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

My Photo
Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Monday, July 30, 2007

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain – Part Two

Historical theory: the following phone conversation may or may not have occurred on July 30, 2007 between two high ranking members of the Bush Administration.

Place: The White House, where a phone is ringing.

Karl: Good morning, White House.

Dubya: Oh good, Karl. I found you at least. Where’s Dick? I haven’t been able to reach him all weekend.

Karl: Well, sir, he had heart surgery on Saturday. He was tied up, so to speak.

Dubya: Heart surgery? Why wasn’t I notified?

Karl: Sir, calm down. Dick didn’t mention it to you? I’m surprised you didn’t know anything about it. Everyone else knew about it. It was in all the papers...

Dubya: Karl, you know darn well I don’t read newspapers. What I mean is, isn’t there something in the Constitution about situations like this? You know, where power needs to be transferred during times when the leader is incapacitated...?

Karl: Well, sir that really wouldn’t...

Dubya: In fact, I know it’s in the Constitution. I just can’t think what a...a...what do you call it?

Karl: Amendment, sir?

Dubya: That’s it, amendment! Where’s my copy? Oh, here it is, sticking out of the top of my shredder. Now give me a minute to piece these shreds together and I’ll figure it out...

Karl: Sir, it’s the 25th amendment, and it doesn’t apply in this case.

Dubya: Here’s one clause I got, “President shall not...wage...war...without...permission...from...Wall Street?
That doesn’t sound right! When did that get into the Constitution? Oh, I see what happened. I must have put two pieces of paper together that shouldn’t be put together.

Karl: Sir, the amendment you’re thinking of doesn’t apply in this case since Dick is the Vice President. It applied last weekend when you had your colonoscopy and you had to pass power to him. It went from you, the President, to him, the Vice President. You’re the President!

Dubya: Oh, I am? I mean, I knew that! Still, you know how much I depend on Dick! He’s practically my right side.

Karl: You mean your right hand man, sir!

Dubya: That too! I don’t know what to do without him around. What do you mean Ask again?

Karl: Oh, sir, you don’t give yourself enough credit for...what did you just say?

Dubya: Huh, oh, nothing. What I’m trying to say is, I’m lost without Dick. He helps me make the tough decisions, which means he helps me make decisions that aren’t easy. It is certain. What the heck do you mean It is certain?

Karl: Sir, I didn’t say anything...sir, are you using your Magic Eight Ball again?

Dubya: What? Me, the head decider using a children’s toy to make decisions?

Karl: Sir?

Dubya: All right, all right! I am using the Eight Ball. So what? I’m the President! I can use whatever means are available to me to do my Constitutional duty.

Karl: Well, sir, that’s true, but the Eight Ball...

Dubya: Nixon used to talk to those portraits of Lincoln in the hallway. Nobody told him he couldn’t do that...

Karl: Sir, my point is...

Dubya: And what about FDR? He probably poured his heart out to that little black dog of his...

Karl: The dog’s name was Fala, sir!

Dubya: Follow! Right, you do follow me. You see what I’m saying. People like Dick and you are very valuable to me. It is certain. Darn this thing! Maybe if I shake it around a bit...

Karl: Sir, put the Eight Ball down. You don’t need it. Dick will be back to work soon. In the meantime, you are still the leader of the free world. You are perfectly capable of making decisions on your own.

Dubya: I know, you’re right, Karl. I can always depend on you to say the right thing, you ole turd blossom you.

Karl: Yes sir. It is certain.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Oscar – Death Predictor

A heart warming, human interest story has come to light in the past few days about a cat living in a hospice facility in Providence, Rhode Island. His name is Oscar, and the staff at this facility has noticed something unusual about him. When Oscar senses that a patient’s death is imminent, he will curl up with them on the bed. Death has occurred within two to four hours in twenty-five cases observed by the staff.

Okay, so this story is not so much heart warming in a feel good, life affirming way, but you have to admit it’s definitely interesting.

