Saturday, December 29, 2012

Who's Crazy Now?

US Congress bans word 'lunatic' in federal legislation
- BBC News headline - December 6, 2012

For those who think that Republicans and Democrats can’t work together to get things done, this latest piece of legislation proves otherwise.  Following unanimous approval by the Senate in May, the House of Representatives, by a vote of 398-1, also agreed to strike the term “lunatic” from all federal legislation.

While some have criticized Congress for dealing with such a matter when there are more important issues facing the country, most observers see this as a good sign and a harbinger of more progress to come.  Supporting evidence for this view can be seen in other recent legislative initiatives and the roster of upcoming bills for consideration:

*    H. R. Bill 111 has already received unanimous support in committee and seems assured rapid and near-unanimous passage in both chambers.  Entitled the Ice Cream is Great Act, this bill was introduced by representatives from America’s great dairy states of Wisconsin and New York.  Almost all House members are ready to vote aye on this one with the exception of a few lactose-intolerant representatives who, rather than spoil the moment and vote nay, will likely simply abstain.

*    While not yet reduced to print, there is a recent legislative proposal which has generated a lot of positive buzz on Capitol Hill.  Tentatively titled the Fair Pay for Members of Congress Act, it will reportedly increase the pay scale for sitting representatives and senators by what has been described by some as “a modest 25%.”  While there still appears to be some minor disagreement as to whether the 25% rate will also apply to each member’s expense allowance, it’s expected that such wrinkles will be worked out with little rancor or delay.

*    The Senate has reportedly been hard at work on a bill which will iron out a few contentious matters that have been plaguing both houses of Congress for years.  The draft version is called the Free Cable, Subsidized Lunch and Year-round Free Parking Act and will harmonize various disparate provisions to ensure that all Congresspersons receive the same benefits.  When asked to comment on what the law will provide, one Senate aide simply said: “I think the title says it all.”

*    H. R. Bill 999 will likely break the record for speedy passage.  It has been described as the bill to formalize America’s second favorite motto.  Hence the title the Motherhood, Apple Pie and the Flag Act.  Apparently there has been some disagreement about the specific order of this sacred American triumvirate, but in the true spirit of Congressional compromise, it looks like federal legislators will agree to a provision allowing any of the six possible arrangements of these three words to qualify as official.

*    In a dramatic display of bipartisanship, senators from both parties have introduced Senate Bill S.666, the Don’t Blame Us Act.  Although the complicated bill comprises more than 300 pages, it essentially boils down to one proviso, namely that no individual senator or representative will be held personally responsible if America ends up going over the fiscal cliff.  Unanimous passage is virtually guaranteed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

White House Garage Sale

With America racing towards the fiscal cliff, both sides finally got down to some serious negotiating this week.  Seldom reliable sources report that President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner have already agreed to the following debt-reduction measures:
*   The first annual White House garage sale will be held on Saturday, December 22nd on the East Lawn.  Featured items include ten IBM Selectric typewriters, several dozen 19th century spittoons and a 1957 Ford Fairlane owned by Mamie Eisenhower and only driven on Sundays.  After expenses for coffee, donuts and signage, the garage sale is expected to yield upwards of $3,000 with more to come in future years.
*   The House of Representatives has agreed to rent out its space to local organizations when not in use.  Several local theater groups have expressed interest in rehearsing and performing on weekends in the House chamber.  Since the House members are typically only present midweek, it’s hoped that various book clubs, sewing circles and support groups can rent the room on Mondays and Fridays.  At $75 a night, look for total earnings to hit four figures in no time.
*   The Pentagon has scheduled two fundraising car washes this month with more to follow in the new year.  Any remaining four-star generals will lead brigades of servicepeople to clean the interior and exterior of any vehicle including cars, trucks and tanks.  In keeping with traditional military accounting, the cost will be $1,000 per wheel.
*   The Senate has tentative plans to fundraise with a filibuster-a-thon.  Whenever Republican senators volunteer for filibuster duty, they’ll ask constituents to sponsor them at a tentative ten dollars per speaking hour.  Given the obstructionist nature of the Senate minority, this fundraising effort could bring in thousands of dollars.
*   Senators have also agreed to chip in by holding a monthly bake sale on Capitol Hill.  The first one will be held next Friday when John McCain will be selling his sour grapes cookies and Joe Lieberman will bring his famous flip-flop upside-down cake.  It’s hoped that the Senate bake sales will yield $100 or more per month towards reducing the deficit.
*   President Obama has agreed to lease Air Force One to foreign leaders when not in use by the White House.  Third world leaders who can’t afford their own plane are expected to jump at the chance to rent Obama’s jet for only $2,000 an hour.  However, since it costs $3,000 an hour to operate Air Force One, this option may actually add to the deficit.
*   The State Department plans to hold a weekly fundraising auction to sell off unused articles.  Expected sale items include a comprehensive Middle East peace plan, a hardline on Iran and a detailed map of Benghazi.
*   Other cabinet level departments have proposed selling naming rights.  Just like major league sports arenas, the Cabinet will allow corporations to bid to add their names to individual departments.  At $10,000 a pop, this could be a huge money maker.  Informal inquiries have already been received for the Lockheed Martin Defense Department, the Exxon Mobil Energy Department and the Goldman Sachs Treasury Department.
Even with all these revenue-generating efforts, it’s expected that there will still be an annual shortfall of approximately one trillion dollars.  No word to date from Wall Street as to whether it will help out although rumor has it they’ve made an offer to issue some mortgage-backed securities on the Washington Monument and the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Peter Puck Redux

