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Archive for April, 2012

Will Rogers said, “We have the best Congress money can buy.” Never, in the history of our nation, has that been truer than it is today, in the second decade of the 21st Century. When the top ten lobbying groups in Washington are giving over $400 million, you cannot possibly believe that Congress is not “on the take.” While this may sound ludicrous to many, how else can one explain the friction that is so evident in our legislative branch of government?

Is every member of Congress a charlatan? No, I sincerely doubt that. Unfortunately, what seems to have happened is that these so-called intelligent, astute men and women have allowed themselves  and their principals to become besmirched by party politics as well as by some of the easy money from ActBlue, ATT&T, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, the NRA, and a host of others.  It would be libelous to label every member of Congress as being “on the take,” so to speak, but if they are not being paid in some way to vote the way the lobbyists’ desire, what explains the contrariness coming from both sides of the aisle?  I’d like to believe that I have finally figured it out.

The House of Representatives is districted based on population. This appears to be why California’s 53 Districts appear to be centered around San Francisco and Los Angeles. Illinois has 12 Districts in the immediate Chicago. Florida’s 25 Districts are fairly well evenly distributed, although there are concentrations in the Hollywood, Palm Beach, and Miami areas. This, it seems to me, is the one these drones continue to get elected. They don’t have to appeal to a huge group, merely to a single, concentrated group…and you can fool a single huge concentrated group all of the time, particularly – note carefully – if you slip into bills the earmarks and pork that will benefit the folks in your district. Nancy Pelosi, for example, represents a reasonably small area, heavily populated, and called San Francisco. As long as she keeps pleasing the people in that area, they will continue to reelect her…and she’s found just the right buttons to push to get their support. If you look at a map of the 6th or 7th Congressional District in Alabama, you have to wonder just how they came into being. Aha, now comes the tricky part. When the census comes out and you find that your District has lost or gained population, new lines must be drawn. This ‘redistricting’ can either kill your election chances or it can boost them. This is where the real backroom politicking takes place. Protect your District at all costs, even if it means sacrificing your integrity and your sense of ethical behavior. In Massachusetts, the Third Congressional District belongs to James “Jim” McGovern. It includes the cities of Worcester, Newton, and Fall River. Now “Jim” happens to be a Democrat as are the bulk of the residents all along his ‘route.’ Districts in many states seem to be carved up by political party strongholds with the exception of Southern and Midwestern states. Talk about back scratching!

Admittedly, I can’t think of another way of carving up Congressional Districts. First and foremost, I believe there are too damned many of them. Should California and Rhode Island have the same number of Representatives? Why not? Is one of those states more important than the other? What does one mean by “important?” Don’t the people of Rhode Island face some of the same problems as those in California, or Delaware and Texas, or Maine and Alaska? When, because of your population enclave, you have only to appeal to a small group of constituents or a group that is, in the vast majority, from your political party, of course you’re going to get elected over and over and over again. Are term limits the answer? In some cases, one would certainly think so, but that too is an unfair situation. “So-and-so” is ineffective because he’s been in the House too long; therefore, we must have term limits.” Baloney; maybe so-and-so just sees things differently and represents his constituents in an outstanding manner but it’s contrary to what some of his or her fellow politicos want.

Politics is a great game.  It’s a game we’ve played for more than 200 years…and we’re still trying to get it right. I firmly believe, however, that never in the history of our country has the political process sunk to the depths of maliciousness, viciousness, arrogance, and ignorance that it demonstrates today, most notably in the United States Congress, the Legislative Branch of government that is supposed to represent all of America and not just their little niche. It’s so sad, because for one four-year period some seven decades ago and one two-week period just over one decade ago, we were The United States of America; today, it appears that we are the Divided States of America. It is just so very, very sad.

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Dog…

There were times in my life when my language and choice of words left something to be desired. No, that’s not quite right; it left a great deal to be desired. As a matter of fact, in my first job after college, the boss called me into his office one day and announced that, “Your Irish temper and your choice of language is going to get you in a whole pile of trouble ‘round here, so you might want to consider cleaning up your mouth and learning a little patience.” Well, when you’re making a whole $3,500 a year and are planning on getting married, you look on that as pretty sage advice. That was 1957, of course and the nation as a whole was probably a bit better mannered than I was used to. After that, I would tell someone who interrupted me, “Excuse me, but can I get back to you shortly.” It seemed to work a bit better than, “Get the f58k outta here and leave me alone!”

