Posts Tagged ‘news’

Occupy Wall Street is occupied with ‘issues’

October 12, 2011

The dirty, stinking hippies who make up the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York will see their “be-in” enter its second month this week, with participants still incapable of selecting only one thing to protest about and still in need of a shower and a haircut.

Meanwhile, pundits and other observers continue to struggle with how to portray the anti-corporate movement in terms that the American people can understand.

“They smell bad, and they don’t pick up after themselves,” said Fox News commentator Mike Huckabee.

“Most of the men need a shave, and the women are just plain ugly,” noted CNN contributor Erik Erikson.

“Many of them are soiled,” added Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report. “I’d personally give each one a good scrubbing in the bathtub if I could find a hazmat suit that would allow me to get close enough.”

Some who have watched the grassroots movement grow from a few hundred marchers to thousands of demonstrators in over 70 cities complain that the group can’t articulate its concerns in a few simple words.

“They talk about economic inequality, upper-class greed and the way that corporate money controls our entire political process,” said Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan. “What does that even mean?”

“Does anyone really not know what the basic message is of this protest?” asked civil rights lawyer and protest supporter Glenn Greenwald. “Wall Street is oozing corruption and criminality, and its unrestrained political power — in the form of crony capitalism — is destroying financial security for everyone else.”

“Ha, ha,” noted Noonan. “That’s too complicated.”

Noonan and others have said that the movement needs to articulate its message in simpler terms. Abuses of a long-entrenched hyper-capitalism that have resulted in a full-on attack of the middle and working class are hard to put your finger on, critics say.

“They could take a tip from Herman Cain and his ‘9-9-9’ tax plan,” said Huckabee. “Pick some random numbers and say that these represent your stand on complicated issues. If nothing else, people can use them to play the lottery.”

“Better yet, pick a few key words,” added Noonan, a former Republican speechwriter. “I would suggest ‘grimy,’ ‘grubby,’ ‘filthy’ and ‘foul.'”

A few more-moderate observers have suggested that Occupy Wall Street protesters represent a movement with roots similar to the Tea Party. Both have anti-government tendencies and both have relied on widespread public frustration with a status quo they claim is not serving their interests.

“Whoa, there. I wouldn’t say that,” said former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who many regard as a spokesperson for the Tea Party. “Folks in the Tea Party not only wash their hair, but they also style and color it. Many of the women wear tasteful jewelry while the men are careful to keep their shirts tucked in.”

Palin stressed that good grooming was the foundation of America, and that the Founding Fathers would’ve had spiffy crewcuts “if they’d had access to modern hair-cutting technology.”

David Raphael, founder of the Light Party and one of the spokespeople for the protest, said that demonstrators represent the 99 percent of the American people who struggle to survive, while the 1 percent super-rich exploit everybody else.

“This is a holistic, proactive, educational new political paradigm party dedicated to health, peace and freedom for all,'” Raphael said. “We have formulated a practical, synergistic seven-point program which addresses and serves to resolve our current socioeconomic and ecological challenges.”

Raphael added that he was reluctant to assume the role of official spokesperson, noting that most of those involved prefer that the movement remain leaderless. He used the so-called “people’s microphone” — a system of loudly repeating what each speaker says designed to get around the city’s ban on sound amplification — to confirm statements he gave to reporters.

“I’m saying we need to set the agenda for a New America,” Raphael told bystanders.


“No, wait,” Raphael corrected. “I’ll say we’re making a common statement about government corruption.”


“No, no, I’ll say instead that we’re anti-consumerist and we want someone to address the growing disparity in wealth, and the absence of legal repercussions for those who caused the global financial crisis,” Raphael continued.


“Oh, I’m just going to say ‘power to the people,'” Raphael finally said in exasperation.

“SOMETHING ABOUT A PEEPHOLE,” the crowd shouted in confirmation.

Look at these filthy protesters. Just LOOK at them. (Don't, however, smell them).

Palin not runnin’, though she won’t rule out bus-ridin’

October 6, 2011

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announced yesterday that she will begin a three-month nationwide bus tour next week to remind people all across America that she is not running for president.

Palin released a statement to supporters revealing her decision early Wednesday evening, and it was front-page breaking news for about half an hour. Then, Apple founder Steve Jobs had to go and die, diverting media attention from the Tea Party darling.

“The nerve of that guy,” said Palin supporter Becky Beach. “He just stepped all over the coverage that should’ve been hers. Typical liberal-media-elite move.”

Others wondered, however, if Palin was a victim of bad karma. Her bus trip earlier this summer stopped in New Hampshire on the same day former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney made his candidacy announcement. Next, the tour swung through Iowa on the eve of that state’s straw poll, deflecting attention from Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s victory there.

