The Ultimate Poker Face

Kasey would fit in quite well with those poker-playing dogs featured on the black velvet paintings — although I doubt she would cheat like the rest of them do.

Her expression never changes.  Whether she is begging for a piece of food, sitting attentively, sniffing for the scents of other dogs and random four-legged critters, or bluffing with two-of-a-kind against a king-high straight flush, this stolid, plain-faced visage is what you’re going to get from Kasey.

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Not-So-Secret

The embarrassing scandal involving U.S. Secret Service agents and Colombian prostitutes should make everyone question the quality, training, and capabilities of the people who hold some of the most important jobs in the federal government.

For those who missed it, 11 Secret Service agents were put on leave pending an investigation of their behavior in Colombia.  They were there to help prepare for President Obama’s arrival for the Summit of the Americas.  Amazingly, the agents took advantage of Colombia’s laws, which permit legal prostitution in certain areas, and enjoyed trysts with some of the ladies of the night.  Their risky behavior blew up when one agent refused to pay his prostitute, a police report was filed, and the assignations were uncovered.  Apparently, the hooker hook-ups are now the talk of the summit meeting.

None of the agents was involved in actually guarding the President, and the Secret Service says the President’s security was not compromised.  But how can we be sure?  If agents who are responsible for planning presidential security don’t even recognize the obvious risks involved in consorting with prostitutes in a foreign country, are they really qualified to be handling that crucially important job?  And how do we know that this appalling lapse in judgment — one that apparently included almost a dozen agents — hasn’t happened before?

This incident is shocking and deeply concerning.  Regardless of our political inclinations, we can all agree that nothing is more important than providing the best possible security for our President, who is an obvious target in a world filled with enemies.   This scandal suggests that we may need to take a very careful look at the culture and personnel of the Secret Service, to make sure that they understand just how crucial their job is — and how the proper performance of that job requires that they keep their pants zipped and resist the temptation of sex workers, booze, drugs, and other vices that might impair their judgment.

A Car Wash Day

It’s a beautiful day today in New Albany.

The sun is shining, the temperature is in the high 70s, and the sounds of lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and trimmers fill the sultry air.  My neighbors are hard at work, and I should be, too.

It’s a perfect day to wash your car — so I did.  Time to get out the bucket and fill it with soapy water, find the Windex, and haul the old diapers out of the rag pile.  (Nothing works on a car like old cloth diapers.)

Unfortunately, as I was mid-wash I realized that my only functioning hose is much too short to rinse down the car after the washing.  So, I cleaned out the inside, scrubbed the dead bugs and road grit off the front bumper and headlights, then stopped by our neighborhood car wash for the finishing touches and a much needed vacuum treatment for the flooring.

My car is now as clean as a whistle, which means only one thing — rain tomorrow.

On Tax Day, Remember The GSA!

All American taxpayers should be grateful this April 15, as we curse and finish our returns and contemplate how much we pay to our federal government:  we have the General Services Administration out there working for us.

You all know the GSA, of course.  Its website describes the GSA as “responsible for improving the government’s workplace by managing assets, delivering maximum value in acquisitions, preserving historic property, and implementing technology solutions.”  To translate: the GSA are the bureaucrats bureaucrats.

The GSA has been in the news lately, but not due to its selfless performance of its crucial bureaucratic mission.  No, the GSA is in the news because the agency spent $822,000 — $822,000 — on its 2010 Western Regions Conference in Las Vegas.  That included payments for upscale accommodations, commemorative coins, and $3,200 for a “mind reader,” among other indefensible expenditures.  When an Inspector General’s report uncovered the gross waste, the GSA Administrator resigned.  Now the GSA official charged with organizing the event, who has been subpoenaed to testify about the matter before Congress, has indicated he will invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.  In short, there’s not just concern about bad judgment — there’s concern that outright criminal conduct may have occurred.

If you look at the GSA website, you’ll find a video of the acting administrator of the GSA, Dan Tangherlini, soberly pledging that the GSA will adhere to the highest standards of ethics and service.  (You’ll also learn that the GSA has its own flag, which appears behind him.  Thank God for that!)  The video is a classic of buzzwords and bureaucratese — other governmental bodies are called “client agencies” and “customers,” and the response to the abuse of the Western Regions Conference talks about rules and “top-down” agency reviews.  In short, the timeless solution to abusive practices in the bureaucracy is more bureaucracy!

Forgive me if I’m not reassured that the same agency that allowed the abuse is recommitted to its end.  The only real solution to waste and abuse in government is to cut back government, period.  Does anyone really think the country would grind to a halt if the GSA budget were reduced to one-third of its current size?

As I sign and send my returns today, I’ll be thinking of the GSA and its careful stewardship of our tax dollars.  And during this campaign season, when we hear candidates for federal offices talk about how “draconian” proposed budget cuts are, and how we need to raise taxes because cutting spending is just too difficult, I’ll think “Remember the GSA!” And then I’ll vote for their opponent.