Wednesday, October 16, 2013

DC Drama: Have We Seen This Plot Before?

If the US budget fiasco were a TV crime show, what would happen? Law and Order, NCIS, and the Mentalist line up as the likeliest suspects. First, Law and Order would make a lot of noise about "compassion for victims." NCIS would feature a diverse cast racing against the clock to snag the bad guy. The Mentalist, of course, would find some poor schlep to hypnotize.

In every case, though, tension must ratchet up until the very last minute—to keep the audience from switching the channel. A ratings war is always waiting in the wings to undermine popular shows' standing. The stars always are negotiating their—not our—job contracts. The writers have a lot on their minds, too, so an old plot revamped is cheaper than a new one.

How many times do we have to watch this drama before we say: Enough already! Give DC its own TV show, and let America get on with producing something besides a plot so hackneyed that H. L. Mencken would say again:

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed -- and hence clamorous to be led to safety -- by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

For more scandalous thoughts from H. L. Mencken, please see:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Maybe DC Watches Too Much TV?

Drama Queens dominate the budget scandal in Washington, DC. Just as a solution from the House emerges, the Senate has to shoot it down. Does anyone remember how the US got into the budget mess? Weren't those famous last words concerning the Affordable Care Act "Just pass it. You can read it later"?

Now, any high school graduate knows very well the cardinal rule before signing any document: "Read it first. Ask questions NOW, not later. Be sure you understand every single word before adding your signature." May we assume that every member of the Obama administration and Congress, too, had those words poured into them long before they attended law school?

May we assume that they also reviewed this rule like the bible in the law schools they attended? How is it then these legal geniuses disobeyed this rule from the get-go with the Affordable Care Act? Do these lawyers now need their own lawyers to explain how to protect themselves, as well as their clients, the American people, from charges of legal malpractice?

But, if they had obeyed this cardinal rule, what opportunities they would have missed! The leaders of both chambers would have had no reason to pontificate before the country. They would not have scored acting points with Hollywood for demonstrating outrage, worry, bafflement, loyalty, and every other emotion meant to charge the country's batteries for the 2014 and 2016 elections.

And Obama, the star of Hollywood's parties, would not have been able to demonstrate his highly mobile face, grimacing with indignation, raising his eyes in hope, and channeling the fury he hopes to whoop-up in his lobby groups. The solution for Number 1 and all his kin is to be sent to their rooms with no TV until they stop acting like spoiled TV stars and begin performing their duties.

Maybe with no TV on their schedules, they will have time to read legislation before they pass it?  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Cats and Angel Hair: A Perfect Match

Cats can benefit from a Mediterranean diet, too. 

If your cats are exploring your garbage disposal, eating your angora sweaters and turning your doorknobs—just when you need to keep them inside or outside—they may need spaghetti. 

First, if they enjoy noise makers, shake-rattle-n-roll that Angel Hair container the next time you prepare a spaghetti dinner. See if they don't come running. If they do, you've just discovered a new sure-fire way to get them to line up and pay attention.

Now, you get to decide if you will share this information with dog fans who insist that cats can't be trained. Cats are amenable to training but only if you think like a cat. In addition, of course, cats are not only curious but skeptical and analytical.

If you're grinning like a Cheshire cat at this information, you're half way home to solving feline-human conflicts. Give them sounds and textures they appreciate, and they'll love you forever. Take those away, and they'll hunt them from floor to ceiling.

Offer just one long strand of dry Angel Hair at first. If they grab for it, you've already won the game. But, just for fun, grab it away. That's what they would do, so go for it. They'll chew it, drop it, and chase it. Angel hair makes cats into angels every time. 

American Civil War: De Ja Vue?

John F. Kennedy famously described Washington, DC, as a "city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm." That description has been updated to read: "DC is Hollywood for ugly people," and it's getting uglier every day that grimaces bespeak the tensions of the government shutdown.

The update appears to have been lost in the proverbial murk of Foggy Bottom. As reports: "Washington? As one comedian has put it, Washington is a Hollywood for ugly people." That quotation they attribute to the first issue of George Magazine, when the joke was already old, but the magazine was co-founded by JFK's heir apparent, whose words, like his father's, are sorely missed.

Nevertheless, JFK deserves kudos for recognizing where he was in the United States, once he became ensconced in the White House. As a Yankee, he entered foreign territory with a Texan, not a Delaware senator, at his side. Thus, JFK's White House team embraced both sides of the Civil War.

Civil War buffs may find it fascinating now to track the geographical strains wrenching that "Southern city" and "Northern charm" described by Obama's supposed model and definite forerunner in political hula-hoop exercises, which attempt to gather opponents in a circle pointing to the Oval Office.

Where does Senator McCain's power originate—Chicago, Boston, NY City? No. He hales from Arizona, the Western frontier. His chosen running mate also haled from outside the DC corridor, so far that land lubbers barely recognize Alaska and the United States in the same breath, as they ridicule its proximity to Russia.

Where does Speaker of the House John Boehner's power originate? In Ohio, the heartland of the Midwest, but years and leagues from urban Chicago. Note: Ohio and Iowa are NOT Chicago. MO is not Chicago, either. Then who exactly speaks for the Heartland of America? Why are spokesmen for this area not on the same side?

