Friday, March 23, 2012

Emptying The Attic

Emptying The Attic
Friday, March 23, 2012
by Burt Prelutsky

In this fast-moving world, it is next to impossible to keep track of all the zany stuff that takes place on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. It’s a lot like finding yourself in a movie whose cast combines the Three Stooges with the Four Marx Brothers.

For instance, I often find myself wondering why left-wingers continue to promote communism. I mean, speaking of people named Marx, it would be different if Karl had just recently introduced Das Kapital to the world. But that happened way back in 1867. In the intervening 145 years, as we’ve seen his philosophy morph from mere words in a book to one bloody tyranny after another in the real world, how is it that anyone can see what it has led to in Russia, China, Cuba, Cambodia, Venezuela and North Korea, and continue defending it?

In a related matter, I just learned that in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, there stands a 16-foot statue of Vladimir Lenin. The good news is that during Gay Pride Week, it’s dressed in drag. If you happen to be a left-wing atheist, the bad news is that it is adorned every December with Christmas lights. One can only ponder which of the two decorative motifs would have been the more offensive to the Father of the Russian Revolution.

While watching this year’s Oscar show, it occurred to me that if you were a show business celebrity, 2011 would have been a good year in which to adjourn to the Big Studio in the Sky. Judging by the number of below-the-line technicians acknowledged during the In Memoriam interlude, there were very few major names who took their leave this past year. But once the show ended, I realized that not only had gorgeous Elaine Stewart, who had lit up the screen in The Bad and the Beautiful and Brigadoon, passed away, but also my old colleague, Harry Morgan, of The Ox-Bow Incident, Dragnet and, most memorably, M*A*S*H. I can only assume that somebody at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had fallen asleep at the switch.

Mainly because I have spent the past six years or so hearing dire warnings about Iran’s being a year, a month or a week, away from having a nuclear bomb, I have been forced to come up with an alternate theory. I’m not suggesting that Ahmadinejad and the mullahs shouldn’t join bin Laden and Gaddafi in Hell, but I keep thinking about Leonard Wibberley’s 1955 Cold War satire, The Mouse That Roared. Briefly, the book dealt with the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, a tiny European monarchy that finds itself in economic straits. In order to rectify that situation, they decide to declare war on the United States and then to quickly surrender, figuring they will receive the sort of financial largesse that Germany received after losing World War II.

Through a strange set of amusing circumstances, they somehow manage to make off with a doomsday device along with its peace-loving inventor. In the end, Grand Fenwick puts the world on notice that they will unleash the mighty Q-bomb if the superpowers don’t come to their senses and quit rattling their atomic sabers.

While lodging his deadly invention in the bowels of Grand Fenwick’s royal castle, Dr. Kokintz discovers the Q-bomb is a dud. He wisely decides to keep that his little secret.

That is what got me thinking about Iran. If it had a nuclear bomb, would they be likely to drop it on Tel Aviv, knowing full well that it would unleash a nuclear holocaust from the United States? I’m not suggesting that the Iranians don’t hate Israel, but the fact remains that those five million Jews are worth their weight in gold to Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the rest of those creepy places in the Middle East. After all, whenever something bad happens, the Arab and Muslim leaders get to blame Israel. Whenever their citizens wonder why they are poor, ill-educated and living no better than their camels, the leaders get to blame the world’s all-time favorite scapegoats, the Jews.

In a way, if Israel didn’t exist, Iran would have had to invent it.

Speaking of inventions, Obama, who despises oil and coal nearly as much as Muslims hate Jews and Christians, has now proposed that $14 million in tax dollars be used to subsidize turning algae into a bio-fuel. He hasn’t explained why if it’s possible to turn pond scum into energy, the private sector can’t be trusted to provide the funds. He has also neglected to explain why they can’t use the likes of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Sheila Jackson Lee, Henry Waxman and Eric Holder, in a pilot project and see if the five of them, after being properly processed, can propel a motorbike down Pennsylvania Avenue.

I only recently discovered that over and above their salary and franking privileges, every senator has an office budget of $3 million. Senator Rand Paul set a good example when he kicked back $500,000, but that still left him spending $2.5 million-a-year on a squad of sycophants. And please keep in mind that senators aren’t paying rent on their palatial office suites. In retrospect, it seems to me that our Founding Fathers went off half-cocked when they revolted over something as benign as taxation without representation.

