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

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Our Immigration Policy at Work

A heart-wrenching human-interest story has gathered a lot of attention during the last few weeks. It is a typical David vs. Goliath story. A Filipino couple who immigrated to the United States in the early 1980s plays David. The Goliath is our own US government, who is doing what they do best: making Mount Everest out of a molehill.

The couple, Pedro and Salvacion Survano, filed for immigration to the United States in 1978. At the time they filled out the paperwork, the couple was not married. In the course of the time it took for the application to be approved – with typical government speed that has been recorded as somewhere between the crawling of the common snail and an extinct dinosaur - the couple married. The couple entered the United States, found jobs, raised a family, and became productive members of the community in Hummels Wharf, PA. The man became a pediatrician with the local medical center, while his wife ran an Asian grocery store.

All was going well until Pedro filed for naturalized citizen status in 1990. At this point, someone with the Immigration Service noted that their marital status was not marked correctly on the original application. This infraction is punishable by deportation. In the intervening years, the case has made its way through the various appeals process within the Immigration Service.

The last of those appeals has been exhausted and it now appears that the couple will be deported, and the family (2 boys, 2 girls) will be broken up. Since the children were all born in the United States they will not be subject to deportation. Our government’s reaction seems way overblown considering it is over a tiny, unintentional error.

The Survanos most likely were not aware that their application needed to be updated once they married. There must be some sort of mechanism in place – a screening interview, a briefing, a meeting, a registered letter, or something - that would have alerted them that they needed to update their application once their living situation changed. Obviously, the Immigration Service fumbled and the Survanos never knew they needed to update their application until it was too late.

Okay, let’s get this straight. There are hundreds of illegal aliens entering this country and sapping our economic resources by taking jobs from Americans, getting medical care through taxpayer funded Medicaid programs, and probably not paying their own taxes if they are paid “under the table”. Meanwhile, the government is trying to throw out a couple who are not on the public dole, support themselves with good jobs, and pay taxes as good citizens. I don’t get it.

It would be pointless to plead for compassion in this case; after all, we are talking about the US government. How about common sense? Has the US government used any common sense in this case? Silly question; the answer is “of course not!”

The couple did get some good news this week. They have been given a 60 day reprieve from their deportation proceedings, while Senator Arlen Spector’s office looks into the matter. The Survanos last hope rests with special legislation that has been rarely used, and even more rarely approved. It seems a shame that it will take an act of Congress to ensure that a hard-working family like the Survanos stays in our great country.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Short Notes December 2007*


Our favorite grocery store manager, Mr. Whipple, passed away recently. In accordance with his final wishes, his remains will be squeezed between two giant rolls of toilet tissue.


A recent study of Japanese men showed that those who smoked had a greater incidence of hair loss. Several theories have been proposed as to why this is happening. One idea is that the nicotine interferes with circulation in the scalp and thus adversely affects the hair follicles. There is also the idea that smoking increases the production of estrogen in the male body.

If the estrogen idea proves to be true, then we will need to update the warnings on our cigarette packs. I’m thinking something along the idea of ”WARNING - STUDIES SHOW THAT LONG TERM CIGARETTE SMOKING CAN TURN YOU INTO A GIRL! EWWWW!” While this development may explain why the Marlboro Man showed a preference to ride sidesaddle in his later years, this new warning will likely appeal only to nine year-old boys. Females won’t be affected by this side effect of smoking, although they might applaud the step up the evolutionary chain for any male smokers who will invariably “cross over”.


Another recent report noted a decrease in the number of Chinese children being adopted in the United States. Many experts are blaming this trend on unfounded rumors that this year’s orphans have been coated with lead based paint.

(Ba-doom, ching! Thank you! I’m here all week!)


During the long holiday weekend, I saw two film news stories that disturbed me. The stories showed large crowds of people doing two very different activities. The contrast between their two activities made me shake my head in shame. I will decline to reveal on which network I saw these stories because I don’t want to reveal the network’s bias, and besides NBC Nightly News is not paying me for any advertising on this blog.

The first report showed people swimming for their lives in a river in Bangladesh. These people have nothing to their name - no shelter, no food, no water, no clothes – due to the devastating cyclones which hit their region a few weeks ago. It seems that this crowd was stampeding over a bridge to get aid when the bridge collapsed, sending everyone into the river. These people can’t get a break anywhere!

The next story showed massive amounts of Americans in another type of stampede - to get inside a store for the best Christmas bargains on Black Friday. These people, presumably, have everything - food, water, shelter, and clothes - yet they are trampling over each other to get more possessions! The commercialism and unfettered capitalism of the season is so ingrained in our national psyche that we can’t see where our correct priorities should be anymore.

