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Suppose you’re the Secret Service, and you don’t like the windy mofo.

You’re an honorable person. You took the job, you made an oath, and you take that seriously. No way you’re going to just pop a cap; it violates your oath, makes a mess, and jeapordizes your retirement. But you’d like a way to express your resentment. It has to be subtle and deniable — even to yourself — something you can reply to questions about with Calvin eyes and “jus’ doin’ my job.”

Maybe Turn the handle the way it goes, only more so. (Thank you, E. F. Russell.)

When the President or other Government officials travel there has to be security. It’s been a long time since Thomas Jefferson, bachelor, could simply stroll across the street to the Willard for dinner and a chat with the other guests, and while the absolute time is less, it’s almost as far psychically since Bill Clinton went jogging, maybe to stop for a latte on the way. Nowadays they have to clear the area, doing their best to make sure there aren’t any snipers, bomb- (or pie-)throwers, IEDs, or people with real or imagined grievances and sharp sticks. It used be called sanitizing the area, and maybe still is. And you’re Secret Service. You swore an oath, and you can’t skimp on your responsibilities.

But you can exceed them, can’t you? This intersection needs to be cleared for the motorcade; you won’t get many questions if you clear the whole street, both ways, and post officers to make sure there’s no encroachment, just in case. There’s all kinds of people flying around in airplanes, and some of them might be grumpy and/or opportunist, so you’ll get grumbles but no serious objections when you simply declare that air traffic isn’t allowed while the President is around, just in case, and if you extend the TFR zone just a teensy bit farther than is really necessary, well, airplanes move pretty fast and go a long way, don’t they?

This is not to say people are going to enjoy it, of course, but it’s dangerous out there, and people will understand you’re just trying to minimize it. What the hey, you might even bring people together a bit, a worthwhile goal in these troubled times, innit? You can do it again any number of times, too.


Juliette Ochieng (better known as Baldilocks) has written a book.

It’s good. You’ll be a little disappointed, and maybe a little ashamed, when you realize that things you have done may have contributed to the characters’ troubles — or, rather, to the troubles of real people in analogous situations. Don’t worry. You’ll be much more interested in how the characters manage than you are in navel-gazing. Juliette isn’t interested in the blame game or guilt, it’s good to remember mistakes so you don’t repeat them, and some of that guilt may be self-misplaced.

Tale of the Tigers, by Juliette Akinyi Ochieng, brought to you by Carmel Coast Publishing Enterprises in electronic and dead-tree versions, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble Onlinedirectly from the author/publisher, and wherever fine books are sold — if they don’t have it, they don’t have good enough books.

Strong ego is this didn’t work; that means I didn’t understand the problem fully; figure out why and try again;

Hyper self-esteem is if this didn’t work it means I’m a lesser being, and that’s impossible, so it must be being blocked by Inimical Forces™

I’ve never had any trouble understanding Obama. Predicting is another thing, but my early life-experiences were eerily similar. I’m moderately bright, and have had enablers who passed me on that basis rather than my performance; the result is that I never had to learn to “dig in”. I expect things to be easy, and when they aren’t I fold; and I never quite follow through. You can see it on my blog. When I post one of my brilliant analyses, I expect the country (Hell, the planet) to go “Oh, wow, this guy’s got it, we need to start implementing right away!” Of course what I actually get is 200-hit peaks and no comments, and I sulk and slack off and don’t post, and nobody puts it on their daily check-it list.

The difference between me and Barry is that I ran out of enablers a long time ago, whereas his are still enthusiastically pushing; therefore he’s President and I’m a schlub. He still expects that when he issues a Masterful Oration(™)(©)(RegUsPatOff) the result will be that everybody’s thunderstruck: “Oh, shit, why didn’t we think of that?” followed by a scurry to get the Obvious Rational Program put in place. When that happens he’s amazed and disappointed and goes golfing (and sulking, though he has learned enough to keep his lower lip from quivering, as have I).

It’s possible that Jim Croce, had he survived, would have been like me and Barry, but while he was around he nailed it:

I had just got out from the County prison
Doin’ ninety days for non-support
Tried to find me an executive position
But no matter how smooth I talk
They wouldn’t listen
To the fact that I was genius,
The man say we got all that we can use
So I got them steadily depressin’ low down mind-messin’
Workin’ at the car wash blues.

It’s not “ego” as the term is properly understood. It’s “self-esteem” run amok — I observe that it is perfectly possible to have an ego that can bear the slings and arrows of outrageous criticism and come up swinging without having the self-regard that assigns all error to the critics, and since my enablers went away I’ve had to learn at least the rudiments of that. Encouraging “self-esteem” gets you people who don’t know what they’re doing but are totally sure they do and are always gobsmacked when they fail; doing it to stupid and/or ordinary people gets you irritants, but doing it to bright people gets you monsters if it goes too far.

This is the main reason Mensa is a joke, and why your boss probably isn’t as g-smart as you (or some of your fellow employees) are. A person of ordinary intellect who’s been challenged learns to overcome and succeed; a person of superior intellect who’s never been challenged learns to retreat and whine. On the rare occasions when you get a bright person who’s had to overcome challenges, you get a game-changer. Trouble is, us bright guys tend to assume we’re game-changers whether we can actually do the work or not. Croce nails it again:

Y’know I should be sittin’ in an air-condition
Office in a swivel chair
Talkin’ some trash to the secretary
Sayin’ hey, now, mama
Come on over here
Instead I’m stuck here rubbin’ these fenders with a rag
An’ walkin’ home in soggy ol’ shoes
With them steadily depressin’, low down mind-messin’
Workin’ at the car-wash blues

Yes, you could find a worse President than Baracky; yr. obt. svt., for instance. I’m a disaster at anything involving leadership, management, or executive ability, but I still have fantasies of owning a magic wand that would make those fools do it right! If you find one, don’t give it to me, OK?

When you put me, or Barack, into an “executive position”, we tend to assume that the duties of the office (to the minimal extent they exist) will be easily discharged, so we flash immediately to the privileges associated with it — corner office with comfy chair and Karastan rug, equipped with all the mod cons including subordinates to grope and/or terrorize according to taste, and time and resources to go golfing or jet off to the islands whenever the thought occurs. The growing discord as time goes on is an inexplicable puzzle: I’m smart; I know how to do this; why don’t they just get on with it? From there it’s an easy, in fact inevitable, leap to They’re just stupid, is all; curse them for not payin’ attention!

Competent managers know that an executive position is just another car wash — your shoes don’t get soggy, but there’ll be another car coming through any minute, different in detail but the same in large as the last one, with a driver who expects a spotless windshield and all the bugs gone from the grille when you get done. Us bright guys learn that very late if we ever do, and the longer we go on with our enablers helping us out the later and less completely we comprehend it.

The same, if a trifle weaker, applies to the Proggs at large. It’s probable, in fact highly probable, that the median Progg is, in fact, significantly g-brighter than the median non-Progg, but they’ve only been competing against one another rather than trying to apply their insights to all of Universe instead of a limited subset. The result is their entertaining notions that are, as has been said, so stupid only an intellectual could believe them. It’s pretty much the same as somebody who sets out to break the bank at Monte Carlo because they’re a killer at Windows Solitaire.

(Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues © 1973, 1995 Jim Croce & Atlantic Records, quoted under Fair Use provisions of the Copyright Act)

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When I Posted

August 2010