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Burt Prelutsky / Apr. 23, 2012

Wrangling Over Rangel

A while back, I compared Sarah Palin’s voice to bagpipes and nails on a blackboard. Predictably, a number of people leapt to her defense, while one guy of Scottish heritage leapt to the defense of bagpipes. I understand that, thanks to the media’s unrelenting attacks on Mrs. Palin, a lot of Republicans resent any criticism of their favorite Alaskan, no matter how benign. But, frankly, I can’t believe I am the only one out here who cringes every time she opens her mouth. Frankly, for conservatives, I think Palin’s annoyingly nasal voice is our own version of the emperor’s new duds.

A while back, I compared Sarah Palin’s voice to bagpipes and nails on a blackboard. Predictably, a number of people leapt to her defense, while one guy of Scottish heritage leapt to the defense of bagpipes. I understand that, thanks to the media’s unrelenting attacks on Mrs. Palin, a lot of Republicans resent any criticism of their favorite Alaskan, no matter how benign. But, frankly, I can’t believe I am the only one out here who cringes every time she opens her mouth. Frankly, for conservatives, I think Palin’s annoyingly nasal voice is our own version of the emperor’s new duds.

Speaking of annoying, is there anyone less amusing and more irritating than Sacha Baron (“Borat”) Cohen? Of course when I say “anyone,” I am referring to anyone not currently holding elective office. Okay, I hear you; perhaps it is a three-way tie between Cohen, Michael Moore and Bill Maher.

The other day, a reader shared a study with me that concluded that incompetent people are not only incompetent when it comes to such things as logic and language skills, but even when it comes to their sense of humor. It seems that they really do have a tin ear, so to speak, when it comes to humor. Moreover, such people are far more likely to underestimate others, while holding themselves in ridiculously high esteem. The reverse was true when it came to competent people; ironically, they were the ones who tended to question their competence and under-rate their own abilities.

I’m not sure the study revealed anything we didn’t already sense about those people who elected Barack Obama, but it certainly explains all those terrible jokes they persist in forwarding to everyone unfortunate enough to be in their email address book.

Although it is my practice to automatically delete jokes, links and attachments, sent to me by strangers, fortunately one occasionally slips past my spam filter and my eagle eye. One such was the following: “The food stamp program, which is overseen by the Department of Agriculture, is pleased to be distributing the greatest amount of food stamps ever. Meanwhile, the Park Service, which is overseen by the Department of the Interior, asks us to please not feed the animals because they may grow dependent and not learn to take care of themselves.”

I know what you’re thinking and I agree.

In a recent article, as some of you may recall, I wrote, “After spending two million dollars and several thousand man-hours investigating Rep. Charles Rangel’s various crimes and misdemeanors, if those shmoes in Congress really wanted to impress us with their integrity, they would have thrown his sorry butt in prison. When you’re found guilty of 11 counts of misbehavior, it calls for more than a resounding tsk-tsk from your House colleagues. In certain precincts, after all, being censured by Congress is regarded as a badge of honor.”

The other day, I opened the following email from Ms. Hannah Kim: “Hello, Mr. Prelutsky: In your recent piece, you wrote… (and after quoting the paragraph above, continued) First, the Congressman did NOT commit any "crime” – In fact, the chief counsel of the Ethics Committee concluded that there was NO EVIDENCE OF CORRUPTION and that the Congressman did not use his position to benefit himself. His most serious offense of trying to raise money for an education center in his congressional district could have been avoided if he had grabbed the correct stationary. I urge you to take out the word ‘crimes’ from your article.“

She then quoted Blake Chisam, a lawyer on the Ethics Committee, who apparently said, "I believe that the congressman, quite frankly, was overzealous in many of the things he did. And sloppy in his personal finances.”

In writing back, I resisted the temptation to point out that she meant “stationery,” not “stationary.” Instead, I wrote: “Dear Ms. Kim: When we civilians are ‘sloppy in our personal finances,’ which, in Rep. Rangel’s case included chiseling on his income taxes, it’s a crime and we’re fined and we go to jail. I see that you are Rep. Rangel’s Communications Director, and here I thought you were just a concerned citizen.”

Ms. Kim, obviously being the sort of upstanding person who believes in earning her salary, wrote back to say, “None of his violations were intentional, but made unknowingly. We all make mistakes. He is 81. The Congressman is a genuinely great person; and contrary to what you may think, he does not line his pockets. In fact, I wake up each day thanking God for the great honor to work for Mr. Rangel. FYI, I almost died from a car accident and take life very seriously.”

I replied: “Dear Ms. Kim: Rep. Rangel is fortunate to have such a loyal employee. Speaking as someone who is not on his payroll, I acknowledge that we all make mistakes. Even I, and I’m just a kid of 72. However, the way mistakes work for those of us who aren’t in Congress is sometimes they’re in our favor and quite often they’re not. However, it appears that all of Mr. Rangel’s mistakes, aside from the votes he casts, profited him in a very real way. I am glad you recovered, but just for the record, I, too, take life seriously. Which also happens to be the way I take the transgressions of those fortunate enough to be endowed with the public trust.”

For good measure, confirming Ms. Kim’s bona fides as a liberal partisan, she concluded her message by providing a list of 11 Republican congressmen who continue serving in Congress in spite of “reports” and “allegations.”

I didn’t bother pointing out the differences between allegations and convictions. Maybe next time.

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