Category Archives: Government

Remember When Everyone Wasn’t in Contact With the Russians?

First it was reported that the National Security Adviser had discussed sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador.  Then it turned out that the President’s son-in-law and senior adviser had held numerous meetings with the Russian ambassador, supposedly to establish a line of communication with the Kremlin by connecting two cans with a really long string.  Then it was rumored that the President’s campaign manager had met with Russian intelligence officials, not “knowingly” but thinking they were landscapers giving an estimate on clearing brush in the campaign manager’s backyard.

A foreign policy adviser to the campaign denied having meetings with Russian officials, but then admitted meeting with the Russian ambassador, explaining that “meetings” is totally different from “meeting” because one is plural and the other is singular.  And it was rumored that the founder of a major security company secretly met with an unidentified Russian rumored to be close to the Russian President, and while it was rumored that the founder was not involved in the Presidential campaign, he was rumored to have been a major contributor, and was rumored to have been close to the President’s chief strategist, and was even rumored to be the brother of the President’s education secretary.

The Attorney General, when he was advising the campaign, had spoken twice with the Russian ambassador, but claimed he had done so not as campaign manager but as the result of a wrong number.  And a former adviser to the President admitted that he’d communicated with a hacker persona called “Guccifer 2.0” that may have been a front for Russian intelligence, but could have just as easily been a new operating system for men’s leather shoes.

This was all bad enough.  But then the mayor of my town was said to have spoken to the Russian ambassador about weakening NATO and adding a traffic signal at that busy intersection near the supermarket.  And my daughter’s math teacher was reported to have sold arms and protractors to the Russians for $250 million.  Our favorite pizzeria was temporarily closed while the FBI reviewed the sauce for microphones.  And even the greeter at our Walmart was questioned because a customer—exactly who was never revealed—testified that instead of “Hello, welcome to Walmart,” the greeter had said “Zdravstvuyte, dobro pozhalovat’ v’Walmart.”

A special investigator appointed by Congress issued a subpoena to the local library branch for “records of all patrons who borrowed War and Peace or any other ridiculously long Russian novel” (although that subpoena was eventually quashed by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit).  And my paperboy was implicated after his smartphone was confiscated by federal agents working undercover (although they kept getting so many popup notifications to backup to the cloud that they gave up).  There were even reports that my neighbor had been in talks with Russian scientists about a new type of genetically engineered grass seed that would give him the nicest looking lawn on the block.

These reports, releases, revelations, and rumors pommeled me, one after another, for months.  I felt like I was living not in America but in a far-flung province of the Russian Empire.  Then one morning I woke up feeling especially lonely and sad.  I realized that everyone—from the very top levels of government, to those neighbors who leave their garbage cans out by the street even though it’s not garbage day—had been in contact with the Russians.

Everyone, that is, except me.

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Remember When You Could Fire the FBI Director Without Getting a Lot of Flak?

So the President has fired the FBI Director.  I’m surprised it took this long.  Maybe the FBI Director owed the President money for a lost bet, and the President figured as long as the Director was still in Washington, I’ll have a better chance of collecting.

In the second season of The Apprentice, there was an episode where the contestants were tasked with creating a dog grooming business.  at the end of the episode the businesses were reviewed by the host, our current President, and he decided that they very worst performance was that of a contest named Stacy.  “Your charity was the Kitty Kat Shelter.  Why would dogs care about cats?  Stacy, you’re fired.”

Almost immediately, there were calls to appoint a special investigator to investigate Stacy’s ties to cats.  It turned out that two months before she appeared on The Apprentice, Stacy had met in a hotel room with a Maine Coon and two tabbies.  Her aides had originally denied the meeting but a few gray and orange hairs were found on her jacket.

Then there were calls to investigate the cats.  At first no one could find them.  But one of the cats was caught posting photos on Facebook of a party where Stacy and the President were in attendance.  The cat was issued a subpoena to testify before Congress, but his attorney sent a message that his client was sleeping and would not awake for several years.

