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July 27, 2003 Mail

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I do send out some odd email, and receive equally odd email in return.  Here I will print some of it, with, now and then, my responses.   Before I post anyone's writing, I will ask your permission to post your comments and whether I should use your name or not, or use an alias you wish to use.
In the last two weeks - Who is lying about what these days and what that means for America.  Lots of pointed email bouncing between Hollywood, New York City, Paris and Atlanta.

It sort of started at a café in Paris.

On Thursday, 17 July at Café-Tabac La Corona (2. Rue de l'Amiral de Coligny - or - 30. Quai du Louvre  Paris 1. Métro: Louvre-Rivoli, Pont-Neuf or Châtelet) my friend at his weekly meeting of folks who read his website and happen to be on the Right Bank any particular Thursday at 3:00 (15h00), was told, by a person who claimed to be a French teacher, and was quite certain, the our President Bush "cannot read, on account of dyslexia.  He has aides to read to him we were told."

My friend asked, "Does anybody know anything about this?  Before being sworn in, isn't some minimal intelligence test necessary?

This my friend continued, is important, perhaps, "Because a President-Elect who cannot read might not understand the Oath of Office, and may have been lying when he swore to uphold the Constitution. (That he possibly couldn't have read, because he can't read.)  If true, is this not dangerously close to perjury? "

I replied:

August 2002 - After examining his academic history, Vanity Fair writer Gail Sheehy came to the conclusion that Bush suffers from dyslexia.  While Bush and his team deny it, Sheehy laid out a persuasive case. If the president isn't officially dyslexic, his brain does seem to be wired in a way that he often says things he doesn't mean.  Bush denied this dyslexia thing in interviews on 12 September 2000. (You can find these with any web search engine, although the Vanity Fair article does not seem to be available on the web.)  The matter has not come up since.  It is possible that folks do his reading for him and provide summaries, I suppose.  And no, there is no intelligence or aptitude testing required of those who run for the Presidency.  One must trust the people.

My Wall Street attorney friend weighed in:

You mentioned that perhaps Bush is not fit for the presidency because he cannot read.  I think that one does not have to be able to read, but must be able understand what is read to him/her.  Further, I suspect that excluding Bush from office simply because of his dyslexia, would run afoul of the Americans With Disabilities Act.  These are just some thoughts regarding your statement.   Keep in mind, I am not saying Bush is fit for the presidency, only that dyslexia in and of itself, would not be a determining factor.

What got us into this online discussion?  I commented on remarks by the President and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in a photo opportunity according to a White House Press Release July 14, 2003  2:11 P.M. EDT:

The fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is, absolutely.  And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in.  And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power, along with other nations, so as to make sure he was not a threat to the United States and our friends and allies in the region.  I firmly believe the decisions we made will make America more secure and the world more peaceful.

I found this kind of extraordinary.  CNN got it flat-out wrong.  I watched that stuff from the UN, about how the Blix fellow and his team were in Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction and coming back to New York every few weeks to talk about what they had and had not found.  Now it seems that never happened.  No UN inspectors ever went to Iraq.  They were never allowed in.  So the press has been irresponsible.  Why did CNN and the rest fabricate this whole thing?  Our government went to war precisely because Blix never made those trips CNN and the rest was reporting.  He wasnt ever allowed in.  Damn.

You see, I was just amazed at what the President said about why we went to war with Saddam - "We gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in."   The basic facts are wrong.  Not an opinion with which I disagree here.  The facts are wrong.  This did not happen.

Josh Marshall in Talking Points : "You hear this stuff and you say to yourself: Well, you can kinda know what he meant, I guess.  I find myself thinking that.  But even that doesn't cut it."

The editors at Media Whores Online -  "But the incident has been met with predictable silence from the mainstream media.  [Bush] will be given a pass for the mind-boggling statement, simply because no one quite knows what to say about it, short of 'this guy is a complete idiot,' or 'this guy is a pathological liar.'  But they're either too cowed by the right and regime to publicly observe such truths, too deeply in denial to accept them, or perhaps just too overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude and number of the lies now emanating from the Bush White House to continue to function as journalists in any capacity."

