Wednesday, January 31, 2007

P. J. O'Rourke Revisited

In his 2001 book "The CEO of the Sofa", humorist P. J. O’Rourke takes aim at two of his favorite targets: socialism and liberalism. According to O’Rourke, next to fascism and communism, these two "isms" are the silliest political philosophies extant insofar as they prescribe government intervention for the commonweal.

Given that much of the 20th century was guided by socialism and liberalism, O’Rourke had lots to satirize and ridicule. Well now it’s my turn. Since Mr. O’Rourke took his shots at the political left in 2001, there have been six years of his favorite styles of governance: plutocracy and neo-conservatism. I wonder how that turned out.

If you’re an average American, ask yourself how George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism has worked out for you. I bet the trickle down effect from all those tax cuts for the wealthy has already kicked in, right?

Yeah, I didn’t think so. You see, if you put neo-conservatives in power, it’s like handing your teenage son a case of beer and the keys to the car and telling him to have a good time. Neo-cons talk a good tale in opposition but become unrestrained, irresponsible ideologues when in power.

As I recall the turn of the millennium, things were pretty good. Healthy economy, annual surpluses, social stability. "What the heck happened?" you’re probably asking. Well, as the kids today might put it: "Bush happens."

It’s not as if we didn’t have warnings. The Reagan years provided ample evidence that neo-conservatives shouldn’t be left home alone. Eight years of "Morning in America" may have superficially felt good with the avuncular Mr. Reagan in charge. But it turns out that old Uncle Ronnie was up to no good. By the end of his sunny reign, the country had been devastated by Iran-Contra, the Savings and Loan scandal and a tripling of the national debt.

That’s right; a tripling of the national debt. Brought to you by the folks who condemn Democrats as tax and spend liberals. Some think it ironic that it took a Democratic administration to clean up the mess and restore the government books to a surplus position. But there’s no irony in that, just history.

If you want a fiscally responsible government, your better bet is to go with the Democrats. They may not be the greatest administrators in the world but, even at their worst, they’ll take longer to piss your money away than the Republicans.

And with the Democrats, at least at the end of the day, you’ve probably got a little something to show for your money. But with the Republicans at the wheel, when the ride is over, the interior’s trashed, the stereo’s stolen and the engine’s blown. And worst of all, they forgot to renew the insurance.

Contrary to the ardent belief of the neo-cons, liberals don’t want to kill capitalism. It’s just that if you have big business, you need big government to keep it in check.

Big business is kind of like a nineteen-year old frat boy at a kegger. It has no conscience, no sense of social responsibility and no long term view. All it cares about is generating higher profits and CEO salaries - the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll of the corporate world. Beyond that, who cares?

And that same philosophy is evident in big business’s political apologists. Cut taxes for the wealthy today and don’t worry about debt and deficits. Invade Iraq now, get rid of Saddam Hussein and don’t give a thought to what happens next. Cut regulatory spending to the bone and forget about long term consequences like post-hurricane flooding, global warming and e-coli outbreaks.

This myopic governance is ironic for another reason. For if neo-conservatives actually sat down and applied economic fundamentals to governing, they’d likely become neo-liberals.

Time and again, studies have shown that a dollar spent now on such things as health, education and welfare for the poor will save three, four or five dollars in the future. Spend a buck today on an inner city school or clinic and you’ll avoid forking out many more dollars ten or twenty years from now on additional police and bigger prisons.

You’d think that such a hefty return on the dollar would have neo-con capitalists lining up to support poverty assistance programs. But unless they can see results in the next ninety days, they’d rather spend the big bucks years down the road.

In the fable of the ant and the grasshopper, Republicans would have you believe that liberals play the role of the free-spending, unproductive grasshopper. But neo-cons are, in fact, the ones who don’t plan for winter, much less the next quarter.

P. J. O’Rourke is undoubtedly a funny man. However, looking back at his words of six years ago, it’s hard to fathom that he actually believed all the nonsense he wrote. Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t. But the sad fact remains that his misguided wit was, in some small way, partly responsible for the election of George W. Bush and the resulting national nightmare.

Now I’d like to have some fun and play the role of a liberal P. J. O’Rourke. But given the mess his boy has created, there’s really no time for that. If we’re going to clean it up, it’s going to take all hands on deck working around the clock to restore America to its former greatness.

