There's Such a Thing as Attempting Too Much

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by Tom White

There was a joke that went round a few years ago which I'm certain I can't remember well enough to tell it properly as a joke with a snappy punch line, but I can suggest it's nature as follows:

There is this guy who is quite an entrepreneur. He has a string of classy racehorses, a stable of prizefighters, and a constellation (or whatever the right word is) of ladies of the evening he puts out, so to speak, for hire. This chap is a marvel of organization and has all of his minions merrily producing profit for the parent enterprise, or thinks he does, when suddenly all hell breaks loose. And he loses control of the whole thing.

He tells how it happened, and it was something like this: the race horses started boxing, the ladies of the evening started racing, and the boxers started . . . well, it's right about here my memory cuts out, but you get the idea. The thing was too complicated and nobody could have kept all these diverse turkeys and tomatoes and horses and ladies and boxers on track doing their own thing. It was a nightmare, a conglomerate of jazzy personalities not even a Harvard Busy School graduate could have managed.

I have the dire feeling that is what is happening in Washington. They are producing such a complicated whirligig in Ridge's Homeland Security thing, and the plans Bush announced Tuesday for defending America's infrastructure are so unrealistically grandiose that you know there isn't a CEO in America who could keep the whole bureaucratic thing on task. And that of all the Harvard Busy School grads in or out of work just now, W. is about the least likely to prove he can keep the boxers boxing, the race horses racing, and, etc.

It seems one in four Americans is to be a sort of spy, and the other three are I guess supposed to be happy to be spied upon. (An email pal says (his caps), this is THE MOST HORRIBLE piece of America-wrecking news he has EVER heard. There's been so much of that kind of thing lately I'm numbed out and don't know whether I agree with him or not. Certainly this spy plan will really improve neighborliness out here in the boonies, where we have trouble enough putting up with each other's odd choices of hours to run the lawn mowers.

Other email pals have written to ask how much more of this awful anti-constitutional stuff is to pour out of DeeCee before the PEOPLE RISE. (My caps this time.) My answer is, Don't hold your breath.

But I can tell them, or anyone, one thing about the newly announced "know and watch everything" scheme. It's the kind of supermanagement of everything that plain don't work. Russia tried it, and ultimately blooie, with a lot of murder and misery before the facts were faced. We had a pretty good measure of smart guys assigned to safety and crime prevention before 9/11 and blooie, 9/11. The present mad plan to run everything at home for tight-rein security and run everything else in the world for our noble imperial purposes, with a high, cool disdain for world opinion, is destined for the historical trashcan in a hurry. Misery aplenty for sure before it fails, but fail it will.

The citizen in the joke I started with never did get the boxers and the horses and the ladies back into their traces. He had to skip town and was last heard of running a two-ring circus in South Florida.

Tom White [send him mail] writes from Odessa, Texas.

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