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, December 29, 2008


The outgoing chief of the FCC, Kevin Marvin, may not have a peaceful time as his controversial tenure winds down to its termination date on January 20. In fact, he may have to rule on a local controversy: Chase Utley’s dropping the “f-bomb” during the Philadelphia Phillies celebration of their World Series victory at Citizens Bank Park. The incident was televised on all of the local stations without — we later found out — an eight second time delay that would’ve allowed the stations to bleep the offending word out.

Oh well! What happened has happened and we can’t take it back or undo it. Utley himself has apologized for saying it with an explanation that yes, it is a bad word and he shouldn’t have used that term to express his joy. Yet these facts aren’t stopping some people (28 in all) from lodging complaints with the FCC. The suggestions for suitable punishment range from fines to stripping the stations of their broadcasting licenses. There are several problems with these suggestions.

Fines have become meaningless. Most broadcasters are owned by huge conglomerates with high priced lawyers who can - and have - beat the rap. The suggestion to pull broadcasting licenses would virtually wipe out all local stations in the area, since all the stations carried the incident from the same feed, Sportsnet. To add insult to injury, the Sportsnet channel — for reasons beyond my comprehension - cannot be held liable for the broadcast, but the local stations can be fined or suspended. Go figure!

We can’t take back what’s been said, but we can soften any alleged damage that may have occurred. One caller asked the FCC how they can explain this incident to their children. How can they tell their offspring about “that” word? This is where I wish to offer some suggestions to this caller and all others like them facing this tough situation. I am doing this as a public service, and anyone with this dilemma can thoughtfully consider my ideas, or dismiss me as a total whacko.

A parent could try the direct approach, “It’s an adult slang term for a form of communication where one person wants to get real, real, real close to someone they really, really, really like.” Please feel free to cut down or add more “reals” and “reallys” as you see fit. I realize that this could lead to more questions from the child such as, “By communication, do you mean intercourse?”

If this happens, your child is obviously more sophisticated than you realize, but you’re not necessarily screwed. You have still opened up an important line of communication between you and your child. At this point, you may want to let out a heavy sigh — heavy sighs are very important and cannot be over emphasized - and resign yourself to the fact that it’s time for “the talk.” Sorry, I can’t help you out there.

There is also the chance that your child — in this day of massive mass communications bombarding their world — could tell you more about the “eff” word than you yourself know about the word. This should not be a problem as you have still opened up a line of communication between yourself and your child. Who knows, you might learn a few things from them.

Then there are also the tried and true methods parents have used over the years. You could tell them simply, “It’s a bad word, and if I hear you use it around here, I will withhold your allowance and suspend your playing privileges.” (By the way, this method never worked.) Or you could just tell them, “Oh, go ask your friends at school! You were going to find it our there anyway!”

I realize it’s not an easy situation for many parents. Everyone would like to protect their children from the evils of the outside world as long as possible, but the obvious solution — keeping them at home bound and gagged in the hall closet until they are eighteen — is not practical, and I’m pretty sure it’s also extremely illegal. In any event, the ensuing dialogue between adult and child should be an opportunity for both sides to grow as human beings. Don’t shrink away from this challenge and don’t go telling government agencies what they can do with broadcasters that offend your ears. And, if you do, don’t be surprised if other citizens of this great country of ours tell you, “Aw, go eff yourself.”

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Are You Ready for This Day?

Do yourself a favor today and take a moment just for you, away from everyone and everything else. Away from the opened gifts and dirty dishes of the holiday meal...away from the glitz and glitter of the decorations in your home.

Sit back, relax and close your eyes. Tune out any noises from beyond your room, and shut down all of your other senses, if possible. Take a few deep breaths and clear your mind.

Clear your head by dropping thoughts from your brain. Forget about the stress of the season, the anxiety of all the shopping you had to do for everyone for whom you felt obligated to get gifts. Forget about these material things, both the gifts you received and the gifts you gave.

Forget about all the wrongs you believe someone did against you in the past year. Forget about the driver that cut you off in traffic; forget about the train conductor that made life inconvenient for you while you rode on his train; and forget about all the nasty calls you had to endure in the course of performing your daily work. In short, forget all the trials and tribulations you lived through during the last twelve months.