So what do you say, Mr. O’Rourke? We’ve only got two more years to ensure a Democrat gets back in The White House. Apology accepted and let’s get to work.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A True Original

In the words of John Stuart Mill: "All good things which exist are the fruits of originality."

To rely solely on the words and works of others is to wallow in mediocrity. It’s always better to strike out on your own and fail than to safely cling to the tried and true and thereby gain only a pale imitation of success.

One could do worse than, as Shakespeare wrote, "If you will lead these graces to the grave. And leave the world no copy."

For a life lived by its own rules will always shine brighter than the life lived in harness to those around it.

Even if your job is to translate the works of others, break the mould and rise above the mundane. Then you can at least aspire to achieve the praise of one like Jorge Luis Borges who once said of a translator’s work: "The original is unfaithful to the translation."

Aspire to be like England’s great bard who Ralph Waldo Emerson referenced thus: "When Shakespeare is charged with debts to his authors, Landor replies, ‘Yet he was more original than his originals.’" Remember, as did Oliver Wendell Holmes, that "A thought is often original, though you have uttered it a hundred times."

One might take the view that "Original thought is like original sin: both happened before you were born to people you could not have possibly met." (Fran Lebowitz) Or as Goethe mused: "The most original authors of today are original not because they create something new but because they are capable of saying such things as if they had never been said before."

I find such a stance to be somewhat cynical and defeatist. And to be a cynic is, in Oscar Wilde’s estimation, to be "A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

And remember, as Richard Nixon so eloquently put it: "Defeat doesn’t finish a man - quit does. A man is not finished when he is defeated. He’s finished when he quits."

Gaston Bachelard wrote: "There is no original truth, only original error." But I prefer the words of Brenda Ueland who said: "Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say."

Even me.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Take It From Me

As I rapidly approach my 57th birthday, I figure it’s time to share my wisdom with the world. For those of you starting out in life, save yourself some trouble and heed the following hard-earned life lessons:

* Read the instructions BEFORE assembling.
* Don’t start the windshield wipers if they’re iced over.
* Pay someone to plow your driveway.
* Always (and I stress the word "always") turn off the main water supply before attempting plumbing repairs.
* Apart from simple washer replacements, don’t attempt plumbing repairs.
* Oil spots underneath your car should not be ignored.
* Don’t buy items that say "Some Assembly Required" on the box.
* If it takes more than a screwdriver and a hammer, hire someone else to do it.
* Don’t drink and dial.
* Don’t say "I love you" unless you’re sober.
* Learn what poison ivy leaves look like.
* Always keep calamine lotion in your medicine cabinet.
* Don’t assume you had chicken pox as a child.
* Do not accept invitations to attend sales presentations to receive "your free gift."
* Pay the extra $25 to have the gas barbecue assembled.
* Don’t try to repair a 30-year old lawn mower.
* Back up your computer files regularly. ("Regularly" means more often than every time the hard drive crashes.)
* Check the expiry date before drinking milk or juice directly from the carton.
* Cook meat from the refrigerator before it turns green.
* Don’t buy a used car unless you know the previous owner.
* Don’t buy a second used car from the same dealer until the first car is at least a year old.
* Don’t try to "tighten" a loose connection in a light fixture with a small piece of aluminum foil.
* Keep a spare remote control handy.
* Buy an artificial Christmas tree.
* Always say "No."

Friday, January 26, 2007

The International Schoolyard

Overheard recently during recess in the international schoolyard:

CANADA: Boy, I’m really tired of that U.S. He’s always picking on people, telling them what to do and stealing their oil money.

FRANCE: Oui, d’accord. He ees, how you say, a real bully.

IRAN: Yeah and he’s always sticking up for that shrimp Israel. If I could just get that little runt alone, I’d push his face into the sea.

PAKISTAN: Tell me about it. I keep having to pretend to be his friend so he won’t beat me up. But when he’s not looking, I just do what I want.

SAUDI ARABIA: That’s the way to handle him. Be nice to his face and pay others to knock his toys over.

CANADA: Oh-oh. Here he comes. Cuba, you better scram because you really set him off.

FRANCE: He has his leetle buddy U.K. with him again. Oh how I detest that beef-eating bootlicker.

