David Rodeback's Blog
Local Politics and Culture, National Politics,
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Ah, the Humanity!
I could use a vacation. Show them you're the most important person in the room. And mind those foreseeable opposite consequences. (A veritable verbal mosaic of awareness ribbons, congressional deserters, cell phones, state and local legislators, defenseless wild bunnies and birdies, zealous residents, and boring neckwear.)
I Could Use a Vacation
. . . but I won't be taking one this month, because I have some projects at critical points at work. Note also that my programming and database projects do not involve national security and are not life-and-death matters for anyone, so far as I know. These are the principal differences between me and our Democrat-led Congress, which is taking a nice, robust baker's-dozen-weeks-long vacation, while the law that authorizes domestic surveillance of terrorist suspects' communications expires, because the Democrats didn't want to finish the legislation to renew it on time. In a sane world this by itself would be grounds for a Republican landslide in November in both houses. Then again, in a sane world this wouldn't happen, because national security would trump petty partisan politics and vacation plans.
Show Them You're the Most Important Person in the Room
Here's how. Don't rely on simply leaving your cell phone set to ring loudly in a church meeting or a concert. We've all done that by accident once or twice; it is for amateurs. Besides that, what if no one calls? If you're going to proclaim your superior importance to the entire crowd, instead of silencing the phone you should answer it -- initiate a call if you have to -- in the meeting and conduct the conversation in a normal voice (or louder) as you walk up the aisle at a modest pace toward the door.
On alternate Tuesdays or Wednesdays in many communities, you have another golden opportunity to assert your relative importance. You can go to a city council meeting and make a comment during the public comment period near the beginning. Often there is a two- or three-minute time limit for these comments and a rule that actual agenda items should be discussed when they are addressed on the agenda, not during the public comment period. Make sure your comment is a lot longer than the allotted time; 12 to 15 minutes would work. It helps if you are woefully misinformed, but underinformed will serve in a pinch. And the frosting on the cake is to get away with commenting during that period on something which actually is on the meeting's agenda. If anyone tries to stop you and postpone your comment until the agenda item is ready for discussion, just lie and tell him or her that your comment is only indirectly related to that agendum.
The real experts at public narcissism achieve an even higher level during the comment period. They publicly invite the officials present to their upcoming fund-raiser -- at the officials' considerable expense -- and then ask them, one by one, if their personal calendars are clear that evening so they can attend. Or they manage to turn their extended "comment" into an interrogation of the officials.
I see people use these techniques here and there, from time to time. I guarantee they are effective. They leave no doubt that the human specimen in question considers himself or herself more important than everyone else in the room.
Good manners are for the little people, you see.
Mind Those Foreseeable Opposite Consequences
This week the humans in the Utah Senate passed a bill increasing penalties for animal cruelty and torture (SB 117). It makes the first offense of animal torture a misdemeanor and the second (within five years) a felony. Animal rights activist-humans were on the radio this week proclaiming that, for the protection of animals, the first offense should be a felony.
However, if we do the math (so to speak), we might decide that leaving the first offense a misdemeanor makes it much more likely that animal cruelty (by a human) will actually lead to criminal punishment (for said human). A felony charge is a serious thing, in part because a conviction can have significant negative, lifelong effects. Police, prosecutors, judges, and even juries seem likely to think a felony charge excessive for a first offense in many cases. So they will be less likely to enforce the statute in those cases. The firsttime offender will likely get off with a stern warning or some sort of plea bargain, rather than facing the statutory music for that first offense. However, if the first offense is a misdemeanor, it seems much more likely that official consequences will actually be applied to a first offense.
Thus, if my reasoning is correct, the lighter penalty for a first offense will actually lead to a lot more such first offenses being punished, This should please the animal rights folks, should it not? The sterner penalty they advocate would lead, overall, to less enforcement, and therefore to less protection for the Easter Bunny, Big Bird, and all their friends.
A lot of the little ribbons people wear for fill-in-the-blank Awareness Month, and the pieces of legislation by which lawmakers officially embrace such things, fall into the same category (call it Empty Symbolism, if you must name it). They actually hurt the cause they advocate.
Suppose, for example, that a local city council adopts a resolution declaring March 2008 to be Wear a Paisley Ribbon for Boring Neckties Awareness Month. The lawmakers who pass the thing will feel they have done something substantive to address the problem of boring neckties, when they really haven't. Therefore, they are much less likely to do something else which actually reduces the problem. Likewise, the poor fops who wear the paisley ribbons. Their consciences are salved, because they feel they have done something about the problem, when they really haven't affected the problem at all.
If a doctor merely acts to mask chronic symptoms, without discovering and addressing their cause, he may be guilty of professional malpractice. Obviously, you and I have a lower standard for ourselves and our elected representative-humans.
Copyright 2008 by David Rodeback.