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, December 31, 2010

Is This Year Over Yet?

Good-bye, 2010! I say this in all sincerity and relief. In glancing backward at this year’s events, I can see that it was a time that afforded me the ability to make needed physical improvements (new energy-efficient windows) and an opportunity for personal growth (i.e., my current job situation). Keeping this mind, I have come to three conclusions:

The windows are fabulous.

Personal growth is overrated.

Most everything else in my year sucked!

One major aggravation this year was the passing of a close friend and mentor, Mary Kenny Badami. There’s no point in railing against the cosmos over this event, but I’ll probably continue to do so anyway. Mary had a wonderful life, dedicating it to improving communications among mankind’s many cultures. I miss her kind words of encouragement particularly given my current life crisis.

As I, sucks, sucks!

The year began with an upper respiratory infection, not near enough alcohol, but the wonderful memory of attending a live performance of Cinematic Titanic. This year I am healthy and I am looking forward to consuming more liquor this New Year’s Eve. Our neighbors will greatly accommodate me in this goal with their annual party.

I hope to imbibe much this year, and once again as is my personal tradition, I will be clad in my Beer is proof that God loves us and wants to be happy sweatshirt. I will try my best to stay up past midnight, but I can foresee one scenario when I might have to leave the evening festivities early. If I consume too much booze, I may regale the otherwise happy party-goers with such acid bon mots as “Job security is an illusion!” At that point, I suspect my gracious hostess will ask me to leave. Oh, she’ll request that my sweatshirt stay as encouragement for the rest of them to party on, but I will have to go.

Sucks, sucks, sucks!

Now that I’ve glanced backward, I would be remiss if I didn’t look ahead to 2011. So, what can I improve? What shall I resolve to change in my life?

1. Get a job.

2. Continue my ongoing struggle to improve my health with regular trips to cardio rehab therapy and wiser food consumption.

3. Get a job with benefits.

4. Overcome my personal demons and terminal shyness by reaching out and networking in order to find new and wonderful opportunities in a business world continually in a state of flux. (Okay, this sentence belongs in a resume. Sorry...)

5. Terminate my temporary retirement by developing my talents and marketing them that is advantageous to myself and the world at large. (Ah yes, somewhere W.C. Fields is smiling at the wording of this resolution!)

6. Find affordable health insurance for both me and my wife.

7. Overcome the sinking feeling that the concept of affordable health insurance is an illusion.

8. Continue writing this blog with less use of explanations-of-hard-to-read-concepts-by-using-hyphens.

9. Seek funding to continue our ongoing list of property improvements: installation of a water softening system, chimney repair, house painting, and driveway recoating. (See numbers 1, 3 and 5 to achieve this goal.)

So it is time, long overdue, to tell 2010 to-get-the-hell-out-of-here and welcome the promise of 2011.

Sucks, sucks, sucks, sucks...

(Thank you for reading and here’s hoping the future is brighter for all of us!)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Inexact Science of Meteorology

The final week of the year promises to be a very strenuous one. So far it began with a sizable nor’easter which 48 hours before wasn’t suppose to happen at all. I spent the better part of Monday — the day after the storm — digging out my driveway while trying my best not to let the 50mph wind gusts grab the plastic snow pusher out of my hands. This was the hardest work I’ve done since, oh, since October when I was laid off.

The storm's coming or not coming was foretold all last week. The first few days of the shortened work or unwork week (depending on your employment status) was filled with reports of, “Well, the models can’t agree on which track the storm will take, but we’ll keep an eye on it and update our reports as we get closer to the weekend.” Still others held out hope that there would be a white Christmas with minimal accumulation.

Alas, Christmas Eve arrived and many meteorologists concluded that there was only a 25% chance that the storm would develop into a major snow event. The public at large took this to mean that it was safe to travel hundreds of miles throughout the northeast to grandma’s house for the day and not have to worry about adverse conditions returning home on the day after Christmas. Little did civilization know was that the US Weather Service had a belated Christmas gift for everyone to unwrap.

