Everything is Political

I spent part of Saturday trying to catch up on TV from during the week. It went beyond frustrating quickly.


I record a few shows off the air on a TiVo, shows that my wife doesn’t care for. Person of Interest I watched live this week. Chicago Fire was on at the same time, so I waited for it on TiVo. The next night, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit was up against Criminal Minds. Actually, I was in a horrible mood that night after bad news from my doctor’s office, so I didn’t watch either, “But, I digress.”


In the first ten minutes of Chicago Fire, Ensign Ro tells Chief Boden and some other chiefs that she is working with the CFD at the behest of the state of Illinois to cut costs at the CFD by 10%. When Boden objects that the new software she’s having them use will keep him from using his best judgement, she challenges his assumption that his judgement is better than the software’s.


We can debate whether human experience is more valuable than software designed to improve departmental efficiency, or we can ask ourselves why the state would be trying to micromanage a city fire department. Why? Because they state can’t afford to keep subsidizing Chicago, or something like that. Why? Because fiscal conservatives are convinced that all government spending is bad government spending. Why?


At that point, I don’t care. I reject the premise. It takes a certain amount of money to protect a city of a certain size. You can’t just arbitrarily decide, “Hey, let’s spend 10% less on fire protection in Chicago.” What are you going to cut? If you want to hold the line on deploying new technologies to keep costs from increasing, that might be tolerable. But to cut costs from the baseline without reducing the amount of people or property to defend is to assume either that the fire protection service is so grossly inefficient that there’s enough to be saved to make a difference, or it’s to accept a premise that you’d rather save 10% on costs by allowing n% more damage due to less effective fire protection services. How much is “n%”? Does it matter? Tell someone that we saved the city more than their own loss just now because of the cutback in services, and they won’t care.


I’m all for trying to fix inefficiencies. I’m notorious for challenging assumptions. But those are “best effort” attempts, not inflexible mandates.


The next night, L&O: SVU opened the season with my absolute least favorite kind of villain: the sadistic genius who everyone knows is guilty but who’s too smart to be proven guilty in a criminal court, the one who’s so clever he’ll ever corrupt his attorney by seducing her, literally.


These episodes are pornography for another kind of government-hater. “The system has so many rules, we don’t do things we need to do, like put bad guys away!” I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but I’m saying that crap like that glorifies the exceptions and emboldens the morons who would tilt the balance in favor of convicting more people, even if it means also convicting more innocent people.


Has anyone seen the recent statistics about capital punishment and the fallibility rates there? I suppose as a white, straight male who grew up in Christian schools, I shouldn’t feel threatened, but that’s exactly my point these days: just because it doesn’t directly effect mean doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t care.


One remnant of my Catholic education: it’s not just about me.


And, yes, I choose to give the poor and downtrodden the benefit of the doubt.


L&O: SVU was already on the cusp of being cancelled last season. After the first ten minutes of this season, I deleted the two episodes shown back-to-back and told TiVo not to bother. Chicago Fire is on pause while I decide if I’ll calm down later or not.


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