Burt Prelutsky / Jan. 8, 2011

Discredit Where It's Due

Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of people taking bows because, let us say, they're the first members of their families to go to college (even though they can't spell or do simple math); or the first person to do the backstroke across the English Channel (there is a tunnel, you know); or the first woman to be the Speaker of the House (while ignoring the fact that she is the worst of the 51 people who have had the job).

Frankly, I’m getting a little tired of people taking bows because, let us say, they’re the first members of their families to go to college (even though they can’t spell or do simple math); or the first person to do the backstroke across the English Channel (there is a tunnel, you know); or the first woman to be the Speaker of the House (while ignoring the fact that she is the worst of the 51 people who have had the job).

Here in California, where we are renowned for our goofy firsts, we recently celebrated the election of Victoria Kolakowski to the Alameda County Superior Court. Judge Kolakowski, you see, is the first transgender judge in the country. At one point, Ms. Kolakowski had applied to the Louisiana State Bar Association, but been denied because “they said I was not of sound mind.” Well, God knows that’s never been a handicap in California, where time and again we elect and re-elect Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, Henry Waxman and Barbara Boxer.

An added twist is that Ms. Kolakowski married Cynthia Laird in 2004. So not only was there a woman screaming to get out of her previously male body, but she happened to be a lesbian.

Lord Acton really nailed it when, a century ago, he observed that power corrupts. For proof, one need only consider unions. There was a time when unions were the only protection that workers had against heartless and avaricious employers. But those days are long past. Now it’s employers and taxpayers who need to be protected.

The worst of the unions are those representing teachers. However noble their original intention, they have morphed into organizations dedicated to feathering the nest of their leaders; funding the DNC in a symbiotic relationship that closely resembles that of sharks and pilot fish; and safe-guarding the jobs of those in their ranks who are stupid, lazy and incompetent.

I swear, any time members of that union have the gall to claim that anything they’re doing is “for the good of the kids,” I’d very much like to see their heads explode.

Although these days, there is very little that politicians can do or say that has the power to shock me, I must confess I was a little taken aback when I saw that Bill Richardson had spent five days in North Korea.

Although I know that Berkeley, California, has its own foreign policy, I had no idea that New Mexico had followed suit. But then it hit me that the next presidential election is less than two years off, and it’s never too soon to begin running when you’re from a little backwater state, even if it’s only for the second spot on the ticket.

Inasmuch as simpleton Joe Biden had gotten the job for no other reason than that he’d served on the Senate’s foreign relations committee, where he’d been wrong on virtually every issue that came before them, it only makes sense that the governor of New Mexico would promote himself as a foreign policy maven.

The fact is that Richardson, being Hispanic, was already on the short list of candidates likely to send Biden packing in 2012. Speaking of Richardson’s heritage, it is probably the bane of his existence that it was his father’s last name he got saddled with. His mother’s name was the far more politically-potent Maria Luisa Lopez-Collada Marquez. Instead, he answers to William Blaine Richardson III, which makes him sound like a candidate for the House of Lords.

One fascinating footnote to Richardson’s resume is that until 2005, he had claimed that as a college pitcher, he had been drafted by the Kansas City Athletics and the Chicago Cubs. But after the Albuquerque Journal checked out the facts, Richardson claimed he’d made an honest mistake. It seems he had never been drafted. In the political lexicon, an honest mistake is any lie you’ve been caught telling and any bribe you’ve been caught taking.

It’s funny how these things work with politicians. They are always merely misspeaking about their backgrounds when they claim to be scholars, super athletes and war heroes; they never have a slip of the tongue that results in their confessing to be liars, womanizers and chiselers, although that is so much more often the case.

Finally, we get to Ben Affleck. Recently, I saw him mouthing off about how much money CEOs get paid. He claimed that whereas they used to be paid eight or nine times what regular workers got paid, they now typically get paid 200 times as much.

I’m not here to argue about whether or not corporate executives are overpaid. I figure that’s between them and their stockholders. Inasmuch as I don’t own any stocks, it’s really none of my business.

His big mouth, though, did lead me to check out Mr. Affleck’s earnings. Although this is nothing like a complete list, I discovered he was paid $10 million each for “Changing Lanes,” “The Sum of All Fears” and “Jersey Girl.” His paycheck for “Paycheck” was $15 million. Heck, he even got $12.5 million for “Gigli.” (I assume he wasted no time making sure the check cleared before the producers discovered that not even Matt Damon was going to buy a ticket to see that turkey.)

So, here we have Ben Affleck banking nearly $60 million for what amounted to about a year’s actual work. How many times the salary of a grip, a stuntman or a makeup artist, would you imagine that is? More than eight or nine times would be my guess.

Also, any CEO who had that many flops in a row would be out on his rear end, whereas Affleck just keeps acting, if that’s what you choose to call it.

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