The story, which first surfaced in the New England Journal of Medicine and has been featured on the Spanish language Univision television network, speculated how Oscar is able to do this. Some believe he senses something by sniffing the patient, or he notices a change in the behavior of the nurses caring for the patient. I would like to offer my own twisted theory. Perhaps Oscar is responding to instinct, some strain of DNA that harkens back to his ancestors on the Serengeti Plain, who would hover near a dying creature because they sense a free lunch is about to be prepared.

Regardless of the reason, the staff of the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center see Oscar’s talent as a good thing. Whenever they see Oscar sit next to a patient on their bed, they will notify the patient’s family to come say goodbye. In this sense, it is good and reports say that family members have been grateful for the notification to be with their loved one during their final moments.

I could not help but see myself in such a situation someday. I’d be dozing in my bed one day at the facility and I would wake up to see Oscar curled up between my legs. I would smile, talk lovingly to him, stroke his head, and tell him he’s a good boy. Then the nurse would walk in and say to me, “Don’t worry, Mr. Gunther. Your family is on their way here now.”

“My family?”, I would ask, “Why are they coming?”

“To say goodbye. Oscar is with you and whenever he does that, the patient dies within a few hours,” the nurse replies.

“What?”, I would scream, “No, no. He’s wrong! Bad Oscar! Bad cat!”

Then I would leap out of bed in such a way as not to startle Oscar. After all, I don’t want to offend anyone who has already pegged me for imminent death, lest that anyone decides to take matters into their own paws. Once out of bed (and wincing because my knee smacked into my bed tray on my way to the floor), I would do a few dance steps I remember from the Bloomsburg Players production of Carousel (1979). Of course, these steps would be performed with utmost precision and pain. I would ignore the creaking of my hip joints, and act oblivious to the fact that my jump disconnected me from my IV drip and my heart monitor, even though the monitor would be giving out a loud, incessant high-pitched screech at this point.

“See Oscar, ouch!”, I would yell as I danced. “Does this – oww – look like someone who is – grunt – dying?”

I can see Oscar now, sitting up, stretching his back and yawning. It turns out that Oscar is not only a predictor of death, but he’s also a dance critic. He would continue to watch my pathetic dance of denial and look at me as if he’s saying, “Get back in bed, loser. Come on! You’ll ruin my record if you don’t die soon.”

Perhaps Oscar and I will never cross paths, which is just as well. I am grateful for the service he is performing at the facility. I hope that, when his time comes, one of the staff members will lay down next to him and give him the same comfort he’s given all of these families during their hour of need. Good cat!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Last Weekend (or Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain)

Historical theory: the following conversation may not have taken place, but could have taken place on July 23, 2007.

Place: The White House, Washington, DC.

Karl: “Hey, Dick! How was your weekend?”

Dick: “Great, Karl. Didn’t you hear the news?”

Karl: “No, what?”

Dick: “I was officially in charge for a couple of hours!”

Karl: “Really? How did that happen?”

Dick: “The 25th Amendment had to be invoked when they put Wonder Boy under anesthesia for a colonoscopy.”

Karl: “Wow! How did it feel?”

Dick: “Not much different from any other day, except I didn’t feel like I needed to hide behind a curtain and pull strings constantly.”

Karl: “So, what did you do while you were in charge?”

Dick: “First, I wrote an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal, outing every CIA agent that ever contradicted us. I submitted it under John Kerry’s name. Then I had the Justice Department declare every Congressional race lost by the Republicans last November null and void. This morning we now have a 100% Republican Congress – both houses! Next I awarded all open contracts for the rebuilding of Iraq to Haliburton. Then, to top things off, I had all of the liberal justices on the Supreme Court fired and replaced them all with conservative judges.”

Karl: “S-w-e-e-t! Did you really do all that in two hours?”

Dick: “No, but I wanted to do it. That damn Constitution again...always getting in the way of our fun. Actually, I just watched sailboats flow down the Chesapeake Bay while I read a few chapters from the latest Harry Potter book. How about you? What did you do last weekend?”

