Archive for the 'Jared Cameron AT LARGE in America' Category

03
Oct
10

A Woman’s (Museum) Work Is Never Done

Any husband knows:  When the ‘little ladies’ set their minds on something, the best strategy is to say, ‘yes, dear!’ – especially if the gals are planning to pay for the project out of their ‘pin money.’  

Resistance is futile and the payback for opposition is certain and draconian, if not immediate.

This elemental concept seems to have eluded Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Jim DeMint (R-SC), who, despite being listed as married to women in their bios, have banded together to block passage of legislation sponsored by fellow Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine authorizing the sale of an embarrassingly small patch of unused federal land a block off the National Mall as the site for the National Women’s History Museum.

Yes, I said ‘sale.’

The government had planned to give away the very same land as a site for a national medical museum, but the docs grew weary of jumping through federal hoops for the property and decided to build in Atlanta, whose major attraction most probably lies in its distance from Senators Coburn, DeMint and their ilk.  

But the Collins legislation is no government giveaway: It calls for selling the property to the Women’s Museum and backers have money in the bank to pay cash for the site. (In the spirit of full disclosure, one of those backers is Mrs. AT LARGE, but I already told you I know on which side my bread is buttered.)

So what’s and where’s the senator’s beef?  Shiite Republicans like the Oklahoma-Carolina axis love privatization and where better to start than by milking the ladies for some unused federal land?  (AT LARGE has always said, “If we’re really worried about the national debt, why not sell the Grand Canyon or Oklahoma to some rich foreigners to pay our bills, but that’s another story.)

Well, the two senators are too smart to say, “We don’t want girls in our Mall tree house,” or “If they get a museum, they’ll be wantin’ to vote next!”

Instead, the good-old boys club makes the scurrilous, nay, silly argument that passing the bill might somehow make the tax-payers liable if the project headed south in the future.

Why rely on my prose when I can quote Meryl Streep, the Women’s Museum spokesperson who ponyed up a cool million of her own money for the project:

“We are not asking for a check — we want to give them a check.”  

Of course, nothing in Washington is as it seems. Deepthroat sources tell AT LARGE that the real reason these silly solons stand between the dames and their land deal are a bit more devious:

They’re afraid that the new museum will ‘glorify’ two women who, well, were just not Tom and Jim’s ideal ‘tea party partners.’

And who are the two women who give these big, manly senators the vapors?

OK, Jane Fonda, I could understand. But Margaret Sanger and Victoria Woodhull? …gee guys!

Ms. Sanger was the mother of the birth control legalization movement. Sen. Coburn, an MD who has delivered more than 4000 babies, practiced family medicine before moving on to medicate/anesthetize the body politic. So, arguably, her anti-one-coupling-one-baby actions adversely impacted his customer pool and bottom line, but still…

Ms. Woodhull was a newspaper publisher, suffragette, and the first female candidate for president.  She also espoused ‘free love,’ a stand certain to win her the admiration and gratitude of AT LARGE and all red-blooded American men, save only Messrs. DeMint and Colburn. Perhaps Sen. DeMint, in his previous life as head of a market research firm had a bad experience with a newspaper publisher, a presidential candidate…or free love.

It’s not clear whether this whole problem could be solved to Coburn and DeMint’s satisfaction by the Stalinist solution of airbrushing Sanger and Woodhull from the Women’s Museum website.  Or achieving a ‘fair and balanced’ museum by adding sections for, say, Sara Palin and Christine O’Donnell, both of whom are said to think Coburn and especially DeMint are ‘the cat’s meow.’

In any case, museum backers who have semi-deep pockets, a slew of Republican backers as well as Democrats and Meryl Streep on their side don’t seem in the mood to airbrush history.

Instead, they’re relying on public pressure to move the two naysaying senators and, failing that, hope to persuade Senate Majority Leader Harry (Profiles in Courage) Reid to man-up and take the extreme step of scheduling a vote on the measure after the election.

A woman’s museum work is never done!

11
Mar
10

TICKLE PARTIES: THE KEY TO CONGRESSIONAL COMITY

Unlike lightweight media chided by Rep. Patrick Kennedy on the floor of the House yesterday, you won’t find AT LARGE piling-on when a politician’s personal foibles fall victim to a fourth estate feeding frenzy.