For the next 40 or so years, I confined my use of what had been my growing up language, learned in the schoolyard and on the basketball court but used at home at one’s great, great peril – and I still have a scar or two to prove it – to places inside my head or to signal impatience with other drivers. When the children were growing up, it became, at times, particularly difficult not to revert to the language of the street. Flipping the bird was an absolute no-no!

Now that I am in my seventh decade and free from the burdens of propriety, I often times find myself slipping back into the language of my youth. I’m fully aware that this is a sign of a lazy mind that doesn’t take the time to find a more appropriate choice of words…a dullard; a dimwit; a lamebrain; a witling, if you will, but certainly not the vocabulary of college-educated bon vivant (screw that!). In addition, so much of what used to be taboo can be heard on many of today’s television series. While it doesn’t justify my usage, it’s a good excuse.

It will, therefore, not surprise you to hear that a new phrase has been added to, “The Joneses are in debt,” one-liners that explain a great many things. You will recall that if you read an earlier post.

I have been undergoing some health problems. This can best be described as an inability to move one’s bowels.(See, there’s that college education and years of practice coming through.) Tests have indicated that the problem is hiding and doctors don’t appear to know where. As a consequence, I have been living on laxatives for approximately a month. One never knows at which moment that little pill will choose to become “nert” as opposed to inert.  The other morning, as I was getting dressed to go to the gym, the dog let out a bark. This was four o’clock in the morning, a time when dogs should be asleep, dreaming of chasing rabbits, and chipmunks, and dogs of the opposite gender, but this one must have heard me putting on my socks or removing my pajama bottoms and slipping into my shorts…very noisy activities. I was hurrying along before my little bitch could set up a racket that would wake my sleeping partner who has built-in radar when it comes to the bark of the dog. Just as I was about to move to the kitchen – home of the dog – inert decided to become very, very ‘nert.’ Rushing to the porcelain god, I just managed to drop my shorts, before releasing a rather sizeable portion of the meals of the day before and possibly before that. Still sitting, worrying about what would come next, I heard, “Arf” coming from the kitchen; then another “Arf” and yet another “Arf.”

“Dog,” I said, under my breath I thought, “I’m taking a s@#t!” Ah, yes, the language of the street returns.

Finishing my ablutions, I rushed to the kitchen, fed the dog ,let her out to relieve herself, and rushed off to the gym. Upon my return, I was greeted at the back door by Juli, my partner who laughingly said, “I woke up when I heard Vikki bark, just in time to hear you say, “Dog…I’m taking a s#%t!” It was quite a startling pronouncement, but it was all I needed to know that everything was in good hands, and I could go back to sleep,” and she started to laugh again.

While it may not sound humorous to the average reader, trust me when I tell you that in a dark house, at four o’clock in the morning, when you hear your dog bark, you do come at least partially awake. Then to hear the dulcet tones of your mate, coming from god-only-knows-where-except-it’s-reasonably-close, and utter that now infamous phrase, there’s nothing to do but laugh.

Somehow, it’s loses its humor in the retelling. I guess you just had to be there. No, wait a minute, that’s not right either!

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Okay, okay, wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute; I remember taking my last breath; well, I guess it was my last breath ‘cause I sure as hell ain’t breathing now. What is this thing they’ve stuffed me into? It’s all silky and satiny but it sure is a tight fit. Wait a minute, let’s go back some and see if I can figure how exactly how I’ve come to be in this situation.

