Friday, November 25, 2005

Gross Misrepresentation

I am writing on this Thanksgiving day about gross misrepresentation, in terms of both the way our representatives misrepresent us, whether in the White House and Congress or in the Scioto County Courthouse and the Portsmouth Municipal building, but also in the way in which the news is misrepresented to us, whether in the New York Times (Judith Miller) and the Washington Post (Bob Woodward) or in the Portsmouth Daily Times.

In particular I am writing about how those of us who live in Ward 1 of the city of Portsmouth, in southern Ohio’s Second Congressional District, in the United States of America, are politically speaking among the most misrepresented people in America. We are grossly misrepresented by President George W. Bush, Governor Robert Taft, Congresswoman Jean Schmidt, Mayor James Kalb, and City Councilman Timothy Loper.

President Bush

Let’s start at the top, on the national level, where we are misrepresented by George W. Bush, who won the presidency in 2000 in a disputed election because conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, in the ultimate display of judicial activism, determined that Bush was our new president. Once in the White House, Bush misrepresented us by performing so poorly that he would not have been elected to a second term if it had not been for the horrible events of 9/11, events which he then misrepresented and exploited to his political advantage, especially in his campaign for a second term. One year into his second term, he has continued to misrepresent and exploit 9/11. Holding Saddam Hussein responsible for 9/11, and claiming the Iraqi dictator possessed weapons of mass destruction, Bush invaded Iraq, setting off a chain of events that strengthened, not weakened, America’s fanatical enemies and cost the lives of over 2000 American military personnel and the wounding of many thousands more, not to speak of the thousands of Iraqi civilians, who of course do not count, because the U.S. authorities, literally, do not count them. On many issues, not just the war, we are grossly misrepresented by President Bush, because the scale of incompetence mixed with corruption is unprecedented in American history.

Governor Taft

At the state level we are misrepresented by Robert Taft, whom Time magazine in its November 21, 2005 issue judged to be the worst governor in the USA. The Columbus Channel 10-WBNS website said of Time’s flunking report card on Taft, “The article is blunt in its criticism. It suggests [Taft] should, ‘be in jail,’ or ‘should have resigned.’ It also criticizes him for being inept and an ineffective leader even before the scandals.”

I learned of Taft’s ineptness firsthand when I was on the faculty at Shawnee State University (SSU), in Portsmouth. SSU was the favored child of Vern Riffe, the powerful long-time speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, who was instrumental in its creation, in 1989. Though generously supported with special subsidies by the Ohio legislature, SSU consistently ranked in US News annual surveys as among the worst public universities of its kind in America. Why? Because SSU was conceived by a political godfather as a pork-barrel project that would assist the chronically depressed southern Ohio area he represented. SSU’s academic reputation was bad to begin with and it only got worse during Taft’s administration. The reasons for SSU’s terrible reputation precede Taft, but some of the political hacks he appointed to the SSU Board of Trustees, especially his appointment this year of Klara “Kay” Reynolds, as chair of the Board of Trustees, have to be included among them. Reynolds, a business woman who married her way to the top of Portsmouth’s over-privileged, was one of those trustees, dubbed “the Gang of Four,” who blocked the reappointment of James P. Chapman as SSU president, in 2001, even though Chapman was generally recognized as the most popular and effective president in the university’s history.

The campus exploded following the trustees’ rejection of Chapman, and a number of people from Portsmouth appealed to Taft to do something. But he did nothing, allowing the Gang of Four and their point man, Stephen P. Donohue, who was hired as university counsel in 1994, and who was also appointed an assistant Ohio attorney general, to continue to mismanage the university as de facto president, which he continues to do up to this day.

Congresswoman Schmidt

The whole country now knows of our infamous representative in Congress, Jean Schmidt. She was chair of Taft’s 1998 campaign for governor, and if a poll were taken today she would probably be considered the worst member of the House of Representatives. One award that she proudly posts on her website is a 2003 “Pro-life Pushy Broad Award.” She has also been a pushy broad when it comes to wars abroad, but she has not been so pushy as to ever actually volunteer to fight in them. Like most other members of congress, and their children, she leaves the fighting to the underclass.

When it comes to wars, she prefers to be a cheerleader for those who do the fighting. But she was no cheerleader for Paul Hackett, the Iraq veteran whom she ran against for the vacated Second District Congressional seat. As blogger John Ervin wrote in “Jean Schmidt: Queen of the Chicken Hawks,” “The new Queen of Mean has already earned stripes with her smear campaign against her opponent for the House Seat, Paul Hackett, by portraying his military record in Iraq as being exaggerated.” Schmidt campaigned against and sneered at Hackett’s record with Marine reserve Col. Danny Bubp, in uniform, by her side.

