Thursday, June 22, 2006

Time: Friend of freedom or tool of terror?

A CJSD Special Report

War has been declared on wartime timetables. But will our deadlines and curfews suffer collateral damage?

Republicans opened a new front in the Iraq war this week—the war on timetables for troop withdrawal. Republican Congressmen and Bush Administration officials not only refused to set a date for withdrawing American troops from Iraq, they launched an offensive against Democratic calls for such timetables, saying they would not "cut and run" and that even talking about timetables was a "disaster."

But like many wars, these attacks on Iraq timetables have had effects beyond the intended battlefield. Now, right here in America, all manner of time-based milestones are under attack.

The politics of deadlines

In Chicago, at the ad agency Grand, Olsen, and Pecker, an account manager and copywriter nearly came to blows after the copywriter missed a deadline. The advertising scribe, Gerald Bartleby, failed to deliver copy for a credit-card check package. The account manager, Jennifer Kelsey, confronted Mr. Bartleby at his cubicle, demanding to know when he would be finished.

"It will be ready when it's ready," Mr. Bartleby said. "What do you want me to do, just leave these headlines without supporting body copy? Do you want a 3 percent response rate or not?"

"It's just a check package," said Ms. Kelsey, "you know, 'use these checks for anything you want' blah, blah, blah. You said you would be done six weeks ago. What the hell have you been doing?"

"You know, I don't think this is even about the check package," yelled Mr. Branch. "I think you're just using this 'deadline' to score political points against me."

Such deadline deadlock has been reported nationwide, particularly in the IT industry. Dylan E. Myers, a project manager at Home Page Solutions, a Web development firm, says he's dealing with a near-revolt from his programmers.

"We had an emergency status meeting because we were way late on a project," said Mr. Myers, "and all my programmers were like, 'dude, code doesn't come together overnight,' and 'we have to make sure this home page is an example to other home pages.' And I was like, I hear you, and I respect your craft, but Playtex hired us to launch this new maxi pad portal launched by Friday.

"So the next day, one of them bought a Neville Chamberlain action figure off eBay and left it in my inbox,' said Mr. Myers, shaking his head. 'And they keep asking me if I want a chicken sandwich for lunch.'

Other reports have surfaced of cable television technicians refusing to name hour ranges for appointments, authors leaving delivery dates completely blank on their contracts, and business boards refusing to report quarterly profits.

"Our numbers just aren’t ready to go out in public," said one chief business officer at a Fortune 500 company, "and I'm not going to rush out earning statements for the sake of some artificial quarterly reporting structure or to satisfy some weak-willed shareholders. The results could be calamitous."

The curfew conundrum

The war on timetables has had a domestic effect as well, especially among parents and teenagers. "I told my daughter that she could stay at the party until midnight," said Helen Chapman of Little Rock, Arkansas, about her daughter, Ann. "I originally said 11:00, but she whined and pleaded and I gave in. Midnight is plenty late for a 16-year old. Well, when I showed up to get her, you'd have thought I was the biggest traitor on the planet."

Arriving at the party in her minivan at 11:55 p.m., Ms. Chapman waited for five minutes outside the house of the party, but her daughter did not appear. Going inside to investigate, Ms. Chapman found there were no parents home—despite Ann's insistence that they were there—and that there was rampant underage drinking and "general fooling around," in Ms. Chapman's words. "There was no supervision at all," Ms. Chapman said. "Those kids were just doing whatever the heck they felt like."

Grabbing her daughter by the wrist, Ms. Chapman forcibly pulled Ann out of the party. She scolded Ann for not disclosing the nature of the party, but Ann insisted she told Ms. Chapman it would not be chaperoned. After bickering back and forth about the exact nature of the pre-party disclosure, Ann said that her mother never let her have any fun and that it was unfair that she had a curfew when the other partygoers did not.

Arriving at home, Ms. Chapman said, "I don’t care if all the other kids can stay out all night, you’re coming home when I say, and you’re also grounded for lying."

"God, why do you hate freedom so much?" Ann screamed before slamming her bedroom door.

A weary Ms. Chapman slumped in a kitchen chair. "Do you see what I have to deal with now? I just want to know when she’s going to be home."

Is it "time's-up" for time?

It's unclear whether deadlines, curfews, and other time-based metrics will help us fight terror or embolden our enemies. But there is one thing that no one debates about time, a point made very clear by Republican party chairman Ken Mehlman.

"Democrats can talk about timetables and deadlines all they want," said Mr. Mehlman. "But one thing is clear: time goes hand-in-hand with death. It leads to death. And by aligning themselves with time, it's clear that Democrats are—as we have said all along—the party of death."


Yosef said...

In a related story, Refrigerator Repairman who said that they would be greeted with people throwing candy and flowers when they arrived between 9 am and 4 pm a week ago have still not arrived. Company spokesmen meanwhile issued statements saying that a deep freeze had been found in the home, although it has not been usable since before 1991.

teh l4m3 said...

Sigh... I wish I could fit a MaxiPad in my portal...

Neel Mehta said...

Huh. And here I thought that time is on my side.

Adorable Girlfriend said...

And you know the Miami raid was carefully timed to make anyone who suggests pulling out of Iraq crazy, Anti-American and wrong in Bushitler's mind.