Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Watching too many TV commercials

November 17, 2011

Open with exterior shot of long white limo driving down a country road. Graphic points to car’s “blacked-out windows”.

Announcer overdub: “A lot of people don’t think food companies are honest about the source of their ingredients.”

Cut to interior shot of focus group sitting around a conference room table. Facilitator asks: “Do you think Domino’s wants you to know where their ingredients come from?”

Hispanic woman: “You should be able to know.”

Anglo woman: “Yeah. With Domino’s you assume the worst, so it would be reassuring to at least believe the ingredients are carbon-based.”

Black man: “I don’t know about that crust, man. Kinda reminds me of chipboard.”

Walls of conference room fall away.

Asian man: “Oh, my god. It’s an earthquake! The building is collapsing! Hand me that pizza so its rock-hard shell can protect my head from falling debris!”

Collapsing walls reveal exterior shot of expansive paper mill. Focus group surprised to find it’s now inside a large warehouse. Safety-helmeted plant worker approaches group and speaks:

“No, it’s not chipboard. Domino’s crust is made of only the finest corrugated cardboard, formed right here in this mill from virgin stands of California hardwood.”

Hispanic woman: “What’s that horrible smell?”

Worker: “That’s the smell of raw wood pulp being boiled and processed to make the grade-A cardboard that forms the base of our famous pizza.”

Black man: “So that’s how I can now order two medium-sized two-topping pizzas for only $5.99 each. You save on production costs by cooking the packaging right into the pie.”

Worker: “That’s right. By eliminating the box and building the pizza out of triple-laminated paper products, we save you money while also offering you the best quality possible.”

Announcer overdub: “Be sure to visit behindthepizza.com to see what else we’re baking into our product that you wish you didn’t know.”

Anglo woman: “I had a friend who worked at a Domino’s once. She said it’s not what’s behind the pizza you should worry about, it’s what’s behind the ovens, behind the counter, in the bathroom, under the fingernails of the workers. But seeing this paper mill somehow makes me feel better. Or at least light-headed. What are those chemicals I’m smelling, anyway?”

Asian man: “I always thought Domino’s was only slightly better than the rise of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and the subsequent world war that killed over 60 million people. My opinion of them is now much higher, considering the paycheck I’ll be getting for this commercial.”

Announced overdub: “Order your all-natural Domino’s pizza today.”

Small disclaimer type at bottom of screen: “Not responsible if delivery man slays your family. Our drivers carry less than $20 in change and make less than $15 per day. Must purchase at least 50 pizzas to receive advertised price. Must specifically ask for ‘limited time offer’ and use a cartoonish high-pitched squeak to place your order. Prices, participation, delivery area and charges may vary. We reserve the right to substitute a picture of a pizza for a real pizza.”

Possible alternate ending for release later in current advertising campaign: Focus group questions quality of meat toppings, and conference room walls fall away to reveal a slaughterhouse. Panicked cows cry out as they’re stunned before butchering. Focus group participants comment favorably on freshness of meat. “You can almost taste the blood,” one says. “Or is that the tomato sauce?”

+++

Fed up with partisan bickering among the nation’s three branches of government, Americans appear ready to install a new regime headed by the three most prominent insurance pitchmen currently on commercial television.

An all-powerful triumverate consisting of Progressive’s “Flo,” Nationwide’s “The World’s Greatest Spokesperson in the World,” and State Farm’s “Vaguely Mexican-Looking Guy Outside a Coffee Shop” has agreed to rule the land with a sympathetic but iron fist.

“I’m ready for any change at all that will get the Republicans and Democrats out of Washington,” said Alyce Jones of Chicago. “Those insurance folks offer a goofy sincerity that seems right for these troubling times.”

“The World’s Greatest Spokesperson in the World has really come into his own since being lured out of his backwoods cabin and back into insurance sales,” said Rob Fallon of Las Vegas. “He’s convinced me that Nationwide wants to know everything about me so they can tailor a product that meets my needs. Have you seen the one where he’s dealing with a lady named ‘Pam,’ and he offers to change the name of the company to ‘Nationpam’? That’s the type of can-do spirit we need if we’re ever to convince the Chinese to allow their currency to float on the open market.”

“Like a good neighbor, that Mexican-looking guy is there, always hanging outside of cafes and introducing people to State Farm agents,” said Ronald Henderson of Atlanta. “He puts a real friendly face on the problem of illegal immigration. I’d rather see him outside a Starbucks than offering to do day labor outside a Home Depot.”

The trio would govern by fiat, announcing a new round of federal laws several times an hour on all the major networks. Viewers who don’t follow their every command will be banished to a world where modern insurance products don’t exist, and yet people somehow survive by simply being careful about how they live their lives.

Tentative plans call for Flo to head up the nation’s judiciary as a one-person replacement for the Supreme Court. The World’s Greatest Spokesperson will replace both houses of Congress, and the Mexican guy will become the nation’s first Hispanic president.

“Flo’s perky haircut and headband will look just darling accented by judicial robes,” said Jones. “And the Nationwide Guy, with that signature blue rotary phone hanging from his hip, should be able to reach across the aisle in both the House and Senate to compromise with himself. I’m finally excited about the direction our nation is headed.”