And lo, it came to pass late on Christmas Day that the weather forecasters began to tell us, “Hey, remember that 25% chance we were talking about yesterday? Well, it turns out we under calculated that percentage by about, plus or minus, give-or-take, 75%! Oh yeah, by the way, Merry Christmas!”

Suddenly the northeast was being told that the dusting we might get was now a major event with accumulations up to 20 inches. And, oh yeah, there would be blizzard conditions present just to rub salt into the wound. I spent the better part of Christmas night trying to get more details about the storm.

My usual source for weather forecasts was too busy televising wall-to-wall professional basketball games on Christmas Day. There wouldn’t be any forecast forthcoming on this channel until the wee hours of Sunday morning, if that. In desperation, I switched to the local Fox affiliate who was, miracle of miracles, actually broadcasting an evening news program. The show started promisingly with an extended opening segment featuring their meteorologist, John Bolaris, calling for a major storm, with details in “a few minutes”. Hold that a timely thought for a paragraph or so.

I should note at this point that Philadelphia and John Bolaris have a checkered history. When he worked for another local network affiliate some years ago, he scared the bejesus out of everyone with his prediction of a storm of the century. His affiliate hyped this storm as if it were the end of the world, but ultimately the weather gods smiled on southeastern Pennsylvania and the storm never materialized. Bolaris wasn’t so lucky; he received endless hate mail and one unfortunate incident of assault by urination as a result of his histrionics. Eventually, he felt it wise to leave town for a job in the Big Apple for a few years.

So now here was his moment of redemption on Christmas Day 2010. Once again he was calling for a big storm, but now he was at the mercy of his show’s producers who believe that “a few minutes” could actually mean anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes to perhaps never. I waited and waited for the details he promised at the top of the hour.

I sat through a video essay on the plight of the homeless in Philadelphia, which was very nice; it should win an Emmy. I tapped my fingers impatiently during a computer tech segment, and nodded off during a piece on the local mob. Honestly, I don’t give a damn how the local Mafia dons celebrated the holidays; the only thing I do want to know about them is if they are hiring or not. Bring back Bolaris, damnit! I know this guy’s work and when he promises a major storm he doesn’t eff around!

Finally, Bolaris was allowed to come back and give me all the what, when and wherefores of the next day’s storm. This time Bolaris had better luck with his prediction and this storm did develop as promised. So it turns out that meteorology is not the exact science we have been led to believe that it is. All the Doppler Radar systems and computer models in the world aren’t always 100% accurate. I guess that’s why they hedge their bets and call it “forecasting”.

(Thank you for reading. Please remember the coming spring should bring temperate conditions with chances of sunshine and occasional showers; the summer will be hot, humid, and sunny, with occasional showers; while autumn will be temperate conditions with chances of sunshine and wind...or maybe not.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Twas The Day Before Christmas 2010...

...and I’m not in the mood to rhyme! The big day is nearly upon us, and the rush and stress of the past six weeks will result in a few moments of “Oh, boy, look at what Santa brought me!” joy. Then, in a flash, it’s over! The sun will set on the 25th and with it all the sentiments of Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.

Despite my personal challenges this holiday season, I have tried my best to keep the spirit of the holiday in my thoughts and actions. Members of my family have already expressed their understanding that I don’t have to give them anything this year. The idea is nice and practical, but for reasons that I want to maintain whatever is left of my mental well being, I prefer to give gifts anyway. It’ll help me feel better knowing that I am still able to contribute something to society, even if it isn’t in the form of hard work in a 9-to-5 situation.

To that end, I have baked cookies once again to give to family and friends. It is my usual chocolate chips, but with a few twists. For one thing, I baked the cookies without brown sugar, but I did add chopped walnuts. The brown sugar deletion was due to our not having any in the house and a reluctance to buy a full bag when all I need is perhaps 1/8th of a bag. What would I do with the rest? Bake more cookies, of course, but that would be way more cookies than I, my wife, and my family and friends could eat within a reasonable amount of time.

