By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
March 20, 2002
Bush Wrong To Give Up On Disinformation
Like you, I am surprised that the Bush Administration shelved its "Office of Strategic Information," a main purpose of which would have been to place false or misleading information into the media.
If there is one area in which government excels, it is at providing false and misleading information, and that's at every level from local to federal.
Former county commissioner Fran Thomas once told me that "You can't believe anything you read in the newspaper."
"That's because we have to quote our county commissioners," I responded.
Consider the following statements by public officials.
"I did not have sex with that girl."
"No new taxes."
"I am not a crook."
"We welcome serious discussions on other courthouse sites."
Of course, local politicians have never formally created an office for disinformation. It comes naturally and is done without cost to the taxpayers. That President Bush was willing to actually form an agency for the same purpose shows a commitment to misinformation rivaling that of Bill Clinton. (To his credit, President Bush proposed to place lies in the media for the benefit of America, whereas President Clinton was trying to spare the country the indignity of a grand jury investigation.)
Supposedly, the idea was canned because of public indignation. What really happened was that Dick Cheney convinced President Bush that the best way to mislead the public is to tell the truth, because nobody expects that. Not only would the truth confuse the public, but in times of national screw-ups, it would be helpful.
Suppose, for example, that President Clinton had admitted, "Yeah, Monica and I had sex." Nobody would have said anything more serious than "Ain't that just like a Democrat," Monicagate would have been over in a flash and media attention would have turned to more pressing issues like convincing Yassar Arafat to shave.
What is sad about the whole affair is that Bush thought he was "thinking outside the box" by proposing a federal department of lying. Aside from that being Congress' main character trait, Bush should have known that the U.S. government and virtually every other government in the world plants misinformation and disinformation in the media daily.
Combining the Army, Navy, Air Force, Montana Militia, BlueCross BlueShield, the National Rifle Association and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals under a central command would be far easier than consolidating all of the government offices dedicated to deceiving the public. But between Bush and Cheney, it appeared doable.
Given the experience Bush and Cheney have in deception and all of the expertise available in Washington to draw upon, I could see this office being one of the few in government up to meeting its objectives.
If the world doesnt think well of America, its because were not fooling enough of the people enough of the time. As Jerry Clower used to say, "If Im lyin, Im dyin."
The Jackson Herald
March 20, 2002
Fletcher misleading about rift with water authority
When Jackson County Board of Commissioners chairman Harold Fletcher denied Monday night that there was a rift between his board and the county water authority, he was being disingenuous.
There has been a minor element trying to drive a wedge between us (the BOC) and the water authority, Fletcher said. The chairman went on to say the BOC appreciates the work of the authority and looks forward to working with them.
That may sound good politically, but the truth is vastly different. Fletcher and other members of the BOC want to control, if not literally take over, the water authority.
Much of that feeling stems from the fact that former BOC chairman Jerry Waddell is the county water superintendent. Fletcher, and some other members of his board, have had a personality conflict with Waddell and want to have him fired. They cant, of course, because Waddell answers to the water authoritys board, not the BOC.
In one effort to control the water authority, Fletcher and commissioner Stacey Britt tried to pressure water authority chairman Elton Collins to have three authority board members resign so the BOC could put its own people in place. Collins refused and Fletcher and Britt didnt pursue the matter further.
In recent weeks, the BOC has pressured the water authority in an effort to have it borrow $7 million in bonds for construction projects. The authority, however, said its projections show that it has the capacity to borrow only $5 million.
Why would the BOC want the water authority to borrow more than it can pay back? No one really knows, but some believe Fletcher and the BOC would like to set up the authority for financial default, thus giving the BOC an excuse to take over the water board.
When the water authority was created in the 1980s, it was designed to be independent of the BOC. By having an independent water board, some of the political influence of where water lines are placed is blunted. Imagine, for example, what would happen if Fletcher and Britt, both of whom are involved in real estate dealings with a wide circle of developers, had the power to decide where water and sewer lines were put in Jackson County.
Despite chairman Fletchers protestations, there is indeed a wedge between his board and the water authority. But that wasnt caused by vague elements in Jackson County. Rather, the tension between the two groups stems from the BOCs continued lust for power and its efforts to have total control in the county.
Chairman Fletcher knows the truth; so why did he have to lie about it Monday night?
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
March 20, 2002
Never enough time as children grow
Time. Theres never enough. It runs through the fingers like water. Attempting to hold it only makes it flow faster.
And yet, for parents its impossible not to hold onto time, to squeeze every second as though it will be lost forever.
Last weekend, I squeezed time as my oldest son turned nine.
Nine. Its so young. If all adults could go back in time, I suspect many of us would choose to be nine again. Its a time before the angst of being a teenager, but old enough to think were growing up.
But its also about half the time that I can expect my son to live under my roof before he moves off to college, or some other life pursuit.
Half? Say it isnt so. He was just born yesterday, all fat-faced and full of life. At night, I would often rock him to sleep and lay him in a crib, then get up running if he cried during the darkness.
