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, April 29, 2010

Tweet Translations

Every morning, I stroll from my back door to the edge of my driveway to get the morning newspaper. The feathered creatures in my neighborhood serenade me as I do my walk, and I’ve often wondered what exactly they are singing to each other. Well, wonder no more, for I referred this question to the Department of Inter-Species Communication Studies at Arteejee University (AU).

The Inter-Species Communication research team recorded over 100 hours of birds singing and chirping. In their laboratory, they carefully dissected each sound and consulted with ornithologists (people who know a lot about birds) from around the globe. They met over the course of many months, debated, argued and finally agreed on the following translations of the most common bird sounds.

Tweet, tweet, tweetle-tweet!

(Yo! Check me out over here!)

Tweet, tweet, tweet! Tweet, tweet, tweet! Tweet, tweet, tweet!

(I want to mate! I want to mate! I want to mate!)

Tweet, tweet, chirp!

(I want it now!)


(Wow! Look at that fat, juicy worm on the grass below!)

Tweet, twee, twirp!

(Hey, mama, shake your plumage!)

Tweet, twit, tweet!

(Expletive deleted)

Tweet, tweet, whatever!




Tweetle, tweetle, twee!

(Watch me crap on that statue over there!)

Editor's note: After reviewing this translation, the entire AU Department of Inter-Species Communication Studies has been denied tenure.)

(Thank you for reading. Please remember tweet chirp tweetle chirtle tweet tweet!)

PS - Happy 48th to my little brother!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The History Games People Play

I could begin this entry with a real cheap, time-worn cliché like, “The Indians are on the warpath again”. It would certainly grab your attention, and it would be ironic since I’m applying it to describe one tribe’s efforts to stop production on a board game which they claim perpetuates the old stereotypes of Native Americans as savages. The makers of the games insist that they are only trying to teach any would-be players about a little known war in American history.

Here are the facts: MultiManPublishing — a company partly owned by retired major league pitcher Curt Schilling — is producing a game about King Phillip’s War (1675-76). The game is the brainchild of John Poniske, a social studies teacher in Hagerstown, Maryland. Poniske’s intention is to teach people about an event that receives very little coverage in America’s history classes. The game’s objectives are (depending on which side the participants are playing) defeat tribal leaders or capture the colonial settlements at Boston or Plymouth Colony.

Native Americans have protested the game sight unseen: it hasn’t been distributed to any markets yet. Still, they feel it is inappropriate, highly offensive, and trivializes a tragedy. Schilling has defended the game's production in an e-mail quoted in an Associated Press article: “If everyone intent on keeping historical events stopped at content that might seem offensive, we’d lose sight of the horrific mistakes this nation, the world, and the human race are capable of, and that would be a horrific thing”.

Believe me, I sympathize wholeheartedly with the intentions of today’s Native Americans who are trying to improve their image in pop culture. However, like it or not, Schilling makes an interesting point — even if he does overuse the word “horrific”.

First, we need to agree on one thing: history is not pretty. Part of it involves admitting that bad things happened which could have been prevented. The worse part of it is that we have to take a hard look at each of our ancestries and admit that, yes, our forefathers were no better than anyone else.

Consider this example. In the last 30 years or so, a popular style of license plate frame in American urban areas is made up of chain links around the edge. It has been explained to me that the links represent the heritage of slavery which the US condoned for many years. The sight of the license frame makes me uncomfortable, which I believe is its main goal. Sometimes I find myself thinking, “Okay, I get it! We were bad people! Can we forget it?” The answer is no, we can’t forget it; that would defeat the purpose of history.

Another example: the governor of Virginia recently proclaimed April Confederate History Month as a celebration of the state's role in the Confederacy. He did this without mentioning that the slavery issue played a big part in Virginia’s history, and this slight invited mucho criticism. Eventually, he reworded his declaration to acknowledge the slavery problem, but the whole episode points up the dangers of looking at the past from just one perspective. It doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story and, therefore, the full lesson of the event would not be learned.

