The Inane AsylumTM - Congress and its Inmates

By Bernard Levy

Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, definitions:

Congress reconvenes this week with full politics in play. Hardball is the name of the game, and all softball equipment has been removed from its chambers to make room for the Louisville Sluggers. By all accounts, the GOP leaders in both the Senate and House will concentrate on those issues that can save their seats, namely the area in which polls give President Bush the highest ratings (still substantially under 50 percent approval rating), antiterrorism and security issues.

But, wait, what about the American public? What does Congress have in store to accomplish for us this abbreviated session, which most government watchers believe will have approximately 15 legislative days before anticipated adjournment on September 29th? Not much. Low on both Houses' agendas are domestic matters, including promised simplification of senior medication drug plans, comprehensive immigration legislation and meaningful limitations on lobbying activities.

While our incomprehensible legislators are toiling with defense spending and policy bills and support for President Bush's National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program, the citizens are getting restless and taking immigration matters into their own hands. It's even happening in my state of Oregon. The Oregonian has given major coverage to the activities of the Oregon chapter of the national Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a movement underway in other states including California. The minutemen are dedicated to reporting "illegal employment, housing and other practices that draw undocumented immigrants." Frustrated by the lack of governmental leadership and direction, citizens are now organizing to directly confront employers who (may) hire illegal immigrants and convince them to stop such employment practices. These groups are going to the street corners where day laborers wait for work. Coverage of this new phenomena was given by The New York Times News Service in an August 31st comprehensive article written by Charlie LeDuff. Mr. LeDuff covered the story of a Minuteman's vigilance in the Mexico-California border area around Campo, California. The article was clear to point out that "While some, including President Bush, call people like (Britt) Craig vigilantes, more consider him a concerned citizen."

Perhaps a distinction can be made between patrolling our borders and going directly to employers in America's heartland. Maybe not, because they both grow out of our citizens' frustrations with the institution in Washington the FCP has labeled "The Inane AsylumTM."

This filling of a legislative (and executive branch) - really societal - void was given clear meaning in a mainstream media wire report published September 3rd from a source outside our great country. It quoted "Iraq's most influence Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, warning Iraq's Prime Minister to quell violence or risk other powers filling the void to contain the violence." To quote in part, " 'If the government does not do its duty in imposing security and order to the people and protecting them, it will give a chance to other powers to do this duty and this in a very dangerous matter.' " Wow! He said what somebody in our democracy should be saying about immigration policies and practices.

When will Congress realize that it has to do something in order to satisfy the needs, wants and requirements of America?

* * * * *

Two other items require coverage. The first was partial covered in our last issue's "Hidden Stories" when we touched upon the record opium crop and trade in Afghanistan and its contribution to the increase in the current Taliban insurgency. Well, other mainstream media have now picked it up, including a recent article by Carlotta Gall of The New York Times News Service. It quotes "the head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa" as follows, "this year's (Afghanistan's) harvest will be around 6,100 metric tons of opium - a staggering 92 percent of total world supply. It exceeds global consumption by 30 percent." What has this got to do with Congress? Congress is considering a defense bill which also provides for funds to be spent in our Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As the article noted, "The Bush administration has made poppy eradication a major facet of its aid to Afghanistan, and it has criticized Karzai for not doing more to challenge warlords in opium production."

Although it's "sweet" to apply Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" program to Afghanistan's opium crop and trade, opium is the major Afghanistan crop export. It's been going on for hundreds - thousands - of years and many depend upon it for their livelihood. It is important to the GOP (and many Democrats) and the Bush administration to establish a democracy in Afghanistan, but that goal is in real jeopardy. What will Congress do in addressing this issue, particularly when we may be throwing good money after bad? Well, it's clear that our legislators get paid whether or not they do a good job; it is the taxpayers who bear the burden of providing for folly funds. Need we say more?

* * * * *

Finally, just a little bit of fun to end this week's coverage. It appears that Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist, the well-publicized Senator medical doctor -a heart-lung surgeon - is in jeopardy of losing his active medical license. You remember Dr. Bill - he threw himself into the debate over Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman whose feeding tube was finally removed, and was consulted by Hillary Clinton when husband Bill had a heart attack. Well, It appears that Senator Frist stated that he had fulfilled his continuing medical education requirement on his application for license renewal. He didn't fulfill those requirements, and now it appears that the "spin doctors" - they don't need any medical licenses - are attempting to control the damage of his application's misstatements by publicizing that "he may not have been aware of the change in the law in 2002." It's been stated that the change was clearly noted on the application form renewal. So, what's the big deal about this? Oh, I guess it's the issue of truth, veracity, as lawyers like to call it, particularly the truthfulness of our Senate Majority Leader. But heck, it ain't no big thing when you're discussing our legislators' misinterpretation of the word "honesty."