PAKISTAN: Look, U.S. has still got poor Iraq in a headlock although he’s putting up a good fight.

U.K.: Hey, get out of the way. U.S. is coming through. Give him some room.

U.S.: Hi guys. Good to see you. What’s your name squirt? Canada, right? Aren’t you the little guy who wouldn’t help me beat up Iraq?

CANADA: Uh...hi, U.S. Great to see you. You know you’re my favorite superpower.

U.K.: Of course he is, you dummy. He’s the only superpower.

CANADA: Heh-heh. That’s what I meant. And don’t forget, U.S., I helped you beat up Afghanistan.

U.S.: You did? I didn’t notice but OK, I’ll take your word for it

IRAN: Hey, U.S. Why don’t you let Iraq go and pick on someone your own size?

U.S.: Don’t tempt me Iran. Once I’m finished with this clown, I’m coming after you.

IRAN: Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nah! You wouldn’t dare, especially now that I have my new toys.

NORTH KOREA: Look, look! I’m running with scissors!

U.S.: OK, OK. Slow down.

U.K.: Yeah, we’re backing away.

U.S.: Here, you guys can have Iraq back. We’re done with him. But next time we need some oil, you better pay up.

U.K.: That’s right. If my pal U.S. says so, you better listen.

CANADA: Sure, sure, U.S., Whatever you say.

FRANCE: (sotto voce) Maudit Americains.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The State of the Household Address

My fellow householders. I come to you tonight to report on the state of the Martin household. Although 2006 was a year of unprecedented challenges, I am proud to report that 2305 Samuel Drive is stronger than ever.

Thanks to the financial stewardship of yours truly, we weathered the uncertainties in the economy. By maintaining my famous low profile at work, I avoided last July’s layoffs. And, despite historically low productivity levels, fortune smiled on me as I received an unexpected negotiated pay increment.

In view of the unsettled economic climate, some infrastructure improvements at 2305 Samuel Drive had to be cancelled or delayed. Unlike the heady times of 2000 when we acquired a new bed, fridge and roof, plans for new kitchen cupboards and a new dining room table had to again be put on hold. The outlook for future bathroom renovations is cautiously optimistic.

Provision of utility services presented a mixed picture in 2006. As you all know, the wild fluctuations in oil prices caused some uncertainties in the Martin household budget. But thanks to my wife Cheryl’s fortuitous switch of long distance telephone providers, overall losses were minimized. We are investigating long term contracts for electricity and heating oil to provide greater price stability.

Despite my pledge not to touch our retirement security funds, as you know, I felt compelled to switch $10,000 to a high tech mutual fund in April of 2000 when the NASDAQ had fallen to 3200. All I can say is "my mistake." The good news is that we still have most of the $6,000 capital loss realized in that year to carry forward for future use.

On the growth front, eleven-year old Sarah’s demands for a sibling unfortunately had to be refused. However, in order to placate her and to allay increasing parental guilt, a long-delayed commitment to dog ownership was finally realized in May of 2005. Some critics have noted that a second child would have been less expensive but I have reluctantly agreed that it is too early to make a final determination on that score.

As for external affairs, our usual placid relations with our neighbors to the east and west were tested. After the change in ownership at 2303 Samuel Drive, there was much upheaval along our eastern border. Luckily, protracted negotiations resulted in a mutually satisfactory fence extension. The situation along the western property line will continue to be monitored as 2307 Samuel Drive now has unreasonable expectations of a jointly financed replacement of the existing 30-year old fence.

In conclusion, I am pleased to report to all Martin householders that the future looks bright. Despite the turbulent uncertainties of the new economy, we can look forward to everything from a new lawnmower to a new TV in the coming year. And if we play our cards right, we may even make it to Disney World. God bless America.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State of the Union

After listening to President Bush’s State of the Union address, I feel confident in the future of the United States. The President highlighted his legislative achievements and his plan for the future and made Americans proud.

Now some naysayers are taking a simplistic approach and saying that the President has made things worse. These critics claim that the six years since Mr. Bush took office on January 20, 2001 have shown no progress or a marked decline on all fronts.

(The Dow Jones Industrial average was at 10,700.)

That’s just plain dumb, simplistic thinking.

(The unemployment rate was 4%.)

I know that opposition politicians like to play the game of "Are you better off now than you were two, four or six years ago?"