“That’s ridiculous. We don’t even know the meaning of ‘bad karma,'” Beach responded. “Seriously, we don’t know what it means. It’s definitely not part of any Christian theology, that’s for sure.”

Palin had apparently timed yesterday’s announcement to follow the news Tuesday that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would not seek the nomination. Sources say she was concerned Christie’s growing shadow over the GOP field would block out interest in her candidacy, not to mention the sun.

When Christie told reporters he felt he was not qualified to be president only two years into his term in the governor’s office, he seemed to imply that Palin’s similar lack of experience could hold her back too.

“Since when should ‘experience’ or ‘education’ or ‘having half a brain’ matter?” Beach continued. “Sarah is obviously way more attractive than Christie, and it’s that veneer that is most important to her base. I should mention, too, that she’s also more attractive than Steve Jobs was.”

Palin’s communications office said the so-called “Hey, Look At Me Tour” is still in the planning stages, but several stops are already set.

Tonight, Palin’s signature motorcoach will be parked outside Yankee Stadium during Game 5 of the American League Divisional Playoffs between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers. Immediately following the game, the bus will be loaded aboard a jumbo jet and flown to Munich, Germany, where Palin will appear at Oktoberfest celebrations.

The 2008 vice-presidential nominee will then return to the U.S. in time for Halloween, when she plans to drive along behind random trick-or-treaters as they go house to house for candy. In November, the Palins will drive throughout the rural South, shooting wild turkeys from a stand they’ve built atop their bus. They will then deliver these carcasses to the hungry for Thanksgiving dinner, if in fact they can find anybody hungry in this Great Land of Plenty.

In early December, she and husband Todd will festoon the vehicle with holiday decorations for a trip to Disney World where they’ll park outside the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Then, on Christmas morning, she plans on showing up at your house and opening your children’s gifts for them.

In a video posted through her Facebook page, Palin said her decision not to seek the presidency was grounded in her desire to “devote ourselves to God, family and country, in that order.” She also noted that “that sweet, sweet Fox News cash” was also a factor, and refused to shut the door on a potential 2016 bid “when I still won’t be ugly.”

“You don’t need an office or a title to make a difference,” Palin said in the statement.

“And, by the way, let me tell you about my memories of Steve Jobs,” she added.

"Look, everybody, it's me," Palin tells a crowd of supporters.

‘Targeting hassling’ is new Obama strategy

October 4, 2011

President Obama’s success in killing off al-Qaeda leaders contrasts vividly with his inability to counter attacks from his political rivals. Now, however, the White House has begun using the same strategy that eliminated Osama bin Laden to blunt Republican criticism of his administration.

No, the president won’t be dispatching Predator drones to correct misstatements from right-wing opponents by dropping Hellfire missiles on their motorcades. But sources say he will soon begin using the CIA and its remote-control-warfare capacity to “hassle” potential rivals for the presidency in 2012.

“We’re not talking about anything that approaches the brutality of 100-pound missiles,” said an intelligence source who asked not to be named. “We just want to give them a hard time. The campaign will be more like what you might expect from a crazy ex-girlfriend than a full-on military effort.”

Similar to the “kill or capture list” that targeted bin Laden in May and propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki last week, the “pester or annoy list” will inconvenience Republicans with anonymous strikes by computer-guided robots.

The effort may have already begun. Yesterday, one-time front-runner Mitt Romney reported to local police that somebody scratched a large gash on the door of his car while he was grocery shopping.

“It was the weirdest thing,” reported witness Jim Michaels of the incident in suburban Boston. “One of those motorized shopping carts for the handicapped came flying out of the store on its own and zeroed in right on his Mercedes. It left a pretty big mark.”

Romney was not hurt in the incident, though he missed the rest of the day campaigning while waiting at the Maaco shop for the gash to be buffed out.

In another apparent attack, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has asked his state highway patrol to investigate a rash of late-night phone calls that have awakened him and his wife several times in recent days.

“We must’ve had 50 calls since Sunday asking if ‘Jose’ is here,” said Perry’s wife Anita. “Then last night, ‘Jose’ calls and asks if there are any messages for him. It’s not funny.”

“Yeah, that one’s a classic,” said the source familiar with the operation. “They set it up through one of the president’s campaign offices, using their robo-call software.”

Other episodes that seemed unconnected at the time are now being checked out by officials with the Republican National Committee.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has reported that a “souped-up Roomba” vacuum cleaner skidded all over her front lawn Monday night, “turfing” large sections of grass.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul had pictures of an apparent impersonator posted on his Facebook page. The ersatz Paul was shown passed out and drunk on the floor of a fraternity party, then is later seen handing spare change to a homeless man.