I wish we had the concession rights to sell hardball equipment for this short Congressional session - we probably could make a bundle!


A Bedtime Story for People of All Ages:
The Tale of the Texas Bull Called Iraq
and the Cow Called Econ - Chapter 1

By Bernard Levy

("Chapter 1 was originally published Feb 18, 2003, just weeks before President Bush, fighting an economy in recession on the homefront and terrorism on the worldfront, ordered the war against Iraq. The FCP will publish the entire "A Bedtime Story" one chapter at a time.)


Daddy: "Tonight, I'm going to read you one of Mommy and Daddy's favorite stories."

Daughter: "'The Rooster in the Green Slippers'?"

Daddy: "No, something new. 'The Tale of the Texas Bull and Cow.'" The book had pop-ups, and Daddy positioned the book so that Daughter could see them. "Once upon a time, there was a famous ranch in Texas owned by George Bramble. And on this ranch, George had a bull named Iraq and a cow named Econ..."

Daughter: "E-I-E-I Oh?"

Daddy: "No, this is Bramble's ranch. Anyway, Iraq was bad, and Econ was very good but sick.

"Iraq was a handsome animal, but Rancher Bramble knew that he had a violent temper and could be explosive because he had broken down the gate and attacked a cow a year ago. Since then, he had been kept in a fenced pasture, and Rancher Bramble hoped he would become tame as time passed. After a year, he still wasn't sure. The fence was very strong, and Iraq couldn't get out.

" 'What to do? What to do?' " thought Rancher Bramble. "Oh, Iraq could be a big help and mate with Econ, but Rancher Bramble wasn't sure."

Daughter: "What's 'mate' mean, Daddy?"

Daddy: "Hmm…it means to get along peacefully with other animals, like Econ.

"Econ was Rancher Bramble's favorite cow, and she was sick. Rancher Bramble tried everything to get her well. He called in two doctors but they confused him. One said to feed her lots of food and keep her penned. The other said to give her less food and let her roam the pasture to get well.

"Rancher Bramble was very worried. 'What to do? What to do?' He then got an idea." A pop-up showed Rancher Bramble with a light bulb in a bubble over his head.

Daughter: "What's the bulb over Rancher Bramble's head mean?"

Daddy: "That means that Rancher Bramble had a great idea to get Econ well. See, it was to get Iraq and Econ together; maybe Econ was lonely. But, he first had to tame Iraq.

"Rancher Bramble's idea also included making himself a hero. He wanted to impress his daddy, George Bramble, Sr."

Daughter: "Daddy, like when I bring home good grades and you and Mommy hug and kiss me?"

Daddy: "Exactly. Rancher Bramble's idea was to tame Iraq by riding him. Rancher Bramble did not take either doctors' advice about Econ but left her alone until he could get his plan working.

"And so, early one morning, just after the rooster crowed..."

Daughter: "Daddy, did the rooster wear green slippers?"

Daddy: "Yes, he did. Rancher Bramble went out to the corral. Two ranch hands, Don and Dick, lassoed Iraq and got him close to the fence so Rancher Bramble could get on his back."

Daughter: "Daddy, wasn't that dangerous to do?"

Daddy: "Yes. It was dangerous. With Don and Dick holding the ropes tightly against the fence; Rancher Bramble got on Iraq's back and grabbed his horns. Then, Don and Dick let Iraq loose.

"Such a commotion took place. Rancher Bramble held on to Iraq's horns for dear life as Iraq bucked, skipped, hopped, jumped and turned every way. And..." Daddy turned the page and discovered that he'd only brought home the first volume of the story. He couldn't finish the story. Daughter was going to be disappointed. What to do?

Daddy: "Sweetie, the ending to the story is still in the library. We'll finish this story tomorrow. But, look what I have!"

Daughter: "Daddy, 'The Rooster in the Green Slippers'?"

Daddy: "Almost, sweetheart, I have a new one, 'Finny Dorsal, the Talking Fish.' "

Daughter smiled with approval as Daddy began to read the story about the talking fish. We'll have to stay tuned for the ending of George Bramble's wild ride on the horns of Iraq and await the outcome of when and how Econ recovers from her illness.

(To be continued.)