Comparing these two stories in my mind was like a slap in my face. Something is very wrong with these two pictures. Somebody give me a “Bah Humbug!”

*I realize it’s still November. So I’m rushing the season! So sue me!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007: Gratitude for Life’s Little Moments

Once again, the end-of-the-year holidays are upon us and the rush to prepare for and celebrate them is as hectic as ever. First, there’s the stampede to the grocery store for the Thanksgiving feast. Within hours after that feast is concluded, the big gift-shopping race for Christmas (and Hanukkah) will begin. By the end of the holiday season, the human race will generate enough stress to power all the cars in the United States; that is, if stress-powered vehicles existed.

Then let’s consider my cat, Steven. A typical day for him is waking up with me to get his wet cat food. He will eat that, lick his lips, use his box, and then go back upstairs to my bed. There he will curl up for an endless series of catnaps. His day is now complete and it’s not even 5:30 in the morning!

I considered this last week as I watched him sleeping. I didn’t see Steven as being lazy, but rather as serene and tranquil. No cares, no worries, no least until evening when his stomach tells him its time to eat more wet cat food.

Sometimes I am envious of his lifestyle, but this particular day I felt grateful for being able to share this peaceful moment with him. The running around to get the material possessions that I think I need for my life didn’t seem important to me as I watched him. I realized that this time was unique and that any time we shared in the future would never be exactly like this one now.

This year, I am thankful for all the moments and opportunities I have had to grow as a person. I am thankful for everything life has given me so far. I have been fortunate to get a good education that has allowed me to get and keep my job, that adequately pays for all my needs (food, clothing, and shelter). I am also thankful for the comfort my house brings to me and those that mean the most to me. This comfort allows Steven to pass his days in quiet and serenity away from the madness of the outside world.

I am thankful for the experiences I have had with different people – some old friends, some new acquaintances — which have contributed to my life in one way or another.

I would be remiss if I did not express my thankfulness for the chance to spend time with my family, namely my mother and brother during this holiday. I am thankful that my mother is now recovering from her operations earlier this year. I am also thankful that I share my life with Anne Marie and our two cats. The three of them are an oasis of sanity in my crazy world. Anne Marie will cringe when she reads this sentimental bit, but it is from my heart.

Steven has moved off the bed. It must be time for his dinner. Have a happy Thanksgiving holiday everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Nostalgic Tears for the Zoo, Butch and Sundance, and Shrimp

Males are, as a societal expectation, not supposed to show emotions. Despite this restrictive constraint on our psychological well being, many of us do from time to time allow our eyes to “well up” or get teary or misty-eyed over some sort of sentimental moment or object. As we approach the holidays, these moments will become more numerous and possibly overwhelming.

One such time for me recently was the marking of John DeBella’s 25th anniversary of radio broadcasting in the Philadelphia market. In the early days here, his show was called The Morning Zoo. It was a wild and wonderful show with outrageous comedy bits and songs. He prefers to leave that past behind now, but on his anniversary he will treat his listeners to snippets of those old days. The nostalgia and sentiment over-powered me when I heard Roscoe Hollins' Stick Out Your Can, the national wake-up song (i.e., Monty Python’s Sit On My Face), and Nikki Hoi by Flo and Eddie.

I realize that this is a rather strange set of aural cues that aroused my tear ducts, but each one brought back good memories when I didn’t have as much as I do now (house, financial responsibilities). Still, it wasn’t a “simpler time” as many people would call it. Ronald Reagan was in the White House, most of us were reeling from the loss of a Beatle, and a new disease (AIDS) was spreading at an alarming rate. We can each pick and choose what memories we want to bring up regardless if the times were good or bad for us personally. For me, the Morning Zoo was a bright spot in my life at that time and I will always be grateful that it aired when it did.

Oh, there are other things that can make me misty-eyed. For one thing, I can see a story on the news about a young child being reunited with their parent who made it home from Iraq in one piece, or a pet finding a new home and I start sniffling. These events fit the traditional area of getting sentimental. Many of my blog readers might guess that I get teary-eyed whenever I open a new bottle of ketchup, or see peel 'n eat shrimp piled high on a buffet. This would be a correct assumption, although I’ll admit that these are both non-traditional scenarios bordering on the weird. So be it! You have your sentimental priorities and I have mine.

