Monday, April 30, 2007

Modernizing the U. S. Citizenship Test

The U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently announced that it is overhauling its standard list of questions used for the test given to immigrants seeking to become citizens. Rumor has it that the new exam will adopt the popular multiple-choice format and will be constructed by randomly choosing questions from the following updated list:

How many votes does it take to be elected President?
___ a majority of the votes of the Electoral College
___ less than you might think
___ those of at least five friendly Supreme Court justices

Who is the Commander-in-chief?
___ George W. Bush
___ Dick Cheney
___ Bill Gates

What do the stars and stripes on the flag represent?
___ the number of original colonies and current states
___ the latest sugar-coated cereal from General Mills: "Stars ‘n Stripes"
___ the thirteen major American interstate highways and the fifty top grossing Hollywood stars

On what date do we celebrate the Fourth of July?
___ the fourth day of July
___ the first Friday of July
___ Tuesday

Why do we celebrate the Fourth of July?
___ declaring our independence from England
___ to support our domestic fireworks industry
___ to support our domestic fireworks importers

What is Congress?
___ the legislative branch of the federal government
___ an elaborate make-work project mandated by the Constitution
___ a sexual expression of love

Who becomes President if the President and Vice President die?
___ the Speaker of the House of Representatives
___ Nancy Pelosi
___ no, seriously, Nancy Pelosi

How many terms can a President serve?
___ two
___ two unless you’re Franklin D. Roosevelt
___ two unless your wife gets elected, you’re the Vice President and your wife dies mysteriously, say, in a freak White House bowling alley accident

According to the Constitution, a person must meet certain requirements in order to be eligible to be President. Name one of those requirements:
___ be at least 35 years old
___ raise at least $100 million in cash
___ ask Arnold Schwarzenegger

What are the first ten amendments to the Constitution called?
___ the Bill of Rights
___ the Ten Commandments
___ a Bill of Goods

Name the right guaranteed by the Second Amendment
___ the right to bear arms
___ the right to bare arms
___ the right to arm bears

Name one benefit of being a U. S. citizen:
___ you can work for the post office
___ you can own a firearm
___ you can carry your firearm to your job at the post office

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Grilled Gonzales

Spring is here and across the land you can hear the sound of barbecues being fired up for a new season of outdoor cooking. Nowhere is that sound louder than in Washington, D. C. where the following recipes are being tried:

Grilled Gonzales
Named for America’s Attorney General, Grilled Gonzales refers to an unusual style of barbecuing any grillable fish or meat. Quickly becoming a bipartisan favorite in the nation’s capital, this dish requires both Democrats and Republicans to pile on their preferred spices and sauces until it disappears under a mountain of recriminations. Previously a Presidential favorite, it is reportedly soon to be removed from the White House menu.

Roasted Rove
Washington insiders are familiar with this tasty dish which has been perfected by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove. Mr. Rove is legendary in the nation’s capital for his ability to take any seemingly tough, hard-to-digest cut of beef and, by rapidly spinning it on his own personal barbecue spit, transform it into a tender delicacy that even Democrats are forced to swallow.

Refried Clinton
An Illinois barbecue speciality by way of Arkansas, Refried Clinton starts with the original Clinton and then mashes it into a bland paste that is slowly simmered on the grill. The dish has many of the same characteristics as the original Clinton but somehow seems to lack the spicy flavor of the first-served dish. Although designed to appeal to a wide range of tastes, Refried Clinton often leaves diners wanting something substantial with a lot more zest.

Blackened Obama
Much like its Cajun namesake, Blackened Obama starts with a nice piece of white fish which is blackened on the grill with a spicy Amero-African coating. Not to everyone’s taste, especially those barbecue purists looking for a genuine African-American recipe. The dish’s oft-cited absence of real substance seems to be successfully concealed with a thick coating of charisma.

Flip Flop Burgers
Once a Democratic specialty, Flip Flop Burgers are now a common Republican barbecue favorite. Looking to achieve a taste that appeals to all political palates, everyone from Rudy Giuliani to Mitt Romney to John McCain has recently been trying his hardest to rapidly and frequently flip the position of his patties. Those who’ve tried these burgers say that they tend to fall apart and have a definite unctuous taste.