(The World Trade Center towers were standing.)

But that’s not right. It’s not fair to compare apples and oranges.

(There was no axis of evil.)

President Bush inherited a whole litany of problems from the Clinton administration.

(Politicians were wondering how to spend a projected one trillion dollar surplus.)

He had to take tough measures to ensure that this nation remained on the right track. Economic prosperity often requires difficult decisions.

(There was an estate tax and a tax on dividends.)

After years of wishy washy foreign policy by the Clinton administration, it was time to take a firm stance.

(North Korea was complying with its treaty obligations.)

The world was looking for a strong American voice, a voice that would speak the words of liberty and justice people were longing to hear.

(Saddam Hussein wasn’t bothering anyone.)

Bill Clinton had waffled on so many fronts that the world was a tinderbox in danger of explosion.

(Israel and the Palestinians had come very close to an historic peace agreement.)

The Democrats had pursued their misguided, liberal policies domestically as well to the detriment of the nation.

(Affirmative action was an effective social engineering tool.)

So, I say to those small minded critics: Stop worrying about the last six years and start looking ahead to the next two. Wake up before it’s too late.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Canada's New Official Greeting

In light of the latest nationwide outbreak of gastroenteritis, the Public Health Agency of Canada has recommended against handshaking to reduce the spread of the bug. But apparently that’s just the first step. Canada’s New Government has once again leapt into action with almost every federal department and agency signing on.

Health Canada was first off the mark with its own in-house protection plan. All employees have been issued disposable latex gloves which they are required to wear during their shifts.

"We thought this was the surest way to prevent infection," said a Health Canada spokesman. "Even if people inadvertently end up shaking hands, no viral transmission will occur."

Health Canada employees will be encouraged to wear their government-issue gloves while off the job as well.

"Since 78% of all viral infections are transferred from the home, we think it just makes sense," said the departmental representative. "Our new slogan ‘Love means wearing a glove’ says it all."

The RCMP is gearing up for a cross-country offensive against unprotected handshaking. Although there are not yet any criminal sanctions for illicit or illegal handshakes, the Mounties are planning to stop Canadians who are practising unsafe greetings and issue them warnings.

"We thought about providing an information flyer as well," said the head of the RCMP’s new Anti-viral Mobile Unit. "But the cost of covering and sanitizing the handouts was prohibitive."

The Department of Justice has taken the lead from the RCMP and is in the initial stages of drafting an amendment to the Criminal Code that would see unauthorized seasonal handshaking punishable by a fine of up to $5,000. Provisions are being made for the payment of any fines imposed by credit card, debit card or automatic bank withdrawal to avoid the inevitable transmission of germs via paper currency.

"We hope to have the epidemic under control soon," said a Justice spokeswoman. "At which time we will introduce a registry of known handshakers, costing a maximum of $50 million."

Even the CBC has jumped on board with an offer to run new public service ads 24/7 to help educate the public. In-house producers have created an animated character called "Hammy the Hand" who will show viewers the best ways to avoid human contact and reduce viral spread. CBC brass are even considering making the ads available free of charge to Canada’s private broadcasters to ensure that at least some Canadians will actually see them.

Finally, the Prime Minister’s Office is taking steps to educate Canadians and change our social conventions when it comes to public greetings. Look for public demonstrations by the Prime Minister himself of the newly approved substitute greeting of a straight-arm salute at a 45 degree angle.

"It’s the right thing to do for the country," said Mr. Harper. "And when it comes to doing the right thing, there’s no party more right than ours."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

L'Enfer Est Tout Gelé

"The French government proposed a union of Britain and France in 1956, even offering to accept the sovereignty of the Queen, newly discovered documents show."
- The Globe and Mail - Jan. 16, 2007

Archival documents recently revealed that in 1956, the prime minister of France proposed a merger of his country with Britain. Many political commentators were shocked by the revelation. However, they likely would have been much less surprised if they had also seen a copy of the following yet-to-be-released proposed terms of union:

WHEREAS the great nation of France wishes to join forces with its poorer, cross-channel cousin variously known as England, Britain, the United Kingdom and "chez les bâtards."

AND WHEREAS the glorious French people have always been known for their acts of charitable kindness even when it comes to "la louche petite bourgeoisie" living in England.

