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9-9-9

Oct. 14th, 2011 | 07:36 am

When I was a 911 police dispatcher, some nights the psychos would all call in, and sometimes they'd all call about the same odd thing... like the witches on their porch. Even though these damaged folks didn't know each other and were calling in separately to the police, their complaints would be similar. It was spooky.  Maybe they knew something us mundanes didn't know.

We dispatchers wondered what would happen if the psychos  got together, formed a lobbying group, and demanded that the police come out and de-witch their front porch one night and then protect them the Martian death rays the next day. My co-workers giggled about the idea of a Union of Psychos.  It was gallows humor, politically incorrect, but calming when faced with an inexplicable string of earnest-but-wacky callers.

Unfortunately, the Union of Psychos has become a real-life nightmare now thanks to 24-hour media that passes along any sensationalistic (and ratings boosting) scheme that right-wing Presidential candidates propose. 

This morning my Facebook newsfeed and incoming e-newsletters are crammed with links to full-blown analysis of Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax media event. It's a revolutionary tax "plan" the same way as my pacifist friends' suggestion to declare peace and send every soldier home tomorrow is a revolutionary defense "plan".  Both approaches are simple, easy to understand, and would work only in an alternate universe with different laws of physics and human behavior. But, somehow, we have to studiously look into Cain's details, hem and haw, and mildly suggest that perhaps his assumptions are different than ours.

Herman, your plan is an empty, grandstanding scheme that sounds like it came from a drunken college dorm discussion of how to solve the world's problems on the back of a napkin.

A more thorough analysis is counterproductive. You can come up with insane "plans" faster than an army of economists can debunk them.  You got the attention you wanted, and the whiny "But, but, but..." by responsible critics won't be heard because the media doesn't like nuances or men in tweed coats. 

Frankly, I am just tired having the media lurch excitedly from one crazy, attention-grabbing proposal to the next.  I am also fearful that if each half-baked assault on our social fabric and traditional reason is not challenged, an evil will slip through.  Damn it, eternal vigilance is wearying.

In the police department where I worked, there was one radio call that stopped everyone in their tracks, it was the code for "Officer Needs Help".  I've been thinking of that code today.  In the years I worked at the department, I heard that code used only one time.  It was broadcast by an officer when he was being chased up an ally while being shot at by his own gun.  He'd been disarmed and was fleeing for his life. His partner was down on the ground being stabbed by another group of men.  He needed his friends to rally round him.

The officer keyed his microphone and screamed the help code into the radio: "9-9-9!"

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