Dec 092015
 

As luck would have it, Monday was the regularly scheduled bimonthly consultation for Max Slaughter, Chief Policy Analyst for the American Firearms, Ammunition and Tactical Weaponry Manufacturing Association, an industry lobbying group here in Washington DC. He’s always rather upbeat and optimistic, but on this particular morning, he was verging on the positively ebullient. “Excellent week for the industry,” he chortled as he sidled into my office, tossed his Gucci briefcase on the 1924 art deco coffee table and nestled into the buttery soft lamb skin leather of the couch in front of the picture window overlooking the White House. “Every time there’s a mass shooting, sales go up, of course, but this San Bernardino thing has made the market […]

Nov 282015
 

At noon on Wednesday, Gretchen let me know that my sister-in-law Katje was on Line Two and wanted to speak with me. Since the extended family Thanksgiving dinner was slated to occur at my home this year, and Katje is a very committed and emphatic vegan, I assumed that was the reason for her call – to make sure there would be sufficient strictly healthy vegetarian fare, especially beans, spinach, kale, broccoli, pulses and brown rice; to verify that, for example, the pumpkin pie crust was not going to be made with any animal products, such as lard; to discourage the use of butter, milk and cream, organic or otherwise, whether from grass-fed or ordinary cows, in the mashed potatoes […]

Nov 192015
 

This morning, my ten-thirty AM consultation was with an economist from the USDA. We spent about an hour and ten minutes discussing the ramifications of the Renewable Fuel Standard and its impacts on the corn market. Manufacturing fuel ethanol from corn was a stupid idea when it got started during the Carter administration, of course, and it’s a still a stupid idea today, but stupidity never kept the US government from doing anything the farm lobby and agribusiness happen to want. There was still plenty of analysis remaining, but my guest cut things off twenty minutes early. “Thanks, Tom,” she said with a smile as a gentleman whom I had never met opened the door to the reception area and […]

Nov 092015
 

At the request of my dear sister Rose’s parish priest, I accepted a telephone consultation appointment with Sister Moecha Meretrix, the principal of the Catholic school to whom Rose sends her vast brood of Catholic children, Mother Superior of a local Dominican convent, and, as it happens, a member of the Ecumenical Congress of the United States of America Board of Directors. I was very busy during the week, so I arranged for her to call me at my home in Great Falls, Virginia on Saturday afternoon. Tom: Hello, Mother Superior Meretrix. MS: Uh… hello, is this Tom Collins? Tom: It is indeed, Mother Superior. MS: Um… how did you… Tom: I have Caller ID, Mother Superior. MS: Oh. I […]

Nov 012015
 

“Ahmed” has been annoying Gretchen with requests for an appointment since Monday, but she’s been putting him off, of course. “There’s no way,” she emphatically told me, “that running the air purification system overnight will get rid of the stench. He’s got to be the last consultation on a Friday or working Saturday, as usual, or find yourself somebody else to come in and take care of receptions the next morning. You remember what happened the last time we let him come in on a weekday that wasn’t followed by a long holiday weekend or at least a Sunday, don’t you?” Indeed I do. A typical American would think a ripe durian fruit smells like, well, the most charitable description […]