Yet this is precisely what the Native Americans are — unwittingly — protesting against. Their goal — to end stereotyping of the Indians as savages — is certainly a worthy endeavor. Unfortunately, their portrayal as victims of ethnocentric policies brought by white European settlers is only half of the problem. The settlers came in peace — at first — but then they adopted the attitudes that they were superior to the natives. This enabled them to subject the Indians to all sorts of indignities and civil rights violations. We have no choice but to acknowledge that these feelings existed — much like the slavery question in the examples listed above — because this knowledge serves as a springboard to improve our attitudes - and relations - today.

Agreed, the viewpoint of the Indian as savages was wrong; their actions were done in self defense of their lives and their cultures. Still, we can’t ignore the values that the settlers held. Their socialization — or the adoption of values which enabled them to do a specific task even when that task ran counter to the values (common sense, Ten Commandments, etc.) on which they were raised — allowed them to carry out what would become the subjugation of the Indian culture. It’s a very tricky situation which the present day Native Americans are up against.

Yes, it’s a difficult conflict full of irony. It’s ironic that I use the “Indians on a warpath” metaphor when the present day Native Americans are coming down on the wrong side of the history argument. It’s ironic that I should find myself agreeing with the conservative Republican, born-again Christian Schilling, which is definitely a group with whom I don’t always see eye-to-eye on the issues. Yes, this irony is truly bittersweet indeed.

(Thank you for reading. Please remember history is what it only looks different when you hold it up to the light of truth!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Slogans for the Tea Party

Whereas this blog is an equal opportunity offender, and whereas we try to reach out to all groups regardless if we agree with their points of view, let it be known that the tea partiers can feel free to use the following suggestions for catchy slogans at their next rally.

“Shut up! We’re Right!”

“Small government = deregulation = bank failures! What’s the problem?"

“Hey! Ho! Cheers for the stagnant status quo!”

“Small government = deregulation = home foreclosures! What’s the problem?”

“Save our narrow minds!”

"Small government = deregulation = coal mine disasters! What’s the problem?”

“In Fox News we trust!”

“Medicare is good enough for us, but we don’t want to share!”

“Heil Limbaugh! Heil Beck! Heil Palin!”

(Thank you for reading. Please remember that bull is served instead of biscuits at tea parties now!)

Monday, April 19, 2010

That’s Right...Taxes*

The tax collection season has officially ended, yet the “I pay too much taxes” bitching continues. The tea partiers are threatening to make a full-time career out of this. I have my own theory about that group, but that’s another posting. In the meantime, we should look at the other side of the return and see what taxes do for us.

For example, you like driving everyday on nice smooth roads over bridges that won’t suddenly crumble under the weight of your SUV, right? How do you think those roads came to be in the first place? Through the hard work of dedicated, skilled, unionized road builders! And how are these men and women rewarded for their efforts? That’s right...taxes!

The people who work night and day, keeping their eyes and ears open for illegal activity, and maintaining safety in our communities while the rest of us go about our everyday business. Yes, I’m talking about the millions of men and women serving in police departments all over the country who — contrary to popular belief — need more than just coffee and donuts to survive. How is their livelihood paid for? That’s right...taxes!

How about the food in the supermarkets that you buy every week? You know what I’m talking about: the canned goods that tell you exactly what is in them so you can determine if they are good enough for your consumption. Do you think the grocery industry took it upon itself to do this as public service? Hell, no! They do it because there are laws in place requiring them to list the ingredients. There are laws that safeguard the American shopper who can rest assured that when they buy a can of tuna that it actually has tuna in it, and not one of Flipper’s distant relatives. How did these laws come to exist? It happened through the tireless work of legislators on the state and federal levels. And how are these elected officials, their staffs, and aides compensated for their endeavors? That’s right...taxes.

When something happens that someone somewhere declares is wrong, whether it’s people starving because they don’t have any income to buy food, or cruel conditions in which dogs are kept so that they can be bred for a huge profit, or the hazardous working conditions in the coal mines...chances are there is an agency that exists which regulates and remedies these problems. There are resources for people to find food and employment, organizations which protects man’s best friend from cruel and unhealthy habitations, and agencies to keep miners safe and healthy. How do these agencies do all this? That’s right...taxes!