Let's Talk Real Pyramid Schemes, Brother

The Wonderful World of Business
By Jim Penn

I was visiting my favorite attorney, Jack Exemplar, when his secretary reminded him that his ten o'clock had arrived.

"Oh, yes," he responded and motioned for me to stayed seated. "This Peter person called me out of the blue. I don't know what he wants, but I have a few minutes to spare this morning."

He pressed the intercom button. "Shelly, please show the gentleman in."

A knock at the door, a quick and easy move, and Peter Onzie was inside with his traveling case.

"Oh. You have company. The more the merrier. I'm Peter Onzie," he said as he handed each of us a business card which read, "P. Onzie, Investment Advisor."

"Why did you call me?" Jack inquired.

"To show you the best investment ever invented." He opened his case and displayed a pyramid, which also appeared to be a three dimensional puzzle. "I sell pyramids. But they're more. As you can see, they're puzzles and an investment."

Jack and I didn't know what to do. Smile? Laugh? Feign interest? We just remained motionless.

"Well, uh, very interesting, but I invest exclusively in mutual funds," Jack shot back.

He turned to me, "How about your friend here?"

"Oh, I'm just a writer; I don't have investments. Tell me more." I avoided eye contact with Jack, who was signaling to cut off the conversation.

"They're three dimensional puzzles," Peter continued. "They sell for $49, and your cost is only $30. The secret is to get others to sell them; $300 for every representative you signup and $2 for every sale they make.

"You want to get as many people working for you as you can. And," pulling five more pyramids from his case, "most people buy six at a time because they can build a larger pyramid by putting them together, like this. Look, a real work of art! You can create your own Egypt."

"Wow. What a great idea," Jack faked enthusiasm. "Do you have any other products?"

"The company is working on sphinxes, but the shape limits its possibilities." Lowering his voice, "Some people say, 'The sphinx really stinks.' But that hasn't stopped our design department from more research and development."

"How much does it cost to get started?" I asked.

He pulled out a pricing sheet. "This week only, representatives get a 20 percent reduction. It'll only cost you $1,600 plus $450 for the starter fifteen pyramid kit. Just sell the opportunity to six friends, and you've paid for your investment. You can do that in two or three days."

Jack looked at his watch. "Will you look at the time? I have to get a contract out by 11. Why don't you leave some literature and a pyramid, and I'll get back to you."

"Oh, I can't do that, but I can come back anytime. And," turning to me, "where can I contact you? I'd like to tell you more."

"I'm visiting from out of state. I'll touch base with Jack on this."

Peter was not a man easily put off. "What state? I'll just refer you to a rep in your state."

Jack began to display real irritation. "I really need to get to work on that contract." Pushing the intercom, "Shelly, would you please show Mr. Onzie out?"

She appeared, and Mr. Onzie bid his farewell.

"It looks like his pyramid has some investment potential," I suggested.

Jack was horrified at my suggestion. "Jim, it's a pyramid, a pyramid scheme!"

Trying to keep the smile off my face, "How can you tell?"

Jack lit up, "His name for one thing. Peter Onzie. If this isn't a POnzi scheme, I don't know what is."

It's hard to fool an attorney; they're bright. Leaving his office, I turned to his receptionist, "Jack was really interested in that fella. Did he give you his card?"

"Yes, he did."

"Good. Maybe you should call him and set up another appointment. Jack wants to see him again."

"Yes, I will. Thank you, Mr. Penn, for clueing me in," she said.

I felt very satisfied knowing that I had probably helped Jack retire early.


The Art of Management and My Old Man

By Bernard Levy

Management combines art and science. Managers, especially CEOs, usually excel in their respective companies' technology, but they often lack the finesse necessary to practice the art of management.

The art of management employs skill, craftsmanship and creativity to accomplish goals, while science uses principles and methods to make the "wheels of progress" mesh smoothly and functionally.

All the varied business functions must be performed simultaneously to achieve and maintain success. The larger the company, the greater the opportunity for more personnel to practice the science and art of their functions. Although the CEO may excel in only one or two functions, he (or she) also has the responsibility to supervise the entire company. I have analogized these duties to those of a symphony orchestra conductor; he alone is responsible for the orchestra's members to play together with passion and competence.

I received my initial science and art business training from the master of them all. No, it wasn't Jack Welch, nor was it Lee Iacocca or even Peter Drucker; it was my old man. He was a master at both science and art.

My dad was the original Sam Walton. He and his dad started Levy's hardware and Sporting Goods in 1919. It operated in the same location for 60 years when my dad, 77 years old, finally called it quits in 1978.