The last thing that’s really clear, that doesn’t seem to have some damned halo around it – you know the feeling, like looking at a picture that’s blurred all around the edges – well the last thing was looking at one of the television sets in front of me…or was I admiring the tight butt of the blonde on the treadmill? Well, it doesn’t seem to matter. I know I was on the elliptical at the gym, and then some kind of lightning bolt hit me smack dab in the chest. Ah, okay, that was it; had to be that the heart finally said, “Enough awready; I quit!” Gee, I wonder how I landed.  I mean, those machines are pretty close together. Falling to the right wouldn’t have been bad; heck, that machine’s been broken for months. I wouldn’t have hit anyone if I went that way. OMG, if I went to the left I would have crashed into that nice young woman with the long black hair. Oh, crap, I hope I didn’t fall to the left! Wonder if I can get that memory back…maybe if I try really, really hard. Oops, there’s something. Aw, I just went straight down; ooh, cracked by jaw on the control panel on the machine. Ouch, bet that hurt. Yikes, I see me tumbling to the floor; what a clod; can’t even die in a comfortable position; looks like I’m all tangled up with the elliptical…”…And the award for the most klutzy death goes to…” Hey, this is really embarrassing; I mean, I know I shouldn’t care because I’m dead, but this is…ah, to hell with it. Go ahead, and do what you’re gonna do. Wait a minute; things are going a little black again; wait, wait, wait, aw damn!

Wow, this place is really cool. Talk about sterility. I wonder if this is a morgue. It can’t be. They wouldn’t take me to a morgue, would they? Hey, wait a minute; they took all my clothes. No wonder I’m freezing my ass off. It’s freakin’ cold in here man. Could somebody please kindly get me a blanket? Oops, guess not. I wonder who this guy is who just came in. Hmmm, what’s that sprinkler thingie he’s holding…holy smokes, he’s spraying me down with that sprinkler thing. Hey buddy, I’m dead; I don’t need a shower; I mean I know it would be tough for me to stand up and take one, but you don’t have to…whew, glad that’s over. Ew, that wasn’t water; that was some kind of disinfectant; aw, now that’s just nasty.

Oh, this is nice. I was going to shave when I got home this morning anyway. This guy’s doing it for me now. Careful, buddy, I use an electric razor. Be careful with that thing; I wouldn’t want to get cut. Oh, that’s right; I’m dead; I shouldn’t care less; just ego I guess; don’t forget the head; that’s right; ah, good job; you even got that spot at the back of the neck…great; thanks. Okay, what next? I’m not certain you want to hear about the next. I mean, putting cotton under the eyelids and sewing the jaw shut and other stuff you’re just as well off not hearing about.  I though sewing the jaw shut might hurt, but it wasn’t all that bad. The part that was most embarrassing was when he was putting makeup on me. I tried to convince him I didn’t need it, but I guess he couldn’t hear me. Every time I tried to push his hand away I found that it was more difficult than I remembered…probably one of the disadvantages of being dead.

Anyway, it looks like it’s finally time to get dressed. Wonder what the family picked out. Hopefully, it’s a T-shirt with a hoodie and a pair of sweats. Aw nuts, they went the suit route. Yeah, I guess the light blue shirt will be alright; no, not that tie; I hate that tie. You mean I’m gonna have to have that tie on ‘til it rots off; aw man, that sucks. Guess by that time I’ll just be bones anyway so why should I give a damn, right?  Hey, I’m going for a ride; oh, not that far. He and his friend – where the hell did he come from – are putting me in this…oh that’s what the box is…it’s my casket. Not bad; nice job, kids; looks good with the suit. What’s that bag down by my feet; uh, maybe if I stretch just a little. Oh, shit, man, those are my organs in that bag. They’re gonna bury me with my organs in a bag? You have to be kidding!

I guess this must be alone time. Nobody around now; just me, this nice silky, satiny casket, the soft music, and my “guts-in-a-bag” lying at my feet. That’s just plain nasty! Hope nobody wants to see if my shoes are polished. Whoopee, wouldn’t that just rattle a few cages? “Oh, what’s this?” “It’s his organs, madam.”  Right into a dead faint. Hey, boss, no one looks at the feet, okay?

Oops here comes the family. I suppose I should smile and look handsome. Oh, that’s right, I can’t smile. They’ll just have to take me as I am. Hey, here come some more people. It’s some of the folks from the gym. Sorry, guys, didn’t mean to screw up your morning by dying on ya. Gee, but time moves quickly. Everyone was here a while ago, but now they’re all gone. Guess I’m gone too. Getting awfully dark in here. Guess this is it…I’m outta here!

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Right now I’m feeling pretty naive. I’d never even heard of a ‘bucket list’ until the movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman arrived on the scene. Even if I had, my financial position was more like Freeman’s blue-collar mechanic Carter Chambers than Nicholson’s billionaire Ed Cole. Nonetheless, there are certain things that I could have done and would like to have done when I was still physically capable of doing them. Now, my knees are shot to hell; COPD and emphysema from too much smoking have messed up my lungs, and the general body breakdown that comes with age has slowed me enough to realize that I never will get my shot at hang gliding…which I really wanted to try.