Instead, remember the good things that happened to you this year. Relive the major events in your mind: your birthday, an anniversary, or any special event that lifted your mood beyond the usual day-to-day stresses. Also remember those special moments when someone else did something nice for you, and yes, by all means, remember the good deeds you did for others.

Remember that each one of the people you know has contributed in some way to your life. This could be anyone: a spouse, children, parents, a friend, a lover, or even the pets that depend on you for their well being. You, in turn, have contributed to their lives. You are not the person you are today without their influence, and they are not the people they are without your guidance.

Remember all the gifts you get throughout the year do not always come wrapped in ribbons and shiny wrapping. Remember the gift of a rainy day; it may be gloomy, but it is enriching the earth. Remember that a sunny day can be unbearably hot, but it’s the sunshine that gives us the wonderful trees and beautiful flowers that we adore so much. Also remember that, while a snowy day can be bitterly cold, the snow itself should be appreciated for its beauty and tranquility.

Keep these thoughts in mind as you contemplate the wonder of today. Keep in mind that each one of us could use these thoughts not just today, but every day throughout the year. Keep in mind that tomorrow — the day after Christmas — I will embark on a campaign to drive humanity crazy by asking everyone I meet, “Are you ready for Christmas?”

Sorry, but all this talk about gifts and beauty and wonder and rain and sunshine was getting a bit mushy. I had to do something...

Anyway, seriously, please keep these thought in mind: Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Peace!

Monday, December 22, 2008

My Christmas Wish List for the Most Influential People of 2008

Dear Santa:

Please consider the following gift suggestions for these influential people on Christmas.

Sarah Palin...a brain! Sorry, but she’ll need more than a great pair of legs and a $180,000 wardrobe to make a lasting impression on the national political scene.

Joe Biden...a copy of H.G. Wells' Outline of History. If his pre-election gaffes are any indication of his grasp of American history, then he can start with this book to reacquaint himself with the subject.

Banking executives...castration! These executives still accepted multi-million dollar bonuses and kept some of their perks even as their companies showed signs of failure. These are the same banks that begged for - and got - money from Congress a few months ago. If they have the balls to do this, then they shouldn’t mind missing one or two.

Dick Cheney...a heart. No, not a new one to replace his diseased organ, but rather the type of heart that comes with a conscience. It’s the type that will allow him to think back on the last eight years, and then ask himself, “My God! What have I done?” On second thought, this might be even too much for you to handle. Maybe you can give him his own country that he can run into the ground...

Senate all-expense paid weekend to Detroit! (We can charge it to the bankers). They’ll see how blue collar workers — the real backbone of American industry — are faring during the recession, on this fun-filled, action-packed, fact-finding mission. They should leave their credit cards at home for this trip. Downtown Detroit has a reputation for being rough.

John McCain...a series of town hall meetings with (hand picked) young Republicans who will thrill to his wonderful stories about the good old days of the GOP, namely the Reagan Administration!

Barack Obama...courage and all the luck in the world! He’s going to need all the luck he can get to save us from this mess!

George W. Bush..a cure for his short term memory loss. The poor fellow must be suffering from amnesia. He’s forgotten about how badly he’s screwed up the country during the last eight years.

No, wait, Santa! I have another idea. If you give Sarah a brain, Dick a heart, and Obama courage, then you can give George...a pair of ruby red slippers! Yes, think about this! He’ll put them on Christmas Day, click his heels three times, and chant, “There’s no place like home” over and over. Before we know it, he’ll wake up at his ranch in Crawford TX, and we’ll have the first three weeks of peace since he took office eight years ago. Please, Santa, oh please. Give George the slippers! Please! I’m begging you, Santa...

(EDITOR'S NOTE: We will stop this entry here. Mr. Gunther is becoming hysterical and obviously we need to re-evaluate his medication. In the meantime...Happy Holidays!)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Melting Frosty

It’s time for my annual commentary on some aspect of the holiday season. In past years, I have offered my profound opinion on the holiday songs. Or, more accurately, I ripped them to shreds. This year, I wish to clear up a few misconceptions about the timeless television holiday classic, “Frosty The Snowman”.