Then there is the case of my brother, who claims that he cries at the ending of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. I hope he’s kidding me, but Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? It’s certainly no Casablanca, but come on, let’s be reasonable here. I realize that we’re expected to root them on as they elude the authorities and they’re presented as likeable characters, but there’s still justice to be carried out, society must be protected and all those other long-arm-of-the-law cliches! Butch and Sundance have to die at the end. What kind of message would it send to young people if they were allowed to ride off into the sunset unscathed?

I’ll tell you the message this ending would send: this is real life. It’s true, children; many times the villains do not pay the price for their crimes. Case in point: Bill Clinton was impeached and saw his legacy dragged through the mud when he lied about a sexual dalliance. The next administration lied about weapons of mass destruction to get us into a futile war and Congress isn’t even batting an eye. Now this realization is enough to make me cry.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Letter to the Glorious Haliburton

Dear Haliburton:

Earlier this year, your company made a charge of $900 on my mother’s credit card. This was highly unusual, since my mother doesn’t normally order merchandise from a multi-conglomerate defense contractor such as you. It was also unusual because, at the time of purchase, my mother was staying at a nursing facility where she was recovering from hip surgery. My family determined that this was a fraudulent purchase.

Please don’t worry about my mother. She is doing better, although the charge was a shock to her poor old liberal heart. I should explain that she doesn’t realize the vital service your company performs in the war against terror. She has read the accounts in the liberal press about how there has been very little oversight and accounting for the money spent on the war in Iraq. Unfortunately, your company was named in several of these reports — erroneously no doubt — as possibly overcharging the Bush Administration for the war.

I myself have seen these reports, but I am not one to instantly believe everything I see printed in the press. In fact, I saw one estimate the other day that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq might cost this country $1.5 trillion! My, wars are getting so expensive anymore! I’m sure it’s all tied into the price of gasoline at the pumps. After all, our tanks and ships can’t be expected to run on water. Right?

I’m sure that your company will get a large chunk of this business because you’ve proven yourself invaluable to our country in her hour of need. You’ll probably receive $1.3 trillion of this amount, but I’m confident that you will have earned every penny before these wars are over. Obviously, the Bush Administration trusts you enough to hand over a blank check and allow you to fill in whatever denominations you see fit. I know your company has worked hard to gain and maintain this trust. As you can see, I am very skeptical about all these reports of Haliburton ripping off our government.

In any event, my mother is fine, and her credit card company has made the necessary adjustments to her account. It is now up to us to make things right and return the merchandise that you mistakenly shipped to my mother. This is to notify you that we are sending back said merchandise under separate cover:

9" paper plates (scalloped edging) 2 @ $325,
Plastic ware – knife, fork, spoon 1 pack @ $250.

Unfortunately, one of my cats got hold of the plastic wrapping around the utensils and chewed up the napkin that was included with the set. I apologize for this mishap.

Thank you for the service you perform in the name of patriotism.

PS – My mother and I would like you to pass our warmest regards to Dark Lord Cheney. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Political Round Up: November 2007

The following recent developments in the political world deserve our attention.

Bush Warns Pakistani Ruler to Reinstate the Country’s Constitution

The leader of Pakistan, Perez Musharref, recently suspended his country’s constitution in order to combat domestic upheaval and terrorist attacks. This prompted the international community to denounce Musharref’s suspension. Among those strongly condemning the constitutional crisis in Pakistan has been none other than our very own President, George W. Bush.

We should point out that Bush has also disregarded the US Constitution in the name of battling the threat of terrorists.

I really appreciate the concept of irony. When I heard this item, I wanted to burst out laughing at the hypocrisy of the Bush Administration. This is the type of material on which Will Rogers thrived. I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t because it just isn’t that funny.

Pat Robertson Endorses Rudy Giuliani for the Republican Presidential Nomination

Televangelist Pat Robertson, a longtime opponent of abortion, has endorsed Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is pro-choice. This development has many political observers scratching their heads. There are two possible explanations for Robertson’s endorsement.

The first possibility is that Robertson sees his influence on the national debate about evangelical issues slowly slipping away. He could be grabbing onto Giuliani’s coat tails for the last hurrah and he believes that Giuliani will be the Republican nominee when the dust settles.

The second possibility is that Robertson is becoming a senile old fool. I vote for the latter.

Evangelical Christians Going Green!

Apparently there is a growing number of evangelical Christians who are becoming more concerned about the world environment in general and global warming in particular. They now believe that they should be the environmental stewards for the planet. Well, folks, welcome to the 21st century!

