16 February 2009

Change You Can Avoid by Legislation

A quick thought for today. I’ve just read a little motivational booklet called “The Survival Guide to the Stress of Organizational Change” by Price Pritchett and Ron Pound – a splendid piece of work describing 15 stress-inducing mistakes we make in the face of constant change.

The authors point out that change is unavoidable and ever more rapid, and change is stressful, but stress is manageable, and so forth. (Best point: Basic Mistake #8: Fail to Abandon the Expendable.) Continuing with my work of the day, in the next moment I picked up an expired invitation to meet with my Congressman, Mike Michaud, (a former co-worker from my old paper mill days). I did attend the meeting, but that’s another story.

Still contemplating the certainty of constant change as I disposed of the invitation, it occurred to me what happens in Congress, and what happens to us-all as a result.

Congress passes massive “bills” intended to alleviate our stress, yours and mine, by promising this and that and socking it to the rich, and so on. (State legislatures pass their own parodies of federal acts, so it happens on the state level too.)

Most federal and state legislation has predominately negative effects. If any positive effect to such legislation ever occurs, it generally takes years, and by then we’ve forgotten that in 1997 Congress passed the School Music Improvement Act, which cut funding for any school music program that failed to include instruction in gangsta rap-hop, and which included an amendment to prevent multi-vitamins from being made out of genetically-engineered corn. The usual Congressional logic.

So I was left considering how this year’s glorious porkulus/cripple-us bill will take years to deliver any positive effect, and by the time anything trickles down to those of us most oppressed by government, there will have been so much CHANGE in the country that the real benefits of the act will be like delivering crank telephones to rural Appalachia in the 1980s.

Congress doesn’t grasp that change happens at the speed of technology. Ominously, Congress appears to believe that the only important change which occurs is that which Congress has set forth. Insidiously, Congress believes that the change which it “stimulates” actually will take place – indeed, Congress seems to believe that the moment its act is signed into law, the matter has been taken care of. Until another national crisis occurs, requiring the benevolent intervention of government.

Congress is blind to the negative effects of all its acts – especially to the utter failure of most.

Congress doesn’t grasp that change happens due to forces that Congress did not vote on and that it happens faster than any compromise* bill of reckless government spending can affect.

I'm left with the only true impact of Congressional action on my affairs, and that is STRESS. Compromise, as practiced by Congress, makes me pray for gridlock.

*To explain congressional compromise, the following is excerpted from DamnYankee.com.

Here’s how compromise works, and why it must not be encouraged: The Democrats have decided that what every household needs is a pig. Pigs are ecologically sound; they take up little space, they consume solid waste, they can be domesticated and provide companionship, they reproduce willingly, promoting neighborliness between pig owners, and one pig eventually provides a freezer full of food. The Republicans have decided that what everyone needs is a Chevrolet. They are economical to buy and come in a variety of colors to let owners express their individuality, they provide reliable transportation, they’re safe to sit in during a storm, and they can easily be repaired with readily-available parts. Neither party is willing to go completely to the other party’s idea. So they compromise. After years of Congressional debate and insipid analysis by Katie Couric, Congress rolls out its prototype. It has the snout of a pig, an engine in place of a mouth, hooves on the left and wheels on the right, a lightweight metal body (with smiling Congressmen waving gaily from the interior – the prototype has bullet-proof glass), a round, hairy rump, an anus spewing exhaust fumes, and a curly chrome tail. It goes in circles, possibly because the hooves aren’t synchronized with the wheels, but that minor detail will be cleared up in the next Congress. It's called a Pigrolet, and it comes with a 7,800-page instruction manual that can't be followed without the help of lawyers. ©2004 DamnYankee.com

10 February 2009

The Lawyers' Chorus

This morning as I bumbled about the bedroom, I heard a woman’s voice on the television hawking some drug called Celebrex. I gradually became aware that she must have spent three quarters of the ad’s allotted minute just reciting the medical warnings about the drug. At the end, she said: “Ask your doctor if you could benefit from Celebrex.”

I thought: To heck with asking my doctor; it sounds as though I could benefit from a law degree. It seems to me that a drug company should feel free to advertise the wonders of its little pills without the need to warn us of the side effects. I don’t hear automobile ads warning us of the dangers of carbon monoxide, burning vinyl, sunburn (in case you use the car to take you to the beach), or obesity (in case you use the car to go out to eat). I don’t hear carbonated sugar drink ads warning us about diabetes. I don’t hear ads for personal injury lawyers warning us of the psychological peril in talking with them.

