Sunday, June 24, 2007

Special Branch

The surprises just keep coming. Now, after more than two centuries, we learn that the vice-president of the United States is not part of the Executive Branch as defined by the Constitution. Since the vice-president's sole responsibility is to preside over the Senate (which he rarely does) and to vote in the event of a tie (about once every three years), it is claimed that he is a member of the Legislative Branch. Nobody in the Legislative Branch seems to be taking this seriously, pointing out that the vice-president's salary and the expenses of his office are paid out of the Executive Branch budget. There is no precendent on the books because no one has ever made such a flabbergastingly absurd claim before, so the courts won't be much help.

What to do?

Congress should act at once to abolish this dangerously ambiguous office. If it's neither fish nor fowl, it's some weird hybrid that will only cause trouble later on. Let the succession pass from the president to the Speaker of the House.

My neighboring state of New Jersey has no lieutenant governor. And if a state ever needed a lieutenant governor, it's the Garden State, which uses up governors like paper gowns in a doctor's office. But no, they're comfortable working without a net, as long as they have a well-liked fellow named Codey who runs the state while the governor is off exploring his sexuality, or recovering in intensive care, or whatever they're always doing. If New Jersey can do it (and save millions of dollars out of the state budget every year), so can America.

Ignore the inevitable complaints from the political parties clinging to some nineteenth century notions about "balanced" tickets which clearly expired long ago. Think of the savings in medical costs alone. The incumbent, Richard Beelzebub Cheney, has made enough money from the Iraq war to buy a Third World village and try on the heart of each resident until he finds one that fits, yet we the taxpayers keep providing him with pacemakers and anti-coagulants to prevent his toxic carcass from dissolving into a heap of putrescence. Cut him loose and send him a bill.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Till death did them part

I woke with a nagging sense that this was a day to remember. Gradually it came back to me: On June 1, 1945, my parents got married. I know nothing of the weather or even what day of the week it was, but the war in Europe was over and the baby boom was about to begin.

June 1, 1945, some church in New York City. A small party: the happy couple and their two friends/witnesses. Possibly her mother, but his parents were in Baltimore. I like to think the date has a passionate significance: she wanted a June wedding, he couldn't wait any longer. (And in those days, decent people waited.) Strange to think of them as panting newlyweds. Beyond strange.

This is what I know. She was Catholic, he was some vague form of Protestant (way back, the family were Quakers). The priest extracted a promise to raise the children as Catholics. (Thanks a lot.) Even so, the wedding had to take place in the vestry -- the priests' locker room -- so as not to sully the church proper. And when the priest found out the best man was Jewish, he tried to prevent him from signing the register. Nevertheless, they were married.

I've seen the wedding photo. She's wearing a suit and a hat that belongs on Betty Grable. He's in his Merchant Marine uniform. They look happy. They made it work. They stayed together until cancer carried her off in 1999; fifty-four years. After that, he was never the same. Did I ever really know them? I wonder if anyone did. They had no siblings, not many close friends. They had dear eccentric aunts and uncles they shared with us kids, along with his war stories (the funny stuff only) and her tales of growing up in Astoria (my mother went to Julia Richman High School when it was girls-only, one of them Betty Bacall). Her people arrived after 1900, his in the seventeenth century. His were farmers with names like Mordecai and Elijah and Oliver; her father was a New York City fireman who left when she was fourteen. All I have is facts.

Happy anniversary. I miss you.