Bush Mis-steak
Some outdoor chefs are willing to admit to the occasional failed dish that went up in flames. And then there’s George W. Bush. No matter how charred, burnt or shrivelled the President’s barbecued meal becomes, in his mind at least, it’s always a great success. The President is also known for his five-alarm Admit-No-Failure Iraqi chili.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Imus In The Evening

As most people know, Don Imus is out of work. After making a racially insensitive comment on his highly-rated syndicated radio show, he was fired by CBS boss Les Moonves. As to what will become of Mr. Imus, recent events suggest the following career path:

April 29, 2007
An obviously inebriated Don Imus was arrested early this morning by a New York City police officer. Notwithstanding that the officer was male and white, Imus repeatedly shouted at him to: "Get your filthy hands off me, you nappy-headed ho!"

May 1, 2007
At a hastily called press conference, a sullen and contrite Don Imus announced that he was checking himself into the Jackson-Sharpton Racial Sensitivity Clinic in Philadelphia. Mr. Imus promised to devote himself full-time to his rehabilitation but could not refrain from wittily observing that: "On the whole, I’d actually rather not be in Philadelphia."

June 4, 2007
Imus leaves the Jackson-Sharpton facility claiming that he is a changed man and that he has been racially reborn. Accompanied by the Reverends Jackson and Sharpton, Mr. Imus leaves on a whirlwind, 12-city "Resurrection Tour."

July 15, 2007
Mel Gibson announces that he will begin filming on "The Don Imus Story" in two weeks. Based on the rise, fall and redemption of the one-time top-rated radio talk show host, Gibson’s movie will also feature depictions of several violent and bloody encounters between Imus and his legion of critics.

August, 2007
Imus makes the rounds of the talk show circuit including Leno, Letterman and a repeat appearance on Al Sharpton’s radio show. The tour culminates in an appearance on "Oprah" where the queen of daytime television declares Mr. Imus sufficiently repentant and fully cured.

September 30, 2007
Don Imus appears in Los Angeles with director Mel Gibson for the world premiere of "Ho-rrible: The Don Imus Story." The movie receives widespread critical praise and does boffo box office.

November 12, 2007
CBS announces that it is reviving "Imus in the Morning" with a brand new racially sensitive format. Don Imus appears at a CBS press conference to confirm that his new show will be a moral guidepost for America’s radio listeners.

January 1, 2008
Don Imus kicks off the new year with the first episode of his restructured radio show. Segments include "Today’s Prayer", "Inappropriate Racial Epithets" and "Clean Joke of the Day."

January 23, 2008
CBS quietly cancels "Imus in the Morning" in view of some of the lowest ratings ever recorded in syndicated radio. Don Imus spotted staggering drunk in Times Square calling for that "nappy-headed ho" Les Moonves to come out and fight like a man.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Your Ottawa Senators

From the diary of Samuel Pepys, Jr.:

Being new to Canada and the fair city of Ottawa, I have made every effort to acclimatize myself to the culture. In particular, I have noted an upsurge in interest in the local team called the Senators.

With this in mind, I recently perambulated upon the Parliament Hill where I enquired of a uniformed gentleman where I might locate these Senators of Ottawa. I was pleasantly surprised to be told that I was mere meters away from their home, a majestic arena appropriately named The Senate.

My good fortune continued when the uniformed gentleman informed me that the Senators were "in session" that very afternoon. Thinking that tickets to this game would be at a premium, I rushed to the arena and enquired about purchasing a ducat for the afternoon encounter.

Perhaps the ticket seller recognized me as a foreigner and wished to provide me with a pleasant introduction to your national game. Whatever the reason, he informed me that admission was free.

Eager to experience what so many Canadians had described to me as the fastest game on ice, I accepted the ticket seller’s kind offer. Despite my late arrival, I was given a prime seat in an upper deck area called the gallery.

To be honest, my first reaction was one of disappointment. I had expected an expansive ice sheet and was instead presented with a narrow carpeted playing area.

At first I thought that perhaps I was in the wrong arena. But an usher or "guide" assured me that this was indeed the home of the Senators. The fact that the room was awash in red, which I understand is the teams’s color, was indeed confirmation that this must be the right place.