This noble attitude is due in part to self-preservation, the realization that I could be next due to misinterpretation of some perfectly innocent remark.  Recently, for example, a seemingly stable woman I ran into over martinis at the Palm Restaurant bar flew off the handle for no discernible reason.

The unseemly behavior took place when The Little Woman (TLW) arrived for dinner a half hour late, as is her wont.

Overjoyed at glimpsing the love of my life enter this prime capitol cholesterol kingdom, I ululated loudly and cried out, as is my wont:

“Don’t let me see that ‘nekkid’ on payday!”

TLW, well aware that there are no new jokes, just new wives, took this in stride, slapping me soundly about the head and shoulders with her Kate Spade handbag. Beauteous bartenders Mary Pat and Danielle – neither of whom has been immune from such deserved and heartfelt compliments in the past – understand that keeping a trophy wife’s humors flowing is an essential element in curbing the aging process.  They, too, reacted with both aplomb and a plum, accidentally spilling a sloe gin fizz on my nether parts. (Washington is a tough town!)

Case closed?  Not exactly.  My cocktail companion – out of sisterly solidarity, I guess – went off, accusing me of verbal spousal abuse and worse.

Fortunately, no media jackals were in the area to trumpet her embarrassing behavior in mainstream publications like the National Enquirer or Washington Post.

With the scars from such an experience unhealed, AT LARGE initially planned to skip dinner when it came to feeding on the political carcass of now former-Rep. Eric Massa (D, NY).  He’s the salty solon who left Congress amid charges that he sexually harassed staffers, the chap who – proving that a lawmaker who defends himself has a fool for a client – gleefully recalled on Fox News ‘tickle parties’ at a house he shared with several congressional aides.

But serious journalists learn to look beyond the prurient to provide their beyond-the-beltway readers with insight into the backstage machinations of the political elite.

So duty calls.

The Corning Conspiracy

When I first heard about the Affair Massa, alarm bells went off:  Was the whole thing the result of some vast – or half-vast – right wing conspiracy to embarrass the administration and retake Congress? (If you live long enough in Washington where everything is political, this sort of thinking becomes inevitable.)

It’s not hard to picture: Someone – my guess would be Newt Gingrich: this sort of long-range thinking is right up his Machiavellian Alley – approaches a wannabe congressman. Persuades the life-long Republican, Naval Academy graduate and retired Navy captain to ‘take a round’ for The Cause…switch parties…run for congress in a year when even a Megan’s List enrollee could win as a Democrat…vote against the programs he supported during the election…pick a fight with the White House chief of staff and House leaders…get involved in some kinky behavior…resign and trash former colleagues…remind Middle America that Democrats are a little, well, weird and want to insert the evil government in your Medicare.  Pure genius.  Pure Newt.

It’s not a hard-to-buy scenario in an ongoing political silly season in which loony tunes Democrats whispered that John McCain may have been a Manchurian Candidate under control of his former Vietnamese captors and Twilight Zone Republicans continue to proffer ‘proof’ that the president was born in Indonesia.

Most reports would stop there, but once AT LARGE’s little grey cells get to work, there’s no stopping them.

Upon further reflection, AT LARGE now believes that Eric Massa is a prophet who should be honored in his own time for showing us the way to restore comity to the American political scene.

Comity or comedy?

Comity?  That’s Washington-speak for acting like real people, folks who can disagree without being disagreeable…without calling their rivals communists, fascists or smokers.

Once upon a time, the halls of power were a much friendlier place. Legislators disagreed on issues, but were often personally close. When legendary liberal Hubert Humphrey faced a tough Senate race in Minnesota, arch-conservative Mississippi Senator Jim Eastland, it is said, offered to travel north and campaign ‘for or against Hubert,’ which ever would help Humphrey most.  Democratic Leader Mike Mansfield dined daily with rock-ribbed Republican Senator George Aiken, despite spirited philosophical battles over policy and later became friends with President Reagan.  

(This sort of friendship still continues:  As a senator, Vice President Joe Biden became close friends with by no means liberal Senate icon Strom Thurmond. Speaking first at Strom’s 100th birthday party, Biden preempted all the good lines in then-Majority Leader Trent Lott’s staff-prepared speech, leading Lott to wing it and make the ‘unfortunate remarks’ that cost him his post.) 

Somewhere along the line came the transmutation of policy disagreements into politics of personal destruction.

