Monday, December 20, 2010

The One-cent Solution

"The Senate finance committee is recommending that the federal government remove the penny from circulation ."
- CBC News - December 14, 2010

Hi. Penny’s the name and currency circulation is my game.
For centuries, I’ve been doing the tough work when it comes to keeping the country’s finances afloat. Those big bills like the twenty, the fifty and the hundred get all the glory but I’m the specie that makes the whole cash economy work.
But now I hear there’s talk again of getting rid of me. Seems like I’m not carrying my weight, some so-called experts are saying. They figure that it just doesn’t make sense to keep me around, especially when it costs a cent-and-a-half to manufacture me.
Look, I’ve heard all this cheap talk before. It seems every time we’re in a recession, someone comes up with the idea of centicide - i.e. - killing off the penny - i.e. - me.
Nobody likes pennies, they say. We’re a nuisance that could just as easily be eliminated. Half the time, we end up in sock drawers, dresser trays or penny jars. Nobody even bothers to pick one of us up when we’re dropped on the street.
These cheap shots are nothing new. For years, I’ve been listening to people trying to get rid of me. It doesn’t really even bother me anymore. After all, I’m 94% steel with a copper coating so I’m tough. I can take the criticism.
It’s not me I’m worried about. I’m much more concerned about my fellow Canadians. They may think that a cent-free Canada will be no big deal but I’m afraid they’ll be in for a big surprise.
Get rid of me and how the heck are you going to teach Canadian kids simple arithmetic? We’re already verging on national innumeracy and with no pennies around to force kids to learn how to count when buying candy, we’ll soon have a nation of arithmetically-challenged dummies quickly headed for third world status.
But what’s the big deal, some say. Why can’t we just round off to the nearest five cents when making purchases? Yeah, and why not do the same with accounting entries? That’s just the kind of lazy thinking that will soon have us bailing out too-big-to-fail banks.
I’m also worried about all the other denominations. Get rid of me and you know who’s going to take all the heat then, right? The nickel, that’s who.
The five-cent piece will be the next currency punching bag. And every coin up the ladder will be taken down a notch. The dime’s not doing so well as it is. Imagine how life will be for him when he’s only one step from the numismatic cellar.
Don’t believe me? Ask the loonie and the twonie how they feel about themselves now that they’re coins instead of bills. It used to be that the dollar and two-dollar bill had a place of pride in Canadians’ wallets. They were currencies folks would look up to.
Now, thanks to their coinization, the buck and it’s two-buck friend are devalued in all respects. People toss loonies and twonies around the way they used to spend dimes and quarters. They simply don’t get the respect they used to. And if I’m no longer in the picture, that won’t help their status in the currency jungle.
So what if it costs more to produce me than I’m worth? We’re in a recession, for goodness’ sake. The last thing we need to do is cut more jobs.
And what about those penny trays you see in stores everywhere? Apart from making people feel charitable or thankful, they also create lots of jobs in the "take-a-penny, leave-a-penny" tray industry.
Finally, if you get rid of me, you also get rid of the lucky penny. Where else can you get a chance at good fortune for such a small cost?
So don’t eliminate me. That might be penny wise but it would definitely be pound foolish.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Public Service 2.0

"[Clerk of the Privy Council Wayne] Wouters called GCPEDIA ‘one of my priorities’ that he wants bureaucrats to use. It’s a massive wiki....where public servants can share information, post reports, publish work or collaborate on projects that could affect a slew of departments."
- The Ottawa Citizen - April 11, 2010

Coffee break
A coffee break is a midmorning or midafternoon break from the work routine lasting anywhere from fifteen to fifty minutes. Not to be confused with ‘lunch break’ which is a midday break generally lasting twice as long as allotted.

Coffee specials
Depending on where you work, a variety of coffee specials are available to public servants. For example, if you work in or near the Meadowview Shopping Complex, Bob’s Deli has a large coffee for $1 before 9 A.M. Those stationed in the Government Centre at Duflin and Byer Streets can get a medium coffee and a muffin for $1.50 after 2 P.M.

Early exit
An early exit means leaving one’s workplace prior to the scheduled time of departure. If you don’t have a scheduled time of departure, feel free to improvise and leave when you want. If, however, you do have set hours of work, be careful not to leave too early too often.

Early exit - Desjardins
For those new to the Desjardins Building wishing to sneak out early, take note of the rear stairwell. Although the exit door on each floor is marked "Emergency Exit Only", if you open the door very slowly, you can escape without tripping any alarms. Perfect for those who need to leave before 3 P.M.

Hockey playoff pool
Most government offices will have at least one playoff hockey pool. Each participant pays an entry fee and gets to select a certain number of players for the duration of the playoffs. Enquire of your co-workers and you will likely find one individual in charge of running the pool whose name is usually Bob, Mike or Ted.

Interdepartmental hockey playoff pool
You can stick to your interoffice hockey pool if you like. But if you want a real challenge and a shot at some serious money, sign up below. But be sure to use a pseudonym. No point in irritating management. E-mail Ted at

Memo boilerplate
Most memos follow a standard form. If you’re stuck for wording for your latest missive, check out the searchable database for the perfect phrase. Just enter your search terms like "saying no nicely", "saying nothing nicely" or "current favorite catch-phrases" and you’ll be provided with a wealth of helpful options.

Nap time
Nap time is any time of the workday when you feel the need to catch a bit of shuteye in order to better serve the public. Those lucky souls who have an enclosed office can simply close the door and nap for up to one hour. Those working in an open office will have to improvise or find a private getaway or retreat.

Nap time - Trudeau Complex
For those suffering from the afternoon fade in the Trudeau Complex, help is at hand. Check out the room at the end of the south hall on the fifth floor. Formerly part of a disbanded nurse’s station, the room has two cots and various donated reading matter. The combination for the door lock is 3-2-5. Remember though; mum’s the word.

Performance appraisal
A performance appraisal is an annual or semi-annual assessment of an employee’s performance based on whether he met certain predetermined goals. Ostensibly used in evaluating employees for promotion or reassignment although there is no recorded instance of such ever having been done.

360-degree feedback
This is an evaluation process which includes assessments of a supervisor by her employees. If you are an employee who is asked to participate in such an exercise, politely decline unless you are prepared to lie (see suck up).

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

WikiLeaks Leaks

"A massive document WikiLeaks.....sent shock waves around the globe.....America’s allies, including Canada, were braced for unflattering and embarrassing revelations....."
- The Globe and Mail - November 28, 2010

Later this week, it’s expected that WikiLeaks will feature some internal communications about Canada from officials at the U. S. Embassy in Ottawa. However, WikiLeaks apparently has its own security problems and pre-publication leaks have already revealed the following potentially embarrassing communiques from American diplomats based in our nation’s capital:

November 28, 2010
A football team called the Montreal Hallowets (sp.?) today defeated another team called – get this – the Saskatchewan Roughriders (seriously!). Someone in Washington should probably pass on congratulations. But be sure not to insult what they call "Canadian football." Apparently the field is bigger or measured in meters or something and they get a single point for kicking the ball in the end zone. Try to keep a straight face when they call it football.

November 17, 2010
Prime Minister Harper (he’s the chubby one with no sense of humor) has announced that Canadian troops will leave Afghanistan in 2011. He sounds serious but not to worry. He’ll likely backtrack so long as we don’t publicly pressure him. Remember, this is the guy who was ready to send Canadian troops to Iraq. He’s one of the good guys, albeit not that bright.

November 5, 2010
Canadians are celebrating the fact that their dollar is on par with ours. They call theirs the loonie which seems appropriate since this is hardly something they should be celebrating. But don’t disabuse them of the notion. Pretend we’re ticked off although we all know that it’s really going to help our balance of payments problem. Silly Canucks.

June 9, 2010
The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup by defeating another American team, the Philadelphia Flyers, in six games. Best to avoid mention of this to the locals as no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since 1993. Canadians like to think hockey is their game. Best to say nothing so as not to upset them unless you want to hear an hour-long harangue.

October 30, 1995
Well, we tried but the "Yes" side narrowly lost the Quebec referendum. Here’s hoping that Chretien fellow annoys Quebecers again so they’ll hold another separation vote soon. Nothing like a divided Canada to finally help us realize our 200-year-old dream of a truly continental United States. Fifty-Four Forty or Fight, eh?

October 26, 1993
You won’t believe who got elected prime minister yesterday. Jean Chretien! Crazy wild, huh? Anyway, everyone says this is good news for us since he sounds like a real doofus and should be easily swayed if, say, we need help some day to invade a middle eastern country on a whim.