Back in the 1970s, NBC and CBC employed a cartoon character named Peter Puck to help explain the basics of hockey to kids and novice fans.  Thanks to the current NHL lockout, the two networks have reportedly brought back the talkative black disc to help explain to young viewers the ins and outs of labor disruptions in the world of pro hockey.  Here are some leaked excerpts from a few of the new videos:

Hi, boys and girls.  I’m Peter Puck and I’m going to tell you a little bit about hockey.  Hockey is a game played on ice with five players and a goalie per side.  It’s a fast, exciting sport but there are a number of rules you need to understand in order to fully appreciate the game.  Rules like offsides, icing and the face-off.  But you don’t have to worry about them right now.  Until this lockout is over, you’ll need to learn about a few different things.

Collective Bargaining
Hi, boys and girls.  I’m Peter Puck and I want to tell you all about collective bargaining in  the National Hockey League.  The players and the owners have something called a CBA or collective bargaining agreement.  It’s an agreement where both sides agree to a salary cap which is kind of like when mom and dad say that your allowance can only increase by so much.  Except now the owners say they want a bigger share of all the money that comes in.  There are a lot of complicated provisions in the CBA but all you have to know is the current one recently expired and that’s why there won’t be any NHL hockey this year.

Free Agent
Hi, boys and girls.  I’m Peter Puck and I want to tell you all about free agency in the National Hockey League.  When young players first start playing in the NHL, they don’t have a lot of rights, sort of like when your parents can tell you what to do and you have to do it.  But when a player turns 27 or has seven years in the league, he can then negotiate a new deal with whichever team he wants.  It’s like when you turn 18 and can tell your parents to take a hike except that the players get millions of dollars every year even before they turn 27.

Restricted Free Agent
Hi, boys and girls.  I’m Peter Puck and I want to tell you all about restricted free agency.  It’s really pretty simple.  If a player is not entry-level and not yet an unrestricted free agent but his contract has expired, he becomes what is called a restricted free agent.  That means his team must extend him a qualifying offer.  Other teams can extend an offer sheet and his team can accept or decline.  There are lots of other rules but you don’t have to concern yourself about them now since no one’s playing hockey for the foreseeable future.

Salary Arbitration
Hi, boys and girls.  I’m Peter Puck and I have some more cool information for you about how the CBA works.  Some of you are probably asking what happens when a restricted free agent and his team can’t come to an agreement about salary.  Well that’s when either party can ask for salary arbitration.  Each side proposes a salary and a third person called an arbitrator picks one.  It’s like when you and your parents propose an allowance for you except your proposal never gets chosen.

Viewing Alternatives
Hi, boys and girls.  I’m Peter Puck and I want to help you decide what you can watch this season on TV.  Unfortunately, it won’t be NHL hockey.  But there are lots of other sports you can follow.  Hopefully this lockout will end soon and I can get back to teaching you the fun rules of the fastest sport on ice.  If not, my cousin Peter Rock will be here to teach you all about the second fastest sport on ice: curling.