He was the classical small businessperson and operated the store almost exclusively by himself, with my mom at his side. He did have an employee at times, but he was a terrible supervisor because perfection was his game, and he would willingly do the work that he instructed others to do.

He ended his business career before Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr., published their best seller, "In Search of Excellence," in 1982. He died before Scott Adams published his "Dogbert's Top Secret Management Handbook" in 1996.

He never had the benefit of reading Peter F. Drucker's "Managing in Turbulent Times," published in 1980. He also missed the vastly overrated best sellers for the last several years, including "Who Moved My Cheese?" by Spencer Johnson, M.D., and "Fish!" by Steven C. Lundin, Ph.D., Harry Paul and John Christensen.

Dad had an eighth grade education and was forced into business to care for his family. He learned by experience, and he was a grand master of the business art form.

He was the best businessperson I have ever observed, analyzed, audited or counseled. He was successful because he knew people, their buying habits, their needs, their weaknesses and their strengths.

Many businesses focus on the value of that old real estate adage, "Location, location, location." My dad's store had a reasonable location but it wasn't the best. It only had street parking, and its square footage totaled 2,375, including a shop/storage area of 625 square feet. But, he merchandise the heck out of that space.

Self-taught, he was the best window dresser in the world. Creative and packed full of merchandise, his windows pulled people into the store where Dad and Mom greeted them with open arms. No customer was ever left unattended for more than a minute or two and, during that period, they made the most of viewing extensive displays of products.

Dad was the master of serving multiple customers at the same time. He practiced the message of "Fish!" He enjoyed his work, and he made every customer's shopping experience positive and delightful.

He knew all about finding, eating, rediscovering and savoring cheese. He knew firsthand about managing in turbulent times; he succeeded in the Great Depression. He maintained reasonable inventory levels and timely introduced new products. He anticipated and took advantage of new trends. He enjoyed what he did, and he did it well.

As a kid and a young man working in the store during summers and evenings, I never appreciated the experience. But, fortunately, osmosis took hold, and I absorbed much about business and people.

It's one thing to be an academic and write about business; it's quite another to be a businessperson and simply do business. The people who own and manage small businesses do not have the latitude to make the major mistakes and judgment errors that continually, it seems, are made by large businesses such as General Motors or Ford. By the way, consider the current state of those industrial giants - pretty bad, huh?

Don't get me wrong - book learning is important; but nothing, absolutely nothing, replaces the value of experience and a love for what you do. Take it from me. You won't go wrong with my suggested advice because I learned from a grand master, my old man.


On September 11th -- President Bush and His War in Iraq:
Part of "The Decisive Ideological Struggle of the 21st Century"

By Bernard Levy

It's 9/11 time again - a time to reflect and recommit ourselves to freedom and the American way of life. However, it's also politics time again, and redundant, ideological dribble "spouts forth from the mouth of the party in power" (PIP). President Bush's speech writers and advisors are playing political hardball again and tying it into the terrorism that shocked America five years ago. His recent speech, August 31, 2006, in Salt Lake City at the annual convention of the American Legion, has been deemed by many mainstream media commentators to be the first volley of the ten-week-before-midterm elections "war on the Democrats." He argued in his speech most strenuously for staying the course in Iraq and equated our fight in Iraq to that of fighting the Fascists and Nazis in World War II. He also said, "the war we fight today is more than a military conflict, it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century."

If I heard him right, it's a war in which we're trying to win over the minds, hearts and souls of people on whose lands we wage war, currently Afghanistan and Iraq (and hopefully not Iran).

Although it has been noted that President Bush recently read Albert Camus' "The Stranger" as part of his summer reading, he probably hasn't read Eric Hoffer's "The True Believer." He should.

This is not a war that can be analogized to or equated with fighting the Nazis and Fascists. This is a war in which fundamentalist Islamic true believers deem it their mission to rid the Middle East - their region, their territory, their domain - of the devil. America is described by these fundamentalists as Satan itself, along with the democratic government of Israel. Even Saddam Hussein's Iraq and the royal family of Saudi Arabia were on the hit list of these fundamentalists at one time, and the latter may still be. Also, please consider the Senate report recently released in which the CIA stated, among other revelations, that Saddam's government "did not have a relationship, harbor or turn a blind eye toward" a prominent al-Quaida operative before the war.

