Thursday, July 16, 2009


TAKING THE CAKE, PAW PRINTS AND ALL: Though we mentioned it yesterday we thought we’d delve into the latest massacre of the English language by a Board of Ethics (BOE) member in attempting to make a farce of the county charter provision banning county employees and board and commission members from appearing before other county agencies, boards and commissions on behalf of a private interest.

First there was Mark Hubbard’s delusional contention that his personal interest like getting a driver’s license would be banned using equivocational definitions of “private” and “interest” and separating each to change the meaning of the whole phrase which has a distinct meaning when the words are used together.

But yesterday reporter Mike Levine reported an, if possible, even more bizarre try at parsing the phrase out of existence when BOE member Paul Weil said essentially that if representing “a private interest” was banned that didn’t include non-profit organizations since they acted “in the public interest”.

Here’s what Levine wrote:

Weil said he voted in June to give (BOE Members Judy) Lenthall and (Mark) Hubbard passes on their apparent violations of the charter because they appeared in front of the County Council on behalf of nonprofit organizations that do work in the public interest, not fitting the description of a “private interest.”

Where to start, where to start...

First of all non-profits do not always act in the public’s interest such as trade organizations and many other types. They are in fact private entities as opposed to “the” public entity- the government. The juxtaposition of private sector and public sector aptly describes the difference with non-profits falling on the private side. Non-profits are not subject to governmental laws such as the sunshine law or procurement laws.

But much more important is the abuse of the language in equivocating the word “interest”.

According to the on-line hyperdictionary “interest” has no less than 10 distinct meanings, many totally unrelated to others.

#2 says: interest can mean:

[n] a reason for wanting something done; "for your sake"; "died for the sake of his country"; "in the interest of safety"; "in the common interest"

That is what “in the public interest” means

But #6 says it can mean:

[n] a right or legal share of something; a financial involvement with something; "they have interests all over the world"; "a stake in the company's future"

That is what “a private interest” is.

Weil is an attorney by trade and it shows. He uses one of the oldest shyster lawyer tricks in the book blurring equivocal meanings of a word to confuse and make a bogus point.

The phrase “a private interest”, is a concrete thing, as denoted by the use of the article “a”. As a phrase it means an entity as represented by the phrase, not necessarily the individual words- another trick of wordsmithing sometimes called false deconstruction and reconstruction.

“Acting in the public interest” uses a whole other definition of the word interest denoting a concept to be is acted upon. That’s represented by the prepositional phrase “in the”.

What are they going to come up with next?

In the somewhat distant past (maybe a decade or so) and in semi-related matters the county attorney tried to say that because board and commission members weren’t paid they weren’t “employees” of the county. But that was eventually struck down as the absurdity it was and those trying to foist it on government watchdogs gave up because that would have opened a whole other can of worms- one of which was that then they wouldn’t qualify for the privacy afforded employees.

We covered quite a few others in our three part report “Unethical Culture- Government Service With the Personal ‘Touch’”-
Part 1- Bored of Ethics on the Board of Ethics?Part 2- The Long and Winding Road to InertiaPart 3- Deep Thoughts- A “Handy” Diversion

Like an adolescent who just discovered argumentation based on language but isn’t quite literate enough to pull it off yet, they’ve tried to use it to avoid all sorts of things.

“Take out the trash? I am- we have a date Saturday night.”

“Is your bed made? Yes- and Serta did a very good manufacturing job”

But this latest is a real prize winner so to you, Paul Weil, we present this month’s “What Am I a Freakin’ Idiot?” Award.

Grand prize is your own easy chair at the old boys and girls Crony Club where, if you can negotiate the revolving door, you’ll get an all expenses unpaid stay in the lap of Board and Commission Chief John Isobe. There you can bullshit your way into a future well-paid position with the administration or council of your choice (as if there was ever going to be a choice) stonewalling information requests and spinning incompetence to your hearts delight.

You can pick up your trophy anywhere... just bend over.

1 comment:

Mauibrad said...
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