While we’re on the subject of protection, let’s not forget the brave men and women serving in all of our armed forces. They put their lives on the line every day to keep our country safe, secure, and free! It costs mucho dinero to feed, house, and give them the tools, equipment and weapons they need to carry out their duties. Where do you think this money comes from? That’s right...taxes!

So ponder all these wonderful benefits, Mr. and Mrs. American Taxpayer, and all the ships at sea for that matter! Good night, good luck, and quit your bitchin’.

*Serving Suggestion: we strongly encourage the reader to quietly hum “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” to themselves while they read this stirring, pretentious, convoluted ode to government revenue.

(Thank you for reading. Please remember to be grateful for everything this great country offers us. What the hell, we paid for it, right?)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

You’re Not Old Quiz

At one point in the past year, I heard one of my co-workers try to excuse a mistake she made at a meeting by pleading that she was getting old. I beg to differ. I believe that this particular co-worker is — give or take a few years — at least a decade younger than me. In any event, the incident inspired me to concoct the following You’re Not Old Quiz! This is mainly a history quiz about American culture in the 1960s. Try it! It’s fun and, sorry, there’s no prize...other than the knowledge you may not be as old as you think.

1. Cyclamates were...

a. An acid rock band from southern California
b. An artificial sweetener
c. A squad of scantily-clad women promoting the Tour de France
d. An early computer term

2. In a highly publicized, nationally televised wedding ceremony, this couple deserted each other at the altar:

a. Tiny Tim and Miss Vicky
b. Maxwell Smart and Agent 99
c. Gladys and Tyrone
d. David Eisenhower and Julie Nixon

3. This comedy/singing team found themselves unemployed when CBS canceled their variety show:

a. Stiller and Meara
b. The Smothers Brothers
c. The Ace Trucking Company
d. Burns and Schreiber

4. He was a big hit with boys when they found him under their Christmas tree in 1965. Who was he?

a. Mr. Potato Head
b. Marvel the Mustang
c. G.I. Joe
d. Ken

5. In their top forty hit Back When My Hair Was Short, Gunhill Road sang the words, Slicked my D.A. for the dance. Define D.A. Was it...

a. A brand of sneaker
b. A haircut
c. A dance move
d. A roadster coupe

Bonus Question:

Do you remember Vietnam? (Hearing about it in a high school history class years after the fact doesn’t count; sorry!)

A. Yes (add one point)
B. No (add zero points)
C. Yes, in fact I was there! (add twenty points)
D. What’s Vietnam? (subtract twenty points)


1. b – a sweetener found in diet soft drinks that was banned because it was found to cause cancer in rats.

Which reminds me - why do we use these critters for scientific research anyway? Everything that has been found to be bad for humans is usually traced back to tests performed on these rodents. This proves to me that they are undependable — health-wise — to be subjects of medical experiments. I’m thinking that, when not employed by the leading pharmaceutical manufacturers, the common rat will spend its days sitting on the couch, scarfing down cyclamate laden junk food and watching reality television. And we’re constantly modifying our lifestyles to conform to theirs?????

2. c – the elderly couple featured on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In played by Ruth Buzzi and Arte Johnson. A typical Gladys and Tyrone sketch had Gladys sitting on a park bench being accosted by the dirty-minded Tyrone. After making a lewd suggestion (i.e., “Wanna go on the swings?”) she would beat him into unconsciousness with her purse. Yes, this was the height of American television comedy in 1967!

3. b

4. c

5. b – D.A. is the acronym for this hairstyle because it resembled the rear of a duck, or duck’s ass.

SCORE: (One point for each correct answer)

6 - 25 POINTS – Congratulations! You have an excellent memory...for an old person.

1 - 5 POINTS – You’re knowledgeable about mundane trivia, but you’re obviously young at heart.

0 OR BELOW POINTS - Congratulations! You’re not old!

(Thank you for reading. Please remember the past isn’t always what’s it cracked up to be!)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

No Canaries in This Coal Mine

Opponents of Obama’s health care reform forwarded the opinion that sweeping reform wasn’t necessary. They argued that reform should be done in increments, and even then not accomplished through government mandate but rather through the goodwill of private industry. I’m guessing that by increments they meant progress at speeds of less than .000000001 miles per year. By my estimation, the health insurance industry has been around, more or less, since the 1840’s. If the insurance industry really wanted to implement universal health coverage, I’m sure they could have done it anytime they chose to in the last 170 years.

