Catch up and connect with the 2013 life and times of Mac; but only if you have nothing better to do.
This is such a wonderful time of the year. And one of the highlights has to be receiving those highly anticipated, mass-mailed chatty Holiday Letters (this year a few were even e-mailed) from friends and family. Many of these folks we have not, for good reason, seen for years.
These missives document all the wonderful happenings and events the sender experienced during the year. For some reason they have an abiding belief that we have a burning desire to know all these trivial details. In that same spirit, I knew you would be disappointed not to receive my Holiday Letter giving you all the spicey details as to how my year went. (If you don’t receive this message, please call and I will call read it to you.)
My year was so abundantly eventful that I can’t list everything in this tiny space, but here are some of the highlights, though not necessarily in chronological order.
The Grateful Dead Popes
As many of you may know, I have been fortunate for the past few years to serve as the lay chairman of The Dead Popes Society of the Vatican. The purpose of the society is to research and review the works of the dead popes (all of them are except for two) in order to identify any miracles that may be attributed to them, so that they might be beatified and then canonized as a saint. (Sorta like a Papal Hall of Fame.)
As luck would have it, one of the members of the society was a quiet, unassuming Jesuit priest for Argentina named Jorge Bergoglio. (We all called him “Georgie”.) Anyway, you can imagine my surprise when late one evening last March I received a call from Georgie. He said, “Mac, I think they are going to elect me Pope. What should I do?” I said, “Hey, what the heaven, go for it. You Jesuits have been trying to take over the Church for centuries and now you can be the one to finally pull it off. In fact, your election as the first Jesuit Pope would be an even bigger achievement than America electing the first black president. And one of the perks you get as Pope is to be infallible. Since Jesuits have always believed they were infallible, this would just confirm it.”
Anyway, a few weeks after Georgie had been elected Pope Francis he called again and invited me to spend a weekend with him at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s private retreat outside Rome. I was a bit surprised when I got there and Pope Francis greeted me at the door. I knew it was the same old Georgie though when he insisted on carrying my bags to my room. Let me ask you this: When was the last time YOU had a Pope carry your bags?
On a Sunnier Note . . .
Spending my winters in Key West, Florida I was fortunate to meet another George – George Zimmerman. You may recall that this George was accused and tried for the February fatal shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin. I first met and rubbed elbows with George Z. at a “Search and Destroy” fantasy camp sponsored by the Florida chapter of the Doomsday Preppers Association.
Now, I don’t want to suggest that George had some issues, but I know from experience that he’s clearly was not the brightest bulb in a group of very dim bulbs at the fantasy camp. I remember that in the seminar discussing the use of the Florida “stand your ground” law as a defense against killing anyone who seemed to be an imminent threat that George confused the concept with “take your ground.” As often as I sat George down and tried to explain the law to him, he just couldn’t understand why, if he saw someone whom he felt could, at some time in the future, become a threat, he couldn’t just “take them out.” Of course we all know the sad and tragic result of my failure to get George to understand this.
After a trial that acquitted George, probably on the basis of a “diminished mental capacity” defense, he called me. He was down and discouraged, worried that he couldn’t find a job that would allow him carry a gun. His wife had surprisingly divorced him and he just didn’t know where to turn. As much as I despised what he had done, I felt that if he didn’t have some support his life would continue to spiral downward, if such a thing was possible.
So I invited him down to our place in Key West, and while he was there I fixed him up with Casey Anthony. (Since her 2011 trial and acquittal for killing her two-year-old daughter Caylee, Casey had been going under the assumed name of Samantha Scheibe.) My thought was that these two had a lot in common and would really hit it off. And they did for a while. But soon, much to my consternation, they became embroiled in ferocious fights. Fortunately the police finally intervened before George applied his interpretation of “stand your ground” to Casey or before she just made him disappear. It was a pretty ugly public scene for a while – George even got arrested. But I am happy to report that in the spirit of the Holidays they called me a week or so ago and told me they had patched things up and were together again. Isn’t the Christmas spirit wonderful?
