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

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Snort Bites – January 2013


The Congressional Committee Comprised of Old Men Who Think They Know Everything About Everything More Than Anyone Else (trust me there probably really is a Congressional committee with this title) listened to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accept full responsibility for the Benghazi attack. Many committee members voiced their deep respect for Clinton’s many years of public service (from First Lady to Senate to cabinet position) and acknowledged that she is widely respected around the word. Then everyone revealed the knives they were concealing behind their backs and chucked them at the person they just completed praising to the high heavens.

Just another day inside the Beltway, America!

Foremost among Clinton’s praisers/backstabbers was Senator John McCain (who was having a busy week; see below), who stated that he found her response “unsatisfactory”. WTF?!? The woman accepted full responsibility for what happened on 9/11/12 when four Americans were killed! What more do you want?

I’m guessing that when McCain really said Clinton’s remarks were not satisfactory, he really wanted to say, “Hillary, don’t be a martyr. It’s not you we want! We want Obama! Sure he gave you the consolation prize of a cabinet position when he beat you in the 2008 primaries, but you don’t owe him anything! Tell us he was an incompetent leader who failed you and his country! Give us something so we can deliver his head on a platter to the American people!”

However, Clinton took the high road, proving once again why she deserves more respect than most people in this country have accorded her since the 1990s. She may be leaving the President’s cabinet, but it’s no secret: she 
will be back!

Meanwhile, on another part of Capitol Hill….


The two term Senator cited his disgust with Congressional partisanship as his reason for retiring. Really, Senator? I’m sure you had nothing to do with setting this partisan tone when, in running against the incumbent Max Cleland 12 years ago, you equated your opponent with being no better than America’s then enemies: Saddam Hussein and Osama bin-Laden. This is the same Max Cleland who sacrificed three (out of four) limbs in service to his country in Vietnam. Even the aforementioned John McCain expressed disgust at your campaign tactics, and that’s saying something!

In light of those campaign tactics, and in light of your unmemorable Senate tenure in the interim, we can only say that your two terms in Congress was two terms too long. Godspeed, Mr. Chambliss, godspeed!

Meanwhile, on another part of Capitol Hill….


Really? My, this was sudden! Wherever did this issue suddenly crop up? It’s not like it’s something that’s been debated, put on the back burner, canned and kicked down the road for the last…oh, let me see, 12-20 years!

Senator John McCain was featured prominently in the announcement that a proposal had been agreed to. This latest proposal allows illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, which McCain has not always been in favor. When he was up for re-election, he came out in favor of strengthening the border patrols and expanding the fence between the US and Mexico. So why the sudden change of heart?

As McCain explained it, his party is losing the Hispanic vote, and Republicans need to make themselves more attractive to this growing demographic. Gee, I would have thought that illegal immigrants should be given a path to citizenship because the immigrants are good workers who contribute a lot to our country in our quest to be competitive in the global markets. I guess helping out people for a wrong reason is better than not helping them at all.

Our Gal Sal passed away early on the morning of January 27. Anyone who grew up in Philly in the 1960s tuned into Starr after school or later, before we went to school. She introduced us to a cartoon sailor with a jones for spinach. Then she would play comedy shorts starring three “gentlemen” (Who came in?) that continue to entertain the masses to this day: The Three Stooges.

Starr’s program was cancelled some 40 years ago, but her fans grew up and always remembered her with fondness. In the intervening years, she would make personal appearances, and, until two years ago, hosted a weekly country music radio program from her home in southern New Jersey. I got the chance to see her at a Stooges convention two years ago in Ft. Washington, Pennsylvania.  She was feeble then, and hard of hearing, but God love her, she was still willing to overcome all that to see her fans, the children she adored all those years ago.

Those children are now middle aged and some are even preparing to retire. We grew older and the times changed. So now she is gone, and another slice of our childhood innocence is gone with her. Still, we have those memories of sitting in front of our televisions, perhaps sitting too close, and hanging on every word she said.  May God bless you, Sally, wherever you are today.

