The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

I was staring down into the well of my martini, twirling the toothpick that speared the olive. I’d shut out the sounds around me; the ballgame on the TV, the usual bar chatter and the clatter of utensils on plates. Focused on the wakes in the crystal aromatic liquid, I asked myself the questions. “What is it that haunts you?” “What are the ghosts that visit you during those times when you least expect it?”

The questions caused me to pull a notebook and pen out of my orange book bag. I didn’t have to pause for thought as the list of demons flowed abundantly.

A voice briefly cut through my fog of concentration. I looked up, “Pardon me?” I asked.

“Do you want to order food?” The bartender almost seemed impatient with my absorption.

“Oh yeah. Sorry. Garlic fries.”

I refer to the list every now and then. The paper is spotted with grease from the fries. Every now and then I pull out that list and add to it. It’s frightening how easily it grows and never shrinks. One of the early entries to my list was the specter of incompetence.


The plumber got up from his knees and set down his wrench. After hiking up his pants, to make that distracting crack disappear, he set about explaining how he was going to fix my leaking pipe. As he spoke, he noticed me pressing my hand against my cheek. “You got a toothache?” he asked. “You know, I can fix that. I have my dental tools back in my truck.” He turned the subject to dentistry. He talked – I listened. Fifteen minutes later, I was convinced that he was the only one who could fix my problem. An hour later, less three teeth, none of them the problematic one, I was howling in pain, and searching the internet for a dentist who could put my mouth back together.

Bad shit happens when you hire someone who isn’t equipped to do the job.


Most of us try our level best to make judicious decisions when shopping for goods and services. We stress over a search for an auto mechanic who we can rely on, who won’t throw a lot of automotive word salad at us, with the sole purpose of emptying our bank accounts. We might spend months in search of a caterer who won’t turn our upcoming event into a reenactment of a Three Stooges episode. Hell, we even spend an hour or more on Yelp, searching for a place to get a decent burrito.

So why is it that once in the voting booth some people pull the lever in favor of an unqualified, shrill, imbecile as their representative in Congress?

A poll taken by Pew Research in April of this year gave Congress an approval rating of 26%. We’ve hired them and now we don’t like them. By and large, people compare Congress to a sandbox filled with quarrelsome two year olds, where cooperation is a curiosity, and immaturity commonplace. Why is that? Well, some of it is due to the fact that a good many people don’t trust politicians – period. Some of it is due to people being happy with their own representative, but not the representative from the next district over. And then there are the voters who just want to stick it to the system. “I want someone who’ll shake things up.” Isn’t that how we got the 45th President?


That the life of Congress, over two centuries, is littered with examples of inadequacy is not unexpected. Shit happens. What’s disturbing is the apparent surge in ineptitude. Starting with the Tea Party movement of the late 2000s the increase of boobs in office has been on a disturbing rise.

It’s not hard to find examples of people in Congress who should be doing something, anything, else.


Loony Luna and her pocket Constitution
In July of this year, Congress was in the midst of a debate over an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. This particular amendment to the bill, introduced by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), would have removed funding for Afghan aid.

In opposing that amendment, Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.) noted that the amendment, “prohibits the use of any funds authorized via this bill to be used, even tangentially, to aid in our support of the millions of Afghan women and girls suffering under Taliban rule, or to those Afghans living in poverty and in need of humanitarian relief.”

In response Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) stood up, and, while confidently flipping through the pages of her pocket Constitution, responded in haughty, self confident tones, “I couldn’t help but pull out my pocket constitution and couldn’t find anywhere where it says we need to fund programs for humanitarian aid for women and children in Afghanistan. So, with that I just wanted to point that out.”

Without missing a beat, Kamlager-Dove responded, “Mr. Speaker, the text is not in the Constitution. It’s in the bill.”

I wonder what Ms. Luna was thinking after the rebuke. Did she chide herself for a simple gaffe? Or did she wonder why a bill could be proposed if the Constitution makes no mention of the issue covered by the bill? I’m guessing it was the latter. And that’s a problem.

Does this Congresswoman from Florida not realize that, on a regular basis, Congress debates items and issues that are not mentioned in the Constitution? Where was her head when Congress debated issues such as global warming, social media, COVID, and the transparency of the National Collegiate Athletic Association? None of these is mentioned in the Constitution. Does she know that the Constitution is not a comprehensive collection of statutes and rules of order. Certainly Ms. Luna is aware that there’s nothing in the Constitution that prohibits invertebrates and dogs from serving as Speaker of the House. Any yet there sits House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a spineless, lap dog to the 45th President if there ever was one.