Of course it’s easier for the Christians in this country to voice their concern about the environment now that Jerry Falwell has gone to his reward. I recall one Falwell interview in which he justified the evangelical’s movement apathy toward global warming by saying that God has promised us a better world. This is all well and good, but I always wondered why should the Heavenly Father give us a new world when He sees how we’ve trashed this one. I hope the Christian movement is sincere about their global concern, because they have proven themselves a force with which to be reckoned.

Get Thee Back to DC

There has been a small group of people gallivanting around the country trying to convince voters that they should be the next President of the United States. The problem is the election is nearly a year away and these people act like the voters need to make this decision tomorrow. The candidates started their various tours to raise funds for their campaigns, but now they’re actually debating each other and picking up endorsements like it actually means something right now. With this in mind, I make the following plea.

Dear Candidates: No one is paying attention to you at the moment. You started this process too damn early and you run the risk of burning out. Remember Howard Dean? He was building a good grass roots organization for his campaign this time four years ago. One embarrassing overplayed sound bite later, and his campaign was history!

A few of you need to get back to DC and keep the President from overstepping his power, again. I hope you realize that he and Darth Cheney are building a case to invade Iran. You need to STOP THEM, before they make the mideast even more unstable than it is now. Remember, you will be hired for the Presidency not only based on your promises, but also your past accomplishments. Oh yeah, apparently looks and personality matter too. In any case, stopping another unnecessary war will look good on your resume.

Sigh! January 20, 2009 seems so far away.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Don’t Make Me Turn Off That Heart Monitor

This week, Tuesday was an unproductive day for me. I came to this conclusion in the middle of the afternoon as I sat in a hospital emergency room with oxygen tubes up my nose, a blood pressure bladder constricted around my arm, an IV needle piercing my hand, and heart monitor jacks positioned on various parts of my body. All this was to confirm or rule out a suspected heart attack.

My problems started on the weekend, when I hauled heavy boxes in and out of the old family homestead in Catawissa. One of these containers was roughly the size and shape of King Tut’s sarcophagus that contained Christmas decorations. My Mom needed to sort through this box and, being the dutiful son, I dragged it around the side of the house up to the front door and into the living room.

The pain started Monday morning while I slept. It was on the right side of my chest, a fact that I emphasized several times to every medical professional I spoke to on Tuesday when I finally sought treatment. I described my symptoms to my doctor’s office and they didn’t feel they had the necessary equipment to determine my problem. They suggested I go to the nearest emergency room.

Once at the hospital, I waited nearly two hours, had some preliminary testing done (blood pressures, temperature, etc.), waited another hour before I was taken back into the emergency room where I was hooked up with no hope of escape. Here I sat for four hours while the nurses and doctors made their decision if I was going to live or not. For anyone who has ever spent time in an emergency room, then you know that there is nothing to pass the time except stare at the walls, count the cabinets on the wall, calculate the room dimensions by counting the ceiling tiles, and finally dozing off. There isn’t so much as a television to watch soaps on, let alone Jerry Springer. I had brought a book – a rather intellectual tome on the life of the 25th president of the United States, William McKinley — but that was out of my reach.

I resorted to thinking about several blog ideas I had. One sprang from the news that Britney Spears' mother would write a book about raising children. This was perplexing and amusing, since Britney’s efforts to maintain a good home environment for her own children has become the butt of many late night talk show jokes. I thought perhaps there were other books that never got written because, for one reason or another, their author was totally unsuitable for the task. I envisioned a top ten list of such titles, but I got stuck and never got beyond this one: “Feeling The Love: World Brotherhood in Ten Days” by Adolf Hitler.

I also had a similar case of writer’s block when I thought bizarre names for classic rock acts would also make an interesting blog topic. There was a time when we had such bands as Electric Prunes, Canned Heat, and Elephants Memory performing rock and roll music. My idea would be a similar top ten list of names that could have been suggested and/or tried before they finally settled on Bachman-Turner Overdrive. I could think of Bachman-Turner Gearbox, Bachman-Turner Liver Ice Cream, Bachman-Turner Fried Scrapple, and Bachman-Turner Frank and Reynolds before this idea dried up.

Once again, I abandoned these thoughts for a more worthwhile activity, namely moving my body around to alleviate the pain in my sore butt, and seeing how the heart monitor reacted to such movement. The usual pattern on the heart monitor shows one line going up at a steep angle, returning back to the middle of the chart where the pattern is completed with many tight, wiggly lines scrunched up close together. This is repeated several times as it travels across the screen, disappears, and almost immediately reappears at the left side of the screen again. I found my attempts at breaking the usual monotony to be very enlightening.

