Sunday, August 07, 2005

Lying Addicts


In his book Juiced, Jose Conseco confessed to using steroids and claimed a number of other baseball stars had as well. He said he gave some fellow athletes steroid injections in the buttocks. One of those Canseco accused of using steroids was first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, who testified before a Congressional committee last March 17. When asked under oath if he had ever used steroids, Palmeiro said emphatically, “I have never used steroids. Period!” He repeated “Never!” Now we learn that Palmeiro did test positive for steroids this season, prompting New York Times sportswriter George Vescey to write, “I have come to regard athletes as essentially an addicted sub-society, even worse than the general population because the rewards are so high.”

Palmeiro is a member of the privileged sub-society of athletes who are addicted to steroids. Most addictions are accompanied by denial. Most addicts lie to others and sometimes to themselves about their addictions. Sometimes they even lie under oath and perjure themselves. If Palmeiro had been a Pinocchio, his nose would have stretched all the way up to the congressmen and poked out a congressional eye or two. Instead, inveterate liar that he apparently is, he convinced most of those on the committee, as well as his friend and former Texas Rangers employer, George W. Bush, and most viewers watching on TV, that he was completely innocent. Well-groomed, clean-cut, and righteously indignant, Palmeiro offered to lead a crusade against performance-enhancing drugs as a way of protecting American kids. But after testifying positive for steroids, Palmeiro has qualified the answer he gave the Congressional committee. He now says not that he has never used steroids but that he has never “intentionally” used them.

I bring up Palmeiro because he reminds me of the over-privileged of Portsmouth, another addicted “sub-society.” What the Portsmouth over-privileged are addicted to is pork, not steroids, but pork, like steroids, is a performance enhancing substance. It has kept the over-privileged of Portsmouth in the game. As bad as Portsmouth’s economy is, where would it be without pork, without the public funds that the over-privileged are attached to in so many different ways? Pork keeps not only those in the public but also some in the private sector in business. If they had to compete without local, state, and federal pork, they would be batting so far below the Mendoza line they would be out of the game. They can’t compete without pork, and having depended upon it for so long, they have created a culture of lies to deny their dependency. They lie every bit as earnestly and convincingly as Palmeiro did.

Some time back in the late 1990s, an over-privileged couple, a local businessman and his wife, told me at a dinner how tough they had been in raising their children, never pampering them but rather instilling in them the philosophy of rugged individualism and self-reliance I associate with stalwart Republicans. At the time I wished that I was capable of such “tough love.” Feeling guilty for not having been able to employ that philosophy as a father, I was somewhat in awe of any parent who could. What I subsequently learned was that this same businessman porks and lies with the best, or should I say, the worst, of them. In fact, he is a master of the art of milking public cows for the benefit of himself and his over-privileged cronies, and if there was a Hall-of-Fame for liars, he should qualify. I can believe he preached self-reliance to his children, just as the Republicans who are now in control of all branches of the Federal government continue to preach fiscal responsibility and less government spending at the same that they go on record porking sprees.

Jeff Jacoby, a conservative journalist for the Boston Globe recently wrote a column, titled “Republican Pork Barrel,” in which he said, “it might surprise younger readers to learn that spending discipline was once a basic Republican principle. Hard to believe in this era of bloated Republican budgets and the biggest-spending presidential administration in 40 years – but true.” The $2 million of public money that Clayton Johnson nearly bilked the city out of as payment for the Marting building is the most notorious but by no means an isolated example of porking by Portsmouth’s over-privileged. It is merely the tip of the iceberg, or perhaps I should say it is merely the schnozolla of the swine.

A culture of lies has been created in Portsmouth as a way of conning the public into thinking public officials and public agencies are honest and fiscally responsible. It is my observation that most top management in Portsmouth’s public sector operate within the culture of lies. Instead of solving problems, they deny and deep-six them. In a truly competitive environment, such behavior would result in failure. But in the public and semi-public sector of Portsmouth, incompetence and dishonesty are sustained through feeding tubes to public treasuries. Top administrators are on the same team, in league with each other and with Portsmouth’s top porkers. They constitute a network of mutual suppork. The team that sties together lies together. They give each other shots in the ass. Got some property you need to unload? Got a relative or friend who needs a public-sector job? Need an abatement? Need a tax write-off? Need to raze a neighborhood? Whom would you say is the first person in Portsmouth the over-privileged turn to? To whom do they go to get juiced, or should I say porked?

Portsmouth has its unfair share of bush-league Palmeiros who hide behind prayers, patriotism and protestations of innocence. On the city council, nobody pulls off this deceitful act better than city council president Howard Baughman, though his unctuous style is cramped by the crudeness of his close ally, council vice president Marty “I did not have sex with that woman” Mohr. If the mayor, solicitor, auditor, city clerk, and several members of city council had Pinocchio noses, the council chamber would be a virtual jungle-jim of noses through and over which only the most athletic of citizens would be able to climb to find seats.