Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bush Hits Fourteen!

Tim Dickinson may be using the pages of Rolling Stone to document the "sweeping array of 'midnight regulations,'" through which President George W. Bush may continue to do damage even while his days in the White House are numbered; but I shall keep my attention on how he is using these days to accumulate a "surge" of Chutzpah of the Week awards. Having easily accumulated the baker's dozen, he has advanced his count once again; but, believe it or not, he has invoked the blogosphere for this one. Having just credited Stephanie Condon for reporting on how the new Administration may be putting our representative governmental processes in jeopardy, I have to thank her for reporting on the absolutely delicious irony behind our current President's fourteenth award:

President Bush, in recognition of Human Rights Day, met with bloggers from Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, and Venezuela at the White House and via video teleconference to discuss blogging in favor of democratic change.

The administration has supported pro-democracy new media efforts through programs like the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent group responsible for all U.S. government and government-sponsored, non-military, international broadcasting. The BBG collects reports from citizen journalists with cell phones, and it sends out news reports via text messaging and targeted e-mails, encouraging citizens in countries with oppressive censorship to "join the information revolution," according to the White House. Bush increased funding for BBG from $441 million in 2001 to $670 million in 2008.

The State Department has also taken to promoting democracy via the Internet with a Democracy Video Challenge, a contest to produce a short video that completes the phrase "Democracy is..." Seven winners from six different regions of the world will be announced in June 2009, and their films will be shown in New York, Washington, and Hollywood.

I suppose we should be thankful that Bush bothered to recognize Human Rights Day at all (this one being the 60th anniversary of the ratification of the Declaration for which it is named); but the irony of a Head of State who has done so much to undermine his country's Constitutional foundations now honoring those in other countries using their blogs to establish similar foundations is, as I said, "absolutely delicious!" Mind you, this fourteenth award is, in many ways, a corollary to number thirteen, which was triggered by these words:

I'd like to be a president [known] as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace.

Those words were, of course, his retrospective view of our military "adventures" in Iraq; so we should not be surprised that Iraq is not among the countries listed in the first paragraph in the above quote. We have to go to other sources to learn about the courage of Iraqi bloggers and the perspectives they offer on what Bush seems to want his legacy to be.

Then we have the video contest. Since this is a State Department activity, I would guess that American contributors need not apply, although there are definitely American videos on the DemocracyChallenge channel on YouTube. However, as I write this the entry with the highest rating and the highest number of views (705) comes from Iran and presents the text of the "first charter of human rights," as formulated by Cyrus the Great, founder of the First Persian Empire (who, among other things, helped those Jews in exile "by the waters of Babylon" return to their homeland, thus earning a place in the Old Testament). At the very least this video reminds us of the fact that Human Rights Day involves far more than an American President who chose to write off Iran as part of an "axis of evil." The video does not choose sides between the United States and Iran. It just reminds us of what really matters. I wonder if President Bush took the time (all of one and a half minutes) to watch it and, if so, how he ended up "reading" it.

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