmed that I can see just fine.

But that isn't what I wanted to talk about.

No. Today, they're having the third election in Iraq since January. Only a cynic would speculate cynically that we've killed a couple of thousand of our kids, and from 30,000 to over 100,000 Iraqis so that we could finally resolve the eight-year Iran/Iraq War -- when we supported Saddam to get "even" with the Iranian Revolutionaries who'd humiliated us by taking our embassy staff hostage, and negotiated with then-candidate Reagan to NOT release them until AFTER the 1980 election, and then we'd secretly sell them parts for all their U.S.-made fighter jets, which is what happened.

Now, with the Shia majority taking over the country (thus, making Iran AND Iraq the only Shia majority countries in all of Islam) we've won the war for the Iranians, and managed to consistently aid and abet the Iranian Revolution for twenty-five solid years, even while we've shot ourselves in the foot again and again trying to "get even" with the Iranians. With enemies like this, the Iranians might say, who needs friends?

And, because of our fragmentation of the world community, the Iranians can ignore NATO and UN demands that they allow inspectors and/or stop enriching uranium. In other words, on the side, in all of this, we're making sure that they can get their very own atomic bombs! How could the U.S. do any more to assist Iran? And isn't it absolutely strange and rabbit-hole that the Republicans Reagan, Bush and Bush, have consistently screamed about the Iranians and consistently HELPED them -- whether by design (as in Iran/Contra) or by sheerest blunder (as in ... right now)?

As I said: only a cynic would say such things, and I am an optimistic lad of a mere half-century's growth (for a tree, I'm barely past sapling), so I would never suggest such monstrous behavior. I'm just saying that a CYNIC might say that. (And I would be the first starry-eyed optimist in line to screech that I was offended by the cynic's cynical cynicism, let me tell you. Yes indeedy-do.)

No, instead, let me fill the Iraqi people with optimism, and tell them what we, in the legendarily democratic and progressive state of Oregon do, so that they can really have an American-style democracy.

First of all, as quick as you Iraqis can, vote by mail. This will raise their participation percentages (the more people vote, the more "legitimate" the election can be claimed to be, unless, of course, it goes the wrong way).

More importantly, this will avoid the drama of election night, and the gathering of candidates and their supporters to "watch the election returns." The hospitality industry might complain, of course, but, really, this whole dramatizing of elections, the bonding involved in sitting with people you've campaigned with, watching a white-knuckle election as the contest see-saws into the wee hours of the morning -- well, it's just overrated. It makes people think that self-governance is something special or precious, and, really, what's important is that we take democracy for granted. It shouldn't compete with other dramas, like football games and college basketball. Just vote, slap a stamp on it, and be done with it. The next morning, the results will be in the paper, arriving in one solid glop: Hasseini 14,020, Ali 12,256.

Isn't that easier on the system than watching the so-called "will of the people" in some dry, see-saw numbers contest? You will only detract from the popularity of Iraqi Power Ball. Not a good revenue enhancement move.

That's the first thing.

Second, you Iraqis need to develop a class of political professionals to run campaigns. This guarantees that the "issues" will be meaningful, since, as every good political professional knows, you poll the prospective voters, find out what they think is important, and then sell it back to them. Hire slick production firms to produce slicker TV commercials that have very little to do with making rational appeals: go straight for the reptile brain. Show the opposition candidate shaking Saddam Hussein's hand ten years ago. And blare endless, dumb radio ads full of brave production music, because all candidates sound better with "Iraq the Beautiful" playing in the background.

If they're really professional, they'll be folks like Karl Rove, James Carville, or the West Coast's own (and Lane County's favorite) political consultant, Michael Grossman of Seattle (and Phoenix). But, whatever you do, make sure that these faceless political technicians run the actual campaigns. Remember, amorality is the order of the day, and you need someone who isn't bothered by trivialities like morality and ethics. Save those for the speechifying. You want to hire someone who only cares about winning, any way they can.

Oh, and while we're on the subject, don't have your candidates actually meet with the people. Hold "voter forums" that no one attends, and stage "events" that end as soon as the TV cameras leave. The rule of American politics, that you Iraqis need to understand is, if it doesn't happen in the media, it never happened.

Now, I know what you're thinking: How can we afford all these expensive political consultants, polls, TV and radio ads, and mailings, brochures, etc.?

At first, you'd think that you might get political contributions from the voters in your district. You know, as the U.S. Supreme Court -- a paragon of rectitude and integrity in electoral issues -- has ruled, money is speech, so you have the voters and their money competing in the district to sway the vote.