March 17, 1985
Don’t know much about this clown Mulroney but it looks like POTUS has got him wrapped around his little finger. He sang "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" with Reagan and it looked like he was ready to dance with him, too. Looks like we can get just about anything we want from this joker, maybe even a free trade deal.

February 15, 1968
Rumor has it that some guy named Pierre Trudeau will be running for the leadership of the Liberal Party (they’re the ones in power right now). He’s currently the Minister of Justice, a real lightweight and possibly a commie sympathizer. Inside sources say not to worry though since there’s no way he can defeat favorites like Paul Martin, Robert Winters and Paul Hellyer.

March 4, 1966
You know that gal Gerda Munsinger we hired as a triple agent? Well she’s paying off big time. Seems like some high level Canadian bozo slept with her and all hell has broken loose. Best to stick to the story that she’s an East German playgirl and KGB spy. What a laugh!
Don't forget to check out my new book "Dare to be Average" at

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sexy Canadian? No Thanks

"Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds, star of "The Proposal" and upcoming sci-fi movie "Green Lantern", was named People magazine's "sexiest man alive" on Wednesday."
- Reuters - November 17, 2010

This ain’t good for anybody. Actor Ryan Reynolds the sexiest man alive? OK, maybe. But Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds the sexiest man alive? No thanks.
As a Canadian, all I can say is "Thanks for nothing, People magazine." You sure didn’t do us any favors.

We Canadians are not noted for being sexy. Sure, we produced such hotties as Mary Pickford and William Shatner. But they were just flukes and nobody ever declared them sexiest man or woman alive.

Think of the pressure we’re facing now. No longer will it be enough for a Canadian male to be adequate at his job. Now he’ll be expected to be sexy, too.
That means Mounties won’t be able to just go about their business. Now they’ll have to wear their scarlet dress uniforms even for routine police work just to keep up this new sexy image.

And what about the average Canadian Pete or Pierre? No more throwing on a parka and a winter vest to operate the Zamboni at the local rink. Now the poor guy will have to wear a tux or at least a designer label suit and tie.

No more coasting along on our reputation as basically nice, polite, inoffensive folks who wear winter clothing much of the year. Up until now, no one expected a lot out of us.

But now expectations are going to be through the roof. Our roly poly, pasty-faced prime minister Stephen Harper will no longer be able to get by on his mediocre looks. From now on, if he can’t sex himself up, no one outside of Canada will ever take him seriously again.

The same goes for all our top hockey players. Thinking that they can glide along on their hockey-playing abilities alone will no longer suffice. At the very least, this means less spitting and a lot more dental work.

And what about us average Canucks? What the heck are we supposed to do, eh? I guess, for starters, we’ll have to stop saying "eh", eh?

But that’s obviously not going to be enough. Who’s going to take us seriously dressed in snow boots and plaid now that sexy is the new Canadian imprimatur?

This sexiest man alive business is really going to put a bee in our national bonnet. Or, at the very least, a beaver in our national tuque.

To save us a lot of grief, I suggest Mr. Reynolds turn down this dubious honor. He should simply tell People magazine "thanks but no thanks." After all, that would be the polite, self-effacing Canadian thing to do.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Obama Scraps Turkey Pardon

In a surprise move, President Obama has cancelled this year’s Thanksgiving turkey pardon. Given the polarized political environment, it didn’t make sense to conduct the traditional ceremony.

As one White House insider put it: "We didn’t want to give the wrong message. With the Republicans in the ascendency, pardoning anyone or anything could smack of being soft on crime."

Instead, President Obama is expected to use the traditional turkey pardoning ceremony as an opportunity to spell out his new "get tough" approach to all forms of criminal activity.

"We don’t believe in taking it easy on criminals whether they are feathered or not," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. "In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the president decides to crack down on turkey crime in all its forms."

Asked to be more specific, Mr. Gibbs pointed to a graph which showed a definite spike in turkey crime over the last few years.

"We’ve been monitoring the situation closely," said Mr. Gibbs. "And the number of cases of Americans getting sick from salmonella poisoning is definitely on the rise. And chief among those responsible for that health threat are turkeys."

The Obama Administration is apparently also sensitive to past criminal activities by turkeys pardoned by The White House.

"While it is true that last year the president pardoned a turkey," said Mr. Gibbs. "He felt that he had no choice but to continue the pardoning policies already implemented by the Bush Administration."

This year, though, President Obama is determined to stake out his own policy position vis-a-vis turkey pardoning.

"Undercooked turkeys are potentially fatal but live turkeys are even more dangerous," said Mr. Gibbs. "If they manage to sneak into your home, they can spread bacteria without you even knowing it."

The White House is stressing the fact that last year’s pardoned bird did no damage but that Pecan, the last turkey pardoned by President Bush, is still at large. According to authorities, the bird is not a flight risk although it can flap its wings and travel at speeds of upwards of three miles an hour.

The White House hopes to capture the wayward bird soon although the president has apparently not yet decided if it will be returned to captivity or will instead serve as this year’s Thanksgiving dinner at Guantanamo Bay.

Whatever course of action the president ultimately chooses, it looks like Joe Biden has already decided to take matters into his own hands. The vice president was reportedly last seen on Air Force Two heading east to Istanbul declaring that, unlike the Bush Administration, "this White House has no intention of pardoning Turkey."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

More D. C. Memoirs

Decision Points, George W. Bush’s unorthodox presidential memoir, was released on Tuesday. The book is a personal account of fourteen major decisions from his life and presidency. But apparently there are several other non-traditional political memoirs also slated soon for publication:

"I coulda been a contenda" by Al Gore
Former Vice President Al Gore reminisces about the years 2000-2008 and speculates as to how he might have dealt with possible crises. "Since I read the August 6th briefing memo about Bin Laden’s plans to attack us," said Mr. Gore. "I was instrumental in capturing the terrorists before they boarded the plane." The self-proclaimed inventor of the Internet goes on to show how his prescient decision-making abilities avoided any foreign wars and saved New Orleans from a much smaller Katrina thanks to his singlehanded defeat of global warming.

"Eight more years" by Bill Clinton
Indulging in a little magical realism, former President Bill Clinton imagines his life if there had been no 22nd Amendment to the Constitution. "First of all, I would have trounced that intellectual pygmy George W. Bush," said Mr. Clinton. "And then I would have dumped that wooden killjoy Al Gore." Mr. Clinton describes how, under his continuing presidency, America would have achieved uninterrupted prosperity in perpetual party mode. "I really see no reason why I still wouldn’t be your president," said Mr. Clinton speculating on a fifth and possibly sixth consecutive term.

"Decision points, my ass!" by Dick Cheney
The former vice president picks ten key decision points from the Bush II presidency and describes how he was instrumental in getting the job done. "I know George likes to think he was responsible for each of those choices," said Mr. Cheney. "But we all know who really wore the pants in that presidency. I just wanted to set the historical record straight." Mr. Cheney reportedly agreed to forego the original subtitle for his book: "I’m with stupid."

"Heck of a job, W!" by Karl Rove
Mr. Bush’s former senior advisor tells how he kept the president on track with encouraging words and pep talks. "Once Cheney made a decision and got W to implement it," said Rove. "Someone had to keep convincing him that was the right thing to do and that someone was me." As the First Cheerleader, Rove protected President Bush from any inconvenient facts and figures. "It wasn’t all that difficult," reminisces Rove. "I just had to hide the newspaper and his reading glasses."

"Future decision points" by Sarah Palin
Not wanting to wait until after her presidency to publish her memoirs, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has decided to issue them now. "Let’s face it; there are going to be some tough decisions during my partial or whole term or terms in The White House," said Ms. Palin. "But I have no doubt at all how I will handle them at that time." Asked to elaborate and to provide particulars, Ms. Palin simply replied: "Hey, I’m not stupid; to find out, you’ll have to buy the book."

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Decision Points - the e-book

George W. Bush’s memoir, Decision Points, is due for release on November 9th. The book has been described as an unconventional narrative and a "groundbreaking new brand of memoir." Rather than detail his life in chronological order, President Bush has chosen to center on the "fourteen most critical and historic decisions in [his] life and public service."
Decision Points will also be available as an e-book which itself will be a groundbreaking new form of electronic publication. Rather than reproduce the printed book word for word, the former president has decided to present his e-book in point form as Decision Points: The Point Form Version. Herewith are some of the e-book "decision points" in Mr. Bush’s unique point form style:
- had to ask myself: "Can you remember the last day you didn’t have a drink?"
- couldn’t do it
- remember saying "Jesus, I have to quit!"
- funny story, that’s how I found Jesus, too
election night 2000
- sitting in the Texas Governor’s Mansion waiting for results
- Al Gore calls and concedes
- next thing I know, Mr. Inconvenient Truth calls back and disconcedes
- I decided to fight for what was arguably mine
- luckily I had a few friends on the Supreme Court - heh heh

stem cells
- embryonic stem cells come from little people
- could I OK killing little people?
- couldn’t do it
- stopped stem cell research
9-11 attacks
- why did I keep reading The Pet Goat?
- couldn’t upset the kids
- plus I wanted to know how it turned out
- sure wish I had read that briefing on August 6th entitled Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U. S.

invasion of Iraq
- Saddam could have had weapons of mass destruction
- Dick Cheney was pretty sure he did
- as the Decider, I couldn’t risk taking a chance that he didn’t
- anyway, Saddam was a real bad guy - did you know he tried to kill my dad?

