arteejee

A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Monday, November 17, 2014

President Obama Governing Here and Abroad



It’s been just over a week since the mid-term Democrat disaster at the polls. At first, then heir-apparent House Majority leader Mitch McConnell held out some semblance of an olive branch to President Obama to work with him. All the president had to do was not wave a red flag in front of the bull.

Within a day, President Obama flexed the muscles of the Executive branch and vowed/threatened to move ahead with an executive order on immigration reform. Red flag waved! The 2014 era of Good Feeling lasted exactly one day! 

Ever since then, the GOP has reverted back to 2013 governing mode, i.e., not governing at all. Nothing is off the table: short term funding resolutions, holding their breaths until they turn blue, and, of course, the classic government shutdown. Oh wait, something is off the table: political compromise.

Hey American voters, your order of government gridlock is nearly ready. Oh, do you want fries with that?

Given that hostile environment, Obama did what any other rational adult would do: he left town. Hell, he left the country. Okay, so this trip to Asia was carefully planned months ahead of the mid-terms. Even with the good intentions of the trip - improve trading relations, agree to climate change policies, and scope out the best dim sum in Beijing - Obama still caught hell.

Reportedly, the Chinese media criticized Obama for chewing gum while he met with the Chinese leadership. Writing in The People’s New Republic, Duc Low Limbaugh sniffed, “The imperialist Yankee insisted on chewing his American gum like a cow in the presence of the people’s great leader! How can we expect anything better from a third rate power?” To be fair, the American media reported that Obama was chewing Nicorette gum. It’s nice to hear that, if true, the President is trying to quit smoking. Unfortunately, this fact is not enough to boost his approval ratings at home.

The President may have gotten better press coverage if he had posed himself in a state of semi-undress, and balanced a champagne bottle on his backside. Sure, it would be unbecoming for a world leader, but the Chinese would have stood up and took notice. In any event, I dare you to get THAT image out of your head!

So what did we learn from last week’s events? We learned that no matter what Obama does, he can’t win for losing. We also learned that Mother Nature has blessed Kim Kardashian with such a huge derriere that the next world poker championship will be played on it. Sadly, the American public paid more attention to the latter than to the former.

(Thank you for reading. For the record, Duc Low Limbaugh offered no opinion on Kim Kardashian’s backside.)

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The White House Lunch



So the polls were right and Republicans had big gains all over. We shouldn’t have been surprised by the results. There were many disappointments, but happily here in Pennsylvania the polls were correct on the gubernatorial race. Here we’re saying “Bye Tom (Corbett) and Hello Tom (Wolf).”

In Washington, the President’s job just got a lot harder: Republicans now control both houses of Congress. The new Congress with its new leadership won’t officially convene until January. In the meantime, the President and Congressional leaders will have a chance to get acquainted over a White House lunch.

Oh to be a fly on that wall…

Obama: Welcome everyone! We are very happy that you have graciously accepted our cordial invitation to dine with us. Please help yourself to the chilled fruit cocktail and the cold picnic shoulder sandwiches.

Ted Cruz: Thank you, Mr. President. I’m a little surprised at the offerings. I was half expecting watermelon and fried chicken!

(Audible gasp from the other attendees.)

Obama: Ha, ha! Very good, Ted. No, we wanted to serve something quick to give us more time to talk about our concerns. I know we have a lot to talk about and we have a lot of differences between us. Let me start the ball rolling by explaining that I feel we can accomplish more on issue one, compromise on issue two, and table issue three until both sides build a consensus. Yes, John?

John Boehner: Mr. President, that’s all well and good, but you’re forgetting problem A needs to be resolved, and problems B and C need to be voted on.

Cruz: Oh, the hell with all this genteel repartee! Let’s cut to the chase! Repeal Obamacare now!

(Audible hiss from some of the attendees.)

Obama: Really? How about an executive order on immigration reform?

(More hissing from the rest of the attendees.)

Mitch McConnell: We can’t back on you that, Mr. President. 

Cruz: Impeachment!

McConnell: Down, Ted, down!

Cruz: All right, I’ll calm down. Hey, Mr. President, is it true that you do a killer impression of Stepin Fetchit?

(Audible gasp.)

Obama: Ha, another good one, Ted. Let me answer you by taking my FDR Memorial veto pen and write an executive order revoking your American citizenship.

Cruz: WHAT?

Obama: In fact, I’ll add a little side note to the INS: send this cracker Canadian ass back to Ottawa.

(Turmoil roils the room. All at once, the windows blow open; a gust of wind brings forth a host of cherubs, singing and praising the entrance of…)

Cruz: Pope Francis!

Pope: Yes, hello all. Your President asked me to stop by in case things got a little rough. I can see that my presence is needed. As you may know, I recently attempted to welcome the gay community into my church. Okay, so we’re still ironing out those details, but maybe I can work my magic to bring you all together here. C’mon everyone! GROUP HUG!

All:   Arrgggggghhhhhhh!