It's a comforting idea, but, really, it is entirely passe. To save you years of trial and error, you should adopt our Oregon system (popular in many states): Make sure that over 93% of the money in the race comes from corporate and union political action committees, or other special interests like, Indian tribes with gaming interests -- like the Tribes of the Grand Ronde, who regularly contribute $1000 to all the "serious" candidates in Lane County races, or a waste management company in Houston, Texas, who are also dependable contributors 'round these parts.

And, if you're REALLY smart, like my own State Representative, get most of your cash from out of state entirely. This makes you a more "universal" candidate, and keeps local prejudices out of the race. You should find, as he did in the last primary race, that the eventual vote will almost EXACTLY mirror the amount of money spent by each candidate.

Money equals votes, not speech. You need to understand that. What really works great is for your party's leadership to collect the lion's share of all contributions and then to distribute it to candidates that they have recruited, or who will owe them allegiance in the next parliamentary session. This way, you'll be on the same page with party leadership, and can focus on non-issues and advertising. Because what's really important is getting elected, no matter what it takes to do it.

It's also really great for the large contributors, since the party leadership can just take their money, and distribute it as necessary, with the implicit promise that their interests will be protected by all the candidates that it eventually flows to, guaranteed by the party leadership. This is known in the USA as "economies of scale," and by cutting down the costs of locating and contributing to like-minded candidates, there's more money for everybody.

And who wouldn't like that?

I know you Iraqis are thinking: But this is what Darius and Xerxes and a whole long line of Middle Eastern potentates did, assuring their political power with bribes to local chieftains and satraps, but, really, you need to understand that this is NOT bribery. It's the people speaking. It avoids the narrow parochialism of a representative from some district being upset, say, that a nuclear waste treatment facility is being sited in his or her city (I doubt that after Sharia Law is adopted you'll have to worry about women representatives, of course). The leadership and the rank-and-file will already be on the same page when parliament begins, and everything will work better that way. Just ask Tom DeLay or our own Peter Courtney.
This way, if you need to kill a popular bill on, say, gun control, just call one of the representatives you distributed all the PAC money to (don't call it money laundering, it's perfectly legal!) and tell them to fall on their sword. It works really well here, and I'm sure it will do well in Iraq.

This also allows you to concentrate your fundraising to various "star" events, instead of small, traditional Arab local picnics, ice cream socials and weenie roasts.

It's also a good idea to make the "high profile" races -- here it would be, say, mayor and governor -- races that elect an official without much actual clout. This diverts attention from the real business of government, which is done by boards appointed to reward campaign contributors and others to which the winning candidate is indebted.

You will soon learn, as we have, that people aren't interested in the real power grabs and political maneuvering. They just need a face to go on their political dartboard.

Think of them as "spokesmodels."

Give them pleasant faces (also good for the TV ads) and remember that, finally, Washington, D.C. and Salem, Oregon (our state capitol) are ultimately Hollywood for ugly people.

Politics is a unique opportunity for people who can't get into the movies or on TV to be adored by the public, and, face it: who doesn't want to be on TV? Even Osama bin Laden loves his "face time" on Aljazeera. Remember: given the tremendous number of ugly people in the world, you'll always have a large and compliant ready pool of well-off (who can finance their own campaigns) likely candidates. Think of it not as "politics," but as a pageant. I'm sure that just a few years' experience will bring you to see the wisdom of this practice.

And be sure to support the cheapest print shops, in other parts of the country over local merchants and vendors. This keeps down the price of campaigns, and that's better for everybody. But make SURE that you get a few local suckers to give you small contributions so that everyone thinks that they're "participating" in the election.

And that brings me to one of the most important parts of Oregon Democracy that you should take to heart: for the actual election, ignore the local party leaders, and bring in some minimum-wage college kids (from other districts and states, preferably) to run the overall campaign offices, and yell at volunteers. The process of electing representatives is far too important to leave it in the hands of locals. But if you're smart, pay lip service to the local political party hierarchies, and even attend a meeting or two.

Our own experience is instructive. In the three presidential elections since 1996, the "Coordinated Campaign" directors only attended local meetings in the 2004 cycle. Usually they'd speak at the beginning of the meeting and leave immediately. This is useful for recruiting, and, face it, they have much more important stuff to do than attend political party meetings. Use them for volunteers, but ignore their organization.

If you want to schedule any candidate "debates" make sure that they're carried on local TV or radio stations that no one watches, and for goodness sakes, don't let any actual debating take place. The best way to do this is with a "moderator" who is a local TV or radio host, who can ask insipid questions that allow the candidates to speak in flowery nothings. No matter what you do, though, make SURE that actual and substantive debate on the issues never takes place. Break often. Change subjects frequently.