“I think the new president is hunky,” said Phyllis Lee of Oklahoma City. “That could carry some real weight in the START Treaty negotiations with the Russians.”

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An editorial: Is it time for totalitarianism?

November 9, 2011

Much is made by some conservatives of the assertion that President Obama is actually a communist, a would-be dictator along the lines of Josef Stalin except with a better three-point shot.

While it might be true that the state apparatus has necessarily grown during his tenure as a response to the economic crisis, most regard this charge as an exaggeration. Bailouts and stimuli have worked to restart the economy but, at best, it’s only lumbering along. Liberals call for even more intervention, while the right wing counters with claims that the poor could learn better grooming techniques in unused prisons and that masturbation is a sin.

If an activist federal government is the answer to our current malaise, maybe we just haven’t taken it far enough. Instead of heeding calls to move to the political center, perhaps what is needed is even more control by the feds.

With this editorial, I’m calling for the institution of a complete and brutal autocracy here in the U.S. We’ve tried just about everything else; let’s give totalitarian tyranny a shot.

Total control of all aspects of society by the government has been attempted in the past with limited success. The French monarchs of the late 18th century tried it, but few people could take them seriously, what with their immense powdered wigs and totally gay wardrobes. Hitler eliminated the bad fashion sense and gave it another go in the 1940s, yet he too failed. Stalin in Russia and Mao in China staged purges and cultural revolutions to force their personality cults into every aspect of every citizen’s life, and ultimately all it got them was a lot of headaches.

So why might authoritarian rule suddenly be effective at rebuilding America’s fortunes and getting its people back to work? What is it that we have now that we didn’t have in the past that will suddenly make despotism a practical alternative to democracy?

The answer lies, as it usually does, in computers and online social networking.

Smart phones and Facebook and Twitter and interactive video gaming have given us the infrastructure that will make a dictatorial one-party state work more effectively than it ever could before. Mussolini had to stand on a balcony and rant for hours to get his point across to fascist Italy. President Obama would merely have to post a daily video on YouTube, maybe send out a few threatening tweets and organize the occasional flash mob to inject his agenda into every corner of our daily life.

Imagine, if you can, a utopian paradise where you didn’t have to make any personal decisions for yourself, where you were told what to eat for breakfast, how to get to work and when meet in the central square to worship our mighty leader. You don’t have to decide what shirt to wear today; there’s an email waiting each morning describing which jumpsuit is prescribed for that day. You don’t have to debate the merits of Burger King versus Wendy’s at lunch time; an order has already been placed by a government bureaucrat for your required combo meal. If you need to take a leak, simply consult the appropriate website (WhenToPee.gov) about your appointed schedule in the john.

And it could all be monitored with existing webcams, security cameras, Skype and the Kinect for Xbox 360.

Unemployment would be a thing of the past, as the government at all levels went on a hiring spree to find enough people to monitor everybody’s every move. Foreign threats would be neutralized when the likes of al-Qaida got an eyeful of what the all-powerful state does to crush its own citizenry. The baser elements of popular culture would be eliminated by fiat. Real Housewives are herded into federally run re-education compounds and entertainers like Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne are given new jobs in the propaganda ministry, writing dancebeat-heavy regulations on the operation of the heavy construction equipment.

True, there might be some opposition to my plan from the more libertarian elements in the Republican Party. I can imagine the objections they might raise to the perceived assault on certain basic liberties we’ve enjoyed for over two centuries. Too bad for them. They’ll all be rounded up and sent off to the gulag, where they can do all the complaining they want as long as they do it in solitary.

This might seem like a radical proposal to some, but I would counter that it’s the kind of fundamental change needed for desperate times. We might not like it when our Big Brother is constantly borrowing our stuff and always getting to sit in the front seat and punching us in the shoulder and holding his hand two inches from our faces while claiming “I’m not touching you.” Yet deep down inside, we know he cares for us and will provide us everything we need, as long as we submit to his authority.

Now that we have the technology to put the total in totalitarianism, let’s give it a try.

Herman Cain on line one

November 2, 2011

So the phone rings last night about quarter till 7, and it’s Herman Cain calling.

Normally, you’d expect a call at that time of the evening, right in the middle of the dinner hour, to be someone asking if I’m happy with my wireless service. Instead, it’s pizza executive, motivational speaker, Republican presidential candidate, accused lady’s man and all-around black guy Herman Cain, asking if I’m happy with my presidential service.

I don’t think it was the actual Herman but rather a virtual one, a recording of his voice. The surprise leader in many national polls is ramping up his campaign in South Carolina before that state’s January primary, and part of that effort involves calling up voters and offering them a thick, topping-loaded slice of his odd recipe for fixing America.

It was pretty sophisticated for a robo-call, I thought. It sounded like the Hermanator was talking directly to me, rather than reading a script in some distant sound studio.

“Good evening, I’m Herman Cain and I’m running for president,” he began.

I thought about hanging up right away. Not only do I object in principle to telemarketers interrupting my home life, so too do I oppose just about every hare-brained scheme the fiery Cain has proposed. But I was curious about his pitch so I stayed on the line.

