If you will bear with me, a quick joke to start things off:
Comic: FIve dollars says you can't answer a few simple questions about Polish history.
Straight man: You're on.
Comit: What was the name of the most famous Polish-American baseball player?
Straight man: No idea.
Comic: That would be Babe Ruthski. I'll give you a second chance. How about the pole who invented the telephone.
Straight man: Well, I'm not sure...
Comic: Alexander Graham Bellski. One more chance; are you ready?
Straght man: Yes, I think I am.
Comic: Ok, here's your last question: Name the Polish egg that fell off the wall and all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put him together again.
Straght man: HAH, I've got it! That would be Humpty Dumpski!!
Comic: Your'e close. It was Humpty DumBROWski!
My more perceptive readers will have noticed that the joke is only mildly funny. To the extent that it is funny at all it is because we can see that the rules are rigged so the Rube can't win. No matter what he says the rules can be changed so he is wrong.
On the other hand, despite not being particularly funny it is a very servicable joke. I'm not sure how long ago I first heard it; It's been at least a decade, maybe more than one, and I think about the joke frequently and tell it occasionally. It's a joke that everyone should know for reasons of cultural literacy. It installs itself in your brain and gives you another way to see the world as a funny place.
Recently the joke whispers to me while I am listening to critics of the President's new plan for Iraq. Many of them are on record as having recommended key features of the new plan prior to it's announcement when they were complaining about the old plan. But now that they hear Bush say it they don't like it. "Yes, yes," they seen to say, "more troops, clear and hold, pressure Maliki to get tough with the militias, more focus on controlling the borders. You're close Mr. President, but you still have it tragically wrong. It's Humpty DumBROWski."