The argument was laughable, but the latest result of government relying on private industry to enact policies for the common good is no laughing matter. On April 5, an explosion inside the Massey Energy Company’s Big Branch mine in West Virginia killed 29 mine workers. It was the worst mining disaster in the United States since 1970, and if reports about the mine being cited for multiple safety violations is correct, then it will probably not be the last.

Twenty nine dead! My father would calculate that every one of those miners represented a family — a unit of at least four people. My father’s math would quickly tally up that actually the lives of 116 people were altered, shattered and otherwise changed forever by the event. His family could empathize with the risks of coal mining: my great-grandfather lost both legs in a mining accident, or so family lore states. When that happened, all six of his children were obligated to leave school and get meaningful employment to support the family.

All of that is ancient history, but the ongoing struggle for life and livelihood still goes on in America’s coal industry today. The media coverage for the latest disaster has been particularly grim. Since the initial explosion and rescue efforts started, the stories have come quickly about the theorized cause — a buildup of methane gas — and it how could be related to the mine owner’s response to past safety violations.

Massey Energy was slapped with a record fine for a deadly fire in 2006. The latest incident was preceded by 495 safety violations lodged against the company by federal officials. Some reports suggest that the company used its time and energy into appealing the fines rather than actually fixing the ventilation system inside the mine. What a waste, if these reports are true.

So what can be done to prevent such disasters in the future? Sadly, with the present regulatory environment the way it is, the answer is not much. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is the federal government’s canary — the traditional early warning system for gas in the mines. MSHA has been considerably weakened by regulatory loopholes and everyday political business as usual.

The massive fines levied against Massey Energy for past safety violations? Unpaid, pending their appeal of the violation, which is legal under present law. Safety upgrades in the mines which could save lives? Undone, also as per the weak regulatory laws which allow the company to do nothing pending appeal. Miners who don’t know any other livelihood than the ones their fathers and grandfathers passed down to them? Unliving due to the emphasis of production over safety by politically well-connected corporations.

Can the government shut down the offending companies? Not practical, because it would take thousands of jobs with it. Can mine company executives be held criminally responsible for the casualties their negligent policies have caused? An intriguing idea which I hope the Justice Department will consider. Paying fines are nothing to big companies, but perhaps if a few executives do hard time for involuntary manslaughter, then they might think twice about spending money on lawyers rather than solutions.

In the course of this blog, I have used such terms as disaster, event, and incident to describe the explosion at Big Branch last week. Maybe we shouldn’t use such soft terms. We should just call this for what it is: mass murder. Of course we can’t prove that mine owners intended to kill their workers, but the result is the same in any event.

Those people in Congress and in tea party gatherings railing against big government should work in a coal mine for awhile. They might just have an epiphany...

(Thank you for reading. Please remember that many sacrifices that move this country forward don’t always happen in a war zone.)

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Chicken Little 1, PennDOT 0

Pennsylvania has had an ambitious infrastructure rebuilding in the works for the last several years. Old bridges would be torn down and rebuilt, highways would be resurfaced, and the state’s mass transportation systems would be modernized. At least that was the plan.

Alas, the funding for most of these plans was dependent on tolling I-80, an interstate that runs east to west along the state’s northern corridor. Pennsylvania could not start tolling the road without the federal government’s permission, and recently the answer no came back for the third — and now realistically — final time. So while they scramble for new ways to fund these projects — higher gasoline taxes look real good right now — we should examine the pros and cons of this debate.

Pennsylvania knew that tolling this road was always a long shot, given the fact that they planned to use the funds for projects beyond I-80 — in violation of the federal government’s requirements that any tolls be used exclusively for the maintenance of the road. In addition, the legislators and residents living along the corridor fought the proposal tooth and nail believing in a number of doomsday scenarios that would have made Chicken Little cluck with pride. Oh, they cried, it would drive up the prices of transporting goods through our area! Oh it will bring on unemployment! Oh we’ll be paying to drive on our road just to subsidize mass transit in the big cities! Oh, oh, oh!

