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TRICKLE DOWN As the recession dragged on over the past several years, jokes proliferated about outon-their-ear economists-who generally failed to …


As the recession dragged on over the past several years, jokes proliferated about outon-their-ear economists-who generally failed to anticipate the depths of the slowdown. An example: “What do you say to an economist with a job? Big Mac and fries, please.”

And old stories continue to circulate, including one about economist John Kenneth Galbraith and L.B.J. When Galbraith delivered to L.B.J. what he thought was a wonderful speech outlining the state of the economy, the president failed to respond with much enthusiasm. “Don’t you think it’s a good speech?” Galbraith asked. L.B.J. replied that writing a speech about the economy was like “pissing down your leg. It feels real good to you but doesn’t do a damn thing for anyone else.”

Perhaps what Johnson had in mind was a precursor of Ronald Reagan’s now-famous trickle-down theory.


We recently asked travelers to tell us their tales of obstructive airlines. None of the stories we received matched the drama of a Virgin Atlantic flight to London, scheduled to leave JFK airport in New York at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, January 7.

Michael Walsh, group finance director of public relations consultants Dewe Rogerson, who was on the flight, says passengers boarded the aircraft but were told take-off would be delayed while deicing took place. Then they were told a navigation instrument was faulty.

Passengers asked for something to eat and drink, but were told they had to be ready to take off at any time. They were not given anything to eat until after midnight. At 2:30 a.m., the captain announced that the flight had been canceled.

They were taken to a hotel in New York and eventually told their flight would be leaving at 7 p.m. on Saturday. But there were further delays due to icy conditions. At 3 a.m. on Sunday, the aircraft took off. Shortly afterward, the passengers heard there was a further problem with it, and that they would be returning to JFK. They arrived back at their hotel at 5 a.m. on Sunday.

Walsh was then told he had been hooked on a flight leaving JFK at 9 p.m. on Sunday. He arrived home in London at 10:15 a.m. on Monday, two days later than planned.

Peter Tray, owner of a London export/import concern, will never forget the flight he took in 1953 from Switzerland with British European Airways. Because of fog in London, passengers were put on a Swissair flight to Paris, where no one from BEA knew anything about them.

Spotting a BEA aircraft on the tarmac, the nine passengers concerned found an airline representative and demanded to he flown home. Tray recalls: “He could only splutter: ‘But you can’t possibly expect me to authorize an aircraft for just nine passengers.’ In the best pantomime tradition, we all chorused: ‘Oh, yes, we can.'”

If he didn’t, they told him, they would debag him. They were flown home. Those were the days.

—–Michael Skapinker, Financial Times


Martin Gross is mad as hell. Almost two years studying the federal budget, and he still can’t believe his bloodshot eyes: $19 million to examine gas emissions from cow flatulence? Some $107,000 to study the sex life of the Japanese quail? And $57,000 for gold-embossed playing cards on Air Force One?

These outrageous expenses are detailed in Gross’ book, “The Government Racket, Washington Waste from A to Z,” along with a number of others, including: $3 billion for 1,300 private government planes-200 of which could not be accounted for; $1 billion to buy unwanted honey from beekeepers; $500,000 to build a replica of Egypt’s Great Pyramid in Indiana; $160,000 to study whether an opponent can be hexed by drawing an X on his or her chest; $150,000 to study the Hatfield-McCoy feud; $144,000 to see if pigeons follow human economic laws; and an undisclosed amount to study the cause of rudeness on tennis courts and smiling patterns in bowling alleys.

——-J.D. Podolsky and Jane Sugden, People


Another installment from P.J. O’Rourke’s American Spectator article, “100 Reasons Why Jimmy Carter Was a Better President Than Bill Clinton”:


 Carter Administration                                                          Clinton Administration

 Mork and Mindy                                                                   Mary Matalin and James Carville

Laverne and Shirley                                                              Cokie Roberts and Anna Quindlen

Three’s Company                                                                  Gennifer Flowers

Happy Days                                                                          1980-1992

WKRP                                                                                   NPR

Star Wars                                                                              Base closings

Annie Hall                                                                              Anita Hill

The Goodbye Girl                                                                    Kimba Wood

Midnight Express                                                                    Bus trips

La Cage Aux FoIles                                                                 The Marines

Abbie Hoffman                                                                         Socks the cat

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