Any numbers of young people don’t have time to make out a bucket list. The money goes to paying off college loans, buying an engagement ring, getting married, starting a family, etc., etc. By the time they get around to thinking about their list, they’re too damned old or never considered putting aside a few bucks so perhaps they might be able to do a couple of things they’d always wanted to try. Let me tell you something, boys and girls; putting aside those few bucks, pesos, francs, euros, or whatever is truly worth your while. When you look back on your life, it won’t be anything you did that you will regret; it will be what you never got to do. Carter had the regrets but Cole had the money and made it happen. Where the hell’s my Ed Cole when I need him?

“What would you have done?” you ask. First and foremost, I would have convinced my wife that flying isn’t as dangerous as she always thought it was. There’s very little enjoyment in doing something alone. There’s tremendous joy in being able to talk about what you did with someone you love. I will assume for the moment that I was successful and won that discussion…she really did enjoy Bermuda, but we never talked about the actual flight. Our first trip would be to see America by air. This would entail our both taking flying lessons and becoming both VFR and IFR rated – visual and instrument flight rules – and then buying our own plane. Remember, this is my fantasy bucket list so money is not a problem. We would fly over the Grand Canyon and all of the national parks. If something truly interested us, we would find a landing strip and some small airport and rent a car to visit the area. We would see America. I have little truck with those who have kissed the blarney stone in Ireland or ridden a gondola in Venice, but who have never walked on Lexington Green where our country truly began or who never stood on top of Pike’s Peak and started humming America the Beautiful.

My personal bucket list would include taking part in one of the hot air balloon events in New Mexico, walking along the Vietnam Wall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, and standing once more before Mr. Lincoln’s statue at the rotary in Arlington, Virginia. There is a power in that statue that infuses the visitor with the feeling that he or she is capable of nearly anything after their ‘visit’ with the giant sitting in the chair. My list would take me to the Alamo to see where brave men fought and died for the honor of their country, and I would certainly include Gettysburg as a bucket list ‘must.’ As an aside, I was fortunate enough in my younger days to walk the battlefield at Manassas. In the stillness of a fall day, if you listen hard enough, you can almost hear the sound of the cannon and the screams of the wounded and dying. Many cannon remain on that battlefield – the Confederate generally well cared for while the Union, ahem, not so much so.

Our son has been to Hawaii on a number of occasions because of his job. On each occasion he has made the time to take a trip to the USS Arizona. It would be kind of nice to learn what he finds so moving about his visits, although we’re pretty much alike, and I think I already know.

Should time and health permit, I would like to see the beaches of Normandy where so many fought and died that I might live with the freedoms that I have today. It would be good to visit the World War II cemetery and to say “thank you,” to the brave men who made the ultimate sacrifice. I’d like to spend some time with my friend, Marlene de Kort and her husband, Bart, in Holland and with Anne Pitt and Jacqui Hayward-Gant in England. We’ve all been e-mailing and exchanging cards now for so long, that it would be nice just to see them, if only for an hour or so.

My bucket list isn’t such a big deal. I have no desire to climb Mount Everest, although climbing a pyramid would be a thrill. Sky diving would be nice, but it wouldn’t be near the top of the list. No, my desires are reasonably simple. I can’t do them anymore. The last time I flew to Los Angeles, about three years ago, I found myself having to be wheeled through airports…not a good feeling.

If you’re young enough, courageous and bold enough, plan your bucket list now. It’s not an easy thing to do. It takes sacrifice if you’re to make some, any, all of those things happen. Something will always be an obstacle. Just remember, when you look back, will you be able to say, “Oh, what wonderful memories,” or will you say, “Gee, I wish I had…”?

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“The Joneses are in debt!” Juli said.