In past years, the leftover brown sugar would harden and become unusable. I suppose I could toss the little hard crumbs under the bird feeder, where undoubtedly the local squirrel population would consume it. Still, this leads to more complications like squirrels chipping their little teeth on stone-hard brown sugar, and if they really got bored, they’d toss the sugar bricks at their other little squirrel friends. This could cause any number of serious injuries in our local squirrel community.

Naturally, I’m not afraid of squirrels suffering bumps and bruises. After all, this is just one more disadvantage of survival in the animal kingdom. Actually, I’m more fearful of the lawyers the squirrels might hire if they are hurt by sugar projectiles which may or may not be traced back to me. Trust me, squirrels know very good lawyers. So no brown sugar this year...

The season also brings the usual crop of Christmas cards to the house. This year the cards have been trickling in one or two a day, which makes me wonder how far along this quaint practice is from becoming extinct altogether. Yet some are fighting the trend and continue to send cards with more than just a greeting and a few cursory lines about what’s new in their lives. Yes, of course, I’m referring to the annual Christmas letter, in which some families type up entire essays about their activities throughout the year. In cases where you don’t hear from them the rest of the year, the letters can run the gamut from informative to nauseatingly cutesy.

One of my cousins detailed all of his children’s activities and their shared adventures as a family. One of his adventures this year was driving down to North Carolina on the pretext of seeing the Biltmore mansion. Now this is something I’ve always wanted to visit, but I understand how his children could have a hard time getting up the enthusiasm for such a trip. My cousin noted their apathy about the trip, but away they went any way.

Lo and behold, the Biltmore story was a ruse to disguise the real reason for the trip: adopting a beagle puppy that is a close relation to a Westminster champion. In the end, the family returned with two beagle puppies, one of which could never be shown at Westminster due to an undescended testicle. Horrors! So his children were delighted at the two new family additions and probably relived that they were spared the idea of touring a musty, old shack on the historical registry.

Now if I were able to give gifts to a wider circle of my relations, then I might consider giving my cousin’s children a clothing gift. Yes, a gift they could wear with pride, something along the lines of tee shirts that read, I went to North Carolina to see the Biltmore, and all I got was a defective puppy! Oh, well, perhaps next year...

As for myself, I’m trying my best to get the joy of the season this year, but it is a challenge. No amount of Bing Crosby longing for a White Christmas or even John Lennon’s just-out-of-humanity’s-grasp vision that War Is Over has lifted my mood for an extended period this year. All the sentiments have been bouncing off me and landing with a thud on the ground.

This forces me to open myself up a bit, and look deep inside for what I truly have this holiday season. I still have a roof over my head, a family that loves me, a wide circle of friends that are supportive of my aspirations for the coming year, and, most importantly, a number of opportunities ahead in my future just waiting for me to reach out and take for my own. Any joy I experience this year will spring from my gratitude from the blessings I can see and those that are yet to present themselves.

Look out world! I may be down now, but next year I’m kicking ass!

(Thank you for reading. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rolling Around the Floor with Our Favorite Holiday Tunes

It’s time once again for my annual state of the seasonal songs. This is the time of year when everyone, regardless of religious or cultural beliefs, is subjected to a relentless barrage of aural good cheer and (honestly) sincere wishes for peace. I do this commentary every year resulting in entries that range from profound rhetorical criticism to cranky rantings. This year let’s revisit two perennial holiday favorites that stand at opposite extremes of the spectrum of human emotion: Happy Holidays” and Christmas Shoes.

This year I had an epiphany when I heard Happy Holidays nearly non-stop as I shopped in King of Prussia. I heard the song playing over the mall’s speakers as I exited the book store and walked quickly before I was assaulted with its nauseating use of the words “whoop-de-doo” (on which I’ve dwelt in a previous entry). Once back in my car, I turned on the radio only to find — yes, you guessed it — the same version of Happy Holidays playing!

