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

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Ownership Society Strikes Again

President W has a wonderful new plan to give millions of Americans the ability to have health insurance. Oh, I’m sorry, that first sentence should read, “President W thinks he has a wonderful new plan to give millions of Americans the ability to have health insurance.” He presented this idea in his State of the Union address as another attempt to establish an ownership society. Obviously, he didn’t learn his lesson from the lead balloon that his Social Security privatization plan turned out to be.

The President proposes tax deductions up to $15,000 for a family that they can use towards purchasing a health insurance policy. Of course they will, Mr. President. I’m sure that this is the first thing a family will put on their shopping list when this windfall arrives at their front door. I’m betting that the family would use it for a vacation to Hawaii, a very nice down payment on a gas-guzzling SUV, or the biggest mother of all flat screen televisions.

He believes that this money will provide incentive for people to purchase health insurance at a lower cost. You don’t have a clue at all do you, Mr. President? Most Americans who have health insurance have it through their employers, who normally only offer one type of group policy, take it or leave it. There is little or no choice for most American workers. Yes, there are some policies that offer a high and a low plan, with differences in percentages paid out, but the premium difference for the employee is perhaps a few dollars per paycheck.

The group policies are formulated to insure a large group of people, many of whom are not healthy. The insurance companies are able to maintain affordable rates for everyone on the backs of the healthy employees. The reasoning is that the money saved on their fewer claims will make up for any losses claimed by the chronically sick employees. The alternative is individual coverage, which would not have this nice blanket protection for well and sick employees offered by a group policy. The healthy would be able to afford an individual policy; the chronically sick wouldn’t get coverage at all. I will admit that this an overly simplified explanation of group health insurance, but several commentators have raised this point since the idea was presented last week.

The Bush administration believes that this plan would extend health coverage to 3 million or so Americans. It is estimated that there are 47 million Americans without coverage today. On the news show This Week with George Stephanapolous, commentator George Will immediately loped off 10 million as being illegal immigrants. Okay, so let’s do the math...37 million minus 3 million equals...hmm, Mr. President? What about the other 34 million people? Is this where we insert the old Dickens line, “Are there no work houses...?” How can we dismiss the health needs of this many people?

George Will also raised the point that if everyone purchases their own policy, then employers will not be obligated to offer insurance at all. He noted that this would have a significant effect, for example, on the auto industry. The sticker price on new cars would be $1,000 if the automakers did not have to offer health coverage to their employees. Millions of Americans don’t have health insurance and the only thing George Will sees is a lower price at the car lot. Thank you, Mr. Will! Your compassion for the average American worker is duly noted!

This is not a good time for the health insurance industry. If the worst case scenarios play out, group health insurance could become a thing of the past. This could mean massive layoffs in the industry, many more Americans with no coverage because of their chronic conditions and more people relying on Medicaid and Medicare to meet their health needs. I don’t want to sound selfish, Mr. President, but this would be two strikes against me: an 18 year employee of the health insurance industry with a heart condition. This new proposal of ownership from the President is not doing my heart any good, and I think the Democrats in Congress agree.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The 2007 State of the Disunion Address: Post Mortem

I have been dragging my butt around for the last few days because the damn President kept me up until 10:00PM Tuesday. I didn’t even hear his entire speech. He was just beginning to do his shout-outs to the visitor’s gallery when I gave up, and turned in for the night. Still, I saw enough to get an idea how far the President’s agenda will go in this current Congress.

First, I must compliment Dick Cheney and his handling of the President during the evening. The President spoke well, missed a few words, but I didn’t see Cheney’s lips move once! His ventriloquism lessons are paying off very well. I know Cheney was really the one speaking because (1) there have been accusations that he is really in charge of the administration; and (2) at one point both Bush and Cheney took a drink of water at the SAME TIME! That had to have been rehearsed.

It was easy see which party was sitting where in the chamber, judging from the times they stood up to applause. Most of the Republicans sat at the President’s left and this section gave him a rousing ovation when he mentioned medical liability reform as a goal for this year. The rest of the chamber, which coincidentally comprised the other two-thirds of the space, sat quietly when this issue was mentioned.