It all started as a children’s song, in which a group of school kids build a snowman, using a hat that is said to have magic powers. The snowman, now christened Frosty, comes to life and plays with the children until it gets too warm for him to survive. Frosty melts, but vows to return at a later date.

The 1969 Rankin/Bass production expands the story to include Frosty’s efforts to get to a colder climate, i.e., the North Pole. In this way, they tie in another mythical icon of the holidays, Santa Claus. I presume it’s at this point in the story that many people outside the Christian community lose interest and change the channel.

First, there is the main character, who is after all just made of frozen precipitation. Some may want to read other meanings into the term “snowman”, but there’s nothing more to this than just being the hero in a children’s song. There is no way we should include this cartoon on a double bill with “Reefer Madness”. So we should get that out of our heads right now.

Frosty gets help in his journey from a group of children who are obviously all orphans. How else do you explain how they are dressed in a snow-covered town on the day before Christmas; the boys are in shorts, and the girls wear short dresses! What parent in their right mind would send their offspring out on a snowy day dressed like it’s the Fourth of July? When I was their age, I couldn’t go out unless I was encased in the vinyl equivalent of a knight’s armored suit. We even wore bread wrappers around our stocking feet in case any snow fell down between the pants and the inside of our boots! No short shorts here!

Of course, we should raise the issue of a stranger suddenly appearing in a schoolyard, and compelling the children there to follow him Pied Piper style without the adults in the town so much as batting an eyelash. You see, boys and girls, this was years before such concepts as the Amber Alert and Megan’s Law. Now you know one of the dirty little secrets of our parents’ generation, because this is how they really dealt with bad little boys and girls. Those stories about children getting coal in their stockings was bull crap! Bad children in every town were gathered together in schoolyards, where they just...disappeared. Now you know!

All right, don’t get excited! I was just kidding! Still, I’ll bet there are some parents out there that wish it were true!

Later in the story, Santa Claus arrives just in time to resurrect Frosty with a blast of icy cold wind. My objection here is with the number of reindeer used to bring Santa and his sleigh. Tradition calls for eight reindeer (see Twas the Night Before Christmas, Rankin/Bass' production of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, blah blah blah). Here Santa shows up with only four reindeer. What happened to the others? There are several theories explaining the deer deficit.

One theory proposes that Santa got hungry shortly after leaving the North Pole and - dreading the millions of gallons or so of milk and the billion or so cookies awaiting him in living rooms all over the world — stopped to have a kick-ass venison barbecue. A second theory states that the reindeer were simply laid off as part of a restructuring plan at the North Pole. This second theory further elaborates that Santa’s elves - facing their own cutbacks on their grocery allowance, and wanting to spare the reindeer the humiliation of unemployment and the pain of starvation — had their own kick-ass venison barbecue.

In either case, it doesn’t look good for the reindeer. You’re definitely better off being a snowman, at least in this show. On the other hand, if you are one of those other “snowmen” pushing blow on America’s youth, then it’d be best if you stayed away from the schoolyards. We have laws against that sort of thing now.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Shoes and Promises

As you may have noticed from my last few entries, I have begun my campaign to highlight the accomplishments of the George W. Bush administration. I embark on this series of entries knowing full well that not everyone will agree with my interpretations of the Bush White House. What I call highlights, others will call smears and tarnish. So be it, I plead guilty as charged.

Today, however, I will truly attempt to look at the positive side of the Bush administration. I will do this by reminding everyone that we usually grade a politician by the promises he keeps or breaks. I will, after all, have the rest of his natural life to throw barbs at his legacy, and I look forward to doing that once he leaves office. Today I will give the guy a break.

Let’s start with Iraq. Bush did not break his promise on Iraq, mainly because he never made a promise about Iraq. I don’t recall him ever saying, “I promise to put this country into abject peril by starting a totally pointless, senseless war against a country that may have the possibility of perhaps threatening out nation’s security at a later date.” I don’t remember saying these words — let alone use the word “abject” – do you?