And never let anyone speak longer than what it takes to come up with a decent sound bite. It's not important that the voters know what the thinking on the issues is. If you've done your job properly (or your political professional has), people aren't going to be swayed from their positions. They should have already been boiled down to bumper-sticker phrases (or, in your case, donkey-cart banners). Elections aren't about creating consensus; they are about winning buzz-word snowball fights.

Which reminds me: don't allow firearms (especially AK-47s) at political rallies. A bunch of people shooting off guns into the air is very distracting. And, hiring screeners and magnetic gates from Halliburton or one of our other fine contractors is a good way of employing some locals. This is good PR for your campaign.

I'm sure there's a lot more. But these little hints from Oregon should get you well on the way to becoming a state-of-the-art democracy.

And if you don't have any political consultants trained up, I'm sure that you can hire some of ours. We've successfully sent campaign pros to Russia, Israel, and others, even Great Britain, whom some of you older Iraqis might remember from the last occupation of your country.

Anyway, if you Iraqis need any more advice on turning your country into a state-of-the-art democracy like Oregon, I'll be here to answer your questions. I'm always happy to assist fledgling democracies in their rocky ascent into the heights of democratic process that we enjoy here in Oregon.

Good luck, and, of course, give our regards to Iran.

Monday, December 12, 2005

"Skiing Uphill" is back from hiatus.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. (As is every day, come to think of it, but high school idealists seem to find deep significance in this rhetorical tripe, so I offer it in lieu of deep thoughts and/or inadvertent profundities).

Evidently, the half-century mark requires certain bureaucratic procedures be followed, and I spent a happy morning renewing my drivers license (or, as the Oregon Department of Transportation so charmingly puts it: "Renewing A Oregon Driver License.") With grammatical skills like that, what else could one expect but what happened?

They put down the wrong weight, and added a "B" restriction (corrective lenses) after I'd passed the vision test. Go figure. Now, at no cost to me -- "other than your time" as the nice lady at DMV Information put it -- I get to go back and try to correct the bureaucratic mistake, knowing full well Claussen's First Law of Bureaucracy: "If an error is made, every member of the bureaucracy to the highest level will defend that error with all the vim and vigor available." (See ADAM Magazine, July 1979 for details.)

And license renewal is now $34.50. (But they renew until 2013). Aargh.

Now, with batteries recharged, we can wade into the moral morass that is Bush World.

True to form, when the brown stuff started hitting the rotating blades, Bush's first instinct was to flee. And so he did, traipsing to China and Japan to come back empty-handed with lovely photographs of his attempt to open a locked door that he wasn't supposed to exit through.

How apt a metaphor for this maladministration.

And then, true to form, he attempted -- with astonishingly inept results -- to "grab the spotlight" by giving a series of morning speeches (unusual for any president: "major addresses" are invariably scheduled for evening prime time), to attempt to hijack the news back to himself.

These speeches have been notable for their lack of facts (and at least one prominent lie), their repetition of previously-bited sound, and for what has become the Dubya approach to governance: when in doubt, campaign, campaign, campaign. (No actual governance actually forthcoming.)

It is clear that Bush misunderstood Teddy Roosevelt's dictum that one should use the "bully pulpit" of the presidency to call for change. He interprets it, instead, as a "bully" occupying a "pulpit," (from which he inevitably "blesses us") and that, he certainly has been. We have been subjected to exactly five years of hijacked government and non-representative non-democracy, now, and, on December 12, 2005, we have toiled under the merciless verdict of a corrupt Supreme Court since. Rehnquist is rightly dead albeit, alas, not via state execution. O'Connor would like to retire, and we'd like her to, too.

(In her case, however, to sleep, perchance to dream invites a nightmare named "Alito" -- after a failed insult named Miers withdrew her presumptious name from the hubris contest.)

And for five years (and more, if you consider the first campaign) we have been subjected to the verbal abuse of the non-cowboy from the non-ranch in Crawford, Texas. We have been lied to, manipulated, conned, flim-flammed, browbeaten, attacked (ask Joe Wilson -- and his wife, Valerie, whose resignation from the CIA became effectove over the weekend), maligned, distorted and absurdly "blessed" by this bully from his phony pulpit.

We have been shown visions of atom bombs and chemical warfare, we have been terrorized (yes, that is the word) in the name of maladministration policy, and to move polling, and the bully's pulpit is just about out of credibility.

In this, his latest repetition of the formula that allowed him to usurp the presidency, Dubya has hit new lows, but, conversely, new heights of zany hilarity and wacky frivolity.