We must credit the President for taking the time to acknowledge the first female Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, sitting behind him. It was very refreshing to see someone else sitting there besides Dennis Hastert. It may have been a strange illusion by the television cameras, but Hastert always seemed like he was too big for the Speaker’s chair, and I mean big as in the moon blocking out the sun during a solar eclipse. I would guess Cheney is a bit relieved that Pelosi is in Hastert’s place now. There may have been times when the two of them sat side-by-side and the Vice-President could have felt threatened. After all, what if Hastert got hungry for a snack at that moment and the only thing within reach was Cheney...but I digress.

Pelosi not only called the House to order, but also served as a stage manager for the Democrats in the chamber. They followed her lead when it came to applauding the President’s messages. She stood up and applauded, and they stood up and applauded. She remained seated and clapped her hands politely for lukewarm issues, and the Democrats did the same. When Cheney and the Republicans jumped to their feet to give the President a rousing response, she sat quietly. I wouldn’t have blamed her if she chose to make a goofy face at such moments, which would’ve sent the Democrat side of the chamber into hysterics, but much to her credit she remained composed and maintained the decorum that the moments demanded.

There were a few issues that both sides applauded vigorously. One such moment was the President’s vow to maintain supporting the troops in Iraq. Although there are more Congress members now opposing the war, none of them wants to be perceived as being against those men and women already fighting the war. The President’s proposed troop surge may be on shaky ground, but continued financial support for the war is a sure bet.

Iraq is Bush’s Achilles tendon. He is weak and vulnerable on this issue. Now he is proposing an advisory committee on Iraq. Great, another group of recommendations which he can choose to ignore. This is known as a political dodge; if you are faced with an unpopular issue, you can table it or delay action until the problem dies or goes away, or form a committee where the issue will go into limbo until such time that your term expires and you don’t have to deal with it anymore. In any case, I will be very surprised if the advisory committee gets off the drawing board.

Now that the speech is over, everyone can get back to the business of debating and legislating. In other words, sharpen your claws and say good-bye to civility. There’s a new Congress in town and everyone should get ready for the fight that lies ahead.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The 2007 State of the Disunion

Perhaps more Americans would pay attention to the annual State of the Union address if it were hosted by play-by-play announcer Rhett Crit, and color analyst Johnny Drama. The presentation could begin with the following introduction.

CRIT - Hello, everyone, and welcome to the 2007 State of the Union address. My name is Rhett Crit, and I’ll be your host for this evening. Joining me for color analysis is Johnny Drama.

DRAMA – Hi, everybody, and it’s a great evening here in Washington. Members of all three branches of the federal government filing into the House chamber, ready to hear President Bush outline his objectives for this year. I see a lot of hand shaking, many people reaching across the aisle, and is that someone campaigning down there?

CRIT – Yes, that’s Senator Clinton handing out “Hillary in 2008” buttons. You have to admire her chutzpah. That plucky lady is not letting the grass grow under her feet.

DRAMA – No, indeed, but let’s turn out attention to the star of the evening, George W. Bush. As you know, he’s coming off of a rough season. He’s down in the standings, taking a beating on his handling of Iraq, and unable to get any of his domestic agenda off the ground. I have to wonder if it isn’t time to call in a relief pitcher.

CRIT – Don’t tell me, you used to work for ESPN?

DRAMA – How did you know?

CRIT – Lucky guess. However, Johnny, you are correct. Bush has been beaten back in the last year, and prospects for this year are not good since the Democrats now control Congress. Tonight he is expected to ask for more troops and money for Iraq, some ideas to combat global warming, and propose health insurance coverage for everyone funded by tax deductions. It’ll be interesting to see how this will go over with Congress.

DRAMA – I predict a very interesting evening. Bush will probably get some applause, a few standing ovations, but for the most part I think that at least half of the chamber will sit on their hands for most of the evening.

CRIT – I believe that would be the Democrat section of the chamber.

DRAMA - Yes, the Democrats should have a nice comfortable evening ahead of them. They’ll just sit back in their chairs, nod occasionally, and let the Republicans stand up for the ovations and sit down again.

CRIT – Your description reminds me of the Bill Clinton State of the Union address, just after Newt Gingrich help sweep the Republicans into the majority. There wasn’t much movement on the Republican side that night.

DRAMA - No there wasn’t, Rhett. As I recall, a few of them passed away from boredom. No, I’m kidding of course, but perhaps bi-partisanship will prevail. It is hoped that everyone will put aside their differences and negotiate compromises on all of the issues facing this country tonight.


CRIT - Oh, that was a good one, Johnny! I haven’t laughed that hard since I heard the President try to pronounce the word “nuclear”.