AND WHEREAS the shocking deficiencies in British governance, culture and cuisine threaten to undermine European stability.

AND WHEREAS it would be expensive, impractical and "trés inopportun" to launch an invasion at this time.

NOW THEREFORE the glorious republic of France agrees to a merger of nominal equals to form what shall henceforth be known as the United Kingdom of France.

IN ORDER TO facilitate this unfortunate union, France, in a typically selfless yet grandiloquent gesture, agrees to recognize "La Reine de les Rosbifs" as the sovereign head of the new nation provided that she comply with the following terms and conditions, to wit, she shall:

* Change her name from Elizabeth II to Brigitte I.
* Enroll for a minimum 26-week course at Berlitz to improve her passable French.
* Guarantee that any of her progeny will marry only those of French descent.
* Cease and desist from burning meat and overcooking vegetables.
* Acknowledge the comedic mastery of Jerry Lewis and forever foreswear the appallingly humourless Benny Hill.
* Holiday regularly on the Riviera.

WHEREFOR the citizens of France will willingly submit to British law when the following provisos are satisfied:

* The two houses of Parliament are joined and renamed The National Assembly.
* The seat of government is moved to Paris.
* The national anthem is changed to "La Marseillaise."
* All current British subjects attend a six-week wine-tasting and culinary course.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT KNOWN that the final merger will be effective once these few reasonable conditions are met or when "l’enfer est tout gelé", whichever comes first.

SIGNED AT PARIS ("mais oui") this _____ journée de la mois de janvier, 1957.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Don't Call It Football

The Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer have signed David Beckham for $250 million in hopes of boosting the game’s popularity in the U. S. But, like the signing of Brazilian star Pelé by the New York Cosmos in the 1970s, I suspect the Beckham acquisition will also turn out to be a colossal waste of money.

Think for a minute. What names do you recognize in that first sentence? If you’re like me, not likely the Los Angeles Galaxy or Major League Soccer. And the only reason you’re probably familiar with David Beckham at all is because he’s married to Posh Spice. And why? Because soccer is boring.

If Major League Soccer wants to attract American fans to the game, it can easily do so and for a lot less money than Mr. Beckham is getting. League officials just have to make a few minor changes to accommodate the fans.

First of all, stop calling it football. It’s not football. Football is the Cowboys versus the Giants and Florida versus Ohio State. This game is soccer.

Next, they might want to consider putting more lines on the field so everyone can tell where the players are. Horizontal, parallel lines every five yards or so would definitely help pinpoint the action.

Personally, I’d like to see the players get some helmets and padding. From the few video replay clips of soccer collisions I’ve seen, some of these guys appear to be in excruciating pain.

Another suggestion is to let one team have the ball for more than twenty seconds. Just a thought but why not let each team have four tries to make ten yards? If they do then they get four more tries. Then at least there’s some continuity in the game.

Stop the clock once in a while and let the players have a rest. And TV fans at home would definitely appreciate the chance for a snack or washroom break. The league could even split each half into two quarters to allow for more TV ad time.

One thing that definitely has to change is the offsides rule. No one here understands it. Why not let both teams line up and call that the offsides line or, say, the line of scrimmage?

Finally, let the players use their hands. It would sure open up the game if they could pass and catch the ball. And if they have to kick it, how about some posts at either end they could kick the ball through for a point or three?

Now if Major League Soccer could implement these minor changes, I’m sure Americans would come out to the games in droves. And at that point, I doubt anyone would even care if they still called it football.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Extreme Makeover, White House Edition

President Bush recently embarked on some major renovations at The White House. As someone interested in handyman repairs, I suggest he consider using the following practical hints and helpful tools:

underground gas and water lines
Before starting a major renovation, check with the experts to see if there are any hidden dangers. Don’t just assume that you know where buried items are located. If you’re wrong, it can prove to be embarrassing and very expensive.

surge protector
When you’re working with power tools, it’s essential to use a power bar. Without warning, there can be an unexpected increase in available force. The surge protector makes sure that you’re not the one that gets burned.

hire help
Before rushing into a reconstruction job, make sure you have all the help you need. Confirm that family members are onside and ask your neighbors to lend a hand. Many an inexperienced renovator has regretted taking a unilateral approach to what initially appeared to be a simple, one-man job.