“It’s obviously been Photoshopped,” said Bill Welch, Paul’s campaign manager. “Still, it does take time away from his campaigning to have to deny something as scandalous as giving money to the poor.”

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum told friends that during a recent appearance at a Philadelphia-area school, someone put a sign reading “KICK ME” on his back. Surveillance video shows it was done by a glassy-eyed teenager who approached the Tea Party favorite from behind.

“Okay, technically, that wasn’t a drone,” said the CIA source. “But we did entice the kid with some crystal meth, so he was pretty much a zombie at the time.”

Officials in the Obama White House denied knowledge of the apparently widespread effort. Targeted killing has come under considerable criticism from human rights groups, though “targeted hassling” seems less likely to present legal obstacles.

“If we had a guy on a Segway, just riding in circles around (former House speaker) Newt Gingrich, getting up in his face and chanting ‘I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you,’ I think constitutional scholars would agree that’s not illegal,” said one anonymous White House insider. “I’m not saying we’d do that, however. Especially considering how his campaign is fading on its own, and how the battery would run down about the fifth time around Newt.”

Former Senator Rick Santorum meets with a supporter

Dentist claims that work is necessary

September 27, 2011

ROCK HILL, S.C. (Sept. 27) — In a stunning development, it was reported yesterday that I have several cavities, some of which will require a simple filling but others that could need a full root canal.

Officials at Iredell Dental Care (IDC) made the surprising announcement following a routine cleaning and exam Monday afternoon. Even though I had a clean bill of dental health at my previous visit six months ago, now the dentist claims I need work done that could cost thousands of dollars.

“Are you serious?” I asked following the 45-minute-long appointment. “How can there be such a big change in such a short period?”

“I’m not sure,” said Dr. Leena Jones, who performed an examination that included jabbing at suspicious areas with a pointy metal thing. “Sometimes, cavities can develop quite quickly.”

In a Proposed Treatment Plan issued by IDC, I reportedly need a “posterior composite – 2 surface” on tooth number 2, a “composite resin, 1 surface” on tooth number 26, and a “posterior composite – 1 surface” on several other teeth. These procedures run between $139 and $204 each.

In addition, there’s a need for a “crown, porc. fused to high nobl” as well as “endodontics, 1 canal” on teeth 3, 22 and 27. Estimates for this work range from $647 to $997.

“Let’s see what your insurance would cover,” said the helpful lady (I think her name is Jane) at the front desk. “Oh, I’m so sorry. You’ve used up your 2011 allotment already. It was only $1,000 anyway.”

I’m tempted to get a second opinion from another, more-senior doctor who works with the practice. The lady dentist who performed my exam was certainly cute and friendly enough, and I freely acknowledge she’d be welcome in another setting to put her hands in my mouth.

However, the firm’s founding dentist — a man who’s about my age, and was probably pulling teeth before young Dr. Leena was born — has the gravitas I need to confirm the extensive work will be necessary. I’ll talk to him when I get a chance.

“What, do they think I just have thousands of dollars laying around to be spent on dental work?” I asked myself following yesterday’s visit. “They don’t even hurt. Why can’t I just wait till they hurt?”

According to WebMD, a delay in treatment could cause teeth which otherwise might be fixed with fillings to instead require the more-expensive root canal.

“Maybe I could just check a different online source,” I proposed.

Unfortunately, both and a guy I play Farmville with confirm this likely scenario.

Dr. Leena did say that I might be able to prevent further cavities by improving my brushing stroke. She asked the dental hygienist to show me how to make a circular motion on the gum, then move the brush over the teeth “in the direction they grow.”

“You brush up for the bottom teeth and down for the top teeth,” said Angela Davis, hygienist and former vice-presidential candidate for the American Communist Party. “Like this. And make sure you do it every night before you go to bed.”

“What am I, some kind of child?” I wondered. “I know how to brush my own damn teeth.”

Dr. Leena also gave me a script for “prescription toothpaste,” marketed under the name “Prevident 5000.” Like I’m going to show up at some pharmacy and ask for prescription toothpaste.

“Maybe I can alter the script to get Vicodin,” I speculated.

IHC said I could study the Proposed Treatment Plan and get back to them about what I wanted to do. However, according to the fine print at the bottom of the page, “the above services and fees are valid for 90 days.”

“I don’t have $3,576 now, and I’m not likely to find it in the next three months,” I countered. “It’d be cheaper to hire someone to chew for me, then feed me like a baby bird.”

This could be me, unless I come up with thousands of dollars

Bothersome ‘facts’ don’t square with governor’s claim

September 22, 2011

To those who have wondered how Tea Party types with limited comprehension of subjects like “science” and “facts” would govern if elected — look no further than South Carolina.