- do I wish that I had declared an emergency sooner? You bet
- do I wish that I had sent more aid and visited right away? No doubt
- most of all, I wish that I hadn’t cut back on levee construction funds but that’s water under, over and all around the bridge now
the financial crisis
- that was a tough decision to bail out all those banks and companies
- but a lot of those guys were my friends and some hadn’t gotten all their big tax cuts yet
- when your friends need help, it’s a pretty easy decision to make
- plus Dick Cheney thought it was a good idea, too

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Realistic Investing

"Treasury Sells Bonds With a Negative Yield"
- headline in the N. Y. Times - Oct. 25, 2010

For the first time ever, inflation-protected securities are selling at negative yields. I, for one, am relieved and I’m hoping this is the start of a new trend. Given my fiscal history, I’d prefer to stop pretending my investments are going to make money and just get the bad news over with right off the bat.
I’m anticipating that Wall Street will take the next logical step and start getting companies to issue shares with built-in, guaranteed losses. Rather than delude myself into thinking that my equity purchases will actually turn a profit some day, this new type of share would guarantee me a capital loss right from the start. Then, if by chance, I should make a small gain here or there on any of my older investments - presto, I’ve got an instant capital loss to write it off against.
Not only would this benefit my meager portfolio, it would also serve to help the share-issuing corporation. It could later buy back the shares at less than their original value and use the resulting gain to ensure that its executives do not have to suffer with only six-figure salaries.
Hopefully this would also lead to another new vehicle: anti-dividend shares. For decades, some of us have relied on so-called blue chip stocks that reliably pay a small dividend year-in and year-out. Sadly, over time, whatever net dividend we might accumulate is usually eroded by the decline in the share’s underlying value.
That’s why I’d prefer to have it spelled out right up front when I buy one of these new anti-dividend shares. For a guarantee from the company that the share’s value will not fall over time, I’ll be happy to pay them a small annual dividend of two or three dollars per share. I may not make any money this way but at least my initial capital outlay will still be there.
Let’s face it; the stock market is not for the faint of heart. But with more loss-guaranteed investment vehicles, at least we’d know where we stand. Plus, we’d have the satisfaction of knowing that stockbrokers, investment bankers and the like would not have to risk taking a cut in their all-important annual bonuses.
Maybe this new trend can spread to the housing market as well. In return for taking on a long-term, fixed-rate mortgage, I, as the new homeowner, would be willing to immediately absorb a twenty percent drop in the value of my new house. That way, I’d know just what I have to pay per month for years to come and I would no longer have to worry about borrowing against some illusory increased equity in my home.
If we are to protect our great American way of life and ensure that capitalism continues to thrive, loss-guaranteed investments is clearly the way to go. They’re about the closest thing to a sure bet that you’re ever going to see.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

White House Trick-or-treaters

It’s Halloween and that means American homes from coast to coast will be visited by scary trick-or-treaters. And that includes the nation’s First Residence: The White House. Here are some of the frightening visitors President Obama can expect this Sunday night:

The She Clinton
Hillary drops by to remind Obama what he can expect in 2012 if he doesn’t give her some more treats. She’s not saying she’ll run against him in two years’ time but she’s not saying she won’t either. But if Hillary doesn’t get what she wants, she may just unleash her sidekick Scary Bill.

The Birthers
They’re back and they’re scarier than ever. They’re the Birthers and now they’ve got a whole new crazy story about Obama’s non-American origins. It turns out that he was really born in Canada as the love child of Pierre Trudeau and Tina Turner.

Joe Biden
He looks friendly and harmless but once he opens his mouth, he can scare the bejesus out of the president. Dressed as a loose cannon, Joe Biden also has loose shoes, loose lips and a loose tongue.

Sarah Palin
This year, the former Alaska governor is wearing a new scary costume; she’s coming dressed as The Anti-Onanist - Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell. In a frightening ironic twist for Obama, the more he attacks Ms. Palin and her new gal pal with facts and logic, the stronger they become.

Tea Partiers
They’re mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it anymore. They’re the Tea Partiers and they want change now. But the scary thing is, nobody knows what kind of change they want, including them.

The Campaign Promises
This group of Halloween visitors is the president’s worst nightmare. Whether it’s Global Warming; Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; or The War in Afghanistan, their appearance is a chilling reminder of goals unmet. If this gang of trick-or-treaters keeps coming back, Obama may have to find a new home in two years.

Glenn Beck
Dressed as the Race Card, Glenn Beck drops by to accuse Obama of hating white people. Although the president might protest that the only white person he hates is Glenn Beck, Mr. Beck won’t let truth and rationality defeat his scary demagoguery.

The Swing Voter
Possibly the scariest visitor to The White House this year, the Swing Voter is as crazy and unpredictable as Virginia Thomas on an answering machine. Frightening as it is to consider, this spooky character twice elected George W. Bush and he may just hand Congress back to the Republicans on Tuesday.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Modern Merit Badges

"Boy Scouts of America now offers video game awards in the form of a belt loop and the more advanced video game pin."
- MSNBC - April 28, 2010

Although the new video gaming belt loop and game pin are just for Cub Scouts, the Boy Scouts are apparently looking to modernize their entire awards program. Rumor has it that, in order to appeal to today’s youth, the organization will soon be updating its merit badge program to include the following new badges:

Cell phone
Cell phones are now an integral part of modern life. This merit badge will be rewarded to those who demonstrate mastery of handheld wireless communication devices.
1. Must be able to analyse and assess competing cell phone plans and identify the cheapest one including any network charges, connection fees, roaming charges and additional usage surcharges.
2. Demonstrate basic operational skills such as placing and receiving calls and text messages. The candidate must achieve certain minimum texting character typing speeds with and without a QWERTY keypad.
3. Must be able to receive and transmit even in weak reception areas such as camping grounds and high-rise basements.
4. Required to start a fire in a remote location using only the cell phone battery and a fire-starting app.

Web surfing
This badge is awarded for demonstrated skill in navigating and exploiting the World Wide Web.
1. Must be able to use various search engines in order to locate vaguely described web sites.
2. Candidate needs to demonstrate the ability to bypass content filters in order to access restricted or adult-content sites.
3. Create and upload a YouTube video of a friend in a compromising position using only a camera phone and a laptop computer.
4. Use the Google search function to learn how to tie knots including a sheepshank, bowline and a half hitch.

Mall navigation
The Boy Scouts have always stressed the importance of wilderness skills. Mall navigation is simply a modern version of finding your way out of the woods. To earn this badge, a candidate is placed in an unknown location at an unfamiliar shopping mall. Given a cell phone with only a compass app, he must successfully navigate the mall and locate the food court, the cinemas, the Starbucks and at least two cool teen clothing or footwear stores.

Portable digital music devices are almost mandatory in today’s world. Thus, it is essential that Scouts learn how to operate and fully exploit this modern technology. A badge candidate is required to:
1. Download songs and videos from authorized and unauthorized sites.
2. Bust a move while wearing an iPod without dislodging the ear buds.
3. Go an entire 24-hour day wearing and using one’s iPod.
4. Identify at least six different wild songbirds using a songbird podcast.

Drug identification
As with wilderness survival, this is a field trip merit badge. Candidates will be taken on an outing to a local downtown park or high school parking lot. Each Scout is required to distinguish undercover narcotics police officers from legitimate drug dealers. He must also be able to differentiate prescription from non-prescription pharmaceuticals. Must demonstrate the ability to classify on-street product as "grass", "speed", "acid", "crack" or "meth." The final test involves rapid identification of an anonymous white powder including drug type, potency, street value and any unusual additives and/or side effects.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Coffee Party

The Tea Party movement has been criticized as a one-time, flash-in-the-pan phenomenon, just another third party that will soon go up in flames. But it looks like Tea Partiers are here to stay as evidenced by these new copycat parties looking to ride on their coattails:

The Coffee Party
Some folks think the Tea Party is fine as far as it goes but feel that something stronger would be even better. They’re the Coffee Partiers, citizen-patriots who like their political caffeine in a stronger dose.
Tea Partiers want less government. Coffee Partiers want no government. After all, if you’re jacked up on joe, you don’t need the government’s help for anything. You can do it all yourself including having your own personal army.

