Monday, April 8, 2013

"Some Pooches Can't Be Screwed."

English: Astronaut Virgil I. Grissom prepares ...
English: Astronaut Virgil I. Grissom prepares to enter the Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft prior to his successful mph (0 km/h) space ride. He reached an altitude of miles (0 km). This was the second man-in-space flight for the U.S. in its series of suborbital flights by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The movie "The Right Stuff," which dramatizes author Tom Wolfe's tale of the early days of the U.S. space program, includes a dramatization of the sinking of astronaut Gus Grissom's capsule after reentry.  Wikipedia recalls the controversial incident as follows:

"On July 21, 1961, Grissom was pilot of the second Project Mercury flight, Mercury-Redstone 4, popularly known as Liberty Bell 7. This was a suborbital flight which lasted 15 minutes and 37 seconds. After splashdown, emergency explosive bolts unexpectedly fired and blew the hatch off, causing water to flood into the spacecraft. Quickly exiting through the open hatch and into the ocean, Grissom was nearly drowned as water began filling his spacesuit. A recovery helicopter tried to lift and recover the spacecraft, but the flooding spacecraft became too heavy, and it was ultimately cut loose before sinking.
"Grissom asserted he had done nothing to cause the hatch to blow, and NASA officials eventually concluded that he was correct. Initiating the explosive egress system required hitting a metal trigger with the side of a closed fist, which unavoidably left a large, obvious bruise on the astronaut's hand, but Grissom was found not to have any of the tell-tale bruising. Still, controversy remained, and fellow Mercury astronaut Wally Schirra, at the end of his October 3, 1962 flight, remained inside his spacecraft until it was safely aboard the recovery ship, and made a point of deliberately blowing the hatch to get out, bruising his hand."

In the film [] Sam Shepard plays test pilot Chuck Yeager, famous as the first to break the sound barrier.  When word is released of Grissom's debacle, one of Yeager's buddies remarks, "Well, it looks as if Gus screwed the pooch."
"The term was first documented in the early "Mercury" days of the US space program. It came there from a Yale graduate named John Rawlings who helped design the astronauts' space suits. The phrase is actually a bastardization of an earlier, more vulgar and direct term which was slang for doing something very much the wrong way, as in "you are fucking the dog!" At Yale a friend of Rawlings', the radio DJ Jack May (a.k.a. "Candied Yam Jackson") amended this term to "screwing the pooch" which was simultaneously less vulgar and more pleasing to the ear.

"The term, however, did not enter the popular lexicon until Tom Wolfe used it in his book about the space program, The Right Stuff, where it was used to describe a supposed mistake by astronaut Gus Grissom."

Yeager replies, "There are some pooches you can't screw"... meaning, I assume, that if you rise high enough and then fall on your face, the scandal will be brushed under the rug for the sake of not tarnishing the organization or the program of which you were a key component.

Consequently, corporate CEOs have been failing upwards for decades.  Or, to apply anther metaphor, they have been receiving so-call Golden Parachutes to enable them to land comfortably on their feet.

This phenomenon --- failing upwards or "some pooches you can't screw" --- seems to have seeped into education, where a million bucks is the norm.  That's roughly what the fired superintendent of the financially strapped Philadelphia School District reportedly got going out the door a couple of years ago.  
Now, it's reported that the outgoing basketball coach and athletic director at Rutgers are also receiving roughly that amount to go quietly into the night.  
Reports also reveal that the FBI is looking into allegations that the assistant coach who blew the whistle on his boss tried to extract nearly a million bucks from the university, allegedly in return for not going public.  He may be the odd man out, but then he's only an assistant coach.

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