Now, as a fan of the multi-day play of cricket, I am used to a slow, dare I say, leisurely pace of play. But these Canadians have clearly outdone us by a significant margin. To describe the Senators’ play as leisurely is to describe the drying of paint as rapid. In fact, if my eyes did not deceive me, there were a few players on either side who were actually asleep.

This latter observation was perhaps not surprising given the average age of the Senators and their opponents. I pride myself on not being an ageist. However, when it comes to athletic pursuits, I must express my bias for games played by those in their physical prime.

I asked the usher to point out the best hockey player on the floor. She gave me a quizzical look but then quickly pointed to a greying gentlemen she identified as Frank Mahovolich. She said that Mr. Mahovolich played for the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens. Given that I had heard that these two teams had not made the playoffs, I could only assume that Mr. Mahovolich was a late season acquisition by the Senators.

Being a novice fan, at times, I was uncertain that what I was viewing actually constituted hockey playmaking. However, when I asked the usher about one rather pointed exchange, she remarked that the Senator in question was a master at stickhandling and well known for his buck-passing abilities. Thus, I knew that this must have been hockey I was watching.

In the end, I cannot say that I was taken with your national sport. This is undoubtedly due to my unfamiliarity with the rules for I am sure that, just as you might be mystified by the intricacies of cricket, I will enjoy the game much more when I understand how it is played. The usher assured me that once the Senators go "into committee", the action really heats up.

In fairness, I did not sit through the entire game. As I left the arena, I felt that I should perhaps give Canada’s other national sport, curling, a try. Having heard the expression "in the house" used in relation to that other ice-bound pastime, I asked a member of the constabulary if there was a house nearby where I could watch another sporting contest. He laughed and pointed me mere meters westward to an arena he called the House of Commons. I did not have time that day to take in "an end or two" (if that is the correct phrase) but I promise to do so soon and report on my impressions of what I believe the natives call the "roaring game."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

We Have An Honorable Mention

My first attempt at the site was a winner. Attempt number two garnered an honorable mention. You can check it out at Hopefully the trend is not downwards with effort number three. Check back next Tuesday to find out.

As a bonus, my piece "Presidential Outsourcing" was posted as an Original Submission.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Rabinovitch Cup

As every true Canadian knows, neither Toronto nor Montreal made the Stanley Cup playoffs this year. So, faced with a probable 30-per-cent drop in its total playoff hockey audience, CBC had no choice but to take drastic action.

The result is the first ever Rabinovitch Cup playoffs. Named for CBC President Robert Rabinovitch, the newest hockey trophy will be up for grabs by the fourteen NHL teams that failed to make this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

"Let’s face it," said Mr. Rabinovitch. "We had to do something. With advertisers leaving like rats from a sinking ship, our bottom line was lower than Stéphane Dion’s polling numbers."

As matters now stand, the ninth place team in both NHL conferences will get a first round bye while the remaining twelve teams will do battle for the six other quarterfinal spots. Already things are looking up for Toronto fans as the ninth place Maple Leafs get a much needed break before facing the winner of the now soon-to-be much-anticipated Florida-Boston matchup.

"Honestly, I think Canadian hockey fans are going to love this new format," said the CBC boss. "After all, not only have we got Montreal and Toronto, we’re also featuring last year’s Stanley Cup finalists - Edmonton and Carolina."

Initially skeptical about the new playoff structure, fans in Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton are now fully on board. Management in all three cities is also enthusiastic about the new approach.

"Look," said Maple Leafs General Manager John Ferguson, Jr. "I’ve always said it was ridiculous to play an 82-game season to eliminate less than half the teams. As my dad used to say: ‘Let ‘em play.’"

Rabinovitch also touted the benefits to RDS, the French-language sports network. Keeping the Montreal Canadiens on the ice will not only put bums in the seats at the Bell Centre, it will also keep TV hockey viewership numbers up in Québec.

Montreal GM Bob Gainey was in complete agreement. "Our team is playing some of its best hockey right now," said Gainey. "It just makes sense to keep them active and sharp."

Although there was some speculation that the NHL would take legal action to halt the second tier playoffs, league Commissioner Gary Bettman appears to be on board.

"I see it as a win-win situation," said Bettman. "Not only does it keep the other fourteen arenas busy, it also allows us to get even greater exposure in our ever-growing American market."

