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THE SKUNKS

    Once the Environmental Protection Agency sent out skunks to investigate a big stink in the land.
    Under the administration’s policy of dismantling agencies it considered an obstacle in any way to corporate growth or simply letting them wither away and die, big stinks had fallen to the lowest priority, but when complaints of “something rotten in the state” began to spread and large areas of public life began to disappear in clouds of blind duplicity, when bands of citizens groped through the fumes to raise what cries they could still manage for protection from their government, well, something had to be done to demonstrate the authorities’ concern. So out the skunks were sent. 
    Who else was better equipped for a “full-scale, wide-ranging inquiry” into eye-watering evidence of public distress than skunks, their superiors maintained? After all, hadn’t they performed as expected in one investigation after another, from rancid fumes reported in Pentagon contracting to FEMA miasmas to fetors at the intelligence agencies to a growing gaminess at the FCC, FDA, SEC, DOE, and OSHA to the telltale odor of mendacity coiling through the Justice Department and the rank incompetence making even plastic plants wilt at the State Department?
    In all cases, the skunks had more than merited the “full confidence” in their abilities expressed by administration spokespersons when asked daily about why things smelled worse and worse. Where others might hold their noses or reach for goggles and gas masks, the skunks invariably reported smelling nothing out of the ordinary or concluded nothing smelled so sweet as precisely what so many complained of. 
    Those who looked for reeking offense could become convinced they’d found it, but to one with a skunk’s long experience in such matters, claims that something must be done and done soon were clearly alarmist. Everyone should just stop, take a deep breath, and get used to it. Even seemingly lethal assaults on the public’s senses could come to seem perfectly routine with time, and once routine, barely worth complaining about. One might even grow so used to them as to accept that this was the way things were supposed to smell in government.
    Little wonder, then, the skunks found themselves in such demand of late, turning up nearly everywhere with their reassurances that nothing really was amiss. There was only one place they balked at entering, in fact, one place even they felt out of their element.
    “Not a chance,” they replied whenever it was suggested they take a sniff around the vice-president’s door, just for the sake of thoroughness.  “What, you think we have a death wish or something?”