A more correct comparison with the terrorists would be our past war with the Vietnamese Communists. There are still those who say we could have won the war in Vietnam if we had waged the war to win. Yes, we may have overpowered the Communists for a while, but we lost because of true believers. The North Vietnamese believed in what they were fighting for; the South Vietnamese were (and still are) wonderful people, but their government was corrupt. A more proper analogy would be the Chinese civil war that was waged between the forces of Chiang Kai-Shek and Mao Tse-Tung. Mao captured the minds, hearts, ears and souls of the Chinese people. He and his party gave China the two things that all people long for, whatever their race, creed, nationality or religious preference - food for today and hope for tomorrow.

Which brings us back to President Bush's meaningless and actually harmful words, words that are more detrimental in our war on terrorism than any opposition's rhetoric.

The implication of his message (although he may not have meant it to be) was clear; we are waging a war in the 21st century between those who believe in democracy and a Judaic-Christian way of life and governance, and those who believe in Islam. Wrong, dead wrong! The truth is, of course, that the majority of Muslims do not subscribe to the methodology, practices and hellfire, brimstone fundamentalism of the terrorists. When peace-loving Muslims come to power, their governments are often different than ours, but we can live in peace with those differences. President Bush believes that his fight in Afghanistan and Iraq will allow "us" to establish our form of democracy. Well, it hasn't, and it won't happen because the major impediment is Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and their political hacks and advisors. America is currently considered the problem in Iraq, not the solution.

I recently watched a TV interview with a famous Islamic fundamentalist who said that he would gladly see his son, still a minor, sacrifice his life in the furtherance of the current Islamic jihad. Has President Bush said the same about his children on TV or even in public? He hasn't, which is a good example of the difference between "true believer-ism" and our conventional Western beliefs.

President Bush's August 31st statements served only to inflame the passions and harden the resolve of the terrorists. His message that waging the war in Iraq keeps the war from being fought in the United States is both without merit and without factual basis. The continuation of our Iraq occupation, partially resulting from major mismanagement, has developed a breeding ground for insurgents and terrorists, including those coming from Iraq's neighbors. The fundamentalist Islamics do not want to take over America; they want to establish their Middle East region as a bastion of their form of Islamic government. Of course, this doesn't bode well for Israel who also has a fundamental right to be in that region, but President Bush's words merely served to pour more fuel upon the fires of fundamentalist discontent and terror. And, by the way, what is the current status of our relationship with Communist Vietnam? Very important question, isn't it?

Will President Bush ever wise up? We're afraid not. And why not? Because the primary war he's waging is political, to maintain power in Washington for his party. This is not only a great disservice to the United States of America, a great country in which I take great pride, it doesn't help us coalesce world opinion in our favor and gain assistance from the world community for our war on terrorism.

Wise up, President Bush! Tell your advisors and speechwriters to take a long walk off a short political pier. Your meaningless, boisterous rhetoric worked before, but it ain't gonna work now. Rid yourself and your cohorts of your arrogance and bravado. Heck, we all remember that you and Vice President Cheney opted out of the opportunity "to serve your country in Vietnam." Let's really fight terrorism and regain the hearts, ears and minds of the world community with our actions, not your empty words.


Pet Advice - Straight From the Horse's Mouth

by Charles "Horse" Tsence

Dear Readers:

This column is dedicated to the love and care of animals. Contrary to what some readers think, animals do not include spouses. Yes, I know that spouses and partners call each other "Pet," "Poochie" and even "My Cuddly Fur-Ball" (mostly directed to men), but this column is dedicated to our friends with four legs, feathers, fins, prehensile tails and the like. For questions regarding male-female relationships, I refer you to columnist Hortense "Poochie" McGoldstein, who appears in this week's Mediocre HousekeeperTM.


Dear Charles:

My beagle, Rasputin, while on one of our favorite jaunts through the woods, became tangled up with underbrush and berry vines. By the time I cut him loose, he had received several deep cuts which required stitches. The veterinarian suggested that I buy one of those white, stiff cone collars. The cone is tied around your pet's neck to prevent him from licking and biting the sutured area. Rasputin not only didn't like the collar, it immobilized him. Unless I vigorously pulled on his leash to move him, he just stood immobile, like a zombie. I modified the collar somewhat, cutting it down a bit, while still allowing the collar to do its job, but that didn't help much. I know I wouldn't like to have such a collar on me. Can you give me your advice on why animals, particularly Rasputin, hate it so, and what possible other methods I could use to keep him from interfering with the healing process? Signed, My Dog's-In-Stitches Collier.

Dear My Dog's-In-Stitches:

Not only do I empathize with you and Rasputin, but my pets have gone through the same routine. There is, of course, an underlying reason why animals can be immobilized by the collar, and it has to do with their natural navigation aid. Cats navigate to a great extent by using their whiskers. If you notice, these whiskers' length establish the space through which the cat can safely pass. Dogs also have these whiskers and use them likewise, albeit to a lesser extent. The collar also limits their sight field. This reduction of their natural navigation aides can stop a pet in its tracks.