He moved from bottles to creamed peas (yuck!) then to real food. He learned to crawl and walk and talk and run and play.
He got potty-trained (bring out the Champagne!) and went to pre-school and learned his ABCs and 123s.
He played Tee Ball and decided to be an athlete. He read a book and decided to be a scholar. He learned music and decided to be a musician. He drew a picture and decided to become an artist.
Then he went to big school where he was just one of many and decided that was OK.
He was starting to let go and only his parents wanted to hold on.
And now hes nine, still a little boy who eats with elbows on the table and who wants to be tucked into bed at night. Yet, hes 50 percent of the way toward adulthood, or at least the age our society considers to be adulthood.
Maybe by the time hes 18-years-old, Ill be ready to let go, to have the teenage years behind and to look forward to having time for my own more selfish pursuits. The endless cycle of playing chauffeur does get old.
But probably not. While most parents are proud of the milestones their child pass, those milestones are also a mark of time, the ticking of the 18-year clock that starts when a new baby is born.
Were proud when they walk, but walking is the start of physical independence.
Were proud when they talk, but talking is the start of emotional independence (just ask any two-year-old!)
Were proud when they begin school, but school is the start of mental independence.
At every milestone, something new is gained, but something is also left behind.
Thats as it should be. After all, were not raising children were trying to raise adults. When a child leaves home, we want him to have left behind childhood and to be ready to accept the demands of adulthood. That is the role were letting him practice for.
But theres also a part of every parent that wants to freeze-frame time, to pick an age and let our children stay that age forever. Maybe thats why we make so many photographs and video tapes of our children. Perhaps its an attempt to freeze the moment, to capture our children forever at a particular age, knowing all the while that someday we will look back at these photos with a smile and a fond memory.
Far more than the aches and pains of aging are the aches of knowing that we have to let go of our children, one small step at a time.
For them, time is no doubt moving too slow. Theres always a new age to become, new experiences to be had, more milestones to crush beneath their restless feet.
Nine. Its such a good age. Theres sports and school and lots of new worlds left to explore. Seems like my sons childhood shouldnt already be half behind him.
Theres a few more days left to hold his hand as we climb this mountain together, but they are fading fast. Someday soon, he will climb it alone.
And I, his father, will smile and wave as he moves on, then wipe away the tear that moves all too slowly down my cheek.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The Commerce News
March 20, 2002
Will Commissioners Listen To Public Input?
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners asked for written comments on its plan to build a county government complex on Darnell Road. They got 37 letters, 32 of which opposed the site. The question is, how much weight will the commissioners put on a decidedly lopsided margin?
The commissioners will also begin a series of four public hearings this week, but there is a good deal of speculation that the commissioners have already made up their minds. Thats probably unfair, but critics point out that the commissioners ignored the recommendation of both a committee of local residents charged with finding a suitable site and those of a consulting firm.
Hopefully, that is not the case. Strong arguments can be made for a downtown site or the Darnell Road site. Hopefully, the board of commissioners really will give the issue more thought, because every effort should be made to keep the government complex in the county seat not on its outskirts. The main reasons are better access for the most people and the preservation of Jeffersons downtown. While the Darnell Road location is plenty spacious, making it accessible to Jackson County citizens requires the construction of two major roads whose cost has not been determined.
To say there is insufficient room in Jefferson is to be close-minded. Land is available, and while it would doubtlessly be more costly per acre than the Darnell Road site, the value of keeping the county government downtown should be considered.
Will the board of commissioners listen to the comments it solicited? Well soon see.
No Moral Authority
British and European officials last week strongly criticized the execution in Georgia of convicted and admitted murderer Tracy Lee Housel. Housel, both an American and a British citizen, was convicted of raping and murdering a Georgia woman and admitted to killing two other people.
The Europeans called the execution "futile and unjust," while the Amnesty International termed it "useless and unjust."
Certainly there is much to debate about the use of the death penalty, but people are subject to the laws and rules of the country where they live or travel, however unfair those might seem to outsiders. Just as American tourists are advised to pay attention to and obey the strange and different laws of other nations when they travel, so should citizens of other countries be aware that our laws may seem different. Housel was convicted of murder in a state that uses the death penalty. While the death penalty may seem "futile and unjust" to American and foreign observers as well, it was Housel who opted to break the law; in effect, he chose the rules by which he would be punished.
In attacking Pearl Harbor, Japan set the stage for having two atomic bombs used against it. While there is worldwide debate about the use of atomic weapons, an aggressor is in no position to condemn the force used against it in defense. Likewise, a murderer or his friends claiming that the death penalty is unjust, has no moral authority.
It can be argued that in committing murders in states known to use capital punishment, Housel demonstrated first hand that capital punishment is not a deterrent, that it is indeed "futile" from the crime prevention standpoint. Capital punishment as a deterrent is a controversial matter, but debate on the issue will carry more weight when it is not burdened by the emotion of a specific case. When the impetus for challenging the appropriateness of the law is a man who raped and killed a woman, beat a man to death with a hammer and slashed the throat of another man, it will fall on deaf ears especially when the criticism comes from outside the country.