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

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Whole Story – Part 2: The Lynching of Shirley Sherrod

Now that I have your attention, I should take a few minutes to allow your eyebrows to return to their normal altitude. Previously, I wrote about my state's Attorney General Tom Corbett and his reluctance to release full information to back up his outlandish claims about the unemployed in Pennsylvania. The recent controversy over Shirley Sherrod shows the pitfalls of reacting on first impressions without getting the full story first. This time, unfortunately, the Obama administration fell into a trap set by the right wing media.

This is a story of racism, that insidious dark side of human nature born out of ethnocentricity. We could consider it an attitude, a philosophy, or to some a way of life. But for now let’s look at it as if it were a virus.

This virus is communicable, but not necessarily fatal. It is passed from one person to another by action or example through education. The inflicted can brush it off and overlook the transgression if they have the patience of a true saint. More than likely, however, many of us mere mortals may react in kind with our own racist-motivated actions. Oh, we may justify our reactions as self-defense, but rest assured those onto whom we pass our attitudes won’t see it that way.

I know this is a very dark view of human relations, but I don’t know of any other way to explain reasons why we have treated each other with such disdain and suspicion over the course of mankind’s history.

Still, there is hope. Racism can be treated with understanding and overcome with a sense of tolerance. Understanding happens through communications.

As a child, former Agricultural Department employee Shirley Sherrod caught this virus. Racist acts were performed on members of her family: her father murdered by a white man who escaped punishment, another relative lynched by a sheriff, and crosses burned in front of her family home. Sherrod in turn reflected and absorbed the hatred displayed against her family. As an adult, she freely admitted that she was prejudiced against whites. I’m tempted to admit that yeah, I’d hate whitey too, if these acts were perpetuated against my loved ones. However, this impulse of human nature doesn’t have to be a lifelong belief.

At one point in her career as a social worker with a non-profit, she had the opportunity to help a white farmer out of some financial problems. She later admitted that she hesitated to help him, but ultimately she directed him to a white lawyer. The incident led her to a revelation that the real conflict was not between whites and blacks, but rather the haves and have-nots.

Sherrod told the story of her journey out of prejudice at an NAACP meeting earlier this year. Her current troubles began when the right wing media’s answer to Michael Moore, Andrew Breitbart, released a very short version of her videotaped speech on a conservative website. The excerpt made it appear that the civil rights group audience cheered her discriminating against the white farmer. The denunciations came fast — over the Internet, over network television, and from the NAACP itself. Her employers at the Department of Agriculture — claiming pressure from the Obama Administration — acted quickly. Sherrod’s resignation was demanded and received without her having the opportunity to explain her side of the story.

The trouble was that no one checked out the whole story, or bothered to watch her entire speech before they jumped to conclusions. Once the entire tape was released by the NAACP, everyone’s tone on the left - and right - changed faster than the weather.

The Obama Administration should have, by all rights, known better. The source of the material — a conservative website — made it immediately suspect. That’s conservative, as in “Conservative”, as in C-O-N-S-E-R-V-A-T-I-V-E, as in “We are against everything you stand for because you have a capital D after your name!” Now you know who I’m talking about, right?

In one small way, it is admirable that the administration and the NAACP quickly recognized the potential public relations problem. Obviously, Obama is eager to demonstrate that he has zero tolerance for racism regardless of what color the victim is. Unfortunately, in their haste to recognize the correct problem, they jumped on the wrong person. Now these well-meaning people need to slow down and get all the facts in before they react.

So what if Glenn Beck says mean things about Obama on his show! That’s what Fox “News” pays him to do. (Quotation marks around the word “news” mine. After this incident Fox “News” should not be considered as a serious information-gathering service.) Let him rant as much as he wants! Then once the facts are known he’ll be the one with the full dozen eggs dripping from his face.

It was also very good that Sherrod got apologies from the White House, from Obama (personally), and even from Bill O’Reilly! I would have paid money to see that! As for America’s latest civil rights hero, Sherrod is mulling over a job offer with the Department of Agriculture, and starting a lawsuit against Breitbart. I sincerely wish her all the success in the world with both endeavors.

