Driving into work today, I heard the most obscene, outrageous advice on the radio. I won’t get sucked into pretending to stand on higher moral ground, as that is how useful idiots like me are supposed to play into the scheme. Instead, I questioned how much social decay was attributable to attempts to boost ratings.

Then, I heard word that people who purchased stolen metal would really get hammered by the law. The last I heard, metals could be melted down, and the atoms for any given element were rather identical, so I’m not sure what kind of detective work purchasers are supposed to commission. It was just another example of a big government crack-down on the easy meat, or for vegetarians, low-hanging fruit. People who are willing to break the law by stealing might also break the law by turning weapons on law enforcement. Poor little manufacturers are only trying to make a living, and they might have a whole factory to be confiscated in the name of ill-gotten gain.

Then, I read an email informing me that there is only one way to be correct, and that is to belong to the correct political party, which has a monopoly on all things good. Not only that, only a few people in the party are privileged to have the absolute perfection of ideas. I didn’t bother to finish reading.

For lunch, I read that the City of Asheville is considering raising fees and charges for free and reduced lunches in after school programs to $60 or $75. Perhaps the published information was too sketchy, but that is $12-15 for lunch for one poor kid. You know, if all the income-earners would only consent to eat one tablespoon of peanut butter mixed in water each day, they’d have enough taxable residue to feed the poor kids steak and lobster for lunch.

It is a sign of mental illness that I read the staff reports appended to Asheville City Council’s agendas, as I don’t believe members of city council bother to read much of them, and why should they? When I look back at all the math I could have learned, the symphonies I could have composed, the debris I could have cleared, furniture I could have built, burgers I could have flipped for pay with the 4-8 hours a week every week for the last twelve years I’ve obligated myself to reading – what? How intelligent might I be now without all the ministrokes I suffered?

Well, the city is also going to consider allowing signage for a McDonald’s. That is probably going to upset a lot of people. Members of city council have made clear their opposition to the concept of drive-thrus. If peeps cannot afford an hour and a half lunch break to go to a sit-down restaurant and be served, they need to brown-bag it. Perhaps it is lack of awareness about places like McDonald’s that causes people in government to think lunch has to cost $12-15. Because city council also does not like signs, we can take comfort in knowing only those rich enough to have GPS’s on their bicycles will be able to find the restaurants. Speaking of bicycles, why did I only see one during my commute today? Why do people insist on driving cars with all the obstacle courses designed to make them waste twice as much on gas as they need to?

A recurring gripe with staff reports is the way the federal government uses big words to try to make itself sound almighty and intimidating as it dabbles in local affairs. An example would be the “hydration packs” supplied through state and federal funding to police officers patrolling the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Normal humans might be satisfied with a bottle of Gatorade or a cheaper knock-off. Hydration packs may also contain moon rocks or 21st-century minority identity awareness.

Another recurring gripe is the way people who are not capitalists insist on fixing the economy through nonprofits. There is an old adage about not wasting one’s strength on that which profiteth not. Yet one fork of the economic development tongue says we must pull capital, labor, and materials from the private sector into the public sector to reward activities that are unproductive. I have a hard time visualizing an economy where trade is governed like an episode of “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?”

Evidence of the lack of attention given to government reports are the typos. A common one is the double-verb that betrays less strategic thinking before word processing. Then, there are those boiler plate forms where the articles and conjugation get messed up. A made up example, not atypical, would be, “three the locations is.” As future generations ponder the original intent, we hope they will only conclude it was to shovel the manure as fast as it could be processed.

Getting to the meat of the matter – yeah, right – let’s consider the 109-page report on the Mills River Watershed. It is a classic example of “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them,” except for government reports there’s a fourth step that says repeat steps 1-3 about eight times. Anyway, I was surprised to see the lobbying power of the elk toe mussels. If you haven’t heard of them, it goes to show how endangered they are.

Also typical of government reports is the putting in place of those little drops in the rain not privileged to be a part of the public sector. A sentence in the report reads, “Private owners not under direct regulatory control have to be educated, encouraged, and in most cases, funded to undertake stormwater management projects.” It reminds me of the time Asheville’s stormwater czar pulled out a plastic tray, sprinkled dirt on it, and then sprinkled water on it to show us ignorant masses I don’t know what. Was she trying to show us that gravity pulls water and dirt downhill? That water makes dirt runny? That adding dirty water to clean water makes the clean water dirty? I am still at a loss as to what kind of education I was supposed to receive from this demonstration, but I can at least rest assured it cost a lot.