Cain spoke for a minute or so in general terms, hitting the same themes that he does out on the campaign trail. He wants to get government off the back of business. He wants lower taxes and lower government spending. He wants to take our country back. He longs for old-fashioned values, like the time when it was okay for an executive to ask his female co-workers if they’d mind taking off their shirts.

Actually, he said nothing at all about recent reports that he’d been accused of sexually harassing two women he worked with back in the ’90s. (Cain has claimed he only “joked about the women’s height,” teasing that he wished instead of coming up to his chin they stood about as tall as his zipper). He kept strictly to the issues.

Then he offered me a question: “Would you mind if I asked where you stand on a number of policies important to my campaign?”

There was a long pause. I hadn’t expected this to be an interactive call, but apparently Herman’s camp has invested in voice-recognition technology that allows him to gauge Americans’ sentiments on important questions of the day, as long as they could be answered with a “yes” or a “no”.

“No?” I answered tentatively.

Within moments, Herman was off on a vigorous round of interrogation.

“Do you agree with me that life begins at conception?” he asked. After accidentally saying he endorsed a woman’s right to choose in a recent TV interview, Cain has retrenched to the far right. His position now is that even victims of rape and incest should be denied abortions, and that if a woman’s life is endangered by her pregnancy, tough toenails.

“No,” I answered.

“Do you believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman?” he pried.

“No,” I said.

“Do you believe that the Second Amendment guarantees all Americans the rights of gun ownership?”

“Well, I don’t think it’s quite that simple,” I answered. “True, the Constitution does seem to endorse private gun ownership, though many legal scholars believe it’s in the context of a ‘well-regulated militia’. Now that we have a standing army, a militia is no longer necessary.”

The other end of the line was silent. This was a little too much detail and nuance for a candidate who prided himself on a black-or-white, us-versus-them world view.

“No,” I simplified.

Herman asked a few more questions, but these were mostly to identify my individual demographic. He asked if I was male (“yes”), if I was white (“yes”) and if I was Republican (“God, no”). He asked if I wanted to work for or donate to his campaign. I laughed, which I hoped would register as a “no”.

Cain thanked me for my time and wished me a good evening. The line went dead.

Hey, wait a second, Herm. I had a few questions I wanted to ask you:

Don’t you think it will be confusing to future history students if there’s a “Cain” running for president in 2012, so soon after a “McCain” ran in 2008?

Do you think we’re headed for a “Miss America situation” in national politics? Remember how, after the first black Miss America was named, that we had other African-American winners for several years following? Is that where we’re headed at the presidential level in this post-racial nation?

Can I get you Kim Kardashian’s phone number?

But Mr. Cain was gone. All that was left was a dial tone where once there had been a vital voice for a return to conservative American values, except the ones that prevented people like him from coming to political power.

Hopefully, we’ll all get the opportunity in the general election to learn more about how a future discounted down to $9.99 is the right choice for America.

Hello, it's me

South Carolina preparing for its moment in the spotlight

October 28, 2011

It’s less than three months now before South Carolina enters the national spotlight with its Republican presidential primary, and the state is busy preparing for its close-up.

Some of the stories are related to politics, while others hint at the state’s historic position as the backward, inbred laughingstock of the nation.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum recognizes his people when he sees them, and has spent considerable time campaigning in the Palmetto State. The pious Pennsylvanian has visited 25 times more than any other candidate, spreading his message of social conservatism, family values, and not googling him.

For all the work he’s spent focusing his efforts on the nation’s second primary, recent polls show only 1% of the state’s Republicans say they’ll vote for him.

“These polls mean nothing, absolutely nothing,” Santorum insisted Tuesday, and he may have a point. Nationwide, it appears many voters have yet to tune in to the 2012 race, with a remarkably low 54% of all Americans able to name even one GOP candidate.

Santorum’s latest visit was in Spartanburg, where local Republican officials managed to find about 80 people willing to look at and listen to him. Santorum used the opportunity to talk about his Christian faith, using the story of his disabled daughter’s close call with death to elicit the crowd’s interest.

He compared his relationship with his daughter to his own relationship with God.

“That’s the way the Father looks at me,” Santorum said. “I am completely disabled in His eyes.”

“Amen” and “that’s right” responded some in the crowd.

“He’s strong on family,” said Alexia Newman, a Santorum supporter. “Before he’s through, he’ll have reached out to every (GOP) chairman in the state. It seems that sort of thing should matter.”

You’d think. But apparently, 99% of South Carolinians have their minds on other things. Like the legality of hauling their furniture out into the front yard.

Many towns and counties in this largely rural state have banned the unsightly practice, thinking it makes the place look like it’s inhabited by hicks. Now, anti-government fervor stoked by Tea Party types has reared its head, and a backlash against the laws has those who know how writing letters to the editor.

“I wonder how many of the county council have stayed in a house with no air conditioning during July,” wrote Rock Hill’s Peggy Murdock, a representative of the pro-beatup-couches faction. “A comfortable sofa outside in the shade might be a thing to be desired.”

It was probably while sitting on a mildew-saturated divan that several other South Carolinians had their thoughts wander toward plans for criminal mischief.