In the meantime, Mr. President, maybe you should offer the lady a beer...

(Thank you for reading, and always be wary of the virus which endangers all of us!)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Whole Story – Part One: The Opaque Tom Corbett

Current Pennsylvania state Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett got himself in and out of hot water recently. During a campaign stop in the state, he attempted to justify the congressional Republicans blocking an extension of unemployment benefits to millions of unemployed Americans. Corbett claimed that he heard from several employers who offered jobs to unemployed workers, only to be rebuffed with the explanation that the workers would come back after their benefits ran out. The candidate explained that an extension would add to the federal deficit, and it only encourages people to live off the dole.

Why would Corbett say such a thing in the first place? His concern for increasing the deficit is, I’ll admit, admirable, but unfortunately his justification is suspect. It is reminiscent of the time when Ronald Reagan aide Edwin Meese stated that people on welfare are there because they want to be there. This logic involves denying that certain people are beyond help from others. Those that follow this thinking can use it to repress the ethical and moral responsibility civilized men share about easing the suffering of others. This attitude allows those with an extreme conservative agenda to sleep well at night with a clear conscience.

I’m not going to pounce on Corbett any more than everyone else did — namely Governor Rendell, Corbett’s Democratic opponent Dan Onorato, various state agency heads, and a number of unemployed Pennsylvanians who rightly took offense at Corbett’s comments. After all, Corbett did apologize and retract his statement from the “are there no prisons, are there no workhouses?” school of social justice. What I do find objectionable is Corbett’s refusal to identify his sources. Who were these employers with job offers? Why shouldn’t their names be made public? Corbett’s stubborn withholding of the whole story was a missed opportunity on several fronts.

First, identification of the employers could have helped these companies connect with any number of job hunters who are ready to go back to work. This connection could have happened through state employment agencies, private employment agencies, or by the individuals contacting these employers themselves. So presumably, thanks to Corbett’s silence, these positions could go unfilled.

Then there are the workers — Corbett heard this “story” from more than one employer — who rejected the job offers. I hate to nit-pick, but isn’t it illegal for them to turn down any reasonable offer? If Corbett had furnished names, the Pennsylvania state unemployment service could have terminated the benefits of these scofflaws.

My use of the word “reasonable” is a key concept. To be fair, if the offered position was only temporary, or with such a low pay rate as to make it impossible for the prospective employee to meet their financial obligations (i.e., mortgage, food, transportation, health needs, etc.), then the rejection could be understandable. The name of the game, after all, is not to get rich from unemployment, but to keep your head above troubling financial waters.

Corbett could have also used the employers as a symbol to exploit for the upcoming race for governor. John McCain had his “Joe the Plumber”. Corbett could have had “Joe the Plumber’s Employer”. A wonderful bourgeois campaign opportunity squandered!

Finally, and most importantly, Corbett’s refusal damaged his credibility. When I was writing my masters thesis, I had to justify every argument I used. Reporters are sometimes obligated to name their sources. Why should politicians like Corbett be above this standard? It leaves him open to questions that he possibly made the whole thing up just to score political points with his base.

Tom Corbett really did a disservice to the people of Pennsylvania and himself when he refused to release the names of the employers who claimed that their job offers to unemployed workers were refused. This incident may demonstrate that, as governor, Tom Corbett won’t be transparent — which suddenly has become a litmus test within the federal government - but rather opaque. Sleep tight, Mr. Corbett!

(Thank you for reading. Now get off your butts and get a job! Ha ha! Just kidding! Relax!)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Slapsticon 2010 and Anne Marie’s Adventures

I’m back from my self-imposed exile. Actually, it was just a short vacation to attend a silent comedy film festival in Rosslyn VA, but the term “self-imposed exile” just seems so much more interesting.

As for my vacation, I spent four days in a dark theater with dozens of other diehard silent film comedy geeks. There were many highlights, but among the more noteworthy was the re-premiere of a Keystone comedy that was one of Charlie Chaplin’s earliest appearances. The film has not been seen in over 90 years and, indeed, had escaped the notice of most film historians over the years. The film, The Thief Catcher was not listed on any of his filmographies until it was rediscovered this year.