The Coke Party
Some folks drink coffee to get their caffeine fix but others prefer Coke. And then there are those who are truly committed to their caffeinated soft drink preference. They belong to the Coke Party and are willing to do anything to keep Coca-Cola America’s number one carbonated drink. For serious fans of stimulating beverages, there’s the Red Bull Party, not to be confused with Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party or any modern party enamored of bull.

The Decaf Party
There are those who aren’t happy with the two mainstream parties but aren’t quite ready to adopt all the crazy rhetoric of the new caffeinated parties. For them, there’s the Decaf Party.
Decaffers like to state their dissatisfaction with the status quo but in a quiet, reasonable, non-caffeinated way. Sadly, the Decaf Party is so laid back that its members seldom get out to demonstrate and often forget to vote.

The Home Party
Patterned on the Tupperware sales method and home lingerie parties, the Home Party is looking to spread its message one house at a time. Hostesses sign on and then invite a group of friends over for a get together to try on different ideologies and see which one they like.
Each Home Party party has food, fun and games including Pin the Tail on the Democrat and Spot the Elephant in the Room. Serious partiers may even want to play the Libertarian Drinking Game where participants down shots of liquids from various non-government inspected containers.

The Party Party
This is a party for people who are tired of political organizations that call themselves parties but then get all serious about things. The Party Party wants to ensure that when you join a party, you really get to party.
"We’re not conservative," said Party Party spokesperson Candy Kane. "We like to let loose and have a good time. You could say we’re really, really social but we’re definitely not socialists."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Say You're Sorry

"Clarence Thomas’s Wife Asks Anita Hill for Apology"
- N. Y. Times headline - October 19, 2010

In what some are calling a highly unusual voicemail message, Virginia Thomas asked Anita Hill to apologize to her husband Clarence Thomas for her allegations of inappropriate sexual comments against him during his 1991 Senate confirmation hearings. But it turns out that Ms. Thomas’s recorded appeal is only the latest in a recent series of requests for apologies:

Monica Lewinsky’s voicemail - October 10, 2010
Monica, it’s Bill, Bill Clinton. I just wanted to call and say I hope there’s no hard feelings about all that went down, so to speak, fifteen years ago. I’m still not sure why you said that our innocent flirtation constituted sexual relations when we both know that it really depends on what the meaning of "is" is. It would be great if you could make a public apology so we could put all this behind us and I could start sleeping in the big bed with Hillary again.

John Kerry’s voicemail - October 12, 2010
Hey, big guy, it’s W, George W. How’s it hanging there, Johnny Swift Boat? Look, I’ve been thinking and it would be a nice gesture on your part if you’d apologize for all those mean things you said during the 2004 campaign. After all, how did I know there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? And, heck, that wasn’t really the point anyway, was it? How about saying a nice big "I’m sorry" and then everyone would know I was a good ole boy all along?

Barack Obama’s voicemail - October 14, 2010
Mr. President? It’s Hillary, Hillary Clinton. You know, your Secretary of State? I’ve been thinking and I’d really appreciate it if you’d apologize for what you said in that debate back in 2008. "You’re likable enough, Hillary?" Boy, that really stung. How about just saying you’re sorry and then tell everybody what a great person I am? And if it’s not asking too much, it would be a gracious gesture if you didn’t run in 2012 and let me show everyone how really likable I can be.

John McCain’s voicemail - October 16, 2010
John, it’s Sarah, Sarah Palin - the hockey mom. I was your running mate back in 2008. But you know, I could have been more than just your running mate if you and your crazy advisors had let me run the show. We’d both be sitting pretty in The White House right now, John, if you had just left everything to me. Anyway, I don’t want to be crying over spilt moose milk. If you would just apologize and endorse me for 2012, I’d forgive you faster than green grass through a goose.

Jenn Sterger’s voicemail - October 18, 2010
Hi, Jenn. It’s me, again. No, no, let me start over. It’s me, Brett, Brett Favre who has never left a voicemail message for you before, OK? Or a text or a sext or whatever they call them. Boy, you’re smoking hot. Whoa, wait a minute. Can I just re-record this? Anyway, I was kind of hoping you could publicly apologize for saying I did all those things. I’d really, really appreciate it. And if you could return those photos of me, that would be even better.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Read "Dare to be Average" for free!

Well, not exactly the entire book. But if you go to, you can read the first chapter without paying me a dime. Just search for "Dare to be Average" and scroll down to the heading "Kindle Edition" on the right. Then you can read the first chapter right on your PC or e-reader.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

I'm Going to Harperland

"In Lawrence Martin's new book, Harperland, he talks about the 2008 constitutional crisis."
- - September 30, 2010

If you’re looking for a fun time for the whole family, consider spending a day at Canada’s newest amusement park: Harperland.
For one low, all-inclusive price of $109, your entire family can spend the whole day exploring all the great rides and attractions at Ottawa’s number one entertainment destination. And for a limited time, we’ll pay the HST, the GST and part of any increase in applicable EI premiums.
From the moment you enter the grounds of Harperland, you’ll be amazed at the wide variety of entertainment available. Start your day with the Cabinet Minister Puppet Show featuring 36 life-size puppets.
They look like real politicians with their own independent movements, opinions and voices. But if you look closely, you’ll see the strings that all lead to the country’s most amazing puppet master: Stephen Harper. You’ll be amazed as this fantastic showman manipulates all his puppet-ministers and gets them to say and do exactly what he wants.
Then it’s off to Frontierland, one of the many independent attractions at Harperland. There you’ll get to check out the old Alberta firewall and maybe even try your hand at target shooting using unregistered long guns.
Next, be sure to stop at Fantasyland where you’ll get to experience all the long-held Tory dreams. Play "Bury the Liberals", deny global warming and dismantle any number of social welfare programs.
Then there’s Tomorrowland, a place where the future is now. Experience a Conservative majority government, a disappearing corporate tax and a triple-E Senate as if they really existed.
But Harperland isn’t just about attractions; it’s also jam-packed with exciting rides. If you dare, try the exciting Economic Roller Coaster with its gut-wrenching debts, drops and deficits.
And don’t forget the fun-filled Parliamentary Prorogator. Just as you’re heading to an almost certain coalition, someone pulls the plug and stops the ride cold.
Just like Disneyland has Mickey Mouse and Goofy, Harperland has its own favorite characters. There’s Little Jim Flaherty who spends money he doesn’t have and Big John Baird who likes to bash and trash his opponents.
But best of all is the daily show at Harperland called Question Period. Sit back and watch opposition clowns ask silly questions which are batted away with ease by government ministers and Stephen Harper himself.
Bring the whole family and make a day of it. Harperland is so much fun you’d swear it’s illegal. But as far we know, it’s not. It’s just really, really secret.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

White House Carpet Quotes

President Obama’s recent televised address to the nation revealed more than his Administration’s policy on withdrawing from Iraq. It also revealed a newly redecorated Oval Office featuring a beige carpet bordered with famous quotes from four American presidents and Martin Luther King.

Commentators are having a field day critiquing the President’s choice of decor and, in particular, his unique carpet embroidering skills. It turns out, however, that Obama is not the first White House resident to use words to decorate his office.

Reliable inside sources have revealed that previous Chief Executives also sprinkled famous quotations throughout the Oval Office:

Richard Nixon
Nixon apparently liked to have his favorite personal quotations played on an endless loop on his famous office tape recorder, such as:
* We could do that but it would be wrong.
* I am not a crook.
* I have never been a quitter.
* When the President does it, that means it is not illegal.

