[lit-ideas] Re: Scrushy and the King of Arkansas

  • From: david ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 3 Dec 2005 13:34:02 -0800

On Dec 1, 2005, at 3:42 PM, Phil Enns wrote:
seems to me that the statement addresses the problem, the perceptions of
conflicts of interest, with all the appropriate nods that living in a pc
culture requires. That is, I don't think the muck up lies in the
statement but in a culture that requires such a statement. Since it is
aimed at addressing sensitivities rather than practical problems, I
don't see why the statement should be particularly practical in
application. Surely it is effective if it appears to acknowledge
problems of conflicts of interest?

Clearing out my mail, I found today "Sir Humphrey's Top Tips," hints compiled by the maistro himself, Sir Humphrey of "Yes Minister." Those of you who feel, as Phil apparently does, that the world is not quite as straightforward as it could be, will nod sagely as they read Roland White's advice on how to deal with a request for information:

*On no account attempt to reply within the stipulated 20 days. You know how unreliable the post can be these days.
*In the unlikely event of a further inquiry, respond that you must first consult widely within the department.
*Consult widely. Refer the application up, refer it across, refer it down, refer it to the necessary ministers, refer it to the necessary former ministers. Do not expect any early replies.
*On receiving the results of your consultation, deploy the catch-22 defence. Write to the applicant in hand-wringing tones to say that, alas, they have not been specific enough. What is it exactly that they want?
*If the applicant still persists, say that the documents required must be examined by legal advisors to consider the public interest. If you can't think of anything else, insist that there are human rights issues.
*You know what legal folk are like. This step could take years.
*Announce in delighted tones that the application has cleared all necessary stages: administrative, consultative, legal. But the decision has been taken to withhold the material.
*If the applicant obtains a legal notice demanding the release of the information, inform the relevant cabinet minister. He or she can always issue a veto blocking the release of the information.
*If all else rails, revert to Whitehall Emergency Plan 3b: "We regret that the documents in question are no longer available as they were accidentally shredded by a junior clerk on work experience."

David Ritchie
Portland, Oregon
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