(Thank you for reading! “Love, luck and lollipops” to everyone who watched Our Gal Sal!)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Farewell to Learning Ally (Philadelphia)

I have put my voiceover talents to work when I volunteer at the Philadelphia studio of Learning Ally (formerly Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic: Learning Through Listening). I did this once a week for the last five years. There, other volunteers and I, mostly comprised of retirees in their 70s and 80s and a small paid staff, would record textbooks for people with learning disabilities. Most of our work concentrated on school textbooks, but anyone of any age could partake of our product.

This chapter of my volunteering life has now closed:  the Philadelphia studio will shut its doors this week after 24 years. The main office in Princeton NJ cited changing technologies and shrinking funding for its decision to close Philadelphia and six studios in other parts of the country. Learning Ally itself will continue to produce recorded books, but with a technology that will enable volunteers to record in the comfort of their own home. This same technology will render centrally located studio sites — with such pesky economic liabilities as a paid staff and office leasing charges - obsolete.

I use the word pesky sarcastically. I don’t consider the salaries paid to the Philadelphia staff a nuisance by any means. They are wonderful people who performed a great service to the learning disadvantaged. I feel badly that they will be unemployed — I was in their position at this time two years ago — and they don’t deserve to experience the loss of gainful employment. Given their talents, I don’t believe they will be out of work long. I will miss seeing them and interacting with the other volunteers every week.

This death has not gone without some display of rancor. There has been some Internet and Facebook grumbling from other volunteers about mismanagement at the main office and, indeed, the extravagant salaries paid to the executives of this non-profit appear to be obscene. This is to be expected; we volunteers need to work though our grief and vent frustration at the idea of losing the work we all loved to do.

So what exactly was this work? We’d take our assigned books into sound-proof booths which measured about 6 x 6 foot square, have our voice levels checked by one of the staff, and with a few mouse clicks, read out loud text into overhead microphones and record as much as we could in the course of our two hour blocks of volunteer time. Mistakes, mispronounced words, coughing and other extraneous noises would be cause to stop the proceedings, rewind back to a point in the text prior to the mistake, and re-record over the offending error. 

We would read all the words, those inside parenthesis and those without. We would also read the three dots… (ellipses) denoting an omission in a quote. We would even read “Quote” and “End of quote”.

Given that most of our work was with textbooks, there would be plenty of drawings, paintings, maps, and graphs interspersed throughout the books.  These would have to be read too, or (more accurately) described in the most efficient and succinct manner as possible. At the end of each description, we would see the letters “RTT” for Return to Text, and utter these words to instruct the reader to resume reading the words on the page. 

All this labor so that someone at the other end could listen as they read and understand a little better the world we live in. They listen to our voices and overcome their learning disabilities. Once they overcome their handicap, they stand a better chance of being productive members of society. Just knowing this is reward enough for many of us who volunteered our time over the years.

I will miss this work, although very few times did it feel like work. Granted there were too many times in the last two years when I would have to cancel at the last minute because my day job left me too mentally and/or physically exhausted to record. The staff would always graciously accept my cancellation, but I would make sure to call back and schedule another block of time for the following week. It never occurred to me at such times that there would come a week when I could not volunteer. Unfortunately, that week has arrived, and it came too soon.

I don’t know if I will jump back into volunteering any time soon. My volunteer opportunities have, for the moment, dried up. My once-a-month volunteer work at the Stoogeum ended last month when the owner, Gary Lassin, decided to stop the weekend open houses and open his doors for paying customers by appointment only. I miss that work too, but perhaps it’s time for me to take a break.

I don’t see myself banging down Learning Ally’s door anytime soon to apply for their recording at home opportunities. I wouldn’t mind doing the work, but at the same time it would remind me of the camaraderie that I am missing. There were not only the weekly volunteer sessions to enjoy, but there were perks, like the annual volunteer appreciation party, the Groundhog Day celebration, and of course the volunteer holiday party in December. These were all great times to meet and mingle with the other volunteers that many of us would never see in the course of our normal weekly two hour blocks, but they were also good times to eat and drink (non-alcoholic) beverages.
The holiday party in particular was a potluck affair.  One staff member would bring in stew and/or chili. Other volunteers would bring various delicacies ranging from dips to casseroles. I would contribute a loaf or two of Anne Marie’s beer bread. The beer bread was so popular with the other volunteers that I was obliged to bring in printed copies of the recipe.