Of course, we all know now that Bush’s Iraq policy is now considered a disaster. His popularity has suffered from it, his party lost the White House because of it, and at least one member of the Iraqi press has seen fit to show his displeasure with it by flinging his shoes at the President. Really! He did this to our President. I for one am outraged at this event for two reasons. One, where the hell was this guy four years ago when John Kerry could’ve used this sound bite in his Presidential campaign? Two, why didn’t we think of throwing our shoes at Bush?

It turns out that shoes have played an important role in human history. Remember when Nikita Khrushchev mocked the power structure at the United Nations when he banged his shoe on the desk like a gavel? This act alone didn’t change history like he intended, but it certainly makes a memorable image for historical documentaries.

Similarly, Bush’s mind will probably not be changed by the sight of worn leather being thrown at him. On this side of the ocean, we’ve used editorials, blogs, debates, and poll numbers to convince the President to re-evaluate his positions. We never thought to start chucking our Hush Puppies at him.

We Americans are more subtle than that, but perhaps we should be more assertive in showing our disagreement with government policies. I will immediately rule out using guns and bullets. That’s advocating open revolution and treason; besides, the government may very well respond with bigger guns that use bigger bullets.

No, America, we should consider using other means to communicate our displeasure with President Bush. Has anyone suggested rolling up a newspaper — I’m thinking The Washington Post here — smacking him on the nose with it and scolding, “No! Bad President! Bad!” That’s how we do things in America!

Friday, December 12, 2008

GOP Flop Stops Props

Earlier this week, Congress tried to send a nice Christmas card to the auto industry by crafting a bailout package for the Big Three American auto companies. The card would have said, “Merry Christmas and Please Don’t Die!” The measure passed muster with the White House (!) and sailed through the Democratic controlled US House. Ah, but those rascally old spoilsports in the Republican dominated Senate had a holiday card of their own for the auto industry, “Happy New Year and Drop Dead!”

The Senate threatened to filibuster the proposal in an effort to rein in organized labor. The bailout is now DOA until at least January. The Republican members in the Senate turned their thumbs down to the idea of propping up a linchpin of American industry. (Thus my succinct explanation for my Variety style headline.)

So, what happened? The idea – putting up money for the automakers to borrow with lots of conditions and a specific timetable to meet with penalties if goals were not reached — seemed like a dream come least for the Democrats (AKA, Friends of Organized Labor). The bailout even had the support of President George W. Bush (AKA, That Lame Duck Guy; Cheney has dibs on the title Imperial Emperor). The package would have allowed the Big Three auto giants to survive the holidays and really get down to the business of reorganizing themselves after the first of the year.

Well, it was not meant to least for the time being. The Republicans (AKA, Friends of Wall Street) weren’t so much after sending a message to the Big Three as they are in wanting to cripple the auto workers union. The UAW has made a major concession to save their members' jobs — eliminating the controversial jobs bank was a step in the right direction — but Republicans wanted more. The UAW could take the practical route and give back more to the industry; after all, their union dues will dry up once all of their workers are unemployed by company bankruptcy. On the other hand, the union is probably itching for a fight what with the end of eight years of union-busting policies in sight. It just wouldn’t be American for the UAW to curl up and die now.

It’s a pity that the package didn’t make it to the Oval Office for the President’s signature. It had all the drama of a classic inside-the-Beltway political fight. It even allowed for the position of “auto czar” to be created in true old-fashioned Washington style. Yes, find a crisis to solve and with a knee-jerk reaction, find somebody to oversee solving the problem and possibly to scapegoat later. That’s the Washington way: drug problem, appoint a drug czar; not enough gasoline at the pumps, appoint an energy czar; intelligence problem, appoint a leader who stubbornly holds on to his preconceived notions of the world and allow him to invade another country; but I digress.

Now we’ll see if all the doomsday scenarios will play out. Best case scenario: Big Three automakers are able to keep their factories working even as they negotiate their ways around the inevitable bankruptcy filings. Filing for chapter whatever doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Worst case scenario: bankruptcy does turn out to be the end of the world. In this case, the Big Three failure takes their workers, the UAW, all the other feeder industries, and the rest of us with it as we all swirl around in the waters of economic recession and down the drain. Race you to the bottom of the toilet, everyone!