Fans of second division clubs are looking forward to some great hockey match-ups. With any luck, there’ll even be a Montreal-Toronto semifinal series.

As longtime Leafs fan Don Cherry said: "This is great. I love it. At least my Leafs have a chance to win something fora change. I can’t wait to see my boys drinking from the - what did you call it again? - oh, yeah, the Rabbititch Cup."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Presidential Outsourcing

The White House today announced a new realignment of executive branch duties. In keeping with recent management trends, President Bush has decided to outsource a number of his functions.

America’s first MBA President finally recognized that government is fundamentally inefficient and that he is, in fact, part of government. To achieve optimum productivity and efficiency, the President courageously looked to the private sector for help.

"I came to accept that I was part of the problem," said Mr. Bush. "If you want to have crucial decisions made by interested and knowledgeable people, outsourcing is clearly the way to go."

"It just seemed like a natural next step," said White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. "After all, if the military can contract out half of its jobs, why can’t we?"

President Bush has reportedly long desired to shed functions outside his immediate areas of interest. "Truth be told," said Mr. Bush. "I’ve never been big on domestic issues and I’m not all that keen on foreign affairs either." Thus, the former will now be handled by a consortium of American public relations firms and the latter have been contracted out to Halliburton on a no-bid, cost-plus basis.

It appears that this is only step one in an ongoing re-engineering process. For example, it is expected that domestic policy briefings can be produced more cheaply by Mexican consultants. And executives at Halliburton have already announced plans to seek additional savings by subcontracting certain foreign policy initiatives to firms in India.

When asked about his remaining duties, President Bush indicated that he intended to concentrate on what he called his "core competencies."

"I believe that it’s an inefficient use of my time and skills to have me read lengthy policy briefings on domestic and foreign issues," said Mr. Bush. "There are lots of people in the private sector who are far more interested in and capable of slogging through all that stuff."

Press Secretary Snow outlined the new arrangement of duties and highlighted the President’s top three priorities. From now on Mr. Bush will concentrate solely on tax cutting, fund raising and handshaking.

When asked to comment on how this latest reorganization will affect next year’s election, President Bush said he expected no significant changes.

"Given the new devolution of executive powers," said Mr. Bush. "I’ll have a lot more time to do what I do best and campaign for the next Republican candidate, assuming I’m asked."

The Electionometer

Pundits, pollsters and politicians of all stripes are knocking themselves out trying to determine when the next federal election will be held. However, short of a no-confidence vote, that decision rests with Stephen Harper who apparently is exploring the following options:

As with any major decision, the Conservatives are spending tons of money on consultants’ reports to help the Prime Minister decide. But, perhaps not surprisingly, the recommendations are all over the electoral map. At last report, the Tories have engaged the services of former Ontario Premier David Peterson and will do the exact opposite of whatever Mr. Peterson recommends.

Fortune tellers
Conservative Party insiders have engaged all manner of seers and soothsayers to predict a favorable election date. The various fortune tellers have apparently tried reading everything from tea leaves to tarot cards with no conclusive answer to date. There are, however, high hopes for the upcoming reading of the entrails of an Alberta beef cow that succumbed to BSE.

The Prime Minister’s Office recently commissioned a top-secret reading for Mr. Harper from Nancy Reagan’s former astrologer, Joan Quigley. Born on April 30, 1959, the Prime Minister is a Taurus with his Moon in the Commons House. No word on any preferred election date although one item from the reading was leaked to the press: It seems that Mr. Harper’s most dominant planet is Saturn, unlike his pal George W. Bush, who when he asked for his major planetary influence was told: "Uranus."

The Electionometer
A known fan of high-tech gizmos, Stephen Harper has reportedly purchased the latest in election-calling software: the Electionometer. By feeding in all relevant data such as the current polling numbers, the number of seats held, the unemployment rate, the TSE closing numbers and the long-term weather forecast, the Electionometer will not only give a thumbs up or thumbs down on an election call, it will even suggest the optimal date. Unfortunately, the software was created before the recent Québec election and is currently being revised to allow for the entry of a double-digit seat count for the ADQ.

