Thinking like Royalty

Well, just three things, really, today, that are truly part of our times.

“Organizers for the all-star “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon say the event raised $57 million — and counting.” This from Yahoo News. I don’t know or care if it is AP, or in the local papers, which I’m sure it will be in one guise or another.

Well, good for them. Now, what if every star gave a Million Bucks — you know, to match it, surely Brad, and Madonna, and Oprah, and whomever else was there, and a few sports starts — all in the several tens of millions of dollars a year in salary, endorsements and whatever, can afford it. Where is their great spirit of charitable giving? You know, we hear often of the evil corporate barons of yesteryear, you know, like Carnegie, who gave a library to pretty much every town, city and burg that he could find a place to put one. Or all the museums like the Getty and the Frick, and Isabella Stewart Gardner, and the Guggenheim. Rockerfeller gave millions — what does Madonna give? Other titans of industry, Mellon, for instance — along with Carnegie gave the country a university. Carnegie Mellon Institute. Curtis institute in Philly, Julliard, ah, who even knows those long lambasted greed-meisters who made millions off the back of immigrants who were kept so poor in Europe by princely rule that they barely could read what the censors let through. That was before they gave up the wonders of social democracy under king and parliament, not much different than they have today. They came here, where they could only read at the public library funded by Carnegie or pick up one of the many newspapers that were saying whatever they dang well pleased. Vanderbilt? He got himself a university. Brown? Of the university? Who do you think he is? Yale? Mr. Yale? Remember him? Ah, such bums of corporate greed.

But the amiable concerned of Hollywood and the compact disk stores? Not so much. So while it is well and good that these stars, at a moments notice, gave themselves a great humanitarian publicity booster shot and got millions of working folks to give over a few dollars out of their overtaxed pay — but why haven’t these brilliant stars, brought into Congress at a moment’s notice on issues which they’ve studied mightly by watching CNN and reading a book or two, perhaps, and talking to experts at very nice confabs in exotic and luxurious resorts the world over. Why, look at the number of stars who went to Copenhagen to get a piece of carbon they could chuck at someone less worthy of themselves. DiCaprio is just the one I remember. Is he a great scientist, too, besides being a matinee heart throb? I wonder what Clark Cable though of the legislation of the day. Oh, that’s right, Clark kept to babes, bars and cars, like Hollywood Should. Why haven’t these concerned starts created the Hollywood Stars Foundation — each pledge a tithe — 10% of their earnings — each year — to go to the poor and down trodden, whom they so lament. Bono, I hear, has a billion bucks — or maybe it’s all U2 together. So be it. Good for them. So where is the 100,000,000 buck Bono Benefice? Where is the 100,000,000 buck Oprah Opportunity grants — why that woman could pay for every black American and half of Africa to go to the college of their choice, and still have enough to buy a penthouse or two. Ah, now, Tiger, oh, tigr, he’s got a cool billion too, supposedly. Where’s his 100,000,000 buck abused, battered and sexual traumatized woman’s foundation?

Bill Gates, dastardly cad he is, as so many say, well, he gave a $100,000,000 or more in stock and cash to do something. But Bill doesn’t fly down to Haiti. He already had a team on the ground, I’m sure, long before the glory of the camera came along to shine before.

Geraldo? He’s looking for Al Capone’s real safe I’m sure, somewhere in the rubble of the national bank. He brought some goodies on a jet, isn’t that nice. Did he bring boxes of dollar bills from his fortune to hand out? No, he brought goods donated by others. What a swell guy! And a mustache too!

Sports stars? Don’t they make something like 25, and 50 and 100 million bucks in a few years time? I’d imagine that the football leagues of this nation have a $1,000,000,000 payroll. Surely all those guys together can put up, oh, I don’t know, say $100,000,000 — apportion it out — hell deduct it from their pay before they get on the field. Still, the poorer people are the more they give away per dollar of earnings. Odd, isn’t it? And the more corporate they are the more they give. It seems, according to more than a few sources, if one cares to look, that the more politically liberal one is the less one is likely to give to charity. What did the millionaire Obama give? He who just one the very underserved life lottery of a Nobel Prize’s $1,400,000? He gave $15,000. Oooh, sweet.

Meanwhile, I see how there is this headline: “Legislative Contributions. Report details how La. Lawmakers spent funds.” In my feeble mindset of fiscal and civic probity I figured the article was about the great things that our local legislators did for the state, their diligent do-goodism, perhaps finally displayed in a rational apportionment of public funds, for reasonable purposes, with the remainder remanded to the custody of the people who would get gigantic tax cuts because of the, um, legislative contributions. But, well, no.

