Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Threat Vector Update: More Cranks, And I Talk to Mr. "Terriost"

Let's be clear up front that this story has no truly scandalous nature*, no serious perfidy or peddling of influence--much less threats of terrorism, semi-anxious thoughts of which prompted this whole story in the first place. As we reported last week, after the Iraq de-escalation bill cleared committee in Salem, the masterminds developing the ORGOP's web pages created an email link that lets you spam all House Members with a message of your choosing. One staffer passed me a sample dictum--a spasmodically written threat that "you maybe the one a terriost (sic) puts the bomb in your pocket." When I heard it I had to stifle a laugh; all I could think of was "it puts the lotion in the basket." But hey, everybody's sensitive these days, and they tell you better safe than sorry. So it got reported to the police, they checked it out, and decided it was nothing more than inartful language. (That I had to hear this from the GOP's Communications Director because the cop wouldn't call me back is another issue. Nice public service work there, OSP.)

Ahem. I was all ready to drop the whole silly thing--from the painfully bad English of the email to the 3rd-world fashion in which the state GOP runs its web operations--until a reader shamed me by doing the obvious homework and googling "Robert Hauser." As billed in the comments, Mr. Hauser was indeed the Chairman of the Board of the Oregon Independent Automobile Dealers Association, a registered lobbying trade association with the state and featuring Darryl Fuller as their lobbyist. Keen-eyed Salem watchers will remember Fuller as the lobbyist for the franchised dealers' group, the OADA--until he was fired after having finished the 2006 cycle apparently without spending any time or money on Jeff Merkley's assured re-election, an actionable crime more of punishable stupidity than any long term damage to his client's access.

There's a bit of a Christopher-Guest-movie feel to all this, that the people involved are honest and real enough, but they're also a little dim and kind of poignantly, haplessly dogged in their beliefs. Having been given Hauser's number on a platter, I called him up, identified myself and immediately said, "What did you mean when you wrote to every House member of the state legislature..." and then read from his email. As folks tend to, he said, "You're who?" I repeated it, and repeated the question: what did you mean by that "put a bomb in your pocket thing?" He said he meant that they should consider carefully what they were going to vote on, or the next thing they knew a terrorist might get them.

I asked, what kind of terrorist? Tim McVeigh kind? No, he said, "I'm more concerned with their foreign counterparts." I asked why he thought voting for HJM 9 would lead to a terrorist putting a bomb in an Oregon legislator's pocket, because by this time it was clear that old Robert was not stalking the Capitol halls, timing their movements. I took him literally, trying to see if he'd assess that we'd have to begin fighting them over here if Oregon's House gives a majority yes vote on a nonbinding memoriam, but he grew tired of explaining himself.

Rather than taking responsibility for being less than clear, Hauser mostly blamed the recipients for not understanding plain spoken talk, worrying about all those annoying grammatical guidelines--like having a full sentence. He referred to the person or persons who reported the email as "some idiot," saying "they oughta have enough sense to interpret what's a threat." Rather than a threat, he suggested that his message was "Before you support issues, take the time to review before you vote on it." Ah, I see! It was just a helpful reminder to legislators to deliberate carefully! Of course, it's all clear now.

He was actually quite reticent to really even discuss the issue which compelled him to write--the war. I tried to probe him a couple times to get him to vent over what caused him to warn the House away from potential treasonl, but he stayed mostly in the realm of the broadly tangential and parried away from substantive answers. One critical point I should mention that further denuded this anecdotal romp, is that Mr. Hauser informed me he resigned his dealer's license and board position as of January 1 of this year, so his e-rage had no bleed onto his old professional affiliation.

The story really isn't Bob Hauser and his spate of neocon anger at the gubmint in Salem. It's about a communications system that ostensibly gives the power of redress to the people, but which in reality simply funnels a diffuse and, uh, non-vetted set of "sponsored" opinions about an issue. That's not bad in itself, but if they're not part of a seriously coordinated legislator contact campaign, where the message is relatively tailored and focused, the recipient is not likely to be moved. Individual emails can actually be the most powerful, moreso than a stack of astroturf-inspired lookalikes, but they've got to be at least modestly cogent. Emails like Hauser's don't typically accomplish much other than to pad the recycle bin. They just don't persuade. In reading some half-assed rant of an email where party operatives are cc'ed, let's just say the mystique of the voter's voice is lost--especially if the staffer has to plow through another 30 just like it, all arriving around the same time.

But if Mr. Cleave figures that their auto-forwarding of every Tom, Dick and Robert's wild-eyed crackpot notions is good politics, let's bring it out into the sunshine! Users of ORGOP's email bot, be warned--I'm going to print the good stuff if staffers send them to me. You denizens of the Capitol hallways, bring me your emails from the OIADA website, and the unbalanced messages within. We'll print them here! In fact, since the first article appeared I've been sent two more by a different staffer:
From: William Lee Kohler []
Sent: Monday, March 12, 2007 7:50 PM
To: [House members];
Subject: HB 2705

NO! They have no right to be supported by Oregon LEGAL residents and taxpayers. Just send them back to their own country!

Sincerely, W L Kohler/Eugene

From: Jean Albrich []
Sent: Monday, March 12, 2007 5:37 PM
To: [House members];
Subject: HB 2705

When some of our own students cannot get help for college, don't start hading $$$$$$$$$ out to illegals!!!!! Vote no on this bill
[emphs mine]

*Let's be even more up front, but in a clever way that actually puts it at the end: Carla didn't write the original piece; I did. Google's purchase of blogger has meant that the blog shares an email address, and it's got Carla's name on it. Remembering to log out as Carla when I enter blogger and am automatically logged on, doesn't always happen. I plan to save this paragraph, to explain again when I fuck up and post something as Carla again.