Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Son of Privilege

Just saw a CNBC interview with Michael Gates Gill the author of How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else.

What a pantload!

Son of privilege is right.

Son of Brendan Gill, New Yorker critic and columnist, he grew up in a Bronxville mansion with regular guests like John and Jackie Kennedy, Ernest Hemingway, John Updike and Brendan Behan showing up for tea and crumpets and Chivas Regal. His life story is a prototype blueprint illustrating how birth privilege provides a safety net for all manner of irresponsible behavior.

Drop out of college... not a problem when your frat buddy can get you a job at his Daddy's Madison Avenue advertising agency.

Marry, divorce... have an affair... marry divorce... have an affair... father more children... Hey, just brush it off with trust-funds, inherited money and a six-figure salary from advertising giant J. Walter Thompson.

Then, when you run out of great ideas like "Plop, plop. Fizz, fizz." and they toss you out on your butt, just use friends and family to fund a vanity consulting business. Go bust? Well, it wasn't your money anyway.

Then what? No more money, nobody left to borrow from, no job prospects and no wife.

Ever wonder why a young woman would be attracted to a pasty-faced, balding, pot bellied has been? Duh... he's rich.

Not rich anymore? Not married anymore either.

So this modern day Siddhartha, who had never taken a subway ride until forced into it by penury, had a revelation while rubbing up against the unwashed:

Eureka! Simplicity is key to happiness!

Now that his sob-story memoir has become a best seller, soon to be a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks, his advice for America is simplify your life, reduce your overhead and live the life of a modern-day Thoreau.

Great idea, Einstein.

Why didn't the rest of us think of that?

Tell a young family that runs out of money on Wednesday and has to wait until payday on Friday to buy groceries that they should lower their overhead and live simply. If you live in a 25-room mansion, like Mr. Gill once did, it's easy to scale back. For the rest of us it's hang on for dear life and ride out the storm.

My father worked in a sweatshop, when he wasn't on layoff. We ate plenty of spaghetti for dinner. Then I got to college on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and discovered that all those "Sons and Daughters of Privilege" who all grew up without a care believed in the nobility of poverty. They actually envied those of us who had nothing and didn't hesitate to tell their therapists and anyone else who would listen.
Let them try it for a day or two.

This morning I started writing a book entitled...

"How Having Plenty of Money Saved My Life: A Son of The Working Class Learns to Live Like a Child of Privilege."

What are the chances that Tom Hanks will give me a $50,000 advance for the rights?

Excuse me while I go plunge my hands into boiling water and wait for Mr. Hanks' people to text message my people.

Uh, oh... L'il Angel--my 15 year old daughter--just yelled out that she's ready to be chaufered off to school. On the way I'll ask her what she thinks of switching over to the simple life.

"Live like everybody else, Dad? We already live like everybody else."

I guess the romantic view of everybody else is a little bit different from up on that perch in Westchester.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Munchausen By Proxy, Washington Style

By the time she was 8 years old, J.B. had been hospitalized 200 times and had undergone more than 40 operations, including the removal of most of her intestines.

K.C., a 2-year-old boy, was hospitalized more than 20 times due to complications from asthma, severe pneumonia, mysterious infections, and sudden fevers. His doctors were baffled and unable to determine the cause of these illnesses.

Productive Americans who work hard, play by the rules, pay their bills and live within their means have lost nearly half of their net worth in 2008. Politicians scramble to stop the bleeding, but nothing they do seems to help.

What do these seemingly unrelated cases have in common? They were all the result of Munchausen by proxy syndrome.

This relatively uncommon condition involves the fabrication of illnesses or symptoms by a primary caretaker. One of the most harmful forms of child abuse, Munchausen by proxy syndrome was named after Baron von Munchausen, an eighteenth-century German dignitary known for telling outlandish stories.

J.B.'s medical history was traced to her mother, who manufactured her daughter's illnesses. Similarly, when K.C. was thought to have AIDS, he eventually complained to his mother's friend that his thigh was sore because "Mommy gave me shots" (indicating that the mother was giving her son something to cause his symptoms).

In the case of the American economy, Washington politicians caused the disease through legislation (Community Reinvestment Act) and executive order.

Through these actions they, along with their hired extortionists like ACORN, coerced lending institutions into making loans to clients who did not have the ability nor the willingness to pay them back.

Many of them took huge campaign contributions from lenders like CountryWide and Fannie Mae. Fannie Mae, in fact, became a dumping ground for government cronies who made tens of millions at the same time they were producing phantom profits from loans they knew would never be paid back. Franklin Raines, former CEO of Fannie Mae, ascended to his high office after several years in government service advising that other famed real estate guru, William Jefferson Clinton.

Comrade Raines took salaries and bonuses totaling more than $90 million during his short stay at Fannie, but shows no willingness to pay back any of it.

Now that the financial mess has reached crisis proportion, these same psychopaths claim they are the only ones qualified to solve the problem.

Often Munchausen perpetrators give themselves away with subtle verbal clues or attempts to shift blame.

Rahm Emmanuel's recent statement that Democrats should "never let a crisis go to waste" is one example.

Harry Reid's demand that Detroit executives need to submit a detailed plan before "we show them the money" is another.

These geniuses have been running their industry into the ground for five decades, but the esteemed Senator wants a turnaround plan in two weeks.

I've got an idea. Since I'm an independent contractor and file estimated taxes, instead of a tax check I'll send a polite note informing Senator Reid that he must submit a detailed plan to retire the national debt before I "SHOW HIM MY MONEY."

Anyone care to join me?

In Munchausen by proxy syndrome, an individual deliberately makes another person sick then misleads others into thinking that the child has medical problems by lying and reporting fictitious episodes. He or she may exaggerate, fabricate, or induce symptoms. As a result, doctors usually order tests, try different types of medications, and may even hospitalize the child or perform surgery to determine the cause. Sound familiar?

Typically, the perpetrator feels satisfied by gaining the attention and sympathy of doctors, nurses, and others who come into contact with him or her and the child. Some experts believe that it isn't just the attention that's gained from the "illness" of the child that drives this behavior, but also the satisfaction in being able to deceive others. Remind you of anyone?

Because the caregiver appears to be so caring and attentive, often no one suspects any wrongdoing.

Most often, abusive Munchausen by proxy syndrome cases are resolved in one of three ways:

The perpetrator is apprehended.

The perpetrator moves on to a younger child when the original victim gets old enough to "tell" on them.

The child dies.

To get help, the caregiver must admit to the abuse and seek psychological treatment. But if the perpetrator doesn't admit to the wrongdoing, psychological treatment has little chance of remedying the situation.

Psychotherapy depends on truth, and Munchausen by proxy perpetrators generally live in denial.

Now the questions remains: Will those of us who work hard, pay our bills and play by the rules continue to drop our pants and invite the syringe every time Pelosi, Frank, Reid, et. al. declare a crisis that only they can solve?

With thanks and apologies to