My, my...

Couldn't one reporter ask, "Mr President, is it now the position of our government Mr Blix and his inspectors never actually went into Iraq last year and that what the world saw on television at the UN actually did not happen?" 

Do we give him a pass because he says stupid things?  Yeah, I suppose that is respectful and proper.

Well, my friends in the new business in Atlanta wrote:

Was this a Bush "lie" or a Bush "goof"?  An argument can be made for both sides.  Technically, he's obviously wrong, UN inspectors did obviously go in and then leave shortly before the bombing started.  On the other hand, he was probably thinking of that time before the UN resolution when Iraq actually was refusing to allow the inspectors in, at least unconditionally.

As for the question of what the media is to do about Bush's comments, your Media Whores quote comes close: Nothing much.

Although people think journalists are always there, ready to jump all over slips like this, that's pretty much a misconception.  Think about it.  Although you may think you do, you actually rarely see news media, on their own authority, running around pointing out the lies of public officials.  What you actually see is news media running around reporting on some political opponents' claims about the other guy's lies.  Try as it might, objective journalism has yet to find a way to independently expose what may or may not be "lies" and even just "goofs" without appearing, maybe with some justification, like they're just pimping for some special interest or political ideology.

But until they can figure out how to do that, the bottom line right now is this:  You want to get on someone's case about Bush not being outted on this?  Get on Howard Dean and John Kerry. If those two make a case out of this, you can bet your bottom buck that reporters will let the rest of us know about it.

Okay, fair enough.  Let it rest.  The president tired to make things simple and made them a little too simple.  It happens.  You try to reduce everything to its basic elements for your less than inquisitive audience so they "get it."  I understand the impulse to make things simple. 

I just dont like it.

It assumes folks are dumber than I think they are... or it could be the speaker explaining things in ways that make it possible for him to understand something irritatingly complicated.

Either prospect depresses me.

As for "outing" Bush on this particular item... well, were one a cynic one might be inclined to think Bush just doesn't understand much about anything, and doesn't much want to, and those who tell him what to say just had a bad day on that Monday.  Perhaps they had gone to the local Starbucks and were just not paying attention.  Leave your kid alone for an hour or two and the kid can get in trouble.  Perle, Wolfowitz and Rove are generally better at handling him.  But it was a Monday and perhaps they all got into work late.  One is reminded of the old Art Linkletter show, "Kids Say the Darnest Things."  They're just kids.  And this statement does have that same "cute" aspect to it.  Kind of endearing, actually.  Makes you smile... or not.

Well I have this on line discussion group with folks from Paris to Atlanta to Montreal to New York City.  We don't agree on a lot of things.  That dispute passed.

But then I sent along a piece by Ernest Partridge in the Crisis Papers, an imaginary essay by an Oxford University historian at mid-21st century. It assumes a continuation of current political and economic trends set in motion by the Bush Administration.  It was pretty depressing.

As seen from the year 2050

The American economy collapsed and the American leadership, unlike the Roosevelt administration during the great depression of the 1930s, lacked the insight and will, and the federal treasury lacked the funds, to effect a rescue. The admirable American system of constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties, of a free and diverse press, of free enterprise and economic opportunity, and of popularly elected government was, by the close of the first decade, replaced by a despotic oligarchy in total control of the permanently ruling Republican party. Finally, the United States, through a unilateral abrogation of its treaty obligations and a series of aggressive wars, was transformed from "the leader of the free world" into a rogue state. As we all know, the community of nations responded to the new threat of American economic imperialism by forming the alliances that are today the dominant world powers: the Eurasian Union and Islamia.

Distrusted and isolated from the global community, the United States withdrew into itself to become the pitiful and impoverished third-world despotism that it is today.

The forces set in motion during the illegitimate Presidency of George W. Bush that led to this decline and fall were plain for all to see, and amazingly, however outrageous and contrary to the most fundamental American political traditions, they were not effectively resisted. When the American public came face-to-face with the dreadful consequences of these regressive and despotic forces, it was too late to resist and turn back. The fate of the American republic was sealed.

