The Square Peg - Government Transparency or What’s Making Bob Glum and Duncan Mad?
© S. Bradley Stoner
Emerging at last from my self-imposed quarantine where I have been sequestered for the past week and a half, I ventured out for a while this morning. Bingo Bob and Duncan Donutz were on the corner in the midst of a heated debate. My ears were still partly plugged, making everything sound like I had my head in a bucket. I couldn’t understand a word they were saying... not that I was particularly in the mood to get in the middle of one of their semi-famous verbal fights. You can imagine my dismay when Bob spotted me and made a beeline for me with Duncan trailing in his wake.
“Hey! We need you to settle something,” Bob yelled.
“That’s right... a disinterested third party!” Duncan chimed.
Little did either of them know just how disinterested I was. As a matter of fact my disinterest could not have been deeper, but with them flanking me and the garage door behind me, my escape routes were blocked. I hate it when that happens, and if I hadn’t been somewhat fuzzy in the head from a lingering congestion and probably a little too much antihistamine, I might have been able to move fast enough to avoid the situation entirely. As it was, I was stuck between the devil and deep blue. The devil fired his bolt first.
“Whaddaya think about the ban the box order the president announced today? Be honest...”
My analgesic soaked brain couldn’t have come up with a lie if it wanted to. I think aspirin is like truth serum to me. “Huh? Banning plastic bags wasn’t enough, now they want to ban boxes? That’s going a bit far, isn’t it?”
That stopped old Bob in his tracks for a moment. It made him blink. I saw an impish grin forming on Duncan’s lips and heard a giggle trying to escape. Bob blinked again, his lower lip had gone slack, and I thought he might drool at any moment, but he regained his composure. “Don’t you keep up with the news?” he fired angrily.
“Look, fellahs,” I moaned, “I can’t even keep up with my e-mail right now... I’m still not a hundred percent, so cut me a little slack, okay?”
At this point, deep blue, feeling the full responsibility of a former “just the facts, ma’am” public servant, stepped in. “It’s not about the kind they use to ship things... it’s that box on employment applications that you’re supposed to check if you’ve been convicted of a crime.”
“Well, that’s information that an employer might want to know,” I offered.
“Told ya!” Duncan proclaimed loudly.
“Look,” Bob continued, “it’s not like employers won’t find out... but see if you check that box, it’s highly unlikely your application will ever get reviewed... and that’s discrimination.”
“Seems to me the crooks might have been a little more discriminating before they got caught and convicted,” I said. “Besides, if they’ve been in the pokey for a few years, what are they going to put in the application anyway? I can see it now... in that section on employment for example, are they going to put down ‘2005-2015 model employee in the Huntsville Prison laundry’?” Or in the organizations section, ‘National Association of Yeggs, Brotherhood of Burglars, or Society of Illicit Pharmaceutical Distributors? Employers are going to figure it out anyway.”
“Again,” Duncan punctuated, “told ya!”
Bob got a little defensive. “Look, it only applies to government agencies... it doesn’t apply to private employers.”
“Oh,” I mused. “So it’s like government transparency... no need to ask prospective employees if they’re crooks. Well, at least that makes sense...”
Duncan started to sputter at this statement, but I cut him off.
“After all, government is sort of the refuge of liars, cheats, and crooks anyway, isn’t it? I always sort of liked that line from The Hunt for Red October... you know, when the National Security Advisor says, ‘Listen, I'm a politician which means I'm a cheat and a liar, and when I'm not kissing babies I'm stealing their lollipops. But it also means I keep my options open.’ I can see where they’d want to keep their options open.”
Now desperate, Bob choked out, “It’s only for non-violent and rehabilitated ex convicts. If we don’t give them a chance, then they’ll never become productive citizens. I mean how many people are in prison just because they got caught with weed... and look how many states are trying to legalize marijuana now.”
I nodded. “That may be true, but then most pot heads I know don’t get real excited about being productive... or anything else for that matter. As far as the other drugs go, I’m not sure you could class those folks as non-violent given that they, rob, burgle, and steal to support their habits. Even if they don’t conk somebody on the head or shoot them, that’s still a form of violence. Somebody gets hurt. If the government was really serious about curbing violence, they’d just make all drugs legal and tax them. That would pretty much take the profit out of the trade and without profit motive, violence in the drug business would, pardon the pun, die on the vine.”
That took the both of them aback. In unison, they said, “WHAT?!”
“Looky there... I got you two to agree on something... now I gotta go blow my nose... and finish gloating over the Denver win last night. See ya.”