Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Modest Proposal

The national debate over healthcare reform has galvanized the citizenry. From coast to coast, town hall meetings have erupted into angry shouting matches about everything from socialism to universal coverage to so-called "death panels."

Personally, I think the talk of "death panels" is premature. Although health care costs are skyrocketing primarily due to a demographic shift in favor of the elderly, it’s a bit early to consider writing off our senior citizens entirely. After all, the United States is a compassionate country. Americans don’t dismiss an entire generation callously or at least not without trying other options first. Yet, given the costs involved, maybe it’s time to start thinking outside the box. Hence, the following modest proposal.

Since the primary strain and drain on the health care system comes from the elderly, we have to find a way to limit the growth of this segment of society. One way is to encourage our seniors to leave the country.

By significantly reducing social security and Medicare payments, some aging citizens will be convinced to move elsewhere to spend their golden years. Mexico, say, where the weather is more agreeable or Canada where they can benefit from that country’s system of socialized medicine. Given the net benefit to the U. S., it probably makes sense to also use positive incentives like emigration assistance grants to speed the process along.

Another approach is to gradually delist seniors. At a certain age, 85 say, seniors would simply disappear from government records. Attempts to receive social assistance or medical care could then more easily be ignored or denied by providers. As required, the qualifying (or, more accurately, de-qualifying) age would be lowered in successive years to meet ongoing budgetary limitations.

Finally, consideration should be given to reduced sentencing for motor manslaughter charges involving victims over 65. Those convicted would have their sentence set by the formula "65 minus the age of the victim" with special incentive awards given for those scoring less than zero. Not only would this approach reduce the absolute number of seniors, it would also help to ensure that only healthy, agile seniors survive thereby further reducing the strain on the health care system.

None of these measures needs to be permanent, of course. In fact, as a 59-year old baby boomer, I recommend they be implemented for a five-year trial period and revisit the issue then. At that point, it would be highly beneficial to canvass those over 65 to see if the program should be continued at all.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Deux Nations: The Reality Show

CBC’s fall television lineup is set and it looks like it’s more of the same. That means more Rick Mercer, more "Little Mosque on the Prairie" and, in keeping with current trends, more reality shows.

Sadly, though, most Canadian reality shows are nothing more than copies of American or British shows. The only new truly Canadian-themed reality offering this fall appears to be "Battle of the Blades" featuring competing teams of figure skaters and hockey players. Rumor has it, however, that the CBC hopes to rectify this deficiency by airing one or more of the following uniquely Canadian reality shows currently under consideration:

The Week the Politicians Went

Based on the popular reality-documentary series "The Week the Women Went", this new show takes a look at what happens in the nation’s capital when all the politicians are called home. Will the local bureaucrats be able to survive without the expertise and guidance of their political masters? Or will anyone even notice?

Deux Nations

Loosely based on the "Big Brother" series, "Deux Nations" features six anglophones, six francophones and one aboriginal person living on the same territory. Drama and comedy ensue as the participants battle it out to see whose language predominates, who gets which piece of land and which of the many possible ways the aboriginal person ultimately gets screwed.

Who Hates Toronto More?

Teams from every province and territory compete to see who hates Toronto more. Each week, a different team is eliminated by viewers voting to indicate which one they feel was insufficiently anti-TO. Ironically, the final competition between the last surviving three teams will be held at Toronto’s Massey Hall.

Constitutional Wrangling

Groups of Canadian politicians, academics and political commentators are holed up in the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa to hammer out a new constitution for Canada. Every week, each group presents its proposed replacement for a different current constitutional bottleneck like the amending formula or the notwithstanding clause. The final episode will feature any remaining Canadian viewers voting on their preferred new Canadian Constitution.


Environment Canada weather guru David Phillips hosts a new weekly quiz show in which Canadians compete to guess when summer will arrive and for how long. Hours of sunshine with above 25 degree temperatures will be tracked for upwards of two months to see who can come closest to identifying an actual Canadian summer. Contestants from Windsor and the southeast mainland of British Columbia are disqualified from competing.

Canadian Content, Eh?

Canadians value their Canadian content in everything from dance to music to drama. But how many of us know what actually qualifies under the arcane rules of the CRTC? Well here’s a chance to find out. Contestants will compete in a quiz show format. They’ll get to watch or listen to different productions and then guess whether they qualify as "Canadian content" and explain why. The entertainment promises to be non-stop.

Minority House

Four teams of ideologically distinct contestants are forced to live 24/7 in a cramped common house in Ottawa. The teams battle one another for an elusive majority yet somehow never seem to attain it. In the end, however, all the residents do have one goal in common: to live in the house at least six years in order to win the ultimate prize - a gold-plated, parliamentary pension.

Seal Club

Inspired by the movie "Fight Club", this show pits Newfoundland sealers against celebrity animal lovers in a weekly no-holds-barred competition. Armed only with their wits and the occasional club, each camp tries to outlast the other and avoid being voted "off the ice floe." Weekly guest stars like Paul McCartney, Brigitte Bardot and Pamela Anderson ensure "Seal Club"will be a ratings winner for the people’s network.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Born in the U.S.A.

In response to the movement that questions Barack Obama’s status as American born, some House Republicans have introduced proposed legislation that would require future presidential candidates to submit their birth certificates.

A lot of people are condemning and ridiculing the so-called "Birther" bill saying its supporters have gone too far. I, on the other hand, think these folks are on the right track. If the truth be known, I don’t think they’ve gone far enough.