In Fort Mill, an 18-year-old student at MorningStar University (a Christian school that has its roots in the old Jim and Tammy Bakker televangelism ministry) could face disciplinary action for his actions. The unnamed man spent Tuesday night roaming the campus dressed all in black and jumping from behind bushes to scare fellow students.

“Many students ran away, scared and crying,” claimed a report in the local newspaper.

Sheriff’s deputies called to the campus to investigate suspicious activity quickly located the man. He said he was just playing a joke on some of his friends by peeking in their windows, but admitted his actions were “probably inappropriate.”

Meanwhile, in nearby Rock Hill, a man was accused of threatening a woman with a gun, then cutting her hair after an argument Monday.

Kenneth Abner, 35, was charged with pointing a firearm and criminal domestic violence. A woman visiting Abner was arguing with him when he reached into a drawer and produced a semiautomatic handgun. He then grabbed her by the hair, dragged her downstairs to the kitchen, and proceeded to cut her hair.

The woman kicked and hit Abner, then ran to a neighbor’s home where she called authorities. The police report did not state whether a shampoo, a manicure or the application of blonde highlights was included in the treatment.

Neither Abner nor his victim could say if they would vote for Rick Santorum.

Rick Santorum: Glowing with righteousness, or simply blonde highlights?

Just trying to help the Greeks back on their feet

October 25, 2011

Americans everywhere have been transfixed in recent weeks by the European sovereign debt crisis.

The unemployed stop their job search to review updates on the latest austerity measures. The uninsured ill worry that German banks will grow weary of bailing out neighboring Eurozone economies. Twenty-somethings who’ve given up on the American Dream join fantasy leagues to make a game out of which nation is most likely to default.

Not really.

The truth of the matter is that we don’t give two drachmas about economic problems on the Continent when we’ve got so many of our own. About the only time it comes up is when someone on the Right uses the crisis as an example of where “creeping socialism” is leading the U.S., or when someone on the Left wants six weeks of vacation.

The problems of Europe are centered for now in hot-headed countries like Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain (the so-called “PIGS” nations). The swarthy peoples of the Mediterranean have been spending beyond their means for decades, borrowing against their children’s futures so they can eat olives, attend bullfights and long for their fascist past. Now, bondholders who subsidized this lavish lifestyle are demanding repayment, and they don’t want it in oregano.

The Greeks have come in for the most scrutiny. Every day, it seems, there’s yet another boring headline that nobody reads announcing “Resilient Euro Edges Lower Over EFSF Confusion,” accompanied by a photo of Athenians engaged in sun-splashed rioting. Austerity is painful and Zeus forbid the Greeks should be uncomfortable.

I wanted to learn more about the underlying causes of the crisis, so recently I ate lunch at a local diner run by Greek-Americans. Maybe this meat-and-three-vegetables eatery could give me some insight into why the inventors of democracy, geometry and men-wearing-white-skirts have screwed up their finances so badly.

I got my first clue from the sign outside Charlotte’s Steele Creek Cafe.

“Try Momma’s Meatloaf,” it read. “More Than 22 Vegetables.”

I don’t know a lot about Greek cooking, but it seems like including that many vegetables in a meat loaf recipe is destined to turn out poorly. It wasn’t until I got to the counter inside that this apparent example of profligacy and waste was clarified for me.

“It’s two separate things,” said the cashier taking orders. “That’s why it’s on two lines.”

“The line-break alone is not necessarily sufficient, even in signage,” I countered. “There should be a period, or at least a comma or semicolon.”

“Can I take your order?” she persisted.

Much like the people of Greece have shown through their street protests that they need adequate time to get their economic house in order, so too did I need a minute to decide on my lunch.

The sign behind the counter was filled with more lunch choices than I could readily digest. I stepped back to join several other would-be diners stroking their chins and pondering the selection. There was certainly a lot of what I think of as Greek food — souvlaki, a gyro plate, the eponymous Greek salad — but there was also Calabash shrimp and Philly cheesesteak and French fries.

And there were at least 22 vegetables, assuming you count stuff like mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and rice and gravy as vegetables, which we here in the South very much do.

I asked to see a printed bill-of-fare to better study my options. I grew slightly more optimistic about the health of the world economy when I noticed that “default” and “currency devaluation” were not on the menu. I also saw that several prices had been whited out, with new prices handwritten over them. This seemed to indicate the Greeks were getting serious about real-world costs, at least when it came to the Ultimate 8 oz. Hamburger with Cheese.

Finally, I decided on the “hot dog (all-beef) combo,” a meal that would include my drink and choice of fries or onion rings, all for $4.80. I’m guessing the raw ingredients cost about half that, and was confident the difference would make a nice dent in the nation’s €216-billion debt.

“I’ll have the number 13,” I told cashier Tai’Shiquá. “Hopefully, the profits will help your people in their hour of need.”

“Say what?” Tai’Shiquá answered. She sounded a bit put-out, but I knew deep down in her proud Greek soul that she was grateful for my purchase.

While I waited for the order to be ready, I looked around the restaurant for a table. A working-class crowd was quickly filling the joint, giving the appearance that this really could be a profitable business if a bit of fiscal restraint were in place.