Will the auto industry finally fail? Will the Republicans have the last laugh? Will that lame duck guy get a final gasp for his legacy? Will I break my arm as I pat myself on the back for this blog’s snappy headline? Keep watching, America! Oh, and by the way, Happy Holidays, but don’t drop dead.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

W Explains It All

Time: the future (or anytime after January 20, 2009)

Place: Mrs. Hebert’s American History class

W – Good morning, boys and girls. First, let me thank your teacher, Mrs. Hebert, for allowing me to come here as a guest lecturer for your history lesson. I’d like to tell you all about my eight years in office. You may not remember this, children, but when I took office the country was in a terrible mess. Everyone was paying high taxes, the Democratic led government was big and bloated, and businesses were hurting under the weight of antiquated environmental and banking regulations.

Well, I went to Congress and said, “Look, we have to work together to fix all this.” They all agreed and so we worked together. They listened to my ideas and I listened to their ideas and we agreed on the best ideas to overcome our country’s problems. That’s how we were able to lower everyone’s taxes and still make improvements to our infrastructure. Yes, John? I see you have your hand up?

JOHN – Yes, Mr. Bush. What are you smoking?

W - Heh heh. Okay, don’t interrupt me again. Then guess what happened? Terrorists attacked us, and we all came together as one country to overcome this terrible attack on our soil. I knew the attackers came from Iraq, even though the rest of the world thought I was wrong. But I knew deep down in my heart that I was right. So we invaded Iraq, got rid of Saddam Hussein, and all the Iraqis welcomed us with open arms, threw rose petals in our path, and accepted our ideas about government. Now today, they are on track to becoming a full-fledged democracy with all the rights and privileges that we have in our great nation. Yes, Sally? You have a question?

SALLY – Shut up!

W - Now, Sally, that’s not very respectful. Then, you know what happened? A big, bad storm called Katrina hit our Gulf Coast and caused a lot of damage. People lost their houses, all their possessions...many even lost their lives. Well, when that happened, I was no longer commander in chief. I became comforter in chief! I got out my Bonzo the Chimp commemorative magic wand and with one mighty swipe through the air...everyone got their houses rebuilt, and they moved back to the Gulf states and returned to their old jobs! Yes, Anne Marie?

ANNE MARIE – (Unprintable suggestion to the President to use his lips on a part of her anatomy.)

W - Okay, Anne Marie, that’s not nice. I’ll have Mrs. Hebert take you to the principal’s office after my lecture. Where was I? Oh yes, well, boys and girls, the American people thought so highly of me and the great job I did, that they re-elected me President in 2004! Wasn’t that great? Now I had a mandate to do whatever I wanted to do to get this country going in the right direction. By the end of my term in 2009, we had unlimited prosperity, everyone was happy and I left office with 90% approval ratings!

JOHN – I’ll bet you’ve got some marijuana! Can we have some?

W - Maybe you should go to the principal’s office too, John. Well, kids, I’ve got to go talk to Charlie Gibson about polishing my legacy. Bye!

MRS. HEBERT - Um, thank you Mr. President…I think. Okay kids, tomorrow we’ll have another speaker with a more credible story, like maybe...Jack and the Beanstalk!

CHILDREN – Yayyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Savages at the Door

I don’t watch television on a regular basis, but I happened to catch a few moments of a recent comedy earlier this week. The scene I watched had Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad engaged in slapstick style conflict with a group of holiday shoppers in a department store. Everyone involved in the chase acted as if they were all after some object that would guarantee them happiness for life. Either that, or they were all starving and the object fought over (I think it was a small, green ball) was the last morsel of bread on Earth.

The scene was intended to be funny when it was released, but this year it is hitting a little bit too close to home to laugh. Oh, did I mention I was standing in the middle of a Walmart store waiting for my aunt to finish shopping when I saw this scene? At first, I thought perhaps the store had released a training film for their customers on acceptable shopping behaviour. It wasn't; it was a comedy, Jingle All The Way (1996).

Yes, Walmart, the same company that this week is mourning the violent death of one of their associates, trampled by overzealous holiday shoppers on Black Friday. This time, the sense of irony I felt as I watched the scene overwhelmed my sense of humor. I couldn’t bring myself to laugh.