DRAMA - Speaking of laughing, we should point out the new wrinkle in this year’s telecast. This will be the first year that the State of the Union address will be telecast with a laugh track. This will make it easier for you folks at home to tell the difference between when the President is serious, and when he is full of it.

CRIT - Right, Johnny. We should also point out that a non-partisan reporter from Comedy Central will man the laugh track. After all, if they don’t know funny, then nobody knows!

DRAMA - Well, everyone is getting into place, and we should break for a quick word from the American Lobbyists Incorporated, influencing American Democracy for 230 years! We’ll be right back!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bush Winter

We are finally seeing cold weather this winter in southeastern Pennsylvania. It has been very mild until this week, with temperatures hovering in the 50s most days and one day it went above 70. We should be averaging temperatures in the 30s in January. Perhaps it’s time we designate this temperature phenomenon, this sub-season within the winter season, with an official name.

Autumn has Indian summer, or any days that have above average daily temperatures during the month of October. Summer has its dog days, or any days with extremely high daily temperatures during the month of August. With this in mind, I believe we should declare any days from January through March with above average temperatures as belonging to the sub-season of Bush Winter.

We’ve all seen the symptoms and consequences of a Bush Winter. There are people wearing shorts and short sleeves outdoors when they should be wearing overcoats and scarves; ski slope lifts sitting idle and ski resort workers collecting unemployment; snow blowers and shovels rusting away in hardware stores; cough remedies gathering dust on pharmacy shelves; oil prices falling with demand for oil heat, and bikini-clad polar bears sunning themselves on slowly shrinking ice floes. Yes, these are all sights of a typical Bush Winter.

One recent weather report gave several reasons for the warm temperatures during the last few weeks. The Pacific Ocean phenomenon El Nino is one part of the global weather equation, but the report also stated that 99.9% of the world’s scientists would agree that it is also part of the larger trend of (drum roll please) global warming! There, I said it! I think it’s only fitting that this warm winter weather be named after the Denier-in-Chief, President George W. Bush!

Now I realize that the Bush administration will continue to deny global warming. I can just imagine Herr Rove spinning to the media that just because 99.9% of the world’s scientists state that global warming exists doesn’t mean it’s true. After all, 99.9% is not 100%. Oh sure, you claim that a mandate for your policies exists just because you received 51% of the vote in the last election, but 99.9% isn’t good enough for you to change your thinking? Damn that .1%! Who is this guy, and why isn’t he on board with all the other scientists? Where in Antarctica is he stationed?

I don’t care what Bush says; this tropical sub-season exists! In fact, I’ll venture to predict that global warming will throw our climate so out of whack that the wintry cold weather could last until May. That’ll be fun, holding Memorial Day barbecues with six inches of snow on the Florida!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Today is Sponsored by the Letter “N”

As we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day for 2007, we should note recent movements in the African-American community to strike the use of the “N” word from everyday use. An article in the January 10 issue of The Philadelphia Inquirer stated that several prominent African-American periodicals are changing their policy concerning the “N” word. The magazines Jet and Ebony will no longer print the “N” word, except in unavoidable instances subject to editorial approval. This is a good start.

I make a point of trying not to use this word in my everyday life. This is partly due to self-preservation. I heard a story years ago about someone who used the word and then got their head blown off by the offended party. From that time forth, I vowed that I would not include the “N” word in my vocabulary.

There is also a double standard at work here. If I, as a white male, use this word in public then I will most likely suffer public embarrassment, indignation, and possibly loss of livelihood, face legal action, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I was drawn, quartered, and crucified on top of everything else. The word is not worth all that trouble.

The double standard rears its ugly head when a black person uses the word and the reaction is a shrug and an “Oh well.” I get crucified, and they get a free pass! (?!!?) This is hypocrisy! This is the same double standard that led to the creation of “whites only” and “blacks only” water fountains in the South. This is not justice; this is not equality! Either punish everyone who uses the word, or give everyone - white, black, red, or green - a free pass.

I understand that there is a freedom of speech issue here also. The “N” word is very powerful because it encourages an enormous surge of emotions in people. I can see where many people might use it to make a point about certain issues in America today. One of my oldest friends is a college speech professor who will not censor any language his students want to use. The student learns to exercise their First Amendment rights, and they also learn how their respective audiences will react to their ideas when stated in uncensored and unexpurgated language. In this respect, I cannot argue with his logic.