Then there arose a rumor that there were videos of the cats paying Stacy in return for her designating the Kitty Kat Shelter as the beneficiary of the dog grooming business on The Apprentice.  The videos were also subpoenaed.  But the cat’s attorney replied that the tapes were no longer in existence, but were of the cats just squeezing into baskets and so were completely useless (although still very cute).

The whole affair was dying down and the media were about to give up and go back to covering Nicole Kidman’s strange clapping at the Academy Awards.  But then they got a break.  The President tweeted that “These cats better hope their breath doesn’t smell like tuna fish!”  This tweet was considered unusually enigmatic, even for the President, and breathed new life into the investigation.  Soon a connection through a company that manufactured tuna fish was revealed.  It turned out that the President, early in his career as a real estate developer has owned a piece of a tuna fish company and had used cats for quality control.  When the cats complained about the low wages and infrequent changes of kitty litter, he locked them in a room and made them taste tuna fish all day long, permitting only 12 hours a day for naps.

After the company went bankrupt and the cats escaped when someone opened the door to grab the paper, the cats later blackmailed the President into paying them.  So he came up with a scheme to funnel money raised on The Apprentice to these cats, using Stacy as a pawn.  When Stacy threatened to reveal the real reason why a dog grooming business was benefiting a bunch of cats, the President fired her, claiming the reason was her poor management skills and bad decision-making.

When all was revealed it had the making of the greatest scandal since Watergate, encompassing all levels of government and the animal kingdom.  No one thought that the President would be able to bounce back.  But then House of Representatives passed a bill cutting aid to people who clap strangely (and their dependents) and everyone forgot about Stacygate.

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers!

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Remember When the President Lived at the White House?

It was nearly 100 days into his presidency, and Donald Trump had spent half of his weekends as president at a private resort in Florida.  There, in addition to playing golf, he held cabinet meetings, met with foreign dignitaries, and, while enjoying a candlelit dinner on the patio, reviewed evidence of North Korea’s ballistic missile testing.  Many people criticized him for not spending enough time at the traditional home office of the nation’s chief executive.  But the press secretary assured the nation that the president “carries the apparatus of the White House” wherever he goes.

As the weekend trips to Florida continued, the criticism continued.  They complained and complained and drew charts and tables showing how much more President Trump spent on travel than President Obama, than Franklin Roosevelt, than Abraham Lincoln.  On the last day of Trump’s presidency, a major newspaper posted a graphic showing that, on average, Trump spent more on travel in five minutes than George Washington did in his entire life.  And so it was believed that this was the end of the dual residence president.

But the next president wanted to spend weekends in a cabin in the Adirondack Mountains of New York.  Although a cabin in the woods was much quieter a fancy Palm Beach resort, so many tree houses had to be built to house the secret service, White House staff, and visiting dignitaries that the eastern meadowlarks and three-toed woodpeckers had to be relocated to the nearest Best Western, to the annoyance of animal rights advocates and hotel cleaning staff.

People figured that after a resort president and a nature president, it would be the end of the president spending half his time as president living someplace other than the White House.  But the next president announced in his inauguration speech that he would be spending weekends in a cave.  He assured the American people that because the cave had only one entry way, far fewer secret service agents would be required.  And this was true, although cabinet members disliked having to sit upon rocks during meetings rather than chairs.

After the cavern president, people were no longer surprised at the president choosing to spend time at an alternate residence.  In fact, they began to expect it.  Getting to live wherever the president wanted became one of the perks and political prizes of winning the election.  During the presidential campaign season, political commentators would analyze the candidates’ likely choice of residence alongside their views on domestic and foreign policy.  And it was not uncommon to overhear ordinary people saying things like, “Yes, I think it’s time that America had a president who lived in the Cinderella Castle at Disney World.”