Karl: “Oh, just some garden work. Replacing the flowers trampled down by the media...oh, that’s my phone, excuse me. Hello...oh, good morning, sir...I don’t know...let me ask Dick...yes, he’s right here...(puts the phone to his chest) It’s George Dubya. He wants to know if there is anything for him to do today?”

Dick: “Oh, I don’t know. I haven’t gotten to my office yet. Tell him I’ll call him back.”

Karl: “What should he do in the meantime?”

Dick: “Oh, tell him anything. Tell him not to talk to the press or take any calls until he hears from me. I know! He could shred a few subpoenas. He’ll enjoy that!”

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Conversation with Steven

Our cats, Steven and Meredith, are very important to Anne Marie and me. They are our children, and we spoil them as much as we can. Recently, Steven and I had a lengthy chat about life in general. Our conversation went something like this.

STEVEN: “Meow?”

ME: “I know you’re tired of eating salmon every night, but it is very good for you. Actually, you made a good suggestion about other flavors that should be sold. Believe me, your mother and I have searched the supermarket shelves for marinated starling, chopped sparrow, roasted breast of robin redbreast, and minced squirrel, but they simply don’t exist at this time. Tell you what, let’s write these flavors down and submit them to Ralston-Purina for their consideration. I’m sure they would appreciate your suggestions.”

STEVEN: “Meow?”

ME: “Really? I thought catnip was catnip, regardless of where it came from. I had no idea that the catnip from South America was that potent. We’ll have to look into that for you. I guess the good old domestic nip doesn’t cut it anymore, eh?”

STEVEN: “Meow?”

ME: “Good question! Simply put, the President is an idiot!”

STEVEN: “Meow! Meow?”

ME: “Oh, Steven, how can you think such a thing? Obviously, you’ve never seen the Zapruder film. Look let me demonstrate for you…”

(At this point I reconstructed the Kennedy assassination using a catnip toy as the presidential motorcade, a kitty climbing tower as the book depository, and a small orange kitty tent as the grassy knoll. I also used small velvet mouse toys to stand in for the President and First Lady, and the Connallys. Unfortunately for my presentation, Meredith came running through, grabbed up the Jackie Kennedy mouse with her teeth and took off. Despite my best efforts at this visual demonstration, Steven still believes in the lone gunman theory.)

STEVEN: “Meow?”

ME: “The meaning of life? Oh, that’s an easy one, Steven. The answer is 42. If you don’t believe me, look it up in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

STEVEN: “Meow?”

ME: “Hmm, I don’t know if an ultimate cat exists. I mean, we humans have a God that we believe has some control over our lives, but I’ve never heard of an omniscient, omnipresent feline. I suppose one could exist…but it doesn’t matter to me if you believe in one or not. I’ll always love you as my own precious cat.”

STEVEN: “Meow! Purrrrrrrr!”

ME: “Yes, I’m glad we had this little talk too!”

Monday, July 16, 2007

…And to Hell with Everyone Else!

Thank God I don’t believe in any organized religion!

If I did believe in any set of beliefs, then I might have been offended by the Vatican’s latest announcement that Roman Catholicism is the only true church. This is not a new statement, but in fact meant to be a correction of an interpretation from Vatican II. In particular, the Protestant beliefs are singled out as false because they do not offer salvation. I realize what the Pope is trying to do – restating some old church traditions to bring more of the faithful back to the fold – but unfortunately he is doing this at the cost of everyone else’s cherished beliefs.

Now it would be too easy for me to take the low road against this latest attempt at ethnocentrism and make catty little comments like:

In an unofficial, off-the-record statement, the Pope was heard to say, “We’re going to heaven and you’re not! Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah!”

Or I could rewrite the Spike Jones hit “Der Fuehrer’s Face” with the new words:
“When the Pope says we have the best beliefs/Sieg heil (thbtp)/Heil (thbtp)/Right in the Pope’s face!”

Or I could question his authority, “Hey! Who died and made you Pope?” Of course the answer would be a bunch of old guys in pointy hats, some of which could be members of NAMBLA that didn’t get caught (yet).