They could start, in my opinion, with the ketchup. Not only were there individual bottles sitting in every booth; there were several more available at the napkin and condiment station. Plus, there were additional packets included with to-go orders.

Another bit of excess could be seen at the fountain drink dispenser. Diners tapped their own selections, and could easily choose not to fill most of the cup with ice, cutting severely into a potentially high profit margin.

In two corners of the room, up near the ceiling, a pair of televisions played non-stop. There was no fee to watch.

A shelf near the door held the day’s newspapers. Their wrinkled appearance hinted that an earlier customer had purchased them at breakfast, then left them behind for others to read. This, despite the fact that all three publications were being sold from newsstands just outside.

Over in the corner were the restrooms. These were also free, despite the fact that many patrons would be willing to pay dearly for bathroom privileges after finishing off a plate of deep-fried perch.

I vaguely knew the owner from a previous visit, and decided to seek him out after I finished my lunch. I wanted to congratulate Pete Kakouras for the tentative starts he had made toward economizing, and offer my suggestions for what more he could do to move his restaurant and his homeland toward prosperity.

But Pete is gone. I’m told he sold out about two months ago. The new owner, an Asian gentleman named Jun Park, would be glad to speak with me, as long as I knew Korean.

So that’s the way it is: the Greeks are in danger of pulling the rest of Europe down the (free) toilet with them, and all because globalization made it necessary that they sell out to foreign interests. No wonder they’re fighting against tough austerity measures so violently. The cuts are being imposed by outsiders from the Orient. Next thing you know, we’ll see kim chi on the menu.

Whatever. You try to step up and help a foreign country get its house in order, and this is the thanks you get — a mythological tragedy of epic proportions, and an undercooked wiener on a soggy bun.

It’s all Greek to me.

Protecting the last stand

October 24, 2011

As you might guess from the name of my neighborhood, Shadebrook has a brook and it has trees. The brook may be more like a babbling drainage ditch, but the trees really are magnificent.

The people who planned this subdivision some 20 years ago had a lot of respect for the woods that their homes were largely supplanting. From the hardwood canopy road at the entrance to the giant cedars that line the main drag, this place is a nature lover’s dream.

However, it could become the city arborist’s worst nightmare. A couple of weeks ago, the municipal authorities surveyed the area’s older-growth trees and decided that some were so sick they needed to be euthanized. No twilight sleep and potassium chloride for the doomed oaks and elms; they would be assaulted with chain saws wielded by government officials. Talk about a Tea Party fantasy.

When I was coming back from my afternoon run earlier recently, I noticed that a particular pine had suddenly sprouted a bright green patch of spray paint. I remembered the newspaper article about the upcoming pogrom said that the dying trees would be marked with green. It said that city planners originally wanted to use a dark brown marking, to better symbolize the sad but necessary task of culling the deadwood, until they realized that work crews would have trouble seeing it. Ultimately, they switched to the green, thinking it might signify the fresh new life the tree was about to experience as someone’s coffee table.

As you can see, the pine isn’t an especially handsome specimen. In fact, you could probably go so far as to say it’s about as dead as it can get.

Still, I have an obligation as an ardent eco-nut to protect this old gal from the lumberjack’s axe. And so, even though I’ve got a ton of stuff to do this week and next week’s going to be even crazier with a filing deadline approaching at work, I guess I have to chain myself to the tree.

It’s going to be really inconvenient. I’ll have to reschedule Friday’s dental appointment, and the weekend’s planned yardwork is definitely out of the question, unless I can find myself a long enough chain.

It’s supposed to turn much colder by mid-week, so I guess I’ll have to dress in layers to accommodate the sunny days and chilly nights. Wardrobe selection is shaping up to be quite the challenge. What exactly is proper attire to set just the right tone of civil disobedience while balancing that against the conservative fashion sense of the suburban South?

I’ll need something that’s easy care, because this is a pine and, though I don’t consider myself prejudiced against the common softwoods, some of their kind have been known to ooze sap. This tree probably doesn’t have a whole lot of lifeblood left in it but whatever remains, you can be sure it’ll make its way onto my slacks.

I don’t know how extended a protest this might turn out to be. I’m ready for the long haul if that’s what’s required. I will admit to concerns, however, about how the work crew will respond. Rock Hill is not familiar with the kind of strident and committed stand I’m prepared to take, and I’m a little worried their standard procedures won’t include removing a doughy guy from the base of the tree before chopping it down. I have my own lifeblood to consider, you know.

Maybe it’d be safer if I constructed a tree stand for myself, and conducted my effort to save the Earth from about 30 feet in the air. Nah. For one thing, I’m not that handy with tools, so treehouse construction would not play to my strengths of Excel and middle management. For another thing, I don’t care to plummet to my death.

I think if I switch a few things around, maybe ask my wife to cover for me at Tuesday’s board meeting of the credit union, maybe use a rope instead of a chain so I can duck out for a few minutes if I have an essential errand, I can pull enough strings to make this stand for ecology.

Defend our environment! End the rape of our Mother Earth! Don’t get any sap on me!

