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

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Sunday, June 30, 2013

End of the Judicial Season

My blog has been down since the middle of last week. The blog’s IT Department (i.e., Anne Marie) diagnosed the problem as a surge protector that got burned, possibly by a lightning strike. A trip to the local office chain store and one new surge protector later, we’re back in business.

So, did I miss anything while I was gone? No? I thought so…

Just kidding! Actually, a revolution happened with several skirmishes being decided in the halls of the Supreme Court. Rulings on the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) capped the end of the court’s current session.

Actually, progressives had plenty of reason to fret that the court would rule the way they did. On Monday, the court ruled on affirmative action, but the actual ruling was overshadowed by reports from court observers about Chief Justice Roberts’ bench antics. They noted and gasped at such actions as Roberts rolling his eyes and shaking his head while Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg read the dissenting opinion. This could be attributed to Roberts' exercising his First Amendment rights (which I’m guessing he might know a thing or two about), but his actions constituted a serious breach of court decorum.

(I must admire that last sentence, with all of its court related terms: constituted, breach, and decorum. Sometimes I amaze even myself.)

Given this report, how could we the people hope for sane, intelligent rulings from the high court when the leading jurist in the nation behaves like a fidgety five-year-old forced to endure a long church sermon.

We also got our hopes up with reports that Justice Thomas woke up from his hibernation and actually SPOKE from the bench. Unfortunately, the reports weren’t true: he did not speak, but he did contribute to a dissenting opinion which means that at some point he was roused from his comatose state to type out a few words. Well, at least he didn’t roll his eyes.

That was Monday. On Tuesday, the Court invalidated the formula in the VRA that determined which areas of the country would be subject to federal scrutiny before they changed any of their voting rules. I can see the point of unfairness of subjecting these rules to these areas – mostly the southern states, all former members of the Confederacy — while giving the rest of the country a pass. The majority opinion argued that conditions in these areas had changed and the ergo the rules were no longer needed. (Ergo!  Wow! Where the hell did that come from?)

So yes, while conservatives rattled off statistics about African-Americans making great strides in the south, they ignored movements in the rest of the country where the VRA could be applied. Voter ID law in Pennsylvania? HELLO!

The court threw the controversy back into the laps of Congress, who being a Republican conservative majority at this time aren’t expected to do a damn thing. Yes, it was not just to apply VRA to just certain sections of the county, but why remove the incentive for Congress to correct this injustice by invalidating the law? 

Seriously, were the Justices up all night (Justice Thomas was obviously excused) thinking their decision through?

With this in mind, we had no right to expect anything but the court to uphold DOMA the next day. But, praise be, another surprise! The court ruled DOMA unconstitutional and refused to overturn a lower court’s suspension of California’s Proposition 8 banning same sex marriages.
The news was welcomed and cheered in the gay community and by other progressive thinking people! The reactions from conservatives and the religious right wing…yeah, well, you can’t make everyone happy. Their reactions will fill another blog entry, but for the moment we should celebrate.

Congratulations are in order for all of the soon to be newly-wed couples applying for marriage licenses in California, and congratulations to all other gay couples who have had the second class status stigma lifted from their shoulders. The rulings have been a long time in coming! Cosmos for everyone!

Yet, the combination of the two major rulings in the closing days of this court session might throw a damper on the party. Who’s to say that the given VRA is determined to be outmoded, that some douchebag legislator from the midwest won’t propose some outlandish and preposterous notion that only citizens who can furnish proof of being part of a heterosexual relationship will be allowed to vote? And there will be no VRA in place to overrule it.

Who’s to say, except me? Okay, penalize me one round of cosmos for suggesting such a thing. Either that or may God strike my new surge protector.

So one battle lost, one battle won, and the war for equal rights will continue.

(Thank you for reading. Can someone wake up Clarence Thomas and tell him he can go home now?)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Snort Bites June 2013


In an event carried on live television, tightrope walker Nik Wallenda crossed a gorge over the Little Colorado River in northeastern Arizona. The broadcast included a camera pointing down into the canyon showing his point of view, if Wallenda was courageous/crazy enough to look down while he walked. He also wore a microphone which allowed viewers at home to hear his verbal pleadings to Jesus to calm the winds swaying his rope, and general ongoing conversation with Jesus to help him get to the other side successfully. Oh yes, he did this on a Sunday, but that’s okay. Since it was a Sunday, Jesus was on duty anyway.

I can’t blame him for wanting to talk to the Lord while he dared the elements. I would have been doing a lot of talking to Jesus if I were doing this trick. My conversation with the Lord would have been more along lines like this: “JESUS CAH-RIST! WHAT THE EFF WAS I THINKING WHEN I AGREED TO DO THIS! AM I EFFIN’ NUTS?”

Imagine being born a Wallenda, and you’re expected to go into the family business of doing stunts that are, oh how can I put this delicately, batshit crazy! Perhaps it’s a genetic trait, being born with a hot-blooded passion to thrill audiences all over the world. Yeah, it must be genetic: the family may not carry the sanity gene!