Many novices engaged in reconstruction discover too late that they needed a level. This handy tool ensures that you don’t end up with an unbalanced structure that eventually falls apart.

check underlying structure
Before removing a wall or beam, make sure it’s not an essential support. Once you’ve taken down such a support, the rest of the structure may collapse. At that point, trying to rebuild the broken factions is often impossible.

tape measure
A retractable measuring tape is crucial for getting the job done on time. Every good contractor abides by the old saw: "Measure twice; cut and run once." If you don’t, you could be working on the same job for years.

construct proper framing
Know where you want everything to be before you start. For example, without proper planning for door and window placements, you could end up with no exit strategy.

stud finder
Before trying to rebuild any old, dilapidated dwelling, you need to locate the supporting studs. Renovators who fail to do their homework end up building unsupported walls which often result in crumbling infrastructure.

crescent wrench
This is a lightweight, adjustable wrench that allows the user to turn different nuts in a mideasterly direction. However, the crescent wrench should not be used for heavy loads as it will easily break. Not to be confused with the cross wrench or the star of David wrench.

Friday, January 12, 2007

What's With This Weather?

According to Mark Twain, everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. Well, finally that clever adage has been disproved.

It seems that years of people talking about the weather has generated enough hot air to make January seem like early April. We’re weeks into winter and we can barely keep a dusting of snow on the ground.

Now I’m generally the first to complain after we’ve had our first few annual rounds of snow, ice and cold. If, like me, you’re not a skier, you hate winter driving and the only skating you like is the indoor variety, then this latest winter weather pattern should be cause for celebration. Yet strangely it’s not.

When it comes to the weather, there’s really only one consistent, accepted response: complaining. Generally that means grousing about it being too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry or just too of anything.

So this winter, my seasonal complaint is that it’s just too darned weird. Golfers hitting the links in Ottawa in December? Joggers running shirtless in New York’s Central Park in January? Migratory birds cashing in the return half of their southern ticket? What the heck is going on?

When I whine about winter, it’s usually because of those endless cold snaps that keep you plugging in your car for nights on end. Or day after day of snow that builds up on the roof of your house to the point where you have to actually think about hiring someone to shovel it off. Or the alternating pattern of cold spells and freezing rain that makes every trip outside an adventure.

However, if I can get a winter that’s not too cold, too snowy or too icy, then I’m reasonably satisfied. You know, what we used to call a mild winter.

But this one is just plain nuts. How can you look out your front window in the middle of January and see bare grass and convince yourself that it’s winter?

Let’s face it; this is downright unnatural. My snow shovel has been sitting in the carport unused since early November and I’m afraid it’s starting to rust. The snow tires were sensibly installed on the car in late October and have been rapidly wearing away on permanently bare pavement ever since. And the $300 I spent on a snow clearing contract for our driveway might as well have been tossed in the fireplace as kindling for all the good it’s done so far.

A day or two of mild winter weather is always a nice break. But this extended stretch of false spring is downright creepy. It was kind of nice at first to go without the parka and the toque and the mitts. But once we hit January and things didn’t change, I started thinking that there had to be some payback for this respite from the cold.

I figure it’s kind of like overusing your credit card. It’s fun while the shopping spree lasts. But once the next bill arrives in the mail, the pain of repayment begins.

And that’s what I figure we’re in for soon, a big fat cold, icy, snowy repayment. The jet stream, El Niño, global warming and kismet are going to gang up on us and give us our usual four-month dose of winter. Except that it’s all going to be concentrated into the final two months.

So enjoy the next couple of weeks of weirdness because when it comes to weird weather, I predict that we ain’t see nothin’ yet. Come February and March, hang on to your hats, your coats and your scarves. Like Bette Davis said in "All About Eve": "Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night." And trust me, that’s when the real complaining will begin.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Smith v. Kringle

In a move that caught most market analysts by surprise, a class action lawsuit has been launched against one Kris Kringle. The statement of claim was filed on behalf of the class of children professing belief in Mr. Kringle and reads as follows:

Civil Action No. 001/07



Johnny Smith

- and -

Kris Kringle


A legal proceeding has been commenced against you by the Plaintiff, Johnny Smith, age seven, as a representative member of the class. The Plaintiff claims as follows:

1. The Defendant Kris Kringle (a.k.a. Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, Jolly Old St. Nick), a resident of the North Pole, is the CEO and COO of an enterprise known as Santa’s Workshop.