GOP continues its move to the right

October 19, 2011

You expect Republicans vying for the presidential nomination to stick to the far right lane of American politics, chugging along at 10 m.p.h. under the speed limit, flashers flashing, hands tightly gripping the controls as they peer fearfully through the steering wheel at the nation passing them by.

What you don’t expect is that the slow lane isn’t quite extreme right enough, that virtually all the candidates feel the need to veer farther right, over the rumble strips, through the guardrail, into the grass, into the woods, down an embankment and into the river.

The fundamentalist Christian governor of Texas — a man who presides over hundreds of executions and makes veiled threats about secession and lynching the Fed chairman — is criticized as too moderate because he allows the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition.

Building a fence along the border with Mexico isn’t enough for these yahoos.

“Build two fences,” urges Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann.

“Electrify the fence,” suggests pizza guy Herman Cain. “And put up a sign warning that anybody who touches it will be killed.”

Each candidate is afraid his or her reactionary credentials aren’t quite backward enough to appeal to their Tea Party base. Each continues to lurch farther outside the mainstream. Each is afraid of being one-upped by an opponent with ideas even crazier than theirs.

Well, I’m here to help. After watching last evening’s Las Vegas debate, I stayed up all night trying to come up with some new hare-brained policies that Republicans can use to prove how right they are. When the lack of sleep proved insufficient, I took some peyote. When that wasn’t enough, I gave myself a Class III concussion. When cogent thoughts still plagued me, I watched late-night infomercials.

By 4 a.m., I had become warped enough in my thinking that I was ready. Now, before the light of day returns me to sanity, I’m prepared to offer new, even-farther-right policies that will guarantee no candidate gets outflanked by a constituency of bizarre biddies, pre-rapturous Bible thumpers and gun-loving high school dropouts.

Here are positions on all major issues in the 2012 race that I’m offering free for the taking to any candidate trying to find a place on the right that represents the ultimate in lunacy.

Immigration — Fences and walls, no matter how doubled or how electrified, will not be enough to stave off the crowd of Mexicans looking to take those landscaping jobs that native-born Americans so  desperately crave. These people are at their best when they’re outside, trying to figure the best way to conquer uncut grass and unblown leaves. And they’re supposed to be unable to figure their way over a fence? My solution: invade Mexico, and kill all 112 million of them.

Jobs — Create a force of jack-booted thugs to roam the streets and tell everybody what to do. Allow them to make money by threatening young children for their lunch money. But, God forbid, don’t make them government employees. Allow them to free-lance, and let the market decide what amount of extortion is appropriate.

Taxes, deficit and debt — Permit the ranks of the poverty-stricken to swell to the point where we can tax each individual $1, and still have enough to run the federal government. Tell the Chinese they can collect on our T-Bill obligations, but we’re going to pay them in tea. The debt ceiling should be replaced by a compression device you might see in old Batman episodes; the ceiling is slowly lowered until — SQUISH!!! — all Democrats are crushed.

The environment — Declare global warming is real, and that it’s a good thing. Promote the additional burning of fossil fuels, and market the resulting smog as a “smoky, chipotle-flavored atmosphere.”

Terrorism and defense — Expand the use of Predator drone strikes to track down jihadist sympathizers like Sean Penn and Angelina Jolie. Preemptively strike any nation that even looks funny at us. Increase troops in Iraq and Afghanistan until the weight of boots on the ground causes those nations to sink into the Earth’s mantle. Invade the nations of Abkhazia, Albania and Andorra, just to make the rest of the world think we’re working our way down to them in alphabetical order.

Entitlements — End social security and Medicare as we know it. Instead, issue block grants to the states. Require that these be fully funded by current revenue streams, and that they can only be used to buy actual blocks, preferably the heavy, concrete variety. Drop these blocks on the heads of the sleeping elderly.

Education — Abolish the Department of Education, and expunge all references to the fact that it ever existed. Start leaving some children behind, especially the fat ones. Fire all the teachers and replace them with church elders who can just make stuff up. Offer vouchers to students attending religious schools, and 50-cents-off coupons to those who prefer to remain in the public system.

Gay marriage — Pass a Constitutional amendment barring the possession of more than one penis per couple. Pass another Constitutional amendment prohibiting lisping. Pass one forbidding stylish dressing by men and flannel shirts on women. In fact, make it Congress’s full-time job to think up stuff that gay people do, or want to do, and pass a law against it.

Abortion — Life begins not at the moment of conception, but at the exact second when a couple agrees to dinner and a movie. During the act of coitus, there should be no semen allowed to go to waste. Remove your dirty sheets when you’re done, and insist that nearby women rub these into their privates.

Energy — Drill, baby, drill! Then hire all the babies that result from the above-stated abortion ban and put them to work on mid-ocean rigs. Continue the search for home-grown natural gas, expanding the use of fracking to release the resource. If the water from your faucet erupts into flames as a result, too bad. Just be glad you weren’t taking a shower.

Healthcare — Sickness is for the ill and infirm. Strong, right-thinking Americans are too busy looking for the faults of others to consider what might be wrong with themselves. Implement the use of a barter system for patients to pay their doctors. A schedule of fees could include “one appendectomy = 4,000 iced lattes” for a Starbucks barista, and “one heart catheterization = cleaning the floor of your physicians’ office by licking it with your tongue for the rest of your life” for those in the janitorial trades. Repeal ObamaCare and replace it with DoNotCare.