Our governor, Indo-Hottie Nikki Haley, was swept into office last year after out-stupiding Republican opponents in her party’s primary, then cruising against a Democrat in the general election. She rose from being an obscure legislator to the state’s top office after getting an endorsement from fellow-dunderhead Sarah Palin.

Touting her experience as bookkeeper for her mother’s clothing firm, the former Nimrata Randhawa has staked out what she calls a pro-business agenda. This apparently includes a trip abroad costing in excess of $100,000 to lure European companies to move to South Carolina, an effort which not surprisingly has yet to yield results.

Though she spouts the standard anti-government rhetoric of the Tea Party — even to the point of refusing federal funds that might mitigate the state’s horrendous education and employment rates — she’s all too ready to insert the state into people’s private lives through the drug-testing business. She wants those receiving unemployment and other government benefits to generate a drug-free stream of urine before they are qualified to avoid starvation and homelessness.

Haley bases this cornerstone of her public policy on a conversation she “thought” she had while campaigning at the Energy Department’s Savannah River nuclear site.

“We were on the site. There were multiple people in there. And that comment they made had a huge impact on me,” Haley told the Associated Press recently. “It’s the reason you’re hearing me look into whether we can do drug testing. Somebody can’t say that and it not stick you in the gut.”

The “that” which Haley vaguely remembers is this: half the people applying for work at the site failed their pre-employment drug test, and half the remainder couldn’t pass reading and writing tests. Since “learning” that “fact,” Haley has used the illustration to justify her attempt to link drug tests to benefits.

Haley said she’s probably repeated the story “a million times” since hearing it. Trouble is, the story is not even close to being true.

Department of Energy spokesman Jim Giusti says that less than one percent of workers failed pre-employment screening tests. This matches up with reports by Quest Diagnostics, a national drug testing company, that show on average less than two percent of people test positive for drugs nationally.

Haley now admits that she’s “frustrated” that she can’t document something that has so shaped her policy perspective.

“I’ve never felt like I had to back up what people tell me. You assume that you’re given good information,” Haley said. “And now I’m learning through you guys [the press] that I have to be careful.”

The people who misinformed her are “now all backing off saying it,” Haley offered. “And they know they said it. But now they don’t have the backup.”

“I’m not going to say it anymore,” Haley finally conceded.

As for the other half of applicants who allegedly couldn’t pass reading and writing tests, Haley has offered no similar concession. But it’s probably true that, thanks to education budgets gutted by successive Republican governors, close to half of a random sampling of South Carolinians could be illiterate.

One interesting footnote: Quest’s annual survey did show that the overall drug test failure rate for South Carolina was 6.5 percent, about four times the national average though still well short of Haley’s 50 percent claim. But all that proves is that you have to be stoned to voluntarily live in the Palmetto State.

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley

Job sharing could end unemployment

September 20, 2011

A little-noticed clause in President Obama’s new jobs bill could result in a dramatic drop in the jobless rate. However, the quality of the jobs, and the goods and services that result from them, could suffer significantly.

The proposal to encourage more “job sharing” — an arrangement that allows two or more workers to split a single job — could knock the current 9% unemployment rate to almost zero. But having multiple people performing a task that was previously done by a single individual could have a serious downside, economists warn.

“It’s bound to get a little crowded on the other side of the bank teller window,” noted Princeton’s Mike Brennan. “If you’ve got half a dozen clerks all trying to help you at once, I’d recommend you count your money carefully.”

The plan offered by the administration is based on the European model, where the workforce is allowed to keep up its skills and maintain benefits while working drastically reduced hours.

Republicans were quick to attack the bill.

“Based on a European model?” asked House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.). “What, does everybody have to start smoking and making themselves vomit to lose weight? I don’t think we need to have public policy in the United States dictated by a bunch of Eurotrash stick-figure models wearing the latest style in goofy hats.”

“The American people,” added House Speaker John Boehner, “are not prepared to wear goofy hats.”

Democrats seemed to be warming slowly to the idea of job-sharing. Some saw it as a way they might be able to hold onto their Congressional seats should there be another Republican sweep in the 2012 elections. Others said they wanted to wait and see how practical the plan is before deciding to oppose it.

The President could point to several pilot projects already under way that aim to prove job-sharing will work on a large scale.

“Let’s not use the pilot project as an example,” urged White House press secretary Jay Carney. “Those pilots couldn’t agree whose responsibility it was to deploy the landing gear, and the jet crashed killing all aboard. That’s probably not the illustration you’d want to use.”

Instead, Carney directed reporters to a print shop outside Washington, D.C., where a work-share arrangement has resulted in the hiring of almost 100 new employees.

