December 12, 2011

Of haikus, public hearings, rhetoric and zombie brains

Sometimes, working within a restricted format promotes creativity. Think of haiku for example. There rules are pretty strict--5, 7, 5--but you can come up with all kinds of things.

Sometimes I think testifying at public hearings in the WV legislature is similar. You don't get a lot of time to make your point; sometimes you just have a minute. Some speakers barely get through trying to establish their bona fides or street cred before time runs out.

Public hearings are weird things in WV politics. Sometimes they are like consolation prizes for bills that are going to die. At least they give supporters a chance to rant. Always, they are political theater.

The latest example came Monday during a public hearing about the Marcellus Shale natural gas bill. By way of background, a joint committee of the legislature came up with a pretty good compromise bill. However, Gov. Tomblin announced that he wanted to "tweak" the bill and bring it before a special session of the legislature. To a lot of people concerned with surface owners' rights, the environment and such, Tomblin's idea of tweaking was more like gutting.

Hence the pubic hearing. The oil and gas industry brought in people from all over the state, but in the end critics of the "tweaked" version outnumbered industry supporters.

I attended the public hearing but didn't plan to testify until I was told that numbers mattered this time. I agreed to do it, but only because I was able to come up with a one minute metaphor. It went something like this:

A good Marcellus Shale bill is like a four legged chair. One leg should promote local jobs for local workers. Another should protect surface owners. The third should protect the environment and especially water, which will probably be the oil of the 21st century. The last and perhaps most important leg should protect the people of West Virginia by ensuring that this won't be another time when the social costs get passed on to citizens and taxpayers while the profits leave the state.

I don't know whether that made sense to anybody else but I value the practice of trying to cook a message down to the shortest, stickiest and most memorable form (whether I get there or not). I guess that's why I'm a sucker for public hearings these days.

ZOMBIES ON THE BRAIN. So my daughter (yes, the one with the advanced degree) is still mulling over the possibilities and prospects of a zombie apocalypse. She sent me a link to this CNN item on zombie brains today.

Again, I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry. Or threaten to eat her brains...


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Im just glad the seriousness of the impending zombie invasion is being investigated by others with advanced degrees... Adds validity to my concerns