Sometime in the mid-1990s there was an ad on the radio that I heard two or three times and then it mysteriously stopped playing. I don’t recall what they were hawking, but the ad time was mostly taken up with the wonders of the product, and then, with maybe ten seconds left, the seller’s voice said: “And now the lawyers’ chorus will sing you the fine print.” The ad ended with an actual chorus of voices rapidly chanting a recitation of useless information.

I suspect that someone in the lawyer class heard the ad and threatened the radio station. (That would be the quickest way to get something off the air. Why bother with the ad agency or the seller – it doesn’t matter whether they want to keep the ad alive. It only matters whether it gets played, and therefore it is only necessary to threaten the player of the ad.)

I know some really fine people who happen also to be lawyers. I truly like these people. I truly like some people who are confirmed socialists, adulterers, and alcoholics. But my affection for someone does not confer approval of his do-gooder social maladjustment, masochism, or other misanthropy. To those whom I know who are lawyers, I would agree that, yes, a few laws are necessary, and so the world has need of a very few lawyers as well. But if you are a lawyer to whom a tome of regulation is a rhapsody, and if, for you, a government that is gushing murky law is a glimpse of heaven, I say you need to examine your worth to the world. See my additional take on this at DamnYankee.com.

20 January 2009

President Nice Guy

Today we inaugurated the new President. We elected the one who promised to do nice things for everybody, rather than the one who promised to assure our freedom.

That’s who we elect now: people who tell us how nice they are and how generous they’ll be with other people’s money after they get elected.

President Bush’s approval rating was around 25% going into the election, and he was excoriated in the media. He wasn’t the Presidential candidate of his party, but because of his supposed influence, we threw his party’s Presidential and VP candidates under the bus in the election. This is how we express our disapproval of Republicans.

Congress’s approval rating was about 11%, and both houses were run by the Democrats. So in the election we showed them how furious we are with them by re-electing almost all the ruling party’s incumbents and by increasing their margin as well. This is how we express our disapproval of Democrats.

Our response to Congress’s approval rating looks like an anomaly at first. If we were so disapproving, why wasn’t there a 100% turnover in Congress? But the explanation is simple. We disapprove of every other district’s representative and every other state’s U.S. senators, but we are enamored with our own rep and our own senators. So, while we wish everyone else would replace their scoundrels in Congress, we don’t return the favor.

Back to the President. The new one is a very nice guy. He wants everyone to be comfortable from cradle to grave. He’s a rich lawyer who has also been a lawmaker. Lawmakers in this country who are nice guys have nearly a century of practice making laws that steal from Peter to pay Paul, so they can always count on the support of Paul.

But Paul isn’t just a poor fellow down on his luck and in need of a hand. Lawmakers who force this redistribution have selected, for our forced charity, such recipients as Planned Parenthood, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the usual parasites like that, but now also big banks who get to keep paying their millionaire executives’ salaries.

I have a different idea who should receive my charity, starting with the poor fellow down on his luck and in need of a hand. I also favor people who are disabled. (Really disabled, not the wannabes with contrived disabilities like tobacco addiction or self-inflicted obesity.)

I want a President who has read the Constitution and who doesn’t find it confusing – who can comprehend that the only responsibilities of the federal government are to provide for the national defense, conduct foreign affairs, regulate inter-state commerce (when necessary), and coin money. (Real money, not promises to pay, but that’s a subject for another day.) I want a President and a Congress who are concerned for my liberty, not my access to credit. I want a government that protects everyone’s freedom *to* do things, not one that presumes to protect everyone’s freedom *from* discomfort.

But I didn’t get that President or that Congress this time around, and neither did you. So I hope you enjoy the comfort you have voted for. I hope the wealth of others lasts long enough that you enjoy your comfort all the way to the grave. I didn’t vote for the overtly nice guy, because his being nice isn’t what mattered to me. It doesn’t fulfill my sense of duty to God and my fellow man, as it apparently does for a majority of my fellow citizens, to give other people’s money to government-approved entities like the UN, Harvard University, and ACORN. It fills my sense of duty to give of my own time and my own resources to someone whose NEED has made an impression on me. The more my meager wealth is whittled down, though, to support organizations I don’t believe deserve my largesse, the less I have to offer those I encounter who are in need.

I would also be deeply ashamed to vote a certain way on the premise that I personally could expect a handout as a result. I vote according to how we are governed by those we elect, not according to who pays me more for my trip to the polls.

See this: Obama Inaugural.