The sleeping and somnambulant midshipmen at the Naval Academy were a laugh riot, of course, as was the vile and pernicious sign advertising Dubya's latest flight of rhetorical folly, "PLAN FOR VICTORY" was SUPERIMPOSED over the Naval Academy's coat of arms. Next to it, of course, WAS the Naval Academy's coat of arms, and I am frankly amazed that NO ONE in this purblind journalistic community was shrieking at the top of their lungs: How DARE he arrogate the Naval Academy's seal as a McDonald's Crapburger wrapper?

I mean, I hate to say this, but all those brave Naval personnel didn't die in all those wars, horribly mangled, drowned, eaten by sharks, so that the little prick from Midland, Texas could print up the symbols of their honor and dedication on his personal toilet paper and wipe his ass with it.

Here's a flash (from CNN radio) The Merriam-Webster Dictionary people report that the "Word of the Year" this year -- most requests -- was "integrity."

If that is true, and isn't distorted by, say, a huge illiterate population that isn't being counted, Dubya is in real trouble. His approach to governance cannot long survive anywhere that the definition of "integrity" is well-known (and the quality appreciated as positive).

I can tell you this much: not one of those hits came from the Usurper's computers. It's not because he wouldn't know the definition (he wouldn't), but, rather, that he doesn't CARE, because the concept is of no practical value to him, and the definition, therefore, would cut into his coloring book time. But that's not the funniest irony on the chopping block right now.

The funniest, of course, was last week, when, in a rewind of his "greatest Iraqi hits" we were presented with dusty old catch-phrases signifying nothing -- but filled with appropriate sound and fury in the morning, only to be shoved entirely OUT of the news cycle he was attempting to suborn by what increasingly appears to be the senseless shooting of an unarmed passenger on a Miami airliner. By prime news time, the "major speech" wasn't even registering on Google's top story news page.

Attempting to control the "spin" cycle with an early morning trump card -- a 'major' presidential speech -- he managed to get flung, via sheer centrifugal force, right out of the laundry room. (Not the "laundering room" please note, that's the Republican Congressional Leadership's baliwick -- More like the room that all the brainwashing activity goes on in.)

And now, today, we are forced to endure another round of commentators without comment commenting on the unremarkable remarks of a remarkable idiot's unremorseful speechwriting hacks. Here's a taste:

"Victory" is mentioned 6 times, 2 in one sentence.

"9/11" and "September 11" are mentioned 5 times, with the first invocation coming in the second turgid paragraph of the relentlessly turgid and vaguely bombastic oratoricality from our Word-Mangler-In-Chief.

"terrorist" and/or "terror" are mentioned 45 times.

"Saddam" and Dubya's newly-coined cleverousity "Saddamists" warrant 22 mentions.

You get the feeling that the eternal junior-high-schooler in Bush, the Beavis and Butthead Bush giggles inwardly every time he says "Saddamist," hoping perhaps that future historians will confuse his opposition to "Saddamy" with his opposition to "Sodomy."

I know a lot of folks who'd like to sodomize him, frankly, and not in the friendly manner he's so adamantly opposed to.

Face it: Bush is a bully, pure and simple. The subtle dynamics of this maladministration are precisely the same bruising characteristics that drove most of the press corps to the sanctuary of high school newspapers and away from black eyes and crackback blocks when the coach wasn't looking. (Their current submission to Bush's bullying stems from those formative years when guys like him were stealing lunch money from guys like them. Guys who came up with charming nicknames like "Hey, four-eyes!")

And the bully pulpit is his natural home -- well, whatever first language he actually speaks; it is irrefutably NOT English. Here's some of the speech:
I've come to discuss an issue that's really important, and that is victory in the war on terror.

And that war started on September the 11th, 2001, when our nation awoke to a sudden attack. Like generations before us, we have accepted new responsibilities, we're confronting dangers with new resolve. We're taking the fight to those who attacked us and to those who share their murderous vision for future attacks. We will fight this war without wavering, and we'll prevail.


The Saddamists are former regime loyalists who harbor dreams of returning to power, and they're trying to foment anti-democratic sentiment amongst the larger Sunni community. Yet they lack popular support, and over time, they can be marginalized and defeated by the people and security forces of a free Iraq.

The terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda are the smallest, but most lethal group. Many are foreigners coming to fight freedom's progress in Iraq. They are led by a brutal terrorist named Zarqawi -- al Qaeda's chief of operations in Iraq -- who has stated his allegiance to Osama bin Laden. The terrorists' stated objective is to drive U.S. and coalition forces out of Iraq and gain control of that country, and then use Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks against America, overthrow moderate governments in the Middle East, and establish a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Spain to Indonesia.


