Poem: The Abiding Benefit of Employing Servants

Jet setters

Employing a staff, you see,

Betters all mankind, not just me.

Look, the man who drives my car

Was born unlucky, not a star

Like me and Angie, Anne and Mike,

All us worthy of your thumbs-up “like.”


Meet the girl who cleans my home:

Born unlovely, brownish gnome

With moles unsightly, hair unkempt,

She’s never loved nor even slept

With a charismatic VIP

(Speaking only theoretically).


The lesser lights now have work

And I can bear the taunts of “jerk,”

Because, you see, I know the truth.

Three things we covet quite more than youth:

Power, wealth, and celebrity.

Now, don’t you wish that you were me?

Keeping Our Commanders Comfortable

Pay these boys!

New information came to light this week about the quarters our top Generals enjoy at taxpayer expense.

The Pentagon acknowledged that even though the Offense Department’s budget is slated for a 20% cut that will cost 800,000 people their job, important war planners like General John Kelly of U.S. Southern Command live rent-free in mansions, like Kelly’s $13,500 per month Casa Sur, in Miami. Or Villa de Lorio, a 6,600-square-foot Italian villa in Naples, leased for $172,000 a year for Rear Admiral Robert Burke, the commander of Submarine Group 8, which patrols the Mediterranean. General Philip M. Breedlove, the Air Force general in command of NATO, beds down in a 15,000-square-foot 19th century Belgian chateau. Lt. General Steven A. Hummer, head of the Marine Forces Reserve, billets in a 19th century plantation house in New Orleans listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And the Joint . . . → Read More: Keeping Our Commanders Comfortable

Size Queens


Despite our vigorous protests to the contrary, what Americans value more than “family” is quantity. We are a nation of super-sized dreck.

As our population eclipses 300 million — bigger and better every day — we are less inclined to appreciate (or even acknowledge) anything that is accomplished on a small scale. “Go big or go home” is the mantra. Should one score a minor triumph, the emphasis is on the minor aspect. We are a country of major.

When we discuss the YouTube phenomenon, it is in terms of millions of viewers and billions of dollars and trillions of lawsuits. Someone somewhere may have created a short film that is beautiful, illuminating, and possibly important. But unless it registers countless views and a cover story in Newsweek, it’s akin to a tree falling in a celluloid forest.

When we discuss the lasting gifts a . . . → Read More: Size Queens

In Anticipation of Labor Day

The Gleaners, doing work

Thank you to the Dads and Moms, toiling at home or in an office, on a truck or in a field.

Thanks also to the Thais and Turks and Filipinos and Sri Lankans, the Malaysians and the Indonesians, the Bangladeshis and the Vietnamese, and of course the Chinese, who make our clothes and shoes and socks.

They allow us to pay semi-literate folks a few dollars an hour so that other semi-literate folks may be paid millions of dollars to lend their familiar visage to the billboards and television ads that assure us how necessary and, yes, somehow vital, the shoes they endorse will feel upon our feet.

Thanks to them all.

And thanks to the Mexican and Salvadoran and Guatemalan and Honduran fellows who keep our grass green and our flowers blooming, bursting forth in fireworks colors that successfully distract us from . . . → Read More: In Anticipation of Labor Day

The Charity Enigma

capitalist LOSER and his dog

I saw a beggar (and his dog) on Sunset Boulevard the other day. They — well, the human — were soliciting cash donations for “food” from pedestrians. A well-meaning but foolish fellow threw a few bucks at the doleful couple, thereby cleansing himself of whatever sins he had committed in the name of acquiring his gleaming car and discretionary cash. The donator didn’t care that the money he gave would help ensure that the recipient (and his dog) would be encouraged to stay on the sidewalk, where positive reinforcement from liberal Hollywood residents was easier to come by than honest work. All the rich fellow knew was that he somehow felt a little bit better about having more than the other guy.