Ronald Reagan
Longtime White House workers say that Ronald Reagan liked to write his favorite quotations on index cards and slide them under the carpet:
* There’s a sucker born every minute. - P. T. Barnum
* Win one for the Gipper! - Knute Rockne
* Go ahead, make my day. - Harry Callahan
* I don’t recall. - Ronald Reagan

Bill Clinton
Former President Clinton apparently preferred to record inspirational quotes on the carpet under padding:
* The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. - Oscar Wilde
* Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. - Sigmund Freud
* I am not a crook! Richard Nixon
* It depends what the meaning of ‘is’ is. - Bill Clinton

George W. Bush
And finally, George W. Bush reportedly scrawled these favorite words on the inside of his Oval Office desk:
* What me worry? - Alfred E. Neuman
* Mission accomplished. - George W. Bush
* If they can’t take a joke, screw ‘em. - Anonymous

A Mad Tea Party

There was a giant tea party near the big white house and Glenn the Mad Hatter and Alveda the March Hare and all their patriot friends were having tea. Sarah came upon the scene and asked to join them.
"You may join us," said the Mad Hatter. "But first you must answer this riddle: When is a political rally neither political nor a rally?"
"Oh, I know the answer to that one," said Sarah. "Or at least I think I do."
"Then you should say what you mean," said the Hatter.
"Well I do," said Sarah. "Or at least I mean what I say which is the very same thing."
"Not the same thing a bit!" said the Hatter. "You might as well say ‘A right vote for the left’ is the same thing as ‘A left vote is right’."
"Or you might just as well say," said the March Hare, "that ‘a social with Obama’ is the same as ‘Obama is a socialist’."
"Well, that’s true indeed, " said the Hatter. "Isn’t it?"
All went silent but then the Mad Hatter took his watch out of his pocket, shook it and asked: ‘What day of the month is it?’
"Why it’s the 28th," said Sarah quite sure of herself.
"No it’s not," said the Hatter. "It’s the anniversary of the King’s speech 47 years ago. I bet your watch can’t tell time like that."
Sarah was now even more befuddled than usual. Then the Hatter asked her if she’d yet solved the riddle.
"No, I give up," said Sarah. "When is a political rally neither political nor a rally?"
"I have no idea," said the March Hare.
"Nor do I," said the Hatter. "Although I’m guessing it’s probably when it’s a religious revival meeting."
"I would think that you might do something better with time," Sarah said, "than waste it in asking riddles that have no answers."
"If you knew Time as well as I do," said the Hatter, "you wouldn’t talk about wasting it. It’s hymn."
"I don’t know what you mean," said Sarah.
"I mean we can all spend our time singing hymns," said the Hatter. "And pretend it’s all about Him when it’s really about him, that one in the white house, the one who’s a socialist."
"If this is a tea party," said Sarah, "then why haven’t I yet had any tea?"
"Take some more tea," said the Hatter.
"I’ve had nothing yet," said Sarah, "so how can I take more?"
"You mean you can’t take less," said the Hatter: it’s very easy to take more than nothing."
At that, Sarah got up and left thinking to herself that this was the most curious tea party she’d ever been to in her life. But if she could only find that rabbit hole she had fallen down earlier, maybe it would lead her to the nearby white house which could then become her new home.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Rebuilt Four-barrel Constitution

"The Tea Party is meanwhile busy rewriting America’s early history under [Glenn] Beck’s tutelage by enforcing a vision of the Constitution tantamount to the Creationists’ view of Genesis. We must obey the words of the founding fathers literally..... There can be no evolution or amendments."
- Frank Rich - The N. Y. Times - May 30, 2010

Glenn Beck’s reply in the latest issue of "Constitutional Shadetree Mechanic":
It’s about time someone had the good sense to revert back to the Constitution as it was originally formulated by our sainted Founding Fathers. Any piece of long-working machinery, no matter how well designed, will eventually get clogged up with accumulated deposits and amendments.
Say you inherited an old ‘57 Chevy that hadn’t seen the inside of a garage in thirty years. Would you continue to drive it on the highway, cross your fingers and just hope for the best?

Of course not. You’d put it up on the hoist, drain the oil and start removing all the gunk and sediment that had built up over the years. You’d also take a look under the hood and remove any unnecessary add-ons and replace any worn or used parts.
Well, that’s just what we’ve gotta do with the Constitution. Given its age and the rough treatment it’s endured, it doesn’t just need some minor tinkering. It’s time to drive the old gal into the legislative shop, strip her down to basics and rebuild the engine to original specs.

Now looking at the owner’s manual, I guess we could all agree that you’d keep the first ten amendments. After all, they were installed on the original chassis after only four years by the same designers. Plus, they’re pretty much essential to the document’s smooth functioning, especially that second amendment.

Can’t run a good government without an unencumbered right to bear arms.
But anything tacked on after 1791 has gotta go. There’s just too much crap hanging off the frame and gunk jamming up the governmental carburetor to achieve anything approaching the optimal performance of this classic document.
Once we’ve stripped this classic down to the basics, we can see what we’ve got. By my reckoning, that should leave us with a Senate unelected by popular vote. That should cut down considerably on electoral expenses and allow for a more efficient bicameral vehicle.
We should also be able to see that this baby was originally an exclusively male-operated mechanism. Eliminating women from the electoral transmission should cut our operating costs in half.

I think you’ll find that once you’ve done a complete rebuild that you’ll no longer be encumbered by such operational limitations as a two-term presidential restriction. For those of a conservative bent, that could mean lots more governing milage under someone like a Bush or a Reagan.

You might be surprised to find that when you’ve reassembled the Constitution as originally written that you’ll have re-instituted slavery. Initially, you might find this troubling but just remember, it will only be active in certain states and, even then, each slave will be counted as three-fifths of a person. Before condemning this original feature outright, we probably should really give it a try and see what the founding designers had in mind.
Once you’re done, you’ve got a brand new 1787 U. S. Constitution with all the original bells and whistles. Take her out for a spin and enjoy that new-document feeling all over again.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Truly Canadian Crime

"Bilingual thief robs convenience store"

OTTAWA - A knife-wielding man robbed a convenience store in the 300 block of Shakespeare Street Saturday afternoon. The man entered the store shortly after 4:30 p.m. and demanded money in
both English and French.
- The Ottawa Citizen - August 8, 2010

"Hello. Bonjour."
"This is a stickup. Ça c’est un ‘stickup’."
"Do you understand? Comprenez vous?"
"If yes, just shake your head. Si oui, hochez votre tête."
"No, I do not speak Italian. Non, je ne parle pas Italien."
"Hey, buddy, this is a bilingual country. You’re expected to know at least one of our two official languages. Eh, mon fils, Canada est un pays bilingue. If faut que vous savez au moins une des notres deux lingues officiels."
"OK, I’m not going to repeat this again. Open the cash drawer, put your hands above your head and step back from the cash. OK, je ne vais pas répéter cet. Ouvrir le tiroir-caisse, mettez vos mains dessus de votre tête et recul par rapport à la caisse."
"Is that all you’ve got? Est que tout ce que vous avez?"
"No, no, I’m not blaming you. Non, non, je ne vous blâme."
"It’s just that it’s eight o’clock at night and I assumed you’d have a full till. C'est juste que c’est veinte heures et je suppose que vous auriez une caisse pleine."
"Look, what have you got that I can sell? Regardez, qu'avez-vous que je peux vendre?"
"How about some beer or wine? Qu'en est-il de la bière ou du vin?"
"You’re kidding. No beer or wine? But this is a convenience store. Vous plaisantez. Pas de bière ou de vin? Mais il s'agit d'un dépanneur."
"Oh, yeah, I forgot. This is Ontario, not Quebec. No beer or wine sales in convenience stores. Ah, oui, j’ai oublié. Pas de bière ou de vin de vente dans les dépanneurs."
"How about cigarettes? Maybe I could take a few cartons. Que diriez-vous des cigarettes? Peut-être je pourrais prendre un peu de cartons."
"What do you mean I have to show identification? Qu'est-ce que tu veux dire que j'ai une carte d'identité?"
"Of course I’m over nineteen. Bien sûr, je suis au dessus de dix-neuf."
"I understand. I understand. If you sell to a minor, you could lose your license. Je comprends. Je comprends. Si vous vendez à un mineur, vous risquez de perdre votre permis."
"OK, here’s my driver’s license. Just check my birth date, that’s all. Promise? OK, voici mon permis de conduire. Il suffit de cocher ma date de naissance, c’est tout. Vous me le promettez?"
"Oh, damn! Here are the police. Sacrifice! Voici la police."
"Yes, officer. I’ll put my hands behind my back. If I didn’t have to give instructions to that clerk in both official languages, I would have been out of here five minutes ago. Well, since I assume you’re bilingual, at least I don’t have to translate anymore. Merde!"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Brer BP and the Offshore Oil Spill

"Did I ever tell you the tale of how Brer BP outsmarted Brer Obama?" said Uncle Cheney. "It sure is one of the strangest stories you’re ever going to hear."

So the citizens gathered around and Uncle Cheney began to tell the tale of Brer BP and the Offshore Oil Spill.

"You see," said Uncle Cheney. "Before Brer Obama came along, there was no such thing as regulating offshore oil drilling. You could do whatever you pleased."

"So everybody from Brer BP to Brer Halliburton went into the ocean and drilled down thousands and thousands of feet until they struck oil. And nobody much cared if they took any precautions for everybody was happy to makes lots and lots of money."

