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Counting the Columns 

by ROBERT HEROLD & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & F & lt;/span & ifteen years ago, give or take, I got a call from one Ted McGregor. He introduced himself as the publisher of a new weekly called The Pacific Northwest Inlander. He asked if I might be interested in contributing an occasional freelance political column to his publication, which, I was to learn, had been the subject of his master's thesis.





Over the next several years, I wrote with increasing frequency for The Inlander. When I retired from Eastern Washington University in the fall of 2000, Ted sat down with me over a beer and asked if I would consider writing a regular column -- twice monthly, as it has turned out. That's how it all began, and in all these years I can't remember one time when Ted ducked out on a column -- even those he had to know would be controversial. If anything he has encouraged me to attack controversial issues or topics. He gets the "Ben Bradley" award going away.





A few years back, Ted brought to The Inlander as news editor my old KPBX friend, Doug Nadvornick, who has since moved on. Doug took over Ted's editing role, and many a column I wrote was much better for Doug's criticisms. Indeed, the best of what I've written over the past 15 years reflects the insights and suggestions of these two professionals.





& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & F & lt;/span & or this anniversary issue, Ted has asked for excerpts from a few favorite columns. What an inviting assignment; it fairly begs me to practice being self-serving. So let's see -- what issue or topic can I look back on and claim, humbly of course, to have been right about from the very beginning? Prescient even. Well, there was that Lincoln Street Bridge. I opposed it in these pages and, thankfully, we never covered the Spokane Falls in a span of pavement. But better yet, how about Dubya? He's about to wrap it all up, and I do believe I had him pegged from the beginning.





From a couple of March 2001 columns:





I can think of only one word to describe George W. Bush's performance thus far: dreary. Let us review the record of his first 90 or so days in office.





First, as we all know, he actually hasn't spent that many days in his office, rather just, "in office." Accounts are that he is out on the hustings four days or so every week. As he said of his ownership of the Texas Rangers, "I was there to sell tickets."





Well, so far he has managed to seriously, perhaps fatally, compromise his EPA director and while he was at it, he embarrassed his Secretary of the Treasury over the same issue...





There was a similar episode affecting Secretary of State Powell. The President, by publicly disagreeing with Powell, undermined him as well.





Or consider what George W revealed during that same month about his plans for energy. I wrote:





Dubya's energy plan, and most specifically the guys who put it together, put one in mind of the old movie, Giant, particularly the James Dean character, "Texas Jet Rink," the hard-scrabble, get-rich-quick, trashy guy who lucked out and found oil. Dean played out the character's life the only way it could have been played out.





Like Texas Jet Rink, Bush and his Texans are doin' bidness, to borrow Molly Ivins' oft-used line.





Nary an environmentalist around. Not too many other kinds of folks either, not when Dubya's bidness was a doin'. Just the coal and oil gang, sitting around the table...





Now, lost in all this macho energy hoopla are a few little facts that might bear looking into -- but are of little or no interest to Bush's Rinksters. ...with even a small tuck here and there, the good old U.S. of A could save a whole lot of energy of all kinds. As reported in a Harper's article, if SUVs were to become only three miles per gallon more fuel efficient, we would save about as much oil as we could hope to drain out of the Artic Wildlife Refuge.





& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & 'll end this Bush retrospective with a quote I borrowed for a column I wrote about Enron. (You remember, "Kenny Boy" Lay.) It seems to explain quite well this pickle we've found ourselves in, here nearly eight years after Bush won his first term.





Capitalism:


You have two cows.


You sell one and buy a bull.


Your herd multiplies and the economy grows.


You sell them and retire on the income.





Enron Capitalism, aka Bush/Cheney capitalism:


You have two cows.


You sell three of them to your publicly traded company, using a letter-of-intent opened by your brother-in-law at the bank.


You then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows.


The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by a majority shareholder who sells the right to all seven cows back to your listed company.


The annual report says the company owns eight cows with an option on one more.


Repeat as necessary until you have $62 billion in assets, then declare bankruptcy.


Point made? Move over, James Buchanan -- we've got a new worst-president-of-all-time candidate. Which seems like the perfect subject for my next column...
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