Not long ago Bill and Melinda Gates announced that they would be dedicating the bulk of their time to giving . . . → Read More: The Charity Enigma

Sections of the Newspaper


The first section — the “A” section — of the Los Angeles Times, focuses on international news and domestic stories of national interest. It is here that one learns how ugly and cruel life is for most of our brothers and sisters living in places other than America and Europe.

The next section is the California section. Here one finds news and trifles originating in the home state.

Then the Business section, in which the pursuit of money is celebrated with the same gusto that the next section, Sports, celebrates the pursuit of hockey goals and basketball points.

The Calendar section is where one finds news and analysis of our entertainment culture. This being Los Angeles (and America), movies and television garner more attention than, say, books or symphonic music.

In addition to the classified ads, the paper publishes a special section once a . . . → Read More: Sections of the Newspaper

Learning from Piracy


In a gesture of international goodwill — and because there’s a big trade meeting coming up — the Chinese government recently shut down an enormous bazaar in Shanghai that exclusively offered counterfeit goods.

Merchants and shoppers admitted to reporters that the closure would be momentarily inconvenient but that the bazaar would soon move to another location nearby. Market forces, more powerful even than the pernicious Party, would dictate the bazaar’s future, and those forces, vendors predicted, would ensure continued financial success, no matter how much the authorities wagged a scolding finger or confiscated bootlegged copies of “King Kong.”

The enormous demand for fake Gucci handbags, fake Swatch watches, fake Yao Ming-endorsed basketball shoes, and hastily copied CDs of the latest Kelly Clarkson album tells us something about both the enduring appeal and the essential emptiness of brand names. In the case of a pirated DVD, both . . . → Read More: Learning from Piracy

Painter of Light

Thomas Kinkade's vision of venison

According to a series of recently published newspaper stories, Thomas Kinkade, the enormously successful painter, isn’t as nice of a man as his collectors and business associates believed him to be. This normally wouldn’t be much of a revelation except that in Kinkade’s case the artist trades heavily on his “Christian values” and “core beliefs,” powerful code phrases that signify to his buyers that the expensive paintings they’re acquiring are much more than pretty wallpaper. They mean something. His tableaux, executed in a mushy realist style, depict a distant time that never was, when all was calm, all was bright.

Kinkade, according to court documents, has become fabulously wealthy from franchising his prints and lithographs to “Signature Galleries” located mainly in shopping malls. (The collapse of many of these outlets, which at one time seemed at plentiful as Burger Kings, is the . . . → Read More: Painter of Light

Why It’s Important to Earn Lots of Money

Hello, I'm Wage Slave!

Most of us toil at jobs were not crazy about, dedicating a large portion of our life on Earth to laboring at tasks that may or may not satisfy our spiritual hunger. We recognize that we have a finite amount of time to be alive — and that time may be shorter than we imagine — and that the hours we spend at the office or factory or wherever we perform our quotidian exercises might possibly be spent doing other more satisfying things.

But we remind ourselves that it’s necessary and perhaps even virtuous to earn the money that our work produces. We have families to feed, bodies to clothe, electronic gadgets to purchase. Our determination freshly resolved, we rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of money and all the wonderful things it can get us.

In our idle moments, we let ourselves daydream. . . . → Read More: Why It’s Important to Earn Lots of Money

Hooray for Labor

Clifford Styll's workers

To most of us, today’s holiday means a long weekend, an extra day off from the office — which, for those who dislike their job, is reason enough to celebrate. The occasion is solemn enough that banks, financial markets, and government offices remain closed. Amid the backyard barbecues and furniture discount sales the essential purpose of Labor Day is lost. Who or what do we honor with this national observance?

“All who are employed,” we think, is a misleading answer. We honor all who labor.

Only people who have never really worked — people who have never washed dishes, dug trenches, hauled trash — can misunderstand the distinction between working and laboring. Laborers do the jobs that nobody would freely choose if offered an alternative, and they do it for far less money than seems fair. Consider this: You would probably be willing to be a movie . . . → Read More: Hooray for Labor