Uncle Cheney knew what he was talking about because he, too, made money from all this drilling. In fact, when he stopped working for Brer Halliburton, he got a $34 million payout.

"Now thanks to Brer BP and all the others, there was lots and lots of oil," said Uncle Cheney. "Everybody got to drive their cars and all the oil drillers made billions of dollars."

"But then a little accident happened," said Uncle Cheney. "And Brer BP spilled a bit of oil in the Gulf and some people started to get mad."

"Brer Obama was the maddest of all but he figured he could trick Brer BP and trap him in the oil spill. And it looked like he might even succeed for Brer BP got all caught up in the spill. Brer BP tried all kinds of things to stop the oil and he told everybody that he was going to clean up the whole gulf and nobody else would have to pay."

One of the citizens asked Uncle Cheney how it came to pass that Brer BP could make such a mess. "Wasn’t there a law against that?" he asked.

"Well there used to be a law," said Uncle Cheney. "But we got rid of that so all the nice oil drillers could get on with finding more oil."

"Anyway, that’s not important now," said Uncle Cheney. "What’s important is that Brer Obama thought that he had trapped Brer BP in the oil spill and that he would finally be able to put this problem behind him."

"But that clever Brer BP wasn’t going to be caught that easily. He kept saying to Brer Obama: ‘Oh woe is me. This is just about the worst mess I’ve ever been in but I’ll do everything I can to clean up this spill. You just wait and see. Whatever you do, though, please don’t regulate me. I’d rather anything happen to me than more regulations.’

"So Brer Obama fell for Brer BP’s trick and he started to write some tough new regulations. And Brer BP couldn’t have been happier for he just told Brer Obama that with all those new regulations, he could no longer afford to clean up the oil spill. Then he quickly declared bankruptcy and walked away from that spill faster than a snake shedding its skin."

"And what happened to Brer Obama?" all the citizens asked.

"He’s still there," said Uncle Cheney. "At least until 2012."

Friday, July 02, 2010

"Dare to be Average" now available on

Now you have two choices: you can order "Dare to be Average" through or you can buy it on Just click the link on the right referring to my new book and it will take you to Amazon where you can also check out the first three pieces in the book.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dare to be Average

It's finally here. "Dare to be Average" is my latest humor collection. It's published by and excerpts can be found at my blog To buy a copy of the book or an e-book version, go to and type in "dare to be average." Or better yet, just click on the button below.

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Wasilla Barbie

"Mattel plans to bring out versions of Barbie and Ken styled after four ‘Mad Men’ characters."
- The Globe and Mail - March 10, 2010

If all goes well with Mattel’s ‘Mad Men’ collector series, look for its new ‘Political Pals’ collection this fall including the following limited edition dolls:

Wasilla Barbie
Over the years, Barbie has kept pace with social changes and transformed herself into various career women. Now Mattel has taken Barbie to a whole new level: the conservative career politician. From her attractive appearance to her part-time political job to her ability to field dress a moose, Wasilla Barbie has it all. This is one of the rare talking Barbies although it only has a limited selection of catchy phrases like "You betcha!", "The mainstream media elites" and "Gotcha journalism."

Kloseted Ken
Based on men like Senator Larry Craig and California State Senator Roy Ashburn, Kloseted Ken is that strangest of political creatures: the homophobic homosexual. Dressed in a conservative blue suit, Kloseted Ken has a wild secret life that belies his anti-gay political stance. This doll comes with accessories like a wife, kids, a public men’s washroom stall and a government-issue car to drive him to the nearest gay nightclub.

Black Barry
Sensitive to racial issues, Mattel introduced Barbie’s African-American friend Christie in 1968 and a black male doll named Brad in 1981. In keeping with that trend, the company plans to include Black Barry in its upcoming fall collection. Black Barry is Barbie’s new African-American friend who just happens to be the president of the United States. Accessories include a white house, a trillion-dollar debt and a possible second term.

Another in Barbie’s long list of female friends, Hillary is a fierce feminist. Burdened with a successful but philandering political husband, Hillary nevertheless was a successful politician in her own right. She once ran for president herself but sadly has now chosen to be a secretary. Accessories include a closet full of different colored pantsuits and an ankle monitor for her husband.

Kuddly Karl
Mattel has often been criticized for the unrealistic body image that Barbie dolls project. To help change that perception, the company plans to issue Kuddly Karl, a chubby, partially-balding middle-aged man. Karl is that most common of Washington political operative: the spin merchant behind the actual officeholder. In this case, Karl keeps spinning long after his principal has left office.

The Real Dick
In keeping with the trend to adopt more accurate body profiles, Mattel will also release its first vice presidential doll: The Real Dick. Dick spends his life in pursuit of conservative causes and helps his presidential friend W run the country. Even when he’s no longer in office, The Real Dick is perpetually in attack mode thereby earning his name.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

On the Double-double

"Tim Hortons’ employees at Kandahar Airfield will be among the medal recipients from the Afghan war....."
- The Ottawa Citizen - March 28, 2010

They say war is hell and I’ve got the scars to prove it. Two tours of duty at the Kandahar Tim Hortons saw to that.
I didn’t sign on for two tours. All I wanted was one trip to Afghanistan and then get out. But once you’re there pouring coffees and passing crullers, the excitement gets in your blood and you can’t help but reup.
It wasn’t always like that. In fact, the first few months of my first rotation were deadly dull. That’s what happens when you’re not on the front lines.
I started out inside the wire, a lowly grunt grinding coffee beans and frying doughnuts. There’s no shame in that but it’s not the kind of action I signed on for.
So when I talked to my shift leader four months in and told him I couldn’t take much more, he sized me up and said: "Kid, I like the way you handle yourself but you’re still raw and untested. What makes you think you’re ready for the front line?"
Honestly, I couldn’t say but I just knew if I didn’t see some real action soon, I was going to go crazy. So I gave him the answer he wanted to hear: "Sir, yes sir, I’m ready. Send me in and you won’t regret it."
So the next day he sent me in and he almost did regret it. I thought I was ready for battle but all the training in the world can’t prepare you for the morning rush.
One minute I’m standing there loading Timbits in the wire trays and the next minute we’re overrun by soldiers yelling for double-doubles, dutchies and doughnuts. The orders were coming fast and furious and, for a moment, I thought I might cash out.
Luckily, I was teamed with Sarge, a grizzled veteran who knew the ropes and had seen it all. Just as I was about to take some flak from an incoming customer, Sarge stepped in front of me, filled the order, made change and sent the "coffee drinker" packing.
I owed Sarge for saving my bacon but that’s not all. I also owed him a debt of thanks for showing me the ropes and helping me make it through that first tour. If not for him, I doubt I would have even been around to sign up for a second one.
And what a tour it was. Everything they say about combat is true. You’re scared all the time but you’ve never felt so alive. And the bond you forge with your counter mates is even stronger than your family ties. You’d cover for any of those guys and, if you had to, even make change for a hundred.
But I guess my fondest memory of Afghanistan is the time I returned the favor and saved Sarge’s butt. It was late one night when things get quiet on the base and even the veterans tend to relax and let their guard down.
We were on closing duty together and, with minutes to go, Sarge had already emptied the carafes and tossed the leftovers. He had his back turned so he never saw the guy at the far table quietly rolling up his rim.
Without warning, the guy ran to the counter, tossed the open rim down and demanded a free coffee. Holding an empty carafe, Sarge turned around, completely defenseless.
I saw the look of fear in his eyes and, without thinking, I jumped in front of him and handed the guy my medium black, no sugar that I was saving for later back at the tents.
Sarge slumped in the corner, his face still ashen and said: "Thanks, kid; I owe you one."
"No you don’t, Sarge; don’t you remember?" I said. "Now we’re even."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cutting Up the Cash

"The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved a financial reform bill that would expose the Federal Reserve to more scrutiny, threatening its cherished political independence."
- Reuters - Dec. 11, 2009

Transcript of a recent secret meeting held in a conference room in the New York Fed Building attended by Fed Chairman Benny "The Bailout" Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Timmy "The TARP" Geithner, Interim N. Y. Fed Chair Denny "The Chair" Hughes and the heads of the other eleven Fed families:

"Hey, Benny. Whatsa matta wit you?"
"Whadda ya mean, Denny?"
"I mean we gotta good thing going here and you’re gonna screw it up."
"Nah, everything’s fine."
"No, Benny, it ain’t. Folks are starting to get suspicious. Dey see all dis money goin’ out but nobody’s gotta job."
"They just gotta be patient, that’s all."
"They ain’t got no more patience, Benny. And now they wanna look at da books."
"But we don’t got no books, Denny."
"Exactly. Dat was da beauty of this operation. Now whadda ya wanna us to do?"
"Maybe it don’t look so good right now but Timmy here’s gotta solution."
"OK, let’s hear it Timmy."
"Fellas, we got as much money as we want, see. We just print it downstairs in the basement like always. So I says we just run off an extra trillion greenbacks and we buy up some more troubled assets. That’ll make a whole bunch of mugs happy and dey’ll leave us alone."
"But Timmy, whadda we need with a bunch more troubled assets? We still can’t unload the last shipment we got."
"It don’t matter, Denny. We just keep ‘em all in storage. We still prints more money for us, see, and nobody’s the wiser."
"But dose jokers in Congress are talking about pulling the plug on our operation. Whadda we do about dem, Benny?"
"Look, dose guys like cash same as us. So long as we throw some extra bonus money in their campaign war chests, dey’ll back off, guaranteed."
"OK Benny, Timmy; we’s countin’ on youse guys to keep the cash flowing. We don’t need no audits or no stinkin’ regulations."
"Yeah, sure. Youse can count on us."