Most political patriots are satisfied with wearing an American flag pin on their lapel, but the pushy Schmidt, with less seniority than anyone else in Congress, went before the House of Representatives dressed in a virtual American flag outfit – red, white and blue, with stars to match – to denounce decorated Vietnam War hero congressman John Murtha as a coward. Smearing Hackett helped win her a seat in congress: smearing Murtha will probably cause her to lose it in next year’s regular congressional elections.

Even those who disagreed with Murtha’s call for the expeditious withdrawal of American troops from Iraq were shocked by Schmidt’s sneering performance at the House podium. One report said Col. Bubp, whose accusation of “cowardice” Schmidt relayed to Murtha, had never served in a theater of war. If that is true, then he too qualifies as a chicken hawk. Schmidt no sooner accused Murtha of being a coward than she was reportedly commanded by House Republican leaders, including the indicted Tom Delay, to retract it. Imagine getting a lecture on political etiquette from Tom “the Exterminator” Delay. The Republican leadership put the Pro-war Pushy Broad in her place. Col. Bubp, a member of the Ohio House of Representatives with political ambitions of his own, followed up by cutting and running from Schmidt, disavowing the incendiary remarks about Murtha Schmidt had attributed to him.

Schmidt is now excoriated in the blogosphere where she has been called everything from “Yankee-Doodle Douchebag” to a “pile of Schmidt.” She is also a household, or bathroom, name on TV. “When the Schmidt Hit the Fan” was how Keith Olbermann of Countdown characterized her performance at the House podium. She has also been the subject of a scathing skit on Saturday Night Live. If she continues to be her irrepressibly pushy self (“Let Schmidt be Schmidt,” her supporters might argue), we can expect her to be the inspiration for excremental political humor for as long as she misrepresents us in Congress, as if we did not already have enough “schmitty” politicians right here in Portsmouth to be embarrassed by.

Mayor Kalb

Speaking of which, the mayor of Portsmouth is James Kalb. Although reportedly in trouble with the law in his youth, Kalb sobered up, straightened out and went to work at Kroger’s supermarket, where he spent most of his career checking out groceries and restocking shelves, eventually being promoted to produce manager. But he also became involved in local politics, serving on the city council and then as acting mayor. Kalb is viewed by the Citizens for Responsible Government, a reform group, as the pawn of the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership (SOGP), the unelected but powerful body that began in the 1960s, under a different name, and now appears to control Portsmouth economically and politically. The SOGP has distributed well over $200,000,000 in various kinds of public assistance and pork that economically anemic Portsmouth has become dependent on. Though he is suspected of being somewhat unstable by his CRG critics, Kalb can be counted on to not upset the SOGP applecart.

At one meeting of the Citizens for Responsible Government, the mayor and his wife were asked to leave when they were accused of being disruptive. The mayor eventually left but sat in a chair outside the meeting room, buttonholing people as they entered or left the meeting room. I was at that meeting and did find Kalb’s behavior peculiar, and I can understand why some people who have observed his behavior longer than me wonder who or what might be influencing his behavior.

Kalb may have won the recent mayoral race because a number of voters believed he was the lesser of two evils. One fact in support of the argument that he, not his opponent, was the greater of two evils was that he was strongly supported in the mayoral election by the notorious local real estate developer, Neal Hatcher. Kalb has stated publicly that Portsmouth is fortunate that Hatcher does not take his money and invest it another city, where he would be appreciated more. During the campaign, Kalb was more than willing to have Hatcher post Kalb signs on some of the many properties the developer owns in Portsmouth.

Portsmouth’s previous mayor, Gregory Bauer, was recalled from office because of his role in the city’s $2 million dollar purchase of an empty, 100-year-old department store that one Portsmouth city councilman told the Columbus Dispatch “ain’t worth anything.” (Copies of my DVD documentary Recall of Mayor Bauer are available at the Shawnee State and Portsmouth Public Libraries.) As a city councilman, Kalb had criticized the purchase, but as mayor he has pursued the same policies that got Bauer recalled, particularly his approval of spending many millions of dollars to convert the old department store into a city hall.

Councilman Loper

At the bottom of the political food chain, underemployed for some time, but working at a gas station now, Timothy Loper has had a number of alcohol-related run-ins with the law. He ran for city council posing as a reformer and was first elected as a write-in candidate who said the city was being mismanaged by the over-privileged. Loper told me prior to his election that he was opposed to the purchase and conversion of the department store into a new city hall. But not long after taking his seat on the city council, he voted in favor or converting the department store into a city hall and began siding with those in the pocket of the SOGP.