However, all that would not be very subtle and could possibly negate all of my previous blog entries about tolerance of other people’s beliefs. So I won’t go there. Instead, I will point out that many people may interpret the Vatican statement as well, you know, intolerant of other religions.

I apologize now if any of the previous statements appear to be anti-Catholic in tone, but at the moment the Pope appears to me to be anti-everyone else.

As a historian, I can’t help but see where this could possibly lead. Heightened attitudes of ethnocentrism – or the thought that the culture to which one belongs is superior to all other cultures – can lead to expressions and actions of bigotry and prejudice. These actions could possibly lead to more extreme measures like genocide. I can’t help but notice that all this has happened before.

Maybe I’m naïve, but I thought religion should be a core set of cherished beliefs and values that one holds to help them cope with life and live peacefully with others. Unfortunately, religion is constantly used by people to confirm their “Hooray for me, and to hell with everyone else” attitude. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I thought that religion should be used to bring all people closer together under a universal belief in God, or whatever the case may be.

I think this latest statement will trouble at least two groups: the evangelical Christians in America and Muslim extremists. The Christian groups, comprised mostly of those Protestants, has been a rather feisty lot now for nearly thirty years. In this case, I won’t blame them if they condemn the Pope for his words. After all, many Protestants do invest a lot of time and money in their spiritual growth, and I doubt that they will take kindly to the idea that they belong to a false church.

As for the extremist Muslims – as opposed to the mainstream Muslims who are content to coexist with everyone else – this latest Vatican edict will just confirm to him or her that their goal of killing Christians is justified. I can understand their goal, but I don’t condone it. Historically, Christians haven’t been very kind to the Islamic culture. I just don’t think it’s a good idea to tick off the extremists any more than necessary, particularly since they demonstrated their inability to land aircraft correctly a few years ago.

Perhaps no one will be offended by the Vatican statement and it will be dismissed as just the misguided ramblings of a doddering old man. Still, I feel compelled to make a suggestion to His Holiness: It seems to me that you’ve been working too hard lately. Perhaps you should extend your vacation a few more weeks. Oh, and one more thing, watch out for low flying aircraft.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Loser’s Banquet

Line up the bottles of champagne, uncork them all, let them sit for a few days until all the bubbles fizz away, and the drink is left flat. Fry up some cheesesteaks and put them aside until they’re cold and stale. Then take a rack of soft pretzels and allow them to harden overnight. Now we have all the elements needed for a loser’s banquet.

The occasion for this banquet is the 10,000th loss by the Philadelphia Phillies in franchise history. This milestone is a first for any professional sports team anywhere in the world. Their next loss will ring up the magic 10,000 for the team. This could be the day that no one has been waiting for over 130 years.

Imagine, no other team can claim this honor. Sure, fans of the Chicago Cubs can moan and groan about no World Series championship, but even they haven’t lost this many games. Many Phillies fans may despair after today’s loss and wallow in their misery with which they are all too familiar. This misery has been ongoing for years, no, decades after decades of bad ball playing.

As a lifelong Phillies fan, I can take some comfort. Yes, I do see a silver lining in reaching the 10,000-loss mark. No, I am not smoking any controlled substance, but I am prepared to see this event through the biggest pair of rose-colored glasses that mankind has ever produced. I’m going to put such a spin on this that it will make Karl Rove envious.

I acknowledge that the Phillies have lost a lot of games in their history, but they’ve always won many games during that period. They are still doing better than other teams in the area. For example, there are the Phillies’ uptown rivals, the Philadelphia Athletics. I know for a fact that the Philadelphia Athletics have not won a game in over 53 years. Hell, they don’t even have a stadium anymore; a church stands on that site now. Yet we are not celebrating their won/loss record. Granted – as many of you will doubtless point out – the Philadelphia Athletics have not played in Philadelphia since they moved to Kansas City in 1954. Still, this is my blog, and I will spin this anyway I can.