Immediately, I interpreted this sequence of events as a sign from on high. In my lifetime, another song assigns God-like qualities to major holiday icon, Santa Claus. We all know the one, “he sees you when you’re sleeping/he knows when you’re awake/he knows when you’ve been bad or good...”, etc. I now believe that Santa is getting credit where credit is not due. We should consider assigning the omniscience, omnipresent qualities to Andy Williams!

Yes, Andy Williams is God! He is everywhere — in the malls, in the stores, on the radio, in the air, in my HEAD! His version of Happy Holidays is relentless, and only stops when the calendar proclaims it is December 26th. Don’t get me wrong: Andy Williams is a great singer and his version of Moon River is the definitive version of the Henry Mancini composition. It’s just that...oh, sigh of sighs...I can’t take hearing Happy Holidays more than once a season.

This brings us to the equally insufferable Christmas Shoes. Please believe me, events in real life forced me to face the death of a loved one during this happiest of seasons. So in one small sense I do empathize with the song’s child character. That doesn’t mean I want to wallow every year in a mud puddle of maudlinity. (Hey, if Sarah Palin can refudiate, than I can certainly invent new phrases to express drenchingly sad sentimentality!)

Christmas Shoes reminds me of the statistic that suicides spike every year during the holiday season. Now I don’t want to strongly imply that this song pushes people to this final act just because I put the title in the same sentence with this grim reminder. I have no proof, but still you have to wonder about a possible connection.

On the other hand, I can’t recall anyone describing their mood after hearing Christmas Shoes as giddy. Seriously, has anyone overheard someone say, “I just love hearing about small children losing their parents to a dreaded disease! Why it just makes me want to RATFLOL!” (Again, if Sarah Palin can conjure up the spirit of Shakespeare in her quest to remake the English language, then I can certainly Roll Around The Floor Laughing Out Loud!) I’m just saying be careful what you listen to and gauge your holiday mood accordingly.

(Thank you for reading. Please remember a joyous mood does not live by music and lyrics alone.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

2010 Christmas List for Celebrities

This year, everyone should be given a good book to read. Herewith are our humble suggestions for required reading for selected celebrities in the coming year. Note: any resemblance between these book titles and actual books is purely coincidental.

For Republican House member and Speaker heir apparent John Boehner...Cockle-Doodle-Poop: A Complete Social and Political History of Chicken Crap.

For soon-to-be-ex-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi...Losing Well: How to Cope with Being Second Best.

For Senator John McCain...Major Tom Loves Lt. Harry: Overcoming Your Homophobia in the Military.

For President Barack Obama...A Complete Directory of Friends: Where to Find Them in Washington DC.

For Congressional Democrats...Living as a Minority Power in Congress: A How To Survival Guide After You’ve Been Bitch-Slapped By Your Constituents.

For Congressional Republicans...Living Humbly as a Majority Power in Congress: A How To Survival Guide After You’ve Gleefully Twisted The Knife Into The Guts Of Your Congressional Colleagues.

For former BP CEO Tony Hayward...The Joys of Modern Yachting: Getting Your Life Back on the High Seas.

For Wiki Leaks founder Julian Assange...Tight-Lipped: Keeping Secrets for Fun and Profit.

And finally, I cannot leave out Sarah Palin...Refudiating Smartness: Intelligent Sound Bites for Political Morons.

(Thank you for reading. Please remember the adventures of the mind which await you between the pages of a good book, or the screen of a Kindle, or ipad, or whatever...)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Christmas Whine List

Christmas is just under two weeks away and it occurred to me that I haven’t expressed my wish list for this season. Well, aside from the opportunity to spend time with my family, the only other thing I really want for Christmas is...a job!

It doesn’t have to be the greatest paying job in the world, but I’ll warn you now, bidding will start at $14 per hour. It may or may not be in my field of expertise, which is medical claims auditor. I should confess that I gained this skill after stumbling into the medical insurance field as a temp way back in 1989.

So now you know the awful truth: I did not go to college to become a medical claims auditor. You won’t find any credits for business courses anywhere on any of my college transcripts. Everything I knew about my position I learned on the job.