2. The Defendant employs thousands of individuals variously known as elves or Santa’s helpers at well below minimum wage to produce toys to be distributed to members of the class, viz worthy boys and girls.

3. Notwithstanding a generous compensation package including extensive retirement benefits, the Defendant has consistently only worked one day a year.

4. In consideration of their yearlong good behavior, the class members were entitled to gifts and presents commensurate with the degree of "goodness" of said behavior.

5. In blatant disregard of this longstanding agreement, the Defendant failed to deliver gifts to some class members and, in other instances, delivered substandard, inappropriate or unwanted presents.

6. The Defendant concentrated his efforts on rewarding fellow CEOs in contravention of his duty to his shareholders and his contractual obligations of specific performance. For example, the Defendant awarded a $210 million post-Christmas severance package to the departing CEO of a business known as Home Depot.

7. At the expense of the class members, the Defendant had previously rewarded other underperforming CEOs with seven, eight and nine-figure salaries, stock options and/or severance packages.

8. Despite the Defendant’s underperformance and non-performance, he resigned his positions as CEO and COO effective December 31st of last year and immediately claimed his own severance package of $250 million plus an ongoing generous living allowance, a sleigh-related transportation stipend and a three-bedroom condo in Palm Springs.

Now therefore the Plaintiff claims that the Defendant is guilty of negligence and breach of contract and has breached his duty of care to the class members, to wit, to determine which members were naughty and which were nice and to compensate them accordingly.

Wherefore the Plaintiff on behalf of all class members seeks specific damages in the amount of $12,000,000,000 representing the unearned monies received by the Defendant and his fellow CEOs.

Furthermore, the Plaintiff seeks general damages for hurt feelings in the amount of $600,000,000 and one lump of coal in the Defendant’s stocking.

Wherefore, the Plaintiff prays for (1) relief in the amount of $12,600,000,000, (2) restitution for those class members underserved by the Defendant and (3) a declaration by this Honorable Court that the Defendant does, in fact, exist.


January 10, 2007.
Issued By:
Supreme Court for the Judicial
District of the North Pole

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Feline Follies

"He [John Baird] is also a lover of felines. The Harpers are great cat lovers, too."
- The Globe and Mail - Jan. 5, 2007

Ruff-ruff. Woof, woof, woof.

Hi, I’m Oreo. I’m a Portuguese Water Dog and my so-called master has agreed to translate my remarks for this piece.

I’ve never written an op-ed essay before. Heck, I’ve never even written a letter to the editor. But this latest cabinet shuffle by the Tories has really got me steamed.

The other day I was lying in front of the TV licking myself when I heard that John Baird has been appointed Minister of Environment. Nothing wrong with that, of course.

But what got my tail tied in a knot was the report that Mr. Baird likes cats. And apparently his boss Mr. Harper and Mr. Harper’s wife Laureen are big cat lovers, too.

Now I’m the first one to say that this is a free country and that everyone has the right to their own opinion including, of course, the right to be wrong. But, honestly, do we really want a bunch of mealy-mouthed cat lovers running the government?

When was the last time a cat ever did anything useful? As far as I can tell, never.

These furball-filled felines do nothing but lie around all day eating their owners out of house and home. They barely even acknowledge anyone else’s presence, much less cater to their needs.

Ask yourself when’s the last time you saw a cat taking its owner for a nice walk? Or playing fetch with a ball or stick? Or rescuing some poor misbegotten child from the bottom of an abandoned well?

The world is divided into two types of people: those who like dogs and those who like cats. And when it comes to the latter, as far as I can see, they’re no better than cats themselves.

As for the few cats I know, all they want to do is cut and slash. And cat lovers appear to be the same. Whether it’s programs or taxes, it’s all cut, cut, cut.

Not like that nice Stéphane Dion. The guy owns a dog, a Siberian Husky named Kyoto. Now what could be friendlier than that?

My owner tells me there’s likely going to be an election soon. I don’t know much about elections but I do know a thing or two about cats and dogs. And if my experience is anything to go by, I’d steer clear of the cat lovers.