Prior to being elected to Congress, Luna served in the Air Force as an Airfield Management Specialist, while moonlighting as a dancer at the Red Rose Gentlemen’s Club. After being discharged, Luna earned a Bachelor of Science in biology.


Bobo and the founders
“You fucking moron,” I screamed “Of course it’s an evolving document, you dumbass.” My dog Lexi skulked off to her crate, wondering what had spoiled “papa’s” cornflakes. What was it that gave me the red ass? A tweet by Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) declaring that, “The Constitution is not evolving. To say that spits in the face of every single one of our founders.”

I wasn’t done. “You dumb shit, it’s the entirety of Article V. What do you think amendments are? They’re the very mechanism of evolution. If the Constitution isn’t evolving, you wouldn’t have the right to vote. Why oh why God do you allow such idiots in Congress?”

Why Bobo, would you just blurt out random bullshit? Nothing to do? Quiet day in the House?

Boebert never graduated high school. She dropped out to give birth to her child, later earning a GED. She spent time working at a McDonalds and later owned a restaurant with her husband before running for Congress.


The football coach fumbles civics
His career as a football coach spanned four decades. By just about any barometer he was highly successful, and highly regarded within the football community. During his career he had won seven major coaching awards and his teams had won seven championships. He retired from coaching at the end of the 2016 season. His entire life has been centered around sports, starting with his B.S. in physical education from Southern Arkansas University, while competing on that school’s football and golf teams.

In November of 2020, after having retired from coaching, Tommy Tuberville was elected to the Senate, representing the State of Alabama. After attending the new senator’s orientation, Tuberville granted an interview with The Alabama Daily News.

In response to a question, the coach offered his own unique understanding of the structure of the federal government, “Our government wasn’t set up for one group to have all three branches of government — wasn’t set up that way,” Tuberville said. Fine up to that point. Unfortunately, he continued, “You know, the House, the Senate, and the Executive.”

The problem with his answer is glaring and shows a blatant ignorance of basic junior high school civics. Not every seventh grader knows that the branches of government are the executive, the legislative and the judicial. Certainly every senator should.

During that same interview, Tuberville played the ever popular “socialist” card when talking about then President elect, Joe Biden. He expounded, “That’s concerning to me, that we’re to the point now where we’ve got almost half the country voting for something that this country wasn’t built on,” Tuberville said. “I tell people, my dad fought 76 years ago in Europe to free Europe of socialism.”

Wrong again coach. World War II was a global war against fascism, that was actually fought along side an ally, the Soviet Union, that was socialist.

Coach had a bad start to his senatorial game as he later came afoul of the Constitution – again. Two months after his first stumbles, in an interview with a local TV station, Tuberville floated an idea on how to make Biden’s inauguration as safe as possible. “We probably could have had a swearing-in and done an inauguration later after we got this virus behind us a little bit,” he offered.

Nice try except for the fact that the swearing in of a president is, according to the Constitution, an immovable object. It’s right there in the opening sentence of the Twentieth Amendment to The Constitution, “The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January…”


Luna, Boebert and Tubberville all come from different backgrounds, each with his/her own unique life experiences. That regular people with regular life experiences can serve in Congress is one of the things that makes America great. But those life experiences can only serve as adjuncts to a resume that must include a firm grasp of American history and politics, along with a cogent political philosophy.

Neither Luna, Boebert or Tubberville have exhibited any competence in the essentials.

So why were they elected? Why are people without the right stuff sent to Congress?

Some have name recognition. Some are shrill. Some claim that they’re “political outsiders” who are going to stick it to the establishment. Not one of these qualifies them to take a seat in Congress.

When I first wrote incompetence on my list of specters, I was thinking in terms of the bad actors in Congress. But they’re simply the rotted fruits of incompetence. In the end, the seed is in the voting booth.


Nitwits hiring nitwits.
Remember Hershel Walker?

He came within three percentage points of being elected to the Senate. Herschel Walker is the guy who had an unusual perspective on why America’s Green New Deal is a bad idea. “We’re gonna put from the Green New Deal, millions of billions of dollars cleaning our good air up. … Since we don’t control the air, our good air decided to float over to China’s bad air so when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move. So it moves over to our good air space. Then now we got to clean that back up, while they’re messing ours up.”

Yeah, that Hershel Walker. He wasn’t even sharp enough to realize that he was being used as a tool by people who saw something to gain by his ascent to the Senate.

That he got even one vote, save his own, is mind bending.