Anne Marie was left to amuse herself on her own. The novelty of knitting in a hotel room overlooking Key Bridge only lasts so long. Her first adventure was taking Amtrak to Richmond to meet up with some friends she met on the Internet. Her day started with a bang — although to this day she doesn’t realize what happened.

Our usual daily routine when we are at home begins thusly: I prepare a pot of coffee, or happy juice as she calls it, before she wakes up. There is hell to pay if the happy juice is not ready when she rises. This particular Friday morning, however, I did not get up in time to prepare the coffee in our room. At the very moment I informed her of this, a 3.6 earthquake rocked the Washington DC metropolitan area. I have since concluded that there was a direct connection between Anne Marie's response about her late coffee and the earth tremor.

I take full responsibility for my actions. Sorry, DC; my bad!

One of Anne Marie’s Richmond friends was celebrating his 40th birthday, and the party started as soon as they met at a diner early Friday afternoon. From there, they went to another restaurant with a bar where they downed cosmos like glasses of water. She told me later that she had fun, and indeed the photos posted on the internet show that they all had (the celebrants numbered about four by the end of the afternoon) a good time.

Anne Marie is featured in two of the photos, posed as she drank. They are not the best photos taken of her; the angle of the shot makes it appear that my wonderful wife does not have a normal human nose, but rather a crystal shot glass surgically implanted between her eyes. I suppose this could be overlooked and, to be fair, the photographer may have had a few cosmos under his belt while taking the picture.

Meanwhile, I was laughing my ass off at a fragment of a Stan Laurel short: When Knights Were Cold. The scenes demonstrated not only Laurel’s great talent, but also his influence on more recent comedy. For example, the coconut shell-clapping knights in Monty Python and the Holy Grail could be traced to a Knights gag in which the hero and a hundred or so knights pursue each other while wearing paper mache horses around their waists.

Similarly, another scene from Knights had a surreal and anachronistic touch when a jazz combo was shown providing music for a medieval wedding. This reminded me of the scene in Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles where Cleavon Little happens upon the Count Basie Orchestra performing in the middle of the wild wild west. In these respects, Laurel was ahead of his time and above the usual slapstick so common in comedies of his day.

On Sunday, Anne Marie ventured out into the heat/humidity of Washington on the hunt for dim sum. She took Metro to Chinatown, a neighborhood found in many American cities that is the cultural and residential center for those of Chinese descent. It was usually here where one would find shops, banks, offices and restaurants that catered to the local residents. Traditionally one could find the very best restaurants offering Chinese dishes in this neighborhood. Not anymore...

Anne Marie was disappointed to find very few Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, and the only one featuring dim sum was closed on Sundays! Sadly, very few people venture to Chinatown any more to sample Szechuan or Cantonese cuisine. Who needs to travel that far when every other neighborhood has their own Chinese carry-out or, worse, Chinese buffet within a few blocks of where everyone lives. Furthermore, she was horrified to see every chain restaurant (Fuddruckers, Ruby Tuesdays, etc.) imaginable located where some wonderful Chinese restaurants should be. While talking about this later over dinner with some fellow Slapsticon attendees, one of them pointed out that the location of the Verizon Center (the NBA venue in DC) near Chinatown was probably a major influence — good, bad, or worse — in bringing these chain eateries into Chinatown.

Meanwhile...I was laughing my ass off at a very good Harry Langdon short, I Don’t Remember. Slapsticon is good in that it features many films that aren’t seen very often. One example is Langdon’s work at Columbia during the late 1930’s. His pursuit of a winning Irish Sweepstakes ticket down the gutter, through the sewer, and out to the ocean drew a rousing response from the Slapsticon audience.

