Oceania is at war with Eastasia. It has always been at war with Eastasia.
In George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the protagonist, Winston Smith, was an employee of the Ministry of Truth. It was his job to alter newspaper reports from the past to keep up with the changing official line from the English Socialist Party that ruled Oceania. When Oceania switched from fighting Eurasia to fighting Eastasia, Smith had to change the records to protect the public from the "false memory" that Oceania had been at peace with Eastasia. If a high-ranking party functionary was purged, his name and image were erased from the records as if he had never existed. The old articles and photographs were "preserved" by being placed in the "memory hole," which was, in fact, a chute to the incinerator.
As imaginative as Orwell was, he didn't invent the idea of a government rewriting the past to suit its present policy, but borrowed it from the real-life practices of the Communist government of the USSR. Perhaps the most famous example of airbrushing history is a photograph of Stalin walking with Commissar Nikolai Yezhov along the Moscow-Volga canal. When Yezhov was shot in 1940, his image was expertly erased from the photograph. Yezhov had become an "unperson."
If someone dared to remember the deleted person or event, the government only had to trot out the official records to "prove" them wrong -- not only wrong, but obviously delusional and in need of institutionalization.
As our mayor might say, "That . . . is crazy."
It's even easier to rewrite history in the age of Internet. Just delete a webpage or a photo from the server, and it's as if they never existed. Although there is such a thing as the Internet Archive (www.archive.org), which stores snapshots of websites at regular intervals, there are ways to set up a website to guarantee that the archiver won't grab the pages.
I thought of this when I went to look at what Kathy Taylor's campaign website had to say about her plans for public safety, economic development, neighborhoods, and education. All the material from Taylor's campaign has been removed, including the position papers and TV commercials.
It's been replaced with a summary of her accomplishments after a year in office. It would be interesting to compare those accomplishments with the agenda she sold to the voters, but evidently she doesn't think that comparison would put her first year in a positive light. Otherwise, the web pages from her campaign would still be posted, right?
I've talked to many people who feel certain that they remember that Taylor promised to add 200 police officers, to hold weekly presidential-style press conferences, and to keep the grass on city property mowed to a decent length.
Instead, Taylor's FY 2008 budget will result in fewer sworn officers by the end of the year, and she hasn't held a single wide-open, any-topic press conference. As for keeping the grass cut, she's promising that she won't let the grass on the to-be-closed portion of Page Belcher Golf Course get higher than 12 inches.
One thing that I'm certain Taylor promised is a more collaborative relationship with the City Council. And I'm even more certain that she hasn't delivered.
When then-Mayor Bill LaFortune announced in a press conference that he was suspending Police Chief Dave Been, then-Councilor Tom Baker complained that the Mayor should have notified the City Council about Been's suspension prior to the press conference.
Now Baker is Deputy Mayor, Kathy Taylor's second-in-command. Is Baker's boss keeping the Council in the loop? Nope.
Taylor went behind the Council's back to negotiate a fairgrounds annexation deal with Tulsa County government. They found out the same way the rest of us did -- via the news media.
Taylor didn't give the Council advance notice of her Friday announcement that she was hiring David Bostrom, a former inspector for Washington, D.C.'s, Metropolitan Police Department and former public safety director of Wilmington, Del., as interim police chief.
Taylor hasn't consulted with the Council at all regarding the permanent police chief, much less announced potential candidates or solicited public feedback about them.
As allergic as the Tulsa school board is to public accountability, at least they brought the three finalists for superintendent to Tulsa and gave the public the chance to meet them, question them, and look into their backgrounds and resumes.
Taylor's line so far has been that the hiring of the new police chief, like the firing (sorry, early retirement) of the City Attorney, is an "internal personnel matter," and neither the Council nor the general public are entitled to any insight into the decisions she's making.
Choosing a police chief is nothing like disciplining someone who shows up late to work on time or finding out who's been misappropriating ballpoints from the supply cabinet.
A police chief isn't a minor functionary with no authority or discretion. The chief is a policy maker, determining the city's strategy and tactics in the battle against Tulsa's high violent crime rate. The selection of a chief ought to be conducted under a high degree of public scrutiny and with a high degree of public input.
Instead, to further insulate herself from public accountability, Taylor is using private dollars to fund the search for a new police chief and using a private attorney to defend her in the FOP's lawsuit over her decision to pass over three internal candidates who were certified as qualified for the post.
Her notion seems to be that public activities undertaken with private dollars won't be subject to state Open Records Act laws. I don't think that notion would stand up in court. It shouldn't stand up in the court of public opinion.
As sensitive and important as the choice of a new police chief is, it ought to involve the City Council, the elected body which is designed to represent the diversity of Tulsa's population. The City Council ought to be demanding a role in the selection.
The City Council also ought to be scrutinizing the public commitments that Taylor has been making on the city's behalf.
Perhaps to build a support base with left-wing donors for a run for higher office, Taylor has been unilaterally committing Tulsa as a city to causes that most Tulsans don't support.
One of Taylor's first acts as mayor was to join New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's anti-gun-rights coalition. Although the group is called Mayors against Illegal Guns, at the top of its legislative agenda is the repeal of the Tiahrt Amendment, the privacy-protecting provision that forbids the Federal Government from keeping records of lawful gun purchases.
While several western and rural mayors have realized the coalition's real agenda and have withdrawn their support, Taylor is still an enthusiastic member.
And just last week, Taylor committed Tulsa to reducing its carbon footprint, becoming the 500th mayor to sign the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, pledging local implementation of the provisions of the Kyoto Treaty to reduce CO2 emissions below 1990 levels. Even Bill Clinton refused to seek ratification of Kyoto.
By signing the document, Taylor committed Tulsa to the scientifically dubious notion that global warming is caused by human activity and can be reversed by draconian restrictions on the economy. It's a view that is obviously in the minority in Tulsa, given that we keep sending the likes of Jim Inhofe to represent us in Washington.
(Energy conservation and better urban design are good things, but we can't afford measures that would cost jobs or make housing and transportation less affordable for lower- and middle-income Tulsans.)
So why isn't anyone on the City Council objecting to Taylor's unilateral action on these issues? Why isn't anyone even insisting that she come before the Council to answer questions about her involvement?
I think we have to assume that silence equals assent, something for voters to keep in mind when a councilor seeks higher office.
There's a price to be paid for raising these questions. We live in a time when people would rather feel than think, empathize rather than analyze. No matter how politely the Council insists (on our behalf) on being consulted before a police chief is hired or before Tulsa is signed up for yet another radical cause, they'll be blasted by the daily's editorial page for being critical and contentious.
A certain segment of the electorate will take that as their cue to whine about the mean old councilors, clutch their blankies to their cheeks, and watch Dr. Phil to calm down. Noisy though they are, a real leader won't be deterred by them.
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