However, being on city council did not end Loper’s financial problems. His house in Ward 1 was sold at a sheriff’s auction, and he was accused by members of Citizens for Responsible Government of having moved out of the ward, making him ineligible to continue serving as councilman. In response, Loper claimed he had moved to new living quarters in Ward 1, at another address, an empty little annex to 519 Third St., in what had once been a shoe repair shop. A member of the CRG, Harold Daub, challenged Loper’s claim and asked city solicitor David Kuhn to verify Loper's 519 1/2 address. Ever eager to abet the SOGP, Kuhn claimed he found sufficient evidence that Loper was living in the former shoe repair shop. Daub claimed Loper sucker-punched him because he was angry that Daub had sent a letter to the city solicitor. So a citizen who complained about our Ward 1 representative ended up in the hospital. Relatives of Loper have committed violent and heinous crimes, including murder, the rape of retarded children, and the alleged rape of the mayor’s wife, so Daub, who had already been “mauled” in 1980, might consider himself lucky that he has not been maimed or murdered.

And it is no better in some other wards in the city. In Ward 2 the incumbent “praying" adulterous councilman is being kept in office through the intimidating tactics of the city solicitor, who is behind the arrest of the challenger; in Ward 3 the brother of the "praying" Ward 2 councilman was allowed to run against Robert Mollette, an honest man who is as welcome on the city council as a nun in a whorehouse; and in Ward 6 an arrogant and abusive councilman is attempting to make recalls more difficult, no doubt because in his technical victory in the recall election he received fewer votes than his challenger. He will stay in office and the county voting commission will probably refuse to do a hand recount, even though complaints about confusion caused by new voting machines were common. A recent press release by the Committee for Responsible Government said that “a hand recount of one full ward (5 precincts) will serve as a reliable audit of the new voting system put in place by the Board for this election. Considering the numerous problems that have been reported in the local media about the trimming of absentee and provisional ballots, wrongly formatted memory cards, and the inexperience of the voters and the poll workers, a complete, full hand recount of the Sixth Ward will test how accurately the new Diebold optical-scan technology tabulated the vote throughout the city and county.”


So Loper is our sucker-punching gas-pumping councilman, Kalb our unstable corruption-as-usual mayor, Schmidt our sneering smearing Congresswoman, Taft our unindicted inept governor, and Bush our unprecedentedly clueless president. And we are the nation that presumed to invade another country to impose our American style of democracy on them. Michael Hirsh in Newsweek reported in June that a survey of Iraqis sponsored by the U.S. Coalition Authority showed that most Iraqis would feel safer if the Americans and their allies left immediately. An overwhelming majority, some 80 percent, said they had no confidence in either the American civilian authorities or Coalition forces.

A more recent secret British military poll is even more disheartening. Millions of Iraqis believe that suicide attacks against British troops are justified. “Up to 65 per cent of Iraqi citizens support attacks and fewer than one per cent think Allied military involvement is helping to improve security in their country.” Fewer than one percent have confidence in the Coalition Provisional Authority!

The Southern Ohio Growth Partnership is like the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. The acidic and sometimes outraged views expressed in the Shawnee Sentinel and Portsmouth Free Press, and in blogs and on local chat rooms and at Council meetings and at Citizens for Responsible Government meetings are evidence of the deep animosity that many people in Portsmouth feel toward our unelected unrepresentative oppressive de facto governing body, the SOGP, which has just moved into new headquarters at Portsmouth’s latest pork-project, the Scioto County Welcome Center, which is a glorified version of “the social clubs” that are a front for the Mob in the New York metropolitan area.

Front for the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership

Columnist E.J. Dionne recently wrote, “Perhaps we should redeploy the democracy experts we have sent to the Middle East and ask them to work on our Congress. The past few days have confirmed that our national government is dysfunctional.” I hope those same democracy experts might also turn their attention to southern Ohio, where incompetence and corruption are as rife as anywhere in the USA. Perhaps someday the Ohio National Guard might be sent to southern Ohio to liberate us from the SOGP, which could not stay in power without the gross misrepresentations of the occupation newspaper, the Portsmouth Daily Times, the publisher of which is a member of the SOGP and the editor of which consistently panders to the SOGP and slants stories against the reform movement. Let us be thankful for one thing on this Thanksgiving day: such gross misrepresentation can not last indefinitely.