Lowlights:  The Ds falsely tarred and feathered Ed Meese and labeled former John Tower a grumpy drunk when the ex-Texas senator was nominated as secretary of defense during the Reagan years.  The GOP went for payback during the Clinton years beginning with future speaker Newt demanding that all his troops call all Democrats ‘weird’ in every speech and culminated with the impeachment of you-know-who. Then came Florida, with the Democrats, who long portrayed themselves friends of the mentally challenged, dubbing G.W. Bush ‘moron-in-chief,’ scurrilous attacks on nominees and Shiite Republicans trying to grab Sen. John Kerry’s medals. It continues today on both sides of the aisle.

Bonding over cold eggs

Worse yet, the venerable collegial cocktail hour succumbed to the breakfast meeting/fundraiser. This was a revolutionary, perhaps cataclysmic development.  Once a sacrament at the Senate sides’s Monocle Restaurant, Speaker Sam Rayburn’s Board of Education, the Capitol Hill Club’s weekly Poet’s Club session, the National Democratic Club, never-ending evening fundraisers that featured local cuisines, copious hooch plus a chance to get to know colleagues as people, not one-dimensional political caricatures, stiff drinks were the lubricant that kept government gears grinding – while now and then sending legislators to rehab and/or bathing in the Reflecting Pool.

Even if they disagreed, say, with former Senator John Breaux, or Senator Margaret Chase Smith, players got together for a cup of kindness, chat and compromise over Louisiana gumbo or Maine lobster and appropriate beverages.

No more! The only way one can make friends over breakfast is to nudge a single guest awake and call room service! Cordial, congenial confabs over dried out scrambled eggs, day-old fruit cocktail greasy bacon and lukewarm coffee at 7:30 am? Now way!  With the breakfast meeting/fundraiser, Washington insiders forsake firsthand knowledge and get to know each other through Fox News, Saturday Night Live and ‘slam book’ press releases.

A ticklish situation

As in all fast-breaking news stories, many questions remain unanswered.

Did Midshipman Massa first learn of tickle parties at the Naval Academy?  Did his fellow Annapolis graduate Jimmy Carter hold tickle parties to fight malaise?  (AT LARGE may take a bye on researching this angle:  Some pictures are too disturbing to contemplate, even mentally!) Did Capt. Eric Massa ever have a tickle party with cashiered Captain Holly Graf?  Did Massa’s nude encounter in the Congressional gym locker room with the White House chief of staff go south because no one was inviting the president to tickle parties?

And most importantly:  If everybody who doesn’t get along with Rahm Emmanuel were driven out of Congress, who would be left to turn off the lights?

But, lingering questions aside, Eric Massa may be regarded by historians as the harbinger of a new spirit of comity, congeniality and cooperation in Congress.

Only time will tell, but in this long day’s night of the long knife, the body politic would be far better off with a lot less character assassination, fewer breakfast meetings and a lot more tickle parties!

Where do I sign up?

05
Mar
10

We wuz robbed! — How a trip to the gym led to a workout of an unexpected kind

By Tuesday, Feb. 23, the icy remnants of the storm that brought the Capital of the Free World to its knees began to melt; with that thaw the need to shovel sixteen tons of number nine snow daily in order to avoid a Donner Pass scenario abated.

Time to hit the gym for a workout involving muscles not stretched by snow removal.

AT LARGE has been a member of Gold’s Gym for nearly a decade.  Tho I haven’t yet been mistaken for the chain’s most famous alumnae, Golden State Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger or even Demi Moore, the experience on the plus side has led to several new chums, an 80-plus pound weight loss and a vast reduction in comments comparing my physique to that of Jabba the Hutt. 

To be, ah, fair and balanced, workouts at Gold’s has previously led to a minor assault on my person by a juiced up fellow member, a $100 cash locker robbery as part of a lock-cutting spree by miscreants at Gold’s Ballston sweat factory locker room.