Instead the article is about how the scoundrels are using campaign donations, those moneys good hearted citizens give to Joe Deaux to get himself elected so that he might do some good, to pay for their apartments, furniture, entertainment, cable TV and Lord knows what else. On top of that, given their good contributions to the state, they get a taxpayer funded per diem to pay for these very same items. So they get to be twice as plush. Think of the contribution to learning about how to screw the taxpayers en masse, and pick off a few with sniper like vitality to double the take for doing nothing more than the job for which you are already paid. No wonder these guys don’t want to retire.

Reminds of the finance minster in France, oh, I forget his name at the moment, but he built Vaux Le Compte, one of the most sumptious palaces in all La Belle France, and on a public minister’s salary! He was the Timothy Geither of his times, that is, treasury secretary of France. Well, so he invited Louis XIV to dinner one day, when the king was but 17, yet, even at tender age grabbing the reigns of power which had been his since he was three years old. Well, young Louis, impetuous youth that he was, looked around at all gold and glitter and silver and platters and wondered “where do people get the money for this stuff?” He figured it out! And promptly had the poor fellow arrested and imprisoned. Louis was going to get the money, not some bumpkin. Louis took all the art and furniture, the dishes and the curtains, and even the plants and the flowers, all off to Versailles, and had them installed in the new place he was building at just about that very moment. His great-times-sixth grandson finally lost his head over the whole sordid affair of crooked politicos living high on the sow.

Our situation is a bit different. We can vote the bums out of office. This news surely shows that this current crop of pretend-princes needs to be sent home to their home-castles out in the provinces so that sanity might come about again.

Finally, it’s lamented, once again, that “La. Schools being hit by squeeze on funding.” Aw, terrible. Well, but, still, it seems almost as if the more money they throw at the thing the worse the kid’s scores get. So perhaps less money would be better? To top that, it of course, doen’t take more money to make sure that kids can add 2 + 2 and come up with 4. Nor even more complex math. Nor does it take more money to administrators and compliance officers, and diversity leaders and activity directors to get kids to read more and have better comprehension. Whether a federal grant is complied with by having all the proper forms in the package to be sent up to the royal palace, oh, I mean the Department of Education, or is not complied with, or is not accepted, is irrelevant to the reality that kids are not, apparently, being taught the difference between a noun and a verb, and a metaphor from a simile. Nor are they ready to read and write so that it is coherent, and perhaps, with a flair, though not, I dare say as much as mine. I don’t like the competition. Still, more money is hardly the answer.

And here’s the very best example of this — “many of the [cut] programs were ones without as much job demand, even though some remain popular with students, such as cosmetology and jewelry making.” Ah, yes, not much job demand in jewelry making. Most of us are so broke we are putting our dollars into gold bullion, not jewelry. The mark up is too high. Reminds me of a guy, Franky, that I knew out in Phoenix. He was unemployed, he said. “What do you do?” I asked, thinking I might have an idea. “I’m a candlemaker.” He smiled gently and wondered then if I might buy him a beer, given his funds shortage as severe as our colleges today. I had an idea alright. A lightbulb came to mind right away. Still, our college people, whoever they are, are lamenting the squeeze out of jewelry making as the serious course work that modern America needs today. And they say manufacturing is leaving these shores! No, there’s a demand for jewelry making courses, and apparently the youth-public are going to be short changed by the bad Republicans up there in the governor’s office exacting the brutal cuts.

Reminds me of another story. So many stories, so many reminders. Back in the 1100s, students at the University of Paris had their course work rather proscribed by the college boards – Latin, Mathematics, Astrology, Physics, Logic, Reason, Theology, Philosophy and Rhetoric. They all had to read the from same book, by candlelight, back when there were real jobs in that field. Then the poor students had to every six weeks or so get up in front of a bunch of experts in the fields and give a presentation (non-PowerPoint) from memory of what they had learned before they could go to the next level. Failure was not an option, or it was back to the farm for you. When these guys were done they built castles without motar and on rocky precipices without much equipment and we can go see those castles today, 800 years later. Now, true, the students were rowdy back then too, just as today. Though with their course work and beatings if they didn’t pass, well, they had more incentive.

Still, from time to time the King had to call out the Knights and crack a few heads down at the saloon because the students got involved in a bust-em-up. Charles, the king about that time, made a law that prevented the Medieval version of DWI – more or less – BWI — breathing while drunk – a punishable offense. He has come down to us in history as Charles the Fat. No word on if the students gave him the nickname. But still, we can think so, for the students were already drunk and irreverant already, to the point of head cracking.

So maybe we, the irreverant citizens of this great Republic can bestow such honorifics on our one name royal-acting celebrities of our times. After all, it was just Charles, long before he became The Fat.

Bono the Bozo. Madonna the Bawdy. Bruce the Brave. Geraldo the Inquisitive. Tiger the Cad. Harry the Scoundrel. Nancy the Serious. And of course, there’s always got to be a leader: Obama the Clown.

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