Okay, the Phillies continually disappoint their fans year after year, decade after decade, century after century, but it’s not the end of the world. Phillies fans return year after year, eternally hopeful that the new season would be the season their beloved team will become champions. Today’s loss will be historical. It should be acknowledged, but not necessarily celebrated. This should be a starting point, not to praise failure, but to renew our faith in the Phillies.

I realize that this is a little like the Cheney administration (ooops, I mean the Bush administration) acknowledging that many Iraqis have died since we invaded their country. However, they would point out that there are still many more live Iraqis than dead Iraqis today. Now, that is a superior spinning of the facts.

Yes, we may despair that our beloved Phillies will hit this dubious milestone, but we must always keep in mind that no matter what, we are still alive at the end of the day. Our hearts are still beating and we will survive this disappointment and come back tomorrow, ready to face new challenges. So what if Ryan Howard doesn’t get a home run in every game. So what if Pat Burrell may get a hit one inning, then drop an easy fly out in left field in the next inning. So what if the bullpen sucks one day, and the next day...suck even worse.

Many people will see this as crazy, but I insist that this renewal will be indicative of the true spirit of what it means to be a Philadelphian. Native Philadelphians are often beaten down by jokes and disrespect, but always willing to jump back up and fight on. This loss should not necessarily be the landmark of despair that many of us will make it out to be. Instead, we should look at it as just another small bump on that twisting, winding road to the sweet destination of success.

In the meantime, I’m thirsty. Somebody pass the flat champagne to me.

Monday, July 09, 2007


When Anne Marie and I moved back to Pennsylvania, we met the nicest group of neighbors that we could’ve hoped for. One of these neighbors, the Heberts, owned a small flock of cats of various types and ages. One of the cats, mostly white with a brown spot here and there, was originally named Boy. We’ve always known him as Woobie.

Although each of the humans in the immediate neighborhood paid for the land we lived on, we all knew that Woobie was the real owner. He certainly acted like he was the real owner, strutting around our property and the two adjacent properties each day. He patrolled and surveyed his kingdom with all the dignity and grace of an aging monarch.

I must admit one thing: Woobie was an absolute terror on the local wildlife. Birds trembled at his sight; mice and voles would have to be on their guard constantly when he was outside. Obviously, Woobie felt this was part of his job; part of his reason to exist was to keep these little critters on their toes. He made sure that they would not harm his humans, or his human friends living within his territory.

Of course, the wildlife would strike back on occasion. At various times Woobie would have a run-in with a groundhog or a squirrel. When this happened Woobie would get a few days off, recuperating at the local vet, and coming home with medications to ward off any infections from his wounds. Each of these episodes probably took away one of Woobie’s proverbial nine lives, but he didn’t let it deter him. He was always back on the job within a few days, patrolling and protecting his property like nothing happened.

Woobie reached the end of his ninth life over the weekend. He had been ill with diabetes for awhile and recently all of us noticed that he was losing weight. He hadn’t lost his zest for hunting, but his health was declining nevertheless. All of us who knew him agree that after fifteen years he had lived a good, long life.

Woobie, I will miss seeing you walk across my driveway in the morning as I leave for work. Once I saw you fertilize a flowerbed near my garage. Your mother chastised you for being rude, but I didn’t mind. After all, it was more than I had ever done for those flowers.

I will miss you at your parents’ barbecues, jumping up on my seat, and sniffing the air for the aroma of meat coming from the grill.

I will miss watching you walk your parents around your property every night, at your insistence.

Mostly, I will miss those very rare occasions when you would rub your back on our sidewalk, and invite us to scratch your head. You leave us with many wonderful memories and a kingdom of critters to fend off for ourselves. Don’t worry about them; we’ll take care of them in your memory.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

“…And It’s A Beautiful Day in Fairfax County” – Part Two

Our tourist is probably feeling hungry now that we’ve gone to a few historical sites and attended a concert. There are many wonderful restaurants for our tourist to fill his stomach and quench his thirst. I have some great memories of a small Italian restaurant called Generous George’s Positive Pizza and Pasta Place. The unique thing about Generous George’s is they serve the pasta dishes on top of a baked pizza crust. Carbs ahoy! All the pastas are good and the portions are plentiful, but my favorite was a shrimp primavera. Generous George’s is very family friendly. It is gaudily decorated with bright colors (think neon pink and green) and the occasional carousel horse mounted in the middle of the room.

