Friday, February 6, 2009

Groucho Would Smile: You Vet Your Life

"For the days of old when we dug up the gold in the days of 49," there were various (and to us in the Air Age 21st Century, even quaint) forms of entertainment such as people going to movie houses to watch the Pathe Newsreels, staying home and gathering around the radio cabinet for any number of programs or, if ridiculously well-off having one of those radio cabinets with a tiny picture tube, a television. Pundits didn't think it would last, and it turns out punditry was a career with a finite future (who knew?).

A lot of programming in the early days on NBC and CBS and a chain of stations known as the Dumont Network (and you thought all we'd ever had were alphabet networks!?) was radio show transplants to include Grouch Marx, "You Bet Your Life." I was thinking of Groucho just the other day while, Cold Warrior that I am, continuing to marvel, even in these tough(er) economic times how little appeal his cousin, Karl, seems to have for folks around the world. I recalled Groucho's toy duck with that hundred dollar bill (these were the days of old, remember) given as a reward whenever a guest on the show said the secret word.

In recent days, the secret word seems to have been 'oops' or close to it. From the world of politics we have Nancy Killefer who 'forgot' to pay taxes on her help and the not-quite Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Daschle who had memory problems as well. In the interest of fairness (a concept more alien by the day to the American Body Politic) I'll point out that both of these folks' career ambitions (and horizons) were done in by third parties: whoever does (or now, did, I suppose) the payroll for Ms. Killefer and whoever handle(d) Mr. Daschle's taxes, since let's face it, they have people for this stuff.

I confess to making a movie in my head where Tom D, like my evil twin Skippy last weekend, is wrestling with Turbo Tax on line, and rummaging through the 'tax file' kept in a kitchen drawer that has EVERY Gosh Da*n receipt in the history of civilization 'just in case' it's needed at tax time. Not.

My bigger point is, and this happens NO MATTER WHO is in the White House, so the simple simians on Fox's Beltway Boys can belt up (as can all the other stuffed shirts who shout at one another in TV studios across the entire political spectrum) hundreds of folks have crawled through every aspect of the life and times and rubbish bins of a Presidential appointee, well before s/he is even an appointee. Background checks, credit checks, school attendance and conduct reports ('ate paste in third grade on rye bread. Could be a problem Mr. Kenny, we'll get back to you. Put the Elmer's and the Triscuits down and get out of the office!") as well as interviews and profiles, and it never crosses the person's mind to mention, even in passing, 'oh yeah...I was in the white slavery trade while a mercenary during the Biafra Civil War, but I declared the income in block 49a on my federal taxes. You don't think that'll be a deal-breaker, doya?'

Nothing. Not a word of warning to anyone. Just an 'oops' when (not if, when) it's unearthed. Did you really think no one was going to find this stuff out? How dumb do you think the people are who wanted you to come and work for them? 'They'll never find out I put myself through college wrestling midget transvestites for tuition.' Yeah, sure, that secret's safe. Safe as houses. There are no secrets and no places left to hide (and no really good books left to read while hiding out anyway). Today, it needn't be a fact, or even real--how often do you get email from someone that turns out to be a scam, a prank, or some form of bogosity? Straighten out your lives, and your versions, c'mon! "And remember, Captain Spaulding, only one answer between you."
-bill kenny

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