Friday, March 27, 2009

Damned Old Gubmint

There have been three stories over the last two days that, to me, are good examples of why more government is probably not better government.

The first is a story Russ sent me. The short version of the story is this. In follow up to a story about (and pretty shocking video of) an Oklahoma sheriff's deputy shooting and killing a dog when stopping to ask for directions, further probing into department activities revealed a different deputy who falsified time sheets at a golf club where he was moonlighting. Whether or not the deputy should be punished at his government gig for something that happened on private time is someone else's debate. My issue is with the sheriff, who apparently doesn't seem to understand why people like me have a hard time trusting their government:

“Law, I don’t know of any law that says you can’t falsify time sheets at a golf course, so no. And if you (Reporter Mike Friend) want to keep asking me questions on this issue you’ll just damage any good relationship I have with the paper. You can’t tell me you don’t ever speed while you’re driving down the road, or that you don’t break the law and sin… so why is this such a big deal if the deputy was not working on department time? If I start calling you and asking you questions about your crimes and sins we’ll see how much you like it.”

It seems to me that the sheriff is suggesting, at best, that people should mind their own business when it comes to wondering if their law enforcement officers' activities are on the up and up. How do you suppose the sheriff would respond if you told him to mind his own business when he pulls you over?

The second story is one you may have heard. A Dallas police officer stopped Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats for running a traffic light near a Dallas hospital. To make yet another long story short, the officer refused to make any accommodation for the fact that Moats's mother-in-law was dying at that very moment. He allegedly drew his weapon shortly after making the stop, threatened to tow Moats's vehicle, threatened to take him to jail, and finally threatened to "screw [Moats] over." While Moats has some culpability for breaking the traffic law, and later for not being able to locate proof of insurance, the story as it is told is of a cold, compassion-less, and power-addicted officer of the law.

The third story
involves the AIG bailout and the rage that was reported to be rampant when the $165 million in employee bonuses came to light. The story is remarkably unclear, as one U.S. Senator has either lied or been very confused about it, and the president is talking out of both sides of his mouth on the matter. It appears that employees who remain at AIG, largely to aid in its being dismantled and sold for scrap, were promised that they would be paid to halt their careers and stay in place until the job was finished. Naturally, many in the government and the media expressed absolute horror that a company would pay "bonuses" on the government dime.

According to this now-former AIG V.P., we didn't really get the whole story. A New York Times op-ed this week contained nothing but a resignation letter from the gentleman, whose explanation sheds new light on the nature of the so-called bonuses. Campbell Brown says, "It is hard to feel sorry for someone who is getting $742,000 and may end up with the final say on where it goes, charity or otherwise, as taxpayers spend $170 billion to save your company." She may be right. But if our government promises to pay individuals money to hang around and help pick up the pieces, it's not okay for it to renege as soon as the lights come on the wind changes direction.

All three stories, and thousands more throughout human history, point to one truth. You can't trust anyone, including agents of government. That's cynical, but it is true. You can't trust them to do the right thing. You can't trust them to hold themselves to the same standard as those whom they govern. You can't trust them to keep their word, especially when public opinion turns against the promises they made.

A mistake I believe we started making with the Patriot Act and continue to make today is that of believing that the people who work in our government are somehow more trustworthy than those who don't. They aren't. The only difference is that agents of government make decisions that are more-or-less final, often can't be challenged by competition, and can be implemented with deadly force.

I understand the compulsion to "do something" when things aren't going well. We elect leaders and expect them to solve problems. But much like managing your relationship with your in-laws, making a pot of chili, tending to your front lawn, or fishing, trying harder doesn't necessarily produce better results. When you insist that your government officials do something to fix a problem, not only might the government solution create more problems. The "solution" might be - and frequently is - motivated less by what is right than by what is popular at the moment, less by compassion than by the enjoyment and extension of power, and less by the hope for the well-being of constituents than by that of the politician.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

20 Things I Generally Don't Like, But Wish I Did Like

In no particular order:

1. Dark beer
2. Americana music
3. Relish
4. Green beans
5. Sour cream
6. Hockey
7. Hip-hop
8. Dressing up
9. British humor
10. Rare beef
11. Scallops
12. Opera
13. Fiction books
14. Chamber ensemble music
15. Wearing green
16. Tabasco
17. Fishing
18. Cooked vegetables
19. Haydn
20. Waking up early

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A bit of rambling

Yet another month or so has passed, and I still haven't become confident enough in what I wrote about my politics... story of my life.

Meghan has been terribly busy at school. I have been pretty busy myself between taking care of the dog, going to physical therapy, and working. Not surprisingly, we find ourselves exhausted every evening. It's nothing new to most of you. But it is a bit of a bitch that once we find the person with whom we want to spend our time, the rest of our life insists on encroaching on our personal time more than ever. I'm looking forward to summer.

The Nashville Thing is encouraging. Next week, I am heading up for the third consecutive month. I will have a guitar lesson (my first one ever), a couple of co-writes, and have a chance to be heard by a couple of folks that may be able to help. I have done a pretty solid job of keeping the writing half of my New Year's Resolution. Much like exercising, I am always amazed at how much writing consistently improves my subsequent output. Yet, for some reason, I seem to be knocked off track after a while. And starting back after a layoff can be tough.

Physical therapy has been fine. I think it is a bit of a rip-off - especially when a therapist starts you on exercises you have been doing in the comfort of your own home, tends to another patient while you do them, and then charges you for the privilege of using their table for the exercises. I know it's important. But I hate the way all three therapists at two different establishments have done things.

That is all.