The state transportation agency, PennDOT, went to great lengths to patiently explain their rationale. It is my understanding that the state wished to capture revenue from the long distance haulers that run through the state to get to other parts of the country. With a few exceptions, most carriers have to cross Pennsylvania at some point to get their products to market. Tis the burden of being the Keystone State.

The tolls would most likely have not resembled the system along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, where you get a ticket at one end and turn in the ticket and money as prescribed on the card at the other end. This process involves the placement of permanent toll plazas and manpower to collect tolls and maintain the plazas. I doubt very much that the state would have duplicated this on I-80, since such an undertaking would result in a massive, intensive building project which would take billions of dollars and years to build. In this case, Pennsylvania didn’t have the money or the time.

I’m guessing that the state envisioned coin collecting baskets at various points along the road, much like the Dulles Toll Road in northern Virginia. Also, the state plan only called for tolls collections at 11 of the 40 or so exchange points on the route. In other words, there would have been vast stretches of the road that would not be subject to the tolls. Many locals living near the route who were dependent on it to get around more quickly would never have to worry about paying any tolls. The Chicken Littles in the local media outlets and chambers of commerce downplayed this point of the proposal.

There might have been some truth to the argument that tolls would have driven up prices in the local area for goods and services. If this is so, then the possibility might also be true that wages would have risen as well. I think this is what scared the local business leaders more than the idea of tolls themselves. A higher standard of living could have resulted for most people living along I-80 corridor. Oh no! We can’t have that!

Then there was a possible indirect environmental impact on the area, which no one even considered. Let’s bring Chicken Little back in to present this extreme argument: “Well, no tolls on I-80 would mean no money for mass transit in cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. No funding for those systems might mean they would go out of business, which means the people living in the suburbs would have to use their cars more, which would put more carbon monoxide in the air. Since weather travels west to east then the car smog from Pittsburgh would hover over those counties served by I-80, endangering the lives of the residents who selfishly railed against the tolls. Oh dear. The air would be harder to breathe...wheeze...and ailments like asthma would increase...cough, hack...and...remember Donora*...cough, cough, aggghhhh!!!”

Oh dear! It appears that we have killed off Chicken Little!

I’m ambivalent about tolls on I-80, even though I’m sure I would have had to pay them every time I traveled to visit my mother. I’m not crazy about paying on any highway, but I am realistic. I know that it takes money to maintain nice, smooth roads that won’t destroy the wheel alignment on my car, and I know that any road work is not accomplished with the wave of a magic wand from the roadway fairy.

Others, unfortunately, don’t realize this even though they too want nice smooth roads. They are happy to use the roads, just as long as they aren’t the ones that have to pay for it. Go figure! These people need to learn the concept of the word “commonwealth” as in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and (coincidentally) most of these people live near I-80.

My advice to all: get used to gasoline pump prices over $3.00 a gallon and invest in breathing masks! Roast chicken anyone?

*Look Donora up in Wikipedia, kiddies!

(Thank you for reading. Please remember life has a habit of reaching back and biting us in the ass!)

Monday, April 05, 2010

Snort Notes – April 2010


In other unrelated items of interest that the rest of the world had already figured out a long time ago: the world is not flat, money does not grow on trees, and Vietnam was a very bad thing.


Forsythe gained small screen immortality in such series as Bachelor Father, Dynasty, and uncredited work as the voice of Charles Townshend in Charlie’s Angels. Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans will also fondly remember his role as a Senate candidate terrorized by Ann-Margret (!) and her juvenile delinquent friends in the flick Kitten with a Whip.

Forsythe’s presence in Charlie’s Angels lent some sophistication to the tawdry execution of an otherwise intriguing idea. Seriously, did we watch the show for its story line, or script? Hell, no! Any male who went through adolescence in the 1970’s (such as moi) didn’t give a damn about any of that, especially after Farrah Fawcett’s poster was published and appeared on bedroom walls — as if by magic — all over the country.

A scene from Charlie’s Angels I would have liked to see would have Charlie tell his charges, “Well, Angels, I don’t have anything for you this week, but it is ratings sweeps month. How about you jiggle your boobs and shake your money-makers for the next fifty minutes or so? That should make the suits in New York happy for a while!!” In any case, it would have captured the true spirit of the show perfectly.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Forsythe.