The Stéphane Index
Word has it that one young Conservative Party worker has been permanently assigned to follow Opposition Leader Stéphane Dion. The minute Mr. Dion’s frown falls below a specified angle or he’s forced to deny involvement in the Sponsorship Scandal or he gets another Prince Valiant haircut, Mr. Harper will be notified. If the worker sees the perfect Liberal storm and all three occur at the same time, the election will be called immediately.

Royal Canadian Mint
Rumor has it that Mr. Harper has ordered the production of a special "election loonie" to help him decide whether or not to pull the plug on the current Parliament. Inside sources say that the obverse of the coin bears the likeness of Brian Mulroney and the reverse the face of Joe Clark. No word yet on what either side of the coin means for an election call.

We Have A Winner

I'm proud to announce that I am the latest winner of the weekly satirical writing contest at the site. Thanks to the folks at, I was also able to place my winning piece with The Chicago Tribune. Check out the site via the link at the right.

Monday, April 02, 2007

How To Tell A Dog Owner

It wasn’t my idea. In fact, I was against getting a dog. But after my wife Cheryl and my daughter Sarah wore me down, I finally caved in and agreed to the acquisition of a black and white puppy named Oreo.

In the year and a half that Oreo the Portuguese Water Dog has been with us, I have to admit that I’ve learned a lot. Like how to puppy-proof a house, how to scoop poop with a plastic bag and how to write regular cheques to the vet.

But the most interesting thing I’ve learned since Oreo’s arrival is how to spot a dog owner. Having observed various members of this interesting breed, I believe I have come to know their unique markings and characteristics.

When you walk into someone else’s house, you can tell almost immediately whether or not they own a dog. Check for chew marks on the moulding, baby gates but no kids and floors littered with bones, chew toys and worn out tennis balls. And if none of those things clues you in, the animal barking and jumping up on you is usually a dead giveaway that you’re in the home of a dog owner.

There are, of course, plenty of other signs that someone owns a dog. A hair-covered blanket in the back seat of a car usually spells dog ownership, especially if there’s a slightly wet, gamy smell in the air. Since the owner probably lets the dog sleep in his bed, he’s oblivious to the hair and odor and dismisses your complaints as "fussy" or "finicky."

Other sure signs of dog ownership have to do with the owner’s apparel. The man with the permanently mud-stained pants from the knee down is, in all likelihood, a dog owner. Likewise, the woman whose pantyhose is always torn. Although these folks invariably claim that their dog "never jumps up on people", their wardrobes say otherwise.

Another telltale sign there’s a dog in someone’s life is the sore right shoulder (or sore left shoulder for southpaws). Although a properly trained dog is supposed to heel, I’ve rarely seen one do so. Most dogs yank on their leash repeatedly thereby sending their owners for ongoing physiotherapy treatment.

My favorite way to tell if someone is a dog owner? He’s the one holding a plastic bag up to the light to check for holes before heading out for a walk. Anyone who has performed pooper scooping duties with a defective bag will instantly know why.

Dog owners are in many ways similar to new parents, only worse. Once Sarah had turned three, I figured that I had heard the last of baby talk in our house. But since Oreo’s arrival, Cheryl has apparently regressed.

All those silly nonsense words and terms of endearment have returned and are now directed to our dog. And even though Oreo is no longer a puppy, the baby talk continues and will likely continue even into his dotage.

But it’s not just the syrupy sweet talk. Dog owners are like new parents in other ways, too. They’re always buying their animals new toys and treats. And the dog tends to get the full-Kodak treatment with even more photos than the kids.

Given half a chance, dog owners will talk non-stop about their darling Fido or super intelligent Rover. If you thought new parents were insufferable with their baby bragging, just ask a dog owner about his mutt’s best characteristic or latest accomplishments and get ready to have your ear talked off.

The dog owner is also the one with the huge blind spot and memory gap regarding her pet’s behavior. While Skippy bites, barks and humps your leg, his owner will express genuine surprise and declare that Skippy has never done such a thing before. And two weeks later, when Skippy does the exact same thing, she’ll be just as genuinely surprised.

But the best way to identify a dog owner is by the silly smile on his face. Despite all the trials and tribulations of dog ownership, these folks can’t seem to get enough of their canine friends. As far as I can tell, it’s a true case of irrational puppy love.