Monday, September 10, 2007

"With a Harvard MBA"

Of Principalities and Powers ~ “With a Harvard MBA”

For years the GOP has told the public sector that it needs to operate like a business. Now, for the first time ever, we have a president with an MBA from Harvard Business School. After more than six years of watching the administration in action, it is easy to envision the following scenario in the White House.

“Good morning, James. Ready to take my breakfast order?”

“Certainly, sir. What would you like?”

“Let’s start off with some orange juice.”

“I’m afraid we don’t have any orange juice, sir, and aren’t likely to have some for at least six months.”

“Six months! Why’s that!”

“We ordered it at the same time we ordered body armor for the troops, sir. I’ll try to get them to rush your orange juice.”

“Can’t you call them and tell them it’s an emergency?”

“That’s a possibility. We ordered through an old college chum of yours. In an emergency, we can probably get through to him in three or four days.”

“Just let me have apple juice this morning, then.”

“All right, sir, but it’s a little pricey.”

“Pricey? How much does it cost?”

“Eighteen thousand dollars a glass.”

“Eighteen thousand dollars! How can apple juice cost eighteen thousand dollars a glass?”

“I took the liberty of asking that myself, sir. Our supplier has the same kind of contract we’ve used with Halliburton. It’s a cost-plus contract, where he’s guaranteed a profit percentage, and the more he runs up the cost, the more money he makes. He dumps apple juice down the drain as fast as it comes in, just to inflate the price.”

“What! I’m going to see that so-and-so in court!”

“I’m afraid that’s not possible, sir. Under the terms of the standard contract, he’s untouchable. He has complete immunity from liability for misconduct, as well as immunity from prosecution for crimes he or any member of his staff might commit in carrying out their contract.”

“Give me a glass anyway. I’m thirsty.”

“If you say so, sir, but that will run us over our food budget for September, and it’s only the 9th of the month.”

“No problem. Just list it as an off-budget expense. If we can run a trillion dollar war off-budget, a glass of apple juice ought to be a snap. [President gulps down apple juice.] After breakfast, I’m going to refer this matter to the Consumer Protection Division of the Justice Department.”

“Very well, sir, but I’m afraid it won’t do any good.”

“Why’s that?”

“In keeping with your policy of appointing people who oppose the laws they’re supposed to be enforcing, the Consumer Protection Division simply doesn’t pursue cases by consumers against corporations, just as the Civil Rights Division drags its heels on enforcing civil rights, and the Environmental Protection agency works to undermine legislation protecting the environment.”

“Let me talk to them anyway. This is outrageous! Get me a phone.”

“Here it is, sir. [Hands president the phone.] Good luck with that.”

[President dials.] “Hello, thank you for calling the Justice Department. You have reached our automated answering service. Please listen carefully to the following menu. You may enter a number at any time. If you are calling to submit your resignation, press 1. If you are scheduling a visit to serve a subpoena, press 2. If you are calling for any other reason, press 3. [President punches 3.] All of our representatives are busy handling other calls right now. Calls are answered in the order in which they are received. Your call is important to us. Please hold, and a representative will be with you as soon as possible. [Theme from ‘Gunsmoke’ plays over and over as president sits, holding phone to his ear.]”

© Tony Russell, 2007

Thursday, September 06, 2007

“Chinese in Less Than Thirty Days”

Of Principalities and Powers ~ “Chinese in Less Than Thirty Days”

Washington, September 6 -
At a joint press conference held in the White House today, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, flanked by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NCAA President Myles Brand, announced a major new initiative to promote language skills.

Secretary Spellings said, “Historically, America’s students have lagged far behind the rest of the world in learning foreign languages. Indeed, our inability to read or comprehend what the rest of the world is saying may be an important factor in why we have so much trouble valuing other people’s viewpoints and cultures.

“Therefore, it gives me great pride to announce that, starting with the 2008 season, all radio and TV coverage of both NFL and NCAA football will be available only in Spanish, French, Russian, or Chinese.”

Secretary Spellings explained that, given the vast viewership of these contests, the passionate involvement of their listeners and viewers, and the staggering repetitiveness of the descriptions and accounts of the games, they present an almost ideal forum for teaching language skills.

“Consider this,” she said. “If you watch fifteen hours of football a week for twenty weeks—and our research shows that is a low figure for the typical fan—how many times will you hear a broadcaster say, ‘He is some kind of player’? According to our statisticians, at least 1,200 repetitions—enough for even the slowest learner to pick up the phrase. Soon, in millions of bars and living rooms all over the United States, one viewer with his eyes glued to the set will be telling another, ‘Él es un tipo de jugador,’ without even thinking about it. At any level.”

She added, “Research shows that 95% of football coverage—excluding the names of players, coaches, and products advertised on the shows—can be mastered with a vocabulary of 400 words or less and fewer than 20 phrases. (‘That tackle saved a touchdown.’ [‘Ce tacle a sauvé un atterrissage.’] ‘The try for extra point is good.’ [‘El intento de el punto suplementario está bien.’] ‘He’s brought down after a one-yard gain.’ [‘Il est déprimé après une augmentation d'une yard.’] ‘So-and-so drops back to pass. Here comes the blitz.’ [‘Он роняет, чтобы пройти. Здесь прибывает блиц.’ Etc.) We expect the normal fan to be football fluent in French, Spanish, Chinese, whatever, in less than thirty days.”

President Brand pointed out that the language benefits conferred by watching football, while seemingly confined to a minor area of life, would actually meet up to 90% of the daily conversational needs of the typical football fan. The real challenge, he said, would be to find a way to extend those benefits to women and to active adults of both genders.

In the question-and-answer session which followed, Commissioner Goodell acknowledged that commercial breaks, which take up approximately 60% of air time during game coverage, will continue to be in English. “But we still think that an hour and a half’s worth of language instruction in a three and a half hour broadcast is a viable educational tool.”

When another reporter asked if using televised games to overcome educational deficiencies was a revolutionary new concept, the Secretary pointed to groundbreaking work by Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and Captain Kangaroo.

© Tony Russell, 2007