Sorry, We’re Closed for Business . . .
One of the most frustrating events of the year was the October shutdown of the federal government. I had been asked by the non-partisan (if there is such a thing) Congressional Budget Office to serve on a private-citizen committee trying to create a middle ground in the budget-funding dispute between the Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
In all honesty I have to say that both sides were intransigent. The Democrats were fiercely adamant that the bills for services they had already approved should be paid and the Republicans were just as strident in their belief that it was okay to default on the debt if they didn’t like what the money was being spent on or in an effort to kill unrelated programs. Anyway, despite this, we actually were very close to a compromise that would avoid a government shutdown.
We were close, that is, until this guy Ted Cruz from Texas stuck he fat nose and big ego into things. This is a guy who is foreign-born and I learned later that his high school class had voted him “senior with the fewest friends.”After dealing with him I could understand why. I met with him several times and each time walked away with the feeling that I had had more rational conversations with Kim Jong Un of North Korea than I had with Cruz. (I had accompanied Dennis Rodman to North Korea to make sure his meeting with Kim went well.) Anyway, Cruz was honest enough to tell me confidentially that he really didn’t care about the issues (in fact, did not understand them) but wanted to make a name for himself so he could run for president. It was the first time I began to think that Sarah Palin would not have been so bad. Of course I felt bad about failing to prevent the government shutdown, but I do take some solace in the fact that the budget compromise recently agreed to by the Republicans and Democrats is exactly what I had proposed to them last October. Politicians!
The ACA by Any Other Name
Another big activity during the year – one almost as frustrating – had to do with Obamacare. Probably because of my experience in the insurance industry the Obama administration approached me and asked that I serve on a citizens committee overseeing the roll out of Obamacare and to act as an intermediary with the insurance industry. Asking me to be a conduit to the insurance industry would be like asking George Zimmerman to teach anger management classes. Anyway, by the end of the summer everything was ready for the roll out of Obamacare—except for the web site.
Every time we asked the IT guys for an update, the response was, “We are almost there. We just need to do a little more beta testing and the system will be ready.” Well, talk about a red flag! Having dealt with IT types for decades, I knew the roll out was in trouble. You have a better chance relying of promises made by politicians than on those made by IT people. I did my best to warn President Obama that things were not going well, but not having the experience of dealing with IT people as a community organizer, he put more faith in the “experts” of IT. It did make me feel a little better when Obama penned a note at the bottom of his Christmas card saying, “Mac, I should have listened to you.”
There is so much more I would like to tell you – and I know you want to know – about the year, but just don’t have space here. However, I do want to close with a nod to the passing of someone that I established a close connection with. In helping to arrange Dennis Rodman’s trip to North Korea I met and dealt with Jang Song Thaek, the uncle of Kim Jong Un. We spent extensive time together and – just like a lot of Americans – he expressed worry about the next generation of North Korean kids. He said that because Kim Jong was now an orphan and he was his only surviving elder relative, he felt responsibility for him. Jang Song told me he was doing all he could to control Kim Jong, but since his father’s will left the entire country of North Korea to him, it was difficult to keep the spoiled brat in check. Now that Jang Song Thaek has suddenly passed away, you have to feel sad for Kim Jong Un this Holiday season. He now he has no older living relatives to give him counsel and guidance. Maybe I should offer up Ted Cruz.
And the thoughts of the season …
I have been abundantly blessed with a wonderful wife, Brenda, a terrific family that constantly makes me proud and friends (at least most of them) who are fun to know and be with, most of the time. I am also grateful for the masses – all eight of them – that consistently follow these “Musings of Mac” blogs each week. It has been a fun year.
Thanks to everyone for making my life better. Have a wonderful Holiday Season and an exciting, successful New Year that exceeds even your expectations. Hope to see you all in 2014!