The “Presidential Residence Agent” became a permanent position on every presidential campaign staff as the candidates became more and more creative in their choice of residence.  The effort paid off.  One president wanted to spend his term voyaging under the seas like Captain Nemo. The army corps of engineers built a special submarine residence called the Nautilus which the radical liberal Marxist Leninist media dubbed the “Thought-a-Less.”  And after that was a president who opted for a crystal palace at the North Pole, modeled after Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. There was international tension because of the proximity to the Russian border. But we removed our opposition to Russia’s plan to turn the Caspian Sea into a giant samovar, and crisis was averted.

And then there was the president who did not like to travel.  Don’t ask me how he got elected.  Obviously someone tampered with the voting booths.  But nevertheless there he was, ready to move in to the White House and occupy it as his only residence…and it turned out that someone else was there.  The White House had been shunned as a residence for so long that it had been leased to a group of elephant trainers, and the new president and his family had to live at the Hampton Inn in a room next to the eastern meadowlarks and three-toed woodpeckers.

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Sources:

https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2017-03-20/spicer-golf-part-of-being-president-but-potus-doesnt-always-play-on-trips-to-courses (last accessed 4/27/2017)

http://www.adirondack.net/wildlife/birding/ (last accessed 4/27/2018)

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Remember When the Internet Was Anonymous?

Today marks four years since I started this blog. Seems like just yesterday. Thank you all who have read this blog and taken the time to comment. I know that I don’t post as often as I used to, but I’ve got a few big projects I’ve been working, and I’m going to share one of them with you very shortly. In the meantime, enjoy this post.

The Director was sitting in his office, enjoying a pumpkin spice latte. He did not like pumpkin flavor, but it was the law of the land that pumpkin flavor must be consumed in the fall.

There was a knock at the door and an intern entered.

“Sir, I’m sorry to bother you. But do you remember when we demanded that all social media websites turn over all of the personal information and preferences of their users? Well now they say they are not producing the information.”

“They’re not? I was afraid of this. All right, time for Plan B.”

“Sir, you don’t mean…”

“Oh, yes, I do. House calls.”

The media at first was skeptical of the government’s new program, whereby they sent government agents to canvass the neighbors, door to door, asking the inhabitants for their personal information. Many pundits thought it an intrusion on people’s privacy, while others thought it a patriotic duty and a chance to expose themselves to some new germs.

Analysts on both sides, however, agreed that people would not want to reveal their personal information to an agent of the government who showed up at their doorstop uninvited and in most cases without even a bottle of wine or piece of fancy cheese wrapped up in nice paper.

So they were really surprised by the responses. People provided their names and ages, of course, and their email addresses and phone numbers, and where they like to shop, and what they think about the things that other people’s kids do, versus the things that their own kids do. They asked about music tastes and food tastes and whether they were more likely to choose a table or a booth when offered both at a diner.

The program was so successful and the responses so thorough, that the government turned it into a reality tv show.

“You know, usually I go for the booth. If I’m offered both, I go for the booth.”

“So you’d classify yourself as booth in response to question 19a?”

“Well, now, sometimes I don’t feel like a booth. I gotta be honest, I like booths. But sometimes – I don’t know – I just feel like a table.”

“So would you classify yourself as a hybrid booth/table? There’s a choice for that.”

“Well, you know,” he says with his finger in his mouth, and looking up at the ceiling. “Now that I think about it a little more, I’m not sure if I ever chose a table over a booth when offered both. I think I was thinking of something that happened to my mother. Maybe I really am a booth guy after all.”

In fact, so effective was the government program that the social media websites started offering the government money for the personal data of the citizenry, in hopes of offering content that would attract more viewers. The official answer was no, but then some Congressmen and Senators got into a bit of hot water over selling of personal data to social media companies, and had to do penance by reciting the 80s pop hit single “Safety Dance” a cappella, including all of the instrumental sounds, before every session of Congress.

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Remember When Your School Got Its Own Tank?