Former National Security Administration contractor Edward Snowden originally fled to Hong Kong when The Guardian published information he furnished about the NSA's tracking phone calls within the United States. Since the story broke, many have hailed him as a hero, dealing a blow to government intrusion. Still others have denounced him as a traitor, dealing a blow to security and safety.

In more recent days, Snowden left the comfort of Hong Kong for what was rumored to be political asylum in Ecuador via Moscow and Havana. Now there are accounts stating that he wasn’t on the plane to Cuba after all.

Now there’s an idea for a slogan: “Betray your country! See the world!”

Perhaps the story of a flight to Ecuador will prove to be just another rumor. We at arteejee feel obligated to squelch these additional rumors about Edward Snowden. It is not true that Snowden booked a flight for Moscow on Ethel and Julius Rosenberg Airlines. It is also not true that Snowden’s favorite dessert is pumpkin pie baked from a recipe handed down from Alger Hiss. Ditto for the story that Lenin is his favorite Beatle.

Perhaps I’m tipping my hand too soon; being a liberal I should be praising him. Yet, I can’t feel good about this. I’m ambivalent about the government spying on me. For all I know, Big Brother has been breathing down my neck for my entire life. Why complain now?

Then again, there are just too many organizations — international and domestic — who are bent on killing Americans. The work by the NSA might prevent the next Oklahoma City-style massacre, or the next 9/11 attack. Or perhaps I should withhold judgment on Snowden at least until the next time when thousands of us are in the wrong place at the wrong time and become victims of instant incineration.


Deen, a mainstay of the Food Network for nearly 20 years, recently admitted to using "the n-word” in a deposition for a lawsuit brought by a former employee at her Savannah, Georgia restaurant. The admission revealed that the lawsuit, alleging sexual and racial harassment, may have some merit. Indeed it may eventually be proven that Deen and company have a long history of being racially insensitive. There I go being delicate again…

Some aspects of Deen’s downfall smacks of irony. Leaders of the African-American community are forever talking about more honest dialogue between the races. I’m not sure what is considered honest dialogue other than white people standing up and admitting that they are racist. At this point, the white person loses his or her job, and their reputations and lives are destroyed. It’s at this point that Rev. Al Sharpton shows up, and when Sharpton shows up, you know that it’s game over.

So Paula Deen was honest and admitted to uttering "the n-word" 20 years ago. Now guess what’s happening. She lost her job on The Food Network, her reputation is being dismantled and she faces absolute ruin.

So the incentive for white people to be honest about their racial attitudes is…what? 
There seems to be a double standard at play. Rappers use "the n-word" in their work and people shrug. Oh, there is some sort of backlash, but I’ve never heard of an African-American artist’s career come to a complete and irrevocable end because they use "the n-word".

If Deen is suffering these indignities because she uttered "the n-word" years ago, then society is using the wrong reason to condemn her. In a perfect world, we could rely on the use of this word as a clear sign of racism. Unfortunately, the world is more complex than that. I know someone who regularly uses the word, but has had several close relationships with African-Americans over the years, so I cannot consider this person a racist. Yet, many others would condemn him.  

If, however, Deen is being subjected to professional ruin because of racially insensitive ACTIONS, then yes, we got her good now! Even Rev. Al made this eloquent differentiation between her words years ago, and her actions now, during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. It is her actions which will carry more weight as the lawsuit (and for that matter, public opinion) against her moves forward. When this is all said and done, Deen should be offered a shot at salvation and redemption.

(Thank you for reading. Amen, Rev. Al, amen!)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Uncle Hugh

My uncle, Hugh Wesley Cathers, passed away this week. He went peacefully, and I was grateful that his actual passing was quick and quiet after months of suffering. As the closest family member — his room in the rest home was a little over a mile from my house — I had many opportunities to watch him struggle with his pain. In retrospect, too many of those visits were heart wrenching.

He was the third of seven children born to Jack and Bonnie Cathers, the youngest boy, and possibly the most intelligent one of the family. His work through the years was mainly in electronics, and he entered the working world fresh from military service in World War II (Navy) in time to help bring the biggest innovation to society since the discovery of the wheel. That innovation was television. His first work was wiring bars and taverns for this new-fangled entertainment fad.
He married what was considered late for the 50s at the age of 30. His wife, Lillian, was a few years older than Uncle Hugh, but they lived many good years together until she died in 1988. For many of those years, they lived in a duplex in Northeast Philly, just off Roosevelt Boulevard. Uncle Hugh would probably still be there if he had not surprised a burglar about 12 years ago. The intruder knocked my uncle out with a blow to the head, an injury that my family does not believe he ever fully recovered.

Uncle Hugh was also a bit eccentric. He was very well read in science and mathematics, but unfortunately his intellect kept him isolated from normal relationships with the average Joe on the street. He had some outlandish ideas over the years, such as building immunity to poison ivy by eating it. I never worked the courage up to try his home remedy.