We were driving through one of the ‘W’ towns in Massachusetts. That ‘W’ might stand for any one of a half dozen communities in the Commonwealth where the favorite past time is “…keeping up with the Joneses.” Economists call it ‘conspicuous consumption.’ The term was first coined by Thorstein Veblen in his 1899 book, The Theory of The Leisure Class. The phrase actually refers to the purchasing of goods or services not because one needs them but to demonstrate that one is of great wealth (choke, gag, vomit). Today, it appears, in some communities or sections thereof, that if the neighbors get a new toy, others in the neighborhood have to get a toy that’s a little bigger, a little better, or a little more impressive in order to show that they, too, are a ‘big dog.’ Don’t get me wrong; I just think it’s humorous.

Juli’s comment was not out of place. I well remember some original ‘mansions’ along the Boston Marathon route in Newton. Yes, the houses were huge, but the furniture was either lacking or threadbare. Nonetheless, it was the address that counted. And if one of the neighbors put a new car in the garage, you can bet your boots that several other neighbors would follow in a few weeks.

Advertisers thrive on conspicuous consumption. Look at the recent ads for Lincoln. “You no longer have to buy off the rack. Today, you can afford suits that fit. Isn’t it time you had a car that fits your status,” or some bullshit like that. Cadillac talks about ‘elegance.’ They all seem to be appealing to the nouveau riche and the nouveau riche are falling for it, hook, line, and all four new tires. It’s no longer enough to spend paycheck to paycheck to stay with or ahead of the ‘Joneses;’ it now appears that if going into debt is the answer to “stay with them,” then that is the thing to do. Unfortunately, it’s the big ticket items that are the symbol of conspicuous consumption. Unless one is going to walk around on one’s hands, wearing a pair of handmade alligator shoes that may cost as much as $1,000 is rather tacky and goes unnoticed by the neighbors.

There was a time when I thought that people who drove Jaguars, lived in big houses, and sent their kids to private schools were to be envied and emulated. It may have been when I turned 30 that I realized that those people had their own share of problems. The number one glitch in their situations was how to pay for all of their ostentation. The majority of them seemed to have their priorities a bit out of order. Debt is debt and somewhere along the line, it has to be repaid. One of our friends did so by embezzling from his clients. I don’t know how he enjoyed his prison stint, and I don’t know how he repaid those clients, but it certainly was a lesson hard-earned.

Thinking about Juli’s comment, I was reminded that I have a lovely house in a very nice community – although there are a few of the ‘W’ types moving in, tearing down houses and putting up MacMansions –  and I’m quite content. There is no mortgage, partially because the kids didn’t have to go to private school, and we drove what we drove…paid off. In addition, if you search long enough, you may find a five dollar bill that shows Lincoln beardless. My late wife, Joan, would shave his beard and sell the clippings as genuine Lincoln souvenirs…not really, but a contractor we once used christened her, “Cheap, cheap” to her face. He had become a friend of the family and in fact, Joan was rather proud of her new moniker. The fact is that we didn’t feel the need of a lavish lifestyle. Our idea of high living was trips to Bermuda in the fall, although there were some years where a repair here or there would prevent that. Our other major expense was paying for the kids’ swimming trips. They traveled more places in the world than we ever considered. It stood them in good stead when it came time for college. Scholarship offers meant no tuition payments. Unless you’ve had to pay those bills, you cannot conceive of the bite they take from your income!

So, while the Jonese may be in debt, perhaps the rest of us should count our lucky stars that we have been practical enough not to attempt to keep up. Perhaps we are wise to remember what one author wrote on the subject: “Conspicuous consumption has its downsides. It is spurred on by envy and resentment of those who belong to a group from which one is excluded and who have what one does not have. In a country with enormous and ever-increasing inequalities like America, it can make being poor seem to be humiliating, even if one has a much better lifestyle than the vast majority of people who live in underdeveloped countries. Poor clothes may not be seen as shameful or suspect in a poor country, but in a very rich country they often are. “Personally, I don’t mind being excluded from the Joneses group. Do I like the inequalities in America? Absolutely not, and I fear they are becoming more and more obvious. For that I blame our political system.  I will say, however, that if you’ve never shopped at a Salvation Army store, you would be shocked at the designer clothing you can pick up for a song…and its fun!

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“The abundant life does not come to those who have had a lot of obstacles removed from their path by others. It develops from within and is rooted in strong mental and moral fiber.”                                                                                                  

                                                                                       William Mather Lewis

Is it really worth one’s while to attempt to buy the Presidency of the United States by allegedly planning to spend nearly one billion dollars? Can you imagine the good that could be done with that money? It’s certainly much more than the United States spends in its foreign aid to some small countries. Doesn’t it make you wonder about a person who would be willing to take that much money from a “super pac” or whatever we’re calling them these days and not figure that somewhere along the line there will be payback consequences?

