Want to join the CIA?

Plan on interviewing with the CIA? Let me give you some help.

The CIA interviews three potential agents—two men and a woman. For the final test, they bring one of the male candidates to a door and hand him a gun. “We must know that you will follow instructions, no matter what,” says the interviewer. “Inside this room you will find your wife sitting in a chair. Kill her.”

“You can’t be serious,” the man says. “I could never shoot my wife.”

Then you’re not the right man for the job, says the interviewer.

The second man is given the same instructions. Five minutes later, he emerges with tears in his eyes and says, “I can’t.”

Finally, the woman is given the test but with her husband. She takes the gun and enters the room. Shots are heard, then screaming, followed by crashing and banging. After a few minutes, she comes out and wipes the sweat from her brow. “You didn’t tell me the gun was loaded with blanks,” she says. “I had to beat him to death with the chair.”

The United States and Continual Warfare

Does it seem like the U.S. is continually involved in one war or the other, always engaged in conflict? Here’s what someone once wrote about that (identity to follow the quote):

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes. And armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended. Its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds are added to those of subduing the force of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war . . . and in the degeneracy of manners and morals, engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

— James Madison, April 20, 1795.

Articles I like in the Italian Constitution

The Constitution of the Italian Republic was enacted in late December 1947 and came into force on the first day of the new year in 1948. As a post-World War II constitution it contains several articles of interest. Among them, I especially like the following:

Article 3 (Equality)
1) All citizens have equal social status and are equal before the law, without regard to their sex, race, language, religion, political opinions or social conditions.

Compare that to the United States, where the states have failed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (first proposed in 1923), which passed both Houses of Congress in 1972 and simply stated “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

How scary!

 Article 4 (Work)
1) The Republic recognizes the right of all citizens to work and promotes conditions to fulfill this right.

Maybe we need another New Deal agency, similar to the Works Progress Administration, which (to cite Wikipedia’s entry) “employ[ed] millions of unskilled workers to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads. It also employed artists, writers, actors and directors in large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects. Writers documented local and state histories, artists painted murals and other works for new federal post offices and other buildings. The WPA provided food for children and redistributed food, clothing, and housing. Almost every community in the United States had a new park, bridge or school constructed by the agency, which especially benefited rural and western areas.”

Article 11 (Repudiation of War)
Italy repudiates war as an instrument offending the liberty of the peoples and as a means for settling international disputes 

Except that might have kept us out of the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq. Can’t have that.

Article 32 (Health)
The Republic protects individual health as a basic right and in the public interest; it provides free medical care to the poor.

Maybe that’s what Romney will propose to replace “Obamacare”—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Yeah, right.

Equal Opportunity for All

Paul Ryan has said that our ancestors came to this country  in order to create “an opportunity society, equality of opportunity, equal protection of the law—not  equality of outcome.”

So I guess he thinks the poor black child who lives in a ghetto and attends a public school has the same opportunity to succeed as the child born to wealthy white parents who can afford to send the kid to a private charter school.

I’m reminded of Anatole France’s ironic quip: “The law in its fairness for equality . . . forbids the rich as well as the poor to beg in the streets and to steal bread.”