Among the other highlights from this year’s festival was Harpo Marx performing in the silent film medium for which he was ideally suited. Unfortunately, a small role in Richard Dix’s Too Many Kisses is the only silent film in which he appeared. The role is touted as the only time you see him move his lips on the screen, but this fact is overhyped. When the great moment comes, he is standing sideways to the camera, making it difficult for the audience to see his mouth move. I know, I’m nit-picking. Still, Harpo is a treasure no matter what!

Another rare screening was the only sound feature in which Charlie Chase starred, Modern Love. It showed the usual Chase genius at work, grappling with the idea that a wife could have a career outside the home even as his job is lost to bankruptcy. As an added bonus, the film featured a wonderful scene-stealing turn from perennial Roach favorite Anita Garvin.

The films were fun, and the camaraderie was rewarding. But now the vacation is over and it’s back to work. Now where do I start: a gubernatorial candidate decrying Pennsylvania’s unemployed as unwilling to return to work; conservative bloggers embarrassing Fox News and the Obama administration (!); or the new additions to the English language courtesy of our favorite conservative from the Great White North...hmmm...

(Thank you for reading. Please remember that silence on the screen is golden, but in real life it should be used wisely.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Obama Disappointments

Among the people I’ve made the acquaintance in cardio rehab is a rambunctious old Italian named Joe. He is way past retirement age, has a heart condition, but still works at the family butcher shop. I don’t know much about him other than he is a veteran of the Korean War and he keeps a gun in every room in his house. Guess where his political leanings are?

Anyway, he taunts me endlessly about my Democratic registration and my respect for Barack Obama. So, in the interest of being fair and balanced, I will present a short list of things Obama has done or not done which has disappointed me. Joe, this is for you.

1. No verifiable evidence that he has walked on water yet!

2. That he hasn’t behaved like the liberal Democrat which many people believe he is and enacted some common sense gun control laws that will reduce gun violence in this country while not trampling on people’s rights. Seriously, conservative Republicans act he like wants to round up all the guns in the country. Guess what? It hasn’t happened yet and it will never happen during his administration, even if he does have a capital “D” after his name. I’m sure he’ll agree gun violence is a big problem, but right now he has bigger fish to fry!

3. That he hasn’t parted the waters of the Gulf of Mexico to make oil collection from the BP oil spill more manageable.

4. That he hasn’t used his FDR “New Deal” Commemorative Magic Wand to fix the economy.

5. That he hasn’t tranquilized Rush Limbaugh and transported him to someplace he would feel comfortable: a tax free utopia that has no socialist programs like welfare, unemployment insurance, or free health care, namely Mexico!

6. That he hasn’t lined up executives from Wall Street against the wall for a 21 gun their chests!

7. He hasn’t tranquilized Sarah Palin, transported her back to Alaska, and released her into the wild.

8. He hasn’t told Fox News where to go!

9. He hasn’t tranquilized Sarah Palin, transported her to my house, and released her into the wilds of my bedroom...

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Okaaay...we see where this is going and, quite frankly, we are repulsed and reviled by the direction this blog entry has taken. We have taken the unusual – but we believe necessary – step of presenting this entry to the National Board of Bloggers for possible disciplinary action. The board has determined that arteejee should serve a suspension lasting not longer than one week. We apologize to the fans of arteejee – all 12 of you – for any inconvenience this may cause.)

(Thank you for reading. Please remember I’ll be back!)

Friday, July 09, 2010

Snort Notes – July 2010

This month’s snort notes are totally Lindsay Lohan free! We don’t care if she is drunk or sober or crying her eyes out or her bracelet fell off or her liver popped out and ran off to rehab or she has a nasty word written on her middle finger...we just don’t care about that bitch! She gets way more news copy than she deserves. Meanwhile, more deserving news items might include things like this...


On a lighter note, millions of Americans vow to go on a homicidal rampage if anyone says to them either “Hot enough for ya?” or “It’s not the heat! It’s the humidity!”


Steele insinuated at a party fundraiser in Connecticut that Afghanistan was a war of Obama’s choosing. Critics — Democrats and Republicans — all denounced Steele’s comments as inaccurate and inappropriate. They were inaccurate because Obama inherited the war on terrorism from George W. Bush, and this is not another example of Bush bashing. This is historical fact.