More recently, he had an idea to keep food warm in his room. All he needed was an empty coffee can, the wiring guts from a table lamp, and a light bulb. He described the idea to me, and I realized that his invention would never be endorsed by United Laboratories. I never brought the parts into his room, and the other residents of his facility were spared the trauma of having to escape a fast-moving electric fire.

He never had children of his own. He made up for it by keeping dogs. Uncle Hugh was famous in family lore for bringing strays home. I don’t know if anyone kept count of how many canines he brought home, but to hear the family talk it became a habit for him. He found one small dog in a downpour and brought her home to his mother, who called her Patsy. She may have been good company for Grandmom, but I recall that she was always cranky around me when I was small and just learning to walk. Fortunately, Grandmom made up for Patsy’s bitchy attitude by doting on all of us grandchildren.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive eulogy. There are many things I will never know about him; perhaps his surviving siblings will shed some light on his personal life soon. One thing I didn’t know until recent years was his artistic talent. He played harmonica since childhood and he would play it often in the home. I didn’t realize that he was an accomplished artist, preferring to use color pencils to paints. He concentrated on nature studies — exotic birds (as below) and other animals.

His very dry wit could easily be misinterpreted by the overly sensitive. I had an opportunity to spend a few weeks in the city in 1975, and he would take me wherever I wanted to go. Once he observed me buckling my seat belt when I got in to his car.  “Good idea,” he said, “At least then there will be one survivor to tell the cops what happened.” I should mention that his driving skills, like his wit, were also not for the feint of heart.

I will miss him, as will his 3 surviving sisters, assorted nieces and nephews, and millions of stray dogs all over the world.

(Thank you for reading!  RIP, Uncle Hugh.)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Baseball and Dad

A review of a new book about the game of baseball as a road to God* sparked a childhood memory or two. I’ve seen comparisons between professional sports to professional religion as early as the 70s, which tells me this is not a new theory. At first, I resisted the notion that something conceived as entertainment could be considered bigger than a belief in God itself. Then again, the first Super Bowl I watched depicted the coin used in the coin toss, mounted in a velvet pillow, and conveyed to the field in a Cadillac as if it were a member of the royal family, or dare I say it, a visiting deity.

How naïve and foolish I was!

I may still be naïve in many respects — still working through the concept that conservatives should be rehabilitated — but I believe I may have matured. I now accept the idea that a dedication to a sport is akin to Godliness. Some might view this as heresy, but we can’t deny the passions which sports bring out in people.

The reviewer, John Timpane, made the point that men relive their childhoods through the great game of baseball. He clinched his argument with a reference to the end of Field of Dreams, in which Kevin Costner’s character asks his father for a game of catch. As Timpane describes it, the end of the film filled the theaters “with the sounds of men weeping.”

All this led me to thoughts about my dad.

I’m sure I have mentioned before how there was always a distance between my father and I. It wasn’t just an emotional distance, as in two males subscribing to the age old stereotype not to allow the other guy see you cry. There was an actual spatial distance established early on. I blame his smoking habit for that. There seemed to be a perpetual blue haze hanging in the air between us, which I’m convinced shortened both of our life spans.

I realized, of course too late, how much he did love me. He moved his family out of the city and into a rural area, which was better for us in the long run. I was skeptical at first. I was only 10, but I was already dazzled by the excitement that living in a big city could bring. Dad didn’t necessarily move out of the city for his career; the standard of living in upstate Pennsylvania was obviously lower than in Northeast Philadelphia, which meant Dad took a pay cut. He seemed to work twice as hard after we moved than when we lived in the city.

Naturally, being a teenager at the time with all of the accompanying hormonal angst, I could not see beyond my seemingly perpetual boredom and appreciate the sacrifices he made. It meant longer hours away from home for him, and longer times spent away from us. In the meantime, my brother and I grew up and found other interests to pursue. By the time Dad had settled into a comfortable financial level and had more free time to spend with his family, we were long gone. Which I believe was one of the points being raised by Field of Dreams.

Sometimes the pursuit of material success can be a bitch!

So there was a spatial and emotional distance between my father and I. We remained close, but looking back now I realize that we could’ve been closer. Now the distance is permanent, and I can only be with him in my memories.

Field of Dreams has been in heavy rotation on cable recently, and I know what Timpane means when I watch the ending. I tell myself that I won’t get misty-eyed over it as I watch the scene, but it’s a struggle I have been losing. I’ve lost count how many times I have found myself wanting to do something, anything with my Dad since his death in 2005. So now I will accept that sports can be bigger than God, that times spent together with loved ones should be cherished no matter the distances between them, and that I will weep at the end of Field of Dreams.

I love you, dad, wherever you are.

(Thank you for reading. I think I need to be alone for a moment…)

*Baseball as a Road to God, Seeing Beyond the Game; by John Sexton, with Thomas Oliphant and Peter J. Schwartz; Gotham/Penguin.