The historic pitch happened at the home opener of the Washington Nationals and the visiting National League Champion (YAYZ!) Philadelphia Phillies. For those of you keeping track at home, the ball went high and wide. Well, Mr. President, we’ve heard about your bowling skills and now we’ve seen what you can do on the mound. Our advice, Mr. President: stick to basketball.

So who did the President root for: the lowly home team who can’t sell out their stadium unless busloads of the visiting team's fans are brought in for the game, or would he cheer on the great, wonderful, all-powerful (guess where our sympathies lie?) Fightin’ Phils? Obama, ever the diplomat, did not take up with either team present on the field. He put on a Chicago White Sox cap — his home team - before throwing the ball.

We’ve heard this before and we’re sure to hear it again: so much for bipartisanship!

(Thanks for reading. Please remember to close the door behind you if and when you come out of the closet. This means you, Ricky!)

Friday, April 02, 2010

Palin Watch: Sarah’s Fightin’ Words

Recently, sound-bite sensation Sarah Palin has been out and about riling up the right. One appearance was to campaign for her old running mate, John McCain, who is facing a tough primary battle to hold on to his Senate seat. Apparently, his newest opponent is even more extreme right (as Jack Palance used to say, "Believe or not!") than the ole Senate maverick himself. Then, within days, she went to a Tea Party rally in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s hometown in Nevada. The Tea Partiers cheered her on as she fired up their enthusiasm.

The media give her a lot of attention because they feel she’s “newsworthy”. There’s several different ways to interpret this. She could be thought of as newsworthy because the things she says and does can influence how many people see the world. Or she could be considered newsworthy because she says or does something so stupid that it makes good copy and a nice catchy sound bite on the evening news, you betcha! Actually this could apply to any person in the spotlight; Palin just seems to be the celebrity du jour at the moment.

Her appearances came on the heels of the passage of Obama’s health care reform bill, which got quite ugly near the end. A few Tea Party protesters showed that they were not above hurling racial epithets at members of Congress. After it was all said and done, some members of Congress reported receiving death threats because of their vote on the bill. As far as I know, none of the threats has been traced back to any of the Tea Partiers...yet.

We should review a basic ground rule for maintaining civility in public debate. Agreed, everyone has the right to speak their minds and their opinions in a thoughtful way so as to allow people with opposing opinions the same opportunity to speak their peace. I am emphasizing this rule because members of the Tea Party (and a few Republican members in the House) have forgotten this point of order. Tea Partiers have been shown shouting down opponents at town hall meetings last year, in total violation of conducting themselves as civilized human beings. Whether they like it or not, this has become the dominating image of their group.

We should also keep this rule in mind when reviewing Ms. Palin’s comments at the Nevada rally. At one point in her speech, she claimed that she was not advocating violence. Then she urged Tea Party members “Don’t retreat, instead reload.” It was at this point that the liberal media pounced...

Excuse me, Ms. Palin, but when you use words like retreat and reload, I don’t feel warm and fuzzy inside. To me, retreat is most commonly used by the military, or any representative body thereof, which is trained and maintained to force ideologies on other representative bodies. Diplomacy is not necessarily a primary tool in their arsenal.

Her use of the word reload is even more alarming. Let’s see what one would reload and why? Well, we could reload cookie dough into a cookie gun to bake Christmas cookies. No, that can’t be it. I saw footage of the Nevada rally and I certainly didn’t see any baked confections anywhere in the vicinity. More commonly, reload can be used in the context of another kind of know, the type used by representative bodies in a military engagement, as in armed conflict.

I hope you can see where this is going. The Tea Partiers may totally forget they are exercising their First Amendment rights and proceed directly to exercising their Second Amendment rights. If this happens, blood will be shed.

The maverick from Alaska should probably consider tempering her remarks in the future. Sure, she can fire up the conservative Republican and/or Tea Partiers all she wants. On the other hand, Ms. Palin should bear in mind that there is a thin line between encouraging spirited debate and armed insurrection.

(Thank you for reading and have a safe holiday weekend!)