Sunday, October 16, 2016

Thomas Q. Dunn

Neither O. Henry nor Deus ex Machina
Thomas Q. Dunn
Chicanery in the Word War
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            Decades ago, in the dim lighted days when it seemed that capability and fair play would define the end game, the voice of Thomas Q. Dunn projected logic across the air waves.
            From behind his microphone at New Mexico’s flagship radio station, KOB, he would begin his commentary at 5:00 AM. The discussion would start with Thomas Q. talking to himself, rearranging notes awkwardly, and mumbling about the mundane or the arbitrary.
            By ten after the hour, it was becoming apparent there was substance in his narrative. Tom’s cleverness would eventually give rise to a full disclosure, and, about 5:20 he would reveal its full conclusion. He left you completely unprepared and disrobed for the reversal of expectation.
            “I knew that … I knew that,” but the truth was you had been “had” again. Simultaneously, Tom would have gone to a commercial and his departure added insult to injury.
He had duped you.
Once again he had interjected what would, for the lack of a better description, have been an O. Henry ending. It was something that could only come from natural genius. In fact, few protagonists had the ability of Mr. Dunn. Maybe it wasn’t hard for him and maybe he didn’t even know where he was going until he got there, but he was brilliant.
            Even his last show, the extraordinary performance he pulled off just before the cancer got him, was timeless. At the 12 minute mark, he let it be known he had done everything he could to lick that nemesis, but the outcome was to be what it was to be. There would be no stage machinery or, more properly, deus ex machine (translated “god out of a machine that would come swinging down from the rafters onto the stage in a surprise rescue). Similarly, no cavalry would appear over any sun drenched ridgeline of the Sandias with bugles sounding, colors displayed, and horses settling into submissive, cued gallops to their deaths, either. His ending would be straight up. The outcome was to be his death. He neither bemoaned it nor did he glorify it. He had accepted the inevitable and there was only one truth to be deducted. He inserted it into the punch line of his final, surprise ending.
            “I am playin’ for a tie, folks,” he proclaimed. “I am just playing for a tie.”
            Deus ex Machina
A day or days later I heard he had passed away.
 If I had seen Thomas Q. Dunn on a street, I would never have known him. I never saw him, never encountered him, but I heard his voice and witnessed his genius. His ability to craft O. Henry endings, though, equated to praise of his cleverness. That is the opposite sentiment from a dus ex machina ending where a less clever author or playwright would rely on an unexpected prop or symbol to frame the impact. Another example would be parents discussing the seriousness of a child’s sickness and a withering plant would be seen edited into the film. It was a gimmick to use in the absence of creativity.
Smoke and mirrors might be its prevalent counterpart these days, and it is used widely in the chicanery of trying to read the Federal Register. Consider what you would do if you happened to read a notice on October 13 for requested comments on handbook edits due November 7 on matters that materially affected your livelihood. Consider the declarative, “The prescribed grazing standard was reviewed and updated to reflect current agency policy and science”.
Uh, okay, that is nice, but what might agency policy and science actually be this month? Further, how can I comment on that without more information?
            The next two sentences read, “Changes were made to clarify and recognize the benefits of prescribed grazing on soil health. Clarified ‘practice description’ by adding … with the intent to achieve specific ecological, economic, and management objectives.”
            In my prepared response, shall I first ask what changes were made to clarify anything, and, secondly, what in my neck of the woods are the objectives related to ecological, economic, and management?
There is a huge problem with this sort of task. The problem is this is a request for comments not a forum for answering questions. Asking questions gets no response. We are supposed to know what the changes imply, but the outcomes are inevitable. Any land steward without any grasp or involvement in the discussion leading up to these changes in text cannot comment reasonably on any aspect of the request because there is no foundation from which to comment. He is never part of such a discussion. He is never asked nor is his local government. The dictates are driven by other agents and the realization is special interests are the driver of changing policy. The problem remains, though, if no comments are made no recourse is allowed. The producer is relegated to a place between the rock and the hard place.
He is made to look stupid.
Off Script
The outcome of the federal word war never fits any model. The narrative is patterned neither after strict O. Henry nor deus ex machina techniques, but is filled with surprise endings. Certainly, the agency asks for comments on matters that affect you, but experience has shown comments really don’t prompt any substantive changes. If they don’t meet current agency policy, they are disregarded.
There is no divine intervention in this art form. There is just strife and tragedy … great American tragedy.

            Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “I intended to assign one of other of the ending forms into the narrative, but I realized neither worked. I can only imagine Thomas Q’s commentary. He would have built the case that any direction you proceed with this government the ending would remain the same; citizenry has no real power.”

So just how much of this stuff is thrown at us? 

Well, it appears Obama is breaking records when it comes to slinging rules at you and me: 

President Obama has implemented more costly rules and swamped America with more federal red tape than any other administration, and now he has set another regulatory record: his team has filled 70,000 pages in the Federal Register faster than any other president.
Team Obama crossed the 70,000-page mark this week and is on schedule to print seven of the fattest eight Federal Registers in history, according to a new analysis from the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Vice President of Policy Clyde Wayne Crews.
CEI has projected that the 2016 total in the Federal Register will be a record-setting 89,416 pages.
The Federal Register record comes after Obama hit several other records, according to American Action Forum.
"The Obama administration has set several notable records in the regulatory world: 600 major regulations and counting, more than 10 billion hours of federal paperwork, and the costliest single year in regulation in recent history. It's time for another record: 101 unfunded regulatory mandates imposed on states, local governments, and businesses," said a new AAF report.
In fact AAF regulatory policy director Sam Batkins put a price for the regulatory red tape at $2,496 per person per year.

And we should prepare for more of this, as it now appears there will be no Deus ex Trump to save the day.

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