I will miss all of this. The mood was a bit somber in the last few weeks since we all learned that the studio was closing. Yet there were signs of moving forward with hope. Someone had posted a movie still of Leonard Nimoy in his Spock character flashing his “Live long and prosper” hand gesture. Another sign had a quote attributed to Dr. Seuss: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

The Philadelphia Studio happened for 24 years…(ellipses) and it was wonderful!

Good luck to Dave, Colette, Tom, Jim and Kylee.  May God bless you and please keep in touch!

(Thank you for reading! Return to Text.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

History and 2 x 4s

We begin this week with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday and National Day of Service coupled with the second inauguration of America’s first African-American President, Barack Obama. This time, the inaugural festivities were slightly different. For one thing, they were pared down due to economic reasons. The first Obama inaugural had 10 balls; this time there were only two.

Yet the festivities were also similar. Both times, Obama took the oath of office twice. At the first inaugural in 2009, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts screwed up the wording. Just to be on the safe side, and also so Obama’s presidency would be legitimized, justice and president redid the swearing in privately. In the end, their extra effort didn’t matter: Obama’s political enemies spent much of the next four years and untold financial resources trying to delegitimize Obama’s presidency.

This time the constitutionally mandated start date for the new term — January 20th — fell on a Sunday. It just wouldn’t do to have the usual festive celebrations on the Sabbath. Thus Justice Roberts administered the oath to Obama in a private ceremony to satisfy the Constitution. On Monday, the usual public swearing-in was held at the usual time and at the usual location. This time, the justice and the president got the wording right, but some people still bitched because the swearing in was held on the Sabbath.

You can’t win with some people, no matter what you do.

As for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday itself, I would have made a point of setting aside the entire day for my volunteer work at Learning Ally, but I did not have the day off. I did volunteer for a couple of hours after work, and I will do another two hours later this week. I don’t usually double up like this due to work time constraints and energy, but this week is different. After this week, the Philadelphia studio for Learning Ally will be no more. I’ll publish its obituary at a later date, but I don’t want to ruin the festive mood of the day.

This inauguration is historic for several reasons. It marks the first time in our nation’s history that an African-American is returning to the White House for a second term. It is also only the second time in American history that we will have three consecutive two term administrations. The first time this happened was with Presidents Jefferson, Madison and Monroe. Since then, the American electorate changed its mind and displayed buyer’s remorse after one term for many Chief Executives. In other cases, fate intervened and a number of Presidents didn’t live long enough to see a second term.

So, once the partying is done, the President will go back to the Oval Office,  Congress will come back to Capitol Hill, and Republican legislators will return from wherever they were during the inaugural just so they could avoid rubbing elbows with Democrats. Apparently Democrats have cooties.

The big issues to which these divergent parties will return include gun control, the debt ceiling (or Fiscal Cliff Part 2), and maybe immigration reform.   

Inexplicably, one issue will not even register on their radar: the length of our American sandwiches. It appears that one enterprising person with lots of time on their hands (or a lawyer who desperately needs work) has decided to sue the Subway sandwich restaurant chain for deceptively selling foot-long hoagies which are not, in fact 100% of the time, precisely a foot long. A team of investigative reporters on Good Morning America ordered hoagies and measured four of them on live tv. The verdict: two were exactly a foot long, and the other two were short by fractions of that last inch!

Scandal! Horror! Shriek, shriek! Visions of Macauley Culkin doing his impression of Munch’s Scream, etc. etc. etc.

Well, America, while I do not want to throw cold water on a seemingly national crisis, I should point out that this is just another example of business as usual. Consumers have long been exposed to a slight exaggeration of reality when it comes to measurements of our most cherished goods. It’s known in mathematical terms as “rounding up”. (Just for the record, the French also have a term for it, which is roughly translated as “rounding up”.)
For example, let’s look at the lumber industry. Do you know, my fellow American do-it-yourselfers, that a piece of construction material commonly known as a 2 x 4 is not ACTUALLY two inches by four inches? Don’t take my word for it: measure it yourself.  You’ll probably find that the actual measurement is 1-3/4 x 3-3/4!

Scandal! Horror! Shriek, shriek! Visions of Macauley Culkin blah, blah, blah.