If I were advising the House Republicans, I’d suggest that they add a few amendments to their bill to really tighten things up. Amendments like:

* Any presidential candidate over 70 claiming to be born in the Panama Canal Zone must provide not only a birth certificate but also at least three independent expert opinions attesting to his (or her) medical fitness.
* A presidential candidate who subsequently loses the popular vote by more than 500,000 votes but claims an electoral college victory must agree to step down if it turns out that he (or she) really isn’t up to the job.
* Any presidential candidate who served as governor of a state north of the 49th parallel and then resigns before completing her (or his) term should be disqualified as a "quitter."
* No vice presidential candidate may head up a candidate search committee and then claim that he (or she) is the only qualified candidate.
* Any sitting president who starts a war under false pretenses and then triples the national debt will be disqualified from seeking a second term.
* No member of Congress will be eligible to seek the office of President if he (but probably not she) supports family values and then cheats on his spouse.
* Any presidential candidate who claims he (definitely not she) was hiking the Appalachian Trail but neglects to add that he followed it all the way to Buenos Aires cannot run.
* Failure to identify more than ten foreign nations on a map of the world will disqualify anyone as a candidate for president.
* The ability to speak in complete sentences will be a condition precedent for serving in The White House.
* No person who hosts a radio talk show will be eligible to run for any office higher than dog catcher.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Beer Diplomacy

In the wake of his beer summit with Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowley, President Obama has applied the lessons learned to other ongoing disputes. Apparently, the "teachable moment" was also instructional for him.

Seldom reliable sources report that the President has already scheduled a meeting this week between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. It is hoped that by sharing a beer together, the three leaders can come to some mutual agreement on the outstanding issues concerning Gaza and the West Bank.

Bud Light will apparently again be Obama’s favored brew. Although the two Middle Eastern leaders have not yet confirmed their attendance at the planned suds summit, both have indicated their beverage of choice. Prime Minister Netanyahu has asked for an Expanded Settlements lager and President Abbas has opted instead for a glass of wine, preferably a pre-1967 vintage.

Hoping to expand his new hops-based diplomatic initiative, President Obama has also extended invitations to the leaders of both remaining axis of evil members, Iran and North Korea. Obama hopes his new softer approach will open up fruitful diplomatic channels with the two hardline states.

Neither leader has yet accepted the invitation. However, State Department insiders have revealed that both have let it be known which brand of beer they would like to have. President Ahmadinejad of Iran has reportedly asked for a When Hell Freezes Over stout and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il will have an Over My Dead Body ale.

Obama has also reportedly invited Chinese Chairman Hu Jintao to The White House to engage in some beer-related diplomacy. The President has asked Chairman Hu to bring several billion bottles of beer with him and is hoping to unload an equal number of empties on the Chinese leader.

"We rely heavily on the goodwill of our eastern friend," said Obama. "And we’re hoping he can continue to support our ongoing beer habit. As I reminded the Chairman during our telephone discussion last week, from an American perspective, you can never really buy beer, you just rent it."

And finally, the President is also hoping to apply his new beer diplomacy to the legislative battle for healthcare reform. Unfortunately, it appears that he may have little success on this front.

Not surprisingly, most Republican members of Congress declined to share any kind of beer with Obama and many so-called Blue Dog Democrats expressed a preference for Busch Light. Thus, when it comes to healthcare, it looks like the President may have to forego his usual beer of choice and down a couple of shots of Old Crow instead.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Calling All Governors

The National Governors Association has launched a campaign to find suitable new candidates for America’s state governorships. Starting with a lengthy ad on Craigslist, the NGA is planning a year long drive to recruit qualified men and women to take on the nation’s second tier executive positions.

"It’s not as if we haven’t been trying to find good people to fill these jobs," said current NGA chair Ed Rendell. "But we haven’t had much luck in finding qualified folks and recent events have only underscored the problem."

Pressed to explain himself, the Pennsylvania governor noted that there seems to be a definite trend lately in state politics in America.

"I suppose it’s to be expected that there will be the occasional bad apple in any employment sector," said Rendell. "But we seem to be in the midst of an epidemic of incompetence."

"It’s one thing to have former governors go on to become President and screw up the country," said the Governor. "We’ve gotten kind of used to that what with Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. But this latest rash of scandals and resignations makes it clear that we have a definite problem finding and keeping good people to run our nation’s states."

Rendell was initially reluctant to name names but it became readily apparent that he was referring to the spate of recent fallen governors including disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich who faces various corruption charges, former Governor Jim McGreevey of New Jersey who had an affair with his male aide, former Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York who paid a call girl thousands of dollars for sex and current South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford who secretly flew to South America to meet with his Argentinian mistress.

And it appears that the problem is not restricted to male governors. Soon-to-be-retired Alaska Governor Sarah Palin avoided personal sex scandals but somehow couldn’t manage to serve one complete term before resigning.

"We regret that we’ve had to resort to a recruitment campaign to find new governors," said Rendell. "Buy we had no choice. Having said that, I think you’ll agree that our advertisements are simple and effective."

Those who watched a preview of the NGA’s soon-to-be-aired TV commercial generally agreed. The ad features a silhouette with a question mark and a voiceover asking "Can you sign your name? Can you serve a full term? Can you remain faithful to your spouse? If you said ‘yes’ to these three questions, you may have a career as a U. S. state governor. Call the NGA today for more information."

Governor Rendell is confident that the ad campaign will ultimately be successful in recruiting good candidates for the states’ top positions.

"It’s not like we’re asking a lot from prospective governors," said Rendell. "Keep your pants on, sign some bills, don’t break the law and wait until your term’s over. In these difficult economic times, I’m betting that we can find at least fifty people who qualify. And frankly, that’s all we need."