NEW YORK CITY — Did you hear the one about the U.S. Post Office and the Statue of Liberty?
So the Postal Service decides to issue a stamp commemorating perhaps the single most iconic image around the world representing the United States of America, the country that the post office serves so faithfully — rain, snow or shine.
They get a nice picture of Lady Liberty, her greenish copper gaze across New York Harbor welcoming the masses to a new land of hope and promise and opportunity. They print it up First Class at the rate of "forever," as in a timeless promise that will never expire. Much like the Lady's beckoning call to freedom.
But there was just one slight little problem. The majestic image turned out not to be a stamp commemorating our nation's beloved Statue of Liberty. Rather, the postage stamp commemorates a cheap schlocky knock-off statue that graces, naturally, the strip in Las Vegas.
Now don't get me wrong. Vegas is a monumental American achievement. Only in America could you find such an oasis of glittering debauchery in a massive barren desert that summons every social, economic and gender class that you can think of.
By private jet, first class, steerage, Amtrak or Greyhound Bus, boozy risk-takers and silicone bimbos roll in to gamble all they have worked for — or perhaps stolen — on the outside chance that they alone hold the magic luck to beat the house.
You don't find that kind of moxie and hope in the deserts of Chad. Or Saudi Arabia. So much more is possible here in America.
But seriously, how does a venerable operation get something so colossally wrong? I mean, we are talking about missing the proper address by 2,225 miles, from one side of the country to the other. And it's not just some crappy little "wish you were here" postcard mailed out from Detroit that winds up in the Dead Letter Office for seven decades.
This was a postage stamp that was to commemorate all of America's other achievements, like liberty, self-governance and a slavish devotion to the rule of law. The post office issued some 5 billion stamps of the phony Lady, according to the Associated Press.
What's worse is that even after the post office was exposed by inflamed philatelists, postal officials decided to keep the stamps of the bogus statue.
Attorneys for the designer of the Vegas Lady say that the knock-off was chosen because she was more "fresh-faced," "sultry" and "sexier."
Now, of course, The sculptor of the Vegas statue is suing the Postal Service for the whole rip-off scheme. And guess who is, once again, on the hook for it? We, the lowly taxpayer.
Obviously, somebody got plenty drunk in Vegas researching this stamp. And now we know whose money it was they surely lost to the house while they were there.
• Charles Hurt can be reached at email@example.com, and on Twitter at @charleshurt.