“We used to have one typesetter who would key in all the menus, flyers, resumes, etc., which we produce for our customers,” said KwikPrint manager Gretchen Hastings. “Now, we have a whole staff of typists, with each one responsible for a particular letter or punctuation mark.”

Hastings said her newly expanded staff will gather behind the keyboard and step forward to key their individual character as needed. The workers will share the $15-per-hour salary allocated to the position, allowing each person to pocket a much-needed 15 cents an hour.

“We thought about paying more for those in charge of keying the most-commonly-used letters, but that would’ve been an accounting nightmare,” Hastings said. “The payroll department is already struggling to absorb its nine new workers [one for each digit, plus the original accountant] and we didn’t want to complicate things further for them.”

Most of the typesetters are simply grateful to have gainful employment.

“I had been looking for almost 18 months, so I was really glad to finally land something,” said Beth Barber, who’s in charge of typing all “g’s”. “At least I got my foot in the door. Maybe they’ll eventually expand my responsibilities to include the letters ‘f’ and ‘h’.”

“I’m so grateful to be here,” said Bruce Rabin, who lost his job in banking in 2008 and has been unemployed ever since. “I’m going to type the hell out of my ‘w’ while I’m there, and hope that I make a good impression.”

April Johnson, the veteran typesetter who had to move aside to make room for all the new hires, was not as happy with the change as her fellow workers.

“The pay cut obviously sucks. I’ve got to admit, though, that it gives me more time to spend with my family,” Johnson said. “I live close by and, since my new responsibility includes only the relatively rare ‘z’, I have time to run home and check on my ailing mother in between words.”

Press secretary Carney said other businesses are also starting to get on the job-sharing bandwagon.

“There’s a car dealership in Arlington where potential buyers meet with salesmen who sell only a particular part of the car,” he said. “And I’ve heard of several Wendy’s (hamburger outlets) who use separate order-takers for each item on the menu.”

Carney denied a report that even his job as press secretary would be split among several dozen previously unemployed workers.

“To have a crowd of people standing up here, each one separately in charge of saying their own particular word in response to your questions, just wouldn’t be feasible,” he said. “The White House needs to communicate a clear, focused message on this issue.”

Told that most Americans questioned in a recent poll said they felt President Obama’s communications on the jobs issue were “muddled” and “confusing,” Carney said only “oh”.

“Hey, we could use that guy,” print shop manager Hastings said. “Our ‘o’ lady just quit to take a job in the healthcare field. She’s in charge of opening the Band-Aids, then handing them off to another worker to be applied to the injured patient.”

Italian businessman Ronaldo Salerno (left) waits his turn to dress as a gladiator entertaining tourists in Rome.

Bank of America tries radical recovery

September 13, 2011

Bank of America, the nation’s largest financial institution and currently struggling with uncertainty about its viability and a severe drop in its stock price, announced a radical recovery plan yesterday to get it back on sound footing.

The bank is confiscating all funds currently held by customers in checking and savings accounts.

“We’re sitting on these billions and billions of dollars that people have given us to ‘hold’ for them,” said bank spokesperson Nancy Townsend. “The economic reality is that we simply have to expropriate these funds so that our investors can collect their five-cent quarterly dividends.”

Townsend said the unprecedented step of seizing customers’ accounts was not done without careful consideration of the consequences.

“Frankly, we think many people won’t even notice,” Townsend said. “We’re putting play money in all our ATMs, so it’s not like people won’t be able to withdraw something.”

When asked how a corporate giant could simply take people’s savings in order to prop up its balance sheets, Townsend said “it’s not that hard, really.”

“You walk into the vault, you load up everybody’s cash into a big truck, then drive it to a secret location,” Townsend said. “Probably the hardest part will be making sure none of the cash falls out of the truck and into the road.”

Customer deposits, estimated at over $1 trillion, will go a long way toward shoring up investors’ confidence in the bank’s ability to cover losses related to its acquisitions of Countrywide Finance and Merrill Lynch.

Customers’ confidence may suffer, however, though Townsend noted that the bank’s “long-standing policy of not giving a fuck what average depositors think” will stand it in good stead in the coming weeks.

“We always got bad service ratings from our clients anyway,” Townsend said. “Stealing their money shouldn’t make it all that much worse than it already is.”

The bank dismissed concerns that legal challenges to the unauthorized appropriation of funds could eventually scuttle the plan. The company is subject to a patchwork of state regulations throughout the country, and many of these consider grand theft to be a punishable offense.

“That’s a deregulation issue that we’re trying to address in Congress right now,” Townsend said. “We feel the restrictions that government has put on private businesses — dictating, for example, that we can’t just confiscate money that isn’t ours — are holding us back. Free enterprise has to be truly free if this country is to recover from its downturn.”