This job should also come with full benefits: medical, dental, vision, life and pension plan. It doesn’t matter to me if membership in a union is required or not. Is this too much to ask for?

So what if my wish is outlandish? I remind you that at this time of year millions of people below a certain age believe that all of their personal material needs will be met by some obese old man with high blood pressure and (possibly) a diabetic condition. These people also think that this same old man will personally deliver the objects of their desire with the aid of a small herd of mammals which miraculously pull him and his unlimited cargo on a rickety old wooden sled through the air with the talent of flying that they didn’t even realize they possess. Once at the point of delivery on residential roof tops, or so these people believe, this same old man will shove his parcels and his 60 inch girth self down a rectangular tube no bigger than 18 by 9 inches into living rooms all over the world.

Now considering all this, my one wish doesn’t sound so far-fetched, does it?

In reality, Santa Claus and his reindeer will more than likely complete their rounds long before any job offers come my way. I deeply regret that I cannot accept any old job which starts at $9.00/hour and, thereby in the eyes of American business, make my work more competitive with someone living in China or India. Such a salary would not allow me to meet my financial obligations, which is probably the same situation that millions of other Americans are facing.

To sum up my life during this holiday season: I’m not gainfully employed, unemployment insurance benefits will allow me to meet my financial obligations for the foreseeable future, and I do have friends. Okay, so maybe I don’t need any material objects to complete my happiness this Christmas. As for a job, or that situation which will enable me to pursue my other goals? I suppose I will have to be patient and let the economy improve to the point that American business thinks it’s okay to allow me and millions of other Americans to work again.

Oh, Santa, did I mention that this job should include paid sick and personal time, paid holidays and vacations?

(Thank you for reading. Please remember opportunity is everywhere, but it can be an elusive creature just the same.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Picking Nits on Capitol Hill

The lame duck Congress now in session has been marked by somewhat bitter infighting within the Democratic Party. The issue: extending the Bush era tax cuts to everyone. Obama had to give up one of his campaign promises in negotiating a compromise (with the Republicans) that will allow millions of unemployed Americans to collect more benefits. Democratic leaders in Congress believe that Obama caved in more than compromise.

I say compromise, you say caved, maybe we should call the whole thing off!

Here’s how the Capitol Hill battle over tax rates would personally affect me. Since I am unemployed – and will probably remain so for the remainder of this year and a good part of next year too — then my income (not counting unemployment benefits) is estimated to be zero. That’s zero, as in less than one, or in other words nothing, nada, null set! Now math was always my worst subject, but to make sure I have crossed all my “I’s” and dotted my tees, I will use my calculator to confirm my suspicion. Let’s see, tap in zero, tap in 39% of zero, tap multiply, and oh yes, my total tax liability would be (drum roll, please)!

My little exercise shows how irrelevant some of the nit-picking about the Bush era tax cuts/unemployment benefit extension bill is to me and the rest of the 9.8% of us who are career challenged during this holiday season. As the debate rages on, I find that my feelings on this issue, once in lockstep with President Obama, now is slowly changing and being shaped by the political and economic realities of the moment. The President is also showing signs of undergoing the same conversion.

President Obama made a campaign promise to repeal the tax cuts for the multi-millionaires/billionaires who make $250,000 or more in adjusted gross income. That pledge was made in the heat of battle for the White House. Oh, I’m convinced that Obama was sincere about this promise, but he has recognized – during the last few weeks – that his best intentions will not become reality. He has measured this realization against the idea that millions of unemployed Americans will shortly lose unemployment benefits.

This is called flexibility, and it should not be considered a crime in political circles. Democrats, please take note.

In the best of economic times, when deficit reduction is an attainable goal, then Obama’s tax cut plan would be desirable. The last quarter of 2010 is not one of those times. The President has little choice this year but to cut his losses and make a deal with the Republicans in Congress.

Unfortunately, many Democrats in Congress – these are the people who are theoretically in the same party as Obama – do not agree with the deal and are adamant in not allowing a vote on it to come to the House floor. Obviously, these people did not get the memo that compromise needs to be made for the good of the American people. They do have a valid point in allowing the super rich to get away from paying their fair share, but ladies and gentlemen of the Democratic caucus, the timing sucks.