Then on Feb. 23 came the jewel in the crown:  a second locker robbery in which what seems to be an organized gang of thieves: a) Cracked the lock Gold’s sells to protect valuables; b) made off with my credit cards and driver’s license; c) placed a look-alike lock on the locker to delay discovery of the theft; and d) went on a $2,000 shopping spree at Target, Best Buy, Staples and Burger King – how humiliating for a self-anointed food critic! – with the credit cards while I worked out

As I was grappling with the switched lock, FIA Card Service’s alert security folks called me about a several hundred dollar purchase at Target that tripped their fraud filters. (All praises to Steve Jobs: The iPhone doubles as a MP3 player and was attached to my perky gym costume, not in the locker, or more accurately in this case, in the swag bag of the scum bags.) That card was instantly cancelled and, as I recall, an additional authorization was denied.)

In previous incidents, Gold’s staff had, from my vantage point, been done everything in their power to avoid police involvement.  In the cash grab at Ballston, the managers swore a police report would be filed, but that didn’t happen and – after the then-manager evaporated from the scene – staff steadfastly refused to provide telephone numbers, e-mail or last names of responsible company officials, citing (nonexistent according to Gold’s corporate spokesman) ‘company policy.’  In the assault incident, they demanded to handle the matter internally, a euphemism for ‘file and forget it.’

This time ‘handling it internally’ was not an option. The Arlington, VA, police were called with relative good grace.

While waiting for the law to arrive, I busied myself by cancelling other purloined credit cards, alas too late to prevent more charges at Best Buy, Target, Staples and the infamous Burger King purchase. (C’mon, if you have an American Express Gold, wouldn’t you at least take your accomplices/gun molls to Chili’s?)

Great Expectations

Not one, but two very competent, polite, extremely muscular (hey, you don’t want to send a 90-pound weakling to Golds!) officers arrived.  Much to my delight, the officer who ended up handing the case actually seemed interested in catching the crooks, not just filling out a report. (This impression was, unfortunately, also a surprise to the fraud specialist at American Express, who said many police forces ‘won’t even take reports’ on stolen credit cards.)

They dusted the locker for fingerprints – likely a fool’s errand, but in the CSI era, what’s a crime scene without fingerprint dust?

So the officer – I know his name, but since he is one of the good guys and his enthusiasm for solving the case may or may not be shared by the department as a whole and the detectives in the financial crimes unit who may or may not actually follow up – took the report, asked me if I would testify/prosecute, (“I’ll cut off the crook’s right hand in the public square at high noon if you let me,” I replied, perhaps over dramatically) and stated he would pass the report on to the financial crimes unit of his department.

Since I hadn’t yet contacted all the credit card companies potentially involved, the officer asked me to report any additional fraudulent chards I discovered to the detectives in financial crimes unit of his department, the group to who the case, he said, would be assigned.

Crime and punishment?

OK, this wasn’t the Brinks robbery, but, according to the officer who took the report, gym locker robberies are a big business these days, dozens in Northern Virginia every month. And while I was the sole victim for the $50 in cash that was in the wallet, credit card companies – and ultimately everyone who uses plastic – are co-victims on the fraudulent credit card purchases, assuming the merchants followed authorization procedures.

At least in theory, this case has the potential to be solved:

1)      Gold’s has cameras covering the front entrance to the gym and the feeds are retained for some period;

2)      In theory, one can’t enter the gym without scanning a membership card and, again in theory, the data are captured in Gold’s computer system.  God help the member whose credit card has expired or who forgets his card – a photo ID and stool sample are demanded;

3)      Target and Best Buy stores – I don’t know about Staples – at nearby Potomac Yards Shopping Center where the shopping spree took place have extensive CCTV systems that capture, again in theory, all transactions at the registers.

4)      And finally, the Burger King took place in the District of Colombia, which, at least in theory, opens the miscreants to charges of transporting stolen property across state line and interstate wire fraud.

So, images of purchasers – I know this from serving on a jury in a case involving Target a while back – can be linked to credit card transactions, then compared to images of people entering Gold’s and the computer scans of entrants membership cards.  And if TV cop shows are to be believed (OK, I’m a dreamer!) facial recognition programs can often match faces with names.

In the real world, of course nothing is quite that simple.

1)      Gold’s won’t – company policy privacy policy this time – release the front door feed to law enforcement without a subpoena. On one hand, we should be comforted that wives can’t cop feeds of folks entering a public gym with their paramours, but, golly, maybe they should center more on protecting members from thieves.