Townsend was further pressed to explain how, even if stealing were legalized, that Bank of America could morally justify wiping out millions of bank accounts, leaving tens of millions of Americans penniless.

“Look,” she said. “People walk into our branches and hand over their cash. They may ask questions about interest rates and withdrawal fees and stuff like that, but they never ask that we don’t steal their money. If someone asks that we don’t do that, then we won’t do it. For them, at least.”

Is there going to be any way at all that people can keep their money?

“If they can quote us the serial numbers on the bills they deposited, then we’ll give those bills back,” Townsend said. “If all they can do to identify their money is offer vague descriptions like ‘it was green’ or ‘it had a bunch of stars on it,’ then we’ll have to turn those folks away.”

Reaction to the bank’s recovery plan was generally positive on Wall Street, with the stock surging some 6% in after-hours trading, though less enthusiasm could be heard from those who had their life savings wiped out.

“My checking, my savings, my investments, they’re all gone,” said customer Al Cumming, who tried to withdraw $50 in pocket money from a bank branch in suburban Charlotte, N.C. “It’s absolutely criminal what they’re doing.”

“Too bad for him,” Townsend said of the reaction. “Just as we’re too big to fail, so too are we too big to jail.”

Bank of America president Brian Moynihan (though it could just as easily be Conan O'Brien)

Congress reluctantly returns from summer break

September 7, 2011

Fresh off their summer recess, congresspeople returned to Washington this week with a mixture of enthusiasm for the new year and the usual spate of confusion following such a long layoff.

As might be expected, Tuesday’s first day was filled more with uncertainty than with getting down to work, as legislators struggled with new schedules, new subjects and becoming comfortable with new routines.

“It’s natural that there’s a bit of disorder on the first day,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “But by the end of this week, I feel confident we’ll be back to the same dysfunctional body we were before the recess.”

There are no new members in the returning 112th Congress. However, the five-week August vacation has always caused some rough patches, and this year’s return could be especially bumpy because so many freshmen Republicans were not especially bright to begin with.

“We planned on the first few weeks being remedial work, with lots of review,” said House sergeant-at-arms Bill Livingood. “It can be tough getting the guys back on task after they’ve spent the summer swimming, camping, playing stickball and such. I’m confident they’ll be back to square one by no later than Thanksgiving.”

Evidence of bewilderment was not hard to find Tuesday.

“I couldn’t find my new committee room,” complained Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.). “I thought it was on the second floor but I couldn’t find the ‘up’ staircase, and a guy on the ‘down’ stairs gave me a noogie when I tried to get past him.

“It hurt,” he added. “I’m telling.”

Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.) said he didn’t know representatives were going to be assigned new lockers over the break, and was disturbed to find that authorities had cut off his old combination lock and given the space to someone new.

“I had that combination memorized, too,” Berg said. “Now my mom is going to have to buy a new one, and she’s going to be mad.”

Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) said he brought the same supplies he did on the first day after the spring recess, but these turned out to be all wrong.

“Apparently, I have to have college-ruled notebook paper, not standard-ruled,” Price complained. “Also, I’m not sure I have enough crayons in the 24-pack that I bought. And to top it off, I got my compass confiscated at security because it was too pointy.”

On the other side of the Capitol, incoming senators were also wrestling with the after-effects of vacation.

“They gave me a new bill to read and, when I opened it up, there was a big wad of gum right in the middle of the enacting clause,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kent.). “As a good fiscal conservative, I didn’t want it to go to waste so I dug it out and started chewing on it rather than appropriating funds for a new piece. But I didn’t like it. Sour apple is not my favorite flavor.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who inherited a desk used earlier this year by Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell, grumbled that graffiti carved into his hardwood desktop made it difficult for him to do his penmanship exercises.

“All over the top, there’s ‘I ♥ Sarah’ and ‘Mr. Mitchell M. Palin’,” Schumer told reporters. “He should get in trouble for that.”

As rough as it was in the morning of the first day, things got even worse when lunchtime arrived. Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) forgot his lunch money, while Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) discovered a baloney sandwich in his lunchbox “even though my mom knows I hate baloney.”

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) complained that fellow Republican Reid Ribble of Colorado tried to cut in front of him in the lunch line “even though I told him ‘no butts.'” And the House’s only openly gay legislator, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), was confused about where to sit under the new boy-girl-boy-girl seating pattern mandated by reforms passed last year.

By the afternoon, though, some semblance of normality seemed to be returning. Several subcommittee meetings went off with barely a hitch, despite complaints from a handful of junior members that “the chairman hates me” or “I didn’t know that subject (commerce, manufacturing and trade) would be so hard.”

