Vexed About Vetting

Van Jones, a top adviser to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, has resigned. The story of Jones’ resignation is interesting for at least two reasons. The first is that although Jones’ past statements and associations have been fodder for The Drudge Report and conservative radio talk-shows and websites for days, they have received very little attention from the establishment news media. Indeed, the New York Times’ first mention of the controversy swirling about Jones came when the Times reported on his resignation. You would think the Times, which holds itself out as the newspaper of record, would be embarrassed to have totally failed to report on, much less to uncover itself, any of the incidents and activities that ultimately led to Jones’ resignation.

The second interesting aspect of Jones’s resignation is the apparently dismal failure of the White House vetting process. It is hard to believe that those in the Administration responsible for checking the background of Administration officials would not have uncovered Jones’ involvement with radical groups and his decision to sign on to a “Truther” petition, among other controversial activities. If those activities were, in fact, overlooked during the vetting process, then the Obama Administration should revisit its procedures and fire the individual who dropped the ball. An equally plausible explanation, however, is that Jones’ activities were uncovered, but Administration officials didn’t find them particularly problematic. Democratic Party Chair Howard Dean, for example, expressed regret at Jones’ resignation because he considers Jones to be a “star.” If Obama Administration officials weren’t troubled by Jones’ past actions, then the Administration may have a more significant problem to address — that of being out of touch with how ordinary Americans may react to radical activities.

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The Golf Gods

Today the Golf Gods smiled upon me.

After weeks of soul-blasting, rage-inducing, brain-searing futility on the golf course, I finally made some shots and got a decent score.  I also had the luckiest bounce I think I have ever had on the golf course.  On number 8 East, a par 3 over water, I hung my drive out to the right and hit a tree.  None of us saw it come down, and when we walked up to the spot we noticed a ball on the green.  Sure enough, the ball had careened off the tree, bounced about 30 feet to the left, and ended up about six feet from the cup.  After a break like that I had to make the putt, and I did for a birdie.

Having received a break like that, I fervently thanked the Golf Gods.  It got me to thinking:  exactly who are the Golf Gods?

I think the Golf Gods are not like the Christian God of the New Testament.  They don’t care if we love one another or help the poor.  They aren’t distant, remote, and high-minded, or seemingly uninterested in the tawdry activities of mankind.  To the contrary, they are eager to intervene in the lives of humans who happen to be playing golf.  The Gold Gods are like Loki, the Norse god of evil, mischief, and fire pictured at right, smirking and full of pranks and desire to make mere mortals look foolish and, well, mortal.

Clearly, the Golf Gods are like much older gods:  Greek gods, Norse gods, Vedic gods, or the God of the Old Testament.  They are willing to smite, to punish, to rain fire and destruction on transgressors on the golf course.  Like Kali, pictured at left, they will chop your head off, stick their tongue out, and wave their bloody sword in triumph when you miss a short putt that would have allowed you to break 90.  They are fickle, whimsical, and capricious, keen to experiment with puny golfers to see how much misfortune those golfers can bear.  Hit a good drive?  Walk up to your ball to find it in a thoughtlessly unrepaired divot.  Hit a perfect putt and watch the ball spin around the hole and out.  And then, just when you have reached your limit and can’t bear any more, they reward you with some extraordinary good fortune or a stretch where you just can’t miss.

Why do the Golf Gods so clearly exist and interfere in the game of golf?  Because they know the golf course is one place where people do believe in divine intervention and hope that supplication is rewarded, where good golfers know they must be willing to accept their punishment after hitting a crappy shot, and where hubris is inevitably disastrous.  Besides, being able to arbitrarily make balls bounce dead left into a creek or to leave balls improbably imbedded in the face of a bunker, and then watch the reaction of the hapless golfer, would be entertaining.

A Wuss For A Speaker

When it comes to Rep. Charles Rangel, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a bit of a wuss. Even though Rangel, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, has been dogged by his unseemly failure to list many of his assets on financial disclosure forms — so much so that even the Washington Post has called for him to yield his chairmanship — Pelosi apparently is unwilling to oust him. She is concerned that booting Rangel will upset members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and she also is concerned that she doesn’t really have any good candidates to replace him.

Why don’t politicians just ‘fess up? In reality, they don’t care about ethics — at least, not about the ethical lapses of the people on their team. Ethics is hauled out only when it is a problem for the other party; it is disregarded when enforcing ethical behavior involves any meaningful political cost.  If Nancy Pelosi won’t enforce ethical behavior when a powerful Congressman grossly flouts his disclosure obligations, then she isn’t much of a Speaker. And, if the Democrats don’t take meaningful action against Rangel, then they will have no credibility the next time they protest when, as will inevitably be the case, a Republican is found to have acted unethically.