For example, moving one leg under the other produced a long line launching upwards like a rocket, break fast and hurtle head long to the very bottom of the screen. Then it returned to its normal mid-point pattern of tight squiggles. Waving my arm back and forth made the line bend like a wave that nearly crashed down on the middle squiggles, but instead resumed its straight crash dive to the bottom of the screen. Believe it or not, these experiments really broke the boredom of my afternoon. Obviously, I had waaaay too much time on my hands.

Shortly after this, the nurse came in with a Motrin and my discharge papers. They decided that my heart was fine, but I did strain a muscle somewhere in the general region. I dressed, signed some papers, and as I left, I looked back at the heart monitor and smiled. I couldn’t help wondering if my nephews would be surprised to see a heart monitor underneath their Christmas tree this year. Hmm, I wonder if they’re available at Best Buy...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Blog Entry #200: The Story So Far

(Cue John Williams classic science fiction score)

And it came to pass that the Empire leadership had low approval ratings, but that did not stop them from grasping for more power.

Darth Rove returned to his home planet of Texas, leaving Darth Cheney behind to calculate massive oil profits for his cronies once the mideast is further de-stabilized by an invasion of Iran.

Meanwhile, Princess Condi attempts to broker a peace between the warring countries and still keep an appointment with her orthodontist to get that annoying gap in her teeth filled.

Meanwhile the Rebel Alliance is threatened by bitter infighting between the various wings of the Democratic Party. The heir apparent, Hillary, is bothered by her past support of the war in Iraq and the fact that many people find her obnoxious.

Meanwhile, Anakin W. sits in the Oval Office and puts two pieces of paper together with a paper clip because he believes it is a nifty idea.

Meanwhile poor children cannot get health insurance, bridges are falling into rivers, and the middle class sinks deeper into poverty and gas prices keep rising. Yet, we are the lucky ones to be living in this country at this time in history.

To be continued...

(Music out)

Friday, November 02, 2007

Sleep Studies

A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer reported the differences in sleep patterns between men and women. The study found that many couples sleep in separate rooms owing to women being light sleepers. It is all due to evolution down through thousands of years. The article explained that women have evolved to be alert for dangers to their offspring, even when they are asleep.

The article was fascinating, but I felt we should do more personal research on the matter. Therefore, we at the Gunther Institute for Waking Up in the Middle of the Night and Shouting Notable Internet News Up to Our Slumbering Spouse concocted a series of experiments to test this theory. We chose several different scenarios with accompanying sound and/or dialogue effects to ascertain the reaction of the sleeping person.

Anne Marie went first. As she slept, I prodded Meredith to meow loudly as she often does in the middle of the night. Anne Marie awoke, raised her head long enough to see that Meredith was all right, and fell back asleep. Next, Meredith rubbed her paws repeatedly on Anne Marie’s closed bedroom door, creating an annoying squeaking sound. My wife’s reaction was the same as before: raise head, look around, back to sleep.

Next I tried a loud sound effect: dropping a pile of pots and pans on the kitchen floor. Anne Marie’s reaction was different from the two previous experiments, but not totally unexpected. She woke, yelled down a question to me in language that would make a sailor blush, and fell back asleep without further comment.

The most startling reaction when I yelled a request to her in the middle of the night, “Dear, I’m thirsty. Can I have a drink?” Anne Marie did not react at all and remained asleep. I tried another line, “Yo, get me a beer!” Still no reaction; in fact I could now hear snoring and I thought I saw a smug smile of satisfaction on her face. This is in sharp contrast to the Worship Your Husband study performed at the Institute of Sex Exploitation (1957) in which wives dutifully jumped out of bed and raced to the refrigerator to get a nice, cold Schlitz for their man. Truly, that was a simpler time.

Then it was my turn to be the sleeper. The scenarios for me ranged from the loud crash of dishes in the kitchen, recording of Harley-Davidson motorcycles screaming down the road, loud rock music suddenly cranked up on my clock radio, to Steven jumping up on my bed and walking all over me. Strangely, my reaction to all these scenarios were the same: spring bolt upright, unhook my CPAP mask in one graceful motion, and yell at the top of my lungs, “What the hell is going on?” Apparently I’m also a light sleeper, which contradicts the conclusion of the previous studies. This could also be another example of my being in touch with my feminine side, but there is nothing wrong with that.

Conclusion: disregard studies about who sleeps where and what the quality of that sleep is wherever people choose to lie down. The important thing is to get plenty of rest so that you’re not such a bitch/son-of-a-bitch to those who truly matter to you. Also make sure your loved ones get plenty of rest so that they can treat you in kind. Who knows, if everyone did this there might be more peace in the world.

So, go to bed everyone! Now! No arguments! Good night!