Today, we should watch what we say, do good deeds in the spirit of Dr. King, and remember the work performed by such groups as the Southern Poverty Law Center. This group gathers intelligence on the many hate groups in our country, provides legal aid to victims of prejudice, and most importantly, manufactures educational materials which encourage the teaching of tolerance in our nation’s schools. Perhaps with such activities and a renewed commitment from everyone we will make equality and justice a reality in our society.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Men as Raindrops

At a recent Christmas party, I had a chance to once again hear the Weather Girls hit, It’s Raining Men. This got me thinking about some questions I’ve had over the years about this song. I must admit it’s a catchy tune, and I’ve noticed that it never fails to get people up on the dance floor. However, I am still bewildered after all these years about the lyrics and the overall philosophy of the song.

First we should consider the performers themselves and their target audience. I’m guessing that the women are extremely desperate for male companionship. They have probably not had any contact with a man in months. It has probably been so long that they’ve forgotten what a complete disaster their last relationship was, and what a complete jerk their last boyfriend was. The topic of guys as jerks will have to be put aside for another blog entry.

Okay, so we have the very desperate Weather Girls singing praises that there are so many men available to them now that they are falling out of the sky. They are so filled with joy that they actually use the word hallelujah. Okay, ladies, get hold of yourselves and come back to reality. Hallelujah is not a word to be taken lightly. It should be reserved for such lofty occasions, such as when a deity makes an appearance to mankind, or you find an unopened bottle of Heinz ketchup hiding in the back of your pantry.

Also, the use of this word in my experience has no basis in reality. There have been times in my life when I was with a group of women who may have forgotten I was present, and began talking about the men in their lives. At no time in these conversations did I ever hear any one of these women use the word hallelujah to describe the men in their lives. I will go out on a limb here and guess that when women do get together and talk about their respective men that rejoicing is the furthest concept from their minds.

Now, let’s consider the main action of the song, namely dropping a male body - flesh, blood and bone - from a cumulonimbus cloud at a height of, say, 10000 feet...without a parachute. The body would fall like a raindrop, gravity increasing its velocity as it descends faster and faster to the ground below. We can express the consequences of a falling man mathematically. In the following equation (my own formula), we will let X be the weight of a falling man:

X multiplied by 32 ft/sec, squared = SPLAT!

Or we can modify this equation to reflect the consequences of anyone or any object on which the falling man might land:

X multiplied by 32 ft/sec, squared = SICKENING THUD.

These equations clearly demonstrate why I majored in history and not mathematics.

So let me get this straight: the Weather Girls are so desperate for a relationship with a man, that they’re willing to pick up the first broken body they find on the ground? Yeech! I won’t go into any graphic detail, but I assume that the resulting sight is not very pretty.

Of course I realize that this whole song is a fantasy and not to be taken literally. Still, you have to wonder how much it influences each of our expectations about the opposite sex. Is she a nice girl, a slut, or a bitch? Is he a nice guy, a stud, or a jerk? In all probability we can be any one of these to the opposite sex at one point or another in our lives. Certainly, each one of us has been a broken-hearted body lying on the ground at least once in our romantic history.

The final lesson we should learn from this song is this: carry a very sturdy umbrella the next time rain is in the forecast.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

First Blogaversary

So here I am, one year and a little over 109 blog entries later, and I’m contemplating the whole nature of this blogging business. There are many of us doing this now – I’ve heard one estimate put it at 23 million blogs – available for public consumption. This just proves to me that everyone has something to say and many of us are exercising whatever freedoms and technology we have at our disposal to say it.

Many people probably wonder if anything they read on the blogs is worthwhile. That’s the beauty of this writing. It is up to our readers to decide the worth of our work. The blog writers put whatever they want out for public inspection, or (like the old cliché) let’s run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes it. Many readers do salute, adding their two cents to this, the largest public written forum known in human history. Think about this: we are contributing to the largest community bulletin board invented by mankind.

Future historians may use our blog writings as a primary resource for their research, much like we now use diaries and journals from the past. Our blogs could be invaluable to them in determining our attitudes, trends and mores of the 21st century. The possibility that our writings could be influential in the future staggers my imagination, even as I realize that all of us will never know what our words will mean to the generations yet to be born.