The President of the United States earns an annual salary of $474,000, including expenses. That’s today; George Washington, who didn’t even want the job, was paid the magnanimous sum of $25,000. Of course, those were 1789 dollars. One writer maintains that figure would be $1,109,428.56 today. It would appear that the President’s salary hasn’t kept up with inflation. In fact, before 2001, the President was making only half of what he is being paid today.

There have been presidents other than Washington who didn’t really want the position. “Hell, I don’t want to be President,” Harry Truman told a reporter…and he meant it. Truman later said, “I enjoyed my new position as Vice-President, but it took me a while to get used to the fact that I no longer had the voting privileges I had enjoyed for ten years as a senator.” Ulysses Grant wrote, “I did not want the Presidency, and I have never quite forgiven myself for resigning the command of the army to accept it. . . . War and politics are so different.” Thomas Jefferson could also be called a “reluctant candidate” in the 1796 election, and there were plenty of others. I’ve never been certain that it took a great deal of convincing, but there are those who believe that it took several emissaries in Paris to convince Dwight Eisenhower to run for the office in 1951.

Since Eisenhower left office, the men who have been elected to the Presidency have all wanted to do the job. Jack Kennedy was supposed to succeed his brother, Joe, to the White House. That’s the way father Joe Kennedy had it planned but, unfortunately, his first-born was killed in WWII. Old Joe was hoping for a presidential dynasty of Joe, Jack, Bob, and Teddy, but life has a way of messing up the best laid plans. Lyndon Johnson didn’t want the job and refused to run a second term. Richard Nixon salivated nearly as much as Pavlov’s dog to get into the Oval Office. Fortunately for America, it was Gerald Ford who succeeded Nixon when he was forced to resign. Jimmy Carter saw the government as incompetent and lacking in compassion, and he worked hard to get the office. Ronald Reagan wanted to restore prosperity to America, and he succeeded in doing that. While some initially thought of Reagan as “that movie actor feller,” he proved to be a highly successful US leader, both domestically and in the area of international relations.

I may be wrong but it seems to me that Ronald Reagan was the last American President who truly had the interests of Mr. and Mrs. Average American as their first priority. While coming from a public service-oriented family, both Bush presidencies were marked by domestic economic failures of gigantic proportions. Bill Clinton had a remarkable political record and a miserable personal record. He had wanted the presidency since the age of 10 and worked hard to get it. Under Clinton, “…the U.S. enjoyed more peace and economic well being than at any time in its history.” Had it not been for the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, Clinton might well have duplicated the feat of FDR to be elected for a third and/or fourth term. Barack Obama had a rather brief but distinguished career in public service. Like his predecessors, he chased the White House dream and is living it. Only time will tell if his efforts have been successful.

This brings us back to the original question; “Why would anyone spend nearly a billion dollars to become President?” The job is fraught with headaches and problems. The Presidential duties are only two-fold: He’s chief executive officer of the federal government and he’s the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Damn near everything else he does has to be approved by some other group. The perks seem to be that you have satisfied a life-long goal. That’s great as long as you go into the job with a plan for how you feel you can improve on what’s being done and have articulated that plan in detail in order to gain the required number of electoral college votes to earn the title. If you’re doing it as an ego trip, please don’t. If you’re doing it to satisfy some family commitment, please don’t. If you’re doing it because you think you can buy the job, you can’t.

Becoming President of the United States is one of the toughest jobs you can possibly imagine. Think of it this way: Even if you hit the ground running, with a solid plan for how you are going to “turn things around,” you have approximately two years to appease Congress and the general public. Part of that time is spent in getting Congress to approve your major appointments; part is spent in getting Congress ‘on your side.’ You cannot win in that situation because even if the majority of Congress is from your party, the other party will throw roadblock after roadblock in your way. There is a new saying in Congress; “We can’t let him win one.” Granted, it was coined only recently by Eric Cantor and a few other members of the Tea Party; however, you can bet your last buck that it will become Congressional mantra from both sides of the aisle until something drastic takes place. By now, two years into your term, advisers are telling you that it’s time to get “on the stump” for your second term in office. This means an increase in speaking engagements, maybe a few more state dinners to increase visibility on the diplomatic front, publicly condemning Congress for not passing all of the legislation you’ve sent to the hill, and traveling, always the traveling. Then comes the final push for election to that second term and you may as well kiss your fourth year goodbye in terms of any real productivity. If you get that second term, you might actually accomplish something; if not, you go down in history as a loser. Remember the famous Lincoln quote, “You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.” I guess it doesn’t matter what you accomplish…some folks just won’t care for you.