Finally, after months of hearing people like Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, running as the alternative to Romney, it will be a relief when we can all focus our attention on getting rid of the real alternative to Mitt Romney; namely, Barack Obama.
Wrangling With Rangel
by Burt Prelutsky

A while back, I compared Sarah Palin’s voice to bagpipes and nails on a blackboard. Predictably, a number of people leapt to her defense, while one guy of Scottish heritage leapt to the defense of bagpipes. I understand that, thanks to the media’s unrelenting attacks on Mrs. Palin, a lot of Republicans resent any criticism of their favorite Alaskan, no matter how benign. But, frankly, I can’t believe I am the only one out here who cringes every time she opens her mouth. Frankly, for conservatives, I think Palin’s annoyingly nasal voice is our own version of the emperor’s new duds.

Speaking of annoying, is there anyone less amusing and more irritating than Sacha Baron (“Borat”) Cohen? Of course when I say “anyone,” I am referring to anyone not currently holding elective office. Okay, I hear you; perhaps it is a three-way tie between Cohen, Michael Moore and Bill Maher.

The other day, a reader shared a study with me that concluded that incompetent people are not only incompetent when it comes to such things as logic and language skills, but even when it comes to their sense of humor. It seems that they really do have a tin ear, so to speak, when it comes to humor. Moreover, such people are far more likely to underestimate others, while holding themselves in ridiculously high esteem. The reverse was true when it came to competent people; ironically, they were the ones who tended to question their competence and under-rate their own abilities.

I’m not sure the study revealed anything we didn’t already sense about those people who elected Barack Obama, but it certainly explains all those terrible jokes they persist in forwarding to everyone unfortunate enough to be in their email address book.

Although it is my practice to automatically delete jokes, links and attachments, sent to me by strangers, fortunately one occasionally slips past my spam filter and my eagle eye. One such was the following: “The food stamp program, which is overseen by the Department of Agriculture, is pleased to be distributing the greatest amount of food stamps ever. Meanwhile, the Park Service, which is overseen by the Department of the Interior, asks us to please not feed the animals because they may grow dependent and not learn to take care of themselves.”

I know what you’re thinking and I agree.

In a recent article, as some of you may recall, I wrote, “After spending two million dollars and several thousand man-hours investigating Rep. Charles Rangel’s various crimes and misdemeanors, if those shmoes in Congress really wanted to impress us with their integrity, they would have thrown his sorry butt in prison. When you’re found guilty of 11 counts of misbehavior, it calls for more than a resounding tsk-tsk from your House colleagues. In certain precincts, after all, being censured by Congress is regarded as a badge of honor.”

The other day, I opened the following email from Ms. Hannah Kim: “Hello, Mr. Prelutsky: In your recent piece, you wrote… (and after quoting the paragraph above, continued) First, the Congressman did NOT commit any “crime” -- In fact, the chief counsel of the Ethics Committee concluded that there was NO EVIDENCE OF CORRUPTION and that the Congressman did not use his position to benefit himself. His most serious offense of trying to raise money for an education center in his congressional district could have been avoided if he had grabbed the correct stationary. I urge you to take out the word ‘crimes’ from your article.”

She then quoted Blake Chisam, a lawyer on the Ethics Committee, who apparently said, “I believe that the congressman, quite frankly, was overzealous in many of the things he did. And sloppy in his personal finances.”

In writing back, I resisted the temptation to point out that she meant “stationery,” not “stationary.” Instead, I wrote: “Dear Ms. Kim: When we civilians are ‘sloppy in our personal finances,’ which, in Rep. Rangel’s case included chiseling on his income taxes, it’s a crime and we’re fined and we go to jail. I see that you are Rep. Rangel’s Communications Director, and here I thought you were just a concerned citizen.”

Ms. Kim, obviously being the sort of upstanding person who believes in earning her salary, wrote back to say, “None of his violations were intentional, but made unknowingly. We all make mistakes. He is 81. The Congressman is a genuinely great person; and contrary to what you may think, he does not line his pockets. In fact, I wake up each day thanking God for the great honor to work for Mr. Rangel. FYI, I almost died from a car accident and take life very seriously.”

I replied: “Dear Ms. Kim: Rep. Rangel is fortunate to have such a loyal employee. Speaking as someone who is not on his payroll, I acknowledge that we all make mistakes. Even I, and I’m just a kid of 72. However, the way mistakes work for those of us who aren’t in Congress is sometimes they’re in our favor and quite often they’re not. However, it appears that all of Mr. Rangel’s mistakes, aside from the votes he casts, profited him in a very real way. I am glad you recovered, but just for the record, I, too, take life seriously. Which also happens to be the way I take the transgressions of those fortunate enough to be endowed with the public trust.”

For good measure, confirming Ms. Kim’s bona fides as a liberal partisan, she concluded her message by providing a list of 11 Republican congressmen who continue serving in Congress in spite of “reports” and “allegations.”

I didn’t bother pointing out the differences between allegations and convictions. Maybe next time

To read another article by Burt Prelutsky, click here.

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