The pop culture media seems to have a love/hate attitude towards blogging. Many will dismiss it as trivial, but when a blog states something that fits their agenda, they’re more than happy to sample the writing in their own outlets – newspaper, Internet, or otherwise. One (fictional) character from Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury went as far to dismiss bloggers as those who are too lazy to become journalists. Perhaps there is some truth to this, but I also hasten to add harrumph in response.

As for me, I lived many years lacking confidence in my own writing that kept me from pursuing a career in journalism. Those years and opportunities are gone forever, but there is also the probability that had I started a journalism career twenty years ago, I would not be a journalist today. There is a good chance I would be unemployed, given news corporations recent trend towards downsizing staff and pushing reporters into early retirement.

So, today I write these words for free, without monetary compensation. I hope that this situation will change someday. In my first blog entry, I compared myself to Lana Turner sitting with a tight sweater in Schwabs Drugstore when she was discovered. Granted this story might be more legend than fact, but it does give me a small bit of hope that somewhere there is someone on the other side of the computer screen looking for my talent. In the meantime, I will continue to write, gaining experience and confidence in my skills, and hopefully giving you, my wonderful readers, a reason to smile and reasons to think.

This coming year I may have to do things that will raise my profile, and get someone to notice me. Maybe if I took off my sweater...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Cry, You Better Not Lie, I'm Telling You Why, The Washington Media is Watching Your Every Move

I know last week was between the holidays, and most federal workers had to use the rest of their annual vacation or lose it, but the federal government has reached new heights of inefficiency with the funeral ceremonies for former President Gerald R. Ford. Come on now, it’s taken the US government a full seven days just to get him buried! This has got to be a record. It’s taken so long that I half expected Chevy Chase to break into the middle of a network newscast during the weekend with this announcement, “This just in, Gerald R. Ford is still dead!”

Everyone agrees that he was a decent guy, and he deserved to be elected President, but he deserves better treatment than what the federal government is giving him now. Let this be a lesson to all you future Presidents. When your time comes, try to pass away when there are no major holidays approaching. We should probably apply this rule to the weekends too. If you die on a Friday, no one will notice until Monday morning when they come back to work. Meanwhile, you’ve lain around for two days for nothing.

This will be a busy week in DC, even after they finally get around to burying Ford. This is the week that the new faces in Congress move in with their new staffs. This is the time offices are assigned, furniture is moved, and all the new employees get acquainted with their new environment. It would also be a good time for the Washington media to introduce themselves to the new Congresspeople.

It never seemed fair to me that the media never did this in the past. After all, you as a new Congressperson wouldn’t know who your friends and enemies are in the media, who you can trust and who not to trust. There are some rules of thumb in this regard. For example, if you are liberal or a Democrat or both, you can count on The Washington Post to give you good press and perhaps even help forward your agenda. If you are a conservative or Republican or both, then you have The Washington Times in your corner. The Times is run by the head of the Unification Church, Sun Myung Moon, who has been charitably described by many people as a “loony”. Republicans, you have two choices as I see it: you can switch parties now, or cozy up to the Fox Network.

Anyway, my idea is that the Washington media should send out a short note to all the new members of Congress as a matter of courtesy. It could go something like this.


Welcome, new Congress and staff to Washington, D.C.!

We, the men and women of the local news outlets representing print, radio, tv, and the Internet, greet you to our home and your new work assignment. We hope you enjoy working here and we will do everything possible to make your stay as comfortable as possible. Having said that, we should warn you about certain ground rules regarding our job and yours.

The American public has charged us with the task of finding the truth in everyday life, seeking justice where there is none, and making some sense of the myriad workings of the federal government. We realize that you have been charged to run the government for the people, of the people, and by the people. Many times our mutual interests will work beautifully together. We can be your best friend in advancing your various causes and making you look good to the people back home. Or we can be your worst enemy and make you look very bad. Remember that substance is meaningless when perception is everything.

We put it to you simply this way: we will crucify you if you so much as piss sideways.

We’ll leave you now to attend to the people’s business. Good luck and we’ll be in touch soon.

P.S. Beware of Connie Chung. Don’t let anyone from your immediate families talk to her. Ever! She doesn’t know the concept of ‘off the record’. If you don’t believe us, just ask Newt Gingrich. He’ll be more than happy to tell you what Ms. Chung did to his mother.


I think this note would make life inside the Beltway more sporting if the media were upfront with the new Congress from the start. Of course, this will never happen. After all, what can we expect from a government that takes forever to bury one of our dead Presidents?