(Thank you for reading. Tune in next time when Pope Francis will be heard to say: “Ted, are you going to eat your ice cream?”)

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Nine (Lamest) Excuses Not to Vote Today



It’s too cold out!

(What do you expect? It’s November, which means it will be seasonably cold, but not as cold as it could get. That’s why we have winter! Now shaddap and put on a sweater.)

It’s too hot out!

(No, it’s not, it’s November. See above.)

It’s damp and raining!

(Not here in southeastern Pennsylvania. Blue skies, sunshine and seasonably cold! We have no weather related issues today!)

It’s too sunny!

(You really are hopeless, aren’t you? So you’ll have to go inside for five minutes to achieve representational government nirvana! Close the curtain, pull the lever, then go outside and frolic in the nude for all I care. Oh, but put on a sweater. It’s seasonably cold, you know!)

The lines are too long!

(Oh, puleeeze!!!! True democracy can be inconvenient at times, but it beats dictatorships by a country mile! Hell, if I can forget my aching back for five minutes to stand in line, then you should be able to give up the few extra minutes to do your civic duty.)

It’s too Republican out there!

(Okay, now you may have a valid point. I know the constant waves of cynicism has worn us down, but our vote — no matter which way you vote — is a statement against the old world ways of politics as usual.)

It’s too Democrat out there!

(In the interest of being fair and balanced: okay I get the equal perception that all everyone wants to do is get a free hand out from the guvmint, and what better way to perpetuate our freeloading ways then to vote for the liberals who will give it all to us. Never mind that many people are on welfare simply because they believe that as human beings they are entitled to the opportunity to survive even as they perceive that the system has turned its back on them. Ah, but humanitarian efforts somehow do not fit into the conservative sound bites that those less fortunate are just taking advantage of the rest of us.)

I don’t feel like voting!

(Leave this country now and find a society that is more in tune with your “feelings.”)

There are so many people voting that my vote won’t make a difference!

(Okay, watch the musical 1776 and see how votes DO count. There, generations of Africans were doomed to enslavement because of a compromise that had to be worked out in colonial Philadelphia. John Adams wanted Thomas Jefferson’s words “all men are created equal” to include the enslaved individuals in the agricultural economy of the southern colonies. The south would not go along with it and vowed to vote against independence from England if the words weren’t stricken from the document. The compromise was done. This left William Daniels as Adams to utter the eloquent demand, “…you have your slavery, little good may it do you, now VOTE, damn you!”)

(Thank you for voting.)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

St. Vincent



Make no mistake: Vincent MacKenna is a cheat, liar, and thief who smokes, drinks and gambles. Don’t take my word for it: these are the words that come out of the mouth of the babe who nominates him for sainthood. Go figure!

To be fair, a lot has happened in Vincent’s life which brought him to this stage. A Vietnam veteran who saw a lot of action, he battles addictions to alcohol and gambling, the latter nearly costs him his health (such as it is) at the hands of an impatient bookie. No one would mistake him for being a lovable curmudgeon. Gruff and cantankerous, Vincent does have a soft spot for an elderly woman, Sandy, passing himself off as her doctor when he visits her in an assisted living facility.

Into all of this enters a mother trying to rebuild her life post-divorce. She is accompanied by a young boy - the previously mentioned babe. An awkward first meeting with her new neighbor, Vincent, leads somewhat circuitously to his becoming the child’s after school sitter. Eventually, Vincent will also become the boy’s mentor in street smarts.

At first hesitant, Vincent eventually warms to this chance assignment. Besides, he needs the money. A retiree always in need of money, Vincent is turned down for a bank loan with a shrug and the classic salutation to resignation: “It is what it is.” Aside from the booze and gambling, Vincent is also in hock to Daka, his lady of the evening friend who advises that her services are no longer available on lay away. And, oh yes, she is a pregnant lady of the evening also needing additional income when she is bounced from her job as a stripper.

The young boy, Oliver, is both naïve and yet wise beyond his years. When Vincent claims that the brain is the most important human organ, Oliver points to his own heart. His parochial school education — where he learns values which his teacher/priest would have you believe are exclusive property of the Roman Catholic Church — is countered by Vincent’s after school lessons. 

There is the lesson of instant gratification: a trip to the horse racetrack. There is the lesson of hard work for the sake of hard work: mowing a yard that is totally devoid of grass. There is the lesson of learning who Abbott and Costello were…and so on.

There are a small victories along the way — Oliver stands up to a school bully, Sandy comes out of her dementia long enough to recognize that the doctor is actually her husband, Vincent, and there is a very nice, profitable day at the racetrack — but by the time this story ends, everyone loses something and accept the life lessons of compromise. Life is what it is, you know.

St. Vincent has all the makings of a made-for-tv Hallmark channel presentation. It can be sappy at times, and veers close to cliché at other times. Taking a young impressionable child to the racetrack as a plot device?   Doesn’t that go all the way back to Damon Runyon? No matter, the ends justifies the means, even if Vincent has to put the racing form to his forehead for divine guidance in picking his horses.