Government regulation of private enterprise — A totally free and unencumbered market is the answer to everything. If you don’t like e. coli in your food, trust that restaurants serving it as an appetizer will soon go out of business. If you don’t want defective hip replacements implanted in your body, you should keep your mouth (and all other orifices) closed. If you’re concerned about worker safety, don’t get a job.

Crime and punishment — Pass a federal ban on the use of Sharia law, which allows stoning, amputation and beheading as acceptable forms of punishment. Return instead to the laws of the Bible, where stoning, amputation and beheading are merely suggestions. Don’t allow condemned capital prisoners to order a last meal, unless it includes heaping portions of potassium chloride and a side of high-voltage electricity.

Republican hopefuls are ready to think up some crazy shit.

“Occupy” movement making inroads in the office

October 18, 2011

Fed up with corporate greed and the unwillingness of his bosses to acknowledge the increasingly desperate plight of workers, Michael Ash has joined with anti-establishment protesters around the country by occupying a conference room at his office.

“I’m just tired of being exploited and abused by the powers-that-be,” the 32-year-old project manager for Hewlett-Packard told reporters in his San Jose, Calif., office. “It’s time for the people to take back what’s been stolen from them.”

“Also,” he added, “I’ve been out of ‘stickies’ for a week now and still they’re not stocked in the supply closet.”

Ash and others have watched as the “Occupy Wall Street” movement has grown from its start in New York to its increasing popularity in cities across the U.S. and around the world. Thousands have shown up at events to voice their support for the unemployed, the poor, the young and the disenfranchised, and to state their opposition to the entrenched interests of the business community.

Ash joined the surging movement yesterday as his frustration with the way his chair was adjusted, and with the person who keeps linking the paper clips at his desk into a chain, boiled over into action.

“They obviously care very little about us,” Ash said of his superiors at HP. “If they did, they’d put a hidden camera at my work station and see who’s messing with my desk.”

Ash set up his protest in Conference Room B on the second floor of his office building shortly after 9 a.m. Monday. He brought in a sleeping bag from his car, and posted several signs he created in Word around the room. One read “Reform Corporate America” and another read “I Am the 99%.” A third sign was largely illegible because of black splotches all over the surface.

“I’ve complained about the toner in that printer for a week now, but all I get is the runaround,” Ash complained. “Typical behavior from the corporate fatcats who are more concerned about their tax breaks than they are about the toner.”

By 11 a.m., several coworkers had stopped by the rarely-used conference room to express their support for Ash, or to ask if he knew when he’d be finished, because sometimes people eat their lunch in there.

“Most meetings are in Room A, down the hall and around the corner,” Ash told reporters. “I picked Room B because I didn’t think anybody would care.”

Ash continued his demonstration until 1 p.m., greeting well-wishers, debating the value of increased taxes for high-income earners, and occasionally marching through the halls to get a drink of water. Shortly after 1, he was asked to leave the conference room to make way for a safety committee meeting.

“Sorry about that,” Ash told committee members as they streamed into the room. “Just give me a sec to clean up this mess. Here, let me put those chairs back. Sorry. Sorry.”

Dislodged from his protest site, Ash relocated to the men’s room next door, and re-dubbed his rally “Occupy Second Stall From The Sink”.

“In a way, this is better,” Ash said at mid-afternoon Monday. “It’s symbolic of how our future is being flushed down the commode by Big Business, and of how we have a really crappy system for reserving conference rooms.”

By the end of the day, Ash had added to his list of demands. In addition to his desire to get last Tuesday counted as a sick day rather than a vacation day, he called on his corporate superiors to unblock YouTube from office computers, to crack down on lunch thefts from the refrigerator, and to say something to the guy in accounts payable who always sneezes so loud.

“Also, after spending the day in the toilet, I want to demand a new box of toilet seat covers,” Ash said. “The box claims ‘provided by the management for your protection’ but that’s a lie. Management doesn’t care about our protection at all, at least unless it affects their bottom line.”

Ash said he had received a lot of support from co-workers during his protest.

“Guys have been coming in here all afternoon, and I believe they’re behind me,” Ash said. “I think they know I’m in here. They should at least be able to see my legs.”

Ash said he was unsure if he’d continue the protest for the rest of the week. The sales presentation he’s working on for the vice presidents’ meeting next Monday still needs a thorough re-do, and he’s also looking for a bit of clip art to break up the monotony of his PowerPoint.

“It’s time for the rest of America to ask, ‘where’s my bailout?'” Ash said. “I just have to make sure I can squeeze it into my schedule.”

Safety committee talks about temporary inconvenience of "Occupy" protester

Herman Cain. For a President You Can’t Refuse.

October 14, 2011

From an overheard telephone conversation …

Godfather’s Pizza: Godfather’s, can I help you?

American People: Yes, I’d like to order a President to be delivered, please.

GP: Go ahead.