Unfortunately, another part of Steele’s rant had some truth to it. He noted that other invaders of Afghanistan — British and Soviets as two examples — were unsuccessful. Once again, this is not wishful thinking on the part of a political enemy, but historical fact. Steele argued that an Afghanistan land war is “unwinnable”, and honestly, at this time the conflict is presenting a challenge to Obama’s administration.

This doesn’t mean it’s unwinnable. We may prevail yet, but we have to be prepared for the possibility that this war will drag on for a long time. The war just recently became the longest conflict in American history. Considering the fact that this part of the world has seen fighting off and on for thousands of years, and that we were just “invited” to participate by Osama bin-Laden nine years ago, we may as well settle in for the long haul. To paraphrase American naval hero John Paul Jones, “We have just begun to fight.”

As for Steele, well, come January when his job comes up for renewal, he may do well to update his resume.


When we left the intrepid “Fightin’s” last month, they lost their first place berth after a disastrous road trip. Since then, they’ve had another disastrous road trip, a dismal home stand, and several of their leading players going through a revolving door between the playing field and the disabled list. Last month, I half-jokingly suggested that the Phils were a generous bunch who wanted to share first place with the other teams in the division.

All right, boys, the joke has gone on long enough! The current first place team, the Atlanta Braves, is getting nicely settled in. Rumor has it that they want to stay there awhile, perhaps until the end of the season. After the All Star break, I hope you will get serious about returning to the World Series. I don’t care that this is Braves’ manager Bobby Cox’s last season; he’s had more than enough opportunities to get his team to the October Classic.

Fortunately, the Phillies have the same won/loss record at this point as they did during the last two years at this time of the season. Remember, in both of those years they did make it to the World Series. I hope that that is a good omen for the Phils.

(Thank you for reading. Please remember it is the is the humidity! Don’t make me kill you!)

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Terminal Sperm

Usually when I venture into the kitchen at work to microwave my lunch, the room is full of female co-workers who are in heated discussions about some subject of importance. It’s a diverse range of topics on which they hit: whatever was on television the previous night to illegal immigration (very passionate, no, violently passionate about this subject) to what I’ll call a group therapy session. The most common subject of their group sessions is about the men in their lives, or more precisely, what heartless, thoughtless, careless, asshole bastards the opposite sex is.

During my excursions into hostile territory such as this I do the only intelligent thing I know to do: I keep my mouth shut.

I write all this as a way to introduce my theory regarding the findings of a Danish study. The research found that women who drank while they were pregnant were more likely to give birth to sons with lower sperm counts than the sons of women who refrained from drinking alcohol while pregnant. The researchers couldn’t think of a reason why this happens, meaning more studies would have to be performed. Or they can ask me, and I can supply them with a possible hypothesis for their dilemma.

Honestly, the reason is a no-brainer. Think of all the stupid things men do when they have been drinking. (I just realized I left stupid out of the above heartless thoughtless, careless, etc. etc. characterization above. Sorry about that!) Anyway, back on subject, if men can do stupid things after they have a few drinks in them, can it be any stretch of the imagination to figure out what their sperm will do with some liquor.

I can’t imagine it’s very pretty. Some sperm will get deluded feelings of invincibility and try to swim up the urinary tract, where once in the bladder the uric acid will do its work...and BAM! Instant spermicide! At least that’s the story they told us in 12th grade health class!

Still some other male fertility creatures will play stupid sperm tricks on their fellow creatures. They’ll go up to their buddy and drunkenly dare them, “Hey Harry, pull my flagellum!” That’ll probably take a few hundred thousand sperm out of the mix there.

There is also the chance that many sperm will turn on their fellow sperm in a drunken state. We could theorize that this is a way to cut down on the competition during ejaculation, otherwise known as the “Big Swim”. It could also happen if some sperm get a sudden urge to paint the urethra in pink and display a fondness for show tunes. I know this is not pleasant to speculate, but we have to allow for the possibility that human sperm are not progressive thinking individuals, and that they may enforce a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the vas deferens.