I suppose a reasonable analogy would be that, if a person's vision was taken away without sufficient warning, he would experience helplessness in attempting to find his way. I have a couple of suggestions. There are other collars that, as I understand, are softer, more pliable and less onerous for a pet to wear. Many veterinarians don't stock them, but I am sure they can be found. However, I have purchased a product called "Chew Guard" from my veterinarian that also works well. You merely spray it on the stitched area, and it deters your pet from scratching, biting and licking. The directions called for its usage outside and downwind. You can also remove the collar and watch him closely to prevent his licking, scratching and biting the recovering skin area. Give Rasputin my best regards.


Dear Charles:

I recently took my German shepherd/Labrador retriever mix Hildy to an obedience school. Although I was told she was a bit young - 7 months - I felt that her size required some obedience training sooner rather than later. The instructor was a very kindly person, who explained what basic commands were to be taught - sit, stay, lie down, heel, and count to 10; I'm just kidding on that last one! Hildy learned quite rapidly, except for the "lie down" command. It made an improvement in our relationship and allowed me to accomplish many more tasks around the house without constant canine interference. I recently came across an animal article that discussed the alpha male and female. Can you explain why this alpha concept is so important in obedience and animal commands? Signed, Need-To-Know Adams.

Dear Need-To-Know:

It is amazing that your obedience trainer did not explain the alpha animal concept to you because it is fundamental to the entire training process. In fact, it is fundamental to the lives of most animals that live or have originated from a communal or family environment.

I have read that the ancestors of all dogs are wolves. It is difficult for me to accept that, but the people who say that are far more wiser than I am, and accept it, I do. To maintain the structured society necessary for the wolves' continued existence and procreation, there has to be a dominate animal in the pack that rules and lays down the law. It may be either a male or female, and in some cases, it may be both. In your case, you must be the alpha animal. You, and you alone, must establish the rules and lay down the law with regard to what behavior is acceptable. If I had know about this theory while raising my two boys, it may have been an easier task, although they turned out to be fine, upstanding men.

Whatever rules you initiate and require must be firmly and uniformly followed. There is no substitute for a well-disciplined pet.

The alpha concept is prevalent in all levels of civilized and uncivilized society, including business, government and religion. I hope you have a lot of fun with Hildy because that is a wonderful mix combination.


Signing off for now. Until next time, enjoy your pets and remember that not only are they a part of your family, they are part of your personality.


Mediocre HousekeeperTM - Searching for the Perfect Mates:
They're Out There, But Can They Be found?

By Hortense McGoldstein

(It is a pleasure to write for this magazine. As you probably have guessed, Hortense McGoldstein is not my real name, which I shall not reveal at this time. Yes, I have been referred to as "Poochie" by close friends from time to time, and I could kick Charlie Tsence for disclosing that information.)


Dear Hortense:

I recently celebrated my 34th birthday and took a long, hard look in the mirror. I'm pleasant to look at, but I can't figure out why I can't find the man of my dreams. Is it that difficult to find a match? What should I say? What should I do? I think it's time I settled down. My home is clean and tastefully furnished. I've looked everywhere, including computer dating services and online inquiries. Please, please help me. Signed, Totally-Frustrated Bennett.

Dear Ms. Bennett:

Your questions are the ones most asked. Most inquiries have given me much more information than you have, but let me try my best.

In order to have a successful relationship with anyone, you must first be at ease and happy with yourself, without a partner. It's apparent to me that more women than men lead fulfilling and happy lives living alone. There is, however, some changes in the younger generations because men are becoming more self-sufficient; some even take pride in decorating their homes and cooking for themselves.

When you are comfortable by yourself, you are ready to find your soul mate. It's very important to not project the impression that you are looking. If you do, you may exhibit a needy attitude, which usually results in disastrous relationships.

You must also identify who you are. Sit down during a quiet time and work out your profile, you know, what makes you tick such as politics, religion, sports, physical fitness, fiscal fitness, pets, a particular lifestyle, children and so on. Merely saying that "you enjoy long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners" doesn't cut it any more, if it ever did. Astrological signs are nice to know, but, again, there are exceptions to every "sign," and a person's life experiences and family orientations are usually more important.