This shocking revelation is made all the worse by complacency: apparently the average American consumer has long accepted this short-changing of our lumber supplies. Consumers should not allow this to become a trend. Let’s contemplate what this shorting of wood dimensions would mean. 

  • 1 x 3 is actually 3/4 x 2-3/4!
  • 1 x 2 is 3/4 x 1-3/4!
  • 1 x 1 is 3/4 x 3/4! (1 x 1 should by all rights cease to exist!

Scandal! Horror! Shriek, shriek! Who gives a damn about Macauley Culkin?

Are we willing to let this happen? Apparently yes! Has this blog entry veered off into a bizarre topic? Naturally! More importantly, will we allow this to happen to our lumber just so we can concentrate on matters of greater importance like gun control, budget deficits, gay rights, and immigration (all topics which President Obama touched on in his inaugural address)? So help me God I hope so!

(Thank you for reading. Now I the French have an expression for a sentence that begins and ends with the same word?)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Paranoia Fantasy

At the risk of formally changing the focus of this blog from satirical musings of the American culture at large to one that continually asks the question, “What up yo effin’ ass, NRA?”, we will wade into the gun debate mire once again.    

For a moment, let’s indulge the liberal fantasy (and feed the paranoia of gun owners everywhere) and pose a scenario where the United States actually takes measures to confiscate all the guns in the land — all 300 MILLION of them. A typical scenario might play out something like this.

ATF Agent:  Knock, knock!

Law-abiding Gun Owner: Who’s there?

Agent: ATF, sir!

LaGO: ATF who?

Agent: Umm, damn! I had something for that! Knock, knock!

LaGO: Why are you saying knock, knock when you can just rap your hand on my door?

Agent:  Because this is satire! Knock, knock!

LaGO: Who’s there?

Agent: ATF, sir! Seriously, we’re here for all of your guns!

LaGO:  All of them? Isn’t there a law against that?

Agent:  Not anymore, sir! It’s been rescinded, Executive Order #24!

LaGO:   Well…okay! You want all my guns?

Agent: Yes, sir! Automatics, semi-automatics, revolvers, pistols, rifles, shotguns, lugers…oh and if you have any drinking straws that can be used as pea shooters, I’ll take those too.

LaGO:  Okay, give me a minute to gather them. (One minute later…)  Here you go Mr. ATF agent. I’m handing over all of my weapons because I am a law-abiding American citizen.

Agent:  Thank you, sir!

LaGO:  Can I have a written receipt for those?

You get the idea. So let’s take the amount of time (nearly two minutes) for that scenario to play out and multiply it by 300 MILLION. Hold on, give me a moment to do the math…multiply 300 million by…okay, carry the 6, drop the 2…umm, okay, I just realized that the answer is so big it won’t fit on my Staples SPL-230 calculator. Anyway, final answer is it would take 1,141 YEARS for government agents to gather up 300 MILLION guns.

Trust me when I say that I believe the US government has better things to do with its time.

Of course, my little scenario is totally fictional and unrealistic. Naturally there would be more than one ATF agent in America collecting all these guns, so that might cut the time down to oh, I don’t know, 770 years. Also I doubt that the average gun owner will be so willing to hand over his weapons as my naïve fellow did in my scenario.

Actually, the majority of such seizures would likely deteriorate into full fledged gun battles between the gun owners and the ATF, and any other local law enforcement agents which the ATF happened to talk into going along with them. Ah, the paranoid will say that if the government really wants our guns they will set the military against us. My response: while members of the armed forces may be duty bound to follow the orders of their superiors no matter what, many of them are also gun owners in civilian life. The order to disarm their fellow Americans might meet some resistance and, who knows, could trigger a full-fledged military rebellion against the Commander-in-Chief.

I doubt that we have any political leaders fool hardy enough to risk a rebellion. And don’t even get me started on the survivalists who already have one foot inside their fortified blockades somewhere in the rural regions of America, stocked with enough canned food to last a small army years. They are way ahead of the rest of the country in the great paranoia stakes!

Total confiscation of all firearms is impractical. It is too costly to implement in terms of time and money (remember, many government workers are paid union scale). Who in Congress would agree to fund such an operation? Talk about bankrupting the country!

(Thank you for reading. And no, you can’t have a receipt!)