So, let’s tabulate the sperm casualty count so far. A few hundred thousand drunken sperm lost to jackass style stunts, a few more hundred thousand tailless fellows who just drift around and eventually succumb to irrelevancy, and still a few hundred thousand more fall prey to homophobia. Yes, this could explain why sperm counts are lower in boys who mothers drank while they were pregnant.

Of course this doesn’t necessarily mean that the surviving sperm are all that much better than their dead comrades. After all, it’s the survivors who will win the “Big Swim” race, fertilize the egg, overcome the 50-50 odds of developing into a female, and eventually grow to be the heartless, stupid, careless, blah, blah asshole ogres that make life miserable for all the ladies in my office lunch room. Well, at least they’ll always have something to talk about over their noon meals.

(Thank you for reading! Please remember drinking alcohol while pregnant can lead to stupid sperm. Also careless, thoughtless, asshole sperm, or even heartless, careless, thoughtless, asshole bastard sperm, or...)

Friday, July 02, 2010

Celebrating the Fourth and the Eleventh

Radio talk show host and opinion columnist Michael Smerconish noted an interesting dilemma earlier this week regarding how Americans celebrate noteworthy days in our nation’s history. His problem focused on 9/11, the latest day of infamy in America’s past. He expressed the concern that we, as American citizens, are treating the date too lightly, if we choose to remember it at all. The concerns have been voiced more and more in recent years, and the voices will most likely get louder next year on the 10th anniversary of the Twin Towers/Pentagon attacks.

The question arises how should we celebrate this day? Some believe it should be a solemn day of remembrance for the 2,000 plus Americans who died. Others believe that American life should proceed as normal on this date with a moment or two of reflection, but otherwise treat the day the same as the Fourth of July: a celebration.

Many may view this latter attitude as sacrilegious, but let’s ponder this for a moment. Yes, it is indeed tragic that so many people died on that date when all they were doing was going about their normal day-to-day work routine. Most likely many of those killed never knew what happened or who was doing it to them, and why the terrorists singled them out for punishment. That, and the fact that their lives were forever interrupted with so much promise unrealized, only heightens the national trauma.

Who can blame the naysayers for wanting to take the observances with the utmost seriousness? Let’s face it, Americans have developed a talent in this status seeking culture to make every holiday, celebration, or nationwide trauma into a giddy, free-market free-for-all excuse to shop, shop and shop. We have made our national holidays into high holy days worshipping at the altar of materialistic greed.

Let’s take Memorial Day as an example. It is set aside to remember the millions of American men and women who sacrificed their lives to keep our country safe and secure in all of our wars. We celebrate with parades and cookouts (people still have to eat, even on the holidays). Could we still celebrate this day without all the sales? I bet we could if we tried hard enough...

Then there is a strong argument that if we allow our lives to be interrupted, then logic dictates the terrorists have won. Ironically, they didn’t gain a thing. The attacks on September 11 brought Americans closer together than I can ever recall in my adult life.

Throughout my years, I can recall very little harmony in American society. Do you believe issues like gun control and abortion are new? No, they are just as hotly debated today as they were 40 years ago. Political philosophies have also kept the country apart and away from any semblance of solving our problems. The people we have elected to bring us together and keep us together act like they have a vested interest in maintaining division in the country.

All too briefly, the 9/11 attacks changed that and we were one united nation. If for no other reason, then we should mark 9/11 as a celebration: a celebration of life for those who lost it, and a celebration of our society’s resilience to withstand such attacks. The same is true for the Fourth of July. Although it is our nation’s birthday, we must acknowledge that it was a difficult birth. Thousands of soldiers – colonists and Redcoats - died in the ensuing conflict. Even many of the Founding Fathers who had the courage to sign the Declaration of Independence saw their property, their fortunes and their lives destroyed because of their efforts to bring forth this ongoing experiment in democracy.

So, this Fourth of July should be a day of remembrance and reflection, and parades and fireworks, and barbecues and picnics. Just leave the credit cards at home.

(Thank you for reading. Have a happy and safe Fourth! Happy Birthday, Mom!)