AP: Yes, I’d like a medium … uh, I mean, a moderate. I want someone with both government and private-sector experience. Someone who understands that the poor and middle-class need more help than the rich do. Someone who isn’t locked into rigidity by their religious beliefs, or because they signed some anti-tax pledge. And no onions.

GP: No onions? Are you sure? You don’t want someone with the onions to stand up to the Washington insiders who have stolen our country from us?

AP: Uh, yes, that’s right. No onions.

GP: And what kind of crust do you want?

AP: I want extra-crusty. I think we need a cantankerous, grumpy sort, so we can negotiate aggressively with other countries.

GP: Okay, extra-crusty. Got it. How about a heartless immigration policy that will punish innocent children by denying them education?

AP: No. No, thanks.

GP: What about widespread deregulation of banks and other businesses that contributed to the financial meltdown?

AP: No.

GP: Would you like to deny affordable health insurance to all Americans?

AP: No, that gives me heartburn. Oh, and no anchovies.

GP: Okay. Do you need any drinks with that?

AP: Yeah, let me get a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke. Does that come with the price of the President, or is that extra?

GP: No, it’s extra. We’re through with entitlements. That’s what got this country into such a mess to begin with. We can sell you tea instead, if you like. Our Tea Party makes a great brew.

AP: No, that’s okay. Now, what sorts of side orders or other extras do you have?

GP: We have the 9-9-9 tax plan, a way for the poor to pay more while the wealthy pay less. We have a promise to veto any bills that are more than three pages long. And we have the fact that our man is a black guy.

AP: A black guy? Oh, that sounds good. What about wings?

GP: No, he doesn’t have wings, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he sprouts some in the afterlife.

AP: I meant buffalo wings.

GP: No, we’re getting those next year. After widespread oil drilling in the West wipes out the habitat of the wild bison. Then, we’ll have all the buffalo meat we can handle.

AP: Alright, just the medium President then, I guess. Oh, and I have a coupon for $2 off.

GP: I’m sorry. Those are good on takeout only.

AP: Really? That’s not what it says on my copy.

GP: Oh, you’re going to get a lot of unexpected surprises with this order. But you do want delivery, right?

AP: Yes. And how long do you think that’ll take?

GP: Let’s see … the Iowa caucuses are in early January, then comes the New Hampshire primary, then the South Carolina one … I’m guessing it’ll arrive at your house in a little over a year.

AP: A year? That’s an awful long time to wait.

GP: Well, there’s always the chance that the Far Right will rise up in armed insurrection against the bloated, illegal, unconstitutional federal government some time before next November. So you might get your man earlier, but I can’t promise anything. No “30-minutes-or-it’s-free” deals from us.

AP: Alright. Maybe I can snack on something light while I’m waiting. There’s a Michele Bachmann around here somewhere.

GP: Now, you know you can track the making and delivery of your President online.

AP: Yeah, I was looking at that on my smartphone. It shows you’ve taken the order and you’ve started making it. That’s cool.

GP: You’ll be able to keep up as your President rises in the polls, then makes an offensive comment about gays, then falls behind in fund-raising, then releases financial statements showing he’s paid no taxes for five years, then exits the race in shame when it’s found he hired an illegal alien as a nanny.

AP: That’s pretty neat. And now I can see that you’ve accidentally dropped him on the floor.

GP: Don’t worry. He was topping-side-up. There’ll be dirt on the bottom but it’ll just look like marks from the cooking.

AP: Okay. So how much will that be?

GP: Let’s see … there’s the negative impact on our image around the world, there’s the fear from our allies that we’ve elected a simplistic hothead, there’s the bond agencies that will lower our credit rating, there’s a sharp drop in federal revenues … It’s going to cost you about $500 billion. And remember, our delivery guys don’t make change.

AP: Got it.

GP: Now, what is your name, address and phone number?

AP: Gee, I don’t know if I want to give out that kind of personal information. I thought Herman Cain was against unnecessary intervention in the life of average Americans. I’m not sure I like the idea of Big Brother knowing that much about me.

GP: Well, if you don’t give us your address, how do you expect to get the President delivered to your house?

AP: I think maybe I’ll come pick it up after all. So I can use that $2-off coupon?

GP: Yes, you can. So that reduces your total to $499,999,999,998.

AP: And you do take credit cards, right?

GP: No! No more credit! No more deficits! No more debt! We expect you to pay in cash and in full, not leave the bill for your children and your children’s children.

AP: Never mind. Cancel my order. My temporary fascination with Herman Cain is over. Maybe I’ll give Rick Santorum a call.

GP: That’s fine with us. But you might want to Google him first to find out about one particular topping I don’t think you’ll like.

AP: Such awful choices this year …

The man who could be our next president (right)

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.

“HE’S SAYING WE NEED TO GET A GENERAL, AND THAT WE NEED A NUDE AMERICA,” the crowd repeated.

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

“HE SAYS WE’RE MAKING A COMMUNIST STATE WITH A VOLCANIC ERUPTION,” the crowd said.

“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.

“OUR COMRADE SAYS WE NEED TO BURN OUR DRAFT CARDS, BURN OUR BRAS, LISTEN TO COUNTRY JOE AND THE FISH, AND SLIDE AROUND IN THE MUD,” the crowd repeated.

“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).