Most dogs I know will run and play and even let me sniff their butts. But when it comes to cats, it’s just me, me, me and an open paw to the face. And I’ve got the scars to prove it.

So take a tip from a dog who’s been around the block. Before casting your vote for anyone, check out their pet preference. Otherwise, the next thing you know you’ll be governed by a bunch of yarn chasers and bird eaters. Just a word to the wise.

Monday, January 08, 2007


The National Association of Satirists and Cartoonists for Ascension Reform issued the following press release today:

We at NASCAR wish to alert the American public to an impending crisis. We’re not talking about Iraq or Social Security. We’re referring to the inevitable devastating effect of the 22nd Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, the one that limits a President to two terms.

If nothing is done, the 22nd Amendment will prevent George W. Bush from seeking a third term in office. For satirists and political cartoonists, that will be a serious blow to our livelihood and, by extension, to the nation’s economy.

Imagine, if you can, an America two years from now with no George W. Bush to satirize or lampoon. With no linguistic miscues, misguided policies or unilateral actions, the field of political satire will become a desolate wasteland.

Some observers argue that we are being alarmist and overly pessimistic. They claim that whoever ends up winning The White House will inevitably provide sufficient fodder for NASCAR members.

But just because that has always happened in the past is no guarantee it will happen in 2008. America has almost exhausted its supply of satirizable Presidents and a crisis is looming.

Think for a moment about the likely winners of the upcoming 2008 race. For the Democrats, the leading candidates include the humorless trio of Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. For the Republicans, the picture is almost as bleak with boring potential nominees like John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Jeb Bush.

No matter who wins from that group of yawn inducers, NASCAR loses. With a dull, lifeless, articulate, gaff-free President in The White House, we’ll be out of business.

Why should average citizens care about this problem? Because political satire is an integral part of the American economy and, until now, has been a growth industry.

We at NASCAR help employ thousands of writers, editors and cartoonists. And our work has a well known trickle-down effect. Without an easily lampoonable President, late night talk show hosts will experience a severe monologue deficit and standup comedians will see their routines decimated.

So act now. Help repeal the 22nd Amendment. And, rest assured, we are a non-partisan organization. We do not endorse any particular candidate.

Sure, it would be great to have George W. Bush running for a third term. But don’t forget; our initiative would also allow Bill Clinton the same privilege. In fact, we think a Bush-Clinton race in 2008 would be great for NASCAR and great for the country.

Please contribute what you can to our campaign. Remember, laughter is our most precious commodity. But it shouldn’t be taken for granted.. It takes dedicated professional satirists and laughable Presidents to maintain the national supply.

Your support can make a difference. And who knows? If we win this struggle, we may try to get the Constitution amended again to let foreign-born citizens like Arnold Schwarzenegger run for President. That would ensure a steady supply of satire for America for years to come.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Bush Be Gone

In a surprise move, George W. Bush has today officially resigned as President of the United States. Vice President Dick Cheney was sworn in as the nation’s 44th chief executive.

"I hadn’t planned on stepping down," said Mr. Bush. "But recent events made the decision irresistible."

When asked if his sagging popularity and recent failed policy initiatives had precipitated the move, Mr. Bush seemed genuinely surprised.

"No, of course not," said the former President. "My team was on course to accomplish all kinds of things. I can’t think of a more mistake-free Administration."

Apparently Mr. Bush’s decision was instead inspired by recent media developments.

"When I saw that Katie Couric took over at the ‘CBS Evening News’," said Mr. Bush. "I knew it was time for me to go."

"I’ve always been a big fan of Bob Shieffer," he continued. "He’s from Texas, you know."

"So I figured if CBS was prepared to dump a good ‘ole boy like Bob," said the ex-President. "That wasn’t a good sign for me and my party."

Asked why he resigned now instead of serving out his full term, Mr. Bush said he was inspired by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and was doing it for the good of the nation and his party.

"I am proud of my record," said Mr. Bush. "But if my running for reelection in 2008 will harm the chances of the Republican Party, I refuse to allow liberal Democrats an opportunity to steal the presidency with a negative, personal campaign."

When reminded that the 22nd Amendment to the U. S. Constitution precluded him from running for reelection in any event, Mr. Bush was heard to say: "Oh, darn. Hey, do you know if NBC has filled that open slot on ‘The Today Show’ yet?"