2)       Gold’s corporate spokesman David Reiseman denies this, but the person on the front desk in South Arlington stated that the system often fails to log in members entering when a staff member is working on the computer. My name didn’t appear on the printout provided to police for the time period of the theft, tho I scanned my card and heard a ‘beep’ acknowledging its acceptance.  But a lot of names were on the list.  Maybe one was the Gold’s Jesse James.

3)      The stores where the stolen cards were used aren’t in Arlington County; three stores were major purchases took place are a mile away in Alexandria City, a fact that an Arlington officer who declined to take to report of additional fraudulent purchase at the crime report line (and declined to give his name) said ‘limited Arlington’s interest.’  Maybe, but county traffic cops will chase you across certainly county and, indeed, state lines if your inspection sticker is expired, provided you remain in their ‘line of sight.’ And on a clear day, you can see Potomac Yards from Arlington.

4)      The Feds? Face it, the culprit isn’t exactly Bernie Madoff, at least I don’t think it is, but I haven’t seen the video feeds…

Lessons learned

As they say on South Park, “We’ve learned a lot here today!”

1)      Gold’s cares very deeply about member’s privacy, but I’ll bet they’d deliver feeds to the cops in a New York minute if someone ripped off a tee shirt from them instead of a cash, credit cards and about 25 hours of billable time from me.

2)      Gold’s corporate warlords in Dallas express a somewhat higher opinion of their computer systems reliability and vastly different view of corporate policy than the ‘corporals with clipboards’ who deal with members on the ground.

3)      Gold’s really shouldn’t be selling Master Lock Company’s Fortress combination locks that dozens of web videos show how to ‘crack’ — open in under three minutes without tools – according to the police officer and confirmed by me with a 12-second Google search. 

4)      Gold’s South Arlington Manager Scott Reed deserves credit for doing something:  Undertaking to remove the dubious Fortress locks from his facility and from Gold’s as a whole.  Will he succeed or be told to put a lid on it because such moves violate our old friend, corporate policy? Only time will tell – and I really fear I’m not helping his career by sharing this.

5)      The jury is still out on the Arlington police.  If the investigating officer’s attitude typifies the department they’ll win a gold star. If the crime report line officer is the norm, maybe we should all go shopping with other people’s credit cards.

6)      Never, ever call Capital One to report a lost or stolen credit card without that lost or stolen credit card in your hand.  While a chat with a chap in Manila or some such clime is always refreshing, Cap One’s phone system is all but impossible to enter without ‘your 16-digit card number,’ and if you’re lucky enough to reach a real person, he/she just doesn’t seem to understand why you’re bothering them.

7)      If you must have a credit card stolen, hope it’s from Citibank or American Express. Replacement is fast and their fraud folks are really good.

8)      If catching folks who steal credit cards and make thousands of dollars in fraudulent purchases is too just much trouble for authorities, especially if local jurisdictional lines are crossed, don’t be surprised when – new card regulations or no – the overall cost of your credit cards rise. Like I said, ‘We’ – emphasis on ‘we’ – ‘wuz robbed!’

9)      At the behest of Mrs. At Large: Don’t carry so many credit cards; she doesn’t have any ideas about what to do with driver’s licenses.

10)   In 21st Century, a scapegoat(s) are a must; someone must be to blame for any bad luck; I am no better than anyone else when it comes to shifting a share of the blame.

11)   I really do funny better than bemused outrage, so the next column will be funnier.

Non-dénouement

As of 10 days after the great locker robbery, my checking account is unlocked, two trips to the DMV have yielded a new driver’s license, new credit cards are in hand and the legal papers are all filled out.

The miscreants, one presumes, are fondly recalling their Burger King lunches and playing with their new x-boxes or whatever.

The Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney sent me a slick brochure on dealing with the trauma of victimhood.  In fact, I am a little off my fed since the incident – go ahead and call me a wuss – but that’s not all bad for a once and perhaps future fat boy.

I’ll probably go back to Gold’s for a workout tomorrow, but will use a belly-bag for my steal-ables even if the additional weight slows me down. That is if –presuming the computer system is working – they let me in.  The card used for my monthly membership fee was stolen and cancelled.

I’m girding my loins to follow up with the detective assigned to the case. Since I’ll be poking some Arlington cops on this, I’d better make sure my inspection sticker is current before I go out.

You can’t be too careful on the road – or at the gym – these days.

Bulletins as they occur…




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Jared Cameron


It is better to smoke a single candle that to curse the darkness