When we cast our ballots, we are hiring someone to do a job that affects our own daily lives and, in many circumstances, the lives of people around the globe. Chief among the qualities that we look for in a candidate is  agreement with our own political philosophies. It’s legitimate to want to be represented by shares our particular political viewpoint. It’s equally, if not more legitimate to want to be represented by someone with a degree of competence in legislating.


Why does incompetence ghost around in my head? I’ll turn 70 in October. I suppose I’ll survive the consequences of having boobs in Congress. Or maybe I’ll end up so addled that I’ll think that LBJ is still the Senate Majority Leader and it all really won’t matter to me. I really worry for my children and my grandchildren. American democracy is being stressed and a major stressor is ignorant fuckery. I’m counting on the notion that people will stop electing low people into high places. I’m hoping that once the 45th President goes to his infernal reward, that sanity will make a comeback.


There is hope. In the 2022 midterm elections, many of the candidates who ran on a platform on conspiracies, screaming and lies fell to serious candidates. Lauren Boebert was nearly unseated by Democrat Adam Frisch, who was all but forgotten by the Democratic holders of the purse strings. The promise is that in 2024 Frisch will receive increased support in both funding and surrogates. By all accounts, voters in Boebert’s district are tired of her drama. Voters in Arizona rejected Kari Lake’s campaign of lies and continue to reject her ‘woe is me’ road show. Georgia Republicans haven’t turned on Governor Brian Kemp who has repudiated the 45th President’s lies. There’s evidence that enough voters are starting to pay attention

8 thoughts on “The Ghost of Incompetence

  1. Jane Fritz says:

    One thing you don’t mention, Paul, is the amount of time devoted to campaigns, months and even years, and the jaw-dropping amount of money involved. This just doesn’t happen elsewhere and it surely must encourage even more questionable practices for questionable reasons than elsewhere. It seems to me that Obama tried to put limits on campaign contributions, but the Supreme Court overturned that very reasonable proposal in the grounds of free speech. Not a healthy situation, and, as you describe so well, not a healthy outcome.

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Jane,
      I believe you’re thinking of the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court which essentially granted First Amendment rights to corporations. The decision came down in 2010, during the Obama Administration. It’s had a detrimental affect on elections ever since.
      Thank you for reading and commenting

  2. In thinking about the incompetence of your plumber, I reflect: I would never make a good carpenter, measuring thrice-cutting the board once and it still doesn’t fit. Why do folks who have no inkling of the constitution or statesmanship (women included) feel they might be effective in government? And yes, I too held my breath during that cliff-hanger of a senate race in Georgia. Stewart

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Stewart.
      Funny, in order to lower the still high word count, I scratched the measuring thrice and cutting once example from my post.

      “Why do folks who have no inkling of the constitution or statesmanship (women included) feel they might be effective in government?” A good question. I can recall the times during my pre-retirement when I lost my job and had to find another. I looked for opportunities in the fields that I had confidence I could succeed in. I purposely scrolled past jobs that, even if by some miracle I might land, I would eventually lose for being a poor fit. Those poor fits included plumbing and dentistry.

      I suppose that had Hershel been elected to the Senate, he and Tuberville could’ve formed their own, “took too many shots to the head in football,” caucus.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Be well.

  3. Toonsarah says:

    This issue isn’t unique to the US. Look at the people in the UK who voted for Brexit because they believed the lie that it would result in millions being invested in the NHS rather than on what they regarded as unnecessary ‘red tape’ in Brussels – and yet our NHS is still on its knees, the so-called ‘red tape’ tasks basic to running a country still have to be done but in Whitehall, and we’re desperate to get back the thousands of workers from eastern Europe who boosted our economy and did the jobs our workers won’t do (for peanuts, I should add, so why would they?!)

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Sarah,
      ” … we’re desperate to get back the thousands of workers from eastern Europe who boosted our economy and did the jobs our workers won’t do (for peanuts, I should add, so why would they?!)” There’s a similar story in the State of Florida where the strict laws and punishments governing immigrants have driven out the people who do the undesirable work in the fields, in restaurants and in construction. Now Florida has fruit rotting on trees and restaurateurs scrambling for hard working help. In states like Ohio and West Virginia, the uniformed continually vote against their own interests.
      Thank you again for reading and commenting

  4. Anne Sandler says:

    Excellent rant Paul, and so sad.

  5. Well I’ve been musing lately over the phrase “artificial intelligence”. Apparently this is a technological development over which we should be worried to the point of self torture. Can’t help thinking that we should be far more concerned about the fact that “artificial intelligence” seems to be the only attribute necessary to garner a career in politics.

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