Once you understand who you are, what things are important to you, and what you want out of life, the next step is easy. It's figuring out on which items you can compromise when you do find a person that interests you. Let me give you an example. I have a good friend who was married four times. Yes, it's a male, but the roles can be reversed. He is a morning person who, when he wakes up and plants his feet on the ground, is fully awake. He often breaks into song, tells jokes and can be quite obnoxious in the morning, especially to a woman who needs her coffee - lots of it - before she is sufficiently willing to talk and discuss the day, and perhaps world events. His morning attitude didn't help him in his relationships. His fourth wife wakes in a similar manner to him, and he has been married a long time. Waking up is an important activity and sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Although you may find somebody whose personality, values and traits are totally endearing, there may be an apparent difference that could result in great difficulty. People can work through such differences and have long-lasting, loving relationships, but that takes much special effort, especially at the beginning.

Don't sweat the small stuff, like putting the cap back on the toothpaste; have separate tubes. Leaving the toilet seat up or down may be an important item but, again, it's minor when considering the person that fulfills your dreams and aspirations.

So, my advise to you is cool it; relax; find out who you are and enjoy yourself; be aware of opportunities to meet people and take those opportunities without trepidation. And, finally, always ask the right questions. As you get older, you'll become more experienced in learning what questions to ask. However, the more questions you ask will help you figure out if that person is the "right person" for you.

Above all, have some fun! Good luck!


Missed In Mainstream Media (MSM): The "Hidden Stories"

By Bernard Levy

A tiny news wire blurb, published in early July, noted that the CIA unit focused on catching Osama bin Laden had been disbanded. The credit goes to The New York Times in reporting that "the unit, known as 'Alec Station' was shut down late last year." Unnamed intelligence officials reasoned the closure was made because the "al-Quaida's hierarchy has changed, and terrorists attacks inspired by the group were now being carried out independently of bin Laden." Well, la-te-da-te-da. Many of us believe that has been true for some time, but the real hidden story is what about Osama bin Laden, especially since President Bush, in a major terrorism/Iraq speech on September 7th, stated that capturing bin Laden was one of his major goals? Should we continue to attempt to capture him, or let him sit and stew wherever he is? And, if we do capture him, how important will that capture really be? And, if it isn't important, how much money, time, effort and human resources are we going to devote to bring him to justice? Yes, he is the icon of the 9/11 terrorist attacks but shouldn't we know more?

This "hidden story" took another turn just prior to publication. A small September 9th wire news item noted that our Senate voted unanimously, 96-0, September 8th to earmark $200 million "to revive the CIA unit (known as the Alec Station) dedicated to hunting down Osama bin Laden and other top al-Quaida leaders." The timing of this legislative action is most suspect because it occurs more than 9 months after Alec Station was shut down by the CIA. Could it have been prompted by President Bush's recent speeches, as well as necessity to include the legislation in the "huge Pentagon budget bill" to be voted on soon? And, how much of the $200 million is redundant expense? Haven't we been diligently attempting to find Osama and bring him to justice these many years? Stay tuned.

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In early July of this year, there was a small article by Juliet Eilperin of The L.A. Times - Washington Post which noted that, although the U.S. Army estimated in 1987 that it would cost $2 billion to dispose of 27,768 metric tons of stockpiled chemical weapons, the price has ballooned to $28 billion today. Further, the military is only one-third of the way through the job, and the Army announced in May that it "will unable to destroy all the weapons by 2012…a five-year extension to the current deadline."

The Army admitted that it underestimated the job and is continuing to incinerate weapons in Alabama, Arkansas, Oregon and Utah, although it has completed work on the Johnston Atoll in the Pacific. Of course, the Army has been thwarted in some of its activities by activists who claim that the incineration is dangerous to humans and the environment. It appears that the Pentagon believes that incineration is the best and most efficient method of destruction, but, as the article pointed out, "Craig Williams, Director of the Chemical Weapons Group working in Berea, Ky, said that emissions could have lasting effects on communities such as his."

Now, there are several hidden stories here, including why the increase in cost from $2 to $28 billion - a heck of an increase - and what incineration operations are really being conducted in those four states mentioned. I know that the incineration activities in Oregon have started and stopped and started and stopped several times because of safety and technical problems.