The terrorists in Iraq share the ideology of the terrorists who struck the United States on September the 11th. They share the ideology with those who blew up commuters in London and Madrid, murdered tourists in Bali, and killed workers in Riyadh, and slaughtered guests at a wedding in Amman, Jordan. This is an enemy without conscience, and they cannot be appeased. If we were not fighting and destroying this enemy in Iraq, they would not be leading quiet lives as good citizens. They would be plotting and killing our citizens, across the world and here at home. By fighting the terrorists in Iraq, we are confronting a direct threat to the American people, and we will accept nothing less than complete victory. (Applause.)

We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy in Iraq. Our goal is victory, and victory will be achieved when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks against our nation ... We're making steady progress.


And the advance of freedom in the Middle East requires freedom in Iraq. By helping Iraqis build a lasting democracy, we will spread the hope of liberty across a troubled region, and we'll gain new allies in the cause of freedom. By helping Iraqis build a strong democracy, we're adding to our own security, and, like a generation before us, we're laying the foundation of peace for generations to come.

Not far from here where we gather today is a symbol of freedom familiar to all Americans -- the Liberty Bell. When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public, the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, and a witness said: "It rang as if it meant something." Today, the call of liberty is being heard in Baghdad and Basra, and other Iraqi cities, and its sound is echoing across the broader Middle East. From Damascus to Tehran, people hear it, and they know it means something. It means that the days of tyranny and terror are ending, and a new day of hope and freedom is dawning.

Thank you for letting me come. [NB: No Comment. -- The Skiing Uphill Mgt.]
And here's a sample question from his impromptu press "conference" after the speech:

Q Mr. President, I would like to know why it is that you and others in your administration keep linking 9/11 to the invasion of Iraq when no respected journalist or Middle Eastern expert confirmed that such a link existed.

THE PRESIDENT: What did she -- I missed the question. Sorry. I didn't -- I beg your pardon, I didn't hear you. Seriously.

Q I would like to know why you and others in your administration invoke 9/11 as justification for the invasion of Iraq --


Q -- when no respected journalists or other Middle Eastern experts confirm that such a link existed.

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that. 9/11 changed my look on foreign policy. I mean, it said that oceans no longer protect us, that we can't take threats for granted; that if we see a threat, we've got to deal with it. It doesn't have to be militarily, necessarily, but we got to deal with it. We can't -- can't just hope for the best anymore.

And so the first decision I made, as you know, was to -- was to deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan because they were harboring terrorists. This is where the terrorists planned and plotted. And the second decision, -- which was a very difficult decision for me, by the way, and it's one that I -- I didn't take lightly -- was that Saddam Hussein was a threat. He is a declared enemy of the United States; he had used weapons of mass destruction; the entire world thought he had weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations had declared in more than 10 -- I can't remember the exact number of resolutions -- that disclose, or disarm, or face serious consequences. I mean, there was a serious international effort to say to Saddam Hussein, you're a threat. And the 9/11 attacks extenuated that threat, as far as I -- concerned.

And so we gave Saddam Hussein the chance to disclose or disarm, and he refused. And I made a tough decision. And knowing what I know today, I'd make the decision again. Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country. (Applause.)

Last question. I've actually got something to do. (Laughter.) You're paying me all this money, I'd better get back to work. (Laughter.)

Hold on a second. Got a guy here.
I'm certain that he is eloquent in his first language, whichever that may be. I picked these almost at random. The prose of the past several "major" speeches has a distinctively boilerplate quality to it. The big news coming out of the speech is that we've killed "30,000" Iraqis, which means that's the lowest possible figure that Bush can manage with a straight face. The British medical journal THE LANCET estimated 100,000 and I rather trust their assessment (based on hospital admissions and solid statistical extrapolation) more than the (by definition) self-serving Bush statistic.

Still, by his own admission, he's murdered more than 30,000 human beings in Iraq, and cost more than 2,000 U.S. lives in so doing.

Bravo, Mr. Bully.

We'll see if the news is trumped again tonight, but we've got to ask ourselves: is Bush doing this because he thinks he can turn American opinion around?

Or is he on this blitzkrieg of speechifying to try and bore us all to death?

If the latter, he's well on his way to succeeding.

But, if I might interject a personal note, I would certainly support any move on Dubya's part to shove his bully pulpit where the sun don't shine.

Somehow, I doubt that "integrity" would be the word that he chose to emphasize during that hypothetical process.

hart williams
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