And then Partridge goes into detail.  You could look it up.

My Wall Street Attorney friend was mighty depressed by it, and from Paris -  "It might be a useful reminder to know exactly what is at stake with your USA republic. Somebody is going to have to fight to get the republic back, so you could start out with a knowledge of the original 'rules.'  Also, comparing the Bill of Rights to the UN's 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights,' will do no harm."

So I passed along Ernest Partridge's companion piece 'A New Birth of Freedom' that explained, in his fantasy, how things worked out just fine, as imagined from the year 2005.

...with the freedom of the media renewed, and with the Congressional investigatory committees hard at work and their public hearings widely broadcast, the corruption and maladministration of the Bush Administration became painfully apparent to the public at large. At last, the public came face-to-face with the dreadful consequences of Bush policies for the economy, for civil liberties, for environmental protection, for health and safety regulation, and for a myriad of other government functions heretofore taken for granted by the public.

In addition, the American public was obliged, at last, to acknowledge and deal with the devastating loss of international prestige and honor, brought about by the international lawlessness of the Bush Administration.

The disclosure in June, 2003, of the lies about the alleged Iraqi WMDs proved to be a snowball tossed upon the mountain slope that set loose the avalanche that would eventually sweep George Bush, and the so-called "conservative revolution," out of the American body politic.

The Bush regime believed us to be a nation of docile and credulous sheep, willing to be led, shorn, and impoverished, without complaint. For two and a half years we gave them little reason to believe otherwise. And then they overplayed their act.

Americans hate to be lied to, and hate even worse to be taken as suckers.

When that realization seeped into the public mind, and then burst forth, the Bush insurgency was finished.

And so on and so forth.

One of my email friends took up the last contention 

This is the weak part of this.  On one hand it is probably true that Bush & Co have contempt for the resistance powers of average Americans; but like the Nazis they have the legal bases fully covered, they have the courts, they have the police, and if they dont have enough jails, they will gladly build them.  On offshore colonies if necessary.

Partridge has this completely backwards. Americans have always been willing and eager suckers; but are curiously - even rabidly - puritanical when confronted with lies.

Of course that led back to what I wrote last week (July 13, 2003 - Reviews) about "The Digression on Madness" from Jonathan Swift's A Tale of a Tub (1704, revised 1710).  In the "Digression" one will find a discussion implying that the world can be divided into "fools" or "knaves" - the only two options.  It's quite funny, and nasty.  And very cynical.  

Well, I did call the second extrapolation bullshit in one of the posts, and I guess I'll stand by that.  But I have a cynical view of peoples' ability to act sensibly and evaluate what's in front of them.  If Hemingway one said, "Every great writer needs a foolproof, shockproof crap detector," then that seems the duty of every citizen and certainly the duty of the free press - to have one of those and make sure it's working. 

But folks like to believe in magic bullets - from diet pills to the current political thinking from the administration on Iraq, that once we find and kill Saddam and his sons all the sniping and resistance in Iraq will stop immediately, folks will gladly show us where all the weapons of mass destruction really are, and where the nuclear bombs were being built, and peace and harmony will reign.  Yep.  As my late father used to mutter - "What is all this happy horseshit?"

Then the emails flew between NYC and Paris and Atlanta regarding Clinton lying about sex and the nature of perjury and whether America is a nation made up of only knaves who lie and fools who believe them

But there is no room for that here.  Send me a note (Contact "Just Above Sunset") if you want to join the discussion group.   There are fourteen of us now.  The more the merrier. 

The Partridge links:

The Late, Great, American Republic: A Report from Mid-Century -- 2050 by Nigel Doowrite, as told to Ernest Partridge  Co-Editor, "The Crisis Papers." July 7, 2003  http://www.crisispapers.org/Editorials/mid-century.htm

'A New Birth of Freedom'  Monday, July 21, 2003  By Ernest Partridge, http://www.crisispapers.org/Editorials/freedom.htm