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I am always amazed at the traditions and customs that some professionals have to endure in their training. The well-acknowledged sleep deprivation of medical interns is one that I could never understand. We all have seen evidence of this in some of our favorite medical TV dramas, perhaps overdramatized but probably accurate. The medical profession is not alone. The air traffic controllers carry this sleep-deprivation "custom" even further. In recent news coverage, the air traffic controller responsible for guiding the ill-fated Comair Flight 5191 from a Lexington, Kentucky airfield had only two hours of sleep before he started his overnight shift. True, he was off for a full nine hours between shifts, but he had two hours of sleep. This "sleepless in the control tower" condition appears to be rather prevalent. Why in tarnation would such an important activity, involving the safety of millions of lives, be subjected to this kind of conduct? Yes, it could be because there is a shortage of air traffic controllers, but, as I understand, they are reasonably well paid. What's happening and how widespread is the practice?

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In mid June, Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke said that high fuel costs could drive inflation. He said, "The cumulative increases in energy and commodity prices have been large enough that they could account for some of the recent pick up in core inflation." Duh, and double Duh! "Could account for some…?" This is our country's main economic guru; he should have the data to ascertain whether it will or will not drive inflation. And, of course, it can, should and does drive inflation, particularly as measured by the Consumer Price Index. Transportation and fuel costs are two of the items considered in determining the CPI. Again, what's the real scoop here? Is Bernanke a political hack tolling a line that enables the administration and Wall Street to report positive economic activities and gains, or is he an honest, truth-telling governmental official who is responsible for measuring and helping to control our economy for all citizens? I'll leave you to ponder that question, because, in the words of my beloved, departed friend Tom Turney, "Ain't that a pip!"


There's No Crying over Spilt Coffee: It Can be a Blessing - Laugh and Learn

The Wonderful World of Business
By Jim Penn

Those of us who work at home can exhibit idiosyncratic behavior not allowed in the conventional workplace. This free spirit behavior has its downside, too. Less discipline in the workplace - shoes off or laces untied and torn sweatshirts - can present problems. However, after spilling a mug of coffee at my desk for the third time this week, it struck me; such gaffes are not causes for crying but laughing.

Okay, let's get the clichés out of the way. Necessity is the mother of invention, and when dealt lemons, make lemonade.

Sorry for that, but I had to do it. Coffee spilt at a work station is a blessing in disguise; it forces you to clean off as well as clean up your desk. Recognizing this valuable tool in home office cleanliness, I began to think of other lessons I've been forced to learn that could be communicated to others who work at home. I made a list, although I have not checked it twice. Neither naughty nor nice, here it is:

* Shave and shower in the morning, or it'll never happen.

* Your attention span is directly proportional to the number of coffees drunk. Confine your coffee drinking to the morning hours, and productivity in the afternoon will measurably improve.

* Hide the portable phone when working on a deadline. A variation of hide-the-portable-phone is to place it in a plastic bag and give it to a golden retriever writing companion to hide upstairs. It also turns into a game when a deadline has been met.

* Dedicate a daily or weekly time period for anal retentiveness (AR). These AR activities include counting paperclips, checking to see which pens are almost out of ink and preparing lists that are the product of other lists that have been delisted. AR "time-out" is also called AR "time alone;" spouses should not be included.

* Snacks, particularly crackers, should be eaten directly over a prelined wastebasket. Also, it doesn't hurt to teach a canine companion to eat his portion over the wastebasket, too. Dogs can be taught; cats cannot without extensive, intensive human training. Teaching time should be included in your AR time allocation.

* Shredding is both entertainment and exercise. Materials should be shredded during your exercise period. Exercises that can be done while shredding include balancing on one foot, waiving fingers in the air and leg stretches. Make sure your shredder has a finger guard.

If these activities do not provide enough exercise, there's always the opportunity to run around the house with scissors in your hand. Although frowned upon by parents, I'm at an age where I can do this with impunity.

Dancing is not only permitted, but encouraged. Dancing is always an acceptable form of exercise, and uninhibited office dancing is the best. If you've got hardwood or concrete floors, try a little tap dancing to Sibelius' 2nd. Magic, pure magic.

Mental exercises are also necessary while working at home, and I suggest juggling assignments and jumping to conclusions.

As you can see, if viewed in the proper light, home office activities can be fun and productive. Intraoffice communication is also very important. My golden retriever, Cheddar, and I have it down pat. Two thumps on the rug with his tail means either a cookie or outside duty calls. A whistle or two from me and the display of a plastic bag means a trip upstairs to deposit messages for my house mate. Key jiggling signals our daily trip to the post office, hopefully the bank and a walk.

The opportunities for office procedure improvement never cease. I purchased from "Pennally's Large Dog Opposing Thumbs." Although they fit Cheddar, and his keyboarding has become passable, he still refuses to use spell check. A dog out of water and all that jazz.

Hope springs eternal, though, and it's all in a day's work.