Actually the term “overzealous” seems a bit tame to describe the actions of the mob at the Long Island Walmart. Terms like “savages” and “brutes” seem more appropriate for the mob that stormed the Walmart. I know my tone is harsh, even brutal, but we must face the certainty of this idea.

Fellow American consumers, we have finally crossed the line from modern civilization to utter chaos. We have abandoned common decency and sense in our frantic — and now violent — efforts to worship at the altar of materialism. Of course, many of us will say, “But we don’t want to disappoint little Johnny or little Susie on Christmas morning,” but are we really willing to kill just to avoid seeing the child’s sad face?

No, I don’t like letting little children down either, but disappointment is an undeniable fact of life. The sooner they learn to deal with it, the better off they will be. Even if they can’t deal with it, there are always child psychiatrists available to help them through the rough patch. Little Johnny and little Susie will grow and mature, and realize that their problems can’t compare with larger crises facing the world today.

The stores themselves are not blameless in this tragedy. Do we really need to open at midnight, and encourage people to break local loitering laws just so they can be the first ones in the store? Aren’t a few terms in the store ads (door buster leaps to my mind) likely to incite people to abandon their sense of acceptable behavior?

The family of the victim has already raised this latter issue in their wrongful death suit against Walmart. Oh yes, here come the lawsuits. One couple, who claim they suffered neck and head injuries in the stampede, are suing for $2.5 million. How did they come up with that figure? Did they pull it out of their lawyer’s ass?

Why should they profit from this tragedy? The last time I checked, this type of incident rated at least a charge of manslaughter. Can’t the members of the mob be held accountable in the commission of this crime? The local police are trying to identify individuals from the store security cameras, but no one has been charged yet.

It is incidents like this that make getting in the holiday mood that much more difficult. It is supposed to be a joyous holiday, people, not an occasion to increase our stress levels to the point where we commit acts of insanity. We should remember this in the remaining shopping days of this holiday season: keep calm, keep it simple, and don’t blow up the holiday into a major war operation. Perhaps we should heed the words of the late Michael Conrad, who would regularly tell his police colleagues on Hill Street Blues, “Hey, let’s be careful out there.” Amen.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Short Notes – December 2008


Could this mean that someday we’ll get more than just a sugar buzz from Swiss chocolate?


Woo-hoo! To hell with our 401k! To hell with retirement! We’re gonna work forever because we’ll have to! Woo-hoooooooooo!!!!!!!!


Now that the elections are over, those conservative members of the radical right are gearing up a new wave of fear propaganda for the incoming Obama administration. Basically, they see a return of the Clinton administration because Hillary is being tapped for Secretary of State, and various other Clinton old-timers will come back to serve under Obama. You can feel the fear in letters to newspaper editors and editorial cartoons (notably Glenn McCoy’s portrayal of Obama unzipping himself to reveal that he’s actually Bill Clinton inside).

Okay, so obviously Hillary cut a deal with Obama to give her a place at the cabinet table in exchange for her support at the Democratic Convention last summer. A deal like this may not exactly reflect the will of the people (i.e., Hillary supporters), but this is politics as usual. It can be a dirty, nasty, ugly business, but the participants adhere to the mantra that the ends always justify the means.

I don’t think the radical right should be sweating out a Clinton influence. If they really want to be afraid, they should read their 401k statements. (See item 2 above.) Personally, I believe the Obama administration will be a mixture of FDR with a sprinkling of Lincoln.

Besides, what if we do return to the Clinton era in the Obama presidency? As I recall, those times were pretty good. The economy was strong, most people had good jobs and gas prices were reasonable. The federal government had a budget surplus which could have been used to improve our infrastructure, our schools, health insurance for everyone, and other things considered to be evil by the other words, life was, overall, good.

The radical right should focus their fears on real problems like today’s economy; once again see item 2 above. They should not be afraid at the prospect of prosperity in our lifetime. I can only think of one particular group that should be afraid of a Clinton influence in the Obama administration. To that end, I will give the best advice I can to that group now.

Attention: all White House interns should cash in their 401k and consider moving to Switzerland!