Friday, April 09, 2010

In The Hole


TO: The broadcast commentators
FROM: The President of CBS Sports

For the 55th straight year, CBS Sports will be broadcasting the Masters Golf Tournament. We are proud to maintain our ongoing relationship with the Augusta National Golf Club to bring the American viewing public this historic sporting event.

This year is special, of course, not only because it marks our 55th anniversary but also because it marks the return of Tiger Woods to the professional golf circuit. In order to minimize any awkwardness for Tiger and to maximize our viewing audience and advertising revenues, I am asking all of you to refrain from any deliberate or inadvertent golf-related metaphors or innuendos that might embarrass Mr. Woods, his family or our viewers.

To this end, please abide by the following guidelines:

(1) Avoid the words "out of bounds." There are lots of ways to say that Mr. Woods has mishit his shot. For example, you could say that he hooked it or sliced it or topped the ball or whatever. You can even say that he put his ball in the woods, a nice play on words. But don’t use the phrase "out of bounds" for obvious reasons.

(2) Don’t use "hazards, traps or bad lies." Even if Tiger’s shot doesn’t miss the fairway, he can still find himself in other difficult situations — on the course, that is. Best to avoid any reference to the particular lie and instead simply say that he will have a tough shot coming up.

(3) Be careful with club references. For example, at no time should you ever mention the shaft of Mr. Woods’s club. Same goes for the stiffness of the club. You can use the term "wood" but be cautious in doing so.

(4) Same goes for his putter. Never say "Tiger takes out his putter" or "Tiger plays with his putter" or any similar expression. Also please refrain from indicating how he is stroking a particular putt.

(5) Although Mr. Woods is noted for his long game and his multiple Major victories, please do not mention them during the Masters coverage. Viewers might take the references the wrong way.

If we can all remember these few simple guidelines, I believe we can maintain the prestigious TV coverage of the Masters that we have become known for. All in all, I think that’s a fair way to deal with the situation.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Rush Heads South

"If this passes and it’s five years from now and all that stuff gets implemented, I am leaving the country. I’ll go to Costa Rica."
- Rush Limbaugh - March 8, 2010

Customs and Immigration - San Jose International Airport - March 31, 2015

"Welcome to Costa Rica, señor. May I have your passport? What is the purpose of your visit?"
"I want to immigrate to your country. I’ve had it with all that damned socialized medicine in the U. S. and that gang of pinkos in Washington."
"Well, Señor Limburger, I don’t want to disappoint you but this may not be the place for you."
"What are you talking about? Of course it’s the place for me. It’s warm like Florida and I understand you can get all kinds of heavy duty painkillers at the pharmacies without a prescription."
"Si, señor, but there are certain aspects of Costa Rica that you may not find to your liking."
"What’s not to like? Reasonably priced pharmaceuticals, great beaches and no Obama."
"Well, first of all we have no army."
"No army? What? Are you loco?"
"No Mr. Rush, we are not loco. We constitutionally abolished our army in 1949. We have no standing army."
"But that’s crazy. What if you’re attacked?"
"We have internal security forces, señor, and we sometimes even participate in foreign peacekeeping missions."
"Are you guys commies or something?"
"No, Mr. Lamborghini, we are a vibrant social democracy dedicated to the welfare of all of our citizens."
"Sounds like communism to me. Anyway, what else have you got?"
"We have state agencies that run many of our sectors like la electricidad and los bancos. Until last year, we even had a state monopoly on insurance and los telefonos."
"You guys are crazy. You must have revolutions and coups all the time."
"No, Mr. Limppaw, we are the longest running continuous democracy in Latin America. We have had free, open and non-controversial elections for over sixty years. I’m not sure even los Estados Unidos can claim that."
"Now them’s fighting words, Pablo."
"Mr. Roosh, my name is not Pablo and I’m only stating the facts so you won’t be disappointed if you decide to live here. For example, I sense that you may not be too happy to know that we are the greenest country in the world?"
"Greenies? That’s just nuts. Don’t tell me you’ve also got socialized medicine or something crazy like that?"
"Señor Rhumba, I hesitate to tell you that such is the case. We have universal healthcare and it only costs a fraction of what it does in your country."
"OK, pal, that’s the last straw. When’s the next flight to Colombia?"
"Very soon, señor, very soon."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Washington's Healthcare Victims

Thanks to some vigorous lobbying and political manoeuvring, President Obama finally got his cherished healthcare reform initiative through Congress. That’s great news for millions of uninsured Americans. But let’s not forget that there have been a number of healthcare victims along the way. Victims like:

Chief among the victims is Healthcare Bill himself. Starting out as a healthy piece of legislation with a guaranteed, filibuster-proof majority, Bill quickly suffered several serious setbacks and numerous cuts. Before long, Bill was on life support and appeared to be close to death. But thanks to the judicious use of pork barrel therapy and the selective application of some lucrative add-ons, the patient rallied and now looks to be on the path to a healthy recovery. Bill was finally released from Congress and allowed to sign out at The White House.

This is not the noted TV doctor but rather the junior legislative chamber of the U. S. Congress. In its youth, House had few problems and was able to deal with most health issues with a simple up or down majority vote. But over time, House’s legislative reflexes atrophied and its once quick-flowing procedural arteries clogged to the point where almost nothing could pass. Luckily, a last-ditch emergency procedure called reconciliation allowed House to once again function with a simple majority. But such a temporary fix does not guarantee the long term health of this once thriving body.

Undecided Democrats
Some Congressmen and women of the Democratic persuasion are seeking physiotherapy. Most are complaining of severe pain in their arms apparently caused by repeated twisting. Those of a liberal bent are feeling discomfort in their left arms while so-called Blue Dog Democrats are complaining of right arm pain. Those with the most pain report being assaulted directly by the Armtwister-in-Chief. Some of these patients will definitely need presidential support for their own legislative pet projects in order to avoid contracting a serious case of midterm electoral defeat.

Undecided Democrats are not the only victims of the push for healthcare reform. Virtually all Republican members of both houses of Congress have also suffered injury, many complaining of a throat ailment associated with undue ramming. They seem to have developed a severe allergy to bipartisanship and a compulsive desire to say "no" or "start over." In what appears to be an unusual epidemic, all of these individuals are suffering from an incurable form of block voting thought to have been brought on by obsessive clinging to an aging, outdated ideology.

Perhaps the most tragic victim of this entire process is Civility. For many years, Civility enjoyed generally good health and could be found associating with all camps in Washington. More recently, however, it was repeatedly abused and violated to the point where it was almost entirely destroyed. Although Civility appears to be close to death, some are hoping that it can be revived by the selective surgical removal of a serious case of political punditry.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Sixty-six Dollar Bill

Republican Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina has proposed that Ronald Reagan’s face replace that of Ulysses S. Grant on the fifty-dollar bill. Rather than banish Grant from the fifty, why not create new denominations to honor Reagan and his contemporaries? New denominations like:

The 75-cent piece
We’ve got a 25-cent piece and a 50-cent piece, otherwise known as the quarter and the half-dollar. Why not a three-quarter dollar? Chances are it would be very unpopular and fade into obscurity. Thus, it would be a perfect candidate to honor the visage of America’s most recent forgotten-but-not-gone leader: George W. Bush. Who better to be labelled the six-bit president than "W" himself?

The $1 coin
From the Susan B. Anthony to the Sacagawea Americans have historically been resistant to dollar coins. But maybe it’s time to make it mandatory and get rid of the paper one-dollar bill. That’s what Canada did with its one-dollar coin informally dubbed the loonie over twenty years ago and now it’s in wide circulation. Perhaps the U. S. Mint could put Bill Clinton’s visage on a similar offering and create America’s own version of the loonie.

