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Words and Deeds

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Message Dan Fejes
This week has been, shall we say, illuminating. Going into it my goal was to formalize some details for some local activism but it didn't quite pan out that way. Big picture: I don't want our site to be just posts. Mark started Pruning Shears and I signed on as a contributor because we both believe there have been egregious abuses of executive power since 9/11 and it's now time to push back. That means some real action in addition to exhortations. I've previously argued that Vice President Cheney engaged in grave executive abuse by the way he treated prewar intelligence, and since that is included as one of the articles of impeachment the best way for us to push back right now is to get our House representative to sign them. I would love to start thinking of the electoral map as a little impeachment garden and I don't think it's too grandiose to hope to coax a little bloom in Ohio's 17th.

I've called Tim Ryan's office a few times. I think representatives have decided they can pretty well ignore phone calls urging legislative action. Both he and Senators Voinovich and Brown have very polite staffers who answer the phone, thank you and promise to pass along your concerns. You have to be a cynic to believe these don't get passed along. They don't take your name or your number, don't offer any information on how the reps feel about it and don't tell you where they have appearances in the near future so you could shake their hand, look them in the eye and tell them exactly what you think. In Voinovich's case that's because he's made no public appearances in northeast Ohio during this vacation. I figured the best way for a citizen to make an impression would be to have a petition and deliver it to Ryan's local office. I imagine if you had some sheets full of local voters' signatures and you show up at his door you might get more than a polite "thank you", so the plan could go like this:

1. Get a clipboard, pen and petitions.
2. Find a good, high traffic place with lots of potential signees.
3. Collect signatures and deliver.

I knew there would be more to it than that but I figured it would be a good outline to work with. The big piece is to find a good place and reserve it properly - showing up somewhere out of the blue isn't terribly persuasive. In fact, doing that seems about one step above walking around with a "THE END IS NEAR" sandwich board. I live near a university so I figured: High traffic, probably a decent number of impeach-Cheney enthusiasts. Let's contact the folks in charge of programming and set something up. Once the space is reserved, do a little publicity, drum up some interest, get some petitions signed, deliver to Ryan, rinse and repeat until he signs H Res 333. What could be simpler?

A lot, as it turns out. We started by contacting someone who said "oh yeah - this is your contact. I'll send it to him and he'll be in touch in a day or two." We didn't hear anything for close to a week. (PLEASE understand I'm not beating on the folks in question; I completely understand how things can fall through the cracks or get lost in the shuffle. I routinely lose the thread on stuff and I certainly don't expect people to drop everything when I come calling.) So I send an email saying, hi, I was told you were sent this, does it ring any bells and if so can you give me an update? The next day I get an email back saying "talk to this one." The saga continued along those lines. I won't go into to much detail but as of this writing I am still trying to set the details.

I initially thought it would be fairly straightforward; instead it's already taking a few weeks more than I expected. It's important for citizens to be active, but if you want to have any impact at all you need to give a little thought and planning to it. Unfortunately even coordinating within and among very small groups can get extremely slow and complicated. I've worked in small groups before so I understand how it can happen but even taking that into account it seemed very gummed up. Fortunately I'm a persistent sort and don't discourage easily. On the other hand it's a little embarrassing to come up with a plan, tell it to people and Embarrassing but illuminating.
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Dan Fejes lives in northeast Ohio.
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