And this is the job somebody actually wants? Oy vey!

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Is there such a person as an “Honest American?” Think about it for a minute. Sure, news stories are made up of people who lie, cheat, steal, murder, and do God-only-knows-what-else. But, in general, are our fellow citizens all truly pure of heart? I’m not. When I was in my youth I stole and lied. Most of the time it was small things…some change on the kitchen table, or, “Gee, I don’t know where it went.” Nonetheless, it was stealing and lying. That’s the type of thing I’m talking about. Is there a single one of us who can, with impunity, say that they have never bent the truth or broken some kind of law?

I find that as I age, not only do I become more of a curmudgeon, but I also become more of a hypocrite. Hell, my youthful philosophy was, “Pedal to the metal and what stop sign?” It was, “Who’s gonna get the beer and do you think we can get laid tonight?” Looking back, I was what today I would call an, “A-1, genuine (hard ‘I’), number one asshole.” Isn’t it interesting how we mellow with age? Mellowing, in this case, meaning we become super-hypocritical.

When you’re young, it’s okay to be a jerk; you and I didn’t know any better. Then we matured; well, many of us did. We got a job, got married, had kids, went to PTA and Little League, Girl Scouts, and swim meets. Our kids grew up in spite of us, and all was well with the world. Some of us even chose alternative lifestyles and finally we became accepted by much of society. It is beyond my ken, however, to think that mature people, charged with protecting the leader of the Free World, could possibly be so immature as to lay themselves bare to blackmail threats and worse by hiring hookers in Columbia.

The excuse that, “We weren’t on duty” is so pathetic as to be laughable. Guys, I have some news for you: You-are-on-duty-24/7 when you are a member of the United States Secret Service. When you are at home and playing with your children, you are on duty. When you are shopping at the market on Saturday morning, you are on duty. You are a representative of an organization that is the most prestigious in the world. Even if you are not a part of the presidential protection detail, you are a representative of that group. Certainly, the Secret Service has other responsibilities, including a major role in combating counterfeiting and other treasury crimes. You are a part of the Department of Homeland Security. Think about those last two words…homeland security. You are a cut above the rest. Your job really knows no “time off” even when you’re not working. Sure, you’re underpaid and overworked. In some ways that makes you no different than any other cop, firefighter, or school teacher. “The job” is what matters. Talk to an off-duty cop sometime. “You still on the job?” is one of the first questions you can ask. If they are, they will tell you, “Yes,” and with a sense of pride that is visible in each of the words they say.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said, “I can speak for myself and my fellow chiefs: We’re embarrassed by what occurred in Columbia, although we’re not sure exactly what it is. Even here, there is some truth bending. General, baby, you damn well know exactly “what it is.” The Secret Service detail, in charge of preparing for the visit of the President of the United States decided to have a pre-wheels-up party and the result has become ‘Hookergate.’ Jesus, General, stop with the pansy-ass tap dancing and get on with the truth. What those eleven agents did was no less than put the Commander in Chief in jeopardy. Was it a genuine threat? No, probably not. Did these agents break their own laws by what they did? You bet your ass they did. Has it been done before by other agents? I’m willing to bet the farm that it has, but at least those people had the good sense to pay the hookers the right price. That’s how you got caught, guys; you were trying to cheat the hookers. If it wasn’t so disturbing, it would make a great comedy sketch.

This is the year 2012. It is the year when terrorist bombings are taking place all over the world. It is the year when a member of the House of Lords, although he denies it, is alleged to have put a £10 million bounty on the current and immediate past Presidents of the United States. Is this also going to be the year that dereliction of duty becomes something commonplace? Will lying, cheating and stealing now become the norm and “Screw It, let somebody else handle it” become our motto. I thought we were getting better than that!

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