We now head to the northern part of Fairfax County. Here the cost of living is slightly higher and the neighborhoods are more upscale. Many high ranking government officials live in this part of the county. Here you can see such sights as the flowerbed trampled by reporters as they tried to get a response from presidential adviser Karl Rove. Or the street where Ken Starr jogged while humming “Bringing in the Sheaves” to himself and plotting the overthrow of the Clinton administration.

This part of the county is also home to several government agencies, as well as the contractors, sub-contractors, and sub-sub-contractors which the government utilizes to keep this great county of ours running. It’s either that or the biggest damn money pit for most of our taxes. Taxpayer money is sucked down into this pit, where it is never accounted for and never seen again.

A very important branch of the federal government is also located in northern Fairfax County. No, I’m not referring to the office of the vice president, but I am talking about the National Rifle Association. This branch is not mentioned in the Constitution, but it is nevertheless highly influential. The executive branch very rarely makes a move without an okay from the NRA. If this group doesn’t approve of an administration half-baked idea – like an ill-conceived war in Iraq – then it doesn’t happen. Okay, obviously the administration got that one past the NRA, but otherwise their word is final!

It’s fitting that the NRA should have its headquarters in Fairfax County, since the county serves as the gateway to the rest of the Commonwealth of Virginia, or as many liberals refer to it, “the wild, wild west.” Here, guns are plentiful and the popular attitude is tote your guns anywhere and anytime. Sadly, such events as the Virginia Tech shootings throw a damper on this Second Amendment utopia, but fortunately they can result in common sense compromises of the extremely lax gun laws that Virginia values highly.

This then is the wonder of Fairfax County, a buffer between the Washington Beltway mentality and the reality known and cherished by the rest of the world. It is here that our tourist leaves us, weary from his travails, but wiser in the ways and means of the federal bureaucracy. Now, as the sun sets on our beautiful day in Fairfax County, we bid farewell with the traditional inner Beltway greeting heard by many drivers as they navigate the major roads of the county:

“Get the hell out of my way! My time is way more important than yours!”

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


The scene: a quiet evening at the home of two American intelligence agents somewhere outside the continental United States.

FIRST AGENT (FA): Hey, knock off for the night. American Idol is coming on over the satellite.

SECOND AGENT (SA): I’ll be there! I’m finishing this communiqué to Langley. This info about the next terrorist attack could save hundreds of lives.

FA: Relax, James Bond! It doesn’t matter anyway.

SA: Doesn’t matter? Didn’t you hear what I just said?

FA: Yeah, I know, hundreds of lives, blah, blah, blah. Maybe you didn’t hear the news. Libby got his sentence commuted by the President.

SA: What? The guy who was convicted of lying to Congress about outing the CIA agent in the media? That Libby?

FA: That one!

SA: But that’s incredible! Doesn’t the President realize what he just did?

FA: The President probably believes he did it as a humanitarian gesture out of respect for Libby’s family.

SA: Humanitarian gesture? What about a humanitarian gesture towards us, towards our families, to say nothing of the actual fighting men and women on the front lines. Will he betray them too?

FA: Easy! Calm down!

SA: How can I calm down? All of the intelligence work we do, all the lives we could save, is all for nothing if he allows his people to tell the world who spies for us. Of all the arrogance...

FA: I know, but the President was within his power to commute the sentence.

SA: Fine, but was it a wise use of his power? I don’t believe this.

FA: I know what you’re saying. Finish your communiqué.

SA: Oh, I’ll finish it tomorrow.

FA: What about all the lives that could be saved?

SA: What about them? What should I care about lives when the White House doesn’t even care?

FA: Hey, the Fourth of July fireworks are coming on.

SA: Why do I want to watch fireworks?

FA: To remind us what a great country we work for? (Both laugh.)

SA: Oh, right. I forgot!