I’m sure you’ve all heard by now of the school district that obtained an armored vehicle – actually, a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle or MRAP if you want to impress someone – from the United States military through its Excess Property Program.  The vehicle was free, and the district had to pay just the cost of transportation, which was $3.95 for regular ground, or $5,000 for 2-day express.Tank1

I remember when my school got its first tank, the graduating seniors’ class gift to the school they loved so much.  At the dedication ceremony, the Class President, Class Vice President, and Class Risk Assessment Manager spray painted the sides of the tank with “Woo Hoo Class of Awesome!  To Thine Own Self Be True!”  There was an after-party, mainly for those three people, where they ate pizza and discussed what they were going to do with all their Barron’s review books.

Some concerned parents managed to have the tank classified as dangerous, so the school had to keep it under strict lock and key in the A/V room, along with the televisions on those tall skinny carts.  The School Tank, as it came to be called, was taken out for special events like Homecoming, where the Homecoming King and Queen would ride atop the military vehicle, holding flowers and wearing their crowns, and waving to the crowds in the stands.

The following year, a neighboring school district, a rival in football, basketball, and Monopoly, got its own tank. It was larger and shinier than ours, and at the Memorial Day parade, at which all high schools in the region could march in whatever formation they liked as long as it met federal safety standards, their tank got more cheers from the crowds of parents and siblings.

Over the summer, the school diverted some funds earmarked for social studies books and ordered up another tank. This one was bigger and shinier than even the tank that our rival had obtained. Next to our first tank, it was a giant. We started calling them Big Tank and Little Tank. At lunchtime now, the school paraded the two tanks, sometimes Big leading, sometimes Little, around the track. All students could look out the window and see the two tanks parading.  The tanks were driven by students, and for some reason this job attracted the same students who were in charge of the audio/visual technology.

At the Memorial Day Parade, Big Tank and Little Tank rolled down our town’s main thoroughfare in triumph. Parents and siblings cheered loudly and the day appeared to be ours. But then a sound…a buzzing chop-chop sound filled the air and all were quiet.

And then we saw it. A helicopter with a bad drawing of a wildcat – the mascot of our rival school – spray painted on the side.  The tank was rolling on the street, directly underneath the helicopter, with balloons floating from the nozzle of the gun.

This was absolutely the last straw. Classes were cancelled for a week while school officials sold books and some desks where the chair and desk are fused together to get another military vehicle. As we sat at home and wished we could be back in English class reading Wuthering Heights, we speculated on what the new vehicle would be. What could be more impressive than a helicopter?

The Warren G. Harding High School Air Craft Carrier was delivered via overnight courier. Since our physical school building was not that near the water, we had to be relocated to a coastal town on the bay. It was a lot windier but we didn’t get as much snow.

One night our radar caught a few blips off the coast of Madagascar. Our commanding officer, who was also the official wearer of the school mascot costume at home football games, ordered our battleship and guided missile cruiser – gifts of the National Honor Society and Future Business Leaders of America, respectively – in for a closer look.

“Identify yourselves,” Kevin said into the microphone, which no one except him seemed to know was not connected to the unknown ships.  “Prepare the guns,” he said to the crew, who were making posters for a pep rally. “This could get ugly.”

Our ships were moved into position and guns aimed. Now we were worried about the math test in third period and the possibility of war.

“Man the cannon!” Kevin said. “Ready, aim…”

“Wait! Wait!” said the Class Gluten-Free Bake Sale Coordinator. “What’s that on the side of the ships? I think it says…Go Wildcats?”

Yes, it was our dear rivals from the neighboring town. Looks like they had obtained for themselves a navy. Had it not been for the unsteady block printing and pathetic drawing of a wildcat on the sides of the ships, we would have launched on them and probably have had to make up our math test.  The near risk of war marked a turning point in the relationship of our schools, and I can safely say that today we are not rivals but allies.

Editor’s Note:  It turns out that the San Diego School District has returned the armored vehicle.  I hope they kept the receipt.

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