So many clichés could be used to counter their argument: cut your losses, choose your battles more wisely (as in defending Obama’s health care reform), retreat now and come back to fight another day...and so on! Democrats, you need to have Obama’s back now. Oh sorry, you’re too busy charging at him with spears from the front to have his back. No, no, change direction and face those who will make you look like hypocrites on middle class tax increases to the electorate: the Republicans in Congress.

The Republicans, who have been arguing that maintaining a tax cut for the super rich will encourage investment and more job creation, appear to have won this battle. Soon we will call their bluff. Once the tax cuts are extended, then the American people should expect, nay demand, that the Republicans in Congress pressure their billionaire buddies to invest more of their income and create jobs.

This would be the time to take risks with their investments, tweak business models, diversify their production, and develop new innovations and products which will grow their companies and the nation’s economy in the face of international (i.e., China and India) competition. Oh yes, and of course, hire, hire, HIRE! If this is done, then in two years time, when the next round of elections are scheduled, the Democrats won’t be able to label them as hypocrites.

(Thank you for reading. Please remember, Mr. and Mrs. American Businessperson, “hire” is a four-letter word that should not be feared!)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Snort Notes – December 2010


At a time when I find myself contemplating reinventing myself for future career success, it is fortuitous that Leslie Nielsen’s name appears in the news for what, unfortunately, may be the last time. Nielsen built up a respectable resume on early television and movies, playing on many occasions a stern, stiff-upper-lipped character. He was almost parodying his previous roles when he played it straight in the Zucker/Abrams comedy classic, Airplane!.

Overnight, he had reinvented himself as an almost stone-faced pillar of calmness and tranquility in the center of a wacky universe. His newfound caricature led him to more work with Zucker and Abrams: the all too short television series, Police Squad, and its big screen franchise version a few years later, The Naked Gun series.

Here was an act of accidental reinvention — if this was carefully planned, then Nielsen and his agent are more brilliant than we’ve given them credit for — that resulted in a continuation of Nielsen’s career when most other actors retire. He’ll be remembered more for his work in the last 25 years than for all the work he did in the three decades before Airplane!.

Just don’t ever accuse him of calling you “Shirley”!


We knew that the political conflict over the tax cuts coupled with the expiration of unemployment benefits (a subject now close to my heart) for millions of Americans would raise temperatures in the nation’s capital, but even seasoned political wonks were shocked at John Boehner’s outburst. In a widely disseminated quote, Boehner called the Democrat’s proposal to allow the tax cuts to expire for everyone except the really, really wealthy, “chicken crap”. Even Democrats felt that their vote was more symbolic than realistic, given the fact that Republicans appeared to be winning the public’s opinion on the subject, but chicken crap? Really!

Come on Boehner, grow up and curse the Democrats out like a man! Come on, do your worst! They can take it!

If you’re really going to resort to such effin’ language, then don’t be afraid to call us rooster dirt! Or how about hen excrement? Or peep poop?

Such language in a sound bite broadcast into thousands of American family homes! Shameful! Perhaps you should stand with Charles Rangel in the well the next time the House has to shake their finger at an errant member of Congress!

Meanwhile, in another part of Washington, DC...


Yes, it is a bittersweet day in Philadelphia sports today with the news that Werth will play in Washington next year. We, the fans, will miss him. The Philadelphia Phillies management will not miss the huge expenditure in their payroll they would have had to shell out if Werth stayed in Philly. The total pay day amount is $136 million, and Werth is worth every penny.

(Now this is where I skillfully, but subtlety, wrap my entry back around a theme in the first paragraph.)

The Werth deal could be the answer to my stalled career situation. I could go to Washington and reinvent myself as a baseball player by claiming to be Jayson Werth. (Huh, huh? See what I did there?)