“You could tell by the end of the day that we’re already getting back to usual,” House sergeant Livingood said. “We were down to the petty stuff by then, stuff like ‘those super-committee guys (members of the joint select committee on deficit reduction named as part of the debt ceiling compromise) are so conceited.’

“I bet by the end of the week, we’ll be completely back to normal,” he continued. “And, of course, by ‘normal’ I mean totally out of touch with the American people, concerned only about their re-election and how much partisan bickering they can get into without being called into someone’s office.”

Reps. Chris Smith, left, and John Mica discuss legislation to ban cooties.

Revisited: Headline goes here (hope it fits)

September 5, 2011

In between forcing the college president to resign and kicking off the streaking fad, I did a brief stint as layout editor at my college newspaper back in the seventies. Part of the job involved writing the headlines.

The task was challenging for two reasons. One, you actually had to read what the reporters had written, understanding every nuance of whatever issue they were covering before coming up with the all-purpose standby, “Meeting Held”. (Journalism’s most flexible headline — use it to cover everything from the crucifixion of Christ to man’s first steps on the moon).

Secondly, you had very precise parameters to work with in constructing a heading that would fit into the space allotted. There was a character count posted above my desk, telling how many letters I could use per column inch. Each lower-case letter counted as one character, except that the “m” and “w” counted as one-and-a-half, and the “f,” “l,” “i” and “t” counted as half letters.

Usually, we were extremely tight on space, and had to get very creative in our word choice. My proudest day in this position was when the Gay Student Union went to the state capitol to speak with legislators, and I got to use the word “flit” to describe their angry protest march down College Avenue. Likewise, I lived in dread of the day a story might cross the AP Wire reporting that “Wham-O Wows Moms” or “Woman’s Womb Meows”.

So I have some sympathy for modern-day newspaper editors as they go about this task. It’s tough enough to succinctly craft a headline that draws the reader in; plus, you have to worry about the fact that you’re probably going to get laid off next week.

The following is a brief sampling of headlines lifted (there’s another good headline word) from local newspapers in my area. Most of these examples hint at a story entirely different from what was being reported, a story that would’ve been far more interesting than what the reality turned out to be.

Player’s death makes words hard
Emergency personnel worked feverishly to pump air into his lungs, but still he refused to comment on what had happened to him.

Wisconsin looking for another stop
This heading hints at an exciting tale of how state officials are trying to locate a pipe organ component that admits pressurized air to the instrument, or perhaps how a small town is dealing with the theft of its single stop sign. Unfortunately, it was far less interesting: tourism officials are hoping to land a golf tournament on the PGA Men’s Tour.

Hootie and the Blowfish help to round up school supplies
It’s good to see they’ve found productive volunteer work ever since the concert bookings stopped coming.

Wanted: ‘People person’ for animal control post
The previous holder of the position, an “animal animal,” was too sympathetic to the wild tendencies of the captured creatures and allowed them to have parties and stay up way past their bedtime.

Host of cockfights too sick for prison
There are two possible meanings here: (1) a multitude (or “host”) of chicken-on-chicken bouts were judged too tasteless to be staged for the entertainment of convicts; or (2) an impresario of animal blood sports felt just fine while he was allowing poultry to be mutilated on his property, but now that he’s been sentenced for the crime, the thought of the whole gory sham makes him ill.

Money could be available as early as October
This could go a long way to preventing that much-feared double-dip recession.

John surgery advances
Plumbers are using medical techniques honed in the operating room to perform less-invasive repair on the stopped-up toilet.

Stabbing suspect wanted in Israel
The Israelis have such a difficult time dealing with life-and-death security matters and the constant threat of external terrorist attack or internal uprising from Palestinians. They would just die for the opportunity to solve a simple knifing case.

Ke$ha brings inner ‘Animal’ to ‘Today Show’
I just hope it’s a tapeworm and not some kind of exotic badger that she’s attempting to smuggle in a body cavity following her recent smash tour of South America.

Does language matter?
I’d say “yes” but then I’d be using language which would prejudice the whole discussion.

Mom’s beloved bike rolls on to daughter
The actual story was about a mother who was passing on to her college-bound daughter the old Schwinn they had ridden together for years. The only reason I learned that, however, is because I’d hoped there’d be a lurid description of a crush injury.

Two trapped men rescued from clothes dryer
Were they trapped in wet clothing and became much dryer after they were rescued from the sodden duds? Or – surely this can’t be the case — did the two of them become so entwined in the Maytag during whatever God-forsaken thing they were doing in there, and become somehow entrapped?

Man injured after he falls in front of bus
The ankle sprain would’ve healed on its own but the being-hit-by-a-bus part of the accident is not so easily treated.

