--What are you reading?
--A Free Press story about Samantha Ivory, fifteen, of Detroit.
--Let me see. Nice picture. Samantha is hard at work at her computer.
--She’s going to Cass Tech.
--I know Cass, my dad went there. What’s this? The Freep for May 25. Today is June 18.
--Well, honey, we’ve talked about your memory “issue.” I don’t actually think there’s a problem, but seeing you reading a three-week-old paper…
--Leads you to conclude my issue has finally set sail for real.
--Not necessarily. I’m sure you have your reasons. The Freep’s not much of a paper anymore, and June 25 might have been a good issue. You could be saving good ones to reread on rainy days.
--Nice catch. If it will ease concerns about needing to tether me before letting me outside, please understand I set this aside to look at later. Intentionally, on purpose. I promise I am not reading a three-week-old paper for the second or third first time.
--Good. And what’s Samantha’s claim to fame… “Searching for a fix: should we pay kids to excel in school?” Oh boy. I bet that one pushed Professor Knister’s button.
--Only at first, when my blood pressure blew off the cuff. But then I became reflective. I thought about the world Republicans want us to live in. Government small enough to drown in a bathtub, pay-as-you-go budgets, Ayn Rand and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein as role models for our young people. You know, an “I’ll keep my guns, money and freedom, you keep the change” type world.
--And paying Samantha to do well in school will help bring us that world?
--Hard to say. But think about it. Quarters in our day, I suppose C-notes now, under the pillow for each tooth a child loses. Payment for something falling out of the mouth. Then money to cut the grass, cash on the barrelhead for each A grade, making the honor role, making first string at tackle. Getting accepted to State, being paroled.
--But this is different, don’t you think?
--That’s the question. Is it wrong for institutions to do what parents do when they reward their kids with money for succeeding? Samantha here says paying her would make her not only work harder, but want to go to school more often.
--More often. I would draw the line at paying someone to go to school.
--Still, you could call it the first condition of employment. Woody Allen says ninety percent of success is showing up. My university is about to make it a condition of employment for faculty to offer online courses.
--I don’t see the connection.
--It will mean showing up is no longer required. Students will be able to spend months at a time in their pajamas, just like Hugh Hefner. That will mean thousands of square feet of classroom space will be freed up for conversion to administrative offices.
--If that happens in high schools, I suppose we’ll pay students to log on.
--Sure, whenever they feel like it, or come to.
--The accounting might be tricky.
--Oh I don’t know. Somewhere, there’s a record of everything I ever did or failed to do on computers. But you’re right. The more clever students will find a way to automatically log on when they’re at the bar, or playing Wii. They’ll set it up so boilerplate responses to, say, Moby Dick will be sent to online chat sessions the prof is running.
--You have grown very cynical. I know you stayed up to watch C-span last night.
--I wanted to see whether our politicians would come up with any good material when questioning Tony Hayward.
--The BP guy.
--The one who wants his life back. The one whose board chairman promised to take care of all the small people.
--Nothing. Every politician played the sober Joe. Not a trace of wit in the room, just more boilerplate outrage and finger wagging.
--Well, what did you expect in the middle of the worst man-made ecological disaster ever in this country? No politician is going to make jokes about it.
--I know, but after two months, I expected more. I expected someone to make Tony squirm. Which after all this time would require blind-siding Tony. None of them did.
--I bet you wish Alan Grayson was on the panel.
--Oh yes. Would to God Congressman Grayson had been there. He’s my hero.
--So Hayward never lost his cool.
--Since nothing unexpected came his way, no. He lawyered up long ago, and with a Valium or two he was ready to go. According to ruddy-cheeked Tony, he is not a cement engineer or an oil rig engineer, nor does he have any other kind of technical expertise. He was never a party to any discussion or sign-off process involved in construction of the rig that blew up, about which he’s devastated, even though he was in the men’s room the whole time.
--How fortunate for him.
--I think so. Because, since he wasn't in on any discussion or “decision-making process,” he’s not culpable or even responsible. It means he has credible deniability on this or any other disaster that may occur on any of BP’s many oil rigs.
--That’s nice. I would think it won’t be long before old Tony gets his life back.
--Yes, and to help him enjoy it, how about a complimentary silk robe and PJs from Hef?


  1. I watched those painful hearings and I'm so sick of a Congress that speaks to the sound byte instead of trying to actually accomplish something. I'm sorry--did they really think he was going to lie down and sob so that they could go back to counting their oil lobby money? (And you don't even want to get me started on exempting the NRA from the campaign finance reform law.)


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