Of course, many Nats fans will see through my deception immediately. They will know that Werth is a strong, peak-of-his-prime athlete, and they will see me — a broken-down, hopelessly-unemployable 51 year old heart patient. They will look at me and say, “This is what we paid $136 million for? What kind of poultry doo-doo is this? My God, who’s in charge of this team? The Democrats in Congress?”

By the way, Nats fans, that’s not just Democrats in Congress. That’s chicken crap Democrats in Congress to you! Get it right!

(Thank you for reading. In all seriousness, good luck to Jayson Werth, and thank you for many memorable games as a member of the Phillies!)

Friday, December 03, 2010

A Bad Rap for Earmarks?

Since the election changed the political landscape in Washington, some old ideas are being dusted off and given a second look. One such issue is earmarks, or funding for pet projects usually requested by a member of Congress that benefits their home district. Politicians from both sides of the aisle have been jumping onto the repeal earmarks bandwagon because they believe many Americans are against them. Do earmarks really deserve this bad rap?

Like any concept, earmarks can be flawed and imperfect. It’s also true these funding requests can be subject to abuse and corruption, but the same could be said for many other products borne out of politics. On the flip side, earmarks can fund any number of projects on the local level. The projects could be road or infrastructure improvements, or for other economic development. In other words, these earmarks can create JOBS!

Horrors! Jobs for Americans! What are we thinking?

Despite this dubious benefit, earmarks are seen as some sort of intrinsic evil. Critics complain they add to the overall deficit. Some of the projects could be seen as pointless, or where the cost greatly outweighs the final result. Both arguments are valid, but have been overblown by opponents of the concept.

Yes, funds for earmarks are included in the budget, and in that regard they can become part of the deficit problem. People fail to keep in mind, however, that while earmark projects are listed in terms of millions or billions of dollars (which seems like a huge amount of money to anxiety-ridden conservatives), the deficit itself is counted in trillions of dollars (which really is a lot of money). Overall, the costs of all earmark projects add up to a percentage of less than one percent of the federal budget. In other words, eliminating earmarks may not make such a big difference in the great scheme of things.

So why do we attack them? Earmarks are vulnerable because they are a tangible concept. For example, lawmakers can score political points with the electorate by promising more jobs for people and more prosperity. They may even pass laws that give business incentives to create jobs, but beyond that there’s no guarantee the law will work. Business success is dependent on a variety of factors — supply, demand, market forces, debt, investment, profits, overreaching greed of the Gordon Gekkos on Wall Street, and so on — all of which is out of the legislators’ control.

Oh, but earmarks, now that’s something we can get our arms around. We can define it as bad when the economy is tanking, or we can choose to look the other way when times are good. We can cite an extreme example — Alaska’s infamous “bridge to nowhere” that was alternately welcomed, then disparaged, by then-Governor Sarah Palin — and make that one project emblematic of all the other earmarks.

Recently one earmark opponent found himself trying to side step an earmark project that in retrospect wasn’t very bad. Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) inserted a water project into a larger bill intended to pay a large settlement to Native Americans who sued the government for being cheated out of oil and gas royalties. The $200 million dollar water project will bring a clean water supply involving a dam, a reservoir and treatment plant to the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. Kyl denied it was an earmark to his critics, but in doing so made himself look like a hypocrite.

Horrors! We took their land, and we cheated them out of mineral rights. Now we want to give them fresh drinking water for themselves and their businesses! What are we thinking?

The settlement — totaling over $570 million - is a small step on the road to righting centuries old wrongs inflicted on Native Americans. Earmark or not, it is a worthy endeavor. Yet the movement to abolish them will persist.

So if we eliminate earmarks, then all will be right with the world. In a word: no. Legislators will go other routes to get their home projects paid for. For example, Congress could request funds through the pertinent government agencies rather than through legislation. This process will make everyone involved look devious and hypocritical. In truth, earmarks will not be going away anytime soon. We might as well learn to manage them against abuse and corruption, and reform the process, rather than toss everything out the window.

(Thank you for reading. No earmarks were requested or used in the production of this blog!)