There are great performances from the entire cast. Bill Murray submerges his classic comic persona and allows Vincent’s complex character flaws to surface and wallow in the fresh (?) air of Long Island. The role could have been another classic turn by Jack Nicholson (think As Good As It Gets),  but Murray rises to the challenge, whether he is giving garage lessons in self defense to Oliver (serious Murray) or trying to keep up with Bob Dylan singing ”Shelter from the Storm” (clown Murray).

Melissa McCarthy leaves her fat girl shtick behind in her portrayal of Maggie,  the mother trying to juggle her long hour career with raising Oliver (and perhaps Vincent) while fending off her philandering husband's custody overtures. Her role is one too many people can relate: vulnerable in a chaotic situation with a growing toughness that will serve her well. Chris O’Dowd also does well as Oliver’s parochial school teacher, Brother Geraghty, as he oversees a melting pot of different religions and ethnics in his class. On the adult side, the melting pot is represented by Vincent’s lady of the evening friend, Daka, portrayed by Naomi Watts with a thick Russian accent. 

Jaeden Lieberher plays Oliver wonderfully in his feature film debut. Another role to which nearly everyone can relate: bullied and stolen from at school, Oliver learns the tricks of maturing in the street very quickly. A moment of complete drama (and the first signs of Vincent’s redemption) happens when the older man teaches his young charge that taking advantage of a candy machine is (technically) stealing. Oliver absorbs all of his lessons while retaining just enough innocence to remember that the heart is most important.

We should have a moment of silence and praise St. Vincent. We should hold our copies of the racing form to our foreheads and pray that this gem is not forgotten in the coming awards season. 

(Thank you for reading. And now Bob Dylan will sing music to water your bare yard by…) 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ebola: Week 2? Month 2?



As a public service, we would like to remind all our fellow Americans that the current outbursts calling for a travel ban for anyone from countries where the Ebola virus has become an epidemic is not the solution to eradicating the virus. For one thing, it won’t work because no one will obey it.

Keep in mind that we are a country of rebels. Many of our citizens resent anything the guvmint tells them. This country was founded on a rebellion. Hell, our most patriotic holiday is a celebration of our forefathers giving the finger to authority. So you really think everyone will just suck it up, nod in agreement that the guvmint is doing it for our own good, and not try to scheme about ways to get around the ban? Really?

We should also keep in mind the great inspiring words inscribed in stone on one of our greatest icons of freedom, The Statue of Liberty. The inscription reads, “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free!” It does NOT say, “Give us your tired, your poor. your ewww! Is that rash infected? You turn around right now and go back where you came from! Now git!”

Governors Cuomo and Christie of New York and New Jersey - erring on the side of caution or extreme mass hysteria (it can be a fine line sometimes) - have ordered mandatory quarantine for healthcare workers returning from the disease ravaged areas of Africa. Healthcare experts - you know, the ones who spend every day of their careers studying these types of things - do not believe that it is a good idea. They argue that Ebola does not become contagious until the victim shows the symptoms. They also point out that such requirements could scare away healthcare workers - you know, the people who spend every day of their careers helping people recover from their ailments.

President Obama has requested that the governors back down from their quarantine threat. The president has been most active in recent weeks focusing on the Ebola problem. He’s even picked a czar to take personal charge of the crisis, coordinating actions among all the government agencies who have a direct interest in solving this problem. Ho-hum! While this czar, a former Joe Biden adviser, may pull off the organizing part, critics have been quick to pounce on Obama’s actions simply because he is Obama. Perhaps the president should have appointed a man who’s built a career from building disorganization into organization. Yes, I’m talking about none other than Obama’s political adversary from 2012, Mitt Romney! Boy, would that appointment get tongues wagging inside the Beltway! 

In any case, we’ll never hear from him again. The czar may become so immersed into the bureaucratic tangle of the federal government that he will disappear from public view. I don’t know how appointing someone with a title which has its roots in (long deposed) Russian royalty will necessarily do anything. Beyond giving the public confidence that somebody is actually doing something about a complex problem which can be beyond the grasp of mere mortals, I can’t remember any lasting accomplishments of past czars. 

Remember the Drug Czar? The Education Czar? I rest my case.

Otherwise. the administration’s handling of the Ebola crisis has paled in comparison to other administrations. The Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 nearly decimated the capital of Philadelphia during George Washington’s tenure. That time the President left town on a pre-scheduled break just as the disease was starting to claim lives. Woodrow Wilson had to contend with the Influenza Epidemic of 1917. Wilson wasn’t as lucky as Washington; he had nowhere to run. This influenza pandemic was worldwide and killed millions.     

So far under Obama, one person in the US has died and perhaps a half dozen have been treated and are expected to recover. My point: Washington and Wilson, no matter their other shortcomings, knew how to throw an epidemic! Now under Obama, we’re already panicking!

(Thank you for reading! For those of you playing along at home, the score now is Mass Hysteria, one…Common Sense, coming to bat!)