N.C. State plan targets athletes who miss class
Football and basketball stars alike fondly recall the challenge of the collegiate classroom. Some, however, develop a deep depression once they’ve left their studies behind and land a multi-million dollar pro sports contract. So their alma mater is offering a counseling program to help those who simply can’t deal with the loss of scholarly studies on their own.

China to remember 1,200 killed in flood
They almost forgot, what with the landslide that killed 1,500, the typhoon that left tens of thousands homeless, and the earthquake that decimated an entire province. Someone in the government should write these things down, so they don’t have so much to remember.

Barbecue to be held
Be careful. It’s still pretty hot.

Weathermen brave the storm, get the story

August 29, 2011

To the disappointment of many, the Eastern elite bastions of New York, Washington and Boston remain standing this morning after Hurricane Irene’s march up the East Coast over the weekend.

Most of the TV meteorologists who risked their lives to bring us “special team coverage” of the storm also appear to have survived, despite their best efforts to get themselves killed.

Viewers benefitted from brave weatherpeople who didn’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain, as reporters on TV went to extraordinary lengths to keep the public informed.

“You see them standing out there in torrents, oblivious to the dangers,” said media analyst Harold Johnson. “They remind me of overbred farm turkeys, too pea-brained to get themselves out of the elements.

“Turkeys will look up at the falling rain with their beaks open and eventually drown,” Johnson added. “TV reporters, though their mouths are open, at least have the good sense not to look up. Usually.”

Up and down the Atlantic seaboard, meteorologists attempted to out-do each other going to extreme lengths to report on the storm from inside its gale-force winds and driving rains.

Reporter Melissa Toomey of New York’s WABC rented a helicopter to fly down the New Jersey coast so she could be the first to report from inside the hurricane. The pilot lowered a rescue ladder, allowing her to swing freely several hundred feet above the crashing waves, as they flew into 90 m.p.h. winds just off-shore.

“This one’s really winding up for a major landfall,” she shouted up to the cameraman who dangled on a sled of the chopper. “Don’t let the way my hair stays in place fool you.”

Other New York meteorologists resisted the lure of almost-certain death pursued by Toomey, and instead posted themselves at local landmarks to film their segments.

WPIX’s Chuck Haigler rode the Coney Island roller coaster to file his report as the storm came ashore there. Tom Roebuck from WNYW had himself lashed to the torch of the Statue of Liberty. Bill Chadwick of WCBS spent Sunday inside the flooded Holland Tunnel, wearing scuba gear to survive the inundation and using hand signals to give viewers the latest updates.

WNBC’s Ed Wylie had perhaps the most difficult challenge of all. He chose to swim New York Harbor from Battery Park to Staten Island, pulling the island ferry through the choppy seas with a rope he gripped in his teeth.

“Nnngh mmuum hnhn mingaah,” he warned his audience at one point, which officials now believe may have saved countless lives.

Foolish bravado was not limited to the New York media. In Boston, weathermen Bill Nanny of WBZ and Ed Lavin of WCVB engaged in a shootout with each other at the height of the storm.

“I’m not sure that did anything to lend more insight into the deteriorating conditions,” said WBZ station manager Don Montgomery. “But it sure did grab the eyeballs among our target demographic of 18-to-24-year-old males.”

Out on the beaches of Cape Cod, WHDH’s Joanne Jones had herself buried in sand up to her neck to lend more color to her reports of a six-foot storm surge expected to overwash seaside roads.

“I can see the waves breaking closer and closer,” Jones told her viewers during a mid-afternoon insert Sunday. “This next one could be the biggest yet.”

Then, silence.

In the nation’s capital, reporters more familiar with covering a whirlwind of political activity rather than a monster storm struggled to lend a proper perspective to the hurricane’s advance.

“This wind is really something,” noted WUSA’s Wade Dameron as he was shot out of a cannon not far from the Jefferson Memorial. “I’m about to find out how far it’ll take me.”

Meanwhile, rival meteorologist Larry Groen of WTTG had a 30-foot-tall sail attached to his back as he hopped on a skateboard for a rousing trip down wind-swept Pennsylvania Avenue.

“Wheeee!” he reported before being struck by a Red Cross disaster van.

With the storm now past, and most TV weatherpeople safely recuperating in local hospitals, it seems in retrospect that Terry Cobb of New York’s Z100 radio may have had the best idea for coverage of the tropical storm.

“I wasn’t about to go outside in that mess,” the Zoo Crew veteran said. “I just used the SleepMachine app on my iPad to simulate the sounds of a storm. I started with ‘Distant Thunder,’ then switched to ‘Rain and Thunder 2’ as Irene got closer. I’m not sure what happened after that. I fell asleep.”

"There's Irene," reports the Weather Channel's Jim Cantore. "Right over there."