Where does Senator Harry Reid's power originate? Nevada. How many Northerners know beans about Nevada, except, perhaps, that Nevada gambling has its own website at—and Utah is next door, right along with Idaho, Oregon, California, and Arizona, which brings us right back to Senator McCain?

Where is the White House's strategy to bring these titans together? JFK's plan was obvious, so obvious that historians still speculate on how JFK and LBJ cooperated, if they did. The aggravating point which requires attention is this: Why should the South cooperate with an administration which seems not to have heard of it—except for vile rumors?

The causes of the American Civil War remain a contentious subject. In the South, however, one hears references to the "War between the States,' and one sees that "Many Confederate monuments are listed on the National Register of Historic Places," as noted by Wikipedia." To enflame conflicts among the states is the specialty of scoundels. As Lincoln said: "A nation divided against itself cannot stand."

For additional reading:

Guarantee Government Shutdown: Don't Negotiate

Both sides in the current budget crisis guarantee a shutdown when they refuse to negotiate. They also inspire this question: What kind of lawyer refuses to negotiate even when they are getting paid to negotiate?

Barack Obama received a JD from Harvard Law School; his wife also holds a JD from Harvard Law School.

By contrast, John Boehner holds a BA from Xavier University. "He is also the first Speaker [of the House] who has served both as majority and minority floor leader for his party since Texas Democrat Sam Rayburn ," according to Wikipedia.

Matching tit for tat, Harry Reid is not only Senate Majority Leader, but also served as Minority Leader and Minority and Majority Whip, again according to Wikipedia. Furthermore, Senator Reid earned a JD at George Washington University Law School.

Given the negotiating skills of these individuals, how is it they regularly refuse to converse? Back stories may tell the real story. As Wikipedia adds: "He [Reid] went to George Washington University Law School earning a J.D.while working for the United States Capitol Police."

Indeed, the farther back research goes in Reid's and Boehner's life histories, the more interesting their backgrounds prove. Wikipedia informs readers that "Reid's boyhood home was a shack with no indoor toilet, hot water or telephone," and Boehner "started working at his family's bar at age 8, a business founded by their grandfather Andy Boehner in 1938 "

The real question may be: With whom do Harvard lawyers hang out? Whom do they represent? And, when they do talk, is everybody expected to take notes? Surely, somewhere along their educational track, wasn't there a seminar with this title: How to Talk to the Rest of the World, when it's your turn, and nobody cares anymore if you went to Harvard?

Crisis in DC: Health or Politics?

Crisis in DC: Health or Politics?

Media coverage of the latest major traffic incident in DC demonstrates why mental patients are on the loose. Relatives immediately inquire if the shooting was necessary. Police admit the patient was unarmed. Has anybody so far admitted that the patient was armed with a car, and showed no signs of stopping her aggression until public officials acted? Then the complaints start over again.

Media coverage of such incidents can exacerbate misunderstanding. If reporters echo comments by laypersons without footnoting--at the very least—that these statements come from parties not trained in objectivity, they can participate in whooping up outrage. Relatives also are bound to be on the defensive. Emotionalism turns up at intersections all too often, usually in the form of road rage.

All officials involved in such episodes must operate in the theater of the NOW. Obviously, a suspect does not hand a medical history to police in hot pursuit as she goes speeding toward public icons of American history. All quotations from patients, made during a history of questionable reliability, prove nothing about this suspect's intent as she accelerates and reverses into police vehicles.

If such incidents were soap operas, and suspects' faces flashed across the public's memory banks, then the audience could be expected to get caught up in instantaneous psychodrama. Villains too quickly occur to viewers accustomed to applauding and booing their favorite TV stars, who regularly include the heavy hitters—actors so intense that fans dub them "the ones we love to hate."

Suddenly the media may present the unknown quantity roaring down the street—officially known as an "unsub" in popular crime dramas—as a character deserving sympathy. For what is a soap opera without a heroine, too? The truth remains that any party who disobeys traffic police in DC should expect to be stopped. Since 9/11, is taking chances with public safety negotiable?

For additional reading:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"Mending Wall": American Heritage and Border Relations

A Rolling Eyes Column! ((O) (O))

As America's Poet Laureate, Robert Frost delivered his encomium on boundary diplomacy in the simplest terms. "Good fences make good neighbors" serves as his refrain in this famous utterance which pits the enthusiasm of good will against the sturdy resilience of deeds and property.

While this line comes under challenge from international communications providers like Vonage, whose TV ads portray communicants taking axes to walls, Frost's refrain echoes with simple—not virtual—honesty and practicality. Open borders leave everyone and no one responsible for repairs.

Like that other old wise man of American Art Johnnie Cash, Frost dramatizes neighborly neighbors walking the line annually between their outposts in civilization. And these dudes apparently remain civil ad perpetuum, unlike America's current unrepentant president and other assorted politicians.

United by mutual interest in security, as well as geography, Frost's solid citizens review where they stand together. Who can deny that their annual ritual provides an examplary model? If this writer's neighbors followed Vonage's advice, and crashed through her walls, would laundry ever get done?

Would her garden survive untrampled? Would meals arrive on the table? Even cats and dogs understand these needs, as they scramble for advantage. When DC decides to read Frost, instead of talking points, maybe American citizens can practice business as usual, in the land of the free.