The $13 bill
This unlucky bill with its unlucky numeral is destined for limited circulation just like its honored president Richard Nixon. The back of the bill will have a representation of The Watergate Hotel and the front will feature Mr. Nixon with arms outspread above the quotation that says it all: "I am not a crook!"

The $66 bill
This might be a more fitting tribute for Ronald Reagan. After all, although Reagan purported to be a small-government, low-spending conservative, he reigned over the biggest spending orgy of his day resulting in a tripling of the national debt during his term in office. What better way to honor his memory than to issue a sixty-six-dollar bill representing the effective worth of a hundred dollars after his eight years as president.

The trillion-dollar bill
It’s unheard of to honor a sitting president with his face on a unit of currency. Then again, recently it was unheard of to incur a trillion-dollar deficit. Since President Obama has broken new budgetary ground, it’s only fitting that he should appear on this new bill. The back will be completely filled with all twelve zeroes of the bill’s denomination while the front will feature a portrait of Obama with the legend: "To boldly go where no president has gone before."

Monday, March 08, 2010

Eh? Canada

With millions unemployed and a soaring debt, last week’s Speech from the Throne zeroed in on one of Canada’s biggest problems by including a pledge to amend our national anthem to make it gender neutral. Although Prime Minister Harper later changed his mind, maybe it’s still time to give "O Canada" a major overhaul and make the whole song a truer reflection of who we are. Here’s the current unsatisfactory version:

O Canada!
Our home and native land! True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise, The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free! O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

First, what’s with the "O"? Who says "O" any more? Let’s make it truly Canadian and change it to "Eh?"

"Our home"? Get serious. We don’t really own much of anything in our country. It’s more like we’re leasing it from the Americans, the Saudis and the Chinese. "Our rented home" would be a truer representation.

And "native land" is a bit misleading. Are we trying to say it’s our land or the natives’ land? Either way, the wording’s inaccurate. How about "once natives’ land"?

The next line seems to be the one causing Prime Minister Harper and his gang the most trouble. Self-styled longtime fighters against sexism, the Conservatives apparently want to change the word "sons" to something more inclusive.

But the entire line needs reworking. How many of us practice "true patriot love"? Isn’t it really more like a "convenient temporary allegiance"? And if "sons" is a problem, let’s just replace it with "folks."

If anything needs a change it’s "glowing hearts." What the heck is a glowing heart, anyway? I’m not sure but I do know a "heavy heart" when I see one. And if you haven’t noticed, Canada’s not "rising" except for our unemployment rate. "Sliding" would be more like it if you ask me.

I’m a little uncomfortable with "The True North" as well. "An American branch plant" seems more appropriate. After all, they’re the ones who keep us "strong and free."

The next line’s fine but as for standing on guard, I think that’s a bit strong. I’d prefer a more accurate sentiment like "we think mostly of me."

If "sons" is a problem, then "God" has to be changed, too. I’d turf the deity and go with a more innocuous, non-religious Canadian sentiment such as "Let’s keep our land clean and litter free."

Put it all together and you’ve got a new version of our national anthem, a non-sexist, non-deist, non-contentious version that we can all sing, if not with pride, at least with honesty:

Eh? Canada!
Our rented home, once natives’ land.
Convenient temporary allegiance in all our folks command.
With heavy hearts we see thee slide,
An American branch plant economy.
From far and wide,
Eh? Canada, we think mostly of me.
Let’s keep our land clean and litter free!
Eh? Canada, we think mostly of me.
Eh? Canada, we think mostly of me.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Hands-down Winner

Sarah Palin has not ruled out a run for the presidency in 2012. Speaking on Fox News after her appearance at the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, the former Alaska governor said she would run "...if I believed that that is the right thing to do for our country and for the Palin family."
But apparently there are a number of hurdles Ms. Palin must get over before achieving the Republican nomination two-and-a-half years from now. First and foremost is her unique and sometimes incomprehensible speaking style.
"With the necessity of putting ideas out there for the American people and all," said Palin. "It’s crucial that sense can be made of at least some of the talking points that I might be speaking at any given time."
Talking points turns out to be another area that Governor Palin recognizes that she needs to work on. She accepts that it is not going to be sufficient to simply continue referring to "death panels", "gotcha journalism" and "the media elites." To that end, Ms. Palin has reportedly embarked on a crash course covering everything from foreign policy to healthcare to how many branches there are in the U. S. federal government.
"I think my weeks of study have paid off big time," said Palin. "As you may recall, after that Tea Party thing, I was almost able to specifically identify which of Obama’s policies I thought were wrong. It’s only a matter of time before I nail at least a couple of ‘em."
Body language is another area the former vice presidential candidate is determined to improve. In particular, she wants to avoid excessive use of hand gestures when speaking.
"It’s not so much that I want to stop waving my hands around up there," said Palin. "It’s more that I don’t want to be exposing my talking points on the palms of my hands when I do."
Asked to comment on President Obama’s frequent use of a teleprompter, Palin was harshly critical.
"I think it shows a lack of intelligence and an absence of good, old-fashioned common sense," said Ms. Palin. "God gave us hands and we should use them, not only to emphasize the points one is making but also to have something to write those points on so’s not to forget them during a speech."
"I’ve got so many good ideas," said Palin. "That I just wish I had three hands so I could write them all down."
Asked if her lack of government experience would present an obstacle to a possible 2012 run, Ms. Palin dismissed that concern and glanced at her ink-stained right hand bearing the words "published author" on it.
"If I can get someone to write a bestselling book for me," she said. "Surely I can find someone to help me run Washington if I should win."

Friday, February 05, 2010

Bread And Circuses

In true bread and circuses fashion, Prime Minister Harper asked that Parliament be prorogued, in part, because he didn’t want Canadians to be distracted during the upcoming Winter Olympics. But since most of us can walk and chew gum at the same time, Mr. Harper may want to reconsider and reconvene Parliament in February so we can continue to also view Ottawa’s own political winter games featuring unique events like these:

It sounds like hockey but it’s not. It’s hooky, the ongoing sport of Canadian federal parliamentarians. Whether it’s skipping out on House debates, passing up committee hearings or proroguing Parliament to avoid working at all, members of all parties know how to play this game. If not doing one’s job were an Olympic sport, Canada’s legislators would be perennial gold medal winners.

speed talking
If there’s one thing Canadian parliamentarians excel at, it’s talking and our MPs are especially adept at speaking quickly and from both sides of their mouths. The very best can combine those skills while also avoiding any meaningful statements. Long-winded MPs tend to compete in the one-on-one long track event while those who specialize in quips, insults and putdowns prefer the more raucous short track event also known as Question Period.

Whether it’s the half-truth, the coverup or the flat-out lie, parliamentary snowjobbers are skilled at a multitude of deceptive moves. Like snowboarders, snowjobbers manage to twist, slide and turn themselves inside out while still somehow maintaining their position. But snowjobbers do have one advantage over their outdoor counterparts: when the competition gets tough, they don’t bail; they just ask for a do-over which they call "proroguing it, dude ."

party jumping
Definitely the most dangerous of parliamentary sports, party jumping is politics performed without a net. Also known as floor crossing, this event symbolizes both the agony and the ecstasy of political sport. The successful party jumper can end up with a government gold medal known as a "cabinet position." But, as in ski jumping, if the competitor doesn’t hit the take off just right, his career may nosedive in one spectacular tumbling crash.

bicameral reform
Like the biathlon, bicameral reform involves two sports in one. Members of Parliament perform their ongoing legislative duties while at the same time suggesting various reforms to the Senate. Like the biathlon’s rifle-shooting skiers, it takes nerves of steel for MPs to stop legislating and intermittently propose any one of a dozen impossible changes to the Red Chamber. From the triple-E spouting participants to the outright abolitionists, it’s unlikely anyone will ever finish this race.

It sounds like the daring winter sledding event called the luge and the similarities are striking. Parliamentarians compete to see how fast they can take an economy already flat on its back completely downhill. Like lugers, stooges can’t see where they’re going or where they’ve been and can’t stop the downhill trend. Unlike their Olympic counterparts, however, they make sure they’re well rewarded no matter how poorly they perform.

Curling may be the roaring game but Parliamentary debates are the boring game as they go round and round and ultimately nowhere. With MPs trying to sweep issues under the rug and looking to empty the House, everyone wants to skip the current session and no one seems capable of taking the lead. If you think curling is an instant cure for insomnia, try an hour of whirling debates in the House of Commons for a truly remarkable soporific.